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Ouroboros

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Chapter One

oooP1ooo

Nothing was the same. The world had changed beyond his imagining. Even the night sky was different. Everything was so foreign. 

Non-magicals had made leaps and bounds of progress since he had last lived. He wondered how far the magical community had gotten since he had died. He could not feel the avenues of magic flowing under his feet anymore. The air held no magic. It was as if magic had fled this place.

There had to be magic somewhere. The world could not exist without a little magic. It was its lifeblood, the essence that helped birth the thousands of variations in flowers and birds, snakes and trees, beasts and reptiles, fish and bugs, unicorns and dragons, and sentient beings. If magic had not existed and the world had still found ways to bring life, it would have been a much duller world than this.

His gaze swept over the neatly trimmed grass, the bushes full of red roses, the small squirrel sitting on a tree limb, a wooden fence with its planks nailed in a tight row, and the glass walls of his relatives conservatory. There was no magic visible to the eye nor easily detected. The vroom of the distant motorway and the rumble of closer cars, the grinding of some machine and the roar of a mower washed away nature's sounds. With it any verbal hint of magical nature was swallowed up.

The world had changed beyond his reckoning. It may have been better if he had stayed dead. If there was no magic left, this would be a truly disappointing second life. 

But there had to still be magic, for what else could explain his return? 

He had died. The pleas of his brother to stay awake echoed in his mind. Those last moments stuck with him more than any of the rest of his memories. A tiny hand pressed to his side where phantom pain spiked and spread across his chest.

“You cannot die! Stay with me!”

The echoed cry, filled with such agony, rocked through his mind. He mentally, forcefully, pushed it away and focused once more on the present moment. The reincarnated wizard lifted the tiny hand to his eyes. 

His hand, he corrected internally. This tiny, pale hand with no scars or calluses was his hand. The forearm was just as pale and unmarked by freckle or scar or ritual tattoo. His other hand unwittingly rose and traced the unmarked skin. 

He was a child, a toddler really. He sat there and stared at the hands and forearms. He traced them with each other, felt them, moved them. His gaze traced the lines of each hand, memorized the color and indents. All the while, he tried to bury unsavory thoughts and painful last moments into the depths of his mind.

A toddler had no reason to be weighed down by such experiences. He did not want to confront them now either. His gaze rose to stare over his relatives' back garden once more. It was years, centuries likely, since he had died. He had lived in a different time, with different expectations, customs, languages, with an entirely different world. 

What had mattered, likely no longer did.

He needed to focus on understanding the present. Later, when it was safe and he knew no threat was near, he would accept what had happened and mourn what it meant. He needed answers, though he did not know where to find them.

Had his brother survived the war? Who else had died when they came after him? Had the Normandy wizards won with their non-magical king claiming the entirety of the Isles? Did Hogwarts fall? What had happened to Helga, Rowena, Godric, and the others? What of the children? (None of it mattered now. Time had made it meaningless to this second life but his consciousness needed to know all the same.)

Boy !”

Salazar turned his gaze inside. Childish memories whispered of his relatives. His aunt scowled out at him. 

“What are you doing out there?” she snapped as she pulled the door open, “It’s barely six!”

He stared up at her, taking in her lime bleached1 hair—hair bleaching had gone a long way since his time—and large pale eyes. Annoyance and a hint of worry flickered across the long face before annoyance won out. His aunt stomped over to him in her fluffy slippers and yanked him up by his arm. 

“Never go outside without permission ever again!” She screeched as she dragged him across the doorway. The woman continued to rant at him as she pulled him through the sitting room and into the hall. Finally she yanked him out in front of her, and let go. 

His eyebrows rose during the entire spat, bemused by the situation. He couldn’t recall the last time someone had dared to drag him across anywhere—well...there had been that time with Godric. He shook his head and pushed the memory away, not wanting to consider the past yet. Instead he searched out for something more recent and latched onto it. 

Vague memories of his aunt’s dislike filter to his consciousness. But with it were the hints and whispers of a conflicted woman. Part of her cared for him. Most of her did not.

“–Do you understand?” she snapped out.

Salazar decided to stay quiet and obedient as he accumulated to his situation. He simply nodded in response. 

She pointed to the small door under the stairs. “Go to your room! There is no breakfast for disobedient boys.”

He obliged, though no memory came forward to confirm he had disobeyed past orders. That didn’t mean he hadn’t, though. A child’s memory was a finicky thing. Many times the sounds were not as important as the texture, color, or the motion the child was experiencing. Their minds developed in numerous directions every day and it caused skewed memories or echoes of memories even. Long strings of words kepted in a logical fashion were far less important than the warmth of a hug or the fluff of a bunny’s tail. An order to not go outside would take time to stick in a child’s inquisitive mind.

He reached out to his room’s door and paused as his hand grasped the brass handle. A spark—a zip—a skip: Active magic danced across his hand. With it memories of escaping a nameless monster came to him. They grew more solid as he stepped into the small, dark space. The reincarnated wizard frowned into the dark as he contemplated those new memories. 

His aunt slammed the door shut and with it a burst of light danced across his eyes. Green light flashed as an echo of the odd torch light of his aunt’s home and the whisper of screams followed it. It left as quickly as it had come. His frown deepened, that was a memory engraved in his mind from a very long time ago, respective to his new life’s age. 

Eyes wandered over the darkened room. The thinnest line of golden light outlined the bottom of the door. Everything else was shadows within shadows. Memory led him to the left by a step and down onto his bedding. He reached out and brushed a finger over wood. Thin layers of magic sparked under hand, illuminating the room and whispering of comfort and care.—It was accidental, protective magic made from a child’s terror. He could taste pine and grass, and smell some floral scent that brought to mind a blurry face with red hair.—This was a safe place, somewhere the old memory could not reach. The magic would keep the specific nightmare away.

He had chosen this small, hidden place to hide from something. Salazar brushed his fingers over wood, pulling the sparkles up again and again as he considered what it might have been. He didn’t think too deeply though, content instead to watch the physical manifestation of magic under his hand. There would be time later to investigate his new past and accept the end of his old one.

Magic was still within the world. He was still magical. It just seemed to be hidden away. Perhaps it was out there in other places, hidden in plain sight. 

oooP2ooo

By the time he was allowed out of his room, Salazar had recollected what amounted to his toddler memories. Most of it were vague sounds and colors and creatures he had seen and used to gain a fundamental, though simplistic, understanding of the world. For bunnies were soft. Dogs were vicious. Cars were fast. Green lights were bad. Mommies and daddies screamed. Nap time in his hidden room was wanted. 

There were few distinct memories. He had a cousin about the same age. They had shared a room but he kept waking everyone up because of nightmares and the need for a mother and father not there. His relatives did not fight him when he crawled into the room under the stairs and finally slept. When he woke his relatives up the next night, his uncle took him to the hidden room and sat him down in a nest of blankets. Uncle had sat in the doorway until Salazar had fallen asleep. He slept through the night and it became his room from there on out.

Uncle’s sister came with a dog. It tried to bite him. It destroyed his diaper. Salazar fled to his room. The dog couldn’t follow, even though the door was open.—Accidental magic on the door kept out everyone but him and kept them from realizing that fact too.

The last was of a large man with a huge beard carrying him as they sailed through the night sky on the back of a motorcycle. The man had used magic, unless non-magicals had figured out how to fly with more than planes. So magic existed beyond him and his hidden room under the stairs.

Salazar had no memory of his parents. When he tried to recall them, only the screams and green light came to mind. Or the few memories of his first parents pushed their way forward, which was uncomfortable. Salazar had not thought of them in years. Both sets have long been dead. Salazar only wanted an idea of what his new dead parents looked like. If he could recall enough, there might be some hint at them possessing magic also. But, alas, there were no memories to recall. He had been too young.

“Upstairs,” ordered his aunt as he stepped out of his room. “Now.”

Stairs were ridiculously tall. Salazar had a new appreciation for what goblins must deal with when visiting wizarding property. It was exhausting climbing stairs when so short. Remembering being far taller did not help. 

Impatient sounds escaped his aunt but she never once offered to help him. Instead, she climbed up and down a few times, going past him as she carried various things about. As he reached the top, she returned with her son in her arms. 

“Come on,” came the sharp order as she swept past.

Salazar stared after, more than a little disgruntled. She led them to the bathroom. Realization dawned, his eyes grew wide and the reincarnated man turned to run. The door slammed shut.

“Clothes off. You’re overdue for a bath.” She sniffed as she knelt down and helped her own son with his clothes. “Ickle Dudleykins gets to have his bath first.” She rubbed her nose to her son’s. Her voice softened as she focused on the boy. “Isn’t that right my Popkin?”

She turned back to him and her expression soured. “What did I tell you?”

Salazar pulled at his shirt and she turned away with another sniff. His gaze moved from his aunt and found a mirror. Mortification was written across the face of a tiny, pale toddler with a wild nest of curly, wavy black hair. The greenest eyes he had ever seen stared back at him, round with horror. 

He yanked his shirt off and dropped it into the pile of his cousin’s clothing. His hair fluffed up at the action. An angry scar almost glowed off his forehead. Salazar’s gaze sharpened and he took a step closer to the reflection. It was a sōwilō rune. He stared at it in fascination, all the possibilities running through his mind. 

Sōwilō, the sunna rune, representative of the sun and illumination, the life giver and light bringer, vanisher of dark and shadows. It’s three lines were sharp and angry red, a perfect elder futhark. He could not have drawn it across his brow, being a toddler now, but one of his parents could have. 

Of course, why was the true question. It might be the remains of a ritual or he had been set within a protective circle. Some runic spell might have been done, utilizing the rune as a focal. There were so many possibilities, he couldn’t help entertain all that came to mind. 

His pants were yanked off. Salazar couldn’t stop the squawk of embarrassment even as his aunt finally picked him up. She nearly dropped him into the lewk warm water and almost drowned him as she washed his hair and face. All thoughts about runes and the possible magic involved vanished as he attempted to claim the soap and tried to take control of his own washing—he didn’t succeed.

oooP3ooo

Salazar stood at the entrance to the kitchen; he had long known better than to enter without permission. It was Helga’s domain and only a fool would interrupt her at her work. He preferred eating her food over utilizing the various tools for some experiment or other.

This was similar but, at the same time, entirely different from Helga's kitchen. He couldn’t see a single fire and yet his aunt was successfully cooking some type of meat in a pan. At least, it smelled like she was successfully cooking. 

She turned and dumped a pile of sizzling meat onto a plate at the kitchen table. Then her gaze fell on to him. Her expression darkened but she paused at some thought and she waved her spatula at him. 

“Come here.”

Salazar narrowed his eyes at her but slowly stepped into the kitchen. His aunt set the pan and spatula down, dragged a chair from the table to the sink, and pointed at it. 

“Get up. If you’re going to stand there, you’ll be useful.” Once he pulled himself onto the chair, she flicked a metal handle and steaming water burst out. His aunt picked up a scrubber and covered it with a green substance before she rubbed it against a dish.“Clean the dishes like this.” She handed him the scrubber and left with a short parting warning. “Break anything and you’ll not have breakfast.”

He stared at the scrubber and then over at his aunt as she finished plating food. His uncle and cousin were called in and the food began to vanish. If he didn’t finish this up quickly enough, he would not receive any. He had been given very little the day before since he had been “disobedient”.

Salazar turned the scrubber about. The handle was wooden. It would do well enough. He closed his eyes and concentrated. A tiny thread of magic answered. Salazar pulled on it and opened his eyes. Brows furrowed and lips pressed in a thin line as he concentrated on holding onto the thread of magic. It was slippery. He was far too young to have much control but Salazar wasn’t a child, he knew how to handle magic.

Slowly, he traced a line of runes across the handle of the scrubber. Magic glowed, etching the runes into the wood. Once he was done, he let go and the scrubber rose to get to work. Dishes were lifted by the active magic so the scrubber could reach everything. The water bubbled as the magic pushed it to boiling to make certain it was clean. 

A hand grabbed him and lifted him from the chair even as someone started screaming. Salazar blinked owlishly as he found himself pushed into his room and the door slammed into his face. He could make out his relatives shouting and his cousin crying in shock.

He grimaced at the realization that his relatives didn’t like what he had done. The fear was tangible in their argument as they tried to stop the scrubber. Eventually their panic subsided and he could hear them settle back in the kitchen. He pressed his ear to the door to hear them better. 

“Vernon, what are we going to do?” cried his aunt, “He’s just like her !”

Vernon, his uncle, didn’t respond immediately but when he did it was in a tone implying no argument. He had made the decision and everyone would follow it. “We swore we’d raise him up normal. We will make certain he is! Even if we have to beat the freakishness out of him, Petunia.”

Salazar frowned. 

“The letter said–”

“I don’t care a wit what some dingbat of a freak wrote us! He left the boy on our doorstep, Pet! It was November and he left a toddler out there overnight...They’re all freaks. We can’t take their word seriously! Your sister and her freak husband might have been murdered but you saw how he acted when we had them over for dinner—a bloody, egotistical fool unable to take anything seriously. They were probably asking for it!” A scraping noise and the sound of stomping feet indicated that his uncle had started to pace the kitchen. “I bet they got themselves killed because their freakishness removed any wick of common sense! It’s their fault they got killed anyway. You remember the letter, they were fighting in a war even though they had a baby to worry over! What sensible parent would do that?”

Vernon slammed something before he continued to rant. “And the whole idea that our nephew is responsible for defeating a-a-a-”

“A dark lord.” Petunia offered up with a pitch to her voice.

Salazar’s eyebrows rose at that. He had defeated a dark lord. What in the Mother’s name was a dark lord? Was it some member of the Wizards Council that decided to delve into forbidden magics? How did a toddler defeat someone like that?

A disgusted snort indicated what his uncle thought of the title also. “Absolute rubbish! That boy has been traumatized from watching his parents killed but hadn’t shown any lick of freakishness till today. We’ll raise him as we said, keep him busy so he never has a chance to do anything of the like again.”

Salazar pressed his ear more firmly against the door but heard nothing. There was a good few minutes where neither said anything. It vaguely sounded like one of them had started to put away breakfast. Whoever was cleaning up finished or paused.

“I can start giving him chores.” Petunia finally said, “It’ll do him good to learn how to handle himself either way. Goodness knows what freakish things they do to keep a house to rights.”

“Right you are Pet. Let’s make certain he knows the meaning of decent, hard work. And the more exhausted he is, the less mischief he’ll get into.” Vernon agreed, “If the freaks are keeping an eye on us, then they’ll just see us teaching the boy how to take care of himself proper. Just see, he’ll not receive any freak letter from that freak school when he’s eleven! He’ll be normal.”

Salazar sat back and stared thoughtfully at his door. His relatives knew about magic but feared it—and perhaps for good reason if they had lost relatives in a magical war.—His parents were magical. There had been a war between magicals. He had survived against something his parents had not. Salazar would bet a good twenty pennies2 that his runic scar was the remains of whatever he had survived. 

oooP4ooo

Chores were turning out to be interesting, the three year old reincarnated wizard thought. Salazar watched the vacuum as Aunt Petunia showed him how to push and pull it about. The dirt Dudley had brought in was sucked up into it. His gaze traveled from the vacuum down its rope to the wall it was attached to. How did it work without magic?

“It’s simple,” his aunt concluded before she held it out to him. “Now finish the room.”

Salazar took the handle, it’s entire top half folded down so he could hold it without rising onto his tip toes. It vibrated in his hands. A push moved it easily enough.

“I’ll be in the kitchen. Turn it off here–” She pointed at a little glowing red glass piece on the vacuum. “–and come get me when you’re done.”

He watched her leave, waited all of a minute, and then investigated the vibrating device. There was a bag to collect the material sucked up. There were wheels and a hinge. The rest he wasn’t entirely sure of. Most of it was made out of a substance he had never come across in his past life. It was strangely smooth, like metal but not. 

Salazar pushed a tiny amount of magic through his fingers onto the surface of the vibrating object. It stopped and an instant after some sound, almost a click, revibrated out of the wall. The torches also ceased lighting the room. 

A curse escaped down the stairs. Uncle Vernon shouted a moment later, “Pet I need a torch!”

“Shh! Dudley’s napping!”

“I’m on the bleeding loo–You check the breaker then!”

Salazar turned his gaze from the ceiling to his aunt as she stomped from the kitchen with a scowl. A moment later the torches relit and the vacuum rumbled to life. Salazar pushed the vacuum till it hit the couch and then pulled it back but nothing terribly interesting happened. So he pushed his magic into the device this time, instead of just across the outside.

The smooth material began to melt under his hand. Another click resound once more as the torches and vacuum stopped working. This time, though, a little fire sparked to life where the vacuum was attached to the wall. 

“Huh,” Salazar muttered.

Curses filled the house as Uncle Vernon stumbled out of the loo and headed for the breaker, whatever that was. Aunt Petunia stepped back out of the kitchen with a scolding about Dudley sleeping.

“Aunt Petunia?” Salazar called, deciding it was finally time to say something as the tiny fire grew. Both adults turned at his call. Looks of horror flooded their scowling faces. An instant later, Salazar found himself in his aunt’s arms while a bucket of water was being dumped against the wall. And a moment later he was sharing her arms with his cousin. Then they were out the door.

oooP5ooo

Salazar’s first month in his second life was surprisingly educational. There was electricity which seemed to be lightning bottled somewhere, somehow, for the non-magicals to use in similar but more restrictive ways as magic. Adults no longer liked children to leave the house before sunrise—Uncle Vernon had eventually secured his bedroom door with a lock to keep him from doing so. Dudley didn’t have the same type of lock but he was in a cage of some odd form so Salazar saw no issue with his relatives' decisions. It wasn’t like the lock could actually keep him inside if he wanted to enjoy the predawn before the strange non-magical world woke for the day.—If he didn’t do anything particularly magical or “disobedient”, he received an obsessive three meals a day3 (which was apparently the norm in this day and age). 

After the tiny fire, Aunt Petunia had Salazar help dust and pick up the house instead of vacuum. The new vacuum was much too nice and fancy for a toddler to be trusted with. That did not stop Salazar from investigating and learning about electricity. 

His second revelation around electricity (the first being it’s capacity to cause fires) involved the torches being lit by glass balls with thin metal inside. The torches, called lamps unless they were the marvelously small hand-held lights, were also connected to the wall to use electricity. They did not trip the breakers but the bulb did stop working when he pushed magic into them. Unlike the expensive vacuum, the glass bulbs were relatively cheap and they had a whole box on hand to replace broken bulbs. 

These lamps were everywhere in the house. They were even affixed to the ceilings of some rooms. By the end of his first investigations, he determined that the important part of these lamps was the bulb, the socket, and the connection to the walls or ceiling. (When the electrician came to fix the vacuum-fire outlet, Salazar learned that there was even more rope inside the walls. The rope was metal wrapped in some type of protective covering and wasn’t rope at all but wire. It was absolutely fascinating and also another sign of how restrictive electricity actually was.)

The second phase of his electrical investigation started when he found the socket on his room ceiling. None of the bulbs worked in it though. His attempt to have one work, borrowing a fair few of the extra bulbs, led to another revelation. Active magic and electricity did not mix. And his room had the protective barrier always active meaning the light bulb would never work in his room.

Salazar caused his second fire when he attempted to combine the two energies with a final lightbulb. It involved a simple runic matrix to guide magic and this electricity in a pattern to slowly combine the two energies together, and into his room’s light socket. Uncle wasn’t home for this fire and Aunt Petunia had invited an old lady over for some type of interview. The two adults fled with Dudley and Salazar. Firemen came to Dudley’s excitement. It was the talk of the neighborhood and everyone had their homes checked over by electricians over the weeks after—All the houses had been built by the same builder, around the same time. Everyone was worried some subpar material had been used.

Even though the neighborhood had reached such conclusions, Salazar was fairly certain Aunt Petunia had realized the truth. He glanced from the smoldering house to his glaring aunt, his final experiment had likely confirmed her suspicions.—Firemen exited the house for their third fire.

Magic and electricity could not be combined. Nor should anyone attempt to combine the energies least they wanted a fire. Salazar frowned at the house as he considered these facts. 

The runic matrix on the refrigerator had caused the largest fire yet. He had assumed that the cooling attributes of the refrigerator, and the water residing in it, would have prevented a fire. Now he was glad he chose the refrigerator instead of the telly to run this test on.—Who knows how large the fire would have been without the water and cooling quality of the refrigerator. 

It seemed electric devices worked very differently from enchanted objects. Salazar had never come across a cooling closet that could catch fire. It was all very strange. Fascinating and absolutely worth investigating but odd when considering all he knew. He had learned an important lesson. Electricity was clearly not magic, so he should not think it worked the same way. Further investigations would have to wait until his aunt had lost interest with the cause of the fires, though. 

oooP6ooo

Aunt Petunia seemed to think his magic was causing the fires on a subconscious level. He was officially expected to do the pick up, dusting, and laundry in the house now. When he wasn’t doing any of those, he was ordered out into the back garden to water the plants. If he completed all that, he was locked in his room for a nap. (Said room no longer had any electrical wiring in or near it. He had a torch, one of the hand-held lights, if he required light.)

Salazar never fussed over having naps. He was physically three, he required sleep. That he continued to use his magic in small ways made the naps even more necessary. 

When he was not completing chores (or adding runic matrixes to the bottom of the wooden furniture to stave off dust, or to the little decorative wooden picket fence around the gardens to help collect dew), he was sent to his new babysitter. His first meeting with her was enlightening in its own way.

Salazar finally had a chance to see the outside world beyond the gardens and the view of Privet Drive. They had to ride in the car to reach the babysitter because Aunt Petunia didn’t have time to walk all the way there and back. Two streets of identical houses later and they were before a house just like the one he had left. Its front garden was different and there was no car in the gravel square but it was visually very similar. 

The inside smelled of cat, cat urine, and an old lady. Said old lady greeted them all cheerfully enough. She had a hairnet, a pink dressing gown similar to what Aunt Petunia wore when she wasn’t expecting visitors, and slippers on. He was told to call her Mrs. Figg, though his aunt called her Arabella. Aunt Petunia fled with Dudley as soon as the pleasantries were done. 

Salazar silently cursed her when he was directed to a couch covered in some type of stiff protective cover. Cat hair exploded into the air around him as he climbed up. Then a tiny black kitten with a lion-like tail claimed his lap. Big orange eyes stared up at him and Salazar couldn’t help but smile.

It was a kneazle. 

His gaze swept the room. Cats peeked out from their various hidey holes and sun-warmed spots. Some flicked tails of varying lion-like fluff. They were the only immediate signs of magic. 

“Oh dear,” Mrs. Figg said in concern as she walked in. She picked up the little kneazle as she rambled at Salazar, “This little sweetheart is due for a new home. She’s not supposed to be out and about.”

Salazar could imagine the concern. Kneazles often imprinted on people unexpectedly, especially when young and especially to other magicals. Mrs. Figg likely kept the kittens hidden away so they didn’t accidentally do such a thing. It wouldn’t do to sell a kneazle that had imprinted on someone else. 

“I’ll be right back, dear.”    

Once she turned the corner, Salazar hopped off the couch and wandered the room with fingers heated with a little magic. He could hear her climb stairs as he searched. The fireplace and a tin full of some type of dust like substance responded to his magic with a whisper of their own. The tin had no rune marker to explain, so he set that aside and poked his head into the fireplace. 

Again, he found no runes but he pressed a hand onto the ash covered hearth. His eyes fluttered closed as the magic whispered its secrets to him. Enchantments twisted up his arms as his senses were claimed by the magic: Warmth and the smell of smoke, the flicker of firelight and the whisper of conversations, the taste of burning wood and fire consuming forms, and spinning, spinning off to elsewhere. 

The sound of Mrs. Figg climbing back down her stairs pulled Salazar from the magic. He reluctantly rose and rubbed the ash off his hands as he returned to the couch. The fireplace had communication and traveling enchantments entwined with fire and some magical substance to trigger and stabilize its use while words were needed to direct where the spinning took the traveler. The tin’s dust was the likely substance. He wondered what words were needed. The enchantments didn’t hint at a specific phrase.

Salazar stared hard at the fireplace, silently demanding answers to his hundred questions. This was a teasing hint towards a larger magical community. It did his heart good to know there was a magical society out in the world but he wanted more than the taste of it.

Mrs. Figg entered with a book and a cup of water. “Here you go dear.” She handed him the cup and settled besides him. “Now,” she flipped the book open, “I have to show you these, they just came in this morning! Doesn’t Mr. Tibbles look dashing in this top hat and bow?”

Eyes unfocused in horror as the old lady went through the entire photo book of her cats. Salazar made non-commental noises as she gushed over the strange outfits she forced her poor cats and part-kneazles into. All the while, he couldn’t help but wonder at playing the toddler.—The list of why play through his mind on repeat during the cat filled torture: he was physically three, no one would let him live on his own, he knew very little about the world in it’s present state, there was only so much magic he could use before becoming exhausted, he had no where else to go, and there was someone out there that placed him with his relatives which must mean the person had some interest in Salazar staying there.

Mrs. Figg sat him through three books of cat pictures before Aunt Petunia rescued him. By then Salazar silently promised to cease his electronic and magical experiments until he had his own house to burn down. Aunt Petunia never knew she showed up right after the silent promise and fulfilled the requirement of getting him out of there. All she knew was that the fires stopped now that her nephew was allowed off the property for part of the day. Him being three, meant the only place to send him was Mrs. Figg’s. 

A few months later a mostly grown black kneazle began to join him in the back garden. By her fifth appearance, Salazar decided to call her Omorose as a nod towards Egyptian respect for cats. (He had considered Pumpkin in case someone found out about her but she had been thoroughly insulted by such a name. She softened up only after he explained, in great detail, why he picked Omorose after that.)

oooP7ooo

It wasn’t until he was well into his fourth year of this second life that Salazar found the house’s blood tied protections. He only found it because someone triggered the enchantment while he was pulling weeds from around the bushes at the property edge. The enchantment flared across his senses, tugged some of his magic away without even a by-your-leave, and circled the entire property, causing the electronics to die temporarily. 

Omorose’s fur puffed up, standing on its ends, and she hissed furiously out at the property edge. Salazar could feel foreign magic as it swirled about the enchantment, searching for a way in. Someone was scrying for him. He flopped down onto his butt as the sudden loss of magic hit him and exhaustion swept over him. Omorose claimed his lap with another snarl out at the scrying magic. The reincarnate had a second to wonder where the rest of the magic the enchantment had needed had come from then he was asleep on the grass.

He woke up on the couch. His aunt and uncle were arguing in the kitchen again. He laid there in a daze as he listened to them. 

“What if it was one of them?” Petunia asked, worried.

“No,” insisted his uncle, “No, Pet...we have to admit it.”

“That’s not it! We’re raising him to be normal! This had to have been some freakishness from that dark lord’s followers. We knew when we agreed to keep the boy that something strange might happen at times, as a sign that these followers were trying to get to us through whatever protection Dumbledore left.”

Something slammed down onto a table or counter. “No! There are no freaks out to get us—There isn’t!—This is another sign the boy is a freak just like his parents...His freakishness is becoming more apparent as he grows older. That’s what is happening.”

Silence stretched across the house for a few minutes. Uncle’s heavy breathing faded as he calmed. Salazar stared up at the ceiling as he considered the newest tidbit. He was four years old and already had an unknown number of enemies. He didn’t know how many or who but there were people out there that wanted him dead.

He could really use his brother now. Someone to watch his back would be good. Salazar closed his eyes in regret as old memories washed over him. Godric, Helga, any of them would have been welcome.

Salazar squashed the depressing thoughts. He would never see them again. He would never return home, as the people that made it a home were gone. There was no reason to focus on the past. It was lost to him.

“If he’s gaining more freakishness then...what do we do?” His aunt asked, her voice almost too muffled to hear.

“More chores.”

Salazar grimaced. What else could they ask him to do? The entire house was covered in runic matrixes to remove dust. Dew was collected in large enough quantities to keep the gardens watered. He did the actual laundry and picked up from Dudley’s messes. They just started him on weeding the gardens—which made little sense to him, what did it matter that plants were growing in the ground. Where else were they going to grow?

He turned away from the possibilities of new chores and considered the magic earlier. Not the scrying, there wasn’t anything to do about that. The enchantment that combated the foreign magic had needed more magic than what it had stolen from him. Where had it gotten the other magic? And how had it gained access to his magic without his permission?

oooP8ooo

He was officially cooking breakfast for the family. It was actually fascinating to learn how to cook with the stove and oven. Helga would have loved it. 

Salazar was taught to cook bacon, sausage, beans, toast, and eggs in various forms. Once he had succeeded in those recipes, Aunt Petunia taught him pancakes and waffles. She seemed to enjoy showing him how to cook because she first attempted to do the same with Dudley and, when that failed in a cloud of smoke and burnt eggs, she pulled him in to learn how to cook other things.

It wasn’t long before Salazar was cooking most of the meals in the house. Aunt Petunia still showed him new recipes as she enjoyed the success of his cooking and cut up the ingredients, when needed, but he was the one cooking it all. He learned about exotic spices and fruits and vegetables. Some he had heard of. A few he had even had a chance to taste when he and Godric had traveled through Egypt and Greece and so on. Many things, like bananas and vanilla beans, were entirely new.

Once he had perfected cooking roasts and lamb shanks, she turned to baking. Salazar found apple tarts and sesame seeded biscuits a delicious treat but his relatives often preferred the chocolate heavy cakes and muffins. Birthdays, in which all but his were celebrated, started with a hearty breakfast and ended with a chocolate cake. (If he added odd spices to some of the baked goods to see what might taste good, no one but him knew. Aunt Petunia had no idea she particularly favored a chocolate and cinnamon muffin or at least she never remembered to pull the cinnamon out when she wanted it.)

Helga would have wept at all the variety available in the world now. And then she would have perfected the vast majority of recipes by a pinch of fairy dust or a splash of dirigible plum juice. Salazar tried to do her memory justice with the experiments completed, and all the plans to continue with magical ingredients he would one day have access to. 

oooP9ooo

Between all his chores, Salazar found himself often napping with Omorose in the back garden. He was not old enough to be doing all the work he was. So working, sleeping, eating, and more sleeping was a pattern he fell into. 

He rarely had time to search about the property for the enchantment’s anchor. It wasn’t until the next spring when he was ordered to dust the cellar that he found it. The cellar needed more than dusting to clean it. The brick walls were a white washed color tinted gray from age and grim. It was only filled with a few bottles of wine and boxes of christmas ornaments. There was little reason to clean the place but he suspected Aunt Petunia was starting to notice how little dusting the house actually needed these days. 

There, on the wall most central to the property line, was a parchment. It was a letter. Salazar frowned at it, leaned as close as he could without touching it, but all he could tell was the ink lines were of the Roman alphabet. Aunt Petunia read books to Dudley using said alphabet. Salazar was not welcome during those bonding moments and so hadn’t had an opportunity to compare her spoken words to the letters she pointed to. 

It was strange that his relatives appeared literate. Only laymen and nobility had been in his original time. And even then the skill to read books and letters had been limited to Latin (though more and more had been branching off to write the vernacular instead).4

Rowena had been the most literate of the group. Her and Evander, her husband, could read Latin, Greek, and all the various runic scripts. But they had been scottish nobles. Godric and Gareth could read Latin because of some familia demand to go to mass and theological studies when young. But Godric’s father had been a thegn and Gareth’s a merchant. Their studies had been limited to the bible anyhow. Neither he nor Helga had the connections nor the requirement to learn in the same manner. 

He could read ancient Greek and Egyptain runic spells and rituals, Arabic and Nordic was of slightly more difficulty. Even some Latin was discernible. But he had never had formal training to read a book (ask him to speak these languages any day of the week but to read books was a different matter). His training had been geared towards understanding magic and runic script in casting or to complete a ritual. There was a difference between understanding why runes needed to be set in a certain pattern or tied to each other in certain ways for a particular effect and reading to understand a person's argument or story. 

Salazar had meant to learn, now that Hogwarts was built and Rowena had started to fill the library, but then he had died. The reincarnated wizard shook his head as he forced himself to acknowledge the passage of time—Hogwarts wasn’t built a few years ago. It was built many, many years ago.—Even if he had learned to read, he would not have been able to read this. The modern English was not the same as the tongues he had learned. 

He would learn to read all types of languages this time. The first would have to be whatever language was commonly spoken now. Then Latin. After that, he would see what made sense.

That meant, of course, that the letter before him was indecipherable. He could guess that it was the letter the dingbat freak (probably called Dumbledore) had left with Salazar on the front porch. That it was flat against the wall with no obvious nails holding it there kept Salazar from touching it. Who knew what would happen if he interacted directly with the magic present. 

He needed to find an intermediary object. His fingers itched to draw out a runic circle that would pull the information he wanted from the parchment without triggering anything. Salazar backed out of the room as the design formulated in his mind. 

“You cannot be done already.”

Salazar startled and stared up at his towering aunt. She glared down at him and then stalked down into the cellar. He grimaced, he hadn’t cleaned a single dust molt.

Aunt Petunia reappeared and pointed towards his room. Salazar stifled a huff of annoyance but obeyed. He couldn’t help wondering if she would have punished him either way. No dust would have meant he had used magic once more and they didn’t want that. That there was dust and no sign of him cleaning it was also a no-no.

He needed to remove these punishments. Salazar rolled onto his little cot and stared up into the dark. He was getting old enough that being ordered about and locked in his room would become inconvenient. It would be complicated, though. He was an integral part of the household, caring for the house and the people in it. He couldn’t just vanish.

Notice-me-not knots would not work. But perhaps a few simple illusions would. One to cause him and, Omorose while he was at it, to fade into the background could work. His relatives ignored him most of the time anyway. Keep it weak enough and if they truly needed him, they could notice him but if they had better things to do then they would not think of him at all. (And they always had better things to do outside of meal times.)

Thinking about it over the evening, the more Salazar liked the idea. All he needed was some natural material to store the matrix on, something he and Omorose could wear. 

The next morning, Salazar slipped up into his aunt’s room. He looked through her jewelry boxes but didn’t see anything she wouldn’t notice missing. Then he poked through the closets. 

A worn jewelry box sat amongst hat boxes. Inside were old jewelry. Most were tarnished and made with inexpensive materials. All looked like they were for a tiny girl or juvenile woman. Salazar hesitated for a second as the pieces must hold some sentimental value but he had done his fair share about the house these last few years. Two old pieces of jewelry would pay for that. 

He dug around with magic on his fingertips. Much of the jewelry was made from material his magic didn’t interact with. A few pieces actually started to melt when a spark of magic went into it. He did run across a variety of jewelry that could work but Salazar didn’t want to wear a ring or bracelet with butterflies dangling off it. Nor did he have pierced ears or wanted to. And Omorose could not wear any of that. 

Finally, he found two pendants made from some type of natural stone wrapped in silver. The chains were tied together by a loop of metal, one chain being slightly shorter than the other. The stones were of the same material but not of any precious quality as far as he could tell. They might have been a type of yellow-brown jasper or marble. He didn’t particularly care. The necklaces were simple and didn’t appear too feminine. The loop tying them together was easily bent and removed. It should work well enough.

That afternoon, after all his chores and during his expected nap, Salazar pressed his hand against each stone and guided his magic into tight, tiny circles of runes. The runic twin circles floated just above the surface of the stones, allowing Salazar to look them over before committing to them.  He pushed more magic into the glowing designs to etch it into the back of the stones. It was the most magic he had actively used in this life.

Salazar awoke to his aunt calling him in to make supper. Omorose sat on his chest, tail swishing across his nose. He nudged the kneazle off and pocketed the pendants as Aunt Petunia stepped out of the house with a scowl.

It took a week to recover enough magic to add an ambient collecting and storage matrix on top. Then another week before he could add an enchantment to keep people from noticing the necklaces were there at all. (Thank you, Rowena.)

Once done, though, his chores dropped to nearly nothing and no one noticed Omorose coming and going from the house. The world suddenly opened up with possibilities as his relatives only remembered him for meals, when the house or gardens got particularly messy, or when he was expected to go to Mrs. Figg. Not once did they think he wasn’t doing his share of the work. 

oooP10ooo

With his new found freedom, Salazar drew out the original matrix to investigate the enchantment over the house on some lined paper he had nicked from his uncle’s briefcase. As he knew very little about the enchantment, he took a phased approach. The first matrix he created simply requested information from the magic within the enchantment.

Salazar very carefully laid the glowing paper on top of the letter. The already charged runic array flared and expanded out across the wall before shrinking to circle about the letter. He frowned as it continued to circle with no slowing. After a good ten minutes, Salazar gave up and left it to its work.

The next morning, he found the runic array covered paper laying on the floor. Salazar picked it up and went to his bedroom, snagging a biscuit on the way. Omorose was sprawled out across his cot, for all the world claiming it as hers. The look she gave him when he nudged her confirmed her opinion and Salazar sat onto the floor instead.

“You realize I didn’t give you that necklace to have you steal my bed, don’t you?” 

Omorose yawned at him.

He rolled his eyes back at her before turning to the paper. The very center of the runic array was pulsing with faint light only visible because he was in the dark of his small room. Salazar pressed a finger on the spot and information flooded his mind. It wasn’t nearly as much as he had hoped for.

The enchantment was actively pulling magic from his closest blood relatives and storing it in preparation for the next attack against him. There was also a poorly tied monitoring enchantment. Someone was being informed of the condition of the protection.

Salazar hummed thoughtfully as he set the paper to the side. Someone was watching over him. It was likely this Dumbledore person but he would be able to confirm this once he learned to read the letter. 

The four year old pulled out a clean piece of paper, turned on his torch, and started work on the next matrix. He needed to understand how the enchantment pulled magic from him and how it was pulling magic from his non-magical kin. Now that he knew about the monitor enchantment, which was incorrectly tied to the other enchantment and so quiet ease to bypass, he could have a more detailed analysis.

It took time, partly because of how complicated the matrixes were and partly because of his still developing motor skills. Four year olds don't usually need to draw perfectly straight lines. Salazar couldn’t do so as a four year old either but that was where rulers and the edge of books came in handy. (That didn’t mean he couldn’t wait to regain his skills at calligraphy. It was a very slow process for something that should only take a few hours.)

At the end of the week, he had his answers and they brought more questions. The enchantment was an interesting thing. As long as he saw the property as his home, the enchantment would exist. And the enchantment worked twofold. 

First, it would draw any magic geared towards finding him, no matter where he actually was at the time and then it would disperse the magic so the person on the end of the searching magic would think it simply failed. It made any magical with the desire to harm Salazar incapable of finding him, no matter where he was—unless he brought attention to himself in front of such a person or if they were aware of where he was through other means. As long as no magical person told anyone where Salazar was, no one would be able to find him and as long as no one could find him, none that wished him harm could reach him. 

Second, if someone with ill intent for Salazar did reach Privet Drive, the enchantment would erect the equivalent to a notice-me-not charm around the property. The person would end up walking in random directions but never circles because that was the usual weakness of a notice-me-not charm. It also obscured any defining information for the entire neighborhood, making it impossible for the person to remember street names or house numbers to help determine what they might be missing.

It was an ingenious setup. Too bad the execution left much to be desired.

The enchantment was tied to Salazar through his blood. For the enchantment to settle over the property he considered home, it had to be owned by blood relatives and have at least one other blood relative living within it with him. The upkeep of the enchantment was tied to those blood relatives as they agreed to the enchantment for Salazar’s protection (they had to have for it to exist).

Technically, the only weakness of the enchantment was that a person not living at the property had to cast the enchantment. So that was a person that knew where Salazar was and could spread that news about as desired. Logically that person would be another blood relative but, as far as Salazar could determine, his aunt and cousin were his only blood relatives. 

In this particular situation, there was a bigger weakness. One that both concerned and confused Salazar. For one of the fundamental rules of enchantments was that it had to be tied to a magical source for it to last any significant amount of time. That is why he tied his enchantments to charging rune matrixes. Rowena would utilize an enchantment within an enchantment to create a similar effect when she was in a hurry. One could also use a conductive material such as gold or diamonds that would either naturally collect and store magic or could be shaped into a circle to generate and circulate magic. They had used runic matrixes on diamond, engraved with gold for the most important enchantments of Hogwarts. Quartz was used for less important magic in the school. (It had nearly bankrupted Rowena and was one of the reasons it had taken thirteen years to build the castle. The wards had been the other part but for similar reasons.) 

This enchantment was tied to Salazar because it was to protect Salazar. It was also tied to his blood relatives, Aunt Petunia and Dudley, because they were who lived within the property and accepted the enchantment. Aunt Petunia and Dudley were not magical which meant they could not be tied to an enchantment like this. But they were tied to it, so that meant they were magical. 

Salazar could feel a headache growing at the circle of logic. The only way to do it, as far as he knew, was to have the enchantment use the non-magical’s life but neither Dudley nor Aunt Petunia appeared to be aging quicker than normal. Which either meant the caster lacked fundamental understanding of enchantments and had delved into the art without the proper foundations (but somehow made it work) or the caster didn’t care about the consequences of utilizing such enchantments. (Such enchantments needed an adult magic user tied to it. Theoretically, it could do considerable damage to a developing magical core.)

Finally, he decided to find out for certain instead of debating internally over the possibilities. 

He left his little room and quietly traveled up the stairs. A peek in Dudley’s second bedroom revealed junk needing to be cleaned up. The guest room was closed and locked from the two toddlers so he pushed open the door to his cousin’s actual bedroom. The little, rotund child was softly snoring away in his “big boy” bed. 

Salazar stepped over a creaky wood plank, slid the door almost closed—any further and it would start to squeak—and crepted over to his slumbering cousin. Dudley was beginning to look a little too round. It might be time to avoid making so many sweets for everyone. 

With a shake of his head, it was up to Dudley’s parents to take care of any bad eating habits and Vernon’s girth indicated it was probably a lost cause anyway, the reincarnated wizard refocused on the matter at hand. There was no magic in the room. Dudley hadn’t done any accidental magic around Salazar before but there was no residual hint that he had done so when Salazar was busy with chores either. Neither Aunt Petunia nor Uncle Vernon had ever hinted at the possibility.

Dudley should be non-magical. 

Salazar carefully placed a hand on his cousin’s forehead and the other on his chest, over the heart. He closed his eyes and pulled his magic to his hands. He then carefully pushed the magic into his cousin, searching for a similar pool of magic tied to the boy’s mind, body, and soul.

Magic shifted his perspective. The dark of his eyelids flickered with a shift of light. He opened his eyes to a swirling vortex. Salazar felt ill at the sight of a bursted core. He had never seen one before. Obscurus were more common than this, where children repressed their magic from fear until their magic lashed out. 

This was entirely different. It wasn’t the result of Dudley doing anything to his magic. Something had yanked on Dudley’s core until it had been stretched and thinned into near nothing. At one point it was pulled and stretched far enough, the natural circle of magic had burst open. Dudley would never be able to use magic but he could have, if not for this. And there was only one thing interacting with Dudley’s core on a regular basis that could have done this: the protection enchantment.

He separated himself from Dudley and back away. The acidic bile from his stomach churned up his throat. Salazar bolted to the loo as soon as he passed the door. It was one thing knowing that it was possible to destroy a child’s magical ability through pushing it too far and it was another to see it. Especially after considering the possibility as highly unlikely and knowing you had the skill set to prevent it, if you had caught it in time.

Later, after failing to take a nap (there was too much to think about and the childish side of him feared what the enchantment was doing to his own magic), Salazar stared up at the ceiling of his cupboard. He did not want to but he needed to take a look at his aunt. Dudley having magic almost guaranteed Aunt Petunia did too. 

oooP11ooo

Salazar found himself in a peculiar situation as he regarded the room of brightly colored pictures, filled with a horde of sticky, smelly children. He had expected to investigate his aunt’s potential magic today. He had it all planned out. The infusion of chamomile and lavender was ready and the tea cup had a little circle of paper pasted on the bottom of the cup. The runic circle inscribed across the paper would promote the sleepy qualities of the infusion. He had planned to add it to her morning tea. She would have been out for hours, plenty of time to investigate.

Instead, Salazar found himself guided into the car and escorted through a building crawling with children. Aunt Petunia had dropped him off in this room with orders to listen and stay. Some eavesdropping with the other parents revealed this to be a school and everyone was starting their first year as five year olds. (Salazar hadn’t realized he had turned five.) These children appeared to be his compatriots this time around. They left much to the imagination but they were only five. 

“When I call your name, please take your seat at the desk I point to.”

Salazar refocused on the teacher and frowned. His name? What was his name? How likely was it that his parents had named him Salazar this time around?

None since it was a bastardized form of the name his first snake companion had given him when he was two. Father may have taken the true name and turned it into Salazar but it still had started out as parsel. The name his mother had given him sounded nothing like any of the names in this day and age so he doubted that had been used either. 

Did he even speak parseltongue this time around?

Salazar frowned at the thought. He didn’t know what he’d do if he didn’t speak parseltongue. He hadn’t used it much, outside of battles, but it was still a part of him. It was his first language. His first friends had been snakes. To not have the ability would force him to acknowledge an even greater separation between his past and new life.

A hand touched his shoulder lightly. Salazar blinked up at the teacher.

“Harry dear, please take your seat.”

Salazar blinked again as he took in the name. His parents had called him hairy? He was starting to wonder about them like Uncle Vernon did. Hairy was a terrible name for a child. 

Salazar followed the directions and claimed his desk. A tag was taped to the corner. Roman script was written in pen across it.

He tried to recall being called hairy before. Nothing jumped out. Not even Mrs. Figg had used it, he didn’t think. (It was entirely possible that he had mistaken her calling one of her cats hairy. Plenty of them had too much fur.) 

Salazar spent most of the day mulishly following orders, annoyed that his relatives had never called him by his name. That this schooling took up most of his day did not help his mood. He had no time to figure out a way to investigate the enchantment if he was in school all day and had to make dinner and handle a few chores before bed. 

Sadly, his weekends became full once more with the chores he didn’t have time for during the week. His pendant wasn’t strong enough to keep his aunt from ordering him around when she felt like the work needed to be done. And he found that he couldn’t wear it at school least he was forgotten after check-in. Nor could he wear it when walking home, as his Aunt made him do, because the drivers couldn’t notice him if he had it on. This meant he rarely wore it and often forgot to place it back on when he returned to Four Privet Drive.

Things only got worse before they got better. Salazar glared from his desk as the teacher called for another rendition of the Alphabet song. He itched to pull out a piece of paper and work on some runic design. He couldn’t though. If the teacher couldn’t tell he was present, he would be marked as absent and Aunt Petunia would be called. Then he’d be disciplined with more chores, less food, and time locked in his room. 

Salazar could not work on any runic matrix without placing his pendent on. He wasn’t allowed to work on other things from his fellow classmates. The teacher demanded full participation, even though most of it was obnoxious repetition. 

He wanted to learn how to write and read but the class was far too childish for his tastes. The repetition got on his nerves. He had a basic understanding of the roman symbols already, some were useful for various runic castings. He did not need to repeatedly sing about the alphabet or pronounce what animal’s name started with the letter. Salazar was done.

The teacher sent him a sharp look when he didn’t join in the song. He couldn’t help the glare he returned. Mulishly, he kept his mouth shut. Said teacher proceeded to walk up and down the rows. Salazar scoffed at her, knowing what she was attempting to do. Too bad he wasn’t actually five and her stern look couldn’t convince a goldfish to obey.

A hand pressed onto the top of his head. The teacher leaned down and stage whispered. “Harry, if you don’t remember the words, we can practice during break.”

Salazar flushed red, a childish side of him mortified as the children nearest giggled and sniggered. A burning outrage snapped through him and he stared to kill the old lady as she walked back up to the front of the classroom, far too pleased with herself.

Her wig turned blue.

His outrage vanished at the sight. Shock darted through him at the realization that he had an instance of accidental magic. The class roared in surprised delight. Their teacher startled about and took in the class, immediately spying the startled look on Salazar’s face while the rest of the class were laughing and giggling and generally overly excited. 

It took very little for her to decide he was the culprit for her wig. 

A call later, and he was escorted home where he was immediately locked in his room. Then something large was pulled in front of it. Uncertainty warred through him. The mix of terror and resignment on his aunt’s face left him antsy. He wasn’t let out to make dinner. Desert was skipped entirely.

Salazar sat against his room’s door, ear pressed as he listened to the activity in the house. Dudley was given a bath and tucked in bed. The telly was turned on and he struggled to stay awake. His tiny body won out in the end.

It was much later when the sound of one of the kitchen chairs scraping across the tile floor woke him. Salazar blinked out at the dark room. He could just barely see a hint of light coming through under the door. 

“He’s not to go near Dudley.” His aunt stated, “Not anymore.”

“Pet, he’s just a boy. There hasn’t been any unnaturalness from him since we picked up on the chore list. We’re reaching him. He’ll be normal. And he had no way–”

“No!” she snapped, “No, Vernon. She explained it all to me. Her wig changed colors after she had disciplined him for not participating in class. That isn’t some random accident! It was retaliation. He attacked her !”

Fear filled her words at that last statement. Salazar closed his eyes in regret as he realized: His place in this family had a time limit. Eventually something would push his relatives over the edge. And then he’d see if burnings still happened. 

Long repressed memories rose—His mother slumped lifeless amongst flames. His sister screaming, her tiny face twisted in agony.—Salazar squashed the memories with long experience and pushed them far from his consciousness. He swallowed the bile that had risen with them.

“–raising him to be normal.”

“Lily was raised normal. It didn’t help her!” His aunt’s voice cracked at the end of that statement. Salazar sat up as he heard the pain in her voice. Lily, Salazar deduced, was the name of his mother. “She was my baby sister and they took her from me. They killed her when they sent her that letter…”

Salazar couldn’t hear anything for a moment. He imagined Uncle Vernon attempting to comfort his wife. Or maybe Aunt Petunia had pulled out a rag to scrub the clean countertops as she tried to calm her thoughts. 

“Pet–”

“The boy is one of them. Working him to exhaustion won’t work anymore. The school doesn’t know how to handle him. He’s a freak and he is not allowed anywhere near my Popkin.” Aunt Petunia decided. 

Vernon said carefully, “It does sound like he has more of his freak father in him than hoped. To attack a teacher...Reminds me of the freak turning my own mustache yellow...I had thought him more like your sister, as you described her before all–all that nonsense had happened to her…”

Silences stretched for a few minutes. Then his uncle’s voice came. Salazar could barely hear him. “He’s still only five.”

Petunia spoke up with a resigned air about her voice, “A letter will come for him when he’s eleven. Then he’ll be as good as dead to us, too.” 

Six year. Salazar moved to his bed and stared up at the ceiling. He had six years before he would have to leave. Six years to learn everything he could about the modern day world. Six years to find a place to live. 

That wasn’t so bad. He had lived on his own before, when he had been only six and the world had been a wilder place back then. Now he just needed to focus on what needed to be done, instead of this supposed letter he’ll receive and the implications that came with it. 

oooPooo

Chapter Text

Chapter Two

oooP1ooo

Uncle Vernon cursed as he smacked a mallet into a wooden spike. Salazar watched his efforts in bemusement through the window as he waited for the cupcakes to cool. Dudley’s sixth birthday had finally come. With it, someone had gotten a strange idea that Dudley liked the outdoors. 

Salazar wasn't certain if it was Aunt Petunia or Uncle Vernon who thought Dudley would actually like being a scout. He knew how rubbish the idea was. Dudley didn’t do anything outside if he didn’t have to. (He didn’t do anything at all if he could help it.)

They should have learned with the rollerskates. 

“What is taking so long?” demanded his aunt as she snooped over his shoulder to the cooling cupcakes, “Those should have been done ages ago.”

Green eyes rolled and words spilled out before he could control himself (something that had become more and more an issue of late.) “Perhaps you should have done the laundry then.”

Excuse me ?” she snapped.

The doorbell rang before anything else could be said. Salazar and his aunt looked towards the front door and then each other. She grimaced as she realized she would have to ice the cupcakes. “Out and don’t be back until sundown.”

Salazar paused, having expected orders to his room. “What?”

“You heard me. Go to the park or something.” She sniffed, taking the piping bag from him. “Arabella couldn’t watch you today.”

“She sick?”

The doorbell rang again. Aunt Petunia waved him out towards the back door. “Yes. Now out, out.”

He stepped into the backyard, feeling odd. Five year olds weren’t allowed free reign of an entire neighborhood outside of trekking to school and back anymore. Not that he was complaining, he could go to the park or wander the neighborhood to find other places.—There was a library around somewhere.—It was just strange but then, ever since he had turned his teacher’s wig blue, his relatives had distanced themselves. They had always preferred him either busy, locked away, or gone from the property entirety. The latter was becoming more common.

Salazar watched Uncle Vernon hoist the last rope and a round canvas tent took up the back garden. Vernon grinned up at the pointed top. “Now this is a proper bell tent, boy!” He rubbed his hands together gleefully. “Dudders will be the envy of the beaver scouts in no time.”1

Salazar just shook his head and left. Uncle didn’t notice, too pleased with the tent Dudley wouldn’t use. He had a free day and he wasn’t going to spend another afternoon trying to understand his relatives, or speculate on how much magic must have changed or what to do about the enchantment around Privet Drive. No, an afternoon without his cousin and aunt, with no obligations and no heavy thoughts, was just what he needed. 

The young reincarnate ignored the odd looks received from the few adults he passed down Privet Drive to Wisteria Walk. Just a few houses past Mrs. Figg’s was a shortcut through the neighborhood to the park. Being amongst nature sounded pleasant.

Omorose strolled over to him as he passed through the alley onto Mongolia Crescent. A line of four kittens followed her.

Salazar raised a brow at his cat. “So this is why you’ve been demanding snacks?”

The kneazle flicked her lion tail at him and mewled. 

“They’re not Mr. Tibbles’s, are they?” Salazar asked, resigned. He received a yowl in response which told him nothing. The Hogwarts founder ended up picking up the various kittens, one looked like a miniature Mr. Tibbles, and placed them in his oversized jacket. “They have to be given to Mrs. Figg, you realize? She’ll find homes for the lot.”

Omorose pranced away with her tail high in the air, leaving him with her tiny kittens. Salazar rolled his eyes to the sky and firmly squashed the increasingly common realization that his only real conversations were with a cat. At least his last childhood companions could talk back to him. 

“I should get a snake.”

His kneazle paused to turn back towards him. Somehow, she gave him an unamused look.

“I like snakes,” Salazar defended himself as they continued down the road to the park. “They’re decent enough conversationalists...when not talking about mating or their eggs or food...which isn’t terribly often, I know, but they at least talk .”

As he entered the park, Salazar pulled his pendant on. Any adults frowning over at him turned back to their own children. The green eyed boy glanced over the manicured lawn and the colorful playground before he spied a less cared for section of the old green beyond. It went wild and seemed to become a thicket. That was more like it.—Would have been even better if it was a fen, then he might have found a snake or two.—Salazar wandered towards the wooded area, uninterested in attempting conversation with any of his fellow children. 

He wandered across the manicured grass and flower beds, past birch trees and into the thicker brush. The constant noise, the buzzing of electricity and the rumbling of vehicles faded away. With that, the child felt something in him relax for the first time. Salazar hadn’t realized how much the constant noise had bothered him. He enjoyed the quiet, the sounds of nature as he wandered with no particular direction or place to be. It reminded him of his past childhood as he traveled through the fens with only snakes for companions.

His gaze lowered to the kittens and kneazle. For all that changes, all stays the same in its own way.

The whisper of poplar leaves touched his ears with a zing of excitement. Salazar slowly turned towards twin trees. Heart shaped leaves sang at him as the breeze pushed another breathy whisper of excitement to his hearing. Green eyes grew unfocused as he stared. His thoughts faded from the world surrounding him and focused on the zing in the wind. 

It was so familiar, achingly so. The reincarnate found himself besides the poplar trees before he could think things through properly. Later he would blame it on his youth. For now he thought nothing of his moment of exuberance that had caused him to nearly fly across the grassy field. 

His too small hand hung, stretched out, an inch from the dark, cracked bark of the old poplar for a long moment. An unexplainable fear flashed through him before he stuffed it back, tucked away with his exhaustion and sorrow. It wasn’t time to consider everything he had felt waking up in a strange, foreign world. (He feared that there would never be time for that.)

Fingers brushed the bark before he could reconsider his priorities. A pulse of heat touched his fingertips and Salazar instinctively answered by mentally opening himself to it. Warmth flooded him, flowed from the tree into his fingers and down his arm until it whirled around his chest and flowed into his other extremities. Fingers trembled and tears stung his eyes.

Shoes were toed off so his bare feet met the soft, grassy floor—the magic could not travel through his rubber soles. The warmth flowed from his feet into the ground. Then it swirled until some returned through his feet, swirled and flowed back up through him and into the tree. 

Salazar ignored the tears that slid down his face as he welcomed an old friend back. Magic, ancient nature magic that had been nurtured and strengthened through druidic ritual and care, flowed through him. 

He had grown up feeling nature's magic under his feet. No matter where he traveled and rambled through the fens, the avenues of golden magic branched from grove to grove and from leyline to leyline. There had been hundreds of druidic groves that drew the natural magics of the land and protected it. Many had been turned into church yards and parts of monasteries but their magics had rarely been disrupted.2 Some had been protected and cared for, hidden away from the Catholic non-magicals. 

Then wizards had come with William of Normandy and had taken exception to their practices. The magicals of Normandy followed much of the Catholic religion and the fallen Roman Empire’s practices. Wands and structured phrases—sharp commands—were their prefered method of incantation. They had found a way to convince their non-magical leaders that they weren’t heathens or demons by casting off their religion and their culture, by removing all significance to their connections to magic, and by turning magic into a tool and nothing more. 

Some would say they had seen the light and did what they needed to to survive the changing times. Salazar didn’t agree.

Hands closed into fists.

They had turned magic into a tool. The Mother meant nothing to them.3 They had come and destroyed the sacred groves. Ripped out, tore down, desecrated the trees.

He had feared the worst over the last few years as he never felt the Mother’s magic. Clearly most of the interconnected groves were gone. Some, like this one, had never been found but were neglected. Who knows if there were any of the triad left.  

Salazar let his hand drop from the poplar tree and stepped beside it, between it and the other poplar. A faint resistance pressed against his chest and a whispered need to be elsewhere passed his thoughts before the magic gave way, recognizing his own innate core. An expanse of trees appeared before his eyes. 

In the distance, directly before him crowned an elder oak. Copse of ash trees shaded most of the grove while alder had clearly traveled across the area, growing and dying, falling and decomposing as nature planned. What had once been a singular blackthorn tree had propagated a mess of shrubs. Uncared for hawthorn claimed the back of the grove and had likely been part of the barrier that hid the sacred land from outsiders. A holly tree, half dead and clearly in need of care, stood in one of the few spots of sun left. Pink rose hips danced across the blackthorns as they claimed purchase for sunlight. 

Salazar slowly walked into the grove. A heady scent pulled his attention to one of many speckled brushes of honeysuckle and violets. The boy walked to the ancient oak with a detached air. 

His eyes wandered over the grove, taking every inch in. Soft earth and cool grass padded his bare feet as he wandered. He finally felt like he was home but it felt like he was dreaming. The world had become so different, too different for such a place to still exist. 

He pressed both hands onto the oak’s thick bark and took a deep breath of fresh air. Magic, twisted to the will of the ancient tree, pressed into him with a stabilizing force. Salazar spread his fingers out and slid them over the trunk. Fingers caught onto ancient runes cut into the bark. 

Protection. Health. Fertility. Strength. 

It was all the qualities of the oak carved into it as a prayer and a guide. A long, ancient ritual filtered through Salazar’s memory, one to ask for and to give in return the will to protect, to prompt health and fertility, and to pull forth strength when all was waning. It was a ritual he had participated in many times, part of the settling of a new growth grove. 

Hogwarts had been surrounded by eight groves, each with an oak standing tall. He hadn’t been able to use the exact same trees as this grove. That didn’t particularly matter, though. Every tree had its strengths and characteristics. The eight groves were built first and foremost as protection for their school and the trees were planted with that in mind. 

The boy sank down between two large roots and relaxed with his back against the solid tree. The kittens yawned and scrambled out of his pockets. Salazar helped one of them down. A warm breeze ruffled his hair. One kitten pounced on another and then the four were off, investigating this new world he had brought them to. He watched the tiny little lion-like tails flick about amongst the tall grass.

His eyes fluttered closed. Natural magic flowed around and through him as he hadn’t bothered separating himself from the land’s golden magic. As the pulse of the world echoed through him, Salazar acknowledged his situation. He could do nothing about it but to ignore something meant it would rear its head when he least wanted it to. So now, in the blanketing power of natural magic, hidden behind ancient protections, and away from all the changes made to the world, he could finally acknowledge and accept it.

This world was so different it ached to consider it. Much of it felt wrong. The lack of natural magic flowing freely under his feet, the dirty air, the noise, the speech—everything was wrong . He had been yanked from everything he had known into some bizarre horror of a future. 

He had died to protect the groves, the children, and their way of magic, of life. He had failed

Salazar had learned, after a long month of short trips into the school library, that the Normandy king, William the Conqueror, had invaded successfully in 1066 ce. That meant, by the Catholic structured calendar they used today, that he had likely died in 1068. 

It was 1986. 

The boy stuffed trembling hands into his armpits as he attempted to stem the tremors that slowly expanded out across his entire body. He felt sick at the thought. He was 918 years from his time. Salazar was centuries late in returning to Hogwarts where the new year had been waiting.

He dropped his head down to lean against his knees now curled up against his chest. Salazar was finally, properly alone and safe. A choked gasp escaped as emotions boiled over and the man stuck in a five year old’s body, with said emotional control, finally lost it. He grieved for his kin and kith, for his ambitions and failures. He wept for everything he had lost, including himself. 

There was no way to go back. No manner to change what had been done. Salazar was trapped in a time not his own, in a body not his, with a strange name, and surrounded by strange contraptions and signs that screamed how much he had utterly failed in his last ambition. 

Non-magicals proliferated the world while barely any hint of magicals remained. His people had been regulated to myth and folktales and fantasy. They were boogiemen of Halloween night, whispers to scare children into obedience, and a tool for non-magicals to escape their mundane lives in fantastical imaginings. It felt like he had failed far more than his traditions at seeing this future. The Normandy conquest felt like it had destroyed so much more than it likely had.

By the time the grove darkened as the sun sank towards the horizon, he felt empty. Tears had dried. His chest was hollow and his emotions stable once more. 

Salazar watched the four kittens play. Omorose had found her way onto his lap.

There wasn’t anything to it but forward. He had grieved. He might continue to do so over time but the Hogwarts founder would continue to look forward. It was time to return to investigating this new world, and protecting what he had—even if it was a temporary thing.

He wouldn’t be Salazar if he didn’t.

The boy rose and, with a soft pat goodbye, left the oak and the sacred grove. He’d come back and he’d bring some gardening tools next time. There was years of work to bring the grove back to rights. 

oooP2ooo

“Boy!”

Salazar looked up from the gate. The new equilibrium from being able to grieve kept him from snarking back. His uncle looked frustrated enough as it was. Nothing good would come of mouthing off, no matter how much he seemed to want to of late.

“Put the tent away.” grumbled the obese man, “bloody thing’s not worth the money.”

“Yes sir,” Salazar replied, not surprised. “Where should I stow it?”

Vernon waved a hand through the air as he calmed now that someone else was dealing with the mistake. “Don’t care. The shed should work.”

Salazar nodded and started pulling it down. The majority of the tent parts were made from wood and canvas, or some other natural material. Salazar slowed in packing it up. This tent could fit in the grove. He could place protections for water and rot and wind, and whatever else he might think of. 

He sat back and stared over the ropes and canvas and half circle ground mats. He could turn this tent into a home. It wasn’t like he didn’t know how to camp. He probably knew better than the vast majority of the people on the Isles in this day and age. There was the lack of wildlife for food, of course, but that just meant he needed to start collecting funds while he could. His relatives left plenty of change about and in their laundry. 

A smile grew. Plans formulated and a list slowly grew in the back of his mind as he looked over each part of the tent more carefully. It all was packed into the bag and stored in the shed. Once it was out of sight, his relatives forgot all about it. If Salazar took a peg every once in a while, no one noticed. No one ever looked in the bag to see the intricate engravings that ended up on each wooden peg and the two halves of the wooden post. 

Eventually a little quartz rock sat on the bag but no one would have noticed that either. They wouldn’t have seen the stone nor the bag if they had gone looking in the shed as the quartz charged a simple notice-me-not charm over whatever the stone touched. But no one ever did. Dudley never brought up his tent, just as he never thought to bring up most of his presents. 

oooP3ooo

His aunt snored as she slept on the couch. Her morning tea sat on the coffee table still steaming. The infusion of chamomile and lavender, with a spark of magic, had been more effective than expected. Luckily, she had sat to drink it after both Uncle Vernon and Dudley had left for the day—the first for work and the second gone with a fellow beaver scout.

Salazar sat watching her, feeling distrubed. After Dudley he had expected her to be magical. He had even expected her core burst like Dudley’s even though she was an adult. Something had to have happened to her core for her to consider magicals freaks and for the enchantment to latch onto Dudley instead. What he had found was unlike anything he had ever seen (and he had thought Dudley’s core disturbing).

Aunt Petunia’s core was shattered, for lack of a better description. Only the residual remains of magic floated where a core should have been. For all intents and purposes, she had no magic. She hadn’t been born that way. Whatever had done this, had occurred many years ago back when she was a child herself. 

He didn’t think it was related to obscurus. She shouldn’t exist anymore if she had restrained her magic until the pressure had caused an implosion of accidental magic and childhood desperation. It didn’t add up and it left too many questions. 

While he had no idea what might have done this to Aunt Petunia, he couldn’t help but latch onto another aspect. Two destroyed cores was the start of a disturbing pattern. It left him antsy. What had happened in the magical community since his last life?

Salazar stood up, disposed of the tea, and peeled the runic covered paper off the bottom before replacing the cup where she had left it. Then he packed the remains of the infusion and stalked out the door. 

Third time's the charm.

Mrs. Figg answered her door in her usual bathrobe. A startled smile appeared at his presence. “Is everything alright, dear?”

“I saw a cat with kittens around the other day.” Salazar stated, smoothly side stepping his actual purpose as he physically side stepped past her and into the cat infested house. “I thought you would want to know.”

He looked back in time to see a flash of concern appear. Salazar stalked through to her kitchen and pulled out the teapot and cups. The old lady followed and pulled out a box of expired biscuits a curp wouldn’t touch.

“Was-was it a black cat with an especially fluffy tail tip?” Mrs. Figg asked.

Salazar looked up, uncertainty written on his young face. “I-I think so? It sort of reminded me of that kitten when I first came over.”

“Oh.” She set the biscuits down. “Oh no, I’ll be charged if they cause any mischief.”

“Charged?” Salazar asked, there wasn’t a way to tell where a wild cat had come from. Of course, Omorose was a kneazle and Mrs. Figg was breeding those. He hadn’t heard anything about magic or how it was governed but perhaps there was a department for that? (But then, why was magic only in stories?)

She shook her head and rushed from the kitchen with a mumble about kneazles. He was not particularly worried about the old woman or his wild, sort-of-pet kneazle. Instead, Salazar stuck the runic paper onto the bottom of her cup and spooned in some of the infusion. He waited a few minutes for the actual water to boil and tea to steep before he picked up both cups and went after Mrs. Figg. 

Salazar stilled just outside the hallway as he stepped through something . He glanced about and found a quartz stone set on a cabinet and another directly across balanced on top of a picture frame. They weren’t glowing but he would have bet a decent ten pounder that they were enchantment tied proximity barriers: At least charmed to warn when someone walked through them.

He stalked into the living room at double the pace. Mrs. Figg was pushing herself up from in front of the fireplace. She had used the enchantments there to communicate with someone. And he had missed it.

“Are you alright, Mrs. Figg?” Salazar asked as she looked up at him like a spooked rabbit. There was no point wallowing over spilt milk. There were other priorities. He would learn how to use the fireplace one day.

“I-uh...perfectly alright, dear. You said there were a few kittens with the cat?” she stuttered out as she stood.

Salazar guided her to the couch and held out her doctored tea. “You look like you could use this.”

“I-Yes, thank you,” she sputtered, clearly flustered. Mrs. Figg took a sip and then set it aside as she focused sharply on Salazar. “How many kittens?”

“Four,” Salazar offered as he pushed Snowy off a chair and sat across from her. “Two black and a—what you call Mr. Tibbles? Marbled?”

Her expression soured and her gaze snapped to a high corner of the room. “Oh, Mr. Tibbles what have yyyou done!?” She startled at the end as a yawn cut through her scolding. “Goodness, I’m sorry dear. I’ve..no idea what’s come over me.”

“It’s been very stressful.” Salazar offered kindly as he lifted his tea and took a sip. “Maybe more tea would help?”

A meow drew Salazar’s gaze as Mrs. Figg picked her tea cup back up. Mr. Paws sat staring up at him. Salazar could feel the part kneazle judging him. “This all is very stressful. She could use the rest.” He countered the accustion.

“What’s that?” she asked with another long yawn.

“I was just saying, I’ll bring the kittens in as soon as I see them next.” He set his teacup down and went to help her set her own down. “A little kip might help with the stress.”

“Oh, yes...I think you’re right,” she muttered as she laid down across her couch. A snore escaped a moment later which was answered by multiple judgmental meows and hisses.

Salazar rolled his eyes at all of them and huffed out, “You know I’ll not hurt her. Really.”

He reached out to her head and just above her heart. A moment later he stepped back and settled heavily into his seat. His tea was now much appreciated.

Mrs. Figg did have a core but it was buried under layers and layers of residual magic. It was as if she had never bothered to cleanse or purify herself after twisting magic to her will. Though the sheer amount of gunk wrapped around her core left Salazar wondering how she was able to reach her magic at all—and what the heck her parents had been doing with their own magic as some of the residue had to have come from them instead. Perhaps it was a multi-generational buildup, even.

Two destroyed cores and a clogged up one could not be coincidence, could it?

Salazar finished his tea and considered the remains at the bottom of the cup for a moment. The tea leaves made a line of blobs. His lips quirked into a faint smirk. “Well...mountains or clouds, right Helga?” He shook his head, imagining her annoyance at his half assed divining. The Hogwarts founder cleaned up the tea, scrubbing the soot remains of his runic covered paper from the bottom of Mrs. Figg’s tea cup (good to know a paper rune set had two uses before it burnt out).

He needed to look at his own core. He needed to widen his investigations beyond that too. Green eyes flicked over at the various cats and decided it was probably safer to meditate away from their judging gaze. Who knew what they’d do to him when he was unaware. 

Aunt Petunia was still sound asleep when he returned to Four Privet Drive. He took that time to collect more funds before handling most of his chores with a touch of magic. Salazar took care of the list within the hour since no one was about to order him to do it manually and most was being done by his runes already. Those just needed a small top off of magic to keep them running.

Then, knowing his aunt could wake at any point and that she expected him in the house, the five year old settled back in his cupboard under the stairs to meditate. It was moments like these that Salazar remembered he was a child once more. Though he had long mastered meditation in his last life, it took some time for him to reach the calmness of mind. Odd thoughts and things he could be doing or investigating kept jumping to mind. He hadn’t realized how much his mind worked and his little form demanded movement until he consciously tried to stay still.

He did eventually reach a meditative state and looked within at his core. The first thing he noticed, and it was a pretty obvious fact, was that it didn’t look quite like the core he recalled possessing. All cores reminded Salazar of the irises of people’s eyes. The colored energy swirled in patterns from a nexus of concentrated energy instead of a pupil. Those swirls of energy even contracted and expanded in a similar fashion. Some cores were shockingly similar to the owner’s eyes, in fact. 

Godric’s core had been a whirlwind of fiery power, orange and gold and red, but his eyes had been blue. Rowena’s had been cool and calm like a spring day right after a late snow storm and it had been silver on silver; her eyes had been a grey with a ring of blue around the pupils. Helga’s had been summer with browns and golds and warm greens. Her eyes had been hazel with lines of gold that grew larger to match her joy. His core had been greens while his eyes had been silver.

Now, there were still green spirals and a sunburst like center but it was not thousands of green tones and the pattern had evolved to something more than vines. The sunburst was a vibrant gold that softened into a silver. That silver wavered until each ray parted from the sun and became clouds. Spirals of green vines curled around those silvery clouds.

Residual magic, like a dark gray smog, clogged up the area surrounding his core, where the core would slowly expand into as he grew from child to adult. If the gunk stayed, Salazar didn’t know what it would do. At least keep him from reaching his full potential, he guessed. 

A couple sections of his core looked stretched, vaguely like Dudley’s but not the horrifying extremes present in his cousin’s. The enchantment only pulled at his magic when there was an attack while it was constantly pulling at Dudley’s. Salazar had to wonder at how many people tried to hunt him down before he turned three. He didn’t have any estimation but Salazar imagined it had to have been a great deal to create such stretched sections within his core. 

Salazar closed his eyes and opened them to the outside world. The cupboard’s dark ceiling came into focus and Salazar made a face at the lack of control—he had been sitting as he finally entered a meditative state but must have fallen backwards while he investigated his core. If he had hit the ground hard enough, he would have had to start all over. Luckily his mattress was underneath.

He needed to find some way to complete a purification ritual but he did not have the capacity to do any he knew nor was the grove ready. A cleansing bath was his second option but he had no access to the stone tubs with the thousands of runes already engraved for such use and he couldn’t use the porcelain bathtub at the house. Even if Aunt Petunia didn’t notice the runes he’d inscribe across the entire thing, the tube wouldn’t handle the purified water and sheer amount of magic involved. 

That left him with more waiting. The reincarnated wizard huffed and stretched out. Being five was a terrible bore. He suspected being six wasn’t much better.

oooP4ooo

Wind playfully ruffled his hair. Salazar paused in his climb up the ancient oak to look out across the green. He was high enough to see the distant playground and swings. The motorway glinted with lines of cars roaring away towards London. The wind whispered the trumpeting of a passing train, probably also off to London. He made a face at its general direction as he recalled his failure to gain a ticket the other day. Who could have known he required an adult to purchase a train and tube ticket all the way into London (or gain free access as the case may be). At least he had run across the Langley library afterwards.

The morning sun glowed and the faintest hint of Autumn had reached the air. School would start soon. With it, his freedom taken for the next so many months. The reincarnated wizard turned back to the tree and craved a rune into the oak’s branch. The old remains of the protective runes, like scars in the bark, glowed with renewed energy as he completed the specific circle. A ripple cascaded over the air as the protections on the grove grew stronger. 

Green eyes glanced over the many branches down to the ground. He had years of work, and that was only for the primary tree. His gaze moved to the holly tree he had trimmed up. When Autumn came he would need to focus on her instead, especially with the little amount of time he’d have.

He pressed a hand to the bark as more playful wind danced over him. Golden warmth flowed from the tree like a hug of thanks. His eyes closed as old memories surfaced. A bitter little smile appeared as the wind stole the few tears that escaped. Quiet moments like this allowed his past to sneak up on him. He couldn’t help but think of the past when he was so very alone.

Salazar’s eyes opened and he stared out over leaves and sky. Climbing trees had always reminded him of his brother. The man’s voice whispered in the wind as it kissed his cheeks and ears, “ Nah, plants don’t like me.

His smile twisted into a smirk and he whispered out, his words taken by the wind, “You should have still climbed them, Rie. You missed out.”

He took his time climbing down the tree, pausing to enjoy the wind or carve a rune that helped stabilize the grove’s protections. At one point a little squirrel reminded him of a moment with Helena, Rowena’s daughter. Its puffed out cheeks, full of food, was just like the little girl had been when Helga had made a particularly delicious meat pie. 

That hit him harder than the other memories. He had helped with Helena’s birth, had given her the Mother’s Bath, had been there for her whenever an ear was required. And she was dead. He had not been there to see her grow up. He didn’t know what had happened to her.

The melancholy presented from that memory held him down. He walked a few feet from the oak, simply to remove himself from the squirrel of all things, and sank down under an alder tree. It took time for him to pull himself out of that rush of pain and memories.

A little voice ended up pulling him from it all. Salazar shifted the grasses near the alder trees to find a group of newborn adders pushing their way out of their sacks. Their mother rested some feet away, disinterested in her children and Salazar. 

ss:_I will get you_:ss ,” hissed one of the tiny snakes. 

One of the large babies hissed what sounded like a mocking laugh. 

A smile tugged at his lips as he listened in on the spat between snaklings. He left them a while later.—As much as he had claimed he wanted a snake, he would not claim one that knew nothing of the world nor were adders the most intelligent of snakes.—Life went on, and he would too.

oooP5ooo

Dudley was in his class. Salazar grimaced at his Aunt as she stared daggers at him. He knew what she was thinking. He would not go near his cousin least he had to deal with her screeching.—That plan didn’t work out so well when Dudley insisted on coming after him.

The rotund boy would not leave him alone. When his little group of beaver scouts refused to bully Salazar and others about, he found kids that did. (And so ended his short stint in the scouts before he ever actually learned anything.) His cousin demanded his lunchtime desserts. The little boy attempted, once, to force Salazar to do his homework for him. 

In retaliation to Salazar’s rather effective refusal, Dudley made up a game called Harry Chasing.—One could never claim Dudley smart or creative but he knew how to keep things simple. Some people didn’t appreciate such an ability as much as they should.—His need to chase Salazar was strong enough to subvert the pendant’s magic to Salazar’s mild amazement. (Salazar simply relocated to the school library which was a more useful time spent than outside with the other children anyway.)

Then there were the spit-wads. 

“Mr. Potter trade seats with Mr. Polkiss,” huffed the teacher as their first Friday neared its end. Not even the teacher had been able to last a full week with Dudley’s interruptions. Salazar traded seats with a scrawny rat-faced boy sitting in the very back of the class. 

“Now,” announced Mr. Johnson with a clap of his hands together, clearly pleased at the impromptu change. “Mr. Potter, please read the line on the board.”

Salazar looked up from organizing his things and raised a brow, the sentences had been rudimentary so far. His gaze turned to the board. A frown crossed his face. He couldn’t see the sentence. The teacher’s face was slightly blurry too.

“Read what you can,” offered the teacher.

Dudley snorted loudly.

“I’m afraid I cannot see the words.” Salazar finally admitted, startled at the reality of the matter. He had never had issues with his sight before.

oooP6ooo

Someone had invented eyeglasses to help the visually impaired.4 He had a number of apprentices over his previous life with imperfect sight. He hadn’t expected to experience it himself but, to the outrage of Uncle Vernon, he had inherited his father’s eyes—not the color as that was apparently from his mother, which had only made his relatives even more outraged.

Now his aunt was pursuing the clearance frames with a thin lip and the general look of an inconvenienced woman. Salazar watched Aunt Petunia with a frown. A flimsy pair of sunglasses sat on his nose, protecting his dilated eyes from bright lights. He couldn’t see much beyond a blur himself but he didn’t think he’d like whatever she’d choose. It was now a matter of convincing her of a different pair when she was bound to hunt down the cheapest one. 

Not that the cheapest would be the worst. Salazar traced the various frame edges as his aunt set them aside for consideration. He would prefer one that could be useful. So far, every option had been made with material that didn’t conduct magic. One had actually melted slightly at contact, which had helped Aunt Petunia discard it.

“Will these last?” Salazar asked sweetly, “What if they break?”

Aunt Petunia scoffed, “They’re hard plastic.”

“But one melted from the lamp !” he whined, not even slightly uncomfortable at using his physical age to his advantage, “Wouldn’t metal be better? It won’t melt or break!”

He could feel the glare directed at him but Aunt Petunia had no chance to cut him down for acting out before a sales person swooped in. A small pile of frames were soon set aside for Salazar to try on. The only pair that would conduct magic as well as he liked was a set of round spectacles. A smig of magic had a notice-me-not fall over the other options.—These were only ten pounds more than the cheapest. Salazar didn’t think it was that terrible.

It took a few days before his Aunt brought them home.

The design could have been better, Salazar admitted to himself once he could actually see them on. But they would do well enough. 

He carefully guided his magic into the tightest, tiniest rune circles and wrapped it around the frames. Time melted away as he concentrated. His magic flashed and the circles glinted like lines of silver over the dark gray metal frames. 

Salazar smacked it against a wooden corner of his room before he held them up for inspection. Neither dent nor scratch had marred the metal or glass surfaces. He slid them on and turned off his torch. The once nearly pitch black room now appeared lit by soft moonlight. He rubbed a finger down one of the frame’s temples and the room took on a warm golden light as if the sun was shining down into the room. Another rub had the room fall into its usual darkness. 

He rubbed a finger down the other temple and the walls of the room lit with the swirling, sparking glow of its protective magics. A smirk spread as he looked over the accidental magic. It was just a swirl of childish intent but, if he had done this correctly, he should be able to see details of purposely created magic such as the enchantment tied to his relatives and him. 

oooP7ooo

The sound of his peers screaming and playing outside filtered through an open window. A globe of the world caught his attention as he slipped into the older year classroom. Salazar tapped his pendant thoughtfully against his chest as he considered the map of the world. The Isles were so tiny in the face of the rest of the planet. The world seemed to have grown twice it’s original size with whole continents having been found.—His connection to nature magic kept him from panicking over the shape of the map; the ebb of the world’s magic had always been curved. That the world wasn’t flat wasn’t terribly shocking because of that. Of course, a round world shouldn’t be surprising for any learned man. Pthyagoras, or some other lesser known Grecian scholar, had alluded to it in his teachings. (In turn, the sheer quantity of water was a surprise.)

Green eyes pulled away from the globe and searched out what he came for. The library he had found had opened the possibility of learning beyond the classroom. He would just have to wait for a free weekend or, more likely, the summer to expand his studies. Now was not the time.

Anyway, it didn’t matter how small the Isles were. They were his. He would figure out what had happened to the magical community and he would do what had to be done to protect it, or even save it, as the case may be.

A shelf of rock samples caught his eye. The Hogwarts founder pulled a chair over, climbed up, and looked over his find. Granites and marble, slate and sandstone, and many other varieties of rocks were displayed. Near the back, set to catch the light, was a rock smoothed into a ball. That was what he had been hoping to find. 

oooP8ooo

He rolled a smokey quartz ball between his hands. Salazar felt slightly bad for taking it; Year Three would be missing it from their box of minerals and rocks sooner or later.5 He had a greater use for it than a rock sample for children to gawk at, though. The Hogwarts Founder pulled his pendant on as he slipped into Four Privet Drive and dumped his backpack in his room. 

Aunt Petunia didn’t notice as she peered through the back window at the neighbor. Dudley’s latest show blasted through the house, hiding any sound others might make. Uncle Vernon wasn’t due back for another few hours. He clicked his torch on and closed the small door. It looked like he was inside.

Salazar went to the cellar. The dark room was illuminated in golden light through Salazar’s glasses. He had learned to read well enough—it was vocabulary he had to familiarize himself with now but his knowledge of old tongues made that a fairly simple matter. He stepped up to the wall with the letter and took in the words first, curiosity burning to know what explanation it held.

ooo

Dear Petunia,

It has been some years since we have last exchanged letters. I am saddened to bear such sad tidings to you in both encounters. Lily spoke sparingly of your relationship but I have the understanding you wished to be kept from our constitution and so I leave you this letter in place of a personal meeting. 

I am uncertain to what extent you are aware of regarding the magical community’s situation; please be patient in an old man as he explains matters you may be fully vested in. It has been a dark time in our community. A Dark Lord has been hunting down and killing innocents in the name of an ill gotten ideology. He has an army of like minded magicals working together to extinguish the new and brightest of our community. 

Your sister was one of them. Instead of fleeing and hiding from this danger, she stepped up to combat it. Lily and James have been intricule in pushing the darkness back. Their efforts caught the attention of the purveyor of these dark days and the Potters went into hiding. 

On the evening of October 31st, the Dark Lord Voldemort assaulted your sister’s home, killed James and Lily, and attempted to kill their young child. Ancient and powerful magic, manifested through the love Lily held for her son, allowed Harry to vanquish Voldemort instead.

You are Harry’s last remaining blood relative. It is imperative that you accept the child into your home. If you do, this ancient magic will extend to you and protect all under your roof. I have made certain such protection, through your blood connection, will settle into your home as Harry learns to see it as his own. 

The Dark Lord’s followers will be after Harry and any blood relative. You all are in great danger but if you stay together, you will be protected by your sister’s love. Love is the greatest of gifts and most powerful of magics. Remember that over these coming years.

I have included a muggle friendly copy of Harry’s birth certificate and legal documents naming you his guardian. Harry James Potter is yours to protect. Please expect a letter from Hogwarts around his eleventh birthday.

I am yours most sincerely,

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

Order of Merlin (First Class), Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot

ooo

Salazar couldn’t help but stare at a specific section of Dumbledore’s many titles. The rest of the letter was mostly hogwash. If all a mother needed was to feel love for her child, his first mother would have saved his sister. Instead they both burned. And if mothers could unconsciously use their love amplified magic to save their children, that magic had no anchor after they died as such magic would need to find power from somewhere else. Such magic would not take it from the child as it would naturally cause harm to said child. Dudley was a prime example of the type of harm caused from long term spell exposure to an active enchantment anchored to a child.

So he saw little reason to focus on the rubbish Albus Dumbledore had written. What was far more interesting were his titles. They all indicated a global magical society and a governing body. Salazar had no idea why he had not seen nor heard anything about this society. There wasn’t anything he could do about it either. Perhaps he would learn about the magical community as he grew older. He was only six. 

Instead he chose to focus on a title that spoke of such promising things.

Hogwarts still existed. The magical sanctuary and school had stood the test of time—even if the castle itself no longer stood, the concept lived on. Salazar leaned back against the opposite wall as he processed that. Not all of his ambitions had failed in the end. Instead, perhaps the most important had survived to today. 

“Nearly a thousand years,” breathed out Salazar in wonder. He smiled softly into space. “Would you look at that, Helga...you were right.”

Feeling more optimistic, he activated the magic sight on his glasses. The ground became a pool of swirling magic. A fountain of magic seemed to flow up and down from the parchment. Thin ropes of it floated up and about the pool, waiting to lash out and react to the activation of the protection enchantment. Little firefly like sparkles of magic floated about, shifting closer and farther away from the pool. He watched as one little spark zoomed off and vanished from his sight.

Salazar guessed the fireflies were the monitoring enchantment. It was the only magic actively doing anything. The rest was pooling in the cement and bricks and slowly dissipating since neither could actually store magic for long.

What a waste of magic. No wonder it had required some of Salazar’s to achieve its purpose. Now the question was when and how the enchantment took Dudley’s magic. Once he knew that, he could begin the process of turning his quartz orb into a new magical storage and ambient collector.

It took till late into the night for the enchantment to send a tendril of magic out into the house. Salazar sleepily watched the thin rope flatten like a straw being sucked against a hard surface. Eventually a bulge was pulled down into the pool. A raw wakefulness came over him as he watched in horrified fascination as his cousin’s magic was slowly pulled down into the pool throughout the night. 

No wonder his core had looked so stretched.

oooP9ooo

Against popular belief, in his day at least, building something with magic that would stand against opposition and the crumbling effects of time without constant maintenance took planning and effort and its own stretch of time. Creating the equivalent of a magical battery for the enchantment was the simple part, though the runic matrix wasn’t a simple creation. That had taken years to first create but Salazar had used the matrix so many times he could do it in his sleep. He had already used such magic on his and Omorose’s pendants.

Connecting other forms of magic to the runic storage was a complex matter in and of itself. It had taken Rowena and him years to perfect just the interplay between the storage runes and enchantments.—He liked to forget the total number of years it had taken to perfect that interplay between all the various types of magic they had used for Hogwarts. Godric’s curses and elemental magic had taken the longest to figure out. And don’t even get him started on how complicated it was to make multiple different sources of magic play nice together without the conscious participation of their sources.

Once they had figured it out, they had used it over the entirety of Hogwarts. Whole passages had been hidden away and set with time altering enchantments to “shrink” long passages and cut the time to travel through the castle to near nothing. Sections of the castle interconnected through pocket dimensions and responded to passwords and intent of its user. Doors locked or vanished entirely as demanded. Floors changed substance to aid in protecting the children from intruders. Statues came alive in defense against assaults.

All of that could be considered childs play with how much they had done. But that was partly because of the years and years the founders of Hogwarts had worked together, learning to intertwin each expertise into masterpieces of magic. No one part of Hogwarts had been created by a single member of their group. Most of it had taken a little from everyone.

Salazar was not familiar with Albus Dumbledore’s magic nor was this enchantment built with his interference in mind. One wrong step and the enchantment could collapse or react as if Salazar was a foreign, intruding magic user. He did not want to find out how the enchantment would evolve to combat him if he caused a reaction. 

Dealing with enchantments reminded him of the many rants Rowena gave. She was the enchantress of their group. 

“Magic is living,” Rowena ranted out at the small group of apprentices. Salazar paused as he considered fleeing the hall but the glare she directed at him drew the children’s attention. “Enchantments are not like runes. There is no restriction built in by its very nature. It is the intent of the caster that determines how far an enchantment will go. I could enchant a fire into the fireplace for warmth and the enchantment will do its job but there is nothing in place to inform it of when the warmth is no longer needed, if the fire is burning too hot, or that the fire should stay within the fireplace! 

“Eventually the enchantment may decide that it needs to be hotter to complete its purpose. If the fireplace has wood when I enchanted the flames, it could come to the conclusion that it requires fuel to work at its optimal form. When all the wood is consumed, the fire would look for more fuel and it would leave the fireplace, burning and consuming everything in reach.

“To combat the limitations of enchantments, first I must enchant the fireplace to keep anything possessing physical substance greater than air from escaping into the rest of the room. Then I must enchant the fireplace to acknowledge verbal commands that might control the temperature of the air radiating from the fireplace and so, because of the nature of enchantments, it would eventually come to control the fire itself as the fire is the source of the temperature changes. Finally I would add the enchanted fire.”

He rolled his eyes at the memory. Rowena and her rants had always been difficult to avoid. No one ever admitted to the sheer amount of information they learned from them, though. Salazar had never thought he’d need to know as much about enchantments as he did. Rowena had always been there to handle the enchantments. When she wasn’t, Godric and Helga were decent substitutes. 

Now he was alone. And he had to deal with a protection enchantment left to run wild, poorly intertwined with a monitoring enchantment mainly connected so it could run off the same source of magic. It seemed that Albus Dumbledore’s intent had been protection for Salazar through his mother’s sacrifice intensified by living blood offering their own form of protection through housing him. The man had forgotten the need for a magic source and had left only one limitation to the enchantment—it would only “cover” the physical property.

Rudimentary. Utter Rubbish.

Rowena must be rolling in her grave.

Salazar stole a notebook for the planning. At least he had something to do when he couldn’t make it to his grove or the library. The arithmancy would be an absolute pain.—He might as well figure out how to shift the enchantment to stay active until Dudley stopped seeing Privet Drive as home. No point in wasting such a useful enchantment if he had to leave the house, particularly after the cost already taken.

oooP10ooo

Children ran squealing and screaming onto the playground. Multiple children football games were happening in the background. Summer met with an increase of people on the green.

Salazar watched as he contemplated the test he wanted to run. It was rude, what he wanted to do. He doubted any of the children would notice. If it worked, he would only gleam the vaguest hints of the child’s core which was far less invasive than what he had done with Dudley, Aunt Petunia, and Mrs. Figg. 

He would still be invading the children’s privacy.

But he desperately wanted proof that his kin and sitter were not prime examples of the magical community. He had tested the technique out on Dudley a few times. His cousin had never noticed but Dudley wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box. Nor was his magic whole. Other children might notice him taking a peek at their magical abilities. And it was so very rude to do so without permission first.

After another moment of debate, it was highly unlikely any of the children would notice, he rose and ran over to the playground himself. He helped a child climb up the slide. As he grasped the little girl’s hands, he pushed the tiniest amount of magic into her palms. Nothing.

He nudged another child to go down a different slide, his magic seeping into the little boy’s back. Again, nothing. Salazar tried off and on to find a child with a magical core. He didn’t find a single one.

Salazar claimed a swing as he grumbled to himself. He would have to search his classmates once school recommenced. Maybe he’d check the adults also.

In the end, there wasn’t any magicals at school besides Dudley and him. On the upside, he was very good at peeking for a hint of magic. He was certain no one, without special training, would ever notice if he took a look see. (Not that he would—often—it was terribly rude.)

oooP11ooo

The wine glass smacked onto the table. Salazar closed his eyes and counted to ten.

“I’m telling you Vernon, you have to be careful where the bitch comes from. The stud can be show winning but if the bitch isn’t, the pup will be a runt.” Aunt Marge’s drunken gaze moved to Salazar. “Worth nothing but a drowning least it ends up wasting money from good, hardworking folk–”

“More wine?” asked Vernon, his voice high and loud to draw her attention.

“Aah, yes.”

Aunt Petunia waved her hand sharpily behind her. 

Salazar vanished back into the kitchen as directed. A smoldering anger rolled through him. His green gaze narrowed onto the dog Aunt Marge had brought. The reincarnate knew her words were worthless but he couldn’t help but take offense.—He didn’t know James and Lily Potter but they had died for him. The least he could do was defend their names. (A childish part of himself whispered that they were his parents to defend.)

Her voice floated into the room and Salazar sneered at the bulldog as it cowered at the power slowlying radiating from him. “...That’s why I’ve decided to try this artificial insemination. There aren’t enough bloodlines…” Salazar dumped the dirty dishes and yanked the refrigerator open. Its light flickered as he dug around for something to eat on the go.”...semen from a…” Dudley’s Birthday cake sat waiting with cherries around the edge. He pulled a few off and popped them in his mouth before pulling some slices of cheese out. “...so much less hassle...didn’t require being held down...breeding…” Salazar frowned back at the dining room. Mrs. Figg was far kinder with her kneazle breeding. “...And there won’t be a runt to drown...I’ve no idea why you kept the charity case. He’s an insolent...delinquent. Not like this strapping lad...turning eight already!”

His magic flared, with it the house lights died. A stream of curses rose from the darkened dining room. Salazar stalked past the dog as it pissed in fear and stomped from the house. He didn’t care that it was evening. His relatives would deal with it. 

The grove was eerie in the dark. Omorose’s orange eyes shone from a lower branch of the oak tree. Tiny pairs of kitten eyes appeared with hers.—she had birthed a set of three this time. Two reminded Salazar of Mr. Paws.—Salazar stalked over to the holly tree and settled at her roots. 

A kitten rubbed against his back and curled about until it reached the side of his thigh. Salazar stroked the kitten’s back and up around the curling tail. Some of his anger dissipated as the tiny thing purred in pleasure under his hand.

Golden magic swirled up at his call. He pushed it into the tree and watched as the rune filled bark lit up with golden lines, swirls, and hooks, each rune distinct from the last. The lines traveled up the trunk and into the highest branches. He had the lower branches to mend still. Since he was burning to release magic, he might as well do something productive.

It was late or very early, depending on one’s perspective, when he returned home. Aunt Petunia locked him into his little room without a word. Worry lines twisted with fury and frustration on her face. He was only allowed out for the loo once a day for a week. It was his worst punishment yet. 

He would have similar, and worse, punishments over the years after that. The last threads of something had been cut. Salazar couldn’t be certain but the combination of his magical retaliation—from his relatives perspective—and his apparent disrespect towards “Aunt” Marge may have tipped the scale with Uncle Vernon. Aunt Petunia would never side with her freak of a nephew, not when she expected him to be as good as dead by age eleven and not against her husband, a man she loved very dearly. 

Nothing ever became physical but that may have been his willingness to avoid confrontation.—There was no point to fight with them when he would be gone in a few years. Being locked in the cupboard also freed up his time from chores for more important things, anyway.

oooP12ooo

Circles of runes floated clockwise within the depths of the cloudy quartz. Magic glowed out from the crystal, illuminating the cellar. Little pulses of light danced across the floor as the quartz slowly absorbed the magic poorly stored away by the protection enchantment. 

Salazar watched intently, patiently waiting. Two years of work had to have paid off. He flexed his fingers, hoovering them over the circle of chalk he had drawn out across the floor of the cellar. It’s pastel pink revealing the fact that Salazar had “borrowed” it from some child in the neighborhood. (He had meant to return what was left but he had used it all.)

When the pool of magic lost a fourth of its stored power, the enchantment’s rope shot up towards Dudley. The wizard activated the chalk written runic matrix, lighting it up with vibrant silver and green light, and a bubble of magic wrapped around the cellar, stopping the rope from leaving. Losing its source of pure magic, the enchantment’s rope dangled in uncertainty.

He poured a vial of blood onto the quartz.—It had taken a ridiculous amount of effort to collect the blood from his cousin. He had to actually pick a fight with the little bully in the making. At least Dudley avoided him properly now.—Runes lit up within the orb and the blood was slowly absorbed, turning the smoky quartz pink.

The rope of magic came to attention and shot into the quartz. A final set of runes lit up. The rope flattened as it sucked for magic. Bulges appeared in the rope, going from the pool of magic on the floor into the orb. Eventually the only magic moving freely about was the little firefly sparkles of the monitoring enchantment. Those sank into the orb every few minutes as it monitored the protection enchantment and claimed a little power for itself.

Salazar relaxed as everything appeared to have worked. He released the bubble and nothing changed. The protection enchantment would be powered by safer, more permanent means now. It would continue to work with no interference from him and would do so for years longer then originally expected.

He imagined Dumbledore had expected it to die when Salazar left and there was “no magic” left in the house. Now it would only stop if Salazar came to cut the power or Dudley stopped seeing Privet Drive as his home. Of course, the quartz might eventually fail but that should take a good century.

oooP13ooo

The candles flickered in the dark. A faint glow came from the fireplace. His aunt had never noticed and would never thank him for his thoughtful gesture but evil spirits would not take up abode in his temporary home. So every Samhain found him leaving a few lit candles near the windows to ward off the evil spirits. This year he sparked a small flame in the fireplace also—he would not be present to help booster the candles, a little more was needed just in case. 

His relatives didn’t celebrate the proper new year nor did they celebrate what Salazar had always known was the Catholic New Year on March 25th.6 No at some point, someone, somewhere had convinced most of civilization to celebrate the new year after Yule. Thinking about the changes in customs and calendars always gave him a headache. It was simpler to continue his traditions while accepting others as they did them. 

Now it was Samhain once more but, unlike past years, the grove was ready and the holly tree was prepared. He could complete a ritual finally. It had only taken him until his tenth year in this world. 

He slipped through the silent house, claimed one of his lite candles, collected a small tin of cookies he had baked earlier, and left. Dudley had eaten most of the cookies as he complained all evening about being stuck inside. This was the only holiday Aunt Petunia put her foot down on. Dudley would not go about dressed up as a ghost or superhero. He would not go out and collect candies like his friends. There were to be no decorations. Pumpkin carving was not allowed. Nothing about Halloween was acceptable.

Salazar was certain it was because of the supernatural qualities of the holiday. He wanted to tell her that it wasn’t the correct tradition. This was a night of light, to celebrate the harvest and to call out to the sun to return as soon as it could. It was a night where magic was powerful and the barriers between worlds diminished. It was a night of remembrance and thanks. This was a night to reconnect with the long since departed.

Even the Catholic tradition of celebration for souls and saints was more in accord to the night than running about collecting candies. Of course, there was the need to protect oneself but it was easiest to do with light, candlelight. Dressing up could work. Salazar had never seen it work as well as having a properly blessed candle lite, though.

Omorose prowled over to him as he passed through the dark and shuttered up neighborhood. Her orange eyes glowed in the night like a little demon herself. The scores of dressed up children had long been tucked into bed. Candle lit pumpkins sat on doorsteps. The moon hung heavy in the late night sky. He would have done this ritual early morning, before dawn, but he had been locked in his cupboard under the stairs for a week stretch. It was only luck, and a few Dudley tantrums, that his relatives had forgotten to lock him in again.

Brisk wind pushed at his coat as he slipped through the short cut near Mrs. Figg’s. The little candle he had kept lit flickered but didn’t go out. His pendant’s silver reflected its faint glow.

A movement in the dark had him pause. He frowned as a score of mud brown imps crawled over one of the neighbor’s porches. The little mischief makers roughhoused amongst themselves and made a mess of the front yard. One of the jack-o-lanterns, its candle extinguished, was smashed. Pumpkin guts were thrown across the area. Instead of fleeing because of the sudden mess, the imps took to throwing the orange pieces at each other.

He shared a look with Omorose and left the imps to it. It served the neighbor right for letting their candles blow out. He was not going to deal with the tiny mischief makers. They’d just cause him a headache.

It wasn’t long after that, they reached the grove. Salazar blew out the candle in hand and set an unused candle into a pre-prepared circle of stone before the holly tree. He popped the tin and set it down before the makeshift altar. The chocolate chip cookies looked deep brown in the dark.

The reincarnate pressed the candle wick between thumb and finger, drew upon the natural magic flowing up through his feet, and pushed the energy into the wick. As he felt the energy catch on the flammable material, he removed his hand, careful to not cause a breeze. A white flame, similar to the light of the moon, flickered to life and illuminated the grove. 

He stared into the soft light for a long moment before he lifted an alder flute. Light, airy sounds filled the area as Salazar played to the candle. The song moved in a rhythm not forgotten but not used for its true purpose for centuries. The candle light ceased to flicker, grew both steady and brighter. The light expanded outward as natural magic, twisted to the holly tree’s music directed wishes, entered the candle and joined the burst Salazar had used to light it. 

Contradictorily, the light dimmed. Salazar stopped his playing. 

“Whooo?” whispered through the grove. 

Salazar watched as light returned in the form of three floating, white fires. He left the flames to steady and find their footing, so to speak. Soft whispers filled the grove. Only the occasional echoing whisper of ‘who’ reached his ears.

Finally the flames grew in size, became indistinct before shifting, growing, and solidifying into three figures. Familiar women and a man stood, floating before him. The first figure demanded in a familiar brogue and ancient tongue, “Who dares call us on this Samhain night?”

Salazar answered in the same old language, “A friend calls this night.” The ritual’s magic tasted his words and found him truthful. The spirits of his friends solidified even more. Only their silver tones kept clear that they were still very dead. Salazar took in their appearance with both joy and disappointment. 

Not all he had called to had answered.

Rowena, always the most outspoken in her search for knowledge, demanded, “Who?” Salazar watched her in amusement as she walked closer but Helga drew his attention. 

“Maybe he is one of the children we left behind,” she said.

Evander, Rowena’s husband shook his head in disagreement. “I would not be optimistic. Everyone we knew has long been dead.”

Salazar felt a smile tug at his lips as Helga snarked back. Evander ignored her, content to observe Salazar. It was clear the quiet man was trying to determine how they knew the boy before them. After all, Salazar had performed a druidic ritual that required someone familiar with the dead called upon. 

Salazar finally took pity on his confused companions. “I’m Salazar.”

“It cannot be,” countered Helga.

“I’m afraid it can,” Salazar countered back before he added, shifting the language to Pictish which had been a dying language when Rowena had taught them all. The particular experimental charm she had used to transfer the language had also given them all an underlying accent from her home village—something that wasn’t easily replicated. “I tried to call on your children, Helena, Gareth, and Godric also.” Silence filled the grove at his words. 

A stab of cold slid against his forehead as Rowena leaned over him and tried to touch his head. Salazar jerked back with a sharp, “What”.

Rowena explained with a frown, “You have a sōwilō rune carved into your head.”

Salazar pressed a hand against the spot still frozen from her touch. Rough skin was frozen. He frowned up at her as he rubbed some warmth back.

“You did not know?” she asked in bemusement. 

He rolled his eyes behind his glasses. “I’m not blind. It’s always been there.” 

“You have had it since before memory then.” Rowena concluded as she frowned thoughtfully, “Perhaps it is why you have been reborn.”

Salazar continued to rub warmth back into his forehead as he explained, “I wouldn’t know. I live with non-magical kin. My...parents have long been dead. They were killed by some wizard people called a dark lord, whatever that’s supposed to mean...It might be a result of that night when I survived and this lord vanished.”

“You will inform us when you know.” Rowena answered, content in the knowledge that Salazar would simply for his own sake. 

“Of course.” Salazar agreed before he asked, “What happened after I died?”

“You mean you did not haunt us?” countered Evander as he pulled Rowena to a more appropriate distance from the only living person in the grove. The spirits all took a moment to claim a cookie and find places to sit. Salazar claimed a cookie after them. 

It was informal but they took a moment to eat together. With the little ritual completed, the spirits gained more solidity. They could interact, in a limited fashion, with the living world now. It would last them till the sun began to rise.

Omorose prowled into the circle and claimed his lap with a look at the spirits. One of his hands automatically moved to stroke the black furred back. He considered the spirits, aware that the dead were only shadows of their living selves. Some things would be forgotten. Many things no longer mattered. Pieces and parts of who they were were tied to a physical form they no longer had. These were some of his lifelong companions but they would never be quite like the people he remembered.

Salazar shook his head slowly as he considered Evander’s question, refocusing on what he could learn from his dead companions instead of what was now missing. “I don’t recall doing so but I recall nothing of the afterlife. I died and then I awoke, as a three year old, centuries later.”

“Centuries?” Helga asked, “What year is it?”

“1990,” Salazar said before he helpfully added, “It’s my tenth year.” 

“Over 900 years,” muttered Rowena, intrigue and a hint of a thousand questions echoed in her voice.

“The Normandy wizards succeeded,” said Evander as he refocused the conversation towards the answers Salazar seeked. “We warred another year after you fell. They killed Hardwin, leaving us without a head of the triad.”

“We met with them under a Circle where an agreement was made and the Wizards Council went from seven to twenty one, not that all the seats were claimed. They had, in their infinite wisdom, agreed to the Normandy wizards’ idea of honoring some of our side,” Helga added. 

“We were made into new Houses,” Evander expanded, bemusement colored his warm voice.

“We all became Paters or Maters,” sniffed out Helga before she continued, “They even made you one, posthumously. Lot of good it did. I still do not know how they convinced the Magicks the squirt of a lad was your blood kin.”

“What?” hissed Salazar, startled at the turn of the conversation enough to almost fall into parseltongue—something he rarely did since his first childhood where he had spent days speaking it exclusively. (Something he had avoided in this life, with the fear it would just be silly hissing sounds instead of that magical language.)

The spirits shared a look before Helga admitted, “About twenty years after making you a Pater a young Normandy lad with parseltongue was brought forward. The Isles only partly accepted him. Some wording in the bylaws the Normandy party had slipped through allowed the boy to vote for the seat in some circumstances. He was designated as a representative of your wishes instead of gaining the rights as a Head of House.”

“I ssee,” Salazar said slowly as his thoughts jumped to his family, or lack thereof. He had never spoken of his kin outside the unfortunate fate of his mother and sister. Nor had he married and had children. His focus had been on creating Hogwarts and he hadn’t had Familia Magics to demand progeny; he had some type of family magics, as his parseltongue indicated, but he had never been claimed by the familia or clan said magics came from. So the family magic had never reared its head with demands. It was a true waste making him and his blood a new House when it made him first and last of his name. 

It wasn’t like his brother could claim it either. The rituals of old would not have made him close enough to be considered Salazar’s heir nor did House Magics usually accept a sibling of the founding head as heir without the head’s permission.

“Was it true?” Helga asked after a moment of silence. “Was he your kin?”

Salazar gave a slight shrug, uncomfortable on where the conversation was going. They were dead, though. There was nothing they could do with the information, if they even wanted to. 

“It is possible,” he finally answered as he looked down at Omorose, “My father was a...Dane...a viking. He possessed magic...though not parseltongue.” Salazar frowned at that realization but shook his head. Now was not the time to question where various magical abilities came from. “I assumed the family magics originated from him. This boy might have been a son or grandson of his...and would have had the tiniest claim to the new House.”

Silence fell as his dead companions considered the new truth. Salazar was a bastard, or as good as.—Viking “traders” weren’t particularly loyal to a wife and were known to have multiple across their routes, even multiple at their main home with some more concubine than wife in status.—Of course, William the Conqueror had also been a bastard so it shouldn’t matter that he was one. Or had been one, at least.

“Well,” Helga finally spoke, “It does not matter in the end. Over 900 years is long past the point of it mattering. As to what happened, the Normandy Heads ended up with the majority seats because our wise counsel had named more than one of our own posthumously to a new House. Most had family but a number of those family members were or later became compromised by the Normandy party. Then, a few years in we found most of the tertiary triad members dead.”

He grimaced at the last fact. He had been a tertiary triad member and all tertiary members were the equivalent to druids. (It had been simple enough to change titles to protect against the subjugation of the Romans.7 Druids vanished and the triad came into being. Simple.) Their primary duty was to uphold the groves and the wider protections the groves made up for the Isles. 

Salazar considered the effects of losing so many tertiary members at the same time their council had been taken over. Their traditions had likely faded away with no fully trained druids around and a council unable to do anything. Still, the grove they sat in indicated that some survived in some capacity for a time. 

Omorose shifted in his lap and started to lick his hand. He had paused in petting her. Green eyes looked down and met orange. Something eased in him at her presence. 

“Hogwarts?” Salazar asked as he shifted to other concerns.

“Stood through our deaths,” Rowena answered, “We can haunt people we knew personally if we want, not that they seem to notice…It has been a long time since we could haunt anyone but Hogwarts was still around when Helga died.”

“Stood through my great grandchild, little Mavis, too,” sighed out Helga, “She stayed on as a teacher and died very old... Of course, Hogwarts did not continue to teach everything we preferred. The Roman wand spellcasting became the standard. They added potions...Herbology was still taught as it should. Astronomy was falling out of favor though. The Council restricted the use of a number of rituals near Mavis’s death, which caused a drop in interest with various basic classes.”

“Why did they restrict rituals?” Salazar demanded. Everything a druid did was considered ritual and it had been one of the advanced classes he had taught their shared apprentices. (Anyone that knew anything about rituals knew most all magic could be construed as ritual in its own way. Knowing such helped many understand what they are doing.)

Helga shifted in discomfort as she explained, “Some became too dangerous. Why, I cannot say.”

Salazar frowned at that. All rituals were dangerous if the participants didn’t know what they were doing in even the tiniest of ways. But, in this case, it was likely that the drop in druids was the cause of the restrictions. The majority of rituals done had some origins within druidic arts, or at least the ones commonly done in the Isles in his day did. Such arts were passed orally. It stood to reason that the knowledge died as the druids died.

“I suspect you will have to take up a wand this time around,” Evander remarked with faint amusement. 

Salazar raised a brow at that. “I took up a wand last time.” (Which was entirely true, in the most basic sense.)

“Have you gone through any purifying rituals?” demanded Rowena, once more interrupting. 

Salazar turned to her, as he took a moment to refocus. Rowena’s interruptions were a normal occurrence back in the day but one he had grown unaccustomed to. He took a moment to redirect his thoughts from wands and how none of them had used theirs particularly often to her demand. (And firmly ignored the innuendos that came to mind. The entire conversation would have been entirely too vulgar if the other lads had been present in place of the ladies.) 

“Not to my memory,” he finally answered.

She frowned. They all did, actually, and Salazar couldn’t blame them. It was customary for magicals to have a yearly purification at the start of Spring. It removed most jinxes and curses, cleaned their innate magic of any impurities and residues that could be caused by emotionally driven magic, and allowed a short connection between Mother's magic and their own, something most were unable to do on their own but was important to help rebalance a person’s core. It was also considered one of the only ways to combat and weaken bloodline curses and magical inherited illnesses.

Salazar knew the ritual well. He had led it for each new apprentice they took on. He taught those students how to go through the ritual on their own, though most didn’t have the ability to connect with Mother’s magic to successfully do so. He had even made sure they all understood how to go through one of the lesser purifying rituals which could be completed under a dark moon, any month of the year without consciously working the earth magic.

It wasn’t because of ignorance that he hadn’t completed a purification ritual in this lifetime. The rituals he knew required a proper grove. There were still some magics to renew and balance within this grove before he could complete such a ritual. It also required the use of a moderately large quantity of innate magic all at once. He might be able to do magic, but he had always been careful to spread it out—and he still exhausted himself. By next year his core would be large enough he would be comfortable completing the ritual himself.

Salazar voiced the issue, “I’ve none to perform it for me.”

Rowena’s lips thinned into a line. 

Her husband spoke, ordering, “You will complete a purification on the very next dark moon after your tenth and first birthday.”

The reincarnate inclined his head to the healer in agreement, seeing no reason to explain that was his plan already. With that, Helga took over and discussed everything she could recall and he had missed. As dawn came, his dead friends faded away but it wouldn’t be the last time he saw them. Knowing his luck, they all would be able to haunt him and next Samhain he’ll get an ear full.

Perhaps next time the others would join them. 

oooPooo

Chapter Text

Chapter Three

oooP1ooo

Salazar paused as he looked through the stack of mail. He had almost passed over it. There was another three weeks before his eleventh birthday so the one letter he knew would come still had time to make an appearance. Yet, here was an envelope of thick parchment. 

Non-magicals didn’t use parchment anymore.

It was a simple matter to slip the thick letter into his cupboard as he headed to the kitchen. It was only after he cleaned up from breakfast, cared for his aunt’s first prize garden (he rather enjoyed the recognition of his efforts), mowed, washed the company owned car (finding a ten pounder and spare change in the process), took out the trash, and made lunch that he was able to open the letter though. 

Salazar curled up on his small cot—almost too small now—in the cupboard under the stairs and pulled the door closed. A brush of fingers across his glasses frame lit the cupboard in sunlight. He traced the fine emerald ink as he reread the envelope’s front. The ten year old was unsure what to make of the details presented.1

ooo

To: Harry James Potter

Number 4 Privet Drive, Cupboard Under the Stairs

Little Whinging, Surrey

ooo

The other side of the envelope had a familiar seal stamped in the same deep green ink. Green letters spelling ‘Hogwarts’ and a Latin phrase, referencing a moment in the founder’s life best left forgotten, was also present. It was an odd motto.2 Salazar couldn’t help but wonder who had come up with it.

The contents of the envelope were quite telling. He hummed and hawed as he pursued the articles. Evander had been correct, Salazar would have to take up a wand and actually learn how to use it in a classroom setting. Similarly, there was nothing about runes, arithmetic, languages, physical education, or other basics that he would have expected as founder or from his experience with the modern non-magical education system. By the book selection, it appeared that they would study herbology, history, some type of defensive casting, magical theory, and a magical creatures class. There were also potions, something that had not been freely shared nor well developed in his time, and a disciple called transfiguration. The telescope indicated astronomy. 

Salazar humphed in mild annoyance at the limited familiars selection. One should not separate a child from a familiar. A change in the bylaws would have not been easy but 900 years was plenty of time for someone to achieve it. He was half tempted to hunt down a snake to take along just to see what they tried to do about it.

The reincarnated founder found that he had one question he was particularly interested in having answered as he finished rereading the letter. He supposed he needed to find an owl to have it answered, though. The ten year old stuffed the letter into his backpack and pulled out a notebook. Salazar ripped out a line of paper and, after a moment of consideration, wrote in clean, flowing script. He considered the note for a long moment before he added a short remark about his aunt.

ooo

Dear Professor McGonagall, 

I am pleased to inform you of my acceptance to Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Would you send me details on where to collect the list of required items? My aunt is uncertain of the location.

Sincerely,

Harry James Potter

ooo

After a short review, in which Salazar added a few errors as was his habit during school to keep up childish pretenses, the letter was ready. Outback, an owl helpfully appeared to take it. 

Salazar watched it fly away. It was time to finish preparing for the inevitable. He packed his backpack to stuffing with clothes and other odds and ends. He took his time but it didn’t take long for him to finish, he had been moving things to the grove for months now.

It was time he had a discussion with his (un)loving aunt. 

She was lounging in the kitchen, reading some inane magazine. His secondary school clothing steeped in gray dye nearby. It stunk up most of the house and looked like the wrinkled skin of some poor skinned elephant. 

“Aunt Petunia we need to talk,” he announced quietly. 

She looked up and frowned. Her pale eyes swept up and down and her lips pursed at his demand. “Fine.” 

“I’ve received a letter today.” Salazar watched as she stiffened. “I’ve sent back my acceptance.”

“We will not pay for some freak school!” she snapped out as she jumped up from her seat, “You’re going to Stonewall High.”

Salazar paused at that. He didn’t have much money, only four or five thousand pounds, mostly coin, he had slowly collected over the six years. (Between his relatives lax nature about their change, the forgotten cashes of money squirreled away by them, and a few handy charms to ping when money was near, it hadn’t taken much effort to collect the pounds.) That money was needed elsewhere, especially if he was kicked out. Dumbledore’s letter implied he would go either way though. So money couldn’t be an issue. 

Instead he latched onto something else to steer her away from issues he had no answers for. “You knew that I’m magical?”

“Knew!?” she shrieked, “Of course I knew! I made sure Vernon knew too. After how your father acted...Vernon understood what it meant when your teacher’s wig changed colors or...or when the electricity died! After my dratted sister got that letter and..and vanished off to some freakshow of a school and came back every holiday to show off what she had learned, I knew. I knew! You were just like them...a freak!”

Salazar watched his aunt rant and rave at him. He couldn’t think of anything to say back to her. There was no need to cut her rant off. It didn’t matter to him anymore. (A small, little part of him ached as one of his last living relatives spewed hate at him.)

“Get out,” she snapped, her entire body trembling with suppressed emotion.

He tilted his head as he regarded her before he stated, “We can not change what we are.”

Her jaw clenched and she hissed with pure fury, “End of discussion! I’ll have no more freakishness in this house, so out! Out!”

Salazar nodded at her order and left. He grabbed his backpack from his little room and walked out the front door. The ten year old pulled on his pendant and swept through the neighborhood. He didn’t expect he would ever return. The enchantment would continue to work, continue to hide and protect him no matter where he actually went. His various runic matrices set to help clean and maintain the house would fail in their own time but that was his aunt’s problem.

Omorose greeted him with a few soft mewls from her seat on a low branch of the ancient oak. The bag with the bell tent sat at its feet. A large tool box, drawstring bag stuffed to near bursting, and a couple of large planter pots sat waiting.

It took some effort, being only ten, to pull the tent together on his own but he managed. (He could have used magic but he needed to do something physical after that conversation.) The pile of blankets and pillows from the drawstring bag were pulled out and turned into a nest in one corner of the round tent. He pulled the stack of canned food from a planter and stacked them inside. One of the planter pots was rolled off to the side of the grove where Salazar took a few minutes to test it’s runic magic—it being his magic loo. The other pot was rolled about until it was only a few feet from the tent. He set the tool box beside it and looked around. 

There were still multiple things to get but he had all the runic arrays and enchantments mapped out. The loo and sink needed something more permanent for their magic—a quartz or similar crystal would do well enough. Depending on money, he might even finalize his plans for extending the tent but it likely made little sense to spend money on much if he was at Hogwarts most of the year.

The boy puttered around his grove, popped open the tool kit to move his small stack of books and larger stack of notebooks into the tent besides his bedding which Omorose had already claimed, folded his overly large clothes into a neat stack near it, and moved the pot-turned-sink a few more times. He attempted to ignore the last nasty words of his aunt. 

oooP2ooo

A hoot woke him. Salazar blinked into one of his pillows and groaned. His head was heavy, mind fogged from sleep. A hoot came again. There was an owl. He had no owl. 

Salazar tried to sit up only to realize the heavy weight of his head wasn’t imagined. A warning rumble vibrated his skull and he groaned at the realization. Omorose was laying on his head. 

It took a few minutes but the founder woke up enough to push the kneazle off. The hooting came from an owl seated on top of his stack of books. Salazar ruffled his mess of hair as he yawned and stumbled over to claim the letter.

He squinted at the looping script with a frown. His name, new name—real name?—was written across it. (Salazar made a face at that circle of thoughts and squashed the question of who he was. Sleep deprivation and philosophy should not mix.) He pulled out a short note.

ooo

Dear Mr. Potter, 

Your acceptance has been recorded. Please review the map on the other side for directions. If your aunt has any further concerns, a professor can be scheduled to guide you through Diagon Alley. 

Also be mindful of the Statute of Secrecy and neither request directions to the pub nor bring attention to yourself right outside its entrance. There is a large fine for anyone who breaks the international secrecy law and you have no obvious way of knowing who may or may not be magical.

Included is your Gringotts vault key.

Sincerely,

Minerva McGonagall

Deputy Headmistress and Transfiguration Professor of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Mistress of the Transfiguring Arts

ooo

His brow furrowed as he processed the short warning, his mind slowly woke up properly. This Statute of Secrecy sounded like something he should read up on. It also implied something that could explain so much. The hows and whys gave him a headache though, so the wizard ignored that part of the note for the moment and flipped it over. The map showed Diagon Alley in the heart of London, hidden behind a pub called the Leaky Cauldron.

Salazar set the note aside, tipped the envelope, and stared down at a little gold key. This was probably the answer to how he could pay for his schooling. He huffed and got ready for the day, knowing it was going to be long. He was just glad he was finally old enough no one would bat an eye at him buying a train ticket into the city. (And even if they did, magic was a wonderfully useful thing he’d happily use now that he had a clear direction on where to go.)

oooP3ooo

Diagon Alley wasn’t like any shopping center he had been to (not that he had been to any in this day and age). It brought a thrum of pleasure as he followed the bartender’s directions to the goblin bank. Magic was on display without concern, without fear. 

Children ran through the street with laughter, freely enjoying their innate magic and the beauty it brought to their lives. People walked about in a rainbow of colors, dressed with a flair of magic present in nearly every shopper. Robes, cloaks, hats of all shapes and sizes.—He stared at one woman with what appeared to be a living mushroom on her head for a little too long.—Wands were holstered at their waists, dangled from chains around necks or wrists. People wore makeup that shifted with the light or their mood. Gold and silver and copper jewelry glowed with enchantments. It was an eclectic array of style and personality, of cultures clashing and harmonizing in a kaleidoscope of magic.

Salazar spent much of his first few minutes staring at the people. There were so many magicals in one place. He had only seen a similar number at Hogwarts during his last years, and the majority had been children, or during one of the major wizard council meetings. The number wasn’t as eye catching as the diversity. He stared in wonder at one man’s afro spelled to look like a storm cloud before a woman stepped out of a bookshop with a headdress made entirely of what appeared to be phoenix feathers. It seemed, much like the non-magical world, the magical one had broken down many of the barriers between cultures and found a way to live together—perhaps not perfect but beautiful in its imperfection all the same.

He flushed as a woman seemingly wrapped in large butterfly wings winked at him. Her slanted eyes sparked with pleasure at his obvious reaction and Salazar internally groaned. His gaze sharply shifted from the people to the alley itself. It was no less colorful.

A sign, Cauldrons – All Sizes – Copper, Brass, Pewter, Silver – Self-Stirring – Collapsible , hung above a winding stack of cauldrons fitting the descriptions. The sounds of birds echoed out of a darkly lit store with Eeylops Owl Emporium – Tawny, Screech, Barn, Brown, and Snowy painted across the window. A crowd of children, many Salazar’s physical age, had their noses to a store’s window. He could hear their exclamations over the displayed broom, ‘the new Nimbus Two Thousand—fastest ever–’. 

Salazar spotted a shop for robes and other attire, a store of trunks and travel gear, another filled with old and worn books, and an apothecary with more ingredients then he had ever seen; some were so numerous they had been piled into barrels. There was a little cart absolutely covered in hats. A tiny stand with newspapers on display sat near another bookstore. A salesperson shouted out about their everlasting, never melting shaved ice. Yet another called out a deal on fairy wings for ‘The finishing spark to a special dessert’. He couldn’t catch everything as he traveled down the winding cobblestone road but he certainly tried, unconcerned that his bouncing eyes made him look young. 

The boy paused for a moment to take in the magical marble building housing whichever goblin clan ran the bank. His marvel of the world hidden behind a dingy little pub faded as he looked over the austere building. Who thought it was a smart idea to hand over such important aspects of the economy of the Isles to goblins?

Salazar grimaced as he realized that he needed to learn modern economics and find out how goblins worked now. Neither could be the same after a thousand years nor had Salazar had to deal with either often. Goblins had never bothered Hogwarts; they had been too busy with the Council to worry themselves over a minor institution of sanctuary and schooling. Economics had been Gareth’s duty; he had been the merchant’s son. Salazar had been more than happy to let Gareth handle it all. 

Bebother the dead, he thought in disgruntlement as he entered the building with a short glance at a carved poem warning against theft. He had had everything set up nicely before he had died. His duties had consisted of ones he actually had some interest in. Now he had a list far too long and complex for him to get through before school began. Years of work, in fact. Salazar had the sudden realization of exactly what he would be doing at school.

Salazar took in the dark paneled walls, high ceilings with crystal chandeliers and golden lamps, and came to an obvious conclusion. The goblins had the better part of this deal. The hoveled caves they once haunted had been replaced by every sign of wealth. 

He stepped in line for a teller as he watched the goblins dressed in fine fabrics and golden buckles. There were piles of gold, silver, and bronze being weighed. A goblin was even measuring a few excessively large, precious stones. Somehow Salazar didn’t think the dwarven clans were particularly happy with his country.

The sharp warning growl of a goblin broke him of his thoughts. Salazar raised his brow at the teller glaring down at him. 

“I would like to access my vault,” he said as he lifted the key the deputy headmistress had sent. Salazar was particularly interested in the explanation behind her possession of it. If he had to guess, it came back to Dumbledore.

The goblin took it, stared between it and Salazar before shooting out an order. Another goblin appeared to lead Salazar to a side door. A fast, twisting (surprisingly enjoyable) ride in a converted miner’s cart saw the ten year old in front of a vault deep underground. He saw no discernible identifier but the little key fit all the same. His first thought at the sight of the vault contents was that he shouldn’t have to worry about paying for school. He had literal piles of gold, silver, and bronze coins.

“The conversions today?” Salazar asked as he took the offered pouch, eyes stuck on the piles of coin. Likely, he would have some bronze coins removed for the use of said pouch but he’d accept that for convenience.

“One galleon is 5.23 pound sterling,” growled out the goblin.

The ten year old stilled. His eyes snapped over to the piles of gold coins as he correctly assumed the largest coins were the galleons. It seemed like an odd conversion with the coins so thick but perhaps they were just gold plated. Salazar took the conversion in mind as he packed as much coin the pouch would hold, hoping it would be a decent reference for the cost of things. 

Salazar looked through the vault for anything beyond the coin. A small chest was hidden in the very back which had multiple compartments. One thin drawer had six wands laid out on velvet. Names were etched in gold plates, James Edmund Potter, Fleamont Edmund Potter, Henry Charles Potter, Charles Felix Potter, Felix Henry Potter, and Henry Emery Potter.3 There was space for at least eight more wands. Salazar trailed his fingers over them but none felt right, like a wand should. 

The next compartment held velvet jewelry boxes with parchment tags tied to them. Salazar picked up the first and read the tag. Charles Felix Potter & Dorea Vega Potter nee Black . He popped the box open and stared down at three gold rings. One had a large diamond on it surrounded by tiny blue stones, probably sapphires. These were wedding and engagement rings. 

Salazar closed the box and looked over the tags of the others, gaze searching without much conscious thought for a specific pair of names. He had to pick up a few to read the tags until he found it. James Edmund Potter & Lily Claire Potter nee Evans . Salazar held the box and just stared down at its deep red velvet. Inside had to be his parents wedding rings. He had never had anything of his parents, in either life. Until now.

A mix of feelings twisted about in him as he opened the little box. At first glance the three rings were classic, simple gold bands. It took a moment of staring to see the design. He pulled out the larger ring and rolled it about. The male’s ring, his father’s ring, was etched with a deer's antlers. As he turned the ring full circle he found a lily etched in the gold, nestled between the two ends of the antlers. A glance at his mother's wedding band showed it was etched with lilies. It was the engagement ring where the antler motify reappeared. A moderately sized diamond was set at the center with three little emeralds coming off it like leaves. The band had the antlers etched in and the ends rose up from the gold band to hold the diamond “flower” in place as part of its setting. 

The boy carefully placed each ring back into the case after looking them over. Any of these rings would allow a more stable foundation for the various magics of his new home. These could be a powerful conductor for a whole array of magic but they weren’t just a diamond and gold. These were his parents' rings. The others could be his grandparents’. They were at least some relatives’. He didn’t know any of them but it didn’t seem right to use any of these for any old magic.

He forced himself to set the little box back. If he wasn’t going to use it, he should not take it—even though a large part of him wanted to.

A third compartment held more jewelry boxes. There were multiple pearl necklaces, a sapphire pendant that matched Dorea Potter’s engagement ring, a mess of bracelets, chains, and earrings. All were for a woman. Salazar couldn’t help but claim a gold chain—the thickest he could find in the mess of boxes, which was terribly delicate looking—and return to his parents' rings. 

He could barely feel the chain as he secured it around his neck. His parents' rings dangled and glinted in the torch light. Salazar tucked them under his shirt, self conscious of his foolish, spontaneous actions. Yet plans wirled through his mind, already working out how best to strengthen the delicate chain and protect the precious cargo from thieves.

The fourth and final compartment had a scroll, which revealed a family tree titled Domus Potter . It was limited as it showed only the path of the eldest in the family. Any that had siblings gave a short note on the number of male and female children. The only exception was where the eldest line died out and the second or third child took on the family headship. It started with Linfred the Potterer and ended with him. Interestingly, the scroll had his name as Salazar Harry James Potter Slytherin, Pater of Slytherin

Salazar’s brow rose in amusement. Slytherin. 

He supposed that the council had turned his epithet into his House’s name. His lips curled up into a smirk. He had been gifted the epithet ‘thǣrin Sley’, as in Salazar, thǣrin Sley. In modern English it was Salazar, there in Sly. At some point someone had decided it sounded better as Salazar Sleythǣrin and time seemed to have shifted it to Slytherin.4

Did this mean Godric’s epithet had been turned into his House name too? Salazar sniggered at the thought. Gods be good—It had to be true, he thought, the poor man.

The ten year old shook the thought away with a soft chuckle. He glanced back to his name before he looked up to the names right above. James Edmund Potter and Lily Claire Potter nee Evans —his parent’s names, as he had thought. All he needed now was to find a picture of the couple. He was drawn once more to his name and amusement bubbled back up. Salazar placed the scroll back where it belonged. There was no reason to carry it around.

When he returned to the surface, he collected a short pamphlet on Gringotts vaults, conversion rates, and the modern coin. The boy spent the better part of the day dodging through the crowds to reach a store or another. He first searched the likely stores for some type of bag that could carry the majority of his purchases. 

The satchel he found was made of durable black dragonhide with the inner pockets capable of carrying hundreds of stones of weight without it being obvious. Even better was that he could separate each into different pockets. One would be for books, another clothing, one of the smaller would be for instruments like the telescope and potion material. Pleasantly, there was a parchment holder, built to hold all the loose-leaf parchments in a tight stack and a couple quill holders besides an inkpot one. Finally, there was a single, outer pouch without any enchantments so he could carry small, heavily enchanted items that couldn’t be placed within the bag’s own enchantments.

After that, the rest of the required—and not so required—material was purchased. Salazar sped through Potage’s Cauldron Shop , Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment, and Mr. Mulpepper’s Apothecary . He spent a foolish amount of time in Scribbulus Writing Instruments debating between the traditional quill over the modern fountain pen. He ended up with both, and also picked out a variety of quality parchments, scrolls, notebooks, and an inscribing tool set that appeared useful for magically powered inscription work. 

Salazar debated over the clothing stores as he enjoyed a scoop of bread pudding ice cream for lunch. He ended up in Twilfitt and Tattings where he had a variety of basic tunics, trousers, under-robe versions of said tunics and trousers, and a few robes ordered before he found out that the Hogwarts robes could only be purchased at Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions

He was pleased by his original choice when he finished with Madam Malkin’s. Only minor fittings were done with his Hogwarts robes before he was ushered out by the busy seamstress. Twilfitt and Tattings clothes would fit him exactly and were spelled for minor growth spurts. Of course, he had no wait before he could wear the Madam Malkin’s robes while he had to return in a week or two for the other clothing. 

The quick service at Madam Malkin’s was why he purchased a few other simple tunics. The possibility of wearing something that fit sooner was too good an opportunity, even if the items weren’t as well done as his clothing from Twilfitt and Tattings would be. Both stores had their uses which he’d keep in mind in the future. 

The reincarnated founder took one look at Flourish and Blotts and fled the ridiculous crowd for one of multiple second hand bookstores. It took a good few hours and a visit to each shop but Salazar succeeded in finding a decent copy of each required book and a slew of others he found interesting. Some version of Hogwarts: A History made it into his collection after he had opened the first page and saw that Godric had been given the House name Gryffindor.5 (Salazar may have laughed out loud in pure joy at the sight.)

Salazar left Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 B.C. for last as he wasn’t in a particular hurry to receive a wand. The family business had been around in the 11th century, though the physical shop hadn’t been. All the founders had gotten their wands from the Ollivander of the time. It was a standard beginner’s tool. Salazar had been one of the group that had gotten his for the simplicity of training apprentices in accessing their magic while others had received their wands back when they had been children themselves. 

The interior of the store was dusty and dully lit. Stacks and stacks of long, narrow boxes sat on shelves. A heavy weight of magic settled onto his shoulders. He could feel wand magics reach out to brush his skin—tasting him, judging him. 

A prickle across the nap of his neck warned Salazar before a brush of breath slid across the same area and the Ollivander of this time said, “Good evening.”

Salazar turned to meet startling silver, moon like eyes. “Evening, sir.” 

The Ollivander tilted his head in interest as a tape measure began to float around the ten year old. “You’ve your mother’s eyes. Wonderful girl, took me a good half hour to match her. Ten and a quarter inches long, swishy, made of willow. Nice wand for charm work.”

He stepped closer, silver eyes tracing Salazar’s face. “Your father favored an eleven inch mahogany wand. Pliable. Had a little more power, particularly suited for transfiguration...Of course, it’s the wand that chooses the wizard—not the other way around.”

Salazar took a sharp step back as the old man reached out for his forehead. The wandmaker dropped his hand even as his eyes narrowed to the runic scar. “I’m afraid I sold the wand whose owner did that. Yew and phoenix feather. Very powerful and in the wrong hand–” He shook his head. “–well…”

“Mr. Ollivander, my wand?” Salazar asked even as he made a note of the man’s knowledge. Why would he know anything about the scar?

“Yes, yes of course.” Ollivander turned to the shelves of wands and vanished into the depths of the store. “Your wand hand?” He called out in question.

“I favor my right but either would do in a pinch.” Salazar answered as he went cross eyed as the tape measure rose to his nose. 

Ollivander reappeared with multiple wands. The first was taken from him the instant he touched it. The second he was allowed to flick.—A vase shattered.—The third wheezed at him. On and on it went until he was given a holly and phoenix feather wand. Ollivander straightened, his shiny gaze sharpened as Salazar held up the wand and flicked it. The main window shattered into a spiderweb of cracks.

The wandmaker’s expression twisted with an odd mix of disbelief and joy. Then he pulled the wand from Salazar’s hand and went back for more. The boxes pulled went from dusty to covered in a crust, the dust had laid on them for so long. 

“A tricky customer,” muttered Ollivander as he worked, “terribly tricky. So rare to have none of the quality options work.—’Tis not the wood.”

Salazar raised a brow and set the latest wand down. The wandmaker continued to mutter about the materials, clearly not worried over Salazar overhearing. Another wand was held out to Salazar but snatched away immediately after it touched his skin.

“Not dragon heartstring,” Ollivander grumbled while packing the latest stack of failed wands back into their boxes, “t’would be far too perfect for a fate touched to have such power. Not unicorn either...touched by darkness too young. It makes him inadequate for any hair…but I have no more phoenix feathers! Such feathers are far too rare...I really must visit Fawkes once more. He may give another with enough incentive...maybe those white strawberries from Japan would do?”

“Do you only use those three cores in your wand?” Salazar asked, feeling mildly incredulous of the man. His original wand had possessed a basilisk horn fragment as it’s core. How the Ollivander a thousand years ago had gotten hold of such a horn was beyond him but it had been an excellent wand, on the rare occasion he had used it. 

Ollivander's head snapped up and he scoffed, “They are the finest of ingredients! I only work with the best for my customers. A wand made with other cores are subpar at best. They never live up to expectations and do not last nearly as long.” His express soured and his silver gaze turned towards an especially dusty area of his store. “But my father did craft with...such ingredients. I have a few of his wands still.”

“What about something involving snakes?” Salazar finally asked as the old man vanished to dig through his father’s wands. His past wand had been made from a type of snakewood. Salazar couldn’t help but consider the possibility that such a connection would do well once more.

A stack of worn boxes on the verge of falling apart were floated to the desk. The old man slipped his wand back into its holster and curled his lips as he picked up the first wand. He stared at it for a long moment, leaned forward and sniffed it before he held it out. 

“Silver ash with a kneazle whisker, nine and three-fourth inches,” his voice held a note of disgust he was clearly trying to hold in, “mildly springy.”

The wand spewed tiny mice when flicked.

“No,” sighed Ollivander, clearly relieved, “not that one.”

Ollivander went through two more wands before a gold tinted one was revealed. Surprise lit his gaze after he learned the ingredients and held it out. “Yew and Quetzalcoatl feather, eleven inches and surprisingly supple for such a wood.”

Salazar took it carefully, curious by the interest of the wandmaker. He had no idea what a Quetzalcoatl was either. Yet, the yew wand connected to his core with a soft, mental hiss of pleasure. Silver and gold light sparked out the tip as he gave the wand a flick. Finally, he had found his wand. It had taken two hours.

“Curious.”

Lips pressed together into a thin line. Green eyes looked up to meet the silver orbs of the wandmaker, unsurprised that there was a catch to this wand. Ollivander’s reaction to the wand’s ingredients had been obvious. They stared at each other for a long moment. 

Salazar finally broke down, knowing a child should, and asked as the man wanted, “What’s curious?”

“I cannot say how well suited the wand will be, or how powerful. The core is not one I would have used.” The condescension in his tone dropped to something more ominous. “But it is curious that my father used that wood. I had not realized we had two pieces…”

“Two pieces?”

His gaze shifted from Salazar’s to stare at the scar on Salazar’s forehead. “Oh yes, wand woods are often as difficult to collect as the cores. The tree must be willing to part with the still living branches, you see. In this case, this yew tree gave two. The other became the wood to the wand that gave you that scar...Sister wands6, I had not thought–” He shook his head. “That will be seven galleons.”

Salazar frowned but paid for the wand before he left. The wandmaker's words about it’s sister wand creating his scar implied an unpleasant past tied to the feeling of a dark future. It didn’t take a seer to recognize the signs of troubled times ahead.  

Salazar left the store with grim determination. There was something he didn’t know. He was going to fix that. Now.

Flourish and Blotts was near empty as he entered. The sun was setting and it was late. The store was likely about to close. Salazar found a young assistant in the middle of restocking a shelf and requested help, choosing his words to be as blunt as possible. He knew that the reaction would be telling. “Could you help me find a book on Harry Potter?”

The attendant chuckled in response. 

Chuckled. 

Salazar felt ill at ease at that. 

The man grinned knowingly at Salazar, unaware of the disturbing nature of his response, and said, “Right over here. You know he’s supposed to start at Hogwarts this year. I’d give my N.E.W.T.s results to be at the school still to meet him!”

Salazar didn’t give the attendant a response as he stared at the bookshelf he had been waved to. It was filled with a mix of books, all of which were apparently about or referencing him. A whole series of children's books, The Adventures of Harry Potter, filled most of the shelf. Half a row had various books about the House of Potter so was hopefully about the entire family, not just him. The rest weren’t as clear cut. 

Salazar pulled out The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts . There was an entire chapter about him. He traded the book for Notable Wizards of Our Time . This had four chapters covering him and his parents. Both Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century and Modern Magical History had an extensive chapter or two on him.

The reincarnate stared unseeingly at one of the books. He was famous in some way. People, many people, had bought these books. His gaze moved back to the children's book series. How many of his fellow first years had grown up reading those stories?

“You alright?”

Salazar asked, “How much?”

“For that book? It-”

“For a copy of all of them.” Salazar corrected, waving his hand at the shelf.

“A-all of them,” squeaked the attendant.

“Yes.”

“Are you–”

“Yes.”

The young man stared down at Salazar for a minute before he gave a nod. “Right then. I’ll have to ring it all up to give you a price.”

Salazar was over thirty galleons poorer by the time he left the bookstore. The boy slipped through the emptying alleyway, the crowded Leaky Cauldron, and out to the tube station without anyone the wiser. It seemed he had a summer of reading to complete.

oooP4ooo

Omorose purred from his shoulder as he pursued the hat cart, her cheek rubbing against his own. It had taken him a day to read enough of the Harry Potter books to know he required a hat. That brought him back to Diagon Alley, not that he was particularly outraged to be back amongst his people but he needed a hat before someone noticed the runic scar on his forehead.

He could have gotten a non-magical hat. Many of the children running about and a decent number of younger adults wore non-magical clothing. The founder chose a magical hat partly to slowly expand his magical possessions and partly because it was actually simpler for him to find a hat in Diagon Alley instead of the non-magical society.—Aunt Petunia had never taken him shopping outside of groceries so he had no idea where to begin.—The excuse to return so soon was simply an additional bonus.

The kneazle had not been interested in staying behind this time. Luckily for her, her pendant made it simple to travel without anyone the wiser. All she needed to do was stay on his shoulders or lap as they traveled through the train and the tube. 

“That’s a fetching color on you dear,” an older woman’s voice said from the mirror he was staring into, “Brings out your eyes.”

Salazar frowned at the talking surface, disconcerted that someone thought such an enchantment a good idea. The actual sales person poked his head out from around the corner with a wide, toothy grin but kept his distance—Salazar had already told him where he could put his sales pitch. That it was early and some of the shops hadn’t yet opened meant the man was hovering as Salazar tried on various options. 

The Hogwarts’s school hat was black and pointy, and did nothing to hide his forehead which had led him here. Many of the enchanted hats with mushrooms and moving patterns were out simply because they were ridiculous but also because he needed to put it on before he entered the Leaky Cauldron. That also meant he needed something vaguely non-magical looking. Or, his gaze moved back to the mirror, a hat he could add his own touch of magic to so non-magicals didn’t notice anything odd.

A pointed dark green felt hat sat on his head. Its wide brim both easily covered his forehead and offered Omorose shade—which she didn’t need but clearly enjoyed. The tip didn’t rise to the sky like the Hogwarts hat but curled in little folds backwards until the tip ended in a curlicue near the base of his neck. It vaguely reminded him of Godric’s old leather hat and it did bring out his eyes.

He liked it. Salazar sighed at himself. The salesman’s grin widened. Salazar put it back on the stand and picked up one of the simpler enchanted options. A huff escaped the man and he turned away in annoyance. 

Green eyes watched the man for a moment.

“It isn’t a good match, dear. The other one looked much better on you—perhaps one of the fern hats? The plants would go with your eyes just as well.” the mirror said. 

He ignored it.

Salazar pulled the ridiculous hat off and twisted it about before he flipped it over. He could feel the enchantments to make the little frogs jump across the fabric, and keep the colors bright and true. He could taste the cheerful nature of the magic, like sweet candies popping and dancing on his tongue. What he couldn’t tell was how the enchantments were placed. Felt and fabric were terrible conductors of magic. No charm would stick around for long without something in place and the hat was too expensive to be so shoddily made.

The little boy snagged the inside of the hat and pulled a fold back. Bands of silver wire, as thin as thread, were sewn through the fabric and a very simple set of runes for pulling ambient magic were inlaid with multiple layers of silver wire. A single band of gold wire was weaved in a cross stitch about the silver. The enchantments were entwined in the gold.—Simple, rudimentary but would last a good year or two before someone would need to recast the spells.—He placed the hat back with a faint smirk and snagged his green hat instead.

“See, much better dear.” the mirror announced. 

Salazar agreed and paid the man before he headed deeper into the alley to find breakfast. After that, he would have to find some of this wire and perhaps a few things for his new home. 

Omorose sat on his shoulders, her butt partly resting within the hood of his coat. Faint purrs escaped her. Her orange gaze swept over the area like a little queen on her throne. Salazar didn’t know what it made him but he found he didn’t mind much. (How exactly had he become a cat person? He could imagine Helga’s gushing already.)

With few people out, it didn’t take long for him to travel further within the alley. Past Madam Malkin’s was a courtyard he recalled filled with restaurants. His memory proved accurate except most were closed. Of the two open, the Brewer’s Coffee reminded him of non-magical cafes but Dirigible Plum Cafe reminded him of Helga.

Dirigible Plum Cafe had actual dirigible plum plants at the front, some with the orange plums floating up towards the ceiling. The shop was quaint with soft yellow walls and warm wood furniture. The smell of baked goods and something savory combined with the more natural settings pulled at memories of the many meals eaten in Helga’s kitchen. 

A redheaded woman came up to him with a smile. “Here for breakfast or a drink to go?”

“Breakfast,” Salazar offered slowly as he forced his thoughts away from the past.

“Just you?”

“Yes–”

Omorose mewled in complaint.

The woman’s gaze sharpened onto the kneazle, the feline’s mewl having broken the pendant’s magic, and she smiled. “Two, then. This way.”

Salazar settled at a small table and watched in bemusement as Omorose hopped off his shoulders to claim the seat across from him. He shook his head at his cat and pulled a library book from his satchel. 

“You a halfblood?” the waitress asked in surprise as she handed over the menu.

“What?”

She nodded her chin out at the book. “That’s a muggle book.” Her sharp gaze swept over his new hat and tunic, non-magical coat, jeans, and worn sneakers before her eyes flicked over to Omorose. “You don’t quite fit the muggleborn mold…”

Salazar raised a brow, having no idea what she was talking about. “I got the book from my local non-magical library. It’s just a fantasy—about talking dragons.”

“Oh?” Her gaze lit up. “I prefer sci-fi more; it’s a little hard to swallow some of the things muggles come up with in their fantasy books. Though, read The Hobbit? I like that one.”

He tilted his head and slowly smiled. Salazar had never gotten a chance to talk about any of the odd books he read before. The cafe was fairly empty, so this might be his chance.

oooP5ooo

After a surprisingly stimulating breakfast, the Hogwarts founder found Diagon Alley alive with activity. Omorose, content and full of good fish he would have usually never bothered giving a cat, made a weird sort of nest in his coat’s hood and fell asleep. She didn’t entirely fit, part of her continued to drape across his shoulders, but most of her weight was in the hood. The soft puff of her breath brushed against his neck as he looked about the alley.

His first stop was Havrey’s Homecare Supplies near the little cafe. It was filled with magical appliances—cold storages like refrigerators, cooking boxes similar to ovens, loos and showers enchanted to rain water down on a person instead of using a muggle showerhead. Salazar purchased nothing from the store. Every single piece was heavily enchanted meaning none of it could go into his satchel. Each was also shockingly expensive. Or at least he thought they were since he was confident he could recreate much of the various appliances. He did end up with a whole list of ideas though.

Across the way, besides a well to-do looking tavern, was a rundown shop called Muggle Extraordinaries . Salazar, now knowing the word muggle meant non-magical, could guess at the store’s offerings. Curiosity at what would be considered extraordinary drew him in.

The place was a maze of junk. Salazar looked around at the towers of things. He could spy a bucket of rubber ducks, a shelf of He-Man toys, boxes and boxes of various forms of plugs. Electrical wiring sat in tangled messes. At least seven different vacuums were standing about, two being used as an impromptu coat stand for some worn through jeans and plastic parkas. 

“If you see anything you want, just rip off the part of the tag with buy written on it,” called an old man at the register before he turned back to a redhead he was helping, “As I was saying Arthur–”

Salazar went treasure hunting. He found a whole shelf of muggle books, a knut a piece. He bought the lot, only doing a casual scan from any he had already read (he spied The Hobbit amongst the stacks). He brushed magic coated fingers over all the various tangled messes of electrical wires and claimed any that conducted magic—most were copper. The tag of a giant ninja turtle stuffed animal, perfect to add to his small selection of pillows, was claimed after only a second of hesitation. 

In one corner hidden behind a messy row of bicycles, roller skates, and scooters, he found an old gas range, and an even older looking kitchen sink cabinet combo. Without any magic on them, he would have no issue carrying them back in his satchel. Salazar pulled the oven door open and took a looksee. The coils were gone but, he pressed magic into the worn metal and relaxed as he felt his magic slowly spread through the oven, he would be able to make this work.

The store stretched on forever it seemed. He passed rows of strangely decorated shoes—batman converses, Rainbow Bright booties, Air Jordans, and bright yellow tennis shoes were amongst the rows. There was a stack of old ceramic bedpans. Besides them were Cabbage Patch doll heads. Salazar stared at them for a long moment, contemplating where their bodies had ended up before giving up and moving on.  

As he reached the back of the store he came across an entire bucket full of hunting rifles and rubber balls. A box of burnt-out lightbulbs and net-like bags of plastic pebbles were on a shelf across from the weapons. A half of a motorcycle rested on its end besides a Coca Cola dispenser machine. The ten year old shook his head at the weird situation and headed back to the front, taking another twisting aisle.

Old china dolls, cloth doll heads, and stuffed animals filled multiple shelves before he found ancient sewing machines and lamps with their plugs cut off. Yards of man-made fabrics, mostly some strange form of plastics, filled the shelves after. Tires—for cars, motorcycles, and bicycles—filled a wall. Besides them were a few tables covered in plastic objects Salazar realized were most likely sex toys. (He never cleaned his aunt and uncle's closet ever again after that find.) 

Pots of all shapes and sizes caught his attention as he neared the front once more. He claimed a rusted cast iron pan and stew pot. It would be simple enough to clean up and make usable once more. A strawberry shortcake dinner tray popped out amongst other platters as he found himself in the “kitchen” section. Plastic baby bottles and a box of cadbury chocolate wraps sat beside dusty bottles of wine.

Salazar reached the front through a display of strange muggle christmas decorations. The redheaded man was gone and all the various items he had claimed were stacked in a pile by the register, miniaturized. 

The old man beamed at Salazar. “You’ve quiet the finds, laddie!” He looked over his glasses at him, smile turning stern. “Your folk expecting some of the larger items?”

“Of course,” Salazar confirmed. At the skeptical look, he added, “birthdays are coming up.” Which was entirely true. He would be eleven soon.

“Ah,” Chuckled the man. “Well, let it not be said old Ted got between a laddie and a birthday gift for his mum! Now let me ring these up—they’ll return to their original size once you tap them with your wand. You’re not doing magic, so don’t worry about causing any fuss with the Ministry because of the Trace or nothing of the like. It’s just the action the charm is set to react to, you know?”

Salazar nodded in understanding, though he had no idea what the Trace was or what Ministry he was talking about. He needed to spend some time reading through all his books for some answers soon. All his purchases were placed into a small pouch with the store's name embroidered across it. Because of the charms on all the items, he decided not to chance it all by placing them in his satchel and instead tied the small bag to his stachel’s strap. 

With the thought of all the magic he needed to do, the reincarnated man headed farther into Diagon Alley and turned a short corner. There was an odds and ends shop around somewhere. He suspected it had the wire as thin as thread and other conductive material he needed, though the wire he had just bought could work well enough.

The ten year old slowed as they turned another bend. At least a score of magicals were taking a horde of pictures outside some pub. The cameras were old, comparative to non-magical’s, but clearly worked. 

A burst of green flames startled Salazar from his staring. To the side, in an alcove, was a large fireplace. A wizard stepped out of it before more green flames burst forth and a witch came out next. Salazar took a step toward the fireplace, just knowing this had to be what Mrs. Figg had set up in her house. Omorose made an excited noise and sprang off his shoulders before he took two steps.

He watched, dumbfounded, as the kneazle pranced away with her tail high in the air. A huff escaped and his shoulders drooped slightly in defeat before Salazar followed the feline.—One day he would learn about the damn fireplace magic.—An older lady offered an empathetic grin as he passed and he couldn’t help but flash one back. Cats.

The black kneazle waited for him before a building bearing a sign of a fish. A large archway opened to the rest of Diagon Alley and sounds of an active market floated out. Salazar picked his cat up and peered in. Omorose reclaimed her place on his shoulders with a pleased purr. 

He first noticed how ridiculously large the place was. It was much larger on the inside than it should have been. That caused a skip in his breath. 

Various masters and scholars of the Eastern Roman Empire had been attempting to create a way to expand the physical space of an area for centuries (and they weren’t the first to try it). Salazar had seen some of their attempts—and the resulting carnage when the magic failed. When a space suddenly lost over half the square footage, everything inside was squashed within the remaining space. People had been crushed and suffocated to death. Many of the people had been smooshed beyond recognition.

“Youse alright honey?”

Salazar looked up at an elderly woman, eyes slightly glassy as he couldn’t help but imagine the magic failing here. It had to be expanded at least threefold from its original size. All those people, all the children he could spy, would be crushed between each other and the stalls. It would be far worse than the last time.

The old woman leaned over and patted Salazar’s shoulder where Omorose’s tail was swishing back and forth. “Youse parents about?”

He forced himself to speak up, pushing the childish panic slowly rising back down. He was not successful enough as a hint of emotion was in his voice. “It’s larger on the inside.” Omorose rubbed her cheek to his and the panic dissipated a little more.

“Oh,” her wrinkled expression softed, “That’s just the expansion enchantments, honey. Nothing to be concerned about.—Hea, let me get you a cookie.”

“Cookie?” 

The old lady claimed one of Salazar’s hands and dragged him into the market. “Cookie, biscuit—don’t worry honey, you’ll like it. Almost as good as hot chocolate to calm the nerves.”

Panic spiked but the smells and sounds soon won out. They passed stalls offering a world's worth of options in seafood—Raw, freshly caught, still alive, smoked, deep fried, premade into little baguettes, and more. From human food to potion ingredients to potting material and even pet food were all on display. The smell of the sea blanketed over him, fresh and salty and wonderful.

Then she pulled him through another archway. The new room was equally expanded and filled with vegetables and fruits and spices of all types. Some stalls offered premade meals made from the feast of options. Others offered the actual plants to transplant into one’s own garden. Cinnamon and nutmeg waiffed across his nose as they passed piles of fresh ground spices. He tasted them in the air, they were so poignant. 

He spied another archway where meats hung to age on racks and the aroma of rosemary covered meat and the sizzle of fire cooked lamb reached him. Salazar swallowed as memories of sitting around a fire, his brother’s booming laughter filling the night as they waited for the meat to cook. His jaw twitched as he struggled to push the memory away. It didn’t want to be buried in the back of his mind. Sworrow tugged at him. 

Gods, he missed them.

A squeeze to his hand pulled him from his thoughts, reminding Salazar that he was not alone and that some crazy old lady was dragging him off to somewhere. (Omorose’s calm kept him from doing anything drastic. Kneazles made it clear when their owners were threatened.)

It was in the back of the room that baked goods were on sale. The old lady bee-lined to a specific stall, bypassed the line, and snagged a biscuit with a peck on a younger man’s cheek. Said biscuit was placed in Salazar’s hand as she relinquished her hold. 

“Go on, my son makes a wonderful cookie,” she announced, “Almost as good as his old man’s—Oh, but you should try the strudel!”

Salazar stared down at the thick, sparkling, golden brown cookie in bemusement. It was shaped into an erumpent. He took a bite even as he felt a little lost. The horn exploded in his mouth and orange jam with the bite of ginger coated his tongue. 

“Good, right?”

He nodded as he looked up at the woman. Salazar focused on her instead of the expansion charms as he munched on the sweet treat. Silver curls cut in a bob framed a wrinkled but fair face. There was something off about her accent. It reminded him a little of one of Dudley’s American movies. But not exactly because she sounded like a local, she just said some words with an accent—like she might have had a different accent as a child or had an accident that changed her accent like the whole debacle with Pictish.

“Now, where’s youse parents?” she asked.

Salazar stuffed more of the cookie in his mouth and shrugged. She narrowed her gaze at him, tilted her head—something brushed against his mind—and huffed. “Brits.”

He couldn’t help but narrow his gaze at her as he realized what she had done. He couldn’t feel her now but the old woman had touched his mind with her own. She had attempted to read his surface thoughts. The old woman didn’t notice his stare, her gaze had turned to the crowd around them. If he had to guess, he would have to say she was reaching out metally, looking for an adult panicking over a missing child. 

“It’s rude to read people’s minds,” Salazar said before he could stop himself. 

Her gaze snapped back to his. “Wha—Oh, honey. I’m not delving in! Can’t help it if no one keeps their thoughts to themselves, anyhow.”

This was a blatant lie. The mental arts were a dangerous discipline regulated by the guild—Salazar’s frown deepened as he considered the possibility that it wasn’t regulated anymore, that his guild was no more. 

Only a few guilds had the accumulated knowledge of occlumency, legilimency, telepathy, and the other mental arts a thousand years ago. All of that knowledge was only offered to guild members. To be a guild member meant one had sworn an oath to not abuse the magical arts at their disposal. Oaths could be bypassed but not to the point that any old person could casually listen in on passerbys thoughts. And the use of such magic on a child was a blatant abuse of the ability the oath would have never allowed.—Children’s minds were too delicate and underdeveloped to safely use mental magic on them. The consequences of using such magic on one could be devastating.

He grumbled at her childishly, wanting answers he suspected she didn’t know, “You're not supposed to look at people’s minds.”

She looked mildly embarrassed. “I’m not! Honest...I just got a family skill that’s hard to control, honey. Learning legilimency is regulated. You don’t have’ta worry about some schmuck stealing into youse mind!”

Salazar blinked at the odd word and the facts about regulation given. There was also the family magic she alluded to. By the Mother he needed to read up on the times. How long did it take to catch up on a thousand years of changes?

“Mum.” The baker appeared at their side. “You’ve kidnapped another kid?”

She scoffed at her son. “None of that. He was lost!”

“Now he’s more lost.”

Salazar, finally calmed and ready to continue on his way, interrupted. “I’m not. I have a list of groceries–”

“Youse mom had you come alone!” cried the elder in horror. 

“I’m not alone–” Omorose meowed in agreement as the adults spoke over Salazar.

“Mum, he’s not that young.”

“I’m ten.” Salazar agreed. The woman looked horrified. Salazar quickly amended his statement. “I’ll be eleven by the end of the month.”

The baker shook his head at his mother. “You should visit Rudy and the great grandbabies–”

“I wasn’t kidnapping a child because I miss the grandbabies! They was here just last month, Mattie.” she snapped before she snagged Salazar’s hand and pulled him toward the stale. “Come on honey, let’s pack up a nice strudel for youse parents. We’ve kept you too long. They must be worried sick.”

Salazar escaped the market with a large box filled with a strudel, multiple pastries, and a stack of biscuits, and a grocery bag filled with enough food to last him a month—all of it covered in preservation spells that would last just as long. He tucked it all into his satchel as he paused at the side of some heavy foot traffic before braving the crowds.

He collapsed in a seat at Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour and spent a good couple hours eating ice cream and reading as he recovered from the rollercoaster of emotions. He was mentally and physically exhausted. (Salazar blamed his young form for most of it, though his unpleasant experience with expansion magic and startling realization about idiots potentially having access to the mental arts had only added to it.) Part of him wanted to end the day, cut his losses, and flee back to his grove. 

This was more human interaction than he had had since being reborn. His relatives house and school had a routine to them. He had barely spoken to any child or adult beyond yes ma’am and no ma’am, and reading off school boards or books. The longest conversation he had had was with Omorose or Mrs. Figg and both of those had been very one sided in their own way. 

He had spent eight years isolated because of his magic and because of his past memories. It might have been different if he had not recalled his past life. Maybe he would have been able to interact with children his own age. Perhaps he would have gotten along with his relatives. But he had recalled being Salazar and he had shut himself away from the world on some level. He hadn’t realized that until now, with the exhaustion slamming into him after a half day of interacting with people.

Seeing expansion magic at work had not helped matters. 

Salazar slipped his glasses off, pressed his palms to his eyes, and heaved a sigh. Just as the non-magical society had evolved and progressed, so had the magical one. What would have been an act of pure stupidity might no longer be one. He didn’t know what magic was safe, what magic everyone had access to, what was lost, and what was obsolete. There was so much to learn. A thousand years could create so much progress. It could also mean some things have been lost and others misconstrued.

He finished the last of his curry banana ice cream and rose. Omorose was passed out across the other chair, looking like an especially fluffy stuffed animal. 

One more try at finding the odds and end shop and then home, Salazar decided as he nudged the feline awake. Anything else he could possibly need could wait another day.

Said shop ended up near Gringotts, towards the Leaky Cauldron. Within were aisles and aisles of crafting material—both for magical and non-magical arts. One aisle had yarns and various needles, some enchanted to do all the work for the discerning witch or wizard. Another had paints and colored pencils. Sewing tools weren’t difficult to find. Salazar found a basket and claimed threading wire in various conductive metals before taking a quick look at the rest of the shop. 

In the very back was a table filled with little compartments brimming with small, and a few medium, dusty stones and wooden coins. It was a veritable treasure trove. He dug through the piles with magic warming the tip of his fingers, searching out for the most reactive specimens. Multiple soft green aventurine stones of various sizes, a couple of red jaspers, tigers eyes, hemalites, a whole pile of serpentines, three surprisingly large pyrites, seven selenites, a black tourmaline that just fit in Salazar’s palm, two large bags of obsidian pebbles, and three decent piles of smokey, clear, and rose quartz ended up in the basket. Piles of alder, beech, birch, elm, and rowen coins and a stack of short reed sticks were added before he forced himself to stop.

Now he was ready to hermit away the rest of the summer in his grove.

oooP6ooo

Runes glowed a burning white light across the pile of obsidian. A turn of the oven’s knob shifted the light, and radiating heat, of the pebbles. The magic glowed before Salazar’s eyes, his glasses tuned to the controlled swirl of the layered matrix he had built to replicate his Aunt’s oven. 

He didn’t have any way to grill food but Salazar was certain he’d survive without the feature.7 So far, the magic was glowing evenly amongst each pebble. The stabilizers were functioning as he expected and the inscriptions to contain the heat, and any potential fire, within the oven was working perfectly. It was time to do a proper test run. 

The ten year old set the cast iron pan filled with a fillet of salmon into the oven and turned the timer. If this worked, he would test the stove tomorrow. Salazar stared at the time until it ticked down, showing that it was working.

Though Salazar had planned to spend the rest of the month hermitting away, he had found himself returning to Diagon Alley over the last few weeks. He enjoyed being amongst magicals once more. It became a habit to take a book and claim a spot at either Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour or Rose Leaf Teabag . Every once in a while he’d reach the alley during lunch and claim a table at the Leaky Cauldron or the Dirigible Plum Cafe . He’d try another cafe or pub along the long, winding street but found himself returning to his usual spot as he could.

The tickets and time spent traveling into London and back were eating at his funds but, luckily his new satchel made it simple to carry most all of his possessions wherever he needed to go. He hadn’t yet taken a room for the night but Salazar expected it to happen at some point—rush hour on the tube was not pleasant. 

Being in the alley also meant he shopped for more things. Better shoes and boots were added. An array of ink wells were collected as the founder made notes all over his books, scrolls, new magical notebooks, and muggle notebooks. A random assortment of sweets from Sugarplum's Sweets Shop found its way into the bag.—Salazar became fond of the pumpkin pasties in particular.—Multiple books on expansion magic had been found both so Salazar could be prepared if one started to collapse while he was in it and, if they truly were more stable, so he could use one on his tent. 

He had also slowly collected more furniture, though his tent was too small to hold any of it. He now had a large wardrobe he enchanted to be his version of a refrigerator with cold storage on top and the bottom drawers the ice box. A small dining table was salvaged from some second hand store and used primary for food prep. The same store had a tall cabinet with no door or shelves. Salazar turned it into his shower. 

Water had been one of the first things he had fixed after his first few days living in the grove. A few wooden coins had been scattered across the neighborhood to collect the runoff from rain and sprinklers. Said water was transferred into old whiskey barrels Salazar had claimed and covered in cleansing runes. The shower, loo, and sink were all tied to it and used water was banished. Eventually the wood would deteriorate and Salazar would need a new watering system but this would do for a year, maybe two.

For all that he purchased more things and experimented in creating a working home, he invested most of his time reading. Salazar first focused on the pile of books about himself. It had been disappointing what little the history books actually had. Dumbledore’s letter had as much information and, while long winded, was far shorter and clearer cut than the load of dung in the books. At least the children's books were entertaining. 

The books on his family had been more informative. It had not touched onto any family specific magics, which gave the founder hope that such was still generally kept private. What he did learn, though, was still interesting and important. 

Against what the title of some of the books and the family tree implied, the Potters were not a House. He was of the Familia of Potter. That meant that the family had been magical and specialized long enough that there was some form of family magicks but the Potters had no hereditary seat within the Wizard’s Council. 

In general, the Potter family had been inventors and merchants. Most of the family was reclusive enough that there was little more than names, dates of living, and any particular inventions credited to them. There were a few extensive biographies on Potters that entered the Wizengamot’s Assembly of Estates—the election side of the governing body. That was it, really.

All the same, Salazar enjoyed learning about his various ancestors. He didn’t have such a history from his past life. What his mother may have known died with her when he had been merely six. His father had never reappeared after he impregnated mother with Bryony. For all Salazar knew, he had died soon after. To be able to say who he was and where he had come from was surprisingly wonderful.

Linfred the Potterer, the founder of the family born in 1180 ce, had been an herbalist and potioneer that tinkered with early forms of powerful healing potions. Vern Potter had been a well known healer. A Ralston Potter (there were multiple over the centuries) entered the wizengamot and worked towards the International Statute of Secrecy. Salazar’s grandfather had invented the Sleekeazy potion for unruly hair. 

One of the books also gave a general geographic overview. The Potter family had originated in Stinchcombe but moved to Godric's Hollow and had, for the most part, stayed there. His parents house was noted as a significant monument people visited but no other Potter property was publicly known. Amusingly, because of the family’s origins, it was rumored that he was related to Godric somehow.

Godric would find it hilarious, he was sure, if the man ever appeared on Samhain.

An unforeseen benefit of reading up on the various books was that he learned of the last war. Salazar found out about the horrors, the amount of dead, the betrayals of kin and kith. No one had been safe; no one had been left untouched. His own godfather had betrayed the family. Others had had the dubious pleasure of a sibling or parent do the same.

He could understand, on some small level, why the population had elevated him to celebrity status. He had somehow, supposedly, stopped the nightmare. It also meant he was in a predicament. The population expected great things from him. 

Salazar knew that he had an advantage that could support their assumptions of his “Merlin” like status. But he didn’t know if he wanted to inflate the opinion. He would prefer to be left to the background, unnoticed and left to his own devices. 

The smell of cooked food filled the grove. Omorose materialized at his feet, rubbing herself about his legs while mewling. Salazar opened the oven as the timer went off and grinned at the sizzling fish. 

oooP7ooo

A shout caught Salazar’s attention as he left the magical menagerie, a small pouch of cat treats safely tucked into his stachel. An owl swooped over his head and landed on his hat. An assistant from Eeylops Owl Emporium stumbled over to him with a huff. The owl barked in complaint.

“Err...Could you come to the store?” the poor girl asked with frustrated tears in her eyes. “I’ll get the owl off you and any damage to your hat will be fixed or paid for I swear! Just...can you come with?”

The store was darkly lit. Owls of all types filled cages and, like many of the stores, they were stacked and hung in ways impossible without magic. An older man was brought in from the back of the store and he immediately pointed his wand at Salazar. A spell slammed into the owl on his head. 

Salazar stiffened, not happy that no warning had been given. The man hadn’t even had the courtesy to say the spell outloud. Whatever spell he had cast had made the bird still but not let go of his hat.

The next spell had the owl and his hat pulled off. His hand flew up and brushed his hair down but his action both drew the store owner and assistants attention and had not been quick enough.

Mouths fell open. The store owner became embarrassed. The assistant's eyes grew round. Then, with a squeal that seemed to echo out of the store, the girl cried out his name. “Harry Potter!”

Salazar found both the assistant and a variety of shoppers fawning over him. Some claimed to be checking his head to make certain the owl hadn’t hurt him while actually just petting his hair. Others were rambling at him as if he cared about their day to day lives. One woman pushed her toddler into his arms and pulled out a camera.

It felt like it took forever, but was probably only a few minutes, before the store owner blasted a loud sound from his wand and ordered everyone out that wasn’t there to purchase an owl. His hat was returned, not a scratch present because of the runic magic he had placed on it. Then the owl was released into a cage, escaped immediately, and latched onto his hat once more.

“Hold up,” Salazar said, raising a hand at the man before any spells were shot at the poor bird again, “I’ll just buy the poor thing.”

“Oh no Mr. Potter, I couldn’t possibly make you do that!” cried the store owner.

Salazar glared up at him. “I require an owl anyway. I hadn’t planned on purchasing one so soon but–”

The man flicked his wand. A perch, cage, and other parathalia flew to the counter. “Not what I meant, boy. I cannot have you pay for her when she keeps trying to flee. It's entirely possible she’ll fly off and never return to you—best to not send any letters for a good month or so I should think.”

A reproachful hoot escaped the owl on his head. Salazar, having already experienced animals claiming him for unknown reasons, narrowed his eyes and asked, “When did she start trying to escape?”

“Oh, a few weeks ago,” the man explained with a dismissive wave of his hand. His other hand waved his wand over the items on the counter and each shrunk down. They were then floated into a bag. Salazar accepted the bag, feeling a headache coming on. “I would...prefer if you didn’t return her but, of course, if there are any issues…”

“Right,” Salazar said slowly, “Brilliant...I’ll...just take my owl then.”

“Wonderful!” The grump of a man attempted to beam at Salazar. It got him to leave quicker.

He picked up his clothing order from Twilfitt and Tattings , completing his chores for the day, and ended up trying a new favorite ice cream. No one paid any mind to the owl that stayed on his head the entire time. 

oooP8ooo

Omorose and his owl, a pretty snowy thing, had an understanding. He didn’t know what it was but they had clearly conversed in some fashion and reached an agreement while he was sleeping. He was certain he didn’t actually want to know. (Salazar couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if he ever got a snake.)

oooP9ooo

Salazar sighed as he looked down at the latest book he was reading. The thick text, The Decline of Pagan Magic by Bathilda Bagshot, was both informative and terribly inaccurate. She had no clue what she was talking about. Spells and rituals that were nordic were marked as druidic. Funeral chants to prompt the passing of the spirit had been categorized as necromantic. Purification rituals were called cleansing rituals (as if it was a nice little bath to wash some dirt off) and were simply noted as obsolete. 

She did get some of the history correct with the various “pagan” magics going into reclusion with the rise of the Roman Empire and, later, Catholicism. The woman had even gotten the general set of events after the fall of the Roman Empire correct. The various pagan magics did return to the heart of society, at least in the magic community of the British Isles. (It had never left Ireland or what is now Scotland at that point) Those magics were usurped by the Normandy conquerors to then “fade” away. Except fade away wasn’t the correct word for the mass murder of every fully equipped teritary triad member on the island. 

A bowl of Salazar’s preferred ice cream, blackberry mint double chocolate chip with a dusting of fairy dust, was placed in front of him. Salazar looked up over the rim of his hat to find the owner looking down at him with clear amusement. 

“That’s a heavy read for an eleven year old,” he said when catching Salazar’s eyes, “It looks to be pushing heavy thoughts.”

Salazar hummed as he decided against correcting his age and answered, “She makes many assumptions.” 

The man nodded. “Bagshot has the habit of doing that. An issue with all her books.”

Salazar frowned, “Then why is her book used for Hogwarts?” A History of Magic was the required history book.

Mr. Fortescue touched one of the empty chairs. “May I?”

The ten year old tilted his head in agreement. The old man’s smile widened and he settled comfortably beside the reincarnated founder. “There’s always a reason behind people’s decisions, child.” 

Salazar couldn’t stop the arching of a brow. 

Mr. Fortescue chuckled and muttered, “Perhaps a Ravenclaw.” He spoke up louder and explained, “The history professor is a useless ghost caught up in his lessons on goblins. Albus, for better or worse, has chosen to leave history in the ghost’s hands and only intervened a few decades ago to hand pick a more modern history text. He chose Bagshot’s book either as a favor or because of blackmail.”

Salazar scooped some ice cream and repeated in intrigue. “Blackmail?” 

“Ah, I was wrong. A Slytherin through and through.” he muttered in response.

“Excuse me?” Salazar asked in confusion. He didn’t see what him being a Slytherin, let alone somehow being related to a raven’s claw, had anything to do with this. Salazar knew there was no way the man could know that he was Salazar Slytherin either.

The old man looked mildly embarrassed. “You heard that, eh? Sharp hearing.”

“Are you going to explain or should I just go back to reading?” 

“You haven’t read up on the school you’ll be going to yet? Or are you off to one of the trade schools instead of Hogwarts?” he asked, confused.

Salazar shrugged, not particularly worried. “I’ve plenty of time to read up on it.” Salazar may have been avoiding the topic as he knew he’d want to murder a few people once he did research Hogwarts. The changes by the Normandy party Evander and the others had spoke of was enough reason to want to plan murder.

“So,” the elder said in bemusement, “You decided to jump into disputed, ancient history instead?”

“Disputed.” Salazar repeated as he found himself the bewildered one. He didn’t say anything about ancient either. It wasn’t ancient for him. It wasn’t even slightly ancient for anyone.—Ancient was if it had covered the days before the Roman Empire.—Salazar liked to think it slightly old. Ancient did strange things to his screwed up age. (10, 54, 64, or 976?)

The elder raised a brow back at Salazar, “Yes. There isn’t enough documentation of the centuries before the 1300s. Many of the manuscripts that covered ancient magical history were placed alongside muggle history. When these manuscripts fell into the hands of monks and laymen, many were ignored and eventually destroyed instead of cared for and transcribed. Centuries later any that survived were destroyed in 1692 when the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy was written into law and fully enforced. The magical governments world wide went on a fool's errand to eradicate all reference of magic from muggle society. They didn’t bother saving the information they had found, assumed it was all written by muggles and so useless...We’ll never know now.” 

Salazar hummed in thought, stared down at the page he was on, and sighed. He dog eared the page and stowed the book. Salazar had imagined many things about the modern day society. All of it had involved the culmination of non-magical and magical society reaching an accord.—There had been nearly a thousand years for the strife to be settled and many ancient civilizations had long worked together without the issues that plagued what was considered Europe in this day and age.—He had never imagined the magical community separating themselves so thoroughly. It wasn’t without merit but it was one thing to hide the majority away so magic haters could not find it and entirely different to remove oneself from the greater society. He contemplated the concept of hiding to such depths. How had it gotten so bad that magical races, the world over, had set aside their differences and agreed they had to hide away from the world?

That was one of the questions he was searching for answers to in all these history books.

“What history books would you recommend?”

Mr. Fortescue lit up. “Let me write some down. A few you’ll have to borrow but a number should still be at Hogwarts. I’ll star the ones you can purchase newer copies of.” He paused and gave Salazar a hard stare. “Let’s see how interested you are, eh?”

And that was how Salazar found himself a historian to extract information from. It was also why his reading shifted to Hogwarts: A History soon after. The fact that it was also written by Bathilda Bagshot led to Salazar burning it when he finished. It had made an excellent campfire.

Apparently he was a bigoted dark wizard bent towards the eradication of an entire section of magicals. Godric Gryffindor was the epitome of everything good and Salazar Slytherin was evil incarnate. It all sounded like a bad adventure book. He was sure that there was some version out there that added a love interest who Godric won from him or some similar nonsense. Salazar truly disliked this woman but he had to wonder how much she assumed, claimed creative licenses on, or had learned from others.

It did explain how a dark lord could find support for mass murder by claiming to be his heir and claiming to follow his beliefs during the last war. This just showed how easy it was to twist history to an agenda, especially when there was little recorded of the times being twisted.

Despicable. 

At least reading it had also led to a fascinating conversation with Mr. Fortescue about his perspective of Hogwarts. There were definitely some issues that needed to be fixed eventually. This history professor was one of many by the sounds of it. But at the same time, his school had been successful. It was even considered one of the top schools in the world.

He now understood what Mr. Fortescue had been muttering about, too. The shared apprenticeships they had started out with had been evolved into designated teams. Salazar’s and Godric’s epithets had been made into school “house” names along with Ravenclaw for Rowena and Evander, and Hufflepuff for Helga and Gareth—though Gareth was more often traveling than teaching and Evander had spent his days healing everyone after stupid mistakes. They also didn’t seem to exist in the history book.

There were benefits to having a few adults available to ask questions of. Florean Fortescue was a fountain of historical information. Granny—the old lady from the bakery insisted he call her that and Salazar had yet to learn her actual name—made it a habit of materializing when he stopped by the market.( He was fairly certain she utilized legilimency to sense when he was nearby, though he had yet to feel her mind against his again.) She was happy to fawn over him, and answer the odd question about the wizarding culture he found himself entering. He became a regular at Dirigible Plum Cafe where the waitress soon became used to him and Omorose appearing for breakfast early enough to discuss the odd muggle book.

Salazar learned about pureblood prejudices. He learned of muggleborn ignorance. Florean imparted the continuance of Family and House magick secrets, and the importance of that tradition. Granny explained the broader magical world and was a fountain of knowledge about the colonies. 

There were so many things to learn. Even the most basic colloquialism jumped out at times. Salazar didn’t understand why Merlin was cursed upon like muggles used God. Merlin had been a human just like the rest of them. And the use of muggleborn, halfblood, and pureblood had to have been contrived. Muggleborn, he supposed, was the modern equivalent of newblood or firstborn (though such terms had been rarely used). It seemed odd to emphasize a magical’s non-magical connections over their far more important magical ones.

He also wondered at the seemingly non-existent religious structure, and how magic seemed to perpetuate into the very creation of buildings and other important building blocks Salazar would expect a more permanent foundation preferable. There was just something a little off putting entering a building that would not be standing without the enchantments wrapped around it. Enchantments can and do fail. Decidedly often. (The one time he had activated the magic sight on his glasses while in Diagon Alley had nearly blinded him, there was so much magic saturating the entire place.) 

Weeks passed in a flash of activity and learning. Salazar settled into his new home with a little kitchen area setup, a canvas pulled over it as a roof, and a bathroom with a similar setup on the other side of his tent. Most of his personal items stayed in his satchel but books seemed to scatter about the grove as he got comfortable. 

His birthday passed with little note. The only interesting thing to come of it was Salazar’s decision to find a timepiece. Granny took him to Witching Hour where he got a wristwatch that told the date, time, and moon phases. With it came the knowledge of the next moonless night.

oooP10ooo

The night sky was clear and dark. Only stars were out. His birthday had past nine days ago and tonight was the dark moon. 

Salazar stared up at the sky as he mentally prepared himself. He wasn’t certain what would occur during this purification. He would have preferred to perform the greater ritual but that could only occur at the start of Spring. Salazar didn’t think it would do any good waiting till then. He had already waited years longer then he was comfortable with.

He freed a burst of air from his nose and stepped into the center of a circle of unlit candles. Runes were written across his bare chest, down each thigh, over each shoulder, and across his brow. He had used dried mud made of ash from the hawthorn for cleansing, blackthorn for purification, and sweet earth enriched and healed by the alder trees. 

He took another deep breath and released it through his nose. The eleven year old sank down onto his knees. Nature magic swirled lazily within the ground around him, waiting. Salazar took a third deep breath, mentally intertwined a string of his core to that breath at the center of his chest, and released it through his mouth in a soft, “Aahhh.”

His magic flowed out with the breath, following the mental image of the string escaping his lips. He directed the thin line of magic to the candle directly in front of him. Natural magic, directed by runes carved into the candle, rose up, met, and entwined with his own magic around the wick of the candle and burst into a golden flame. Runes, naturally powered by the presence of the entwined magic, guided said magics in a circle to the next candle and the next until all seven were lit. Smoke slowly unfurled around him and began following the same swirling as the natural magic in the ground. Some of the magic seeped up into the smoke.

Salazar focused his thoughts on the hidden moon, careful to keep himself separated from everything he had been learning over the summer. All that mattered was the missing moon and how by the marrow the sun will have purified it of the darkness and allowed the moon to return to the sky. (Everything from muggle school was very firmly ignored—the symbolism was what mattered, not the truth people have found out over the thousand years.)

Smoke reached his head and Salazar breathed in the heady scent. Three deep breaths and the runes lit across his chest as the natural magic in the smoke entwined with his core. The runes directed the natural magic, prompting the purification and cleansing the mud, candles, and dark moon night was inclined towards. The runes across the rest of his body lit in a swirl until the last runes on his head glowed. 

The runic glow flared as the last took on light. The candle flames’ grew and the smoke billowed around the entire grove. Slowly the magic wrapped around and seared through Salazar. It pulled off the last hints of a connection to the enchantment around Privet Drive. Taint and strain was scrubbed and straightened. Some hint of an old ritual magic rubbed raw across his form.—It was not quite gone but weakened, ready for the Spring purification to remove entirely.—A wrapping of magical residue and some tracking marker set to trigger something when he utilized his wand, was unwrapped and released from his form. Older layers of residue and taint, from ancestors both evil and foolhardy remained but loosened. Later purifications and cleansing baths would help remove the rest. His core was rebalanced and pampered to an internal shine.

A breath of knowledge rushed through his mind as the ritual informed him of the various magics cleansed, weakened, and removed. The old ritual might be from the Samhain night his parents had died. He could sense viking imagery. A crow, the sun, and a bolt of lightning, protection and knowledge. Illumination warmed his form. The edge of unknown things, forgotten memories brought to light... Sacrifice and an ending…

The tracking marker was likely this Trace he had heard about. Structure and uniformity, counter to magic in so many ways, sang through him as the magic faded from his person.

Then the purification ritual reached his brow. A wail, not his own, ripped out across the grove. Salazar jerked as pain stabbed through his forehead. The searing clean of the ritual was fighting something twisted. Vile. Wrong

It was in his runic scar.

A circle of natural magic pushed against the scar, forcing whatever had been disturbed back into its prison. The taint settled and calmed. Magic flared one last time and then the grove became dark. The ritual ended, purifying all it had the strength to do. 

Salazar touched his brow with a trembling hand. The skin ached under his fingertips. He pulled them back. His fingers were wet and red. He stared at the blood and wondered at what had happened. What was the scar on his head?

Tears stung eyes. He could feel it now. A sludge, some vile taint was attached to him. He needed to get rid of it. The question was how.

oooPooo

Chapter Text

Chapter Four

oooP1ooo

September 1st dawned warm and dry but overcast with clouds teasing at the possibility of rain. Salazar enjoyed a simple breakfast of roasted nuts and seeds he had collected over the days as he purposely ran out of his bought food. A mug of mildly sweetened tea finished his morning wake up.

He reorganized his satchel and placed two books, The Hobbit and An Appraisal of Magical Education in Europe , in the side pocket for easy access. Various snacks were added along with his favored fountain pen, charmed to refill with ink from the latest inkwell he had opened, and a leather notebook half filled with runic ideas, historical notes, and hundreds of questions yet to be answered. 

Salazar paused in his packing as three owls swooped into the grove. His own owl hooted in annoyance from her roost on the oak. Salazar pulled out the needed knuts to pay for the Daily Prophet , Quibbler , and Wizarding World News

He had subscribed to the three a few days ago. It was a first step towards determining what news he wanted to receive. So far Salazar found the Quibbler amusing enough to keep, the Daily Prophet a distasteful necessity, and the Wizarding World News interesting but biased. He expected to add another newspaper if he could find one to balance out the three he already had. 

His owl glided down to her stand as the other owls left. The stand sat just within the main tent beside an old wingback chair he had salvaged from one of the second hand shops in Diagon Alley. Salazar stared at his owl in amusement. Hedwig, a beautiful snowy owl, hooted in annoyance at him. He settled into the chair at her side and checked the feather-light wooden bracelets he had placed on her. Runic markings were burned into the wood to protect Hedwig and help their communication. A little magic from him would tell her to come or stay away, and help her find him if she required the aid. 

She tugged at his hair, demanding proper attention. He stroked her chest feathers with a finger before turning towards the pile of papers. Salazar considered the distant pile, left a few feet away, before he concentrated on the top one. The paper slowly rose into the air at his mental command. Telekinesis was one of the simplest and safest skills to learn of the mental arts. He hadn’t learned the ability until he had joined the guild, though, back in his twenties. 

The paper unrolled in the air. There was no mental strain as he directed it toward him. He smiled as it obeyed with only a slight delay. A little practice and he would be on his way to regaining mastery of the skill. Salazar would go slowly so he didn’t strain his childlike mind (He imagined it was still a child’s mind—his cognitive abilities and moments of immaturity pointed him towards this belief. He could be wrong and his past memories had forced his mind to fully develop early on but better safe than gain mental damage from impatience and stupidity.)

A mewl drew his gaze from the moving newspaper to another branch of the oak. Omorose watched from there. Salazar rolled his eyes at her but otherwise ignored the kneazle. She was pregnant again and ornery as could be. It was best to let her have her space. If she wanted attention she could climb down and demand it properly.

He pet Hedwig’s chest and offered her a few nibbles of treats as the paper reached his other hand. Salazar relaxed back in the old chair, feeling oddly content in his makeshift tent home. The reincarnated man snapped the paper upright, feeling oddly like Uncle Vernon at that moment.

The Daily Prophet had a front page article speculating Harry Potter’s Hogwarts house and appearance. They had an actual picture of James and LIly Potter. He did look like their son with the woman’s eyes and man’s hair. To his amusement the article had a sketch of his possible appearance. It wasn’t particularly accurate—He had expected something better after the incident with the owl shop.—The article ended with statements from supposed family friends saying Harry would obviously take after his parents in personality and preference. 

“They expect I’ll follow my parents,” he remarked to his familiars and the listening trees, “I’m to be a Gryffindor. Godric would be so proud.” He allowed his sarcasm to seep out at the end of his statement. 

Bravery, courage, and nerve were fine qualities.1 Ones best balanced with intellect, wit, hard work, loyalty, cunning, patience, creativity, and resourcefulness. What so many seemed to not realize was that the qualities they, the founders, chose for their apprentices were not qualities a child possessed, per say, but what the child strove to build or needed to build to become a well rounded adult. These could be the qualities the child desired to have or held in great esteem or which the founders believed they needed. The whole point was to teach the children as much as possible, after all. 

Salazar had looked for ambition on top of the desired cunning and resourcefulness because he wanted children that had a direction, a goal they strove to achieve. Without that drive, he had found children lacked discipline. They slipped in their training and fell behind. Salazar had been young too. He hadn’t had the patience to deal with such children. Later he developed the ability to care for troublesome children but by then his “desired” qualities had been set and none of the founders had seen any reason to change it. It wasn’t like they weren’t helping train all the children together anyway.

Salazar shook his head at the gossip rag as he flipped through the rest of the pages. There was nothing else of interest.

Some time later, the Hogwarts founder dropped the various newspapers into a decomposing pile—fertilizer for later—as his watch vibrated out an alarm. “7:30 am on the dot,” muttered the wizard. He looked up at Omorose, “Time to go.”

The feline yawned at him, showing all her teeth before she stretched across the large branch and climbed down. Her belly was just starting to grow round with her latest litter.

Salazar turned to Hedwig and stroked the speckled bird’s chest as he said, “Off you go then. Feel free to visit in the Great Hall.” 

Hedwig gave a short bark and took off. Salazar watched the snowy beauty vanish in the dawn’s light.

Omorose rubbed against his legs in a circular eight pattern, pulling his emerald gaze from the sky. Salazar set four of his quartz stones at the cardinal positions around his home. Each glowed with the faint golden light of the Mother’s magic.

He paused in his final motions and looked up at the ancient oak. Salazar walked over to it and pressed his hand against the cracked bark. “I’ll return in the summer.” A thrum of warmth flowed into his hand in response. Emerald eyes danced with joy at the warm goodbye. He would miss this old grove. “I’ll be back.” He whispered to each tree as he made the rounds. 

Then he picked up his kneazle, who settled onto his shoulders, activated the quartz powered ward. A golden sheen flared around his camp—protection from the elements, and bugs and rodents—and left for Kings Cross Station.

oooP2ooo

He dodged through crowds of people, gaze sweeping over the signs for platforms Nine and Ten. The high glass ceiling of the station gleamed as the sun peeked through the clouds for a moment. Mr. Fortescue had reminded him multiple times that the entrance to the Hogwarts Express was through a brick wall between the two platforms.

He brushed a hand over a temple of his glasses as he spied platform nine. Magic rippled out before his gaze. Salazar stopped in surprise, startled when someone brushed against him, and moved to a pillar as he took in the huge amount of magic present. 

It hadn’t crossed his mind that platform 9 3/4th was literally that. The wizarding platform was an actual train platform wrapped in magic. He couldn’t see it through the swirling mass of magic, but the area claimed by the magic matched with the area of the other platforms. Someone at some point had simply claimed a platform and the non-magicals had “forgotten”. The platform's position was away from the station’s walls and shops. Very little electrical wiring was set near it—whether by wizard design or because of constant electric outages, Salazar couldn’t say.

Salazar walked over to the entrance illusioned into a brick pillar and pressed a hand to the side. Fog flooded his sight. Sound muffled around him and a whisper just beyond understanding traveled past him. The vague impression of a child with a finger to their lips came to him and a blanket wrapped around him. The smell of pending rain filled the air.

The founder blinked rapidly and dropped his hand. The invasion of magic faded from his senses. He glanced down at his palm in confusion. Gaining impressions of magic felt natural, and it often happened without him noticing, but that had been stronger than usual. Salazar couldn’t recall receiving such impressions a thousand years ago. It hadn’t happened often enough to force the issue but he had spent his first decade away from almost all magic, so it had little reason to occur.

A shudder went through him as a wet nose brushed against his ear. 

He pressed a hand to Omorose’s head, pushing her face to the side. The magical impressions must have happened in his past life. His memories were decent but were only as good as any old memory was. Some things were forgotten. The constant impressions of magic around him had to be one of those things.

Salazar stepped through the illusioned entrance and shuddered as the fog of hiding magic fell over him for a second. In a blink platform 9 3/4ths appeared before him. The rest of Kings Cross station vanished from view, revealing that the powerful magic wrapping the platform was used on both muggles and magicals. 

The platform was mostly empty. There was a row of fireplaces, each large enough to allow an extremely tall human with a child to transport into it, a newspaper stand, a snack bar with sweets and snacks on display, and an area brimming with a tornado like magic under his still active glasses. A woman and child popped into existence in the area.—It was a designated apparition area. 

He watched the area in great interest for another few minutes but gleamed no other facts. Apparition sounded like a terribly convenient, uncomfortable form of travel.2 He very much wanted to learn how to use it but the apparition area only revealed how the tornado of magic seemed to pull any person apparating into the Kings Cross platform to the specified area, depositing them where no one already stood. 

Now bored, Salazar deactivated his glasses and turned to the train. The scarlet train seemed strangely magical for such a modern muggle invention. Its vibrant red paint gleamed. His first glance at it, when entering, had revealed the entire thing wrapped in its own magic. Salazar could guess at what some of the enchantments placed onto it were. The most pressing was some form of notice-me-nots so none of the muggles operating Kings Cross or traveling through would notice the train as it took control of the rail and left the protective bubble of hiding magic covering its platform. 

It seemed like a large waste of time and magic in his opinion. There were other ways to claim a train and use it to take the children to Hogwarts. They didn’t need to tempt fate by using parts of extremely busy muggle buildings. Having their own train station and rail would be much simpler.

The interior wasn’t particularly special. There were compartments with blue benches able to hold six children each. A rack overhead was just large enough to hold small traveling bags and paraphernalia. The most interesting part were the enchanted lamps.

Salazar claimed one of the last compartments and watched as all the students trickled in with their parents. To his bemusement, they all were rolling trunks to one of the freight boxes. The other freight seemed built for pet cages, not that all the students left their pets there.

A meow drew his attention to the floor. Omorose sat by the door expectantly. Salazar rolled his eyes at her but obediently opened it. Her lion-like tail flicked in thanks as she wandered off to investigate.

Salazar pulled out the Hogwarts requirements letter. There was nothing about a trunk. Apparently, this was something people just knew. He shook his head at that. Why would he get a trunk when his satchel worked far better? 

Admittedly, the bag had cost more than he might have paid if he had understood just how much a galleon was worth at the time. The conversion rate between pound and galleon meant nothing to the cost of magical items. He had apparently spent the equivalent of an average six months worth of salary on his bag. He would have to be more careful going forward. There wasn’t an infinite amount of money in his vault. 3

Excitement thrummed through the air as the station grew crowded. The founder watched, silently guessing at the ancestral origins of the various people. So many have moved around the world over the centuries. The most variety in the Isles in his day were the darker hair and tanned skin that came with the Normandy invasion. The Vikings and natives had shared an overall lighter tone. Though pieces of what would be considered Italian and Arabic had peeked out at times, a sign of the Roman Empire's old influence and the odd slave brought from the south. It was rare that anyone further South visited and if they did, it was to major ports to sell their goods or as slaves from viking trading expeditions.4 Now there were all scopes of humanity heading off to Hogwarts—just as he had seen in Diagon Alley. 

It was a wonder that both pleased and concerned the founder. There was a balance that had to be made, one that modern society still struggled with. A unification of traditions and beliefs had to mix with a whirlwind of differences in culture. Salazar was curious how Hogwarts and the general magical society handled the differences. Especially since he had every plan to bring back his druidic traditions.—It would be a waste to not attempt such a revival. There were also important protections that needed to be put back into place if no one had found alternatives for them.

His door flew open. Salazar turned at the noise. A redheaded, freckle-skinned boy stood awkwardly in the doorway. 

Most likely Viking in origins, Salazar categorized in boredom as he wondered when the train would start moving. 

“Everywhere’s full,” the redhead mumbled, blue eyes peeked out at Salazar, “Can I sit with you?”

Salazar stared at the boy as the redhead fiddled with his shirt. There was no way everything was full but he could understand the desire to ask one person instead of multiple. The child had, undoubtedly, never been alone before. Salazar nodded to the seat in front of him. “If you’d like.”

The child relaxed as he settled across from the founder. They stared at each other in awkward silence for the child and mild amusement for the reincarnate. The sliding door banged closed and jolted the redhead into action. 

“I’m Ron.” The boy flushed vibrant red at the squeak in his voice. He cleared his throat and looked away from Salazar as he added, “Ron Weasley.”

“Good meet you,” Salazar offered, “You may call me Harry.”

“Uh,” Ron articulated slowly in confusion, “Harry what?”

Salazar paused at the question. He had hoped to avoid such a question for as long as possible. Excluding the amusing results of Godric’s surname, the family name was both odd and obnoxious. Harry and Potter were perfectly ordinary names (in this day and age). Together, they only meant trouble for him. 

Feeling resigned that he couldn’t avoid it for even a minute with one of his peers, Salazar said, “Potter.”

Blue eyes bulged even as the train jerked into motion. Salazar glanced out the window as he overheard some boys shout out about sending a toilet seat to their sister. From the corner of his eye he spotted Ron’s face turn a deeper red. He hadn’t thought that possible. 

The founder pulled his muggle novel out as he contemplated the possibility that it was common amongst redheads. Godric had never blushed so deeply but perhaps Salazar had failed to embarrass the man enough. It was possible. Unlikely, but possible.

“So…” Ron pulled Salazar’s attention from The Hobbit . He asked in a rush, “Doyouhavethescar?”

Salazar raised a brow at the boy even as he mentally separated the slur of sounds into proper words while despairing at the age old inability in children to enunciate clearly. It was half the battle for children and their foci based spellcasting. 

His good mood suddenly vanished. Salazar didn’t particularly want to consider the vile spot on his forehead. He responded short and sharp, “Yes.”

The child leaned forward in anticipation but Salazar had no desire to reward such rude behavior and returned to his book. The compartment door slid open and offered an excellent distraction. The redheaded child did turn to regard the newest interruption. 

“Have either of you seen a toad?” a female voice asked.

Salazar could see Ron shake his head from the edge of his vision as he turned the page. The muggle’s interpretation of trolls were amusing. Maybe he should work out a thief warning spell for his bag similar to the troll’s purse. It would be entertaining if nothing else.

“Oh, you’re reading The Hobbit ?”

Feet shuffled into the compartment and Salazar felt the bench shift as the girl sat at his side. He jerked in surprise when she leaned into his space to see the page he was at. “The trolls—terribly inaccurate depiction of the creatures, isn’t it? I’ve looked them up once I found out I had magic.–”

Salazar leaned away from the girl-child as she spewed words at him. He didn’t pay any mind to the actual words, too distracted by the fact that she leaned further in, compensating for his own shift. 

“–Magically resistant hide that does not turn to stone when sunlight touches them. Ridiculous ideas from a runaway imagination, I suppose. It’s ever so exciting that I’ll be able to learn about all the correct facts about magical creatures and such.–”

He shifted further back and she shifted forward. Again and again they shuffled across the bench. The dancing shuffle ended when his back hit the compartment wall.

“–Don’t you agree? We have so much to learn and catch up with, being muggleborns. I’ve read through all my school books twice in preparation for the year.–”

All he could see was a curly bush of dark brown hair framing a light olive skinned face with round brown eyes and large front teeth. If she had been older, he’d assume she was trying to initiate some form of courting. (Gods he hoped the magical oath he had taken as a Hogwarts founder and master still held. It would be the perfect excuse in the future.)

“–Have you?”

Somehow Ron came to his rescue as Salazar found himself stuck on the thought of courting any of these children. He may have shattered his thought processes at the disturbing image which he could only blame on his eleven year old form as instinct screamed a most mature ‘euwww’. He’ll never hear the end of this if his fellow founders were haunting him at the moment. It was the first time he was relieved Godric hadn’t answered his call. The man would never let this go if he had witnessed it.

“He’s not a muggleborn.”

“Oh?” The girl sat back in surprise. Her gaze turned to the redhead. (Salazar only just kept his sigh of relief from escaping loudly.) “But, but the book is a muggle book,” she insisted. 

It seemed she had her world shattered too. Salazar felt a ridiculous vindication at that fact. Children were going to be the death of him. If not, they would certainly remove any ounce of sanity he had left. It was moments like these that made him second guess his decision to build Hogwarts. (He should look into a different profession this time around. Maybe.)

“I was raised by non-magical...muggle kin.” Salazar elaborated helpfully as he reclaimed his seat.

Her head whipped about, frizzy curls exploding out about her head. “But then, you still understand,” she said, visibly relieved, “I’ve spent all summer learning everything I could. I purchased multiple supplementary texts to negate the potential handicap I have, being muggleborn. Did you know that the school is the best in Britain and the first that was built for magicals exclusively? All the other magical communities built their schools based upon the excellent scholastic structure of Hogwarts. And I was chosen to go to this school! There is so much to live up to. I must be so far behind! Aren’t you worried?” 

Brown eyes grew round. She blurted out quickly, cutting off any possible response to her questions. “Oh! I’m Hermione Granger.” Salazar and Ron stared at the girl, both still processing her second rant of the day. They were just catching up with her when she frowned and demanded, “And you are?”

“Ron Weasley,” the redhead squeaked out. His expression was a mix of apprehension and shock. He clearly had no idea how to handle the girl. Ron likely didn’t even understand a quarter of the words she had used.

“A pleasure, I’m sure,” she said while her condescension made clear that she didn’t believe it a pleasure at all. Ron had not been the boy she had been talking to. The fact that he was the one to answer her question clearly annoyed her.

“He’s Harry Potter,” Ron added, helpfully cutting off Salazar and obviously oblivious to the girl’s disgruntlement with him. Of course, Ron’s words also distracted her from that annoyance.

The founder huffed softly as Hermione also cut him off as she demanded loudly, “Are you really? I’ve read everything about you! You’re in A Study of Recent Developments in Wizardry , The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts , Notable Wizards of Our Time , Sites of Historical Sorcery , Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century , and Modern Magical History . I–”

“I’m aware,” snapped Salazar, cutting off the third rant of the day.

She jumped up and looked embarrassed. “I’m sorry, I’m supposed to be helping Neville find his toad. Excuse me.”

She vanished as quickly as she appeared. The sliding door banged shut after her whirlwind exit. Ron Weasley summed it up appropriately, though crudely. “Bloody hell.”

The Hogwarts founder considered the obscenity for a second but decided the situation allowed it. “Indeed,” Salazar agreed as he turned back to his book. He had the chance to read a chapter before the door slid open once more. This time he preemptively stopped reading as he was sure he’d only lose his place from being interrupted again. 

A blond boy stood before them. On either side of the blond were two larger boys who seemed more like bodyguards than companions. Salazar paid little mind to the two bodyguards. As strange as it was to think an eleven year old would have bodyguards, it was the blond boy that caught Salazar’s attention.

It might have been his general appearance or the way he held himself but something about the boy reminded Salazar sharply of one of the Normandy wizards that had broken trust with them as they started off the war. Salazar frowned as he tried to catch what it was about the blond. The group of Normandy magicals had been named de mala fide by the Council when they had broken that trust. 

“Word has it Harry Potter is in this compartment. Is it true?” Salazar’s lips thinned as the boy’s voice connected the dots. It was strange how some things transcended centuries. This was Armand de mala fide’s descendant. 

“I suppose that’s correct,” Salazar agreed as he tried to evaluate the boy. He wasn’t Armand. Armand had been dead for hundreds of years. Salazar didn’t want to go into this reintroduction to his world, much changed as it was, projecting his disgust onto a child that had done nothing. 

The boy straightened. “I’m Malfoy.” 

Salazar struggled not to raise a brow. It seemed that another epithet had been twisted into a House name as Salazar had no doubt the Normandy bastard had his family raised to House status during the expansion of the Wizard’s Council. He’d have to thank whoever was responsible for the chosen name. De mala fide, latin for ‘of bad faith’, had been turned into Malfoy. It was simply poetic. 

The newly claimed Malfoy had paused during Salazar’s thoughts, clearly looking for some visible reaction. He had gotten one from the redhead, though he didn’t notice the glare as he expanded his explanation, “Draco Malfoy. My Fath–”

Ron snorted and blurted out, “D-draco?”

Armand’s descendant shifted his gaze to the redhead and a sneer spread. “Think that’s funny? Red hair, freckles, and hand-me-down clothing—I don’t have to ask who you are. You’re a Weasley. The entire family has too many children to afford. My father says you lot have nothing and will amount to nothing.” The blond turned back to Salazar. “There are some wizarding families that are bett–”

Ron sprung up intent on punching the blond. Salazar intercepted, flung both boys to either bench in the compartment, closed the door in the faces of the two startled bodyguard like children, and ordered in a flat tone, “Quiet.” 

Both boys closed their mouths with twin clicks. They shrank back as Salazar glared at each of them in turn. 

“That was rude,” He said to Draco. “And that was moranic,” He said to Ron before he addressed both boys, “You are welcome to dislike each other. You are welcome to avoid each other. You are not welcome to debase yourselves and the entire room with vulgarities and physical attacks. We will all be at the same school, in many of the same classes for seven years. For the pleasure of that time, both for ourselves and our fellow classmates, you will cease and desist before you have properly begun. Am I understood?”

Salazar stared each of them down until they gave him a nod. Neither looked thrilled, both looked a little shocked. Salazar couldn’t find it in himself to care.

“Now, let us start this over.” He turned to the door and, after a short pause to remove the simple locking rune he had inlaid with a spark of magic, directed the two bodyguard like children into seats of their own. “I am Harry Potter.”

Salazar nodded to one of the bodyguards. The boy flushed and stuttered out, “I-I’m Greg-Gregory Goyle.”

“It’s good to meet you, Gregory,” Salazar responded before he turned to the other bodyguard boy.

Said child squirmed around on the bench as he said shyly, “I’m Vincent Crabbe.”

“Nice to meet you Vincent,” Salazar responded, with Draco quietly repeating his words.

Salazar then turned to Draco. The blond straightened and said politely, “I’m Draco Malfoy.”

The founder nodded as he, along with Gregory and Vincent, said, “It’s good to meet you, Draco.”

Green eyes shifted to the redhead. The reincarnate carefully kept a frown from his face at the sight of the vibrantly red, redhead. The boy was clearly displeased but grounded out, “I’m Ron...Ronald Weasley.”

Draco joined Gregory and Vincent in responding with Salazar, “Good to meet you, Ronald.”

With that, the compartment fell silent. Salazar broke it a moment later with a short clap of his hands. “Now what did you want to speak to me about, Draco?”

Armand’s descendant shifted, embarrassed. “I...simply wished to greet you. See if you had any questions or issues. My father said you’ve been staying with muggles .”

“Ah, thank you,” Salazar said with a slight smile as he avoided giving any confirmation on his living situation. That Draco sounded like he was repeating his father made him even less inclined to actually answer the unsaid questions. “I’ve no questions at the moment. If I do I’ll keep you in mind, shall I?”

“You could just ask me, mate.” Ronald blurted out, “We’ll be in the same house, unlike them.”

Salazar ignored the stiffening backs of the three other boys as he turned to the redhead. “You’ve no idea what house you’ll be in.”

“That’s not true,” Ronald countered, “Families go in the same house all the time. My family’s all been Gryffindors.”

“Well Slytherin is the best,” Draco said as he leaned back into the bench, nose rising in the air as the touch of superiority returned to the child. 

“Gryffindor’s best!” cried out Ronald, his hands tightening into fists.

Salazar felt like palming his face in frustration. Surprisingly Draco noticed the faint irritation that escaped, read it correctly, and diverted the fight, somehow recalling the founder’s earlier order. Of course his diversion was rather lacking.

“Better than Hufflepuff at least,” the blond offered as a peace treaty.

The redhead actually paused in surprise before, with a quick glance at Salazar, he nodded in agreement. “Yea, suppose so.”

Dear gods, was everyone such bigoted fools that their children were too, wondered Salazar. 

Hogwarts would have never existed without Helga. She had gone to the Council to petition at his side. It was her kind hearted nature that swayed so many to their experiment of shared apprenticeships.—Only a few had been interested because of the founders's masteries and skill sets.—Maybe he’d mess with everyone’s heads and force his sorting to the badger’s house?

A few more minutes of stilted conversation passed before Draco rose to leave. Vincent and Gregory rose a second later. Draco glanced at Salazar before giving a general look at the compartment, “It was very good to meet you Ronald, Harry.” He looked directly at the green eyed boy and added, “Perhaps we might talk longer next time.”

Salazar nodded kindly, feeling generous to the first child to actually follow his silent cues in this life. “I’m sure we’ll see each other in the library, if nothing else.”

Ronald Weasley kept his tongue until the other boys had left the area. He exploded as soon as they were gone and the sliding door closed once more. “What was that!?”

He tugged the blinds down across the door’s window and looked curiously at the redhead. “Common courtesy.”

The boy blew up, jumped from his bench seat and flung his arms about in emphasis. “That was Malfoy! His dad has been attacking my family for years. He’s a bloody wanker who–”

“Insulted your family, your values, and your way of life,” Salazar concluded for the boy, “I did notice the insults.”

He colored in fury and stepped into Salazar’s personal space. “ You choose him!

“Is that what you concluded from everything?” Salazar countered.

Ronald deflated in surprise. “Wha–What?” 

Salazar sighed as he directed Ronald to his bench and reclaimed his own seat. “I do not agree with his words. Neither do I agree with your desire to cause physical harm. The best thing you could do to him is prove him wrong.”

The child slumped back on the train bench. “Prove him wrong?”

“What were his words?” Salazar prompted. 

“He called me poor.” Ronald stated without pause.

The founder frowned. “That wasn’t the important part. Who cares what material wealth a person has?–” Salazar shook his head. “–Yes, money makes certain things easier but it’s what you do with your life that matters most.” 

At the sight of Ronald’s disbelief, Salazar expanded his explanation, “Look, don’t you have ambitions? Don’t you desire to make something of yourself? Look beyond foolish childhood wants of the next greatest toy. Think of what you can achieve in your life. You could follow your passion, whatever it is. Then you will be exactly where you need to be. It won’t matter what material possessions you have because you will be fulfilled in a way no money will achieve.” 

Salazar suddenly stopped talking. He hadn’t meant to rant. 

“My passions?” muttered Ron. He looked constipated as he fell into some deep thoughts. 

Hopefully he grew out of that look, thought Salazar in amusement.

“If you don’t know them, that’s your first step.” Salazar offered after a minute. “Find them.”

The young boy had rounded eyes as he looked up with conflict reflected in them. “And when I find them?”

Salazar leaned forward, his elbows rested on his knees and his hands spread out encompassingly before he folded them together. “Pursue them until they are yours. Let nothing get in your way.” He sat back up as he realized he was being a little too intense. “It’ll take hard work, a pursuit of knowledge, and a great deal of nerve to pursue your ambitions but–but you do not have to travel the road alone.” 

Salazar looked out the window as memories sprang forth of a time long past. The English countryside blurred by, so familiar and yet so foreign. “You need all those things but you do not have to have all of them all at once. Sometimes others might hold you up with their own hard work, their own knowledge–” He turned back to the redhead. “–their own nerve or resourcefulness. And, of course, there are some qualities you are incapable of; we all are. That’s why you find your better parts to help you in those areas.” His lips curled into a faint, bittersweet smile, “Most end up finding those betters in their wives or husbands, in comrades, kith and kin. Keep your eyes open and don’t push away the possibilities. Just...consider what you need most right now to reach that goal.”

Silence fell once more. After a few minutes, Salazar pulled his book back out and lost track of time. At one point the trolley lady passed by. He purchased a few sweets to share with the quiet redhead, though he kept all the pumpkin pasties to himself. To his amusement, he got a chocolate frog of Albus Dumbledore, Godric Gryffindor, and himself. The portraits of Godric and him were entirely inaccurate. The descriptions were just as bad.

He had every plan to show off the Gryffindor one to his brother when he finally made an appearance on Samhain. 

Ron finally spoke, voice a whisper that Salazar guessed he wasn’t supposed to hear. “Hard work...Hufflepuff wouldn’t be so bad...Would it?” The redheaded boy shook his head and rose a moment later. “‘Cuse me...I need to find my brothers. Do you mind?”

“You can leave your things,” Salazar agreed without looking up from his book. Soon after, he finished the thin novel and took a moment to change into his Hogwarts uniform. 

It hadn’t changed much over the centuries. The robe was made of finer fabric that wasn’t wool. The number of buttons down the neck had changed to seven. There were still flowing sleeves but they now had discrete ties to tie back the flowing fabric during various activities like potions and herbology. Then there were the pockets on either side. Both pockets were large enough to hold the dragon hide gloves or a folded up hat. They also had a built-in thinner pocket within the main pockets, one to house your wand. The neckline was a high square collar that wrapped around the neck, secured in place by the top most button.5

Overall it was a highly conservative wizarding robe with minor shaping around the chest and waist to give the children some structure without emphasising any body parts. After a moment to consider all the optional undergarments he had purchased, Salazar decided to go with a simple black tunic and the jean trousers he already had on. After a change of shirt, it was a simple matter of throwing the robe over his head. Then he took a moment to pull on his dress boots, equally black in color. 

Muggles would assume he was some odd uni graduate or funeral goer. At least until he added the pointed hat. Then they would wonder if he was a ridiculous child hoping for Halloween to come early.

Salazar looked at his reflection in the window and smiled in amusement. This brought back memories. The robe hadn’t actually been “in style”6, too obviously magical when the muggles could be about, but it had been a physical piece of “magic”. It had served its purpose of drawing together the various magical children, allowing them to find uniformity and acceptance amongst a sea of identically clothed children. It had removed any sign of monetary wealth and placed them all at the same standing. He had never worn it as the teachers needed a physical sign of authority as much as the students needed cohesion. 

He had never gotten into robes. The majority of his modern day wardrobe consisted of layered tunics and trousers with only a few simple robes thrown in. Tunics had been the “fashion” of his day also but they hadn’t been modernized with unusual fabrics, textiles, collar shapes, lengths, and so on. (It was more “wear what the non-magicals wore to survive” type of fashion.) This day and age seemed to have an endless list of options. 

Hermione Granger reappeared an hour later. Startled at the sight of his uniform, she stuttered out praise for already changing and fled. Salazar had the odd feeling the girl was intimidated by him. It wasn’t a first but for the life of him he couldn’t think of a reason for it. If anyone should be intimidated by him, it was Ronald and Draco.

The train began to slow soon after Hermione left. Salazar looked out the darkened window. Distant lights glinted out through what looked to be a forest. There had not been a forest near Hogwarts—Not a thousand years ago. The only trees had been the groves he had planted to help with the wards. Where had the forest come from?

Salazar began to consider searching for the redhead as the boy’s uniform was still in the compartment. That thought didn’t go further as ancient but familiar magic brushed against his senses. All thoughts vanished as his wards recognized him somehow, forcefully realigned to his core, and connected with a sharp, demanding click.

Information exploded through the fresh link. The world turned white as his mind shifted to accommodate the old mental connection and his core wrapped instinctively around the ward anchors. The old places the wards belonged in his mind and core were reclaimed without hesitation. 

Salazar blinked his eyes open and groaned. The floor was against his face.

“Did you fall asleep and fall off the bench?” The founder slowly turned his head and stared up at the goggled redhead. “You alright mate?”

“Ugh,” Salazar helpfully answered before he forced himself to move. Pain expanded across his forehead and down his nose only to travel across his cheekbones. An ache stretched into his ears and a very faint ringing sound echoed out. He had a full blown migraine and he expected it won’t go away anytime soon.

His chest hurt, except it was really his core protesting the sudden intrusion of the ward anchors. His tongue felt fluffy, possibly swollen. He had bitten it but couldn’t taste any blood. He was honestly surprised he hadn’t screamed.

“Err, Harry?”

Salazar groaned again and dropped ungraciously back onto his bench. “Ron.” His voice croaked as he spoke. “Get dressed.”

“Right! Right.” 

oooP3ooo

Salazar wasn’t entirely certain how he successfully reached the castle’s foyer. He didn’t particularly care, though the founder had a feeling he owed Ronald a thank you. His head continued to pound through the commotion as the children—his peers—talked amongst themselves, panicked over whatever the sorting now entailed, and then panicked over ghosts as a group of the silvery people floated through the upper part of the foyer. 

If he had been feeling well, he would have paid them some mind. He could have eased various worries. If he had been able to focus he would have liked to look at the ghosts too since there hadn’t been any last time around, Hogwarts had been too new. If he had been feeling well, he would have reviewed the changes to Hogwarts in every aspect he could. 

But he wasn’t feeling particularly well at all.

He was also wholly unprepared for the second invasion of magic that locked an anchor into his mind and core. This time was even less pleasant as it was an entirely new anchoring; one that Salazar would have fought if he had had the mental and magical fortitude to do so. Luckily (or unluckily as the case might be), he was able to slump against the wall in the back of the group of first years. No one paid any mind as they focused on their own concerns.

More information flooded his senses, much of which he forcefully ignored for the sake of staying awake. The information flood stopped as soon as he mentally pushed it away and a bizarre feeling of apology mixed with joy flowed through him. It wasn’t his emotion, but his mind wasn’t working well enough to figure it out at the moment. 

All he could tell was that it wasn’t malevolent, at least towards him. And it was vaguely familiar. Salazar could recognize enough to know it had to do with Hogwarts but for the life of him couldn’t recall what it was. Whatever it was had recognized who he was, though.

The distinct pop-click of a House elf announced the arrival of a female, floppy eared elf dressed in a Hogwarts crested pillowcase like outfit. Salazar blinked owlishly down at her as the creature hopped up and down in excitement. It spoke quietly, somehow not drawing any of the children's attention, “Master Sally be home! Hogsie says Mipsy needs to take Master Sally’s bag to his suite. Master Sally’s suite will be ready by the end of the feast.”

Salazar nodded slowly, there had not been any House elves at Hogwarts. They were House elves, meaning only Houses could afford the magical and monetary cost. He would have to ask the others to see when exactly Hogwarts had gotten elves. It was possible they didn’t know, though the elf’s name for Salazar implied an association with Godric. He was the idiot to create and use that nickname. 

“Master Sally?” 

Salazar handed over his bag with a short, “I’m a student for now, best leave my bag in whichever dorm I’ll be in.” Mipsy made a disapproving sound but didn’t complain otherwise as she pop-clicked away.

His headache seemed to get worse as the Deputy Headmistress appeared and informed them detailed facts about their possible school houses, none of which actually stuck in his head. The founder was fairly certain he’d survive not knowing. 

By and by, he likely already knew everything she had spouted off between the obscenely inaccurate Hogwarts: A History , his own memory, and all the stories the other founders had told him—even though said stories were incomplete on some rather important details.—If he had missed something he’d find out later. Important matters tended to be repeated, particularly to young, easily distracted children. 

When the doors to the Great Hall opened, he hissed. Blinding light from hundreds of floating candles exasperated his migraine. He had half a mind to inform everyone that he owned the damn castle, didn’t particularly need to be sorted, and would be in his personal quarters till further notice. Salazar truly almost spoke up. Then the deputy pulled out Godric’s hat and it started to sing

It was the sorting hat, apparently. Salazar couldn’t quite get past the part about Godric’s hat singing . Who had the idea to let it sing? It was almost as bad that it was rhyming at the same time. In his day the sorting was a quiet pursuit of a child’s desires and qualities which occurred privately between the founders and child. 

None of this–this–whatever this was, Salazar huffed to himself.

He was going to blame Helga for this one. She probably snuck in rhyming and singing in her part of the enchanting. He could see her thinking such would relax the children while forgetting entirely about adults having to listen to it also. 

Even with blaming Helga, he still wanted someone to explain how they had forgotten to tell him about Godric’s singing hat . That just wasn’t something easily forgot—even for the dead. 

While Salazar was having his internal, sarcastic outrage over the hat, said hat finished it’s song and the deputy called out the first child to be sorted. Salazar paid little attention to the various names. He was in no position to recall them later, what with the present migraine, so it would have been a waste of time and effort. He did pay attention to where the children went, though. It was a pleasant surprise to see the first few go to Hufflepuff. After all the derision towards the house, he had been concerned that it would be near empty.

Vincent was sorted into Slytherin which wasn’t where Salazar would have sent him but it was not terribly shocking. Soon after, Gregory joined his fellow first year at the Slytherin table. While Vincent and Gregory had a Hufflepuff attitude towards Draco, they would be bound to desire similar things as the blond. It was one of the difficulties of sorting true Hufflepuffs, their loyalty could get in the way. Of course, true Hufflepuffs could do with other traits enforced and nurtured. 

Hermione Granger was another child sorted for what she desired, or perhaps needed, over what she had. The girl was entirely Rowena’s. Perhaps, though, she would learn the most in Gryffindor. She may have already learned all she would have in Ravenclaw and needed Godric's teachings more. 

Draco was unsurprisingly sorted into Slytherin. The child was too certain of where he had wanted to go for any other option. Salazar wasn’t convinced the boy would learn everything he could have if he had ended up in another house but it wasn’t terrible. Draco could do with a little more cunning and resourcefulness. But then Draco could have done with Helga’s teachings more. Helga would have enjoyed teaching him a little kindness, a little humility, and the pleasure of hard work.

Salazar caught himself then. Helga was dead. Godric was dead. They were all dead. Only the ghost of their teachings might still exist. These children would hopefully still learn some qualities of his fellow founders but they would not learn from them directly. Poor imitations would be all this generation would have.

His throat constricted. Salazar felt choked up as the thoughts overwhelmed him for a moment, standing within Hogwarts once more. The strange sense of something hugging him flitted through the depressing thoughts and migraine.

A sharp call, one that clearly hadn’t been the first, caught his attention, “Will Potter, Harry come up.” Snapped the professor in her Scottish brogue. The entire hall had filled with whispers from his lack of movement. They all were wondering if he was even present.

Salazar blanked his expression as he walked to the front. He finally noticed Headmaster Dumbledore, and his chair, which was oddly throne-like. The potential dingbat of a freak twinkled blue eyes down at him. Their gaze met for a moment and Salazar thought he felt something press against his mind. It caused the migraine to spike—or it was just the light reflecting off all that gold. He forced himself to focus on the present instead of the odd choice of chair for the old man. (What a waste of perfectly good gold.)

“I apologize ma’am,” he muttered to the deputy as he reached her and the stool, “My thoughts were ages away.”

The woman startled at his explanation but gave a short nod and held out the hat. The poor thing had clearly seen better days. Though it was a marvel it had survived as long as it had. 

He sat and the hat was placed on his head. It fell over his eyes and ears, darkening the harsh light and giving him some relief. Immediately the old enchantments whispered their secrets. The reincarnate suppressed a shudder as he recognized Godric’s fiery magic entwined with Helga’s stabilizing force. Gareth's more mild fire and Rowena’s cooling liquid like magic rose, just as entwined. He didn’t feel any hint of Evander within the layers of magic but Evander’s speciality had always been healing and this hat had little to do with such a discipline. 

Salazar took a steadying breath and focused on the actual magic of the hat instead of the bittersweet illusion of his kin and kith so close to him. The original enchantments for personality and looking at the child’s life and desires were present. It all seemed like reasonable charms and mind delving spell work that would cause no harm to the developing mind of a child, all tied neatly into the leather hat. Rowena would be pleased at how long her preservation enchantment had survived, though not as pleased as Helga when she heard of the singing.

The feel of other, unknown magics rose. 

He frowned. 

Along with the old magic were multiple poorly, and not so poorly, added spells to sway the hat’s sorting of certain personages. Multiple were geared towards nudging pureblooded children towards his house over the others. A couple pushed supposedly magically weak children to Hufflepuff (but had no clear guide to determine said weakness outside the child’s own perception of themselves). The newest seemed to focus on connections to death eaters and nudged those children towards Slytherin. One of the oldest twisted the selection process to take the child’s preferred house in mind over the child’s actual needs. Hidden amongst these complicated curses were a few that did something to the hat’s sorting song but Salazar couldn’t quite grasp the thin magic to tell what it did exactly. (Maybe the rhyming hadn’t been Helga’s doing after all?)

Those spells would be removed as soon as he could borrow the hat. Between this, the wards, whatever else had tied itself to him, and all his personal projects, Salazar expected to be busy for the majority of the year. First, he needed to get through the sorting so he could sleep off his migraine, though. 

An odd choking squeak escaped the hat. Salazar realized that the noise had been out loud when the hall exploded into whispers. 

‘Do you mind?’ Salazar projected out to the central enchantment, the brain as it were, in annoyance.

‘You–I–Many apologize, sir!’ stuttered out the hat through the mental link, ‘I’ve heard so much about you. So much.’

‘Can we get on with it?’

Another squeak escaped the enchanted hat, this time internal. ‘Yes, of course. I suppose there’s no point discussing options. You understand the entire purpose behind this and you know what you’d potentially get out of each house.’ 

‘Not particularly worried about having a house to promote new things.’ Salazar countered dryly. ‘It’s not like I’ll stick to the one house after all.’

‘Ah, and you don’t think you’d like Gryffindor? I’ve been asked to convince you, you see.’ A faint compulsion flickered to life in the hat’s magic as it spoke. The hat made another squeak as it felt Salazar’s bemused annoyance at the idea and at the magic. It was weak. The hat primary spellwork would still do its job if Salazar had no inclination towards Godric’s house, so he left it for the moment.

‘We’ll discuss that another time.’ Salazar answered. It wasn’t that he disliked the idea of being a Gryffindor but he was who he was. As for who had cursed the hat, he could guess—only the headmaster or deputy would have had access to the hat. Dumbledore seemed connected to a great deal of his life.

‘Ah, yes. It’s the headmaster,’ the hat agreed. ‘He’s planned a number of challenges for you. There’s much to tell you.’

Salazar frowned at that. He was half a mind to just hash out the conversation now but the hall of students were whispering even more and he wasn’t certain he’d remember many of the details with the migraine interfering. ‘Later.’

‘Of course, I’m always available to you, sir. Now, the sorting...not Gryffindor… Of course not Gryffindor...I don’t suppose you want to follow through with that threat and be sorted into Hufflepuff? ...But no, I don’t think the house would survive and Lady Helga would never forgive me...Lady Rowena would have similar thoughts, though Lady Helena would be pleased if you were a Ravenclaw...You do have such a collection of books now...but you are who you are, as you say. It better be–’ 

The hat’s voice shifted from Salazar’s mind, sounding as if it had been right in his ears, to outward where it filled the room. “Slytherin!”

Salazar handed the hat back to the deputy while the hall fell silent. He paid no mind to the less than stellar response from everyone, particularly his own house. Salazar flicked his gaze around the hall, squinted against the bright lights, and noted the banners above each long table. He headed to the predominantly green banner and claimed the front seat as it opened up for him. The older students startled as they found themselves back a seat from their original position. Salazar didn’t notice the reason for their bewilderment, preoccupied between the migraine and the hat’s words.

No one else noticed the change in seating as Professor McGonagall redirected everyone’s attention to the sorting. Ronald Weasley was eventually called and, to Salazar’s pleasure, was sorted into Hufflepuff. He guessed Ronald had realized that he needed a great deal of hard work for whatever ambitions he was shooting for. The sorting finally concluded after Blaise Zabini joined his house.

The headmaster rose and announced some odd array of nonsense which led to the food appearing. Salazar paid him no mind as a hot steaming mug of mint tea had replaced his goblet and his golden plate was filled with a much missed meal. A rye roll, made from far finer ground flour but still smelling like he remembered, sat besides roasted onions and carrots, and a fillet of salmon. The salmon was fresh and roasted with the smell of campfire floating off it. 

Salazar needed to find out how the House elves had known. He doubted Godric had reminisced on his favored meals. None of them would have had a reason to. Probably. Because really, Remember dear Salazar? He rather liked fish. , didn’t seem like something any of them would have said.

By the time Salazar finished his plate, he had recovered enough to realize that none of the children were eating anything like his meal and were in fact claiming food from shared platters. A short glance around showed that no one was paying any mind to his unique meal but that didn’t mean they hadn’t noticed. 

As Salazar watched, enjoying a refilled mug of tea, he realized no one was even glancing in his direction. He was a celebrity. There was no way the entire hall of children would ignore him. Some of them were bound to peek a glance his way every once in a while. Something odd was happening but he couldn’t make himself care. The lack of attention allowed him a far more peaceful meal than he had expected. He did check to see if he happened to place his pendant on but was unsurprised he couldn’t find it around his neck.

His plate was replaced with a smaller plate as shared platters of dessert made their appearance on the table. This time he was left to join the other children in sharing the sweets. Salazar found that the treacle tart might have become his new favorite. 

The headmaster rose as the desserts vanished. Salazar politely listened to the old man as he announced various forbidden places, including the right part of the third floor. That would have to be investigated and neutralized so no fool hearted Gryffindor, overly ambitious Slytherin, determined Hufflepuff, or curious Ravenclaw decided to “stumble” upon it. 

His thoughts were derailed as the student body, even his house, began to sing some bizarre horror of a song. Helga should be pleased she was already dead if she had had anything to do with this atrocity. This time, though, Salazar hoped he could blame it on one of her descendants instead. He was probably being too hopeful. (The song was probably not as bad as he thought. His migraine had to be making it out worse than it actually was.)

oooP4ooo

“You didn’t sit with me.” Came a whine as Salazar settled onto one of the leather couches in the common room. Draco settled at his side. Vincent, Gregory, and a boy Salazar thought might have been Blaise Zabini claimed seats around them. The other first years claimed other seats as the sixth year prefects took over for the fifth year ones. 

“I apologize.” Salazar offered when Draco nudged him. “Next time, perhaps.”

The blond nodded clearly pleased. Any further conversation was cut off as the prefects ran through various facts about their new home. Salazar gave them his attention, though all he wanted was to claim a bed and sleep through the rest of his migraine.

It was good to hear that the girls dorms still had the proper enchantments on the entrance. Both sets of dorms were still in their correct place, right for girls and left for boys. They were still expected to travel in a pack the first week as they acclimated to the twisting halls of the castle. 

The only difference he came upon were the existence of house points and the insistence that Slytherin house stayed visibly united, as if the rest of the school were against them. Salazar frowned over that new development. He wondered if it was a result of the poor decision to have house points. 

Slytherin was filled with ambitious students who would do anything to get to that ambition. Many ambitious people were naturally competitive. It was a simple fact of character. He supported that; they were qualities he could nurture. As long as the children were taught the correct moral compass to direct that drive, there were no issues. But to set a challenge that would flame said ambitious and competitive natures could only drive a wedge between the Slytherin house and the others. 

The issue was likely exacerbated by the fact that the other houses’ prized qualities also attracted driven, competitive characters. There was Hufflepuff’s hard work, Ravenclaw’s desire for knowledge (and the need to prove their level of said knowledge), and Gryffindor’s courage and nerve. The house points and the end prize was one enormous headache he’d have to deal with eventually. Salazar had half a mind to delve into necromancy to bring back the imbecile that created the competition. The fool could deal with all the paperwork.

The prefects finished their speech, ending with a firm order to be down at 7am sharp, and released the first years. Salazar allowed Draco to drag him into their dorm. All he wanted was to sleep away this migraine. It was a pleasure seeing his bed, his bag hung on a hook over the nightstand and his pajamas already out, freshly cleaned and ironed. They were still warm.

Salazar knew then that he was going to enjoy the odd pampering from the House elves. 

oooPooo

Chapter Text

Chapter Five

oooP1ooo

He awoke with the sun, not that he could physically see the vibrant star rising over the castle. His dorm room was dark, only the filtered blue light from the loch filled the room. The thrum of the leylines under Hogwarts, sweetly warm as all Mother’s magic was, sang a greeting to the morning. It was a pleasure to awaken to. There was just something a little more connected, more grounding, to have a leyline crossing underfoot. 

His grove would eventually reach a similar connection as he cared for it and drew up the earth’s magic. It would not become a leyline or a crossing of two like Hogwarts had but it would be a thrumming, warm pool of the magic. One day he would have multiple groves interconnected by their own highway of magic, intertwining with the natural leylines of the world. It would be like before, where he could walk the entire Isles and never lose that connection with the Mother. 

Snores vibrated through the room. The five other boys were sound asleep. Salazar set his glasses onto his nose and allowed his eyes to adjust to the dim light. The walls were covered in a deep green damask floral s-like pattern. Two rows of four poster-beds with green and silver brocade curtains filled the room. Trunks rested at the end of each of the boys' beds, leaving only Salazar’s empty. It was old fashioned and a little stuffy but well cared for. 

His toes sank into a thick woolen rug that covered most of the stone floor. Salazar tugged on an emerald undertunic and dark gray trousers as he decided to move the muggle clothing to the bottom of that particular pocket of his satchel. The green peeked out from around his neck and when the robe’s sleeves fell around his elbows. He wouldn’t be the only student showing their house pride, though he might be one of the few first years. 

An after-ache, the echo of the migraine and strain of new bonds, rose to his attention as he moved about. A faint throb whispered across his scalp as if threatening to grow into a chasm of stabbing pain. Salazar slowed his movements and focused onto his core for a moment. The bonds shifted forward in his mental focus but he didn’t reach out to them. Nothing stuck out as wrong, pre see. 

The founder swung his satchel over a shoulder as he frowned thoughtfully and silently left the dorm room and his still slumbering peers. He had some time till one of the prefects would show them the way back to the Great Hall. Salazar needed to determine what was the unknown bond anchoring into his core before it settled properly but that would likely take more than an hour. And he didn’t want to investigate it where children could come and interrupt. 

He paused at the common room entrance as he considered what to do. The muted colors of the room glowed blue from the tinted light spearing through the underwater windows. Cool stone floors were covered with strategically placed rugs that framed various sitting areas and work tables; their warmer green tones lightened the cool stone and visually warmed the space. A large fireplace stood framed by tall, thin windows looking out into Loch Fitheach.1 Paintings of people and creatures and nature covered the walls. All of them kept to the soft blues and greens and silver tones.

The general room was familiar, though the stone was more worn and darkened with age. The furniture was new and focused in a traditional style of upholstered leather, dark woods, and brocade fabrics. One wall held reference books, primarily related to potions.

There was nothing to do but wait, Salazar decided as he slowly wandered the room and took it all in. The prefect would expect his presence for the escort to the Great Hall. And the first day was not the time to vanish. He didn’t need a search to occur because he wasn’t where people expected him to be. 

Salazar claimed the couch near the fireplace. He sank into the leather cushion and hummed in appreciation. A hissed command caused flames to burst into life within the fireplace. The various lamps and candles also lit at the single command. Golden light chased away the cooler, filtered light from the windows.

Mint and blackberry filled the air. His head slowly turned, following his nose to a cup of tea seated on the end-table beside his seat. Steam floated off it.—Nestalgia hit him. There were years of mornings having this same tea in this very room as he made himself available for his apprentices during their self study. 

His throat constricted at the memories. He sounded like an old man.

Salazar rubbed his forehead as he realized how emotional this was going to be. Hogwarts had been his home. It still was his home but now it was invaded by strangers proclaiming to continue his and the other founders work. So much would be the same and yet different. The boy didn’t know if he could handle it with dignity. 

How obnoxious. 

Salazar siped the tea as he settled back with a book, determined to not worry about the issue. Glowing orange eyes announced Omorose as she slinked into the common room and claimed his lap for a nap. Her pregnancy was becoming more obvious by the day.

Students began to trickle through the common room, all older years who paid Salazar no mind. But Salazar noticed them; regarded the various items used to show their Slytherin pride; took in the way they carried themselves; who grouped together; and who was ignored. He didn’t have the entire picture but he had no doubt there were reasons for everything he saw. For now, Salazar picked apart the accessories since he had no background on the rest. It had certainly expanded over the centuries.

Many of the ladies wore corsets over their robes. Multiple young men had mantels. A number wore a shield badge of the Slytherin section of the Hogwarts seal on their breasts or shoulders. One young lady flew through the room while tying a silver and green scarf around her waist. Some of the boys appeared to have muggle ties tucked under open robe collars. Undergarments peeked through, similar to Salazar’s own. All of the added pieces were emerald, silver, or a combination of the two house colors.2

The founder smiled at the enthusiastic pride. Some traditions survived centuries, no matter the form they changed into. His apprentices had worn undergarments of green, Godric’s had worn deep red, Rowena's had used a soothing blue, and Helga had decided on a cheerful yellow. Those colors became standard tones to denote them and theirs from the others. He wasn't certain when the secondary colors had been instituted but he had no issues with his silver. 

His fellow roommates stumbled down the stairs and claimed seats around him. A few of them had Slytherin shield badges pinned to their robes. The rest wore no house colors. 

Draco pushed through the group of boys, focused on the space besides Salazar. He stilled, eyes rounded in surprise, as he found a certain feline’s butt in the way.

“You’ve a cat?” Draco blurted out with a wrinkled nose. The blond looked about their sitting area. The others had taken all the chairs. Only the couch was left. Panic flickered across the boy as he gazed from Salazar to Omorose to the seat at her side. He didn’t look particularly happy at his options.

Salazar raised a brow as he finished his tea. Omorose was sprawled across his lap and part of the seat beside him, seemingly dead to the world. “No. She just decided to use me as a pillow.” Salazar stated with sarcasm dripping from his tone.

Vincent snorted in amusement while Draco colored. 

“Aren’t you worried about its hair getting everywhere ?” whined Draco as he ignored Salazar’s reponse, “It’s not allowed anywhere near my things!”

She is a kneazle,” Salazar explained with a soft huff, “I’d like to see you try to keep her away from anything. It’ll just make her more likely to get into whatever it is.”

Gregory spoke up quietly, his voice just reaching Salazar over Draco’s incoherent, horror filled response. “She’s a beauty. What her name?”

Salazar smiled at the rotund boy. “Omorose.”

“Ohh, that’s pretty!” squealed one of the girls as the entire pack of eleven year old ladies joined them.

Before Salazar was swarmed, one of the six year prefects called over to them from the entrance. “First years! All of you are here, right?” The young woman glanced over them all before she nodded to herself without pausing for an answer. “Right, this way.” She paused and added, “It’s Gemma Farley, in case you didn’t catch it last night. Feel free to ask me any questions when you see me in the common room.”

Salazar nudged the sleeping kneazle. She yawned at him and shifted slightly off his lap.

Gregory stepped forward and scooped her up with practiced ease. Salazar watched, amused, as the feline gave the boy a long look before she decided to accept the lift and collapsed back to sleep. The girls swarmed Gregory to quietly squeal at her as they followed the prefect.

Hogwarts had aged. The stones were worn and colored from the centuries of use. Decorative statues, plaques, and suits of armor gave way to tapestries and paintings as they traveled up to the main floor. The Great Hall’s double doors were wide open to welcome all the half awake students into its embrace. The smell of freshly baked breads and bacon floated out. 

Morning sunlight filtering through a few puffy clouds across the illusioned ceiling. The giant hearth still sat pride of place on the right wall, towering over the Gryffindor table and rising up to fade into the illusioned sky. Its old stone mantel was now decorated with fine wooden carvings of the house animals. A huge mirror sat right above the mantel and a large stone-carved shield of the Hogwarts seal rested above that. Enormous tapestries hung down from just below the illusioned ceiling on either side of the fireplace. One depicted medieval magical occupations and the other a number of battles. 

Sunlight filtered through familiar stained glass windows that rose high behind the dias holding the professors table. The cobalt blue glass and ivory white alabaster stone, cut in an imitation of some geometric tile pattern Godric had particularly liked, twirled up into other colored glass the shape of magical creatures. Dragons danced amongst clouds while unicorns ran across a blue-green field, and a pod of selkie swam amongst fish.

Someone had added more windows to the left wall. These had a frame of stained glass around crystal clear center panes. Whoever had added them had imitated the geometric pattern of the other windows but used only glass instead of the mix of glass and thinly cut alabaster stone.3 Through the clear windows, the road from the train platform and part of the loch was visible. In the distance a large, unusually shaped wooden structure could be seen. Beyond that, the dark forest claimed the once rolling hills and stretched across the visible mountainous lands of the highlands they had claimed and warded for Hogwarts. 

He stared out the windows as the prefect guided the group to the Slytherin table. His eyes were stuck on the forest. There had not been a forest, only his groves. While it was possible the forest came about simply because of the protections of the wards hiding it from most humans, he could not help but consider the likelihood that most of the forest existed because of his groves. It was a startling concept. The eight groves he had grown to protect his home had propagated an entire forest. That forest spanned most of the warded land.

It was humbling.

Salazar pulled his eyes from the view and looked over the hall. He took in the hall multiple times. Students wandered in and settled into groups at their respective house tables. Teachers passed through to their seats presiding over the room. Prefects wandered up and down the aisles, checking in with students and greeting friends. 

He took it all in but his eyes continuously drifted back to the dais. He half expected to see Helga up there directing platters of food to the various children. Godric should be grumbling over a bowl of porridge as he considered his afternoon classes or surrounded by apprentices worrying over some spell or weapon technique. Evander would be guiding a distracted Rowena through the doors at any moment so they both ate for the day. Helena and Moria should be seated amongst other students, preparing for their first proper year as apprentices. Elowen and Oswin would have been playing by the hearth, ignoring demands to take their fill.

Another cup of tea appeared in front of him. The scent drew his attention and helped bring him back to the present. Salazar stared into its swirling depths, heavy hearted so early in the morning. It would be a long day. This was going to take time to get used to.—Maybe he should have gone to a different school.

Omorose pushed her head into his hand. Salazar rubbed behind her ears. She offered a meow, sprang off the bench, and trotted off. He imagined she was off to investigate the entire castle. He would probably see her again before the kittens came. (Or perhaps not; it was a large castle.)

A thick sheet of parchment appeared before Salazar. The reincarnated founder read over the parchment in interest, glad for the distraction. His interest turned to disbelief. 

His class schedule was random. That was the nicest way to describe it. Not a single day was identical to the next. Mondays started early. Fridays ended by lunch.4

“Excuse me,” Salazar said when he noticed an older student beside him. “May I see that?” The founder took said student’s schedule and reviewed it without pause. It was just as bizarrely scheduled but fuller, longer, and much more exhausting. 

“Potter,” snapped the older student as he yanked his schedule back, “I didn’t say yes.”

Salazar blinked owlishly before a grimace crossed his face at his blunder. Right, he wasn’t a master allowed to take whatever from his students. “My apologies...eh..”

The older boy sneered as he answered Salazar’s less than polite request, “Call me Montague.”

“I apologize Montague. I was not thinking. It is rather early, isn’t it?” Salazar offered a disarming smile as he shifted his faux paus towards childish sleepiness. 

Montague gave a short nod. “That’s true.”

“No idea why we have to travel on September 1st every year,” agreed one of Montague’s companions as he leaned over the table and stabbed a sausage a little too aggressively, “Bloody tradition can screw itself. Nothing would have died if we had traveled here on August 31st.”

“Why’d you want to travel here a day early?” demanded Draco, disgusted.

Montague smirked. “Last year September 1st was a Saturday. We had an entire free Sunday to start off the year.”

“It was bloody brilliant.” 

A shadow crossed over their table, cutting off the older Slytherins’ expositions on their excellent previous start of the year. Not that they needed to add to it, Draco and a few others looked suitably envious. 

Salazar looked up as a clanking of metal echoed over the table. A ghost, vaguely familiar, stared down at him with a curious expression. A mix of wonder and wistfulness, if Salazar had to guess. The ghost was a gaunt man wearing a tunic of a high quality and modern style for Salazar’s original time. It was covered in a silvery stain splatter similar to blood. Chains finished the morbid appearance and was the source of the clanking.

Founder and ghost stared at each other for a long moment. All the while, Salazar wondered why the ghost was familiar. The ghost’s expression twisted into something like hope as the eleven year old took up his cup of tea during the staring contest. Said contest was broken when his fellow first years rose. 

Vincent pulled him up with them. “Come on,” the larger boy said as he tugged Salazar back the way they had come, “We’ve potions first thing.”

Salazar glanced back over his shoulder. The ghost continued to stare at him. The familiarity bothered the reincarnate. He thoughtlessly followed the rest of the Slytherin first years as he considered the possibilities. It was at the tip of his tongue. He knew who that was. But from where?

“Oi!”

He jerked his head up at the call and ran into one of the boys he hadn’t caught the name of. A quick assessment found that Draco was leading them; all the Slytherin first years were present; they had somehow reached the second floor while he was distracted; and there was no adult in sight.

“Lads. Lasses. Yer off on the wrong foot.”

Salazar finally found the person talking to them. It was a talking portrait. The befuddled founder couldn’t help but ask, “When did we develop enchantments to do that?”

The portrait, a man with a wild, blond beard, huffed at them, “-Inn’t important. Yer gone off the wrong route.”

Draco scoffed at being told that, though Salazar honestly agreed with the painting. They had potions first. He couldn’t see why potions would be anywhere but the dungeons; there were too many toxins and temperamental ingredients for anywhere else. Though a tower could be a decent place because of the ventilation.

One of the unknown girls spoke up, she waved her schedule out at Draco in emphasis, “He’s right Malfoy. It says right here Potion Lab One, Dungeons.” 

“It doesn’t say that!” whined Draco, his face flushed in embarrassment.

“L1, Dun.,” she countered as she pointed at her schedule, “see.”

“That’s not the same thing Greengrass.” 

“Obviously, that’s what it means.”

“No–”

“Oi, ya’ve no time ta fight. Class is’a starting in a moment.” The portrait tried to intervene but the two and their staunch friends (for all that most had only met last night) were all arguing over him. 

“–its clearly level one, as in floor one.” scoffed Draco.

“Exactly!” agreed Blaise.

“You’re being ridiculous.”

“Who cares that you were wrong–”

“I know where we’re going!”

“Why’d we go up more than a floor then?”

“Draco’s da is on the board!”

“What does that got to do with class?”

Salazar’s eyes bounced from child to child. He’d intervene himself but it was amusing and he had already messed up this morning. No need to make the children question his own child-status this soon. A smirk flickered across his face as he internally admitted to the weak excuse. He wasn’t a master having to corral children to their duties anymore. Someone else could deal with this mess.

He gave it two minutes. When the children were still arguing and started to throw insults and there was still no living adult in sight, he interrupted. The stairs under foot shifted as he spoke, “Perhaps we should ask for directions.”

All the arguing children snapped at him with various forms of “stay out of it”. Salazar wisely backed off as he struggled to contain a grin that wanted to break free with his amusement. 

“What is going on here?”

The founder glanced up to find the deputy headmistress staring down her nose at them all. All of the arguing children fell silent. Most shuffled in an attempt to hide behind each other which led to Salazar somehow standing at the front of the group.

“Well? Mr. Potter?” demanded Professor McGonagall as she regarded him through her glasses.

Salazar straightened, tilted his head and smiled sheepishly up at her. Her demeanor shifted ever so slightly. Her shoulders relaxed. Got her, Salazar couldn’t help but think in pleasure before he explained, “Ma’am, We were having a minor debate on where to go from here. We’ve become lost.”

“Lost?” she repeated with disbelief, “You have potions first thing.” Salazar could hear the unsaid statement. They were Slytherins and they had lost their way to the potions lab. A lab that was likely close to their dorms for a class led by their head of house. 

“Well,” Salazar shrugged and his sheepish grin grew, “We mistakenly thought we had charms first.”

“Ah.” amusement sparked across her stern expression, “Head back down to the dungeons then.”

Finally one of the others spoke up, “But the stairs moved.”

“Come along,” she sighed out as she walked down the stairs and guided them along to the next flight of steps, not that the staircase was there yet. “These will take you down to the first floor. If you stay on them, they will shift down to the ground floor soon after.” 

“Thank you professor,” Salazar offered.

She looked back as she headed into the second floor maze. “Try to ask for directions every once in a while and don’t be late for my class tomorrow.”

The group of first years mumbled and muttered out “yes ma’ams” as she vanished. Salazar turned to the guard rail and looked out over the grand stairway. Their steps should appear in two minutes, plenty of time to marvel at the cluttered walls. 

It was filled with moving portraits. Most were waving cheerfully at the various students traveling through to their classes. Painted people and creatures traveled from frame to frame, filled with enchanted life and gifted with the ability to speak. It made it all magical in a way the empty walls hadn’t back in the day. It was filled with history and character and life.5 

It also meant nothing stayed quiet, stayed hidden.

“Potter. Move.”

Salazar started at the sight of the steps. They were early. The first years stepped down onto the staircase and gathered to the right so other students could travel from second to first floor. Some, though, were stuck when the rails slid into place and the staircase proceeded to shift down toward the ground floor. 

The founder frowned, the stairs should have had another minute before moving. Both the older children's reactions and the professor’s words implied a wait before the stairs moved to the ground floor, as there should have been. Something had cut the time down but they would be able to make their first class with a minute or two to spare. It was rather convenient.—He’d look into the possible eroding of the enchantments if it happened again. 

The group of first years found their fellow Gryffindors in a classroom a few hallways from the Slytherin dorm. The smell of decomposed things and a faint sting of formaldehyde smacked into the children’s faces as they entered the potions room. It was filled with two columns of desks large enough for a pair of children each. Oil burners with wrought iron stands for their small pewter cauldrons stood on each desk. A professor’s desk and chalkboard sat at the front. Shelves and shelves filled with jars of all shapes, sizes, colors, and transparencies sat against the classroom walls. A large closet sat open with even more shelves of ingredients. Torchlight filled the dark room with just enough light to see the labels on the various jars and some of the strange ingredients. 

Salazar settled in a seat at Draco’s side as he stared at a jar of dessicated pixies and ignored the two groups of children as the Slytherins and Gryffindors stared warily at each other. Perhaps if he ignored the expected hostilities between the two houses the children would follow his lead. His fame had to be of some use and if he could cut the ridiculous conflict created by untrue stories of Godric and himself, why not?

The door banged open and the Slytherin head of house stalked up to the front of the room with billowing black robes. The sallow skinned man looked over them all with a sneer. His dark gaze paused on Salazar, seated beside Draco, and his sneer deepened. 

He snapped out as he waved at a wall in emphasis, “Pack your things and stand to the left.”

Once all the students were out of the way, the professor called out names and pointed to the work stations. He started with the Slytherins and seated them closest to the front of the room. Salazar was the last Slytherin which happened to place him without a fellow housemate. A Neville Longbottom was placed beside him before other Gryffindors were seated behind. (Later Salazar would realize that all the Slytherin purebloods were seated first. The order of blood status was repeated with the Gryffindors.) 

Salazar offered a nod to the nervous boy seated beside him. A shy, hesitant smile was Neville’s response. He offered his own smile and the Gryffindor’s hesitation vanished. He watched as the dirty-blond relaxed beside him.

“I,” drawled the professor as the students settled into their assigned seats, pulling the children’s gazes back to the front of the room, “am Professor Snape, head of Slytherin and potions master of Hogwarts. You will find that there will be little foolish wand waving within this class. Potion-making is a subtle, exacting art that requires a careful hand and mind capable of understanding the complex relationships between ingredients and actions done upon them.”

Salazar tilted his head in interest. That sounded almost like rituals. Shift the importance of ingredients, or even remove them all together, and the description was very similar. Perhaps what was done to the ingredients could be considered a form of ritual. The simple actions of word and wand movement was a form of ritual after all. It would not be a stretch that cutting a specific ingredient in a specific angle resulted in one magical reaction and that a different action to the same ingredient resulted in a different reaction. Those reactions would be similar, though, and tied to the overall magical properties of the ingredients.

This could match up with his strengths. Excitement bubbled up at the realization that he would learn something new here. He wasn’t just hiding amongst students, biding his time until he was old enough to do something with his various skills without society questioning his every action because he was a “child”. He would actually be a student here.

Potions hadn’t existed as a discipline a thousand years ago. There were the hedge witches with their cures and each of the older magical families had a list of creams and drinks that supposedly did things like heal but it hadn’t been a discipline. 

Evander had had a few family creams to help with bruising and they worked quite well. Salazar knew how to use various herbs to his advantage. The chamomile and lavender infusion he had used on Aunt Petunia and Mrs. Figg was a prime example. Helga’s mead might have aided with headaches but it was hotly debated (and usually led to testing the theory which meant overdrinking and creating more headaches instead of proving any cures). That was it. 

Linfred the Potterer had lived almost two centuries after Salazar and he hadn’t been a potioneer, just a wizard that knew a few tricks with plants. Those tricks later became important steps in various potion recipes. It was fascinating how far the art had come. He would need to read up on it after he finished with his history books.

The potions master leaned forward on his podium, his dark gaze swept over the class before he looked at Salazar specifically. His sneer grew and he flicked his gaze deliberately away, blatantly dismissive to anyone aware of body language. Multiple students shifted about, most of them Slytherins. 

“I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death—if you aren't as big a bunch of dunderheads–” His gaze swept over the Gryffindors before settling once more on Salazar. “–as I usually have to teach.”

Salazar’s excitement died. His gaze narrowed as he tasted something sour with the man’s actions. Professor Snape had implied that half the class were idiots.—And Salazar was aparently the most stupid of them all.—This was unacceptable behavior.

The Gryffindor besides Salazar shrank from the professor’s gaze. Any confidence in the boy was gone. All that was left was a nervous wreck. Salazar glanced at him in worry. The demeanour of the professor couldn’t have caused such an extreme reaction unless it had reminded the boy of something or someone else. Perhaps the word dunderhead had caused the reaction. 

Professor Snape flicked his wand carelessly at the blackboard, drawing Salazar’s attention away from the Gryffindor. Spidery writing appeared. He frowned at the board but turned his attention to the professor, posed to copy the lecture down. There was a potion recipe on the board. Still, Salazar expected some basic ingredients and preparation rules before trying to create an actual potion.

After a moment, Snape snapped out, “Well collect the ingredients and begin.”

The Hogwarts founder stilled before his hand fisted his fountain pen, and a soft hissed curse escaped. The Gryffindor seated besides him startled at the sharp, coiled hiss of parseltongue. Round eyes met his furious ones. Salazar forced his outrage down at the deer-like reaction from the child. 

“Would you read off the board?” Salazar asked, “I’ll copy it down and we’ll get ingredients after.” Reviewing the orders would hopefully help guide their steps. Having it explained would have been worlds better but Salazar would do what he could to learn this skill and to guide his tablemate.

“A-alright,” squeaked out the Gryffindor. 

The sneering head of Slytherin wandered and swooped through the room as the first years attempted to create their first potions with minimal instructions. He breathed down the back of necks until a Gryffindor made a mistake. Then house points were taken. Neville was on the verge of a nervous breakdown as the professor paused before their table. 

“Longbottom!” snapped Snape, “Ten points from Gryffindor for mishandling ingredients! Do not cut. Dice.”

Neville gave a startled squeak at the shout and dumped an entire handful of ingredients into the bubbling potion. Salazar startled also as he was the one cutting ingredients at the moment. 

One of the other Gryffindors cried out in outrage near about the same time, having realized the same thing. “But Potter’s the one cutting ingredients! Neville wasn’t!”

Snape turned to the complaining Gryffindor and took more points. “Finnigan, five points from Gryffindor for talking out of turn.”

“Another five points from Gryffindor for ruining perfectly good potion ingredients. Longbottom clean up. Have your table partner help.” 

Neville nodded jerkingly and pulled his cauldron from the fire. Salazar paused in his own potion-making to stare at the professor. He still needed to finish his own potion but Snape had basically told him to help clean up the other’s mess. Neville started on the clean up on his own, obviously planning to take care of it without Salazar.

“Five points from Gryffindor for not following orders.” 

The Gryffindor flinched, wide hazel eyes glanced over to Salazar and then back to his ruined cauldron.

His eyes narrowed at the professor before Salazar decided to help the poor boy. He took his own cauldron off the burner so he wouldn’t have to clean up after two major failures. Then he helped move Neville’s cauldron to the side of the room. Whatever Neville had done, had crystallized within the cauldron. The two boys spent the rest of class chipping the substance out and into a bin. 

Snape called out as the class concluded, “Bottle up what you have and place it on my desk. Then clean up. I expect eight inches on proper ingredient preparation by next class.”

“Put some of this crystal into a vial.”  Salazar quietly told the chubby Gryffindor. “I’ll bottle some of mine and come help after.”

Neville gave a short nod as the founder headed back to their station. Salazar slowed, though, as Snape paused on his way to the front of the class and flicked his wand at the incomplete potion before the reincarnate could reach it. Salazar snapped his gaze up at the professor in shock. His potion had been spelled away. The other students paused as they saw what had happened but scurried back to work when the professor’s head swerved around to glare at them.

Salazar clenched his teeth together and turned back to help Neville. The Gryffindor muttered multiple apologies, tears gleaming in his eyes, as they finished cleaning and packing up. 

He was the last out as the potions professor called out, “Potter, turning nothing in means a zero for today. Do not do it again or you’ll end up repeating the year.”

The founder clenched his jaw and forced himself to keep moving, giving a short, curt nod to his head of house as he left the room. Outside, Neville fumbled with his books as he attempted to pull out something. A line of older years from all the houses were waiting further down the hall near lab three. None of their fellow first years had stayed behind. 

Salazar didn’t know about the Gryffindors, but his fellow Slytherin’s should have waited for him. The prefect had told them to stick together during the first week. The smack of a book falling to the ground pulled his attention back to Neville.

The little Gryffindor lost his fight with the parchment. Salazar caught the rest of Neville’s books and picked up the fallen one. A peek at the parchment revealed the boy’s schedule.

Neville flushed in embarrassment but muttered a shaky, “T-thanks,” before sniffing sharply. 

“Where you off to next?” he asked, directing the conversation towards simpler things. The mess of their potions class wasn’t something he could fix at the moment. But he could help the child to his next class.

Salazar guided the boy to the stairs as Neville fought his emotions under control and unfolded the parchment. “Study in the library...oh...It doesn’t start till next week?” He frowned at his schedule before giving a shrug and added, “I’ve charms after. It’s on third. You?”

“I also have a free period. Then defense on second and charms right after that,” Salazar explained as they reached the stairs, “Mind if I walk with you? We could hunt down each of the rooms.”

The young boy relaxed and flashed a hesitant, slightly watery grin. The relief of not being left alone clear on his young, open face. “Nah. I’ve defense after charms, so it’ll be good to know.”

Salazar nodded. “I’m Harry Potter, by the way. You may call me Harry.” The founder offered as he continued to carry most of the nervous child’s books.

Wide hazel eyes met his own emerald. Neville paused on their way up to the ground floor, straightened his back and gave a short, firm nod to Salazar. “Good to meet you Harry. I’m Neville Longbottom. Just Neville to you.” The shy boy held out a hand which Salazar took and the two boys gave a short shake. The action seemed to calm Neville’s timorous emotions and his gaze lost the shine of unshed tears.

“I think I must apologize ahead of time,” Salazar offered a few moments later when they waited for the stairs to shift to the ground floor. The walk had given him a few minutes to evaluate what had happened in potions. The only conclusion he could come to was Snape had something against him. “I believe potions class isn’t going to be pleasant.”

“Don’t think it’s your fault,” Neville countered becoming downtrodden once more, “I’m terrible at potions...and Professor Snape is…” The boy shrugged instead of voicing his thoughts.

Salazar didn’t offer a response to that. He had a feeling that the issue was still his presence. The man had made it clear that he disliked the founder for some reason. Professor Snape would have been tossed out of his school the second a whisper of such treatment had reached his ears. Yet, the founder couldn’t play his hand now, not when he didn’t have an entire picture of what was going on. He had multiple questions and more kept coming up. 

The reincarnate silently promised to remove the man if things got worse. For now, he might offer self study with Neville if the boy continued to receive backlash for the seating arrangements. 

Neville broke through Salazar’s thoughts when he reclaimed his books and said, “It’s around here somewhere, isn’t it?”

They had reached the third floor. Salazar glanced over the hall and paused as he regarded the right wing. A frown spread as something nagged at the back of his mind.—There was something about the third floor corridor. He couldn’t recall what though.

Salazar stepped towards the corridor but Neville tugged his arm. 

“Not that way.”

“Wha–”

“Look at all those weapons!” Neville gasped.

His frown twitched into an amused smile as the eleven year old dragged him into the armor gallery. Neville leaned in towards each weapon and armor to read the various plaques. They wandered past the variety of metal and wooden gear.—Some were familiar and others not.—In one corner, was a large Grecian shield.

The founder slid a hand around the bottom edge, brushing his fingers across the stone of the wall. Helga’s notice-me-not charm stood solid under his touch. It was as if a thousand years had not passed. A faint smell of freshly turned earth and the taste of honey came with the whispers of the passageway hidden behind the shield. It wasn’t as potent as other magics he had interacted with though. It was as if what marked the magic as Helga’s was slowly fading away.

“Do you think Godric Gryffindor’s sword is around here somewhere?” Neville asked, wonder and awe in his voice. 

Salazar blinked. He looked over at the blond in bemusement. “Godric’s sword?”

Neville smiled sheepishly. “You don’t think so?”

Green eyes swept over the gear on display. Salazar couldn’t imagine the blade to be left around. The silver blade had been specially made. Its metal had allowed magic to flow freely through it and the blood of various magical beasts had imbued it with even more magic. Godric had used it more than he had used his wand. 

“I...would imagine his family claiming it–claimed it.” Salazar shook his head. Gareth would have taken it at the very least. Perhaps it had been handed down to Oswin. “Let’s find the classroom, Neville.”

The blond soon forgot all about the blade as they found the next fascinating room. Trophies lined the walls and low set tables. Centuries of gold and silver plated trophies of all shapes and sizes were on display under the mid-morning sunlight.

Salazar, realizing the danger of these distractions, set an alarm on his watch. They could wander but he would make certain Neville was returned to his fellow Gryffindors before the next class began. The child shouldn’t be left to wander the maze of a castle on his own.

They wandered through the glittering display cases and spied trophies for past quidditch cups, house cups, achievements in O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s, dueling, gobstones, spelling, and racing competitions. A whole wall was framed out with velvet backed gold plaques of Head Boy and Head Girl names. There was even a case celebrating the odd service to the school. 

Salazar paused to look over them in interest. Some were vaguely familiar but most weren’t. He chalked up to the lackluster details in Hogwarts: A History . There hadn’t been any trophies a thousand years ago, at least not these types. Some of the trophies Godric and he had collected rested in the armor gallery. 

These needed more detail than offered. All of them were for a service to the school but none actually stated what those services had been. His green gaze moved away from T. M. Riddle’s golden trophy at the sound of a sharp, emotional gasp. 

Neville stood rooted before the plaques of head boys and girls.

“Neville?”

The tiny Gryffindor jerked as if slapped and snapped his hazel gaze back to Salazar. They glistened with unshed tears. His throat bobbed before he nodded his chin up at a certain part. “My mum...I didn’t know…”

Salazar stepped up besides the child and looked over the plaques immediately before them. He didn’t see any Longbottoms but he did see a Potter and Evans. “My parents are on here also.” 

“Did you know?” Neville asked in a small voice.

“No.” Salazar stared at his parents' names for a long moment, his hand rose to press against the rings hidden under his robes. He turned and met Neville’s gaze. “No one ever said.”

Something relaxed about the boy and he gave a soft, sad little smile. “Yeah...no one said.” 

They stared at each other, Salazar surprised at the camaraderie he felt with the child as much as he was at the pleasure of learning more about his parents. He broke the moment and nodded towards the doors. “Come on, the classroom is around here somewhere.”

The charms classroom noted on their schedule was at the end of the final corridor of the floor. Large windows spilled warm sunlight into the long room. Neville stepped into the empty room without pause. Salazar watched the child pursue his curiosity.

He didn’t follow immediately after. Salazar stilled just inside the room at the realization of what room it was. His gaze moved from the boy to stare over the auditorium style desks that rose on either side of the room, leaving a professor desk with a large stack of books on the chair in the center. 

This room had been Godric’s. 

Once, nearly a thousand years ago, this room had been on the ground floor just feet from the main doors where weapon practice was completed. 

The center floor was just large enough for practice duels, though the dueling hall—wherever that was now—had been used when participation of the entire class had been required. The founder stepped up to the short wall between the first row of desks and the center aisle and rested a hand on the worn wood. No answering magic sparked under his fingers. The protective magics to keep spells within the area were gone. It was no longer set up for duels and combative magic.

He looked around at all the furniture. None of it was older than a few centuries. Charm books and posters of wand movements rested against the wall behind the professor’s desk.

It was no longer Godric’s classroom. Most of the ground floor had been the redhead’s domain. Thrum of fire and heat and power had once consumed that section of the castle. Godric had never been able to keep his magic entirely contained. 

The warmth was gone now. Maybe it was because the cluster of rooms had been separate, shifted to different floors and stripped of magic no longer needed. Or maybe it was because Godric was long dead.

Salazar could still feel Godric’s magic in the various enchantments and curses throughout Hogwarts but it wasn’t the same. He hadn’t realized how much presence the man had possessed until now. 

A bell from his watch rang out. Neville jumped in surprise at the sound and stared over to him with wide eyes.

“We’ve run out of time.” Salazar explained as he tapped his watch. “I best find the defense class.”

“Right,” agreed Neville slowly before he set his things on a desk. 

The disbondent expression on the blond prompted Salazar to remark, “I’ll see you later, Neville.”

He didn’t really know why he said it but Neville brightened at the almost promise and Salazar couldn’t convince himself to ignore it. (It would be like kicking a puppy if he didn’t reach out to the boy later.)

oooP2ooo

The pungent smell of garlic hit Salazar as he entered the defense classroom on the second floor. His eyes teared from the sharp smell. He blinked rapidly as he stalked through the room. It was set up with long rows of tables facing the front of the room where a large chalkboard rested against the wall. He was the first in, having somehow timed his descent to when the stairs came by, and claimed a corner seat where he could watch everything. 

Defense Against the Dark Arts was in a room no one had used in his past life. He had no particular memory of the place. Salazar couldn’t even recall helping build the particular room. 

Braids of garlic hung round the room’s door and windows. Salazar couldn’t help but imagine the smell never coming out. Another thousand years and the room would still be known as the garlic room. (He had no doubt the students all considered the place that.)

Salazar frowned as the other Slytherins avoided him when they entered a few minutes later. They grouped together at the opposite side of class. None of the children even glanced at him. In turn, the Ravenclaws couldn’t stop glancing his way as they entered. Salazar wasn’t entirely certain it was because of his fame or the fact that he was seated as far from the other Slytherins as possible. One of the boys, a gangly brunet with a long face and tan skin, rushed to claim the seat at Salazar’s side.

Said child pompously stuck his hand out to Salazar with the sharp statement of, “Anthony Goldstein, Ravenclaw. My great aunt’s married to Newton Scamander.” 

Salazar starred in bemusement at the long faced child but accepted the hand. “Harry Potter Slytherin.” 

The boy rushed to explain. His haste revealed that his pompous nature likely stemmed from an attempt to appear confident. “He’s the author of our creature’s book for the class.”

“Ah, it’s an excellent book,” Salazar finally offered with a kind smile before he considered the age of said book, while also ignoring the fact that he hadn’t actually read through it yet. “Great aunt?”

Anthony flushed. “Well...basically, a little more removed but I grew up with calling them tha–”

The professor interrupted with a stuttered order to quiet down. Salazar narrowed his gaze onto the odd man. He was a young fellow, soft looking and slightly frazzled with a purple turban mismatching against his tweed robes. Godric would have destroyed him in a duel. (Godric destroyed most people in duels but this man would have had to keep up with Godric to have gotten the DADA position. Not that his fellow founder would have given up teaching defense.)

“I am P-professor Quirinius Quirrell , your teacher for D-defense Against the D-dark Arts. You will learn how to hand-hand-hand-dle the d-d-darker sid-de of the magical world-d. We will cover vamp-p-p-p-pires–” One of the teacher’s eyes twitched at the word. He swerved his gaze over to meet Salazar’s multiple times as he stuttered through his introduction speech.”–werewolves, and other d-dangerous creatures...”

Salazar could feel his migraine rearing back. His forehead throbbed with each ‘d-d-d’ spoken. Quirinius stuttered the entire class. It was impossible to follow the lecture without the desire to throttle the poor man. There was no way anyone was learning anything from him.

The entire group of Slytherins and Ravenclaws fled the classroom and trooped upstairs for Charms. Salazar paid little mind to the other students; his throbbing head kept him from caring. A second row seat in Godric’s classroom called to him. He claimed it and tried to ignore the other students and their noise and all the memories that pulled at his mind. (How many times had he helped Godric with a display or miniature duel for their apprentices?)

It took him a few minutes with his head on the desk before Salazar sat up right. His fellow Slytherins were all seated on the other side of the auditorium style classroom. Another Ravenclaw, a little girl with long, straight black hair framing large glasses and dark eyes, sat beside him. The poor girl turned cherry red when he offered a kind smile. 

Her reaction was one thing, the professor’s was another. (One Salazar was in no mood for.)

Professor Flitwick fell off his stack of books when he came to Salazar’s name on his list of students. Salazar had to hide a grimace at the sight of a grown man reacting in such a fashion. Luckily, he seemed to recover quickly and dived into introducing Helga’s favored field of study.

“Welcome to Charms! I am Filius Flitwick, the head of Ravenclaw and your charms professor,” chirped out the small man cheerfully. White curls of hair, much resembling puffs of soft clouds, surrounded a kind face wrinkled with age and alight with warmth. Salazar guessed the man had goblin or fairy ancestry. There wasn’t anything terribly obvious beyond his height but the founder thought he could spy a slight point to the elder’s ears.

“If you’ve cracked open your books, you may have noticed the wide variety of magic that falls under charmwork. There are subcategories of a multitude but we won’t be focused terribly hard on such definitions as it’s simply an attempt to help organize charms into a reasonable mess for research and pinpoint study.”

Professor Flitwick paused to glance over all the children, “You should have a copy of Standard Book of Spells Volume One by Miranda Goshawk and Magical Theory by Adalbert Waffling. We will start with general magical theory and as we expand our horizons, we’ll expand our repertoire of spells.”

The diminutive man clapped his hands cheerfully and Salazar twitched from a spike of pain from his migraine. “Now, let’s get cracking. Pull out your things for note taking. Wands away for the next week or so. If we get through the first set of theorems quickly, we’ll be able to start on color changing charms and you all might have your own school scarves at the end!”

Salazar considered the professor’s cheer with mild disgust, knowing that it was similar enough to Helga’s that his disgust was temporary. He’d like the man when he had no headache or migraine or stabbing pain enhanced by the man’s high pitched voice. Flitwick was worlds better than Snape and Quirrell. He just had the disadvantage of his class occurring after the other two.

oooP3ooo

A painting of a bowl of fruit was in his way. Salazar glared at the painting but he could see nothing change. He had a migraine. He did not want to deal with anymore changes. Weren’t all the paintings magicked to do strange, useless things? He bet the bowl of fruit did something strange if he waited long enough.

Salazar had reached his limit for people for the day. He had no desire to eat his midday meal with children and ghosts and foriegn adults that had the audacity to sit where his family should be. He didn’t want to deal with children that stared at him and ignored him in turn. He didn’t need to go through introductions to magic he was as good as a master in. There was no reason he should have to sit in one of his life long friend’s classrooms to only see a sea of strangers, feel strange magic that did not belong, and have nothing but shadows of his friend remain.

ss:_ Open_ : ss ” he finally hissed in frustration.

The painting swung towards Salazar, making the reincarnate step to the side so it could open fully. He stepped in, his frustrations slightly nullified by the painting’s obedience, or whatever one could call an inanimate object obeying a command. He looked back and watched the painting swing close. The back of the painting was a far more familiar wooden door.

Salazar reached out and rested a hand on the worn wood. No magic whispered against his touch to explain how the painting had obeyed. It was likely on the painting itself. His fingers traced across the door and then down along its right side. Cuts into the wood marked each birthday of Helga’s brood, showing their physical growth compared to the year before. He traced the three different types of marks showing Moria’s, Elowen’s, and Oswin’s changes in height. 

They had grown after he had died. He had known that, obviously, but here it was marked from a thousand years ago. Life had continued after he died. His throat constricted as he traced the physical proof that the others had lived on after he had gone.

His breath caught and tears swam across his vision. He had known each child from the moment of their birth. They had grown up after his life had ended and here he was while they were long dead. 

Maybe he should have stuck with the heartache he had already encountered for the day. 

“Master Sally?”

There was no need to turn around and investigate all the changes to Helga’s kitchens. She wasn’t there. It smelt like her barley rolls baking and her stew simmering and her bramble pie just freshly made. But she wasn’t there.

A tiny hand grasped his hanging one. Salazar looked down into large silver eyes. He blinked but the tiny bat eared creature was still holding his hand. His migraine had blurred most of yesterday evening together but a vague memory of the house elf came to him. “Mipsy, right?”

“Yes, Master Sally,” answered the House elf in a high, squeaky voice. He flinched at the sound as she bobbed her head up and down in emphasis, her long floppy bat ears smacked her shoulders in her excitement. That excitement dulled as she felt his flinch. Large eyes searched his face and her hand tightened in his. She said with a softer voice, “You be needing food now. Come.”

She tugged Salazar into the large stone kitchen. It’s huge fireplace, directly below the Great Hall’s fireplace, was just as he remembered it—simple and warm with the smell of thousands of meals ingrained into its very being. An enormous cast iron cauldron hung within it and the stew he could smell visibly bubbled away. A wall of modern cooking cupboards, more similar to the appliances he saw in Diagon Alley than in his aunt’s muggle kitchen, were glowing with active magic. Some had glass doors, revealing rising breads and golden crusted pies. Another wall was covered in storage for all the various knives, cutting boards, pots and pans, and dishes of all shapes and sizes. Tables were filled with foods being cut and diced and trimmed in preparation for the coming dinner. 

Through an archway, he could spy Helga’s ingeniously charmed long tables, seated right below the tables in the Great Hall. Platters filled with food were set on the tables and vanished, transported up to the hungry children above. Plates and cups and emptied platters were transported back with a soft bell like call to announce its return.

At least a hundred House elves bustled about, cooking and cleaning and prepping for the evening ahead. A low chatter filled the stone kitchen, filling it with a different kind of life compared to what he was used to. The elven tongue was foriegn to his ears. Part of him wanted to learn the language but that was for another day.

None paused in their work as he was guided through the kitchen. He was a little relieved the House elves ignored him. He didn’t want them to stop and stand at attention for him in general. Salazar was in no mood to handle it properly right now either. All he wanted to do was curl up somewhere to wallow in memories and sleep away the migraine. 

The elves had enough work without catering to some misguided belief that he wanted them to play servant in front of him anyhow. Salazar knew how much work it was to feed a small family. He could imagine the amount of effort feeding the student body had to be. Maybe they knew that somehow.—A warmth wrapped around him as if confirming that the elves understood his preference at this moment.

Mipsy brought him to the end of one of the tables filled with already cooked food being cut up and plattered. Salazar sank into a seat and, in a blink, found a cup of tea before him. Mint floated up and soothed a little of his heartache and exhaustion and a great deal of his headache. He picked it up so the steam rose up to his nose and watched the elf through narrowed eyes. 

Mipsy danced about the room with a large plate. Food was scooped in quick efficiency. It was set before him within moments of being seated. She was gone before he could offer up thanks.

The meal was filled with echoes of memories as he quietly ate food Helga had once made in this very room. Her charms and recipes had been passed down to these elves. They did them justice.

He contemplated the remains of his tea as he reached emotional equilibrium once more. The migraine had dulled to a gentle throb. He frowned as a bumblebee formed in the tea dredges. Salazar turned the cup about and huffed in annoyance as the bee turned into a lion. It could just be a mess of leaves too. He had no idea what bumblebees or lions could mean anyhow. (He should take an afternoon and make some rune stones. Those always made more sense to him than tea leaves.)

“Master Sally?”

“Hmm?” Salazar responded as he looked up from the failed divination, “Mipsy?”

She gave a hesitant smile. “Class be starting soon. You be needing anything to go?”

Salazar shook his head and rose. “No, thank you.” He headed to the door but paused. His years taking care of his relatives had him turn to regard all the little elves working away. They were doing much of Helga’s favorite, and not so favorite, work.

“All of you,” he called out. Hundred large eyes swiveled over to him as the House elves obediently paused in their work. He stared over at the small sea of brownies. There was a whole array of furred and leathery skinned, pale and dark, pointed and floppy eared creatures. It was a sea of diversity that he saw everywhere he went, now. “Helga would be proud. Thank you for your service.”

Smiles lit the room. 

He couldn’t help but smile back. That was one thing he had always despaired over with his relatives. They had never thanked him for all his work over the years. The Dursleys had expected his service, as if they were owed it. 

No one was owed anyone’s service.

It took a ridiculous level of navigation and directions from the odd portrait before Salazar found his way to the bridge on floor six to the Astronomy tower.—When the bloody hell did his castle gain towers?—He joined a pack of Hufflepuff first years in trudging up the spiraling stairs of the tower until they reached an actual room. 

Students gasped and muttered in awe as they took in their Astronomy classroom. 

Black and white tile guided them all into a large, circular room with walls and a ceiling of glass held together by aged wrought iron. Half circle tables warped around two sides of the room with built-in swivel stools that allowed the students to shift their seats facing into the center of the room to facing out through the glass walls. The center of the room had a giant golden orrery. 

Salazar wandered over to one of the glass walls and stared out across Hogwarts proper. He could see everything for miles. Loch Fitheach sprawled out across the green fields. The stone wall he could still remember white washing just before his death, was gray and dark as it stood between the grassy fields and the dark forest. A town rose out of the forest half a mile from the main gate. Near the town was the train station. The vibrant red express sat waiting.

He wandered in a circle, observing everything he could see. Three-fourths of the view was of Hogwarts land swallowed up by forest. A fourth was cut off by the roofs and walls of the castle herself. On this side, where little was to be seen, a glass pane revealed itself to be a door that led out to more stairs. Those stairs could be seen at certain angles through the wall of windows. They led up to the roof, though the ceiling was glass and no obvious walkway was present.

A smile stretched out slowly as he marveled at the charmwork and enchantments involved. From keeping the stairs from interrupting the view, to making the ceiling usable inside and out, this had to be the envy of many astronomers. 

After investigating the room, he claimed a seat. The other students followed his lead and slowly settled into their own. Ronald decided to avoid Salazar just like his Slytherin peers but the other badgers were as curious as the Ravenclaws. 

An Oliver Rivers ended up seated beside him.6 He seemed like a cheerful boy whose mouth ran off when he was nervous. And he was nervous the entire time he tried to talk with Salazar. By the time class began, Salazar learned a great deal about the muggleborn boy. Refreshingly, Oliver appeared to have no idea about the whole Boy-Who-Lived nonsense. He was simply nervous on his first day. 

That would likely change but Salazar enjoyed the experience for what it was worth. If he was lucky, Oliver would take this as a sign to continue to treat him normally. 

Salazar doubted he was so lucky.

Astronomy turned out to cover more than stars, planets, and constellations. To Salazar’s pleasure, Professor Sinistra planned to teach anything and everything affected by the night sky, seasons, days of the month, and various magic heavy days. This included spell casting, herbology, and potions. They would learn what was possible during an eclipse, the power of the equinoxes and solstices, the twisting of magic when mars was particularly bright, and more. The second semester was when they would begin to map the night sky on Monday evenings. Perhaps later years would delve into the importance of the sky’s alignment within rituals (though he wasn’t expecting such after hearing most rituals had been made illegal).

After astronomy, Salazar headed back down to the first floor with the flock of Hufflepuffs and Slytherins. History ended up in one of the largest classrooms the founders had built. The giant auditorium had been planned for guest speakers, not a single class. The space allowed everyone to spread out and claim their own desks, which Salazar appreciated once class began.

History was taught by a ghost. He had known this because of his conversations with Mr. Fortescue. Salazar had thought a ghost was a decent choice. They had lived during history after all. (Though some of Mr. Fortescue’s remarks had been concerning.)

It was a truly different fact experiencing it. The ghost had floated into the classroom and jumped into the middle of a 15th century conflict between the goblin clan of Gringotts and the Wizards Council. It was clear the ghost hadn’t realized it was a new year and had likely been lecturing an empty room just the day before. The entire class ended up dozing off during the forty-five minute lecture. 

Salazar took the time to write up his potion’s homework. Then he scribbled over his schedule with various additions for his personal projects. Finally he read the chapter homework for Charms. When the professor completed his lecture, Salazar helpfully woke his peers by slamming the door open as he left. 

A short time later, Salazar Slytherin claimed a spot by the loch with a view of his castle. The keep of Hogwarts—the part Salazar aided in building—rose high into the air. Its stone was aged and old, and the land around was molded to it as if the castle had always been there. Its primary form had not changed much over the centuries. Windows had been added. Over a score of turrets branched off the walls from different levels, many at angles on the castle that screamed impossible without magic.

Two walls wrapped around huge areas of land. One encompassed the greenhouses without cutting into much needed light. The other wrapped around the front door, creating the main courtyard. The wall wrapped around the greenhouses was connected to two of the many towers. Bridges connected the rest of the towers to the main keep.

The seven towers were entirely new, while the walled courtyards had been planned for.—Hogwarts should be surrounded by walled courtyards but only had these two.—He found that he rather liked the tower and turret additions, even if their positioning seemed rather random. He doubted any strategy was considered when placing any of it. At least they all appeared to have arrow slits perfect for spell casting down at invading armies.7

For all the additions, it was still the magical refuge he had helped make.

He was done with classes for the day. The reincarnate had been done, mentally, since lunch. He had no desire to do anything more. His head ached. His heart ached. He was done. It was these moments he was most potently reminded of his physical age. 

Salazar should get up, go investigate the groves and wards, or more of the castle. The library called to him. But he had no desire to interact with people anymore or investigate possible issues. He much rather sit here and stare over at his school and marvel at the age and change done. 

(There was a deep ache. It felt like it echoed from his very soul. What did one do when all they loved were so, so very gone?)

He should investigate the bonds tied to his core. 

The boy sat and watched the world go by. It was a long time before he finally forced himself up and back to business.

oooP4ooo

Salazar stepped into the boat house and was pleased to find it empty. Water rolled under the deck. A soft smacking sound came from below where the water quietly hit against the piers. The sun was headed down through the cave entrance over the water, though it would still be a few hours till sunset. It was only day one and he had been gawked at and giggled over, ignored and glared at. He had been confronted with memory after memory of the long since dead.—How was it that his eight conscious years in this time had not helped him accept their death? It was so much harder here, and that shouldn’t have surprised him. Would he ever get past losing everything? (He didn’t think so.)

He heaved a sigh as he settled at the edge of the planks. His feet dangled out over one of the small boats tied up and waiting for the next start of year. Maybe he could take one out to fish. He hadn’t fished since...well, he hadn’t fished in this life. 

Instead, Salazar closed his eyes and took slow, controlled breaths as he focused inward. As he had hoped, the sound of the water helped him focus. Mediation could take time, especially in his child form. (It had grown easier to enter a meditative state as he aged but it still took far longer than it should.) 

It was time to find out what the new bond tied to his core was. Procrastination could lead to terrible consequences, not matter that he had needed that time away from everything. Salazar couldn’t avoid this any longer without it becoming a permanent fixture to his magic.

Past his mind, his thoughts and memories, magic pulsed at his center. Branching out from his green and silver and golden core were the anchored magical bonds. each looked like threads to his mind’s eye. He could taste the familiar wards. There was a fine balance of twisted Nature’s power with a tang of order. Each pulsed to their own tunes, the pattern and the twisted nature allowing him to differentiate between which ward was which. He could already tell that something was off with them but they existed and, at a touch, they had not been corrupted. 

He would investigate the wards later. It was the last anchored bond that he needed to understand. He mentally drew closer to it and the thread became a strange twining rope. Salazar’s inner eye could see the complicated pattern, hundreds of varied colors twisted and braided together in an almost rainbow like pattern. It didn’t feel hostile. 

That didn’t mean it wasn’t.

Salazar watched the pulsing magic for a long moment. The next step was to interact with it. He didn’t particularly care for the idea but he couldn’t think of another way to go about investigating on his own. The founder huffed in annoyance before doing as Godric would and grasped the rope. 

Joy and happiness flooded his senses. It was a welcome, Salazar realized as he felt the emotions wrap around him in a strange hug. He focused on what else he could sense. There was something about the magic that was wonderfully bittersweet. 

Emerald eyes flew open, the tied boats and loch spread out before him but he paid the world no mind. He recognized the magic. He could feel his fellow founders—Helga’s solid determination and steadfast loyalty, Godric’s fierce, steel-like resolve and fiery rumblings of his bravery, and Rowena’s infectious curiosity and biting wit.—He could feel parts of himself also (and yet not, not anymore; it no longer fit like a glove as it should have).

“Papa?”

His head snapped to the side. A little girl with Helga’s curls and Godric’s red, flaming strands stared at him with Rowena’s gray orbs. Her face was so much like his baby sister’s, what he imagined she would have looked like at eight or nine. At the same time she reminded him of little Helena, Moira, Elowen, and Oswin. 

She was also faintly glowing and slightly transparent. But she wasn’t a ghost as the child was in full color instead of the silver of the dead. The girl was dressed in a little blue dress similar to one Helena had favored. Her feet were bare as Moira preferred when she could get away with it. The mane of red curls were clasped in clips identical to ones Godric had gifted Elowen one Yuletide evening. A belt with a little dagger was all Oswin.

The little girl spoke once more, “Papa Sally, that tickles. Did you need something? Or do you want to play? I’m playing hide and seek with some of the House elves! You can join.”

Salazar blinked owlishly at the child before his thoughts caught up with the situation and he realized he was mentally gripping the magical rope far tighter than he had planned. As he released the anchored magic, the child became more transparent. 

He finally spoke up, not answering her question but voicing an unimportant fact, “Only Godric calls me Sally.”

She shook her head with a little, mischievous grin as amusement filtered through the anchored magic and into Salazar. “No silly Papa. You’re Papa Sally to me. Papa Rie’s not the only one to get away with it. You’ll not stop me.” Her eyes grew large and her lips pouted out; and Salazar knew he’d cave in the end. “Sissy Lena said you’d not mind.”

A flash of a silvery woman passed through the magical anchor. For a moment he thought it Rowena but there was something off with the features. The child’s next words distracted him from the mental image.

“I’ll be nine soon and one of my papa’s will be at my birthday! None of you made it to any of my birthdays before. Mama Hellie almost did but she went away. You all went away.” Sorrow flooded Salazar and the little girl’s expression crumbled. Another image flashed through the strange bond. This time it was of an elderly woman lying in a bed, surrounded by crying people. She was dead, Salazar realized as the image faded. “Only Sissy ever stayed.”

“What’s your name?” Salazar finally asked as he shifted about the panks to face her properly.

The child scoffed at him. “Silly papa, you named me!”

His brow furrowed in confusion as he stared at the strange child. He was missing something obvious, he was sure. Salazar imagined he would have gotten it by now if not for the migraine. 

A pop-click interrupted the odd conversation just as it announced the appearance of a House elf. Mipsy spoke up with a scowl and her hands on her hips. “Master Sally be missing dinner and mustn’t be! Hogsie be keeping Master.”

Salazar stared at the elf for all of a second before his head snapped back to the little girl as he finally made the connection. “Hogwarts?”

The little girl beamed. “Papa Sally remembers!” Her beam dropped as the little girl folded her arms across her chest. “Now Papa needs his dinner. Papa can call me later.”

“Right,” Salazar agreed in a daze. 

Hogwarts was sentient, he thought in shock. Said thought repeated itself as he stumbled to his feet. It repeated again, as the physical manifestation of his castle skipped up into a hug he automatically returned. 

“Night, night Papa!”

Salazar somehow made it to the Great Hall and found a seat at random. Another of his favored meals appeared. This time he didn’t question it. There was no need. Hogwarts, the castle, had obviously remembered his preferences and passed it onto the House elves. 

He had plenty of questions about her being sentient but he was nearly certain he had the answer for how she had become so in the first place. The castle had been built on top of a leyline crossing and they had taken advantage of that fact. Salazar had used Nature’s magic to help create the castle, had pulled the magic up and into the very walls. He had never actually cut that connection as the earth’s magic infused the runic designs, curses, and enchantments. All of it was entwined together. 

They had done that on purpose; had discussed the possible implications over the years it took to build her; and had agreed to leave the connection while fully knowing that it had never been done in recorded history. The founders had known there would be repercussions for the decision. But they had determined that, if they kept the connection—as small and miniscule as possible—it would naturally renew the magic of the building and even make it stronger over time. That had been worth the potential, theorized, risks.

This had allowed them to build a castle with animated sections, such as the stairs. It allowed them to expand and shift entire rooms from floor to floor as they tested different class placements, where the dorm, and then dorms, should go. It likely allowed his fellow founders’ descendants the ability to create the towers. 

The connection had animated the castle beyond any imagined possibility. It had made it sentient. Hogwarts was female. She was alive. She thought, she moved, and she talked. 

His main question was when had she been born? Had it been a gradual development? Did she slowly become self aware?

She had to have had some semblance of awareness before he had died. Salazar couldn’t see the other’s talking about all his nuances to such an extent. So she had been when he had still lived, though she claimed she was almost nine. Perhaps she was there but not entirely? Maybe Hogwarts had slowly gained consciousness during his life but hadn’t gained a physical, humanoid form until after his death.

After all their deaths, Salazar supposed. There was no way the others would have forgotten to tell him about this development. It also didn’t matter in the end.

What mattered was that she existed and he needed to determine how best to treat her. 

She wasn’t human. Her concerns were not that of an eight year old girl. She was a near thousand year old castle with a humanoid form.

He rolled the facts over in his mind, as if tasting that concept and consequences. Dinner ended and he slipped silently, distractedly, back into his dorm. Salazar hung his satchel on it’s hook and crawled into bed. Exhaustion had seeped through his entire being, pulling him towards a slumber hours earlier than most would expect.

As he laid down, Salazar decided to simply treat Hogwarts as he had treated all the children of his fellow founders. He’d take the odd quirks of the castle as they came. He mentally reached out to the anchored magic of Hogwarts and sent a sense of tiredness and warmth in an attempt to say good night. She responded with the sense of magic warping him in a hug. It was oddly comforting.

oooPooo

Chapter Text

Chapter Six

oooP1ooo

The light of dawn streamed through the library windows. Warm wooden shelves stuffed full of tomes filled the room. A main reception desk sat parallel to the double entry doors. Behind it was a fenced-in section of more books, which disturbed and intrigued Salazar. Knowledge should be shared but children may not be mature enough for some knowledge.—They were old enough to see a fence and try to jump over it, though.—On either side of the blocked off area were spiral stairs to the second story. 

To his left, were multiple tables for studying and Salazar could spy doors. To the right were more tables and a wall with books and scrolls in display cases. Salazar took a long moment to appreciate the sheer size of the library. It was not the physical size that he appreciated, he had helped place the beams and walls and windows of the room to Rowena’s exacting specifications. There were thousands of books present. All of it about the magical world. That was the amazing part.

Rowena would have wept. This was the reason she had agreed to the experimental apprenticeship structure. She had wanted a place to secure the knowledge of their magical society for future generations that might not grow up with such access whether because of their births to non-magicals or because the magical family member had been killed before the child was old enough to learn. Or because places of learning were no longer storing and sharing magical knowledge alongside the non-magical.

The founder glanced through one of the doors to his left and found a room with a large conference table. A golden plaque on the door pronounced Fireball and under it was a parchment with a list of names, dates, and times. The door besides Fireball was named Short-snout . Salazar raised a brow at the somewhat lacking descriptions and moved on. 

He was here for a purpose, not just to investigate the library as most of the school slept. One of the visions Hogwarts had given him last night had been of a Rowena look-a-like ghost. He imagined any ghost related to Rowena would be found in the library.

Salazar wandered for a good hour. He walked through each aisle, wandered to the second story and back down. The founder spied into the restricted section and passed by all the various study rooms marked with signs of who had reserved it when. 

Eventually Salazar focused more on books than on finding the potential ghost. He pulled out random books of all types of topics. A book on magical foci focused theory absorbed his attention and he claimed a corner desk on the second story, where morning light streamed down onto him. 

He may have never particularly favored his old wand but he was curious. There had to be a reason why the education had shifted to wand focused magics. Of course, part of it was likely political but there had to be more to it than that. 

A cup of tea appeared at his elbow and he settled in for a long morning read. The sounds of others entering the library eventually pulled him from the book and drew his attention to the time. Salazar slid the book into his satchel and headed out for herbology. (No alarms flared for the book as he exited. A note simply appeared in the list of checked out books, courtesy of a House elf.)

Salazar took the hidden passage across from the library’s double doors down to the kitchen level. Helga’s notice-me-not magic washed over him as he slipped through the hidden door and Rowena’s pocket dimension warped about his form as he walked down the shortened hall to the exit. On the other side was a slight drop; he hopped down onto the lower landing of the stairs that connected the kitchen level to the ground floor. He looked to the other side of the hidden passage and found a portrait of a librarian blinking owlishly down at him through half-moon glasses. 

“Good morning,” Salazar offered, still not entirely certain how to treat such art, “Are all the passages hidden by you lot now?”

The portrait tilted her head and answered, bemusement clear. “I must say, I haven’t had a first year find my passageway within the first week before! Very well done. I suppose such ingenuity is deserving of a hint: A number of us are. Good luck hunting all of us down.”

Salazar smirked up at the painting in helpless amusement. “Oh, I think I have a fair idea where all of you are.”

She huffed at him but was distracted by a group of hounds and horsemen running through a painting above her. “Oh no you don’t! I’ve books here!”

He shook his head as he trotted up to the ground floor and out into the courtyard where the greenhouses stood. A set of red headed twins paused on their way out of one of the greenhouses and stared at him. Their identical expressions caused Salazar to pause. He pushed his glasses up his nose as he observed them. They weren’t starry eyed or curious like so many of the children. They were uncertain and just a little afraid.

“Oi!” cried someone behind the two, “Move it, Weasley!”

One of the twins stepped out of the doorway with a scowl. “Keep your pants on, Davies! You got–”

The other pulled his stare from Salazar to join in. “somewhere–”

“–to be?” finished the first twin.

“Yeah, class.” snapped the Ravenclaw as he hustled past them. “Some of us care about our lessons!”

Salazar’s gaze was pulled from the spectacle as Neville walked up to him with a hesitant smile. 

“Harry, do you mind sharing a table again?” Neville asked with a nod at another greenhouse. This one had a large roman numeral denoting one on the glass door.

“Not at all. In fact, pairing up for potions and herbology could be advantageous,” the founder said with a smile at the boy as they headed across the courtyard. 

He could feel at least two pairs of eyes watching his back. He almost looked to see if it were still the twins but he didn’t really want to see if they still held such odd expressions. Anyway, plenty of children had been staring at him. It could be anyone.

As they entered Greenhouse One, they went from the cool Scottish Highlands to a temperature closer to what he expected near Surrey during the summer. Rows of unusual tables lined the length of the building. One side of each table was normal with two stools and space for note taking. The other side was a metal sink. Some of the sinks had manure and dirt at the bottom as if someone had potted plants while using the sink to catch the excess. More tables lined the walls. Many were filled with plants and rows of potted dirt. Those pots had names tags attached to them. He could spy cucumbers growing up a lattice in the back.

“Advantageous?” Neville repeated slowly, carefully and in honest curiosity as he settled his pile of books on a table and claimed his seat.

“They appear to be interrelated,” Salazar explained, pulling his attention back to his fellow first year but not cluing into the fact the child might be asking for a definition instead of an explanation. He flipped open a notebook and tested his pen to make certain it was still drawing ink from the open well secured in his satchel. 

The blond didn’t respond immediately, actually taking a moment to consider that fact. Instead he followed Salazar’s direction and pulled out a piece of parchment to take notes on. After a moment Neville nodded. “I suppose they are.” He made a face. “Not that’ll help me with potions.”

Salazar shrugged, his gaze took in the various Gryffindors and Slytherins as they entered. His fellow Slytherins avoided sitting near him once more. He frowned. They had avoided him since potions, though he had been rather distracted since then. Perhaps he needed to check in, so to speak. He had expected Draco to follow him around a little more closely but it was good the boy had turned to the other actual children in the group for friendship.

“Settle down class!” called out their herbology professor as she stomped into Greenhouse One. The professor was a kind, squat looking woman with graying, fly-away hair tucked under a patchwork hat. She flashed a warning look over at one of the Gryffindor benches. The girls there finally quieted down with looks of embarrassment. 

“Congratulations on finding Greenhouse One. I’m Pomona Sprout, your professor and Head of Hufflepuff. For the next two years you will have class here, then you’ll move to Greenhouse Two. You’ll learn how to care for plants, when and how to harvest various potion ingredients for Professor Snape, and how to recognize what plant is what. You will learn each plant's properties, what are poisonous and so forth. Expect to get dirty and feel free to purchase work robes. There are school specific options available at Madam Malkin’s. Any questions?” 

A hand shot up from amongst the Gryffindors. 

“Yes?” Professor Sprout asked. 

Salazar recognized Hermione Granger’s voice as she called out in demand, “Why weren’t the work robes included in the list of items for school?” 

Professor Sprout raised a brow at the tone but answered kindly, “It wasn’t because a work robe isn’t required. You can easily do herbology in your normal uniform. Anyone else?” 

She glanced around before she nodded to herself. “Well then. We’ll begin with harmless, non-magical plants. This–” She pulled out a pot with a relatively tall, green plant with multiple branches of deep green leaves, round in shape. “–is Ocimum basilicum: Genovese Basil. Each of you will grow your own plant from seed, take care of it, and be graded on how well it thrives over the course of this semester. It is not the only plant you’ll care for but it will be the one under your sole care. You will be expected to take care of it’s needs at the start of the class—and outside of class as needed. If it dies, you will not be given a secondary plant. If I catch another student taking care of your plant, you will be docked points. Only exceptions are when you have certified visits and stays at the hospital wing and require aid to keep your plant alive.”

The woman glanced at them all and raised a brow as she dryly remarked, “Do take notes. You will be expected to remember what I’m telling you.”

Salazar paused in his own notetaking to look around. Most of the students were rummaging through their things to pull out parchment, quill, and ink. He and Neville were two of only a scattered group already writing. The founder raised a brow over at his benchmate and earned a warm grin in return. 

Class moved quickly after that. The professor covered a large range of facts about the mundane herb before teaching the students how to pot and water a small group of seeds. Each pot was spelled with their names as they placed them on one large tray in a corner of the greenhouse. 

Once that was completed, she let them go with a good five minutes to spare. Salazar shuffled out after Neville. Salazar squinted as sunlight streamed down through scattering of clouds, the sun not quiet at its apex. 

Neville beamed at Salazar as they moved out of the doorway, his shoes clicking against the cobblestone. “That was fun! Do you have anything else? We’re done.”

“You’re done?” Salazar repeated with a glance at his watch. It was almost ten in the morning.

“Yes. Do you want–”

“Neville, come on!” cried the Gryffindor with an Irish brogue, “We’re going to the quidditch stadium.”

The blond hesitated for a second as he openly glanced between his housemates and Salazar. The reincarnate nudged the boy, “Go on, I’ll see you in class.”

Neville smiled and relaxed. “Maybe in the library? I’ve some homework to do later.”

Salazar nodded. “Maybe.”

The boy grinned and rushed off after the other Gryffindors. 

The Slytherin turned to his own housemates and heaved a sigh. The other Slytherins had left him behind. He could see the last of them enter Hogwarts. This was becoming old fast. Salazar couldn’t help but wonder at their actions. Were they avoiding him or was he just not paying any attention to them? The prefect had been clear they were supposed to stick together.

With a thoughtful frown, Salazar wandered into Hogwarts and headed down to the kitchen floor. The founder took the hidden passage behind the librarian back to the fourth floor and the library. There were still no ghosts within it but there were plenty of books. He almost read through history class, would have if not for a certain House elf reminding him.

In the afternoon, Salazar found transfiguration on the first floor near a familiar study area. Four tall stained glass windows still lit the room with colored afternoon sunlight.  Salazar remembered designing them with his fellow founders. Each represented one of the houses, which was unintended. They had created the stained glass windows long before they had separated the apprentices into four groups. 

He wondered how many knew the animals depicted in each pane had been their patronuses and representatives of themselves, a signature in a largely illiterate world. That was one of the points of seals after all. And any magical capable of a patronus used it as their mark. Even the seven Houses of the Wizards Council had used their founder’s patronus as a representation, though the family magic also took the form of the animal.— Anneleah with their bear. Burhstrod with some type of moth so many of the family had traveled in search of. Prouet and their red squirrel. And the Langbothm’s bumblebee.1

Langbothm. Longbottom. Salazar tilted his head as he considered the possibility. Neville might be from that ancient House, old a thousand years ago. They had been one of the druid clans turned rulers, though Neville showed little signs of druidic status in his clothing.

The windows allowed light to stream in and over the scattered study tables. The stained glass gave a rainbow effect which Salazar watched as he waited for the class door to open. Faint memories of lost days came and went. They were less painful today but sadness settled across his shoulders, weighing them down.

Hufflepuffs slowly trickled in to make a line behind his leaning form. Ronald glanced furtively at Salazar from the back of the line. Salazar helpfully ignored the boy. Oliver, his deskmate for Astronomy, also glanced at him but with an embarrassed air. The founder assumed he would have no stimulating conversation from either child he knew. The child standing right beside him was imitating the Ravenclaw girl from charms with her deep red blush. None of the children seemed to know what to do with his presence. 

Luckily for all involved, the doors opened and older students streamed out. Salazar found a front row seat. The Hufflepuffs scattered across the back rows. His fellow Slytherins entered and Draco, after a long pause, took the seat beside him. 

This was Rowena’s old classroom. The windows were still set with blue cobalt glass. It even still had the basic setup with three long rows of tables facing a large desk. The wall behind the desk was covered in a huge chalkboard. Bookcases covered another wall. (He liked the idea of them being Rowena’s original bookcases that had stood there a lifetime ago.) Instead of books, they were filled with skeletons of various animals. A human skeleton was set in a standing position on the other side of the classroom where diagrams of animals, things, and wand movements covered the wall.

Beyond the classroom itself, there was the cat. From his years under Mrs. Figg’s care, he knew it was a fine dark gray female tabby. The odd square stripes around her eyes reminded him of Professor McGonagall’s glasses. It might indicate some type of familiar bond, though it would be an odd way to show it.

Said cat sat on the professors desk, gaze intent on each child as they entered. Otherwise, the cat did not move. The children couldn’t be prey so Salazar couldn’t see what kept the cat’s attention on them.

He leaned over the table and caught Gregory’s eyes for a second. The boy gave a short nod of agreement before Draco elbowed him.—The cat was suspicious. 

The bell rang for the start of class and the cat jumped off the desk. Her form blurred in a vertical pattern entirely unnatural to the trajectory of her jump. Where she should have landed suddenly stood their professor.

Gasps filled the room.

Salazar’s eyes lit up as a new ambition formed. He was going to become an animagus, as she called it. (Taking on an animal form, while keeping one’s mental facilities, had always been rumored but never proven as far as he had known.) Of course, Professor McGonagall started out with the fascinating ability to draw students in, Salazar realized with grudging respect. He had little interest in transfiguring a match into a needle. 

All the same, the founder paid attention to the lecture on various laws of transfiguration. It was simplified guidelines to help the child understand how to achieve an identical transformation as the rest but it was a start. He found that, while Transfiguration had not existed as is back in his day, an advanced form of it might have in the form of conjuration. It also reminded him of alchemy but less permanent.2 

It and potions were the two greatest signs of progress within the various magical studies he had seen so far. Unlike potions, he might actually learn something in class. 

oooP2ooo

Dinner was when Salazar realized more was going on with his house than children not following prefect’s orders. He knew he was missing important facts on the why and how it all worked but he knew one thing with certainty. 

Salazar frowned down into his tea as he watched from the corner of his vision. On one side, his fellow first years had slowly shuffled further down the bench away from him until a good person size space was between him and them. No one was on his other side. 

He was being ostracized by his bloody schoolhouse: So much for the orders to stay united in public. 

Part of him wanted to make it clear exactly what the foolish children were doing. Another part of him realized the advantage of having all the children avoid him. If he didn’t have them near him, he didn’t have to worry about acting like a child. At the same time, the children were ostracizing another child. The professors should step in to stop it.

The founder slowly looked up from his tea, swept a look over the table and watched as children of all ages jerked their heads about to avoid eye contact. His gaze slowly rose to the teacher’s table. Snape sneered down at him from his seat. Quirrell frowned over at him also. It looked like the two had been discussing him. 

He could feel a headache coming on as he found a certain old man’s blue eyes hidden under half-moon glasses also watching him. Dumbledore caught Salazar’s gaze and tilted his golden goblet toward him in a strange little toast. 

None of the adults rose to stop what was happening to him.

Salazar dropped his gaze back to the children. A number of children at the other tables were glancing his way also. The redheaded Gryffindor twins were frowning, their gazes moving in sync from him to the other Slytherins to the teachers and back. Many, many girls were taking turns peeking and giggling in his direction. And not a few boys, mostly older, were shifting between staring at a girl they liked and glaring at him when the girl glanced at the founder.

He could feel his headache growing. Salazar had entirely forgotten about childhood crushes and had never considered his own fame in regards to them. It was going to be an absolute nightmare in a few years.

The feeling of tiny fingers tugging at his ear startled Salazar. Before he did more than jerk in an attempt to escape the tugging, an image flashed across his vision of him at the welcoming feast and a shirming circle of magic about him. An image of Hogwarts replaced the vision and she lifted a finger to her lips before cupping each hand over an eye. 

It took a moment for Salazar to understand. She had been the reason everyone had ignored him at the welcoming feast. The castle was offering to hide him once more. 

Salazar reached out in the vision and tapped her nose. She dropped her hands and frowned up at him. He shook his head as he found he could make no noise. Hogwarts pouted at him but nodded back.

A blink and the vision was gone. All that was left was the sense of Hogwarts wrapping herself around him protectively. He needed to have a proper conversation with her, find out more about the bond he now shared with her, and what all could be accomplished through it. 

The bond reminded him of another. His gaze dropped to one of his forearms and Salazar pulled the sleeves up to trace the missing runic ritual marks, leaving echoes of the long lost markings behind. He couldn’t help but wonder if the bond with Hogwarts was similar to the ritual bonds he had had with his brother. The anchor was similar, felt similar at least.

His gaze rose back to the room and he couldn’t help but sigh. He was alone at the end of the table now. An imaginary barrier stood between him and the rest of Slytherin. It was as if he had the plague.

He pushed his cup and plate back across the table and swept from the Great Hall. Frustration ground his teeth together as all the unknowns bubbling up. In this case, all he wanted to know was why. Only his potions class and Snape’s actions stuck out to him but one man’s actions should not dictate the actions of an entire school house. 

There had to be another reason. Salazar churned that thought about as he slowly headed down to the Slytherin dorm. What did he know about his house? 

Many of the children in Slytherin had death eater parents as the hat had been cursed to place such children there. That could explain their decision to ignore him. He could imagine such an order being passed around from the more influential adults. It did not explain all the children following it unless all of them were connected in such a fashion. There was no way all the Slytherins were children of death eaters, though.

There was also the simple fact that the war was over. 

Salazar stopped. His mouth went dry as he considered that. Wasn’t it over? 

“Does the death of one man end a war?” His quiet words rolled over the otherwise empty hall. The answer echoed in his mind but he didn’t voice it out loud. 

No.

The books he had read covered the war but centered around him or other influential figures. The one that went into the most detail on the war itself was The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts but that book was propaganda at the best. 

There was no light and dark magic. There was no grey. There was no twisting evil nexus of the Mother’s gift. There was just magic. It just was. Is.—A piece of existence, a part of the soul, one of the essences of all living things.

The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts claimed the war was because of the supposed Dark Arts. It made out as if the practitioners of the apparent evil magic had been twisted into insanity and turned towards terrible deprivations. Yet there had been no hint of daimōn or other extra dimensional monstrosities walking in the death eaters midst. Those things were not of the world and twist magic into terrible vulgarities. If anything could be considered inherently dark, it was those things.—And, Salazar supposed, human sacrificial magics. But even that was debatable.

According to the book, Voldemort and his lot did what they did because of the magic they used. They had used a few torture spells, a couple destructive battle spells, mind altering curses, and that killing spell he had survived. They hadn’t even scratched the possibilities for mass combat. There was no morally questionable twisting of death into a mockery of life that pucured more death. Warmagic had been entirely missing from the descriptions of their supposedly great and terrible battles, even. What had made them terrible was what they had chosen to do with their magic. 

Leaving aside the absolutely vulgar twist of blaming magic for the actions of man, a group of people did not go to war because they became insane. Nor did people follow an insane man to war for entertainment. They went to war over an injustice or need or idea that was worth their very lives.—Of course, the injustice or problem could be entirely imagined or even horribly selfish in nature. And with any group of people following an idea, there will be the crazy ones.

Did he know what had started the civil war?

He knew Voldemort and his band of death eaters were terrorists, apparently appearing from nowhere to attack and kill and strike fear into the average witch and wizard. They demanded the death of muggleborns and the subjugation of muggles. People were blackmailed, brainwashed, and bespelled onto their side, causing mass panic and distrust throughout society as none could be certain who to trust.

None of the books explained why the war had started or how. Only the deaths and horrors done by Voldemort were detailed. That, and how Voldemort died when attempting to kill Salazar. The attacks nearly stopped overnight once he was gone.

Salazar’s frown deepened.—The unfortunate portrait he was glaring at squeaked and fled her canvas.—He hadn’t paid it any mind at the time of reading but he distinctly recalled one book saying that: the attacks nearly stopped. The war hadn’t ended with Voldemort. It hadn’t started because of him either. That is not how war happened. It was never that simple.

“Does the death of one man kill an idea? Kill a need? Kill an injustice worth fighting for?”  

No.

That could only mean the war had never ended. It had only paused into a standstill because one side lost a juggernaut and the other was happy with the status quo created from the temporary truce. Or, perhaps, the war had moved battlegrounds. Would he find signs of the war within the political maneuverings of the British Isles? Or somewhere else?

It was a good bet that he would find it someplace where it had gained a different name and facade.—Salazar pivoted and stalked down into the dungeons as he realized he had been standing, staring at an empty frame for a while. He didn’t really notice anything around him as he swept through the halls, his mind preoccupied by his estimate of what was going on with his house. 

He could be wrong. He had an issue seeing enemies where none were but the fact remained that the only known thing that separated him from the other children was that he was the boy-who-lived. The foriegn magic placed on the hat had the children of his potential enemies sorted into his dorm. And they all were avoiding acknowledging his presence after something—the potions class perhaps? A letter from some prestigious death eater?

Unease rolled through Salazar as he started to place himself on the field. All he saw were potential enemies and shadows that, knowing his luck, hid more enemies. 

He would get nowhere looking into the shadows. His mind would only conjure monsters. 

His first priority was his home turf: Hogwarts. 

Dumbledore had too many fingers in Salazar’s life to be the kindly old man he appeared to be. He had too many political positions to not attempt to utilize the boy-who-lived to his advantage either. And if the war had gone political, he was still the general guiding the troops of one side. (Was he seeing an enemy within an ally? Were the actions and inactions he had attributed to the old man purposely done or simply the result of ignorant attempts at helping? If only the others were here to confirm or pull him from the edge of paranoia.)

While he didn’t see his fellow first years doing anything to him, even if they were children of death eaters, the older years might. They had been children during the war. They would have recalled what had happened, and would have been raised on their parent’s propaganda. A number had to see him as an enemy simply for living.  

Perhaps it was for the best that he was being ignored. (Perhaps the teachers were helping the ostracization with that thought in mind, too.)

The stone wall slid open without prompting and allowed it’s founder into the common room of the Slytherin dorms. Salazar pulled out his wand and twirled it between his fingers as he passed the various groups of children relaxing and studying. A number of the older ones had glanced up when he had entered. They watched him until he passed down the hall to the boy dorms. 

Olivander’s ominous words whispered in the back of his mind as the headache grew. 

If war was coming, he would make certain Hogwarts would weather it. The wards would have to be his priority. Then he would investigate the headmaster and teachers. Only the ones who would protect the children, and not use them in the war, would be allowed to remain. After that, he would have to determine which side—if any—he might join. 

oooP3ooo

The next morning’s edition of the Daily Prophet, Mipsy brought him as he settled at the table in the kitchens, promised more headaches. 

He was on the front page. Salazar imagined the photograph was taken when he had been waiting for a classroom to empty since his image self was leaning against a wall, staring off into the distance. The Hogwarts hat had pulled his black curls up away from the runic scar, showing off the sharp red mark against his pale skin. Every once in a while his pictured self would shift and push his glasses up his nose.

ooo

Harry Potter, the next Dark Lord?

It is with great concern that we inform our devoted readers that against all imagining, against his very blood, Harry James Potter was deemed a snake in disguise. The-Boy-Who-Lived was sorted into Slytherin house this past September 1st.

“That’s terrible news,” said Daisy Hookum when informed of the development, author of the up and coming novel, “My LIfe as a Muggle”, and close friends with the deceased Lily Potter, “Lily must be rolling in her grave. It’s as if he’s following the Dark Lord instead of his parents.”

Of course we always knew that Harry Potter would amount to something great. We just didn’t expect him to join the snake house when the Heir of Slytherin had committed such atrocities against him. 

Many a Slytherin have been great. Merlin had been a Slytherin.– 

ooo

Salazar’s eyebrows shot up at that. Merlin had lived a good five or six hundred years before Hogwarts. Propaganda of a different form, perhaps? Not that he could complain about that. It was the first good propaganda for his house that he had seen.

ooo

–It could be argued that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was also great in his inhumanity. 

Perhaps the question, my dear readers, is how our boy hero will become great. He had already defeated an evil most foul. Where can he go from here but down? It is with great concern that I point out that every great man falls. 

“Ambitious young men and women should be encouraged,” said Minister Cornelius Fudge when asked these questions, “We can all expect more great things from young Mister Potter—with the proper guidance, of course.”

Harry Potter has already become great. How can he possibly rise any higher? 

The mightier they are, the harder the fall. I fear that The-Boy-Who-Lived may fall harder than any hero before him.

ooo

Salazar heaved a sigh as he imagined the children’s reaction to this nonsense. He couldn’t do anything about it either. Only time would take care of the gossip and panic. The Slytherin dropped the newspaper and looked over Helga’s kitchen. House elves swept through the place, working to feed the entire castle. 

Mipsy appeared and took the paper after a questioning glance. She replaced it with a plate of warm sweet rolls and another cup of tea.

He stared down into his first tea cup and frowned at the dredges of the mint leaves. He tried to recall what Helga had claimed about tea reading, once again.—Maybe being here, in her kitchen would help.—There was a bumblebee forming but Salazar couldn’t guess at how a bumblebee was a good sign. Or a sign at all. 3

He’d have time to start investigating the wards after class, he decided as he turned the cup about. Salazar blinked down at the lion that appeared in place of the bumblebee. He set it down with a shake of his head, deciding against figuring out how a bumblebee turned lion would mean anything.

Divining had never been his forte and Helga had some odd ways to go about it. What could someone learn from chicken intestines anyway? (If you were Helga, a great deal, in fact.)

He looked up at Helga’s fireplace. The flickering flames danced about the giant stew pot. Salazar rested his cheek against a hand and nibbled at a roll. 

oooP4ooo

Class was a struggle between the children’s fear and avoidance, Quirrell’s stutter causing another headache, and the drag of learning childish forms of magical theory he already knew on some level. He should have simply skipped the classes for the day. The only highlights were starting with transfiguration, and so learning something new, and ending in herbology where Neville surprised him by claiming his seat at Salazar side once more.

He finished at noon for the day, which had him itching to map out the school schedule once again. Instead he slipped through the courtyard and headed for the inner walls at the edge of the dark forest.

Sabotage was a weak word for the devastation of the inner walls of Hogwarts. There had been a wall around Hogwarts Proper and most of the loch, each corner pointed with it’s cardinal stones at North, South, West, and East. There were supposed to be gates from each wall, South-East, South-West, North-East, and North-West. He vaguely recalled that they had been directed through the South-East gate at the start of the school year, so at least that one still stood.

The entire Northeastern wall had been pulled down. Only random column-like sections remained. A forest, what must have grown out of the groves, stood tall and dark beyond it.

A yowl from a section of lichen and ivy covered ruins drew Salazar’s attention. Omorose sat where a hog-gargoyle should have stood watch. 

“This is a mess.”

The kneazle climbed partly down and yowled again. Salazar helped her down and she claimed his shoulders even though her pregnant belly made it difficult. He was relieved the ridiculous thing seemed inclined to have kittens only every other year. Salazar didn’t think Omorose carried her pregnancies with much dignity and he had to deal with her moods—Kneazles carried twice as long as cats which didn’t help matters either.

Salazar turned back to the ruined wall. How could this have been left to fall? Didn’t anyone understand the many layers of wards in place? An entire group was imbued in the inner wall—had been since the destruction of a section of the wall had shattered those wards. 

“Yearss,” hissed Salazar in frustration, his parseltongue accent rising up, “yearss and yearss of work gone.”

He took a sharp breath and forcefully reminded himself that it had been centuries since this wall had been completed. It wasn’t the few short years he remembered. (Godric and he had just finished whitewashing it to hide some of the outer, more obvious runic markings before the war.) The knowledge of the passage of time was more difficult to keep in mind when he stood within his home. 

The Slytherin founder yanked his school hat off and tugged a hand through his hair, leaving it to stick up in all directions. He fought the urge to throw it.—Omorose started to groom his head.—He stuffed the hat into his satchel. 

The wall had held most of the wards to keep foul creatures out. The wards against ghouls, valcore, trolls, daimōn, various forms of homunculus, and even some magical vermin were gone. Some of those creatures were worth protecting within the outer wards, where this forbidden forest now stood, but had no business near children. Many were warded against in the outer wards also because they were that dangerous. One could never be too careful against some of the more devious monstrosities of the world.

Salazar stepped past the line of rumble to take a look from another angle. If he could learn how it had fallen, he could begin planning ways to prevent it the second time around. Magic rippled over him and his eyes fluttered closed as he focused on it.—The taste of something bitter. Rough rub of rope across his skin. Restraining demand.—An enchantment filtered through his thoughts. 

Someone, most likely the headmaster, would be notified the instance a person with the Ministry’s Trace on their person stepped through. There was nothing preventing the person from continuing though. Dumbledore would know when and where a student left the property. The simplicity of it also meant he would be informed when and where a student came back onto the property.

He opened his eyes as Omorose decided to lick his ear. Salazar grimaced at the sensation and pushed her head away. His gaze moved over the broken, but enchanted wall and beyond to Hogwarts. It was too bad he had removed his Trace. It would have been interesting to see if the headmaster bothered reacting at all.

His gaze returned to the wall as he considered it once more. He took a step backwards, towards the forest. Nothing else seemed to trigger so he stepped forward and felt the same enchantment wash over him but also a minor curse.—The echo of static fluttered across his form. A rumble reminiscent of thunder whispered across his mind.—It was a curse that would activate on anything that held ill intent toward a resident of the school. It was weak and easily bypassed for as long as the person didn’t consciously consider ill intentions at the time of entry, they would be able to pass through.

Salazar sighed at the rudimentary protections. He reached out and brushed a hand over the rumble and felt hints of inactive magics. None of it felt particularly powerful but hopefully it was enough to keep the children safe. 

He needed to understand the entire situation of the wards before he could do anything to help. 

Salazar Slytherin looked over the edge of the forest. Pines rose high into the sky. Moss covered their northern sides. Ivy climbed the trunks of many of the trees. Honeysuckle and juniper claimed the sunlit parts. There was the start of a family of poplars, their leaves dancing in the afternoon breeze. The sounds of wildlife chittered in the backdrop of children playing on the grassy fields of Hogwarts Proper. 

“Omorose, you might not want to come along,” he muttered. The kneazle’s grip tightened around his shoulders. A few claws pricked against his skin in warning. “Fine.”

The parselmouth closed his eyes. Knowing he had no idea how to find his groves with an entire forest claiming the land, he mentally reached out to one of the ward anchors. The specific ward, an illusion that made non-magicals think the entire property a dangerous ruin best left alone, sang under his mental grasp. He could feel it stretch across the entire land given to Rowena centuries ago. 

It took a moment to stretch his sense through the magic to feel it separate into eight focal points and a single epicenter. He mentally followed the closest focal point and latched on to it. Salazar physically turned with his magical senses as he oriented himself to that specific focal. Green eyes opened and he smiled as he estimated his direction to be Northeast.

He vanished into the woods, following an invisible rope to his desired destination. 

Magic grew heavier and the trees grew enormous. Poplar and pine were the primary species he traveled through for a good hour. Moss and shrubs and baby trees claimed most of the ground as the forest was dim but not dark. 

All of this reminded him of ages past, of a childhood long gone where he wandered and lived in the wild with only snakes as his companions. Salazar caved to a childish desire and pulled his shoes off, tossing them into his satchel. Omorose sprang down when he did this and pranced about his legs. He stroked her back and tail as she rubbed against him. His eyes closed in contentment. Earth magic pressed up into his soles in joyful greeting.  

The warmth and welcome soothed the aching pain he had tried to ignore at being home and finding it not quite home anymore. Salazar heaved a sigh and felt strain fade from his physical form. His shoulders relaxed. 

He reached out to the closest trunk and rubbed his fingers over the pine’s dark, old bark. Wonder filled him once more as he took in the old forest. There wasn’t a single tree, excluding the tiny babies, where he could wrap his arms around the entire trunk. 

Fingers caught against the bark’s jagged edges. Salazar traced it thoughtlessly as he took a moment to enjoy being immersed in nature. Omorose had moved on, poncing at bugs springing from some honeysuckle.

The lines made a rune.

Salazar snapped back to the tree and retraced the bark’s edges. It was still there. Green orbs slowly traced the pine’s bark. He spied more and more runic marks. Except the runes weren’t carved into the tree. The bark had naturally grown to create the marks.

And they were in a very familiar array. 

Protection against beings that wish the Hogwarts population harm—Protection of the wardstones—Protection of pathways so none may find their way when they were not welcome. Detection to notice ill-desires against the residence of Hogwarts—Detection of dangerous magical items—Detection of the hurt and hungry so they may be found. Purification of residual magic accumulated by so many magicals in one place working active magic daily. 4

His mouth went dry as he spun about and looked to the next pine and the next. Each pine had the same runic array he had set into the original pines of his groves. 

He had ignored conventional wisdom when he had grown his groves. Salazar had not waited until the trees had grown for a few years before adding the markings into their bark. He had imbued each nut and acorn with the arrays before he had planted them. (He had even included arrays to support and protect the tree as a thanks for it supporting Hogwarts.)

Salazar had thought, the Mother willing, that the trees would grow with the magic as part of them instead of in addition to. It would make them stronger without their skins being carved up. If it hadn’t worked, no harm done. He would have simply continued setting the groves by carving the arrays instead. 

It had worked, though. And it had been more successful than he had expected at the time. The groves had been some of the most stable new growth groves he and Master Hardwin had ever come across. If not for the size of the trees, one could have mistaken them for a few centuries old.

He had not paid any mind to his trees’s children. There had been too much to work on. Hogwarts had needed to be built. Children needed to be taught. Then the Normandys came and he had died.

Salazar changed tree species and investigated the poplar thicket that had danced about at the edge of his invisible path. They were the same. Each had grown with bark taking on the patterns of the runic arrays for his groves’ poplar trees.

The primary rune arrays for shielding the grounds and groves from unwanted eyes and to support the illusion ward were present. Endurance against twisted magics and twisted minds wrapped about the thick root system. Even the runic arrays twined into the tips of branches and the veins of the chattering leaves were present—Aid in breaking down language barriers between residents and a boost towards learning of the magical languages believed needed to truly begin to understand one’s magic.5

Salazar wondered if he could claim he did this on purpose? He might have helped create one of the most magically active forests in the world. 

Unease also whispered through him but the golden magic of the earth flowing through his veins kept it from taking root. Woodland was always magical, being saturated in the Mother’s magic, but this was that magic directed with purpose for a thousand years, and across acres. (Hogwarts was sentient because of her connection to the Mother. What kept his trees from being more than just trees?)

He continued to wonder as he traveled deeper into the forest. Eventually he came across scattered pockets of the other trees—Rowan that added to the protections of the other trees and wards, adding a touch of beguilement directed at any intruders, and helping connect the forest and wards all together. Yew who helped the regeneration process of the land and magic, sustaining the cleansing and healing of any harm done to Hogwarts lands, grounding of the illusion that protect it all, and aiding in the beguiling of the Rowan (adding a touch of the seeping danger of poison to the more aggressive side of the protection magicks). Oak who stabilized all the magicks at work, who made the protections solid, and offered strength to any section that might be weakened.

The forest grew thicker and darker before he finally reached the entrance to the first grove. Like his grove in Surrey, poplars stood as gatekeepers. Unlike Surrey’s poplars, the magic didn’t fight him. It immediately knew who he was and welcomed him home. 

Breath escaped in a rush as he stepped between the poplars and into the hidden grove. Omorose made a little noise too as if she also was startled by the change. The forest had been heavy with magic. It was nothing compared to this. 

Magic, as thick as a wool blanket, settled over them. A quiet, a hush filled the air as if not even the bugs dared speak up. What sound reached Salazar’s ears was dampened as if snow had fallen and it could not stretch as far as it would usually. Dew clung to the ground though it had long since passed midday. 

The largest trees Salazar had ever seen rose up before him. The Poplars and pine edged the grove, creating a protective wall about the place. All the trees stood in thickets now but he could tell the original trees from their children by the girth of their trunks. Of course, directly in front of him, standing as tall as the tallest pine and just as wide, was the oak. Behind its mighty, stable presence were the six other oaks he planted after the original success. They were just as big.

To the oak’s right, technically a few hundred feet apart even though the oak’s canopy shaded the edge of its own, was the original yew. Even from here he could tell the tree’s heartwood was gone, leaving the core of the yew open for wildlife or a hedge-witch's home. (Perhaps a bench or two would do?)

At the oak’s left were the three rowan he had first planted. Like the yew, they weren’t quite as tall as the other trees but they were magnificent all the same. That they still lived was a testament in itself of the power behind all the magic saturating the grove (and perhaps of his runic arrays to support each tree). 6

This was no longer a simple cornerstone of the wards to a school. It reminded Salazar of the great groves, the centers of the triad and faith of the Mother. It was a place of contemplation and meditation. A holy place, some would say. 

Omorose sprang off to investigate the grove on her own, prompting him to finally move further in. They did not remain for long, though Salazar wanted to. The founder took his time looking over and feeling the magic of all the runic marks carved into the various trees. (They all responded with a warmth down his hands and a whispered greeting that reached his soul.) He may have taken longer than necessary.

The cornerstone to the outer wards was buried in the center of the grove. It only took a minute to look over. The thick stone was a spike buried into the depths of the earth. The top looked like a pile of moss and Salazar saw no need to scrap the plant off to see the runic markings etched in gold. Hiding it in plain sight was more important than a visual check. Instead, he simply dug his fingers into the moss until he reached the stone and pulsed his magic through it. Everything came back normal, though strained. 

Salazar reluctantly rose and headed out. He could spend an age in this grove and never feel the touch of the 20th century. He could make believe he was still in his original time, in his original body, simply on one of his sabbaticals from the school while they waited for the harvest to be completed and the children, their apprentices, returned. 

But Salazar Slytherin had never been complacent. He had never been able to live a quiet life. The boy blamed Godric for that fact. Godric would have, had in the past, laughed at such a claim.

Salazar shook his head at the nostalgia. He turned his head up as he left the hidden grove and squinted through the canopy to the sky. There was time to check on another grove.

He paused, looked about, and ducked back into the grove, “Omorose?” he called out. 

A meow answered from one of the main oak’s branches. He searched her out amongst the leaves and finally spied glowing orange eyes.

“We’re leaving.” 

She didn’t move.

Salazar frowned and corrected himself, “I’m leaving.” And he left.

A few minutes into his hike to the next grove, Omorose prowled from some bushes and stalked through the shadows a few feet from him. Salazar rolled his eyes at the ridiculous thing but didn’t comment.

The second grove, due North of Hogwarts and the diamond point of the inner walls, had lost its poplar gatekeepers. Because of that, the grove was not hidden and the heavy blanket of magic rolled out and around the grove, announcing its presence to any magically sensitive being before actually reaching it. Part of the grove itself had turned into a swampish pond. 

The protections would have to be fixed, Salazar decided as he investigated, but the pond would stay.

Omorose ran up to his side with a soft hiss. Her warning didn’t come quickly enough.

“You do not belong here.” 

Salazar paused in his investigations of the grove’s main oak and looked up. The muffling effect of the grove had kept him from hearing a centaur sneak upon him. It would have been even worse, if Omorose hadn’t given him a slight heads up. He stood with a narrowed gaze.

The centaur was tall and fair, with a cream coat. Little had changed in the appearance of the mediterranean race that had invaded with the Romans so many, many centuries ago. They may have gained thicker fur, Salazar concluded as he compared his memory to the creature before him.

There had not been any herds this far north because of their thinner coats back in the 11th century. None had ever been allowed within a grove either. Of course, this grove was compromised. There was no magic to keep unwanted things out. 

“Human,” hissed the centaur, “Leave.”

Salazar sneered. “It’s you who are trespassing, centaur.”

The humanoid creature slammed a back hoof into the ground before he dragged it outward. A sign, Salazar knew, which was meant as a warning and an indicator that the creature was annoyed. “This is our lands.”

“No,” the eleven year old countered, “This is Hogwarts’ land.”

“Hogwarts ends at the forest entrance, human.”

“Hogwarts Proper ends there but not the land. The wards stretch over the whole forest. I could have you evicted with but a word. Why shouldn’t I?”

“You lie.”

Salazar pressed his hand to the ancient oak he had been looking over. He twisted the earth magic flowing through him and the tree. He directed the protective magics of the wards to remove the threat and gave it a boost of earth magic. 

Runes flared to a golden glowing life across the oak, from root to tiniest branch tip. The magic spread outward and other trees began to glow. Newer oaks, children of the one he stood besides, joined in his call. The intertwining of the forest’s root system had the pines and yew and rowan and poplars join. Within seconds the entire grove was a light with magic. 7

Then it abruptly stopped spreading. The wards gave a lurch as they attempted and failed to follow Salazar’s will. The centaur didn’t realize there was a problem though.—Didn’t know he should feel the weight of the wards and forest’s magic pressing down onto his shoulders. 

The centaur understood the threat well enough without that added pressure.

“Druid,” the centaur gasped. 

Salazar’s sneer turned into a smirk, even though he very much wanted to frown. “Centaur.”

The two stared at each other for a long moment, then the centaur did something truly unexpected. He folded his front legs and knelt, bowing at his waist. “The night sky has spoken of your return. Mercury has glowed bright and steady these past ten years...has Hogwarts opened its doors to a year younger now?”

“Why would the centaurs care for my return?” Salazar asked as he ignored the alluded question towards his age. Ten years of his return meant that he had returned after he had survived the killing curse, after whatever ritual his mother had completed to assure his life. Did this mean he had possessed Harry Potter? Was there a little boy trapped in the back of his mind, somewhere in this body?

Salazar didn’t want to consider the option. He had assumed that he had simply taken a while to regain his memories. The reincarnate wondered if he would ever learn the truth or if it even mattered at this point. He was decently certain he’d notice a spare set of thoughts in his head. Since he hadn’t, if there was a separate Harry Potter, the child would have been isolated since he was one. There was no way the child would ever handle the real world in that case. 

Not that this hypothetical scenario was particularly useful, Salazar reminded himself. There was no point in worrying about the issue since he wouldn’t give up the body if he was possessing it. Maybe that made him a bad person, a dark lord so many believed him to be. He didn’t care. There was too much at stake. (He would make certain Hogwarts stood another thousand years. The one thing he succeeded at in his past life would not fail now.)

“Saturn has grown steadily brighter as we came to this day. The waning of Mars has ended. It’s glow grows, flickering with uncertainty but growing all the same. Now a Druid comes before us; the first for an age. One that can connect with the ancient, forgotten magicks of the world. What else could we think?”

“You mean, you think. You’re the only creature that knows I’m here, what I am. Perhaps I should simply remove you and the rest of your herd can continue to stare at the stars and wonder at what they see.”

The centaur shifted but stayed kneeling. “You would not harm a child of the Mother.”

Salazar paused at that, surprised. His fingers dug into the bark of the oak as aggravation snapped through him. “The Mother?” He shook his head. “You are of Apollo and Artemiss. Your kind have never undersstood the Mother.—Could never undersstand.”

“All creatures may learn,” the centaur claimed in earnest, “We have learned. Where all others forsook us, she remained. The only constant.”

“The only consstant? You mean to quote the primordial versse?” Salazar snarked back as he tried to hide how disturbing the concept was that centaurs followed the Mother and understood nature’s magic. 

The centaur shifted about in discomfort but said nothing.

They still look to the stars though, Salazar reminded himself, Perhaps they only acknowledge her existence alongside the Grecian gods they have always preferred. 

“You have not answered my question,” the eleven year old reincarnate stated, instead, finally pulling in his parseltongue accent as he forced himself to calm. “Why shouldn’t I remove your clan from Hogwarts ground?”

“We care for the land forgotten by man,” the centaur finally answered, worry and fear flickered across his face and his pale eyes, “It is...difficult as time goes on and the ancient protections fail but we do what we can.”

Salazar’s expression blanked as the oak and natural magic he was still connected to whispered acceptance to the humanoid‘s words. The land would know better than he on this matter. 

“Very well. You live,” Salazar snapped out as he dropped his hand and released the earth magic. 

The trees faded back to their normal state. The centaur rose with visible relief. And Salazar was disgruntled. There was a centaur in one of his groves. What has the world come to that such would happen and the land would be alright with it? 

Next thing, he’d find a clan of goblins practicing the Druidic arts.

“If I find any hint of your herd harming my land, you will be removed.”

“As you will it,” agreed the centaur. 

Salazar was annoyed at the world and the creature but said nothing more. Instead, he returned to the grove and it’s condition. He’d consider the 900+ years of change later, when he was alone.

Omorose twined between his legs and stalked off after the centaur. Salazar paused and watched her go, meeting the centaur’s gaze for a final time. The creature gave a slight nod before it walked away, careful not to step on the kneazle. It was times like this he wished he could understand that cat. The things she must learn on her little outings. 

He shook his head at the wild thing, wondering when he’d see her again. Probably after she popped out her latest set of kittens. And with a centaur entourage seeing to her every need. Felines

oooP5ooo

Salazar glared down into his cup of tea as he claimed a whole end of the Slytherin table for breakfast. He didn’t particularly care that the rest of his house squashed themselves together as they tried to act normal while avoiding a good four feet radius around him. (Let it not be said that children knew how to ignore a person in a discreet fashion.)

He heaved a sigh and glared down at the tea leaves left at the bottom of his cup. It looked like a very large pile of mush today. 

Centaurs were in his groves. Ignoring their new found faith in the Mother and her apparent acceptance, the wards should have never let them in. This was a magical sanctuary but Centaurs were men killers. He had originally restricted their ability to enter. Did that mean anything could come in?

A hoot cut through his thoughts and drew his gaze back up. Hedwig sat in front of him, her feathers ruffled in a hint of disgruntlement. Besides her were a stack of packages, each with a letter tucked under the rope she must have used to carry it all. A piece of bacon changed her opinion of him and Salazar stroked her chest feathers as he looked over the items. 

“Thanks Hedwig,” Salazar muttered. The first package and letter was addressed to ‘My Fellow Historian’. Salazar opened it and smiled, pleasantly surprised.

ooo

Harry Potter,

I should claim disappointment at your sorting but the fact that I hadn’t ever learned your name, and never realized this fact before I saw your picture in the Daily Prophet, is a blatant sign that the hat placed you correctly.

Congratulations on your sorting and start in academia. The Hogwarts house you are placed in can be an important milestone. Let no one tell you any one house is bad. Each has their potential.

By now you have learned for yourself of the abysmal situation with the history class and you have, no doubt, taken time to plan a self study of the material. Of course, it’s wishful thinking since you aren’t an actual Ravenclaw and I have heard that everyone utilizes a standard master study guide for the class at this point anyway. 

What none have concluded, though, is that the ghost does not grade their papers. How can he? Ghosts cannot alter the physical world. So, instead the stack of papers are given the exact same grade every day. If you’re always the first to submit your paper, you will always receive an Acceptable and so forth. Of course, there is absolutely no reason to participate in the class. You’ll receive whatever grade the student in your place received over eighty years ago. It all depends on where your name falls in the alphabetical list. So the grading of your papers do not matter in the slightest either way.

I have good authority to inform you that your overall grade will be Exceeding Expectations until fourth year. You’ll somehow jump, temporarily, to an Outstanding before concluding the fifth year with the usual grade. You’re welcome.

In turn, I hope you do not spread the fact around, particularly to any of my grandchildren. They have yet to prove any substantial interest in history and will have to endure the class so I might force some historical substance in between their ears. I will be most disappointed if I learn you’ve spread the fact around.

Now to explain the actual point of this letter, beyond making certain someone gives the congratulations you are due from your sorting.—I hope you understand, from our past talks, to take the media’s words with a grain of salt.

After our various conversations over history and history books, I’ve concluded that you may actually care about learning the material. So I’ve included the first of a long series of books on history from ancient times to the 1900s. Do not damage these. I expect utmost care towards my property. If you wish a set of your own, I can direct you towards the establishment that still sells these particular sets whole.

Attached is a separate sheet of assignments and discussion topics we will cover through letters. I expect you to receive, at least, an Exceeding Expectations for your History O.W.L.. This first book will take approximately three months to cover, and that is generous as I will assume you only do your history work during history class. Complete the work quicker and you’ll receive the next part sooner. Continue to work swiftly and intelligently, and eventually you’ll complete the O.W.L.s (and I hope N.E.W.T.s) level ahead of schedule.

If you do not desire to work hard and learn in-depth history of our world and culture, please return the book post haste to my nephew Florence. He is a fifth year Ravenclaw and one of the prefects. Otherwise, I expect a letter on the first discussion point next Wednesday evening. If I do not receive such a letter by Thursday morning, I will note it as late. Enough late homework and I will have to restrict your access to my ice cream.

Any questions of the material, which you cannot wait for a return letter, may be sent to Florence. I’ve informed him that you may be joining the history studies I’ve conducted for the interested children in the family

Sincerely,

Florean Fortescue

Proprietor of Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor, Diagon Alley

Historian of the First Degree, World Order of Herodotus8

ooo

The founder unwrapped the book. Volume One: Magical Society and Wars from 11th to 19th Century Europe was scripted across the worn leather cover. A quick flip through found that it was handwritten in a tiny but clean script.

Salazar glanced over the list of discussions and homework. Normandy, Hogwarts, Statute of Secrecy, multiple wars, religious conflict, Witch Burns (that it was capitalized was rather disturbing), the establishment of the Wizengamot and Statute of Secrecy, and colonization all made an appearance in the list. It was quite a bit to cover but was restricted to magical history at least. A second sheet had a breakdown of when they would study what.

Second semester would shift to the second volume which covered the same time period but for Africa, Middle East, Asia and Asia-Pacific. The eleven year old smirked as he saw that the studying would continue into the summer holidays with the third volume of that time period which covered the “New World” land masses.

He supposed that a normal child would scoff at the extra work. For him, this was exactly what he needed to help understand the world he now lived within. It didn’t mean he’d cease his own research but he appreciated the help.

Salazar offered another piece of bacon to his now content owl and turned to the other package. A smile quirked up as he read the short note.

ooo

Honey,

Congratulations on your sorting, you sly little thing! — I expect a visit during the holidays.

Love,

Granny

ooo

The founder of Hogwarts stared into the package for a long moment. Warmth and amusement rushed over him as he took in the present. The box was stuffed with biscuits, pastries, and mini cakes all either in the shape of snakes or at least decorated with green and silver. 

He picked up a pastry, marveled at the delicate scales and then took a bite. Flaky crust crunched under his teeth. Fig, almond, and lemon filled his mouth. Salazar hummed in pleasure. 

It seemed like most of the magical world was worried he was an evil bastard but at least he had two showing otherwise.—Salazar wondered if it said something that one offered him, or threatened access to, ice cream and the other gave out biscuits by the dozen.

oooP6ooo

Mipsy was happy to store his sweets in the kitchen while he went to class. Potions was as terrible as the first class, though Salazar completed a potion this time around. Defense still gave him a headache. Herbology and astronomy were pretty decent though the Irish boy in Gryffindor physically dragged Neville away from him right after class. Salazar skipped history and stalked around the loch annoyed that he was annoyed at the children avoiding him. He decided to head back into the forbidden forest to continue his investigation as he reached spied the rumbled remains of the Southwestern wall.

As with all the groves, this one took him a decent hour hike to reach. Unlike the other two, the forest surrounding the area was dark. He could barely see. It was an entirely different part of the forest but strange as it consisted of the same type of trees. There was no reason for the difference. Salazar found himself staring up into the branches as he walked. The trees stood in the same general spacing as the rest of the forest and yet there was less light than he had expected. 

A particularly diffused beam of sunlight illuminated a strange bulking structure near some tree tops. It looked to connect multiple trees together. Salazar frowned thoughtfully as he tried to recall any particular creature that would infest a forest and leave such nests. He couldn’t think of a single bird or pest. Not even pixies lived in such large structures and those were some of the worst infestations. 

There was no hint of the gatekeepers when he reached the grove’s entrance. The wall of trees protecting the grove were visible. The depths into them were even darker than the rest of the forested area. He couldn’t see anything within the pitched darkness. 

Salazar had the sudden realization that he couldn’t hear any wildlife. It was silent, unnaturally so. He had walked into a dangerous nest of something. The reincarnate was only glad Omorose was off, elsewhere. That was one less thing to worry about.

And at least Godric wasn’t around to tickle the thing this time around. 

Salazar pressed his feet into the ground and began to twist the earth magic into a light spell but dropped and rolled as something flew at him. As he rolled, he released the magic. Light flooded the area and screeches of outrage rang out—many, many screeches filled the air.

He rolled onto his feet and staggered back with a hissed curse as a white ball flew by, leaving strands to trail behind and stick to everything and anything surrounding its trajectory. Some hit Salazar’s robe.

The founder tried to wipe the substance off. It was sticky and clung. It was especially unpleasant strands of spider silk. Salazar snapped his head up towards the screeches, eyes round. 

Spiders—Giant spiders twice the size of Salazar’s head—surrounded him from the tree tops. More joined as he watched. Some were closer to the size of a horse. A few looked just about his height in length. None of them were particularly normal sized.

A spider, six times the size of the largest Salazar had just deemed giant, lowered from the heights of the pines and looked Salazar over with its many eyes. It made a round of clicks, almost like a purr, as it spoke English, “A feast, my children. Just in time for your first hunting practice.” 

Salazar stared, his mind stuck on repeat of ‘giant’ and ‘spider’. Rowena would have pulled out scrolls, set up some protective circle and camped out to observe the strange creatures until Evander dragged her away for substance.—If he hadn’t joined her and made it a camping trip.—Helga would have burned the entire forest down at the sight. Godric would have helped, after he had tried to fight a few off single handedly. 

But Sally, you never know when you’ll need the practice !’ Whined Godric in the back of Salazar’s mind, a common response whenever Salazar complained of the odd things Godric dragged him into. 

The especially large spider leaned towards Salazar and purred out, “Run little morsel. I’ll count to ninety. Make it a good hunt.” She, it had to be a she, began to count. “One...Two...Run...Four…run little morsel…”

His thoughts caught up to her words and he obeyed. Salazar bolted back the way he came. A moment of running and his mind cleared enough for him to reach out to the anchored magic that was Hogwarts. His direction was off; he veered to the right and ran .

Salazar pressed a hand to his chest as he shifted past shock and horror and refocused on survival. Hyper focus jumped several possible options through his mind before a singular idea took precedence. Memory of runes of elder and younger fuþark , the straight lines of the ogham, and futhorc mixed into the straight lines of a square split into two triangles. It was an array he had used a time or two before. Not to the extent he was about to though.

Clicking and cracking filled the woods. The trees surrounding him whispered a warning. Salazar dived into a roll as a spider, the first of hundreds, lunged down at him. He mentally reached out and ripped a jutting rock out of the ground and smashed it into the spiders head. Gray matter splattered across the ground. The body collapsed where it had been hit.

Springing back to his feet, Salazar pulsed his magic out of his hand and onto his chest. It curled into his desired shape but fought Salazar’s grip every second, unused to speedy, complicated demands. The runic array glowed on his chest. Salazar stumbled as a spider slammed into his back, only to have another slam into it, throwing it off. He staggered into a pine and his magic, already churning across his hands, pressed into the tree. 

The pine moved. It bent forward and walloped the spiders with its lower branches.

Salazar gawped for a short second before he saw the army of spiders charging through the trees and used the chance to activate the runic array on his chest. Two other versions of himself materialized on either side of him. 

The eleven year old dodged through the trees with the two illusions. As he twisted through some poor imitation of shuffling, he pulsed his magic again. Six more appeared. 

The confusion of the spiders were audible in their clicking. Salazar took that as an opportunity to steal his resolve, ignore the pain radiating out from his chest and used another pulse of magic to create eighteen more versions of himself. 

Spots appeared in his eyes, a clear sign he had overdone it but that wasn’t surprising, he hadn’t used any magic that physically separated the effect from the runic array before today. It was a taxing form of runic magic, one best avoided when physically a child.

The illusions bolted in all different directions and the spiders scattered after them. Salazar continued to run towards Hogwarts. He didn’t try to call the trees for help. Adrenaline kept him from thinking beyond the fact that moving trees indicated where he was. It didn’t cross his mind the spiders might not be that intelligent.

His lungs struggled as he tried to breath correctly. His legs burned as he ran as fast as he could. The throbbing from his magical core began to beat in time to his speeding heart. Tears stung his eyes as he tried to ignore the pain.

A screech of outrage filtered through the forest. A spider had attempted to attack one of his copies and found it unsatisfactory. The canopy filled with clicks and screeching rage. Each illusion’s destruction sent a soft pulse through the runic array on his chest. 

Salazar counted each pulse as he ran. His lungs burned alongside the screaming of his magical core. Three down. 

Five. 

Seven. 

Nine.

A thought struck him suddenly. Salazar felt like an idiot. He pulled out his pendant.

Eleven.

Warning burst through his connection to the trees and he dropped into another roll. A spider flung past him. Another landed on his back. An appendage pressed into his side, the exact spot he had been stabbed right through years and years ago. 

Panic stabbed through Salazar. The world shifted and echoes of the bastards that killed him (that he had taken down with him) washed over his mind. Uncontrolled magic, accidental magic, whoosed out and sent the spider flying.

Salazar squeezed his eyes closed and sucked in air. This wasn’t a trap. He wasn’t going to die. Spiders didn’t have magic or blades. 

He staggered up and yanked the pendant on. 

Two spiders clattered and clicked at each other from across a small patch of pine leaves. Their attention was still directed towards him.

There was a strange sort of three way staring contest where Salazar wasn’t entirely certain he was actually having a staring contest. Then the three moved. Another ball of webbing was thrown at him—he mentally smacked it back. A spider flung itself at him—Salazar dodged.

Then he ran. Again.

The pendant magic didn’t work on the spiders already aware of his specific position. Hopefully it would keep the rest from finding him once his illusions were gone. (But it would likely only delay them. Their interest in eating him was likely strong enough to push through the pendant’s power.)

The runic array pulsed on his chest once more. “Fifteen,” he gasped out to himself as he ran. Or, hopefully, twelve or thirteen. He didn’t have the magical muscle to create any more illusions.

Perhaps he should have used his magic to enhance his speed instead. But the trees parted. Rumble of the destroyed inner wall rose before him. Hogwarts loomed beyond.

Salazar dived out of the forest and into Hogwarts Proper with a groan. Only one spider was stupid enough to follow. The curse from the broken wall, not his wards to his disgruntlement, zapped the spider dead.—It had had ill intent towards Salazar, who was a resident since he had been in Hogwarts Proper first.

“Huh.” Salazar stared at it’s curled form, mind boggled that the little curse had actually worked. Maybe Dumbledore, or some past headmaster, had a decent idea placing the insignificant little curse on the inner walls. Sometimes the simplest solutions were the best answers.

This particular baby spider was twice his size, he noted in dull horror. “Mipsy.”

A pop-click answered. “Master Sally shouldn’t be sleeping here.” The house elf shifted to stare down at him. “Master Sally should be sleeping in his proper rooms. After a bath.”

“Mipsy, would you put that somewhere out of the way? I’ll dissect it later.” Salazar said, ignoring the elf’s words for the moment.. 

“Of course Master Sally.” Mipsy snapped her fingers and the baby, giant spider corpse rose into the air. “That be all?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“You be welcome, Master Sally.” The elf paused to stared down at him once more. “Master must not be missing dinner and should be sleeping in his proper rooms though.” With that, she and the spider corpse vanished.

Salazar snorted in amusement before he relaxed across the grassy ground. A nap was an excellent idea. The fact that he couldn’t get himself to move was entirely besides the point. Magical exhaustion was easily fixed with sleep after all. (No matter what healers like to say otherwise.)

Tomorrow he’d worry about the failing wards.

oooPooo

Chapter Text

Chapter Seven

oooP1ooo

The founder slipped out of the dorms, unconcerned with time, and headed through the hidden passage from the kitchen level of the dungeons up to the fourth floor and the library. The double doors unclicked at his behest and relocked as they closed behind him. (He had slept a great deal over the last few days, since the spiders. No reason to laze around now just because the rest of the school was still very much asleep.)

Salazar soon tucked into a book on native creatures and beings of the Isles.—The spiders had to be from somewhere, though he doubted they were native.—His usual breakfast materialized at his side a few hours later, a sign the House elves had awoken for the day. It was another hour before a soft, surprised sound announced another’s presence. It was still too early for the library to be open, technically.

Two ghosts floated before him. The male ghost with chains, the Bloody Baron as he heard the ghost called, stood with the other ghost’s arm tucked to his side as if he had escorted her here. Salazar raised a brow at the oddly familiar ghost before he turned to the lady.

At first he thought he was staring at Rowena. There were differences though, ones he’d expect to see in a sibling or cousin. Except Rowena had been an only daughter. Her eldest brother had only sons and her younger brother had died fatherless. She didn’t have any female cousins around her age either. 

Salazar frowned as he regarded the ghost, as he tried to place who she was. She stared intently back, like Rowena would when she was trying to dissect something particularly vexing. The lady was like the Bloody Baron, familiar but not recognizable. All he could say was she was likely the ghost from the short vision Hogwarts had shared.

Finally the woman whispered out with uncertainty denoting her tone, “Uncle?”

The Hogwarts founder jerked as the word snapped the truth to the forefront of his thoughts. 

Helena .” He breathed out. 

Helena, Rowena’s daughter, had been eleven when he had died but she would have continued to age and grow. (He knew this. He knew. But he had not accepted it. How could he when all he had were memories of children.)

Salazar forced his gaze to the Baron as he processed Helena’s physical age. Now he recognized his once apprentice. He stared at his old pupil, a boy that had been barely fourteen last he had seen him. 

“Eustace.” He looked between the two. They both looked crossed between joyful and afraid. They were ghosts. They should be a little afraid. “What happened?”

Helena tensed up. “Uncle...I never thought I’d see you again. Hogwarts said you were back but I had not believed...it is a wonder I never thought possible.” She smiled helplessly at him, the tension easing as he let her ramble instead of answering his question. “You have been missed. Terribly so.”

The outrage at their presence as ghosts faded at the heartfelt words. His gaze softened as he focused on his niece. 

“It was not my choice to leave,” Salazar said as he stood, pressed a runic array into the chair, and waved her to his seat. The ghostly lady beamed through tears at him and sank onto his chair, for all the world, sitting like the chair supported her form. 

The Bloody Baron bowed to Salazar as the eleven year old looked over at him. “I will leave you both be, Master. Hogwarts may call me to wherever you wish, if you wish to speak later.”

Salazar gave a curt nod. “Very well.” Eustace left with another bow. A faint warmth from Hogwarts whispered through the bond. He could feel the school’s magic wrap around the area, keeping possible introlupers away.

Helena smiled sadly at him as she asked, “Do you know how you are here? You haven’t possessed a child, have you?”

He tilted his head in thought as he considered the questions. ”The simple answer is no,” he finally said as he leaned back against a leg and stuffed his hands into his robe pockets, “To both questions.”

Uncle ,” she scolded him.

A soft smile spread at her tone. Helena always gained that tone when she realized he was avoiding answering her questions. Just like her mother, her thirst for knowledge could cause her to be abrasive and singularly focused. She wanted answers but in this matter, he had little. “Have you heard of Harry Potter?”

She slowly nodded with a thoughtful frown. “Yes, it is a most peculiar story with little understanding behind the truth of that night. No one seems inclined to find answers either.”

Salazar tugged his curly mess of hair from his forehead and revealed the runic scar. Helena’s eyes widened and her hand shot up to touch the mark but paused before she reached it. The founder caught her ghostly hand with his own and gave the transparent appendage a slight squeeze—the same runic array he had placed on the chair glowed from his palm, through her hand. Her hand tightened almost painfully around Salazar’s.

“Do you know anything?” she asked.

“What does the mark look like to you?” 

Helena tilted her head in thought, her brow furrowed before it rose in surprise. “Sōwilō...You’ve an Elder Fuþark mark on you!”

“And?” he prompted with a smile tugging at his lips.

She considered the mark for a long moment more. “It is a mark of the sun, of illumination and protection. Nothing may hide from the light and no dark may conquer against it. It has been unchanged as the runic language have evolved from Elder to Younger to Anglo-Saxon.” She paused in contemplation before she added, her tone uncertain now. “You have been part of a ritual and it protected you from the killing curse.” 

“I think it did more than protect me,” Salazar said, “I have good authority that my return was celebrated since that Halloween night, ten years ago. It is possible that the ritual, combined with the killing curse, connected directly with my soul.”

“Illuminating it at the same time as protecting you,” she gasped out before speaking in an excited rush, “Which would have removed any blocks, natural or otherwise, from your soul. In essence, awakening past lives your soul has traveled through before.”

“Possibly,” agreed Salazar, “It depends on a multitude of variables, not the least of which is whether the killing curse is soul magic or not.”

She nodded. “All conjecture of course but I wonder…” She stared hard at him. “Uncle, do you remember any other lives?”

“No,” Salazar answered without hesitation, “Though Voldemort is related to me, however distantly, and so that may have played a part with what past life was freed.”

“Or you have only lived one life before this,” she countered, “Or it’s from some other aspect of the ritual done to you. Or a simple side effect from surviving the killing curse.”

“Indeed,” he agreed amicably as he cupped her hand between both of his and squeezed it slightly. 

Silence fell between them for a moment. Her hand continued to hold onto his tightly, almost painfully. Her other hand played with part of her dress in a familiar, worried tick. Salazar stared at his dead niece, knowing what she worried over and knowing there was no avoiding the conversation. They would have it eventually. He might as well cut the worry down before she began to panic and actively avoid him.

Emerald eyes sharpened as he chose the soft approach. (There had to be a reason she and Eustace were here. Dead. Together.) His tone was soft as he asked, “Now how did this happen?”

Helena yanked her hand from his. “Uncle–”

He tucked his hands into his robe pockets to keep from folding them across his chest. “I’ve little time for excuses, Helena.”

Many expressions flicked across her transparent features before a general look of discomfort settled with a twist of her lips and wrinkle of her brow. “It is...horrible, what I did, Uncle.” Ghost of tears welled up in her gaze, making them shine under the library’s torch light and the early morning sun streaming through the windows nearby. “Mother was ill. Father had been dead for years by then and mother had been pushing me to take on more and more duties at Hogwarts.”

His niece bowed her head for a moment before she looked up through her curtain of transparent hair. Lips were pressed into a thin line and her eyes burned with frustration. She seemed to fight with herself for a moment as she struggled to find words, struggled with the overpowering emotions that remained with her—that consumed the dead that never passed on. 

“You know what I had always wanted Uncle,” she finally said, “You’re the only one I ever dared say anything about it to. To see the Library of Alexandria1, to read ancient scrolls of knowledge and learning…to travel the world over and collect all the knowledge left to rot away...” Her expression melted to a look of wonder and deep, helpless desire. “Of course, the library has since been sealed away and I am tied to Hogwarts...”

Salazar gave her a minute to collect her thoughts before he quietly asked, “Rowena was ill?”

Bitterness twisted the wistfulness from his niece’s expression. It turned Salazar’s gut at the sight. Helena answered with sharp emotion filling her voice, “She told me she was dying and that I was to take over for her—take over all her duties as if it was a given. I understood that I would become the Mater of Ravenclaw but why did I have to tie myself to Hogwarts and toll away at a dream not my own?” 

A tremor went through the ghost as she struggled to contain some of the emotions. “She never understood! She always looked at the library, at the apprentices and insisted that I had to help make this stand another generation!” 

“Helena–” 

No. ” She snapped at Salazar. The torch light flickered and a cold burst of air swept over Salazar. Helena rose from the seat to pace, seemingly unaware of her emotions seeping into the living world, “ You do not understand, Uncle!”

Salazar pivoted about to follow the agitated ghost, uncomfortable with his need to keep her in sight. Ghosts rarely affected the physical plane but their emotions, if agitated enough, made it possible. It rarely ended well for any living involved.

Helena continued to pace. She ignored the physical objects in her way, though she never walked entirely through any of the bookshelves. Her gaze flashed with fury as she met Salazar’s for a moment and she continued her rant, “She would bring you up as if you would expect such from me, too. You and father. She used everything she thought she had to coerce me into accepting the duties, to accepting this fate I did not want.–”  She flung her arms out as if to encompass the entire castle before she pivoted back to Salazar. “–And it worked for a time. She twisted me around till I had taken the majority of those duties…” 

Her shoulders slumped in defeat as she stared helplessly down at him. Her hopeless express regained the heat of betrayal once more as she collected herself. (He was relieved that the emotions didn’t reach an apex again.) 

And then! ” She snarled, hands fling out in emphasis, “And then she had the gall to claim she was dying so I might agree to take the last of those duties and seal my fate .” Helena breathed heavily from the emotion expelled with each word. 

Salazar stared at the ghost of the little eleven year old girl he had helped bring into this world, had helped guide, had sheltered and loved. Seeing her here, broken and trapped between existences hurt. This was worse than knowing everyone was dead. It was worse than believing he had failed in so many of his ambitions. (This was one of his little girls, a daughter in all but blood, and she had hurt so badly at the moment of her death that she could not pass on.)

She continued after she calmed down. The deep sorrow returned to her voice and her eyes shone once more with the ghost of tears, “I did not believe her. I thought she was tricking me. So I concocted a plan that would force her to reveal herself. Then I would have returned the duties to her.”

“What was your plan?” Salazar asked, his hands fisted within his pockets to keep himself in check. He needed to hear this. She needed to say it.

Helena settled back into her seat and tugged nervously at a sleeve. A memory of when he had forced an eight year old version to explain why dunking Oswin in mud wasn’t acceptable came to mind. She had tugged at her sleeves and squirmed in her seat then too. (His heart ached for that girl.) 

“I-I...stole her prized diadem–” She looked up at Salazar with devastation written across her features. Her lips trembled as they turned down and she physically struggled not to burst with emotion. A softer, cold breeze ruffled through his hair. “–and ran off to the mainland, somewhere. I took a spot on the first caravan I could and just kept going. The last one used flying carpets to travel but we ran into a terrible storm and were off course and–”

“How far did you travel on your own as a young woman with a highly prized magical artifact?” Salazar demanded, enunciating each word with care even as he tried to squash the fury that snapped through him from her aboslutely idiotic actions. 

She could have died.—Bile rushed up his throat. She had died.

His niece cringed at his tone. Her eyes shone with tears. “I-I...A boy estimated that I ended up in Albania.”

Salazar clenched his jaw as he connected the country to the Mediterranean. It bordered Croatia? No, it bordered Greece. 

Godric and he had gone down to Africa once and spent a few years in what was known as the Middle East now. The redheaded man had wanted to meet a real lion to compare against his patronus. Travel was easier with magic but it still took months, even years to get far. It was dangerous and difficult. It was not something one did alone nor as a woman. Not back then.

She rushed on as she saw his darkening expression. “I found a clearing to stay for a time and hide the diadem while I looked around the local area. I had thought I could learn while I was stuck there, waiting for another caravan to appear or mother to find me...Eustace found me instead. Mother had asked him to bring me home. He claimed she had wanted me there before she passed away. That I didn’t have to stay at Hogwarts or anything like that.”

She clenched her dress as a deep sorrow filled her voice. “I did not believe him. We argued. He forgot himself for a moment, pushed me. And-And...I fell. Hit my head, as I understand it.”  She was silent for a moment before her head snapped up and she rushed out, “He killed himself because of it. He’s still on this side because of his actions!”

Her wide, transparent gaze searched his before she asked worriedly. “You won’t remove him, will you?” Helena leaned forward. “He’s a Hogwarts ghost just like me!” 

Salazar stared at her uncomprehending her defense for her killer. He remembered Eustace as a fourteen year old boy. His ghost was that of a grown man, though. Grown men did terrible things in the name of supposed love when it was in fact lust and possessiveness. How could he allow such a figure to stay anywhere near his niece, even when they were ghosts?

Helena shifted in discomfort as she rambled on because of his silence, “He did not mean to. He hadn’t learned his lessons on controlling his anger. And we’ve always clashed, what with him wanting to court me...Uncle Godric sent him off enough times that he should have taken the hint! Uncle may not have been father, but it still meant no. I just–”

She fell silent with a grimace. Her words did not help her case for her killer.

“Helena, did he try anything? Are you uncomfortable with his pressence here?” Salazar finally demanded. The restrained anger slipped through with the hissing quality of parseltongue seeping into his words.

The ghost startled before she smiled. “It’s nothing like that. He had issues, certainly, but he did eventually back off. He just never physically left the area and I knew he never stopped pining till the end. I…”

“You would protect your killer,” Salazar said bluntly. Nothing she said led him to understand. If it wasn’t for that fact that exorcising Eustace would give him peace, the ghost would already be gone.—At least, peace after the exorcising. The entire process was terribly painful for a ghost unwilling to leave the living world. It was far kinder to help the ghost pass on on their own.

“It was a terrible accident, Uncle.” Helena insisted. “He atones daily.”

Salazar took another moment to consider the story before he stepped to his niece and claimed her hands in his. Eustace would be dealt with later. He had a niece to comfort.

She clenched his hands in desperation. “Uncle-can I- please .” She choked out. Her silvery, transparent eyes gleamed with more tears. 

He hesitated for a moment but obliged by pressing a hand to his chest and forming a runic array, similar to how he had created the array the day before. This array had many similarities to the runes he had used on his hands and chair.

As soon as he finished, Helena flung herself against him. She dropped to her knees and clung as she sobbed into his shoulder. Cold breeze rolled out from his niece in soft bursts but did not travel far.

Salazar held her until he felt the burning sign of magical exhaustion. 

oooP2ooo

The second week of Hogwarts had little change from the first. They learned more theory, failed to learn proper potions preparation, somehow avoided killing themselves from exploding potions, either slept through or completed independent study during history, and took care of their basil sprouts while learning how to care for other non-magical plants. Most of the students followed the Daily Prophet's recommendations and avoided him at all costs. 

The only true exception was Neville but his fellow Gryffindors seemed to agree that he had more of the famous recklessness than was reasonable (even by their skewed standards) and took to dragging the blond away from Salazar the instant they were outside of class. Their efforts found little traction with the boy, though. Neville found Salazar at the most random moments. Sometimes the founder found himself wandering around the loch or investigating various floors of Hogwarts with the blond. Other times, Neville would appear in the library and claim the nearest desk to Salazar’s. It was oddly enjoyable having the child around. That Neville was able to distract him from memories and bygone days, made the time spent with the child even better.

Beyond Neville, Salazar had little interaction with the living or humans outside of class. Helena would seek him out at times but fell into her natural state of quiet contemplation now that she had explained the matter of her death. Eustace had successfully avoided Salazar and the founder had avoided his former student in turn. Hogwarts took to materializing in his empty corner of the library to yammer away at various nonsensical matters a sentient, 1000 year old building cared about. 

Salazar had little input about the various pixies infesting unused sections of the school nor of the mating patterns of the local mice and rats that had apparently taken up residence a few hundred years ago and had since gained a level of intelligence. They apparently had a rudimentary society with structured social classes and everything. Salazar had absolutely no interest in the becular jump in intelligence that she had witnessed in multiple offspring of 1973 to 1977 and then in 1987 to present. Nor did he particularly care that she had reached the unusual conclusion that the intelligence jump could be traced back to a student's pet, thought familiar until this year where the boy’s younger brother had brought the rat instead. 

That she had mapped this all out was fascinating and had kept his attention but once she asked if he wanted to help her steal the rat, he had to divert her attention. It wasn’t easy to do. Impossibly really, though she agreed to leave the poor pet alone. He doubted she had paid enough mind to the pet to realize it had been changed out over the years. Rats didn’t live particularly long.

The parselmouth was sad to say his school might be mildly insane. And it was entirely her own fault for never revealing her sentience to any human outside the dead. He hadn’t given voice to the thought for obvious reasons. Salazar liked his school and he enjoyed the spoiling she offered too. It’s just a matter of fact that she might be slightly mad. 

Of course, he had to keep in mind that she was a building, not a child. Maybe she was sane for a building. Salazar doubted he’d ever find a comparison, though.

Now, if only the building found an interest outside of pixies, mice, rats, and snot nosed brats.

The bond between him and Hogwarts warmed with a bubbly feeling. Salazar rolled his eyes as he leaned back against his chair and smiled up at the library’s ceiling. Hogwarts was amused with him. (He tried not to think too hard on how much she knew of his internal thoughts. It was entirely possible she was aware that he thought her really, very mad.)

The founder turned back to his preparations. Multiple books were scattered around him but were all for show in case someone actually broke through the notice-me-not Hogwarts had placed over his area. His engraving tool set was spread out amongst small blocks of wood one of the House elves had brought. 

He should probably claim an unused classroom as a workstation instead. 

Rowena would have killed him by now. Helena had confirmed that before she had cheerfully claimed the chair he had engraved for her. He glanced over to his content niece (as content as a ghost prone towards deep melancholy could be). She was curled on her chair with a book on the engraved table—his second project testing the engraving tool.—She slid a thin piece of engraved wood into the book and turned the page. 

The engraving tool was neat but ultimately not particularly necessary for him. It did allow him to build runic arrays before embedding the magic, which could be useful if he expected to use a great deal of magic but wanted to work on a project on the same day. He suspected he could find other uses for the tool.

Salazar tilted the wood burned with an alert-array across it. One limitation of the engraver was the inability to create layers of runes. It was all very one dimensional. He tilted his head and the cube. If he created a magic layer, basically pushing the existing array into the wood grains, he could then add another layer but that required enbedding magic into the first array while engraving it. He already bypassed that with creating arrays with pure magic.

It wasn’t worth his time to figure out how to make the engraver also embed magic at the same time.

Salazar glanced back over to his niece. He was certain she had been there all night. He was equally certain that she had been reading a different book yesterday.

“Stop staring,” she ordered as she turned the page once more, “You’ve far too much to prepare.”

“Have you left that spot?”

“Shh.” 

“Helena,” Salazar said with a note of warning tinting his voice.

She huffed but relented, “I’ll leave with you for dinner.”

A pop-click interrupted them. “Good” the House elf Toofie announced as he folded his arms and glared (ineffectively) at them, “You’d better be going then.”

Salazar glanced down at his watch. There was only thirty more minutes of dinner service. “Ah,” he muttered while Helena made a disgruntled noise. “Perhaps I’ll have a late dinner,” Salazar decided as he looked down at his work.

“No!” Toofie stomped his foot down. “Master Sally be joining the school for dinner. Master Rie and Mistress Hellie made the rule that Master Sally and Mistress Wena would make school dinners.”

Salazar leaned his chair back onto its back legs and he turned in his seat to stare at the elf in bemusement. “That’s still standing? Dinner was the only meal back then.”

“Oh, yes Master Sally,” Toofie said enthusiastically, “It be written into the bylaws and extended to all professors of the school. Master Sally and Mistress Lena shalln’t sneak past us on this. You be going to dinner now.”

“The bylaws…” muttered Salazar as he obeyed the demanding House elf and headed out. “I need to look those over.”

“They haven’t really changed,” Helena countered as she floated at his side as they left the library.

“Really?” Salazar asked. He held one of the hidden doors open for her to float through and followed after before he continued to voice his thoughts, “I’d think they would have been updated in multiple areas. It’s been a thousand years.”

“Almost,” she answered as they wandered down the short hall where Salazar took the lead and held the hidden passage to the kitchen level of the dungeons open for her. “If any has been updated, none have gone through the proper procedure. I should have felt the changes if they had incorporated them properly, shouldn’t I?”

“Hmmm.” Salazar thought over the issue as he hopped down from the hidden passage and onto the lower landing of the stairs that led up to the ground floor. “I would think so.”

“Then, you will find little changed,” she asserted, “besides what mother and everyone added after.”

“Potter?”

Helena paused at the startled voice. Salazar paused in reaction to her before he connected the name to himself and turned to the new person. A Hufflepuff stood with her mouth agape.

The founder tilted his head as the girl continued to simply stare.

Helena helpfully remarked, “Staring is rude.”

“Your–You just–What?” the Hufflepuff stuttered out, clearly unsure where to begin.

Salazar helpfully walked over to the girl and tucked her arm to his side. “You headed to dinner also?” He guided the girl up towards the ground floor with Helena. “It’s best to eat when one can. I was just reminded of that fact. Was in the middle of a project in the library, you see.”

“He has a bad habit of forgetting the time,” Helena offered as an explanation as she floated beside them, “All Ravenclaws do, really.”

“I’m not a Ravenclaw,” Salazar countered.

“As good as,” Helena argued back with a sniff.

“He was going to forget dinner?” asked the girl in a quiet, uncertain voice as she clung to that one aspect in particular. Her hand tucked against Salazar’s arm tightened. Salazar patted it comfortingly.

“Oh yes,” the Ravenclaw ghost groused, “Uncle Salazar makes a terrible habit of it.”

“Do not.”

“Who has a bylaw in place because of said habit?” 

Salazar scoffed at the ghost in response, declining to respond to the accusation. Everyone knew the rule had been put into place for Rowena, not him. It had been a matter of equality that they had enforced it for everyone.

“How’d he have a bylaw made?”

The founder and ghost paused at the question, both reminded of the particulars of life in that moment. Helena helpfully responded by floating off into the ceiling. Salazar grumbled under his breath at her easy escape. 

He turned to look at the girl.

Dark eyes stared wide eyed at him. The girl was his height, or nearly so. It made him feel particularly short as the girl had a pixie-like appearance with her heart shaped face and splash of dark freckles across her cheeks and nose, an intriguing contrast to her caramel skin. The small, curly afro simply added to the entire effect. 

He flashed a sheepish grin and proceeded to twist the conversation as he had done with Professor McGonagall on his first day of school. “Ghosts, you know?”

Her brow furrowed. “I don’t, actually.”

“Ah, well… I mean, she’s dead so her connection to the living world isn’t quite right anymore. She saw me and immediately assumed I was a Ravenclaw. As the Ravenclaw ghost she demanded I take her to dinner and the conversation just sort of flowed from there.”

“I was told she doesn’t talk much,” the girl answered but her tone had turned thoughtful. Salazar took the opportunity to guide her the rest of the way up the stairs to the ground floor. “I wonder what all we could learn from the ghosts. Was she as bad as Professor Binns?”

“World's better than Binns,” Salazar answered with a grin as he continued to guide the girl onward towards the Great Hall.

She smiled back before a thought had her straighten her back. The Hufflepuff tugged him to a stop and stuck out her hand. “Megan Jones, first year just like you.”

Salazar took the hand. “Harry Potter, but you knew that.”

Megan nodded as they continued towards the double doors. A few students wandered past them. Some paused at the sight. Salazar wasn’t certain if they stopped because it was him, the Boy-Who-Lived, or because it was a Slytherin escorting a Hufflepuff to dinner. 

The girl stopped suddenly, just before the doors, and stared at him.

“What?”

Megan repeated Helena’s earlier words in surprise. “Uncle Salazar?”

“Err,” Salazar made a face. “Yes...she, uh...hmm...” The founder paused as he half hoped the child reached her own conclusions and also tried to think on how to shrug the connection off if she reached the wrong conclusion.

Megan looked thoughtfully at him before she decided, “Maybe she confused you with the Slytherin founder...though I’ve his chocolate frog card and you don’t look anything like him.”

Salazar smiled and he pulled her through the double doors. Now that was the right conclusion. “Oh?”

“Yeah.” She suddenly grinned. “You think that’s possible? Cause if it is, it would be hilarious if there’s a bylaw that ordered Salazar Slytherin to show up for dinner!”

The reincarnated founder couldn’t stop the blush as her exclamation drew the attention of the scattered groups of students still eating. Ignoring that embarrassment, he paused in preparation to wish her a good evening before he headed to the Slytherin table. The girl didn’t give him the chance.

Megan twisted his hold on her hand, tucked as it had been against his side, and dragged him across the room to the Hufflepuff’s table. “Ernie!” She called out as she reached one of the Hufflepuff groups. 

Salazar attempted to free himself from the girl’s grip as said girl chattered in a fast, excited manner. He was quite unsuccessful in his endeavor. 

“Guess what! Harry here got the Ravenclaw ghost to talk and she showed him a hidden passage from our floor to the library! It’s behind the painting of the librarian on the stairwell. Sort of obvious right?”

The various Hufflepuffs made exclamations of surprise and excitement. Oliver, the muggleborn Hufflepuff who sat by him during Astronomy, and Ronald Weasley helped Megan drag Salazar onto the bench. A dinner setting appeared in front of him and Megan as she claimed his right side. 

“Did you really?” demanded another Hufflepuff as he leaned across the table towards him with an outstretched hand. “Zacharias Smith, call me Zach. Not Zachie.—Could you show us the hidden passage?” 

Salazar accepted the hand and gave it a short shake. Hufflepuffs, he thought fondly as the group seemed happy to have him at their table. It took a good few weeks for all the bluster of his sorting to pass and now he was invited amongst the little badgers. Helga would be proud.

Another boy joked as the blond introduced himself, “What? No—I’m descended from Helga Hufflepuff herself spiel, Zachie?”  Zacharias scowled at the boy even as his face turned as red as a tomato as others in the group joined in on the teasing. 

Salazar’s gaze sharpened onto the blond’s features. Unlike Draco, Zacharias didn’t remind Salazar of his ancestor. He couldn’t stop the faint disappointment at not seeing Helga physically in the boy (maybe the blond hair but it was a stretch). He couldn’t even spy a hint of Gareth. But then, a thousand years was a long time.

At nearly the same time as Zacharias was being teased, another of the boys spoke up. 

“‘Course Harry’ll show us!” cried Ronald before the redhead pulled a platter of food over to the newcomers. He waved at it invitingly and the smell of roasted chicken and vegetables floated over the table. The redhead grinned lopsided at them as he explained, “That’s pretty good stuff there. Right about as good as me mum’s.”

The boy that had teased Zacharias turned to Salazar and offered his own hand, “Wayne Hopkins, of no important family or House but a member of Hufflepuff all the same and here to learn all I can.”

Salazar shook Wayne’s hand and bemusedly followed up with the rest of the group as they each introduced themselves. There was Earnest Macmillian, Ernie to anyone and everyone that would listen. Justin Finch-Fletchley, a cheerful upper crust muggleborn that had been destined for Eton before Hogwarts came along. Leanne Muldoon was another muggleborn but from a less well off family who was there to prove she deserved her placement and the cost of tuition her parents were ‘making work’.

Then there was Susan Bones who was some many times removed cousin as her great, great grandmother had been a Potter. Hannah Abbott was in a similar position as she shared the same great, great grandmother. To complicate matters even more was his relations to Zacharias through the same woman, who was Zacharias’s great, great. great grandmother. 2

All Salazar had to figure out was what Amelia Bones (the first) nee Potter was to him, relationship wise. Either way, he had just found three cousins, distant as they were. The founder wasn’t entirely sure what to think of that. He distinctly recalled a certain letter claiming his only living relatives were the Dursleys.

The Hufflepuffs all thought it was brilliant. 

Hopefully Helga was watching this moment as the little Hufflepuffs proved that some of her teachings had survived the centuries. Helga had taught inclusiveness and kindness. She wanted all to be welcome at the dinner table and under the same hearth, no matter the person’s background. 

Salazar found himself lost within the bubbly, excited chatter of the Hufflepuffs for the rest of the evening. His attention was pulled in all directions. Food was pushed onto his plate from various children insisting he try their favorite dishes. There was laughter and warmth he had missed in these halls. 

As dinner concluded, the children cheerfully pulled books out and Megan remarked on Helena finding him working on a project. This led to Salazar mistakenly revealing his completed homework. That fact led to an impromptu tutoring session.

The arithmancy professor ended up kicking them out a few minutes before curfew. Salazar found himself bombarded with hugs from his two female cousins and Megan, and handshakes and shoulder claps from the boys. Leanne gave a shy little wave. All of them remarked on him not being too bad at all. One even alluded to the earlier Daily Prophet article before they separated at the stairs and headed into the kitchen level for their dorms.

Salazar continued down to his own dormitory with a contentment he hadn’t realized was missing. He was perfectly capable of living a reclusive life but there was pleasure in company, no matter how innocent and naive it was at times. Perhaps he shouldn’t focus so hard on his projects. 

He was eleven after all. And while it left a bitter taste considering his new found life without his long time companions in sight, there was no point in shutting himself off from the world because it had inconveniently aged over 900 years without asking for permission. Perhaps he should search out Neville as much as the boy did him. And perhaps he should see about sitting at the other tables during meal time. He might actually have conversations with people then.

oooP3ooo

“Harry?” Neville settled into a seat across from the founder as he continued to speak, surprise and confusion clear in his tone, “What you doing at the Gryffindor table?”

Salazar glared down at his work. His arithmancy, on the decay rate of the notice-me-not enchantment hiding the passageway Helena and he had taken the night before, indicated that he had either a decade or two and three fourths of a year before it failed. He had miscalculated something, somewhere. Maybe he had misremembered the equation entirely.—There was enough decay that others noticed when people left the hidden passage. It wasn’t a question of it being a problem. It was a question of how long until it was a major problem.

It was probably an issue of using roman numerals when Rowena first learned arithmancy. He should probably give it up for a loss. Her equation was just a little too fuzzy in his memory. It was probably the number of XX’s.3

He looked up at the blond across from him without really seeing the boy. His thoughts had already turned towards the use of hindu numerals and a combination of the arithmancy Rowena had lectured over, the magic numerals of runic array alignment, and the modern arithmetic he had learned in muggle school 4. Inspiration struck for whatever inane reason and he quickly scribbled in the margins Check the other hidden passages and then crossed out half his work. Any roman numeral left was translated into the hindu equivalent. He then took the three rounds of seven and turned it into four eights as he should have had originally. 

Salazar tilted his head at the new answer. His brow furrowed as he considered it. The answer looked better, more accurate, but Salazar would have to look up arithmancy later to double check it. This might be one of those cases where something looked good because it was what one expected to see when first seeing the problem. Better safe than sorry.

He bit his lip as he wondered at his decision to change numeral forms. Roman numerals had their own magic.—But no, this wasn’t a case of runic casting. He was looking into Helga’s notice-me-not charm that was tied to Rowena’s enchantments. That it was all tied into his charging runic array should not matter. So the physical form of his arithmancy didn’t matter.

Gods, why couldn’t the others be reincarnated with him, Salazar wondered. 

He just knew this would lead to another headache if he let it. Rowena would have known what the issue was by a glance, her mind working through the arithmancy without issue.

“Harry?” Neville said again, this time in amusement.

“This isn’t the Slytherin table,” huffed a familiar, bossy voice.

Finally Salazar closed his notebook and responded, “I thought I’d have breakfast with my friend.” He nodded over at Neville seated on the other side of the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall. Salazar paused and fought a frown. The blond looked drained and tired with shadows under his eyes. There was also a hint of anxiety as the boy shifted about in his seat. He hesitated to say anything to the child, he doubted Neville would want to talk about it anyway. 

The looks his fellow first year Slytherins were shooting him from across the hall behind Neville distracted him. They had no reason to complain when they were the ones ignoring him. He fought the childish desire to wave.

A disgruntled noise had him turn to the little, bossy Gryffindor. Hermione Granger was scowling down at him. Her hands on her hips. 

“There’s no rules against it,” Salazar added.

“Why I never–” Hermione Granger scoffed at him. “It isn’t done. You should go back to your house’s table before I get a professor.”

“Yeah!” cried another Gryffindor a few seats over, “This is the house of red and gold!”

“But I’m wearing red today.” Salazar countered cheerfully, revealing his ruby red undershirt, “I felt quite Godricy this morning.”

“Godricy?” Neville repeated, his amusement visibly growing. Salazar grinned at the boy and gained one in return. Any anxiety the blond was feeling had faded, temporarily forgotten. Salazar could do that, help Neville that way at least.

“That’s not a word,” Hermione interrupted once more.

“Well, it’s quicker than saying I felt bold and courageous when I awoke and thought it appropriate to announce my unusual feelings by promoting the house of the brave and inter-house cooperation by joining you all in breaking our fast.” Salazar pronounced before his cup of tea appeared. He picked it up and raised it to Neville. The boy grinned helplessly as he met it with his cup of pumpkin juice and clinked the cups together. “To inter-house cooperation!”

“Here, here!” shouted twin voices before two other mugs joined in the clinking. 

Salazar nodded at the Gryffindors that had joined in, recognizing the identical twins. There was no obvious fear in their expressions this time. He also now had a good idea who they were. “Fred and George Weasley?” he asked. They looked too similar to Ronald to not be his twin siblings. 

The two boys grinned and nodded even as they began to stuff themselves with breakfast.

Hermione huffed in the background but seemed to realize she had been out voted. Or she might have noticed that a number of professors were present and had not said anything to the snake amongst lions. While she had accepted defeat, others at the table made their dislike known through quiet mutterings about the dark lord at their table. Salazar helpfully ignored them.

“So, you don’t usually wait this late for breakfast.” remarked one of the red headed twins.

“Usually you’re watered and fed,” added the other.

The first jumped back in, “by the time anyone comes to breakfast at all.”

Salazar raised an eyebrow at them. He hadn’t paid any mind to people noticing him. When Hogwarts didn’t place a notice-me-not like barrier around him, he was watched by most of the school. So, Salazar supposed that he shouldn’t have been surprised but he was. He didn’t think anyone paid that close attention to his breakfast habits, especially since no one actually stuck around the entire two hour open period. He woke at dawn and usually had his morning tea in the dorms or the library but no one was around to notice. So how had they?

“Stalking him, are you?” asked a girl sitting near them. Her short dreadlocks danced about as she shook her head at the red headed twins. “Should we be worried about your quidditch performance?”

“You better keep those Acceptables,” grumbled a boy further up the table, “If you’re put on probation again, so help me–”

“Oliver!” cried one of the twins, his hands flew to his chest in an exaggeration of outrage. “Your words! Oh, they strike our hearts.”

“Angelina,” added the second twin, his brows wiggling suggestively at the girl, “You know you’re the only one I’d stalk.”

Both Oliver and Angelina rolled their eyes. It was nearly synchronized to Salazar’s amusement. “Quidditch?” Salazar asked Neville.

Neville shrugged. “It’s a sport.”

“A sport!” cried Oliver as he actually rose to lean towards them in outrage, “It’s the sport. The only sport that matters!”

“Hey!” countered another boy near Oliver. The two degraded into an argument about racing and brooms and something called a quaffle. Salazar stared at the two boys for a long moment, quickly lost the conversation before he turned back to Neville and quirked an eyebrow up in a silent question.

“I…I have no idea.” the blond offered back. 

The cry of owls announced the morning post. This didn’t cut the sport argument short but did distract most of the student body from their various conversations and the Gryffindors from Salazar’s presence. The Daily Prophet , Britannian Times , and Wizarding World News were all dropped in a pile in front of him. Hedwig landed on top of the newspapers to steal a piece of bacon from Neville’s plate before she offered her leg to Salazar. He untied a thick letter from Florean and reviewed the grading of his latest history essay. 

“What you got there, Neville?” asked the Irish first year Gryffindor. Salazar glanced up at the boy and frowned as he tried to recall his name, it was a Sean–Shea?

Neville held up a ball of glass with smoke floating in it’s center, “It’s a remembrall, Seamus. The smoke changes colors to let you know if you’ve forgotten anything.” 

The smoke shifted from normal gray to a vibrant red. Neville frowned in frustration at that. “Only problem is, I don’t know what I’ve forgotten.”

“Oh I’ve read about those!” remarked Hermione, leaning over the table to take a proper look-see. She wrinkled her nose in disgust as she looked at it. “Not very useful, is it?”

Neville shrugged helplessly. He looked torn between trying to figure out what he had forgotten or to just return to his breakfast instead. 

Salazar set his tea down and gave Neville a long look before he realized the issue. “You forgot your robe.”

The blond started at Salazar’s statement and looked down at himself. Neville flushed red, even though he had a decent enough knit sweater and trousers on. Technically the robes didn’t require any undergarments. He quickly explained all the same, “I’m not used to wearing robes, didn’t have to at home ‘cept for formal occasions.”

“Really?” asked another of the first year boys in surprise, “You made your gran out as pretty old fashioned. Isn’t robes standard fair?” 

“They’re just so hot!” blurted out Neville with a flush, “I could never wear them for long.”

Seamus added between bites of bacon, “Nah, Dean. It’s tradition but only once you’re older. Bit of a hassle for little kids wanting to play in the dirt and on the brooms and such. Of course, tunics and trousers are also traditional—for us lads.”

“It’s the layers that are important,” interrupted an older Gryffindor with a prefect’s badge. He was another red head. Salazar guessed this was Percy, another of Ronald’s brothers. He looked related to them. “The more formal the occasion, the more layers expected. You want to be right covered up also, in most cases. Then there’s the matter of presentation. Certain styles and amounts of layering can define you as a traditionalist or muggle enthusiast and such. It’s a combination of what you wear, how you wear it, and what you say and do that define how people see you–”

“Oh Percy, Percy, “ sighed one of the Weasley twins.

“Perfect, Prefect, Percy, “ sighed the other.

“We don’t need another lecture.”

“No one needs to hear another rant about emulating tradition and how things are done properly. It’s all very boring.”

“Yes, quite a bore—truly.”

Salazar frowned as the twins continued. Their older brother turned red in embarrassment and frustration. The reincarnate decided to interrupt, guessing at which twin was speaking last. “Now Fred, tradition is important to understand. Without understanding it, you’ll never know what you’re doing, who’s toes you’re stepping on, what insult and compliment you give and to whom you are giving it. There are times when you want to present a particular image to bring across a particular concept or idea. Depending on what you end up doing in life, determines how important that could be.”

The two boys went still at his words. An odd look crossed their identical faces before each went blank. It was startling how in sync the two were to each other. It reminded Salazar of magical bonded twins, which they could very well be. 

Finally the twin he had called Fred responded, “I suppose that’s true. You’d understand it best, too. Goes with the whole slytheriness thing you’ve got going.”

“It doesn’t matter what house you’re in!” said Percy. 

Fred shrugged and his twin rolled his eyes. 

“Potter?” a voice cut into the conversation.

Salazar looked past Neville and found Draco. The boy stood uncertainly before the Gryffindors with Gregory and Vincent in his shadow. He shifted where he stood as if ready to bolt from the house of the brave.

“Yes?” Salazar prompted.

“We’ve flying lessons this afternoon. They’ve been posted on the bulletin board. Farley asked that I made sure all of us were informed. We’ll lose points if we don’t attend.”

“Thank you Draco,” Salazar offered with a nod. 

Draco shifted again, his silver eyes flicked between the red heads, Neville, and Salazar. The boy came to some type of decision as his nervous shifting ended and he asked, “Walk with me?”

Salazar paused in sipping his tea and gave the blond Slytherin a long look. No Slytherin had so much as spoken to him since the first day of class. Draco still had the slightest hint of nervousness in his expression but he held himself steady under Salazar’s stare. Interesting. 

He turned to Neville, “Breakfast has been enjoyable, Neville. See you in potions.”

Neville nodded before he added, visibly slumping and paling as he spoke, “I think we might have flying lessons together too.” A grimace crossed his face but he shook his head at Salazar as the founder tilted his head in question.

Salazar offered Hedwig another piece of bacon and a short stroke down her feathered her chest. Then the reincarnate left the Gryffindors and followed his fellow Slytherins into the dungeons. Unsurprisingly, Draco directed Salazar into an unused classroom. Gregory and Vincent followed. Both leaned on either side of the door. 

Salazar looked over the stacked desks, the smell of dust and age heavy in the air, and sighed at the sign of disuse. A shocking amount of the school had been left to disrepair. Their belief that their population would grow exponentially—like the muggles—had not come to fruition. War was only part of the cause. Salazar wanted to know the entire reason but doubted any one person knew it.

There was the other side of Hogwart, too. The side seemingly forgotten through time. Its position as a sanctuary to magicals had never come to much. They had built it as a fortress to protect. That it was not teeming with magicals should mean that protection was no longer needed. (Salazar wished he could believe that was the case.)

Salazar turned back to the present and the children before him. Draco shuffled about, rubbed a finger down across a desk and wrinkled his nose as he saw dust smeared across the pad of said finger.

“Draco–”

“I’m not supposed to talk to you.” Draco interrupted, still staring at his finger. “You shouldn’t use my first name.”

Salazar frowned. “Who decided that for you?”

The blond snapped his gaze up and met Salazar’s green. Disbelief almost radiated off the boy, it was so deeply felt. “Our head of hous–”

“Decides who you talk to?” Salazar snapped, annoyed at the child and himself for being annoyed. 

“You don’t understand,” Draco whined, “You aren’t one of us–”

Salazar pulled his wand out and flicked it at a chair by Draco. A burst of magic shot from his yew wand as quick as he had flicked it. Draco stumbled back away from it and Salazar with wide eyes. Vincent and Gregory rose up, startled. Vincent took a few steps forward. Gergory drew his wand. 

The chair began to dance.

“What,” Salazar asked cooly, “Did I just do?”

“Wha–” squeaked the blond, eyes round and stuck on the dancing chair, “I-I don’t know the spell!”

“It's like making pineapples dance,” Gregory said. His tone turned accusing, “We’re supposed to learn that next semester.”

He huffed as he placed his wand back into his robe pocket. “Not the specifics. Tell me the basic fact before you.”

Gregory and Vincent shared looks, expressions uncertain though each clearly had an answer they were reluctant to give.

A myriad of emotions flashed across the blond’s face as he turned to look as Salazar. “Magic.” His brows suddenly furrowed and a pout teased at the edge of the boy’s lips.“You’re a halfblood ,” he said as if that explained everything. The poor child probably thought it did.

“Oh, yes.” sneered Salazar, “because my mother was a muggleborn—Magic is magic, no matter who wields it.”

“That’s not true!” 

“It is.” Salazar countered, “Magic–”

“No!” snapped Draco with a stomp of his foot, “You aren’t one of us! You were raised in the muggle world! Even if you had been a pureblood, you still wouldn’t understand!”

Silence fell between them. Vincent walked closer to Draco as if giving moral support to the blond. The last child looked between Salazar and Draco and back before sliding his wand back into his robe pocket. Only the sound of Draco’s harsh breathing filled the space between them all.

Salazar heavied a heavy sigh and climbed onto one of the desks for a seat. They would be here for a while. “Enlighten me then.” 

Draco startled at the request and then flushed pink. “Uh...”

“Magic runs through our veins,” Gregory answered quietly.

Salazar turned to the larger boy and nodded. “True but are you saying some have more magic than others? That some blood is more saturated? Is that how your blood is more pure than mine?”

The three pureblooded boys looked at each other in uncertainty. None of them had an answer. Salazar suspected they were only repeating their parents' words. 

A buzz broke the silence. Vincent pulled a sleeve up and revealed a ringing watch. “Class is about to start,” the large boy said quietly.

Frustration and then determination fashed across Draco. The blond said in a rush, “I just wanted to warn you away from Longbottom and the Weasleys.”

Eyebrows shot up in surprise. Salazar stared. “I’m sorry, what?” This had not been what he had expected. 

“The Weasleys you’re hanging out with—Arthur Weasley’s children—they’re blood traitors.”

“I...see,” Salazar offered, though he wanted to understand what constituted a blood traitor but he imagined the children couldn’t say since they couldn’t explain their pureblood status either. “And Neville?” 

The heir of the Malfoy House started and gave Salazar an odd look, “Well you don’t want anything rubbing off from him. Mother Magic left the family because they did something wrong. Not sure what the Longbottoms did so that Neville became magical but it had to have been huge. I wouldn’t hang around him if I was you. Who knows what’ll happen.”

“Squibs steal your magic,” added Vincent.

Gregory nodded. “Makes you as weak as a mudblood.”

“Neville is a...squib?” Salazar asked with a frown as he tried to understand the word. It had not come up during all his discussions with Florean or Granny.  He didn’t think the waitress ever brought it up either but their conversations focused on muggle fiction. The boys’ explanation didn’t make much sense either. Steal magic? He had never heard of anything or anyone capable of stealing another’s magic. 

Block it, seal it away, share it, or drain it temporarily: yes. 

Steal it: no.

“Well,” Draco answered, “it was thought he was one but he’s here, so apparently not.”

Salazar Slytherin hummed as he considered that explanation. To not be at Hogwarts could mean Neville was expected to go to a different school but the way Draco had said it implied something more. The only thing he could think of involved Neville’s magic. To have the Mother leave a person was a general concept of a person losing their magic back, a thousand years ago. Perhaps the concept had survived time. (Though, Salazar had never actually met a person that had lost their magic.)

Then there was the claim Vincent had made. To steal one’s magic implied the stealer didn’t have any magic before the stealing. Of course, Salazar couldn’t begin to figure out how someone would steal magic without using magic to do the stealing.

He asked, to clarify, “A squib is a person without magic?” Draco nodded so Salazar continued with his questions. “What makes a squib any different from a muggle?”

“Oh,” breathed out Draco, some realization glowed in his pale eyes and some of his confrontational bearing softened. “A squib is a non-magical with magical parents. They’re the opposite of a muggleborn. It’s a curse to have one. A sign of bad faith to the Mother and a terrible shame. Everyone hides it at all costs. You don’t usually hear about the squibs in a family but Longbottom is not only the heir apparent to House Longbottom but also been in the news off and on with what happened to his parents. Everyone has been worried that what happened might have broken him somehow. My father says it's an important fact to know for the future.”

“What happened to his parents?” Salazar asked as he hopped off the desk.

Draco grimaced. “Ah, I don’t know the details.” He looked over to the other boys.

Gregory answered reluctantly, “They’re in the hospital.”

“Yes,” Draco agreed before reluctantly adding, “I did...overhear that they’ve gone bonkers...I suppose Longbottom might have been hurt too from whatever made his parents loony.”

That sounded serious. What harm could be done to two magicals that kept them in a hospital for the long term? Salazar could think of possibilities, none pleasant but most he hoped had a cure now. “I see...I would like to continue this discussion at some point.”

The blond shook his head quickly back and forth before Salazar even finished the request. “I’m not supposed to jeopardize any connections for House Malfoy...I just...I can’t.”

Salazar watched the children rush off to the potions class. He was left with a bad taste in his mouth. Salazar mentally pinched off his magical connection to the dancing chair, canceling the charm. That left him with only his questions for company. (Draco’s words echoed in the back of his mind. How could he be one of them when he wasn’t even a child, wasn’t even in his proper time?)

oooP4ooo

Neville looked worse than a little anxious when the Slytherins joined the Gryffindor first years out near the quidditch pitch. Salazar quietly claimed a place at the blond’s side, nudging the Gryffindor’s shoulder with his own in greeting. A tremulous smile peeked through for a second before Neville returned to his look of abject terror.

Salazar glanced over to Seamus in question.

The Irish boy shrugged. “Granger was rambling off facts from Quidditch through the Ages .”

“She focused on all these right bizarre accidents!” added Dean.

“Well,” Seamus said, careless of the effect of his words, “some of them are fairly common actually.”

Salazar sighed, and turned to Neville. Draco unhelpfully made a loud, death-throws reenactment as Salazar leaned about to catch the nervous boy’s eye. Neville snapped around in surprise and smacked his head into Salazar’s nose in the process. The two jerked back from each other with yelps from the collision. 

“Oww.” grumbled Salazar as he pinched his nose and held it up towards the sky in an attempt to cease the blood flowing from it. He pulled his robe up to wipe the blood away and made a mental note to buy a handkerchief. “Why do Gryffindors have such hard heads?”

“Oi! What’s that supposed ta mean?” demanded Seamus even as Neville looked up and met Salazar’s eyes. Neville broke into warm laughter, ruining any potential inter-house argument before it could begin. 

Salazar ignored the children around him as he waited for his bloody nose to stop. All he could see was the quidditch stadium’s high rising stands and the hoops on each side of the long pitch. Long curtained fabric covered each stand in checkered patterns of the four school houses. There were two towering stands for each house and two stands with all four main colors in the center. He imagined the professors and guests claimed the center stands while the children all rushed to claim seats in the stands representing their houses. It was all large enough to house the entire school population at once.

The flying instructor found the first years like that—Salazar holding his nose in the air though the blood had stopped a few minutes before and Neville stifling his laughter, surrounded by the rest of their classmates. “What happened here?” she demanded as she noticed the blood.

“An accident, ma’am,” Draco said, though it could be said he was the culprit in the end. 

She frowned in disbelief but didn’t push the subject when both Salazar and Neville nodded in agreement. “Very well, You may call me Madam Hooch and I will be your flying instructor. I also referee the Quidditch and racing matches.” Sharp, hawk-like yellow eyes narrowed over them all. “You will get to know me if you join either team or if you join the causal flying club. Now form two lines, here and here.”

Salazar ended up across from Neville, with Draco and Blaise on either side. Madam Hooch handed a broom to each child, and had them place it on the ground under their wand hand.  

“Everyone hold your hand out like so, palm facing down, fingers spread. Yes, like that.” She paused in front of a few children to adjust their hand so the palm was more readily held above the broom handle.

“Now, on the count of three, you will say ‘Up!’” Her own broom shot up to her hand, smacking the palm so she reflexively grasped it. She glanced around at the group before she counted to three. 

At three, the children called out, said, and even asked, “Up.”

Salazar was one of the few that did it correctly. The moment his magic connected with the broom’s, the world faded away.

All that mattered was him and the broom. His magic curled around the broom’s internal charms. He recognized the cushing charm, something he would forever toast the creator of and something he had not known about until that moment. The charm was tied to and wrapped protectively around the internal enchantment that held all the spells that made the broom work as well as it did. He quickly recognized three different magical signatures—three wizards had worked on this very broom. Then he was lost amongst the hundreds of charms. There was a feather light, a floating one, directional stirring, water resistance, and so many more. Some were eroding. A few had failed entirely but were of minor importance in the overall design of the broom.

Salazar forcefully shook himself and drew his focus back to the physical world. Draco gave him an odd look as he stood with his own broom in hand. No one else seemed to notice Salazar’s visible reaction. Hogwarts pushed a breath of warm assurance through their bond.

Two other Slytherins, Greengrass and Blaise, had also succeeded with their broom summoning. One of the Gryffindor girls, a cute Indian lass that Salazar could have sworn belonged in Ravenclaw, had also gotten her broom to respond properly. (She was cute, as in an adorable girl-child with the looks required to get anything and everything she desired with a simple pout—not as in he thought she was fetching...Salazar couldn’t believe he was having this internal exposition with himself...He was stopping.)

The eleven year old, ancient wizard called out to Neville when he noticed the Gryffindor struggling. “You need to order it, not beseech it.”

Hermione shot him a dirty look, which was when he realized she had been in the middle of saying something to Neville herself. Neville looked at Salazar and then at his broom before he held his hand out once more and followed Salazar’s instructions. His broom floated up. It wasn’t quite as fast as it could have been but it had obeyed.

“Hermione, maybe you should try Harry’s idea,” Neville offered the bushy haired girl, “If it doesn’t work, we could try yours after.”

She huffed in annoyance and began to ramble, “But according to Quidditch Through the Ages we are supposed to call to it, as if calling a friend. In chapter fourteen–”

“Alright, everyone with their broom, take to a mounted position. Everyone else, start over at the beginning. Hands, palms down!” called Madam Hooch, interrupting the muggleborn. Then she went over each successful student’s mounted position and adjusted those that needed it. 

Draco had started his own ramblings about his years of experience before she forced him to change his position to his embarrassment. Salazar was startled to learn that he was a ‘natural’. How one was a natural at sitting on a broom, he didn’t really want to know. He had avoided brooms ever since that one trip to Africa. It was the most painful form of travel he had ever experienced but it had also been the quickest way to the bloody lions. 

Never again. Godric and he had had a pact on that. He was probably laughing his ass off watching Salazar be forced onto another ball pincher. Salazar shook his head to clear that particular description from his thoughts. He didn’t need the concept at the forefront at the moment. Anyway, the cushioning charm should remove that issue entirely. He hoped.

Finally, all the students had succeeded in calling their brooms to their hand and learned the proper mounted position. Madam Hooch announced the next step, at another count of three they were all to push off the ground and hoover before tilting the handle back down to settle back to the ground. It was technically simple enough.

Multiple children were clearly on the verge of panicking, though.—It was clear in that moment which child had grown up in the magical world and which had not.

Madam Hooch didn’t seem to notice or care to notice. Salazar wasn’t sure which but he didn’t care for the lack of consideration. Brooms could be extremely dangerous.

Salazar purposely pushed off when she called out ‘two’. He had intended to break the anticipation weighing on the children by drawing Hooch’s attention and ire. He hadn’t expected Neville to push off in a panic and shoot past him. Salazar responded on instinct. He grabbed onto the boy, pushed his magic into the child, and interrupted the connection between child and broom. 

He hadn’t meant to feel the child’s magic nor the taint, the vile wrap of uncleansed magic clinging to Neville. It was a heavy, off putting drag that left the boy’s magic straining to draw out of his core and connect to the broom in the first place. It made it extremely simple to disturb the connection and claim the broom as his. 

Salazar couldn’t help but wonder how hard it was for the boy to connect with his wand. And that was something that chose the boy—was as compatible as most anything could be with one’s magic. 

Instinct and the need to check for any other damage, had the founder push past the taint and brush his magic against the boy’s. A burning warmth, the taste of pine and smell of campfire filled his senses. It was both alluring and strangely familiar. Salazar was drawn to Neville’s magic like a moth to the flame, which had never occurred before. He forced himself from looking closer as he recalled what he was actually supposed to be doing. 

The Hogwarts founder redirected his attention to the matter at hand and carefully directed both brooms towards the ground—one physically, the other magically. They landed safely. Neville crumbled to his knees, visibly shaking. Hooch grabbed Salazar’s robe collar to berate him for not listening to instructions. 

Madam Hooch seemed to think they had planned it, somehow connecting it to the earlier incident she hadn’t actually seen. In the end, both Slytherin and Gryffindor were docked ten points and they were forced back into line. Neville refused to leave Salazar’s side but Draco and Blaise, at a sharp look from Salazar, simply made room for the Gryffindor.

The second countdown revealed a largely cowed group of children who very tentatively pushed off the ground, barely rose a few inches before settling back onto the grass. It wasn’t how Salazar had wanted to help the terrified children but he supposed it served its purpose all the same.

About half the class happily accepted the out Madam Hooch offered as she finally realized she had missed something and told the hesitant children to practice calling the broom to their hands some more. The children that had some idea what to do were directed to hover higher and higher until they all could float a good ten feet off the ground. Then she gave the quarter of the class successfully floating permission to free fly at that height while she worked with the larger group.

“Potter, care for a race?” called out Draco as he flew around the quidditch pitch with Blaise. Both boys had forgotten their need to ignore him in their excitement at free flying.

Salazar turned away from his hawk like watch on Neville. He couldn’t get the feel of uncleansed taint and campfire warmth off himself. All his instincts screamed to take Neville to the closest grove and perform a purification even though it wasn’t the proper time and wouldn’t actually do anything. Maybe he should look up the other forms of purifying magic. There were other options besides the druidic lunar based one, he had just never learned them. Illiteracy and the lack of masters that knew them was cause for the loss of many magical arts but another option must be documented somewhere. He just had to find it.

A cleansing pool would help but, at most, it would loosen the taint. Neville would have to constantly use the cleansing pool to have any noticeable difference. The founder had no idea what had been done to the two he had for his ritual class. It was something he would have to ask the other founders...or Hogwarts. Helena might know too.

“Potter?” Draco repeated.

“A race?” he said as he dragged his thoughts to the present. Salazar frowned over at the other boys as he paused to rub at one of his forearms. Raised skin had him take a peek. Looked like he had been bitten by multiple bugs. A score of tiny red dots had spread. The founder sighed and tugged his sleeve over the developing rash. 

Draco grinned, “First one to the other end–” He pointed to the very opposite side of the quidditch pitch. “–wins.”

“Wins what?” asked Greengrass as she flew into their floating circle.

Draco scoffed at her, “This is between us boys. It’s not like you have any chance at beating us.”

“I think us girls have plenty of a chance at it.” countered the Indian girl as she joined their group. Her striped Gryffindor leggings almost glowed in the sunlight. Far brighter and too cheerful for the reserved group of Slytherins but was exactly like a bold Gryffindor.

Not that that bothered Greengrass as she floated over to the Gryffindor’s side and smirked at the boys. Her pale features and deep green stockings contrasted with the Gryffindor and Salazar tilted his head in wonder, again considering all the change found in this world. “Girls win and you all will carry our things to all our classes for the next week.”

Draco sneered. “Boys win and you both have to wear each other’s house colors. Same amount of time.”

Salazar raised a brow at that and glanced at his ruby undershirt. “Is that supposed to be a win for us?”

The eleven year olds stared at him. Draco sighed while Blaise rolled his eyes. 

The Gryffindor grinned as she snarked out, “Most people have some house pride, Potter.”

“I have house pride!”

“Says the snake in ruby red.” Laughed the girl before she tilted her broom towards the end goal. “Let’s race!” Then she was gone.

“Hey!” cried Draco as he and the other two Slytherins shot off after the Gryffindor. Salazar scowled after the children and wondered why he even tried before he leaned forward and flew after them all. 

The rush of wind ruffled through his curly mess of black hair, tugged at his robes and sang in a way he had never experienced before. He felt free and alive. All that mattered was him and the air. Every responsibility, every concern and plan faded away from his thoughts. Salazar flattened against the broom as he instinctively pushed the broom harder, faster. His magic unfurled about him in a way he had never done before (but instinctively knew was right ). The air responded. Resistance faded and an extra push pressed against his broom’s tail.

This was nothing like that trip to Africa. 

This was something he’d come back to again and again. 

This was freedom.

A curtained wall forced Salazar to snap his handle up. He went vertical. His feet skimmed against the blue and bronze cloth. It seemed only natural to continue the tilt and suddenly he was flying upside down.

A whistle blow snapped through his thoughts and he rolled the broom so he could sit up. Salazar was considerably higher than ten feet.

“Potter!” screech Madam Hooch.

Salazar looked down and flashed a sheepish grin at the woman. The entire class was watching him from fifty feet down, possible more. “Ah, to the inevitable.” he muttered to himself before he tilted the handle down and guided his broom into a gentle slope to the ground.

“I...got caught up in the moment?” he offered as he landed in front of her. 

Unamused, Hooch snapped out, “Twenty points from Slytherin and detention with Filch!”

oooP5ooo

Thirty points down from a flying class led Salazar to the Hufflepuff table at dinner. He was sure the Gryffindors would celebrate his return visit but his Slytherin peers would likely murder him in his sleep if he went back to the house of the brave so soon after such a loss of points. So he returned to the house of the loyal and justice driven badgers. They were unlikely to push his housemates to murder from his interaction with them.

Of course, he had not taken into account the very Gryffindorish Hufflepuff named Ronald Weasley. That boy might wear yellow and black but he was raised by lions. It would take a good year or two before the child understood and emulated the quiet diligence of Helga’s house. 

Now, in the present moment, the redhead crowed out for the entire hall to hear. “Thirty points from the slimy Slytherins! That’s bloody brilliant mate!”

Salazar stilled, half on the bench. He stared at Ronald for a long moment, then got back up and walked away. The founder ignored the various calls to return. Hufflepuff was out. His emerald eyes turned to his last resort. Bronze and blue, quick witted Ravenclaw called to him. Salazar took only a moment to spy one of the two Ravenclaws he knew by name and strolled over to the group of first years.

With no hesitation, Salazar Slytherin slid into the spot besides Anthony Goldstein. “Anthony! How are you this fine evening?” he asked, “Did you have a chance to read the next chapter?” Salazar picked up his cup of mint tea, as it had just materialized along with a dinner of roasted trout and potatoes. “For defense.” He added when he received no response.

Anthony sat bug eyed besides Salazar. 

The founder gazed at the startled boy for a moment longer before he helpfully shifted the attention back to himself and offered a hand to the girl he sat with in charms. Finally, he might actually learn her name. “We never had a chance to properly introduce ourselves, have we? Harry Potter.”

The girl squeaked, turned bright pink, tucked her hands under her glasses and over her eyes before she dropped her forehead to the table. Salazar blinked down at the poor girl in surprise but quickly pivoted in his seat to offer his still extended hand to the girl besides the hiding one.

A very familiar Indian girl took his hand and responded with clear bemusement. “Padma Patil.”

Salazar frowned, “Aren’t you a Gryffindor?”

She smiled. “No, that’s my sister Parvati.”

“Ah.” 

“Uh,” the girl besides Padma said with a quick, self conscious wave, “Isobel–I’m Isobel MacDougal!”

Salazar smiled kindly at the child and rose to take her hand. “Nice to meet you.”

A loud squeak escaped the girl still curled up and hiding. He glanced down at her before he sent a beseeching look at Padma. The two girls shared a look before they offered twin shrugges. Salazar was sure they knew the girl’s problem but felt no need to explain. 

“So Potter, “ the boy on the other side of Anthony said, “Did you really get detention in flying class of all things?”

“Well yes. I also won a race, though.” Salazar admitted, unable to hide his amusement at that fact. Of course, Draco had made it out like he was the one who won after class. He was also the one making certain the girls followed through with their side. Greengrass stuck out from here in ruby red accents. “And you are?”

“Stephan Cornfoot.” the boy offered before he nodded at the hiding girl, “That’s Sue Li. She has all your adventure books.”

The poor girl made another helpless squeak.

“Have you really flown on a dragon?” asked the boy Salazar had squeezed by to sit beside Anthony. 

“Err..” Salazar offered, unsure what to say to that. Technically yes. He had flown on a dragon, if one could count clinging onto one for dear life while screaming death to Godric. It was the absolute worst way to regain one’s sobriety. He wouldn’t recommend it.

But Salazar was almost certain the boy was asking about his adventure book, Harry Potter and the Golden Dragon . In which case, it would be a resounding no and not just because the dragon was a made up breed in the book.

The boy didn’t take offense at the lack of response. Instead he leaned back so he could offer his hand. “Mark Prewett, sixth year. It doesn’t seem like something a four year old would do or be capable of but since you’re here I thought I’d ask.”

“Start with the simple questions right?” laughed a boy seated beside Mark, who was perfectly identical to him.

“Well, it was my favorite growing up!” claimed Mark defensively, “Why don’t you ask about Harry Potter and the Sands of Time , eh?”

His brother colored. “Shut it, you—time travel doesn’t work that way.”

Salazar flicked his gaze between the two. Identical and red headed. Identical but no freckles. “Are you related to the Weasleys?”

Identical eyebrows rose. The one he hadn’t been introduced to asked in turn, “Which ones? The Weasley Family is huge, mate.”

“And how closely related? ‘Cause technically we’re all probably related,” added Mark, “As long as you got some pureblood ancestor.”

“Are there more than Arthur Weasley’s children here?” Salazar asked as he had the sudden feeling he didn’t actually want to know. It seemed a little like pandora’s box, imagining the number of red heads that might appear.

The identical Prewett brothers blinked in tandem and shared a thoughtful look. “You know, “ offered Mark, “I don’t think there are this year.”

“Charlie graduated last year,” agreed the other Prewett, “But he was another of Uncle Arthur’s.”

“Edward was a year younger but he was a seventh year still, right?”

“Technically, I think Charlie was old for his class—born after the cut off for the year before.”

“Right,” interrupted Stephan. The boy clicked his cup to draw attention while the sixth years continued to debate with themselves. “Potter, have you had any extracurricular training?”

“Why’d he have that?” asked yet another boy.

Anthony finally entered the conversation. “Well, ‘cause he’s Potter. Really Kevin, you need to catch up quicker. You’ve been a part of the magical world for months now.”

“It can take years for muggleborns to integrate into society,” admonished an older girl with a prefect badge as she wandered over to their group, “Don’t be so rude. You should help them, not insult them.” She turned her attention to Salazar. “Don’t cause any problems or you’re out. Got that Potter?”

Kevin was red with embarrassment. Salazar frowned at the condescension and decided to speak up, “You do realize that muggleborns are perfectly capable of intelligent thought. They happen to require a balance between school and culture studies for a time. It’s not that they are slow in comprehension. I’d like to see you do any better with the muggle world and all their technology.”

The girl puffed up in indignation, “I happen to take muggle studies, Potter. I know plenty about muggle technology. I bet you’ve never heard of a typewriter!”

“Penelope, over here!” 

The prefect turned at the call and lit up. She flashed a sharp look at him and ordered, “No funny business, Potter!” Then she scurried off.

Salazar sighed and dug into his food now that everyone was distracted. He had forgotten how painful some Ravenclaws could be. He should have just accepted the potential poisoning attempt at his house table. It would have been far more peaceful.

“We are.”

The founder blinked owlishly over at Mark, swallowed his bite of food, and asked, “What?”

The Prewett smirked. “We are related to Arthur Weasley’s brood. Molly Weasley, his wife, is our aunt. Our father is her younger brother.” 5

“Oh,” Salazar responded before he tilted his head inquisitively, “Are twins a Prewett thing then?” One of the seven Houses had been known for twins. Prouet could be Prewett, couldn’t it? He turned to Padma. “You related to them all also?”

“Yes, actually,” confirmed Mark in clear amusement even as Padma shook her head in denial. 

“My family is from India. Papa is one of the Indian representatives for the Estates,” Padma explained.

“Estates?” Salazar asked. 

“It’s part of the Wizengamot,” she explained. 

He nodded, recalling a few past Potters had been elected to seats. “You mean the Assembly of Estates, the elected side of the government. A few Potters have been elected to it. Is it very large?”

“Well, yes, it is.” Padma said slowly, “It’s the section for all representatives of the colonies, territories, and dominions of the empire.”6

Salazar closed his eyes as he reevaluated his historical understanding of the present globe. “You mean that magical Britain didn’t lose it’s global territories?”

“Egypt was the last to separate in 1952 so there’s only 294 seats now. Makes the Estates a nice magical number. It was terribly uncomfortable before but Egypt likes their sets of five. Should never have been allowed...” Mark rambled.

Padma looked at Salazar strangely and asked over the older boy’s ramblings, “Why would we have?”

Kevin made a helpless sound, clearly understanding Salazar’s position. Salazar rubbed his forearm (while trying not to scratch the bug bites) as he considered the concept of an existing, magical, British Empire. “Magical Britain is entirely separate from the muggle government then?” 7

“Well of course, why’d we have a muggle rule over us? Our rule has always been the Wizards Council before it was expanded to include the Warlocks Circle and the Estates,” said Mark.

“You know, the three parts of the Wizengamot?” added Mark’s brother. 

“And muggleborns or muggle raised?” Salazar asked, “How is their situation handled?”

Mark’s still unnamed brother answered, “They’ve dual citizenship, I think. I’d have to review our studies.”

“Why’d you know all this anyway?” asked Kevin. “I mean, are you going into government when you graduate?”

“They’re from a House,” Anthony said quickly, clearly attempting to reenter the conversation when he had little to contribute. The other first years sat listening in with varying interest.

“I’m father’s heir for House Prewett.” answered Mark with a nod to Anthony. He smacked his brother’s back as he added, “Tristan is my heir presumptive till I knock a lass up.”

Tristan elbowed his brother for the tactless statement and added, “Father is heir presumptive. The official one, I mean. Pater might be old as dirt but I guess he could remarry and sire a son still.”

The first years, the real eleven year olds, all gained various repulsed or confused expressions at the sixth years’ statements. Salazar internally groaned and celelbrated all at once—he didn’t have to give any sex talks to children anymore. Thank the gods for the little things. 

“So,” Kevin said, as he chose to pursue knowledge like a proper Ravenclaw where other children would change subjects in hopes of a safer conversation. “There’s nobles, dukes and such in the magical world?”

“Not in Britain.” Mark countered. 

Tristan explained as his brother helpfully took a large bite of dinner after his short answer, “We’ve forty-nine Houses who make up the Wizard’s Council which has ruled magical Britain since time innumerable. Their vows to rule and protect are entwined with Britannian magic, with Mother Magic and the Isles herself. But they’ve no physical land gifted to them through magical rule. Some of them have worked closely with the various muggle monarchies and have gained land and titles through that avenue. Others have large sweeps of land from over a thousand years of personal effort.”

He paused to take a swig of pumpkin juice before he continued to explain. (Salazar paused in eating to marvel at all the various notebooks and scrolls suddenly being scribbled in all around him.) “Of course, some of the Houses barely exist. I mean, House Slytherin and House Ravenclaw have no Head, have no family members at all but their seats still stand by the demands of magical Britannia. Any House can fall to their status. House Gryffindor is the latest to fall with the main branch dying out during the Grindelwald conflict and the single branch member accepted by the House magicks being executed by death eaters in the 70s...” Tristan paused in his rant, seemed to realize that he had gotten off topic and added, “Eh, any that gained a muggle nobility lost it when we separated ourselves through the Statute of Secrecy, though.” 

“You’ll have to research for more detail on that.” Mark added, interrupting Kevin before he could ask another question. “We are entirely separate from the muggles. That’s all we know on the subject, honest. We’ll personally never interact with the muggle government—not on any level that knowing about nobilities and such will matter.”

“But,” Salazar finally spoke up, a particular issue nagging at his conscience almost as much as the bug bites on his forearms, “Do you mean that when the death eaters were killing muggles, they were attacking a foreign nation?”

“Well, I suppose,” Tristan offered, “But it’s not exactly the same since we sort of share most of the same land.”

“How does that work?” demanded Kevin.

The Prewetts shared a look and then shrugged. They clearly had no idea.

Salazar frowned at the potential headache sitting with Ravenclaws had brought up. This was why he was keeping his studies focused on Hogwarts and academic matters. This wasn’t supposed to come up until he had taken care of Hogwarts and the damned scar of his. (His history studies would have revealed it eventually but he had hoped to have some things taken care of before then.)

He finished his tea and stared forlornly down at it, wishing it was a tankard of Helga’s mead or ale instead of a cute little cup of tea. The tea-leafed bumblebee seemed to wink at him before it’s stinger and wings elongated into a lion’s tail and legs. 

The founder should have just sat with his fellow Slytherins. 

oooP6ooo

Salazar followed Madam Hooch's directions to Filch’s office. An inscribed door plaque with Argus Filch announced his destination on the ground floor. Beside it was a framed list titled Forbidden Objects within Hogwarts Halls . A quick check found the door locked. Salazar glanced over the forbidden list as he waited. (The vast majority came from some Zonko’s prank shop.)

A few minutes later and a meow drew his attention. Mrs. Norris, the most reviled cat Salazar had ever heard of, stared up at him. He hadn’t had any issues with the creature but he could only assume Hogwarts the reason for that. Though he could imagine Omorose staking her claim and making it clear with Mrs. Norris that Salazar was off limits.

“Potter.” wheezed Filch as he shuffled over to his office, “Breaking the rules already? Just like your father then.” 

Salazar watched the hunch shouldered man as he unlocked his door and, with a sort of jerking motion, lifted and opened it. Filch grumbled under his breath about jammed doors and hinges that needed oiling. That was something Salazar knew was covered by Helga’s maintenance charm enchantments. (The founder internally sighed at another item to look over and fix.)

Filch shuffled into his office, dumped some items onto a mess of a desk and vanished into a connecting room. Salazar slowly took a step into the dingy space. There were no windows. A single lamp lit dust particles, grime covered cabinets, and reflected off a set of well oiled chains and manacles. The room wasn’t particularly large and the floor to ceiling cabinets, piles of parchment and the overly large desk with its moth-eaten chair took up most of the space.

The cabinets were marked. One partly opened cabinet was filled with a plethora of objects and had a peeling tag that stated Confiscated and Highly Dangerous . It was likely items from the forbidden list. He could spy a number of brightly colored and branded Zonko objects.

Two other cabinets, filing ones this time, were marked with tags. He read S.O. Black , R.J. Lupin , P.A. Pettigrew , and J.E. Potter on one cabinet. The other had two tags, though there were four drawers, F.L. Weasley and G.T. Weasley . From Filch’s earlier remark, Salazar assumed the Potter drawer was all about his father. This left a single filing cabinet for other students’ documented misdemeanors.

He turned away, bemused. What did students get up to to have that much paperwork on themselves?

“My sweet!” Filch called from the other room, “Come eat dinner.” 

Mrs. Norris mewled a warning at him before she prowled into the other room. 

A bright purple flier caught his attention. The founder glanced at the direction Filch had vanished off in. He could hear muffled sounds of the man talking to his cat but no indicator that he was returning. Salazar shifted closer to the desk and glanced at the parchment.

ooo

Want to surprise your loved ones? Wish to amaze your co-workers?

We’re looking for the ambitious wizard or witch who wants to expand their repertoire, break through obstacles that have kept them from advancement, or need that particularly difficult passing O.W.L..

Kwikspell is an all-new, fail-safe, quick-result, easy-learn course. Developed to aid the frustrated and hardworking average witch and wizard who find themselves avoiding spellwork that gives them trouble.  

Think you’ll benefit from the Kwikspell method? Owl today!

ooo

Someone wrote in the margins of the colorful ad, Heard lots of supposed squibs are having success and thought of you. — XOXO, IP

Salazar’s eyebrows shot up. The hated, feared caretaker was a squib. Why would the headmaster employ a squib? It seemed like a dangerous position for a non-magical. Whole parts of the school required a core to operate correctly. The very stairs reacted for a person on them, but noticed that person through the innate magic they possessed. How Filch was even brought into the school when the illusionary protections would have shown him a ruin and complussed him to leave boggled Salazar’s mind. 

“Right, then–” Salazar backed up from the desk and watched as Filch reappeared. The pasty faced elder glared down at Salazar as he shuffled towards the door. “–To the trophy room. Peeves set off another Zonkos bomb the other day. Smells like a bloody skunk was let loose and there’s purple paint everywhere. You’re going to clean it all up.” He paused and snapped his head back towards Salazar. “No magic!”

He glared through slitted eyes for a long moment before he nodded to himself and returned to his slow shuffle towards the stairs. “Punishment’ll take the rest of the evening. Then you’ll know not to break another rule. Eh? Hard work and pain are the best teachers, I say. If only the old punishments hadn’t been banned. Chain the fool children up to the ceiling by their wrists, leave them there for a few days, and they learned their lesson right quick, I say. But Dumbledore doesn’t like that.”

Filch glanced back down at Salazar once more as they waited for the stairs to reach their floor. “All’s gone soft now. Washing cauldrons and shining trophies do nothing to a brat’s character and it’s their character that needs properly shining…” He shook his head. “You best learn your lesson now. If you keep going like your father, I’ll pull out the chains for you. I’ve got them oiled and ready. Don’t you forget!”

Salazar nodded in understanding and the old man finally fell silent. The eleven year old watched the squib’s back thoughtfully as they traversed the moving stairs to the third floor. Draco’s earlier words about squibs, about Neville, and the residue of magic he had felt wrapped around the Gryffindor’s magic circled his thoughts. Mrs. Figg had a similar clogged up core.

Neville had been considered a squib but wasn’t. Mrs. Figg made the world think of her as a simple muggle retiree. What if she was considered a squib too? What if uncleansed magical residue was the true marker of a squib instead of them not having magic at all?

Argus Filch was a squib. Salazar could answer all, or almost all his questions, with a simple check of the man’s core. The Slytherin founder took the final minutes to the trophy room debating. Eventually he was going to run into someone who could feel him connect to their magic. How likely was it that Filch would be that person?

Minimal, Salazar decided. And if the man noticed, he was unlikely to know what he was feeling nor how intrusive and rude it was. Or how dangerous it could be for him. Of course, it wasn’t like Salazar was going to harm the man.

Decided, the founder of Hogwarts prepared himself. Luckily, he had eventually figured out how to glance for a core when he had investigated all his fellow school children over the years. He wouldn’t get details but he’d get enough information from a glance. He would have seconds to connect unless he wanted to draw attention to himself. 

In the trophy room, the caretaker led Salazar over to the section covered in paint and picked up a bucket of tools. “Fill it up with soapy water—hot, obviously. And get a scrubbing.” 

Salazar took the bucket and purposely brushed his hand against the elder’s. Oppression flooded his senses. The founder ignored the feeling and pushed through the residue and taint. Iron and polished metal flashed through his senses as he connected to the supposed squib’s core. Then Filch moved his hand away and the feeling went with it. But it was enough. 

Argus Filch was no squib.

oooPooo

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight

oooP1ooo

(Neville)

“On the count of three,” Madam Hooch called out, “Push off the ground.”

Neville stared about him—flying class. 

Harry was across from him.

“One!”

Green eyes narrowed at him. The students surrounding him grew taller. He was an ant amongst giants.

“Two!”

Neville clutched the broom with sweaty hands. His heart pounded. He felt like throwing up. Everyone else was ready to go. They’d leave him behind. Even Hermione, for all her panicked reading, was ready—she always followed directions.

“Th–”

He pushed off the ground with a desperate rush: He would not be left behind.

Wind tugged at his clothes. Bile clawed up his throat. (Harry didn’t catch him this time.)

Neville lost control of his broom. It turned and twisted: And he followed.

He was upside down. 

Neville squeezed his eyes shut. Something changed.—The wind stopped buffeting his clothes. He no longer clung to a broom.

His hazel eyes opened. (He didn’t want them to.)

Longwood’s rose garden sloped out before him. It was in full bloom, an explosion of color the talk of every midsummer party. Gardens were his safe place. Nothing wrong ever happened when he was in one of the gardens. 

(It didn’t stay true. No where was safe in the end.)

The garden was upside down. It was far, far below. His hands dangled towards the distant ground. 

He knew what this was. 

Neville could not stop his gaze from moving up. Uncle Algie stared down at him, his hands holding Neville by the feet.

His stomach twisted in terror. The grasp on his feet weakened. He panicked. He reached up to his great uncle. Neville was too slow.—The elderly man let go. (Uncle Algie always let go.) 

The world blurred as air rushed around him. Bile filled his throat, constricting his ability to scream. His gaze was still locked with his great uncle’s. 

Uncle Algie and his wife stuck their heads out the window to watch his fall. 

Neville would never forget that neither bothered to try to save him. There was no flick of a wand to stop his inevitable meeting with the ground.

He felt the connection. —No matter the fact that he had bounced, he still had slammed into the ground and still felt that jarring impact only cushioned enough to avoid serious injury.—This time, as always, he didn’t bounce. 

But neither did he stop falling. 

The ground rushed around him and blurred until it wasn’t earth anymore. Neville couldn’t breath. Air escaped his lips and floated away in bubbles. It was just like that time at Blackpool. 

Dark water surrounded him. He could not tell which direction was the surface. The blond clawed at the water, watched in a disassociated sense as bubbles floated up and away from him. 

It was dark. 

He was cold. 

The world was fading. 

He was dying.

Hands yanked Neville from the water. Neville sputtered and gasped as he clung to the rocky shore. 

“Ya gotta learn how ta swim lad.”

Neville wanted to snap his head up in surprise at the voice. He couldn’t, his body didn’t do what he wanted, though he did look up after another coughing fit. A redheaded man stood over him instead of his cousin Humphrey. He didn’t know this man. (But he did. It was at the edge of memory.)

Words escaped Neville’s mouth, “Water don’ like me–”

“Don’t care a wick! Ya gotta learn,” the man countered as he reached out and clasped Neville’s shoulder.

The world shifted as the man squeezed. The lake became a small wooded clearing. A tall brunet stood by the redhead’s side. The hand on his shoulder released him and Neville was nudged away. He wandered around the clearing, staring at the tall trees. Some had ribbons and rope tied to their trunk or branches. Carvings wrapped around wooden posts and tree trunks. 

Neville had never been here before. (It felt familiar.) It seemed like some place he’d enjoy but the hammering of his heart indicated otherwise. He was expecting something to happen. (He couldn’t remember what but like the man, it teased at the edge of memory.) Maybe he’d get stabbed to death? 

This wasn’t some twisted, nightmare, version of a memory though. At least, he didn’t think it was.

An acorn fell, drawing Neville’s attention. A boy was seated in one of the branches of a large oak. Sunlight filtered through the canopy and across hair that seemed unable to decide on being blond or darkening to brown. 

“What are ya doing up there?” Neville asked as he came closer. The words fell from his lips with an accent he did not possess.

The boy tilted his head to look in Neville’s direction and deadpanned, “Ssitting.”

A similarly snarky reply played at the tip of Neville’s tongue but then he met the boy’s silver eyes. 

The world shifted again.

Those eyes were now dull with pain, set in a face of a grown man. He was laying on the ground. Neville leaned over him. Panic bubbled up in Neville’s chest.

There was blood everywhere. Streams of red trailed down from the man’s lips. He was dying.

He couldn’t be dying.

Neville reached out in desperation, his heart pounding in his ears. He pulled upon his fiery magic, twisted it into a healing spell but it did not listen. (He knew, somehow, that it had never listened when it came to healing.) Neville found himself rambling at the dying man—the silver eyed boy from the treetops. A mantra whispered through his thoughts. 

“You cannot die! Stay with me!” he cried to the dying man.

And yet, those silver eyes lost all hint of life. Anguish exploded from Neville as the world went cold.

Neville shot up. His heart pounded violently. Silver and red floated before his eyes before he realized he was staring at his bed curtains. Moonlight streamed in and made the gold softer, almost silver like to his half awake state. 

The blond stared down at his fisted hands and forced them to release the bedding. Yet another nightmare. He wasn’t going to get any more sleep now.

He pushed away his blankets and stumbled to the bathroom. Cold water splashed across his face helped pull him from the lasting effects of the nightmare. A pale, round face stared back at him. (For a long second, he didn’t recognize himself. This little boy had to be someone else.)

“Goodness, you look a tad peaky, dear. Best be off to the hospital wing,” said the mirror in a matronly voice. 

Neville ignored it as he tugged at his sweat soaked pajamas. Sleeping capped sheep bleated silently across the fabric. Little quote bubbles with ‘baa’ appeared as they opened their mouths. 

He felt like an idiot wearing the pajamas but Gran picked out all his clothing. At least this one wasn’t a dressing gown. (Not that he had known what an embarrassment they were until coming here. Seamus had made it clear quickly enough.)

The child shook his head of his depressing thoughts and returned to the dorm to collect his uniform before he showered, remembering his robe this time. Neville wandered down into the common room, seeking the one comfort that helped after a nightmare. The fireplace lit at his approach. Neville curled up into the closest wingback chair as the fire warmed him, soothing away some of the exhaustion and most of the lingering terror. 

Hazel eyes wandered about the common room, searching for a distraction. A collage of portraits almost entirely covered the deep red walls. They were filled with softly snoring figures. Curtains were drawn against the tower’s windows. Only the faintest hints of light filtered through. Deep red and gold couches and wingback chairs were scattered across the room.

Neville dropped his head back against the chair and stared up at the high vaulted ceiling. Gold painted stars glinted in the firelight with a dark maroon night sky. It would change, he knew, into a golden sun centered with rays of varying gold covering the entire ceiling. 

His gaze wandered down to the large portrait just above the fireplace. It was Godric Gryffindor, sleeping like the rest of the portraits. Somehow, he had always imagined the man with an explosion of freckles across his figure and dark, straight red hair—not even slightly bushy. The founder’s sword should be simpler, too. It would have been something usable in duels instead of the ceremonial blade painted in his hands.  

A sigh escaped. He was tired. His nightmares had been worse than usual. But, at least he couldn’t remember them. Neville knew that silver and red were important and he had fallen or had drowned—maybe both. He often did both.

He should be able to remember.

His brow creased as he internally berated himself. 

How could he fix the problem if he couldn’t remember? Neville absently scratched at a few bug bites on his forearms and chewed on his bottom lip in worry. His gaze turned unconsciously to the fire. Its flames reflected off his eyes. 

Gran had sent the remberall to remind him. He was terrible at remembering things. She always told him he needed to fix that.

A loud creaking jerked Neville from his thoughts and the fire. Oliver Wood rushed down the dorm steps. The Weasley twins stumbled after. None noticed him. 

How long had he been staring into the fire? Neville turned to the windows and found the curtains pulled back. The sun slowly rose from above the distant mountains.

The Gryffindor chasers stumbled down from the girl’s dorm as he stared out across the lit forest. Tiny figures of winged creatures floated above the shadows of trees. It was beautiful.—It was another thing he hadn’t thought of. Hogwarts had never had a forest in his imagination.

He rubbed his face with a groan and headed back up to collect his school things. Maybe he could go sit by the lake until breakfast.

oooP2ooo

Neville slumped into his seat in the front of the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. A braid of garlic hung off the professor’s desk in front of him. The smell of it floated about the entire room. He could feel it sinking into his clothes and hair. 

So far Professor Quirrell hadn’t paid him any mind but Neville wasn’t taking any chances. He piled his books up and shifted down lower in his desk as he half listened to his deskmate. There was no need to highlight his inabilities more than what already occurred. Hermione did that well enough with her well meaning lectures. (He wished he was back in the tower, watching the world go by as the fireplace welcomed him and the wingback chair hid him from everyone.)

“...It really isn’t that hard,” Hermione rambled at him. 

He thought she was trying to help. Though, in his worst moments, he couldn’t help but think she was using him to make herself look even better than she already was. Neville wished she’d leave it well enough alone. 

“You just hold it up like so, think clearly on what you want—your intent, you see—and enunciate clear and slow. Lumos.” The tip of her wand lit with a soft, warm light, just like the last hundred times before. She beamed at her glowing wand before she turned to Neville and said his least favorite words, “Now you try.”

He slowly lifted his wand and, with little conviction at this point, said the spell. 

Nothing happened. 

Nothing ever happened.

She wrinkled her nose. Her large front teeth poked out over her bottom lip as she visibly thought over something. A noise of frustration fluttered out as she came to some conclusion and insisted, “You need to keep trying Neville. You’ll get it if you put effort into it. Everything I read says that. I taught you all the ways to make it work! It has to work eventually.”

“Right,” he agreed half heartedly. “I’ll keep working on it–”

“P-p-pay attention. We are moving on. D-deluminate. Wand-d-ds away.” said Professor Quirrell, giving Neville a ready excuse to skip yet another casting attempt.

Neville relaxed as the class shifted to a stutter filled lecture. Lectures were easy. The magical theorems made sense most of the time. They clicked, somehow. —Except for potions and transfiguration but he could figure out transfiguration. It was similar enough to charms. (Potions wasn’t.)

But it didn’t matter in the end. Theory did not make a wizard: Magic, spell casting, did.

He didn’t understand how he had been allowed into Hogwarts. Memories of “pranks” and other horrible things by his various relatives had made him expect another terrible prank when he had gotten his letter. But the hat had sorted him, had even placed him in his da’s house. 

Neville had thought it had meant something. He had taken it as a good sign. Better things were on the horizon. His Gran would be proud of him. Pater would acknowledge him. He would be the heir House Longbottom deserved. 

He had been wrong.

He had tried. He had tried so hard. 

Nothing worked.

The only classes he did any good in were herbology, astronomy, and history. Those were the useless classes. Those equated to pure theory—no actual magic needed. 

Gran hadn’t liked his tinkering in Grandpa’s greenhouse. She had ordered him far away from the House greenhouses at Longwood (not that he had listened). Neville doubted she would be happy to hear of his grades; of how he was failing all the important classes; how the useless Herbology was the only class he had an Outstanding in.

He would never be like his da. He would never be good enough for his Gran. 

He was a squib. And Everyone knew it. 

(Then why had Harry called him a friend?)

oooP3ooo

Neville shot up in bed, heart in throat and a scream caught behind it. A sob choked out. The curtains ran with blood, glowed with silver until he blinked and the last of the nightmare faded away.

Again and again he woke up to nightmares. They were back every night. 

And every time he forgot the details. 

He was such a failure.

The boy got ready for the day on autopilot. He paid no mind to the mirror’s concern over his appearance. It didn’t cross his mind that he was starting to look ill with growing bags under his eyes.

All he could focus on was the turn of the day and the torture of keeping up pretenses. Any day now Professor McGonagall or the headmaster would announce to the school that the hat had made a mistake. He was a squib and they would order him to leave eventually. 

What was the point in trying to convince anyone otherwise? (He desperately wanted to prove them otherwise. His greatest wish was to find a place where he belonged. He had to belong here. Hogwarts felt like it should be home. [It wasn’t. Something was missing. Something had changed. Something was gone. Many somethings.])

He dragged his school books down with him before claiming his normal spot by the fire. Neville rubbed at one of his persistent bug bites as his gaze turned, as always, to the flames. One of his books slid off the top of his stack and fell. A creased, ‘well-loved’ letter slid out along with his mess of notes and half done homework he had stuffed into the book.

The worn parchment creased under his fingers. He stared at it, almost stuffed it back into the book with the other parchment but then sank into his seat with it still in hand. The broken seal was his Gran’s personal mark of a vulture in Longbottom green wax. It was the one and only full letter he had gotten from his Gran. She only sent a short note with the remembrall.

Neville hesitated for a long moment before he unfolded the letter. 

ooo

Neville,

I am pleased to hear that you’ve finally shown a spark of your father, and when it counted the most. I expect to hear continued improvement of character and ability now that you’ve succeeded in convincing the sorting hat of your worth.

The Longbottom name rides on your shoulders and no one can take that from you.

Sincerely,

Augusta Longbottom

ooo

The blond reread the letter multiple times as he sat by the fire. Maybe it was his growing sense of pessimism but it seemed to him that she didn’t expect him to succeed. Neville crumbled the letter up and scrubbed at his face to get rid of any tears.

What did she even mean by the last line anyway? 

He had cousins, all older than him, but he was the only direct male heir. The import of the Longbottom name would ride on his shoulders until he died. Neville would succeed his great grandfather and become Pater of Longbottom, eventually. (No squib had ever been a Pater.)

Was she giving him praise?

Neville grabbed the letter and carefully flattened it to read it over once more. He was finally showing some of his da—that was a hint of praise, wasn’t it?

But the line about the Longbottom name riding on his shoulders now sounded like a warning. Was she warning him to do his best? (How can a squib do well when stuck in a magical school?)

The boy sniffled. 

(He wasn’t going to cry.)

Neville forced himself to fold the letter back up and tuck it into its place in the textbook amongst his various pieces of half finished homework. There wasn’t any good reason to obsess over the letter. 

He returned to the fire and forced his thoughts away from uncomfortable facts. What was the point of worrying about the inevitable? Squibs did not belong at Hogwarts. Squibs did not belong anywhere.

Slowly he slumped back to sleep.

“You can join, if you’d like.”

Neville blinked his eyes open. He was back in the strange clearing surrounded by trees. The silver eyed boy was still in the oak. Not dead. Not yet.—Words fell from Neville’s mouth without his direction, “Nah, plants don’ like me.”

That wasn’t right, not even slightly. The only thing that liked Neville were plants. Why did he lie? Neville tried to correct himself but couldn’t. He had no control over his body.

The boy graced Neville with an amused smirk. It crinkled the boy’s eyes so Neville couldn’t see the silver of them. (Something about those eyes made him cringe. Instinct screamed at him to avoid them.)

“Why?”

Neville shrugged. “Fire burns them.”

The world jerked from trees and day to night and the edge of a small village. 

Screams filled the air. Smoke and the smell of burning wood filled Neville’s senses. His gaze searched for the source of screams. Acidic bile rushed up his throat. 

A hut was on fire. A group of people were standing in front of it, guarding the exits. The screams were coming from the burning hut. 

Neville ran toward the hut. He could help, he could save them. A hand grabbed onto his arm and pulled him down behind a boulder. Neville turned with a scowl.

It was the silver eyed boy. He looked nearly the same with his confused hair more gold than brown in the flickering light. His skin was browned from a layer of dirt or soot from the smoke swirling around them. The boy’s gaze was directed towards the fire.

“We have to save them!” snapped Neville. 

“They’ll kill uss too,” the boy said back.

Neville scowled even though the boy still looked away, towards the inflamed hut. “Not if they don’t see us.” 

Eyes narrowed into slits as the boy stated, a hissing quality clear in his voice now, “If they ssee uss, they will hunt uss along with any we ssave.”

Neville grimaced but nodded. “They won’t see us.”

Fear and determination churned together in his gut. They had to do something. That was clear. 

The boy frowned but nodded in agreement. Neville pulled him along through the edge of the forest. The two ran from tree to tree, bush to bush. They moved in a circle around the crowd to the back where there was no exit and so no group of people standing guard. 

After a moment to take in the burning structure, the boy pointed at the fire and ordered Neville, “Part it.”

To Neville’s confusion and shock, he did. The magic was exhausting, the fire fought his control—control was the opposite of fire—but a small hole formed at the base. The blond boy vanished through the hole. He reappeared thrice, pulling other small figures out with him on each trip. 

Sweat poured down Neville’s face, covered his chest and back. He stopped the silver eyed boy from a fourth trip. The small opening collapsed as Neville lost control. 

They had done something, though. 

Three little soot covered figures followed them back into the forest, away from the non-magicals.

Neville shared a grim smile of accomplishment with the silver eyed boy. Their eyes met and the world shifted again.

Neville startled awake once more. Fire filled his sight and he jerked back. He nearly fell out of the wingback chair as he tried to escape the flames.—Except the fire was safely in the fireplace.

Heart pounded in his throat. The nightmares weren’t his usual fair of reliving failed attempts to force his magic out, not entirely at least. There was something different about it all. He wished he could recall the actual dreams to figure out what.

“Heavy thoughts on ee brow.”

The blond snapped his gaze up from the fire and found the painting of Godric Gryffindor staring down at him. “What?”

“It does not do to dwell on dreams,” the painting stated with a heavy west country accent, “if ee are consumed by them.”

Neville frowned in bewilderment. “Right...thanks?”

oooP4ooo

(Harry)

Pine needles crunched under foot as the reincarnated founder passed through the forest. Predawn light filtered through the trees. A hoot drew Salazar’s gaze upward and a pleased smile appeared at the sight above him. Hedwig and a couple other owls stared back. 

He lifted his arm and wrapped magic around his forearm as Hedwig swooped down to claim her perch. Salazar brushed a hand down her chest before he fiddled with the wooden bracelets. The rune matrixes were dark, for all appearance burned into the wood. It was smooth, though, when he traced the markings. There was no indentation to the wood.

Salazar pulled out a wooden cube to compare. The cube’s surface was covered in its own dark runic arrays. At first glance the two were similarly delicate engravings but they weren’t. The engraver had not been capable of as fine lines as magic imprinting. The markings on the cube were ever so slightly blurry compared to the bracelets. Magic imprinting was capable of finer results.

He wasn’t entirely surprised, removing an intermediary usually resulted in finer, though more difficult, work. The engraver was still a vast improvement from what most rune mages had been capable of. It’s results would do well enough in most cases.

“Thank you Hedwig,” Salazar said as he traded the cube for a piece of bacon and offered it to her. “That was all I needed.”

His owl carefully caught one of his fingers in her beak before she claimed the bacon and flew back to the other owls. 

Salazar dug a hole and set the wooden cube within it. He pressed a hand to the ground and the other to the top of the cube. The earth’s magic willing followed his directions into the cube where the first array activated, tying the cube to a tiny stream of the leyline crossing underfoot. He threaded the golden magic through the burned lines of the second array, connecting the two together and activating the monitoring magic.

He walked a gently curving line across the western corner of the forest, burying a total of ten cubes. They cut across the entire side of Hogwart’s proper near the grove the giant spiders had claimed. Each was connected to the other and were powered by the Mother. 

The purity of Mother’s magic would keep the wood from deteriorating quickly. In turn, the sheer potency of the magic may lead to the matrixes wearying out quicker. He would give it a year, by then he would have a plan to remove the spiders.

As the last was set, a ripple of air moved out and upward. Tree branches danced and leaves flew off them as the compressed air burst past. The smell of ozone bite through the smell of pine and the earthy scent of decomposing leaves. With it, Salazar could feel the perimeter ward settle in. It stretched up past the tallest pine and what he hoped was the edge of the spider infestation’s hunting grounds. 

Nothing would pass through it without notifying him. Anything larger than a fox would trigger the ward. The ward would give Salazar a general idea of the size of the thing and if it was headed towards the school or away from it. 

He didn’t plan on leaving the man-eaters in the forest for long. Being eleven and alone limited his ability to handle the sheer number of the creatures but he would remove them. Monitoring their movements was the first step. The enchantments on the inner walls should keep them from hunting within Hogwarts Proper but knowing if they came near the students was important.—Any insight to their hunting patterns would also help but the children were a priority.

oooP5ooo

(Neville)

He trudged down the tower stairs, shoulders bent low with what felt like the weight of the world. It didn’t feel like the end of September but less than a week and it would be October. Neville hadn’t expected to last a month. (Someone must be having it on. They’d kick him out once they were done with their laugh.)

Portraits waved at him but he ignored them. 

It felt like the end of his hopes and dreams. A clock was ticking to the moment his gran would come and take him away from everything. The magical world was no place for squibs.—Neville didn’t know anything of the muggle world.

Seamus, Lavender, Parvati, and Dean were just ahead. He liked walking with them. It made him feel like he was part of the group. (He wasn’t.)

“Have you seen all the clubs?” gushed Hermione as she appeared at his side. 

She wasn’t part of the group either. It wasn’t because of her lack of magic, though. He wished he had even half the magic she had. 

The girl directed her words out towards the rest of the first years. Neville recognized the desperate hope in her expression—need for acceptance. “There are so many options! Some bring guest speakers and teach you about current discoveries. Oh, I don’t know which I should pick.”

“Well, I’m joining the seamstry club,” said Lavender with a flick of her long hair, making her statement seem like it should have been obvious. 

Parvati paused and looked up at Hermione, adding, “And we’re going to join the H.P.A. club!”

Lavender turned to her friend with a grin. They shared a look and squealed. Loudly.

Neville looked past the two and found Seamus mouthing the letters in confusion at him. He shrugged back at his roommate.

Hermione stepped down into his view. She was flushed in righteous disgust. Her nose wrinkled as she spoke with disdain dripping from her words. “I don’t see why you need to join that club . I mean really, he clearly isn’t anything like in the books.”

“What’s H.P.A.?” asked Dean, “And where’s the club list?”

Hermione huffed over at him and stalked down the steps past the other girls. “The prefects told us about it yesterday. Weren’t you listening? You’ll miss something important if you don’t start paying attention.”

“It’s the Harry Potter Appreciation Club,” Lavender said at the same time, “It’s open to everyone and anyone. Maybe Harry will join!”

“I thought he was a dark lord,” Neville asked, confused. 

He had heard plenty about Harry being evil. Harry had claimed Neville was a friend. Everyone in Gryffindor had given him their opinion. But it didn’t really matter, Harry hadn’t been about outside of class for a good week now. 

Someone had probably told Harry that Neville was a squib and why people shouldn’t hang out with squibs. (Neville hadn’t felt up to studying in the library where he usually saw Harry. What was the point when he’d be kicked out soon?)

Parvati rolled her eyes. “Well, yes. I’m not saying we should trust him but isn’t he so mysterious!”

“He’s so cute with his messy hair,” sighed out Lavender, “And those eyes!”

Hermione scoffed as Neville joined the other two boys in walking faster, “You are projecting. There’s no way either you actually think he’s anything like that. You’re just trying to act like you’re older than you are.”

They reached the bottom of the tower and headed for the main stairs. Neville cringed as the girls’ outrage rang and echoed through the empty hallway. The three boys speed up.

“Girls are bloody crazy,” muttered Seamus once it seemed they had lost the girls.

Dean grumbled, “They never answered my question.”

“It’s probably listed on the bulletin board,” Seamus offered with a shrug, “I’ll join a quidditch fanclub, if there’s one for the Kenmare Kestrels.”

“Think there’s a football club?” 

“Nah, mate. Nothing muggle would get much following, I should think.”

Neville listened to the two yammer on about possible clubs. The trio reached the Great Hall and settled into breakfast. He doubted he’d be allowed to join any of the clubs. There was no point in looking into them.

“Neville?” He looked up from his breakfast. Hermione leaned towards him and explained quietly as she handed him a small piece of parchment, “The Spellmanship Guild offers tutoring. Maybe they’ll know what you’re doing wrong?” 

The blond looked at the parchment and read:

ooo

Having trouble with a spell? Or with your spelling? Schedule an introductory meeting for grammar or casting help. 

Owl the Spellmanship Guild today! — Club Box #0604

ooo

“Thanks Hermione.” Neville offered, personally unconvinced there was anything that could help.

“Oh, you’re welcome! I’ll schedule us an appointment, shall I? I would like to see if they’ve any pointers for my essays and I’m sure they have plenty of ideas for my spellcasting, also. It’ll be so interesting! I wonder if they have any further ideas on the color changing charm. I don’t think I’ve fully delved into the finer aspects of the spell. There’s an entire book that goes over it.—I’ve read it thrice already!—But there are a few theorems we haven’t covered that...” Hermione gushed, running over any possible protest Neville could make as she continued to ramble at the possibilities of what they’ll learn. 

Likely because it was still September, Hermione received a response that afternoon as they got out of their classes. They had a double appointment the very next Monday evening. Neville couldn’t help but wish it never came.

oooP6ooo

(Harry)

“There you are.”

Salazar slowly looked up from the history book. Hannah stood a few feet away. She was looking directly at him. The founder turned to look behind himself. No one else was around. Not that he expected there to be, it was his claimed corner of the library and Helena was off visiting the Ravenclaw tower.

Bubbly warmth floated through his bond with Hogwarts. She was amused at him, again.

“Harry?”

The boy turned back to his cousin, resigned as he realized Hogwarts had dropped the notice-me-not shield. Hopefully she didn’t make a habit of it.

“Yes?” Salazar asked.

She set her hands on her hips and frowned at him. “What are you doing all the way over here? Didn’t you get the memo?”

“Memo,” Salazar slowly repeated the word as he had no idea what she was talking about.

“Didn’t Oliver tell you we’re studying in the Horntail today?” Hannah explained, “He said he had.”

Salazar closed his eyes as he thought through her explanation. “Oliver did say something about that particular breed of dragon, yes. I...may have been distracted during the conversation though.”

His focus had been diverted. (The homework was entirely too easy anyhow. He had plenty of time for diversions.) Now that he had the alert against the spiders up, Salazar wanted to focus on this concept of squibs. He needed to know when the idea had come about. It had to be tied to a shift in culture away from purification rituals and cleansing baths but those were so intrinsic in his understanding of the Mother and tradition he could not imagine losing that but still knowing the Mother. 

Draco had spoken of the Mother, so something had to have survived. Just not what mattered. 

Maybe, Salazar frowned as he internally debated, probably. Otherwise there would be no magicals with cores contaminated so thickly with residual magic they could not access it.—There was the possibility of something else causing this issue but forgetting to purify and cleanse one’s core seemed the more logical conclusion to Salazar.

He looked down at his piles of open books, frown deepening into a glare. Helga had said some rituals had been banned but he had not imagined it had included the purification rituals. He hoped it had not included those rituals because he did not want to imagine almost a thousand years of residual magic clogging up cores of whole sections of the magical community. 

The blonde Hufflepuff closed the reference book Salazar was staring at. “Not the dragon,” she said, drawing him from his thoughts, “the room. Sue was able to reserve it...You do know that all the library study rooms are named after dragons breeds, right?”

He closed and stacked all his books and papers as he accepted his fate. Time for distant family.  (He couldn't truly complain.) “Never actually looked it up.”

“Right,” she said, sounding dubious at his claim, “Are you always in this corner?” she continued to speak, rightfully assuming the answer was yes, “A bit of a loner, aren't you. Not a bad thing but isn’t it a little lonely?” Hannah helpfully picked up some of his books. “I mean, obviously you like working on your own and we all know you are very good at school but don’t think we haven’t noticed how the other Slytherins treat you. Sure, Malfoy and the other first years sort of interact with you sometimes, but you are almost always alone or ignored by them. It’s really terrible.”

“There’s Neville,” Salazar offered as he joined in packing his things.

“Well, yes but he’s in Gryffindor. And you don’t seem that close, really.”

Salazar frowned at that but, after a moment of consideration, grimaced. He hadn’t paid Neville much mind recently.—He blamed the spiders and the squib issue.—The black haired boy looked up to find a worried frown on his cousin’s face and sighed. “Hannah, I’m perfectly fine on my own.”

“Being fine on your own doesn’t mean you should be on your own nor that you want to be.” she countered before she turned and headed through an aisle between bookshelves, “Come on, it’s over this way.”

Salazar followed the girl with a put upon expression. Maybe he should start putting off his homework for moments like these? Would any of them notice he was reading some odd and heavy tomes?

Hannah entered one of the larger study rooms with a cheerful, “I found him!”

A chorus of greetings filled the air as Salazar entered after her. He paused at the sight of the entire Hufflepuff first year class, a number of Ravenclaws, and three upperclassmen, two of which were Gryffindors. Anthony waved Salazar to a free seat by him.

The Horntail room was on the second floor of the library, the opposite side from his study area. It was large enough to house four large tables. An entire wall was covered in thin, floor to ceiling windows similar in style to the Great Hall’s with a border of stained glass. Multiple bright lamps hung over each table.

“Harry, I don’t think you’ve met any of my cousins.” Anthony waved his hand toward the two Gryffindor girls that shared his long facial structure and dark, straight hair. They were clearly sisters as they both had similar dark eyes, and identical smiles and jawline—something Anthony didn’t have. “Emily is a second year and June’s a third year. They agreed to help us with any questions.”

“Nice to meet you Potter,” Emily said with a nod.

June asked, a faint hint of disdain in her voice, “You certainly got the school in a tizzy. What did you do to make your entire house ignore you? Is it because of the hat squeaking when you were sorted?”

Salazar blinked owlishly at the idea that the hat could cause such a reaction. Instead he offered,“No...Snape doesn’t like me.” He didn’t not expand that explanation, not wanting to get into the possible unending war and potential death eaters procreating for the next round of battle.

“Yeah, okay...but why?” she demanded with a faint pout, “We’ve heard about potions class from our first years. I mean, it’s usually bad but nothing like that. The Granger girl was furiously lecturing the rest for days about how to do anything potions related. I think she believed a lack of preparation was the issue.”

“Don’t think she still believes that,” snickered Emily.

Salazar shrugged. He had no idea what Severus Snape’s issue was. Salazar had avoided any more zeros at least. His newest goal was to keep Neville’s potion from exploding every other class. That one, sadly, would take some effort.

June huffed at the lack of anything interesting and turned to another first year, finally focusing on helping the first years instead of interrogating one.

“Potter.” A hand appeared over the book Salazar had flipped open in an attempt to look like he was studying. He looked up and found Kevin, the muggleborn Ravenclaw, leaned over towards him. “Kevin Entwistle!” He flushed as he rushed out, “We were never properly introduced.”

“Kevin,” sighed the eldest Hufflepuff, a prefect if the badge was anything to go by. She turned to Salazar as the founder shook Kevin’s hand. “I’m Annabel. I might have given Kevin a few too many of your adventure books over the years.”

“Annie!” hissed Kevin.

She smirked and shrugged. “Didn’t actually think you’d join me at Hogwarts. I would have made you buy them all yourself if I had known you had magic too.”

“Sorry?” Salazar offered as a prompt to explain.

Kevin was too busy scowling at the girl so Anthony leaned over to him and answered, “They’re siblings.”

Salazar’s emerald eyes sharpened in interest. “Is it common for muggleborns to have magical siblings?”

Muggleborns not being muggleborns added another layer to squibs not being squibs. After all, if the not-squibs were not welcome in the magical society because they could not access their magic, their only option was the muggle society. There they would live and marry and procreate. There their children would grow and follow a similar path. On it would go until the residue, transferred from parents to children to grandchildren (and so on), was weakened enough to allow access to magic once more. 

Annabel turned thoughtful. “You know, that’s a good question.”

Kevin leaned over the table to call out to another Ravenclaw, “Hey Lisa, you got a sibling?”

Lisa shook her head. “No...why?”

Kevin shrugged.

June Goldstein interrupted the various conversations with a sharp ringing sound from her wand, “Alright listen up. We’ve got this room for studying. You’ve got Annabel, Emily, and myself to bounce questions off of. So let’s get cracking!”

The various groups of first years obeyed, for the most part. Salazar searched out where he left off in the book before him. It was a history book which could give him answers about squibs but also be used as a secondary source for his latest history paper. (Though halfway through and he had found zero references to squibs.)

A good hour later, one of the boys interrupted the quiet studying with an explosion of frustration. 

“This makes no sense,” whined Zacharias.

Salazar glanced up from the book, making an effort not to yawn. (This author might be worse than Bagshot. Bagshot could be entertaining at times, at least.)

Annabel stood by the boy with a frustrated frown. “It really isn’t that hard. According to Gamp’s law–”

“We haven’t covered Gamp’s law,” Salazar interrupted as he recognized the transfiguration law. He had read about it the other day but it wasn’t pertinent to their actual homework, no matter how it could be related. “That isn’t discussed until at least fourth year, as I understand it. Our homework is to cover the high level reasoning behind the transformation of inanimate to inanimate objects being simpler than animate to inanimate in relation to the five variables of transfiguration: bodyweight, viciousness, wand power, concentration, and the fifth unknown variable—which has been up for debate amongst transfiguration masters since the 1500s.” His brow furrowed as he turned thoughtful. “Though the debate itself was on a broader scale...I personally find that our transfiguration theories are over complicating the entire process.”

Zacharias leaned across the table and towards Salazar. The founder twitched as the boy accidentally knocked over an inkwell but Susan caught it before it spilled. Zacharias didn’t seem to notice almost spilling ink all over the table as he asked, frustration still obvious, “What do you recommend, then? I mean, I’m not asking you to tell me the answer. I just don’t get it. What does body weight matter? And viciousness is bloody strange. Why do we need to be violent or cruel to get transfiguration to work?”

“Honestly, the word choice isn’t the best. It’s not so much violence but a manifestation of your desire through an act of forcefulness.” Salazar offered up. Seeing the boy’s continued uncertainty, the founder asked, “Do you understand our charm theorems?”

“I–yes. But how does that help?” Zacharias asked, frustrated.

“We’re working on transfiguration,“ agreed Earnest, clearly just as frustrated as he stabbed his quill into the parchment in front of him, “Not charms.”

The older girls were content to let Salazar try his hand. Curiosity gleamed in the prefect’s gaze while the two younger girls had turned thoughtful. Salazar paused as he realized he had a whole group of his fellow first years listening in now, too.

He looked over the group before he explained how charms and transfiguration were connected. (In for a penny, in for a pound he thought in amusement.) Magic was magic; Salazar didn’t see why the transfiguration masters had tried to recreate the wheel, so to speak. “Take the charm theorems we’ve covered so far and try to tie them to the transfiguration ones. Charms require willpower or desire, magical force, and imagination. You could say that charm’s willpower is transfiguration’s viciousness, magical force is wand power, and imagination is the combination of concentration and the fifth unknown variable. The only additional aspect is body weight which is required for a successful transfiguration because matter can neither be created nor destroyed. It must go somewhere and come from someplace,” Salazar explained, “Does that help at all?”

“Oh,“ Earnest said softly. A few other children muttered to themselves as they considered the explanation.

Zacharias straightened up with a faint, thoughtful frown. “I think so...Could you look over my essay? Let me know if I got the right idea?”

“Of course.” Salazar nodded. 

“How come you’re a Slytherin?” demanded June with a huff, her arms folding across her chest, “That was so Ravenclaw. Right?” She looked around the room for support.

Megan helpfully remarked over her books, a hand twirling a curl of her afro about a finger as she leaned her chair back, book in the other hand, “The Gray Lady thought he was a Ravenclaw. He was adamant that he is a Slytherin though.” She tilted her chair forward and dropped it back onto its front legs before she gave Salazar a look. “Not sure why.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being Slytherin.” Salazar countered.

One of the Gryffindors snorted.

Emerald eyes narrowed onto the girl and he demanded, “You think that’s untrue? Godric and Salazar were best friends, brothers through thick and thin. Do you honestly think they would care for the animosity between their apprentice-houses?”

“Oh, come on!” countered Emily, “Everyone knows they were against each other. Slytherin left because he hated muggleborns and Gryffindor protected them.”

Salazar sighed at the claim and pulled his book closer. He shouldn’t have said anything.—He had never left the school. He had died.—He didn’t hate muggleborns, hadn’t even considered such blood related concepts in his day. His focus had been protecting the children. (Some children had been raised to see magic as evil and something against their god, something made of sin, something to destroy...They had been forced to defend the other children from those poor, brainwashed ones.)

Emily leaned over the table to get closer. “You don’t believe me! You can ask their portraits! There’s three of Gryffindor and at least one of Slytherin around.”

“Portraits?” Salazar repeated, gaze snapped up from his book to stare incredulously at the girl. “When were these portraits created? Do they talk?

“Of course they talk. And obviously, they were created during their lives.”

“Impossible,” Salazar snapped back. He leaned over the table towards her. “The enchantments for moving portraits, something that must be embedded into the canvas before any paint is placed, was not created until the late fourteenth century.”1

Emily stepped back from the table and gave Salazar a confused look. “Your point?”

The founder scowled at his history book and slammed it closed with a muttered, “A failure of a history class…” He looked up at the girl. “Hogwarts Keep was built in the eleventh century in the fashion of the stone keeps of Normandy. It was completed a few years before the Normandy invasion of 1066. In other words, Godric and Salazar lived in the eleventh century. They would have had to be over three hundred years old to have a moving portrait built for them. People, even magical people, rarely lived more than a century back then. That means the portraits you are talking about are neither physical representations of the two founders nor possess any reputable personality characteristics of them.”

Salazar leaned forward as he continued his cool, quiet rant, “If you had bothered to utilize this library to your full capacity and looked up matters you know nothing about, you would have learned that there are multiple forms of enchantments that can be used to animate a portrait but all must be placed before the painting itself. Two options allow the painter to embed preferred personality characteristics and phrases into the painting’s occupant. This was likely used in the creation of these paintings. They represent the painter’s perceived notions of the founder, not the truth of that person.”

Silence stretched for a long moment. Then Hannah asked, purposely shifting the argument. “Soo, why’d you look up how moving paintings were made?”

Salazar leaned back in his chair and gave his cousin a deadpanned looked. “Obviously to find out how much paintings perceive. They’re all over the school.”

Annabel snorted back a laugh. “ You looked it up to find out if they could tattle on you ? Merlin, you are such a Slytherin! For a second there I was really questioning the sorting hat because, really, but you are so Slytheriny!”

“Slytherin is not a description.” huffed Salazar even as he felt a faint blush heat his cheeks. He desperately ignored the fact that it technically had been a description, a thousand years ago.

The Gryffindor girls relaxed. Emily offered a sheepish grin.

Justin called out with a hand to his chest, “Oh to Slytherin or not to Slytherin, ‘tis the question!”

Salazar rolled his eyes at the children as they all laughed and sniggered at the rendition, the muggleborns connecting the joke better than the purebloods. This was why he worked alone. 

He helpfully muttered, loud enough so the children would hear and laugh some more, “Not a verb or state of being, either.”

Grins were shared amongst the large study group and things settled back down. The Gryffindor girls each quietly offered apologies. Then Salazar was left to his own devices once more.

The reincarnate stared at his closed history book for a few minutes. The rest of the children returned to their own studies. Salazar pushed his glass up with a sigh. He had no desire to read more history. It just made him want to exorcise the history professor.

He dug through his satchel’s book pocket. What to read?

One of his school books caught his attention. He had forgotten he had the text. They hadn’t opened it once for defense. Salazar pulled out Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them. 2 Maybe this book would enlighten him to what the giant spiders were. None of the books on native creatures had helped.

Salazar paused as he suddenly recalled the dead baby spider. He still had a spider carcass to dissect. He frowned as he considered the potential rate of decomposition. Mipsy likely placed it under a status charm. Hopefully.

He flipped through the thick book, found a page with details about a Shezmu and searched the immediate pages ahead for an entry for spiders of any size. That was unsuccessful, though Salazar spent a good thirty minutes distracted by the various, strange creatures and didn’t realize the amount of time he wasted until he reached the Ts. At that, he frowned at the book and flipped to the index.

“What you looking for?” asked Anthony quietly.

The founder paused and looked over at the boy. His great uncle, or such, was the author of the book Salazar recalled. “Do you know anything about giant spiders?”

Anthony cringed. “Eww, no. You might want to look in the Phylum Arthropoda section...And...one of my cousins might know.” At Salazar turning toward the Gryffindors, he added, “Not them. Rolf might know, though. He takes after Uncle Newt a little too much—mum says that….Er, don’t say anything about that, yeah?”

“Alright.” Salazar offered, amused.

“I’ll see when he’s free, shall I?”

“Please.”

oooP7ooo

(Neville)

Hermione dragged Neville up to the sixth floor where all the various clubs could reserve rooms. The Spellmanship Guild was apparently large enough and old enough to have a permanent room in #604. It was a large corner room with floor to ceiling windows. A sitting area framed a fireplace. A long table sat across from the door but the rest of the room was separated by elaborately carved wooden cubicles. 

Two cheerful, identical red heads sat by the fire when they came in. Hermione’s curiosity visibly died at the sight. From what Neville had seen, she didn’t particularly care for Fred and George and these two had a fair resemblance to them.

The first to speak didn’t help matters with his first words, “Firsties! Welcome, welcome to our corner of the castle. I’m Tristan Prewett and this is my brother Mark.”

Mark rose and offered his hand. Neville, remembering his training, took it and shared a firm shake. Prewett, if he recalled correctly, was one of the Houses. Pater Longbottom would be furious if Neville failed to act properly. 

“So,” Tristan continued to explain, his tone shifted to a more serious tone which relaxed Hermione. “I’m the guildmaster, so to speak.”

“The top crup,” Mark added, ruining the serious moment and gaining a glare from Hermione.

Tristan rolled his eyes at his brother, “Yes, right.” He turned back to them both, “We try to pair everyone up proper like. Firsties are usually given a third or fourth year as a mentor. That said, if you don’t care for the bloke we pair you with, tell us. The mentor can also inform us if they don’t feel it’s a good fit.” 

He clapped his hands together with a cheerful grin. “This time around I’ll take Hermione and Mark’ll take Neville. We just want to hear about your concerns and interests; we’ll ask about all the various classes and your homework; and then we’ll work together to decide on who to pair you with. We won’t share personal details with each other nor will we share with your mentor. That’s up to you to share as you wish. Sound good? Questions?”

Neville shook his head even as Hermione shot her hand up into the air. Mark smirked at his brother and dropped an arm over Neville’s shoulders. “I’ll just take this little guy here then. Have fun!”

Mark drew Neville into the maze of cubicles until they reached one Mark entered. Neville paused at the entrance as he noticed the sudden quiet. 

“They’re all charmed for privacy. We’re not here to air everyone’s personal matters,” Mark explained. 

“Right.”

The older boy pushed one of two chairs over to Neville before he leaned against his desk. Neville reluctantly sank into the plush chair. The two sat quietly staring at each other for a moment before the older boy finally spoke up. “So–”

“Hermione set this up,” Neville interrupted.

The redhead slowly blinked as he processed the implications. “Did she ask you before doing so?”

“She’s trying to help,” Nevillie said, voice becoming small, “but no one has ever been able to help.”

Mark nudged the second chair about with his foot so it turned towards Neville and sank into the seat. “House business, right?”

Neville’s gaze dropped to the floor and he nodded. Silence fell over them both. Neville tried not to think of everything done in the name of House business, in the name of proving his magic and worth.

“Pater Prewett completed many...tests on Father, back when he was young,” Mark finally said, “Father had been a magical twin—it’s common in our House.—Aunt Ginevra died from the pox when she was two…” His mouth became dry as Mark spoke. “Magical twins are conceived with a natural bond between each other, you know? When a bond breaks…” Neville slowly peeked up at the older boy. “...well, you've heard the stories, I’m sure...Father was put through multiple tests to determine if he would have a stable mind and stable core as he grew.”

This wasn’t something said outside of the House and yet Mark was saying it. Neville’s gaze shifted behind the boy. A picture of red heads waved at him from a pin board. Mark and Tristan stood with a little redheaded girl between them. Their parents beamed behind the three. Mark’s father was stocky but thin (and sort of odd in that contrast, as if he should not be as thin as he was). His hair was a little limp and thinning. 

“Lost his magic twin?” repeated Neville as his thoughts turned over the stories of broken bonds. It was like losing half of yourself, according to the stories. The half that survived was never the same. Some fell to drink, some fell to dark magics, and some simply fell and never got back up. (Very few stories whispered of the ones strong enough to stand on their own but those also existed.)

Neville couldn’t help but think it worse than being a Squib. He would lose his family and his few friends. The magical world would be closed to him and he’d have to learn about the muggle world, figure out how to live there and find a way to support himself. But he would be whole, wouldn’t he?

Something told him that there was no comparison. 

“Yes.” Mark answered, devoid of emotion. 

He looked back at the older boy and found tears shining in Mark’s brown eyes. Neville’s words escaped in a whisper, barely a breath, but they felt like they vibrated off the cubicle’s walls. “I’m a squib.”

Mark frowned. “You’re not–”

“Nothing’s ever worked!” Neville exploded out before he caught himself. The cubicle was suddenly too hot, too stifling. He wanted to leave. Mark’s next words stopped him.

“Nothing?” Mark repeated; he leaned over and rested a hand onto Neville’s shoulder, “You’ve been sorted, Neville. That means something.”

Neville shook his head, the hand grounding him and keeping him in his seat, and picked his example carefully, “Not even the toddler toys ever worked.”

The redhead frowned, turned about to his desk, and raffled through his things before he pulled out an actual toddler toy. Neville recognized it as one of the simple lighting toys. In Mark’s hand it already responded by lighting various bright colored images up by pulling magic from the redhead’s core. Mark tapped a lit image of a kitten and the kitten winked an eye at them before it curled up to sleep and lost it’s light. Another image lit up after. 

“Try it,” Mark offered.

He reluctantly took the toy. Within seconds of leaving Mark’s hand, the lit images faded back to their inactive forms. None of them relit as it rested in Neville’s hand. Minutes passed and tears welled up, causing the world to blur. Nothing ever worked.

Mark pulled the toy from his hand and asked, his tone held a note of care as if he was afraid to set Neville off into helpless balling. “What about your wand?”

Neville shook his head in a jerking motion. “Nothing works.”

“Okay.” Mark set the toy to the side and leaned over towards Neville, clasping his hands. “I’ll look into this. I can even visit my pater and his library and look into this.”

“You’d do that?” choked out Neville.

“‘O’course,” Mark insisted, “but...it’s not something a mentor can be assigned to help with, you know? You mind if I go over the questions I’m meant to ask, see if there is anything else we’d be able to help with in the meantime?”

Neville frowned and slowly shook his head. 

Mark frowned back. “It could help–”

“No.” Neville pushed his chair back until it hit the cubicle wall as he countered, stubborn and worried, “There’s no point if nothing works! And-and...I don’t want another person involved.” The possibility of being ridiculed remained unsaid. 

oooP8ooo

Relief rushed through Neville when he found Harry quietly eating at the Gryffindor table at breakfast the next day. He said nothing about his worries. Harry was here. That had to mean Harry really was his friend. Maybe Harry didn’t care about Neville being a Squib. (He probably hadn’t been told yet.)

The green eyed boy took one long look at Neville and proceeded to inform the Gryffindor, “I was thinking I’d go to the loch after herbology. It’s much too nice to be stuck inside.“

“Uh...yeah?” Neville said after a moment's thought, more than a little confused at the plan. “I’m done after herbology.”

“Excellent,” Harry responded before sipping his mug of tea, “It’s perfect weather to relax outside, maybe take a snooze.” 

“You’re going to take a nap?” demanded Seamus with clear disgust at the idea, “You’re not a toddler.”

Neville turned red and ducked his head. The blond knew exactly why Harry had brought up a nap. It had been nice that he had noticed, even if it had taken a while. Someone besides the mirror had finally realized he wasn’t getting enough sleep. Someone real had cared enough to do something about it. 

But, of course, now Harry was being ridiculed because of his inabilities. 

The-Boy-Who-Lived raised a brow at Seamus and stated, “Naps help the soul.”

Neville looked back up at his friend, a little dumbfounded. 

“The soul?” repeated Seamus as he shared a look with Dean.

“That is absolutely ridiculous,” huffed Hermione as she pushed her way into the conversation, physically shuffling down the bench to join their group as she was at it, “It’s as bad as you feeling Godricy. What are you really trying to do?”

Harry blinked lazily as he looked around them all. He set his cup of tea down before he explained, “It is Autumn but the day isn’t too cold. With a few charms and a blanket or two, it would be a nice spot for a nap. And we’ll get some sun before the days grow too short.” Green eyes locked onto Hermione. “I also happen to feel a little Helga-like today. A good Helga day means blankets, naps, and hot ale-eh..chocolate.”

“Why stop there?” interrupted one of the Weasley twins.

“We could have a picnic.” added the other.

Neville stared at the older boys in bemusement. He turned back to his Slytherin friend and paused. Harry looked thoughtful.

“You cannot be serious!” said Hermione, “You’ve class. All of you!”

“Neville is done after herbology,” Harry countered. 

“You’ve class, though!” she snapped back.

Neville found his eyes bouncing back and forth as Harry wrinkled his nose and countered, “It’s just history. We all sleep in history anyhow. Might as well take one in more comfortable accommodations. And I can set an alarm to wake before transfiguration.”

“You are trying to get him in trouble!” she cried, pointing her finger at him as she rose and leaned over the table. “That’s what you’re doing.”

“Ah, come on–” said a Weasley twin. Neville silently dubbed the boy ‘twin one’ since it appeared the Weasley twins would continue to butt into the conversation.

‘Twin two’ continued the sentence, “it’s just a nap.”

“Our soul needs naps.” agreed ‘twin one’.

Neville closed his eyes as Harry helpfully expanded upon that statement. “It’s more our minds, bodies, and magic require adequate sleep. Particularly as we are growing to adulthood. If one doesn’t receive the sleep needed during the night, one may want to consider naps. Of course, even if you have plenty of nightly sleep, a nap could be needed. You do not want to physically, mentally, nor magically exhaust oneself...Many believe your magic is intrinsically connected to the spirit, the soul.”

The twins nodded alongside Harry’s explanation the entire time. ‘Twin one’ helpfully concluded, “Hence naps are good for your soul.”

Hermione gave an interesting sort of screech and stomped away. The twins high-fived each other. ‘Twin two’ turned to Harry and Neville and announced, “We’ll get the picnic together if you get the blankets and all.”

“Very well,” Harry agreed before he rose to leave. Neville jumped up to follow.

As they headed out together, Neville remarked, “I don’t get them.”

“Who?”

“The twins,” Neville explained, “Why’d they join us for a nap of all things?”

Harry hummed for a moment before he gave a slight shrug. “They don’t trust me.”

Neville stopped and stared at his friend. “What?”

The green eyed boy explained with a slight smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, “Whenever I sit at the Gryffindor table, they sit nearby. They’ve actually moved seats to shift closer. They make it look like they decided to join a different group of friends so it isn’t terribly obvious.” Harry shook his head in amusement. 

The blond frowned as he headed towards astronomy and Harry followed. “But why?”

Harry shrugged once more. “I’m Slytherin. Their brother, Ronald, took some time to accept me also.”

oooP9ooo

Neville followed Harry after herbology and they found the Weasley twins settling a large basket down in a sunny spot by the lake. Harry pulled a whole array of blankets and pillows from his satchel. He even had spikes to hold the largest down.

Once it was all laid out, the twins handed out the food. Neville settled in and found the entire setup surprisingly warm. The food was good. The older boys had even procured warm butterbeer from somewhere.

He could enjoy this, sitting around with friends on a warm day with food. Jokes and teasing passed between the Slytherin and the Weasley twins before they all claimed pillows. Apparently, none of them had been joking about taking a nap. 

Neville’s pleasure twisted into nerves. He didn’t want anyone finding out about his nightmares but he claimed a spot. He had never made any noise, that he knew of, when waking up. Of course, Dean and Seamus might just be heavy sleepers. 

Surprisingly, it didn’t take all that long for him to fall asleep. With his mind running with so many thoughts it was odd but the blond fell asleep before he could wonder at how it was so easy. Another time, another day he might have noticed the wooden spikes used to hold the main blanket down were covered in softly glowing runes.

A little, tiny redheaded baby squirmed in his arms. Neville stood stock still as he stared down at the naked baby. He had never been this close to one before. He had certainly never held one.

“She’s named Teasagh.” Neville forced his gaze up and found a familiar red headed man standing before him. “She’ll be your responsibility once she’s a little older, like Eileen is. You’ll watch over her. You’ll protect her.”

“She needs the Mother’s Bath,” called someone. The red headed man reclaimed the baby and guided Neville into a familiar clearing. 

A woman lounged against an oak tree. She was covered in sweat and exhausted. The mother.

Two other women and a tiny little redheaded girl sat around her. Neville glanced at the little girl. Eileen. 

Something inside him was absolutely certain of those facts even though he had never seen either woman or child before. (They were familiar like the man, the details just escaped him.)

The brunet man and silver eyed boy came forward. The baby was handed over. Neville watched as Teasagh was smeared with some type of mud. Then she was placed in a shallow bowl. Chants from the brunet and boy slowly filled the clearing. Magic swirled, gold and warm. It seeped into a horn held by the man. 

The silver eyed boy carefully lifted the babe so her head was higher than the rest of her. The horn was tipped and golden liquid spilled out. Neville stared in wonder as the golden, glowing water was splashed over the child’s head until she lay in a small pool. 

A cloth was dipped and used to wash the rest of her body. The reddish skin she had faded to a pale, freckled tone. A soft internal glow pulsed from her abdomen, glowing brighter and brighter as she was purified and cleansed; the chanting from the two flowed and ebbed within the clearing.

Finally it was complete. Teasagh was lifted from the bath and handed to her mother. The golden liquid faded from the bowl, leaving no sign it had ever been present.

Wonder filled Neville as he looked up and met silver eyes. 

Neville jerked awake with a gasp. Blood red and silver. It was always blood red and silver that filled his sight upon awakening. 

Harry made a startled sound as he, having somehow shifted into using Neville as a pillow, ended up knocked off and awakened by the blond’s sudden movement. For a second Neville thought Harry’s eyes were silver. His hair was an odd gold, turned brown.—Harry had green eyes and black hair, Neville corrected himself even as his heart jumped at the fading illusion before him. For a second, it seemed more right for Harry to have silver and gold. (It couldn’t be a good thing that he was seeing things now.)

The blond struggled up to his knees in a panic. He rubbed his eyes and his mind finally caught up with him. Harry’s features shifted back to his green and black. And yet there was something on the tip of his tongue, something itching in the back of his mind. 

He couldn’t remember. 

Why could he never remember?

He was such a failure. 

Gran would never be proud of him. He would never meet her expectations. Neville would never be like his da. He would always be a failure, a squib playing at being a wizard. 

And one day someone would realize all that.

Neville jerked in surprise and realized Harry Potter was shaking him. He looked up and met emerald eyes. Worry glowed in those eyes. 

“Are you alright?” The-Boy-Who-Lived asked.

His gut twisted at the concern. Harry Potter was his friend, was concerned for him, had looked out for him. He was wasting the famous boy’s time. Someone else should have his attention. 

Why would Harry care? What about Neville had caught his attention? How could Harry think him worthy of friendship?

The startled look that crossed Harry’s face made Neville realize that he had said at least one of those questions out loud. “Everyone deserves a friend,” the black haired boy finally stated, squeezing Neville’s shoulder reassuringly, “Most of the time you don’t get to choose, Neville. You get to choose to keep the friends you’re given but not who you receive in the first place.”

“But,” Neville whispered, “One of us had to decide to be the other’s friend. You chose me. Why? You could have anyone . You’re The-Boy-Who-Lived!”

Harry looked lost for a long moment. “There’s never any one reason people become friends.”

“I don’t believe you,” Neville countered as everything began to bubble to the surface. He pulled away from Harry’s hands and tugged a pillow into his lap. He twisted a corner as he choked out, “You’re the only friend I have, the only one that doesn’t look at me and see the truth.”

“Truth?”

“I’m a squib!” snapped Neville with tears blurring his gaze.—He had tossed the pillow somewhere. Part of him noticed a sound of surprise come from wherever he had tossed it.—Something inside him untwisted and the growing sense of fear and self-hate settled. Acceptance uncurled through his being, soothing all the other feelings. His gaze dropped to the ground and he closed his eyes as he felt the weight slid off.

Harry finally knew. Now he’d leave Neville, just like everyone else. (Mark hadn’t left, had he?)

“No.”

Neville jerked his head up, eyes popped open. “Wha-I am! My family has been trying to get me to show my magic for ages and it’s never worked!”

Memory stabbed through him. He had been dropped from the window. He had bounced. “Except—I bounced when they dropped me out of the upper level window...But that was one time .” 

“They dropped you from a window?” Harry hissed out in fury, “Who dropped you? How old were you?”

Neville stared, mouth slightly open. Harry’s green gaze seemed to almost glow. His expression had shuttered into a blank state that just screamed danger. 

He couldn’t recall a time someone cared enough to be outraged at it all. It was House business. Anything went as long as it helped keep the House magical. Whispers of squib children being tossed out or being killed outright were only that, whispers. No one could ever prove otherwise. (He sometimes wondered which he would have been if the Hogwarts letter hadn’t come by his birthday.)

“Neville?”

The blond found another pillow to cling to as he whispered, “It doesn’t matter.”

Harry’s jaw twitched as he struggled with himself for a long moment. He hissed out, “It matterss. No child sshould be sso harmed. Family iss ssuppossed to protect. Not harm. Never harm.”

Neville hugged the pillow to himself and he shook his head.

Shoulders drooped and Harry leaned toward Neville without touching him. When he spoke his voice was soft, his tone kind. “You are magical, Neville. I know you are. When I caught you during flying practice, I did something considered terribly rude.–” 

Neville peeked up at his friend in confusion. “What does this ha–”

“I connected with your magic,” Harry explained, not letting Neville interrupt, “The only way I know to take control of your broom was to claim the magical connections you had with it. To do that I brushed against your magic. From that feeling I...chose to delve deeper. I didn’t have to, I had already gained control of the broom but...the feel of your magic made me curious so I rudely delved deeper.”

Another voice cut in as Harry paused. “You’re not explaining everything.” 

Neville followed Harry’s gaze as it shifted towards the voice and found the Weasley twins. He had forgotten they were present.

“No,” Harry finally agreed before he turned back to Neville, “I’m not but I will. I just...The point is you have magic. You are magical. Do not doubt that. Never doubt that.”

Neville stared blankly at Harry. He squashed the faintest sense of hope. There was no possibility he had magic. Harry was just a first year like him. He couldn’t possibly know things his family nor all the healers and experts brought in didn’t. 

That meant Harry was lying. He was a Slytherin. Had Harry been pulling Neville along for some nasty prank? This prank? 

A large part of him whispered no. He ignored it. (He knew better than to listen to such hope.)

The Weasley twins must have realized that fact. How stupid he’d been. Neville backed away from Harry as he realized the truth. 

More tears welled. He should have known better than to hope for anything. He wasn’t good enough for a friend let alone The-Boy-Who-Lived. Gran had warned him of the Slytherin house too. (He hadn’t believed her for some reason. He couldn’t recall why now.)

“You’re not a squib, Neville,” Harry stated, a faint hint of panic escaped into his tone as Neville backed away until he was between the twins, “You aren’t. I haven’t met a single squib yet.”

“Can you prove it?” asked Weasley ‘twin two’ as the two Gryffindors shifted to let Neville between them.

Neville looked up in confusion at that. Prove it? There was nothing to prove. Neville had known the truth forever.

“And how can you say you haven’t met any?” countered ‘twin one’ with a scowl, “You had detention with Filch. He’s a squib.”

Neville turned from the Weasley twins to look at Harry. Emerald eyes seemed hard as they locked onto Neville’s own hazel. “You are not a squib. Filch is no squib either. There are many ways to prove it but you have seen your proof. Proof you should be able to believe.”

“Like what?” demanded ‘twin two’.

Harry answered without looking away from Neville. “Hogwarts is protected by magic to keep muggles away. It’s an illusion and compulsion. A muggle will see ruins and be directed elsewhere.”

“That’s for muggles,” scoffed ‘twin one’.

Finally Harry looked away from Neville with scoff of his own, “Squibs are muggles, true squibs. The definition of a muggle is a person without magic. That is the exact same definition of a squib. The only difference is who their parents are but who those parents are mean nothing towards their ability to connect and use magic. No magic means no magical core which means squibs would be treated the same as muggles with this illusion.”

Harry turned back to Neville. “You can see Hogwarts, you have entered it, and you have been sorted within its school body. You have, by your own words, used magic in a dire situation to save your own life. You have used a broom. The magic of a broom requires the user to possess a magical core. The moving stairs of Hogwarts require a magical core to properly track a person walking on them which helps trigger the shifting of said stairs.”

The Slytherin leaned towards Neville with grim determination. “You. Are. Magical.”

Neville stared as he tried to find an argument against Harry’s examples. He found none, except, “Why can’t I use magic then? Nothing works!

The green eyed boy seemed to soften and he took on a mildly saddened expression. “That is likely, partly, caused by what I sensed when connecting to your magic.”

Fear spiked through Neville. “I’m damaged,” he whispered. His thoughts jumped to the whispers behind his back. His parents had been tortured to insanity. It was thought he had been tortured too. 

Harry shifted forward and grasped Neville’s shoulders. The twins didn’t stop him. Neville leaned into the touch, into the physical form of his hope. “I cannot promise anything—the rituals and magic done to you may have caused some type of damage. But...” His hands squeezed Neville’s shoulders slightly. “But part of the issue is the layers of residual buildup.”

“What?” asked one of the twins, both were no longer hostile. A glance at the two showed both with curious expressions written across their faces as they stared at Harry. Confusion was prominent. And wariness—Harry had been right that the two didn’t trust him.

“When you cast magic, an opposing reaction occurs...or something of the like. Some magic during spellcasting stays within your core and builds up. You cannot use it, as it’s already been twisted to your will...or, it’s residue you inherited from your parents and has been twisted by their will...or your grandparents will, and so forth...or even residue from another casting magic upon you,” explained Harry before he frowned. 

The green eyed boy dropped his hands from Neville’s shoulders and sank back onto the ground to sit amongst the discarded pillows and blankets. “There is a proper word to describe it...Awryrdian...labem...contagio?”

The last word caused the three Gryffindors to make slight sounds. Neville because he had been given some Latin lessons. The twins, likely because of their years learning spells at Hogwarts. But the word made little sense, at least with what it brought to mind.

“Contagious?” offered ‘twin two’, voicing the English word that they all had thought of.

Neville settled back onto the picnic blanket himself. His panic slowly faded to a decent mix of confusion, fear, and hope. He tried not to think too hard on Harry being eleven. (How could an eleven year old know things his family and all the experts hadn’t? But Harry’s explanation made so much sense.)

“What?” Harry’s head jerked over to ‘twin two’. “No...well, a part is pulled off a mother onto the babe during labor…and some is transferred from the father during...vamm!” Harry paused, saw ‘twin two’’s expression and helplessly offered, “Talawuth?”

“How many languages do you know?” asked ‘twin two’. Neville glanced over to the redhead and saw an impressed look. 

It was impressive. Neville had no idea what languages Harry was speaking either. One had been Latin. They all seemed vaguely familiar though. 

Harry helpfully made a face at him and started muttering to himself, too quiet for them to understand. Or at least that’s what it sounded like to Neville since all he could hear was slight hissing. The twins stiffened at the sound though and tugged Neville back from the Slytherin once more.

Finally Harry made a slight noise and announced, “Residue is close enough. You wouldn’t understand the word I’m looking for anyway...It’s not the best description, though I’ve been calling it that for years...I can’t believe I’ve forgotten the technical word...”

“So…” ‘Twin one’ started to speak but paused and glanced down at Neville.

“Neville has a… residue?” offered the second twin.

Harry grimaced, “Definitely not the best word...but yes. Perhaps–” The green eyed boy gave Neville a long look. “–I could show you instead.”

“Can you show all of us?” countered ‘twin two’.

“No.” Harry countered right back. “I will not have children with no idea what they are doing anywhere near another’s magical core. I can show you your own, though.”

The twins shared a long look and seemed to be having a silent debate between themselves. Neville chose to follow his instincts and his hopes. “Alright.”

Harry smiled in relief at him before the slightest hint of confusion flickered across his expression for a second. The green eyed boy shook his head slightly, pulled his robe and Hufflepuff yellow undershirt sleeves up, and offered his hands. “Grasp my forearms. Don’t mind the bug bites. I’ll need to grasp your forearms also.”

Neville pulled his sleeves up before following Harry’s orders. “I’ve got some bug bite too.”

Harry nodded at the warning. He continued the instructions as they grasped each other’s forearms, “Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths. Focus on your heartbeat, or mine—whichever you can feel. Empty your thoughts of anything besides the heartbeat. Let any thought that comes to mind pass, do not cling to it. Do not fight the tugging feel you’ll receive in a minute.”

He obeyed. It was surprisingly easy to achieve, though one of the twin’s warning grievous bodily harm to Harry if anything happened to Neville did distract him for a moment. But that only gave a warmth in his chest and helped remove the last hesitation he had at the idea.

It also helped him ignore the quiet little voice in the back of his mind asking why and how Harry Potter knew what he was doing.

A moment later and he felt the tugging. Neville didn’t fight it. He felt a shift. The light filtering through his eyelids changed.

“Open your eyess.”  

Neville obeyed. 

A swirling stream of something floated before him. Dark colors, blacks and grays mixed with sickly reds and purples and blues, swirled in a lazy circle. Spikes of vibrant light shot through where the swirl had parted. It was a sunrise. The painting of the sky at dusk. Beautiful and wonderful and so very sad all at once. It reminded Neville of the astronomy images Professor Sinstra had started to show them. The ones of faraway galaxies recent studies of the sky had revealed actually imparted some influence on the earth’s magics.

Neville had found it fascinating as, for instance, the Andromeda galaxy influences the moon flower’s potency. It had been estimated for years, centuries, that the moon was the cause but no one had been able to find a definitive, consistent relationship. There were talks about changing the flower’s name to better indicate the newly found connection but...

He was distracting himself.

Neville was attempting to ignore the twisted, disgusting feeling he was receiving from the swirl. It was wrong. It was so wrong . Beautiful as it was, all of it felt terrible.

He could understand Harry’s frustration at finding a proper word. Residue was so mild compared to the truth. It was a corruption that clung around the center, with only the spears of vibrant light  releasing any sense of comfort.

“Go to one of the sspikess of light,” ordered a voice, “Do not touch the taint.”

Neville obeyed once more. A whimper escaped and tears welled as warmth, rightness, a hug from a dear, lost friend wrapped around him as he stepped into one of the spikes of light. His eyes fluttered shut at the feeling. He was warmed by the magic wrapping around him. His magic, it was his magic. Neville wrapped an arm around himself in an attempt to cling to it.

He forced his eyes open and up. Golds and oranges and reds peeked through the vile taint wrapped around it. It was like he was staring into the sun or a fire. 

“We can remove the ressidue,” offered the voice, “It will take time, posssibly yearss. We can do it, though.”

“Yes,” Neville agreed, “Whatever it takes.”

The blond turned to Harry to say more—there was so much to say, so much he had no words to express. (He. Was. Magical.) 

But it wasn’t Harry Potter he turned to, not quite. A man stood before Neville. His hair was a strange combination of Harry’s black mess of curls and waves and tight curls confused between gold and brown. He was both an adult and an eleven year old. It was an odd reflection, a strange continuous shift where he was both and neither. And his eyes—his eyes were emerald but silver.

Silver.

Pain exploded across Neville as blood red and silver filled his sight. An echo of pleas filled his thoughts, reverberated around him. You cannot die! Stay with me. You cannot die!

Neville grabbed his head with a groan. Distantly he could hear Harry Potter—Harry—Sally

(He knew Sally. Sally was dead.)

oooPooo

Chapter Text

Chapter Nine

oooP1ooo

(Harry)

“What did you do?” demanded one of the twins.

Salazar ignored them as he knelt over Neville. The boy was unconscious and trembling. Salazar reached out and pressed a hand to the boy’s chest. He pressed his other hand to Neville’s forehead and concentrated. The little Gryffindor’s magic was fluctuating. His thoughts were racing and splintering.

What was happening?

A hand yanked him back by the collar. Salazar fell onto his butt and found his legs entangled in blankets. He glared up through his askew glasses and found a redhead glaring down at him, wand pointed at his forehead. The other twin stepped between him and Neville. Fire seemed to glow in their eyes. They reminded him so much of Godric in that moment.

“What. Did. You. Do. To. Him?” demanded the more vocal of the two twins, the one Salazar was almost certain was Fred. He was also the one with his wand in Salazar face, holding the founder by the collar.

Salazar clenched his jaw in frustration and forced himself to take a deep breath to calm his nerves. The children didn’t know what they were doing. 

“Nothing,” Salazar answered, “Now move.”

The twins clearly didn’t believe him. Their hard expressions didn’t change and drawn wands stayed pointed steadily at his face. Neither of them twitched from their protective position.

“I didn’t do anything,” he insisted as frustration slipped into his voice, “I sswear it.”

“Now wha’ yeh doin’?” demanded a new voice, an adult’s voice. A very large man appeared behind the Weasley twins and checked over Neville.

“He did something to Neville, Hagrid!” insisted, possibly, George.

Hagrid scooped Neville up with a firm, “Come on, ter the Hospital win’. The Headmaster’ll hear ‘bout this.”

Salazar was yanked up to his feet by Fred. Both twins grasped under his arm and half carried, half dragged him after the lumbering, giant of a man. A feeling of concern and questioning filtered across his bond with Hogwarts before an image of Mipsy flashed through his mind. The House elf would clean up their mess. Which, honestly, wasn’t exactly a priority at the moment. 

Salazar wondered if Hogwarts’s response to him being assaulted would always be to clean up the mess left behind. At least she’d stay clean, he guessed...Maybe it would extend to any bodies he needed removed. Not that he was planning on murdering anyone but it's just not something usually planned.

A few students startled at their procession. Salazar watched two children bolt ahead through the courtyard. Most just stood there whispering. He could imagine their mutters— The Daily Prophet was right, Harry Potter is a dark lord in the making!

“I can walk.” Salazar finally snapped. A shudder rocked through the two redheads and Salazar was dropped. He tugged his robe straight with a glare at the Weasley twins before he allowed them to stalk on either of his sides as they followed Hagrid. 

The walk cooled the two redheads’ anger and George sent him uncertain glances while Fred avoided looking at him, clenching at his wand in a white knuckled grip the entire time. Salazar was too irritated and concerned for Neville to care to dissect the interplay and guess at what was going on in the two’s heads but embarrassment didn’t quite fit.

Professor McGonagall met them just outside the Great Hall. She stared judgingly over her glasses at them. (She did it very well. Salazar wondered if he could learn to do that with his own. He probably needed non-circular glasses first.—And height.) Her gaze swept over to the giant man. “Hagrid?”

“The Weasley boys were pointin’ their wands at Harry and said he did somethin’ ter this little guy.” Hagrid explained as she fell into step with them. Students dodged out of the way as they headed to the stairwell. “Takin’ him ter the hospital win’ for a check up and them ter the headmaster.”

Hogwarts helpfully moved one of her staircases to the ground for them. Startled students sprang down or up the staircase to get out of Hagrid’s way. The giant of the man seemed too set on his destination to notice the much smaller children. No one appeared to notice or care that the staircase should not have moved when it had.

“No need to involve Albus. I’ll take these three to my office. Have Poppy inform me of the results on Mr. Longbottom.”

“O’course,” Hagrid agreed before they separated at the foyer of the first level. The giant of a man stomped across the hall to double doors with a gold plaque pronouncing it the Hospital Wing.

The deputy headmistress led them to her office on the same floor, just past the small study area and her classroom. Salazar’s gaze swept over bookshelves and paintings of transfigured objects changing back and forth, and a desk at the center of the room with a stack of parchment set in the middle. His gaze snapped back to the professor as she spoke. 

“Explain. Mr. Weasleys first,” she snapped in her rolling Scottish brogue. The door snapped shut, emphasising her sharp words.

Salazar clenched his jaw in annoyance. Was he supposed to just stand there as they spouted nonsense. Salazar glanced over at the boys and found them staring at him with uncertain expressions.

“Well?” Professor McGongall pressed as she sat behind her desk, leaving the three boys standing before her.

The one Salazar had dubbed Fred finally spoke, “We all had a nap outside. Or, we were supposed to be napping...George and I woke up to Neville and Potter talking...”

“It devolved into an argument.” George took over as Fred’s voice faded out. “Then...Neville collapsed.”

“He did–” 

George shuffled about and stepped onto his brother’s foot. 

Fred made a face before he continued, “something to make Neville collapse.”

Salazar stared. His gaze shifted to the professor. Her expression was as incredulous as he felt. The child had really done that. He had bluntly interrupted his brother by stepping on him in front of an adult.

“What did Mr. Potter do?” asked McGonagall, voice turned sharp, “No mincing words.”

Salazar watched as the two shared a long look. Fred frowned but finally shrugged. “They clasped arms. Then Neville collapsed.”

McGonagall made a noise in the back of her throat before she asked with exasperation. “What was the argument about?”

The twins shifted and bumped their shoulders together. Another shared look passed between the two. This time George explained, “It’s personal to Neville.”

The woman raised a brow. “I see...Why were you taking a nap outside at this time of day?”

George nodded at Salazar. “He announced that he was going to and invited Neville. We butted in. Neville doesn’t know much about protecting himself, you see. So we made sure to join.”

“And for good reason.” muttered Fred.

McGonagall turned to Salazar in exasperation and asked, “Anything to add? Why the nap?”

“Neville clearly needed the sleep. He didn’t complain,” Salazar explained before he paused and looked over at the twins. The redheads stared intently back, half expectant and half questioning. Salazar couldn’t guess what they were expecting except nothing good. People didn’t seem to care for his school house. 

Salazar turned back to McGonagall and answered her first question, “And they are mostly correct except I didn’t do anything to cause him to collapse. I...I am...” Salazar paused, cutting off his words as he considered the adult. Instead of going into more detail he simply said, “I don’t know.”

She pressed her lips together as she looked between the three. The professor knew they weren’t explaining things properly. It was a question of what she thought two Gryffindors and a Slytherin were working together to hide.—He wasn’t entirely certain he knew what all he was helping hide.

A ping interrupted any potential decision on her part. Salazar turned towards the sound and blinked. Partly hidden behind a bookshelf was a fireplace. It had a burning, green, fire-formed face floating just above the logs. 

McGonagall swept past and knelt before the fireplace. “Poppy, how is Mr. Longbottom?” asked McGonagall.

The face shifted as if speaking and a voice came out of the fireplace, “Mr. Longbottom is stressed, exhausted, and on the verge….” Her voice faded so they couldn’t hear before she spoke up again, “...I’ve given him some dreamless sleep and I expect I’ll keep him for a few days.”

“No spells or curses found?” 

Poppy shook her fiery head. “None.”

“Thank you Poppy,” McGonagall said. 

Poppy nodded back and then poofed away, leaving a normal fire burning in the fireplace. 

The professor rose and flicked her wand out to dust off and straighten her robes. She turned to them and huffed out, “You heard that gentlemen. Mr. Potter didn’t do anything to Mr. Longbottom.” She gave the twins a sharp look. “Consider this a warning. Do not draw a wand on another student again. Mr. Potter’s inter-house activities are supported by all of us faculty, particularly the headmaster. I don’t want to see any more nonsense because he’s a Slytherin befriending a Gryffindor. Understood?”

The twins shifted around, George once more stepped on his brother’s foot to stop some impulsive response, and the two gave short nods as they parroted, “Yes Ma’am.”

She nodded back. “You’re all dismissed. Perhaps you have a class to make?” She gave a pointed look at Fred and George before she collected some paperwork and herded them out of her office.

The twins made twin expressions of disgust at the sharp recommendation but headed out with all the appearance of obeying. Salazar glanced at his watch but paused as a hand settled onto his shoulder.

“You’ve class with me, Mr. Potter,” Professor McGonagall side as she looked down at him with a raised brow, “Do keep up.”

Salazar flashed a smile back at her. “Might I help carry your things, then?”

Amusement cut through the lingering hard expression on the older woman’s face. “Certainly.”

oooP2ooo

Salazar had never been to the hospital wing. It was surprisingly nice with multiple tools he itched to investigate. But he wasn't here to investigate modern healing, at least not in a general sense. 

“Can I help you?” 

Salazar turned from his slow perusal of the row of beds and tools. He was only steps from the one curtained off area in the large room. Neville had to be within. “No, ma’am. Just here to check in on Neville.”

The matron, a Poppy something or other, raised a white brow at him. Her face was familiar. He hadn’t expected to recognize her through the flames. “Mr. Longbottom is sleeping at the moment. He’ll be released in a few days.”

“I’m glad to hear that. Thank you healer...eh…” Salazar flashed a sheepish smile as he didn’t have a name to say. He doubted Poppy was her surname.

In this case the matron straightened in a pleased sort of manner. It wasn’t what Salazar had been shooting for but he wasn’t complaining. “I’m not a healer, dear. Sweet of you to think that though. I’m a mediwitch and you may call me Madame Pomfrey.”

Salazar hummed in interest even as concern rose at the back of his mind. That gave him no confidence that she had taken care of Neville properly. 

“What’s the difference between a healer and mediwitch?” he asked.

“I’m a specialized nurse. I’ve more training than a nurse but only within a specialized area. In this case, I specialized in pediatrics and have a minor specialization in spell accidents. It’s exactly what a school such as Hogwarts requires. Of course, if there is a true emergency, I’ve access to St. Mungo’s with both a portkey and the floo in my office...Now, if you’ve nothing to have checked over, you best be off to your next class.”

Salazar nodded and gave a short goodbye. 

Hogwarts had a large number of students, even if was not quite the number they had originally imagined at this point in time. And it had one, partly trained, healer on staff?

He didn’t care if it was his paranoia speaking. The school should have at least two. That way there was always one available, no matter the time of day. He’d prefer that one, at least, was a fully trained healer. 

oooP3ooo

That very night found Salazar traversing up from the dungeon level to the first floor1. He wore his pendant but Salazar hadn’t tested its capabilities against other magicals so he hugged the shadows and moved slowly to avoid catching anyone’s eyes. Hogwarts helped him avoid any prefects, teachers, or Filch haunting the darkened halls. 

Once he reached the Hospital Wing, Salazar placed a rune matrix onto its double doors. The runic array would negate any ‘sound’ from being made, including any alert enchantment that informed Madame Pomfrey when someone entered her domain. 

It was eerie within the wing. The curtains grouped at the ends of the beds stretched long shadows that could be menacing if one wasn’t entirely awake. Salazar slowly passed between the two rows, gaze sweeping over the room as he took in all the details he hadn’t earlier. 

Sterile was the best description. Salazar imagined it was similar to muggle hospitals in that regard. It wasn’t like Evander’s space. Rowena’s husband, the first healer of Hogwarts, had had a more earthy study. It had smelt of all kinds of herbs and had a single bed in the corner. There had rarely been a reason to hold a child over night away from their own beds. 

Evander’s domain had always reminded Salazar of Helga’s kitchen and Master Hardwin’s home. It had been an excellent place to relax and meditate in—which had led to Evander forcing Salazar to aid in diagnosing and caring for the more difficult children.

Salazar paused as he found himself before the curtained off bed. A heavy sigh escaped as he realized he had traversed most of the room without consciously seeing it. The eleven year old pushed the curtain back. Memories would come and go. Only time would help him move past them.

Neville laid perfectly still in the center of a large bed. Salazar climbed up onto the bed, not bothering to be all that careful. The bed was large for an eleven year old and Neville didn’t stir. Attached to the end of the bed was a clipboard with notes. As he expected, the blond was drugged to the gills with some form of sleep potion.—Dreamless sleep; it’s name implied that it affected the natural rhythms of the mind. It could hide symptoms from Salazar. 

He was no healer, not in the conventional sense at least. His connection to magic through his Druidic training gave him an intermediate understanding of magical ailments. Certain rituals demanded some understanding of various “everyday” matters, like labor. Salazar’s training of the mental arts meant he knew how the mind worked and its connection with a person's magic. He was decent at healing mental wounds but most of the damage done to the mind was complex and took years to heal. Salazar didn't have the practical experience to claim to be a healer of the mind, only, likely, outdated academic knowledge.

Salazar pressed a hand to Neville’s chest and brow. Like with his aunt and Mrs. Figg, all those years ago, he entered Neville’s core and took a second look around. Shoulders relaxed as he sensed nothing strange—stranger than what had already been there.—It was only a minor mental shift to go from core to Neville’s mindscape. Salazar didn’t delve in, he had no desire to harm the child’s mind but a cursory brush against the outer range, where surface thoughts reigned, could give him an idea of any issues. There was no sign of the splintering and shifting he had sensed before the twins interrupted earlier. 

He mentally returned to the physical plane and pulled out his wand. It took a moment to recall the motions of a diagnostics spell. The ancient spell detected nothing of import. There was a slight hint of stress but it was ebbing away, likely because of the sleep the boy was finally receiving. 

The founder stared down at the boy with a thoughtful frown. Now that he had confirmed Neville’s health, to the best of his limited ability, Salazar couldn’t help but consider the boy’s questions from earlier. Putting aside the extremely low sense of worth the child had, he had had a good set of questions.

Salazar hadn’t thought anything of his befriending of the quiet boy. It had felt perfectly natural. But...but Salazar’s interactions with the other first years—the Hufflepuffs mainly—were of a more academic nature. What made Neville different? Why did he go out of the way to find the child outside of class and meals?

He didn’t have an answer.

There was just something that drew him to the boy. Salazar felt comfortable in his company, a contentment similar but not quite the same as visiting a grove.

The reincarnate stifled a yawn and shook his head. What did it matter?

None at all, Salazar decided; he would continue his friendship, no matter the answer. 

The founder frowned as he considered the determination of that thought. He would fight to keep this friendship. He had even played his hand in front of children. 

The Weasley twins knew there was something off about him. Who would they finally tell?

He snorted as he concluded, in a rather poor sense of foreplanning, that it didn’t matter at all at the moment. It would likely bite him in the backside in the future but he couldn’t care. Who could possibly figure out the truth of the matter anyway? Or believe anyone that somehow figured it out? 

Reincarnation was only theoretically known. The stories of it happening had long been thought just that, stories. It would take more than the little Salazar had revealed to convenience anyone that he wasn’t just the “reborn Merlin” everyone seemed to think The-Boy-Who-Lived was. 

Surviving the killing curse had placed him in a category for being able to do the impossible but doing the impossible and being a reborn wizard from a thousand years ago were two very different things. It just wasn’t a jump of logic Salazar could see anyone reaching at this point. So maybe he’d have to deal with explaining away some knowledge with hints of an academically packed childhood. Perhaps he’d have to explain that some of his teachers were from far flung parts of the world where some magical knowledge forgotten here was remembered there.

Salazar tapped the clipboard against the bed frame thoughtfully before another yawn forced its way out. Now, in the middle of the night, was not the time to wonder about it all. The reincarnate placed the clipboard back in its spot and vanished back into his dorm without a sound, without a trace. The runic matrix was removed and everything left in its place. No one would ever know he had been there.

oooP4ooo

The Weasley twins were avoiding him. Neville was still stuck in the hospital wing. Omorose had appeared to steal all the bacon she could at breakfast before vanishing again. Hedwig had dropped a dead mouse off as a present. All the Slytherins were acting like he didn’t exist, but that was nothing new.

Classes weren’t terrible, though herbology wasn’t the same without Neville. The boy knew his plants and Salazar had enjoyed taking a step back to see the little Gryffindor shine. He didn’t seem to do well in his other classes. Salazar wasn’t about to take this opportunity away from Neville. (The founder watered and cared for the boy’s basil after a short conversation with Professor Sprout.)

Salazar felt apathetic by the end of the short school day, Wednesdays being completed by noon had him head towards the forbidden forest once more. There were only so many meaningless classes he could take before he was just done. Reading ahead proved there were new discoveries for all the various subjects but it would be years before the classes reached any significant ones. He had so much to do and it felt like the classes were getting in the way.

It was days like this where he wondered at what he was doing here. What was the point of coming back to Hogwarts? There was a whole world to investigate and learn about. The earth had seemingly tripled in size since his day.

Salazar kicked a rock and heaved a sigh. 

This world was exhausting. He rubbed his forehead and stared up through the trees. Just thinking of everything he had learned and needed to fix hinted at the future migraines. Some of the things were probably not worth fighting over or fixing at this point. 

He needed to prioritize.

Aspen gatekeepers rose high into the sky, their leaves painted golden, as he stepped through the thicket of pine. Green eyes swept over the trees. Everything looked right. Salazar brushed a finger over a temple of his glasses. The world exploded with color and magic. He jerked back, eyes squeezed shut, and swiped his finger over the temple once more.—He had not expected the sheer amount of magic. Magic was flowing through everything .

He really should add an array to control the amount of magic he could see at once. Salazar paused at the thought. To be able to peel apart layers of the magic present would be fascinating. It would require some planning; he probably needed to pull the matrixes off his glasses and reset it all. 

Salazar squinted out through his glasses and found the magic no longer visible. The founder slowly stepped through the entrance between gatekeepers and relaxed as he felt the heavy magic of an ancient grove settle onto his shoulders. He closed his eyes as he breathed in the heavy but fresh tasting air.

He knew his priority had to be Hogwarts. She had stood for nearly a thousand years. He would make certain she would stand another.

After that, Salazar didn’t know. 

He’d aid Neville, he thought as if answering the unasked question.

Salazar frowned slightly at the certainty of that thought. He mentally searched for why he’d help Neville specifically but it eluded him. Neville wasn’t the only child with difficulties. Mrs. Figg had the residue too. She might even be among the group of magicals believing themselves non-magical, which was possibly a greater tragedy. (Each supposed squib had been a child who had gone through what Neville had gone through, if not worse situations.)

Gods, why wouldn’t he help his cousin even? Dudley was worse off than anyone, excluding Aunt Petunia. There had to be thousands of children that could use the aid.

But he would help Neville first.

His brow furrowed as he tried to understand. Nothing explained it.

Pain stabbed across his shoulder.

He yelped; eyes snapped open in surprise. 

A sharp pain in his ankle snapped through him.

Instinct had him push a circle of mental power out from around him. His wild hair sprang out and stood on ends as the magic rushed out. Squeals of shock and pain filled the grove as his telekinesis sent creatures flying. 

Salazar flicked a wooden coin, prepared with a simple runic matrix beforehand. It lit on command: A net of magic ensnared the area. 

He glared around himself and flushed in embarrassment. Gnomes and doxies were trapped in his runic net. He had made those nets with giant spiders and other horrid, dangerous creatures in mind. Not pests. 

The grove was infested with the creatures. It was obvious when he looked more closely at the area. There were hundreds of burrows and nests in the trees. Even the giant oak at the heart of the grove was covered in their nests. There were hundreds of the creatures. 

Salazar sighed as he tugged his fingers through his hair. He paused as he realized its state and proceeded to pull and tug in an attempt to have it cease standing on end. It didn’t work.

The boy grimaced but decided to look over the grove’s magic instead of continuing the losing fight. In the end—besides the gnomes and doxies, and the minor deterioration of the grove’s barrier protections which had allowed the creatures’ entry—everything looked about how it should. It would take ages to clean the grove up from all these pests but they weren’t doing any actual harm to the place. 

What didn’t look right was his shoulder and ankle. The first had a doxy bite which was already turning purple as it burned and itched in equal measure. His ankle had a gnome’s bite that was less poisonous and wasn’t turning a vibrant purple but was itching and turning red in irritation all the same. The founder flashed a glare at the entrapped creatures. 

There went his afternoon.

Salazar trudged back to the school. His ankle and shoulder were visibly swollen by the time he reached the hospital wing. Madam Pompfrey waved him distractedly to a bed as she looked over another student’s wrist. 

Emerald eyes slid lazily over the long room. He paused on Neville’s bed. The curtains had been pushed back, the blond gone. Hogwarts sent a feeling of warm embrace and an image of Neville puttering around Greenhouse One. Salazar straightened, intrigued. 

“Now what has brought you this time,” Madam Prompfrey asked with a hint of exasperation.

Salazar flashed a charming smile up at her. “I’ve gotten a few bites.”

“Midge bites?” she guessed as she flicked her wand. A cart filled with vials floated over to her.

“Err...noo…” Salazar slowly answered. He hadn’t come about that but his forearms probably did have midge bites, thinking about it. The tiny bugs were the most likely cause for the bug bites.

The graying lady raised a brow. “Lets see them.”

Salazar lifted his ankle and unbuttoned his robe. “My ankle and shoulder, ma’am.”

She caught his ankle and pulled the shoe and sock off. A noise of disbelief escaped. “This is a gnome bite. Where did you find a gnome!?”

“Around.” He smiled innocently at her as the mediwitch stared disbelievingly back.

After a moment, Madam Promphrey shook her head and dabbled some potion onto his ankle. The distinct mutter of ‘ children ’ reached Salazar’s ears. She pulled his robe away from his shoulder, intending to clean the bite with the same concoction but paused.

“And what bit you here ?”

Salazar ignored his burning cheeks as he answered, “Doxy.”

She made a disgruntled sound and dug through her vials. “Where did you find a doxy and gnome?”

“Hogwarts.” The grove was within Hogwart’s grounds.

Lips pursed together. Madam Pomfrey looked done with the conversation already. “Mr. Potter, you’re not in trouble but both creatures are poisonous. They should not be near children. Now, where in Hogwarts, did you find them?”

He shrugged one shoulder. 

‘Hogwarts?’ Salazar silently called out sending a mental image of a doxy and gnome to the castle, ‘Do you have either of these around?”

Green eyes locked onto a long needle she pulled out from her cart as he waited to hear from Hogwarts.

Madam Promphrey waved the needle towards the opposite direction from her and his shoulder. “Look that way and breath. I have to let the puss out.”

Salazar obeyed, eyebrows raised high. He guessed that some things just never really changed. It was a waste of magic to deal with puss any other way but he had somehow thought the magical community would have developed beyond even the simple fixes. There was something about the community that left that impression—buildings were enchanted together, cheap clothing was charmed into shape, and so on.

His gaze focused on the far wall where the double doors stood. On one side was a large painting of a healer or mediwitch in a similarly outfited hospital room. It might have been Hogwarts’s hospital wing from an earlier era. The woman offered a courteous nod when she saw him staring. 

A sharp, short lived pain stabbed through his shoulder. Then the pressing ache began to fade. Something warm and damp was pressed against his shoulder.

Hogwarts sent him back an impression of doxies hiding in an empty room then an image of her marble staircase filled his sight. The vision followed the path of a staircase from the ground floor up until it stopped at the sixth floor. She gave nothing for gnomes but Salazar figured this was good enough.

Salazar turned his gaze back to the mediwitch and found her mixing two vials together in a small cup. 

At noticing his attention, she explained as she measured, “Some potions do not have a long shelf life. A couple of those have been developed into separate stable potions we then combine as needed. This is one of them.”

“What does it do?” Salazar asked. He leaned forward to watch as the first potion met the second. A puff of smoke fizzled up into the air at first contact before the two liquids combined into a deep purple substance. His eyebrows shot upward as the potions visibly thickened into a gel. 

Madam Pompfrey pulled the compress off his shoulder and took a look at the bite. It was less swollen, less puffy, but still vibrant purple. She pressed the compress back on and tapped her wand to it. The compress regained its heat. “It’ll combat the poison injected by the doxy tee–”

The double doors swung open and a group of girls stampeded in with cries of outrage. Salazar and Pompfrey snapped their gaze over to them. Each had their hair charmed into strange styles and colors. 

“We can’t get it off!” wailed a girl. Her wail sent the rest of the girls to cry out their own grievance.

“Weasl–”

“They’re going to get–”

“–e’re missing class!”

“Professor Flit–”

A bang from Madam Pompfrey’s wand silenced the group. “All of you take a bed over there–” She waved her wand to the opposite side of Salazar’s bed. “–I will be with you shortly.”

The group pouted and whined as they went to their designated corner. Salazar watched them curiously. It looked like a charm chain connecting hair styling with color altering charms all skewed towards the obnoxious. 

“Get comfortable, Mr. Potter.” Madam Pompfrey turned back to him and pulled the compress off. She used a small spatula to scoop and spread the gel over his shoulder. “You’re aren’t going anywhere until I know all the poison is out and the swelling is down.”

Salazar frowned. “Very well.”

She huffed a short laugh out. “It wasn’t a request, dear.”

A couple hours passed before Salazar was freed. With a fine glance to Neville’s empty bed, he went to the floor’s emergency exit hidden behind a statue of a one-eyed witch. The exit went towards Hogsmeade, and might even exit out into the village now. 

He tapped the hump of the statue and muttered, “Dissendium.” 

Notice-me-not magic wrapped around him as the hidden passage opened. Salazar climbed down into it. The passage was dark and damp. None of the charmed torches lit as they should have. Salazar glared about the walls but decided against investigating now. Light was simple to create. He flicked his wand up and the tip glowed gold.

After a few minutes of walking through the tunnel, he turned to the right wall and hissed in parseltongue, “ss:_Open_:ss.”

The wall slid open, revealing another passage that sloped upward. It released him out into the courtyard filled with greenhouses. The wall closed behind without prompting and the Slytherin founder strolled over to Greenhouse One. 

Salazar poked his head into the building. He smiled. A certain blond was still present. The Slytherin founder called out, “Neville, what are you doing here? How are you feeling?”

Neville startled before he lit up, warmth radiating from the boy. “Harry! How are you?” Something seemed to cross the blond’s mind as his beaming smile faded slight into something more thoughtful as the boy regarded Salazar.

The reincarnate took the opportunity to pull out his basil sprout to water it as he answered, acting as natural as he could while watching for any hint of oddity, “Good, good. You?” Salazar looked up and gave Neville a long look over. “You feeling well?”

He said with a grin, ”Yea. Professor Sprout’s letting me help since I told Madam Pomfrey how it's soothing. She just stepped out for a moment.”

“Gardening is relaxing,” Salazar agreed as he continued to care for his plant and decided to let Neville direct the conversation. 

Neville didn’t appear hurt. The boy no longer had large bags under his eyes, though that was expected with his recent stay at the hospital wing. Nothing stuck out to Salazar as odd or concerning. Maybe it had been stress and exhaustion like the mediwitch claimed. 

“Professor Sprout was telling me I could come help in Greenhouse One whenever I need to, I’d just have to let her know. And she said I have talent so I should think about joining the Herbology Alliance next year!” rambled Neville. His vibrant enthusiasm settled any lingering worry Salazar felt.

“You do have the talent,” Salazar agreed, “It sounds like a wonderful club. Maybe I should join some.”

“Oh that would be bril!” Neville cried out with a grin before he turned red and his expression dropped. A stutter entered his voice as he rushed out, “U-uh, I m-mean, if-if you want to.”

Salazar frowned as he realized Neville had misheard him. He fixed the issue by stating, “The Herbology Alliance would be one of my top picks, I think. Do you know what other clubs there are?”

“Really?” The blond lit up again before he became thoughtful. “You’d join more than one? I guess…there were a few different sports clubs, the Spellmanship club...There was an astronomy club and a charms club. Oh and...eh, hehe…”

“What?”

Neville suddenly smirked, startling Salazar at the unusual expression from the boy. “There’s a Harry Potter Appreciation Club. I’m sure they’d love having you.”

Horror rushed through Salazar. Neville chuckled at the horrified expression Salazar hadn’t been able to keep back. 

“I wouldn’t recommend that one, Mr. Potter.”

The two boys looked over to find Professor Sprout pushing a cart full of plants into the greenhouse. Salazar sprang over to help hold the door open for her. “Professor.” 

“Thank you,” she said, “Now, the Alliance doesn’t accept first years but you should consider it for next year. You’ve experience, though you’re not quite a natural like Mr. Longbottom, I think.”

“It shows?” asked Salazar both amused and resigned to the fact. Most of his experience was from his aunt’s garden. That would not remain true once they reached the more magical plants, particularly trees, but it was true now and the perfect explanation if one asked. 

“Oh yes.”

“Well, I am interested.” 

She smiled at that answer. “Excellent, I look forward to it. Now off you both go. Go enjoy the warm weather while it lasts!”

The blond hesitated in the courtyard as they left the greenhouse. Hazel eyes stared off at nothing in particular as the boy bit his lip in thought.

“Neville?” Salazar prompted, “We could go to the library, do homework...I can show you a few things you’ve missed.” 

Lips turned down and Neville grabbed Salazar’s arm, pulling him away from the castle. Neville walked hurriedly and with a purpose as they reached the loch and began to walk around it. 

Salazar watched the boy. The further from the school, the more relaxed Neville became. Shoulders lowered and loosened. The frown softened into a more neutral expression. His hazel gaze stared off at the sceneria, taking in the fall colors slowly painting the trees and brush. 

He did seem better, but Salazar couldn’t help feeling like it was only temporary. Something had changed too, though he couldn’t point a finger on what exactly. Maybe it was simply the result of the boy speaking up about all his concerns with his magic and being a squib. The weight of such thoughts must have been difficult to bear as the school year progressed. Or maybe it was the hints admitted of the abuse he had experienced. Salazar wondered and worried over what more might have been done to the boy. Was it acceptable practice to harm children in the pursuit of magical offspring?

“Harry,” Neville finally spoke up as he paused at the furthest point of the loch from Hogwarts. “What does it take to fix my magic?”

The founder considered the question for a long moment. It wasn’t so much the question of how but what he should say to Neville. Instinct wanted him to be honest but eleven year olds shouldn’t know what he knew. 

Salazar turned his gaze across the loch to Hogwarts. The castle glowed in the dusk. Thousands of lights gleaned from windows and off stone walls. It’s towers rose high into the evening sky. It’s reflection only added to the magnificent view.

The feeling of Hogwarts mentally cuddling against him pulled a smile to the founder’s serious expression. It enforced his desire to be honest. The child deserved honesty, or as much as Salazar could give him at least.

“There are likely multiple options. I know of one,” Salazar said slowly as he tried to dig through his emotions to understand why he would explain but, as always seemed to be the case with Neville, he found no answers. 

Neville turned from the loch and looked at him. Determination set the boy’s jaw out into a stubborn line. The stance he held and the way he held it was familiar. It nagged at the back of Salazar’s mind even as it relaxed him.

The blond asked, “What can you do?”

“You wouldn’t believe me,” Salazar answered with a sigh, “You’ll fear I’m insane.”

“You showed me my magic and the taint wrapped around it,” Neville countered sharply before he hesitated, looked out at the loch, but added after a second thought, “I...I don’t remember what happened at the end there.” His brow furrowed as he struggled to recall. “Silver...and-and a girl?–” Neville shook his head before he looked back at Salazar. “–I think I can expend disbelief.”

Salazar paused at the boy’s phrasing and regarded the child. That hadn’t sounded like an eleven year old. He discarded that thought a second later. Neville was around Hermione often enough that her vocabulary could be rubbing off him. (He chose to ignore the little Neville revealed about his collapse. It made no sense and Salazar had no idea where to begin with such details. It was something to tackle later, when Neville was willing to give more detail and was, perhaps, a little older.)

“We would visit a druid’s grove near here...it is in the forbidden forest.” Salazar paused at that but Neville continued to stare at him with clear resolve. “We’d visit during a dark moon and complete a purification ritual. This will help clean the taint but it will take multiple rituals with the amount on you.”

“Alright.” Neville offered with a short nod. 

Slytherin stared. “Alright?”

“Yes,” Neville said before he tilted his head with a thoughtful look. “Is there more?”

“Well…” Salazar slowly answered, flummoxed at Neville’s response to everything, “besides the monthly purification, there is a more complex one during the start of Spring. And...there are cleansing pools that might also help. Such pools can remove a layer of the taint if used often enough but for old taint it usually...lossens it, I suppose is the proper description.”

Neville finally frowned but his next words weren’t questioning Salazar knowledge. “How does one get old taint? You said...” His frown deepened, wrinkles spread across his brow. “You said some comes from our parents or grandparents?”

“When we use magic, we twist it to our will and desire. Some will remain on our person as this taint. When magic is used on us it can also leave a taint...or residue.” Salazar explained, “Now when we progenate, some of our internal magic is taken by the baby...fetus. It’s most obvious for the mother as the child’s core is interconnected to the mother’s until labor when the separation happens. During the separation, a section of the mother’s magic is claimed by the child. Residue is pulled with that magic into the child. The mother’s core recovers of course, but she may appear to grow stronger if enough residue is pulled off...”

Salazar paused and flicked his gaze over to Neville. The boy looked thoughtful as he stared out at the loch as he listened. The founder considered the other side of the explanation and realized he would never be able to avoid it. (There had been a time where he had hoped he could but clearly the gods would never allow that.) Salazar turned his gaze up to the sky as he said, “The male’s side is less obvious as it occurs in two forms. One involves the act of ejaculation–”

Neville started to choke and stumbled back from Salazar.  The parselmouth firmly avoided looking at the boy. Hogwarts really was lovely today.

“–and the other involves the physical presence of the father during pregnancy. The secondary is encouraged by many Families and Houses as the more magic the baby intakes from the father, the stronger the child will be in his patricatical magic. Magic can recognize whose family the child is a part of, though particularly powerful women can make things a little interesting...But that is just a sign of the mother’s skill and the child deserves to follow after their more powerful parent…”

“It is also encouraged because the magic released during ejaculation is both dependent on the man’s age, physical fitness, emotional connection to their partner and the frequency in which they complete ejaculation. If they are masterbating or having sex often, they often have less magic to release for any potential child. Of course, the more active they are–”

“Right!” squeaked out Neville, “I got it!”

Silence fell over them. Salazar helpfully left Neville to his blushing and horror filled thoughts as he considered how this talk usually involved actually discussing sex. He hoped he didn’t have to revisit the conversation with Neville.—The boy had family that could give him that discussion. (Salazar should not have had to explain those things to children as often has he had.)

The blond spoke up without looking at Salazar. “So, even after the taint is gone I’ll have to keep doing this ritual with you?”

“Yes,” Salazar confirmed as he finally looked over at the Gryffindor, “but I may be able to teach you how to complete it yourself. Some have the skillset for it.”

Neville nodded. The last of his embracement faded as he turned thoughtful. “Alright.”

The founder raised a brow at that simple decision. He stared at the calm boy. Neville stared back. Finally Salazar gave a nod and looked down at his watch. “Monday is the next Dark Moon.”

“Where and when should I meet you?”  

“Ah,“ Salazar offered as he considered the various routes they could go. 

The normal route through the front door and out the inner walls would likely attract attention. The tracking enchantment on the inner wall would tag Neville as the boy still had the Trace. It would be better to use one of the emergency exits. The one in the dungeon led to the Eastern grove, or had back in his day. He hadn’t visited that one yet but the Northeastern grove was the safest one so far. The exit would still work, if it was not compromised.

While he had to make sure that was still true, Neville needed to make it down to the dungeon unseen. Salazar frowned. Where were the Gryffindor dorms now? He sent the question to Hogwarts and she responded by showing him an image of the seventh floor and one of the towers.

“Do you know the portrait of the Fat Friar? On seventh.” At Neville’s nod, Salazar continued, “Meet there at 9pm Monday.”

Neville nodded once more with another “Alright”. 

Salazar watched his little, chubby friend with concern. The blond seemed oddly content to follow Salazar’s directions. He also appeared distracted, lost in some unknown set of thoughts.

oooP5ooo

That night, Salazar wandered through the maze of hallways in the dungeons and found a familiar plaque of carved serpents on a wall. After a quick check on its protective enchantments and the general area, he tapped each head in a specific pattern. At the final tap, the wall faded to reveal a hidden passage. Salazar lit his wand, as it was in hand, and vanished into the unlit, dusty path.

The founder gave a short pause at the sight of a large snake statue to the side of the hidden passage before he continued. There would be time later to investigate why such was present. Right now he needed to know if this passage was still intact. 

It didn’t take long to determine that Rowena’s time-space enchantments had broken. If they had been working, he’d have reached the end already. Salazar frowned as he tried to recall how long the passage was. 

“Twenty minutes?” he muttered to himself as he guessed. He couldn’t recall it’s length but it was one of the longest paths from Hogwarts. It was one of the seven main escape routes in case of a successful invasion. Distance was sometimes the best form of safety so this route was made as long as they thought necessary. That they aimed it towards one of the groves so the children could hide within it had been the second step to the escape plan for this particular route. 

Fifteen minutes into the walk found the passage filled with rubble and long strands of roots. The passage abruptly ended with a tree growing out of it. Salazar rubbed his jaw as he considered the blocked path for a few minutes. Some investigation of the tree and a little magic allowed for easy climbing. 

Salazar stared around the forest. There was no indicator on where he was. The tree was visibly shorter than others of the same species. That was it. But that could be enough for someone to sneak into Hogwarts. Someone or something dangerous.

“Well I know what I’m going to fix next,” muttered Salazar before he took the obvious route and continued in the direction the passage should have gone. Not five minutes later and the protective aspens of the Eastern grove came into view. 

One of the gatekeepers was dead which opened the gate and the grove to invaders. Salazar stepped into the entrance and the grove became visible, stretching out before him. It’s old magic settled over him, welcoming and warning him in turn. Giant trees rose high into the night sky. The grove was even more magical in the moonlight.

Emerald eyes widened, any thoughts on planting a new aspen or connecting one of the aspens already grown to the protective barrier faded to the back of his mind. Though the invading creatures could be devastatingly dangerous when provoked, Salazar couldn’t find it in himself to actually complain over their presence. 

One did not complain of a herd of unicorns.

Salazar would have to come back to look over the warding magic and cornerstone when they were out. Or he would need to find a way to temporarily send them off. If the herd had claimed the grove as theirs, it was well protected from most immediate threats. (How to protect the grove but allow the herd to continue utilizing its protections ran through his mind.)

He leaned back against the living aspen and watched as a few foals played around their slumbering mothers. It was a rare sight. The emerald eyed boy met one of the hardstaring stallions. He had three powerful males standing guard between him and the rest of their herd. They had rose or awakened at his entrance. 

Seeing their irritation grow, Salazar bowed and left.

Salazar forced himself back on track and took a few minutes to hunt down the proper exit of the escape passage. It was destroyed. Had been for a very long time. Salazar couldn’t be sure if it had been a natural destruction or if it had been done on purpose. The rumble of rocks were covered in moss and plants. A couple of trees had claimed the area too.

It didn’t likely matter now but the Slytherin founder couldn’t help but wonder. Someone out there could know of this and could use it to their advantage. It was unlikely but it was still possible.

Salazar didn’t like that. There were plenty of things he didn’t like, though. The boy shook his head of such thoughts and headed back to the school. There was no point grumbling over it all. 

Right now, all that mattered was that the escape route would take them to the forest. He would be able to guide Neville to the Northeastern grove. That one, being fully intact, would be the safest to use.

oooP6ooo

(Neville)

Firelight flickered playfully, illuminating the common room. Neville pressed his cheek against one of the wings of the wingback chair as he stared into the flame. It was welcoming and playful and safe—everything a fire shouldn’t be. 

“Sally,” muttered Neville. His brow furrowed as he willed himself to remember. It was so close, whoever Sally was teased at the edge of memory. That feeling grew around Harry for some reason, even though he rarely wore Slytherin silver. 

Silver was his only clue. It haunted his dreams, and had done so ever since he came here. What was he not remembering?

Eyes fluttered closed. Silver and blood red—Eyes snapped back open, the faint sense of danger flickered across his subconscious.—The red didn’t belong with the silver. It shouldn’t be there.

Hazel reflected firelight as he stared wide eyed. He felt haunted by forgotten things. It wasn’t just the silver and Sally. There were other things that nudged at him teasingly. When he was in the Great Hall and when he was in charms it was the worst. The only time it faded was when he was in the Greenhouse or by the lake.

There was something he had forgotten. He had known that for a while now. But the feeling of having forgotten something terribly important had only gotten worse the longer he stayed at Hogwarts. Maybe it was because he didn’t have to worry about being a squib that his mind had decided, without his conscious agreement, to worry more about other things. 

The feeling had become worse since seeing his core. 

“You’d think I’d worry about cleaning my magic more,” muttered Neville. 

He didn’t, though. Harry would help him. Somehow he just knew that Harry could do the impossible and clean the gunk out. Harry had proven Neville had magic after all. His friend was The-Boy-Who-Lived; he could do nearly anything.

That was probably why he found himself focused on things he couldn’t recall. Harry was The-Boy-Who-Lived but the mind was tricky business. The state of his parents was a clear indication of how little magic could help there. Neville had to deal with what haunted his dreams and who Sally was on his own.—Even if something insisted that Harry could probably help with his memory too.

His lips pressed together. Eyes narrowed in determination. Harry would help with his magic but he would have to figure out what he had forgotten. Maybe he’d be able to sleep through the night without staying in the hospital wing then. 

oooP7ooo

(Harry)

Neville gave no comment when Salazar opened the hidden passage behind the portrait of the Fat Friar. He made only a slight sound of surprise as the passage deposited them in the dungeon a few moments later. The blond gave Salazar a hard look, the faintest hint of nervousness finally peeking through in his hazel eyes, as the reincarnate revealed the hidden passage out to the forest. But the Gryffindor said nothing. He didn’t even visibly hesitate in following Salazar. 

The Slytherin didn’t know what to feel about that. A few weeks ago he wouldn’t have expected any child willing to do this without calling him insane, without demanding answers. With the articles implying his possible dark nature, he expected most of the children to run off to adults and spill all the impossibilities Salazar had claimed and showed. Neville had not run to an adult or claimed him crazy. (Neither had the Weasley twins for that matter.)

Maybe Neville was that desperate. Salazar frowned as he considered that.

By the Mother, what Salazar wished to do to the adults in the blond’s life. They had failed Neville in every possible way, as far as Salazar was concerned. He hoped that their failures didn’t leave permanent scarring.

He glanced at the blond as they traversed the old escape route. His frown deepened. Shadows were returning under Neville’s eyes. The eleven year old was weighed down by so many things children shouldn’t have to worry about. Salazar didn’t know if he could help the child as much as he needed.

Once in the forest, Neville kept in step with Salazar. Hints of fear flickered to life in the way he huddled a little closer, in the widened eyes, and in the hardened expression as if he was fighting himself. When the boy noticed Salazar scrutiny, his back straightened and his hazel gaze met Salazar’s as if daring the founder to back out now, as if insisting Neville, himself, wouldn’t.

The Slytherin said nothing. One day, Neville would be able to look back at this and be proud of his resolve. One day, if the truth of Salazar was ever revealed, he hoped Neville would not regret trusting him. He feared the world would think it a foolish thing to do—a death sentence. Salazar Slytherin was evil, after all. No one would trust him with their children. ( He wasn’t bitter about that at all. )

When they reached the grove, Neville finally spoke, his voice soft with wonder. “Oh…This is a druid's grove?” The blond stared in awe at the ancient trees and the feel of old, blanketed magic in the air.

“An old grove.” answered Salazar as he joined the blond in appreciating the view and feel of it all. It really was tranquil. Autumn golds and reds filled the sacred place, transforming the tranquility with the last breath of life before the trees and world slumbered the winter away. 

The eleven year old reincarnate turned back to the blond and said, “I need you to strip. I’ve some runes to write across your chest, arms, legs, and forehead.”

Neville flushed red. His voice came out squeaky. “All of it?”

“Yes.” Salazar said, distracted as he pulled out his prepared mixture of ash and soil. 

The blond was a tomato as he stripped naked and allowed Salazar to draw the symbols over his body. Understanding the child’s discomfort, he worked quickly. “Stay perfectly still. We need that to dry before we begin.”

“Right,” mumbled Neville as he avoided eye contact.

Salazar turned away from him, giving Neville the privacy he wanted, and prepared the ritual area. Since there was no tent, he was able to set it up at the very center of the grove. The position was not particularly important.—It could be for other rituals but not this one.—It didn’t take long, it was really just placing rune covered candles into a circle. In the grove near the Dursleys, he had pulled Mother’s magic close to the surface for easy access also but her magic sang through the very air here.

“Neville come stand in the middle.” The founder directed the boy to the proper spot before he gave a firm warning, “This is going to be uncomfortable. It should never be painful. If it becomes painful, feel free to exit the circle. That will break the ritual. You usually don’t want to do that but this is an exception to that rule. Got that?”

“Yes,” Neville answered as he straightened and temporarily forgot his nakedness.

Salazar stared hard at the boy for a moment before he nodded. “Other than that, there isn’t much you need to worry about this time around. Eventually I’ll lead you through the steps so you might be able to do this on your own.”

“What are you going to do?” Neville asked, finally demanding some form of answers. Salazar had expected it earlier. He would have preferred it earlier.

He pressed his lips together and took a moment to keep any sarcasm from escaping. Salazar gave a short, overly simplified explanation but it would do. “I will be directing the earth’s magic to the residue in your core. The runes on your person, this grove’s natural magics, and the magic of the moon all help direct the earth magic towards an act of purification and cleansing. Because of the amount of residue you possess, I will mentally follow the flow of the purifying magic to make certain everything runs smoothly.” 

He paused before giving an apologetic glance at the boy. “I’ll likely end up brushing my magic up against yours. I apologize for the feeling.”

“Is it painful?” asked Neville quietly.

“No,” Salazar explained with a wave of a hand as if brushing the concern away, “but I may learn more about your magic than you know presently...You might learn a bit about my magic also... and the core is inherently connected to our minds and thoughts. It is possible I’ll see a memory or two, and you may see a memory or two of mine...Ask me questions if you’re confused or worried about anything you end up learning. Please.”

Neville frowned at him, his hands rung together as his nerves surfaced even more. “How...common is it for memories to be shared?”

“It’s extremely rare but possible,” Salazar answered as he knelt before one of the candles. If it was common he would not be connecting with people’s cores and helping with this ritual with so many people. In this day and age, it would have been even less likely, he didn’t really need everyone finding out who he was. 

“Are you ready?” asked Salazar as he refocused, “Listen to your instincts, the magic of the ritual will guide you. And don’t panic but remember you can leave the circle at any time. All you should need to do is stand there and breath.”

At Neville’s nod, the founder focused on the earth magic. The grove’s magic swirled alongside the leylines. Both eagerly responded to his call. He lit the first candle and soon the magic filled smoke of the candles swirled around Neville.

Neville breathed in the smoke, prompted by the magic to breath deep and calmly. With each deep breath, the runes flared to life across his form. The ritual sang with power. Its magic seeped into Neville.

Salazar entwined a strand of his own core magic with the ritual magic and mentally projected himself alongside the natural magic moving into Neville. His senses shifted to the internal workings of the ritual on the child. His vision shifted from the dark grove to the sunset colored core covered in residue.

A swirl of golden, sparkling, streams of magic flowed out in a rush, rubbing against the sickly red and blues and purples of taint wrapped and circling lazily around Neville’s core. The ritual scrubbed away all hint of the Trace before it drew closer to the older taint. He could already tell that the oldest of the taint was centuries older than Neville. Some of this was the results of fools discarding knowledge they considered obsolete. Others were the results of fools delving into magic they should have never interacted with. Neville had some evil ancestors. But then, Salazar did also. 

The difference between the amount of magical residue on Salazar compared to Neville likely came down to their mothers. His mother was muggleborn, or from a long line of squibs. Either way, she likely had less or no residue on her person. In turn, Neville’s mother had been pureblood. (This could have as easily been down to their fathers but both had been purebloods.)

As Salazar expected, most of the taint barely reacted to the purification ritual. Strands faded away and unfurled the deeper layers. Whole sections of those layers grew lax and released it’s tight hold on the magical core but would not allow itself to be fully removed. The edges of residue around the spikes of fiery core magic was chipped away, allowing more of the core free.

Green eyes snapped to odd movement as jagged pieces of the residue broke off from the rest. Salazar reached out to the ritual and forcefully redirected some of the flowing magic to catch the broken taint before it traveled into the core itself or, worse, into the boy's mind. Magical residue could do terrible things to people. The worst, Salazar had found, was when the taint contaminated a person's mind. 

He would not allow such to happen on his watch.

Ropes of fiery magic snapped out of the new openings in the residue. He saw the ritual magic catch the freed pieces of residue at the same moment he saw the coiling ropes shoot towards him. Salazar had just a second to count three before the ropes slammed into his chest, buried through his veins and into his own magical core. His vision exploded and the world went dark.

oooPooo

Chapter Text

Chapter Ten

oooP1ooo

(Neville)

“You’d burn the trees down?” asked the silver eyed boy in the treetops.

“Of course not! Not on purpose,” he responded with a scoff. 

“Then why would they not like you?”

Neville looked away with a flush. This all felt sharper than past dreams. He could think clearer. It felt real. Words fell from his mouth without his agreement, but that wasn’t new. “They can feel it, the fire in my magic.”

He frowned. 

Fire? His magic had felt warm and wonderful (wild and desperate to be freed of the gunk holding it back). It felt right—and yet not. His magic was fiery, it was a truth he had always known but had forgotten somehow—except that wasn’t right, not quite. It felt different than he remembered (but forgotten). Different and yet the same.

The boy dropped from the branch. He was shorter and thinner and overall weaker than him. (His silver gaze held no fear at his words. Stubborn strength gleamed in those eyes.) The boy’s hand came up. 

“I’m Sa–”

The world jerked as they clasped forearms. 

Silver eyes stared widely into his. Their right arms were clasped together and a liquid pressure of magic—thriving, twisting like vines, like slithering snakes—flowed up his arm. It withered up his right arm and burrowed into his veins and arteries, claimed his heart and flowed through his entire being. 

The silver eyed man grinned, grimaced, at him. “I see what you mean about the fire. Your magic burns.”

He looked down, breaking eye contact. 

Runes surrounded them in circles on the floor. More runes glowed and pulsed in the air around them, spinning in some predetermined pattern. His gaze moved to their arms and found other runes and markings swirled around their arms and wrists, tying them together. Ogham and fuþark glowed gold. Swirls and circles, dashes and triangles —meaningless symbols that whispered of arcane powers glimmered around the runes, just as powerful and meaningful to their grapher. 

The markings flared.

Something settled inside him, like a piece he had been missing. The withering, slithering magic curled about his own fire and faded. The ritual, as it was most definitely some form of ritual they had participated in, turned dark and the markings faded away until they were indiscernible. 

They moved their arms apart, revealing the dried blood and the swirl of silvery gray and blood red runes covering their right forearms. He brushed a finger over the raw skin and hissed softly at the ache. The skin was already turning red and puffy, irritated from the magic embedded within each mark.

He looked up and knew what ritual they had done as he stared at the young man across from him. “Brother.”

A smirk stretched across his brother’s face as he answered, “By blood.”

The world jerked and twisted. Neville shuddered as moments flew by his eyes of his brother, of his sisters, of war and conflict, of laughter and friendship. His brother’s death, his marriage, his children, and his own death slammed into him the hardest. So many memories of his brother circled to the surface—something pulled them forward, teasing him, torturing him. It blurred together for but a moment. 

In that moment a lifetime of memories poured into his mind and buried him whole. 

He was in another ritual circle but the room was stifling hot, the sun beat down from the sky. There was no ceiling. His head was fogged and he had the distinct impression they had gotten very, very drunk. His brother would never live down them completing a ritual while drunk. If they survived this foolery, he’d make sure of that.

Their left arms were pressed together this time. Their right hands rested over each other’s hearts, palms flat. Marking strange and foreign covered them. Some were picture like and a few lines vaguely reminded him of Roman script. Yet others were indiscernible squiggles and dots and dashes which must form some type of language but one he had never seen before. The circle they stood in had the same strange markings. The air crackled with power. Thousands of glowing lines flowed around them.—He was almost certain they were lines of script but it was too tiny for him to tell with certainty.—It was all very foreign and seemed far more complex than their blood brother ritual. 

Eight tanned, wrinkled old mages stood outside the circle, surrounding it. They were brown and tan and old. A mix of black, salt and pepper, and gray hair was pulled back from flat broad features.—Not of the Isle.

They had traveled to see lions, hadn’t they? He frowned as he tried to recall details. His brother had drawn attention in Fustat for his parseltongue...they had traveled down the Nile.—He shook his head to try to clear it. He couldn’t recall. 1

The old men were chanting.

His brother wasn’t the one doing the ritual. The silver eyed man was going to hate that fact when they were sober.

The strange markings flared in a familiar way. The feel of his brother’s twisting, snake like magic slithered up his arms but did not stop there. It twined and slithered up and in, burrowed through his veins and dug deep. It entwined with his own magic and continued to burrow into it, into the very essence that made him, him. He could feel his magic doing the same to his brother.

They were both screaming from the agony of their magic sinking into their very beings.

Then the room flared golden and something clicked into place. Like before it was as if something he had been missing had been found. Except it was more. A part of him felt changed, not just found. He was more than he had once been. He was he and he was his brother. They were two and they were one. 

He met silver eyes and he knew, somehow, that they would never be parted from each other for long—comparable to the eternity he felt they now had. 

The world jerked once more as he stared into those eyes. There was blood everywhere. The silver eyed man was dying. 

One of their first apprentices betrayed them—him. He was supposed to meet the boy. He should be the one dying. He will kill the apprentice, if the boy wasn’t already dead.

A part of him could not believe the sight. It had to be an illusion, some trick to distract him and make him drop his guard. (It was working.) 

A cough rattled through the laying form. Blood splattered from pale lips. 

His brother was dying. 

The fact forcefully snapped into place. He dropped to his knees before his brother. Heart pounded in horror. (No.No.No.No.NO.)

“You cannot die!” He croaked as he attempted to force his fiery magic into the soothing power of healing. 

Blood covered his hands as he leaned over. He grasped his brother’s hand with one while the other pressed to the most obvious wounds. The sizzle of blood pulled bile to his throat and he attempted a different way to force his magic to heal instead of cook. 

It wasn’t working.—It had never worked.—It had to work this time.—It wasn’t.—It just had to.

Silver eyes stared up into his own. They were dull. No recognition showed. 

He leaned closer and croaked out in desperation, “You cannot die Sally!”

The light was fading from those silver eyes. 

“Sal! Stay with me. Stay with me.” 

Silver eyes flicked at the nicknames. Lips twitched into a faint smile. Sally’s hand tightened onto his own for a moment. The strength faded as quickly as it came.

He hissed in a demand reminiscent of his brother, “Salazar, you will listen to me! Keep those eyes open.”

Another twitch of bloody lips and the tightening of Salazar’s hand in his was all he got. Then his brother went still and he was clutching a corpse. His brother was gone. A half of his soul—his brother in blood, in magic, in soul—was gone.

A hesitant hand pressed to his shoulder, “Godric?”

Pieces he had gained from his brother went cold. His eyes snapped up and stared at the enemies fighting the reinforcements he had brought.  The world exploded with flame as he roared.

Godric snapped awake. His heart pounded at the terrible memory turned nightmare. Sweat covered him but the expected stifling heat of his magic charged room wasn’t present. He stared groggily up at the night sky instead. 

Hands paused at the feel of grass before the Gryffindor founder forced himself upright. His gaze swept over the area as his ears strained for anything else amiss.

Everything was amiss.

He was freezing. And butt naked. In an ancient druid’s grove.

Godric took a moment to orient himself. He had no memory of coming to this place. His last memories were of his death bed or what he had thought was his deathbed. Godric felt some relief that he hadn’t actually died from poisoning. Killed by his own wife would have been a terrible joke, almost as bad as marrying her in the first place.

This place was ancient but familiar. The feel of the magic, heavy and old as it was, reminded him of Hogwarts. Sally’s groves were nowhere near this old, though.

Godric lifted a hand to tug at his hair but stopped at the sight of it. It was not his hand. 

The hand was tiny. It was a child’s hand. There were few calluses, the impressions from years of hard work were missing. The hand was soft. It was also slightly tan. His freckles had been stolen. The universe painted on his skin was gone. (His baby sisters would be outraged at the loss.)

His ritual bands and circles of runes were still present. No one had stolen his blood brother connection with Salazar. But it was irritated, the skin vibrant red and puffy. It reminded him of first receiving the mark.

He looked at his other hand. Some part of him expected to find it normal but it was like the other. Only his magic brother bond was still present. Even then, it was irritated and new looking, almost like it was freshly made.

Freshly made.

Godric pressed a finger against the dark red runes in wonder. A spike of pain answered but he ignored it. The runes had all gone gray and dull, faded after Sally had died. They weren’t like that now. The markings looked new.

He looked down at the rest of himself. It was a small, chubby boy’s body. His freckles were entirely missing. His hard worked physique was gone but the various ritual marks remained. All of them looked fresh and felt as uncomfortable as he recalled them being when first receiving them. He pressed a hand to the soul brother bond across his heart. It was as new as the rest, as whole as the other bond marks.

Godric stared down at it, pressed into it with his fingers as he took in the pain and revelled in what it might mean.—But that was impossible.

The man turned boy stood and nearly crashed back down as he overestimated. It would be a while before he became used to the body’s size. Hopefully he’d be back in his own body before too long.

A bleating meow pulled his attention down and to the side. Orange eyes glowed up at him from a black feline face. The lion-like tail revealed it to be a kneazle. Its heavy middle implied female and pregnant but Godric had never been much of an animal person to be certain. It could just be fat. A simple pendant dangled from a chain around its neck.

It chattered at him in frustration.

“What?” he croaked out before grimacing at the young voice.

The feline turned and pranced, surprisingly gracefully with its heavy stomach, to a seemingly unconscious boy. 

Godric didn’t spring into action, though. The boy, clothed (lucky bastard), was on the ground. The limp stance implied unconsciousness but, Godric looked around once more, that meant nothing. He spied a stick and headed over for it, ignoring the yowl of irritation the feline sent at him. Barely halfway to the stick, he stepped into something gooey. 

It had once been a candle. A quick glance around revealed the circle of melted wax. He had been in the center. Godric knelt and carefully shifted the leaves and plants around, digging up some of the grass. There was no runic design hidden underneath. His head snapped up to the sky. No moon.

“A purification ritual?” he breathed out in wonder. That explained nothing. It made no sense.

His gaze flicked back around the grove. It was just the boy, cat, and him. 

“Where’s the druid?” he muttered. 

No adult would allow children to complete a ritual on their own. The mistakes that could be done, even with such a benign ritual, were astronomical. Sally always said–Why was he thinking of Salazar so often now? He had spent years trying to forget the loss of his brother.

A hand pressed to the other arm’s forearm as he jumped to the answer. Pain spiked across the raw bond tattoo as he pressed against it. It was no longer faded. What that meant whispered in the back of his mind but he didn’t let it breath it's tempting words. Sally was dead, had been for twenty-six years, four months, and seven days...

Godric gritted his teeth at the depressing thoughts and picked up the stick before he turned back to the unconscious child. A pile of cloth caught his attention. Eyes jumped between the two for a second before Godric decided some cover was better than nothing before confronting a possible enemy. 

More chatter from the knzeale indicated that she disagreed.

The clothing was strange. It was extremely well made in a fabric he couldn’t identify but there was no magic woven into the articles so he felt safe putting them on. They did fit the body he was possessing well enough. The black robe reminded him of the uniform Rowena had insisted on.

Godric left the robe on the ground but did investigate the pockets. There was a hat, gloves, and a wand. He grinned at the polished wood before he flicked it.

His grin vanished. 

The silver wood and it’s unknown core was entirely unresponsive. He set it back on top of the robe and retrieved his stick. It wasn’t like he needed a wand, anyway. Though, without his sword, the wand would have been useful if he was forced into any formal duels. 

Nothing jumped out, nothing changed as Godric carefully shuffled around the circle of melted candles. The feline pranced away from him but stayed near the boy. Orange eyes stared up at him in accustion. He could feel the disgust at dressing before investigating the boy.

Godric rolled his eyes at the cat and turned to said child.

A jab of the stick gained no reaction from the limp boy. A smack had a similar lack of response.—The kneazle huffed at him.—He pushed the child over with the stick, revealing some strange delicate metal and glass things on his face. Godric leaned over to stare at the device for a moment before he used the stick to poke at pockets and sleeves. No weapons or curses sprang out. 

It took some creativity and effort but he was certain the child was both unconscious and physically unarmed. It didn’t mean some enchantment or such wouldn’t rear its head, though.

“Would you look at me, Sally? I’m entirely too paranoid in my old age,” Godric allowed a bitter smile to spread as he muttered to himself, his gaze moved to meet the cat’s gaze and then away. “I’ve turned into a more paranoid version of you. Too bad it didn’t help with my wife.”

The child had a mess of curly, wavy black hair and pale ass skin. Of course, the black hair and black robes probably made him look paler than he truly was. A reddened patch of skin had Godric push the boy’s hair from his forehead with his stick. There was a vibrant red sōwilō shaped scar on the child’s head.

Godric frowned down at the boy for a long moment before releasing a heavy sigh. He finally knelt before the boy and found the kneazle on said boy’s chest. Godric and cat stared at each other, finally about level.

“Your boy needs to breathe, cat.” 

Orange eyes narrowed and the kneazle leaned toward him, nose twitching slightly. She tilted her head and chirruped at him before she climbed off the child, allowing Godric to take stock properly. The creature claimed the spot right above the boy’s head to keep watch, laying directly onto the mess of hair.

Godric shook his head at her and she turned her gaze away as if dismissing him. Her ears were still pointed toward Godric.

The child had a fever. His heart rate was normal. There was no visible blood. 

“Guess we’re off to Hogwarts, lad.” Godric muttered. His gaze moved back to the cat, “Off.”

The cat ignored him. Godric used his stick to poke it. Orange eyes flashed back at him. 

“Get off...up?”

She shifted and flopped her head onto the boy’s head. Her body stretched out and paws tangled into some of the boy’s hair. Godric narrowed his gaze at her and finally used his hand to push her gently away. The kneazle was gone the second his hand brushed against her fur.

Godric shook his head and turned back to the boy. It was late and both the child and he needed to get to Hogwarts before whoever had brought them here returned.

He grabbed the child’s arm to pull him up over his shoulder. The boy flinched and whined sharpily. Godric frowned but dropped the child back to the ground and rolled a sleeve up to make certain there was no wound or broken bone. 

His breath caught at the sight. 

Godric yanked the child’s other sleeve up, not bothering with being gentle. He had to tug an odd silver bracelet about but a helpless noise escaped his lips as he took in the markings. Godric pulled his own sleeves up to compare, though he had long memorized the marks. 

The boy had the match.

“Sally?” he finally choked out. 

The Hogwarts founder mentally reached out for the parts of him that were also Salazar, the bonds that tied them together until death (and, perhaps, through death, too). They had been cold since his brother had died.—They weren’t cold now. 

Three intertwined bonds thrummed with life. The bond of blood, the bond of magic, and the bond of souls all existed. His heart pounded hard as he reached out and grasped them in a mental vice grip. 

Where was Salazar? The bonds answered: Before him. In front of him. Alive. 

It had to be a siren’s call. Salazar was dead. Godric had seen him die.

Godric tugged at the boy’s robes, pulled them up so he could yank the tunic up. Vibrant red ritual runes and marks covered the boy’s chest and hips. The soul bond across the heart was the twin of his own. Godric stared at it in wonder.

The Gryffindor didn’t know nearly as much about rituals as Salazar. They each had their masteries and specialities. Rituals was one of Salazar’s, not Godric’s. But Godric had known Salazar long before his brother had his ritual mastery. He had learned a great deal about rituals from simply living with the man most of his life.  

Godric couldn’t help the tightening of his hands as he held onto the boy. He couldn’t look away. Each person in a bonding bore identical tattoos but those markings were unique for that bond. Another group bonded under the exact same ritual would have an entirely different tattoo. This boy had the match to his which had to mean one thing.

A laugh, part desperate, part hysterical escaped Godric. 

His brother had come back to him. Sally was in a black haired squirt of a child’s body but he was back. A grin spread. 

Another whine from Salazar reminded Godric of his brother’s fever. He now had a good idea why Sally had such, though. It looked like most, if not all, of his brother’s ritual marks were irritated. He had no idea why that was the case but a dip in one of the pools should soothe them enough to drop the fever to nothing. 

Then, hopefully, Sally would wake up and they would figure out what the hell was going on with their body possessions. With that plan in mind, Godric dug into Sally’s pockets and found another wand. This time, when he flicked the wand it reacted. —Not particularly enthusiastically but there were some sparks.—It reminded him of the other wand and robe.

Those likely belonged to the child he was possessing. Godric sighed but got up and reclaimed the items. He even pulled the robe on. Then he took Sally’s wand and pulled his brother up over his shoulder. 

“Uff,“ he groaned and muttered, “Lad’s going to go through some strengthening exercises after this.” Whoever he was possessing had no muscle. He must be a noble’s child, one of those second sons expected to become a monk or priest.

Godric found the aspen gatekeepers and stepped out of the grove. A forest surrounded them. He looked around in wonder as he attempted to find something, anything familiar. Nothing jumped out to him. Only the brisk night air and the night sky filled with starlight was familiar. (But even that wasn’t quite right.)

A mewl pulled his gaze down to the kneazle. She stared up at him.

“You aren’t coming with us,” Godric announced, “I’ve no idea what you think you’re doing but Sally isn't your person. Gods, I don’t think I’ve even seen him with any pet before and he can talk to snakes.”

The black cat mewled again.

“That means shoo.”

Orange eyes blinked one after the other at him.

He shook his head and focused on more important things. They needed to get to Hogwarts. His eyes dropped to the ground and spied an acorn. 

Godric flicked Sally’s wand at it and ordered, “Portus.”

A frown bloomed across his face when his magic didn’t respond. The man tried twice more before he switched wands. The silver wand was no better. He switched back to Sally’s wand, as it had actually responded earlier, and tried once more. Finally, Godric laid Sally onto the ground, picked up the acorn and brought it over so it was directly in front of the wand. 

“The one good spell the Normandy’s brought with them and it requires a wand,” muttered Godric in frustration. (If he had actually used the spell enough, he would have been able to do it wandlessly but it was a Normandy spell. He had avoided using it.) 

He had never had this problem before but he had also had his wand to direct the delicate spell. Godric had only ever used his or Salazar’s wand before. He had never been in a situation that had required him to use another person’s wand. Neither present wand seemed to like him much. 

Godric growled softly as his tenth attempt failed. “This is ridiculous,” he muttered as he dropped down into a comfortable position and closed his eyes. 

It took only seconds for the man to mentally sink into himself. He opened his inner eye and made a wounded sound. His magic was fucked.

He shook his head at the horrific sight, now was not the time to worry about this, and reached out to one of the spikes of golden, fiery magic. He wrapped a thick strand to his hand and pulled. Back in the physical world, Godric opened his eyes and pointed Sally’s wand at the acorn. The spell snapped out as he concentrated on his desired result. His annoyance and tight grip on his magic had made verbalizing the spell unnecessary. 

Godric tucked the wand into one of his pockets, pulled Sally into his lap so he had a better hold on him, and grabbed the acorn. The kneazle yowled in complaint but it was too late for her to do anything about the situation. It was left behind.

The world jerked and twisted. Nausea washed over him, revealing another weakness with the boy he possessed as bile rose to the back of his throat. Godric focused on keeping a hold of Sally and the acorn as they spun around and around. 

Up and up they went and then down. The trip was almost over. He could spy a blur of the twinkling Hogwarts. They had been close, surprisingly so.—Godric couldn’t recall a forest so close to Hogwarts but tertiary triad members could be wily folk, especially with the Normandy invaders out to wipe them from the world. It was entirely possible that they had started hiding entire areas from sight, not just their groves. 

The spinning snapped. Godric yelped as he was tipped over and nearly let go of Salazar. A moment later they crashed. 

Godric rolled over and threw up. Then he found Sally, who had apparently woken up enough to roll onto his side and throw up himself. Godric helpfully pulled the boy out of the puddle of puke. Luckily, Salazar wouldn’t remember that.

He stilled and stared.

They were in a forest. Godric whipped his head around and saw Hogwarts. There was a forest at the edge of Hogwarts proper. The inner wall was missing. Godric was pretty sure the gate was missing too. There were three more towers than he remembered. The ones that had been under construction were completed. All of them were complete. 

“How the hell…” breathed Godric, and not just because of the bloody forest on Hogwarts land.

Hogwarts didn’t have a ward to restrict portkeys. Salazar had died before he could create something like that. Helga had added some charms to keep the bloody things from gaining access within the school but Godric had aimed for the main courtyard which was the designated drop off since more and more people were using portkeys these days.

But they had run into some type of barrier. Otherwise they should have landed in the courtyard.

Godric’s mouth went dry. There was something he didn’t know, something extremely important. The founder pulled Salazar over his shoulder and trudged through the giant ass opening in his wall. 

He was going to get some answers. Gareth and Helga had better have them.

A wooden hut came into view as he trudged on. There was no light coming from it so it had blended in with the dark land. Godric paused and considered knocking. It was late but a secure place to lay Salazar so he could find his cousin and Helga would do wonders. Or better yet, the person that lived there could go collect them for him so he didn’t have to leave Sally.

The sound of something banging snapped his head towards the school. Light streamed through the main courtyard’s gateway. Figures rushed out a moment later. Their height and the time of night implied adults. They were strangers, all of them. He could tell with a moment of watching their various gaits.

Godric shifted his grip on Salazar and crouched to make himself as small as he could before he ran over to the garden near the hut. He laid Sally against a giant, oddly colored vegetable like plant and pulled the working wand out. The rush of figures came into view a moment later.

None of them glanced at the garden but Godric took no chances. He aimed the wand at their backs. While they were still focused on the forest, Godric delved back into his core to pull as much magic through the mess as he could. He blinked to refocus his sight, as ready for an attack as he could be.—What should have been instinctive was difficult. The magic churned, unused to being used or having freedom. It was wild and eager to spring out of him.

While he had fought control over his magic, the group of strangers had reached the edge of Hogwarts Proper. The eldest was a white bearded fellow wearing a set of truly ridiculous robes. A pointed hat and half-moon metal things on his face finished the assembly. The man flicked a knobbled wand out towards the crumbled wall and dark forest. 

“It wasn’t children,” he announced in a grave voice.

A brow shot up at that claim. Sally and he were not children but damned if they weren’t possessing some at the moment. Godric didn’t see how anyone could have claimed such a statement. Last he checked there was no way to discern the age of an intruder without setting a barrier up before the person went through the area. He scowled at the sudden thought that someone could have placed such a barrier on the edge of his school.

What the hell was going on here? Who were these people?

“Why would children have portkey’s?” scoffed a plump woman. 

“There is always a possibility that some had gone on a little adventure. To be young and full of wonder , it can make them do the most foolish of things,” the elder explained.

“And,” huffed out a tall black haired woman in some type of wrap. Godric supposed she might actually be out in her undergarments as odd at that would be. “They likely didn’t know it would be a one way trip. I keep telling you we need to change the charms so portkeys cannot work either direction. Allowing portkeys out of the school isn’t good, not if the students learn about it.”

“Now, my dear let us focus on the matter at hand,” the elder responded, clearly not interested in reopening that conversation, “though there are no children, there must be someone.”

“Unless they portkey’d away already,” said a swallow skinned man. He flicked his wand up and muttered some spell. The people surrounding him lit up a vibrant red. Godric stiffened as he felt the spell swoop over them. One of his ritual bands burned against his skin and the spell continued on its way. Neither Godric nor Salazar glowed.

He relaxed, glad for probably the thousandth time that Sally had convinced him to go through that particular ritual. Paranoid bastard had it right sometimes. He had stopped counting how many times that band had burned in response to someone trying to track or detect him. 

The group of strangers had moved into the forest. Salazar shivered violently, drawing Godric’s attention. He pressed his hand to his brother’s chest and let a little bit of his magic out into Salazar, focused on balancing his temperature against the fever (the single piece of “healing” magic he could do). The shivering subsided for the moment. 

A flash of light from the forest drew his attention again. Godric grimaced as the elder walked back out with an acorn floating in a glowing sphere of magic. He waved his wand about a few times as his companions returned after him.

“A one way trip,” he remarked with a curious frown. The old man shook his head and, with a wand flick to end whatever detection spell, tucked the acorn into his robes. “I will inform the ministry of the matter in the morning. Thank you for your prompt response everyone.”

“Of course, Headmaster.” Nodded the plump woman before she headed back to the school. The swallow skinned man sneered out around him as he followed. 

That left the underdressed woman and elder, both of whom lingered at the forest edge. “Do you think someone was attempting to reach the stone?” The woman asked quietly.

“Perhaps, Minerva, perhaps,” the elder said. He looked over the area once more before he added, “it seems to me that they may have been testing us. It should be common knowledge, common sense in fact, that we would have protections against portkeys.”

“Albus, you don’t think –”

“No. Of anyone, he would know of the protections in place.” 

Godric frowned as the two finally headed back up to the school. Questions and more questions. “I don’t think we’ve returned home, Sally,” he muttered to his unconscious brother. He furrowed his brow as he looked down at the black haired boy. “Good thing we’ve alternate entrances, eh?” He looked back up and again considered the strangers. “Good thing we hide the ritual rooms, too.”

oooP2ooo

It took a while to reach the escape passage by the loch. Salazar grew heavy the further Godric carried his brother and this body struggled to breath properly. He was tempted to activate his strengthening runes. They would allow him to carry Sally with little strain but he was also wary of how they’d react with him not in his own body. It was a child’s body and the ritual band that had been activated from the detection spell was still burning. It shouldn’t be, not unless someone was still trying to detect him.

So he struggled along, weezing the further they went, and took multiple breaks. Thank the Mother for Rowena’s space-time enchantments. They would have never made it into the castle before dawn if he had to carry Sally the entire physical path. 

Godric took a longer break once they reached the end of the passage. He mentally considered which hidden passage would take them the quickest route. They were on the third floor. They needed to be in the dungeons. 

He should have portkey’d them to the escape route near one of Sally’s groves. The hidden passage to the ritual rooms was directly connected to it. 

They could take the third floor passage up to the seventh floor where one of the passages would take them down to fifth. There they’d be able to go directly out to the kitchen floor. But then he would have to carry Salazar down a flight of stairs. That didn’t sound pleasant.

He frowned over his options. They should have setup passages that could take them to any floor for this very scenario. He’d make certain that was added to the list of projects for the year once this insanity was completed.

Seventh had a passage down to the dungeons but it was on the opposite side of the floor. Could he tempt crossing that much open hallway? Or should he tempt a flight of stairs? He glanced over to Salazar. 

His brother was shivering again; the fever had risen.

Open hallways it was, Godric decided.

He hefted Salazar back over his shoulder and pushed open the hidden doorway. A statue, not the one Godric remembered having placed there, slid back into place as he stepped out of the way. It wasn’t a particularly pleasant looking statue. He much preferred the griffin one.

Shaking his head of the stray thoughts, he’d deal with the various changes later, Godric turned and stopped. The wall was covered in paintings. He had never seen such detailed, realistic paintings before. Only statues could reach such heights of realism. 

A snort startled the founder. He twisted around and pointed Sally’s wand out. But there was no one there. Godric searched intently for a long moment but the heat radiating from Salazar forced him to turn back and head towards the nearby passage to the seventh floor. He relaxed slightly as he spotted the tapestry of The Hunt. It was worn, had clearly seen better days but it was still there. 

Godric leaned close to it and whispered in his mother tongue, “Ne sceall se for horse murnan, se þe wile heort ofærnan.” 2

The tapestry pulled up to one side by some invisible rope and revealed the hidden passage to the seventh floor. Once more the space-time enchantment shifted the long, winding path into a shortened passage. This time it was only a half dozen steps. The exit was hidden by a large painting.

Breath escaped in sharp, wheezing gasps. He attempted to control it, worried the sound would catch something’s attention. The edge of panic bubbled through him as he struggled to breathe in enough air without rushing. It felt like his chest was closing up.

Tears stung his eyes at the sharp ache of each suck of air. Godric forced himself to set Salazar down and take another break. (Gods, this child was going to be put through hell during training if a bit of lifting and walking caused this.)

When he could breath without pain or hints of panic, Godric picked Salazar back up and opened the hidden passage. The opening revealed the missing griffin statue standing across the hallway. Godric stared at it for a moment. That particular spot should contain stairs up to their large meeting room on the eighth floor. 

The sound of something snoring distracted Godric. This time he found the source of the sound. He stared at the snoring portrait used to hide the hidden passage he had just exited from. 

If it snored, did that mean it could awaken? Could talk?

Gods, he hoped none of the paintings he had passed had been awake. 

Godric shifted his grip on Salazar and trudged through the dark hallways, past more and more sleeping paintings. He took his time, careful to walk quietly and breath slowly to avoid wheezing and waking the portraits. Eventually the twisting hallway opened up into a general study area. Godric firmly ignored all the different furnishings (none were familiar). On the other end of the area another hallway continued for a short way. It ended with multiple paintings. More importantly, the passage he was interested in had an unfamiliar portrait where a mirror should have stood. 

The figure was of some religious man, he supposed. The face was vaguely familiar but Godric couldn’t think of many apprentices that had chosen to follow the Catholic religion, not to such an extent at least.

The man turned child shook his head at the idea. He wasn’t one to judge but there was just something off about a person that joins an organization that openly murders people accused of magic, when said person had magic themselves. To each their own in the end. Godric couldn’t claim the religion didn’t have its purposes and better aspects. Some of the bible had resonated with him. He would have preferred less hangings and burnings at the stake, though.

Godric reached out and felt around the frame. Relief flashed through him as the portrait swung open like the mirror had once done. Godric quickly entered as said portrait woke and cried out, “Who’s there? Of all the inconsiderate...Do you have any idea what time it is?”

The passage released them into the dungeons. It took only a few more minutes to reach the plaque of serpents and seconds to taps the heads in the correct order. By that point he was wheezing again. Once in the emergency escape, Godric set Sally onto the dusty floor and rested his hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath. 

His gaze fell to the floor and found small footprints in said dust. First years had come this way recently. More importantly, the dust layer was thick. It hadn’t been that long ago since he had been in this passage. There had been no dust then.

Godric settled down beside his brother with a groan at the evidence piling up. A great deal of time had passed. He closed his eyes and tried not to think about how long.

This body hurt. 

He was exhausted. 

They were almost to the ritual rooms, though. 

Godric glanced back down at the dusty floor. He had to wonder what condition the rooms would be in. Gareth nor Helga would allow the rooms to fall into disrepair. Neither would the children. But none of them seemed to be in Hogwarts.

A rather pathetic sounding whimper from Salazar forced Godric back up. The basilisk statue moved on his command and they traversed the last space-time enchanted passage to the ritual rooms. Soft, silvery moonlight glowed from Sally’s experimental runic stones, lighting the passage and room as Godric entered. 

It was beyond dusty. The classroom was empty of any furnishings. The thick layer of dust on the floor had long turned into a grimy dirt. The various doors were missing. Any wood in the lit rooms had either been removed or had crumbled from time. Who knows what the pitch black ritual rooms held.

Both cleansing pools were empty of water. Only grim covered the deeply inset basins. None of the patterns and decorations on the floor were visible, they were so dirty.

All of it made Godric uneasy. How long had it been since anyone had entered these rooms?

Godric laid Salazar on the floor in one corner of the room with the smaller pool. He stumbled over to one of the walls and fumbled with the various runic matrixes inscribed upon it. There was so much grime he could not make out all the runes. 

Finally, after lighting up and twisting the patterns around, the large basin set into the ground lit with a white light. The light filtered through its own layer of grime, dimming and hiding the thousands of runes Godric knew covered the bowl. A rumble echoed through the empty stone rooms and water gushed into the pool. 

The basin filled with murky water. Godric grimaced at the sight and looked back to the matrixes he had been fiddling with. He rubbed a sleeve against the wall but all it did was push the grime about. 

He glanced back at the water and paused. It was clearer than a second ago. As he watched, he relaxed. The murky water was being removed by the purifying runes. Slowly, the water was becoming crystal clear and with it the thousands of glowing markings became visible. Soon the water would glow with an iridescence, indicating the cleansing magic was ready.

Godric turned to Salazar and pulled the clothes off his brother. He carefully pulled the strange metal and glass device that hung haphazardly from his ears (Godric was surprised the thing had stayed on through all the running about) and unclicked the thick, silver bracelet. (It had taken some time to figure out how to unlock it.) He paused when a delicate gold chain with rings dangling from it was revealed under the layers of clothing. Protective magic sparked in warning when he hesitantly tried to remove it.

Once Sally was naked, beyond the necklace, he stripped himself down also. The purified water would destroy their clothing. Only specially treated and created white linen could be safely worn in a cleansing pool. It was simpler to just forgo modesty. (Godric had no desire to storm his own castle butt ass naked. While he imagined doing so would cause a number of the older ladies to faint, if he had been in his usual body. It would have been entirely ridiculous. He would still do it if he had to but he didn’t as long as he took the time to protect the clothing he had.)

Steam slowly filled the room. Godric groaned as he felt it affect his wakefulness. It was not the time for a nap. He rubbed his face and grumbled to himself. He needed to wake Sally and they would have to remove the intruders from Hogwarts before any of the children were harmed.

Thank the gods, purified water was extremely buoyant. 

At the sight of the iridescent gleam in the water, Godric dragged Sally into the pool. Salazar seemed to relax as the water pulled the irritation from his ritual marks and dulled the fever. Puffy red skin slowly lost the angry tint and began to lighten to a mildly irritated pink. 

Godric dunked his head before he shifted the two of them into a comfortable floating position with Sally’s head on his arm and near the edge of the pool. Then he allowed himself to float and doze. The irritation of his ritual marks and his magic soothed as the cleansing magic went to work. 

He did not fall asleep, not really.—It would be a truly foolhardy thing to do in a bath.—Because of that, he became aware the second Salazar began to stir. Emerald colored eyes peeked out from under black eyelashes. They were unfocused for a good few minutes as Sally struggled between unconsciousness and waking. The warmth of the water didn’t help pull him from his slumber. 

Godric could tell the instant Sally was able to focus. The barely lit ceiling, still covered with a mosaic of the night sky, seemed to pull his brother into proper awareness. His head slowly turned on Godric’s arm and green eyes stared at him.

“Nev?” 

He frowned at the unfamiliar word. Something nagged at the back of his mind but he pushed it aside for the moment. “Sally.”

The black haired, green eyed boy frowned. He slurred out in response, “Nevilllle, how’ we ge’ here?”

Godric furrowed his brow at his brother. Not feeling particularly patient, Godric shifted and stuck his free arm out so Sally could see his forearm. There was no reaction for a long moment.

Green eyes followed the arm and took in the markings. Then Sally jerked up, tried to stand, and dunked himself. 

Godric shot up and grabbed out for his brother. A short struggle commenced which ended with a coughing Salazar using Godric’s shoulder as an anchor as he tried to clear his chest of the water he had accidentally swallowed. 

When he finally succeeded, for the most part, Salazar choked out a quiet, small, disbelieving, “Godric?”

“Salazar,” Godric answered quietly back. 

His brother’s hold on his shoulder tightened painfully. Emerald eyes stared at him in wonder. His jaw clenched and released multiple times. Salazar didn’t seem to know what to say. His gaze dropped to his own forearms as he searched out the proof of their living, breathing bonds. 

Godric could feel Salazar tug on their bonds. Sally’s head snapped back up to stare at him an instant later. Wonder and hope and devastation crossed the foriegn face and his expressive emerald eyes. 

They floated, staring at each other for a long few minutes. Salazar ended up breaking that silence with a whispered, “Tell me something only Godric could tell. Something you wouldn’t see if I had accidentally shared my memories.”

Godric tilted his head at the specific demand. There was a story behind that. It took a moment to consider his options. Something Sally didn’t have a memory of but knew either happened or could have happened. A particular memory sprang forward but he took another moment to try and consider some other options. Nothing came to mind.

“Teasagh made me promise I’d give her a year, and I would help her during that year, to woo you. She was going to convince you to take her as your wife after the conflict with the Normandy bastards,” Godric said.

Salazar became still, his eyes grew distant. “Little Teasagh?”

“You know–”

“Yes,” Sally interrupted, “I just thought she had given up. I helped with her birth. I would never have–”

Godric snorted. “I don’t know. I think you would have fit together well, if you had given her a chance.”

The two stared at each other, falling silent once more.

Salazar shifted and looked away. “Did she ever…”

“I found her a good man. She was content in the end.” Godric looked away from his brother also, even though Salazar wouldn’t have seen the slight grimace Godric hadn’t been able to hide. She had been content but not filled with joy as Godric imagined his sister would have been if she had married Sally.

Salazar moved away from Godric and returned to floating. Both fell into respectively heavy thoughts. Both had things to say and ask but, at least for Godric, the moment needed savoring. His brother had returned to him. 

It was the odd sound of a pop-click that forced the two back to the present time. Godric stared at the source of the sound. A House elf stood wringing its hands together with wide eyes. It wore a sack with their Hogwarts’s seal within a shield shaped symbol embroidered across the chest. 

When the hell did Hogwarts get House elves, Godric wondered. He straightened as a thought hit him. Had the invaders brought them?

His gaze moved to Sally and saw a lack of surprise. His worry faded. Salazar had some idea what was going on.

“Master Sally,” the creature finally wailed out, “You’s be using unclean rooms!”

“Mipsy, it’s alright.” Salazar tried to calm the poor creature as he swam over to the edge and patted the ground beseechingly. “You couldn’t have known we were going to use these.”

Godric snorted. “ Master Sally?

Salazar slapped a wave of water into Godric’s face. “It’s your fault they call me that!”

“Oh really?” he asked in bemusement. How the hell was it his fault?

The House elf stared at him with sharp eyes. “Master Sally, your Nevvie be alright?”

Godric frowned. “Nevvie?”

Salazar frowned at him in turn. “Neville, you know, your name?”

“My name is Godric,” he reminded his brother slowly. Godric watched his brother carefully, wondering if he needed to worry over Salazar’s memory. His brother had been dead after all. That could have caused some memory problems, couldn’t it?

The House elf made a startled squeak. Then it pop-clicked away.

“Brother...Godric…What is your last memory before awakening here?” asked Salazar.

He shifted his floating form up so he was sort of float-sitting in the pool before he answered, “I was laying on my deathbed...What I had thought was my death bed.”

The pale, young, foriegn face softened. “Ended up old and wrinkled, did you?”

“Not exactly.” 

Salazar frowned at that but focused on whatever he was trying to lead towards. “Does Neville mean anything to you?”

“Besides being important enough for you to ask about it?” Godric snarked before he turned thoughtful. “There is something about it that...feels important, I suppose. It’s one of those things that sits at the tip of your tongue, you know?” He huffed in annoyance. “I can’t–the reason is just out of reach.” 

He couldn’t recall and that was annoying. He always had issues remembering things.—Godric frowned at that because that wasn’t true. He had very good memory...except for right after Salazar had died. But he was well aware why he could barely recall the shit that had happened over those years.

Godric looked back at his brother in time to see a slight grimace. “What?”

The black haired boy sighed as he leaned into the pool’s curved wall, slumping further into the warm water. “I awoke in this body when it was three years old.” He gave as a strange sort of answer. He turned to stare into Godric’s eyes. His brother’s eyes were an intense green. “I’m eleven now. We’re eleven. We both go to Hogwarts as students.” Salazar openly grimaced as he said, “We are children, reborn into these bodies. They are our bodies.”

“Reborn?” Godric scoffed, “Death has screwed with your mind. We are clearly possessing the children–”

“These ritual bonds–” Salazar held up one of his arms. His gaze dropped to their blood bond markings. “–would not have settled onto these bodies if we were simply possessing them. And, as I said, I have been awake since I was three years old. Godric...It’s 1991.”

“1991–”

“That is the year,” Salazar explained, his gaze turned back to stare intently at Godric, “I have been reborn into this body, into the Familia of Potter. I am...my name is Harry James Potter. You are Neville.” Salazar paused for a moment. His brow furrowed as he considered something before he said, “Neville Longbottom.”

“1991?” Godric breathed out. 

Godric slumped down so the water reached his ears. He could see Salazar watching him from the edge of his sight but he ignored his brother as he considered everything Salazar had said. Godric turned his eyes to the mosaic covered ceiling. He traced the aged image of the sky, spied the constellations, recalled the sections that had fallen, but his thoughts were elsewhere.

They were in the future. 

He could claim Salazar had his head screwed on all strange since death had taken him but it wouldn’t change the facts. Dead men don’t come back. Or didn’t, till now.

His mouth went dry. He had died. Acadia had killed him. Did his children know?

Probably not. And it didn’t matter. Hadn’t mattered for centuries. 

Over nine hundred years in the future and they were in eleven year old bodies, supposedly their new bodies.—Godric didn’t really see how this body could possibly be him but Salazar won’t lie about something like this. Didn’t mean he was right, though. It still seemed more likely some idiot had summoned their souls and forced them to possess these children.

Godric frowned. Sally had been back since he was three. That was a long time to possess a child. And why hadn’t he come back then too?

He huffed as no answer came to mind, beyond the entirely unlikely idea that they had really been reborn. It felt so impossible, like a strange dream where he regained his brother but lost his children and the others that made up their family. 

Over nine hundred years was a very long time.

That must mean the intruders weren’t actual intruders. Those adults must be the teachers and caretakers of Hogwarts. Hogwarts had stood nearly a thousand years. 

A quiet stream of hissing curses drew his attention back to Salazar. His brother was looking over all the various ritual marks covering his person. 

“Are you alright?” 

Green eyes snapped up. Worry glowed in them. “Are all your ritual markss back?”

The note of Sally’s parseltongue accent put Godric on alert. He cautiously answered with an affirmative. More, and more violent sounding, hissed curses escaped Salazar.

“How is it bad?” Godric asked, though the parseltongue was a good indicator that it was bad .

“We are children, Godric!” Salazar hissed out, green eyes flashing up at him, “Of coursse itss bad! We waited until we were adultss for a reasson.”

“Do we need to worry about using any of them?,” asked Godric as he floated closer to Salazar as his brother scowled out at the world, “Most of mine just...work. I don’t have conscious control over them.”

A frown softened the scowl. “Posssibly. I think ssome of the ritualss will influencse how our bodiess develop...A number of them sshould be ssafe to usse, the oness that don’t affect our physsical form but I cannot be scertain.”

“Right...so avoid using the ritual marks when possible, got it,” muttered Godric before he changed the subject. “Why didn’t I awaken when you did?”

Salazar started at the question. “What?” 

“You remembered yourself when you were three,” Godric offered as he realized Sally was still considering the repercussions of their ritual marks reappearing. It was interesting they appeared now for Salazar. Apparently his presence had caused some chain reaction within their magic. At least, that’s what he assumed had occurred.

“Ah,” Salazar said as he caught up to the subject change, “that is up for debate. I survived an attack by an evil wizard when I was approximately a year old. He killed my parents with some killing spell and tried the same on me. I’m supposedly the only survivor of the spell, ever. Helena–err…”

Godric grew grim at the strange, vaguely familiar story. He asked, resigned at the last part, “Helena is still a ghost?”

Green eyes blinked owlishly before he scowled, “You were aware–”

“I never got a straight answer out of them,” Godric countered before Sally could properly enter a rant. He frowned at a sudden thought. “Did you?”

The two stared at each other for a moment. Sally looked away with a slight smirk while Godric scowled. “Of course she’d tell you. Never understood how you became her favorite.”

“She was but a child when I died,” Salazar countered, “I imagine it would have changed if I had lived to see her grown.”

Godric shook his head and redirected the conversation. “You survived a killing spell?”

Salazar nodded. “Helena and I have debated the possibility that my parents had done some form of ritual and, combined with the killing curse, may have forced my past memories to surface.” He pushed his bangs from his brow and revealed the runic scar on his forehead. It was only slightly less irritating looking now that the soothing magic of the cleansing pool had worked on it. “This is the only physical sign of that night.”

“No other evidence?” 

“Not really, no.” Salazar shrugged, his hand dropped to trace the gold chain around his neck and dangling rings. “As for your remembering now, I think we can blame our bonds. We are brothers by blood,–” Salazar dropped the hand down to emphasize his forearm and stared down at the runic bands and design. “–by magic, and by soul.” He shifted about in the water and lifted his left forearm to glance over the bond markings before pressing a hand to his chest where the soul bond marked over his heart. 

He looked back up at Godric, wonder glowed in his green gaze. “We’ve been drawn to each other. I think you would have regained your past memories eventually from being around me...I suppose you don’t recall how you have been dreaming of late?”

Godric shook his head.

“You weren’t sleeping well. I could tell that much.” Salazar sighed. “I vaguely recall the feeling that I had slowly dreamed back my memories over the course of a few years before I properly woke up. I think I may have caused that process to start with you.” 

Godric slowly nodded before he said, “But something happened that led to you completing a purification ritual for me.” 

“Yes.”

Godric jumped to conclusions as an earlier remark about shared memories came to mind. “You accidentally connected with my magic again. More than just a brush.”

Salazar grimaced. “The bonds were rather insistent on reconnecting properly and I hadn’t expected-your magic…”

“Is fucked,” Godric said as he looked back up to the ceiling, “I couldn’t get my magic to work for a simple portkey. So I took a look...It’s...bad.”

“We’ll heal it.”

He offered a sharp smile. “Of course.” 

Salazar looked down into the shimmering water. “A bath a day will go a long way.”

“Do what we must, I suppose.” 

His brother sighed. “You must have stuffed the last decade of memories into the back of that catastrophic mind of yours. At least you seem to recall some things. It would have been a true pain if you hadn’t recalled the modern language.”

Godric startled. He hadn’t noticed but now that Sally had pointed it out, they weren’t speaking any of the languages they both knew. It hurt his head for a moment as everything gained a foreign feel. It was like those moments when a word suddenly looked all wrong, even though it was written correctly. It was like seeing it for the first time.

“I could have done without that being pointed out,” muttered Godric.

“You’ll truly appreciate this then,” Salazar said dryly, “You’ve gone and changed your accent.”

Godric groaned. “Like that time with Pictish?”

“Yes but you went and combined your present accent with your past one. Just avoid speaking for the next month or two,” Salazar explained.

“You must be joking.”

“Not really.”

A pop-click announced the return of Mipsy the House elf. She came with two stacks of clothing. “Master Sally, Master Rie here’s your clothing. Breakfast be happening now. Best not be late.”

“Thank you Mipsy,” Salazar smiled kindly at her, “Hogwarts is aware?”

“Hogsie is.” Mipsy hopped onto her toes as she beamed. Her ears flopped about in her excitement. “Mistress Lena knows also. She kept Hogsie from connecting so Master Rie’s mind doesn’t go mushie.”

“It would be best to wait on that,” agreed Salazar. 

Godric flicked his eyes back and forth between the two. “What is she talking about?” He turned to the House elf. “Who’s Hogsie?”

The elf bounced on her feet and glanced at Salazar instead of answering his question. Salazar also ignored the questions. Instead, he attempted to pull himself out of the pool. He failed, as his irritated ritual marks made it difficult to bend. Salazar fell back into the pool with a sharp clap of water. It looked a little painful. 

Godric snorted at the sight and swam over to his brother to help push him out. “Well?”

The green eyed boy walked over to the runic controls and tapped a few matrixes. The water vanished from his form. The nest that passed as hair poofed out into a wavy, curly mess. Most ended up standing on end. 

Godric smirked at the sight. His grin widened as it became clear that Sally had no idea. After appreciating the amusing sight for a moment more, the founder asked, “Salazar?”

“It would be simpler if you saw,” Salazar finally explained as he dressed.

Godric raised an unimpressed brow but followed his brother’s lead and got ready for the day. 

Mipsy wrung her hands. “Masters, you be leaving now, yes? Mipsy would have the rooms cleaned.”

“One moment more,” Salazar said with a smile down at the little creature, “if you don’t mind.”

Mipsy made a helpless sound and pop-clicked away.

Salazar picked up their dirty robes and pulled out the various items from their pockets. Godric frowned as he was handed the pale, unresponsive wand. “So, this is mine?”

“I-Yes. Isn’t it?” Salazar asked as he placed the metal and glass device on his nose before looking at the wand once more. “It is yours. Mine’s the yew wand.”

“It’s not very good,” Godric said with a frown, “I prefer your wand.”

Salazar stared. “You prefer my wand?”

“It actually works.”

“And yours doesn’t?” 

Godric answered the question with a swoosh and sharp flick at the pile of dirty clothing. “Wingardium leviosa.” 

Nothing occurred, as he had expected. Salazar’s expression was worth the irritation at the failure. It wasn’t worth the sudden sense of incompetence and uselessness that swept over him. 

Godric started when Salazar pulled the wand from his hand. His brother twisted it around and looked it over with care. He watched as Sally held it an inch from his eyes. “What are you doing?”

“Looking for a hair fracture.”

He yanked the wand back with a scoff. “You know shit about wands. You never even use yours.”

“Like you’re any better with that sword you carried around everywhere,” Salazar scoffed back.

Godric straightened up at the idea. “Could I use my sword?” That would fix the problem of the useless piece of junk he apparently called a wand.

“No one wears swords, let alone uses them now.” Salazar sighed. “You need to figure out what’s wrong with your wand. Besides potions and herbology, all the magic intense courses are wandbased. It’ll be a few years before there’s other options.”

“Great,” he muttered as he slid the wand into a pocket, “Now what am I supposed to see before we go off to this breakfast thing?”

“Me, Papa!”

Godric turned sharply at a little girl’s voice. A girl, maybe a year or two younger than them, stood at Salazar side. She had his daughter’s hair. 

Salazar interrupted his investigation, though it had paused quite sharply at the comparison to his daughter—His dead daughter. (She couldn’t be dead. She hadn’t been dead yesterday.) He hadn’t even fully appreciated her transparent nature. “This is Hogwarts, Godric.”

The little girl beamed up at him. “Papa Rie has come back in time for my birthday, too!”

“What?”

“She age’s by the century.” Salazar offered as if that explained anything.

The little girl bounced on her toes as she cleared the distance between them and tackled him with a warm laugh. Her form grew more solid as she connected with him. “I’m so happy you’ve come back papa! You were so sad when Papa Sally went away and then Papa Sally came back but you were gone and so he was sad too. But now you’re both back!”

Godric tentatively hugged her even as he stared over her shoulder at his brother. 

Sally smirked back at him as he said, “We should head to breakfast.”

“We shou–”

Hogwarts released him and proceeded to stab him in the chest with her finger. “No tomfoolery till we have a proper bond. Sissy Lena said your mind’s not ready to connect with me. That means you can get in so much trouble! So. You. Are. Not. Allowed.”

She spun around to point at Salazar. “He’s not allowed, Papa! No drunken stupidity, no tickling dragons, no nothing!”

Salazar offered her one of his charming smiles, the one Godric had sort of hoped he had lost the ability to use in this new body. “Of course dear.”

The little girl beamed. “Good.” Then she vanished. No pop, no click, just gone as if she had never been there.

Godric rubbed his chest as he tentatively asked, “Did she–”

“Yes,” Salazar said clearly bemused himself, “I do think she was quoting Helga for part of that. She’s a little bit of all of us, though.”

“Suppose she got Rowena’s tendency to rant?” Godric jokingly asked. Horrified realization spread across Salazar’s face. That was answer enough. “Ah, too bad...Any chance you’re also her favorite?”

oooPooo

Chapter Text

Chapter Eleven

oooP1ooo

(Neville)

Salazar filled him in on a few final tidbits as they took the long way up to the Great Hall. They shifted to speaking Pictish so none of the students would understand the conversation. It kept them from assuming Godric was even more incompetent than they all apparently thought he was. 

Godric didn’t think anyone was listening in, or able to hear anything with how quietly they were discussing things, but plenty were glancing at his brother with undisguised interest, or fear and hate, or awe. He found himself staring back at the children until they noticed that he had noticed. They turned away with blushes or scowls, but all were embarrassed at being caught. The lot needed to work on watching a person more subtly. 

Sadly, Sally was unable to tell him much about his schedule. It was Tuesday, which apparently meant they sat together in herbology. Some days they also shared a potions class. Everything else, Godric had with either Ravenclaws or Hufflepuffs. Salazar wasn’t aware of the details. 

So, as they reached the Great Hall, Godric knew two facts about the day beyond it potentially smelling worse than a bog hag. He had herbology before lunch. He had a mental list of his fellow first year Gryffindors’s names. His brother had “helpfully” described each child that went with the name. Godric wasn’t clear on how ‘bossy know-it-all that didn’t like Salazar’ was at all helpful. (Her actual name was almost as bad, though unique enough to remember.) It was more descriptive than ‘he’s blond and Irish’, at least.

Godric slowed to a stop as he took in the aged Great Hall. There was an equal amount of change to what had stayed the same.—More Windows. More Color. Stone worn and darkened.—Salazar grasped his arm and took the slightest lead towards one of the tables. Godric attempted to not stare at everything.—There were vibrant red and gold banners of a lion over the table they were headed to. This was his school house. Gryffindor. His gaze moved from the lions to the black and yellow badgers and on to the blue and bronze eagles until, near the new windows, his gaze found the green and silver snakes.—Beside the tapestries displaying their apparent school houses and the age apparent in the building itself, there were the children.

There were a large number of children. 

It was a good thing, a brilliant sight, but he hoped to the Mother that Neville didn’t know most of them. Salazar claimed he was a shy, clumsy child when in a group so Godric guessed he didn’t. But Salazar didn’t know what had gone on for the first ten years of Godric’s supposed second life. It was a long time to not meet any of these children before school started.

“Good morning Hermione, Dean,” Salazar cheerfully said as he nodded at each child in turn, “Seamus.”

Godric flicked his gaze over the three. Their faces were vaguely familiar. He knew them, should know them. Hermione wrinkled her nose at Salazar before she stuck it in the air and turned back to her book. The two boys gave slightly varied greetings. 

Food appeared in platters around them all. A more familiar fare appeared on the plates in front of Sally and him. Godric, not one to avoid new experiences, shifted some of his porridge to the side for a little of the various meats surrounding him.

“Where you’ve been, Neville?”

The meat, a thin long piece of fatty goodness, had the perfect crunch to it. It was also wonderfully smoked. There was an odd sweetness to it too but Godric had to admit that he didn’t mind it.

Salazar kicked his shin.

Godric snapped his eyes open and glared over at his brother. Salazar tilted his head towards one of the boys. Dean, he reminded himself. 

“Pardon me?” Godric offered as he tried to recall what he could have missed. 

The boy stared in bemusement at him but didn’t have a chance to answer as the bushy haired girl interrupted.

“You must be joking!” Hermione cried out, snapping her book closed with a sharp bang against the table. “There is no possible way you’ve been around Potter enough to start mimicking him. It’s not possible! And why would you imitate his accent? His accent is so strange!”

Godric shared a look with Salazar and decided to follow his brother’s original orders. Time to not talk for the next few months. He shrugged without comment. This was the wrong answer as the uptight child began to rant at the air. Salazar must have done something truly horrible to her in the past. And by Sally’s baffled expression, he had no idea what that might have been. 

Terribly sad that, Godric thought in amusement. Instead of jumping into the sword fight, he leaned over and whispered in query, “Sally?”

“Hmm?”

“What is this meat?”

Green eyes flicked down to his plate and then back to Hermione. “Bacon.”

“Excellent.”

“You would like it.” 

A new voice joined into their whispering conversation. “What we whispering about?”

Godric glanced over and found a freckled, redheaded, blue eyed child. He stared. The bone structure wasn’t right but damn if it didn’t remind him of his son.

Salazar helpfully answered with a whispered, “Bacon.”

The boy stared. “Seriously?” 

“It’s an enjoyable cut of meat,” Godric helpfully explained but that only gained a strange glance from the redhead. 

Seeing that this wasn’t helping the situation, whatever the situation was, Godric turned to his two fellow Gryffindor first years not ranting into the air and asked, “What classes do we have?”

Seamus grinned as he explained, “It’s Tuesday, mate.”

Godric tried to think of a response to that. Preferably something that would give him the information he was attempting to gain. Nothing came to mind.

Salazar came to his aid. “You all have something before herbology, don’t you?”

“We’ve astronomy,” Dean said as he stabbed at his eggs unsuccessfully, “You?”

His brother shrugged. “Nothing but I’ve history after.”

Seamus looked up from his breakfast, and leaned over the table towards Salazar as he asked, “Did you have that ten inches on Urg the Unclean? Bloody impossible ta find anything about that chap.”

“Ah,” Salazar seemed to hesitate for a moment before he answered, “Yes, I suppose...Do you have any classes after herbology?”

“Nah,” Seamus answered with a crooked grin, “It’s our short day.”

“Lucky, I’ve transfigura–”

“Did you not do your history homework?” Hermione screeched over Salazar’s remark, having realized no one was listening to her rant about regional accents.

“I’m sure I did it,” Salazar countered with a slight shake of his head. He glanced down into his tea cup. A softed, annoyed huff escaped his brother as he devined something odd. Salazar always saw strange things in his cups. Godric was amused he still bothered looking.

The girl hissed at Salazar before stomping away, pushing past the two red headed twins that had been listening in. Salazar snapped his gaze back up from his cup at the hissing. 

Another red head with a badge yanked the twins to the side for some type of argument. Godric watched, bemused, as a mullish expression settled on all three boys’ faces. Even that expression reminded him of his son. It was odd seeing it on so many strangers.

Godric noticed the helplessly look Sally sent his way and turned back to the little group of first years. He remarked after a moment's consideration of the retreating girl, “I think she thought you were dismissing her.”

Salazar frowned thoughtfully before heaving a defeated sort of sigh. The softest mutter of “children” reached Godric’s ears. His brother glanced down at his silver bracelet before looking up at them all. “It’s almost class.”

The two boys across from them gave Salazar weird looks. Dean slowly stated, “Umm...for us.”

Terror spiked through Godric.—Sally could not leave. He wasn’t allowed out of Godric’s sight.—Frustration answered the terror. He had never been this bloody terrified since he had been a child and almost burned down the forest. What was wrong with him? Sally wasn’t going to just vanish on him.

A hand grasped his forearm under the table and magic slithered vine-like up his arm, heating the brother bond marks and soothing his strange terror. 

“I’ve got nothing better to do,” Salazar said with a disarmingly innocent smile. 

That smile was new. Godric had no idea how anyone would ever believe such a smile.—His fellow Gryfindors’s disbelief indicated that no one actually did.

“Right,” Seamus stretched the word out as he spoke, “Nothing better to do but travel to the top of the bloody tallest tower first thing in the morning.”

Dean got up with a faint grin. “Come on or we really will be late.”

The two founders of Hogwarts rose to follow. Godric paused at the double doors and stared back into the Great Hall, it was nearly empty. He could take a proper stare at everything so familiar and yet not. This was going to be a long day—long month—of adjustments. 

A hand pressed lightly against his shoulder. Godric looked back to the black haired, green eyed boy, surprised at the comfort already tied to the foriegn face.—His brother was with him. Alive.

oooP2ooo

“Bloody hell, mate,” said Seamus with a surprised laugh as they reached the sixth floor, “Where’s your books and things?”

Godric pulled his gaze from the walls covered in moving, talking paintings and asked with a frown, “Wha...” 

Seamus had a stake of books in the crook of his arm. Dean had a drawstring bag filled with things hanging from his shoulder. He had been so busy staring at his school, he had not noticed.

“You better run!” Dean said with a faint frown as he walked backwards to talk to Godric. With his piece said, the boy ran himself. Seamus rushed after him.

“Where am I supposed to run to?” Godric asked helplessly. His breath hitched as fear bloomed across his chest, affecting his very breath. (He was going to be late. He couldn’t be late now. This was one of the few classes he did well i–)

“To your dorms, dear,” a painting answered with a tut.

Godric had no idea where his dorms were. His gaze snapped to his brother, wide and worried. (Why was he panicking over a class?)

Salazar pulled Godric into the first room they came to, just adjacent to the grand staircase. His brother closed the door with a soft click as he said, “Just ignore them.” Green eyes traveled over Godric’s stiff form. “And breath.”

“Sally–”

His brother offered a soft smile. “It’s all good. We’ve House elves now. Mipsy?”

Godric relaxed, anxiety he didn’t understand faded as the House elf pop-clicked into the room. 

“Masters,” Mipsy greeted them as she bounced on her toes, “You called?”

“Could you bring me my satchel?”

She nodded sweetly and pop-clicked from the room. 

The last of the anxiety and panic vanished. Godric could feel his shoulders relax and he could breathe easier once more. His gaze swept over the small room as he tried to distract himself from his reaction and the strange situation he found himself in.—Only a long table and chair sat in it. One wall had some type of large slate board on it with white scribbles, like a writing slate just ginormous.1

A pop-click pulled his attention back to his brother. Mipsy stood beside him with a leather bag. 

“Thank you,” Salazar said as he claimed it. The House elf beamed before vanishing. Godric’s eyebrows shot up as Salazar stuck his entire arm into one of the bag’s openings. His brother looked over to him as he explained, “You can use my Astronomy book...I’ll get you a notebook and my pen also.”

Godric accepted the items and turned the book about in wonder. Sally was carrying around a book. “Thanks.”

Salazar grabbed his arm and pulled him back into the hallway as he flipped the book open. “No time for that, now.”

They rushed through halls with a surprising number of children milling about. “What-”

“Sixth is mainly for school clubs,” Salazar explained as they dodged around a group of giggling girls. “Might have an elective classroom around, somewhere, though.”

“Elective?”

They turned a final corner and found a large, spiraling staircase up a tower. Salazar started to climb, pulling Godric along. His brother huffed out as they rushed upward, “I’ll explain it later, when we’ve time. Everything I can think of.” 

His brother suddenly stopped, causing Godric to step into his back. Salazar over his shoulder at him and explained, “Astronomy is taught by Professor Sinistra. I think she’s Italian.” Godric blinked blankly at that description. Salazar grimaced. “Sicilian or Roman decent...very distant descent?...Anyway, that’s her name.” Salazar turned back to the stairs and started climbing them once more. “You don’t have any homework, I don’t think.”

As they reached the top of the tower stairs, Salazar stopped once more. “You’ve a minute, maybe.” He tilted his head to the top where a door waited, closed. Green eyes locked onto Godric’s gaze. “I’ll be near. I’m not going anywhere.”

Godric nodded and climbed the rest of the steps, his mind immediately reaching out to the bonds.—Salazar was alive. There was no need to worry. He had no reason to panic. (He had never panicked so much in his life-past life. [Real life?])—He opened the door and stepped through. He couldn’t stop his gaze snapping to Salazar as he closed the door. 

“Mr. Longbottom, please take your seat. You got here just in time.”

The Gryffindor founder turned and forced his gaze to the teacher. Her tan complexion did remind him of the mediterranean. She was also gorgeous.—He should probably not think about that. (His wife murdered him, he could fucking look: Except he was in an eleven year olds body. [ Fuck—or was it no fucking? ])

“Neville! Over here,” hissed Hermione from her spot at one of the half circle tables up front and center. A seat was empty beside her. It was the only empty seat.

Godric claimed it while he tried not to stare at the room or the teacher. (Salazar could have given a better warning.) Luckily for Godric, Professor Sinstra jumped into the class topic the moment he had settled at the table. 

Professor Sinstra tapped her wand against the giant golden orrery as she spoke, “We have covered the high overview of our solar system. Now we will delve a little deeper.–” Parts of the orrery began to slowly rotate and shimmer. “–The rotational motion of the immediate bodies of the universe holds sway across whole fields of magic. Today we begin looking into the depths of each.”

“Earth.” She announced as she flicked her wand and the orrery’s shimmer flared. The planet representing Earth glowed a vibrant gold but it wasn’t solid. It was a net of golden lines spread across the surface of the metal ball. They weren’t perfect circles. The lines shifted and traveled in imitation of the elliptical motion of the planet around the sun. 

“Our planet is crisscrossed with leylines. leylines are the flows of magic, often poetically described as the veins and arteries of our planet. Some are called rivers of magic for they have shifted over the centuries but move very slowly. Others move with the season, a few are tied to the water currents and a number to the air currents...Where two leylines meet is often called a crossing. Hogwarts was built upon a crossing...An intersection of three is considered a lake. In summer the Sagano bamboo forest of Japan, at least the part not visible to muggles, is a leyline lake.” She looked around at them as she continued to lecture, “There are a few places where more than five leylines cross, though all are temporary events. One example is the Bermuda Triangle. The epicenter of that triangle is a leyline sea.” 

She waved her wand and the orrery faded until only the Earth was visible. A jab of her wand shifted the golden ball into a blue and green orb. The color change caused the golden lines to become more evident. Her final flick of her wand had the orb grow in size. The planet left a trail of gold dust behind as it traveled in an almost circle. It slowly created a golden line, revealing the elliptical path.

“It was in 1553 that Nicolaus Copernicus first theorized the motions of the planets. Nearly two hundred years later, in 1732, our own Headmaster Amrose Swott discovered the influence the elliptic motion of our planet has on its own magical nucleus…”2

Godric relaxed his mental grasp of his bond to Salazar as he focused on the lecture. It was fascinating. This connection could aid in understanding why certain magics worked better at different times of the year. It was surprisingly easy, once relaxed, to focus on the new information instead of the strange circumstance he was in.

He didn’t entirely get it but the model and professor’s words indicated knowledge about the heavens unknown last he had lived. The planet moved in space, the heavens he guessed, and that motion affected leylines. It would take some investigating or a lecture (or three) from Salazar to learn it all. His hazel gaze flicked down to the book Sally had given him.

oooP3ooo

(Harry)

Salazar stared at the closed door. He could feel the light tugging from Godric through their bonds.—He was mentally clinging to them himself.

He wasn’t alone. That thought kept ringing through his thoughts. 

His brother was reborn. Godric was here. Neville was Godric. 

The reincarnate forced his gaze from the door. He forced his mental grasp on the bond to release. Then he slowly descended the tower. He didn’t make it far; just a few flights down where he found a window opening large enough for a small student to lounge in. 

Thoughts continued to circle around Godric’s return. He couldn’t focus on anything else—He tried.—Salazar looked out the window. The forbidden forest sat dark and solid under a grey sky. 

Hogwarts reached out through their own bond and wrapped him in the warmth of a hug. The Slytherin allowed himself to just be. He couldn’t grasp anything more than that at the moment. Salazar fell into a meditative state as he let his subconscious process the changes in life. 

Warmth pulsed from the bonds twined around and through his magical core, through the blood pumping through his body, though his very soul. The ache and strain of the wards rippled against his  mind. The multifaceted rope connecting him to Hogwarts bubbled with warm joy. The triad of bonds with Godric—bonds he had ached at the loss of but had not fully realized until they had returned—throbbed and churned as they settled.

By the Mother, he had not realized how much he had ached for their warmth. Now that they were returned, he prayed they would never be ripped from him again. He could not imagine how Godric had lived with the broken bonds.

Or perhaps he had not lived that long, Salazar thought with a worried frown. The triad of bonds they had were the closest connection one could create. Only the bond between magical twins was stronger and that was because the bond was formed in the womb. Godric and he became brothers of blood, magic, and soul but magical twins were born brothers of blood, magic, and soul. Most twins could not handle living without their other half.

He shook his head at his thoughts. Godric had lived to see Helena grown and killed and returned a ghost. That was at least a decade after Salazar had died. 

Had Godric wed?—Salazar frowned and aborted scratching at his irritated tattoos across his ribs.—The newspaper had claimed Salazar a rumored descendant of Godric. He had laughed at the thought but he hadn’t asked the others. He hadn’t really wanted to know if his brother had lived on without him.

Salazar attempted to imagine the woman that must have claimed Godric. Amusement bubbled up at the possibilities. He imagined Helga finally succeeded in matchmaking. That was one upside to dying when he had: No more random woman with strange ties to Helga staying the month for a “visit”.

Thoughts continued to circle around Godric’s return. Eventually, the bell rang out announcing the end of the class. A tug from his brother bonds whispered through Salazar and he automatically reached out to tug back. Focusing, he could feel Godric walking down the flight of stairs overhead.

Salazar silently watched the score of his peers trudge down the stairs. The Ravenclaws rushed off to their next class while the Gryffindors trailed behind. Godric stopped at the step most conveniently placed by his window seat. 

Hazel eyes set on a round face with dirty blond locks looked up at him. It was nothing like Godric’s past form but Salazar looked rather unlike his old self too. The Gryffindor fit Neville as Neville fit the fiery founder. It didn’t make sense if he thought too hard about it—Godric was fire and bold power: Neville was a bundle of quiet nerves, a boy struggling under the weight of the world dealt to him. 

He hopped out of the window seat. And the two reincarnated boys followed their peers down to herbology. Neither said anything, it wasn’t the place nor the time for more words. Godric took in the changes to Hogwarts. Salazar watched his brother watch the world.

oooP4ooo

Godric’s wide-eyed panic had Salazar almost laughing. He stifled that reaction but couldn’t stop the smirk as he silently showed Godric how to care for his basil sprouts through example with his own. The little green plants had filled each pot. Each sprouted seed now had large twin leaves, some even growing their next set. All they needed to do was water them still.

His brother stumbled along and, amazingly, the plant didn’t burst into flames. The way the Gryffindor was acting, you’d think it would catch fire at the moment the first drop of water reached the soil. (Salazar had never actually seen a plant burst into flames because of Godric’s presence...except that one time with the giants but Godric had done that on purpose.—He was almost certain it had been on purpose.)

Professor Sprout floated multiple large boxes to her work table as she stalked into the greenhouse and called out, “Take your seats! Basils shelved, wands away, and quills out!”

The Gryffindors and Slytherins scrambled to complete their watering. Salazar, with a glance at the distracted professor, helped tilt Godric’s watering pot up before he drowned the poor sprouts and took both plants to their shelf. 

When he had returned, Godric had set out the notebook and pen he had let his brother borrow. Salazar hummed non-commentally as he pulled out a spare quill. His brother’s shoulders were tight, his eyes were ever so slightly wide, and the faintest hint of panic gleamed in them as his hazel gaze flicked about to take in all the various, flammable plants he might be forced to take care of.

“Today,” announced Professor Sprout, “We will begin to discuss various manifestations of magic within plantlife. Magic is imbued within nearly every plant the world over. Some plants reveal their magical properties from a glance but others must be handled a certain way to coax the magic out.”

She tapped the first box and the wood vanished, leaving behind a small plant. Salazar tilted his head thoughtfully at the soft silver-green leaves. It looked like a tiny bush. He recognized it as a plant Evander kept for his various healing creams.

“Does anyone know this plant?” asked the professor. Her sharp gaze snapped to the hand that stabbed through the air before she even finished her question. “Yes, Miss Granger?”

“That is dittany, Professor.” Hermione announced. Salazar watched as she sat with her back rod straight, gaze intense as she worked to recall everything she could about the plant. “It’s a healing and restorative herb. According to One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi it can be eaten raw or applied as a tincture to shallow cuts. If its applied t–”

Professor Sprout raised her hand, palm out to silence the girl. Hermione obediently quieted, though she squirmed slightly with the need to continue to explain. 

“Correct, two points to Gryffindor.” The woman looked about the class before she continued to explain, “Dittany is an example of a seemingly mundane plant with fantastical properties if only you are aware how to bring them out. There is nothing magical to your eyes, to your touch, to your nose. It is only when you taste it, do you learn of its magical possibilities. But, what is the first rule of handling plants?”

Hermione’s hand stabbed into the air once more but Professor Sprout nodded to Gregory, “Mr. Goyle?”

“Never taste a plant unless you’re two hundred percent certain it’s not poisonous.”

Amusement lifted Professor Sprout’s lips into a soft smile. Salazar couldn’t help but smile at the childish answer himself. He found himself sharing a faint grin with Godric as the answer helped his brother focus away from the plants themselves and onto the lecture. After a moment, Salazar turned back to the teacher and raised his hand. The move had his back rub against the chair, both irritating and soothing the runic tattoos there. He firmly ignored the desire to scratch his back against the chair more.

“That is part of the answer, Mr. Goyle. A point to Slytherin.” Her gaze moved to Salazar, the only one with a hand up now. Her gaze helped him abort any attempt to scratch at the irritated skin. “Mr. Potter?”

Salazar’s gaze wandered over his peers as he spoke.—Godric was watching him with amusement. Hermione looked like she wanted to glare but was scrambling to write his words down also. “We are to avoid interacting with any plant without permission from you and we are to keep our distance as magical plants can have defensive mechanisms that may harm us beyond poison.”

“Two points to Slytherin,” she said as she nodded at his answer, “The one thing you should take away from this class is how to be careful around all unknown plants—And many you are comfortable working with...Now, Dittany is an example of a plant that may affect us through taste and does not possess any obvious magical qualities at first inspection. Another example is Gillyweed which gives the ability to breath underwater when ingested. Though, once you become aware of the most common plant formations, Gillyweed’s physical form will hint that it has magical properties. You will work with Gillyweed in your fourth year when you are allowed in the aquatic-house.”

Professor Sprout tapped the next box. It vanished, revealing a pot of daffodils. Salazar’s eyebrows shot up when one flower began, and then the rest joined in, honking. 

“Some plants reveal their magic through sound. Who can tell me about this plant? Mr. Finnigan?”

“Me Ma’s got those—Honking Daffodils. She’s trained them to honk to scare the bunnies away from the garden,” Seamus explained.

Professor Sprout nodded. “They are commonly trained as the first alert to intruders or to protect a section of the garden from pests. Honking Daffodils is a species of Narcissus and used in a few potions to aid or impede sound. It is one of the least dangerous plants that uses sound as a defensive mechanism. A potentially fatal sounding plant is the mandrake whose unfiltered scream can and has killed people. Each of you will learn to handle this dangerous plant next year so pay attention now and remember my rules.”

She tapped the next box, revealing a pot of thick bladed grass—or it looked like thick grass. The eye watering smell that filled the room indicated otherwise. The children in closest pushed their seats back and covered their noses in horror. Salazar blinked rapidly in an attempt to clear his eyes of tears. The sting of the smell only produced more tears.

“Smell is a more common defensive reaction. A potent enough smell can clear an area of any threat or bring the needed pollentators,” the old woman said with a smirk at them all, “Who would like to tell the class about this plant?”

A number of children tried to put their hand up but had to abort to cover their noses or wipe their eyes. The professor finally turned back to Seamus. “Mr. Finnagan, does your mother have this in her garden?”

The blond nodded from behind his hands. 

“Why don’t you tell us about it then?”

Seamus grimaced but dropped his hands and said, “It’s an onion—Ma uses it to keep gnomes away from the garden too. She cuts it up and boils water with it and sprays the water over near their burrows...uh...It’s called Pung...pungent? Pungent onion.”

“Almost,” Sprout explained, “Three points to Gryffindor for both your answers. Anyone else?”

“It’s the Pungous Onion and is used in various potions to counter fungal and bacterial issues. It is also used in the Boil cure potion.” 

Salazar blinked at the voice. His head snapped to his left and stared. That had been his brother’s voice. Godric looked slightly bewildered himself.

Professor Sprout nodded slowly, a curious frown directed at Godric as if she was trying to catch something. She said slowly as she looked over the founder, “That is correct, Mr. Longbottom...Please raise your hand next time, though.”

Godric nodded, his gaze flicked to Salazar. Salazar could see the confusion in hazel eyes. His brother’s hand clenched the pen in white knuckles. 

“Last,” their professor announced as she tapped the final and largest box into vanishing. A pot of vines writhed across the table and up into the air. One vine latched onto the pot of onions and pulled it near. Professor Sprout waved her wand about, casting a circle of shade over the plant. The vines stopped writhing. 

“Can anyone tell me about this plant?”

Salazar spied Godric lifting his hand at the edge of his sight. His brother still looked confused and mildly distrubed. 

“Yes, Mr. Longbottom?” Professor Sprout said with a pleased smile.

Godric dropped his hand as he answered, “That is a Devil’s Snare. It is known to ensnare anything within reach of its creepers and tendrils, often strangling the creature foolish enough to struggle against its ever tightening hold. The harder the creature struggles to free itself, the tighter the hold becomes. Devil’s Snare prefers the dark and damp. Fire is one of its common weaknesses.”

Professor Sprout nodded along with Godric’s explanation, though she was clearly curious about something now. She would have cut him off, like she had done to Hermione, but something kept her from interrupting after the basic answer she wanted had been given. Salazar guessed it was the accent change. “Very good, another three points to Gryffindor.”

She turned from her desk and waved her wand to summon a blackboard. Another swoosh of the wand had chalk rise and slowly write out the various common manifestations of magic within plants. 

“Movement within plants are both common and perhaps misleading,” the professor continued her lecture as the chalk worked to catch up, “Mundane plants also move, for they are living things. Roots delve into the ground and actively search out water and nutrients. Flowers will close and open depending on the time of day or night. Leaves and whole plants will grow towards the light. Leaves may fold onto themselves when water drips onto them.” She looked over at them all, watching for any child failing to pay attention. “Those are all natural actions of plants, for both mundane and magical. It is the more active movements of a plant that can indicate their magical properties.” 

Their teacher nodded down at the Devil’s Snare. “Devil’s Snare uses its abilities to defend but also to collect nutrients through the decomposing forms of the creatures it kills. The Whomping Willow is another example. A specimen can be found on Hogwarts grounds, on the Southeastern side near Hogsmeade. Perhaps you all will take a few minutes out of your day to take a gander? Don’t get too close, of course, but seeing such a powerful plant in action would be a grand thing, wouldn’t it?”

Professor Sprout shifted the lecture away from the specific examples she had brought to general ways to detect the various forms of defensive magical properties within plants. Godric ended up answering more questions than Hermione—which was entirely normal for Neville but Godric didn’t seem to remember being Neville.

The male founders of Hogwarts followed their first year peers back into the castle. Salazar snagged Godric’s robe sleeve as he broke from the crowd and headed down to the kitchens instead of the Great Hall. He looked over the painting of the bowl of fruit for a moment and spied a snake motiy painted into the swirl design of the bowl. A tiny tongue darted out every so often.

Salazar tilted his head, curious at the sight.—How many paintings had little snakes in them? 

“Sally?” Godric prodded.

He answered with a hiss, “ss:_Open_:ss”

The tiny snake’s tongue darted out and vibrated in response. Then the painting swung open. 

“Do all doors open when you order them to?” Godric asked as he slowly stepped into the kitchens, hazel eyes snapping about, taking in all the House elves darting around. “And why are they all cooking? We’ve eaten.”

“We had breakfast,” Salazar countered, “and I don’t know. I haven’t wandered the entire castle hissing at things yet.”

A smirk flickered across his brother’s face, his attention moved from the elves preparing lunch back to Salazar. “Maybe you should. Though, whoever set the magic up might have gotten creative. You might have to sing or rhyme—serenade a door.”

“I’m not serenading anything,” Salazar huffed out, shoving Godric slightly.

His brother’s smirk widened and the tension from the day faded away, temporarily forgotten. “You’ve sung to trees; the doors are trees too. They must feel left out.”

“They’re dead–”

“Masters Sally, Rie,” Mipsy greeted them with a bounce to her feet. Salazar was starting to think it her form of bow. Or maybe she was just excitable. “You be wanting lunch?”

Godric’s smirk dropped. “Lunch?”

“There’s three meals a day, now.” Salazar explained before he answered Mipsy. “I would love a cup of tea, dear. No need to feed me.”

“I’m not hungry,” Godric agreed before his stomach growled. He frowned down at his midsection before he saw Mipsy’s disbelief. “I’m not. Honest.”

“You be calling me if you decide otherwise,” she said in disbelief before she waved them to the table Salazar had come to sit at whenever he used the kitchens. Mipsy had a cup in front of him and Godric a moment later. 

His brother made a slight face but took a sip. Surprise flashed by. “What the hell is this?”

“Tea.”

“It tastes good, not like leaf piss at all.” Godric sent a sharp look at Salazar. “They haven’t gone and changed how tea is made, have they?”

Salazar stared at the blond. “No...not this tea. I mean, it’s the same as it has always been...There are other options now.”

Godric frowned down at the cup but he didn’t say anything else. A quiet fell over the two as they drank their tea and watched the elves work. Salazar relaxed.—He had his brother at his side once more. They were home, even if it was the wrong age. So much had to be done but he didn’t have to do it all by himself.

His emerald gaze moved slowly from the elves to Godric. Though the strain of things had faded from Godric’s shoulders, his jaw was still tense, his grip on the mug was tight. Godric was not ready to hear of everything that was wrong.

Salazar didn’t know what he could do to help Godric adjust. Maybe he could help with the memories hidden away. It was delicate work, though. And dangerous when it involved still developing minds. 

He frowned thoughtfully down into his teacup. Did they have minds that were developing like their physical bodies? Salazar had no idea. Some implusses indicated his mind was younger than his memories and knowledge implied. In turn, he was decently certain he was more mature than his peers. Memory and experience—the memory of experience—was what helped mature a person from child to adult but it wasn’t the only indicator of age and maturity.

“Gods,” Godric groaned out as he pushed his empty cup away and dropped his head to his hands, elbows on the table. “Can’t I have some of Helga’s mead?”

Salazar snorted and claimed Godric’s tea cup. He glanced down into it but Godric pulled his attention before he saw anything interesting.

“If anything could possibly call for opening one of her mead bottles, it's this!” Godric waved his arms out to encompass the world. “This is absolute shit!” Hazel eyes snapped to Salazar. “I will be ever glad you’ve been brought back but a thousand years ? What’s the point of it all? We don’t belong here–”

“Hogwarts is our home,” Salazar cut in, sharp and firm in his resolve, “No one can take her from us. And magic is ours.—We belong.”

Godric shot back, tone as sharp and firm in the counter he snaps out, “They call you Harry Potter . You hide amongst children! How is that living? What is the point of going to classes you do not need?!”

Salazar frowned down into Godric’s mug without seeing. He had spent the last eight years playing the child. There had been no point in fighting the world. It had been exhausting even thinking about the effort of doing any of that.

He had been alone. Magic had been hidden from sight. What had been the point?

There had been no reason to go on. Everyone had been dead. He had imagined everything that had matter couldn’t possibly matter anymore.—How could it after so long and everyone dead ?

Finding the little, dilapidated grove had given him a new purpose. Salazar had slowly worked his way through his grief and exhaustion. He had forced himself to look forward. That included accepting some changes, though the full implications still eluded him. 

“I am,” Salazar finally said as he focused onto the tea dredges, “Harry James Potter to the world because that is what my parents named me in this life.” 

A bumblebee sat in the middle of his brother’s cup. Salazar stared down at it, feeling a little dumb.—His tea had shown a bee turn into a lion. Godric was Neville. Neville was a Longbottom. Longbottoms are likely the modern name for Langbothm. Langbothm had a bumblebee represent their House magicks. (Maybe he was finally getting this whole divination thing? Though, that probably required him figuring out what he saw before it happened.)

He looked up to his brother, refocusing. “We may have to reveal who we are–were…” Salazar frowned, uncertain how to phrase it and not wanting to delve into the nightmare of what being reborn meant. (Was he Harry Potter with memories of Salazar Slytherin? Or was he Salazar Slytherin reborn and that was that? Could he be possessing a child since three instead? If he wasn’t possessing the child and was both Salazar and Harry, what made him Harry Potter when he had really, only, the memories of an entire other life to influence who he was?)

Salazar shook his head at his thoughts, ignored Godric’s raised brow, and said, “What matters is we know who we are and we know we belong in this world as much as the next person. We just have to make a place for ourselves but that’s nothing new—We did that once before. This time we can avoid some stupidity, too.”

The blond slowly nodded.

“Master Sally be late for history,” announced Mipsy. She snapped her fingers. 

Salazar felt her magic swirl about Godric’s cup still in his hands. A glance down revealed it was clean. “Thank you Mipsy but I will be skipping...:”

Mipsy started to refill the mugs before he finished speaking. “You should go to class but you never go to this class. I will tell you before transfiguration starts.”

“Thank you—”

“Why are you skipping history of all classes?” Godric interrupted, “That seems like the most useful class out of the lot.”

Salazar made a face at his brother, pushing the refilled mug across the table as he explained, “It’s taught by a ghost.”

Godric cupped his mug between his hands and tilted his head thoughtfully. “Sounds like an excellent idea.”

“It does but actual application leaves much to be desired,” Salazar admitted before he took a sip of his tea. The warmth and smell of mint filled his senses. His eyes closed as he breathed in the calming scent. “I think, that’s where I should start off—the staff.”

His brother groaned. “Can’t we have ale at least?”

Salazar shook his head and looked to the blond. “Children aren’t allowed ale or mead or anything alcoholic these days.”

“Gods…” Godric tugged a hand through his hair. “We’ve tea piss, that ġeolurēad liquid3, and, what, water?”

“Butterbeer is very slightly alcoholic.” Salazar supplied in amusement, “And we’ve fruit juices...and fizzy drinks. The orange liquid—ġeolurēad—is either orange juice or pumpkin juice.”

“What is a pumpkin and orange?”

Salazar paused at that. Pumpkins came from the American continent. His eyes grew wide at the thought of just how much Godric needed to know. He had had the excuse of being a toddler as he learned all this. Godric did not.

“Alcohol would be nice,” he admitted as he turned back to his brother, “You need your memories as Neville back sooner than later.”

Godric made a face at that. “The staff?”

Salazar frowned at the change of topic but obliged. He spent the rest of the time explaining everything he could. Mipsy interrupted before he was late for transfiguration.

oooP5ooo

(Neville)

The stained glass windows depicting their patronuses still stood, vibrant and playful. Students sat around studying and socializing.—He didn’t know what to do with himself.

His gaze moved to the closed door. Salazar was stuck in there learning about a new discipline. Transfiguration sounds like a combination of alchemy and conjuration. It was probably a mix of skills developed around the world that someone had decided were related. 

Godric was intrigued by the idea. It would have to wait, though.

After everything he had been through and learned, he needed an outlet. The Hogwarts founder spun on the balls of his feet and stalked from the study area.

His attention was focused partly on the bonds. One shift towards the worse and he would be at Salazar’s side in an instance. (Or as quickly as this body could move, at least.) Sally would not die on him again. 

The rest of his attention focused on navigating the castle, but that wasn’t particularly difficult. He had lived here for over thirty years. It was memorized paths he tread, gaze more focused on the students, the ghosts, and horde of artwork. Down a flight of hidden stairs only present every other day, through a hall that had windows showing the grounds from the seventh floor, a turn and down another hall with windows looking out into the loch, and back to the ground floor, around a corner from the main hallway, and down to the end of a long corridor was his suite of classrooms. A window at the end of the corridor, where a door should have been, made Godric slow to a stop.

His gaze wandered over the hallway in confusion. Gaze paused on a door with a plaque of Argus Filch inscribed on it. There was a frame beside the door. Godric slowly walked up to the frame as he tried to place himself. A list titled Forbidden Objects within Hogwarts Halls was preserved behind glass. It was a very long list.

Godric slowly twisted about and took in the corridor. The hall felt familiar. But all his classrooms were gone. He looked out the large window. This was the ground floor.

He frowned as he came to the frustrating conclusion that someone had moved his classrooms. The thought to find the culprit and punish them flashed through his mind before he recalled what year it was. Then he grimaced. 

Hogwarts had been built so it could be changed. They had done it for defensive purposes and so future generations could easily change the school to fit their needs. The needs of people changed with the times.—They all had known that.

They came to appreciate the ability to shift the rooms after Salazar had died. Political maneuvering had meant hiding the ritual classroom and pools. Nosey children and adults had meant hiding Salazar’s personal suite, too. He had simply never considered anyone daring to move his rooms without his permission. Of course, it shouldn’t have mattered once he had died. 

Godric couldn’t help the burn of anger over the change.—To his memory, it had been 1091 yesterday. From his perspective, everything had changed when it shouldn’t have.—His hands clenched as the burning anger grew.

Couldn’t one thing stay the same? Why move the dueling hall from the ground floor anyway? The class spent most of the time outdoors.

A loud crack rang through the hall. Godric spun around with narrowed eyes, in no mood to deal with a destructive child or even a clumsy one. The glass frame with the list of forbidden objects was a spider web of shards. The list had smoldered into a blackened mess. Faint red glowed in sections.

His anger died. Horror and fear took its place. When was the last time he had lost control of his fire without even feeling the magic break free?

Not since he was a child. (Wasn’t he a child once more? Wasn’t his core in ruins, incapable of doing the simplest of spell and impossible to properly control? [No. He wasn’t Neville. Neville wasn’t him. This magical core was not his. He was just borrowing the body for a time.])

Godric stalked out of the area.—He wasn’t fleeing. 

Down the reincarnate swept, into the dungeons, to a plaque of snake heads, and into a hidden tunnel where a familiar, now ridiculously clean, ritual classroom stood. (There was nothing and no one to burn here.)

oooP6ooo

(Harry)

Salazar slowly walked down into the dungeons, following the general direction the bonds guided him towards. He had expected Godric to hunt down the dueling hall to whittle away the time. He hadn’t thought Godric would return to Salazar’s classroom. It wasn’t a place the redhead had bothered with outside the weekly baths and to complete the odd ritual.

Things changed, though. Salazar hummed to himself as he admitted that. Godric was now blond, after all. He was now dark haired. Those two changes were raindrops amongst the thousand other changes in the world, all of them things Godric couldn’t recall. Or didn’t know even as Neville.

He stepped into his empty classroom. The House elves had cleared it of the grime. His gaze wandered over the room, spied the side rooms with stone shelves for students on-going work and storage for necessary ritual materials, but he mostly just took in the lack of anything left. His runic stone moonlights made the room glow an eerie white-blue. 

It was just an empty, square room. 

There was nothing left to tell of the history he had with it. Time had washed away all hints. It was just a forgotten room once hidden for the treasures it had held.—Still held, if the ritual rooms were whole.

Salazar forced himself to follow the bond into the room with the smaller cleansing pool. The pool was empty once more. It wasn’t supposed to be. The steam helped heat the dungeons and helped pull residue magic off the walls, cleansing the school as much as the people that used it. Salazar went to the controls and activated the cleansing magic. Water rumbled into the pool, runes flared to life across the bowl, and heat slowly radiated out into the room.

He watched the pool fill for a long moment, uncertain what to do. Salazar could imagine what Godric was going through. It was not an easy thing, waking in a different time and place and body than you were used to. 

His own awakening had to be simpler, though. He had very few memories of being anything but Salazar, and those memories were that of a young child still learning of the world. Salazar had the chance to grieve and learn and grow without anyone around to question it. Certainly, somethings hadn’t truly struck him until reaching Hogwarts but he had still had time to digest the changes and imagine what the magical world—Hogwarts—would be like without people he knew and traditions he treasured. 

Godric had neither.

His brother didn’t have the opportunity Salazar had. People would start asking questions if Godric acted too oddly. His only advantage was how few knew him. 

Emerald eyes slowly moved from the pool to the blond. Godric sat against a wall, his gaze directed up at the tiled ceiling. The moonlight reflected off his eyes in a way that denoted possible tears but his cheeks remained dry. He looked lost and frustrated and very much like he wanted to be left alone.

Salazar left Godric to his thoughts. Instead, he took a quick look-see into the attached ritual room. Lemon scent hit his nose and Salazar grimaced.

That was not the material to clean a ritual room. He looked over the sharp, angular walls and ceiling with grooves set to hold tablets, allowing the room to be set and changed for hundreds of different rituals that required three dimensional markings. There were no tablets now—which was a relief. Salazar didn’t want to find out what magic would have built up over a thousand years from a partly set ritual—At a glance, the grooves appeared in place and whole but he would have to go over the room in detail later.

The Slytherin silently walked around the pool, on the other side of his brother, and went from the small room to the classroom and then into the larger cleansing room. It took a short moment to activate the large pool. Then he took a peek into the second ritual room.

He frowned at the cracked and chipped floor. Whole sections of the large slate tiles were missing. This would take considerable work to fix. Until it was, the room was useless. The flooring had to be smooth and flat for the ritual circles this particular room had been built for. 

Salazar’s eyes slowly moved from the floor to the plain, cracked and aged walls, and up until he found the ceiling. A giant, worrisome crack ran across it. Depending on where this room sat, Hogwart might have an unstable foundation. Without Helga, Salazar wasn’t certain how to go about investigating such an issue. (He was fairly certain, from the lack of windows in the classroom, that the suite of rooms had been hidden in the depths of Hogwarts’s dungeons.)

Green eyes stared unblinkingly at the large crack for a long few minutes. A huff of air escaped, shoulders dropped. Salazar spun about, his robes snapping out around him dramatically and he took a few steps back into the cleansing room before he stopped once more. 

“Mipsy?”

The House elf pop-clicked into the room with a beaming smile, “Master Sally?”

His worries faded at the sight and a smile tugged at his lips. “A few things, if you’ve the moment.”

“Certainly,” she said with a nod, her ears slapping her shoulders from her enthusiastic motion. The runic moonlight reflected off her large eyes. Her attention never wavered from Salazar.

“The pools need to be left full, the magic set to what I have left them at, as they help heat and cleanse the school. And, please do not use any cleaning products within the ritual rooms.” Shame flooded her expression and Salazar hurried in his explanation, “They will require a specific cleansing routine. I can show it to you when I’ve the material on hand, if you’d like?”

Large eyes went round with wonder. A soft tremble slowly grew across her form. He couldn’t tell if it was excitement or horror. “Master Sally would teach Mipsy? Master would clean ?”

Salazar shifted in discomfort at her attention. “I-Yes.” A thought jumped to mind and Salazar spoke up before the House elf went ballistic. “But I’d like to learn something in return.”

The elf nodded in quick, poorly restrained excitement. “Yes Master Sally! YES, I be teaching you and you be teaching me!”

Salazar caught her shoulders and squatted down to hold her to the floor, struck with the vision of her flying away because of her excitement. “Don’t you want to know what you’ll be teaching me?”

Mipsy stilled and stared at him, eyes nearly level with Salazar’s for the first time. An odd noise escaped from her when she looked ready to respond. She stuffed a few fingers into her mouth and gave a short nod.

Amusement bubbled up from his bond with Hogwarts. It twined about Salazar’s own amusement and pulled a grin to his face. “I’d like to learn Helga’s recipes—any of them you are willing to teach me.”

A squeak escaped the little elf. Her fingers flew out of her mouth as she sputtered in joyful horror. “You cook ?!”

Indignation spiked through his amusement. He was perfectly capable of cooking. The annoyance died with the next truth. That hadn’t been true in his past life.

“I do.” Salazar answered instead. He regarded the House elf with a tilt of his head and a soft squeeze of her shoulders. “Do we have an agreement?”

The little elf gave a sharp nod. “We do.”

Salazar nodded back before he stood upright. His gaze moved to the doorway and towards Godric. Steam had filled the rooms. The moonlight reflected off the clouds of water particles, obscuring the world about him. He could barely see through it.

“You needed something else?” Mipsy asked, tugging lightly on his robe sleeve to pull his attention.

He turned back to her with a nod. “Yes, do you know where the dueling hall is?”

“It be on the third floor,” she answered readily, “but it being used by Heads master. You cannot use it now. It’s forbidden.”

He tugged a hand through his hair with a sigh. “I see...Is there anywhere Godric and I can go that’s similar to the dueling hall then? We’ll need some practice swords, if there are any, too.”

The little elf frowned thoughtfully. Her large eyes wandered over to his empty classroom but before she brought it up, and made Salazar decline it since they would need more space, Hogwarts answered instead.

A vision swept through his mind. The staircase shifted from the ground floor to the top. His gaze took in hallways as Hogwart guided him through the seventh floor to a tapestry. It had a man teaching trolls ballet. The image seemed to flicker as it showed the odd art piece thrice. A door appeared across from the tapestry on the third instance.

“The come and go room,” squeaked Mipsy in excitement, revealing Hogwarts had shown the vision to her also.

Salazar blinked his vision back to normal and looked down at the elf. “The what room?”

She offered a slight shrug. “You think of what you want in the room and walk back and forth three times to make the door appear. You be remaking the dueling hall! Make it just as you remembered it.”

“Interesting,” Salazar muttered, as he tried to recall plans for such a room. Nothing came to mind but it sounded like something Rowena would think of, build it, and then tell everyone about. “Thank you Mipsy.”

“Bye, bye Master!” she waved with a cheery little grin.

Another smile tugged at his lips. He was glad the little thing was becoming more comfortable with him. 

Salazar returned to Godric. His brother hadn’t moved though his gaze had dropped to his lap. He stopped before Godric and held out a hand. Dull hazel eyes slowly lifted to stare up at him.

“Come on,” Salazar said, hand still out, “Time for you to beat the shit of me.”

Life lit his brother’s eyes. “You know where my hall is?”

Salazar made a face. “Yes but it’s being used. Hogwarts had pointed me toward the next best option.”

“Thank the gods,” Godric said as he grabbed Salazar’s hand. 

Salazar helped pull his brother to his feet and led the way up through the stairs and hallways Hogwarts had shown him. He stopped before the tapestry of dancing trolls and nodded at it as he explained, “Think of the hall, as you want it to be, and walked past this three times.”

Godric obliged without question.—It wasn’t the oddest thing Salazar had asked him to do.—On the third pass, double doors materialized across from the tapestry. 

His brother pushed it open and grinned viciously. Salazar grimaced as he peeked over Godric’s shoulder. It was a very nice tortu-training hall. The Gryffindor snagged Salazar’s arm and dragged him into the living hell. He would be black and blue tomorrow. At least Godric would be too.

oooP7ooo

(Neville)

Godric stared hard at the painting. The overweight woman stared back with narrowed eyes. A delicate glass rested on a table at her side with cracks across its surface. He had interrupted her singing, if one dared call it that. She was not happy with him. 

“No entry without the password.” She stated sharp and firm, clearly determined to do her duty and protect the apparent entry into his house’s common room. That she must recognize Neville Longbottom as a Gryffindor student didn’t matter. The painting was as useful as a bloody password locked door. What was the point of her if she didn’t open for the residents on recognition?

Godric did not remember a password. Salazar had to give him directions to the bloody dorms even.—They hadn’t been in the tower last he checked since said tower hadn’t been completely built yet.—So here he was, trying to guess at a password and considering calling Hogwarts to let him through. He couldn’t call on her though, because he had no idea what the painting would do. Salazar hadn’t warned him about the paintings so they must be pretty harmless. But he would have preferred confirmation before doing anything particularly non-Neville like in front of one.

He paused from his glare, an itch in the back of his head had him turn about just in time to see an older girl turn the corner of the hall. Her dark eyes widened in surprise and Godric forced his irritation down. It was best not to glare at people as he doubted shy little Neville Longbottom ever had.

“Umm,” she said as she walked up to him, “You locked out?”

Godric spied a prefect badge on her chest. Salazar had told him about the student aids. It was less aggravating that it was an aid asking him, even if she looked barely fourteen.—She was probably older but she was only a few inches taller than him.

The Gryffindor founder made a face as she stopped before him and glanced over at the painting and back. She was waiting for an answer. 

“Yes.”

“He doesn’t have the password,” announced the fat lady from her canvas.

Dark eyes flicked back and forth an instant longer. “Longbottom, right?”

Godric struggled to not make another face at that and answered as short as before, “ Yes .”

“Well,” she said slowly, “It’s quaffle for another two days.” The portrait swung open and she caught the frame to hold it in place. “Be sure to check the board for the new one before you leave for breakfast on Friday.”

He gave a curt nod as he climbed through the weird porthole entrance all the while trying to figure out why quaffle sounded vaguely familiar—not in it being the password but more like he should know what the troll-shit a quaffle was. The girl followed him in and tapped his shoulder lightly when he just stood at the side of the hole, taking in the red and gold common room. He forced his gaze from the new yet vaguely familiar room, and tried to give her a confident but shy and not at all not-Neville expression.

She frowned down at him with obvious concern.

“Miranda!” 

Another girl materialized beside them—pale and gray eyed compared to the dark golden tan and deep brown of Miranda but so obviously related by the curve of their bone structure. The new girl was also wearing a prefect badge while being short enough to pass as a fourteen year old.

“Melie–” Miranda tried to interrupt, her dark gaze torn from Godric to the other girl.

He said yes! ” Melie squeaked out with a vibrant flush.

Godric looked about in desperation as Miranda lit up in clear excitement for her kin. Melie began rambling about a Hogsmeade visit, whatever that was. He caught sight of one of the redheads from this morning. The older boy was climbing one side of a set of spiral stairs up into the rest of the tower. Godric bolted after him as the girls delved into discussing some type of tea shop.

There were actually stairs that went up and down the tower—two sets that looked identical but he assumed the opposing stairs were for the ladies to use. The first landing up had a door with the golden number two on it. The second landing up had a door with a golden one. A ladder led up one more story into what looked like an attic. Godric listened to distant grumblings floating out of the attic trap door for a few minutes as he considered the door with the one.

Neville’s room was behind the door.

“The bloody door isn’t going to bite me.” Godric muttered to himself before he forced his hand to move. Light streamed through the western windows, causing the deep red velvets and polished gold to glimmer as dust molts danced in the air. The, now common, feeling of deja vu rushed through him as he took in the large half-circular room. 

Three beds rested in a row across the only straight wall. Each had a trunk resting before the bed and an end table to its side. The floor was covered in dirty clothing which filled the room with the aroma of sweat. 

Another door besides the entry pulled his gaze. Within was a blessed bathroom. A very nice mirror was set above the sink.

Hazel eyes reflected back at him. Shadows hung heavy under them. Sunkissed skin, without a freckle in sight, covered a flabby and awkward body. Dirty blond hair fell around large ears and a round face. 

Godric stared at the face in disbelief. 

This wasn’t him; it couldn’t be.—Sally was wrong.

He had flaming hair and freckled skin. His hands were covered in calluses from years of work. He was broad and tall. Most of all, he was well past his 70th year. He was no child incapable of magic, unused to manual labor. He was a father, a teacher, a warmage, and an elementalist of the highest degree.

The founder tugged the awkward robes and sweater off and stared at the soft form. Godric traced a darkening bruise across the child’s side. The skin was baby soft. Pain sang through the body as if unused to the aches and pains of training. 

Neville Longbottom was a child he was possessing. He needed to convince Salazar. The children had the right to live their lives without being made prisoners within their own bodies. (If he did convince Sally, that meant Sally would return to the dead. [But wasn’t he dead, also?])

If he was Neville Longbottom…

Seamus and Dean’s laughter filtered into the bathroom. The Gryffindor founder turned from the mirror and threw the sweater back on. In the dorm, his fellow first years were sharing a bed, staring down at some cards.

“–always says the three of cups means it’s time to party.” Seamus said as he tapped a particular card Dean had drawn, “Suppose your team’s going ta win this weekend.”

Dean laughed and said something about a foot and a ball. Godric didn’t pay them more mind. It wasn’t his conversation to intrude on. His attention turned to his—Neville’s—bed. (Something about the bed made it clear it was the child’s.) An odd glass box sat on the end table beside it. Something about the box had him worried but he couldn’t recall why. It was empty but not broken.

Godric shook his head, pushed the worry aside, and slumped on the ground before the trunk. He stared at the leather case, contemplated the lid with an embossed bumblebee within a circle of ivy for a long time. 

“Nev?” 

Godric looked up and found his roommates watching him. Dean frowned at him more than Seamus.

“You alright?” asked Dean kindly.

The founder gave a slight shrug and flipped open Neville’s chest. A mess of clothes, parchments, and books greeted him. Godric considered the mess with hesitation. “Just need to clean up.” He offered.

Seamus laughed, breaking the odd moment. “No you don’t, your mum’s not here!”

Those words felt like a slap in the face. The moment had him instinctively curl up into himself as if to protect himself from a projectile. Godric blinked back sudden tears and was strangely relieved that the two boys had turned back to their cards. They hadn’t noticed his reaction.

Godric closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He pushed away the strange feeling and kept himself from delving into why it had happened. If Neville was his own person, the reaction was about something Godric had no right to see. He would not invade Neville’s privacy anymore than he had to.

After a moment to collect himself, he turned back to the messy trunk. These were Neville’s things. They weren’t his.—Salazar wasn’t right. He wasn’t reborn into such a child. Godric would never have allowed his core to be distorted and twisted and all but ruined.

His eyes moved inadvertently back to the other boys. Their words rang foriegn to his ears when he focused. There were so many signs that pointed to Salazar being right. (He could not be.)

He turned back to the trunk. Godric had to know something about Neville to pass off as the child. The options were stealing the child’s memories or investigating his property. There was no true option.

Godric dug into the trunk, and started to organize the objects into piles. He collected all the parchments. Unused pieces were placed in one pile, ones written-on were placed in another. Clothing were pulled out next. Anything that smelled too foul was tossed towards a corner. Books were stacked haphazardly besides a small pile of shoes. 

The clicking of something breakable caused him to pause in his reorganizing. Godric shifted onto his knees and patted the last messy stack of clothing. Something squarish was hidden within the folds. He used both hands to carefully lift it and unwrap a large dress-like shirt. 

Underneath was a square of glass and wood. There was an image placed in between the two materials. The image was of a couple. Smiles were directed up at him. Hands rose and waved. The man tilted the woman and kissed her. They were full of such life. Joy radiated out from them. 

A maelstrom of emotions slammed through him.—Sorrow and hate and pride and pain and so much want .—Neville looked like the round faced woman in the image. His clothing resembled the man’s.

The founder slowly set it down on top of the odd dress-shirt it had been wrapped in. 

Part of him wanted to investigate the couple. Who they were tugged at the back of his mind, as if little Neville was pushing him to know. But the emotions tied to them and his investigation of the child’s things was enough of an invasion. He did not need to know anything else.

Godric stared over the piles of vaguely familiar things. He had a stack of ridiculously styled tunics and knits and robes. None of it was practical. He could barely move in the robes. The knits and tunics were thick and heavy and didn’t breathe at all. He was going to sweat through them in no time.

There was a stack of completed homework and scatterbrained, childish notes. Most were marked with large, red As and Ts. Big Os and EEs covered Neville’s herbology homework.  He could see places where his knowledge had started to slip into Neville’s mind. (Something about the red marks told him they were grades. The Ts weren’t good—he had no idea why, though.)

Various miscellaneous items were stacked in their own pile. There was a glass ball filled with gray smoke that turned red when he held it.—Godric couldn’t even guess at its purpose.—Neville had a box with compartments filled with seeds and acorns and nuts. None were marked. Godric could name most of them (and that wasn’t freaky at all). A small box filled with empty candy wrappers made his chest ache with a jumble of emotions almost as bad as the image of the couple. The last item, a large box filled with jars and bags of bugs of all things, gave neither an emotional response nor a strange set of knowledge. 

None of it gave him any real answers. Nothing triggered a memory that would prove Salazar right.—If this was his new life, the memories should just come to him, shouldn’t they? Or how else was he supposed to remember them? If he had to hunt for them, wasn’t that really just him forcing Neville to give memories up to him? Impressions and the nagging feeling of missing something didn’t mean these were his memories he no longer recalled.

Shoulders slumped at the circle of thoughts and worries. It was exhausting worrying about everything. He couldn’t recall worrying so much before. 

Why was he worrying so much? 

He had no idea. (It was 1991. Salazar was back from the dead. He was somehow possessing a child. [It might be his body.])

Godric picked up a textbook and flipped through it as he tried to decide what to do. Part of him wanted to throw it against a wall. (He didn’t. He wasn’t a child.) 

He knew what Salazar wanted him to do: Find the lost memories. Godric couldn’t and wouldn’t until he knew that Neville and he were one and the same. 

Parchment flapped out of the book and scattered across the ground in front of him. It was more homework and notes. A huff of air escaped, amused and annoyed at the child—someone had never taught the boy how to manage his schooling properly.

He went through each book and sorted all the parchments: Blanks, graded homework, notes, and what might be notes or unfinished homework or even drafts of homework, though he doubted the child was that proactive. 

A letter fell out of one book. Godric tried to ignore it. It was none of his business. (A voice whispered in his head. ‘We have been reborn.’ It sounded like Salazar.)

The founder yanked the worn letter open. It was more a note than a proper letter. Uncertainty and worry filtered through him, distant but striking. It made him stare at the script a second time. He found himself attempting to dissect the (un)kind words. 

He didn’t think he liked Augusta Longbottom. (His grandmother, his mind supplied with no explanation.) And it didn’t seem like she cared much for him either.

Godric looked up from the letter in frustration, feeling like he should be able to pick apart more from the words than he did. His gaze moved to the picture of the couple. They beamed at him. (He knew who they were. [He refused to acknowledge the relationship sitting on the tip of his tongue.])

Light flared across the room. Seamus yelped. Dean made a startled noise. Godric stuffed his frustration into the back of his mind as his gaze snapped up to the lights. The magic flames shrank as he bottled up his emotions. Only small dark circles against the walls or ceiling indicated the firelight had ever reached any of the stone. 

A scowl flashed across his face and he stuffed the letter back into the book. Everything was stuffed a little haphazardly, but still organized, into the trunk. He would deal with the papers tomorrow. His schedule was in the pile or a book somewhere. He would need that.

But now, he needed sleep. He hadn’t slept since waking in the grove. Maybe tomorrow he’d wake up and the world would have righted itself with the added bonus of Salazar being alive once more. Godric grabbed a set of clothes with snoring sheep on them and went to bed.

Probably because of the stress of possessing Neville, the strangeness that had invaded Hogwarts, and his physical training, sleep hit him like a graphorn. One moment he was staring up into the bed’s canopy, and the next he was out.

He stood on a pier. His feet were at the very edge. Excitement coursed through him. He leaned over to peer into the watery depths. Cousin Humphrey had said there were fish!

Something slammed into his back. He could not stay upright. He had only a second to scream before water surrounded him. It filled his still open mouth. Twisted through his tummy. Pulled him down.

He could not breath.

He didn’t know how to swim.

He sank like a stone.

Godric woke with a gasp and a pounding heart. The nightmare was blurred and faded quickly, but he recalled drowning. 

He hadn’t had such a nightmare in years and it made no sense now. Godric had gotten over the rough lessons his father had forced him through years ago. He could swim, could deal with the discomfort his magic shifted with when he submerged into water. 

The reincarnate rubbed his face in frustration. He was missing something. He had the feeling that he had been missing something for a long time. The specifics had only changed.

oooPooo

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve

oooP1ooo

(Harry)

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. 

“You.”

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 .”

oooP2ooo

(Neville)

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.

Nothing happened. 

“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?

“Neville?”

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.

“Your scar–”

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.

“Wha–”

“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.

oooP3ooo

“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. 

Swoosh.

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. 

“Godri–”

Clack.

“Godric!”

CLACK.

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. 

CRACK.

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. 

Clack.

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.

Clack. Clack.

Crack.

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.

“Shit.” 

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?”

“Both.”

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.

oooP4ooo

(Harry)

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.

oooP5ooo

(Neville)

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?

“Master Godric?”

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.

“Since what?”

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.

oooP6ooo

(Harry)

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.

“Godric?”

“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.)

“Ma’am–”

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.

oooP7ooo

(Neville)

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.)

“Uncle?”

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 terr