Disclaimer: I'm too young to be Rowling so there is sadly no way Harry Potter is mine…
Thank you for all your reviews! I loved them!
A/N: So, this is the penultimate chapter of the past. There's one (most likely short(er)) chapter that will be in the past, but that's it otherwise. I hope I managed to add everything in the past that I will need to finish the story without lose threads... *sweatdrops*
PS: Also it wasn't planned that way, I can say that doing a past chapter now definitely was adviced by a friend of mine. :P So, the blame goes to dear Claude Amelia Song in equal parts as it goes to me. ;-) Sorry. Couldn't resist to add that, Claude Amelia Song!
When Sal woke, there was a hand in his hair, stroking it softly.
"Hush, child," a voice said – a voice Sal knew. "You did well."
For a moment, Sal managed to open his eyes and look upwards.
"You should have white hair," Sal managed to get out, half lost in unconsciousness.
The man above him laughed.
"That's the way you knew me," he agreed and then carded through Sal's hair some more. "It was my choice, back then. White hair, age… so you wouldn't question it if I left and never returned."
Sal tried to force his eyes to stay open.
His mind was muddled and he was quite sure that he was dreaming.
"Why?" he wondered, his voice barely audible and his words slurred.
"I had a deal, child," the other man replied softly. "A deal with a family. A deal with a couple without children. A deal with a man, about to die and desperate to live. I gave him his wish. He lived. I gave him a child – a child born with my soul, yet without memories for the first hundred years. My deal. A child for them, a body for me."
Sal's mind swam.
The hand in his hair gripped it harder, nearly painfully, instead of continuing to stroke it.
The man above him leaned down towards him.
"A deal," he repeated. "I ensured they'd have a child and a grandchild. I ensured the continuation of their line for the next two thousand years – in return for a body of my own and descendants born from it after I remembered who I was."
Sal tried to look at the man, but his vision swam.
"Why're you telling me that?" he wondered, his words barely understandable.
"Because you are the reason for this deal," the stranger answered. "I didn't know how long it would take to gain you, but you were my goal."
Sal wanted to ask why.
He didn't understand.
What was so special about him?!
But before he could, his vision greyed from the edges and before he could even open his mouth, he lost conscious again.
(Before 700 B.C.)
There was a man, standing in a clearing, watching the stars – and Sal felt as if he was watching from above, looking down at the man.
It was an odd feeling.
It felt as if he had lost his body, as if he wasn't real anymore.
From around him, the universe seemed to press down on him, seeping through him.
He didn't feel human anymore, and yet, he didn't feel not human as well.
The man beneath him looked upwards.
He had dark hair and pale, pale eyes.
They shone like silver in the night.
"Please," he whispered. "Please! Just one! One miracle! One child!"
And Sal, looking down on the scene, couldn't help but think that whatever scene he was watching, it must have happened a long, long time ago.
The man's clothing was simple, hand-made in a way that Sal could barely remember after all those centuries he had lived.
Fur and leather and barely sewn.
Clothing from a time, long before the one he was dying in right now.
"Maybe even from a time before I lived," Sal thought and then shook his none-existing head.
What an odd thing to consider.
At that second, barely formed thought, the stars seemed to light up in agreement.
Then the endless nothingness that existed seemed to come closer and Sal shuddered.
It felt like the universe curled around him, while the man continued his plea.
"One heir! My wife! She wishes a child! Just one – because I obviously can't give her one!"
In that moment, something changed in the air.
Power seeped through the universe, giving form to a being far removed from a human.
Black, nacreous, half-invisible cloth covered a tall, thin figure – inhuman in its form, and yet, a bit human-like as well.
Most of the thin being was hidden by the cloth, a hood covering its face, but the man, unlike Sal, seemed to see more and shrunk away from what he saw.
"Who… who are you?!" the man whispered, shuddering. "What are you?!"
The being didn't answer the question, but answered nevertheless in a way.
"I'm here to make a deal," they said, their voice echoing and rasping.
Sal shuddered at the sound, his odd state of not-being not stopping him from feeling the dread running through his very being.
Oddly enough, it wasn't dread at the sight of the being, or at their words – but dread for what would come after… dread for the deal and everything it contained.
It was an odd feeling, being afraid while not fearing something at the same time.
And above the scene, the forest was lit up by the night sky, stars gleaming in the far distance, reaching out for Sal like little galaxies connecting in the universe.
"I don't deal with strangers," the man said slowly, his eyes on the strange being, stepping backwards further and further. There was fear in his eyes and he seemed to lean away from the being, afraid of them in a way that Sal could somehow relate to, yet, not really understand.
Yes, there was something in the being that made him shudder, but no matter how much it made him shudder, it didn't inflict fear on him at all.
Sal wondered if it was the feeling of not-being that stopped the fear from really reaching him, or if it was something else that he couldn't understand.
There was dread, he felt, but not based on the being, but based on the happenings beneath him.
It felt important.
Important in a way that Sal couldn't explain in words.
It was as if this scene would influence his whole future, his own self...
"A deal, for your life and the continuation of your line," thebeing continued, clearly not bothered by the stranger's refusal.
And not matter how little the being said, Sal could see the temptation it wove with every word.
The man who had just begged the stars for a child hesitated.
Sal looked at him closer.
There was indecision on the man's face.
His silver eyes were watching the being in front of him and his right hand was nervously carding through his hair.
It was clear that he was tempted by the offer.
The only question was, how tempted he was.
Would he accept?
Would he take the offer and the conditions placed on it?
Sal wasn't an idiot.
Nothing was for free – especially not an offer like that.
For a second or two, the man hesitated, clearly torn between his wants and caution.
Then, slowly, like quick-sand reaching for its prey, he gave in.
"What kind of deal?" the man asked, his voice shaking with fear.
The power around Sal shifted and like foreign emotions suddenly pressing down on him, he could feel triumph and satisfaction creeping through the universe.
Nevertheless, when the being spoke, there was no emotion in their voice.
The promise, as it was, was a cold one, clinical in its statement.
"I will ensure your line's life and success for the next two thousand years – if you will give me a mortal body for a time."
And a deal, clearly containing something the being desperately wanted.
"A body?" the man repeated, looking at the being in front of him.
There was a frown on the man's face, a frown and reluctance.
It didn't sound good.
And yet, a body for the continuation of a whole line… there was a question in whose favour the deal really was.
"A child's body – your child, with my soul," the being elaborated, their voice emotionless, but there was a tension in the air that belied the clinical word of the being.
They wanted the body.
They needed the body.
And for a moment, Sal wondered why it was so important for the being to be mortal when they clearly were so much more – when they clearly were so much more powerful like they were?
And yet, a body for a line.
A deal, at least sounding heavily in favour for the man instead of the being.
The being leaned closer to the man, clearly watching him with hooded eyes.
"A hundred years of a child for you without me ever knowing who I really am," they offered, trying to ensure that they got what they wanted from the man. "The rest of it, in my command for everything I need. One child, born from this body for your line – two children, born by me for my own. This is my deal – will you accept?"
And with that offer, an emaciated hand reached out from under the cloak, ready to shake on it. Something glinted on the being's hand – maybe a ring, maybe a bracelet – but the cloak was in the way to see it clearly.
For a moment, the man watched the being with sceptical eyes.
Then, he took a deep breath and reached back.
Like lightning, something ran through Sal and suddenly this not-world around him, the universe pressing down on him, lit up into white flames.
He lost track of the man and the being and for a moment, his breathing stopped, before he managed to rip open his eyes and take a deep breath once more.
When he woke up next, he was still on the wet floor.
"Shh, fledgling," a soft voice said. "You're safe."
Fingers carded through his hair.
They were marked with red feathers.
"You're alright," the soft voice assured him. "You will survive."
Sal opened his mouth, his unfocused eyes desperately searching for well-known and well-loved golden eyes. He tried to speak, but his voice refused to cooperate.
He knew that voice.
He knew those eyes.
The stroking stopped and instead he was lifted into the other man's lap.
A cup full of water was offered to him and Sal drank greedily.
His thoughts narrowed down onto the water and when the cup was taken away, he managed to make a sound of protest.
"You will choke if you drink too much too fast," the man said in his well-known, well-loved voice.
But Sal couldn't even follow that logic.
Instead, his thoughts latched onto something else.
Something, his foggy brain deemed more important than his own health.
"The boy?" he slurred.
"Alive," the other man replied. "His life is still bound to yours."
"Good," Sal said.
That was important.
The boy couldn't die.
The boy mustn't die.
The other man clearly didn't agree with Sal's voiced sentiment.
Instead, he shook his head.
"It's not good, fledgling," he countered. "This connection between you two is killing you slowly. You have to remove it!"
"He'll die," Sal countered, his words barely recognizable.
He'd die and that wasn't something that was allowed to happen.
Sal's brain might have been foggy – but he remembered at least that much.
"I don't care!" the other man countered. "You are the one I care for. You're my grandson – unlike the other boy. He could die for all I care – especially if he's the one endangering your life!"
Sal felt sluggish, his thought process far too slow to fully process what the other man had said, nevertheless, he had an answer.
An answer and a question.
That was important somehow.
But… Sal couldn't think straight and no matter what, the man's concerns didn't make sense to his foggy brain.
Sal felt so sluggish that he still couldn't even place the man he was talking to.
He knew him.
He knew he knew him.
But his thoughts were too sluggish, too overwhelmed with his leaking magic, the wards writhing over his body and the feeling of not-being that seemed to creep deeper into his soul to think about it further.
A hand, adorned with feathers carded through his hair and for a moment, Sal saw with his inner eye a fiery bird descending from the very same ceiling he was looking at.
Then the odd echo of a memory vanished and the thought was lost again.
"Lost too many a'ready," he slurred instead, his thoughts returning to the boy he needed to save. "Not gonna lose him, too."
It was the clearest refusal he could give at that time.
"Salvazsahar," the man – bird? – admonished him, but Sal's vision started to grey already again.
"Not gonna lose him," he managed to assure the man-bird.
Then, the ceiling made of stone seemed to plummet into darkness.
He lost consciousness.
(Between 700 And 600 B.C. - A Few Weeks After Arriving In The Past)
Sal stared at the boy who was sitting at the fire, looking into it with a frown. He was in the sky above – or at least, that's what it felt like – looking down at a scene that looked quite familiar.
It was a calm evening, some times far in the past, with a boy and a man watching the flames of a fire that had been used for cooking shortly before.
Both, man and boy were clothed in leather and fur.
The boy was fifteen years old.
Sal knew that boy, knew him better than anybody else.
"Are you alright, Salvazsahar?" a thirty-year-old-looking man – a man who was achingly familiar and dearly missed – asked the boy at the fire. And when Sal – because who else could that boy be but Sal himself, even though that boy was young and naïve and oh-so-innocent – looked up, his new father, Myrddin sat down next to him.
"I…," younger Sal hesitated. "How do I get home? I mean, how do I start researching time travel? How do I–"
"It won't be easy, Salvazsahar," he told his son, his eyes wandering towards the fire. "I can't tell you where to start. I can teach you your magic, I can teach you how to be a fully trained druid, but I don't know anything about travelling through time."
Younger Sal frowned at that.
He knew that.
Myrddin had told him that before.
Nevertheless, he still hoped for more… still hoped to find an easy solution.
"I can't stay here," he finally forced out, looking at his father in desperation. "I'm needed where I come from! I'll be missed!"
Sal remembered that moment.
He remembered his own desperation and his bitter belief that the future would be in danger if he wasn't there to protect it… that his friends were in danger if he didn't find a way to return.
How naïve he had been…
But unlike younger Sal, Myrddin seemed calm. And while the boy Sal had been fretted, his father just closed his eyes, before he turned and returned the gaze of his son.
"I can't tell you a lot about time travel," he said. "But… this is the past – basically your past. I think it's quite improbable that you will be missed in a time that hasn't yet happened. You have time to find a way back. Take it."
His father had always been a wise man.
"And what?" younger Sal countered, looking, and – taken from Sal's memory – feeling furious. "Return as an old man?"
His new father just raised an eyebrow.
"You're the child of two Olde Ones and me. Believe me, even if you take eighty years or more to figure it out, you most likely won't look like it."
But for this younger version of Sal, that hadn't been enough.
He pressed his lips together.
"What is so important that you need to go back immediately?" Myrddin countered with a frown.
The answer was a grimace and Sal couldn't help but feel exasperated with his past-self.
He had been so innocent, back then – so innocent, and yet still so jaded…
"It's… a long story," younger Sal finally admitted slowly.
Myrddin just raised an eyebrow.
"Is this about the man who committed line-theft on you?" he asked coolly.
The boy opened his mouth for a moment, but in the end, he nodded with a tired sigh.
"Yes, atr," he agreed, sounding unhappy. "I need to stop him."
Myrddin just raised an eyebrow at that.
"And you don't think that you'd have better chances if you'd be able to actually train before you encountered him again?" he countered and younger Sal's face turned thoughtful.
"I guess," he finally agreed a bit slowly.
Sal wondered what he had been thinking back then.
He wondered if this version of him had already grasped the injustice that had been done to him by Tom Marvolo Riddle or if he had still thought that his loss of his blood wasn't that bad…
Whatever he had thought, Sal couldn't fully remember.
His father on the other hand seemed to have been satisfied with younger Sal's not-answer because he just nodded.
"So that's that," he said.
The boy sighed, but, in the end, he returned to his other concern.
"But… how do I get back? Where do I start searching?" he asked Myrddin, feeling a bit nervous, if Sal remembered correctly.
It had been daunting, back then.
Daunting – and yet he had been so determined…
It was odd remembering it like that…
Vaguely he remembered that his past-self had felt so nervous because back then, he couldn't remember ever trying to find out something he couldn't look up in Hogwarts's library – and being stuck in a time without Hogwarts, looking up things there hadn't been possible.
It was odd to remember that.
Sal had learned a long, long time ago, to search the answers for himself – even if that meant to invent things or travel the whole world to get to the answers.
But back then, he had still been nothing but a boy.
A boy, who felt alone and who hadn't known his new father for that long, all in all.
Sal couldn't help but wonder if he had even really thought of his father as his father back then…
But before he could think further about that question, the scene in front of him had gone on.
His father hummed thoughtfully.
"Do you know anything at all about time travel already?" he asked, instead of answering the younger Sal's question.
Sal remembered wanting to deny immediately, but stopping before he uttered one word.
"I… a bit," his past-self finally said slowly, his mind going back to his third year. "A friend told me about it, once."
"So," Myrddin said and leaned forward to put another log into the fire. "What do you know?"
Younger Sal frowned thoughtfully, his eyes going to the flames, watching them.
"Not a lot," he admitted.
His father just shrugged.
"Every bit helps for the start," he pointed out and for a moment.
Sal knew for sure, that back then, he had regretted that Hermione wasn't there with him – or that he hadn't listened better when she explained what she knew once.
Not that she had ever explained a lot about time travel.
Nonetheless, he had regretted that she wasn't there and couldn't provide him with the answers.
Instead, he had been forced to think back and speak about the few things he remembered.
"There were rules," the boy said slowly.
"Rules?" his father asked with a raised eyebrow. "What kind of rules."
Younger Sal stared at the flames, but his mind clearly wandered back to the day two years ago now for him – and who knows how many years in the future.
"You must not be seen," he finally said slowly. "Be back where you began when you started your time travel…"
For a moment, he was silent, before he slowly added.
"You can't change anything."
His father hummed thoughtfully.
And younger Sal hesitated again.
"But… I mean, those laws also stated that you can't go further back than a few hours," he pointed out with a frown. "And that's definitely not the case, here."
How naïve he had been back then!
How few things he had known!
It was like watching a stranger, because while Sal knew he had been that boy, he definitely didn't feel like that boy anymore.
Of course, the boy and the man were unbothered by his thoughts.
Instead, Myrddin had turned and looked at younger Sal in interest after his last words.
"What about returning to the future?" he asked.
The boy blinked and thought about it.
"I… don't know?" he said slowly. "I mean, the only time I travelled back in time before, it was three hours and I relived them. And my friend… I doubt that she ever went forward in time, only backward and then lived until she returned to the starting point."
"Was that because she wanted to – or because there was no other way?" Myrddin instantly asked.
Younger Sal shrugged.
"I… don't know," he admitted. "I never thought about it, actually."
Then he frowned.
"But then, she also told me that I'd lose my mind if I'd see myself… and well… I saw myself, but I thought it was my father?" he said, clearly feeling a bit unsure.
At that, his father looked at him with interest.
"So… you saw yourself acting before you knew that you would act?" he asked in interest.
Sal could see himself blinking in surprise.
"Yes," his past-self said slowly. "I did."
"So, we can conclude that most likely whatever will happen in your life from now on, will have already happened in your future," Myrddin concluded.
"Er… it might?" the younger Sal offered, and Sal remembered feeling odd even thinking about it. "I mean, I'm not the best when it comes to history… and…"
He stopped, suddenly looking alarmed.
"But… what about 'You must not be seen'?" he asked, his eyes finding his father's. "I mean, I obviously broke that rule already! You… Ollivanneder… you've seen me! By wind and fire! You know I'm from the future!"
Myrddin reached for younger Sal's shoulder and squeezed it.
Sal meanwhile shook his non-existing head at his younger self.
As if it really mattered if he was seen by Myrddin and Ollivanneder!
What had his younger self been thinking?!
That he should have hidden and starved while dodging everybody until he finally reached his own time again?
Sal didn't even want to think about the improbability of that notion…
"I doubt that it matters that we saw you and that I know you're from the future," Myrddin countered, sounding oddly calm, and pulling Sal back from his thoughts to the scene in front of him.
The younger Sal opened his mouth to protest that the rule he had been told was absolute, when Myrddin continued.
"I think that rule applies more to those people you know," he said slowly. "I wouldn't recommend that you'd spread it further than necessary, but I doubt it will matter as long as most people don't know. I don't think it's telling or being seen that you're warned about, but being asked why you were somewhere else when you hadn't yet been there."
That had the young boy blinking in surprise.
Then his face turned thoughtful.
Sal remembered what he had thought back then.
He had thought back to his third year.
He had remembered what he had been told…
The only thing he had known back then was what Dumbledore had told him and Hermione.
You must not be seen.
Hermione had used the time-turner to go to class – so there was no way she hadn't been seen by at least some of the other students.
He remembered his own confusion when questions had arisen at that thought about Hermione.
He remembered the question he had had after understanding that there was no way that Hermione would have been able to stay hidden while sitting in class with other students.
So… why the warning?
Why had they been told that they must not be seen?
Had it been because what they had done was illegal?
Or had it been meant differently?
He remembered how Hermione seemed to show up out of nowhere throughout the year.
She hadn't been seen by Harry and Ron.
She hadn't been seen by her friends who had asked a lot of questions.
And Sal remembered that he had drawn his own conclusions from that – the first from many.
"Huh," his past-self said surprised. "So… being seen by strangers shouldn't be a problem."
It had been a surprising conclusion, back then, but he had never doubted that he wasn't wrong.
"Maybe avoid getting your former birth name out there and into the stories druids tell to keep track of history would be something to avoid as well," Myrddin added calmly. "But – we changed your name already, so, that should be no problem."
Younger Sal blinked.
Sal himself shuddered.
Even now he dreaded the thoughts he had had back then.
"Oh, yes, I should avoid that, too," his past-self agreed, before adding mentally. 'Especially history books. Unlike oral traditions, books won't change that easily. Once written, it will be conserved for eternity – or at least until the book is lost in time… which might never happen.'
It had been a valid thread.
And it had been something that no matter how much Sal wanted, he hadn't been able to escape fully.
Salvazsahar Pendragon had ended up in historical documents.
Salazar Slytherin had done the same.
By wind and fire! There had been even more documentations about him over time.
Salvatio Malfoire was documented.
Sal Basilisksson, even though barely, was the same.
Even the potions master SEL was well known…
Not even speaking about working in the resistance as Sal Sanctuary…
Yes, his fear had been valid, and yet, he had avoided being named by his true name.
Even after all this time, it was a relief.
In the scene, his father just hummed in agreement.
"So… we've concluded that 'You must not be seen' is more of a rule for a time where you're know," he concluded. "We've also concluded that most likely, whatever you will do in the future, it will have already happened in your own."
Younger Sal nodded slowly.
"So, what about the fact that you have to return to the place you started your time travel from?" Myrddin asked with a raised eyebrow.
The boy opened his mouth to tell him that it would be impossible for him to do so… just to stop before he could utter a word, his mind combining something that Sal knew to be true now – even though he hadn't lived it… yet.
Sal remembered his thoughts back then.
Eyes of Death met eyes of Avada-Kedavra-green.
"Bow to death, Harry," a voice, oddly warm, like a summer wind in autumn, tingling through the air like the unearthly voice of an elf – a voice that had sounded strange in Sal's ears back then, but wasn't so strange now. "It will be painless. I know, I have been there. Bow to death and move on!"
Long fingers, a gentle but slender hand – a hand that looked quite like his own – drew runes un his forehead and his scar.
A stranger with a patronus, stepping in when Harry failed.
When Sal failed.
Sal remembered his mind repeating that night that had happened just a few weeks ago back then – that one night that brought him to Myrddin… and he remembered suddenly wondering if he hadn't known the person who stepped in back then.
If he hadn't been the person who stepped in.
Even now, millennia later, the thought of what he would do in a bit more than a decade felt daunting and unbelievable for him.
"You remember something," Myrddin said slowly, pulling Sal out of the dread he was feeling for the future.
The younger Sal frowned.
"I… I'm not sure," he finally said. "But… there was someone else… when I fell back in time… when I was still in my time… there was someone… I… I don't know what they looked like… but…"
He met Myrddin's eyes, feeling oddly unsettled.
"They had the same colour of eyes that I do," he confessed. "I remember that colour."
Then he shook his head.
"But they were taller than me," he added.
"You'll grow," Myrddin pointed out softly. "And while you have no evidence now, you might get some when you start to research time travel."
The boy snorted.
"I wouldn't even know where to start researching that," he pointed out to his father.
Myrddin just raised an eyebrow.
"I would suggest cultures that are known for their magic," he pointed out.
It had been the first time that had Sal understood that magic wasn't really a secret in that new time he was living in.
Instead, people knew about magic.
People – muggles – believed in magic… by wind and fire, they came to magical people to get help!
There was no Statue of Secrecy.
There was no distinction between the magical world and the non-magical one.
By ice and water!
Some cultures in that time had been known for their magic!
Druids had been known!
And Sal remembered understanding that he would be known along them.
It had been an odd feeling.
His past-self stared at his father, looking overwhelmed by that revelation.
"What culture…?" he finally forced himself to ask, clearly unable to finish the question, no matter how much he wanted.
"Hmm…" Myrddin said thoughtfully, before he suggested some cultures. "Some druids somewhere else might know something… but most likely Egypt… Greece might be an option as well… there are also some rumours about a few cultures further west that might have some ideas or knowledge… and maybe some other cultures I know nothing about."
The younger Sal looked at his father thoughtfully.
"How about I ensure that you're fully trained – and then we or you can go and search for what is known," his father suggested. "It would be best. Wandering while training is not the best solution – especially not in the beginning."
And the boy had to agree to that, while remembering the first weeks of his stay in the past.
"Alright," he agreed, "thank you, atr."
And then, as if something was yanking him backwards, Sal was ripped away from the scene.
His surroundings lit up and he ripped open his eyes desperately in the hope to evade the light.
The next time he opened his eyes, he was still on the floor.
A hand was carding through his hair.
Silver eyes watched him with intent.
"You're going to have to make a choice one day," the stranger with the black hair said.
Sal's brain was foggy.
Instead of listening, it latched onto something else.
He was still sure that the hair of the stranger should be white.
He also couldn't actually follow the stranger's thought process at that moment.
He couldn't think.
Everything seemed to feel surreal.
For a moment he wondered where he was.
For a second, he wondered when he was.
Then his brain fogged over again.
"One day, you will have to decide between the path I hope for you to take and the other options you can choose from," the stranger said.
His voice was like the sound of breaking waves.
Soothing and utterly out of place.
Then, suddenly, there was another pressing thought on Sal's mind.
"The boy?" he managed to say after a bit of dry swallowing.
The man lifted his head and held out a cup towards him.
Sal only hesitated for a moment, before he accepted the offered beverage.
He was thirsty after all.
And he had drunk before.
Had the stranger given him something to drink before?
He must have.
They were alone.
Even with his brain barely anything else but mush, Sal was sure of that.
So, he opened his mouth to drink.
For a second, the thought of possible poisoning ran through Sal's head.
But in the next, he had already dismissed it again.
The stranger could have killed him before, after all, if he wanted to.
Sal was in no condition to fight back anymore… and as odd as it sounded, he trusted the stranger, even after everything that happened.
He didn't know why.
He didn't know when he started to trust.
But even with the fog clouding his mind, he knew that he trusted the stranger.
An herbal brew hit his tongue.
"The boy is sleeping," the stranger replied, answering to a question Sal had long since forgotten that he'd asked. "Poisoned with a poison without counter, but sleeping nevertheless. He's tethered to you."
Tethered to him.
Why was the boy tethered–?
It took a second to remember that Sal had done it.
Sal had tethered the boy to ensure that he wouldn't die.
Sal had taken the boy with him to safety.
But… where was safety for Sal?
Sal lost that thought as well when something else occurred to his straining mind and he blurted out his next question before he could forget it again.
"Why d'you send me… to get him?" Sal managed to force out after the cup was removed from his lips. "Why d'you think him important?"
Long fingers carded through his hair at that.
Sal lost himself to the caress.
It felt good.
It felt soothing.
Then the stranger started to speak again and the moment was broken.
"It wasn't the boy who was important," the stranger countered and it took a second for Sal to understand that his questions were answered by the other man. "It was the opportunity he represented."
Sal wanted to asked what he meant, wanted to asked before he forgot again, but a coughing fit stopped him before he could utter another sentence.
Blood landed on his lips.
Something inside Sal told him that coughing blood wasn't good.
Instincts honed over centuries ensured that Sal had the feeling that it might be even really, really bad.
Then his mind fogged over again and he forgot why he was concerned at all.
The stranger's grip on Sal's hair tightened.
"If you give up now, Salvazsahar," he said. "You will kill that boy as well."
His whole body shook and shivered.
And for a moment, the fog in his mind lifted.
It felt cold.
Everything felt so cold.
Everything felt so wrong.
As if he was less alive and more dead in that very moment.
Then, the darkness descended upon him once more.
He closed his eyes again and accepted the darkness waiting for him there.
(Before 700 B.C.)
This time around, when he looked down from the universe surrounding him, he saw a boy, playing with his parents.
The man, the child's father, was the same one who had made the deal with the being in the forest.
Sal stared at the man.
Now, that he wasn't distracted by the being, he noticed that the man – and the boy – looked familiar.
Not familiar as in, Sal had seen them before, but familiar in Sal had seen their likeness before.
Silver eyes and dark hair.
Both of them.
It was an odd combination and for a moment, Sal wondered.
"Magic," the father told his son, and the son looked at his father with silver eyes full of interest. "Magic is everywhere. But not everybody can harness it, not everybody can access it."
"But if not everybody can, who can?" the boy asked and Sal saw the shadow of the being leaning over the boy, part of the boy and yet apart as well. "Why can we, atr?"
"Only those descending of magical beings can harness magic," his father answered calmly. "And while you can take some magic from around you, like every magical being, the most magic you can use is inside you. That's the true origin of your power. Wards can partly be powered by the land. They can be anchored to the land – but if you want to build them, you have to draw from yourself."
The boy hummed thoughtfully.
"Is that always the case, atr?" he asked, and his father ruffled his hair.
"As long as you aren't an Elder Dragon or one of their children," he agreed. "Because, unlike us, they bind themselves to the land until they're basically routed in it. Don't attack an Elder Dragon routed in his land on his grounds. Unlike us, he can harness the magic there and spells that are otherwise impossible might just turn possible for them."
The boy crooked his head.
"What magic do we have then, atr?" he asked, sounding innocent and yet there was something old hidden in the depth of his eyes that made shudder just like the being had done when Sal had watched the father interact with it the first time around.
The father, blind to the supernatural in his son's eyes, just laughed.
"We belong to the elves," he told his son. "And part of the elves we will stay."
He reached out, grabbed his boy and threw him in the air.
"Let's go and search for dinner now," he said.
And when the boy laughed in reaction to being thrown in the air and caught and something changed.
The universe seemed to press closer to the boy, seemed to surround him and draw him in.
And then, when the father sat down the boy back onto the earth, the boy was growing.
From a boy to a young man to a father.
A father to a young boy with silver eyes and dark hair.
"Magic," the boy turned father told his own child. "Magic is everywhere. But we are descended of the elves, and descended of the elves we will stay."
And like the boy once, his own son looked at him with huge eyes and listened.
And like the boy once, his son started to grow before Sal's eyes – turning from a boy to a young man.
"I'm here to make a deal. A hundred years of a child for you without me ever knowing who I really am." A voice whispered in Sal's ear. "One child, born from this body for your line."
The father who was once a son, watched his own son grow up and having a family of his own.
And the father, who was once a boy, turned into an old man.
Something told Sal he should know the old man he was looking at suddenly.
But before he could think about it further, something else shifted.
The universe reached for the old man; the stars drifted closer.
And when the pyre was lit for his dying body, his own son began to change as well.
The son's face started to shift.
It shifted in another face and another and another.
Sal could see the changes.
Sal could see the similarities.
A single, heredity line.
A family line.
"I will ensure your line's life and success for the next two thousand years – if you will give me a mortal body for a time," Sal heard the being from the forest promise.
At that thought, the pyre of the promised son suddenly lit up in purifying light.
And from the flames, a big, black dog jumped and ran away into the forest.
No, Sal thought when the flames suddenly creased to burn a body and reached for him instead.
Not a dog.
And for the life of him, Sal couldn't say why he knew that the creature had been a grim.
"The rest of it, in my command for everything I need. One child, born from this body for your line – two children, born by me for my own. This is my deal – will you accept?"
In that moment, the flames reached Sal as well.
Sal gasped, but the universe tightened around him to ensure that he burned.
He wound himself, tried to get free, and yet, he felt himself losing.
He felt himself losing until he ripped open his eyes in a last, desperate attempt to survive.
When he woke again, he was still lying on the cold floor.
Shivers ran through his body.
A hand ornated with feathers held his own.
He knew that hand.
"Salvazsahar," he could hear a familiar voice begging. "Salvazsahar, stay with me! Do you hear me? Stay with me!"
He knew that voice.
For a moment, his foggy thoughts seemed to resist his attempt to untangle that knowledge.
Then, something broke through.
He coughed and blood splattered on his chin.
But, for a moment, his thoughts were clear.
He knew that hand.
He knew that voice.
And he had a name for the person it belonged to.
"Grandfather," he whispered.
Fawarx, his mind supplied, before it drifted some more.
Fawkes, an old voice in his head insisted and for a moment, he felt confused before he settled on the name, he was most sure of right now.
"Grandfather," he repeated.
"I'm here," his grandfather – Fawarx? Fawkes? Grandfather. – assured him. "I'm here, Salvazsahar. But you have to stay with me as well, do you hear me? Stay with me, fledgling, stay!"
Staying sounded good.
Sal opened his mouth to reassure his grandfather, but instead, he coughed up even more blood.
The old phoenix cursed.
"You have to fight, fledgling!" he told Sal, half-begging, half-ordering.
But Sal couldn't follow his begging anymore.
Instead, his mind flittered between one half-thought and the other until it settled onto something Sal could comprehend.
"'M cold," he managed to utter, a lot less bothered by the blood dripping from his lips than he should be.
His grandfather reached for him at that and pulled him closer to his own, fire-heated body.
"That's alright," the phoenix said. "I can help you with that."
He sounded defeated and afraid and everything Sal had never wanted to hear in the phoenix's voice.
What was his grandfather afraid of?
For a moment, something in Sal told him that the blood on his chin was something to be concerned of and that his grandfather was reacting to it, but then that thought was overwhelmed by the welcoming heat of the phoenix.
Sal hummed in appreciation and curled even closer to the body holding him.
His grandfather cursed.
For a moment Sal wondered if he'd be shoved away, then the thought melted in the warmth surrounding him.
"'M cold," Sal repeated because no matter the heat, it was still true.
A curse, and then the phoenix drew him even closer.
"I'd move you, if I could," his grandfather said. "But you pulled your damn healing circle or whatever with you when you came here and, while I can enter it since I share your blood and I'm somebody you trust, I can't remove you from it – you or the boy."
Sal knew that those words should make sense to him, but to his foggy mind, there was nothing in them he could take from them.
The phoenix could have talked not at all when it came down to understanding for Sal.
Nevertheless, the emotion relayed through the words at least was as clear as day even to Sal's mushy brain.
Sal felt a bit guilty when he heard the exhaustion in the phoenix's voice, but the other emotions slid off of him before he could fully comprehend what he had understood in the moment before.
Magical exhaustion often caused an inability to comprehend.
Sal was tethered to the boy, unable to replenish his wasting reserves while he was still trying to save the boy.
Those thoughts were lost as well a second later.
"I can't even get you more comfortable here," his grandfather continued bitterly. "And even my tears seem to have only temporary effect on you or the boy."
Sal tried to squeeze his grandfather's hand at that, telling him wordlessly that it was alright and that he was doing his best, but Sal's grip was weak and he wasn't sure if Fawarx even felt his effort.
Before he could try and say something to reassure his grandfather verbally as well, Sal felt the darkness creeping in once more.
His eyes fluttered shut.
(Between 700 And 600 B.C. - Two Years After Arriving In The Past)
"Atr," the boy looked up and into his father's face and Sal couldn't help but startle when he understood that he was watching himself – young, naïve and barely fifteen-years-old, but still himself – from above.
It was a curious feeling, looking down on the child that he once was and see the innocence in himself with ancient eyes.
"Yes, my son?" his father leaned closer to the boy on the earth, drawing out runes and learning.
"You… you said that it's possible that I might have to live… that I might be forced to live through the centuries until I return home."
Ah, not fifteen, then, Sal concluded, seventeen or eighteen instead.
After they noticed he'd stopped aging – but before he had learned to fake it.
Before he had done the last of the rituals.
"That's a possibility," his atr agreed.
He looked so young.
Sal couldn't even consciously remember a time when his father had looked as if he'd been a mere thirty years of age anymore.
When he thought of the man, he always remembered the older version.
It was odd, to see that younger version again after all this time.
"But… what if I meet myself?" the boy asked and looked at his atr inquiringly. "I remember my third year and the warning I got back then. Meeting myself in the past will lead to insanity."
His atr looked thoughtful at that.
"I doubt you will have to worry about it," he said. "Not as long as you learn the ritual."
And when the boy frowned, Myrddin sighed.
"There's a high change that you, like I, will be able to change your apparent age after you've done it," he pointed out.
The boy frowned.
"You never change your age," he countered.
The answer was a laugh.
"I do," he said. "And one day, I will decide to look even older than I do now. I don't want my son to look older than me, after all!"
For a moment, the boy looked at Myrddin with an incredulous gaze, then he sighed.
"And what if I don't manage it?" he countered.
"Then there will still be no problem," Myrddin replied, clearly sure of himself. "I doubt that your… one-year-old or six-year-old or twelve-year-old self will recognize you as himself when you're clearly older than them."
The boy blinked.
"What has age to do with it?" he asked a bit baffled.
His atr just shrugged.
"I don't know anything about time," he countered. "But you told me about your third year and how you saw yourself and thought you were your own father – so clearly, it's not the seeing that's the problem, but the recognizing of the other person as yourself. As long as your past self doesn't do that, there will be no problem."
The boy blinked at that, before his gaze turned thoughtful.
"Huh," he said. "Never thought of that."
And then, as if something was yanking him backwards, Sal was ripped away from the scene.
His surroundings lit up and he ripped open his eyes desperately in the hope to evade the light.
He woke again in the arms of the stranger.
Something was held against his lips.
"Drink," the other man said.
Sal opened his mouth and the taste of herbal brew hit Sal's lips.
"Drink," the other man ordered. "And don't give up! Not now!"
Blood moistened his lips.
"Not… gonna…," he forced out. "Th'… boy."
"Would die if you do," the stranger agreed with Sal's muddled thought. "If you really want to keep him alive, then the only thing you can do is staying alive as well."
For a moment, Sal fought with his breathing. It seemed hard to breath, but he refused to give up.
The boy's life depended on him, and he wouldn't let the child die if he had a way to safe him.
"You bound your life to the boy's. If you die, he dies," the stranger said calmly. "As long as your spell stays active, he will survive – even if you can't help him right now."
"Th'… poison," Sal's mumbled, his eyes fluttering, more than half-closed and too heavy to open.
"Active in the boy's system and burning through it," the stranger replied. "But it won't kill him as long as you keep the bond."
Sal's thoughts were heavy, but even barely able to think, he knew what the stranger was indirectly telling him. He had been a healer too long to be stumped by his foggy thoughts for too long.
"Coma," he managed to force out, ignoring the next wave of blood leaving his mouth to dribble down his chin.
"Most likely," the stranger agreed with a sigh. "The boy is heading that way, and I fear that he will fall into a coma before you will be able to help him."
"Purge… system… poison…," Sal mumbled, forcing the words through his lips, his breath heavy.
"Not something I can do – and not something your grandfather can do, sadly," the stranger countered calmly.
Sal couldn't focus on the other man, instead, his eyes rolled back and he lost consciousness again.
(Between 600 And 700 A.D.)
When he opened his eyes again, he found himself back in that bodiless state he had been in before.
He was increased in the universe.
The stars were surrounding him and he shuddered in dread, remembering being restricted by them the last time.
When he looked down to earth, he was surprised to see the man who once had been a boy, who once had been that being from the forest, sitting there with his own son.
But… it wasn't the son Sal had seen before.
While the first son had silver eyes and dark hair, this child looked different.
"One child, born from this body for your line – two children, born by me for my own," Sal could hear the being whisper in the wind.
The child, this new son, had dark hair, just like his father, but his eyes were brown and warm.
And next to him sat a girl, just like him.
"Magic," their father told them. "Is everywhere. But we, we are different, because unlike others, we are descended of the grim."
And his son crooked his head thoughtfully.
"The grim, Pater?" he asked.
His father smiled.
"The grim," he agreed. "There aren't many in this world."
"But they exist?" his daughter asked and leaned forward, interest in the eyes.
"Yes," their father agreed. "We descend from them. I am the First Grim, and you are my children."
At that, his children exchanged a look.
Sal on the other hand recoiled.
The First Grim.
He remembered that name.
He had heard of it throughout the centuries.
"There's a legend in my family that one of my ancestors was the last Master of Death," Charlus Potter had once told Sal. "He was also called 'The First Grim', because he wasn't human but a grim and the son of Death himself. According to legend, he gave up his position after thousands of years of loneliness by killing himself in front of his children."
Sal shuddered at that thought.
A legend, Charlus had called it.
A legend – and yet, the man who held the being's soul had called himself the First Grim.
"What does it mean, to be the First Grim's children?" the boy asked his father.
"For you, it doesn't mean that much," his father countered and then held out his left hand towards his children. Something… a stone glinted in it. "But some day in the future, there will be someone who comes after me."
At those words, the father's simple black cloak turned nacreous and half-invisible. With his other hand, the father pulled out his wand and lay it next to the stone in his left.
"Someday, for someone, being descended of the First Grim will mean something more than just being my child, like it does for you two," he said.
The cloak turned black again and wand and stone vanished.
"But you two, you are my children," he said. "And while that might mean more for you one day, at the moment, this is everything you need to know."
Another memory hit Sal then.
A memory, that was centuries old and yet, suddenly made him shudder.
"You're the first grim's child…," Fawarx had once said to Peverell.
And he remembered Peverell's words as well – words that verified the phoenix's accusation.
"It's not I who suffers because of his relation to the first grim," he had said. "My father suffered for thousands of years – but unlike him neither myself nor my sister were born a true grim, hence, I'm not born to suffer like my father."
Sal's eyes snapped to the girl.
And suddenly he knew her.
Just like he knew the boy.
As if the scene had just waited for him to recognize them, it suddenly shattered, crushing down all around him while leaving him falling into darkness.
Desperate, Sal reached out for the scene, reached out for the children he had once known, but it was for nothing.
He fell – and there was nothing that could stop his fall.
His eyes snapped open.
When he woke, he was back in his grandfather's arms.
The phoenix was holding him, one of his hands stroking Sal's hair, the other holding a mug to Sal's lips.
"Drink," he whispered.
It tasted like water and fire and magic.
"Gran'fath'r," Sal managed to force out after his grandfather had stopped giving him water laced with his tears.
"Shh," his grandfather whispered. "It's alright, Salvazsahar, it's alright."
"Th' boy," Sal forced out. "Poisoned."
His grandfather's grip tightened on Sal.
"I'm not a healer, fledgeling," he countered, his grip loosening and his other hand carding through his Sal's hair. "I can't heal him."
"Tears," Sal suggested, his mind feeling sluggish and exhausted.
His grandfather's hands tightened on him.
"I tried," the phoenix confessed. "I tried because you won't let him go. He's not healing."
It sounded desperate, but Sal couldn't even comprehend why his grandfather would feel that way.
For a moment, the world seemed to dissolve in white, before stabilizing again.
Again, a cup was touching Sal's lips.
"Drink," his grandfather urged him, there was fear in his eyes. "Drink, Salvazsahar."
It must be bad if his grandfather used his name, Sal thought confused, but not really comprehending at all. Nevertheless, he did what he was told.
Phoenix tears and water slid down his throat and for a moment, strength returned to his limps before seeping out of his body through the runes connecting him to the boy.
"Th' boy," he managed to get out.
"Whatever happened to him, my tears have no impact," the phoenix countered, and it sounded like a repeat of something Sal had heard before, but no matter what, he didn't quite remember if he had gotten that answer once already.
The phoenix looked distressed and tired and Sal felt bad, so bad for hurting his father's father.
"'M sorry," he got out and shivered.
"Don't apologize," his grandfather countered immediately. "I can't admit that I understand – but I see that for whatever reason, you can't let that boy die."
Sal wanted to say more, wanted to explain – even though he didn't understand himself, but he could feel the edges of his vision greying again.
(15 A.D. - After Arriving In Camelot)
When Sal's eyes opened, he saw himself again.
The younger version of himself was sitting next to his father, clearly feeling tired and quite a bit drained.
"How can you find out if something is possible to do with magic?" he asked with a frown, leaning onto his father comfortably.
His father frowned, his hands reaching out card through his son's hair.
"Most likely the same way we test if spells, wards and potions are sound," he offered. "You will have to calculate it. Magic, like everything else, needs to be sound through Arithmancy."
It was odd to hear a concept explained again that Sal had known for centuries already.
Younger Sal, on the other hand, hummed thoughtfully.
"So… I have to calculate what I think might be able to return me to the future," he said slowly.
"Yes," his father agreed. "Do you have a theory?"
"Multiple," Sal's past-self answered. "I met a priest of the Alemanni who had an accident and went back in time for about a week. I also heard about others who worked with time in Greece and Egypt. But… from what I gathered, not one of them went forward in time. The only people I heard about went backwards and then relived their lives until they returned to the point they entered."
He remembered that time.
He remembered his search, his hope and the utter hopelessness that would follow after everything.
It was so odd to see himself being so young and inexperienced after all those centuries he had spent learning…
"Well, you're not aging," his father pointed out calmly to the son sitting next to him. "My theory that you might not age until you reach the point in time you entered the time loop seems to be sound… so, theoretically, you don't have to go forward in time to return to the time you came from."
Younger Sal sighed.
"Yes," he agreed.
Back then, it had been hundreds of years already, so Sal had already been pretty sure that his father was right and Sal wouldn't age until he reached the time he came from.
"But that doesn't change the fact that I want to try and return faster," his younger self countered. "I mean… I'm ready. I'm old and I have no doubt that I will have an easier time fighting now than I ever did before…"
Oh, how naïve he had been!
Oh, he had been right, back then. He had already been old – but… he had still so much to learn, so much to understand…
It nearly hurt to see himself like that after everything he had gone through after that moment he was now seeing.
After all those losses he had gone through…
"It's not about fighting," Myrddin countered calmly, answering his younger self. "Some things need their time – even if you think you're ready that doesn't mean that you really are, some time."
Sal closed his eyes, just like his past-self had done.
His father had been so right.
Back then, even though he had seen a lot, learned a lot, he hadn't been ready. Hadn't really been able to see what was wrong with the world he had grown up in. Hadn't understood that some people he had known as a child might not be trusted.
All that… it had come later.
After he had lost everything and more.
After he had broken.
"I know, atr," his past-self agreed, unaware of what was yet to come and for a second, Sal felt jealous of this unshattered child that had once been him. "But… if I continue to live through time like I do now… what will happen if I stumble upon myself in the future? Do you remember what I told you back then? That my friend said that you'd go insane if you see yourself…"
His father hummed.
"But you told me yourself that you saw yourself and you didn't go insane," he pointed out calmly.
Younger Sal frowned.
"Yes," he agreed slowly. "But… what if it was an exception… what–"
"I doubt it," Myrddin countered thoughtfully. "But I think that as long as your past self doesn't recognize you, there will be no side effects."
His past-self lifted his head from his father's shoulder to look at the other man in surprise.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
Myrddin just hummed.
"You saw yourself and thought your future-you was your father, meaning that you didn't recognize yourself as yourself, do you agree?"
And while his younger self hummed in agreement, Sal couldn't help but wonder how long it had taken him until he fully understood what his father had tried to tell him for years, for centuries already back then.
How often he had asked, until he understood.
"So… you look older now… at least when you want to… so… how would you recognize yourself if you met yourself when you were younger? Normally, you don't go around and look into strangers faces expecting to see your future self in their faces," his father pointed out calmly.
Younger Sal blinked, surprised, half-way accepting but not fully understanding.
"Huh," he said thoughtfully. "I guess you're right."
His father just carded through his hair again.
"Of course, there's also the fact that you and your past-self aren't the same anymore," he pointed out calmly.
His past-self raised his eyebrow and looked at his father.
Sal on the other hand shuddered at that analysis. No, he and his past self weren't the same anymore.
He had met the child he once was.
He had helped to birth the child he once was.
And while he knew the child would be him one day, he couldn't see it when he looked at him.
Just like the child hadn't looked at him and recognized him as his future self.
It was disconcerting.
And yet, it was natural as well.
"What do you mean?" his past-self had asked, clearly not understanding what his father wanted to tell him.
"Unlike your past-self, you are my son, now," he pointed out. "While you still share your parents, you also have another parent that your past-self in the future doesn't – me."
Younger Sal blinked.
"Huh," he said, feeling surprised. "I haven't considered that."
His father had been right with his comment.
But, after all those centuries, it was more than that.
Sal wasn't just Myrddin's son anymore.
He was Arthur's and Morgana's. He was Henri's and Cathérine's.
And – more important – he was tainted. Tainted with age, with blood magic and grief.
Briefly, Sal wondered if the wards that surrounded his child-self all his childhood would still see him as the same person or if he'd be kept out like any other wizard.
He shook himself out of that thought when he watched his younger-self frown.
"Hmm… does that mean I'm more like my own brother now… or half-brother? I mean… I share parents with my future past-self… but at the same time thanks to you I don't? That's… complicated…"
His father just ruffled his past-self's hair.
"Does it matter?" he countered. "You're not the same. And even if you were – there's still the fact that I think you need to recognize yourself as yourself to end up insane… which wouldn't happen since even as a fifteen-year-old, you don't look exactly the same anymore."
Younger Sal had to agree to that, clearly feeling surprised at that logic.
"So… what you're saying is that even if I end up living until I reach the future, I won't recognize myself," he concluded. "Which also means that I won't go insane by unexpectedly stumbling over myself."
"Exactly," his father agreed and Sal's past-self returned his head to his father's shoulder.
For a moment, both were quiet.
Then the younger Sal spoke up slowly.
"But…," he said thoughtfully. "If I really lived until the point-of-time I entered time… why did I never try to remove myself from my relatives? I mean, I wasn't happy living there – and even if it's long ago for me now, I can't see myself ignoring baby-me's suffering."
That question was still something that troubled Sal.
Where had he been?
Why hadn't he come and stepped in?
He didn't understand.
Even after all this time, he didn't understand…
His father had just sighed at that question.
"What about that rule you told me about?" he countered. "'You can't change anything'?"
Sal's younger-self pressed his lips together.
"But… what if that rule isn't true?" he asked. "I mean… I've never tested it, did I?"
It was true.
Sal knew that now.
It still didn't explain it.
Then his past-self frowned.
"Well… at least I don't think I tested it. I mean, I don't know anything about this time, so I have absolutely no idea…," he hesitated and then shrugged a bit helplessly. "Maybe I can change time and I just don't know it because I'm not yet in a time where I can see the change I did?"
"Or you can't change it and there's a reason why you couldn't raise yourself in the future," Myrddin countered calmly.
Sal guessed that his father had been right there as well – but even now, basically moments before he would actually abandon his younger-self, he still couldn't fathom how he hadn't stepped in, how he hadn't made contact and helped.
Why had he stayed away?
Had it been, because the state he was in right now?
Would he be kept in that state up until he turned fifteen?
Would it be something else?
It was odd, but after living centuries and millennia, it was now, when he was just years away from completing the loop, that he felt afraid.
Afraid of the future.
The younger Sal lifted his head just to throw him an annoyed look before lying his head back onto his father's shoulder.
"Don't you think I would have stepped in if I'd still been there in the future?" he countered. "I can't see myself ignoring baby-me for any reason!"
"But what if you didn't ignore him?" his father countered. "Remember that protection I told you about? The one done by your parents that kept you alive?"
Sal's past-self frowned.
"I remember," he agreed, staring into nothing.
"It's still there in the future," his father pointed out calmly. "But you're not the same anymore."
The frown deepened.
"I don't understand…," the younger Sal said slowly and his father sighed.
"I don't know what exactly will happen in the future," he pointed out. "But… what if the difference between you and little-you prevents you from coming near him? What if there's something else stopping you? Or maybe you're right and you aren't in that time. Maybe you found a way to jump into the future. We will see it."
Younger Sal hummed.
"I will go and calculate the ideas I have tomorrow," he told his father calmly.
And even after all this time, Sal still remembered how he could feel his father's shoulder stiffen under his head back then.
Still feel the fear that his father hadn't been willing to voice, even if he hadn't fully understood his father's fear of being left back then.
"If I really find something," younger Sal had added, not looking up or acting in anyway or form as if he felt Myrddin stiffening. "Then I will come and say my good-byes before I leave – no matter if I find something tomorrow or in hundred years."
His father didn't really loosen up again, but he reached up and patted Sal's past-self's head gently.
"Thank you, Salvazsahar," with that, the scene dissolved.
When Sal woke up again, his head was swimming.
He could feel his thoughts clouding.
Clouding more and more.
"Don't give up now," the murmured voice was neither the stranger's nor his grandfather's.
It took a moment to see a man standing behind the stranger who was still stroking Sal's cheek.
It took a moment longer to recognize the face.
"Go'ric," Sal slurred.
The man drew nearer.
His face was oddly blurred – or was it Sal's vision that was?
Something with the appearance of his old friend was wrong.
He was washed out, full of faded colours and slightly see-through.
Not like the pearly appearance of a ghost, but yet not real as well.
Something was wrong…
"You have to fight, Salazar," Godric said, his voice echoing while leaning over the stranger who held Sal's head in his lap. "You have to fight!"
"Go'ric," Sal repeated, unable to comprehend more than the fact that he knew the man who was speaking to him.
"Fight, Salazar, please!"
A hand reached out for him, but instead of touching, it went right through Sal.
That at least cleared Sal's thoughts enough to remember something fundamental.
"Y're dead, G'ric," he mustered.
"I am," Godric immediately agreed and Sal wondered if the man was real or part of Sal's dying brain taking actual form. "But you're not – not yet, anyway – and I'd prefer if you kept it that way for now."
"Y' shouldn't be he'e," Sal pointed out, his thoughts swirling.
"You're dying when you should keep living, Salazar!" Godric countered. "You are the one who shouldn't be here, not I!"
Sal frowned up at his once upon a time best friend.
The stranger wiped Sal's forehead.
"You have to fight," he told Sal, ignoring the ghost next to him.
Sal's mushy brain wondered if the man even knew the ghost was there or if he wondered about Sal talking to himself.
But then, Sal was dying, so talking to himself was the lesser part of evil in that equation.
"Th' boy," he said instead and it was Godric who answered with a roll of his eyes.
"That's what you care about right now?" he asked, sounding exasperated. "You're bleeding magic all over, you're drained and draining yourself further – and you fear for the boy who started this mess?!"
"Gotta… safe him," Sal countered, his voice cracking in the middle.
"Not going to happen if you die," Godric countered pragmatically.
The stranger just sighed.
"Keep holding on," he said, not acknowledging Godric, yet also not talking over him. "And you might be able to safe him as long as you safe yourself first."
Sadly, Sal had no idea how to safe himself.
He couldn't think.
He couldn't move.
The only thing he could was lie there and die.
He wanted to tell the stranger that, but his strength left him before he could even open his mouth.
His eyes closed.
(About 60 A.D. (And Unknown) - After The Fall Of Camelot)
He could see himself raging.
There were tears and parchment and calculations everywhere.
His past-self was tiny.
And he was crying and raging and crying.
He was sobbing until a man with golden eyes, burning with flames enveloped him in a hug.
Then his younger self threw himself at the man, sobbing even harder.
"It's alright, my fledgling," the man – the phoenix, his grandfather – said. "It's alright."
"It isn't," came the immediate answer.
And Sal, Sal remembered and his chest tightened.
This had been after he had lost his father.
This had been after he had lost the security that even if he couldn't die he could still be killed.
This happened after he had understood the eternity he was forced into.
Maybe, this had been the first time he had shattered.
"It will be," his grandfather assured him, holding his past self tightly and securely. "One day it will be."
"I don't think it ever will," he countered. "This… this is forever. I can't return home without breaking time. I can't change anything because everything has most likely already happened… and I can't… I can't age or die until I'm back where I belong – I'm not even sure if I'd die through the burial flames of the immortal Firbolg."
The answer was a soft hum, a sound that was calming and familiar and safe.
"Everything is bound by laws," his grandfather finally said. "No matter how much we hate it – an apple will always fall from the tree one day, summer will always follow after spring and winter and some things can't be influenced, no matter how much we wished we could change them."
The answer was another sob.
"You will live, egg of my egg," his grandfather said. "You will live, you will grow and one day, you will be able to stand up on your own feet again and accept that you can't change everything – but just because you can't change everything that doesn't mean you can't influence nothing."
A hand carded through Sal's child-self's hair.
"Time is a cruel mistress," his grandfather said. "But she won't stop you from doing your best. Don't give up now. Your father wouldn't have wanted you to give up, would he?"
Even now, millennia later, Sal could see that back then, it had been his grandparents that kept him together.
It had been his grandparents that finally forced him to accept that there was no way back to the future.
That he would have to live – day by day – until he reached it again.
It had been a bitter realisation.
But, no matter how much he had hated it, it had been necessary.
Oh, that hadn't meant that he had accepted everything that came with those rules he had heard from his one-time best friend, but it had helped him accept at least this rule.
That didn't mean he hadn't tried to find a way to circumvent the rule that 'everything had already happened'.
He hadn't succeeded in circumventing it, but he had done enough to at least not feel helpless even though he knew that there was nothing he could change, in the end.
"He wouldn't," his past-self agreed with his grandfather in that moment. "Atr wouldn't have wanted me to give up."
The scene wavered.
And for a moment, Sal could see someone else instead of his past-self standing there, enveloped in a hug by another man.
It was Peverell in the arms of the First Grim.
"Fate can't be changed," the First Grim told his son, holding him while he cried. "We can just accept it and move on."
"But Pater," his son whispered, his voice broken and sad.
"You're young yet," his father countered. "And neither you nor your sister are ready to grow up right now. Don't beat yourself up for staying a child while others grow and age. It's not your time yet, and you, like your sister will know when it is."
"The moment you age is the moment I will lose you," his father countered. "I made a deal once: two children for my own. I will have you as long as you stay children – but the moment you grow, I will lose you."
"And what if R'ena and I will never decide to grow up?" Peverell countered, hiding away in his father's cloak.
"That won't happen," his father answered a bit sadly. "My balance is out there already, growing but not yet really ready to take on their duty. Like them, you will grow up – and when you do, when you two will find people you will want to grow old with – I will lose you. It might take centuries, but one day you will. That's your fate."
For a moment, Peverell's fist tightened on the First Grim's cloak.
"R'ena and I…," he finally said. "We're not like the others, are we?"
The answer was a sigh.
"You're my children," his father answered. "Unlike anybody else, you aren't bound by the laws of the immortal Firbolg, even if you count as one of them as well. You, unlike them, won't lose yourself to the flames or your dreams and you won't succumb to the beast within, but one day… one day you will decide to age… and like any grim-born, you will be lost to time."
The First Grim's voice sounded bleak and bitter.
Peverell looked up and in his father's eyes.
"What do you mean?" he whispered.
His father just pulled him closer again.
"The moment you agree to grow up, you won't be a grim no more. You will just be the son of a thunderbird with grim-blood in your veins. You will age then, age and die like any other Firbolg-born. It's the fate of my line. I have accepted that a long time ago – but that doesn't mean that I want to lose you and your sister."
The First Grim bent down and kissed his son's forehead.
"So, please, Peverell," he said. "Stay my son just a bit longer. A century, maybe two. Just a bit. Take your time. You will grow up fast enough. And you will die even faster."
And Sal, watching the scene wondered how many years Peverell and R'ena had given the First Grim before they met Godric and Helga and decided to age with them.
"For you, Pater, I will," Peverell promised and the scene dissolved.
The universe around Sal widened.
It seemed to draw him in, call to him, beg him to stay.
There was an abyss hiding within it.
A black hole, just waiting for Sal to get lost in.
Now, being pulled away from the fading scene, deeper and deeper into the universe surrounding him, Sal could see it.
He gasped, and his eyes fluttered open one more time.
He was in the arms of the phoenix.
His grandfather was cradling him, fear in his eyes and desperation in his voice.
"You have to stay strong," his grandfather begged him. "Please, Salvazsahar! I can't lose you, too!"
But Sal knew he was losing, no matter how much his grandfather begged.
Sal might have denied it before, but… he knew better now.
Death was bleeding into life.
There was a man standing behind his grandfather, looking at Sal with old and tired eyes.
"Stay alive," the man said, his eyes meeting Sal's. "Stay aware – just a little bit longer."
But Sal knew that man.
He might not have seen him in centuries, and yet, he knew him.
Peverell, all pearly and white and definitely not there nor alive.
Death was bleeding into life – and Sal was losing.
His eyes closed.
His mind was shattering, and there was nothing he could do.
(Between 31st October and 1st November 1981)
It was like seeing the universe.
It was like more.
Sal couldn't describe it.
It felt as if he stood on a bridge, looking down into the abyss.
It was like he was looking up in the stars to see galaxies and suns.
It was as if he could simply turn around and see.
Time felt like a concept.
He could feel it pass him by, could feel it flood through him and yet leaving him untouched.
He felt as if he could grab it in his hands and hold it, as if it was meaningless and yet a part of him.
"Eternity," he whispered, and never, not in all his years, seemed the concept so real like in this very moment – a moment stranded in time while time flew by.
"You're too young to look," the stranger who had been holding him on the other side of life said. "Too innocent, yet."
And when Sal turned his head to look into the stranger's eyes, he could see eternity in them as well.
There were planets and stars and galaxies in the stranger's eyes.
There was the meaning of everything, the end and the beginning shining through them.
It felt too much – and yet, it didn't feel enough.
Something in Sal craved it, craved a connection to the man holding him, craved the stars and eternity.
Another part, instead, tried to hide away and cry.
That part longed for his grandfather.
It longed for the reality of the Chamber of Secrets Sal had never left.
And yet, no matter how much he longed, no matter how much he wished, Sal was unable to open his eyes again.
Death had bled into life.
Peverell had stood behind his grandfather.
And the stranger, the stranger who was holding him whenever Sal had slipped past the reality of life into the first throes of death, was the First Grim.
And now, no Sal only saw the First Grim holding him.
His grandfather gone – or was it Sal who had stepped away behind the veil?
Fear was flooding through Sal from the part who was still clinging to life, all overwhelming fear.
"Eternity," Sal wanted to say, his eyes focusing on the universe hidden in the First Grim's eyes.
"You're not there, yet," said man told him and there was understanding in his eyes full of galaxies. "Not yet, because you still feel bound."
Sal knew he was right, but at the same time he couldn't help but wonder if he'd ever be there. If he'd ever feel strong enough to close his eyes and take the last step into the abyss.
If he would ever be strong enough to fall and let go when he couldn't see the ground he would fall onto.
Something inside him told him to let go.
Something inside of him told him to hold on.
There was still something he had to do.
There was still something he was waiting for.
The abyss in front of him opened.
Looking at it, Sal recognized it.
He had seen it before.
He had stepped into it before.
He had fallen, stepped out and fallen again.
Hours, days, weeks.
The abyss had held him, cradled him and in the end, it had spit him out once again.
The scars, once wounds, on his chest were burning.
His mind remembered the sword going through his chest, remembered the fading, the falling and the return.
Remembered understanding for the first time what it meant to be immortal.
He shuddered at that thought, shied away from it.
And then, suddenly, something changed.
Time seemed to twist all around him.
And Sal's vision cleared.
A life for a life.
There was a nursery he was looking into.
He didn't know it, didn't remember it – but he didn't have to, to understand why he was there.
Sal could see it now.
He knew he wasn't there, wasn't more than a helpless soul, watching.
There was a red-haired mother, kneeling on the floor, before a crib.
Her shaking fingers trailing over her baby boy's forehead.
Sowilo, she wrote.
The sun rune.
"Don't forget, mummy loves you, daddy loves you!"
Her voice was shaking.
The door was blasted open.
She let go of her son and turned to face her soon-to-be murderer.
His red eyes were looking at her green ones – green ones she shared with her son, she shared with Sal – with hatred.
"Stand aside, girl,"she was told. "Stand aside and I won't kill you!"
And Sal knew what would happen, knew her and was helpless, so helpless.
His mind was next to her, looking, but he wasn't.
He was in Hogwarts's Chamber of Secrets, dying and dying and dying while trying to save a boy.
"Not Harry! Not Harry! Please! I'll do everything!"
She was pleading for mercy from a man who wouldn't give it to her.
She was pleading.
And yet, there was magic, spinning between her and the child – and with every word from her and her would-be-killer the magic grew stronger.
A life for a life.
A ritual as old as the magic Sal had been weaving for centuries.
And he knew what she was doing, why she was doing it.
Knew that she was giving everything, everything she could and more.
Yet, it wasn't enough, shouldn't have been enough.
For a moment, magic danced in the air around them.
Then the spell was broken.
And the baby was next.
Magic reached out towards the curse when it tried to break the connection.
But the killing curse was strong, and the barrier between child and curse young and not fully settled.
There was light.
Green light, lighting up the room and Sal could feel the choice, the choice he had once made, such a long time ago… right in this moment.
For a second, a vague memory of a time long gone returned to his mind.
He saw himself, helplessly kneeling next to his dying Oncle Nicholas.
"If you swear yourself to me, like your ancestors did, I would even help you," he could hear the voice of the First Grim say in this long-forgotten memory.
And he remembered the promise he made – the promise and the knowledge he gained from that promise.
"Why did you even ask?" he had said. "As far as I know I belonged to you already from birth. Why did you even ask for my promise when you already had me in your clutches?"
"Because without your answer today, you wouldn't have belonged to me from birth," had been the answer.
The magic lashed out, touched him and the child – and one of them had to die, because it was a curse, a killing curse.
It wouldn't be the child.
The child had a choice.
The child had yet to choose the way Sal had chosen centuries ago.
The child had yet to swear themselves to the First Grim – to Death.
Sal on the other hand had chosen already...
He could feel that part of the curse that the newly erected shield couldn't absorb connect with Sal's magic and through it with Sal himself.
The magic of the curse cursed through Sal, and the power behind it was absorbed in the healing circle he was still holding.
The circle fed on the curse's power, its deadliness hitting Sal, but only the power of it being channeled further.
The boy – Regulus – in the circle fell into coma when the circle was finally satiated.
The drain of the healing wards finally vanished.
The boy – Sal's past baby-self was left behind, sobbing in his crib with the barrier, the final protection of his mother finally settled.
Sal was choking on the deadly residue of the curse that had been channeled through a promise he had made centuries ago.
His eyes lit up with the universe.
Galaxies and stars danced through him.
And then, with a last, shuddering breath, his two-year-long struggle finally creased.
His breathing stopped.
His body creased to shudder and fell limp.
His heartbeat stuttered and fell silent.
His eyes broke while his vision faded into nothingness.
"Do you really think that it's over now?" Death's voice whispered in his deafened ears. "Do you really think that this is the end?"
And with those words, Sal finally fell into the abyss – just to be dragged back by a rope he hadn't known that was slung around his waist.
"Not yet, my child, not yet – but soon."
I have to admit, I wasn't even sure if this chapter would be past or present until basically today because I ended up alternating while writing the next chapter (which will be in the present) and this one… *sweatdrops* On the other hand, that means I'm about three-quarters in the next present chapter as well? Which means that (if real life and the job permits) I might be able to post the one in the present in a week or two as well? So… keep your fingers crossed? ^^'
Also: hopefully, I managed to get the right mix between reminders of past chapters and new things while closing some… well 'holes' (though, are they when they're planned? *frowning*) in the story that haven't been talked about until now.
Anyway, please, all of you, stay healthy!
Hope you liked the chapter (even if it isn't the next Wizengamot-one).
'Till next time.