Disclaimer: HP does not belong to me, just the idea I used on the characters… all recognizable things are Rowlings

Information: AU-Sorting, takes place in HP1. Reincarnation-fic!

A/N (1): Dear Guest Reviewer Leo:

Like promised in Basilisk-Born already, this is the second part of my way to answer your reviews… So, how about we start with the highlights? (Because, yes, thanks to your nice reviews, I decided to be petty like that for once). Let's start with something easy:

1) You wrote: "hogwarts don't have a front"

Er… as far as I know, every house/castle/whatever has a front in some way or form – and even if it's just the side where the entrance is… Just like every house/etc has a back – even if it's just seen as the opposite of the 'front'… so, what exactly are you protesting?!

2) You wrote: "Should have put him in merlin house or Phoenix house."

And honestly, I don't even know how to counter that. Are you ACTUALLY protesting that I put SALAZAR SLYTHERIN into SLYTHERIN?! Not to mention, you do that by telling me I should have put him in two Houses that DON'T exist in canon?! Really?! Especially when you tell me THIS as well:

3) You wrote: "You do know that peeves is a male ghost not a female Google it."

So, what now?! Do you want me to follow canon or do you want me to follow the ideas OTHERS added to THEIR fanfictions?! Not to mention that I stated clearly in chapter 11:

"The familiar silhouette of the poltergeist suddenly melted away, giving room to the slender form of a blue eyed woman with fiery red hair."

AND I called the poltergeist HE before that! Meaning, that, yes, I know Peeves is male. I'm NOT stupid, and I definitely DON'T need to google it! On the other hand, I'm not too sure if YOU can read after all those comments. I mean, all those corrections that are actually PART OF CANON… or PART OF MY FANFICTION… well, it makes me wonder…

In other words, dear Leo, thank you for your reviews, but I definitely DON'T NEED COMMENTS LIKE THAT!

With all my sarcasm,

Ebenbild

A/N (2): Dear Guest Reviewer pjkatt:

Thank you for standing up for me and speaking up against Leo. I really appreciated it.

Best wishes Ebenbild

To any other reviewers:
Thank you for reviewing! I apologize for the rant at the beginning, but the…
dear… Leo went first through my story Basilisk-born and then through this one with comments that are mostly done the same way like those above (yes, there were some grammar, etc, corrections, but after seeing LEO's comments, well… I'm not trusting those corrections AT ALL… -_- That doesn't mean that I believe I don't make mistakes. I know better, I'm not a native speaker at all and I try to correct what I am told… that just means I don't trust that particular reviewer's comments… -_- ) and while I normally ignore the idiotic comments, after a lot of comments like that from one and the same reviewer, I just had enough.

So, sorry for the rant.

I hope you all are healthy (or get there again if you aren't)

Best wishes

Ebenbild.

And now, on with the story:

xXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxSortingxXxHatxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXx

sSs

WHY TO SORT A STUDENT IS A HORRIBLE JOB

A PHILOSOPHER'S CASE– THE FRAGMENTATION

sSs

Albus Dumbledore sat in his office, his thoughtful gaze still on the door where Nicholas had left just minutes ago.

"Something happened," Albus concluded with a frown. "Something happened and Nicholas saw it prudent not to tell me."

And – no matter what Nicholas had said – whatever had happened, had happened with Albus's school.

He knew his friend, and he doubted that whatever affected the other man had anything to do with some kind of work Nicholas had done.

That magical backlash Nicholas had felt… it had happened here at the school – and Albus hadn't felt anything.

He frowned and closed his eyes, mentally trying to find what had unsettled the older man.

Nothing.

He couldn't feel anything out of place…

And yet…

Nicholas's words haunted him.

His old friend had told him that the wards were powered… grounded…

But, Albus knew ward theory. He knew that wards had to be grounded or they wouldn't work, so he wasn't sure what Nicholas had meant.

"You can't feel it because whatever you are, you aren't master," Nicholas's voice accused Albus in his mind.

You aren't master.

Those words.

Albus, feeling his hands suddenly shaky and sweaty, reached out mentally towards the wards.

He had done that more than once before. It was something he had long ago been taught by his predecessor who had been taught by his.

It was a connection that every headmaster of Hogwarts ever had been able to make with the castle. The connection had to be reached for, it wasn't constant, but had to be actively reached out to, to exist. Only in times of danger would the castle reach out on its own to the headmasters who were their masters…

You aren't master.

The moment, Albus touched the wards of the castle, power ran through him in a way it had never done before.

"Something is powering the wards," Albus whispered, his mind being cast back to Nicholas's words from before. "The wards are grounded."

And as much as Albus wanted to stand with his previous words… touching the wards now – concentrating on them with all his senses – made him wonder if Nicholas wasn't right.

The wards had never felt as oppressing as they did right now.

Tentatively, Albus tried to figure out why Nicholas had reacted like he had just a few minutes ago.

The answer he got was nothing he expected.

It was a refusal, gentle and kind, yet a refusal anyway – with a threat of violence if he didn't accept it and tried to pursue this avenue further.

"Something has changed," Nicholas had said.

And suddenly, Albus could see it.

Something had changed – and the wards had turned stronger and yet, somehow… darker.

There was no other word for it.

They had a threatening air around them, far more willing to do violence than they seemed to have ever been.

Albus wasn't sure he liked it.

On one hand, having stronger wards would keep the students safer, on the other hand, having wards ready for violence and not in control by anybody Albus could make out, were a threat in its own.

He hesitated, then he tried to reach out towards the wards again, trying to discern if there was a way to find out if there was someone who could control them.

You aren't master.

But someone, Albus was suddenly sure of it, was.

It was just a question if said master was willing to interact with him…

Someone was master.

And someone… had banned somebody – at least that was what Nicholas had said.

Banned.

Albus frowned.

He tried to remember if he had ever heard of someone being banned in a way that others were affected by it.

Normally, as far as Albus knew, the person had to be expelled from the property before they could be banned, and yet this didn't seem to have been the case this time.

At least not from the way Nicholas had reacted.

"If there is a master," Albus said aloud. "How can I get in contact with him?"

He didn't expect an answer, so he was even more surprised when he got one.

"You could tell me why you want to talk to him and I'll think about contacting him," one of the paintings on the wall told him.

At least it looked like a painting.

It was small, hidden away in one of the corners, and somehow… different.

Albus stood up and walked towards the corner before lifting his eyes to look at the painted man in question.

"No, not painted," Albus corrected himself a moment later. "A tessellation, done directly on the wall."

The man in question looked young, and not all too tall – more the height of a child than a man. He was depicted on a golden background, on the far left of a few others who were depicted the same way as he was. He seemed to have a lot of space just for himself and for a moment Albus wondered if the mosaic could leave just like portraits and if other 'portraits' were missing that normally surrounded him.

Albus also noticed that while the others in a distance from him, had normal hair colours, the man's hair was snow white with a silver gleam. His eyes were green and clothing seemed to gleam in white and green as well.

He had folded his arms and was looking down at Albus with a raised eyebrow.

More than one of the other portraits near him was frowning at him.

Before Albus could say anything, one of the frowning portraits spoke up.

"You're actually talking?" the headmaster in question asked and Albus watched amused when the mosaic raised an eyebrow at the portrait.

"You are talking as well," he pointed out. "So why shouldn't I?"

One of the other tessellations snorted.

"Because you never talk," the headmistress pointed out. "At least not with one of us."

"You've never been interested with talking to me before," the mosaic man countered. "So why should I have talked?"

"You're normally not even here, so how should we actually talk to you?" The other tessellation countered.

The man crooked his head thoughtfully.

"Touché," he finally agreed. "But then, watching the students is always more interesting than hoping that one of them gets in trouble with the headmaster and is brought here."

One of the other portrayals scoffed.

"Take what he says with a grain of salt headmaster," he said. "Whenever he's around the castle, he has a tendency to team up with Peeves."

The mosaic man grinned a somehow feral looking grin.

"I'm harmless," he said. "It's not as if I'm awake constantly. I have slept through decades before."

Albus looked interested at the man depicted in front of him.

"I can't say that I ever noticed you before," he said with interest in his eyes.

The man shrugged.

"I've been asleep since you went to school here and I woke only a few months ago now," the depicted man countered. "So, there was no reason to notice me at all."

Albus raised an eyebrow at the other man in surprise.

"You've been asleep for decades?" he asked.

He knew that the headmasters tended to sleep sometimes, but he had never heard of a portrait to be asleep for decades constantly.

Not that the man was a portrait.

The man – headmaster – shrugged.

"I'm a protector," he said. "As long as I'm not needed, I tend to sleep. It's easier to keep an eye on everything if I don't keep my depiction alive when I'm actively looking for threats but am not needed."

Then he frowned at Albus.

"But then," he said and crooked his head. "If I feel a threat, I normally tent to alert the headmaster through the wards and not in person."

There was a pointed look at that and Albus had the grace to feel a bit guilty.

He knew what the man was talking about, had felt the nudge from the wards when Voldemort had come here the last time, but had thought it nothing… until his Defence Professors started to drop like flies.

Since then, Albus had scrambled to find the curse that the wards must have warned him about – but without success.

Something must have shown on his face, because the mosaic of the headmaster sighed.

"I guess it doesn't matter anymore," the mosaic said. "He's already combing through the wards. It'll be only a question of weeks until he'll stumble upon what was hidden here in Hogwarts."

Albus frowned.

"So… you can't pinpoint where it was hidden?" he asked, not sure what to think about the fact that a mosaic was alerted about a threat before the current headmaster was.

The mosaic frowned.

"I'm just a minor protector of Hogwarts," he said. "My duty is to feel the threats and to assist. I'm not there to remove threats. Maybe, if you'd have asked Godric, he might have known more – but you have to ask him. That man… well, he has never quite figured out how to feel for threats if you don't spell it out for him – and sadly, that's not something I can do, since he usually ignores me."

"Godric?" Albus repeated surprised.

The mosaic just grinned.

"Godric," he agreed without elaborating. "Now, tell me, why do you want to get into contact with the master of Hogwarts?"

Albus frowned, but one look at the tessellation's face told him that he wouldn't get more information.

"Something changed with the wards," he said.

The man nodded, looking unconcerned.

"Something always changes with the wards whenever the master is active," he said matter-of-fact. "That doesn't explain why you'd have to talk to the master."

Albus frowned.

"If Hogwarts needs a master… shouldn't the master be the headmaster and not somebody else?" he countered.

It wasn't that he wanted to be master, but as headmaster, he had responsibility towards his students and he couldn't guarantee their safety if someone else was master…

A master, after all, had full control of the wards and was the one who basically reigned the lands. It was dangerous, if the master didn't have the safety of the students in his mind – and at least the headmaster was under scrutiny of the Board of Governours and therefore more likely to look after the students than some random person…

"There is no master of Hogwarts," the tessellation countered in that moment, his face showing a cruel smile. "At least not a master like you think about, Albus Dumbledore. And what Hogwarts has instead… well, nobody could take their place. It takes someone who knows themselves inside out, who burns cold with anger and is cruel enough to do what is necessary. It takes someone who can be everything and nothing and who is able to bear the wards and survive it… and that's just the basics to succeed. Hogwarts wards are old, and they are tightly bound. One misstep, just once showing lenience where lenience has no place… just once being too… light… and the wards would crash, most likely taking the castle and grounds with them while at it. So, Headmaster – do you really think it would be better if the headmaster would take a place as volatile as that?"

Albus stared at the mosaic, his brow furrowed.

"The wards… I have never heard about wards that would do or require something like that," he said slowly.

The mosaic just looked at him.

"Wards like that have a price… and you can't escape said price once you made the mistake of setting them up," the tessellation said. "And the last one, who tried to break wards like that after they were set up… well, they were the… master… of Atlantis – and everyone knows that Atlantis was swallowed by the sea, fully destroyed with no survivors."

And Albus?

He shuddered when he finally understood what the mosaic was telling him.

The only reason that Hogwarts was still standing – the only reason why Hogwarts was safer than even Gringotts – were wards that had the strength to destroy Hogwarts like they once had Atlantis… and no matter how much Albus would have thought it was better that the master of Hogwarts was someone who was in charge of the school anyway… this wasn't a burden he wanted to bear, not for any gold of the world…

sSsSsSs

Neville was sitting in Defence, watching Professor Quirrell take roll.

When the man reached Harry Potter's name, he looked up from his parchment and looked around the room, before settling his gaze on Neville.

"A… and where i… is M…Mr. P…P…Potter to… today?" he asked Neville.

Neville analysed the question for a moment or two.

Then he scratched his nose.

"I… think he's playing Dungeons and Dragons today," he decided on.

He had heard Salazar saying something about caves and questioning and big snakes or some such, after all, so… he thought his answer fitting.

He had heard Dean mention that combination before and while he hadn't understood what Dean was talking about, he had liked the combination of words and had wanted to used them ever since.

Hermione threw him a skeptical look while Dean snorted and Professor Quirrell frowned.

"M… Mr. P…P…Potter has b…been mis…missing from th…this cl…class th…three ti…times a…already," he pointed out unhappily. "He h… hasn't at…attended ev…ever si…since l…last w…week!"

Neville shrugged.

It was Dean who answered in his stead.

"He's playing a long game, I guess, Professor," he said.

Neville guessed that was one way to put it and leaned back in his chair.

He hated Defence.

Well, he hated every wanded class, but Defence was worse because Salazar wasn't currently with him and had also told Neville to keep down low in that class at the beginning of the year – something that seemed to be impossible whenever Salazar missed Defence.

Neville scrutinized the Defence Professor while the man marked Harry as absent with a frown on his face and wondered why Salazar didn't like the man.

Well, not that the Slytherin Founder had ever said that he didn't like the man. But… Neville wasn't an idiot. Quirrell was always missing papers, losing things or stumbling.

And the only prankster that could get away with pranking a professor directly and not being caught was Salazar.

Hence, Salazar didn't like the man… or liked to torment him, which basically was the same thing in Neville's mind when it came to Salazar.

In that moment, Hermione leaned closer to Neville.

"Do you actually know where he is?" she asked with a frown.

Neville shook his head and pouted.

He had actually wanted to spy on the hallway for the Slytherin Founder and alert him when he saw Flamel, instead, Hermione had found him and dragged him to class.

Neville wasn't too happy with that – especially since he never learned anything in class.

At the beginning of the year, Salazar had just hummed when Neville had mentioned unhappily that he was basically unable to cast anything while wondering if he was a squib.

He remembered that day as if it was yesterday.

Salazar had taken Neville's wand and then held out his own – a wand Neville hadn't even known the Slytherin Founder possessed.

"Try that one, instead," Salazar told him.

And Neville, totally stunned, had done as asked.

"Wingardium Liviosa!" he cried, pointing it at his book.

For a moment, nothing happened, then it rose into the air steadily and Neville gawked.

Salazar just hummed again.

"What… how?" Neville stared at his friend.

Salazar waved his hand and the book flew into his hand.

"Maybe you should keep it for now," he said, still looking thoughtful.

"I'm not taking your wand!" Neville immediately objected.

For a moment, the Slytherin Founder – not that Neville had known that titbit back then – looked surprised, then he shrugged.

"It works for you… more or less," he pointed out.

"But it's yours!" Neville countered immediately. "And I'm not taking someone else's wand just because I can't get my own to work!"

In the end, the Slytherin Founder had just shrugged and taken his wand back.

And then Neville had found out that Salazar was the actual Salazar Slytherin.

Ever since Neville had started to live with the fear that Salazar would find a way to give his wand to Neville in a way that Neville couldn't refuse.

Nevertheless, until now, Salazar hadn't tried again, and therefore Neville was still struggling with his own wand, which also meant that he wasn't learning anything in class since he wasn't able to get the wand to work like it should.

Hermione nudged him, bringing him back to class.

"Do you know?" she asked.

Neville sighed.

"Not really," he replied. "Just some vague mentioning of caves and whatever."

Then he shrugged and thought back to the short feeling to dreed running down his neck that he had felt just a short while ago.

"I don't know what he's doing, but… well, he definitely did something. That cold shudder down my back a while ago had to have been him," he said.

Hermione rolled her eyes.

"You'd blame Harry for the weather if you could," she said, clearly not believing him.

Neville thought about that statement.

Then he thought about where they were.

In the end, he nodded.

"Sure," he said. "If we'd ended up with a snow storm or whatever, I'd go and look at Sa'zu first."

Hermione rolled her eyes, but then her attention turned back to class.

Neville mentally shrugged at her disbelief.

They were at Hogwarts, and Salazar was a Founder and a prankster – so of course Neville would go and blame him if the weather acted up in ways that weren't natural…

Now he just had to convince Hermione that he was right.

He wondered if Salazar was willing to make it snow on a sunny day or some such just so that Neville could prove his point…

Ah, he'd get Salazar to agree somehow. The Founder was never against a prank, after all…

sSsSsSs

Nicholas Flamel was following the boy through the darkness.

He could see nothing, and yet, somehow, there was no way for him to misstep.

There was magic in the air, guiding him along.

Dyhtenweard.

Nicholas shuddered at the reminder of his recognition – a recognition that was only fuelled with every safe step he took into the darkness surrounding him.

The boy had called him.

The boy had bidden him to follow.

And the boy was dyhtenweard, and therefore magic guided Nicholas's steps safely as long as he took care to follow the boy's wishes.

He shuddered again.

Soft laughter could be heard in front of him, and then the boy turned and silver glowing eyes met Nicholas's own in the darkness.

"I'm not guiding you to your execution," the boy said, amusement in his eyes. "You can relax, Master Flamel."

Nicholas snorted.

"Easier said than done, Master Ward Smith," he countered. "It isn't you who is stumbling through the dark to some unknown destination."

The silver eyes scrutinized him for a moment.

"Too true," the boy finally agreed. "But then, it isn't me who decided that making a Philosopher's Stone was a bright idea, as well."

Those words just ensured that another shudder ran down Nicholas's back.

"I doubt those words helped, Sa'zu," the hat remarked.

The boy rolled his eyes.

"They were the truth," he countered, clearly not concerned, before looking back at Nicholas. "Don't fear the darkness. There's nothing here who can hurt you."

Nothing but the boy guiding him – and that was bad enough.

Dyhtenweard.

Nicholas swallowed, suppressed that thought and nodded instead.

For a moment, silver eyes kept looking again, then the boy turned back around and Nicholas started to walk again.

In the end, it didn't take very long until Nicholas could see something again – and the only thing he could do when he actually did, was stare.

They had walked endless amounts of steps just to end in a cave-like room.

Nicholas guessed that they were far beneath Hogwarts right now, and from the stone snakes surrounding them and the intimidating statue at the end of the hall-like cave, he guessed that they might have ended in the infamous Chamber of Secrets.

He shuddered at that thought and then looked around.

Stone snakes were staring at him.

He looked away – just to see something… no, someone else, stepping out between two of them.

"Do I want to know why you brought him here?" a colourful spectre asked.

It took Nicholas a moment to recognize the see-through stranger as the poltergeist of Hogwarts.

The boy next to Nicholas raised an eyebrow at the spectre.

"Any reason for the male appearance today, Helga?" he countered.

The poltergeist shrugged, while Nicholas felt something chill inside him.

Helga.

He definitely didn't like that name when it came in combination with Hogwarts.

"R'ena has a bad day so she needed a pair of hands," the currently male spectre countered. "And it's not as if I'm not appearing male for three quarters of the time, anyway."

The answer was a wince from the boy who had brought him here.

It was the hat who answered instead

"And that male appearance is Sa'zu's fault, how?" he countered.

The poltergeist waved it off.

"Oh, it's not Salazar's fault at all," the spectre answered dismissively. "It's just habit for me. I've had this appearance for so long, trying to take on its characteristics when I'm female is… taxing… I guess? And the day is bad enough already, so I don't need to stress me out like that as well."

The boy winced again.

"That's my fault," he said, sounding calm but also a bit bitter while Nicholas was still reeling from the name he had heard 'Helga' use right now.

Salazar.

Salazar and Helga.

He definitely didn't like that combination when it came with the word 'Hogwarts'.

The spectre meanwhile just floated towards the boy and then petted his cap.

Both, boy and cap protested immediately.

"Hey!"

"What are you doing, Peevesie?!"

The poltergeist just laughed.

"Oh, don't complain, Salazar," he countered. "That's unbecoming for a dark lord!"

The boy stuck out his tongue towards the spectre, which earned him an eyeroll, before the spectre gestured towards the two snakes she had come out between.

"Come on, in," he said and then looked at Nicholas, before suddenly turning into the see-through, silver ghost of a woman. "We're going to talk there."

The way her eyes were fixed on Nicholas just made him shudder again.

Nevertheless, he followed the boy, his hat and the ghost, entering a small chamber which had a hidden entrance been between the two stone snakes.

There, he encountered another female ghost who was clearly waiting for them.

She hovered in front of a table full of ingredients and other things.

Her eyes immediately found Nicholas's the moment he entered.

"Ah," she said. "Nicholas Flamel, I guess."

And with that, the door of the chamber fell shut behind him.

Nicholas gulped.

"That he is," the boy, the dyhtenweard of Hogwarts agreed. "He came for his trinket."

The hat snorted.

"Only you would go and call a philosopher's stone a 'trinket'," he said, sounding amused and Nicholas felt another shudder of dread running down his back.

"It is one," the boy countered with a shrug. "A cheap way to keep alive when you should have long since died."

"Hmm," the ghost at the table agreed calmly. "But it's still a better idea than other methods. I mean, just think of the trinkets your descendant left lying around."

The boy frowned.

"NOT my descendant," he countered immediately, as if that was the offending part.

Helga and the other female ghost raised an eyebrow at him.

"How can you actually be sure?" Helga asked interestedly. "I mean, it's been a thousand years…"

The boy frowned; his face suddenly thoughtful.

In the end, he shrugged.

"Circumstances make it nearly impossible," he finally said. "And even if we are somehow related by blood… well, I'm definitely not claiming him, so – not my descendant."

"And you really think that not claiming him makes him not your descendant?" the hat countered with a snort. "I think you need to learn a bit more about reproduction and all that."

The boy rolled his eyes.

"Unlike you all, I'm actually trained in blood magic," he countered. "And I've been trained in blood magic since I was ten. Unwanted pregnancy is nearly impossible for a blood mage – and even if it happens, it needs the intend of the mage to share his actual magic with the baby in question. Not to mention, that he tried to kill me before I was out of my nappies – which definitely counts for something. Hence: NOT my descendant."

Nicholas blinked and looked at the two female ghosts who exchanged a surprised look, before the as of yet unnamed one shrugged helplessly.

"And what his trinkets pertains… well, at least them I can actually play with a bit. That stone, on the other hand, is not useful for anything," the boy added in that moment.

"So… you think your not-descendant's trinkets more useful than the Philosopher's Stone?" Helga asked with interest in her voice.

For a moment, the boy pondered that.

Then he shrugged and sat down the hat on the table where it changed into one quite familiar to Nicholas.

The Sorting Hat.

He stared at the two female ghosts, at the boy and then at the hat.

"May," he swallowed, reminded himself that he was in the company of the dyhtenweard of Hogwarts and then continued as polite as he could. "May I ask for an introduction, since it seemed that while you know who I am, I can't say the same about you."

The four exchanged a short glance at each other, before the boy leaned forward.

"Salazar, no!" the ghost called Helga said immediately as if the boy had said something. "You're not doing–"

"I am Sszalazsar Talieszsin Haraldr Iacomusz Sslytherin," the boy said. ""Hit is ārweorþ þē tō mētenne, mīn hêrre."

The moment he said the name, something seemed to wrap itself around Nicholas, binding him.

It took another few seconds for him to recognize what it was.

The ghost at the table groaned.

"Did you have to do that, Salazar?" she asked, sounding unhappy but resigned.

And then, the pieces in Nicholas head connected.

"A secrecy spell," he said.

"Tied to his full name," the hat agreed with a sigh. "I'm Godric Gryffindor by the way and those two ladies are Rowena Ravenclaw at the table and Helga Hufflepuff."

Nicholas wanted to bash his head into the wall.

Of course, the one who had his philosopher's stone were the Founders of Hogwarts.

And OF COURSE, Salazar Slytherin was the damn dyhtenweard of Hogwarts. It wasn't as if keeping his stone safe wasn't taxing enough on its own!

No, he had to go and basically hand it to the Founders of Hogwarts – people who were renowned for their power and knowledge even now!

"I guess there's no way just to get my stone and be on my way?" he asked anyway, feeling hopeful.

Godric snorted.

"Not with Sa'zu involved, I'm afraid," he said. "He has an odd aversion when it comes to philosopher's stones and things like that…"

The boy shrugged.

"They're trinkets," he repeated himself. "If you really want to stay alive, the least you can do is die once in a while."

Nicholas stared at the boy.

"Like you I guess?" he asked, not sure if he was really accusing the dyhtenweard in front of him or actually asking.

The boy just looked at him unimpressed.

"My state is something else entirely," he countered, his voice suddenly icy. "It didn't happen deliberately at all."

Nicholas blinked, opened his mouth to ask, but was interrupted by the Slytherin-Founder before he could say anything at all.

"And even if I had done it deliberately, I wouldn't have chosen your method. Too much risk involved like that."

"What about your not-descendant's trinkets?" Godric intercepted interestedly.

"Mah… even worse," the boy countered. "The risk there… not even in a million life-times I'd choose that one. But I haven't gotten my hands on those trinkets before – and I definitely wasn't willing to try out one just for studying it, so I want to experiment a bit with them for now. There are some things I'm really interested in knowing…"

Rowena hummed in agreement.

"That doesn't negate the risk he took though," Salazar added and pointed at Nicholas.

That actually made Nicholas stare even more.

"Risk?" he repeated. "There's no risk–"

"Do you even know what kind of substances are in potions and such and what kind of long-term consequences they have on a body?" the boy countered. "Not even taking account of the fact that your body itself has a reason why it degrades over time. Everything you consume, everything you breathe in – everything influences your body. You're what now? Six hundred?"

Nicholas blinked, feeling a bit overwhelmed at the lecture but answered nonetheless.

"There about," he agreed.

The boy nodded.

"Then I guess you've already started to feel it," his eyes fell onto Nicholas's body with a judgmental frown. "From the way you look, I guess you've already lost weight without reason and were unable to regain it. I also guess your joints ache, but not the same way they'd ache if you had aged."

"What?" Nicholas stared at the boy.

The Slytherin-Founder hadn't been incorrect, but…

"There's also most likely some trouble with your internal organs as well. I'm not sure if you'd feel it in that stage, but maybe some blood in your excrements or some such, maybe more prone to stomach aches… maybe some more muscles that feel as if you pulled them," the boy shrugged. "Nothing too obvious, but I guess the first signs are already there."

"What?" Nicholas whispered, feeling thrown, his eyes unable to leave the boy's.

"You might even have started to have memory problems already," the boy said with a frown. "I guess you have already forgotten a lot of the things you lived through over the centuries."

Nicholas gawked.

"How… how can you look at me and know?" he asked, feeling shocked and unsure at the diagnosis.

"So, you already have memory problems?" the boy asked, his silver eyes on Nicholas.

Nicholas winced.

"Not much," he answered. "But a bit. I… might end up forgetting some things faster than I normally did, before…"

The boy nodded.

"Your body is burning out," he said matter-of-fact. "It's simply not made to stay alive for such a long time."

"I'm… not following," Nicholas confessed, for the first time in centuries feeling like a child.

The answer was a sigh from Ravenclaw.

"What he means is that our bodies have a certain durability, but at one point, you will come beyond it and they will degrade," she said.

The Slytherin Founder snorted.

"Sure," he said. "Degradation. Not to mention that everything you consume has most likely long-term-consequences. Just think about the lead cauldrons are made off. Lead is poisonous, no matter the protections we use and used – and you've consumed it for hundreds of years! Then there are the long-term-consequences of every illness you faced and overcame, of the ingredients of the potions, of simply the things you breathed in! Thousands of things are dangerous for people – but a lot of them work too slowly to actually do something before the body of a normal person gives out. But that's just it! A normal person's body gives out some time, yours on the other hand doesn't – which means that you are now facing the long-term-consequences of everything that a normal body doesn't even have time to feel!"

"A body dies. That's the way of life," Ravenclaw said, sounding a bit sad. "I mean, there are methods to ensure that it doesn't happen… or that it doesn't happen so fast… like creature blood or freezing your body in time… but…"

"A philosopher's stone isn't enough," Helga concluded calmly. "And if the degradation has already started, then I'm not sure how much time you still have until either you end up bed-bound or a vegetable."

Slytherin hummed.

"About twenty to fifty years, I'd say," he said, scrutinizing Nicholas thoughtfully. "If they're lucky, they might even manage up to one hundred."

Nicholas swallowed.

"So, you're basically telling me to give up my life so that it doesn't happen?" he asked, not sure if he should feel furious at the Founders or grateful that they warned him.

Oh, he had noticed that he and Perenelle had started to lose weight without reason, he had also noticed that something wasn't right with his body anymore and he had noticed that he had started to forget things… but, he hadn't connected it.

He simply hadn't connected it with the philosopher's stone.

It made him shudder.

He wanted to refute what the boy had said, but sadly, now thinking about it, it made a terrifying amount of sense.

The Slytherin-Founder hummed.

"Actually," he finally said. "I don't care that much what you'll do now."

Nicholas's eyes snapped up to meet the Founder's at that.

The boy shrugged.

"It's not as if I want to have your… stone," he sneered.

Nicholas raised an eyebrow.

"So… you wouldn't have any use for it?" he asked, not sure how he should feel at the dismissive way the boy was acting about the stone.

Salazar Slytherin shrugged.

"Well," he said thoughtfully. "I could see how good it can explode… otherwise, no, not that much use for me."

Nicholas gawked for a second time within ten minutes.

His life work, his proudest accomplishment… and the Founder of Slytherin was contemplating to blow it up because he had no use for it.

No use for unimaginable riches.

No use for immortality…

"I think you broke him, Sa'zu," the hat stated amused.

The boy shrugged, stepped closer to Nicholas and then closed Nicholas's jaw with a finger.

"Salazar?" the reprimand came from the Hufflepuff Founder.

Slytherin huffed.

"He might catch flies, otherwise," he defended himself and stepped back again.

Nicholas felt as if his whole life had just turned upside down.

"Don't… don't you care for money… or fame… or…"

"No," Slytherin said and rolled his eyes. "I've been reborn for a thousand years. My magical signature is deeply imbedded into the wards of Hogwarts. My name is deeply imbedded in my magic – so deep that I end up with variations of my name no matter who my birth parents are. But even if I didn't have control of Hogwarts the way I have… even if I'd end up losing my name whenever I'm reborn, I'd still keep the most important part of me."

With that, he reached for his head and tipped against it.

"My mind," he said, his eyes never leaving Nicholas's. "Do you know that a foetus is adaptable? Unlike your brain which has started to strain under your memories, my brain was born with them. It adapted and ensured that I can keep them while making new ones like any other child."

Then his face turned blood-thirsty.

"Of course, that also means that whenever I end up in a household that no child should end up in… the people there soon learn that it's better not to mess with me."

At that, the three other Founders looked at the Dark Lord in their midst.

"Salazar," Godric said slowly. "Is there something you haven't told us about your current home situation?"

The Slytherin Founder flinched.

"Nothing I can't deal with," he assured the hat with a sheepish look on his face.

The two ghosts exchanged a glance that was half-exasperated, half-dark.

Nicholas felt with them.

"You know, you are ward smith," Helga finally said. "You could stay here at Hogwarts over the summer if it would be easier."

Nicholas grimaced.

He knew that theoretically the boy in front of him was a thousand years old, but the way he had said it, it also sounded a bit as if the home he was currently living in, was anything but ideal.

"I have it under control," the boy countered and waved it off.

His dismissal just ensured that the ghosts exchanged another narrow-eyed look with each other.

"That's also not why we're here right now," the boy added.

Rowena Ravenclaw snorted.

"No," she agreed. "But we know you, and I really don't want to have to contemplate getting you out of another bloody murder charge because you had enough. It would be easier to keep our ward smith in Hogwarts before he decides that enough is enough and people should learn to respect his position or suffer for it."

Slytherin just narrowed his eyes at her.

"That was one time," he countered. "Only once."

"You are aware that people count the murders, not the nights you needed to accomplish them," Rowena Ravenclaw pointed out with a raised eyebrow. "So, saying 'it was once' isn't entirely correct, is it?"

Slytherin just narrowed his eyes at her.

"It was once," he insisted, clearly unwilling to abandon his assessment of the situation. "Only once. And I was the one who did the most of talking to get me off the noose."

"After we pleaded with quite a lot of people to hear you out," Godric countered.

"Well, it was warranted," Slytherin countered. "They tried to force us to comply to their demands by forcing Helga into a marriage!"

"Which you could have resolved without the bloodbath following the whole disaster," Helga Hufflepuff countered with a raised eyebrow.

Slytherin just shrugged.

"I'm a ward smith for a reason," he countered. "I'm dark. And people feel it. People know it."

Ravenclaw just waved it off.

"Some, sure," she said. "But the most of them, no, not anymore."

The boy just rolled his eyes at that.

"Yeah, well, that's because people seemed to be more stupid today… or maybe less educated," the last thing made him frown.

Nicholas, who had been following the discussion with surprise in his eyes, finally decided to speak up, not sure if he had managed to connect the dots of what had been implied or if he was wrong.

"So… people treat him differently because he feels… dark?" he asked, with a frown on the face.

Slytherin grimaced.

"Not really," he said. "Like I said, most people don't feel it today."

"It's just that he always ends up with people who seem to have it out for him or the people he cares about in some way or form," Helga added. "And his usual reaction to that can be very… creative."

"I was just once creative!" Salazar immediately countered.

"A bloodbath isn't creative," Ravenclaw countered with a sigh. "I think Helga was more talking about all those public humiliations and the terrible situations the people who crossed us ended up in – one way or the other. Not to mention the way they creatively lost everything they had to their name… including the cloths on their back, once!"

"Well, that Lord from over the sea shouldn't have tried to hoodwink Godric," Salazar countered with a frown. "I am ward smith – and he knew it. They all knew it, and therefore knew what they were dealing with before they went and tried to cross me!"

"Yes, you are ward smith, and you've always made it known," Helga said. "I'm also pretty sure that you making it known was half the reason why they came after you! I mean, that's basically a challenge to every idiot who thinks themselves just a bit stronger than anybody else!"

"Well, that just shows they were idiots or they wouldn't have come after me or you all at all!" Salazar argued back. "I was just taunting them a bit, you know, weeding out those stupid enough to try and be a danger to us!"

"And you wonder why people go after you as if it is a new trend in making!" Helga said, raising her hands into the air in exasperation.

Nicholas thought that he finally understood something he had always wondered about.

"So… him being targeted by a dark lord when he was a baby–"

"Oh, no," Helga interrupted him before he could actually finish his question. "That has nothing to do with him being a ward smith. That's just Salazar. He gets in the oddest situations, you know?"

"Hey!"

"Don't you dare to object, Salazar! The only one who gets in odder situations than you is Godric – and he ended up as a hat!"

Salazar looked at Godric.

Godric looked at Salazar.

"You know," Godric said slowly. "Somehow I get the feeling she's got a point there, Sa'zu."

Slytherin opened his mouth, closed it and pouted.

"That's… so not true," he refuted in a tone of voice that belied his words.

The two ghosts raised their eyebrows.

The hat hummed.

"I've not gotten in any weird situations!" Slytherin said pouting.

"You were sent for by the Queen of… somewhere in Spain… because she needed someone to argue against her marriage with that guy from Barcelona!" Rowena countered. "She was from Spain – where you've never been!"

"But she had that court sorcerer who lived here for a few years!" Salazar said, still pouting.

"Not to mention that one time when you were asked how much you'd charge when they wanted to have those… I think it were the Hohenzollern… anyway, those Lords assassinated," Godric added. "We had a hard time to convince them that you weren't a damn assassin for hire!"

"I have absolute no idea why he even thought I would kill people for him!" Salazar cried. "That situation wasn't weird! It was creepy!"

"Or that one time when that Italian prince came by and wanted to take you for his wife…," Helga added.

At that, Salazar opened his mouth and closed it again with a snap, before he pouted.

Godric snorted.

"That prince wasn't the only one," he said amused. "Do you remember that merchant we met? He had even chosen the ring already!"

"I think the whole reason he got those advances was his height and the fact that he had longer hair than even me and Helga – not to mention that he has never managed to grow even just the shadow of a beard," Rowena said thoughtfully.

And Salazar Slytherin pouted some more.

Nicholas wondered if he'd ever get his philosopher's stone back.

If it continued, he wasn't sure if the Slytherin Founder just went and destroyed it just to ensure that everything the other Founders had revealed about him, would die with Nicholas and nobody else but the Founders would remember…

Yes, Nicholas took a gloomy view when it came to the return of his Philosopher's Stone – but at least, he would die amused by the Founders' antics…

sSs

xXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxSortingxXxHatxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXxXx

sSs

Explanation:

dyhtenweard – guardian, lord, king

sSs

So, that's it for today. And, hey, I managed to write it not too long after the last one! :D

'Till next time.

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