He was the first to leave.
In anger and bitterness, he left his familiar in the chambers he'd built for his sons, and his sons' sons.
In happier days they had been halls filled with light and magic and the laughter of his children and his friends' children.
Now his sons and their mother were gone, and in his grief he worked a terrible magic, sinking the halls of their joy into the hollow earth.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
These words he scored into stone. As death came to his blood, his blood would bring death in return.
Magic fueled and twisted by his fury raised a statue in his own image, and in the hollow skull he laid his infant familiar, with deep enchantments of sleep and nourishment. Here it would lie until he begot more sons and his heirs returned.
You will protect our heritage, he hissed. You will protect the children from those unworthy.
He was the first to leave and the last to return.
The serpent was a mindless thing. But magic works in strange and wondrous ways, and so the venom of the basilisk brought death, at last, to the unworthy heir of Slytherin.
She was the last in the end.
She knew of poor, mad Salazar's chamber, and knew she could never find it. And so, wise in the arts of transfiguration and charms, she forged own room.
It could be found by anyone, so long as they had need.
I am shelter I am recourse I am safety I am for all
These words she wove into the foundations of the Room, and knew that she, least of all the founders, had wrought a great and sacred enchantment.
As her two remaining friends fell further into their own brands of madness, she poured herself into the room.
When they were all gone, all her friends, she fled to her Room, and knew that for all she had done, it would not be enough.
I need a way to protect Hogwarts. I need a way to protect the children. I need a way to protect the future.
And the magic of the Room responded.
She was the last in the end and the one who began it all.
The Room was not a mindless thing, and for fifty years it held the horror in itself, knowing that just as shelter cannot last, neither can any hidden thing remain untouched. It showed the horror to all who entered, and when Fyre came, it did not quench it.
No shelter can last forever.
She was the first to dream.
She Saw them standing on the hill, four strong proud friends teaching magic, teaching wisdom.
She gathered them one by one and with clever words made them see what she Saw. They built a shining castle on the hill, a castle that would grow and change.
A castle filled with secrets.
She who could See knew best of all the danger of knowledge. They taught and they taught and she knew that all their teaching was in vain if they could not teach wisdom too.
So when Salazar left and Helga buried herself in her room she gathered her writings and her instruments and she built a library, a mirror to they one they'd made together. She hid the entrance in a portrait, and devised a riddle of sorts, that only those clever and observant, who sought knowledge and not power, could discover her Halls and inquire within.
As the years passed and she saw less and less of Helga and mad Salazar became a faded memory of pain and thick-witted Godric fought a war against himself, she found solace in her tower, seeking the arcane future in the stars. She guarded her secrets and her diadem carefully, and forgot that though knowledge must be earned, wisdom bade it shared.
The stars and her Sight betrayed her, for her daughter's theft was unSeen and unexpected. She hid her loss as she hid her other secrets, and she no longer sought to See.
When the sickness came it was as though a spell had broke, and she saw then that all her knowledge had come to nought. Of all her friends only dear Helga had remained true to the dream. She longed for lost Godric and mad Salazar, but most of all for her daughter who had left her.
She sent after her the Baron, and waited. And waited. And at last she turned, as she had not in years, to her first gift, and Saw the terrible truth.
She fled the castle in her horror, and for the first time was glad that she would soon die. Alone in her cottage she lay, her magic set aside. She dreamed feverishly, Seeing many great and terrible and wondrous things.
The last thing she ever Saw was her dear friend working a final magic. Dear Helga, the least of them all; the last of them all; dear Helga working a magic fueled by grief and love, and above all, a desperate hope.
She picked up her wand.
She was the first to dream, and the first to return.
Alone among the founders' secrets, the Halls of Inquiry lay undiscovered, untouched by the last mad heir of Slytherin. The day Lily Luna entered the Halls at last, she felt the Castle stir in interest. It was not the first time in her time as headmistress it had done so, and it would not be the last.
He was the last to leave his mark.
He was not clever, nor ambitious, nor kind. He had powerful magic, but was the first to admit that he had little idea what to do with it. He loved his friends because they gave him something to protect. A reason to fight for, and a reason to live.
The argument with Salazar was a terrible thing. His sister, Salazar's wife—she was gone, and she took with her and her children their friendship.
Salazar blamed those with no magic.
He knew the blame lay with himself.
They fought with words, again and again, until one day the words that crossed his lips were those of a spell.
For years after, the words of Salazar would haunt his memory.
For the love I once bore you
He descended into drink. He had betrayed a man he'd once sworn to protect. He had used his wand against his own brother.
He drank to forget what he'd done, what he failed to do. He drank to forget himself.
He drank until dear, kind Helga slapped him, shaking in her fury, and told him he would drink no more within the walls of Hogwarts.
He went from village to village, a strange odyssey. He spoke little and drank until all his wealth was gone.
He hired on as a merchant's guard, and by the time he had money enough to drink again, he'd discovered a substitute in the endless drilling of the sword.
For years he wandered among the unmagical, a mere sword for hire, until the day he stumbled on three wizards torturing a young goblin. Rage filled him and for the first time since Helga slapped him he drew his wand. Time had not dulled his skills, and in moments the three wizards lay dead. The goblin he nursed back to health, and they traveled together, he and Ragnuk.
At last Ragnuk turned to him and said he must go back to his people. He owed him a life debt. What would he claim?
"I want your sword."
And Ragnuk's eyes darkened for he loved the sword, a masterpiece of its kind, even among the goblins, and it stood as testimony to his craft.
"I will add to it my magic," he said, and Ragnuk almost smiled, and he gave him the sword.
They parted ways and he wandered again, layering his magic on the sword, and following rumors of a parselmouth, a madman.
For the love I once bore you I will not strike
It was years before he found him, an old man who had spent himself in bitterness. Poor mad Salazar had sought the Wand of Death and failed, failed to take it from its owner, who had laughed as he cast the last spell and left him for dead.
Madness and bitterness alike were slain by that last spell and it was with the clear gaze and remorse of the dying that Salazar met Godric at last.
"Have you come to end me, then?"
For the love I once bore you, I will not strike, but call yourself no longer my brother.
"Brother," Godric said, and Salazar wept.
He nursed Salazar back to health, his magic long since turned from destruction to healing.
"Let me show you my marvelous sword."
As he promised his once friend Ragnuk, he had marked the sword with his own magic, forging a weapon unlike any other.
"Alone of all weapons, this sword can only be used to protect; in defense of others, by the pure of heart, against that which seeks harm. Alone of all weapons, it can heal as well as destroy."
And Salazar took his first, shaky steps when a silver eagle burst through the wall and the voice of their old friend rung out.
Helga is dying, dying for our children. Come back home, my friends.
With shaking hands Godric withdrew from his shirt dear Helga's last gift: When you have found yourself, come back home.
He and Salazar wrapped their hands around the old wooden medallion, and green eyes met blue.
"Home," Godric whispered, and the world twisted.
When he saw the castle, the beautiful castle they'd built together, he ran.
Home, his heart whispered.
Home, his mind sung.
Fair Rowena waited just inside the threshold, frail and dying. Behind her, the students, watching silently. Though the children he'd taught had long since grown and left, their own children stood here now, and they knew him and welcomed him.
"Where is Salazar?" Rowena asked him, and he turned.
His brother had not run, but stood some distance away, looking.
"Salazar!" he called. His brother looked at him, caught in his fear and remorse and longing. Blue eyes met green and for the first time in many years Godric opened his mind to the whisper of Salazar's. We do not come because we deserve it, he said. We come because we are needed.
And Salazar, with shaking steps, returned at last to Hogwarts.
At the very end, Godric turned and looked among the teachers, finding one whom they had all taught, and loved. He gave his sword to Ignotus and told him it would serve any student in need.
Ignotus had long ago married Godric's daughter, and as truth became legend and legend esoteric lore, it was believed that only a student of Gryffindor could call to him Godric's sword.
Albus Severus would one day pull the sword from the hat, despite his green badge and tie. His father would glance at a portrait in a darkened corner of the Headmistress's office and remind him that you needn't be a Gryffindor to be brave.
You only needed something to protect.
Three founders, aged and burdened with regrets, climbed through their castle to find the fourth.
Helga sat in her Room, peace in her heart and magic in the air.
Wordlessly, they joined their magic to hers. Godric offered his sword as the focal point for their enchantment, for its purpose was the same.
To protect, to heal, to answer the call of a student in need—
Three days and three nights they labored, and as the fourth day dawned all was ready. Godric passed on his sword, and they said their farewells.
Ravenclaw to her tower, and Slytherin to his lake. Godric to his old classroom, and Helga—dear Helga went to the Great Hall, surrounded by her students for the last time.
Each founder gifted their blood, a few drops spilt willingly on the stones of their castle.
Each founder gifted their magic, all of it sunk into the very walls and wards of their castle.
Each founder gifted their life, and in unison they gently breathed their last.
They were buried together by the lake, with no marker save a small sapling. And as the sun set and each student and teacher slipped into their beds, the castle woke.
There once were four, who dared to dream. They fought and they failed, and in the end they returned and dared to dream again.
To guide and protect, to nurture and guard—as one they lie there, dreaming still.
Thank you for reading! Credit to Anand for beta'ing, and getting me unstuck on that last bit.
Ignotus Peverell is not the third brother, but a descendant with the same name. He is the one buried in Godric's Hollow, though, and at this point in time his line is well aware of the history of his Cloak. Over successive generations, that history will become as obscured as that of the Sword.
Which, speaking of, you have to admit it's uncannily fortunate no one nicked themselves on that basilisk venom impregnated sword—this is my answer to that little conundrum! The sword's healing powers? Long forgotten, but perhaps one of Harry's children will discover it...
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