Author's Note: This is the sequel to Forget Me Not: A Story of Broken Promises, which tells the story of Godric's death and Salazar's departure. Although this story can be read without reading Forget Me Not, it will make much more sense if you read the other first. This story is also part of the "Unbroken Universe," which includes Promises Unbroken and Promises Remembered, by me, Promises Forged by Sailor Sol, Almost Out the Door, by Plaid Phoenix, and Promises Mistaken, by The SARS Entity (Myself, Sailor Sol, and Telepwen). Although you don't have to read any of those stories to understand Those Left Behind, if you enjoy this story, I suggest reading those.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or anything else that you may recognize, but the concept of the Unbroken Universe is mine. I make no money from this story and I'll put the toys back in the box when I'm done playing. I promise.
Those Left Behind
A Story of Remembered Promises
It's over now. Over and done.
Salazar has found the Veil, and true to his word, he stepped through the gateway between life and death. He is beyond us now, having said his goodbyes. He might have lived for years more, have done much good in this world, yet I understand why he had to leave.
He was never the same after Godric's death. It is strange, is it not, to mourn for a killer who lost a friend, but I do. I do, and I always will. In gaining all that he desired, Salazar Slytherin lost more than the rest of us combined. History, I am sure, will see him as a villain, as a tyrant, as a monster. Yet he was none of that, never was. And he was always my friend.
Now, though, he is gone. Six years to the day after slaying Godric Gryffindor, Salazar followed him to the grave. It is my hope that they have been reunited, that the lines that once separated them are no more. They deserve at least that much, but in the quiet darkness at the end of a new age, I wonder what is to become of those they left behind.
* * *
1 January 1000
"It's not the same," Helga said softly.
"No. It's not."
Come one o' clock, the students were all safely abed. Many had wanted to stay awake longer to celebrate the coming of the new age, but the two headmistresses had been firm. Hogwarts currently housed eighty-five young witches and wizards, and they both knew each by face and by name. None had escaped their purge, and the Great Hall was finally quiet. The lights had been extinguished, and the house elves had cleared the remnants of the celebration away, turning the Hall again into a majestic and empty place. Now two witches sat in the darkness, alone except for the light of the enchanted ceiling's sky.
Sitting on the floor, Rowena picked listlessly at the hem of her robes. A student had stepped on them, earlier, tearing the seam. A simple spell would make them as good as new, of course, but at the moment, she was glad for the distraction.
"I kept thinking about them tonight," her best friend finally continued hollowly. "About how they would have loved to be here. Godric would have enjoyed the food fight that young Vablatsky started earlier, and Salazar would have called it a waste. But he would have enjoyed the simplicity of the ceremony, and would have chided you for ripping your robes."
"That he would have." Almost in spite of herself, Rowena smiled. "And Godric would have called him a snob."
"Has it really been six years?" Helga whispered. Her voice was so quiet that Rowena would probably not have heard her if she had been sitting any further away. "It seems like only yesterday that we stood in this hall together, staring at the castle we had caused to be built, and wondering what our students would be like…"
"And Salazar has been gone since May." She closed her eyes. "It's so strange. I keep expecting to look over my shoulder and see him there, frowning again, and complaining about how Muggleborns are ruining Hogwarts' heritage."
They had spent the night celebrating, but as they sat alone, the emptiness sank in. The summer had been a difficult one, one that neither of them could have managed to face alone—Godric's death had been hard enough to bear, but Salazar's departure had torn their world apart. Once the school term had started, though, things had improved, and they had been so busy that even thinking of the past was almost impossible. Yet tonight was different, and the silence was painful. Two voices should have been speaking with their own, and two men should have been sitting with them.
Helga snorted. "We must be getting old."
"Because we sit here thinking about the past instead of the future," her friend replied. "We mourn for what once was instead of dreaming about what might be."
"I'm a bit past the dreaming stage of life, Helga."
"That's my point."
They sat in silence for a long moment, each lost in their own thoughts. But while they might have been too old for dreams, neither was too old for memories. Living past six months had been like play-acting out pieces of someone else's life. Hogwarts had become one giant memory.
"I charmed it. No matter what, it will never break. Just like our friendship."
"We'll build here. Here, where Ahriman thought to make his last stand." Helga turned to the others, her eyes gleaming. "What was once a place of evil will become a place of hope."
"Welcome to Hogwarts…"
"Is it like your dreams?" Salazar asked quietly.
Godric grinned. "Better."
"I think it's time to leave this place."
The words had come before she meant to speak them. They weren't a product of Rowena's mind, nor did they come from he heart, for she would always love Hogwarts. If asked, she would have thought to spend her life there, to remain until the end and honor the dream that four good friends had once shared. Yet there was something bittersweet in that desire, something painful and unforgotten. And somehow, in that moment, she knew the truth. Colors whirled before her eyes, and whispers reached into her mind.
"Albus? Albus!" a small boy stood over a hole in the floor—the Font!—screaming another's name. Within the swirling currents of power, an auburn-haired boy twirled and twisted, lost and alone—
"It is time, Tom." The same eyes as the auburn-haired boy—
"I'm going to have to betray you." The speaker was a greasy-haired and pale faced man, yet there was true pain in his voice—
A messy-haired boy with the Sword of Gryffindor in hand. He staggered, then stumbled, and nearly fell—
"Hogwarts will be mine!" Red eyes burning from a pale face—but the power almost reminded her of Salazar. No, not Salazar!
"Come and take it, then." A calm voice. An old man. The auburn-haired boy.
The world teetered on the edge of disaster--
Casa Serpente. She knew the place well. Salazar's son owned it now, yet it had never seemed so dark…
Four men. Walking.
Avalon, and darkness sweeping over the island. The wind picked up, and she saw a face—
"Rowena?" Helga was shaking her. Startled, she blinked, fighting the urge to pull away from the unexpected contact. "Are you all right?"
Rowena blinked again. None of it had made sense—who were those people? What were they doing? She shivered. More importantly, when were they? From the moment she had set foot in the world's last remaining Font of Power, Rowena had been open to visions. Perhaps it was the seer in her blood, or maybe it was just that she had always been more open to magic than the others, but she had seen. She had seen so many things, of so many places and so many times that differentiating between them was sometimes impossible—but rarely did the visions come this way. Rowena had thought that she had gained control of them.
After all, she hadn't had a vision since before Godric's death, and she had never seen so many events all weave into one. "I think so," she whispered hesitantly.
"Did you have a vision?" Helga knew her too well.
"Yes. Several." Rowena swallowed. How many visions, even she did not know. Where had one begun and the others ended? There was no way to remember, yet she knew one thing. All the visions had left her with a name. One name, and one time.
"Several?" Helga echoed. The others had often had unclear and confused visions, but Rowena's always made sense. Until now.
"Albus Dumbledore. May 29, 1992."
"Remember that, Helga." Rowena brought her head up. "Remember him."
"But who is he?" her friend echoed.
"I have no idea," she admitted, trying to remember—but everything was faded out, run together. She had seen faces, four in particular…and one had reminded her of Salazar. Another, a boy's, had almost reminded her of Godric, but she had to wonder if that was just her memory speaking, if her longing for her old friends had led her mind to include them in the vision. There were so few things that she could be sure of, now. "But he will come here, and he will know Hogwarts." She was speaking without thinking. "And Hogwarts will know him."
"The Font?" Helga asked quietly. Her visions had never been as strong as Rowena's, but she understood. She understood Hogwarts in ways that only two other men ever had—and so few others ever would.
"Yes, the Font." Rowena still felt distant. For the first time in six and a half years, the Font was speaking to her—she had thought to shut it out, after Godric's death, but perhaps the Font had shut her out. Had shut them all out. It had waited, and for what? In her soul, she knew. "It is time to leave, Helga," she said quietly. "Our time here is over."
* * *7 May 1000
For five mouths, Rowena's words had remained between them, unspoken and nearly forgotten. But with each passing day, the pair remembered, and they knew. There was no denying the simple truth. The close of the last age had heralded the end of their time at Hogwarts. Neither would stay past the end of this term. They could not.
And so the students left, going home to family and friends. One by one, the professors followed, until Rowena and Helga were all that was left. They were alone at Hogwarts, just like they had been in the beginning, and how they had once thought they would be in the end.
"Yet all things must end," Helga whispered to herself. "Even the best things."
Salazar and Godric. In the end, they had broken one another. Salazar's blade had shattered to prove that point, and while he'd stood over Godric's body, everyone had expected him to take his foe's blade to replace his own. Such was the victor's right—but he had handed it to Helga. "He would want you to have it." Tears rose, unbidden, yet Helga did not know if she wept for Godric or for Salazar. They had both been her friends. They had both been her brothers.
Slowly, she looked down at the blade in her lap. For nearly seven years, she had kept Godric's sword in a place of honor in her quarters, waiting until the day that she could pass it on to his son. Helga had always known that the blade was meant for the Gryffindor line—the first moment she had touched it, she had known. She laid every spell herself, working closely by the metalworker's side, infusing magic into the sword even as the steel was pounded straight for the first time. The magic ran deeper than simple unbreakable charms, had been more complicated than mere spells. What she had infused into the sword could not be described in words, yet was an expression of all the love and friendship they had shared over the years.
Godric had always said that that sword, unlike any other, had a soul. It had heart…and Helga had always known that blade was meant to be wielded by a Gryffindor. No others would understand. So she had offered it to Harold, Godric's only son, knowing that the precious blade belonged in his care. Yet he had always refused, no matter how many times she had tried. And now he had left Hogwarts, left to travel in the world and find his own path. His father's road would not be his own, and he had left the sword behind.
She still remembered Harold's crooked smile when he had told her that he wasn't coming back. Helga had offered the blade one final time, but he closed her fingers around the hilt and said that entrusted it to her care.
Until now, she had not known what that meant.
Her fingers closed again around the hilt, and she rose, pacing slowly across the room. High on one shelf sat Godric's old careworn hat, the ragged and rough cap that the students had taken to calling the Sorting Hat. They should have used something finer, something newer and more durable, but when Rowena had raised the point, Salazar had declined. "That hat's been everywhere," he'd laughed. "And it's about time Godric stopped wearing it. If this is what it takes, by all means charm the infernal thing, Helga, and get it over with. Once the hat starts talking, even Godric won't wear it."
And so she had. The four of them had each infused corners of their personalities into the "Sorting Hat," and Helga had brought it to life. Like many of her creations, the hat had become far more than she had expected it to be, but in the lonely year since Salazar's departure, it had made good company for two lost witches. A gentle poke roused the hat from its usual slumber.
"Oh, it's you again. Is it time to sort another class already?"
Helga laughed. "No, not yet."
"They why did you wake me up?" the hat demanded. "If it's to ask me about the younger Vablatsky boy again, I still stand by my decision—"
"No, it's not about Eric," she replied. "I need to ask you for a favor."
"Indeed?" The hat's 'eyebrows' shot up, and Helga had to fight off a sudden wave of nostalgia. There were times when the hat reminded her, far too strongly, of Salazar.
"Will you keep this?" Helga held up the sword. "Until it is needed?"
"Keep it? Dear Lady, keep is a very indefinite word. How long would you have me stuff a sword away inside my cranium? I imagine that it won't be very comfortable—"
Helga snorted. "Oh, hush. The pity-me act might work on Rowena, but I created you, Hat. I know you could fit half the library inside your 'cranium' before running out of space." Her humor faded. "Besides, it's Godric's sword."
The hat blinked. "Then keep it I shall."
"Thank you." Lifting the hat slightly, Helga hesitated. She almost didn't want to let go, didn't want to relinquish this one part of Godric that she had left—but the time for tears was past. She swallowed, then extended the blade. A moment later, it was gone. Helga bit her lip. "I don't know how long you should wait," she admitted.
The hat smiled. "Until it is needed, dear Lady. Until it is needed."Quill scratched on parchment. May 29, 1992. The date seemed so far away—could a mind really wrap itself around nine hundred and ninety-two years? Rowena was ninety years old herself, yet such a length of time was still mind-boggling. It was almost difficult to imagine that the world would last so long.
She sighed, staring at the date. That was all she had written—a delivery date. She knew so little and was sure of even less. All she knew was that this letter had to reach Albus Dumbledore on May 29, 1992. Yet she did not know why. Ever since the new year, her visions had begun again, but they had contained none of their old clarity. She saw faces now, and heard voices, but they were not faces or voices that she knew. Even the Hogwarts of her visions had changed and grown, and she knew that they were of the far future—perhaps even of the year to which she was meant to send this letter. She did not know.
One face, though, was still fresh in her mind. While the visions had continued, there had been none of the confused clarity that she had seen that first day—instead, she had seen images of war, of pain, and most importantly, of darkness. She had seen their world teetering on the edge, and though she had no grasp of what this war was that was to come, she knew one thing. Albus Dumbledore.
Sighing, she leaned back in her chair, and in doing so, caught sight of the small key that sat on the far right hand corner of her desk. Salazar had left it in his quarters before leaving Hogwarts forever, one of the very few items that he hadn't sent to someone before he had chosen the Veil. Were it any other man, Rowena would have assumed that the small key had been overlooked by accident. But not Salazar. He was one of the most particular and controlled individuals that she had ever known. There was no way that he would have misplaced the key to the ancestral Slytherin home, especially before choosing to leave their world forever.
Salazar never did anything without a reason.
Her breath caught in her throat. Maybe—Rowena blinked. That was it was it. She had found the reason, had found the answer…and she finally knew why she had to write. Rowena had seen Casa Serpente, had heard a voice that reminded her so much of her old friend—and that was it. Quickly, she began to write.
To Albus Dumbledore,
By the hand of Rowena Ravenclaw, at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, on the Seventh Day of the Fifth Month of the Year of Our Lord 1000.
You do not know me, and I write nearly one thousand years before you are to receive this letter. Yet I believe that you and I share a connection that transcends time, that is more important than simple years. I believe, Albus Dumbledore, that you know what I mean.
I have seen your face, though I know we will never meet. Our common bond, however, is Hogwarts. I have seen you fight for her, and I have seen you bleed. Though I cannot claim to understand the war that you must fight, I see the burdens you carry, and I would send what aid I can across the sea of time.
Enclosed is a key to Casa Serpente, the ancestral home of the Slytherin family. After his death, my dear friend Salazar left this key at Hogwarts, for what purpose I do not know. But I do know that you will need it.
I warn you, however, that this key will only work for a true son of the Slytherin House—but I do not necessarily mean an heir of the Slytherin line. Not all relations are made of blood, and the man who can use this key will be both ambitious and powerful, yet he will still possess courage and honor as well. He will be heir to all that Salazar once was, even when truth fades to legend, and legend to lies.
By my own hand,
* * *
8 May 1000
"Where will you go?" Helga asked quietly. They stood together on the hill, watching the sun rise over Hogwarts one last time. The castle seemed to glow that morning, and Helga tried to fix the image in her mind forever. After today, there would be no turning back.
"Avalon," Rowena replied immediately. "I've been too long gone from the Aurors." Her dark eyes turned to study Helga. "You?"
"Home." The word was almost hard to say. Six months ago, she had not wanted to even think it, but now there was a longing within her. It was time. "I'm going home."
"I envy you that," her friend said quietly. "Grandchildren and home cooking… You've certainly earned it."
Helga snorted. "You could always get married, you know, have a few more kids before time runs out. You don't have to keep trying to save the world. You've certainly earned peace as well."
"Can you see me married, Helga?" Rowena laughed. "Besides, I'm too old for children, and David is enough."
"I suppose he is," she conceded, not really agreeing but willing to drop the point before an argument began. Helga would never really understand her friend's restless spirit; Rowena always wanted to be busy, always wanted to be acting, learning, fighting. David had been a surprise to all of them, back in the days before Hogwarts, and Rowena had been an outstanding mother for her only son. To the magical world, of course, David Ravenclaw was just a bastard, but to Hogwarts' founders, he had always been special.
And even though Rowena had never said, Helga did not doubt for one moment who the father was.
"You will write?" Rowena asked quietly.
"Provided you do." She smiled. Goodbyes were always horrible, but how did one say goodbye to someone you had known for your entire life? Before there had been Godric and Salazar, there had always been Rowena.
"I will," her best friend promised. "After all, it's just us, now."
"So it is," Helga breathed. "Do you think they can see us?"
"I'm sure they can." Rowena looked more at peace than Helga had seen her in years. She smiled. "We live in the hearts of those we leave behind, after all."
Helga bit her lip briefly, but the words came without pain. "Then I guess it isn't just us, is it?"
No further words were necessary. Slowly, the two friends turned and left Hogwarts behind forever. It was time.