"My right hand holds matches
My left holds my past
I hope the wind catches
And burns it down fast."
--Martina McBride "From the Ashes"
"You remember the deal we made, don't you?"
She stood with her back toward him, pretending to study the tapestry on the wall, pretending not to hear the determination in his voice. An admirable quality, determination was. Not meant to be painful in someone you loved. Loved once and still loved in that strange, twisted reason only the heart could understand. "Of course I remember, Siyth." If only she could keep her voice still, but emotions ran high. Too soon after labor; she shouldn't be walking around like this, dealing with this.
Siyth sighed deeply, patience straining, and moved closer, the only evidence the shifting moonlight-fed shadows on the wall. She cringed once, daring him not to touch her. "I think you've changed your mind, Rose." No threat, no question, just a familiar voice in a darkened room.
She pivoted, letting her eyes fall over to the window where the soft moorlands still lived under the night sky. Beautiful, as always. The only serenity available that night, save for the sleeping baby in the next room. And even he was a catalyst. "He's my child." She couldn't stop herself, and the tears came unbidden.
"He's mine as well, Rose. Or did you forget that, giving him to another?"
The accusation was too much. Tears like fire in her eyes, she whirled on Siyth. "I've never thought such a thing! I think of you! Do not doubt my feelings for you! But are you so selfish that you can't fathom that I love another?" Silence fell, a deafening presence where only existed Siyth's steady breathing and her own beating heart. Words too terrible to speak.
"Your husband is dead, Rose," Siyth finally said. "He was killed months ago. Your darling Muggle husband dead for a cause that didn't concern him."
Like a knife in her heart. . . A memory, a thousand memories of him, her dearest love. She gasped for air. The wedding ring she still wore was warn on her finger, pleasantly warm. She didn't mean for Siyth to see. For the first time that night she dared face him.
"So it is true then," he whispered, dark eyes glittering like jewels. "You loved Gavin more. You thought my child his."
"Gavin was my husband and my lord!" she fired. "Of course I loved him! But the child is yours, always!" How foolish he was, she thought. How could he stand there like that, a dark sentry, as the tears fell from her eyes! Did he not see her pain? Did he not care? Or perhaps she was the fool to not force herself into his arms. Her head spun; it still ached so from labor. She leaned against the tapestry, trying to regain her balance.
"You shouldn't be up," he said, coming closer. The fear in his voice was evident, reassuring.
Rose slid her fingers down the tapestry, tracing the outline of the hypogriff. "I'd be in bed had you not come, demanding the promise be kept!"
"No one knows about the baby?"
"The midwife and the house-elf. They'll keep a secret. I haven't seen my parents in months." Not since the burial. "I'll tell my mother I lost him." Her sweet, sweet child, lying asleep. Lost to her? Like a piece of her soul gone. She made no effort to hide the sobs. Not even upon hearing of Gavin's death, or her dear brother's, had she cried so, reliving each slice of pain she had ever felt.
"Rose." Siyth's hand brushed at her sleeve. "It doesn't have to be this way. Take me after all. You, me, our child..." His voice shook. "And Gavin's son. I could love him as my own, I could."
"Could you really?" she asked heavily. She tried to stand again, but slipped back into Siyth's strong, familiar arms. She pressed herself against his chest, not caring as her crying grew. He braced his arms around her, his beard dearly scratching her forehead. Could it be so easy? Just a yes, and she'd have it.
"I love you. I always have, and I always will. I want to take care of you and keep you safe."
Such a promise, the only thing anyone could ever truly want. And it sounded so good, honesty she could taste. She pushed herself deeper into his embrace, letting her still-flowing eyes dry themselves on his cloak. From inside came the reply she most wanted to give. "I love you, too."
"Of course you do." He kissed her forehead tenderly and raked his strong, weather-beaten hands through the sweaty red tangles of her hair. She felt so filthy. . .yet he clearly didn't care. "We love each other, what more do we need?"
Yes, yes, perfect logic and what she wanted most. All strength drained hardly missed from her body till only Siyth held her up. She was his, every last part of her. . . till the final note came like searing heat as a flash across her vision, a certain stillness in the air that brought a scent with it like no other.
Rose lifted her eyes immediately, expecting to see a phantom of her dead husband in the face of Siyth. And there it was, a twist in the visage so unlike Siyth but a void of Gavin.
"All of my heart, my bewitching Rose."
"No!" She pushed herself away with all the force she could muster. "Forgive me, but no."
Siyth stood frozen, only his eyes alive with naive confusion. How had he not heard Gavin's voice? "Rose, what is this?"
She sunk to the stone floor, body aching. "I can't."
"Rose." Siyth motioned to lift her up, but she turned away. He stopped again, like a watching snake.
"It's not my love," she tried to explain. "You must know I love you. It's everything else."
"I don't care about Gavin. He is dead. I'm sorry for your loss, but you can't grieve forever."
The room was so hot. Could the window not volunteer a breeze? "He was my husband, and I am his widow. And mother of his heir. I still stand as Lady of Gryffindor. There is no one else. I can't just abandon that role. It's for my son."
"And what of our son?" A blazing reply, emotion ready, ever burning. Siyth raised his hand as if to strike her. He'd never dream of doing such a thing, yet. . . "Our son, our baby, is he to grow up a bastard, belonging nowhere? Unless my deal was complete. . ."
"He'd grow up in your precious wetlands just the same!" Rose screeched. "The family. They think little of me already. Gavin's witch wife. They'd never stand for it, if you came here. They'd hate it. The scandal it would cause. The barbarian ways of the witches, they'd call it." Her voice cracked. "I. . .I can't give that to Ricky."
"Not even for me?" He was like a wounded wolf, his voice the most mournful sound she had ever heard.
How she hated to hurt him! She'd sooner stab herself in the heart. But love was not always to choice, and there were others' lives to consider but hers and Siyth's. "I couldn't do that."
"But ours. . ." It was now a threat. "I haven't even seen him. Perhaps you could pass him off as Gavin's. . ."
"No. He looks too much like you." And what scandal would that cause? She sank further till she nearly lay on the chill stones, fresh sobs wrenching themselves from her throat. But could she stab herself. . .
Siyth read her mind. "And what shame would that bring to a silly Muggle Christian family? Give him to me. I will raise him. With me he will not be Lady Gryffindor's bastard. I hold no wealth or title, but I have love for the child. He will not be a bastard, I promise that." Then he knelt beside her. "Unless you'll come with me. Does Godric really need all this?"
His hand reached for hers, and she grabbed his desperately. So rough and warm. And again came Gavin unbidden. How foolish to be haunted by a memory.
"I told you once before; I am the Lady of Gavin Gryffindor."
"A Muggle!" Snorting he tossed her hand away. "I see how it is. Your choice is clear. I offer you all the love I have, and more to your children. Yet you reject it, foolish girl."
Outside fresh lightning tore at the sky.
"How much did you love your Muggle husband when he lived yet you were with me?"
"Siyth, no," Rose begged through her tears, clasping again in vain for his hand. She touched only air, cold and pulsating.
He continued as if she had not spoken. "If you do not return my love, then honor my request. No one knows of the child, you say. Then give him to me. At least someone will have the benefit of my love."
"Not my baby!" she shrieked. "He is mine." Whatever power of love and creation Siyth had given to the baby, the boy was still hers, scarred in her heart the moment the midwife placed him in her waiting arms. No, long before that. What she had held and treasured against everything for so many moons was her life. With a deep breath of all she had in her, she apparated into the next room, the little nursery prepared for her children. Were it only enough. The protection spell placed over the cradle was powerful, but Siyth was a talented wizard.
The cradle was still safe, a charm keeping it gently rocking. A fine cradle, made by her brother Caspian for her fist son. Gavin's son. Fatigued, she clasped at the cradle and let her breath slow to normal as she gazed at the tiny newborn sleeping soundly. She brushed his cheek gently with the tip of her finger. Such a beautiful baby, soft, plump, and ready with impressive wisps of black hair. Definitely not hers but a solemn protest against the fair visages of her own family. Nor was it Gavin's. The dark features could only come from Siyth. May the child be one day as handsome as his father, and better suited for love.
"What is his name?" Siyth. Of course he would have followed her. His anger was gone, replaced by a gentle awe praising the baby.
Rose slowly turned to him, hands still gripping the cradle. "Salazar," she replied thoughtlessly. "His name is Salazar."
"Salazar," he repeated softly, tasting the name. "Salazar Slytherin. A good name. You have good taste, Rose." He moved silently to the other side of the cradles, eyes always on the baby. His actions of only moments ago lost themselves in an aura of utter devotion, the pride of a father.
This is how it should be, Rose realized, her heart pounding. Two parents over a cradle, feeling only a love for their creation and each other.
"I can raise him," Siyth declared. "I've always wanted to be a father. Perhaps he won't have the same wealth as your other son has, but he will be raised well. I can promise you that." He moved from the cradle and moved shadow-like across the room, half-speaking to the wall.
"I don't doubt this," Rose replied, her gaze on Salazar who stirred in his sleep. "But I won't give him up. I can't. . . Siyth, I've already held him!"
"I make my offer a final time, despite your refusals to come with me."
Another blow of weakness struck her, slicing through her body like a knife. The cradle was her only support. Oh, Siyth, she thought. I love you so much. But what is this darkness that keeps me back?
"You are silent far too long," came the reply. Calm, firm, and despondent.
Something inside of her screamed in pain. She turned around. "Siyth, please!"
He was gone. All that was left were the scattered echoes of powerful magic already done.
For a moment she waited, listening. A stirring of magic, a stronger breeze outside. "No." She whirled back on the cradle. The soft folds of the blanket covered nothing but a warm spot where an infant had lain. "No!" She ripped the blankets into the air, thoughts spinning out of control into panic. "No!" With her last bit of strength, she flung the cradle crashing to the floor. Blankets and pillows froze to the bed, charm still in place. But the protection had done nothing.
Her baby was gone, her baby was gone.
She felt part of her die and crumble into ashes that in their own turn smoked and mixed themselves in their own kiln until a flame burned, ready to kill. But it was far too much for her weakened body, and darkness overwhelmed her. The last thing she heard was a voice, screaming words she couldn't understand, and her throat ached.
A light rain had started, a cool presence barely worth attention in the chill mist so common to a night upon those moors. The grasses and heather shifted and rustled under a passing breeze, and a crow sprang into the air, a cawing shadow in the darkness. Such subtle life, yet so powerful, presenting enough force to shield the fleeing man. He was glad of it, and he willed the plants to bend away from his feet to allow him silent passage. Behind him, Gryffindor Castle shrank back like a scolded puppy.
Siyth stopped once to look back at it, and he felt no fear. "You've lost your power over me, Rose," he whispered.
The baby whimpered in his sleep, and Siyth gazed fondly at his son, the tiny infant wrapped warmly in the folds of a cloak.
"My son," Siyth said with renewed amazement at the words. Cautiously he brushed the baby's cheek. "Salazar. Salazar Slytherin, for you are mine. You will accept my love, and I will give it all to you."
But what of the child's mother?
Siyth closed his mind against that thought. Rose had made her decision; she would not fully give her heart. Not the part that belonged to a dead man. A dead Muggle. Siyth had no power there. He knew a woman's heart to be a sacred thing.
Yet he would always love her.
Then another sound broke through the night, scattering the birds and plants and even the rain. Like thunder a voice filled the sky.
The child meets a crooked path
Doom shall greet thy seed
With final sin when centuries pass
'Tis punishment for thy deed.
For a time the moor was nothing, an empty canyon for a passing river. Siyth waited, his heart pounding furiously, Salazar near fire-warm in his arms. And then the wind resumed, an animal chattered, and Siyth continued onward.