Attempt at a Founders fic. Was Salazar really evil? Phff! Course not! Have a look-see!

Disclaimer: I definitely don't own HP. Nope. Not me.

Not Three But Four

Godric watched events unfolding in the mortal realm, noting with sorrow the suffering Salazar's heir inflicted on his people. How badly he had judged the other man. He'd thought the wily sorceror had been his friend, thought that Salazar was a good man and a supporting companion. How wrong he'd been. First his dark counterpart had left their number, disagreeing with their decision to allow muggleborns into the school, and now the heir of Slytherin was wreaking all this destruction on the land. The image of Salazar's trademark smirk assaulted him. The man had known, and planned, for this.

"Godric?" He turned to Rowena, trying to smile, but he knew she would see the pain in his eyes. Nothing got past Rowena. Except Salazar. The dark wizard had delighted in playing minor tricks on the Lady of Knowledge, delighted in showing off his ability to fool ever her. Godric should have realised then what kind of man he was.

"Don't lose hope, Godric," she encouraged softly. "You and yours are not alone in this fight. Your champion does not face this evil alone. Ours will ever stand with yours." She smiled gently, an expression echoed by her stout companion.

Helga clucked disapprovingly at him. "Such despair. It does not become you, Godric. Gather your courage, and look at all those willing to stand with you, and your heir. See his noble companions?"

Godric looked down into the surface of their mirror to the world. Three images appeared, the three champions: Harry Potter, Godric's chosen heir, Hermione Granger, Ravenclaw's champion, and Ronald Weasley, Helga's representative. The three stood together, even when not physically in the one place. They were united, and strong. Godric smiled. "Three champions, standing together."

"Four, actually," came a new voice. The three spun to see Salazar glide up to them, gazing down into the mirror. "A fourth champion, hidden in shadow."

Godric stepped up to the taller man, fury in his features. "Salazar!" he spat. "What are you doing here? You dare! Your 'champion' is the creature causing all this pain! You dare stand near us!"

"Oh, do be quite, Godric, and watch the mirror. You shall see my true champion," Salazar smirked, ignoring the other man's fist in his robes, and staring steadily into the mirror. His gaze was so intense that Godric couldn't help but follow it, though he knew what he would see. A hollow, red-eyed countenance.

An image resolved itself slowly, seemingly fighting to remain hidden. Interest piqued, Godric watched avidly. Finally, the face came into focus, and the three Founders gasped. Not Voldemort. Still a Death Eater, but not Voldemort. The face in the glass was that of Severus Snape, the spy that had killed Dumbledore. No better than his master, really, but still a surprise.

"Him?" Godric spluttered. "You chose that shadow-mongering spy over your own blood? He's as bad as the other, but nowhere near as powerful. I thought you'd want the strongest dark wizard going!"

Salazar laughed, a dark chuckle that clearly implied that its creator thought Godric was more than a little dim. "Oh, but I did! Watch, Godric. Watch and learn."

In the mirror, the skulking figure drew closer to the other champions. Godric tensed, fearing attack, but the spy did no such thing. Slowly, Gryffindor realised that he was close to them only in spirit, not in body. The closing distance showed support. Frowning, he widened the focus of the mirror, watching in awe as the threads of plot and counter plot spread across the war, at their centre the spy, like a spider in his web. Though incomplete, even Godric could see the lines of intent the Slytherin champion drew against the Dark Lord, the closing trap that would destroy the evil creature.

"You see?" Salazar murmured softly. "My true Slytherin. The watcher in the shadows. My blood, Riddle, acts more like you, dear boy, all rash actions and impulsive rage. This little one, with his cloak of subservience and his smooth lies to protect what he loves, is my true heir. My blood also, actually."

"But ... Impossible! Your wife ... there was only one line of Slytherin blood! Only one!" This was Ravenclaw's outburst.

"Hah! My good woman, you know nothing!" Slytherin laughed, but good-naturedly. "True, there was only one male line. But my ingenuity, if I don't say so myself, far outweighed the dictates of fate. Tell me Godric, did you ever visit the Hogsmead brothel?"

Godric twisted his lips in disgust. "You betrayed your wife with a whore! Why you ... Do you hold nothing sacred?" Salazar stiffened, sudden fury flashing in his eyes.

"You leave Elizabeth out of this! I never betrayed her! Never her! In fact, genius woman that she was, she thought of how we could cheat fate. She couldn't bear another child, but I could. So we planned."

"Of course you could make another child! You'd no shortage of drive!" Godric snarled.

"No, Godric. Not make a child. I bore a child!" Salazar grinned at his stunned expression. "And I'm telling you, my friend, birthing is not fun! Take it from me, a woman's lot is not easy. Not to mention all the trouble we had getting the potion for the change perfected, and the oddness of it all. Not something I'd go through twice, by choice. I don't know what I would have done if Elizabeth hadn't guided me through the labour. Unfortunately, the potion affected the child, and he was born a squib, but the line was intact. The Snape line."

Godric just stared. It was ... incomprehensible! Salazar, a woman? And Slytherin's heir, a halfblood. "Salazar ..." He swallowed. How to continue? Sorry for doubting you, I was wrong? A woman, really? How interesting. Help.

"I told you once, Godric," Salazar smiled gently. "I will always help you, as only I can. When you are alone, I will be there in the shadows. I will watch over you and yours. My line will always watch over yours. My champion," he gestured at the spymaster in the mirror, "watches out for yours even now. Even still. Through hate and doubt and mistrust, Slytherin will always endure. It's what we do, my friend."

Tears clogged his throat. Godric couldn't speak, so he told his friend his feelings as only he knew. He caught the other man up into a desperate embrace, bowing his head to Salazar's chest, hoping his tears and warmth would express for him his contrition and gratitude. He felt Salazar stiffen, then relax, and the other man's arms encircled him, showing his understanding. Godric felt without seeing as Rowena and Helga added their strength to the embrace, linking the spirits so long estranged.

"Remember Godric," Salazar murmured. "We are ever four, not three. We stand together, now as in the past, as our champions do in the world below. You and I and Helga and Rowena. The Hogwarts Four. Now and forever."

"Now and forever," Godric echoed softly.

Well? Bit soppy, I know. Just to emphasise, they are friends, nothing else. Just really, really close friends. So. R&R? Please? For me?