From Barren Trees

i. Winter

Days pass, and life carries on.

Such words of wisdom I have spoken, such a statement I once believed with all of my being; yet now has dawned a time in which I find optimism synonymous with foolishness, for there is no place for either here.

Oh, time progresses, as it is wont to do. One cannot prevent this with all the magic in the world. But we are a broken people, clinging desperately to pieces that do not fit together as they once did—the edges grown misshapen during the era of their separation. The earth, existence itself, moves forward, yet we see naught of it; we notice nothing, for it is as if all else has stilled in our grief.

For the first time in many whiles, we are faced with uncertainty, and in our arrogance, we did not prepare for the possibility.

Winters ago—I cannot count them—when we were children, there were no schools. There were no communities or havens for folk with magic in their blood. We were taught, if indeed the opportunity for education arose, in our own homes by mothers and fathers, guardians, those who had learned from experience and not instruction. We were taught that magic was a dangerous gift, to be used but covertly if we had any sense of preservation about us.

We sought, then, to change this. We set out upon a quest to better the world, beginning with the youth—but who else?—of our kind. Their minds were ready; we would save them from everything, from themselves. We would teach them, and they would grow, trees with roots solid and strong, toward the sun.

And they did—they do. It is a miracle to which even I can assign no description, about which I marvel even as I lay festering in confusion.

(Their lives carry on. How I envy them!)

I was not the one closest to Salazar, for such was always Godric's place; I suppose, indeed, one might have described me as the most distant. Yet in our distance from each other, we reached an inexplicable understanding; we were too similar for much else. One's own reflection is not easy company, after all.

Perhaps, because of this, I should have predicted that he would leave us. Perhaps I should have seen that this was the inevitable path.

I did not, however. I could not grasp the concept that a thing which seemed so whole could shatter.

I loved Salazar, I believe, as I loved myself. And now that he is gone, I feel that there is something irreplaceable missing from my being.

ii. Spring

Weeks pass, and the forest is alive.

I feel it ere I enter its depths, wooden heartbeats pulsing from the dirt and air. Together, we wake from slumber, drawing gasps of breath, of life, as we are pulled from the numbness of dreams.

I come here often, but not for solitude—solitude follows me as if it is my shadow, so it is not difficult to obtain. (In this place, I am never alone.)

Oft times, I forget that change is still possible, and always am I surprised when I encounter it. Winter left the trees dark and lifeless, snow adorning twisted branches, and obscured them beyond recognition. Yet warmth comes, now, and undoes that which winter wrought—tentatively, though, nigh as if still learning; for when spring arrives, it does not return things precisely to the ways of before, and newness replaces what once was.

I believe that I am changing, as well, but whether I am becoming myself or someone new, I cannot determine. It has become more difficult for me to remember the forms which my identity has taken.

Who is Rowena Ravenclaw? I ask of no one.

The forest sometimes attempts an answer, but I cannot understand.

Today, it is no different. Wind, what little of it has wended its way inside, tugs at my hair and whispers in my ear with a voice that emits no noise. I try sending it away with a frown, the toss of my head, for I am impatient to be rid of its taunting; some mysteries I cannot solve, and if I allow it, they will haunt me as though failed conquests.

Who is Rowena Ravenclaw?

The wind persists, traces of Salazar's name upon the tip of its tongue. Have I become him to fill the hole his absence has created?

I pause. Perhaps I am trying.

Is that what I am meant to do?

I glance downward and find a small pool of water at my feet, but it is too murky to see what lies within its shallow depths.

Uncertainty does not flatter me.

iii. Summer

Months pass, and the respite of night grows short.

The few students of mine who still remained, tolerant of the nature I call my own, have left the school until September; some, I know, I will never lay eyes upon again.

Without them, I lose purpose. Godric watches with careful eyes as I walk the corridors, listless and unseeing in the heat of the day. Helga, from time to time, touches my hand in worry, her expression a strange look I cannot place. I shrink from their scrutiny and their touch, withdrawing into my own thoughts until I can no longer distinguish their faces. We were broken once, but broken together; how can it be that I am the only one that has not healed? The right to exist as thus should not be mine, and yet I have taken hold of it as though it is what tethers me to life.

When I realize this, I grow frightened; what has happened to my mind?

I decide to leave not long after summer begins.

iv. Summer

Time passes.

I travel the land with closed smiles and a sense of longing that only increases the farther I am from home.

I did not mean for this to be a search, yet I feel that I am always looking. Always am I peering from the corner of my eye, seeking out someone who is not there. Always am I seeing shadows, finding familiarity in the faces of strangers ere the connection disappears.

I do not know what I expect to find in everything, on this journey, in this world; and whatever it may be, I discover nothing of it.

I am picking fruit from barren trees.

v. Autumn

Seasons have passed, and still am I lost.

I return to Hogwarts, unkempt and worn, in the middle of the night, in the middle of a cold rain that makes ice of my core. Mud sloshes about my ankles; I have fallen out of the habit of magic—I, who once breathed it as air.

Weariness overcomes me, and I collapse. The stones of the castle wall are a comfort against my back.

My eyes close, water dripping from my lashes.

Who is Rowena Ravenclaw? I ask of myself, but it is the rain that answers, a steady drip.

When Salazar left us—left me—he did not return. He did not find fault in his mistakes, did not care to think of what he abandoned in his angry departure. How, then, can we be one and the same when I have come back?

I am not Salazar Slytherin. I am not Rowena Ravenclaw. I am not myself. I have no identity, no definition, no explanation to offer so that others may know me.

Who am I? What is it that I seek?

The answer to both, perhaps, is the same, and though I know this, I feel I cannot accept it.

The rivulets upon my skin are soon replaced by hands, running along my arms, my face, my hair, full of worry and warmth.

"Rowena, Rowena," a voice chants. "Come back to me, Rowena. Fade not."

Perhaps I say, or only think: Nay, already have I disappeared.

Fingers lace themselves in mine, and a forehead presses against my own. My foggy gaze meets with the clear blue of Helga's eyes; her yellow hair slides along my dark locks, mingling in a pool against my shoulders.

"You are here," she tells me, words a whisper. Her lips find my cheek—"And here"—my mouth—"and here"—subtle gestures that I have not thought her bold enough to attempt.

I am not who you believe me to be, I gasp desperately, but Helga smiles.

"Aye," she says, "but 'tis a matter I will mend."

I am so lost

Yet her touch once again finds me, calming my wild eyes. "Not everything can be found whilst on your own."

"I—"

"Life, Rowena, carries on," she murmurs. "Days, weeks, months—all shall come to pass, all shall we leave behind."

I do not speak.

Yet slowly do I rediscover my roots, and learn the direction of the sun.

THE END