Author's note: A HnH ficlet. This occurs in the Founders' time, not in Harry's time.

Hogwarts' Second Halloween

Salazar frowned at the thick scroll Godric had given to him. Suddenly, he held it out by its edge, and it fell, unrolling, whipping down to floor where it landed with a clatter before continuing to unroll across the stone surface. The parchment ran more than a dozen feet in length. On it, penned in neat script, were the names of the guests coming to Hogwarts for the All Hallows' Eve Feast twelve days away.

"You must be joking!" Salazar waved the parchment at Godric, whose frowning expression clearly told Salazar that he wasn't rolling up the guest list again.

"I am not joking," said Godric, folding his arms and backing away from Salazar, who was now trying to hand the guest list back to Godric.

"But there must be thousand names here," protested Salazar.

"One thousand and forty," Godric specified. He stalwartly refused to take back the guest list in its open state.

Grudgingly, Salazar began rolling the guest list. "Why are there so many this year?" he complained. "Last year, this-" he brandished the too-long piece of parchment at Godric "-was only three feet long."

"Salazar, one year ago, we only had about a hundred students," Godric reminded the other wizard.

"And how many students do we have now?" asked Salazar absent-mindedly. He had now rolled about a sixth of the scroll.

"Double the previous year," answered Godric.

Salazar paused in his scroll rolling to give Godric a puzzled look. The number of guests had increased by a factor of six, not merely doubled as the student population had.

Godric explained, "This year, entire families as well as their friends are coming to Hogwarts, and we had more than three hundred requests for invitations from families who are thinking of sending their children here. They want to see the school."

He decided not to mention that ever since the school's opening a year ago, Hogwarts had become a cultural and social center, and the wealthy, famous and elite class of the Wizarding community considered the school's All Hallows' Eve Feast a must-attend event.

Instead, Godric poked at the guest list, saying, "Thus, the one thousand and forty names on this scroll."

After a few moments, Salazar continued rolling the scroll. Halfway through, he grumbled, "Next year, we keep All Hallows' a school affair, not a family affair."

***

In the kitchen, a large colorful six-tier cake was singing Ave Maria. Behind Rowena and Helga cowered the castle's House Elves.

Rowena was amused while Helga looked as though she had a severe headache.

"That Thomas and his practical jokes," muttered Helga, who was not amused at all, and Rowena was barely able to keep from laughing.

The prankster who had charmed the cake to sing was the magician architect who was building their residence. Thomas Aquinas was Muggle-born. As an infant, he had been abandoned at a monastery, whose monks took Thomas in and raised him as one of their own. Thus, the cake's holy theme...

The cake finished Ave Maria and was now singing Blessed Be His Name. At this point, Godric and Salazar entered the kitchens, and both wizards stopped dead to stare at (and to listen to) the melodious confection.

The cake began to sing louder as though it knew its audience had increased by two. It also started to glow with an angelic light. The elves tittered with fright, and as one, scuttled from behind Rowena and Helga to seek protection behind Godric and Salazar instead.

Godric lifted his right hand, its forefinger pointing at the singing cake. He looked over to Rowena and Helga and said, "Thomas?"

When they nodded, Salazar declared, "I am not eating it."

***

The next twelve days passed by swiftly, too swiftly for Godric's comfort. It was the first time that Hogwarts would pay host to such a large number of people. The newly constructed castle was huge and could comfortably accommodate six times the current student population. However, to have more than a thousand and two hundred people crammed into the Great Hall was an uncomfortable thought and a tight situation.

So it was decided that the All Hallows' Eve Feast would be celebrated outdoors instead. By the deadline, a hundred and fifty tables, each able to seat a dozen, had been arranged underneath a clear afternoon sky. Thousands of candles floated above, ready to provide illumination when night fell.

Much to Thomas' amusement, the singing cake had been made into a festive center-point. Helga had cast a preservative spell on it while Rowena had charmed it to sing haunting songs instead of religious hymns.

The children loved it, and a large and noisy group was always gathered around the cake, which had been placed on a marble pedestal. They laughed, giggled and challenged one another to swipe some of the cake's sweet and frothy icing. Unlike Salazar, the children didn't mind consuming a singing cake. A student even asked Helga if he could have one for his birthday.

When dusk fell, score by score, the candles lit, casting bright merry glows on the gathering below. Half the guests had arrived, and the air was filled with the sound of joyous reunion. Most of the children wouldn't see their families again until Christmas.

Fortune favored the festivities that night. The sky was cloudless with twinkling stars, and the moon showed full and bright. A gentle breeze blew occasionally, but the candles had been enchanted to keep their flames always lit. A gong rang three times, its clear sound carrying to every ear. People found and took their seats as tasty dishes on trenchers floated from the open castle doors to settle down on the tables.

Helga was pleased. The House elves had accomplished their duties perfectly. They had prepared twelve courses, two dishes for each kind. For the soup course, there was lombard soup and broth with venison. The main courses consist of stewed beef ribs, hattes, stuffed roasted boars, pheasants and ducks. There was grilled salmon and periwinkles. Dessert was a delight with sugared pine nuts, gingerbread, custard tarts, cheesecakes, brindons and baked apples. The adults enjoyed wine, which had been mulled with honey and spices while the youngsters had their choice of milk or any fruit juice they desired.

An hour later, almost everyone was settled with full stomachs and contented smiles. People began standing up to walk around a bit while the more boisterous children had begun gathering in groups to play games.

Rowena was talking with some of the parents when Godric politely interrupted her conversation with them and led her away.

"What is it, Godric?" Rowena asked him curiously. Godric was very amused.

With a grin, Godric said, "Thomas goaded Salazar into playing storyteller for this evening."

"What?" Rowena laughed softly, delighted by the news. "How ever did he managed to do that?" Salazar disliked telling stories.

"Well," said Godric as they walked towards a large gathering of children, "Thomas told Salazar that if he didn't volunteer, he would tell the children a scary Muggle story he had heard as a boy when he was living at the monastery."

"I see." Rowena nodded with understanding. Salazar disliked having their students influenced by or even encountering anything that was Muggle in origin. Indeed, he barely tolerated Muggle-born Thomas designing their residence.

When they arrived, they found Salazar and Thomas in a heated argument with more than a three dozen children seated on the grass and waiting in a half circle before them.

"It has to be scary!" insisted Thomas. "At the monastery, we always told scary stories on All Hallows' Eve."

"If you haven't noticed," countered Salazar, "we are not Muggles. Wizards don't tell scary stories on All Hallows' Eve."

"What is going on?" Rowena asked Helga, who was standing at the back of the group of children.

Helga's expression was exasperated. "Thomas wants Salazar to tell a scary story," she said.

Godric chuckled and guessed, "But Salazar doesn't want to?"

Helga nodded. "Correct," she said.

Rowena suggested, "Why not let the children decide?"

Some of the boys heard her and piped up that they wanted to hear a scary story. Thomas looked triumphantly at Salazar, who fumed at having been outmaneuvered. Thomas almost got hexed when he suggested that perhaps Salazar was a scaredy cat.

After Thomas withdrew a safe distance away to the back of the group, Salazar took out his wand and conjured a tree stump to sit on. Children leaned forward eagerly as the wizard sat down on the stump and cleared his throat before beginning the tale.

"In the village of Bastow not far from here once lived a wizard named Mendrel. He lived alone in a large old mansion. Mendrel was the only one remaining of his family, the last of his bloodline."

"Why?" asked a little girl at the very front of the group.

Salazar's eyes narrowed, and in a low tone of voice, that everyone heard, he said, "For many generations, many heirs of his family were unable to have children of their own. Their blood had become too weak to withstand the passage of time."

A boy, sitting beside the girl who had asked the original question, said, "I don't understand." The other children echoed his sentiment. They couldn't understand why the wizard in the story couldn't have children. Being young and being children themselves, the idea of a family bereft of children was an alien idea.

Salazar laughed and said, "When you grow up, you will understand, but for now let me go on with the story." As soon as his audience settled and quieted, he continued, "Mendrel's only companion was a pet snake, whom he had named Krys. Krys was the only one the wizard could stand having around him, for Mendrel, in his loneliness, had grown cold and bitter and disliked the company of other people."

"I knew snakes would be involved," commented Helga softly. Godric chuckled, and Rowena smiled while Thomas looked uncomfortable. Having been brought up in a Catholic order, Thomas had been taught since childhood to fear and to dislike snakes.

Salazar was saying, "Krys was a very intelligent creature, and he was no mere ordinary serpent either. Mendrel had hatched him from a chicken egg placed underneath a toad."

"A basilisk?!" One of the older children yelled, and those who knew what a basilisk was, shuddered in fear. Those who didn't know soon understood their companions' concern when Salazar explained to them what a basilisk was.

"But," a fourteen-year old boy protested, "basilisks are dangerous. The only people who can control them are Parselmouths."

"Correct," declared Salazar, and the same boy was startled. He quickly realized what Salazar had left unsaid. "You mean Mendrel is a Parselmouth?" the boy demanded.

"Correct again," said Salazar, nodding. "Mendrel is a Parselmouth, and he hatched Krys to keep people away from his home. When people heard that Mendrel had bred a basilisk, indeed they did stay away from the old mansion where Mendrel lived."

Suddenly the lights from above dimmed. Rowena looked up to see that the floating candles were nearly exhausted. The story was interrupted as Salazar conjured a large blue bonfire with his wand. All around, in other groups and gatherings, fires were being conjured. High above, the starlit sky was steadily being shrouded in clouds. The gentle breeze was now constantly blowing, and the leaves on bushes and trees rustled. It was getting colder, and everyone huddled closer to each other and nearer to the warm fire.

Salazar continued, "Mendrel treated Krys as if he was his child. At meals, he fed Krys portions from his own plate. At night, he let Krys sleep at the foot of his bed. Mendrel even taught Krys how to read the human tongue. Krys, being a serpent, of course couldn't speak the human tongue, so he said what he read in snake tongue to his master, who was delighted to have such an intelligent a pet."

"I want a pet like Krys," said a little boy in the front row suddenly. The group broke out into laughter, and the boy's friends seconded the idea, asking Salazar where they could get a pet basilisk. Salazar immediately told them that Krys was only a story serpent, and that real basilisks were too dangerous to be kept as pets, especially if their owners couldn't speak Parseltongue. It was a good thing Salazar told the children that, because Helga looked ready to scold Salazar for giving their students a very wrong impression of basilisks.

Helga's worry was unnecessary, for later in the story Salazar told them that several years after Mendrel hatched Krys, there was an accident. Mendrel had died from Krys' fatal gaze. The children were aghast when they heard of this, and it was a while before they calmed down again. Salazar then explained that Mendrel always told Krys to never look at him since looking into a basilisk's eyes caused instant death.

"Krys didn't understand how it had happened. One morning, when he woke up and opened his eyes, he found his master standing beside the bed and staring straight at him. The next thing he knew, his master had fallen on top of him, and he was dead."

Several of the younger children began to cry, and Rowena and Helga went to comfort them. When they asked them if they wanted to leave, the sobbing children refused and said they wanted to hear the rest of the story.

In a somber tone, Salazar went on, "Krys was sad that his master was dead, and he didn't know what to do. He had read in a book that when humans died, they were buried in the ground, but Krys didn't want to bury his master. Instead, he arranged Mendrel on the bed as if he was just sleeping and went to find a jar of preservative salts. He didn't want insects and worms to eat his master's body."

"Years passed. Krys remained faithful to Mendrel and still slept each night at his master's feet. The only time he was away from Mendrel was when he had to forage for food. Also, to pass away the time, he read all the books and scrolls in library and in Mendrel's study. He grew to be as intelligent as any wizard or witch, though he couldn't cast spells as he couldn't utter the human tongue."

"It was a peaceful time for Krys though he did feel lonely. Then trouble came. A group of wizards had gathered at the front of the mansion. It's been so many years since word had last been heard from Mendrel that the villagers had assumed that he was dead. Since Mendrel didn't have an heir, the village elders had ordered the house, his property and all his belongings to be auctioned off."

"Krys was angered by this disturbance. How dare they disrespect his master's memory! He was about to go out and drive away the intruders when he realized just in time that he might kill some of them with his fatal gaze. Having been reared by Mendrel, Krys had a gentle heart. He had no desire to hurt any human, and he knew his master would never have condoned murder."

"Fortunately, that day, the villagers only staked out the property, and none could enter the house. Krys, though he couldn't speak the human tongue, could understand it when he heard it. He heard the villagers say that they would return tomorrow with a village elder who could open the mansion's main door. Powerful magic kept it sealed, and only a high-ranking wizard could dispel the protection magic Mendrel had cast on his home many years ago."

"When they left, Krys quickly thought of how he could prevent them from coming inside the mansion. He soon became desperate. For one thing, he couldn't use a wand and thus couldn't increase the barrier magic around the mansion. Neither could he cast offensive spells to keep the villagers away. It wasn't as if he could hold a wand properly either. There was only so much you could with a tail and no hands."

"Suddenly, an idea struck him, and Krys hurried to Mendrel's potions cupboard. One of the sealed jars stored in it was labeled Polyjuice."

Again, the story was interrupted as a few of the children knew what the Polyjuice Potion could do. The same boy who had protested having basilisks for pets again raised a disbelieving voice.

"Krys turned himself into Mendrel?!" the fourteen-year old yelled. The next several minutes was spent explaining to children who didn't know about the potion the effects and properties of the Polyjuice Potion. Godric himself was caught by the story and waited impatiently for the explanations to end so that the story could continue.

Finally, Salazar went on with the story. "Now, Krys had an awful time just with taking the jar of potion from the cupboard. He knocked over and broke quite a few jars and bottles in many attempts to get the Polyjuice Potion. In the end, he decided to bring a strand of Mendrel's hair to the cupboard instead."

"Ever so carefully, he punctured the jar cover with just the tip of one of his fangs. The potion would be useless if even a drop of his venom fell into it. Once he had made a hole in the top of the jar, he slid Mendrel's hair strand through the hole. When the potion was ready, he gently knocked the jar over onto its side and licked the drops of Polyjuice Potion that drained through the hole he had made. As soon as he felt the transformation began, he quickly nudge the jar back upright and moved away from the cupboard."

Here, Salazar paused dramatically, and his audience protested the interruption and demanded that he get on with it. Godric groaned, exasperated when Salazar said that his mouth was dry and requested that somebody get him a cup of water. The fourteen-year old boy was the one who got him some water. After draining the cup and wiping his mouth dry, Salazar smiled at his impatient listeners and proceeded with the story.

"Krys knew what the Polyjuice Potion did to humans, but he didn't have any idea what would happen if a non-human used it. He could only hope it would work. While his body was transforming, he lost consciousness. When he woke up, he was a human, lying naked on the icy floor."

"Fortunately, the potion seemed to last much longer on non-humans. Instead of a mere hour, Krys didn't revert back into his serpent form until twelve hours had past. During his first twelve hours as a human, Krys had to learn how to walk on two legs. He had to learn how to use his hands. He had to keep himself from chasing mice."

The boys chuckled, and the girls giggled at this. They soon fell silent when Salazar told them that Krys wept when he saw Mendrel.

"For the first time," Salazar said, "Krys felt the great pain and sorrow that a human felt when a loved one was lost. It bothered him terribly to feel his heart so tight with grief and loneliness. When the potion wore off, he felt grateful that he had not been born as a human."

After this, Salazar quickened the pace of his story. "Early the next day, Krys reluctantly took more of the Polyjuice Potion. After assuming Mendrel's form, he went to the commode and washed himself clean before finding one of master's robes to wear. When the villagers arrived, he greeted them and politely asked them to leave."

"The villagers were stunned to say the least to find that Mendrel was still alive, and not only that, he looked as he did many years ago. He hadn't aged. They left as Krys asked them too, but never did Krys expected what happened next."

"Rumors sprang that Mendrel had discovered the Philosopher's Stone, which would grant its owner eternal life and endless wealth. Krys soon found himself having to deal with thieves, rogues and rascals who besieged the mansion in search of the Philosopher's Stone. No matter what he did, he couldn't convince the villagers that he didn't have such a rare artifact. Krys soon found it necessary to prepare more Polyjuice Potion, and he grew increasingly troubled, knowing that he couldn't pretend to be his master forever."

"Why is that?" asked one of the children, and Salazar explained that the Polyjuice Potion required a bit of the person the potion was supposed to change the drinker into. A strand of hair or a fingernail perhaps.

"Krys drew a line at this" said Salazar. "He wasn't about to cannibalize his master's body to continue being him." Then, a smile curved Salazar's lips, and he murmured, "Krys soon found the answer to his problems when a young witch broke into the mansion."

Everyone's eyes went wide at this, and Rowena covered her smiling mouth when Helga commented sagely, "Now, it gets interesting." Godric chortled, and Salazar grinned widely.

"Her name was Miria, and Krys caught her just as she was about to break into the master study." Everyone leaned forward, their faces all in smiles as Salazar continued with a flourish, "Miria challenged Krys to a duel with the prize being the Philosopher's Stone he supposedly had. Of course, Krys was amused by her spirit, but he was more impressed by her magical skills. She was the first to actually break into the mansion. She broke through both Mendrel's and Krys' protection magic."

"Ideas filled Krys' mind as he studied the witch in dueling posture in front of him. He was thinking that here was someone whose skill in magic actually rivaled his master's and his own. She could guard the mansion for him."

"Miria was very surprised when Krys offered to pay her to guard the mansion. Of course, she thought he was trying to trick her into lowering her guard, but Krys placed down his wand, which had been Mendrel's, on the floor and told her he was serious. He told her he needed her to protect the mansion."

"Krys explained to Miria that the rumors of there being a Philosopher's Stone at the mansion were untrue, and that all he wanted was to be left alone in peace. When Miria remained unconvinced, he offered to pay a hundred and twenty galleons in advance if she gave him her word that she would protect the mansion."

As Salazar described Miria's haggling to increase her fee, Godric shook his head, utterly impressed by Salazar's story. For someone who disliked telling tales, Salazar made an excellent storyteller.

Eyes twinkling with mischief, Salazar said, "Now, Miria was a very bright girl, and Krys, being who he was, was stupidly showing how desperate he was. Miria was also a very responsible girl. She had become a thief to support her mother, who was ill, and her two younger brothers. Her father had abandoned them to fend for themselves."

"Miria told Krys that she would only work for him if he allowed her and her family to live in the mansion. Krys hesitated when she told him her price. Then he told her that they could stay at the mansion on one condition, which was that they must never enter the west wing of the house."

At this point, Salazar explained that the master bedroom was located in the west wing of the mansion before continuing with the story.

"Miria agreed to guard the mansion, and Krys went into the study and came out with a sack full of gold, which he gave to Miria. He told her to go home and return with her family tomorrow. And so it was that Miria, her mother and her two little brothers came to live in the mansion."

"When they arrived at the house, Miria found a note in the foyer. Krys had written it. It said that they had free run of the house except for the west wing. Miria placed her brothers in charge of cleaning the dusty and moldy interior of the mansion while her mother, Jana, rested in one of many guestrooms. Perhaps it was because her children were being well provided for that Jana soon regained her health and strength. She took over the kitchens and made certain that her sons keep the mansion spic and span while her daughter guarded the house against thieves."

"As the days wore on by, they grew curious of Master Mendrel, who hadn't shown himself since their arrival. None of them could enter the west wing, which had been sealed with barrier magic. Miria could dispel it, but she didn't want to break the agreement she made with the lord of the house."

"I hope she breaks it soon," commented a thirteen-year old girl with a sigh.

"She will. She will," said Salazar, who was clearly enjoying himself. "One evening, Jana persuaded her daughter to enter the west wing and invite Master Mendrel to supper. Miria was reluctant, but she went anyway, for she had been searching for an excuse to see again the one who had employed her."

Here, Salazar broke off to tell his audience that Mendrel was a very handsome man with silver hair and green eyes, just like him. He hurriedly proceeded with the story before Helga could smack him with her staff.

"Miria broke through the barriers Krys had placed, but before she could reach the master bedroom, Krys, as Mendrel, met her along the way. He was angry that she had broken the terms of their agreement, and he ordered her to leave the west wing at once. However, Miria stood her ground and asked him to join them for dinner."

"Krys was startled by her request, his anger turning into surprise instead. When he recovered, he again told Miria to leave the west wing, but she refused to do so, saying that she would not leave unless he came along with her. In the end, Krys had no choice but to do as Miria wanted. He had supper with them that night."

Several children nodded with approval at this. Salazar continued, "Krys had a most enjoyable evening. The two boys, William and Kurt, had taken a liking to him, and Krys was entertained by their antics. They were the first human children he had ever met, and while watching them, a most splendid thought occurred to him."

What? Godric wondered as did everyone else who as listening to Salazar's story.

Salazar said, "Krys decided to adopt William and Kurt. They would become Mendrel's heirs. He felt his master, if he hadn't died, would have liked the two boys as much as Krys liked them. When it was their bedtime, Miria took her two brothers to their room, and Krys took the opportunity to ask their mother, Jana, for permission to adopt them."

"Jana was delighted when Krys told her his intention, and she agreed immediately. Her sons would become Master Mendrel's sons. Jana was also as shrewd as her daughter, Miria, and she took it one step further. She offered Miria as a bride to Krys, who was flabbergasted by the suggestion."

"He did accept, right?" demanded the girl who had made a comment earlier.

"No, he didn't," said Salazar amidst discontented noises from his audience. "Jana tried to convince Krys that taking Miria as his wife would help William and Kurt adjust to being his sons. She also pointed out that her daughter was young and beautiful, and she said that surely he must have noticed the way Miria looks at him."

"And what way is that?" called out one of the older boys in the back.

"Well..." But Salazar cut off just as he was about to answer that question. Helga was glaring at him, and Salazar said hastily, "You'll find that out on your own." He chuckled when groans of disappointment sounded from the back.

"Now, now. On with the story. Krys refused to marry Miria. He told Jana he just wanted to adopt William and Kurt. He heard a muffled noise behind him, and he turned to see Miria hurrying away from them."

"Krys, you idiot," said one of the girls in the front. The boys defended him, pointing out that he was a snake, and that how was he supposed to know how to deal with overly sensitive girls. Salazar continued the story before an argument could begin.

"Krys felt uncomfortable and not knowing why, he went after Miria. He found her in the garden-"

"An excellent location," interrupted Godric with a wry smile.

With a straight face, Salazar agreed that it was. Helga breathed out loudly while Rowena laughed. Ever proper when it came to dealings with women, Thomas shook his head at Godric and Salazar while the children looked at their chaperones with amused and watchful eyes.

After a few moments, Salazar said thoughtfully, "I think it is best if I skipped what happened in the garden." The children protested, and Helga was outraged that Salazar was telling them a story that had portions unsuitable for children.

Salazar was defensive. "Helga, I am not telling them that part."

"You should have thought of that before starting this story!"

"I didn't know it would come down to it."

Everyone fell silent. It was Godric who asked in an incredulous voice, "You have been making this story up as you told it?"

Salazar folded his arms in a stubborn manner, saying darkly, "You know I am not good at telling stories, Godric."

"I'm not saying it isn't a good story, Salazar," Godric said.

"Actually, it's too good," admitted Thomas in a reluctant tone of voice. Salazar brightened at this, and the children urged him to continue.

"That night, Krys experienced the most marvelous thing about being human. (Helga, don't jump to conclusions!) Krys didn't know it yet, but he had fallen in love with Miria."

"He still had no intentions of marrying her. It would cause too much trouble, but he began to spend more time with Miria and her family. Papers were soon drawn, and William and Kurt were adopted as Mendrel's sons. Krys also wrote a will that declared; that should anything happen to him, the mansion and the land it was on would rightfully go to William and Kurt. If they were not yet of age, their mother and sister would handle their affairs until they were."

Then, Salazar's expression turned serious, and he said, "Krys was now planning to leave them. He felt that he had fulfilled his duties to his master. The only thing left that bothered him was his feelings for Miria. He was beginning to realize that he cared deeply for her, and it was this very reason why he felt he had to leave."

Many of the children protested this turn of events, and Salazar shook his head at them, his face sad. "It is impossible for him and Miria to be together. It felt wrong to Krys, who also felt that he was betraying his master by continuing this pretense. He had no right to be the lord of this house. After all, he was only Mendrel's pet basilisk."

"Krys also felt guilty for deceiving Miria and for continuing to be with her. He knew that if he didn't leave, he would continue betraying his master's memory and continue deceiving the woman he loved."

"One evening, he prepared his Mendrel's body on the bed and removed the preservative salts from it. He had taken the Polyjuice Potion nearly twelve hours ago and very soon would be reverting back to his serpent form. Miria would be coming. At supper, he had asked her to come to his room after she had taken her brothers to their room. This was the only way, he had decided."

"When Miria opened the door, she saw a basilisk slithering out an open window. Krys heard her anguished scream when she found his master's dead body on the bed, but he didn't look back. He disappeared silently into the cold dark night and never again returned to the only home he had known."

"The end," said Salazar. His entire audience was silent. Then, the youngest of the children started to sniffle, and soon many of them were sobbing. They stumbled to their feet and went away to look for their parents, while the older children pretended to be unaffected by the story's sad ending.

Thomas was infuriated. He stomped over to Salazar and shouted, "Salazar, that was not an appropriate story to tell on All Hallows' Eve!"

Salazar glared at him. "It was a scary story," he said.

Thomas glared back. "No, it wasn't! It was a sad story!"

Salazar shrugged and said, "Sad stories are scary stories."

Thomas froze before throwing up his hands and stalking away. Godric, shaking his head, approached Salazar as he stood up from his tree stump, which vanished with a poof. Rowena and Helga also went towards him, and both women's eyes were unusually bright.

"That was a very beautiful story, Salazar," said Rowena in a slightly tremulous voice. Helga, looking teary-eyed, just nodded approvingly at Salazar.

Before they left, Godric put out the fire. High above them, the night sky was clear again with a bright full moon and countless twinkling little stars.

The End.