Warnings: Starts with useless trivia about the number 7, fluff, mentions of mild child abuse and neglect, contains random crackpot theories that the author thought up in the space of maybe ten seconds.
Disclaimers: Harry Potter belongs to Joanne Kathleen Rowling and associates, of whom I am not one. Information on the number seven altered from what was found on Wikipedia.
Rowena frowned. She was in the Great Hall, eating supper with her siblings. She had quite pointedly sat Godric between herself and the empty seat that would be Helga's if the old maid had bothered to come to dinner. Of course, it was only because Rowena knew that Helga wouldn't come that she had. The fury she worked up from their fight hadn't quite worked itself down yet, especially when her sister had insinuated that she neglected her duties as a wife.
So what if she went rarely home to Sir Ravenclaw? He was just as busy as she; as a knight-wizard of 49, he was high ranked in Avalon's extended ranks and had to take his job seriously to protect any magical persons in Londinium, as Rowena had to take seriously her duties of preparing and protecting the precious children of the wizarding world. If he would send her a missive stating he wanted her home to bear him a son, she would certainly make time to do so, and extort a fertility potion from her sister beforehand for surety.
It wasn't her fault Sir Ravenclaw had never called her to bed in their 6 years of marriage. Or, indeed, called her anywhere but to be on his arm when there was a gathering for a festival day at Avalon, as he would soon for Lughnasa if he did not forego as he had at Samhain the year prior.
This, however, was not why she was frowning now.
Apparently, Godric had updated the wards that afternoon and roped Salazar into keeping She calm. She had no name, would not suffer to be given a human appellation, content to be referred to as only "She" and "The Snake" – but never The Serpent, for implying she could be related to the seagoing beasts was a serious affront. She was a basilisk, a creature of great power and renown across the globe. Rowena had overseen the hatching herself, fearing that Salazar' lack of magic would put him in danger of the serpent's eyes, even if he was a parselmouth, just like the rest of them. She was an important part of the castle's defenses, one that could kill attackers with a glance once called upon.
And such a defense was an unfortunate necessity. Some wizards balked at the idea of needing protection from them, but the occasional burning was always something that Rowena kept note of. Muggles were dangerous. And though only two of their students thus far were from muggle families... well, the reason for the lack was not the numbers, but the refusals and, often, the discovery that after they had gone to the families to request a child attend Hogwarts, the ones Avalon didn't catch first, the child was not there a week later.
To Rowena, who loved children and found them cute, even peasant children like Harry (though, for a peasant he was really quite exceptional with his large bright eyes and delicate, almost fae-like features), it was an absolute shame.
No, She was certainly a necessity, in addition to being a spectacular source for potions ingredients - most of which were sold at a high price to fund the school - they needed her to defend the school in case some muggle King made the error of thinking they could burn down a place of magic.
And until she and Godric finished their experimentation to produce a muggle repellent, it was simply too much of a risk.
An equal risk, however, had been taken that day. They had had no way to know that Harry was a parselmouth. No way to know She would not accidentally kill the boy while Godric worked. They had risked the life of a 7 year old boy - and so rare was it that children lived to that age, between bad birthings, ailments, disasters, and everything in between! - on a whim.
And then let She open her eyes before him!
Oh if she could have hexed her brothers within inches of their lives she would have, but Godric's power was greater than hers, blowhard though he was, and Salazar was a slippery man. He may not have been worthy of Magic's blessing, but he was devious and could run away faster than she could catch him.
Rowena loved her brothers dearly, to be sure, but they were tiresome. Godric was more than a little self important - without his twin present he would likely be telling tales of how he single handedly made everything magically possible in history - and more bloody-minded than Rowena thought healthy to be around children, but he was kind in his way, quick to praise but when his ire was stoked it was immense.
Rowena could, though hesitantly, admit she shared this flaw.
And Salazar... well, he never talked. Oh he said things, he made points, but he did not converse. He didn't share his ideas with her. When Rowena and that Old Maid were on decent terms, even they could share ideas and plot together, but Salazar never allowed Rowena in his head and it was maddening. And her legilimancy was so poor that she could never find out through sneakier means, that was always Helga's territory and she just didn't care. That their brother was so secretive infuriated Rowena immensely.
Why, for all he ever told her, Salazar could be the father of the waif sharing their meal!
That was what caused Rowena to frown.
She could be sharing the table with a relative, the child of her own half-brother, and she would have no idea because if it were the case Salazar would never tell her unless he publicly took the boy. And if the child were his, and he had no taken the child in as of yet or seen to it that the boy went to Avalon, he wouldn't unless the child passed some sort of test to gain his trust.
That was just how Salazar was. He hadn't trusted Rowena until he passed one of his silly tests, she hadn't even known she was being tested until one day he barely spoke to her on her latest visit to Avalon, and the next he gave her a flower and his blessing to marry.
It was maddening.
So Rowena frowned, and she ate, and she watched.
In a similar state one seat over, Godric was mulling things over in his own way. Unlike Rowena, who just frowned disapprovingly at everything in a frightening imitation of her mother, Godric thought behind his words and boisterous tales. He was regaling the child seated on the opposite side of his sister with a tale of his latest battle, how he had been fighting a quitaped that some fool wizard-knight had had imported to a nearby town for castle defense only to discover that quintapeds attacked wizards and muggles alike.
Although they were twins, Godric and Salazar had seen each other sparingly. Salazar as a babe had been special in their father's eyes somehow, Godric never knew what made him so special but when Taliesin Merlin came to the birthing of the twins and informed their mother that, at the child's weening, the younger twin - or, as Salazar was to Merlin, his first son - would be sent directly to Avalon, she had not argued. Godric grew up running in the fields of the farm their mother worked on while Salazar was made to grow up as a quiet scholar. And it was something that, at Godric's last meeting with their father, the first time his father had ever met him, the Merlin received wholehearted thanks that he was not chosen for that.
Godric had chosen lions to symbolize the founding of his House - both in the school and his future descendants - for good reason. He wanted to run and hunt and fight and even kill if the moment was right for it. He would not have enjoyed growing up quietly.
So it made sense that even in thinking his tendencies were opposite his brothers. When Salazar thought he was silent. When Godric thought, he was louder than ever.
"That was when the dread beast knocked my sword away with one of its five legs and made a dash for me!" Godric's motions were broad as he gestured with a half-eaten piece of his dinner in hand. "I dove away and summoned my sword, thrusting it upward just in time as the Quintaped tried to jump upon me, and one of its legs was severed before it could skitter away."
"What he does not mention is that the beast in question was merely an adolescent, and only so large as yourself, Harry, rather than larger than he," Salazar interrupted. The child darted glances, unbelieving. Godric didn't mind the interruption, but he played along. His twin had mentioned Harry didn't eat much when focused on his food, but he had been eating steadily since Godric began speaking, so why not encourage the boy to eat more than the paltry peasant meals he was surely accustomed to?
"A quintaped in adolescence is more violent than one in adulthood," Godric defended himself. "As you yourself have told me many a time, an adolescent denied the hunt is as able to kill a nundu as it is a wizard."
Godric was far from the creatures expert his brother was, but he knew well enough how to handle dangerous ones by now. It was hard not to after apprenticing to a wizard-knight for his seven year apprenticeship.
In was after dinner, as the sun fell from the sky and painted it in blood that Rowena bid a house elf to take the child away to one of the unused student rooms for the night, and she turned upon Salazar.
If Godric didn't know she considered his squib brother the more responsible of them, he might have wondered at it.
"You took him to see She?" Gone was the near fae-like chiming voice Rowena normally put on, and in its place an angry hiss, almost parseltongue for all its lowness, could be heard. Quite good that Harry had been sent to bed then. "You took a future student of our halls, a child of but seven years, to see She?"
Salazar surveyed his sister, eyes held in shadow by his brow but lit by the candle between then, killing the green in them savagely. "Would you not consider that an appropriate, insurmountable task of Magic?" Salazar responded finally. "That it was not so is not debatable," he continued as Rowena opened his mouth. "But it was possible. That that was no adequate task says something."
Rowena and Godric waited for more.
And they waited.
Salazar said nothing.
Godric furrowed his brow. Facing down a basilisk for one who does not know they are a parselmouth would be more than an adequate task, he should think, even for one who was, as Helga put it, "coddled" by Magic.
But the task wasn't enough.
"He'll be in worse danger before he leaves us then," Rowena said before Godric. "What could be more dangerous than She? Should I be expecting a dragon to fly through my tower on the morrow?"
"Unless danger is the wrong way," Godric countered. "Helga's task... you remember she told us about how she had to work a day in the fields of some Eastern lord, one tiny room-sized rice paddy that she had to tend to for a day? Hers wasn't a test of danger but stubbornness, hard work."
"And poor father's test of time," Salazar concurred. "I do not think he was sent to us to face a danger. Were there one to face, we would know it first, and he should never have the chance to face it. Sending a child born presumably of muggles, else at least raised by them the greater portion of his life, to three wizards who could better combat any foe than he? It is more complicated than that."
"Born of muggles..." Godric sat back in his chair and glared at the far wall. He hated muggles. Was afraid of them, as he could so easily admit. They frightened him with their war machines and constant attacks on magical persons. They were too aware of magical people, when they encountered them. And it was all too easy to be killed by muggles when you weren't watching your back.
Logically speaking, he supposed, muggles feared wizards as much or more. Very imaginative buggers, they could probably come up with ideas for more twisted, torturous applications for magic than any trained wizard would dare to dream of. Paranoia, in his opinion. Anyone who used such spells on muggles was immediately set to be hunted down by the wizard-knights of Avalon.
"Maybe Magic can't accept him until he accepts it?" Godric posited finally. "It would fit. The boy flinched at the mere mention of magic. Most muggle children at least consider the idea of magic being good at the start, at least when we visit them. If his family was killed by witches? Or the other way around?"
It was mostly idle prattle, but Salazar and Rowena both nodded along. They obviously considered it a viable idea, and it was the only one Godric had. Maybe Salazar had had the idea first and wanted someone else to voice it first - he always had been the humble sort, damn father and Avalon - but perhaps Godric had had an idea on his own that was considered good.
No one had ever dared say that Godric Gryffindor had rocks for brains. Else he wouldn't be a teacher, he supposed.
"Helga hovered him when he tripped this morning, absolutely terrified the boy," Rowena said after a moment. "He had been hiding, he must have heard unfamiliar voices, and tried to run when the bed was lifted. I know you, Salazar, are usually the one to retrieve new students, but do they ever react like that to simple hoverring?"
"Only a few times has any wizard-knight accompanying me through their domain ever seen fit to demonstrate in that way... but no, the children are normally delighted," Salazar stated. "'Like a fairy story' they say."
The siblings sat in silence as they finished their desserts, thinking, and at length Salazar dismissed himself wordlessly to tend his plants that needed midnight's light to grow. Godric sagged back further in his seat and eyed his young sister.
"Coby, a drink!" He called after another moment. With the child gone he was free to get better acquainted with something a bit more invigorating than lager. "Should've known the boy was trouble, looking like Salazar as he does."
Rowena only nodded with a sigh before ordering her own poison from the elf.
In her den, Helga stirred.
The potion turned a rather comely shade of cream before she added the powder in her hand, turning the liquid clearer than any crystal, with only the faintest of gray hues to it.
In her anger she had not been idle, no, that was never her way. Helga's magic had accepted her only because of her hard work and determination, and just because her sister could be so petty as to make any argument not her fault, at least Helga was aware of her own faults and could work through them. It was her drive for hard work and her determination to leave nothing unfinished that drove her to work on this potion, which happened to require the heat of roiling emotions rather than flame, and she smiled lightly at her success.
Potions, she could say without any hint of sarcasm, were wonderously confusing things. As a master in the art, she felt she had more right to say this than her neophyte students, who could barely remember to stir, let alone think to wonder at why.
This particular potion was not one with a name or use that would make one think anger would be useful in. The only other potions requiring anger were those used to make a blood feud official, something the heads of families carried upon their persons at all times but hoped to never require, or else in some rather vicious poisons hidden in old Egyptian tomes. This potion was special.
Invented by Easterners, Chinamen, it was a potion for determining ascension to a throne. Because of the patriarchal society, rather than Avalon's matriarchal, there would always be the question of whether the son of a King was his son, when it was always true who the mother was. Egyptians solved this through sons marrying their mothers or sisters. Chinese wizards instead discovered how to tell blood true.
The best translation she received of the potion's name was "Blood Truth Serum", but it sounded ridiculous to Helga, and she wasn't the only potions master who called it instead the Father's Blood.
If Helga were to take the potion, it would take the two strongest male sources of her magic and genetics. One of those would undoubtedly be her father, the Merlin Taliesin, but the next most powerful source she did not know. Her mother's family wasn't known for magical strength, and it would be nearly a thousand years until her own father's birth. It was likely she would never have heard of whatever man it was.
No, the potion was not for her, nor her siblings, who would all likely have similar results, though their mothers had been stronger tan Helga's.
It was for the strange boy who, as the elves had just told her, was sleeping in a small room in Rowena's tower. Although Helga preferred to do her own work, she had needed her anger for her potion and had the elves keep her up to date on the goings on of the castle.
So she knew about the fact that the child, Harry, did not know who his parents were. So he could be born of magic, as its coddling suggested.
Likewise, she knew of his encounter with She.
Helga believed in hard work above all, but even with the altercations between her and her sister, Helga wouldn't abandon family, and the boy could be just that. Perhaps descended of another child of Merlin's. It was known that the Merlin hadn't died until fifty years ago, and in his millennium of life, the Merlin had told her he had fathered five daughters and no sons until Salazar and Godric. The women at Avalon said he fathered two before her, meaning that if the boy was in his right time, he could be her cousin, and if not, he could yet be simply because of magic.
Simply put, Helga was curious.
She bottled the concoction, readied for sale to help with funds for the school, and took down her chalice from the mantle.
It was a rather simple goblet all told, passed down in Helga's mother's family for three centuries now. Her great grandfather had found it, nearly dead, when he ventured to what the Romans, Jews, and Arabs considered holy land, the Node of the Middle East, a now-dry node of magical power that had once sustained the beginning of human life and human learning. Now a desert, the once fertile lands had enough of a magical aura still to perform the occasional miracle, and magical children born there, though rare, were often so thoroughly saturated with power that they underwent no trial.
He had found the chalice in a cave he took shelter in one night from the cold. He had cast a simple incantation to conjure water inside it, and upon drinking found himself revitalized, all wounds healed, and his complaining joints appeased.
There were few who ever learned that the family of Hufflepuff held the Holy Grail, the cup imbued with blood so saturated in magic it turned the cup itself into a Philosopher's Stone, simple wood becoming pure gold and all water that entered it a heady wine known as the elixir of life.
Helga smiled. She did not use this cup lightly. Wizards lived long enough, and her grandfather's luck was not to be used to her advantage. But the healing properties within, combined with the Father's Blood, would perhaps make the boy not so runty and help fulfill the potential of his blood in the future. Even she could tell something had interfered with his development. Perhaps even too stern a hand.
Bearing a phial of Father's Blood and her chalice hidden in her cloak, Helga went to the boy's chambers and knocked but thrice before entering.
The boy, the elves had told her, had not yet entered his bed. They had not told her he was staring at it in wide-eyed fascination, as if he had never seen a bed so grand. Which, in fairness, she supposed he likely had not unless his caretakers were servants to a lord.
"Boy," Helga said only that one word, and the boy wheeled about. "Have a drink of this, then to sleep." She pulled out the cup, pouring the contents of her phial within, and presented it to him, the order obeyed soundlessly and without question. If he kept drinking and eating everything told without questioning what it was, he was going to be poisoned one of these days.
There was instantly color that had not been there before, and the boy thanked her quietly before crawling atop the large feather bed. Helga bid him sleep well, her mind twisting around itself.
As expected, two names had curled out of his mouth when he finished the drought. One was written in roman lettering and gone before she could decipher it, but the second name was very very clear in her mind's eye.
Author's Note: Sorry this took 2 years, but hopefully I'm back on now. I actually tried writing this a lot of times... then a few days ago I deleted the entire chapter, started anew, and found myself able to write it. Which I only did because my boyfriend had my laptop and I had nothing to do. Fancy that.
Spring Break, but don't expect another of these for a month or more as I have Sakuracon coming up soon, and college classes and what not. Hopefully I will have this story completed before the start of summer.
Oh, and the Holy Grail thing? Another idea that came from me randomly in high school. I have twice attempted writing the story that would have used it, and have since decided that, y'know what? All those ideas I had for that other founder fic, if I want to, I will use here because that one will never be written. Ever.
Samsara and The Green World should each be updated soon. They are each about half through their next chapters anyway.