Salazar stepped from the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets, turning to look at the open tunnel for a long moment before hissing Close for the final time. His familiar, his basilisk would slumber until a Parselmouth returned to Hogwarts.
Returned to Hogwarts.
Something he would never do.
It had gone so wrong, this dream of theirs. Helga, Godric, Rowena… they had all changed so much. Lost sight of the ideal, the goal. The mission.
Or perhaps they'd never seen it at all, and he had been a fool.
But he could no longer be party to this, the dilution of their heritage, the endangerment of future generations.
Shaking himself from his thoughts, Salazar took a deep breath, adjusting his well-tailored robes, fingers fluttering over the green velvet tie that held back his black hair, then strode into the hall. Students stared, his own watching him respectfully, sorrowfully. Others gave him childish looks, scurried from his path.
They resented his views, his reason for leaving.
They did not understand.
Godric did not come to say farewell. Helga watched from a classroom door, her eyes wide, and overbright. She had always been so soft, so caring, even towards Salazar, who often shunned her affections. He nodded to her, and she turned away, her shoulders shaking.
He made it to the entrance hall before she found him.
He stopped, stiffening. He had both looked forward to, and dreaded this goodbye.
"You're really leaving us," the dark haired beauty said, her tone flat.
Really leaving me.
Salazar faced her, taking in her face, her presence for the last time. The curve of her lips, the rich brown hair firmly pinned into a bun. The teaching robes in her favorite shade of blue, the locket he had given her at her throat. Her face was unadorned, ink stained her fingers, and yet she still shone, a witch of strength, beauty, and purity.
"And you still will not come with me," Salazar said in his smooth baritone.
Rowena shook her head, lips turned down in a frown, "I will not break the vow we four made. I will not betray Godric and Helga."
I will not betray them as you have.
Salazar grit his teeth, eyes narrowing, "I am not the betrayer."
They stared at one another across the hall, the distance small, yet insurmountable.
Neither would yield.
Finally, Rowena moved, closing the gap. Salazar stiffened, waiting to feel her hands upon his face, waiting for her to test his resolve.
But she did not raise her hands to caress his cheeks. Instead she reached for the clasp of the locket, engraved with an ornate 'S.' Mutely, she held it out to him.
Salazar did not take it. "That was a gift. So I – " he stopped himself, disgusted with the sickeningly sweet path his words were taking. He rephrased, "Keep it. In remembrance."
Her lips twitched before she mastered herself, the only indication that she was affected at all. She released the locket. Reflexively, Salazar drew his wand, levitating it to his hand before it could hit the floor.
"You aren't the man I want to remember," she said tightly.
Salazar clutched the locket, meeting Rowena's eyes. The metal dug into his palm.
And you are the woman I will never forget he replied in parseltongue, knowing that she would not rest until she had deciphered his last words to her.
She would never be able to forget him. Not now.
Slipping the locket into his pocket, Salazar went through the grand entrance of Hogwarts for the last time.
Though he did not look back, he slipped his hand into his pocket to curl his fingers around the golden chain of the locket, still warm from Rowena's skin.