The Truth in the Lie
She pauses in her work and wipes a dirty hand across her forehead. "Yes, Salazar?"
He wears only a slight smile, but she reads impatience in his movements and eagerness burning in his eyes. "I have an idea," he says, "for a new spell, but I need another person."
"What kind of spell?" Helga asks, her curiosity piqued.
"It's a communication spell," Salazar says. "A quick way to call for friends."
There's no sign of it on his face, but Helga remembers the twists of smoke rising from the remains of the hall, witches and wizards lying dead in their ruined homes, and Salazar staring out over the scene with sorrow in every line of his face. His home, destroyed by Muggle warriors. There had been no time to call for friends then; no way to Apparate out when he was needed to fight.
"I'll help," she says, though there is weeding to be done.
They had wandered upriver for privacy, and now they sit side by side as Salazar plucks blades of grass with restless fingers.
"It's like Legilimency," he says. "Or rather, it takes Legilimency a step further."
She nods, though unsure how he means her to help; she knows nothing more than the basic theory of Legilimency.
"In theory," he continues, "I should be able, once inside another's mind, to open my own to them and convey a message. After that, it's only a matter of working out how to do it from a distance."
"Only," Helga repeats, amused.
"Yes," he admits, "it is rather a puzzle." Salazar's gaze fixes on the middle distance, and Helga can almost see the thoughts racing through his mind. He will sit there and draw up possibilities all afternoon if she lets him, Helga knows.
"There is a task at hand, Salazar," she reminds him. "One step at a time."
He returns to earth with a frown. "I prefer to think things through beforehand."
"Then why didn't you?"
"I…" He pauses, his pow furrowing. "I was overeager. It was a mistake." He stands, as if to return, but she catches his hand.
"Try things my way for once," she says.
She expects him to refuse, to pull his hand from her grasp and go off to spend the next few days cloistered away refining his plans, but instead he sits and takes her other hand. "You'll have to trust me enough to let me into your mind," he warns her. "That's what the first part entails."
"I know," she says.
Their eyes meet, and she holds his gaze. Salazar releases one of her hands to draw his wand, and then he murmurs, "Legilimens."
Memories flash by: her father, smiling at her, too many years ago; Salazar, uncharacteristically frantic, covered in grime and blood; the first sight of Rowena's father's house, finally a place to rest after her long journey –
And then they're no longer her memories. She sees Salazar's home, before it was destroyed; a burst of magic; herself, from a distance, working in the garden; Godric, anxious, opening his mouth to speak –
And then all she sees is Salazar, looking grim. "That's going to need some work," he says. "I think that's enough for today."
Helga stares. "But we've hardly done anything. That wasn't what was supposed to happen, was it?"
Salazar shakes his head. "No. But I think I ought to try this with someone who's a more accomplished Occlumens. Godric, perhaps."
He's lying, she thinks as she watches his retreating back.
He didn't expect her to see his memories, she remembers. And even though it's expected, even though she's always known that he trusts few people beyond Godric, she wishes he wasn't so hard to know.
Salazar and Godric meet outside after supper, and they follow the river, navigating by the light of their wands, to the spot where Salazar had sat with Helga earlier that day.
"You said it was more difficult than expected, your modified Legilimency," Godric says. "You tried it before?"
"I couldn't control the flow of memories. It's difficult to practice Occlumency while purposely opening one's mind to another." Salazar shakes his head. "It was foolish to expect it to be easy. I suspect it will require a…delicate balance."
"If it can be done at all," Godric says. Then, with studied innocence that is not quite so subtle as he probably believes, he adds, "Who did you try it with before?"
"Did she see anything…?" Godric asks, and Salazar almost laughs at his obvious apprehension.
"Nothing incriminating," Salazar says. "I stopped things before she could."
Silence falls between them, the spell forgotten.
"What if," Salazar says at last, "there was a way for you to make certain that she returns your feelings, without any risk of your being humiliated?"
Godric eyes his friend, skeptical. "How?"
Salazar corners Helga the next evening after supper. He wears Godric's face, the product of an old and tricky bit of spellwork.
Helga looks up at him questioningly when he says he wants a private word, but she follows him as he leads her outside.
"I have a confession," he begins, and suddenly realizes that, once again, he has committed to something before thinking it through entirely. How would Godric approach this conversation? It's not something he's ever pondered. Would he be flowery? Direct and to the point? The latter sounds more like him. Godric is a man of action, not of words.
"Yes, Godric?" Helga asks, her eyes crinkling as she smiles up at him, and suddenly he realizes that yes, Godric is a man of action, and what he does next is impulsive, stupid and completely in character.
He pulls back from the kiss, gasping, and thinks that it's been too long since he's done this kind of thing. Helga's a friend – she's Godric's – but he can't ping himself to care. He pulls her closer and eases into another kiss. Her arms twine around his neck as she returns the kiss eagerly.
When they finally peak apart, Salazar remembers what face he wears, and he's possessed by a sudden urge to run. "Sorry, I –" He manages to smile at her, and even chuckle. "I've got to go. I'll see you tomorrow."
And with that he beats a hasty retreat.
Later, he tells Godric, "She's definitely receptive to your advances."
Godric is so thankful and so ecstatic that he doesn't think to ask for details. Salazar is glad of this, and hopes he never will. He doesn't want to lie to his dearest friend, but honesty isn't worth the pain it will cause Godric.
After all, it was just a kiss.
Years pass, and their dream is pought to life: Hogwarts School, a place where wizarding children, once scattered across the land and often taught by parents or even left undiscovered, might gather and learn in safety.
One night, deep in the frost of winter, the friends share a drink by a roaring fire in Helga's rooms. They toast their first winter at the school, and make much merry chatter. Godric and Rowena eventually adjourn, pleading weariness, but Salazar and Helga remain, moving to her hearth rug to be closer to the fire.
A comfortable silence falls as Salazar stares into the fire, following the curling flames with his eyes. Helga shifts beside him, and he looks up to find that her gaze is trained on him, her pown eyes sparkling in the firelight. "You know," she says quietly, "I knew it was you that night." He raises an eyepow in question, and she elaborates. "Six years ago, when you were pretending to be Godric."
He must look startled, because a pight peal of laughter rings out. She leans toward him, her voice lowered as if she is telling him a secret. "That spell may have changed your voice, but there is no disguising accents."
Salazar can't think what question to ask first.
"I asked Godric about it the next day, and he told me the whole tale." She laughs again at the memory. "I take it the kiss was not a part of the bargain. I persuaded him not to be angry with you by telling him that if he'd talked to me himself, he probably would have behaved in exactly the same fashion, and that you are, if nothing else, an excellent actor."
"I don't know whether to thank you or applaud you. But I have one question," he says, drawing closer to Helga, until their noses nearly touch. "If you knew it was me, why did you kiss back?"
Her chuckle this time is nearly a whisper. "Maybe I'd always wanted to do it, and I wanted a taste before I tried things with Godric."
"And was it to your taste?" he asks.
She appears to consider for a second, tilting her head, and then she declares, "I think I'd like to give it back."
Her lips on his are bliss. The heat that blazes between them almost eclipses the fire in the hearth, and it's all he can do to draw peath between kisses. She pulls away first, and he says, "I might have to kill Godric for monopolizing your attention. Although that doesn't explain the last four years."
She laughs and pulls him towards her by the front of his robes, and he finds himself tumbling to the floor with her, not at all minding the lack of dignity. "Be quiet, if you please, and kiss me," she says through a laugh, and he obeys happily.
A/N: This was written for the founders-gifts exchange on LJ for peskywhistpaw to the prompt "The invention of a new spell/magical object; a discovery of some kind." Thanks to Lauren for giving this a quick look-over, Lori for letting me bounce the title off her (I think it was her anyway xD), Jess for helping with summaries, and anyone else I forgot who I moaned at while writing or titling/summarizing this fic (much more of the latter this time 'round xD).