Hey all. I know you all are probably overwhelmed by the amount of author's notes in these things. Probably a good indication of my need to grow as a writer, but bear with me! I just wanted to take a moment to apologize about my snail slow updates. I do promise to see this story through to the end, however long it takes. But I've been dealing with depression again lately. For me, it partly manifests as a loss of will to do things. I've also hit a writer's block so the combination has been killer. I am trying, but I apologize for how long it is taking me. Though with how long it has taken me from the beginning, it really is interesting to see how I've grown as a writer. At least I think so.
IMPORTANT: I got asked questions, I have answered them in the story because it seemed more fun that way. So enjoy! Oh, but one question: Teufel1987, I don't use a lot of the listed languages often, but I just found it smoother to use different formatting for different languages. It's because I'm the type of person that doesn't read every word. I often read every other word subconsciously and my brain fills in the gaps. It means I often have to reread things when I realize that I've missed something important. That being said, I find it's easier for me to have different formatting for each language because then I know it's in a different language. But I'll try in the future to also make note of it in the writing what language is being used so it flows better for everyone. Now read on for the answers to your other questions too!
Okay, so having trouble with translating some things correctly from English. I'll try to still use translated words occasionally, but I'll write everything in English while making note of what is actually being spoken in another language. Make sense? Oh… and so I was doing some more in depth research and found out that the Founders probably would have spoken Pictish rather than Scottish Gaelic, though they would have known Scottish Gaelic as it was the court language so to speak. Oh, my goodness it's all so confusing. Oh, and written language probably would have been Latin. So:
"Old Norse is in italics."
"Pictish is in italics and bolded."
'Scottish Gaelic is bold and is quoted with apostrophes.'
"Written Latin is underlined and in italics."
"Parseltongue is underlined."
'Fawkes speaking is in italics and is quoted with apostrophes.'
If any other languages pop up over the course of the story, I will make note of it as well. I will also post this key at the beginning of following chapters to make it easier to remember. (This list is getting quite long…)
Once the two creatures were gone, Salazar rolled up his sleeves and quickly prepared for the lesson by setting out the needed ingredients at each station. Once finished, he settled at his desk for the students to arrive and got a bit of a head start on the essays he still needed to grade. And if he took a small dose of Pepperup potion, that was no one's business but his own.
The next morning, Salazar was awake before the sun. He made his offerings and then took a seat at his desk to pen a letter to Hilde before he went to meet Blaise down on the grounds. The raven appeared on the back of his chair with a flutter of wings as Salazar pulled out a fresh sheet of parchment and his inkwell. Dipping a quill into the ink, he thought a moment before smiling to himself.
"Your mother is a wise woman, Hilde Eiriksdottir. It is when we succumb to our fear that they rob us of any honour, that warriors make mistakes that cost them the lives of both themselves and their comrades. The moment we run and hide is the moment that we have lost. I will keep her advice as my own and thank you for sharing it. On another note, I am glad that you had enjoyed my visit and my story. The bright face of a child always brightens even the darkest of hours. I fight to protect ones like you so that you shall not have to do so yourself. I do appreciate your offer of aide though and I shall keep it in mind. To fight alongside shield brothers and sisters once more would strengthen my hope for a resolution to this war. But tell me of Winternights. Here we only celebrated for a single night as we combined it with the Celtic observation of Samhain. It was a good feast, but I miss the revelry of Vetrnaetr.
Take care and may the blessings of the gods be upon you, Hilde Eiriksdottir.
Salazar signed the letter and then rolled it with some ribbon. A quick spell protected it for the journey and sealed it with a bit of green wax. After he had tied it securely to the raven's foot, Salazar carried the raven outside on his shoulder. He saw the bird off before he went to join Blaise as he waited by the shoreline of the lake. From there the run loosened his tense body and brought a sense of peace to his mind. These stolen moments in the morning to train with Blaise would be ones he looked forward to. Blaise too seemed to be enjoying himself and Einar had joined them later on.
But he had many things to attend to, so once they had finished for the day Salazar hurried inside for a quick shower before he caught the end of breakfast. As he finally made his way down to the Hall, he looked forward to a hopefully uneventful breakfast. He had had quite enough with the surprises and the excitement over the last few days.
But the newspaper headline that greeted him from the Daily Prophet was enough to want him to throw his porridge across the Hall. Decorum and iron will killed that impulse, but he still swore beneath his breath as he smoothed out the crisp pages of the Daily Prophet.
In bold letters declared that Dumbledore's "dark secrets" were revealed. Beneath the article was a picture of a journalist named Rita Skeeter. The very image of the woman left a bad taste in his mouth. She was apparently to release a book entitled, "The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore." Rather a bold title in his opinion. And likely part of a diversion to bring notice away from the changes of the Ministry.
Skimming through the nauseatingly glowing review of the book, Salazar skipped down to the description instead. "'Stripping away the popular image of serene, silver-bearded wisdom, Rita Skeeter reveals the disturbed childhood, the lawless youth, the lifelong feuds and the guilty secrets Dumbledore carried to his grave,'" he murmured out loud. "She's certainly a sensationalist, is she not?"
There was an irritated huff next to him and Salazar glanced over to look at Hermione. "She certainly kept her quill to herself. A year I told her. And she followed it to the letter. Exactly as soon as a year was up, she went back to her old ways. I should have just handed her over to Professor Dumbledore when I had the chance," the woman grumbled, pulling on a curly lock of her hair.
"I get the feeling that it is best that I have no idea what you are talking about," he responded wryly and held back a smile when it made a blush blossom across Hermione's cheeks.
The professor stood up then as she cleared her throat. "Yes, quite. I'll see you at lunch, Herrick? So we might actually discuss my findings?" She threw him a smile before gathering up the stack of books in front of her. She disappeared down through a side door after getting a quick acquiescence from Salazar. He watched after her in amusement before returning to his breakfast. He was not about to let the likes of Skeeter spoil his meal. He doubted there would be much actual consumption at lunch anyhow. So, once he had finished, he gathered the paper and excused himself quietly. He had classes to prepare.
But as luck would have it, it was not until after dinner that the group was able to come together in the Room of Requirement. He had spent lunch in his office alone, only to be visited by a red faced Hermione just a short while before classes were meant to resume for the day. Salazar had to hold back his amusement as she explained that she had taken his advice to sleep in her free block before lunch, but then had slept right through lunch as well. Instead they made plans to meet up after dinner in the Room of Requirement. When the time came, as he walked towards the Room, the twins joined him in his trek. Salazar ignored them in favour of his own thoughts and the book he held in his hand. The two Weasleys seemed engrossed in their own conversation anyhow so Salazar left them alone. Yet, as they climbed one of the staircases, it was then that it suddenly decided to change direction.
Immediately, Salazar let out a curse as he grabbed onto the stone railing. "Bloody contraption! I would like to know just who had the positively brilliant idea to create moving staircases in a bloody castle! It is an absolute wonder that any of the children actually make it to their classes on time!" He shot the snickering twins a glare as he stalked up the rest of the stairs, already having recalculated his route.
"You mean this wasn't your idea, Herrick?" He didn't turn to see which twin had spoken and also ignored the new wave of laughter the question brought forth.
"Hardly! Godric was accident prone enough. He did not need moving staircases added to that mix," Salazar huffed. "Honestly, I have to question half the changes that have happened in my school! Moving staircases. Ha!" He knew that some of the eccentricities of the castle were partly in due to the castle gaining a mind of its own. Hogwarts was alive in a way and, over the years, had gained her own personality. And a stationary object such as a castle had to find amusement somewhere. He just wished that, as a Founder, it would have saved him from most of said eccentrics!
Salazar gathered himself before he finally arrived at the room to find that Hermione, Luna, Blaise, William, Charles, and Einar had all gathered already. Frederick ad George entered behind him. Once they were seated, Hermione immediately spread out her research.
"Herrick? What exactly did the king tell you was the location of the sword?" Hermione started as she took a seat.
"He called it Murkwood. That word exactly," he responded as he pulled one of the sheets closer to him. "I think now he might have been purposefully misleading. To, perhaps, throw us off."
Charles pulled closer some parchment as well, glancing over it. "How so? I remember reading the muggle books by Tolkien. Mirkwood is a forest in the story. How is it a real place here? The king wouldn't have known about Tolkien's works."
Hermione gave a smug grin then as she opened up a large tome that sat in front of her. "I think that the king used the anglicized version of Myrkviðr. Translated more fully, it means dark forest. Or a variation thereof. Now Einar said that the Forbidden Forest here was once called the Black Forest once upon a time. I even found a reference to Mirkwood in one of the older copies of Hogwarts: A History. The name Murkwood, I think, is more of a description than one true place. It's what gave me the idea."
She bounced back to her feet then and pulled up a clean chalkboard. "I have narrowed it down to six places." She flicked her wand as she hoisted the large tome into her arms. "The first is the Ore Mountains. As I told Herrick though, it's a location closer to Germany so I have my doubts it's the real location." She taped the board and the name was scrawled across the top. "The second location I came up with is the Maeotian marshes. According to my research, it was said to have separated the Goths from the Huns. The source is the Hervarar saga." She tapped the board again to write the name. "The third and fourth locations are rather unlikely too, but I found mention of both a forest that separated the Huns from the Burgundians as well as a forest by the name of Kolmarden. That one is in Sweden and is mentioned in some legends."
Hermione flipped a page in the tome and scrawled across the top of the board before continuing. "Ah, there is a remnant of a forest that located south of Uppsala, also in Sweden. It's called Lunsen now. Uppsala was important to the Norse as far as I could tell, so I thought it was worth looking into." She paused a bit, nibbling on her lower lip as she read something in her book. "Now, the last possible location is more just vague mentions in various sagas. From what I understand, it is described as a place being between Asgard and Muspelheim. We can probably write off that one, like I told Herrick. I doubt our dead king made it to what I think is a parallel plane. Still, I have it on the list, just in case."
"Well. I suppose it gives up a place to start," William said with a groan as he rubbed his face.
The twins cackled then, draping themselves over their brother. "We thought you were a cursebreaker in Egypt, oh brother of ours! Where is your sense of adventure?"
"I left it in Egypt," the man said dryly, though a small smirk tugged at the corners of his mouth. He shrugged his brothers off of him though. "Still, Hermione, were you able to narrow it down any further? Or at least give us a better place to start?"
The young woman gave a little nod and circled where she had written out Maeotian marches. "I think we should start here." She turned back to the group then. "I decided to dig a bit more into Angantyr Heidreksson himself. It was a bit hard since there really isn't much to go on and he wasn't a wix even though he managed to possess a magic sword. From what I could gather, he was once the king of what was known as Reidgotalandi at the time. This was considered the land of the Goths. I did also happen to find an Angantyr that was mentioned in the Hervarar saga, though I'm not entirely positive if they're the same or not."
Blaise raised a hand partly in the air, drawing attention. "Fascinating. However, how does this point us in the way of the marshes? A marsh is vastly different from a forest."
Hermione flushed lightly and her cheeks puffed up just a bit in a pout. "I am getting to that! As I found out, the Maeotian marshes is a somewhat antiquated name for the swamp at the mouth of the Tanais river, or Don river. The marshes fed into the Sea of Azov which is above the Black Sea, so the marshes are in what is modern day Russia. Its's the very edges of where the king reigned once upon a time, but I think it's the best place to start. Just because it's a marsh doesn't mean that there isn't a tree! It's possible too that the sword's resting place has some sort of shielding around it to keep it away from muggles. The magic itself in the sword might have leeched into the tree it's supposedly under, protecting it from time."
"Yes, alright… but why not somewhere in Scandinavia? That's where the original legends came from, wasn't it?" Blaise pressed curiously.
Salazar chuckled then and glanced to Hermione. "One would think so, would they not? Uppsala in Sweden has the first mentions of Tyrfing, so why not think that the sword made its way back home? But then it stands to reason that someone would have found it by now. Tyrfing passed through different hands before finally coming to Angantyr. It is possible that it also passed through lands as well. Why not check in the marshes first? Riddle may not think to try there."
Charles grinned and Salazar glanced over to him. "That's a good enough reason for me. And if it's not there, then we move on. I'll go check it out. Being cooped up in the castle makes me restless anyhow. It's why I worked with dragons."
His brother, William, gave a quick nod and shot his brother an exasperated look. "As if I'd let you go alone, jerk. I have experience with magical objects that may or may not be surrounded by nasty protections anyhow so I'll go with. But it's a lot of ground to cover and detection spells might not work. Fleur might not be too happy, but at least it'll keep me away from an English battlefield."
"I suppose then that I might be of some help. I think I can use my years to come up with some sort of solution," Einar said, finally slipping into the conversation from where he had been examining the board they had spread out. "I have been to the area as well, so I shall go along with you if you will have me."
"Then it is settled," Salazar said as he stood up. "And as we are all here, I had a thought about our other task. I have been thinking about how many horcruxes Riddle might have made and I think there might be seven in total, not including the one that resides inside of his current body. Seven is a highly magical number and I have the feeling that he would have wanted a higher number than three, which is also magical. So, I believe that there are seven horcruxes that need to be found. Of that seven, one of them was contained in me and has since been delivered to Hel. We also know that the one inside of Riddle's diary was destroyed."
Picking up a piece of chalk, Salazar made seven lines across the top of the board. Over two of them, he wrote down Herrick and diary. "We also know that his familiar is another one. He guards her too closely for her to be anything else." He wrote down Nagini on a third line. "So that leaves four more that we must find." He set the chalk back down. "I must admit that the number seven is just conjecture on my part, but we already have evidence that he puts great confidence in magic. He relies heavily on it. I find him rather superstitious really."
Hermione tapped her finger against her lip as she gave the board a thoughtful look. "I think you are right. And we should start looking further into the places that are important to Riddle's past. They made him and I do not think that he can let them go. Maybe we should recheck the old orphanage site, see if there is anything we missed. He would have put protections on them."
She would have continued on in this line of thought, but William frowned as he watched the board as well. "Hold on. I've been meaning to ask why we are using muggle psychology? What do muggles know that mind healers don't? I've been wondering this since you brought it up."
The frizzy haired woman seemed to puff up. "First of all, there is nothing wrong with muggle psychology!"
"Never said there was."
Hermione ignored him. "Second of all, mind healers only focus on the healing of mind magic. Magic can tap into memory."
"Explicit and declarative memory!"
"Thank you, George."
"George, do not be an ass." That was Salazar.
Hermione looked flustered for a moment before charging onward. "Magic can look into the mind and warp memory. Mind healers deal with reversing or fixing the problems that mind magic creates. They don't know how the mind works in the way that it shapes personalities. They don't understand mental disease the way that muggles have studied it. Have you ever once known a wix to speak about depression or anxiety?"
Salazar hid an inappropriate smile at Hermione's use of the word wix. It was a fairly new term that had caught on. Likely a mundane born's attempt at retaliation against the word muggle. That it was simple made it stick. Both were quite ridiculous words, though Salazar had found himself using wix occasionally.
"Remember when Neville first arrived? How skittish and nervous he was? Think his Gran or any of the teachers ever thought to look into treatment for a rather obvious anxiety problem?" Hermione spoke sharply, crossing her arms. The others were quiet, taken aback. "If the professors had known just a little more, Riddle might not have been such a problem. Of course, I doubt there was much that could have been done to stop him from being a psychopath, but he wouldn't have grown to be such a public problem. For all some wix are for muggle rights, they certainly don't want to integrate muggle advancements!" She huffed, her cheeks pink.
"Wix mind healers do understand the mind to a degree," George interrupted. "There have to in order to fix spell damage. But it's no secret that, in some ways, the wizarding world falls behind the muggle one. Wix have no use for muggle medicine as we are physically different in some ways. And wix medicine is so much more effective, isn't it? And it has been for decades. Any advancements are just to improve the strength and effectiveness of any existing potion or spell. There is rarely anything new. At least in the medical field. No one thinks outside of what we already know. No one recognized that there is such a thing as mental disease. The research Fred and I did was really quite eye opening."
Hermione beamed at them. "Exactly! And muggles have a whole field of science dedicated to the mind. There is mental disease but it also ties in to behaviors. Even the most seemingly unpredictable follow patterns. And patterns are rooted in the past. Once you find the pattern, you can predict what they'll do."
"Hence the trip to the orphanage," Salazar mused. "We know he was abandoned to a mundane orphanage by his mother who was a witch descended from the Slytherin line. She had used a love potion to ensnare the affections a mundane man. Tom Riddle was born, but left in an orphanage. Being a mundane orphanage, they would not have understood the needs of a wizard child. And he would have been powerful with the new blood introduced to the magical line. His accidental magic would have been extraordinary."
Salazar stood up then and walked over to their board. "We know, from accounts, that the young Tom was bullied at the orphanage. There is a record of even a Christian priest being brought in, though we can only guess at what that visit entailed. Likely a blessing or just an attempt to scare a young back onto the path of normal." He folded his hands behind his back, his brow furrowed. "I did some research. His mother was Merope Gaunt. We knew his father was Tom Riddle Senior because of the murders that took place in Little Haggleton. The manner of death for the victims was entirely too obvious. His name Tom Marvolo Riddle is a rather obvious indication as well. Around the time of what would have been Riddle's birth, there was a scandal about Riddle Senior being taken in by the daughter of the village tramp. The Gaunts." He paused then, glancing over a moving Azkaban photograph of Merope's brother Morfin Gaunt. "The Gaunts appear to have a history of mental illness, though little can be proven at this point. But it seems to stand to reason that Merope might have passed on her mental instability to her son. An orphanage that showed no love to a young boy only made matters worse."
Hermione sighed softly. "Riddle would have already been unstable, but then he entered the Wizarding world. He probably saw this as a bright new opportunity. But then he was sorted into Slytherin." She dropped down into a seat and crossed her arms on the table. "The wix failed him. Sure, he might have had these tendencies… but there is evidence in the muggle world that people with similar tendencies can go on to live somewhat normal lives. When in Slytherin, he was probably told only evil wix go to Slytherin. In the House itself, blood supremacy would have alienated his housemates from him until he proved himself to them. That's where his charm comes into play. But what, exactly, is his end game?"
"To purge all muggles," Blaise spoke up from where he was draped over his chair. "To eliminate the scourge on the earth. Or so I've been told."
Hermione wrinkled her nose and gave a huff. "Well, yes… but why? Was this always his plan? He started gathering followers while still in school. He was called charming and we know that his original plans were to overhaul the Ministry. I found old reforms that had been submitted to the Wizengamot. Why the sudden change? Suddenly he wasn't a political power pushing for change, but instead a… well, a murdering menace! Was this always his plan? Or was there a break in the pattern?"
William frowned, looking thoughtful. "It would have to be an event, right? Something big? Well, we know that he disappeared after graduating. We know now that he was still active on the political stage through his followers and was known to have worked at Borgin and Burkes for a time, but why the sudden open war?"
Hermione nibbled on her lower lip before shaking her head. "It is possible that Riddle had a break in his pattern well into his early school years. Open war could have been his plan all along, or just a benefit he capitalized on with the delicate political atmosphere at the time. Perhaps he saw open war would be far more beneficial to him when his work on the political side was too slow for his liking. The major break in his pattern, I think, can be traced to just shy of two years before his attack against the Potters. Before then his movements were methodical and thought out, if barbaric. Then something happened and he became erratic. Why attack the Potters? Sure, they had been outspoken opponents, but Riddle went out of his way to hunt them down and kill them himself. We are missing a piece of the puzzle."
"I think we need to focus on his school years first and his build up to open war," Salazar cut in. "We are already looking at a large chunk of years. I would like to see what the first major turning point in his school career was, but at the very least it might give us a clue to the location of his horcruxes."
Hermione took a seat back at the table again and Salazar followed her. "Well, we know that he hated his muggle heritage, being halfblood. He changed his name to hide the association and because he hated having such a muggle name. I figure he wanted everyone to forget he was even a halfblood. Still, what he chose is an anagram of Tom Marvolo Riddle. He still couldn't quite leave the past behind. So, I think everything he does still ties into his past. What are locations that are important to him? They could have been turning points or some such thing."
Tapping his fingers absently on the table, Blaise hummed thoughtfully. "I could look through the Book of Names, find classmates of Riddle that would have gone to school with him. As a Slytherin, and from a respected neutral bloodline, I can reach out and they are more likely to talk to me. There are bound to be students that knew of Riddle but didn't follow him. They might be able to give us more insight to the man behind the façade he put up for the school."
"Anyone, and their families, who didn't join his bunch of merry men might be a good ally," the twins quipped with grins.
Charles gave a roll of his eyes, though he looked somewhat amused. "Yes, right. Well, I think if I remember something Moody said correctly, they originally called themselves the Knights of Walpurgis. I don't know how accurate the information is, but…"
"Wait. Hold on," Salazar interrupted. He held up a hand. "Knights of Walpurgis? I know that name. They were a group of wix knights that were founded around the time of the Founders." He glanced over to Einar as the elf straightened in his seat. "Godric Gryffindor was said to have been one of the founding members of the Knights."
Einar gave a low nod. "Yes. There was no centralized government at the time. The Knights were created to defend mundane born children, as well as magical families that had been found out. I can remember a number of burnings that they put a stop to before things got truly out of hand."
Salazar could remember these well, though it felt like almost a lifetime ago now. He had been there for a few of them to lend his aid, though had not been a true part of the Knights.
"As the centuries passed, there became no need for the Knights," Einar continued with a glance towards Salazar. "The beginnings of the Ministry were established and the initial drafts of the Statute of Secrecy were put into place. The magicals were protected and the Knights were abolished. I had heard rumors though that some of the Knights went underground, were not happy with how they needed to hide from the mundanes."
"Do you think there is a connection at all?" Hermione asked, her brow creased. She looked ready to dart out of her seat and Salazar got the impression that she wanted to run off to the library so she could go do some research.
With a sigh, Salazar checked the time. "It is possible that he merely chose a name from history to try to give his group some credence. If you wanted to look into it, Hermione, you are more than welcome. Do, please, allow yourself some time to sleep tonight though." He smiled a bit at the bright blush that stole over her cheeks. "I think that needs to be all for tonight. We can meet back here tomorrow over lunch if you are all willing, but I have just realized the time." Standing up then, Salazar smoothed out his robes. "William, Charles, and Einar. I am tasking you with finding what you need to prepare for your trip to the Maeotian Marshes. Frederick and George. I would like for you to prepare for a return trip to Wool's Orphanage and the search for a potential horcrux. Let us see too if we cannot find a list of orphans who would have known Riddle while there."
He gave Blaise a look then, considering. "If you could get me a list of names of the ones you plan on contacting, I would like to keep track. Please keep me informed and be careful of who you write. Also, do not make a connection between Riddle and the Dark Lord if they are not already aware of it." He headed towards the door then. "I shall see you all on the morrow. Have a good night." As he left, he wondered absently when he had become the leader of their makeshift group.
He noticed then that Luna had followed after him with light steps. "Fenrir has asked for you," she told him as they turned down an empty corridor.
"Has he said why?" Salazar asked with a sigh then. He had a few potions he needed to check in on, though he supposed that they would be alright under stasis for a few hours more if needed. "Yes, alright. But only if you promise to help me with the potions later." She was a competent brewer, enough that he had trusted her with his students when needed. She would make a fair assistant.
Luna laughed softly and gave a shake of her pale gold head. "He did not say, though I do have a guess. And I would be more than happy to help, dear Herrick."
Salazar allowed himself a small smile as he followed Luna down to the dungeon infirmary. Fenrir was waiting by the door to his cell, presumably having heard them come in through the entrance. The cell itself had been expanded through a nudge to Hogwarts, looking more like a small apartment with a barred door than a cell block. The werewolf had been given a chance to clean up as well with a specially spelled grooming kit that wouldn't allow him to hurt himself or others. The man had cleaned up well and bore little resemblance to the half-crazed creature that had showed up at the castle gates. He was still a large hulking figure of a man but he did not come off as feral or mad any longer.
"You wanted to see me, Fenrir?"
The wolf leaned against the bars of his cell and gave a slight nod. "I know you still do not trust me, but I wanted to petition you to allow me to walk freely. I can swear an oath and you can fit me with whatever spells you deem necessary, but I am growing restless in this pretty cage. There is more than I can do if free than I can in here."
Salazar was quiet as he regarded the man. He seemed to be truthful, but it was also true that he still did not trust the man. "Ultimately, it is not my choice," Salazar said finally. "I am not Headmaster here. However, I can bring your case to the man in the morning. I cannot make any promises, but I will try on your behalf."
And he did. Fenrir had reluctantly agreed, unable to really argue otherwise, so Salazar had quickly taken his leave again. Luna had followed after him to his lab and they spent a few short hours on replenishing the potion stock for the school infirmary. Salazar went to bed late but rose early like every morning. He cut his training with Blaise short so he might catch Dumbledore before breakfast, but Einar was more than happy to continue the new wolf's lessons on Glima.
With a spell for a quick clean up, Salazar made his way to Dumbledore's office. Luckily the man was still there and allowed him in.
"Herrick, my boy. How might I help you this morning?" Dumbledore asked as he retrieved a book from the many on his haphazard shelves.
Ignoring the soft trill of greeting that Fawkes sent him, Salazar placed his hand on a table and took a steadying breath. He still hadn't been able to get a proper read on the Headmaster and it put him somewhat on edge. He absently looked over the many silver trinkets that whistled and whirled from their places on the shelves. "I wanted to gain your permission in releasing Fenrir Greyback," he stated with more calm than he felt.
Dumbledore paused in his actions and turned, looking honestly surprised. "Oh? And why is that? Surely you know what he's done?" There wasn't any heat or anger behind the request, just curious inquiry.
Salazar looked over towards the man and gave a silent nod. He took a deep breath then and shook his head. "That is… I have heard the stories. What has been done and what is true of the man is yet to be known. We cannot trust him. Not yet. However, how will we ever know the truth if we keep him locked away in a room?" Salazar gave a grim smile then. "War sees atrocities and brings out the monsters in men. Can they be forgotten? No. It is how we learn and become better. Fenrir Greyback was the victim of a war. He is not fully innocent, but he has the opportunity now to repay for the crimes he truly committed. He has the opportunity to help us if we only give him the chance. He has made mistakes, but I feel he has the potential to be a good man."
The Headmaster had turned towards him, a serious expression on his face. It was a rather stark contrast to the vibrant purple robes that the elderly man wore. The dancing silver stars were rather distracting really, but Salazar tore his eyes away. "There are spells to keep him from harming any of the children and to keep him from contacting Riddle. He told us he could be helpful, but he cannot do it from his cell, Headmaster."
Dumbledore made his way over to his desk and took a seat. "If I were to agree to this, then you would take complete responsibility for him," he stated calmly.
Stepping over to stand in front of Dumbledore's desk, Salazar gave a quick nod. "Of course, Headmaster."
"Then you have my permission. But only so long as you tell Remus first." The Headmaster's eyes had a twinkle of mischief and Salazar had to fight back a groan. Of course. Lupin was not going to be a happy man. There was also the chance that the man would be in the company of Black, who Salazar avoided at all costs. How did one explain that they were the long lost godson that everyone believed was likely dead? Gryffindor would have called him a coward, though Salazar liked to think that he was merely exercising self preservation. Who knew how the older man would respond? Would he even believe him? How would he explain how much he had changed without giving away his more recent past? Would Black's love for his godson even win over the man's hatred for all things Slytherin?
"Herrick, my boy?"
Salazar blinked and focused back on the aged Headmaster. "Apologies, Headmaster. It seems I let my thoughts run away from me. I will speak with Lupin and let you know what will be decided. I will not take up anymore of your time, so have a good day." Eager to get going, he gave the man a short nod before he turned on his heel and headed out the door. Dumbledore let him go without another word even though his departure was rather abrupt. With the need to get the conversation with Lupin over with as quickly as possible, Salazar made his way down to the Great Hall as he hoped that the man might still be there.
As he strode down the hallway, Salazar sped up when he saw Lupin exit the Great Hall. That had been impeccable timing, if he did say so himself. "Lupin! Do think I could have a moment of your time?" He called out to the man once he was close enough. He was just glad that at least he had caught the man away from Black. He would not have enjoyed the conversation with both men present. Though it was too bad that Lupin had already finished his breakfast or else Salazar would have grabbed a bite for himself.
"Evans," the werewolf greeted mildly. "I'm not busy. What can I help you with?"
This was a conversation best done in private, so Salazar held out his hand to motion down the corridor. "I would like to have a quick word with you. If you do not mind following me to my office, if you would." Lupin followed him with little hesitation, but the silence that filled their walk down to the dungeons was awkward and rather stifling.
Once in his office, Salazar invited Lupin to have a seat as he rounded his desk. "We got off on the wrong foot, you and I. You have been civil to me before now and I do want you to know that I appreciate it. With the world we live in, we cannot afford to have been feuds between allies." Salazar leaned back in his chair. "That being said, I want to be open to you and I would like if you would give me the courtesy of listening fully."
Lupin gave a nod, but still had not otherwise said a word. Salazar paused a moment and then took a breath. "I know you have a grievance with Greyback. However, I believe there is truth in what he says and he is not as terrible as he has been made out to be. Perhaps not an innocent, but who among us is innocent in a war? I will put precautions in place, but I want to free Greyback from his cell. We could use his help."
Lupin went very still, almost unnaturally so, prompting Salazar to hold up a hand to forestall any objections. "I would like to reiterate that I do intend on taking precautions. Greyback will not be allowed to roam the castle itself without a chaperone, for one, and I intend to use a vassal spell."
That seemed to bring Lupin up short. His brow furrowed and he frowned. "A vassal spell? How do you mean?"
Salazar gave a slight smile. "It was a spell used by old wizarding Lords once upon a time." He had seen the precursor of it. "Greyback will vow to me his loyalty and it will prevent him from reaching out to those I see as my enemy. The spell is not infallible, but it will give me an awareness of Greyback so I will know his location at all times." In return for the service that Greyback would provide him through his pledge, Salazar would in turn grant the werewolf his protection through the House of Slytherin. "It has its origins in the Northmen's homeland, though eventually migrated to the English Isles." Salazar could see the conflict in Lupin's eyes between his nature as a scholar, so to learn more about the spell, and his hatred for Greyback.
"You do not have to like him. It would be naïve of me to think that he is innocent. Still, talk to him at the very least. Learn his side of the story. And, if nothing else, then you will find closure." Salazar leaned forward a bit. "I do not need to tell you that we are in the middle of a war and we need all the help we can get. Greyback is an asset that we would be foolish to ignore, though that does not mean we should not create safeguards."
Lupin finally gave a short nod. "Then you will not mind if I keep an eye on him as well and not just take your word for it," he said before standing up. "And I will be letting Sirius know." He headed towards the doors. He paused then and looked back at the younger man, a ghost of a smile on his face. "Albus made you tell me yourself, didn't he?" The man's voice was gentler then, a resigned slump to his shoulders. "The meddling old man… I'll be there when you place the spell on Greyback, but only once I've been able to do more research on the spell you intend to use. As you have a class to teach, I'll use my own resources."
Not all was well between them, but it was at least a start. Salazar inclined his head in acquiescence. "It is an old spell, more of a ceremony and a ritual than wand waving magic. If it has a name, I am unsure of it. All references I have seen just refer to it as an Oath of Fealty or a vassal spell." Lupin nodded at the offered olive branch and help before giving a soft goodbye, his expression troubled, but also thoughtful.
That conversation had gone by much easier than he had expected. But still there was no time to make his way back down to the Great Hall to snag a bite to eat, just as he had assumed might happen. A quick word with a House elf had a quick meal to his office instead before he settled into his classes for the day. They went by without much incident, or at least no more than one might expect from learning students.
It was the next Saturday then that saw the group assembling in the Room of Requirement again. "Frederick…"
"You know, you could just call me Fred. Frederick makes me sound old. I'm not old." Salazar stopped with a frown at the interruption. The redhead gave him an unrepentant grin. "Seriously. You can call us by our nicknames and we would all be absolutely fine with that. We're all friends, right? Even Drakie and Blaisie are our friends now. Mind blown, huh?"
"If you call me that again, Weasley, then I will not hesitate to show you where you can shove that nickname," Draco groused waspishly.
George grinned. "See, now… you can call us by our names and nicknames too. Because we're all friends now, just as Gred said."
Salazar pinched the bridge of his nose and breathed in deeply. "Yes, alright. Can we get back on track? Fred, then…"
"And you can call me Charlie, you know."
"And me as Bill."
Salazar shot the older Weasley brothers an irritated glare. "Yes, quite. May I continue?" He ignored the snickers from the group. "Fred. The old matron of Wool's Orphanage, a Mrs. Cole, has since passed away. However, she still does have living family in the form of an elderly daughter and her daughter's daughter." He held out a small roll of parchment. "This is her address here. The location of the old orphanage is there as well, though I doubt you will have much luck with it. The building itself has since been torn down, but if Riddle left anything then he would have put it under heavy protections. Even if you cannot work past the protections, you should be able to at least sense the residue."
George took the scroll and opened it up. He glanced over it and showed it to his brother before they both shot Salazar a grin. "Hopefully she'll have more for us than what you two found previously."
The dark-haired wizard frowned some. "We focused on merely what she had known of Riddle, having been of a similar age to the boy. There had been a few documents she had been able to give us from her mother's old things, but perhaps she has remembered the location of more. Or even newly remembered memories we had not been told. If it comes down to it, find anything you can on the orphanage and have it brought here. Riddle had a connection to the orphanage, but it might not just be the grounds themselves."
The twins nodded and gave matching salutes. "Aye, aye! We'll get going then." Theirs was probably the easiest assignment in terms of travel, but they looked eager to get to it, so Salazar waved them off as Hermione offered them a good luck.
William, or Bill he supposed, leaned forward then. "I've managed to secure a portkey through Gringotts. Since we can't get Ministry sanctioned ones anymore for secure international travel, I used my contacts at work to get us one from the bank." He chuckled then and rubbed at the back of his neck. "Fleur wasn't too happy about our planned excursion, but I think it's just her hormones." He paled then and looked at his brother with wide eyes. "And don't you go about repeating that to her! She'll have my hide!"
Charles – Charlie – snickered but gave his brother a thumbs up. He turned towards Salazar then. "I borrowed our father's tent and fully stocked it with a month's worth of food. Perhaps we won't be out there that long, but I figured it would be better to be prepared." He gave a shrug. "I'm pretty used to roughing it because of the Reserve I worked on. We'll be fine in that regard at least."
Looking over to his friend then, the light elf chuckled. "That is where I come in then. I have collected a number of maps. I have procured modern mundane ones as well as old ones I copied from the Hogwarts' library. In addition to my extensive knowledge from my extensive wandering of Midgard, I believe we will be able to at least narrow it down to the likeliest of places. From there we can affirm or reject the location."
"We should probably talk about what we'll do once we find it," Bill interjected. "There is a chance that we may just find the sword. What then? There are bound to be some natural protections around it just from how long it has lain in one place as a powerful magical artifact. I saw many such objects in Egypt, so I know how to remove it safely at least."
Hermione raised her hand out of seeming habit. "I have the answer to that one," she said before she stood up. "Knowing that it is a Viking sword, I was able to guess at the dimensions. I had Professor Flitwick help me charm it." She grabbed something from a back table and brought it over to the table everyone was seated. The object was a large wooden box with two latches. "This is a magical containment box. It'll keep it secure enough for transport to bring it back to here. From there, we can decide what to do with it. With the wards fixed, Hogwarts is the safest place. At least for a time. Long enough." She said the last part firmly.
Bill stood up and walked around to get a better look at the box. "Oh, clever. We use these sometimes too, but you've done this custom, right? It should be easier for it to contain the magic the sword will probably be emitting. Removing magical objects can sometimes send out ripples. This will keep it in check."
A knock came at the door then, interrupting the small group. Salazar cautiously went to go answer it. They were in the Room and, as far as he was aware, very few knew about the existence of the magical space. Of those who knew of it, who would be knocking to show they knew it was occupied?
"Lupin," he said with some surprise to see who was at the door. "And Black." He still was not sure what to make of the surly man. His godfather, as it were. A scarce few recovered memories recalled a far different man from the one he knew now. "Is there something that I can help you with?"
The werewolf glanced through the doorway. "Ah, we were not interrupting anything, were we? A house elf said we'd be able to find you here when you weren't in your office."
Salazar regarded them curiously before he gave a small nod. "We were just finishing up. If you would return to my office to wait, I can be there shortly. Unless there is somewhere else you would like me to meet you?"
"Your office is fine," Lupin said, giving their odd group another curious look. He led Black away though, ignoring the Auror's suspicious stare.
Salazar gave a sigh as he turned back to the group still around the table. "I best not keep them waiting too long. Particularly Black." He was glad that twins weren't there to send more knowing looks his way. "I think that was all we really had to go over. If anything else happens, please keep me informed." Hermione gave him a nod, already gathering up books. Luna smiled and gave him a little wave. Salazar again had to wonder how he had become the leader of their rag tag bunch. All the others seemed like they too were gathering themselves up to leave. With a shake of his head, Salazar headed out the door and down to his office.
In the office, Lupin had seated himself in the chair normally used by students in front of his desk. Black seemed to be looking over his collection of books, though seemed to be unimpressed that he was unable to really read the titles. Considering most of the books were not written in English, Salazar was not surprised. "They are not books on the Dark Arts, if that is what you were thinking," he said as he made his way over to his desk to sit. "Most of them are on potions or herbal ingredients."
He offered a Lupin a small smile then. "Now then. I can safely assume there was something that you wished to speak to me about, yes?"
Lupin nodded as he pulled a worn leather journal from his robes. He opened it to a page then and offered it to Salazar. "I was able to find some information on the spell that you mentioned. Sirius and I discussed it over. Those are the terms that we want included into the Oath. If you can agree to those terms, then you'll have my blessing. I apologize that it took so long."
Salazar accepted the journal and looked over the looping script. He looked up then with a frown after a few moments. "This is tightly binding."
"Yes. But it kills two birds with one stone, doesn't it?" Black spoke up. "If he goes berserk, then we know just who to blame, don't we?"
Salazar leveled a look at the man before looking back down at the script. "Yes, very well. I shall bring it before Greyback then so he might be able to look it over himself."
Lupin gave a short nod. "Of course. But he cannot alter any of the lines," the werewolf said firmly.
Copying the text with a neat little spell, Salazar handed the worn journal back to its owner. "Of course. If he agrees then, shall we set the time for him to take the Oath for tomorrow evening just past curfew? I assume that you shall want to be there."
"Wouldn't want you to try any funny business, Evans," Black muttered, but Salazar ignored him in favour of Lupin.
At the man's agreeable nod, Salazar rolled up the parchment he had spelled the Oath onto. "Very good. I shall then, presumedly, see you both tomorrow. If he disagrees with the wording, I shall send you a missive. If that is all though, enjoy your evening."
Black rolled his eyes and then turned on his heel to leave, though Lupin gave him a farewell. After the two had left, Salazar sighed and unrolled the parchment again to look it over once more. He knew that Fenrir was eager to leave his confinement, but would he be willing to be bound with magic like this? Really, there was only one way to find out.
Fenrir seemed to be waiting for him as soon as he entered the dungeon infirmary. "So? What's my verdict?" The man gave a toothy grin, but Salazar felt as if he could sense the anxiety behind the carefree façade.
"As you know, the Headmaster is willing to take a chance as long as precautions are put in place. Lupin has written an Oath of Fealty that you will need to swear to me," Salazar explained as he offered the roll of parchment through the bars. "It's a tightly binding piece of magic if done correctly."
"Aye," Fenrir agreed grimly as he took the parchment. "The Dark Lord's Dark Marks are a variation on such magic. Hard to find loopholes with, though I suspect Lupin's choice of words will be more ironclad." He was silent then as he read over the Oath. Finally, he looked up at Salazar and gave him a hard stare. "I'll do it. I'll swear it."
Salazar was surprised by the easy acceptance, but the next night found him back at the infirmary with both Black and Lupin there as witnesses. The two wizards had their wands trained on Fenrir as Salazar released him from the cell. He returned his wand to him, his own held ready in his hands. It would be foolish of him to trust completely that Fenrir would stick to his word, but so far the werewolf hadn't tried anything.
After a roll of his eyes as both Lupin and Black tightened their grips on their wands, Fenrir got down onto both of his knees. He held both of his palms up with his wand laid across them. After a moment of silence, he looked up at Salazar and held his gaze firmly. "Tonight, I kneel before Magic to swear on my life that I will in the future be faithful to Herrick. I promise to never cause him harm; and will observe my homage to him completely in good faith and without deceit. I shall follow his decree in all things and that from this hour in the future I will be faithful to him with regard to his life, and the members of his body, in good faith and without deception. Nor will I ever with will or action, through word or deed, do anything which is unpleasing to him. I will help him to hold, have, and defend against all men and women who might wish to seize or deprive him of all he stands to protect. As I swear, so shall it be."
The man spoke clearly and firmly, unwavering as his wand glowed a brilliant blue. When he finished his Oath, Salazar placed his hand on Fenrir's head and smiled. The next part the two wouldn't dare interrupt in case there was a backlash of magic, but Salazar was sure they would be none too pleased with him. Instead of just accepting the Oath with simple words, Salazar took a deep breath. "It is right that those who offer to me unbroken fidelity should be protected by my aid. And since Fenrir Greyback has seen fit to swear trust and fidelity to me, Herrick, therefore I decree and command that he shall see the protection of my House. As I swear it, so shall it be."
"What the hell was that, Evans?" Black snarled as Fenrir stood up. "We told you not to change the words of the Oath!"
Salazar shot Black a look filled with disdain. "I kept my promise to do so. I merely accepted Greyback's Oath. If he swore such a firm bond to me, then it is only right for me to offer what protection that I can in return. Gryffindors are not the only noble ones, I'll have you remember." He handed a band to Fenrir who nodded before slipping the leather strip around his wrist. Salazar tapped it with his wand before he then before turned his attention to Lupin. "That is a tracker. It will let you know the location of Greyback for your peace of mind. He cannot remove it on his own and it confines him to the grounds. He and I discussed it earlier today," the Slytherin added on the last part. "Now. If you would excuse us."
Fenrir gave the two a small smirk as he followed Salazar out of the infirmary. "I don't suppose you would allow me a quick run around the grounds, would you?" He asked then after a few moments of silence.
The shorter man stopped to face Fenrir. "All of Hogwarts is beneath my protection," Salazar said firmly. "Your oath prevents you from harming anyone on the grounds unless they pose a threat." His expression softened. "Cleaned up like this, I doubt there are many who would actually recognize you. As it is, you are free to come and go as you please. I only ask that you refrain from bothering the children. And a house elf will be assigned to tail you when you are not in your room or with me."
The werewolf's expression morphed to one of genuine gratitude. "I believe it would be best if you call me Fen then, Herrick. I am indebted to you."
Salazar waved his hand briefly and turned away. "Fen, then. If you would continue to follow me, I had a room set up for you. I cannot permit you to leave the grounds just yet, but I can have a house elf fetch any belongings of yours."
"The Dark Lord will likely have my place watched. I don't have anything that can't be replaced," Fenrir said with a shrug. "Whatever is precious to me, I have on me at all times." Salazar nodded in understanding, having remembered the necklace that the werewolf had been wearing all this time.
Coming to stop in front of a door, Salazar pushed it open. "You will be able to set a password. My door is just down the hallway, if you need anything." Fenrir only nodded in response, so Salazar excused himself to catch up on checking his students' work.
"Professor Evans, sir. Yous has a letter, sir," a squeaky voice rose Salazar from his marking some time later. He looked up to see one of the castle's house elves standing in front of his desk with Hilde's raven sitting on its head. Salazar suppressed a smile of amusement and nodded.
"Thank you. Could you bring him some water and something to eat? Have it sent to my rooms. I am sure it has been a long journey," he said as the raven hopped up onto his desk and ruffled its feathers. Salazar untied the envelope tied to the raven's foot as the house elf disappeared with a soft pop. He opened up the envelope then and pulled out the folded letter inside. The envelope still had weight to it, so he gently tipped it over and dropped a wooden amulet onto his desk. He looked it over curiously before turning to the letter.
When next I see you, I shall lay you out on your back and prove myself with sword and shield. It is then that I shall forgive you for calling me a child. I know you did not truly mean insult or else I might have demanded far more for forgiveness. Is not beautiful Frejya the goddess of love, beauty, and war? And you said yourself that it is when we give into our fear and hide that we have lost. I may be youthful, but I am still a woman. I am a shieldmaiden!
As for your question, Winternights was wonderful. The days of feasting and revelry were a welcome distraction from everyday life and from the oncoming cold. I wish you could have shared the celebration with us. I hope you don't mind either that I told your tale of the giantess to some of the children. I do not think I have your knack for storytelling, the way you capture attention, but they all had a good laugh! All was told around a fire of course. We had a good harvest and so we slaughtered an extra pig this year for the feast. Sven could not hold his mead either and asked for my hand! There was much laughter and so much more to tell. A list might be better organized than whatever I have already said! Perhaps next year you might celebrate with us and I will not have to remember everything.
Be well, Herrick.
Oh! As I am sure you have already found, I included a little amulet of Mjolnir. Small as it may be, I hope it might offer you some protection in your battles. May Thor protect you."
The last few lines were hastily scrawled in and Salazar had to give a little smile as he picked up the carved amulet. He ran his fingers over the smooth curves, mapping out each dip. It was thoughtful of Hilde. Salazar did not hesitate to slip the leather cord around his neck. He tucked the hammer beneath his tunic, feeling the cool wood against his bare chest.
Salazar stood up then and held his arm out to the raven. "Come, my friend. You are deserving of rest." When the raven hopped up onto his arm, Salazar grabbed his robes from the back of the chair and headed for the door. "Your mistress is really quite something. Certainly, a breath of fresh air." And with it came the feeling of home. Whatever might happen, he had a place there.
He quietly strode through the hallways, thinking of Hilde. He had no doubt that he would see the young woman again. He hoped it would not be here on a battlefield, but on a return trip to her home. Whatever the circumstance, he could see her seeing her promise through. He remembered a sweet face and eyes filled with laughter, but they could have very well made her appear deceptively young. There was no proper way to ask her age either. Her father had been older than him, so it was possible that Hilde was not that much younger than he was at twenty-five years of age. Twenty-five… how little he had spent here as a Founder, but he had the privilege of seeing how their dream had blossomed. But he digressed.
In his room, Salazar went over to his writing desk. A perch had been set up in the enchanted window and the raven quickly made himself at home there. After he set down Hilde's letter, Salazar readied himself for bed before returning to his desk. As he took a seat, Salazar pulled out a length of parchment and readied his quill.
You have my apologies for the insult. I had no intention of such a thing, but I do offer my regrets in that I have slighted you. Be as it may, I look forward in testing my skills against yours. And perhaps regaling you with another story as you seemed to have enjoyed my last one. In return, I hope you might offer a trade and tell me a story of your own. Rushed though it might be, I enjoyed hearing of your Winternights. Perhaps you might give better detail next time? Though, I would rather enjoy it myself just as you suggest.
And thank you for your gift, Hilde. Though the gesture was a small one, as you say, it means much to me. I wear it about my neck even now.
Take care, Hilde Eiriksdottir.
Setting the ink with a quick spell, Salazar rolled up the parchment and sealed it with a bit of green wax. He stood from his desk then and stretched out. His meditation room awaited. Though just as he thought it, there was a knock at his door.
Note: Rowling mentioned Knights of Walpurgis and so I, feeling curious, typed the term into google. I'm not sure what I was trying to research, but I happened upon a fan theory. The Knight of Walpurgis was the early name for the Death Eaters, though I think that Rowling might have scrapped that? I'm not entirely sure on the story. But I briefly glanced through a fan theory and it sparked an idea for when I mentioned the Knights in the story! I just wanted to clarify that. Hope you all enjoyed!