So, this is a divergence from my normal fandoms, but I entered the Harry Potter fanfiction exchange and wanted topmost my submission! Enjoy! Read and review!

Helga Hufflepuff is not amused. She sits in her study, embroidery lying in wait before her and tea steadily cooling in the chill castle air at her side. The clock on the wall clicks the seconds by at an agonizing rate. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The hour approaches, getting closer with every second, and with it, her anger nears rage. She quells it and keeps her face serene, of course, as she always does, but the fire within her is undeniable. Her skin feels aflame and her fingers itch for movement. She thinks back to the morning, when she overheard Salazar informing Godric of his decision. Her body begins to shake.

There. The clock strikes the hour. Putting aside her embroidery, the emblem of the snake in emerald, she rises to her feet. Anyone who might pass by Helga in the halls of the magnificent castle will see her at her normal. But they do not look close enough. They do not see the trembling hands. They do not notice the steps are quicker than ever. They do not even care to notice the words that are fighting against her throat, straining to get out.

But, even so, she encounters no one in her walk. The students have not even been invited to study yet, and her fellow founders are all abed. All, that is, save one. The one she has been waiting for. She pushes the doors of the castle open, swinging them wide and announcing her presence to the one who thought he could slide away like a thief in the night. Beginning before she even sees his dark figure levitating cases into the coach before him, Helga's pent-up fury bursts.

"How dare you, Salazar Slytherin."

Her words ring out and strike him. Salazar's back is turned, but he stops his motion at the sound of her voice. He hears her anger, yes, but he hears the hurt even more. The trunks he levitates clatter to the ground in a cacophony of leather and metal and stone, striking the quiet night.

"Helga," he breathes, his entire body frozen at her sudden lashing out.

Perhaps Salazar did not appropriately calculate and measure the weight of his decision. He left out one variable, the most important of them all. And perhaps he did it purposely to save his principles. For, if he put Helga into his calculations, he might have given up everything to remain at her side.

"Do not speak, Salazar. You do not deserve the tongue you were blessed with. It only lies and deceives."

This is when Salazar turns. These words are not the ones of Helga Hufflepuff, the kind and gentle one among the three reactive founders. They cannot be. And yet, as he turns, his gaze falls upon her. Indeed, Helga does speak these words that lash and sting him. He watches as she tries to hide the emotion brimming in her expression. She is always one to avoid acting weepy and unnecessary. But she cannot hide from him. Not tonight.

"You're going to leave tonight, after everything we've accomplished, because you weren't given your way?"

It isn't a question that he is expected to answer. He is meant only to listen, to experience her hurt. She begins to pace in a most unladylike fashion, hurling her words at him until the silent tears begin to fall.

"You would give it all up to make a point? You would throw this school away in the hopes that we would come crawling up, begging you to come back and give you your way-"

As the first silver streak colors her cheek, Salazar stands to his full height.

"But you have come crawling, haven't you? You're here to beg me to stay because you couldn't bear to see me leave."

He doesn't mean for his words to sting half so much as they do. But they knock the air out of Helga's lungs all the same. Her light eyes fall to the cold, stone ground. She seethes, punching each word from between her teeth.

"No one is crawling here, Salazar."

"I won't have my school accept anything less than the best, Helga. I have gone over this with Godric and stated my wishes clearly."

Salazar crosses to her and picks up her chin in his cold, ungloved hand. The action is simple, but made more intimate when he tilts her face up toward his own. Their eyes lock, the golden meeting the dark green, and he is suddenly struck by the weight of losing her. Should he leave without her tonight, there is no possibility of ever seeing her again. That much is certain. Helga wrenches her face from his grasp and folds her arm before her. Turning from him, she wrestles with the emotions within her. She cannot give him the satisfaction of seeing her tormented.

"Come with me, Helga. Let us make a school in our own image."

He reaches out and locks her wrist in his hand, effectively stopping her from moving. His eyes follow up her arm and meet her gaze in the middle.

"I will give you everything."

His voice is quiet as the winter wind blowing through the air. He stoops and

inches his face towards hers, his nose almost brushing hers in such a close capacity.

"Come with me."

Helga's face suddenly turns to disgust. She pulls her hand from his and clenches it at her side, wrenching herself away from him.

"I would not go even to the end of the road with you, Salazar. I would not go even if you were the last of men left on this earth."

And when Salazar looks at the woman he loves, he believes her. He recoils from her, his body moving away from her unconsciously as a few flakes of snow begin to travel down from the sky. She turns to leave, but Salazar fights the pain in his heart and finds the strength to speak the only thing on his mind.

"You are cruel."

He breathes the words as though he has been stabbed and is fighting for breath. Helga turns her face toward him, casting only the slightest glance to him over her shoulder, and the lack of emotion in his face chills him more than the snow in the air.

"I am allowed my cruelty. I have learned from a master."

She strides into the castle without a second glance, throwing the wide doors open as she goes. They slam behind her, giving a loud, resounding thud that shakes Salazar to his core. There it is. His only light is gone. He gives the castle one long, last glance, hoping to catch a glimpse of her figure striding through the castle halls. But he sees no figure. He does not spy her gazing longingly from between the curtains as though she regrets what she has said. Helga and Salazar are finished. And so is his time at Hogwarts.