Author's note: Hello all! Here goes my latest foray into the world of Founders. This is my interpretation of how Godric and Salazar met Rowena (Helga came along later; her story is told in Binding Light which fits in with the same timeline.) Hope you enjoy it! And please review – feedback would be much appreciated!
"I am not going all the way to Scotland. I barely knew the man."
Salazar Slytherin and his good friend, Godric Gryffindor, were sat in a tavern in England's south west. The Warty Toad, as it was so honestly called, was only a few miles from Godric's country manor. It was one of the pair's usual haunts.
And they were arguing, which was also quite usual.
"Come now, Salazar!" said Godric, his tone exasperated, but still good natured. Physically, the two friends could not have been further removed. Godric was broad shouldered and wild-haired, with a lion's mane of red curls; he had an appearance as bold as his personality and a voice that filled a room. In regards to the voice, Salazar was his complete equal. He could hold anyone's attention with his silken words – their approaches were very different, but the effect was the same. His physique, though, was softer and sleeker than Godric's. He was dark haired and quite pale skinned in spite of his distant Spanish roots. Salazar could blend into the shadows of a room, whereas Godric liked nothing more than sitting in the glow of the firelight.
"No," Salazar insisted, hunched over the table. He jabbed a finger at one of the windows. "And what of the weather, Godric?"
He had a good point. They were in the midst of a ferocious winter. Snow was steadily piling up against the window pane in question. The night beyond it was black and treacherous.
Godric merely chortled. He raised his tankard of mead high before taking a hearty swig. "I am not suggesting we leave now, Salazar. I was thinking of setting out in a few days when the weather is calmer."
"How do you know it will be calmer?"
"I consulted an expert."
"Oh?" It was amazing how much scepticism Salazar could inject into just one syllable.
"It wasn't that old hag sat in the corner, was it? Because she'll tell you anything you want in exchange for a few Knuts."
Godric looked shiftily over his shoulder. "Oh, her? No, no. Of course not."
A lazy smirk stretched across Salazar's face. "I'm still reticent to go," he admitted.
"Well, it's outrage that you are. Raghnall was a great man and a competent dueller. One of Scotland's finest minds, they say. We really should pay our respects. He apparently left a lovely young widow."
"'Lovely young widow?'" Salazar snorted dismissively. "I'm certainly not following your loins all the way to Scotland, Godric."
Godric remained unfazed. He could sense that, even in his stubborn reluctance, Salazar's head was turned by adventure. The funeral of Raghnall Ravenclaw was a convenient cover. In truth, Godric was less concerned for the man than he made out. And his allegedly pretty widow was, in reality, only a side-note to what he hoped would be a far grander escapade.
"This is calmer?" Salazar tried to shout, but his words were blown away into nothingness, lost amongst the swirling snow. It didn't help, either, that he was swathed in a heavy, black travelling cloak which covered much of his face. He had no inclination to remove it. Instead, he performed a Sonorous Charm on himself and continued to berate Godric in an impressively loud and carrying voice.
"I guess the old hag was wrong," Godric shouted back.
They were travelling side by side along a winding country lane heading north. Both men were on horseback – flying horse, naturally, though under Disillusionment Charms while they passed close to a Muggle village. Godric was a born traveller. He had whiled away most of his youth traversing the moors and forests, and paths and hills of Britain. A little – or rather a lot – of snow was nothing to him. He sat forward in the saddle, his own robe a great deal thinner than Salazar's. His beloved silver sword was, as always, hung on his belt.
He turned and looked about himself. "You know Salazar, I think we should be safe here. No Muggle eyes watching."
Salazar was torn. He was sure that he would be a great deal colder at a higher altitude. On the other hand, flying was a much faster method of travel and the sooner they reached Scotland, the better. After all, the sooner they arrived, the sooner they could leave. He met Godric's eyes and gave a curt nod. Godric grinned.
A kick of heels against the horse's flank and both men soared into the wintry sky.
They landed a few miles south of the Ravenclaw's grounds and were eventually ushered in by serving women who moaned at their lateness. At the graveside Godric tried to pick out Raghnall's widow without success. There were many young women, all huddled in dark cloaks and thick furs so that were indistinguishable from each other. Winter flowers were thrown into the frozen grave. Halfway through the ceremony, Salazar leaned forward to whisper in his ear. "You brought us up here for this? We haven't even been introduced to the Lady Ravenclaw."
"We will be. Now shush."
When the ceremony had finished, Godric's promise came true and one of the serving women rushed up to them. "Salazar Slytherin, Godric Gryffindor, the Lady Rowena will attend you. She waits in the reception hall. I will show you to her."
After all the formalities, the widow herself was something of a disappointment. Godric could almost imagine what was going through Salazar's head as they were introduced to a pale faced woman – or girl, honestly – dressed in plain woollen robes with a squalling newborn in her arms.
Rowena nodded at them. "I thank you for making the journey." Her tone was flat
"Our condolences," Salazar said, in that silky tone of his. "For you and for your child."
She blinked unsurely at them. "Thank you, sirs. This is my daughter, Helena. She has not reached one year yet."
"We're sorry that she will never know her father," said Godric. "I knew Raghnall. We've duelled. He was an extraordinary man."
Finally, Rowena betrayed some emotion. She smiled.
"Extraordinary," Salazar agreed. He turned his head to one side. "Of an old pureblood family... as are you, I assume?"
The smile froze on her face. It vanished in less than a heartbeat. Carefully, she laid the baby in a wooden crib.
And suddenly her anger fell upon them. Godric took an involuntary step backwards, wondering how a woman of barely twenty years could strike fear in grown men. He knew, later, that he would not be able to adequately describe it – she seemed to crackle with furious magic. There was a bang as she stepped towards them.
"My birth was ordinary, yes – but so was my marriage. It was only a man and woman who said a few words, nothing more. My surname is no matter, sirs. Dare you argue?"
"How could you?" Godric hurled at Salazar as they left the room in disgrace. He abhorred the word pureblood and wondered if the meeting could have gone worse. Impossible.
Later, at the mourning feast and safely out of earshot, Salazar called her outburst a widow's madness. "The woman must be demented with grief," he mused, toying with a forkful of roasted boar. "Her reaction was certainly disproportionate. Quite an odd woman."
With that at least, Godric could agree. He wanted to say, you pushed her to it, but instead he swallowed a mouthful of mead in silence. The mourning feast was, as expected, a bleak affair. Rowena Ravenclaw sat at the high table with her family and husband's family, and all were dressed in black. The hall itself felt cold, grey and stony, and chilled by the winter winds that whistled outside. He heard the faint strain of bagpipes, wheezing out a funeral march, but could not see where the music was coming from.
"This is dire," Salazar muttered, swirling his goblet. "I'll be glad to see the back of the place."
Godric's eyes were trained on the young widow. Rowena's black hood was pulled low over her forehead and her eyes stared blankly at the table top. Her food had not been touched. "Me too," he agreed with Salazar, wondering if she felt the same as they did.
"Hello, Godric Gryffindor."
The voice in the dark was unexpected. He had thought to be alone; the manor grounds were dead and silent beneath a blanket of snow and a darkening sky. Godric had wandered down the lake at the edge of the grounds where patches of ice glittered beside the bank.
He spun around. At first, he did not recognise her. The Rowena Ravenclaw he met earlier had looked pale and ghostly, dressed all in black, her dark hair scraped off her face. Now she was transformed.
The black robes had been replaced by rich blue intricately patterned with bronze – all silk and velvet. Her hair fell over her shoulders and down her back in thick waves. Godric's gaze was drawn away from her robes and hair and to the sapphire encrusted crown that sat upon her head, glowing with a light entirely of its own.
Rowena fixed him with a long stare, before breaking into a smile. "Do you like my diadem?"
"It's quite beautiful." As are you, he thought. Beautiful, but intimidating. "I can see an engraving," he said. "But I can't make out the words… they're too small."
"It says 'wit beyond measure is man's greatest treasure'." In spite of her smile, she sounded sad.
Godric thought of his sword which was engraved with nothing more than his own name. Rowena walked purposefully, right to the water's edge, her robes swishing through the snow yet somehow staying dry. She perched on a rock over-hanging the lake and turned her startlingly blue eyes on Godric. How had he failed to notice them before?
"Are you married?" she asked.
He could not help but laugh as he answered. "Much to my mother's chagrin – no."
"Mm. I had not expected to marry either. And here I am." She no longer seemed sad, only thoughtful. "Now that Raghnall is dead, I find myself suddenly alone in the world."
" I…" Godric wondered why his mouth would not move quickly enough. He knew how to be courteous, how to speak to a lady, but somehow he didn't think his empty assurances would soothe Rowena Ravenclaw.
"I dreamed of a castle last night," she said, throwing him off balance, "a castle not far from here."
Godric frowned. "There are no castles near here, my lady." He was young, but he had travelled widely. He knew these things.
"No," Rowena agreed. "Not yet." She sighed and looked wistfully across the water's treacherous black surface. "It sat beside a lake much like this one, only bigger. Its towers, though, were many and they reached the sky. I was sad to wake and leave it."
"But… it was never real." It had been a long day and Godric's head was beginning to ache.
She smiled again, and knowingly. "I would love to fly tonight."
He gaped at her, until an idea grasped him. "You are welcome to borrow my horse, my Aethonan, Augustus. He's old now, but steady – "
"I can fly without a horse," Rowena assured him.
Maybe Salazar was right, Godric thought as he left her. Widow's madness. Reaching the manor, he dared a glance back at the lakeside.
Panic stabbed at his gut. She was gone. He started to run, fearing that she had walked into the freezing water or lain in the thick snow. Had it been a riddle? She said she wanted to fly, but was it death that truly tempted her? Somewhere above him a shriek pierced the murky sky and Godric stopped in his tracks.
He looked up and saw it – a great eagle, knifing through the air. It looped higher and higher, before plunging back towards the lake. Its wings kissed the water's surface. And then Godric understood.
"Shape-shifter," he murmured. "Animagus."
But that night Godric did not dream of the eagle or the diadem or her strange smile. Instead it was the castle that plagued his sleep – Rowena's castle, the castle that skimmed the sky.