Pink Green Blue

Above Reproach by Hourglass nomineeHourglass winnerAnotherDreamer

Rating: PG-13. Created: June 11th, 2007. Updated: June 11th, 2007. Read Reviews (9)
Disclaimer: Characters, the magical world, etc, is property of J. K. Rowling and Warner Bros, not the owner of this fic.

Above Reproach

It was autumn that day and the leaves were beginning to quit their branches. The grounds were muddy from the rain and small puddles stubbornly refused to leave their shallow holes. Rowena Ravenclaw stood in the Great Hall looking out the window over it all.

The school was bigger than they had planned, mainly because Godric had refused to leave out even the most mundane details. She still remembered his insistence that they incorporate the ‘proper’ defenses. She’d told him about her wards. She’d shown him the maps of Disillusionment Charms she could create. His response had been an imperious wave of his hand as he said, “We need a moat.”

Rowena had laughed at him.

Helga had given her a reprimanding look and suggested that a lake would be a good addition since it would include magical creatures that the students could study.

In the end, Helga had managed to find a spot in the north to build their school. She had struck a deal with the centaurs and the mermaids in the area. She’d even managed to convince some of the less sentient creatures in the large, dark forest to accept the school.

She was something of a marvel, Helga, with her ability to force creatures and people to love her even as she bent them to her will.

“It is a nice school, is it not?” Godric’s booming voice asked from across the hall. Everywhere Godric went, he boomed. Rowena wondered when his habit had started to irritate her so much.

She walked over to the table set in the middle of the room, her heavy blue and black dress trailing along the floor. “Yes.”

“I finished the Quidditch field today.” After thirty years of being open and in use, the castle, he had decided, needed a recreational area. Rowena had let him do that all on his own. “Easy work. Like the grounds wanted it there.”

Rowena supposed she could have told the others about her spells, about the interactive nature of the wards, the way they would absorb the magic practiced on the grounds, the way they were linked to people. To her.

Helga Hufflepuff entered the hall with soft steps. “I’m afraid a particularly interesting set of stairs tried to take me up three floors on my way here.”

Rowena heard an accusation in Helga’s polite words. Her eyes narrowed as she said, “I assume you asserted your authority and did not let them move you.”

“Of course.” Godric pulled out Helga’s chair for her and she settled into it. Rowena did not miss the look he gave her. The look every man seemed to give Helga, who was really nothing special to behold. “But I’m worried for the students. They might lose their way.”

“If they can’t find their way around the castle, they don’t deserve to be here in the first place,” Rowena replied.

“You are a snob, Rowena.” Helga might once have said that as a jest. Now both of them believed it and neither could hide that fact.

Rowena was smarter than them. They all knew it. They hated her for it.

Together they had built this castle stone by stone, but it had been Rowena who had made sure that it was as alive as any creature, as responsive as any child. It knew its duty to staff and students and would fight as hard as any headmaster to keep everyone inside safe.

But they had all added secret touches, those four best friends: Salazar’s chamber, Helga’s amphitheatre, Godric’s precious battle room. But Rowena, more than the others, controlled the castle. She snuck in the dead of the night to the seventh floor to work on her own room, one that would become whatever the students or staff needed. A Room of Requirement. She infused the castle with pieces of herself: secret passages for clever students. Ways to escape.

She was smarter than them all.

“We must steal ourselves for this meeting,” Godric said. While Helga and he discussed the details, Rowena could not help but remember that it wasn’t so long ago that the four friends had spent time together out of enjoyment. They had met when they were in mid-to-late teenage years, full of idealism, power cackling when they touched.

They were in their teens when they won the Dragon War.

They were in their twenties when they became legends, when men trying to rule the country requested their military aid.

They were in their thirties when young men and women started showing up at their doorsteps to learn. And together, Rowena, Helga, Godric, and Salazar had taught the promising youths.

They had been in their forties when their student murdered a Muggle prince and the world turned on them, suddenly seeking them out to kill them.

“Power,” Salazar always said, “is a gift that should not be given to the undeserving.” And Rowena agreed. That was why they’d killed their student together, despite the protestations of Helga. Even Godric understood that it was a way of making peace. Looking at him sitting at the table in the Great Hall that autumn day, Rowena didn’t think he would understand that type of sacrifice anymore.

That was why they had lied to him about Hogsmeade.

And in response, Godric lied and said he believed them, but Rowena saw that he knew the truth. And she saw that he had begun to hate Salazar that day. Not her: she was a woman and she had been led astray. Salazar had forced her to go, Godric was certain.

Rowena wondered how he could think she was that stupid.

“I apologize for my tardiness,” Salazar said, slipping into the room and then his seat. His shoulders were perpetually hunched, giving him the appearance of subservience, making people underestimate him until the moment his posture straightened and he shot the killing blow at his enemy. Rowena doubted anyone alive had seen him standing tall except for her.

“We couldn’t have started without you,” Godric said snidely. He was relishing this moment, this impending fight. Rowena wanted to curse him seven ways. Salazar had been his best friend, his brother. But the Muggles had turned them against each other.

“What’s this about?” Salazar asked, cautious, wary. Unhappy. Rowena might have thought he knew what was about to happen, but of course he didn’t. Couldn’t. Wouldn’t be here if he did.

“We’re here to discuss the selection of Muggle-borns for this year’s entry class,” Godric said, goading Salazar that much more. It was easy to pick a fight with someone you knew well.

“Muggle-borns?” Salazar repeated.

“Yes. There are five.”

“And who’s decided they’re to attend our school at all?”

“We have,” Helga answered. Salazar’s brown eyes scanned them. Helga clamped her mouth shut and met his gaze. Godric glared. Rowena wished this weren’t necessary.

Salazar’s glare deepened. “I am still a founder of this school.”

“That is why we’re talking to you now,” Helga said, “instead of ignoring you altogether.”

She had been the most adamant from the start that the school should teach all magical children. The others had followed her lead, though the house system had been created to appease their preferences. But Salazar was straying from that agreement, and he had to be dealt with.

“How are you going to collect the children?” Salazar snapped at his friend. “Are you suggesting that we can spare one of us four to go hunt for a child that is safe today and will be until the moment we show up and let everyone know he or she is a witch or wizard?”

Godric said, “He or she has already exhibited signs. Others will have noticed.”

Salazar gave an imperious wave. “Not our problem.”

“Every magical child is our problem,” Godric growled. He talked too much and let his emotions control him. After more than sixty years as his friend, Rowena found him more tiring than ever.

“We’re too old to go around the world picking up children who may or may not be worthy of learning from us,” Salazar said, though he was only eighty.

“Your arrogance is overwhelming,” Helga snapped. She was always the strongest of them all, the most steadfast in her beliefs.

“He has a point,” Rowena offered.

“He has no point,” Helga replied, shooting her friend a pointed look. They needed to remain united. “He has a prejudice.”

Salazar practically emanated hatred. “I will not hear any more of this discussion until you have a way of identifying children in a way that doesn’t involve us traveling around performing recognition spells that let everyone know what we are, forcing us to fight our way out of villages.”

Helga looked entirely too smug. “Rowena?”

The black-haired witch turned to her. “Yes?”

“Tell him.”

Rowena’s heart jumped. “Excuse me?”

“Tell him about the book,” Helga said. Rowena could have killed her. Seeing that she wouldn’t speak, Helga turned to Salazar. “Rowena found a way to identify magical children, Muggle-born or not, at birth. From a distance.” She turned her large brown eyes on Rowena. “And don’t lie. I saw it myself.”

Rowena gripped her wand. “How did you bypass my wards?”

“How did you bypass mine?” Helga shot back.

There was a blinding blue light in the room then, reaching out to all corners. When it faded, Rowena found herself staring at Salazar and the two slumped forms of Helga and Godric.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Rowena shrieked, only just realizing that her friends were not dead.

Salazar stood as well. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m not attacking my friends.”

“We ceased to be friends long ago,” he said, waving his hand in their direction. Despite the fact that Rowena knew it was true, had known it for years, his bluntness stole her breath away and made her ache all over. Sometimes she wished they could have remained teenagers forever.

“They’ll kill you for this.” Rowena gripped her wand.

“As if they could.” Salazar took a step toward her. “They aren’t strong like us, Rowena.”

Yes, they were. That had always been one of their biggest problems. They were too strong, the four of them. Too powerful. Too young. “You’re tearing us apart.”

“Because I won’t let the peasants into our castle?” Salazar snarled.

“Yes,” Rowena said.

“You agree with me,” he said, elbowing his heavy cloak off of his shoulder and revealing his gold chain. “I know you do. You want nothing of the social climbers who would enter this school. You know as well as I that only if we are apart can we remain strong.”

“They’re building kingdoms, the Muggles. They’re uniting under men again.”

“Muggle kingdoms inevitably fall,” he said meanly. “But while they are powerful, I can control them with your newest spell.

She hated that her privacy had been invaded by both of her old friends. “It’s not meant for things like that.”

“Oh, I know. It’s just meant to protect you. All your spells are.” He looked at her. How did he know about them? “Are you controlling them now? Are you going to lead a crusade against me? Kill my sons and daughter like you killed the Hogsmeade villagers?”

She glared at him. “I didn’t make them scream like you. I didn’t enjoy it.”

They would never tell the others the lengths to which they went to protect the castle from the interfering Muggles. Godric thought he could protect the castle from attack, and maybe he could. Certainly Helga could. But Rowena knew that they would not always be around to fight. Someday there would come a complacent headmaster, one who could not defend the grounds, and the Muggles would take advantage. Salazar had agreed.

So they had killed and scared off all of the Muggles in Hogsmeade Village to fortify themselves against attack, to control the land surrounding their castle.

The memories haunted her.

“We are alike, you and I,” Salazar said.

“No. You’re destroying everything I’m fighting to keep together.” She never took her eyes off him. “Godric could be made to forgive you. Helga would be harder for she keeps a grudge longer than necessary, but she too—”

He scornfully dismissed her. “I will not yield to their insane demands.”

She hated him then, too. “Where is that boy I knew?”

Salazar straightened his back, shoulders and all. And for a brief moment, Rowena thought she should try to kill him before he managed to kill her. She kept her wand between them, at the ready, but she knew he was faster. He was craftier. He would kill her if he wanted, but she didn’t think he did. They were old friends. Best friends.

“When your husband died, I promised him that I would look after you,” Salazar said, opening an old wound she wanted to pretend did not exist. She missed her husband so acutely some days that she could not think straight. “He was my clan-friend and our oaths are binding, but I wonder if he ever knew that you needed no protection. You were always the most brutal of us all.”

She flicked her wand at him. “And you were the cruelest.”

“I am the best.” Salazar had never appreciated humility. Then again, neither had she. It felt like a lie. They were powerful, brilliant, and innovative. Why hide it?

But Salazar took it to a new level. He treated his students like disciples. He told them it was his own personal legacy they must protect. He told his children that he was the greatest of the Hogwarts Four, as they had come to be known. He told them that he would not let himself be forgotten. He was obsessed with legacy.

“Go finish your room that gives you anything you require.” He shook his head at her, and she hated that he knew of her secret project. “You’ll need it with these two for friends. You’ll need it to protect those you love because I have already plotted to kill off the unworthy. And though I would not want to kill you, your children will be mine. You will wake up one day and that precious boy of yours will be dead at the foot of your bed.”

She blasted a curse at him that made him stagger. “You will not threaten my family. They too are your clansmen.”

He sent a curse at the floor under her feet, heating the stone to boiling. “They married half-breeds. They bring death to us all. You know as I do that the Muggles will kill us all if they have their way.”

“Not if we take their children,” Rowena argued. “Not if we take their brightest and most promising and teach them to think like us and depend on our way of life.”

“They’re dirty, foul creatures, and I thought you still understood that.” He fired another curse at her. He managed to bind her feet to the ground and freeze her legs.

“I thought you understood loyalty,” she said.

“I do! And one day my chamber will cleanse these halls.” He snaked forward quickly, hand outstretched, spidery fingers reaching for her neck. “And then you and your pathetic heirs will die in the castle from which you meant to banish me today.”

“You will be expunged from all the records! You will be forgotten!” Rowena hissed.

“I am the greatest wizard this school has ever seen!”

“Helga is the strongest of us! It’s why you hate her so much. Because she and her family will be remembered, not you and yours!” It was a stupid thing to say, but anger makes for stupid statements.

“My name will be immortal. My family will be honored!”

“You are a descendent of slaves,” Rowena said scornfully.

A spell she recognized as the Crushing Curse began to grow between his fingers as he grasped her neck. She couldn’t believe this was happening. She had been his best friend for over half of a century; she had never imagined he would really hurt her, but it felt like a thousand mallets hitting her windpipe and Salazar just grinned down at her as the blackness crept into her vision.

“History,” he said, “will remember me, the last and greatest of the Founders Four.”

“Your promise. To my husband.” She squeezed the word out of her throat, trying to make him stop.

She tried to take a breath. She couldn’t. The pain alone was crippling. The lack of oxygen was worse.

“If I am to be cursed, let me be cursed doing this school a favor. Ridding it of you and your family.”

Fueled by the angry vision of him finding her sons and daughters this way, Rowena Ravenclaw managed to point her wand at his side and spitefully mutter, “Avada Kedavra.”

An awful, terrible, soul-breaking spell shot out of her wand. The curse charged at her old friend, overwhelming and killing him instantly. He died looking confused, for he had never heard the incantation to her secret spell before.

Rowena fell to the ground. It was the first time she had used her spell on a person. Nothing had made her hurt more, feel emptier.

Helga and Godric stirred. They yelled. They tried to figure out what had happened. Rowena’s throat was swelling from the bruises and she gasped in air painfully. Quickly. There wasn’t enough.

But then Godric was in front of her, kneeling, touching his wand to her throat. He had always been good at mending things, hadn’t he?

“What happened?” Helga demanded.

Rowena tried to speak but couldn’t. Godric told her to hold still.

It was an awful autumn day.

When words finally returned to her, Rowena told them what happened, about the light that knocked them out. About the fight. About killing their oldest friend. About his threats against her children. She remained on the floor, light-headed and sick. Godric stayed kneeling beside her, hand on her back.

“He would have killed me. He would have killed my children. He would have killed you. He deserved it,” Rowena said, though it was an awful thing to have done, though it made her feel broken, though she would never have done it again, preferring death to this feeling.

Helga looked down at her with her famous resolve. Backlit by the setting sun, Helga looked like the image of her grandfather.

“We shall tell the students that he fled,” Helga said at length. Godric and Rowena looked at her with sorrowful eyes. “That it was his choice.”

“And to his family?” Godric asked, full of angry disbelief.

“The same,” Helga answered. “Gwen is long-since dead. Their children are grown. And his students will make the story their own: one that shows his dedication to the purity of wizards and witches, surely.”

“We cannot lie about such a thing,” Godric said with his low, earnest voice.

“We are leaders,” Helga said firmly. “We beat a horde of Dragon Riders and their mounts. We dissolved kingdoms and created spells to control thunder. We built this castle. This is our legacy. So we will tell everyone that he finished his chamber and left, as we meant for him to do.”

“He—he can’t be dead,” Godric stuttered. It was the first time Rowena had ever heard his powerful voice shake. She moved away from him. She had killed before. Killed many. But Salazar had been a friend, a companion for nearly sixty years. And Godric, despite everything, had been his friend.

Helga turned to Rowena. “You should not have been able to harm anyone in this hall. We’ve block all known spells.”

And Rowena, looking at the destruction that can so quickly rip apart friends, told Helga about her new spell. About the way it killed without traces of magic. She told her about the feeling of being pulled out of herself. About feeling empty.

She saw the mistrust and anger in the eyes of Helga and Godric.

“You built a spell that has no purpose but to kill?” Godric sounded confused.

“I was trying to find a way to bring life to dead plants, but this spell made itself,” she said, which was as close to the truth as she could possibly explain. They would never trust her again.

Helga turned back to the body. “It broke your soul.”

“What?” breathed Rowena. There was no pity in her friend’s unforgiving tone.

“Casting that spell on another human broke your soul,” Helga said, pointing to the spot just above Salazar’s body. “There’s a piece of you in the air above him.”

Rowena did not doubt that her friend could see such things. She didn’t even doubt that it was true. It certainly felt like she’d been ripped apart.

“How do I mend it?”

“You won’t,” Helga said, extending her wand. “This piece of you will never be yours again. It belongs to our castle now. To its hidden history that will never be told. It belongs to the students. The ghosts and staff and headmaster and even that hat of Godric’s will feel it, and it will help prevent that which drove you to kill him.”

Just as they knew that Rowena was the smart one, all four of them knew that Helga was the strong one. The one who, with sheer force of will, could rip through walls and wards. True Heir to Merlin and Mistress of the Physical Arts, none of them could have beaten her in a duel. So when she raised her wand that day and twisted the castle’s protections to incorporate the piece of Rowena Ravenclaw’s soul, they knew they could never undo her efforts. They knew that piece of Rowena would be bound into the building, into the ghost of the Grey Lady, into the walls that she had built with her dead friend.

So the castle blinked and came truly alive. The portraits stirred and the stairs cases stopped obeying the wills of the occupants. The castle remembered death in its corridors and the sorrow of the one who brought it about. It felt the presence of Salazar Slytherin and made a statue of the man within his hidden chamber. It finished and sealed the Room of Requirement. And for Helga Hufflepuff, who had put the castle together and kept it alive, it bound itself to the lake and forest, forging a bond with both pieces of land and the animals within them.

Hogwarts would survive a millennium of turmoil, of good and bad headmasters, of student fights and goblin rebellions, of O.W.L.s and love affairs. It would house nearly one hundred ghosts at all times, those who felt drawn to such a magical place.

But it would never forget the three Founders who stood apart in the Great Hall near the body of their friend, sorrowful and powerful, with the world and death at their fingertips.

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