Moonlit Silhouettes – Part One
Salazar Slytherin felt ill. Three days he had been holed up inside that carriage; the busted wheel on one side made the vessel rock steadily, giving his stomach a turn; the rhythmic clomp clomp clomp of hooves against beaten roads drove spikes into his head, making it ache something awful. He kept his suffering to himself after the first day of the journey. It will all be worth it when we arrive, his father had promised him. And Salazar would never doubt his father's word. The elder Slytherin had raised his son alone for sixteen years, the boy's mother having been taken from them upon childbirth. Not once had Salazar's father led him astray or failed to make good on a promise. So when the man came home from market one late September day, declaring that he'd found a way to bring grandeur to the Slytherin name, Salazar's faith in him did not falter in the slightest.
And so there they were, nearly six months later, making the lengthy trip across the base of England in search of their promised fortune. A girl, it was, one for Salazar to marry and with the union of their powerful families, money and station would walk hand-in-hand with the Slytherin name. Salazar had been shocked and excited at the news. Families with pure magical blood flowing through their veins were few and far between, and the families that did possess such gifts were shrouded in secrecy. He never asked his father how he came to find the other family, he simply expressed his gratitude for it.
“You look a fright. Do clean yourself up a bit before our arrival.”
Salazar jumped at the sound of his father's voice. The young boy tore his grey eyes from the sprawling countryside and put his hands to his head. His shaggy black hair was a mess of tangles and sticking up in the back. He tried his best to comb through the hopeless locks, but each time his hand passed through, it only seemed to worsen the situation. “A bath perhaps...?”
“We have not the time for such things. It's near nightfall already. We are meant to arrive before the sun fades and I will not go back on my word. You will have to do for now. Come morning's light, you will make yourself twice as acceptable.” The elder Slytherin gazed down upon his son with a stern, but loving, look in his eyes. His strong features held a dedicated resolve, honed over his many years. It swelled his heart with pride to see such traits being mirrored in his son's features. “Fret not.”
“Yes, father.” However, Salazar did continue to fret, tugging at his hair and clothing until the carriage slowed its pace and came to a smooth halt. The boy was unsteady on his feet as he exited the vessel and peered up at the sight before him.
It was like nothing he had ever laid eyes upon before. The home that laid before him was massive, stretching out on each side of a large doorway. The stones that covered the face of the manor all glittered with traces of gold embedded in an earthy red and the young Slytherin was certain the precious stone was real. The doors looked heavy and groaned as they slowly began to part. Salazar looked back to his father with wide eyes. “It is breathtaking.”
“That it is,” the man agreed as he plunged his hand into a leather pouch and produced several large chunks of raw, bloody meat. He moved to the front of the carriage and held out the kill in offering to creatures only he could see.
Salazar disliked what his father called “Thestrals”. He did not like that he could not see the creatures and when he had learned the reason it made him sick to think on. His father had only witnessed one death in all his years, one that Salazar would never forgive himself for. The man had never blamed his son. Sometimes the world takes the ones we love, his father had told him, but it would never change how Salazar felt about his mother's death. When the meat vanished from his father's hands, he grimaced and turned his eyes to the ground. He didn't watch as the man began speaking softly to the creature and unharnessing it from their carriage.
“My oh my. Is this him?” A lovely woman, with dark curls down to her middle and eyes full of blue, was the first to emerge from the elegant doorway. Her hands picked up the hems of her large dress and she made her way quickly to where Salazar stood. She beamed a smile down at the young one and laid her thin fingers upon his cheeks. “So thin, he is. A few good meals will get him looking ravishing. Of that, I am sure.”
“Armigil, turn loose of the boy before you give him a fright.” A towering man stepped out of the manor behind the woman and pulled her hands from Salazar's face. The man was intimidating in appearance, from his dark eyes to his strong build to his pristine clothing. It was almost as if the fabric did not dare wrinkle in fear of angering him.
“I just wanted a proper look at him,” the woman whispered, but she did as her husband instructed and backed away from Salazar. She flitted off behind the boy to greet the elder Slytherin and recoiled in disgust at the sight of his hands. “Is that blood?”
“From the skinned fox, yes. Thestrals prefer it fresh, but they never turn down a good kill.” The man made quick work of cleansing his hands before greeting both of the adults who had joined them. “Ah, Lord Vauville,” he called out politely, his hand extending towards the large man. “I have been looking forward to making your acquaintance for some time now.”
The other man returned the formalities and gestured towards the house. “Eadie, come out here. I know you to be lurking just inside the door.” His lips parted into a brilliant smile that shattered his entire facade of being a stern man. “Come now.” He waved his hand, his voice gentle and coaxing.
Salazar's mouth dropped open at the vision that emerged from the manor doors. It was a young girl, sixteen he presumed, with long golden curls that reflected the dying sunlight. Her face was gentle and delicate; her lips, thin and rose red, were curled into a mischievous smile. Every step she took nearer to the stunned boy made his heart race faster. Though she was more gliding than walking, even her hair remained steady as she moved to stand in front of Salazar. The girl's pale blue eyes moved up and down the young boy, taking him in like one would survey their choice for dinner.
A small hum breached the girl's lips as she began to make her way around Salazar's body, examining him on all sides. As she reached his front once more, her eyes met his and she tilted her head to the side. “I say, he will do quite nicely.” She offered the boy one flicker of an adoring smile before swiftly turning her back on him. “He needs a bath,” she added before taking her leave of the others.
Salazar was still gawking when Eadie's form vanished inside the manor once more. “Was...was that...her?” He looked to his father with eyes screaming for a yes. When he received a tiny nod in answer, the young Slytherin let out a guffaw. “She is lovely!”
“A vision, just as her mother is.” Lord Vauville placed his hand upon his wife's arm and looked back to their home. “And powerful. Her gift does rival that of any I have ever seen.” The proud parents shared a moment of silence before the man spoke up once more. “Leave the...creature -” his tone held a hanging question, his dark eyes attempted to focus on where the Thestral could possibly be “- and your trunks to our attendant. We shall dine and settle in for the night. There is much to discuss.”
The elder Slytherin's face showed that he did not like the idea of leaving his meager possessions in the care of a stranger, but he made no argument. The man put his hand on his son's shoulder and together they followed the Vauvilles into their stunning home. The face of the manor was nothing compared to the inside, the floors were laid with stones that Salazar had never laid eyes upon before. The candlestick holders were coated in gold and the utensils were as well. The boy eyed his dinner fork with envy; even one piece of their flatware would be able to feed him and his father for a week. But such things did not matter any longer. The Vauville fortune and station would soon lift up the Slytherins to be a name that the world envied.
The dinner conversation was dull and Salazar made no effort to listen to the adults speak of travel, Alchemy, and politics. He exchanged several glances across the table with Eadie, but the girl seemed to be avoiding his eyes for the most part. Was this what his father called coy? Was it meant to be endearing? Salazar was finding it nothing but exhausting and by the time pudding arrived, he had given up trying to capture the blonde's full attention.
A servant girl drew the young boy's wandering eyes as she flitted past the doorway holding a golden serving tray. He found it odd. Salazar had spent time inside manors, as a stable hand, and never before had he seen a servant girl being allowed to remove dinner plates from the kitchen or dining room. The boy pressed his lips tightly together and tried to push the scene from his mind. It was not his business.
And forget about it, he did, until the following morning when the same servant girl once again caught his attention after breakfast. She was carrying the golden serving tray, same as the night before, and humming to herself easily. She seemed far too sure in herself to be a thief, which piqued Salazar's curiosity. The young boy kept his footsteps light as he trailed the servant up the massive black staircase and down several hallways. The further they went, the colder the air became, like all the heating charms around the home had given up their attempts of warmth. Salazar kept himself hidden around a corner, watching. The servant girl pushed into a room and emerged only a few moments later, relieved of her tray. The boy swallowed his questions and dashed off before she could catch him following her.
“Sneaking about, are you?”
Salazar's heart jumped into his throat when Eadie caught him off guard. “I was not sneaking. I was merely exploring.” He tugged at the ends of his hair and puffed himself up to full height.
“We do not come to this part of the house.” The young girl's pale blue eyes fell to the floor where a heavy chalked line rested over the cold black stone. Her feet did not dare cross over the enigmatic threshold. Her fingers curled around Salazar's upper arm and pulled him back to safety before her lips returned to a smile. “Father says we are going into the village today. You will simply love the market. 'Tis full of common people but the trinkets they manage to create are worth the suffering.” As she spoke, her fingertips danced across a heavy, emerald broach affixed to the bust of her dress.
“T-trinkets?” Salazar's eyes lingered on the broach's position a bit longer than needed before pulling his gaze back to the girl's. She did not seem offended by his improper staring, in fact her eyes almost looked victorious. “That is a lovely colour,” he attempted to salvage.
“Is it not? They are my favourite. Mother says a proper lady should fancy diamonds but something about emeralds makes them so...magical, I do think.” She waved her hand to dismiss any further talk on the matter before looping her arm through Salazar's. “I was right in thinking you would be handsome once cleaned up. I do hope you were not offended, I simply believe that one should find an equal of themselves in their partner.”
“No equal exists that could match your beauty, Miss Vauville.”
“You will do.” The girl passed her fingers through her curls and began to lead Salazar back towards the front of the manor. “And you should call me Eadie. We are to be married after all.”
“Of course...Eadie.” The boy allowed her name to roll around on his tongue and found it enjoyable.
“To the market then, Salazar.”
Salazar was not sure what to make of his bride-to-be. By the time they returned from the market he was both perplexed and entranced by the girl. He had never heard someone speak of the non-magic folk in such a harsh, condescending manner before. His father had always told him that Muggles were to be pitied and taken mercy upon, but Eadie had very different ideals. She spoke of dominance and proper place beneath the feet of those who were worthy. Yet, she held a kindness and warmth that reminded him of the nursing maid he had as a child. She bought several bouquets of lilies and passed them around to each little girl she crossed in the market; she tossed spare tender into the cups of beggars; she did not attempt to haggle with merchants on their prices, even when Salazar thought them to be high.
When he questioned her odd behaviour, the girl simply replied that tyrants had no head in which to wear a crown. Salazar did not understand but he was not going to allow her to sense weakness in his character or intelligence, so he agreed and the two spoke of other matters. Salazar Slytherin was not an educated boy but he was no a fool either. And yet, some things which Eadie discussed spun his mind. She spoke of the stars and of legends and spells that he'd never imagined. She spoke of potions and plants and healing powers. And most brazenly of all, she spoke of the future in a way that Salazar had never heard a woman do. The idea that the sexes should be equal under law and respect, it was unheard of. The idea that even the poorest citizen in the country should receive a proper education, such things were simply not conceivable to his downtrodden spirit.
But her words did sound so enticing. And spilling from between such mesmerizing lips, Salazar could not help but be drawn in. It was a shame when he had to bid her goodnight and retreat to his chambers alone for the evening. He could have listened to her speak for days. To keep up his spirits, the boy reminded himself that she was, after all, to be his wife in no more than a year. After a quick trip by the kitchens to have a drink of water, Salazar made his way upstairs.
Now Salazar had been raised by a poor father, but the Slytherins did not possess poor manners. The boy had been taught his proper place and he very well knew that snooping and sneaking and scheming were unsavory characteristics to take own of. And yet, he could not keep his racing mind at bay when he passed the off-limits hallway. The boy stopped at the corner: to turn right, he would be safely taken to his own chambers, to turn left, he would find himself back at the mysterious line in which Eadie warned him of crossing. It did not matter that he knew better, the young boy turned left and hurried back down to the invisible barrier. His toes paused at the line, but only for a moment before dashing passed it. He couldn't explain it to himself, and he certainly couldn't justify his actions, but something was pulling him down that hallway.
The sound of a creaking door made Salazar's blood run cold. He looked both ways and extinguished the tiny light on the end of his wand before hugging against the wall as close as possible. A beam of light streaked into the hallway from the very last door. It was the same door he'd seen the servant girl enter with her tray that very morning. The boy's heart raced as Lady Vauville stepped into the hallway and closed the door behind her, bathing the hall in complete darkness. He watched with wide eyes, knowing that at any moment, she'd flare up her wand-light and he'd be exposed as a sneak and snoop. The boy held his breath, his bottom lip held so tight between his teeth he could taste blood. He begged for his heart to stop beating before the woman overheard him.
And he waited for the light. He waited for his doom. But it never came. Lady Vauville shuffled softly down the hallway, her body moving slowly if her footsteps were truth-telling. She never lit her wand. She maneuvered her way through the pitch black and slipped off out of hearing range. Salazar waited for what passed as an hour in his mind, while only taking a fraction of it in reality. His body relaxed and he lit up his wand once more, using the miniscule light to guide himself to the doorway.
The young Slytherin's hand crept closer to the door handle; his fingers curled around the icy gold; his heart stopped as he gave the door a gentle tug and peered inside of the peculiar room. His grey eyes widened and a sharp breath escaped his throat when his gaze finally fell upon the room's secret.
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