Title: The Hinkypunk and the Hand of Glory Fandom: Harry Potter. Set more than a thousand years before the events of the main books and movies. Author: devilinthedetails Genre: Horror Characters: Salazar Slytherin; Original Characters. Summary: A young Salazar Slytherin follows a hinkypunk across the fens to hidden treasure. Author's Note: Written for the Monsters Challenge by @Kahara. My prompt was "wandering." To write this story, I used a combination of Harry Potter lure, legend from our own world, and some history from both our world and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I hope this combination creates an eerie but enjoyable story focused on the most mysterious Hogwarts Founder. The Hinkypunk and the Hand of Glory In the fens along the eastern coast of England where Salazar Slytherin had been born and raised for all the thirteen years of his young life, there were many tales spun like straw into gold about hinkypunks. Even the Muggles wove their yarns about the hinkypunks that lurked in the fens although in their Muggle folly they called the hinkypunks will-o-the-wisps instead of their proper names. It didn’t matter what the hinkypunks were called in legend, however. Most of the legends, both magical and non-magical agreed that hinkypunks had the appearance of wispy blue smoke and could lure travelers off safe paths at night into treacherous dark bogs while wearing the guise of a helpful, lantern-bearing stranger. With their victim thus lured into the bog, most magical stories insisted that the hinkypunks would consume their prey in squelchy gulps. Those weren’t the legends that intrigued Salazar, though. Those stories were all the same and bored them with their lack of creativity and cringing cowardice. He was more intrigued by the less told tales about hinkypunks. The ones that promised treasure to those shrewd enough to see and seize an opportunity for great wealth where others perceived only a wispy menace that could make them wander off their path at night into a perilous bog. The ones that said hinkypunks didn’t always lead travelers into bogs but sometimes back to hidden treasure. Hidden treasure that could be earned with sacrifice the small, cowardly-minded might call gruesome but that Salazar defined merely as necessary to achieve his ends and advancement. His friend Godric from the wild moors of the West Country often said fortune favored the bold. Salazar was inclined to reframe and refine this sentiment to the notion that fortune favored the cunning who knew when to be bold and when to be more circumspect and sneaky. Salazar’s current enterprise would require all his boldness, his circumspection, and his sneakiness if he was to be successful in it. He tried not to think about what might happen if he failed in this venture, because to think of failure seemed to invite it. Yet he couldn’t stop images of failure from wandering across his mind like lost travelers on the road to glory or infamy. If he failed, the best outcome would be that he’d be beaten by his father. The worst outcome was that he’d be gobbled up in squelching mouthfuls by a hinkypunk in a bog, any chance of fame he might have achieved snuffed out because he had been foolish enough to follow a hinkypunk into its feeding ground. Despite the danger, Salazar waited until he could hear from the snores and the slow breathing that everyone in his parents’ household was asleep before he snatched his wand from beneath his pillow and extended his hand to the grass-green serpent that rested in a coil beside him. “Come with me,” he hissed in Parseltongue to the snake he had named Cyneric. Cyneric slithered obligingly up the arm that didn’t hold his wand, wrapping himself snugly just beneath Salazar’s shoulder. Salazar rose from his pallet and tiptoed across the dark room, relying on the embers of the banked fire in the stone hearth to light his way because he didn’t dare ignite the tip of his wand. That might wake his father, and his father would surely thrash him if he caught him stealing away like a thief in the night. Salazar’s father and mother had ambitions for him because though he was only thirteen he had already demonstrated so much power and so much promise. Their ambitions for him were only a shadow of Salazar’s own ambitions for himself. It was his ambition that drove him to leave the warmth of his bed tonight. His parents would be proud of him if he returned before dawn laden with hidden treasure. Instead of being beaten, he would be feasted and celebrated by his father. The chance of finding treasure and being celebrated was worth the risk of being beaten, he told himself. The pain and shame of being beaten never lasted more than a few days, but the pride and honor of being feasted and celebrated would never fade. To find this hidden treasure, however, Salazar knew he would need a sacrifice, and more than that, he knew exactly what that sacrifice needed to be. He had reached the dirt road and had walked out of sight of his parents’ house. Deciding it was safe to light his wand, he murmured, “Lumos.” His wand obeyed him instantly as it always did, igniting his tip as soon as the word passed from his lips. He hoped to start learning non-verbal spells soon. His father said many wizards didn’t start learning non-verbal spells until they were in their late teens or early twenties, but Salazar didn’t intend to wait that long. He wanted to be forever ahead of the curve. Several miles along the dusty road, he came to the crossroads that doubled as a gallows where the Muggles had recently hanged and buried a man for theft. It was a peculiar Muggle custom to deny the executed a final resting place in what they considered to be consecrated ground. Salazar wasn’t interested in understanding what the custom meant to small-minded Muggles who hated witchcraft as they did so much else. He was only interested in claiming the sinister left hand of the hanged man. He waved his wand over the freshly dug grave. The dirt rose and fell beside the grave in a heap. Another flick of his wand Summoned the left hand from the corpse. A third wave of the wand brought the dirt once more crashing over the rotting gray corpse that smelled of death and decay. A fourth wand motion Conjured a black cauldron. From the pocket of his silver robes, he withdrew a flask he had kept concealed there. He dumped the emerald pickling solution he had mixed when his parents weren’t watching into the cauldron. Then he dropped the hand stolen from the executed man’s body into the cauldron and smiled as it bubbled and boiled upon making contact with the pickling solution. He let the hand pickle until it was a dried, shriveled, and wrinkled thing. Some might call it a monstrosity or an abomination, but not Salazar. Salazar knew it was a path to fame. That was why it was called a Hand of Glory after all. Vanishing his cauldron and his pickling solution so there would be no evidence of his wizardry for nosy Muggles to find at this crossroads, he snatched up his newly created Hand of Glory and stepped into the fens to begin his hunt for a hinkypunk. He hadn’t been roaming the fens long when he saw the tell-tale wispy blue glow of a hinkypunk trying to pass itself off as a lantern-bearing stranger. He grinned, flashing all his teeth like a hunting dog. Hinkypunks were such easy prey because they never thought of themselves as the hunted. Pretending to be far more naive and guileless than he was, Salazar trailed the hinkypunk across the fens to a bog. When he reached the bog, he didn’t step into it as the hinkypunk had doubtlessly hoped. Instead, ignoring the frustrated howls of the thwarted hinkypunk, he knelt, swamp water seeping into his robes, and offered the Hand of Glory to the ground. When it accepted the sacrifice, he ordered it to yield up its treasure in exchange. A hammering heartbeat later, a jewel-studded chest with gems grimed by the muddy swampland in which it had been buried, emerged from the bog’s bank. Ordering the rusted lock to open with a swish and flick of his wand along with a muttered, “Alohamora,” Salazar stretched out muddy fingers to explore his horde of riches. It was coin, he realized. Not the coin of the Anglo-Saxons or the Vikings that invaded these shores in their longboats, but the coins of the Romans carved with the faces of their emperors and the victories they had won that were now forgotten. The Romans who had built the baths and the roads that were now crumbling just as their empire had fallen centuries ago. He thought he tasted the dust of the fall of empire—of proud slipping into shame—as he bit into one of the coins for luck. Perhaps this taste of dust foreshadowed the response he would receive the next day when he showed his treasure to his father, and instead of earning the praise he was certain was his due got a frown and a stern question. “How did you find this treasure?” “I followed a hinkypunk to a bog and made a sacrifice to find the treasure it was hiding just like in some of the legends, Father,” Salazar explained, hurt and confused. How could his father be displeased when he brought home a chest full of coin belonging to the Romans? “What sort of sacrifice, son?” His father’s frown didn’t fade and he stroked at his beard almost as if he were worrying it. A bad sign, Salazar observed, stomach sinking like a lost traveler drowning in a bog after following a wandering hinkypunk to destruction. “A Hand of Glory made from the hanged man buried at the crossroads.” Salazar’s gaze dropped to his mud-encrusted shoes, and he took comfort from Cyneric wound tightly about his arm. Cyneric always understood him. He didn’t even need Paseltongue for the snake to communicate with him on a deep, soul-to-soul level. Snakes understood him better than people, he sometimes thought. Their cunning was also often misunderstood and misinterpreted by those who feared their bite and their venom. “You made a Hand of Glory from a hanged man?” his father repeated in a stunned tone. “That’s what I just said, Father.” Salazar scowled, wondering why his father was struggling to grasp such a simple concept. His behavior might be deemed disrespectful, but how was a son to remain respectful in the face of such obtusity? “You stole a hand from a dead man and pickled it?” His father’s voice was rising now. “The dead man wasn’t using the hand, being dead, and I had a use for it, Father.” Salazar didn’t try to keep his scorn—his contempt for his father’s scruples that brought no treasure and rejected good coin as somehow immoral as if morality could bring power or glory—this. “Besides he was only a thief.” “And you’re no better than he was, robbing a dead man’s grave,” snapped his father. He had lifted his hand as if he might strike Salazar across the face, but lowered it with an expression of sudden fear. Fear of how Salazar might retaliate if attacked. Fear of his growing power. Fear of what he could do because he never held himself back like other foolish and weak people did with their petty compunctions that never failed to hinder them. Fear of the serpent’s fang and venom if provoked or threatened. His father, he realized with a revelatory shock like a lightning bolt, would never dare to strike or beat him again. He was the one with the power now because he had more glory, more ambition, and more cunning. He was shrewd and his shrewdness had triumphed, his victory measured in far more than treasure or feasting. His father’s fear was a thing more valuable than treasure or feasting. Because he was the one with all the power he could smirk insolently as his father went on shakily, “I fear for you, Salazar. I fear for the things you’ve done and will do.” “You don’t fear for me.” Salazar laughed, reveling in his strength and his father’s weakness. “You fear me because you are weak, and I am strong. I took the treasure you would never dare to seize, and I will continue to do so because that is what it means to be great, and I will be great, Father, no matter how much your jealousy seeks to hold me back from my rightful glory.” It was a promise he made to weak father and to his strong, determined self. A promise that made him become one of the most powerful wizards in all of Britain. A promise that made him build a school with Godric, Helga, and Rowena to pass along his knowledge. A promise that made him seek out pupils that showed his same cunning, his same relentless and ruthless ambition coupled with his disregard for rules and petty moralizations. A promise that freed him from all confines and constraints. A promise that left him at liberty to pursue glory as few others could.