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Chapter 3: The Banquet
Ravenclaw Castle, 947 AD
Helga Hufflepuff was always so very understanding; it was her nature. She could always see both sides of an argument and measured up the pros and the cons before making her informed opinion on the matter. Sometimes her fairness and compassion became infuriating, in Rowena’s view, but she could not deny that Helga had a kinder and purer heart than she, Rowena, ever would. That is why Rowena was very surprised when Helga turned up to the annual Ravenclaw winter banquet fuming with rage. She wasn’t aware it was in Helga’s capacity to be angry, but apparently it was, judging by the crimson colour of her slightly chubby face.
“It’s absolutely preposterous!” Helga vented to her very best friend. The two young women were sitting alone at a table in the middle of a very crowded hall. Lord and Lady Ravenclaw were famous for the banquets they hosted in their marvellous castle, though their daughter Rowena hated her obligation to attend them. If it weren’t for her good friend Helga, she would have gone insane years ago.
Around them, many witches and wizards conversed and socialised happily, for the Ravenclaw banquets were among the only few times they could meet formally without being discovered by Muggles. “Do you know what they’re calling them lately? Have you heard?”
Rowena had not heard what ‘they’ had been calling ‘them’, and she was not sure who ‘they’ and ‘them’ were. She was not used to ignorance. Rowena was the cleverest and most brilliant witch of her age – it was usually Helga doing the wondering and Rowena answering the questions.
“They’re calling them,” Helga began, and took a deep breath, “They’ve been calling them...Mudbloods.” She whispered the last word and flinched after she said it. “It’s horribly crude, don’t you think?”
“Who have been calling who Mudbloods?” Rowena had to ask, for she had not really been listening to Helga’s ranting and she was finding her incoherent story hard to follow.
“Witches and Wizards have been using that word when referring to Muggles, Rowena!” Helga cried out, causing a few people around them to look at her in shock. “And you’ll never believe – they’ve started referring to Muggleborns as – that word – too! Muggleborns! Our own kin!”
Rowena could see that Helga cared deeply about the issue. Now that she thought about it, she had heard her own parents use the crude term that Helga couldn’t even utter – Mudbloods – but she had not thought much of it at the time. She was used to her chauvinistic parents and their bigoted ways. She herself had believed the Muggles to be vermin until somebody had put an argument to her that made her rethink her inherited bigotry.
“It is people like Salazar that are giving them such bad names,” said Helga darkly.
It did not surprise Rowena that Salazar Slytherin might have been behind such slander.
As people continued to dance around them, Rowena and Helga spoke in hushed tones about the increasing hostility towards the Muggles and Muggleborns. If Rowena’s parents had even the slightest inclination that they were talking of such things, the two young women would be separated at once and forced to dance with the rather unattractive bachelors that always turned up at these events. The two often sat in one corner, looking out and giggling at these sad wizards who Lady Ravenclaw always tried to set up with her daughter, but tonight their minds were elsewhere.
Quite a few wizards approached Rowena, asking her to dance, but she turned each and every one away. She could see her mother glaring at her disapprovingly, but she decided that she did not care. Rowena was stunningly beautiful, and slightly intimidating to those who did not know her. She was tall and slender, with long black hair and dark eyes. She was used to being propositioned by men. It was her mother’s hope that she would marry a rich Lord within the next few months; Rowena held no such hope.
Helga was the polar opposite to her best friend. She was small and round with blonde curly hair and a rather warm, kind face. They had opposite personalities too. Rowena was picky about who she spoke too and who was worthy of her friendship – Helga accepted everyone for who they were. Still, the two couldn’t have been better friends.
Helga was well known and respected throughout the magical community, despite her sympathetic attitude towards the Muggles. She kept her opinions between herself and Rowena mostly and knew not to be too outspoken. For Helga was a teacher, and taught magic to a number of children and young adults in her home in Wales. To be outspoken about her sympathy for Muggles may have resulted in her losing some of the pupils she cherished so dearly.
“Oh, speak of the devil,” Helga whispered, looking over Rowena’s shoulder.
Rowena turned around in her seat and noticed that she was not the only person in the room looking at who had just entered. Many around her were staring at the two young men who had entered the banquet hall, two great friends as different from each other as Rowena and Helga were: Salazar Slytherin and Godric Gryffindor.
Rowena took great care not to let any expression cross her face as she turned back to Helga. “Yes, mother said we could be expecting Salazar.”
“I’m surprised to see Godric here,” Helga admitted with a knowing look.
“Yes, well, you rarely see one without the other,” Rowena said casually.
Whispers were breaking out all around them. Godric Gryffindor was supremely unpopular with the pureblood magical community, though very popular among Muggleborns. As the Ravenclaw banquet was full of purebloods, Godric was wholly unwelcome there. This was the first banquet to be held since Godric’s father died six months previously. Lord and Lady Ravenclaw hadn’t expected him to attend.
“Well, I’ve always said it about Godric,” Helga smiled, “He has nerve!”
Helga waved as Godric looked in their direction. Rowena averted her gaze.
Knowing she couldn’t stay seated for the entire night, Rowena began to mingle with associates of her parents. Each and every one of them commented on how beautiful she looked, asking her when she would finally settle down with a husband. She laughed off each of the questions with clever and witty remarks.
If it were up to Lady Ravenclaw, Rowena would have been married to an older man named Lord Alistair Walberry when she turned fifteen. But she was a stubborn and determined young woman and claimed that she did not love Lord Walberry, and she would marry for love only.
She could see Lord Walberry approaching as she spoke with Mrs Ollivander, so she excused herself and rapidly exited the banquet hall. Speaking to Walberry was a chore at the best of times, especially when he continuously questioned her as to when she would finally accept his proposal of marriage.
Rowena climbed the staircases up to her bedroom, which was located in one of the castle’s towers. She planned to stay there for as long as she could get away with before her mother or Helga came looking for her. She selected one of the many books from her shelf, a fairytale one of the House Elves used to read to her when she was a child. It comforted her to think of a simpler time, where Muggles and magical folk could live harmoniously, at least in her head if nowhere else.
She had ten minutes to herself before there was a knock on her door.
“Just a moment!” she called, rolling her eyes. She placed her book back on its shelf, glanced at her reflection in her full sized mirror and proceeded to open the door.
It wasn’t her mother.
It wasn’t even Helga.
It was him.
“Godric,” she breathed. There was a part of her that was expecting him to come.
“You are rather good at disappearing,” Godric smiled at her. “I’m not sure anybody has noticed yet.”
“You noticed,” Rowena pointed out.
Rowena stood aside, silently extending an invite to Godric to come into her room. If her mother or father found out, she would be in serious trouble. To have any man in her bedroom would be unacceptable, but Godric Gryffindor was just about the last person in the world the Ravenclaws wanted associating with their daughter. He was an outspoken, Muggle loving ‘blood-traitor’, in their words.
“I heard you were in trouble recently,” said Rowena, watching Godric amble about her bedroom, observing every detail. “You and Helga hold the same level of sympathy for the Muggles.”
“I’ve always liked Helga,” Godric said, his blue eyes twinkling.
“It was reckless of you to make your sympathy so public,” Rowena reprimanded him. “I can’t imagine Salazar is too pleased with you.”
“Salazar and I rarely discuss our views on Muggles,” Godric told her. “It makes for a peaceful life.”
“I don’t see how you can be such good friends with someone who holds such different views to you!”
“We are brothers, Rowena,” he said. “Our views may differ, but our bond is next to unbreakable. I respect that his views are different to mine.”
“You’re a fool if you think your views on Muggles won’t come between you eventually,” Rowena said wisely.
“Shall we agree to disagree?”
Rowena nodded. She and Godric could argue for hours and hours with neither of them satisfied with the result.
“You truly look beautiful tonight,” Godric told her softly. The mood in the room had changed. He was certainly not the first man to say it to her tonight, but it was the first time her heart fluttered when she heard the words, and the first time that she truly believed them.
She did not bother responding. She just took in every aspect of Godric that she could; his dark auburn hair, his magical blue eyes, his soft expression. He wore red and gold robes, and had his goblin-made sword tucked safely into his belt. His brown pointed hat was stuffed into his pocket, for although Godric was something of an outlaw these days, he still had his manners and knew to remove his hat upon entering a banquet.
For as long as she could remember, Rowena had been in love with him.
They were standing close to each other, and Godric took her hands in his. He leaned in and kissed her, certainly not for the first time, though each time they kissed was just as exciting as the first. She was thirteen when they first kissed.
Although Rowena looked forward to their secret meetings, meetings she kept quiet even from Helga, she was smart enough to know that what she had with Godric would never amount to anything socially acceptable to her parents. They would never allow her to marry a blood traitor, and she could never truly be happy if her parents weren’t happy with her. So she enjoyed her fleeting moments of happiness with Godric for what they were: fleeting.
“We should get back downstairs,” Rowena whispered when they broke apart. Godric groaned, making her smile. “Don’t whine.”
“But these banquets are so dull. I wish I could dance with you without fearing your father might try to curse me.”
“I know,” Rowena sighed. “We’ll just have to keep our dances private for the time being.”
He kissed her again.
“You could have any man in this castle,” Godric said.
“I don’t want anyone else,” she responded. This was not the first time this conversation was brought up. Godric, for all his bravery and nerve, held severe insecurities when it came to Rowena.
“They have far more gold and possessions than I do.”
“You have bravery and loyalty and wit,” Rowena said fiercely.
“Wit?” Godric scoffed. “You would prefer wit to gold?”
She held her gaze into his majestic eyes. “Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.”
And he kissed her once more before leaving her bedroom to rejoin the banquet, unnoticed.
Disclaimer: 'Wit beyond measure is man's greatest treasure' is a quote belonging to J.K. Rowling, and this is entirely her world, I don't pretend to own any of it.
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