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The Founders Four by Klw

Format: Novel
Chapters: 43
Word Count: 116,481
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature

Genres: General, Romance, Action/Adventure
Characters: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Other Pairing

First Published: 09/09/2005
Last Chapter: 03/27/2016
Last Updated: 03/27/2016

Summary:
The lives of the Four Founders of the legendary school of Hogwarts has remained a mystery - until now. This story follows the founders as they meet for the first time, as they face struggles in their lives and as their bond of friendship is pushed to the limits. This is a story of adventure, tragedy, betrayal and friendship. Find out just how Hogwarts came to be and learn a little more about the heroes we know so little about...



^This banner was made by MarauderByNight of The Dark Arts^


Chapter 1: Godric Gryffindor
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Our story begins on a dark, stormy night many years previous to this. Thousands, in fact. All that could be seen through the sheets of rain was a lone figure - a woman, stumbling towards a grand castle on a hill. She was soaked to the skin, heavily pregnant and her hair was sopping wet. There were tears mixed in with the rain upon her pale face.

She’d been walking for miles, her legs almost seizing up completely. She was gasping, her lungs stinging and heaving in protest as she practically dragged herself up the hill. It was early winter in Scotland and the chances that she’d caught pneumonia after her many hours of walking through the rain in search of help were high. She could almost feel the cold eating away at her lungs from the inside, as though ice was cascading into her every time she breathed. She could no longer feel her toes and for all the good her clothes were going to keep her warm, she might as well have not been wearing them.

She knew she would not live to see the morning but she was determined to name her baby before she died. She’d tried to wrap herself up in as many layers of clothes as she could to protect her unborn child but every inch of her body was now wet and freezing.

She made one last struggle up to the door to the peasants’ quarters around the side of the castle, feeling an uncomfortable twinge in her stomach. She was now bent double, hardly able to stand. There were no lights on but Rona was determined to get inside. She banged on the door with her numb fists, feeling tears leaking down her face as she waited.

“Please, someone…anyone,” she whispered, her voice raspy from the cold.

After another minute of hammering on the door a lantern flickered to life, which Rona could see shining through a crack in the aged wood of the door. She waited with bated breath as she heard the irritable voice of an old woman from within the quarters, wonderful relief washing over her and making her feel a little warmer on the inside, despite the weather.

“Oh, who would come all the way up here in a storm like this?” Rona heard the woman asking herself as she unbolted the door. “Utterly ridiculous - it’s three in the morning!”

Rona squinted up into the light as the door was pulled open, having collapsed on the floor in the doorway. An elderly woman with wispy white hair and spectacles answered the door. She was in her night gown, a shawl wrapped around her shoulders, looking rather disgruntled at being woken up so abruptly. She was carrying a lantern and as she held it out she gasped, the light illuminating Rona's pitiful form.

“Martha! MARTHA!” The woman called, popping her head back inside the room beyond the door. “Get here girl, hurry!”

Rona watched, her breath coming in sharp gasps, as a young woman, no older than her and in about her early twenties, rushed over.

“What is it?” She asked in a strong cockney accent. “Blimey!” She said, seeing Rona on the doorstep.

“Don’t just stand there gawping girl!” The old woman snapped. “Help me bring her inside!”

Martha grabbed Rona under the arms whilst the old woman grabbed her legs and together they carried her inside, laying her down on a bed in a room just off the first one they entered. Rona could not see much of the room, as the pain was almost blinding her now.

“What’s wrong wiv’ her then, Mavis?” Martha asked conversationally, staring at Rona as she struggled to breathe evenly.

“She’s about to give birth, you silly girl!” Mavis replied. “Fetch me some warm water and some cloth. We may be in for a long night.”

As Martha rushed away Mavis laid a wrinkled hand soothingly on Rona’s head, the touch of it comforting her somewhat. She looked into Rona’s eyes, a pitying expression on her face.

“You poor thing,” she muttered quietly, stroking back her hair. “Where have you come from?” She looked irritably around for Martha and then turned back to Rona, her motherly expression returning. “Not to worry, dear. You’re safe now.”

It was indeed a long night. Mavis and Martha stayed with Rona throughout the birth of her child, urging her on encouragingly even though she had bearly any strength remaining. Almost three hours later, close to dawn, a baby boy was born into the world, his golden mass of hair like a ray of hope in Rona’s eyes. There was so much innocence in those gleaming blue eyes. Whilst Rona was left holding her baby, her vision slipping in and out of focus, Mavis and Martha stood just outside the doorway of the room.

“Poor lamb,” Mavis said sympathetically. “I wish I knew where she’d come from.”

“Eh, she looks pretty rich. Maybe she’s from a well-off family.”

“Don’t be silly, girl!” Mavis snapped. “What would she be doing out here unescorted at that time of night!”

“But her clothes, Mavis - her clothes are so…grand!” Martha exclaimed, looking envious.

“Yes, that’s what puzzles me,” Mavis said thoughtfully. “But we’ll never know. That poor girl won’t live to see her child become a man. She’s so young, too. I fear she’ll barely make it another hour. We must make her as comfortable as we can. Yes, what is it dear?” She asked quickly, as Rona had just made a sound of distress. “Aren’t you comfortable? Do you want some water?”

“N…no,” Rona managed to murmur, her throat stinging in protest. “M…my baby,” she said, feeling her heart slowing and finding it very hard to breathe.

“Yes dear. What about him? We’ll take good care of him for you, I swear it.”

“No…not that,” she gasped.

“Then what is it dear? Take your time…”

“I know I’m going to die any moment,” she managed to utter. “I just wanted to name…my baby… before…before…”

“It’s alright, dear,” Mavis said, a lump forming in her throat as she watched the tears leak down Rona’s rain-washed face. “You just take your time now.”

“I want to call him…Godric,” she said quietly. “Godric Gryffindor.”

“Very well, my dear,” Mavis breathed, watching the life drain from the poor girl.

“I…” Mavis looked up as she tried to speak again. “I love you, son.” She kissed her baby on the head and took one last shuddering gasp before becoming still and silent, her face as pale as snow.

“Is she…is she…?” Martha hesitated.

“Dead? Yes,” Mavis replied, sniffing loudly. “But she managed to name the little one before she…”

“Whasse called?” She asked eagerly.

“Godric Gryffindor,” Mavis said quietly, staring into the baby’s little face. He was sleeping at the moment, at peace but blissfully unaware that he’d never know his family.

“Tha’s a funny name!” Martha remarked, looking puzzled.

“Well, it’s what she wanted to call him. She told me with her last breath. We must respect her wishes.” She stared into Rona’s pale face, at her blue lips, closed eyes and her beautiful golden locks of hair, which were dirty with the rain. “I didn’t even know her name.”

Silence followed as the storm slowly subsided and Godric fidgeted a little as he slept.

“It’s a miracle this little one lived,” Mavis smiled, stroking Godric’s fair hair.

“So…what we gonna’ do wiv’ ‘im?” Martha asked quietly.

“We’ll look after him here until he is old enough to help out around the castle. When he’s old enough to do some work it’s up to Lord Scriever.” She glanced down at the baby’s angelic face again, who was still sleeping peacefully in his dead mother’s arms. “Godric…Godric Gryffindor…”


Chapter 2: The Fight
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It was daybreak and the early morning sun was streaming in through the window. The birds started to sing loudly outside, causing a great cacophony of merry sound. It was amazing that the boy, asleep for the moment on his hay-filled mattress, hadn’t woken already. He was having a rather pleasant dream about living a far grander life than the one he'd so far been blessed with. He always had to wear ragged clothes and serve the lords and ladies, and sometimes even royals, that passed through the castle he worked at.

He slept in the peasants’ quarters, where a number of small bunk beds were crammed into a room just off the kitchen. Thin cloth was wrapped around bales of hay as a mattress and equally thin blankets were all that kept the children that slept in this room from freezing. All the other children were already up and working, the boys in the stables or the fields and the girls in the kitchen or the yard.

“Godric!”

One thing could be said for Godric Gryffindor, if nothing else - he could sleep through a storm; he could sleep anywhere at any time and would still be utterly oblivious as to what was going on around him. It wasn’t that he was lazy. In fact, he was a very energetic, hyperactive boy.

“Get up, you great lump!” Mr Walker called from the kitchen. After there was still no sign of movement from the childrens’ bedroom he made an agitated noise and stormed in, the door banging loudly against the stone wall. He walked right over to Godric and shouted loudly down his ear. “GODRIC!”

This certainly had the right effect and Godric was torn from his dream immediately. He jumped as though he’d been hit by a bolt from an electrical storm and cracked his head painfully on the bunk above. He grimaced as the pain blurred his vision and rubbed it gingerly, staring up angrily at Mr. Walker.

“What did you do that for?” He asked, scowling.

Godric Gryffindor had certainly changed since the night he’d been born. Ten years had passed and he’d obviously grown quite a lot. He was tall for his age and rather lanky. His eyes were as blue and sparkling as they ever had been but his dirty blonde hair was messy and sticking out at odd angles because he’d been rolling around in his sleep. He’d also adopted the Scottish accent, as he’d been surrounded by Scots since he was just a boy.

“Well, how else was I supposed to wake you?” Mr. Walker said, in equal measures of anger. “You were meant to be up hours ago, you foolish boy!”

“Ah, I was tired!” He retorted. “I’m a growing lad and I need my sleep!” Godric had always been rather cheeky and had received rather a lot of scolding in his short lifetime.

“Aye, you need your sleep but you also need food, which you won’t be getting from me if I hear any more of you cheek again! Now, get up!”

Mr. Walker suddenly grabbed Godric by the ear, making him grumble in protest as he led him from the room.

“What are you doing?” Godric said quickly. “I need to get changed first!”

He was still wearing his ragged trousers that he slept in, his bony chest exposed as he was forced outside into the chilly morning air. He threw his arms around him, shivering slightly.

“This’ll teach you then, won’t it?”

“Where are you takin’ me?” Godric demanded, trying to look dignified as he was dragged past a group of young girls that laughed at his skinny upper body.

They stopped by the water pump outside the stables and Mr. Walker bend Godric’s head beneath the jet of water that began streaming out as he pumped it. Godric spluttered and writhed as the icy jet cascaded down his face and down his spine, making him shiver as a cruelly cold breeze ruffled his hair. His body erupted in goose bumps as Mr. Walker allowed him to stand up straight again. Godric looked up furiously at him, clamping his arms across his chest and rubbing them in the hope of getting warm. He was shaking uncontrollably and his teeth were chattering.

“Now boy,” Mr. Walker said, looking amused at Godric’s shaking form. “I want you to go and get dressed in your best stable wear. You’re going to be helping me get the horses ready for Lord Schreiver’s hunt later on…and if you’re good I might just let you hand a horse over to someone important.”

Godric stared, trying to hide his excitement by scowling, as he was still angry.

“Well, get going then!”

He did as he was told, feeling his face burn red as he passed the giggling girls again.

“Ravin’ lunatic!” He hissed as he entered his room again.

Godric hurriedly peeled off his soaking wet trousers and started to put on his best working attire. They weren’t as grand as what the royals got to wear but the workers had to be presentable when they were to be in contact with people of a higher status than themselves. Once Godric was dressed he rushed out towards the stables and hurried over to a small crowd of other boys he had to work with.

“Oh, so glad you could join us, Mr. Gryffindor!” Mr. Walker joked, a few of the boys laughing at this. “Now, I want Billy, Simon and Jeremy to take care of me three prized steeds. The rest of you - mucking out duty please!”

“I thought you said I could work with the hunting horses today?” Godric said angrily.

“All in good time, m’boy!” He laughed, ruffling his hair.

Godric scowled and then followed the other boys towards the stables where the other horses were kept.

He spent all morning shovelling great piles of horse muck out of the stables. Even after he’d done that, by which time his back felt like it’d been snapped in two, he still had more work to finish. He had to feed the horses, groom them and exercise them. Finally, at one in the afternoon, Mavis, an old and wrinkled lady who’d worked at the castle since before Godric was born, called everyone in for lunch.

“Nice outfit, Godric!”

Before Godric could leave the stable he’d been working in he found his way blocked by a very unpleasant boy called Robert, who was a little older than himself.

“What do you want?” He retorted.

“There’s no need to be rude, Gryffindor!”

“Get outta’ my way!” Godric said angrily, trying to push past him.

“You think you’re better than the rest of us just because you’ve got a fancy name?” He laughed, pushing Godric so that he was flung backwards and thrown into the back wall of the stable. "What kinda' name's Godric Gryffindor anyway?

Robert was considerably bigger then Godric and it would have been foolish for him to take him on but, as he started to laugh in Godric’s face, he lost it and flung himself straight back at him. Robert obviously wasn’t expecting this and fell backwards onto the hard stone outside, with Godric on top of him, punching every bit of him he could reach. For a small boy Godric was rather agile and could throw quite a good number of punches before Robert had gathered his wits.

“Get him off me!” Robert called, a dark bruise forming over his left eye.

Godric heard hurried footsteps across the stone courtyard but didn’t care. He then felt himself being dragged to his feet and, looking up, he realised that it was Mr. Walker.

“What the devil are you doing?” He shouted angrily. “How dare you fight in a royal courtyard. Lords and Ladies will be here later!”

“He started it!” Robert said quickly, pointing aggressively at Godric, who now had a bleeding lip, his clothes all messed up.

“No I didn’t. He was mocking my name!”

“I don’t care!” Mr. Walker shouted, spit flying everywhere. “You do not fight like common tramps! You work for Lord Screiver’s castle. You must behave in a dignified manner!”

For the rest of the week both boys had to do the most unenviable chores around the castle. They did not exchange one word as they worked. The reason Godric had gotten so mad was because he knew that his Mother had named him with her last breath and he didn’t want anyone disrespecting his mother.


Chapter 3: The Invitation
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Lord Schreiver sat in the grandest room in his castle, polishing a particularly old silver sword, which he’d once used to save his own life. He liked to sit in this room. It was his favourite. He’d often come up here to be alone and contemplate, particularly about his wife, who’d passed away not so long ago. It was hard for a man of his age to be alone after such a long time of togetherness.

There was a knock at the door and Lord Schreiver flinched, almost causing the heavy sword to slide off the desk.

“Come in!” He shouted quickly.

A servant called Jenkins entered, looking politely puzzled. “You called my lord?” He asked.

“I did?” He said, looking puzzled; his memory wasn’t what it used to be. “Yes, I did,” he nodded, finally remembering why he’d called for Jenkins. “I want you to send an invite out to the king of England,” he said happily, rising to his feet and pacing slowly around the room. “I know that his family like to come here to get away from the strains of royal life. We have all this land, after all!” He laughed airily, gesturing out of the window at the expansive lawns and forest.

“Indeed, my lord,” Jenkins replied.

“Tell him he is most welcome to stay for a few days and to bring his wife and daughter. They may like to take advantage of the wonderful countryside we have around these parts.”

“Yes, milord.”

“Send that boy you sent to the duke of York last week…er…what’s his name?”

“Wilkins, milord?”

“That’s the one. He is very efficient!” He commented, sitting back down again. “I think I’ll very much enjoy the company,” he muttered, more to himself.

“Very well, my lord,” Jenkins said after a short pause. He bowed and exited the room, leaving Lord Schreiver to his thoughts.

*

Princess Rowena sat in her room as usual with her maid. Her father always thought it necessary that someone should watch her at all times. Rowena hated this. She was a very lively young girl and could be quite restless at times. She particularly hated going to grand balls and such events because she’d always have to wear the most uncomfortable clothes. She’d always prefer to play outside but, as she was the king and queen’s only daughter she was protected heavily.

“Daddy said we could play out in the orchard today,” she said.

“Yes, but not now. We shall take a walk later,” Mrs. Hayden said.

Rowena took on a sad expression and leaned back in her chair.

“Sit up, Rowena!” Mrs. Hayden snapped. “You’ll get your new dress all creased.”

“I don’t like it anyway,” she said dismissively. “It’s too tight and makes me feel like I can't breathe.”

“Miss. Rowena!” She cried, looking shocked. “You shouldn’t say something as disrespectful as that! Your Father has paid good money to keep you in clothes this fine!”

“I don’t know why we have to wear these silly clothes. The people in the kingdom don’t wear them.”

“Well, that’s because they can’t afford them,” she muttered, pursing her lips.

“Why is it that they can’t and we can then?” Rowena asked.

“Never mind that now. Get on with your sums like a good girl,” she smiled, indicating the sheet of parchment Rowena had been scribbling upon.

“I’ve done them all,” she replied casually.

“Don’t be silly, you can’t have done all of them!”

“I have…look,” Rowena replied defensively, waving the parchment in front of Mrs. Hayden’s face.

Sure enough, she’d completed them all. They were quite difficult too. Rowena had a tendancy to do this. She’d often work out puzzles rather easily. Her father had always known she was bright and would brag to anyone who would listen that he had the brightest daughter in all of England.

“Then…didn’t your tutor give you anything else to do?” Mrs. Hayden asked.

“No. I’ve done everything she told me to.”

At that moment the door of the study creaked open and the king and queen entered. Mrs. Hayden bowed.

“We wish to speak alone with Rowena,” the king said simply.

“Certainly…”

Mrs. Hayden left the room, closing the door behind her.

“Are we going out into the gardens?” Rowena asked at once. “Are we going to play outside? That would be so much fun! Especially with you daddy…and you mummy!”

“Please, Rowena. Call us as you would in public,” her mother replied, looking uncomfortable.

By this she meant mother and father. They always corrected Rowena if she slipped up so that she would be less likely to do so at a social occasion. They wanted her to grow into a very proper young lady.

“No, dear,” her father said.

“But you promised,” Rowena said, looking disheartened.

“Yes…well, I am the king and I have duties but I have come to tell you of some exciting news.”

Rowena sat on the very edge of her seat, looking up at her mother and father expectantly.

“Lord Screiver has invited us all up to his castle next weekend,” he replied. “You remember him?”

“I think so.”

“I know how you like to play outside in the fresh air and there’s plenty of it up in the highlands. We’ll get to spend some time together.”

Rowena smiled widely, hardly able to believe her luck. She hardly ever got to spend much time with her mother and father these days.

“I accepted because I thought it would be a nice treat, towards your thirteenth birthday, perhaps.”

“Thank you, daddy!” Rowena cried. She jumped up from her seat and hugged her father tightly around the middle.

“Rowena!” The queen scolded.

Rowena quickly drew away, her father looking sternly at her.

“If we do go,” her mother warned. “I want you to behave like a proper young lady.”

“Yes, mother.”


Chapter 4: The Arival
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“Do it again, Godric!” William pleaded, looking eager.

“I dunno if I can,” Godric muttered, wearing an expression of mock doubt.

“Ah, go on!” Hamish said.

Godric sat behind an upturned bucket in one of the empty stables with a gaggle of boys and girls around him, all of whom were meant to be working. They wanted him to show them his famous levitating trick.

“Okay, okay,” Godric laughed, enjoying the attention. “Ready?” All the children nodded and Godric placed his hands above the bucket, waggling his fingers. Slowly, it began to rise upwards and the children all gasped in unison, looking amazed.

“How do you do it?” Luanne asked, looking awestruck.

“Magic,” he replied simply, looking smug.

“What’s going on in there!”

Godric jumped and so did a few of the other children as Mr. Walker’s voice rung across the courtyard. They all started to scramble out of the stable but as Godric reached the door he found his way blocked by Mr. Walker himself.

“There you are!”

“I didn’t do it!” Godric said quickly.

“Didn’t do what?” Mr. Walker asked suspiciously.

“Nothing.”

Mr. Walker surveyed him for a moment and then shrugged it off. “Come on, boy. I want a word with you,” he muttered, leading Godric out towards the fields.

Godric was always performing strange tricks he’d been able to do since before he could remember. The adults were always furious whenever he did this because that type of craft was feared by many so, understandably, Godric hoped no one would find out what he’d been doing.

“Now boy,” Mr. Walker said matter-of-factly. “I don’t know if you’ve heard but Lord Schreiver has invited the king of England to his castle for a few days.”

Godric stopped walking and stared.

“Really? THE king? As in THE ACTUAL king?”

Mr. Walker rolled his eyes at this, looking rather stern.

“Well, who else would I mean, you silly boy!” He exclaimed.

“Oh…well…wow!” He stuttered, unable to believe this. “But why are you telling me this? Why didn’t you tell us all together?” He asked, his brow furrowed.

“Well, the thing is that Lord Schreiver needs stable boys to saddle up the horses and whatnot for the king’s visit, as he loves to ride across the moors. Now, don’t ask me why, but the lord has requested you as one of those stable boys.”

Once again Godric could do nothing but stare in wonderment. He felt a large grin spread across his face as he looked up at Mr. Walker, trying to tell whether he was joking.

“Are you serious?” He asked, still looking shocked. “He actually wants me? Only a few get chosen. Why does he want me?” He asked suspiciously.

“I have no idea,” he replied, looking quite shocked himself. “I tried to talk him out of it but he wants to see how you’ll do.”

“Oh,” Godric said, smiling contentedly. “Alright then.”

“It’ll be your job to saddle up the horses and help lead them if you must,” Mr. Walker said. “Now, you'd better not muck this up, boy!” He warned, pointing a threatening finger at him. “I know what you’re like!”

“I won’t muck it up!” Godric said indignantly.

Mr. Walker grunted doubtfully, raising his eyebrows.

“You also have to be presentable if you want a job this important again!” He told him. “So you'd better do a good job of it! They arrive tomorrow afternoon so be ready!”

*

The very next day, just before noon, the king was on his way to Lord Schreiver’s castle. He was in one of his grandest coaches with the queen, their daughter and the king’s royal adviser, Archibald.

“Oh, are we nearly there?” Rowena asked impatiently, fidgeting about so that she could get a good look out of the coach window.

“Sit still, Rowena, you’ll crease your gown!” Her mother said quickly, smoothing out the creases on it.

Her mother had insisted she wear the ridiculous gown for travelling simply to keep up appearances. Rowena particularly hated this gown because it was the tightest she owned. It constricted her breathing so that she couldn’t even sit comfortably. Even her hair was making her uncomfortable. It had been pulled back into a very tight bun.

“I just can’t wait for us to get there!” She exclaimed, reluctantly sitting up straight in her seat.

“Well, you’ll have to,” the king said, straightening his crown a little.

“Why are we wearing these?” Rowena asked, indicating the crowns the three of them wore on their heads.

“We must make an effort, dear,” he mother said in a rather exasperated way.

“But we’re taking a break, aren’t we? We don’t need to act like royalty if we’re taking time out somewhere else.”

Her father looked at her sternly.

“Being a royal is not a job!” He snapped. “It is a way of life, Rowena, and you should respect it! There are many young ladies who would give a lot to be where you are in society so start sounding a little more grateful!”

Rowena hung her head and stayed silent for the remainder of the journey.

*

“What are you wearing those for?” Robert shouted out across the courtyard. “Hey Gryffindor, I’m talking to you!”

Godric swung around wildly as the horse brush Robert had thrown hit him hard on the shoulder.

“Go away, Robert!” Godric shouted angrily, as Robert advanced towards him.

“I asked you a question!”

Godric was trying his best to control his anger because if he let an incident happen like what did last time him and Robert had had a disagreement, he’d loose his job as stable boy for the king’s visit for certain. He tried to keep calm even though his chest was swelling with indignation.

“It’s none of your business!”

“It is if I say it is, you little weed!” He laughed.

He stood up right next to Godric, towering over him quite considerably. Godric didn’t care if Robert was rather taller and stronger than him. He squared up to him like an equal and stared fiercly into his mocking eyes.

“For your information,” Godric said angrily, thinking he’d very much like to see Robert’s reaction. “I’ve been chosen as a stable boy for the king’s visit this week.”

Robert stared blankly for a moment and then started to laugh.

“Yeah right! YOU? Why on earth would anyone choose you?”

“Well, Lord Schreiver seems to think I’m good enough. Didn’t you get chosen?” He asked in mock sadness after a short pause.

Seeing Robert’s face contort with rage like this was very satisfying and Godric couldn’t help grinning.

“They’re here, Godric!”

Polly, a five-year-old girl that worked in the kitchens, had appeared at the corner of the courtyard that led around to the main part of the castle and was beckoning Godric towards her. Godric smiled sarcastically and waved in Robert’s angry face before dashing towards Polly, who was looking possibly more excited that he was at that point.

“Quick, they’re pulling up at the front of the castle!” She squeaked.

She grabbed Godric’s hand and pulled him along the path that led to it. They ran along, the sound of horses’ hooves and carriage wheels moving across gravel reaching their ears as they came up to the corner of the gatehouse.

“Look, there he is - the king!” Polly exclaimed.

Godric looked around the stone wall to see a man that was unmistakably the king climbing down from his black horse-drawn carriage. As he walked forwards he looked around and smiled. He then shook Lord Schreiver’s hand, who’d just moved towards him.

“I thought the king would have a bigger beard than that,” Polly said thoughtfully. “He’s quite tall though, isn’t he?”

“Aye,” Godric replied, watching intently.

After the king came the queen, who elegantly stepped out of the carriage as the footman helped her down. She too moved towards Lord Schreiver and nodded politely as he kissed her hand.

“They don’t look like they’ll be able to ride horses very well,” Godric commented quietly as he and Polly continued to watch. “They’re so posh. You know, they walk like they’ve got a huge branch shoved up their a - ”


“Look!” Polly said quickly. “Who’s that?”

Godric looked back at the carriage and his brow furrowed as a young girl climbed down from inside, not much older than himself. She certainly looked young and was unmistakably the princess. This was made clear as the king beckoned her forward and introduced her to Lord Schreiver, smiling fondly.

“She’s so beautiful,” Polly said enviously.

“Aye, she is,” Godric agreed, watching her closely as she followed her father and mother towards the entrance to the castle. “Really beautiful. Bet it’s uncomfortable in those clothes, though!” He said, regaining his composure.

“But she’d be pretty without them!”

“Yeah, maybe,” he replied, trying to ignore an uncomfortable feeling in his stomach.

“Godric, quick!” Polly shouted suddenly, making him jump out of his skin and tearing his gaze away from the princess.

“WHAT?” He demanded angrily.

“You have to get to the stables, ready for when Lord Schreiver shows the king around!” She said, looking worried.

“Oh no!” He hissed, beginning to run back along the path towards the stables. “Wait!” He said quickly, doubling back. “How do I look?”

“You look very smart,” she grinned. “Good luck!” She shouted after him.


Chapter 5: That Fateful Day
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Godric ran as fast as he could in the smart clothes he wore. He was a fit young lad but he knew he’d still have to run flat out to get to the stables before the guests did. He sped up as he pelted along the fir-tree-lined dirt track that led to the open gate to the courtyard. He leapt through the gateway and headed towards the group of other stable boys, whom he noticed were all much older and taller than him, and lost his footing, skidding across the floor.

 

“Where on earth have you been?” A boy called Michael demanded as some of the other boys laughed at Godric.

Godric rose to his feet angrily, rubbing at the dirty patches he now had on his knees.

“I was just - ”

He broke off as loud voices approached.

“Quick, the horses!” Michael hissed.

Each of the stable boys, including Godric, retrieved a horse from the stables behind them to show to the king and his family so that they could take their pick.

“What are you doing?” Michael snarled, glancing angrily at Godric.

“He won’t stay still!” He replied, trying to get his horse to stop fidgeting.

“Ah, here we are!” Lord Schreiver boomed, making Godric jump as he suddenly appeared off the end of the path that led up to the castle. “Our finest stable boys…” he trailed off slightly, catching sight of Godric’s muddy knees. Godric flushed red at this. “And horses,” Lord Schreiver continued. “All our finest trained horses are here before you so please take your pick, milord!” He beamed, inclining his head slightly.

“Ah, good,” the King said pompously.

Godric wasn’t paying attention to what the king was doing and instead was looking at the young princess, who was standing at her mother’s side, observing the horses with interest.

“Where’s my usual?” The King demanded, looking closely at the horses.


“Unfortunately, he passed away some months ago now.”

“Shame. He was a fine horse - good breed!”

Whilst Godric struggled to stop his horse from nodding its head the other stable boys stood stock still.

“What the devil are you doing?” Lord Schreiver hissed, as the king went to examine the horses at the other end of the line-up.

“He won’t stay still!”

“This one!” The king said happily, pointing out a tall black horse that stood proud.

“Ah, a very good choice, your majesty. And milady,” he smiled, beckoning the queen forward.

She took a much shorter time in choosing and selected a chestnut horse.

“And now the Princess.”

 

She moved forward excitedly, looking at the horses with great interest. Godric could feel his horse pulling on the reins and tried his level best to stop him from fidgeting again. She looked in his direction as the horse started to nod its head about. She surveyed the animal for a moment and smiled.

“That one,” she said, pointing it out.

Godric was shocked for her to have chosen his horse and smiled to himself as the other stable boys that hadn’t been chosen yet looked disappointed. If you were chosen it meant you’d get to assist the king and his family with hunting and such activities for the whole visit.

“Oh, are you sure?” Lord Schreiver asked quickly, looking worried. “It’s just that…well, he of our newest stallions here, quite young. He’s quite feisty, as you can see!” He exclaimed, indicating the horse, who’d started to move about, not satisfied with standing still for this long.

“My daughter knows what she wants,” the king replied loudly. “She can handle that horse, I’m sure.”

“Very well,” Lord Schreiver smiled. “You three, saddle them up. Diggory, saddle up Sir Trotalot for me. Let’s retire for a little refreshment before we ride, shall we?” He said, smiling at the King.

They all agreed and moved back towards the castle.

“Why’d she pick your stinkin’ horse?” Michael demanded, observing Godric's with a very annoyed look. “Sure you can handle saddling him up?”

“I’m sure I’ll be fine!” Godric said coldly.

He was actually rather nervous about this. He didn’t particularly like this horse. He was rather feisty, like Lord Schreiver had said. As he led him into the stall to get him saddled up he made a bid for freedom by pulling back to go outside again.

“No, we’ve gotta get you ready for the princess!” He grunted, tugging hard on the reins. After a little protest he stayed still as Godric threw the saddle up over his back.

Godric’s neck suddenly prickled uncomfortably, as though he was being watched. He ignored it but the second time he could not resist and looked around. His eyes widened and he stepped away from the horse, sinking into a bow.

“You don’t have to bother with all that,” she laughed.

She looked very out of place standing in a dirty stable in her long gown that probably cost more than all of the horses put together.

“But you’re the Princess. Everyone has to do that,” Godric replied, trying not to make too much eye contact. He’d been told it was rude to do this to your superiors.

“Oh, for my mum and dad…but I’m not fussed. I just long to know what it’d be like to be normal, even for a day,” she smiled.

Godric took a moment to admire her warm smile and, when he realised he was staring, he quickly turned back to the horse to slip on his bridal.

“If it’s anything like this you’re better off where you are,” he said quietly. “You may long to be normal but we all long to be rich.”

“Money isn’t everything,” she said defensively.

“Aye, I know,” he smiled. “Certainly helps, though, doesn’t it? Especially if you want to wear threads like those!” He indicated her gown.

“I don’t choose to wear clothes like this,” she replied. “We just have to. To show our place in society.”

There was a short pause, in which Godric stared into her bright eyes.

“What’s you name anyway?” She asked. Most superior people would request such information simply to know what to refer to you as when they called but she seemed to genuinely want to know.

“Godric,” he replied hesitantly. “Godric Gryffindor.”

“That’s a good name.”

“Sorry?”

“It has a noble meaning,” she explained.

“Does it?” He asked in surprise.

“Yes. I can’t remember quite what it means but I’ve come across it in a book before,” she told him.

“You must be pretty clever to read books,” Godric said in amazement.

“Have you never read a book?” She inquired.

“Never even opened one!” He laughed.

“Maybe I could lend you one some time.”

“No point!” He replied. “It won’t help.”

“Can you not read?” She asked, sounding shocked.

“No.”

“You’re missing out,” she told him.

She watched him for a moment as he checked to make sure the saddle was fastened tightly enough.

“Shouldn’t you stay with a guard or something. It could be dangerous!” Godric said.

“I crept away,” she smiled, her blue eyes glinting mischievously.

“You should go back then.”

“No. I want to stay outside. I’ve had enough of stuffy castles to last me a lifetime.” She paused here. “I want to ride!” She said suddenly. “Let’s go riding in the fields. It’s a lovely day!”

“No!” Godric said quickly as she pushed past him. “We should wait for the others. You shouldn’t ride off alone!”

“I’m not going to go alone. You’re coming with me!”

“Oh right,” he muttered. “What!” He demanded, the words sinking in. “Look, you - ”

“You know the lands, don’t you?”

“Er…aye, I do,” he said.

“Good. Help me up then! You shouldn’t disobey a royal, Godric!” She added, when he hesitated.

He reluctantly decided he’d better do as he was told. He wasn’t sure how to help her up onto the horse. He was afraid he might ruin her gown. He carefully placed a hand on either side of her waist and thrust her up onto the horse’s back. She sat there smiling down at him.

“Come on then!” She laughed.

Godric looked around to check no one was looking and climbed up in front of her. He knew it was very inappropriate for him to be in this situation with a royal. He certainly shouldn’t have been talking to her, let alone riding a horse with her. He felt his heart thumping hard against the wall of his chest as she wrapped her hands around his waist to stop herself falling off. If they were caught…

“Let’s go then!”

Godric kicked the horse into motion and they immediately bolted forwards. This horse a fast mover and had carried them across the courtyard and down the dirt track in no time. Godric could breathe freely when he figured that no one had seen them. They slowed to a walk as they walked alongside a stream that trickled between large rocks and moss-covered trees.

“It’s wonderful!” The princess said happily. “Do you often come here?”

“No, not really,” Godric said sadly. “Most days I have to work with the animals or go to the market to help sell the cattle we don’t need.”

“I’m curious,” she muttered, as their horse weaved calmly between the towering trees. “How does a peasant like you end up with such a name?”

“I don’t know. You’d have to ask my mother,” he replied.

“What’s she like? Does she work up at the castle?”

“She’s dead,” he said shortly.

“Oh…how did she - ?”

“Died after I was born,” Godric said, feeling a lump form in his throat.

“I’m sorry. That’s awful.”

“No, it’s fine,” he said. “Why are you so eager to leave your parents anyway? Couldn’t you have just waited for them to join you?”

“You have no idea!” She laughed. “I’m stuck with them whenever we go somewhere like this. I’m with them for royal events, I’m with them on outings, I’m with them at dinner, I’m with them when we visit other places. I think the only time I’m not with them is when I’m sleeping!”

“Really?”

“Yes. Well, apart from when I study. I work with a tutor,” she explained. “I never get to see children my own age. I wish I could.”

They moved on up the a grassy area within the forest in silence. Godric had never seen royals as normal people but the princess seemed as normal as him or anyone else. She was easy to talk to, as she had a lot to say. They dismounted the horse and let him rest whilst they sat quietly on the grass, listening to the sound of the trickling water.

“You never told me your name,” Godric said. He shouldn’t have ever said this to a royal but couldn’t help it. It was frowned upon and considered rude, as peasants like him were meant to be seen and not heard.

She surveyed him for a moment.

“Rowena,” she smiled.

Godric smiled back, those blue eyes catching his.

Suddenly, the thunderous sound of hooves approached. Godric leapt to his feet and Rowena looked fearful.

“They've probably realised I’ve gone!” She said worriedly. “Quick, let’s go before they find us!”

“No, Rowena!” Godric said quickly. “You can’t do that. You’ll be in even more trouble!”

Before they could do anything else the horses got ever closer. Godric froze in fear as Lord Schreiver approached behind the king, along with the queen and their guards. The king stared with wide eyes that made him look rather unhinged and leapt from his horse, striding angrily towards the pair of children. Lord Schreiver followed his lead.

“What is the meaning of this?” He demanded of Rowena.

“I just - ”

“Did he take you?” Her Mother asked, looking horrified.

“What? No - !” Rowena said quickly.

“KIDNAP!” The king roared, spit flying from his mouth. “You tried to kidnap my daughter!”

“No, I didn’t! It was her…she - !” Godric stammered fearfully, backing away.

“How DARE you blame her!” He snarled, grabbing Godric by the front of his shirt.

“Daddy, please!” Rowena pleaded, looking scared. “It was my fault, not Godric’s!”

He turned to face her, looking angry.

“You call this peasant by his first name?” He hissed menacingly. “Cavorting with commoners like this filth! You are a disgrace, girl!”

“No, she - !” Godric began.

“And you!” He screeched. “How dare you run off with MY daughter! How DARE you! You little rodent!” He started to tug hard on Godric’s collar so that he was finding it hard to breathe. “We shall not be returning here, Lord Schreiver. I will not have my daughter associating with muck like this! She’ll be wanting a peasant for a husband next!”

“Daddy, you’re hurting him!” Rowena cried, her eyes tearful.

The king looked down at Godric’s purpling face and threw him to the ground with a look of disgust.

“We’re leaving!” The king snapped. He lifted Rowena up onto his horse effortlessly and they rode off, leaving only Godric and Lord Schreiver in the clearing.

Lord Schreiver slowly turned to look at Godric as he wheezed and gasped for breath. He coughed into the ground, breathing in the sweet smell of grass.

“Idiot boy!” Schreiver roared. He flung out his leg and it caught Godric painfully in the ribs. “You made the king leave - the KING!"

Godric was thrown across the clearing and spluttered up blood. He moaned in pain.

“It wasn’t my fault!” He managed to gasp.

“Don’t answer back! Get up, you little runt!” He shouted. He grabbed him by the back of his shirt to make him stand and thrust him across the clearing once more, dragging him back towards the castle. “This means punishment, boy. I’ll be lucky if I ever hear from the king again…kidnapping his daughter!”

“I didn’t!” Godric contradicted, clutching his ribs in agony.

“You’re out, boy! You’re out for good!” He roared, his eyes popping madly.

“What?”

“You’re not staying here anymore! You’ve messed up too many times!”

“No!” Godric pleaded. “Please, Sir, don’t make me leave! I’m sorry. I like it here. Please, sir!”

“Shut up, boy!” He spat. “You’ve crossed the line this time!”

“But…where will I go?” He said desperately. “You can’t just chuck me out of the castle on my own!”

“I don’t intend to. You’ll work. I’m sending you to Lord Hufflepuff’s castle. He’s a good friend of mine.”

“What?”

“That’s right, boy. You’ll work there!”

“But I don’t want to leave!” Godric said angrily, his wounds throbbing painfully.

“Tough luck because you’re not staying here any longer than necessary.”

 


Chapter 6: Benedick Greyson
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A pale boy with dark hair sat alone at the end of a hallway in a silent building in London. He was fifteen and though he was of a fine build, like his father had been, he was fragile on the inside. He stared at his feet, trying to block out the pain he felt. He’d lost his parents in a tragic accident, as everyone kept refering to it. He’d loved them dearly. He’d lived with his uncle for the time after their death but was now waiting to see a man that would talk to him about his future.

His mother and father had been lord and lady of southern England. It seemed that he was next in line for this position. The man he was going to see today would supposedly help and advise him.

A door creaked open at the end of the corridor and the boy looked up eagerly. A man in long robes of black moved forwards. He surveyed the boy for a moment and then smiled a small smile that didn’t quite travel into his pale eyes.

“Do come this way, Salazar,” he said in a calming voice.

Salazar Slytherin got to his feet and walked down the hallway with the man. They both entered the office and the door shut automatically behind them. Salazar sat in front of a highly polished oak desk when he was beckoned to do so. The man sat down opposite him, observing him over entwined fingers.

“Do you know who I am Salazar?” He asked in that calming whisper of a voice.

Salazar shook his head mutely.

“Then I shall introduce myself,” he smiled. “My name is Benedick Greyson. I was a good friend of your father’s. Such a tragic loss,” he added quietly. “Has he ever mentioned me?”

Again, Salazar shook his head.

“Well, I promised him I’d keep your best interests in mind. I’m here to help you. There are many unpleasant characters after your title, Salazar. I will help you gain the position you deserve, the title that is rightfully yours.”

“I don’t want it,” Salazar said quickly. “I don’t care who has it! I don’t want to be a lord!”

“Come now, my dear boy!” Benedick said delicately. “You would feel different in years to come and feel most regretful if you passed up this opportunity.”

Salazar just remained silent. He wanted nothing more than his parents to be with him at that very moment in time.

“We wouldn’t want common muggles in your position now, would we? I mean, the king is already a muggle. We need someone like US in power, don’t we?”

Salazar looked up. Not many people knew what he and his parents were but he knew that, if Benedick had been his father’s friend, he could trust him to keep their secret. It was worth death if your secret was to slip. You’d be burned at the stake if you were found to practice witchcraft of any kind.

“But I…I have no idea how to be a lord,” Salazar said quietly, his heart hammering at the very prospect.

“Well, that is where I come in,” Benedick smiled. “I will help you, Salazar. I will make you a noble lord. We will make sure our kind gets where they need to be.”

*

“Hello, m’boy!”

Salazar had been escorted back home to the large and very grand house his uncle lived in. He walked through the door and his uncle was there to greet him at once.

“How did it go?”

“Fine,” Salazar replied. “He said he’s going to help me become very powerful.”

His Uncle Arthur narrowed his eyes.

“Don’t go getting too big for your boots yet, sonny!” He chuckled.

“Salazar!”

He spun on his heel just in time to see a beaming smile and a silky sheet of blonde hair before he’d been pulled into a very tight hug. He smiled.

“Hello, Belle!” He beamed.

Belle had been a mere child when she’d been adopted by Arthur and his wife. They had found her in an orphanage and saw great potential and decided they’d take her home and make her a learned young woman. She was so beautiful it was hard to believe she’d come from such an unfortunate background. Arthur’s wife had passed away some years previous and now Belle kept him company when Salazar was away.

“We’ve missed you!” She said. “How are you?”

“I’m feeling better now,” he beamed.

She smiled in reply.

Arthur cleared his throat.

“Oh, sorry, Sir,” she said quickly, tearing her gaze from Salazar’s flushed face.

“Please, Belle, how many times? You do not have to refer to me as Sir!” He chuckled.

“Sorry. I’ll go and help Mrs. May. Dinner should be ready soon.”

Salazar watched her hurry out of sight.

Arthur just chuckled.

“What?” Salazar demanded, feeling embarrassed.

“Let’s change before our meal, shall we?” He suggested.

Once they’d done this they returned downstairs and took up their places at the dining table.

“You know, I never recall your father mentioning Benedick,” Arthur muttered thoughtfully.

“Really? He seemed to know who I was. Perhaps you just never met him,” Salazar suggested.

At that moment there was a clattering outside as the food was being brought to them.

“Ah, here we are!” Arthur said happily. “I could eat a horse!”

Mrs. May laid out the food on the table to grateful grunts as she pulled up the lid of every platter to reveal her delicious offerings.

“Thank you, Mary,” Arthur said gratefully. “This all looks wonderful!”

“Yes,” Salazar agreed. His eyes suddenly fell upon the person standing in the doorway. It was Belle. She was not dressed in her usual blue but had adorned a long green gown. She looked so stunning Salazar found it hard to take his eyes off her. “It certainly does.”

“Oh, Belle, me dear!” Arthur said happily, rising to his feet. “Salazar, where are your manners?” He hissed, when he didn’t stand. It was only polite to do so when a lady was sitting at a table.

“Thank you,” she smiled.

She sat down opposite Salazar and beamed.

Even though she had known Salazar from three years old, since he was five, he found it hard to talk to her normally these days. Every time he spoke to her his throat would seize up and his stomach would churn. He also couldn’t stand the thought of being alone with her. He was afraid his heart might burst if he was ever in that situation.

What is wrong with me? He thought angrily as that familiar wave of warmth spread over him. This often happened. His heart would race, his breathing would speed up and he would start to get very warm all of a sudden.

“Are you alright, Salazar?” She asked gently. “You look a little flushed.”

“I’m fine,” he managed to say, before that familiar lump formed in his throat, brought on every time he spoke to her.

“Here, try some of these,” Arthur smiled, offering him a platter of chopped vegetables.

Salazar reached out, desperate to have something to do other than think about how red his face must be now. As he reached across his hand caught the edge of his goblet and it toppled over, staining the table cloth yellow. Belle gasped as it trickled off the table and onto her dress.

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Salazar said quickly.

“It’s okay!” Belle said, trying to wipe it off before it stained her dress too.

“It was an accident.”

“I know,” she smiled.

“Maybe you best go to the kitchens. Mrs. May can get any stain out of anything,” Arthur suggested.

She hurried out of the room.

“I’m such a fool!” Salazar muttered angrily. “I’m so clumsy.”

“Ah, it was an accident boy!” Arthur chuckled. “Belle knows that. You do seem to have a number of unfortunate accidents when she’s around.” Salazar said nothing in reply but ended up feeling even more embarrassed. “You’re rather taken with her, aren’t you?”

“What?” Salazar said quickly, almost knocking over the platter of bread rolls.

“Careful, boy!” He snapped, catching it just in time.

“Sorry.”

“Look,” he said calmly. “I’ve seen the way you two look at each other.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Salazar exclaimed, trying to look innocent.

“Oh, I think you do. It’s so obvious. You can tell she likes you too!” He chuckled. “Why don’t you try telling her.”

“I can’t do that. It’d be too strange,” Salazar said at once. “Besides, every time I talk to her it comes out wrong.”

“There are other ways of showing someone how you feel, you know.”

He smiled and then rose to his feet, exiting the room and leaving Salazar to sit alone in the dim candlelight. What on earth did he mean?

*

Many miles away Rowena sat in the carriage with her mother and father, staring stubbornly out of the window. She hated the way her father had just blamed anyone but her immediately.

“I can’t believe you could be so foolish,” he murmured, at an attempt to fill the awkward silence. “Going off with a commoner!”

She ignored him.

“Don’t turn away, Rowena! You look at me when I’m talking to you!”

“Silus, please!” the queen said quickly, as he grasped Rowena’s arm tightly. “That boy obviously made her go with him!”

“No he didn’t!” Rowena spat. “I wanted to be alone. I always have to go everywhere with you!”

For a horrible moment it seemed as though the king was about to hit his daughter but then his angry expression subsided.

“You are a princess! What do you expect? You think we’d let you cavort with the silly children that play in the streets?” He laughed, as though the idea was ludicrous.

“I wish I could,” she murmured, staring angrily at her feet.

“You should be grateful, young lady!” He barked.

“Your father’s right,” her Mother put in. “Being with common children is immature, dear. You must act your age. You’ll be married in a few years.”

“Into royalty, might I add!” Her father said seriously.

“Yes, Prince Edmund seemed a lovely young man.”

“I’m not marrying him!” Rowena said automatically. “He’s a pompous fool!”

Her parents looked scandalised but she didn’t care.

“You’ll watch your tongue!” Her father snapped. “If you can’t act your age we’ll have to make all the right decisions for you!”

Rowena didn’t think it was wise to argue and at that very moment wanted nothing more than to not be a princess. She was sick of the way her parents treated her.

*

Salazar sat alone in the dark, unable to sleep. He looked up as he sensed movement over by the doorway. Belle stood there in her nightgown holding a candle. She smiled at Salazar, who was half-hidden by darkness. She crossed the room and sat next to him, placing the candle on the small table next to the couch.

“You couldn’t sleep either then?” She asked quietly.

“No,” he replied.

“Nervous?”

He nodded. Tomorrow he knew he’d have to be recognised in front of a great deal of people as the lord of southern England. He was so young…and so scared. What if everything went wrong? He hadn’t wanted to admit this to his uncle but found Belle easy to talk to. She watched his amber lit face for a moment.

“You’ll be fine,” she assured him. “You’re a good person, Salazar. Things usually run smoothly for good people.”

Salazar remained silent.

“Your parents would be proud of you,” Belle muttered.

“You think so?”

“I know it,” she smiled, patting him on the arm. “You’ll do right by them. I believe in you.”

Salazar smiled. Due to the feeling of nervousness there was no feeling of the usual discomfort when Belle was near him. He noticed this and thought it was something of an improvement. He’d actually managed to say something to her without making a fool of himself.

“Belle?” He said quietly.

“Yes?”

“How do you feel?” He asked warily, thinking back to the conversation he and his uncle had had at dinner.

“Sorry?” She smiled. “What do you mean?”

“How do you feel?” He repeated.

“Erm…” she replied, looking thoughtful. “Tired but unable to sleep.”

“No, that’s not what I meant,” he said quickly. “I meant how do you feel.”

“About what?” She urged, looking puzzled.

Salazar hesitating here, thinking he’d sound rather stupid if he spoke what was on his mind.

“Me. How do you feel about me?” He said this more confidently than he felt. His insides cringed once the words had left his mouth.

“Oh…” Though it was dark in the room it was obvious Belle was blushing. “I don’t know.”

“You must know,” he muttered, urging a response.

Belle remained silent, determinedly not making eye contact with him. Salazar suddenly thought of what his uncle had said. Maybe he should show her how he felt. He had a sudden urge he couldn’t resist. He found himself pulling Belle towards him and leaning forwards to kiss her.

“Salazar!” She hissed, pushing him away and looking very shocked and embarrassed. “What are you doing?”

“I was…I thought…” He stammered, feeling his face growing hot.

“You’re like a brother to me!” Belle said, not looking at him.

“But I’m just trying to tell you how I feel. You feel the same, I know it!” He said quickly.

She glanced towards him and then her gaze flicked back to the floor.

“No,” she murmured, getting to her feet. “I’m sorry Salazar but I just don’t feel that way!”

She rushed from the room, leaving Salazar sitting with the single flame of a candle for company and leaving him to feel so very foolish for the second time that evening. How could he have been so stupid? That was the last time he was going to listen to his uncle’s advice!


Chapter 7: Lord Salazar
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Godric’s eyes flickered open to a half-risen sun the next morning. He squinted against the light that crept through the wooden door of the servants' quarters. He blessed the warm blanket he was sleeping under because it was the thing that had probably prevented him from getting pneumonia during the night. He could tell it had been snowing, a sign that Christmas was fast approaching. He could tell from the biting chill that hung in the air. He could hear someone bustling around in the next room and suspected that they had been the reason he’d woken up so early.

“Are you awake?” They barked. It was unmistakably Mr. Walker. “Get up!” He snapped, as he marched into the room.

“What’s going on?” Godric grunted, rubbing his eyes against the new rays of light that bled into the room.

“You’re leaving, that’s what! I heard all about it. Listen, Schreiver’s booked you a place on a ship that leaves from the coast of Scotland in just a few hours so you'd better get ready, boy!”

“Ship? He’s sending me to sea?” Godric demanded, looking horrified. “I don’t like water. Just thinking about a boat rocking around…swaying about…” he murmured, his stomach starting to churn. “Bobbing…” The colour suddenly drained from his face.

“No, you silly lad!” Mr. Walker grunted. “You’re going to Ireland!”

“Ireland?”

“Yes!” He said exasperatedly, as though Godric was being stupid on purpose.

“But I hate ships!” He cried quickly, following Mr. Walker as he marched into the other room. “I’ll be sick!”

“Too bad then, isn’t it?” He chuckled, as he stuffed a few small food parcels into a large sack.

“What’s that for?”

“You,” he replied simply. “Food for your journey.”

Godric scowled at Mr. Walker behind his back.

“Get your things, go on!” He barked, chivvying Godric back into the sleeping quarters.

Godric reluctantly went back into the other room and picked up the few garments he owned that still fitted him. Once he’d picked up his only pair of boots he joined Mr. Walker again.

“Right,” he said in a very business-like way. “C’mon, to the kitchens.”

“The kitchens? Why?”

“A few people want to see you before you leave.”

Godric followed Mr. Walker round to the back of the castle and they entered the cavernous kitchen to find Mavis bustling about as she made a start on breakfast.

“Oh, there you are!” She trilled as Godric wandered in. “I was afraid you’d already gone!” She pulled him into a swift hug that rather took him by surprise. “Oh, I’ll miss you, dear!”

“I wish I wasn’t going!” Godric muttered sadly.

“Oh look, here…here,” she pulled something out of one of the cupboards beneath the sink. “I was going to give it to you at Christmas but I won’t see you.” She handed him a large knitted quilt. “It’ll keep you warm. It does get a little nippy in the region you’ll be working in.”


“Thank you, Mavis,” Godric smiled, greatly appreciating this gift.

“Oh, it was nothing, my dear!” She said airily. She paused for a moment and looked at him, placing a warm hand on his bitter cheek, which was red with cold. “You look like your mother.” Godric had never really heard much about his mother but smiled nonetheless. “Take care, my darling!”

“I will,” he smiled.

“Godric!”

He spun around as a small figure came pelting into the room. It was Polly, who was beaming from ear to ear. She ran right up to him and hugged him round the middle.

“What did I tell you?” Mavis snapped. “I told you to stay upstairs!”

“I wanted to say goodbye!” She said, her eyes shining with tears. “I’ll miss you!”

“I’ll miss you too!” Godric said. He’d always liked Polly. She’d been the closest thing to a friend he’d had whilst he’d stayed here. He even considered her something of a sister.

“I found this for you,” she beamed.

Godric looked down. She was holding up a peculiar flower. It was scarlet in colour and had orange petals budding from the centre.

“It’s wild like you, you see,” she explained. “It looks like a lion. You remind me of a lion!” She laughed. “You roar when you fight with Robert!”

Godric just smiled. He looked down into her smiling face and felt a great pang of sadness in his gut, like he'd been kicked. He wished Polly hadn’t come to say goodbye. He hadn’t thought leaving would be this hard but it certainly would be now. He’d miss Polly the most. Especially her little laugh.

“That’s enough!” Mavis said abruptly, sounding suddenly stern. She sniffed loudly. “Godric must be off now.” She started to chivvy Polly back towards the door she’d rushed through.

“You’ll keep it, won’t you Godric?” Polly called.

“Always!” He called back, smiling as she waved.

“Come on, lad!” Mr. Walker said loudly, shunting him towards the door.

As they stepped back out into the sparkling snow everything seemed so much more gloomy. Godric trundled miserably through the snow after Mr. Walker, his feet soon becoming wet and numb. As he waited whilst he fetched a horse, Godric pulled the flower out of his pocket, where he’d kept it safe from the bitterness of the air. He smelt it, taking in a large breath. Burnt wood met his nostrils. His brow furrowed at this and as he looked down at it he realised it actually did look like a lion. He smiled.

“Come on, boy, hop on!” Mr, Walker called. “We'd better get going or else the ship will leave without you!”

*

“Nervous, boy?”

“A little,” Salazar replied uncertainly.

He stood in Benedick Greyson’s grand home. It was a big day for him. He’d finally be recognised as the lord of southern England. He wasn’t quite sure if he even wanted to be recognised as this but felt he owed it to his mother and father.

“You’ll be fine,” Benedick growled. “Here,” he said quickly. “Pin this onto your robes.” He held out a crest of England stamped into metal. Salazar complied and stared at his reflection in the mirror opposite. “You look like a lord!” He muttered, beaming so that his yellowing teeth were bared.

The way Benedick was helping him on such a big day reminded Salazar of a father. He looked very grown up in the robes Benedick had had made for him. As he looked into his own face he seemed unrecognisable. Just by changing into this unfamiliar made him feel more powerful. The night before he’d just felt like a silly child that wouldn’t last five minutes in such a position.

“You’ll do me proud!” Benedick grinned, patting him on the shoulder.

There was a knock at the door and Benedick hastened to answer it. Arthur Slytherin, Salazar’s uncle, entered the room, along with Belle.

“Ah, Arthur! Such a pleasure to meet you at last!” Benedick greeted, wringing his hand.

“Likewise,” Arthur muttered, nodding his head. “My brother never mentioned you,” he added.

“Oh, we were good friends towards the end. I’m not surprised if he never mentioned me. We were close but only just before he died.”

Arthur suddenly turned towards Salazar, looking full of pride. He clapped him heavily on the shoulder and beamed down at him.

“That’s a sight!” He exclaimed. “You look so smart!”

“Thank you,” Salazar replied, trying to hide the nerves he felt.

“Well, good luck. Not that you need it. The king will love you!”

“Even though I’m so young?” Salazar muttered worriedly.

“Even more so because you’re so young! Means you’ll last longer than the other lords!” He laughed.

Benedick smiled in reply to this laughter but his smile, as always, never reached his cold eyes.

“Aren’t you going to wish him good luck, Belle?” Arthur said suddenly.

She stared into Salazar’s eyes as he stared right back.

“Good luck.”

She didn’t smile or even sound friendly. She didn’t seem to mean it at all and said it with a cold tone. Salazar tried to smile in reply as his uncle stared in puzzlement between the two of them.

“If you’ll excuse us!” Benedick said. “We really must finish preparing.”

Arthur and Belle left the room. Salazar wished they could have stayed , even if Belle was being rather icy towards him.

*

“Come along, Rowena!” The king snapped. “We can’t be late. We’d be setting a bad example.”

“I don’t see why I have to go too!” She mumbled, as her maid straightened the cuffs of her dress for what seemed like the hundredth time.

“You are my daughter!” He roared warningly.

“Just let her be, my dear,” the queen muttered, patting him on the arm as Rowena stormed down the corridor ahead of them.

Rowena was still angry with her father. After the incident with the Gryffindor boy she’d thought about things differently. She’d considered the fact that she didn’t have to take so much from her father and that she’d be queen some day. Her father wasn’t a very bad person but that had been the final straw for her.

“When is young slytherin arriving?” The king asked one of the escorts that marched down the corridor alongside him.

“At noon, milord,” he answered promptly.

“Ah, very good. And I want you to be polite!” He snapped, fixing Rowena with a piercing stare. “Do you hear me?” Rowena didn’t reply. “Rowena?”

“Yes, your majesty!” She smiled sarcastically, hiding it as much as she could.

She stormed off ahead, the doormen having to wrench the doors apart as she sped past.

“That girl will be the death of me!” The king snarled, spit flying from his mouth. “She’s only been acting like this since we visited Lord Schreiver’s castle!”

“She’ll snap out of it, I’m sure,” the queen assured him.

“Hmmm,” he grunted, a frown creasing his forehead. “She'd better buck her ideas up otherwise we may have to resort to desperate measures marriage wise. Prince Edmund won’t want a wife like that. She’s become so immature and she actually wants to play with the common children we see roaming the streets! What kind of society are we living in? Our daughter’s gone mad!”

*

“Here we are, boy!” Benedick cried happily.

Salazar got out of the coach they’d travelled in to the castle with shaking legs and stepped down onto the cobbled ground, which was sprinkled with a light dusting of snow. It was still falling silently from the heavens.

“How many will there by here?” Salazar asked, trying to sound conversational rather that scared witless.

“Oh, I believe his majesty has invited a few important members of society but, not to worry, they are not like you. They are as ordinary as the king himself. Not a spec of magic in him!” He laughed.

As they walked up to the gates that led into a small courtyard the guards bowed them mutely inside.

“Now, you have the speech, don’t you?” Benedick asked quietly as they rushed along side by side.

“Yes,” Salazar replied.

“Remember to act as though you mean it,” he added.

“Right…”

A bell rang out within the castle as they reached the front doors. They waited as they heard cries to announce their arrival.

“And try to look confident in front of the king. He likes people with heads as big as himself!” He said mockingly. Salazar thought privately that he did seem to insult the king rather a lot. “Just be polite at the same time and he’ll love you!”

They heard some locks grinding on the other side of the enormous wooden doors.

“And it might be a nice touch to compliment the queen too.”

“Right,” Salazar said again, trying to take this information in as his insides churned uncomfortably.

The doors were suddenly thrown open and the grand entrance hall came into view. The king could be seen trotting down the staircase opposite them, beaming happily.

“Ah, good!” He cried. “I do like punctuality. Please, come in!”

Salazar and Benedick stepped over the threshold as the second set of guards bowed. Salazar took a moment to survey the king. He certainly was magnificent close up. He was almost a head taller than Salazar and, though he probably looked his best in his earlier days, you could tell he was not a person to cross.

“Salazar Slytherin!” The king said, observing him with his glinting eyes. “Yes, you have the look of your father. What are you now, m’boy? Eighteen?”

“No, Milord,” Salazar said, unsure of how to address him. “I’m sixteen in a few months.”

“Oh…you are rather young for a lord then, aren’t you?” He muttered, as though commenting on the weather.

“But he will be able to serve as lord?” Benedick put in, looking rather concerned.

“Of course!” The king chuckled. “Before we present you to your public you must first sign to say you will serve as long as you can as lord of southern England. This way, please.”

He led them through to a room on the right. There stood a desk with a long roll of parchment on top. Salazar nervously approached it.

“No need to fiddle about with all the script. Just sign at the bottom,” the king said happily.

As Salazar turned to Benedick he nodded. Salazar carefully picked up the quill that lay next to the parchment and dipped it into the ink pot. He paused but then scrawled his name at the bottom.

“Ah, very good!” The king boomed, looking pleased. “Now, there’s quite a reception awaiting you. Let’s meet them, shall we?”

Salazar followed the king, feeling the colour drain from his face as he led them towards the large entrance that opened out into the front of the castle, where there was a courtyard. As they approached Salazar could hear a low murmur of voices that steadily got louder.

As they stepped out into the winter light of the courtyard the crowd of people that had obviously come up from the town all cheered loudly. Salazar didn’t know what to do. Should he smile? Wave, perhaps?

“My loyal subjects!” The king called, the cheering dying down as everyone’s attention turned to him. “I give you your new lord of southern England!”

The cheering started up again. Salazar smiled weakly.

“Wave, boy!” Benedick hissed.

Salazar raised his hand and waved it uncertainly, feeling rather foolish.

“They’re all yours,” the king said happily.

“Sorry?” Salazar demanded, looking shocked.

“Your speech!” Benedick muttered.

He’d completely forgotten and as he was ushered forwards his stomach felt as though it was about to shoot from his mouth. He tried to calm himself before speaking but it wasn’t easy with all those eager eyes upon him. He carefully took the notes that Benedick had given him on the way to the castle out of his pocket and cleared his throat.

“As your lord I promise to have a very active role in what goes on within southern England,” Salazar said, his voice echoing around the square. “I will work with the king to make your lives better. You shall have my full support in everything and I hope I will serve as a good lord to you. I aim to help the king with whatever he so needs,” he added, the king looking very pleased at this. “Anyone in lower England that needs help of any kind - I’m here for you!”

The crowd cheered loudly again and over in the corner of the snowy platform they stood upon above the square Rowena rolled her eyes. She couldn’t believe those peasants were lapping up everything this boy was saying. She supposed he was another obnoxious child who’d been given a fortunate and powerful position in society he didn’t deserve. He probably didn’t even mean half of the things he’d said.

“Please, Salazar,” the king said happily. “Come and meet some of my good friends!”

Salazar was then chivvied along a long of people, who he shook hands with. He didn’t know who most of them were but smiled just as Benedick had instructed. Half of them didn’t even speak. Most just forced an unconvincing smile. He then reached the king’s wife and daughter, who the king announced proudly.

“Ah, lord Slytherin now, is it?” The queen smiled. “Congratulations. You parents would be most proud of you!”

“Thank you!” Salazar smiled, now finding it easy to fake a little small talk after watching the masters at  work. “And may I say how radiant you look! You put the snow to shame with your beauty!”

She laughed dismissively, waving a hand.

“My daughter, Rowena!” The king said happily.

Rowena surveyed the boy close up. He had a very false smile. She could spot fakers a mile off and this boy was certainly no exception. He may have been of a good build and had a charming smile but she wasn’t fooled. Beneath the fancy clothes he was just a boy. Just an ordinary boy with nothing special to offer.

“Ah, princess,” Salazar smiled. He’d been told it was only polite to kiss a lady’s hand and did so, as he’d done to the queen. He admired her pale royal skin as he did this.

Rowena scowled at him, but made sure her father couldn’t see. Salazar could tell she didn’t like him.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’d just like to say how beautiful you look.”

“Thank you,” she said, with an equally false smile. She hid the sarcasm in her voice as much as she could.

Salazar didn’t have to fake this compliment. Though her mother was a good looking lady for her age, Rowena was very beautiful.

“Let’s go inside. I believe the food should be ready for us important people!” The king laughed airily. Rowena stared daggers at him.

*

“Wake up, lad!”

Godric felt the wet sole of a heavy boot nudge him in his ribs. He jerked awake and squinted up at the low evening sun. He sat up and rubbed his eyes vigorously.

“What is it?” He mumbled, still feeling rather nauseas.

“We’re here. We’re in Ireland. Come on, get up!”

The journey on the ship had certainly been an unpleasant one. It didn’t help with the fact that Mr. Walker had left him at the docks in Scotland, meaning he had to travel alone. He had no idea how he’d managed to get even a wink of sleep but still felt rather groggy. The man standing over him was indicating for him to get off the boat.

Godric got up, picking up his backpack as he did so and swinging it over his shoulder. He walked down the slippery plank that led onto the docks and looked around, feeling very disorientated. His stomach churned.

“Gryffindor, is it?” Someone called.

Godric turned to face a man with a curly grey moustache. He walked up to Godric without waiting for an answer, surveying him closely. His eyes narrowed and he grunted.

“A little smaller than I expected,” he muttered in a low Irish accent. “I expected you to be a little stronger.”

“I’m strong!” Godric said quickly.

“And a little taller too,” he said, as though he hadn’t heard Godric’s response.

“I’m not that short!” Godric grunted, feeling rather offended.

“It just means you’ll have to work in the kitchens until you’ve acquired a bigger build.”

“The kitchens?” Godric demanded, looking horrified. “That’s women’s work! I’m a stable boy! I’ve always been a stable boy!”

“Well, that’s about to change, isn’t it?”

The man led Godric through the crowds of people around the docks towards a road just beyond a fish market.

“Are you Lord Hufflepuff?” Godric asked, after a few moments of silence.

“No,” the man chuckled. “Lord Hufflepuff is far too busy and important to pick up little scallywags like you! My name is McCartney. Aiden McCartney. I’m one of his many advisers and I help with employment matters,” he explained.

“So what’s Hufflepuff like then?” Godric asked, feeling nervous.

“You’ll find out soon enough, boy, you’ll find out soon enough.”

*

As a lavish party at the kings castle commenced Salazar started to feel more and more nervous. Now that he thought about it he had no idea how he was going to keep the promises he’d made to his people. He secluded himself to a quiet corner of the function hall whilst Benedick mingled with all the rich people in the room. Salazar wasn’t that interested in money. He just wanted to do right by his parents.

“What are you skulking over here for?” Someone asked.

“I’m not skulk - oh…” He turned to see the Princess staring at him in a very moody fashion. “I was just…this isn’t my sort of thing,” he said truthfully.

She surveyed him for a moment, stroking a finger around the rim of the goblet she held in her hand.

“Same here,” she replied, staring out at the people in the room. Her eyes fell upon a group of governors who were getting rather rowdy due to the consumption of alcohol.

“I would have thought you’d be used to it,” Salazar said.

“I hate it. Everyone’s so false at these affairs. It’s rather silly really!”

Salazar nodded in agreement.

“You were being rather false,” she said after a short pause. “All you lords are the same. You make promises you can’t keep. In fact, it’s not just you,” she added. “Everyone does it!”

“I was told to be false!” Salazar said in his defence.

“Oh!” She laughed. “Don’t tell me you’ve got someone behind you who tells you exactly what to say and do!”

“No!” Salazar said at once. “I decided to do this because I owe it to my parents!”

Rowena watched him intently for a moment.

“Not your choice then?”

“Not exactly, no.”

“Then maybe we’re not so different after all,” she muttered, fixing him with her icy blue stare.

“I take it you hate being a princess then?” He asked sarcastically.

“You guessed?” She laughed.

Rowena had met other young rulers and lords and almost every one of them had turned out to be obnoxious and idiotic. Salazar seemed to be quite the exception, despite first impressions. Finally, maybe she had come across someone she may have something in common with.


Chapter 8: A Little Charm Goes A Long Way
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“Come on, boy. We can’t be late for Lord Hufflepuff!” Aiden barked.

Godric jerked awake. He’d been having a great dream about being a rich king but his pleasing vision evaporated into nothingness as his eyes flickered open. He groaned as reality hit him again. He’d stayed with Mr. McCartney overnight at a grubby inn called The Wailing Banshee. They had quite a journey to the castle so they had to set off immediately. Godric obediently gathered up his possessions and sleepily made his way out into the cold December morning.

“Lord Hufflepuff doesn’t appreciate slackers!” Aiden said sternly as they climbed into a coach that was waiting outside for them.

“I’m not a slacker!” Godric retorted.

“Glad to hear it!” He laughed. “That’s good. Hufflepuff’s a very nice man, within reason. So be warned, boy - do not get on the wrong side of him or you’ll find yourself out on your ear!”

“Okay,” Godric muttered. “But I have no skills in a kitchen. I’ve never worked in one before!”

“Ah, the other workers will train you up!” Aiden chuckled.

“I bet I’ll be the only boy in history to work in a kitchen full of women!”

“Don’t be silly, lad!” He said, looking amused. “There are other boys your age or slightly older in our kitchens!”

“Really?” Godric replied, looking utterly shocked.

“That’s right so less of the attitude!”

*

Once the sun had risen fully upon the Hufflepuff castle, the lord’s youngest daughter opened her eyes and squinted against the sun, curling up under the thick, warm duvet. She lay there for a moment, watching the snow fall lazily outside her window and then, once her eyes felt wide open, she got out of bed and pulled her dressing gown tightly around her, soon regretting crawling out from beneath her warm bed covers. It got very cold within the castle, which was rather annoying during winter. The Hufflepuff’s were a very respectable family within high society, not because they were rich like everyone else, but because they were very pleasant to most people, even their inferiors.

“Helga!” The maid called.

“Yes?” She squeaked in her sweet Irish tones.

She was easily Hufflepuff’s favourite daughter. He had three. Hilda was the eldest at nineteen years old and was soon to be wed to the lord of Eastern France. Ingrid was Hufflepuff’s second-eldest daughter and was fifteen. She was tutored at a private academy in Southern Ireland but was home for Christmas. Then there was Helga. She was eight years old and had always been taught at home because she was a daddy’s girl. She had been ever since her mother had passed away when she was just five. She’d died of Pneumonia after travelling to her homeland, Sweden.

“Your father has requested that you be ready for breakfast shortly!” The maid called.

The maid assisted Helga in getting ready and, once she was dressed in a flowing silver gown and her dull blonde hair was pulled up into neat spirals, she made her way downstairs to join her father and sister for breakfast.

“Morning, my love!” Lord Hufflepuff beamed as Helga approached the enormous dining table. “Did you sleep well?”

“Yes, thank you!” She replied, taking a seat opposite her sister.

“Do you have anything planned for today, my dears?” He asked, sipping at his morning tea.

“I thought I might go riding in the orchards,” Ingrid said as she buttered a slice of bread.

“In this weather?”

“Yes, it’s a lovely day!” She laughed.

“I thought Madam Owen was teaching me today?” Helga said eagerly.

“Yes, that’s right. But she’ll only be instructing you for an hour or two today. She has to travel back to Southern Ireland and be there before Christmas eve.”

“What do you have planned for today, father?” Ingrid asked, tucking her hair, which was an identical colour to Helga’s, behind her ears.

“Well, we have a new employee coming to work for us,” he explained. “We don’t really need him. We may have few workers but I don’t really see the need for loads of them. I’m taking him on as a favour to Lord Schreiver.”

“He’s come from Scotland, then?” Helga asked in interest.

“Yes, m’dear.”

“Can I see him too?” Helga asked. As she didn’t leave the castle that much she always liked to meet new people.

“There’s no need to Helga,” Ingrid laughed.

“I see no reason why not,” Hufflepuff smiled. “But you must first go to your instruction!”

“I will!” She smiled.

*

Straight after breakfast Helga dashed up to the third floor and ran along the corridors, her footsteps pounding on the floor and creating noisy echoes. She dashed through the door into the room where she always studied with Madam Owen.

“Oh, Helga!” She cried. “You gave me such a fright!”

“Sorry!” Helga said sheepishly.

“You shouldn’t run along the corridors, you could cause an accident, dear!”

“Sorry,” she said again.

“Well, you are rather early,” she muttered, looking at a clock mounted upon the wall opposite her.

“I know but I wanted to learn more about the charms,” she beamed.

“Very well!” She laughed.

Helga sat at the desk in the middle of the room and waited as Madam Owen crossed the room and unlocked a cabinet, taking out a large and heavy-looking book.

“Where were we last lesson?” She asked.

“Levitating,” Helga said promptly.

“Ah…yes,” she murmured, turning to the right page.

*

“We’re almost there, boy!” Mr. McCartney announced happily.

“Are we?” Godric replied, looking surprised; he’d expected the journey to last longer and it wasn’t even midday yet.

“That’s right. You’ll get your first look at the Hufflepuff castle in a moment. It’s not the grandest but we like it!” He laughed. “It’s just up here!”

The coach had started to trundle up a dirt track on the right, which was flanked with towering fir trees, throwing them into shadow. They travelled up this track in silence for a few minutes and then the trees started to thin. They emerged onto a flat area of land that spanned out across low valleys and across a small circle of grassland lay the castle. It certainly wasn’t very grand. It wasn’t as big as Lord Schreiver’s castle and it was obvious that repair work had to be done but it looked homely.

“Ah, it seems Lord Hufflepuff wanted to greet you himself!” McCartney chuckled.

“What?” Godric demanded, looking shocked.

He leant over to look out of the coach window and, sure enough, a chunky middle-aged man with a thick brown moustache and receding hair to match stood at the entrance. Godric gulped nervously. He hadn’t expected this and started to feel very nauseas. He expected he’d have to get the lord’s approval before he could work at his castle. The coach finally came to a stop and, as McCartney chivvied Godric out, he stepped down nervously.

“Come on then!” McCartney urged, leading Godric towards Hufflepuff.

Lord Hufflepuff approached, looking very impressive in long robes of yellow and gold. He observed Godric closely.

“Hmmm,” he grunted thoughtfully. “He’s a lot smaller than I expected.”

“Yes, sir,” McCartney replied. “Schreiver assured me he’d be strong enough to handle our Irish horses.”

“Well, that’s no matter! He’ll work in the kitchens. Have you ever worked in the kitchens before boy?”

“No, sir,” Godric said nervously.

“Ah well…we shall get someone to show you the ropes later on. Thank you, McCartney!” McCartney left them alone at this. “Now boy,” Hufflepuff said, placing an arm on his shoulder and walking alongside him. “You’ve probably been told that this isn’t exactly the grandest of castles but we’re a strong work force here and I hope you’ll be loyal to us.”

“Of course,” Godric said quickly.

“Good.” He turned to observe Godric for a moment. “Ah, you’re different. I usually get the stuck up little toads from Schreiver! Think they deserve better than this castle!”

“I don’t mind as long as I’ve got somewhere warm to sleep,” Godric said hesitantly. “The sleeping conditions at Lord Schreiver’s castle weren’t that great anyway, sir.”

He let out a booming laugh that made Godric flinch.

“Ah, I love a boy that’s honest!” He chuckled. “Let me show you around!”

Godric had never known a lord to be so hands-on with things. Most lords didn’t seem to care about the little things but Godric was starting to like Lord Hufflepuff more and more.

“Daddy!”

They both turned to see a blur of silver and white dashing towards them.

“You said I could come with you!” She reminded him breathlessly, her pale cheeks flushed red due to the cold.

“Have you finished your instruction?” He asked sternly.

“Yes. I’ve worked very hard,” she smiled.

“Very good,” he said. “Helga this is…oh, sorry m’boy, I don’t know your name.”

“It’s Godric, sir,” he replied.

“Well, Godric, this is my youngest daughter, Helga.”

“Hello,” he said awkwardly. He’d never been introduced to people of high status like this before and it felt strange. He was made to feel like an equal but knew he didn’t really deserve to be.

“Are you Scottish?” She asked with interest, her green eyes glistening.

He nodded, forcing a smile. He wasn’t used to being acquainted with a Lord’s family and, after the experience with the king’s daughter, felt it to be rather wrong.

“Oh,” the king said suddenly, observing Godric’s tatty old clothes with a furrowed brow. “You must be freezing in those, boy! Helga, why don’t you take Godric to see Mrs. Lynch? I’m sure she could sort you out with something. I must go and send a letter.”

He dashed off into the snow and the two children watched him go. Helga then turned to Godric, beaming happily.

“Come on, I’ll show you where Mrs. Lynch works. She makes all our clothes!” She grabbed Godric’s hand and pulled him along as she ran back inside the castle. A wave of warmth swept over Godric’s body as they did so and Helga led him down some stone steps just off the entrance hall and into a pokey basement area. “Come on, in here!”

She pulled Godric through a heavy wooden doorway and they emerged in a long room that had a very low ceiling. A tall person would have to duck under the beams that ran in rows above them. There were work benches but they were hardly distinguishable under the great piles of cloth on top and a large spinning wheel was pushed back into a far corner of the room. Godric followed Helga as they wound their way through the workbenches. He was trying to be very careful in case he knocked things to the floor. There was hardly any room to move at all.

“Mrs. Lynch!” Helga called.

A skinny woman with a bony face and large eyes popped her head out from behind a large screened-off area of the basement. She smiled with her thin mouth as she saw who it was.

“Ah, Helga, my dear!” She trilled in a croaky Irish voice. “How are you?”

“I’m well, thank you,” she smiled back. “This is Godric,” she told Mrs. Lynch. “He’s new here and he needs new clothes.”

Mrs. Lynch surveyed Godric for a moment and it was quite uncomfortable being fixed with that pale stare.

“I see what you mean,” she muttered. “Well, we’ll get him measured up and see what we can do.” She turned towards the screen at the back of the room, beckoning Godric forwards.

“Go on,” Helga hissed, when he hesitated.

Godric followed the woman and she pulled him in front of her with a thin, claw-like hand. She took the ends of his ragged top with both hands and pulled it clean over his head.

“Hey!” Godric said in shock, pulling his arms up in front of his bony chest.

“Oh, stand straight, lad!” Mrs. Lynch snapped, as she grabbed a measure.

Godric grudgingly stood up straight as Mrs. Lynch started to measure him up. He felt very self-conscious standing there while a complete stranger attacked him with a measuring strip. It was all very embarrassing.

“Maybe you could use this.”

Godric backed away in embarrassment as Helga walked behind the screen to join them, carrying a folded piece of material. She laughed at the look on his face.

“Oh, grow up, lad!” Mrs. Lynch barked. She turned to see what Helga was carrying. “Yes, that’s good. He’ll need a bit of fattening up!” She laughed, poking him in the ribs. Godric scowled at her.

“That’s for me?” He asked Helga, looking at the material. He’d never worn a garment made of something so grand.

“Yes. It’ll keep you warm through winter,” she smiled, disappearing back behind the screen.

*

After Godric had been measured up Helga took him to the kitchens to show him where he’d work but this was mainly because he was starving. She took him some meat and some bread out of the store room and he ate hungrily.

“I’ll see if I can find my father,” she smiled. “To tell him that I’ve shown you around.”

She got up and dashed from the room, leaving Godric in the silence of the extensive kitchen. He looked around and smiled. He’d landed on his feet here. It may not be the grandest castle but he didn’t care about that sort of thing. The Hufflepuff family seemed kind and caring. He knew he’d like it here. His eyes fell upon the last chunk of bread left on his plate. He hesitated for a moment, looking around. No one was lurking in the dim kitchen so he turned back to his plate and raised both hands over it. He concentrated very hard and, slowly, the bread began to hover slightly, rising gradually further up in the air. He didn’t realise that Helga was on her way back. She walked along the corridor outside and, as she saw what Godric was doing, she stared in shock and gasped. Godric wheeled around.

“I didn’t see you!” He said quickly, accidentally knocking his goblet of water to the floor as he scrambled to his feet.

“You can do magic!” She said, looking utterly perplexed.

“No! Well, I can but it’s only that really,” he assured her. He knew what the penalty was for possessing unnatural powers. “Please don’t tell anyone!”

“But I must tell my father!” She said, smiling. Godric didn’t understand. Was she happy at the thought that she’d be responsible for him getting hanged or something much worse?

“No! Helga, you can’t. I’ll be killed!” He pleaded. “Helga!” He called in panic as she rushed from the room. Disregarding the spilt water, he raced after her. He had to stop her.

She continued to run ahead, dashing along the corridors at top speed, her silver dress whipping out of sight every time she turned a corner. She dashed into a room halfway down a corridor on the second floor and, with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, Godric heard the king reply to her swift entrance.

“Helga, what is it, dear!” He chuckled.

“Daddy…” she panted, her hair now all over the place from where it had fallen down.

“What is it?” he demanded, looking worried.

“It’s Godric,” she breathed.

“What’s happened?”

Godric dashed into the room, stopping next to Helga.

“What are you talking about, dear?” he urged.

“It’s nothing, Sir,” Godric said quickly, looking pleadingly at Helga.

“He’s - !”

“No, I’m not!” He said quickly.

“Not what?” Hufflepuff demanded, looking perplexed as he sat behind his desk with a quill suspended over a blank piece of parchment.

“He can do magic!” Helga announced, beaming at her father.

“Helga!” He snapped.

“No, it’s okay, Daddy,” she assured him. “He can do magic just like us!”

Godric stared. So he wasn’t the only one. He’d always thought he was the only one that could do it and therefore had decided it was best to keep it a secret.

“You can?” He asked Godric.

“Er…yes, Sir,” he answered uncertainly.

“Well, let’s see it then,” he said, narrowing his eyes.

“Go on!” Helga hissed.

Godric hesitantly moved forwards and made one of the spare quills levitate. Lord Hufflepuff stared in shock but then smiled, jumping up from his chair. This made Godric flinch.

“This is amazing!” He chuckled. “I haven’t seen many young sorcerers such as yourself for a long time, m’boy,” he said. “Except for my daughters, of course, but this is wonderful!”

“So…I’m not in trouble?” Godric asked warily.

“Trouble? Of course not. We’re one of the only magical families in power in this country. Some do not even know they’re blessed with a gift like this. It is feared, as you probably know, so you mustn’t tell anyone about us. Are we clear, boy?”

“Of course,” Godric said, unsure of what was going to happen to him.

“Will Godric join me in lessons?” Helga asked eagerly.

Hufflepuff surveyed Godric for a moment.

“I don’t see why not!” He laughed. “You’ll learn magic with Helga and her tutor. In fact, yes. That’d be an idea…”

“What, father?” Helga asked.

“You will live in the castle. If you’re going to be learning with Helga…and since you’re the only young wizard here,” he muttered. “You’ll still work, though.”

“Live in the castle?” Godric demanded, not daring to believe his ears.

“Yes, m’boy!”

Godric couldn’t believe his luck. He was not only living in a place where people didn’t look at him like something found on the bottom of a boot but he was also going to live in the castle. He was going to learn magic and he may even be considered family in time. He couldn’t help but smile at Helga’s beaming face.


Chapter 9: Through The Snow
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It was December the 24th and Salazar Slytherin sat on the bottom step in the entrance hall, his stomach churning horribly. He looked up at the clock on the wall. It was almost nine in the evening and Benedick would be arriving for him soon. He was to leave his Uncle’s home and live in the grand house the king had kindly given to him. He could hardly refuse.

“You all set then?” Arthur asked, trying to maintain a cheery tone.

Salazar nodded sadly.

“Come here then! Give your old Uncle a hug! Don’t worry, no one’s around to see!” He chuckled, holding out his arms.

Salazar smiled weakly and stood up, moving towards his uncle. He didn’t think he should admit it but he wanted his uncle to be with him more than ever right now. He missed his mum and dad so much and Arthur was like a second father. His uncle hugged him more tightly than was necessary, which made it obvious he was nervous for him. He slapped him on the back, sniffing slightly. Salazar let his arms fall limply to his sides as Arthur placed two porky hands onto Salazar’s broad shoulders.

“You’ve become a fine young man,” he smiled, looking tearful. “Your parents would be so proud of you!”

Salazar smiled, feeling a lump form in his throat.

“I’m proud of you too. I couldn’t have wished for you to turn out any better than you have. I want you to make the most of everything now!” He beamed.

“I’ll come back to see you,” Salazar said quickly, trying to keep his voice steady. “It’s not like I’ll be gone forever!”

“No. Don’t you worry about us. Just do what you have to, boy. Make me proud!”

Salazar stared into his Uncles shining eyes.

“I’ll miss you,” he muttered.

“And I you!”

“Thanks for everything. If I didn’t have you, I don’t know what I’d do!” Salazar said, glancing at the floor.

“I’m always here for you, Salazar, remember that.”

Salazar nodded and his uncle looked him over, giving him another comforting smile. He waved and made his way to the drawing room.

“Oh, and by the way,” he said as an afterthought, turning before he reached the door. “There’s someone I think you should say goodbye to before you leave.”

“Who?”

Arthur raised his eyebrows in shock, as though it was quite obvious.

“Oh…,” Salazar said quickly. “Where is she?”

“In the gardens!” He called, as he disappeared around the doorway.

Salazar hurriedly dashed through the house, out of the double doors at the back and out into the cold winter’s night. He looked quickly around and breathed a sigh of relief as he saw a familiar sheet of hair, which glowed white beneath the moonlight.

“Belle!” He called.

She looked up in shock as he ran towards her.

“Aren’t you cold?” He asked, noticing that she was not wearing a cloak.

“Not really,” she muttered, looking at the floor.

Salazar stared down at her, now unsure what he should say. He compromised by sitting next to her, shivering slightly as his breath rose in an icy cloud before him.

“I thought you’d already left,” Belle murmured, still keeping her eyes down.

“I had to say goodbye to you first,” Salazar replied.

“Oh…I didn’t think you wanted to because…” She paused, looking uncertain. “You were going onto better things.”

“What?” He exclaimed. “I don’t care about what I’m going to do,” he said seriously. “I still care about you…and Uncle Arthur,” he added quickly. “I don’t want to go!”

“You don’t?” She asked, finally looking up at him. He admired her sparkling blue eyes for a moment before speaking.

“No. I’d much rather stay here. I want to be with my family…or what’s left of it,” he murmured.

There was a moment’s pause, in which Salazar looked up at the dark sky and Belle watched him closely.

“I’ll miss you,” she said quietly.

He looked down at her and smiled gently.

“I’ll miss you too. I’m sorry about…you know, when I - ”

“It’s okay,” she said awkwardly, looking away again. “I guess you can’t stop those things just happening if you care about someone so much.”

Salazar hesitated, staring at Belle as she looked up at the moon. He reached into his pocket and pulled out something he’d been meaning to give to her the following day. He looked down at it sparkling in the moonlight. It was a locket he’d had made. It was silver and was engraved expertly with the letter S.

“I’ve got something for you,” he eventually said.

Belle looked up in surprise.

“It was meant to be for Christmas but, as I won’t be here…” he said sadly. “Here.”

He passed it to her and she gasped, taking it delicately with her icy fingers.

“It’s beautiful,” she said quietly, smiling. “It’s really beautiful but I can’t take this. It must have cost an awful lot!”

“Well, you’re worth it,” he smiled, before he could stop himself. Belle looked up and smiled at him as he smiled right back. “Besides, it’s something to remember me by. The S stands for Salazar,” he explained. “It’s so you won’t forget me.”

“I could never forget you!”

Belle looked down at the necklace in her hands and smiled again, stroking a pale finger over the S.

“Here,” Salazar said, taking the necklace from her. “Let’s see what it looks like.”

She turned her back to him and lifted up her long hair as he fastened it around her neck.

“Thank you,” she smiled.

“Just have a good day tomorrow,” he said, a lump forming in his throat again - he hated goodbyes.

“I wish you could stay.”

“Me too,” he muttered. “Wish Uncle Arthur a Merry Christmas from me.” He stood up to leave but Belle hurriedly pulled him back.

“Don’t I get a Christmas kiss?” She smiled.

“There’s no mistletoe,” Salazar muttered, his heart racing.

She looked down, seeming rather disappointed.

Salazar watched her for a moment, admiring the necklace that glinted around her neck. He leant down towards her and kissed her delicately on the cheek. She felt frozen but he felt himself blush and turn very red.

“Merry Christmas, Belle.”

He walked away before he changed his mind entirely. He knew he had to leave and dashed back through the house. As he walked into the entrance hall he heard a carriage pull up in front of the house. A coachman entered, who’d come to pick him up on Benedick’s behalf, and took his things to the carriage. Salazar savoured this time to look around as he knew it may be the last chance he got. He’d certainly miss it.

“The carriage is ready for you now, sir!” The coachman announced.

“Right,” Salazar said quickly. He looked back once more and stepped into the cold night. He looked up and smiled. “It’s snowing…” The snowflakes slowly started to glide towards him, landing delicately on his cloak.

“Yes, sir. We must really be going.”

“Oh…yes, sorry,” Salazar muttered, hurrying towards the coach.

“WAIT!”

Salazar spun around and looked through the great haze of thick snowflakes, which had now started to fall more heavily. A figure was running towards him, her long sheet of hair billowing out behind her. He smiled and took his foot down from the step of the coach.

Before he could say anything Belle had leapt towards him and threw her arms around his neck. He hugged her right back, the warmth of her body comforting his nervousness.

“It’s too cold out here,” Salazar muttered, his voice shaking. He wrapped his cloak around her and pulled her closer and she shivered. He looked down into her glistening eyes. She looked quite tearful.

“I’ll miss you so much,” she said, her voice trembling.

He just stared down at her, unsure of what to say. As Belle held his gaze he saw her face advancing towards his but stayed perfectly still. She pressed her lips against his and wrapped her arms tightly around him. They stayed like this for what seemed like an age, the snow continuing to tumble around them. Once they broke away Salazar felt a warmth spread over his entire body.

“What was that for?” He asked shakily.

“The necklace,” she smiled.

“Right…” He murmured, knowing perfectly well that it wasn’t.

“Come back soon, Salazar,” she whispered.

“I swear I will,” he replied. He hugged her once again, wishing he’d never have to let go.

“Sir, we really must be going. This snow could prove a bit of a problem.”

Salazar let go of Belle and she stepped back, smiling tearfully as he moved towards the coach. He sat in the back and waved out of the window at Belle as the coach started to move forwards. Belle watched him go, her heart throbbing painfully. She wanted to cry out loud but kept it in. As the coach disappeared through the thick curtain of snow she clutched a freezing hand over her locket and went back into the warmth of the house.


Chapter 10: A Most Unwelcome Guest
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Five long years have passed since the events surrounding the new lord of southern England. For those years he has lived under the supervision of Benedick Greyson, his personal advisor, and had visited his family so little he could count the occasions on one hand. His work has worn on him for such a young man and now, at the ripe young age of just twenty and with a great responsibility weighing on his mind he doubted whether he did the right thing. He missed his family so much and though his position would always be one of composure, he would remember his parents and lets his emotions flow. He has not had a child’s life and now never would. It was the price to pay for being a lord.

Godric and Helga, on the other hand, have grown into very talented young magicians. They were now the best of friends. They had become something of a brother and sister over the years and all because Hufflepuff had been a good man and taken Godric under his wing.

But another addition in this story has not had such a happy life. Now eighteen, Rowena Ravenclaw was due to marry. Her Mother and Father felt the time had come and no matter how much she detested the very idea, she had to do as she was told.

“He should arrive shortly, my dear,” her mother informed her excitedly as she fiddled around with the sleeves of Rowena’s best gown.

Rowena stood perfectly still. She felt as though the life had been drained from her. For many years she had wanted to run away from this horrid life but knew she’d be worse off away from her family. She compromised by just doing as she was asked, the bubbly and bright young girl she once was now evaporated in her parents’ company. They didn’t notice. As long as she was betrothed to a well-off prince, they would be content.

“He’s here!” The maid called as she rushed into the room, looking beside herself with anticipation.

“Come on then, dear. Let us go and meet your future husband.”

Rowena’s insides cringed at these words but she ignored them and smiled just to humour her mother. She followed her from the room and down through the castle to the grand entrance hall.

“Presenting Prince Edmund!” A footman announced as a well-built young man stepped through the doorway. He had dark hair and blue eyes to compliment this. He looked up at Rowena and smiled.

She had certainly matured. Her skin had now become very pale, as a true royals’ was meant to be, after spending so much time within the confines of the castle. She had grown taller and she was a pure picture of beauty standing at the top of the stairs in that midnight blue gown, her silky black hair falling in loose waves around her face.

“Ah, Edmund!” The king boomed, as he scooted into the hall. “May I introduce you to my daughter, Rowena!”

“It is a pleasure, as always,” Edmund smiled as Rowena walked down towards him. He delicately took her hand and kissed it, unable to take his eyes off her.

“And you,” Rowena smiled. It was not a true smile. She hadn’t worn a true smile for years. For so long she had just made a habit of putting on a false smile like so many people of high status did.

“You shall make a beautiful wife indeed,” he said, looking her up and down.

Rowena felt her chest bubble with hot anger. How dare he talk of her like some soulless prize. She gritted her teeth and forced another smile upon her lips.

“She certainly will!” The king chuckled. “Please, come through. We can talk more about this wedding and you can rest.”

Edmund gratefully followed the king and as her mother raised her eyebrows Rowena grudgingly trailed after them.

*

Salazar sat at his desk once again. He often sat here in the dead of night, unable to sleep. He had a lot of things to clear…so many paperwork and scrolls to complete. He hated it. At the moment he was quite bored and compromised by staring out into the sky. Streaks of gold and crimson had started to bleed across the horizon line - almost sun rise. He sighed, unable to describe the feeling he was experiencing…regret…sadness, perhaps? He almost fell off his chair in shock, banging his knee painfully on the corner of his desk, as the office door burst open.

“I was just finishing up!” He lied quickly, turning to the paper work and pretending to be scribbling away feverishly. It was Benedick that had entered.

“Never mind that, boy!” He snapped. “Listen, I have important news,” he said in a hushed voice. Salazar leaned closer. “Have you ever heard of the Hufflepuff’s, m’boy?” He asked.

“No,” Salazar replied, looking intrigued. “Who are they?”

“Well, they are old friends of mine. Lord Hufflepuff has kindly said he’d allow you to stay at his castle for a while.”

“Why?” He said suspiciously.

“I thought you’d want a break from all this stress!” Benedick said exasperatedly, waving his hands towards the desk.

“Oh,” Salazar muttered quickly. “No, I do…it’s just - ”

“Do you want to go or not?” He snapped.

“Of course.”

“Then you'd better get some things together! You leave tomorrow!”

“Tomorrow?”

“Yes!”

Salazar had been desperately wanting a break for a long time but it all seemed so sudden.

“Why do I have to go now?” Salazar asked warily.

Benedick looked around in a flustered manner and lowered his voice before replying.

“If you must know, I’m sending you there to meet others like yourself.”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, do use your common sense, boy!” He snarled.

“You mean, people that can…do…things?” he murmured. Benedick nodded. “Really? I didn’t think there were many others.”

“There aren’t. Some probably haven’t even been discovered but you will go there so that your unnatural powers can grow. You will learn the art of what you are.”

“Shouldn’t I have started when I was younger?”

He surveyed Salazar with those pale eyes for a moment. “I feel that now the time is ripe. You shall stay there for a while. I shall take charge whilst your gone.”

“You?”

“Yes!”

“Will the king allow that?” He asked nervously.

“We shall go to see him tomorrow.”

*

Helga Hufflepuff crept through the freezing castle, her cloak swishing along behind her. Though she had changed a lot, becoming taller and more mature-looking, she was still as mischievous and bubbly as ever. She was holding a package that was wrapped up with brown paper and tied with string. It was very early in the morning and the sun had only just risen but Helga was already up and dressed. She tried to quieten her footsteps as she dashed up to the third floor by walking on her tiptoes. As she reached the correct room she grinned to herself and quietly pushed open the door. It was still dark inside the room and the curtains at the windows and around the four poster bed were still closed. She sneaked across the room, trying not to make too much noise, and gently pulled back the hangings around the bed. A tuft of dirty blonde hair was just visible over the top of the duvet.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” She roared, leaning in close.

Godric Gryffindor leapt into the air as though he’d just received a great electric shock and spun around in a very disorientated fashion, tumbling off the bed and landing on the floor with his bed covers tangled around him. He stared with his sleepy eyes for a moment, looking as though he’d just seen a ghost.

“What are you playing at!” He hissed angrily. He was breathing heavily, suppressing an amused smile at the same time.

He sat up, the covers falling down to show his bare chest. He ruffled his messy bed-hair agitatedly, blinking furiously in the hope of waking himself up. Godric had grown to be a fine young man in the care of Hufflepuff. Once a skinny little boy, he was now a tall, strapping individual with rugged good looks. At present he looked a little worse for ware, though.

Helga beamed mischievously and knelt down beside him, holding out the package she’d been carrying.

“You really shouldn’t do that. I could have had a heart attack!” He squeaked, still breathing heavily. He had still maintained his Scottish accent but it had become somewhat deeper in the ageing process. “What’s this?” He asked suspiciously, taking the package.

“Birthday present!” She giggled.

“You didn’t have to get me anything!” He smiled.

“Think of it as all your fifteen birthdays rolled into one then!” She laughed. “I made it myself,” she said proudly. “Go on, open it!”

Godric gave her a grateful smile and tore open the brown paper. Helga watched eagerly as he did so. As he gave the paper an almighty tear something light and made of a soft brown material fell into his lap. He picked it up and, once he held it up, he saw that it was a hat - a real wizard's hat.

“Wow!” He smiled. “You made this for me?” Helga nodded happily.

“I thought you’d like it,” she said.

“I do, it’s great!”

“Try it on then!”

Godric did as he was told and pulled it onto his head.

“Do I look like a proper wizard then?” He asked.

“You sure do!”

“Thanks, Helga!” He beamed, leaning forwards to hug her.

She smiled and patted a cold hand on his chest. “You'd better get dressed. Breakfast will be ready soon.”

She stood up and left the room, closing the door behind her.

*

Rowena, having patiently put up with prince Edmund’s pompous nature for a good few hours now, was getting rather annoyed. Her face was hurting from all the fake smiles she’d displayed. She sat, only half listening to the conversation her father and Edmund were having. It made her blood boil the way they spoke of her as though she wasn’t even there! She took a long sip of tea to hide her angry expression.

“I’m very keen on a summer wedding myself,” Edmund said happily.

“Oh yes, it’ll be lovely!” The queen trilled. You could tell she very much approved of Rowena marrying him. “You could have the ceremony at the front of the castle, that way the commoners will look up in envy!” She laughed.

Rowena narrowed her eyes and ground her teeth.

“Yes, that is a very good idea!” Edmund smiled. “Then we shall travel back to my home country. I have the perfect castle for us.”

Rowena choked on her tea, spattering the cloth on her lap.

“Sorry?” She demanded, looking shocked. “We’re going to live in France?”

“Of course!” Edmund beamed. “It is beautiful and very sophisticated. You’d like it very much!”

“Oh, would I?” She said sarcastically. Her father detected the rise in her voice and started to look worried. “I’m quite happy living here!”

“Rowena!” He hissed, widening his eyes threateningly. Her parents were obviously scared in case they couldn’t marry her off.

She took a deep breath, trying to calm her anger. She looked up again and forced yet another fake smile.

“Would you please excuse me,” she said, placing her cup onto the table. “I think I need a little fresh air.”

She got up and swept from the room. Her heart was racing. How dare they! She stormed over to the large bay window that overlooked the road leading up to the castle. She sighed. She wanted nothing more than to run away but she didn’t have the guts and she knew she wouldn’t get far. She had been told that marriage was taken on when two people were in love and she certainly didn’t love prince Edmund! She’d met him three times in total and had hated him at every meeting. She jumped as she heard footsteps behind her.

“Oh…shouldn’t you be making more plans?” Rowena asked Edmund as he strolled towards her, wearing that smile that gave the impression of great smugness. It made her insides cringe.

“We’ll continue later,” he said, standing next to her and looking out into the dull grey sky. “I really get the impression you don’t like me, Miss. Ravenclaw,” he said sarcastically.

“Really? Why’s that?” She asked innocently, also looking into the distance.

He gave a fake laugh and turned sharply towards her, grabbing her wrist tightly.

“Don’t play games with me!” He hissed, leaning closer but maintaining that annoying smile. “I’m no fool. I know you don’t want to marry me but you will!”

“Get off, you’re hurting my arm!” She snapped, trying to pull away from his claw-like grip. He compromised by squeezing still tighter and pulling her closer towards him so that he was now whispering into her ear.

“You are a beauty most worthy of me,” he murmured, running one of his fingers down the side of her face. Her insides squirmed with anger at this. “It’s a shame for you to go to waste, my dear. I will have you. I always get what I want in the end,” he hissed, fixing her with a piercing blue stare. She stared back in anger, unable to say anything in reply.

“Get off me!” She whispered, pulling her arm away from his grasp.

He suddenly pushed her painfully against the wall by her shoulders and stared menacingly down at her.

“If you cross me, you’ll be sorry. Your father has told me about the way you mingle with the peasants. Not any more. When you’re my wife you’ll be there to make me look good, to be seen and not heard…unless I say so.”

“And what if I don’t want to marry you?” She said acidly.

“Oh, you will. You’ll be my wife, whether you want to or not.”

Rowena was almost crying in anger. She could feel her eyes glazing over. She hated Edmund so much!

“Oh, I see you two are getting better acquainted!” The king boomed, suddenly emerging from the drawing room.

Edmund took his hands away from Rowena’s shoulders and smiled at the king.

“Indeed we are, your majesty. Rowena was just saying how wonderful a summer wedding would be! Weren’t you, my dear?”

Rowena could only stand there in horror as Edmund leant forward and kissed her. She could hardly push him away in front of her parents. She tried to hide her angry and repulsed expression.

“Ah, very good!” The king smiled, looking very happy. “Shall we continue with the plans then?”

“I think we should!” Edmund replied buoyantly. “Come on, Rowena.” He placed a hand around her waist and led her after her parents, her chest bubbling painfully with anger as he did so.


Chapter 11: Uninvited Company
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The afternoon sun hung low over the Hufflepuff castle, casting long shadows across the ground. It was December 6th and, as Godric and Helga approached lord Hufflepuff at breakfast, he seemed to be in a rather good mood. He wasted no time in informing them why.

“I have some good news!” He announced, once they’d seated themselves comfortably.

“What is it?” Helga asked excitedly.

“Well, there is a certain young man I’ve been told of that is one of us,” he muttered. “He’s coming to stay for a few weeks to train up a little so he’ll be joining you in lessons!” He beamed.

“Really?” Helga grinned, looking very pleased.

“Is anyone else coming to stay?” Godric asked.

“No, just him but I’m sure it’ll be fun all the same!”

“This is going to be wonderful!” Helga said excitedly.

“You know, Sir,” Godric said thoughtfully. “You should really consider inviting young witches and wizards here to learn magic.”

“Oh no, m’boy. Something like that would never work!” He chuckled. “A good thought but it’d be discovered within no time and we’d all be done for! Now,” he said, changing the subject. “You two better go and get prepared because our guest will be arriving later this week.”

*

“Now, remember, Salazar,” Benedick said quickly as they marched up the track that led to the king’s castle. “Be bold. Sound confident and he’ll respect you for it.”

“But I can hardly TELL the king I’m just abandoning my job for two weeks!” Salazar exclaimed, now starting to get rather nervous. “Oh no!” He said suddenly, stopping halfway up the steps that led to the entrance. “What if he asks me why I’m taking time off?”

“Say you’re ill!” Benedick said, looking annoyed. “Make something up. It’s none of his business anyway!” He muttered, as the heavy doors swung open to admit them. “Ready?”

“I suppose,” Salazar muttered. “What if he says I can’t?”

Benedick threw him a stern look and then he fell silent, following him upstairs to the throne room. The two guards bowed them inside and they entered to find the king sitting in his over-large chair, munching hungrily on chicken legs and various other meat. He much reminded Salazar as a common village dog that wouldn’t let go of its bone if its life depended on it.

“Ah, morning chaps!” He boomed, noticing them. As he spoke flecks of food spattered the floor and Salazar was forced to disguise his revulsion with a fake smile. “What can I do for you? Everything going well, I hope?”

“As well as can be expected, milord!” Benedick said greasily. “Salazar just wanted to ask you something,” he said airily, nudging him painfully in the ribs so that he was forced to move forwards an inch or two.

“What is it, my friend?” He asked, wiping his greasy mouth with the back of his hand.

Salazar took on the posture Benedick had instructed him to display and stood with his back very straight. He cleared his throat before speaking as a sign of authority.

“Well, your highness,” he said, having been told that using flattering words would make him pay closer attention. “I’m not feeling my best at the moment,” he explained, with a fake grimace. “And I think I need a slight break from the pressures of my position.” Benedick smiled happily.

“Indeed? Is it serious, m’boy?” The king asked worriedly.

“I think not, milord, but I wish to take a short break and ask your permission that my advisor Benedick Greyson stand in on my behalf.”

“I don’t see why not!” The king smiled and Salazar caught himself before he exposed an obvious look of relief. “Will you be going back to your family?”

Salazar quickly looked at Benedict - he’d feared he’d ask too many questions.

“He is not, milord,” Benedick answered, with a fake smile. “He’s actually going to be spending his free time in Ireland.”

“Really? I was thinking of taking my family there over Christmas. I have a good friend there that would be more than happy to have us stay!” He smiled, beginning to attack the platter of food in front of him again. “Yes, Lord Hufflepuff is a good acquaintance. Poor as a peasant but very pleasant. Oh,” he said, looking shocked. “That was quite poetic, wasn’t it?” He chuckled.

Salazar and Benedick exchanged startled glances.

“Lord Hufflepuff?” Benedick demanded. “Lord Hufflepuff of Northern Ireland?”

“The very same! Why, are you planning to spend your time there?”

“Yes,” Salazar replied. “I’m afraid so.”

“Oh, well, this is wonderful!” The king boomed happily. “We can go together!”

“You know, milord,” Salazar said quickly. “Now that I think about it, I don’t feel it is wise if we both leave for Ireland. Maybe I should stay after all!”

“No, no…you deserve a break as much as the next man! I was thinking of leaving today. We should go together!”

“That sounds simply wonderful, milord. I’m sure you’ll have great fun!” Salazar turned to face Benedick so quickly that his neck clicked painfully.

“Excellent, I shall inform my wife and daughter! You may leave!” He smiled.

Salazar followed obediently after Benedick, feeling rather worried.

“What was all that about?” Salazar demanded when they were out of earshot. “He can’t come! He’ll discover us! He’s a muggle!”

“We must keep the king happy,” he muttered. “I’m sure there are ways to keep him preoccupied whilst you and the other little wizards are making magic!”

“Salazar!”

He turned to see Rowena. She was looking as beautiful as ever. He had seen her a few times over the past few weeks but not really to speak to. He smiled as she approached.

“Princess Rowena!” He said in reply.

“I shall go and assist the king,” Benedick muttered into his ear. He scooted away, leaving only Salazar and Rowena in the wide stone corridor. Salazar breathed a sigh of relief once he’d gone.

“Thank goodness,” he muttered. Rowena smiled in amusement. “Honestly, I have to act all proper in front of him in case I come across wrong! He’d only give me a lecture when we get back . How have you been?”

“As good as can be expected living here,” she said sarcastically.

Salazar picked up on her tone of voice and, looking more closely, could see that she seemed very down-hearted.

“What is it?”

“Nothing important,” she said dismissively.

“Tell me,” he muttered, beckoning to the end of the corridor, which was further away from the bustle of the rooms.

They sat in front of one of the large windows, which overlooked the village below.

“I’m being forced to marry!” She sighed. Salazar stared in shock.

“I take it you don’t approve of the choice of husband?”

“No, I don’t!” She said quickly, looking angry. “He’s horrid! He said he’d make me his wife…even if I didn’t want to be with him!”

“That’s terrible,” Salazar murmured, looking astounded. “What did your father say?”

“Nothing. I haven’t told him,” she said quietly, staring out into the chilly winter morning. “He wouldn’t listen even if I did! He really likes prince Edmund!”

“You should talk with your father, tell him you don’t like Edmund.”

She laughed miserably. “He wouldn’t listen!”

Salazar watched her for a moment and felt the greatest of sympathy towards her. He patted her on the shoulder gently and, when she continued to look sadly out of the window, he spoke again.

“Has your father told you what he has planned for today?” He asked her.

“No,” she replied, looking up. “What is it?” She asked warily.

“Well, you are to come to Ireland with me,” he explained and, with a great feeling of relief, he saw her smile happily.

“Really? That’s wonderful!”

“We’ll all stay at Lord Hufflepuff’s castle. It’s not meant to be the grandest of places but - ”

“What do you mean…all?” She said quickly.

“Well, your mother and father will come too.” She rolled her eyes, looking disheartened again and slightly angry. “I mentioned that I was thinking of going there and he sort of invited himself along too.”

“As usual,” She muttered.

“Look,” he smiled, placing a comforting hand on hers. “It’ll be fine. I’ll be there. I’m sure I could convince your father to let you have a small amount of freedom whilst we’re there.”

She turned and smiled, looking very grateful. It now seemed Salazar wouldn’t get a chance to learn any magic whatsoever.


Chapter 12: A Good Shot
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“So what do you think this Salazar is like then?” Helga asked, as she and Godric traipsed through the snow.

They very much enjoyed this and usually had snow ball fights every winter but were under strict instructions to keep themselves dry for once.

“I don’t know,” he replied, running his hand along the frozen branches of the trees. “Can’t say I’ve heard of him.”

“Well, it’ll be so much fun!” Helga beamed, skipping with happiness. “I can’t wait.”

They stopped dead in their tracks as a voice rung out through the bitingly cold morning. They turned to see Mrs. Lynch standing at the entrance of the castle and beckoning them towards her.

“Your Father wants a word!” She cried.

Godric and Helga exchanged puzzled glances but obliged all the same.

“What could he want us for now?” Godric asked thoughtfully. “He spoke to us barely an hour ago!”

Drying the bottom of their robes with a simple heating spell once they’d returned to the castle, Godric and Helga made their way to Lord Hufflepuff’s study.

“What is it, father?” Helga asked promptly, as soon as she entered the room.

“I have a bit of bad news, I’m afraid,” he said.

“Oh no…what?” Godric muttered, his brow furrowed in worry.

“I’ve just received an owl from Lord Salazar’s adviser,” he explained, looking rather flustered. “And - ”

“He can’t come?” Helga asked.

“No, the thing is - ”

“He’s not allowed?”

“No. Let me finish, Helga!” he said agitatedly.

“Sorry…” She muttered, going slightly red.

“He’s not the only one that will be joining us,” he sighed, slumping into his chair and rubbing his forehead.

“So more witches and wizards are coming?” Godric enquired, thinking that this wasn’t bad news at all.

“No. It’s quite the opposite. Muggles will be joining us,” he said glumly.

“Muggles?” Helga said worriedly. “Who?”

“Well, it seems that when our young lord informed the king of his brief break he insisted he join him and so he and his family are planning to come here. The king is the worst person that could possibly be here whilst we plan on doing magic. If he discovers us we could be in great danger.”

Godric and Helga exchanged nervous glances.

“Tell him he can’t come,” Godric suggested desperately.

“You can’t refuse the king, boy!” He said darkly.

“What are we going to do?” Helga said sadly.

“I don’t know, my dear,” Hufflepuff murmured. “It seems we’ll just have to try and get through the next few weeks the best we can.”

*

“All aboard then!” The king called happily.

Salazar rolled his eyes once more. He’d had to share a coach with the king all the way to the docks on the western coast. He hated the thought of spending another great chunk of time in his company.

“Good luck,” Benedick muttered in an undertone.

He would not be accompanying Salazar on his trip to Ireland. Salazar was glad because he’d get to have a break from someone he saw every day but in a strange sort of way he wished he could come along, just to occupy the king so that he wouldn’t badger him.

“What if he discovers me?” Salazar hissed, his eyes wide with fear.

“He won’t. Not if you keep your wits about you. Just behave as you normally do,” he replied.

“How many days will I be on this ship for with him?” He asked, feeling glum.

“No more than a few hours,” Benedick murmured and, when Salazar looked puzzled he leaned in closer. “Magic can be performed under a muggles nose without them even noticing, m’boy!”

He smiled in understanding and followed Rowena up the gangplank onto the ship.

“This is going to be great!” Rowena beamed. “Well, maybe not with my parents around but at least I’ll have some bearable company.”

Salazar nodded but did not reply. He very much liked Rowena’s company but wanted to learn magic more than anything. He thought she may feel left out if he disappeared whilst at the Hufflepuff castle.

*

“They shall be arriving at any moment!” Lord Hufflepuff called.

All the workers within the castle were very edgy, as Hufflepuff had been getting very stressed all day, insisting everything should be perfect.

“They have passed the gates, Sir,” one of the workers informed him.

“Oh, where are those two!” He grunted, referring to Godric and Helga.

They were, in fact, just outside.

“Helga, we shouldn’t!” Godric laughed in amusement.

“You’re just scared you’ll lose!” She giggled, bending down towards the snow.

“Oh really?” He started to scoop the freezing snow up into his hands.

Hufflepuff jumped as someone announced the kings arrival and dashed towards the doors to greet his guests. The carriage pulled to a stop in front of the vast entrance and the king was the first person to step down, greeting Hufflepuff as he always did, with a booming voice and a firm handshake.

“Catch!” Helga laughed, lobbing the snowball straight at Godric’s face. He turned, causing it to explode against his shoulder.

“You asked for this!” He shouted, grinning menacingly.

She squealed, laughing madly, and ran, Godric chasing her with some difficulty through the thick snow.

“Ah, your majesty, please come in, it’s bitter out here.”

“Thank you, Hufflepuff,” he replied, beckoning his wife into the castle.

It was probably a good job that they went inside at that precise moment because, just as their cloaks whipped around the corner, Godric and Helga came whipping around the edge of the castle.

“I can run faster than you!” Godric laughed, catching up.

Salazar and Rowena, who’d just climbed down from the carriage, both turned to see what had come rushing towards them. Before he’d even spotted the two of them, Godric launched the snowball at the back of Helga’s head. She ducked out of the way and Godric could only stare in horror as the snowball shot straight at Salazar, who had no time to get out of the way.

The snowball shattered on Salazar’s chest, covering his face and robes. A deadly silence rung through the biting afternoon air. Salazar just stood there, staring down, still not quite sure what had just happened. Rowena stared from Salazar, looking shocked, to Godric, and Helga was trying very hard to hide her amusement. Godric just stood there looking apologetic and feeling mortified by what he’d just done.

“I…I…er…” Godric stammered.

Salazar slowly looked at him and it was hard to tell whether he was going to storm off or start shouting furiously.

“Well done, Godric!” Helga hissed, finding it difficult to contain her laughter.

“Shut up, Helga! I’m really sorry,” he said quickly.

Everyone watched as Salazar slowly bent down towards the snow. He scooped up a handful of it, which chilled his fingers at once, and stood up, taking aim. Godric realised what was going on a second too late. He tried to dodge it but Salazar was too quick and the snow splattered across his face.

Helga laughed out loud and, as Godric shook the freezing snow from his eyes, he saw that princess Rowena looked rather amused too.

“Good shot!” Helga said, patting Salazar on the arm in congratulation. “You must be Salazar?” He nodded and she shook his hand, smiling. “Good to meet you!”

“Helga, I presume?” He smiled.

“That’s right.”

“How are you, Helga?” Rowena asked.

As Godric looked over at her he suddenly realised that it was the first time he’d really noticed her. Of course, he remembered her. How could he forget the day her father had seemed capable of killing him? She had changed in many ways but her smile remained as radiant as it had been the first day they’d met. He realised he was staring and quickly looked away, feeling himself go red.

“I’m well, thank you,” she replied, hugging the princess. Godric had no idea they were friends.

“And who’s this?” Salazar asked, indicating Godric.

“I’m Godric,” he said, holding out a hand.

Rowena narrowed her eyes at this, as though in puzzlement.

“Nice to meet you. Is that how you usually greet people, by throwing snow at them?” Salazar laughed.

“No! I’m really sorry.”

“It’s fine,” he beamed.

“Shall we go inside?” Helga suggested.

Salazar and Rowena nodded in agreement.

“I didn’t know you two were friends,” Godric muttered to Helga, indicating the princess.

“Well, the king sometimes comes to stay here so we just always played together,” Helga replied quietly.

“Ah, there you are!” Hufflepuff boomed, emerging from a room to the right of the entrance hall. “Come on in.”

The four of them followed him into the drawing room.

“Ah, there you are, Rowena,” the king beamed, who was sitting comfortable in a chair. “You remember Lord Hufflepuff?”

“Of course,” she replied, smiling.

“Ah, you possess beauty to rival your mother's!” Hufflepuff said.

“And who’s this?” The king asked.

Godric’s heart skipped a beat. He’d noticed him and was staring with narrowed eyes. Did he recognise him?

“Oh…this is Godric,” Hufflepuff told him. “He’s something of a son to me. I took him in many years ago.”

Godric was frozen to the spot as the king continued to stare with those hawk-like eyes. He stared right back, trying not to look fearful. He hoped he’d changed enough for the king not to recognise him.

“Tell me, boy,” the king said, looking puzzled. “Have we met before?”

Godric glanced over at Rowena, who looked straight back.

“No, your majesty, we haven’t. It’s a pleasure.”

“Oh…you just looked familiar,” the king said thoughtfully. “I must be thinking of someone else.”

*

That evening, when Hufflepuff was quite sure the royals were tucked away safely in bed, he planned a meeting with Godric, Helga and Salazar to discuss how the holiday would work if Salazar was to learn any magic at all.

“So that’s settled then,” Hufflepuff muttered, his face half lit by the candle he held in his hand. “You’ll learn in the day when I’ll keep the king busy and Godric and Helga can take it in turns to keep Rowena out of the way.”

The three of them nodded in agreement.

“What if Rowena asks where I am? She’ll start to wonder. She expected me to keep her company over Christmas.”

“Well, we’ll figure that out when we come to it,” Hufflepuff replied. “Come on, off to bed with you.”

“Night,” Helga smiled, kissing her father on the cheek.

She disappeared around the door, Salazar close behind.

“Sir,” Godric murmured, feeling he had to say something regarding what was playing on his mind.

“What is it, my boy?” Hufflepuff asked, doubling back.

“It’s about the king. I just wanted to tell you that before I came here I had…well, a bad experience with him and - ”

“Say no more, Godric,” he said soothingly. “Lord Schreiver told me all about it.”

“Oh,” Godric said in surprise. “What if he realises it’s me?”

“Well, he certainly doesn’t seem to at the moment, does he?” He chuckled. “Just try not to draw too much attention to yourself and everything will be fine.”

“Okay. Thank you, Sir.”

Godric watched as he left the room and stood in the dark, thinking for a few minutes before making his way into the corridor outside. As he made his way back to his room he almost woke the entire castle up with a shout of shock. How he held it in, he’d never know! As he’d emerged around the corner of the corridor leading to his room he almost walked into someone roaming the corridors in the dark.

“Sorry,” she said apologetically, the dim light of a candle illuminating her pale face.

Even in the darkness, Rowena looked stunning. Her long night gown trailed along the floor. During sleep was the only time Rowena wore her hair down these days and she looked very beautiful like that.

“What are you doing here?” Godric asked.

“I just couldn’t sleep,” she whispered.

“Something on your mind?” He asked.

She stared down at the cold stone floor and Godric could tell immediately that there was.

“Rowena?”

“It’s good to see you again, Godric,” she muttered, after a short pause. “Good job my father didn’t recognise you. You’ve changed.”

“So have you,” he smiled, admiring the smile she returned to him. “In a good way, of course. You’re more beautiful than I remember.”

Godric though she’d like to hear this, even though it was perfectly true, but her expression said otherwise.

“Everyone says that,” she uttered. “I hardly recognised you myself. You look older.”

“I am,” he chuckled.

“I know. I just mean…” She broke off.

“I know what you mean.”

They stood in the darkness for a moment. Godric remembered when he’d been quite a bit shorter than Rowena but now he was a head taller. He looked down at her, smiling at the thought.

“I should go back to bed,” Rowena whispered, after a long silence.

Godric watched her go, her gown flowing like water behind her.


Chapter 13: Godric's Discovery
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The next morning Salazar’s eyes flickered open at the crack of dawn. He’d had a very sleepless night, wondering what would be expected of him and just how difficult performing magic would be. He lay awake for a long time before deciding to get dressed and take a walk out in the snow.

Meanwhile, just down the corridor, Helga sat at the end of Godric’s bed, facing him with narrowed eyes. She looked nervously down at the two pieces of straw he had grasped in his hand.

“Okay, here goes,” Helga muttered, bracing herself.

She pulled one of the straws from Godric’s hand and watched nervously as he opened out his hand to reveal just how long the other piece of straw was.

“Yes!” She beamed.

“So how long do I have to keep her out of your way?”

“A few hours. I’m sure you won’t find it too tedious!” She laughed, clambering down from the bed.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He demanded.

“I know you like her,” she replied, as she made her way to the door. “It was so obvious the way you were staring!”

“Helga - !”

“Have fun, Godric!” She giggled, before exiting the room.

Godric suddenly felt nervous. What was he going to do? How on earth could he keep Rowena occupied for that amount of time?

*

“Godric!” Rowena called, making her way up the main staircase just as he emerged at the top.

“Oh, good morning, Rowena,” he replied, trying to sound casual. “Where are you going?” He asked quickly, dodging in front of her.

She stared in puzzlement.

“I was going to see Helga.”

“You can’t!”

“Why ever not?” She asked, looking rather surprised. Godric hoped she couldn’t see straight through him.

“She’s sick!” He explained, saying the first thing that came into his head.

“Sick?” She said, looking worried. “What’s wrong with her?”

“Er…flu,” he said quickly. “It’s really quite bad. She’s all…er…pale…and feverish.”

“I should go and see her,” Rowena muttered anxiously. “Catching the flu at this time of year can be very dangerous!”

“No!” Godric said quickly, darting in front of her again. “You don’t want to do that!”

“What do you mean?”

“Er…” He stammered, glancing away. “Contagious!” He said, a little more loudly than he’d meant to. “It’s very contagious and you could catch it. Why put yourself at risk?”

“Oh, I was hoping to see her today. What about Salazar. Where’s he?” She asked, glancing up the stairs.

“Salazar? He’s er…said something about talking to Lord Hufflepuff. Yes, he’s talking to Hufflepuff.”

“Oh…”

“I’ll keep you company if you like,” he suggested, after a short pause. “If that’s alright with you.”

“Of course it is,” she said, looking up the stairs one more time.

“Let’s go outside, shall we?” Godric beamed, offering her his arm and steering her in the direction of the grounds outside.

*

“This really isn’t as easy as it looks!” Salazar exclaimed, as Helga tried to help him practice a simple hovering charm.

“Hmmm, we’ll try something else!” Their tutor said. “Let’s see,” she muttered, looking thoughtful. “How about the disarming spell?”

“Disarming?”

“Yes. Try it on Helga. It will simply stop someone from attacking you and disarm them of any weapons. Just say expelliarmus.”

“Expelliarmus?” He repeated uncertainly, as the tutor turned him to face Helga.

“Yes. Now, don’t expect anything big at first. Just practice. Ready?”

“I think so,” he replied, holding his hands out. “EXPELLIARMUS!”

He made himself jump in shock as a flash of luminous red light issued from his fingertips, causing Helga to be thrown backwards into the desk behind her. Whatever he’d been expecting, it certainly hadn’t been that!

“Helga!” He said worriedly, hurrying over to her. “Are you okay? I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

“But that was great!” She beamed, as he pulled her to her feet.

“It…it was?” He stammered, staring at the tutor for reassurance.

She nodded in reply, staring at Salazar in slight puzzlement.

“You sure you’ve never practiced this spell before?” She asked quietly.

“Never.”

“Well, I must say,” she said, sounding rather breathless. “That was quite something for a first attempt. I’ve never seen anyone grasp a spell like that so quickly!”

“So…I did well?” He said nervously.

“Of course you did!” Helga giggled.

“Indeed,” their tutor smiled. “It very much seems that you are gifted in the art of defensive spells. A very useful thing to be good at too!”

Salazar smiled and felt his insides warm with pride, despite the fact that the castle was rather draughty. He couldn’t believe he’d achieved this so quickly and he felt very content in the knowledge that he’d found something he’d probably be quite good at.

*

“So princess,” Godric grinned. “How about a snowball fight?”

“No, I’m not going to fight with you!” She replied, looking rather shocked.

They carried on walking through the snow. Godric had found it rather difficult to know what to say to her so far.

“Afraid you’ll lose?” He laughed, glancing sideways at her.

“No. I just don’t think it's mature to do such a thing. My father wouldn’t approve,” she said coldly.

“Since when have you cared what he thinks? The last time we met it was you that made me ride off through the fields on a horse with you!”

“Since I’ve grown up,” she said shortly.

Godric stared at her as they walked for a moment.

“You’re not the person I used to know,” he muttered.

She spun round to face him, looking rather angry.

“We were barely in each others company for a day so you have no right to say that you know me!”

“Well, I like to think I’m a good judge of character,” he retorted.

She glared at him for a moment and then they continued to walk alongside each other through the snow.

“So are you going to tell me then?” Godric asked after a long silence, in which only the distant crows could be heard cawing loudly.

“Tell you what?”

“What’s wrong,” he replied, looking seriously at her. “I can tell there is.”

“It’s not your concern,” she answered.

Godric was suddenly struck by how much her personality had changed. Before she’d been playful and eager to break rules, go wherever she felt like…but now…now she wanted to be grown up and proper about everything. This wasn’t the Rowena whose spirit he’d admired all those years ago. Now she was like a shell and he was saddened by this.

“Rowena, please. You can tell me, it’ll go no further. I have always been told that if you share a problem it makes you feel better.”

She kept her eyes facing the ground for a long while but then looked up, fixing him with that piercing stare.

“My father is making me marry a man I hate,” she said simply.

“You’re getting MARRIED?” He demanded, feeling his heart sink and knowing it was too late to disguise the look of pure disappointment on his face.

“Yes, unfortunately.”

“That’s terrible,” Godric breathed. As he looked upon a disheartened Rowena he just couldn’t bear the thought of her being unhappy for the rest of her life - she deserved better.

“You know something,” Rowena said after a long silence. “I shouldn’t be miserable because these may be my final weeks of freedom from my parents and my new husband,” she muttered, saying these last two words with pure hatred in her voice. “I should be doing this.”

“What?” Godric asked, turning towards her.

Before he could say another word he’d received a face-full of snow. He shook it out of his eyes and looked up to see Rowena beaming widely. It must have been the first true smile she’d cracked in months.

“You said you wanted to fight with the snow,” she laughed.

Godric grinned menacingly and scooped up a pile of snow. Rowena squealed and started to run towards the fir trees at the edge of the grounds. He chased after he, laughing as he went.

“I’m a fast runner!” He called, dodging after her through the trees.

When he got a good shot of her he threw the snowball as hard as he could. He stopped in his tracks as it hit the back of her head, sending her catapulting out of sight. His eyes widened in worry and he ran to the place where she had fallen, sprawled out in the snow, her deep blue dress fading into the white.

“Rowena?” He said, his voice shaking with anxiety as he turned her over. “Are you alright?” He demanded, shaking her shoulders slightly. “I didn’t mean to.”

He gasped as he was suddenly thrown sideways. He hit the snow, lying face up and Rowena came into view above him, giggling amusedly. She pinned him down to the ground and Godric dreaded what was coming next.

“You’ll be sorry,” she laughed. She leant down towards his face, so that their noses were almost touching. Godric could feel his heart racing against his ribs. His breathing quickened as he felt her soft breath against his face. “Do you like the taste of snow?”

Before he could argue or protest she had smashed a great deal of snow upon his face. He gasped once more as the cold of it hit him like needles. Rowena jumped from over him and started dashing through the trees again. He immediately jumped up and gave chase, feeling his face turn red with cold.

“Oh dear,” Godric grinned. “Looks like you’re cornered now.”

He had chased her into a clearing surrounded by thick bramble bushes. She spun on her heel to face him and they both stooped to the ground to retrieve the snow at the same time. Rowena was the first to rise and she threw her snowball at Godric. As he looked up a loud cracking noise sounded, echoing through the trees around them and he stared at Rowena in shock as a streak of green light shot from her. She shouted out in surprise and fell backwards into the snow. Godric dodged to the left just in time as the snowball she’d thrown shot straight at him.

“What was that?” She demanded, looking fearful and quite shaken.

Godric knew there could be only one explanation for it. He had no idea Rowena could do that. The only way that could have happened was due to magic…but he thought Rowena was as much of a muggle as her parents. He moved towards her, where she still sat in the snow looking rather confused and shaken. He knew it’d be risky to do what he was planning but he thought Rowena would be understanding about it. He bent down and knelt next to her in the snow, the hem of his cloak becoming sopping wet.

“You don’t know what that was?” He asked.

“No. Should I?” She said hysterically.

“No. It’s just that…” He trailed off. “Has that ever happened before?”

“No…I don’t think…wait,” she said, looking scared. “Yes. One other time at home. I was alone and the same green light just…shot out of my hand.”

Godric’s eyes widened. He wanted to run back to the castle immediately to tell Lord Hufflepuff.

“Godric?” She said worriedly, watching his facial expression closely. “What is it?”

“I think you’re a witch,” he said quietly, bracing himself for the reaction.

She stared for a moment and then leapt to her feet, looking mortally offended.

“How dare you!” She roared. “How could you say such a thing! I come from a long line of RESPECTABLE people. I certainly don’t dabble with black magic. What a thought!”

“No, Rowena…wait!” He called, followed swiftly after her.

“Get away from me!” She shouted, as he grabbed her arm to stop her from running away. He was suddenly gripped by fear as the prospect of what her father would say if he found out actually hit him.

“Please Rowena, you have to understand!”

“Understand what?” She demanded, wheeling round so that her hair came loose from its bun. “That you’re accusing me of being a witch?”

“No. Look, they exist - ”

“Oh, I know they do! People like that get torched alive…or…or…thrown into the sea! How dare you accuse me of being such a thing!”

Godric knew he had to do something quickly before they were all in danger of being discovered. As Rowena made to storm off again he grabbed her by the shoulders and pinned her to the nearest tree.

“Get your hands off me!” She snarled, writhing to break free.

“Rowena, stop!” He hissed, trying to make her be quiet. “Look, I’m a wizard!”

She stopped wriggling about and gaped up at him, astounded.

“You do…magic?” She asked, looking terrified. He nodded cautiously. “Get off me!” She squealed, afraid he might try to curse her with his dark powers. She knew magic was something to fear and intended to get as far away from him as possible.

“Stop, Rowena…please! Salazar and Helga do it too!” He said quickly.

“What?”

“They do.”

“No. I’d know and they wouldn’t do something like that. They’re respectable people, unlike you!”

He was now forced to pin his entire body against her to stop her from getting away. He had to do all he could to make her understand.

“Let go of me,” she pleaded.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” Godric replied, sounding offended.

“Please. I just want to go back. Don’t curse me,” she said fearfully, her eyes shining with tears.

“I wouldn’t,” Godric muttered, his face close to hers. “ I can teach you,” he whispered into her ear. He could feel her shallow breathing against his neck and wanted to try all he could to calm her down. “I can teach you to use your magic.”

She shook her head in defiance, making the tears leak down her cheeks.

“No. Magic is a sign of evil.”

“No, it’s not!” Godric murmured. “We do good things!”

“Like what?” She asked, now starting to sob.

“All sorts of things. We learn to make potions to heal people’s wounds. We can cast many spells that come in useful. Rowena, you mustn’t tell anyone about us or yourself.”

“Will you curse me if I don’t keep your secret?” She sobbed.

He moved back slightly so that he could see her tear-stained face and felt his heart give a painful thump. He hated that he’d made her cry and wiped her tears away gently.

“I would never do that to you,” he said quietly. “Listen,” he said, looking her directly in the eye. “You’re a witch. You have the power and there’s nothing you can do to change that. Someone will find you out soon enough when you accidentally cast magic. If you learn to use your magic properly there’s less chance that’ll happen.”

“But I’m scared,” she whispered, looking up at him with shining eyes, a fresh wave of tears threatening to spill down her face.

“You don’t have to be,” he said, pulling her close. As she rested her head on his chest he felt his heart thumping painfully again. “I’ll be here for you, I swear.”


Chapter 14: A Big Mistake
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Godric’s feet pounded against the cold stone floor as he ran along the corridor. He found himself grinning, despite what this might all mean. It could end up being a bad thing but Godric thought it seemed quite good, for now anyway. He burst through the room he’d been running to, panting like a winded rhino. Helga and Salazar jumped out of their skins, staring in shock.

“Godric!” Helga exclaimed. “What are you doing?”

“Where’s Rowena?” Salazar demanded, exchanging a worried glance with her.

“She’s…” He gasped, trying to catch his breath. He was bent double, trying desperately to breathe.

“Does she know?” Helga murmured, looking petrified.

He shook his head, breathing heavily and trying desperately to speak.

“She’s…”

“What?” Salazar urged.

“She’s…”

“You didn’t loose her, did you?” Helga murmured, her eyes wide.

“No…she’s - ”

“Surely not!” Salazar said. “I mean, how do you just loose someone?”

“A witch!” He breathed, making them stare in shock. “She’s a witch!”

Helga was at a loss as to what she should say but soon regained the power of speech, laughing slightly, as though Godric was playing a joke on them.

“Rowena, a witch? No, ” she said disbelievingly, shaking her head. “I’d know.”

“That’s exactly what she said about you when I told her what you were,” he replied.

“What do you mean you told her?” She demanded, rounding on him. Even though she was considerably shorter she looked rather intimidating.

“I didn’t mean to!” He said quickly, seeing their scared looks. “I was trying to explain it all.”

“How do you know she’s a witch?” Salazar said seriously. “You may have just told her our secret for nothing!”

“She did magic. Well, she didn’t know what it was but she said it’d happened before.”

Helga walked over to the window and stared out, her expression one of complete surprise.

“Her parents are both muggles. A witch to come from a muggle family? That’s impossible!”

“Maybe not,” Salazar muttered. “She’s very smart, gifted in so many things.”

“But that doesn’t explain it!” Helga retorted. “How can a witch come from a muggle family with no magical background whatsoever?”

“Well, it’s certainly a first!” Godric murmured. “I assure you she’s a witch. I told her to wait downstairs. Will you come and speak to her with me? We should get your father too.”

“But the royals will become suspicious,” Helga said.

“I’ll keep them occupied whilst you get everything arranged,” Salazar offered.

*

So, whilst Salazar went to take them for a good, long view of the grounds, Godric and Helga rushed Rowena to see Lord Hufflepuff.

“Now, what’s all this about?” He demanded when they burst into his study, obviously thinking something bad had happened.

Helga and Godric exchanged nervous glances and Helga rushed to close the door firmly, whilst Rowena stood before Lord Hufflepuff, looking rather worried.

“What is it, my dear?” He asked her, noticing her expression.

“We have something important to tell you about the princess, Lord Hufflepuff,” Godric said quickly. “I witnessed her…well,” he stammered, unsure of how to put this. “She was…She’s a witch.”

He stared blankly, as though Godric was raving mad, and laughed out loud.

“Don’t be silly, boy!” He boomed. “Witches do not exist! You shouldn’t frighten the princess with talk of black magic!”

“She is, father, and she knows about us,” Helga said quietly, looking sheepish.

“What?” He demanded, the colour draining from his face.

For a moment Godric honestly thought he was going to start shouting at them for letting their secret slip but he took a deep breath and tried to calm himself.

“I said we’d help her, Sir,” Godric piped up, after a long silence. “Help her to learn how to use her magic properly.”

“But how can you…? It can’t be…muggle family…” Hufflepuff stammered, looking flabbergasted. “It’s impossible!”

“But I saw her performing magic with my own eyes!” Godric said quickly.

Lord Hufflepuff stared thoughtfully for a moment.

“Come here, please, my dear,” he said, placing a feather quill upon his desk.

Rowena glanced nervously between Godric and Helga and Godric placed a hand on her arm to urge her forwards. She approached the desk, looking even paler than she usually did.

“I want you to move this with your powers,” Hufflepuff said simply.

She nodded, looking shocked, and stared down at the quill. Very slowly, it inched across the desk top. She backed away, looking astonished, and began to breath heavily.

“You are!” Hufflepuff breathed. “This is amazing. A muggle born witch? How can I refuse to let you be taught magic now?” He asked no one in particular. “I will allow you to learn here with the others but you must not tell your father what is going on, do you understand, Rowena?”

“Yes, Sir,” she replied definitely, nodding.

“Good. We should train you all at night, when the king and queen will be in bed,” he said.

*

And so it began. Over the next few weeks that the royals remained at the Hufflepuff castle, due to heavy snowfall, Godric, Rowena, Helga and Salazar all learnt magic by darkness. Their tutor wasn’t that pleased about the late hours but agreed to do it all the same and, after a few midnight sessions in one of the quieter towers, Rowena was showing signs of becoming a greatly gifted witch. She was a fast learner, something Godric admired in her. She was always thirsty for knowledge and had a sharp mind.

Soon the four of them had become close friends, staying in each others' company during the day and again during their lessons. The royals were non-the-wiser and, for some strange reason, Rowena seemed delighted about this. It was most probably the thought of having a little flaming secret kept inside her that even her parents, who usually knew everything, had no idea about.

It was over dinner the week before the royals decided they’d leave, that the king came to the conclusion that he wanted Rowena to see more of the country he owned and said that he’d happily send Rowena to the Hufflepuff castle any time she desired. A decision like this made by her father would normally have angered Rowena but she wore a smile, one that rarely lit up her face nowadays.

For the weeks that Rowena had stayed at the Hufflepuff castle, Godric had become quite attached to her. Every time he heard her voice his stomach leapt uncomfortably. He’d feel dizzy whenever she’d flash him her sparkling smile. He knew he was starting to feel something towards her - a very strong emotion. He dared not say what it was, not even to himself, but he felt it all the time. Even though he seemed to be with her every day he was lost for the few hours he wasn’t with her. He so wanted to tell her how he felt but he was afraid she didn’t feel the same way. On the night after the king’s announcement he decided he had to try and started the ball rolling by walking Rowena to her room, insisting she shouldn’t walk through the dark castle alone.

“Thank you,” she smiled, when they finally reached her chamber door.

Godric smiled in reply, his throat dry. He had had a good chance to say something all the way here and his last chance to speak privately was slipping away.

“Thank you for everything,” she said quietly. “For helping me to understand what I am,” she added awkwardly.

“Anyone would have done the same,” He replied dismissively.

“No, they wouldn’t have.”

They stared at each other for what felt like an age. Rowena couldn’t resist looking into those sparkling eyes and vice versa.

“Well, goodnight,” she breathed, finally looking away and pushing open the door.

Godric felt his stomach writhe uncomfortably and gritted his teeth, knowing he had to do something quickly.

“Wait!” He hissed, putting a foot in front of the door before she could close it. He stepped over the threshold and closed the door. “I have to tell you something important.”

“What?” She asked, her eyes wide with apprehension, fearing the worse.

“I…well, I feel something,” he explained, feeling himself grow hot. “It’s hard to explain but it’s so powerful!”

“What does it feel like?” She asked worriedly. “Is it like a chill because you could be coming down with the flu in this weather?”

“No!” He laughed, moving closer. “I feel it here.” He gently took her hand and placed it over the left-hand side of his chest. She looked at him in puzzlement. “I feel it for you.”

Her eyes filled with understanding and her hand became limp beneath his grasp. She was at a loss for words. What could she say to something like that?

“Say something,” Godric pleaded, after a very long pause.

“I…I’m flattered,” she whispered, pulling her hand away from him.

“Is that all you can say?” He murmured, feeling his heart sink painfully. He had been afraid this would happen - she didn’t feel the same way. He was so sure there was some strong connection between them!

“What do you want me to say?” She replied. “That I feel the same?”

“I thought…well, I hoped you felt something like that,” Godric said quietly.

“Well, I can’t say it!” She hissed. “I can’t!”

“Why? Because you don’t feel it?”

She took a long time to answer, during which she glanced around the room, trying not to meet his powerful gaze.

“Because no one can know what I feel,” she breathed. “It would be so wrong!”

“Why?” Godric demanded.

“Because I am to marry Prince Edmund!”

“But you don’t love him!”

“I know that! He probably does too but it is my future and I cannot argue!” She murmured, her eyes filling up with tears as she looked up at him.

“But we feel the same,” Godric breathed, grabbing hold of her wrists and pulling her towards him. “Why can’t we - ”

“What?” She hissed, tears spilling down her face. “Be together?” The way she said these words hurt Godric. “You think I can be with you? I can only marry a prince!”

“I know.”

Godric stared down at her, looking sorrowful. Rowena couldn’t help but gaze up at him and felt herself leaning forwards, despite the fact she knew she shouldn’t be doing this. Their lips locked together before they knew what they were doing and Godric held Rowena in his arms as though he never intended to let her go.

He suddenly lunged forward due to a mixture of pain and shock as something hit him hard around the back of the head. He turned around, squinting through the darkness to see what it was, little stars popping up in front of his eyes.

“How DARE you!”

Godric knew that voice straight away and his blood ran cold at the sound of it.

“Father!” Rowena cried, rushing to where Godric had fallen to see if he was okay. “What are you doing here?”

He grabbed her tightly by the arm and held her back before she could reach him.

“I happened to need the bathroom and saw your door was ajar so I thought I would come and see what was going on and it’s a damn good job I did too!” He boomed. “How could you act like a common whore! I’m disgusted with you, Rowena!” He spat, as she tried to get free from his grip. “You’ve disrespected this family! You are to marry prince Edmund and I find you kissing this boy!”

“She doesn’t love Edmund!” Godric yelled angrily, getting to his feet.

“How dare you!” The king repeated, lunging forwards and punching Godric hard in the stomach. He fell to his knees, crouching winded on the floor.

“Father, no!” Rowena cried, trying to get to Godric.

“What’s going on in here?”

They all turned towards the door as a group of people entered the room, looking shocked and confused. Godric’s heart leapt nervously as he saw Hufflepuff, who was with Helga, Salazar and the queen, all of whom must have heard the commotion.

“I have just found this boy KISSING my daughter!” The king roared in disgust.

“Godric?” Hufflepuff asked sternly.

Godric stared up at him but did not say a word - his face said everything and Hufflepuff shook his head in disappointment.

“Father, please - it wasn’t what it looked like!” Rowena pleaded desperately. “We were saying goodnight.”

“I am no fool, daughter!” He spat, speaking right into her face and making her flinch. “No man enters a woman’s chamber unless they intend to do one thing and I’m sure it was on his disgusting mind!”

“No!” Godric retorted angrily.

“We leave tomorrow morning!” The king snarled. “I cannot stay in a place like this any longer!”

“But your majesty, there’s no need to leave!” Hufflepuff said quickly, after a swift glance at Rowena.

“Oh, I think there is! I have been friends with you for a very long time but I don’t think much of the company you keep nowadays! Come on you!” He snapped, dragging Rowena towards the door.

“I’m sorry!” Godric said.

“Don’t you speak to her!” The king growled, hastily leaving the room with a reluctant Rowena.

The room went quiet as the royals and Salazar left, leaving Godric, Helga and Lord Hufflepuff. For a long while all that could be heard was Godric’s rugged breathing. He felt he had to say something.

“Sir, I’m sorry, I didn’t - ”

“I do not want your excuses, Godric!” He interrupted.

Godric felt a great sense of guilt in the pit of his stomach as he looked up at the man that had been kind enough to take him in. He looked upon Godric now in a very disappointed manor.

“You know what this means?” He demanded. Godric didn’t reply. “Because you could think of nothing but your own desires you have now cost Salazar and Rowena their magical learning. Maybe Salazar can keep learning but there’s no way Rowena can - not whilst she’s under the king’s nose all hours of the day and night!”

“Sir, I didn’t mean to. I can’t help the way I feel!”

“The way you feel?” He laughed. “And how’s that?”

Godric looked at the floor, feeling his face turn red.

“I love her, sir.”

“She is soon to be a married woman!” He boomed, looking enraged. “You do not know the meaning of the word love! You are just a boy!”

“No I’m not!” He retorted, the anger showing immediately in his face. His entire body was pumping with it.

“I expected more of you, Godric.”

He left the room, leaving a deadly silence in his wake. Godric couldn’t believe he’d been so stupid!

“Helga,” he said quietly, seeing her standing near the doorway and looking down at him sympathetically.

“I thought there was something between you two,” she murmured.

“I’m sorry.”

“You don’t have to apologise to me. You should get some sleep.”

Before Godric could say another word she left the room, leaving him on the floor, clutching his bruised stomach. He knew she was at least a little angry with him but Helga wasn’t really a person that showed negative emotions. Feeling he’d let everyone down and, not being able to remember a time when he’d felt worse, Godric slowly picked himself up off the floor and went to bed.


Chapter 15: Eavesdropping
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When his eyes flickered open the next morning he forgot for one blissful moment the events of the previous night but, as soon as reality struck, he leapt from his bed and hurriedly ran from the room, still fully clothed because he’d been too exhausted to change the night before. His head throbbed from where he’d been hit by the King as he rushed down the corridor but he tried his best to ignore it. All he could think of was that he had to see Rowena one last time because the chances were that he wouldn’t again.

“Godric, what are you doing?” Helga demanded, as he almost collided with her down the hallway above the entrance hall.

“I have to see her,” he said distractedly, about to rush forwards.

“Are you mad?” She demanded, grabbing his arm and pulling him back.

“Let go of me!”

“Godrc, I really don’t think this is a good idea!”

He ignored her and pulled his arm from her grasp, hurrying downstairs. He paused halfway down as the king strolled into the entrance hall, leading Rowena and the Queen. Lord Hufflepuff was following close behind, looking very apologetic. Salazar came soon after.

“Rowena!” Godric called, not caring about the king being there one bit.

“How dare you!” He barked, looking sarcastically amused. “You really have the nerve to show your face?”

“I’m so sorry!” Godric said, staring meaningfully at her. She stared back for a moment but then dropped her gaze, noticing her Father’s furious expression as he looked upon Godric.

“You will be if you come any closer!” The king roared.

“Godric, please!” Lord Hufflepuff said sternly.

“But - !”

“Godric - don’t!” Helga hissed, hurrying towards him to stop him from advancing any further.

He stopped, staring down sadly at Rowena. He watched her with an aching heart as she left the castle with her mother and father. He had never felt so much pain and regret as he did now.

“Goodbye, Godric.” He snapped back to reality, seeing Salazar standing before him, holding out a hand to shake.

“Goodbye,” he replied, taking it. “I’m sorry, I - ”

“You don’t have to apologise,” he insisted, tapping him on the shoulder. “I hope to see you again, my friend.”

Something about these words made Godric’s insides warm slightly. Salazar didn’t resent him for taking away his opportunity to learn magic. He still had him as a fiend and he couldn’t quite believe it. He nodded and then watched him go, feeling rather guilty. As the front doors slammed shut and echoed loudly all around the hallway he suddenly felt hollow. He turned to Lord Hufflepuff, who wore a mix of expressions; something between anger and disappointment. In Godric’s opinion the disappointment was a hundred times worse; he felt like he’d let him down.

“Sir, I’m so sorry,” he said quickly, hurrying towards him. “I didn’t realise…I just…it was just - ”

“What, Godric?” He demanded. “JUST a kiss? Do you think anyone else but you and her would see it that way?”


“Sir, I couldn’t help it!”

“Did she force you into it then?” He mocked. “You could have helped it if you’d tried hard enough, if you’d thought about anyone but yourself!”

“But she was just so irresistible!” He said, before he could stop himself.

“You want to try keeping your brain where it belongs!” Hufflepuff snapped. “Instead of down your trousers!”

Godric flinched at these words, thinking they were highly unfair.

“It’s not like that!” He said defensively.

“I don’t want to hear it!” He said sternly. “Godric, I’ve been proud of you like I would be of my own son. I’ve never said a bad word about you but, right now, I’m very disappointed. I thought you’d have known better!”

These words hit Godric hard and for a long while he couldn’t speak.

“So you’ll be wanting me to go then?”

“Go?”

“It shouldn’t take me too long to pack up my things,” he replied quietly.

“I never said you had to leave, Godric,” he said. “This is your home just as much as it is mine and Helga’s.”

Godric couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“Thank you, Sir,” he breathed, feeling very relieved. “Sir!” He said quickly, as he made to leave the entrance hall. “What will happen to Rowena and Salazar?”

“Nothing bad, I hope,” he replied calmly. “Salazar may continue to learn magic, just not as much as he would have done here, and I expect the Princess will not be able to at all.”

Godric’s insides burnt with guilt and it showed on his face.

“Some witches and wizards are not destined to reach their full magical potential,” he said simply, before leaving the room and a great silence in his wake.

“Does it hurt?”

Godric jumped; he’d forgotten that Helga was still there.

“Sorry?”

“Where the king hit you?” She said.

“A bit,” he replied, feeling it throbbing again.

“Come on,” she muttered, pulling him along. “We’ll go and see if there’s anything you can take to make the pain go away.”

*

Rowena sat and watched her father pace up and down as he thought of what the scribe could write in the letter he was going to send.

“Just tell him that I wish for him to marry my daughter when he finishes his instruction as a soldier in the French war,” he instructed.

The scribe nodded, sealing the letter and leaving the room.

The king turned to smile at his wife and daughter but it was not a happy smile in Rowena’s opinion, it was a triumphant one.

“Just over two years and you’ll be wed, my dear!” He informed her, clapping his hands together.

Rowena realised she still had a lot of time to come to terms with this but it still made her sick to the stomach.

“Your Mother will arrange everything, I’ll sort out the date and a guest list and all you have to worry about is not eating too much. He won’t want a large wife now, will he?” He chuckled.

Rowena felt a mixture of red hot anger and hurt course through her. She tried to get up as calmly as possible and then left the room. Her life was now over as she knew it.

*

“Salazar, m’boy!”

“Uncle!” Salazar exclaimed, looking shocked to see him.

“How are you?” He beamed, pulling him into a manly hug.

“I’m fine,” he smiled. “But…what are you doing here?”

He couldn’t help but show his happiness with a great beaming smile. He’d been working hard ever since he’d returned from Ireland and this was a very pleasant surprise.

“I just came to see how you’re getting on!” He explained. “I heard about what happened.”

“Oh…that,” he said, looking uncomfortable.

“Why don’t you tell me all about it. I brought this,” he grinned, shaking a glass bottle that contained some amber liquid, so that it sloshed around gently.

“I wouldn’t say no,” Salazar replied, not about to pass up a chance to spend time with his favourite Uncle.

“So…the princess was caught kissing another man, was she?” He asked.

“Yes - Godric,” he replied simply. “I could see there was something between them in the way they looked at each other. He’s a nice enough lad but the king didn’t seem to think so. He found them together and hit him. Looks like he’s severed ties with Hufflepuff because of it.”

“Oh dear,” his Uncle murmured, looking concerned. “Doesn’t look like the princess will be married for long without someone catching her eye, if you know what I mean,” he winked, downing his drink.

“It’s not like that,” Salazar insisted. “Rowena actually told me that she and Godric had met before, when she was thirteen,” he told him. “She said she had feelings for him from then on so I don’t believe it was a spur of the moment thing.”

“Really?” Arthur replied, looking rather surprised. “The king won’t stand for that.”

“I know. That’s why she’d never tell him.”

“So what will come of the marriage if she loves this Godric then?”

“I don’t know,” Salazar shrugged. “But I really don’t think she should be forced into anything she doesn’t want to do.”

“Well, it’s the law I’m afraid.”

“I know.”

“Why don’t you show me around the town?” Arthur suggested, after a long silence. “I’m sure you know it well enough by now!”

Salazar nodded and they left the room together. The door on the other side swung open, where Benedick Greyson stood and he’d heard every word.

*

“Yes, Benedick? You wanted to see me?” The king said, as he entered the throne room.

“I did indeed, Sir,” he replied, strolling forwards. “It is difficult, milord. I fear we should talk privately about this matter.”

The king stared for a moment, looking rather puzzled, but then waved his hands, which immediately dismissed the guards positioned around the edges of the room.

“Well, what is it, Benedick? It must be something important for you to demand my full attention. What does it concern?”

“Your daughter,” he said slowly, knowing he should go about the subject delicately.

The king’s attention sharpened at once and he raised his eyebrows, waiting for Benedick to elaborate.

“I overheard a conversation within the castle, your majesty. Someone mentioned your daughter’s marriage to prince Edmund and I couldn’t help but listen in. Sir, they said that the Princess does not truly love him and intends not to marry him. She loves another.”

“WHAT!” The king roared, his face reddening.

“I can understand your anger, sir,” Benedick said quickly, maintaining his smooth manner. “They mentioned a boy that she’d been kissing.”

“Godric - he lives with the Hufflepuff’s,” the king murmured bitterly.

“And they also mentioned the Princess meeting this boy before.”

At this the king froze and Benedick glanced upwards, trying to read his expression. He longed for the reaction yet to come.

“What do you mean? She has never met him before our trip there!” He said indignantly. “I always take care in knowing the people she’ll associate with!”

“Of course, sir,” he said quickly, nodding slowly.

“But…” He muttered, his expression suddenly changing. “There was a boy. A boy at Lord Schreiver’s castle…years ago. He took off with Rowena but…” Benedick stared, feeling his heart pound with excitement as the king began to see the obvious link. “Surely it couldn’t be the same boy. Though, Schreiver did tell me he was having him removed from his lands so there’s a chance that…that little SWINE!” He growled.

“Sir, if I may - I also heard that there is a plot,” he added casually. He knew he had to elaborate, even if what he said was pretty far from the truth.

“A plot?” The king demanded, his eyes popping madly. “What do you mean, a plot!”

“Well, Lord Hufflepuff seems to know that Rowena is not looking forward to her marriage and he wants to help her.”

The king rose from his chair and advanced towards Benedick, looking like an angry rhinoceros.

“What do you mean by that?” He hissed, in a voice of forced calm.

“He wishes to stop the wedding in some way and plans to use this boy - this Godric - as a distraction for her.”

“TRAITOR!!!” He bellowed, so loudly that Benedick was certain a small amount of dust had sprinkled down from the ceiling. “How DARE he! Oh, he shall pay for this!” He spat, beginning to pace the room restlessly.

“Of course, sir,” Benedick agreed, unable to hide his satisfaction.

“Send my soldiers…just a small group will do,” he said, venom oozing out of every word that he spoke. “I want no trace of the Hufflepuff’s to remain by this time tomorrow evening!”

“I understand, sir,” he said calmly.

Benedick turned and left the room, smiling to himself as he went, the angry grunting sounds the king was making left in his wake.


Chapter 16: No Smoke Without Fire
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“What’s going on, father?” Rowena asked, as she entered the entrance hall the following morning.

He had just been speaking to the leader of a large group of knights that stood outside. She hated the thought of war and tried to think of something - anything - else that could be their purpose.

“Nothing for you to worry about, my dear,” he said simply.

“But I saw lots of knights outside. We’re not going to war, are we?” She asked warily.

“The business of war is not something for young women to be concerned with, any women for that matter,” he added matter-of-factly.

He hastily left the hall, leaving Rowena feeling both angry and anxious.

*

“Now Salazar,” Benedick said, as he slipped his helmet onto his head. “I shouldn’t be gone for long so business as usual, okay?”

“But where are you going?” He asked.

“I just have a little problem to take care of, nothing for you to worry about. I’ll be back before you know it!”

With that he left, before Salazar could ask him anymore questions. He marched along the corridor and was soon outside, walking up towards the knights, who waited for him obediently on their horses. He smiled in triumph and closed down his metal visor.

“I believe you’ve all been briefed on what’s going on?” He said. There was a murmur of ascent. “Good, then let’s go. Remember - everyone is to die, no one is to see us! Got it?”

“Yes, Sir!” They replied definitely.

He smiled again, very much liking being in control of such a destructive force. Once he’d clambered up onto his horse at the front of the group they were off, storming through the peasant streets. He very much enjoyed watching them dart out of the way or else pull their children out of the way before they were flattened. Every one of them looked up at the knights in fear and awe, wondering what could possibly be going on.

*

Godric sat, staring out of the drawing room window miserably. He wondered how on earth he could have let this happen. He jumped at a noise behind him but relaxed again when he saw that it was only Helga.

“Good morning,” he said half-heartedly.

“Is it?”

Godric stared. He was so used to her bubbly attitude. Where had it gone?

“What?” She said, noticing him looking at her as she sat down next to him.

“Well, why isn’t it a good morning for you?” He asked, intrigued.

“Because…” She began, biting her lip anxiously.

“Come on,” he urged. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m worried, Godric,” she said quietly.

“About what?” He prompted, wishing desperately that she’d elaborate.

“Well, did you know that Mrs. Lynch is a soothsayer?” She said seriously.

“No…why?”

“She told me something - something bad. She saw something terrible happening to the castle. To us.”

Godric stared for a moment, unsure if he’d heard right.

“How?”

“She can see the future; today she used her crystal ball and my tea leaves.”

“You mean to tell me you actually believe in that kind of thing?” Godric asked, looking sceptical. “You shouldn’t. Predicting the future can’t be good, it’ll ruin how you see life.”

“But she’s good at what she does! She’s predicted things before and they’ve come true!”

“Pure luck!” He said simply. “I could predict that it’ll rain tomorrow and the chances are that it probably would. It’s just coincidence.”

“I don’t think it was this time,” Helga continued persistently. “She said something dark was coming and I could tell she meant it! You weren’t there!”

“What exactly IS coming then?” He demanded.

“Well, I don’t know,” she mumbled. “When I asked her exactly what, the vision had gone.”

“Oh, how convenient,” Godric muttered, rolling his eyes.

“Fine! Don’t believe me!” She snapped, storming from the room.

Godric considered going after her but felt that it’d be wiser to let her calm down first.

*

“Salazar!” Rowena called in surprise, as she saw her friend crossing her path down the corridor ahead.

“Hello, Rowena,” he smiled, hugging her as she ran up to him. He glanced around nervously in case the king was close by but the castle seemed rather empty.

“Did you see them?” She asked eagerly, her eyes shining with worry.

“The knights?” He replied. “I certainly did.”

“What’s going on?”

“I wish I knew.”

Rowena beckoned him into an empty room to their right and closed the door behind them.

“I fear the worst,” she said, looking scared. “I’m worried that my father is going to start a war.”

“Well, fear not,” Salazar said darkly. “There weren’t enough to start a battle there.”

“Then what on earth could be going on?” She squeaked, her voice growing high-pitched. “You don’t think they’ve been sent on a witch hunt, do you?” She said hysterically, sounding quite petrified.

“No,” Salazar said at once, trying his best to reassure her. “Your father would have involved the peasants.”

“I suppose,” she nodded. “To do his dirty work!”

“I’m sure there’s nothing to be concerned about,” he smiled, not feeling too confident about this himself. He had a horrible feeling that something dark was going on but he just wished he knew what.

*

Benedick and the king’s knights had been travelling for a number of days and it was almost sunset. They were tired, along with the horses, but the king had ordered them to get there as soon as possible. He wanted Hufflepuff taken care of.

“There it is!” Benedick said triumphantly as they reached the crest of a hill and could see the castle just beyond a barrier of trees in the distance.

He stood, grinning maliciously as he waited for the knights to catch up, where they lined up side by side on the hill next to him.

“It shouldn’t be too easy to take down!” Benedick told them. “Just let the flames do the work. Just make sure every Hufflepuff within that castle is disposed of. The king said something about a boy too. He's in his teens so make sure you get rid of him as well!”

The knights grunted to show that they understood and they began marching towards the castle, the hooves of the horses pounding menacingly against the frosty grass.

*

Godric walked upstairs and paused as he reached Helga’s bedroom door, hoping she wasn’t as upset as she’d been earlier. He knocked three times on the door and waited.

“Who is it?” She called.

“Er…it’s me, Godric,” he replied uncertainly.

“Go away!”

Godric’s heart dropped at this but, feeling he had to apologise, he opened the door anyway, gingerly looking around the edge of it.

“I said go away!” She said, turning away from the dressing table she was sitting at and scowling at him.

“I know,” he said, closing the door behind him. “But I had to come and talk to you.”

“What about?” She demanded.

“Look, I’m sorry about earlier. I guess I’m just sceptical but I didn’t see why you should have to worry about something that might not be true.”

“I can understand but you didn’t trust me when I told you about it,” she said quietly, staring at the floor.

“I know and I’m sorry,” he said, perching himself on the windowsill and staring down at her. “I shouldn’t have snapped at you.”

Helga looked up at him and stared, as though she was trying to read him like a book.

“Of course it should be me feeling empathy for you,” she said matter-of-factly.

“What do you mean?” He asked, looking puzzled.

“You’ve lost someone you love,” she said simply.

“Love? I don’t think it was love.”

“You may not think it because it all hurts so much but deep down you KNOW whether it is or not.”

He stared for a moment and then smiled.

“And how do you know all this?”

“Well, it all makes sense, doesn’t it?” She urged. “Think about it. When you love someone so much they’re all you think about,” she said. “You find yourself worrying about them, you wonder what they’re doing every moment of the day…your heart skips when you hear their name and you smile when you think about them.”

Godric thought for a moment and then smiled.

“See,” Helga laughed, looking highly amused.

“You’re too smart for your own good!” He grinned.

“So you admit it’s love then?” She giggled, as Godric looked out of the window.

“Oh no!”

“Don’t lie!” She said.

“We have to get out of here!” He said, his expression one of pure panic. “Come on,” he urged, getting to his feet.

“What are you talking about?” Helga demanded, looking concerned.

“We just have to go,” he said quickly, trying to make her follow him from the room.

“What do they want?” She said, looking petrified as she glanced out of the window.

The knights were storming towards the castle with flaming torches, looking extremely menacing.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Helga!”

He was by the door, waiting for her to follow him but she still stood by the window, transfixed by the sight below them.

“Why do they have torches?” She whimpered.

“HELGA!” He roared.

He gave up trying to make her follow him and, instead, rushed over to her and grabbed her arm, dragging her from the room. She hurried after him and they thundered along the hallways. Godric knew they had to get out through the back of the castle but just hoped the knights weren’t surrounding it.

“Wait!” Helga shouted suddenly, as they jumped the last few steps into the entrance hall.

“What are you doing?” Godric snarled, as she pulled back and caused him to stumble.

“What about my father? We have to warn him!”

“He’s bound to know already!” Godric insisted.

“But - ”

“Look,” he said, placing a hand on each shoulder and looking at her with reassuring eyes. “He’ll be fine, I promise but he’d want you to be safe, wouldn’t he?”

She slowly nodded and then followed Godric down a flight of steps and along the corridors by the kitchens.

*

“What - what is the meaning of this?” Lord Hufflepuff roared as he stood in the doorway of his castle, looking down upon the knights.

“Ah, Lord Hufflepuff!” Benedick called merrily. He grinned maliciously but no one could see it beneath his visor. “It is a pleasure.”

“I demand that you answer my question!” He said angrily, eying the flaming torches warily.

“The king of England sent us,” Benedick replied simply. “He wishes us to demote you.”

Hufflepuff stared for a moment, looking bewildered.

“What do you mean, demote me?”

*

“Quick, Helga!” Godric said, as they hurried down the steps from the back of the castle.

“Where are we going to hide?” She asked breathlessly as she continued to run alongside Godric, who kept a constant hold of her hand; he would let nothing happen to her.

“We’re not hiding,” he replied, looking around to check that the coast was clear.

“Then what…are we…going to do?” She panted.

“Er…” he said, looking around for inspiration; he hadn’t really thought about it. “This way!” He said, pulling her towards the stables at the back of the castle.

“Why?”

“We’re going to ride away from here, of course!” He answered, running as fast as his legs would allow.

They shot across the grass and Godric just about managed to dart behind a tall oak tree before they were spotted by a knight that had just appeared on a white horse around the edge of the castle.

“Ow!” Helga moaned.

Godric hurriedly clamped a hand over her mouth and pressed himself right up against the tree. It appeared she’d just fallen over due to the speed they’d stopped at.

“Okay, he’s gone,” Godric hissed, looking around for one last check. “Let’s go!”

They immediately dashed through the tall grass, hoping against hope that no one would spot them. Godric felt a great sense of relief wash over him as they reached the stables and glanced nervously back at the castle before looking for a horse that could run extremely fast.

“What about everyone up at the castle?” Helga asked, staring up at it anxiously.

“I’m sure they’ll be fine,” he said, not too sure he believed his own words. “Perfect,” he muttered, as he found the tall black stallion he’d been looking for.

“But that’s my father’s,” Helga said worriedly. “He’s the only one that horse lets ride him!”

“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” Godric insisted. “Besides, we’ll need something that’ll get us away from here fast.”

Godric hastily moved into the stall next to the horse and slowly hoisted himself up onto its back, trying his best not to alarm him. He jumped in fright as the horse dashed forwards, clopping across the stable yard. Helga jumped out of the way, looking fearful.

“See, he’s fine,” Godric said, his voice shaking slightly as he tried to stop it from shaking its head about too much. “Come on, we have to go now!”

Helga stared up, looking very reluctant.

“Helga!”

“Alright!” She said, grabbing hold of his outstretched arm so that he could pull her up behind him. She grabbed hold of him tightly and gasped as the horse shot forwards and they galloped towards the trees at the edge of the valley.

*

“I’m sure an intelligent man like you can work it out for yourself,” Benedick laughed.

“How dare you!” Hufflepuff snarled, turning red in the face.

Two of the knights that flanked Benedick dismounted their horses at this point.

“I demand that you leave my lands at once!”

“I’m sorry but I can't do that,” Benedick said simply, maintaining his cheery tone, as though what he were about to do was a pleasure.

“Who are you to demote me!” He spat.

“Benedick Greyson,” he replied slowly. “Lock him in!” He commanded to the knights.

“What are you - How dare you!” He growled, as two of the guards grabbed hold of his arms and forced him back into the entrance hall. “Get your hands off me!” They threw him backwards so that he tumbled to the stone floor.

“I’m sorry about this,” Benedick simpered, not meaning it one bit. “No hard feelings?” He laughed, just before the knights slammed the doors shut and barricaded them. “I want this whole place blazing - get to it!”

The knights immediately obeyed and galloped around the castle, throwing their flaming torches through the windows so that almost every room soon caught fire. The smell of burning material and wood was soon heavy in the air and Benedick just grinned evilly as he heard the screeches from within and Hufflepuff hammering on the door and yelling as the flames engulfed him. As the sun finally spilled blood red on the horizon line thick clouds of black smoke rose upwards, the stone crumbling as the flames destroyed what had been such a happy home only hours before.

*
As Godric and Helga finally reached the trees they both jumped down from the horse, Godric pulling it and Helga into the cover of the trees.

“Look!” Helga cried, pointing at the castle.

The flames were becoming so high it looked as though they were on the brink of scorching the heavens.

Godric could do nothing but stare in horror. He scanned the landscape desperately, hoping to see a sign of more horses fleeing the scene but there were none.

“They’ll all be okay, won’t they?” Helga asked, her eyes swimming with tears.

He didn’t answer, not having the heart to crush her hopes.

“No!” She screamed, as she continued to watch the flames engulf her home.

“Helga, no!” Godric said, as she tried to run back towards it, hardly able to speak due to a large lump in his throat.

“We have to help them!” She sobbed, her cries causing Godric to feel like doing the same.

“We can’t. Your father would have wanted you to be safe,” he stammered, blinking away tears.

She cried loudly, the tears streaming down her face and dripping from her chin. Godric pulled her towards him and held her close, not that this would be much comfort. He didn’t know how he just sat there with Helga for all that time as he watched the castle blaze on. He wanted nothing more than to run over and stop it all. He either stayed there because he knew he had to protect Helga or he just didn’t have the courage.

*

Hours later the fire had gone out and the knights wandered about through the wreckage, just to check for the bodies. A shout rung out through the air and Helga looked up from Godric’s shoulder, where she’d been crying all this time. There was the distant sound of galloping.

“Have they gone?” She asked.

“Yes,” Godric replied, looking over at the sorry state that used to be their home, which was only just visible through the darkness that had fallen.

“I want to go over,” she said defiantly.

Godric thought of arguing and that it would be very dangerous but they both climbed up onto the horse again and rode across the grass, the areas closer to the castle extremely scorched. Helga dropped down from the horse's back and Godric watched her, his heart aching, as she ran over to the edge of the wreckage, looking around hopelessly. He got off the horse and walked towards her, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“It’s gone,” she muttered. “Everything’s gone…my family…my home…everything!”

“I know,” he whispered. “I’m sorry.”

“Why? It’s not your fault. It was those knights!”

“Yes!” Godric spat. “And if I ever find out who they are, they’ll be sorry!” He said. “I promise you I’ll get revenge, Helga!”

She looked up at him and then sighed, looking lost and alone.

“Look,” she said, trampling through the rocks and burnt wood. “This must be the only thing that’s survived. It’s a little crumpled but isn’t burnt.”

“What is it?” Godric asked, squinting to see what it was as she brought it back. “Hey, the hat you bought me,” he said, looking bewildered.

Silence fell again as they both looked around. Luckily it seemed that the bodies were hidden by the rubble so that Helga wouldn’t see them; he didn’t want that to happen.

“What do we do now, Godric?” Helga asked, sounding very scared.

“Well, we can’t stay here, can we?”

She nodded in agreement, looking as though she was on the brink of tears again.

“We have to leave.”

“But where will we go? We have nowhere to live!”

“We’ll find somewhere but we’ll have to lie low for a while. Come on,” he said, after a short pause. “Let’s go.”

He got back on the horse and she followed, sobbing quietly. Godric took one last look at the place he’d loved for so many years and what it was reduced to before he rode off into the night, Helga clinging onto him tightly.


Chapter 17: Runaway
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“Is it done?” The king demanded sternly, as Benedick marched through the doors of the throne room towards him. “Is Hufflepuff dead?”

“Yes, my lord,” he replied, grinning nastily.

“Excellent,” he growled. “Did you kill the others?”

“Most that were inside,” he muttered hesitantly.

The king sat up suddenly at this, his eyes widening and his face falling. His brow creased as he stared at Benedick.

“What do you mean, most of them?” He demanded.

“Well, Sir,” Benedick said, trying to maintain his calm tone but failing. “There were…complications.”

“What do you mean?” He roared, his voice echoing menacingly around them. “You killed the boy, I hope!”

“When we searched through the wreckage we didn’t come across the bodies of either him or the youngest child. It appears they escaped the blaze before it got to them,” he explained.

The king let out an angry roar, pummelling his fist into the arm of his chair.

“I gave you specific instructions!” He snapped, spit flying everywhere. “I wanted them dead - every last one of them!”

“But Sir,” Benedick said quickly, as the king looked fit to explode with anger. “The main threat is dead! You can rule in peace and there is no one to take that from you,” he murmured calmly. The king stared at him, still looking angry but he had his eyes narrowed, as though he was listening closely. “The girl is no threat. Why, she’s just a child,” he said gently, moving towards the king and trying to keep his temper at bay. “And the boy is not foolish enough to cross you twice!”

“He is still a meddlesome fool!”

“But, sir!” Benedick laughed, making the king raise his eyebrows. “I hardly understand how you can see that pathetic little boy as a threat! To someone like you, it’s a positively preposterous idea!” He chuckled. This had the desired effect and the king looked flattered by this.

“I suppose you’re right,” he grunted. “But I’m still very disappointed!”

“Yes, sir. I’m most sorry.”

*

As Rowena strolled along the hallways that stepped directly out into the castle grounds she couldn’t help but feel that something was wrong. Her heart ached with some unidentifiable weight but she just couldn’t explain why. She jumped as a voice pierced the silence.

“Rowena!”

She turned on her heel to see Salazar rushing towards her, his long silvery cloak rippling along behind him.

“Have you heard?” He demanded, before she’d even spoken.

“Heard what?” She gasped, her lungs filling with dread, for she could tell it was bad news just from his tone of voice.

“Oh, Rowena,” he said, his eyes full of sympathy. “I fear you are not meant to know.”

“What is it?”

He took her hand gently and looked into her eyes. She could tell bad news was coming and, a second before he said it, she somehow knew.

“The castle of Hufflepuff has been burnt to the ground. I’m so sorry.”

“But…everyone’s alright, aren’t they?” She asked quickly, knowing what the answer would be.

He just stared, unable to speak to her, for his heart ached with sadness too.

“Salazar?” She pleaded, her eyes shining.

“There were no survivors,” he said at last, his throat aching with the effort of not crying.

Rowena immediately broke down into sobs, her face soon shining with tears of distress. She collapsed to the floor, where she sat weeping. Salazar knew not what to do except sit beside her and attempt to comfort her.

“How did it start?” She managed to gasp.

“I think,” he replied hesitantly. “That it was deliberate.”

This caused her to cry even more so that her eyes were soon red and puffy.

“No,” she murmured, the floor shining with her tears now. “Godric…and…and poor Helga!” She gasped. “She was my only friend…for years!”

“Oh, Rowena!” He muttered, pulling her into a tight hug, where she sobbed onto his shoulder. “I swear, we’ll find out who did this and I’ll make them pay if it’s the last thing I do!”

*

“Come on!”

“Are you sure about this?” Helga asked warily, for what felt like the hundredth time.

“Yes!” He hissed.

Godric stopped their horse behind a large cluster of trees and peered through the branches towards their target - a fruit and vegetable stall that was laden with delicious-looking things.

“You remember what to do?” He demanded, feeling that this could not go wrong.

“Yes,” she said hesitantly. “But what if we get caught?”

“We won’t!”

Helga looked as though she was about to point out all the ways that they could get caught but, seeing Godric’s expression, she obviously thought better of it.

“Just keep him busy!”

“Okay,” she sighed, sliding down from the horse's back.

Pulling the hood on his cloak up over his head, he followed closely behind, waiting until she’d engaged the man on the stall in a conversation before he made his move. He was just thankful it wasn’t an extremely sunny day or he’d have looked rather strange in a thick cloak with his hood up. He tried to walk up to the stall as casually as possible, pretending to examine the apples and pears, whilst Helga spoke animatedly to the man behind the stall. In one swift movement, he grabbed a handful of apples and hid them in his inside cloak pocket. He walked away slowly, so as not to arouse suspicion. Once Helga had got the message that they’d done what they came to do, she bid good day to the stallholder and followed Godric at a safe distance.

“What a rush!” She gasped, looking both excited and fearful.

“It was only a few apples!” Godric laughed, handing her one.

They both ate hungrily, feeding the remnants to their horse because he hadn’t eaten for over a day either.

“Godric?” Helga said, once they’d finished eating and were riding away from the little village. “Where are we going to go?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, we can’t just keep sleeping rough, can we?”

Godric didn’t reply. He had been so busy making sure he kept Helga’s mind on things other than the death of her family that he hadn’t really considered this fact.

“Godric?”

“I don’t know,” he murmured, after a long pause. She stared helplessly, looking very concerned. “But don’t worry,” he added quickly. “I’ll figure something out, I promise!”

He smiled, trying to reassure her but she still didn’t look convinced. He’d have to think fast because darkness would soon be upon them.

*

“My boy! What on earth is the cause for that sour expression?” Benedick demanded of Salazar, who was almost unnoticeable behind the pile of scrolls he was working on in his office.

“You mean you haven’t heard?” Salazar exclaimed, looking shocked.

“Heard what?” He asked inquisitively.

“About the castle of Hufflepuff?”

“Oh,” he said, his expression one of puzzlement for a split second. “Yes, yes, most unfortunate!”

“Unfortunate!” Salazar exploded, a few of the scrolls scattering from the desk and rolling across the floor. “That fire was deliberate!”

“My dear boy, do not be so foolish!” He chuckled.

“Benedick, how can you just stand there and laugh it away?” He demanded angrily. Benedick looked extremely shocked, never having seen Salazar this angry, especially at him. “People died in that fire! My friends died in that fire!” He said, fixing him with a bitter stare. “I’m going to find out who did this!”

“You are no detective, Salazar!” Benedick said coldly. “And nor will I let you be!”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“That you have better things to do with your time!”

“But my friends - ” He began hastily.

“Yes, yes, I know!” He cut in impatiently. “And I assure you, the culprits will be caught but you really must think of the duties you have to your people,” he urged, indicating the scrolls.

“You’re right,” he sighed, after a long and thoughtful pause. “But I really must go to pay my respects to their remains.”

Salazar picked up his quill from the inkpot, bending over the scroll he’d been working on.

Benedick looked at him with a very peculiar expression, as though weighing things up. He scratched his chin nervously.

“Stop that!” He said suddenly, causing Salazar to blot what he’d been writing.

“But you just said - ”

“I know what I said,” he muttered dismissively. “You’re in no fit state to work. I suggest you take a break”

“A break?” Salazar repeated.

“Yes. Go back to your family. They haven’t seen you in along time!”

“Well…”

“You do want to see then, don’t you?” He persisted, raising his eyebrows.

“Of course!”

“There you are then. Oh, but you must do one thing for me in return.”

“What?” Salazar asked uncertainly.

“Promise me you will not go to Hufflepuff castle?”

Salazar stared, looking perplexed.

“Why not?”

“Because, my dear boy,” he added, not wanting to sound to pushy. “They do not want to be disturbed!”

“Who doesn’t?”

“The men who are carrying out an investigation into the most unfortunate deaths that happened there.”

“Oh…” He said quietly. Benedick stared eagerly. “Okay.”

“Good! Off you go then!” He smiled, patting him firmly on the back!

“What…now?” He said, looking surprised.

“No time like the present!” He beamed in reply.

“Right. How long have I got?” Salazar asked, turning back just before he left the room.

“As long as you need, my boy!”

“Are you sure?” He exclaimed.

“Yes!” He chortled. “Now get out of my sight!” He laughed.

“Thank you, Benedick!” Salazar smiled, dashing from the room, his footsteps echoing along the corridor.

Benedick stared after him and his smile quickly faded. He paced the room, a bitter expression upon his face. Salazar was growing suspicious and he just couldn’t afford to let that happen. He had too much power, both as a Lord and a wizard, to tamper with.

*

The sun had almost set upon the Irish countryside and Godric and Helga were exhausted - this must have been nothing to what their horse felt. He had carried them like a true trooper for most of the day without so much as a snort of complaint.

“We have to find somewhere to sleep, Godric!” Helga urged, sounding worried.

Night would soon be upon them and, as far as they could see, there was nowhere to go.

“I know, I know!” Godric murmured, trying not to sound too worried himself, even though he did, probably more so, as the pressure was on him to provide for and protect Helga now.

They walked on and Godric, finally seeing a sign of shelter, steered the horse towards it, feeling the muscles in his legs screaming for relief from the position they’d been locked in all day. They headed for a run-down barn in the middle of a field with no sign of a house nearby.

“We should be okay in here,” Godric assured Helga, stopping their horse just in front of the doors.

“I hope so,” she murmured, looking up at it apprehensively.

They were certainly sheltered from view. Trees, bushes and long grass concealed the fact that they’d be staying there, just as long as they were as inconspicuous as possible. It was just lucky that the barn showed signs of no one entering it for many years.

Once Godric had hopped down from the horse, he heaved open the barn doors with the little strength he had left. The strong smell of damp and old straw hit their nostrils immediately, taking them aback for a moment. Helga cautiously followed Godric inside, looking around apprehensively.

“Yes, this’ll be fine,” he nodded, seeing a great pile of hay in the corner that they could sleep upon quite comfortably.

“You don’t think there are rats in there, do you?” Helga asked shakily.

“I doubt it,” he smiled.

She looked unsure but decided, as she had nowhere else to lie down peacefully, it’d do. Once Godric had led their horse inside, closed the door and let it drink from a large trough full of rain water that had leaked in by means of a hole in the ceiling, he and Helga made themselves as comfortable as possible.

Now that Godric had time to contemplate his heart raced and an uncomfortable lump started to form in his throat. He knew they couldn’t go on living like this forever and this was the best they’d get if they stuck at it. He knew no one would take them in and, if he did go to anyone with authority, a lord or a lady, he knew he’d be found by the very man who wanted him and Helga dead. He couldn’t drag her into something like that - it wasn’t fair. But there had to be someone who’d take care of them, look out for them and help them.

He suddenly sat bolt upright and gasped loudly, causing Helga to jump, having just been on the verge of dozing off.

“What is it?” She demanded, looking worried.

“I’ve thought of somewhere we can stay, somewhere safe,” he explained, trying to think it all over again in his mind.

“Where?” She asked slowly.

“Remember the place I came from?”

“Lord Screiver’s castle?” She said, looking puzzled. “Of course I do!”

“Well, we’ll go there. I’m sure he’d be welcoming!”

“But,” she pointed out. “Didn’t he kick you out?”

Godric stared, trying not to look thrown by this.

“Not exactly,” he replied. “He sent me to you, didn’t he? I mean, if he didn’t care he would have left me on the streets!”

“I suppose,” she shrugged.

“We’ll make our way there in the morning!”

“But…” Helga said quickly. “Shouldn’t you send him a letter first to let him know you’re coming?”

“Helga, non-magical mail takes weeks to get delivered and replied to. Do you really want to be sleeping rough for that long?”

“No,” she said hurriedly.

“There you are then. We’ll set off at first light.”

“But I think we should travel like normal people. We don’t want to draw attention to ourselves, do we?” She added. “I know it’ll take longer but it’s better that than being caught.”

“Yes, you have a point,” he agreed, scratching his chin. “We'd better get some rest then!”

He lay back on the hay, hoping that Lord Schreiver would indeed welcome him or, in fact, even recognise him at all. It had been years since he’d seen him, after all.

*

“What is it, Benedick?” The king asked worriedly, as Benedick walked into his study, looking agitated.

“I have some news, milord,” he said awkwardly.

“Well,” the king said, after a long pause. “Bloody well spit it out, man!”

Benedick nodded gravely.

“Sir, I do believe young Salazar is growing suspicious about the accident at Hufflepuff castle.”

“Explain,” the king said impatiently, waving a hand.


“He has guessed the fire was started deliberately.” The king looked shocked and rather anxious at this. “He feels so strongly because his friends were in the fire.”

“Friends?”

“Lord Hufflepuff’s youngest daughter and the boy, I believe,” he elaborated. “But I have sent him away from his duties to take his mind off things. We can’t afford to let him grow suspicious.”

“Damn right, we can’t!” The king roared, looking flustered. “The boy is still out there and if he’s such good fiends with Salazar that means he could contemplate contacting him! Salazar is friends with Rowena and it’d only be a matter of time before this whole incident is out in the open!”

“Of course,” Benedick said quickly, not having considered all these details.

“Whilst he’s gone it’ll give us time to put things in order.”

“Milord?”

“It gives us time to find this boy and kill him. I want every city, town and village in Ireland to know who we’re looking for and anyone found to be helping this vagabond will be killed as well!”

“Yes, milord,” he muttered, I’ll inform the knights.”

“Just make sure he’s found, Benedick…and that girl too. I can’t afford for her to bleed poison into my daughter’s head!”

Benedick nodded and turned to leave, smiling in a very satisfied way.


Chapter 18: Arthur's Idea
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Rowena sat in her cold tower room, looking out across the rainy city.

“Oh, miss!” Her chambermaid said, hurrying into the room. “You must put something on to keep you warm if you wish to sit near the window. You’ll catch your death!”

“That wouldn’t be such a bad thing,” she sighed, not taking her eyes away from the miserable scene below her.

“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that!” The maid, who’s name was Sally, said in a horrified tone. “I really don’t understand why you are so down,” she said thoughtfully, as she trundled around the room, gently placing a shawl around Rowena’s shoulders. “I mean, pretty soon you’ll have a wonderful husband who didn’t exactly miss out when they were handing out the looks, I’m sure you won’t mind me saying! I’d be dancing on the roof if a man like that asked me for my hand in marriage!” She grinned at the thought, continuing to bustle around the room, picking up the laundry.

“It’s all well and good liking someone,” Rowena murmured distantly. “But why else should you have to marry if not for love?”

Sally paused, staring at the back of Rowena’s head with a creased brow, as though trying to suss her out.

“What are you trying to say, miss?” She asked hesitantly. “That you do not feel for Prince Edmund? That you do not love him?”

Rowena snorted with sarcastic laughter and finally tore her gaze away from the rainy scene outside the window.

“If I loved him half as much as he loved himself I’d be attached to his side!” She exclaimed.

Sally looked uncomfortable, not knowing what to say.

“You do not wish to marry him, milady?” She asked quietly.

“I most certainly do not! But since when has my father cared what I think!” Her voice was suddenly higher and she turned away, fighting back tears.

“He just wants what’s best for you, miss.”

“No!” She snapped. “He just wants what’s best for him!”

Sally placed a hand on her shoulder and looked sympathetically at her.

“Is there…another?”

“Another what?” Rowena replied, sniffing loudly.

“That you love,” she murmured.

“There was,” Rowena said sadly, her eyes shining with tears. “But now I shall never get to see him again. I never even told him how much…” She trailed off, a lump forming in her throat and making it increasingly difficult for her to speak clearly.

“I understand,” she said. “Maybe someday.”

“No,” Rowena breathed. “It’s too late now.”

Sally nodded sadly and left the room, leaving Rowena to stare out of the window.

*

“Wake up!” Godric hissed.

They had taken a boat from Ireland to Scotland and Godric was still amazed that they hadn’t been caught. It had rained all night so they were pretty soaked and it showed no signs of stopping.

“What?” Helga said, sitting bolt upright and staring around, bleary-eyed. “Are we here?”

“We are!” He said excitedly. “Quick, we have to get the horse and get going!”

Helga nodded in understanding and they hurried along the decks to the other side of the boat, where all the cargo was being unloaded. The only reason they’d managed to hitch a ride on this boat was because they’d traded a fancy brooch Helga had had upon her person.

Once they’d saddled up their horse and climbed on they were off again. Though they were fully rested they hadn’t had anything to eat since their apples the previous day.

“Was that your stomach!” Godric laughed, as he heard a large growling sound.

“Well, I’m starving!” She exclaimed.

“Hmmm,” he shrugged. “So am I. We’ll find somewhere soon.”

He said this but he was actually only voicing his hopes. He knew a vague route to Lord Schreiver’s castle but did not know what lay along the way. He hoped they’d come across a village soon. He’d happily trade the hat Helga had got him for his birthday if the worse came to the worst.

“Look!” Helga shouted suddenly, making both Godric and the horse flinch.

She was pointing up the path ahead between the parting of trees and, with a skip of his heart, Godric saw it too. Rising through the branches were rooftops and he could distinctly see the curl of smoke rising from a chimney.

“Finally,” she gasped gratefully, as they had been riding for three hours non-stop.

They approached this ribbon of distant smoke and soon a small village had materialised before them, the little cottages sitting here and there over windswept grassland. It looked quite void of people but Godric decided it must be due to the time of year and all the rain they’d had. He stopped their horse and looked down apprehensively, feeling Helga grip his shoulders tightly to remind him of how hungry she was. His stomach growled quite audible but he didn’t know how friendly this village was.

“I have no idea what these people are like,” he muttered, more to himself than to Helga. “Just be careful.”

She made a sound to show that she’d understood and Godric urged the horse onwards down the steep slope that led into the heart of the village. He spotted a run-down little inn further along the dirt track, which was now on level ground. As they approached it, Godric felt eyes watching him, perhaps from the houses surrounding them. He stopped the horse once more and helped Helga down once he’d tethered it up outside the inn. He could hear voices reverberating off the walls within and didn’t know whether he was glad of this or not.

“I can smell food!” Helga said excitedly.

They pushed open the heavy door and, as soon as they’d stepped over the threshold, every pair of eyes within the dank room was upon them. They stood there awkwardly for a moment, before Godric regretfully closed the door, causing the room to fall into a further degree of dimness. Stuttering candles burnt half-heartedly in small little holders, most of the wax having melted and dripped over the sides; the ones in the walls were hung with great strings of wax, very much like stalactites. The bar looked old and dusty, the glasses behind it giving the impression that they needed a good clean. There were only a few people half-concealed in the dark room but, for the intense looks they gave, it could have been hundreds. A man at the bar seemed to be chewing on something without realising as he cleaned out a dull silver goblet. A little woman, who had a prominent hooked nose, kept glancing at them and then hurriedly glancing back into her tiny glass. A group of stocky men, all with beards, stared openly, looking them up and down.

“And you are?” The bartender demanded suddenly, making Godric and Helga jump.

“Er…William and Mary,” he invented wildly, knowing it was best to lie in the current circumstances.

“Is that so?” He growled, in the Scottish accent that was so familiar in these parts. With a horrible stab in his guts Godric had a feeling he knew who they really were. “And what brings you to these parts?”

“Er…”

“Relatives,” Helga intervened and Godric was shocked to hear her mimicking his own Scottish accent; it would have been a little difficult to explain if she had maintained an Irish one. “Our Grandmother is sick, we have to look after her.”

“Touching,” he murmured, though, it was obvious he didn’t think so. “And where does she live, I daresay I might know her?”

“Not here,” she said, shaking her head. “She lives a few villages away from here.”

“I see,” he said, observing them for a moment. “What can I get you then?”

“Anything,” Helga replied, looking grateful. “We’re starving!”

“Right, I have some stew…just about ready,” he said.

“That’ll be great,” Godric replied, feeling his stomach rumble again.

The man disappeared into a back room, where a great sheet of steam was issuing from and returned moments later with two bowls of brown sludge. It did not look too appetising but Godric and Helga were too hungry to be fussy.

“That’ll be two silver coins,” he pointed out, as they were about to retreat with the bowls.

“Oh…” Godric said, looking anxious. “You see, the problem is, we don’t actually - ”

“I don’t run a home for orphans, boy!” He snarled suddenly, snatching the bowls back. “No silver, no food!”

“But we haven’t eaten in days!” He raged back.

“And why should I care about two snivelling children!” He barked, amusement in his voice somewhere.

“There must be something we can give you. We could make a trade,” Godric said quickly, knowing he had nothing of value.

“Problems, Mick?” A man that had stared intently upon them as they’d entered asked, suddenly looming from out of the shadows.

“Of course not,” he grunted back, the bowls still held in his hands.

“I think a trade would be fair,” the man growled, leering at Helga in a way that made her back into Godric so that she was practically standing on his foot. “Pretty girl.”

He grinned maliciously, showing yellowing, blackened and chipped teeth, most missing.

“Get away from her!” Godric snarled, causing the people in the room to turn and stare.

“Sure you won’t trade?” He laughed. “There’s many that’d happily do so!”

Godric grabbed tightly to Helga’s wrist, who looked very frightened.

“Back off,” he said, in barely more than a whisper. The hiss of his words may have been quiet but, as the light glinted in his blazing eyes, they were menacing.

“Like I said, no silver, no food!” The bartender reminded them irritably.

“Not even for the little locket she wears?” The leering man murmured, pointing to where it glittered around Helga’s neck. She automatically clasped her hand over it, looking defensive.

“Your rotten food isn’t worth that!” Godric spat in disgust.

“Very well then!” He said, marching to the back room once more.

“Come on,” Godric muttered to Helga.

“Leaving so soon?” The man chuckled, his friends laughing sinisterly with him. “Not even going to stay for the witch burning?”

Godric froze and he was sure he felt a shudder run through Helga as he continued to grasp her wrist. He turned around, trying to keep his expression blank.

“Witch burning?” He repeated.

“Yeah, the hunters reckon they caught a few last night. We’ll see, won’t we?” He muttered, looking excited as he took a long swig from his tankard. Godric couldn’t help but stay rooted to the spot. “They usually always burn. Their screams go right through you!” He said, suppressing a fake shudder and then smiling nastily.

“How can you be sure they’re witches?” Helga asked, unable to stop herself.

“’Cos they’re weird! Spend all their time alone - doing stuff, unnatural stuff.”

“Like what?”

“Well, I dunno’, do I? I’m not part of their…what would you call it?” He said thoughtfully. “Their circle.”

“Good luck then!” Godric said, unable to keep the anger from his voice. “We must bid you all good evening!”

He pulled Helga from the inn and forced her up onto the horse before she’d had time to speak. By the time she did they were almost on the other side of the village, Godric urging the horse onwards.

“Godric,” she said, a pleading note in her voice.

“Look, I know you’re hungry,” he said quickly.

“It’s not that,” she said. “The witches - they’re going to…to burn them,” she murmured, sounding horrified.

“Well, that’s what they do,” he said, trying to keep his voice steady. “There’s nothing we can do.”

“But, couldn’t we - ?”

“No,” he said at once. “They might not even be like us, just people that are a little different than they’d like. We can hardly go rushing back, magic blazing!”

“I know but…” She trailed off.

“I know,” he breathed, knowing that this would not console her. “We’ll make our way to Schreivers’ castle, I’m sure it’s not far from here,” he assured her.

*

“Salazar? What the - Salazar, m’boy!” Arthur called happily, running out into the sweeping driveway to meet him.

Salazar jogged towards him, hugging his uncle and beaming at the sight of his old home.

“What are you doing here?” He chuckled.

“I was given time off,” he replied, unable to stop smiling.

“Time off?” He repeated, looking shocked. “You were given time off by Benedick Greyson?”

“Yes.”

“I suppose wonders will never cease!” He boomed, laughing heartily. “Do come inside, my dear boy!”

He led him into the large house, which was warm and welcoming after the great tower he was used to. As soon as he’d crossed the threshold he felt like his old self again.

“Do come through,” Arthur urged, leading him into the drawing room, which had a fire blazing enthusiastically in its grate. “You can tell me how you’ve been getting on. I have an uncorked bottle of mead with our name on it!” He winked.

Salazar smiled at this.

They sat down in the comfortable armchairs and Salazar watched the flames flicker. A great sense of sadness washed over him all of a sudden.

“What is it, m’boy?” Arthur asked, noticing his expression.

“Oh…” He said quickly, knowing it was too late to lie. “My friends,” he said simply. “I miss them.”

“You speak of the tragic accident at the castle of Hufflepuff I presume?”

Salazar nodded, a dry lump forming in his throat.

“Your loss is a painful one,” he murmured, passing him a goblet of mead. “But it will get better.”

Salazar highly doubted this and sat in silence as he drank it.

“It appears the King is having a tough time of it,” Arthur said conversationally.

“What’s happened now?” He asked, shocked his uncle would know before he did.

“Well, he’s sent out messages to all regions around the country,” he explained. “Seems he’s desperate to catch a couple of kids. Thieves, most probably, but the whole thing is a little heightened for it to be something as simple as that.”

“That’s strange.”

“Indeed,” he nodded. “I have the parchment here somewhere,” he mumbled, rummaging through the desk drawer in the corner. “They’ve been put up everywhere so it’s hardly like they’ll have anywhere to hide!”

As he passed Salazar the wrinkled parchment he dropped his goblet to the floor, which, thankfully, wasn’t full of mead.

“What’s wrong?” Arthur demanded, looking puzzled.

Salazar’s mouth hung open as he looked upon the sketches of two familiar faces. Beneath them were the words: Wanted dead or alive. Considered highly dangerous and capture is ordered by the King of England. Reward is plentiful.

“It’s them!” He gasped.

“Who?”

“Godric and Helga. They must still be alive and the king must want them dead so that they never contact Rowena. It all makes sense!” He said, his heart lifting in relief but soon sinking with worry. “They’re not even dangerous. The whole country will be after them!”

“Oh dear,” Arthur murmured. “I had no idea they were your friends, I’ve never met - ”

“I know,” he said hurriedly, his mind reeling.

A few minutes before he’d believed his friends to be dead and now that they weren’t he felt nervous with what the words upon the parchment had said. He had to do something before he lost a second chance at seeing them again.

“I’ve got to help them,” he said suddenly, standing up rather abruptly.

“What on earth do you mean?” Arthur demanded, looking astounded. “You can hardly go looking for them, wherever they are! You’ll get in a lot of trouble, boy, and being in a position of power - ”

“I care about my friends ten times more than that!” He barked, Arthur staring at him as he’d never done before.

“I know but I honestly believe they are beyond your help now. From what you’ve told me, Godric is more than capable of keeping them both safe.”

“I’m not too sure,” he breathed uncertainly. “Not in the current circumstances.”

“Listen to me,” he said seriously, sounding suddenly stern. “There is something else you must concentrate on, a friend in much more need than Godric or Helga.”

“Rowena?”

“Yes, Rowena!” He said, rather impatiently. “She cannot even leave the palace, let alone learn how to use her magic.”

“How can I help her then?”

“I thought you were smart, boy!” He said, rolling his eyes. “We shall send her books, the contents concealed, and we shall send her a riddle to unlock it’s secrets. I’ve heard she’s very gifted when it comes to things of that nature. We will train her without even having to raise the king’s suspicions.”

“That’s brilliant, uncle!” Salazar beamed, his spirits lifting.

“As for you,” he said, frowning. “I’ve been considering it for a long time.”

“What?” He asked uncertainly.

“As Benedick has given you some leave, I suggest we write to him and push for as much time as possible to train you up.”

“Train me up?”

“Yes. You’re not quite as gifted as your parents were at magic yet, boy!” He chuckled. “I’ll teach you here and you can return once a fortnight or so to keep things in check and also to check on the process of our feathered friend,” he winked.

“A bird?” He said blankly, looking puzzled.

“A Raven, to be more precise,” he smiled.

“Why? What do you mean, a raven?”

Arthur raised his eyebrows.

“Raven…Ravenclaw!” He pointed out. “Goodness, boy, you must have had a tiring journey. But to business - I shall start work on my letter to Benedick!”


Chapter 19: The Past Hurts
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A chilling mist hung low over the moors of Scotland, making visibility very bad. Everything loomed forth like eerie shadows as Godric moved through this ghostly blanket. He urged the horse blindly onwards, somehow knowing he was going the right way. Helga lay propped up against his back, sleeping silently.

Then a ghostly form swam out of the whiteness around them. Gordic felt his whole body tingle excitedly as they climbed to the top of a grassy embankment, looking down upon the place he used to call home.

At this distance it looked deserted, as though no one had inhabited it in years. Had Lord Schreiver’s great fortune finally run out?

“G…Godric…?” Helga mumbled, shifting her head and slowly coming round from her deep slumber.

“Are you okay?” He asked at once, having feared that she may suffer from the cold up here.

“Yes,” she replied, looking around in puzzlement as her eyes cleared. “Are we…?” She asked in awe, spotting the towering castle.

“Here, yes,” he replied, considering for the first time how strange it would be to return to this place.

“It looks - ”

“Empty, I know.” He stared, feeling the chill run through him. “Come on, we’ll go around to the servants’ quarters, it’s easier to get in at that side of the castle.”

Godric led the horse around the castle walls, remembering the path he’d taken so many times as though it was just yesterday. He glanced towards the stables, remembering it to be the place he and Rowena had first met. They soon reached a heavy wooden door at the side of the castle, which looked as though it was letting in a rather uncomfortable draught. After dismounting the horse and tethering it to a fence nearby, Godric proceeded uncertainly towards the door.

“Do you think anyone’s in there?” Helga asked uncertainly.

“Bound to be.”

He reached out for the latch that kept the door shut but Helga grabbed his arm.

“Godric, don’t you think we should knock first?” She hissed.

“No,” he shrugged, making to open the door.

As he unlatched it, though, it wouldn’t budge. Godric pushed forcefully but it remained solidly still.

“It’s probably locked.”

“Yeah,” Godric agreed, considering the matter.

Helga was about to point out a number of reasons why what Godric did next was wrong but it was too late; he’d already given the door a forceful kick, the wood creaking menacingly and giving in.

“Godric!” She hissed, reminding him of an angry goose.

“What?” He replied casually, pushing his way through the door, which looked as though it had parted company with one of its hinges.

“We’re forcing entry into someone’s property!” She said, trying to keep her voice as low as possible. “Why couldn’t we have just knocked?”

“Ah, they’ll be fine with it!” He said dismissively, entering the dark and musty kitchen, which smelt strongly of straw, mould and burnt paper. “Come on!” He urged, pulling Helga inside.

She looked around apprehensively, for the early morning rays that now penetrated the room were not enough to show what may have been lurking in the darkened corners.

“I really think that this is a bad idea!” She insisted.

“Well, would you rather stay out in the cold?”

“Of course not but - ”

“Did you hear that?” He said suddenly.

He froze halfway across the room, having heard a strange scuffling sound quite nearby.

“Don’t!” Helga pleaded, seeming jumpy.

“Shhh!” He hissed, hearing it again.

He listened intently but, when silence prevailed, he decided he must have been imagining things.

“Come on, we can get to the main part of the castle through here,” he said, leading her across the room.

Helga suddenly screamed in terror but Godric didn’t have time to turn around because, within the next second, he felt something very heavy make painful contact with his head. Stars popped before his eyes and, feeling dizzy and disorientated, he fell to the floor.

“Helga…” He managed to mumble.

“Godric, are you okay? Hey, what are you doing!”

He managed to roll over in time to see a small figure of a person standing over him, with a saucepan held high, as though ready to strike again.

“Godric?” The girl said, suddenly freezing.

“Yeah, that’s me!” He said quickly. “I used to live here!”

“Godric!” She squealed, the saucepan dropping to the floor with a loud clang. “It’s really you!”

“Wh - ?”

Before he could say anything else he was pulled into an uncomfortably tight hug. As the girl pulled away he found himself gazing into shining eyes that he recognised, even in the dim light.

“Polly?” He said uncertainly.

“You remember?”

“Of course I remember!” He beamed, hugging her back. “Oh,” he said quickly, seeing Helga’s puzzled expression. “Polly is a good friend. I used to work with her,” he explained. “This is Helga Hufflepuff.”

“Who you lived with?” She asked.

“That’s right.”

“Oh, it’s lovely to meet you,” she smiled.

“You too,” Helga replied.

“Oh, sorry about…” Polly trailed off, pointing at Godric’s head.

“It’s alright,” he said, waving a hand dismissively. “You’ve got a good swing, I’ll give you that!”

Godric caught Helga’s meaningful look and he cleared his throat, feeling he should waste no more time.

“Listen, we’re here to see Lord Schreiver. It’s important.”

“Oh,” she said, looking a little doubtful. “The thing is…”

“He’s still alive, isn’t he?” Godric demanded.

“Yes. Barely.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Tell you what,” she smiled, after a long and awkward pause. “How about I make you some breakfast and tell you all about it? He won’t be up at such an early hour anyway!”

*

“Lord Salazar,” said the guard at the gates, bowing his head in greeting.

He inclined his a little but walked swiftly on as the drawbridge was lowered for him. He hastily crossed it, staring anxiously up at the formidable castle as he went. As soon as he was through the doors in the entrance hall he was greeted by another guard, who led him silently to the king’s chamber.

“You may enter, Sir,” he said curtly.

Salazar nodded and did so, the king looking shocked to see him.

“Salazar!” He cried, dropping a scroll he was reading. “What a surprise! What are you doing here?” He asked suspiciously, his wide eyes suddenly narrowing. “I thought you were on leave?”

“Oh, I am your highness. This is strictly a recreational visit.”

“And what, may I ask, is the reason for this visit?”

He asked in tones of perfect friendliness but his eyes told a different story. Salazar supposed that you’d have to get used to this split persona as a king.

“It is actually princess Rowena I have come to see,” he explained, hoping that his cloak properly concealed the heavily wrapped package he had underneath his right arm.

“Oh really?”

“Yes, Sir. With your permission I’d like to say goodbye to her before I leave.”

The king considered him and Salazar just hoped his expression was blank.

“I feel that we have become good friends over the time I have known her.”

“Of course,” the king boomed, laughing heartily. He heaved himself out of his chair and beckoned Salazar to follow him. “As long as you’re not thinking of stealing her affections away from prince Edmund!” He added, with a second hearty laugh.

“I wouldn’t dream of it, milord!” Salazar said, smiling in amusement.

He followed the king upstairs and was led to a large tower room, where he knocked twice upon the heavy wooden door.

“Enter,” came the gentle voice of Rowena.

“Ah, my dear,” he beamed, striding into the room. “I have someone here to see you!”

“I do not wish to see anyone,” she said simply, her voice monotonous.

“Come now, Rowena!” He insisted, his tone low and full of warning. “Salazar wishes to say goodbye before he leaves.”

“Salazar?” She asked, her tone hopeful. “Yes, I’ll see him.”

“Good,” he said, beckoning Salazar inside.

Once the king had left Rowena and Salazar could relax their uncomfortably stiff postures.

“It’s wonderful to see you!” She smiled, her pale face glowing in the equally pale winter sunlight streaming in through her tower window.

“I brought you something,” he said, feeling that he should cut to the chase, lest their conversation be cut short. “Here,” he murmured, carefully taking the package from beneath his arm and handing it to her.

“A gift? What on earth for?”

“Just open it,” he insisted.

After a quizzical look she did so. He watched her closely as she unwrapped it, noticing how much paler her gentle skin had become. The spark in her eyes seemed to have become less apparent and he hated to see such a thing.

“A book?” She muttered, staring at him in puzzlement.

“Open it,” he said again.

She did so, turning to the first page. Her brow furrowed as she stared down at the blank pages, running her long fingers across them.

“There’s nothing written inside,” she said slowly. “Is this a trick?”

“In a manner of speaking,” he smiled, leaning forwards. “Watch…Aparecium!”

She gasped as spidery words began to appear upon the pages.

“A spell?”

“Of course,” he grinned. “The words are written in invisible ink, you just say the spell when you wish to read it.”

She was staring intently at the words that were written upon the thick and rather worn pages.

“This is a spell book,” she said finally.

“Yes,” he nodded, staring meaningfully at her. “My uncle intends to teach you magic.”

“How?” She asked at once.

“He will send you letters with instructions, in the same ink,” he added. Rowena was staring at him longingly but still seemed overshadowed by doubt. “You must only ever attempt the spells he instructs you too, though.”

“How will this work?”

“It will, trust me!” He assured her, his heart beating just as fast as hers, with pure anxiety. “You must only ever do this at night, when you’re sure you’ll be alone and somewhere secluded. No one can find out.”

There was an awkward silence between them and Salazar was so sure she was going to refuse being a part of this plan.

“I can still learn magic?” She asked, her eyes shining brightly with happiness once again.

“Yes,” he smiled.

“Oh Salazar…thank you!” She threw herself forwards and he was pulled into a tight hug before he could do anything to stop it.

“Well, I must go,” he said, clearing his throat and causing her to let go. “Take care.”

“When will I see you again?”

“I don’t know.”

She stared at him for a long while before he broke eye contact, deciding it was best to leave.

Once he’d gone Rowena stared down at the book he’d given her and her heart lifted, the pages like rays of hope to her in a future that was sure to be filled with darkness.

*

“This way,” Polly murmured, leading Godric down the darkened corridors within the castle, whilst Helga awaited his return down in the kitchens. “He’s had to be kept in his room over the past few months,” she explained, referring to Lord Schreiver. “His health has been deteriorating for a long time.”

They finally reached a heavy wooden door at the end of a dark hallway and she knocked three times.

“Enter,” came a barely audible croak that Godric just about managed to recognise.

Polly led the way, pushing open the door and beckoning Godric inside after her. He followed, squinting through the dim quality of light to look for the man he could only picture in vague memories. He saw a grand bed with deep velvet hangings at one side of the room with covered windows either side of it, resulting in hardly any light being able to get into the room.

“What is it?” He growled.

As Godric approached he saw Lord Schreiver slumped upon a pile of pillows, his face sallow and more wrinkled than he remembered. His hair had thinned quite dramatically and was as white as snow. It made Godric’s stomach flutter uncomfortably, knowing he was so close to someone that was so close to death.

“Godric, Sir,” Polly said, raising her voice. “You’ll have to speak a little louder for him,” she added quietly. “His hearing isn’t what it used to be.”

“Godric, Godric Gryffindor?” He demanded in a low Scottish growl, perking up slightly.

“Yes, Sir. Shall I let some light in?”

“Please do, my dear girl,” he replied. “Come closer, my boy. I cannot see as I could in my prime,” he said, his glazed, greying eyes searching for him. “Ah, you’ve grown into a fine young lad!” He smiled, when he could see him properly.

“I’ll leave you to speak alone,” Polly piped up, indicating that Godric should sit in the high-backed chair at the side of the bed.

He did so and watched her go, closing the door behind her.

“I’m sorry to just turn up like this, Sir,” Godric said. “But I didn’t know where else to go.”

“It’s good to know that you feel you can turn to me in times of need,” he croaked, a feeble smile playing around his mouth. “I heard what happened at Hufflepuff’s castle. I’m so sorry, my boy!”

“So am I. I’m all Helga has now but I suppose it’s better than no one at all.”

“Of course it is! Do you intend upon staying here, Godric?”

“At the castle?” He asked quickly. He hadn’t actually considered what he’d do next. “Well, I…”

“Believe me, you’ll be safer if you do stay.”

Godric considered this and decided he was most probably right.

“Thank you, Sir,” he said, after an awkward pause.

He made to get up and leave but was prevented from doing so as Lord Schreiver’s hand suddenly shot from under his blankets and grabbed onto his wrist with surprising force for such a frail old man.

“There’s something I must tell you!” He breathed. “It is of the utmost importance!”

Wondering if it was just a side effect of his illness, Godric stayed where he was nevertheless, prepared to listen.

“Okay…what is it?” He asked apprehensively.

“It’s about your…”

“My…?” He prompted.

“Your…Mother.”

Godric stared in shock for a moment but somehow knew that what he had to say was definitely worth listening to. He sat back down and listening intently.

“Go on.”

“I’m going to tell you what we found out about your real family after you were gone. The old chamber maid was right to assume she was a well off girl with the clothes she wore,” he explained. “Particularly when it came to the jewel she wore around her neck.” Godric’s brow creased at this but he did not speak up. “It was engraved with an age-old crest, the crest of a family of royals.”

Godric had to think over what he’d just heard once more. Schreiver must have got it wrong - he wasn’t a royal!

“Your name said it all,” he went on. “When we looked into it further we found out that the name Gryffindor had been one of high status for hundreds of years, not in this country, however.”

“No, Sir,” Godric muttered, shaking his head. “It can’t be. If I was related to royalty I wouldn’t have worked as a stable boy for almost all my life!”

He just didn’t understand it. If he was of royal descent, some lost prince, perhaps, his family wouldn’t have left him like this. They would have come for him years ago. He just didn’t quite get why his mother had come to this castle in the dead of night and no one had ever come asking questions about the disappearance of a royal and her child.

“I know it’s hard to accept, boy,” he said, his brow furrowed in sympathy.

“You’ve got it wrong!” Godric raged, rising from his seat again. “They would have come for me! They wouldn’t have left my mother to die without looking for her!” He roared, his throat and eyes stinging at these words.

“There is a reason they didn’t look,” he said. “Please, Godric, sit down.”

He stared at the frail old man, who still maintained a tight grip upon his wrist. His chest was rising and falling as he decided whether or not he wanted to hear what he had to say. The intrigue becoming unbearable, he slumped back into the seat, staring intently at the floor.

“I’m listening,” he grunted.

“The Gryffindors were a very wealthy family back before you were born, one of the richest. So many wanted to be a part of their circle so, naturally, arranged marriages were quite popular.”

“Like Rowena,” he breathed.

“Sorry?”

“Nothing,” Godric said quickly. “Go on.”

“Well, your father was one of the Gryffindors, whose fate it was to marry this way. He was to marry the daughter of another royal.”

“My Mother?”

“No, dear boy,” he said sadly. “Your Mother did not come from good upbringing. I believe she was an orphan, living as a servant in the village just outside the castle walls. I don’t quite know how they ended up meeting but they knew from the moment they did that they wanted to be together. Your father was too afraid to tell his parents about her, for fear of what they’d do. This was all before he was due to be married. Then, of course, when your father realised that Rona was carrying a child he knew something had to be done. He could have turned her away, knowing it would ruin his large inheritance, but he did not.”

“Then what did he do?” Godric croaked, his throat seizing up.

“He owned up to his mistake, told his mother and father all about it.”

“What did they do?” He demanded, his heart pumping.

“They ordered her to be killed,” he said simply. Godric’s stomach churned at this but he continued to listen. “The thing you must know is that your father was as Mortal as they come. You inherit the magic in your veins from your mother. Of course, the king and queen were not foolish enough to not notice something like that. They ordered her to be locked away in the dungeons until the next witch burning took place.”

Godric felt sick. Hearing this story about his family, his past, was heartbreaking, knowing how much pain his mother and father must have gone through.

“So…what happened then?” He croaked, hardly able to utter the words.

“Your father helped her escape. He knew it was impossible for them to be together within his parents’ lands so he told Rona to climb aboard a ship and travel across seas - she ended up here.”

“But he should have gone with her!” Godric said, feeling angry.

“He planned to,” he replied. “The following night he planned to take the same route as your mother but the king and queen kept him locked up inside the castle.”

“So what happened then? Is my father still alive?” He asked hopefully.

“Oh, my dear boy,” he murmured, his eyes shining. Godric already knew the answer to this question by the look on his face. “I’m so sorry.”

“How did he die?” He murmured, not sure whether or not he wanted to know the answer.

“He…he…took his own life,” he answered, his voice cracking with sadness. “If he couldn’t be with Rona, he wouldn’t be with anyone.”

Godric felt a sudden burst of emotion he couldn’t explain. He felt as though he’d lost both parents all over again. He felt that life was too unfair to live!

“And…” he said finally, trying his best to keep his voice steady. “How is it you came to find out all this information?”

“Your father's friend and advisor, Coen Barrett,” he replied. “He wishes for you to go to him in your father's homeland.”

“Why?”

“He is a wizard too. He wishes to train you.”

Godric stared, still taking this in.

“But, what about Helga? I can't leave her behind.”

“She will be safe here or in the village, I assure you.”

Godric sat there for what felt like an age, thinking everything over.

“I think I’d like to go,” he said finally, feeling as though someone else was using his mouth to speak. “But I’d just like to know one more thing. What was my father called?”

“Leonard. Leonard Gryffindor.”


Chapter 20: The Promise
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Helga just stared in shock, unsure if she’d heard correctly. Godric had just explained everything Lord Schreiver had told him. She felt a mixture of feelings all at once, which confused her. She was happy that Godric had discovered his true identity but, when he told her he was leaving for a while, she felt her heart plummet. He was as good as a brother as far as she was concerned and losing him after all this time would tear her apart.

“You’re going to Fin - er…?”

“Finland, yes,” he replied, staring apprehensively at her.

“Oh…” she muttered, failing to hide her disappointment. “How long will you be gone for?”

“I don’t know,” he said, feeling nervous. “But I have to do this. You understand, don’t you?”

“Oh, Godric, of course I do,” she smiled weakly. “I know that, if I were in your shoes, I’d want to find out all I could about my family. You should go. It’s just that I’ll miss you.”

“And I you!” He beamed. “You’ll always be my little sister,” he smiled, placing his hand beneath her chin and staring fondly down at her. He tried to assure himself that this wouldn’t be the last time he looked upon this pretty face, with freckles dotted lightly across her nose.

“But what will happen?”

“You mean the search for us?” He asked knowingly. She nodded worriedly, biting her lip. “You’ll be safe up here,” he assured her. “Lord Schreiver has promised me you’ll be kept hidden.”

“But what about you?”

“I doubt the king's guards will be searching for me all the way over in Finland!” He chuckled.

She smiled weakly but it soon faded.

“You’re scared?” He asked seriously.

“Terrified,” she said honestly, her stomach churning uncomfortably.

“Don’t be.”

“But it’ll feel strange if we split up now,” she said quietly.

“I know,” he nodded, feeling extremely guilty about leaving her.

The door to the cold and dim drawing room suddenly swung open and Polly entered, wearing a thick cloak that almost touched the ground. She passed two more cloaks each to Godric and Helga, causing them to look up at her in puzzlement.

“Come on,” she urged. “We’re going down into the village.”

“What for?” Helga asked, pulling the cloak around her shoulders nonetheless.

“Well, Lord Schreiver thinks it will be unsafe for you to stay here at the castle. He suggests you stay with a lady down in the village. She’s ever so nice!” She beamed.

“But…” Helga began, looking up at Godric anxiously.

“Who is this woman?” He asked. “How do we know Helga will be safe with her?”

“She’s a witch!” She said, as though this was blatantly obvious. “So you’ll be able to practice all the magic you wish!”

“Oh…” Helga murmured, looking a little more reassured by this.

“Coming?” Godric asked.

She nodded and followed them from the room.

*

Rowena smiled to herself as she looked down at the aged pages before her, running her long fingers over the spidery words. She had been studying the spells in great detail but, as Salazar had requested, she had not yet put any of them to practical use.

The door suddenly burst open, making her jump. She hastily tapped the book with her fingertip and the words vanished. She pushed the book forcefully beneath her bed and turned to face the doorway, hoping she’d adopted a casual expression.

Luckily her father, who’d just barged into the room unannounced, looked in too much of a rage to notice what she’d been up to prior to his arrival.

“Unbelievable, the whole family!”

“What is it, father?” She asked.

He gave her a meaningful stare, as though trying to impress upon her how bad the news he had actually was.

“It’s prince Edmund,” he grunted. “It seems his leave had been extended a lot longer than we expected!”

“What do you mean?” She asked, waiting with baited breath.

“As you know, he’s been fighting valiantly for his country for some time now and, where the original time scale he was meant to be at war for was three years, it has now extended to a little over five.”

Rowena’s heart lifted and she suddenly felt like she’d been given the largest gift of hope she could ever have wished for. She didn’t know what this would mean to her exactly or how she’d escape the inevitable marriage that faced her. Then her mind suddenly rested upon the heavy book that lay beneath her bed and, with one wild moment of thought, she considered that once she’d mastered the magic contained within she could somehow escape her life of entrapment and live a new, happier one.

“…Pompous old fool!” Her father was muttering. “Sent me the letter this morning! Just assumes we can rearrange our plans after you’ve been promised to each other. Well, I revolve around no one!”

“Of course not, father,” she muttered.

“But there’s no way I can push the wedding forwards. His parents may reconsider the marriage if I try to suggest he abandon his duties as prince, especially when it comes to war,” he added, looking uncomfortable. “I’m sorry, my daughter, but your grand wedding will have to wait.”

“Oh,” she said, trying very hard not to sound elated at this news. “I can wait, father. Love grows with absence, as they say.”

“You are a good girl,” he smiled, brushing her cheek with a large, beefy hand.

She watched him leaving the room and couldn’t help but smile to herself.

*

As Godric and Helga followed Polly along a wide dirt track through a tunnel of tall fir trees, Godric vaguely remembered coming this way once or twice when he had to help deliver goods to the marketplace. They soon emerged into the village square, where a few empty stalls stood, abandoned because of the cold weather. The little thatched buildings bore nothing of the grandeur Godric had seen at either Schreiver’s of Hufflepuff’s castle, which made him realise how lucky he’d been to see all this now.

“It’s just down here,” Polly informed them, continuing along the almost indistinguishable path that led through the village.

They emerged onto another, narrower dirt track, which led up a hill and towards a rickety and weatherworn building. An inviting ribbon of smoke was unfurling its way out of a stone chimney at the side of the building, indicating that someone was currently inside. Helga exchanged a nervous glance with Godric as Polly knocked loudly upon the heavy wooden door.

They jumped as a small peephole in the door was slid open and a bright blue eye peered suspiciously through.

“What you want?” Came an elderly Scottish voice, that of a woman.

“Alexis Dumbledore?” Polly asked apprehensively.

“Aye, who wants to know?” She demanded, her eyes narrowing again.

“Lord Schreiver sent you a message earlier today…”

“Oh…” She murmured, considering them for a moment.

Her eye suddenly disappeared and they heard many locks being unbolted from within. A moment later the door flew open and a stumpy witch with flyaway auburn hair, slightly greying near the front, stood in the doorway. She surveyed them with those astonishingly blue eyes, her pointy nose rather prominent. She looked rather grubby and her clothes, much like her hair, looked unkempt, as though she didn’t have much time for personal hygiene.

“Are you the girl then?” She demanded of Polly.

“No, that’d be Helga,” she replied, indicating her.

“It’s nice to meet you,” she smiled, her eyes showing a warmth Godric had not expected.

“It’s nice to meet you too,” Helga said awkwardly.

“That’s a strange accent you’ve got there,” she commented. “Where are you from?”

“Ireland.”

“Interesting,” she muttered, looking her up and down for a moment. “And you would be…?”

“Godric Gryffindor,” he replied, inclining his head politely.

“Ah, of course,” she said knowingly. Godric suspected the letter Lord Schreiver had sent to this woman had been rather descriptive. “Well, come inside then!” She insisted, beckoning them across the threshold.

As they entered the darkened kitchen area a mixture of strange smells met their noses. Godric noticed a large black cauldron in the corner of the room, which was issuing silvery sheets of steam as the concoction contained within bubbled away lazily.

“You’re the one responsible for Helga, I take it?” Alexis asked Godric.

“Er…yes.”

“Well,” she said. “I can’t offer much luxury in the way of living quarters,” she explained. “But this little place is a bit more comfortable than some abodes I could mention in this village,” she muttered, raising her eyebrows. “She’ll have to pull her weight, mind…in return for my teachings.”

“Teachings?” Helga piped up.

“Yes, I shall be teaching you magic,” she said simply.

Helga smiled at this, looking pleased with at least one arrangement.

“Understandable,” Godric nodded, feeling as though he was selling Helga as a slave.

“She’ll get three square meals a day and, if ever I get anyone knocking, I’ll account her as family…or hide her if I have to,” she added.

They were all distracted as a tall figure came clattering into the room through the door to the back of the little house, dropping a number of strange instruments as he did so. Once he’d collected his items and stood up straight again they could see that he was a tall young man, probably in his mid-twenties, with dark hair. He had the same astonishingly blue eyes as Alexis and the same prominent nose. He was rather gangly with high cheekbones and long fingers, which were clutched tightly around a corked bottle of amber liquid.

“Oh, don’t mind my son, Hubert,” Alexis said dismissively. “Be careful with those!” She warned him.

“Yes, sorry,” he said exasperatedly. “Er…hello,” he smiled, swiftly inclining his head before clumsily crossing the room and ascending a rickety flight of narrow stairs at the side of the room.

“I assure you she’ll be quite safe here,” she told Godric seriously.

“I feel she will,” he said, somehow knowing this woman would care for her deeply. “What do you think, Helga?”

She looked up reproachfully at Godric and smiled a sad smile. She slowly nodded, tears coming to her eyes.

“Don’t cry,” he said gently, putting an arm around her for comfort. “I’ll be back before you know it! Hey,” he said, pulling a crumpled lot of material from the inside of his cloak. “I’ll be back for this.”

She took it from him and, unfolding it, realised it was the hat she’d given to him for his birthday. She smiled weakly, her lip trembling, and threw her arms around him so that they were locked in a tight hug. He hugged her back just as strongly, his heart sinking at the prospect of leaving her.

“Take care,” he whispered.

“And you.”

“Godric,” Polly said quietly, looking uncomfortable about interrupting their emotional farewell. “A coach will be waiting to take you to the docks up at the castle.”

“Right,” he said, sniffing loudly. He broke away from Helga and smiled at Alexis, who was staring at them both in sympathy.

“Thank you, Ms. Dumbledore,” he said gratefully.

“I hope you find what you’re looking for, my boy,” she said, placing an ageing hand upon his shoulder. The way she stared at him made him feel like she could see into his very soul.

He just smiled weakly and followed Polly back outside, the feeling of loss making it too unbearable to turn around and look at Helga one more time.

*

“There you are!” Arthur called, beaming as Salazar clambered out of the coach that had brought him home. “You got the book to her?”

“Yes,” he smiled.

“Good, good!”

Salazar followed him inside, savouring the warmth of the entrance hall.

“Will you be ready to leave by this evening?” Arthur asked him.

“I should think so,” he replied, feeling his heart plummet.

His uncle had arranged for him to stay with an old family friend whilst he was away from his duties. This was mainly because this man knew more about magic, many kinds, than Arthur did and it was felt that Salazar would greatly benefit from him. He was eager to learn, of course, but leaving his old home once more would be painful.

“Right, sit yourself down and we’ll toast the journey you’re about to take, m’boy!” He chuckled, leading him into the drawing room and indicating one of the squashy armchairs. “I’ll go and see if we have anything stronger than mulled wine,” he winked, before leaving the room.

Salazar smiled to himself as he watched the flames in the hearth flicker and dance. He jumped as he heard the door open again.

“Oh, Belle,” he said in surprise. He stared at her intently, remembering the last time he’d seen her, when they hadn’t actually had the chance to talk.

She stood awkwardly near the door, avoiding eye contact with him.

“Hello, Salazar,” she said quietly.

“I’ve missed you,” he said, feeling as though he’d forgotten her beauty in the time that had passed.

“And I you,” she breathed, after a long silence.

“Come closer,” he urged.

She slowly drifted across the room, eventually looking into his eyes.

“What is it?” He asked, noticing her sad expression.

“You’re leaving again,” she murmured, staring at the ground.

He took her hands, which were frightfully cold, and stood up so that he was a head taller than her.

“I’ll be back, you know that,” he said gently.

“Yes, you come back but I…I…” She trailed off, looking uncomfortable.

“Yes?” He urged.

“Well, I wish you’d stay for a while. I long to see you for more than a fleeting moment!” She said quickly, her voice wobbling.

“I wish it could be that way too and, one day, it will be,” he assured her. His eyes suddenly caught something sparkling around the neckline of her dress, glistening against the pale skin of her chest. “You’re wearing the locket I gave you.”

“I never take it off,” she told him, running the delicate chain through her fingers.

He leant forwards and kissed her gently on the lips, making her freeze in shock. He broke away and stared meaningfully into her bright eyes, as though swearing he wouldn’t forget her. They jumped as Arthur suddenly burst into the room.

“Oh,” he said awkwardly, seeing them standing so close together. He cleared his throat loudly. “Sorry to interrupt.”

“Oh, you didn’t, Sir,” Belle said quickly, flushing red with embarrassment. She hastily left the room, throwing Salazar a look of longing before she walked through the door.

“Diamond in the rough, that one,” Arthur said to Salazar, winking as he poured two glasses of a strange amber liquid.

“I know,” he murmured, staring after her.

*

“This is it,” Polly said. “Are you scared?”

“I don’t know,” Godric replied uncertainly, as they both stared up at the coach that would take him to the docks. “I long to find out about my family but I hate to leave.”

“But it’s not forever,” she pointed out.

He grinned widely and then pulled something out of his cloak pocket, which was wrapped up in a small amount of material. Polly watched in puzzlement as he unravelled it and then her eyes lit up as a pressed flower was revealed, its red and orange petals still perfectly preserved.

“Remember this?” He asked her.

“Of course!” She grinned. “The flower I gave you when you left for Ireland! You kept it all these years?”

“It helped me remember,” he smiled. “Here, so that you can remember me,” he added, wrapping it back up and handing it to her.

“No,” she said, pushing it back towards him. “I won’t need to remember you because you’ll soon be back. You take it.”

He smiled and pocketed it.

“You'd better go, don’t want to miss the ship,” she urged. “Good luck, Godric,” she smiled, standing up on her tiptoes to kiss him gently on the cheek.

“Goodbye, Polly,” he waved, before climbing into the carriage.

He stared up at the tall turrets and towers of Lord Schreiver's castle as the coach made its way down the dirt track towards the gates, hoping that it wouldn’t be long until he returned.


Chapter 21: The Return
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It was early morning and the sun had only just started to rise, its golden-pink tinge blossoming across a pale sky. It was pleasantly warm, a slight breeze in the air, which signalled that spring would soon become summer. Many seasons had come and gone and many things had changed, some for the better and some not so much.

The only moving thing within this tranquil scene, apart from the swaying blades of tall grass, was a rider sitting astride his stallion, a stallion that shone like a beacon when compared to the neutral colours of their surroundings. He was pure white, except for a few grey patches upon his back.

The man urging him on across these moors was a well-built one, his muscular arms hanging on tightly to the reins. He had a handsome face, a little stubble around his jaw line, and his hair, which had once been much shorter, now reached just past his shoulders, gleaming with a mixture of brown and gold as the sun caught it. He stopped his horse for a moment, surveying the scene with sparkling blue eyes. He smiled to himself, remembering the direction he was to take.

*

“Morning, Hubert!”

“Oh, hello, Helga!” He smiled, having been in the middle of crafting one of his many inventions.

He sat amongst all the junk he’d accumulated over the years in a little sheltered area just past the Dumbledore’s cottage. He always loved to come here and create, it was his passion. Not only did he dabble at Mortal arts, such as metalwork and carpentry, but he also knew his fair share of bizarre little spells. Helga loved to watch him creating. He was so intricate, so infatuated with the process of making something amazing, that he’d be gone for days at a time, drawing up new plans for his inventions and ideas. True, most of them never worked or were a little too ambitious to start with, but his intentions were good.

Alexis Dumbledore had always encouraged creativity in Hubert but did try and get him to do things other than inventing all the time. Helga saw her point but Alexis was prone to the odd bit of experimentation too. She was the most skilled witch Helga had ever met when it came to potion-making. Not only could she brew every one of them written down in her potions book perfectly but she had also whipped up a few concoctions of her own over the years, all of which worked very effectively. Being a whiz with the cauldron in this way also meant that she was an excellent cook.

Yes, Helga had lived many happy years with the Dumbledore’s. She had now grown into a fine young witch, reminding herself very much of her mother with her curvaceous form and sparkling smile. She had been taught all this knowledge in potions, becoming almost as good as Alexis herself, who showed pride at Helga’s quick learning. Alexis had also taught her a lot of charms, this being the only magic she could perform well.

It had been five long years since she’d last seen any of her childhood friends and, though she was happy here, she could not ignore the heartache that their absence left.

“What are you making?” Helga asked interestedly, leaning against the chipped and scratched workbench to get a better look.

“Well, I don’t quite know yet,” Hubert admitted, scratching his chin in thought. “I might call it a…a…deproxilator!”

“And what does it do?” She asked, suppressing a laugh as she saw his expression.

“I’m still trying to figure that out,” he said, throwing her a sideways smile.

She stared in puzzlement at the creation that lay before him. Its main section seemed to have been created from an old copper bowl of his mother's and he seemed to have melted down a number of strips of metal that were attached all around the edges. She smiled in amusement as he tapped it with a long forefinger a number of times, muttering to himself as he did so.

“Need to…indirect magic,” he was saying, causing Helga to frown. He stared into space for a moment, his jaw hanging open slightly. “I’ve got it!” He cried suddenly, pushing his invention swiftly aside and unravelling a long scroll of parchment, which kept trying to roll itself back up whenever he tried to scribble on it.

“You’ve found out what it can be used for?” Helga asked excitedly.

“Oh…no,” he said distractedly, his brow creased and his tongue perched between his teeth in concentration as his quill scrawled feverishly away upon the parchment. “This is something completely different.

Helga never actually learnt much from Hubert, as in how to create some new and spectacular thing, because he was such a private person. Whilst he’d talk animatedly about ideas he had he’d never do so when the initial idea came to him. After outbursts about things he believed would benefit the magical world, he’d wander off and start inventing, remaining silent and in deep thought for days on end. He never gave away how he actually created his inventions but sometimes Helga really wished he would.

“Helga!” She was torn from her thoughts as Alexis shouted her from inside the cottage. “Could you dig me up a few hemlocks? I need them for later.” Helga immediately obeyed, making her way round to the little garden at the side of the cottage, which Alexis would use to grow all means of strange and wonderful plant life. “And soup will be ready in about an hour!”

She picked up the little garden tools and began to prize these bizarre plants from their comfy beds of soil. They proved very stubborn to want to leave the ground but she’d soon made a small pile. She sat debating whether or not she had enough when a tall figure cast its shadow over the little garden.

“Hello, Helga.”

She dropped the little digging tool she’d been using in shock, sure she’d heard wrong. She didn’t turn around immediately, fearing that her ears were deceiving her. Eventually, she did, feeling her heart soar so fast that she feared it might fly straight from her throat.

“Godric!”

She flung herself towards him and felt his strong arms embrace her in a hug she’d missed very much. She breathed in the strong scent of leather and pine trees from him.

“I’ve missed you so much!” She gasped.

“Hey!” He chuckled, wiping away tears that had started to trickle down her cheeks. “Why are you crying?”

“I don’t know,” she admitted, laughing weakly.

“You have no idea how I’ve longed for this day,” he told her, his eyes twinkling as he smiled down at her.

Now that Helga could get a proper look at the boy she considered her brother she realised just how much he’d changed. In fact, he was no longer a boy but a man. He was dressed lavishly, indicating that he’d most probably been spending time in wealthy company. He wore strong leather boots, nothing like the ones she’d seen the villagers wear, and he wore a thick tunic, an emblem of some sort visible on the chest. He reminded Helga of a knight more than anything with the sword he had attached to the strong belt her wore. For a moment she paused, wondering why he had this. She didn’t have time to ask, though, because Alexis suddenly came bustling outside.

“Godric? That can’t be you?” She asked in shock, staring up at his handsome face.

“I’m afraid so,” he smiled.

“Oh, it’s wonderful to see you back on our shores!” She beamed, placing a hand fondly upon his cheek. “Do come inside, soup’s ready!” She insisted, leaving him no chance to argue as she turned around again. “Hubert? Hubert!” She called. “Oh…where’s he got to?”

Helga led Godric inside the little cottage as Alexis began to serve up their lunch.

“I hope I’m not imposing?” He said awkwardly, shrugging off his luxurious cloak and hanging it up on the hook near the door.

“Of course not. Sit yourself down, lad!”

He did so, staring around the little building, taking in everything he saw with an unreadable smile. Helga watched him, feeling a strange buzz inside of her. She knew he was still the old Godric, even through the layers of beautifully tailored clothes he wore, but he just seemed different somehow; she couldn’t quite explain it. It was almost as though she’d lost her old friend to a world of wealth and learning. Even as he flashed her a warm smile she felt a pang of sadness, wondering how long he was going to stick around.

“Here we are!” Alexis smiled, placing bowls of steaming soup before them, which smelt delicious. After this came a freshly-baked loaf of bread, which she’d sliced into equal portions for them. “Hubert!” She shouted suddenly, the volume of her voice making Godric jump in surprise. “Oh, what’s he up to now?” She muttered, sitting herself down at the little wooden table with the others.

“Oh…wow,” Godric said, his mouth full of food. “This is delicious!”

“Why, thank you,” she smiled. “Helga’s concoction, in fact. Took my old recipe and spruced it up a bit. She’s a dab hand when it comes to anything entering a cauldron!” She chuckled.

“You’ve been learning the art of potions?” He asked her interestedly.

“Yes,” she replied, feeling unexplainably shy around him.

“She can make almost every one in the book!” Alexis told him, beaming fondly at her.

“Helga, that’s great!” He smiled. “I’m proud of you.”

“What about you?” She asked. “What have you been learning?”

“All sorts,” he said, raising his eyebrows as he thought of all these types of magic. “So many spells. I never knew that many existed!” He exclaimed, laughing slightly. “Coen fought with my father in a few wars and battles apparently,” he explained. “So he developed all these defensive spells to protect himself. He’s a great knight, taught me everything he knows. He also taught me how to fight normally too,” he added. “With swords, you know.”

“That sounds amazing,” Helga smiled, feeling slightly downcast.

Compared to what Godric had learnt over the past few years, Helga’s teachings didn’t compare. It overshadowed her by a long shot and she felt Godric would see her as obsolete now that he had all his fancy spells. She rather envied him.

“It was!” He grinned.

“And what of your family?” Alexis asked, as she filled a goblet up with mead for him.

After taking a rather large gulp he paused, looking uncomfortable.

“As you know, my mother and father have been dead for many years,” he explained, maintaining a brave expression, even though all he felt was emptiness. “But, according to Coen, no other family remain alive. My mother and father had no siblings and when the king and queen died not so long ago the king's cousin took the rights to the throne, as I don’t technically exist,” he said bitterly, raising his eyebrows.

“Oh, my dear boy. I’m so sorry,” Alexis murmured, patting him gently on the shoulder.

“My…er…my father left me something, though,” he managed to say, his voice shaking. “Wrote me a note before I was born saying he hoped I would grow up into the brave and courageous man he could never be. He left me gold…gold he’d hidden away from the king so that he couldn’t get his hands on it. Coen had kept it safe for me all these years.”

“That’s wonderful, Godric,” Alexis smiled. “I suppose you’ll buy lands with it, the things you’ve never had?”

“No,” he replied defiantly. “I’ll be saving it, for when I really need it.”

Helga respected him for this; she always hated how some people changed when they were given money, flashing it around and thinking it could get them anything and everything. She knew Godric was better than this.

“But I must thank Lord Schreiver!” He said suddenly. “If it wasn’t for what he’d told me, what he’d arranged with Coen, I would never have discovered my past or become so skilled at magic.”

Helga and Alexis exchanged sombre looks. 

“What?” He demanded, seeing their expressions. “What is it?”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Alexis breathed. “He died a few months after your departure.”

“Oh no,” he murmured, feeling dazed. The last time he’d seen Lord Schreiver he knew he hadn’t exactly been at his best but had expected him to pull through. He had always been a fighter and to hear this dreadful news was a great shock.

“He was buried up near the castle,” Alexis explained.

“I’d very much like to go and pay my respects.”

“Helga can take you there in the morning.”

*

Dull, half-hearted sunlight streamed into the little cottage, some creeping through the beams in the little room Godric had stayed in for the night. Alexis had made Hubert give up his bed for their guest and he now slept on the floor, muttering about oak trees. Godric watched him for a moment, smiling in amusement.

He’d been awake for hours, unable to sleep after the news he’d been given. He loved being awake when everyone else slept. It almost felt like the world was his own, so still, so silent. After deciding he might as well go downstairs to see if Helga and Alexis were up, he pulled on his boots and carefully stepped over Hubert, who was now having an argument with persons unknown.

“Oh, you’re up!”

He jumped at Helga’s voice as he stepped down from the last rickety step.

“Are you hungry?” She asked. “I could make you whatever you like, I - ”

“No,” he said quickly, the thought of food making him feel nauseas. “No thank you, Helga,” he said, forcing a smile.

“Oh…okay, if you’re sure,” she said awkwardly. “Do you want to see him now?”

Godric stared at her, knowing that she knew something of what he felt. He smiled at this, glad to be back in her company. He nodded.

“Come on then,” she smiled back, grabbing her cloak.

Godric followed her lead and they walked out into the pleasantly cool morning air.

“Helga, what happened to the others?” He asked suddenly, as they made their way along the dirt track that led away from the house.

“Don’t worry,” she assured him. “Your friend Polly was taken in by a nice family down the lane, the others were taken in by other families around these parts and the workers all found other jobs.”

“Oh, that’s good,” he smiled. “And what of the castle?”

“Derelict,” she said sadly. “The lords of England got their share, all they could anyway,” she added, looking disgusted. “No respect.”

“So there’s nothing left inside?”

“Not that I know of,” she shrugged. “Many of the servants spoke of a will but no one’s sure Lord Schreiver made one.”

Godric felt bad for the old man. He could just picture all those scavengers raiding the castle and trying to take anything that wasn’t fastened down. He glanced across at Helga, who wore a strange expression. Was it one of shyness?

“You okay?” He asked.

“Yes,” she smiled, a little unconvincingly in Godric’s opinion.

“Helga,” he said seriously, stopping half way down the main road that led through the village. “What’s wrong?” She looked away, not answering him. “Is it because I went away?”

“No!” She said quickly. “I’m glad you found your roots. I’m glad you’ve become a great wizard!” She paused, taking a deep breath, as though debating whether or not to say what was on her mind. “I just…I feel that I’m not good enough to be your friend,” she muttered, looking determinedly at her feet.

“What?” Godric stared in utter bewilderment. “That’s insane! Helga, you’re the best friend I have and always will be,” he laughed, placing a strong hand upon her shoulder. “Is it because we’ve learnt different types of magic?” He asked knowingly. “Look, I think no less of you because I know more spells. I think being able to brew potions is essential and I’m hopeless at it!”

Helga looked up and smiled at the look on his face, laughing slightly. This made her feel better somewhat.

“You’ll always be brilliant…and you know it!” He added.

For the rest of the journey up to the castle the tension evaporated. Before they knew it they were walking through the gates, one of which was hanging precariously off its hinges. They made it up the winding hill and descended towards the great mass of water that lay not too far from the towering castle.

“He’s buried over here,” Helga said quietly.

They silently made their way over to a dry patch of grass a little way from the embankment that overlooked the water. No headstone could be seen but, as Helga stopped, Godric assumed this was the place. She stood back from him, allowing him privacy whilst paying his respects.

Slowly, Godric bent down, brushing the prickly grass with his fingertips. He could just picture the last time he’d seen him and remembered how frail he’d looked. He didn’t know why he was so shocked at the news of Lord Schreiver’s death but it was something he’d have to come to terms with now. He was just so grateful for everything he’d done for him, even when he'd been on his death bed.

“Thank you,” Godric whispered.

He rose to his full height once more and glanced over his shoulder at the castle. A great wave of sadness washed over him. He knew this castle would never see a happy person within its walls again, knew its stables would never be used, its grounds bare and deserted…they would be neglected, left to grow wildly.

“Are you ready?” Helga asked quietly.

“Yes,” he replied after a long silence, in which he stared at the expanse of trees surrounding the lands. “Let’s go.”


Chapter 22: Bad News
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England was a rather cruel place when it came to young ladies who had ideas in their heads they very much wished to express. Most of the country was sexist in this respect but knowing that a select few knowledgeable beings would believe in her gave Rowena Ravenclaw hope. Since she’d known what she truly was and accepted this fact, allowing her abilities to grow beyond anything she’d expected, she had found herself happy. This was something she would never have expected to feel again just a few short years ago. In all honesty, she still felt the pangs of doubt creeping around her most days but the little hope she had, without really being able to identify it, meant the world to her.

For five longs years she’d practiced all the magic she’d been instructed to. In fact, being a little more risky than was safe to do so, she’d even gone as far as to practice new spells. Salazar’s uncle Arthur had kept her in a good supply of books. She particularly loved a book he’d sent her that debated just how magic was created, what exactly caused new spells and the formulas of the simplest ones. This book was the work of a genius in Rowena’s eyes. She’d obviously grasped the basics but hadn’t let the ideas blossom.

She was quick to learn and, taking a chance, she’d formulated her own creations. Most she’d tried hadn’t been effective but a fair few excelled beyond her expectations. Of course, these were all the work of much mathematical equations and practical assessments on Rowena’s behalf; it all paid off, though. It gave her a great sense of accomplishment to do this because she felt she’d earned her right to be a witch, no matter how big a secret it was.

Naturally, all she learnt was of great risk to herself. There had been a few near misses when her father had almost caught her performing magic but, luckily, no one had ever suspected a thing. She knew this was pure luck and Arthur kept reminding her she had to proceed with caution but she couldn’t help it. Being stuck in a tower for most of her days with nothing to do but read books and learn all the things that were expected of a woman left her with no alternative. She had to imagine, create and invent all she could. It was the only freedom she truly had.

But, of course, the fear of the future she was truly destined for was always present. It seemed to loom upon the horizon with every day that dawned, seeming to creep closer and closer all the time. Most days she tried to ignore the fact that she had a future husband ready to carry her off but it was becoming impossible. For the past few months her mother had become unbearable. She’d begun insisting that they plan for her “beautiful” wedding. Rowena tried to put it off but it became inevitable and she soon had hardly any time at all for her magic. She tried to stall whenever a decision was to be made but her mother just ended up making it for her. All the while Rowena just hoped and preyed that prince Edmund had met someone else to thrust his false affection upon.

“Rowena!”

She cringed as her mother’s shrill voice echoed up the tower staircase. Taking a deep, steadying breath, she slowly got up from her seat by the window and exited her room, meeting her mother in the hallway below just moments later, who was looking positively elated. Rowena thought this rather unusual because she usually looked up-tight.

“What is it, mother?” She asked monotonously.

“Oh, my daughter!” She cried, placing cold and wrinkled hands upon her pale cheeks. “Your father has some wonderful news. Come!” She insisted, leading the way along the stone corridor.

Rowena frowned, wondering what on Earth could have happened to make them both so pleased. She reluctantly followed her mother, her heart starting to race with anxiety.

“My Daughter!” Her father boomed, as she entered the throne room. “My dear Daughter!”

“I hear you have some news?” She asked, forcing a smile but feeling her insides churn.

He smiled widely, gave a little wink and, with a chilling of the veins, she knew what he was about to say.

“We’ve all been waiting for this day for a long time,” he beamed. “He is to return, my sweet!” He laughed, as though he couldn’t stop himself. “You shall be wed before the year is out!”

“What?” She demanded, unable to hide her disappointment. Luckily, they mistook it for shock.

“Oh, my poor girl, I know it’s been a long wait but it’s finally going to happen!” Her mother assured her. “You’re going to fulfil your dream and become a wife, the queen of France!”

“That’s not my dream!” She cried, before she could stop herself.

For so long she’d just been obedient, not causing any trouble so that they wouldn’t suspect her rebellion, her magic. Her father threw her a piercing gaze, one that would make most men cower. Rowena would have stared determinedly back but she knew it would provoke him and avoided his eyes instead.

“What I mean to say is…” She said quickly, hastily thinking of an excuse. “I someday wish to be a mother.”

“Oh, children!” Her mother crooned. “How perfect.”

Rowena felt sick to the stomach at the thought of conceiving children with that horrid Edmund.

“He shall be back at the end of summer,” her father informed her. “You shall be married by the autumn.”

“So soon?” She said, trying to think of a way she could buy herself some time.

“You should be pleased!” Her father growled, a tone of warning in his voice.

“I am,” she said quickly, trying to look just as pleased as they were about the news.

“We may even be able to push the wedding forwards if Edmund’s parents can make it over here in time,” her mother said excitedly.

“Even if they can’t, I don’t see why Edmund can’t make some changes to his plans, we’ve been waiting for five bloody years for him!” The king shouted, turning momentarily red in the face.

“Well, he might prefer his parents to be at the wedding,” Rowena muttered, feeling her heart sink at the prospect of getting married.

“Now,” her mother smiled, ignoring what she’d just said and steering her from the room. “We’ll need to start making plans straight away. I can call the maids to us and send someone to fetch Anna - she’ll make your gown!”

“Can we possibly do this another time, mother?” She asked warily. “I’ve come across a little dizzy all of a sudden. I think I need to go and lie down.”

“Rowena!” She hissed angrily, glancing up and down the corridor to check that no one could overhear. “You have not made a single decision about this wedding on your own. It’s as if you don’t want to get married!”

“Maybe I don’t!” She hissed back.

“You ungrateful little wench!” She snarled, slapping her forcefully across the face. Feeling rather useless, Rowena did not retaliate, knowing that it wouldn’t get her anywhere. “We went out of our way to get you that prince!”

“I never asked for him,” she breathed.

“Well, you’re going to get him. Do this for your father,” she demanded. She stared at Rowena for a moment, as though trying to work out what she was thinking. “You will be a queen some day soon, girl. What more do you want?”

“Someone who loves me?”

Her mother stared, shaking her head in disbelief.

“Still enchanted by that filthy stable boy?” She spat, looking disgusted. “He fooled you when he was taken in by Hufflepuff, didn’t he? Trying to fit in with the family, playing it like a Lord! Well, you need to get used to the fact that he’s dead!” She hissed venomously, leaning so close to her face that Rowena could feel her breath. “He’s not coming for you. He’s not going to sweep you off on a white stallion, no one but Edmund is going to do that!”

Rowena stared back angrily and flinched as her mother spun around and marched off down the corridor.

What was she going to do? Her days were numbered. She had considered escaping so many times that, as soon as the thought crossed her mind these days, she just immediately dismissed it as a child’s fantasy. She’d been through it hundreds of times in her head. If she somehow managed to escape her room during the night, there were the hoards of guards that patrolled the corridors. Then, if she managed to get past them, she’d have to get down to the entrance hall, where there stood two guards that watched the doors at all hours of the day and night.

She had considered the entrance near the kitchens, which was where the servants entered and exited, but that was no use either. At night Rowena knew it was locked up and to get the key would be of great risk. She had even been so bold as to consider escaping through the windows. She knew this would be dangerous as well as stupid, though. It would only take one glance upwards from someone below to give her away.

She’d even thought about magic. She knew it could probably have helped her but, the more she considered it, the more foolish the idea seemed. Not only would she use magic she hadn’t really practiced very much but she’d also risk giving her self away as a witch, something she was not prepared to do, no matter how much she wished to escape.

Even after all this consideration, all this planning and plotting, it wouldn’t be worth it. If she did, by some miracle, actually manage to escape the castle walls, she’d have to make it through the city unseen. If she made it out of her father’s lands, which seemed most unlikely, how long would it really be before his guards caught up with her and dragged her right back again? She knew it wouldn’t be worth it. If anything, it’d just make things more difficult for her.

Slowly, she made her way to her room, maintaining a brave face until she closed her door behind her. Then she ended up breaking down into tears, sliding to the cold stone floor as she wept.

Deep down she’d always known Godric wasn’t coming back. Deep down she knew he was dead. She just hadn’t wanted to admit it. Now that her mother had told her this daunting fact she felt sick to the stomach. The only soul she’d ever loved was gone.

The reality of it all came crashing down upon her with such force that she felt she may be sick. Her life might as well have just been over. What quality of life would it be if she was stuck with prince Edmund until the day she died? Money and titles meant nothing without happiness, nothing ever did. She knew that there was no way out now. Feeling her heart breaking like it had done so many times before, she realised what she’d have to do now - something that would cause her pain for the rest of her life.

Sobbing uncontrollably, she picked up all the books Arthur had ever sent to her. Once she’d collected them she hid them behind a portrait, where a brick was loose in the wall. She piled them into the gap and slid the paining back across, tears dripping from her pale face.

She glanced out across London and her eyes caught the skyline, where she could just about make out the outlines of fields and countryside. For years she’d looked out to that point, hoping for something better. She knew dreaming and wishing would get her nowhere now. Nothing better was going to come.

With a tear-streaked face and puffy eyes, she sat herself down at the little writing desk that lay in the corner. She picked up her quill with a shaking hand and, finding a spare sheet of parchment, she slowly began to write, her heart aching with every word she scratched onto the paper.


Chapter 23: The Serpent Whisperer
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Years away from the people you care about most in the world can be extremely painful, even if, for all that time, you’d been learning about something as amazing as magic. For Salazar Slytherin he found that it did take the sting of separation away a little.

For five long years he’d been taught by one of the greatest men he’d ever met, Sir Harold Wilson. He was a great man in many ways. As far as magic went, he was phenomenal. The spells he had taught Salazar were very advanced. He’d thought it best to show Salazar all forms, whether good or bad, so that he gained adequate experience. The magical side to this man wasn’t what Salazar respected most, though. He was a kind and noble being, brave and fearless, fair to all he met. When he’d first taken Salazar on he’d been rather abysmal with the advanced spells but Harold had not given up on him. He trained him to exhaustion until he finally perfected the magic, something Salazar now appreciated beyond words.

But now those long, hard (yet rewarding) years were over. He was almost home…

As he sat in the carriage that pulled him closer and closer to his uncle’s grand home, he felt a buzz in the pit of his stomach and couldn’t help grinning stupidly. Before the carriage had even fully stopped beside the front steps, he had flung open the door and hurried forth, his excitement getting the better of him.

Before he knew it he had disregarded every aspect of his composure as he saw a familiar face at the door, dashing forwards and almost falling flat on his face as he leapt up the steps two at a time. Before he could embrace her she’d positively throw herself upon him so that they both went crashing to the ground. Her laugh made his heart lift, even more so when she kissed him.

“Er…Belle,” he said, finding himself laughing too. “This could well be seen as extremely inappropriate!”

“I don’t care!” She giggled, kissing him once more.

“Salazar!” Arthur boomed happily. “Oh my…” He muttered, seeing them lying upon the stone and clearing his throat loudly so as to make sure they knew he was there.

“Sorry, uncle,” he said quickly, trying to keep a straight face as he scrambled to his feet. Belle did the same, looking extremely embarrassed.

“Sorry, Sir,” she said quickly.

“Not at all!” He chuckled merrily. “You make a marvellous pair!” He nodded. She smiled at this, looking mildly surprised. “Well, come on then, let me look at you!”

He stood before his uncle and he peered merrily at him, patting him fondly upon the shoulders.

“You’re of a fine build,” he commented. “Just like your father! Well, come inside then, we have a lot to talk about!”

Salazar followed behind, Belle doing the same. They entered the grand drawing room, where Arthur sat in his favourite chair, lighting up a cigar. He indicated for Salazar and Belle to take a seat too.

“So, tell me,” Arthur muttered excitedly, after clearing his throat loudly. “I’m eager to know…what was it like with Harold teaching you?”

“It was just wonderful,” he said, unable to put what he felt about these teachings into appropriate words. “He’s taught me so much, uncle!”

“As I knew he would,” he nodded knowingly, swirling some amber liquid around in the glass he’d just picked up. “What did you learn from him?”

“The most amazing magic,” he murmured, trying to think of just one thing he could use as an example. “He taught me many spells, spells I never even imagined could exist! There were other forms of magic too,” he said slowly, remembering one that stood out vividly in his mind. “The magic of minds.”

Arthur stared in confusion. In this momentary lapse, he forgot to exhale his cigar smoke and ended up choking violently.

“Go - on!” He coughed, waving a hand for Salazar to continue.

“He told me of this secret art. It’s a magic that allows those who know how to use it to block their minds from harm.”

“What do you mean by that?” He asked, sounding intrigued.

“Well, certain magical beings can gain access to your thoughts and feelings. It’s not that commonly heard of,” he added, seeing their anxious expressions. “It was extremely hard to learn but I’m told it’ll be worth it!”

“It certainly sounds it!” He nodded, looking impressed. “I take it he didn’t teach you to fight then boy?”

“No.”

“Didn’t think so, not in his nature,” he said knowingly. “A good job too. We can’t have talent like yours squandered in wars now, can we?”

“No,” Belle piped up.

“Oh, I also learnt…well, more discovered it…” Salazar said, as Arthur poured them drinks.

“What's that?”

“I have a gift with animals,” he said proudly.

“Animals?” Belle asked, looking thoroughly interested.

“Well, I thought it may have been an ability to talk to all kinds of animals at first but it seems it only works on serpents,” he explained. “Not the most useful of gifts but - ”

“Any gift, however relevant, is a good thing!” Arthur pointed out, smiling warmly at him.

“That’s what Harold kept telling me,” he said.

“When do you plan on going back to London then, boy?” Arthur asked, after a slight pause, during which he blew out a great cloud of fumes from his cigar.

“You’re returning?” Belle asked, unable to stop herself.

“He has to, dear,” Arthur pointed out. “He’s got his duties.”

“Oh, I know that…” She replied, trailing off and looking rather down-hearted.

“I may return in a few days,” Salazar said, forcing a smile. “I’m sure Benedick won’t mind.”

“That sounds like a good plan,” Arthur beamed. “Gives you a chance to catch up with everyone. Many of the staff have been asking about you.”

“Don’t worry. I intend on seeing everyone before I’m off again,” he assured him.

“So…how long do you think you’ll be down in London for this time?” Belle asked quietly, trying to sound casual. She was staring into her glass, determinedly avoiding their eye contact.

“I don’t know,” Salazar replied, feeling his heart sink at the prospect of leaving her behind again. It made him sick to the stomach that he had only just returned and was already talking about leaving again. It was at times like this that he wished he never had such a great responsibility.

*

That evening the sun sank fast, soon lacing the grounds around Arthur’s grand home with eerie shadows. Even though Salazar had found himself lonely when away from home and had wanted nothing more than to return and be around the people he loved, he now found himself wanting to sit alone, contemplating just what lay ahead. He had sat out in the dark on the balcony overlooking all the sweeping lawns and watched the sun set. He hated all the troubles he’d soon have to carry upon his shoulders once he returned to his role of Lord of lower England. The setting sun, bright and vibrant, reminded him of childhood for some reason and he scowled at it, wishing he could have his back - he’d give anything.

Finally realising just how long he’d been sitting there, he moved back into the hallway beyond the archway, as though only just seeing the darkness around him. As he stepped into the dimly-lit hall he spotted a silvery glimmer further along. Belle froze before entering her room as she spotted him and wore such a sorrowful expression that it soon passed on to Salazar. He moved slowly towards her, coming to stand just inches away, where he could contently admire her beauty.

“You won’t be coming back, will you?” She murmured, breaking eye contact and staring at the cold floor beneath her feet.

“Of course I will!” He assured her. “I promise I’ll - ”

“Don’t,” she said, turning away as he placed a hand upon her shoulder. “Please don’t make me a promise you can’t keep. I don’t think I could bare it!”

“You think I’m going to forget you?” He asked, feeling rather hurt that she’d think this.

“Well, we won’t see each other again. You’ll have your duties as a Lord, which requires you to be miles away from here.”

“It doesn’t mean I’ll never see you again!” He said, taking her hand and trying to gain her eye contact again.

“Forgive me for sounding selfish,” she said, her eyes shining with tears. “But it’s not enough. The only soul I’ve ever cared about in such a strong way is you. I can’t bare to be apart from you. The last five years have been torture and to have to say goodbye again - ”

“Maybe we don’t have to,” he said suddenly. “Come with me.”

She stared at him but, almost immediately after making eye contact with him again she broke it, shaking her head furiously.

“I couldn’t,” she said sadly. “The king…Benedick would not allow it. They’d think me a distraction, you know they would!”

Salazar privately agreed. Benedick had been very lenient but, even when he’d been younger, Salazar had heard them discussing the fact that no family were permitted to be with him whilst he was bound to his duties as a Lord.

“Maybe so but it won’t be forever,” he breathed, moving closer and staring intently at her, as though making a silent promise. “I don’t doubt they’ll find someone else to take over, I know Benedick would be pleased to,” he laughed. “Then I’ll be back and we can be…” He trailed off, looking uncomfortable.

“Yes?” Belle prompted, her eyes wide with intrigue.

“Well,” he said, clearing his throat loudly as it began to get dry. “I rather think of you as…one day…perhaps becoming my…my wife,” he managed to say, feeling himself flush red in the cheeks.

Belle stared, as though she thought she’d misheard.

“Married?” She said in disbelief.

“Only if you - ”

“Yes,” she beamed. “I mean, I’ve always wanted to be with you. To wake up next to you once the sun is risen,” she said quietly, clinging onto his hands. “But the time between - ”

“We could always start as we mean to go on,” he suggested.

When she stared at him in confusion he gently took her hand and pushed open the door to her room. All night he lay beside her, holding her tightly, and watched her sleep, for he was unable to do the same. His heart soared at the prospect of being able to call Belle his wife. He couldn’t help but smile to himself.

*

The next morning was a pleasantly warm one and as Salazar and Belle joined Arthur for breakfast, they savoured the sunlight that was streaming into the dining room.

“Ah, there you are!” Arthur beamed, indicating that they should sit down.

They did so, choosing seats opposite each other at the long table, which was currently laden with all sorts of foods fitting for a hearty breakfast.

“Morning, uncle,” Salazar smiled in reply, getting himself some fresh bread. “It looks like it’s going to be a wonderful day.”

“Indeed,” he agreed, taking an envelope he’d just been passed by one of the maids, which was sealed with a very official-looking coat of arms. Even from a distance Salazar knew where it had been sent from.

“What is it?” He asked warily.

His first thoughts were that the king wanted him to return to London immediately.

“A notification of a royal wedding,” he explained, scanning the piece of parchment as he absent-mindedly lifted his goblet.

“A wedding? For whom?” He asked.

Before Arthur even gave an answer Salazar’s stomach flipped uncomfortably. He knew Rowena was the one to be married. He hated this thought, knowing only too well that she despised prince Edmund.

“Princess Rowena!” He exclaimed. “It seems prince Edmund of France is returning from war and they are to be wed this fall.”

“That sounds like a pleasant event,” Belle commented.

“Yes,” Salazar nodded, forcing a smile. “We’re invited?”

“It would seem so,” Arthur replied, looking impressed. “What an honour it’ll be to see the royal’s only daughter become a queen! It won’t be long before the whole of the country knows about this, what an occasion!”

Salazar nodded absent-mindedly. He couldn’t help thinking how things would have turned out if his old friend Godric were still alive. He knew that the king and queen would overrule any decision other than their own but Salazar also knew who Rowena truly loved. He hated the thought of her being forced into such a bond. He just wished there was something he could do.


Chapter 24: An Urge For Adventure
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The sun had just fully risen above the moors of Scotland, long shadows spanning their way across the grasslands and rippling as the blades swayed in a gentle breeze. It looked like the day had just started and, for most, it had but a select few had been up since the crack of dawn.

Ever since his return, Godric had promised Helga he would stay for a while. In actual fact, he didn’t know where his life went from now on. If he was entirely honest with himself, he’d admit that he craved adventure. For now, though, he was quite happy waking up extremely early in the morning and helping the villagers tend to their fields and such. He’d built up quite a reputation, even though he’d only been there for a short while. Everyone knew him. Most knew of his background so were more than happy to let him help them with certain things; with the aid of magic, of course.

Most people in this little village were of magical descent, something that made Godric very comfortable. There was an odd sense of security about the place, being surrounded by so many similar souls.

“All done,” Godric informed Alexis, as he placed the mound of vegetables he’d just retrieved on the work bench in the kitchen.

“Thank you, dear,” she smiled.

“Do you know of anyone else that may need help today?” He asked eagerly, wiping the sweat from his brow.

“Perhaps the Gaunts down at the Inn,” she replied.

“I’ll get down there now then,” he smiled.

“Godric,” she said quickly, before he dashed out of the door and back into the summer sunshine. “I know you love to help but is there nothing you can do for yourself?”

He stared in confusion, unsure of what she meant.

“What is it you want?” She asked.

“I…I’m not sure what you mean, Alexis,” he said apologetically.

“You must have plans for your future? You must want to become someone?” She prompted. “You would make a good knight from what I hear. Fighting for king and country...?”

“That’s the last thing I want,” he said coldly, knowing he must sound rather rude. “I would never work for the king!”

“Ah…” She said suddenly, as though remembering something important. “Helga told me all about your run-in with the king. On two occasions, I believe?” He nodded uncomfortably. “Then it’s quite understandable.”

Godric stood in the doorway, debating whether or not he should elaborate. He could feel Alexis’s eyes boring into him, as though they saw right through him.

“No matter what I do, I’ll always have to run. If ever the king got wind that I was still alive then I’d have to go straight into hiding again. What kind of life is that? Helga’s no better off. He wanted all of her family dead. She’s just the missing piece of the puzzle,” he said sadly.

“They must have stopped looking for you years ago,” she pointed out.

“They probably did,” he shrugged. “But it doesn’t mean we won’t be found out as soon as we leave the safety of this village. We have no choice.”

“Everyone has a choice!” She told him seriously. “The hard part is just making the right one for you.”

“Well, it seems to me there’s only one I can make.”

“Perhaps,” she muttered, continuing with the washing of the clothes. “But I see two choices - stay here and live a half-fulfilled life or go where you please and live like every day is your last. A young man like you can’t be suited to staying in one place forever, surely?” She added, winking at him.

Godric considered this and realised that she had a very valid point. So much, in fact, that his heart soared for a brief moment, only to sink once more as his thoughts drifted back to Helga.

“But I can’t leave her behind,” he muttered, more to himself than to Alexis.

“Then take her with you. I can see how much she means to you.”

“I can’t, it’s too dangerous!”

“I may not have known Helga as long as you but I’ve learnt enough to know that she craves adventure just as much as you do. I see it in her eyes!” Godric bit his lip in contemplation, unable to reply. “You just mull it over…”

Godric intended to do so, slowly making his way across the village to the little Inn, known as the Hog’s Head. He was greeted by the very curvaceous daughter of the landlord before he’d even reached the door. She was rather fond of him but Godric, who often tried to avoid getting caught alone with her, couldn’t say that the feeling was mutual.

“Morning, Godric!” She called, striking the usual hand-on-hip pose as he approached.

“Morning, Meredith,” he replied, trying not to make eye contact in case she mistook it for a gesture of love. “Is your father around?” He asked quickly.

“He’s had to go somewhere. I forget where…” she muttered stupidly, batting her lashes at him so wildly that you’d assume she had something in her eye. “But he left me in charge so I’m all yours!”

Godric tried not to look too terrified by this prospect and forced a smile, trying to ignore the fact that she had moved uncomfortably close to him.

“So where are these barrels then?” He asked quickly, looking around as though he hoped to see them lying rather close by. “Of mead,” he added hastily, as Meredith began to giggle.

“They’re through here,” she said, in a very seductive voice. “Follow me,” she added, beckoning him forth with a rather porky finger.

Godric reluctantly followed as she wiggled her way into the building, her rear end swaying backwards and forwards in a rather ridiculous fashion; he could hardly contain his laughter.

For the remainder of the morning he was forced to shift the weighty barrels up from the cellar and behind the bar in the Inn. He wouldn’t have normally minded doing this but it was most off-putting with Meredith’s eyes following every move you made. Just as he was beginning to think of spells he could use to stop her incessant flirting he heard a familiar and most welcome voice call from the doorway.

“Godric!”

“Yes?” He called back. “Er…yes, Helga?” He added, trying to disguise his first response, which had sounded rather pleading.

“Oh, are you busy?” She asked, looking between Godric and Meredith, who’d been standing with her shoulder brushing up against his for what felt like the hundredth time.

Godric scowled at Helga as she fought with her own laughter. He could tell that she knew all too well he wanted nothing more than to leave.

“Not really, no,” he pointed out.

“Good. Alexis wants your help with something,” she said.

“Oh, you’re leaving so soon?” Meredith said, looking most disheartened.

“I’m afraid so,” he said, trying not to sound too pleased.

“Make sure you come back and see me soon, Godric!” Meredith called, before he dashed out the door, winking pointedly at him.

Helga snorted with laughter, hastily disguising it as a violent cough.

“Okay, bye!” He called, relieved to escape her. “It’s not funny!” He said, nudging Helga in the arm, which caused her to laugh even more. “So what does Alexis want me to do for her?”

“Nothing,” she replied. “When she told me you were with Meredith I thought you might want rescuing.”

“You are a true friend!” He beamed gratefully, kissing her upon the forehead.

“I thought we could take a break up on the moors,” she suggested, as they entered one of the fields at the edge of the village. “You’ve been working hard all week. You deserve it!”

Godric nodded silently in agreement and sighed deeply once they reached one of the highest hills, slumping down into the long blades of grass. He squinted against the bright light of the sun, savouring the fresh smell of summer.

“Do you like it here, Godric?” Helga asked, watching him intently.

“Of course I do,” he replied, laying back into the grass and closing his eyes.

“Good,” She said, forcing a smile.

“You think I’ll leave you again?” He asked knowingly, sensing her tone.

“Well, I…heard you talking this morning,” she shrugged, causing him to open his eyes and sit up again.

“Oh, that,” he said guiltily, unsure of how to handle the subject.

“I would more than understand if you wanted to leave but the thing I wouldn’t be able to understand is you leaving me behind,” she said quietly, avoiding his gaze and beginning to tug at the blades of grass.

“I was just discussing my concerns for you,” he explained.

“But I’m not a child anymore,” she pointed out. “I may not be as skilled with a sword as you are but I’m not completely incapable.”

“I never said you were!” He chuckled. “Look,” he said, when she still didn’t look convinced. “I don’t intend on leaving any time soon and, if I eventually decide to do so, you’ll have first refusal as my companion.”

She looked up at him at this and smiled happily.

“Of course,” she said, grinning in amusement. “I can understand your not wanting to leave so soon. You have most of the young women in the village falling at your feet!”

“Hmm,” he muttered, eyes widening. “But, of course, I’ll only ever have eyes for one,” he said sadly. “Not that I’ll ever have her in my sights again.”

“Rowena,” she said knowingly. “If you ever decide to leave I know it’ll be for her!” She grinned.

“No, it wouldn’t,” he replied, staring distractedly off into space.

“Why not?” She asked, looking shocked. “She’s your true love!”

“A true love that thinks me dead,” he pointed out. “I can never see her again. If I got anywhere near that castle her father would have me killed!”

Helga stared sadly at him, unsure of what to say.

For the rest of the afternoon they sat beneath the blazing sun, sharing memories of their lives that they hadn’t experienced together. Helga was fascinated by all the tales Godric told her, about the magical creatures he’d encountered. She was rather envious that he’d got to see so much and experienced so much adventure.

They were laughing about the fact that Meredith had warned off most of the other young girls in the village, telling them that Godric was hers, when a figure suddenly came catapulting over the brow of the hill.

“Godric!” She squeaked, hugging him tightly.

He was rather shocked by this but after a split second of contemplation, he realised who it was.

“Polly,” he chuckled, hugging her back.

He stared, unable to believe it was her. She still had the same features but was still able to look so different. She had matured, now in her mid-teens. She looked positively elated to see him and couldn’t stop grinning.

“I’ve missed you,” she told him.

“I’ve missed you too!” He replied. “How has life been with the Gaunts?” He asked.

Alexis had explained that Polly had gone to live with them soon after Lord Schreiver had died.

“Better than one on the streets,” she said, looking uncertain. “Er…is it true?” She asked, brow furrowed in puzzlement.

Godric exchanged a glance with Helga, who looked just as clueless as him.

“What’s that?”

“You’re to be married?”

Godric stared, almost choking on the air he’d just inhaled. Helga’s jaw dropped and she began to laugh.

“Excuse me?” He exclaimed.

“Meredith said - ”

“I might have known!” Helga chuckled, glancing sideways at Godric.

“I don’t believe her!” He cried, half amused, half annoyed. “No! The answer’s no, Polly. We’re certainly not getting married!”

“Oh…good,” she laughed. “She’s not really your type of girl.”

“Definitely not!” He grunted raising his eyebrows. “What on Earth put that idea into her head?”

“Maybe you’ve been smiling too much when you’re around her,” Helga suggested, unable to contain her amusement.

He was about to retort when he was stopped in his tracks. They all turned to stare as Hubert came trampling up the hillside, panting as though he’d ran for miles. He stopped when he reached them, leaning on his knees in order to catch his breath back.

“What is it?” Helga asked anxiously, when he tried and failed to speak.

“Down…village,” he gasped, pointing wildly. “Announcement!”

“An announcement?” Godric muttered, exchanging puzzled looks with Helga and Polly.

“Important!” He panted, indicating that they should follow him.

They did so, hurrying down the grassy hillside and almost stumbling into each other. When they reached the edge of the village five minutes later it was apparent that most of the village seemed to have been called out to hear this announcement. As Godric pondered what on Earth it could be, he followed the others through the groups of chattering people towards the village square.

“Come on then, Henry, we haven’t got all day!” Someone called to a man that stood atop the raised platform everyone was facing.

“Er…people…!” He called, waving a hand impatiently, his other clutching tightly to a very official-looking scroll. “People of Hogsmeade! I have a very important announcement to make. I have received word from the king of England, a royal notification, if you will,” he explained, looking honoured by such a thing. “This is a most exciting day for the whole country!”

“Get on with it, man!” Someone shouted.

“Yes…well,” he mumbled, thrown for a moment. “It seems that a royal wedding is soon to take place!” These words didn’t seem to register with Godric at first but, when they sunk in, he stared in horror, his heart beating painfully fast. Surely this couldn’t mean what he feared it meant? “Yes, this autumn the princess and only daughter of our king will be married!”

There was a great outburst of noise as people started to clap and cheer.

Godric was frozen, unable to move. He had heard wrong? He must have. He stood perfectly still for an entire minute, the sounds the crowd were making seeming obsolete to him. Where his heart had been racing just moments before, he now felt a great void, his insides gone. It was a while before he noticed Helga staring at him sympathetically, for she was the only one who had some idea of what this meant to him.

“Godric,” she said tentatively, clutching his arm because he’d become very pale and looked ready to topple over.

He slowly looked down at her and, without really knowing what he was doing, he stormed through the happy congregation of people. Helga stared after him in shock and hastily followed, worrying that he may do something rather foolish.

“Godric…Godric, wait!” She cried, racing along after him. “Where are you going?”

He stubbornly chose not to answer, trying to ignore everything around him. He had to stop this. He knew she didn’t love him. How could she go through with something like this?

“Godric!” Helga said sternly, finally catching up to him and pulling him to a stop. “Calm down!”

“How can you expect me to do that?” He roared, making her flinch. He knew it was unfair to vent his anger upon her but he just couldn’t help it. “She’s going to marry him! She doesn’t love him!”

“I know,” she said sympathetically.

“I can’t let this happen,” he grunted, storming off again and heading to Alexis’s cottage.

“What…?” She said blankly. “Godric, what are you going to do?” She demanded, chasing after him again and sensing a plan brewing.

“I’m going to stop this!”

“No!” She cried. “You can’t! You said it yourself - if you go anywhere near that castle the king will have you killed.”

“I’m not a child anymore,” he said simply, as he burst through the front door. “I can defend myself.”

“You against all of the king’s guards?” She said hysterically, making the idea sound quite preposterous.

“I have magic.”

“This is ridiculous!”

“What’s going on in here?” Alexis demanded, entering the little house through the back door and staring between them in confusion.

“Godric wants to stop Rowena’s wedding,” Helga explained.

“Rowena…? Oh, the princess!” She said, suddenly comprehending. “Ah, the true love, eh?”

“Aye,” Godric said distractedly, grabbing his cloak from near the door. “Look, I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, Alexis,” he said, smiling weakly at her. “You’ve been a true friend but I’m afraid I have to go.”

“Understandable,” she shrugged.

“What?” Helga demanded, looking shocked by this response. “It’s too dangerous! You don’t think this is a good idea, surely?”

“Well, the road to true love isn’t without its twists and turns,” she said dismissively, waving an aged hand.

“But you can’t!” She said, staring pleadingly at Godric.

“You would rather see your friend trapped in a loveless marriage?” Alexis asked, fixing her with that powerful blue stare.

“No, of course not,” she replied, after a long silence.

“There you are then!” She nodded, as though this settled the matter. “You go to this love of yours, make her happy!” She smiled, winking at Godric. “But you’ll take her with you,” she added, jabbing a thumb in Helga’s direction.

“What?” He barked, shocked by this suggestion. “I can’t!”

“You can and you will!” She said sternly. “She can help you.”

“Alexis,” He began to say. “I don’t think - ”

“You’re not the only one who cares about Rowena!” Helga snapped, looking offended. “She’s my best friend!”

“I know that but it’s just too - ”

“Too dangerous for me but not for you?” She said angrily.

“Admit it, boy,” Alexis said, in a tone of warning. “You need someone to keep you in check.”

Godric stared down at Helga’s expression and didn’t have the heart to say no. He knew she longed for adventure and escape just as much as he did. Slowly, he nodded.

“Well, you'd better get going then!” Alexis pointed out, causing them to start rushing around and collecting their belongings for the journey ahead.


Chapter 25: Captured
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“Well, what do you think to this one?” The queen urged.

Rowena stood facing a most magnificent garment. The upper body of the wedding gown was beaded beautifully and intricately, shimmering in the summer sunshine that streamed into her tower room. The skirts of it hung delicately, the lace underside finishing the effect. It looked too magnificent to touch.

“Rowena?” Her mother prompted, waiting impatiently beside the dressmaker.

“I…it’s beautiful,” she murmured.

“You will be wanting to try it on then?”

“Yes, she will!” The queen said excitedly, chivvying her behind the screen in the corner of her room, where the dressmaker helped her into the gown.

Once it was slipped on and had been altered and fussed with until the queen was satisfied, Rowena could step forth to take a look in the mirror. As she did so she could barely believe it was her staring back. As far as she was concerned, the dress was a perfect fit and she wasn’t sure whether she was pleased about this or not. The gentle lacing of the long sleeves fell just over her wrists. Her mother soon rushed forth with a veil made from similar material, fastening it into her hair.

“I think we shall have her hair up,” she told the dressmaker excitedly.

Rowena had decided it was best to just let her mother make all the choices for this wedding. Whenever Rowena’s opinion had been asked for her mother was basically demanding that she agree. If ever she disagreed it would lead to many questions, her mother demanding why her decisions were not good enough.

Besides, as Rowena looked at herself in the mirror, the veil falling gently against her pale face, she rather thought this was the nicest gown she could get married in, even if it was to someone she hated.

“Come now, Rowena, take that off and we shall go into the grounds,” the queen said suddenly, causing her to snap sharply from her stupor.

Rowena did so, soon joining her father in the grounds.

“So, what do you say to the ceremony being outdoors?” The queen demanded of the king, as though Rowena’s involvement was irrelevant. This was the happiest day of her life, after all - in theory.

“Outdoors?” He demanded, as though the very idea was preposterous. “You expect all our guests to eat outside with the flies and the birds, do you?”

“Don’t be so ridiculous!” She chuckled. “No, we shall have the great feast inside,” she explained. “I just thought, as it’s summer, it would be nice if we could enjoy it outside!”

“That’s the problem with you women!” He exclaimed. “You should leave the thinking to us men!” He chuckled. “We will have the ceremony in the great hall, it’s far more fitting!”

She nodded, looking too abashed to argue. Rowena couldn’t care less and so nodded in reply to her father’s decision. God forbid she be out in the sun too long and let her skin adopt an appearance that suggested it actually belonged to a living person!

“Right then!” Her mother said, after her father had walked away. “We must discuss the decoration for the evening, when we shall dine!”

*

“We’re lost, aren’t we?” Helga demanded.

She and Godric had dismounted their horse and were staring through the mass of trees surrounding them. It all looked the same now that they were uncertain of the route they should take. It was mostly Godric’s fault, who’d been certain that he could work out an efficient short cut.

“Well, I think we’re heading in the right direction,” he said uncertainly, knowing full well that he had no idea where they now were.

They had been travelling for many days. They’d been forced to travel along less busy roads, through the risk of being seen. They’d also had to sleep in woodland areas or disused farm buildings. It wasn’t an ideal situation but the thought of Rowena spurred him on.

“We should ask someone,” Helga said matter-of-factly.

“Oh yes, let’s!” He said sarcastically. “Excuse me, Mr. Oak?” He asked mockingly, sidling over to a tree that towered high above him. “Could you be so kind as to tell me the way to the castle of the king of England?” Helga rolled her eyes. “Straight ahead? Thank you so much!”

“Godric!”

“Don’t you trust the tree?”

She stared at him with raised eyebrows, giving the look that mother’s often gave to mischievous children.

“Or my sense of direction?”

“Forgive me, Godric,” she said. “But I don’t believe you have any navigational skills whatsoever.”

“It’s nice to know you have faith in me! Now, are we going to take heed to the tree or just stare around this clearing for the next day or so?”

“Fine,” she sighed. “We’ll go Mr. Oak’s way!”

Godric led the way forth with Helga close behind and their horse, which stuck out considerably because it was white, obediently bringing up the rear.

*

“Milady!”

Rowena turned around in annoyance as one of the servant girls approached her, just as she was about to climb the spiralling stairs up to her tower room.

“What is it?” She asked, noticing that she was breathless, as though either something was terribly wrong or that she’d ran all the way here.

“The king and queen…wish to tell you…that…that…” She gasped.

“Yes?” She urged, fearing the worst.

“The Eve before your wedding,” she said. “There will be…Masquerade ball…”

“Oh,” she said, feeling that this was highly unimportant when compared with other issues that were going on.

“The king and queen wish to know if there is anyone you would like to invite?”

“No,” she grunted, turning in the opposite direction once more.

“Very well, Miss,” she nodded, hurrying off.

Rowena knew it would be an occasion where all of her father’s friends came together to brag and every well-off air-headed woman would tell her how lucky she was to be marrying prince Edmund. It made her feel sick.

“Wait!” She called, just before the girl disappeared around the corner at the end of the corridor. “I do want to invite someone - Salazar Slytherin!”

*

Night had how fallen upon the forest Godric and Helga were still trekking through. Their legs ached and they knew it was pointless to carry on; they could see nothing in the dark. As they settled down for the night in a sheltered spot Godric couldn’t help but notice how eerie it was.

“Godric?” Helga asked quietly, as she lay huddled beneath the large animal skin blanket they shared.

“Yes?” He replied sleepily.

“How do you think Rowena will react when she sees you?”

“I hadn’t really thought about it.”

In actual fact, it was the thing he thought about most these days. His ideal greeting would be one of love, where she threw her arms around him in gratitude for rescuing her.

“Have you thought about how you’re going to do it?” She asked warily, sounding a little doubtful.

“Do what?” He asked, staring intently at the place her face would appear had it not been pitch black all around them.

“Stop the wedding,” she said. “And then get her away from the castle.”

He remained silent, the panic beginning to set in. No, he had not come up with a plan cunning enough to fool the king’s guards. He’d never even been near the castle so how he was going to formulate a plot to break into it, he didn’t know.

“I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it,” he muttered, lying down and knowing he’d never be able to sleep now.

Helga opened her mouth to point out all the problems with this but then obviously thought better of it.

*

A few days later Salazar awoke with a start, squinting as the early morning sun burst its was into his room. He was soon rushing to get ready when he realised how late it was. He smiled in greeting to Bella as he joined her and Arthur at the dining table for breakfast.

“Good sleep?” Arthur chuckled.

“Very good,” he replied.

“This was delivered earlier,” he said, passing him a very official-looking envelope.

He took it, staring down at the recognisable seal in confusion. Was this a letter from the king telling him to get back to his duties? He reluctantly prised it open and was rather surprised to see a sheet of parchment with much artistic scribbling around the edge.

“What is it?” Belle asked.

“An invitation,” he replied, as he read the last few lines. “I’ve been invited to a masquerade ball, to take place the evening before the princess’s wedding.”

“Just yourself?” Arthur inquired, looking as though he very much desired to go.

“It would seem so,” he replied. “Sorry,” he said awkwardly to Belle.

“There’s no need to apologise,” she insisted. “You should have fun, it sounds like quite an occasion.”

“For some more than others,” he muttered under his breath.

“How long until the wedding takes place?” Arthur asked.

“Two weeks.”

He knew this time would fly by, most undesirably in Rowena’s case.

*

It soon felt that Godric and Helga had been travelling for months, not weeks. Every bit of woodland they were forced to travel through started to look the same. It was taking them longer because their horse had to rest and moving through dense undergrowth wasn’t exactly easy, especially in the heat of summer. Godric was just glad it was almost over. They had now come as far as middle England or thereabouts, which they felt was quite a feat, considering they’d come most of the way on foot.

“You know,” Godric said thoughtfully, as they wandered across a dappled forest floor one sunny afternoon. “I bet Salazar used to live around here.”

“Really?”
“Well, his uncle did. He told me. I’m not sure exactly where but I believe we’re close.”

“It’s just lucky we came by that main road yesterday,” she muttered, rolling her eyes. “You would quite happily have bypassed Nottingham and gone the wrong way!”

“Okay. I’ll admit you were right about this,” he grinned.

“Only this?”

“A lot of things then!” He chuckled.

“This woodland must span for miles,” she breathed, when they came to rest in a sunny clearing, allowing their horse to drink from a stream. “I hope we don’t get lost.”

“I’m sure we won’t,” he assured her. “How hard can it be to find your way in this forest?”

Helga turned to stare at him with raised eyebrows.

“What?”

“You can’t say that when you’ve got us lost on a countless number of occasions!” She laughed.

“Fair enough!” He smiled. “I’m sure we’ll be at the castle in no time!”

“Let’s go then!” She beamed, looking rather enthusiastic.

Godric nodded and was about to follow when he froze. He had sensed something behind them, as though someone was watching them. He glanced over his shoulder and stared intently into the trees. There was nothing there.

“What is it?” Helga asked, noticing his anxious expression.

“Nothing,” he said quickly, not wanting to worry her.

He decided he must have been imagining it and followed behind her, trying to move the thought to the back of his mind.

They travelled for the rest of the day, all the trees they passed looking alike. The sun was soon beginning to set and Helga insisted they rest, coming to stop in an open area amongst the trees.

“How much further does this forest go on for?” Godric asked, more to himself than to Helga.

“It looks like we’ll have another day full of these trees tomorrow!” She replied.

Godric suddenly froze. All day he’d been ignoring the sensation of eyes following every move they made but now they’d come to a standstill he couldn’t do it any longer. He spun on the spot to stare in every direction, scanning their shadowy surroundings. The rays of summer light streaming through the canopy overhead didn’t help his vision.

“Godric, what’s wrong?” Helga asked, looking worried.

He stared intently to his right as he heard a strange rustling sound. There was a steep incline in that direction, which would have made a good look out point for any enemies.

“Godric!”

“Shh!” He hissed, listening intently. “Come on,” he said finally, when silence followed his words. “We have to keep moving.”

“But I thought…Godric, what’s going on?” She demanded, sounding rather scared now.

“Keep your voice down!” He snapped, leading the way through the trees ahead.

He spun round as he heard the whistling sound of an arrow speeding towards them. Helga screamed in shock as it thudded into one of the trees rather close to them. This caused their horse to rear in alarm and pull itself free of Godric’s grasp, galloping off through the trees.

“Run!” Godric roared.

She did so, with Godric following close behind, but he could tell they were being pursued. He slowed a little to provide a distraction to the enemies gaining on them, allowing Helga to get away safely. Luckily, she never looked back.

Godric suddenly flung forwards as his legs became entangled. His chin hit the ground hard and he felt his ribs bruise painfully. He breathed in the strong scent of soil and tried desperately to roll over in order to see who this attacker was. He sensed more than just one pair of feet nearby. Just as he was about to roll onto his back, a strong force pressed down upon his shoulders, preventing him from doing so. He could see shadows moving about nearby but he couldn’t distinguish them.

His blood suddenly ran cold as Helga’s scream echoed through the surrounding trees. Nothing but silence came after.

“Helga!” He roared, trying desperately to wriggle free from his captor.

“Silence him,” someone muttered.

He felt a hefty blow to the back of the head and then all turned black…


Chapter 26: A Little Assistance
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When Godric finally came to an unknown amount of time later immediate panic gripped him. He squinted into the shadowy area he was in, not entirely sure of his exact location. One thing he knew was that Helga was nowhere to be seen. He was about to call out for her when he flinched, sensing movement close by. A bright flame suddenly ignited and was used to light a lantern, which was held aloft by a giant of a man. He loomed over Godric in a very foreboding way and was frowning deeply, which made him a very unpredictable character.

“This one’s awake!” He yelled suddenly, not taking his eyes away from Godric’s face.

He stared around him in confusion, wondering who on Earth he could be talking to. The answer to this question soon became apparent as a small group of people entered the cave-like area he was being held captive in. A tall, gangly man was pulling Helga along after them, which infuriated Godric beyond relief. He was trying to shout a few well-chosen words at these people but it was no use, as he’d been bound and gagged. He compromised by just staring angrily at them instead. Helga had been bound and gagged much like Godric and her sparkling eyes were staring fearfully around.

One of the men stepped forwards and lowered the hood he’d been wearing. He leant down towards Godric and stared him directly in the eyes, as though trying to figure him out. Godric made a mental note to use his sword when his bonds were loosened but then realised he’d been disarmed. He noticed that this man had a bow upon his person and knew he would be no match for it. He wouldn’t dare try anything for fear of hurting Helga.

This peculiar man, who was slightly older than Godric himself and had similar blue eyes, slowly reached forwards and pulled the gag from his mouth.

“I swear, if you’ve harmed a hair on her head - ” He roared.

The man held up a hand to silence him and released Helga of her silence too.

“He hasn’t, Godric,” she said quickly.

“What do you want with us?” He demanded angrily.

“Nothing,” he said, in a calming voice that only annoyed Godric further.

“Then tell me why we’re tied up in this…this…where the hell are we?”

“You are in Sherwood forest,” he said simply. “My forest.”

“Your forest? You own the whole wood, do you?”

“Not officially,” he smirked.

The men standing behind him smiled in amusement at this.

“Well, I’m sorry if we trespassed on your precious land!” He mocked. “But that’s hardly a reason to hold us captive, is it?”

“Well, I beg to differ,” he replied. “I’m a wanted man, much like yourself, I presume?” He added, raising his eyebrows.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he retorted, rather unconvincingly.

“A man like yourself, a man of such grandeur, taking a very inconvenient route through my forest? Highly doubtful! Unless that man has something to hide…”

Godric knew his shifty expression had just given him away and couldn’t think of a justifying answer quick enough.

“So what is it?” Asked the huge man with the lantern, who was still frowning at him. “Theft? Treason?” He demanded. “Murder?” He added as an afterthought, glancing around at the others, who all exchanged dark looks.

“None of those!” He said defensively.

“Well,” Helga said slowly. “Treason is sort of true…”

Godric stared at her with a look that told her quite simply to remain silent.

“Treachery, eh?” The man with the bow said, looking rather interested. He now turned his attention upon Helga, who stared sheepishly at him as he addressed her. “Do tell…”

“Leave her alone!” Godric snarled.

“I’m not harming her! Am I?” He added, smiling kindly at her.

She smiled awkwardly back, blushing slightly.

“So who is it you’re running from?” He asked interestedly.

Helga glanced sideways at Godric before answering.

“Well, no one really,” she replied. “We just can’t be found by the king’s men.”

“Ah, I see,” he nodded, looking slightly amused. “What did you do?”

“Nothing that matters to you!” Godric spat, beginning to loathe this man.

“Actually, it does matter,” he shrugged. “We’re not so different, you and I. I trust by your tone that you hate our king?”

“Of course!” Helga put in. “The king tried to have him killed because he was caught kissing the prin - ”

“Helga!” Godric hissed, rolling his eyes in annoyance.

“So this is a matter of the heart then?” The man asked, smiling knowingly.

Godric ignored him and compromised by staring daggers his way.

“You’re not going to turn us over to the king, are you?” Helga asked quickly, looking anxious.

“Me?” He exclaimed, beginning to laugh. “If I were to go anywhere near the king and his castle I fear I’d be in a situation much like you’d be! Though, your chosen route through England suggests that you intend to see the king.”

“And what if it does?” Godric snapped.

“It just seems a little foolish, that’s all.”

“Maybe…” Helga said uncertainly, glancing quickly at Godric. “Maybe you could help us?”

“We don’t need help from people like this!” Godric hissed. “They’re just criminals!”

“Some would say so,” the man nodded. “Others would say that we are saviours. We used to be.”

“And what is it that you did?” Godric demanded sarcastically.

The man heaved a great sigh and Godric noticed the others exchanging glances again.

“The reason we had to capture you was because we cannot afford for the king’s men to find us. They would not take too kindly to so-called thieves like us. Villages all around these parts were starving,” he explained, in response to Godric’s puzzled look. “The so-called peasants were left to scavenge for food whilst the wealthier men and women gorged themselves on food that would have fed everyone!” He stared angrily at the ground. “I’ve tried to help these people many times but it’s becoming too risky. Doing this made us outlaws and, for all the good it’s done, we might as well have not bothered!”

“Don’t say that!” The tall man behind him said.

“Hood?” Helga gasped suddenly, her eyes wide with shock. “Robin Hood?”

The man stared at her in confusion. He then glanced around at the others, who looked rather shocked. He nodded.

“You know him?” Godric demanded.

“Yes. Well, no…but I know OF him!” She beamed. “You’re tale is most heroic!”

“It is?” He said, looking surprised.

“Yes. I’ve heard of you before. I’m surprised you’re not the talk of the whole of England!”

He smiled slightly at this. 

“You still help the poor?”

He glanced awkwardly at the others and appeared quite uncomfortable.

“I’m afraid not so much,” he replied sadly. “It is becoming too risky.”

“Most in authority will have us hung and quartered if ever we were caught, they wouldn’t think twice,” the tallest of the men explained. “That’s why we could take no chances with you.”

“Oh…sorry,” Robin said quickly. He looked as though he’d only just remembered they were still bound with strong rope and hastened to untie it. “I suppose you’re free to go,” he smiled.

“Right,” Godric said, staring suspiciously at him. “Can I have my sword then?”

“Oh…yes, of course!” He nodded. “John, give it back.”

The tallest man stepped forward and handed it to Godric, who quickly tucked it back into the sheath around his waist.

“Once again,” Robin said. “We apologise for what we did.”

“It’s understandable,” he replied reluctantly. “We’ll be off then,” he said, raising his eyebrows suggestively at Helga.

“Oh, bye then!” She called, as Godric led the way out of the cave.

As they passed through the group of Robin’s men Godric didn’t expect them to part but they did so, allowing them freedom. Once they were outside in the light it was made clear that it was early morning. Godric spotted his horse tethered to a tree nearby, trying to grab inquisitively at the leaves above him.

“Godric, wait!” Helga hissed, as he began to untie the horse. “Is there no way they could help us?” She pleaded.

“You honestly want to accept help from a group of people that just kept you tied up all night?” He demanded.

“But they could help us find a quicker way. They must know this forest well. They could help us find Salazar!” She added.

“And what do we want with Salazar?”

“I…well, he could help us in some way, couldn’t he?” She urged. “I mean, he cares for Rowena too!”

“They are not helping us. We can do it alone!” He said defiantly.

He glanced in annoyance at the mouth of the cave he’d just exited, where Robin and his men now stood, watching himself and Helga closely.

“But Robin would know how to storm a castle!” She said, beginning to get desperate. She knew Godric was brave but didn’t fancy their chances with only the two of them.

“What?” He demanded, distracted for a moment.

“He’s done it before!”

“No, he hasn’t!”

“Ask him!” She commanded.

Godric stared at her eager expression for a moment with narrowed eyes. He didn’t want to believe her but something told him she was being entirely truthful. Abandoning his horse, he marched over to Robin, Helga in toe.

“You once stormed the king’s castle, is that true?” Godric demanded.

Robin looked rather stunned by this sudden question and exchanged looks with the group standing around him.

“I wouldn’t say that I stormed it, exactly.”

“See!” He said, turning back to Helga.

“We got into the castle,” Robin finished, indicating the others. “I couldn’t have done it without my friends.”

“Really?” He demanded, shocked beyond belief.

“Yes. Wait a minute,” Robin muttered, narrowing his eyes. “You’re not planning such an assault on the King, are you?”

Godric was about to deny this but the words he’d formulated in his head never actually got to his mouth.

“We have a friend that needs our help,” Helga said quickly. “And to get to her, we need to get into the castle and back out again safely.”

“Oh, I see. Good luck then!” He smiled.

“You won’t help us?” Godric barked.

“Help you? I’ve already gotten inside that castle without authority and it almost got me killed. I certainly don’t plan on doing such a thing again!”

“But you’re our only hope!” Helga pleaded.

“I would love to help a young lady such as you,” he said kindly. “But it would be more than my life’s worth.”

Godric watched hopelessly as Robin led his friends off into the trees.

“If you ask me, those stories are wrong!” Godric yelled, causing Robin to freeze. “You’re no hero!”

“Who will your little adventure be helping exactly?” Robin asked coldly.

“Someone I care about very much,” he replied simply. “Someone I would die for. That’s what’s making me stupid enough to risk this.”

Robin stared at him, as though trying to see into his thoughts.

“A woman? Whom you love?”

Godric nodded.

“You can’t be serious about this, Robin?” John hissed, noticing the thoughtful expression on his friend’s face.

“If I did help you…do you have any sort of plan?”

“Well,” Godric began to say, his mind horribly blank.

“No,” Helga said honestly.

“Right then,” he nodded. It was obvious from the look in Robin’s eyes that he was already formulating something. “I can only help you get inside. After that you’re on your own.”

“That’s fine,” Godric nodded feverishly.

“Well, lads!” Robin beamed, slapping his hands together. “Ready for a bit of fun?”

“We should tell Salazar,” Helga said anxiously. “He has connections with the king. He could help!”

“Salazar Slytherin?” One of the men asked.

“You know him?” Godric said.

“He lives around these parts. You wish for me to find him for you?”

“That would be wonderful!” Helga smiled.

“Wait!” Robin said quickly. “If he has connections with the king then how do we know he can be trusted?”

“He is an old friend of ours,” Godric assured him.

“Very well,” Robin said, nodding in the direction of his friend.

Godric felt that, deep down, he could trust Salazar. They had been such good friends with each other. Then again, it had been years since they’d met, not to mention the fact that he believed Godric and Helga to be dead. Could he have changed that much?

*

That evening Godric and Helga were welcomed into Robin’s small group, where they shared a feast that one of his men, Ronald, had captured in the forest earlier that day. They sat huddled around a roaring fire and being like this made it feel like everything would be okay.

Robin was a strange character. He certainly gave the impression of a hero but he also seemed like a broken man. It was obvious that something tragic had happened within his life. He’d once been so great, so inspiring, from what Helga had said. He’d seemed to have lost that enthusiasm. Godric could understand that doing all that good for such a long time without much reward would make any man lose faith.

Godric had shared with Robin and his men what he intended to do and they were rooting for him to get his princess.

“And now, a toast!” Robin announced, standing up and raising a wooden tankard. “May our friend Godric - and of course the lovely young lady, Helga - ” He added, smiling at her. “Succeed in their quest!”

“Godric and Helga!” The others chanted.

Everyone started to chatter noisily once more but were soon interrupted as Thomas, the friend that had gone to gain information on Salazar, came rushing into the clearing. Robin instinctively raised his bow but lowered it when he came into the firelight.

“What news?” Robin demanded, noticing that he seemed to have run all the way here.

“Lord Salazar…” Thomas panted, his pale face flushed red in his cheeks. “Travels tomorrow!”

“Tomorrow?” John demanded. “Where to?”

“Same place we’re going,” he replied, smiling.

“Well, that’s handy!” Robin grinned, a plan beginning to formulate in his mind. “We have quite a task afoot, lads! Are we all ready?”

There was a general murmur of ascent.

“Ah, back to our old tricks,” another of the men smiled, whose name was Will.

“Old tricks?” Godric said.

“You’ll see tomorrow,” Robin explained. “But now we must rest, we have a busy day ahead of us.”

The others silently agreed and started to pack everything away and extinguish the fire. They all clambered into Robin’s cave and were asleep within minutes, the fire having made them all rather sleepy.

One of them who could not sleep so soundly was Helga, who had many thoughts on her mind. She lay awake for a long time before she noticed movement at the other side of the cave. As a figure passed close to her, she pretended to be asleep, opening her eyes again to see Robin leaving through the entrance to the cave. She hesitated but then followed at a safe distance, remaining as quiet as possible.

She followed him down the embankment outside and through the trees until he stopped in a grassy clearing, where the moon shone brightly overhead. Her heart leapt as she accidentally trod upon a twig, which snapped loudly. Robin wheeled around, his bow ready to fire.

“It’s just me!” She said quickly, feeling her heart race in fear.

“Sorry, Helga,” he said quietly. “You can never be to careful.”

She slowly approached him, coming to stand at his side.

“You shouldn’t be out alone in the forest at this hour,” he pointed out.

“I couldn’t sleep,” she explained. “And neither could you, I’m guessing.”

“Your guess would be right,” he smiled, looking sideways at her.

She stared at him thoughtfully, trying to fathom what could be going on in his head.

“Is something wrong?” She asked.

“Nothing that can be fixed,” he replied, in barely more than a whisper. “And, therefore, nothing worth worrying about, as my father would say.”

“Forgive me but I don’t agree with that,” she said, a little more boldly than she felt.

“You don’t?” He said, turning to stare at her.

“Well, sometimes it helps to talk about things, whether it’ll rectify a situation or not,” she said knowledgably. “It doesn’t help to bottle things up.”

“You’re a smart young lady,” he smiled. “You remind me of someone I once knew,” he added, looking suddenly saddened.

“Someone special?”

“Very,” he replied, staring off into space. “The most amazing person.”

“You loved her?” Helga asked knowingly.

He turned to stare at her in confusion.

“How did you know it was a woman?”

“You speak of her as Godric speaks of Rowena, his love,” she said simply. “Who was she?”

He stared for a long time, as though considering whether to discuss it with her or not. The mere memory seemed painful.

“Marian,” he said eventually. “And yes, I did love her. We were to be married,” he added.

“What happened?” She asked, when he didn’t elaborate.

“She died,” he said. The moment he said this Helga wished she hadn’t asked. “She was always so independent…so strong-willed. I tried to make her stay behind but she wouldn’t.”

“I’m so sorry,” Helga breathed, her heart sinking.

“She was killed when we were trying to escape from our assault on the castle. It was my idiotic idea…my fault she died!” He spat.

“Don’t say that. You can’t blame yourself!” She insisted, looking pityingly upon him. “I don’t think she would have wanted you to dwell on her death. She would have just wanted you to remember her. She would have wanted you to go on.”

“Or maybe she would have wanted to live,” he murmured, wandering off into the darkness.


Chapter 27: Stand And Deliver!
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The fading summer sun was hanging lower than usual over Sherwood forest, a sure sign that autumn was not far away. Its pearly light cast long, half-hearted shadows through the trees, dappling the forest floor with an amber glow. Small breezes kept scuttling through the leaves upon the trees, causing them to rustle noisily one after the other as the wind disturbed them; if you listened hard enough it even began to sound like distant applause.

There was a main road that ran through the forest, a few miles from the heart of Nottingham. It was very exposed because the trees of the forest overlooked from steep embankments on either side. Robin Hood knew that most were reluctant to travel along here now, for fear of being robbed, even though that kind of thing had stopped long ago where Robin was concerned. At this present point in time the road was deserted, not a single being moving in either direction.

Robin was perched uncomfortably in one of the larger trees, staring down at the road with unblinking eyes, like a bird of prey seeking out its next meal. He and his men had awoken Godric and Helga at dawn so that they didn’t miss Salazar, should he decide to leave earlier in the day. They concealed themselves behind a thick section of undergrowth, occasionally catching glimpses of John and a few more of Robin’s men on the other side of the road.

“Is that really necessary?” Helga hissed.

She was referring to the bow that Robin had brought with him. Even though there was no sign of anyone yet he clung onto it rather tightly. He had a quiver of arrows strapped to his back too; Godric hoped that this wouldn’t turn nasty.

“Don’t worry,” he murmured, not taking his eyes of the section of road he had in view in the distance. “They’re just for effect. I’ll use these to scare the coachmen. When it has come to a stop and Salazar comes out to see what the problem is you will both make yourselves know.”

This all sounded rather simple but Godric had a feeling that things would become more difficult when the time came.

*

“Well, my daughter!” The king boomed, rocking backwards and forwards on the balls of his feet in a very annoying fashion. “The preparations are complete!”

He’d just led her down the cold castle corridors and into the great hall, which had been decorated for the upcoming masquerade ball. It would take place tomorrow evening, in fact. She couldn’t believe how fast the weeks had flown. She was this close to her wedding already. She was numb but forced a smile as she looked around.

Great golden garlands hung from the high ceiling, the wall on one side of the room had been draped in embroidered golden fabric and ugly golden angel statues stood around the room. This was obviously her father’s take on good taste but she thought it was really rather vulgar. She just about managed to disguise it, though.

“I hope you’re prepared for the ball, daughter,” he beamed, looking proudly around the room. “Your dress and whatnot is decided upon I hope?”

“Yes, father,” she replied. “It has all been dealt with.”

“Good, good!” He chuckled happily. “I hope you’ve been learning your steps. Edmund will want a capable dance partner as a wife, I’m sure!”

“Yes, father,” she said again.

“Unfortunately, your husband-to-be will not be able to join us this eve. He is delayed until tomorrow evening.”

Rowena tried not to show her relief. One more day without Edmund was bliss in her opinion. She just dreaded the moment when they’d have to meet again.

*

The sun had risen a little higher above Sherwood forest and it was now noon. The trees rustled every now and then but, aside from this and the gentle scurrying of animals, all was still. Until something strange could be heard in the distance. A rattling…a tapping…a churning…a rustling…

“Look lively, Alan!” Robin snapped, throwing a thick branch at his head.

Alan, who’d been dozing whilst leaning against the tree beneath Robin suddenly jerked awake, his elbow slipping from the branch and causing him to stumble forwards.

“Where?” He demanded sleepily.

“Here it comes, lads!” Robin announced, a triumphant smile spreading across his face. “Make sure you are not seen until the coach is within our range!”

Godric and Helga took heed to this, hastily ducking down behind a large boulder nearby. There was no mistaking the coach as it got closer, the horse’s harness rattling loudly as it trotted along the path.

Robin suddenly leapt from his hiding place, landing haphazardly in front of the coach. The horse whinnied in shock and the driver’s eyes widened. He reached for his sword but Robin showed that his bow was ready to fire if need be.

“Stand and deliver!” Robin shouted, as the others - along with Godric and Helga - all poured down the embankments at either side, surrounding the coach.

“Thieves!” The driver cried, looking highly affronted. He was obviously trying to hide his fear but wasn’t doing too well.

“Actually, no,” Godric piped up. “We wish to speak with the man in the coach.”

“Gregory, what is going on? Why have we stopped?”

The coach door swung open as a familiar, dark-haired man looked out to see what was going on.

“Oh, don’t even think it, my good Sir!” He said sarcastically, unsheathing his sword the moment he saw Robin. “I know who you are and you should know I will not let you rob me!”

“Oh, put it away!” He retorted, shaking his head in amusement.

“We’re not here to rob you,” Helga said.

“A young woman in these parts? I suppose she’s been forced to live out here. Get her outlawed, did you?” He demanded, still maintaining a tight grip on the sword.

“You don’t remember us then?” She asked, smiling in amusement.

Salazar paused for a moment as he took the time to consider her properly. He stared with narrowed eyes, as though trying hard to remember. His eyes suddenly widened with comprehension but he still looked disbelieving.

“Helga…?” He said slowly. “It can’t be, you’re - ”

“Dead?” Godric laughed, stepping forwards. “She looks real enough to me.”

Salazar now turned to face him, looking even more shocked. He just stared, taking in his entire appearance.

“This man cannot be the weed of a boy I used to know as Godric, can it?” He joked.

“Who are you calling a weed, my good Sir!” He mocked, laughing along with him.

“But I thought…”

“It would take more than a fire to stop us!” Helga pointed out, beaming widely at him.

He took them both by surprise as he stepped forwards and pulled them both into a tight hug, letting go almost immediately to stare at them again, as though he thought he was dreaming.

“Friends of yours, Sir?” The coach driver asked, raising his eyebrows.

“Yes, old friends,” he smiled. “I have so much I could ask you,” he began.

“There’s not much time for that now,” Godric explained hastily. “I hear you’re going to London?” He nodded, looking slightly confused. “Good. I hope you don’t mind if we join you.”

“Join me?” He asked, looking surprised. “But I’m going to the king’s castle.”

“I know.”

“If he knows you’re still alive then - ”

“The king will not find out,” Godric assured him. “But I very much need your help. Come on, I’ll explain on the way,” he said, jumping into the open coach with Helga following close behind.

“John, Alan, you’re with me. The rest of you - stay here!” Robin said quickly, jumping aboard the coach and sitting next to the driver.

They were soon trundling along the main road to London, whilst Godric explained everything they were planning to do to Salazar. 


“Godric,” he said seriously, after the explaining had ended and the time for worry and panic was upon them. “I know you had strong feeling for Rowena - ”

“He still has them!” Helga pointed out indignantly.

“That may be so but…well, how do you know she is not happy?”

Salazar knew all too well that she was perfectly miserable but wanted to avoid all of his friends getting involved in lives they didn’t want.

“Surely you don’t believe that she is!” Helga laughed.

“I have to speak to her,” Godric said defiantly. “I don’t care if I’m caught, if she doesn’t want me…I have to see her!”

“I would love to help you,” Salazar began, trailing off and determinedly avoiding eye contact with them both.

“Then what, may I ask, is stopping you?” Helga demanded, looking astonished. “All he needs is your invitation and an inconspicuous disguise,” she pointed out. “Besides, it’s been years. The king won’t even recognise him!”

Salazar stared between them both, their expressions hopeful.

“I have no one else to turn to,” Godric said quietly.

Salazar had always considered them friends but never as much as he did at this point. The fact that they were asking him for help in such a perilous situation gave him a warm glow inside. Who was he to let his friends down at a time like this?

“Well, I just hope you have a plan to get out if things go wrong,” he smiled.

“That’s not very optimistic!” Helga said indignantly.

“Here,” Salazar sighed, handing Godric the invitation that he’d kept folded up inside his cloak pocket.

Godric took it with sweaty palms. The prospect of this small piece of paper being his only chance to see Rowena before her wedding was a little frightening. His heart started to race as the fear of her rejecting him hit home. He didn’t know if he could bare that.

*

Many hours later Robin climbed haphazardly into the carriage, his cheeks glowing red from the cold winds outside.

“We’re approaching the capital,” he informed them. “Your driver informs me that you are to stay at an inn near the castle,” he said to Salazar. “That should be a good spot. We’ll have a good view. We can plan possible escape routes.”

“What makes you think we’re all going to share one small room?” Salazar demanded, looking rather taken aback.

“It’s for a good cause!” Helga pointed out, rolling her eyes in annoyance.

They soon arrived at the inn and, sure enough, it provided a very good view of the castle, which towered high above it upon the hill opposite. It was rather nerve-wracking now that they were in the heart of the city and this close to the king. Godric knew he wouldn’t sleep too soundly tonight.

*

The next morning a low-hanging sun was all that the skies brought to lighten the day. This didn’t seem like a very good omen. Godric had woken up shortly before the sun had even began to rise. Needless to say, he hadn’t slept well. Robin, John and Alan had slept by the window, taking it in turns to keep watch. The fear was that someone knew Godric and Helga were here. It wasn’t likely but it was better to be safe than sorry.

“Don’t worry,” Helga said quietly, moving over to a tired Godric, who’d been standing near the open window, in the hope that the breeze would keep him awake. “I’m sure, if we disguise you well enough, no one will be able to tell.”

He nodded distractedly but Helga could tell that this wasn’t what was playing on his mind.

“Listen,” she said cheerfully, in the hope of lightening his mood. “If you’re going to this ball then we'd better make sure you look good. Salazar,” she said, as he conveniently walked through the door, returning from his breakfast downstairs. “I need silver.”

“Excuse me?” He asked, looking rather confused.

“I need money to buy Godric some clothes for this evening.”

“Oh, very well,” he nodded, handing her some dull silver coins from the inside pocket of his jacket. “But shouldn’t Godric choose his own attire, as he'll be wearing it.”

“I’m afraid men have no idea when it comes to fashion,” she chuckled. “Best leave this to me!”

With that she dashed from the room, leaving Godric and Salazar to exchange amused glances.

A few hours later, and just when they were all starting to get worried, Helga returned with a very luxurious outfit for Godric. She’d managed to acquire a red and black tunic that had finely stitched details all over, black plus fours and a smart pair of shiny black boots.

“A good choice,” Salazar nodded, as he examined this attire.

“And this,” Helga said, handing Godric the mask he’d wear to cover his eyes.

He stared down at all of this, the sight of it making him realise what he was about to do. It made his nerves tingle but he tried hard to ignore them.

“Well, off you go!” Helga insisted, shoving him behind a small screen at the back off the room that he could change behind. “You don’t want to be late.”

Godric did so but, for some reason, he did this a lot slower than was necessary. He supposed that his subconscious mind was trying to stall. He was now more worried than ever about what Rowena would say to him. He tried to put these thoughts to the back of his mind and stepped out from behind the screen. Helga and Salazar’s expressions immediately told him that he looked the part.

“You look very handsome,” Helga smiled, obviously pleased with the choice of clothing she’d made.

“The ball will be starting within the hour,” Salazar said. “You'd better get to my coach. If you’re going to pass yourself off as me then you’ll need to arrive in it.”

Godric nodded, his head spinning with many thoughts. He absent-mindedly followed them down through the inn, hoping that the mask he wore would hide most of his appearance. Only his sparkling blue eyes revealed his real identity; Salazar had given him a hat to help with his disguise.

Once outside the inn he climbed aboard Salazar’s coach and saw that Robin was in the driving seat, also cleverly disguising his appearance.

“Godric,” Helga said quickly, before he closed the coach door. “Give Rowena my love…and be careful!”

“Aren’t I always?” He remarked, forcing a smile.

“Just remain inconspicuous,” Salazar warned. “And avoid the king.”

“I’m not foolish enough to go near him!”

“Good luck then, my fiend,” Salazar smiled, shaking his hand and staring meaningfully.

Godric tried to show how grateful he was for his help with just an expression but it probably didn’t work too well. He closed the coach door and took a steadying breath as the coach began to roll up the street towards the gates of the castle.

Far sooner than he would have liked, the coach was joining the masses streaming up to the castle doors, where the king’s guards greeted them. Godric’s heart began to hammer painfully against his ribs at the thought of having to go near them. He tried to calm himself, thinking instead of Rowena.

The coach rolled to a stop a short distance from the entrance, where the shadow of the castle loomed forebodingly over everyone. Godric composed himself and clambered down from the carriage, clasping tightly to Salazar’s invitation.

“Good luck,” Robin muttered, urging the horse to move onwards.

This now meant that Godric was completely alone and left to stroll up to those front doors, which felt like the longest walk of his life. His heart was now racing so fast that he was sure someone would be able to hear it.

“Evening, Sir,” one of the guards said.

Godric smiled weakly in response and handed him the invitation, trying to act as though he had every reason to be here. He glanced around and noticed that all the other guests were of high stature, without even having to be told; it was the way they carried themselves. Godric made a mental note to walk with a little more confidence.

“Lord Slytherin?” The guard demanded, sounding rather surprised.

Godric started to panic as he saw the guards eyes narrowing.

“That’s right!” He snapped, thinking fast. He was smart enough to carry off Salazar’s English accent.

“Sorry, Sir. I didn’t recognise you,” he said apologetically. “Must be the mask…”

Godric marched past and glanced back over his shoulder. Robin was standing at the bottom of the hill, concealed by a band of trees. He was obviously there to see that Godric got into the castle safely. The only problem now was to get back out in one piece.


Chapter 28: The Decision
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As Godric turned back around he saw that he’d stepped into a large entrance hall, bigger than anything he’d ever seen. Great garlands had been wound around the banisters and a great chandelier of candles hung overhead. He was so busy looking around at this magnificent sight, still amazed he’d managed to gain access, that it took him a while to notice that the crowd were milling their way into an even larger hall on the right. The enormous wooden doors were wide open in welcome and the room seemed almost too full for anyone to move.

Godric blended with these people, lost within the masses as they spilled into the room. Once inside he was even more blown away than he had been by the entrance hall. This room was even more extravagantly decorated, flaming torches burning all around the walls for light. Every wall seemed to glitter gold, giving the whole room a warm glow. Godric soon noticed that large hangings had been placed behind one of the tables. He was certain this was where Rowena would sit. His heart sank somewhat when he couldn’t spot her.

“Mulled wine, Sir?” He jumped in shock as this servant addressed him and hastily tried to compose himself, taking one of the goblets and sipping at it.

Godric then decided that, instead of standing in the way of the crowds near the doors, he should probably mingle with the other guests. It suddenly hit him that he was amongst hundreds of individuals within high society. Normally it would probably interest him to find out all about them but tonight he couldn’t care less.

Godric’s heart suddenly skipped a beat and he felt himself begin to sweat as he spotted a familiar face. He was wearing his extravagant crown, just in case anyone failed to notice his gluttonous appearance. The king stood mere feet away and Godric felt himself freeze. He felt his heart almost come to a stop when the king’s eyes met his own. The king did not throw him a second glance, as the disguise was enough. Godric silently thanked Helga and hurried on through the crowd, desperately trying to seek some sign of Rowena.

“Lords and Ladies!” Someone cried suddenly, tapping upon a goblet. “Please take your seats for the feast!”

Everyone immediately started to mill about the square section of tables that had been placed around the centre of the room. As the guests started to disperse, finding their seats, Godric saw that this section was obviously going to be used for the dancing. He hastily involved himself in the crowds that were rushing about to find their seats. He looked around for his place card, which he knew would say “Salazar Slytherin”, and soon found it, a seat that faced the doors leading into the entrance hall.

Everyone around the room started to chat excitedly, all except Godric, who was staring intently around. He spotted the queen enter the room and take up a seat beside her husband. The king rose to his feet and beamed happily around at them all.

“May I present my daughter, who will be a wife this time tomorrow,” he added.

Godric’s heart fluttered as everyone turned to face the doors leading into the room. He was frozen, unsure of what his facial expression had become. His breathing stopped momentarily as a tall, pale woman, with her long black hair tied up in a bun, entered the room. Everyone applauded as she made her way around the table to sit beside her father. The applause was noting but background noise to Godric. Time seemed to slow down as he watched Rowena move elegantly around the room, her royal blue gown trailing along behind her.

His heart suddenly sank when he saw that she didn’t look complete anymore. She seemed a shell of her former self and, even though she forced a smile to the room, he could tell she was falling apart inside. All he wanted to do was embrace her and assure her that everything would be alright.

“Now,” the king said, after clearing his throat loudly. “Unfortunately, my daughter’s husband-to-be could not make it here tonight but we will celebrate nonetheless. I would like to raise a toast to princess Rowena!”

The room murmured this, raising their goblets and drinking heavily from them. As the king seated himself again everyone took this as a cue to start eating the marvellous feast that lay before them. Even Godric, who obviously had things other than food on his mind, couldn’t help but appreciate the delicious aroma. He tucked in like everyone else but certainly didn’t eat as much.

All he found himself doing was staring at the princess. She was even more breathtakingly beautiful than he remembered but he soon realised that some of this beauty had been stolen. It seemed that she’d been down-trodden for so long that her spirit had been crushed. She barely spoke to anyone as she ate her food, as though her father had insisted it was better for her to be seen and not heard. This enraged Godric and he honestly didn’t know what was stopping him from rescuing her at this very moment.

The moment the feast was over the king announced that the dancing should begin and a group of men in smart tunics began to play cheery music upon various string instruments. Godric had an idea of how he could speak to Rowena - he’d dance with her. The only problem was that, whilst most of the other guests were already dancing, Rowena remained seated next to her father. He had a feeling that the king would not appreciate him asking her to dance.

His mind was changed somewhat when Rowena was beckoned to the dance floor by an elderly gentleman and the king didn’t seem to mind this. As they started to move gracefully about the room Godric got to his feet and watched their progress through the crowds. After a short while the man bid Rowena farewell and she moved to the edge of the hall, obviously not too keen on returning to her father’s side. Godric saw his opportunity and was not foolish enough to let it pass. He weaved his way towards her and paused, coming to stand right behind her. He admired her for a moment, unable to believe that he was this close to the one he loved.

“May I request a dance with the princess?” He asked, leaning forwards and speaking quietly in her ear. He was smart enough to maintain Salazar’s accent; he didn’t want anyone to get suspicious.

She turned around in shock and stared at him, as though trying to guess who he was. Godric’s heart fluttered as she met his eyes but she didn’t seem to know his true identity.

“Of course,” she replied, holding out a delicate hand.

Godric took it, feeling his entire body tingling nervously. His heart began to race as they stood close, beginning to glide about the room like the other couples. As he looked down at her, words failed him. He had no idea how he could tell her what he wanted to.

“You look familiar,” Rowena commented, staring deep into his eyes. “Do I know you?”

“I hope so,” he breathed.

She frowned at this, looking rather confused.

“I feel as though I do. Do I know your family, perhaps?” She asked.

“No,” he replied. “All of my family are deceased.”

“Oh…I’m terribly sorry.”

Godric felt uncomfortable speaking to her like this. He desperately wanted her to know his true identity. He was tempted to whip his mask right off but even then he wasn’t entirely sure she’d recognise him.

“Will you take a walk with me?” Godric found himself asking. “Outside?”

She considered him for a moment, obviously not too keen on wandering off with complete strangers. She seemed to trust him immediately, though, and nodded, letting him lead the way out of the great hall. Godric was just pleased it was this crowded, otherwise the king may have spotted them.

“No, this way,” Rowena insisted, when Godric was about to walk out of the front doors.

She led him to the back of the castle and through a small side door so that they were on a balcony, overlooking rolling hills and the remnants of the city, which mainly lay on the other side of the castle.

“It’s better out here,” Rowena said quietly, looking out into the gathering darkness. “You can think without too much interruption.” Godric didn’t know what to say in reply to this so decided to remain silent. “Who are you?”

Godric turned to stare meaningfully at her.

“I was hoping you could tell me,” he murmured.

“That’s ridiculous,” she said, looking puzzled. “I’ve never even met you!”

“You have!” He burst out, before he could stop himself. “Do you not recognise me?”

“No. I would not ask your name if I knew who you were.”

“Perhaps I look different because you have not seen me for some time.”

“I suggest you stop talking in riddles, Sir,” she snapped, becoming annoyed.

“It’s me, Rowena,” he said, reverting back to his Scottish accent. If she didn’t realise now she never would.

Her eyes widened and she froze in shock. She hastily looked him up and down and then began to back away slightly. She looked rather terrified of him.

“No…” She breathed. “It can’t be…”

“You know who I am then?” He prompted.

“He is dead…you are not…you can’t be,” she stammered, shaking her head violently. “You’re lying to me!”

“No, I would never do that. It’s me. It’s Godric,” he smiled, reaching out to clasp her hand. She tried to pull away but he hung on, lifting his mask to reveal his face.

She froze once more, staring intently. It was quite obvious that she recognised him but she certainly didn’t want to believe it was Godric Gryffindor standing before her.

“The fire…”

“I escaped it…and Helga,” he explained, placing the mask back over his eyes.

“You let me believe you were dead for all that time?” She squeaked, her eyes shining. “I mourned for you. It broke my heart!”

“I couldn’t contact you. It was too dangerous,” he insisted.

She was now determinedly avoiding his eyes, staring around her in confusion. She looked like she didn’t want to accept this cruel truth.

“But why are you here now?” She asked, her voice shaking.

“To tell you that I love you.”

She looked up at him and he was rather surprised to see anger behind those glistening eyes.

“Then I suppose your work is done,” she murmured, turning to leave.

“No, wait!” He said quickly, grabbing her wrist and pulling her back. “I’m saving you from a man you hate…a marriage you’ll despise!”

“Don’t you dare!” She spat, looking enraged. “You know nothing about me. I don’t want or need rescuing. I love Edmund!”

“I don’t believe you,” he said calmly, shaking his head.

“Then don’t! But I shall be married tomorrow!”

“But it is not what you want - I know you!”

“You do not!” She shouted, wrenching her hand from his grasp. “Our lives are different. They were never meant to collide. You are and always will be a stable boy. I’ll always be a Princess. I’ll soon be a queen. You have nothing I want!”

This comment hurt Godric far more than he was able to express but he was not about to give up yet. He would not let his love walk away without a fight.

“If you want me to leave then I will,” he said sadly. “But first you must look me in the eye and tell me you do not love me!”

They stared at each other for what felt like an age. Rowena then took a step forwards, her expression cold and stony.

“I do not love you,” she said monotonously.

Godric’s heart sank so fast that it made him feel sick. All his hopes had rested upon Rowena. He loved her more than life itself and now she had turned him down. She loved Edmund over him. He tried to keep his expression free of pain and anguish.

“Than I will stay true to my word,” he muttered, now unable to look at her. “I will leave. I wish you all the best, Rowena.”

He walked slowly back into the castle to make his way down into the city and, as Rowena watched him go, a glistening tear ran down her cheek.


Chapter 29: A Narrow Escape
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Godric had trudged all the way back to the inn, his body numb with disbelief. He felt as though what had just happened had been a dream of some kind. A nightmare, in his opinion. As he strolled down the darkened street Helga came into view. She was sitting upon the front porch, staring eagerly out into the darkness.

“Godric!” She called, waving erratically to him. She soon stopped when she saw the look on his face, though. “What is it?”

He couldn’t bring himself to tell her. It seemed that his voice wouldn’t work after the shock he’d received. He couldn’t bear to see the knowing looks upon everyone else’s faces should he go inside and so walked straight past.

“Godric, wait! Godric, please!” She cried, finally catching up to him. He had no choice but to come to a stop when she stood before him, blocking his way forwards. “Listen -



“I don’t need your words of wisdom right now, Helga!” He snapped, wanting nothing more that to be alone so that he could gather his thoughts.

“I’m not trying to be wise!”

“She said she doesn’t love me!” He burst out, the sound of saying this out loud causing his heart to crumble. “Just like you knew she would!”

“I didn’t!” She assured him, looking at him in a pitying manner. “She’s lying,” she breathed, after a long silence. “She does love you.”

“No, she doesn’t! She told me herself. I was a fool to think she wouldn’t have moved on. Maybe I am just too much like a child. I should move on too!” It killed him to say these words, having expected them to make him feel better.

“Has it never occurred to you that she only said that to protect you?” Helga snapped, becoming annoyed with him. “I know Rowena. She wouldn’t want you to get into trouble with her father. She would want to know you’re safe.”

“No, she wouldn’t. She hates me now. I’ll bet she despises me for even venturing here!”

Helga stared at him angrily, as though he was being depressive on purpose.

“You’re so stubborn, Godric!” She yelled, poking him hard in the chest. “When will you realise that things are never just one-sided!”

With that she marched off into the darkness, back to the inn. Godric was left to stare after her in utter shock. After a while, though, he considered what she’d said and it certainly gave him food for thought.

*

The next morning Rowena awoke to a great amount of cheery sunlight that didn’t quite reach into her own soul. She felt so terrible after what she’d said to Godric. He’d probably been one of the last true friends she had and now he’d gone. All that was left was the dreadful thought of spending the rest of her life with a man she hated, a man who she doubted truly loved her.

She lay awake for many sleepless hours before the sun had brightened and she could hear the servants bustling about the castle. She knew her father must have them working extremely hard so that her wedding went without any problems - God forbid if the chance to get Rowena married off passed the king by.

“Morning, my daughter!” Her mother trilled when she entered the room a while later, one of the servants bringing in a tray of food for breakfast. “Be sure to eat something. We can’t have you married on an empty stomach, can we?”

“I’m not very hungry,” she insisted.

“All the preparations have been made,” she said excitedly, not really listening to her. “Harriet will arrive shortly to deal with your hair. Have you combed it today?” She asked, casting a sceptical eye over it.

“Yes, mother!”

“Oh…just nerves,” she smiled, noticing the warning tone within her voice. “There really is nothing to be worried about, my dear! You’re marrying a wonderful man. You’re lucky to have him.”

“So everyone keeps telling me,” she said in an undertone.

*

When Godric awoke a few hours later his head felt like something with many legs had been scuttling around inside, leaving his mind exhausted…and yet, he could think clearly.

“The coach will be here shortly,” Robin informed him, who was helping Salazar take the luggage downstairs.

Godric nodded in understanding but didn’t speak, for fear that his head would lose track of its thoughts. He knew that when Helga had spoken to him last night she’d had a fair point. Perhaps Rowena only denied loving him because she was trying to keep him from harm. Knowing that she could still love him in some way made him panic. He’d missed his one chance to get her out of that castle and he doubted he’d be able to get back in now. How could he have been so stupid!

He leapt to his feet and rushed from the room, almost tumbling down the stairs as he made his way through the Inn. Once outside he squinted against the sunlight, trying to work out how much time he had left until his princess was gone forever.

“Oh, good, you’re here,” Salazar said, looking relieved. “Helga told me what happened. I’m so very sorry, Godric.”

“It’s not over yet,” he replied distractedly, staring feverishly up and down the street. “I’m guessing the castle will be well-guarded today?”

“Well…” Salazar said slowly, failing to disguise his look of worry. “Yes.”

“Right,” he murmured, his brow creased in concentration.

“Godric, what are you planning?” Salazar demanded knowingly. “Look here, you can’t - ”

“If there’s a chance she still loves me then I’m willing to take a risk,” he interrupted, turning to face Robin. “You’ve outsmarted the king’s guards before. You’re going to help me do it again.”

“Excuse me?” Robin yelped, looking shocked. “Oh no. My days of trespass and treachery are well and truly behind me. I cannot, I’m sorry!”

“Then that is a good disguise my good Sir, for I was mistaking you for the legend of Robin Hood!” Godric retorted, his eyebrows raised.

He looked away, unable to think of a suitable reply.

“Godric, what you are planning is foolish and I doubt you even have a decent plan at all!” He exclaimed, staring at him questioningly.

“The best ideas always arrive in the heat of the moment,” he shrugged, beginning to stroll down the street.

“Godric, wait. You cannot go there alone, it would be like suicide!” Robin called.

“If help will not come then I’ll have to do it alone. Thank you for all your help, Robin!” he waved, continuing to walk away.

Helga stared exasperatedly at the others and then glanced anxiously in Godric’s direction.

“I’m starting to think he likes being in such danger!” She grumbled, hurrying after him.

Godric strolled on determinedly through the crowds near the front of the castle. It was probably a good job he still wore his garments from the night before otherwise he wouldn’t have blended so well with all the grand guests that were obviously making their way to the wedding. Godric’s heart began to race, wondering how much time he had left. He jumped as he felt a strong hand clap him upon the shoulder.

“I wouldn’t take on the main entrance if I were you!”

He turned around and was relieved beyond words to see Salazar close behind, Helga standing alongside him.

“Then what would you suggest?” He asked, smiling gratefully.

“This way,” he muttered, leading them to the edge of the crowd and then behind a series of shrubs at the top of the hill that overlooked the city. “There is a small side entrance just around here. It’s usually - oh…”

His face fell as it came into view. There were two guards standing watch that would quite obviously raise the alarm even if Salazar himself tried to gain access to the castle.

“Now what?” Godric hissed, becoming rather anxious.

“Look!” Helga said, pointing to a pair of thick trees on the other side of the entrance. Robin and John were standing in their shadows, waving to catch their attention. Once the guards had turned their backs to pace the corridor just inside the doorway Godric, Salazar and Helga took their chance, hastily dashing across to the others.

“I thought you weren’t going to help?” Helga said, staring at Robin in surprise.

“Well, it’s almost impossible for me to pass up an opportunity to annoy the king!”

“Thank you,” Godric smiled. “But how do we get in now?”

“Follow us,” John winked, leading them behind another cluster of shrubs that grew close to the castle wall. Once they’d battered their way through the thorns and spiky leaves John revealed a trapdoor underfoot. “It leads down to the old cellar,” he explained quickly. “It should be pretty deserted but watch yourselves once you get into the main castle, there’ll be guards everywhere. We’ll try and stay in the lower levels just in case you need assistance.”

“Are you sure?” Godric asked; he knew it would cost Robin a great deal to return.

“Yes. Now hurry!” He insisted. “You have to find your princess before it is too late!”

Godric nodded and was the first to slide down the hatch, coming to land painfully upon a cold stone floor moments later. He steadily rose to his feet, glancing around the dark, low-ceilinged room he was now in. He slowly began to edge forwards, noticing a door not too far away. Helga and Salazar were close behind, followed by Robin and John.

“There’s an easier way up to the princess’s tower,” Robin explained quickly, before Godric made his way onwards. “It’s rather difficult to explain,” he grunted, frowning anxiously.

“Then show them!” John hissed. “You’re the only one of us that knows it well. You go with Godric, ensure he gets to his princess.”

“But I really think - ”

“Please, Robin,” Godric pleaded. “If you think it’ll help.”

“Very well,” he nodded.

“And where are you off to?” Godric demanded, as Helga made to follow them.

“I’m coming with you!”

“No, certainly not! It’s too dangerous!” Godric insisted.

“You always say that!”

“We don’t have time for this, Helga! Listen,” he said seriously, grabbing her by the shoulders. “Things may get a bit out of hand. I’ll need your wit and cunning to help John come up with an escape plan.” She stared awkwardly at him for a moment but then forced a smile. “Thank you.”

“Let’s go!” Robin insisted, leading the way.

Once they’d climbed a darkened stone staircase outside the cellar door they reached a bright, airy corridor. Godric knew there would be plenty more corridors like this. The thought made his heart race, as he knew they were much more likely to be caught now than they would be at night, whilst lurking in the shadows.

After just a few minutes they found themselves in the presence of far more guards than they’d anticipated. Whilst they stood crouched behind a wall where they knew they couldn’t be spotted, many different ideas were running through their minds.

“Are you superstitious?” Salazar asked Robin suddenly.

“What? Er…no,” he replied, looking rather bewildered.

Salazar peered around the corner of the wall, his pale eyes narrowed. He then flung out his hand, in the fashion of someone throwing a spider outdoors. Godric stared in confusion but soon realised that magic had just been used. It appeared to be some sort of deceptive sound spell because the guards rushed off in the other direction, leaving their way clear.

“Hurry…this way!” Robin insisted. It seemed he hadn’t noticed the use of magic within his presence.

They scrambled along the corridor to the right, trying and failing to keep the sound of their footsteps to a bare minimum. They climbed another staircase and were hastily forced to cross the corridor, hiding behind a tall suit of armour. Luckily the guards standing a short distance away hadn’t noticed their swift arrival, as they were too busy talking.

“Are there going to be guards on every floor?” Godric demanded.

“Probably,” Salazar hissed in reply.

“I know another way to the tower…if it hasn’t been bricked in,” Robin murmured, hurrying off along another of the corridors.

They soon arrived in a drawing room at the back of the castle but Godric didn’t quite see how this was much help. He stared in confusion as Robin fell to his knees and started to shuffle around in the fireplace.

“Got it!” He grunted, as the dull sound of shifting stone echoed around them, dust falling onto Robin’s head from the chimney breast above. “Grab that torch!” He told Salazar, before scrambling through the small gap he’d made in the brickwork.

Salazar did so and warily followed him. Godric did the same but after first glancing behind him to check that they hadn’t been spotted. Once behind the secret passage within the fireplace he pushed the brickwork closed behind them, hoping that they could find some alternative way out. They shuffled along the small stone passage and came to a very narrow set of spiralling stone steps.

“This will lead us almost straight to the tower,” Robin informed them.

“And how do you know about this place?” Godric asked, rather impressed.

“Some friends of mine were building over this old entrance for the king so I got them to do me a little favour.”

They had soon reached a dead end, which Robin had assured them was perfectly accessible. He bent down and pushed aside the bottom half of the wall, which let a sudden flood of bright light in, indicating that they’d reached an upper floor corridor. After poking his head out to check that the coast was clear, Robin scrambled through the gap in the wall with Godric and Salazar following close behind.

They had emerged into a long stone corridor with large windows down one wall and at the end lay a heavy wooden door. Godric’s heart swooped excitedly; he didn’t need to be told that they’d arrived at their destination. He actually had no idea how he was going to get Rowena out of the castle unnoticed but to see her again would be pure magic.

“There isn’t much time until the wedding begins,” Salazar said.

He suddenly froze, eyes wide. Godric did the same as he heard footsteps approaching and a very unwelcome voice - it was the king.

“Salazar, what are you doing?” Godric hissed, as he rushed in the King’s direction.

“I’ll keep him away from the tower room,” he replied, hurrying off around the corner and down the flight of stairs beyond.

Godric and Robin exchanged anxious glances, waiting with baited breath and listening intently.

“Salazar?” The king boomed, suspicion resounding in his voice. “What are you doing up here?”

“My apologies, your majesty,” he said quickly. “Rowena wished to speak with me before the ceremony. I have given her my words of encouragement, of course. She was a little nervous.”

“She has nothing to be nervous about!”

“That is what I said, Sir,” he assured him, in a very convincing tone. “But she did say that she wishes to see no one else.”

“I am her father!” He growled furiously.

Godric and Robin exchanged glances again, hoping that Salazar could get rid of him.

“She insisted that the next time she wished for you to see her was when she was on her way to becoming a wife,” he said quickly.

This seemed to be enough to convince the king, who just grunted thoughtfully.

“I see. Well, I suppose we'd better get downstairs, not long now!” He chuckled.

Salazar had no choice but to follow and once their footsteps had faded away Godric and Robin checked that the coast was clear.

“You have mere minutes,” Robin informed him, looking anxious. “You must hurry if we are to get out without being killed!”

“Calm yourself, it’ll all be in hand,” he assured him, also hoping that these words would convince himself.

“I shall be out here,” he said. “Don’t be long!”

Godric took heed to this and, feeling his heart racing, he dashed into Rowena’s tower room. He knew that the rate of his heart had nothing to do with the prospect of the guards catching him, though. Light was flooding into the circular room, causing little trinkets and objects to glisten serenely. He breathed in a flowery scent and jumped when he spotted movement behind a tall screen near the wall.

“I shall be ready shortly, Elizabeth.”

His heart melted at the sound of that soft voice. Even though he’d only seen her the night before it felt more like a lifetime ago. He did not speak, slowly approaching the screen. She was obviously making sure that all her attire for the wedding was in order. Godric knew that, whatever she wore, she’d look stunningly beautiful.

“Alright. I’m ready to go,” she said.

Godric stared in amazement as she shuffled out from behind the screen, the bright white gown trailing along behind her. A lace veil was covering her face but her beauty still managed to shine through. The moment she looked up with those deep blue eyes, she froze, sure that she was seeing things.

“Godric?” She managed to utter. “How did you…why…what are you doing here?”

“I’ve come to get you,” he found himself saying.

“Oh…” she moaned, a look of despair upon her face as she sidled past, beginning to pace nervously around the room. “We went through this last night. I told you everything. I do not - ”

“Don’t say you don’t love me!” He snapped, marching over and looking her meaningfully in the eyes. “Because I know that is a lie!”

“Godric - ”

“No! I know you only sent me away to protect me but I can protect myself. I can protect you too, for that matter. It’s a good thing Helga is wise to your behaviour!”

“Curse her for knowing me so well!”

“I would have left if she didn’t. I was going to walk away from you, from my one true love. Then I realised that I could not subject you to such a life. I know this is not what you want, Rowena!” He said, gripping her hands tightly.

“I can’t deny it!” She gasped, her eyes filling up with tears. “I’m sorry!”

“Don’t be sorry. You make a beautiful bride,” he breathed, leaning close to her. “But not his bride.” She nodded slowly, unable to look at him. “I will not let you throw away the person you truly are!”

“Godric, I love you dearly but what choice do I have?”

“You have the choice of becoming a true witch!”

“Shhh!” She hissed fearfully. “Keep your voice down!”

“You cannot suppress your powers. You really think you can keep them hidden for the rest of your life?” She stared up at him nervously, knowing that he had a good point. “Come with me now!”

“What?” She demanded, as though he was a mad man.

“We don’t have long. If you truly love me then we have to leave right now!”

“But…I can’t!” She choked. “I’m to be married in mere minutes. What will happen if I don’t turn up?”

“I don't care!” He cried, half laughing. “And neither should you. Start thinking about yourself for a change. Will you come with me, Rowena?” He asked seriously, holding out a hand.

She slowly reached out to him, a smile creeping across her face. This expression soon disintegrated and panic overtook them when the sound of quick footsteps echoed just outside the door. Godric leapt behind the screen, crouching down so that he couldn’t be seen. He managed this just in time as, moments later, one of the servants burst into the room.

“They’re waiting, Miss,” she said impatiently. “They were worried you'd ran off!”

“Of course not!” Rowena exclaimed, forcing a laugh.

Godric watched in horror as Rowena could do nothing but follow this servant from the room. She glanced back, a fearful expression upon her face. It was now solely up to Godric to save her. How he was going to stop a wedding, he didn’t know, especially one that would result in his death if he succeeded. With his mind racing, he hurried from the room, rather worried to see that Robin was no longer in the corridor outside.

He dashed along after the sound of Rowena’s hurried footsteps, trying to think of a way to get her out unnoticed.

“Godric!” He leapt in shock as he was suddenly dragged behind a suit of armour. Robin was staring angrily at him. “I told you to be quick!” He hissed.

“I’m sorry!”

“You have no idea how impossible it’ll be to escape now, especially with Rowena!”

“Well, I’m not leaving her!” He said defiantly.

“I had a feeling you’d say that! Come on, I think there’s another way to the ceremony.”

Godric didn’t hesitate to follow. They scurried through darkened corridors, fortunately not coming across any guards. They then found themselves overlooking the wedding below. Many individuals of grand upbringing were seated, looking rather disgruntled by the fact that the bride was keeping them waiting.

“So…do you have a plan?” Robin murmured, eyes scanning the room for some inspiration.

“I was hoping you would.”

“I did my part - I got you in!”

Godric’s heart suddenly leapt into his throat as the sound of two heavy doors being swung open echoed around the room. Loud organ music then followed this. As Rowena drifted gracefully up the aisle towards a smug-faced Edmund the impending doom loomed far closer. Godric knew he had to think fast.

“Robin? That rope will take my weight, won’t it?” He asked hopefully.

He was referring to a thick length tethered to the banister they were overlooking. It led from the rafters high above the place where Rowena and Edmund were about to make their commitments.

“I believe so,” he replied warily. “You’re not actually thinking of - oh no!”

Before he could say much more Godric had taken a strong grasp upon the rope and leapt from the banister. For a split second no one seemed to notice but then the guests screeched in shock. The king immediately rose, unable to do anything but stare.

“Rowena!” Godric cried, reaching out ready to grab her.

She was ready and took a large step from Edmund’s side, who was wearing a look of disgust. Godric tightened his grip and slammed into Rowena, just about managing to cling onto her. It was now that the uproar began and Godric knew he had to swing back up to the floor above before he could be caught.

“Unhand her!” Edmund demanded. “She is mine!”

“My daughter!” The king roared, easily managing to drown out everyone else. “She is being kidnapped! GUARDS!”

With a great effort on Godric’s part, he managed to swing back up to the banister, where Robin was waiting to help Rowena. Godric was forced to let go, however, whilst Rowena was pulled to safety. His heart skipped a beat when he noticed the king’s guards skidding into the room.

“Not in here, you fools!” The King yelled, causing his face to glow bright red. “UP THERE!” He pointed a fat finger in Godric’s direction just as he managed to make his way back over the banister, hastily engaging in a tight embrace with Rowena, who now had tears streaming down her face.

“I hate to interrupt!” Robin said quickly. “But we’ll soon have company. If you don’t mind, I’d very much like to take the lead in getting us out of here?”

“By all means!” Godric insisted.

He grabbed Rowena’s hand tightly and they then raced along the corridors after Robin who, thankfully, seemed to know a good escape route…or so it seemed. Godric was quite shocked when they came to a stop in front of a window.

“You cannot be serious?” He demanded, trying to ignore the sounds of the guards gaining on them.

“It’s either this or fight your way back through that castle!” He pointed out, eyebrows raised.

“There’s no other way!” Rowena said nervously, glancing behind them. “But it does look like an awfully long way down!”

“You’ll be fine!” Robin insisted, readying his bow. He then leant out of the window and whistled loudly. From out of the undergrowth to the right came Alan, speeding along on a dark chestnut horse. “GO!”

“What about you?” Godric demanded, after helping Rowena to climb onto the window legde. He could see that Robin had his arrows at the ready, obviously prepared for a fight.

“It’s nothing I haven’t handled before!” He winked. “Hurry or you’ll never get away!”

Godric nodded in understanding and, grasping tightly to Rowena’s hand, they both leapt from the window, coming to land painfully upon the grass verge below, rolling down the embankment.


Chapter 30: Discovered
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Neither Godric or Rowena really had time to consider the current situation or the fact that their new friend was risking his life inside that castle all for the sake of their love. They hastily leapt onto the horse as Alan came to a stop. It couldn’t take the weight of all of them so he leapt down.

“Five miles or so from here there’s an abandoned old farm surrounded by a forest. Go north and you’ll find it.”

“What about Helga?” Godric demanded, looking horrified. He hated the thought of being responsible for her death.

“She’ll be fine!” Alan insisted. “John will get her out. You must hurry, the guards are coming!”

With a flutter of the heart and an uncomfortable churning of his gut, Godric spotted them racing towards them from the other side of the castle. He nodded in understanding to Alan, hoping that his words would ring true, and then kicked the horse into action, which immediately started to gallop down towards the city. Rowena clung on tightly, deciding to keep her eyes closed. She could hear unfamiliar sounds all around her, dreading that they may be her father’s men.

Once they’d thundered their way down to the main part of the city, the horse’s hooves echoing loudly against the cobbles, Godric realised that the panic wasn’t over yet. The guards had taken a short cut and had gained on them quite considerably. The peasants that were milling about in the streets weren’t helping matters either. Godric was forced to dodge around them, coming close to bowling a few over a number of times. As he steered the horse away from danger he could hear Rowena making noises of worry right behind him, which only spurred him on.

“Stop him!” He heard one of the guards roaring at the peasants.

None of them really seemed eager to help, which relieved Godric somewhat. His heart skipped a beat when he spotted a high fence, beyond which lay rolling bands of countryside. He knew that, if he could jump it, they’d be on their way to freedom. If the horse faltered, however, they’d be captured within seconds. Rowena seemed to know what he was thinking because she clung on more forcefully. She obviously wasn’t keen on the idea.

“Godric…” She pleaded.

He made his choice, knowing that they would soon be caught anyway if they took the long way around. He urged the horse to go faster, which obliged immediately. As they hurtled towards the fence Godric bend low against the horse’s neck, preparing for the jump. Rowena squeaked nervously and he could tell she had her eyes tightly shut. At the last second, just when he found himself doubting the horse, he was thrilled when it quite easily cleared the fence. It landed a little haphazardly once on the other side but maintained its footing, soon gaining its speed again.

“Are they still following us?” Godric called.

Rowena nervously turned her head around and was relieved to see that all of their horses had skidded to a halt behind the fence. The men were shouting in annoyance and waving their fists. This relief didn’t last long, however, as another of the guards shot out of nowhere, his horse clearing the fence easily.

“There’s another still giving chase. He’s coming up fast!” She warned, clinging tightly onto Godric again.

Godric urged the horse on, which was already struggling with the speed, but could hear the last guard thundering towards them. The hooves pounded along the soft ground and, judging by the noises Rowena was making, he was almost upon them.

“Godric!”

“I can’t go any faster!”

Rowena could see the guard’s nasty eyes behind his helmet and felt white hot anger course through her body. She had come this far, she’d escaped her father’s clutches, she was going to be with the man she loved…she wasn’t about to let one stupid guard take all that away from her. She knew full well that what she was about to do was incredibly risky but didn’t see any other option.

She thought back to all the spells she’d read about in her books and felt the adrenaline run through her at the prospect of putting one of them into practice. Concentrating hard, she shot a bright bolt of light towards the guard. In the split second that preceded the impact she saw his eyes widen in shock within the helmet. She knew her aim was good as he was knocked clean off his steed, crumpling to the ground. After a few moments he looked up, rather dazed, but knew he’d never catch the princess now.

“You did it!” Godric cried, laughing with relief.

She smiled and leant in close to him, breathing in the smell of his cloak. Now they were free.

*

After what felt like an age they managed to reach the deserted farm Alan had told them about. It was rather sinister the way it unexpectedly loomed from between the trees, even in daylight. It was in a bad state with many of the outbuildings barely still in tact. It would do, though; anything was better than being anywhere near the king.

“To be amongst the trees!” Rowena beamed, once they’d tethered up the horse and settled down to wait for the others.

“When was the last time you were outside?” Godric asked, smiling serenely at her.

“I can’t even remember,” she sighed. “Tragic, isn’t it?” Her face fell as her thoughts caught up with her.

“What’s wrong?” Godric asked, worried she might be having second thoughts about running away.

“I just…I hate to think what might have happened if you hadn’t come for me. What made you come back? I was so horrid before.”

“I came back because I love you. I knew I’d eternally regret leaving you to a life with that prince and so I had to take a chance.”

“I’m glad you did!”

He was pleased to hear this and kissed her. To hold her close like this, miles from anyone, was what he’d always wanted. He felt all the worries and problems they’d have to face drift away, for this moment - their moment - was perfect.

“Where will we live?” She asked quietly.

“In Scotland, I expect. For a while now I’ve been staying in a village called Hogsmeade. You’ll love it. It’s full of people like us…people of magic!”

“It sounds wonderful!” She smiled. “My magic!” She gasped suddenly. “I revealed it to the guard that followed us. He will tell my father!”

“It’s okay,” Godric assured her. “He won’t find you. Tomorrow we’ll be far from here.”

She nodded, calming somewhat as he held her close.

“What’s that noise?” She asked warily.

Godric’s hearing sharpened as he heard a rustling a short distance from them. He instinctively grabbed the handle of his sword. The sound of hooves grew louder but he relaxed somewhat as they drew nearer.

“Robin, you escaped!” He exclaimed, when his exhausted form came into view.

“You sound surprised, my friend!”

He was in a bad way, with many cuts and bruises, but there seemed to be no serious damage. Alan seemed to have got caught up in some form of scuffle as he had a black eye and a bleeding lip. John, who Godric guessed no one would be foolish enough to fight, was unharmed.

“But where’s - Helga!” He beamed, as she stepped out from behind John’s giant form. “Are you okay?” He asked, hoping that his embrace would signify how grateful he was that she’d helped him.

“I’m fine,” she insisted.

“It’s so good to see you,” Rowena said, also rushing forwards to hug her.

“You too…and outside that castle for once!”

“But…” Godric said slowly, his heart chilling with dread. “Where’s Salazar? He wasn’t captured?”

“How dare you suggest such a thing!”

This voice sounded from the band of trees that the others had just materialised from, along with the sound of a horse’s hooves. Godric beamed with relief when he saw the pale face of his good friend glowing in the moonlight.

“I apologise!” He laughed.

“Well, apology accepted. It was a rather close call if I’m honest but I got away!”

“If I may suggest that we retire to the old barn,” Robin put in. “We are still within the London and danger lies everywhere.”

“Of course,” Salazar nodded, leading the way.

They all nestled within the shadows, trying to make themselves comfortable for the night. This was easier said than done, as every sound beyond the barn walls sounded like hooves or a knight dismounting his horse.

*

Back at the castle all was silent. All the guests had long since been sent home. The king and queen were mortified by what had happened and it seemed that, due to this terrible occurrence, ties between England and France would forever be severed. Edmund had been furious and, although the king was a proud man, he felt shame beyond anything at his own daughter.

For most of the evening he’d locked himself up in his private tower room, commanding that he wasn’t disturbed. He was, in actual fact, mulling over his own thoughts and feelings. A part of him wanted to find Rowena and reason with her but another part of him wanted her dead…his own daughter. It was a cruel thing to think but quite rational in his opinion, after everything she’d done!

A few floors below the very guard that had witnessed Rowena’s hidden traits was storming his way up to the king. He had to let him know what his daughter truly was. This would mean that she’d be hunted down and burnt at the stake, as was the correct method for dealing with those who practiced witchcraft. It was probably a very lucky thing that Benedick Greyson happened to be heading in this guard’s direction.

“Sorry Sir!” The guard said quickly, after almost walking into him.

“And where are you off to?” He demanded.

“I must see the king!”

“At this hour? Quite out of the question!”

“But it’s important!” He insisted. “It’s about the princess,” he explained, lowering his voice to barely more than a hiss.

“Well, I’m sure whatever it is can wait until morning!”

“This can’t, Sir,” he said seriously, throwing him a meaningful stare. Benedick was intrigued by this. Even by the dim, flickering quality of the torches on the walls he could tell it was an urgent piece of information.

“Then tell me. I shall deliver the message to the king in the morning.”

The guard looked rather uncomfortable at this prospect. It was quite obvious that he wanted to deliver the information personally, probably so that he could feel important.

“Come on, man, spit it out!” He snapped, making him flinch.

“The princess…she…she’s…” He took a deep breath, as though this caused him great effort. “I saw it with my own eyes, Sir.”

“What did you see?” Benedick demanded impatiently.

“She has magic,” he breathed, his eyes wide with fear. “She used her evil powers upon me. She’s a witch!”

“Are you certain?” He asked calmly, looking rather surprised at this news.

“Yes! So you see, Sir, it’s vital that I let the king know!”

“Oh, no you don’t!” He said quickly, grabbing his arm before he made to run up the stairwell that led to the king’s room.

“But, Sir - ”

“You think the king needs to hear something like that after the day he’s had?” He demanded. “Think about it, you fool!”

“But he must know!”

“Yes, he will,” he retorted, becoming rather annoyed. “But I will be the one to tell him, not some foolish guard!”

He looked rather put out by this, obviously wanting to deliver the news himself.

“Yes, Sir,” he muttered, rather begrudgingly. “What do you think he’ll make of it?”

“Well,” he said slowly, raising his eyebrows. “I feel it will break his heart. He does not deserve another disappointment like this. Our poor ruler…”

“Of course,” the guard said quietly, looking thoughtful. “Then maybe it’s better if he doesn’t know at all?”

“I think that would be best,” he nodded. “But he has his ways of finding things out so you must never speak of this again, do you understand?”

“Yes Sir,” he stammered.

“Good. Off you go then!” He commanded, when the guard remained, looking rather baffled. Once he’d scuttled out of sight, leaving Benedick alone in the corridor, he glanced up into the darkness of the stairwell. “Not to worry, your majesty…”

*

The next day dawned slowly, the sun beginning to illuminate all the trees surrounding the farm, making them look like sinister, withered hands. It was safe to say that everyone awoke early, not keen on remaining so close to London for long.

“What will you do, Salazar?” Rowena asked, as everyone busied themselves with the loading up of the horses. “Return to your uncle’s home?”

“Eventually,” he replied. “For now I should like to see that my friends are settled in safely.”

She smiled in response to this. He was a true friend to do so.

“Well,” Robin said seriously. “You have a long journey ahead of you. We will escort you some of the way,” he smiled, indicating John and Alan.

“That’s very kind of you,” Helga smiled, blushing slightly.

“Who’s that?” Godric demanded suddenly. His heart jumped into his throat when he spotted a horse galloping their way through the trees.

“Hold your fire!” Salazar said quickly, as Robin loaded his bow and Godric readied his sword. “It’s just Benedick.”

“The man who works for the king?” Helga demanded, looking horrified. “How did he know where to look for us?”

“I told him where we’d be.”

“You did what?” Godric snarled, rounding on him.

“No need to worry,” he insisted. “If he’d come to capture us he would have brought the king’s men. He can be trusted, I assure you!”

Godric exchanged a dark look with Robin, both of them looking rather doubtful.

“Salazar!” Benedick called buoyantly.

“Hello, Benedick,” he replied. “Any news from the castle?”

“I’m afraid so,” he nodded. They could tell by his tone that it wasn’t good news. “I’m afraid you’ve been caught out, miss,” he said seriously, pointing to Rowena. Her face became paler than it already was and she looked rather guilty. “One of the guards knows you’re a witch.”

“And my father?” She asked urgently.

“I have managed to keep such information from him thus far. However,” he added, just when she sighed with relief. “He may still find out. I’m sure you’re aware what this would mean?” She nodded sadly. “I suggest you reside far from here. You have somewhere safe in mind?”

“A village in Scotland,” Godric replied.

“Good,” he smiled. “It should be good for all of you there. I trust there’s room for even Salazar?”

“Me?” He barked, looking rather shocked.

“Of course,” he said silkily.

“But what of my duties as Lord of Southern England?” He demanded. “I cannot just leave!”

“I’m afraid that is the only option,” he insisted, the sadness he expressed not quite reaching his eyes. “Until things calm down, you understand?”

“Won’t it look rather suspicious if I were to just vanish?”

“Not at all!”

“But what of my duties. Who will - ?”

“Need you look any further?” He asked calmly, opening his arms wide. “I will be more than happy to ensure that all your affairs are kept in check. I will merely tell the king you needed a little time for rest.”

“You’re sure?” Salazar asked awkwardly.

“Of course! That’s what I’m for. Besides, you must ensure that your friends and the princess are in safe hands. Young Rowena has suffered for too long.”

“Thank you, Benedick,” Rowena smiled, obviously bowled over by his generosity. Godric and Robin, however, were still rather sceptical towards him, not too hasty to trust him just yet.

“I will keep you informed,” Benedick said to Salazar, mounting his horse once more. “As for you,” he said coldly, staring superiorly down at Robin and his men. “I suggest you keep your heads low. There is little I can do to protect outlaws.”

“We wouldn’t want the protection of someone like you anyhow,” John replied nastily.

“A good job then,” he sneered. “Good day to you!”

They all watched him ride off into the trees once more. Godric wasn’t sure that he trusted this man. At least no one had been foolish enough to reveal where in Scotland Hogsmeade was.

*

“This is where we must leave you, friends!” Robin announced.

Later that afternoon, when the sun was hanging low in the sky and causing an amber glow to illuminate everything, the congregation reached a fork in the road. Robin and his men now had to return to Sherwood forest.

“Robin, I can’t express how grateful I am for everything you’ve done,” Godric insisted. “I am forever in your debt.”

“No, my friend, I am forever in yours. You, all of you, showed me the good points in adventure. I shall never stand down for what I believe in again. Besides, I’d do anything to help the course of true love run smoothly.” He smiled fondly around at them all. “I wish you all the best in your futures, whatever they may bring.”

“You can come and see us in Scotland whenever you like,” Helga said quickly.

“And don’t think I won’t,” he grinned, his beaming smile causing her to blush. “For now, however, we must bid you farewell. I expect we’ll meet again…some day…”

And with that he rode off into the surrounding trees, John and Alan following close behind. It seemed that Robin Hood was indeed a legend.


Chapter 31: Just A Thought
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The sun had slowly began to rise above the lochs and valleys in Scotland, causing everything to appear calm and untouched. Long, still shadows stretched their way across the ground but they were soon accompanied by a series of moving shadows. Two horses, laden with a small amount of possessions and two riders each, came strutting their way over the brow of a sweeping grassy hill that overlooked the quaint little village of Hogsmeade. To most people that came this far into the highlands it would always remain a secret, for it was impossible to find unless you knew its exact whereabouts.

The closer these four individuals got to the village, the more people began to stir. Farmers began tending to their crops, Mothers began their chores for the day, along with keeping their young children in sight at all times.

“This is it,” Godric announced, stopping the horse just before they entered the village.

“It’s wonderful,” Rowena smiled, staring calmly around her. “And you’re certain no one will find us here?”

“No. We’ll be perfectly safe, I promise.”

The look he gave her made her quite sure that he was speaking truthfully and, even if he wasn’t, she knew she couldn’t help but trust him.

As soon as they got so far into the village it was inevitable that someone would recognise Godric and Helga, stopping them to ask where they’d been.

“You’re back!” Came the squeaky voice of Polly, who beamed fondly up at Godric.

“Aye, that we are!” He grinned.

“Where have you been?”

“Just had to go and rescue me a princess,” he chuckled, turning to smile at Rowena.

When Polly noticed this meaningful look pass between them a peculiar expression played about her face.

“How have things been here then? You kept everything in order?” He laughed.

“I think so. Alexis has been a little worried about you both,” she explained, smiling at Helga. “But everything’s remained as dull as always.”

She was suddenly sent stumbling sideways as Meredith Gaunt came bustling forwards.

“Morning, Godric!” She purred. “Everyone’s missed you!”

“Oh…have they?” He mumbled, not wanting to engage in too much of a conversation with her.

“Of course!” She giggled. It was then that she noticed Rowena and her face took on a thunderous look. “And who’s this?” She asked, lacing her voice with false, sugary tones once more.

“Rowena,” he replied, smiling fondly at her again.

“Oh, I see,” she grunted, looking most annoyed. “You’re not quite what I’d imagine a princess to be,” she remarked, obviously knowing her true identity.

“That’s because I’m not the princess people think I am,” she retorted, causing Meredith to scowl.

She was obviously annoyed that Godric was in love with someone other than her but she then noticed Salazar, hastily turning her attention to him.

“And you are…?”

“Salazar Slytherin,” he replied, also looking rather put out by this young woman.

“Ooh, a lord, eh?” She giggled. “A pleasure to meet you!” She cooed, doing a flamboyant sort of curtsey that made her look quite ridiculous. Salazar smiled awkwardly, trying not to give too much eye contact.

“Alexis is eager to see you,” Polly informed them. Godric was grateful of this, as it gave them an excuse to leave Meredith.

Once they reached the quiet little cottage that Alexis resided in they found her to be working hard in the front garden. She squinted up at them as they approached, smiling in welcome.

“Nice to have you back,” she said. “You got your princess, I see!”

Alexis was quick to ask them all inside, where she’d prepared one of her delicious stews. Godric hastily told her all about his and Helga’s adventures and she seemed to take an immediate liking to Rowena. She was also very eager to know about Salazar too.

“And what will you do?” She asked him.

“Well, I…I thought I might find a place locally to stay for a few nights,” he replied.

“I wouldn’t go to the Hog’s Head. They have plenty of room, yes, but it’s not worth it with that dreadful Meredith girl hanging around like a bad smell!” They took a moment to laugh at this, obviously agreeing with Alexis’s view of her. “You’ll stay here, just as Rowena will. I appreciate that it may not be up to your usual standards of accommodation but still…”

“No, it’s wonderful here. I love this village,” Salazar said quickly. “But I wouldn’t want to impose.”

“Don’t be ridiculous! I take in all the strays!”

“Godric,” Rowena said quietly, once lunch was over and done with. “The castle, Lord Schreiver’s castle, I mean…well, it’s where we first met - I’d very much like to see it again.” Godric just smiled down at her and nodded.

That afternoon they strolled hand in hand to the edge of the village and into the castle’s vast grounds and it was bliss. To be able to do this without fear of the king’s guards coming after Godric made him feel as though he was walking on air. Everything seemed so perfect and even though he knew that dangers were lurking he couldn’t help but marvel at Rowena’s beauty, in the sunlight for once.

“I can hardly believe this is real,” Rowena smiled serenely, as they lay next to each other on the cool grass near the lake. “It’s like a dream…all my dreams come true!”

“Then why are you crying?” He chuckled, noticing the tears welling up in her eyes.

“Because I’m just so happy! I thought I’d be stuck there forever without the things I really wanted.”

“Don’t you miss all the luxury?” He asked awkwardly.

“Why would I? I want the things money can’t buy. Sometimes I thought they were impossible to obtain but you’ve proven me wrong!” She smiled and stared calmly around her, as though at peace. “Here I just feel that I can be myself. Although…” She muttered, looking saddened. “I suppose I don’t really know who I am.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I’ve been downtrodden for so long. I don’t know who I am. I was taught my father’s ways and nothing else.”

“I’ll tell you who you are,” he breathed. “You’re a beautiful, intelligent young woman! You can achieve anything you want, I know it!”

“I’m glad you think so!” She grinned. “I love you…for everything you’ve ever done for me!”

“Quite right too!” He remarked, with a mischievous grin that caused his eyes to twinkle. “What is it?” He asked, when he noticed her face fall again.

“I was just thinking…well, I’m so lucky to be here now, to have you…” She began. “But I can’t help wondering about all the others out there.”

“What others?”

“Those that are like us,” she replied.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I know all about by powers now. If I hadn’t have been helped and had never been told about them then who knows what could have happened! There’s a chance of people becoming dangerous if they don’t learn to control their powers, isn’t there?”

“I suppose,” he grunted, trying not to look too concerned.

“Then what are they to do?” She asked quietly, fixing him with a meaningful stare. “If they know about their powers then they forever have to hide them for fear of being murdered! Even those who don’t know are in danger, probably even more so!”

“I know.”

“It just seems such a shame,” she breathed, staring off into space. “They can hardly go round asking where their kind might be safe. They need somewhere like Hogsmeade.”

“Yes, they do,” Godric said sadly.

“Somewhere that they can be themselves without fear of being found out.”

“Somewhere that they can be taught how to use magic properly?” Godric suggested, his brow creased in concentration.

“Of course. A place where they can be taught how to use their magic safely and how to integrate with the outside world so that they won’t be found out.”

“A school…” Godric murmured, his mind reeling.

“Sorry?” She asked, staring intently up at him.

“A school, Rowena!” He beamed, grabbing her by the shoulders. “They need a school! If we can teach those that are like us whilst they’re still young then they’ll have a better chance!”

“They would,” she agreed, smiling in an equally excited way. “But what about those that are older? Those that may still not know what their powers mean?”

“Well,” she said, still thinking hard. “We’ll take them too!”

“But - ”

“There you are!”

They both jumped in mild surprise as Salazar called them from the other side of the expansive grassland. Helga was hurrying along behind him.

“Not interrupting anything, are we?” Helga asked, looking rather amused.

“Of course not,” Godric insisted, unable to contain his excitement. “We’re going to start a school for witches and wizards!”

They both exchanged glances, as though sure they’d misheard what he’d said.

“What?” Helga demanded.

“Well, it was Rowena’s idea, really,” he said quickly. “But I think it’s what we need. Our kind, I mean. Some don’t know how to use their powers properly, just as I did, and they shouldn’t have to live in fear.”

He stared expectantly at Salazar and Helga, who seemed to be mulling over the idea amongst themselves.

“Godric, I think it’s brilliant!” Helga exclaimed, beaming happily at him. “You’re right - it’s exactly what we need!”

“Salazar?” He urged, wanting his friend’s approval of such an idea.

“Yes, it’s an inspired idea!” He nodded. “I can hardly believe no one’s thought of this before!”

“I quite feel that someone has,” Rowena pointed out. “I expect they just haven’t been mad enough to do it!”

“But Godric is, aren’t you?” Helga giggled.

“Aye, that I am!” He agreed.

“And this school…” Salazar said slowly, looking rather confused about something. “It’s quite a risky idea. Where exactly do you plan on keeping these students of yours safely out of harms way whilst you teach them?”

“Well…” He began, feeling his heart sink. This had been the initial idea and working out all the kinks would prove somewhat of a challenge. Godric loved a challenge, though!

“Yes, we didn’t think of that,” Rowena mumbled, looking thoughtful.

Godric stared intently at the ground. Hogsmeade would obviously be the safest place for any witch or wizard but he doubted the residents would be too lenient towards a great hoard of strangers suddenly taking up refuge. He couldn’t think of any other place in the country he would trust or feel safe in as much as Hogsmeade. The factor of space also proved a problem. From what Godric had heard, there were many of their kind all over the country.

What they needed was somewhere safe with plenty of space. He thought intently as he stared at the shadows creeping their way across the grass. His brain suddenly clicked and, as his eye line followed a particularly huge shadow, his face broke into a triumphant grin.

“What?” Helga demanded, looking shocked by this.

“The castle!” He laughed, as though unable to believe he hadn’t considered it before. “It’s perfect!”

“Lord Schreiver’s castle?” Rowena asked, staring up at it in consideration.

“Aye!”

“And how do you plan on obtaining it?” Salazar asked.

“Well, no one’s lived there for years. I don’t think anyone even owns it. It could be ours for the taking! Lord Schreiver wouldn’t mind if he was still here.”

“But, Godric,” Helga reasoned, looking a little doubtful. “It’s in disrepair. I don’t think it’d be very safe!”

“Then we’ll fix it!” He insisted, not ready to back down yet; he’d find a way. “I have riches now. I’ve been waiting for the perfect time to use them.”

Rowena was smiling proudly at him, obviously respecting his decision. Salazar was looking mildly impressed and Helga was beaming with excitement.

“Though, there is one slight problem,” Salazar began to say, his face downcast once more. “Who will teach these students?”

Godric’s face fell again. There seemed far more obstacles than he’d first realised. Though, there was also a perfectly simple solution staring him right in the face.

“We shall teach them!”

“What?” Rowena demanded, looking rather shocked by this.

“We’re perfectly capable. Think about it!” He insisted, his smile back in place. “We’ve all learnt magic from the best. A little more training ourselves and we’ll be perfectly fit!”

“But I don’t know magic like the rest of you. I’m certainly not up to your standards. I haven’t even had the chance to practice.”

“But you can learn spells faster than most,” Salazar pointed out. “My uncle told me so. You wrote back to him telling of the spells you’d mastered from one of his books. He told me you had a certain gift for charm work and enchantments.”

“Well, I suppose…”

“There you are them!” Godric grinned. “You’ll teach our students that!”

She looked rather astounded by this, as though the decision had been made so fast she wasn’t quite sure what was going on.

“And what about me?” Helga asked uncertainly. “There’s nothing I could really teach. I don’t know magic like the rest of you.”

“Maybe so,” Godric nodded. “But we don’t just need spells to be taught. Every witch and wizard requires potions at some point. You’ll be the one to teach them!”

“Me? I’m not sure I’m good enough!”

“Of course you are. You’re brilliant!”

She beamed at this, her cheeks blushing red slightly. She was pleased to have a place amongst such skilled individuals.

“And what about you?” Rowena asked, staring between Godric and Salazar.

“Well,” Godric began, exchanging a glance with Salazar. “When I worked with Coen in Finland I was taught about many dark forces our kind might have to face. I even fought a few myself! I believe I could educate our students on these dark forces.”

“Then I suppose…” Salazar said slowly. “That leaves me with the magic of transfiguration. I won’t mind admitting that I am rather skilled with this art.”

“Then that’s it!” Godric smiled, half laughing with elation. “We have our school!”

“We’re really going to do this?” Rowena asked excitedly.

“Of course we are!”


Chapter 32: Foundations
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The very next morning the four friends found themselves waking up very early due to their excitement. After a comfortable but rather cramped night in Alexis’s little cottage they were eager to get outside and put their idea of a school into action. After running the idea past Alexis, who thought it was quite brilliant, they were all feeling rather optimistic. They’d also been told that Lord Schreiver’s castle was in fact free for the taking. Once they’d obtained the keys from the old man who still took to tending to the stable yard and such, who was more than happy to hand the burden on to someone else, they hurried out of the village. Polly came with them, who also thought their idea was a grand one. She was to show them around the old castle, as she knew it like the back of her hand. It was also a useful thing, as she’d warned them that some rooms were unsafe and she’d be able to keep them from harm.

“Well, it’s certainly in need of some rebuilding,” Rowena muttered. She was speaking rather quietly for fear that the vibrations of sound may cause the roof to fall in on them.

They all stood in what was once the great hall, a place Lord Schreiver would feast with his many guests. It was a sad sight to see it like this, with great amounts of stone and rubble strewn across the floor. Most of the castle was in this state, with sections of stone missing from the walls, and some rooms had caved in completely. Godric was quite astounded that it had all stood standing for this long. The only room that seemed in decent condition was where the food had once been prepared. All in all, though, the situation seemed bad and their high spirits soon fell.

“I didn’t realise it was this bad,” Godric said sadly.

“Well, it’s been like this for years, just deteriorating,” Polly explained. “I think the damp that’s set in was an issue to begin with.”

“Then we’ll have to start from scratch,” Godric said.

“That’s a little extreme, don’t you think?” Salazar pointed out, looking worried. “It’d be a troublesome job to take on. It could take years to complete.”

“Not with the help of magic,” he murmured, looking thoughtful as they made their way back out into the autumn sunshine. “Maybe everyone in the village will lend a hand.”

He really hoped they were all generous people because he didn’t see how this giant task would get done otherwise.

“Of course, we’ll need someone to draw up plans,” Rowena pointed out.

“I think I know of someone,” Helga grinned.

She was staring down the hillside towards Hubert, who was hurrying towards them, waving in greeting.

“Morning!” He called. “My mother told me what you’re all up to - utter genius!”

“And you wouldn’t stand in the way of genius, would you, Hubert?” Helga asked.

“Of course not!” He replied, looking slightly puzzled.

“Good, because we need your help!”

Once they had explained the predicament they were in Hubert was more than happy to help them. Just an hour later he began talking about all the things he could do with such space; he seemed very excited. He also seemed to think that they could adopt not only teaching magic but creating a magical environment, which all seemed very appealing when he spoke of secret passages and moving staircases.

*

Over the next week Hubert had managed to draw up some amazing plans for their new castle. Whilst he’d busied himself with this Godric and the others had all managed to get the villagers to agree to help. There weren’t all that many villagers but Godric was confident things would go to plan.

“Here it is,” Hubert announced excitedly.

They all gathered around the plans he’d brought with him, sheltered beneath the shade of the trees near the vast lake. They were so amazed by what he was showing them that no one spoke as he talked them through every room and secret passageway.

“Can we really do all this?” Godric asked quietly, still blown away by the prospect that this was actually going to happen.

“Of course,” Hubert nodded. “It will take a lot of time and effort but your school should be build within three years!”

“That’s wonderful!” Rowena smiled. “That’ll give us time to scour the country for our students!”

“But how will we do that without arousing suspicion from the mortals?” Salazar asked, looking rather concerned.

“We’ll send information all about what we’re planning through the oldest of wizarding families,” Helga said. “And the rest I suppose we’ll have to find ourselves.”

“That won’t be easy,” Salazar sighed. “You three are practically outlaws now! If any of you are caught out then we’ll be in big trouble.”

“We can’t just leave it to you!” Godric exclaimed.

“Why? Am I not trusted?” He snapped, rather offended by this outburst.

“Of course you are!” He insisted. “It’s just that…we can’t leave all that hard work to you! It’d be dangerous too. We should all chip in.”

“I agree,” Polly nodded. “But perhaps you should cross that bridge when you come to it. For now, we have a more pressing matter.”

“What’s what?” Rowena asked.

“A name. You haven’t named this school of yours!”

“Oh…” Godric grunted, glancing awkwardly at the others. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Perhaps we should name it in gratitude to the village for offering to help us,” Helga suggested.

“Hogsmeade school?” Salazar muttered, not looking too keen.

“Good idea but it doesn’t have a very good ring to it,” Godric replied.

“Hogs…tail…hogs…head…no, that’s the inn,” Rowena mumbled.

They all sat in silence, looking rather confused.

“What about Hogwarts?” Polly suggested, looking uncertain.

“Hogwarts? Hogwarts! Yeah, I like that!” Godric beamed, mulling it over in his mind.

“Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry!” Rowena smiled. “I think it’s great!”

“Then we’re all decided?” Hubert asked. They all nodded in agreement and he hastily scribbled the name at the top of the plans. It felt good to see it like this, as though it was all final and definite.

“Of course, we’re still missing something,” Polly pointed out.

“What’s that?” Godric asked in confusion.

“A crest.”

“What? Like a family crest?”

“Well, everyone will be like a big family once we’re ready to teach,” Helga pointed out. “We’re helping our kind. In such times of danger we have to stick together!”

“But some will differ,” Rowena pointed out. “Most will not see eye to eye.”

“A fair point,” Polly nodded, staring between them all. “Then there shall be four houses, four families!”

“Why four?” Salazar asked.

“Because there are four of you!” She chuckled. “Gryffindor house for those that are brave and fearless, Ravenclaw house for those that are smart and quick to learn, Hufflepuff house for those that are friends to all and Slytherin house for those that are skilled and powerful!” She announced, pointing to each of them in turn.

They all stared at each other, looking quite amazed.

“That sounds perfect!” Hubert smiled.

“Polly, your brilliant!” Godric chuckled, smiling fondly at her.

“And their crests?” Hubert asked, quill suspended upon his parchment.

“I think Rowena should be a raven,” Polly said matter-of-factly. “The smartest animal you could find!”

“I shall be a serpent,” Salazar said. “I have a fondness for snakes.”

“Alright,” Hubert nodded, sketching these down.

“But what about me?” Godric asked, looking confused. “I don’t know what I could be.”

“That’s easy!” Polly laughed, eyes twinkling. “You’re a big, strong lion!”

He chuckled at this, remembering the flower she’d given him all those years ago. She’d said it reminded her of him because it looked so much like a lion.

“And me?” Helga put in.

“A mouse,” Godric suggested. “You remind me of a mouse.”

“Do I?” She giggled.

“Oh…I can’t draw mice,” Hubert muttered.

“Hubert, of all the brilliant things you can do…and yet you can’t draw a mouse!” Helga exclaimed, looking highly amused.

“I could draw a badger instead?”

“A badger?” She muttered, thinking it over. “Okay, I like that idea.”

After waiting a moment or two Hubert stopped scribbling away and showed them the rough ideas of their crests. He’d also sketched another, which had each of their animals around a bold letter H.

“Oh, it’s wonderful!” Rowena beamed.

“Well done!” Godric said, impressed.

“So there we have it!” Salazar smiled. “Our school. Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry!”

*

Over the weeks that followed the residents of Hogsmeade began their work on the castle. Godric had, of course, offered to pay them all for their help. Far sooner than everyone had expected, the remnants of Lord Schreiver’s castle had been brought to the ground. The rubble that remained had its uses, however. The women of the village helped transform these blocks of stone into fresh new ones to build up the foundations and make the castle even stronger. With Hubert overlooking all the work, the lower levels soon began to take shape, where they planned to build a new underground kitchen. Salazar had even had the idea to build a small harbour within a cavernous area beneath the mountain that overlooked the huge lake.

The only thing that was concerning Godric was the fact that he thought this was rather disrespectful. This had been Lord Schreiver’s home, after all, and he didn’t think he’d appreciate seeing it like this!

“Don’t feel bad,” Rowena said quietly to him, sensing his concerns. “He’d be proud of you.”

This did wonders to make Godric feel better. She always had the knack for that.

*

Salazar felt rather alone, even though he had his friends with him. He also rather felt like Godric was taking charge of the situation, along with Hubert - of all the people! He tried to let this pass over his head. He rather thought that he’d be sick of power by now, after having to carry out his duties as Lord of Southern England. Somehow, though, this project of theirs was far more appealing and he wanted to contribute a little more than what he was currently.

He soon decided to contact his uncle and Belle. In all the excitement he’d forgotten that they’d probably be awfully worried about him. He’d also decided to contact Benedick and tell him of their plans, as he’d been good enough to take over Salazar’s duties down in London. He was very grateful of this and rather thought that, after all he’d taught him about magic, he’d be eager to hear about the idea for a school.

*

It seemed that Benedick was indeed very eager to see this school because just a week later he surprised Salazar by turning up in the Hog’s Head one night. Salazar was one of the few in there, as Godric and the others were busy mulling over the plans for secret doorways and such with Hubert. Salazar was pleased to see a familiar face.

“There he is!” Benedick chuckled, shaking his hand.

“This is a surprise. I wasn’t expecting you!”

“I always did like the element of surprise! So…where are your friends from the forest?” He asked, glancing around and looking rather relieved that they weren’t there.

“Oh,” he muttered quietly. “They’re dealing with a few unfinished plans.”

“Without you?”

“Well…” He began, trailing off.

“Let me guess,” he said, lowering his voice. “That loud-mouthed Scot the Princess loves more than her own father fancies himself as first in charge, eh?”

“Well, he does but I could be if I wanted to,” he added quickly. “I just thought I’d humour him!”

Benedick laughed at this, gratefully taking the mead that was handed to him from the bartender.

“How are things down in London?” Salazar asked, wondering if the king had noticed how suspicious his absence was.

“As well as can be expected,” he nodded. “The king hasn’t cottoned on, if that’s what you meant,” he added, winking at him. “As a matter of fact, he’s quite enjoying having me at his side for the time being, what with all the stress he’s had to endure of late.”

“He doesn’t know about Rowena, does he?” He demanded.

“No. Her secret’s safe with me,” he smiled, eyes remaining cold.

“Thank you Benedick. You are a true friend!”

“And I was under the misconception that they were your friends,” he murmured, nodding in the direction of the door.

“They are,” he insisted.

“Better watch them,” he warned, raising his eyebrows above a serious expression. “If you’re out of the picture for too long they might get ideas.”

“Ideas? What do you mean?”

“Well…” he said slowly. “They might change the plans for the school, plans you’ve all agreed to. They’ll try to put their own mark upon it. I’m guessing they’ll each want some glory all their own.”

“But they wouldn’t do that, not without me,” he assured him, beginning to doubt this himself.

“But they are right now,” he pointed out, taking another drink from his tankard. “Perhaps they don’t trust you.”

“What? Why wouldn’t they trust me?”

“Well, you’re the outcast. They’ve severed all their ties - the princess with her royal heritage, the young Hufflepuff girl with the land that would have offered her refuge if she hadn’t cavorted with that peasant. And, of course, that boy never had anything to lose to begin with. I’d trust him least of all.”

“Godric is my friend. A good friend!” He said defiantly.

“Friendships can change, my boy,” he grunted, his face taking on a dark expression in the candlelight. “You still have ties with England. They are jealous, I expect. Perhaps they think you’ll turn them in.”

“I’d never do that!”

Benedick surveyed him for a moment, a faint smile curling the edges of his thin mouth.

“You must have great belief in this school of yours.”

“I do!”

“Then you intend to stay here in Scotland for as long as necessary?” He asked seriously.

“Yes,” he said, after a slight pause.

“That’s wonderful. I’m sure this school will be a great success. There’s just one problem, however.”

“What’s that?” He asked, his heart skipping a beat.

“You still remain a Lord. Your duties will need to be carried out and I fear it is terribly impractical for you to travel between Scotland and England every other week.”

“I realise this,” he muttered anxiously.

“Might I suggest a simple yet effective solution?”

“Of course!”

“You allow me to take care of things in London for you. I will be more than happy to set things in order.”

“You’d do that?” He asked hopefully.

“Of course,” he smiled. “Though, there is a slight problem. At present my powers are limited, for I am only assisting with your duties. For me to help further I would need to be given full power.”

“I see…” He muttered slowly, wondering what this could mean.

“All it would take is one little signature, allowing me powers in your place,” he said casually, withdrawing something from inside his cloak. He unfolded this amount of parchment and placed it before him. “This would ensure that you are kept within the fold of high society, I’ll make sure of that, but it’ll mean you’re free to go about your business here. Like I said, simple, yet effective.” Salazar stared uncertainly down at the parchment. Could he really afford to sign away what was rightfully his? What would his parents say? This had once been their responsibility. But, then again, they’d be so proud of the school he was helping to create. “Well…?”

Salazar hastily took the quill Benedick handed him and scrawled his signature. Benedick smiled cheerily and put it back inside his cloak, rising to his feet.

“Very good, I wish your school all the luck in the world. And Salazar…make sure you put your own mark on it, won’t you?” He winked. “Oh,” he added hastily, before leaving the Inn. “I wouldn’t advise you to tell the others I was here. Let’s face it, they might think you’re up to no good.”

*

The next day a dark carriage came trundling its way up to the castle, where building work was still going strong. Salazar was thrilled when two very familiar people stepped out.

“Uncle!” He called, abandoning the work he’d been doing and hurrying over.

“Salazar, it’s so good to see you!” Belle cried, engaging in a tight embrace. Her eyes looked red and puffy, as though she’d been crying.

“And you!” He smiled, his heart soaring terrifyingly fast.

“When I heard what you were up to…” Arthur began to say, looking around in a rather impressed way. “Well, I had to see for myself. Well done, my boy!”

“Thank you. I can’t take all the credit, of course. Oh, these are my friends, the other founders,” he said, spotting them and beckoning them over.

“Hello there,” Godric beamed in greeting. “You must be Salazar’s uncle. I’ve heard a lot about you!”

“And I, you,” he replied, shaking his hand. “And this beautiful young thing must be your princess?” He smiled, indicating Rowena with open arms and then proceeding to kiss her hand. “It’s an honour to meet you, my dear!”

“And you.”

“And this is Helga,” Godric added.

“Ah, Hufflepuff? Wonderful to meet you!” She smiled politely in reply.

Everyone’s gaze had now fallen upon Belle, who was standing awkwardly by Salazar. He had taken to staring fondly at her but soon snapped out of his stupor when he realised that everyone was staring.

“Oh, this is Belle,” he said quickly. “She…well, she’s my - ”

“Abandon site!” Someone yelled suddenly, as great streams of rain decided to plummet from the dark, sinister clouds above.

“We had better get inside!” Godric insisted. “Come with me. The Hog’s Head’s the closest place.”

Once they were safely inside and could hear the heavy rain thundering down outside Salazar and the others explained all about the plans for their school. They were soon joined by Hubert, who revealed the new draft of plans, which Arthur was very impressed with.

“And how will you locate the students that may keep their magic a secret?” Arthur asked.

“Well,” Rowena replied, who’d devised a way they could go about this. “It will be time consuming but we think it best to scour the country. We’ll investigate any strange goings on and, hopefully, it will lead us to a young witch or wizard.”

“You’re so dedicated!” He smiled. “Just what our kind needs.”

“Where will you look first?” Belle asked, also intrigued by the whole idea.

“Well, we thought we’d each take an area of land,” Rowena explained. “Helga will take Ireland, as she already knows of a few wizarding families in that area, myself and Godric will take Wales, as there’s less chance we’ll get caught out, and Salazar will take England.”

“Then there’s Alexis Dumbledore,” Godric added. “She’s offered to search Scotland for us.”

“You’ve got it all worked out. That’s what I like to see!”

“You know,” Belle said quietly, speaking to Salazar. “England is a very big place to search alone. You’ll need help. I could help you.”

“It could be dangerous,” he warned, trying to hide the fact that he desperately wanted her with him.

“And I suppose you get to have all the fun? I might like a little adventure too!”

“Oh, I agree!” Arthur boomed, who’d overheard them. “Take her with you, boy. She’ll keep you out of trouble!”

Salazar just smiled down at her, amazed at how well everything had worked out.


Chapter 33: The Parting Of The Ways
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The next morning dawned brightly outside but Salazar had been awake long before the horizon had been tinged yellow. He was questioning whether or not he’d done the right thing in signing his powers away to Benedick. On the other hand, this school meant everything to him and today was the day that he and his friends would part company for some time. There was one thing he had to do before he left, though.

He stole down the rickety staircase of Alexis’s cottage as quietly as he could and dashed outside, carefully opening the door to the outside barn. This was where Hubert kept the plans for the school and Salazar located them almost immediately, rolled up neatly atop the workbench. He unrolled them and glanced over the parchment floor by floor. After a minute or two he soon noticed something rather peculiar - additions had been made, this was clear from the fresh ink scrawled over the top of the basic sketches. There was more than just one addition, though. Had Benedick been right? Had his friends really gone behind his back? He hastily snatched up a pencil that lay nearby and had barely touched the parchment when he jumped in shock.

“What are you doing?” Hubert demanded.

He must have crept into the barn without Salazar noticing. He hastily dropped the pencil and tried to look inconspicuous.

“I was just - ”

“Were you drawing on the plans?” He demanded, looking highly vexed by this.

“No, I…” Salazar didn’t really see the point in denying it now. “I just wanted to add something.”

“Only I do that,” he said, beginning to tidy his workbench. “If you wanted something adding you only needed to ask.”

“And what about the others?” He prompted.

“Sorry?”

“The plans look a little different since the last time I saw them,” he commented.

“That’s because the other founders wanted to add a few things,” he shrugged, opening a window to let some fresh air in. “Just a few last-minute additions, that’s all.”

“No one told me!” He snapped, becoming angry.

“I expect they just forgot,” he said dismissively.

Salazar glared at him in annoyance as he continued to bustle about the room. It was quite clear he didn’t like other people crowding his workshop.

“I thought I might add something,” he said finally.

“I think the plans are getting a little too complex, if I’m honest with you,” he replied awkwardly.

“So the others are allowed a trademark but not me?”

“Of course not, Salazar,” he insisted. “We just have no more room above ground within these plans.”

“Then I shall have my sector below ground. Below the castle. Can you do that?”

“Indeed,” he nodded. “How far down were you thinking?”

“Deep,” he muttered, not actually having given it all that much thought. He knew that, in a strange way, he just wanted something like this to himself simply because the others had something. “I want a hidden lair. How deep could you make it?”

“Very. The castle lies upon a large hill so it could be hidden deep beneath the actual structure, just as long as it doesn’t lie too close to the underground lakes.”

“Good,” Salazar smiled.

“And what is the purpose of this sector?” Hubert asked, pencil at the ready.

“It has none,” he said simply. “Just…make it true to me,” he said casually. “And can we keep this between us?”

“If we must,” he nodded, looking a little confused.

Salazar smiled in a satisfied sort of way and left Hubert to finalise the plans.

*

A few hours later a sorry sight met all of the founders, who’d congregated outside the Hog’s Head, in the form of three horse-drawn carriages. Their belongings had been packed atop the relevant carriages and they were all set to go. Alexis was standing at the edge of the small crowd of people, looking rather tearful.

“It won’t be forever,” Godric assured her, placing a comforting arm around her shoulders.

“Oh, I know, I know,” she sniffed, waving a hand dismissively. “I just want you all to be safe. You must send me an owl at least once every fortnight and update me on your progress!”

“We will!” Helga assured her, beaming excitedly.

“Oh…” She said, forcing a smile but looking anxiously upon her happy face. “I worry about you most of all, my dear.”

“Why?”

“You are the youngest,” Godric replied, feeling rather protective towards her, like a brother would. “And to do this alone.”

“I won’t be alone,” she chuckled. “I’ll have Samuel with me,” she pointed out, indicating the coach driver that would accompany her.

“Yes,” Alexis muttered. “But still…”

“I’ll be fine. I’ve changed since I was last in Ireland. I doubt I’ll be recognised.”

“But do you think potential witches and wizards will want to come to the school?” Rowena asked uncertainly.

“Why wouldn’t they?” Arthur boomed, looking proud of them all.

“But they may fear to come here. After the terror my father has struck amongst our kind, it wouldn’t be surprising.”

“We’ll find willing students, don’t you worry!” Godric smiled, hugging her.

“We should set off soon, Miss!” Helga’s driver called. “We can’t miss the boat!”

She nodded in understanding and turned back to the others.

“Well, I suppose I’ll see you soon!” She said, forcing a smile but trying hard to mask her sadness that she would be leaving them for such a long time. “I’ll miss you all!”

“Just be careful!” Godric told her, pulling her into a tight embrace.

“You too. I know what you’re like!” She chuckled.

“Don’t worry, I’ll keep him in check,” Rowena assured her. “Oh, Helga, I will miss you!” She breathed, also hugging her.

“Goodbye, Salazar,” she smiled. “Goodbye all of you!” She cried, beaming around at the members of the village that had come to wave them off.

They all watched her clamber up into her coach. She was still beaming with excitement as the coach pulled away from the crowd but Godric knew she would be nervous.

“Salazar,” Godric smiled, approaching him. “I wish you the best of luck in England, I know it won’t be easy.”

“A good job I’m going there, isn’t it?” He said coldly. “You would surely wind up dead, my friend.”

Godric stared at him in shock, as though certain he’d misheard.

“Is something wrong?” He asked quietly. “Are you having second thoughts about this school?”

“I suppose you’d like it if I were,” he grunted. “Easier with three founders than four?”

“Salazar - what are you talking about?” He demanded, looking utterly perplexed.

He paused, unable to reply.

“Last night,” he said finally. “You and the others were together. Look over the plans, did you?” He could tell by the sheepish expression upon Godric’s face that the answer was yes. “Change anything?”

“We…there were a few small alterations, aye,” he nodded. “I’m sorry, Salazar. We didn’t mean to exclude you like that. We assumed you were busy.”

“Did you?” He spat.

“Yes!” He assured him, eyes wide with honesty. “Salazar, you think us treacherous? You think we are excluding you on purpose, trying to push you out?”

“I don’t know,” he said quietly. “Perhaps you’re thinking it.”

“Never! You are my friend, a good friend. I think of you as a brother and I thought you’d think the same of me.”

“I did.”

“And what is it that has changed?” He asked angrily, forcefully keeping his voice down so that no one else overheard this dispute; it would certainly make for many awkward questions.

“I believe you have,” he said coldly.

“And I think it is you that has changed!” He retorted. “I don’t know what’s brought all this on - ”

“Mistrust,” Salazar said simply.

“On your part, perhaps, but it is all in your head!” He hissed. “What the four of us plan to do here is enormous, what we plan to achieve…” He muttered. “It’s enough to make people think things that aren’t necessarily true but I don’t want any of us to fight over it!” He snapped. “I don’t believe anything is worth such a friendship!”

“You think us all the best of friends then?” He asked calmly, continuing to stare out at the hillsides as Godric spoke to him.

“Aye, I do!” He nodded. “Salazar, none of us would ever plot against you and I hope you’d never plot against us.”

“Now you think me the treacherous one?” He demanded, fixing him with that cold stare of his.

“I didn’t say that!” He sighed. “Look, we cannot sever ties because of this. We’re already outcasts. All we have left are our own kind.” Salazar wore a funny little expression, for he was the only one within their four that wasn’t an outcast. Maybe Benedick had been right about them. “Promise me this will not ruin the plans we’ve put in place? Promise me that, when we all return, the idea of our school will still be strong, like our friendship?” He asked seriously, holding out a determined hand.

Salazar stared sideways at it for a moment but then, after a little consideration, he took it, shaking it firmly. Godric nodded, forcing a smile.

“Salazar!“ He spun around as he heard Belle call him. “We’re ready to leave!”

He looked over at the carriage, where Belle stood. His uncle Arthur was seated within, staring impatiently out of the window. They would take him home on their way down to the capital city.

“Well, I must be off,” Salazar said promptly, fastening his cloak around his shoulders. “Thank you for all your hospitality,” he said, nodding in Alexis’s direction. “Farewell, Rowena. Do be careful.”

“I will,” she assured him.

“Godric,” he said forcefully, glancing swiftly in his direction.

Godric said nothing. He watched silently as Salazar’s carriage pulled away. He hated even thinking it but there was something about Salazar’s behaviour that was making Godric distrust him somewhat. Was the secret of their school safe?

“Godric, is something the matter?” Rowena asked softly.

“No, my love, not at all,” he assured her.

Rowena could tell something was wrong, though, and continuously tried to catch his eye all the time they were saying their goodbyes.

“Goodbye, Alexis,” Godric said. “I’ll never forget what you did for us all.”

“Oh, don’t be silly, lad!” She chuckled, her eyes shining with tears. “Speaking as though you’ll never return! You’ll soon return.”

“That I shall!” He nodded. “With students by the hundreds!”

“Oh…but we may not have room for that amount - ” Hubert began to say.

“I was joking,” he laughed.

“Oh…good,” he said, looking somewhat relieved.

“Off you go then!” Alexis urged. “You’ll want to get across the boarders before nightfall.”

Godric and Rowena took heed to her words and climbed aboard their carriage. They were soon far from the village and had nothing but rolling hills and mountainsides surrounding them.

“Godric,” Rowena said quietly, staring at him with utmost concern on her face. “I know something is bothering you. Please tell me what it is.”

Godric hesitated but knew there was no point denying it, as she could read him like a book.

“It’s Salazar,” he explained. “I'm concerned. He seems to think that we're plotting against him but I fear that he may be plotting against us.” Rowena nodded in understanding and looked down awkwardly at her hands, which she was wringing together anxiously. “Rowena?” He urged, when she said nothing in reply.

“I heard,” she nodded, still not giving him eye contact.

“What is it?” He asked.

“Oh, Godric,” she sighed. “I should have told you sooner.”

“Told me what?” He demanded, becoming increasingly worried.

“I saw that man of Salazar’s,” she explained. “Benedick. He was in the village last night!”

“No, you must be mistaken,” he said, shaking his head. “Why would he come all the way from London?”

“I don’t know but it was him, Godric, I’m certain!”

Godric stared at her and knew she would never lie. He just didn’t want to believe it. This suggested that Salazar was indeed plotting something. Why else would Benedick suddenly show up? What was more, why would Salazar keep his visit a secret?

“Godric, you don’t think Salazar would turn us in, do you?”

“No, of course not,” he assured her, after an awkward pause.

It was just a shame he wasn’t certain of his own words.


Chapter 34: The Search
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The rolling jade and green hills were distorted by a misty blanket of rain. It was fine rain but it had been drenching these valleys for days. The mountain pathways were now perilous and the inhabitants of the surrounding villages had had to repair their roofs. The forests were now reduced to muddy planes but the somewhat welcoming scent of wet bark emanated from each and every tree. Whatever this miserable weather was doing, it didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the wildlife, which chirped, buzzed and sang constantly.

Wales was, of course, prone to this dull weather. Though the weather was similar to that of England, specifically London, it seemed like a world apart. It seemed like a free land in these remote parts, as though the inhabitants hadn’t quite been downtrodden by the king. It had been three years since he’d lost his daughter and two years since he’d called off the search for her. He’d told his subjects that she’d been lost to the sea whilst travelling with her husband that never was, Edmund. The country had mourned with him but, in actual fact, he’d not been mourning in quite the same way.

He’d enlisted another search for his lost daughter. More specifically, a search that would hunt down her accomplices, Godric and Helga. He would not be made a fool of and still remained optimistic that he’d find them all and have his revenge. Unlike the queen, who was desperate to have her family back together, he wanted to track down Rowena to teach her a lesson, along with her little friends. He was so adamant to have the last laugh that he’d even sent his subjects as far as Europe, thinking that she’d have enough sense to have left the country. Little did he know that she wasn’t very far away at all.

In actual fact, she was perfectly safe and content. After years of having been cooped up inside the castle she’d now gained a new lease of life. She was with the one she loved and, as long as they remained incognito then they’d get to spend all the time in the world together. Of course, the task they’d given themselves was slightly contradictory to that. They had to search for other magic users like themselves and could hardly go around asking for such people.

Instead, their lives had been made a little complex. They’d had to trace up old legends of families within Wales or ancient magical civilisations. Most were regarded as myths but, without arousing suspicion, Rowena and Godric had to see if this was indeed the case. Sometimes they’d had to leave a little village quite soon after arriving, as they’d arouse too much suspicion. Other times they were more cautious and gained a community's trust. They did this so well in one of the little towns that the elders of a secretive magical community had revealed themselves for what they really were. They trusted Godric and Rowena, thinking their school was a brilliant idea, and managed to convince many of their community to let their children attend the school when the time came.

It was a pity that other magic users weren’t so trusting. Many of them hated the idea of Hogwarts, thinking that the teaching of magic should be kept secretive and not paraded around for all to discover. The trickiest situations arose when a child possessed magical skills that their families did not. Godric and Rowena were now currently lying low in a small coastal town, renowned for its fishermen. They’d traced legends to this place, legends than an ancient curse hung over the town.

They stayed in a small Inn close to the seafront and tried to blend in with the locals. Of course, the accents didn’t help, so they couldn’t do this quite as effectively as they’d hoped. They’d been here for two long months now. They would not normally stay in a place for this long but the young girl they were currently searching for showed great potential. Godric and Rowena had not witnessed this but had heard many of the other children in the area whispering and giggling about the strange little girl who could throw stones without touching them. Though they laughed at her, it was also clear that they feared her. They stayed well away and would only make comments when she was well out of earshot.

“She came down here earlier,” Godric hissed.

He and Rowena had been waiting near the edge of the dense woodland that lay to the east of the village. The rain was dripping loudly from the trees and, not keen on catching pneumonia as a result of such weather, Godric and Rowena were taking shelter beneath a stone arch that led the way back up into the village.

“Oh, I feel so…this just seems very wrong, Godric!” Rowena muttered, looking uncomfortable. “It’s like we’re spying on a child!”


“We are,” he reminded her, squinting through the thin sheets of rain into the dark shadows of the trees. “We have to see if the stories are true.”

They both craned their necks at the same time, in order to get a better view. They’d been trying to catch this girl out for weeks but had never seen any signs of magic. They would have left long before now but the stories kept reoccurring and there was no way that was just mere coincidence.

“And what exactly are we supposed to do if she does show any potential, jump out and kidnap her?” Rowena demanded.

“Of course not!”

“Then what?” She urged, raising her eyebrows.

“I haven’t thought that far ahead yet,” he shrugged.

Rowena groaned and rolled her eyes. Acting on impulse like this was very adventurous and Godric did it a lot but it would sometimes land them in trouble. Not knowing what would happen next would often worry Rowena, as she knew they had to be extremely careful in what they were doing.

“There she is!” Godric murmured, automatically pressing himself against the side of the archway so that he’d be less noticeable.

Rowena squinted out into the mass of trees and sure enough, there she was. She was just about visible as she shuffled between the trees. She carried a large basket that was obviously too heavy for her to handle; she’d been sent to fetch in firewood again. Looking at her now, you’d understand why she was made fun of and called strange. Her clothes looked as though she may have possessed them all her life. They were old and faded, ripped and torn. They were dirtied in places, as though they hadn’t been washed in well over a year. Upon initial sight, no one could be blamed for thinking that this poor girl lived rough. Her long, dark hair was matted and always covered most of her face. It was unclear whether she made it fall like this to try and hide herself away or simply because it was a natural occurrence. She was very pale but looked darker than she really was, as her face was dirtied and at that current moment mud streaked the sides of her face and forehead. One piece of beauty that shined through all of this was her eyes. She had the deepest brown eyes, almost black.

At that moment she was scanning the open grassland in front of her. She spotted another large piece of wood and stumbled towards it. She surveyed it for a moment and then tried to bend down to pick it up whilst still holding the heavy basket of wood she’d already painstakingly collected. Rowena felt Godric tense beside her in anticipation. Was this young girl about to use her rumoured magical abilities to get that log into the basket? No. Instead, the girl bent slowly towards it, stretching out with her fingers. She lent too far, though, and unbalanced herself. With a series of dull thuds, she toppled to the ground, the basket following her and scattering all the firewood she’d collected across the grass. She thumped the ground angrily, rising to her feet and surveying her muddied dress.

“Godric, what are you doing?” Rowena hissed, staring at him with wide eyes as he began marching towards the girl. “You can’t say anything - ”

“Don’t worry,” he insisted, beckoning her to follow. She did so but somewhat warily. “You look like you could use a hand!”

The young girl looked up, startled. She was now scrambling around, trying to get all the wood back into the basket. She seemed to be avoiding eye contact with them both.

“Are you alright?” Rowena asked gently, not wanting to worry the girl.

“Not supposed to talk to you two,” she replied stiffly, snatching a chunk of wood Godric had just picked up and putting it into the basket herself.

“And why’s that?” Godric asked conversationally.

“My Mum says I shouldn’t. You’re foreigners!”

“We’re only from across the boarder!” Godric pointed out, chuckling at her reaction.

“Still foreigners!” She said adamantly, pursing her lips and continuing to collect the wood.

“We’re not that different,” Rowena reasoned. “We just speak a little different, that’s all.”

“Why are you down here anyway?” She asked suddenly, staring up at them through her unkempt hair. “You don’t look the type to go collecting your own firewood!” She remarked.

Godric laughed and her brow creased a little at this, as though she was confused by him.

“We can collect firewood,” he assured her. “I’m Godric,” he smiled, holding out a hand to her. She just gaped at him.

“Gwen Jones,” she replied, awkwardly shaking his hand.

“This is Rowena,” he added, indicating her.

“How old are you, Gwen?” Rowena asked, smiling kindly.

“I’m ten years old,” she replied uncertainly. “Eleven in June.” Godric and Rowena exchanged a small glance and an untraceable little smile. “What does it matter to you anyway? If you’ve been talking to the other children in the village then don’t listen to - ”

“What do they say?” Godric asked her seriously.

“They say horrible things,” she muttered, breaking eye contact and focusing on the ground despite the fact that there was no more firewood left to retrieve. “They call me a…” She trailed off, looking terrified.

Godric could see how uncomfortable she was talking about this now. He decided to drop the subject and picked up the heavy basket.

“What say we get this back to your house?”

“You don’t have to help me,” she insisted.

“It’s fine, come on!” He insisted. “You can lead the way!”

They followed her up a steep embankment and then down a rather perilous pathway on the other side. The little stone houses soon came into view. Once they reached the outskirts of the village they followed Gwen down a narrow dirt track that had houses flanking it all the way along. These were the smallest and most rundown within the entire village. It looked as though most of the roofs would have leaks.

When Gwen paused outside her house she suddenly froze, spotting a group of children approaching from the other end of the track. The moment they spotted her equally nasty grins widened upon their faces. Gwen’s head dipped down and she instinctively looked to the floor, as though trying to hide herself. It was too late, though, and they advanced.

“Urgh, look, it’s weird Gwen!” One of the boys laughed, grimacing at her.

“Don’t go near her, she’ll give you the pox!” One of the girls warned.

They then skipped off, giggling nastily at her before they disappeared out of sight.

“Are you okay, Gwen?” Rowena asked quietly, looking sympathetic.

“Do they always say things like that to you?” Godric asked her.

“They say worse. Most of the time they throw things too. They didn’t today because you’re here probably,” she shrugged.

Godric and Rowena exchanged glances, both feeling for this poor girl. Before they could offer her any words of sympathy or assurance, though, the front door of her house swung open, causing her to flinch. A bony-faced woman with a skeletal frame came marching out into the dim light of the day, scowling as though someone had annoyed her. Her dark hair, which was pulled up into a messy bun, was greying slightly in places and her cold eyes took in Godric and Rowena, narrowing slightly.

“Where have you been?” She demanded of Gwen.

“Collecting the wood like you told me to,” she replied sheepishly.

“And what took you so long?” She asked, snatching a glance in Godric’s direction.

“I’m terribly sorry, it was my fault,” he insisted, holding out a hand for her to shake. “My name is Godric Gryffindor.”

She just glared at him until he awkwardly put his hand back down and then turned to her daughter, looking quite angry with her.

“What did I tell you, girl!” She snapped, pushing her forcefully through the doorway. “Get inside!”

She obediently did so and as Godric and Rowena stared after her, Mrs. Jones snatched the large basket of wood from his arms.

“Please, don’t blame Gwen for being late back,” Rowena pleaded. “We just offered her some help, that’s all.”

“She’s a useless child!” She snarled. “A bane to me. She needs to pull her weight and it won’t help her better herself when people like you are constantly butting in! Now, clear off and go back to where you came from!” She barked, stepping back inside and slamming the door in their faces.

Godric exchanged a glance with Rowena, both of them wearing equal expressions of shock. Mrs. Jones was certainly a foreboding woman. Rowena, empathising with Gwen, could understand why she’d want to keep her remarkable gift from a woman like this.

“Godric,” Rowena murmured anxiously, as shouting began to echo from within the little house.

“You foolish girl! Bringing strangers back to the house!”

“I’m sorry, Mum!” Gwen squeaked, sounding quite fearful.

“You will be!” She shouted.

After that Godric and Rowena knew they had to leave, knowing there was nothing more they could do. They returned to the inn they’d been staying at and remained hidden away for the next few days, not wanting to get Gwen into any more trouble.

“I feel so guilty for leaving her,” Rowena sighed.

They were sitting by one of the small little windows inside the tavern, which was letting a warm glow of sunlight into the dark and dingy room. This was the first sunny day this part of Wales had seen in months. Godric and Rowena were some of the few people who were not out enjoying this, though. Instead they kept indoors, worrying about little Gwen.

“It seems like she’s just not our responsibility,” Godric grunted, trying not to show how let down he was.

“But we have a duty towards her!” Rowena insisted. “She’s our student as far as I’m concerned!”

“We’ve seen no evidence of her magic,” Godric pointed out. Despite this fact, he very much wanted it to be true.

“We will,” she said defiantly.

“And what about her mother?”

“I don’t know,” she said quietly, looking a little concerned.

Godric surveyed her anxious expression for a long moment and then sighed, gripping her pale hands firmly together with his. He locked eye contact with her, knowing she’d not let this situation drop. He’d have to distract her in some small way.

“Let’s go outside. It’d be an awful shame to waste a day like this!”

Slowly, she nodded and they exited the darkened room, becoming momentarily stunned when they stepped out into the bright light. They strolled out of the village and were soon within the woodland at the edge of the village. The fresh smell from the waves upon the coastline filled the air and, if they listened hard enough, they could just about make out the sound as they smashed into the rocks. They weren’t sat beneath the shade of a large tree for long before they spotted Gwen wandering solitarily through the long grass at the edge of the trees. Even from a distance they could see that she looked downcast. She’d obviously received a very harsh telling off from her mother.

Godric and Rowena were pleased that they’d concealed themselves within the trees and watched quietly as Gwen passed them, heading towards the river.

“Rowena!” Godric hissed.

“We have to speak to her,” she insisted, dragging Godric along with her.

The pair of them followed Gwen as she strolled up to the edge of the river, kicked of her tattered old shoes and sat with her feet dangling in the water. She sloshed them about calmly as she stared out in front of her, quietly taking in the view. Godric and Rowena stood concealed behind a nearby tree. They both then automatically sat down upon the ground, watching the girl carefully. If she was capable of magic then the only time she was bound to perform it was if she was alone.

After a long ten minutes of waiting Gwen suddenly glanced around her. Godric and Rowena shrunk further into the shadows so that they’d be more difficult to spot. Godric felt Rowena tense up next to him, obviously just as eager to see what this girl could do as he was. Gwen then turned to look back out across the river. After a slight pause she raised her arm out in front of her. A large, round stone from the riverbank on the opposite side suddenly jumped towards her and she caught it effortlessly.

“Godric!” Rowena gasped, a large smile breaking across her face.

“I know,” he murmured, smiling back.

So this little girl did have a talent for magic. It was quite clear why she’d want to keep such a thing hidden, though.

“So what do we do now?” Rowena asked anxiously.

“I’m not quite sure,” he admitted.

“Maybe we should assure her. Tell her it’s okay…”

“Rowena, don’t!” He hissed, as she suddenly rose to her feet and stepped out from behind the tree.

The moment she did this she alerted Gwen to their presence. The girl turned around in alarm and the moment she spotted them her face split into a look of pure terror. For a moment she just stared at the two of them standing there but then jumped to her feet and snatched her shoes up off the ground. She didn’t bother taking the time to put them back on and bolted across the clearing.

“Gwen, wait!” Rowena called, attempting to chase her.

“I’ll get her!” Godric promised, tearing after her. “Gwen, please stop!” He yelled, preying she didn’t reach the village and tell her mother she’d been followed by the “strangers” again.

She looked back in horror when she realised he was gaining on her and tried to speed up, her breath coming in sharp and painful gasps. The moment she slowed down Godric took advantage and got a hold of her gangly little arms.

“Gwen!” He panted. “Why were you running?”

“I…you…you saw!” She cried, tears beginning to stream down her face.

“Yes,” he nodded. “But it’s okay. Everything is going to be fine,” he assured her, when she began to look terrified again.

“If they find out - ”

“No one’s going to find out, Gwen!”

“But it’s not normal,” she whimpered. “I’ll be burnt at the stake. My mother told me terrible stories about witches when I was younger! I’m not a witch but - ”

“You are,” Rowena said gently, finally catching them up. “You’re one of us, Gwen.”

“What?” She squeaked, staring up at them in terror. She began to shake her head in disbelief. “No…you can’t…no!”

“Don’t be afraid,” Godric said quietly. “There are thousands just like you, all over the world. We keep our world of magic hidden the best we can but not all young witches and wizards like you get to realise their full potential.”

“We’re opening a school, Gwen,” Rowena smiled, when she continued to stare at them as though this was all some big joke. “And we’d like you to come and learn magic with us. We’ll train all the young magic users like you.”

“You want me?” She asked shakily.

“Yes,” Godric nodded, smiling in amusement at her reaction.

“I don’t think my mother would approve,” she said quickly, looking scared.

“Your mother knows about your magic?”

“No,” she said quietly. “But if she did then…” She trailed off, her eyes beginning to swim with tears.

“Don’t fret,” Rowena assured her, gripping her hands firmly upon her shoulder. When the little girl gasped in pain Rowena suddenly reeled back. “What’s the matter?” She asked worriedly. When Gwen remained silent Rowena pulled down the edge of her tattered dress to reveal the tops of her shoulders. She also gasped when she saw that they’d been bruised, dappled with patches of blue and green. Godric then pulled the girl’s arm towards him and pushed up her sleeve to reveal more of these bruises. “Gwen, what happened to you? Did the other children do this?”

She shook her head, the tears beginning to stream down her cheeks.

“Your mother has beaten you, hasn’t she?” Godric asked darkly.

Slowly, the poor girl nodded.

“Why?” Rowena asked, feeling her heart contract painfully.

“I do things wrong all the time. She punishes me for it, says I have to be taught a lesson,” she murmured.

“No one deserves this,” Rowena breathed, feeling tears welling up in her own eyes. “Especially not a child!”

“I do. I’m a magic user. The penalty is death! I’m lucky really…”

“And who told you that? Your mother?” Godric spat, looking disgusted.

“She’s wrong, Gwen!” Rowena insisted.

“You won’t tell her about what I can do, will you?” She demanded, looking suddenly horror-struck again.

“Of course we won’t!” Godric promised.

“Oh, thank you so - ”

“GWEN!”

She suddenly froze as a horrid voice struck across the clearing; Godric and Rowena froze too, recognising it immediately. Gwen Jones’s mother stood at the very edge of the village and was staring angrily at her daughter. She also reserved some nasty looks for Godric and Rowena too.

“Mother…I was just - ”

“None of your excuses, you silly girl!” She barked, marching sharply towards her. “You’ll get home this instant! I told you not to wander off. And you two!” She growled, staring up at Godric and Rowena once she reached them. “I want you to stay away from my daughter. I know what you are!” They weren’t quick enough to disguise the anxious glance they shared and Mrs. Jones grinned in triumph. “The whole village will know soon enough so you'd better get packing! Come on, move!” She snarled, grabbing Gwen by her hair and dragging her back towards the village. “You wait until you get home!”

Rowena gripped Godric’s hand tightly as they watched this poor girl get dragged away, knowing there was nothing they could do.


Chapter 35: Taken
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The torrential rain that almost constantly watered the hillsides over the next few days seemed to reflect the way Godric and Rowena felt. They’d decided to lie low within the small little inn they were staying at. This was a small village and news would, no doubt, be spread fast. They didn’t want to fuel the fire by trying to see Gwen again. Her mother was formidable enough to keep them away without too much fuss.

Godric reached out a hand towards Rowena’s delicate wrist and clasped it tightly. This was in the hope of easing the pained expression she’d worn over the past few days. It was clearly torturing her, all the worry she felt towards the poor girl.

“Godric what if that woman - ?”

“She’ll be fine,” Godric assured her. He hoped he sounded convincing because he didn’t feel it.

“We should try reasoning with her mother.”

“We’ve been through this,” he sighed. “She wouldn’t understand. She’s too narrow-minded!”

“But then…what now? Are we supposed to just leave her and hope she’s not beaten every time she accidentally uses her powers!” She exclaimed hysterically.

Godric glared at her for a moment, silently telling her that she should keep her voice down.

“Of course not,” he said quickly.

“Then what?”

“I…I don’t know. I’m afraid I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.”

“We need to do something fast,” she insisted. “Her mother is horrid. Who knows how many more injuries that poor girl has now!”

“Calm down!” He muttered, clasping her hand tightly.

He took in her anxious expression as she gazed out of the window, the image outside distorted by all the rain. She’d been mulling all this over for far too long.

“We need to get out of here…clear our heads,” he said suddenly, rising from his chair and holding out a hand for her.

“Godric - it’s pouring of rain!” She gasped in disbelief.

“Ah, it’ll be more fun this way. Come on,” he chuckled, when she still frowned, as though she thought he was joking. “It’s only a bit of water!”

“I’d say it’s a little more that a bit!”

She grabbed onto his hand nonetheless and braced herself as Godric pushed open the heavy oak door. It was lucky the air wasn’t too nippy or they may have run the risk of catching pneumonia. Godric ran out into the rain first and was almost completely soaked after just a few seconds. Rowena reluctantly followed and somehow found herself laughing out loud as the heavy rain spilled over her face and caused her hair to fall limply around her shoulders.

“And where are we going exactly?” She asked, hurrying to catch up with Godric.

“I don’t know yet!” He chuckled.

They ran through the streets, their boots becoming very muddy very quickly. The locals, who stood beneath any shelter they could find if they could help it, were staring in bemusement at them both as they dashed through the rain, laughing quite merrily.

They’d soon made their way right out of the central area of the village and were near the larger farm buildings on the outskirts. This wasn’t a difficult journey to make, as you could probably have crossed from one side of the village to the other within half an hour if you walked briskly.

“Oh, look, it’s stopping a bit,” Rowena commented, squinting up into the heavens.

“Aye, so it is,” he nodded, coming to stand behind her and holding her in a comforting embrace. “Just look at you now, princess!” He laughed. “No one would guess, would they?”

“Hey, you!” She scolded, laughing along with him.

She shook her head forcefully from side to side and the water from her hair splashed him squarely in the face, making him recoil.

“Now, play fair!”

She darted off towards the barrier of trees that lay upon the brow of the hill just up ahead and Godric gave chase, laughing heartily as he did so. She had to hand it to him - he was certainly good at distracting her from her worries.

By the time they were amongst the tallest of the fir trees the rain had completely stopped and all they could hear was occasional birdsong and the drip, drip from the water still held by the trees. The dim sunlight managed to pierce through and dapple the forest floor with a soft green glow.

“You don’t provide much of a chase!” Godric chuckled, when Rowena came to a gradual stop in a small clearing.

“Oh yes I do,” she smirked. “If I remember correctly you forced your way through a fortified castle to get to me!”

“Did I really?” He joked. “I don’t think I’d do something so heroic!”

“Was it worth it, do you think?” She asked quietly, as he held her in a tight embrace again.

“Definitely,” he breathed, kissing her for a long, long moment.

They finally broke away from each other when they heard a strange shuffling noise. They exchanged a puzzled glance as they silently tried to work out what could be the source of this noise. They were about to go and investigate when the source made itself known. Little Gwen shuffled into the clearing, looking terribly exhausted and upset. She jumped in fright when she spotted them, obviously thinking them to be someone else. Her expression relaxed when she realised who they were. They probably looked a little different after being soaked by all the rain.

“I thought you’d left the village,” she muttered.

Rowena stared in shock at the poor girl and it was quite an understandable thing to do. Her clothes looked even more worn than usual - if that were possible - and she was shuffling about with bare, muddied feet. It was clear she’d been crying, as her eyes were severely bloodshot and her cheeks red and puffy. She inconspicuously tried to wipe away a fresh wave of tears before either of them noticed.

“Gwen, what happened?” Rowena demanded, rushing over to her and placing a comforting hand over her shoulders.

It was then that the girl broke down, her tears leaking down her face and splashing against her ragged old dress. She sobbed uncontrollably.

“You can tell us,” Godric assured her, hastily glancing around to check that no one else was within their vicinity.

“She…she…”

“Your mother?” Rowena prompted, when she sobbed in between her words again. She nodded once.

“She thought I had been practicing my magic. I promised her that I never do it on purpose. I try to do it as little as I can but…but I…”

“It’s difficult not to?” Godric suggested. Again, she nodded.

“She beat me because I told her you were the same,” she stammered.

“You told her what we are?” Rowena asked. She maintained a calm tone of voice but shared a very worried glance with Godric.

“Yes. I told her I could learn how to use my magic properly. I promised I’d only use it for good but she wouldn’t listen. She kept hitting me. She said…she said…”

“It’s alright. Calm down,” Rowena said soothingly, rubbing Gwen’s back in order to ease her breathing. “Say it slowly.”

“She said she’d tell everyone what I was!” She finally managed to gasp. Her face screwed up in fear and she began to cry again, the tears now causing large wet patches to form on the front of her dress. “She said that they’d hunt me down because it’s not natural - the magic!”

“That horrible - !” Rowena began to say.

“I take it she doesn’t know you’re out here?” Godric asked knowingly. After a moment or two she shook her head, looking rather sheepish.

“I wanted to get away. I’ve never been to another village so I’m afraid I’ll get lost.”

“You’re trying to run away?” Godric asked calmly.

“Yes. I need to leave before I’m found out!”

“Perhaps…” Rowena muttered, looking thoughtful. “Well, you intend to hone your skills, don’t you, Gwen?”

“I don’t suppose I have a choice now,” she shrugged.

“Well then…maybe she could…?” She said, glancing across at Godric. “It would make perfect sense.”

“You’re not suggesting…? Rowena, I don’t think - ”

“But we can’t just leave her behind!”

“What are you talking about?” Gwen asked, looking confused. “Are you leaving the village? You’d take me with you?” She asked excitedly, suddenly grasping what Rowena meant.

“We can’t just kidnap her. We don’t need any trouble following us around,” he insisted, lowering his voice slightly.

“But you wouldn’t be kidnapping me,” Gwen piped up. “I’d willingly come with you. I want to see your school! Please?” She begged, noticing that Godric still seemed highly reluctant over the matter. “You said yourself I was a potential student!”

“The village will search for you. We’ll be caught, Gwen, and we’re two people who really can’t afford to have the law chasing after us,” Godric muttered regretfully.

“No one would miss me. Everyone here would be glad to see the back of me. They all think I’m strange. They say I don’t belong here.”

Rowena stared pleadingly at Godric because he was still obviously in two minds. He’d begun pacing up and down. Godric knew he’d feel incredible amounts of guilt if he left this poor little girl to fend for herself. She just wasn’t capable of protecting herself. On the other hand, he didn’t want to jeopardise everything he and Rowena had worked so hard at. They’d fallen off the map and could live their lives in peace. With this slight hiccup in proceedings that could all be ruined if they made a wrong decision.

“The stories my mother used to tell me were horrible,” Gwen said, finally breaking the pain-staking silence. “The way they burn the magic kind, even the innocents they thought were using dark curses!”

“But that’s not going to happen to you!” Rowena promised.

“That’s why I’m leaving. I’ll go somewhere where they won’t find me if I can’t come with you. I’ll hide for years if I have to!”

“You’ll be in danger if you’re not with your own kind,” she said anxiously. “You won’t be able to learn everything you need to.”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said, shaking her head in determination. She took a great, shuddering breath and seemed to accept things. She gently shrugged from beneath Rowena’s arm, forcefully wiped away her tears, and began to stride on through the trees.

“Gwen, you can’t!” Rowena squeaked, looking terrified. “Godric?” She breathed, looking to him for some kind of assurance.

He stared after Gwen and felt a great stab of guilt in the pit of his stomach. He couldn’t let this happen.

“You’re not leaving this village!” Godric called sternly, causing her to freeze and turn around. “Not on your own.”

“What…why…what do you mean?” She stammered, taking another unsteady breath.

“No student of ours is going to be left to fend for themselves!”

“You mean I can come with you?” She asked, her eyes sparkling brighter than they’d even seen them before. “You’ll take me to the school?”

“Yes,” he smiled. “But we have to leave soon. Wait…” He muttered, feeling his spine tingle uncomfortably. “Do you think your mother will realise you’re gone?”

“She might still be sleeping off the ale,” she said quietly. “She was quite drunk when I left her. She was snoring so loudly. I don’t think she heard me leave,” she explained uncertainly.

“I’d say we have an hour to get out of here,” he said thoughtfully.

“Then let’s go!” Gwen urged.

“No, we have to get the horses and our coach. We can’t travel on foot.”

“You can’t go back to the village!” Gwen hissed, looking terrified.

“Why not?”

“Before she fell asleep she…I think she meant it too!” She gasped. “She said she was going to tell the whole village about me. She said she’d tell them all about you as well. She guessed what you were.”

“Okay,” Godric muttered, sounding far more calm than he felt at that precise moment in time. “I’ll have to go back alone to get the coach. It’s not safe for us all to return to the village.”

“But Godric - ” Rowena began to protest.

“You and Gwen should get to the outskirts of town. Wait for me by the main road. Stay out of sight!”

“Wait!” She called, as Godric dashed off through the trees.

She stared after him in utter horror, only capable of thinking the worst. Her breathing became shallow but she knew she had to control herself so as not to worry Gwen. She took the little girl’s hand and they hurried through the trees together.

*

Godric raced through the forest, dodging all the trees and feeling his feet pound painfully upon the uneven ground. He was a fast runner and had soon reached the first few houses close by. As soon as he’d crossed the bridge that spanned out over the river he slowed down, knowing it would look suspicious if he were to continue running through the village.

He strolled quickly, though, his breathing becoming audibly shallow. When he spotted a small group of the residents he tried to maintain a blank expression, glancing straight past them.

“Morning!” One of them called, smiling in greeting at him.

Godric smiled in reply, inclining his head slightly. So he now assumed that no one yet knew what he truly was. That was a great relief but he guessed that it wouldn’t take long before everyone found out. He’d have to be quick and inconspicuous.

He’d soon reached the inn and had a horrid sense that it had all been a tad too easy. He disregarded his anxiety nonetheless and retrieved the small bag of things belonging to himself and Rowena. Once he’d done this he managed to slip out the back door and cross the small courtyard that led to the stables. The two horses they required to travel were standing quite contently within their stables, staring over the bottom doors.

Godric was relieved to see that there was no one around and hastily led the first horse over to the carriage, which was left over in the corner of the courtyard. He’d done this so many times that he managed to fasten the horse to its harness quite easily. Just as he was coaxing the second horse to back up and stand alongside the other he was startled by a call that shot across the yard.

“Godric! You’re not leaving, are you?”

He glanced over to see the owner of the inn. He was a rather beefy man with small eyes. He asked this question quite conversationally but his eyes were narrowed.

“I’m afraid so,” he replied, hoping he sounded as casual as he thought he did.

“It’s a shame, is that!” He muttered, shaking his head. “You taking that pretty young thing with you?”

“Of course,” he nodded, knowing that he meant Rowena.

He slowly fastened the horse into the harness. He would have done it as fast as he’d done the other but knew it would look suspicious if he were to use unnecessary speed. He just hoped this conversation wouldn’t go on for too long.

“Where are you off to then?”

“We don’t know yet,” he replied truthfully. “We’ll just see where the road takes us!”

“Is that so?” He chuckled, strolling a little closer.

As Godric finished attaching the horses to the coach he suddenly realised that the man was now standing right next to him, still chuckling to himself.

“Well,” Godric said finally, feeling a little uncomfortable. “I best be off - long way to go!”

As he was about to climb aboard the coach the man grabbed hold of his arm.

“I don’t think so, boy!” He growled.

“Excuse me?”

“I’ve been told something rather interesting about you.”

“Have you really?” He asked, trying to remain calm as he felt uncomfortable panic grip at his throat. “And what’s that then?”

“You’re one of them magic users!” He snarled, sounding disgusted. “You’ll be burnt at the stake for that!”

Godric held the man’s gaze, amazed at how well he was maintaining his composure. He knew his face gave nothing away.

“And who told you that?” He asked.

“Mrs. Jones,” he replied. “A valued member of our community.”

“And a drunk, I’m told?” He added conversationally. “Forgive me but I don’t think you have any right to accuse me of such things when the person who’s spreading these rumours can barely stand!”

“Not rumours, though, are they?” He said darkly. “I knew what you were the moment you came here!”

“I’m afraid you have no proof,” he pointed out. “The moment you do, I’m all ears.”

Godric tore his arm from this man’s surprisingly tight grip and climbed up onto the carriage.

“Meredith!” He shouted suddenly, the shout carrying through the silent afternoon. Godric panicked as he yelled, dreading what would soon ensue. “Tell them he’s here! I’ve found the sorcerer!” He glared up at Godric and wore a very nasty grin upon his face. “He’s trying to make a run for it!”

“You really shouldn’t have done that,” Godric said, an amused tone coming across in his voice. “I’m sorry.”

He thrust his hand out towards the man and caused a bright spark of light to send him flying backwards. After this he knew he would soon be in big trouble. He had to get to Rowena and Gwen before anyone else did. He whipped the horses into action and they obediently tore through the village.

It was now too late to remain inconspicuous and it was quite clear that the news had gotten out. As Godric raced past the villagers they now shouted abuse and attempted to chase after the carriage. The moment he got to Rowena and Gwen he knew they’d not have long to get as far away from here as possible before the villagers caught up with them.

His heart lifted slightly when he spotted the beginning of the road that led through the forest up ahead. This relief didn’t last long, though, as the thunderous sound of hooves echoed behind him. Some of the men from the village were giving chase and were gaining fast. This carriage was a heavier load for his horses and Godric knew, with a sinking of the heart, that they’d soon be upon him.

He’d soon shot through the first line of trees and began tearing along. The horses were becoming tired, their breath deep and rasping.

“You can’t get away, sorcerer!” Someone cried.

“Watch me!” he muttered under his breath, urging the horses to go faster.

They painstakingly and loyally did so, soon providing enough distance so that Godric could no longer hear all the angry shouts. He almost laughed out loud when he spotted the end of the road, which marked the edge of the village’s land as it joined with a much larger one. He slowed the carriage, knowing he’d have to try hard to get up such speed again.

“We were worried about you!” Rowena gasped, emerging from the shadow of a large tree and ushering Gwen into the carriage.

“Hurry. Keep your head down!” He warned, glancing swiftly over his shoulder before whipping the horses once again.

The carriage jolted forwards and they were soon tearing past the edge of the forest, noticing that the road ahead provided no cover whatsoever. They’d be visible for miles!

“Godric,” Rowena squeaked worriedly, also noticing this.

She fearfully turned in her seat and gaped in horror at the men that still pursued the carriage on horseback.

“You filthy magic users!” One of them roared. “You’ll be burnt before sundown!”

Gwen started crying hysterically, shaking in terror. She tried covering her ears to block out their shouts but all the jeering was deafening.

“They’re going to kill us!” She sobbed.

“No they’re not!” Rowena said defiantly through gritted teeth. “Not if I can help it!”

“What are you doing?” Godric demanded, as Rowena hung out of the side of the carriage in full view of their pursuers. He was terrified she’d fall at any moment, as they were travelling at quite a hefty speed.

Rowena focused upon the men chasing after them, trying to ignore her racing heart and the blurred sight of the ground just feet beneath her. She unwisely let go with her right hand and directed it towards a large pile of rocks, willing them to obey her invisible grasp. When she knew she had control she shot them towards the men and their horses. The startled animals reared up, sending most of the men crashing to the floor. She grinned in triumph.

For those that were still pursuing them she had another little surprise in store. She sent the grains of dirt and sand upon the track scattering up in the air so that their vision became obscured.

“No!” One of the men yelled, pulling his horse to a stop. “Leave them. The witch is dangerous!”

With that the men all turned back, glaring after them. Rowena carefully clambered back inside the carriage and closed the door. Her breathing was shallow and harsh. She was unable to believe what she’d just done.

“You did it!” Gwen beamed, hugging her tightly.

“A fine shot!” Godric shouted in agreement, smiling fondly at his love.

“Is it like this everywhere you two go?” Gwen asked anxiously.

Godric and Rowena just exchanged glances, finding the situation rather amusing now that it was all over.


Chapter 36: The Proposal
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Salazar Slytherin had one advantage that his other three friends did not when it came to finding potential students for Hogwarts. He was, of course, still on speaking terms with Benedick Greyson. For the past two years he’d used this old friend and mentor to locate magic users that were fitting for the school. Benedick had even assisted in convincing some of the less willing families that it was all a good idea. Salazar greatly appreciated his help and knew he owed a lot to him.

He was, once again, on his way to see Benedick at his grand home on the outskirts of London. He’d requested that Salazar come alone, as always. He usually insisted that Belle remain behind at whichever inn they were staying at, feeling that this sort of business was nothing a woman should be involved with. Salazar felt guilty every time he told Belle she had to stay behind but knew it was the best way. She didn’t argue, knowing it would be beneficial in the long run.

Salazar strode down the tree-lined dirt track that led up to the front of Benedick’s house, his cloak fluttering serenely in the cool summer breeze. He’d certainly done well for himself. The construction of his home was nothing compared to the king’s castle but it would make most men jealous. It seemed that more elaborate features had been added since the last time they’d met. Two stone dragons now flanked the doorway and Salazar assumed that there would be more telltale signs of his new wealth within.

He knocked upon the heavy oak door and, within moments, a squat little man with watery eyes and a few pitiful strands of grey hair that had been carefully teased across his bald head answered the door. He nodded in recognition of Salazar and gave a lop-sided grin.

“Come in, Sir, come in,” he urged, stepping back and allowing him to cross the threshold. “My master has been expecting you.”

“Thank you, Gerald.”

“Is that Salazar? Has he arrived?” A loud, stern voice demanded from one of the many rooms that led off from this grand entrance hall.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Well, bring him to me!”

Gerald led Salazar through to one of the grand drawing rooms, which was laced with luxurious cabinets full of many jewels and trinkets. He’d certainly built up a good collection. Benedick had gotten a little larger than Salazar remembered him. He’d clearly been gluttonous during the past few months. Upon a little table next to him were a collection of glass bottles full of some interesting-looking liquids.

“Ah, there you are. I thought you’d decided to miss our little meeting,” he chuckled gently, indicating for him to take a seat upon the sofa opposite him. “Can I tempt you?” He asked, tapping a finger upon the closest bottle to him. “This is the finest wine in London, I’m told. The king himself recommended that I try it.”


“Thank you,” Salazar nodded, not wanting to seem rude. “I’d just like to say how very grateful I am for all your help, Benedick,” he said, taking the goblet of wine he’d just poured. “If you hadn’t found out about all those students and convinced their families then I - ”

“Now, now, my boy!” He interrupted, holding up a hand to silence him. “You have bombarded me with your gratitude quite enough already. It was nothing.”

Salazar was unsure what to say so he took a long sip of the blood red wine he’d been given.

“I trust the duties up at this school of yours have been divided equally?” Benedick asked, after a short silence.

“Yes, they have,” he replied simply. “We’re each out looking for students. I’m not the only one searching for them. I’m not a servant to them,” he finished, speaking a little more sharply than he’d intended.

“Oh, no, I wasn’t implying such a thing,” he smiled, surveying Salazar over the rim of his own goblet. “But I was referring to the magic you’ll teach. It will be basic, I presume?”

“We know enough!”

“Oh, I know that you’re all very bright,” he insisted, setting down his wine and clasping his hands together. “But there are certain types of magic I fear will be neglected, should no one choose to teach them within this school of yours. Of course, Godric would probably not approve of a suggestion such as - ”

“He is not in charge of us!” Salazar snapped, feeling her temper rise.

“Certainly not. The boy has a good, loud mouth but to lead…no, no, I always thought you were more fitting as a leader.”

Salazar felt some pride in this compliment and then his anger decreased by the slightest degree.

“If you were to suggest a certain type of magic be taught amongst your students…” He said casually. “I am well-versed. I could teach it to you.”

“And what type of magic would this be?” Salazar asked, unable to hide his intrigue.

“The kind most fear, Salazar,” he said quietly. The way he spoke now sent an uncomfortable chill rippling along Salazar’s spine. “But, of course, only those that possess true power embrace it and succeed in using it.”

“But what is it?” He persisted, abandoning his wine and leaning further forwards in his seat now.

“Every young witch and wizard has the right to use this magic, Salazar. The Darks Arts are merely misunderstood by the weak minded.”

“The Dark Arts?” He barked, certain he’d misheard. “But that’s dark magic, the worst kind.”

“No, Salazar,” he said calmly. “This is just my point. People do not understand - ”

“I understand perfectly well!” He growled, rising to his feet and staring down at Benedick in disbelief. “The worst of our kind use it to torment and manipulate the mortals. They even use it against their fellow wizards. I’ve heard all about the Dark Arts! I want nothing to do with that kind of magic!”

“Oh, Salazar, don’t be so naïve!” He chuckled in amusement, almost rising to his feet.

“I’m no fool, Benedick!”

“I rather think that you are, boy!” He barked, speaking more sharply now. His anger was bubbling up to the surface. “How else do you think I convinced all those idiots to allow their children to attend your school?”

Salazar just stared at him, flabbergasted. It took him a moment or two to regain his composure.

“You tricked them all? You toyed with their minds?” He choked.

“You make it sound so sordid…”

“I can’t believe you’d…how - ?” He stammered, staring at him in disbelief.

“I’ve done far worse. Most of it was done just to protect you.” Salazar shook his head, not wanting to believe it. “You really have no idea how many people have discovered you over the years, Salazar. Obviously, your generation struggles when it comes to concealment. It’s a good job you’ve always had me here to watch your back and stop such idle gossip getting any further.”

“What do you mean?” He muttered, feeling his stomach churn unexplainably.

“Well, I had to get rid of them, did I not? Would you rather the king find out just what a despicable sorcerer was working for him?” He chuckled as he said this and Salazar despised that casual, unconcerned smile he wore.

“You mean murder…?” He asked slowly, suddenly realising what this meant. “You killed them?”

“Of course I did!” He snapped, feverishly pouring himself another drink. The odd sound of the wine spilling out into the goblet filled the uncomfortable silence that had fallen. “I was doing it for you, Salazar. Your parents wanted me to protect you - I promised them I’d do so.”

“No, don’t you dare! Don’t say you murdered people for my benefit. It didn’t have to come to such horrid means, Benedick!” He growled. “My mother and father would never have wanted that!” He croaked, feeling his throat constrict at the mere mention of his parents.

“Forgive me, Salazar, but I knew them many years before you and have known them far longer. I know more about them than you can ever dream of knowing. I hate to cause you any distress but they were not the angelic creatures you picture them to be.”

“How dare you speak about them like that!”

“They used dark magic too,” he told him, chuckling gently at Salazar’s reaction. “Together we pioneered some of the more renowned spells. They were quite remarkable, it has to be said.”

“You’re lying!” Salazar roared, knowing he was on the brink of cursing Benedick into oblivion.

He couldn’t quite believe he was speaking about his parents in this way. Salazar considered the fact that he’d perhaps had a little too much to drink but, as bitter as it made him feel, he knew Benedick’s were the words of a sober man.

“Oh, it is such a pity,” he murmured, sighing deeply and setting down his goblet again. “Such a pity to see all this potential ruined. You have become narrow-minded like these so-called friends of yours. I expected better from you and so did your parents.”

“Stop!” He snarled, backing away and heading for the door. “Don’t you dare speak about them like that. I want nothing more to do with you. You’ve been brainwashed, Benedick. I thought you were a good man. Never contact me again! I no longer need your help!”

With that he stormed out of the room, angrily blasting one of the ornate little tables into pieces.

“As you wish, Salazar!” Benedick called calmly. “But the moment you change your mind, you know where I am. You will change your mind, Salazar!”

Salazar just ran, wanting to put as much distance between himself and Benedick as possible. He could scarcely believe that his old friend, his old mentor, would dabble in such dark magic. He felt a little foolish now. He felt he should have spotted some telltale sign. The insult upon his parents, though, was something that Salazar would not easily forget.

He got back to the inn a lot sooner than he’d expected and, once he’d stormed into their room, he found a puzzled Belle staring back at him.

“What’s happened, Salazar?” She asked anxiously.

“It’s nothing!” He grunted, wishing he’d had the sense to stay away until he’d calmed down somewhat.

“I thought your meeting would take a little longer than this. Has something bad happened?”

He sat down upon the windowsill and stared out over the busy city, glaring angrily at the faint outline of his own reflection. He just shook his head in reply.

“Salazar,” she breathed, warily taking up a seat next to him and trying to gain eye contact. “Talk to me. I’m here for you,” she said, taking his hand. “What is it?”

“Benedick,” he snarled, still not looking at her. “He said some horrid things about my parents. He tried to get me involved in…some bad things. Very dark magic.” She remained silent, nodding in understanding at his side. “He wants to teach me all he knows about the Dark Arts so that I can pass it all onto the students!”

“Well,” she said slowly, thinking for a moment. “Perhaps he means well. There are always many sides to things. The Dark Arts aren’t necessarily bad, are they?”

Salazar turned to look at her now. She cowered beneath his glare, for he looked at her as though she was both stupid and disgusting.

“Are you really that ignorant of magic?” He said acidly, laughing with a great amount of bitterness in his tone. “Anyone who thinks such a thing is a fool!”

“Salazar, I - ”

“I shouldn’t have expected you to understand any of this. You’re just a simple mortal.”

It was only a few moments after he said this that Salazar felt guilt freeze his insides so suddenly that it seemed to knock the wind out of him. It had purely been an outburst of anger and he regretted it a moment too late. He turned to see Belle’s hurt expression and felt his heart sink.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured, moving towards her and taking her in his arms. “Ignore my temper. I didn’t mean any of it.”

“I know that,” she said, although she still sounded upset by it. “Perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to ask Benedick for help.”

“We should leave,” he sighed. “I don’t think it’s safe for us to be here.”

Her breathing faltered for a brief moment and she pulled away slightly so that she could look up into his eyes.

“You think he’d come after us?” She muttered fearfully.

“I can’t be sure but I wouldn’t put it past him,” he said darkly. “Not now.”

Belle nodded in understanding and rested the side of her face against his chest once more. This made it easier for her to conceal her anxious expression.


Chapter 37: A Helping Hand
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Helga Hufflepuff could not remember the last time she’d been this happy. She had, of course, enjoyed countless fond memories with her three best friends but a new hope seemed to be brimming upon the horizon. These days she seemed to smile for no particular reason. The life she led at present was one of mild adventure, something which she’d gotten a taste and a craving for after spending so much time with Godric in the past. Although, his type of adventure was usually a little too risky for her liking. This new-found life of adventure was slightly more subdued but provided her with both new people to meet and places to go, along with the old familiars as well.

She had stayed in various small villages and towns around Ireland and found herself welcomed in most places. She was recognised, of course, due to the fact that her father had once been renowned. He was still well-known for being a generous and kind man, everything Helga remembered him to be.

She was now taking up residence with an old family she had known since she was a child. Liam O’Donnell had been a good acquaintance with Helga’s father, along with his wife Nora. They were kind souls and very supportive of the idea of Hogwarts. They also lived in their grand home with Liam’s brother, Aiden, who was not so keen on such a prospect. He had never been as friendly but was quite civil.

“My dear Helga,” Nora smiled one evening, as they all dined upon a grand feast of roast meats and seasonable vegetables along with the three children, Connor, Sian and Louisa. “When is it that you plan to leave?”

“Nora!” Liam barked, almost choking on his wine as he began to chuckle. “The girl only got here a few days ago!”

“Oh, no!” She said quickly, looking apologetic. “I wasn’t referring to the fact that we want you to leave - you mustn’t think that. No, goodness no!” She insisted. “I just hoped you might stay with us for a while. It’s been lovely to have you around.”

“Thank you,” Helga beamed. “It was so good of you to let me stay. I’m ever so grateful.”

“Not at all!”

“Helga!” Sian piped up, looking excitable. “When is it that we can come to Hogwarts?”

Sian was a bright girl, just turned nine, with a thirst for knowledge and adventure. Her wide green eyes seemed to glitter with anticipation.

“Oh, sweetheart, you know you can’t go yet,” Nora chuckled. “You’re not quite old enough.”

“Oh…” She groaned, looking a little disheartened.

“But you, my boy!” Liam said proudly, winking across at his eldest son, a handsome young boy with dark brown hair and eyes as kind as his father’s. “You’ll soon be joining the finest sorcerers in the land!”

“I can’t wait,” he smiled.

He spoke quietly and hid high emotions well but it was obvious that he was buzzing with excitement on the inside.

“And a fine wizard you shall make too!” Liam smiled.

They all ceased their talking as the large oak doors that led into the dining hall suddenly creaked open. As they turned to see who was interrupting their meal they met the sight of a man with dark, lank hair hanging just past his shoulders, dark eyes and clothes that would certainly not suggest he lived in such a grand home.

“Ah, I see you finally decided to join us, brother,” Liam remarked, his tone a little harder now.

“I must apologise for my lateness,” he replied, inclining his head slightly. “I couldn’t help overhearing our current topic of conversation,” he added, grabbing one of the remaining bread rolls and falling into the chair at the opposite end of the table to Liam. “The magic school.”

“Yes,” Nora said, not looking too happy that Aiden had decided to join them, late or not. “We were discussing the matter of Connor’s attendance.”

“Ah, yes,” he smiled. “My clever nephew!”

Connor kept his eyes upon his food, not wanting to acknowledge his uncle’s words.

“Tell me, Helga,” Aiden continued, speaking through a mouthful of bread and causing Nora to grit her teeth in annoyance. “What are your fees for letting such urchins into your school?”

“Our students are not urchins,” she replied, trying to laugh off this comment. “And…well, we have no need for fees. Some of our students' guardians cannot afford such things.”

“And what of those that come from rich families such as this one?” He asked, indicating Connor.

“It would not be fair if we did that.”

“Ah, a woman’s view upon the world, of course!” He laughed, ripping another large chunk from the bread with his teeth and proceeding to pour himself a large goblet of wine. “But then how do you expect to maintain such a grand place of tuition with no income whatsoever?”

“I think that’s enough,” Liam said, after a long and awkward pause. “Helga and her friends will work it all out. It’s no business of ours.”

“More wine, Helga?” Nora asked, passing her the bottle.

“Yes, thank you.”

“I’m just curious,” Aiden went on, as though there had been no interruption. “What is it that the students will do once they leave your institution?”

“Afterwards?”

“Yes,” he smiled. “I mean, you’ll have a new generation of our kind running about eager to test out the practices they have learnt. Forgive me but such a prospect does not bode well. The mere Mortals become more and more suspicious all the time. It’s almost as though you’d be adding fuel to the fire.”

Helga felt herself flush red. His words made her feel foolish, despite the fact that Hogwarts was not all her own idea. In truth she nor the other founders had discussed the prospects of what their students would do after their teachings were complete.

“Surely a generation of wise and knowledgeable magic folk is safer than a generation that do not even know what their powers are,” she retorted.

“Perhaps,” he nodded, taking another swig of his wine. “I wish you all the best, Helga!” He beamed, raising his goblet to her.

The tension around the table was at its height but was soon forgotten when the door swung open, appearing to have done so of its own accord. It was only when a squeaky little voice broke the silence that they realised one of the household servants had entered.

“Master Aiden!” It chirped. “Forgive me, Sir. I wasn’t aware that you’d be joining your family for dinner this evening.”

Helga leant around the corner of the table to see a very familiar and sorry-looking sight - a skinny creature with bat-like ears and a pointy little nose, wearing only a scrap of material over its leathery little body. This was Silus, the house elf.

“Well, you shouldn’t assume!” He said, not even looking in the creature’s direction. “You’re not paid to think for yourself! Then again…” He went on, a smile of wicked amusement lighting up his face. “You’re not paid at all, are you!”

“I shall get you a plate, Sir!” He squeaked, sounding rather scared.

“Yes, you shall!” He barked after the elf. “And you’ll be damn quick about it too!”

Helga tried to hide a scowl as the little elf dashed feverishly from the room. She was used to how others spoke to this often unusual choice of household servant but it got to her each and every time. She felt a great amount of pity towards them.

“I can’t understand why you allow those incompetent creatures to work for you, Liam. They really are useless!”

“I’m surprised they still work for humans at all, if any of them should have an attitude like yours!” Helga snapped, unable to contain herself. “You are too hard on them!”

He fixed her with a glare she was unable to match so she took to staring silently down at her plate. Out of the corner of her eye she could see him smirking, though.

“You do have a fondness for unfortunate creatures, don’t you?” He remarked. “It is in their nature to work as our slaves, Helga. What other purpose would they serve?”

Helga felt the anger burn within her gut and she found herself rising from the table.

“Please excuse me, Sir,” she said quickly, nodding in Liam’s direction.

He nodded in understanding and she hastily left the room, breathing a sigh of relief once she reached the cool and quiet of the hallway outside. After the few moments it took to calm herself, she made her way up to her room. She didn’t get too far before she bumped into Silus, who had just flitted into the hallway through a concealed door. She gasped in shock but didn’t look nearly as shocked - or frightened - as the little elf did. His eyes shone like moons as he stared up at her.

“Sorry,” she said hastily.

“But…you…it is I that should apologise, Miss!” He squeaked quickly, getting onto his hands and knees and bowing so low that his nose touched the floor. “I almost caused you a grave injury. Oh, I am so very, very sorry. Please forgive me!”

“Really, there’s no harm done!” She insisted, attempting to show him a smile of encouragement. “Are you alright after what Aiden said to you?”

“My feelings do not matter!” He gasped, looking astounded by the very notion. “Master Aiden was quite right to point out my mistakes. I have not been performing to my best of late.”

“Why’s that?” She asked, trying to fathom the meaning of the strange expression upon his face. “It it because he has been shouting at you?”

“No, Miss, certainly not. I am used to that,” he added, with a nervous little smile.

“Then what?” She urged, feeling a fresh wave of sympathy wash over her.

“I cannot say!”

“Wait!” Helga called, as the elf began to dash off at a surprising speed for a being so small. “You mustn’t suffer in silence. You should tell someone about your troubles. Silus!”

She hurried after him and managed to catch up at the bottom of the closest staircase, latching onto his arm before he could go any further.

“Please, Miss, I beg of you!” He squeaked. Helga was so shocked to see shining tears dribbling down his face that she let go of him immediately. He now seemed too beside himself to run any further, however, and crumpled to his knees. “They mustn’t find out!”

“Find out what?”

“They will punish them all! They can punish me, for it is all my fault, but to punish them would be terrible!”

“Who?” Helga asked, becoming more puzzled by the moment.

“I cannot say,” he whispered, looking up and down the dark corridor with terror etched upon his face. “They will be in great danger!”

“Silus…you trust me, don’t you?” She asked, leaning down to his level. “I can keep secrets, I promise you.”

“I cannot tell you,” he said again, causing Helga’s heart to sink. “But I can show you…”

His eyes lit up as he stared uncertainly at Helga, trying to read her expression. She nodded once and he leapt to his feet. As he began to lead the way Helga was forced to trot along in order to keep up. She almost crashed into him when they had reached the ground floor and he skidded to a stop in front of another concealed doorway, which he proceeded to prise open. Beyond this section of wall was a narrow stone staircase that led down into darkness. Helga reluctantly followed, careful with her footing, and they soon emerged in front of a heavy oak door. This door was coated in cobwebs and was small enough to force Helga to have to duck through.

“Please,” Silus hissed, before he opened the door. “You mustn’t speak of what I am going to show you to anyone.”

She nodded again and he slowly pushed the door, which squeaked eerily. At first Helga simply believed she’d been brought down into on old storeroom that hadn’t been used in years. It smelt strongly of damp and the stone walls had moss growing upon them in places. She was shocked when the things she’d believed to be piles of dissused sacks began to move. She felt her heart rate increase but stood her ground, wondering what on earth was going on.

“You can come out, it’s safe!” Silus called softly.

Helga’s state of shock only doubled when the room was suddenly full of movement and little eyes glittered within the darkness. As Silus lit one of the torches at the side of the room the forms of no less that fifty elves became clear. It was a miracle that so many had managed to fit into such a small space. It was at that moment that Helga began to wonder why they were there at all and why they were being kept down here, shrouded in secrecy.

“Who are they?” She managed to ask.

“Friends,” Silus said simply.

“You said you would keep us safe here!” One of the elves piped up, sounding quite fearful.

“You are safe.” Helga couldn’t help but notice the uncertainty in Silus’s voice as he promised this. “Helga will tell no one of this.”

“Of course not,” she insisted. “But why are you all hiding down here?”

There was a nervous silence and Helga could only assume that this great mass of elves were in trouble of some kind.

“They will all be in grave danger if they leave,” Silus explained sadly. “Their jobs - their homes - are all gone. No one wants house elves anymore. I am lucky to still be here.”

“But there must be somewhere you can go. You’re all so useful, so efficient,” she insisted. “There must be work.”

“No, Miss,” he replied, shaking his head. “A house elf that is no longer owned is seen as vermin. Should they find any of my friends wandering the land, they will be…” He trailed off, looking terrified by the prospect.

“That’s awful!” She squeaked, feeling her stomach churn horribly.

“You are a kind soul, Miss Helga, but there are those in the world that are not so generous and caring.”

She looked around at the sea of sad little faces before her and felt nothing but sympathy. She also felt rather useless, trying desperately to think of something she could do. Nothing came to mind.

“How long have you been down here?” She asked.

“Almost a month,” one of the elves squeaked.

“I bring them the leftovers,” Silus explained. “Though, there is barely enough to go around these days.”

Helga could not find the words to reply and just continued to stare sadly around at them all.

“What you are doing is so noble, Silus.”

“Thank you, Miss,” he said dismissively, beginning to blush furiously. “But any other of my kind would do the same. Forgive me,” he added quickly. “But I fear you may be missed. My master and his family may be looking for you and to risk them searching down here would not be good, lest they discover my friends,” he hissed.

“Of course,” she nodded. “I’ll be going now.”

She smiled in farewell to all the other elves, most of whom still looked wary of her, and then retraced her steps back up to the main castle. On the way back to her room she felt extremely restless, trying desperately to think of a way to help those poor creatures. If they stayed here they were bound to be discovered eventually but if they were left to fend for themselves they would all be dead within weeks. It all seemed so unfair that Helga shed a tear.

*

As the next morning dawned her head felt very clear, surprisingly clear. This enabled her to think more fluently. As she prepared for the day ahead she tried to think of a place that could require so many elves. It would be simpler to split them up but far too time consuming. The best bet was for them all to go to the same place. The only places that came to mind were enormous residences, such as castles. She doubted the king himself would want such creatures working for him. All she had to do was find a place that would have much work to be attended to and plenty of room. Somewhere that would truly require such industrious workers…

That was when common sense struck her. She already knew of a place - the perfect place! Without hesitating for a moment, Helga rushed through the hallways and passages and finally found the route she’d been led along the previous night. It took her a minute or two to remember the location of the concealed entrance to the old cellar. Once she found it she hurried down the staircase and heard a great amount of scuffling upon her approach.

“Miss Helga!” Silus squeaked in shock. “You gave us such a fright!”

“Oh…I’m sorry,” she said, feeling guilty when she noticed that many of the elves were halfway through the act of scrambling beneath discarded sacks or attempting to conceal themselves within the holes in the wall.

“Is something the matter?” Silus asked nervously. “Does my master need me?”

“No. I have something to tell you - all of you!” She announced, beaming excitedly around at them all.

“Really?” He said uncertainly, exchanging nervous glances with the other elves.

“You all would have nowhere to go, should you leave here, is that correct?”

“That is right, Miss,” Silus nodded.

“Well, I couldn’t bare to see you all out in the cold, not when I have the perfect place for you - a place you could call home!”

“Please, do not get our hopes up, Miss!” One of the female elves squeaked.

“I wouldn’t,” she assured them. “This next month I shall be returning to Scotland, where my friends and I are to open up a school of magic. It is a very large school and it will need tending to. You would be most welcome there, I assure you.”

The elves seemed to perk up slightly at this. Their nerves subsided and, though they still looked a little uncertain, there was fresh hope shining within their eyes.

“Where is…Scot-land?” One of them asked anxiously.

“To the north, just across the sea.”

“It is cold up there, I hear. They have very cold winters.”

“Our kind are not used to such cold.”

“You wouldn’t have to worry,” Helga promised, smiling around at them all. “You would have shelter and food. You’d all be safe there. My friends would be as kind to you as I would,” she added, feeling that they would appreciate the promise of kind ownership. She rather thought that most of them had probably had very poor experiences in that department.

“Oh yes, please may we come with you, Miss!” one of the youngest elves pleaded, looking very eager.

“But how will you get them all to your school?” Silus asked uncertainly.

Helga’s face fell. She hadn’t thought this through too much.

“Well…I would find a way. You would all be safe with my guard and I. The journey will, of course, be the riskiest part. There are many of you,” she added, glancing anxiously over their numbers again. “But the journey should last no more than three days. If you so wish to come with me and live at the school then I will happily guard you along the way.”

“Oh, you are so very noble, Miss!” Silus cried suddenly, making her jump in shock. Large tears had begun to trickle down his face, dripping from the end of his nose.

She was even more taken aback when the mass of elves all surged forwards and crowded around her knees, hugging her to show their gratitude.

“Now all we have to do is keep this a secret until it is time for you to leave, Miss,” Silus said seriously, looking rather concerned.

“We will,” she promised, flashing him a beaming smile that seemed to assure him a little further.


Chapter 38: Blackmail
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Salazar was finding it difficult to sleep. He knew why this was. Knowing the source of these problems was the easy part but ridding himself of the niggling feeling at the back of his mind was a whole other matter. It wasn’t that he was worried Benedick may come for him in the night - such a ridiculous notion! What bothered him most of all were the things Benedick had said. He just couldn’t believe that his parents had been involved in such dark magic. He’d always remembered them as kind souls. He had been young when they’d died but he couldn’t have been so manipulated and so distracted that he didn’t notice something as serious as that. No…it couldn’t be true.

“Salazar…Salazar, are you alright?”

But then…why did he continue to question every little thing about his parents? Did he really doubt them?

“Salazar?”

“Yes,” he said quickly, as Belle brushed him lightly against the arm again.

They had hastily moved from their last Inn and were now residing in a far quieter - if not a little grotty - establishment on the outskirts of the city. Salazar would have left for Scotland early but knew he couldn’t leave a single stone unturned. He had to make sure there were no more potential students here before he left. It would be a little more difficult without Benedick’s help but he could do it. He had to.

“Are you thinking about the things he said?” She asked knowingly. “You mustn’t dwell upon them. He is a horrid man.”

“Yes,” he said again. “I must go,” he added, after a slight pause. He hastily began to pull on his boots, trying to ignore the subject completely now. “I have heard tell of strange young urchins that roam these streets early in the mornings.”

“Very well,” she nodded. “Be careful, my love.”

“I will,” he smiled, kissing her tenderly upon the cheek before he left the dim little room.

As he stepped out into the bloody light of dawn a great sense of unease immediately took over. He was far removed from the centre of the city, almost at the outskirts, but he didn’t trust the quiet. He began to stroll through the streets, trying his best to ignore the paranoia. The further into the maze of little houses and buildings he got, the more inhabitants he spotted. Butchers and landlords had risen early to go about their days’ work. So far Salazar had not spotted a single child, let alone a homeless, bedraggled one. He knew he’d have to go into the grimmest part of this area of the city, a prospect that did not bode well with him.

As he left all sense of civilisation behind - the well-dressed people, the clean streets - he started to feel rather grubby. The streets he now walked along were dark and dank and they smelt strongly of rotting food. He held his breath and tried to move in a different direction to the smelliest parts. Then, by a great stroke of luck, Salazar bumped into just the thing he was looking for - literally.

“Pardon me, Sir!” The bony, dirt splattered child said quickly, before dashing off down the street and down an alleyway on the left.

“Wait!” Salazar called after him. He then reached into his cloak pocket as comprehension dawned. “You little - ! Give back that purse, you thieving rat!”

He chased after him and could hear the child’s bear feet slapping against the rough ground. As Salazar caught up he could see the scruffy little boy glancing anxiously over his shoulder after every few paces. This proved to be unwise when he tripped over his own feet and went crashing into the floor. As he groaned and rolled over Salazar saw that great streams of blood were trickling from his nose. Salazar slowed to a walk, fixing the boy with a very disapproving look.

“That serves you right,” he told him sternly. “Now…give that back.”

As Salazar made to walk towards him the boy’s eyes lit up in fear. Before Salazar got anywhere near him, however, something most peculiar happened. The entire alleyway filled with a bizarre and highly unnatural fog. In seconds Salazar’s vision was obscured and he could no longer see his hands in front of his face, let alone the boy. He fumbled around, attempting to reach out to the boy and take back the purse of money but was unable to locate him. He growled angrily when he realised he’d gone. Once the fog cleared, the alley was perfectly empty.

*

For the rest of the morning Salazar wandered through the city looking for the thieving little urchin. He’d first pursued the boy simply to take back what he’d stolen but now he was seeking him for an entirely different reason. That fog had not simply formed of its own accord.

“Excuse me,” Salazar said uncertainly, approaching a gentleman dressed as only an officer of the city could be. “I am looking for a boy, a street urchin.”

“Is that so?” He grunted, raising his eyebrows as he looked him up and down. “For what purpose, Sir?”

“He stole from me,” he replied, deciding to keep things simple.

“Then I should help you find him.”

“No,” he said quickly. “I would rather find him myself, teach him a lesson. I’m sure you understand.”

“Quite right, Sir, quite right,” he nodded approvingly. “Do you remember his appearance at all?”

“I’m afraid not. It happened very swiftly,” he replied.

“Yes, they do that,” he nodded. “All look the same, grubby little things!” He paused for a moment, obviously thinking carefully. “Your best bet would be to look down by the old ruins, on the outskirts.”

“Thank you,” Salazar said, relieved he had something to go on at least.

He dashed through the now bustling streets and soon found his way towards the outskirts. It made sense that the urchins would choose the ruins as a place of refuge. No one ever went there anymore, as it was where the old city had been built many years ago.

As soon as he entered this distinctly quieter region of the city he slowed down, exercising great caution. He would never be afraid of a mere child but he wasn’t sure what a pack of feral vagabonds were capable of. It didn’t take long to locate them, as he soon heard the unmistakable sounds of children. Was that excitement in their voices?

He weaved his way carefully over the rubble and ancient foundations and ducked down behind a sturdy stone pillar. As he peered over the top he saw them - no less that fifteen filthy children ranging from infancy to adolescence. They were all staring adoringly towards one particular child - the thief. He stood atop a particularly large pile of stone and spoke down to them all like some ridiculous lord. He was a skinny little thing with a lanky appearance; this was quite clearly the result of a growth spurt. Salazar guessed he was between the ages of thirteen and fifteen, a little older than most of the others. Now that Salazar could get a better look at him he realised the boy’s hair was a sandy blonde, beneath all the dirt caked into it.

“What did you get, Art?” One of the smaller children shouted.

“Something that will see us right for weeks, maybe even months!” He grinned, removing Salazar’s velvet purse from his pocket. He jingled it about and the children all began to chatter excitedly when they heard the coins inside. “Now, I’m a reasonable gentleman,” he continued, adopting an air of superiority. “So, naturally, we’ll share it.”

As he opened up the purse and began removing the coins, Salazar lost his patience. He began to stride across the rubble, startling the children immediately. They all jumped up, staring warily at him as they began to back away. The boy with the purse seemed to lose all the colour from his face.

“Remember me?” Salazar asked, quite calmly.

“I thought you said you weren’t followed!” One of the girls squeaked.

“I wasn’t!” He insisted.

“That doesn’t belong to you, does it?” Salazar went on.

“Nothing we own belongs to us!” He spat. “We don’t have anything!”

“That doesn’t make it right for you to steal,” Salazar pointed out.

“Alright then, you can have it back!” He said, looking anxious. “Just don’t tell no one. Don’t turn us in to the guards. You don’t know what they’d do to us!”

Salazar knew it was a little underhand to use this to his advantage but saw it as a golden opportunity.

“How about if I were to make you another deal?” He asked, stepping a little closer to the boy.

He glanced across at the other children before he replied.

“What kind of deal? You want slaves, is that it? You’re lookin’ for workers?”

“Not exactly. The deal is only open to you, however.” The boy remained silent so Salazar continued. “You can keep the money, you and your friends,” he said, glancing across at the sorry-looking bunch. “But I want to speak with you alone.”

“No chance!” He snapped. “You’ll probably kill me when they’re not lookin’!”

“Do I look like a violent man?”

The boy stared at him for a few moments and them performed a half-hearted shrug, obviously unsure what to make of him.

“I want to discuss what happened back in that alleyway, after you took that money from me.”

His face grew even more pale and he looked highly uncomfortable now.

“What is he talkin’ about?” One of the other boys demanded.

“Nothin’,” he said quickly, maintaining eye contact with Salazar. “Just take this back to the shelter,” he instructed, throwing the other boy the purse. “I’ll meet you back there.”

“But you can’t - ”

“Just go! I’ll be fine.”

The children slowly exchanged glances, looking highly uncertain about this arrangement. They seemed to decide that it was best to listen to the boy who was clearly in charge of them. After they were out of sight and their footsteps had died away the boy looked more worried than ever. He carefully descended the pile of rubble, reluctantly approaching Salazar.

“What you saw, it was - ”

“Quite skilled for someone of your age,” Salazar said matter-of-factly. “How old are you?”

“Recently turned fifteen, Sir,” he replied. It was funny how he now addressed him in a far more respectable manner. “But, please, you can’t tell anyone! There are stories - awful stories - about what happens to those who practice…dark…dark things. Were you sent to hunt me down?” He demanded quickly. “I’ll admit it, I will. You can burn me at the stake but don’t take it out on the others. Some of them are so young, they couldn’t - ”

“Calm down, boy!” He barked. “Why would I burn my own kind?”

The boy just stared at him with exceptionally wide green eyes, taking in his full appearance as though he had only just seen him properly. He looked both terrified and awestruck at the same time. For a split second a small, nervous smile seemed to turn up the corners of his mouth.

“What’s your name?”

“Flamel, Sir. Arthur Flamel.”

“Hello, Arthur,” he smiled. “My name is Salazar and I’m rather pleased to have found you.”

Arthur stared up at him in utter bewilderment, obviously believing that he was joking.

*

As it happened, Arthur was not too sceptical about Hogwarts. Naturally, Salazar told him everything and invited him to attend when fall came around. Arthur eagerly agreed. Salazar had expected him to do so, as he had no parents, no family…nothing to stay in London for. Salazar was so pleased to have found him that he practically bounded back to the inn, knowing the boy would be a true asset.

“You look happy,” Belle smiled when he entered their little room on the second floor.

“Exceedingly,” he beamed. “A celebration is in order!”

“You found a student?” She asked knowingly.

“I did indeed. He is remarkable. So skilled for his age! And to think - a mere street urchin. A true diamond in the rough!” He chuckled, still amazed at his own find. “We shall go for a celebratory drink!”

“The bartender has been using old barrels again,” Belle said quickly, looking highly reluctant. “I believe some customers have retired home and become ill.”

“Only the finest will do tonight,” he said. “We’ll go to the Black Horse Inn!”

“Is that wise, Salazar?” She asked anxiously. “The guards of the city tend to drink there. What if we are - ?”

“We shall keep a low profile,” he insisted. “Easily done.”

They trekked through the bustling town later that evening but it was worth it. The Black Horse had a welcoming atmosphere, the most delicious food and fresh, crisp ale. They deserved for something good to happen and, in turn, deserved to celebrate it in such a way. They obviously chose a table at the back of the room so as not to attract any attention. The bar was very crowded this evening so is wasn’t as difficult to blend in as they’d expected. They were simply lost amongst the noise and chaos and were very pleased to be so.

Once their bellies were full and their thirst had been quenched, they ventured back out into the dark night. They were now in even higher spirits, as the alcoholic beverages they’d consumed had taken hold.

“Things are certainly going our way, my love!” Belle smiled, as she and Salazar trundled haphazardly up the quiet street.

“Indeed!” He grinned, planting a lingering kiss upon her rosy lips and almost causing her to fall backwards into a water barrel. When they broke apart they found themselves in fits of laughter.

“Where is our Inn?” She asked, squinting around the dark street.

“In that general direction!” He replied, pointing randomly and beginning to chuckle again.

“Oh, I should like to spend every day of my life like this,” she sighed, leaning in close to him for support.

“Ambling drunkenly down unfamiliar streets?”

“No!” She giggled. “No, I mean with you!”

“Oh, I see. I’d very much have to agree with you there.”

Belle grinned again and then began to stare around.

“I really am very tried. You don’t suppose that is a short cut?” She asked, indicating the shadowy entrance to an alleyway.

“Perhaps,” he nodded. “It does look rather familiar. Come, my love,” he smiled, supporting her as they hobbled into the darkness.

After their first few steps a peculiar sound seemed to echo theirs. It was not merely the resonating sound of their own footfalls. Those were the sounds of someone else; they were being followed. Salazar wheeled around, his senses sharpened. He squinted into the darkness behind them as he came to a stop but could see nothing.

“What is it, Salazar?” Belle asked sleepily.

“It’s nothing,” he replied.

As they turned back in the direction they had to head in they found their way blocked. Salazar’s heart leapt up into his throat as he tried desperately to see who that silhouette up ahead belonged to. Belle froze next to him, obviously afraid.

“Who’s that?” Salazar called. The shadow did not reply, continuing to stand stock still. “Show yourself!”

The moment he’d said this, Salazar found himself blinded by an overpowering white light. He squinted against it, feeling utterly disorientated, but then felt his entire body crash to the floor. He knew he no longer had a grip on Belle - he’d lost her. When his vision finally cleared he found himself lying upon the floor, his cloak entangling him. He scrambled to his feet and realised that Belle was not far away. She had been stunned into a powerful sleep but was wrapped up in the arms of another man. It was not a loving embrace, as the man who had hold of her was Benedick.

The rage that shot through Salazar’s veins seemed to burn. He could tell by the look in Benedick’s eyes that he was not here simply for a social visit.

“Let her go!” He growled.

“Careful, boy,” Benedick warned, tightening his grip around Belle’s neck as Salazar took a few steps closer. “Don’t do anything foolish.”

“What do you want?” He demanded.

“You know what I want,” he replied calmly. “Although, last time we met you were very unwilling to grant me such a thing. Such a pity.”

“You just want to manipulate young minds!” He spat. “I’ll not let you, Benedick. It’s wrong. I don’t know what has made you think that such magic is the answer to your problems but it won’t help you at all.”

“How do you know?” He chuckled. “You’ve never even tried it.”

“And I don’t intend to!”

“Tell me, Salazar,” he hissed venomously. “Do you love her?”

He shook Belle ever so slightly and the sight of her head lolling about like some sort of rag doll’s only enraged him further.

“Just get away from her! If you harm her I’ll…I…I’ll - ”

“You’ll do what?” He mocked. “What could you possibly do to save her if you found yourself in another predicament such as this one?”

Salazar sent a hex flying in his direction but Benedick deflected it with great ease.

“Simple tricks!” He said, shaking his head disapprovingly. “You disappoint me, Salazar. Such a waste of talent.”

“Let her go!” He roared, blasting another series of spells at the man he now despised.

Benedick’s face contorted strangely as his own anger took over. He deflected these spells too but was now ready to attack. He sent a bright stream of green light flickering towards Salazar, which seemed to bind his limbs tightly to his body. It was a split second later when Salazar realised that the green light was forming chains and they were binding themselves around his entire body. He collapsed to the floor once again, feeling utterly useless.

“No!” He growled angrily.

“Yes, Salazar,” Benedick chuckled softly. “You must understand that I’m only doing this to help you. I’m trying to make you understand.”

“Trying to make me understand what exactly?” He snapped. “That you are deranged?”

“That there are going to be many enemies in your future, Salazar. Enemies that can do far worse than this. This poor young thing,” he crooned, stroking the side of Belle’s face as he carefully lay her down upon the ground. “She knows nothing of your world. She may be a part of it by loving you but that only puts her in greater danger. How will a simple Mortal girl such as this defend herself?”

“I will be there to defend her!”

“With your basic little charms?” He mocked. “In life we must fight fire with fire, my boy. You cannot possibly stand against those that pose a true threat by using the magic you have learnt. You must develop yourself in order to stand a chance.”

“No!”

He sighed, looking a little disappointed by Salazar’s reply. For a moment Salazar believed he might give up but, deep down, he knew better than that.

“Then you leave your love susceptible to dark magic such as this,” he murmured, a nasty smile flickering across his lips.

Salazar watched in horror as Benedick loomed over Belle and placed a hand against each of her temples. He murmured something incoherent and then Belle screamed in such a way that it made Salazar’s blood run cold. She began to writhe and moan in her sleep, as though she were experiencing some terrifying nightmare.

“No! What have you done?” Salazar roared. “Stop it!”

“There are such spells that can toy with the mind,” Benedick said conversationally. “Some mild but others…so very aggressive.”

“Stop!” He growled, when Belle continued to cry out in apparent agony.

Benedick simply grinned, apparently enjoying Belle’s torment.

“How would you stop something like this, Salazar? How?”

“Please, Benedick!”

Benedick slowly turned to face him again, looking rather pleased about something. He placed his hands upon Belle’s head once more and seemed to lift the spell, as she stopped writhing immediately.

“Tell me you could stop something like that from harming her, Salazar,” he breathed.

Salazar was unable to speak. He had no answer to give. It pained him to admit it, even to himself, but he would have no help to give if something like that were to happen to Belle.

“The magic I speak of will only assist you,” Benedick went on. “It would be a great asset.”

“You’ve only proven that that kind of magic is used for evil, Benedick!” He snarled. “I’ll not be a part of this!”

“That’s a great shame,” he sighed. “I rather thought you two made a lovely coupling,” he remarked, pulling Belle’s limp form up to standing again. “I suppose it was never meant to be.”

“No, wait!” Salazar called, feeling highly panicked as he turned to leave with the sleeping Belle. “Please don’t harm her. I’ll…I’ll do what you want, Benedick!”

“Do not think mere words will stop me,” he chuckled. “You must prove your loyalty, your passion. You do not understand what a great gift I am offering to you. There are only so many of our kind that know of such magic. You could be great, Salazar. I will teach you such magic!”

Salazar began to shake his head in despair.

“You do understand what will happen if you refuse?” He asked quietly. “I would hate for you and your woman to be torn apart.”

“I’m sure you would!” He remarked sarcastically. “I’ll do what you want so long as you swear not to harm her. What do you want?”

“You will allow me to teach you the Dark Arts. You will become as skilled as the best of our kind! Then you will simply teach such skills to your students. They have a right to learn such magic.”

“But I…Benedick, you can’t possibly - ”

“You will soon understand how rewarding it can be, Salazar, I assure you.”

Salazar was taken by surprise when the chains that still bound him became loose and then vanished.

“I will give her back because I’m going to trust you,” he said, shoving Belle forwards.

Salazar managed to grab hold of her and support her before she fell to the ground. He pressed her close to his chest, afraid to lose her again.

“If you betray my trust and do not come to me when I ask then I regret that you may find her in grave danger once more.” Salazar nodded in understanding, too anxious to defy him now. “You will return to Scotland. I will contact you in due course.”

And with that he turned and vanished into the darkness once more. The moment he was gone Salazar sank to the ground, still holding Belle tightly within his arms. He was hardly able to believe what had just happened. The prospect of what now lay ahead was terrifying. He had to do something he was dead set against. Every moral thought told him not to do as Benedick said but what choice did he really have?


Chapter 39: George
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Making their way back up to Scotland was comforting for Godric and Rowena. It meant safety and hope. They couldn’t wait to be near their dear Hogwarts again after so long. A life of constant travelling for these past few years had not done them much favours in the hygiene department. This did have a slight advantage, however - they were ever so slightly less unrecognisable, something that would aid them well once they crossed the Welsh boarder into England.

Rowena’s fear was immediately apparent as they began to cross even the most remote and uninhabited parts of the country. It was understandable that she should feel like this. Godric felt somewhat the same. He was determined not to be made to feel like this, though, and promised that they would stick to the quieter roads wherever possible.

“I’ve never seen England before!” Gwen exclaimed, staring out of the carriage with such excitement that she looked in danger of unseating herself and falling through the door. “I thought it would look different…”

“What were you expecting?” Godric chuckled. “Blue trees and red skies?”

“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “It’s good to travel, though. I bet you two love it!”

They exchanged glances, eyebrows raised.

“It can be bittersweet,” Rowena eventually replied.

Godric gripped hold of her ghostly white hand and smiled reassuringly as their coach ploughed on through the deserted countryside, the horses moving along of their own accord.

*

“It’s getting dark,” Rowena pointed out some hours later. “Where will we sleep?”

“Here seems comfortable enough,” Godric chuckled, indicating the sleeping Gwen, who was curled up quite contently within the coach.

“We need to be somewhere secure,” she said anxiously. “Some small village, perhaps.”

“Hmm,” Godric agreed.

He climbed out and began to lead the horses, urging them to move a little faster. He scanned the deserted landscape for some sign of civilisation but nothing was apparent. They must have travelled for at least another two hours before Godric realised that heavy darkness was upon them, making it almost impossible to see the path ahead. It was idiotically dangerous to travel like this but they had to find somewhere to rest for the night.

His heart lifted in relief when he reached the brow of a grassy embankment and found himself looking down upon a most pleasing sight. The faint glow of torchlight illuminated a large town, spanning across a large valley. It was clear that the population here would be big but Godric just hoped this wouldn’t go against them. They had no other option but to stay here for the night.

As he urged the horses down the trail that wound right into the centre of the town he had to try his level best to ignore any doubts that plagued his mind. The outskirts were quiet - positively silent - but Godric expected this, of course. What made him a little unsettled was the fact that this quiet continued into the very heart of the town. It was unnerving, as though the locals had left their torches burning but no longer lived here. He started wondering if something dreadful had happened here but was slightly reassured when he saw movement up ahead. He had spotted a shadow in one of the buildings, one that just so happened to be a public house. He sighed in relief, hoping they had a room to spare.

Once he pulled the horses to a stop in the stable yard in front of the building he hopped down. He listened carefully but could only hear the faint sounds of the wind and the disgruntled mumblings of the other horses nearby.

“Godric…”

He turned to see a sleepy Rowena clambering out of the carriage. She had obviously just woken up and looked quite puzzled.

“Where are we?” She asked, staring around the dark town.

“Somewhere safe,” he said at once, hoping his words would convince her as well as himself.

“Come on, Gwen,” Rowena called, helping her out of the carriage.

Once he’d relieved the horses of the carriage and tethered them near the trough Godric led the way towards the door of the establishment, hoping that the locals were friendly. As he approached the door he heard Rowena and Gwen gasp behind him. They had good reason to do so - there was a dead snake nailed to the door. Naturally, Godric was quite perplexed as to why this was but decided it was probably best to leave the questions until later.

As they entered the bar area they became even more confused. It was full of many people, yet all of them were either deadly silent or murmuring so quietly that they sounded as though they were humming an incoherent ditty. Inevitably, everyone turned to stare at the three of them as they stepped through the doorway. Some looked scared, others amazed.

“Shut that door!” One man barked.

Godric did so, still wondering why they were all behaving so strangely. The man who had shouted at them shuffled over, looking rather unhinged as his pale eyes bulged. He seemed very nervous about something.

“What were you three doing out there?” He demanded, as though such a thing was ludicrous.

“Calm yourself, Jimmy, it’s clear they’re not from around here,” a bearded man that was propped against the bar said. “Travellers, are you?”

“Yes. We’re on our way North,” Godric explained, quite baffled to find that his voice issued in a convincing English accent. “My wife and I, that is,” he added, placing a protective arm around Rowena’s shoulders.

“And is that your daughter?” The man asked, indicating Gwen.

“Yes,” Rowena said at once.

“Well, you’re brave, I’ll give you that!” The bar tender chuckled, staring at them in astonishment. “Either that or downright stupid!”

“What do you - ?”

“Don’t be so harsh, Jim,” the bearded man reasoned. “Perhaps they don’t know.”

“Don’t know! Everyone knows!” He shouted. “Those who don’t and still come this way are very unlucky.”

“Keep your voice down!” One of the women hissed, staring nervously at the windows.

“But…what do you mean?” Godric asked.

“Things aren’t right in these parts. No one comes here anymore. I don’t blame them! Did you not notice how quiet our town is? Did it not strike you as a little strange?”

“Well…yes, if I’m honest,” he admitted.

“Don’t say no more!” The woman hissed. “Folk already think we’re all mad! The stories you tell them!”

“What stories?” Godric prompted, becoming very intrigued now.

Jim, the bartender, turned to glance at the woman, who just scowled and shook her head pointedly.

“The beast comes this way from time to time,” he murmured, leaning a little closer towards them. “He has threatened our town for many weeks now. Every now and then someone will go missing, usually at night.” Godric felt Rowena tense beside him. “On occasions it happens during the light of day. It’s like he tries to pick us off! Luckily, we can usually hear him coming so we have time to hide. He’s quick, mind. Not many can escape once he gets a taste for you.”

“You always have to go and say too much!” The woman snapped.

“I think they have a right to know.”

“But what is it that attacks the town?” Godric asked, aware that every individual within the room was now staring at him, their beverages forgotten.

“Don’t you dare!” The woman warned.

“It’s the stuff of legend and myth…utter nonsense,” he said dismissively.

“But it must be real. The way you speak of it…”

The entire room was silent. Godric could sense the locals exchanging uncertain glances but he kept his gaze locked upon Jim.

“What is it?” Rowena asked, unable to keep her voice from shaking.

“It’s…we believe it to be - although it is quite ridiculous - it’s…a dragon,” Jim stammered, looking quite embarrassed.

A stunned silence followed this and the woman at the bar looked angrier than ever.

“That’s quite enough!” She snapped, storming over and standing next to Jim. “There’s no use worrying folk over something so foolish!”

Godric glanced towards Rowena and she looked just as anxious as he did. They both knew that dragons were perfectly plausible, of cause. In their world such creatures existed and it was just very unfortunate when they happened to interfere with the Mortal world.

“Perhaps you should leave,” Jim said sheepishly.

“You can’t send them away now!” The woman barked, as though the very idea was preposterous. “They must at least wait for daylight - it’s not safe.”

“You believe the dragon will attack tonight?” Rowena gasped.

“Not exactly,” she replied. “But those that go wandering off in the dark are more likely to be gone by daylight. It’s not wise to risk such a thing. We can offer you a room for the evening, especially with such a young child,” she added, smiling kindly at Gwen.

Before Godric and Rowena had really agreed to anything they had been led up to a small, draughty little room on the top floor, which overlooked the courtyard below. The tale of the dragon had unnerved them all and Godric now felt obliged to keep guard at the window. He was determined to stay awake all night if he had to.

“Godric, you must sleep,” Rowena hissed. Her voice seemed strange as it broke through the darkness; Godric had decided against lighting any candles. “Please, come away from the window.”

“Not whilst we’re in danger,” he replied, not looking away from the dark scene outside, which was completely void of any movement and had been so for the past few hours. “Just go to sleep, my love,” he smiled, softening his voice slightly.

“I cannot sleep.”

“Gwen seems to have managed it,” he said, indicating her sleeping form as she lay curled up underneath a thick blanket in the corner of the room. “Please try.”

She reluctantly lay down and drifted off whilst Godric remained by the window. He lost track of how long he sat there but soon the darkness began to penetrate his mind and he began to drift irresistibly into a peaceful slumber.

*

“Godric! Wake up. Godric, please! You have to wake up!”

He jumped in shock at being torn from his slumber so abruptly but felt an immediate sense of panic grip at his chest. He sat up so quickly that all his joints clicked uncomfortably. When his vision had cleared he saw Rowena staring intently at him, her expression full of fear.

“What is it?” He demanded, angry that he’d fallen to sleep. “What has happened?”

“A young girl has gone missing,” she explained. “They believe the dragon took her.”

“No!” He growled. “I must have drifted off before daylight!”

“This is not your fault, Godric,” she assured him. “We should leave before - ”

“No. We have to help,” he interrupted.

“Godric, this is a dragon! What can we possibly do?”

“I…I haven’t yet thought that far ahead,” he admitted, hastily scrambling to his feet. “But we are probably the only ones who will be able to help this town.”

“How?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

She was forced to follow him when he stormed from the room and into the bar area downstairs. It was considerably quieter than it had been the previous evening. Godric suspected that the locals had now decided to brave venturing outside. Jim was clearing the room, speaking quietly to various men and women that had come for a drink. The atmosphere was one of sorrow and remorse.


Godric didn’t spare any time for words of comfort and had dashed outside before anyone had really noticed himself or Rowena. The sun was beating down, bathing everything in a beautiful morning glow. There was something in the very air that made things seem wrong, however. There were people milling about in the distance and Godric knew that his best bet was to follow them in order to find out what had happened.

With Rowena still racing along behind him, Godric dashed between the little cottages and towards a large expanse of grassland that lay beside a vast lake. This was certainly where the commotion was taking place - no less that fifty residents were stood huddled together, speaking in anxious whispers. Once Godric managed to fight his way to the front of the crowd he was quite shocked to find a white cotton shawl upon the ground, having expected a lifeless body.

“Where’s Gwen?” He demanded hastily.

“I’m here!”

Godric sighed with relief as Gwen fought her way through the throngs of people and stood at his side. She looked quite shaken.

“What happened?” Rowena demanded of no one in particular.

“Little Lizzy Cromwell,” an elderly woman explained, sounding teary. “She came out to play. Her mother told her she wasn’t to leave the home but…children will be children,” she said sadly. “A scream was heard - in the early hours - but by the time anyone could get to her she was gone. All that was left was…” She simply indicated the shawl, unable to continue speaking.

“But did anyone see the dragon?”

“No, it was dark,” a tall and balding man grunted. “We think it dragged her to the depths of the lake. Poor thing wouldn’t have stood a chance.”

The locals milled about for almost an hour, despite the fact that none of them could do anything of use. They just felt that they had to do something, as the guilt wracked everyone. Godric, Rowena and Gwen remained right until the last stragglers decided to leave. They were obviously worried that the dragon might come back for seconds.

“How can we possibly help with this, Godric?” Rowena demanded.

“I’m still working that out,” he muttered, as he began wandering around the spot where little Lizzy had been taken from. “How many people has it been taking?”

“It tries to take one every night,” Gwen piped up. “I heard them talking about it. The dragon usually likes to take large adults and doesn’t usually bother with the children.”

“But that poor child,” Rowena breathed, glancing at the shawl with watery eyes.

“A-ha!” Godric said triumphantly. “Welsh Greenback!”

Rowena and Gwen looked at him in confusion as he rifled through the blades of grass near the edge of the lake and then straightened up with a circular piece of shining green material that seemed to change its tone in the light.

“A what?” Rowena asked.

“Welsh Greenback,” he repeated, examining the scale more closely. “I’ve read about them. As their name suggests, they’re more common in Wales. Not the most vicious of dragons, which is a plus.”

“Not the most…? It killed that little girl!” Rowena said exasperatedly.

“Trust me, if we were dealing with a foreign breed of dragon there would be no town left,” he assured her. “This one we can deal with.”

“We can?” Gwen demanded, sounding sceptical.

“When I say we I mean…well, me,” he said awkwardly.

“No, Godric,” Rowena said at once, just as he’d predicted. “I’m not letting you deal with this alone!”

“Dragons are dangerous,” he pointed out.

“And you said this one was less dangerous than the others.”

“No…I…alright, so I did - ”

“We’ll defeat it together,” she said mater-of-factly and this told Godric that there would be no compromise.

*

The plan that had been set in place wasn’t one of Godric’s brightest ideas. He was just eager to get this dragon dealt with so that they could move on before any of the locals discovered what they truly were. So, needless to say, he hadn’t exactly thought things through perfectly.

It was late evening but the sun was still blazing in the sky. All the locals had returned to their homes to escape the heat but Godric remained beside the lake. His face was shining with sweat. This was partly due to the fact that he had kitted himself out in a suit of shiny armour but also because he was exerting every ounce of his brain energy as he cast various spells across the water of the lake. They had deducted that the dragon would most likely have taken refuge in the caves on the opposite bank so Godric was attempting to lure him out.

This was a rather foolish thing to do but Godric felt that it was far safer to battle with this dragon out in the open than to delve deep into the dark and disorientating caves. So far, however, his plan was failing.

“It’s almost sunset,” Rowena informed him, who’d remained faithfully at his side, despite all his warnings. “You have to lure it out now. You can’t fight it in the dark.”

“I know that,” he said irritably. “Unless…” He muttered thoughtfully.

Rowena let out an anxious yelp as Godric took the sharp point of the dagger he carried and ran it along his arm. The blood burst from him immediately and began leaking across the armour, dripping to stain the grass red. Before Rowena could question such an action Godric had dipped his bloodied arm into the edge of the lake, where he held it for a short amount of time.

“Godric! What are you doing?” She demanded.

“Luring it out of its cave,” he said simply. “If this doesn’t get it moving, I don’t know what will!”

“But it will come straight for you!”

“Yes, that was the general idea,” he grinned. “You should probably get indoors now.”

“No!”

Godric just rolled his eyes and waited patiently. After a few anxious moments there was a distant rumble. Was that the sound of a beast waking from a deep slumber? Godric stood his ground and squinted towards the caves, which he could just about make out.

“Godric…”

Then there came a loud screech, like that of a creature that had spotted its prey. The sound was unnerving but Godric remained stock still. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Rowena backing away. He couldn’t help but flinch, however, when something glittering and serpentine emerged from the cave. It lumbered about across the rocks on the opposite bank, flapping its wings irritably.

“Oh…you’re beautiful,” Godric muttered under his breath, marvelling at the sight of such a powerful beast.

“You can hardly call it that - it’s killed people, Godric!” Rowena hissed, now from five feet behind him.

“But I’ve never seen one up close before.”

“And you never will again if you don’t move!” She squeaked.

Godric was hastily snapped back to his senses when the dragon’s emerald eyes flashed in his direction. It had spotted its prey and it was now that the glistening suit of armour came in handy - it was so much easier for an overgrown lizard to spot. It let out another hungry screech and launched itself into the air with far more agility than Godric had expected.

“Run!” He roared.

Despite giving this command he did not do so. He stood his ground, sword now unsheathed. Rowena, on the other hand, did so immediately. Had she glanced back at Godric, she would have stopped but was too scared to do a double take. She galloped through the grass back towards the town and was shocked to see a large congregation of locals gathered on the outskirts.

“What are you all doing?” She demanded breathlessly.

“I tried to stop them,” Gwen assured her, emerging through the crowd with quite some difficulty. “I didn’t mean to tell them. I tried to keep them inside.”

“What is that idiotic boy doing?” One man demanded of no one in particular. “He’s going to get himself killed!”

Rowena glanced back across the embankment and felt her heart plummet. Despite the sight that met her she found herself frozen to the spot.

“The dragon!” Someone screeched.

Most of the locals began racing back into the town but some of the others, just like Rowena, were too unnerved to actually move, despite the fact that the dragon could have soared towards them at any given moment.

“He’s not going to try and fend it off, surely!” Someone else gasped.

In spite of himself, Godric found himself backing up. As that dragon soared ever closer he started to appreciate its sheer size more and more. His palms were sweating now so he gripped the handle of his sword a little tighter. He knew he was foolish to do such a thing but he instinctively looked over his shoulder. The sight of all those locals and Rowena and Gwen still standing there made his heart pulsate so forcefully that his chest shook. They could draw the attention of the dragon at any moment and he just couldn’t let that happen.

Throwing caution and every other sensible thought to the wind, Godric began to run along the bank of the lake in order to lead the dragon away from the town. He knew full well this would only provoke the dragon and felt his heart began to race even faster when he realised that the giant scaly beast had begun to follow him. He continued to race through the grass as fast as he possibly could and his limbs soon felt like lead. He suddenly realised that if he led it far enough from the village then he could fend it off with magic, out of sight of any mortals.

His heart skipped a beat as he felt the great gusts of air caused by the dragons wings beating down on him. He felt he might stumble at any moment so he decided to face his foe, despite the fact that he wasn’t ready. Godric instinctively shot a blast of sparks from his fingertips. This was no good to his defence but it seemed to make the dragon falter. It looked rather surprised by such an apparition and landed with an almighty thump on the opposite side of a clearing to Godric. As the dragon snarled at him and flapped its wings menacingly Godric knew he might prove no real match for this beast. He knew countless useful spells but in such a situation his mind seemed to have misplaced the memories of how to cast them.

Besides, he didn’t want to kill this beast. It was so stunning. Godric had only ever read about such creatures but to see one so close was astonishing and so much better than he’d expected. Sure, it was terrifying but the adrenaline pumping through his system seemed to momentarily hold back the fear.

He began to notice that the dragon was holding back. Perhaps it feared magic. Godric attempted to approach but the dragon suddenly shot towards him. Godric darted out of the way just in the nick of time, feeling the sharp whip of its tail dent his armour slightly. The dragon let out a roar as Godric rolled away across the grass and leapt to his feet once more. It took a swipe at him and Godric singed its enormous scaly foot with a sharp burst of magic. It screeched in agony but this only seemed to make him angrier.

Godric then had to perform every shielding spell he could think of as the dragon started to attack. Eventually, Godric realised the only way to stop this beast was to stop it for good. He summoned the strongest magic from the depths of his being and projected it outwards, causing the beast to fall limply to the ground with another ground-shaking thud. It was not dead, simply knocked unconscious.

Godric suddenly became aware of the sound of his heart pumping in his ears. He was breathing heavily and sweating more than ever. He slowly walked towards the beast and bent down to examine its face. So beautiful yet so dangerous. He placed a hand against its scaly neck by way of apology and then unsheathed his sword once more.

Before he could strike he was distracted by the sound of thunderous footfalls. Someone was running towards him. Not just someone but many people. Rowena and Gwen were the first to burst into the clearing, closely followed by the rest of the town. The moment they skidded to a stop simply due to the sight of the dragon Godric was stunned as the dragon shot forth, about to strike one of the many children that had pushed to the front of the crowd.

Godrics instincts were faster, though, and he plunged the sword into the dragon’s chest before it could do any more damage. It let out a squeal of agony as masses of blood began to gush across the ground and all down Godric’s arms. He pulled the sword free and let the beast slump to the floor. He watched sadly as the dragon’s eyes slowly slid shut and it took its last breath.

“You killed it?” One man asked uncertainly, moving forth from the crowd.

“Yes,” he grunted.

“He did it! He killed the dragon!” Someone cried happily.

The relief that the entire population of the town felt was immediately obvious. They actually started to applaud. Godric didn’t want to raise any suspicion so he forced a smile, happy to play the hero in that moment.

“Oh, you are a saint, Sir!” A middle-aged woman beamed, clutching his hand tightly in gratitude.

“This calls for a celebration!” The barmaid from the inn announced. “Tonight we shall toast to our hero - ” She paused, looking at Godric in confusion. “What was your name?”

“It’s God - ” He paused as he caught Rowena’s eye. She shook her head very minimally but her meaning was clear. They had to remain illusive until they were safely back up in Scotland. “Er…George,” he amended, this being the first name that came to mind. “My name is George.”

“Well, George!” A large, beefy man boomed. “We all owe you our lives!”

“Come, we must tell the others the news!” Someone cried happily. “The dragon is slain! George is our saviour!”

With that the people of the town all began to rush off back up the hill. It was clear that most of them didn’t want to remain around the dragon for too long, despite the fact that it was dead. Once they had all dispersed Rowena began to approach Godric. Gwen hung back at a safe distance, silently marvelling at the sight of the lifeless dragon.

“Are you alright, Godric?” Rowena asked tentatively.

“Fine,” he nodded, still staring at the dragon’s face. “He didn’t deserve this.”

“But he would have killed the entire town,” she reasoned.

“I know…I know,” he said again. He bent down once again and leant a hand against the beast’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…”

That evening Godric, Rowena and Gwen were hospitable and graced the locals with their presence as the celebrations raged. Godric was toasted so many times that he lost count but the gratitude everyone felt washed over him and filled him with warmth. There was no feeling quite like this. They all promised that his name would never be forgotten amongst them, as no other man had ever managed to slay a dragon in such a way. After this revelation Godric insisted it was best he and the others leave, as he didn’t want awkward questions being asked. Before the next day had fully dawned they set off on their way back to Scotland.


Chapter 40: Complete
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After working for so long on the castle it seemed strange to now look at it in a fresh new light. It had once been crumbling and decrepit, with vast sections left in complete disrepair, not to mention the wild and overgrown grounds that surrounded it. Now, however, it had been restored to its full glory, and then some. Numerous repairing charms had been used to magically strengthen all the foundations and entire new sections had been added so that it was now more splendid than it had ever been before. The turrets and towers now framed the sky-line beautifully and made it something of a landmark. It was all the locals could talk about. The grounds had been preened to perfection; the grass seemed to glow a delicious green in the sunlight and the lake sparkled invitingly. The only thing that didn’t appear quite as welcoming was the outskirts of the dark forest at the edge of the land but no one tended to go anywhere near it.

Hubert Dumbledore stared up at his pride and joy, which he’d been working on for years. He had never been so proud of anything he’d created. He smiled serenely to himself. After working long and hard and accumulating quite a few premature silver hairs in the process, he was relieved that it was all finally over. With a few finishing touches the job would be complete. With this thought came a small pang of sadness. He knew he’d feel quite lost after working on such a big project. Perhaps the founders of this school would find some other things for him to create.

“Excuse me, Sir?”

Hubert turned to see a young teen from the village trotting towards him. It seemed strange even to himself to be called Sir. It made him smile in amusement.

“Is there a problem?” He asked.

“Not exactly,” the young Scot replied. He started to unrolled the parchment that had the finalised plans for the castle scrawled upon them. He shoved them in front of Hubert and indicated a small room on one of the many floors.

Hubert squinted down at it and felt his heart perform a little skip. That room had caused him a lot of bother over the recent weeks. He didn’t know what to do with it, if truth be told. That room was the only available entrance to the chamber Salazar had ordered him to construct. The chamber was complete and, as Salazar had asked him not to divulge its existence to the other Founders, he guessed that he’d want the entrance concealed and magically protected in some way.

“What seems to be the problem?” He asked, trying to sound casual.

“Well, we need to use this room as a…er…well, a room of passing certain bodily fluids - ”

“Yes, I get the picture,” he chuckled.

“You did say you wanted one - for both males and females - on every floor. This is the only room left that we can use for such a place.”

“Oh, I see,” he nodded, feeling his stomach roll uncomfortably. He doubted Salazar would be too pleased that the entrance to his secret place within the castle would be concealed by such a room. He poured over the plans for a moment or two before realising this would take a lot of time and attention to rectify. “Just leave it with me, Ted. I’ll take a good look and get back to you,” he smiled, taking the parchment and rolling it back up.

“Thank you, Sir,” the lad nodded, hurrying back up to the castle.

Hubert took another look up at that beautiful castle and was about to make his way back down into the village when his name was called across the grounds of the castle. He looked over towards the gates, which had been topped with a pair of winged boars carved from stone earlier that day, and saw a young woman waving in order to get his attention.

“Hubert, hurry!” Polly called, chuckling to herself as he scrambled towards her, beginning to look a little anxious.

“What is it?” He demanded. “What’s happened?”

“Nothing,” she assured him. “It’s Salazar and Belle. They are to return this evening!”

“Oh, that’s wonderful,” he smiled, trying to mask his anxiety about seeing Salazar again. “The castle is almost prepared. What of the others?” He asked eagerly. He was most keen to see Helga after all this time, whom he saw as a younger sister.

“Helga is due tomorrow morning,” she replied, as they started to walk down into the village together. “I’m not sure about Godric and Rowena.”

“This is great news,” he smiled. “They will all be reunited once again. I do hope they have found as many students as possible.”

“I’m sure they have. Oh, this is the most exciting thing in history, don’t you think?” She burst out suddenly, actually jumping with excitement. “These children will be taught magic in a way no generation has before them. To offer young magic folk such a thing is…well, it’s the best gift in the world!”

“I couldn’t agree more!” He smiled, watching her skip through the grass and greatly admiring the way the bright sunlight brought out the coppery tones in her hair.

*

The carriage was now passing over the rockiest parts of the pathway that led towards Hogsmeade and, although Salazar had felt perfectly fine for most of the journey, he was now beginning to feel a little nauseas. Of course, it wasn’t just down to the motion of the carriage. As he glanced over at the snoozing Belle he felt a stab of guilt in his guts. He knew he’d have to do exactly as Benedick had asked and, besides, what difference would learning a bit of dark magic really make?

“We’re here,” he murmured, tapping Belle gently upon the shoulder.

Her sparkling eyes flickered open and she had to blink a few times before she sat up, squinting out into the darkening evening; the sun had just begun to set.

“It looks just the same as I remember it,” she said, smiling at the very sight of the little village.

“Yes, it hasn’t changed a bit,” he agreed. “But let us hope that the castle has.”

Once the carriage had rolled to a stop he and Belle jumped out, relieved to finally be able to stretch their legs. What they hadn’t anticipated was such a large welcome. A great mass of villagers flocked around them, welcoming them and hugging them. It was quite a bizarre thing to experience but Salazar supposed that these sorts of reactions would be common now. He was, after all, setting the blueprint for the future of teaching magic.

After they’d endured the crowds of people it was a welcome relief to reach their room at the inn. It was utter bliss to be able to rest but, whilst Belle decided to take a lie down, Salazar had other things he needed to do. Once he’d eaten his evening meal and night had well and truly fallen he went out into the village again. No one was around but this suited him perfectly. He was looking for one particular individual and he assumed that he would live in the same house as he had three years ago.

Not long after he’d begun making his way towards Hubert’s house, however, he became distracted by a dark figure in the distance. The sight of it made him flinch. Something immediately told him that whoever it was, they were waiting for him. He cautiously approached, ready to strike, but as he drew closer he realised who it was.

“What are you doing here?”

“Careful, boy,” Benedick warned. “You’ll make me think you’re not pleased to see me.” Salazar gritted his teeth, determined not to retort to this. “I just thought it would be wise to make sure you arrived here safely.”

“You came all the way here just to ensure that I’m safe?” He asked sceptically.

“Now, you know me better than that, Salazar,” he chuckled. “I wanted to make sure that you’re not having any second thoughts about our little agreement. You’re not, I trust?”

“Of course not,” he replied monotonously. It wasn’t as though he had a choice!

“Good…good. Then we will begin very soon.”

“When?”

“A week from today - ”

“So soon?” He asked, feeling a little panicked by the prospect.

“ - And I will meet with you every week after that.”

“Do you think it wise to meet so often? Surely people will start to notice?”

“Notice what, Salazar?” He asked calmly, bushy eyebrows raised. “Are you planning to tell anyone about our meetings?”

“Of course not but - ”

“Or do you think I am foolish enough to allow anyone to find out?”

“No.”

“Then do not worry yourself about such things, my boy,” he said with a cold smile. “Everything will come together, you’ll see.”

“Where will I meet you?” He asked reluctantly.

“I will contact you in due course.”

“But wouldn’t - ?”

“Do not let me down, Salazar,” he said seriously. “Or I may need to remind you of our last encounter.”

Salazar stood there and it was taking all his strength and willpower not to lunge towards that repugnant man and curse him into oblivion. The threat he’d made upon Belle’s life was enough to bestow enough hatred upon him for a lifetime. As he watched Benedick’s black cloak melt away into the darkness he felt uncomfortable chills run through him and decided to return to the inn. Finding Hubert could wait until the morning.

*

The moment the sun had started to rise the birds began their merry chorus. Only a select few in this village woke so early. Hubert was one of them, naturally. He had a few things to finalise with the castle and was always the first one there and the last one to leave whenever there was work to be done. He was even more determined to set things in order today, simply because he knew Salazar was back. He knew it was only a matter of time until he came to speak to him about the chamber he’d commanded him to build. The thought made him a little apprehensive and far more jumpy than usual.

Throughout the course of the first half of the morning Hubert was so highly-strung that he ended up snapping at a few of the younger workers that were trying their very best to help. He’d also been giving out his orders in a manner that was very much unlike his own. By the time the rest of the village had fully woken he felt quite exhausted and decided to go for a walk in the grounds, realising that fresh air was probably what he needed right now.

No sooner had he started walking around the sparkling lake than he was darting back up towards the castle. He had been able to see Salazar approaching from the other side of the grounds by the gates. Needless to say, he was quite happy to avoid the man. Luckily, he managed such a feat, ordering anyone near the castle that might be asked to say that he was not around right now. When Salazar finally gave up and left, he didn’t look best pleased, as he’d also been informed that he wasn’t allowed to see the finished castle until it was…well, entirely completed. Or at least until Hubert could figure out a way to conceal his secret chamber in a satisfactory manner.

*

Helga was unable to prevent herself from grinning as her horse trundled calmly along the dirt track that led towards Hogsmeade. It had been a long few days of travelling but she was filled with a new lease of life at the mere prospect of returning to her old home. She felt her stomach swooping excitedly every time she thought about seeing her three closest friends once again.

She had intended to go to the village first but was sidetracked by the castle. Over the brow of the nearest hill she was just able to distinguish one of the highest turrets. Her curiosity and eagerness got the better of her and she urged her horse into a brisk canter, heading straight for the manicured grounds.

A few minutes later she skidded to a stop; the sight of it was positively breathtaking. It was beautiful and bold, standing strong against the clear blue sky. She could tell that so much of it must have changed without even needing to look inside. It was almost unrecognisable, along with the grounds. She felt such pride and gratitude towards Hubert that she got the urge to find him at once. She could hear people working inside and dismounted her horse, guessing that he was probably inside with them.

She had barely taken a few steps towards the entrance, however, when someone called out to her across the large expanse of grass. She turned to see Polly hurrying towards her and beamed happily.

“Polly! It’s great to see you again!”

“You too!” She smiled, giving her a friendly hug and then latching onto her arm. Helga couldn’t help but notice how she was leading her away from the front doors. “You’ve changed so much!”

“Yes, I have,” she agreed. “The journey has been good for me. Polly,” she said quickly, before she could be sidetracked. “Why are we heading back to the village? I was keen to see the castle.”

“I realise that,” she nodded, looking a little awkward. “But Hubert thought it would be best if you all saw it together.”

“The others are here?” She asked excitedly.

“Salazar has returned but we’ve received no word from Godric and Rowena yet,” she replied. Helga felt her good mood diminish slightly. What if something had happened to them? “I’m sure they’ll be here soon. They’re probably on their way as we speak.”

“I hope so.”

“It’s so exciting for everyone,” Polly said suddenly, as they passed through the gates that were flanked by the winged boars. “Your return is all anyone can speak about. It’s almost like having royalty in the village.”

“Technically, that will be the case when Rowena returns,” she chuckled.

“I know that but…oh, it’s just so exciting!”

Everything Polly had said was true. Helga witnessed the adoration of the villagers first hand when they all came to greet her. It was quite a bizarre thing to endure after spending so much time travelling. After fending off most of the excitable villagers Helga managed to locate Salazar and Belle, who greeted her warmly.

“I can’t believe how long it’s been,” Belle smiled, after hugging her.

“It’s wonderful to finally be back.”

“How was your homeland?” Salazar asked.

“Mostly how I remembered it,” she replied. “I found many students with families willing to send them here. Others were not so keen on the idea.”

“We met parents like that,” Belle assured her.

“How was it in London?” She asked anxiously.

“Not the most welcoming of places,” Salazar answered. “But it was better for us to go rather than you or Godric and especially not Rowena!”

“No, certainly not!”

“It’s rather warm out here,” Belle commented. “Would anyone like a drink?” She asked, pointing towards the inn.

“Yes, thank you,” he and Helga replied together.

“I’ll be right back,” she smiled, before gliding across the sunny expanse of grassland and disappearing into the establishment.

As Salazar watched her go he didn’t notice Helga watching him intently. She had picked up on his peculiar expression straight away.

“You look worried,” she pointed out.

“What do I have to be worried about?” He said quickly, hoping he’d now arranged his face into a more neutral expression. “The school is almost ready, I have Belle and my friends,” he smiled, patting her on her arm. Helga couldn’t help but notice that his smile seemed a little forced, though.

“I just thought…well, you looked a little…unlike yourself,” she shrugged.

“Perhaps it’s just the worry of the students getting here,” he said quickly. “It would be a shame if most of them couldn’t come.”

Helga nodded in agreement but continued to watch him. Salazar had never appreciated how very observant she was before but now realised how much this could endanger his agreement with Benedick.

*

“Are we nearly there?” Gwen asked excitedly as she sat perched on the edge of her seat, looking out of the carriage window.

“Almost,” Rowena assured her.

She could barely contain her own excitement as the carriage rolled towards Hogsmeade and Godric was positively grinning from ear to ear. The little cottages soon came into view, peeking between the branches of the tall fir trees. The very sight of the place filled Godric with a warm, fuzzy feeling.

“Where’s the school?” Gwen asked.

“Nowhere near here,” Godric chuckled. “It’s all the way up the hill over there, hidden behind the mountains.”

“I can’t wait to see it!”

“Neither can we,” Rowena said, exchanging a glance with Godric.

They had been so eager to see it that they very much wanted to go directly there. It would have seemed awfully rude if they didn’t greet the villagers first, though. When they finally rolled up into the heart of the village a large number of locals began gathering around.

“You’re back!”

“Look, it’s Godric!”

“We didn’t expect you so soon!”

“It’s just great to be home,” he beamed, as he jumped down from the carriage and then helped Gwen down from the step.

“There you are!”

He turned around and was delighted to see Alexis Dumbledore rushing towards him. He was a little shocked when she pulled him into a rib-cracking hug, however. She then proceeded to hug Rowena.

“Look at you both!” She chirped. “You look so different. So much older! In a good way, of course,” she added with a chuckle.

“How is the school?” Rowena asked eagerly.

“It’s coming along beautifully,” she assured them.

“We can’t wait to see it,” Godric said.

“That’ll have to wait until tomorrow, I’m afraid,” she told them. “Hubert wants to complete all the finishing touches before he shows you around. You know what he’s like - a true perfectionist!”

“I’m sure he’s made a wonderful job of it,” Rowena smiled.

“Oh, he has,” she winked.

“Has there been any word from the others?” Godric asked anxiously.

“Yes, they’re here,” she replied.

Godric and Rowena looked at each other and simply grinned with relief.

“Thank goodness!”

“Who’s this then?” Alexis asked, flashing a friendly smile towards Gwen, who was looking a little overwhelmed.

“I’m Gwen,” she said uncertainly.

“It’s lovely to meet you. My name is Alexis,” she said, holding out a wrinkled old hand.

Gwen shook it and managed a small smile.

“There’s no need to be shy!” She insisted. “We’re friendly enough around here. We’ve got some powerful lungs on us too so you best raise that voice of yours if you want to be heard!” She laughed.

“Where are the others?” Godric asked, after giving Gwen an encouraging pat on the shoulder.

“Probably in there,” she replied, shoving a thumb in the direction of the inn.

After saying farewell to Alexis, Godric led the way towards the inn, which didn’t seem to be as busy as he thought it might be. He heard the low rumble of voices and entered the dim bar, which smelt strongly of ale and tobacco. He had only just made it across the threshold when an excited squeal rent the air.

“Godric!”

He just about managed to steady himself before a mass of golden hair shot at him from across the room. Helga hugged him so tightly that he could scarcely breathe. He patted her on the back, hoping that this would encourage her to ease her grip a little.

“I’ve missed you so much, both of you,” she beamed, turning towards Rowena and hugging her, though with a little less force.

“We’ve missed you too,” Godric grinned. “You look so…grown up,” he chuckled, admiring her features, which seemed to have changed so much.

“Come and sit. Salazar and Belle are here too,” she insisted, leading them over to one of the rickety round tables over in the corner of the room.

Salazar hadn’t changed much aside from the fact that the stubble on his chin had grown into somewhat of a beard. Belle looked exactly as she had done the last time they’d met.

“Salazar, it’s good to see you, my friend!”

“And you,” Salazar replied, shaking his outstretched had and then planting a kiss upon Rowena’s cheek.

“You both look so well,” Belle smiled. “I take it that the travelling went well?”

“It did indeed,” Rowena said, as they all sat down at the table. “Far better than expected. We found Gwen whilst we were there,” she added, indicating her.

“Oh, hello,” Helga smiled. “You must think we’re so rude, we didn’t spot you there.”

“Hello,” she said, smiling around at them all in a very shy manner.

“How was London?” Rowena asked.

“Not as comforting as it once was,” Salazar explained. “We didn’t feel too secure whilst we were there. We thought it best to keep moving around.”

“We found a fair few students there,” Belle reasoned.

“That’s wonderful.”

“It looks like we’ll have a lot of work on our hands when the fall comes,” Godric chuckled.

Once they’d all gotten drinks they began exchanging stories about their travels. Hearing about all the students they’d acquired made things feel so much more real. Knowing that the whole idea of Hogwarts was actually going to happen filled them all with an intense buzz of excitement. Being together again felt like old times and it was almost as though they could forget the troubles they’d faced over the last few months.

“I was worried for you at one point,” Helga said to Godric and Rowena. “I heard terrible stories about a dragon that was terrorising towns in the west of England. I knew you had to pass through there.”

“Yes, we heard about that too,” Belle piped up. “But it was all seen to, wasn’t it? Did you not hear about Sir George, whoever he may be! According to some, he saved the town from the dragon’s attacks and managed to slay it with his bare hands!” Godric and Rowena exchanged an amused glance at this point.

“I heard the same but I thought it was just a story!” Helga gasped. “Is it really true?”

“Yes, it is,” Gwen said matter-of-factly.

When they all turned to look at her in confusion she turned towards Godric, who was now grinning.

“It was me,” he revealed.

“What?” Helga yelped, half amused, half terrified.

“I told him not to get involved,” Rowena explained, with a roll of the eyes. “But he wanted to make sure the dragon couldn’t hurt anyone else.”

“But you’re all anyone can talk about, Godric!” Belle gasped, looking impressed. “Good word certainly travels fast. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re still talking about this in years to come!”

“Yes, the tale of Godric and the dragon,” Helga laughed.

“George and the dragon,” Gwen corrected her.

Salazar remained quite silent. He was staring between the women as they gushed about how brave and wonderful Godric was. Salazar could tell he was loving every moment of this adoration; that was just the sort of person he was. Whenever fame and glory found him he lapped it up. In truth, Salazar guessed that Godric had probably just acted too rashly, too foolishly, like always. He always let his heart lead instead of his head and one day it would be his downfall. It made Salazar highly frustrated to see him sitting there and absorbing all this attention when he’d probably saved that village by accident. Yes, it was always Godric that got the glory and the admiration. He couldn’t understand why. If he would be spoken about as a legend in centuries to come then what was to say he wouldn’t be known as the sole founder of their school? What was to stop him taking all the credit for Hogwarts?


Chapter 41: Dark Teachings
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When the sun rose the next day its rays managed to send a great buzz of excitement around the entire village. Although Hogwarts school was to be unveiled in all its glory exclusively to the founders, the villagers had got wind of the arrangement and were all very eager to see it too. Hubert didn’t mind but it made him feel a little nervous that everyone would see it all at once. What if it wasn’t as the Founders had expected? What if Salazar didn’t approve? Just the thought of encountering Salazar’s reaction made him nervous.

Hubert was the first to get to the castle, as always, and wandered through the many hallways and corridors on his own just to check that everything was in order, even though he knew everything had been checked more than a dozen times. As he made his way back down into the entrance hall and headed into the grounds he felt as though his chest was inflating with excitement, for he could hear a babble of voices just outside. When he reached the steps he saw a great crowd of people that began to cheer and applaud. Hubert felt rather embarrassed by this but managed a small wave. He was then greatly relieved to see the four Founders standing at the front of the crowd, all beaming appreciatively.

“We can’t wait to see inside,” Helga beamed, rushing towards him and looking more excited than he’d ever seen her.

“By all means…” He said quickly, eager to get away from the limelight. “Let’s go inside.”

The crowd began to mutter even more eagerly as he led the way up the steps, with the founders just behind him. Impressed sighs were exchanged as they entered the grand entrance hall and Hubert was surprised to find that he felt rather satisfied by this. Everyone’s attention was soon drawn to the large stone statue that stood in the large space on the left. It stood ten feet tall and depicted the four founders in a very lifelike quality. Godric began to chuckle at the uncanny resemblance between himself and his stone counterpart.

“Who made this? It’s wonderful.” Rowena asked.

“Er…well, I just thought it would be fun to have something to remember how this school came to be - an honourable tribute to the four founders,” he said awkwardly.

“You’re certainly handy with a chisel,” Salazar commented.

“Thank you,” he replied awkwardly.

“Show us more!” A small boy from the village piped up, who was positively glowing with excitement.

“Please, feel free to explore,” he insisted, not too keen on the idea of acting as a tour guide. He was relieved when the four founders remained where they were and continued to marvel at the stone statue. “I’d like to show you something quite special,” he said quickly. “Now, I can alter it if you don’t approve - ”

“There’s no ceiling in here!” Belle exclaimed, as they entered an enormous, cathedral-like hall.

As the others glanced upwards they too were able to see the bright blue sky as clearly as though they were standing outside. Hubert was rather amused by their expressions but knew he should probably explain.

“It was just a little experimental magic,” he said apologetically. “I assure you, the ceiling is still there, it is only your perception that is altered.”

“Hubert, how on earth did you do this?” Rowena asked, completely awestruck by his genius.

“I…well, it took a lot of hard work,” he shrugged. “But I’m so glad you like it. You do, don’t you?” He added quickly.

“I love it,” Helga beamed.

“A stroke of genius,” Godric grinned, patting him firmly on the back.

“Impressive,” Salazar agreed. “It seems you have many talents, Hubert.”

Hubert found it difficult to spare him a glance, as his nerves were creeping back through his body. He decided to press on and was very eager not to be left alone with Salazar. Even the prospect of one simple conversation brought him out in a sweat.

The entire village seemed impressed by the castle and hardly seemed able to believe how much had changed. It was magnificent. Helga marvelled at all the hidden rooms and secret passageways; Rowena was astounded with the way the staircases moved of their own accord every so often; Godric kept voicing his approval of all the grandeur and spaces for teaching; Salazar remained quiet and didn’t comment on too much. Hubert had a good idea what he was waiting to ask and it was something that would be queried when they could speak alone.

“The students’ quarters are more luxurious than most of the village!” Godric chuckled as they made their way back down to the ground floor.

“Our students deserve to be comfortable,” Rowena pointed out. “They should feel like this is a home from home.”

“That was my thinking,” Hubert agreed.

“I can’t wait to start teaching,” Helga beamed, looking very excited indeed. “I hope I’ll be able to teach them as many things as the rest of you,” she added uncertainly.

“You’ll do just fine,” Belle assured her.

Helga forced a smile but still looked a little unsure.

At that moment an ear-splitting shriek rang through the entrance hall. Hubert, Belle and the four Founders all exchanged nervous glances. The sound seemed to have come from outside so they all rushed down the front steps and onto the lawns. They hadn’t gotten too far when they managed to spot the source of the commotion, which had most of the village crowded together, either looking shocked or a little apprehensive.

“What are they?” Someone cried.

“How did they even get here?”

“They’re just elves!” Helga shouted quickly, hurrying through the congregation. “It’s fine, don’t panic!”

Godric, Rowena and Hubert followed her through the crowd to observe the strange little creatures, who had round, bulbous noses and large, luminous eyes that stared uncertainly up at all these people. There were currently ten of the little creatures standing upon the lawn but more started to appear, causing people to gasp as they suddenly popped into existence.

“Sorry,” Helga said apologetically, turning to Hubert and lowering her voice slightly. “I forgot to tell you. I told them to come here.”

“How many are there?” Godric asked in amusement, watching as more elves appeared.

“Oh…a few,” she muttered sheepishly.

“I didn’t think we would be…er…teaching other magical creatures,” Rowena muttered. “I mean, I certainly wouldn’t know where to start - ”

“Oh, no,” Helga said quickly. “They’re not here to be taught. You see, I offered them comfort and safety in exchange for the service they’ll provide to the school. They can cook and clean and take care of the castle. They’re really very good,” she finished lamely.

“Right,” Godric nodded, watching as the last few elves materialised.

“They had nowhere else to go,” she said desperately.

“You really do think of everything!” Hubert said, his face splitting into a wide grin. “I think it’s a wonderful idea!”

“They’ll be happy to serve us and - ” She suddenly broke off and looked down because one of the elves had trotted over and begun tugging on the hem of her dress. “Er - yes?”

“We are ready to begin, Miss. Shall we start preparing the feast?”

“Feast?” Godric piped up. “Sounds good to me!”

And with that the twenty-or-so elves set to work preparing a lavish meal for almost every person within the village and, just like Helga had said, they were more than happy to do so. Just over an hour later delicious scents began to waft their way through the castle from the kitchens that lay below levels. By the time the feast was finally served everyone was seated expectantly at the four long wooden tables. The elves dashed all around the great hall, trotting along with large silver platters held aloft.

“I love it when a plan comes together!” Godric chuckled, raising his goblet and beaming around at the other founders.

“So do I!” Rowena smiled, her eyes twinkling as she looked at him.

“My son is a true wonder!” Alexis cried as she suddenly appeared behind Hubert. He almost choked on his drink but forced a smile, still a little uncomfortable with all the recognition and praise. “Even if I do say so myself! Now, you haven’t given your dear old mother the grand tour. How about it, eh?”

“Of course,” he chuckled, hastily rising to his feet.

In all fairness, he was extremely relieved by the excuse to leave the table. Salazar had been making him very uncomfortable but no one else seemed to have noticed the strange vibes he was exuding.

Salazar felt that it would look rather strange if he went along with them so he had to remain seated, pretending to be enjoying the food. It was tasty, of course, but he couldn’t enjoy this feast nearly as much as the others, who were all laughing and joking merrily. The feast seemed to go on far longer than he felt was necessary but he played along, trying desperately to ignore the gnawing sensation in the pit of his stomach.

“Salazar, is everything alright?” Belle asked quietly, gently clutching his arm. “You’ve not eaten much.”

“I’m fine,” he assured her, rising from the table as inconspicuously as possible. “I just need some air.”

“Shall I come with you?”

“No,” he said, a little too hastily. “No…you enjoy the rest of the feast. I think I’ve just had a little too much wine.”

He strode swiftly from the hall but no one except Belle noticed his departure; they were too busy having a good time and toasting the success of Hubert and all his workmen.

The pleasant summer breeze was trickling in through the front doors in the entrance hall but Salazar certainly didn’t intend to go outside. Instead, he hurried up the stairs, eager to track Hubert down. The castle was huge but he’d search all night if he had to. The corridors were dark and eerie but that suited him fine, as he could move about unseen, without arousing suspicion. Most of the villagers were now celebrating down in the great hall, as they’d now seen the majority of the castle. Salazar, however, wanted to see just one more feature.

When he heard footsteps ahead he walked a little more softly. Upon rounding the corner, his stomach flipped excitedly; Hubert was walking a little way ahead. He was perfectly alone and seemed to be lost in his own thoughts. This was a perfect opportunity.

“Have you been avoiding me, Hubert?”

He leapt so dramatically that he lost his balance and almost went crashing into the stone wall.

“Oh, Salazar,” he said quickly as he tried and failed to regain his composure. “It’s you…”

“You seem displeased to see me,” he said slowly, approaching Hubert and noticing that his face was more pallid than it had been just moments before. “Why is that, Hubert?”

“No reason at all,” he said quickly, forcing a smile. “It’s just been a very busy day.”

“It has,” he agreed. “And I’ve been waiting patiently to speak with you. I think the time has come now that we’re all alone, don’t you?”

Hubert looked as though he wanted nothing more to leave but begrudgingly gave a small nod. He obviously knew what was coming and Salazar almost enjoyed the fear that flashed in his eyes. It made it clear that he could make things turn out just how he wanted.

“You remember our little agreement, I’m sure?” Salazar asked quietly.

“Of - of course I do. Everything is complete, just as you requested,” he assured him.

“Good. I want to see it.”

“See it?” Hubert muttered, looking crestfallen.

“Yes,” he replied sharply. “Is there a problem?”

“Well, no…”

“You hesitated,” he pointed out. “What is the problem? Tell me!” He hissed, when Hubert seemed unprepared to elaborate.

“I…I’ll take you to the entrance,” he said quietly, now very keen to avoid eye contact.

Before Salazar could say another word Hubert had begun to lead the way along the darkened corridor. Salazar held back many questions and demands as they walked, simply because he was so eager to see his secret area of the school…just his, no one else’s. They moved down to the second floor and soon reached a door that was barely visible amongst all the shadows. Hubert came to a halt in front of the door and Salazar glared questioningly at him; he was looking distinctly uncomfortable.

“There’s something I should tell you before…before you see inside.”

“What’s that?” Salazar demanded.

“The chamber that I had built is far below the castle but the entrance is…well, it’s not a very desirable one.”

Salazar was too impatient to listen to any more of his babbling and forced the door open. The room beyond was cold and so dark that it was hard to work out whether or not anything lay within. Once Hubert had lit the lamps at either side of the door Salazar was able to see properly.

“A rest room?” He asked slowly, feeling his annoyance begin to grow.

“It will be inconspicuous,” Hubert insisted. “If you wish it to remain a secret then it’s highly unlikely anyone will ever discover the entrance.”

“It will be a secret,” Salazar snapped.

Hubert seemed to sense the warning in his tone but couldn’t convey through words that he wouldn’t divulge the secret.

“This is the one and only way into the chamber,” he pressed on, moving towards a circular section of stone in the centre of the floor. Salazar would not have noticed it if Hubert hadn’t pointed it out. “You simply say the word Alohamora and it will open.”

“I see…” He murmured. “Alohamora!”

The stone beneath their feet immediately began to grind and groan, echoing all around them. Salazar took a few steps backwards as it began to sink into the floor and shift out of sight. After a few fairly noisy moments there lay a dark hole within the floor. It was obviously the start of some sort of tunnel but it was impossible to see its end.

“This tunnel leads straight into the chamber,” Hubert explained. “Perhaps I should show you - ”

“No,” Salazar snapped. “I shall go alone.”

Hubert obviously wasn’t keen to argue and nor was he foolish enough to try. He simply stood back and watched nervously as Salazar slid out of sight.

Cold air rushed past, soon causing his hands and face to become rather numb. The rushing sound in his ears was almost as bad as the disorientating darkness. Then he felt the tunnel begin to level out and he suddenly shot out into a much larger space. The air was colder down here so he assumed he was very deep underground. Everything was eerily quiet and still. Once he’d scrambled awkwardly to his feet he stood silently for a moment or two, trying to judge what lay around him within the blinding blackness. When he realised that his breathing was echoing around him he cast an orb of light into existence and his suspicions were confirmed as he found himself in a large entrance hall. The stone walls were bare and damp where water had seeped through from above but there was something oddly magical about the way the walls glittered.

He moved towards the only tunnel that led onwards, eager to see more. He had hoped for something a little more lavish than this, he had to admit. He soon realised that this area that ran far below the castle was a maze of tunnels and passageways. He was starting to doubt Hubert’s promise and supposed that there had to be a second entrance to his secret chamber.

But then he’d found his way through to what had to be the chamber itself, the very thing he’d requested. At the end of the tunnel up ahead lay a great circular entrance that was guarded by a very imposing door. As Salazar approached it he knew what he must do and repeated the unlocking charm that Hubert had advised him to use earlier. The door immediately began to creak and groan, the sturdy metal bolts squeaking in protest as the door swung forwards. The sheer noise that it caused seemed to reverberate within his chest and made him both incredibly excited and anxious that someone might overhear. The latter was quite impossible, of course, as he was so far below the rest of the castle.

Once everything had fallen silent again and only Salazar’s shallow breathing remained, he stepped through the enormous doorway with the glowing orb still floating along beside him. The moment he’d stepped inside the cavernous room the dim light illuminated everything. The dark stone walls seemed to glisten within this area too but not because they were damp with water. A walkway led over a number of fissures in the floor that channelled streams of underground water away from the room and at the other side was a great expanse of stone floor that transitioned smoothly into a set of stone steps. They led upwards into the darkness and Salazar soon discovered another slightly smaller room that had been filled with books and sleeping quarters.

With a satisfied smile, Salazar knew he’d be very comfortable down here.

*

The excitement at discovering his own secret lair - for want of a better word - within the castle had worn off slightly because his meeting with Benedick was drawing ever closer. He knew he had to be less obvious about his worries, as Belle was beginning to pick up on the change in his mood.

“Salazar, where are you going?” Belle asked uncertainly.

It was late in the evening and the sun had set just over an hour ago. Salazar and Belle were walking through the village, on their way to meet with the others. Godric had suggested that they meet to discuss their teaching methods and such so that they’d be prepared for when their students arrived. Salazar was obviously preoccupied, as he had to meet with Benedick in a short while.

“I think I’ll return to the inn,” he said slowly. “I’m not feeling too well.”

“What is it? A fever? Sickness?”

“I’m not sure,” he replied.

“Then I’ll come back with you,” she insisted.

“No,” he said, speaking far more sharply than he’d intended. “You go and meet with the others,” he continued, softening his tone as Belle stared reproachfully up at him. “Then you can tell me what has been decided later tonight,” he added, feeling rather resentful towards the others all of a sudden.

“Alright,” she nodded, observing him through her pale eyes. For a moment he worried that she might have guessed that there was something more going on. “But be sure to rest if you’re feeling unwell.”

“I will,” he assured her, forcing a rather strained smile.

After a moment or two she seemed to accept this and turned away, strolling in the direction of the castle. Salazar watched her go until the darkness swallowed her up. He then turned on his heel and strode through the darkness, glancing around every few moments to check that he was neither being followed or watched. The village seemed conveniently deserted tonight and he’d soon reached the outskirts, where there lay a secluded barn. Benedick had decided that this would be the perfect place for their little meetings.

Salazar felt uneasy as he approached but was certainly not going to turn back. He knocked gently upon the door, which slowly swung open just moments later. Although his spine was tingling and his stomach churning uncomfortably, he stepped inside, closing them once again.

“Good evening, Salazar,” Benedick said.

He stood directly ahead, bathed in the soft glow from an orb he’d cast. Salazar approached, apprehensive about what he had in store for him, but did not reply.

“I assume you’re ready?”

“Of course,” he muttered.

“Good. Before we start, how are things with the school? I trust that you are pleased with the end result?”

“It’s a great triumph,” he replied stiffly, not at all in the mood for small talk.

“And do you have anything of your own within the castle? I’m sure Godric has already had so much input.”

“There is a chamber below levels,” Salazar explained. “It was designed just for me. No one else knows about it.”

“Now you are thinking like a true wizard. A safe haven within your new home, apart from all the others. A place to go when they become too much.”

“They are my friends,” he snapped.

“The closest of friends can often become more dangerous that the worst of enemies,” he murmured.

“I thought I was here to learn!” He said through gritted teeth.

“Indeed,” Benedick nodded slowly. “Then let us begin.”

Salazar flinched as a sudden rustling sound came from the far corner of the barn. He squinted into the shadows and felt his spine tingle as a small figure ambled into the glow of the orb. Then Salazar realised that the small creature was in fact one of the elves from the school.

“Why have you brought that here?” He demanded of Benedick, utterly perplexed by such a decision. “If anyone finds out about our meetings.”

“No one will find out…”

Salazar was even more astounded because these words didn’t come from Benedick’s lips but the elf’s.

“What’s going on? What is this?” He demanded.

“The elf will tell no one, Salazar,” Benedick assured him. “Because he is under my control.” Salazar stared at him, feeling more uneasy than ever. “Lesson one - control.”

“Control?”

He smiled at the look on Salazar’s face but, as usual, the smile didn’t light up his eyes.

“A very convenient tool. I am going to teach you how to take control of any living thing you desire. Once you are skilled enough, you will be able to make people do exactly what you desire. But with this particular form of magic…well, you have to really mean it. Concentration and passion is the key.” Salazar was now watching the elf and was unable to deny that such a power appealed to him. “Do you think you have what it takes?”

“Yes,” Salazar said determinedly.

“Then let us begin…”


Chapter 42: Doubt
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 “You seem distracted,” Helga commented.

She glanced warily across at Salazar, who had been silent for quite a while. They’d been tasked with moving great quantities of books into the library and ordering them, ready to aid their students and, in truth, also to aid themselves. The task was rather laborious but it kept them occupied whilst the others were down in the lower levels, dealing with working out the living quarters for the elves. Helga had offered to do this, as she felt a close connection with the creatures, but Godric had insisted that she help out in the library, as he’d sensed her eagerness to improve with the aid of all the amazing books that had kindly been donated by Coen before all their students arrived.

She could quite easily have poured over the dusty volumes all day, as she found the contents utterly fascinating, but at present Salazar was proving to be quite a distraction. He’d been behaving strangely for the past few days and she couldn’t work out why. He’d always been reserved, of course, but there was something more to it – something she couldn’t quite place.

“Salazar…?” She prompted, when he still didn’t respond.

“Fine. I’m fine,” he said quickly, forcing a weak smile.

“Are you feeling unwell?”

“No. I said I’m fine. Why are people incapable of listening – sorry,” he said quickly, suddenly realising how sharply he’d been speaking. “There’s just a lot to think about.”

“I think I understand,” she eventually said, after fixing him with her pale green stare for a few moments. “I know just what’s been bothering you.” Salazar suddenly felt his stomach plummet. “It’s all this, isn’t it?” She finally asked, waving a dismissive hand around at the expansive library, which was currently mostly devoid of books.

“How do you - ?”

“I know how you feel,” she insisted, lowering her voice. “It’s all so overwhelming, what with all we’ll soon have to do. I mean, we’ll be shaping a new generation of our own kind in a way no one ever has before. It’s exciting but so very scary. I sometimes feel I have nowhere near the skill and ability that the rest of you have. I fear that I won’t make a very good teacher at all. What could I possibly show them that someone else couldn’t? They will look to us to guide them,” she said slowly, her eyes glazing over slightly as she placed down the heavy book she’d been holding. “Their mothers and fathers will entrust us to shape them into their future selves. It’s such a great responsibility. Are you alright?” She asked suddenly, noticing Salazar’s downcast expression.

“I need to go outside and get some air I think.”

“Sorry if I spoke out of turn. I didn’t mean to upset you – ” Helga faltered as she watched him dash away, her concern soon turning to confusion. If any of the founders should have felt so incredibly overwhelmed them it would certainly be her, not Salazar, who’d had so many more years of magical experience behind him.

As she turned back to glance around the library she sighed, knowing she would be here for the rest of the day.

*

Later that evening the castle was left in near total darkness, aside from one room – the great hall. Rowena had enchanted hundreds of candles to float above the tables to illuminate the setting for the first official meeting regarding their school. The buzz of excitement was quite something to experience as they all sat down to discuss plans in far greater detail. Coen, Alexis and Hubert were also in attendance, along with an excitable Polly, who’d kindly offered to take notes now that her writing had come on leaps and bounds.

“There’s something I’d like to say before we start,” Godric said, rising to his feet. “I’d like to say a big thank you to Coen, who kindly donated all the most sought-after booked in the wizarding world. Not only will they help our students but they’ll also help us to become the greatest teachers we can be!”

Helga instigated an enthusiastic round of applause. Coen responded by tipping his goblet in Godric’s direction.

“Not a problem, my boy,” he insisted. “You should be familiar with most of them, as they greatly aided us during your training.”

“They did indeed,” he agreed, taking a sip from his own goblet of wine. “There are some great reads amongst those books. Salazar, you’ll find some useful information regarding transfiguration and the like. I know you struggle,” he winked.

Salazar let an amused smile curl his lips but was far from it. Beneath his calm exterior, his blood was boiling. Watching Godric take charge in this way – yet again – was infuriating. Did he really think he was the most skilled of them all? The idea was laughable but, for now, Salazar would hold his tongue.

“I’ve already been practising a number of charms,” Helga piped up.

“You’re coming along wonderfully, Helga,” Rowena insisted. “You don’t need half those books!”

She blushed a little but seemed pleased with such praise.

“Never mind that!” Alexis said, waving her hand dismissively. “You’re all marvellous, we’re agreed…but what of the school?”

“What do you mean?” Polly asked, looking confused.

“Well, how long until it finally starts serving its true purpose?” She prompted, rolling her eyes. Her words had become slightly slurred, as the effects of four goblets full of wine were finally beginning to take effect.

“Four weeks!” Helga piped up, her face positively glowing with excitement. “I’ve been counting down.”

“It’s come around so quickly,” Rowena gasped, exchanging a look of momentary shock with the others. “What if things don’t go to plan?”

“Don’t be daft!” Alexis chuckled. “You’ve got nothing to worry about, not a single one of you!”

At this point Hubert caught Salazar’s gaze and immediately looked uncomfortable.

“And neither will our students,” Godric said seriously.

“Oh?” Rowena prompted, sensing that he had something important to say.

“Coen has kindly offered to stay here at the school and help with our cause.”

Coen’s thick moustache prickled and he beamed around at them all, his chest puffing out proudly.

“What do you mean, help with our cause?” Salazar demanded, somehow feeling rather offended.

“Well, Coen knows more about the wizarding world than any of us,” Godric explained. “He taught me so much and he’ll do so for our students.”

“Will he?” This remark caused Rowena and Helga to glance uncomfortably between the two of them. “I don’t remember being consulted on this change of plans.”

“Consulted?”

“Yes. We are, after all, the FOUR founding members of this school. Surely a decision as big as this should involve all four of us?”

“I think it’s a great idea,” Rowena said simply. “Our students need someone like Coen. We could have used someone like him when we were younger.”

“Luckily one of us was very lucky,” he murmured under his breath, causing Godric to scowl.

“I don’t see a problem with it,” Helga shrugged.

“The problem is that it makes me wonder how many other decisions have been made without the say-so of all four of us.”

“You should speak up now if you have a problem,” Godric said sternly, staring him down with his intense blue gaze. “We’re all here.” Salazar said nothing in response so Godric continued. “Coen is to teach the students about our world and all about the creatures that inhabit it. Alexis will teach them about Herbology – ”

“Alexis?”

“Don’t bring me into it!” She grumbled, sinking down lower into her seat as she finished the last dregs of her wine.

“She is skilled with such things. I thought you’d be pleased that we’re progressing,” he said coldly.

“If we were progressing together then I’d be elated,” he replied sarcastically. “I suppose I’m just not important enough to be involved with any of the decisions you make.”

“I didn’t make this decision alone!”

“Why are you being like this, Salazar?” Helga asked sheepishly.

“Perhaps if you had been there when we actually made the decision then there wouldn’t be any issues,” Rowena piped up, remaining calm but staring fiercely at Salazar, as though in warning. “We made the decision based on the good of the school. If you cannot agree with such a thing then maybe you should ask yourself why you’re doing any of this. We can’t all of us take credit for everything this is decided upon.”

These words struck a chord with him, even though she hadn’t gone into too much detail and hadn’t raised her voice. For the first time that evening he felt quite embarrassed. Was he exuding the air of a petulant child, perhaps?

“You’re right,” he eventually said, breaking the intense silence and swallowing his pride for the time being. “The decisions you all made were good ones. I have nothing to add. I think we’ll be teaching the students everything they need to know.”

“Not everything,” Godric said quietly. “I was going to ask that you also teach the students about the history of our kind.”

“Me? Would you not be more appropriate, what with everything you have been taught?” He asked awkwardly, glancing across at Coen.

“You are the only one of us that has truly interacted with other wizards your whole life and you know far more than us regarding the history of our world. I thought you would be more fitting,” Godric insisted.

Salazar felt suddenly foolish. He’d acted so ridiculously and all along the others weren’t pushing him out at all – they had always tried to include him, even when he couldn’t be present. This had been the fault of Benedick and his lessons, of course.

“That sounds like a good idea to me,” he nodded.

“Then that’s settled,” Godric nodded, the relaxed atmosphere finally returning.

*

The next morning Rowena awoke rather early and, as she was filled with an excited buzz regarding all their new plans, she decided to take a stroll around the castle to keep herself occupied. The stillness of the place would have been eerie, had it not been for the visions Rowena held within her mind of what this place would soon be like. Soon all the empty halls and corridors would be bursting with life. She was used to living in a castle but this would be quite different.

She paused upon the third floor, having become startled by an unexpected sound. Gasps and grunts followed in quick succession with numerous thuds and bangs. Feeling rather tentative, she reluctantly approached the room where the sound seemed to be coming from.

“And again,” Helga insisted.

She stood in the middle of the empty hall, having shifted many of the desks aside, and stood facing one of the elves that now inhabited the palace. It appeared that this particular elf was helping her with casting a number of charms and spells. It was throwing an array of different sized objects into the air on her command, which she then proceeded to cast her magic upon.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt,” Rowena apologised, noticing that Helga had faltered.

“Did I wake you?”

“No, of course not. I was taking a walk and heard the commotion. Practicing again?”

“Well, I want to make sure I’m good enough,” she shrugged, looking a little embarrassed.

“I hardly think you have anything to worry about,” she said dismissively.

“You always say that but I just don’t want to end up being the weakest link.”

“The weakest - ? Oh, Helga, don’t be ridiculous!”

“That’s what you think I am?”

“Listen to me,” Rowena said seriously, marching over to her and grabbing onto her forearms. “You are more skilled than you realise and you have far more to offer than you think.”

“You think so?”

“Show me,” she insisted, taking the chipped vase that the elf held and preparing to throw it.

She paused for a moment whilst Helga prepared herself and then tossed the vase up towards the rafters. It tumbled through the air and then glistered slightly as it began to slow down and shrink quite considerably in size.

“Wow,” Rowena said appreciatively, after catching it once more. “But I’m curious…why a moving target?”

“Well,” she said uncertainly, as though she thought Rowena might mock her. “I thought it might help me overcome – put me under pressure enough to – ”

“Overcome what?” She frowned.

“I’m worried about performing some of the spells in front of the students, let alone teaching them. I thought this might give me the push I need.”

“You’re not the only one that’s nervous, Helga, I assure you. You shouldn’t be.”

“Easier said than done.”

“I know,” she agreed, toying with the miniaturised vase she still held.

“Are you meeting Godric today?” Helga asked.

“That was the plan. What say we ditch the boys today?” She smirked. “We could go and explore the library. I bet there are books full of spells we’ve never tried.”

“Sounds like a good idea!”

“Come on!”

“Oh, it’s okay, Jack,” Helga said quickly, as the elf made to trot along after them. “You can go about your business now.”

“Thank you, miss,” he squeaked, failing to hide his relief.

*

Belle finally woke up far later than she usually tended to. She supposed she had needed to catch up on her sleep after all the excitement of late. When she rolled over onto her side she listened intently, trying to shut out the merry sounds of the birds outside and instead concentrate of any signs of movement coming from the next room.

After pulling on her robe to stave off the morning chill, she scuttled out into the corridor and was rather surprised to see that the door to the room next door was thrown wide open. Salazar sat beneath the pale beams of sunlight, framed perfectly in front of the window in the well-worn armchair. He looked up from the book he was reading when he sensed her approaching.

“Morning,” he smiled.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realise it was so late,” she said, feeling a little embarrassed.

“I didn’t want to wake you,” he said, as he indicated for her to sit upon the arm of the chair beside him. “You looked so peaceful.”

“I think it is you that needs more sleep just lately.”

“How do you mean?” He asked, closing the book.

“Well, you’ve seemed…distracted. Like you’re carrying the weight of the world upon your shoulders sometimes,” she said slowly. “I’ve been worried.”

“There’s no need,” he insisted.

“You seem different today,” she commented, noticing that the frown lines that were usually present seemed to have eased and that his smile didn’t seem so forced.

“How so?”

“You just look relaxed. It’s nice to see you like this.”

“I’m glad you think so. I feel contented. With my friends. With you. With the school,” he added. He was oddly surprised to find that his words were perfectly genuine.

“Good. What is it?” He asked a few moments later, noticing that her expression had fallen somewhat.

“Sometimes I feel like I don’t belong here.”

“You’re thinking of returning to London?” He asked, unable to mask the shock in his voice.

“No. I just…well, I’m a mortal! I see you and the others making such wonderful plans and I can never be a part of that.”

“But you are!”

“I stay behind during each and every meeting you have about the school.”

“You could come to the next one if you’d like…?”

“And what use would I be? I feel like I don’t belong within this new life of yours. I don’t feel I’m good enough.”

“Don’t ever say that,” he breathed, placing a pale hand upon her delicate face. As she glanced down at him he could tell that the situation was genuinely bothering her. “Most of the students coming here will be just as new to this world as you are. You’ll be one of the only people that truly understands them so don’t feel that you’re out of place. Please don’t ever feel like that.”

“I’m sorry. I just worry that I might lose you.”

His gaze fixed intently with hers as he felt his heart clench uncomfortably.

“Never.”

*

For the rest of their day the founders worked upon perfecting their own style of teaching. They were equally as nervous about it, whether it showed or not, so they wanted to put things into practice before the students arrived. Salazar had tried his best to focus all day. Belle had offered to serve as his student so that he had some form of audience but he’d graciously refused. He was still distracted, much as he hated to admit it and much as he needed to be anything but at the moment.

That evening the other founders met, as usual, at the Hog’s head but Salazar was feeling far from sociable. He found it easier to work out his problems or concerns alone – he’s always been the same. He took to strolling through the dim village, which was bathed in a rather sinister glow provided by the setting suns. He had no real idea where he was heading but felt the walk might clear his head.

His calm demeanour faltered somewhat when he spotted a familiar but rather unwelcome figure emerge up ahead of him. His posture immediately stiffened but he tried to keep his expression neutral.

“What are you doing here, Benedick?”

“Well, I thought – what with the arrival of your little students looming – we’d try to progress as far as possible with your teachings.”

“I thought you were going to return in a few weeks for the next lesson.”

“Dear me, Salazar. Anyone would think you don’t want me around.”

Salazar said nothing in response and knew that Benedick had interpreted the silence perfectly.

“We still have much to get through. I trust you understand how important the basics are…?”

Something suddenly struck a chord with him. Rowena had once insisted that reading even the most sinister and unwholesome of books provided some insight that could one day be helpful. Perhaps if Salazar delved as deep into this sort of magic as he possibly could then he could possibly learn to defeat it one day.

“I’m eager to get things underway.”

“Good. The only problem is a location. I fear the residents of this little village may grow…suspicious,” Benedick sneered.

“I know of a place we could go.”


Chapter 43: The Grand Feast
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The day had finally arrived. It had seemed to take forever to get here but it had dawned perfectly, as though even the heavens above knew how important an occasion it actually was. The cool autumn air was crisp, the branches of the trees still and the rays of early morning light that had just started to creep their way across the castle and its grounds were bathing everything in a red and gold glow that managed to bring a kind of warmth that the air couldn’t quite manage just yet.

Naturally, not many of the residents within the grand castle had gotten much sleep, which was perfectly understandable. Alexis had been milling and fussing about since the crack of dawn just to ensure that everything was perfect for the four founders, simply because she knew they’d be too busy and distracted to mither over the finer details.

The elves were already hard at work preparing for the grand feast that would take place once all the students had arrived – all Helga’s idea – and Hubert had been assisting Polly with ensuring that the students’ quarters were as homely as they could possibly make them. In fact, by the time they were done, Hubert was certain that most of the students would never have dwelled in such a grand abode.

Whilst Godric, Rowena and Salazar were occupying themselves with carrying out the finishing touches to the grand welcome they would give their students, Helga had travelled up to one of the small studies that lay within one of the tallest towers. It was here that she’d been receiving or storing numerous letters for weeks on end. She smiled around at the small collection of various owls that were perched up in the rafters before unfurling a long roll of parchment that she’d been working on tirelessly for the past few days.

“Miss?”

She spun around as one of the many elves startled her, appearing at the doorway most unexpectedly.

“Well?” She asked eagerly.

“They’re all ready.”

“Wonderful,” she beamed.

“But do you really think - ?”

“This is going to work,” she said defiantly, her eyes twinkling mischievously.

*

Belle was positively brimming with excitement as she dashed through the village. It was rarely so busy but everyone was obviously very eager to watch the arrival of all the students. Most were extremely curious to see how this would all pan out. Expecting so many students to arrive within the same hour was quite preposterous but Belle didn’t doubt it for a second. It was with an infectious beaming smile that she weaved her way through the crowds, eager to see Salazar before the big event.

“Do you think they’ll ride in on dragons? That’s what I heard.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Mabel!”

“I heard they’d all arrive here on broomsticks,” another of the villagers piped up, almost tripping over in his excitement as a stray chicken went scattering across the lane.

“Broomsticks? Don’t be daft, lad! What use would a broomstick be!”

“Besides, they’d have to learn the skill first,” an older and far wiser lady insisted.

Belle chuckled to herself. Even she didn’t know all the details about the school but she was eager to find out. What she failed to spot in her haste was the cloaked man following her step for step through the crowd. Benedick was also very eager to see how this day would pan out.

*

Rowena was finally ready. It had taken her all morning but she intended to make a good impression upon her students. She wore her finest sapphire-coloured gown, which had intricate detailing at the hem and all over the bodice. Naturally, she’d also paid just as much attention to her hair, which was now twisted up into tight curls, some of them framing her pale face. She beamed as Godric appeared at the doorway, unable to hide his shock.

“Well, it was certainly worth the wait,” he said appreciatively.

“I’m glad you think so,” she smiled, looking over her reflection once more before turning to Godric and passing a scrutinising eye over his attire.

“I know!” He said quickly. “But I’ve been busy preparing things whilst you’ve been…doing all this,” he said, waving a dismissive hand towards her elaborate hair.

“You ought to watch it, Gryffindor,” she smirked. “I’ve been paying close attention to those books Coen donated, particularly the curses!”

“You wouldn’t!” He chuckled, pulling her towards him by the wrist. She grinned up at him. “Besides, I know a few tricks myself.”

“I can imagine!”

“Ahem!”

They both jumped as the awkward voice of one of the many elves interrupted them.

“Yes?” Rowena asked eagerly, moving away from Godric slightly.

“Carriages are approaching!”

A split second later a loud bell could be heard ringing out all across the grounds and would undoubtedly be heard down in the village too. Without another word, Godric and Rowena both dashed down towards the entrance hall, trying to hasten but still look dignified at the same time.

*

“Carriages?” Alexis remarked, looking quite amused.

“Why is that funny?” Salazar asked, as they both made their way through the courtyard as they headed to the main entrance of the castle.

“Well, it will certainly disappoint the villagers. They will be expecting far more elaborate things, mark my words!” She added, when he continued to look puzzled.

“Then they’ll have to be disappointed. We’re created a magical school. What more do they want?”

She chuckled at his expression, adjusting one of the vases as she scooted past, before they emerged into the sunny entrance hall. The doors were thrown wide open in greeting and the moment that Salazar caught sight of the first carriages that were rolling up the driveway his heart skipped with a mixture of excitement and nervousness.

“Do not fear the unknown…or the unknowledgeable,” Alexis muttered under her breath, as though she’d read his thoughts.

As they stepped down the entrance steps and reached a crowd of others, Salazar realised that Gwen was amongst them. She was positively buzzing with excitement and he chuckled at her enthusiasm.

“How is everything?” Alexis asked as Hubert moved beside them.

He seemed a lot more comfortably about being in such close proximity to Salazar than he used to.

“All the preparations are complete.”

“Was that not seen to last night?” Salazar asked, eyebrows raised.

“Of course,” he said, staring determinedly out towards the approaching coaches. “I refer to something else.”

Salazar didn’t press the subject, as he found that he wasn’t all too interested at that precise moment in time.

“This is surreal!” Rowena exclaimed, as she and Godric finally emerged amongst the small crowd now congregated outside the castle. “I’m suddenly nervous.”

“Don’t be!” Coen insisted, as he strolled past, looking rather pleased about something.

“What’s he so happy about?” Rowena asked once he was out of earshot.

Godric simply tapped the side of his nose, his eyes twinkling as he did so.

As the first of the carriages rolled to a stop and gave way to the sight of many more, Godric couldn’t help but notice one problem, something that Salazar voiced just a split second later when he moved to stand beside them.

“There aren’t enough.”

“Sorry?” Hubert said.

“Well, for the amount of students we found…surely there are not enough carriages here,” he insisted, frowning out at the procession, which was clearly nearing its end at the foot of the hill. “Did some change their minds?”

“Not that I know of,” Rowena said quietly, suddenly looking rather concerned.

“Worry not, founders,” Hubert said knowingly, causing them all to stare at him questioningly. “There are always those thinking outside the box.”

“What do you mean?” Rowena demanded.

“Where’s Helga?” Alexis demanded, shuffling towards them through the gathering crowd. “We can’t well present the school with one of its founding members missing, now, can we?”

“I’m here!” Helga trilled, as she dashed towards them down the front steps. She looked flushed in the cheeks and her wavy hair was billowing out behind her, having fallen down from the clip it had been placed in earlier that morning.

“What’s happened?” Rowena demanded, looking rather concerned.

“Nothing. Everything is perfect!”

Godric chuckled quietly to himself as he looked along the line, from his own unusual attire which was adorned in red and gold stitching, to Rowena’s fine appearance, to Salazar’s regal emerald green attire, to Helga’s rather dishevelled appearance. She looked presentable enough, what with her beautiful golden gown, but she was still breathless from her run here and it was clear that Rowena wanted nothing more than to hastily repair her ruined hair do.

“Look at their little faces!” Rowena muttered, noticed that the first few to step down from their carriages stared up at the castle in complete awe. “They must be terrified.”

“Perhaps some more than others,” Godric shrugged, noticing that a few other students seemed deceptively confident about their new venture.

“Where are the rest?”

“Were there not supposed to be more than this?”

People started muttering throughout the crowd, voicing their concern regarding the lack of students. The only person that didn’t seem too concerned about this was Helga.

“Just wait…”

A silence fell over the entire surrounding area. There was a slight change in the atmosphere and it was difficult to tell whether it meant anything good just yet. A sudden cracking sound rent the air, followed by another and then another, until there was an entire cacophony of the sounds. Along with these unusual sounds, however, figures appeared all over the sweeping grounds. They did so in pairs, each pair seeming to contain a very small being.

“The elves!” Rowena gasped, her mouth gaping open in wonderment.

The students that they’d brought along with them looked windswept and quite nauseated but otherwise unharmed. Once the shock had worn off the first to arrive, it was obvious that they were not quickly recovering from their shock as they caught sight of the resplendent castle.

A stunned silence followed this, as those within the heart of the congregation up at the entrance to the castle turned to stare in amazement at Helga.

“Told you it would work,” she remarked, throwing an amused glance in Hubert’s direction.

“I stand corrected,” he grinned. “Please forgive me. You are indeed quite the genius!”

*

Once the students had been taken inside and those that had been transported by the elves had recovered from their shock, everyone began to congregate within the great hall. Polly had taken charge of decorating it for this special occasion and she had certainly surpassed all expectations. It looked absolutely glorious and it seemed that the students were in agreement if their gasps and awed expressions were anything to go by.

Once everyone was seated, which took a surprisingly long time, Alexis rose from her seat and called for attention. She smiled warmly around at them all simply to reassure them, as some of the students were looking extremely pale now. Perhaps they thought that something remarkable was expected of them. Gwen, who was sitting amongst a group of other young girls near the front, seemed the only one that looked confident. It certainly made a change from when Godric and Rowena had first met her.

“Welcome, each and every one of you!” Alexis called, as an expectant silence fell across the hall. “You have all come here to learn about your craft in far more depth than you could possibly imagine. All of you must remember that whilst you are here everyone is equal and each and every one of you will be able to call this place home.”

As she spoke Godric and the others were quietly observing the students, subconsciously picking out the ones they deemed most attributed to their own traits.

“But enough of my waffle!” Alexis chuckled. “I would like to introduce you to the four individuals that made this all possible. Please be upstanding for our founding four!” She beamed, sweeping her arm around in their general direction.

Godric was the first to stand, closely followed by the others. Helga’s cheeks immediately flushed and Salazar looked a little uncomfortable as he nodded in greeting at the students. Rowena smiled warmly and if she was nervous she certainly didn’t let it show. She was probably more accustomed to these types of situations than the others were.

“Perhaps you would like to say something,” Alexis prompted, glancing between them all.

“Er…yes,” Godric piped up, after exchanging a swift glance with the others. “I’m thrilled that you could all be here today. It makes me happier than you could know. The four of us grew up not really knowing what we were for a long time. At one point we all felt just like you do now – excited, nervous…slightly afraid,” he added, noticing some particularly pale faces amongst the crowd. “But I want you all to know that that’s okay. I hope you will all see a little of yourselves in us and realise that we’re not so different. Throughout your time here, we will be like one big family. We stand together and we help each other along the way. What do you say to that?”

A few of the students cheered. A few chuckled nervously, obviously still unsure what to make of everything. Rowena and Helga grinned at Godric.

“Well, I suppose that’ll have to do for now!” He chortled. “You must all be starving so let’s eat!”

With that the elves rushed into the room, heaving great platters of the most delicious-looking offerings onto the tables. This certainly broke the ice and soon the students chatted merrily to one another and the atmosphere became positively merry.

*

“So…what do we think?” Rowena urged, glancing around at her fellow founders.

They’d now retired to a parlour room just off the great hall and were discussing their vast array of new students over freshly-poured goblets of mulled wine.

“There are an awful lot of them,” Helga said at once, taking a large swig of her wine.

“Aye, the more the merrier,” Godric agreed.

“I have a feeling that the majority may not be advanced enough to keep up to begin with,” Salazar said.

“You can’t say that so soon,” Rowena contradicted. “You’ve just met them. Besides, they’ll all need time to adjust. You can’t expect them to grasp the kind of magic we have in store for them straight away.”

“I agree,” Godric nodded. “We can assess them with the first set of lessons tomorrow to see how they do and then separate them into ability groups perhaps…?”

“That may seem a little unfair,” Helga pointed out, looking a little uncomfortable.

“Never mind that,” Alexis said dismissively, who’d come to join them. Salazar rolled his eyes as she perched herself right beside him. “You just need to decide which students you wish to take under your wings!”

“How can we tell so soon?” Helga asked.

They’d long since agreed that they would all choose the students most fitting to themselves to take a personal interest in but now that they were here it was quite difficult to get the feel for their personalities, at least at first glance.

“I usually find that a gut instinct works best,” she winked.

“And if it’s wrong?” Godric asked, raising his eyebrows.

“Then you have dodgy bowels!” She laughed raucously then left the room, the strong whiff of mulled wine following her.

“Right…that’s us told then,” Helga smiled.

“How will we do it?” Salazar asked.

“Gather them into a large group and simply choose,” Rowena suggested. “I suppose we’ll need to do so before bed time – they’ll want to know which quarters they’ll be sleeping in!”

“Right – let’s go!” Godric insisted, downing the rest of his wine and leading the way out of the chamber.

*

Just as Alexis has said, selecting the students with gut instinct alone probably served them well. It took a surprisingly small amount of time and soon every one of the students was placed under the metaphorical wing of a founder. Once this information had been passed onto the students everyone within the great hall was in for quite a treat.

The ceiling high above, which usually depicted the sky outside, was suddenly awash with colour as a magical fireworks display illuminated all the excited little faces. Coen and Hubert exchanged a triumphant grin once their little surprise was executed without a hitch and the students were led to their quarters by the elves.

Godric and Rowena left the hall next, followed by Hubert, Alexis and Coen, the latter two singing drunkenly as they went, their voices eventually fading away. Helga bid Belle and Salazar goodnight as she hurried off after Poppy, who seemed just as eager as she was to discuss the events of the day.

“Shall we leave now?” Belle urged, her eyes looking distinctly tired.

“No. You go ahead. I’ll catch you up,” he insisted, planting a delicate kiss upon her hand.

She smiled warmly and did so, leaving an eerie but oddly calming silence in her wake. Salazar sighed and stared around at the now empty hall, which was illuminated only by the few remaining candles, all of which were burning very low. A lone figure suddenly caught his attention. One of the boys he’d selected was standing quite pointedly at the doorway, his form half concealed by the heavy shadows.

“What are you doing lurking over there, boy?” He demanded. “What is it?”

The boy slowly approached and Salazar tried to read his darkened face for some sign of what may be wrong. On the contrary, the boy seemed perfectly calm and collected.

“I have a message for you, Sir,” he eventually said, his voice even and measured, as though he’d rehearsed every syllable.

“What is it?” He asked impatiently. Was it the eeriness of the scene or the amount of mulled wine he’d consumed that was making him feel so uneasy?

“Please don’t forget our agreement, Salazar.”

“You will address me as Lord Slytherin, boy!”

“I told you that the magic you have learnt is lacking compared to what I know. Think of all the things I could do, Salazar…all the things you could do.” Salazar stared blankly, an uncomfortable chill trickling down his spine. “I can seep into the minds of these young, impressionable things as easily as walking through doorways.” A devilish smirk lit up the angelic boy’s face and Salazar felt suddenly sick. “Don’t make me have to remind you how incredibly powerful I am. Remember our agreement regarding the children and we shall have no problems. You will show them our ways.”

“Benedick…?”

The horrid smile he wore remained fixed in place for a few moments longer and then slipped completely. The boy squinted up at Salazar and then looking incredibly uneasy.

“Oh…sorry, Sir,” he said quickly. “I – ”

“It’s okay,” Salazar said, somewhat shakily. “You will return to your quarters. You remember the way?”

He simply nodded and dashed from the room, leaving Salazar to feel more uneasy than ever.


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