Chapter 11 : Offer And Announcement Of Marriage
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Rowena spent the next few days carefully eyeing Godric and Anna, who were now frequently and suspiciously talking in low voices; entertaining Hengist, who seemed to be very delighted with Hogwarts and all the pupils; and helping the students gather their things so that they could go home for their first winter holiday.
Despite the rapidly falling snowflakes, Hengist and Rowena decided to take a stroll in the grounds and catch up. Hengist told Rowena of his travellings to the North; how he had founded other villages and looked unsuccesfully for his brother, Horsa. Rowena in turn told him about all that had happened at Ravenclaw Castle, and how her father had been killed. Hengist strategically did not mention a word or show any disapproval; he had never been close to his youngest, extremely selfish brother. He did, however, express a wish to see Ravenclaw Castle again.
'Alas, I fear that rather impossible, Uncle,' Rowena said, sighing and battling her way through the snow. She waved her wand at it and started siphoning it away.
'Dear me, why is that?' asked Hengist, looking at her bemusingly.
'Well, you see, when my father's will was found, it seemed to be that he had written that I would only inherit the estate and fortune had I married - seeing as I was not at the time of his death, merely engaged, the living went to someone else.'
'Indeed! That is most unfair, my poor niece; pray, tell, who?'
Rowena smiled bitterly and led her uncle to the castle.
'The closest living relative to my father, namely his nephew and my cousin, your - oh!'
Rowena's eyes suddenly grew round, and she stared at Hengist in wonder.
'Why, the living went to your son, Uncle Hengist!'
To her amazement, Hengist was smiling, and grasped her upper arm for support as they climbed the stairs and entered the Entrance Hall.
'You are smiling, Uncle?'
'Yes, indeed, for I must say, it is rather fortunate that I've come along just now. My dear, detested son is not at all the closest living relative to Raiden - I am, naturally, being his brother. The estate should pass to me. And I would not dream of keeping it from my niece.'
Rowena suddenly laughed and her face lit up.
'Oh, how fortunate we all are, Hengist. I had so forgotten what happens every time you pass - everything turns well again!'
'Ah, well, if that is the case, my dear niece, I should have come along sooner - I am sorry for being so very late. But I shall make up for it! oh yes, I will approach the attorney directly so as to inquire after your lost fortune. My son could not possibly have ill-used it already, in such a short time, even if he may be one of the most worthless men in the world.'
They both smiled at eachother and walked towards the kitchen.
'Look here, Dugan - you cut the pheasant this way, and take care when you strip off the legs - all the meat should be preserved. We salt the meat very carefully if we are to keep it during the winter - that way it won't rot. However, if we are to - oh, Rowena! There you are. I am just helping Dugan in the kitchen. He is very desirious to be of any help.'
Rowena looked around at the roomy kitchen, and the small and odd creature Dugan came to view, looking up at a sweaty Helga in awe as she showed him how to cut out the roasted animal lying on the wooden table.
'Now see here - this is a little trick my mother taught me - if you pour just a little of this oil on it, then it'll roast much quicker. And don't forget to always turn it around, or it'll only be roasted on one side and not the other.'
'Yes, missus!' the creature squeaked, doing a funny little hop and using liberal amounts of oil on the pheasant. 'And missus, may it be my duty, missus, to give thanks for your warmth, and your kindness, and spiritual -'
'Yes, yes, Dugan, that's perfectly fine,' answered Helga, blushing. 'You've told me that three times already.'
'Oh, but missus, nothing compares to the horrible, the terrible treatment Dugan was put through before! This magnificent generosity of spirit -'
'It seems as if someone is very well pleased, Helga,' said Rowena, smiling and walking towards her friend. Dugan did another little hop of excitement or terror, as if not quite certain whether to look pleased or not.
'Your hem is soaked, Rowena,' Helga observed, brushing snowflakes off her friend's shoulders, 'where have you been?'
'Outside, with Hengist, showing him the grounds. He's upstairs now, having a little nap before lunch. Pray, tell, how do like him?'
'A great deal,' answered Helga cheerfully, passing a very concentrated Dugan the knife and walking over to stir the soup, 'indeed, his disposition and nature seems such that it is impossible to dislike him.'
Rowena smiled happily, her mind still full of what Hengist had told her about her estate and fortune.
'Tell me, have you seen Godric?'
'Yes, he came in here with Anna a few moments ago. I must say, they are acting very odd, very odd indeed. Talking to eachother secretly - ah well, it must be matters of importance, do you not think so?'
Rowena shrugged and told her that she did not know, but that she had something to tell Godric, and left the kitchen. She searched all over the castle, and finally found him in her Tower, sitting on one of the chaises longues and gazing pensively into the fire.
'Godric?' Rowena asked tentatively. Godric looked up slowly, giving her a concerned smile. He patted the chaise and Rowena went over to sit next to him.
'I am so fond of you, Rowena,' Godric whispered, putting an arm around her. 'You do know that, don't you?'
'Of course I do,' Rowena answered wonderingly, surprised. 'Godric, is something amiss? You would not present these feelings unless afraid of them not being returned. You cannot fool me, I know you too well - there is something wrong.'
Godric sighed and shook his head.
'Dear me, you are not very cheerful. At least I hope the news will be able to put a smile on that old mug.'
'News? What news?'
Rowena took his hand excitedly and kissed his cheek.
'Dear Godric! Hengist is actually the true owner of the Ravenclaw estate, not the dreaded nephew! My fortune will come back to me! The castle will be ours again! Think Godric, we'll be able to recruit more students! Oh, how lucky we are!'
Godric's eyes were suddenly alight with joy and he grabbed Rowena's hands and kissed them.
'And you would not have to marry Salazar?'
Rowena gazed at him for a long time, suddenly completely bemused; she had not paused to think about that at all. Slowly, a warmth spread throughout her entire body and she leaned against Godric and kissed him quickly on the lips.
'I would not have to marry him, Godric - I would not! I would not! I would not!' She kept repeating the words, relishing their effect on her, feeling a sense of relief and freedom.
'And you would marry me, Rowena?' Godric breathed.
Rowena was plunged headfirst into a different world, a world where Godric was her husband, where everywhere she went, she would be known as 'Lady Gryffindor', where her pupils would call her 'Professor Gryffindor'; her work, her self-invented charms, all her magical research would be remembered as her husband's, as all other wives' work were. She would no longer be the independant, strong-willed witch she had come to be. Her regard on marriage had completely changed, and during all those years of her engagement to Salazar, she had, unconciously, come to think of that life long contract as something she would never want to enter. Not even for love. And then the world vanished and she was left staring into Godric's hopeful face, the man she had begged to do what he was asking her to do, and she knew she couldn't tell him the truth; not now.
'Yes, dearest Godric, yes, I would,' she lied, and he smiled and kissed her again. 'But let us first think carefully of how we shall tell Salazar; he is not likely to take it well.'
'But Rowena, he does not love you, not like that at least - he has only ever been after your fortune. Indeed, he regards you as property far more than as the second party in a love-match.'
Rowena gazed at Godric in wonder - he had always talked about Salazar in a defending, solidary way, and here he was, almost insulting him, and with a jealous look in his eyes.
'Exactly, darling - and now that I have my fortune back, he is bound to want to rush the marriage. He has a fearsome temper, my love - we must go slowly on this.'
Godric nodded and then kissed Rowena again. She eyed him carefully, biting her lip. She could tell from the way he kissed her that all was not as it should be.
'Are you certain that you are all right?'
Godric hesitated, then smiled.
'Yes. Yes, everything is fine.'
Godric had not liked lying to Rowena, but he could not tell her now that he was needed in the Greenlands, not after what she had just said, and certainly not after having come home from another long voyage merely weeks ago. To tell her that he'd be going on another one - where it was likely he would not return - would do her no good.
He tried to act as if nothing had happened, even though two very important things had. The news of Rowena's and his secret engagement lit a fire in him that kept him going through everything; he had not known how much he loved her until she had finally consented to soon be his wife. The second was the news of the Greenlands, which was absolutely impossible to block out. He talked to Anna frequently about what they should do, although it mostly ended up with him refusing to go, and her threatening to leave without him.
Though these thoughts were troublesome indeed, there were times when he could feel quite light-hearted, and one of those times came late one evening, the day before the winter holiday, just as all the students were gone to bed. Christopher and Helga entered the Great Hall hand in hand, having just done their last patrol of the corridors. Godric, Rowena, Salazar and Anna were all sitting around the professors' table, eating the last of the excellent dessert Dugan had prepared. While Dugan received great praise (to his astonishment and pleasure), Helga and Christopher walked up to the party and cleared their throats. It was quite obvious that they were to make an announcement.
'We have news to tell you all; they are of an important nature, but a cheerful one, and we are happy and proud to announce it,' Helga said, glowing.
Godric, who was sitting between Rowena and Anna, grasped the former's hand and clenched it. He knew exactly what they were about to say.
'Yes,' Christopher mumbled, looking slightly embarrassed, 'Helga and I are engaged - to be married.'
'What other kind of engagement is there?' sneered Salazar, and Christopher went crimson. But Helga gave an encouraging smile, and he continued.
'We have set the date for a month henceforth, and should hope to be married in this castle, if all may seem agreeable to you,' he said, his voice stronger.
Godric stood up, letting go of Rowena's hand, and smiled.
'Of course, my dear friends, of course you should be married from here! You have as much right as anyone else, for you helped build it. Congratulations! I am very happy for you both.'
Helga smiled warmly at Godric as he came over to give her a hug for the first time since her father's death - then to shake Christopher's hand animatedly and ask him about his living conditions.
'Helga and I shall want to live together, with perhaps a bit of privacy, so she shall be moving to my little cottage in the grounds directly after the event,' Christopher answered, now shaking Rowena's hand as she, in turn, offered her congratulations.
'Cottage? I would rather call it a hut,' Salazar answered, with another sneer. 'Strange what some people can live in. But then I suppose it is no different to what you have been raised in, eh, Professor - ah - Grunge?'
Everyone looked at Salazar in astonishment, except Godric and Rowena, who both had a tiny idea of what he was on about. Godric had of course learned all of Christopher's history, partly from his visit at the Von de Skylacks with Salazar, partly from Rowena, who had told him something of what she had discovered. But Helga, Christopher and Anna, to whom the business was unknown, glared at Salazar in disgust for disrupting their peaceful evening. Only Rowena felt uneasy.