Chapter 5 : Chapter Five
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Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. Also, this story is a work of fantasy, not historical fiction. I have taken many historical liberties while writing this piece and most of it may be considered anachronistic.
Helga Hufflepuff - Leelee Sobieski
Godric Gryffindor - Sean Bean
Salazar Slytherin - Joaquin Phoenix
Rowena Ravenclaw - Lena Headey
Ailbhe, Rowena’s handmaiden - Bryce Dallas Howard
Riol, a Cornish officer - Steven Mackintosh
“There are many methods through which a man might be controlled,” Helga said. “I shall teach you three. The rest you must learn for yourself.”
Godric felt his muscles tense as she approached him. His body had of late become a slave to instinct and the feral fear that belonged to all men. His mind, however, settled on thoughts of a much softer nature, wishes he had conjured from Helga’s self-assured smiles…her kisses….
The unforgiving chill of the winter’s morn nipped impolitely at his exposed flesh and the hem of his black fur coat was dotted with fresh snow. Winding footprints paced the length of the glade, forming serpentine patterns that so perfectly mimicked the carven swirls on the nearby standing stones.
Helga was flushed in the pink light of dawn.
“The spells are named thusly,” she continued, her gloved fingers fastened over the handle of her wand. They stood shoulder to shoulder on earth made even by packed snow. “The Cruciatus Curse, which inflicts immeasurable pain. The Avada Kedavra Curse, which you already know causes death. And the last, of my own invention, the Imperius Curse, which ensnares a man’s senses and makes him the puppet of the caster. I can teach you the incantations well enough, Godric, but you must judge when to use them. You see, there is philosophy in magic after all.”
Godric listened to her, his eyes fixed steadily on the naked trees and the faint, streaming light that drew shadows from the ebony trunks. The air was breathless and close, frozen with some tremulous prospect.
And he felt the same measure of restlessness in Helga, saw it burn in her eyes whenever they lay together. It ran through her veins likes fire….
“Do you think Slytherin will return this day?” he asked, unable to stem his curiosity, which by now, was unfettered and wild.
For a moment, Helga’s face darkened.
It had been three weeks, and still, her emissary had not returned from Rowena Ravenclaw’s stronghold.
And late tidings often bore ill news. Or none at all.
“I think Salazar may be trusted to act accordingly,” Helga replied at length, though Godric noticed the concern that shadowed her keen gaze. “His judgment is above reproach.”
There was much left to interpretation, although. And Helga certainly could not deny that. Godric, however, put his faith in her instinct, as he had done with most things. It was a strange sort of home-coming, a spiritual pilgrimage now put to rest as he adapted to her company.
He had long wished for the companionship of another wizard--or witch, as it might be. His kinsman of the Gryffindor tribe had lacked both the natural imagination of magical folk and they condemned his spells as naught but the by-product of archaic gods.
Through Helga, Godric now understood more about his talents and had eagerly entered into her tutelage…just as he had become her lover.
There remained no reason to question her wisdom regarding Slytherin’s absence and as the days shortened towards the solstice, he found his faith resting in her more and more.
“I have performed the Killing Curse once,” he said, switching the discussion back to a safer, more cerebral topic. “I would not think it useful for interrogation. Perhaps it may frighten an enemy, but certainly render him useless.”
“Quite right,” Helga replied. She was smiling pleasantly now and her fingers lit upon his forearm, touching his leather vambrace. “But remember, a corpse may be controlled…if one wishes to indulge in necromancy.”
“A dark art.”
“It may be termed such. But you must know how to kill, Godric. Or am I wrong in sensing something of a warrior’s spirit about you?”
“Perhaps.” He cleared his raw throat with a grunt.
Helga looked thoughtful, raising her eyes to the winding branches. Overhead, perched on a thin, snowy limb was a young starling. The bird twittered in a high, fluting voice that was appropriately masked by the wind.
“Let us try your aim,” Helga said. She stepped away from Godric, her arms folded neatly. “If you can hit a swift little bird with a spell, I daresay you should rival the finest archer in my army. Remember the incantation I taught you…imperio.”
Godric raised a brow at her, but obeyed. Lifting his wand, he carefully pointed it at the starling and cleared his mind. “Imperio.”
The incantation slipped from his tongue in a fluid whisper. The starling, however, must have sensed his predatory intentions, for the bird spread it’s wings and leapt into the frozen air.
The spell missed.
Godric flushed and cursed. Helga only smiled.
Raising her own wand, she directed it at the soaring bird and murmured the same incantation.
At once, the starling shuddered and then plummeted wildly towards the forest floor.
Godric thought the bird would dash its brains out, but Helga deftly sent the bird spiraling upward, flying in smooth circles. At last, she had it settle right upon his shoulder and whistle a sweet, captivating little tune.
Godric stroked the bird’s head in amazement. “Quite effective your spell is,” he admitted. “You could render any wild beast tame.”
Helga scoffed, flicking her wand and releasing the starling. The bird came to its senses at once and darted off into the sky. “Man is the only creature you need worry about controlling.”
For some unknown reason, her words provoked an unexpected chill in Godric. He shivered in his heavy cloak and looked for another bird to cast the enchantment upon.
A rabbit climbed out of its burrow underneath a fallen large and Godric whirled about, shooting the spell at the creature. At once, the rabbit stiffened and under his command, hopped about the glade in a circle.
Helga applauded. “Well done, Godric. Well--”
She was interrupted by the strenuous panting of a hard-pressed horse. Frantic hoof beats sounded on the packed snow, sending ice and frigid water in every direction.
Godric threw up his arms to avoid the spray as the horse and rider streaked into the glade and in doing so, his rabbit gained its freedom and promptly dove back into its hole.
Helga stepped in front of him, unfazed by prancing horse and wild-eyed rider. She held up her hand and with difficulty, the man controlled his mount and slipped to the ground.
Faintly, it had begun to snow.
“My lady.” The rider was on his knees, sweeping his hood back with red, frost-bitten hands. “I was sent from camp to find you. I have lately come from Hogwarts.”
Godric exhaled sharply. He recognized the man now as one of the guards Helga had sent with Slytherin to Alba. But just where was Salazar?
Helga’s face tightened and she grabbed the man by the back of his hood, pulling him closer. “What news? Has Rowena rejected my terms?”
“Oh, my lady.” The man was crying…sobbing.
Helga slapped him across the face. “Speak!”
The man floundered for a wild moment, clawing at his tunic. Godric thought he had gone quite mad, but then he realized the messenger was searching for something he carried.
After a moment, the man produced a small trinket…a silver locket on a chain that Godric knew had belonged to Slytherin.
And in seeing it, his heart sank.
“Rowena the Ravenclaw as rejected my lady’s terms,” the messenger babbled. “And she has executed Salazar Slytherin in return.”
Helga glanced at each of her officers, temperance dampening her ill humor. At last, when she was assured of their attention, she removed Salazar’s locket from within her doublet and cast it upon the table.
“This,” she spat, “is an insult.”
Uncomfortable silence settled in the close confines of the tent. Godric himself was glad to be standing by the door, where crisp breezes reminded him of the virulent winter weather raging outside. Within the heavy canvas walls, the men sweated and sighed, their faces darkened by angry torchlight.
Helga seemed further irritated by the stillness of her officers. She began to pace, cutting a line between the thick bodies like ice through stone. Salazar’s locket remained gleaming on the table, a fertile reminder of the savagery Godric now felt inherent in his life. Things were no longer simple for him. It wasn’t enough to pray to his clan’s gods and cast runes and mutter simple spells to ensure a good harvest. Helga had showed him that magic was so much more than his former, plebian pastimes. It was wondrous…and a source of undeniably danger.
His fingers stiffened at the thought of his own power, which lay dormant now like a slumbering serpent.
At length, one of the Cornish officers shattered the uneasy quietude.
“This Rowena is, at the very least, bold, my lady,” he said, his confidence betraying his otherwise subdued appearance. “How long is it since we have had any resistance?”
Helga paused, her chest heaving. There was naught but wildness in her eyes and for a moment, Godric wondered if she would order the man slain for such insolence.
The Queen of Cornwall, however, was thoroughly measured in her anger.
“I do not trust bravado coupled with madness, Riol,” she told the officer pointedly. “Such a combination might spell disaster for us all. Alas for poor Slytherin! I thought his tongue was better tempered to soothe Rowena. May his phantom curse me for being so very amiss.”
What was this? Godric felt his ears prick up. Was Helga truly admitting her own weaknesses? It seemed odd to him that such a powerful woman would frankly confess to any Achilles’ Heel.
He glanced quickly at the faces of Cornish men, expecting to see the same surprise he felt.
Once more, Riol alone reacted. “Slytherin was a foreigner, my lady and not to be trusted.” In speaking, he let his eyes drift over Godric and the overt meaning of his statement was not lost. “Power should not be delegated to those who have no knowledge of our campaigns, whereas your soldiers from Cornwall have been with you from the outset.”
Helga bristled ever so slightly, though Godric suspected she had greater worries to combat than Riol’s whining.
“I will hear none of this now,” she said.
Riol lowered his eyes in deference, although his hand strayed to the locket on the table. “Slytherin failed,” he replied. “And Rowena has been alerted to our intentions. We must move quickly, my lady, lest Alba rise up against us first.”
There was a murmur of agreement amongst the officers this time. Helga, however, did not look concerned.
“Well spoken, Riol,” she said, though her voice verged on cutting. “We shall proceed as we always have. Those natives of Alba that wish to join us shall be welcome. Otherwise, we invoke total warfare upon their land. Rowena has but one stronghold and that is Hogwarts. If necessary, we will starve her out.”
“A siege it is then,” Riol muttered.
The rest of Helga’s officers appeared less convinced.
“To mount such a campaign in the heart of winter provokes the scorn of Fortune,” one bearded soldier rasped. He had a face like raw clay, red and pitted with distinct scars. “Why not remain in England, my lady, until spring. We can launch raids into Alba and lay the country open for an invasion when the weather warms.”
Several officers nodded, but Godric found himself glancing at Riol. The man was grimacing, his expression as sour as curdled milk.
Helga seemed to feed off his insistence, although Godric knew she was sincerely anxious to undertake the last league of her enterprise.
Once more, her eyes lingered on Salazar’s locket. “I should rather not be tied to our camp here in York. My men will become fat and bloated, useless by spring. Now they are hungry. Now they are eager. And I have not come so far to retire.”
Silence once more. Godric realized he had unconsciously drawn away from the tent door and was no standing under the unfavorable light of the braziers.
Riol glanced at him, then turned to Helga. “A compromise, then, my lady,” he said. “You might send out an advance guard. There is always the possibility that this Rowena will lose her nerve and capitulate before ever we darken the shadow of Hogwarts.”
“A vain hope it is, but one I should be glad to embrace,” Helga replied. “Some measure of reconnaissance will certainly dispel any lingering doubt from you cowards.” She smiled wryly at the group of nay-sayers. “I will organize an advanced guard to penetrate Alba before the week is out. I should hate to think of Rowena gloating over Salazar’s corpse in her drafty castle.” A pause, and then, “Godric, will you do this for me?”
He tried not to appear surprised, but felt the muscles of his jaw tighten and then lock. “If you are certain, my lady.”
The Cornish officers were watching him closely. Riol grinned, his face skull-like.
They were standing beneath the night sky, in the same glade where she had taught him the Imperius Curse. Shoulder to shoulder. On even ground.
And yet Godric was cowed by Helga’s majesty, her strength, her power…over him.
“Why did you ask this of me?” he questioned, his face a grim pattern of worried lines. “You ought to send Riol, or one of your more experienced commanders. Someone loyal to you.”
Helga surprised him with a laugh. She had her hood drawn up and her eyes were but two pieces of flint, sharp and dangerous. The spark was lit, the fire blazing. Nothing could deter her now.
“And are you not loyal to me, Godric?” she replied. “I know you and I know your magic. You are the only one I could have chosen.”
“Is it because I am a wizard?” he prompted. The uneasiness in him would not abate. It was a faint sort of stirring; a persistent gnawing of the mind and heart.
Helga was using him. Whatever delusions he had granted himself, whatever affection he had attributed to her and their amorous liaisons assaulted him now with unflagging ferocity.
A part of him felt ashamed for having fallen for her so easily…so very easily. Godric had wanted to belong, had thirsted for the company of another like himself and so was enthralled by Helga.
But Helga, ah, Helga, she was much more than he could ever be. And surely she must know it.
Just as she was toying with him now…using him as a pawn, an unworthy limb of tall and ever-growing tree.
Godric was nothing.
“Are you frightened?” Helga said, disturbing the inky silence of the evening.
Godric glanced at her and was stunned to see that she was staring at her feet.
“I do not think so,” he responded. “This Rowena may seem ruthless, but I--”
“You are frightened.” Her voice was tight…and wavering. “Of what I am. Of the madness I have fostered.”
Suddenly, Godric felt the aching need to comfort her, she who was the stone, the unmovable mountain he so envied. Yes, envied….
“I never thought you were mad,” he said, extending an awkward hand and bracing it on her shoulder. “I envy you, Helga. Do you not see how uncouth I am? How feral and lost? Like a child…like a witless babe. And you…I do not think us an even match. Do you pity me?”
She exhaled and he saw her breath paint the air with subtle patterns. Her cheeks were moist in the clear, cold starlight. “Never. I need you, Godric. You are so much more to me than I ever could be to you.”
He took a step back, bewildered by her complete willingness to bear herself to him. His uncertainty began to ebb away…slowly.
They were quiet for some time. Helga raised her eyes now to stare at the black, black branches overhead. The hood of her mantle fell back.
Was she lying?
Godric did not exclude the possibility. Helga needed him, yes, but she could certainly be exaggerating his importance.
And yet she was standing here with him, in the cold, in the dark…
She has given me the world. And she has given me magic.
Godric glanced at the unfriendly stars and found himself smiling. What secrets they held he could not tell and in the end, it did not matter.
An air of resignation settled about him. What inner battles he had fought, on plains so pitted and remorseless, were now quelled. Life had been so complicated and he realized that it need not be.
Boldly, he reached out and grazed Helga’s chin with his fingertips. She started at his touch, then stilled, her own hand wrapping around his.
“I will not settle for a false, yet peaceful accord between us,” she said, the wild liveliness returning to her voice. “We can be happy together, Godric.”
“Indeed.” His voice was rough. Husky. His fingers trailed down the curve her neck, where he felt her throat pulse as she swallowed. Her heartbeat was distinct against his palm. Thunderous.
Slowly, he removed her mantle.
The morning of his departure, Helga gifted a goblin-made sword to Godric. The blade was silver and the hilt embellished with rubies the size of a hen’s egg.
Helga smiled as Godric slipped the sword from it’s scabbard, running the flat edge of the blade along his hand in wonderment.
“Did I not say you have something of a warrior’s spirit about you?” she asked.
Godric did not reply, but held the sword aloft between them.
The light from the rising sun reflected off the largest ruby, throwing blood-colored shadows across Helga’s face.
Author’s Note: A new chapter at last! I am happy to report that I have finally shaken off my writer’s block for this story and am vigorously plotting the next chapters. According to my calculations, we’re about halfway through this fic with roughly five chapters to go.
As always, I must thank everyone who has taken the time to read/review this fic so far. Your patience and understanding has been greatly appreciated.
The next chapter is in the works and should be posted soon. Take care, all!
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