Chapter 1 : Daffodils
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lovely CI by Giola at TDA
Cloth folded upon cloth, browns folding into more browns. Down her body they went. Light as leaves in the autumn, when they crinkle and crunch under one's foot, and dark as dirt struck by rain and thunder. Reds tumbled from her crown, weaving in with the browns of her body, turning gold when the light shone upon them.
Her body was like the earth, her hair like fire. Both covered her almost entirely. Save for her hands, for they were bare, calloused by work and swift by happenstance.
Bustling about the quarters, she grabbed a stalk of this and a pinch of that from the tables behind her and put the ingredients onto the smaller table before her. The contents of her mason jars reflected their placement in her garden, beloved and thoughtfully arranged by the seasons.
Potatoes and carrots were on the left, harvested before the great snowfall. Celery and corn from the late golden harvest to her right. Above them all were the herbs. Basil, freshly ground salt and peppers from days past, thyme, and a hint of parsley. The center of her table was left empty, a blank circle waiting to be filled by Helga's hands.
"What have I forgotten?" Helga mused aloud, tapping a finger to her bottom lip. Her other hand rested on her hip, where light brown met dark.
All of the vegetables had been scrubbed, scoured, and prepped. The yeast had risen for three days and the flour and sugar had been mixed. The crust awaited her still, but the filling, spread upon the table before her, seemed barren, missing a savory some thing or other.
Tomatoes were from the spring as were leeks. Neither of which were in season. Helga wrinkled her face at the thought, for she did not find turnips at all appetizing. Nor were peas to her liking, no matter how the many times the sun and moon traveled across the sky.
"Misses," a voice squeaked, "Misses, may Franny assist, your majesty?"
Beneath Helga, always at her feet, the elf stood. She had not even thought to ask for its assistance beforehand.
"Francesca," Helga began, politely smiling down upon the tiny creature, "As you have heard me often say, I beg of you not to call me your majesty. Lady Hufflepuff or Helga are preferable to my ears."
"Franny did not intend to insult, milady," Francesca replied with haste, "Franny apologizes with earnest." The elf's large watery brown eyes appealed to Helga's sense of compassion.
While Godric and Salazar had taken to their new title of nobility readily, whereas Rowena had always been royal, Helga despised the pretense of the less than befitting title. She was a peasant from the valley broad and would not change a thing about herself to suit others' desires for rank and prestige.
"Do not distress, yet do not whisper the words once more," Helga spoke kindly as she laid a hand upon the elf's bare head. The elf nodded its response. "If you could find me fresh wood for the fire that would be best," Helga said.
"As you wish, Lady Helga," the elf spoke and disappeared with a snap.
The room was empty again, save for Helga and the items she needed most for the feast's stew. Over the years she had grown very accustomed to cooking for no more than a few guests. With the numbers slowly beginning to rise in the castle, Helga knew that would end soon. She supposed the elf, and maybe more than the lone one, would do little to hinder and much to help her.
A sudden breeze moved the wisps of Helga's hair into her ears, tickling her skin and signaling someone's presence. Helga had her back to the door and the unknown visitor. For she did not expect a wanderer to seek the kitchen so close to feast, nor did she think one of her fellow founders would be done with their seminar so early.
"Do my ears deceive me?" A woman's voice answered Helga's confusion.
Acquainted with the sound, Helga relaxed her shoulders and turned to face the visitor. A smile tugged at the corners of her lips as she replied, "Depends on whether or not they wish to lie, my dearest Rowena."
Ignoring Helga's wit, Rowena asked, "Did she refer to you as Lady Helga?" Rowena stressed. In all manner, she was clearly displeased. Her arms were crossed against her chest and a small frown was at her lips.
Helga sensed Rowena's lack of mirth, but her smile widened as she bounced on the balls of her feet and wagged a finger at her companion, "You are only upset since she was once your own and fears you still."
"Oh hush, you know neither one of us approves of mockery nor theft," Rowena replied as she settled herself down right in front of Helga's table, upon a chair that appeared out of thin air. "Even in jest," she sighed.
Helga watched as Rowena looked over the ingredients, noting the contents of their sup. Rowena was a picky eater, unlike Godric and Salazar, Helga knew. Which explained why neither peas nor turnips were being used.
Onions and Rowena's diadem were notably absent as well.
"Nonsense, we both know I am capable of no such thing," Helga said, taking up a proud stance that rivaled Rowena's nature and straight posture. But she could not help herself for long, being somber was not for her, "You know I only meant to burrow."
Helga laughed and the sound echoed around the room, bouncing from place to place. But her happiness went unaccompanied. Rowena had not joined her. Helga stopped laughing and looked across her table. Rowena, Helga could see, did not look nearly as amused.
Weary and rattled, Rowena's armor of finery shook before Helga's eyes.
"What is the matter, dearest?" Helga asked. Concern laced her words and her fingertips as she brushed them across Rowena's face, seeking answers.
Helga's touch seemed to shake Rowena further, but Rowena sighed and whispered a faint, "It is of no importance."
"Your energy tells me a different story," Helga whispered back to her, but the gesture was futile.
"I am weary with travel, that is all," Rowena spoke, the tone of finality did not go missed by Helga. Rowena sat more upright in her chair and all the troubles disappeared from her fair features.
But then emotion flashed over her, it was a look of remembrance and excitement. She took Helga's hand into hers and gave it a squeeze before letting go.
"I have brought something for you that I think you might adore," Rowena said, more elated then when she first entered the room. She stood up from her chair, rather violently. Shaking the table and producing her wand from one of the folds in her simple blue gown, Rowena gave it a flick.
A puff of what seemed to be yellow trumpets appeared into Helga's hands. She gasped, mildly entertained and quite confused.
"What are these?" Having a garden of her own and living in the valley most of her life, Helga knew the varieties of most plant species. But never before had she seen anything close to what Rowena had produced. "Where did you find them?"
"I er-burrowed them off a merchant in Roma," Rowena said, and with this both women laughed as they were supposed to before when Helga first joked.
They stopped laughing and Rowena smiled coyly, more proud of herself than ever to be sharing new knowledge with Helga, "They are called Narcissus or Daffodils, whichever you prefer, Helga dear. They grow near the salty blue ocean in the south, called the Mediterranean, but I figured with your skill they could be grown here too."
Rowena smiled at Helga and Helga smiled back, a bit surprised with the gesture. Never had anyone gotten her something after travel. She spoke, "They are truly lovely, Rowena, I am exceedingly grateful."
"It was no trouble at all, you deserve something to lighten this room up," Rowena replied. With a few more flicks of her wand she produced a glass container that was filled with freshly boiled water, right from Helga's own pots in the hearth. A ribbon tied the bundle of stems together and when Rowena took the flowers from Helga's hands, she unwound the blue ribbon and placed her daffodils into the urn.
Helga took the ceramic from Rowena and spun it at eye-level to better view the new plant with. They were bright yellow and had an opening, as if they wanted to speak with it. But she heard no noise other than the sounds of a gown swishing and feet against the ground. She looked up to see Rowena dismissing herself from the room.
"You won't be staying to help?" Helga beckoned after her, a hint of smile tugged at her lips.
Rowena, by the door already, turned and laughed, "I cannot cook, Helga, you know this all to well, my dear. Oh, and Godric with be angry if there isn't at least one bit of quail in his stew." With those words of wisdom, Rowena left and again Helga was alone in the cooking quarters, with her face in her bare palm because she had forgotten meat for her hearty stew.
Helga could think little more of Rowena with the feast looming precisely above her. She looked towards the ceiling and saw the shimmering of the magic barrier which kept her below and her fellow companions of the castle above. She watched as they walked between the tables.
Tonight they were hosting a scant hundred, all starved from travel and war. She must find a boar to prepare, and quick.
Productivity filled her at the sight of those above and she went back to work, pulling the yeast, flour, and sugar together to form the crust as the vegetables roasted in the hearth. Breaking her work pattern a few times, Helga often found her eyes drifting around the room to take a small peak at the bouquet of daffodils that Rowena left her. Every time this happened, she was quick to work again, stirring pots and chopping up ingredients or rolling, patting, and shaping the dough with her hands.
Long after the feast and festivities, Hogwarts castle stood tall, firm, and strong, built on the dreams of those who laid, peacefully in slumber, upon their resting grounds.
That night, Helga Hufflepuff dreamed of a field of yellow near the salty sea in the south. In this field of yellow, the trumpet flowers burst to life and sang their song of travel and shared the secrets of the world with the two women standing side by side.
Helga reached for Rowena's hands and their fingers laced together. All the earth was warm like the embers from a fire. Then, suddenly, Rowena spun Helga and they began to dance.
They danced and danced in circles together in the field of yellow until all the world was brighter and at peace: first with itself and then with them.
nrb writes: This was written for bamboomei's The Comfort Zone: D E N I E D challenge. I was given the prompt: Fluff/Humor; Helga Hufflepuff; daffodils. I can honestly say I know little about this era and that this is my best stab at it. This is the closet thing I will probably ever write to Fluff. Er-Humor is equally debatable in this piece. All of these things are not my forte, but I hope you enjoyed my attempt at this challenge…with a hint of Romance thrown in!
Also, everything you recognize as JK Rowling's does in fact belong to her. The missing moment written on this page is mine. Thanks!
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