"To a successful first year!" Godric cried, raising his mead. The other three Founders clinked glasses with him, adding their hopes and congrats to hang over the celebratory meal.
"To quiet nights!" Salazar said.
"To being friends instead of colleagues once more," Helga grinned.
"To gathering wisdom before passing it on again in autumn," Rowena finished. She swilled her wine in its glass and brought it to her lips, but did not sip. Her friends' eyes closed as they drank deeply to the toast, but they required only a single sixth sense to see her to the core.
"Enjoy yourself, Rowena," Salazar said roughly, slapping his empty glass down on the table. "You'll have the whole summer to recover."
"We require our wits at all times, even more so when we think they don't matter," she replied.
"You've had wine before, no?" Helga asked.
"Of course. Merely as a ritual, as a sign of respect to the host or hostess. Nothing more."
The four of them sat around a wooden table, moved outside so that they could enjoy a warm breeze on their backs as well as the stars that accompanied meals in the Great Hall. The grounds rung with a somber silence, nothing to suggest the rousing students that had graced them. Above the table their four Patronuses cavorted, giving off just enough light to eat by without eclipsing the stars. Rowena had weighed the odds earlier in the day, even before the last students had departed, and come to the conclusion that there was no need to consume any mind-numbing drinks. She would not willingly fuzzy her mind. It was the simplest argument she'd ever concocted, and one people accepted immediately.
"Drink," Godric commanded in his smiling way. He was always one to put a kind spin on every authoritative word he uttered. Always bringing light to a dark thought. "You've no doubt forgotten the certain joys that come from an empty mind."
"I can think of no such joy."
"Go on," Helga urged. "Just a sip."
She could tell from the set of Salazar's jaw, the fork frozen in Godric's hand, that they would not let it go. If anything, she knew that this could easily escalate into something larger and ruin the night for everyone. Without a word, Rowena raised the glass to her lips and allowed the tiniest bit of wine to spill between them. She let it duck around her tongue before sliding sharply down her throat.
She knew, rationally, that she was imagining it. There was no way it could affect her that quickly. But as her comrades grinned knowingly and moved onto other topics, she felt her mind drift a little, as if floating on a barely stirring lake. She felt fitting words flit away, decisions and opinions blurring until she had nothing articulate to say at all. She saw her hand raising, tipping more wine into her mouth, and nearly cried out. But it was too late. Her stomach was already receiving the sip of wine.
Another, and another. A fourth. A fifth. Then the glass was empty, but Godric waved his wand without pausing in his sentence and refilled it. She felt her feet relax their hold, rooted to the ground as they were. The crisp feeling she usually bore like a crown muddied itself until her mouth opened and streams of uninteresting chatter poured out. Rowena Ravenclaw did not chatter.
Beneath the stars, the four Founders laughed the night away. Three of them looked on approvingly as Rowena lowered her walls for the first time since childhood. One of them grappled silently for clarity, and found only murky darkness.