Chapter 2 : A Confederacy of Four
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A Confederacy of Four
Though Lord Cedric tried to reinstate the merry mood of the festivities, no one could help muttering with one another with foreboding about what had just occurred with the prophetic hag out of nowhere. Helena and Rowena exchanged tense glances, each biting their lower lip in apprehension.
Then Helga noticed that the Muggle guests were eyeing her and Rowena with some measure of uncomfortable reticence. She tried to reassure them with a friendly and innocent smile, but it just came out nervous and did little to improve matters.
Rowena meanwhile looked pensively back towards the great oak front doors. “Very odd that, I must find something—perhaps if I consulted a numerology—”
“Where are they off to?” Helga wondered aloud quite suddenly, for in her avoidance of every one else’s eyes, she’d caught sight of Godric and Salazar, their respective dance partners abandoned, making their way to a corridor off the main hall.
Before Rowena could advise her not to be so hasty in following them, Helga proceeded to follow them, leaving Rowena no choice but to follow her in turn, for it wouldn’t be proper for an unescorted lady to be in the sole company of two gentleman.
Though Helga didn’t fail to notice that, as she left with her, Rowena signaled with a look to a morose-looking gentleman with a hooked, aquiline nose wrapped in furs like a Slav lingering in the corner of the great hall.
“Who was that?” Helga asked her as the two of them made their way out of the great hall by the door Godric Gryffindor and Salazar Slytherin had taken.
“My escort,” Rowena informed her. “My husband is not one for feasts and fetes and balls and the like, so he lets me go so long as I’m looked after by one of his footmen.”
“You’re married?” Helga stared at her a moment, and was about to speak further when she was forestalled by the sound of Godric and Salazar’s voices in the dark corridor.
“…’tis too cold out,” Salazar complained with a shivery moan.
“I would prefer it if we took this matter outside though, I don’t want the walls hearing,” argued Godric.
“Snow and wind are just as good spies as walls,” said Salazar. “And we’ll be frozen solid without our furs.”
“It’ll only be a moment, my dear fellow,” Godric assured him, and around the corner Helga and Rowena spotted him putting a reassuring arm around his good friend.
He looked up at their footfalls. “My ladies.” He released his friend and gave a gallant bow.
Helga and Rowena both curtsied. “My lords.”
Salazar turned around and put on a very suave smile. “Ah, my dear ladies,” and he too bowed, though with a little more eloquence thrown in.
“What were you two thinking of discussing?” Rowena asked innocently, as if she and Helga had any doubt.
Godric and Salazar saw right through their ruse of naïvité.
“We were just about to discuss the little matter of this prophecy as foretold by that wonderful hag a few moments ago,” said Salazar with keenly practiced sobriety.
“Would you care to join us?” Godric invited with a smile that added to his amiable demeanor. “You are after all witches, and very astute ones I gather at that.”
Helga felt the color rise in her cheeks a little: no one, witch, wizard, or Muggle, had ever considered her to be “very astute”—or very anything for that matter. Mind, he was speaking to both her and Rowena (who she could tell most certainly was “very astute”) but all the same, the compliment had been paid to her just as much as it had been paid to her new friend.
“We would be glad to,” said Rowena, and she took Helga’s arm, the two of them following close behind to the two young gentlemen.
Huddled outside in the frozen garden full of snow-frosted winter roses, the four of them tried to decide if they should play a part in trying to prevent this disaster that had been foretold to them.
“I don’t see that we can do much of anything,” Salazar said grimly, trying to coax a fire wandlessly in his hands with no success yet. “We don’t even know who the target might be, we just know that it will be a Muggle maiden. And for all of that, what can we do? We have no idea how this evil will take shape, how it will strike.”
“But we know where it will happen,” said Helga. “Surely we can take some kind of precaution at the Christmas Ball, at which, I might add, we will find every noble and layman Muggle in Nottinghamshire will be attending?”
“I have read reports of new advances in certain defense spells that the Wizards’ Council is studying,” said Rowena. “Perhaps we could put forth a petition to have them put into practice for the sake of the safety of the guests?”
“That could prove promising.” Godric, who seemed almost impervious to cold, stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Salazar’s father has enormous clout with the Council, so we could in fact guarantee a quick approval. My father does as well,” he added with a bit of well-placed self-confidence.
“The only foreseeable problem I see here is if we fail and it creates a bad perception of we wizards,” Rowena added, her expression having drawn inward pensively, so that she seemed to be speaking from the depths of her own mind.
“Well then we shall just have to see that there is no failure,” said Godric. “Salazar, I think we should draw up a proposal and send it off to the Council as soon as possible. Speak with our fathers about it?”
“Yes, I think that would be most effective,” Salazar concurred, though he spoke stiffly as if he was trying to keep his teeth from chattering.
“And we shall have to let the Muggle lords and laymen know about this,” Helga added. “It will look very bad no matter the outcome if we exclude them from such happenings, especially as pertains to their well-being.”
“I quite agree,” Rowena seconded.
“So are you saying you wish to be a part of this confederacy?” asked Salazar of Helga and Rowena.
“Well why not?” said Helga, sharing a grin with Rowena.
“I see no reason why not.” Salazar was grinning too, in spite of the cold. In fact, he seemed to have grown a bit warmer. “And who are we to say you can’t?” He looked sidelong at Godric.
“I have a good feeling about this,” said Godric. “I say if the absolute worst should happen, Helga, perhaps you could be ready to provide some healing remedies in case of injury during the evening? As a precaution?”
“Certainly,” said Helga, who had grown to be just as knowledgeable as her mother in medicinal herbology.
“And throughout the evening we can all be on our guard for any suspicious behavior. Now, how shall we bring this matter to the nobles and laymen?”
“I can call for a meeting tomorrow morning, while you and Salazar are preparing your missive to the Wizard’s Council,” said Rowena. “I can speak to my husband about it, suffice to say he and I share a liking for developing skills in political prowess.”
Salazar raised his eyebrows, intrigued. “Indeed? And who is your husband, I might ask?”
“Lord Dardan Ravenclaw.”
“I’ve not heard of him. From where does he hail?”
“From the Territory of Albania in the Bulgarian Empire,” Rowena told them matter-of-factly, though Helga made a small, thrilled squeak at the pure exoticism of having a husband all the way from the Albanian Territory.
Godric and Salazar too seemed keenly interested, but Salazar’s curiosity was outweighed of a sudden by the frosty air, and asked if they could not please move inside now that they had laid their preliminary plans for preventing the prophesied Christmas disaster.
In the corridor on their way back to the great hall, Helga asked, “How did your husband come to England if he’s from the Albanian Territory?”
“He left to come here to continue his scholarly work,” said Rowena, “and he found that difficult in the Albanian Territory with all of the barbarian invasions and sackings. Not to mention, he’s always been a great admirer of what Britain has to offer to the magical community. He says it seems to be on the forefront of greatness in magic.”
“I like the sound of this husband of yours,” Salazar quipped and Godric elbowed him playfully in the ribs.
Helga was about to ask how Rowena and this Lord Dardan Ravenclaw had come to be married when they reemerged in the great hall to find the festivities drawing to a close.
“Ah, my dear Helga, Lady Ravenclaw, and my Lords Gryffindor and Slytherin,” greeted Lord Cedric. “There you are. We were beginning to wonder where the four of you had got to—”
Helga caught sight of Elaisse with her friends, and the young Muggle maiden gave her a look as cold as the air Helga and the other had just come in from. Not taking well to frosty glances, Helga looked away, going slightly pink for being further reminded of her earlier folly.
“My Lord Ivanhurst,” said Rowena to Cedric, all business, “would it be possible, it I were to speak to my husband, for he and myself to arrange a meeting of all of the noblemen and laymen in the county? This nasty business prophesied by the hag—the Lady Hufflepuff and Lords Gryffindor and Slytherin and I were just discussing tactics to avoid it, and we would like to keep our Muggle friends and neighbors informed as to how we plan to stop it.”
“Oh, very good, very good indeed,” said Cedric with enthusiasm tinged with palpable relief. “Yes, I think that is an excellent idea. We shall expect to hear from Lord Ravenclaw on the morrow, then?”
“As soon as possible,” Rowena assured him, pressing his hands kindly.
Outside horses gathered in the snow carrying away their noble and well-off laymen masters on their backs or in carriages (if they were noble). On the wooden side of one carriage was painted a coat of arms that included a noble raven perched upon a branch, and it was into this carriage that Rowena was helped up by her escort, who followed her inside afterward. Helga wondered if Lord Dardan was in there too—somehow she felt it was important to know that he had come to collect his wife personally—and so she went around to the other side to the opposite window, and behind the velvet curtain, she espied the shape of a third man, wrapped in furs like his footman was, and from her angle she could just make out Rowena sitting across from him. Their heads were bent close in very intimate conversation as the driver shook the reigns and the horses pulled the Ravenclaw carriage away down the frigid, snow-crusted road after the train of the other receding carriages.
“Well, m’lady, will you be needing an escort home yourself?”
Helga looked about and saw Godric Gryffindor, resplendent in his own sleek, furred winter cloak. “Oh…ah, well, not really, no, I came here well enough on my own you see. My horse is tied up just there, and I only live just down that hill.” She pointed to a hill visible from where they stood before Lord Cedric’s castle. There was even a trail of smoke, meaning her parents were both still awake, likely gathered together about their little fireplace.
Godric gave a little bow. “Very well, but I did want to offer.”
Helga smiled at his kindness. “Where is Salazar gone to?”
“Oh him?” Godric shook his hand and then jerked in the direction of a nearby oak tree, in the shadow of which Helga suddenly made out Salazar huddled with the shivering form of Ygraine, and she could guess what they were doing so close together, and it had nothing to do solely with keeping the cold at bay while they awaited their own carriages.
“You have very lovely cheeks,” Godric commented as he watched her watching his friend be illicitly amorous.
Helga blinked, stirred from her own thoughts. “What?”
“I just wished to pay you the compliment, because it’s true,” Godric went on pleasantly. “When you blush, they’re as lovely as pink lady apples, if I may say so.”
Helga tried to suppress a giggle that she couldn’t quite understand and it came out anyway, though a little more choked from the repression. “You may.”
“My dear Lord Gryffindor!” called the voice of Elaisse from the other carriages. She was waving a handkerchief as she stepped up into her own lovely chariot of nobility.
Godric sighed. “Well, it was a pleasure to have met you in person at last,” he told Helga. “Having heard so much about your mother and father and the important work they do for wizards and Muggles alike. ‘Tis true you assist your mother with her work in herbology, yes?”
“That’s correct, m’lord.”
“Well that’s something isn’t it? Knowing that a good reputation precedes you?”
“I suppose so.”
Godric chuckled. “Adieu then, m’lday.” And he bowed again, and Helga curtsied, wishing him just as fond a farewell.
As she watched him join the other nobles, calling for Salazar to get out from underneath that tree—and Lady Ygraine too—she thought about what he had told her.
“Well that’s something isn’t it? Knowing that a good reputation precedes you?”
Perhaps I can be more of something to my fellow man than I previously supposed, she said to herself quite happily, and didn’t feel much of the cold at all as she made her own way down the road towards her cottage at the bottom of its hill.
A/N: if the Founders here seem not as amazing as you might expect, this is because they're still quite young and just getting a feel for their powers. This a story of HOW they became great, not just when they were great already. ;)
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