Ah, yes... And you can probably tell that I have been watching King Arthur lately. If you can't picture the characters here as you read, go look at some pictures of Gawain, Lancelot, and Guinevere, as well as Isolde from Tristan and Isolde. :)
The day commenced with a morning as bright and cloudless as any of the others Hogwarts had seen that June. The sky was painted by naught but the purest of blues, and the rolling oceans of grass, as if in competition, were greener than they had been in the springtime. The solitary indication that might have marked this day as different was the slightly chilled air that encompassed it, ruffling its surface as breezes swept in from the north.
Though it was nigh midday, Rowena Ravenclaw was only just now stirring from her slumber. This was unusual, for she was habitually the earliest to rise in the castle; yet that morning, no internal alarms had sounded, and so there she lay.
All at once, her eyes snapped open, widening with astonishment and despair as she measured the amount of light streaming in through her chamber window. Then, after being still for but a second more, she flew from the confines of her bed in a frenzied flurry of motion. Her long hair whipping after her in a dark curtain, she scrambled for her wand and used it to change out of her night clothes. She took little notice of what she next dressed herself in, only knew from the spell that it would be decent. It was difficult to worry of trivial things such as clothing when one suddenly arrived at the realization that the day was already half-gone.
She stuffed her feet into a pair of boots and charmed a comb to drag itself through her hair, and then stumbled out the door, locking it. If anyone happened to pass by, they would no know the disarray in which her chamber had been left. Once in the corridor, she paused to smooth her dress and catch her breath before continuing on, at a dignified pace, to the Great Hall.
At the sound of the large wooden doors being opened, Godric Gryffindor glanced up with interest. Rowena, at last surfacing from whatever it had been she had submerged herself in, was striding across the Hall with something vainly attacking her unruly hair. He noted, with mild amusement, that her cheeks were oddly flushed.
"Rowena!" he greeted with the air of an overzealous host. He raised his hands in an exaggerated welcome. "Come to grace us with your presence, have you?"
He grinned, but Rowena scowled at him sourly.
"You slept well, I see," he chuckled.
"Indeed," replied she, and she pursed her lips.
Godric looked to his left at Salazar Slytherin, who gave a small smirk and a noncommittal shrug. It was apparent that Rowena was of a foul disposition at the present, though whether her displeasure would extent further than Godric was something that could not yet be determined.
"Rowena," Helga Hufflepuff called as she rose to her feet, "would you like some breakfast? You must be hungry…"
Rowena frowned. "Thank you, Helga, but I have already eaten." Her cheeks adopted a hue of a deeper red.
"Sorry," Helga apologized. "I thought you'd just woken up."
Rowena's eyes widened. "Oh, no," she muttered hurriedly, feigning a smile. "I have been awake for hours."
"Since dawn, most likely," Godric interjected. "No doubt the Mooncalves were dancing with the Thestrals."
Helga snorted and hid her amusement behind her hand, though her eyes danced as she regarded her two friends in succession.
"Be cautious in your baiting," Salazar warned Godric beneath his breath. "She is wearing red today."
Sharp of hearing, Rowena caught Salazar's words and glanced at her garb. To her horror, she was indeed sporting a dress of scarlet. It was the very shade that happened to be Godric's favorite, which was common knowledge, as he blatantly displayed it upon all things related to his House. Rowena disliked it, for such a color was bold and obtrusive, and altogether seemed quite rash and unseemly. She preferred the calmer hue of a vibrant blue, and it was usually this that adorned her person. Never red.
Her lips curled downward. Without hesitation, she revealed her wand and then, after she had locked Godric's gaze with her own, she changed her dress to blue. He arched his thick blonde brows, but said nothing. Still, this response was to her satisfaction; she raised her chin by a fraction, pleased to have corrected the mistake in her wardrobe. She would be certain not to wake so late again, lest she nearly make a fool of herself once more.
Rowena lifted her skirts just above her ankles and sank onto the chair beside Helga.
"I confess," said she in a whisper, "I did only just awaken. It is odd…"
"And what is odd, dear lady once in red?" asked Godric, leaning across Salazar to better look at her.
"That is no concern of yours," she declared, nearly gritting her teeth in annoyance.
When he made not to move and continued to gaze at her as if waiting for something to occur, she sighed and sent a Muffling Charm at his ears. She was pleased that he did not dodge it.
"Why must you be so unkind to poor Godric?" inquired Helga with a smile, as though the answer was apparent.
"I am not unkind," Rowena told her with little hint of protest. "You know that I am not. Were I unkind, he would not be as intact as he is now." She smirked in spite of herself.
"You've been in Salazar's company much too long," Helga remarked.
"But that is what I mean!" Rowena exclaimed. "I feel that I am so close to you and Salazar, yet Godric and I have never been of the same mind. I wish that it were not so, but we are complete opposites to the very core. He is much too…" She trailed off, searching for a completion to her claim. It was always when she thought of Godric that her gift with words failed her; any other occasions in which this occurred were rarities.
"Too Godric?" Helga suggested.
"Yes, that is it," Rowena agreed in a weary manner. "Godric is much too rash and… and reckless and outspoken… Ill-mannered…"
"You're ever-so-fond of him, aren't you?" Helga jested. At least, it seemed a jest, though Rowena could detect the shadow of seriousness behind her talk.
"In my own way, I suppose I am…"
By this time, the pair of women had risen from their chairs and had begun to stroll along the outskirts of the Great Hall, their arms linked loosely in a sisterly fashion. Rowena could feel both Godric and Salazar's eyes following them as they went.
Helga leaned closer to her friend's ear. "I think that he is quite fond of you."
"Helga!" Rowena admonished. "Godric cannot possibly feel much more than disdain for me. He can hardly enjoy the fact that I…" She bit her lip. "I admit that I do not treat him as fairly as he deserves, which, I am certain, he knows."
"Rowena, he does enjoy bandying words with you. The Gryffindor line relishes in verbal spars. Though I doubt that what you say is what matters to him." She cast Rowena a suggestive look, but the lady now in blue shook her head adamantly.
"You have spent too much time in the sun. Look, your skin is nearly brown and you are imagining things that are not real."
"Why does it matter to you whether Godric likes you or not?" The implications of this particular statement were accented well.
Rowena stopped in mid-step. "It does not," she stated simply. Then she blinked rapidly for a moment. "Come, let us speak of something else. There is a faire in Northshire today that I should like to attend."
"Northshire?" Helga echoed, furrowing her brow. "The non-magic village nearest Hogwarts? I didn't know it had been named."
Rowena nodded. "The title was decided upon recently. Many of my students reside there," she explained. "I found it only natural to inquire into the matter."
"Seems reason enough to me, though my students come from so many different places, it'd be difficult to remember everything about each one." Helga laughed. "So, when does your faire begin? If you don't mind company, I'd be glad to join you."
Rowena beamed. "I had hoped you would. The faire began this morning."
They turned together and left the Great Hall whence Rowena had entered it, conspiring amongst themselves.
Godric was mildly perturbed. "What are they planning, I wonder?"
When Salazar merely grunted in reply, Godric coughed and looked at him expectantly.
"Do not ask me!" Salazar exclaimed. "They are incessantly planning; it is their nature to do so. And in truth, Godric, I do would not be happy at the prospect of prying into either of their minds while Rowena is consumed by a less-than-hospitable temperament."
The men exchanged a dark look at the thought.
"Better you than I once in a few whiles," Godric muttered. Salazar chuckled.
The walk to Northshire was not an exhausting one, so long as one happened to be a witch. Every so often in the duration of their journey, Helga and Rowena would reach down to tap their boots and bewitch them to glide over the path that led to the village. They enjoyed the feel of the aberrantly biting wind upon their faces and the weight of their traveling cloaks flapping behind them as they went.
Soon, before their cheeks had even grasped the chance to numb with the cold, the dirt path opened widely beneath them until it disappeared into grass. This grass was, in fact, a vast field which grew behind Northshire, and it was upon this field that the faire was being held. Helga and Rowena dropped the minute distance to the ground whilst they remained far enough away for this action to escape any non-magical eyes. Then, with a gasp of delight from Helga and an excited murmur from Rowena, the companions hurried toward a large banner which marked the entrance of the faire.
"It looks as if it will fall in this wind," Rowena whispered. When they passed beneath it, she discreetly muttered a charm beneath her breath to stabilize the wooden poles that supported it.
"Don't let anyone see you," Helga warned needlessly. "Today, we shan't know anything about magic, like when we were younger. Do you remember?"
"What a long time ago that was!" Rowena laughed. Inexplicably, she felt a sense of giddiness seize her, and just as unexplainable was the fact that she did not quite mind.
Helga's eyes widened slightly at Rowena's behavior. "Not so long ago. We're still young, after all."
Before them stretched a collection of tents and booths constructed of decorated fabrics and woods. There were games to be played and wares to be purchased, as well as a variety of foods that made Helga nod at each appreciatively as they passed, (for it was Helga who had placed herself in charge of preparing the meals at the castle). Children raced about gleefully, bothering the livestock or each other; their parents watched them warily.
"Oh, I hardly know where to begin!" Helga exclaimed as she drank in her surroundings. "This must have required months of preparation for the poor creatures."
"I believe that they received help of a magical kind. Not everyone here is as simple as he seems."
Helga paused. "Yes, now that you've mentioned it, I can feel the enchantments…. The parents of your students, perchance?"
"Some," Rowena nodded.
They passed an old woman selling the daisies that were carefully tucked into the pockets of her apron. Helga purchased one and tucked it behind her ear, securing it amongst her locks of gold. "I feel like a girl!" she giggled, spinning in a circle.
Rowena laughed. "You are a girl, you silly creature! We both are…"
Still in the Great Hall at Hogwarts, Godric was pondering. Rowena and Helga had disappeared and he had heard naught from them in some time.
Salazar was unconcerned. "They have most likely traveled to the faire in Northshire. There is no need for you to strain your head so."
"Isn't that the Muggle village?" Godric asked in surprise. He ignored Salazar's subtly placed taunting.
"Muggle?" Salazar made a face. "Is that another of your imaginary words?"
"I quite like it," Godric said defensively.
"Wherever did you derive it from?"
"Came to me in a dream, as it were." Godric laughed heartily, and Salazar shook his head with a smile tugging at his lips.
"Have you informed Rowena of your new hobby?"
"Rowena? I wouldn't dare. And why is she in a Muggle village?"
"As I said, there is a faire of some sort. Though I do not understand why she would enjoy socializing with…"
Godric grinned hopefully.
Salazar heaved a heavy sigh. "…with Muggles, if you must—and it seems you do. Helga is fond of them, as well."
"You're not, obviously."
"Of course I am not."
A silence fell between them for a while. Godric fingered the stem of his goblet idly.
"They could get themselves into trouble, you know," he said at last.
Salazar let forth a hissing bout of laughter. "Rowena?"
"Aren't you the slightest bit worried?"
"Rowena is even more resourceful than you are, Godric, and Helga is fully capable of fending for herself. You talk as if they had no hand at all in creating Hogwarts."
Godric frowned. He had not meant it in such a way.
The faire was proving to be the most enjoyable event that Rowena had attended in many summers. It was of the utmost fortune, too, that the weather was cool, for if it had been a normal June afternoon, the day would surely have been ruined before it had had the chance to truly begin—in spite of all the cooling spells she had created to prevent such a happening.
At that moment, the archery contest caught her eye. Helga followed her gaze.
"You should enter," she said knowingly. "You're a better marksman than Godric."
Rowena bit her lip. "That is not much of a compliment, Helga. You know he is a terrible shot."
Helga giggled. "I know. It's swordplay no one can best him at."
"When he thinks before he fights, that is," Rowena amended. "Which is almost never."
"Come," Helga said hurriedly, hoping to change the tide of the topic. "You'll shoot an arrow and sweep the competitors off their feet."
With practiced coaxing that she had, in truth, learned partially from Salazar, Helga put her hand gently on the small of Rowena's back and steered her toward a booth marked with a rough carving of a bow and arrow. The man sitting behind it regarded their approach with interest.
"Rowena Ravenclaw is here to enter your contest, sir," announced Helga pleasantly. She nudged Rowena subtly with the toe of her boot.
"Are you really?" the man inquired curiously. He stared at her a moment before blinking out of his trance. "Not that I've a qualm with it, of course."
"Is there a bow that I may borrow?" Rowena asked, drawing herself up to her full height. Clearly, this man knew nothing of what she was capable of. (At times, Rowena's rationality was overshadowed by her pride, though these were also rare times.)
"'Course, Miss… eh…"
"Rowena," she supplied sharply.
"Aye, Rowena, we've plenty. They're over there." The man jerked his thumb toward a considerable assortment of bows leaning against a bale of hay. "The contest'll start soon, so you'd best choose quickly and keep close."
"Thank you, sir."
With her chin held high, Rowena marched stiffly to the bows; Helga jogged at her heels, pleased with her newfound abilities of persuasion. Although, she had to admit—and never aloud in the present company—that Rowena could be a terribly competitive person when she was permitted to be.
When Helga reached her, breathing more heavily than usual, Rowena was frowning as she sorted through her choices.
"Any to your liking?" Helga inquired.
"Not any that I have found. I am so tempted to make my own."
"Don't," Helga began to warn.
"I know," Rowena said hastily. "It would hardly be fair." Then she grinned slyly. "But this will be more of a challenge, I suppose."
It was common knowledge that Rowena delighted in challenges, for she could always make them challenges of the mind. In archery, she knew, the challenge was to calculate the angle at which she had to shoot whilst considering the factors of wind and an unsteady hand. This time, she would also be required to consider a faulty bow. The more she began to think of it, the more she decided that she quite liked this challenge.
Suddenly, a flash of wood caught her eye. She carefully reached toward it, and soon, her fingers closed around the smooth curve of a bow. Once she had freed it from its fellows, she balanced it upon her palms and inspected it closely.
"It is lovely, is it not, Helga?"
Helga, who had never before held a bow in her life, managed to look encouraging.
"I hope they haven't an archery tournament," Godric muttered.
Salazar looked at him askance with exasperation, disbelieving of the fact that Godric had not yet ceased to carry on about Rowena and her Muggle faire.
"She'll slay them well," Godric continued. "There's little doubt in that."
"Do I detect a sliver of pride in your voice?" Salazar inquired lightly.
"How many women do you know that can hit the center of a target at more than one hundred paces? Two hundred is her record, isn't it?"
"Something near to that, I am sure."
"It's quite remarkable, don't you think?" Godric marveled thoughtfully.
Salazar paused, and then looked at his friend in an innocent, conversational manner. "What is interesting, Godric, is how infatuated with Rowena you are."
"Infatuated?" Godric sputtered, bringing his hand to touch his short beard. "I wouldn't say that, really…"
"Then what would you say?"
Though it was often remarked upon that Godric looked almost feral, or at least quite leonine in appearance, he suddenly resembled a helpless stray kitten.
"She's the root of all my problems, Salazar," he sighed.
"Which you like."
Godric chose that moment to drink heartily from his goblet.
"Archers, to your places!"
Rowena grasped her bow firmly and stepped into line before her target. She glanced to her sides, eyeing the opponents who stood at each.
"Good luck," said she, raising her chin once more. The man at her left gaped at her, though the man at her right nodded.
A boy handed a single arrow to each archer. Rowena thanked him, and then smiled. The feathers on her bow were blue.
Rowena studied the space between herself and her target; it was at least seventy-six paces, she determined, if not more. The wind had calmed, though only by a small amount; still, it was certain to sway her arrow to the left. She rested the bow upon her hip and put the arrow into place. After that, she raised it and her bow, straightening her forearm into a perfectly horizontal plane. And, after a pause, she lifted it at an angle and aimed. The string dug into her fingers as she pulled the feathered end of the arrow past her ear.
Her arrow flew. She heard it slice through the air, cutting along its path as though a bird in determined flight.
She grinned when it lodged itself deeply into the precise center of her red-and-white prey.
"When do you suppose they'll return?" Godric casually wondered aloud. He fidgeted with a knot on the surface of the table.
Salazar nearly buried his head in the palms of his hands. "If you are so worried," he said slowly, enunciating each syllable, "then, by all means, find Rowena, bring her back to the castle, and tell her that you love her. I do now know how much more of your amorous mutterings I can withstand."
"Rowena! Rowena!" Helga cried as she rushed toward her triumphant companion. When she reached her, she enveloped her in an embrace. "You see? I knew you would win."
Rowena bit her lip, suddenly adopting an uncommonly shy persona. "Well, I was rather hoping…"
"Of course you were!" Helga laughed. "You're Rowena Ravenclaw!"
They spoke amiably amongst themselves, as women often have the habit of doing, and remarked over the trophy that Rowena had received for her feat: a small leather coin purse with a red feather sewn upon its front. It was not a magnificent prize, for while it could maintain a faire, the village of Northshire was neither large nor rich. Yet it mattered not to Rowena; winning was sufficient enough.
"I'm tired from merely watching you," Helga said at length, fanning herself with her hand for emphasis. "And you must be hungry now."
"I am," Rowena replied. As if in agreement, her stomach let forth an embarrassing gurgle. She attempted to cover the unseemly noise with her hands. "If you would like to sit, Helga, I shall find us something to eat."
Helga agreed to this course of action, and so she and Rowena briefly parted ways.
There were many vendors to choose from, Rowena soon found, and each seemed as enticing as the next. She traversed the unmarked path between the line of booths, the aromas of spices and freshly-cooked bread serenading her senses as she passed. The wind had returned, thus stirring the smells together as if into a cauldron. As it played at the ends of her hair, she became a part of the concoction.
She had just closed her eyes tranquilly when she heard someone calling her name behind her. Rowena turned, withdrawing herself from her rapture.
"Professor Rowena!" the young girl approaching her called once more. Her auburn hair danced around her shoulders.
"Guinevere!" Rowena exclaimed in surprise. "I should have expected to encounter you here."
"I didn't know you'd be coming," the girl told her. "But I'm glad you did."
Rowena was touched. "I am glad to be here, as well. How are your studies faring?"
"Well, I think," she said proudly. "Though that's partially why I'm so glad to see you."
"Did you learn something new?" Rowena inquired.
"No," Guinevere said slowly. Then she lowered her voice. "But I think I found someone who might be a wizard. He's almost as old as me, so he could probably go to Hogwarts next September. I'm not quite sure, but I sensed something different about him."
"This is good news. Have you informed him?"
"No, Professor. I remember what you told us about being careful."
Rowena smiled at Guinevere fondly. "Then that is even better. Do you know where he is?"
The girl nodded. "He's this way."
Rowena followed her through the groupings of villagers and tents until they had left the faire entirely. The grass upon which they now walked was coarser and darker, and there were rocks she had not seen anywhere in Northshire before. Ahead of them grew the outskirts of a forest.
"It is not safe to wander so far from the village on your own," she murmured.
Guinevere frowned. "I know. But I wasn't alone before, Gideon was with me."
"Is that the name of your friend?" Rowena asked.
She nodded. "He isn't from Northshire. That's why he isn't at the faire."
"How ever did you find him?"
"I… I do enjoy walking on my own sometimes," Guinevere admitted.
The trees seemed to close themselves around the pair, pulling them inward with thin black fingers. Rowena bewitched the branches in their path to bend to either side of them, though this process was slow and laborious, for the woods were thick. Beneath their feet lay silence; no twigs snapped, and dried leaves made no sound when they were stepped upon. It was as though their surroundings were enchanted. Yet this could not be so, for Rowena could not detect even the faintest traces of magic, apart from what she or Guinevere might have left behind. She found herself wondering how the girl had ever come across such a place without assistance.
After they had walked for some time, Guinevere stopped and pointed. "He's just there, do you see him?"
Even if she had been blind, Rowena could have located the boy. As she approached him, the atmosphere around her changed, sending tingles along her skin.
"Gideon?" she called softly.
The boy who turned to look at her had sandy blonde hair and deep brown eyes that widened when he spotted her.
"Are you Rowena Ravenclaw?" he asked her curiously.
Rowena glanced behind her at Guinevere, who stared at the ground with her cheeks showing hints of red. It appeared that more had been said than her student had revealed to her. Yet how much, she did not know. The boy was thankfully not timid.
"Yes, I am," she said smoothly. She lowered herself to her knees to be closer to him, silently conjuring a cushion beneath her. It was hidden as her dress and cloak billowed around her. "Do you know what I am?"
Gideon gazed at her steadily as he sat between the roots of a tree. "Gwen said that you're her teacher, but I don't know what you teach. She said it was something special, and that I might be special, too."
Rowena nodded and smiled. "You are special, Gideon. You are a wizard."
Before she said this, she could not predict what his reaction to this would be. Some children she had relayed such tidings to before had been terrified, and some had proudly claimed that they had known as much all along. Some were merely thrilled or shocked into silence.
"R-really?" Gideon stammered. "So m-magic is real? I've always wondered…"
He was grinning now, an expression which matched Rowena's own. Guinevere came to kneel beside her, releasing a sigh of relief as she did so.
"Clever girl," Rowena told her. "Your instincts will serve you well."
Guinevere glowed with pride.
The woman returned her focus to Gideon.
"Gideon, I am one of the four founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. My colleagues and I teach magic to children who are born either as a witch or as a wizard. As you possess magical talent, I am pleased to invite you to our school next year when classes resume after the summer. I will send you a letter before that time arrives."
Gideon looked uncomfortable. "I can't read much at all."
"Then I will be certain to find you and bring you to Hogwarts myself," she promised. Though he was illiterate now, she knew he would learn to combat this quickly. It was a skill innate to all wizards and witches alike, no matter if some practiced and perfected it more than others.
"Oh, show him something, Professor Rowena!" Guinevere suggested excitedly. Gideon's jaw dropped considerably at the prospect of this.
"What would you like me to do?"
"Can you fly?" he asked ecstatically. "Or-or… make bread appear out of nowhere?"
"Magic is almost endless in its possibilities," Rowena said. Her heart felt light at the boy's enthusiasm; it was situations such as this for which she truly lived at times. The irrepressible thirst for knowledge in youth was thrilling.
"This is my wand," she told the captivated boy as she pulled the aforementioned object from its place beside her hip. "You will require one as well before you enter Hogwarts. Now, watch." She pointed the wand at herself. "Wingardium Leviosa!"
At once, her feet rose from the forest floor and she began to hover in midair. It was not quite flying, more floating, but she was still working to perfect the spell.
"And when you are older," Rowena continued, looking down upon Gideon and Guinevere's upturned faces, "you will be able to utilize nonverbal spells."
At this, a loaf of bread appeared in Gideon's hands.
"It's… it's magic!" he exclaimed. "It's amazing!"
"I bet you can eat that, too," Guinevere tittered, looking at the bread. It was warm in Gideon's hands.
Rowena lowered herself to the ground.
"Could I… could I hold your wand?" Gideon asked her, suddenly timid. Even after Guinevere gasped, his hopeful expression did not falter.
Rowena considered this request deeply. She did not often let others touch her wand, for she had always been protective of it. Yet this boy was so eager, his intentions so pure… Gently, she placed her wand into his hands; when the wood touched his palms, he released a reverent sigh.
It was at this moment, and no later, that a pair of large hands suddenly reached out and clapped over Rowena's mouth. Her eyes widened in shock as her fingers scrambled to pry herself free. Yet her captor was much too strong for her, especially since she no longer held her wand. She kicked her feet desperately, swinging her body with all her might. Guinevere and Gideon watched the display with looks of horror transfixed upon their faces.
Rowena bit down upon her captor's hand, and she was released, but only briefly. Still, it was enough. "FIND HELGA!" she screamed. "FIND—!"
Without a second glance behind them, the children raced into the trees in the direction whence they had come. The hand was once more over Rowena's mouth ere she could ask Gideon for the return of her wand. She attempted to call it to her, but she could not concentrate enough, and so her efforts were in vain. She was too frightened, and the fear consumed her mind.
As she thrashed about, exhausting herself as her instincts took control of her body, she saw flashes of beings emerging from the trees. She could feel herself being carried forward as if she were as light as a child, and then she was dropped, breathless, onto the ground.
Rowena scrambled to stand, but was hindered by the being who once more held her from behind.
She was in the center of a circle, she realized, as if she were the center of a target which an archer hoped to strike. Her eyes traveled round it, searching for gaps and calculating the distances between them and herself. Yet there were no routes of escape that she could see. And she was still held fast.
"Witch!" a voice cried. Rowena strained to catch a glimpse of the speaker, though she need not have done so, for her captor lifted her and turned her to face him.
He was tall, with a great grey beard. Had he not been wearing the clothes of a normal man, she might have mistaken him for a wizard. Almost, for he did not exude magic as Gideon did. The circle parted and allowed him to step inside of it. He reached down and collected her fallen wand before snapping it into two even pieces.
Rowena let forth a muffled cry of despair.
"You dare to come here," growled he, "and teach your wicked ways to our children?" His voice was accented in a manner that she did not recognize. "You come to steal them away to your accursed school to corrupt them!"
The hand loosened its hold. "I do not corrupt them!" Rowena cried out in spite of herself. "I teach them so that they may lead better lives!"
"Better?" the man spat. "You, foul hag, will pay dearly for your ignorance!"
"You need not fear magic!" she said desperately. "We are peaceful! We mean not to inflict harm!"
The man's eyes narrowed, and his hand gave a sharp twitch.
At once, Rowena felt something collide with her head, and she spun and fell into fathomless darkness. She did not feel herself hit the ground.
Gideon and Guinevere wept and screamed as they emerged from the woods and raced through the faire. Leaves littered their hair, and the hem of Guinevere's dress had been torn in her haste to escape.
"Oh, where is Professor Helga?" the girl sobbed despairingly, pausing to scan the throng of villagers with her tear-filled eyes. Beside her, Gideon panted.
"What does she look like?"
"H-her hair is the brightest yellow, a-and—PROFESSOR HELGA!"
Helga looked up in surprise at the frantic shouting of her name. When she saw the two children, a smile began to form upon her features, yet it soon died as quickly as it had come. She could feel the urgency surrounding them as if they were floundering in it.
"What's wrong?" she asked them hurriedly. "What has happened?"
Guinevere attempted to speak, but she instead dissolved into wails.
"It's Professor Rowena," the boy explained in her place. Helga looked at him closer; he was unfamiliar to her, yet she had thought she knew all of the students at Hogwarts by name. "She's been attacked in the forest by… by my village." He hung his head sadly.
"Which way?" Helga demanded. She knew naught of the nearby forests, nor did she know of any other villages apart from Northshire. Guinevere managed to point a shaking finger; in the distance, Helga could see a dark cluster of trees.
"Remain here, and don't move," she instructed the children firmly. "You'll be safe." She cast a silent Calming Charm upon the pair of them until their shoulders relaxed and their sobs were but sniffs.
"Professor Helga," the boy said. "My village… They don't trust magic. They're afraid of it. They'll kill her if they have the chance!"
Helga paled. "Then they won't. I will find Professor Godric."
Of all of them, Godric would know what to do. She ran forth, stumbling slightly. "Don't move!" she called over her shoulder distractedly.
Helga pressed onward with as much strength and speed as she could muster, not even stopping as she enchanted her boots as she had done before. There was a minute fragment of a chance that the children were unintentionally exaggerating Rowena's plight out of fear. Rowena was the most intelligent person she had ever known. Surely, surely, Helga thought, she would never fall pretty to such danger. Surely, she would be capable of escaping whatever harmful circumstance she had found herself in.
In her heart, Helga could not be certain. Rowena was still as human as any of them. She was still capable of erring and of being rash.
Her eyes blurring, she looked up. Without realizing it, she had already traveled far, and now, just ahead of her on the path, was Godric Gryffindor, astride his horse.
"Godric!" she shrieked, still racing to him in her enchanted boots. Upon hearing her voice, he galloped in her direction, the hooves of his white horse shaking even the air beneath her feet.
"Rowena is in danger!" she cried when he was close enough for him to hear her well.
For Godric, time froze around him. "What?" he gasped, his eyes round and alert.
"Where is she?" he demanded loudly.
Helga did not flinch. "The forest. There's a forest outside of Northshire. She's being held there!"
Godric almost did not hear her; he had already begun to gallop toward Northshire before Helga had finished. The grass raced past him in a single shade of green, and the path upon which he rode became nigh indistinguishable from that which lay around it. Rowena, clever, cold Rowena, was in danger. And he had felt it, had he not? He had known, somehow, when even Salazar had not, that trouble would befall her.
Whatever had occurred could only be grave, for Rowena was never anyone's damsel in distress. Godric thundered through Northshire, scattering the villagers as they leapt to avoid being trampled. (They would not have been, of course; Godric had charmed Fawkes's hooves. But there was no way for anyone but himself to have known this.) He left angry curses in his wake, yet he cared not. Rowena had always told him that he was reckless; he might as well meet her expectations for once.
When the woods engulfed him, there was only just enough time to clear the branches from his path with his wand. Still, they beat and rained down upon him as if demanding him to turn back and relent.
He would do no such thing; he was Godric Gryffindor. With a ring of metal against metal, he unsheathed his sword and held it before him as he rushed onward.
Remarkably, time seemed to stop twice for Godric that day, though it had never done so before in his life. He burst into a clearing, and there, with a rope shaped into a noose round her neck, was a limp Rowena Ravenclaw. Her eyes were closed, yet she was still upon a platform, not yet hanged.
Godric gave an almighty roar that echoed endlessly in the slowness of time. He could see hands upon Rowena's back, preparing to push her to her death.
And then time sped forward, more quickly than ever. As Rowena began to fall, Godric thrust his sword at the rope around her neck and severed the fibers which held her. With another booming roar, he cast a spell to cushion her impact with the ground.
Around them, all beings stood motionless, fear creeping upon them and rendering them dumb. Only a tall, old man with a long, grey beard seemed to have maintained his senses. He stumbled toward Rowena, his hands outstretched.
"DON'T TOUCH HER!" Godric thundered. He Stupefied the man ere he had been given a chance to respond.
He held his wand outstretched in one hand, his sword in the other, pointing them at the terrified people.
"Don't. Move," he growled. "Rowena would not have harmed you. I will not hesitate to run you through."
Unconsciously, the beings took a backward step. Godric glared at them fiercely, and then, after a pause, he cried, "OBLIVIATE!"
Rowena felt something warm and calloused upon her cheek, a comforting touch that caused her to smile into the darkness around her. It was so familiar, yet she had never felt it before. The touch moved to the back of her head and her shoulders, upon reaching which, it raised her up gently.
"Rowena," a voice called to her, but it reverberated so in her mind that she could not identify to whom it belonged. Still, she recognized it, and she liked it…
"Rowena!" It was stronger this time, and with it came a rattling sense, as if her shoulders were being shaken.
Rowena opened her eyes, no longer drowning in blackness. The sun was bright around her, though she could see trees obscuring it in patches above.
Startled, she gave a gasp and nearly broke her neck once more as she whipped it round to see the speaker. Her rescuer.
Of all the people in the world it could have been, it was Godric Gryffindor who was looking down at her, the ends of his sandy mane of hair tickling her skin. His eyes were filled with an emotion that she had never seen in them before: the deepest concern she had ever laid her own eyes upon.
"Rowena," he sighed, his relief evident. He cupped her face in his large palm.
"Godric…" A smile momentarily flickered across her face. "Your eyes are blue," she noted. "I had not noticed that before."
He furrowed his brow. "You're delirious, I see. Only to be expected, of course…"
"I am not delirious, Godric!" Rowena suddenly snapped; her strength and wits were returning to her. She struggled to right herself, and when he attempted to aid her in this task, she nearly struck his hand away.
Yet instead, she stopped with her arm poised above her. "I am sorry, I… I…"
"Are you alright?" he inquired softly.
Rowena bit her lip and nodded. She felt as though she might weep, though surely others before her had experienced ordeals much worse. Wordlessly, Godric pulled her to her feet and steadied her when her legs threatened to collapse.
"How did you find me so quickly?" she asked. Her hand lingered upon his shoulder.
He grinned wryly. "I had a feeling you might get yourself into trouble, so I rode to Northshire to, ah… to bring you home."
"Bring me home?" she repeated dubiously. She could sense that there was something else he had purposefully neglected to mention.
Then he frowned. "I hope you're not angry with me."
Rowena was taken aback. "What ever for?"
"Rescuing you," he answered warily. "Generally, you'd rather rescue yourself."
On a sudden compulsion, she reached up and traced her fingers along the side of his face.
"If you're not delirious, then what are you?" he marveled.
She smiled. "Grateful. Thank you, Godric, for saving my life."
She meant for the kiss to be but upon his cheek. A kiss of gratitude, as was only fitting. But as sometimes happens, Godric shifted at just the right moment, and their lips met. Rowena, for all she had once thought of him, found herself pleasantly surprised to discover that she had no intention of pulling away.
"Let it always be remembered that today is the day Rowena Ravenclaw was almost hanged," Godric murmured at length.
"But was not," she added, "because Godric Gryffindor decided to be heroic and rescue her, for which she is eternally in his debt."
He grinned. "I can think of several ways in which that debt might be repaid…"
Rowena scowled at him, though all the same, she clutched tightly to his hand.
By the time the grounds of Hogwarts castle loomed ahead, she had quietly asked that her dress be returned to its original red. It was not, she decided, such a terrible color after all.