Author's Notes: Written for Harry Potter Tarot on LiveJournal. My posting day is technically next week. The card I chose was the Queen of Wands, with this meaning: A person of considerable energy, warmth, and passion. Generous, energetic, yet practical.


Witchcraft and Wizardry

Helga Hufflepuff was not like other girls, and she had learned this very early on in her lifetime. Once, when she was naught but a babe, for instance, she reached from her mother's arms to touch a vine that curled down the garden wall; the precise moment her small fingers closed around the growth, it encircled her arm gently as if greeting an old companion. Another time, during the middle of an August drought, the skies suddenly clouded and rain poured to the earth for three days without stopping; Helga never told anyone that, just before this particular occurrence had transpired, she had been wishing with all her might that the dryness of summer would end. Later, when she went to market to fetch new boots for her brother, a boy tugged roughly upon one of her twin golden braids, only to shoot backward and land in a puddle of mud. (She tried to apologize, of course, though she had not known precisely why it was her fault.) On another occasion, she stumbled out of her own clumsiness and heard a great rip form in her dress; yet as she sat, disgruntled, in the dirt, searching for the hole she would need to repair, the cloth was as smooth as if she had not fallen.

Helga had never been a simple girl, and in this she had always prided herself; however, she was neither witty nor clever, nor as quick to think as were the boys who sometimes bandied insults in the fields. And yet she had always thought that there was something different about her, though for quite some time, she had not understood her own reasoning. For many years, she had simply believed that what had happened on those peculiar instances—or what she thought had happened—was nothing more than the imaginings of her own mind.

It came as a great surprise, then, to discover that these alleged figments of her mind were just as real as she was. Much to her astonishment, Helga Hufflepuff had been performing magic without knowing it for the entirety of her life; this, of course, made her a witch, though she was not the evil sort of witch that the villagers were always so frightened of. Quickly, she found that magic could be utilized in many ways, most of which were useful to employ whilst completing her daily chores—which no longer consumed as much of her time as they once had done.

Soon, Helga possessed something that most other girls did not, and that was freedom. The dishes would clean themselves (though she always inspected each one ere she tucked it into the cupboard), her clothing would repair itself out of its own accord, and when she woke each morning, it was just in time to see a basket filled with eggs set itself beside her cot. After rising and hurrying to the chicken coop to see with her own eyes that all was well and that nothing had been missed, she was free to make each day her own.

Sometimes, she waded her way through the woods that lay in the distance, most especially when the sunlight felt too warm even upon her already sun-browned skin. At other times, she dipped her feet into the small pond outside her home, imagining that the clouds reflected upon its rippling surface held some semblance to castles, dragons, and daisies.

However, Helga did not delight in feeling idle, and so it was not long ere she began to fill her free, precious time with activities that did not allow her to laze about. (It was in her blood, after all, as the daughter of a farmer, to be practical, and to not waste anything which she was given.) She took to thinking as she walked through the trees, and as she lounged by the water, she concentrated upon her magic and how she could further develop it.

Months and seasons passed in such a manner until one autumn afternoon, when Helga stepped from her father's cottage with the hope of traversing the hills which enclosed the land of her birth in a valley. It was with the same, habitual intent of the times before: she would immerse herself in the environment in which she always thought the most naturally, thus providing another opportunity to conceive new ideas. Perhaps, she thought as she briefly tilted her face into the warm wind, she would rest beneath a tree and continue carving the willow branch she had stumbled upon earlier that week; something about it had drawn her to it, and it had caused her fingers to tingle when she first plucked it from the ground. It was rather like magic itself, she had mused at the time, and since then, she had not been able to abandon the notion.

The sky overhead was neither overcast nor cloudless, and the air smelled distinctly of the shadow of summer. Helga walked with a slight bounce in her step, beaming every so often as the sun obscured itself then reemerged abruptly. In spite of the season, the hills were saturated in a heavy green hue which was only broken occasionally by a patch of orange wildflowers.

Helga gazed upward at the sloping curve of the land, releasing a small, contented sigh. She truly did enjoy being outdoors, away from all confinements, physical or otherwise. Perhaps someday, she thought, if she were ever to live outside of her valley, she would reside atop the hills, rather than at their bases. There was something about being where the earth touched the sky that made her feel as if anything was possible.

The only trouble, she soon realized, was the matter of reaching that place to begin with. The hills were steeper than she remembered them being, though in truth, she did not climb them often. At times, it seemed as if she incessantly forgot the most important of things, such as the fact that one could not simply stand far below one's destination one moment, and the next, appear triumphantly at it without any sort of strenuous activity first. It did not occur to her at all that, perchance, it she tried her hardest, then she could.

Thus, the ascent up the hill was a slow and laborious one. Though Helga exercised regularly and was a hardworking girl of the country to her very core, she did not always reflect as much in appearance. That was to say, her face had always been the tiniest bit rounded, and her waist was not as slim as those of the other farmers' daughters. Unlike them, she was also sturdily built. Ordinarily, she housed no resentment for her lack of a proper figure—after all, what was the proper figure for someone such as herself?—though, as she struggled and wheezed, stopping to collect her breath every minute or so, she wondered if it was not too late to change her views.

After some time—much more than it should have required—Helga appeared over the crest of the hill, the entirety of her face reddened and shining with perspiration. She gave a weary yet satisfied sigh when she realized what she had just accomplished; then, with an utter lack of grace, she flopped down upon the grass. She closed her eyes lightly, giggling to herself.

"Women," she suddenly heard someone mutter. The voice was low, yet it seemed to be near.

Helga's blue eyes snapped open.

"Oh, are you alive, then?" the same voice as before drawled in amusement.

When her initial surprise faded, she rolled onto her side and released a small laugh. "I should think that I'm very much alive at the moment," she replied to the speaker. For indeed, in spite of her exhaustion and frustration, she felt invigorated and lively.

The speaker snorted, and Helga looked up.

It was a boy, one who could not have witnessed many more years than she herself had. He was standing as if bored but a short distance from her, his dark, curled hair rustling in the languid wind. His eyes, equally as dark, watched her intently. His boots were coated in a thick layer of mud that extended nearly to his knees.

When he followed the line of her gaze, the boy scowled.

Intrigued, Helga asked, "Where've you been that's full of mud? It's not rained here at all since summer began."

The scowl gave way to a frown.

"Unless you don't want to tell me, of course," Helga added quickly. She did not particularly enjoy causing the blatant discomfort of others.

The boy appeared surprised at this, and then pensive, as if he could read her thoughts. Still, his eyes were wary.

"I have journeyed from the fenlands, if you must know," the boy revealed at length.

Helga wrinkled her nose and righted herself, lightly dusting off her skirt. "I'm afraid I don't know much of the world outside this valley," she admitted.

"I can imagine," he muttered, eyeing her once more. Helga ducked her head under his scrutiny. "It will suffice to say that the fenlands are far, far from here."

"Why'd you leave?" Helga inquired curiously.

"I had no desire to remain there any longer." The boy's tone adopted a cool edge, guarded.

"What brings you this way, then?"

He seemed to consider her query. "It was the most accessible route…"

"But that doesn't mean there's anything better in this direction than there is in any of the others," Helga told him. Just as she had hoped, the openness of the earth was beginning to affect her; already, she could think and reason more clearly than before.

"You are an interesting girl, speaking so vibrantly to a stranger," he remarked.

Annoyance briefly flickered across her countenance. He was so skilled at subtly patronizing her.

"If you wouldn't mind," she began politely, "I'm sure you can't be much older than I am…"

He stared at her.

"I mean to say, there's most likely not so much of a difference in age between us as you might be thinking."

He now looked ridiculously incredulous. Helga nearly laughed, then she remembered that such an action might be unkind.

"I'm fourteen summers—"

"Then I am still two years your elder," the boy managed to declare calmly, as if that settled the matter.

"I'm Helga Hufflepuff," she said after a pause.

"I am… Salazar," he muttered. He seemed about to add something to this statement when suddenly, his eyes flickered toward the grass just beside Helga. His expression twisted oddly.

"What—?" she began to say, yet then she glanced downward. The willow branch which she had been carving poked out beneath her leg; her work had been broken in two.

"Oh no!" she gasped in horror, unable to explain even to herself why this occurrence bothered her as much as it did.

"What is that?" Salazar demanded in a sharp hiss.

Helga furrowed her brow, befuddled by the change in his demeanor. "It's… well, I don't really even know what it was. I found the branch one day, and I decided to carve it."

"Why?" he asked, his voice just as cutting as before.

Helga bit her lip. "I don't know. It—" She stopped. "It's probably quite foolish, actually."

"What?" He took an unconscious step closer to her.

"I thought that perchance…" She hesitated. "Well, it seemed a bit… magical."

"Magical," he repeated, frustration creeping into his voice—though Helga could not discern what was troubling him.

"Don't you believe in magic?" she questioned hesitantly.

"I do…" His words were slow, just as cautious.

"I don't believe all magic is bad, though," Helga pressed on, suddenly feeling a jolt of energy. "Some magic must be helpful."

"And why—?"

"I mean, if witches can poison our wells, can't they also cleanse them? If they make the villagers ill, can't they cure them? Why shouldn't magic bring about life just as readily as it can take it away?"

Once again, Salazar seemed startled. "And who are you to speak so strongly in favor of witches?"

Helga bit her lip with uncertainty.

Salazar chuckled, the sound laced, unusually, with mirth. "Are you a witch yourself, Helga Hufflepuff?"

She paused.

"Yes," he murmured thoughtfully, "I do believe that you are."

"If I am," she declared resolutely as she rose, "then I am most surely the good kind of witch."

Salazar nodded. "I know."

Helga frowned. "I don't see how you seem to know so much."

"I believe," he smirked, "it is because we have something very much in common."

For a short moment, Helga did not understand. However, when comprehension at last reached her, her eyes widened with considerable roundness.

"Oh, my!" she gasped softly. Salazar's smirk grew as he watched her expression.

When her shock wore thin some minutes later, Helga grinned, tucking a golden wave of hair behind her ear.

"This is wonderful!" she exclaimed with jubilance.

Salazar arched his dark brows.

"I've been attempting to learn more magic," she babbled on, "but there's only so much I've been able to do on my own, of course. I've learnt to do household chores, perhaps I could… Oh! But what if I could learn to clean wells and cure the sick of their ailments?" Her cheeks were red with excitement, her eyes gleaming. "And I'm certain—well, if you're on your own, there must be something that you could teach me!"

"Teach—?"

"Yes, and you can't have learned everything, as I've created some things of my own! It would be a fair trade!"

"I do not think…" Salazar coughed. "That is, I must continue on my way."

"Do you even know where you're going?" Helga inquired lightly.

Salazar narrowed his eyes, but said nothing in return.

"So you see, Salazar? 'Tis perfect! I can provide you a place to stay—my family always enjoys company. And you'll have food, of course. We're not wealthy, but we can afford to get by better than some can. Until you decide where it is you want to go, we can practice our magic together!"

He looked at her askance, as if disinterested.

"And after all, you're still a boy, even if you are a magical one," she reasoned to herself. "I'd say that you need to eat just as much as my brother does. From the looks of you, you haven't found how to make bread appear out of the air."

Though a sullen look remained about his features, he neither protested at nor denied her claims. Indeed, though Helga may have imagined it, his eyes seemed to glint as he assessed her offer.

"It's decided, then," Helga smiled. "You needn't stay any longer than you like."

He regarded her quietly as she said this, his stare calculating and considering. Then, after a great length of time had passed, he slowly nodded. "Very well. I can see that this will be beneficial—"

"Splendid!" Helga cried. "We should begin straightaway!" She leapt once, gleefully, into the air.

"Would you not care to complete your walk?" Salazar inquired, amused. "It seemed as if it required a great deal of effort to come this far."

"Oh, no," Helga assured him, ignoring the slight jibe. She supposed that he could not keep himself from taunting her, thus it would not do to hold a grudge. "This is much more important. Besides which, I've recovered from my journey. You're the one covered in mud." She giggled to herself. "Come, Salazar!"

She tugged upon his hand, only mildly surprised to find that his fingers were cold. He stiffened at her touch, but Helga did not pay too much mind to this; instead, she cast him a warm smile, which caused his shoulders to relax. Helga gave a laugh and started down the hill at a run, her hand still closed around Salazar's to make certain that he was right behind her. Nay, she was not like other girls at all. She hummed a disjointed tune, wondering what surprises her new acquaintance would hold.