Supplementary Falsehoods to a First Impression
There is nothing more lasting than a first impression, wherever or whenever such an impression has been made. It is what inspires the persistence of one's opinion of another thereafter and forevermore, and it is what lingers, hidden in the deep recesses of a mind, when something is about to be remembered. To be certain, first impressions can often be proved completely wrong, or, at the very least, a bit faulty, and first impressions can be readily molded into mere impressions that are subject to change; regardless, that very first opinion which was so instantly formed, for whatever reason, will always be there, and there is nothing that can be done to rid a person of it.
When Godric Gryffindor first saw the tall, dark-haired girl crossing the footbridge to Silas Woodcroft's farm, he thought little of her, indeed believing her to be a servant or someone else equally as inconsequential. It can be argued that this brief note was his first impression of her—but as he did not even pause to obtain a good view of her, these less-than-flattering thoughts are best dismissed as the consequences of being a passerby. For it was only when he saw this girl once more, three days later and crossing that very same footbridge, that he decided she was perhaps someone of interest. And so he looked.
She was somewhat pretty, this girl, and her attire suggested that she was not a part of the help, as he had previously thought. Not, of course, that he was an expert on clothing, nor was he normally an observant person—there was simply something about the way she dressed, and the way she carried herself dressed as such, that made it blatantly obvious that she did not belong anywhere near this farm. Or any farm, for that matter.
Godric watched as she hitched up her skirts in order to keep the hem from trailing in the dirt. Once she reached the other side of the bridge—a mere two steps for any man, but somehow more for her, despite her long stride—she raised her chin and dusted off her hands upon folds of bright blue cloth. Her slightly upturned nose pointed toward the sky, she again set off, now nigh at a march, in the direction of the farmhouse.
Nay, there is nothing more lasting than a first impression, and Godric's first impression of this girl was that she was peculiar, stubborn, and more than a bit haughty.
In all his travels during the past months, traversing the land in a quest that he had yet to define, he had never encountered anyone quite like her.
Almost at once, he determined that they must meet.
Rowena Ravenclaw did not dislike farms, as she supposed was expected of her. On the contrary, she enjoyed the openness that the wide fields provided, and she did not mind the smell, finding it relatively pleasant, even, until she got too close. And she did not dislike this farm especially, either, for she had known and indeed loved it for a great portion of her life. What she disliked, simply, was the fact that it was so very far from her own home.
Oh, for the most part, the journey was easy, out of the glen down the mountain. She always bewitched her boots to glide over the rocks and deposit her safely at the bottom—her mother had yet to perfect the spells upon the family's broomstick, and so would not lend it to her. But the last long, flat expanse, from the mountain's base to the farm itself, had to be conducted on foot, and most regrettably without magic. The reason was that, though Silas Woodcroft and his family were magical themselves, their neighbors were not. And everyone knew, of course, what happened when those sorts of villagers heard whispers of witchcraft and wizardry.
Rowena saw the logic in the precautions, truly, for that was something she did best; however, she was still not at all fond of a walk through weeds that always scratched her legs beneath her skirts and nearly caused her ankles to twist in the many concealed holes in the ground. She always reached the farmhouse with her cheeks impossibly flushed, and her breaths coming forth as long, shuddering gasps. It was a mortifying state in which to find oneself, especially when among company.
Today was no exception. If anything, the experience was worse, for it was the second time she had had to endure it that week. Yet what choice did she have, she thought angrily, when Alyson Woodcroft had suddenly decided not to answer her letters? There was a limit to the usefulness of owls in circumstances such as these.
She picked her way carefully to the farmhouse, raised her hand to the door, and knocked thrice with as much force as could still be considered polite.
So abuzz was her head with thoughts—what precisely would be said to Alyson, what spells would be used to mend her scratched legs and bedraggled hem, and so forth—that she noticed very little about her surroundings. Her error, in fact, was that she assumed that all which lay around her was just the same as it always was.
It was only logical, then, that she did not catch a glimpse of the wild-haired youth who was so insistently staring at her from across the footbridge.
Godric was not much of a believer in plans. He was sufficiently intelligent, to be certain, but he had decided early on that he did not have the head for long, complicated schemes that required more time to design than to enact. He quite preferred to charge ahead, thinking about and living in moments as they presented themselves.
Yet he realized, to his dismay—and with the slight piquing of his interest—that a plan was more like than not a necessity if he wanted to gain an audience with the afore-sighted girl.
And it was, in fact, or should have been; yet as it sometimes happens, a plan—a good, solid one—was simply not meant to be.
Unaware of this, Godric strode quietly toward the farmhouse, stealing around the back so as to conceal himself from those who lay inside. He crouched low to the ground beside a large pile of hay, and, resting one hand upon his knee, he pensively twirled a strand of hay between his fingers; he should have preferred to pace, perhaps, as he sometimes did when deep thinking was required, but pacing hardly seemed appropriate now.
Just then, Godric began to hear voices through the farmhouse wall. Which was odd, he thought, for he certainly had not been able to hear them before. Whoever was speaking, it appeared, was also moving.
In spite of himself, Godric cupped his hand around his ear and pressed it against the wall. The speakers, however, seemed to be moving continuously, for he could only discern snatches of what he determined to be a conversation. He often caught words such as letters, owls, and the name Alyson—perhaps referring to Silas's daughter?—but he could not for the life of him string together their meaning as a whole. Owls and letters—who had ever before heard of such a combination? Word was much better sent by some sort of magical means.
For a time, the voices lowered to indecipherable whispers, and then rose, adopting tones of impatience and annoyance. And then, very clearly, Godric heard someone declare, "Well, then I shall just have to find her myself!"
Godric furrowed his brow. Had Alyson gone missing? He had breakfasted with her and her father only just that morning. Perhaps he could offer his assistance.
Although, judging by the voices, the only danger Alyson needed to worry about would be inflicted by those within the farmhouse.
He nearly chuckled at this when, suddenly, he heard the distinct sound of footsteps, and the opening of a door. Godric stilled, attempting to gauge the direction in which the footsteps would continue to travel. For the moment, they seemed to be headed straight forward—in the direction opposite from he.
Yet just as he was preparing to release a grateful sigh, the weary voice of Silas Woodcroft called out, "Like as not, she's in the orchard. An' try not to harm 'er—"
Godric glanced around him and swore. The orchard was directly behind him—and the farmhouse, for that matter—and anyone hoping to reach it would easily discover him. Rising hastily, he stole forward and around the corner of the house, attempting his escape—for so determined was he to concoct his plan, that he would briefly lower the standards of his behavior to those of a thief.
He waited, approximating how much time remained until he could return to his post. And when at last both curiosity and impatience overcame him, he once more rounded the corner. Which, of course, should have been perfectly fine, and would have been, as well, had he bothered to look first.
But, as he did not, he found himself crashing into something tall and blunt which sent him—and it—toppling into the enormous collection of hay.
Rowena, in a panic, felt herself being simultaneously crushed and buried alive. There was a great pressure upon her chest, and she could scarcely draw a breath; the sweet scent of hay pressed in upon her, overwhelming her so that she nearly fainted.
Yet then, wondrously, the pressure shifted, and she let forth a great cough, air returning to her.
It was only when her body had calmed and she chanced to open her eyes that she realized that whatever had run into her was still very much there, and indeed, had planted two arms on either side of her. She raised her head as her eyes traveled upward, digesting a male's chest and broad shoulders ere she reached his scraggly mane of hair and shocked face. This was an odd way to encounter someone, she thought, slightly dazed.
And then she registered, for all intents and purposes, that there was a man on top of her. Rowena flushed crimson, feeling an unbearable heat from head to toe, but she found herself paralyzed in her embarrassment. Muddled by this discovery as her mind had become, she seemed only able to lie there and stare.
Upon closer inspection, the man turned out to be more of a boy, perhaps her own age, or perhaps younger by no more than a summer or two. She might have thought him older but for his eyes, which were wide and bright with a boyish look to them. They were also, she noted, of a blue that matched perfectly her garb.
There was a wildness about him, too, that was both alarming and appealing, almost exciting, as if he had seen many things about which she had only read; she could not help but think of him as somewhat handsome because of this. And everything about him, she was startled to note, reeked of magic.
This was not, however, Rowena's first impression of him—or so she would later argue with herself. She believed it was, as she lay there in the hay, her heart pounding and his face close enough to touch, an almost visible tension between them. She thought perhaps it could be lucky, even, that she had stumbled across another wizard.
But then, of course, he had to open his mouth and speak.
"What are you doing?" he inquired, appearing bewildered and altogether ignorant of their situation.
Rowena gawked at him, and he gawked back, though his expression was slowly becoming much cheerier than her own. Was he a simpleton, she wondered in horror, to ask such a profoundly idiotic question? She must have been mistaken to find intelligence in his features.
Rowena's eyes narrowed. "I believe it within my right to demand the same of you."
He blinked at her. "I was only walking."
"As was I," she returned. "Though it appeared more to me that you were trespassing. For what other reason would you be stalking about on another's land?"
He arched his brows. "Trespassing? Nay, I'm a guest at Woodcroft Farm."
"And does Silas Woodcroft know as much?"
He looked affronted at her accusation. "Of course—I'm no coward or thief."
Rowena peered at him skeptically. "So you say. But how am I to trust you? You are clearly not a gentleman."
He seemed prepared to protest at this, but a pointed glance from her silenced him. Pinning one of the fairer sex to a haystack, upon consideration, was not thought of as chivalrous behavior by either of them.
The boy coughed, and moved off of her at last. He offered her his hand, appearing sheepish, but she declined it, and instead made a great show of extricating herself from the hay on her own. She shook and dusted off her clothes, glancing at him discreetly out of the corner of her eye.
Apparently, he was unabashed to continue staring at her. Rowena flushed once more and, to salvage her dignity, refrained from violently raking the hay from her hair.
From a vertical perspective, and from somewhat farther away, the boy looked much less befuddled and more certain of himself, perhaps even overly so—after he had overcome the shock of trampling her like an animal. It was a bit late for first impressions by then, but nevertheless, she decided: he was of the cocky, irrational sort—the sort she generally avoided, for no doubt he would prefer sport to scholarly discussion.
Additionally, it was plain that he had no sense of boundaries.
"I've not harmed you, have I?" he asked, wary. It might have been in response to the shrewd gaze with which she had been fixing him as she dissected his character.
She thought briefly of her dignity, but shook her head.
His shoulders—they were very broad and strong-looking, she noted with approval, (though she was appalled to find herself having such thoughts)—relaxed in obvious relief.
"Well," Rowena coughed after a moment, "now that my well-being has been established and time aplenty has gone to waste, I truly must be off."
She did not bother to tell him, as was customary, that it had been pleasant meeting him, as that, she knew, would be a lie; she merely turned and set to marching toward the orchard without another word.
"To find Alyson?" the boy called after her.
Rowena stopped and looked back at him with annoyance. "So," she said, "you are an eavesdropper as well as a trespasser. I am glad not to have met you after nightfall!"
He frowned. "I could help you."
"I am in no need of your aid," she scoffed. "Alyson's whereabouts are already well known to me. Besides which"—she peered at him askance—"I should not like to frighten you by placing you in the midst of my quarrels."
Her triumphant air shattered when he began to laugh. "You're trying to intimidate me!" he exclaimed in disbelief.
"Whatever is required to rid myself of you."
He continued to laugh. "I never thought I'd be so disliked."
Rowena feigned innocent surprise. "I find it astonishing that you have yet to grow accustomed to the feeling."
"Some find me very loveable," he insisted.
She nearly choked. He was looking positively jolly now. "Your mother, perhaps," she covered quickly, "and those in possession of minimal wit."
He took a step closer to her, and she unconsciously flinched. "You can't deny you'd have liked me better if we hadn't met as we did."
"You mean, if you had not attempted to asphyxiate me with your immense weight?"
"Nay, I would still have loathed you upon the very principle of your nature."
The boy shook his head. "Is that really necessary?"
"The way you're speaking—I'd expect you to grow weary, with all those extra words. And lonely, since you don't seem to tire of expressing your superiority with them."
She ignored the latter half of his remark. "Unlike you, I happen to cherish my education, and therefore choose my words with the utmost care." She paused, then taunted, "Does that intimidate you?"
"Foolishness?" he queried. "Not at all."
Rowena faltered. "Then you are a fool yourself."
She cast him the blackest look she could muster, and then resolutely turned away from him and toward the orchard. "I am leaving now," she declared without bothering to glance back over her shoulder. "You will hinder me no longer."
She set off, nearly stomping. Already, she could see Alyson's figure hovering amongst the apple trees, no doubt listening to Rowena's impromptu confrontation with the boy—Rowena's voice did tend to carry, and his was not so quiet, either.
Just as she thought this, she heard him shout out behind her.
"I don't know your name!"
But Rowena had no plans to relinquish it.
Instead of fleeing, as he assumed he was meant to do, Godric decided to wait for her return—whether or not she had poor Alyson Woodcroft in tow. His reasoning was simple: this girl was perplexing, and she was different. And, of course, she disliked him, and no one enjoys being disliked; unlike many others who are disliked, however, Godric was determined to actually alter her impression of him. He knew it was ridiculous, but there was something unsettling about being thought of as boorish and unchivalrous. Not to mention, a tactless trespasser.
Trespasser, indeed! It had been Silas who had offered him food and shelter, not Godric who had demanded or stolen it. And Godric had already insisted upon repaying him with a fair sum.
He had never before heard of such an arrogant girl!
Well. He would win her favor, he was certain of that. It mattered little how long such an endeavor would require.
Alyson would not speak to her; that much she had made perfectly obvious when she had hopped aboard her broomstick and climbed into the sky—not even caring that she could be seen. And in truth, Rowena was hurt by her friend's actions, though she made no display of this until well out of sight—when she stormed through the apple trees, conducting herself in an alarmingly uncouth manner. But she was exhausted and snappish now, first from her journey down to the farm, then from her physical and verbal collision with that boy, and finally from the aftermath of her quarrel with Alyson. It had been a mistake to leave her home—her bed, even—that morning. She should have overslept and allowed Alyson time to overcome whatever it was that seemed to be afflicting her.
For it was Alyson who was at fault, was it not? Rowena wished she could shake herself of her foolish thoughts; of course it was. Rowena had done nothing wrong during the course of their correspondence; she had thought both parties involved had enjoyed their written discussions, and the frankness with which they had incessantly put forth their opinions. It had been a relief to find someone of the same gender and of similar age who was even remotely literate. One of Rowena's own sisters could scarcely read!
Nay, she could not allow the utterances of that boy to instill uncertainties within her. She did not use excessive words, and she certainly had not made a habit of expressing her superiority with them. Especially not around her dearest companions. She was not an arrogant person by nature; she only masqueraded as one in the presence of undesirable company.
Such as that boy…
Rowena came to a sudden halt. He had angered her, had transformed her into this hateful, uncivilized, and self-doubting being. And furthermore—she stopped again.
That was what he thought of her, she realized with a shiver. That was his impression of her—that she was in possession of such ugly qualities. She knew it was ridiculous, but there was something unsettling about being thought of as someone who she was not, even by someone else who mattered so very little.
Rowena gave a huff and drew herself to her full height—which really was rather impressive, or would have been, at least, had there been any witnesses to this act. She knew that somehow, she had already won his favor; all that needed to be done now was to right a flawed first impression.
She was not arrogant. She was not. And neither, for that matter, was she lonely.
Godric had not expected her to return quickly—though there had been a large part of him which had suspected she would not return at all, supposing she would give him as wide a berth as possible as she dragged her unlucky companion back into the farmhouse. He had believed that she would spend perhaps an hour, nigh two, in the orchard, carrying out the quarrel which she had prophesized, for she seemed the sort to dance about her main point with excessive shouting. (Her mind, he mused, was at least not simple. It was a quality he found himself admiring.)
Yet that day had already contained several mishaps in the wake of predictions, so he wondered if he should have realized that she would return, empty-handed, and scurrying as though someone were chasing her. Although, to be fair, she did slow her pace once she was free of the trees, picking up her skirts as he had seen her do before, and approaching him—approaching him!—in a suddenly dainty, ladylike manner. Godric might have laughed, but in his surprise, he felt he could not muster it. When he attempted to do so, he ended up merely looking bemused—either that, or mildly ill.
To his credit, he was almost able to call out a greeting to her as she neared, but he was sadly only allowed an "Ah, you've come ba—" before she interrupted.
"Rowena Ravenclaw," she said, stumbling over this in her haste to reveal it. "That is my name. I am neither lonely nor foolish, and I pride myself in both of these facts. I apologize for my unseemly behavior, for you have caught me at a particularly unfortunate time—though I do see that this is hardly an acceptable excuse. I do hope you can forgive me."
Godric churned over her words slowly in his mind, weeding out the unnecessary ones until he realized that she had consecutively introduced herself and apologized.
"I'm Godric Gryffindor," he replied, grasping her slender hand in his and briefly bringing his lips to her fingers. "No harm's been done."
He glanced up, and caught her eyeing the point at which they touched. Her hands were by no means small, but his could still easily encompass them.
Godric released her; he thought he saw her other hand, the one already by her side, twitch.
"I hope you'll forgive my behavior, as well."
For a moment, he worried that she would not; but, after she overcame some sort of internal struggle, Rowena nodded stiffly. And then there was silence—which struck Godric as peculiar, for he knew himself to be a loquacious person, and she—she did not struggle, he knew, to speak what she thought.
"Is that all you came back for?" he offered with a small cough.
"What? Oh, yes—NO! No, I…" Rowena was fumbling.
Godric frowned. If that was all she could manage to think at the present, then perhaps their previous encounter had caused harm to befall her. Oh, lamentable day!
Rowena shifted her weight from foot to foot. "Well, it is, in a way," she amended at length. "You see, your impression of me—"
"Aye," he chuckled automatically, then wished he could clap a hand over his mouth.
She sniffed, but otherwise ignored his outburst. "I should not like you to view me less than favorably. I should not like anyone to do so."
"I've already told you, no harm's been done."
He placed his hand over his heart. "I swear to you, lady, that henceforth, I'll look upon you favorably." He paused. "Er… so long as you'll do the same to me."
He saw a smile tug at her lips. If he had succeeded at one thing, he had at least managed to ease a great deal of her agitation.
"I shall try," she informed him. "But if you should happen to run me into a haystack—"
"Ah," he said. "No—no, I don't believe that'll be happening again."
She raised her brows. "Good. I do not fancy untangling so much hay from my hair more than once."
"I am sorry."
She seemed to appraise him. "I know."
A beat passed, and then:
"Walk with me?" he asked. Rowena acquiesced without comment. He almost offered her his arm, but then thought better of it; she had only just begun to speak to him with civility, after all.
Godric adjusted his steps to remain in stride with hers as they swept past the farmhouse and walked toward the fields. The day had already reached its peak and would soon begin its descent into evening, though the sun continued to burn brightly above them. Rowena, he saw, still held her chin aloft and angled her face toward the sky; she seemed not to duck her head or avert her eyes for anything.
"You are not as rude as I thought," she blurted stiffly once they had crossed the footbridge.
"I'm honored," he declared at this, adopting an air of utmost sincerity.
A scowl flitted across her face for a moment before she seemed to think better of it.
"Does that make me a gentleman?" he pressed, teasing.
"You are no courteous knight."
"But well on my way."
Rowena snorted. "Do you ever give in?"
"Never," Godric promised. "Do you ever change your mind once it's been made up?"
He suppressed the urge to wink at her, though he did turn his head until their eyes met. Was it only in his imagination, he wondered, or did her cheeks appear pinker just before she looked away?
"I should hardly like to make a habit of it. Although"—she glanced at him slyly—"if I were to find myself in some sort of perilous situation, mayhap involving a ruthless and terrifying, fire-breathing dragon, and you were to very gallantly rescue me, I might consider it."
"I think," he informed her, "I'd more likely need to rescue the dragon. I pity the poor fool who ever tries to capture you."
Rowena laughed, and the sound startled him. It was pleasant, really; and for once, there was nothing peculiar, stubborn, or more than a bit haughty about it.
How odd, then, that it suited her so well.
Perhaps first impressions did not mean everything, as he had always been led to believe. And perhaps someday—though the hopeful tone of the thought startled him—Rowena would realize as much, too.
Godric threw back his head, his surprised laughter joining hers.