A/N: First off, a HUGE apology for not updating this for an absolute eternity! But I've returned (triumphantly?!) with the final chapter at last.
Secondly, thanks to everyone who reviewed the last chapter!
Moonlit Dreaming, MayFairy, Ali, MaimOrSeriouslyInjure, RubberDucky1999, Lucia123, Ewelina Black, Theta-McBride andthenewanniecresta!
Two years later...
Godric growled and pulled a thorn from the back of his leg before tossing it aside. He kicked the offending plant's branches out of the way and continued his powerful stride through the forest.
He wheeled around. "What is it, Helga?"
Helga rushed up to him, apparently having no trouble with the rough terrain even in her dress. "What was that thorn you discarded?"
He shrugged. "A painful one." He crossed his arms as she scuttled off in search of it. "I do not understand why you need me for this. You are perfectly capable of finding new plants for yourself, are you not?"
"Of course I am." She replied briskly, giving up on the thorn and gently plucking a broad leaf from a bowing branch. "But it does you no good to be cooped up in your rooms and I thought you could do with some fresh air."
"Oh, will you stop fussing Helga? I am well...as I always am."
She sighed and settled her basket in the crook of her arm. "You are not, Godric. You are not yourself and you have not been for quite some time." He shook his head, exasperated, and she yielded a little. "Oh, very well. I shall leave you alone to your brooding. Forgive me for being concerned."
She set off back towards the castle across the lawns and Godric immediately felt guilty; Helga always had a knack for it.
"Helga!" He called and jogged lightly after her. "I am sorry. Oh, come now!" He seized her arm and halted her. "I know you are just trying to look after me but you forget: I am not one of the students. You cannot give me one of your remedies and make everything better. I may not act like it, but I am a grown man." Her lips quirked into a smile. "And I must tend my own injuries."
She frowned at his last sentence. "So there is something? I knew there must be! Sometimes I look at you over the dinner table and seem to have fallen into the most dreadful slump - "
"I am fine Helga!"
"Hmm." She eyed him. "If you say so."
"I do." He forced one of his roguish grins and stepped inside the Entrance Hall with her.
Godric wasn't fine and he knew it.
The worst part of it all was that he couldn't talk to any of his friends about it. It had taken a few months to realise why he had become quieter and solitary but once it had hit him, he had known himself sworn to silence, which in turn did nothing to help his mood. He was used to being able to share any of his burdens with the others; they could tackle any problem together. But now he was on his own and Godric felt lost. If he was honest, he had felt lost as soon as Sarah Clarke had left the school some two years ago. His realisation that this was where his peculiar moods stemmed from ran hand in hand with the knowledge that he would never get to see her again. He knew there was no way he could speak with his friends about his ludicrous infatuation with a student.
A former student, he corrected himself as though that would help. He sighed and poured another goblet of wine and stretched his legs out in front of the weak fire in his chambers. The children had left the school for the summer only last week and Godric found his already temperamental mood plummeting. Without the motivation to get and teach every day, Godric found himself day-dreaming for hours and wasting his free summer days not really doing anything. And now Helga had noticed and Godric knew he either had to confess or force himself to regain his usual jollity.
So over the rest of the week, Godric made sure he ate with his friends for every meal, took regular walks and ensured he was maintaining the grounds as he was meant to. He laughed loudly again, he made jokes, he told tales. He was almost glad to keep up the act; it gave him a welcome distraction from brooding. He had thought he was doing a good job until Salazar accompanied him to supper one night.
"Are you well, Godric?"
He tried to mask his disappointment with what he hoped was a bemused smile. "Of course, my friend. Why do you ask?"
Salazar studied. "I do not quite know. You just seem...different."
"Oh, he is fine Salazar." Helga's voice came from behind them. "He will insist upon it even if he is driven to tears, I am sure." Godric huffed, realising he had been well and truly rumbled. It seemed no one had been convinced of his 'happy' mood. "Perhaps you will be able to cheer him while Rowena and I are gone, Salazar."
"I shall do my best." Salazar gave her a tight smile. "I am sure we can find some mischief to take part in."
Helga laughed. "I am sure you can. Just try not to get into too much trouble; that would not be a good example to the children."
"Wait..." Godric interrupted. "Yourself and Rowena are going? Going where?"
Salazar snorted and Helga shook her head. "Godric, were you absent at our meeting yesterday? Rowena and I are going travelling this summer."
"Are you? Why?" Godric had no memory of such a conversation.
"Rowena, have you heard this?" Helga called to their friend as they entered the hall. "Godric is claiming that he has no knowledge of our planned trip."
Rowena tittered. "Oh, Godric. Do not talk such nonsense. We spoke about it over dinner last night! You have been awfully airy of late."
Godric sighed and sat at the table. It seemed everyone knew of his mood and he realised there was no point in continuing his ludicrous act. He poured a generous helping of mead and speared a load of potatoes of his knife, dropping them on his plate.
"So what is this trip about?" He asked, hoping it would distract them from his odd humour.
"We need others here to help us. We are getting more students than we can teach." Salazar poured a dark wine into his goblet. "I have given them a few names that may help us and they have their own contacts. I am hoping we can take on a few wizards and train them ourselves."
Godric nodded blankly, stuffing his mouth full of potatoes.
The weather had changed from a drizzly early summer to a balmy late summer by the time Rowena and Helga arrived back from their travels.
Godric had cheered a little in the company of Salazar; they had tried their hand at brewing once more and Salazar had attempted to aid Godric in improving his potion brewing skills, with rather explosive results. They had even been partaking in some flying practice and Godric had managed to actually stay on the broom.
He was tending the vibrant green lawns when he saw Helga and Rowena making their way up the path towards him. Behind them, he saw a small group of people all lifting their bags from a horse-drawn carriage.
"Our new teachers." Rowena said, smiling. "We have found quite the collection. They should be able to take a load off us after a little training." She carried her own bag inside the castle, calling for Hankerton Humble to aid her in preparing the new teachers' chambers. Godric heard the caretaker's grumble and laughed to himself. Helga lingered by him.
"Helga, did you need something?"
"No, I..." She looked back at the group of gathered witches and wizards still sorting out their things. "While I was away, it gave me time to think and...I think I know what has been troubling you."
Godric opened and closed his mouth before finally saying. "Do you?" He knew he should have tried to discourage her but he found himself just wanting to be able to talk about it. This two year long absence had been playing on his mind for so long he just wanted to share it with someone.
"Yes. I know I warned you about it but..." She trailed off again and looked back at the group of people one last time. "You do not have to worry about it anymore."
With that she smiled, picked up her bag and entered the castle. Godric frowned at her words as he looked after her. Surely Helga had presumed something else was wrong with him? He could not see how she would have solved his peculiar loneliness. He shook his head and turned to continue his laborious work when he heard an excited squeal behind him.
"Oh, I have missed this place!"
He saw a familiar dark-haired woman coming towards him, staring up at the castle. It took him a moment to realise who the woman was: Annie Kenneth, one of Helga's old students and a close friend of Sarah Clarke's. Godric's stomach churned. Had Helga meant that Miss Kenneth knew where Miss Clarke was?
"As have I." Another voice came from behind her and Godric's mind went blank. He knew that voice.
Sarah Clarke was looking straight at him. After all this time, here she was - just looking at him. He felt dizzy. In fact, he was sure his feet shifted a little beneath him. He looked down at the toes of his boots and was surprised to find them as still and solid as ever.
Miss Kenneth looked between them and Godric saw a knowing smile twitch on her face. "I shall see you inside, Sarah. Good to see you again, Professor. I hope you are well." Without waiting for a response, she entered the castle with the others and left them alone. There was a silence.
"You have - "
"I hope I - "
They both spoke at once then stopped at once. They shared a smile, apprehensive and excited.
Godric cleared his throat and steeled himself. He told himself there was no sense in being hesitant about speaking with her...though that didn't stop his cruel mind replaying their last encounter over and over in his head. When he felt his cheeks begin to burn, he shook off his muddy gloves and gave her another smile. He leaned on his pitchfork, hoping it would be kind and remain stuck in the ground.
"How have you been?"
"Very well, thank you." She answered shortly but not sharply. She swapped her bag from her right hand to her left hand. "I hear Hogwarts has become bustling since I left."
He nodded. "It has. I find myself busier than ever."
"I suspect you miss your long evenings by the fire drinking your goblets of mead." There was a familiar teasing glint in her eye and he couldn't resist laughing.
"Yes, I confess it. Though I still manage to find the time some evenings. When Salazar is not insisting upon meetings to discuss the school."
"That does not sound very exciting." Her bag swapped hands again.
"It has been rather tedious of late."
"Why is that, do you surmise?"
Another silence, this one loaded and heavy, fell between them. Godric wondered what he dared to say and how it would be received. He did not know how she felt about their last meeting and he found that even he did not have the courage to ask her.
"I think perhaps - "
"Miss Clarke." Helga's voice came from the Entrance Hall, unseen but most definitely heard. "I am afraid I must drag you away."
Godric saw her flush and nod quickly. "It seems I must go inside." She eyed him once more. "I shall see you at dinner I am sure."
"Yes." Godric said, watching her walk inside. "I am sure."
Salazar had knocked on Godric's door and called him to dinner a short while ago but Godric had still not left. Evening had fallen and the sky was clear, leaving the late summer air still and warm. But Godric still paced in front of the fire, cursing its sticky heat yet not moving away from it. He finished his third goblet of mead before placing it roughly on the table. He sighed and pulled on a brown leather waistcoat over his white shirt. He re-laced his boots, then pulled at the knots in the ends of his hair. He wiped the mud off the toes of his boots. He briefly considered changing them before shaking himself. He was just stalling and he knew it.
He gave in eventually, leaving the safety of his chambers and striding through the corridors to the Great Hall. He opened the doors as quietly as he could, not wanting to draw any attention to himself. He took the last remaining seat next to Helga and found himself sitting opposite Miss Clarke. He nodded to her and she gave him a small, almost private smile over her goblet. He gave everyone a quiet apology for his lateness and poured himself some wine.
"Now Professor Gryffindor has finally arrived," Rowena said, giving him a stern but affectionate look. "We can begin."
Dinner was as delicious and as plentiful as ever but Godric found his plate lacking in food. His feet kept colliding with Miss Clarke's beneath the table and they would both apologise with a smile. Godric felt on edge and nervous - an emotion not familiar to him - but he was surprised to realise that it wasn't completely unpleasant. Dinner felt like it lasted for eternity and Godric was relieved when Helga called for attention and everyone stopped talking to listen to her.
"I thank you all for accepting our offers." Helga was smiling at the five younger witches and wizards sat opposite them. "You will be helping my fellow professors and I in aiding us teach our ever-growing collection of students and in return, we hope to offer you an excellent profession and a warm, welcoming home. I trust you have all unpacked your things into your new chambers and have settled in but if there are any problems you wish to discuss, please do not hesitant to raise them with us."
Godric drained his goblet and made to pour himself another. He caught Salazar sending him a sharp look, one he recognised as a warning. As a result, Godric only filled it half way and sat back, out of his friend's eye line. Helga began addressing each witch or wizard in turn and relaying what they would be doing and who they would be working with. A man, only a handful of years younger than Godric, was to be working with Salazar as he was a keen researcher into Runes. Then a much younger man - one that could still perhaps be classed as a boy - was to work with Rowena on Arithmancy and the next man - equally as young - would be aiding Hankerton Humble with the upkeep of the castle. Next Helga came to her own assistant: Miss Kenneth was to assist her in Herbology. Godric knew what that meant and he was unsure if he was glad or not.
"Miss Clarke, you will be working with Professor Gryffindor and aiding him with his teachings of Magical Creatures. I believe this was your highest mark when you studied here," She nodded. "And I have no doubt that you will work very well together." Helga sat back down, and was Godric imagining it or was there a slight smirk on her face?
The evening descended into light-hearted chatter and Godric found himself more able to relax as Miss Clarke talked with her friend; it also allowed him to steal a few glances at her. First, he marvelled at the very fact that she was here. Then he marvelled at how well she looked, her cheeks tinged with light pink as she laughed and her hair shone in the candlelight.
Once the dinner was over and Sarah Clarke and her fellows all carried themselves to bed, Godric managed to corner Helga by volunteering to escort her back to her chambers. At first, she had been pleasantly surprised but as they began walking, she realised his true intentions.
"What was your reasoning for hiring Miss Clarke?" He demanded in a hushed tone in case there was anyone nearby to hear them.
Helga badly feigned ignorance. "I do not know what you speak of Godric. We required someone to aid you in your teaching and when I happened upon Miss Kenneth, she spoke of her contact with Miss Clarke and she appeared as the obvious appointment."
He shook his head. "No, no, Helga. Do not pretend with me! You said earlier than you knew what I had been troubled about and implied that these appointments would solve said problems."
It took her a moment to think of a response. "Well...I assumed that you were troubled as your workload was making you weary."
He snorted. "That is nonsense and you know it." They came to a halt outside her chambers. "And you said that you had warned me about it previously."
Even Helga, with all her innocent guile, could not summon up a response to that. Her mouth opened and closed but nothing came out. Godric crowed with triumph.
"You see, Helga? You cannot fool me! You had a motive."
She rolled her eyes. "Oh, of course I did. But can you blame me? I knew you were unhappy and it does not take a scholar to see that your misery began the summer Miss Clarke left the school. So I had a suspicion that if I brought her back with the rest of us, your mood would improve. And I am sure - once you have calmed down - it will."
Godric sighed. "But you were always so disapproving of our...friendship."
Helga raised an eyebrow. "Be that as it may, I do not wish to see you miserable. And circumstance has changed now, has it not?"
Godric had little sleep that night. The moon seemed to shine too brightly, the blankets felt too hot and his thick hair made his scalp itch. Once dawn threatened the horizon, he rose after a few light sleeps. He left the fire unlit, the summer morning more than enough to keep him comfortable. He ate a little in his chambers before deciding to dress for a day working the lawns and forest when a knock came at his door.
"Come!" He called as he hurriedly pulled on his shirt and tucked it into his brown breeches.
Miss Clarke was edging around the door, a smile of trepidation of her face. He brightened when he saw her.
"A fine morning it is." He said, pulling on his waistcoat and tucking his wand into his belt. "What can I do for you, Miss Clarke?"
"Professor Hufflepuff told me I should see you about what you would like me to help you with."
"Did she?" He wasn't surprised; now Helga had the two of them in one place, it seemed she would do everything she could to push them together. "I am actually working outside today." Her face fell a little and he continued quickly. "But you are very welcome to accompany me."
"Shall I change into something more suitable?" She looked down at her purple dress.
He smiled. "Yes, I think that may be best. I shall meet you in the Entrance Hall."
Once she had changed into clothes not dissimilar to his, they began work and Godric was pleased that conversation flowed between them as it had when she had been a student. They discussed where she had been living since she had left, that she had been working behind the bar of her aunt's inn and not overly enjoying herself. He told her of how busy the school was getting, how much there was to be done to the forest and what he planned to teach her in order for her to take a class.
By the time night fell, Godric was sure he had destroyed her.
They trudged inside, having missed supper, and her hair was wild, there was mud on her face and her shirt collar was loose. But she was beaming.
"My apologies, Miss Clarke. My intention was not to keeping you working this late. Nor for us to miss our supper."
She grinned. "I confess, I am surprised at that. I did not think you were physically capable of missing a meal."
He laughed and pulled the Entrance Hall door open, holding it open for her. She stepped inside and he followed.
"Shall I walk you to your chambers?"
She looked startled by the question and he wondered if he was coming across lecherous. Godric Gryffindor did not do lecherous. But she nodded and walked with her side by side up the marble staircase, to the third floor and along the corridor. Their conversation continued but he noticed that each of their sentences were shorter and wavering.
She stopped outside of her door. "Goodnight, Professor."
"Well, goodnight then, Godric."
She waited and Godric wondered if he'd forgotten something important. But then she just smiled and walked into her room, closing the door behind her. Godric stared at the dark oak, realising a perfect opportunity had just slipped through his fingers.
The weeks rolled on and Godric found himself a curious mixture of relief and nerves.
The evening before the students returned to the castle, Rowena called them to their staff room. Godric was actually rather excited. It had been quite a while since they had sat and talked, just the four of them. He made his way down the corridor and grinned as he saw Salazar marching towards him from the other direction, his usual half-frown on his face.
"Why so grim, Salazar?"
Salazar rolled his eyes. "You tell me that is just my nature, Godric."
Godric laughed and clapped his friend on the back. "Indeed I do. I have come to regard your scowl as a good omen."
"Well, I would rather have this 'scowl' than be constantly grinning like a village idiot." Salazar said, a glint of amusement in his eyes.
Godric opened the staff room door."Like me?"
They stepped inside and Godric immediately felt his mouth water.
Helga was laying out trays of food; warming stews, meat pies and sickly desserts. Godric's excitement levels rose even higher.
"This is a lot of food for the four of us, Helga." Salazar said, coming to stand beside her. But despite his words, Godric noted that even he sounded impressed.
"It is. But I thought whatever we do not want, Godric will mostly liking take off our hands."
"Hear, hear!" Godric said, picking up a plate and placing three bulging pies on it.
They sat together and ate and drank and laughed. As the night set in, Godric settled in his chair by the fire and smiled contently, his belly was full and the company was fantastic. He watched, amused as Rowena and Salazar began a heated debate about the merits of potion brewing under the stars versus in a dungeon.
Helga shifted her chair a little closer to Godric.
"What?" She asked, looking alarmed.
"I do not like it when you do that, Helga. I feel as though I am one of your students and I have just done something awfully wrong."
"Oh, nonsense Godric. You are dramatic."
There was a pause in which they were both distracted by Rowena huffing loudly and shrieking, rather out of character for her, "Oh, Salazar you are impossible!"
Helga's shoulders started to shake with laughter and Godric joined in as they watched Salazar splutter and counter with, "Honestly, Rowena! The fault does not lie with me! You are blind to the truth!"
"Oh, goodness." Helga muttered, turning back to Godric. "I fear we will be brought into this soon. But what I really wanted to ask was..."
Oh, here we go.
"...how are things with Miss Clarke? I trust she has settled in well?"
Godric eyed her suspiciously. "Very well. Is there a reason you are asking me and not her? I am sure Sarah would - "
"Oh!" Helga raised her eyebrows. "Sarah now, is it?"
Godric felt his cheeks getting warm. "It is only her name, Helga."
Helga just smiled and looked rather smug. "All I am saying is...do not wait too long, Godric. When you finally wake up, you might find yourself alone."
Godric opened his mouth and then closed it again. He wasn't sure how to respond to something as unexpected as that. Thankfully, the moment was broken because Salazar groaned suddenly, stretching out his legs and sinking back into his chair. His disagreement with Rowena was apparently over.
"Oh, I do not think I am ready for the students' arrival tomorrow. These summer days have left me far too relaxed and soft around my middle."
"Not as soft as Godric's, I am sure." Rowena murmured, pouring herself more wine.
They all laughed and Godric snorted into his goblet.
"That may be true." Salazar conceded. "But I still do not feel ready to deal with all those children. They are so...demanding."
"Well, if you will pick the spoilt brats, Salazar..." Godric trailed off, smirking.
"Hmm." Was Salazar's tight-lipped response.
Time to go.
Godric stood and stretched his arms above his head, yawning widely. "I have had a tremendous evening. Thank you for the food Helga. My stomach may not even rumble until breakfast."
"Quite the feat indeed." Salazar quipped, the tension gone.
"Are you going straight to bed, Godric?" Helga asked.
Godric frowned. What a ludicrous question. "Yes. I should think so."
"Oh. Very well. Goodnight then." Helga smiled, acting innocent and Godric stared for a moment before bidding the others goodnight and stepping out into the dark corridor. He couldn't quite decide where he was going.
Sarah squinted at the book Godric had loaned her just that morning. The final word on the page was smudged beyond recognition and she had no doubt that it was Godric's fault; a faint wine stain surrounded the inky smudge. She smiled and ran her fingers over it.
A repetitive thudding at the door made her jump. She slipped out of bed and pulled a dressing gown around her, tying it around her waist. She reached the door and pulled it open, unsure if she was surprised or not to see Godric stood there. She wrapped her dressing gown around herself a little tighter, feeling herself blushing.
"Good evening. This is...an unusual time for a visit."
He visibly winced. "Is it, isn't ? Perhaps I should go - "
"No!" Sarah seized his arm and then remembered herself and let him go. "I only meant that you are here now. And you obviously came here for a reason."
"Did I?" Then he cleared his throat and stepped inside. "Yes, I suppose I did." Sarah watched, nonplussed, as he circled her small desk. "So...you are settling in well?"
"I am. But you know that. I have spent most days working with you."
He shook his head. "Ah, yes, yes. Of course."
She crossed her arms. "Why have you come here? Really? I doubt it was to make idle conversation."
"No." His face suddenly looked grim and dread settled in her stomach. Was he going to fire her? Did they not have room for her anymore? Was she not good enough to teach? "I have come to...confess my feelings."
Sarah wasn't sure what made her laugh - her relief or his sorrowful expression - but laugh she did. In fact, she laughed so much she snorted and spluttered. Through her watering eyes, she saw him frowning.
"I fail to see what is so amusing. If you do not feel the same, then you could be polite and tell me honestly. There is no need for laughter - "
"I am sorry." She wiped her eyes. "Truly, I am. I thought...I thought you were going to send me away."
"Send you away?" His frown lifted slightly. "I could not."
"Well, I am glad. For I have no intention of going anywhere." She stepped forward, hugging herself. He smiled at last and stretched a hand out to her. She took it and he pulled her close.
"Oh, thank the gods." He kissed her head and she smiled, breathing the smell of earth and wine. "Helga might stop badgering me now."
Sarah pulled away enough to look at him. She grinned. "Is that why the symbol of her house is badger, do you think?"
He laughed so fully it rumbled through her, making her feel warm and content as though she was sitting by the fire in mid-winter.
"Perhaps. I shall put it to her in the morning." He shifted. "So...you do feel the same way?"
Sarah played with the ends of his hair. "You have not told me how you feel so I cannot answer you honestly. But if our current position is anything to go by," he tightened his grip on her waist. "Then yes, I do."
He beamed and kissed her.
When Godric returned to his own chambers a short while later, he slept well. He dreamt of golden hair, a pink smile and - somewhere in the darkness behind her, emerging from stone - a pair of glowing eyes.
And it's done! If you could leave review, I would be oh so grateful! :)