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Title: Between Here and Now and Forever
Fandom: Harry Potter
Characters: The Founders, various OCs
Rating: PG-13
Summary: ...and everything was going so well, too.
Author's Note: I'm posting this chapter early because tomorrow through Saturday I'll be internetless for a while visiting family for Thanksgiving. To all my readers in the US, happy Thanksgiving! To all my readers elsewhere, have an excellent week.

Chapter 1
Master Founders Post
Chapter 27

Whatever muscles Clio had pulled in her fall from Barbara's saddle were healed now, and though she was left with some rather nasty-looking scars from where the reins had dug into her arm and hand, Healer Kewesh's treatment had mended the flesh quickly.

She was currently drowsing, listening to Leander read her some old poem about some long-dead Roman. He'd suggested poems, and she'd said "Not unless they're about hot men," and frankly, Clio was feeling a little cheated on the hot men count, only what was she complaining about, really? Leander's hair was artfully messy, and he was wandering around half-naked again, as well he should be, and really, what more could a girl ask for? And he had a nice voice.

Besides which, Clio didn't have the attention span or energy for anything more active. Her mind kept returning to what the Council was thinking and what Alfhild and Jan Perkinson were doing now to catch poor Godric and the irresponsible idiots he'd fallen in with. What if this? she wondered, then But oh, what if that? and she couldn't see a solution that she wanted to bring about. When she failed, Lady Aeaeae always had her doing political murders as punishment -- framing troublesome noblewomen for their children's deaths, that sort of thing.

But if her Aurae managed to capture Godric... she recoiled at the thought. Either she'd have to kill him or they'd have someone else do it and they'd bugger it up, and--

The mental image that produced -- of some arsehole trying to saw through Godric's neck with a sword -- made her twitch, and Leander faltered in his reading. "Something wrong?" he asked. "My tutors always did say my pronunciation was awful."

Clio shook her head. "I'm fine. ...It's fine. I don't know a bloody thing about poetry, you know that," she said.

He must've caught the bitterness in her voice, because he put the book down and sat on the bed next to her. "Catullus isn't bothering you that much. Something's wrong."

"Well, maybe you can ask Catullus," snapped Clio. She was ready to have an argument whether he liked it or not.

"Clio. I know you want to be out catching terrible people," said Leander, "but I'm afraid I can't help with that, so there's no use taking it out on me."

"I wasn't taking it out on --" Clio stopped. "All right, so I was. Damn it! I need a change of scenery, that's all. Argh!" Losing her temper at someone who couldn't defend himself. She was just the exemplar of an Aura Aurelia, wasn't she? "Look, the thing is --" She hesitated, then decided, to hell with it, she would just spit it out and it would be out and then she could pretend she'd never said it. "The thing is I hate my job and I can't just -- leave it, I'm not allowed, my job's my life and when it's not dull it's awful, and I don't even remember how it ended up like this because I used to live for it, I used to want this! But now she's got me hunting Godric because it's funny, and someone's going to kill him and if it's not me he'll die horribly, but if it's me, I have to -- I have to --" She blinked, and tears ran down her cheeks. "Fuck," she snarled, suddenly full of desperate boiling rage and despair together.

Usually when she got into this sort of mood, she went out and found somebody who needed killing or had Goronwy whip up a batch of Inferi, but she was stuck here with Leander, who was looking at her as though she might grow claws. He hesitated before speaking again. "...I admit, I'm a little out of my depth."

"It's fine, I'm just being stupid about some bloke," she said, digging the tears out of her eyes with the heels of her hands. That hurt to admit, actually. She wished very much that she could throw herself at something in a blind rage, but Leander certainly didn't deserve that. "I spent a summer with him, years ago. He was so kind, and he went out of his way to help... well, more than a few people. And now he's important and Lady Aeaeae wants him out of the way and her stupid fucking daughter keeps throwing him in the path of danger because she's spoilt. And I know that I don't know him, not really, but he's..." She swallowed. "He's a good man," she said, her voice shaking a little. "I know that much. I don't want to have to kill him but if I don't --"

There was a knock at the door.

"Fuck," Clio muttered. She had enough time to wipe her eyes with her sleeve before the door opened and Goronwy rushed in.

"Clio! How's your arm?" He shoved Leander off the bed to sit in his place and lean much too close. "Oh my god you almost died, you should have seen what you looked like when --"

"Would you get out of my face?" she snapped, pushing him back. "I'm fine. I did what I had to, and suddenly everyone's all concerned."

"You could have died! Are you mad? You sent Maelys away!" he said.

"I don't like Maelys. She was loud, and she was provoking me," said Clio.

"Like certain people I could name," said Leander, loudly, looking pointedly at Goronwy.

"Oh, piss off, Squib," snapped Goronwy. "Clio, we've got to get you out of here." He put his arm around her shoulder. "I know a nice inn where --"

"While your concern is touching," sighed Clio, "it is a little too much touching for me." She peeled his arm off her shoulder with some difficulty. "Would you like to make yourself actually useful for once?"

"You wound me!" said Goronwy.

Clio sighed. "Often. It never quite sinks in, does it?"

"Someday you'll wonder why you ever dumped me," he said, apparently completely serious.

"No," said Clio, sweetly. "Your endless badgering reminders are enough to bolster my fading memories of those years, alas. On to actual important things, though -- has anybody been captured?"

"No," said Goronwy, unhappily. "And moreover, Jan's been having problems with the Wyke coppers. They lost Basil Hufflepuff and they haven't found him again. We've sent our own men in, and we're having trouble too."

"Leave it to the locals," she said, rolling her eyes. "Where'd they lose him?"

"A whorehouse." Goronwy examined his surroundings. "Maybe he's there still! Are they all this comfortable?"

Leander was glaring at Goronwy as though he would've liked to slug him. Clio could sympathize. "This isn't a whorehouse, Goronwy, it's where Leander lives," she said. "We do know that Hufflepuff got there, though?"

"Yes," said Goronwy, "although he left Hogsmeade before the incident got out to the public. Obviously by now he knows something's up if he noticed and evaded his followers, but I don't think he came prepared. Presumably Slytherin knows something of what happened by now, but all the owls we've intercepted from his castle -- and there've been plenty -- have been addressed to allies in the Council."

Clio sat up. "What do the letters say?"

At this question, Goronwy's fists clenched and his face screwed up into a snarl. "They're completely bland! They must say something we can't read, something in code or maybe in the paper, but by God I can't find the messages. I took one for a whole day and did everything I could to work out how the message was hidden, and I couldn't find anything! So I just gave it back to the owl and sent it on its way. If he's planning something like this against Lady Aeaeae, we want him to act so she has the evidence to send him to Drear, so I'd rather he didn't realize we're on to ...whatever it is."

Goronwy was foolish about plenty, but it was his job to know everything for the Aurae -- if it was written down somewhere, he knew what it said, whether it was a banned necromancy text, a theorist's notes on the life cycle of the phoenix, or letters from treasonous nobles to their childhood friends. He knew all the ways to hide a message. If Slytherin had bested him, there was no telling what could happen.

Clio tried to put aside her worries that Slytherin was going to make a military move on Lady Aeaeae. He had enslaved several tribes of goblins in the last rebellion, she knew, and these might have been a fearsome fighting force in their prime, but that had been over a decade ago. Besides which, in all the monitoring the Aurae had done of Lord Slytherin's activities, he seemed to use the goblins as servants and spies, and had apparently never trained or drilled them for war, as any sensible commander would have done.

She was forgetting something, but she couldn't work out what. She didn't think Slytherin was stupid enough to lead an open revolt against Lady Aeaeae, though, so that was something, but if she couldn't even work out her opponent's intentions, she was going to lose this fight badly.

She sighed and shook her head. "You're going to have to look harder in his notes. See if there's anything you're missing. Freeze them, burn them, eat them and see if you piss in code, find the message. Is there any unusual activity in Hogsmeade? At Etxazarra? And you'd better find Hufflepuff, or the rest of them -- find somebody, for fuck's sake, and keep the idiot locals from interfering. You can't find any of them?"

Goronwy glared at her. "I didn't say we couldn't, I said we hadn't. We're still looking. We think Sindri the Maker and his horrible daughter are with them."

Clio rolled her eyes. "You shouldn't have proposed to her. You scared her off and turned her treasonous. I'm blaming you personally. So basically you're looking for four blonds, Lady Rowena -- who's easy to pick out of a crowd on account of being tall, foreign-looking, and bitchy -- and ...Godric. And you can't find them."

She had watched Goronwy 's face get more and more indignant, until finally he exploded. "They're probably glamouring their hair!"

She burst out laughing, despite the situation. "I don't think Godric would look good blond," she said. "He doesn't have the complexion for it."

"What do you even see in that..." Goronwy trailed off, apparently lost for words in attempting to describe Godric and everything that was wrong with him. "I don't believe he's even human."

"That's not any of your business," said Clio. "Nor, really, is it mine at the moment. We have to find him; that's our job."

"Find him and kill him?" Goronwy asked.

"I serve the Chief, and the Council, and the people it governs. In that order, unfortunately," said Clio. "If she wants him dead, I'll kill him myself. It's faster that way."

"I'm sure he's very grateful," said Goronwy, rolling his eyes. "You know, you wouldn't have these problems if you only went for law-abiding citizens," he said, as though he was the perfect specimen of that category.

"What can I say, I go for the bad boys," she said drily. This had never actually been true; bad boys often went for her, and she found them conveniently fuckable, but ultimately very dull. "At any rate, my romantic life is not really the point of this meeting, though I know you wish things were otherwise. Keep an eye on Hogsmeade, especially that forest -- Hufflepuff probably knows it well, as he goes there every full moon, and his wife may be able to make use of the vegetation. Also keep someone watching the roads. I think an aerial patrol would make the most sense, considering our limited numbers. Hogsmeade has a small Aurae Cuprorum; they'll be loyal to Slytherin, but they're amateurs and we can use that against them. See how loyal; if he's too cooperative in lending you their aid, reject it and bring in... somebody else."

"Hunters' Guild?" Goronwy asked.

Clio grimaced. "God, I wouldn't trust those bastards further than I could throw them, and I haven't even picked up a sword for days. But if you must, I suppose -- just don't go hiring them from London, London's Guild is the worst. Go to Edinburgh."

"What, because London's Guild is full of Muggleborns?" he asked pointedly.

She glared at him. "You know that's not the only reason I dislike them."

He rolled his eyes. "Just because they didn't let you into their --"

"They sent men to kill me," said Clio. "Once a week! Do you know how distracting it is to have to hunt down and kill somebody for personal reasons when you've already got a day job hunting down and killing somebody else? I had no time to myself! It was all kill, kill, kill. And I was meant to be learning to read and write in my copious spare time."

"Well, maybe if you weren't so acerbic all of the time --"

"Goronwy, shut the fuck up and get out of my room," snapped Clio.

"Technically it's my room," said Leander.

Clio beamed at him. "Thank you! Goronwy, shut the fuck up and get out of Leander's room," she said sweetly.

"Go on," said Leander. "You've got your orders."

Goronwy drew himself up to his full, not terribly impressive height, and looked up at Leander. "I don't take orders from you, Squib." Then he turned to Clio. "And there you go, being acerbic again." He turned and sauntered out, nose in the air.

"Tell me again why you two broke up?" Leander said, his nose wrinkled as though he was trying to ignore a very nasty smell in the air. "He's just so charming!"

"Well, this one time we were having a perfectly good argument about how he couldn't expect special treatment at work just because he was sleeping with me, and then he threw a punch at me," said Clio, insulted. "I mean, did he really expect it to connect? Anyway, it took him six weeks to recover fully and I decided it was a bad idea to go through all that again, although I was terribly weepy and apologetic about it at the time." She frowned down at the blankets, feeling silly for admitting this. "Young and stupid, I suppose. Some people have no business being leaders."

She felt Leander sit next to her -- a comforting warmth. "And some people learn on the job, right?"

She looked at him, and blushed, because fuck, he was handsome, and it was always a little startling to her when she noticed that sort of thing, even though it was part of his job. And so was sounding sincere. And he smelled nice. Still, however much he really meant it, it felt nice, and that was really what she paid him for, wasn't it? "I suppose so, yes," she said, still not really happy. She thought of Godric, who had been flattering even under Veritaserum. But he hardly knew her. Maybe he was just swept up in the romance of impossible love.

"I know that look," Leander said. He put one arm around her, resting his hand on her shoulder casually, as if he comforted her about this sort of thing every day. "Are you going to keep worrying about what's bothering you even though you know you can't do anything about it?"

"...Probably," said Clio, giving him a wary look. She didn't like being talked out of things, but... well, maybe Godric would get out of this somehow. He was a genius, so she supposed he might be clever enough, if not necessarily very sensible. She really wished she could stop thinking about Godric when she was with Leander. Though neither had made any demands upon her loyalty, it did make her feel like she was being disloyal to both of them. It had been far too long since she'd had a real romantic relationship, she decided. Maybe she should try flirting with men who weren't just looking for a one-night stand, but most of them found her intimidating, and given that she wasn't a virgin, the ones who weren't intimidated were usually disgusted. Besides, she liked sex. "You could distract me, though," she told Leander. "If you like."

"I'd be up for that," he said. He slid his hand down the neck of her tunic, and when he kissed her neck, she leaned into him, grateful for the solid realness of his touch. There was, she had to admit, something to be said for the simpler pleasures in life.

* * *

That evening, they stayed in the boat, although it was already starting to fall apart. Godric wished he'd been able to do something more, but everyone else insisted that he rest and not worry about it, because they'd be off the boat by tomorrow. They would disguise him as a statue of somebody important with Petrificus Totalus and some grey goop Helga had picked up in the market that afternoon to make him look like stone. "You'll be ugly, but that's just proper civic art," Rowena reassured him. He was not especially convinced.

They'd agreed that the Aurae would probably be watching Hogsmeade and the castle very carefully, so Rowena, inspired by Lord de Malfoie's army, had suggested bypassing the usual roads and getting to the castle via the lake. She had had a worrying glimmer in her eye as she suggested this, but nobody seemed to notice it but Godric, who had decided Rowena deserved to get herself into more trouble after that civic art remark. Besides, Basil would stop her if she did anything stupid. Basil was sane, which Rowena had always seemed to resent him for.

At any rate, after the planning was done, Basil and Helga had made some very hurried excuses about being exhausted and gone off in a giggly, very energetic way to the guest bedroom which adjoined the Council Chief's. Godric really hoped they remembered the Soundproofing Charms.

Sindri frowned after them. "That boy -- her husband -- what is he like?"

"He's very nice," said Rowena, which surprised Godric slightly.

"Er, yeah, Basil's great," said Godric.

Ari rolled his eyes. "Hufflepuff is a passable duelist."

"And his family?" Sindri asked. "What sort of a name is 'Hufflepuff,' anyway?"

"I did always wonder," Ari said, frowning. "Did he really make it up himself?"

"Ari," said Rowena, warningly. "I don't really think that's any of your business," she told Sindri.

"She is my daughter. I should know these things."

"He seems all right to me," said Grimhildr.

"Quiet, Grimhildr," he told her.

"Well, er, he's from London," said Godric. "And he used to be a hunter."

"Why is he not a hunter any longer?" Sindri asked pointedly.

Rowena and Godric exchanged a look over his head. "Helga thought it was too dangerous," said Rowena. This was the story they tended to tell concerned parents who'd heard that Basil was a werewolf. Actually, he and Rowena had developed a pretty good routine for this situation, which Godric launched into now.

"It is rather dangerous," he said. "Also, didn't something happen with the London Hunters' Guild? Those people are awful," said Godric.

"They are," said Rowena. "It's sort of an open secret that they're a bunch of corrupt old blowhards, but, well, they spread this awful rumor about Basil," she said, "and of course nobody would hire him after that."

"What did they say about him?" Grimhildr asked, wide-eyed.

"I think they said he was a werewolf," said Godric, in a practiced tone of disbelief. Ari raised an eyebrow at him.

"Oh! But he seems nice!" Grimhildr said. "And he is a good duelist?"

"He's not that nice," muttered Rowena. Ari snorted. "But he is a good duelist," she said grudgingly.

"I had heard those rumors, yes," said Sindri. "You understand my concern."

"Certainly," said Godric, resisting the urge to roll his eyes. Parents of children he could understand, and he felt bad implicitly lying to them, but Sindri -- well, his daughter was a grown woman, and he was hardly a parent. Still, best to keep the peace.

Rowena apparently couldn't resist speaking up, though. "You know, even if the rumors were true," she said, "I really don't see how it's any of your business."

"I'm her father," said Sindri insistently, as if this meant anything.

"And I'm her best friend," said Rowena. "I grew up with her, I lived with her off and on since we were kids, and you know what, I don't remember meeting you until now, so your concern is a little bit unexpected and, I suspect, completely unwelcome."

Sindri glared at her. "Well, you are very rude."

"You know, people keep telling me that," said Rowena, sitting back in her chair. "Maybe someday I'll give a fuck."

"I think what Rowena and I are trying to say is... go away," said Godric.

"See?" said Rowena, gesturing up at him. "And Godric's so polite I have to make up for him."

"Well, in that case," said Sindri, coldly. He stood to leave. "Come along, Grimhildr."

"I want to stay and talk," said Grimhildr, quite cheerfully. Sindri glared at Godric and Rowena, and left. She leaned forward. "So where is the best place for us to go?" she asked them. "After we get out of here, I mean."

"Well, that depends on what you want to do," said Rowena.

"I want to see the world," said Grimhildr.

Ari looked at her. "Really? You?"

"I've never been," she said.

"It just seems so impractical coming from you," said Ari. "But I can see the appeal."

Grimhildr and Ari proceeded to pump Godric and Rowena for information about the world south of the North Sea for an hour or so, making plans and getting on despite themselves. Ari seemed most excited about going to Rome, which he apparently considered the center of the world. "It's a Christian city," Rowena had warned him.

"It is also a pagan one," he'd pointed out. "The Roman pagans are infamous god-stealers, are they not?"

Rowena wrinkled her nose. "Gods, sometimes I run into those people and want to tell them the real names of their gods. Also, Ares or Mars or whatever you want to call him is not deserving of such widespread adoration. I mean, he's only a god."

"You know, for all that you find Christian theology weird and narrow-minded, you lot don't really practice what you preach," said Godric.

"Well, you only have one god," said Rowena, "it's different, you should all be able to agree."

"Oh, you're one of those?" Grimhildr asked, staring at Godric, as though she'd only just realized how monstrous he truly was.

He laughed. "Sort of. Haven't been to church in years, I sort of -- got told off last time. Helga's much more religious than me, though," he pointed out.

"You? What did you get told off for?" Rowena asked. "You're completely harmless."

"I, er." He went slightly pink. "Well, I had sort of a disagreement about Latin pronunciation with the priest, who, as it turned out didn't actually know Latin and had just memorized it, and also, this was a Muggle church, and on top of being a known wizard, I had already outgrown normal doorways, so one thing sort of led to another. I really should learn when to shut up," said Godric.

"Well, you could go to church with Helga and Basil, apparently their church is all right with being a known wizard," Rowena pointed out.

"But it's a heretical cult," said Godric. "I don't want to be part of some weird fringe group. I mean, you join one of those and five years later you find yourself giving up all your possessions and having lots of... lots of... immoral relations." He blushed.

Rowena and Ari exchanged a long, disbelieving look before collapsing in laughter. Grimhildr looked at them, rolled her eyes, then asked Godric, "Do you really think Helga is in such danger?" Her eyes were wide and horrified.

"No, I suppose not," said Godric, ignoring the other two idiots. "She's pretty sensible, Helga. Well, unless you get her worked up."

"Immoral relations!" exclaimed Rowena, wiping tears from her eyes.

"Are they accepting new members?" Ari asked.

At this, Rowena burst into a fresh bout of giggling. "New members!"

"You two are completely filthy-minded," said Godric, annoyed that they had taken what he thought was a legitimate point and made it into a Godric is an Idiot moment. He was also blushing much worse now. He put his face in his hands.

"Well, it would be nice to have a chance at some immoral relations, having inadvertently given up all my possessions in advance," said Ari, sighing. "Aside from that, this heretical cult sounds terribly tame."

"Clearly you need to join up," said Rowena. "And Godric, this could be your one chance! I mean, you could do so much better than that Sheffield woman. All you have to do is go to church!"

"Rowena, really, would you stop it?" Godric snapped. He was not going to go to church just because he wanted sex. It seemed counterproductive.

"Or you could just get together with Ari," she suggested.

Godric blinked. "Well, no, because he doesn't fancy me, and I prefer women," he said. He wondered why Ari wasn't also strenuously objecting, and then he saw that Ari had gone a very vivid shade of red and was staring at the stains in the wood of the table they were sitting around. "...Rowena," he said, realizing what was going on, "have you been making ...strange assumptions about me because of your ridiculous grudge against Clio?"

Rowena glared. "Well she does dress like a man. And she's all aggressive!" she said, making a sort of punching gesture. Godric did not know how this had anything to do with anything, especially since Rowena picked more fights than anyone else he had ever met. "I couldn't help but wonder. And you," she said, turning to Ari and frowning. "You told me you thought Godric had amazing--"

"I, um, I think I should go now," said Ari, not even bothering to make up an excuse. He got up from the table and left rather quickly.

"I think I missed something fairly major in that talk we had about arranged marriages and responsibility," said Godric, frowning. Now he just felt bad.

"You had better not be upset with Ari," snapped Rowena. "Just because he fancies you --"

"I'm not upset with him," said Godric. "I just feel stupid, is all. I hope he meets somebody nice in Rome with amazing whatever, and I hope the rest of his friends aren't as horribly embarrassing as you or as completely dense as me."

Rowena looked uneasy, as though she was considering admitting that she had been wrong. "Well, Grimhildr's not embarrassing or dense?" she said hopefully.

"Nor am I his friend," said Grimhildr, apparently amused by this entire conversation.

Godric didn't think that was a very nice thing to say, and from the expression on Rowena's face, she agreed. Grimhildr shrank in her seat a little bit, then said, "But I should be certain that he's all right," and, presumably, went off to find him.

When she was gone, Rowena turned on Godric. "I can't believe you just told him you weren't interested," she said.

"Well, I wasn't," he said. "What, was I supposed to lie? It's not as though I find him personally repulsive, he's just, you know... not the sort of person I go for," said Godric. Sadly, the sort of person he seemed to go for was, broadly, in the category of Bellicose and Unavailable Women, but that was his problem.

"Hmph," said Rowena. She seemed to be taking this all very personally, as though he was rejecting her. "Well, I talked to Helga about your wild accusations," she said, grumpily.

"And?" he asked.

"They were wild accusations, and totally unfounded," she said. "So, you know, you're wrong."

"Helga said I was lying?" Godric asked. That seemed unlikely. He couldn't imagine Helga committing such blatant untruths to Rowena's face. He could see her leaving things out of her explanation, though.

"Well, she said you'd remembered it wrong, and... and you... well." Rowena frowned. "She said my mum tried to bargain with her, and..." Rowena hesitated.

"Yes?" Godric asked.

"Well, I think she might've been sort of fudging it," said Rowena. She sighed. Then she took a breath and said "Godric, I have to tell you something, but don't be angry, all right, because it wasn't my idea and I think Helga didn't mean it, not really, and she was only thinking of getting home safely and --"

"Rowena, this sounds like an elaborate homework excuse from a particularly unpromising first-year," said Godric. "Get on with it."

"That night when you wandered out and I said I was sleepwalking and Helga saved me? Well, I wasn't, it was Sheffield, she snuck back here and tried to kill us, only Helga killed her first," blurted Rowena.

"...What?" Godric asked.

Rowena cringed. "I mean, but she's not like that, Godric, she's the best person I know, she doesn't go around killing people, she's my best friend, I just, I, it was a one-time thing, you know?"

"What do you mean, a one-time thing?" demanded Godric. "It's not like Clio's dead once, she stays dead forever. It's a forever thing." He could feel a horrible deep dark hole opening up in himself somewhere. Clio couldn't be dead. Clio survived everything. Clio was a point of light in an otherwise hostile world; she was simply not allowed to die.

"Well, I mean, you can kill somebody once and not be a horrible person," said Rowena, still speaking at breakneck speed. "I mean, I mean, like, this time, she had a reason, you know? Sheffield was going to kill us, and so.... I -- I mean, I know they stay dead forever, but --" She took a shaky breath. "It was just a mistake, people make mistakes, and, you know, she probably won't --"

"The two of you killed Clio," said Godric, trying to breathe evenly.

"It just happened! I didn't mean to!" said Rowena desperately. She stopped her endless chattering and put a hand over her mouth.

"See, this is just -- I can't -- you -- I can't even think properly," Godric snapped. "You know full well she killed Clio, you helped her, you didn't even tell me, you bloody well knew she was lying about betraying you, and now you're telling me she's the most brilliant wonderful person on the face of the Earth, because apparently killing people in cold blood is all right if you only do it once and your name happens to be Helga. Rowena, do you even think about the things you believe, or do you just act, and assume everything will resolve itself in your favor eventually?"

"You're not upset that it's murder. You're only upset because the person Helga killed is the woman you want to fuck," snapped Rowena.

At this point, something inside Godric snapped, and he remembered what the selkie barmaid had told him, about how Rowena couldn't stop asking about Helga. "And you're only defending Clio's murderer because she's the woman you want to fuck," he said.

Rowena stared at him in shock, then opened her mouth. "...I ...I ...what? Don't be ridiculous! I mean, that isn't even --"

"Oh come on, how stupid do you think I am?" Godric said. "You dislike Basil for no reason, you obsess over Helga, which, well, I don't know why she puts up with it, but you don't see anybody but her sometimes, you know? And you won't hear a word against her even when she was working for your mother."

"She never would!" Rowena insisted. "You don't even know what you're talking about. I thought you were better than this, Godric. You don't know anything about friends. I was just trying to spare you a nasty shock tomorrow when you find out --"

"I heard what I heard," said Godric, "and if Helga's calling me a liar --"

"She just said you misremembered!" Rowena insisted.

"Oh, right, because I'm a big stupid lout who can't remember his own name unless it's written on his clothes or whatever you said about me, is that right?" he demanded. "You just think I'm a useful idiot with no bloody clue, don't you? You can just tell me whatever you like and I'll go along with it because I'm just props to you, I'm just scenery, and you can make all kinds of jokes at my expense because I'm so nice and so stupid I won't even notice!" Godric shouted. "Well fine. Fuck you. Have a good night."

He stomped out, the powerful feeling of righteous anger soothing his misgivings about the truly nasty tirade he'd just gone on. It had all been deserved and everybody else could just go die horribly, because poor Clio already had.

* * *

The next morning, Helga dressed quietly, being careful not to wake Basil. He looked so comfortable that she thought it'd be a pity to disturb him. Besides, she had a lot to do and Basil could be terribly distracting. Anyway, she shouldn't need him for moral support, now that Godric and Rowena seemed to be getting on.

She yawned, rubbed her eyes, and opened the door of the bedroom. "Morning!" she said cheerfully to Godric, who appeared to be walking past, carrying several large wooden planks over his shoulder.

He glared at her. "What do you want now?" he demanded.

Helga was so surprised at this treatment that she closed the door. Then, realizing how it might look to Godric, she opened the door. "A good morning?" she hazarded.

"Well, you can forget about that," said Godric. "Look, you," he said, bending his face down to her level, "I know what I heard, and Rowena might believe whatever you say, but I'm actually capable of living without you, and, you know, I'm certain there's a perfectly good explanation for all of this, but accusing me of lying or just being stupid is not a substitute, and if you are spying for Lady Aeaeae we'll see what Lord Slytherin does with you. Whatever he does, you deserve it for murdering Clio."

"...But," Helga managed, before Godric shut the door in her face.

She opened it again. "She survived!" she insisted.

Godric glared at her. "I don't believe you." He slammed the door again.

She stood there for a moment, staring at the grain of the wood in the door.

"Wossat?" Basil mumbled.

"Nothing, Basil. Go back to sleep," she said.

He turned over. "Y'shd come back here," he said. "Nice an' warm. You're so pretty."

She grinned to herself. "You too, dear." Then she shook her head, and opened the door again. Everyone seemed to be working on some sort of large cart cannibalized from bits of the boat, which was low in the water and would probably not hold up for another night. She spotted Rowena charming wood into wheels. "Good morning," she said. "Anything I can do to help?"

"No," snapped Rowena, turning away from her. "Leave me alone."

"...er." Helga was taken aback. "Look, this morning Godric said --"

"Whatever he said was wrong!" snapped Rowena. "I told you to leave me alone."

"...all right," said Helga. She sighed. What on earth had happened to make everyone so unreasonable? "Look, I don't know what --"

"Good morning, all," said Basil from behind her. She smiled over her shoulder at him, not wanting to just walk away from Rowena. He was dressed but clearly still half-asleep, his hair a mess.

Nobody answered him, because Rowena had just done something to make Godric snap at her, or vice versa, and now they were in a full-blown vicious argument. Rowena had her wand out already, of course, and Godric, threatening to turn her into a lizard, drew his own wand. Helga took a few steps back.

Basil put his arms on Helga's shoulders and leaned forward to kiss her on the cheek. "Apparently I'm invisible," he whispered into her ear. "And I thought you said those two were getting along."

"They were," said Helga. She looked up at him. "I'd say it was business as usual, but Godric's upset with me and so is Rowena."

"Hm," said Basil. "Did you forget to pay tribute? I hear she takes modest sacrifices. Cats, small dogs, ugly children."

"Basil, that's not nice," said Helga. She leaned into him, trying to work out what she'd done that Rowena would hold it against her. Rowena held everything against other people, even if it was her fault. Now, Godric, she could see, but Rowena? It wasn't right.

"We could go back to bed," he said optimistically. "See if things improve."

She giggled. "Seems a little irresponsible. ...Basil, I'm so tired of being responsible right now."

"Shouldn't have become a teacher, then, hm?" he asked.

Sindri, of all people, inserted himself between Godric and Rowena, seeming to cow both of them into resuming their work, although when Rowena finished making the last of her wheels, she threw it at the back of Godric's head and stomped away. "Well?" she demanded, glaring at Helga and Basil. "Are you two just going to stand around being coupley or are you going to actually do something?" she demanded.

"Of course," said Helga, uncertain as to how to react. "What can we do?"

"Help Godric put wheels on the cart," said Rowena coldly. Then she hurried off, not even offering commentary on what a dreadful job Godric was doing.

"Well, she certainly told us," said Basil, rolling his eyes.

"Everything was going so well," said Helga, frowning.
'Nobody was getting on, it seemed, but eventually they did manage to get everything set up and get ashore. Rowena used cosmetic glamours on everyone else, sullenly, Godric submitted to being made to look like a statue and Petrified with minimal whining, Ari avoided everyone's eye as he asked if there was anything more he could do, and Sindri snapped at everyone for being incompetent while Grimhildr tried to shirk as much work as possible. Helga was glad to have Basil around while he was there, but he decided it would be best if he had a head start so he could distract and then ditch anyone that started following him again.

* * *

When the tarp was removed from Godric, and he was un-Petrified, he was in a terrible mood. Rowena had spent the day going out of her way to talk to passers-by about how unrealistically ugly the "statue" she was transporting was; how ugly its nose was, and how wretchedly its hair had come out, the blank expression of stupidity on its face, and why did it have to be so big and heavy? He hadn't been able to blink or put his arm down for the entire time, and so his eyes stung when he finally got to close them again.

He sat up and looked up at the too-familiar building. "Rowena," he said, "this is where we stayed before."

"...So?" Rowena asked, noncommittally.

"So they're going to recognize us," he snapped, rubbing his eyes. "And it'll probably be the first place the Aurae look for us."

"That's why I had Sindri and Grimhildr get the rooms," said Rowena, rolling her eyes. "Ari and Helga are taking the horses back."

"Is there a reason you're going to give them as to why you're lugging a statue up to the rooms?" Godric asked, raising an eyebrow. "Or were you just going to glamour me?"

"Well, your stupid selkie will be --"

"Oh, it's you!" said Adela, the stupid selkie in question. Godric winced. "The local coppers are looking for you, you know," she said. "Still, I thought I recognized that statue. Where's your herbologist?" she asked Rowena.

"She is not MY herbologist," snapped Rowena, in the most offended of tones.

"Helga will be back later," said Godric, to both of them. "Look on the bright side, though," he said, lowering his voice. "She's lying to everybody so she's probably lying to Basil too," he said.

Rowena glared. "Would you stop, I am not -- I'm --" She burst into tears.

"Uh-oh," said Adela.

Godric realized he was an idiot. He put one hand out to pat Rowena on the back, but instead she grabbed his sleeve and used it to dab at her tears. "Er, Rowena."

"-- can't believe it, why was I so stupid --"

"Rowena?" Godric asked again.

"-- lying all this time and she doesn't even like my --"

"Rowena," said Godric.

"What do you want?" she said through a face full of snot and tears and fake statue gunk.

"It's just, you're getting my statue stuff all over your face and everything and it looks very silly --"

Rowena started crying harder.

"I'll go get a hot bath started for her, shall I?" said the barmaid. "Nothing like a hot bath in times of crisis. And gunk." She fled.

"What if she hates me?" wailed Rowena.

Godric sighed. "Rowena, if Helga hated you she wouldn't bother lying to you, now, would she?"

"But she --"

"Because if she's lying to you, that means she cares what you think of her," said Godric. "...Or possibly that she's some sort of axe murderer and she doesn't want you to turn her in. But probably not!" he said. He was trying to be an optimist. It wasn't his strong suit.

"Oh gods, she thinks I would turn her in!" said Rowena, still sniffling.

Godric sighed. Rowena was so completely mad he was hardly even surprised anymore.

"But I wouldn't," said Rowena. "Oh no. No no no no no. I bet she and Ari are going to talk about how awful I am," she said. "I mean, I'm awful and everybody knows it. Oh gods. Do you think she knows? I bet she knows."

"...Knows what?" Godric asked, blankly. "That you're awful?" He felt a bit bad not reassuring her that she wasn't awful, but he couldn't quite bring himself to lie.

Rowena went red. "The, the. The. What you said last night," she said. She was shaking visibly.

"Oh," said Godric. To be honest he hadn't even really considered that it was likely. True, it'd made a strange sort of sense, and it'd only really occurred to him because of the barmaid's confusion in Wyke, but really, it'd just been the most hurtful thing he could think of at the moment. "...I -- well -- no," he told Rowena.

"Oh gods," whimpered Rowena. "I have this aunt who -- but she's married -- but she and her husband's sister -- and everyone calls her -- because they haven't got tails, see -- it's dreadful, really -- and she -- but anyway I don't -- I mean, I -- augh." She sat on the ground, looking an utter mess, and sniffled.

"If it makes you feel any better, I don't think what Helga's hiding is anything very bad," said Godric.

"Ngh," said Rowena.

"I mean, she's only Helga, right?" said Godric. "There's a reason you're ...friends with her." So Rowena was madly in love with Helga. It explained quite a lot, actually, but it was going to take some getting used to. Although Rowena didn't seem especially used to it either.

"Yeah," said Rowena, quietly. She sniffed. "I should apologize to her. She's probably not lying at all. You're just paranoid."

About half of his sympathy for Rowena vanished -- although for some reason not all of it -- and he sighed. "It's just all or nothing with you, isn't it, Rowena?"

"You've made me feel so much better," she said, hugging him. By now she was quite covered in white dust and goop. "Thank you."

"Anytime," he sighed.

Chapter 29

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December 2012


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