The autumn weather had seen fit to grant them a sunny day, and one warm enough that it felt like a glimpse of summer for all that it was halfway through October already. It was a good day for being out of doors and one that, come hell or high water, Helga was determined to take advantage of.
The previous day – to be true, each day since Helga had arrived at the inn nearly a week earlier- had been long. Each and every moment from breakfast to bed time had been spent in the inn’s small meeting room, dealing with all the minutiae involved in founding a school. Or, involved in agreeing to found a school, for Helga was not altogether certain that the school was going to manifest. The details were daunting in number and, as was always the case when four different minds came together for a common purpose, Helga and the others still struggled to reach an accord on some points. It made for tiring work but Helga hoped that the meetings would be worth it in the end. Even so, she was a firm believer that hard work must be balanced with proper relaxation, otherwise one’s mind and body would suffer for it, and she would not face another day cooped up without first indulging in the day’s beauty.
Slipping out of the inn without being waylaid was more easily said than done. When dear Rowena had introduced her to Slytherin and Gryffindor she had failed to mention both men’s predilection for early morning breakfasts; not a morning had passed since taking up residence in the inn that Helga had arrived for breakfast before either one, yet she was required to walk through the dining hall in order to leave the building. Even if she did manage to excuse herself from their company, the time spent doing so would be better spent enjoying what she could of the weather before work must be returned to. They did drone on so.
No, it would not do. Some cleverness was in order.
Muggles did not run the inn, but several muggle families occupied the town, and travellers of all ilk were wont to avail themselves of the innkeeper’s impeccable hospitality. Helga regretted not bringing the new cloak she had just recently hexed to invisibility; she knew better than to use magic recklessly with all the witch burning nonsense spreading across the country, and without knowing the lay of the land there was no way to apparate away from prying eyes and ears with any certainty. And of course, Slytherin had boasted of his well-practised sensitivity to disillusionment charms only the day before, so walking through the dining hall unseen was out of the question. Or had it been two days before? The meetings were beginning to blend together in Helga’s mind.
The only simple path Helga could see was to descend bodily through the window. Onlookers would be easy enough to espy and there was no view from the dining hall on that wall. The solution was perhaps a bit silly, but who let a little silliness prevent them from a job well done? Helga rolled up her sleeves, disillusioned herself with a quick flick of her wrist, and opened the window. She had never tried self-levitation, but the distance was a scant two storeys, so with a bit of wobbling she was soon cutting a leisurely stroll across the grass and towards the woods north of town.
It was not so much later, Helga was sure, when the sound of twigs snapping underfoot stole her attention away from the view of the crystal blue sky she had been admiring. Lifting her head from where she lay stretched out upon the ground, she removed the charm concealing her presence because, of all people, this intruder was the last she would ever hide from.
Emerging from the woods and into the small meadow was Rowena, out of place among the brambles but still a beauty to rival day.
“Ah, there you are,” exclaimed the other woman. “I was starting to think my charm was faulty. How on Earth did you squirrel yourself away so . . . thoroughly?” Rowena tugged her robe free where it had become ensnarled by thorns, extricating herself from the brush with marked inelegance. She had never been one to embrace nature in such close quarters.
Sitting up from her languid position, Helga laughed. “A faulty charm? You? I dare say I’ve never met someone less likely to cast a faulty charm. And certainly not a simple locating charm, of all possibilities!”
“You flatter me, Helga,” Rowena replied, but the nicety rang hollow and set Helga laughing again.
“I’m sure I did not,” she said. “But why were you locating me at all? Surely the men are still eating.”
Rowena, finally freed of the thorns, shook her head as she approached more closely. “At this hour? The morning is half gone, Helga. Gryffindor was worried you were ill.”
Helga sat up in a rush. “Oh, surely not!” she exclaimed, casting a quick timekeeping charm. A secret respite was one thing, but to delay the proceedings significantly was quite another. An apology was on her lips when the time was revealed to her, and she tsked instead.
“It is only just nine,” she said. “Do not worry me so.”
“Oh, only just nine,” repeated Rowena. She offered Helga a hand and helped her up from the grassy ground. “For all you extol the virtues of hard work I would have thought you eager to begin our meeting at the first opportunity. Up at dawn and work through dusk; is that not the Hufflepuff way?”
Helga huffed. “Must we drag up these disputes even here?” she asked, making a sweeping gesture to encompass the quaint beauty of the surrounding meadow. “Let us bicker about the school later, dear.”
That ‘dear’ and the soft smile that followed was enough to diffuse the tension between them, as Helga knew it would be. The tight look upon Rowena’s lovely face softened, but she yet still balked when Helga suggested they stay in the meadow a short time longer.
“Slytherin and Gryffindor are waiting,” Rowena said, arching her eyebrow. The gesture was known to intimidate even the staunchest of opponents but never, it seemed, Helga.
Taking on the demeanour of a lecturer, Helga cleared her throat and spoke. “It is only proper to pause from ones labours at regular intervals, and begin each task well rested.” She smiled again. “I had a mind to enjoy some natural wonders before another day in that tiny room.”
“Well,” Rowena conceded. “It really is quite small. I had a mind to cast an extension charm -”
Helga reached up with her right hand, cupped the other woman’s jaw in a gentle grip. “Let us worry about that later as well,” she suggested. Her thumb stroked across Rowena’s cheekbone softly, and then she kissed her. The thrill of such a thing never went away, no matter how many times Helga was allowed to touch her beautiful companion, no matter how small the moment.
Rowena returned the kiss briefly before pulling away. She smiled, and her voice was teasing. “Enjoy some natural wonders, I thought you said?”
“Oh, the day is beautiful, it is true,” Helga agreed. “The trees, the flowers, the clearness of the sky. But you are the wonder of wonders, my dear.”
With such sentiments it was no surprise when Rowena leaned back into Helga’s embrace. The day stretched out before them and the men could wait a little longer, just long enough for the sweet moment to pass. Then, suitably refreshed, the two women would set out to return to the inn. There was still work to be done, after all.