Those who knew that Kingsley Shacklebolt was planning to train as an Auror after leaving Hogwarts were always surprised to learn that he had chosen to pursue his studies in History of Magic to NEWT level. The subject had a reputation for being the most boring offered by Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and it was not required for acceptance into the Auror training programme. Kingsley did not care. He loved history for its own sake, and even dry, ghostly Professor Binns could not extinguish the spark of his interest.
Seventh year NEWT students were required to complete a research project detailing an achievement of one of the four founders of Hogwarts. Most students chose the founder of their own House, and Kingsley was no exception. His project focussed on Helga Hufflepuff's network of secret passageways leading in and out of the castle, which, according to historians, had been created to facilitate the movement of witches and wizards during a time when the Muggle world was especially hostile towards magic.
Since neither of Kingsley's classmates were Hufflepuffs, there was little opportunity for sharing information. Lorcan d'Eath was in Slytherin, and there was something about him that Kingsley found unsettling. Quirinus Quirrell was friendly enough, but he was busy studying Rowena Ravenclaw's changing floor plan of the school.
Bent over a thick book in the Hogwarts library, Kingsley found himself drawn into the world of the school's founders. Every now and then, he would encounter some fact or detail which might be useful for his project, and made note of it, but more often than not, he found himself sidetracked by anecdotes of Helga Hufflepuff's tolerance, good humour, and many rumoured love affairs.
She had been a woman ahead of her time. Not only was she the first of the founders to accept Muggleborn students without reservation; she had never discriminated on the grounds of race nor gender nor sexual orientation. Kingsley himself was a pure-blood wizard, but as a black, queer trans man, Hufflepuff's reputation for progressiveness was extremely relevant to his interests. It was said that Hufflepuff herself had never turned anyone away from her bed, regardless of gender, if they pleased her eye.
Quirrell glanced up from his own reading. "Care to share, Kings?"
Kingsley shook his head. "Nothing. Just thinking that Helga Hufflepuff must have been one hell of a woman."
"If you say so," said Quirrell sceptically, "but I'd wager she had nothing on Ravenclaw."
"I know Ravenclaw was supposed to be pretty," Kingsley shrugged, "but Hufflepuff was more broad-minded, in and out of the bedroom. That woman had appetites. I'd take that over a pretty face any day."
Quirrell smirked. "Think you'd have been in with a chance?"
Kingsley's smile was slow and easy as he leaned back in his chair, stretching his long legs out in front of him. "Maybe."
"I'd rather have had Ravenclaw, myself," said Quirrell. "You should see her, Kings; she was quality crumpet."
Kingsley frowned. "See her? What d'you mean, Q?"
"Oh." Quirrell looked surprised. "But I suppose you wouldn't know. There's a statue of her in the Ravenclaw common room. Don't you have one of Hufflepuff?"
Kingsley shook his head. "I don't think there's any contemporary representation of her still around. All the art I know of wasn't done until centuries after her time."
"I'll show you the Ravenclaw statue, if you like," Quirrell offered.
"Lead the way," said Kingsley, closing his book.
Quirrell led him up to Ravenclaw tower. At the entrance, Kingsley was amused to learn that students had to solve a riddle to gain entry. The common room was large and airy, hung with blue and bronze silks under a dome painted with constellations. Beside the door leading up to the dormitories stood a figure carved from white marble. Kingsley viewed the statue critically.
"She's pretty enough about the face," he allowed, "but she's too skinny for my tastes. No hips at all, and nothing to grab onto."
A couple of Ravenclaws seated nearby scowled at this uncomplimentary assessment of their founder. Quirrell looked as though he agreed with their sentiments. "She's slender," he objected. "Willowy."
Kingsley grinned. "So I prefer someone I can find in the dark. Skinny people always seem too fragile to me; I'd be afraid of breaking them in half. Give me Hufflepuff any day."
"But you don't even know what she looked like," Quirrell pointed out.
"You know what people say as well as I do," Kingsley shrugged. "No one has ever accused her of being 'willowy', have they?"
Quirrell scowled. "I suppose not."
The question of Helga Hufflepuff's appearance stayed with Kingsley as he continued his research. He found that he could not read about her exploits without trying to conjure her in his mind. If they had met, would he have liked what he saw? Would she?
Kingsley was a tall boy, a little heavyset, with natural hair which he had been growing out since he started school. His shoulders had begun to broaden nicely, and his voice to deepen, since he began taking monthly Transitioning potions three years before, and he had large, dark eyes with long lashes which captivated boys and girls alike. He had some insecurities about his body, but it seemed unlikely that a woman like Helga Hufflepuff would have minded his differences.
At first, he laughed off such daydreams. What was the point of entertaining fantasies about a woman almost a thousand years dead and in her tomb? But his preoccupation would not leave him, and as the weeks passed, it grew into an obsession. There had to be a representation of her somewhere, he decided. The school was vast. No one knew all of its twists and turns and secret corners. Somewhere in the castle was the face and body of the woman who haunted his dreams from the distant past.
He roamed the corridors in his free time, examining statues and tapestries, exploring towers and dungeons, seeking the secret passages she had supposedly had a hand in creating, but to no avail.
His head was behind a tapestry, fist rapping on a stone wall, when old Professor Midgen, the master of Muggle Studies, found him.
"Is that Mr. Shacklebolt?" he asked in a creaky voice.
Kingsley bumped his head on a torch bracket in his hasty retreat. "Fu -- ow," he said, pressing a hand to his ear. "Good evening, Professor."
"Have you lost something, Shacklebolt?" Professor Midgen squinted nearsightedly around.
"No, Sir. I was just --"
Then it came to him. If anyone could help him in his quest, it was Professor Midgen, the head of Hufflepuff House.
"I'm looking for Helga Hufflepuff," Kingsley told him.
Professor Midgen chuckled dustily. "You won't find her here, m'boy. Old Helga's been gone a long while."
"I know, Sir. I was just wondering if there was a statue or something of her around somewhere, like the one the Ravenclaws have in their common room."
"Perhaps," Professor Midgen frowned. "There is a -- a sculpture, I suppose you might call it. Whether it's Helga Hufflepuff or not, I could not say with any certainty, but that is the tale that has been handed down."
"Where, Sir?" Kingsley asked eagerly. "May I see it?"
The Muggle Studies master beamed. "I would take you to see it now, Shacklebolt, but I'm just on my way to tea with the headmaster."
"Can you tell me where it is, Sir? I could just --"
"I'm afraid that is quite impossible, m'boy." The old man shook his head. "It's in the staffroom, you see. You would need a member of staff to accompany you. No, some other time, Mr. Shacklebolt."
"Oh," said Kingsley, disappointed. "Thanks, Professor. Some other time would be great."
"Don't mention it, lad." He patted Kingsley's arm, beaming. "Remind me another day."
"I'll do that, Sir."
Kingsley moved through the darkened corridor off the entrance hall, quiet as a shadow, his excellent night vision making wandlight unnecessary. All the skills of stealth and concealment that he had practiced in the hope that, one day, they would stand him in good stead as an Auror, made him virtually undetectable. But as he approached his goal, one obstacle remained.
A pair of stone gargoyles flanked the staffroom door, glowering at him out of the darkness. Unlike the gargoyle which protected the way to the headmaster's office, however, these did not block the entrance. Kingsley took a deep breath and stepped between them.
"Not supposed to go in there, are you?" one of them grumbled.
"Students!" declared the other. "No respect at all."
"How are we meant to get our beauty sleep with you lot sneaking around at all hours?" inquired the first.
"Are you going to stop me going in?" asked Kingsley, one hand gripping his wand, the other hesitating in mid-reach for the door handle.
"What would be the point?" the first gargoyle sighed dramatically. "It would only cause a fuss. Besides, there's nothing of value in there."
"That we know of," added the second gargoyle. "We've never been in, of course. Seems like we're the only ones who haven't."
"Then what are you here for?" asked Kingsley. "Added snark? Or just for decoration?"
"Ooh, hear him!" declared the second gargoyle, eyes rolling grittily. "They all think they're so clever."
"We are here," intoned the first with great dignity, "to protect the professors' student-free time. As there are no professors currently using the room, why should we go above and beyond the call of duty? Enter if you must."
"Just don't make a mess," said the second. "Or they'll put us to work guarding the kitchens. Coprolite (1), but I hate house-elves!"
"Cheeky little beggars," agreed the first. "And they never dust properly behind one's ears."
Kingsley shrugged and turned the brass door handle, leaving the gargoyles to their stony grumbling.
The aged wood paneling, coupled with the small, high windows, made the room seem even darker than the corridor had been. It was only once the door closed behind him that it seemed prudent to light his wand. The magical light cast its glow over the walls and furnishings, and led him to a branch of candles standing on a large table, which he lit with a quick Fire charm. Pocketing his wand, Kingsley made a circuit of the room, candles held high to make the most of the available light.
"Where are you, Helga?" he murmured.
The room was large, and it was several minutes before he found what he was looking for, fixed to a pedestal tucked away in a niche almost hidden behind an old wardrobe. The candlelight flickered over the ancient surface, worn smooth of any feature or detail. It retained only the vaguest suggestion of a human face, indistinct, as if glimpsed through a veil. Whether she had been sculpted clothed or nude was no longer clear. All that was left were curves and shadows. An ancient promise of bounty long since fulfilled.
He gazed at the form, glorying in his discovery. It was Helga, Kingsley was certain, and she was every bit as beautiful as he had known she would be. He raised a reverent hand to her face, longing to touch her, expecting only cold stone.
She was warm to the touch.
Kingsley felt as if he moved in a dream, delighting to find not the chilly marble he had expected at all, but gleaming ivory. Life seemed to glow just beneath its surface. The shifting, flickering light danced over enticing curves, creating the illusion of movement, as though the woman they represented stretched languorously across the centuries to captivate him with the sway of her hips and the swell of her bosom. Her body was luminous under his dark fingers. It was easy to imagine the silken texture of her skin in the smoothness of the ivory.
His hands caressed the swells and hollows of her body, but all the wishing in the world could not make this creature of light and shadow real. Gamp's First Law declared that human life was impossible to create by magic.
Nevertheless, Kingsley settled his hands on her hips, bending his head to whisper in her ear. "Come to me, Helga. Show me your favour."
Perhaps what happened next was nothing more than a waking dream, or the overactive imagination of a seventeen-year-old boy.
The ivory shivered under his hands, and a teasing voice spoke to him from the recesses of his mind. It's been long and long since I was paid proper court by such a fine young man. I've been waiting for you.
"I'm here now," Kingsley said. "I've been looking for you."
You have a nice touch, my Elsker (2), said the voice. Close your eyes. See me.
He obeyed, long lashes fluttering against his cheek. In his mind's eye, Kingsley saw flowing red hair, a spray of dark freckles adorning a round, merry face, and a pair of mischievous brown eyes. His hands caressed the rounded shapes of her. At his touch, the ivory gave way, becoming supple flesh. Silken strands of hair, full of the scent of green, growing things, whispered over his chest and shoulders, and Kingsley realised he was naked.
He felt strangely unselfconscious of his body, in a way that he had not during his few prior erotic experiences. The feel of skin, warm against his, excited him. Another pair of hands moved over his back, tracing the curve of his spine and making him shiver as arousal bloomed between his legs. He wanted her.
His fingers seemed sometimes to skate over a hard surface, and sometimes to sink into full, pliant flesh. Her breasts were smaller than he had expected, but her nipples responded eagerly when his thumbs brushed them. He bent his head to flick each of them in turn with his tongue, and was rewarded with a soft moan somewhere in the back of his mind. One hand slid lower over the voluptuous curve of her belly, seeking to pleasure her further, but her thighs when he touched them were smooth, featureless, and unyielding.
"Please, Helga, I want to touch you," he begged, heated groin rubbing against her ivory hip.
A musical chuckle seemed to shiver down his spine. So ardent, my Elsker.
The surface under his fingertips warmed and softened. His hand slid into the space that formed between her thighs, and up, to cup her sex in his palm.
The breath caught in his throat. The shapes of her were not what he had been expecting. His fingers closed around a soft, weighty mass, then moved upwards to find a different sort of hardness rising between their bodies.
"Oh," Kingsley breathed, awed. "I didn't know."
History often forgets that which discomfits the historian, the voice echoed in his mind. The truth becomes lost, but that makes it no less true.
Warm lips touched his, and arms twined around him, pulling him close. Admiration swelled within Kingsley, making his chest feel tight as tears pricked his eyes. Helga Hufflepuff had been trans, like him -- a glorious goddess among women. Pressing his face to her neck, he tasted ancient ivory and salt on her skin. More than ever, he wanted to give himself to her, to show her his passion and devotion with all of his heart and all of his body.
In that moment, she was flesh everywhere he touched, from the eager mouth on his own to the rounded arse that filled his hands. Their hips ground together, and he moaned as the slippery friction sent little jolts of pleasure through his groin. She, too, gasped and sighed, murmuring encouragement and endearments to him in a language he did not know. For one moment in time, they moved together, making no distinction between the possible and the impossible. Somehow, she was there. Somehow, he had won her favour.
That's it, my Elsker, she whispered in his mind. Give me your desire.
The low moan in her voice sent a shiver through him, and he thrust hard against her, crying out his release. She held him tightly to her bosom as he shook, groin sliding and straining against his until her own joyous climax rattled the stones of the wall at her back.
"Thank you," he sighed, lips brushing her cheek, smooth as ivory.
It was my pleasure. Her voice was fainter now, fading from his mind. Thank you for seeking me out.
When he opened his eyes, Kingsley found himself sprawled in an overstuffed armchair, robes bunched up about his waist. The heat of fulfillment still radiated between his legs. In the niche of the wall before him stood a rounded figure, vaguely human in aspect, light from the guttering candles glinting from its surface.
He sat up, pushing down his robes, wondering what had just happened. Had it all been a dream? It had not felt like any dream Kingsley had ever known.
It was very late, he judged. Well past time for him to find his way back to bed. He would have to ponder the meaning of this strange encounter later.
Before blowing out the candles, he cast one last look back at the statue. It might have been a trick of the light, but for a second, he thought he saw the shadow of a satisfied smile flicker across its face.
As Kingsley disappeared down the night-dark corridor, silently as he had arrived, one of the gargoyles cocked its head.
"Did he really do what I think he did?"
"You felt it, too, eh?" said the other, flexing its enormous paws.
The first gargoyle chortled. "I think every stone in the castle felt it."
"Do you think he knows?" asked the second one.
"Probably not," grunted the first. "Inanimatmagi (3) are rare enough that he might not even have heard of them. I don't think we've had one in the castle for a hundred years or more."
"Who was the last? Pygmalion Cobble, wasn't it?" His companion gave a gravelly chuckle. "He had it off with nearly every statue in the place, if I remember rightly."
"I do not recall," the first gargoyle said stiffly.
"Really?" the second one grinned. "You seemed to enjoy it at the time."
"I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about," said the first, "and no wish to, either."
Stone shifted as the second gargoyle shrugged its massive shoulders. "Have it your way. But if that young fellow comes back, just remember, it's my turn this time. You had yours last century."