At the Superfluous Masked Yule Ball, Helga and Godric were performing the Cupid Shuffle and chatting about how Salazar's beard put them in mind of a small breakfast roll. They were now together, after a brief interlude in a broom cupboard had led them to discover their true feelings for each other.
Being entirely superfluous, nothing much else happened at the ball, though there was some discussion about throwing an Extraneous Masked Yule Ball next year in addition to the Gratuitous and Superfluous balls, and about how grateful everyone was that the story hadn't turned out to be a one-shot after all.
Fortunately for everyone, Wizard Feud was looking for contestants, and as the leading witches and wizards of the time, the host immediately owled them to be on the show the next day after their nap and afternoon tea.
Merlin, the show's host, was dressed in his usual spangled purple robes. They'd been shortened this year to mini-robes, in an attempt to garner more ratings for the flagging show. Since Merlin had quite knobbly knees, the mini-robes were not having the desired effect. However, studio executives were already discussing replacing Merlin with the young and nubile sorceress Morgane le Fay, upon whom the mini-robes would look much better.
“And now,” said Merlin, sweeping his long beard back and holding the narrow microphone in a tender two-fingered grasp, “for our first category! Plot devices!”
Rowena and Helga jeered at the Wizard side of the feud, knowing that plot devices were rampant for females, while males were mainly relegated to footing the shopping bill and having the occasional nookie in a broom cupboard, and therefore the two witches had a better chance at getting a correct answer than the wizards, who were likely to say something ridiculously unlikely, such as 'sword fight' or 'defeating bad guys'. Godric and Salazar looked disgruntled.
“First up, the women!” Merlin called, and they screamed, leaping around and skipping down to the centre of the stage arena.
“We asked our viewers what they would most often have their characters do to occupy time in a story. Have a guess there. Something that might serve as a plot, go on.”
Rowena and Helga conferred for a brief moment, then broke apart.
“Shopping trip!” Rowena yelled, clapping frantically. Helga was jumping up and down at her side, yelling, “Whoo!”
Godric and Salazar looked repulsed.
“Right, something to be a plot device, and you said shopping trip,” Merlin repeated unnecessarily, as game show hosts do. “Let's see if it's up there. Survey says....” And he gestured at the board floating in midair above them. Shopping trip popped up with thirty-six percent. “Shopping is there! Well done, ladies!”
Rowena and Helga hugged each other and scampered back to their places. Godric made a gesture at them that was considered rude in seventeen countries.
“Now for the men!” Merlin cried. “Next category... Subjects you might find taught at magical schools.”
Salazar and Godric conferred behind a pink parasol for a moment, and Merlin repeated, “Subjects you might find taught at a magical school. Your answer?”
Godric looked triumphant. “Urbology!”
“I'm sorry?” Merlin's ancient and lined face screwed up. “What was that?”
“Urbology?” Godric repeated cautiously.
“What, like the study of urban places?”
“I think he means Herbology,” Rowena said, after a whispered consultation with Helga, who will, for purposes unnamed, henceforth be renamed Tiffany.
“Why is he not pronouncing the aitch then?” Merlin asked suspiciously, glaring at Godric.
“I'm secretly an American, if you must know,” said Godric, pulling up his robes to reveal socks knitted in the stars and stripes of the US flag. “We don't pronounce the aitch in urbs.”
“It's pronounced herbs,” Merlin informed him. “Because there's a bloody aitch in it, for the love of me.”
“Look, are you going to accept my answer or not?” Godric demanded.
“It is the same word, after all,” Tiffany said fairly.
“She's right, you know,” Rowena said. “It's simply a regional linguistic difference, and besides, we shouldn't judge him for speaking like an American when we ought properly to be speaking Old English, or Anglo-Norman, all of us – though I can read, so I'd also speak Latin Vulgate - though I'm not sure if the Norman conquest has actually happened yet, what year is this, anyway? - after which we properly should be speaking a langue d'oïl or possibly even Old French-”
“All right, all right, for my sake,” Merlin said irritably. “We'll accept his answer already. My beard!”
They all looked at his beard.
“What about it?” Godric asked.
“It's quite nice,” Tiffany said.
“Wish mine would grow that long,” added Salazar, fingering his small, pointy goatee.
“I'm taking five hundred points from all of you for sheer stupidity,” Merlin informed them. “My toenails, you're all ridiculous!”
“This game is ridiculous,” Rowena said. “I told you we should've just played Wheel of Plot Devices.”
“This wouldn't be happening if Morgane were up there in mini-robes,” said one backstage studio executive to another, who nodded sagely.
“Ridiculous would be a good spell word, don't you think?” Godric said thoughtfully as the group broke up and started wandering off. Salazar hung back to have a word with Merlin, who was still muttering self-referencing oaths under his breath.
“You still owe me ten Galleons,” Salazar told him.
“My beard, I had it here a moment ago,” Merlin said, patting his robes theatrically. “Must've left it in my other pants.”
“You mean trousers? This is the United Kingdom, or will be eventually. We say trousers. Pants means underwear. I think you've been hanging around Godric too long, next thing you know, you'll start saying center instead of centre.”
Merlin ignored that. “No, I meant pants. I keep my money there. Safest place.”
Salazar looked revolted. “Nevermind, keep the ten Galleons.”
“Cha-ching!” Merlin cried, pumping his fist.
“Salazar, my love!” Tiffany waved a dainty handkerchief at the tall dark man as she hurried down the stairs.
“Who are you, then?” Salazar asked, looking her up and down.
“It's me, Tiffany.” This did not engender recognition in his dark orbs, so she essayed again. “We had a moment together? Last chapter, before the Yule Ball, which you spent flirting with Rowena, you dastardly dastard,” she added.
“Weren't you called Helga then?” he asked suspiciously.
“Oh. Only, I could swear you were.”
“I don't know what you're talking about,” Tiffany said airily. “Tiffany is such a pretty name, why would I want to be called Helga?”
“Tiffany sounds a little invented to me. Anachronistic at least,” Salazar said.
“My middle name is Moonstone-Starbright-Broomhilde-Angela-Darling.”
“What? This can't be right.” Salazar threw up his hands. “I don't even know what's going on in this scene. I'm calling my agent. Where's the author, anyway?”
“She's down there on the ground, curled in a foetal position,” said Rowena, peering out of the screen.
“What, are we supposed to just write ourselves now?” Godric huffed, offended.
“I think she's been letting us do that all along, to be honest,” Rowena told him.
“Is that allowed in the terms of service and site rules?”
Rowena shrugged. “I don't think she can help it, we're uncontrollable.”
“It should all be over soon, she looks like she's gotten hold of some chocolate now,” Tiffany noted. “That usually means she's going to go shop on etsy for a while, or have a bath and read a sleazy romance novel. This chapter could end at any moment, or this scene at least.”
“I hope so, this is really bad,” Salazar said, looking around at the screen. “Have we even got a plot?”
“No, just a lot of disjointed scenes,” Rowena said.
Salazar sighed. “Well, I suppose since we've already broken the fourth wall, we may as well – Hang on, what's that?”
They all turned to examine the large black thing that was slowly taking shape in the air.
“I think it's an asterisk,” Rowena said, peering at it.
“Thank God, that means this scene is over,” Salazar cried in relief, as the world around them dissolved into the typographic symbol.
Helga, who had left the Witness Protection Program and no longer needed to pose as Tiffany, was walking down the corridor of the partially-constructed castle with the maid and construction foreman Broomhilde at her side, dictating instructions for the new tower being built. She pushed aside a piece of canvas blocking a corridor and led the way through.
“And through here we'll build – what the...”
Helga's jaw dropped open. The love of her life (A/N: Godric Gryffindor, for the record – I realize that may not have been clear thus far, since he was with Rowena in the last chapter and only got together with Helga a couple hundred words ago) and her best friend (A/N PS: Rowena Ravenclaw) were kissing in the corridor next to a partially-completed gargoyle statue.
A creature completely failed to claw its way to life in Helga's chest. But she was quite upset.
“No ding-ding vithout the vedding ring!” shrieked Broomhilde, who was very Catholic and did not believe in premarital snogging.
“Broomhilde! Go clean the chamber pots!” Helga ordered, and the maid left in tears. Helga returned her attention to the pair in the broom cupboard as Salazar strolled up the corridor.
“What up, dawgz?” he asked jovially, throwing up a gang sign. Rowena smiled and waved as she adjusted her clothing, but Helga had eyes only for Godric and ignored Salazar completely.
“Why are you back together with her?” she demanded hotly. “I thought we had found true love!”
“What can I say, I'm an animal,” said Godric, who suddenly had a Welsh accent, smiling modestly. Rowena batted her eyelashes at him.
“I'll never, never, never, never, NEVER forgive you!” Helga cried.
“Aw, don't be that way, pet,” Godric said, chucking her chin gently. “I know I said that was true love, but that was only because I didn't realize this was true love.”
“Well, all right,” said Helga. “I suppose we can be friends again, since you really really really REALLY love Rowena, who is, after all, my dearest friend.”
Rowena looked flattered. “Oh Helga! And we've never even really hung out, and we've nothing in common!” The two women hugged tearfully, and Godric smiled at the emotional reunion between longtime friends, who'd met last week.
Salazar raised a hand cautiously. “Sorry, didn't you say your name was Tiffany?”
“What?” said Helga. “Of course not. I'm Helga.”
“Oh.” Salazar was getting a headache. “Is this chapter over yet? I feel very confused, and need some time to process things. Possibly with my therapist.”
“I think that's a lovely idea,” Rowena said. “Why don't we all Apparate to group therapy and talk this out?”
“Will there be a Death Arena?” Godric asked hopefully.
“Or a monster room?” Salazar added.
“I'm sure we can find a therapist to suit our needs,” Helga said firmly.
And they all held hands and sang songs, and played with blocks, and had a tea party, and played games the rest of the afternoon.
A/N: And in this one, which is dedicated to Georgia Weasley, I have to add thanks, props, shoutouts, etc. to: Family Feud, people who say “thank Merlin” constantly in their fics, people who put author notes in the middle of their paragraphs, the always brilliant Eddie Izzard, Hooked on Phonics videos, and of course, Mel Brooks' seminal epic Men in Tights (“No ding-ding vithout the vedding ring!” - for Jules).
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