Albus was amazed at how silently Guinevere could move through the forest, the dried leaves made no sound of stirring as her feet came down upon them. In contrast, he only seemed to grow louder with each step. Every twig and scrap of bark rang out a snap each time he put his foot down. Guinevere had given up trying to shush him and conceded that it would be impossible for him to walk silently.
So Guinevere stopped their search and ordered that he take off his shoes. Albus didn't like it one bit, but after trying to argue that he'd injure his feet too much, the girl threatened to leave him on his own. He did as she asked. And he was right, by the time Guinevere allowed them to take a break from their trail, his feet were covered in tiny pricks and cuts, blood sticking his socks to his heels.
It was obvious that Guinevere didn't much care about Albus' injuries, but she didn't make a fuss when he asked for a break. In order to prolong his rest, Albus got her talking; as frustrating as listening to her was, she had an interesting story.
Being a Princess, Guinevere was raised with a higher education than the peoples of her country. She'd formed big ideas about ways to make their lands prosper and grow, ways to ensure a better quality of life for each citizen. Despite her big ideas, Guinevere was still...a girl. Her only hope to be heard was by the King himself and when he announced he sought a Queen, it was her chance.
But Guinevere was still so young. When the King had heard that she was a mere fifteen, he passed on the invitation to come to her father's house and meet with him for talks of a wedding. She was furious. To be dismissed solely on age when the King, himself, had been crowned at such a young one. She went to her father and begged for a party to travel to Court and speak with King Arthur, show him that she was worthy of becoming his Queen regardless of age.
Her father denied her request though and began search for her a husband amongst the Knights of the kingdom. Refusing to accept defeat, Guinevere gathered herself and stole away into the night, determined to make the journey on her own and prove that she could be all the country needed.
“That's really brave.” Albus massaged at his feet and carefully slipped his filthy socks back over them. “What's going to happen when you get there though? What if Arthur says that he won't see you and calls for your father?”
“'Tis a question better left to the stars for I do not pretend to know what lies beyond our present.” Guinevere gave Albus' abused feet one fleeting glance before waving her hand. “Come, we must press on less we lose the trail left by that catpurse and his ungodly companions.”
“Guinevere wait....” Albus hissed as he placed his feet back on the ground and moved his weight to them. “Say we catch the blokes, what then? I mean without my wand I'm bloody useless and you can fight, but there are three of them. You were good but even then, he still managed to get your necklace.”
“Do you suggest that we give up?” Guinevere put her hand to her chest and stared at Albus like he proposed some foul idea. “Lay our honour in the mud and allow such filthy beings to spit upon it as though we are not worth their respect. Have you no sense of pride, Albus? Be you a coward?”
He gaped. “I am a Gryffindor! I have plenty of pride and I am no coward!”
“Then prove yourself a brave and noble man and finish the task that you did offer to undertake.”
“I'm just trying to be realistic here. I'm not saying that I won't help, I just don't know how we're going to do it!” The boy sighed and grabbed at his messy auburn hair. “Look at me, I can barely walk.”
Guinevere tipped her head to the boy and took his hand. “Come, we must press on.”
Albus wasn't positive, but it seemed as though Guinevere was walking slower, taking care to lead them through the more bare parts of the ground, devoid of the sticks and rocks that had plagued his feet before. She kept her hand firm in his, not allowing him to stumble or fall like before. Albus' pride kept swelling its ugly head, reminding him how much he was relying on a girl for his well being. He tried to ignore it, but it was difficult and by the time night fell, he was feeling resentful as well as grateful.
And he was hungry.
“I don't suppose you packed yourself any food when you ran away, did you?” Albus pulled the girl to a stop. He could barely see a few paces in front of him and couldn't understand how Guinevere was still managing to lead them.
She patted the small leather pouch at her hip and gave a reassuring nod. “We should sit.”
The two settled upon a large rock and spread out the contents of Guinevere's pouch between them. There were two small slivers of salted, pressed pork, a lump of cheese that Albus thought smelled a bit funny and a handful of nuts that he couldn't identify in the dark, but she assured were not poisonous.
“I did prepare enough to take myself half of the journey.” Guinevere broke the cheese in half and pressed a portion into Albus' hand. “I was meant to convene with the daughter of an allied kingdom. She and I did partake in quite the adventure over the summer. Her family lodged with us when our fathers did come to their trade and land agreements.” She smiled at her memories and counted out the nuts between them. “I...I found myself lost and far from the path that wouldst have taken me to her home. Three days off my trail I was before coming upon you.”
“What are you going to do now though?” Albus sniffed the cheese once more before taking a tentative bite. It was...different, but he wouldn't call it bad exactly. And the boy was so hungry at this point he would have eaten just about anything.
Guinevere put on a brave smile and looked up at Albus with conviction. “I shall manage.”
They sat in silence as the darkness grew heavier around them. It was decided that they would have the cheese, half the nuts and one strip of pork between them, leaving the remaining nuts and pork for the following day. Albus could tell that Guinevere was upset, she'd hoped to have found their attackers by nightfall but now they were at a risk of losing the men and never recovering her necklace.
“Guinevere, tell me about your mother.” Albus wasn't one for talking about feelings, but he'd learned at an early age that females loved to talk about feelings, even sad ones. And it would do well to distract her from their situation. “If you want to....”
“My mother?” Guinevere's voice was soft. “My mother was more beautiful than all the stars inside the Heavens; she did possess more grace than even the smallest of gazelle. And her kindness....” The girl climbed down from the rock and planted herself in the dirt beside it.
Albus settled himself next to Guinevere and allowed her to lean her head on his shoulder. They both closed their eyes and relaxed against the chilled stone to their backs.
“My mother did sing to me on the nights I would find myself wide awake with fears of monsters creeping into the tranquility of my dreams. I do believe that is what I miss most about her.”
Guinevere shifted a bit and began to hum a sweet tune, the rise and fall of her notes so perfectly pitched that it brought tears to the corners of Albus' eyes. After a verse, the boy began to hum along. The song so familiar and yet so distant, like a dream he'd forgotten on waking only now being called back to him. Together, they finished the gentle song, both sitting in a prolonged silence after.
“You did know it.” Guinevere didn't speak above a whisper.
“Yes.” Albus wrapped his arms around the girl, an odd urge to protect her building up inside of him. “My mum used to sing that to me and my little brother and sister when she put us to bed.”
Guinevere didn't speak and Albus was thankful for it. The two drifted off to sleep feeling a connection like they'd not had before. It was as though they were, dare they even think it, family.
The next morning Albus opened his eyes to the sharp end of a sword hanging above him. The boy gasped loudly and trailed his gaze up the blade to its wielder. The young man was about twenty, he presumed, tall and broad shouldered. His dirty blonde hair was short and sticking up at all angles with sweat, his light grey eyes were wide and full of life. A smile stretched across his entire face as he stared down at Albus.
“Pray tell, knave, who did bestow upon you leave to sleep on my father's lands?” The young man never stopped smiling as he moved his sword a bit closer to Albus' face. “Shall I run you through and not put mind to the interrogation?”
“I-I-I ca- I didn't – Don't!” Albus shook beneath the man's sword and looked to his side where Guinevere had been through the night only to find her missing.
“Looking for your maiden?” The man laughed but it wasn't cruel or spiteful, it was the laugh of one friend teasing another in good fun. “Do not worry yourself. Guinevere is quite safe.” He sheathed his sword and extended his hand in good faith. “You be safe as well, good Albus Dumbledore.”
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