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 Life continued on, and I tried my best to avoid Godric Gryffindor. How could it be? The discovery of his existence threw my head into a chaos that I had been managing to avoid in my new life. I ate, I sang, I slept. With the Knave about, my head was once more filled with questions. Did Hogwarts already exist? He looked too young to be a Founder already. How had he become so rich? How could Gryffindor, the brave and kind Head of Gryffindor, be such a pompous pig? It was unspeakable! Was Helga Hufflepuff really some slender seductress? Was the real Rowena a stupid hag? Was Salazar Slytherin a sweet, fun-loving guy? My whole idea of the past could very well have been a complete and utter lie.

 

The thoughts of Hogwarts brought back the thoughts of my family, and I was forced to harden myself against the idea. Five weeks had passed in this new time. I was gradually coming to terms with the fact that this was not a dream, and that nobody was coming to rescue me. I would die in this era, and that was that.

 

Cloaked and hooded, as per usual, I glanced up to notice that the sun was sinking further towards the top of the wall as I wove through the crowd in the peasant’s market. I was making my daily stop to the hovels. A satchel I had purchased from Mabill not five days past gently bounced against my hip. Its contents were simple; a fresh loaf of bread and a few old rags that Mabill gave me for only a few shillings. It was time to start helping those in the hovel in any way I could. I used the coin I earned in the market sparingly for myself, buying only that which was necessary. The rest, I would spend on those who could earn nothing.

 

I swept out of the portcullis, ignored by the guards posted at the outer ring. My cloak was such a blessing to have. It didn’t take me long to come across somebody I could help. A mother held her small daughter, rocking back and forth and weeping loudly. The child was clearly sick. Her lips were cracked from dehydration, her frame was frail from lack of food. Here would be where my assistance for the day would go.

 

The mother only looked up when I knelt before them, reaching inside my cloak to open my satchel and pull out what I had brought. Tears streaked the mother’s face, lined with years of a hard life, and she stared at me with only partially seeing eyes. A strange cloaked figure, whose mouth was the only part of her face that could be seen, was bound to be somewhat startling. But the mouth was wearing a kind smile.

 

I held the bread out to the mother, and she fumblingly took it from me with astonished fingers. No questions asked. Questions were not necessary when one was starving.

 

“Feed her. Feed yourself,” I said softly, and then snatched a filthy and empty pot from beside them. It was bone dry. Rising swiftly, I turned to march towards the river. I was not going to actually use its waters, for fear of germs. But I would need it for a guise.

 

A few moments later, I was kneeling by the deceivingly gentle waters, pot in one hand and wand in the other. “Scourgify,” I murmured, swiping the inside of the pot clean. “Auguamenti.” I kept my wand hidden somewhat beneath my cloak. It had become a habit to do magic subtly in the past weeks, even if nobody was around.

 

The pot filled, I slipped my wand into my belt, grasped the pot firmly, and rose to my feet, turning to head back to the girl and her mother. The sight of the Knave, standing directly ahead of me on the bluff, stopped me in my tracks.

 

He was staring at me, trying his best to hide any emotion on his face, and was looking utterly out of place with the hovels forming his backdrop. The slight widening of his eyes betrayed his astonishment. At seeing me here? My eyes widened as well. Thankfully, my cloak hid any emotions from his view.

 

“That water did not come from the river,” he said, sounding stunned and yet somehow, excited. Of course. He was a wizard too. But he would not suspect me. Would he? I took a moment to gather myself, and then stalked past him.

 

“Do not be ridiculous, Knave. I knew you were simple, but now I believe you are completely without intelligence. I believe it is quite clear that I got this water from the river,” I lied easily, making my way towards the hovels.

 

“And I think we both know you are being untruthful, Lady Rowena,” he said smoothly, easily matching my stride. I refused to even glance at him as we walked.

 

“Do not call me that where there may be listening ears, Gryffindor.”

 

“Godric,” he corrected. I narrowed my eyes but chose not to comment. On a first name basis with one of the Founders Four? I think not.

 

“Do you not have better things to be doing? Licking the King’s boots, perhaps?”

 

I could hear his amusement in his voice. “Your tongue is as sharp as ever, Lady Rowena.”

 

We had reached the hovels. I abruptly turned away from the road to go once again to the mother and daughter, kneeling before them, and gently placing the pot in front of her. The mother was holding the bread, and I belatedly realized that it would be too difficult for them to swallow without water. Well, that problem could now easily be solved.

 

I could feel Gryffindor standing a few feet behind me, and could practically sense both his discomfort as well as the mother’s. But as I dipped the rags I had brought into the water and began washing the grime from the little girl’s hands and face, the mother quickly forgot about the rich lord and took over.

 

As we worked together, I began to sing quietly, a soothing sort of melody. It calmed me, as I myself was on the verge of tears. So much suffering, and so little that I could do. The sun was dipping even lower into the sky by the time we had finished our work. Cool rags rested on the girl’s forehead, and her stomach was filled with bread and clean water.

 

The mother released an endless stream of gratitude and countless thank yous. I only smiled and nodded before finally rising to my feet and heading back towards the portcullis, walking passed a stunned Godric on my way. I did not spare him so much as a glance. He was a lord, a rich man who cared not for these people as I was choosing to. He and his finery had no place here.

 

As I reached the portcullis, the guards posted straightened and hailed me down. They truly were a nuisance, the lot of them.

 

“I require passage into the city,” I said stiffly.

 

“Name and business.”

 

“I am the Shadowed Nightingale. A citizen of Noring.”

 

The two guards glanced at each other. “The portcullises are about to close. No passage into the city.”

 

“Let us through, guards.” The voice of the Knave came from behind me and I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath. The sound of him set me on edge. I despised this man, who had turned my perception of Godric Gryffindor into a mockery. He was not the man he was meant to be.

 

“Lord Godric!” they exclaimed, clearly humbled. “Of course, go right on through. The both of you.” Beneath the protection of my hood, my eyes rolled towards the heavens. Such an important figure deserved to be let in, but not a mere citizen of the great city. Corrupt, that was what the city was. And I hated it.

 

I stalked through without waiting for him. He easily caught up to me.

 

“Lady Rowena, a word. What was that back-”

 

“No,” I hissed firmly, cutting him off.

 

“No other person visits the Outer Ri-“

 

“Leave me be, Gryffindor.” I did not wait for a reply. In the bustle of people closing up shop and beginning to return home, it was easy to lose oneself in the crowd. I slipped between a pair of people, ducked, and darted behind a few crates near a vendor. I heard him shout my name once but clearly he was not going to lower himself to a status akin to that of a town crier, shouting out to the rabble of the city. I would not have to put up with his comments, his arrogance, and his lack of a heart. It gave me some small comfort to know this.

 


 

I should have known it was too good to be true. That night, I sat again at my table with Agatha, Katherine, and Cecily, listening to their banter and smiling into my mug filled with water. Their humor was crass but their company was enjoyable. More so, at least, than the other folk that filled the tavern.

 

More so, at least, than the voice that cut into their conversation. The smile dropped instantly from my face without even having to turn to view the intruder.

 

“Excuse me, my ladies. I require a word with the Lady Agnes,” the voice said, coming from behind me. My grip on my mug tightened. Was he following me now?

 

“Yer only lookin’ fer a place to sheath yer sword, ye mangy mutt. Shove it up yer own backside and get lost, says I.” I couldn’t help but to grin at that. Thank goodness for Agatha’s rude mouth. But the effect was clearly lost on Gryffindor. Curse his stubbornness.

 

“Lady Agnes, I have an offer for you. From the King.” He still stood behind me so I could not gauge his expression to riddle out a lie from truth. “I would be exceedingly grateful if you would join me for a, shall we say, spell, if you would.” His choice of words could not possibly be a coincidence, and neither was his mischievous tone of voice. My three comrades glared at him but I steeled myself.

 

“Excuse me, lasses,” I murmured, excusing myself. They appeared as surprised as I felt. This man already suspected me and so I should avoid him at every turn. But I could not risk him dropping hints to my company that would suggest any sort of witchcraft. That sort of thing could turn camaraderie into killing in a matter of moments. Witches were drowned or burned at the stake here. Either option would be unpleasant. And so I followed him to another table in the room, glaring at his back, as he had left me no choice but to grant his request.

 

Sliding into my seat, I watched as he sat roughly in his and lounged back in his chair, watching me with a smug smile. Of course he would wear a smirk. He had accomplished his mission after all.

 

“Speak quickly and then remove yourself from my sight, Gryffindor,” I stated coldly. His eyebrows raised infinitesimally.

 

“You know, I should very much like to see you smile one of these days, Shadowed Nightingale,” he said with lazy confidence, smiling over at me. I didn’t so much as twitch a finger. After a few moments, he chuckled. “Very well. As I said, the King has an offer for you.” He waited again. He was waiting for me to become impatient, and snap at him to hurry on with it. Oh yes, I could tell he wanted that, for his own amusement. I would give him no such satisfaction. A few more moments passed in silence. He smiled.

 

“But before I tell you about his offer, I would like to ask you, my lady. What were you doing in the Outer Ring?” Of course he would ask about that. He had no right to pry into my business, none at all.

 

“I belong there more than you.”

 

“That is hardly an answer.”

 

“You hardly deserve one.”

 

“I have never seen you beyond the wall before.”

 

“And you think I am to believe that you visit there often?”

 

“What were you doing, Lady Rowena.” His voice was hard, without the amusement. It sounded like an order.

 

“I visit each day and it is none of your concern what I do with my time.”

 

“It is dangerous beyond the wall.”

 

“I can take care of myself.”

 

“The sights there are not for a lady.”

 

“The sights there only exist because those who have the power to change it sit in all of their finery and do nothing! The corrupt swine that carry the title of Lord!” We were attracting attention now. I ignored the gazes we had drawn to see a flicker of something in Gryffindor’s eyes. Regret? Pain? Sadness? Perhaps all three. It confused me enough to render me silent as the flicker was replaced with anger.

 

“You do not understand half of what you speak of, Agnes,” he spat. I blinked in surprise. This was a side to Gryffindor I had not yet seen. This could potentially be useful. “The King invites you to sing in his hall, and to live there as his personal performer. I return on the morrow for your answer. Good night, my Lady.” His voice was filled with sarcasm and anger, and he shoved back his chair with a great force as he swept himself from the Hearty Mug, leaving me speechless in my chair.

 

Something about the Outer Ring had set him off. Something bothered him about the hovels, and apparently he had information I did not. No doubt from sitting at the King’s feet as a personal hound or some such thing.

 

As a previous member of the Ravenclaw house, I could not help my thirst to learn and my drive for knowledge. I could not help that every ounce of my being wanted to accept the offer solely to find out what I could by being in that castle.

 

But performing there and living there would bring me in what would no doubt be nigh constant contact with Gryffindor. It would be a great change in the past, and a development that was not there previously. If he insisted on continuing his interrogation of me, one word of mine could change some deep set ideal of Gryffindor’s. One word of mine could completely rewrite the past.

 

But my hunger for knowledge was strong and a feast had been laid before me for the taking. All I had to do was take a seat.

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