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Helga sat her horse like a man, her slender legs astride the leather saddle instead of draped neatly over the pommel. Salazar thought the position suited her well, echoing with masculinity, but touched with her subtle feminine wiles. A man could destroy himself pondering over the idiosyncrasies of a woman like Helga Hufflepuff…most of England already had.
Godric felt his eyes widen in shock. Helga was a witch.
Coming to the edge of the woods, Salazar had his first view of an ungainly, stone structure. It was an incoherent mass of crumbling towers, fractured walls and narrow, black windows.
His eyes flickered to life once more. “Helga cannot be matched by only one of her own kind.” He paused, taking a moment to study her features. “But with the force of a pair…perhaps.”
“There are many methods through which a man might be controlled,” Helga said. “I shall teach you three. The rest you must learn for yourself.”
The cold traveled in gusts, poisoning the wind until it shrieked like a demon or some mad, mad spirit from the haunted past. Even beneath his layers of leather and fur and calloused flesh, Godric could feel the unwelcome chill and his heart was frosted with spears of worry and misplaced dread.
For the first time, Ailbhe raised her eyes to meet Godric's and he realized, despite her obvious bravery, that she was still young and pale and frightened.
“Queen majesty,” the scout gasped, his complexion a dreadful mixture of blood and pallor. “The forces of Alba have set upon Hogwarts castle. Lord Gryffindor is under siege!”
And where there was peace, there flowed unrest. A relentless river. A stream that cut canyons through solid rock. Salazar knew this and rejoiced in the very knowledge of it, for soon he would ford the stream, dam up the river and channel that same instability against her.
“Riol,” she said his name, her heart leaping to life and burning with a long-suppressed ache, “Riol, forgive me!”
The old man sat by the fire.
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