The Sugar Quill
Author: Sugar Thief  Story: The Hogwarts Four  Chapter: Bold Gryffindor From Wild Moor: Part Two
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A/N: In this next part, you’ll notice a difference in the way Godric speaks

A/N: In this next part, you’ll notice a difference in the way Godric speaks. He’s had to adapt to living in a vastly different, harsher place and there’s a little coarse language – nothing major, just a heads up. Thanks to Mysterious Muggle for beta-ing and to those who have reviewed so far!

Also… it’ll be awhile before my next update because I’ll be spending the semester in Tanzania. Sorry!

 

Bold Gryffindor, From Wild Moor

Part Two

~  *  ~

Godric had never seen centaurs in daylight before. Helga was close friends with a few of them and he occasionally accompanied her into the Forest to meet with them, but these forays were always at night. He had never quite struck up the same affinity with them that Helga had, but then, that wasn’t a surprise, as every living creature warmed to Helga instantly. “If you wanted to inspect a dragon’s teeth, it would probably let you climb right in and poke around, just so long as you asked politely,” he had once told her, watching enviously as a fully-grown unicorn contentedly allowed her to scratch its back.

He had a deep respect for the wise creatures, however, and they seemed to sense this, as they were always very courteous with him and even occasionally discussed the movement of the planets with him, although their comments were cryptic and never really told him anything.

There were three of them, and Merlin’s beard, they were an impressive sight in the sunlight. Their coats gleamed and their bodies rippled with hard muscle. Their faces were even graver and wiser than they appeared by the paler light of the moon, and he wondered what could have possibly been enough to bring them out to speak with him during the day.

He inclined his head toward the nearest and oldest of them, a tall and formidable centaur with light brown hair and beard whom he recognized as Helga’s friend, Banyan.

“Good morning,” he greeted them. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your company today?” He couldn’t hide his puzzlement.

Banyan returned the nod courteously. “We come to you on this day, Godric Gryffindor,” he began, his measured voice deep and slow, “with a warning.”

Godric felt his stomach tighten. “A warning?” he echoed. “What sort of warning?”

Banyan’s wise dark eyes seemed to bore into Godric’s as though taking the measure of him. Godric looked back without blinking, waiting for him to elaborate.

“Come with us,” Banyan said finally. “It is safer in the sanctuary of the trees.”

Godric had his doubts about that, but he did as he was told and followed the three centaurs deeper into the Forest and away from his ledge. It was only a few minutes’ walk, but by the time they reached the clearing that was apparently their destination, Godric’s curiosity could hardly be contained. He kept his questions to himself, though, as Banyan spoke a few words to his companions in a low voice and they trotted to opposite sides of the clearing. Godric had the impression that they were acting as sentinels… but against what? Centaurs were more than a match for most of the forest’s inhabitants.

He swung down from Leander’s back to let the horse rest for a bit as Banyan, finally satisfied, faced him and began to speak in a hushed voice.

“Years ago,” Banyan said, “we saw in the stars the first indication that a momentous event would take place, something whose consequences would continue to resonate long, long years from now. At first, the signs were faint and difficult to interpret, but we have watched and waited patiently, and every year the signs have grown stronger, more ominous. And now, the heavens have gathered in an indication that the time is nearly nigh.”

Godric felt the back of his neck prickling. This one certainly knew how to speak for maximum effect.

“What exactly this event will be, we cannot tell. And I caution you that we do not even know for certain that it will come to pass. We only know that very soon, the time will come when it may come to pass.”

            “And you’re telling me this because I…”

“We have seen that you will play a part in this, whether for good or ill. Perhaps it is a choice you will have to make. And it is not you alone. Your three friends at the school will play a part every bit as significant as you will, if not more.”

He felt queasy. He did not like the picture he was starting to get from all of this.

“You said the consequences would be far-reaching,” he said in what he hoped was a normal voice. “What sort of consequences? Violent? And how distant in the future?”

“It would seem… hundreds of years.”

Godric shook his head and winced. “Centuries… yet you haven’t an inkling of what this event might be?”

Banyan looked him hard in the eye. “You are no fool, Godric Gryffindor. You know better than we do.”

Godric had fought to deny it long enough. It was time he faced it. He sighed wearily. “Salazar.”

“Indeed, it does appear to us that your friend will play a central part in the coming crisis.”

Godric ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “And you don’t know precisely when this will happen, either,” he murmured, more to himself than to the centaur. Something odd suddenly occurred to him, and he looked at Banyan questioningly. “I can’t help but be curious, and I apologize if my question offends – I thought there was some code of secrecy among your people. Why are you telling me this?”

            Banyan smiled grimly. “Most of my fellow centaurs believe that to meddle in what the stars have shown us is forbidden. But I hold to the belief that nothing is certain, and that we can, to some extent, control our own destiny. The stars have been wrong before, and it is my most fervent wish that they are wrong again this time. I have never before been so alarmed by what I have seen written in the sky, and I am not young, even by the standards of my people. Nor have I ever feared the consequences of a single event so much. Violence, you asked? Yes, and worse.”

            Godric was feeling sick. What could he do – or not do – that had the potential for such terrible repercussions?

            Banyan put a hand on his shoulder. “It may be that though you do everything in your power to halt this before it begins, it will not be enough. My knowledge of the future is far from complete. There may well be forces at work here that you cannot influence. The pieces have been in place for a long time.”

            Godric didn’t know what to say. Banyan had likely risked exile from his herd by telling him this – he realized now that the two younger centaurs were watching for other members of the herd.

            “Thank you for telling me,” he said huskily. “I’ll do my best.”

            Banyan inclined his head toward Godric and beckoned to the two younger centaurs. “Be wise, young Gryffindor,” he said, and they departed.

~  *  ~

            The city of Manceastre awoke sleepily as the sun’s rays flooded the narrow streets and winding alleys, touching the roofs of poorly thatched houses with gold. Drunken revelers of the night before stirred outside and yawning inhabitants came to their windows to empty pails of unmentionable things into the street. Pub owners cleaned up after the previous rowdy night while merchants and bakers opened their doors; the enticing smell of freshly baked bread drifted on a light, early summer breeze over the rooftops, in and out of windows, and down into the darkest corner of a hidden alleyway, where a ragged young street urchin slept, curled in a ball with only an ugly old bird for company.

            The boy’s nostrils twitched as the scent roused him from slumber. His stomach growled and he stretched with the languorousness of a cat as one eye opened blearily, a jaw-cracking yawn lengthening his dirty face. He rolled onto his feet, every wiry muscle plain to be seen beneath his sunburned skin.

The bird gave a feeble squawk and a feather fell limply from its drooping tail. The boy glanced at it unsympathetically as he splashed his face with water from a nearby puddle and ran a hand through his mop of dark curls.

            “If you feel so awful, then ‘urry up and get it ruddy over with already.”

            The bird looked at him indignantly and then turned away.

            He grinned. “Suit yourself, Fawkes,” he said. “I’m off to get me some breakfast.”

And Godric Gryffindor, hardened street rat, wandered out into the bustling marketplace of the City that had been his home for the last two and a half years.

Hands shoved in his pockets, he sauntered past the throngs of people who crowded the market, casting careless sidelong glances toward the stalls where merchants hawked their wares. The air filled with shouts from the vendors and the heady smells of spices from the apothecaries, and before long, Godric’s sharp eye noticed a food stall that was less well attended than the others. The vendor, a large man with a shiny face, was preoccupied with making a sale to a rather pretty young lady. Loaves of broad and meat pies lined the shelves of the stand, ripe for the taking. It was the perfect opportunity.

The lad sidled up to the booth directly to the right of his target’s, seemingly very interested in the squealing young piglets for sale. He focused hard on a particularly large slice of pie in the corner of his eye and sent a blast of magic its way, causing it to hop off the table and zoom unobtrusively into his hand. He concealed it under his shirt and nonchalantly strolled a safe distance away, where he pulled it out and began to munch on it.

He turned a corner onto a considerably quieter street, where he intended to sit and enjoy the rest of his breakfast. Too focused on his prize to pay very much attention to where he was going, he very nearly tripped over someone.

Oy!” he exclaimed, then, realizing that he had been about to step on a young girl, amended, “Sorry.”  She couldn’t have been more than eight or nine years old, and a boy of about the same age sat next to her. They looked half-starved. He felt a familiar lurch in his stomach.

S’all right,” she mumbled, looking up at him with huge dark eyes. They fastened on the meat pie in his hand and a look of desperate longing grew on her face.

It wasn’t much of a choice, really. Godric sighed.

“’ere, take this,” he said, his voice cracking as it had been doing more and more often lately. He handed the three-quarters of a slice of meat pie to the waif, whose eyes became, if possible, even larger. She took it with shaking fingers and broke it quickly in half to share with her brother. They finished it in mere seconds and licked their fingers ravenously.

It was such a small morsel, and they were so hungry… He groaned inwardly.

“Follow me,” he heard himself saying, and before he could talk himself out of it, he led the two urchins back into the bustling marketplace, mentally cursing himself the whole way.

With a whispered, “Don’t move” to the children, Godric approached a small fruit and vegetable stand. A small burst of magic caused a distraction in the form of rattling pots and pans the next booth over, and a moment later he was handing over a few pilfered apples to the hungry children, who scampered off immediately as though afraid he might regret his generosity if they stayed a moment longer.

I could be the best-fed street rat in the whole bloody City, he reflected glumly, if I just had the sense to stop sticking out me neck for every little brat who looks at me sideways with big gooey eyes.

Still… it wasn’t as if most of them had magic to help them survive.

His stomach rumbled. It was pushing his luck to try nicking something else – you never knew when soldiers from the garrison might be out prowling for thieves. There was one bloke in particular who had it in for Godric, a fat fellow who’d had a juicy bit of mutton pinched right from his plump fingers.

But he hadn’t really eaten in two days. He was careful never to take more than he needed; he was a thief by necessity and not by choice, and he always felt a slight squirm of guilt whenever he walked away with a juicy prize. But he either stole or he starved; it was that simple. He was too old to be a sympathetic beggar;  most people reserved any coins or scraps of food for the youngest, most pathetic children on the streets. Quick feet, quick thinking, and magic were the only assets he had. With no training to speak of, he’d learned to crudely manipulate his magic  without a wand or incantations, but it lacked a certain… finesse, to say the least.

An apothecary tucked away between a butcher shop and a cloth stand caught his eye. An aged man with a shock of grey hair was snoring behind the booth out front and a loaf of bread lay right in plain view. He felt a tiny warning bell go off in his mind, but dismissed it as normal misgivings. It was as good a target as any, so with a mental shrug he decided he might as well go for it.

He glanced around, and seeing nobody interested in the tiny shop, sent a cautious bit of magic to nudge the bread into the air.

There was a noise like the twang of a bow and Godric stumbled backward, propelled by some unseen force that had just blasted from the stand. He landed flat on his back and all the breath whooshed out of his body. Gasping, he struggled to stand and run away, but he had only made it up to his knees before a pair of strong hands seized his shoulders and hauled him unceremoniously to his feet.

“Trying to steal my lunch, boy?” a deep voice rumbled.

It was the wizened apothecary, and he was clearly much more powerful than he looked. Godric tried to cast a spell on the man’s hands, but instead of yelping and letting go, much to Godric’s dismay, he instead began to shake the lad until his teeth rattled. A curious crowd began to gather.

Geroff me!” Godric gasped.

“Who d’ya think you are?” the apothecary demanded, punctuating his question with a few sharp slaps. “Bloody street scum! I’ll teach you a thing or two about stealing!”

And with that, he dragged a struggling Godric to the door of the shop. Godric managed to land a few kicks on his shins, but the old man ignored them and threw him inside, slamming the door behind them. Boxes and bottles of every shape and size lined the shelves of the room, and strange earthy smells filled the dim air.

Godric put his hand to his lower lip, which was swollen and sticky. He pushed himself up and braced himself for whatever punishment the man had in store for him.

            “The first thing about stealing you oughter know,” he said, glaring down at Godric. “Don’t steal from Beck Wotley.”

            He stepped closer. Godric scrambled to his feet, eyeing the man warily.

            “Second,” he continued, his voice steely. “Don’t get caught by Beck Wotley.”

            He took another step, and Godric stood his ground, refusing to back up against the wall. Old Beck Wotley glowered down at him.

            “Third, last, and most important,” he growled, and put his hands on Godric’s shoulders.

            Godric flinched. A beating was nothing, but he wouldn’t put it past the old man to turn his skin inside out or change him into a squirrel. 

Instead, Beck Wotley pushed him into a nearby chair and sat down across from him. When he spoke, his voice was amused.

            “For the love o’ Merlin, lad, if you’re going to use magic to steal, then do it right.”

            Godric’s mouth fell open. Beck snorted with laughter.

            “Oh, come, now, lad, it can’t’ve come as that much of a shock. I’d think that the fact that I protect my stall with a ward’d be enough to tell you I was a wizard.”

            Godric bristled and looked at the man narrowly. “I knew you was a wizard,” he said, his tone suggesting that Beck had insulted his intelligence. “It en’t like they’re scarce round ‘ere. You was just a bit… upset, is all. Your eyes was startin’ to pop out from your ‘ead, like. I thought you was going to burn me eyes out.”

“I only carried on like that for all them bloody people standing there watching,” Beck said dismissively. “They wanted a show, I gave em’ a show.”

            “Bloody realistic show, it was,” Godric said darkly, touching the corner of his mouth gingerly. “Bit too realistic, if you ask me.”

            “I didn’t. Don’t give me that bleedin’ heart shite,” Beck said remorselessly. “Now, I ain’t sayin’ I never nicked summat that weren’t mine, but you did try and steal my lunch, after all. I reckon a few good licks might straighten you out a bit. A life of petty crime don’t offer much in the way of career advancement.”

“Think it’s easy to find paid work in this city?” Godric retorted, incensed. “Look at me. What would you say if I came askinfer a job?”

Beck sized up his scrawny frame. “I’d say you look like you couldn’t lift a twig,” he admitted. “’ow old are you, anyway?”

“Fifty. You?”

Beck ignored the cheeky question. “You look ten. Got any family?”

Godric felt an angry flush creep into his cheeks. “No,” he said shortly. “And I en’t ten, I’m near thirteen.”

 “Got a name?”

“No.”

“Mm hmm.” Beck sat back in his chair and surveyed Godric, a look of frank curiosity on his face.

            “’oo are you, boy?” he said abruptly. “In all my life I en’t seen nowt like that magic you just did.”

            Godric blinked in surprise. “What d’you mean?” he asked, confused.

            “Where’d you learn to do that?”

            “Do what?”

            “That spell you used on the bread. It weren’t a proper spell, least nothing like I ever seen. Not a Levitation Charm, nohow. Where’d you learn to do magic?”

            “Nowhere.”

            “You taught yourself?”

            “Aye, I s’pose.” Godric didn’t like all these questions. Anonymity was precious to a street urchin like him. The ability to not be noticed. This old man was too nosy for his own good.

            “And ’ow exactly did you do that?”

            “I dunno.” He began to fidget. “If you en’t going to burn out me eyes, can I go now?”

            “Put your arse back in that chair. I only ask,” he said forcefully, pinning Godric with a level gaze, “because that little bit o’ magic you did was more powerful than anything I ever seen in any fully trained witch or wizard. Bloody near knocked me over.”

            Godric stared. “’orse shite,” he said.

            Beck wheezed with laughter. “Not at all,” he said. “Remember that spell you tried to put on me ‘ands?”

            “Didn’t work.”

            “No, but it did destroy in one go the Shield Charm I ‘ad up. If you’d tried again, it’ve worked. And I pride myself on Shield Charms. With someone to train you up a bit, teach you magic the way it oughter be done, you could really do summat with yerself, lad.”

            Godric studied Beck suspiciously. He seemed sincere, but one of the things that Godric had learned since coming to Manceastre was that no one could be trusted. It had been a bitter pill, but it was a lesson he had learned well. “Right,” he said, hopping to his feet. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

            “Will you just sit still and bloody listen for one minute?” Beck said irritably. “I was about to offer you a job, but if you en’t int’rested…”

            Godric turned back. “A job?” he repeated warily.

“Aye, a job. It’s like this, runt. These old eyes en’t seeinso well as they used to, and it’s gettin’ ‘arder for me to mix up me remedies. I figure by employin’ you, I’ll be curin’ a menace to society, for one thing, and givin’ a lonely kid a place to sleep at night, for another. What do you say? You work for me, I let you kip up in the loft and give you three good meals a day, as well as teach you to use that magic o’ yours.”

 It had been so long since anyone had given him a chance to be anything better than he was that Godric didn’t know what to think, let alone say. Reform wasn’t a concept that the soldiers of Prince Edward grasped too well. For the last two and a half years, he had been beaten, downtrodden, and spat upon. If an urchin was found dead on the street, well, it was only a street rat. He had almost stopped believing in his own worth.

But not quite. Deep down, he had never really felt that being a thief was his lot in life. He’d always believed something better lay in his future.

            “What about me bird?” he said finally. “Fawkes. Can ‘e stay, too?”

            “What sort of bird?”

            “’e’s a phoenix. And ‘e en’t really mine, exactly.”

            Beck raised an eyebrow. “A phoenix! Well, there’s a story behind you, lad, and no mistake. Yes, your Fawkes can stay.”

            “Well, in that case…” He wanted to say something more, but couldn’t seem to find the right way to get his mouth around it.

           Beck quirked a flyaway eyebrow at him, but there was understanding in the look. “Got a name now?” he said simply.

            “Godric Gryffindor.”

 They shook hands, and a partnership was born.

~  *  ~

 

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