velvetfiction: (chocolate&magic)
[personal profile] velvetfiction
Title: Reflections
Gift for: [ profile] firstyearagain in the 2009 [ profile] founders_gifts exchange
Author: [personal profile] velvetmouse
Characters/Pairing: Helga, Rowena
Rating: G
Warnings: none
Genres: genfic
Author's Notes: Many thank, as always, to my beta Sherry, who saves the world, one comma at a time.
Summary: Two women. An enchanted mirror. What could possibly go wrong?


The sound of swearing, sharp and creative, drew Helga to the open door. Leaning on the jamb, she saw her friend and colleague bent over the table, jabbing a wand at a small piece of polished silver.

"And just what, pray tell, has that mirror done to aggrieve you so?" Helga asked mildly, causing the room's occupant to look up sharply.

"The bloody thing just won't cooperate," Rowena grumbled and then blew an errant lock of hair out of her face in a visible effort to calm herself.

"What are you trying to get it to do?"

"I was hoping to enchant it so that I could show the students each step of the brewing process for a particular potion. That way, they could just activate it when they were studying and watch the whole thing, or follow along as they were brewing."

"Sounds like a typically brilliant idea, Nana. So what's the problem?"

"I've been trying to enchant this with my memory of making a basic healing potion, and – well, here, just have a look." Helga joined her friend at the table and watched as the other witch traced her wand in a complicated pattern over the mirror and then tapped her head with her wand. A thin, silvery substance seemed to flow down into the mirror, which shimmered with power.

"There, that should have enchanted the mirror with the memory. I tried to keep it as straight-forward as possible, just focusing on the steps to making the potion. But look what happens when you activate the mirror," Rowena said, indicating a small rune at the top of the mirror's frame.

Cautiously, Helga tapped it with her wand and watched in amazement at the scene that unfolded on the mirror's surface.


The entire household had been in an uproar since the arrival of the Bretton king. Morgen, being the eldest and most experienced, immediately took charge and was gleefully ordering everyone else around. Which left Rowena, the baby of the group, with all the tasks that no one else wanted. In this case, that meant she found herself stuck in the still for hours at a time, carefully grinding and chopping herbs in twilight that hurt her eyes.

In principle, she understood the necessity of working by a single tallow light; sunlight quickly leeched the value out of many of the herbs, and magical light was too volatile to risk around such precious plants. But knowing that did not make the experience any more pleasant.

Flexing her fingers in an attempt to rid them of stiffness and cold, Rowena set aside the mortar and pestle she had been working with. Outside, the warm spring air was damp and heavy with the smell of the flowers, but in the still, winter clung to the darkness. She drew her shawl more tightly around her shoulders, pushed an errant tendril of black hair out of her face (Yet again. There always seemed to be one that would not stay confined.) and took the last of her herbs over to the large cauldron.

Carefully, she added the rosemary (for vigor) with three clockwise turns, and the jasmine (to lift the spirit) with two anti-clockwise ones. Rowena looked on with pride as the potion turned from deep blue to a vibrant red and finally to a shimmering pale green – just as she predicted.

Healing potions were her specialty, and it had been she who had determined that the direction of the stirs mattered. Not that Morgen would ever let her take credit for that. Morgen, as the eldest, was the public face of their sisterhood. It was to Morgen that even the great Merlin himself had brought the sickly Arthur, and it would be Morgen who got all the credit for reviving the Bretton king. Even though it was Rowena who had made most of the potions, came up with the modifications when he did not seem to be responding, as well as read and researched anything she could get her hands on to improve the potions.

Rowena ground her teeth in frustration. Some day it would be her, not Morgen, who was remembered and held in highest regard. Someday she would claim credit for all that she had done. But not today. Today she was just a slip of an eighteen-year-old girl, with long black hair and startling blue eyes and a nose for books. Today she was just a witch with a healing potion to bottle.

She found Morgen sitting attentively at the feet of the king, both soaking up the sunlight in the garden. Schooling her expression into a neutral one to mask the smirk that came to her lips, Rowena wordlessly handed over the potion to her sister. Dropping a curtsy in response to Arthur’s smile of thanks – he, at least, seemed willing to acknowledge her efforts – she began to retrace her steps back inside, but then stopped. It was a fine day, and she had spent far too much time in the still. With a mischievous smile playing across her lips, Rowena frowned in concentration and her form blurred and shimmered until a large eagle stood where the girl had been.

This, also, was something she was proud of. Aside from Morgen, she was the only one to achieve her Animagus form.

With a few beats of her wings, the eagle was aloft, climbing high into the clouds until she could see the entirety of their small island at once. Her sharpened eyesight allowed her to make out great detail, even from such a height – there was the apple orchard, for which the island was named, and there were two of her sisters out on the lake, conversing with some of the Merpeople.

She circled around again and descended to the very garden which she had just left. Arthur, having been around long enough to be unsurprised by this casual display of magic, merely extended a well-padded arm on which she could alight. Landing as gently as she could, Rowena quickly transferred her weight to the arm of the bench, while Morgen scowled at man and bird.

Rowena hissed at her sister – not a particularly dignified sound coming from a large, bronze-colored eagle, but it expressed her sentiments exactly – and deliberately started picking at the ribbon in Morgen’s hair. A few delicate pulls with her talented beak, and the long white length of fabric came free, letting her older sister’s brown curls fall freely down her back.

With a triumphant call, the eagle grasped the ribbon in her claws, mantled twice and launched herself into the air, leaving a laughing Arthur and an irate-but-amused sister far behind her. If small victories were all Rowena could get on this day, then that was what she would take.


"That was amazing, Rowena!" exclaimed Helga when the mirror went dark again. "It was like I was there with you! I knew how you were feeling and what was going on, I don't know how, but I did."

"I know. But that still wasn't the steps to making a healing potion," the other witch replied dryly. "Instead of taking my memory of how to make the potion, the mirror somehow decided to grab my memory of the first time I ever really spent a significant amount of time studying, modifying and working on the healing potions." She chuckled. "Actually, it's directly because of that time that Godric heard of me."

"Oh? I never did hear how you two met. . ."

Smiling, Rowena waved her wand and conjured a second chair, and the two witches sat. A gifted brewer she might be, but everyone knew that the raven-haired witch really had two loves in life – learning esoteric bits of knowledge and telling stories. "I'm sorry, I just assumed Salazar had told you. You always seem to know what's going on. Well, up until then, Morgen was the only one of the sisters of the Isle who was really known, even to the Magical community. We kept mostly to ourselves, and liked it that way. But then Merlin brought Arthur to us and that all changed. He reminded us very firmly that we were part of a larger world, whether we liked it or not, and we had knowledge that could help others. Since Merlin was Morgen's teacher, she couldn't really refuse him, no matter how much she might have wanted to."

Helga chuckled. Rowena was full of stories about Morgen. While the eldest sister's reputation was already becoming vast and rather exaggerated, there was no doubt that Morgen had a prickly and controlling personality.

"Anyway," Rowena continued, "Morgen might have publicly claimed all the credit, but both Merlin and Arthur knew that my potions had a lot to do with the King's recovery. They both made sure a few key people knew what really happened, and eventually word found its way to Godric that there was a healing specialist on the Isle. 'ric is the second son of the Lord Baron who owns the land surrounding the Isle. They're all wizards in that family, but they keep it pretty quiet. His father, Alfred, takes his duties to his people seriously, and his older brother Rolan seems to be following along. His two sisters have already been married off, so that left Godric pretty much free to do what he wanted. When he and Sal came up with this crazy idea for a school, he realized that, as good as the two of them are, having a female presence would be useful, and having a Healer around would be even more useful. By that time, things were rather tense between Morgen and myself, so I gladly accepted Godric's offer to join them."

"Sounds like a good reason to escape to me." Helga looked thoughtfully at her friend. "Can you wipe the mirror clean of your memory? We might as well find out if it does the same thing when someone else tries to put in a memory. It could be that the person who does the initial preparation of the mirror needs to be different than the one who puts in the memory."

Rowena blinked in surprise. She had known Helga for over a decade, but the tawny-haired witch still could surprise her. Rowena was the acknowledged master of magical theory of the group, and Helga, having come rather late to her magical training, tended to stick to the practical aspects. But just when Rowena thought she had her friend neatly categorized, the other witch would come out with an idea that was multiple steps ahead of where everyone else was.

"Sure, I can do that. Do you need me to show you the wand movements for retrieving the memory?"

"No, I saw it." That was the other thing that always amazed Rowena – Helga's ability to learn and perfectly repeat a complicated incantation from simply seeing or reading it once.

"All right, I have erased the mirror so that it is prepared, but empty of all memories. What are you going to try to put in?"

"I was thinking I'd try to put in my never-ending pot charm. There are several distinct steps to that, so it should be a good test."

Helga then repeated the pattern over the mirror with her wand and tapped her forehead. As before, a silvery string seemed to descend to the mirror's surface. With a shrug, Rowena tapped the activation rune and the two witches bend over the mirror to see what was shown.


The bells for Matins rang in the twilight of pre-dawn, just as they had every day for the past four years of her life. But for once, they did not rouse Helga from a deep slumber. Instead, she rose from the spot beside her bed where she had spent the night in prayer, and quickly splashed water on her face from the small bucket on the stand that was the cell's only other piece of furniture. Hopefully the shock of the cold water would make up for the lack of sleep.

It had happened again. The drought was hitting the area hard, and food was in short supply. The farmers did what they could to provide for the abbey, but everyone was barely scraping by; and the abbess was not so cruel, like some were, to deny their tenants food for their own plates simply to fill the Order's stomachs. Last night it had looked like there was going to be barely enough stew for a spoonful or two each. But somehow –
somehow – the pot seemed bottomless and there was more than enough to go around. It was the first time in weeks they had gone to bed sated.

A miracle, some whispered. Helga wasn't so sure. Not that she didn't believe in miracles. She did, truly. And the Lord worked in ways incomprehensible to the earthly-bound. She could not deny the possibility that it truly was a miracle. But nor could she deny the fact that she had felt . . .
something when she had held the communal pot. A tugging, or perhaps a pulling, from deep within her, as she had gazed mournfully at the small amount of food that needed to feed the whole community. She had felt sadness and frustration, and perhaps a little bit of anger, wondering what they had done to deserve to be punished so, and then that pulling sensation. Nor could she deny that the pot had only taken on its miraculous bottomless quality after it had passed through her hands.

Helga sighed softly as she took her place in line behind the other Sisters and wondered, not for the first time, if her father had made the right decision by sending her to the abbey. But truly, it was the only gift he could give her; his lands were not extensive enough to provide two reasonably sized dowries, and as the second daughter, there were few options for Helga.

As they entered the chapel, Helga prayed fervently that she would do nothing else to attract the attention of the priest or the abbess. If the miraculously refilling stew-pot
had happened through her, she was grateful for the results, but less pleased by the method. It was not something that she could explain, and in her experience, the unexplained was treated in only two ways – as a miracle or a curse. Either would bring far more attention than the shy girl wanted to experience.


Rowena looked up from the mirror and a soft smile, quite unlike her usual smirk, graced her lips. "That was from – before – wasn't it?" she asked quietly. To speak loudly after witnessing such a scene was unthinkable.

Helga nodded and sat back down, conjuring two cups of tea with a deft flick of her wrist. "I had almost forgotten about that. I think that was when I first consciously realized that maybe I was doing something that no one else could do. There had been other . . . incidents before that, but that was the first time I had ever thought about it and started putting the pieces together. Of course it wasn't until I had met Sal, and he explained about magic, that I realized I must have been doing accidental wandless magic all along."

"Was it very hard to leave? The convent, I mean. There's such a sense of peace in your memory. . ."

"It wasn't as hard as you might think," Helga explained gently. "I never quite felt like I fit in there. All the other women were able maintain this detachment, this belief that there was something bigger than them that they could never quite see, feel or touch. I, on the other hand, knew that there was something larger, but it was inside of me, an intimate part of my being. I needed to connect with it and learn how to manage it, rather than just letting my magic overwhelm me. It was getting almost unbearable by the time I left."

"How did you and Salazar meet, anyway? You always seemed to be joined at the hip, for as long as I've known either of you, but obviously that wasn't always the case."

Helga laughed and timed her answer carefully. "Salazar kidnapped me."

"He what?" Rowena spluttered, spraying the tea she had just taken a sip of across the table.

"Kidnapped me."

"Explain," Rowena demanded severely, with a glare at her unperturbed friend.

"Our dear sneaky Salazar kidnapped me, right out from under the nose of the abbess. You know how sensitive he is to magical discharges. Apparently he was in the area during one of my . . . incidents and realized that there was an untrained witch in the vicinity. So, posing as 'Brother Lazarus', an itinerant monk, he took refuge in the convent during a summer storm and made himself useful enough that he was allowed to stay for a few weeks – just long enough for him to identify me as the cause of those magical discharges. Then he snuck up on me one evening at the end of Mass and Portkeyed me right out of the chapel. I was, needless to say, not pleased. But once he convinced me that he was not about to drag me off to his bedroom and sully my virtue, I let him explain what was going on. And thus began my magical education."

"And how long did it take you to forgive him?" Rowena asked with a chuckle, shaking her head at the audacity of Salazar.

"Oh, about a decade," Helga replied with an airy wave of her hand. Then she turned serious again. "Well, I think we've proven that there's something about the way the mirror was prepared that is complicating things when you extract the memory. I was trying for my bottomless pot charm and it actually pulled my memory of the first time I discovered such a thing was possible. You were trying for the steps to your healing potion, and it pulled your memory of the first time you really worked on them."

"So somehow the mirror is latching on to the emotional context of the memory we're trying to use, and mixing things up. Not quite what I was going for, but it has some interesting possibilities," Rowena mused.

"Imagine being able to relive any moment you wanted! Or show someone else your memory of an event. If we could work out a way to ensure that the memories were an accurate representation of what happened, just think of the benefit for the King's justice. An accused or accuser would simply have to provide a memory of the event!"

"Hmm, I wonder if there is a better method for storing the memory than a mirror. I originally chose it because I thought it would be useful for showing the memory. But maybe there is another way. . ."

Whatever Rowena would have said next was lost as an explosion rattled the table and windows. A small voice drifted through the open door. "Oops. That wasn't supposed to happen. . . "

The two witches glanced at each other and sprinted out into the corridor, towards the potions classroom several doors down.

The magical mirror and the memories were temporarily forgotten in the wake of discovering what disaster one of their students had created this time. Just another day at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.


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