Note: This update is long overdue, I know – I didn't realise quite how long this oneshot would take me to write. For Godric and Helga's chapter, I decided to write about the first time they met – and it spiralled into this madness! Thanks to everyone who reviewed last time, and enjoy!
Rumours of death and dragon fire were what brought Godric to the valleys of Wales. Even on horseback, the journey was a long one, but travelling had never fazed him. The wild moors of his homeland quickly gave way to dense woodland and rolling hills.
His horse, Augustus – nicknamed Gus – was no true horse. By night, they flew, but by day they travelled on foot so as not to attract unwanted attention from muggles.
As the landscape grew ever more mountainous, Godric dismounted and pulled out his map – a worn roll of parchment that had once belonged to his father. Other the years, it had amassed its fair share of rips and mead-related stains. Godric frowned at the map while Gus wandered over to a stream for water.
Startled, Godric looked up. His hand reached, as always, for his sword before his wand. He relaxed when he noticed that the speaker was merely an old muggle man, wearing a tattered brown tunic. He was leaning against a broad tree trunk, half-obscured by the wild undergrowth. In the crook of his arm, he held a basket filled with dark red berries.
Godric waved. "Hello, good sir! You would not happen to know of an inn called The Green Dragon?"
The muggle shook his head. "No, lad. The only inn I know round here's called The Angry Badger." He tipped his head to one side and muttered, "Though… there's a lot of strange folk lingering 'round there." The man squinted at Godric. "Happen you're one of them…"
"Me? No. Normal as they come, me." Gus came trotting back to Godric's side, whickering softly. He snatched up the reins, ready to mount.
The muggle was still staring, his eyes trained on Gus. "Your horse…"
"What about him?" Godric patted Gus's flank – the Aethonan was disguised by a well-placed concealment charm. "Nothing unusual about him."
The muggle continued to gawp. "Well, I don't know how to put this, lad, but your horse has just grown wings."
"He – what? You can see them?"
"Aye. D'you think I'm mad?"
Godric, however, was quickly piecing together the mystery of Gus's failing concealment charm. He hurried down to the stream where the horse had been drinking and dipped his hands in the ice cold water. "Ingenious! It's been charmed to wash away any concealment… I must be near."
The muggle shook his head and said more to himself than Godric, "See what I mean? Strange folk."
Leaving the (rightly) suspicious muggle behind, Godric continued in the direction the map suggested. The direction in question, unfortunately, was uphill and relentlessly tiring. He was forced to dismount once again, as the trees grew so thick that he needed his sword to clear a safe path.
The fine silver blade glinted in the sunlight. He hacked through the undergrowth, swiping furiously at the branches as though they were his enemies. He swung back his arm… and a small girl dropped from the tree in front of him.
Godric froze. Beside him, Gus reared up nervously.
"Oi – you!" he shouted, as the girl sprung to her feet with the ease of a cat. "You want to be careful, creeping around like that. You startled my horse!"
The girl looked unfazed. "You want to be careful with that." She nodded at the sword now hanging limply from Godric's right hand. "You'll take someone's head off. There are children round here, you know."
At first glance, Godric had taken her for a child. She was a head shorter than him, pale and freckled with wild fair hair. Her mustard yellow robes were almost as tattered and muddy as the old muggle's tunic had been. Up close, however, Godric saw that it was young woman's body that shifted beneath her clothes. She was no girl.
"I'm Godric Gryffindor," he said, outstretching a hand. "And I apologise for almost taking yours or anyone else's head off. Though I suspect your drop from the tree was timed. You were watching me approach, no?"
She smiled brightly. "You're correct." She took his hand. Her own was small, but surprisingly strong. "My name's Helga. We get a lot of travellers coming this way – and not all of them savoury. You'll have to forgive my suspicions. What brings you this way?"
He hesitated. "The Green Dragon, but I've been informed that the only inn around here is called The Angry Badger."
"That's true," she agreed. "But you'll find they're one and the same." She stepped past Godric and began to stroke Gus's mane. The proud Aethonan whinnied contentedly.
"What do you mean?" Godric asked.
She turned and smiled, and he realised for the first time just how mischievous her expression was. "Muggles call it The Angry Badger, magic folk The Green Dragon. You'll be the latter, I assume?"
"Aye," he agreed. "And you?"
"A witch, yes." She whispered something soothing to Gus. "I did wonder, though, what a wizard was doing using a sword instead of a wand."
"You already knew what I was? How?"
She laughed. "Your horse has wings."
"Follow me," she said. "You've veered a little off course if you're heading for The Green Dragon. It's a mile or so east. Come along," she added, when he simply stared dumbly after her. "I'm not cursed."
Helga made an efficient guide on the last leg of the journey – and Godric quickly discovered why. The inn belonged to her father and she had worked there since she was a little girl. "I had to," she explained, shrugging. "My mother died years ago, and she was always the heart of it. My father can't be relied upon. I do the cooking and cleaning and I wait on the tables."
Godric stared at her. She was no little girl, granted, but she was slight nonetheless. "By yourself?"
"Mostly, though others help. My brothers and sisters – the older ones – pitch in too. I'm the oldest, you see. Sixteen. My mother and father had me in wedlock; I was their only child. When she died, he took other women, muggles or magical, but he never married any of them."
She had seven bastard brothers and sisters, she told Godric. Seven that she knew about, at least.
"Goodness knows how my father attracts these women. He doesn't wash very often."
At that, Godric laughed so heartily that he stumbled over a tree root.
The Green Dragon sat on the outskirts of a tiny village. Village, actually, was possibly too grand a term. Godric and Helga passed several ramshackle huts; the dusty paths were populated by playing children and ambling sheep. The villagers did not so much as pause when Godric led Gus past – he had recast the concealment charm. Helga, however, attracted an outpouring of excitement.
"Helga! Afternoon, Helga!"
"Miss Hufflepuff," called one heavily pregnant woman, "you're back."
"What did she just call you?" Godric demanded, sure he had misheard.
Helga looked unabashed. "An old nickname of my father's – one he picked up for being a fool. It just stuck."
They arrived beneath the battered sign of The Green Dragon as evening fell. The letters were peeling and the red flames shooting from the painted dragon's mouth had long faded. "When a muggle looks at it, they see a black badger on a yellow background," Helga told him, as he tied up Gus outside. "The Inn of Two Names, some people call it. So I suppose it has three."
Inside, the air was thick with heat and smoke, and heavy with the rumble of conversation. The ceilings were low and the floor crowded with stools and tables. Helga led Godric past the patrons to the bar, behind which a freckle-faced boy was wiping a tankard. One of the bastard brothers, Godric assumed. "Alwyn, bring a flagon of mead and two goblets through to the parlour," Helga instructed. "And we'll be needing helpings of bread and lamb stew, please."
Godric ducked into the equally low-ceiling parlour, which was smaller and darker than the main room – but noticeably cleaner. Helga lit the fire with her wand, filling the room with heat and flickering light. Over mead and stew, she asked what had truly brought him this way.
"From your accent, I'd guess you've come quite a distance. Why?"
Godric tore off a chunk of bread with his teeth. "Rumours," he said, "rumours of dragon fire."
He half-expected Helga to laugh. She seemed to laugh a lot, though never unkindly. She regarded him with genuine interest, however. "You've come to deal with our dragon problem?"
He nodded and slurped his stew. "If I may."
She twirled her wand absently. "What are you seeking?" she asked. "Gold? Glory?"
"Neither," he insisted, and when she raised her eyebrows added, "Well, doesn't everyone want a little glory?"
"If you insist." Helga took a swig of mead; her expression turned sombre. "The dragon that's been plaguing us… it's only young at the moment, but becoming bolder by the day. You saw that pregnant girl in the village? Her husband, Brandon, died a month back. He was burned – badly." She shivered. "He lived a few days after it happened, but we couldn't save him. They kept sheep, you see, and dragons get hungry. He was trying to protect one of the flock when it loosed its flames."
Godric noticed the way her eyes glistened. He looked away quickly as she wiped her face.
"My lady," he promised, "if I can, I will slay the dragon that plagues your village."
The smile returned to Helga's face, but she shook her head. "No, not slay it. How would you feel about capturing it?"
Godric coughed and mead dribbled down his chin. "Capture it? Why? A dragon is no pet."
"True. But all the same, we can't slay them all, can we? 'Else we'll be left with no dragons at all." She looked thoughtful. "There are people who study dragons, people who protect them. As long as it is stunned and put in an enchanted sleep, we can arrange for it to be moved up-country."
"It killed your friend," Godric pointed out.
"It was after the sheep. Brandon was just unlucky."
Godric shrugged. "Kill a dragon, capture a dragon – it's much the same to me." He mopped up the last dregs of stew with a huge slice of bread.
"Excellent." Helga raised her goblet to him and drained it of mead. She stood up. "I'll find you a bed for the night and see that your horse is cared for. Tomorrow, we go dragon hunting."
"Wait – we?!"
"I thought you were just going to point me in the direction of its nest and then go home?"
Godric strode faster and faster, increasing his strides. He could not shake off Helga who wove through the trees, following him doggedly. The dragon, she said, nested in a clearing in the woods north of the village. Its green and gold scales had been spotted glittering in the sunlight whenever it circled over the forest. "Another hill," he puffed. "It's all bloody hills around here."
"Are you sure you're fit enough to capture a dragon?" Helga teased, stepping in front of him. Her green eyes glinted with mirth.
"Yes," said Godric, shoving past her. "And you should go home. I'll not be responsible if anything awful happens to you. You're too young."
She snorted. "I've been breaking up pub brawls since I was twelve. Anyway, you cannot be much older than me."
"Eighteen," he admitted grudgingly. "That's still two years older than you." He knew it was pointless to continue arguing. "You're stubborn, that's what you are."
"You say that like it's bad thing," Helga laughed. She paused and threw out an arm to stop him. "I should warn you about something else, too."
The expression on her face was utterly serious as she said, "Badgers."
Godric stared at her. "Badgers?" he repeated.
"Yes." Her face was grave. "You should watch where you step. We get a lot of them around here and they can vicious when provoked."
Godric could not stop himself: he laughed. "Is that a joke?"
Helga swatted at his arm. "No!" she said indignantly. "Many a man has fallen prey – "
Godric never found out what many men had fallen prey to. An earth shaking roar make the trees around them tingle. Helga spun in the direction of the noise. "We're closer than I thought," she murmured.
"I thought you said it wasn't fully grown," he hissed. "That doesn't sound like a baby to me."
"Well, it has been a month, if not more, since it was last seen near the village – "
"Come on." Godric's hand flew to the hilt of his sword and he set off in the direction of the noise, Helga by his side. Something crunched beneath his boots, but they were not twigs and branches as he assumed.
"Look!" Helga pointed and Godric realised that he was standing on heaps of blackened bones. "Sheep bones," she muttered, nudging the charred splinters with her shoe. "It's been hunting."
He laughed. "Then it shouldn't still be hungry."
"We can hope."
The further they travelled, the more obvious it became that a young dragon was nesting in the forest. Patches of grass had been burned away completely, leaving dark scorch marks on the forest floor. They passed a bent and twisted tree, its branches falling into their path. The trunk, Godric noticed, bore deep scratches from where the dragon had landed. Scattered sheep bones and bloodied rabbit carcases became more frequent.
Magical settlements attracted dragons, but it was the fresh food source that kept them there. He glanced at Helga and saw that she was wide-eyed. "I didn't realise," she murmured, looking around at the devastated woodland. "I knew sheep were going missing, but..."
Godric reached across to place a hand on her shoulder, but stopped when he noticed smoke swirling from the undergrowth. "Helga..." he whispered, quietly pointing it out. "I think we may have found the dragon."
It was sleeping.
The thick scales of its underbelly glowed like molten gold in the morning air. The roar they had heard turned out to be only a snore and whenever it snorted in its sleep, the earth trembled slightly. The fire had been quickly extinguished by a stream of water from Helga's wand, but with every rumbling snore a stream of smoke and sparks shot from its nostrils, kindling in the dry grass.
"Almost takes the fun out of it, doesn't it?" Godric squinted through the trees at the sleeping dragon. His words were bold, but his stomach swooped unpleasantly. Though the dragon slept, its size rivalled a small cottage. Sharp, steel-grey claws were tucked beneath its body. Godric knew that it could rip his stomach from his body, but also that it didn't need to.
Its fire was lethal.
"Stunners won't work," he muttered to Helga, who was crouched beside him. "Dragons have an almost impenetrable hide. Hitting him with a Stunning Spell, even two at once, will only serve to wake him." He sighed. "And anger him."
"What about this?" Helga rustled in her bag and pulled out a dead rabbit. Godric reeled as the smell of earth, blood and death hit his nostrils.
"What about it?" he coughed.
She smiled wickedly. "It's laced with a powerful sleeping draught – and I know it's effective because we used it once on a rowdy warlock at closing time. He was out cold for nearly two days afterwards."
Godric took the rabbit by its scruff. It swung limply in his hand. "We lay this in the clearing," he said, "and then we wait. When it eats, we strike." It sounded simple.
Helga nodded and, for the first time, he saw a flicker of nervousness in her eyes. She gripped her wand.
Godric felt it too, that fear, that sickening feeling that clenched in his stomach. To his left he heard the snores of a sleeping dragon and to his right the rustle of leaves in the wind. Bravery, his father said, went hand in hand with fear. If a man was never scared, how could he truly be brave?
Slowly, silently, Godric stood. He felt the thrum of blood beneath his skin; his fingers tingled.
He stepped into the clearing, the dead rabbit clutched tightly in his hand. Though he was careful to keep a certain distance between himself and the dragon, the heat it gave off was inescapable. His body surged with nerves, but Godric kept walking, one foot after another. If he closed his eyes he could have been in the Great Hall at Gryffindor Manor, sat beside one of the huge, roaring fires. He crouched down and laid the rabbit on the forest floor. Eyes trained on the sleeping dragon, Godric straightened up. Close up, he noticed how beautiful its scales were – almost iridescent, made up of not just one shade of green, but hundreds. Olive and emerald, turquoise and jade, depending how the light touched it.
He shook his head, laughing at his own sentimentality, and turned to walk away.
The dragon gave a snort.
"Godric!" Helga's voice sounded oddly distant and fearful, and he quickly realised why.
Climbing out from beneath the dragon's huge claws, came another smaller dragon, thin and wobbly on its spindly legs. The smell of the dead rabbit had drawn it out, but at the sight of Godric it started squawking – a strange, hoarse noise that sounded more bird-like than reptilian.
It was not a baby at all, he thought, but a female – a nesting mother.
"No, no, no," he muttered, stumbling backwards. "Shhh."
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Helga running into the clearing. Suddenly, faster than he could ever have dreamed, the dragon was waking. Huge, amber eyes flickered open at the sound of its offspring's distress. Godric tripped as he backed away. The mother dragon unfurled itself; its neck was long and its claws sharp and deadly. He knew he could never get out of its way in time -
"Aguamenti!" The flames had not left the dragon's fanged mouth before being doused by a stream of water from Helga's wand. It blinked and swung its head around, screeching furiously. Ribbons of steam swirled into the air where the jet of water had hit.
For a moment, Godric felt paralysed, his feet glued to the ground. Only the sight of the angered mother dragon bearing down on Helga spurred him into action. She ducked from side to side, wand out, flinging jets of red light at the dragon's hide. They made little impact.
I'll not be responsible if anything happens to you. The words echoed in Godric's head, but he had never truly meant them.
He gripped his sword and swung it into his hand. This came naturally. The sword felt light as air as he raised it high and brought it swooping down. The dragon shrieked as the sword raked its side. The cut was shallow, but it was enough to distract it from pursuing Helga. It spread its wings to their full, terrifying width. For a moment, the world collapsed and all Godric could see was those dark wings, blocking out the sun.
"Duck," he yelled at Helga, as the dragon loosed its flames again and fire rained down. He lunged to the side, but a moment too slow. The fire grazed him and pain exploded along his left arm. Staggering, he groped for the rabbit carcass, desperate for something, anything to distract it.
His fingers brushed against something solid. Twisting, he saw the forgotten baby dragon picking at the dead rabbit. It shrieked and snapped, sharp teeth grazing Godric's knuckles. He shot a stunner at it – barely pausing to see if it hit – and snatched up the bloody rabbit.
"Here! Here!" He lifted the bait high above his head and waved it frantically. He spotted Helga behind the dragon, scrambling to her feet. It stretched its neck as Godric flung the rabbit into the air. Powerful jaws snapped shut, consuming the body in one gulp.
With a force that shook the earth around them, the dragon listed sideways. Its long, elegant neck swayed and its eyes drifted closed. It hit the ground with an ungraceful thump.
Godric stared. He glanced over his shoulder at the baby dragon – which was also asleep having eaten part of the laced bait. He wanted to laugh or cry – he wasn't sure which. The pain in his arm threatened to explode, however, and he slumped backwards.
Godric lay on his back, staring blankly at the sky. His chest heaved and his burnt arm throbbed. "That could have gone better," he grunted, gingerly sitting up.
Helga walked slowly towards him. Aside from an angry scratch across her cheek, she was otherwise unharmed. She knelt in front of him, her soft hair brushing against his face. "Here," she said, rummaging beneath her robes.
"You've not got another dead rabbit in there, have you?"
She laughed and pulled out a small jar. "No, no. It's a salve for your arm. I thought I'd better bring supplies, in case things went wrong."
Godric sighed heavily. "Which they did."
Helga unscrewed the jar and began gently applying the thick, yellow paste to Godric's blistered arm. "What did we set out to do?" she asked.
"Capture a dragon."
"And what did we do?"
The white-hot pain in his arm was rapidly fading. He thought. "Capture two dragons."
Helga laughed and Godric joined her. Now that the threat of imminent death had passed, the whole thing seemed very very funny.
"Stop it," she said, playfully shoving him. "Come now. Let's get home."
"One moment – episkey," he said, aiming his wand at her. The cut on her cheek quickly receded, until the skin was left unblemished.
Helga smiled, suddenly shy. "Thank you," she said, taking his hand and helping him to his feet.
They took the caged dragons to a rather eccentric warlock Helga knew, who would convey them away from the village to safety. Godric noted the burns and scars that marred his arms and knew that they were in good hands.
Only when they were walking back through the trees to The Green Dragon did Godric realise how hungry he was. "You know, Helga," he said, "I think I could manage a gallon of that fine lamb stew."
"You'll be lucky. By this time of day, there'll be little more than a few bowlfuls left. We have plenty of fresh rock cakes, though."
"Wonderful!" The thrill of victory coursed through Godric's veins. With the dragon dealt with, he felt free, light, almost giddy. Helga walked a few paces behind him.
"I'd tread carefully if I was you," she cautioned. "Remember what I told you earlier?"
"Oh, don't be silly Helga – aaaaargh!"
The forest flashed past, a blur of green, and the ground came up to meet him. Hot, jagged pain shot through his leg. Distantly, he heard Helga scream.
He had fallen down a badger sett.
Sometime later, and having returned to full consciousness, Godric found himself back at the inn and slumped in a chair by the fireside. The Green Dragon was in full voice. Two fierce, heavily bearded warlocks were arguing over what their young hero should be called: Godric 'Dragon Slayer' or Godric 'Lion Heart'.
"Here you go!" Helga weaved through the crowds and deposited a plate of rock cakes and a flagon of mead on Godric's table. "How is your leg?"
He grimaced. "Still twisted. Still throbbing."
Helga leaned over and pressed a delicate golden goblet into his hand. Godric pulled a face when he noticed the tiny engraving upon it: a badger.
"Don't worry," Helga whispered, "I won't tell anyone how you really injured your leg."
"Thank you. I feel as if I've had my pride bruised quite enough for one day." He glanced at the goblet which was full of a thick purple liquid and slowly smoking. "What is this?"
"A solution for the pain."
Godric sniffed at the bitter smoke. "These things always taste foul," he said. He lifted the cup in a mock toast. "But I thank you." He took a deep swig. The taste was a surprise – sweet and smooth, like honey, only richer. "Well, I didn't expect that."
Helga grinned at him. "It's the cup," she explained. "It's enchanted. It alters the taste of unpleasant potions and antidotes – makes them bearable."
Godric stared at the cup, holding it at arm's length and watching as it glinted in the flickering firelight.
"Astounding. But what of poison? Would that taste just as sweet?"
Helga smiled and shook her head. "No. I considered that when I made it. Poison would taste foul, even if it was intended to be tasteless."
The cup nearly slipped from Godric's fingers. He placed it on the table before he dropped it. "You made it?"
"Yes." Helga met his eyes unwaveringly.
"You're an exceptionally talented witch, Helga."
Her cheeks flushed crimson. "Thank you." She nodded at the cup. "You'd best finish that or else the pain'll wake you up in the night."
Godric nodded and picked it up. He stared at the delicate engraving of the badger and grimaced. "Bloody badgers," he said before downing the last of the potion in one go.
Thirteen Years Later
Helga pulled the sheet of parchment towards herself. The four founders had been working for hours, plotting and planning, until the fire had burned to embers and shadows darkened the room. "How about this?" she said, lowering her quill to the paper.
She wrote four words.
Salazar took the parchment and glanced over it. He raised his eyebrows and passed it to Rowena. "Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus," she read aloud.
"Never tickle a sleeping dragon," Salazar translated. He shook his head. "Wise words, to be sure. But I'm not entirely certain of the relevance."
"Well," Helga said, avoiding Godric's stare for fear that she would start laughing, "it's to be taken more symbolically, than literally. It advises caution. It reminds you not to underestimate your enemies."
"I like it," Rowena said, passing the parchment on to Godric who was sat at the end of the table.
"Me too," he agreed. "Very wise words. After all, even a sleeping dragon cannot easily be captured."
Salazar snorted over his goblet of wine. "What a useless comment! Why on earth would anyone want to capture a dragon?"
Helga caught Godric's eye across the table, and she smiled. "Why indeed."