Disclaimer: Everything here (besides the few things you don't know) belongs to JK Rowling, creator of the worlds of Harry Potter.
A/N: Hello, there! This is the second fic I uploaded to This one has nothing whatsoever to do with my other story The Story of Four Friends. This one tells of the Founders of Hogwarts and I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.
Fear not! I haven't abandoned The Story of Four Friends! No, it will be going as scheduled, and since I didn't have time enough to finish writing the next chapter, it will be updated as promised on Saturday, September 4th.
I hope this fic will keep all readers of Four Friends occupied till Chapter 15 is up...
Read, enjoy, review and make my day!
Tale of a Time Long Gone
"In the long history of the Wizarding World, which stretches to the Dawn of Time, there are two wizards and two witches who will forever be renowned and celebrated all across the world in all magical communities.
"These four are the ones, who, against all odds and against all the strongest of wizards of their time, strove for excellence and the education of children in the fine arts of magic.
"Their names will be engraved for eternity in the pages of history:
"Rowena Ravenclaw of the Glen,
"Helga Hufflepuff of Caerwyn Valley,
"Godric Gryffindor of Wild Moor,
"Salazar Slytherin of the Fen.
"Founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
- Hogwarts, A History; Author unknown
Rowena wiped her dirty hands on her apron. Mother was sure to come looking for her before long, so she had to make the most of the little stolen time she managed to procure.
She was standing on the banks of a shallow stream. The ground was covered in the thin frost of early winter, but right on the edge of the bank, the mud from yesterday's rain was deep and sticky.
The fifteen-year-old girl gathered her skirts up above her ankles, chewed her lower lip for a moment, contemplating whether it was really the wisest thing to do, then she took a deep breath and walked into the icy stream.
You had better be there, Helga, or I will have your head for it. She thought.
Helga Hufflepuff lived down in Caerwyn Valley, a few miles away from Rowena's home in the narrow ravine usually referred to as the Glen.
The Glen was very long and very narrow and thickly forested. Where it was not full of trees, it was a collection of lush meadows crisscrossed by small, clear streams. It opened at its widest point into Caerwyn Valley.
Caerwyn Valley was rather flat and had very few trees. Most of its meadows were cultivated and made into fertile fields.
Helga lived in the village of Culhwch and was the resident midwife's youngest daughter. She had three older sisters, two older brothers and another younger brother. She was naturally good-hearted and was kind to all – people and beasts alike. She had long golden locks and eyes so dark-blue in colour they seemed black at times. She was always cheerful and was easygoing. Rowena often wondered how one person could be this happy.
Especially as Helga needed to hide things from her own family. Being discovered had only one meaning: Death.
When she was younger, Rowena was jealous of Helga's looks. The other girl was two years younger than her, yet always looked more mature and beautiful than she could ever be, so she felt.
These days, however, she came into conclusion that not even magic could change her auburn curls and hazel eyes.
Rowena stumbled on a loose tree root as she climbed out of the stream, muttering profanities she learned from the wagoneers passing through Culhwch. Mother would wash her mouth with soap were she to hear her only child talking like that.
Why have I agreed to do this? She thought bitterly, bending to see if any damage was made. Satisfied, she looked around her carefully, making sure no one was in sight, and drew out of the wide sleeve of her gown a long, thin stick made of holly. She whispered a few well-chosen words and her wet shoes dried up instantly.
Indeed, Rowena Ravenclaw was a witch. She came from a long line of witches and wizards. That was the reason behind her isolated home. No one lived in the Glen – just a few shepherds, goatherds and the Ravenclaws. For in those times, being of the magic world meant death, which also explained why Helga Hufflepuff had to keep quiet concerning her particular talents.
Rowena's mother found out about Helga's magic on one of her few visits in the village and immediately took her under her wing. Under the pretext of wishing a friend for her daughter, she invited Helga often to the Glen and there the two girls studied magic side by side.
With a sigh, Rowena put her wand back into the sleeve of her dress and trudged on in the muddy ground. Earlier that morning, Helga's owl, Afanen, came in carrying a note asking her to come as soon as possible to their usual meeting point. Rowena knew it was pointless to remind her young friend that walking to the valley in winter was not a nice experience. She would just shrug it off.
Their "usual" meeting place was a large oak tree just outside the mouth of the Glen. In summer they climbed up to its tallest branches and competed in throwing acorns (and woe betides Rowena if Mother was ever to find out). The two were often scolded by passers-by who were unintentionally pelted by those acorns.
In winter, however, it was a very gloomy tree indeed, dripping water all over them. And that was exactly what it had done to Rowena at that very moment. She uttered another long string of curses.
"Now really, Raven! What would your mother say?" A clear voice, bubbling with ill-suppressed laughter, asked.
Rowena whirled around to face Helga. "Mother is not going to hear about it, now is she, Helga?"
The cheerful thirteen-year-old grinned. "Of course not, dear girl! It would take the fun out of teasing you and holding it over your head for eternity."
"You are a vicious one, Helga Hufflepuff." Rowena said sourly. "What was so important that you had to drag me all the way from the Glen right after first frost? And I warn you, it had better be good, or I will hex you to Hades before you can utter another word."
"Oh, it is good, Raven! I promise!" Helga said enthusiastically. "There are People in the village!"
Whatever Helga was expecting, Rowena's reaction was not it. The older girl stared at her friend, her eyebrows raised. "And? There are always people in the village, Helga – that is the meaning of a village. A place where people live in."
Helga shook her head. "Not village people, Raven! Don't be a daft sow! Real people! People from far away. Adventurers. Two of them!"
"That's it? That is why I dragged myself five miles in horrible weather? That is why I had my petticoats and skirts wet? That is why I risked a month's worth of confinement to the house? For travelers?"
"Err... yes? But, Raven! You have to come and see them! They are so fine! They carry swords! And their clothes! Such finery you had never seen! Gold embroidery and emeralds and rubies and silver filigree and velvets and silks and rings and medallions and-"
Rowena held up her hand and Helga closed her mouth. "Enough! Alright, Helga! I'll come with you! But this is the last time! Understand?"
"Yes, Raven." Helga replied demurely.
"And you promise to be good and to never bother me again with such trifles?"
"And will you never ever again call me right after first frost just for travelers?"
"Will you swear it?"
"Good. Let's go."
Happy, Helga led the way into the village.
Helga knew Rowena hated to be in the village over long periods of time, but she also decided that this was not an event to be missed. Travelers from far away never came to Culhwch. The village was far too small and far too insignificant for people from foreign places to reach it.
And the pair that had arrived the previous day... Helga was correct when she told Rowena she had never seen such finery in her life.
They both looked roughly in their early twenties. Both were used to much better conditions than those offered in Culhwch's only inn, The Bear Spear, but made best with what they had.
The elder of the two was long and thin. He had a rather pallid complexion and his eyelids were drooped in exhaustion. The two explained it as the aftermath of a hard-illness overcome.
He had long, shiny black hair tied in a ponytail and matching black eyes.
His garb was mainly green: Forest green cloak, sea green tunic covered by a dull green velvet vest, pale green overcoat and emerald green breeches tucked into a pair of curious dark green boots made of a strange sort of animal hide.
Where he didn't have green, he had silver. His cloak was trimmed by a silver thread and clasped by a snake-shaped silver brooch. His tunic was fastened by a belt made of the same material as his boots and ended with another silver, snake-head-shaped buckle. Inside his tunic he tucked a thin silver necklace. Helga wasn't sure, but she thought he had another snake-shape as a medallion.
He rode into Culhwch on a large, hazel gelding and had, curled on his arm, a small pet snake.
His companion was taller than him, and even though his shoulders were much broader, he managed to look a lot leaner. He had a black mane of hair and the hint of a beard. His fierce eyes were bright blue and he had the uncanny tendency of looking people straight in the eye when he spoke to them – a habit that disconcerted many.
While his friend was garbed in green and silver, he was in red and gold: His long tunic was scarlet, gold-embroidered brocade, belted at the waist by a belt of the same hide as his friend's belt, only of a dark orange colour and a buckle shaped as the head of a roaring lion. His undershirt was a pale rose with golden cuffs. His trousers were rich dark red and his boots made of the same dark orange hide. On his belt hung a mighty silvery sword, its hilt covered by large, glittering rubies, the scabbard made of that dark orange hide and inlaid with gold filigree. He was covered by a dark scarlet cloak, clasped at the throat by a vast brooch, shaped as a lion.
His own steed was an enormous palomino stallion, whose harness was made of red velvet and his saddle inlaid with gold.
Helga had never seen such people and wanted to share all the excitement with her best friend.
"There you are, Helga!" Alis called. Alis was one of Helga's friends from the village and the least resentful towards Rowena. "Oh. Hello to you, too, Rowena."
The village girls disliked Rowena. Her clothes were always slightly threadbare and her hair was always untamed. She also cursed a lot and drank cider and ale like a man. She once punched a girl called Gwyneth after the older girl called her a tramp.
"Hello, Alis. Have you been looking for me?" Helga replied, heading off what was sure to become a fight if Rowena had picked up Alis' down-looking tone of speech, a thing she was sure to notice.
"Yes – we all have. Eirian just went to your house – did you not see her?"
"No. Raven and I just arrived from the Outskirts."
"Oh, I suppose that explains it. Just a moment – let me call the others. Hefina! Llwella! Mairwen! Gwyneth! Helga's here – and Rowena."
Casting dark glances in Rowena's direction, the four girls arrived there in a matter of seconds, soon to be joined by Eirian – slightly out of breath.
"Well? What did you want?" Rowena said. Helga flinched at her impatient tone. She had no more tolerance toward the village girls than they had to her.
"Nothing to do with you, Ravencrow." Gwyneth said spitefully.
"It's Ravenclaw, you-" Rowena seethed.
"Gwyneth, please?" Helga begged, knowing that Rowena hated her name being slighted.
Grumbling, Gwyneth abated. Alis took over. "The People came down from their rooms not an hour ago – we thought you should know! They are so lovely!" She gushed.
From the corner of her eye, Helga could see Rowena rolling her eyes. Maybe bringing her along was not such a good idea after all, she thought.
"Come on!" Alis said excitedly. "Let's go and have a look! We were waiting just for you!"
With Alis in the lead and Rowena at the back, the eight girls entered The Bear Spear.
It was nothing unusual to see girls as young as twelve in the village inn. The place was the only source of entertainment around there and all citizens of Culhwch often sat there just for the company.
The girls settled next to a table in a corner from which they could watch the two travelers eating their lunch just opposite of them.
It was not long, though, until trouble began. The door to the inn was opened, and two figures entered. There was no doubt about where they were heading. Their eyes were permanently fixed on the travelers, excepting a fleeting glance one of them gave to Helga.
The girl paled and clutched her best friend's arm. Rowena also watched the two figures as they relentlessly closed in on the two men. She, too, had no doubt of their intentions.
Gunhild and Sigmund Hufflepuff wanted a husband for their youngest daughter.
Godric Gryffindor twiddled his knife idly and looked at the remains of his lunch. He and Salazar, his best friend, had a long trip up till then and an even longer one ahead of them.
His blue eyes locked on Salazar, who was still eating. It was good that he was doing so. His illness had taken a lot out of him and his recovery was too slow to Godric's liking.
Salazar was three years older than him, but Godric sometimes felt that it was the other way around. He often found himself mothering Salazar and making sure he actually took care of himself.
He looked around and spotted the pair bearing down on them. "We've got company, Salazar." He whispered, barely moving his lips whilst doing so.
Salazar put down his knife and wiped his hands carefully on a handkerchief he pulled out of nowhere. "I wonder what they want from us." He said dully, knowing full-well that whatever the couple wanted was not going to be good for them.
"Either one out of two things." Godric replied just as dully. "Either marriage to their daughter or squire-ship for their son."
"Marriage." Salazar said immediately. "I've seen the woman glancing at that group of giggling girls next to that table."
"Merlin's beard! Just what we didn't need on this voyage."
"Be quiet, Godric. Anybody could have heard you."
Salazar made a warning sound at the back of his throat. Godric smirked at him, but then turned to face the couple with a polite expression.
"Good afternoon, noble sirs." The man greeted and bowed. His wife curtseyed.
"Good afternoon." Salazar, as the eldest, acknowledged, followed closely by Godric's small nod of head. "How may my friend and I assist you?"
"I am Sigmund Hufflepuff, and this is my wife, Gunhild. We have a query for the two of you fine gentlemen."
"Very well. We shall hear your request. I am Salazar Slytherin, and this is my friend and companion, Godric Gryffindor."
"Noble sirs, our youngest daughter is of ripe age for marriage, yet through certain misfortunes we have yet to find her a suitable husband." Sigmund said. "She is a well educated girl, and can sew, make fine embroidery, sheer sheep, comb wool, milk cows, cure leather, make cheese, churn butter, take care of household pets, weave, spin wool-"
He was cut short by Salazar's raised hand. "With all due respect, Master Hufflepuff, my companion and I are not here to look for a wife."
"Are you already spoken for a lady, Lord Slytherin?" Gunhild asked straightforwardly. Godric could see that this woman was used to have her will.
Salazar understandably was taken aback. "No, Madam Hufflepuff. I am not spoken for any girl, but-"
"Then what harm will it be to take our Helga for a wife?"
Godric thanked Merlin that the woman's attention was not pointed at him. She was pushing Salazar into a very tight corner.
"Just come and see her, my lords." Sigmund begged. "I can have her here in a minute's time!"
Salazar looked at Godric desperately and mouthed "Do something!"
He sighed and leaned closer to the Hufflepuff couple. "Very well," He said, painfully aware that the Madam's attention swerved from Salazar to him. "Bring her here. We will have a look. But bear in mind, Madam, that it is not a promise. We are bound on a perilous and long journey and cannot guarantee our return."
"Helga!" Gunhild raised her voice "Come here this minute!"
Godric watched the corner where the girls were sitting. There were eight of them – all between the ages of twelve and sixteen. There was a reluctant movement in the shadows around the table. Someone was whispering urgently and quite desperately. Someone else replied sharply only to be cut off by the same urgent whisper. Finally there was some kind of decision made, and two of the eight girls got up and approached them sedately, one clutching the arm of the other in obvious fright.
"Helga!" Gunhild hissed. "When I tell you to be here immediately, I mean just that! And did I tell you that you can bring a friend? I don't remember doing so!"
The girl named Helga whimpered at her mother's scolding, clutching the other girl's arm even tighter.
"This is our daughter, noble sirs. Her name is Helga and she is thirteen. She can sew, make fine embroidery-"
Yes, yes, we know." Salazar said impatiently, covering Godric's strangled "Thirteen?!"
Once he regained his composure, Godric observed the two girls standing in front of them.
The one called Helga, whom her parents wished married, was very pretty – that much he could say, but whatever beauty she possessed was now disguised by the look of complete fear in her dark eyes. The way her hand clutched her friend's arm was evidence enough to how much she dreaded the idea of marriage.
Now, the friend, on the other hand...
Helga was as dolled up as a country girl could be. Her clothes were of impeccable taste and were ironed and decorated. She was everything her friend was not.
The other girl's clothes were mostly well-worn and gave the impression of being of the hand-me-down sort. Her shoes (apparent beneath the too-short skirts of her dress – very unladylike) were made for durance rather than for show.
In her wild mane of auburn hair were brambles and leaves. There was a smudge of dried mud on her cheek.
It was her eyes, however, which caught his attention. They were narrowed and seemed to tell him with every fiber of their existence: How dare you scare my friend so?
He did not know he was staring at her until Salazar's voice brought him back to reality.
"Now that you have paraded the poor girl for us to see, send her away before she faints right here and now."
Salazar was never one for subtlety when annoyed. They both watched as the Hufflepuff couple sent their daughter away.
"Well?" Gunhild demanded almost before the girl was out of hearing range.
"Your daughter is a fine catch, have no doubt concerning that, Madam," Salazar said quietly, his hand petting his small snake's head "But as we were saying, we are not here in search for a bride, but merely passing through."
"But you will consider it?" She pressed on.
"Yes, yes, we will. Come, Godric. We have a long journey in front of us. I am sure we will see you again, Madam, sir. Good day to you both."
Salazar was grateful that Godric did not start his rant till they were in the safety of their room. It was bad enough to hear it by himself – he could not imagine the Hufflepuffs reaction, were they to hear his companion's colourful language.
"Thirteen? Thirteen?! What do they think we are? Baby snatchers?! They are a pair of demented creatures! They want a twenty year old to marry their baby? What kind of parents does such a thing?! What kind of-"
"Peace, Godric!" He sighed. "This is not our society. How many times do I have to remind you that? We live longer and therefore can allow our daughters to marry late – they can't. And even in our own society most people are not as progressive in their ideas as you are."
"Yes, but thirteen!"
"Quiet. Besides – I saw you stare. You were interested in her friend, were you not?"
"The wild one? She seemed kind of out of place – that was why I was staring. Quite the opposite of this Helga girl. And anyway – she can't be older than thirteen herself and she is not of our kind – so that makes her out of bounds."
"Sounds to me like you are looking for excuses, my friend." Salazar smirked, enjoying teasing Godric.
"Leave that be, Salazar. We're moving further west from here?" Godric asked hurriedly. Salazar could swear he saw him blush.
"North. We're heading home."
"What?! But what about the mission?"
"Look at the window."
He watched as Godric turned to face the window. The shutters were open and revealed a tawny owl hovering just outside. Godric then groaned and walked over to receive the message tied to the owl's leg.
"Well?" Salazar said "Was I wrong? Or do they order us back?"
Godric made a face and read aloud: "Lords Slytherin and Gryffindor,
"You are hereby summoned to face the Council of Warlocks. Leave everything – your mission included, and come back.
"We expect your arrival no later than midwinter's eve."
"That's it?" Salazar was surprised. "Have they not given a reason? No one signed the order? Nothing?"
"I didn't say that." Godric said churlishly. This made Salazar worried. Godric was usually a cheerful fellow – quick-tempered – but cheerful nonetheless. Godric continued. "It is signed by Lord Ambrosius. Contender to the head of the Council."
"The one who claims to be Merlin's descendent?"
"Precisely. The one and only. The fraud himself. So it's back to the swamps for us, my friend."
Salazar sighed. He knew how much Godric detested the moors and fens that were their home. "There's nothing to it, Godric. We must oblige to the will of the Council."