'You might belong in Gryffindor,
Where dwell the brave at heart,
Their daring, nerve, and chivalry
Set Gryffindors apart;
You might belong in Hufflepuff,
Where they are just and loyal,
Those patient Hufflepuffs are true
And unafraid of toil;
Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
If you've a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;
Or perhaps in Slytherin,
You'll make your real friends,
Those cunning folks use any means
To achieve their ends.'

Freed by potions and borne on a tide of chanting and sweet scented smoke they had drifted through a year, another year and then years, while a castle grew around them, until a century had passed and still they traveled onwards, slowing when ten centuries were gone. Caught in an eddy, they had seized the moment to watch their school and to listen to the words of the hat. The vision faded to the misty grey of morning on an empty hillside. Helga stood and tossed back her long silver hair.

Explosive Nordic oaths proceeded to startle and affront the dawn. As terrified creatures rattled away through the undergrowth, Godric, Salazar and Rowena quickly arranged placatory expressions on their faces and their fingers on their wands. 'Probably the only reason they got my name right is because it sounds like slithering,' murmured Salazar.

'Huf-fle-puff,' said Helga icily. 'Hufflepuff. Give me the hat, Godric.'

'It must have been about a thousand years,' soothed Rowena. 'They just got your name wrong. A misunderstanding. No disrespect intended'

'The hat.'

Godric froze and Helga shrugged. 'Accio axe!' Helga's goblin-wrought axe thu-unked into her right hand as her wand appeared in her left,

'Whatjaneedtheaxefor?' demanded Godric, sliding backwards on his bottom in the direction of his aethonan.

'The axe is heavy,' stated Helga swinging it easily around her head. 'The axe is sharp. The axe is not open to misunderstanding'. She took a two-handed grasp of the implement in question and snarled at Godric. 'Give me the hat.'

The hero scrambled to his feet and seized the winged horse's neck, prepared to mount bareback. Helga's wand swished and Godric collapsed clutching a distressed looking duck. Another flick and the fur collar around his throat went for it. Godric dragged furious little creatures with teeth away from his face just in time to see the axe swinging toward his eyes.

&

Some hours later, as a rather bedraggled wizard made his way through a dark Scottish wood, the skies opened, yet again, and rain cracked down onto foliage. 'Godric, you useless git,' bellowed the mage, 'where are you?'

'Up here.'

High up in the tree, Salazar could see the sodden red and gold of Godric's cloak. 'Are you intending coming down anytime soon?'

'No.'

With surprising speed, Salazar hauled himself up through the tree to settle on a branch slightly higher than that on which his friend was perched. 'So much for your vaunted Gryffindor courage.'

'Sometimes it is necessary to possess the moral courage to leave,' sniffed Godric.

Salazar's chuckle gave way to laugh that shook the tree. Unwillingly Godric smiled and then laughed. There was something enormous about Salazar's laughter, something that seemed to change the world around, and far too rarely did the friends hear it. 'Could have just let her have the hat,' he suggested wiping tears from his eyes. Godric took his hat from his head and cuddled it. Rain splashed onto his bald head. 'So why are you hiding up a tree?'

'I ended up here. One minute I was ducking that axe of hers and the next I was up here.

'You dis-app-a-rated.' Another snort of laughter from Slytherin.

'Dis-app-a-rated?' Disappeared Godric's mind supplied along with another piece of pertinent information. He put his hat back on his head and closed his eyes. 'Ye gods. Please tell me she hasn't been drinking?'

'Oh yes.' Salazar sniggered. Somehow he managed to look comfortable wedged into his branch. 'Useful ability that.'

'Drinking?'

'Disapparating.'

'I'll work on it.'

Since the four had come together their magical abilities had increased by leaps and bounds. Not only had they shared their own knowledge but some sort of synthesis seemed to be occurring. A month that they did not come up with something new was rare.

'No really,' said Slytherin, 'One moment, there you were, ducking her goblin wrought silver battle axe and the next moment, there you were gone. She wasn't pleased. About the politest thing she called you was "a silly English kniggit".'

'A what?'

'Here,' said Slytherin, 'try some of this.' He dragged a flask from beneath his robes and tossed it across. Godric took a deep swallow and choked but he managed to avoid falling out of the tree.

'What the . . . ?'

'Something the local muggles make.'

'You've been mixing with them again?' enquired Godric.

'If you don't piss 'em off and don't abduct their kids they're alright.'

'Those who are born to magic need . . .' Godric shut up. He was already on Helga's hit list. He didn't need to resurrect the feud with Slytherin who believed that those muggleborns who could function in their own society should be allowed to do so. He took another swallow of the fiery liquid. 'Not bad . . .' He threw the flask back. 'Couldn't you just sweet talk her?'

'No,' said Slytherin. 'I'm rather fond of the bed snake. When she's in that mood . . .' Slytherin drank from the flask and then chuckled. 'She told Rowena that she didn't like her "soggy little country".' Godric extended his hand and Salazar threw the flask back.

'Has she got to the point of not being able to stand up yet?' asked Godric pitifully.

'Getting there, but at least Rowena's managed to persuade her that it's not your fault. Look she'll probably be fine when she wakes up. As long as you don't make any loud noises. And hide the bloody hat. Whatever we use to sort 'em, our little valkyrie's still going to end up being known as "Hufflepuff". You can see why she might be a bit . . .'

'She tried to axe me,' interrupted Godric.

'Naah,' said Salazar. 'You're taking it too personally. These Northern types can be a bit high strung. Likely she's pining for the fjords. Anyway, I came to tell you that it's probably safe to return to camp.'

'Safe?' groused Godric. 'Another word you don't seem to know the meaning of.'

'Well compared to remaining in the forest.' Salazar began to descend the tree. 'You know, I could be wrong but I'm pretty sure I heard a werewolf.'

'Wonderful,' groaned Godric but he followed Salazar down the tree.

'Come on,' encouraged Slytherin, slapping his friends' shoulder.

'Oh yes, let's go for a wander with the were-wolves in the wood. Excuse me, but I'm going straight back.' Godric launched a slipping, sliding, stone driving descent of the slope towards the camp. As the crashing grew distant, Salazar shook his head and returned the way he had come.

Some time later he re-entered camp to find Godric bent over a boulder and Rowena dabbing the contents of his flask over some rather nasty looking wounds to his friend's nether regions.

'Hello, Salazar.' Helga was sitting on a fallen tree with a horn of ale in one hand and her axe across her knees. Sweeping her hair away from her face, she smiled, took a deep draught from the horn and offered it to Salazar.

Salazar tipped back the horn, swallowed, and then sat down beside her. 'Dare I ask what happened?'

'Fell into a badger set,' mumbled Godric. 'Bloody thing bit me.'

'And then it chased him,' added Helga gleefully. 'Goderic Gripping-door came back with badger bit . . . bite . . . biting his bum.' She hiccoughed. 'Nice badger,' she crooned. 'Clever, pretty, pretty badger . . . I make . . . a song . . . about badger.' There came a sudden fatal silence, such as follows the very worst of fears being realised, broken by the clunk of Helga's axe hitting the ground.

'. . . Accio harp!'


Author's note.

Plot bunny courtesy of Cecelle. Other bits purloined from Monty Python.