A/N: Written for the hpsmutfree ficathon on livejournal. Thanks to the great smutfree mods gmweasley and Mrs. Muggle. This does mean that there won't be any smut. There is, however, plenty of romance.
Don't Tickle a Sleeping Dragon
Over a thousand years ago the four greatest witches and wizards of the age came together to form Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – a place they envisioned where children for generations to come could come and learn the finer points of the magical arts. But Salazar Slytherin soon left, unable to agree on the policy of accepting Muggleborns at the prestigious school.
Most today believe his hatred and prejudices against Muggles, which were indeed great, prompted this decision, but the truth is there was a much deeper reason.
Yes, dear friend, you've read that correctly. But perhaps we should start at the beginning.
A knock at the door and a visit amongst friends is where our tale begins in a shabby old shack in the midst of the fen…
"Who is it?" Salazar Slytherin stood at his workbench hunched over a smoking cauldron. Piles of parchments, quills, and pots of inks lay strewn about, and he alternated between cutting and adding ingredients to his brew to reading and consulting his copious notes.
The door swung open, and the sudden sunlight made him squint. A dark shadow of a man stood in the doorway.
"Godric Gryffindor, come with a quest for you," he said grandly with sweeping arms and a booming voice.
Salazar just looked at him irritated and went back to his reading. "Oh, it's you. You don't happen to read Hebrew, do you?" He couldn't be sure if that was one pim or two he was supposed to add.
"That's the way you greet your oldest and bestest of friends?" Godric asked, feigning hurt.
Salazar scowled. "When he's interrupting important work, then yes." It had to be exactly the right amount. Too little would make it too acidic and too much and it could explode.
"But I have more important work. I want you to come dragon hunting with me." It sounded like another one of his friend's hare brained schemes meant to make them a fortune, but more often had them scrambling to stay alive and on the run from mobs of angry Muggles. Not that escaping Muggles was hard, but Manticores were an altogether different matter.
"What's in it for me?"
"Fame, fortune, and eternal glory," he listed.
"Don't forget singed eyebrows and a brush with death," Salazar added. He pushed past Godric to get to the shelves that lined the walls, searching through the many vials and containers there until he found what he was looking for. He held it up to the light to make sure it was still fresh and then took it back over to his workbench, measuring it out carefully.
"But think of the fun we'll have."
"I'm busy," he said with a wave of his hand.
"Still working on the Philosopher's Stone?"
"I'm so close. I have it this time. You just wait," he persisted. He talked into his cauldron, keeping his focus on the bubbling brew. A pinch more of the rosewood should do it. He rubbed it between his fingers, felt each tiny grain, and then dropped it in. Holding his breath, he waited.
"There are easier ways to get gold, Salazar," Godric argued. He pulled out his sword and swung it round a few times, slaying imaginary dragons, no doubt.
"Careful!" Salazar could just imagine him hitting one of the shelves and knocking every precious ingredient to the floor. Although if he got this potion right, he would have enough gold to replace them all and then some.
"Maybe you should stir it," his friend offered, using the weapon as a pointer.
"Put that thing away now," he demanded even as he reached for a spoon. It hadn't reacted yet. He expected something would have happened by now.
Green goo splattered the walls. Shards of metal tore through the air. The thatched roof burst into flames and the north wall crumbled under the force of the impact. The two men fell to the floor. Salazar cowered under the work bench with only his arms to protect his head. He wanted to cry. Months and months of work and it was gone in an instant. Picking up a chunk of what used to be his cauldron, he threw it in Godric's direction. If only he hadn't been here to distract him, he might have gotten it right this time.
"Sorry," he heard Gryffindor mumble as he dug himself out from under a heavy roof timber. Salazar reached for his wand and helped his friend out by levitating the heavy wood beam up far enough so he could wiggle free. He resisted the urge to leave him there. He certainly deserved it.
"When do we leave?" he asked, standing and brushing himself off. How dejected he must look and sound. It wasn't supposed to happen this way.
"You've changed your mind?" Godric stood up, his thick hair in his face. His blue eyes shone even more brightly contrasted with the black soot that stained his cheeks.
Salazar shrugged his shoulders, trying hard to look nonchalant. "That was my last cauldron."
Three days later, the two friends journeyed north. The sun shone brightly, streaming through the trees that shadowed their path. Adventure and possible fortune lay before them, leaving bitter disappointment farther and farther behind.
"You couldn't have afforded horses for us?" Salazar complained, shifting his pack on his back. His shoulders burned at the weight of it despite his effort to lighten it that morning. He mourned the loss of his notebooks, but he couldn't carry them any farther.
"We don't have the gold yet, my friend," Godric answered, cheerfully swinging his sword to cut the stray branches that crowded the worn path through the woods.
"Surely your father could have loaned us a pair. Maybe a donkey to carry the packs." He shifted his again. It was useless. There was no comfortable position for it.
"He needs them for the fields," Godric said. He turned back and looked at Salazar, his features full of concern. "Are you sure you don't want to stop at your family's estate?"
Salazar nodded, wincing at the term 'estate'. A crumbling castle held together with magic surrounded by lands going to waste because his father wasn't interested in farming them hardly counted as an estate.
He was sure about bypassing it. There was nothing there for him. He had been one of too many, his mother overrun by her brood while his father stayed in his study, tinkering with potions and inventing useless charms. He had left when he was fifteen, determined to make something of the Slytherin name, a name that wizards everywhere would respect.
"Where is this dragon of yours?" he asked again. He already knew the answer but he didn't want Godric asking about his family. His parents didn't dote on each other like the Gryffindors did. Nor did Godric have eleven brothers and four sisters competing for the love and attention of his parents.
Something rustled in the bushes. Probably a rabbit, Salazar surmised.
"Just north of here," Godric answered. "He's sitting in a cave with piles and piles of gold he's stolen from the local lords. Who knows, he might have a pretty maiden up there or two."
"We're better off with the gold," Salazar muttered. His luck with women was dubious at best, and with Godric around it became nonexistent. His sharp angular face, dark hair and beady eyes couldn't compare to his friend's blond waves, blue eyes, and sturdy build.
"I always knew you were a miser, but a monk too!" Godric exclaimed. Salazar frowned. He wasn't a monk; he just hadn't found a girl who could capture his interest.
"You know we wouldn't have to walk the entire way if you would just learn to Apparate." He shifted his pack again, but it was useless. There was no comfortable position for it. Months of brewing potions had left him ill prepared for a cross-country trek.
"We wouldn't have to walk if you would consider learning to use a broomstick," Godric retorted. Salazar grimaced.
"I refuse to sit on one of those things for hours on end. I'd rather walk." The recent trend for using brooms for transportation rather than sweeping boggled his mind. He had heard tales of men in distant lands using carpets, and then there was his father who had suggested butter churns, and none of them sounded like wise ideas when compared to the ease of Apparition.
"Then stop complaining."
There was that noise again, a rustle in the bushes. Salazar put his hand up, motioning to Godric to stop. They halted.
"What are you doing?"
"Sshh," Salazar hissed. "Do you hear that?"
"Hear what?" Another rustle. Godric tilted his head and Salazar could see that he heard this time. Pulling out his wand, he pointed it at the bushes. Godric gripped his sword tighter, ready to pounce on anything that might bound out of the bushes.
"Come out of there," he demanded. He hoped he was wrong, that it was just a rabbit or a lost Muggle, but he got the feeling it was something much worse. This forest was full of dark magical creatures.
"State your purpose and business for being in these woods," a voice said with an imperial air. It belonged to a girl, whose head became visible over the foliage as she stood up. Her hair was a tangled mess of dark brown curls and she wore a dark green dress that matched her eyes. "And for goodness sakes, put that thing down. Are you planning on protecting yourself by poking me with a stick?"
"We're just humble travelers, milady," Godric said, bowing elegantly. He sheathed his sword and stepped forward, wanting to kiss her hand no doubt. Salazar remained where he stood, his wand still pointed at this eavesdropper, his stare never faltering.
"That's not what I heard. I heard that you two are dragon hunters," she said, meeting his stare.
"You heard wrong," Salazar said.
"These are my father's lands. I can turn you over to him or you can take me with you on your quest. It's your decision." She crossed her arms over her chest and tipped her nose up in the air, waiting for their answer. Salazar glanced over at Godric, who stood agape. They had never before encountered such a woman.
"You want to go dragon hunting?" Godric asked with disbelief.
"I want some adventure," she nearly growled. She dropped her arms, but Salazar noticed that she clenched her fists in frustration. "I'm tired of sitting in a tower waiting for the men to come home while I embroider pillows. It isn't fair."
"Life isn't fair," he told her, dropping his wand. This girl trying to play at being a man and an adventurer posed no threat. She only wasted their time. He started to walk away, leaving her and Godric behind. His retreat only made her angrier.
"I'll turn you in. You have to eat somehow which means you're poaching. You know what they do to poachers?" she asked desperately, trailing after Salazar. "You have two choices. Have your hand cut off or take me with you."
"Or tie you up and leave you here," he said, whipping around, his wand in hand. Ropes jumped out of its end and coiled around her tightly. She let out a surprised shriek and fell to the ground writhing like a worm on a fishhook. He tried to suppress a smile, but failed miserably at the sound of her cursing at him.
"You bastard! You whoreson! Let me up this instant! I demand that you set me free!"
"We can't just leave her here," Godric said, coming up next to him. He looked down at her with pity. Pity they couldn't afford, Salazar thought.
"We can't take her with us either."
"What do we do then?" Before Salazar could answer that it wasn't their concern if the little harpy was found by wolves or bandits, a sharp crack sounded out. A large branch tumbled down from overhead, knocking Salazar to the ground. He tried pushing it off, but the collar of his shirt felt tighter, making it very hard to breathe.
"She's burning through the ropes," Godric exclaimed. He had jumped out of the way of the falling branch and was now too engrossed in their prisoner to pay attention to Salazar's struggles.
"St—stun her," he gasped.
"What?" Godric looked horrified at the thought of hurting a woman. Salazar was going to hurt him if he ever got out from underneath this branch. He clawed at his neck, trying to catch his breath.
"St—stun her," he repeated, his voice raspy and hoarse. The girl had managed to free herself of Salazar's ropes and stumbled to her feet. Even from where he laid ten feet away he could feel the spark of energy that surrounded her. What was more troubling was the angry glint in her eye. She came closer.
He pointed his wand and rasped out, "Stupefy!" The moment she crumpled to the ground, the tightness in his chest eased and he could breathe again. He pushed aside the branch that pinned him to the ground, standing up and brushing himself off.
"What did you do?" Godric asked.
"What you should have done, you idiot! She was killing me."
"But how?" He rushed over to where she had fallen. Carefully, he maneuvered her onto her back, pushing the hair from her face. Salazar stayed back, his wand still out just in case. Godric finally retrieved his own wand from his sleeve and woke her.
"You act like you've never seen a witch in your life," Salazar said. The girl's eyes fluttered open and she coughed as Godric put one arm around her and helped her to sitting.
"I am not a witch," she sputtered. She leaned against Godric's chest even as she stared murderously at Salazar.
"No Muggle could do what you just did," he argued.
"He's right," Godric said in soothing tones. "You displayed a raw talent for magic just then. Remind me not to make you angry again anytime soon."
"But does that mean you're…"
"Wizards," Salazar finished for her. Her brow furrowed in consternation and she turned to Godric who nodded. She stilled for a long moment, trying to work out in her head all the odd coincidences throughout the years that could be attributed to her having magical abilities.
"And what's a Muggle?"
"Someone without magic," Godric explained.
"Certainly not you," Salazar spat. "You nearly killed me just now."
"Teach me," she whispered. Godric looked at him, looked at him with the same look he always did when he wanted Salazar to do something he knew was stupid, like try to breed Manticores, or hunt for treasure guarded by dragons, and now bringing along an untrained witch with a temper.
"This is ludicrous!" he protested, dropping his wand and shooting a pleading glance in Godric's direction. But he knew it was useless. Godric was already telling her the many different spells he could teach her. She grew more and more excited with each one as he helped her to her feet, his arm still at her waist to steady her.
"But I don't even know your names," she said a few moments later. Salazar resisted pointing out that it hadn't mattered one whit what their names were when she had insisted on following them into danger.
"Godric Gryffindor at you service, milady," his friend said with a bow. He kissed her knuckles, making her blush.
Looking up at him expectantly, Salazar muttered, "You can call me Slytherin."
"And I'm Amy. Shall we be going?" And then she started down the path in front of them, the green fabric of her dress blending in with the trees around her. She looked almost like a forest sprite. A few yards ahead, she turned around with an impatient glance. Godric trotted to catch up while Salazar gritted his teeth. He could already tell that there was nothing but trouble ahead.