Disclaimer: Hogwarts and all you recognize belong to JKR. I infringed with the best of intentions.
Dedications: To Chelle-sama for being my beta and my twin. To Arabella for writing 'Before the Beginning'. To Sugar Quill for being a great place.
Notes: This borrows many, many wonderful ideas from Arabella's 'Before the Beginning', like the meaning of the house colors and the sett. So go and read it! Read it now! GO! READ! She graciously allowed me to use her ideas (which was good, I'd already written the fic) and now I love her forever.
Sett: badger burrows. The Eurasian badger has the largest and most complex setts, often inhabited for thousands of generations, and continually enlarged, they have multiple rooms and as many as twenty different entrance holes, though the record number of entrances is over one hundred.
To be Hufflepuff
"So, you've been sorted into Hufflepuff." The young man standing in the center of attention of the Hufflepuff common room nodded thoughtfully. "Ashamed of that, are you?" He raised his eyebrows as the first years gasped and shook their heads, denying it fiercely. The other students smiled. "Why not? I was. And here I am, seventh-year and a prefect." He sat down on the coffee table in front of the fire place. "Sit down, all of you. Have a seat. I know it's been a busy day for all of you first years; your first full day in the castle, your first classes, and some of you are Muggle-born and overwhelmed by magic in the first place. You probably all want dinner and your beds, but this is important." He smiled as the first years arranged themselves in chairs and on sofas, eyes fixed on him. All of the other Hufflepuffs had taken seats as well, sitting and stretched out along the furniture and floors. The room was full to bursting.
"Take a look around, this is a tradition. Everybody's right here and nowhere else; we're all together and today, I give you the truth of what it means to be Hufflepuff. Before I start, I want you all to note that ugly badger statue on the wall behind me. See her? Keep her in mind, she's our pride. Right then!" He clapped his hands and rubbed them together briefly. "I know, we all know, the story that gets around on the train. Hufflepuff is a load of duffers. Hufflepuffs are stupid and slow. We're the house that gets looked over and glossed over; the worst of the lot to everybody if you listen to Slytherin and better than Slytherin if only because we're not Slytherin if you listen to everybody else." The first year students ducked their heads, eyes dropping. "I imagine that the only people who come here wanting to be sorted into Hufflepuff had parents in this house and even then, most of you wanted Ravenclaw or Gryffindor. Cleverness or bravery are a lot better sounding than 'unafraid of toil'." The prefect hunched forward, leaning down to meet the eyes that had slid away. "But that's because nobody knows Hufflepuff like the Hufflepuffs. Even those of you with Hufflepuff parents don't know our secrets and that's as it should be."
He sat back with a grin as the heads came back up and lights lit within the eyes. "Caught your attention, have I? Good. Because Hufflepuff House has the biggest, best, best-kept secret in the entire Wizarding world and we have for over a thousand years; we'll have it for a thousand more. We're Hufflepuffs." He folded his arms and shook his head. "But I'm getting ahead of myself." There were groans of disappointment from the first years and light laughter from the rest. "Aye, you all know the tricks by now." He told the others with a grin. "They know this. This speech is a bit of a tradition too." He told the now-smiling first years. "There are important things to tell you and the secret is the proof of them."
With a deep sigh, the Hufflepuff prefect stood, walking around behind the coffee table to stand silhouetted in the firelight. "First off, never and I do mean never hang your head because you're in Hufflepuff. And don't ever be ashamed of our colors. Black and yellow. Black is where we start, the dark of night, the dark of mother's womb; it's where everybody begins. But we grow and we learn and we find our light, shed our own, as time passes. That's the yellow. We'll never, any of us in the world, reach that white light, for it belongs to whatever you want to call that great, unknown deity that created us all. Impossible to reach that light and foolish to try, so we'll try instead for the brightest light we can; our yellow. And maybe we do look like a bumblebee's bum, but we know what they mean."
There was a murmur of approval from the new students and quiet hums of pleasure from the not-so-new students and the soft sound of contentment filled the room for a moment until the prefect spoke again. "Second, we're not the brightest students. If we were, we'd be in Ravenclaw and it's best we know that now." He moved to the mantle and plucked a quill from one of the clay pots. He held it up for a moment before popping the feathery tip into his mouth. There was a general outcry of disgust from several of the first years, but many smiled and the others took their cues from the rest of their Housemates. "It's a sugar quill, so relax." The young man said, removing the treat from his mouth. "It's the only pot in the room that has them and we all, third year and above, pitch in to fill it when we can. Because we all need the comfort and reassurance of caring and good times at some time and most especially in these times. The rest of them," he gestured to the room behind them, "are all real and we pitch in with that as well." He gestured with the quill toward the ceiling. "The lights that shine on us are moving models of the stars, we'll see them all again in Astronomy and the plants," his gaze swept the room, "are plants that we'll find in Herbology classes. Like I said, we're not the cleverest of the lot, but we're known for our hard work because we work hard." There was silence as one and all studied the room; some with new eyes and some with old fondness.
"Loyalty and steadfastness." The silence finally broke. "You'll never have to ask twice for help or for understanding. We've all been there, we'll all be in those places again." As he spoke, a pale shape loomed out of the floor. "This is Friar Waire, for those of you who don't know. And he'll always be here to help you around the castle, with your homework, or with anything else you can think of. He's been here since the fifteen-thirties and he'll be here even in the thirty-thirties. Hufflepuffs are true, forever. There's never been a dark witch or wizard who was Hufflepuff and there won't be. Some of us come from dark backgrounds, I think, but it doesn't matter now because now you're one of us, working towards the light with the rest of us, so leave that behind you."
There were wide smiles as the prefect moved to stand next to the badger he'd pointed out earlier. "I showed you her earlier and told you to remember that she was our pride; she's our proof that we're all I've said we are." He patted her head, "She's Helga, named for the creator of our House and of our sett." At the word 'sett' a hidden door opened. "Follow me." He smiled and walked through, the first years crowding behind him eagerly, almost as eagerly as the others. "Now, for those of you who don't know, a sett is a badger den. Rooms and tunnels and entrance holes. We've got twenty-seven exits and sixty rooms. We'll finish room number sixty-one this year." He walked to the wall where the first room branched into two more rooms, one of which was larger than the whole of the common room with a high ceiling. He beamed. "These first three chambers were made by Helga Hufflepuff herself. Nobody knows about this except Hufflepuffs. And every seven years since we've finished another room, corridor or exit. Every room has a map and all the corridors and exits are coded; by color, flower, animal, constellation, you name it. It takes patience and planning and a lot of hard work by everyone. You first years start by hauling away dirt, covertly so that this stays secret. Everybody starts in the dark, remember, and you move up, gain your light, as the years pass. Eventually you'll be in on the mapping of the corridors, the lay of the rooms, decorating, finding sites to dig and place rooms, tunnels and exits, and the planning of what comes next. Everything takes time and patience in supreme amounts; none of these tunnels or rooms or exits is known outside of Hufflepuff. Some of the tunnels go over other common rooms, as near as we can figure, but they can't hear us and we make sure that we can't hear them either. Fair is fair. You'll learn the ropes as time goes and we'll always be here to help each other."
"Now normally we wouldn't be planning another room or tunnel yet, but last year was...special." He looked down, swallowing hard. "Last year we lost on of our own to You-Know-Who. Cedric Diggory," his voice failed for a moment, "Ced was everything a Hufflepuff could be. He made Hogwarts Champion in the Triwizard Tournament. And though the papers sort of ignored everything, you can read the whole story--a lot of it from Cedric himself--in the sixty-first room. Before you get angry, as a lot of us did, you can't blame Harry Potter. Cedric Diggory liked him and thought well of him. He said Harry was a good bloke and you can trust a Hufflepuff. The same goes for Cho Chang. She was Cedric's girl and we'll look after her as Cedric would have wanted, alright?" He nodded sharply. "Anyway, like I said, normally we'd not start planning until next year, those in the seventh form choose the project, but we voted on our last day of last year. To honor Cedric, to honor us all, we're going to make a tunnel out to the Quidditch pitch. As best we know it's where he died, but more importantly, most importantly, it's a place he lived."
The prefect stood a moment longer before leading his house back to the common room. "It's almost time for dinner, so clean up, pack up your books and get ready to go out, Hufflepuffs."
Twenty-seven exits, sixty-one rooms and counting...
Note on the Fat Friar: Friar Waire was a real person, though who he was is open to some debate. In any case, he certainly did exist and though his true identity was never fixed we do know that he was tortured and died at St. Thomas Waterings in Camberwell on 9 December 1539 or 9 January 1538/9 (the dating is also a bit confusing in the matter) and that he died along with four others martyrs in that time and place. I thought that the confusion over the name of the man (Mayer, Waire, Wyer) and his order made him perfect for our friar. ^.^ My info came from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15525a.htm