Disclaimer: Harry Potter is, of course, the property of the wonderful JK Rowling. If that's not already obvious, I don't know how you've ended up here!

Note: Originally, I planned to write a single Founders onsehot based on how I imagined the group was formed, focusing on Helga and Salazar. But then I realised it was getting too long and I was trying to cram too many ideas into it, so I decided to split it into a mini-series. It probably won't be much longer than three or four short oneshots, but I've written bits here and there for each. Anyway, enjoy and please review – feedback is loved and always appreciated!

Binding Light

Part One: Tenacity

Helga was the last to join the group.

The original three believed they had all they needed: bravery, ambition and intelligence. What more could anyone want? A trio of qualities that once united would equal simply excellence. It was perfect. And their school would be perfect – the best, unrivalled. It was Rowena that pointed out what should have been painfully obvious. How would they feed their students? How would they tend to them? They had imagined a school so elite it forgot the basics.

It was Godric that remembered from his travels an inn nestled in the Welsh Valleys. It was called The Green Dragon and the landlady, he said, made the most hearty meals with barely a flick of her wand.

Salazar was full of objections. He slammed his silver goblet hard against the oak table top, spilling droplets of dark, red wine. "I don't care how good her cooking is," he stormed, "we're not enlisting the help somebody just because you like their cakes, Godric!"

"Her talents stretch further than that, Salazar. She seemed a rather competent witch."

Salazar looked unimpressed. "You think with your stomach, Godric."

But Godric, used to his friend's changeable moods, merely laughed.

So they left for Wales, Godric hopeful, Rowena expectant and Salazar dismissive. The landlady – one Helga Hufflepuff – received them graciously. She led them through a smoky, low-ceilinged room, packed with chattering patrons, and into a secluded parlour at the back. She brought them food, as Godric promised she would. There were beef stews and chicken broth, golden, crumbling pastries, roasted vegetables and a wild berry tart. None of this pleased Salazar. In fact, his derision simply grew.

"And where, pray tell, are these so called talents?" he asked Godric, when their host left to fetch them flagons of mead.

Godric couldn't manage an answer because his mouth was full and by the time he had emptied it, Helga Hufflepuff was back, levitating three foaming flagons before her. She took her own drink in a small, gold cup that seemed to shine unnaturally bright in the glow of the fire. Salazar peered closely at it. "Is that a badger?" he said.

"Yes," said Helga, unabashed. "The badger was the symbol of my ancestors."

Salazar was torn between amusement at the lowliness of such a common animal and the mention of ancestors. Ancestors suggested blood purity.

Rowena, proud and distant though she was, took an instant liking to Helga. "They're a tenacious animal," she announced unexpectedly, shooting a sidelong glance at Salazar. "Not to be underestimated." Godric would later say that Rowena's affinity with Helga was a matter of gender. Rowena was attracted to the balance Helga brought to the group: two men and two women. She was no longer outnumbered.

"And is it goblin-wrought?" Salazar pressed, ignoring Rowena's glare.

"No," said Helga, taking a small sip, "I made it myself."

Before Salazar could process this, the door was thrown open and mop-haired, freckled face poked into view. "'Scuse me, Madam, but the goblins and the warlocks are 'aving words and it's getting out of hand. Spells are being thrown and uh, someone just upturned a table."

"I'll deal with them," she said, following the apprentice out of the door. There was a pause and a beat of silence that swelled, as the trio waited. Salazar leaned back in his chair, trying to peer through the door she had left ajar. The rumble of voices climbed and climbed, culminating in shouts. There was a bang and a flash of bright, yellow light that burst through the crack in the door. The voices receded into silence. There were no more shouts.

The parlour door opened wide and Helga walked back inside. She looked remarkably unruffled, with the exception of slightly pink cheeks and a few strands of curly hair out of place. "They're gone," she said cheerfully, re-taking her seat opposite Salazar.

A look passed between the original trio. Wordlessly, she was accepted, and Salazar begrudgingly conceded that Rowena's words about the tenacity of badgers may have been correct.

But what did she stand for? They were each firm in their own views, varied as they were. It was important they knew where Helga Hufflepuff, soon to be ex-landlady of The Green Dragon, stood. Who would she side with: the wit of Rowena, the chivalry of Godric or the cunning of Salazar?

In the end, none of them.

She gave it all up – a family and a business – and for what? For 'the rest.' I'll take the rest, she said, irritatingly. Salazar despaired. What a waste of pure blood and talent it was to bother oneself educating just anybody.

He thought her a fool, but could admit that she had her uses. For Rowena and Godric, she was a new distraction. With their eyes averted, he could focus on his own schemes, at least for a brief while. Still, though, she played on his mind.

He passed her in the halls of their new school and thought what a waste it was of pure blood and a pretty face.