1. How did the Founding four meet and decide to build a school?
NOTE: Fixed, finally.
The Runaway Four
By Olympe Maxime (aka Wendelin the Weird on SQ)
Gimmswauld was a largely peaceful village, filled with the tiny upheavals common to rural life, but otherwise quite content to simply exist beautifully. It sat in the lap of the vast rolling fields of Scotland, surrounded by beauty even if it hadn't any to show for itself. In fact, about the only thing of beauty in the whole of Gimmswauld was its peacekeeper, a young woman by the name of Rowena Ravenclaw.
This morning, however, sounds of absolute fury spilled into the waking streets. There was nothing to do but see what the commotion was about, so Rowens dressed hurriedly, half in sleep, and began to make her way down to the village square. Rat-a-tatta-tatta-tat went the blacksmith's hammers as Rowena walked past his shack. The blacksmith himself seemed to have abandoned his work, obviously having decided that there were things more interesting than supervising his hammers.
"Your bloody horse kicked my door down, I'll be needin' fifty sickles from ye!" the shaggy innkeeper was shouting. As Rowena pushed her way past the crowd to the scene, she caught sight of the object of the innkeeper's wrath: a tall, wiry stranger dressed impeccably in plain black robes.
"Fifty sickles for that... contraption?" the stranger asked. The crowd emitted a low growl. The man's superciliousness was making him no friends.
"Aye. Nobody breaks me door down and gets away free. And ye owe me tuh-wenty sickles more, I reckon, fer that dinner ye just ate!" said the innkeeper, his mane of dirty blond hair swinging wildly around his bearded face.
"Yeh ate more'n yer horse here!" the inkeeper shouted. "An' I don't like yer stinkin' face," he said, his voice dripping with disdain, and spat at the stranger's feet to underscore his point.
The stranger looked around at the faces clustered around him; his wary eyes seemed to gather their thoughts. For three weeks he had lived among these people, an utterly unknown quantity. He spoke little and listened even less, disconnecting himself almost completely from the village folk. And yet, somehow, Rowena had had the impression that he was no fool. Now, as he scanned the crowd for its mood, he seemed to accurately gather his situation. Gimmswauld was no average village - there were more magics here than in any ten other settlings combined. Even if this stranger was magic himself - and Rowena strongly suspected he must be - he would be no match for so many of them.
Rowena saw his sharp green eyes narrow, then relax, and as clearly as if he had spoken the words in her ear, she knew he was not planning to fight. Good. Good. Immensely relieved, she turned to leave. His eyes caught hers then, for a second, and she allowed her own to crinkle a little to show him her thanks. He did not respond.
Instead, he turned to the innkeeper and said in slow, measured tones, "I will pay you, good sir, for your hospitality and your bread. The door, however, is easily fixed - here, allow me."
Rowena rushed forward, a shout of warning frozen on her lips, but the stranger had already done it: he had pulled out his wand and muttered an incantation, and the splinters of wood healed themselves and formed into new shapes, twisting and curling and smoothing. A moment later, the door stood renewed.
The entire crowd gasped. For the space of a few heartbeats, Rowena looked dazedly at the door - it was a thing of great beauty. All along its edges, the wood had taken the form of intricate carvings of snakes, snakes that seemed so alive that they nearly hissed and moved along the door's edges. A great knocker had appeared in the middle of the new door, decorated with a delicate pattern of vines that somehow echoed the winding, coiling snakes.
Rowena was so captivated by the door that her attention had wandered from the innkeeper. A roar shattered her reverie: the innkeeper was bellowing like a wounded beast and had just launched himself bodily at the stranger. He was on the man in the blink of an eye, and had him pinned to the ground before the crowd had drawn a full breath. The stranger, incredibly, looked surprised rather than afraid. His next move explained his deamenour - with a simple flick of his wand, the stranger lifted the innkeeper into the air and set him down several paces away.
It was high time for Rowena to intervene. She stepped inbetween the two and put on her most authoritative voice. "That will be all, gentlemen. There is to be no more fighting. We are decent villagefolk. We do not muck about."
The innkeeper roared again in impotent fury, and Rowena turned and spoke to the stranger - "Set him free of your spell."
It worked, like it always did. The village of Gimmswauld had no woman as fair as she, and none of the villagers could stand to let her words go unheeded. Of course, it didn't hurt that she had the ability to hex anyone to pieces if they failed to heed her, but she rarely had to resort to hexing. She had become the keeper of peace in her little hometown.
The innkeeper grunted and spat, but he calmed down visibly nevertheless. Now if only the stranger would get the hint... Rowena turned to him. There was a stunned, rather comical look of surprise in his eyes that he concealed quickly as she looked at him. Then, with all the grace and dignity of a prince, he picked himself off the ground and shrugged dust off his robes.
"As I was saying, innkeeper," he said with just the barest hint of discourtesy in his voice, "I will pay you for your hospitality. You may keep my horse as your payment."
Rowena caught the innkeeper's eye, and he grunted at the stranger. "Leave the animal in the paddocks yonder. 'Tis a fine horse, so I'll consider yer debt fulfilled."
The crowd had dissipated by the time the strange man had finished tethering the animal. Rowena waited impatiently, not wishing to be seen accosting a man who was obviously not trusted by the rest of the village. He looked surprised to see her, again, but this time he concealed his surprise better.
"M'lady," he greeted her with a slight bow, and they began to walk together away from the square, towards Rowena's home. "How may I be of service to you?"
Rowena suddenly had an uncharacteristic urge to giggle - his gallantry was so out of place. But that would not do at all. So she frowned.
"It was foolish, sir, to magic that door in the innkeeper's presence. He does not like wizardry."
The man blinked. "But I did not know that."
Rowena nodded. "I am merely informing you, sir. That man hates all magic and witchcraft, none can talk sense into him. We think it is because he has seen great evil done with magic..." she paused, noticing that she was rambling, and looked at the stranger directly. "It is always wise, I think, to keep one's magic to oneself until one has been acquainted with the ways of one's new dwelling."
The man blinked again. "If I may, m'lady, I little expected my own thoughts to fall from the lips of a lady so fair as yourself."
Ah, so he had realised the his error before she had brought it to his notice. Rowena smiled. The man seemed surprised at that. He was constantly looking surprised. What an interesting life he must live, Rowena thought, if strange and amusing things awaited him wherever he turned!
She walked on, lost in musings of that which surprises the human mind, and did not realise that he hadn't interrupted her thoughts until they reached her home and she stopped automatically.
"Oh," she said, embarrassed. "Pardon me, sir. 'Tis my greatest fault, I do tend to get lost in my own thoughts."
"I have always considered that to be the mark of an interesting mind."
Rowena considered this. "What is your name, sir? Where do you come from?"
There was that surprised look again. Oh dear, he was not offended by her directness, was he? "I only ask out of curiosity, sir, and no malevolent intentions. It appears to me that you wish to stay in our village, and yet, even though you have already set up your trade, you speak little to any of us, and none know your name and your origins."
He raised his eyebrows coolly. "Have you considered that that may be a deliberate design on my part?"
"Oh." Rowena could out-cool the coolest of them. She was not backing down. "That strikes me as another foolish notion. Why would you not want to know your friends and neighbours?"
"I have no friends here, madam, and my neighbours need only trade with me, not know me personally. If my wares are to their satisfaction, isn't that all that matters?"
Rowena bristled. "You raise your eyebrows at our village, sir, and yet you choose to set up your jewelling trade here, and nowhere else. Do you not think it would benefit you and your trade to make acquaintances around your new home?"
"I daresay they have nothing to offer from their acquaintance that would be of worth to me."
"And how do you know that? Why just this morn I nearly offered you a position-" She stopped. That was stupid. She wasn't about to tell this arrogant stranger just what she had almost offered him.
"A position?" the stranger asked. "You would offer me a position?"
"Yes, but that need not concern you. I have changed my mind."
"Pray assuage my curiosity, m'lady - I confess I am intrigued. What would a lady such as yourself be able to offer one such as me?"
It was his arrogance that did it. Suddenly, Rowena wanted to rub his nose in what he had thrown away by being so insufferably rude. "We are to open a school," she told him. "My dear friend Helga and I. A place to school children of magic. I suspected you were skilled at the magics yourself - and so you have just proven to me - so considered offering you a teaching position."
The strange man burst out laughing, loudly and heartily, throwing his head back, his whole body shaking. Rowena stood stiffly, waiting for his outburst to end so she could take her leave. She had never been so offended in her life.
Finally, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes, the stranger said, "Madam, I consider myself singularly unsuited to such ... tasks... as instructing young lads and lasses." He chuckled. "I am a jeweller, a craftsman. Tutoring is... not for me."
"I did not offer you the position, sir, so you need not trouble yourself to turn it down."
"Dear lady, be not offended. Here, I will return your favour - quid pro quo. My name, madam, is Salazar Slytherin." He said the name with an absured reverence, as if he expected Rowena to kiss his feet for the privilege of knowing it. "Where I come from is not important. I was born into nobility on the Continent, but that is in the past. I am now no more than a common tradesman."
"And how do you come to be here?"
He grinned. "I am on the run from my King's soldiers."
Rowena refused to look the slightest bit surprised. She didn't want to give him the satisfaction. A rogue. She ought to have known.
"I will not ask you why, sir."
"Good." He grinned again.
"Well, then, I bid you good day." She turned to leave, and stopped, unable to resist the nag of duty and common courtesy. "I am the peacekeeper of the village," she told him. My dear friend Helga is the healer in these parts. You may call on us if you wish to avail yourself of our services."
Salazar Slytherin bowed deeply, and set off back towards the village square at a jaunty pace.
"Did you speak to him, then? Who is he? What's his name?" Helga asked her that evening over tea.
Helga snorted, spraying tea all over the tablecloth. "Oh dear," she said, chucking helplessly.
Rowena smiled. "It is a funny name."
"Anyway, he's impossibly supercilious. I wouldn't imagine it's possible to work with him."
"Hmm," Helga said, pursing her lips. "We can't just do it by ourselves you know. Not with just two. And we are to start before the next moon..."
"I don't think we have a choice."
"Hmm." Helga's expression was closed.
"What, what aren't you telling me?"
"I think we can get one more person... but he's going to take a lot of convincing."
"But there isn't anyone skilled enough at magic in this area - at least not enough to teach."
Helga looked at her guiltily. "Well, there is, but it is his secret, so I could not tell you..."
"Who? And Helga, we've been looking for people for eight months now, how could you hide it from me?" Rowena didn't even pause for breath as she continued, "Heavens, do you realise what this means? Another tutor! Our work cut to one third instead of one half! Who is this man?"
"Sweet Merlin, Helga, you must tell me who this man is!"
"Godric," said Helga reluctantly. "Godric Gryffindor."
Rowena stopped, her jaw dropping. "That uncouth innkeeper? That's impossible!"
"No, truly. He is powerfully magic, that man. And he has trained himself - even if it is a little unconventionally."
"Unconventionally?" Rowena frowned. "What do you-"
Helha continued as if Rowena hadn't spoken. "But convention matters little when there is nearly none of it to begin with." She looked out of the window and sipped her tea. "Perhaps, with the school, his methods will become the convention."
But Rowena was still shaking her head, unable to believe what she was hearing. "But... Helga! That innkeeper! He can't be magic - he hates spellwork! I am certain he is deathly afraid, and superstitious about witchery, too."
Helga snorted again. "You don't know the innkeeper, Rowena. That man... he is afraid of nothing and no one."
"He certainly seems afraid of magic. Why else should he hide it?"
"He says he cannot be bothered with all the toomfoolery, but in truth, his family fears his skill, and he is too honourable to frighten them by using his magic." Helga looked up at Rowena. "You mustn't tell anyone, you mustn't tell him I told you. Poor man told me in confidence."
Not for the first time, Rowena marvelled at her dear friend's ability to invite the trust of all she met. For a healer, that was an invaluable gift.
Rowena sighed. "So he is afraid to use magic."
"He isn't afraid of anything!"
"But he is, Helga, don't you see? He's afraid of his own power."
Helga gave a little shrug as if to say, you're the logical one. But written in her eyes was her conviction that her assessment of that uncouth, rabble-rousing innkeeper was true.
Rowena cursed inwardly, but at least, she wouldn't be the one trying to convince this Gryffindor to teach at their school. Persuasion was Helga's job. She made a mental note to remind Helga to call on the innkeeper the next morning. She was so very forgetful.
Rowena's planning was to go waste.
At half past midnight, an urgent rapping on her door woke her up with a start. Who could it be at such a deathly hour? Her heart pounding, she slipped her wand out of its sheath, squared her shoulders, and ran through a list of neutralising spells in her head. Then she walked to the door and opened it.
Salazar Slytherin stood at her door, shivering in the pouring rain, bathed in eerie moonlight.
Rowena, her wand pointed at him, said, "What do you want?"
"Many apologies, my dear lady," Slytherin said, as if this was a polite call in the middle of the day. "But my horse has taken ill, and I must ask your friend Helga to tend to the animal."
Rowena was confused for a moment. There were so many things wrong with his statement. "You don't have a horse," she told him. "You gave yours to the innkeeper this morning."
"I stole it back," he told her blandly.
"He overcharged me for the food. It wasn't worth this horse. I have left him a fair amount of silver in its stead."
"So you stole the horse back! Why did you agree to the trade in the first place?"
Slytherin shrugged. "At that time, it appeared to be the path of least resistance. I was outnumbered."
"So you made a false promise?"
"Yes." He said it as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
"And ... you see nothing wrong with that?" Rowena was nearly at her wits' end. Was this man impervious to reason?
"He was wrong to rob me of the horse in the first place. I have merely taken back what is rightfully mine. I told you, I left him a fair amount in silver."
"One sickle." Slytherin grinned.
"And that's fair?"
"Madam, I would gladly debate the ethics of my conduct with you at any other time, but at the moment, this horse needs your friend's attention. Kindly wake her."
Rowena shook her head. "Helga heals humans, not animals."
"I assure you, Madam, that she will be richly compensated. Please wake her."
Rowena snorted. "Even if I would trust your word, it would be no use. Helga demands no payment for her services."
Slytherin seemed annoyed. "My Lady, please wake your friend. My horse is sure to die for lack of care, and I value the beast immensely."
"It is not your horse," Rowena said. It was only fair to correct the man.
"Madam, call it what you will. Call it your horse if you please, but for pity's sake, wake your friend!"
He sounded angry. And all because she had pointed out his mistake. Rowena shook her head. This man was impossible. "My horse? No, I would not call it mine," she argued.
But her words seemed to incense him for some reason. Not caring to endure his wrath, she went to wake Helga. Slytherin might not know it, but he was in deep, deep trouble. He had have stolen a horse, but there would be hell to pay when he was discovered.
"I will not return the horse."
Slytherin was being very trying. Rowena was finding it impossible to speak to this unreasonable man, so she let Helga handle him as she covered the shivering horse with thick blankets.
"Look here, Slytherin," Helga said, "what I'm trying to tell you is that you'll set the Nigellos after you if you insist on stealing their horse."
"It's not their horse, it's mine," Slytherin said loudly. "And who are the Nigellos?"
"The Nigellos? Why, man, they own all of Gimmswauld. Haven't you heard of them?"
"No. But why would they be after me? I gave the horse to the innkeeper. I've heard his name is Gryffindor."
"But the inn belongs to the Nigellos," Helga explained patiently. "Fortuna Nigello owns this village. Her family owns most all the land west of the sea."
"But I gave the horse to the innkeeper!"
Rowena wanted to hit her head against a brick wall. Had she ever thought this man had a keen mind? Heavens!
But Helga, sweet Helga, perservered patiently. "Slytherin," she told him, "that's a funny name, you know, Slytherin. And to name you Salazar, too - your mother and father must not have been very bright. But never mind about your name, you can't help having it..."
"Will you tell me what the matter is, healer, instead of blathering inconsequentialities?" Slytherin stormed. "Women! Such women! One chatters in the face of my imminent death, and the other would debate trivialities on the edge of doom!"
Rowena bristled at the remark. "Are you insulting us, sir?"
Slytherin flashed her a thunderous look. "Yes, I am. You ladies insist that I am in mortal danger and yet neither of you will tell me why I am in trouble." He stopped and rubbed his forehead. "Why will the Nigello come after me for stealing Gryffindor's horse?"
"It's not Gryffindor's horse!" Rowena said equally loudly. "You gave it to Gryffindor in payment, but the payment belongs to Fortuna Nigello. She owns the inn, she only pays Gryffindor a wage. All payments made belong to her. And she will most assuredly come after you, with her whole family as her army, no doubt. Horse-thieves are considered vile in these parts. You are therefore in mortal danger. Do you understand now?"
Slytherin seemed to be struck dumb. He hrrumphed and grunted and paced around the house restlessly for a few minutes. Then he announced loudly, "I will not return the horse."
They were back where they had started. Rowena wanted to scream.
They ended up running away together from the village. It was such a preposterous thing to do, Rowena hadn't any idea how it had happened, nor why she had agreed to it.
First, she had insisted on going out and ringing the big bell to signal a thief in the village. Both Helga and Slytherin had held her back by force: Helga was convinced that the Nigellos would let the horse die in their hurry to chase Slytherin, and Slytherin thought it was ridiculous to think of the horse as anything but his own.
Rowena had tried to reason with Helga: if they did not ring the thief bell, Rowena and Helga would be outcasts from the village. They couldn't afford to shelter Slytherin at their own expense!
But Helga wouldn't hear of it. "We are to start a school, Rowena," she had said. "Can we have such black hearts as to send this animal to its death only to save our own skins, and yet impart wisdom and morality to children in good conscience?"
Leave it to Helga to tie the most unrelated things together in bonds of compassion and honesty. Bah!
So the only thing left for them to do had been to get out quickly, or risk public humiliation in the morning when the Nigellos threw them out of the village. Slytherin and Rowena both agreed they'd rather run.
And so they ran. Helga kept the feverish horse warm with a charm of her own invention; it was a blessing that the horse was still capable of walking. Rowena cast a rainproof shield around the four of them to keep them dry. Slytherin looked immensely grateful.
After what seemed like hours, they reached a large black loch, its surface covered in a million tiny dancing waves where raindrops hit it. Something about the lake seemed to call to the three runaways, and they moved towards it, entranced by its dark opalacense. For a while, they just stood gazing across it, and for the first time that night, a sort of peace began to steal over the trio.
The rippling moon reflected in the loch caught the fat raindrops and shattered into a hundred pieces, and then reformed itself. Every now and then, a swish of the water caught their ears as something very large moved under the lake. Once, Rowena thought she saw a giant tentacle lift out of the troubled surface. Whatever it was, the lake had touched all of them in secret places of their soul, and there was no denying its spell over them.
They never heard the innkeeper approach them from behind.
All Rowena knew was that suddenly, the horse by her side was whinnying and skidding back on its own, as if pulled by a puppetmaster's string. She let out a little scream - were there ghouls and banshees in this lake?
But then she saw him - rather, she saw his shaggy, ash-blond head poking out over the top of a bush. Then she saw something that surprised her even more: his wand, sticking out from the side of the bush, pointing at the horse.
Godric Gryffindor, the unruly innkeeper who Rowena had thought not to possess a shred of magic, was expertly drawing the huge horse right towards himself.
Rowena nudged Helga, who turned and took in the scene open-mouthed. "I told you he was good," she whispered.
"What?" Slytherin said, turning around, tearing his eyes away from the lake that seemed to entrace him even more than the other two. And he noticed the horse, too, and the blond head and the wand sticking out from the side of the bush.
In a blink, he pulled his wand out of its sheath, pointed it at the bush and made a little slashing movement.
But Godric Gryffindor seemed to be ready for this. He threw himself out from behind the bush, his wand trained at Slytherin. "IMPEDIMENTA!"
His aim was unerring. Slytherin slowed to a dead halt, his arms fighting to move as if through thick mud. Rowena watched round-eyed. She had never seen a spell like that, never known a single word to hold such power. All the spells she had ever used needed at least a rhyming couplet to work.
Gryffindor, having effectively disabled Slytherin, grinned hugely, showing large, straight white teeth that gleaned in the moonlight. It transformed his face into something that crackled with life and tremendous energy, and in that moment, Rowena had no doubt that he had also the temperament to bring to life their enormous project.
She started forward to speak to him, but Gryffindor's attention was trained on the horse which had stopped beside him. Pulling it by the reins, he turned to leave...
"Glacies supervenio, Subsisto is vir!" Slytherin cried. Ropes of water descending from the sly turned into an ice cage, blocking Gryffindor's path on all sides. Slytherin bared his teeth and laughed.
"Reducto!" came the muffled voice from inside the cage of ice... and suddenly, a hole appeared in the cage. Gryffindor's wand stuck out through it and gave a little twitch, and immediately, Slytherin's wand flew right away from him and into Gryffindor's hand.
With sheer brute strength, the man smashed against his cage of ice, broke through it, and stepped out, both wands in hand.
Rowena, who had been standing stock still, witnessing a duel the likes of which she had never seen in her life, finally came to.
She ran inbetween the two men, her arms thrust out. "Stop! Stop now!"
Slytherin shoved her roughly aside, and began to walk towards Gryffindor. "Stop!" she shouted at them both, holding out her wand. "Stop, or I will surely hex you, sirs!"
Neither of the men paid any attention to her. In fact, Gryffindor threw both wands away, and made a show of rolling up his sleeves, as if inviting Slytherin to wrestle with him. Slytherin stopped, rolled up his own sleeves and bowed.
Rowena turned to Helga. "I'm going to hex them."
Rowena trained her wand on them both, and recited, "Tail of Phoenix, Hair of Unicorn, still these men 'til come the morn!"
The spell hit both men square in the chest, and the stiffened up, ramrod straight, frozen to the very tips of their fingers. Only their eyes moved, searing one another with their anger. Helga and Rowena walked up to the two men, and picked up their wands from where Gryffindor had thrown them.
"I'm sorry," Rowena said, "but you gentlemen have but yourselves to blame. I am a peace-keeper, after all. You ought to have heeded my words."
Slytherin's eyes turned on her, boring into her head with their intensity of rage. She shivered.
"Anyway," Helga said pleasantly, "now that we have a captive audience, I would like to offer you an opportunity."
Rowena flashed Helga a wide grin. This was going to be perfect.
"We - that is, Rowena Ravenclaw here and I - are planning to start a school, you see," Helga told them. "A place where young lads and lasses can come to learn to use their magics in a sensible way."
Rowena nodded. "And where they can learn to use it in an organised fashion. No shoddy, haphazard spellwork."
"We think it's a real waste to only learn the spells to be used in one's family trade," Helga continued. "It's terribly unfair to the young ones. What if they have dreams of their own? What if they don't want to join the family trades? They ought to be able to choose a magical trade of their own."
Gryffindor and Slytherin's expressions were completely blank, but their eyes were telling the two women that they thought them mad, dangerously mad. Rowena and Helga pretended to be supremely unconcerned about this.
"Now," said Helga, "we have decided that we would like the two of you to join us as the Founders of this new school. We have just seen an amazing display of your spellwork. It would be a sin to not pass your knowledge on to the youngsters of our kind."
"And that's our offer," Rowena said, looking from one to the other happily. "Helga and I hold your wands now. We will keep you hexed until you give us your word that you'll join us and help us build this school."
"You will, won't you?" Helga said eagerly. "Oh you will love it! The little ones running around us all the time, eager little minds hungry for knowledge and guidance that we can give them... It will be perfect."
Slytherin and Gryffindor glared.
"It's really the perfect solution," Helga said,"Slytherin, you get to keep your horse. Gryffindor, if you come with us, you can escape the wrath of the Nigellos. I am sure we can think of ways to make our school safe... and from what I have seen today, the Nigellos will be no match for the four of us combined."
Rowena said, "Let's keep them this way until sunrise, dear Helga. Then, when they can speak, they will give us their agreement." She turned to the men. "Won't you, gentlemen? For otherwise, I assure you, we have no qualms about keeping you in this full body bind for all eternity."
And there they stood, this unlikely foursome, bathed in brilliant moonlight and the pouring rain, waiting for sunrise, waiting for the start of their new lives.