“Help!” cried the very junior wizard, falling down on the doorstep of the medium-sized cottage that would someday be Hogwarts. “Help! The giants are invading!”
“Giants?” asked Godric Gryffindor, sticking his head out of the window. “I thought we beat those last week.”
“These are different giants,” said the junior wizard. “Also wolves. And basilisks.”
“Wolves and basilisks?”
“The wolves are riding the basilisks,” said the wizard. “Look, it’s a bit of a mess, all right?” He rubbed his forehead.
“Are they werewolves?” called Helga Hufflepuff, from inside the cottage. “I firmly believe that werewolves should be judged by their actions as individuals. This anti-lycanthropic discrimination has got to stop.”
“They’re riding basilisks,” said Godric. “They’re probably not upstanding members of the werewolf community.”
“Wouldn’t they have turned to stone?” asked Rowena Ravenclaw, who was sitting in an armchair with a book. She turned a page.
“Smoked goggles,” said the junior wizard shortly. “Incidentally, I’m bleeding rather a lot.”
“Oh, you poor dear,” said Helga, wiping her hands on her apron. “Come in and we’ll get you fixed up.”
The junior wizard sat at the dining room table and was given cookies and a very large brandy, while the four great wizards planned their next move.
Unfortunately, they were still not very good at working together. Godric wanted a straight charge up the middle, death-or-glory style. Rowena wanted an elaborate battle plan involving perfect timing and the movement of a great many troops they didn’t actually have. Salazar suggested they just seed the enemy’s supplies with botulism and canine distemper.
“Cowardly!” cried Godric. But Rowena looked thoughtful. Helga tapped a fingernail on her teeth.
In the end, it was agreed that they would simply all meet on the field of battle tomorrow, ready to fight, and see what the future held.
In the morning, three wizards gathered on the field of battle. It was a broad, grassy bowl, bordered by hills. Giants and basilisks and werewolves wearing glasses lurked on the far side, although the werewolves were looking a little strung out by the lack of moonlight.
Rowena was surrounded by a swirling cloud of ravens. They flapped and shrieked in harsh voices.
“Nice,” said Salazar. “Bit goth, though.”
“Says a man wearing a giant snake as a bandolier.”
“That’s not goth, that’s metal. It’s different.”
Godric was riding a griffin and was a bit annoyed that no one had mentioned how cool it was.
“You know that thing’ll go to sleep if somebody throws a coat over its head,” said Salazar nastily.
“Shut up,” said Godric. “You can’t ride your snake.”
“A snake big enough to ride would need a redesigned nervous system,” said Rowena absently. “You couldn’t get the messages to the tail fast enough. Not sure the circulatory system would hold up, either, to be honest—“
“I notice somebody hasn’t shown up,” said Salazar.
“I’m sure Helga will be here in a minute,” said Rowena.
“What’s she going to do, bake cookies at them?”
“She can be the healer,” said Godric. “Healers are important.”
Salazar rolled his eyes.
They waited. The griffin crapped and everybody had to move upwind.
“We should never have invited her,” said Salazar. “She can’t found a wizarding school. Her greatest ambition is to get the garden weeded before company comes over.”
“I’ve seen some pretty lethal plant wizards,” said Godric loyally. “With…um…you know, big thorn hedge things…” He made hand gestures. Salazar looked at him like he was an idiot.
The ravens were getting bored. They ceased swirling and landed on the grass, grumbling to each other. “Ark. Ark Ark? Ark.”
Godric ran a hand through his hair. “Okay,” he admitted. “Maybe this isn’t really playing to Helga’s strengths. We could…errr…”
The ground rumbled.
The ravens took flight. The griffin squawked. Salazar’s snake constricted in a panic, and Rowena had to help him get it unwound from around his neck.
The grassy hillside split open.
Claws as long as a man’s thigh emerged from the earth. Clods of dirt flew as a gigantic beast emerged, shaking its head. A cloud of wet air belched over the three wizards, smelling of worms and turned earth.
“Sorry!” called a voice from inside the cloud. “Sorry! Monty, you came up too close! You’ll trample the wrong people!””
“Oh dear god, it’s a badger,” said Godric.
“Dire badger, I believe,” said Rowena. “Meles dirus. I thought they were extinct…”
Salazar put a hand over his eyes.
It was the size of a house. Helga’s saddle was halfway up the creature’s back, nearly lost on that vast curve of spine. She was still wearing her apron and her gardening gloves.
The badger shook itself again, spattering them all with dirt. The black and white stripes were visible now, along with tiny reins that ran to the base of the creature’s whiskers. It was wearing goggles that appeared to have been cobbled together from ship’s portholes.
“Good badger!” said Helga. “Who’s a good boy, then?”
“She named the badger Monty,” said Salazar to no one in particular.
“Sorry I’m late,” said Helga. “It was hard to get the goggles on him. But he’s such a good badger! Does a good badger want to stomp the mean giants for Mommy?”
The dire badger gave another belching roar and waved its claws.
“Kill me,” said Salazar to Rowena.
“Godric would love to.”
“I don’t want to give him the satisfaction.”
“All right,” said Godric, feeling that his authority was somewhat diminished by the fact that his very cool griffin was only about a tenth the size of Helga’s badger. “All right. Um. It’s not the size of the—“
“Keep telling yourself that, Godric,” said Rowena.
Monty began lumbering toward the enemy.
“Would it be okay if we charged now?” called Helga. “I hope it’s okay! Monty’s not very good at waiting…”
The dire badger broke into a waddling run.
Godric spurred the griffin, because there was absolutely no glory in being left behind by a badger.
Rowena and Salazar walked, rather more sedately, toward the enemy.
“So, about letting her help found the school…” said Rowena.
“I can admit when I’m wrong,” said Salazar, once Godric was out of earshot.
“Yes, but you never do.”
“This is me admitting that I am possibly wrong.” He adjusted his snake. “But you have to admit, you didn’t see the badger coming either.”
“No,” said Rowena Ravenclaw, “no, the giant badger was a surprise.” She considered. “Hard work and loyalty aren’t bad principles.”
“They’re a lot better when you’ve got a giant goddamn war-badger to back them up.”
And none of the other founders ever questioned Helga Hufflepuff’s right to found a wizarding house ever again.
I can't actually draw the scene in the fic, but since my head-canon is now that Hufflepuffs are all given a warbadger upon graduation, here's Portrait Of The Artist With Her Badger Mister Digglesworth.