Children. They were teaching children.
Rowena, Godric, Salazar; they tended to forget that. They saw young minds, young acolytes - eyes that would look up to them. Not innocence. Not childish wonder.
Toughen them, said Godric.
Make them smart, said Rowena.
And ambitious, above all, said Salazar.
But war and the real world; that was not where children belonged. Aye, they would belong one day, but it was not their part to turn them cruel, make them hard, make their eyes dart sideways always looking for ways to twist the world to further their own ends. They were to protect them. Shield them from the worst so that some good, some kindness would find its way into an ever darkening world. To give them weapons and teach them how to use them, but never tell them that those weapons were their only hope.
She’d seen in all the battles she’d rode out to just how dark the world could be. Was it not their duty to bring light into this world? To fight darkness with light; not with more darkness - with divisiveness and strife and hatred?
I will take them all, she said.
I will protect the ones you will not. I will save them. I will give them a home. They will be the last rays of all that is good in this world. I will teach them kindness. I will teach them loyalty. I will teach them selflessness.
I will teach them how to be the backbone, the heart of this world. I will teach them how to stand steadfast, when all hope is lost.
I will teach them how to be human, to be more than just one single word.
No, she knew, theirs would not be an easy path, or a glorious one. They would have no songs. No great tales in books. No laurels. No consolation, no thanks.
But they would be the reason why, when the darkness finally came, all of them in all their different colours would stand shoulder to shoulder and draw their wands as brothers in arms.
Not for achievements. Not for trophies. Not for power.
For goodness. For hope.
And when the time came for them to choose the words that would forever guide the children that would come to them, Helga smiled and engraved, upon a bronze plaque, these words:
Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus.
(But her students remembered a very different set of words. Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.)
(Helga Hufflepuff requested by boney-eyes-jefferson)