Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize and everything you do not.

Author's Note: This just sort of popped into my head. I'm not expecting many reviews and I don't plan to finish it, but I just had to get it out. Please review!

by Fiyero Oberon

Although Ron and Harry kept running, Hermione suddenly stopped. "Harry – Harry, look!"

Pushing his glasses back up, Harry retraced his steps. Harry stopped beside her, wiped sweat from his marked forehead. Ron joined them and as one they grinned.

Upon the wall was portrait that had previously gone unrecognized. It was oil on canvas, framed in a plain wooden frame. It was an old painting and had a long golden bar above it, from which hung a tattered curtain that had been pushed aside. But it wasn't the frame or the bar or the curtain that had attracted Hermione's attention – it was the golden plaque beneath, engraved in spiraling letters:

Helga Hufflepuff

The woman was dressed in a fashion that surprised Harry, for he had always imagined Lady Hufflepuff in flowing robes of yellow and black striped satin, vaguely resembling a bumblebee. But the qualities that are valued in Hufflepuff House seemed to glow from the very body of the woman in the portrait. She was dressed in a plain brown frock with a dirty apron tied around her. She held a single candle, its light glowing serenely, its white wax dripping down the sides of the candle. Her soft brown hair was pulled back, out of her round, kind face. Her eyes, black but kind, were trained on a striped badger that was painted hiding beneath a chest of drawers.

Hermione cleared her throat and Lady Hufflepuff turned towards them. Her face broke into a wide smile. She scrunched her round nose and carefully placed the candle on the floor. She wiped her hands on her apron, which probably served less to clean them and more to soil them.

"I've been waiting for you," she said and her very voice sounded gentle, wise, and kind. "I was told you would come. What can I do you for?"

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