It is said that in the old days, when Hogwarts was but a builder’s
camp nestled amongst the cold mountains of Scotland, Godric
Gryffindor loved to spend his leisure time hunting in the Great
Forest. It was not yet called Forbidden in those times, when our
world young and traditions still held fast. Gryffindor did not use a
wand like most of us are wont to do now, but went with horse and bow
and arrow, and unfortunately for the forest denizens, he was poor in
none of them. Gryffindor hunted them all—deer, bears,
pheasants, clabberts, diricawsl, knarls, hippogriffs, dwarrow, even
the occasional wyvern that poked its head out from its hilly den.
Sometimes he brought back a real trophy—an acromantula’s
tooth, a manticore’s tail, a bicorn’s horns.
His fellow Founders differed on their opinions about Gryffindor’s
pastime. Salazar Slytherin, pale and cold as glass, merely smiled and
said, “A man must have his pleasures.” Rowena Ravenclaw
arched an eyebrow, and would retire to her chambers and her books
when the workers gathered round to admire his latest kill. Only Helga
Hufflepuff raised an outcry, saying that slaying animals for sport
was barbaric and should be stopped. “How do you think it feels
for those creatures to be hunted day by day?” she’d say.
“Life is hard enough without you troubling them. Leave them be,
And Gryffindor would grin and pat her arm, saying she’d a
good heart, and that his next trip into the forest would be to get
her honey or perhaps a bunch of wildflowers. Then he’d wink at
the smiling workers. A man, after all, must have his pleasures.
One fragrant autumn morning, as Hogwarts neared completion,
Gryffindor took to the Forest once more. He rode silent beneath the
cool shadows of trees, searching eagerly for signs of game. Yet
though he passed many a clabbert and diricawl, he was not satisfied.
His instincts longed for something different, something of a
challenge. And he was not a man to be satisfied with less. He pressed
on, wandering off of familiar paths, even as the forest deepened and
darkened around him.
As the afternoon settled, Gryffindor’s horse halted in a
little clearing. It took a step forward before stopping again,
snorting and pawing the ground. Though he coaxed his mount, it only
jerked and whinnied as if pleading.
Gryffindor’s patience finally snapped. There was hunting to
be done, and here was his own horse getting in the way. He kicked its
ribs, and in a trice he was thrown onto his back on the cold hard
ground. Even as he sat up, aching head in hands, the sound of hooves
clattered off into the distance.
The voice said, “Well met, hunter.”
Gryffindor was on his feet in an instant, bow at the ready and an
arrow on the string. The voice was not human. It was deep and dusky,
and the word ‘hunter’ ended in a low growl.
“Who are you?” he demanded. “Show yourself!”
The thing chuckled. The sound came from all around him, in the
bushes, over the trees, rumbling beneath the grass. “This is
how you share greeting with a fellow hunter?”
“You’re no hunter.”
“I am, and this is my territory. I’ve left signs on
the trees and the grass—ah, but you cannot smell them. You’ve
no business here, manling. What’s in my domain is mine.”
Gryffindor kept his arrow notched, looking all around for a sign
of the speaker. Now he knew what frightened his poor horse. There was
a strange animal scent in the air, a dark musky smell unlike anything
he had ever known.
“If you truly are master here,” he cried, “then
come out! Surely you have nothing to fear?”
“I will if you wish, manling, though I think you’ll
soon wish otherwise. Show respect and put you weapon away.”
Gryffindor did not stir, and for a while neither did anything
else. Not the wind, not the leaves, not the breath in his lungs.
Then something burst from the bushes on his left. A huge claw
shattered the bow in his hands, another tore the wand from his belt.
He fell screaming, one hand clutching his wounded stomach.
The werewolf towered over him, grinning its cannibal grin. Those
were the days of the Ancestor Werewolves, creatures not beholden to
the moon, and who walked on two legs instead of four. This one stood
six feet tall, covered with muscles and bristling ebony fur. Its
eyes, the color of spilt blood, glared at Gryffindor over its long,
“I would call it a mistake to come here,” it said,
“but it’s too late for regrets. I’ve been waiting
here for prey, and my prey has come at last.”
It went down on all fours, and now it looked like a true wolf,
jaws open, baring dagger teeth. Then it charged again. Gryffindor
rolled to the side as the creature blew past him. He drew his knife
and buried it into the beast’s flank. It yipped, not with pain
but laughter, and Gryffindor fell back with wide eyes. The flesh
began to push out his dagger as if it were a tiny thorn.
For the first time, Gryffindor’s heart knew true terror.
He’d thought of death before, in a duel, in a quest, in pursuit
of a cause, but never like this. Not for food. Not for meat.
Panic filled his mind with a blinding white glare, and he turned
and ran into the forest. He threw himself into thickets, shoved past
small trees. Branches clawed at his face and tore his clothes, but he
did not stop. The werewolf’s breath was loud and close behind
him. Some part of him knew he had no escape, that the fiend was only
playing with him, prolonging the hunt. But he had not choice: he had
to run, or he would find his death here in these dark woods, and
never see his school rise over the dreaming Scottish mountains.
An exposed root snagged his foot and he plunged headlong through a
brush. He pushed himself onto his elbows and crawled blindly on his
belly. Then he froze. Before him was a pair of silver hooves. He
heard a whinnying noise above him, and he lifted his eyes.
A unicorn mare stared down at him, looking like a dream of ivory
and pearl. She wore a coat of untouched snow and stood tall on deer
legs and little cloven feet. Beneath the fading light her horn shone
like a fallen star. Despite his terror, Gryffindor gaped at her,
helpless with awe. No fear lived in those large, cerulean eyes.
A crash came from behind him and Gryffindor turned to see the
werewolf emerging into the glade. It halted when it saw the unicorn,
then raised its hackles and snarled. Gryffindor leaped to his feet
with his fists raised. Seeing the unicorn had dispelled some of his
fear. If he was meant to die here, he would die by the manner of his
But to his utter surprise, the unicorn glided forward and put
herself between them, head down, horn pointed at the werewolf’s
“He’s mine!” roared the wolf. “Fair is
fair, right is right!” But he unicorn did not listen. She pawed
the ground, and watched for its move.
Seeing this, the werewolf changed its tone. "Come now,
sister," it cajoled, tongue lolling as it yawned. "Would
you unshare me my prey? This is a manling, a hunter at that. Surely
you will not stand with him against your forest brethren. I
death-share only when I must. He would kill you and your younglings
for sport, without a second thought. Why share protection with him?"
Gryffindor thought his heart would stop as he watched the unicorn.
She ceased pawing the ground, but did not move away.
The werewolf bared its teeth and crouched. "Stand with him
and die with him!" he snarled. But he did not charge, and
neither did she. And as they regarded each other, Gryffindor waited
at their mercy.
Then everything happened very fast.
The werewolf roared and leapt. The unicorn gave a defiant cry and
reared up, hooves flashing like knives. Blows found home and the air
burned red and silver. The werewolf clawed at the unicorn’s
flank. The unicorn’s horn pierced the werewolf’s side.
Gryffindor watched the battle rage for many moments before at last
coming to his senses. He threw himself into the bushes, backtracking
to the clearing where he had dropped his wand.
He searched for seemingly an eternity, as all around him the
forest rang with growls and shrieks. His face stung where the
branches scratched, and the wound on his stomach bled freely, but he
noticed none of these things. He had but one desire—for the
unicorn to survive. And as he thought this, he spied his wand
half-hidden in the grass. He grabbed it and sprinted back with all
the strength his legs could muster.
But the battle was already over.
When he stumbled into the glade, he found the werewolf on its
side, twitching on a red river. Patches of its hair and pieces of its
teeth lay strewn on the grass around it. It gave one last unbelieving
snarl before choking to death on its own blood.
The unicorn knelt not far away. She gasped for breath, whinnying
softly as long wounds oozed silver on her sides. More of her silver
blood dripped from her nose. Her once perfect horn was now chipped
and pocked, and twin paths of tears glistened down her cheeks.
She turned her head at his approach. Gryffindor felt himself
crumbling beneath the weight of those eyes.
“Why?” he asked.
But her cerulean gaze held only silence.
Before she fell, she raised her head and gave a long, piercing
wail. Even in death she looked beautiful, irreplaceable. Unto his old
age, Gryffindor would dream of her final cry, of the descending sweep
of her mane, of her horn going out like a fallen candle, and he would
wake with tears in his eyes.
It is said that since Hogwarts finally rose amongst the cold
mountains of Scotland, Godric Gryffindor never entered the Forest
with bow in hand, ever again.