A thousand years is a long time to be alone. Helena Ravenclaw knew she was never truly alone in all that time, there were always students and professors and house ghosts at Hogwarts, she still felt alone. She distanced herself from all of them. Sometimes she spoke to the Ravenclaw students to help them with their schoolwork or to find items they had lost but that was because they were only children. They were children much like she herself had once been, children who wanted to know things. As such, she felt an obligation to help them, but she didn’t have any real friends and hadn’t in more than a thousand years. Some part of her felt that she didn’t deserve any. If only she hadn’t run away from her mother. If only she had gone home when the Baron had asked her to. She could have never loved him, but she could have at least granted her mother one final dying wish. Helena found the regret difficult to bear and so she kept to herself both out of shyness and out of shame.
Many students had come and go from Hogwarts over the ages and Helena was intelligent enough that she could have learned all their names in the passing years. Often though, she paid no attention to their names. The one thing she did pay attention to was the classes. She sat in on classes quite often. Even though she had taken all the courses multiple times, each new professor offered new tidbits of knowledge. Knowledge was something she craved. But when Professor Severus Snape began teaching at Hogwarts, Helena kept herself out of sight and sat in on the lessons. He quickly became her favorite teacher though she couldn’t explain why. He didn’t offer anything particularly new in his classes. She simply liked listening to him speak. And she liked the way he carried himself with the air of a gentlemen. No one behaved like that these days. Plenty of modern people knew how to be polite, and plenty of them were reserved in character to remain dignified most of the time, but Severus, he acted as a true Baron or Lord should act. He was not of noble birth but he was wise and well mannered and as the years passed she grew to admire him more and more.
Helena seldom left the areas of the classrooms or Ravenclaw tower. There was always the fear that if she did, she would run into the Bloody Baron. Even after so many years, she did not like to see the man who had murdered her. He had tried countless times to apologize and each time she had run away from him. What was she to say? That she forgave him? That was not something she could genuinely grant to him.
Late one afternoon a group of students passed Helena in the halls of Ravenclaw tower.
“Why do you suppose he is covered in blood?” One Ravenclaw girl said.
“I don’t know. Maybe he killed someone before he passed over,” said a boy.
“Well I’m glad we aren’t Slytherin and don’t have to go down to the dungeons very often. I should hate to see him more than once in a day,” the girl said and the students continued past her, having not even seen her.
If they had just seen the Baron in the dungeons then her murderer wasn’t anywhere near Severus’ office at that moment. He would be there correcting papers about now. Maybe, maybe just this once she could go there and sit with him. He wouldn’t have to know. She could remain out of sight. She most definitely would remain out of sight.
Helena made her way to the office of Severus Snape without ever encountering the Baron. She passed through the wall into his office without a sound and found a place to stand in a shadowy corner while he corrected papers. He had a rather large stack of papers to contend with and as she watched him work she realized that he looked weary, worn out. He read through each page one by one and marked them with a quill pen. Her gaze was drawn to the strength of his hands, the way his long hair fell across his jawline, the hunch of his shoulders as he worked. It came to her in that moment, with an audible gasp, that she was in love with Severus Snape.
“Who’s there?” Snape looked up from his work. He had heard her gasp.
Helena shrank deeper into the dark corner of the room, having every intention to pass through the wall and flee before he saw her. He could not be allowed to know that she had been watching him. It would be far to mortifying a thing for him to be made aware of.
“Is that you Helena Ravenclaw?” He asked warily.
So he had seen her after all. Her mind worked quickly for a solution, some reason that she might have come to his office other than her feelings for him. “I hope I did not startle you,” she said, coming into the light. “I thought perhaps you might like some help grading all these papers. I fear I have grown bored with so little to occupy my mind all these years.”
“I see,” he said, although he did not sound convinced. “How do you propose to do that?”
“If you lay the papers out where I can read them, I can calculate the grades for you. You need only write the final grades when I am finished,” she proposed. It had not been the true reason she came to visit him but as soon as she thought of it, she knew that assisting him to grade papers was something she wanted to do very much.
“I suppose that could be arranged,” Snape said slowly. “We had best move to the library where there is a larger table.”
Helena followed him out of his office to the library. Snape carried a stack of homework papers with him, which he began laying out on the table for Helena to grade. He took nearly half the stack for himself and sat down at the end of the table to begin grading. Helena worked quickly. She read the papers, calculated the grade, and memorized which grades belonged to which students before moving on to the paper. From time to time as she worked, she found herself glancing over at Severus. He was intent on his task and hardly seemed to notice her presence and yet she could not forget his presence in the slightest. In all her years since being a ghost, she had often longed to be human again. To taste food, to know warmth of a fire, to have a hug were all things she had longed for from time to time, but never before tonight had she wanted so strongly to remember what it would feel like to touch someone.
She had nearly finished all the papers when Severus completed his own stack. Helena wasn’t sure if he had divided the work in half or not but it didn’t surprise her that he had finished so quickly. Severus was very intelligent. That was part of the reason she liked him.
“How would you mark these?” Snape said, getting to his feet and starting at the paper on the corner of the table.
“This gets a D,” Helena said plainly. “Goyle is no writer and I don’t think he even understood what he was writing about. These sections here, here, and here,” she pointed out, “Are a problem.”
Severus glanced over the page. “I agree,” he wrote a D on the page. “And this one?”
“Lovegood’s page is well written, if not a little fanciful. She made an error here,” Helena pointed out. “The rest looks good.”
Snape nodded and gave Luna high marks. They proceeded down the length of the table to put marks on all the pages written by students. As they neared the end of the table, Helena tried to push aside her anxiety. Should she offer to help him again? If she wanted to spend more time with him, it would be the polite thing to do. But maybe he did not want the company of a ghost. And maybe she was being stupid to even seek his company. She would always be a ghost now and he wasn’t so old for a human. He might rather spend his time with real human women.
“Well, that’s all of them,” she said as they reached the last one. She could almost remember just then what it felt like to be sick with nervousness.
“Perhaps if you grow bored enough, you might assist me again,” Severus said very seriously.
Helena fought the urge to smile. “I just might do that.”