When she was a child, all Helena ever wanted was to be like her mother. Her mother was the smartest woman in the world so, as a result, she was expected to be her legacy. The Keeper of the Hogwarts Library and all of its secrets. Each of the House Founders guarded something that was meant to be passed down to a student, only to remain a secret until it could be passed on to the next person. It didn’t necessarily have to be an heir like Slytherin wanted for his Chamber, but it was preferable. It was expected of Helena to follow her mother’s footsteps.
And she couldn’t which frustrated her to no end. As a first-generation student, the four founders put their students through several tests. About one hundred students got two weeks of learning and then an exam which would determine who went where. As the years progressed, they realized that it wasn’t an efficient way to determine where students should go since most ended up going to Hufflepuff. Thus, the Sorting Hat was created from Gryffindor’s old hat. It made Sorting faster and distributed the students a bit more evenly based on potential and beliefs than immediate talent.
Helena was one of those who was chosen by the Founders and not the hat. She never even took the tests. Her mother declared that her own daughter would surely be in her house. So, when her marks weren’t as good as everyone else’s, she became frustrated and depressed. Her mother was intelligent so why wasn’t she?
When that hat came into existence, Helena snuck into her mother’s office, guarded by a gargoyle, and took the hat off its stand. She sat down on the Sorting Stool and jammed the hat on her head.
Rather old for a new student are you not? The Hat asked in amusement.
“I haven’t been properly sorted,” she said.
Of course not. It is not unusual for families to be Sorted in the same House. I sense the same fate for that young Weasley boy. Generations of Gryffindors. Godric will be proud.
“I don’t care about Weasley,” she growled.
Temper, temper. You wish to know if you are meant to be in the same House your mother founded.
“Am I?” Helena pressed.
You have curiosity, a fair amount of wit. Not much bravery, some ambition… hm… better be…
“HUFFLEPUFF!” the Hat announced through the rip in its side.
“NO!” Helena cried.
Don’t get her wrong, she loved Aunt Helga, but it meant that her mother was wrong about her. That she would be a disappointment. Nobody wanted to be a Hufflepuff unless they were actually in the House and only after they were sorted.
“I can’t be a Hufflepuff,” Helena whispered.
You can’t change who you are, said the Hat. You can only improve to be the best version of yourself. Embrace who you are.
“An improvement,” Helena murmured scanning the office. Her eyes laid on her mother’s diadem. The smooth blue stone shone in the flickering torchlight. “If I’m not a Ravenclaw… I’ll make myself one.”
Child, you know that isn’t what I mean, said the Hat. If you take this route, you’ll find you won’t belong anywhere. You have a great capacity for acceptance and loy—”
Helena ripped the hat off her head and rushed over to the diadem. She carefully lifted it off the stand and studied it. Her mother rarely took it off. This was her only chance. Closing her eyes, she placed it on her head, the silver settling heavily, but the combs clutching onto her curls. The secret wisdom of the world would be revealed to her.
Helena opened her eyes. Did she have it on wrong. She took it off and studied it and how the wings were swooped. Up or down? She turned it over and tried it on again. This time it nearly slipped off and still… nothing. It had to be broken. Helena gripped the diadem in her hand and left the office in a hurry. She needed to get out of here. She couldn’t stay.
No. Not now.
Hiding the diadem behind her back, she turned to face Barclay. Though he was sorted into Slytherin, he had taken a shining to her and tended to follow her around and sit with her at meals and insist on studying with her. It was awkward to say the least, but she didn’t have any other friends except for Helga’s daughter, Rachel, but Rachel was only eleven and couldn’t quite understand things like this yet. Rachel was Hufflepuff through and through.
“Helena, it is getting late,” said Barclay. “You should be getting to your Common Room.”
“I was just on my way, Barclay,” she said stiffly.
“I would be more than happy to escort you,” he said.
And do more than that, she thought drily trying not to wrinkle her nose.
“It is merely down the corridor,” she replied. “I can make my own way.”
“I insist,” he said, holding his arm out to her.
Swallowing back her distaste, she rested her hand in the crook of his elbow and palmed the diadem hoping her sleeve was long enough to cover it. It was only a short walk to Ravenclaw Tower.
“Goodnight, Helena,” said Barclay, bowing slightly.
“Goodnight, Barclay,” Helena replied, tipping her chin in a slight nod.
Helena knocked rapidly to wake up the stone eagle. It came to life and looked down at her.
“I have green hair, a round red head, and a thin white beard,” it said. “What am I?”
“A… a leprechaun?” Helena asked.
“’tis not,” said the Eagle.
They went on and on like this for over an hour until Helena was in tears with frustration. Why did her mother have to set this up for her pupils?
“I don’t know!” she said furiously scrubbing her cheeks. “I never know the answer! Can’t you give me an easy one? How about a hint?”
Before it could speak, the door swung open and Aart and Kendra burst through hand-in-hand. They paused, wide-eyed and blushing as they saw Helena. Helena couldn’t care less about who was stuffing it up with who and shoved past them to her room. She could hardly hear her roommate as she shoved a few items of importance and a change of dress in a satchel.
“Helena, whatever is the matter?” Mildred asked.
“I can’t stay here another minute,” said Helena glaring at the diadem.
“Is that Professor Ravenclaw’s diadem?” Mildred gasped.
Helena shoved it in her bag and clasped it closed before shouldering it.
“Helena, wait,” said Mildred, leaping out of bed.
Without another word, Helena raced out of her bedroom, through the Common Room, down the stairs, and out the front door of the castle. Rain began to fall, going from a mere trickle to a near waterfall in a matter of minutes.
After that day, all she ever did was run. She mostly hitched rides on carts. Slept in the homes of those who took pity on her. She evaded ruffians and thieves by using her magic which typically meant moving on. Whenever she had the chance, she tried on the diadem hoping it would give her some sort of clarity… Sight… an answer… And every time… nothing.
She eventually ended up in Albania. Ironically, near the sight where her mother first learned of the Sapphire of Mycenae. The very sapphire embedded in the diadem that refused to work for her. Sometimes, she wondered if it ever truly worked at all or if it merely worked for her mother.
Her mother… everyday of those three years she was on the run, Helena thought of her mother. How ashamed she must’ve been that her only daughter was a failure at school and a thief to boot. A simpleton who now lived in a cottage in the middle of the forest living only off her garden and goat. Helena tried on the diadem every night until her sixth moon of living in the cottage. She decided she never wanted to see it again, so she hid it in a hollow tree that had branches that twisted impossibly and hundreds of knobs that looked as if it contained the key to a secret passage. There wasn’t one.
The rain was falling, not unlike the rain of the day she left. Though it was midday, the sky was as dark as early evening. Helena had placed several pans around the room to catch the leaks, but since the storm began the evening before, she’d had to empty them out every-so-often.
On one of these instances, she had just finished adding the kettle water to the pond that seemed keen on growing next to her cabbages, a light caught her attention. She narrowed her eyes and drew her wand from her sleeve.
She knew that voice, but rather than bring relief, it made her tense even more. She closed the door, but before she could cast any enchantments of protection, it was flung open once more. A man strode in, decked in fine clothes and furs, a bronze crown perched on his head and a sword not unlike the one Gryffindor wore at his hip, except this wasn’t as magnificent.
“Helena,” he repeated, smiling and taking her hands. “It has taken me ages to find you.”
“Barclay,” she said pulling her hands from his grasp. “What are you doing here?”
“Your mother sent me to find you,” he said taking his wand and drying himself instantly. He looked at her cottage and his mustache wrinkled. “This is where you’ve been living all this time?”
Helena scowled. It may have been an unsightly home, but it was her unsightly home.
“Come,” he said. “I will take you out of this squalor.”
“Squalor…” Helena repeated crossing her arms. “Well, you seem to have made a name for yourself, Barclay.”
“Baron Barclay now,” he said grinning. “I pledged my allegiance to the king, won a battle for him, he gave me a title, land, and knights to lead. After you see to your mother, I’ll take you to my castle. You will love it Helena, it has a library almost as grand as Hogwarts.”
“You make it sound as if I agreed to go,” she replied. “Which I have not. I never belonged at Hogwarts and I certainly don’t belong with you.”
The smile slid off his face and his gaze grew hard. A sick feeling set into Helena’s stomach and she took a step back.
“What must I do, Helena?” he asked, voice growing tight. “I have money, power, land, and a people to lead. You cannot deny that after our years of school there isn’t at least some fondness! I have been offered the hands of many women, but it is only you who I want Helena. Are you truly happy living here in a house that is falling apart, digging in the dirt for your next meal, and being completely alone.”
“I’m not alone!” she cried.
“There is another…”
“Yes,” she said lifting her chin defiantly. “I have been living with my love and sharing a bed for seven moons. I will never love you Barclay. I have never wanted you or once saw a future with you.”
Barclay’s pale face grew purple with rage. His eye twitched and his body shook.
“If I can’t have you,” he said. “Nobody can!”
Helena raised her wand, but no spells came to mind. She only knew garden magic. Barclay drew his sword in fury and swiped at her. She gasped, stumbled, and collapsed to the floor against the bed.
“Oh…” Barclay dropped his sword and fell to his knees. “Helena… My dear Helena. What have I done?”
“Don’t touch me!” she hissed. She felt cold all over and her hands shook too much to keep her hands pressed to her stomach, the scarlet blood bubbling between her fingers.
“I… I’m sorry, my love,” he said, a tear sliding down his cheek. He drew a dagger from his hip and plunged it into his heart, leaving Helena alone.
“I’m home,” a lilting voice called. A woman with dark eyes and olive skin entered the cottage, removing her cloak. “Quite a storm…” her words trailed off when she saw the sight, releasing a wail, she fell to Helena’s side. “Helena! My light! My darling! What happened?”
“Persephone…” Helena whispered. “I… I… I’m so sorry. There’s so much you d-don’t know… and no time to tell.”
“There’s time,” Persephone whispered, tears as heavy as the rain streaming down her cheeks. “We can get a healer.”
“No…” said Helena, reaching up and touching the face of the woman who made her world seem not so grey. However, she had lied to this woman for the time they were together. Persephone had no knowledge that Helena was a witch or a thief who stole her mother’s greatest creation. “There’s no time… I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be. You have nothing to be sorry for.”
“I’m so cold, Perse…”
Persephone wrapped Helena up in a long coat to hide the blood.
“Stay with me,” Helena begged. “Until I’m asleep.”
“Of course.” Persephone embraced her, stroking her raven hair.
Helena closed her eyes and took a shuddering breath.
When she opened them, she was on the docks of the English Channel. She looked down at herself but saw no sword wound marring her pale flesh and no blood on her hands. However, it didn’t look like it did when she was there before. The sky was the palest blue like on a Summer’s day, though no sun shone. White ships floated on the black waters and bumped against white docks. Helena looked around for someone. Anyone.
“Helena,” a voice called. It sounded like a man, a woman, and a child all at once.
Helena looked around but found no body to match the voice.
“It’s time to move on, Helena,” said the voice. “Just board the boat. Your mother will be along shortly.”
Fear and anxiety jolted through her core. No… she couldn’t face her mother. Not after all this time. It would be a curse to spend eternity under her disappointing stare.
“No,” she said. “I won’t board the boat… I can’t face her!”
“Think carefully of this,” said the voice. “Your choice will be eternal.”
“I don’t care!” she shouted. Something pulled at her gut, dragging her back into darkness.
“You can never come back,” the voice called.
Helena opened her eyes and found herself sitting in the library of Hogwarts. Why was she here? She didn’t want to be here! She looked down and saw the table through her hands. They had become a silvery blue. Almost grey. She stared at them in shock.
She jumped to her feet and whirled around to see Barclay staring at her, his clothes still splattered in blood, the only color amongst his silvery-blue clothes and skin. No… this was so much worse. She refused to spend eternity with him.
“Why are you here?” she asked.
“I told you,” he replied. “I want to spend eternity with you.”
“I changed my mind!” she cried looking up. “Take me back! I want to go back!”
“Helena, I will treat you right! I promise! I’m sorry for what I’ve done.”
She ran through the tables and bookshelves wailing and begging for the voice to return her to the docks. To take her anywhere else but here. When she tried to leave out an open window or door, she found herself right back in the library and right back in the presence of the man she loathed. Heaven for him. Hell for her.
And no chance of return. No chance to be reunited with her love. No chance to apologize to her mother.
What had she done?