Helena had never shown much interest in men. She, like her mother, had favoured brains over beauty, although it must also be said that Helena was surely beautiful. She read and studied and learned, in an age when most women could only dream of doing such things.
To go to Hogwarts was a blessing, to be surrounded by like-minded people, although she knew that she was far cleverer than all of them. She was the best, the most knowledgeable, the quickest to learn in every subject, and she loved it. Without even knowing it, she became arrogant and conceited, and her classmates all turned against her.
All, save for one, that is. The Baron adored Helena, and was angered by her constant rejections. He thought that perhaps there was another who had won her favour, so he swore to find this man and end his affections for his beloved. Helena was not a shy girl, and she played her games with the Baron. But, ultimately, she had no time for men, only for learning, and for planning.
She was Helena Ravenclaw, and so she had always lived in the shadow of her mother. As a child, she had not minded, as she had not known any better. But, as she grew, she came to realise that no one cared about Helena, only about Helena Ravenclaw and the stories she could tell about her mother's achievements. Whenever she perfected a spell on the first try, the professor would beam at her knowingly. 'Your mother's daughter, through and through!' they would say, and Helena would bristle at the praise. They didn't seem to understand that this was all her - this was all Helena; Rowena had nothing to do with it.
She knew that she was a better witch than her mother ever could be, but nobody recognised her talents as hers. No matter how hard she tried, she would always be the daughter of Rowena Ravenclaw. She would get perhaps a line in the history books compared to her mother's pages, unless she changed something.
Her plan was flawless. Her mother would never know where to look for her, and the people here did not know her. She would be able to make a name for herself, outside of her Ravenclaw heritage.
But she had not counted on the wiles of men, and she had never truly realised the full depths of the Baron's affections for her.
So goes the fate of Helena Ravenclaw.
Even in death, Helena was beautiful, and many a Ravenclaw boy had tried to charm her. She suspected it was all in jest, but it hardly mattered either way; it was all the same to her. Helena had learned from the Baron, and she had sworn that never again would she allow a man to love her. She'd had her fun with him when they were children, and here they both were. So it goes.
She kept her distance from the Baron, not wishing to complicate matters further. For his part, the Baron seemed to feel the same way, never meeting her eyes if they happened to find themselves in the same room. Helena tended to keep to herself, anyway - she would aid a lost first year, or help someone find something they had misplaced, but rarely would she engage with students beyond that. It was a quiet afterlife, and, if any afterlife could be considered so, a good one.
That was when he came. He had dark eyes and darker hair, and a mind like a razor. His words were witty and wise, and they spoke of things that Helena herself had only dared dream about before. Even before her death, Helena had had high expectations of any man she might court, but none had ever met them. None… except Tom.
He was kind, and gentle, and he would say her name, 'Helena', in that soft, sweet voice of his with a smile that reached into Helena's long-silent heart. And, to him, she was just Helena, or it had seemed that way, at least. He didn't chain her to her mother's name, which was... liberating, to say the least. She recognised a kindred spirit in him. This was perhaps why, despite the Baron and despite everything, Helena felt herself begin to fall for the boy with the clever eyes and the pretty words.
She would wait eagerly for his visits, where they would talk of everything imaginable. Tom was so knowledgeable, and he would bring up magics that Helena had thought long forgotten by the living. Each time he would bring with him a charming smile and a list of new questions to occupy them for the night, which Helena was only too happy to indulge. She didn't even mind when the questions became more specific, more personal, because she had recognised his potential, and foolishly thought she could be the one to cultivate it.
Oh, how foolish she had been back then. How silly, how arrogant she had been to think that she could tutor a boy like Tom. She, a mindless, hubristic, dead girl. But his charms had made her forget herself, and she could not deny that she felt as though she had finally put her mother to shame, despite Rowena being a thousand years dead in the cold earth. Here was someone just as intelligent as she, and she had helped him in the pursuit of knowledge, the noblest task of them all.
Helena and Tom had so much in common, which is why she gave him the location of the diadem. But she did not realise, then, exactly how much they had in common, and this was her damning mistake. Tom had Helena's ambition and her arrogance, but she had been too blinded by his charms to see how it was changing him. When Helena heard, many years later, what her beloved Tom had done, she wept for another great mind lost to pride and a hunger for power. They said her cries could be heard from every corner of the castle, and they were terrible cries indeed, such was the depth of her mourning.
Helena disappeared for years after Tom's betrayal. When she finally resurfaced, she had styled herself anew as the Grey Lady, for she knew that what she had believed for years was true. She should not be connected with Rowena Ravenclaw, legendary witch and founder of Hogwarts, as she was not deserving of the Ravenclaw name. Her mother would not - had not - made the mistakes than Helena had, and so Helena must become someone else.
The Grey Lady had not let her pride overcome her.
The Grey Lady had not played a part in the creation of the most feared and deadly wizard the world had ever seen.
Most importantly, the Grey Lady was not Helena Ravenclaw.
She did not tell anyone of her true identity, and it was a shame that she carried alone for many years. She withdrew into herself even more than before, preferring to keep to the more isolated parts of the castle when she could. She would still speak to Ravenclaw students when they were in need of her aid, but only those, for she knew the minds of Ravenclaws, whereas other houses were able to lie and cheat and beguile her. She vowed that she would never let another man or woman, however dire their need seemed to be, know of the diadem's location. To know could only be a curse, so it seemed better that none other than Helena knew.
Yet, as it is wont to do, history repeated itself. Another war, another battle, another boy. Harry Potter was much like Tom Riddle, with the raven hair and the humble appearance. That was, in part why she had at first refused him, because she could not bear to see another child lost to her mistakes. Yet, despite their similarities, Harry was so utterly different to Tom, but Helena could not quite see why.
There was something about him, something far more real and genuine, than there had ever been about Tom. There was no finesse to Harry's words, no polishing, just raw, cracked desperation, and slowly, Helena found herself believing him. More than anything, she wanted to make up for her mistakes that had brought them here, so she gave up the location of the diadem and prayed that she had not been stupid again.
Helena wept once more when she heard the news. She wept out of sorrow, for Tom Riddle, and for the castle, and for the young lives that had been lost in this needless war. But she also wept out of relief for Harry Potter. She wept for the curse that had been broken, and for the lives that had been saved. She had atoned for her mistakes with Tom, and now it was time for her to mend her shortcomings from her living days.
After the battle, the Grey Lady was no more. She was Helena Ravenclaw, only daughter of Rowena Ravenclaw, and she was ready, for the first time since she was a young girl, to embrace that.
After the battle, Helena Ravenclaw smiled and closed her eyes, vanishing in a wisp of smoke.
She was at peace.