Suddenly the windows slammed shut, making her jump out of her skin and topple over the footrest. She lay there on the floor for what felt like hours, panting, her eyes running through every inch of her room. Once she was certain that there was no one hiding in the shadows, her breathing slowed down, subsiding her panic gradually. She stood up carefully, making less noise as possible. She took a moment to steady herself before walking towards the window ever so slowly. She didn’t dare look out as she bolted the window with great force. Turning around she leaned against the now tightly shut window closing her eyes. The sudden absence of the howling wind did not do much to keep away the agitation. It only made the atmosphere more intense. This had been the procedure every night as far as she could remember, but she still hadn’t adapted to it. If it was just some wind storm or a thunder fest she wouldn’t have panicked at all. But it was neither. Instead, every single night a mourning wind would engulf her abode, commanding every part of her being to its attention. It was as if a monster buried deep down in the dungeons was reaching out to her, showing her a new side of its terror with each passing night.
Her fear subsided with every deep and calming breath, only to be replaced by raw anger. This was her home, her refuge. It had been so since her birth. Everyone who lived here, Teachers and Students alike called this place home, mainly because this was where they were happiest, this was the only place they could be themselves. But that was not the reason she called it home. Hogwarts was her home because… she didn’t even know the real reason. She had been living here since her birth. She had a room not a dormitory and she wasn’t a student. She was rather like the Princess of the Castle. She was treated as one. She even looked like one. The students, house elves and even sometimes some of the teachers were at her disposal. It was one of the reasons she loved Hogwarts. It was also her reason to despise it.
Yes. She loved and despised Hogwarts. She loved it because it was her own palace with plenty of comforts and secrets. But some of those secrets were the very reason that made her despise the castle. It was those hidden mysterious secrets that haunted her every night. But that wasn’t all.
Even though the castle was spread over a vast area of splendid land, she felt trapped. She was a prisoner in her own home. She had no friends, proper friends in the least. Of course there were so many students claiming to be her best mate and confidante, but none of them were real friends to her. They befriended her for fame, glory and above all extra credit from the teachers. She heaved a deep sigh. If only she could find a friend, just one friend, she would also be happy as the other students. Happier even. But these dreams were nothing but folly. Such satisfactions were only meant fo-
“Forgive me Princess, bu-
“I do NOT respond to that title.”
“I was only afraid you’d throw me out if I’d called you Helena.”
If she was angry before, it was nothing compared to what she was feeling now. How dare he crash into her room with no respect for her privacy? How dare he dart in such a manner at all? Didn’t he know who she was? Oh of course he did. So did everyone, and also so did everyone interrupt her solitary confinement so often in this manner, regarding themselves to be permitted to do so on account of them being her “Best Mates.” It was about time she put an end to all these false pretense.
She looked at him full in face, meaning to “give him a piece of her mind”, only she couldn’t. How could she, when he was looking at her with such solemnity and innocence?
“Have you NEVER heard of knocking?”
“I didn’t want to startle you.”
“Oh how very kind of you, because, the sudden awareness of a person- a boy being inside my room without my knowledge wouldn’t startle me at all!”
He quickly lowered his head to conceal his sudden and ferocious blush. Apparently the floor patterns were suddenly very fascinating.
“Forgive me my P- Helena.”
“You’re forgiven stranger. Now step out.”
His head snapped up. His eyes were wide with fear and hurt.
“Step out of the room.”
“You want me to l-leave?”
“I said step out, not leave.”
His eyes did not decrease to its normal size. If anything, it only grew wider, but he took a step back all the same.
“Now, the password.”
“Pa- wha- There’s a password to enter your room?”
“Of course there is!” She said importantly, crossing her arms across her chest.
“But I don’t know what the password is!” He sounded slightly hysteric, his face crestfallen.
“There’s no such word as the password like your stupid little houses. You just have to answer a question.”
“But what if I get it wrong?”
“Then it means you’re too stupid to enter my room.”
He looked deeply offended. No matter how cold hearted she was or sounded, she couldn’t bear to see him hurt like that. So she softened her voice as much as she could, and smiled encouragingly.
“It’s not that hard. Just answer alright?”
“Alright. If you say so.”
“What is my name?”
“You heard me. What is my name?”
“I’ve got a full name you know, with a middle and last part.”
“Yes. What’s my name?”
“Helena Urwin Ravenclaw.”
Now it was her turn to look shocked and his turn to look smug.
“How do yo-
“I know everything about you.”
The look on her face was priceless. Her eyes were the size of tomatoes and her mouth the size of a circus loop. His smirk grew wider.
“Now ma’am, am I allowed to step inside your Royal Abode?”
He bowed low, one arm across his stomach and the other arm across the small of his back. He looked so ridiculous that she giggled without thinking, making him look up in surprise.
She curtseyed in her usual lady-like manner, the “Princess Curtsey”
“Yes, you may.”
He stepped inside the room quickly, afraid that a moment’s hesitation would change her mind. But she was smiling at him with such radiance and innocence, and he too was beaming away in no time.
“You’re too witty for a ten year old, you know that?”
“Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.” She said, sitting down on the bed and indicating that he should follow suit. He looked at the bed uncertainly.
“Yes yes you may. There’s only one test and then you’re permitted to make yourself at home.”
He sat facing her and crossed his legs on the bed. She remained seated in her usual Princess posture, feet firmly set together and hands folded on the lap. They stayed like that for about a minute, just beaming at each other until it became too awkward.
“So tell me Baron, how do you know so much about me?”
“How do you know my name?”
His glee overtook his surprise. She knows my name!
“You’re quite the bully.”
His face fell and so did his eyes. He took to examining the bedspread, no longer capable of meeting her eyes.
“I didn’t mean it in a bad way. You’re famous because you bully people and that is how I know you.”
He sunk lower in his humiliation.
“No! I meant… Please don’t do that.”
“Do what?” He didn’t shift his gaze to meet hers.
“Look so hurt. Don’t act like I hurt you!”
He forced himself to look at her. His eyes were filled with so much hurt.
“I didn’t mean to. You didn’t let me finish.”
“Finish it then.” He said rudely.
“I know that your name is Baron because you have a reputation for bullying… by that name. I also know your real name. Willoughby R. Black.”
“How do you know that? Not many people know me by that name.”
“I sometimes help Mother to arrange the records. So last year after that match with Gryffindor, I sort of… I emmm…”
“Searched through the records until you found my name?”
“No… I didn’t… That’s not…”
He laughed wholeheartedly, like a friend laughing with elation at the reunion of a long lost friend.
“It’s alright Helena. Now tell me, do you like Quidditch?”
“Is it called Quidditch? I thought it was Quibble!”
“It was. Well, initially it was named Quibbat, but then it went through a lot of reforms until finally, last year, they decided to set a proper name – Quidditch.”
“Quidditch is way better. After Quibbat they changed the name to Quibbilich, Quibbit, Quibble and now it’s Quidditch.”
“So, they won’t change it again?”
“No. They put it in that big rule book. So now no one can change it.”
This was followed by another long pause during which both of them were thinking hard of something to talk about, something conversational, intelligent and not stupid.
“If your name if Black, how come you’re called Baron?”
He straightened up to his full height.
“Have you ever heard of the Peverell Brothers?”
“Mother used to read that story every night, before I fall asleep.”
“She doesn’t anymore?”
“She says I’m too big for bedtime stories now.”
“No one’s too big for a bedtime story.”
“You think so?”
She beamed elegantly. She hadn’t felt this happy, this homely in a very long time. She started thanking Father Merlin for sending him tonight. Which reminded her…
“You didn’t tell me why you came.”
“Oh… Yes. Your Mother sent me. She said that she’s occupied with something of high importance and that she won’t be able to come.”
“Oh…” She was used to this. Her Mother had been making excuses of that sort everyday since… Well for a long time.
He saw her face change. The radiance vanished, only to be replaced with misery. He had to do something.
“So I was telling about the Peverells.”
It worked. Her whole face lit up with such majesty that it radiated towards him, settling a deep calmness over his entire being.
“My Mother is a direct descendent of one of the brothers.”
“The one who killed himself?”
“No. The one that was killed.”
She didn’t answer right away.
“He was bad wasn’t he?”
“He killed people.”
She looked horrified, almost as if she feared for her life. It mortified him to see her this way, feeling unsafe, unprotected…
“So people call me Baron because I’m from two Royal bloodlines, Peverell and Black. Mostly because of the Peverell side. They were the most powerful wizards in history.”
“So why Baron?”
“They can’t call me Prince or King, now can they?”
“Oh… right. So who started calling you that at first?”
“On our first night here, after we were sorted and the feast concluded, we were taken to our common room. But the big boys chased us, saying we first years aren’t allowed to stay up that late. But the four of us, myself, Lestrange and the two Malfoys stayed up all night in our dormitory talking about our families. So when they got to know who I am, they started acting like, you know… worshiping the king and all. So during their little act they dressed me in a bedspread, made me sit on the window sill and started giving me titles like, Baron of Wales, Duke of York and all sorts of titles connecting to every noble city. We laughed so much that night. The name sort of… stuck after that night.”
“So the Malfoys and the Lestranges. Are they old wizarding families as well?”
“Lestranges aren’t that old. Malfoys and the Blacks are from the same Era, but we are not as old as the Peverells, Slytherins and Gryffindors. The first Peverell, Slytherin and Gryffindor were apparently the three apprentices of Merlin.”
“But… I thought Merlin’s apprentices were…”
“Maxim Horvath, Veronica Gorloisen and Balthazar Blake? Yes, but those were their first names. They were already known everywhere by those names so it would have been imprudent to add their last names. But their full names were Maxim Horvath Peverell, Balthazar Blake Slytherin and Veronica Gorloisen Gryffindor.”
“But… Weren’t Veronica and Balthazar in love with each other?”
“Yes. Slytherin and Gryffindor were in love. But you see, Maxim was in love with her as well. So he joined hands with Morgana, Merlin’s one true enemy and helped her kill Merlin. They succeeded, but then Veronica and Balthazar were as equal in power to Maxim and Morgana. They managed to kill Morgana, but when Balthazar’s back was turned on Veronica during the duel, Maxim abducted her. He took her far away so that Balthazar wouldn’t be able to find them. But Balthazar did find her, after five long years. He dueled and overtook Maxim, but didn’t kill him. After all they were like brothers. Maxim, not being able to bear Balthazar’s kindness after all he’d done to them, fled the country. Veronica and Balthazar got married a year later, after she recovered fully from the misery of being separated. This was actually where they got married and lived.”
“You mean Hogwarts was Gryffindor and Slytherin’s home?”
“It was for generations until Professors Godric and Salazar together with your Mother and Professor Hufflepuff decided to start and institution.”
“So, how did the four of them get acquainted?”
“Godric and Salazar were like brothers from the day they were born. More like twins. They lived here together with their families until Godric’s mother, who was the only remaining member of the family other than the two boys died about eighteen years ago. That’s when this whole institution idea came into their heads.”
“But then how did they get to know my Mother and Professor Hufflepuff?”
“That is the big question to which no one has yet found an answer.”
“So then are Slytherin and Gryffindor Peverell’s equals?”
“Not exactly. The greatest wizards of the Peverell bloodline – the Peverell brothers existed centuries ago. But the greatest wizards of Slytherin and Gryffindor bloodlines have only come to existence now – Godric and Salazar, and they’re still progressing. So the Peverells are a notch higher than Slytherin and Gryffindor.”
He came back to the present from the stance he was in, only to realize that she was staring at him with wonder and admiration.
“How do you know so much?”
“I’m a second year Helena. I know these things.”
“Second? But you played Quidditch last year!”
“Forgot to check my age didn’t you?”
“But that has never happened!”
“It has. Professor Gryffindor and Slytherin made up this game when they were about eight years old, so they have been playing it since then. Incidentally, yes I am the first first year to ever play Quidditch. But I was a substitute last year so it doesn’t count.”
“Wil- can I call you Willoughby?”
“Call me Will.”
“Oh… Emm… Will, when did Quidditch start?”
“Eleven years ago.”
“But then wasn’t Hogwarts initiated Fifteen years ago?”
“It was, but then at that time there weren’t an enough number of students to play the game. Even after they started, they had to adjust the game time and again depending on the amount of students in the School. First, when they started, there were only three aside – one keeper and two Scorers. That was what they used to call Chasers. At that time, even the rules were different. The team that scored a hundred points would win.”
“How does it happen now?”
“Now there are four players per team – One Keeper, Two Chasers and One Dangler. The Chasers try to get the Quaffle – the big red ball through the hoops and the Danglers try to throw the other team’s Chasers off their brooms with their clubs. Now, the team that scores 250 points wins.”
She was beginning to fall asleep. Her eyes were heavy but she was trying very hard to stay awake. He watched her for some time as she struggled to keep her eyes from slamming shut. Such innocence as he had never seen…
“Helena, you should sleep now.”
“I’m not sleepy.”
“Yes you are. Now come on. I’ll tuck you in.”
He got off the bed before she could protest and started pulling the covers over her. He watched as she snuggled closer to the pillow, craving for company. At that moment he felt so angry at Professor Ravenclaw. How can she abandon such an angel every night into the depths of fear and dark dreams? How could sh-
“You didn’t tell me how you got to know my name.”
Even in this sub conscience state she looked eager. He couldn’t refuse anything under the gaze of those big blue eyes…
“I wanted to know who this Princess really is. So I did some research.”
The smile that spread across her face was priceless.
“Are we friends now Will?”
“For how long?”
“As long as we live.”
He stood there just watching her. She closed her eyes but he could see that she hadn’t fallen asleep. No matter how sleepy she was, she couldn’t fall asleep. She was afraid.
After a long time of unsuccessful effort she opened her eyes.
“Will? Didn’t you leave?”
He sat beside her on the edge of the bed but did not say a word. His eyes never left hers as he took her right hand in both of his hands.
“Once upon a time, there lived three brothers called the Peverell Brothers. One day as they were walking across…”
As the story took its course, sleep slowly overtook her. Her breathing deepened as her head slanted towards him slightly. He watched her intently until the story came to an end. He couldn’t make himself leave. But he had to. He got to his feet slowly, reluctantly and placed her hand on her stomach. He stood there watching her for a long time. Finally, mustering all of his strength, he bent low and placed a soft kiss on her forehead. At that moment, he knew. Every night from that night onwards would be like this, telling her stories, making her laugh, putting her to sleep… The thought alone sent Quaffles bouncing off at the pit of his stomach. Gulping noisily he walked out of the room, closing the door softly and willing himself not to turn back.
As he neared the Slytherin Common room he realized… He had been smiling the whole time.