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The forest was shrouded in darkness. Even with his wand lit and held out as far as his cloaked arm would stretch, the man could scarcely see beyond its blueish glow. As he tread on the hard ground and began his journey deeper into the trees, he listened to the sounds that encircled him. A faint howl could be heard in the distance and he prayed to the gods that it stayed there. Other forms of life gave low hoots and caused rustling as they moved unseen amongst the greenery.

Owls, wolves and whatever else accompanied him were not the reason for the man’s visit to the forest, however. He was in search of something rarer, much more precious and far more dangerous.

He stood over a woman as she lay in her bed. She had been confined to her chambers for weeks now due to her deteriorating health. Her once flowing locks of deep brown hair were now wispy and grey. Her skin was ghostly pale and looked as though it was made from parchment, he wondered if it felt that way too.

“You know why I asked you here?” she whispered.

“There could only be one reason,” he replied simply.

“I suspect Albania. It’s the only place she has ever travelled to outside of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. She may be of Ravenclaw house but she knows little of the world and would have seen no alternative option in her haste to leave.”

“Then it is to Albania that I shall travel.” He had no choice. He would have searched every corner of the world for the girl.

“You find her, Baron. Bring her back to me,” the sick woman pleaded in a raspy voice.

He nodded solemnly and turned to leave the room.

“Wait,” she called with all of the strength she could muster. “The diadem too. Bring me back my diadem.”

He had suspected that her daughter had taken the greatly sought after diadem, but Rowena had been incredibly secretive about its whereabouts since Helena ran away. He wondered idly which she wanted returned more.

He left the room without another word.

It had taken longer than he had anticipated to find her hiding place, but now he was sure. The old wizard in the local tavern had described Helena perfectly and, after some persuasion with a purse full of sickles and a flash of the knife at the Baron’s hip, he had given directions to the great forest through which he now walked.

After what seemed like an eternity of treading amongst the trees, when the Baron had begun to feel weary in body and in mind, he saw a flickering of light in the distance that filled his heart with hope. He touched the silver knife at his hip, its presence reassuring him that he was protected if the fire in the distance was not an indication of Helena’s presence.

His pace quickened but his footsteps lightened as he neared the fire. He positioned himself behind a nearby tree trunk and peered around it. A few yards from the fire, someone was lying on a pile of blankets and covered in another. From out of the top, the Baron could see a head of hair he would have recognised anywhere. Waves upon waves of brown so dark it was almost as black as the night around him. In her slumber it was as wild as the wolves that thankfully could no longer be heard.

He crept towards the young woman and knelt on the hard ground. Her skin was pale though her cheeks were flushed red from the cold, harsh winds that had made their way into the forest. She slept peacefully with her lips slightly parted, no sign of her recent troubles etched on her face. The Baron reached out and touched her face gently, unaware that Helena slept less heavily than he suspected. She woke and had her wand at his chest before he had a chance to properly feel her skin on his fingertips. He stood slowly and she followed suit, never lowering her wand.

“Baron?” she asked incredulously. “How did you find me?”

“It matters not,” he replied calmly. “I have come to bring you home, to Hogsmeade and your mother.”

“Do not speak to me of that woman. I have no intention of going back with you, Baron. Your journey was a wasted one.”

“Why must you be so stubborn, Helena? You would rather stay here,” he gestured to the dimly lit surroundings, “than come home to comfort and with a man who loves you? Who wishes to marry you?”

“Yes, I would. I have no desire to be your wife. Excuse my rudeness but this is a discussion we have had many times. I do not love you the way that you love me. Even if I did, why would I return? I have the diadem and I plan to use it. I will be cleverer than the great Rowena Ravenclaw. She loses her wit already in its absence, the fact that she has sent you to bring me back is proof of that.”

Her words stung and Baron’s tone became harsh. “Your mother is dying. I saw her not three days ago. She begged me to bring both you and her diadem home and I will not leave without either.”

Helena lowered her wand from the Baron’s chest and it hung limply by her side as she considered the news of her mother’s ill health.

“If you speak the truth, if my mother is truly dying, then my return will make little difference and her precious diadem will not save her now. Wit cannot heal the sick. You must go now. I shall give you some bread and water for your journey home. I am sorry for your wasted time, dear friend.”

Friend? Helena, my love, I have no desire to be your friend. I beg you, come home. I will take care of you.”

“No. Listen to my words, Baron. You will not make me your wife. I do not love you and I never will.”

Her expression was cold and distant and each word she spoke felt like a knife in his heart.

A knife.

The knife.

If she will not come willingly, I will make her.

He whipped the knife from its holder at his side and, as quick as she had pulled her wand on him, he held it to her throat. He took her wand from her grip effortlessly and threw it behind him where it landed silently on the forest floor. Speechless, she took several small steps back until she came into contact with a tree and was trapped.

“You will come home,” he growled.

Helena, for the first time in her life, was lost for words. She swallowed and gave the slightest shake of her head. Even under threat of death she was not scared, and she still did not want him. The realisation made the Baron more angry than he had ever been.

If I can’t have her, then no-one ever will.

His hand moved mere inches, but it was enough. Helena’s expression changed from defiance to shock and fear. A strangled, gurgling sound came from her throat and Baron looked at it to see the tip of his knife buried there. He retracted it and crimson blood began to flow from the deep cut it had left.

Helena began to slump down the tree so the Baron grabbed a fistful of her robes with his free hand to hold her up. The red mist that resulted in his mind’s eye due to his anger still clouded his thoughts; he only knew rage, nothing else. He pulled his arm wielding the knife back and then plunged it into the woman once more, this time into her stomach. Her scream was silent, it did not make it past the wound in her throat but the Baron saw it in her eyes. Finally she was feeling some of the pain she had inflicted on him.

The last strike of the knife was aimed at her most vital organ and the one that she had broken inside of him one hundred times before. As he drove the blade into her heart he watched the life that should have been spent with him leave her eyes. He stepped back and watched her body fall to the foot of the tree where it lay twisted and blood stained.

Breathing heavily, the Baron stared at Helena as the red mist slowly descended and the reality of what he had just done began to take over. He had killed her. He had killed the only woman he had ever loved.

And I will love no other.

Trying not to look at her face, he bent down and pulled the bloodied knife out of the still and silent heart. Standing tall and hands shaking, he sank the knife deep into his own abdomen. The physical pain was nothing compared to the guilt and grief that coursed through his veins and so he sank the knife into his stomach once again. Blood poured from each new wound as quickly as the tears fell down his face. Soon it became too much and he fell to his knees at Helena’s side, sobbing heavily. When he could take no more, the Baron raised the knife and drove it into his body for the final time, straight through his broken heart where it remained as he lay lifeless by the woman he loved. 

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