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Chapter 1: Betrayed
As much as I would like to, I am not JK.
I would trade my soul against the talent smarticl398 @TDA has.
Little white lies weren't supposed to backfire. Little white lies didn't come back, lurking in the shadows behind you, waiting for you to trip. That's why they were referred to as little white lies, and not monstrous stormy grey ones.
Helena Ravenclaw shuddered, watching the rain trickle down the window pane. It mirrored her face perfectly, tears streaming down her cheeks smoothly, and as she watched her reflection in the glass it was difficult to tell which drops were tears and which were not.
She was still beautiful, she decided, even with blotchy eyes. Her luscious brown hair was pulled back in a braid, enhancing her high cheekbones, her pale skin, full lips and almond-shaped, deep brown eyes. Even the small gash across her cheek could not alter her beauty.
She ran her finger across the bloody line. It barely hurt anymore. She was strong enough to live with the slight pain it caused. But the memory of how that gash had appeared there, she could not bear to remember.
Her mother had never lifted a hand on her before this day. Before today, never had the emerald on her bronze ring slashed the soft skin of Helena's face, calling her words Helena had tried pushing away from her thoughts, to no avail.
Helena had been called to the main hall of the Manor. Her mother was expecting her, the servant had said. She had adjusted her blue silk robes, straightening the hem and smoothing down the skirt. Mother hated for her to look neglected. Everything always had to be perfect, even if it meant repeating the same movement from dawn till dusk.
The doors had been pushed open at her arrival, and she had walked in, head held high like she had been taught to walk. The fire was roaring, and the tapestries bearing the family bronze eagle on a blue background were alight. Mother was sitting at the far end of the room, in the bronze throne she always sat in when receiving a visitor, the diadem glinting in her hair.
Helena had curtsied, as she was obliged to. "My lady, you have called?" She was only permitted to call her Mother in private, when there was no one but the maids around.
"Helena." Mother's voice was as sharp as a dagger. "This young man informs me that you have made him a promise." She motioned forward, and Helena felt her heart tighten.
A brown-haired man stepped out of the darkness behind Mother's seat. He wore emerald green robes, laced with silver, and around his finger was a silver ring Helena knew to be emblazoned with two snakes facing one another.
"The Baron tells me," Mother continued, oblivious to the anguish that was racing through Helena's body, freezing her heart, "that you have promised to marry him, and that he has come here to make sure you fulfil your promise. Is that so?"
The Baron had a threatening smile on his face. It was a wolfish grimace, revealing horrid yellowing teeth, several of which were missing. His eyes were colder than ice, glinting hungrily and boring a hole through Helena's chest, and she found herself wishing her robes revealed even less skin than they already did.
"No, my lady," Helena tried to sound firm. The Baron's face grew stony, his lips melting into a single thin line.
"No?" Rowena Ravenclaw leaned forward. "Are you implying that the Baron is lying?"
"No, my lady," her voice shook. "Yet I can assure you that never have I made such a promise."
Her mother's eyes narrowed, and Helena winced imperceptibly, preparing herself for the outburst that would follow.
"Might I ask why the Baron seems to think the opposite?"
"I… I haven't any idea, my lady."
"You haven't any idea?"
"No, my lady," Helena's voice was inaudible.
"Methinks you are lying, Helena," Mother thundered. She snapped her fingers. "Adeline, I should like for you to bring in the Veritaserum." The servant scuttled away hurriedly, coming back moments later with a copper vial, which she handed over with a bow. "You are lying, and I will not tolerate it. If you made a promise, you are to honour it. I will not permit for you to tamper with the honour of the Ravenclaws. You are to follow me, and we shall settle matters once and for all."
Helena had no choice but to follow her mother as she gracefully led the way into an antechamber. Under the seemingly cool facade that was being held up exclusively for the benefits of the onlookers, Helena knew there was a storm coming. It was visible in the set of Rowena's jaw, in the way she marched rather than glided; and in the manner that she tapped the vial's wax stopper with her fingernail.
The antechamber was dark, all light from the outside painfully making its way through the cobwebs clouding up the small window. Helena had only been in this room once, when Mother had wanted her to understand how criminals admitted their misdeeds. It was not a pleasant memory, and that combined with the chilling atmosphere of the room sent a shiver down Helena's spine.
"You are to drink this, and answer my questions," Mother let the vial rest on her outstretched palm.
"Mother," Helena pleaded, "I promise that I did not..."
"Enough! You will drink the Veritaserum without further discussion!"
Bowing her head in submission, Helena uncorked the small bottle and took as small a sip as she could manage. The liquid burnt her throat, a hazy fog taking control of her mind.
Mother's voice cut through the fog, sharp as a diamond's edge. "Helena. Are you listening?"
"Did you promise to marry the Baron?"
Surprise flitted through Rowena's eyes, like the flame of a candle. "Why, then, does he say the opposite?"
"I haven't any idea."
"Might you have said anything to mislead him?"
"I think not, Mother."
"Think, Helena. Do not make me search your mind, 'tis as painful for me as it is for you."
Helena furrowed her brow in concentration: when had she spoken to the Baron, and what might have she said to encourage him in this ludicrous marriage possibility?
She had not spoken to him since five years ago, that much she was sure about. What had happened then?
"Helena?" Mother's voice pierced her thoughts. "Do you recall something worth telling me?"
"Yes, Mother. I told the Baron I had affection for him." The shame burnt even more than the Veritaserum.
"When did such an event occur?"
"Two years ago. I had not seen the Baron until this day."
"Relate the facts to me."
"The Baron was pursuing me with his favours. He said he loved me, that he would woo me properly when I was of an age for marrying. He was leaving in a few days."
"Continue." Rowena Ravenclaw's eyes were emotionless.
"I gave him a ribbon from my hair, and said I had affection for him, when it was not true, as I did not seek to harm him. Mother, I was only thirteen!"
She paced the room, biting her lip, and Helena slowly felt her brain clear.
"You were yet a child," Mother conceded. "But giving the Baron a favour is a promise as strong as an Unbreakable Vow. Therefore, you must marry him."
"I shan't marry him, ever! He is a vile personage, insufferable, dishonest like a snake, and the village Seer once said he would be guilty of murder!"
Rowena then did something her daughter would never have imagined. She raised her hand on her. Helena did not want to remember the scene anymore. She only knew that no sound had escaped her lips. She had refused to cry, refused to admit she was in pain, while her heart had broken in two. She had trusted Mother, and Mother had betrayed her.
"Astragale Trelawney's word should be given no worth," Mother had seethed, "and you will marry the Baron at the next spring, when the asphodel is blue."
"Never!" Helena cried with despair. "I would rather be dead!"
There was a bang and a flash of light, and Helena felt herself unable to move. With another flick of her wand, Rowena levitated her Stunned daughter away, and Apparated inside the latter's room.
"You will marry the Baron. You are to stay inside your room until then, and I shall remove your wand. Adeline will be taking care of you."
She undid the charm, leaving the room with as much dignity as she had always had, her daughter shaking with anger and despair on the bed.
Helena did not know how long she had watched the rain hit the window pane, but when the maid walked in, it was dark outside.
"Your dinner, miss." She placed the tray on the bed and started walking away.
"What may I do for you?"
"Adeline, you must help me get away."
"Oh, no, miss, I may not."
"You must. Please!" Helena insisted, locking her dark brown eyes with the lighter ones of the servant. "Please..."
The maid looked round hesitantly, weighing the options. "I... Really, miss..."
"Please! If I do not flee, I will die! You must help me!"
"I will," Adeline gave in, "but you must be patient. I will be back in a few hours. Please, miss, do reconsider nonetheless." She exited the room quietly.
It was the longest wait Helena had ever faced, but when Adeline crept back in several hours after midnight, she knew it had been worthwhile.
"Here." The servant handed her a small leather pouch, "I was not able to do more."
Helena sifted through its contents rapidly: a loaf of bread, a pair of fur-lined gloves and a few Galleons sewn into the lining. "My wand?"
Helena slipped it into her robes, wrapping her fingers around the wood, noting the familiar knots and twists.
"Your cloak," Adeline tied it around her neck. "Wear riding boots. A horse is waiting outside."
Helena did as she was told, turning to the maid. "How did you get my wand back?"
"Your mother is a powerful witch," Adeline smiled wryly, "but dealing with her emotions tires her, and she was in need of a little comfort. The alcohol helps her sleep."
Helena nodded, slipping an ornate dagger into her boot. "Thank you, Adeline. I will Apparate from outside of my room just on the outskirts of the manor."
With a crack, she was outside, and quickly crossed the few steps separating her from the grey mare. There was one last thing she needed to do.
Raising her wand, she whispered "Accio Mother's diadem."
She caught it midflight, a triumphant smile on her face.
Never again would she let her mother betray her like she had. Never again would she let her innocent, child's white lie poison her life.
An exhilarated laugh escaped her lips as the mare galloped across the countryside.
She was free, and she intended to make the most of it.
A/N The Second: Hello again! This was devalidated because Helena was too young, due to a stupid maths mistake on my part. She is now over eighteen, so technically this should be ToS compliant. Secondly, I would like to point out that yes, this delves into the theme of arranger marriages, but this is compatible with the era, so hopefully it's also ToS compliant!
A/N The First: I hope you enjoyed reading this one-shot as much as I liked writing it. Several people deserve credit for helping me, so brace yourselves, here goes.
My lovely beta, Tenth Weasley, who patiently put up with my multiple questions and edits. She is amazing and I really encourage you to read her stories.
Grace, or smarticl398 from The Dark Arts, who has my eternal gratitude for the stunningly perfect banner and chapter image she made for this story.
Selene, from the forums, who did a first check to see if this story was ToS compliant, and avoided me a rejection.
MissClaire17, also from the forums, who inspired the title of this one-shot.
Jchrissy, again from the forums, who suggested a title that I loved. However, I wanted the title to be a sentence from the story, and I couldn't find a way to include it in.
A Tangled Web We Weave (extract of a poem by Walter Scott) will always be the other title this story has.
Finally, I want to thank you, wonderful reader, because you will also leave a review to let me know what you thought, right?