Chapter 22 : Petronilla
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On the day Adrian and Helga reached Dewsbury; there was nobody to be seen. Helga found it quite odd. She was used to the bustle of Alba, and the quiet village of her use did not seem to be how she remembered it. She had remembered welcoming villagers and smiling friends, not the eerie silence that surrounded her now. Adrian leapt of his horse instantly, and beckoned Helga to do the same, which she did without hesitation.
“I think we better hide the horses,” he said, his eyes flicking around the deserted lane, “there’s a small wooded area over there. We’ll tether them to the trees and Hogwarts can look after them.” Helga and Hogwarts nodded, and they walked to the spot that Adrian led them to. “Right,” he said gently, “we’ll take the route through the outskirts and go through the window, like we used to when we were younger.”
It took longer than she remembered, and she was glad Hogwarts wasn’t with them, as his nervous chatter would probably have got them caught by Petronilla. She took Adrian’s hand for security as the two of them crept through the deserted streets. “That’s Rachel’s house,” said Adrian, pointing to a rather impoverished hovel to their right.
It was not long before they arrived in the more familiar area of town where the affluent Hufflepuff’s lived. The house was cosy looking, with ivy climbing the walls but it seemed more dishevelled than it had been in the past. Adrian checked over his shoulder before leaping through the low slung kitchen window, and helped Helga hop through, as he had last done on that fateful day when she had had to flee Dewsbury so many years ago.
“It’s so strange to be back,” whispered Helga breathlessly, gazing round at the room which had barely changed since she was ten, “it’s as if not a day has passed. You wouldn’t believe it’s been thirteen years.” The pots and pans were scrubbed and clean and were lined along the walls. There were fresh rushes on the floor. However, Helga’s thoughts were cut short as they heard the slam of the door in the next room. Someone had entered the house. Helga and Adrian listened as footsteps reverberated into the kitchen, and soon the door was pushed open.
“Adrian!” cried Coventina, clasping her hands to her chest in shock. Adrian ran to her, enveloping his sister in a deep hug, her head resting on his shoulder. She was rounder than she had been when Helga last saw her, but her plumpness made her seem more motherly. “You are so different! Four years has changed you! That scar on your face, how did you...” At this moment, Coventina’s large eyes, so similar to her brother’s, fixed onto Helga who was waiting patiently behind him. “Whose this?” asked Coventina, a sense of distrust in her previously friendly voice.
“This is my wife,” said Adrian proudly. Helga had to suppress her grin as Coventina narrowed her eyes suspiciously at her, “my wife Helga.” At this name, Coventina’s tightened into a straight line as she walked towards Helga assertively, as if she was trying to analyse whether this slip of a girl in front of her was deserving of being her brother’s wife.
“Helga,” she murmured pensively, “a dangerous name to use around these parts. It’s a name that could get you into all sorts of trouble.” Helga stood taller, stiffening her back into a rigid straight line even though it felt she had been frozen. She needed to seem intimidating to Coventina, and then she had a hope of scaring the worse adversary, Petronilla. Her life was in danger in Dewsbury, the same as it had been when she was a child.
“I know,” said Helga bravely, eyeing Coventina viscously, “nobody wants to share a name with Mother Blythe’s heir.” Coventina looked deeply shocked at these words, and her fingers played with her wand which was stuck securely in her belt. Helga did not think Coventina would attack her. Surely she would know who she was. Adrian tried to butt in, but Coventina stopped his words with a flick of her hand.
“How do you know that?” she said gazing Helga up and down, “how do you know that our dear dead mother’s heir was called Helga? Petronilla killed the girl nearly three years ago; she told us she had found her in Mercia, hiding amongst the pigs in a pigsty, afraid to face her aunt.” Now it was Helga’s turn to appear shocked. The lies that her aunt told were malicious and deadly. They could extinguish people’s hope.
“It’s not true Coventina,” she whispered, “because she stands before you, alive as you are.” Coventina did not seem satisfied and marched over to the table on which stood a solitary candle, nearly burnt down to a stump. She beckoned Helga over with one finger, and Helga obeyed like she had when she was a child.
“Light it,” snarled Coventina, leaning into Helga’s side to put pressure on her, “light it without using a wand. Only Mother Blythe’s true heir could do that; even Petronilla herself cannot. If you can do it, then I will believe you are the Helga I sent away all those years ago.” Helga inhaled deeply, she could do this. Lifting her hand, she cupped the wick of the candle, and soon she felt the hot glow of flames in her hand. Coventina stared at the candle, as if it were a miracle.
“Helga,” she whispered, tears coming to her eyes, “I can’t believe it’s you! We all believed you were dead!” Coventina threw her arms round Helga, embracing her with all the love and affection that was still extant after thirteen years. Helga felt so comforted; Coventina had been like a sister to her, and now she could not imagine how she had coped with being removed from her. “And married to my Adrian!” she laughed, “how did you find each other?”
“When I arrived in Alba all those years ago I became employed as a handmaiden of Princess Rowena after saving her once. Adrian came to the castle with some friends to fix a problem. It was fate!” chirped Helga, squeezing Coventina with all the love and happiness after losing her so many years ago. Helga loved the warmth of the reunion, and she was happy that Coventina had embraced her so lovingly as a sister-in-law.
“It’s wonderful to see you,” Coventina smiled. “Come through to the living room, we can talk there.” Helga and Adrian followed his sister as she took them through the door that led to the living room. It was just as Helga remembered it, filled with comfortable chairs, a roaring fire and an expensive rug. They sat down with relief, happy for the comfort.
Helga felt she was the one who had to speak. She had to know of the town that she had abandoned when she was little more than a baby. “How is my aunt?” she questioned stiffly, feeling the answer would resolve every question she had longer to know. Coventina screwed up her face, the pain of years of resisting showing in her expression.
“She’s mad,” whispered Coventina plainly, “the first thing she did once you left was to destroy your mother’s grave in the churchyard. She wanted no memory of her sister left on the earth. They say she felt guilty for your father’s death; felt remorse for it was her who killed him. But I believe she was angry with herself that she had never had him in life.”
Coventina’s words sent chills up Helga’s spine. Adrian took the lead however and said, “where are mother and father?” A terribly sad look crossed Coventina’s face at the mention of her parents and she looked down at her tender white hand, trying to hide the distress she felt from her two welcome guests.
“I don’t know,” she said, clearly pained, “two years ago they began to teach magic to the few children left in the town. Petronilla has forbidden it, and she keeps everyone doing what she said with her band of,” she paused, as if it was a most terrible thought, “undead men. Mother and Father were caught, and had to flee. Petronilla lets no letters come in or out of this town, so I don’t know anything.”
Suddenly Helga’s heart leapt to her mouth. Surely if Petronilla could control something as simple as the post, she would know they were here. “Will Petronilla know we are here?” squawked Helga. Coventina shook her head reassuringly, “she may be using some terribly dark magic, but only if you used magic to get yourself here will she be able to find you.” Helga felt relieved, but her interest was piqued by something that Coventina had said.
“Dark magic?” she asked apprehensively, “what type of dark magic.” The expression of mixed disgust and worry that appeared on Coventina told Helga that her aunt had become caught up in despicable things; magic of the very worst kind that could make decent people squirm. Coventina wrung her hands as she spoke, nerves showing on her face.
“Terrible things. She is very talented at the killing curse; easily deposing of people who get in her way. It is terrifying; she can make people feel the most pain in all the world, like they were on fire. And she can control people. Maud Penny, do you remember her?” Helga nodded, not quite looking at Adrian, “she was an outspoken opponent of Petronilla; now she is her pet. And worse of all, I heard her researching something called a Horcrux.”
Helga was instantly confused. She had never heard of a Horcrux. She turned to look at Adrian who looked equally as bemused; he obviously did not know what his sister was talking about either. “What is a Horcrux?” asked Helga apprehensively, part of her desperately not wanting to know, the other, her curiosity, craved the answer.
“When you kill someone,” said Coventina, her face showing she loathed to tell them, “you can make a curse that will split your soul in half. One part you can store in an inanimate object. Petronilla has put hers in that locket she wears round her neck; it has your father’s portrait in,” Coventina paused, as if she did not want to say what was her duty to say next, “she made the enchantment stronger by killing the person she loved the most in the whole world; your father.”
Helga nodded. The news that her aunt loved her father was not a surprise; she had heard the story of the incident at her parents wedding many years ago. In some ways, she could understand why her aunt was so hell bent on killing her niece; she was a mixture of the person she loved the most and the person she hated the most.
“We’ve come here for a reason,” began Adrian suddenly, giving his sister a serious look. “Helga is founding, along with some talented friends, a school for young witches and wizards to learn their craft. It is to be run from Black Castle and the Princess Rowena has sent scouts all over the country to search for prospective students. We have come here because we believe that there are children here that need an education in magic. Will you help us Coventina?”
Coventina nodded instantly, “there are four children you should take. Their parents are desperate to get them away from here; to get them an education. There is the Crouch’s three boys who live near here, and Sally Robins, she’s an orphan whose parents left her in my care. She is playing in the woods right at this moment.”
“Alright,” began Helga, “if you take us to them then we can...” However, Helga’s words were interrupted by a loud knock on the door. “Coventina!” came a loud grunting voice that still terrified Helga, “I need to talk to you, let me in now!”
Coventina reacted instantly; “go into the broom cupboard. Hopefully Petronilla didn’t see you come in!” Adrian and Helga sped over to the cupboard as quickly as they could. Adrian wrapped his arms around Helga as they were closed inside; it was the only way that the two of them could fit comfortably together.
Helga heard a mixture of sounds; Adrian’s mouth was close to her hear, so she could hear him panicked breathing, she could hear Petronilla’s repeating knock demanding entrance and she could hear Coventina’s nervous shuffling footsteps. “I’m coming Petronilla!” came Coventina’s voice as she made her way to the door, “do not fret!”
From their point of safety in the cupboard, they could hear the click of the lock as Coventina opened the door to let Petronilla in, and also the latter’s barked orders. “Why did you hesitate answering the door girl?” snapped Petronilla accusingly. Helga’s heart hammered in her chest in spite of herself; Petronilla was suspicious.
“I was upstairs,” lied Coventina, “it took me some time to get down. It’s such a mess in this large house when I live all on my own; I can’t look after it so well.” A chink of light was visible through the door, and Helga pressed one eye up to it to see what was going on. Coventina stood in the middle of the room, her head cast down while Petronilla encircled her, looking as if she was going to devour her.
“Maud Penny told me she saw your brother,” Petronilla began slowly, her voice becoming high and reedy, “Maud would not forget your brother would she? She cried so much when he left after all.” Helga tried to ignore the jealous twinge in her stomach as Petronilla continued, “she said she saw him walking through the outskirts of town, with a blonde girl. Have you seen them?”
“No,” said Coventina convincingly, “my brother has not come home for years; I don’t know where he is. If he had wanted to leave this town so badly, why on earth would he come back?” Petronilla seemed to be persuaded by this answer, and this was when she came into full view for Helga. She was still as striking as ever; a tall, imposing woman with long limbs and faded blonde hair. She would have been beautiful if it were not for her eyes; they were full of cruelty.
“I will trust you Coventina,” said Petronilla unconvincingly, “just this once, but if you really have seen your brother...” It suddenly occurred to Helga what terrible trouble she and Adrian were causing by being here. However, at this moment, Petronilla turned away from Coventina, saying sharply, “I’m watching you,” before walking outside and disappearing up the road.
Helga pushed open the cupboard door and she bounded out of the cupboard closely followed by Adrian. Coventina was not looking at them however, and she ran to a wooden chest that sat by the window. “It’s father’s invisibility cloak,” she said pulling out a shining, translucent piece of material, “he was forced to leave it here when he had to run away. Put it on Helga, you can’t be seen.”
Helga did as she was told, and flung the cloak over her head, immediately making her disappear. “What about me?” asked Adrian, turning to his sister. Coventina pulled her wand from her and pointed it at him before muttering a disillusionment charm. Immediately, Adrian seemed to melt away into the background.
“I’m sorry dear brother,” murmured Coventina, “it’s just Helga is far more important that you. If someone gets caught, it must be you.” Adrian nodded understandingly, well, Helga believed he did for all she could see of him. “I’ll take you to Sally Robins,” said Coventina authoritatively, “she’ll come with us, then we’ll go onto the Crouch’s House. Then you must go.”
The woods were just as Helga remembered them. This had been her magic kingdom in all the games she had played as a child. Now, they were a new girl’s retreat. Coventina marched onwards, and Helga had to jog to keep up with her. However, soon she saw who they had come for, and she instantly knew this was the type of child they wanted at their school.
Sally Robins was drawing pictures in the air with her wand. Helga could make out meadows and people; one even looked a tiny bit like Coventina. However, she stopped the second she saw Coventina entering her kingdom. Helga gazed at the child; she was small and scraggly, the way Helga had been when she lived in Dewsbury, but she had dark hair and smiling green eyes, vaguely reminding Helga of Helena Ravenclaw.
“Sally,” cooed Coventina, as the little girl ran up and hugged her. “I need you to come with me. I’ve finally got a way for you to learn magic, and Petronilla will never know!” The girl grinned wildly, and seemed to hug Coventina harder. Helga could hear Sally’s muffled thanks, but Coventina pushed the girl from her, suddenly inheriting the authoritative air that her mother had possessed so many years ago.
“I’ve got two invisible people with me,” said Coventina kindly, “my brother Adrian and his wife Helga, they are going to take you away to Alba. They are running a school in the castle. I’m sure you’ll love it there.” The little girl smiled and took Coventina’s hand as they began to walk out of the woods. Helga couldn’t help but stare at this girl. She was little older than Helga herself had been when she had fled Dewsbury, but while Helga had been terrified, Sally seemed happy.
They remained in silence until they arrived at the Crouch’s house. Coventina explained to the three boys parents all about the school and what a future they’d have. Helga and Adrian had to come out of there invisibility to support Coventina’s claims. It took a while for Adrian to reappear, but it was not long before he was corporeal.
“I am Helga,” she said as cheerily as she could, trying to ignore the repercussions of the name. At this utterance, Mistress Crouch’s eyes opened wide in shock. “You can’t be, no I’m imagining things...” Helga let out a tired little smile before nodding sadly, “Yes, I am Helga Smith, and I am here to take your sons away, to be free of Petronilla, forever.” It wasn’t long before the Crouch’s had agreed, and after an emotional farewell, the boys left with Coventina, Adrian, Helga and Sally.
When they stepped outside, Helga’s eyes locked onto someone she had not seen for thirteen years. Maud Penny stood in the dappled sunlight. She was taller, but slightly wider than she had been at the age of fifteen. Helga only realised at that moment how much she looked like the older girl. Maud stood resolutely on the spot, her mouth opened wide in shock.
“Adrian?” she stammered, as Helga remembered that she still held the invisibility cloak in her hand and Adrian stood perfectly visible. Adrian’s expression was more difficult to fathom; he looked shocked, but at the same time there was a sense of misty eyed adoration that he still felt for his first love. However, Maud perforated the quiet with her shrieks.
“Help! Help! Adrian has returned!” She drew her wand from her belt and shot red sparks up into the air. The effect was instant. Petronilla appeared from thin air, and her terrifying eyes locked instantly on Adrian. He reacted instantly. Grabbing the four children, he apparated away, leaving Coventina and Helga alone to face Petronilla.
“I see you’ve been lying to me Coventina,” snarled Petronilla, “Adrian has returned, and with a guest. Who is this?” Helga saw no point in lying. It was clear from her aunt’s expression that she recognised her long lost niece, and Helga lifted up her hands and pointed them towards Petronilla. The force of the spell she cast propelled Petronilla back, but it did not knock her over.
“Oh Helga,” Petronilla goaded, lifting her wand, “you are as undeserving of those powers as your awful mother was! You can’t even use them!” Helga barely had time to react as she fell to the ground, her bones on fire. It was excruciating. She could hear Petronilla’s high laugh, it’s cold notes trilling around a root. Helga barely noticed as Coventina shot a spell at Petronilla.
Getting up, Helga tried again, projecting a gust of wind at Petronilla, but it was not strong enough to propel her aunt back. “There is no point fighting me!” screamed the crazed Petronilla, “I will get you Helga Smith! And I will kill you!” She felt like a child again; the little girl who had clung to an adolescent Adrian in a fear of her aunt who was hell bent on destroying her forever. Helga tried a spell that Rowena had showed her; it would make the ground shake and hopefully knock Petronilla over. It had no effect.
It was at this point that Petronilla succeeded in knocking Coventina out. Helga heard the deafening crack as her head hit the floor. Abandoning all attempt at fighting Petronilla, Helga ran over to Coventina, silently panicking at the pool of blood encircling her head. Helga felt defenceless and weak as she turned around, attempting to shield Coventina from her aunt.
“You’re so weak,” laughed Petronilla cruelly, “you’re so pathetic. I have to admit it’s going to be a bit of an anti-climax killing you after all these years.” Petronilla was growing closer, her wand pointed threateningly at Helga’s chest. Helga silently agreed with her aunt; she was weak and pathetic, and all her years of fighting would do nothing.
Then a miracle happened. Adrian apparated back, minus the children, with his wand drawn. He acted instantly, disarming Petronilla with ease. He said no words, but ran to Coventina and Helga, grabbing both of them. There was the brief strange sensation of apparating, and Helga opened her eyes to find a bare room, with a solitary bed standing in the middle.
Adrian cradled his sister in his arms as he placed her on the bed, weaving a complex variety of spells to heal her wound. Helga could see the terror in her husband’s eyes; his fear of losing his sister after finding her again. Helga stood by her bedside, watching Adrian intently. It wasn’t long before he put his wand back in his belt. “Will she be alright?” stammered Helga.
“Yes,” said Adrian gently, “but she’ll need to rest. Hogwarts has returned to the castle with the children, I’m sure Rowena will have them cared for.” Helga felt instantly relieved, and she walked over to Adrian, enveloping him in a tight embrace, hoping to convey her relief and her gratitude in one single gesture.
“Where are we?”asked Helga, breaking away from him to look round the little room they were in. Adrian looked around at the gossamer strands making complex webs around the room. Helga thought it had a hint of splendour to it that had been lost very quickly.
“This was my room,” said Adrian, running his fingers along the cold stone walls, “I shared this house with Godric, Rachel and Salazar at the height of our careers. We had money and fame, we put it all in this place. Everything of value is now in Black Castle. This life is over, and will never come back.”
He seemed sad for a moment, before he turned around and faced his wife. “We must hide from Petronilla,” he stated, as if it were a fact, “we must wait until you are stronger and have the power to defeat your aunt.” Helga suddenly realised what a disappointment she was; people expected her to liberate her town and be a folk hero. She wasn’t good enough for that.
“I love you Adrian,” murmured Helga, looking into his large amber flecked eyes, “I hope that’s good enough for you.” He smiled at her, walking up and kissing her as tenderly as he could. She knew that he loved her from the sweetness of his kiss.
Okay, hoped you like that! PLEASE tell me what you thought of it; i had real trouble writing it! Next time...circumstances conspire against the founders as things start to spin out of control....
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