Chapter 1 : Chapter 1
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It was called the ‘Pre-Trial Selection Process’, and it was occurring at that very moment in a lonely corner of the common room. Four people were huddled around the table; a boy with eyes the colour of stone and hair curled like springs, a girl with wiry red hair, a black boy with short hair, and a third boy with cropped brown hair and a smattering of freckles.
On the table was a list of names, which were, in low tones, being debated hotly by the four students. The black boy appeared to be unwilling to surrender a quill, and the redhead looked fit to gouge out the eyes of the brown haired boy.
“For the last damned time, Tobias, I don’t care how ‘fit’-“ here the redhead changed to a disparaging town, using her fingers to make inverted commas. “-Merewald Clagg is, we are not letting her try out. You haven’t seen her catch a Quaffle,”
“Which, Jules, is exac-“ Tobias, running a hand through his short hair, began, only to be cut off by the redhead.
“I have, Tobias, and put it this way – she can’t.” Upper lip curled in a snarl, Juliet snatched the quill from the hand of the other boy and crossed the name ‘Merewald Clagg’ viciously off the list. Her battle won, she sat back triumphantly to listen to the other two bicker.
“Anth, over my dead body with Penelope join the team. She can just go find her own hobby and stop trying to encroach on mine,” the curly haired boy was saying, stabbing at a name on the paper.
“Lay off, Pete, sharing genes with you means she’s gotta have some skills,” Anthony Bonham argued, wrenching the quill back from Juliet to attempt to put a tick next to the name ‘Penelope Wenlock’. Seizing the parchment furiously, Peter glared at Anthony.
“If she joins, I leave.” His ultimatum hung in the air for a few moments, the others stunned. So stunned that none noticed the approach of a fifth person, a lean blonde who plucked the parchment from Peter’s fingers. Four sets of eyes swivelled to her, then four hearts stopped beating for the tiniest second.
Helen Sykes had arrived.
It wasn’t a name that set the world on fire – she was short and slight, with a ski-jump nose, gap between her front teeth and a chin that was just a little too pointed. She had one thing going for her that set her apart from the rest of Hogwarts’ females – she was Seeker on the Slytherin team, and she could play. What she lacked in height and muscle mass, Helen made up for with speed and agility, as well as a tough, nuggetty strength. That, and she had an unshakably calm façade which served her well when dealing with hot-headed Quidditch players.
Now, though, it was dangerously close to slipping.
“This is what I think it is, isn’t it.” It was nothing close to a question, but a statement of fact. Their silence confirmed it, though, and Helen sniffed a little. “Where did you get it?” she asked, knowing full well that she’d left the list Snape had handed to her the other morning in her trunk. Her eyes flicked to Juliet, the girl not even having the good grace to look embarrassed, instead staring back unblinkingly. “So you broke into my trunk and stole it, then?” Her words cut the air like a knife.
“Calm down, Hels, we were just doing what you would have done anyway.” Peter protested, patting the seat next to him. Helen flinched, having the briefest urge to screw up the parchment on principle alone, possibly to slap one or all of them. But her blood cooled at a single thought: she didn’t have to accept their list. They could cut whoever they wanted from it, she was Captain, she was the one who had the power to invite people to try out.
Even if the rest of the team didn’t acknowledge that.
So Helen sat down, with every appearance of participating in the ritual as an equal.
“Cross Rowle off that list, the broomstick wouldn’t hold him,” she jeered, watching as the other four breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Slipping beneath the thick duvet on her bed, Helen cast a quick look around the dorm. The three other girls, who over the years had consistently referred to her as ‘Sykes’ and nothing more. It wasn’t because they disliked each other – Helen even had the distinct feeling that if they’d spent time together, they might even have been friends. But Helen had never been one for preening and waiting for her (non-existent, let it be mentioned) beloved’s owl to come tapping on the window, so no friendship had blossomed.
With a sharp tug, the silver and green hangings came folding down around her bed to screen her off from the other girls. With a whispered, “Lumos,” and a swish of her wand of willow, a thin beam of light illuminated the parchment. It was now covered with little scribbles, mainly jesting at the hopeful applicants. Murmuring a spell and jabbing her wand, all the extra annotations that had been added fell away, collecting in a dribble of ink at the bottom of the page that Helen wiped off with a tissue.
Helen worked diligently, making her own notes in her thin handwriting. Drills she could put them through, combinations she thought might work well…at 10 o’clock, “Nox,” was whispered and the parchment put away as her eyes forced her into sleep.
Not a single name had been crossed out.
The dawn broke early that morning, and with it, Helen awoke to a still silent dormitory. A soft snore came from Georgia Blain’s bed as the blonde stood up, and Arabella Horton rolled over in her sleep, but otherwise all was quiet. Dressing quickly and quietly, Helen was leaving just as the light began to penetrate the watery windows. Walking down the pathway to the Common Room, Helen crossed to the noticeboard and with satisfaction, pinned a piece of parchment to it.
Will be held Saturday, 9am on the Quidditch Pitch to fill the following positions:
All are invited to trial for selection.
She left it unsigned, but there would be no doubt as to who had put it up there. Only the Captain was authorised to announce trials. And Helen, the first female Captain for decades, was letting the cat amongst the pixies now, declaring an open trial – rather than the traditional process of inviting certain people to try out.
There was no doubt about it. Slytherin had never seen a force like Helen Sykes.
By breakfast, everyone knew. It hurried through the Great Hall like tumbleweed, a great scandalous secret blown from one person to the other.
“You’ll never believe-“
“-Sykes, the Slytherin captain-“
“-blondie over there-“
“She’s declared Slytherin’s-“
“-trials aren’t invitational-“
“-mate, she’s either brave or nuts-“
“-wouldn’t like to be her walking alone in a dark corridor-“
“-look, she’s over there.”
Helen, calmly buttering her toast, was receiving openly curious stares from the other tables as the news leaped all over the Hall. Of course, not all were declaring Helen brave, or revolutionary…
“You saw, yeah?”
“-notice was up this morning-“
“-Sykes has gone and declared trials open-“
“-what the hell-“
“-is she playing at-“
“-it’s gotta stop, mate-“
“-Snape never should have picked-“
“-how’s a girl expected to do-“
“-bad enough we have to have a girl as Prefect-“
“-Captain’s a bloke’s job-“
“-if we lose cause of this-“
“-Sykes is dead.”
Far from chilling her blood and causing her to rip the notice down, the whispers threatening her safety served only to encourage her. Let them jeer, she thought. She would show them. Finishing the last of her juice, Helen stood up. To the casual observer, it looked like she hadn’t seen the hundred pairs of eyes that flickered her way.
But she had. And it made her burn with determination.
While Slytherin were united in the fact that something had to be done about their Captain who seemed intent on ignoring decades of tradition, the Manticore in the room was what that something was, and who would lead the witch-hunt. By lunch time, popular consensus was that Peter Wenlock, the older of the formidable Slytherin Beaters, one half of the infamous Wenlock twins and possessing the enviable qualities of charm and persuasion, would be appointed Chief Prosecutor.
For if there was anyone who could talk any person into any thing, it was Peter Wenlock.
He and his twin, Penelope, loped about the castle in Amazonian bodies and spoke with such self-assuredness that anyone who happened to be listening instantly agreed with what they were saying, whatever it happened to be that day. Yes, Peter Wenlock was the man for the job. He would make the wayward Sykes see sense – it never entered into anyone’s mind that he would fail, for who was Helen Sykes, a girl who nobody had ever been sure of, to swim against the Slytherin tide?
It was between Peter’s Transfiguration class and Helen’s Arithmacy class that the two crossed paths, and it had been universally acknowledged that if action were to be taken, it would have to be taken then. Peter’s gait was slow and easy as he spied the blonde girl further down the corridor, having known what it was he had to say since eight o’clock that morning, the moment he’d seen the notice about trials. He’d push his curly hair back and take her gently aside, say something like, “Hey, Helen, about these trials – don’t want them taking up the whole day, do you? We could draw up a list of who we want to see beforehand, so we can get straight into practice,” Then he’d smile and fold his arms, genial but still very much in control. “It’d be what’s best for the team, right?”
He might have succeeded, too, if someone hadn’t beaten him to it.
Allen Kirkpatrick had never been the most tactful of boys, and as he swaggered down the corridor, green eyes spotting Helen, he proved exactly why. Helen, busied with making sure the clasp on her bag was closed, didn’t see him coming until he was upon her. To Peter’s slate eyes, he could have been enquiring about the weather. But the pinched look that overtook the Slytherin female’s face told him that their conversation was much more than casual. Peter lengthened his stride, pushing over two first years that became collateral damage in his mission to stop Helen Sykes – and subsequently, Allen Kirkpatrick.
He reached them just in time to hear Kirkpatrick’s words.
“…have to screw to get that badge, Sykes? Rumour is there’s a bit of fight in yer, way yer going about trials,” Had Peter not strained, he wouldn’t have been able to hear the next part. “I like a bit of fight, meself. Makes it more fun, yer know what I mean? I’d like to have a bit of fun with yer, some dark broom closet…you’re a pretty thing, Sykes, but I reckon I could take you…”
The look Helen turned on Kirkpatrick, then Peter, was as scorching as a Basilisk and even Peter The Unflappable felt what he vaguely recognised as a twitch of fear. Yet despite the disgust intermingled with hate bubbling through Helen, she knew rising to him would only make him more determined to conquer her. So she did what neither of the boys had thought she would do.
The seventeen year old grabbed Kirkpatrick’s blue and bronze tie and pulled his face towards hers, looking as if she was about to whisper something seductive in his ear. What she actually whispered, Peter couldn’t hear, but Kirkpatrick heard it loud and clear.
“Your sister's a pretty thing, Allen. Be an awful shame if she met with some unfortunate accident in the girl's lavatory, what with her OWLs this year and all. Tell you what - you keep your trousers zipped and your sister gets to stay out of the Hospital Wing.” Patting his cheek condescendingly, Helen pushed him away firmly.
Kirkpatrick had no way of knowing three things as he slunk away. Firstly that his sister was in no danger - Helen might have finally mastered the Boil Curse last year, but her hold on her Captainship was precarious enough without landing herself in detention. Secondly, he would find himself the recipient of a broken nose and untold amount of bruises from the Slytherin boys – for as much as they currently hated Helen, only they were allowed to mess with Slytherin girls. Horny Ravenclaws could back the hell off.
And the third was that quite unwittingly, he had just sealed Helen’s course of action when it came to her captaincy.
“You alright, Helen?” Peter asked, eyes hard as they followed Kirkpatrick down the corridor. When he looked back, a smile was impossibly on Helen’s face. Her small lips were curved upwards, and her light eyes glittered with something he couldn’t quite put his finger on.
“I’m just fine, thanks Peter,” Helen replied, tucking a strand of hair that had fallen from its ponytail behind her ear.
“Hey, Hel, about these trials,” he began, falling into step next to her, never thinking for a moment this wouldn’t go his way.
“Mmm?” she made a questioning noise, looking between him and the way she intended to go.
“Don’t want them taking up the whole day, do you? We could draw up a list beforehand, cut down on the number of people so we can get straight into practice afterwards,” Running his large hand through his mop of curly hair, he walked with Helen down the stairs. “That’d be best for the team, wouldn’t it? Get as much practice in as possible?”
It wasn’t until they reached the bottom that Helen responded, in a voice as calm and pleasant as Peter’s.
“Thanks for your thoughts, Pete,” she replied, using an affection nickname for him. “It means a lot that you felt you could come to me with your point of view, I really appreciate it,” Peter began to relax, feeling the battle won. Unbeknownst to him, Helen was just winding up. “But while I’m finding my sea legs, I think it’s best if I go with my gut on this one-“ Turning towards Peter, her face was amicable, even bordering on thankful. “-but thanks. Really, Pete, thanks for your help.”
And she walked off, leaving a dumbfounded boy in her wake as the staircase moved with him still on it. Walking towards her Charms class, Helen reasoned with herself. She hadn’t been lying, in all truthfulness. He had helped her. He just didn’t know it yet.
The news that Peter had not been able to put Helen Sykes back in her rightful place spread like a piece of paper caught up in a terrible wind through Slytherin house – by dinner time, the entire student body (and much of the teaching staff) knew. As Helen sashayed neatly into the Great Hall for dinner, every eye in the place turned to her, the small blonde much more interesting to them than the roast pork the House Elves had served up that night.
Brazenly, Helen turned her visage out over the mass of people. There was no mistaking it, even the smallest Gryffindor on the other side of the Hall could see that there was a smile on Helen Sykes’ face. A Mona Lisa smile, as if she knew something the rest of them didn’t, just daring them to ask her what she was smiling about.
Hundreds of eyes bugged, then turned immediately back to their plates then each other, intently discussing this development. Only two sets of eyes continued to watch Helen as she sat alone at the Slytherin table (with a spare seat either side of her, she was easily discernable). One pair was that of the Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, who watched his pupil with blatant curiosity and what might have been a spark of pride. The other was a pair of blue eyes belonging to one Charlie Weasley.
As Gryffindor Quidditch Captain and Seeker, Charlie Weasley loathed Helen on principle. He’d never spoken a full sentence to the girl other than something along the lines of ‘You’re going down, Slytherin bitch’ but the fact remained that he hated her. She played for Slytherin, she was Captain of Slytherin, and she’d caught the Snitch faster than him five years in a row. He had more of a liking for dung beetles than he did her, though if questioned he’d probably admit that apart from the Quidditch pitch and occasional Prefect meetings, Helen Sykes never entered his mind.
But as Helen seemed hell bent on parading around trying to change Slytherin, she’d plagued Charlie’s thoughts for the better part of that day. The biggest mystery of all to him was that in six years of schooling, he’d never heard of her being anything other than a good little Slytherin – the type that considered a day wasted if she hadn’t called someone a blood traitor or Mudblood or at the very least snaked her way around the rules. Who was she? Why was she not just rocking the boat, but shaking it like a Kraken, as if to rid it of all inhabitants?
And why, oh why, did she appear not to notice or care that most of her house wouldn’t have minded if she became involved in a rather tragic accident?
Charlie stabbed at his food, eyes flickering over to the solitary figure of Helen every so often. He would have been quite happy to continue the meal in this fashion, had his friends and teammates not been vying for his attention.
“Oi, Charlie,” began Oliver Wood, whose incessant analysing and passion for the game of Quidditch was both blessing and curse to Charlie. “Try outs. When?” The red head swallowed his overly large mouthful before replying.
“Been thinking about that. Steven’s been to see me, said he can’t play this year if he wants to have any hope of passing Potions, so we’ll need to pick two new Chasers, as well as replacing Booth and Young.” Spearing a was of bacon onto his fork, Charlie shoved it into his mouth to buy himself time to think. Wood was not perturbed, his own food forgotten on his plate while he waited for his captain to answer. “The Slytherins have booked the pitch for Saturday, so I guess it’ll have to be Sunday afternoon won’t it?” he shrugged, not wanting to think of the amount of homework that would await him in able to keep his whole Saturday free. Iris Bones, a witch who could put more spin on a Quaffle than a Billywig and on occasion had participated in ‘extra-curricular’ activities with Charlie, looked down the table at them. She was shaking her head at Charlie and Oliver and the former was momentarily distracted by her lips and flushed cheeks.
“-do it then, because Filch will have my head if I don’t do my detention for him.” Iris was saying as Charlie tuned in to her.
“What’d you do, Iris?” asked Oliver, the stress on his face at the idea of not being able to hold tryouts visible. Iris winked, hazel eyes flashing as she smiled.
“Lydia dared me to paint Mrs Norris blue…didn’t get close to her, unfortunately, but I’ve still got detention for it.” The black haired girl laughed and before turning back to her friends, she issued her warning again. “But seriously. Sunday afternoon is out, because I don’t trust you lot to pick the new Chasers without me.” Iris was uncharacteristically stern as she turned away from them.
“Guess we’ll be starting bright and early Sunday morning, then,” To Charlie's ears, Oliver sounded far too enthusiastic at the prospect of being up before the sun had properly risen on a Sunday morning. Charlie grunted an affirmation, devoting his attention once more to his food.
Later that night, a new notice had appeared on the Gryffindor noticeboard.
QUIDDITCH TEAM TRIALS
Will be held Sunday, 8am on the Quidditch Pitch to fill the following positions:
All are welcome to try out.
-Captain, Charlie Weasley
Excited first years that had no hope of being selected milled around like fish eggs clinging to a rock, the odd upperclassman thrown into the group. Charlie Weasley ignored them all, ruffled Iris’ hair to a squall of protest, and trudged up the stairs to bed.