I wander through the halls of the castle. It is quiet but for the low murmurings and whispers of the portraits above my head. They always whisper when I walked by, thinking I do not hear. I try not to hear but I cannot help it. They whisper about me, about how I have disgraced my mother by not being in her house. How I have disgraced my name. You see all the other children have been placed in the houses of their parents but I have not.
My mother, Helga Hufflepuff, does not mind. As I had been pronounced a Ravenclaw by the newly created sorting hat my mother had beamed down at me from her seat at the table and had declared herself the proudest mother she could be to have a daughter clever enough to be chosen as a Ravenclaw. My heart had sank and as I looked down at the house tables I saw Helena’s sneering face look in my direction and from that moment on it began.
I have never been accepted but as a true Hufflepuff I keep my head down and do not rise to their taunts. Gwendolyn Hufflepuff, they whispered from their gilded frames, the daughter who betrayed her own mother. They believe it just as the rest of the school believe it. I am not a true Ravenclaw yet neither am I a Hufflepuff.
I have never told her, my mother, about Helena though I am sure that if I ever did she would try her best to fix it because she loved me enough to do that just as she had fixed it when my brother had been challenged to a dual by Godric’s son. But I never have told her because Helena is the true daughter of Ravenclaw and I am three years younger than her. I am nothing compared to her.
So I walk through the corridors late at night, ignoring the whispers and trying to stay as far away from the tower and Helena as I could. It is tried and tested, since being put in that house I have been doing the same thing almost every day for five years.
Sometimes I will walk through the grounds and along the boundaries of the forest; sometimes I will go into the forest and walk with the unicorns. Sometimes I will walk the secret passageways that my brother introduced me to when I was only young and sometimes I walk the corridors that no one bothers with, speak with the few ghosts that the castles hold.
One thing is always for certain; I always end up tucked away in a quiet corner of the library until my candle has burnt so low that it is extinguished before I can make it back up to my room. Sometimes I see Helena and sometimes I don’t; I live for the nights when I don’t.
This night I have chosen the seconds floor as my wandering space and reach a room at the end of the corridor just as the last gaggle of students disappear up the staircase. I often come to this room because it helps me concentrate. It is the room of mirrors.
A room full of gilded mirrors of every style that could be imagined. There are small handheld ones, large ones on the wall and ones with faces already in them. Not many people know it exists; it is one of those rooms in Hogwarts that is lost to the student body unless someone shows it too you. I have never shown it to anyone.
My mother was the one that took me to it when I was first placed in Ravenclaw. She stood me in front of a single mirror that stood alone in the centre of the room. It looked old, older even than the castle and the glass was dirty and a little cracked in the corner. The golden frame was wearing and I wondered why my mother was showing me this one when there were so many others that would give me a clearer picture; that were prettier.
“Gwendolyn,” my mother said sweetly, “when you feel lonely or unsure of yourself come to the mirror and take a long hard look, you will find what you are looking for.”
I never have.
Now I stand before it and study myself as I have done many times before.
I’m small for my fifteen years and as I am plumper than I should be thanks to my mother’s genes my dress is always that little bit too tight around my bust. My skin is pale and full of freckles that no matter how hard I try would not hide the spots that decide to appear every now and again.
My eyes and hair are my true crowning glory, at least which is what my brother and mother keep telling me. Long blonde locks that cascade down my back in golden waves and bright blue eyes just like my mother.
I think I would prefer to have dark hair and dark eyes like Helena.
“Everyone would,” Helena’s voice laughs from behind me.
My eyes catch a glint of blue in the mirror and I spin to see a smug Helena standing by the door. I must have said it out loud and now Helena has heard me and all I can do is look at her and not say another word.
“Not going to talk to me little puffball?” Helena says walking closer, her blue skirts skimming the floor.
I look away from her, not wanting to say anything that will make her say anything worse and not wanting to look into her perfect face anymore.
“Pity that when you look into the mirror all you see is your fat little face,” she says.
“What do you see?” I ask, unable to help myself.
Quickly she pushes me out of the way and stands in front of the mirror herself. She smoothes her rich dress out, pushes back her raven hair and smiles at her reflection.
“What is it that you think I see?” she asks me.
“I don’t know,” I whisper stepping back further, trying to figure out how I can escape the room without her knowing.
“I see me wearing my mother’s diadem,” she admits before she turns to me with a sly smile on her face, “shall I tell you a secret little puffball?”
I don’t answer but shrink further towards the door hoping she will just let me go.
“You don’t want to know?” she says walking towards me, her tall frame towering over my plump body, “well I shall tell you anyway; you need to be put right back in your place. They say little puffball that you are my greatest enemy.”
My eyes widen and I shake my head vigorously, “no Helena, of course I am not.”
“Gwendolyn,” she says shaking her own head, “they say that because you are Helga’s daughter not because you are anything special.”
She laughs and the small part of me that doesn’t want to run away has the urge to hit her across the face so hard that it wipes the smug smile from her face permanently. I of course do not do that. Instead I stand where I am just like I always do and let her insults was over me as if they are water across wings.
Helena turns back towards the mirror and stares in it a little longer, preening her perfect dark locks. They are almost as long as mine but where mine are an abundance of waves that never behave hers change on a daily basis. Today they are poker straight and I am as envious as I have ever been.
“No,” she says after a few moments of silence, “no you are nothing special though my mother seems to think I should give you more credit. I won’t though, I never shall because I am the true daughter of Ravenclaw house and you are an intruder. You shouldn’t even be in this school, everyone says it. Quiet little Gwen who is only seen at the back of class. No, you are not my greatest enemy; I shall have far worst people to come up against.”
Helena stops and twists her head to see me close to the door. Quick as a flash she pulls out her wands from the folds of her dress and the door slams shut behind me. Fear spikes in my chest as she crosses the space between us and I am left with my pressed up against the door with nowhere to go.
The wood feels oddly comforting, warm and supple instead of cold and hard like I expected. It makes me wish that my little voice wasn’t so little. It makes me wish I could fight back but all my words leave me and I am nothing but the little puffball she so often reminds me that I look like.
“You might want to think about it Puffball…you can’t harm me but I can harm you, I can make you the biggest outcast the school has ever seen…”
“You already have,” I say unable to stop the words spilling from my mouth.
As I knew she would as soon as I said it Helena slaps me hard across the face and tears prick at the corners of my eyes. I must not cry! Not in front of her.
“I could make life a lot harder for you Gwen, Remember that,” Helena says stepping back from me but grabbing my face and surveying her handiwork, “shame you fell and hit your face on a rock wasn’t it,” she continues tracing a sharp nail along my cheek, the edge cutting into the skin letting small droplets of blood stain my freckles red.
“I am not afraid of you,” I say summoning all the courage I own and swelling up in her face.
“Yes you are, don’t try and lie to yourself, it is not an attractive trait.”
She turns and walks back to the mirror and I briefly wonder if she is so vain that she has to look at her reflection every five seconds and then I realise that she probably is.
“I’m going to steal it,” she says causing my ears to prick up and pay attention.
“Steal what?” I ask.
“My mother’s diadem. I am going to steal it and runaway from this place.”
“You can’t,” I cry, “your mother…”
Helena spins to face me, “my mother is stifling my talent. It has been a year since I finished this school and still she does not let me teach, still she will not let me see her private book collection. She wants it all to herself! I will steal the diadem and get away from this castle for good.”
All my instincts tell me to run. To get away and never see her again. I want to, I want to run so badly. I hate this situation, I hate being around her, I hate the way she attacks me as if I am no better than a dog yet I never do anything about it. My mother would say confront her, tell her what she is doing to me but I know I never will. I am simply not that person. I am simply not that strong.
“Of course if you tell anyone I shall have to erase your memory, so I know you won’t do anything of the sort,” she says smiling at me sweetly as if I am her best friend and she has just told me that she likes a boy from Slytherin house.
I want to ask her what made her so sure but I know what makes her so sure. I am weak and I will never go up against her. I will never challenge her though I am probably stronger than her.
The door is still locked and so I cannot escape. Helena has trapped me in her web and there is nothing I can do. She might see me as nothing but to me she is my greatest enemy and she will be until she leaves.
Maybe I should just let her steal the diadem?
No! No I cannot let her steal it, I have to do something, stop her; persuade her. I step closer to Helena, so close that I can see my reflection in the mirror. She of course has turned back once again and is looking at herself as if she is the most beautiful person on the earth.
“You know Gwen,” she says, her voice sending chills down my spine, “this mirror is meant to show your heart’s desire.”
“Is it?” I ask surprised.
“Wow you really are stupid,” she says pointing to the engraving on the top of the mirror.
I read it carefully and it takes me a little while but I finally get it.
“I show not your face but your heart’s desire,” I whisper.
Helena looks a little taken aback and a little pride seeps into me. She must have spent hours over it, trying to figure it out. Who is the true Ravenclaw now?
Helena grabs me hard on the arm and drags me in front of the mirror.
“Let’s play a little game,” she laughs, “I’ll let you out if you tell me what you see.”
I look up at her and then back to my reflection.
“I don’t see anything,” I say honestly.
“Nothing? You are lying, tell me the truth!”
“I just see me standing alone.”
Helena grabs me a shoves me out of the way putting herself in front of the mirror.
“How is it you do not see anything!”
“Please Helena, I have told you, just please can I go now,” my voice shakes as I look at her.
All I want is to curl up in bed and be away from here. I just want this to end so I can box it up like all our other confrontations and place it in the dark place in the back of my mind. I just want to get out!
“Not until you tell me what you see!” she shrieks and I cower away from her cursing myself for not being brave enough to stand up to her and thinking that it was a good thing I was not placed in Gryffindor.
“I don’t see anything Helena, please just let me go.”
She walks towards me until I am pressed up against another mirror. The glass is cold on my neck but my main concern is the wand that she points at me that slowly starts to tear up the bottom of my dress.
“Your mummy won’t like it if you ruin your dress Puffball,” she says as one swipe cuts into my skin and blood starts to drip down my leg.
“I just want you to let me go, please Helena, I won’t tell anyone, just let me go.”
Fear has gripped me as her eyes flash dark and another swipe of her wand cuts into my other leg. The stinging brings tears to my eyes and I cannot help but let them fall.
“You think you are so clever don’t you but you’re not, no one is cleverer than me.”
Anger grips my chest as her words ring false in my ears. I am cleverer than her, I beat her in every class we take, I learn the spells quicker, I cast the spells stronger. I am better than she will ever be.
“I am clever than you,” I say pushing her out of the way and grabbing my wand from the folds of my dress, pointing it straight at her head.
Helena backs away and narrows her eyes.
“Ooh look, puffball has got some confidence in her.”
“I am cleverer than you Helena, I deserve to be in Ravenclaw more than you ever will.”
I want to run and not look back but I am stuck with my wand pointing at Helena’s face as if something had taken over me. She looks a little scared.
“I won’t tell anyone about the diadem if you leave Helena, I could always transfigure you into a diadem if you want… you know I could do it.”
Slowly Helena’s eyes widen as she realises I am not playing games and she backs away, flicking her wand to unlock the door as she does. She is in its arch when a cruel smile appears on the edge of her lips.
“You may think you have one over on me Puffball but you are sorely mistaken. I will come back cleverer and more powerful than you could ever imagine. You just wait.”
And with that she spins on her heel a leaves me alone in the room. I fall to the floor shocked at myself and a little proud. I Gwendolyn Hufflepuff have actually confronted my enemy and won. I am the true child of the founders and she is nothing anymore.
I walk from the room a few moments later with my heart swelling. Helena is a coward and I have just faced her. I never thought I would but I have and now. Now I am strong and I finally realise why she was so mad when I told her what I saw in the mirror.
I am happy the way I am, I do not desire anything and that is something that Helena Ravenclaw will never understand.
Disclaimer - Mirror of erised and its words come from j.k rowling! I own nothing!