Disclaimer: The characters, locations, and situations of the Harry Potter universe are the property of J. K. Rowling. I am merely borrowing them for my own amusement, and I hope that of my readers. No copyright infringement is intended.
A Mother’s Secret
A Harry Potter Universe fanfiction by zgirnius
The lake, far below the arched window, was dark and smooth as a mirror. Not a whisper of wind ruffled a surface spangled with the bright points of reflected stars. A woman stood at the window, her expression still as the water below, her hair hanging in waves as dark as the lake at night and likewise speckled with silver. Her eyes seemed to see neither the peaceful beauty of the view spread out below her, nor the beauty of her own image reflected in the window, tall and straight, with a dignity lent by the passing years.
Instead, her mind’s eye saw a magic-wrought tracery of light, floating over the same lake, its surface the intense blue of the sky, ruffled playfully by a breeze as the setting sun painted a glint of bronze onto each wavelet. Her colors, Rowena had noted bitterly. She doubted she would ever forget that sight.
Rowena had cast the Tracing Charm when she found the tiara missing. Obedient to her will, the image of that which she sought had formed in the very room in which she now stood. A hooded, cloaked figure, tall and slender, with a long braid peeking out in front, was traced out in a cold, pale light. The thief had removed the small chest from the cabinet in which Rowena kept it, then had seemed to float down the spiral staircase, through the castle to the Great Hall, and on to the underground harbor below. As the image of the thief had approached the water, a silvery image of a boat had appeared as if to serve her need. Seating herself, she had flicked her wand imperiously to cast a soundless charm, and a dreadful misgiving Rowena had been fighting off since she had discovered her loss had again reared its ugly head.
…a gangly girl, black braids swinging behind her, skipped to the lakeside and placed a leaf-boat carefully in the water. Mama! she had demanded, and Rowena had smiled proudly and handed over her wand. An imperious flick of a bony wrist, and the boat had sailed smartly into a stiff breeze. Not yet ten, and she could already cast Locomotion Charms…
Despite her misgivings, Rowena had followed in another boat. Once out in the lake, the thief had sent her boat rapidly away from the castle and towards the opposite shore. Pulled up onto the opposite shore, Rowena could make out the actual boat the thief had taken, and knew she had escaped successfully. There could be no doubt she and her prize were gone.
Dreading what her intellect already told her she would see, Rowena had cast the spell that would dissolve only the outer layer of the image she followed. The cloak seemed to evaporate like a mist in the sun, and Rowena saw what she had already known she would see. With the utmost effort of will, she had restrained herself from screaming the name of her daughter and begging her to think better of her decision, to come home, to return to her mother. Helena wasn’t there to hear, anyway, she had probably left with the dawn. Only her silver phantom remained, to show Rowena what she had done.
Instead, Rowena had stopped her boat and watched as the ghostly boat bearing the likeness of her daughter away had grown ever smaller. Rowena had watched her leap out of the boat, levitate it onto the far shore, and mount a silvery Thestral with a single fluid motion. Finally, she had watched the Thestral as it flew south, until it was nothing but a silver speck that vanished in the distance. Then she had banished her Tracing Charm and returned to the castle.
It amazed her that she had been able to speak calmly to the groundskeeper about the missing boat, keep two appointments with her students, and appear as usual in the Great Hall at suppertime. Helga alone had sensed something was amiss, but Rowena had told her nothing as she picked at her food.
Rowena had wanted nothing more than to throw her arms around Helga and sob her heart out. She had gone instead back to her rooms. She knew what her friend would say. She had heard it before, two decades ago, when Osric had left: that it hadn’t been her fault, that she was kind, supportive, and lovable, that she was a good mother and would have made a good wife, and that a person of her gifts had a duty to apply them for the greater good.
But Rowena knew Osric wouldn’t have left her if she had given up Hogwarts. He was now married, she knew, to a witch by whom he had four other children. He had a good reputation as a Healer on the South Coast, a reputation he certainly could have made as well in the thriving wizard community of Hogsmeade. The wife assisted him when family obligations left her time. Now his daughter had left as well, and Rowena knew, knew neither would ever have left if she, too, had chosen a life of quiet domesticity.
Like her father, Helena wanted to be first in everything, like her father, and like her father, she lacked the confidence to strive for excellence for its own sake, instead of the recognition she hoped to win. Rowena had taught the most intelligent students at Hogwarts for a generation, and recognized it was not just her mother’s heart that insisted Helena was special. Perhaps Helena would achieve the renown that was her heart’s desire, away from home, away from her mother’s shadow. Perhaps then, she would come back...
With a pang of apprehension, Rowena sank into the window-seat. Helena must never doubt her welcome here. The theft of the tiara must remain a private grief. Surely, she would come back… As she hugged her arms tightly to herself, the tears finally came.