Disclaimer: This is for the whole fic. JK Rowling is a literary goddess, I am a humble mortal and own nothing she has invented.
A/N: I realise this isn't entirely original as a concept, but I hope you'll enjoy it anyway. Please give it a chance, and let me know what you think either way! :)
Pure Blood(y) Irony
"Merlin's beard, we were never that small."
Lily smirked. "We were. Smaller, if I recall."
Helena returned her gaze to the first-years waiting to be sorted. "You don't recall. That one's only as high as my knee for Heaven's sake."
"Strange, isn't it?" Amelia Peasegood, another Gryffindor seventh-year, asked. "To think that this is the last time we'll ever watch the sorting."
"A little. But we've seen six now, participated in one. And I'm not going to miss those ridiculous songs the Hat makes up," Helena said.
"I don't think they're ridiculous," Lily said. "It really helped my nerves in first-year actually."
"Didn't help mine," Helena muttered, putting herself in the midgets' shoes.
It had gone completely as expected so far. All the 'A's' were done, the 'B's' were underway and the people Helena had grown up with had been sorted into the houses she'd expected them too. Mostly Slytherin—she could see her cousin Bellatrix sitting proudly among the other purebloods. Helena hadn't sat with Bellatrix on the train, and she wasn't looking forward to the inevitable sorting into Slytherin. Thankfully she'd seen Sirius first, and sat with him and his new friend James Potter on the long journey up to Hogwarts. Sirius was probably the favourite of her relatives, namely because he was the only one who talked common sense and showed compassion to anyone not a pureblood.
Helena could just about see his dark-haired head in the line ahead of her. He was next. Professor McGonagall read his name out in a loud, carrying voice. "Black, Sirius!"
At least there would be one person in Slytherin she could stand, Helena thought sullenly.
But almost as soon as the Sorting Hat had touched his head, it yelled completely the wrong house. "Gryffindor."
The half-bloods and muggle-borns began clapping; the purebloods sat stunned. A Black being sorted somewhere other than Slytherin? That wasn't right. That meant…blood-treachery!
Still in the queue, Helena was panicking. Merlin's beard, if her name wasn't enough to ensure she was placed in the right house, then what did she have to do? Did she even want to be in the right house? She knew she didn't fit in with her parents and brother—didn't think the way they thought or even look like them, but surely being put into Slytherin would fix that? Except… Except she didn't want to be in Slytherin. And if Sirius could get put somewhere else, then why couldn't she? Maybe she could compromise?
Finally at the head of the line, McGonagall called her name. "Malfoy, Helena."
The hat dropped down over her ears when it got plonked down on her head. A Malfoy, eh? Funny, you don't seem like a Malfoy… Now where would you do best in?
Um…maybe Ravenclaw? she suggested tentatively.
Well, you do have the intelligence, but there's more spirit than there is intellectualism here. Ambition in a general sense rather than the desire for power your family have, so perhaps not Slytherin.
But all my family have been in Slytherin!
And if all your family decided lassoing dragons was a good idea, you would too? the Hat asked archly. No, my dear, there's only one place you should be, and it's GRYFFINDOR!
She got the same reaction as Sirius had, and stunned, made her way over to the Gryffindor table. Sirius had already made room for her, and was looking incredibly relieved. "Thank God for that, I thought it was just going to be me!"
"I don't understand why it put us here though."
"Simple," James Potter said from Sirius' other side. "Because you're both too brave for Slytherin."
Helena glanced over at the Slytherin table in time to be on the receiving end of a blistering glare from Bellatrix. "Blood-traitors," she mouthed harshly.
Well, Bellatrix still thought they were blood-traitors. Unlike then though, now Helena didn't care. Gryffindor was where she belonged, and where Sirius belonged. Catching his eye, she smiled warmly at him, then rolled her eyes when he started grimacing at the frightened first-years, making them blanch with terror.
"You are such a bully."
"All the best people are, Hellfire."
She wanted to issue a scathing retort, except just then the feast appeared on the table, and the delicious smells proved too much for her brain to handle. Mmmm, Yorkshires… Incredible puddings followed amazing savouries, with no one holding back. By the time the desserts faded from the plates, Helena's stomach ached with pleasure. Beside her, Lily appeared to be in a food coma. Helena poked her.
"You have to show the first-years where to go."
"Wha'? Oh, crap, first-years!"
Helena giggled as the redhead leapt to her feet. As a prefect she'd taken her responsibilities seriously, as Head Girl it appeared even more so. Which was more than Helena could say for the Head Boy. Lily hit him on the back of the head on her way past. "Potter! Come on!"
His eyes lit up. "Where we going, Evans? 'Cause I'll go anywhere with you."
"We're showing the first-years where to go, you creep."
"That's what prefects are for!" he protested.
"Urgh, what was Dumbledore thinking? Get off your lazy backside, Potter, or I swear I'll report you to McGonagall."
"Bad luck, Prongs," Sirius grinned as Lily stormed off.
James groaned, but did get up. "Oi, Evans! Wait up!"
On the long slow walk back to Gryffindor Tower, Helena found herself walking next to Remus Lupin. "How was your summer?" she asked.
"Uneventful," he replied, "though these days I should be grateful for that, I know."
Well, it might have been uneventful, but he still looked as utterly exhausted as he always did. Two months' break from school-work didn't seem to have done anything to remedy that. "How was yours?" he asked.
"Fine. Long. I'm still a disappointment to my family, I missed everyone here. Glad to be back."
"You've been seventeen for a while," Remus reasoned, "couldn't you move out?"
"With what money?" she asked. "Father might not be able to stand the sight of me but that doesn't mean he's willing to pay out to buy me a place of my own either. No, I need to graduate and get a job first."
"Why not do what I did?" Sirius' voice asked from just behind them.
"Because only savages live in tents, Padfoot," she grinned. "And I doubt Lily would be all that enthused with the idea of me living on her lawn."
"Well you could always shack up with me," he winked.
"Yes…when dragons start hatching pink and fluffy, I believe I'll do that."
No one really stuck around in the common room on the first night, too full of food and anticipation to do much more than collapse into bed. The first-years certainly weren't capable of anything else. Helena was happy to go to bed as well, and headed for the staircases on the far side of the common room. Remus and Sirius didn't follow, and when she looked over her shoulder, they and Peter Pettigrew were huddled around the fire, heads together. It really did not surprise her that they'd been back less than six hours and the self-styled 'Marauders' were already plotting something. Well, she just hoped that whatever it was, they weren't going to involve her.
What Helena had not counted on was involving herself the next evening.
The day had started badly anyway, as Professor McGonagall handed around the seventh-year time tables. And it was murder. Receiving them, she and Lily had given identical looks of horror at each other, as they were taking the same classes.
"Are they allowed to make us work this hard? Legally I mean?"
"Probably. Bloody hell."
It was bad. Monday was three solid hours of Transfiguration with the Ravenclaws, which wasn't so terrible, but followed by two hours of potions (with the Hufflepuffs) then an hour of Charms before dinner with the Slytherins. Tuesday was split between Defence Against the Dark Arts and Herbology, with Wednesday devoted entirely to Charms again. Thursday was more DADA then Transfiguration, then Potions and Herbology again last thing on a Friday. But whereas every year before this one had been nine in the morning to four in the afternoon, lessons began at eight thirty and didn't end until five thirty.
A little way down the table, the Marauders were being handed theirs. Remus took and looked down it without comment, while Peter simply looked terrified. James, when McGonagall gave him his, simply laughed and gave it back. "Professor, you've given me the timetable of a superhuman!"
"That is the usual boast, is it not, Mr Potter?" she replied tartly, shoving it back into his hands. "Black, here's yours."
Sirius took it, and promptly choked on his pumpkin juice.
"It's bad, isn't it?" Helena asked.
He nodded. "Yours is the same?"
Oddly for two almost completely opposite career paths, the NEWTs that prospective Aurors and Healers needed were exactly the same, because they were so hard. Aurors needed to have qualifications in 'challenging' subjects, while Healers could never predict the kind of medical problem their patients might present them with. Once qualified, Helena would then pick a speciality, whether it be curse injuries or animal bites.
But there was going to be a lot of work, that was for damn sure. At least they only had Charms with the Slytherins, which she didn't think Severus Snape would be taking. She'd never liked him, but she knew being around him still upset Lily. Unfortunately it did mean that all of their classes, they were sharing with the Marauders. And if there was one person guaranteed to wind Lily up more than Snape, it would be James.
Helena looked at the timetable again, mentally calculating how she could keep them apart. It wasn't that she didn't want them to get together, just that she wanted to get through her NEWTs without getting caught in any explosions. Literal ones, as had happened at least twice last year when James pushed it too far. Well, she knew there was a Ravenclaw girl who had a crush on him, so for Transfiguration that shouldn't be too difficult, and maybe could have the added benefit of making Lily jealous. Probably. Maybe. Potions…Professor Slughorn would probably be a help there. Helena wasn't a member of the Slug Club (thankfully), but Lily firmly was, so she'd be placed at the front of the class in order for Slughorn to show off his favourite. As for the others she would just have to play it by ear. Hopefully Sirius would be a little less obnoxious than usual so that she could rely on his help.
It did get a little irritating that she had to work so hard at it though; Lily had other friends who could stop James from interfering, but one bone-melting smile from James' secret weapon (Sirius) and most of them fell apart and forgot all about intervening.
It didn't go as badly as it could have done.
She didn't have Sirius' help, since he'd suddenly realised that this was the last year at Hogwarts and he still hadn't seduced Mary MacDonald. This wasn't surprising—Helena and Lily both spent a lot of their time discouraging their friends from falling for Sirius. If they'd only had sex on their mind (as he did) then it wouldn't be so bad, but almost every girl he slept with seemed to be sure that they would be the one to 'tame' Sirius Black—and then got terribly disappointed when they weren't. Anyway, since he was busy flirting his tight, perfectly-formed arse off, Helena had to keep Lily occupied. For the first few hours they managed well, helping each other through Transfiguration and Potions respectively. Things went a little wrong when it came to Charms.
"Surely there's no need for you to be here, Evans?" James asked casually as they entered Flitwick's classroom.
Helena mentally groaned. Lily raised a suspicious eyebrow. "Why?"
"Because you've already charmed me!"
Helena smacked him upside the head once Lily had stalked off in disgust. "Ow! What was that for?"
"If you have to keep asking her out, James, can you do it with the minimum of cheese? The whole castle will reek of stilton at this rate."
They went straight to dinner after Charms, completely starving by the time it came around. Helena wasn't really aware of what she was eating, just that she was stuffing it into her mouth with an enthusiasm which would have made her mother faint in horror. When she'd eaten about half of her plate in that manner, she slowed down.
"So what did Slughorn mean about the controversy of anti-venom versus healing potions?"
"I'm not sure," Lily mused. "He wasn't very specific, was he?"
"No. And I bet all the copies of Adenham's are gone out of the library already. I'll go and double check after dinner."
"Alright. I'll meet you in the common room."
The hushed atmosphere of the library was quiet, but never what Helena could describe as peaceful. Everyone was too much in fear of Madam Pince for that. Everyone except the four seventh-years gathered in a corner near the restricted section. Perusing the shelves of potion books looking for the particular volume she was after, Helena couldn't help keeping an ear out for their conversation.
"Oh, what about this?" Peter asked. "It might work to-"
"And look what the counter-spell is, Pete," Sirius said, more patiently than she would have expected from him. "Revelio is a basic spell that every second-year knows."
"I think I have something," Remus interrupted. "There could be a way we could get the map to show everyone in the castle. But it's risky. And difficult."
"Oh, well we shouldn't then," James smirked. "Because when was the last time we did anything risky and difficult, Moony?"
"Point taken. Well, we need to steal the Sorting Hat. Or at least a piece of it."
"Which is in the Headmaster's office. We can manage that I think. A diversion big enough to get Dumbledore out, then one of us can get in and nick a bit of the Hat," Sirius said, "and Helena we know you're listening."
"What are you doing?" she asked, more curious than hostile.
"Making a map that can be wiped blank whenever we want for use in…rule breaking," Peter said.
"Uh-huh. And just what, pray tell, do any of you know about magical cartography?"
"Enough," Sirius replied quickly.
"Or nothing at all in fact," Remus said, more tiredly. "Do you mind helping us, Helena?"
"Hang on, what do you know about magical cartography?" James interrupted.
"It's a hobby." The only person in her family she'd been able to stand had been her maternal grandmother, Clarisse, who had been a cartographer, and taken pains to include the lonely Helena in as much of her work as possible. When she died seven years ago, Helena had been devastated.
"So you know how to make things unplottable and stuff?" Peter asked.
"No, and anyway that's nothing to do with maps. In order to do that, it requires enchanting the building, not the map. Otherwise you would have to individually enchant every map of Scotland so that Hogwarts doesn't show," she explained. "Now what do you want this map to show? Countryside, the world?"
"Just the castle?"
"Everything we know about it," James said. "Which is more than everyone else."
"Quite a boast," Helena remarked. "Well…I can do it. For a fee."
"A fee," Sirius repeated. "What kind of fee?"
"You know me, Padfoot. I'm only ever interested in knowledge," she smiled.
"You want us to tell you what the map's for," Remus guessed. "And you want your own copy once it's finished."
"Give the boy a chocolate frog."
"Not happening," James and Sirius said together.
She folded her arms. "Then I guess you're on your own."
Standing, she collected her books and walked out of the library, hearing them whisper together as she left. One of them was going to come after her—probably Sirius. If the Marauders needed a girl to do anything it was generally him. James was too busy lusting after Lily, and while Remus had his charms he was completely unaware of them. No, with perfect, sea-grey eyes, a face to make one go weak at the knees and a body completely capable of sweeping one off those unsteady legs, it would be Sirius.
A pity for them Helena had known him since childhood, and was therefore almost completely immune to him. He wasn't quite a brother to her, but he was too deep into the friendship zone to make her acquiesce to anything he wanted her to.
Quick footsteps, a hand on her arm—and there were those mariner's eyes. "Helena."
"Padfoot. You have been designated negotiator then?"
"Come on, Hellfire, you have to be reasonable," he smiled, walking slowly with her back to Gryffindor tower. "Not letting you know everything is actually for your protection."
"Protection?" she asked, putting on a puzzled tone.
"Yes. Think about it. If we're caught, then this way you're not implicated. Your record remains as flawless as you are."
She blushed at that one—for him. Honestly, how did a sense of shame not come in and stop lines like that before they made it out of his mouth? "So you're just playing knight in shining armour?"
"It is a role I enjoy."
"Well your reasoning is good, but with one flaw."
"You are assuming that the teachers are as clueless about magical maps as you are. I seriously doubt Dumbledore would be fooled for a moment about who made it. So even if my name isn't on it and the map isn't in my possession, he'd still know its maker. So there's no reason not to give me a copy."
"You drive a hard bargain."
"Much like you."
Climbing the staircase which led to the Fat Lady's portrait now, Sirius sighed. "Okay…you can borrow it."
"'Borrow'? How kind," she said, sarcasm dripping sweetly from her voice.
"That's all you're getting."
"Alright. But I get to borrow it whenever I want to."
"So you'll help us?" he asked eagerly.
"Yes. I'll help you. Meet me in the common room after eleven. I'll talk you through it then."
Grinning, Sirius lifted her hand and kissed the back of it, then spoiled the moment by winking stupidly. Helena sighed and faced the Fat Lady. "Such a charmer that one," the portrait remarked.
"Is he? I thought he was an idiot," Helena sighed. "But amicis semper fidelis."
"Quite right too," the Fat Lady winked, swinging open.
Helena entered, looking around for her roomates. It was crowded in the common room, packed and noisy with everyone still busy sharing stories of their summer holidays. Over by the fire, there was a glint of copper; Helena smiled. Lily did have rather useful hair.
"I got it!" she announced, sitting beside her fellow seventh years. "Last copy of Adenham's Advanced Healing Potions in the library. Had to hex a fifth year, but never mind."
"Helena!" Lily scolded. "Was it really necessary to-"
"Yes. And don't worry, the boils will go down soon. Or eventually. Do you want the book or not?"
"Yes," her friend said reluctantly.
"Then you're going to have to stop glaring at me."
Grudgingly, she did, and Helena handed the book over. "I had a quick flick through. It's interesting what he says about the use of potions in comparison to natural anti-venoms."
"Really? Does it contrast to Dagnetti?"
Helena nodded, and they fell into a discussion of the differences between the two books. Both girls had ambitions to go into Healing once graduated from Hogwarts, which they'd discovered when choosing the OWL options. Before uncovering they shared an ambition, Helena couldn't say she and Lily had ever been that close. They had rather different personalities, as well as completely different backgrounds. That, and Helena's friendship with a certain bespectacled Quidditch player and his friends created a little tension between them, especially when Helena refused Lily's request—and then plea, and then demand—to talk James out of constantly asking her out. It was balanced out, in Helena's defence, by a refusal to help James soften Lily up, which while Lily couldn't argue with it, did not make for a speedy rapport. The need for a study-buddy had brought the two girls together; chatting about work soon enough turned into just chatting. True friendship was an easy step after that.
"So how's Alice?" Helena asked after Dagnetti and Adenham had been exhausted.
Alice Fellows had been in the year above them, but as a former Head Girl had been a kind of mentor to the then-prefect Lily. She was now an Auror, and consequently incredibly busy, as was her long-term boyfriend Frank. It was an ambition that many of Helena's friends—including James and Sirius—shared.
Lily's eyes lit up at the mention of Alice. Recognising the cue for impending gossip, Helena leaned forward. "She's engaged!"
"Wow. When did Frank propose?"
"A fortnight ago, she only wrote to tell me just before term started."
"That's brilliant! Any date for the wedding?"
"Not yet, but Alice said they wanted to do it soon. No sense wasting time with things like that nowadays."
"True," Helena agreed. "Too true. Did you hear about the Prewetts?"
Lily nodded soberly. "Yes. I can't believe both of them are gone."
"Took five Death Eaters to bring them down though," Helena added, as if that would be any comfort to their family.
Lily was giving her that look again, the look which had become increasingly frequent over the last year or so. She knew exactly why. Those five Death Eaters could have easily included her elder brother, Lucius. Or any of their cousins save Sirius. Any pureblood—and there were far too many—who supported Voldemort. The look Lily had wasn't fear, or suspicion, but it was slightly wary. As if she wasn't quite sure which way Helena was going yet.
"Lily," she said, more snappily than she meant to, "what do I have to do to prove to you I completely condemn Voldemort and all of his followers? I get that I'm a Malfoy, okay, and I wish to Heaven I weren't, but please. I am not responsible for my brother's actions. If I changed my ambitions to become an Auror would that convince you?"
As she was on the point of getting up and storming off to bed, Lily put her hands up placatingly. "I'm sorry, Helena. I really am."
"Thank you," Helena said stiffly. "I need a refuge here. My family view me as a traitor, I don't need suspicion from my friends."
"You won't get it from now on, I swear."
"Alright. Fancy a game of chess?" she asked, to diffuse any remaining tension.
"Aw, Helena, you know I'm rubbish at chess!"
"You're not that bad," Helena grinned, "I'm just very very good."
Lily had improved over the summer, as she'd been practicing with her own chess-set, which made the difference. That way she had pieces who would listen to her commands instead of yelling criticism at her all the time. Helena still won though, in the subtle way she always did—setting up an obvious ploy while her real plan for checkmate brewed quietly in the background. After about an hour of play, the common room had quietened down considerably, with the exhausted first-years leaving first, then the other Gryffindors going in dribs and drabs up to the dormitories. After having to put a stop to an unexpectedly vicious attack by one of Lily's bishops, Helena moved a knight into victory position. "Checkmate."
Lily pursed her lips, but couldn't find a way out of it. "Fine, but this is my new goal: beat you at chess before the end of this year."
Lily went to bed soon after that, with Helena tempted to follow her, annoyed that she had to wait up for the Marauders. She doubted they'd be late in fairness; it had happened before and all four of them had wound up in the hospital wing with various jinxs and hexes on them. It had taken Nurse Pomfrey several hours to rid them of Helena's curses. They had quickly learned that Helena Malfoy was not to be treated with the disposability other girls.
Sure enough, just before half past ten, the portrait opened and Sirius, James, Remus and Peter came through, all carrying books each. Helena raised an eyebrow. "How did you get those past Madam Pince?"
"Dungbomb here and there," Sirius replied. "But then we nearly got caught by Filch on the way back—which is why we need this map."
"So," James said, putting a quill, ink-well and parchment in front of her, "where do we start?"
"Well not with that," she replied, pointing at the parchment. "What you want is a map that's imprinted with the essence of Hogwarts. That means you have to connect it with the castle from the very start."
Sirius raised an eyebrow. "Which means…?"
"Which means you have to make your own parchment. It's no good just using any blank piece; it has to be soaked in Hogwarts. Likewise the ink."
Remus made a note of that.
"And what are you planning with the Sorting Hat?"
"We want the map to show the location of everyone in the castle," Sirius explained. "Teachers, students, Filch. And everyone in the castle was educated here, so they've all sat underneath the Hat."
"Except Filch. He's a squib."
James blinked, then grinned broadly. "Really?"
"You didn't know? Yeah, Slughorn let it slip to Lily, and Lily told me. But getting the Sorting Hat won't help you there. You might have to treat it like a Polyjuice Potion."
"What, get a…bit of Filch?" Peter asked, looking disgusted.
"Yes. His hair or toenails or whatever, but it needs to be mixed in with the pulp as you make the parchment, along with the threads of the Hat. Maybe that demonic feline of his too, if you want to know where she is. Once you have your ink and your parchment, come back to me and I'll help you out further."
"What, that's it?"
"Unless you want me to pull it out of your arse, Padfoot, then yes. Until you get a bit of the Sorting Hat, there's not a lot I can do. Good luck pulling the wool over Dumbledore's eyes."
A/N: Review please - cos reviews make the muses sing louder.