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Chapter 1: A Foul Word
Anything your recognize belongs to the remarkable JK Rowling. Also, I am by no means an expert on the time period, so please feel free to point out any errors!
The word grated on my skin, tearing through my heart.
It hadn’t hurt nearly so much Frigelda Black had said it, or even when Abelardus Oddison had spat it in my face. They could be ignored; their jibes could be laughed at. I could shake their dust from my feet. Even when Louisa Harmonia had traced the letters into the wall above my bed, I had not lost my temper. But when the cruel word had slipped from Professor Slytherin’s lips like a snake’s sharp hiss, I had broken.
While practicing human transfiguration, I had made a bad mistake and turned Robin Hartford into a muskrat rather than the expected beaver. The entire room of students had laughed, some with kind hearts, others with malice. My cheeks had colored, but as I was usually a good student in Transfiguration, I expected a correction, or a reproof. Instead, as the noise died down, Professor Slytherin had given me a contemptuous look and said disdainfully, “I wouldn’t expect more from a mudblood.”
My fellow students had frozen, their eyes on me, waiting to see how I might respond to my teacher’s—and one of the heads of Hogwarts—insult. It hurt me, indeed it cut to my very bones, to hear the word from my teacher. The man, who was supposed to reveal to me the wonders of magic, who was supposed to encourage me in my learning endeavors, had thrown my efforts away with scorn. I had of course been called “mudblood” before, but it had always been students, not teachers. And professor Slytherin had thrown the word at me so casually, as if he was accustomed to it.
So I had fled to one of the many empty corridors in the great castle of Hogwarts, no longer caring if anyone saw the tears tracing down my cheeks. I ought to have been brave, like Professor Gryffindor. His old hat had said that I would do well as a student of Gryffindor, but the hat must have been wrong. If I were brave, I would have stood my ground like a lioness. But there was no lioness in me, no roaring courage to drive away unjust declarations.
I was just a girl, standing frailly in the world of wizardry.
I was born Marianne Erica Archer, daughter of Jacob and Michaela Archer, and sister to Harriet, Joseph, and Robert. My family had never been rich, but we were quite well-to-do, courtesy of the successful tailors’ shop my grandfather Archer had established. We were the only tailors in my home town, and were respected by all.
It was always a delight to labor with my parents. The workroom smelled of lilac and cotton, and the windows allowed sunlight to illuminate the fabrics. We sewed mainly with homespun wool and cotton, but for our few wealthier customers, we used bolts of satin and silk, velvet and chambray. Their names were as sweet as their touch on my skin as I stitched them with delicate thread, and embroidered them with seed pearls.
At first, we didn’t notice the magic that wound its way through my blood. When bad stitches unraveled mysteriously, it was attributed it to faulty thread. When my kitten bounced its way to the bottom of a rocky gorge, I thanked God for His miracle. Even when the key I had lost in the village pond turned up on my bed, my mother thought that I had simply missed it in my pockets. But when stranger things began to happen, and the neighbors spoke in whispers of evil spirits and witchery, my family was forced to conclude that there was something not right with me.
Then on my eleventh birthday, a man had appeared at our doorstep, telling us of a hidden world, where magic was a gift, not a mark of the devil, and where I could learn to use my talent to help myself and others. It took nearly a week—my parents still clung to the belief that witchcraft was demonic. They tried to reason away the magic I possessed, but the wizard—who I later learned was one of the Hogwarts professors—answered all their doubts with words of sense and comfort. At last my parents agreed to send me to Hogwarts.
After a month of traveling, we had journeyed into the norern mountains of Scotland, and I bade my parents farewell at the gates of Hogwarts castle. My mother had hugged me, holding me firmly against her. She had brushed back my pale blond hair, and dried the tears from my blue eyes. She had whispered her love for me, and then she and my father were gone. I had seen them few times since I left them, but they remained firmly in my heart, and I often longed to be at my family’s side. Once I completed my education at Hogwarts, I was determined to return and continue to help at the tailors’ shop.
My first years had Hogwarts had been filled with the natural wonder of magic. I would never have the greatest brains, but I worked hard and my teachers were well pleased with my efforts. I also learned quickly that many of the school’s inhabitants believed that those of us without wizarding ancestry were not fit to share in the secrets of magic. Anyone known to have non-magic parenthood was ridiculed and excluded by perhaps a third of the students, and some of the teachers were prejudiced as well—although Professor Slytherin was the only head who treated people of my descent with scorn. Professors Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw accepted anyone who had the seeds of enchantment in their souls.
It had slipped out by accident, my parentage. I conversed with one of my friends about my family, and before long everyone in the school knew I was one of those with “dirty blood”. Many of the students didn’t treat me any differently, some treated me in a more condescending manner than before, and some outright hated me. I had endured taunting and threats, but would not bow my head in shame. I thought I could stand it, and I could. Until Professor Slytherin himself called me a mudblood.
I knew now that I was not just facing petty school disdain—where ever I went in the wizarding world I would always be subject to derision. And how it hurt me, I was not inferior, yet inferiority would always be associated with my name. I was tainted, a girl ridiculed by one of the greatest wizards of the age.
My eyes had dried, but I felt the dull ache still stinging my soul. The hard stone floor I sat on was comforting—I could push all of my hurt, all of my humiliation against it and it would hold. If only I were as strong as stone, I could stand and not let human cruelty break me.
A shadow flickered against the tapestry across from me, and I heard footsteps approaching. I stood, pulling my robes tight around me. It gave me a sense of security somehow, the faded black clothe. I suppose it reminded me of my home.
Professor Ravenclaw rounded the corner, and paused, showing no sign of surprise. Her dark hair and high cheekbones, combined with bright eyes and perfect composure, gave her the look of a great aristocrat. She surveyed me for a moment, then addressed me. “Miss Archer, is it not true that you should currently be attending Salazar’s Fifth year Transfiguration lesson?”
I nodded. “Yes, Professor, I should. I’m sorry.” I had no desire to explain my absence from the class. The memory was still too painful to repeat.
Fortunately, she did not question me, only watched me shrewdly. “I see. Please do not repeat this venture out of your classes. It is important that you receive every grain of knowledge we have to offer you. Now, it is too late to return. The house elves have laid out the evening meal, you may proceed to the Great Hall.”
“Yes Professor,” I said, dipping my head respectfully. Rowena Ravenclaw had always intimidated me with her perceptive gaze and constant poise. I felt that no secret could be hidden from her, and no trouble could disturb her wisdom.
Continuing towards the Great Hall, I walked down several more corridors and down two staircases. It was strange to walk through the halls without the footfalls of many students surrounding me. I was able to focus more clearly on the enchanted paintings, whose occupants gave me curious stares as I walked by. The torches on the walls burned brightly with enchanted flames, causing the suits of armor to sparkle menacingly. Ever since Baceel Flehrer had nearly removed my head with one of the great axes held by the armor, I had retained an unreasonable fear of the glinting silver statues. I knew the foolishness of my fear, but could not wholly escape it.
Just as I entered the Great Hall, the classes were dismissed for supper. I sat down on one of the long benches at the table for Godric Gryffindor’s students. The table was old wood, warped and nicked by the students it hosted daily, but the plates and silverware gleamed. They reflected the sunset showing from above me in the enchanted ceiling.
“Marianne!” I heard the soft voice of my closest friend, and turned, almost smiling.
“Hello Rebecca,” I answered her, then stood up with the rest of the school as the four heads of Hogwarts entered, along with the other four teachers. Professor Hufflepuff motioned for us to sit down, and supper began.
As I lifted my fork to eat a serving of roasted potatoes with rosemary, Rebecca lowered her voice and spoke in my ear.
“Ellira told me what happened in your Transfiguration class. He had no right to call you such a foul name!”
I nodded, then swallowed. “It was humiliating. I-I never thought a teacher of all people would stoop so low as to call me that name.”
Rebecca angrily shoved her pickled sprouts around her plate. “It’s not fair that you should be treated so meanly. You are a great witch.”
“I know, but what could I say to him. He is one of the greatest wizards of our day, and perhaps even of all time,” I replied. I just wanted to stop talking about it.
Perhaps Rebecca realized my emotions, for she shifted the conversation to a more pleasant topic. “Marianne, I believe that our lads are growing up.”
I laughed, but she was right. The boys in our year were becoming young men. It was strange, to think that soon we would all be grown up, and have to take our place in the world. I did not feel like an adult, and my classmates did not seem like adults. We were still children, learning, fighting, and making mistakes. But, I thought, as far as I can see adults learn and fight and make mistakes just as much as children. Perhaps no one ever truly grows up.
The rest of our supper was spent in idle chatter with the other two girls of Professor Gryffindor’s House who did not hold me in contempt—Ellira and Morvania. Louisa and Malane stuck up their noses at us and ate their meal in haughty silence. It wouldn’t have bothered me on most days, but now it emphasized what Professor Slytherin had said.
It came as a welcome distraction when Professor Gryffindor ended the meal with a few words, and we rose from our tables to return to our separate common rooms. However, I did not intend to return to my common room just yet. I needed to think, and the noise and bustle of students practicing their magic was not a quiet environment. Slipping quietly away from my comrades, I soon found myself on the third floor. I wandered the corridors, and with every step my heart grew heavier. I knew that being born of non magic parents should not bother me, and yet I could not escape the creeping shame I felt. I would never be held in esteem by the larger Wizarding world.
I chided myself. The esteem of others should not matter if one acts in a noble and good way. But whatever I told myself, it did matter. The thoughts ran circle around my head as I walked in circles, and I found no conclusion to them. I know not how long I meandered through the dim hallways of the third floor, but I found that “mudblood” had been branded across my brain. I would never escape it.
Voices crept to my ears, and I stopped. If they belonged to students, they might be unfriendly and add to my anguish. If they belonged to teachers, I would surely get in trouble for being out of the common room after hours. I decided that the best course of action would be to do my best to hide myself in the shadows of a suit of armor. At least then they would not hear my footsteps.
I positioned myself under a silver suit, trying to ignore the large mace hanging precariously above my head. The weapons never fell from the armors’ grasp—I could not possibly be in any danger. I shook my head to clear it of my silly fears. As the voices drew nearer, I realized to great discomfort that they belonged to the four founders. It would be utterly mortifying to be discovered eavesdropping on them. But, I reminded myself, I wasn’t purposely eavesdropping. And they would surely pass me by without revealing any sensitive information. Most likely they would be discussing the house elves, or the state of the grounds.
Unfortunately, I was wrong. As I caught Professor Hufflepuff’s words, I realized with trepidation what they were discussing.
They were talking about me.
AN: Well, here it is! My first founders fic! Please let me know what you think! Especially, does it sound medeival? What do you think of Marriane? What do you like? What could use some work? Thanks so much :)