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Chapter 3: 3
Franticly, I brushed my teeth. I was due to visit my mother in half an hour, and I was not even nearly ready. I had overslept, and my mum would make some nasty comment if I was late. I know that I could have apperated, but I had issues with apparition. I had only passed my test by a freak of nature, and still consistently ended up a five minute walk away from wherever I wanted to be. Not always good considering the whole statute of secrecy thing. I once ended up in a pub in Elephant and Castle, for example. Then again, I didn’t have much of a problem obliviating them, because everyone there was pretty hammered.
I could hardly understand why I’d agreed to meet my mother that particular day. I’d been putting it off for months, and I hadn’t been home since Christmas when the whole family had been there. Christmas hadn’t been fun, either, Aunt Eupraxia had so many cherry-vodkas that she suggest we go and hunt some muggles, my cousin Juno’s newest daughter had fallen of her new baby-broomstick, and been in a foul mood for the rest of the day, and me and mum had had one of our fights.
Scowling, I pulled a shoe on, whilst eating a bowl of cereal. It was an art, multitasking, and one that (probably because of my incurable habit of oversleep) I had mastered. I wasn’t sure why I had even agreed to see my mother, to be honest. It was my day off, but Francis had to work, Rose had healing training, and even my neighbour and semi-friend Jessa had something on. I suppose mum was a bit of a last resort.
Scowling slightly, I grabbed my umbrella and my coat, and apperated to Somerville House. Perhaps with a stroke of luck, I ended up slap-bang in the middle of a flower bed that my dad was carefully weeding.
“Morning, Dad” I said, trying to muster some cheer beneath the grey clouds that so often frequented the West Country- I couldn’t remember a time when it hadn’t rained, to be perfectly honest.
“Morning Gracie, you’re up early! Come to see your mother, I suppose.” He said, gruffly. He was wearing a pair of worn dragon hide gloves, and was trying to pull out a particularly cantankerous looking Shrinking Violet, which seemed to have shrunk right down to the size of a beetle. Smiling, I walked over and prized it out of the ground with my nails.
“There you go, dad, Shrinking Violet all gone! But you’re right, I’ve come to see mum. ‘Spect I’ll make a right mess of things, like usual. Any idea why she’s summoned me?” I pulled at a lock of my hair, looking at my dad and trying to guess whether he’d answer my question.
“Thanks love. I do know, but unfortunately she’s demanded a sealed-lip situation. Reckons you’ll run if you find out a thing, I think. I’ll tell you this, though you’ve got to pretend to look surprised, we’ve managed to get the muggle National Trust to take the castle. Reckon they’ll have a right laugh selling ice-cream and dodgy re-enactments of the jousting that never took place there.” He smiled that wistful smile he always wore when talking about the castle. If we’d lived in another universe, Castle Somerville would’ve been our home, and the House (not that it was much of a house- more like a castle in itself. I believe it’s what they call a fortified residence) would’ve gone to one of dad’s sisters until I was old enough to marry and moved in, until dad popped his clogs, and so forth. But money was tight. There was hardly enough gold left in our Vault to keep the House, let alone a Norman Castle that was being ravaged by coastline winds.
“Okey-dokey. Better get in, I’m already at least ten minutes late.” I said, after letting out a dry laugh at his comment about the jousting. Then, I turned towards the house, and walked.
“Cup of tea, darling?” My mother drawled, pushing a fancy-looking china cup at me as a sat down in one of the elderly red velveteen chairs that lived in my mother’s sitting room. I really felt quite awkward, I disliked the room- mainly for the fact that I thought it was completely silly that my mum should get her own sitting room. Then again, it meant that there was not yet another unoccupied room in our house.
“Sure.” I glowered.
“I expect your father has told you what I’ve brought you here about.” My mother was, as per usual, wearing a slightly odd mauve lipstick and some overly bright eye shadow. She was a big fan of makeup, was my mum.
“Nope. Apparently you sealed his lips or something.” I took a sip of my tea, noticing how intently my mother was watching me.
“Darling it was a figure of speech. Anyway, what I need to tell you is that we’ve sold Castle Somerville.” Her eyes, a similar marsh-green to mine, were drilling into me, almost looking for a reaction. A reaction she wouldn’t get.
“Ah, really. Who took it?” I said, feigning curiosity.
“The muggles have this thing called the National Trust. Apparently they take stately homes and castles and that sort of thing, and make them available to muggle visitors.” My mother said, glancing at a leaflet on the table beside her.
“Excellent, well, that’s a weight of our minds, isn’t it?” I said, before promptly standing up and grabbing my coat.
“Wait, sweetheart, I haven’t finished yet.” She said, grabbing the
sleeve of my coat. Sighing, I sat back down on the seat.
“Right.” I answered blandly, unenthused by the exchange. On the bright side, I hadn’t actually got into an argument with mother yet, on the not so bright side, I was about to be inflicted with something that probably wasn’t too excellent.
“Like I said, the National Trust took the Castle, and anyway the paid quite a sum for it. 30,000,000 Galleons, actually. Anyway, that means we’ve got plenty of money to spare, so we’re going to get the house fixed up for starters.” My mother smiled slightly. We’d been paid well for the castle, that was good, for money was dwindling and we couldn’t even have kept Somerville House if things had kept the way they were going, especially with dad refusing to get a job. He was trained in Defence Against the Dark Arts, and The Dark Arts themselves, so he could’ve been a hundred different things, but he preferred to work away at our garden, spending a fortune on a Begonia that sung the National Anthem.
“Good, that’s really good actually. It’ll be nice to have this place restored to at least a little of its former glory. Maybe you could give a little to Grandpa Aediles, too? I bumped into Auntie Mercutia in town the other day, and she said they were thinking of selling some of the estate...” I was actually really very happy at that point. I’d miss the castle, it was a piece of my childhood.
“As you know, I haven’t spoken to my father since he was found guilty of being a Death Eater. I have a reputation to uphold, and I’m hardly going to give a muggle organisation’s money to him” My mother had a cold, hard look on her face. She had cut my grandfather out of her life completely, but I was still fond of him. Five years in Azkaban before the Dementors Act had reformed him, he was a good man, just one who’d been mislead. I began to protest, but my mother cut in. “Anyway, I have found another use for the money. I was talking to the National Trust agent, lovely girl, Becky I think her name was, and she was telling me how she’d had family problems you know, getting along with each other and visiting regularly, and her mother had suggested they’d go on this family retreat on the Kent coast. Apparently it was very helpful.” My mother stirred her tea intently, as though she was preventing herself from grabbing me and screaming ‘go, go, go! You must come and be forced into spending time with me.’
“Oh, that’s lovely...” I said, as though I hadn’t understood that she was suggested we go on this trip.
“Well, Grace, I was thinking we should go on this trip in Ruby’s Easter Holiday. It would be nice, see the seaside and all that. Another biscuit?” My mother thrust a plate of slightly interesting looking Custard Creams. Or at least, they looked like they were trying to be Custard Creams.
“So just family?” I asked, suspiciously.
“Well, I believe there’s a couples bit too, but seeing as you don’t have a boy-” My mother began. I realised that my only chance of escaping this horrendous sounding trip had arrived.
“Actually, I do have a boyfriend, and we’re going to Thailand during the Hogwarts Easter Holiday. Lovely place, Thailand, very far away” I almost screeched, without a thought for the repercussions that would come of saying I had a bloke.
“What’s his name? Do I know him?” The old bat quizzed.
“Ye-es, you know him. Francis, Francis Hallam? I brought him along to that Garden Party at Auntie Daphne and Uncle Laertes’.” I said, again without thinking. Francis. Why on earth, of all the people I could’ve picked, had I chosen Francis? Idiot.
“I thought you said you two were just friends.” My mother suspiciously queried.
“Uh huh, we were, and then um, we got a bit closer. You know, we
were doing a thing on um, Elfin Wine, and um, we had to go to Norway for a few nights, and um, we bonded there I guess.” I babbled, hardly listening to a word I was saying.
“I listen to your show every night and you never did a piece on Elfin Wine.” Mum was almost interrogating me, though I wasn’t surprised given my history of telling little white lies.
“Yeah got axed something to do with copyright...” I mumbled.
“Oh, well, I suppose you can bring him along...” She began, but before I could hear her finish I began to feel a burning sensation in my coat pocket. My tag. The office was calling me in, and it must’ve been important, considering I had told them quite insistently that it was my day off. Without even thinking, I apperated from the spot where I was sitting.
[27/10/12: fixed the chapter description. It was getting to me.]