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Chapter 3: First Day of School
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Author’s Note: Everything Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling.
Merissa opened her eyes, wondering why Nanny had not woken her earlier since daylight was already streaming in through the windows. Thankfully, at some point thick glass had been fitted into the windows instead of oiled cloth. Thin slats of wood had been also fitted into the window so that the window could be closed. There was a small place where she could sit and read, provided she found a cushion because sitting on stone would not be comfortable for long. Her thoughts turned to her first view of Hogwarts with the turrets displaying their colorful hanging flags that fluttered in the breezes and gave the illusion that this might have been Camelot at one time even though there were was not an outer wall or other buildings that would have been present like the guard shacks or the blacksmith or barracks. However, there was no doubt that the castle was magical with its floating candles and a ceiling that resembled no ceiling she had ever seen before.
She sighed, remembering that she had promised her sisters that she would write to them every week but how could she write about what she saw here? From what Professor Bricklesworth and Alice had said, her sisters were also witches and would receive their Hogwarts letters when they turned eleven. Her parents were worried about her tarnishing the family’s honor as well as her reputation as they thought ahead to her Season. How would she have a successful Season if she were reputed to be a witch?
She shook her head and decided it was past time to get up. It was doubtful that she would be able to sleep anymore. Perhaps the only reason she had managed to sleep in was that she had stayed up so terribly late trying to write a letter to her family about what she had seen only to write a short letter telling them that she had arrived safely.
Her thoughts still swirled in her mind while she dressed in her uniform that was about the same shade of blue as one of her mother’s ball gowns and sighed softly with relief that her skirt reached exactly the proper length of just a few inches above the top of her boots. She smoothed the cream double-sided lace that decorated her frills and cuffs and just managed to tie the cream-colored bow behind her. She smiled at that achievement because usually Nanny tied her bows for her. After all, it is terribly difficult to tie a decent bow without being able to see it. She was also wearing cream-colored tights and black ankle-high boots. Thankfully, she could wear the shoes she had already broken in rather than new ones that would be hurting her feet after only a few hours. She brushed her hair exactly one hundred times before tying it at her neck with a blue ribbon then she carefully placed her hat on her head.
She turned to see that Alice and Helen were just waking up and knew that they would be awhile before they were ready. Deciding to wait downstairs, she picked up her satchel by the straps. “I will be waiting in the common room,” she told them quietly, not wanting to wake the others. Both of her friends groaned, surprised that she was ready for the day.
Before she left their dormitory, she glanced over to where Margaret was still asleep, which was surprising given the sunlight pouring in through the open windows as none of the shutters had been closed the night before. She was uncertain how she would be dealing with Margaret, who appeared to be nice enough except that she never seemed to think. Last night she had caused a flurry of excitement when she had not been able to find a book that had been found underneath her bed. How it had gotten there would be anyone’s best guess. She certainly had no idea how that had happened, though given the disarray surrounding her led Merissa to believe there would be more drama this morning.
She smiled with relief when she shut the door behind her and walked down the stairs. Perhaps she could try composing a letter while she waited for Alice and Helen to join her.
She stopped in surprise at the bottom of the stairs when she saw a severely-dressed man waiting in the common room next to a peculiar-looking creature, “Sir?”
“Ah! Lady Merissa,” the man sketched a slight bow. “You may not quite remember me from last night’s introductions. I am Professor Tregoran and I teach Transfiguration and am the Head of the Ravenclaw House.”
Merissa curtsied even as she wished she could ask to be treated the same as everyone else – even if it were only just pretend. She did not like being set apart because of her father and she certainly did not enjoy the looks or the smothered laughter of children her own age who believed she thought herself better than them without having spoken to her. “Good morning, Professor,” she kept her voice light as her third Governess had insisted upon.
“I realized this morning that we had not introduced you to your companion while you are at Hogwarts.” Professor Tregoran motioned to the creature standing next to him.
Merissa looked curiously at the small creature with the rather large eyes and ears before looking back to Professor Tregoran. “I am afraid I do not understand, Professor. I do not have a companion at home.”
“Your father wishes for you to have a companion while away from home. It is an unusual request but we have not had the daughter of a duke in attendance before.” Professor Tregoran explained.
Merissa took a long breath silently and wished that she could roll her eyes but she suspected that her professor would not take kindly to that particular expression.
“Lady Merissa, this is Milly. Milly is a House-Elf.” Professor Tregoran continued to explain with a slight smile. “I take it you have not seen a House-Elf before?”
Merissa shook her head. “I do not believe so,” she said, studying Milly who looked so small. “I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”
Milly looked at her with huge eyes that seemed to threaten tears. “Mistress is pleased to meet Milly?” The tears began to overflow and spill from her eyes.
Merissa felt horrible that she had made Milly cry, especially as that was not her intention. She looked anxiously as Professor Tregoran. “What did I say?” she pleaded, not understanding how a simple introduction could have such a consequence.
“House-Elves require a special type of attention,” he explained. “They are very helpful creatures and magical in their own right. However, there are a few rules we should cover. The first, do not offer any clothes to a House-Elf. It is the surest way to offend them.”
Merissa listened carefully to his words as she watched Milly closely. “Not even a hair ribbon?” she asked, wondering why being given clothes would offend them when it appeared they wore pillow cases.
Ne nodded sternly and made sure he had her attention before continuing. “Not even a hair ribbon, no matter how pretty or intricate it happens to be. House-Elves have an interesting situation. The short of it is, they attach themselves to a wizarding family and that family becomes their life. If they displease their wizarding family, they are offered clothing which frees them from that family. They hold it as a disgrace to themselves. So far no wizard or witch has convinced them otherwise though several have tried. All we are able to do is treat them well.”
Her mind was teeming with questions, but this moment did not feel like the correct time to ask any of them. “I understand,” she said slowly, “at least, I think I do.”
“Second, Milly is under orders to safeguard you.” Professor Tregoran continued to explain his rules. “Do not abrogate her orders.”
“I do not understand,” she was puzzled at this rule.
He gave her a very long look, his lips thinning in irritation, as if he was trying to decide whether or not she was truly perplexed or if she was only pretending to be such. “If you cause her to believe she has failed in her order to safeguard you, then she will punish herself.”
Merissa was horrified at his clarification of the rule and she stared at him in shock. “Why?” she dared to ask, her own eyes resembling Milly’s.
From her reaction, he was reassured that Lady Merissa would not knowingly harm Milly. “It is another interesting situation. We have tried to convince them they need not punish themselves, but our explanations have not yet affected their culture.” He held up his hand against the questions he could see developing. “You will be able to give her suggestions but no commands. Do you understand?”
Merissa remained quiet for several minutes before nodding her head. “Yes, Professor, I believe I understand.”
“Good. A suggestion, if I may. Treat Milly as you would a friend.” Professor Tregoran nodded then snapped his fingers loudly and a parchment appeared in his hand. “While we are talking, this is your timetable for this year.”
Merissa took the parchment from him carefully, surprised at the show of magic. “Thank you, Sir.” As she glanced over the timetable, she noted that both her eighth Governess and third Nanny would have approved at how busy she would be kept. Not only did she have Dance, Etiquette and Music which she had already started learning at home, but there were strange classes: Potions, Charms, Transfiguration, History of Magic, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Astronomy and Herbology.
“Do you have any questions?” Professor Tregoran asked after she had studied the parchment.
“No, Sir,” she looked up at him with a small smile. “I think Nanny and Governess would be pleased with how busy I will be.”
“Today’s schedule will be slightly different. Please remain in the Great Hall today following breakfast. Mr. Ollivander will be arriving to match you to your wand.” Professor Tregoran looked up to see Alice and Helen coming noisily down the stairs while trying to hide their yawns. “Now, as you three are ready and I am heading in that direction, I will escort you to the Great Hall this time.”
The three girls followed Professor Tregoran from the common room and Milly followed behind them. Merissa walked between Alice and Helen, but both were silent whether because of Professor Tregoran’s stern manner or because of the early hour was unknown to Merissa. However, she had much to consider and classes had not even started! Who was Mr. Ollivander and why would they be getting wands? As they walked down the corridors, she tried several times to snap her fingers as he had without success. How had he managed such a noise when he had done so?
She did try to pay attention as they walked to the Great Hall, but after a few turns, she lost track of where she was or which direction she had walked. The walls were covered with Portraits of people displayed in ornate golden frames while other paintings hung interspersed in silver ornate frames. Some of the paintings were definitely odd-looking though she did see several that were of peaceful landscapes. She was shocked again and would have sworn, had she been allowed to swear, when a staircase moved.
He pointed at the huge wooden doors. “The Great Hall is beyond those doors. Miss Culberts, Miss Vickers, before I forget, here are your timetables. Please remain in the Great Hall today when you have finished breakfast.” He gave a short nod in Merissa’s direction before quickly walking further down the hall, his shoes clicking on the stone tiles.
They watched him hurry away before turning to Merissa.
“Merissa? On our way here, what were you doing?” Helen asked.
“I was trying to snap my fingers,” Merissa admitted with reluctance. “Professor Tregoran made a loud noise when he made my timetable appear and I wondered if I could do the same.”
“You haven’t learned to snap your fingers?” Helen shook her head with dismay. “It’s easy. I could show you later.”
“It is not ladylike,” Merissa admitted. “Mother would send me to my room… no, she would make me practice the pianoforte if she knew.”
“You already play the pianoforte, don’t you?” Alice asked with more than a little confusion as she tried to recall snippets of their conversation from the previous evening.
Merissa sighed, “I attempt to play the pianoforte. I dislike it immensely.”
“There you are!” Margaret chirped from behind them, interrupting their conversation. She hooked arms with Merissa. “I had such trouble this morning!” A small smirk appeared on Alice’s face and made Merissa wonder what had happened after she had left the room. “I simply do not understand how I managed to lose my shoes!” Margaret continued without taking any notice of Alice or Helen’s expressions. Instead she was watching Merissa intently.
Merissa wished she could pull her arm away, but in front of others it could be misconstrued as an act of negative social impact, or a cut. This was something she wanted to avoid this early in the semester or at least until she could write to her mother and ask how best to handle the situation.
“I know they were near the foot of my bed last night, but they were not to be found this morning!” Margaret had continued without waiting for any input from the others in the small group.
Merissa sighed and wished for more patience. She also wanted to tell Margaret that proper ladies did not speak about beds in mixed company, but she wondered if it was different for those not in the peerage. “I expect we ought to continue to the Great Hall for breakfast,” she managed to say when Margaret fell silent. She was grateful when Alice pulled her towards the Great Hall as Margaret was left behind. They hurried to the Ravenclaw table and her friends sat on each side of her so that Margaret had to sit across from them.
Their hope of having a quiet breakfast was dashed when Margaret ignored their pointed looks and continued to talk nonsense for the entire duration and gave Merissa the start of a throbbing headache with her high-pitched giggles.
Soon only the First Years were sitting at the long tables following the directions they had received from either their Head of Houses or their House Prefects. Merissa noticed that an older gentleman entered the Great Hall with the Headmaster, or at least she thought it was the Headmaster. She was sorry to not have paid better attention the night before.
The Headmaster caught everyone’s attention without making one sound and their eyes were riveted on him as they waited for him to speak. “Those of you with older siblings may have wondered why there was no requirement to bring a wand.” He paused as many of the students whispered to each other and nodded their heads. “There are also those who are the first to attend Hogwarts and are no doubt curious as to what is going to occur this morning.” Merissa leaned forward to catch every word, very grateful that Margaret had stopped talking and was listening raptly herself.
“Many students have had difficulty in the past in procuring their wand before the start of school given the capriciousness of the roads and carriages. Therefore, we have arranged with Britain’s esteemed wandmaker, Mr. Ollivander, to bring a selection of wands to Hogwarts to ensure that each student will obtain the wand meant for them.” Merissa watched closely as the older gentleman began to pull out box after box from a large bag while the Headmaster was introducing him. He only paused for the length of time that it took to be introduced before turning back to his bag while the Headmaster continued his admonition, “You will treat him with your utmost respect.” The gathered students nodded obediently.
She watched avidly as Mr. Ollivander arranged the boxes to an order only he knew. He looked, well, she did not really know what the correct word was besides odd. His hair appeared to not move and he wore robes of deep purple over what she suspected was a fairly expensive suit much like Father wore when taking Mother to the opera. She wondered what precisely a wandmaker did. Obviously they made wands, but how?
Finally, it appeared that Mr. Ollivander had arranged the wands how he wished and called, “Lady Merissa, please step forward.”
Her eyes widened at the surprise that he would choose her first and she remained seated until both Alice and Helen nudged her to her feet. She then hurried to stand where Mr. Ollivander pointed with his long fingers. “Good morning, Mr. Ollivander, Sir.”
Mr. Ollivander paused in his selection of one of the boxes to look at her. “Good morning, Lady Merissa. Now, tell me, which is your wand hand?”
“My wand hand?” she was confused. “I am sorry, I do not understand.”
“Muggle-born then?” he smiled in a way that should have been comforting. “Not a problem. With which hand do you write?”
Merissa was able to answer quickly this time. “My right hand, Sir.”
Mr. Ollivander nodded absently as he considered the boxes. “Very good, why don’t we try this wand?” He opened a plain pale brown box to reveal a long stick lying on what looked to be carded wool. “Take it and give it a wave.”
She picked up the wand and felt more than a little silly waving a stick in the air, especially when nothing happened. There were more than a few students who laughed nervously when it was apparent it would not work.
He snatched the wand from her and opened another non-descript thin box. “Try this wand,” he commanded.
Merissa took the proffered wand and tried waving it like the first wand. Again, nothing happened and this time she was not surprised when he snatched the wand from her fingers.
“Try this one,” he commanded, holding out another wand.
Again, nothing happened when she waved it around and once more he took back the wand. This time he looked at the wands she had tried and then tapped his chin as he thought which wand to try next. He tapped a few boxes only to shake his head feeling they would not do. He paused over another box and tapped on it slowly as if listening to something she could not hear. He finally nodded absently and took off the lid to reveal the wand hidden inside. He considered once more before handing it to her. “Birchwood and unicorn hair, try it.”
There was a difference this time when her fingers began to tingle as she took the wand from him. When she waved it around, blue sparkles fell from the tip and her eyes lit up with happiness.
“That wand is special, Lady Merissa, and is meant to do wonderful things.” He held out a blue-tinged box and a small kit.
“What will it do?” she asked, not taking her eyes from her new wand.
Mr. Ollivander was silent for a long moment before answering her. “That will depend on you.” He offered her the box and kit one more time.
Blushing at her lapse of manners, she took the items carefully and thanked him. She started to return to her seat with Alice and Helen until the Headmaster pointed to the door. “Follow the light to your first class.” He pointed his wand and a multi-colored spark left a trail as it passed through the open doors.
She gave him a small curtsy before picking up her satchel and following the light out of the Great Hall with Milly walking just behind her.
The corridors were quiet now that classes had begun and the classroom doors had been closed with only the slightest whisper of a voice being heard as she passed. She followed the light’s path to where it ended at a wall. She stopped to look around her, wondering if this was where her first class was. She took one more step closer and noticed that the light did not end at the wall but looked as if it continued through! She blinked, her mind refusing to accept what she was seeing. What was she supposed to do?
“Just walk right on through!” a voice from behind her said.
She jumped as she spun around only to find an empty corridor, but she noticed the eyes on several of the Portraits quickly looked away as if they were pretending not to have seen anything. Was it possible? Since arriving, she thought she had seen more than one strange thing with the Portraits and paintings. “Walk through where?” she asked, hoping the person would speak once more.
The Portrait of a wizard dressed in medieval robes frowned at her as if he believed her to be lacking in wits. He seemed to be debating with himself whether to answer again and with a long-suffering sigh, he pointed at the wall the light disappeared into. “Walk through the wall.”
“I knew it!” she laughed merrily at confirming her suspicions about the Portraits. She had a few more suppositions about them, but she was pleased to have learned at least one of their secrets. However, the Portrait in question grumbled as he turned his back to her. “Sir, please accept my apologies for laughing,” Merissa said contritely, suddenly realizing she had hurt his feelings. He did not turn back around to face her, but only waved his hand for her to continue on her way. “I am sorry, Sir,” she said once more before turning to the wall and took a deep breath as she tried to bolster her courage to walk into a wall. She took the final step and blinked in surprise to see she was on the other side and sighed with relief.
The light’s path continued down the new corridor. She looked briefly at each Portrait lining the stone walls as she passed them, deciding she would have to take a closer look when she was not expected in class. She was curious to know who all these people were, though if she had to guess, they had to be fairly important people based on the gallery of her own ancestors at home where all the dukes and earls before her father were hung in elaborate frames. There was one major difference between those Portraits and these at Hogwarts – none of the ones at home moved around or talked. She paused for a moment in front of a witch wearing a rather vivid blue wimple.
“What is it you are considering?” the witch asked in an older dialect of English she barely understood.
Merissa did not answer until she had figured out her question. “Why are you able to talk and move while the Portraits at home do not?”
The witch raised her eyebrow, though this was a guess of Merissa’s as she could not actually see her eyebrow. “Simple, Muggle Portraits never move. No magic.”
Merissa nodded as she accepted the response even though it seemed to lack the answer. Perhaps the witch did not know why. Perhaps this was a question better suited for a professor?
She continued down the corridor and turned left when the light’s path did and found that tapestries had replaced the Portraits. These tapestries did not resemble those she had seen in books, but looked far more intricate and rich than even hand-weaving could achieve. Her mother had shown her a circular that offered hand-woven tapestries for several thousand pounds sterling and had not liked them. She was glad when her mother had agreed, declaring the likelihood they were hand-woven was less given they were in a circular.
She stopped to take a closer look of the tapestry of a unicorn done in silver against a blue background that she especially liked. Another tapestry displayed a golden lion against a red background that looked very regal while directly across from it a black snake was presented against a sickly green background which made her ill to look at.
The light ended at a closed classroom door.
She knocked tentatively, not wanting to disturb a class that was in progress and was surprised when it swung open on its own. She looked around the door and saw no one in the classroom though it sounded like the class had already started. There were no students at any of the desks that she could see. She took two hesitant steps inside and noticed that she was the first one to have arrived for class. Every desk was empty save for the professor’s desk at the front of the room where a very old see-through person sat talking to no one. There were very little decorations on the walls and the slate board behind the ethereal professor held no information. The only light in the room came through a window whose dark curtains had been opened.
Milly tugged gently on her hand and she looked down at her companion questioningly. Milly pointed to one of the desks and Merissa followed her advice to choose one of the available desks. She selected one desk near the front of the classroom even though she was not completely certain about the professor. She had not seen anyone who had been see-through before. There was a suspicion in the back of her mind, but she firmly refused to acknowledge it. Carefully, she placed her satchel on the floor next to her and placed her new wand on the flat desktop. She realized at that point that she was still holding her wand’s box and kit and opened her satchel to put them away.
A book appeared on her desktop and opened to a seemingly random page. She quickly read the page before turning her attention to the professor. She could feel her eyes becoming tired after only one minute of listening to him and looked back to the book to realize that he was lecturing on the events detailed on the page! She turned the pages to the beginning of the chapter covering the historical significance of the wizarding community in Egypt and began to study what she suspected she had missed.
One by one, the other students straggled into the classroom only to be shocked into silence at the sight of the professor. She glanced up each time another student entered and watched as most of them followed her example of choosing a desk and reading the opened book that appeared while they listened to the professor as he spoke in a monotone voice throughout his lecture. One person did not handle the sight of their professor very well and disturbed the entire class with her shriek. The professor’s lecture stopped at her expression of dismay and his face held a look of confusion, but he soon began to lecture once again.
Merissa closed her eyes briefly, asking for patience and was thankful that Alice was sitting next to her already. She hoped that Margaret would not sit at the desk to her other side else she would have to change desks the following day. Margaret seemed nice, but her manners alarmed Merissa. Thankfully, Margaret chose not to sit close to the front and sat red-faced nearest the door.
The last student, Constance Webber, arrived with only enough time to sit at the last available desk and touch the book that had appeared in front f her before they all stared in wide-eyed shock as the professor abruptly stopped speaking and walked through the slate board behind him. Merissa stuck her book carefully into her satchel and picked up her wand before following Alice and Helen from the classroom.
The rest of the week flew by as Merissa learned that between attending classes and homework, she had very little time to write in her journal or compose any letters to home. On this Friday evening, instead of writing a letter to send to her mother and sisters, she was sitting off to one side in the common room with Helen and Alice working on solving the puzzle box.
“What reason is this puzzle box here?” Alice asked as she tried a particular combination of pressing a series of latches to only get a low tone instead of opening the box. She handed it to Helen who was also unsuccessful in her attempt.
Merissa took her turn at the puzzle box, considering it as she mentally ran through what they had already tried. “Did you brothers or sisters have anything to say about it?” she asked Alice before pressing three buttons with a lever. Her effort received a high-pitched tone.
Alice shook her head. “All they’ve said was that it’s been here for as long as anyone can remember. No one knows what’s in it or if there is anything in it.”
Merissa shook her head and handed it to Alice for her next try. “I saw something a bit strange this afternoon.”
“What was it?” Helen asked, watching Alice’s next attempt.
Nothing happened and Alice turned her attention to Merissa. “What happened?”
“I was walking along that back passage that ends behind the tapestry and I heard Morfan saying something that sounded like a spell, except I do not believe that we have studied it.” Merissa said.
“What did you hear?” Helen took the puzzle box and held it in her lap as she waited for Merissa to answer.
“I did not catch the first part, it was too muffled,” Merissa explained, “but the part I heard was ‘-rio’. I stepped into the hall before I thought about it and saw Catherine and Margaret there as well. Catherine gave Margaret a small package and when they saw me, they left.”
“All of them?” Alice asked her, her eyes wide in disbelief.
“Only Morfan and Catherine, Margaret stayed where she was.” Merissa accepted the puzzle box from Helen. “That was another odd thing. Margaret gave me a rather chilling look before she left.”
“I thought she wanted to be your friend.” Helen protested.
“Why would she give you a chilling look?” Alice was puzzled.
“Why makes no difference,” Margaret stated with a toss of her head before turning to sneer at Merissa. “You’ve played with that long enough. Give it to me.” She did not wait to be handed the puzzle box and took it from Merissa. Without another word, Margaret turned and left, leaving the three girls staring after her in shock.
“How incredibly rude!” Helen whispered.
“You should go over there and demand it back,” Alice whispered, nodding her head where Margaret was sitting with the puzzle box in front of her, not even attempting to solve it.
Merissa considered the action briefly before shaking her head. “A young lady does not cause a scene,” she sighed with regret. Helen and Alice looked at her with identical incredulous looks on their faces.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this chapter! I really enjoy reading about the Victorian era and decided to try my hand at writing in this era. I can see so many different stories that can be written that take place in this timeframe. And yes, while at this particular time, the train has been invented, I've noticed that the wizarding world tends to not make scientific advancements as quickly as the Muggle world and they have not incorporated the train into their way of life yet.
There are a few points that I’ve been concentrating on to improve my stories: 1) balancing description and dialogue, 2) the story’s flow, and 3) removing stative verbs from my stories. I’d really appreciate a note letting me know how I did or what I could improve!
Thank you very much for your constructive criticism!