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Chapter 3: First Day of School
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A/N: Everything Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling.
Merissa opened her eyes, wondering why Nanny hadn’t woken her earlier. Daylight was already streaming in through the windows. She stayed where she was as she remembered seeing Hogwarts for the first time. Seeing the turrets with their hanging flags fluttering in the breeze made her feel like this could have been Camelot at one time. Though there wasn’t an outer wall and there weren’t the other buildings one would have expected, like the guard shacks or the blacksmith or barracks. Inside the castle was magical. There was no other word for it. Floating candles, a ceiling that didn’t look like a ceiling.
She sighed. She had promised her young sisters she would write to them every week. But how could she write about anything here? According to what she overheard her Charms professor say, her sisters were witches also and would be receiving letters when they were eleven, but her parents were already worried about the family’s reputation. Her parents were also worried about her reputation. They were thinking ahead to her Season. How would she find a husband if she were reputed to be a witch?
She shook her head. She decided to get up. She wasn’t going to be able to sleep anymore. Likely the only reason she had managed this long was having stayed up so terribly late trying to write a letter to her family about everything she had seen but then ended up only writing a short letter telling them she had arrived safely.
She continued to think while she dressed in her uniform. It was about the same shade of blue as one of her mother’s ball gowns. She inwardly sighed with relief that her skirt reached exactly the proper length, just a few inches above the top of her boots. Cream double-sided lace decorated the frills and cuffs. She just managed to tie the cream bow behind her. She smiled. Usually Nurse had to tie her bows for her. After all, it is terribly difficult to tie a decent bow behind you. She had cream tights and black ankle-high boots. Thankfully, she could wear the shoes she had already broken in instead of new ones that would be killing her after a few hours. She brushed her hair exactly one hundred times and tied it at her neck with a blue ribbon. She carefully placed the hat on her head.
She looked back at Alice and Helen who were just waking, knowing that they would be awhile before they were ready. She picked up her satchel by the straps. “I will be waiting in the common room,” she told Alice and Helen, who both groaned.
She glanced over to where Margaret was still sleeping. She was uncertain how to deal with Margaret. She appeared nice enough but then she never seemed to think. Last night she had caused a flurry of excitement when she hadn’t been able to find a book that ended up under her bed. How it had gotten there was anyone’s best guess. Only a quick glance at the disarray that her area was in led Merissa to believe that there would be more drama this morning.
She smiled with relief as she shut the door behind her and walked down the stairs.
She stopped in surprise to see a severely-dressed man waiting in the common room. “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. I teach Transfiguration as well as being the Head of Ravenclaw House.”
Merissa curtsied even as she wished she could ask to be the same as everyone else – even if it were just pretend. She didn’t like being set apart because of her father and she certainly didn’t enjoy the looks and smothered laughter of children her own age who thought she believed she was 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 his right at a peculiar-looking creature.
Merissa looked at the small creature and back to Professor Tregoran. “I am afraid I do not understand, Professor. I did 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 also have not had a daughter of a duke in attendance before.” Professor Tregoran explained as Merissa inwardly sighed. She very much wished that she could roll her eyes, but suspected that her professor would not take kindly to it. “Lady Merissa, this is Milly. Milly is a House-Elf.” Professor Tregoran explained 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 considered Milly who looked so small. “I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”
Milly looked at her with huge eyes. “Mistress is pleased to meet Milly?” Tears began to gather and spill from her eyes.
Merissa felt horrible that she had made Milly cry. She looked franticly at Professor Tregoran. “What did I say?”
“House-Elves require a special type of attention,” he explained. “They are very helpful creatures and magical in their own right. But 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.”
“Not even a hair ribbon?” Merissa had trouble believing the rule.
He nodded. “Not even a hair ribbon, no matter how pretty or intricate it is. 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. All we are able to do is to treat them well.”
“I understand,” Merissa said slowly. “At least, I think I do.”
“Second, Milly is under orders to safeguard you. Do not abrogate her orders.” Professor Tregoran continued.
“I don’t understand,” Merissa was puzzled at this rule.
“If you cause her to believe that she has failed in her order to safeguard you, then she will punish herself.” Professor Tregoran watched Merissa closely as he explained. He wanted to know if she would be deliberately causing Milly pain. He was pleased to see shock on her face.
“Why?” Merissa’s own eyes were now as huge as Milly’s.
“It is another interesting situation. We have tried to convince them that they need not punish themselves, but our explanations have not yet affected their culture.” Professor Tregoran explained carefully. “You will be able to give her suggestions but not commands. Do you understand?”
Merissa thought for a good while 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. He snapped his fingers 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, Professor.” She glanced over the timetable, noting that both her eighth Governess and third Nurse would approve at how busy she would be kept. Not only did she have Dance, Etiquette and Music which she had already started learning, but she 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, Professor.” Merissa looked up at him with a small smile. “I think Nurse and Governess would be pleased at 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 down the stairs, trying to hide their yawns. “Now, as you three are ready and I will be heading in that direction, I will escort you to the Great Hall this time.”
Merissa followed Professor Tregoran with Alice and Helen on each side and Milly following behind her. Classes hadn’t even started and she had so much to think about. Who was Mr. Ollivander and why would they be getting wands? As they walked down the corridor, she tried several times to snap her fingers as he had without success. How had he managed such a noise when he snapped his fingers? She tried to pay attention while they walked to the Great Hall, but after a few turns, she lost track. Portraits of people were hung in ornate gold frames on the walls. Other paintings hung on the wall in silver ornate frames. Some were definitely odd-looking while others were peaceful landscapes. And she could have sworn, had she been allowed to swear, that a staircase moved.
Professor Tregoran pointed to the huge 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.” The three watched as the professor hurried away.
“Merissa? What were you doing earlier?” Helen asked, “On our way here?”
“I was trying to snap my fingers.” Merissa admitted. “Professor Tregoran made a loud noise when he made my timetable appear, I wondered if I could do so also.”
“You never learned to snap your fingers?” Helen shook her head. “It’s easy. I could show you later”
“It is not ladylike.” Merissa admitted. “My mother would send me to my room… No, she would make me practice the pianoforte if she knew.”
“But you already play the pianoforte.” Alice reminded her.
Merissa sighed. “I attempt to play to pianoforte. I dislike it immensely.”
“There you are!” Margaret’s chirping voice interrupted their conversation. She sat down with them. “I had such trouble this morning!”
“Really?” Alice asked with a small smirk. Merissa wondered what had happened after she had left the room.
“I simply do not understand how I managed to lose my shoes!” Margaret ignored Alice as she looked intently at Merissa. “I know they were near the foot of my bed last night but they were not to be found this morning!”
Merissa sighed, wishing for patience. She wanted to tell her that properly bred ladies did not speak about beds in mixed company but she wondered if it was different for those not in the peerage. “Indeed?” she managed to say instead.
Margaret took no notice of Merissa’s inward struggle but continued to talk nonsense for the remainder of breakfast, giving Merissa the start of a throbbing headache with her high-pitched giggles.
Soon only the first years remained sitting at the tables. An older gentleman entered with the Headmaster; 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. Their eyes were riveted on him, waiting 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 students whispered to each other, nodding their heads. “And those who are the first to attend Hogwarts are no doubt curious as to what is going to occur this morning.”
Merissa leaned forward to catch each word, grateful that Margaret had stopped talking and was listening raptly.
“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 the wandmaker 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 pulling out box after box from a large bag. The Headmaster introduced the older gentleman. “This is Britain’s esteemed wandmaker, Mr. Ollivander. You will treat him with your utmost respect.” The gathered students nodded obediently.
Merissa watched avidly as he arranged the boxes to some order. Mr. Ollivander looked, well, she didn’t really know what the correct word was besides odd. His hair appeared to not move at all. He wore robes of deep purple over what she suspected was a fairy expensive suit that was much as her father wore when taking her mother to the opera.
Merissa wondered what exactly a wandmaker did precisely. Obviously, they made wands, but how?
Finally, it appeared that Mr. Ollivander was ready. “Lady Merissa, please step forward.”
Merissa’s eyes widened that he would choose her first. Alice and Helen nudged her to her feet. She hurried to stand where Mr. Ollivander pointed with his long fingers. “Good morning, Mr. Ollivander, sir.”
Mr. Ollivander paused in selecting one of the boxes to look at her. “Good morning, Lady Merissa. Now, tell me, which is your wand hand?”
“My wand hand?” Merissa was confused. “I am sorry, I do not understand.”
“Muggle-born, then?” Mr. Ollivander smiled in a way that should have been comforting. “Not a problem. With which hand do you write?”
Merissa answered quickly this time. “My right hand, sir.”
Mr. Ollivander nodded absently. “Very good, let’s try this wand.” He opened a plain box to reveal a long stick. “Take it and give it a wave.”
She felt more than a little silly waving a stick in the air, especially when nothing happened. She heard a few of the other students laughing nervously when it didn’t work. He snatched the wand from her. “Try this one.”
She took the proffered wand and tried waving it around again. Again, nothing happened. This time she wasn’t surprised when he snatched the wand back. “Try this one,” he held out another wand.
Again, nothing happened. And again, he took back the wand. He gave her a considering look. “Which do you prefer, light or dark?”
“Light, sir,” Merissa replied politely.
He nodded absently as he looked through his boxes until he found one. He gave it a long look before handing it to her. “Birchwood and unicorn hair, try it.”
She felt a difference this time. Her fingers tingled and when she waved the wand around, blue sparkles fell from the tip. Her eyes lit up with happiness.
“That wand is special, Lady Merissa. It is meant to do wonderful things.” He nodded then held out a blue-tinged box and a small kit.
“What will it do?” she asked, looking over her new wand.
Mr. Ollivander gave her a long look before answering. “That depends on you.” He offered her the box and kit once more.
Blushing, she took the items carefully and started to go sit back with Alice and Helen until the Headmaster pointed to the door. “Follow the light.” He pointed his wand and a multi-colored light left a trail as it passed through the door.
She gave him a small curtsy before picking up her satchel and began following the light out the door. Milly walked just behind her.
The corridors were quiet now that classes had begun. Classroom doors were closed and only the slightest whisper of a voice could be heard as she passed. She followed the light to where it went into a wall. She stared quite unable to believe that she could possibly walk through a stone wall! She inched closer, looking carefully where the light disappeared into the stone.
“Just walk right on through!” a voice from behind her said.
She jumped as she spun around only to find an empty corridor. She noticed the eyes on several of the portraits looked away, pretending they hadn’t seen anything. Was it possible? “Walk through where?” she asked, wondering if the person would answer once more.
The portrait of a wizard dressed in medieval robes frowned at her as if he thought her to be lacking in wits. He seemed to be debating with himself whether to answer again. With a sigh, he pointed to the wall. “Walk through the wall.”
“I knew it!” Merissa laughed merrily at having tricked the portraits into revealing at least one of their secrets, having suspected from half-seen things in the corner of her eyes.
The portrait grumbled as he turned his back to her.
“Sir, please accept my apologies for laughing,” Merissa said, suddenly realizing she had hurt his feelings. He only waved his hand for her to continue on her way. She turned to the wall, took a deep breath and walked straight into the wall to find that she was on the other side. She sighed with relief.
The light continued down the new corridor. Portraits lined the stone walls. She looked at each one as she passed, deciding she would have to take a closer look when she wasn’t 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 given their own gallery of ancestors at home where all the dukes and earls before her father were hung in elaborate frames. Though certainly none of them had 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.
Merissa didn’t answer until she had figured out her question. “Why are you able to talk and move and the portraits in my father’s house do not?”
The witch raised her eyebrow (though Merissa was guessing as she couldn’t actually see her eyebrow). “Simple. Muggle portraits never move. No magic.”
Merissa nodded, accepting the answer even though it seemed lacking. Perhaps the witch didn’t truly know. Perhaps she should ask a professor?
As she continued down the corridor and turned left, tapestries replace the portraits. Very rich-looking tapestries like she had seen in books. Her mother had shown her a circular that was offering hand-woven tapestries for several thousand pounds sterling. She hadn’t liked those and luckily her mother had agreed, declaring they likely weren’t hand-woven if they were in a circular.
There was one of a unicorn, silver against a blue background that she especially liked. Another was of a lion against a red background. Another portrayed a black snake against a sickly green.
The light ended at a closed classroom door. She knocked tentatively, surprised when it swung open with no one on the other side. It sounded like the class was already in progress even though she couldn’t see any students at the desks. She took two tentative steps inside. She was the first one to have arrived for class. The desks were completely empty except for the professor’s desk at the front of the room where a very old see-through person sat talking to no one.
There was very little decoration on the walls and the slate board behind the ghostly professor was clear of information. Light came through a window whose dark curtains had been opened.
She looked down at Milly questioningly and followed Milly’s advice to choose a desk. She selected one near the front of the room though she wasn’t entirely certain about the professor. How could one be see-through? She carefully put her satchel on the floor next to her and placed her wand on the flat desktop. Then she placed her wand box with kit into her satchel.
A book waited expectedly, open to a random page. She quickly read the page then turned her attention to the professor, realizing with a start that he was lecturing about the events on the open page! At least she was able to turn the pages, so she flipped back to the beginning of the chapter and began studying what she suspected she had missed.
One by one, the other students straggled into the class to be shocked into silence at the sight of the professor. Most followed Merissa in choosing a desk silently and reading the open book while half-listening to the professor drone in his lecture.
Some did not.
One disturbed the entire class with her shriek. Merissa sighed, thankful that Alice was sitting next to her and hoped that Margaret would not sit on her other side, otherwise she would have to change desks the next day. She felt as if something continuously crawled on her arm the way Margaret watched her. Thankfully, Margaret decided not to sit close to the front and sat red-faced towards the back. The professor had stopped talking with her unforgettable entrance but soon fell back into his somber lecture.
The last student, Kyle Walker, arrived with only enough time to sit at the last desk and touch the book before they all stared in wide-eyed shock as the professor abruptly stopped speaking and walked through the chalkboard behind him.
Merissa stuck her book carefully into her satchel and picked up her wand before following Alice and Helen out of the classroom.
A/N: As always, I hope you have enjoyed this next chapter. Please let me know what you thought about this chapter, especially if you have constructive criticism! I am always looking for ways to improve my writing! Thank you very much!