Chapter 2 : Growing Up Lonely
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Growing Up Lonely
You know what’s fun? Breaking the rules. It has to be the most fun activity to do in the whole world. Because when I break the rules, like I did most days, people looked at me. Yes, my mother’s eyes were nearly always angry and Mrs Thimmel brought out her big cane to give me a good smacking when I so much as put a fork in the wrong hand at the dinner table...
But at least they noticed I was there.
If angry was the only thing I could get out of mother and Mrs Thimmel then it had to do.
Mother was very beautiful, everyone said so. Her real name’s Claudine (though I’m not supposed to call her that, I’m supposed to call her mummy) and she’s very tall (even though everyone’s always big to me) and very slim with beautiful long black hair, which she twists into glamorous styles to match her many glamorous outfits. She has lovely blue eyes as well, like the sky on a very clear day and her make-up is always perfect.
Mother was perfect at looking good. She’s not perfect at being a mother, though, so that was why she got Mrs Thimmel.
Do you remember when I said I liked to break the rules? Sometimes it’s really not my fault. Like the time in my very first school when fat little Timothy Williams pulled at my pigtails because I called him greedy. I wanted him to be a pig, just to show the school what I meant. The next minute Timothy wasn’t there, and instead there was a fat little pig with Timothy’s bow-tie on, a red plastic tray of food splashed on the floor next to him. It wasn’t my fault – I really honestly didn’t want him to turn into a pig – but even so I was expelled.
Then there was my last school, when I set Marjorie Davidson’s ponytail on fire during fire because it was blocking my view. I didn’t want it to burn – I really honestly didn’t – but it did anyway. That time when I was expelled (again) it wasn’t mother who picked me up, it was Mrs Thimmel.
Mrs Thimmel was my governess, and the meanest, most horrible person I’d met in my entire short life. She was very tiny and had grey skin that hung off of her bones in loose strips nearly towards the ground. As long as I knew her she was constantly bent over a long wooden cane, and the first time I met her wasn’t any different.
She came to pick me up on my last blessed day of school, and from then on I was ‘taught’ by her. Mrs Thimmel’s teachings weren’t anything I’d ever had before. She wasn’t teaching me all I needed to know. I was taught how to be an upright upper-middle class lady my mother could be proud of. She dressed me up in horrible frilly dresses in neon yellows and pinks, with corsets that restricted my breathing and skirts made of horrible grey wire, just to go down to breakfast and eat with my mother. I did have proper lessons (by the time I was nine I could speak Italian, French and Spanish fluently, as well as recite the name and draw the flags of every country in the world), but while I studied the heavy books Mrs Thimmel brought with her she would always be there, looming over my shoulder with her long wooden cane just in sight.
When I was six and a quarter, three months after Mrs Thimmel started teaching me, I realised that she didn’t need that cane to walk at all. Because whenever I misbehaved – whenever something caught fire or I answered back without pronouncing my t’s properly, she would lift that cane taller than me and smack me on the back of my legs with it. When something worse happened – like the time I got so frustrated that the big window in my attic room smashed completely – she would raise the cane and smack my back with it.
I’d go to bed, nearly every night covered in bruises and blood. When I got up in the morning, the bruises would be gone, the blood disappeared. I liked it at first, but as I grew I realised that it only meant Mrs Thimmel had a blank canvas to bloody every day.
By the time I was eleven years old Mrs Thimmel had hit me enough times to develop a lifetime hatred of books, being polite, the upper-middle classes and old ladies with canes.
I do have a dad, he’s fat and bald and called Clive, but that’s about all I know about him. I’d only met him three times in my life, and once had been the day I was born. I was always told he was ‘busy,’ but really how busy can one man be? There has to be some kind of limit to the amount of ‘busy’ someone can be.
At eleven years old the only person I really knew properly was Mrs Thimmel. I wasn’t allowed out of the house except on ‘special cases,’ like when mummy decided to take me shopping for a nice dress so she could show me off at her parties. I’d hated the parties. I hated the dresses. At one party I ran away out of the door (only the second time I’d been outside since I was expelled) and met two strange boys and their strange mother at the local park before going back into the house. Mummy hadn’t even known I was gone.
When Mrs Thimmel wasn’t teaching me, I drew with bits of coal on napkins, because I’d learnt at a young age that asking for things wasn’t a good idea. Not for me, anyway. I don’t think I was much good at the drawing lark, but it was a way to pass the days. Staring out of the big window in my big room and drawing what I could see. Children playing. Green green grass. Houses identical to mine with different stories behind them. Different little children with real mummies and real daddies to look after them. Once I thought I could see smoke coming from nowhere, but that wasn’t possible, was it?
That was eleven years of my life. Horrible frilly dresses, horrible parents, horrible Mrs Thimmel, two strange boys and a strange mother, staring out the window and drawing, going to bed with bruises on my legs from Mrs Thimmel’s cane and waking up with them completely healed, breaking the rules by accident and on purpose, and going to and being expelled from seven different private schools by the age of six.
On August the 30th, I was very bored. It was one of those rare days when my father was in the house, even though I hadn’t seen him, and I just had this overwhelming need to be noticed. To you ever get that niggling need to be noticed at all? Is that why you misbehave in your classes or cheat on your girlfriends (twice) or burst into loud heart-wrenching sobs? It probably is.
At eleven I’d given up all the nice ways of being noticed by my parents. They simply didn’t care. One moment I was sitting at the window, watching a small boy argue with an identical boy and sketching their comically-angry faces and the next I just felt like being noticed. Like I wanted an angry face like the boys outside had.
So I got up and tried my locked door – it was locked. I stood, stared at it for a moment and it popped open. This wasn’t an abnormal occasion, I always managed to unlock my door when I so wanted, even though mother had had the lock changed at least ten times. What matters is that I was out – I was free. I picked up my heavy pink skirt and bounded down the stairs without a care in the world.
I got to the object of my desire – the front door – and wrenched it open. I walked outside for the third time in my life, carrying my trusty teddy-bear I’d named Clive. I spotted green wellies far too big to be mother’s so they had to be father’s. I put them on because I didn’t own shoes and walked out of the wrought front gate. I stamped in the wet puddles and got my dress dirty and got mud everywhere. Even inside my ears. I didn’t care who might be watching, or if anyone was watching.
The two identical boys were watching, their mouths had popped open as they stared. The need to be noticed had been replaced by the need to play. I bounced up and down and started doing something I never had before. I laughed.
It was such a strange feeling, laughing. Like crying without the sadness and the tears. A floating feeling in my stomach. An unclenching of some underlying depression I hadn’t thought I had. I covered my mouth, stopping the laughter, and looked around like I’d done something naughty. The boys were still watching. I stuck my tongue out at them and they did it back.
But then there they were. Mrs Thimmel walking over with her cane in the air, bellowing at me. My mother, her blue eyes watery with rage. And my bald fat father, staring at me like I was the most disgusting thing he’d ever seen.
My mother reached me first. She gripped my arm with such force I felt I would never laugh again (her nails ripped through my skin) and hissed unintelligible words, dragging me back into my prison and throwing me into my room, pulling the green wellies off and snatching my teddy Clive away before shoving me into the shower, clothes and all, and locking the door behind her.
“Clean yourself up, girl, you’re a disgrace.”
I sat in the bath in my hideous pink dress and just looked at my reflection in the water. From the few parties I’d been to I knew that I looked like my mother, because everyone I met said so. The same smoky black hair, long and twisting in wet tendrils from the shower and the same blue eyes, though perhaps in colour they were a little more like a misty sky than a clear one. Stupid pale skin, the same colour all my china dolls had. I sat and watched as water drenched the horrible frilly dress and removed all signs of my play away. Nobody would know that I was crying because I was already soaked in water.
And then it happened.
That’s my name by the way. I didn’t tell you it before because nobody really cared what my name was. That’s why I got a massive fright and jumped out of the bath, because Mrs Thimmel called me ‘girl’ and my mother doesn’t really call me anything. Nobody ever used my real name. The other reason I got out so fast was because the voice was male, and there was only one male in the house.
Mr father was calling me.
It just so happened that I completely forgot the state I was in. Semi-dirty frilly pink dress dripping muddy water, puffy red eyes and leaky hair. So I didn’t so much as wrap a towel around myself as I bounded down the stairs...because my father wanted to see me, to speak to me.
I came to a stop at my parents’ immaculate feet. High heels and polished black shoes. My mother gave a kind of squeak when she saw me, but didn’t say anything. Mrs Thimmel was nowhere to be seen.
Then I saw the reason why my father had called me. Not because he wanted to see me, speak to me, give me some fatherly advice, take my hand and drag me the hell out of the place, away from mummy, and away from Mrs Thimmel like I always daydreamed.
No, it was because of a silly old woman still wearing her dressing gown (it was green and velvety and I’d never seen a dressing gown quite like it) and a silly matching pointed hat. She was sitting on a couch sipping some tea. One of her eyebrows rose over her glasses as she stared at me.
“This must be Miss Pond,” she said, sounding like she was somewhere from the Highlands. I’d only seen the Highlands in horrible geography books, but her voice was so gravelly and scratchy there could only be one place where it belonged. In a hilly, green place. I congratulated myself on my skilful deduction and stuck out my dripping wet hand to the woman.
“Yes, I’m Ivy Emmeline Pond the Fourth,” I said just like Mrs Thimmel had taught me. The old woman took my hand and shook it gingerly.
“Hello, Miss Pond, I’m Professor McGonagall,” she answered in that Highland voice. She had kind eyes – kinder than any I’d seen before.
I’d heard of professors in books as well. They were teachers at the big important schools. Suddenly I got very excited, turning to my parents and their tight smiles, trying not to jump up and down because I knew how childish mother found it. “Am I going back to school?” I asked them, trying to keep my wobbly voice level.
Mother’s smile almost slipped. “No you’re not. This lady is just–”
“Actually, Miss Pond, I believe you can choose whether you want to come to our school or not.” And just like that she dropped the china teacup full of mummy’s best Earl Grey and it fell to the ground, smashing into a thousand smithereens right before my own wide eyes, the liquid drenching mothers special Persian rug. Mother let out another squeak.
“Why did you do that?” I asked, knowing that it couldn’t have been an accident. She’d had to move her hand to let it drop all the way, and then she hadn’t even made an attempt to save it from its horribly treacherous death.
“Just being a little clumsy, Miss Pond.” From her dressing gown she took out a long stick made of wood and met my eyes; they were smiling. I’d never seen eyes that smiled in my whole life, and just then I realised how they made this McGonagall woman (as old and wrinkly as she was) more beautiful than my mother ever would be. “Now let’s fix this, shall we?” She waved the stick and it glowed a bright orange.
I pointed at the stick of wood. “Your stick’s on fire!” I shrieked. “Be careful.” I stopped there because of Professor McGonagall’s smiling eyes. I trusted this woman more than I’d ever trusted anyone. Ever.
So I watched the burning stick, and I’m glad I did. Because what the stick did was magic, even though I didn’t know it yet. I watched with my very own eyes as the thousand china smithereens remade themselves into mother’s china teacup and the Earl Grey lifted itself out of the carpet and plopped right back into the teacup like it’d never left.
My mouth popped open and I met Professor McGonagall’s eyes again. “Do you believe in magic, Miss Pond?”
“Magic?” I repeated, strangely not disbelievingly. Well it wasn’t so strange that magic should exist, for me. Marjorie’s pigtails, Timothy turning into a pig – they were events in my life that could be explained in no way but the one Professor McGonagall was giving me. Just that day I had unlocked my locked door with nothing but my mind.
“You are what we in the magical world call a muggleborn witch, Miss Pond” Professor McGonagall said. “That means that you have magical potential even though your family has none.”
I turned back to my parents, the immaculate mother and the bald father, and for once in my life I felt a little bit special. Let them keep their busyness and their perfectness and their parties and their social engagements – I had magic.
It was strange that I accepted it that quickly, though again in a sense it wasn’t strange at all. Why wouldn’t a girl in my situation want to escape it, no matter how fantastical the other option sounded?
“I’m a witch,” I said, though it was more to myself than anybody else. I twirled my hair around my fingers as I contemplated, then looking up to Professor McGonagall. “Are you a witch?”
She nodded. “Yes I am. Do you want to see more magic?” I nodded eagerly. “Alright then.” She raised her wooden stick and twirled it in my direction. In less than a second I was as dry as a bone, and my dress had lost its pinkness and most of its frills as well.
I decided I loved magic.
“Can you show me that spell?” I asked, jumping forward in a way Mrs Thimmel would call impolite and attempting to grab Professor McGonagall’s magic stick. She moved it out of my way, rolling her eyes.
“I will, when you’re in your seventh year at Hogwarts,” she answered. “For now we just have to get you a wand.”
“A what?” I asked and she waved the stick at me. “That’s called a ‘wand’? Okay. Wand.” I stopped, wondering if it would be too impolite to ask my next question. “Does every witch have to wear their dressing gowns outside?”
“A dressing go–” she stopped, looking down at her dressing gown. A faint smile touched the corners of her lips. “These are called robes, Miss Pond – they’re the fashion in the magical world.” Professor McGonagall’s eyes suddenly turned heavy as she looked at my parents, standing behind me, and then back to me. “So do you want to be a witch, Miss Pond? It would mean you would have to come to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and learn magic for at least five years of your life. Hogwarts is a boarding school, Miss Pond, which would mean–”
“She can’t go to a boarding school.” My mother had said something at last. She stepped forward, a little triumphantly, and avoided even looking at me. “She’s been expelled from every normal school she’s been to, never mind boarding schools.”
McGonagall looked at my mother, even though it looked like she was a little pained in doing so. “She was expelled from the normal schools because she is magical,” she answered. “Your daughter is a very, very special person, and you should be so lucky to have her, Mrs Pond. As I said to you before you daughter came down the stairs I do not care to speak to child abusers.”
“Child abusers?” my mother repeated. I’d never seen anyone stand up to my mother. Ever.
“Do you or do you not condone the use of the cane on this child?” Professor McGonagall asked. “Do you provide care for her at all even when her legs and her back are covered in bruises? Did you or did you not forcibly dig your nails into her skin just half an hour before I knocked on your front door?”
“How do you know all of this?” my mother asked. She’d glanced at me only once during Professor McGonagall’s interrogation, and that was to stare at the mark her nails had left on my skin. I thought she was going to leap over and attempt to cover the red welts up with her perfectly-cared for hands.
“I don’t converse with child abusers,” Professor McGonagall. With that she took out a large, heavy envelope and handed it to me. “Open this up, Miss Pond. It contains the key to your freedom, for at least some of the year.”
I looked at the front of the envelope.
Ivy Emmeline Pond,
The Attic Room,
5 Grimmauld Place,
I opened the seal at the back and pulled out the letter.
Headmaster: Albus Dumbledore
(Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock,
Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)
Dear Miss Pond,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary books and equipment.
Term begins on September 1. We await your owl by no later than July 31.
I closed the letter to find everyone looking at me. Even my father, though he looked a little stunned, like he just realised I existed. I reckoned that this could be exactly the case. Maybe that was the first time he looked at me in five years.
“But Ivy can’t go,” he said, “she’s rubbish at everything.”
That stung, right down to my wounded heart. How would my father, Clive Pond, know that I was rubbish at everything? Did he know? Did he care?
No, I didn’t think he did.
“Miss Pond has a very strong magical potential, Mr Pond,” Professor McGonagall said, her tone far too clipped to be called polite. “She has, as a child, managed to transfigure three human beings, create both fire and ice on multiple occasions, unlock her door a total of one-hundred and seventeen times, seen through five cloak charms and a very strong Fidelius charm three times in her life, and every night since your wife hired Mrs Evangeline Thimmel your daughter has completely healed herself overnight.” Professor McGonagall paused. “Now I wouldn’t call that rubbish, would you?”
“I want to go,” I interrupted before my father could speak. “I want to go to Hogwarts and get my own wand and wear robes and everything. I’ll even wear one of those silly hats if I absolutely have to.”
“This is the fashion as well, Miss Pond.” Professor McGonagall stood up. “We should go to get your school things now. I would normally attach you to your closest magical family to do your shopping, but seeing as yours” – she stared across the road “is hardly satisfactory then I will take you to Molly Weasley. She will be friendly enough...or perhaps more-so than just enough. Mr Pond, the sum of money we agreed on? I will need it now.”
My father pulled out his wallet and handed Professor McGonagall a rather sizable amount of money. I’d never really seen money before, but even I knew it was a lot. She pocketed it, giving me a proper, full-blown smile. “This is for you, Miss Pond. I’ll keep it safe until we get to Gringott’s. Now say goodbye to your...parents.” She turned up her nose at them and I gave them a little wave.
I could honestly say, even at eleven years old, that I wouldn’t ever miss them.
“Goodbye,” I said. They didn’t acknowledge me.
“Take my arm, Miss Pond.”
I did. What happened next I would learn was called Apparating, though at the time it was the worst feeling ever.
August the 30th had been the best day of my life.
Molly Weasley was the best person I’d ever met. She was loud and bubbly and had a sort of infectious humour. I laughed so much that day it seemed like I never stopped. She was quite small and had fiery red hair secured by a small red Alice band. I quickly found out that Professor McGonagall’s little pointed hat was not the fashion after all, and neither were her robes. The robes Molly wore were big and a little pyjama-y, but they had a lower cleavage and were more fitted around the waist, so it looked a little more like a dress with big sleeves than a dressing gown. Her robes matched her Alice band.
She was lovely, taking me around Diagon Alley (that’s the wizarding central for shopping, and there’s no way it’s as small as an actual alley, by the way, that’s just what they call it) and helping me find the best deals. My money got changed at Gringott’s (that’s the wizarding bank, and it’s run by funny little men with wrinkled faces Molly called Goblins) into loads of golden Galleons and silver Sickles and bronze Knuts, and the funny little goblin-man told me I had enough money to open an account, so that’s just what I did. Molly said I had enough money to live on for the rest of my life, if I was careful with it, and I’d get more because Gringott’s had this special little charm they placed on all the vaults so that more gold was added to your pile. Molly said it was a reward to Gringott’s customers...or something like that. I wasn’t really paying attention, because there were goblin-men all around.
Then Molly and I went shopping. It wasn’t boring like when mummy did it with me, and I didn’t have to buy anything I really didn’t want to. Molly ended up persuading me into buying five whole sets of casual robes on top of my three sets of school robes, a little black kitten I called Midnight, a tawny owl I called Clive (because he had a little bald patch right on the top of his head), a nice matching pair of travel-trunks, and loads of other little things Molly said would make me look good at Hogwarts. It’d just been five hours since I left my parents’ house, but it seemed like a whole other time. I was free for real this time. I was free.
But Molly had to drop me back at my house. She told me that in two days’ time, on September the 1st, she’d come to pick me up again and then we’d go to King’s Cross Station, where the big red Hogwart’s Express was.
And the Hogwart’s Express would take me away from my grotty old townhouse in London, all the way to somewhere in Scotland (maybe near all those pictures of the Highlands) and I’d learn to become a witch for seven whole years of my life.
Merlin, if I’d known what those seven years was going to be like I might’ve just stayed at home with Mrs Thimmel, her cane, mother and father.
Harry Potter, its characters, plots and setting are owned by JK Rowling and her publishers. Hugs and kisses for letting me take them out for a dander.
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