Chapter 1 : In which we meet Our Heroine
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Northanger Abbey was Jane Austen's first completed novel yet was not actually published until after her death. Miss Austen wrote it as a satire of the wildly popular, somewhat trashy Gothic novels that were blamed for the corruption of youth in her day (think Regency-period Twlight). Because my source material is really just very hard to take serious, this story is really a parody conversion of the original Northanger Abbey novel. Since it's a spoof of a spoof, please don't see this as an accurate representation of my story-crafting skills. Most characters are shallow and one-dimensional on purpose, and I would never normally use this many exclamation points in a serious piece of fanfiction. But I'm having a lot of fun writing it, and I hope you enjoy reading it. At the very least, I'm incredibly proud of myself for posting a writing project where Severus doesn't figure into it at all! ~Renny
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. All original characters are products of the author, as is the premise and plot.
Because it is a parody, most characters, situations, and locations are based loosely on those created by Jane Austen. Though her work is probably no longer protected by copyright, credit is still absolutely due to the brilliant mind who thought it up.
Catherine Macmillan chewed angrily at a long, curly tendril of brown hair while staring out the window of her bedroom she shared with her two younger sisters, positively desperate for an adventure. So far, her eighteen years of life had proved to be rather ordinary. True, she had recently returned home from living hundreds of miles away in a medieval castle, but so had every single other young person she knew. The castle in question was Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; Catherine had just completed her seven years of compulsory magical education a couple weeks ago. Now that she was a fully qualified witch and of age, meaning she was legally allowed to perform magic outside of said school, she had hoped wonderful, fabulous events would soon tumble through her life and sweep her away in a wave of intrigue, mystery, and suspense. But the only hint of a wave she had spied so far this July were the tiny ones created by her four youngest brothers taking turns jumping into their swimming pool.
Catherine sighed and pulled her legs up to her chest, the thick paperback novel she was holding on her lap pressing against her ribs and making it a bit difficult to breathe. The book was The Mysterious Count Rudolpho, a gripping, chilling, painfully romantic tale unfolding in only one-thousand, seven-hundred and forty-two pages. Catherine had read it so many times since discovering it in the Hogwarts library as a third year that she had needed to repair the binding on three different occasions with spellotape to keep the loose pages in the correct order. She had fallen so madly in love with the out-of-print book, and the dark hero, Rudolpho, that she had braved incurring the wrath of the mad spinster librarian, Madam Pince, in order to permanently “borrow” her precious, well-read edition by returning her no longer needed History of Magic textbook transfigured into a copy of the novel on her last day of classes before graduation.
Closing her eyes to block out the sight of her youngest brother, five-year-old Ernie, running naked, yet again, across the lawn, Catherine lost herself for a moment in reminiscence of the enthralling love scene she had just finished reading for the sixteenth time. In it, Count Rudolpho—once a dashing highway man, now a self-made member of the nobility—had just risked the pearl-like reputation of his one true love, Lady Jane, by whisking her away from the fashionable ball they were both attending into an empty drawing room to declare his devotion by daring to kiss her virgin neck. Would Lady Jane throw over the good opinion of society and abandon her fortuitous engagement to the virtuous Duke of D’Arcy, to elope with this brash, handsome stranger? Well, obviously. That was why Catherine kept coming back to this story time and time again.
After all, nothing so wonderful and passionate was bound to ever happen to her, at least not in the near future. First off, mid-July was not the correct time of year for a fabulous Gothic romance. Perhaps if it was currently the frosty dying days of October. It was also unlikely that a mysterious stranger would ever sweep into her home, which was unfortunately not located far and away on some blasted heath, but in droll, respectable Berkshire county. And even if he did, certainly the sight of Ernie’s bare bottom would scare him away before he even made it halfway up the lawn.
With yet another, lung-emptying sigh, Catherine tossed her beloved book onto her bed and retreated into the cooler depths of her room. Now that it was afternoon, the sun would soon be starting its descent, casting long red rays directly through her western-facing windows. The quaint window seat wasn’t worth the numerous times Catherine had to recast her Cooling Charms in order to occupy it. Before going downstairs to beg her mother to force Ernie to at least put on a pair of pants, Catherine stopped in front of the wardrobe mirror to take an appraisal of herself. She nodded at her reflection in satisfaction, reaffirming she at least looked like she could fit right into Rudolpho’s world.
Her chestnut-coloured hair fell in loose ringlets down to her waist. When she was younger, she had defied her mother’s pleas and kept it cropped nearly boy-short to avoid the hassle of spending a half-hour a day combing through the tangles. But after reading how all Gothic heroines must have long hair in order for it to whip about their pale faces while they stood on the moor gazing longingly in the distance for the faintest hint of a man on horseback, Catherine had stopped cutting it until it grew to an appropriate length. At least now that she was allowed to use magic, maintaining her mane was much easier.
Her wide, dark eyes were also acceptable. She used to hate how they made her look permanently surprised but now preferred to think of them as “doe-like.” Two years ago she had discovered the most perfect recipe for an eyelash-lengthening potion and had used it faithfully ever since to create a lush frame for her inky irises. Her skin wasn’t as pale as she would like, having inherited her father’s slightly swarthy complexion, but at least staying inside reading kept it from getting commonly brown like most girls her age desired, slathering oil all over their appendages as they basked by the ocean like cooking geese.
Catherine’s mirror musings were interrupted by the sound of her mother calling her name from downstairs. Hoping her mother needed her for something interesting like going to London on shopping errands and not just as an extra set of eyes to keep watch on her swimming brothers, Catherine skittered down to the ground floor. She was disappointed to find her mother sitting in their parlour drinking tea with Mrs Allen, their next-door neighbour. Honestly, why had her mother thought her presence necessary just to sit and drink tea with Mrs Allen while the older woman droned on and on about the latest in hats from Paris? Catherine could have been starting chapter thirty-seven of Rudolpho right now. Perhaps it was because of this that her mother had summoned her. Mum had been hinting lately that she spent far too much time sequestered in her room reading when she should be considering her future career.
Nevertheless, Catherine had been raised with good manners, so she entered the parlour, greeted Mrs Allen politely, took a cup of tea for herself, and vowed to not think about her story characters too much while half-listening to Mrs Allen’s rambling. However, she only had to sit through seven minutes of gossip before Mrs Allen finished her tea and turned to the younger girl with a large smile.
“Now, Catherine, how are you enjoying your first summer of freedom?” she asked. She knew Catherine had only grudgingly tolerated school and couldn’t wait to graduate.
‘Very well, thank you,” she replied, not completely truthfully. Granted, it was nice not having to slog through reams of pointless assignments (honestly, when was she ever going to need to know how to brew a Deflating Draught? And what useful application could there truly be for transfiguring a toad into a toadstool?) and to not have the stress of her N.E.W.T. exams looming, but now she found herself missing the structure of school just a tiny bit. Without classes to wake up for in the morning, Catherine was barely ever able to rouse herself before noon then felt sluggish all day from oversleeping and lying in bed reading. She usually ended up going back to bed around the same time as her youngest brothers.
Mrs Allen picked up a raspberry biscuit and sniffed it circumspectly before taking a small nibble from one end. “Well, I don’t know what sort of plans you hadve for this summer, but I came here today to see if you would be interested in accompanying Mr Allen and me on our yearly holiday to Hidden Springs. Mr Allen is always off playing cards on our trips, so I would dearly love it if you would keep me from growing too lonesome in our summer house. I would imagine a bit of society would do you well, having just been shut up in that old castle for years.”
Catherine’s mood suddenly hit an upstream and soared for the heavens with Mrs Allen’s invitation. Hidden Springs! Catherine had never been there but had been dying to go ever since she heard about it. Hidden Springs was a large, private resort for witches and wizards just outside of Bath, famous for its shopping, nightlife, and of course, luxurious spas and hot springs. Several older acquaintances at Hogwarts had often talked about summers they spent there in the past, and Catherine had always been green with envy hearing about all of the fabulous parties and events, knowing her family didn’t have enough money to finance such an expensive getaway. However, the Allens had no children of their own, unlike Catherine’s parents who had ten (so far), and Mr Allen’s high-ranking position in the Ministry meant the couple was more than comfortable. It suddenly dawned on Catherine that there was nothing she would like better than an entire summer spent discussing the latest in Parisian headwear with shoes to match.
“Oh Mrs Allen, I would love to go!” Catherine gushed. Why had she never realised before what an absolute sweetheart the older woman was?
“Well, that’s settled then!” Mrs Allen laughed merrily. “We plan on leaving next week. There are several social gatherings at the end of the month we simply shan’t want to miss, this being such an important anniversary.” Catherine had no idea what was so special about this summer but smiled and nodded politely to avoid seeming like a child who wasn’t aware of what was currently happening in the country. As much as she respected her neighbour, Catherine didn’t want Mrs Allen to think she needed to be minded the entire trip like one of her baby siblings. Certainly there were bound to be numerous young wizards to meet (perhaps even foreign ones!), so it was best to put forth the impression straight off that she was an informed lady of the world. She could sniff out later what was so special about these upcoming events. But really, what did it matter so long as there were events?
Her head already completely turned with wild imaginings of secret drawing room intrigues, Catherine thanked Mrs Allen once again for her kind invitation then begged her mother’s permission to be excused and start packing. She only had a week to prepare herself, after all! With an amused laugh, Mrs Macmillan allowed Catherine to dash back upstairs to her room, where the girl began to instantly throw every stitch of clothing she owned onto her bed to be vigorously scrutinised for suitability.
The week crawled by slower for Catherine than a 100-metre flobberworm race. Her father had promised her a weekly allowance while she was away, though he had not stipulated a particular sum just yet. He had also generously allowed Catherine to buy five new frocks at Madam Notion’s Fyne Witch Attyre in Diagon Alley. Her mother had shaken her head slightly when Catherine modelled the newest editions to her wardrobe, the ever-changing styles quite different from what she had considered acceptable apparel at her age. She also expressed the concern to her husband of whether or not they could truly afford luxuries such as party clothes when Sally was due to start at Hogwarts in the fall and would be requiring her own school trousseau in only a few weeks’ time. Mr Macmillan tut-tutted these legitimate concerns, saying his eldest daughter deserved a treat after performing so well on her N.E.W.T. exams, having earned qualification in three different subjects when the man hadn’t expected his delightfully scatter-brained girl to receive any at all.
Finally Catherine’s big day of departure arrived. Through a combination of bribery of promised sweets after dinner and a couple magical lassos, Mrs Macmillan had all six of her younger children lined up in the parlour at noon to see Catherine off. Ernie was even wearing trousers. Mr and Mrs Allen had arrived a little while before to escort the young girl to their summer home away from home. With a flick of her wand and a good-natured wink aside to Mrs Macmillan over the height of the teetering stack of trunks, Mrs Allen sent Catherine’s luggage ahead to their cottage in Hidden Springs. Catherine dutifully hugged each of her siblings then her parents. Her father discreetly slipped her a small pouch of heavy coins to supplement her first week’s allowance of fifteen Galleons that his wife had already issued their daughter. Her mother held her extra close, reminding Catherine to be helpful to Mrs Allen and to not forget to wear her cloak if it looked like rain since it was still absolutely possible to catch dragonpox in the middle of the summer. With one last, slightly wistful look around her familiar home, Catherine stepped into the Floo after Mr Allen had vanished into the green flames, completely convinced that she was on her way to excitement and intrigue at last.
Catherine’s first view in Hidden Springs was rather dim since her eyes took a minute to adjust from the bright Floo fire to the slightly dark interior of the Allens’ cottage. After blinking a few times, she immediately realised that “cottage” was a term the wealthy used in an ironic sense because where she had magically arrived was not a rustic living room with log walls as she had expected but in fact a grand foyer with marble tiles and a real fountain set beneath the branching staircases. She quickly shuffled out of the gleaming hearth, quite different from the one at home that was blackened with old charcoal, to make way for Mrs Allen, who would undoubtedly be arriving at any moment. Mr Allen stood a bit to her side with his arms held out, a house-elf brushing the ash from the Macmillans’ untidy fireplace from the man’s business-robes with a long-handled duster.
Catherine suddenly felt just the tiniest bit self-conscious, for she had no idea her neighbours were so well off. She had, of course, visited their nearby home in Berkshire many times growing up but never expected that the couple could afford to maintain another residence for only two months out of the year that was as lavish as their primary abode. But Mr Allen’s kind smile at her obvious awed state put Catherine at ease instantly. He introduced the house-elf, name of Collins, to her and assured her the little being would love nothing more than to fulfil her every whim while she stayed with him and his wife. This Catherine wondered about since she distinctly heard Collins sniff rather disdainfully at the sight of her scuffed shoes as he brushed ash off of her as well.
Mrs Allen arrived momentarily, and after gently reproaching Collins for not having drawn the heavy velvet drapes to let in the light, she showed Catherine to where she would be staying for the duration of her visit. It was a very lovely room, at least twice the size of her one at home that she had to share with Elinor and Sally. Even if they could have afforded a larger house, Catherine’s parents didn’t see the point of each child having a separate room when half of them were gone at school for most of the year. Catherine’s own bedroom, with adjoining private bath, was therefore a welcome luxury in itself. The fact that it was a room in a grand house right in the middle of fabulous Hidden Springs just made it even better.
Catherine quickly unpacked, placing her beloved Rudolpho on the rich, mahogany bedside table within easy reach of the elegant four-poster and only managing to fill the cavernous wardrobe halfway with her new dresses. Doubtless the remaining space would soon be occupied since Mrs Allen had already suggested that they visit the resort’s shopping district after breakfast tomorrow. The older couple gave Catherine a little while to settle in before summoning her downstairs for a delicious lunch of cold lunch meats and salad. She was delighted when Mrs Allen instructed Collins to pour her a small glass of sparkling white wine with her meal. Though she was of-age to drink, Catherine’s parents still seemed to believe that she was too young for the privilege at home. Desperate to prove she was certainly old enough to handle such an innocent vice, Catherine forced herself to finish her glass, even though she discovered she didn’t actually enjoy drinking something that truly tasted like soured, fermented fruit.
After her meal, Catherine retired to her room for a nap, convinced she was sleepy only from her tiring journey through the Floo and not at all because she couldn’t handle a little sip of wine. She was awoken at dusk by the sound of Collins ringing a small dinner gong in the foyer, ate a similarly delicious supper with her lovely hosts, then yawned off to bed after a few rounds of cards with Mr Allen in the drawing room while Mrs Allen listened to golden oldies on the couple’s wireless. Though it would have been easy to stay up all night as she was wont to do reading Rudolpho, Catherine made herself lay down her book and shut off her light just after midnight, convinced that she would want to be well-rested for the many exciting outings Mrs Allen doubtlessly had planned for them the next day. Snuggling down deep in her Egyptian cotton sheets, Catherine breathed a sigh of contentment, so glad that her life was finally about to truly begin.