Chapter 1 : She is Special
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This wonderful chapter image was made by visenya. @ TDA! Thank you!
A/N: Everything Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling.
Merissa Ashburn had finally managed to sneak her way out of the nursery. Her sharp-eyed governess had had her attention diverted by several of their priceless china dolls that suddenly had decided to talk and sing. Even though their governess had that pinched look on her face that suggested she would be leaving soon, her younger sisters squealed with delight about their lively tea party.
Now she had hidden just behind the door to the informal parlor because she liked sneaking out from the nursery and her lessons to watch who visited. She was surprised when today a rather aged lady stood in the doorway talking with no little asperity to their butler who was behaving rather strangely and if she didn’t know better, she suspected his knees were knocking in fright!
She watched with growing curiosity when their butler didn’t just take the lady’s calling card, but escorted her to the formal parlor where her mother was spending time working on embroidery. Her mother enjoyed to embroider for a time before callers arrived because she claimed it helped settle her mind.
She crept to stand out of view to hear what the lady had to say that couldn’t have waited for their At Home time.
“Is His Grace about?” the lady asked briskly.
“I believe he is. Might I inquire about...” her mother put her embroidery on one of the small side tables. Merissa thought it might be the one with the little robins on a branch but it was difficult to see which one without her mother seeing her.
“I have rather important news I need to tell you and your husband,” the lady replied just as briskly.
“What could be so important that it could not wait until a more reasonable hour?” her mother asked, slightly confused. Merissa chuckled to herself, remembering all the times she overheard the gossip from the visiting ladies and gentlemen.
The lady frowned, “The news I have is not the frivolous type.”
“I see,” there was a slight pause as a small bell rang calling the butler back into the room. Merissa made sure she pulled into the shadows as much as possible. She wanted to hear what news that both her parents needed to know. This was far more intriguing than the gossip from Betsy and Peggy. Both maids enjoyed their gossip until Mrs. Dreary, the housekeeper, caught them, scolded them and sent them back to work.
She watched the butler leave and her father arrive, very flustered. She was certain it was because he didn’t get to finish his morning paper because he always got flustered when his routine was upset.
“Your Grace? I have important news both you and your wife need know,” the lady repeated herself.
“What could not have waited another half hour?” he demanded grumpily.
“I know your schedule’s upset, Trentawn, but...” her mother trailed off.
“Never mind,” Merissa could imagine her father waving off her mother’s words like he did so often.
“My news concerns your daughters. Three of them, isn’t there?” the lady asked, not seeming to be really interested in the answer.
“What foul rumors are being said, then?” her father bellowed in rage.
“There are no foul rumors,” the lady replied tartly, “but it concerns their education.”
“The governess is just fine,” he snapped, “and she’s being paid top sterling.”
“And you pay this because of odd happenings?” the lady asked too innocently leading Merissa to suspect she already knew the answer.
“Of cour...” her father broke off the rest of his statement. “Wait, where have you heard of the odd happenings?”
“Your eldest daughter, she is of eleven years?” the lady asked, ignoring her father’s demand.
“I don’t see why her age matters...” her mother sounded more than a little confused.
“Have you considered sending her to a boarding school?” the lady asked gently.
“Whatever for?” her father snapped. “The governess will do until she takes her bow to society.”
“I see,” the lady sounded very disappointed. “There is a boarding school where she will receive a far better education than her governess can provide her.”
“Why should we choose this particular boarding school?” her mother asked, wondering if sending their daughter off might be best for the family. It was already difficult to find governesses and tutors given the rumors concerning the odd happenings and while her younger two daughters might be kept in the nursery, it was nearing the time for Merissa to be seen more often.
“Because, Your Grace, she is special,” the lady replied gently.
“Special, how?” her father demanded harshly. “What else has she done besides making trouble?”
“I see I need speak plainly,” the lady said regretfully, “your three daughters are witches.”
In the silence following her announcement, Merissa blinked her surprise and edged closer to the door, more curious than ever to know what was happening. Would her parents let her attend this boarding school?
“MY DAUGHTERS ARE NOT W... NO!” Her father’s bellow could be heard the whole house. Merissa looked back to see her sisters peeking from the nursery. She held up a hand to silence them so she could finish listening.
“They are witches,” the lady explained firmly. “The odd happenings are because of their magic.”
“Then they will not use it,” her father decided firmly. Merissa stepped back at the anger in his voice while her mother stared at the lady wide-eyed in horror, leaning away from her.
“It is not as simple as that, Your Grace. If they do not learn control, which they will at this school, then every extreme emotion will produce odd results. I would suggest you accept...” the lady was beginning to lose her temper. Merissa was surprised that the lady was standing up to her father instead of backing away and expressing her regrets of having crossed him.
“I will NOT!” Merissa could imagine waves of anger rolling off her father as he interrupted the lady. “There is nothing that...”
“It is imperative that Lady Merissa attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” the lady stated firmly, not budging on her opinion.
“How do we know this is not just a rather bad joke?” her mother asked softly.
“I see,” the lady remarked slowly and calmly, as if she hadn’t just raised her voice. “Do watch carefully.”
Merissa couldn’t see what the lady did, but she could hear the gasps of her parents.
“Do you require more proof?” the lady finally demanded. “Or do you accept that Lady Merissa will attend Hogwarts?”
“Trentawn, even if we don’t want to believe what we’ve been told, I believe we must let Merissa attend this Hogwarts. She cannot remain in the nursery much longer. She ought to have already left the nursery,” her mother said after a very long moment. “What a strange name for a school.”
“I can assure you that she will receive an exemplary education while she is there. I, myself, attended Hogwarts at her age,” the lady said lightly.
“She had better,” her father bellowed again, losing his temper. It was becoming more difficult to leave Merissa behind every time and they were running out of excuses. Too many more times and she may as well not have a Season and if she couldn’t control her odd happenings, again, she might as well not have a Season. He continued to scowl at the thought of odd happenings or magic that dared to mess up his plans for his daughter. “If your school is so great, how come I have not heard of it before now?”
“It is tucked away and known only to those who need to know,” the lady stated easily. “Muggles are not aware of its existence unless their children happen to be blessed with magic.”
“Or cursed,” her father muttered.
Merissa crept away as the talk turned to travel plans for arranging coaches and obtaining a companion for the trip and trustworthy coachmen. The conversation she had overheard was most interesting and full of information and it could take her days to think through everything she had heard. Would the odd things that happened to her and her sisters stop after attending this Hogwarts? She privately agreed with her mother, it was a rather strange name for a school but it would be lovely if it were true because she was getting tired of having to think up of idiotic excuses for the oddities.
It was one of the longest afternoons of Merissa’s young life. Her two younger sisters wanted to know what she had heard, but she didn’t think they could keep a secret yet and she didn’t want her parents to know that she was listening in on conversations that didn’t pertain to her again. So she tried to turn their attention to the blocks and dolls and various other toys scattered about the nursery.
She finally managed to sneak away to her room off of the nursery. They each had a door to their own room that opened into the nursery where all their toys were kept. She had seen a glance or two from her mother when she had noticed that Merissa didn’t play with the toys as much anymore, instead she could be found reading a book or drawing, even though the results were nothing of which to be proud. After catching the second look, she began to wonder if her mother might be considering moving her to a grown-up room. She smiled at the thought because then she would be allowed to eat at the table with her parents instead of the nursery and her lessons would change to what she would need to know for her debut in seven years.
She sat at her desk, idly drawing as she thought. What would Hogwarts be like exactly? There would be no nurseries, she was fairly certain, not if one had to be at least eleven to attend. It also sounded as if she would be so far away from her family and that she wouldn’t get to see her mother or her sisters, even if they could drive her up a wall most of the times.
A soft knock on her door pulled her from her thoughts and she turned to see her mother opening it slightly, “Merissa? Might I come in?”
“Yes, Mother,” Merissa put her pencil back in the holder and stood next to the desk.
Her mother smiled as she crossed the room, past the bookcases full of books and the white iron frame bed with pink drapes. She picked up the drawing Merissa had been working on, “I see we will need to include drawing and painting lessons. However, I suspect you were listening downstairs.”
“Listening downstairs, Mother?” Merissa tried to look innocent.
A small smile touched her mother’s lips. “Indeed,” she said as she put the drawing back on the desk and looked around the room. “This summer will be a time of great change for you. I have instructed Betsy to move your belongings to the Lavender Room.”
Merissa’s eyes lit up with happiness, “I love that room, Mother!”
Her mother chuckled softly, “I know. How many times have I caught you in that room? Come with me.”
She followed her mother to her new room. To one side, there was a table set with a modest tea. Merissa waited until her mother had settled herself before taking a chair for herself with her mother’s permission. Her mother remained silent as she poured them both a cup of tea. Merissa tried her best to copy her mother’s actions.
Finally her mother put her cup back on the saucer, “I am certain you already know that your father and I had a visitor earlier today.”
Merissa looked down at the table.
“I suspected as much, however there is still more information,” her mother continued gently.
Merissa looked up at her mother, “More information?”
“From whom you received this gift is uncertain,” her mother replied softly. “But as with any other gift, it must be trained in order to gain control. This will be especially important for you should you wish to continue in social aspects of life.”
“The social aspects of life?” Merissa wished she didn’t feel like she was parroting.
Her mother raised an eyebrow, “Your Season?”
Merissa blushed. How could she forget about her Season?
“Your professor has convinced your father and me to send you to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. We will still hold you to very high standards. Do you understand?”
Merissa nodded, “Yes, Mother.”
“Your father is drafting a letter of introduction that he will send to Hogwarts. Your professor left a list of items to be brought with you, however, we will write to the shops and have the supplies delivered to the school to await your arrival. The uniform we will have sent here and Betsy can hem the skirts for you.”
“I get to wear a uniform?” Merissa’s eyes lit up.
“It appears so,” her mother replied gently. “I also expect you to write home often. I will look forward to the post and your sisters will be anxious to hear from you.”
“I promise, Mother.”
“One last change,” her mother paused. “Miss Smythe will no longer be your governess. With Professor Bricklesworth’s suggestion, we have arranged for a wizarding governess, a Miss Prewett. She is highly recommended. You will begin your studies with her until Widow Bellum arrives to escort you to Hogwarts.”
“Yes, Mother,” Merissa’s mind already was turning to what magic she could learn before even stepping one foot at Hogwarts.
“I will own that I will enjoy not having to search for a governess every few months due to magical antics,” her mother took another sip of tea. She put her cup down when she noticed Betsy waiting by the door. “I must go, Merissa. Betsy will clear the table and will be moving your belongings to this room.” She motioned for Betsy to approach and took the small package from her. “Professor Bricklesworth left this book for you to read privately.”
“Yes, Mother,” Merissa took the package carefully and waited until both her mother and Betsy left the room. She turned the package over in her hands and carefully she removed the brown paper. “History of Magic in the British Isles,” she read carefully and softly, not knowing if Betsy was nearby. She sat in the window seat and began to read.
The next day, Governess Prewett arrived. Merissa had been walking quietly, hoping to find a book in the library, and was in the foyer when Governess Prewett knocked on the door. Their butler gave her a sidelong look as he paused at the door, giving her a significant look. He pointed to the informal parlor and waited until she had joined her mother before opening the door.
When he announced the new governess, Merissa was seated beside her mother, trying to keep her feet from swinging. The governess curtsied and looked curiously at Merissa who blushed before standing to give a small curtsy.
“Yes, my lady,” Governess Prewett was plain in a simple plaid dress with her bright red hair pulled sharply into a bun which was hidden under her hat which had a small bird and a nest on it.
“Please, sit. We have much to discuss,” Merissa’s mother gestured to another chair. “I was informed that you are of the wizarding world?”
“Yes my lady,” Governess Prewett answered delicately. “Professor Bricklesworth spoke with me about tutoring Lady Merissa for a short time. She also mentioned that you have two more daughters with the same abilities and have difficulties retaining a Muggle governess.”
“I beg your pardon,” Governess Prewett blushed, “a Muggle is a non-wizarding person.”
“I take no offense, though I would appreciate no discussions of magic in front of my husband. He is not receptive at this time,” Merissa’s mother answered. “I find it difficult to believe also, but I also cannot refute what I have seen.”
Governess Prewett nodded once in understanding, “Might I meet Lady Merissa’s younger sisters?”
“You have not asked about your half-day, holidays, living accommodations or wages!” Merissa’s mother was puzzled.
Governess Prewett smiled, “I expect to receive exactly what I earn.”
Merissa’s mother chuckled as she rang a small bell. When Betsy appeared, she asked quietly, “Please bring Isabelle and Violet.”
Betsy bobbed and returned quickly with two young children in tow. She curtsied and the twins wobbled as they tried to curtsy.
“As you can see, Isabelle and Violet are twins and will soon be turning five. Isabelle is the more daring twin,” she gestured to the twin on the right whose brown hair hung in braids that were about to fall out and her dress was mussed. “Violet is not so adventuresome,” her blonde hair had been braided into a crown with small curls dangling in the back. Surprisingly, her dress was neat.
“I accept the position,” Governess Prewett said after considering the two young girls, “In normal circumstances, they could wait until eleven to begin control, but it is evident that they need learn control sooner.”
Merissa’s mother sighed with relief, “Wonderful! Betsy will help get you settled.”
Merissa watched as the governess led her sisters out of the room. Buttons started falling from the ceiling and she could hear them striking the tile floor in the foyer.
“You were sneaking to the library?” her mother asked, already knowing the answer.
“A lady does not mar her features,” her mother reminded her, “and sit tall.”
“Yes, Mother,” Merissa replied, sitting straighter in her chair.
“How much have you studied in the book your professor gave you?” her mother watched her eldest child with pride.
“A few chapters,” Merissa brushed her brown hair from her face as she wished once more that her hair would stay in curls or braids. “I was curious about something written in the book and wanted to look in father’s encyclopedia.”
“I would suggest you delay looking in the encyclopedia. I will bring it to your room later,” her mother smiled. “Go practice the pianoforte, please.”
“Yes, Mother,” Merissa sighed as she entered the music room. She didn’t like playing the pianoforte and was more interested in other instruments. However, her mother felt she should learn the pianoforte first. She winced as she began her scales and immediately hit the wrong keys.
It had been two months since Merissa had moved into the Lavender Room and her routine had changed since then. She now spent the morning with her mother, beginning to learn embroidery and how to write letters accepting an invitation or declining an invitation. There were different ways to greet a person depending on their status to be learned. After eating lunch with her mother, she went to the nursery and studied reading, writing and arithmetic with Governess Prewett and her younger sisters while her mother paid her daily visits or received visitors on their At Home days. Dinner was served very promptly in the dining room that still fascinated Merissa and she would eat her dinner in silence while listening to her parents talk. Only when they asked her a question did she answer.
Merissa woke up this particular morning, happy that the day was so cheerful because it was the twins’ birthday. This day had been the only topic they had been able to talk about for a week!
She hurried out of bed and opened her wardrobe to pull out two cloth-wrapped presents. She had worked very hard on the watercolors and her mother had ordered wooden frames for them. She hoped that her sisters would like her presents because she had worked especially hard on both paintings. Carefully, she stuck the presents back into her wardrobe.
On the day she was to leave, Merissa tried to keep from fidgeting as she sat with her mother and father in the formal parlor waiting for Widow Bellum to arrive. Her trunks had been loaded into the carriage and a pouch of money sat on the table beside her father. Widow Bellum would make certain that it was used for travel expenses. Her mother cried softly as her father’s temper quickly frayed.
Just as her father lost the last of his patience, there was a knock on the front door. They listened to the butler answer and then shut the door. He bowed the lady dressed in half-mourning into the formal parlor before shutting the doors behind her. Her dress was a drab gray and her bonnet matched. The lace decorating both dress and bonnet were well-worn purple that had faded. Black ribbing stood out. “Your Graces?” She looked from one to the other. Her gaze settled on Merissa, “Lady Merissa, I see Professor Bricklesworth was not elaborating.”
“Elaborating what?” her father demanded as Merissa studied the lady who would escort her to her new school. Merissa thought she looked very much like a grandmother should and wondered if she might be able to persuade Widow Bellum into purchasing sweet biscuits.
Her father’s tone didn’t appear to ruffle Widow Bellum in the least. “Is Lady Merissa ready to leave?”
“Yes,” her father grumbled, “Coach is in the back, loaded already. Take this for travel expenses.”
“Thank you, Your Grace,” Widow Bellum took the pouch before stuffing it in her reticule then turned to Merissa. “If you would, please make your goodbyes. It may be some time before you see your family again.”
She stepped off to study the various framed embroidery displayed on the wall while Merissa hugged her mother and her father who still grumped. Her mother whispered tidbits in her ear before finally letting go. “Try to pay more attention to your professors than you have your governesses, please?”
“Yes, Mother,” Merissa promised. She felt funny, like a cross between waking up Christmas morning and seeing the presents piled high around the Christmas tree and being told by your mother that you were going to visit Auntie Cornelia with her, not that she didn’t like Auntie Cornelia, but she never had anything nice to say about anyone and she always lectured Merissa the entire time. She never sat up straight enough or still enough. A smile earned a frown.
Widow Bellum nodded. “I believe we must be on our way now.” She followed the family to the back of the house where Merissa waited until Widow Bellum had been handed up into the coach. Merissa was surprised when the footman held his hand out to help her into the couch. Trying to copy her mother, she placed her hand on his as she climbed into the carriage and sat next to Widow Bellum who pulled out a strange-looking small book. Merissa could have sworn, had she been allowed to swear, that the picture on the front moved.
With a crack of the whip, the coach pulled away from everything Merissa had known.
“Do you think she will be safe at Hogwarts?” her mother worried as the carriage turned the corner and disappeared from view. “What if…”
“Enough,” her father interrupted. “She has to attend that school if you want to sponsor her Season. She cannot be doing those odd things.” He went back inside, closing the door behind him.
“I do hope this was not a mistake,” her mother whispered. “Perhaps we should have…” She shook her head to clear the unhappy thought away. She went back into their townhome still unable to shake her worry.
A/N: 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.
A/N: As always, I hope you have enjoyed this first 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!