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Chapter 2 : Start to an Adventure
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Author’s Note: Everything Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling.
“Sit up straight, Lady Merissa,” Mrs. Bellum remarked off-handedly. “One must keep up one’s appearance at all times.”
“Yes, Mrs. Bellum,” Merissa replied automatically as she straightened to sit taller and absently wiped imaginary creases from her skirt. She had taken Mrs. Bellum’s advice to wear a simple frock instead of her uniform, especially after being assured that no student was expected to wear their uniform the day they arrived because it was far too dusty while traveling. She looked unseeing out the window as she wished she was home with her parents and sisters instead of the coach. They had been traveling for nearly two days and while they had stayed in fine establishments and been catered to, she wanted the journey to be done and finding it more difficult to ignore the aches from sitting for far too long.
She sneaked a peak at her traveling companion. While Merissa was wearing a pale blue frock, Mrs. Bellum had chosen to wear a different style of gown from what she wore when they had first met though the new gown was still in the colors of half-mourning. The dress continued to remind her of a picture she had once seen depicting a medieval scene. However, Mrs. Bellum did not seem to have any problems with their journey when her mother would have requested they rest a full day before starting their travels once again.
“No frowning. A young lady does not mar her expression of its perfection.” Mrs. Bellum admonished.
Merissa just barely refrained from rolling her eyes before she replied, “Yes, Mrs. Bellum.” A click turned her attention and she turned to stare at the watch fob held by Mrs. Bellum. It must have been too long a trip as her eyes were now deceiving her. Had she been allowed to swear, she would have sworn to seeing several small stars and a tiny moon spinning about with nothing holding them to the gold pocket watch. She blinked before leaning a little closer to see if her eyes were playing tricks on her.
“We are making excellent time,” Mrs. Bellum stated easily, smiling as she put her watch away. “You should be there easily for the first day. It is a very important day. Sit up straight.”
Merissa stopped leaning towards Mrs. Bellum and sat up straight as requested. “Why?” she was curious, in spite of her fatigue.
Mrs. Bellum chuckled. “There is the Sorting Ceremony, of course, the Headmaster’s speech and announcements, and the Welcome Feast.” She waved her hand about indicating there was far more to be experienced than told.
“What exactly is a Sorting Ceremony?” Merissa asked, deciding to take the small chance that her questions would be answered.
“It is how your House is decided upon. However, that is all I am able to tell you.” Mrs. Bellum smiled indulgently. “It is far better experienced than explained. You will do nicely though. No worries there.”
“My house?” she was confused for they had left her house far behind as they followed the dusty road.
“There are four Houses. Capital H, my dear. They are Gryffindor, which was my House when I attended school, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw.” Mrs. Bellum waited patiently for the other questions she knew were waiting to be asked. Merissa spent her time trying the names for several minutes to Mrs. Bellum’s delight. “The Houses were named after the Founders,” she continued, “who were Godric Gryffindor, Salazar Slytherin, Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw.”
A tingle of excitement shot through Merissa at their names and her eyes sparkled with curiosity as she leaned towards Mrs. Bellum. “Who were they, exactly?”
“They were strong, cunning, loyal and wise wizards and witches. After several years, Slytherin left because he was unhappy.” Mrs. Bellum explained easily, having introduced Hogwarts to many a new Muggle-born. When Headmaster Peregol asked for volunteers to bring the new students to Hogwarts, she had been one of many who had offered their services. They had been tasked with bringing the new students to Hogwarts in the safest possible manner without using magic. However, in all her years of introducing the wizarding world, she had seen only a few students who had the lively curiosity that Merissa displayed so freely.
“Unhappy? Why?” Merissa leaned forward this time in eager anticipation of the answer.
“He did not agree with the others about the education of the Muggle-born children.” Mrs. Bellum said delicately, not wishing to speak ill of the Founder though she disagreed with him on many points.
“What did he think?” Merissa waited with wide eyes, sensing there was more to the story than she was being told. That in of itself was not new as nearly every adult she knew would only tell you the parts of the story they felt was proper. She did not like not knowing what was happening around her.
“He believed that the school ought to admit only those of pure wizarding ancestry. You must remember that the time in which they lived was fraught with terrible danger. Much more so than now as one could lose their life instead of their reputation.” Mrs. Bellum tried to keep her annoyance from her voice since she did not want Merissa to stop asking questions.
“Why did he not like Muggle-borns?” Merissa sat back as she pouted a little at the latest revelation, surprised that Mrs. Bellum had explained where her mother certainly would not have done so and neither would her nanny or governess.
“He did not believe them to be trust-worthy,” Mrs. Bellum replied lightly. Merissa would soon learn about the distasteful events and opinions, but she also did not want to take away her innocence on the Pure-blood and Muggle-born issue. Of course, given the fact that wizards and witches were once all Muggle-born…
“What rubbish,” Merissa scowled, deliberately ignoring the reminder not to cause wrinkles. “What utter nonsense.”
Mrs. Bellum could not hide her smile.
“What happened after he left Hogwarts?” Merissa watched Mrs. Bellum carefully.
“No one can say for certain. He left Hogwarts with a handful of students and none of them were seen or heard from again.” Mrs. Bellum answered in a whisper as if she were telling Merissa a very great secret.
“An intrigue?” Merissa could not help but be interested. “How…”
“Exciting? Diverting?” Mrs. Bellum supplied when Merissa did not continue.
“No, Mrs. Bellum, curious. How very curious,” Merissa answered back.
“Why is that?” Mrs. Bellum asked with true interest in her answer.
Merissa considered carefully, “How curious that they were able to lose a powerful wizard.”
“Where are we?” Merissa pulled the dark red curtain aside just enough to look out the window at the crowded streets and dingy buildings.
“London,” Mrs. Bellum did not look out the window. “We need to stop at Diagon Alley.”
“Diagon Alley?” Merissa let the thick curtain drop back into place as she looked at her in surprise. “My parents have already ordered the items I require.”
“All except for a pet,” Mrs. Bellum reminded her. “You are allowed one pet.”
“I would prefer not to have a spider or a rat.” Merissa shuddered at the thought of even touching either choice.
“Which is why I would suggest an owl,” Mrs. Bellum nodded as the carriage slowed. “It appears we have arrived.”
The footman handed her out of the carriage and then helped Merissa while ignoring the sights of London which she found strange. However curious the footman was behaving, she firmly put it from her mind as she followed Mrs. Bellum into a fairly disreputable-looking inn. A haze of smoke from the ill-tended fire in the large fireplace hung about the place as those gathered sat hunched over the tables as they spoke in whispers. It appeared that every person there wore dingy clothes or what looked suspiciously like robes. The man behind the counter glanced in their direction before nodding sharply to the back door. He looked as if life had been extremely difficult for him and Merissa moved closer to Mrs. Bellum.
She followed Mrs. Bellum through the roughly-hewn wooden back door into a small courtyard that was barely big enough for the two of them to stand in. The courtyard was enclosed by a decaying brick wall where nearly every brick she saw had been broken and the dingy mortar was cracking and falling from the wall to collect on the ground as if it were a grayish snowdrift left from the winter before. She watched with concern and then growing amazement when Mrs. Bellum pulled out her wand and delicately tapped three different bricks. Her mouth dropped open when the bricks began to move all on their own! She stepped back, nervous at what she was watching with wide eyes, unable to even give a cursory explanation as to how this could possibly happen. Soon enough, a rough brick doorway appeared in the wall.
Mrs. Bellum started through the open arch, “Keep up with me, please.”
Merissa closed her mouth and nodded, “Yes, Mrs. Bellum.” She tentatively touched the bricks as she passed through the arch as her curiosity got the better of her once again and she wondered if this was why the bricks and mortar were breaking apart.
A much larger surprise was waiting for her when she looked through the open arch. She stared in wonder at the chaos in front of her. The shops were painted in bright colors with interesting wooden signs hanging from the tarnished brass door sign holders. She thought she saw sparkles hovering about many of the shop signs.
The noise was indistinguishable as crowds of people hurried about the street with parchment floating beside them. Each person appeared to be wearing the same style of robes as Mrs. Bellum though many looked more ragged. Young children were hurried along by frazzled mothers while older children snuck away from their parents and were pressing their noses against the fragile glass to peer at the wonders inside.
She was taken by the sheer amount of color that was everywhere, all bright colors! There were bright reds, blues, oranges, yellows, maroons, azures, greens and more colors she could not quite see. Most definitely not just the pale colors she typically wore or the lavenders or roses with which her mother decorated their house.
She pulled back as the smell reached her nose. It smelled of many things which she was not actually supposed to know about and she could not help but wrinkle her nose and hoped that it was not from spoiled food.
Mrs. Bellum watched Merissa with amusement. How well she remembered her very first time of walking into Diagon Alley. “Come along, we do not have much time.”
Merissa followed Mrs. Bellum while trying to look around at everything she could see. Thankfully, where they were going was only a few stores away from the open arch but it was busy with crowds of people clamoring to be let inside. She expected they would be spending the rest of their day waiting in line but she did not count on magic.
Mrs. Bellum, on the other hand, merely lifted her eyebrow and touched her wand to her throat. “Please, let us through, we really must be on our way to Hogwarts.”
Merissa was beginning to suspect she ought to stop being astonished at every little piece of magic otherwise her professors might believe she had the brains of a fish. She was startled when the crowd abruptly parted to let them enter the store and Mrs. Bellum’s voice returned to her normal volume with another touch of her wand.
“Now, take a look and let me know which one you prefer,” Mrs. Bellum motioned at the owls.
Merissa had never seen so many different owls in one place before: there were huge owls and little owls and even owls that were no more than a bit of feathers! She saw a white owl that stared back at her thoughtfully and stopped to look at a golden-colored owl which was slightly smaller and was nearly certain that this owl had been watching her the entire time. “I would like this owl, please.”
“Good choice there, miss,” the bespeckled clerk replied as he brought over a cage for the owl to step in. “Mr. Ollivander goes on and on about wands having feelings and such, but having just the right owl makes all the difference.”
Mrs. Bellum smiled as she gave the clerk odd-looking coins.
Merissa decided to buy a few owl treats, thinking it might be a nice way to make friends with her new owl. She pulled a small handful of coins from her new reticule her mother had given to her for her eleventh birthday.
The clerk frowned when he saw her coins, “Sorry there, miss, but I only accept Sickles and Knuts and Galleons. I don’t take Muggle money.”
“Why would you take a ship?” Merissa gave him a very odd look.
The clerk laughed, “This one has a wicked sense of humor, don’t she?” He waited while Mrs. Bellum handed Merissa a few coins.
Merissa looked at the strange coins. “With which of these do I pay?”
“I gave you the precise change, dear,” Mrs. Bellum answered her softly.
Merissa put the money on the counter and blinked with surprise when the coins stood on edge and rolled to an old tin can nearby. She watched as they stopped for only a moment before jumping up and into the can.
The clerk ignored the coin’s display of acrobatics. “Thank you much, miss. And have a right good time at Hogwarts.”
“Thank you,” Merissa picked up the cage after placing the owl treats in her reticule and hoped that it would not smell like owl treats for too long. She followed Mrs. Bellum from the store and allowed the footman to take the cage from her. He set it on the cobblestone street to help them into the carriage and then settled the owl’s cage on the floor before shutting the door with a small click.
The carriage began make its way slowly through the traffic-filled streets as Merissa studied her new friend just as carefully as it appeared to study her. “What will you name your owl?” Mrs. Bellum finally asked as they neared the outskirts of the city. “I would suggest you choose its name wisely.”
Merissa considered as she continued to study the owl. As her owl was her very first pet, she had not had the chance to name anything before. Two miles had passed before she made her decision, “Ignatia.”
“A very sound name,” Mrs. Bellum smiled. “May I ask, why Ignatia? Her name has largely been forgotten.”
“Professor Bricklesworth left me an interesting book to read and I thought it was intriguing that one could travel by fire.” Merissa pulled the book from her satchel to show Mrs. Bellum who continued smiling.
“That is a very good book,” Mrs. Bellum agreed. “Very informative, I suspect you enjoy reading?”
“Very much,” Merissa sighed. “More than my mother believes I ought.”
Mrs. Bellum chuckled softly. “You will find that at Hogwarts you may read as much as you wish and at a future point, you might decide to read less than you should.” However, as much as Merissa begged to know the answer to what sounded like a riddle, Mrs. Bellum did not answer.
Mrs. Bellum and Merissa arrived at Hogwarts after another five days of traveling on dusty roads. As they neared Hogwarts, they encountered more traffic from groups of young men riding horses to carts with tired ponies to even a few elaborate carriages. At last they reached Hogwarts and its courtyard was filled with a myriad of carriages and carts scattered in no particular order that Merissa could see. There was a group of horses to one side while people gathered in small groups and talked with excitement. “It appears we made good time,” Mrs. Bellum glanced out of the window briefly then let the heavy curtain fall back into place and noticed a fearful look cross Merissa’s face. “Whatever is the matter, Lady Merissa?”
“What if… what if no one likes me? What if I…” Merissa had trouble finishing her thoughts as the realization that she would be living amongst strangers for several months finally occurred to her.
“Nonsense,” Mrs. Bellum shook her head. “You will find friends quick enough as to make no mind. Do not worry on that particular score.”
“You are certain?” Merissa’s face showed a fragile hope.
“Indeed. It might be difficult to believe, but I was once your age. It is quite normal, you know.” Mrs. Bellum tried to reassure her young charge.
“What is normal?” Merissa started to worry again.
“Your worries – they are just the same as every other person growing up.” Mrs. Bellum nodded at Merissa’s look of disbelief. “Now, keep your chin up and you will be fine. Look, there are only two more carriages.”
Merissa peeked out the window to see the carriage in front of the one ahead of them was unloading both passengers and several expensive-looking trunks. A lady in a dark green tailored medieval-style dress was helped from the carriage before turning back to speak with another person. Finally, her visage became very stern and she pointed forcefully to the ground. A young girl in a simple pale green frock stepped down with her shiny black hair pinned up in braids that circled her head like a wreath of flowers.
Merissa fingered her own non-descript hair that was neither blonde nor quite brown but rather something in between. It was not as interesting as shiny black hair and it never behaved well enough to stay in braids. She had finally pulled it into a plain horse tail as that was the only style she could manage on her own. She sat quietly, lost in her thoughts, no longer paying attention to the carriages in front of them as their occupants were helped out or their unloading of traveling trunks.
“Lady Merissa? It is time,” Mrs. Bellum interrupted her thoughts.
Merissa looked up with confusion, “Time?”
“Why, it is time to start your adventure,” Mrs. Bellum smiled warmly.
Merissa was startled at the notion and her eyes widened in surprise, “My adventure?”
Mrs. Bellum chuckled, “Hogwarts always has an adventure or two for everyone. Be brave.”
“Allow me, Madam,” a young man dressed in blue-trimmed robes stepped forward before bowing to the two of them. He helped Mrs. Bellum from the carriage and then turned back to the carriage’s open door. “Miss, it would be my pleasure,” he held out his hand and waited for Merissa to take it as if he knew of her concern.
Merissa looked beyond him at Mrs. Bellum who only nodded patiently then tentatively placed her hand in his, letting him help her from the carriage. “Thank you, sir… I apologize. I do not know your name.”
The young man blushed with embarrassment at his lapse of manners. “My most abject apologies, my name is Stephen Harmond of Ravenclaw. Might I be so bold as to inquire about your name?”
“Merissa Ashburn,” she barely managed to keep from giggling at his question. Her mother would have been appalled at his forwardness as they had not been formally introduced.
“Are you by chance related to the Ashburns of Snow Forest?” he asked politely.
“I do not believe so,” she replied after a moment’s thought. “I do not remember my parents speaking of them.”
Stephen’s cheeks turned red once more. “I apologize. I did not mean…”
“We were lately at our home just southwest of London,” Merissa explained hurriedly as she privately resolved to ask her mother about if they had family in Snow Forest.
“London?” he glanced back at her carriage and saw the crest just before it turned away. “I beg your pardon, Lady Merissa.”
“Please, just Merissa,” she begged, wondering how she was to know if people liked her because of her or if it was for her rank?
“Are you certain?” he asked with more than a little trepidation. When she nodded, he continued, “What are your thoughts concerning Hogwarts so far?” he kept her hand tucked in his elbow as they started to walk towards the castle’s large foyer.
“It is overwhelming! There is so much to see!” Merissa glanced around at the turrets and pennants flying from the rooftops while the gray stones were covered by unfurled banners that were hung at the windows. Bright greens, vivid blues, fiery reds and glowing yellows assailed her eyes. When she looked around the courtyard, the same colors could be seen trimming the cloaks of the older students. Some, like Mr. Harmond, were helping ladies from the carriages or escorting other young students who also were not yet attired in the school uniform. The young girls were also wearing simple traveling frocks in various shades of pale colors while the young boys were dressed much like their fathers and ran around adding to the confusion.
“Wait until you see the inside of the castle. It is never the same, there is always something different.” Stephen caught her attention once more.
“This is not your first year here?” she asked with curiosity.
He shook his head, “This is my fifth year and I am a Prefect.”
“What is a Prefect?” Merissa asked, not having heard the term before.
He shrugged slightly, “It is only a fancy term stating that I am responsible and do not get in trouble.”
Merissa chuckled at his answer, echoed by Mrs. Bellum. “Do you like it here?”
“Very much so – which makes it all the better as I will not be returning home until after I have finished my schooling. My family lives too far away for me to return home for the holidays. What about you?”
“I am uncertain,” she looked around in a panic when she did not see Mrs. Bellum, relaxing only when she found her behind them. “Will I?”
“If you wish, though you might rather wait until the summer holidays,” Mrs. Bellum smiled. “Mr. Harmond, please take her to meet the other First Years. I must be leaving now – do not start looking scared again, Merissa. Remember, you will do just fine.” She handed Merissa a small note card. “My direction if you care to write.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Bellum,” Stephen let go so she could gather her skirt to bob a curtsy.
Mrs. Bellum smiled once more before leaving in the direction that they had walked.
Stephen and Merissa began walking again. “The First Years are in this direction. The Deputy Headmaster will give a speech and will then escort the group to the Great Hall for the Sorting Ceremony.”
“Mrs. Bellum mentioned a Sorting Ceremony. What exactly happens? She did not explain.” Merissa asked.
“You will find out,” he promised. “Do not worry. It is nothing difficult. Here we are, there are two girls here that you might like.” He pointed to the two of them standing off to one side by themselves, away from the petulant black-haired girl who was standing with several boys answering their questions. “They are Miss Alice Culberts and Miss Helen Vickers.”
Her nerves stretched when he patted her hand, bowed and then left her standing in the doorway. She forced herself to walk across the room, trying her best to glide as Governess Number Three had instructed her. “Glide as if you walked on air. Do not waddle about like a common carthorse.” Another snippet from Governess Number Eight, the one that she had detested, crossed her mind, “If you cannot be graceful then you may forgo your pudding.”
“Hello, my name is Alice Culberts and this is Helen Vickers,” the red-haired girl introduced themselves to her.
Merissa blinked in surprise hardly believing that she had already crossed the room. “My name is Merissa Ashburn.”
“Aren’t you excited?” Helen asked breathlessly. “A Professor Plotwerth called before visiting hours and he explained everything! Of course, Father and Mother didn’t believe him at first and then he did something that caused Mother to faint! They finally agreed to send me here instead of employing another governess.”
“Another governess?” Merissa was interested. “How many governesses did you go through?”
Helen giggled, covering her mouth with her hand while her blue eyes sparkled, “Far too many according to Father. However Mother blamed the governesses for not having enough of a spine.”
“How did you find out, Alice?” Merissa turned to her new friend.
“I received a letter,” she replied, smiling at their twin looks of astonishment.
“What?” Both Helen and Merissa had trouble believing that their new world could be explained in a letter.
“Oh, my family has been wizards and witches for centuries,” Alice explained. “They were thrilled to learn that I was a witch when I was four.”
“So you must know a lot more than the rest of us,” Helen sighed regretfully. “You’ll find classes so much easier.”
Alice chuckled wryly, “Not according to my brothers and sisters.”
“Your brothers and sisters?” they echoed.
Alice nodded, “Well, Devyn is in his last year and Grady is a year behind him. Ellen, my oldest sister, is a Fourth Year and Myrna started here last year.”
“Did they tell you about the Sorting Ceremony?” Merissa asked.
Alice glanced around before answering. “Grady was telling me all sorts of things.”
“What sort of things?” Helen asked, fear blossoming in her eyes.
“Attention, please,” a stern voice caught everyone’s attention. “Line up, if you please.”
Merissa and her two friends quickly joined the line that was formed, but she found it difficult to pay attention to his lecture even though she tried to look as if she were listening.
“They just let anyone in, don’t they?” someone whispered under their breath.
She cringed inwardly, just knowing it was directed at her. A comment her Father had made to Mother when he did not realize she was listening still hurt her. “Blasted woman, why could she not have left well enough alone?” Mother had made a remark she had not quite heard, but Father’s reply was clear enough. “Aye, it will out. It does not matter what they learn in that fancy school.” She had snuck away, feeling just about the lowest she had ever felt.
The Deputy Headmaster led them in four straight lines to the Great Hall. Merissa was glad she had been able to stay with Alice and Helen as they walked and tried to see everything at the same time. When someone spoke, it was in a hushed tone, either from not wanting the strict Deputy Headmaster to hear them or from awe. She thought without success on how she could write about her surroundings – the ceiling was fascinating and so were the floating candles. Her sisters would agree with her, but she was not certain about her parents. Would they want to hear about the magical setting?
The line leaders stopped suddenly causing nearly everyone behind them to walk into the person ahead of them before stepping back with embarrassment. Merissa could not see what the Deputy Headmaster was doing and took another chance to look around her now that she did not have to worry about walking into a classmate.
“Ashburn, Lady Merissa,” the Deputy Headmaster called out.
Alice nudged her, “Merissa?”
She looked up with confusion to a variety of snickers and glowers to see the Deputy Headmaster giving her a very stern look. “Lady Merissa Ashburn, if you would please?” he motioned to the three-legged stool impatiently. She quickly walked to the stool and he dropped the patched hat on her head.
“Hmm… Interesting,” a voice spoke in her head, “Where to put you. You would do well in any of the Houses.”
“What are the Houses?” she thought to herself, hoping that the patched hat would hear her. “How are you talking in my mind?”
The hat chuckled, “Curious? I see you know a little about the Houses, but not enough. How am I talking? Why magic, of course.” Information about the four Houses rushed through her mind and an image of who she supposed was one of the Founders wearing the patched hat on his head.
Merissa became aware of the whispers as she sat on the stool talking with the hat.
“Very interesting,” the hat finally said after a few more moments. “As that is true, then you’ll be in…” Suddenly the hat called out for everyone to hear, “RAVENCLAW!”
She relaxed when the hat was pulled from her head. She looked around and saw Mr. Harmond waving at her from one of the tables along with a few others she had not met yet. She started walking towards Mr. Harmond, remembering that he had mentioned that he was in Ravenclaw. While she did not sit next to him, she did sit in the relatively open area of the table closest to the Professors’ Dais.
Four names were called before, “Culberts, Alice.”
She watched as Alice sat on the stool and within seconds the patched hat proclaimed, “RAVENCLAW!” Alice looked to be just as relieved as Merissa had felt when the hat was pulled from her head. She quickly found a seat next to her after waving to her siblings who appeared very pleased.
Several more names were called and they watched as each one took their place at the different tables. One name caught her attention, not because of the name but rather because of the person.
“Gaunt, Morfan,” the Deputy Headmaster called out.
A rough-looking ragged-dressed young boy sauntered to the stool with a small sneer on his face. Merissa was confused as to why such a shoddily-dressed person would be wearing a fairly ugly signet ring that had a thick band with a black stone with etchings in it. Just looking at it made her feel queasy. The hat had barely touched his head before it screamed, “SLYTHERIN!”
Out of the next several names, there was a Cuthbert Kettletoft, Adelia MacFarlan and a Penelope Munslow who went to Gryffindor and Hufflepuff. Margaret Norman also became a Ravenclaw and found her seat across from Merissa who did not like the look on her face that reminded her of the few times she had seen gentlemen who wanted her father to invest in their schemes.
While more names were called out, Merissa began to look at the ceiling as she tried to figure out once more how to describe it to her sisters. Her attention was diverted when “Tanner, Catherine” was called and the petulant black-haired girl sat on the stool and became a Slytherin. Alice muttered something she would not repeat when Merissa asked her. Instead she blushed and glanced back towards her siblings, hoping they had not heard her.
Finally, the Deputy Headmaster called out, “Vickers, Helen.”
The patched hat wasted no time perched on her head before it called out, “RAVENCLAW!” Helen joined them as she blushed furiously.
“That wasn’t so nearly as bad as my brothers made it out to be,” Alice whispered as the last three names were called and sorted to the different tables.
The Deputy Headmaster bowed towards the Head Table before picking up the stool and hat and leaving the room. The Headmaster stood and introduced himself and their professors, each one nodding when their name was called.
Merissa noticed that the lady who had visited would be their Charms professor. “She is the one who visited my parents,” she whispered softly to Alice and Helen, noticing that Margaret was paying attention to them rather than the Headmaster. She found it difficult to pay attention to the Headmaster’s speech. While he spoke about his expectations as well as the rules, she looked around her. At least, she did until Alice nudged her. Then she stared at the table in amazement and shock. Where there had been fancy flower arrangements decorating the tables, food had appeared and a gold plate had been placed in front of her. A crystal tumbler waited to be filled and she suspected that the silverware was sterling, “How?” she managed to ask.
“Magic,” Alice said, reaching for the chicken.
“This is more than I’ve seen in my life!” Helen cried as she dished out the beans with onions and ham.
Alice shrugged, “It’s easy enough with magic.” She added another spoonful of peas with pearl onions to her plate. “Merissa, do take some food. There’s more than enough.”
She jumped slightly, embarrassed at having been caught staring. “Oh, right,” she began choosing which food to eat.
“That reminds me, Merissa…” Alice paused to chew. “Why didn’t you say you are Lady Merissa?”
“Precisely because of that,” Merissa stabbed her meatloaf. She did not like the way that Margaret was avidly listening to their conversation.
“Why would that be a problem?” Helen asked, very curious. “You get to do whatever you want, don’t you?”
Merissa shook her head, “Not really. I have far too many people telling me what to do and when to do it.”
Alice nodded knowingly, “I’d hate that. How did your parents react to you being a witch?”
Merissa looked at her plate, ashamed.
“That’s answer enough, I think,” Helen wrinkled her nose. “So, Merissa, what are you looking forward to the most here?”
Merissa shrugged daintily, glad at the change in subjects. “There is still so much to be learned about Hogwarts. Mrs. Bellum told me a few stories of when she attended, but other than that…”
“Don’t worry. You’ll find enough to interest you within weeks,” Alice smiled.
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!
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