Chapter 4 : Sophronia's Tale
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A/N: Everything Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling.
Their Charms professor, Professor Bricklesworth, waited at the front of the classroom. Merissa put her satchel next to her desk. Helen sat to her right, trying not to fidget. Alice was sitting to her left. She was tapping her fingers softly on the desk. Merissa sat demurely, waiting for Professor Bricklesworth to give her directions for the day. She was particular in what she expected from her students and their behavior.
Their first day, the entire class had learned that Professor Bricklesworth preferred for her students to wait patiently with their desks clear.
Merissa had already known that their Charms professor was a lady, though that had been a surprise during the Feast. She had believed that Professor Bricklesworth might have been teaching water colors or embroidery. She was looking forward to the class, wondering how different her teaching style might be. Would she be horribly stern? Or would she be perhaps far too easy? Others had obviously not been paying attention when her subject had been announced for many of the boys had raised a cry of outrage. Professor Bricklesworth had ignored the fuss as she walked calmly to the front of the classroom. It only took one stern look to quiet the class, for many of the girls had started yelling at the boys.
Merissa was grateful that she hadn’t pulled out her wand or pulled out her History of Magic book to read while waiting as she didn’t have the Charms book yet. Unknown to the class, Professor Bricklesworth had watched from the doorway as a number of students sat playing with their wands while they waited. Before they were given the typical first day of class lecture, the entire classroom was given a lecture on wand etiquette and proper behavior while waiting for class to begin. Surprisingly, she made no mention of the furor that had arisen when the class realized she was the professor.
Merissa was excited about class today. Professor Bricklesworth had promised they would be using their wands today! Today they would be practicing the Levitation Charm they had been studying.
Professor Bricklesworth stood exactly at 10 o’clock. “Please take out your Charms book and place your wand on your desk.”
Merissa obeyed quickly. She refrained from looking around, instead watching Professor Bricklesworth.
“Who can tell me why there is not a single spell to Levitate objects?” Professor Bricklesworth asked the class, waiting patiently for a student to raise their hand.
Merissa waited to see if anyone else knew the answer. It had been in their very first lecture though it would have been difficult to read in her notes as it was also her first day of using a quill and ink instead of a charcoal pencil or chalk.
“Mr. Thomas?” Professor Bricklesworth chose one of the Hufflepuff students who had taken to sitting together in their classes.
She heard Mr. Thomas stand and clear his throat, obviously ill at ease at speaking in front of people. “The spell will work better?”
She watched Professor Bricklesworth out of the corner of her eye. She remained silent for a longer moment as Mr. Thomas cleared his throat a number more times. “Indeed,” she motioned for him to take his seat. “And why will the spell work better? Mr. Tremlett?”
Merissa heard Mr. Tremlett stand, though he was quieter than Mr. Thomas. “The spell will work better as you are telling it exactly what you wish the spell to do.”
Professor Bricklesworth nodded as she allowed him to take his seat. “Precisely, please open your books to page ten,” she waited while the class opened their books. A grand wave of her wand caused feathers to appear on the desks in front of each student. “This class will be spent on the Levitation Charm practical. Follow the directions on page ten using the feather you have been given.” She began walking around the classroom.
Merissa looked at page ten. She practiced waving her wand as detailed on the page a few times before she tried speaking clearly. “Levare Pinnam!” The feather stayed on the desk. She frowned, what went wrong? “Levare Pinnam!” She waved her wand at the feather again. It might have been her imagination, but she thought she saw it move.
Next to her, Helen was speaking louder as she waved her wand though her feather refused to move. On Merissa’s other side, Alice was waving her wand more elaborately than shown on the page as her feather also refused to move.
She turned her attention back to her feather to try once more. Her eyes widened, had it floated just a little bit?
Merissa looked at Mr. Pinner, another Ravenclaw who was sitting three chairs over. How had he gotten wet? She glanced at Professor Bricklesworth who watched calmly, as if she expected this to happen. She waved her wand and the water disappeared. “Try again, please. Annunciate properly.”
“Leva Pennam!” Helen waved her wand and squeaked when her quill rose in the air instead of her feather.
“Very good, Miss Vickers,” Professor Bricklesworth clapped softly. “However, the lesson is to levitate the feather, not your quill. Try again, please.”
“Yes, Professor Bricklesworth,” she blushed as her quill fell to the floor. She quickly picked up the quill and stuffed it in her satchel instead of placing it back on her desk.
Finally, Professor Bricklesworth clapped. “You did very well today. Homework for next time, practice your pronunciation and annunciation. You are dismissed.”
Most of the other students rushed from the classroom. Merissa carefully put her book and wand back in her satchel as Alice and Helen waited for her impatiently.
“Lady Merissa? Do you have a question?” Professor Bricklesworth asked.
“No, professor,” Merissa answered. “I was just thinking.”
“Thinking about what, if I might ask?” Professor Bricklesworth asked.
“If we have magic, then why is it so difficult to learn the spells?” Merissa really didn’t expect an answer.
Professor Bricklesworth smiled. “That would be a very good question. And one you will learn the answer in time. You have a talent for magic that is untrained at the moment. Your aspiration is to control your magic. That you will learn soon enough. Now, that is enough serious discussion. Your free time is disappearing fast.” She waved them away.
“What are you thinking about?” Alice asked Merissa as they walked back to their dormitory trying to make their way through the crowd of students rushing through the corridors. It grew quieter the closer they got to their common room. They needed to pick up their Potions and Transfiguration books. They passed many paintings and portraits as they walked. They paused by one portrait in particular, waiting for the wall to open up.
“What do you mean?” Merissa asked, not understanding the question.
Alice waved her hand. “The discussion you had with Professor Bricklesworth. Why?”
Merissa was embarrassed. She really would have liked to have asked the question privately instead of in front of other people, even if they were her friends. “I was thinking about my sisters being able to perform magic easily as I also did before arriving here.”
“And?” Helen asked as the wall opened and they were able to continue towards their common room.
“Having arrived here, have you done any accidental magic like before?” Merissa asked.
Alice and Helen were quiet as they considered Merissa’s question the rest of the way to the dormitory. There really wasn’t an easy answer.
Merissa knocked on the eagle knocker and answered the riddle almost negligently. It was one she had already heard. She drew her History of Magic and Charms books out of her satchel, placing them on the table next to her bed. She stuffed her Potions and Transfiguration books into her satchel, wishing yet again that they didn’t weigh so much.
Only on their way to Potions did Alice finally answer the question that Merissa had nearly forgotten. “I suppose I haven’t.”
“I don’t believe I have either,” Helen added.
“How curious,” Alice noted.
“Merissa?” Alice asked.
Merissa looked up from her books. “Yes?”
“We have finished our homework, what are you doing?” Alice picked up the parchment, reading through the first few sentences. “You do know that you can’t write about Hogwarts or magic to Muggles?”
“That is why it is taking so long,” Merissa sighed. “Mother wants letters and I promised her I would write. I did not expect it to be so difficult!”
Helen took the parchment to look it over. “What you have written so far sounds plain enough. I don’t see any magical references.”
Merissa took the parchment back. “I should write more, yet how do I describe getting my wand or any of the classes? How do I write about the portions of the class that were unexpected?”
“Unexpected?” Alice and Helen began laughing.
Merissa laughed with them. Some of the results had been more than a little unexpected as well as unnerving. “Perhaps a better word would be illuminating.”
Again, the three began laughing.
“What would your parents say about that cauldron exploding like a volcano during Potions?” Helen gasped.
“Or about the needle that grew quills in Transfiguration?” Alice hid her smile behind her hand.
“Or the creatures that we have been learning about in Defense Against the Dark Arts?” Merissa added. The three fell silent as they shuddered. They privately hoped never to encounter any of the creatures.
“There wasn’t anything too odd in Herbology,” Alice finally noted. And that was true. They spent most of their time in Herbology taking notes on how to care for plants, both the regular variation and the more unique variation.
“You know as well as I that none of it can be put in my letter to my parents,” Merissa sighed, placing her chin on her interlaced fingers. “They would not understand, for one. And the other, there are the servants and my father’s place to consider. If it was broadcasted that my sisters and I were able to use magic, my father could lose everything! His lands, his title, possibly even his freedom!”
Alice and Helen were horrified.
“That is why I have been crafting a letter that will give them information on how I am progressing without telling about what I really am learning,” Merissa sighed again. “I suppose I could tell them about dance class, music class and etiquette class. They will be very interested in my performance.” She tapped the quill against her cheek. “Perhaps I could also write about History of Magic, if I focus on the history part. But I doubt they would be interested in the fact that I am learning to garden.”
“But how do you expect not to write about anything magical for all seven years?” Alice shook her head.
Merissa chuckled. “Well, I do have younger sisters. I have considered writing a set of fairytales for them. My father will ignore them as rubbish. My mother will read the stories to my sisters.”
“But what if another person saw the fairytale letters?” Helen asked. “Or one of the servants read your letter?”
“I hope that if I write the letter as a child’s fairy story, that anything fantastical will be dismissed as childish nonsense,” Merissa frowned at her parchment. “It is simple enough to read a fairytale or to consider writing a fairytale. Have you ever tried to compose a fairytale?”
Alice shook her head. “My writing will never be neat enough. Two days after writing a story, not even I would be able to say what was written.”
Merissa privately agreed with Alice, as she had difficulty reading her essays.
“I’m not creative enough,” Helen replied sadly. “I’m too attached to verifiable facts.”
Dear Mother and Father,
I hope this letter finds you well. I am doing well.
It has been a week and only now have I had time to sit and write. I have been finding the classes to be intriguing. The professors do enjoy us writing down their every word. I have been learning to write with a quill instead of a pen. It has been a challenge as you can see. Perhaps soon I will be able to write neatly as I have learned to do with a pen.
I have written to Widow Bellum and thanked her for escorting me to school. She told me numerous stories about Hogwarts, so that when we finally arrived, it already felt like home. I assure you though nothing will ever replace home in my heart. I have missed you and my sisters very much.
The professors seem pleased with my work. I have achieved high marks on my class work and homework. The grading criteria are different than our Governesses used. The least passing grade is Acceptable. The next highest grade is Exceeds Expectations and the highest grade is Outstanding.
I have learned there were four Founders of this school and the students are divided into four Houses, one for each Founder. I was placed in Rowena of Ravenclaw’s House. Our colors are blue and bronze and I live in a turret!
Our history class has been interesting. There is a tremendous library here, far larger than father’s. There are at least four levels! And there is a circular staircase that leads to the high levels! Our professor has assured us that most, if not all, the books were written in ages long since gone. His lectures are full of information, though I wish for even the slightest inflection in his voice.
Music class has been a challenge, as I am certain you may have already guessed. The professor is exceedingly patient and refrains from expressing pain when I choose the wrong note.
Etiquette class has been a review of what Mr. Smyth has taught me. I assure you I am not taking my ease during the class. There is no choice except to pay attention as the professor is quick to hand out detentions.
Dance class also has been a review of what Mr. Waters has taught me. The class has been studying the Minuet, even though it has been becoming less popular. Soon we will begin learning the Gavotte.
The Head of the House has chosen a companion for me while I am at Hogwarts. I believe you would like her. Her name is Milly and she is very nice even if she watches me too closely.
Your loving daughter,
6th of September in the year 1873
Merissa looked over her letter to her parents once more with a critical eye. She saw no reference to magic in the letter. She didn’t like keeping secrets from her mother who always seemed to know what was happening in her life anyways. But if Alice was correct, she had to keep magic a secret from those who weren’t part of the wizarding world. She tapped the quill against her cheek. But her parents knew. Professor Bricklesworth was the one who told them. Did that mean she could write more in her letter? What would the punishment be if she unknowingly broke a restriction? Perhaps it would be wiser to send this letter as written and ask one of the professors.
She folded the parchment, sticking it into a large creamy blue envelope that Alice had given her. Alice had promised to show her how to order what she needed by using an owl. Then she might order her own stationery!
She turned her attention to the fairytale she was determined to write for her sisters. She hadn’t realized that it would be so difficult to write a simple tale, even if it was what had really happened! If it would only be Governess Prewett or her sisters reading the fairytale, it might be easier to write. She had a suspicion that her mother would also read the fairytale which made it so much more troublesome to write.
Once there was a young girl named Sophronia who was very kind. She was also very special. She had a deep, dark secret that only she knew. Until one day, she found a letter addressed to her. She opened the letter and changed her world forever. For the letter told her that she had been selected to attend classes at a faraway castle named Hogwarts.
Sophronia traveled very far indeed to attend Hogwarts. When she arrived, she was escorted to a small room to wait with other children her own age. A tall professor lead them into a very magical Great Hall. Flickering candles floated in the air, high above every person’s head. The ceiling was not a ceiling at all, but appeared to have been opened in order to see the full moon and twinkling stars. Four long tables run the length of the hall filled with older students. Another table ran the width of the hall where the professors sat silently, watching their new students walking hesitantly nearer to them. A dingy hat sat upon a stool. The tall professor stopped next to the hat.
“Sophronia,” The tall professor called out.
The young girl approached as the line parted to let her pass. She stood near the hat and heard another loud voice call out “RAVENCLAW!”
She turned to see the table with the students dressed in blue clapping. The tall professor motioned for her to join her classmates. She was glad to be sitting down, out of the light. When the last student sat with their new table, she was surprised once more. For in front of her was a gold plate and gold flatware with a crystal goblet where none stood before. More food than at a Christmas Party had been laid on the table. After the Feast, Sophronia sleepily followed the other students to a tower room where she fell asleep.
The next day was exceedingly delightful for Sophronia. For on that day, she found her wand! A gentleman arrived soon after breakfast disappeared from the tables, laden with boxes. More boxes followed him as if they were a small puppy. He waved his wand to place each box on the table near him. Is it a surprise that he called Sophronia first? He handed her one wand then another and another. Until at last when she waved her wand, blue and bronze sparkles floated from the tip.
The rest of the week flew by so quickly. Lessons in magic were held every day. Lessons in etiquette, dance and music were held in the evenings.
Sophronia found the lessons intriguing and far more interesting than arithmetic and spelling. Learning to write with a quill and ink on parchment was particularly messy requiring Sophronia to learn a simple cleaning charm to get ink out of her uniform. She worked diligently on her homework and her class work, learning how to levitate objects, how to brew potions, how to create a needle and learn how to care for plants. Sophronia also studied the history of the magical world which needless to say was far more interesting than memorizing lists of long gone events.
Nothing ever runs smoothly and learning magic is no exception. Mistakes are made with interesting consequences. Levitating the wrong object or having a bucketful of water fall on you makes for fascinating memories. Even the stray brew of potion erupting like a volcano creates excitement.
Now I must close so I may send this letter to you by golden owl. I miss you very much.
Your loving sister,
She looked over the finished fairytale wondering if it was complete. She knew her sisters would like it, but would her mother? She began staring at the parchment without really seeing it. What would her father think if he read it? Would he insist on her returning home that instant? He already had been just more than a stranger. With his busy schedule, the three sisters rarely saw him.
She had seen a little more of him before Widow Bellum had arrived to escort her to Hogwarts. It had been bittersweet dining for the first time with her parents who had chosen to eat dinner a little earlier once she had been moved to the Lavender Room. She was thrilled to be included for the first time. Betsy had escorted her to the formal dining room with the rich mahogany table and chairs and thick green drapes that had been drawn for the night. Light had sparkled here and there from the lit candles that hung from the holders in the ceiling with chips of mirrored glass and crystals that reflected the tiny flames. A long white tablecloth had been spread along the table with a surprisingly simple centerpiece of barely-opened roses. Her mother sat to one end and her father on the other. Betsy had taken her to where another place setting waited.
She had snuck a glance at her father who watched her expressionlessly. She couldn’t figure out what he was thinking. A covert glance at her mother eased her mind more than a little. The servants brought in a simple dinner, nothing like what her mother had described while at a ball. They ate in silence until near the end when her father began to quiz her over pudding about her lessons. Once pudding was cleared, she followed her mother into a drawing room where her mother motioned her to the pianoforte. She had tried to play her best though it fell flat. It was difficult enough to play with her mother attempting not to wince as she struck the wrong notes, but it became near impossible to play once her father entered the room with a dour expression on his face. She shrank a little when his expression turned disappointed. She played a clashing chord, hoping to end the wretched music since she had lost her place in the cramped handwritten score.
She shook her head clear of the memories. Not that her playing was any better. There was very little light in the common room now, the candles having burned to nearly gone and the fire had been banked for the night. It was long past time for sleep.
A/N: “Levare Pinnam” = Latin for “lift the feather”
A/N: “Leva Pennam” = Latin for “lift the quill”
A/N: As always, I hope you have enjoyed this next chapter. Please let me know what you thought about this chapter, especially if you have constructive criticism! I am always looking for ways to improve my writing! Thank you very much!
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