Chapter 6 : Letters, Bezoars and Sparks
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A/N: Everything Harry Potter belongs to J. K. Rowling.
Merissa had just sat down at the Ravenclaw table for breakfast when a folded piece of red parchment appeared on her empty plate. She gave it a wary look as she read her name in an elegant script. She cautiously picked it up, wondering what she had done wrong. She took more heart when it didn’t immediately leap from her fingers to hover in front of her to yell at her like it had done to one of the students at the Hufflepuff table at dinner a few nights before. She desperately wanted to cover her ears as the magnified voice lectured the hapless student. Alice giggled nervously, almost as if she’d seen this happen before while Helen stared in shock.
She broke the gold seal and tentatively opened it. She was still half afraid it would begin to yell. She relaxed when she saw the small note signed by the Headmaster requesting she wait by the gargoyle before her first class of the day. She pulled her quill out and wrote her assenting reply. It surprised her when the note disappeared just as quickly.
Alice and Helen were sitting to her right, talking quietly over a piece of paper while they ate. She whispered to her plate what she would like for breakfast and ate as fast as she dared. She wasn’t certain how long the meeting with the Headmaster would last and she preferred not to be late for History of Magic.
She was a little surprised when neither Alice nor Helen noticed when she stood. Her feelings were a little hurt as she walked past several pieces of framed oils towards the gargoyle in the nearly quiet corridor, hoping she picked the correct one. It looked a little different than all the other ones she had seen here and there. And it was a little bigger.
“Lady Merissa?” Headmaster Peregol stopped in front of her.
“I received your note, Headmaster. Though I am uncertain what I did wrong.” Merissa looked slightly towards the ground, not wanting to see any hint of disapproval in his eyes. She had felt horrid when he had become upset when he had taken her wand, which had been quickly countered when Nurse Rowan had let her borrow her wand to practice.
“You have not done anything wrong of which I am aware, but you are lacking a wand as I took it yesterday?” he negligently waved at the gargoyle which moved quickly to the side revealing a doorway. “You should arrive with plenty of time for your first class. If you will follow me, please?”
Merissa followed the Headmaster up the winding staircase to his office. The pale stone walls had no watercolors or oils displayed and there were no portraits watching their every move. There was another door at the top of the stairs on a landing that opened as his foot touched stone floor. She stopped in the doorway to look around the Headmaster’s office with wide eyes. It was similar to her father’s study with the large mahogany desk and mahogany chair. There was several mahogany bookshelves standing next to each other along one wall filled with books of every type. There were large books and small books, thick books and thin books. All the spines appeared to be in different colors.
With another look, she began to see the differences from what she could find in her father’s study. There was no basin on a pedestal. Nor was there an owl stand that had treats and water in small bowls waiting for the next owl. And there certainly were not three walls filled with Portraits that were looking at her intently.
Headmaster Peregol smiled when he saw the look of amazement on her face as she looked around his office. When she began to watch the Portraits, he chuckled to himself. “Lady Merissa, these are the previous Headmasters and Headmistresses of Hogwarts.”
Merissa didn’t take her eyes from the Portraits as she gave a small curtsy. “Pleased to meet you.”
The Portraits all began speaking at the same time so nothing could be understood until Headmaster Peregol waved them silent. “Come over here,” he motioned for her to follow him to a small alcove that opened with a flick of his wand. He stepped back so she could see several wands on the shelves.
“Try each one to find one that will work for you temporarily until Mr Ollivander returns,” he waited, knowing the Portraits were watching very intently. It wasn’t every day that a student needed to have their wand replaced so close to the beginning of the year and certainly not because their wand had been switched with a regular stick.
Merissa looked over the wands, picking each one up. She didn’t like the feel of most of them, but there was another that warmed in her hands even though it didn’t send out blue sparks. “I think I would like to borrow this one.”
“Very good,” Headmaster Peregol nodded. “Mr Ollivander ought to arrive here in two weeks at the earliest. When he arrives, he will make you another wand.”
“Sir?” Merissa asked tentatively, unsure if he would answer a question.
“You have a question?” he waited with a small smile.
“Have you been able to discover what happened to my wand?” Merissa could just see it lying on his desk.
He sighed at the question he was expecting. “Not at this time. When Mr Ollivander arrives, he will need to examine it also. Now, it is nearly time for your first class.”
“Thank you, Headmaster Peregol,” she waited for him to wave her on her way before walking out the door, quickly and yet not running.
Headmaster Peregol crossed the room to his desk, picking up the useless wand again. “This is very strange turn of events.” Every Portrait nodded their agreement.
The next day, Merissa stirred her milky porridge absently while she stared at the changeable ceiling. Storm clouds hovered at the edge as the sun tried peeking through. It was remarkable. She wondered if she would ever learn enough magic to do something similar. She had decided that it must be a fairly tricky bit of magic. Alice and Helen sat to each side of her. Helen was reading one of her penny dreadful books. Helen had shown them her entire stack she had hidden in her trunk. Alice was still half-asleep, eating her breakfast automatically.
She was surprised when her owl, Ignatia, landed next to her, hooting softly. She smiled as she took the envelope from her. “Was it a long flight? Go ahead.” Ignatia first nipped Merissa’s finger gently before she took a beak full of the now cold porridge only to shake her beak free of the offending taste. She snagged a piece of Merissa’s bacon before taking off for the owlery.
She looked at the cream envelope. Her family crest had been centered on the flap and it was sealed with blue wax instead of their usual red wax. She was surprised that the family crest looked just as imposing surrounded by blue and wondered if her mother had chosen the blue wax just for her.
“Who’s it from?” Ignatia’s arrival had also woken Alice from her half-sleeping. She as now looking avidly at the envelope Merissa was holding in her hands.
“My family,” Merissa replied, wondering if she could sneak a peek now or if she should wait until later when she could find a private spot. If it were only Alice and Helen around her, she would have opened it immediately. However, Margaret and a few other students were also watching and listening to their conversation.
“Let her read it herself.” Helen had glanced at it when she had looked up from her penny dreadful. “Who knows, it might have state secrets in it.” Alice blushed as she sat back up straight, turning her eyes deliberately away to look at her congealed breakfast.
Merissa giggled. “I’m certain my mother included no state secrets.” She pushed the unwanted bowl of porridge away and carefully opened the envelope aware that far too many people were hoping she’d read what had been written aloud. She only read the first little bit privately before closing it to everyone’s dismay. “Later,” she promised Alice and Helen.
“Did ickle Mery get a letter from her mummy?” Catherine’s voice grated on Merissa’s very last nerve. It reminded her of chalk squeaking on slate. She just managed to keep her letter from Catherine’s sneaky fingers. Catherine’s friends had followed her and were smirking at her wit. Morfan watched both Catherine and Merissa with a gleam in his eye. His lips curled into a parody of a smile. Merissa briefly wondered what Morfan was thinking. She watched as his gaze slid over to Margaret who watched the entire scene with wide eyes.
“It is not your letter,” Merissa replied primly, apparently entertaining the small group given the gales of laughter from Catherine and her Slytherin friends. It was curious how Morfan’s amusement wasn’t reflected in his eyes. She had only one option now. She picked up her satchel and pretended that Catherine and her snake-like friends were not even worth her notice.
Unfortunately, their laughter still followed her as she made her way out of the Great Hall. Catherine had tried once more to take Merissa’s letter. Thankfully, she managed to keep hold of it though it was now crumpled form the tug-of-war.
She would be early to History of Magic, but there really wasn’t any help for it. With any luck, she would be able to read her mother’s letter in private. Though she hoped that Alice and Helen would soon join her.
We were surprised to receive your letter so soon after arriving at school. Surprised, however very pleased. We truly expected you would be occupied not only with lessons and homework but also with settling into your new home.
Your father is doing well. He has expressed an interest in the different grading system and is pleased with your achievements. I expect he will write to the Headmaster asking for monthly reports if not weekly reports concerning your academics. While he is pleased, take care to not disregard your additional studies. I give you fair warning that when you arrive home for the summer, he will be most interested in your improvement in dance, music, etiquette and languages.
I also have been doing well. I am pleased you remembered to send a thoughtful note to Widow Bellum for escorting you to school. I have been kept busy attending two musicals and several balls. And to aggravate your father, I ordered a new set of gowns made in shades of blue from the modiste. I know you will smile with me. I will admit the modiste was extremely curious about the new blue gowns. I confided with her that I enjoy the color. Too soon there will be other ladies wearing blue now that it will be the height of fashion.
Your sisters are also doing well. Governess Prewett has been kept busy with the odd happenings but does not appear fazed by their antics. I have not discovered by what means she makes the odd happenings to cease, but her method works each time.
Your sisters especially enjoyed the fairy tale you wrote. Governess Prewett was nearby when I read it to them and smiled leading me to believe there may be more to the story than written. Please do not forget to write a fairy tale for Jessamina.
Your father had not heard of a school splitting into smaller houses. I admit I also had not heard of such a situation. And to live in a castle must be intriguing! And to have your room in a turret must be especially appealing. Have you a window to see across the grounds?
I am curious if you would be partial to redecorating your room here to reflect your house colors? I am certain I can arrange for a decorator to design the room in blues with hints of bronze. I would expect I would need to know by Christmas.
Your companion sounds delightful and appears to be exactly as a companion ought to be. Especially with one who continuously steps over what is acceptable. I understand inquisitiveness but it must be applied correctly.
How have you been doing since your letter? We await your next letter.
With much love,
8th of September in the year 1873
Merissa put the letter carefully into her satchel when Alice and Helen sat to each side of her just before Professor Binns floated into the classroom through the chalkboard. “Are you alright?” they whispered. She nodded slightly, not able to reply more as Professor Binns began his lecture on various ancient cities with respect to the wizarding world. She found it slightly difficult to pay attention to the lecture, thinking about the letter. She managed to keep up with her notes, which was better than Alice or Helen. Both had succumbed to his monotone voice. Even their curiosity about her letter hadn’t been enough to keep them awake. As soon as they were dismissed, both clamored to read the letter.
“Not at this moment!” Merissa barely refrained from rolling her eyes. “My mother wrote no state secrets, so you can forget about it!”
“State secrets?” Margaret asked from behind them. “Why would you be interested in state secrets?”
She looked at Margaret, who had trouble looking pristine in her uniform. There was something always wrong about it. Today her hat was sitting too far back on her head, reminding Merissa of a baby’s bonnet. She wasn’t happy with Margaret after her actions earlier in the week, but remembered that she was at least giving her the benefit of the doubt. “I was not speaking about state secrets.” She deliberately turned her attention back to Alice and Helen. “And we are not discussing my letter now.” She gave them a significant look. They both nodded, realizing they weren’t likely to discover the letter’s contents in the middle of a busy corridor. They hurried to catch up with Merissa.
“I don’t understand!” They heard Margaret cry behind them.
Professor Bricklesworth kept them far too occupied in Charms to think about anything outside of class. Once more, she explained that while they could learn one spell that would perform the general idea of what they wished to do, if they learned to express precisely what they desired for the spell then their spell would become more significant. Merissa’s fancy was caught with the statement, but there was no time to consider it beyond writing it down.
Professor Bricklesworth began her lecture in earnest. Merissa wrote copious notes along with the other students. They frantically wrote, easily wearing their quills down to the point they wished they could use their wand to sharpen them. The last half hour of the class was spent reciting the new spell over and over until they said it correctly. “Lucendi.” Then they practiced the wand movement slowly. Merissa enjoyed the last few minutes of class when they were allowed to try both the incantation and the wand movement together as their professor watched their efforts.
They spent the next hour in Potions writing notes detailing out what exactly a bezoar was and how to recognize one. They copied down the uses for a bezoar. Professor Finley spread out a collection of different sized rocks on a long table. “Form a straight line,” he said sternly. “The rocks are numbered. Write on your parchment if you think the stone is a bezoar or a plain rock.” He waved his wand creating parchment with numbers and lines for each student. “Begin.”
When Merissa’s turn came, she considered each stone and made her guesses. It was more difficult than she thought. Professor Finley waved his wand after the last student finished, collecting their parchments.
They hurried to Transfiguration where Professor Tregoran waited impatiently for them. As they sat, he began his lecture on Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration, a subject on which they would spend several weeks covering, he assured them, as it was imperative for them to understand this particular Law that governed their magic.
He continued his lecture with why information cannot be conjured. He listed out many details about wizards or witches who had tried to circumvent Gamp’s Law without success and found themselves in dire straits – very similar to those who believed they could summon the answers to their tests without having studied. He gave a few pointed looks around the room.
She spent Astronomy class trying not to fall asleep in the darkened room as they watched specks of light. Only the thought of her father’s reaction to a low grade kept her awake and trying to pay attention.
Defense Against the Dark Arts was tedious. Professor Gormackin had them repeat their new incantation several times. “Mille flammis virentibus.” Merissa suspected she would be practicing the incantation this evening. It helped that she had learned French so she could understand a little Latin, however, pronouncing the Latin words was very difficult for her. Unlike their Charms professor, he refused to allow them to practice the wand movement without having the incantation correct.
Merissa was happy when they sat in their last class for the day. She expected they would take copious notes in Herbology and was not disappointed. Professor Rabbitte spent the entire hour detailing out how to care for different plants and how to recognize the special plants.
The three hurried back to their common room. Merissa pulled out the Herbology assignment and turned her attention to it. If she could get a few assignments completed before dinner and music class, she might be able to work on the letter tonight. But after several interruptions by Alice and Helen, she gave up doing her homework while they read her letter. She took it back sooner than they would have liked, but she pointed out that they also had homework and her father expected her to get the highest grades on everything.
Alice and Helen were scandalized. “Everything?”
Merissa nodded, thinking miserably about music class. How she detested the pianoforte. She sighed as she opened her Herbology book.
Alice and Helen bent over their open Herbology books without saying another word. However, Merissa missed the looks of pity they gave her. Alice didn’t know how Merissa managed to finish all her homework as well as writing letters to Widow Bellum and her family. And there were the other classes she attended that Alice hadn’t chosen to study. Helen waited until Merissa was too involved in her homework before pulling out the penny dreadful she had been reading that morning at breakfast. It was a new one and she wanted to know how it ended.
It was time for the dreaded music class. The classroom itself was a cheerful enough classroom, with a pianoforte, a harpsichord, a clavichord, violins and violas. There were a number of wooden recorders as well as another set that she supposed were wooden recorders even though they looked different. There were intricately scrolled and detailed brass music stands for those practicing instruments not at a pianoforte, harpsichord or clavichord. The room was well-lit with no open flames, but with small globes with what appeared to be small blue flames that could burn without air. For the first several minutes of class, she watched the enclosed flames, wondering exactly how they managed it. Was it similar to the spell she was learning in Charms class this morning?
She sat on the bench in front of the pianoforte. The keys seemed to multiply in front of her. She detested even the sound – it always sounded out of tune. She considered the music in front of her. Scales. Again. She closed her eyes. It didn’t matter how many times her professor told her that scales were important, they were a trial.
She wondered if she might delay practicing until she saw her father deciding she could not return to Hogwarts no matter how she pleaded. With a huge sigh she placed her fingers over the correct keys, hopefully, and began to play. She paused after several wrong notes. She didn’t understand why she had such trouble. She had been playing for several years now.
“From the beginning, please.” The professor entered, ignoring her dispirited posture. “Fingers ready?” He looked at the keys she had chosen and pointed to the correct ones. “Begin.”
She sighed once more as this time through the scale, grateful that she played more right notes than wrong notes. If only she could play a different instrument. Like the violin. She had fallen in love with the violin when he mother had consented to take her to an afternoon musicale that had featured a lady playing the violin so beautifully. The sound was as magic! She had stared for longer than it was polite as she tried to figure out how it sang with such expression.
He tapped the pianoforte to catch her attention. “Now, if you would begin.” He placed a single sheet of music in front of her. She recognized it as one of the more modern pieces. It looked simple enough, not difficult to read and it wasn’t written in a cramped style. There was also only one line of notes in the treble clef and one line of notes in the bass clef, a significant difference from the other music she had attempted to play.
She looked up at her professor with a puzzled look. “Is there more to this music?”
The professor looked again then shook his head. “That music is complete. Begin.” He tapped out a slow beat for her to begin playing. She managed to get through the piece with only most of the notes wrong, a marked improvement from nearly every note wrong.
Her professor finally dismissed her with was she suspected was relief. He insisted she take the music sheet with her and at least consider it for a few moments to learn the notes. He was even allowing her to write the name of the note above each note! She hadn’t been allowed to do so before.
She found a small niche in the common room near one of the stained glass windows to consider what she should write to her mother. Sooner than she would like, she would have to put her mental letter aside and concentrate on her homework, especially since her father expected high marks. She supposed she might be able to have a lower grade here or there, but not in what was important. She gazed out the small window, deciding how best to answer her mother’s questions. And what was important?
Her hope of writing a letter back to her mother was not realized until that Saturday afternoon. She sat at a table off to one side in the common room and began to write concerning her week while Alice and Helen sat nearby, Helen once again immersed in her penny dreadful while Alice was attempting something with bright yarn.
Merissa was only grateful that her mother hadn’t decided she needed to learn watercolors or tatting or embroidery yet. Though she was expecting her mother would soon decide it was past time for her to learn how to embroider. But she could put that worry off until the summer when she was home.
Dear Mother and Father,
I hope this letter finds you well. I am doing well.
There have been a few slight mishaps this past week. The first mishap appears to have been my fault when I tripped over another girl’s satchel. I was excused from classes for the day while I rested. However, I remained diligent in my studies. Which leads to the second mishap for which I have no explanation as of yet. While I was studying my lessons, it was discovered that someone played a terrible joke on me. The Headmaster was furious and is personally investigating. I do wish to assure you that I am truly fine.
We have been learning Latin in our classes. It has been difficult but I believe I am starting to remember correct pronunciations and sentence structure. I promise you I will not put aside my additional studies. The classes are held an hour past dinner. I have begun a journal in which I write in French and Italian.
How were the musicals? Was the violin played for any of the pieces? I remember your answer concerning the necessity of learning the pianoforte, but I must own that I enjoy the tones of the violin.
When will your new gowns be ready? I wish I need not wait until summer to see them!
I will write another fairy tale for Jessamina to include in my next letter.
We walk up a tightly winding staircase to arrive at our house. I have not yet been able to look from outside the castle and know which of the turrets it is though I have tried many times. We must answer a riddle to enter the house! If we answer incorrectly, we must wait outside until another person answers the riddle correctly. So far the riddles have been simple though I have heard more difficult riddles for the older students.
The common room is filled with thin windows that have stained glass! I believed they were set as windows and was surprised when a seventh year students opened one to let in a breeze! I looked later and discovered that each of the small windows are set as little doors in the windows!
In my dormitory, we have slightly larger windows that are partially stained glass that does not move. Or at least I have not found the mechanism yet to move them. Inset into each window is clear glass that allows one to look across the grounds. We are able to see the lake and what the Headmaster calls the ‘Forbidden Forest’. I own I am uncertain if he is serious concerning the name. We also are able to see the gardens where we study Herbology. And the mountains are very lovely! They are distant enough to appear purple with snow at the tops.
To redecorate my room would be wonderful! I will see if I am able to include the shades of blue in another letter, though it may take time for me to mix the paint to match correctly.
Your loving daughter,
13th of September in the year 1873
A/N: “Lucendi” = Latin for “lighting”.
A/N: “Mille flammis virentibus” = Latin for “a thousand green sparks”.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know what you think. Feedback is always welcome! Thank you!
A/N: Thank you to bester_jester for your insightful advice to improve my story! Thank you!