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Chapter 10 : Fotheringay
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amazing imge by Azulive at TDA.
I was set up in a comfortable though rather small stone chamber in Fotheringay castle. It was a modest place: I had never truly been within a castle such as this before, though the maid who helped me settle in chattered about how this was one of the finest old castles in England and how lucky I was to be a guest of the duke.
In my first few days in the fifteenth century, I had discovered several ways in which technology and personal hygiene needed to speed the hell up and be discovered. The first thing I was missing was the simple comfort of deodorant. I had tried conjuring some when Agnes had left the cottage that morning, but had only succeeded in conjuring some very sloppy, plain-smelling soap. Then there was the issue of no running water with which to wash said soap. My solution for this had been to use the Aguamenti charm and then magically clean up the mess: the flaw in the plan was that I had never learned how to conjure warm water, meaning I was shivering by the time I had washed the bare essentials.
I had rummaged through my purse and found a few comforts which had come with me from the Burrow: a pack of mint chewing gum, which I was saving for a desperate moment, a pack of dental floss which I liked to have to use after meals, my wallet with my Muggle ID cards and some spare Sickles and Knuts, a bottle of light pink nailpolish, a lip gloss and mascara, and a list of Floo fireplaces which I had been meant to pass on to Hazlehurst on Friday but had completely forgotten about, and, merciful Merlin, a tiny compact pocket mirror. I had brought all these things to the castle at Richard’s quite surprising invitation, and had quickly adorned some mascara and lippy when the maid had finished helping me dress.
Agnes had been kind enough to make me up a bed of rags and cloths on the floor of her home for that first night, which I appreciated as creating a bed out of magic was far beyond my confidence in my capabilities. I had slept well enough there, though once an insect landed on my cheek from the thatched roof in the middle of the night, and I had to bite my lip very hard to keep from screaming.
But then there had been a much more drastic problem: the issue of using the toilet. Grinning unashamedly, Agnes had delicately explained that while most people went outside, when she was alone she went in a bowl and then Vanished the evidence. She had pushed me behind a curtain to do this business, but I had been unable to with her in the room and had waited until she left in the morning before being able to relieve myself. I imagined Maude and Cecelia being very amused by this story, if I ever got the chance to tell them. It took several cleaning spells to even feel as if the bowl was clean.
Using the toilet in Richard’s castle was slightly more bearable: unlike the peasants, the nobility were not expected to use the toilet out of doors, and were either equipped with chamber pots which stank up the room, or the option of using the garderobe which emptied onto a deep pit in the castle depths. I imagined whatever was in the dungeons, most likely holding cells or the kitchens, would be quite unpleasant to pass much time in thanks to this. But at least it involved slightly more privacy, and not having to physically deal with the result after the fact. I had taken to the habit of smuggling my wand with me to the garderobe and using it to conjure a rough sort of material which sufficed as toilet paper, and to quickly wash my hands with a quick whispered charm. Although apparently personal hygiene was far better in the summer than in the chilly winter, I still did not quite trust the cheerful servants touching my clothes and bed.
I learned that the castle had once belonged to Richard’s father, the old Duke of York. I had wondered to myself whether he was the source of the rhyme the grand old duke of York who had ten thousand men, but refrained from asking. I would look up the history of the nursery rhyme when- or if- I was transported back to my own time. Though I was not exactly an authority in medieval castles – nor was I convinced these were actually the Middle Ages – I thought Fotheringay fit the bill quite nicely of a romantic castle fit with a moat, high walls with slits for archers, and pretty gardens for strolling in, though the smell around the dungeons took away from the charm a little.
The castle keep, where the lord and his guests actually lived, was far smaller than Hogwarts and much quainter and less comfortable, and dated from the twelfth century though it was shockingly still being lived in, shocking to my humble opinion. I remembered visiting Maude at her Muggle university in a northern city, and we had explored the historic sights of the town including the old castle keep of the castle which had once quite long ago given the town its name. The castle there was like a huge block of soap that had been morphed and molded out of shape, and then covered with a layer of stone which held the whole bloody thing together, all uneven staircases, tiny, cramped little chambers, and slabs of rock sticking out of the floor. The whole place smelt of damp and stone.
Fotheringay seemed a little better. It was bigger, I thought, and had been renovated to allow for wide windows overlooking the interior of the castle walls. The walls had been hung with rich tapestries to cover the hideous stone, and lush carpets covered the floors. I could not help but think of the priceless tapestries and carpets in museums in my day, and how the rich designs over which I was wiping my muddy feet and setting down the chamber pot (on a particularly cold night) had been hand-made and would someday be pored over in workshops and museums, their bright and vibrant colors fading into pale dusks and beige through exposure to time and sunlight.
The bed in my little chamber was comfortable enough, a little wider than a single bed back home, perhaps. The blankets were a little scratchy, and I was sure I had brought in bedbugs from Agnes cottage, having unearthed a row of tell-tale red marks along my ankles.
The day of the banquet was the third night which I had spent staying at the castle. To my surprise, after that first morning with Richard it had turned into a rather lonely existence. I had been hoping that he would want to get to know me, especially as my experience in the past indicated that something allowing him to kiss me was bound to happen at one point or another. The suspense itself was killing me: I barely knew the bloke, and had no idea how I felt about him, or how my future self was supposed to feel about him. It was quite puzzling.
I had spent the last few days wandering around the village, looking at the sheep and trying to coax the adolescent lambs to come closer and let me pet their little noses, and lying on my bad watching the clouds and earning even more freckles on my nose. According to the servants, the “ fine young duke” had been quite occupied with riding about the neighboring farms, checking in on the tenants of the castle, and locked up in meetings with advisors and other gentleman who rode in from neighboring fiefs, all eager, apparently, to get in close with a man who had the ear of the king. For my part, I tried to stay out of the way when I knew I was not wanted.
The maid who had been charged with taking care of me was a little slip of a thing called Ellyn, a country girl who was always fretting about something and trying to keep busy. I took it that Richard had ordered his manservant to inform Ellyn that I was from elsewhere and not familiar with how things were run about the castle. She had awoken me each morning, having been awake for several hours herself (how these people knew when to rise without alarm clocks, I had no clue) and to help me dress. She would then lead me to the chapel where I would kneel beside whatever other people of my so-called social standing were there. Later, she would try to engage me in embroidering a large altar cloth which she said the good Duchess Cecily had begun years ago, and which Ellyn had a particular interest in completing. This was naturally an extremely undesirable task for me and so I avoided it at all costs, pleading a need for fresh air and swollen fingers and whatever else succeeded in allowing me to ditch Ellyn and her hateful needle eyes.
Attending the chapel every morning and evening proved to be a most pointless and awkward task which I soon started to dread. The chapel was located in a separate building from the keep, and was likely no larger than the size of our kitchen and dining room back home in Barnet. There were three rows of wooden pews and a large coloured glass window at the front of the church, a large status of Jesus hanging from the ceiling on his carved cross and a look of accepted agony on his bearded features. I would join whoever was already there at pious prayer and kneel beside them, wincing if my knee joints cracked loudly, as they were so prone to do. The stone floor was covered by a thin cloth, yet was still quite cold and hard in the summer morning, and all I wanted was to sit back on my heels and relax.
Wizards in my day tended to be raised without religious backgrounds: in the case of us Weasleys, if we followed any faith it was that of the adamant atheist. Mum had allegedly been to church at holidays with Grandma and Grandad Granger when she was a girl, but when I asked her once why we weren’t raised in the church she had explained that for her, at least, there was no logical foundation in the Bible or the teachings of the church, and it was simply one book she refused to rely on. She explained quite kindly to me that the Bible was written by rich, old white men as a method of controlling the submissive masses, and while she appreciated the community that belonging to a church could bring, she simply refused to sit there and listen to a load of malarkey being preached as principle. I had sometimes tried to contest this: my Muggle friends had such fun at church, dressing up as sheep and wise men at Christmas and singing carols about the baby Jesus. Mum had said we could still sing the carols and put out carrots for Santa’s reindeer without being committed Christians, and without her having to miss an entire day during which she could be catching up on Ministry work, tidying the house, bullying Dad into helping her tidy the house, and sitting down and reading a good book.
But for the people of the fifteenth century, prayer was a daily part of every individual’s life. I quickly learned that people who were not seen to put on the show of parading to pray, fondling their rosary beads between their fingers and whispering words in Latin with their eyes tightly closed, became objects of suspicion and fear. So, a little grudgingly, I played my part, and waited until someone else stood up, crossed themselves and left before silently excusing myself and wincing slightly as the blood rushed back into my legs. I usually used the time to reflect on important things like where in Merlin’s name the time traveling potion had disappeared to, how and when I would ever get home, the music that I would have to face if I did return to the Burrow and face Scorpius, and other amusing or interesting thoughts and comparisons with my time newly spent here and my life back home. Inappropriate thoughts kept floating into my head, just for the heck of it, and would glance up guiltily at the sculpture of Jesus and imagine he was giving me a judgmental look. Then I would blush heavily, glance my eyes from side to side to ensure none of my silent companions had noticed, and try to chase such thoughts from my head, knowing they were only appearing to mess with me.
On that third day, however, I saw Richard as I came into the chapel for my morning meditation on whatever best distracted me from the stiffness in my knees and back. He was kneeling at the center of the altar. his head bowed upon his clasped hands, his shoulders splayed out as he bent his elbows slightly, his back straight and serious. I knew him immediately, not only from his curly brown-black hair but from the thoughtful tuck of his chin which I recognized from our conversation when he had invited me to experience his hospitality at Fotheringay castle. Hesitantly, I walked quietly down the aisle and knelt beside him, careful not to startle him by clearing my throat as if I had something caught in it. The sound echoed in the chapel, but he did not look up.
I bent my head over my hands and glanced at him through the corners of my eyes. Nothing. Were it not for the faint movements of his lips, he could have been asleep. I shuffled a little closer to him. No acknowledgement. Shrugging inwardly, I copied his stance in resting my fists on the rail and resting my forehead on my fists, leaning heavily on the bar. It was like a yoga pose, only kneeling on a hard stone floor, likely with Richard’s dead ancestors rotting underneath the slabs of marble. Maude would be proud if she knew. I closed my eyes and breathed in and out my mouth, trying to lose myself in a daydream but unable to forget that Richard, the man who had kissed me, was kneeling right beside me and not giving away that he knew I was there by so much as the twitch of an eyelash.
After what felt like an eternity, he slowly raised his head and stood up quietly to leave. I followed his shadow with my eyes pointed to the floor as he left the chapel silently and closed the door lightly behind him. Fighting the faint feeling of disappointment which spread over me, I counted to sixty four times and then got up to leave, humming a rap song Hugo had been playing the other day and admiring the way it echoed in the chapel’s plain rafters. It was nice to be here alone for once. I sent Jesus a cheeky wink and skipped out the front door.
But Richard was waiting for me, a slightly bemused expression on his fine face. I blushed, and stammered a quick hello. He was standing, feet apart and hands clasped in front of him, gazing up at the castle keep. He nodded respectfully to me, and I felt my face burn even darker as I bobbed a clumsy curtsy.
“Good morning, Richard,” I said softly. “I didn’t know you were standing out here.”
“I was waiting for you to finish your morning prayer,” he said quietly, not meeting my eyes. “We have not spoken properly since your arrival: I should like to know how you are liking life here at Fotheringay.” His voice had a smooth, lyrical tone to it, and I imagined he could be very intimidating and command instant respect when it was needed. To me, however, his tone was gentle, even a little shy and uneasy. I wasn’t sure how I felt about making him uneasy.
Usually when faced with a new person it was my impulse to be a little brash and overly open, to let them know what they were getting into. My impulses took control over my restraint and the stranger and I would soon figure out if we were destined to get on or not. But with Richard, I found myself calculating and resenting every word that seemed too harsh, or out of place: I struggled to read what was going on behind the dark, polite eyes, and had to hold back from blurting out something which would completely frighten him off.
“I hope you will join my guests and I for the banquet tonight,” Richard said, holding out his arm for me to take. I curled my fingers around his upper arm, letting my forearm and elbow slowly graze his side as we walked slowly towards the castle. “They are good people from nearby towns and fiefs. I believe there is a dress being made up for you in your rooms.” He paused, and cleared his throat. “It will hopefully fit much better than the one you have been forced to wear at present.”
I glanced down. The dress I had been given was an improvement on the ancient rag Agnes had given me, though it was rather short at the hem and sleeves and too loose around my torso. Several times I had wished that I’d worn regular trousers and a comfortable shirt to the event at the Burrow, though dressing as such would have looked quite odd indeed to these traditional folk.
“I also wish to inquire,” Richard added, “whether you have a title by which I may introduce you to our guests. They are humble enough. My dear friend Francis, the son of Baron Lovell shall attend with his little wife, Anne, she is a fine, spirited creature. Some of the neighboring knights and ladies shall attend as well.” He looked at me from the corner of his eyes, an unreadable expression upon his polite, impartial face. “If you do not wish to tell me, I can understand, for I know you are much wounded by your betrothed’s indecency and do not wish to draw attention to yourself. I have asked the messengers who have rode to me with tidings from London, yet they have brought no inquiries or word on behalf of your people.”
I bit my lip, trying very hard to figure out what the different ranks were in England at this time. Richard being a duke was, I thought, quite high: I had also heard talk of the Earl of Warwick, who was a man Richard admired greatly and at whose estates he had grown up. Could I be a marquess- was that a male or a female title? Finally I decided to play it safe. “I am the daughter of a baron,” I said slowly. “The baron… the baron Ronald, who lives in some obscure land to the south which is rarely visited by anyone and which is a very unpleasant place to live- I wouldn’t recommend investigating further.”
Richard seemed pacified by this lie: I could only assume that he had more important things on his plate than chasing after my family roots. I worked up my courage.
“So, uh, sir, do you have plans for the day then?” My voice squeaked a little at the end: I hastily cleared my throat. “All there is on my agenda is stitching that bloody cloth the maid is always going on about: perhaps we could go for a walk again, or go and say hello to Agnes?” I smiled at him. Our faces were very close now: I wished I had the foresight to pop an emergency piece of chewing gum into the pockets of my gown.
“I must supervise the arrangements for the stabling of the horses, and the ensure enough rooms are being prepared, Mistress Rose.” Richard said stiffly. “I apologize. I shall see you tonight.”
“Oh, well I’ll be get of your way then,” I replied, a little rudely. He looked down at his arm, where my fingers were still resting on his forearm. Hastily, I pulled away and started strolling quickly towards the castle keep. I remembered the hastily learned protocol and spun around to dip another clumsy curtsey before running off and turning my back on him again. If I had turned around, I might have seen a smile pass like a ghost over his lips: he told me of it later.
The day passed in a frenzy of preparations. No sooner did I return to the keep than to see it all abuzz with servants running about, hauling large tapestries and works of art around the castle, shouting at one another in coarse, loud language. A startled serving maid carrying a large jug nearly collided with me: I saw her wince and bit her tongue from telling me off once she realized who I was. I navigated the fuss and found my way back to my room, where Ellyn was bent over the embroidery, as she often was.
She looked up and smiled at me, standing to bob a quick curtsey. I had told her several times it wasn’t necessary before realizing that such lenient behavior would diminish my cover story of being the estranged daughter of a baron. Moving to the window, I saw a large, dead pig tied to a pole and being carried by two broad-shouldered men with the pole slung over one muscular shoulder. The pig had no doubt been freshly slaughtered for the feast, and I felt a little queasy at the thought, wondering if it was once of the animals I had watched and even spoken to idly on my walks around the village.
“Yer dress is on the bed, milady,” Ellyn said softly. “Duke Richard’s own manservant ‘imself came up to knock and ensure it was to yer liking. I am to send a message to the Duke if ye don’t like it.”
I turned to the dress, which was stretched out on the bed. Unlike the simple, light gowns I had been wearing, the thing looked complicated. It appeared to be two dresses: one made of a thick white cloth with long sleeves, the other a thicker green color with a velvet touch. A sort of headdress was resting above it: I took it out and tried it on my head. It fit quite tightly.
“It’s great,” I said dryly to Ellyn: she looked confused, and I thrust a grin onto my face and said I loved the dress, it was kind of the men to care. Ellyn blushed. She was a pretty girl in a sunken, dried out sort of way: her skin was a mottled pink from being in the sun, her arms thing beneath her dress and her hands thin and nimble. She had pale, almost white-blond hair and round cheeks, and looked a little older than myself. I sat beside her. “Ellyn, may I ask why you are so committed to that blas-that embroidery you’re always wishing I would help you with?”
Ellyn glanced at me. She was clearly not used to those of the higher classes asking after her, or speaking with such interest. She seemed to dwell on her thoughts for a while, so long that I feared I’d have to ask her again or let the issue go and sit in silence for the rest of the morning.
“I was a wee maid ‘ere when Duchess Cecily lived ‘ere at Fotheringay,” she said shyly. “She was workin’ on this ‘ere display: she said it ‘elped ‘er to concentrate on completing something when them boys were off fighting.”
“You mean Richard’s father and brothers?”
Ellyn nodded, eyes lowered. “God save the king,” she whispered, moving her hand over her heart. “The young duke – ‘e used to come and sit with us when ‘e was frightened. ‘E was always so close with ‘is sisters and mother, we were glad to ‘ave ‘im with us.” A tiny tear slipped from the corner of her eye, weaving down her face.
“You mean Richard?”
Ellyn shook her head, blinking heavily. “Nay, nay, his brother.” She glanced at me, then seemed to work up her courage. “George, the duke of Clarence.” The name was whispered, as if the stones of the castle might overhear.
“Richard’s brother- you fancy him!” I cried out, pleased at myself. This was something I understood, and I looked at Ellyn with more interest. I had been lonely, going so many days without speaking with Cecelia or Maude: I had missed girl-talk.
Ellyn looked at me, her face plain and serious. “’e is incredibly ‘andsome and grand,” she told me solemnly. “I know ‘e is a fine lord and I am just a lowly village girl, but when ‘e passed through Fotheringay on progress last year ‘e smiled at me, from ‘is great white ‘orse.” She squirmed a little in her chair, her hands still against her needle and cloth, then took a deep breath, looking away. “I know it is foolish.”
“Hardly foolish!” I said cheerily, examining her critically. Ellyn was a little plain, but nothing a change of hairstyle and some makeup wouldn’t have been able to fix. For a moment I imagined if we had met in the twenty-first century. I imagined Ellyn’s gasps of wonder as she had her hair cut: perhaps in some stylish shoulder-length layers, I thought to myself. Her long nails could use a trim and coat of polish, her face a good wash and cleanse, and with some powder foundation over the red patches on her face and a little mascara she would turn out quite nicely. She wouldn’t need to hold on to the old memories of a forgotten duchess’ pet project to hold onto a man.
But as she looked back down at her embroidery, I remembered with a heavy heart what time I had thrust myself into. It was cruel to build false hopes for Ellyn. I wished I could tell her that if I had tricked Richard into thinking I was a rich woman of the landed gentry, she could as well, but I knew it was all fruitless. I had gifts of magic and deception and the power of a woman who existed in the twenty-first century, who was sure of herself and my own right to respect: poor Ellyn’s best hopes probably lay in keeping a plum position as a maid like this until found a loutish husband to bear little blond babies with in Fotheringay. Her chances with George, duke of Clarence were far worse than my chances with Richard, if that was even supposed to happen and had not been a hallucination. At least I might have fortune on my side.
I put my feelings aside and helped Ellyn finish her work for the day. At midday, I sent for bread, cheese and wine and shared what was given to me with Ellyn, having her swear on the bible that she would not tell anyone. The bread was light and fine, and Ellyn explained it was made from the baker’s in the village, probably bought in preparation for the banquet. I sipped the bitter red wine, asked Ellyn constantly if it was staining my lips and tongue, and let her fuss over me.
The first step was my hair. Ellyn explained that she had learned from her mother, who had been a scullery maid in the castle in the old years before the “old duke” was killed, and who had watched carefully as “Lady Lizzie and Lady Maggie” had their hair spun in elaborate braided formations. Wishing dearly for the magical-powered Witch Weekly product hair flat iron that I had left back in my bedroom in Barnet, circa 2023, Ellyn and I worked to meet a compromise that made me look proper but kept me from looking like an angry monk.
Angry monk syndrome was something Maude and I had invented when we were dying her hair over Christmas break in fourth year to a dark, blueish black which lasted all of three weeks. It was originally the term for how she looked, waiting for the dye plastering her head to sink in and be washed out, dark smudges of eyeliner under her eyes, but soon became a code word for being seen at our worst. For example, I knew a boy was a keeper if he’d seen my angry monk – my appearance at its absolute worst – and still fancied me. Scorpius had never been a great fan of the angry monk, though he never said anything.
I shooed Ellyn out on a wine-fetching errand to give me a few moments to apply my mascara and lippy. I had wrapped by purse and its modern contents in a burlap sack borrowed from the kitchens and stashed beneath the thin feathered pillow. I checked my appearance in the small compact I had in the purse, which was much better and clearer than the looking glass provided for me here in the castle. Being here had done wonders for my skin: in a few days it was already looking rather clearer and brighter. The country air must be doing it good. I had scrubbed my hair with soap and water and it would have been quite tangled without my usual dose of conditioner had Ellyn not insisted on helping me brush it out every night. I still missed deodorant and proper showers desperately. I would have considered swimming in the nearby stream if Ellyn had not told me that some of the villagers dumped the contents of their chamber pots into it.
Author's Note: This is another one of those chapters where I just kept writing and it ended up really long, so more real action happens in the next chapter. :P I hope you enjoyed! I do not own the 'grand old duke of York' nursery rhyme and its author is unknown. The angry monk thing was invented by my friend and I - hehe. Yes, Rose is strange. Yes, I am equally strange. Thank you for reading!
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