Chapter One - Seven years later
The room looked as though it should have been dank and ill-lit, but flaming torches in large iron candelabras kept away most of the damp and nearly all of the dark. One wall was entirely covered in shelves of books and strangely-shaped flasks containing mysterious liquids of many types. Another wall held a blackboard covered in lists of hexes and pictures of magical creatures. The centre of the room was filled with four perfectly straight rows of desks. Each of these tables faced the far side of the room, where two tiny windows allowed in some of the summer sunlight.
There were no students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the moment and that was one thing that made Tiberius Grimm very happy. He sat at his heavy walnut desk, copiously writing on the yellowed pages of an ancient book. Hunched over the book, one would have thought him to be an old man, perhaps as old as the book he wrote in, but whoever thought such a thing would be terribly wrong.
Grimm looked up from his work, squinting at the room, expecting to see a student accidentally set fire to the room or someone standing in front of his desk, hoping for help with the difficult essay he had assigned. Seeing no one, Grimm smiled sardonically, his dry lips rising slightly from their usual flat line, and pushed back the reddish-brown hair from his forehead. For once, he was able to get work done with no interruptions.
Suddenly, he heard a noise at the window behind him. With a grumble, he turned to see a small brown owl sitting on the ledge, looking at him with a tilted head. Its large yellow eyes blinked once, as if to ask a question, then it hooted loudly.
Grimm stood, taking a gold coin from his pocket, and exchanged the letter the owl bore for the coin. With another, happier hoot, the owl flew off again.
His acid-stained hands reaching for a letter opener, Grimm wondered why in Merlin’s beard anyone was sending something to him
. He rarely left Hogwarts Castle, much less correspond with anyone outside it.
With the quiet swish of the envelope’s fine paper being ripped open, Grimm laid down the opener and pulled out the clean, crisp paper the envelope contained. His steely grey eyes looking over the words the letter contained, Grimm pursed his lips. It was indeed a strange letter and one that he wished he hadn’t received.
Dear Professor Grimm,
It has come to our attention that your cousin, Lyra Goldwyn, made some provisions for you in her will. Unfortunately, these provisions did not come to light until now, three years after her untimely death. It is of the utmost importance that you come at once to our offices in Diagon Alley to receive your inheritance.
Your respectful servant,
Putting the letter aside, Grimm sighed. He hadn’t seen nor heard from his cousin since her youngest daughter’s funeral seven years before, and even then they barely spoke. Why now would she leave him something in her will?
The more he thought about it, the more curious Grimm became. As a longtime Ravenclaw supporter and scientist, he was naturally curious about everything.
, he told himself resolutely, is not why Lyra left me something. It is what she chose to leave me. She was always a little more than strange.
He remembered the few times he had gone to visit Goldwyn Cottage, most often in the company of his mother before her death. That part of the familiy was best known for their eccentricities. Rumours of maddness and disfigurement, even of squibs, were constantly heard of when talking about the Goldwyns. They were an old pureblooded family, reaching back to the time when Hogwarts first began centuries before, but like many pureblooded families in history, the consequences of marrying too close to the family were showing in an all-too-painfully obvious way. Cousins were being locked away in asylums; some children were never sent a letter of acceptance to Hogwarts; others who were sent to the school often did nothing great with their magic.
Finally, Lyra Goldwyn had taken it upon herself to save the family. Her husband had died long before in the war against Grindelwald, but her three children, all daughters, were the only things that kept Lyra from remarrying. So she instead made it her life's work to marry off her daughters to the most eligible wizards who were not
related to the Goldwyns. Grimm thought himself very lucky to have been a relation, albeit a distant one, for none of the sisters was at all desirable to him. Indeed, each of them had been mad in her own way, the youngest being the least mad of the three. She had been the only one to marry; a quiet wizard nearly a decade older than she had chosen her as his bride.
Looking down once more at the letter, Grimm deduced what had been left to him. A scowl crossed his face as he rose from the desk, grumbling curses at the whole family. While he thought that he was rid of them, it seemed that they had come back to haunt him in a most horrible way.
Grabbing a small silver object from a drawer, he slammed it closed again and stalked from the room, still grumbling to himself. As soon as the door had closed behind with with unnecessary violence, the torches went out by themselves, leaving the room in partial darkness.
~ * * * ~
The next day, Tiberius Grimm was standing on the road in front of a stately, but modest, house in the midst of Derbyshire. In his hand he held a rolled parchment sealed with blood red wax. On his face was a frown of deep thought.
This was not at all what he had expected.
Walking up to the front door, he rang the bell, which reverberated through the house. Grimm looked at the quiet brownstone facade and the numerous glass windows which let in the light, but found himself unimpressed. The house was just like most of the others he had seen; there was nothing special about it at all. Even the peaks which surrounded the house did nothing to raise Grimm’s enthusiasm. His mood had been ruined by yesterday’s meeting with Lyra Goldwyn’s solicitor.
When the front door was opened by a dignified witch with obviously-dyed blonde hair, his frown deepened greatly. Fulvia, his cousin’s eldest daughter, was perhaps the worst person he had ever met. Her haughty and snobbish outlook on life had sickened Grimm the moment he first met her while she was still a young girl.
“Cousin Tiberius!” she cried, her sickly-green eyes betraying surprise. “How -er- nice that you’ve come to visit. Please, come in.” Fulvia opened the door wider to allow him entrance.
As Grimm entered the foyer, he felt his eyes begin to ache. The walls were a gaudy mix of high Victorian and modern styles, which clashed on every square inch of wall there was.
He had to get out of the house as soon as he could; he would get what Lyra had left to him, then return to Hogwarts.
“Yes, hello Fulvia,” Grimm managed to say as he tried not to sneeze from the woman’s malodorous perfume. “I’ve come about your niece, Diana’s child.”
Fulvia’s fake smile immediately changed to a very real look of anger and hatred.
“Oh, I see,” she blandly replied. “Please, sit down in the morning room. I’ll go and find the little br-, I mean Emilia.”
As she strode off, Grimm turned into the room she had motioned to. It was slightly better decorated with softer tones and had fewer odds-and-ends scattered about the place. On a couch situated near a large bay window sat a thin, fragile-looking woman, her wide blue eyes staring at him.
“T-Tiberius, how n-nice of y-you to c-come,” she stuttered as she tried to stand. Because the couch was overstuffed, this was nearly impossible for her.
Grimm, unable to watch her suffer any longer, hurried across the room to stop her. Cloeia was the middle sister of the Goldwyn family: quiet, unassuming, humble, and easily overpowered by both her sisters, first Diana, and now Fulvia. The poor woman had been so traumatized by the deaths of her younger sister and mother (and also having to live with Fulvia) that her hair had gone completely white, even though she was barely over thirty.
When he placed his hand upon her arm to help her up, Cloeia blushed a bright red that actually gave her some semblance of life. “Th-thank you, c-cousin. I really should sit somewhere else, I s-suppose.”
Before Grimm could respond, Fulvia entered the room like a ship coming into port, closely followed by a young girl, perhaps about seven or eight years old. There was nothing special about her: not too tall, not too short, with a plain face, and straight brown hair. However, her strange yellow-green eyes betrayed an intelligence and curiosity that interested Grimm almost at once. Unlike her two aunts, who had less brains put together than a giant and who could barely transfigure a teacup much less create a delicate potion, this girl seemed to have at least the potential for being a successful witch. The girl's identity was obvious from her appearance; she was the child of Diana and her long-vanished husband. The girl was the last of a long line of purebloods.
Grimm smiled as kindly as was possible for him. “Pleased to meet you, miss.”
The girl stared at him, her head slightly titled to the side, much like the owl who visited Grimm the day before. Her eyes seemed to catch every detail of everything around her.
“Emilia,” Cloeia told her niece kindly. “This is your grandmother’s cousin Tiberius. He teaches at Hogwarts, where you’ll one day go.”
The girl said nothing, merely blinked the same way a sleepy cat does.
Fulvia too-quickly became impatient with her nieces’ anti-social attitude. “Silly girl, at least say hello to him. He asked to see you especially.”
Seeing this as a good moment to reveal his news, Grimm handed Fulvia the letter. “I received this yesterday evening from your late mother’s solicitor. It seems as though Lyra made extra provisions in her will that did not show up until recently,” he said, his voice harder than he had meant it to be.
Fulvia opened the wax seal with an equally blood red fingernail and unfolded the letter. As she read, her carefully plucked eyebrows rose higher and higher to the point where they neared her hairline. When she finished, she looked up at Grimm, then faced Emilia.
“Pack your things. You’ll be leaving with Professor Grimm as soon as he leaves.”
Cloeia gasped, her hands covering her mouth. “Fulvia, you can’t be -“
”I am,” Fulvia interrupted, her voice hard. “Mother leaves the care of the girl to Tiberius, not to us. Obviously mother wasn’t in the crazed state of mind we previously thought.”
Emilia gaped. “You mean I can leave?”
The three adults looked at her with surprise, even Fulvia seemed shocked. Grimm could barely suppress a smile. Perhaps this girl wouldn’t be such a liability after all.
“You heard me, Miss Emilia,” Fulvia declared with a sneer. “When cousin Tiberius leaves, so do you. So get upstairs and start packing. Now.”
Without saying another word, even though she had scarcely said few, Emilia ran out of the room, her footsteps heard clumping up the stairs. Grimm turned back to the two witches, one hand rubbing the short beard which framed his jaw and mouth.
“I am sorry to do this, but it seems as though we’ve been left with little choice.”
Cloeia sniffed loudly, betraying her sadness at now being entirely alone with Fulvia.
Fulvia herself did not seem at all perturbed at losing her niece. “A right little brat the girl is, just like her mother. Always asking stupid questions and leaving for hours at a time without even a by-your-leave! I won’t miss her at all.”
Hearing a thump at the top of the stairs, Grimm found an excuse not to reply.
“Sorry, but I’ll go help Emilia with her trunk. Thank you for your time, ladies.”
When he reached the bottom of the dark stairway, Grimm stopped and looked up. Emilia stood at the top, her trunk beside her, obviously trying to think of a way to get it down without harming either herself or anything else.
Upon noticing him looking up at her, Emilia called down, “Could you help me with this? It’s rather heavy.”
Finding the smile return to his lips with little warning, Grimm took out his wand. “Of course.”
She watched with great interest every move his wand made and every incantation he spoke, her eyes wide and shining. Once her trunk (which was unbelievably heavy for one so young) was down the stairs and sitting on the front stoop, Grimm looked at the now-closed door to the morning room with concern.
“Would you like to say good-bye to your aunts? There’s little chance that you will see much of them in the future.”
Emilia pursed her lips and tapped her foot, as though she was making an important decision. After a moment, she shrugged and trotted out the front door. “I don’t need to,” she said, emotionless. “They’ll be happy with me gone, now. Aunt Fulvia never wanted me and all Aunt Cloeia wanted was someone to protect her from Fulvia. I won’t miss them at all.”
Personally, Grimm couldn’t blame her. From what he could see, Emilia had been ignored and perhaps even mistreated during her time with her aunts. Her clothing was too small and torn in places. Now that he saw her in better light, she was extremely bony and underfed, which attested to his suspicion of mistreatment.
Against his better judgement of earlier that day, Grimm found himself feeling sorry for the girl and liking her immensely. Whatever would his fellow teachers say when they heard he had adopted a girl-child, much less liked her? The thought of Minerva McGonagall’s face nearly made him burst out laughing.
"I'd rather you called me Emma," the girl said suddenly. "I like it better."
Grimm raised an eyebrow. "Do you now? I suppose I can concede to your wishes."
She tried to hide her confusion at his words, but was not entirely sucessful. "Only my aunts called me by my real name. My parents called me Emma."
Knowing the contents of Lyra's letter and what it had implied about the child's parents, Grimm merely shrugged. "If that's what you'd prefer."
They walked in silence a short distance from the house, which was, like the homes of most pureblooded families, protected from most modes of transportation, whether it be Apparation or Portkey. Goldwyn Cottage was even more hidden than most magical houses: only members of the family could find it without invitation. For a family mostly composed of Hufflepuffs, they were terribly secretive.
Taking from his pocket a muggle lighter, Grimm took Emilia’s hand and told her to hold onto the handle of her trunk.
“Is that a portkey
?” she asked. “But it’s so small...”
“Yes it is, now hold onto your trunk tightly, we’d hate to leave it here.”
She nodded and grabbed the handle tightly. It was then that he noticed that her hand was pure white - entirely devoid of any colour whatsoever.
Before he could say anything, though, the portkey was already in motion. Feeling the awkward tug at his navel, Grimm looked down at Emilia, whose eyes showed the tiniest signs of fear. She held his hand until her knuckles turned as white as her other hand.
Then, amidst the swirling colour, Emilia saw a large castle sitting proudly up top a rocky cliff. Just beneath it was a giant lake surrounded on each side by thick forest and rolling hills. All at once the place was threatening and welcoming; a place that one could make into a home if only one had the strength of will to make it so. The castle and its environs were very much alive, filled with a magic that few could understand and even fewer would ever master.
Grimm let go of her hand and took possession of her trunk. “Welcome to Hogwarts,” he said. “Your home for the next ten years.”
Last Edited - 06/15/06
Chapter title from Maroon 5's "Songs About Jane"