Happy STEAMM day! I'm super excited to be participating in this very important holiday! I write Mary and Matthew most of the time, so it was fun to try and and write the other couples too. Huge thanks to Klarinette49, who gave me her insight into this fic!
So...this fic turned out really long. And I have plans to continue (because apparently I am unable to write a simple oneshot) This has been in my head forever, and since it's the future fic that we never got because Fellowes messed everything up in Season 3, I have a lot of ideas about this. I probably sound really vague right now, and you're probably all saying "Get to the story already!" so here you go and I hope you enjoy. And there are shippy scenes, I promise.
War. That dreaded, damnable word had made its way into his life again. His life and the life of everyone around him. Oh, there would be trouble in the world now. Far more trouble for him, for his family, for everyone, than he thought reasonable. Hadn't the previous war put them through enough struggles?
Matthew glared at the radio, though it was irrational. Irrationality mattered not. The fact that they were once again at war was irrational.
What a shame that they learned that terrible news on a night like tonight, a night where all was supposed to be well?
September 3rd, 1939, was shaping up to be a terrible day.
Sybil came with her family for dinner, and Edith with hers. It was a goodbye of sorts, as Edith and Anthony were going to America for a while. He had started a farming venture over there years ago, and while Mary disapproved of the fact that they were going over to save their eldest son, James, from being forced to go into the army, she understood their reasoning. A mother had to protect their child at all costs.
But dinner, dinner with the entire family...that would be painful. To say goodbye to Edith and Anthony, along with James and Grace, would be hard even for Mary, who had learned to get along with her sister better than expected. Especially to say goodbye to them in the wake of such terrible news. At least they would still have Tom and Sybil, who, unable to return to Ireland, had raised their children in the cottage on the estate. Tom found, despite his dislike of the aristocracy, he genuinely liked working as the manager. He was a hard worker, and the journalist job he had found just a few years after coming to live at Downton had provided a suitable outlet for his ideas that the rest of the family didn't take to so easily.
Tom and Sybil were there first, with their children in tow. Although in tow was hardly a word to describe them. Áine, their oldest, was nineteen. It was hard to believe how much she had grown up, how much all of them had grown up. The world was changing so much.
But not enough to prevent another war.
"Heard the news, I suppose?" Tom asked, taking off his coat. There was no footman to answer the door anymore. Matthew tended to do it himself, unless the butler, Barrow, beat him to it. Mary had bemoaned his middle class habits, so engrained in him despite the fact that he was an earl. He knew, however, that she found his habits endearing.
"Too much of it," Matthew replied with a grimace.
"He's been listening to the radio ever since it was announced," said a voice from behind him. Violet, his own daughter, was descending the stairs, dressed in her dinner clothes. They rarely changed for dinner anymore, but it was always a sight to see when his daughter got dressed up. "Mama says to take them through to the library, instead of the drawing room."
Matthew nodded. Her meaning was obvious. The radio was in the library. "Very well then. Thank you, Vi."
"Is there some sort of announcement from the Prime Minister tonight?" Sybil asked. She had caught Violet's meaning as well.
Matthew shrugged. "I suppose. I never quite know what Mary is up to."
"What is the news?" This came from Daniel, who was nine and the youngest of his cousins.
Tom and Sybil shared a glance. They couldn't tell him, not yet. "Daniel, why don't you and your sisters go into the library?" Sybil patted her son's head, and turned to her daughters. "Go ahead, we won't be long." Áine and Catherine looked unhappy about being forced away with their little brother, but they followed him.
"Do your children know?"
Matthew closed his eyes. The question from Tom seemed innocent enough, but he doubted Tom understood how hard it was to tell his children. Of course Tom remembered the previous war, but he couldn't possibly understand the repercussions of fighting in it. "Robbie doesn't. The rest though...they do."
His son. His son, only eighteen, and he knew what the question was. Would he fight? "I think it will be one of the topics of discussion at dinner." He had to leave it at that. Matthew knew what William's plans were, but he didn't want to reveal them out loud. That would be to say this was actually happening.
"Papa! Oh hi, Aunt Sybil, Uncle Tom." A blonde girl came flying down the hall, and gave her aunt and uncle a quick hug before turning to her father. "Papa, where are Áine and Catherine?"
"I think they're in the library. Oh, and Lily?"
Matthew smiled at his daughter. "Please tell your mother that Sybil and Tom are here. And get Beth downstairs. Knowing her, she's probably got her nose in some depressing book to go with the mood of the day."
"Of course." Lily ran off again. She still wasn't dressed in her dinner clothes, instead in pants, of all things. "And I need to get dressed, too!"
"She certainly has...interesting clothing choices," Tom said, with a slight smile. He had a daughter who was much the same.
"Reminds me of her aunt Sybil," Matthew said.
Sybil scoffed at the suggestion, but it was in jest. "I suppose the girls are wondering where we are. Shall we go to the library?"
Tom took Sybil's arm and Matthew looked impatiently at the stairs, wondering where his wife was. "Do you know when Edith and Anthony will get here?" he asked.
The answer to his question was a knock on the door. Matthew opened it, and in came Edith and Anthony, as well as their son and daughter. "Hello," Anthony said, giving Matthew a firm handshake. The worries of the day were impressed upon him, and Matthew remembered that Anthony had also fought in the previous war. He might be feeling similarly.
"Interesting day," Matthew replied, greeting Edith as well. "Sybil and Tom are in the library, so I suppose we should go in." He led the way down the hall and into the warm room, which was beginning to become quite full.
Violet had already turned the radio on, and there were many intent listeners as the stories of the day played. Not surprisingly, they all had to do with the announcement of war.
"Could I get you something to drink?" Matthew asked, turning to his brothers-in-law.
"It's awfully early in the evening for that," Tom said, smirking slightly. "You really want to be drunk during dinner?"
Matthew rolled his eyes. "Of course not. Just a little something to ease the pressures of the day."
"You're worried about William," Tom diagnosed easily. "He's going to announce he's enlisting, isn't he."
"I think so," Matthew replied. His voice was soft, the words not quite wanting to come out.
Anthony patted his hand in solidarity. "I'd feel the same way if it were James." He threw a glance over to the corner of the room, where his only son was chatting easily with Áine and William. "They're all so young."
"It's hard enough for a man of thirty or forty to fight in a war, but he's only eighteen. I'm afraid it might be too much for him." Matthew sighed and poured himself a scotch. "Anybody else want any?"
Tom took another glance at his oldest daughter. What might she be put through? He didn't have a son of fighting age, but Áine was the same age as Sybil was when the previous war began. "On second thought, I'll take a glass."
"Make that two," Anthony said.
The war had begun.
"Mama, are you coming down anytime soon? Everybody but Beth and I are already in the library." Lily looked into her parents' room, expecting to see her mother ready for dinner, dressed exquisitely as always, with a stately manner and a gracious smile. She was surprised to see Mary sprawled on the bed still in her day clothes, and not making a sound. Lily's eyes grew wide. "Mama?"
"Is everything alright, Lily..." Beth entered the room next to her twin sister. "Mama, are you alright?"
Both girls climbed onto the bed, on either side of Mary. She lifted up her head and forced a smile at both of her daughters. The girls breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh, girls... I'm sorry, it's just overwhelming. Everybody must be wondering where I am."
"We'll be alright, Mama. Don't worry," Beth said. She rubbed her mother's back reassuringly. "Everybody's wondering where we are. You should get ready."
Mary sighed and got up, patting Beth's shoulder. "Thank you, dear. I'll get ready. There will be plenty of time to...process."
Beth and Lily, satisfied with this, left the room. Mary looked at herself in the mirror. She was paler than normal, a feat hard to achieve. Streaks of gray in her dark hair. She was feeling so old, so expelled, and the fact that history was repeating itself in yet another generation certainly didn't help. Yet another war was upon them.
She carefully pinned back her hair. It was shorter now, falling in soft curls around her face. The styles had changed so much. Twenty years ago it would have been unacceptable for her to leave her hair down. No one blinked an eye her own daughter wore pants. The world was changing, and much too quickly.
With a sigh, she pushed open the door and descended the stairs.
Edith was staring across the room, not really seeing anything. Her eyes rested on Grace who was quietly talking with Catherine, but they didn't really register her daughter there. She wasn't sure what to think about. Of course, there were so many things left to do before they left for America.
Going there at first had been unexpected. Anthony had learned of some good, cheap land over there and how easy it was to start a farming venture, so they took a risk. Despite his immobile arm, he played the role of businessman quite well. Of course, it had been hard at first, with a three-year-old boy in tow. She had been heavily pregnant on the journey there, and much to her (and Mary's) dismay, Grace had been born in America.
For the past fifteen years, they had traveled back and forth. Most of Anthony's estate in England was dwindling, but he had managed to keep a steady business during the depression in America. How lucky they were, to have jobs and money, both inherited and earned.
"What time is the train tomorrow?" Sybil was beside Edith, gently touching her arm. "I'd like to see you off if I can."
"First train, at six. We're going out to Liverpool, and the ship leaves tomorrow evening," Edith said. She was touched by her sister's gesture.
"I'll be there. How long will you be over there?"
Edith blinked, unsure of the answer. "I don't know...as long as we can keep James safe. And business won't exactly be booming in England during a war..."
"You've become quite the businesswoman," Sybil commented.
"I try. It isn't right for a woman to simply lounge around without working anymore. There's so much we can contribute."
Sybil had to smile. "Am I rubbing off on you finally?"
"Oh please, it's been almost twenty years since I started writing those articles. I don't think finally is exactly the word to use."
"Are you still writing them? And what does Anthony think?"
"Have you not been reading them, Sybil?" Edith said, in fake shock. Sybil knew perfectly well that her sister was teasing.
"You haven't sent me them. I'd very gladly proofread them for you."
Edith rolled her eyes. "Sybil, the tutor almost gave up on teaching you proper English."
"You know full well that I knew how to use proper English, I just persisted in not doing so," Sybil said indignantly.
"Naturally. A rebel even then. And to answer your question, Anthony is perfectly supportive of the articles. He even offers me insight when he can."
"Surprising for a man only a little bit younger than Papa," Sybil said. She didn't mean it in a bad way. She loved her departed father dearly but they certainly didn't share the same worldview.
"Surprising perhaps, but true."
Sybil patted Edith's hand, which was gripping the edge of the couch. "Well, we've both found men who support us, and for that I'm very glad."
"How long did it take Beth to convince you to come down?" Matthew asked dryly as his wife sat next to him on the couch.
Mary looked at him, surprised. "How did you know?"
"I think I know you better than anyone else, and I'm pretty sure I have a good idea of what my daughter is like. I know it's hard." Matthew took Mary's hand in his and rubbed it gently, trying to reassure her. It wasn't easy, for sure. Both were on edge.
"It only took her a little while. And she just did her usual 'we'll be alright' spiel. And of course, that was sweet of her, and it managed to get me down for dinner..."
He laughed quietly. "Typical Beth." He looked in the direction of his daughters. Beth and Lily were giggling about something with Catherine and Grace. Maybe they didn't fully understand the repercussions of the war. They had looked properly somber when the announcement had blared over the radio, but how could they know?
"Poor girls," Mary said. She was thinking the same thing as him. "All of them. The boys too."
"Knowing them, they'll be the optimistic ones," Matthew replied.
Mary quirked her lips. "Of course they will be. Especially Beth."
"Oh yes. Especially Beth."
The table was crowded, even though they had opted to let Robbie and Daniel eat upstairs. The boys had pleaded, claiming they didn't want to listen to the adult conversation. Most of the time, Mary insisted they eat with the family, but today she didn't mind. She and Sybil had both sighed and allowed their young sons to go eat just with each other, despite the damage they might do to Robbie's room (and likely each other).
The dishes were all set out on the table, ready to passed around. Long gone were the days where dinner was served in courses, and footmen carried the food around the table. Matthew, who wasn't excessively fond of the way every meal seemed to be served in the aristocracy, chose to do it this way when he became the earl.
"It's the beginning of a new world, I'm sure," Anthony said, to start off conversation. Even he sounded hesitant to do so, but the silence that surrounded the table was hard to swallow.
"Of some sort." Matthew took a bite of his fish, but it was rather hard to swallow. He kept glancing over in William's direction, knowing his son was soon going to try and make an announcement. It was only a matter of time.
"Well, the last war changed the world for the better, don't you agree?" Sybil, of course, didn't mind change. Change was something to be happy about, rather than something to moan about. Her family shared the same view, but perhaps Mary's family didn't.
Sure enough, Mary looked affronted at Sybil's comment. The considerable decline of the aristocracy was something that was hard for her to swallow. She was considerably less haughty, which both Sybil and Edith had agreed was Matthew's influence on her, but she still seemed to want the world she had grown up in for her children.
"Certainly the world is more equal now, but it came at much too high a price," Matthew said, speaking before his wife could say anything. "Try as you might, war rarely has a bright side."
Lily and Beth looked at each other as if to say they would find a bright side. The twin girls were always known as the optimists, and even their father's cynical words could not get them down. "You just have to look for the silver lining," Lily said, convinced of her meaning.
Mary started humming quietly, and recognition lit up in Matthew eyes. A dance, so very long ago, a dance that had perhaps not been right of him. "Lily..." he said quietly, though the silence at the table was so all-consuming that even his whispered words could be heard clearly.
"And how would you know that, Lily? You can't possibly know what it's like," Violet said, sarcasm dripping from her voice.
"Well you wouldn't either!" Lily shot back. "You're only three years older than me, it's not like you're that much smarter."
"Girls," Mary hissed. She could feeling a pounding pulse against her skull. A headache was coming on, and the arguing of her daughter wasn't helping.
Violet rolled her eyes, a signature move that she obviously inherited from Mary. "Face the facts. There's a war coming, your brother is probably going away, lots of people you know could very well die, how could there possibly be good in that?"
"Violet! Stop it right now!" Mary snapped. She glanced over to where Lily and Beth were sitting. Beth was on the verge of tears.
But all eyes were turned towards William, who sat uneasily next to James. "Oh yes. I suppose this probably isn't the best time, but I guess I should tell you all." William's hands were shaking, and the spoon he held clattered onto the plate. More silence. "I'm going to enlist in the army."
Fear was suddenly instilled in the hearts of all. There would be someone they held dear at the front and they would be hanging for perpetuity, wondering every night if he had made it through another day. Matthew closed his eyes and sighed heavily. He wasn't going to protest. He couldn't. Hadn't he done the exact same thing? He just looked at his boy and nodded. There was nothing to do but accept it.
"That's...very brave of you, William." Áine spoke, trying to put on a smile she obviously didn't feel. It had been like that for everyone, forced smiles and hesitant reassurances. "The army will be lucky to have a soldier like you."
William bit his lip and looked around, searching for approval from the rest of the family. They were too quiet. No one wanted to discuss anything. Maybe it would have been better if they had been arguing. At least then he could have made a case for the decision. The lack of comment was unnerving.
"I won't enlist until I turn eighteen," William added, as if it was some sort of consolation. His birthday was only a few weeks from the day, but when he turned eighteen he would be an adult, and that might make his parents feel better.
Mary took a steadying breath. "We can discuss this later, William." She glanced around at the others. "Is the food really that bad?" The atmosphere did not lighten. Nobody was eating. "Well, if we're not hungry..."
"Why are we all staring at William like he's already dead?" Lily asked, fed up with the family's mournful faces.
"Lily, don't..." Matthew muttered.
Lily stood up, throwing her napkin onto her plate. "I think you all are being ridiculous, pretending this is the end of us. Must you all worry so much? I love William, but acting as if he's destined to die, which I don't think he is, isn't going to give us much hope."
"Hope is never very helpful," Violet muttered.
"It helps a great deal, Vi. We will get through this," Lily said. "And if you're all going to act like all is lost, then I don't want to be here." She stormed out of the dining room, her face crumpling.
Mary sighed as her daughter left the room. "I suppose none of us really have an appetite."
"Lily certainly doesn't," Edith said. "Mary, don't you think that was a little bit...uncalled for?"
"On the contrary, I think it gave us a lot to think about. Not all is lost," Anthony said. He didn't want Edith to start fighting with her sister, not on this day. They were much less petty, but still disagreed on many subjects.
"So much is lost during war, but I suppose not all," Matthew echoed Anthony, more for his own benefit than the benefit of anyone else.
Mary stood from her chair. "Are we all finished here?" she asked. None of the plates were cleared, but no one was picking at their food.
"We can all leave if you want to speak with each other without our intrusion," Áine suggested, figuring she knew what the parents wanted.
"That would be lovely, dear," Sybil said, giving a warm smile to her oldest.
"William, why on earth would you just go and enlist? How stupid are you?" Violet angrily slammed the door after the rest of her siblings and cousins.
"Isn't it my duty to go and enlist? To fight for this country?"
Violet took a heavy breath, and stepped towards William threateningly. For fairly slight girl of sixteen, she could certainly be intimidating. "You sound just like Papa. And no, maybe your duty is staying here and not worrying your parents! And not worrying us..."
"I want to go. I don't want to be useless. And if anyone's going to talk me out of it, it won't be you," William said, standing firmly in front of the fire.
Beth looked between her siblings apprehensively, knowing they were heading towards a huge argument. "Vi...please. Just let Papa talk to him later. You aren't helping."
"I'm trying to convince him to not run away and get himself killed. Why don't you go tell Lily she wasn't helping, because she certainly wasn't!"
Beth blinked quickly and stepped backward. "Lily wants to be alone."
"Oh please, Lily never wants to be alone. Go, Beth."
"Promise me you won't argue, then."
Violet sunk down on the couch, a slim hand pressed to her forehead. "He won't listen to reason."
"Vi, if William does go, you don't want to be on bad terms with him," Beth said quietly. "Please think about that." She stood up and left the room, throwing a backward glance at her sister.
"She's right, you know," Áine said.
Violet blushed and looked at her cousins. Áine, James, and Grace had all seen their heated words. "William..." She stood up and hugged him, encompassing her older brother in her arms, squeezing him as if she never would let go. "Please don't go..."
"I can't say I won't. You know I can't."
She looked up at him, noticing the tear stains on his shirt. Had she really been crying? "I wish you could, but just please...think about it. You have so many people who care about you."
"Doesn't every soldier?" William released his younger sister from the hug and began to pace in front of the fire.
"You're awfully naive, you know. Some...some just don't. They think no one will care if they die, and so they go off with no thought for their own life."
He pressed his lips together. "Well, I suppose I won't be naive for long."
After the children left, a palpable tension surrounded the dining room. Sybil was acutely aware of this. She saw Edith and Mary staring harshly at each other, Mary still reeling from Edith's dig about her children. Matthew drummed his fingertips on the table, his eyes staring worriedly at nothing. Anthony, too, had contorted his expression into one of fear. And then there was Tom, her darling Tom, who was simply looking at her expectantly. She took his hand under the table. If he was there, everything would be alright.
"Are you going to let William go, then?" she asked.
It was obviously the wrong thing to say. Mary's expression clouded, a veritable thunderstorm brewing. "I would hope not."
"We have little choice," Matthew interrupted. He closed his eyes, not wanting to see the look on his wife's face.
"What do you mean? We don't know if he'd necessarily be conscripted! He could have a couple years before he needs to go."
Matthew shook his head. "He wants to go."
"You can forbid him to." She exhaled heavily, fists clenching below the table.
"I can't, Mary. I will try to talk him out of it, I'll do everything I can. But...I can't forbid him to go."
For a second, it looked as if Mary was about to explode in anger. As if lightning would strike. But she looked into his desperate eyes, and nodded. Matthew could counsel her son much better than she could.
"We could talk of more pleasant things," Edith said. She was overly eager, and shook her own head at her lame attempt.
"There are very few in England who don't have the war on their mind," Anthony reminded her. "I doubt we can escape talk of it."
"Remember when the last war was announced?" Edith asked. It was rhetorical, of course. They all remembered. Nobody responded, the heaviness of the troubles they were about to face weighing on them.
Sybil swallowed the last of her wine gratefully. "Shall we go through and leave the men alone?" she proposed.
Edith and Mary gestured their agreement, and followed Sybil into the library.
Lily's room was bright, in bursts of pink and yellow and white. Beth always was a little bit overwhelmed when she came in, her own room being in more subdued colors. But the room didn't seem so bright today, not with Lily looking so despondent.
Beth heard footsteps, and turned around to see Catherine behind her. "I thought I might be able to help," Catherine said, with a shrug.
"Of course you might. I'm not really too worried though, Lily is never down for long." It was a lie, and both girls knew it. Lily and Beth fought often, their different personalities but shared stubbornness clashing, but at the end of the day, they were very close. And Beth, who worried about everything, would naturally worry about her twin sister.
Catherine opened the door quietly. "Lily?"
"Yes?" A plastered smile. Lily was too bright, too bright to be real. Beth had only a few minutes ago seen her close to tears.
"Are you alright?" Beth asked, following her cousin in. Catherine took a chair by the window, while Beth climbed up on the bed.
Lily raised her eyebrows quickly, eyes darting around. "Perfectly."
"Well...er...you can always talk to me if you need to."
"I know that," Lily said. "Shall we go downstairs?"
Beth and Catherine exchanged a worried look. Lily was a good actress, and could have easily convinced a person who didn't know her very well, but Beth knew her better than anybody. And Lily Crawley was not perfectly alright.
"We're back to America in the morning," Edith said uselessly, as she seated herself on the couch next to her sisters. "I'll miss it here."
"I doubt that, considering the glowing terms you speak of America in," Mary snapped. She was fed up with her sister. They got along now at the best of times, but neither, to Sybil's dismay, could quite put their years of pettiness and anger behind them.
"I like it both places. Grace much prefers England, however, and she's staying with a friend in London while we go over."
Mary's eyes narrowed. "You would leave your fifteen-year-old daughter in a different country while there's a war going on?"
"Mary..." Sybil said softly.
"Is there a problem with that?" Edith retorted. "My daughter asked if she could stay, and I allowed her to. And speaking of which, we have another boat ticket if you'd like us to bring one of yours over to America. Perhaps Violet, or Catherine, or Lily? One of them could surely benefit from being out of a war-torn country."
"How insensitive are you?" Mary asked heatedly. "I won't let my children go to a foreign country in the middle of a war."
"Even to save William from conscription?"
Mary paused. Edith posed a valid question. "William wants to go, whether we like it or not."
"But if you could..."
"That's besides the point, Edith, and no, none of mine will go."
Sybil shook her head. "I'm sorry Edith, I'm not going to send any of mine, either. And I can't quite understand why you're leaving Grace in London of all places. That's not exactly safe..."
"How do we know London won't be safe?"
"We can't know if it is safe, Edith," said Sybil. "We'd be perfectly willing to have Grace stay with us, if she really wants to stay in England that badly. I know she loves London too, but if any area is going to be targeted by Germans, it will be the capital."
Edith bit her lip. "I suppose so. I will talk to her, I suppose. Poor girl, she's going to go through a lot."
"We're all going to go through a lot, Edith. You remember the last war. It put us all through the wringer, and we got the least of it. I can only imagine what Matthew and Anthony went through then," Mary said, her voice softening. "Now they have to go through it again."
Sybil touched Mary's arm in solidarity. "Matthew won't have to go back, will he?" she asked softly.
"I doubt it," Mary replied, but she swallowed quickly. "I'd say he's over the age, and with his back..."
"That's one less thing to worry about," Sybil said.
"You have to be hopeful, Mary. It's going to be hard, but we survived one war, why couldn't we survive another?"
Mary rolled her eyes. "You're starting to sound like Beth and Lily."
"And they're both right."
"Cockeyed optimists, more like it."
Sybil sighed. "They may be naive, but they're still right."
"Would either of you like a drink?" Matthew asked. He opened the liquor cabinet and took out a bottle of scotch.
"How much have you had today, Matthew?" Tom's tone was jovial, or at least as much as it could be, but he looked at his brother-in-law with concern. Matthew seemed to be taking it hard; of course he would. Anthony, of course, was troubled too, but Matthew was far easier to read. He supposed it came down to their origins. What an odd trio they were. The baronet, the middle class lawyer turned earl, and the chauffeur who married the earl's daughter.
"Not too much. It's just..."
"I understand," Anthony interrupted, putting his good hand on Matthew's shoulder. A look between former soldiers was exchanged. Neither wanted to share their ghosts. "And I'll gladly take a drink. God knows we need it."
"I'll take one too, I suppose." Tom pulled out two chairs from the table so the three men could sit down together.
Matthew silently poured the amber liquid into the glasses, and sat down tiredly. "I just don't know how we'll make it through another war."
"Much the same way we made it through the last, I suppose. Pain and suffering, of course, but also finding joy in the little things," Tom said firmly.
"I certainly don't remember much joy," Matthew muttered under his breath.
Tom exhaled heavily into his glass, the liquid stirring from his breath. "I found Sybil because of the war."
"Well, not all of us were that lucky."
"But we all found the right Crawley sister in the end, didn't we?" Anthony said, trying to lift his own spirits.
Tom studied his brother-in-law worriedly. "You're afraid, aren't you?"
"Of course I'm afraid. But we don't have to discuss my deepest fears right now. Isn't this supposed to be a time to talk about cricket or farming or whatever other ridiculous thing?" Matthew was close to snapping, his typically even temper warming up.
"Why on earth would want to speak about cricket at a time like this?" Tom asked incredulously.
Anthony shook his head. "I'd rather not discuss the war either." It had been a long time ago, but the memories of mud, shells, and far more death than any human being should see were filling his mind.
"Then it appears we will have very little to discuss," Tom said.
"I'm sorry for being a poor host, but I ought to go talk to William," Matthew announced. He stood and gave his brothers-in-law a tight smile, one he obviously didn't feel.
As he left, Tom turned to Anthony. "Think he'll be alright?"
"He will be," Anthony said. He looked down at his useless arm and sighed. "The war changed us all. I hardly felt like the same person when I arrived back from the front."
"And you're off to America in the morning?'
Anthony nodded. "I think it will be better for us to be there right now. The business there will be better than over here, and it will keep James safe."
"I've never been to America," Tom mused. "Do you like it over there?"
"I do, though England will always be my home. If things get...bad over here, you're always welcome to come over."
"Thank you for the offer." Tom smiled and knocked back the last of his drink. "The political system over there seems admirable. Perhaps they won't be inane enough to get into another war."
"Roosevelt is a good president," Anthony agreed. "Do you think we should go through?'
Tom stood, and with a less defeated posture than before, exited the dining room.
Matthew stood in the middle of the great hall, feeling rather useless. William was in the library, but he didn't want to speak to his son in the library. The whole family didn't need to listen to their discussion.
About to put his hand on the door of the library, he heard footsteps behind him. Lily, Beth, and Catherine were smiling brightly, far more brightly than they should have been. He didn't begrudge them their naivety, of course. He wanted them to be happy as long as he could.
"Lily, will you ask William to come out? I'd like to speak with him."
"Of course," said his daughter, and a couple minutes later, William emerged.
"Papa. You said you wanted to talk to me?"
Matthew nodded. "Yes. Um...shall we go into the drawing room? I don't think anyone is in there." He was still hesitant about using his own house sometimes. He had been the earl for five years and yet sometimes it was as if Robert was still right around the corner, with a grace and smoothness Matthew could only fake on a most superficial level.
"Alright," William replied, leading the way. "You want to talk to me about the war." It wasn't a question. He spoke firmly, but his voice wavered.
The earl swallowed, not sure how to begin. He turned on the light and sat down slowly, as if he was trying to delay the conversation in any way he could. "I'm not going to stop you from enlisting."
"You're not." William looked surprised, a contrast to his rather flat reply. He had his mother's expressions, Matthew noted.
"I did the very same thing. My decision was rather rash and there have been times where I've quite regretted it, but it would be hypocritical to stop you."
William shook his head. "I know it's hard, Papa, but it's the right thing to do."
"It's harder than you can imagine. And once you go you can't back out... It's fight or die," Matthew said, a haunted look on his pale face.
"They shoot you if you abandon," William said quietly.
"How do you know all this?"
The young man stood up and began to pace. "I...I talked to Uncle Anthony."
Matthew closed his eyes and leaned back, the pressures of the day taking a toll on him. "I'm sorry William, I'll try to be more open with you," he said, the implication of William's comment seeping in. Was he really being a competent father? Could he be, with everything falling down around them?
"And Mama will let me go?"
"I will bear the burden of your mother's anger at me for allowing you to join the army. Just...stay safe," Matthew said, looking at his son, remembering when everybody had asked that of him. "Wait here a moment."
He left the room and went up the stairs, the house feeling empty despite the many people downstairs. When he was up here, he was alone.
Matthew pushed the door to his room open, a room that he had grown to love dearly. It wasn't just his room, it was their room, and that meant everything. On the bedside table, on top of a stack of books, lay a small stuffed dog. He picked it up carefully, as if it might break. It had come back a little worse for wear, like nearly everything and everyone that had gone off to war. But here it was, and here he was. And nobody needed it more than William right now.
By the time Matthew found his way back to the drawing room, William looked quite impatient. "There you are, Papa. What do you..."
Matthew held out the dog. "Take this."
"Really? A stuffed dog? I think I'm rather old for toys."
A small smile formed on Matthew's lips. "I'm fairly certain I am as well. But this isn't just a toy. Your mother gave this to me and told me to bring it back without a scratch. It's her good luck charm. And now I want you to have it. You need it more than I do."
William glanced down at the little dog, and back at his father. "And I suppose you want me to bring it back without a scratch."
"Ideally," Matthew said, patting his son's shoulder. "I just...I want you to make it through this."
"But there are fates worse than death in a war, aren't there? I've heard of men who said they'd rather have died," William muttered worriedly. "That's what I'm scared of. I'm not scared of death so much..."
Matthew closed his eyes and thought back to a time where he couldn't help but feel similarly. "Sometimes it feels like that, but it isn't true. There are many terrible possible outcomes, but don't think that way. Nothing could devastate us more than if you..." How could William speak about death with such candor, while Matthew could barely say the word? "William, just don't try to be noble or a hero. Please."
When he nodded meekly, William looked like the little boy he used to be, instead of the man he had become. "Papa...I won't enlist until I turn eighteen. That's still more than two weeks away."
"Two weeks which will be of high value," Matthew said, and pulled his oldest son into a tight embrace.
It was late when Matthew and William finally came back into the library, both having tried their best to hide their tearful faces. Mary took one look at two of the most important men in her life and sighed, knowing what they had been doing. A glance exchanged between husband and wife, and there was no doubt. She knew William was going off to war.
"I suppose we should probably go," Edith said regretfully. "We have to be off early in the morning. Grace, James, it's time to go."
Anthony smiled grimly, and shook Tom and Matthew's hand. They were used to shaking left hands instead of right, due to Anthony's injured arm. It had been so long ago that everyone had simply accepted it as a fact of life, including Anthony.
He took his children out to the car, leaving Edith to follow. She sighed heavily as she closed the library door behind her, the affects of the rather depressing night getting to her.
She walked briskly down the hall, but stopped when she heard soft footsteps behind her. To her surprise, it was Mary.
"Edith," Mary started. "Edith, I'm sorry for snapping at you... If we're to face this, we certainly can't be at odds.
Edith laughed hesitantly. "I'm afraid we aren't much good at that."
"I can't say I agree with you, about leaving Grace here and all that, but I don't want to argue. And who knows what the future may bring. I just...I don't want us hurting each other, or insulting the children," Mary said with a pointed glance.
The younger sister raised her eyebrows, as this Mary, this woman who claimed to be against argument, was one she didn't know. "You really have changed."
"I've raised five children, I'm sure that could change any woman," Mary replied.
"Well... I agree with you, of course. We've never had a perfect relationship, but then again, do any sisters ever have a perfect relationship?" Edith smiled. "I do love you Mary, even if I don't show it."
"And it's very much the same for me," Mary said, though her expressions were more reserved.
Edith hugged her sister tightly, as if they were little girls again. "I suppose I should be off. I'm not sure when I'll see you again."
"Neither do I," Mary said quietly. "Best of luck, going over to America. And please consider my advice about Grace. London can't possibly be a safe place now."
"If she insists on staying here, Sybil has offered to let her stay with them."
Mary's lips quirked. "Another cousin here. My children will be thrilled. I never expected to be around children so much. If anything, I expected a loveless marriage where I would produce an heir and nothing else."
"And look at us now," Edith said fondly. "Goodbye Mary."
Mary kissed her sister's cheek and stepped back. "Goodbye, and best of luck."
"Are you going?" William was surprised to find himself in a corner of the hall, pressed against the wall by Áine. "Please tell me Uncle Matthew talked you out of it."
William sighed and pushed his cousin out of the way. "As a matter of fact, he did not. He told me it was my choice."
"Of course..." she muttered. Her tone wasn't angry, simply unsurprised and rather unamused.
"And is there a problem with that?" William asked quietly. His cousin's adverse reaction to his announcement scared him. Did Áine know things that he didn't? She was a year older than him, and they were as close as cousins could be. Áine had even said that William felt more like a brother to her than Daniel, who was actually her brother. Áine confided everything to him. So why was she holding back now?
She raised her eyebrows and tried to blink back the tears that were pressing at her. "I...I'll be very scared for you. I don't know what I'd do, what any of us would do if we lost you. I don't even want to imagine how your parents would react."
"Don't talk about them... Mama is going to be furious with me, but Papa said he'd talk to her and brave her anger. I really... I can't think about that, Áine. I know it'll scare all of you, and it frightens me very much, but I have to go."
She sighed heavily, as if the weight of the world was on her shoulders. "I know, you've said as much multiple times. And I feel called to be a nurse."
"Just like Aunt Sybil was," William said, a big smile forming on his handsome face. "That will be wonderful, Áine. You'll make an excellent nurse."
Áine nodded, glad for his affirmation. If William approved of that step, which she knew he would, maybe he wouldn't react badly to the rest of her plan. "I was thinking, once I got trained, maybe I could go to London, or even be a field nurse."
William stepped backwards. "A field nurse? Áine, do you even know..."
"Yes, I know that it's dangerous, but I'm not sure I can be happy just working in the village hospital. Of course I'll have a sense of purpose, and of course Mama will give me a job there, because how could the doctor not give her own daughter a position, but I'm not looking for that."
"Are you really seeking adventure now, of all times?"
Áine shook her head, her voice rising, filling the hall. "Of course not! But you know I can't be content just like that. Mama broke out of the mold during her time, maybe I'll do so now."
William turned around, not wanting to see Áine's desperate face. "I'm not sure what to say to that. It isn't my decision though. Talk to your parents, I'm sure they'll have much better advice for you than I would."
"All I want is for you to support me!" she begged, pulling William's arm towards her. "I support you..."
"And all I want is the best for you, Áine," he replied, pulling away from her grasp. "I should go to bed, actually. Goodnight."
He walked away from her, his steps and his heart heavy. Áine couldn't see his face as he ascended the stairs, but tears were seeping from his dark eyes.
Áine turned around, seeing her mother behind her. "Are you alright, darling?" Sybil asked, seeing her daughter's face crumbled and wet.
"Perfectly, Mama," Áine replied, raising her eyebrows and blinking rapidly, telling an obvious lie. Sybil didn't believe it at all, nor would any sane person, but she didn't question her girl. Instead, she just kissed the top of Áine's head.
"We're leaving," Sybil said quietly, running her hands over Áine's short hair. "Your father and Daniel are already in the car, and Catherine is saying goodbye to Lily and Beth."
"Alright," Áine said, and she took her mother's arm. "I guess we'll all try to get some sleep. We certainly need it."
Sybil smiled. "We'll face the day with bravery, darling. If anyone will be brave, it will be you."
Mary watched as Tom drove back to the cottage where they lived, wishing Sybil and her family still lived at Downton not for the first time. How she could have used more gentle conversations with Sybil, who always seemed to know the right thing to say. Maybe it would reassure her, help her know that everything would be alright, especially with William.
Her darling son. Mary had never thought of herself as maternal, and indeed, had been rather frightened when she held her son for the first time, but she had become quite the mother. She blamed Matthew for this development. She had been so scared, but then he showed up, having rushed home from Scotland, and everything was alright. It wasn't so easy when she found out there had been a car accident...and Matthew was hurt, but thankfully, it wasn't too bad. A concussion and a sore back kept him in bed for a few days, but nothing more than that. And suddenly, she found herself more and more maternal, her instincts growing with every child.
Violet had been born a little more than a year later, and Mary thought with just her son and her daughter, she could be complete. Of course, she was thrilled to find out she was having another a few years later, and the surprise of twins doubled her little family, and then she truly thought they were complete. Robbie had very much surprised her, but of course she and Matthew had been delighted, like they had on every pronouncement of pregnancy. After a difficult birth, they had decided they were done having children, but they loved their five darlings like nothing else.
And now her first child was leaving the nest, and not in a happy way.
She could talk to Isobel. Isobel would understand, having nearly lost her only child to the war twenty-five years prior. Matthew's mother was getting rather old, but she was still sprightly and Mary found that despite her early perceptions of her mother-in-law, she very much enjoyed talking to Isobel.
Mary glanced around the empty hall.A steadying breath, and she headed up the stairs, grasping at the handrail, still glancing down at the room below. It had seen so many moments of history, and now it would see her sending her son off to war.
She rounded the corner, and heard a soft voice coming from the nursery. It wasn't really the nursery anymore, just Robbie's room. The childish decorations had been taken away long ago, and it was perfect for her youngest son.
The door didn't squeak when she pushed it open, and she was able to silently peek in without anyone knowing. Matthew was sitting on the bed, Robbie next to him, and both had rather frightened expressions on there face. "When will William leave?" Robbie asked quietly, sounding nothing like the boisterous son Mary knew.
"In a few weeks, after his birthday," Matthew replied, rubbing Robbie's back gently. "Can you be brave through all this?"
"Of course, Papa."
The earl forced a smile. "Goodnight, then." He stepped out of the room and closed the door behind him, stopping when he realized Mary was right next to him. "Mary...what are you doing?"
"Listening to you, darling," she said, placing a reassuring hand on her husband's arm. "I think we should go to bed. It's been a long day."
"Has it ever," he sighed. "I do think you're right."
She nodded, an ever so slight smirk etching itself in her features. "Aren't I always right?"
"Grace?" Edith opened the door to her daughter's room, still quite lovely though devoid of personal aspects. It was the last night at Locksley for a very long time.
Grace looked up from the book and smiled brightly at her mother, perhaps a little bit too brightly. "Yes, Mama?"
"Darling...are you sure you don't want to go to America with us?" Edith said, phrasing the question so that Grace might not pick up on her worry. Grace was intelligent, but not remarkably perceptive.
"I'd rather stay with Annie."
Edith sighed, and sat on the bed next to her daughter. "Grace, your father and I have decided that London isn't really the best place for you right now. If you insist on staying in England, you can stay with Aunt Sybil. They'll gladly take you."
"And why not London?"
"How advisable is it for you to stay in the capital city during a war? If the Germans decide to do anything and fight on our ground..."
Grace exhaled in frustration. "I'd be perfectly safe with Annie! Nothing happened in thhe last war here. Her father is in parliament anyway, he'll know what the Germans will do."
"No one can, not really. So darling, either come with us, or you can stay with Aunt Sybil. I'm sure Catherine will be very glad to have you at her house."
"Fine. Aunt Sybil's it is." Grace slammed her book shut and stalked to the door, closing it loudly.
Edith sighed. She didn't want to leave her little girl in a different country, not really, but she knew how hard it was for Grace, who didn't always fit in easily, to make new friends in America where she was seen as odd. A British aristocrat's daughter, who spent half of her life in another county. Edith couldn't imagine how hard the uprooting was for her daughter.
Grace would be okay with Sybil. Catherine was only a year younger, and the two got along well, though Catherine was closer to the twins by virtue of living extremely close to them. Edith would have to let her baby go, but Grace would be alright.
Sybil found herself alone in the kitchen. It was past midnight, but she couldn't sleep. Her eyes were bleary and several times she found herself forgetting what she was doing, but there was no way her mind was going to stop racing, and worrying.
She was afraid, perhaps more afraid than when she heard the announcement of the war the first time. Then, she had only been nineteen, just on the verge of adulthood. All of a sudden, there would be no balls, no extravagant meals, no awkward courting, and likely no social activities at all. Most men were gone, and she was determined to make something right in the world.
It was different now. She was a doctor now, the village doctor, something which had thrilled Tom and made Mary a little bit uneasy. Despite the fact that Sybil was obviously very competent, she would always be the little baby sister to Mary. Matthew, however, had not hesitated in finding her a job at the village hospital, and promoting her to the head doctor when Clarkson retired. It hadn't always been easy, trying to raise their children while Sybil worked at the hospital and Tom split his time between helping Matthew manage the estate and writing for a newspaper that, while not quite as radical as Tom, quite appreciated his views on several matters. It wasn't the life the envisioned, especially since they weren't able to live back in Ireland, but Sybil wouldn't change it for anything.
But war was coming, which meant great stress. The village hospital would be crowded with injured soldiers, and while Sybil know how to emotionally detach herself, it could still take a toll. To see so many young men so broken... it was hard to handle.
Her mind was so filled with worry that when she took the tea kettle off of the stove and began to pour it, she didn't notice where the water was going. "Ouch!" she screamed, and a string of swear words flew from her mouth as she uprighted the kettle and looked at her burned hand.
"Sybil?" Tom was standing at the door of the kitchen. "Sybil, what did you do?"
"Burned myself," she muttered, pushing past her husband to get to the sink. "I was just being stupid, and...wow, that hurts."
She put her hand under the cold water, and Tom came up next to her and took it. "Are you alright?" he asked, holding the burnt appendage gently.
"Yes, it'll be fine," Sybil sighed. "Just hurts like hell."
Tom smiled ruefully and turned to the cabinet behind him. "Come here," he said, beckoning with his hand. Sybil dutifully obeyed, and held out her hand.
He took a roll of gauze and began to wrap her hand, getting closer to her than was entirely necessary. "There you go, darling."
"I could have done it myself," Sybil said, but it was obvious that she was teasing him. She very much enjoyed having him close to her.
"Let me be the doctor for once," he said, playfully kissing her cheek. "Now go sit down, and I'll pour us some tear."
She smiled in spite of herself. "Don't burn yourself. Then where would we be?"
"Needing Áine to care for her poor invalid parents," Tom teased, coming back out with two cups of hot tea. Sybil looked down in her and smiled at the fact that Tom had put just the right amount of milk and sugar in. He knew her so well.
"Áine would gladly nurse us," Sybil agreed, but her expression changed. "She wants to be a nurse."
Tom took a sip of his own tea. "Is that a bad thing?"
"No, of course not. Naturally, I approve. But...I don't know. I'm just worried, Tom. I'm scared."
He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her closer, always closer. "You know what? So am I. But this time, we can face the war together. And I know you won't disappoint. You'll be a hero, one of the rare female doctors who saves the lives of hundreds of soldiers."
"And you'll be..."
"I'll find a way to contribute. Something that will help those poor men. You know I'm not for the war.."
Sybil nodded. "It's never right. But we'll help and we'll be alright."
"Yes," he said confidently. He pulled her even closer to him, if that was even possible and kissed her tenderly. "I do love you so much."
"And I love you too."
"Beth?" The door was cracked open, and a petite figure was at it. Beth rubbed her eyes, rolling over to see who it was. She didn't need to look, however. Who else would come into her room after midnight.
She turned the light on and yawned. "Lily, what are you doing here."
"I can't sleep."
Beth rolled her eyes. "You never can." She shifted over on her bed to allow Lily to sit down.
The other girl bounced onto the bed and sighed. "I can't stop thinking. And I'm certain Violet's angry at me, and so are Mama and Papa, but I meant what I said. We have to be hopeful."
"You won't hear any argument from me, though you do sound awfully like a fictional character. Nobody can be as optimistic as you."
"Except for you," Lily shot back. "You read too much. Stop comparing me to fictional characters."
"I didn't compare you to a fictional character in particular, but now that you say so, I think you're rather like Jane Bennet. She always looked through rose colored glasses, as you do."
Lily smirked. "If anyone is Jane, it's you. I'd say I'm more like Lizzie."
"Of course not, Lily," Beth protested. "Violet is Lizzie. You're...Bingley."
"So I'm your husband then?"
"Really, Lily? I didn't mean it that way."
The door opened wider and squeaked. Both girls were surprised to see Violet there. "And who were you comparing me to?" she demanded, closing the door behind her.
"Only Elizabeth Bennet, of course. I'm Bingley, apparently, and Beth is Jane."
Violet shook her head. "Why are you making literary allusions at this time of night? I always knew you two weren't exactly sensible but this..."
"Why are you up, Vi?" Lily interrupted.
"Well, I couldn't sleep. I wasn't casting our family as characters in Pride and Prejudice, if that's what you're wondering." She sat on the bed, next to her little sisters. "I'm worried about Mama and Papa."
Beth's face, which had been lighting up with laughter mere moments ago, darkened. "Why? Papa won't have to fight...right? Oh no, will he have to go, like William?"
Violet shook her head slowly. "No, I don't think so. But did you see them tonight? They both seemed so scared, especially Papa. The rest of the family looked worried, but not as bad as Mama and Papa."
"Uncle Anthony looked awfully worried too," Lily said quietly, pink lips pressed in a thin line.
"I read a book written by a soldier in the great war," Beth offered. "They're still haunted by it. Maybe Papa and Uncle Anthony have that problem too. They never talk about it..."
Violet raised her eyebrows. "They're probably going to have to now." At the silence of her little sisters, she spoke again. "One time, when I was maybe three, I decided I was afraid of...something, and so I went and slept in Mama and Papa's bed. He woke both Mama and I up in the middle of the night because he was screaming and thrashing around. Mama was able to calm him down, and she later explained to me that he had a scary dream. I didn't realize at the time, but I think it might have been because of the war. I heard him say things like shell and gun and things like that..."
The twins nodded, Violet's story leaving their hearts heavy. "This must be terrible for him," Lily said quietly.
"Well, I suppose we need to be strong for them," Beth stated.
"We will be," Violet said, patting her little sisters' hands. For once, their brash, realist sister was not arguing, but in solidarity with the twins. "We will be."
Edith was asleep when Anthony entered their room, pajamas on and useless arm lying loose by his side. At first it had been hard to swallow, being with a woman as young and beautiful as Edith, but as they grew together, and had their two beautiful children, he could imagine nothing else.
The bed dipped when he crawled in, and Edith blinked, opening her eyes to see her husband beside her. "You're finally here."
"Where did you think I was?"
"Not in bed," Edith said dryly. "Are you alright? You were awfully quiet tonight."
Anthony sighed. "It's all changing so fast, and I'm feeling left behind. Besides the war starting again, which scares me to no end, I'm just not sure I can deal with everything that is happening. It's all so sudden, the war, us going back to America..."
"But you'll have me for all of it," Edith said firmly. "You'll have me, and James will be with us too. Grace will be safe with Sybil, and once the war is over, everything will go back to normal."
"Will it though? Really?" His voice wavered. "That didn't happen last time."
Edith touched his arm gently, the one he despised. "It was a better normal. Different, but better."
"And I'll have you by my side," he said with realization. During the great war, he had no one really, no one to think of when the horrors of the front became too much to handle. Naturally, Edith had come to mind, but she hadn't been his. He had come back broken and with no one to live for. The doctors assured him he could live a fairly normal life, but he wasn't sure he wanted to live. Until Edith had come to him, and pursued friendship with him, and made him feel full again. He had almost been tempted to withdraw his proposal, not tying her down to someone was old and broken as him, but when he saw how happy she was, he stood proudly at the altar and firmly said his vows. And there was no day more perfect.
He looked over at his wife and smiled. "Edith..."
Anthony cleared his throat and quietly asked, "Have I made you happy? Truly?"
Her response was to laugh, and wrap her arms around him. "Of course, darling," she whispered in his ear. "I've known no greater happiness than you." She took his face in her hands and kissed him. "I love you."
"And I you."
Mary scrubbed her face with her hands and leaned back against the headboard with a heavy sigh. it had been a long and stressful day. "Matthew," she muttered as she saw him come in from the bathroom. "Are they all in bed?"
"I believe so," he replied, sitting on the edge of the bed. "I saw the light on in Beth's room a while ago, so I can only assume Lily didn't want to spend the night alone."
Mary smiled softly. "Naturally. Poor darlings."
"And William's going to spend his whole night tossing and turning and trying to justify his decision, if I know him at all. Robbie is going to be so afraid, and no matter how apathetic Vi tries to be, she'll be very worried."
She sighed as she looked at her husband, a pinched expression on his face. "And how are you?"
He looked at her, then turned forward, and back again. "Me? Well... you don't need to worry about me."
"You can't tell me not to," Mary said defiantly. "I may very well be contrary to your wishes."
She took his tense hand in hers and rubbed circles with her thumb. He had to know they were one. "Please don't feel like you can't be honest with me. I know that troubled us in the past, but it's behind us now. I love you no matter what you fear."
"And I love you so much for saying it," he whispered, his voice almost raspy from tears that were threatening to flow.
"How are you, Matthew?"
He swallowed. "Afraid," he admitted. Mary could barely hear him, his voice was so small. Matthew never wanted to admit to weakness.
"So am I," she whispered back to him. "But it's going to be alright, as Beth stated many times."
He smiled and held her hand to his face. "I love you, Mary Crawley. There's nothing else I can say."
Her fingers tickled his soft hair, still light despite the grey that wanted to sneak in. "No, there isn't. But I suppose, contrary to what you probably predicted, I love you too."
"I predicted correctly."
She pressed her lips to his, and when they broke apart, she took both of his hands. "Of course you did."
I promise not all the chapters will be this long... Anyway, I hope you liked it and you didn't cringe as I wrote your ship badly (I'm actually pretty proud of that one Sybil and Tom scene though. It was more fun to write than I expected. Anyway...) Feedback is amazing and encourages me to write faster, so please review. (Also it's my birthday, so review?) I'm hufflepuffhermione on tumblr, so I'd also be really grateful if you checked my blog out. :D Thank you all for reading, and keep sailing our ships!