Daria Ravenclaw: The Highland Years. Gettysburg

DISCLAIMER: Daria is the creation of Glenn Eichler and is the property of MTV Viacom. Harry Potter is the creation of JK Rowling and is the property of JK Rowling and Warner Brothers. I own neither, and neither expect nor deserve financial compensation for this work of fiction. I am writing for my own pleasure and ego satisfaction.

Daria Ravenclaw: The Highland Years*Daria Ravenclaw: The Highland Years*Daria Ravenclaw: The Highland Years

The Morgendorffers pulled away from the curb, turned left, then right, then turned left again and onto the main highway leading out of town. There was a sort of finality to this visit, and Daria wondered if she'd ever see Coalton again. All in all, while she thought Coalton had its interesting points, she felt closed in. No wonder Dad and Aunt Evie left.

It took several hours to get to Gettysburg: first having to get out of the mountains, then driving across the flatter Pennsylvania Dutch country. They arrived in the Gettysburg area around 3:30 in the afternoon, having stopped for lunch and at a chain motel to make reservations for that evening. Jake and Helen had learned that there was nothing available either in Gettysburg, York, or in Frederick, but the affiliate in Lawndale had vacancies. They'd have to take a detour: Lawndale was off the major highway leading down to Lillian Barksdale's farm in the Virginia horse country, but Jake and Helen hoped that the detour wouldn't take too long.

Later on, Daria would tell different stories about her first trip to Gettysburg, depending on her audience. When she was talking to Muggles and other people lacking magic, she'd talk about the boredom and frustration as her parents slowly drove the congested roads around Gettysburg proper, hoping to beat out dozens of other tourists looking for the odd parking place to free up so they could get out, stretch their legs, and have something to eat. As it was, they were lucky. They found a parking place after only thirty minutes of circling. She also talked about the heat and humidity: Gettysburg was a lot more humid than Highland, and all three girls felt it when they opened the car doors and stepped outside.

When talking with Muggles and wizarding folk, Daria would also talk about the men, women, and children who dressed up in military uniforms and civilian clothing that people were likely to wear during the year of the battle. There were men wearing Union and Confederate army uniforms, although Daria knew that they would have been mortal enemies back in 1863 and would not have been peacefully standing on the sidewalks. Helen told the girls that one of their ancestors, a William Barksdale from Mississippi, had commanded something called a brigade and had died during the battle. He hadn't died in town but had died at a farmhouse a few miles away. Nevertheless, even saying that much was enough to set off the ghosts.

Daria was the one to hear them first.

"Excuse me, Miss," said a ghost with a Deep South accent, "I'm trying to find General Barksdale." Daria saw that he wore the ghostly remnants of a Confederate uniform.

"I'm sorry," said Daria, "but I don't know where he is."

"Your pardon, Miss," said another ghost, "but do you know the General's whereabouts?"

"No," said Daria. "We just got down here. My folks drove down from Coalton a couple of hours ago."

A third ghost shimmered in the shadows. "Young lady, did I hear you say that you say that you knew where General Barksdale is at? I'm trying to rejoin my company."

"No," said Daria, feeling increasingly alarmed. She'd dealt with ghosts in Highland, but the ones down there were far less pushy and accepted that things had changed since the cattle drives and the Wild West days.

"I have important dispatches for the general," said another, better-dressed ghost. "I must see him."

"I can't tell you," said Daria, beginning to lose her cool. "I can't find him."

Helen had been quietly soaking in the atmosphere of Gettysburg town with her husband, but overheard her daughter's distress while talking with not one but several someones.

"Excuse me, Jakey," she said, letting go of his arm and turning around and walking back to where Daria was standing on the sidewalk. Her face turned to anger as she took in what was going on.

"You!" she said to one ghost. "You!" she said to another ghost, "You and you!" she said, addressing the other two ghosts. "Leave my little girls alone!" she said dangerously.

"But Ma'am, these dispatches are important," began the fourth ghost.

"BACK OFF!" shouted Helen. "General Barksdale is DEAD! He's buried in Mississippi, and the war is OVER! LEAVE MY CHILDREN ALONE!"

Jake's eyebrows rose from a few feet away. Helen was standing next to Daria, seemingly shouting at nothing. What on earth had gotten into her?

If Jake didn't get it, the ghosts did. They backed away, a couple of them murmuring "Your pardon, Ma'am," before fading out of sight.

Daria looked at her mother in astonishment. "You can see them too?" she said.

"Sometimes," said Helen. "I try to ignore them."

-(((O-0)))—

Helen glanced around with a frown. "I don't see any more of them," she said. "Do you?"

"No, Mom," said Daria. "I think you ran them off."

"I didn't think about ghosts when I agreed with your dad's decision to come here," she said, "and I suppose I should have. A lot of people died here back in 1863 and I suspect that more than a few of them think they've got unfinished business. I'd like to stay here a little longer and see the town for your Dad's and your sisters' sakes, but I'm going to get your Dad to leave if the ghosts start gathering around again. Let me know if they do."

"Yes, Mom," said Daria.

Daria didn't have to alert her mother. Most of the ghosts kept their distance, at least for the next hour, and the Morgendorffers were able to see a bit of Gettysburg proper, the memorials to the battle mixed in with the present-day town and the souvenir shops. They then loaded into the rental car and drove south. Helen made Jake pull into the driveway leading to a couple of buildings south of the old town center.

"Girls, I think you ought to get out and take a look at those buildings over there," said Helen, gesturing at the two buildings. Daria saw a building that looked like a converted farm house and another structure that looked like some sort of converted out building.

"OK," said Daria. Those buildings must have had some importance, she thought. Mom wouldn't have made Dad stop here for no reason.

"What's so special about those buildings?" asked Quinn.

"That's the Joseph Himmelbaugh farm house," said Helen. "That's where your ancestor William Barksdale died during the Battle of Gettysburg. He'd been wounded and taken there. The farmhouse had been turned into a field hospital and he died there before the battle was over."

"Oh," said Quinn.

Helen and the three girls stood by the side of the car looking at the former farm house. It was now a Park headquarters. A girl dressed in a Park Ranger's uniform walked over to their car and told Jake "Sir, you're going to have to move. You're not allowed to park here and you're blocking the driveway."

"I know," said Jake from behind the steering wheel. "I'm letting my wife show our children where their ancestor died. We'll be on our way in a minute."

The young Ranger walked over to where Helen and her daughters were standing.

"Ma'am," she said. "You're going to have to…"

"I know," said Helen. "I'm Helen Barksdale Morgendorffer. My ancestor William Barksdale was a Confederate general and died in the Himmelbaugh farmhouse. We're about ready to be on our way."

"Oh," said the Ranger. She paused in thought, wondering what to do. Clearly this family wasn't just a bunch of casual tourists. They actually had connections to the battle.

"Well, if you're a descendant, I don't see why you can't linger for a couple of more minutes," she said.

She thought it over some more. "I've got a better idea," she said. "Why don't you park your car in one of the spaces and come inside? There's not really much to see, but you can say you've been there."

-(((O-O)))—

After leaving the Himmelbaugh farmhouse, Helen and Jake drove their car onto one of the parkways to a site Daria later remembered as the Devil's Den. The place looked remarkably calm and peaceful. It was hard to imagine that it had been a place of awful carnage in the first couple of days of 1863. The family stood quietly looking over the site; the only noise came from other tourists and the not-so-distant sound of other people's automobiles. Unlike the Himmelbaugh farmhouse and the streets of Gettysburg, Daria felt no ghosts there, but she found the site disturbing despite the present-day peace and relative quiet.

There was still one last place Jake wanted to visit: the Gettysburg Tower. The Gettysburg Tower loomed like an eyesore at the edge of the battlefield. It was a recent addition; it wasn't actually within the Park itself, it was on private property. It had been roundly denounced both by neighbors and preservationists as an architectural monstrosity and an affront to the memory of those who had fought and died during those bloody days in early 1863 before and during its construction, but being on private land, nobody had been able to stop it from going up. Despite its reputation as an eyesore, it supposedly had good views of the battlefield.

The Morgendorffers pulled into the parking lot, now half-empty. It was nearing sunset and Jake frowned when he spotted a sign saying that the tower would close in less than half an hour. Jake looked at the tower. It was ugly as sin. He wondered who put it up and why the Park Service allowed it to continue standing.

The family got out of the sedan and made their way towards the entrance.

Helen saw the sign showing the hours of admittance and frowned.

"Jakey, we're cutting this awful close," she said. "We might not be able to get in."

"Well, we ought to try," said Jake. In spite of their doubts, Jake and Helen led their children up to the ticket window.

Their worst fears seemed confirmed by the first words the man at the ticket window said to them: "Sir, Ma'am, we're going to be closing shortly. Maybe you can come back tomorrow."

"We won't be here," said Jake. "We'll be in Virginia."

Something about Jake's voice caused the attendant to react. He glanced at Jake, did a double-take, then stood there without saying anything.

"Jake?" he said. "Jake Morgendorffer?"

"Yeah," said Jake. The attendant looked familiar, but Jake had difficulty placing him. Someone from Middleton? He didn't think so.

"Jack Cummings," said the attendant. "We were cadets at Buxton Ridge."

If Jack was hoping for a positive reaction, he didn't get it. Jake stood motionless, then started to take long, controlled, breaths. In the meantime, Jack found himself facing a deep frown of disapproval from Helen and an even deeper look of disapproval from the oldest kiddo.

Jack could hear his sponsor almost as if he was standing there and talking in his ear: "Made amends whenever possible except when to do so would injure them or others."

He had to keep going. "I know we put you through Hell at the Ridge," he said, "and I've long wanted to apologize for my part in giving you a hard time. I've gone through some rough times since then, and I'm trying to clean up the messes I made over the years. I've been clean and sober for nine months now and I want to wake up sober tomorrow morning."

Jake continued his breathing a couple of minutes longer as his fight-or-flight reflexes began to diminish and he could think a little more clearly. Something inside of him said that Jack must be in some sort of Twelve Step recovery program and that he was trying to make amends.

Some tourists came down the steps, followed by a larger party of less-adventurous visitors exiting the elevator.

"Tell you what, Jake," Jack said quietly. "I can run the elevator up to the top observation deck, you and your family can look at the sunset and the battlefield, then I can let you guys out and you can be on your way."

Jake thought about refusing on principle but saw that Helen was giving him a quirky look. His daughters said nothing, but Jake could almost hear his daughter Daria speaking up and saying "Go for it, Dad!"

"You got yourself a deal, my man!" said Jake.

-(((O-O)))-

Daria looked down at the battlefield. Below, it was peaceful farm country, howbeit farm country bisected by cars and highways. She stood there looking at the battlefield when a strange feeling overtook her. She looked down at the battlefield and saw that the view below her changed. The sky above her seemed to grow darker while the stars grew brighter. But the fields below had made a much bigger change. Gone were the bright lights of the farmhouses and streetlights and the automobiles traversing the roads leading to and from Gettysburg. Instead, there were two distinct lines of dim campfires below, as if two opposing armies had camped below the tower.

The vision only lasted a minute. The vision put her off-balance. I'd better get down, she told herself.

"Mom, somebody, could you give me a hand?" she said. "I feel a little dizzy."

Helen gave her a hand, and Daria stepped down the steps.

"Are you all right, Sweetie?" said Helen. "Do we need to go to a Doctor?"

"I'm just a little dizzy," said Daria. "All I need to do is sit down for a bit and I'll be fine."

Meanwhile, Quinn and Veronica had been taking turns looking at the battlefield. Quinn spent a short time looking over the landscape, grew visibly bored, then turned away.

She saw her oldest sister sitting down on a bench and caught her older sister's eye. Daria looked back at Ronnie and wondered. Did the June Bug see something special that everybody else missed?

The Morgendorffers left the tower a few minutes later, Jake trying to be gracious as he could with Jack Cummings. It was awkward: Cummings had been one of his tormentors at Buxton Ridge, but was trying to make amends. The sun had set. It was now twilight and growing dark.

"Let's go to this Lawndale place," said Jake.

Daria Ravenclaw: The Highland Years* Daria Ravenclaw: The Highland Years* Daria Ravenclaw: The Highland Years

Author's note: As my more observant readers have probably noted, I've slightly bent JK Rowling's Harry Potter canon. I've gifted this alternate-universe Daria Morgendorffer with what is often called "The Second Sight," which not only gives the gifted the ability to peer into the future, but also see hidden parts of the present, and also into the past. So if any reader was wondering why the lights seemed to go out over the Gettysburg battlefield, little Daria was seeing the Gettysburg battlefield as I imagined it was after sunset in very early 1863.