AN: Hello again, lovely Lumione readers! This story is going to be an AU Lumione historical romance, set around the 1850s. It will have mature themes, however I'm not intending to go tooooo dark with this (well, maybe just a little!) I'm giving it an M rating just to be on the safe side. It is essentially a crossover fic, however there isn't one single book with which I've crossed the HP world, more a collection of my favourite historic-romance novels including Jane Eyre, Rebecca, Mistress of Mellyn, The Shivering Sands, and a smattering of other stories about resourceful young ladies thrown by fate into the path of magnetic older men with decidedly shady pasts. If that sounds like something you wouldn't like, then please read no further.
A couple of AU notes: I have decided to take Malfoy Manor out of Wiltshire and transplant it onto the Cornish coast, to a fictional seaside village called 'Tredraconis'. I just really wanted to have a stormy coastal backdrop to suit the tone of the story. The characters will be a mix of canonical and O.C, and I may very well play around with ages and relationships etc. Hermione is a little ooc to start with, however it is my intention to have her grow more into 'herself' as the story progresses. I will continue to add AU notes at the beginning of the chapter they are relevant to.
Okay, enough prattling. I hope you enjoy the first chapter! Let me know how you feel about it, I'd love to hear your thoughts!
The first time I ever laid eyes on Lord Malfoy, a strange feeling crossed over me, a kind of stirring in my soul which caused me to shiver, as if (as Aunt Agna would have said) "a grey griffin had flown over the place of my grave."
At the time I supposed that feeling to be simply dislike—for, although he appeared to be a very handsome man, his expression was as haughty and disdainful as his manner was cold and supercilious.
Now, so many years later, I look back on that moment and wonder if it was something far deeper and more profound, a kind of premonition, perhaps, of the fateful path down which we were both to travel.
But at that time, I was not a fanciful person, given to such romantic notions as fate and destiny. My Aunt—or rather, the elderly witch who had taken me out of the Orphanage For Muggleborn Children—had made quite certain of that.
"You are a muggleborn witch and a plain one at that," she often told me, in her forthright manner. "The best you can hope for is a quiet life of honest service. You're not cut out for marriage, my dear, but that needn't concern you...after all, it never concerned me."
"Yes, Aunt," I would murmur quietly, turning away so she wouldn't see the hurt in my eyes.
I was aware her comments were not cruelly meant—she didn't intend to wound me, but to prepare me. Life had not been overly kind to her, and though she never admitted it to me, I believed she must have had her heart broken by a wizard in her youth. Bitterness and loneliness had left her mistrustful of the world outside her own little cottage, and she brought me up in the long shadow of her manifold fears.
...If only she had known how often I stood before the cracked old mirror standing among the clutter in the attic, secret tears sliding down my cheeks as I despairingly surveyed my insignificant figure, my unruly tangle of brown curls, the unfeminine angles of my face...maybe she would have taken a little pity on me. Or perhaps, more likely, she would have scolded me for dwelling on my outward deficiencies instead of improving my inward qualities.—And she would have been quite right in doing so. In many ways it would have been crueller to fill my head with unrealistic hopes and dreams. Because a plain, provincial muggleborn witch would only end up paying for such dreams with bitter pangs of disappointment.
And so she taught me only what she felt necessary to maintain this modest destiny, the basic housekeeping spells, the embroidery and mending charms which would earn my keep, and potion-brewing techniques used for medicinal purposes only.
But for all her sensible advice to keep my expectations in check, she could not subdue my spirit completely. There was a rebellious streak in me, which whispered to me at night-time...telling me that I was meant for better things than to gradually turn into a replica of my spinster 'Aunt'; that there was surely more to life than performing endless, fiddly stitching charms on the piles of torn dresses and worn clothes which appeared in our front parlour each morning...
Just how I was going to escape that depressing future was something of a mystery.
By the age of eighteen my life seemed firmly entrenched in the course it would undeviatingly follow to the end of my days. Little, obscure, muggleborn orphan, Hermione Jean Granger, with her shabby twice-turned robes and second-hand wand, brought up by her adoptive Aunt to be, above anything else, useful. A head crammed with useful spells. A face and figure as undecorative as it was possible to be, without being positively ugly.
How could I be anything but useful? I had no access to the books and schools which "legitimate" mages had. I, as a muggleborn, and a female one at that, was considered by the community as only a little better than a house-elf. The more kindly witches of the magical gentry pitied "my sort" and raised subscriptions and held charitable events to aid the poorest of us. Less wealthy but altruistic minded people like my Aunt took a more hands-on approach, for which I knew I ought to be undyingly grateful.—And I was grateful, though I heartily wished she had not taken her duty of "bringing them up to understand their place" quite so literally.
In darker moments, I wondered why I had been born at all. What could I do that couldn't be fulfilled, better and more willingly, by one of those creature-servants which the wealthy wizards of the land employed in their service?
What good was being a witch, when your world was so decidedly void of all magic?
When the long-wished-for change did come, it was swift and frightening, like a turning current suddenly bearing me away out into choppy, deep waters.
My Aunt Agna contracted a fatal strain of Dragon Pox and died within a few hours of the symptoms manifesting.
For the second time in my life I was left utterly alone in the world. My Aunt's extreme reclusiveness meant that I knew no-one in our little magical enclave of Turningstone better than to say, "Good Day." The only shop I ever frequented was the local haberdashery, where my Aunt would send me to buy on account sundry supplies, with strict instruction to speak with no-one but the haberdasher and his wife, neither of whom were figures to inspire friendly relations.
I had no confidants, no friends, no family, and no place in society. All I had to my name was a pitifully small hoard of hard-earned knuts and sickles, and a single Galleon which my Aunt bequeathed me on her deathbed, along with a character reference and a letter she had written at some earlier date.
The letter was, typically of her, brusque but kind, explaining that her small estate was entailed to a distant cousin, but that she doubted not he would allow me to continue living there until I had found myself a satisfactory situation.
"...I leave you," her letter concluded, "well satisfied I have done my duty to society by you. You are well versed in those crafts which will always earn you a keep, and I believe I have instilled in your heart a strong sense of self-respectability and practicality. I have been well rewarded for my efforts in having secured to me, in my twilight years, a devoted companion and a grateful beneficiary, who has been like the daughter I was never blessed with.
Look no higher than your own good head, and you will be happy.
Tears blinded my eyes as I read and re-read those words she had never deigned to speak during her lifetime. "Like the daughter I was never blessed with..." I had never dared aspire to consider her as a mother, although she was the closest I had to one.
As for her final, parting token of advice, I accepted it as a compliment to my common sense, and ignored the aspersions to my lowly birth. I might well "look no higher than my own good head", but who was to say I could not climb a mountain to take my view?
On the same day my Aunt Agna was buried, I received an owl from the usurping cousin. I had, his note coldly informed me, two weeks in which to find myself a new place, before I would be evicted out onto the cold, cobbled streets of Turningstone. I was not surprised by this mean-spiritedness. I imagined he saw me as nothing more than a servant whose duties were no longer required.
I knew that my Galleon might purchase me about three month's board and food at the local inn, but after that? The future loomed dark and dangerous, if I did not secure employment as soon as I could.
The very next morning I walked down to the Turningstone high street, clutching my purse with its few copper and silver coins, and my single, precious Galleon. Arriving at the village Postal-Office, I purchased a copy of 'The Daily Prophetical', as well as the local weekly newspaper, 'The Turningstone Times'.
Alas, there were far more advertisements asking for work than offering it, and I couldn't see a single place for a seamstress in any of the columns entitled 'Situations Vacant'.
Each morning I bought and scoured through the 'Prophetical', becoming steadily more terrified that soon I was going to become one of the poverty-stricken unfortunates who the gentrified witches raised their funds to help.
Every vacant position required proof of prior experience or qualifications, or a thorough knowledge of specialized spell-work I had never even heard of. Many advertisements stated,"Wizards Need Only Apply", whilst those particularizing witches almost always stipulated, "A School Education Essential" or, "Knowledge of All The Feminine Crafts & Modern Languages Desired".
The few jobs "Suited To Muggle-borns or The Illiterate", were for badly-paid, dangerous work, such as industrial cleaning and potion-testing. There was also a handful of suspiciously worded advertisements detailing, "Well-Paid Opportunities In London For Young & Attractive Witches, Female Squibs & Muggleborns"—which I skipped over with a blush, recalling my Aunt's voice, uncharacteristically hushed, speaking about "fallen witches" who had, out of desperation or moral corruption, spurned respectable poverty for a more luxurious but ignominious and degrading existence, about which she was never specific.
As my anxiety grew, so did my resentment and anger at my Aunt's lack of foresight in limiting my education so severely. How could I continue as a seamstress when I had not a roof under which to work? How could I pay for my own roof, if I had no money? I felt trapped and incapacitated by my own ignorance, the walls of impending destitution closing in on me from every side.
Seven days after that warning owl, I went again to the Postal-Office with the intention of placing my own advertisement in the newspaper, although it was not cheap to do so. I had already written out the card in careful, plain script. "A muggle-born witch, raised respectably, adept in all household crafts & much experienced in seamstress spells, desires employment for modest remuneration. Excellent character reference available. Further enquiries to H J Granger, care of the Turningstone Postal-Office."
I approached the counter, ready to hand over my card and pay for the advertisement (the Postal-Office being an agent for such), but hesitated when I noticed a smartly dressed middle-aged gentlewitch arriving a few seconds after me. In a reflexive acquiescence to her superiority, I moved aside with a curtsey, murmuring, "Please ma'am, go ahead of me."
The witch, a handsome, buxom woman with a glossy dark chignon, acknowledged my polite obeisance with a gracious nod, and stepped up to the counter.
"I should like to place an advertisement in tomorrow's Prophetical," she addressed the post-wizard, in a tone suggestive of someone well used to giving orders.
The portly fellow bowed obsequiously, and murmured, "I regret to inform madam that there is a queue. The earliest it will appear is tomorrow-fortnight."
"As it is an urgent matter," the witch smoothly replied, "I am willing to double the fee."
The post-wizard's eyes gleamed ruefully. "If it were in my power, nothing would prevent me from granting madam's request. Unfortunately, it is entirely out of my hands. ...But perhaps madam would consider placing an advertisement in the Turningstone Times in the meantime? The weekly issue is published tomorrow."
With a disapproving sigh, the witch nodded. "Very well. I will advertise in both. Take down the following."
Picking up his quill, the wizard took a piece of card and began to write down as she dictated.
"Urgently required, a nursery-witch or governess to take sole care of a young child. Knowledge of healing, defensive and care-related magic preferred. Live-in situation, board inclusive, salary based on experience. Enquiries to Madam Marsh of Malfoy Manor, Tredraconis, Cornwall."
A gasp escaped my lips. Tredraconis, Malfoy Manor—these names were almost mythical to me, I had heard them reverenced by my Aunt, I had read about them in the various geographic and architectural journals she subscribed to, and the occasional newspaper article she allowed me to look at. Little though I knew of the world, even I had heard of the Malfoys, the pre-eminent magical family in all of Cornwall.
Immediately my heart began to hammer wildly in my chest. I knew I had but seconds to summon the courage to speak up, but the very imperativeness of my doing so was causing my mouth to clam shut.
In a silent agony, I watched the gentlewitch pay for her advertisement and deposit the change in a green velvet coin-purse, then turn and walk to the door, which swung obligingly open on her approach. And then I watched her disappear out into the street.
Before I knew what I was doing I found myself dashing after her, crying aloud, "Please, ma'am! Please wait one moment!"
The lady stopped and turned surprised eyes on me, evidently wondering if she had forgotten something, and then, with a slight frown, she reached again for her purse, supposing I wanted to beg a coin of her.
With a mortified blush I plead her to put it away.
"No—thank you, I don't need money—I wish only to speak to you for a moment. If you would only oblige me by reading this." I passed her my own hand-written advertisement, which she hesitantly received, then inspected with a returning expression of surprise.
She looked me quickly up and down, taking in at a sharp glance my neat but severely-plain mourning clothes, and, no doubt my unprepossessing personal appearance. I fumbled in my skirt pocket and quickly handed her the character reference my Aunt had provided me.
I was relieved to see the witch's expression relax as she perused the document, a faint smile touching her lips.
"I knew Agnastacia as a young woman," she said, handing back the reference, "and lately learned of her sad demise. So...you are the muggleborn child she took in to foster, these twenty years since?"
"I am," I replied, an audible tremble in my voice, partly because I had never heard my Aunt called by that name before, and partly because I was shaken by the knowledge that I was...known. That I had been spoken of and discussed by people—elegant people, of the magical gentry, from a glittering world so utterly removed from my own humble obscurity.
"And so you happen to be seeking just such a situation as the one I am so anxious to fill! A happy coincidence, indeed!" She regarded me thoughtfully. "You have experience in healing and seamstressing, but what experience do you have with the care of young children?"
"None, ma'am," I answered truthfully, then, with a gulp of determination I added, "but I doubt not my capability to do so."
"Hmm!" was her brief response, but I sensed that my boldness had not harmed me in her opinion.
"I learn quickly," I pressed on, "and I'm not afraid of hard work."
"Indeed? Those are good qualities in a servant. ...What terms are you hoping to secure?"
"Any, ma'am, so long as I may have a bed to sleep in at night."
"I gather by that, that your current situation is precarious?"
I hated to seem desperate, but I could not quell the shudder in my voice as I admitted, "In one week I will have nowhere to call home." Then, with a burst of sudden emotion, I added, "If you'll only let me prove it, I will not let you down!"
She pursed her lips, as if considering something. Then she smiled. "Well, that will remain to be seen. Shake hands, Miss...Granger, isn't it?" she said, extending her gloved hand out to me. "For you have just entered into the service of Lord Malfoy."
Stammering out my thanks, I took her hand and curtseyed, almost unable to believe this sudden, lucky turn of events.
"How many days do you need to prepare to come to Tredraconis, Miss Granger? I should like you as soon as possible."
"I can start tomorrow, if it please your Ladyship," I said, rather too eagerly.
She gave a merry little laugh. "You are a quaint girl!" she declared, though quite without malice. "I am not the Lady of the Manor—that title belongs to one long departed, I'm afraid. I am only the housekeeper. You may address me as 'Mrs Marsh', or 'ma'am', if you prefer."
"Y-yes, Mrs Marsh," I stammered, confused at my blunder. "I can come tomorrow, if it please you, ma'am."
"It would please me very much," she replied, "but take some time to prepare. You may keep your mourning colours, but the Master likes his staff smartly dressed. Have you a silk evening gown? Ah, I see by your expression you do not. Have you money to purchase one? I can lend you what you require and take it from your first quarter's pay."
"No—no; I can afford one," I said, thinking of my precious golden Galleon, "er—that is, I can afford to buy the silk, and make it up myself."
She nodded curtly. "See that you use an elegant pattern, Miss Granger. You may be required to accompany the child in formal situations, and it would not do to look...out of place."
I nodded, blushing again at my all-too-obvious deficiencies.
Mrs Marsh pulled out a leather pocket book and produced from it a small calling-card. "Here is the address," she said. "You may send your luggage ahead, and Apparate outside the gate, which is open during daylight hours. Ask the porter to show you the servant's entrance. I shall expect you in a few days."
"Thank you," I murmured, unable to bring myself to admit that I did not know how to Apparate, my Aunt deeming it unladylike to travel 'in such violent fits and starts'.
We both curtseyed. "Good day, Miss Granger. I am glad of our paths accidentally crossing, however unfortunate the circumstances which occasioned it. You have spared me much time and inconvenience I could ill afford."
"Good day, Mrs Marsh," I replied simply, unable to express my gratitude whilst hiding my great relief, afraid I might actually burst into tears.
Watching the gentlewitch gracefully cross the street and disappear into the milliner's, my body sagged against the Postal-Office wall, trembling violently, almost overwhelmed by so many tumultuous emotions. Finally, finally I would get my chance to live outside of the tiny box I had been shut in for my whole life. Finally, I would be able to test myself in a new line of work that didn't involve the relentless tedium of mending and making clothes...
This thought brought me back to my own clothing situation. Gathering my composure, I made my way to the haberdasher's, where I received from his wife a decidedly frosty reception. "Miss Granger, I suppose you are come to balance your Aunt's account?"
I stared at her, not quite understanding what she meant. "No, indeed...I have come to purchase some cloth," I said.
The woman's lips thinned. "I'm afraid you cannot buy anything until the account has been settled," she curtly replied.
"But...I...I had not thought it incumbent on me...surely you will receive reimbursement from her lawyers?"
"I should as soon trust a band of swindlers," she retorted. "Nay, the account must be settled now, in full."
Crestfallen, I reached for my purse. "How much is outstanding?" I asked her, hoping it might only be a few knuts.
Taking out a large ledger-book, the witch used her wand to flick through and find the page. "Nine sickles and four," she announced, turning the book around for me to see.
With a regretful sigh, I sadly handed over the only Galleon I had ever beheld—let alone held—in my life, receiving in change seven sickles and 25 knuts.
I watched the witch scratch a large red mark through the ledger, and snap it shut with a puff of dust. "Now," she said, in a more civil tone. "How may I help you?"
I selected a length of quality black silk, and one of dark-grey bombazine, as well as some serviceable pieces of poplin in unobtrusive colours, for every day work. To these I added a quantity of brown merino with which to make a new robe. It was expensive, but I could not endure the notion of turning up at the gates of the famously splendid Malfoy Manor in my twice-turned, shabby hand-me-down.
As she cut and folded the required lengths, the haberdasher's wife, no longer able to contain her curiosity, asked me if I had gained a new position somewhere?
"Yes," I replied, with the first swell of pride I could ever recall experiencing. "I am going to be governess to a child at Malfoy Manor, in Tredraconis."
"You don't say!" exclaimed the witch, clearly surprised and impressed by this piece of news. Then snidely she added, "That is a fortunate turn of events, for the likes of one such as you." I understood perfectly her insinuations, and flushed with mortified anger.
"Indeed, I consider myself fortunate," I replied quietly, not wishing to rise to her ungenerous sting.
For some minutes she continued with her cutting, then with a sly glance at me, she said, "They say the young Master Malfoy is a wild creature with rowdy friends and a great taste for London dissipations."
"I know nothing of it," I said, divided between longing to hear more and not wanting to engage in lowly gossip.
"Aye, and his father, Lord Lucius, is a fierce and vindictive man; a powerful wizard with extensive knowledge of the Dark Arts..." her voice lowered to a conspiratorial murmur. "They say his wife was killed by his cruel treatment, though of course it was all covered up and blamed on her frailty."
Becoming increasingly annoyed by her apparent desire to cause me discomfiture, I deigned not to reply, merely waiting for her to finish her work, then handing over the required payment.
Gathering the three paper-wrapped parcels under my arm, I curtseyed with a brief, "Good day."
"Good day, miss," replied the witch, adding, "I hope for you own sake that you will heed my warning and seek immediately for a new situation."
"Thank you," I said coldly, "but I do not intend to let idle slander frighten me out of a respectable position."
I had the satisfaction of seeing a flush spread over the rude witch's face before I turned my back on her and left the haberdashery for (I hoped) the very last time. Never before had I dared to so speak so saucily to anyone in my life, and the sensation it occasioned was both novel and rather pleasant.
When I arrived back at the house, I spread out the lengths of soft fabric upon the table, guiltily thinking that Aunt Agna would never have approved of such extravagance. And I very much feared that my becoming a governess for a wealthy wizarding family would certainly fall under her definition of 'looking higher than my own good head.'
That night I lay awake for many hours, unable to calm the wild beating of my heart as I tried to picture Malfoy Manor and the coastal countryside of Tredraconis (for I had never seen the sea). I wondered if my little charge were a boy or girl, and exactly to whom in the household they belonged...the wild and rowdy son, perhaps?
And naturally my thoughts turned time and again to the man who was to become my master, this "Lord Lucius". I wondered if there were really any truth in the dreadful gossip, that he dabbled with Dark magic, that he had killed his wife with cruelty...a vision arose in my head, of a man twisted-faced and hunch-backed, whispering evil incantations as he stirred a cauldron roiling with some potent, forbidden concoction...
I shivered and drew my blankets more tightly around me. Although I hated to credit such vile rumours, I couldn't help but feel a little nervous of how such a man might treat his paid subordinates...would he be a fair employer, or an exacting autocrat?
Most likely, I told myself, he won't even notice the presence of a lowly and obscure muggleborn governess like yourself.
I was rather comforted by this thought, and sleep came to me at last.