A/N: My summer holidays have officially started (just about), so a new story, and one that is definitely going to be my longest yet. This takes place a year behind the film, in 1937, but Herr Zeller is still an advocate for the Nazi party among others. I know it's before the official Anschluss, but I'm using my creative licence here because as far as I know there were people who favoured the party in years prior. I hope you will enjoy reading it, please leave some feedback if you can, even to tell me I'm wasting my time or anything. The title and rating is subject to change throughout, but as for the rating I'll let you know at the start of the chapters it will concern.
Disclaimer: As it will be for all future chapters, I do not own The Sound of Music or its characters, only the ones that I will introduce. Anything else you recognise will most likely belong to the film, in this chapter especially I have used some of the dialogue from it.
One: Confirming His Suspicions
The grandeur and elegance sweeping through the villa that night was enough to trip anyone who eyed it with admiration. The high society men dressed in dining suits and shoes that clicked on the marble floor whilst dancing, and the women in expensive dresses, sweeping across the floor with an elegant and impressive nature – gatherings of rich men and rich women, gossiping gaily and indulging themselves in conversations that grew stale more often than not. Jumping from one rich, eligible bachelor to another, prying into their lives and making worldly exclamations, in the midst of public scrutiny, that the fellow had quite purposefully seduced the young maid, and oh the scandal!–
Captain Georg Ritter Von Trapp, a decorated Austrian naval hero, sighed with due heaviness. He pulled himself away from the small gathering of guests – the bores he detested; loathed just as much as these extravagant, but ultimately futile and ridiculously expensive, parties. He shook his head at the absurdity of their talk, thinking of how people could find such an interest in the topic and continue to strive from one comment to another without the sentence becoming semantically null. Being perfectly honest, he cared little – if at all – for the scandals occurring within Baron Von Rictre's household. Whether he had taken the young, attractive maid to bed was of no concern of his.
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Elsa laughing gaily with another gathering of women, all coated in splendour and sequins, and boasting strong fumes of expensive perfumes shipped from exotic countries they most likely could not point out on a map. No, Captain Von Trapp much preferred the gentle fragrance of lavender and the natural scents. He preferred ladies not to be coated in ridiculous, eye–watering fumes, and those who appreciated true beauty. His own, late wife had never been one for rich, expensive perfumes.
Georg passed the gathering of those intent on revealing the scandalous mishaps of the social world, he passed some women speculating on the new dress shop that had opened in town, he also passed a combination of younger and older men, all sharing their opinion on the current political situation in Austria. Georg narrowed his eyes. The German threat – the Nazi party led by Adolf Hitler – was unfortunately becoming even more apparent by the day. Almost as though a storm was brewing, and the clouds had drifted over as a last warning for all distressed sailors at sea. Some men he knew had speculated that the invasion of Austria would happen sooner than expected, although others believed it to be at least a year away. The truth was, no one knew, but the threat it imposed for his family, and his homeland, was a daunting prospect, even for a man who had fought in previous, blood–thirsty wars and had seen true horrors that no man should ever have to witness.
Captain Von Trapp thought for a moment, and was perhaps going to indulge in a conversation that would not prove so trivial, before a metaphorical pull lulled him towards the patio, just outside the ballroom. As his fingers nervously fixed his white gloves, he began moving towards the ballroom and out of the main hallway of his household. He was greeted by various guests along the way, some he was pleased to share pleasantries with, and others not so much.
Baron and Baroness Ebberfield, an elderly couple who had been lifelong friends of the Von Trapp family, greeted the host warmly. Georg was certainly pleased to see them. The dear, old couple had been one of his first suggestions on the list of guests after Elsa had rummaged through her own contacts.
"What a wonderful party, Georg," stated the Baroness. Formalities between them had long disappeared some years ago. "It's so lovely to see this house so alive, and the children. My, they have all grown."
A fond swelling could be felt around his heart at the mention of his children.
"Thank you, Margaret."
Georg also nodded his appreciation, both to Margaret and to Baron Christoph Ebberfield.
He then turned, and was greeted by another guest.
"Oh, you and Elsa do make a lovely couple."
This time it was one of Elsa's highly sophisticated acquaintances from Vienna. Georg grimaced at the visible signs of make–up all across her face, the bright led lipstick she wore and the prim and proper hairstyle in the most striking of blonde shades that he presumed was the highest fashion around now.
Needless to say, he was not as pleased as he greeted this guest.
"Good evening, Captain. I must admit, I noticed the very public display of the national flag in the hallway."
He was definitely not at all pleased to greet this guest.
At the sound of such a voice, Georg grimaced and turned away from the woman.
"We are still an independent country, even if some may have forgotten, Herr Zeller." Georg added his name menacingly at the end of his statement, and the empathy and meaning of the words sent a crawling, shivering and unpleasant sensation to rise up his spine.
It seemed the statement had the same effect on Herr Zeller, but instead of the shivering spines, he merely plastered a rather ugly looking growl on his face. His eyes were as menacing as the Captain's tone before.
He narrowed them. "Might I remind you, Captain, that when the Nazis invade Austria," and Georg took particular notice of the stressed when, "Their laws will overrule any set in place now."
"The rules may be set, and we may be forced to follow them, but that will never mean we agree with them," a voice sounded from the side of both men.
The two men turned and noticed that Baron Ebberfield had joined the side of his friend, accompanied by his wife. He held as much patriotism in his eyes as Georg did, and his tone did not lack in conviction.
"We will see about that, Baron," Herr Zeller seethed, before sensing he was outnumbered and turned to make his way out of the ballroom, intent on meeting some more of the guests.
Georg shot the Baron and Baroness a warm smile, not only in gratitude for their sincere comment, but also for their pride, courage and optimism in such dark and potentially threatening times.
Georg then continued to head towards the double doors at the end of the ballroom, past the magical orchestra, and out towards the patio area where he could just visibly notice his children. As he approached them further, he noticed that all of them were stood, huddled in a group.
Then he stopped beneath the doorframe, noticing that not all of his children were stood together. Kurt seemed to be dancing with his governess.
The Captain watched them both for a few moments, Kurt at first as he laughed at his son's inability to perform the dance routine. But then his eyes settled onto Maria, watching as the skirt of her dress flowed effortlessly through the air and with such grace as she moved to their musical accompaniment.
His thoughts and gaze were then brought back to the two of them, as Kurt once again struggled with the movements due to their difference in height.
What caused him to move next, and what gave him the confidence to go, he did not know, but a moment later he found himself stood beside his son and their Fraulein Maria, tapping his son on the shoulder and asking if he could take his partner.
Maria seemed to glance up at him nervously, but she soon smiled and took his hand.
Although their skin contact was prevented because of his formal gloves, the touch created a sense of warmth to the atmosphere, and especially to Georg as he moved with her, encompassed by the night air. They drifted together, entranced in the old dance, enjoying the steps and their partner. The music drifted through from the ballroom, and as the tempo increased Georg watched in delight as the smile on Maria's face widened, and she began to move around him happily as he stood, clapping his hands together. As he moved again, the music began to slow again, and Georg knew they were approaching the more intimate moments in the dance. He reached out his arm for her hand, feeling her take it, and pulling her around in front of him.
The dance sequence called for them to move closer together, and they did. Georg was close enough to smell the natural fragrances he assumed to be her simple hair products. Their arms lifted above their heads, their faces moving inches closer. Georg had no option but to look into her eyes, and although he had seen them before, now he found himself completely mesmerised. Blue struck him fiercely, almost as though her eyes held the capacity for blue fire – flames that raged and burned, and showed such ferocity and depth. He breathed sharply, unable to tear his own eyes away from hers.
Then their dance stopped, and Georg vaguely felt her hands slip out of his own.
Then she moved away, her eyes widening, almost as though she was a frightened animal.
"I don't remember anymore," she reasoned.
Georg found himself with no option but to smile. It was a warm smile, and he hoped she could read that he had enjoyed their dance.
When Brigitta stepped forward and commented that Maria was blushing, Georg felt a stifling rise in temperature too, most specifically rising up the back of his neck. Perhaps their dance had meant as much to her as it did for him, and although she came up with a viable reason for the momentary blush during the dance, he found himself not believing a word of it.
"That was beautifully done," came another voice from towards the ballroom. Georg's heart beat faster as he realised Elsa must have been watching. This was her party for heaven's sake; he had thrown this for her! And now, here she found him dancing with the children's governess before he had even taken to the floor with her. "What a lovely couple you make."
There it was again – the tone that held such cynicism, but was hidden masterfully. Georg could not help but cringe at her comment, fully aware that she had seen everything and was most definitely not pleased. As he turned to look properly at Elsa Schrader too, he found the look in her eyes to be quite confusing. For some reason, there was even some degree of humour present in the Baroness from Vienna. Georg found himself quite pleased as the children and Maria seemed to run off into the gardens after announcing excitedly that they intended to put on something special.
"I'm not suitably dressed," Maria pleaded, attempting to, in any way possible, escape from the dinner she seemed to have cordially been invited to. She had noticed the look on Franz's face, and it had made her feel uncomfortable. Of course, she was used to dining with the Captain, the Baroness and Herr Detweiller throughout the weeks of her stay in the villa, but this was different. She was amidst the throes of an upper–class party, something that she had never witnessed before or ever thought she would be involved in.
A nervous feeling of dread arose in Maria as she realised that the children's "Uncle Max" may not give up in his quest to have her by his side at dinner. No doubt to get her on side and persuade the Captain to let the children sing at the Salzburg folk festival.
"You can change," the Captain spoke warmly. "We'll wait for you."
She met his gaze, and gave him some degree of gratitude for his kind words. But she also stared at him helplessly, hoping that he would instead tell her to go and check on the children, perhaps to ensure they were asleep. After all, the excitement of the party was likely to keep them awake way past their usual bedtime.
But receiving no more response from the Captain's direction, she met Max's gaze. She smiled, and nodded slightly, whilst also breathing out a sigh.
But before she was about to turn and head upstairs to find any garment of her clothing that could possibly suit such an extravagant party, she heard a comment that brought love, admiration and affection to her ears. She stopped to listen.
"You must be very proud of your youngsters."
"I am thank you, Baroness." Georg addressed her formally, given how they were currently surrounded by others that may feel it improper. Maria's heart swelled as she heard the Captain accept the compliment.
"Is there a more beautiful expression of what is good in this country of ours than the innocent voices of our children?"
"Oh, come now, Baron, would you have us believe that Austria alone holds a monopoly on virtue?"
This time it was Herr Zeller's voice. Maria did not recognise him, but as soon as she turned around and noticed the ruthless expression on the Captain's face, she knew that perhaps he was an unwanted guest.
"Herr Zeller, some of us prefer Austrian voices raised in song to ugly, German threats," the Captain's cynicism of the Nazi party in such a bold manner caused Maria to grin in happiness. He was such a noble and proud man. A man that had unknowingly taken her heart.
"The ostrich buries his head in the sand, and sometimes in the flag," Herr Zeller glanced across at the hanging Austrian flag, and in doing so noticed the huge smile on Maria's face. He almost seethed at her expression, noticing her to be the little governess that Georg had employed for his children. His eyes rove over her body momentarily, before he turned back to the Captain, eager to finish his statement. "Perhaps those who would warn you that the Anschluss is coming – and it is coming, Captain – perhaps they would get further with you by setting their words to music."
Maria had involuntarily shivered at the disgusting man's gaze – she was not one to make judgements at first glance, but this time could be an exception to the rule – and now, after hearing him speak that way to the Captain, felt almost obliged to step forward.
"If the Nazis take over Austria, I have no doubt, Herr Zeller, that you will be the entire trumpet section."
Before Herr Zeller could respond in any way, Maria had stepped forward.
"And the violin quartet. I find them such droning instruments; someone could almost find it tedious how long the notes last for."
It was evident through her stressing of the word tedious, that her comment had a double meaning, that she believed the Nazi party and all of its beliefs were tedious too. The Captain faced her with a look of true admiration on his face in the knowledge that she had also stood up to the Nazi pig currently in his house. The patriotism and sincerity in her eyes left him with no alternate opinion. He had wondered ever since their dance together, since he had sung Edelweiss for his children, but now it was affirmative.
Herr Zeller turned to Maria once again, narrowing his eyes at her menacingly. Georg noticed his glance, and immediately stepped in the line of the man's gaze.
"You flatter me, Captain," Herr Zeller tried to react coolly, feeling eyes on him from all around the hallway. "And your little Fraulein, or whatever she is."
The older man spoke this statement in such a way that Georg found it difficult to keep his temper in line. The implication being that the little governess did not just tend to the children's needs.
"Oh how clumsy of us. We meant to accuse you."
He added emphasis on the we, hoping that Maria would appreciate it.
She was still stood behind him, admiring his quick tongue and the verbal lashing he could give to Herr Zeller, a man who could quite clearly threaten his position in months, or years, to come.
Maria watched as Herr Zeller seemed to shake his head at this, and disappeared into another one of the rooms in the household. The Captain then turned to her, showing her an appreciative smile. But Maria noticed more in the smile than just gratitude, she had noticed it previously when they had spoken to each other on an evening when the children were in bed. It seemed to be adoration, just for her personality and for letting her true colours shine, even in situations such as these. But then there was almost a hint of regret in his eyes, as he felt compelled to leave her and greet his other guests.
Maria did not mind, she only turned and headed towards the stairs, but not before being reminded by Max to change and come down here for dinner.
No one noticed the Baroness following her upstairs.
Maria pushed all of her clothes into the bag, viciously shoving them to the bottom as her fear, sadness, hurt and longing overwhelmed all of her movements. Before she knew otherwise, Maria began to sob gently. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she stopped packing and leant back across the bed, just as she had done when the Baroness had left her bedroom.
"There's nothing more irresistible to a man than a woman who's in love with him."
Oh, how those words played around her mind. There was no getting rid of them at all. The sentence only impounded further anxiety and sadness, all of which contributed to the rapidly increasing downfall of tears.
Once Maria had changed into the dress she had arrived in, and once Maria had packed her nightgowns and also the few implements she had brought with her from the abbey months ago – taking the dresses the Von Trapp family had provided her with felt wrong, and after all she would never be able to keep such wonderful memories of her time here – she sat herself down at the table and began to scribble a note.
It took her more than one attempt to write a sufficient note, a sufficient good–bye to the children and the Captain. Eventually, she decided to keep the note brief:
Dear children, I have returned to the abbey. I missed my life there too much, and felt almost compelled to leave. I want to thank you for the time we have spent together; I shall always hold a fond place in my heart for you all. Please don't be a stranger, you can come and visit me anytime you want. All my love, Maria.
A tear fell down her cheek and smudged the ink on the paper, but Maria failed to notice and just folded the note in half.
Turning towards the bed, she gathered her bag and guitar case in her arms, closed the door behind her for one last time and headed downstairs.
Georg sighed heavily as the meal began. The first course had been served, and the conversation was already beginning between the men and women on either side of the table. He had, at first, wondered where Maria was and why she had not come to join them after the invitation earlier, and Max had wondered the same. But Elsa had stepped in, and told the two eager and persistent men that Maria had gone to check on the children, and had then been forced to retire with a most painful headache.
"She assumed from all the excitement of the party," Elsa had reasoned.
Georg had asked how she had seen Maria, and the Baroness had answered him again.
"I had to pick something up from my room, Georg, and I saw her on my way back down. Poor thing, she looked so pale."
Georg had doubted Elsa's story, but merely presumed that Maria just did not want to join them for dinner – after all, this was not her scene. Georg knew that the mountains, and the lake, and the bike rides she would take the children on were much more in her comfort zone.
But as Franz poured him another glass of wine, Georg could not shake the feeling that something was wrong. Or, at least that something was happening that he would not like.
First, he thought of the children. But then he reasoned that should anything be seriously the matter with them, Maria would have come down to fetch him. No, it was most definitely not the children. Then that only left Maria…
Unable to shake the feeling, Georg stood quietly and excused himself, claiming to Elsa quietly that he felt a little bloated from the first course and needed to visit the bathroom and perhaps wash his face – after all, the room was overcrowded and full of people in deep conversation. Elsa seemed doubtful at his excuse, but merely nodded anyway, keen to involve herself in the conversation Baronesses Schneider and Wilhelm were in.
Georg walked out into the hallway, and was going to head towards the music room – one of the few places he found solace – before a piece of paper caught his eye. He frowned, recognising that it was most certainly not there earlier that evening. Georg walked across and picked up the folded piece of paper, not stopping for a moment in hesitation before opening it.
The words that he read caused him to almost drop the sheet of paper, but not before his eyes darted up to the staircase and the front door. He then quickly scanned the note again, deciphering as to whether it truly was Maria's hand writing or whether it would be some silly mistake.
But he knew it was no mistake.
Georg took a deep breath, and before his body could think of anything else to do, it acted on impulse and ran towards the front door. He swung it open carelessly, his eyes scanning the night outside as he searched for Maria. It was difficult to see anything outside given the time of night, but eventually he saw the silhouette of a small figure by the front gates, reaching to open them, clad with a guitar case and another bag of some sorts in hand.
He shouted without thinking, addressing her without the use of the formal Fraulein.
Maria turned immediately upon hearing his voice, startled at being caught leaving. She assumed he would be dining with his guests at the moment, this being the reason she had decided to leave now and not wait any longer. It had taken all of her courage to finally step out of the house without so much as a verbal good–bye to either the children or the Captain.
"Captain!" She almost shouted back, although hers was more a strangled whisper.
But as Georg had been striding at a fast pace towards her, he had heard her.
He held up the note in his hand. "What is this?"
Maria looked down, ashamed that she had to face her feeble good–bye.
Not giving her a chance to explain, he set her another question. "Why were you going to leave?"
"I am leaving, Captain," she stressed to him, noticing his use of the past tense. She had no intention of revealing to him the real reason why she had decided to run. After all, he was soon to be engaged to a woman, and a postulant like her had no place to dispute that. Maria could feel tears threatening to fall, just like they had in her room, except this time they seemed more adamant. Being in his presence; listening to the tone of his voice as he impounded further questions onto her, was entirely overwhelming.
"Why?" he almost barked in an order. It reminded her of the old Captain she used to know, the one she had met on her first day at the villa. But even back then, despite all of his previous behaviour, he had mesmerised her. Perhaps it had been because she had not expected a sea captain to look so… handsome? Perhaps it was because she had began to love him the very moment he had blown that blasted whistle.
Maria chastised herself for her thoughts and her choice of words. She chastised herself further then for all of the inappropriate thoughts she had experienced about the Captain: the way he had looked at her whilst singing, the talks they would share together, the way she could make him laugh so sincerely, and the love she had begun to feel for him.
"I miss my life at the abbey," she finally pulled herself away. "After all, I am to be a nun. It is only now that I realise how much I miss my life back there."
"And tell me, Fraulein," he spoke in an almost sarcastic manner, and Maria had no option but to lift her head in confusion as he stopped momentarily. She wondered what he would say next. "When you become a nun, and you're vowed to the abbey and to a life solely focused on serving God, will you not miss your mountain? Will you not miss running through the trees? Singing and shouting at the top of your lungs?"
His words stung her, almost as though she had been slapped. But before either of them could think of anything else to say, Maria had brought her hand up and delivered a deserved slap to the Captain's cheek.
The sound rung around them, even though they were outside. But Maria did not seem remorseful or shocked with her actions, and proceeded to deliver her next bout of outrage.
"Who are you to say that? What business is it of yours to think you can govern my life?" Maria almost added and my feelings onto the end of her comment, but stopped herself appropriately, and proceeded to thank herself in relief that her outspoken tongue had not deceived her this time.
But the Captain did not seem fazed by any of it, not the slap nor the comment afterwards.
"It is when my children are going to be heartbroken when they wake in the morning and find you have left without even a proper good–bye…"
Georg trailed off, noticing that Maria's gaze had dropped to the floor. Sadness had filled her eyes, and it was only now that he thought he may have hurt her irrevocably with his harsh choice of words.
She held up her hand.
"No, I'm sorry. You're right. It's not fair of me to leave like this." Maria glanced up at the note still in his hand. "Especially with just that as a feeble good–bye."
"Please, come back inside," the Captain pleaded. "At least give me a reason to leave that ghastly charade," he gestured to the party, and the sounds of the orchestra that could be heard through the open front door.
The tone of his voice caused Maria to look up and smile, even if it was still not to its full potential. Nodding, she allowed the Captain to take hold of her bag and guitar case, and followed him back into the villa. It was a peculiar feeling, coming back into the house she had been set on leaving only moments ago, but as her arm brushed accidentally against his a rush of warmth filled her body that was all too similar to the feelings she had experienced earlier that evening when they had danced together.
Biting her lip nervously, she watched as he skilfully closed the door behind them, still carrying her bags. He then nodded for her to follow him up the staircase to their left, and Maria was surprised to find they were heading towards the family quarters of the villa. She had been here before, of course, whilst tending to the children, but somehow it felt different now as he guided her quietly, she presumed so they would not attract attention to themselves.
A nervous array of sensations could be felt in her stomach as she continued to follow the Captain, and her breathing hitched as she noticed they were entering his private quarters. They had passed the corridor that led to the children's rooms, but strangely Maria had not been further than this. She had been curious about the villa before, and had stolen glances at many of the rooms, but never his private rooms, Maria knew her boundaries. They passed another door leading off to another corridor and another selection of rooms, before they finally came to another.
The Captain gestured for her to open the door, presuming that he would find it difficult whilst he was still carrying her bags. It was one of those door knobs that needed to be twisted, so Maria firmly grasped it and ignored the involuntary shaking that had started to preside over her body.
The door swung open, and before them was a short corridor with doors on both sides. He led her quietly to the door at the end of the corridor, on the left, and suddenly Maria swallowed nervously. She was fully aware that he would never do anything to hurt her, or that would put her in a compromising position, but she also could not help but wonder what they could be doing here.
Georg opened this door a little more easily, and once it had swung open he picked up her bags again before gesturing for her to go inside first. He was a gentleman, and the warm smile on his face left Maria with little doubt in her mind, but that did not mean the nerves were any less frequent. Stepping forward, she set her eyes on the path ahead and walked into the room...