A/N: Happy Tuesday! I was completely blown away by the reviews for chapter one, so I whipped the final touches of this together to give you chapter II! Happy reading!

Yours Forever: Chapter II

The arrangement, however strange it might have seemed at first, appeared to run quite smoothly. After a week of settling in, Isobel enrolled her son in the local school. Ever the scholar, Matthew proved himself to be one of the strongest pupils in attendance, and impressed his teachers with his attentiveness and care in his work. He excelled in his studies, and was soon making new friends and striking up his old habit of telling his mother about his day as soon as he got home after school. Isobel was overjoyed to see him thrive in a new environment, yet she was fighting her own internal battle. How was she to raise this boy alone? So much of him had to be credited to Reginald. His kind, patient nature. His careful way of explaining difficult concepts. Even his laugh. Of course, she had shaped him as well, but he took so much after his father. And now, left without him, would he continue to thrive as he had been doing his whole life?

But she couldn't doubt that. There weren't grounds for it. Matthew would, she was sure, overcome this bump on his journey to adulthood and be all the stronger for it in the end.

And she was infinitely glad that he had Mary and Henry. She had always wished for him to have siblings, and saw from the way that the three of them struck up their friendship that it would be a grounding constant in his life, one that she hoped would help him. Isobel had seen how Henry had taken him under his wing like an older brother would, and while she was still unsure of Mary's feelings, she hoped the girl would take him on as well.

Mary was a curious little creature, Isobel found herself thinking. She seemed to be bright, and sure of herself, unafraid and poised at all times. But there was something withholding about her. A coolness and a detachment that made her seem almost haughty. But this was all just her perspective as an outsider to their childish conversation, she was in no place to make judgement. Perhaps the girl would warm to her in time. She was only ten, after all.

Mary's birthday arrived, and she was gifted a horse, just as she had suspected. She called him Diamond, and Matthew saw her sometimes when he visited Henry at the Big House, riding in the paddock or on the far side of the grounds with Lynch beside her. He was impressed with the grace with which she carried herself on the animal: her head held high, her legs tucked to the side, and her quick nod at something Lynch said to her as they rode along. Soon he was pulled away by Henry to play chess or to battle with play swords out on the lawn, and as summer began and the scholastic year ended he was promised a visit to the lake when it warmed in July.

The three new friends fell into a routine. While the boys' schooling had ended for the summer holiday (Henry attended Eton), Mary's continued on. She spent long hours sitting with her governess and learning about the history of her country and tripping over German and French, with equal time devoted to learning to dance, sing, and play the piano.

Henry teased her relentlessly about dancing, for as she did it with as much grace as she rode Diamond, her feet were still getting used to the steps, and she often made mistakes. Her brother, for as playful as he was with her, never teased her about her music. On the contrary, he loved to hear her sing and play. In the afternoons, when Matthew joined them, the two would sit in the room above her and listen to the lilting waltzes she played on the piano, or the sweet notes of her voice that drifted upwards. Henry even went so far as to praise her for it, which earned him a proud smile from his little sister.

In late July came the annual Garden Party, to which Isobel and Matthew were naturally invited. They dressed in white, as was expected, and found that they fit in well with the other guests in attendance. Countless introductions were made. In a larger party there seemed to be more people of Isobel's class, and she was grateful for it. She was even able to meet someone from an area near Manchester and become up to date with the goings on in the place she had lived in what already seemed like a lifetime ago.

Mary managed to escape the watchful eye of her governess and found Matthew, pulling him away to a tall tree behind which Henry stood waiting.

"There you are! What took you so long?" Henry asked Mary in annoyance and she rolled her eyes with an exasperated sigh.

"Matthew's a full head taller than me, I was running around on tip-toe for a quarter hour!"

Matthew chuckled at her excuse and saw her fan herself with one hand. The weather wasn't quite so warm but the sun shone brilliantly, reaching them even under the foliage of the old tree. She scratched at the back of her leg and complained of the heat.

"It's not that hot." Matthew argued gently.

"You haven't got three skirts on, have you?" Mary snapped, and he realized that she was rather covered-up.

Henry chuckled wryly and waved them along. "Come on, if we leave now no one will notice."

Mary looked back and saw that both her parents and her governess were well occupied before turning back and nodding.

"Where are we going?" Matthew asked, but Henry only pulled him along, hurrying down the hill, across the short grass and into the tree-lined boarder of the estate's lawn. The temperature cooled instantly under the heavy shade of various forest trees. Matthew hadn't noticed this small wood before, and moved brambles and leaves out of the way for Mary as she walked behind him. There seemed to be a roughly-hewn path leading in a winding snakelike way through the trees, and Matthew worried they would not be able to find their way back.

The remnants of the noises of laughter and drinks clinking together faded away the deeper they went, and Matthew was just about to voice his concern when the shade suddenly lifted and the sun shone brightly once more.

"It's not really a lake, but we've called it that ever since we discovered it. Sometimes Papa and I fish here." Henry explained as they reached a large clearing. The "lake" was not large, but still spanned a large area. The ground here was wet and mushy, and green algae clung to the surface of the water as they walked out and their feet touched it, going out for a few meters until it faded into the green-blue depths of the water.

"Well, what do you say? Let's have a swim." Henry said, untucking his shirt from his trousers and unbuttoning it.

"We can't! It's not proper!"Mary cried.

Henry rolled his eyes. "No one's around, Mary. Besides, it's too sunny to sit around here all day."

She noticed Matthew following Henry's lead and her eyes widened at the two of them, then scanned the area.

"Go on, no one's going to see." Henry reassured her. He stepped into the cool dark water in his undershirt and underpants and then plunged in, kicking algae and water up onto her dress, which was already ruined from smeared berry juice and dust kicked up from the path.

Matthew followed and their heads popped up shortly afterwards, flicking water from their ears and eyes and swimming out to the middle.

"Come on, Mary! Don't be a spoil sport!" Matthew called, waving a bare arm.

She sighed and wiggled her toes. "Only if you turn your backs!"

The boys obediently turned their heads and only after making sure that they would really keep their word did Mary unbutton and unfasten her things, folding them all in neat piles as layer after layer of white attire came peeling off. Finally, she stood in her slip and kicked the last of her dirt-smeared stockings off. She stepped daintily into the water, but the sensation to jump in overcame her too quickly and she plunged forward, splashing and sputtering as she swam out to join Henry and Matthew.

They turned and smiled as she swam up to them.

"All right? Can you swim?" Matthew asked as she panted slightly, suddenly chastising himself for not thinking of that.

She nodded breathlessly and brushed hair out of her eyes. "It's so cool here!" she marveled, looking down at her pale skin and seeing it spring up in gooseflesh under the shade of the green water.

"Where did you learn?" Matthew asked curiously as she tread the water with ease. It was rare, he thought, that a girl knew how to swim.

"Never you mind." Mary said, lifting her chin slightly and laughing under her breath at the air of mystery with which she delivered her line.

Henry splashed her with a quick flick of water and she gasped, outraged, and shot some back at him. Matthew soon joined in the fun, and then all that could be heard were shouts and whoops and endless splashing.

It was nearing nightfall when they finally got out, their underthings clinging to them and their voices hoarse from yelling. The water was colder, and so was the air as they dried off as best the could and put on their clothes again. Mary, her modesty forgotten, threw her stockings aside and stepped into her various skirts, having Henry button them up the back. She sighed at her hair, which now hung in wet tangles down her back.

"They'll have sent out a search party by now." Henry mused as they began to climb back up through the forest, Mary moaning with each step as her feet were bruised and scratched. Fireflies began to blink around them as the sun set, and the forest smelled musty and woody. It was dark under the trees and they stumbled up through them, veering off from the path occasionally. Mary's ankles and shins were flecked with mud and scratches by the time they reached the soft grasses of the lawn again, and they all exhaled in relief to see the party still going on in full swing.

Just as it appeared they hadn't been missed by anyone, the ominous shape of a woman in white hurrying towards them made their blood go cold. She was moving so quickly that it was impossible to escape, and Mary stepped closer to Henry as their mother approached them, her lips tightly pursed.

"Where. Have. You. Been?" she asked in a clipped, low tone, her eyes darting from Matthew's wet clothes and Henry's untucked shirt to her daughter's legs and feet and filthy dress.

"We just went...for a swim, down at the lake." Matthew spoke up when Henry looked down at his feet and Mary looked anywhere but at her mother. Her gaze moved to Matthew in a curious expression, however, when he confessed the truth.

Cora looked at her two children. "Is that right? You were down at the lake?"

Henry and Mary nodded sadly.

"And have you no sense of decency?" she snapped. "Henry, what were you thinking, taking your sister out of sight with Matthew!"

"Mamma!" Henry protested with indignation. "We went for a swim, that's all! And we're back now, as you see!"

She swatted his cheek. Robert was walking up behind her and saw this exchange. Knowing from experience that a rare slap from his wife usually meant trouble, he hurried to find his two children and Matthew shivering in front of Cora.

"What's going on?" he asked, shocked at the state of the three children.

Mary looked desperately at her father, who had always championed her. "We only went down to the lake, Papa! We didn't know it had gotten so late!"

He sighed, looking at his wife, who was the very picture of anger. "Cora," she batted his hand away. "let's send them inside, they'll catch a cold. We can talk to them in the morning."

She looked up at him in frustration before turning with a 'humf' and walking back to the white tent. Robert looked at the children with a harsh eye and looked to be on the brink of a lecture before softening at the sight of them.

"Hurry up inside before I change my mind. Mary, have Carson prepare a room for Matthew."

They made their way back inside the Abbey, and Mary's cheeks colored under Carson's horrified stare at their state of undress. He schooled his expression, however, and followed young Lady Mary's gentle request that a room be made up for her cousin.

At the breaking of the corridor between Mary and Henry's rooms Mary made to go to hers, but Matthew's voice stopped her. He could sense that she was upset, and maybe ashamed of her behavior. It wasn't what a Lady would do. No, it wasn't at all what an aristocrat would do. She hadn't thought.

"When did you learn to swim?"

Mary turned around and looked at him sadly, still lost in her thoughts, before answering. "Henry taught me. Two years ago, at the Garden Party."

Henry smiled at her. "She can beat me at swimming lengths."

Mary smiled a little sadly and tipped her head up. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight, Mary." Matthew said, and watched her continue down the hall and turned the doorknob to open her room.

Summer drew to an end, and Henry packed up his trunk to return to Eton. The school year began, and with Henry gone and Matthew spending his days at the village school, Mary was left alone in the Abbey. All year she dreaded September, hating having to say goodbye to her brother, knowing the next time she saw him would be in December for the Christmas holiday.

"It's alright," Henry had comforted as she clung to him before he boarded his train."You have Matthew now to play with."

Mary shook her head. "It's not the same."

Henry ruffled a hand through her hair, which hung in soft curls down her back. She batted his hand away, as usual. "Well, you'll have to make do. Besides, I'll be home for Christmas." he saw her jaw set firmly and her lips quiver ever so slightly, so he squeezed her before letting go. "Cheer up, it's not the end of the world!"

Mary nodded, shook herself a little and stepped back, finding her mother whose hand came to rest on Mary's shoulder comfortingly. Henry waved back at his family and walked forward to the train, climbing into it. Cora moved beside her daughter and took her hand, running her thumb over it soothingly. "Now, wait a moment…"

Mary moved to her tip toes and moved her head among the bustling people to look for him and, sure enough, after a few minutes they saw his dark head pop out of the compartment window and his hand swiftly follow, waving back to his family.

Mary jumped up slightly and waved back in earnest, wishing for some reason that Matthew could be there with them.

Matthew had only attended the village school for the last month of the term before the summer holiday, and was glad to return to its routine in September. He moved through his studies with ease, his thoroughness and care with his work a trait inherited from his late father, and became top of his class. Their interaction with the Big House lessened with the Autumn months, as Matthew's studies took precedence and Isobel's involvement with the local hospital kept her relatively busy. However, they were invited to dine once a week at the Abbey, and always looked forward to these occasions with their newfound family.

Mary delighted in Matthew's company. Having few friends of her own in such an isolated environment, she had habituated herself to spending six months out of the year in relative solitude. Matthew's visits to her home were treasured, and she lit up with him to talk to. Knowing how scholarly and intellectual her cousin was, she anticipated showing him her own studies, and had become a better pupil in her own right as she followed his example.

"When do you study mathematics?" Matthew had asked one afternoon after she had put away her books on seventeenth century England.

Mary shrugged her shoulders. "Clara says I know enough of that now."

Matthew looked at her seriously. "What's twelve times twelve?"

Mary laughed. "Oh, Matthew! Why would I ever need to know that?"

"Because it's important! Try and do the figure, I'll help you."

He watched as she sat down and took out her graphite pencil, pulling out a sheet of stationary and carefully writing the digits out. He was astonished that her mathematics background was so limited. As early as eight years old he had been drilled in multiplication, knowing the squares of numbers up to fifteen.

She worked for a few moments before looking up in accomplishment. "Eighty-seven!"

Matthew shook his head. "No, no. Try again."

Mary looked at him helplessly. "I don't know how. I don't need to know how!"

Matthew took a seat beside her and took the pencil from her fingers. "Yes, you do. Look, it might be easier if you add them all together." he wrote twelve set of twelves stacked up on top of each other in a neat row and helped her with the sum. She used her fingers and, after two minutes of diligent counting, proudly stated. "One hundred and forty-four."

He smiled. "That's right. Math is important, Mary. I can't understand why your governess would tell you it wasn't."

She smiled at him with pity. "Matthew, you know nothing about girls! I don't need mathematics. I need to learn how to run a household and...dance and...proper etiquette!" she laughed again at his foolishness.

Matthew was again serious. "Just because you're a girl doesn't mean your education should be any less than ours."

Mary's smile faded."I hadn't thought of that before."

Mary was far from simple-minded. Matthew had known that from the beginning, but her mind was not being stimulated enough from her basic studies. Whenever he came to the Abbey he brought her a book. Books about Ancient Rome, Greek tragedies, the history of countries in Europe whose names Mary had never heard of. With this new material, she thrived. Having free time in abundance, she focused it on these new lessons, appearing almost to compete with Matthew in the pace with which she devoured them. And when December came, and the Christmas holiday began, Henry returned home to find his sister much changed since he had left her.

Matthew was hurt when Mary tossed him aside in favor of her brother, telling him all the new things she had learned and how she was reading the same plays as he was. He knew that Henry would always overshadow him in Mary's eyes, and watched her utter joy with a bit of bitterness as she sang and played for her older brother, then sat by him on the soft carpet of the drawing room while he recounted ridiculous tales from school.

"Whatever's the matter, Matthew? You look terribly glum!" Mary laughed one particular evening, her cheeks rosy from the light of the fire.

Henry had gone to find the chessboard so he and Matthew could play, and Matthew's gaze had been focused on the patterned carpet until Mary's voice broke his concentration.

"Nothing's the matter."

Mary scooted closer to him and snapped her fingers in front of his face. "Yes, something is wrong. You've been out of sorts for days. Now, tell me what it is!"

He found it terribly hard to refuse her, so he looked up into her wide, brown eyes and sighed with embarrassment. "You don't seem to care for my company much anymore."

Mary laughed, then put a hand over her mouth to cover it, sensing that he was truly hurt. "Matthew, you know that's not true."

At his lack of reaction she leaned forward and ruffled his blonde hair as Henry would have done. "You know that's not true." she said again, her voice soft.

He sighed and managed to smile at her. She giggled happily at this and promptly threw her arms around him, kissing his cheek quickly and drawing back. "See? There. You're just the same as Henry to me!"

A/N: What do you think so far? After this chapter there are going to be some jumps in time so we can really delve into the plot. As always, thank you for reading and all the people who've favorited and added this to their alerts, it really means so much to know that people are interested!