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This piece of fanfiction, while inspired by the final installment of the Harry Potter books, has many influences. I love a good fantasy story -- my first love being, of course, J.R.R. Tolkein, along with many others, including (but not limited to) Diana Wynne Jones, Patricia Wrede & Caroline Stevermer, C.S. Lewis, Neil Gaimon, and my brother Zeb (always an inspiration, but as yet unpublished). This is not a HP/P&P mix fanfic. I hope to make this as much my own as a fanfic can be -- my own ideas of wizardry, magic, spells, mystical creatures, the good and the bad all thrown in with my (our) most loved characters. I hope I do them justice. Really, this is just a bit of fun.
Chapter 1: In Which a Certain Gentleman decides to take a House in Hertfordshire
Posted on Wednesday, 1 August 2007
HERTFORDSHIRE is not known for its magic. At least, not the kind that was considered modern, effective, or quality. There were two or three schools that boasted of teaching "advanced methodology in wizarding and the magical arts," but anyone who was anybody knew that was only a fancy way of saying that the local farmer's sons would learn to grow magically enhanced pumpkins, and the farmer's daughters learned to keep their hair up in styles that would hold fast throughout an evening's festivities.
Even amongst the more genteel population of the county, magical abilities seemed to evade their families. There was an apothecary rather talented at bringing down high fevers, and delivering healthy babies (for which he was greatly revered), and a lawyer who never seemed to lose a case. All of the gentleman's daughters with any slight ability knew a few methods of charming, in order to better snatch rich husbands. Such behavior was widely encouraged by the mothers of the county, and none more so than one Mrs. Bennet. It was rumored that she held the secret to a particularly effective love potion (how else had she, a nobody's daughter in trade, gotten Mr. Bennet all those years ago?). Love potions were never permanent, and this one was purported to last three months at least. However, the validity of this rumor had been called into question over the past few years more and more frequently, due to the fact that Mrs. Bennet had five eligible daughters, and none of them yet married.
The Bennet sisters were revered in Hertfordshire not only for their beauty, which was unrivaled, but because some of them did hold claim to a relatively modest magical ability. Jane, the eldest and most beautiful, was also the most magically talented. Everyone lamented that her father never allowed her to study in town. Her abilities, particularly in the realm of healing and the spreading of happiness, put the local apothecary to shame. The youngest sisters, Kitty and Lydia, had grown so capable in the art of charm, flirtation, and (in Lydia's case), seduction, that the mothers of young men in Meryton were busy with trying to discover counter-charms and shields, so as to prevent anyone's being "taken in." The middle daughter, Mary, had not yet displayed any talent of her own, but was so knowledgeable about spells, potions and the history of magic that it made up for her lack of personal ability.
The second daughter remained a mystery to the inhabitants of Hertfordshire. Elizabeth Bennet did not seem or even claim to possess any magical ability at all. On one hand, this was surprising, because she most closely resembled her father, who had been a rather wonderful wizard in his day. But Mr. Bennet had not practiced magic (at least not to anyone's knowledge) since first having set foot in Hertfordshire. There was much speculation as to the reason for his loss of ability, and the favorite daughter's lack thereof. Some whispered that it had been stolen from him by a dark wizard. Others preferred the lighter idea that he had lost it because of the love potion given to him by his wife. Mr. Bennet never gave any hints one way or the other. In fact, he and Elizabeth seemed to prefer poking fun of their family's and neighbors' attempts at all things magical and supernatural, and so the Gossips of Meryton came to the conclusion that whatever magical ability either possessed was squelched do to excessive skepticism.
This information, along with a plethora of history mixed with gossip, was readily available to anyone and everyone who happened to venture through the county---and Mr. Darcy made sure to discover it all, and much more, when he learned of his friend Bingley's intention to let a house in Hertfordshire by the name of Netherfield. Being an exceptionally talented wizard himself, he did not like the look of the area and told Bingley as much.
Bingley was not put off. "You do not like anywhere, Darcy, unless it is Pemberley. And I cannot very well move Pemberley to Hertfordshire," Bingley grumbled over his tea. They sat in a large sitting room, enjoying an assortment of teas, pastries and muffins.
"Could you, Mr. Darcy? Move Pemberley, that is?" Caroline inquired. (She was Mr. Bingley's dark haired sister, and fancied herself better at wizardry than she actually was).
Darcy curbed back a disdainful smile. "Even if I could, I would not move it to such a place as Hertfordshire."
Caroline seemed disappointed, and sniffed, "I suppose there is not enough magic to move a broomstick in such a place. Must we go there, Charles?"
"I am afraid we must. I really cannot do without you Caroline, keeping things in order," Bingley flashed a ready smile, which Caroline returned, but more in Mr. Darcy's direction.
"I suppose I do keep a good table. You do agree do you not, Mr. Darcy?"
"Superb, Miss Bingley," Mr. Darcy answered quickly, and took another muffin to emphasize his point. "I do not know what I shall do at Netherfield. There will not be much opportunity for research."
"I am sure you may study the locals. After all, folk magic continues to thrive. Perhaps they employ methods that have been passed down through the centuries." Mr. Charles Bingley was also a Wizard, and while not as well respected as his wealthier and more intellectual friend, had done a great deal of successful research in the field of Botany. He also had a reputation for being an eternal optimist.
Caroline nearly snorted. "If you mean the study of pig feed and fortune telling -- and how to catch a rich husband -- then I am sure Mr. Darcy will not want for study!"
Charles scoffed, "Really, Caroline, one does not have to remove to the country to find that sort of thing. Husband catchers lie in wait around every corner here in London. Darcy and I employ the finest Charm-repellent spells a university education has to offer -- and I am sure Darcy has his perfected to implacability."
"Is that true, Mr. Darcy?" Caroline added rather too hopefully.
"I pride myself on defensive spells more than any others," Darcy replied, straightening up and glancing toward the pink tea-pot, steam still rising lazily from its spout. "Your tea, in fact, reminded me greatly of a potion we once drank during my school days that was used for -- well," he paused, seeing the deep flush which had spread across her face, "There is nothing that could penetrate my wall of defenses. I have made absolute sure of that."
Caroline recovered quickly. "Of course, how stupid of me. Charles, be sure and follow your friend's example, and not be taken in. I will not have you settle from some country bumpkin in Hertfordshire."
Bingley laughed, his eyes sparkling. "I have no intention of being taken in by anybody---" Darcy coughed at this, "---but I would not wish for Darcy's complete armored shield. With such implacability, one is not likely to let anything through, enchanted or not. Perhaps I am open to love."
Darcy bristled somewhat at this, "And I am not?"
"I am only speaking of myself, Darce, no need to be tense," Bingley laughed, "Have another muffin."
Caroline rolled her eyes. "Please, do be serious. And do not open yourself to love of any kind in the country. It simply is not done. Mr. Darcy, am I right in thinking that if one is open to that sort of thing, one is also more susceptible to charms of--- that sort?"
Charles laughed again, but Darcy muttered, "She is not completely wrong, Bingley."
"There!" Caroline cried triumphantly, "So you must be on your guard!"
Laughing all the more, Charles replied, "I will depend on you then, Caroline, and my friend Darcy, to save me from this impending unhappy and imprudent marriage. I am sure nothing in Hertfordshire---of all places!---could make Darcy take leave of his senses, much less fall under enchantment!"
Darcy smiled, "No, indeed, nothing at all."
Chapter 2 -- In which there is a Crack in the Defenses
Posted on Wednesday, 8 August 2007,
MR. DARCY'S first surprise upon entering Hertfordshire was to discover that Netherfield Park was more than it seemed. His bedchamber displayed the odd habit of vanishing, only to reappear on the other side of the house. While this was not an advanced sort of enchantment, it did provide amusement for Mr. Darcy, though not for his valet. Mr. Bingley was delighted to discover a particularly nasty vine growing on one side of the house. What the past 3 generations of gardeners had been unable to tame, he managed to right in one week. Mr. Darcy's Vanishing Room was allowed to misbehave for a mere three nights, after which the room was reprimanded and put in its proper place.
Grown accustomed to his own vast and ancient library, Mr. Darcy was not impressed by Netherfield's. He did manage to stumble across a few moldy books from the 16th century, and spent several lazy afternoons pouring over them fastidiously. (Whether he gained any knowledge from said books or was merely using them as an excuse to avoid Miss Bingley is left for the reader to decide). Unfortunately for Mr. Darcy, Caroline refused to be avoided for long, and neither did the neighbors. The former took to sulking about the library whenever it seemed most likely Darcy would appear; the latter arrived in droves before the second week at Netherfield was out.
One way or another, it had gotten about that a masterly Wizard had taken the Hall, with skills unrivaled in a hundred years. Mr. Darcy gave the taming of the Vine credit for these rumors, but Bingley modestly felt word had spread of Darcy's fame---and naturally everybody wanted to meet him. Mr. Darcy's guess was closer to the truth, as evidenced by the fact that their first caller, a Sir William Lucas, arrived with a sickly rosebush in tow. (It had been in the family for years, and hadn't quite recovered from last winter's frost). Mr. Bingley was only too happy to oblige, and the wilted plant was soon blooming with roses of several additional shades of color. Sir William was almost speechless.
This first call opened the gates to a deluge of visitors, none of whom were interesting or even slightly talented in the eyes of Mr. Darcy and Miss Bingley. On that point they were in perfect agreement.
"I warned you, Charles," Caroline reproached with a clenched smile, as she waved out the window to their latest departing guest. "Such tiresome company. I do not know how I will survive until Louisa arrives. All they are after is your money! Every gentleman was very careful to drop hints---and you shall meet my lovely daughter at the assembly come Saturday fortnight---did I mention she is lovely? And beautiful? And exceptionally bright? What nonsense!"
"We have not met all the neighbors, Caroline, only the fathers," Charles reminded with as stern a look as he could muster. "I am sure their daughters are lovely. I have yet to meet a girl who was not so."
Caroline and Mr. Darcy were not convinced in the slightest. Their opinions as to what made daughters "lovely" were quite different from Charles'.
Late in the afternoon and some weeks after their arrival, when Darcy had begun to hope the days of introductory "calls" nearing an end, a Mr. Bennet of Longbourn was introduced rather abruptly. The poor footman was hardly given enough time to open the library door and squeak out a name before the gentleman himself had strolled in and sat in the most comfortable chair in the room without so much as an invitation.
"I say!" cried Bingley, who had risen immediately to welcome his guest.
"Yes, how do you do. Bennet is the name---I hope you do not mind my lack of formality. It is too tiresome. I do without it as much as possible." The gentleman was a short and thin, with wiry white hair that stood out at odd ends. He wore a red waistcoat, and immediately took out his pipe.
"Please," Bingley exclaimed, drawing up a chair next to him, "I can do with an honest man over formalities any time of the day. And I do very well, thank you."
"Bennet?" Mr. Darcy's voice sounded from where he stood at the window, "Thomas Bennet, author of ‘The Fragility and Temperamental Nature of Magical Abilities'?"
Mr. Bennet looked startled. "The very same. Why, I wrote that essay at Oxford so long ago I can hardly remember it. And you are...?"
"Darcy, ‘Defensive Magic and its Many Uses' Darcy?"
"No," Mr. Darcy said solemnly as he came forward to pull up his own chair, "That was my father. My first name is---not George."
"Of course, how stupid of me, written well before you would have been able to read. Good principles, rather idealistic. I think you will find them difficult to maintain when under actual duress," Mr. Bennet seemed not to notice Darcy's blackening look, "But I hope you have read it in any case---you will need all your defenses to brave the wilds of Hertfordshire, however tame and insignificant it is purported to be!" Mr. Bennet vacated his chair with only the slightest stiffness in the knees, and proceeded to inspect the library's selection.
"I assure you, I have taken great care to study my father's work extensively," Mr. Darcy said haughtily, and stood to return to the window.
"What my friend here says is true, then," interjected Bingley, "and the population is ready and waiting with Charms and Potions enough to marry us twelve times over? Mr. Bennet, I cannot believe it!"
"Oh, you may well believe it," Mr. Bennet said, keeping his eyes on the books so as to hide the twinkle in them.
"You would encourage us to believe the truth of such rumors?" Mr. Darcy raised a brow skeptically.
Mr. Bennet turned slowly, "All true I am sure. Although there is one involving my wife and a particularly strong love potion---never believe it for a moment, whatever she may say."
Both young men protested immediately that neither had heard of any such rumor, but Mr. Bennet laughed as he saw himself to the door.
"I will not trespass any longer on your kind hospitality Mr. Bingley, Mr. Darcy, and will bid you good day. Mrs. Bennet will not believe me when I inform her of my call."
As suddenly as he had arrived, Mr. Bennet was gone. The two friends sat in a few moments of silence, before Bingley turned and said thoughtfully, "Mr. Bennet, author of countless well-respected articles and essays, all displaying some of the greatest insight into Magical Theory in a Century, who has not practiced a jot of it since coming to Hertfordshire some five-and-twenty years ago?"
"The very same," Mr. Darcy replied with a scowl, "I had imagined him an eccentric, but not quite so---"
"Informal? Or was it that he disagreed with the Principles of Defense? I have always said that---"
"Really, Bingley, must we go into this now?"
"Oh, no," Charles looked slightly abashed, and continued after a pause, "I did not detect any magic about him at all. Did you?"
"Well there is a study for you. I have never heard of anyone losing their magic who did not retain some small trace of it."
"Have you not?" Darcy replied sternly, as he watched Mr. Bennet's carriage roll swiftly down the lane.
CHARLES' elder sister Louisa and her husband, a Mr. Hurst, arrived just in time for their first Assembly---an evening dreaded by all but the unflappable Mr. Bingley. There was no question that they would attend, for what else was one to do when in the country? It was no great surprise to Caroline when the room proved too small for the large company gathered. To Charles, however, this could be the Assembly's only fault. Upon first entering the room, he found the dancing exuberant, the colors lively, the women pretty. A man determined to like everything and everyone was not likely to be disappointed---and Hertfordshire was eager to please.
Unfortunately, the saying is also true in reverse---a man determined to disapprove is unlikely to find anything of beauty or culture, in spite of the population's best efforts. Mr. Darcy was not a man easily humored. His findings proved quite different than his friend's---the women not at all pretty, the colors vapid, the dancing unmentionable. The air was heavy with the smell of perfumes and wig powder, and the entire room seemed to be swimming with primitive magic. Everything from hair fasteners, to beauty enhancements, to dancing improvement charms---Darcy detected wafts of it all. He was soon accompanied by a splitting headache.
With a valiant resolve, Darcy straightened and determined to be agreeable, if not civil, for some of the evening. The introductions were somewhat of a blur, there were so many of them. Later he did recollect the family of Mr. Bennet---his wife and their endless line of daughters.
"Kitty and Lydia are so fond of dancing," Mrs. Bennet was saying, "As I am sure you are, Mr. Bingley! And you, Mr. Darcy," she laughed at her own boldness, while Darcy felt his resolve to be agreeable fading, "Are you fond of dancing?"
She was a rather short and plump woman, speaking too loudly so as to be heard over the din. The question did not seem to be addressed to anyone specifically, so Bingley and Darcy answered simultaneously.
"Yes," said with enthusiasm.
"No," said with disdain.
Mrs. Bennet did not know who to answer first, as she could not remember which had answered in the affirmative. This proved to be of no consequence, for the esteemed and sought-after Bingley turned to her eldest daughter (whose name Darcy had not heard) and asked her to dance. Darcy was mildly disgusted and retreated as soon as possible, the phrases "not fond of dancing," "ten thousand a year" and "actual wizard" following him across the room.
It was not Mr. Darcy's conscious intention to offend everyone in the room aside from his own party---but certainly nothing in his actions indicated otherwise. With the exception of a few brief words that consisted of "no thank you," "never," and "absolutely not," exchanged with a Mrs. Long, he spoke to no one outside of the Bingleys and Hursts. Instead, his energy with spent pacing from one side of the room to the other, until at least, he came to a corner, and felt that he could breathe easily. Mr. Darcy was puzzled. He had walked the length of the room several times over, and had not found anywhere (including this corner) free of the dizzying emotions and magics being carelessly thrown about. Now, it was as if a veil had been lifted. Mr. Darcy was grateful, took a few deep breaths, and stayed in the corner.
It was not long before his mind (now free from its oppressive throbbing) was set to work on an explanation for this corner where magic seemed to dissolve. He reexamined the area subtly, discovering the space to be about three feet wide, but had only just come to the conclusion that it was all a figment of his strained imagination, when Bingley came bounding up, breathless and rather excited.
"There you are, Darcy, I have not had to time pause for a moment! Is it not a splendid party?"
"Oh yes, quite. Listen, Bingley, do you notice anything different about this corner?"
Bingley took a moment to look over both shoulders. "Do you mean the draft of fresh air coming from that window? It is rather refreshing."
Darcy looked to his right and pondered the window. "Of course, that explains---and to think I thought for a moment I had found a---"
"---what was that Darcy? I was not following." Bingley seemed distracted by a young woman amongst the crowd dancing.
"Oh, it was of no consequence," Darcy followed his friend's line of gaze. "Is that the young woman you were dancing with earlier?"
Bingley turned to him eagerly. "Do you not remember? Yes, Miss Bennet---she is the loveliest creature I have ever beheld!"
Darcy raised his brows. "Bingley, I grant you, she is very pretty, but consider that this hall is swarming with---"
"Yes, yes," Bingley interrupted impatiently, "And she is not using any sort of spell for that!"
Darcy blinked incredulously. "Not one? I had heard that her magical abilities were some of the finest in the county, although that, in all probability, means nothing when you consider---"
"Not one!" Bingley replied cheerfully. "Come Darcy, I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about in this stupid manner. You had much better dance."
"I certainly shall not. You know how I detest it, unless I am particularly acquainted with my partner. At such an assembly as this, with such a quality of people and ridiculous spells being used on nearly every person---it would be insupportable."
"I would not be as fastidious as you are," cried Bingley, "for a kingdom! Upon my honor, I have never met so many pleasant girls in my life, as I have this evening; no, it is not all because of enchantments---the magic is not nearly so bad as you have implied. There is one of Miss Bennet's sisters, who is very pretty (without any enchantment), and I dare say, very agreeable. Do let me ask my partner to introduce you."
"Which do you mean?" and turning around, he looked upon a young woman he recognized from earlier in the evening to be Miss Elizabeth Bennet. Their eyes met for a moment---until he withdrew his own coldly, and said "She is tolerable I suppose, but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in not humor at present to give consequence to young ladies without any magical ability who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting you time with me."
Mr. Bingley followed his advice. Mr. Darcy attempted to walk off, but was prevented when several things occurred in rapid succession. Firstly, he stumbled over his feet as he walked and almost collided into Miss Elizabeth, who had risen from her chair. Secondly, by a horrible stroke of misfortune, he was forced to take hold of her arm to steady himself, or else fall into the punch.
Darcy was mortified. "I do beg you pardon---I cannot begin to ask you to accept my apologies---I had no intention of---"
She silenced him with a look, the slightest of smiles curved onto her lips, "Not at all, Mr. Darcy. We all find ourselves clumsy on our feet at times."
Mr. Darcy drew himself up. "I can assure you, Madam, that I am never clumsy on my feet." He would have felt much more dignified if a lock of hair had not kept falling across his eyes, making it necessary for him to be constantly moving it aside.
"Never?" she laughed, "What makes tonight the exception?"
And, moving through the crowd quickly, she left him to wonder in astonishment.
Chapter Three: In which Mr. Darcy is Puzzled
Posted on Tuesday, 14 August 2007
"DID you like him, Lizzy?"
"Mr. Bingley?" Jane blushed at the mere mention of his name.
"Oh! He is very amiable, all that was charming and agreeable. I give you leave to like him, if that is what you mean," Elizabeth said with a sly grin, "You have liked many a stupider person."
"Dear Lizzy!" The two sisters turned down the lane, and sat under a great spreading tree, allowing the sunlight to play on their faces.
"You are a great deal too apt to like people in general, you know," Elizabeth admonished after a short while, "All the world is good and beautiful in your eyes. I have never heard you speak ill of a human being in my life!"
Jane laughed. "I only ever say what I think, Lizzy."
"Which is what makes you all the more admirable!"
"Did you see the flower he made for me?" Jane turned her head to display a delicate pink rose tucked into her hair, "It seemed to appear out of thin air! And has not wilted since Saturday---I am inclined to think it will not wither for some time. Is it not a lovely gift?"
"Truly beautiful. But is it not rather early for the bestowing of gifts? Mama will be beside herself to discover the relations to have progressed so far in such a short time," Elizabeth smiled to see her sister laugh, and continued in mock seriousness, "I hope you do not actually think the rose came out of no where. Nothing ever comes from nothing, Papa taught us that before we could speak."
"Of course not, Lizzy! I am sure he had it hidden somewhere, but it is enchanting to think of it as coming from the air. It does not lessen my respect for his magical abilities, which he has proven to be quite creditable."
"Mr. Bingley is now, certainly, the most esteemed Wizard to ever set foot in Hertfordshire! (Whether he deserves such praise or not) --Now Jane, you know I am only teasing. I am sure he is excellent at what he does. With Mr. Darcy, however, I am most disappointed."
"Mr. Darcy! You must forgive me, Lizzy, for saying something disagreeable, but I am not inclined to like him. Not after his slight to you," Jane's lovely features were covered with an uncharacteristic frown.
"Being considered "tolerable" is not the worst insult one could hope for, but I had expected much more from one so well respected in Wizarding circles. Although I suppose those are the sorts of circles that would like his sort---arrogant and unpleasant. As to his talent, that remains to be seen. I am inclined to think it rather less than is rumored," Elizabeth nodded her head decidedly.
"However unpleasant the gentleman may be that does not discredit his ability! Why, Mr. Bingley spoke of him on several occasions with the highest of respect," Jane stood and brushed the leaves from her dress.
"Mr. Bingley is his friend, and it follows that he would hold him in high esteem. For now, I shall believe you, Jane, and attempt not to think so horribly of him. However," she laughed as they linked arms and walked back towards the house, "I do not think he will ever be in humor to give consequence to young ladies of no magical talent who are slighted by other men. You will not convince me to think so well of him as that!"
IN SPITE of his best efforts, Mr. Darcy could not forget the events of Saturday evening for some time. He was puzzled by many things, most of which he could hardly put into words. Had there been a space in that overcrowded room shielded from all of its rampant magics? Why had the charms he used and depended on since childhood, most particularly the one that prevented his feet from tripping, slipped beyond the realms of control if only for a moment? Had it been the corner? Or was it someone in the room, tampering with other people's magic? Here he would remember the young woman's half smile, laughing at him, and his puzzlement increased. Bingley was not much help.
"You are sure Miss Elizabeth cannot perform magic?" Darcy inquired as casually as possible over coffee the next morning.
Bingley laughed, "Are you still rattled over your unfortunate misstep?"
"It was not a misstep. I never misstep."
"Charles, Mr. Darcy could not possibly have tripped of his own accord. Someone must have done something," Caroline raised her eyebrows reproachfully, but Bingley only shook his head.
"No one's spells, even yours, Darcy, are invincible to the slightest of hiccoughs," Mr. Bingley countered. "Miss Elizabeth has no magical ability. I had it from Miss Bennet herself---and I understand the two to be very close. You are feeling remorseful for not having danced with her, as I dare say you should. Why, the entire assembly must despise you now!"
"Hertfordshire's feelings of cordiality towards me, or lack thereof, do not concern me. What concerns me is---"
"---the hole in the room, where Magic seemed to not exist? I have the highest respect for you, Darcy, but such a thing is not possible. It was the draft of fresh air coming in from the window, nothing more. You said so yourself."
Mr. Darcy was ruffled, unaccustomed to being contradicted by anyone, but could not help seeing the logic behind his friend's reasoning. What Bingley insisted was true. Such holes had been attempted, but never successful. He resolved to put the whole unfortunate mishap---and Miss Elizabeth---from his mind entirely.
Their next scheduled social event was an evening with the Lucases, for a small and intimate dinner followed by cards. The implied "small" dinner party proved to be much larger than intended, due to the fact that a regiment of militia had recently been quartered at Meryton, and Sir William felt obliged to invite all the officers to join them. It was there that Mr. Darcy's resolve to forget about the Assembly was significantly weakened, for the first person he laid eyes on after first entering the room was Miss Elizabeth. She stood some twenty feet away from him, talking to her sister, Miss Bennet, and the eldest Miss Lucas. Even from a distance, he could see the light catching glints in her hair and eyes. At first he looked only to criticize, but soon found himself drawn to know more of her.
No sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. To this discovery succeeded some others equally mortifying. Though he had detected with a critical eye more than one failure of perfect symmetry in her form, he was forced to acknowledge her figure to be light and pleasing; and in spite of his asserting that her manners were not those of the fashionable world, he was caught by their easy playfulness. Of this she was perfectly unaware;--to her he was only the man who made himself agreeable no where, and who had not thought her handsome enough to dance with.
He heard a dramatic sigh at his shoulder and turned to see Miss Bingley smiling up at him. "Another long evening ahead of us, Mr. Darcy," she began, "and I see Charles has already taken the best of the company for himself."
Mr. Darcy looked to see his friend deeply engaged in conversation with Miss Bennet. His eyes searched briefly before locating her sister, who was still talking with the eldest Miss Lucas.
"What is it you find so interesting, Sir?" Caroline continued, trying to discover where it was Mr. Darcy had been looking, but he had already turned his attention back to her.
He thought for a moment before replying with a slow smile, "I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes and the face of a pretty woman can bestow."
Miss Bingley gasped in mock astonishment. "Pray tell who the subject of your study is---although I find if hard to believe there is any genuine beauty in this room, so much of it puffed up with enchantments."
Mr. Darcy assured her that while this was true in some cases, in Miss Elizabeth Bennet's case, it was not.
"Miss Elizabeth Bennet!" Caroline said with only the trace of a sneer. "Pray, when am I to wish you joy?"
"I expected such a response from you. A lady's imagination is very rapid."
"So serious, Mr. Darcy! Then I am sure the matter is absolutely settled. You will have a charming mother-in-law, who I am sure will always be at Pemberley with you. And your children, I am sure, most superbly magically talented---although I forgot! Their mother has no talent at all!"
Mr. Darcy bore her abuses with equanimity and even some amusement, but at the last he turned to fix his gaze upon the young lady in question. "I am not entirely certain that is true."
"Oh," Caroline said with a wave of her hand, "It is entirely true. I have taken tea with the ladies of Longbourn, and I can assure you that Miss Elizabeth is no more magical than that armchair over there---meaning no disrespect to the lady, of course. We cannot help what we are."
Mr. Darcy returned his eyes to Caroline's rather flushed face, "No," he said slowly, "we cannot."
"MR. DARCY seems to look your way often, Lizzy," Miss Lucas said with a smile. "Can it be that we are to anticipate your wedding to follow soon after your sister's?"
Elizabeth could not suppress the urge roll her eyes. "I cannot think why he looks in our direction unless it is to criticize. He is very disagreeable."
"He may be disagreeable, but he may certainly match you in education and talent---and he is not poor, which adds to his eligibility considerably." Charlotte Lucas, at the age of twenty-seven, was unmarried. She was not beautiful in the usual sort of way, but the purple of her gown that evening set of the tone of her skin in a pretty way. She and Elizabeth had been friends for some time, in spite of their obvious difference of opinion when it came to matrimonial prospects.
"I am certain," laughed Elizabeth, "That Mr. Darcy is superior to me in everyway. His education is far beyond my reach---"
"Do not discredit your father, Lizzy!" Charlotte chimed in.
"---As to talent, there we could not possibly be equal, for you know as well as any that I cannot perform magic!"
Charlotte smirked, and was about to say something, when the gentleman in question spoke up behind them.
"You cannot perform magic?" Both ladies jumped and turned to see Mr. Darcy looking very solemn.
"Has it often been your habit to eavesdrop on other people's conversations, Mr. Darcy?" Elizabeth said with no little annoyance.
Mr. Darcy displayed the faintest hint of a blush, but perhaps it was only from the warmth of the overcrowded room. "When passing by I could not help but overhear your remark. The question has been on my mind for some time, since fame of your family preceded my entrance into the county."
"Fame of my most talented father and sibling, and of a certain love potion possessed by my mother?" Elizabeth and Charlotte laughed, while Mr. Darcy's face remained impassive, "I should take offence, Mr. Darcy, at the implication of your words. I assume you imply that my family is rumored to be talented---and everyone wonders why I am not."
Mr. Darcy hastened to apologize, "It is not my intention to cause offence, nor to be impertinent."
"As a man of study," Charlotte offered, "I am sure you are greatly interested in the run of magic through family lines." Mr. Darcy bowed.
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow coyly. "In that case, I may reply (for the benefit of your study), that, as I stated to Miss Lucas, I am unable to perform magic. Are you satisfied?"
Mr. Darcy only bowed yet again in reply, but instead of walking away (as Elizabeth desperately desired him to do), turned and remained standing next to them. Elizabeth was disgruntled, and could barely conceal the pout of her lip. Conversation seemed to be at a standstill, and so the three watched the crowded room milling about as some went here or there---until finally, the youngest Miss Bennet, Lydia, convinced Mary to play them a dance. As the couples formed the line, Sir William came to stand next to Darcy.
"What a splendid amusement this is for young people, Mr. Darcy!"
"Dancing! I consider it to be one of the first refinements of every polished society," Sir William added with a great smile.
"And every unpolished society," put in Mr. Darcy, "Every savage can dance." Elizabeth was hard pressed not to smile at this, in spite of herself.
"Your friend performs remarkably well," Sir William continued, seeing Mr. Bingley join the group with Miss Bennet, "And I daresay you perform quite as well! My dear Miss Eliza," he cried, noticing her for the first time, "Why are you not dancing? Mr. Darcy, you must allow me to present this young lady to you as a very desirable partner."
Elizabeth was embarrassed, "Indeed, Sir, I have not the least intention of dancing. You cannot suppose that I moved this way in order to beg for a partner!"
Mr. Darcy with grave propriety requested to be allowed the honor of her hand; but in vain. Elizabeth was determined.
"You excel so much in the dance, Miss Eliza, that it is cruel to deny me the happiness of seeing you, and though the gentleman dislikes the amusement in general, he can have no objection, I am sure, to oblige us for one half hour."
"Mr. Darcy is all politeness," said Elizabeth, smiling.
"He is indeed---but considering the inducement, my dear Miss Eliza, we cannot wonder at his complaisance; for who could object to such a partner?"
Elizabeth looked archly, and turned away. Her resistance had not injured her with the gentleman, but it did turn his thoughts back to the Assembly and left him puzzled for the rest of the evening.
IT HAD been decided between Caroline and Louisa that they must invite Jane Bennet over for dinner. It seemed they had no other recourse. They had declared her to be a sweet, amiable sort of girl, and their brother had taken that to mean he could think of her any way he liked. It seemed he had decided that he liked her very much.
Both Caroline and Louisa admonished Mr. Darcy to look into the matter, to discover once and for all whether or not Charles was under inducement or enchantment. As much as it pained him to do so, Mr. Darcy reported that he could find no faults with Miss Bennet, other than the fact that she smiled too much. Charles felt triumph---his sisters felt resigned. Some time went into the question of whether or not they should merely invite her for tea---or perhaps a walk about the grounds. In the end, Louisa pointed out that they must have a suitable length of time in order to (subtly) discover all of her connections. She even went so far as to suggest that, while only a girl from the country, she was a gentleman's daughter and perhaps not so ineligible as she appeared. Caroline was not convinced for a moment, but she did write the letter, and made sure to send the gentleman out to dinner with the officers.
"I know it will be a disappointment to her," Caroline said as regretfully as she could, "But I know of no other way of keeping her to ourselves!"
The two sisters almost began to look forward to Jane's coming---as they really had no idea what else to do with themselves. Still, on the day of the intended dinner, when it began to pour rain, Caroline almost hoped that she would not come. All hope was for naught, however, when Miss Bennet arrived on horseback, dripping wet, with unfashionable punctuality.
Several minutes---fifteen at least---were spent fussing over the poor girl, and another ten in finding her dry clothes. At last the ladies were able to sit down for dinner, whereupon the Inquisition began. Was Jane very magical?---she did not consider herself to be so. But did others?---others might exaggerate. Did she enjoy the country life?---very much. And ever wish she could be more in town?---well, she could visit her Aunt and Uncle in town whenever she liked. And where did they live?---
"On Gracechurch Street," Jane replied with barely a blush. "My Uncle and Aunt are well respected Wizards in that area."
Caroline managed a stiff smile, and Louisa barely whispered---"Is that in Cheapside?" The Inquisition was over. The two sisters had all the information they ever needed to know, and they were satisfied. Miss Bennet would not do, in spite of her personal attractiveness. The connections were too horrendous.
Dinner came to a hasty close, Jane seemingly oblivious to her hostess's change in manner. They strived to be polite, but now focused their conversation mainly on the weather and latest fashions. They were very eager to give Miss Bennet instruction, and she was only too happy to receive their advice (however unlikely it was that she would return home and immediately begin making up new gowns).
"Tea-time, I think. Miss Bennet, would you join us?" Caroline announced abruptly, and they lead her into smaller tea room, furnished with stiff green velvet chairs. "Do sit, Jane, are you comfortable?"
Jane was not, particularly, but she quickly reassured them that she was. Comfort, after all, was relative. Caroline began making the tea.
"In town of course, I never make my own," Caroline explained, "But here in the country, I thought, well---that I might return to the simple pleasures of life. Making my own tea, picking our own flowers, etc. It is quite refreshing, actually. Do you not agree, Louisa?"
Louisa looked slightly puzzled, but said hastily, "Of course, dear."
Caroline handed Jane a steaming dainty cup. "Do tell me you like it?"
Jane felt the tea to be quite delicious, and said so. "It is just the thing to warm me after the rain this afternoon," she smiled.
Conversation continued as it had before until somewhere around eight o'clock in the evening, when Jane began to cough up green smoke.
Caroline noticed it first. "Miss Bennet? Are you quite well?"
Jane, who was losing color and coughing up more smoke, found herself unable to answer. She attempted to nod in reassurance but was prevented when, suddenly, she fainted.
Chapter Four: Of Riddles and Theories
Posted on Tuesday, 21 August 2007
"Dear Lizzy," Elizabeth read over breakfast to her mother and father, "I apologize for my absence last night and this morning. I have been taken ill, but do not be alarmed. Other than a fever, headache and cough, there is not much the matter with me. Miss Bingley has been most kind, both she and Mrs. Hurst insist I stay in bed until I am well. My cough produces a green smoke---it seems the cook accidentally purchased some jinxed tea---and I am unable to remedy it myself with the usual spells. I hope to be well soon and back in your company, Yours etc," Elizabeth looked up in disbelief. "Green smoke?"
"Jane staying at Netherfield!" exclaimed Mrs. Bennet, "Is it not exactly how I planned, my dear?"
"I am confounded," Mr. Bennet said solemnly, "Jane has never been so ill that she could not remedy herself."
"Green smoke!" Elizabeth cried again, "I must go to her immediately."
"Lizzy, do not be rash," Mrs. Bennet sniffed.
"Papa," Elizabeth rose from her chair, "Jane needs me."
He nodded quickly, "Of course, but the carriage will not be had this morning."
"I will walk, Papa."
"You will walk three miles through that forest after a rain?" Mrs. Bennet was rather alarmed.
"Your mother is right. The forest is dangerous, child." Mr. Bennet raised his eyebrows warningly.
Elizabeth managed a smile in spite of her concern, "You know very well that the forest holds little danger for me."
THE PREVIOUS evening had not been pleasant for the gentleman of Netherfield. Dinner with the officers had been tedious at best, aggravating at worst. Where Darcy had hoped to find men dedicated to the county's protection and regulation of Dark magic, they seemed to feel themselves assigned to an area of no consequence, where nothing of importance ever happened. Darcy was indignant. He could not abide the shirking of one's duty. Upon their return to the house, and subsequent discovery of Miss Bennet's ailment, an hour's worth of inquisition had gone into the discovery of the source of her illness, the culprit proving to be the evening's tea.
"Oh Charles!" Miss Bingley had cried agitatedly, with a wring of her hands, "If I had only known---and to think Louisa and I had almost taken a drink of it ourselves. I do not know where it had been bought; the rest must be disposed of immediately!"
Mr. Darcy had chosen not to question Caroline further after her brother had left the room. He stood silently for some moments, staring into the fireplace while Mrs. Hurst whimpered and Caroline clenched her hands nervously.
"If I am not mistaken," He began at length, turning to bore his eyes into Miss Bingley's, "and I rarely am, that jinx was a counter-love potion gone awry. Poorly executed. How strange that it should find its way into Miss Bennet's cup." With that, he excused himself from the room, and the rest of the evening had been spent locked away in Bingley's study, trying to discover an antidote without success.
The morning brought the apothecary, who was equally unable to administer a remedy. Miss Bennet's condition remained the same; the apothecary recommended that she not be moved, but that the illness should run its course within the next few weeks or so. Everyone was quite distressed, Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst found comfort in attending to Jane's every need; Bingley found solace in pacing about the gardens, Mr. Darcy decided to go for a walk in the woods adjoining Netherfield's grounds.
Darcy had not slept well, and therefore what follows is perhaps more understandable, given the circumstances. He wandered rather aimlessly for some time, keeping on eye on the park; but there came a point in his ramblings, when the trees all began to take a glimmering shade, and Mr. Darcy realized that he wasn't quite sure where he was. He chuckled, and righted himself to walk in the proper direction, (for Wizards can never truly be lost), when he was distracted by a noise in the brambles behind him. Imagine his astonishment when out of the thicket appeared a ruffled Miss Elizabeth Bennet, eyes sparkling, mouth twitched into a teasing smile.
"Miss Bennet!" he cried, turning to manage a bow.
"Mr. Darcy," she laughed, "Have you not been told that these woods are dangerous to walk in alone?"
Darcy drew himself up rather stiffly. "I can assure you, Madam, that I am in no danger."
His answer seemed to please her, for she laughed again, and took a few steps back to sit on a fallen tree. Her hair seemed to have come undone, for she took off her bonnet and hastily twisted it back into place. "I take it then," she said, with a pin between her teeth, "That you like adventures?"
Mr. Darcy turned his head to the side, and did not answer.
"Riddles then, do you like riddles?" she continued. She finished with her hair, but did not replace her bonnet.
"Riddles?" Mr. Darcy repeated, feeling himself too distracted by the sunlight playing on her hair. "I should be surprised if you asked me a riddle that I could not answer."
Miss Elizabeth laughed again. "Shall we play a game then? You will answer me three riddles. If you win all, you may go as you please. But if you cannot answer, you must give me anything I ask."
"You need not ask me riddles for that," Mr. Darcy replied slowly, for he was puzzled. He tried to focus on the young lady before him, but something in the back of his mind was nagging. Something he could not remember---and Mr. Darcy hardly ever forgot anything.
"Oh," she said quickly, "But where is the fun in that? Come now, for your first: the more you see of me, the less you see. What am I?"
"Darkness," he replied automatically.
Miss Bennet looked disappointed, and something flickered across her face--something Darcy could not recognize. Then she laughed again, shrugging her shoulders. "And what, Mr. Darcy, do liars do when they die?"
Mr. Darcy could not help but chuckle at this, feeling her riddles to be rather uncomplicated. "They lie still, Miss Bennet."
She was not pleased. "I assure you, Sir, that I am very good at riddles. No one ever guesses all three."
"Are you quite sure of that, Miss Bennet?"
"Quite sure," and she drew him closer with her eyes. They were sparklingly beautiful. "I am always coming, but never arriving, Mr. Darcy."
He caught his breath. Their faces seemed very close, and he could almost catch the scent of her hair, when suddenly, he remembered what he had forgotten. Leaping away from her, he cried loudly, "Tomorrow! For when it arrives, it is today! And now," he pointed his hand forcefully, "You will reveal your true form!"
Miss Elizabeth---or rather, what had seemed to be Miss Bennet---burst into angry tears. She was shrinking rapidly, soon the size of a small child, and turning a rather goldish color. Little wings sprouted from her back. She hovered above him, crying and turning red, and began yelling nasty things.
"I always, always win!" she cried, "I have not lost a game in a hundred years!"
There was a burst, and another small, golden creature appeared next to her, shaking his fist. "And did I not warn you," it shouted, "Not to claim a Wizard! Now you have used up all my magic, and we shan't have anything!"
Mr. Darcy would have laughed at their fighting, had he not felt himself so foolish for having agreed to any sort of game. It shook him, that his defenses had proved so slow to react, when he had trained himself so rigorously to recognize magical forms for what they truly were (under any circumstance). The two winged creatures were beating their wings rapidly, growing angrier by the minute, when suddenly there was a flash, and both disappeared in a sparkle of golden pieces raining down onto his head. Mr. Darcy sneezed, and was mortified to hear the sound of laughter behind him.
He turned, and actually jumped to see Miss Elizabeth Bennet---the true Elizabeth---standing some distance behind him. He was quite sure it was actually her, for his Defenses were in perfect working order now. She did not look nearly so pleased to see him as the other Miss Bennet had been, and while her petticoat was covered in mud, her bonnet was firmly in its proper place.
"Mr. Darcy," she said, "Have you not been told that these woods are dangerous to walk in alone?"
"I have heard something of that sort, yes," he said stiffly, brushing a fine golden dust from his jacket.
"But I see you are not a novice when it comes to Pixies," she said, raising a brow, "There are not many people in Hertfordshire who know that they actually still exist in the wood---and the men who do encounter them do not usually return to tell the tale."
Mr. Darcy cleared his throat. "May I inquire as to your purpose in the forest?"
"I have come to see my sister, Jane. Will you take me to her?"
Mr. Darcy, who still felt himself to be rather shaken, nodded in reply. Their walk back to the Park was surprisingly short, with few words exchanged between them. Miss Elizabeth was shown directly to breakfast parlor, where her appearance caused a great deal of surprise. She was received politely, but not without contempt on the part of Bingley's sisters. Elizabeth was glad to be taken to her sister immediately.
Caroline was preparing to say something very witty on the subject of Miss Eliza's petticoat, when Mr. Darcy abruptly turned to her brother and said, "Bingley, I would speak with you in private." If Charles was surprised, he did not show it. Instead, they removed to his study, where Darcy began pacing about furiously.
"Recite to me the theory we learned on Pixies, Bingley," he said, running a hand through his hair.
It took Charles a few moments of staring at the ceiling before he replied, "Pixies. Always work in Male and Female pairs (most often brother and sister); highly dangerous, seductive, known to draw men into the woods, confound them with riddles, thereby tricking the victim into doing their bidding---forever. Or, that is, until the victim dies. One can only defeat the Pixies by answering all three riddles correctly, never before, never after."
"You have forgotten an important element."
"The female Pixie always appears in the form of a one's heart's desire---whatever that may be?"
"Well---" Darcy blushed, "That is correct, in theory---although I am certain, that is---...that was not what I was thinking of."
"You are referring to the fact that they are extinct?"
"That they are thought to be extinct, Bingley." Darcy sat across from him, and proceeded to tell him the tale in full, (with the exception of the form the female Pixie had chosen to take).
Bingley was quite delighted. "Not extinct after all? Do you realize that this means a wealth of study and prestige? What we can learn from these creatures!"
Mr. Darcy smiled ruefully. "I would perhaps be more enthusiastic, had I not almost succumbed to their magic. But I do believe," he said with a meaningful look, "that you have a letter to write."
"Of course! Although I am certain the letter would be much better coming from you. No one ever seems to understand half of what I write," Bingley was already scribbling something down on a piece of paper.
Darcy shook his head, "I have sent too many over the past few months, and I hope to avoid suspicion. As of yet, few in our circles know where I am, and it is best to keep it that way." He rose and headed for the door, "Also," he said, turning, "I have a theory about Miss Elizabeth Bennet."
"Another theory?" Bingley did not look up from his letter.
"Yes, although it is similar to the first. The test is being conducted as we speak---for if she emerges from that room, and her sister is improved, then my theory is correct."
Bingley shook his head. "I am not so certain Darcy, although it would be a sign that perhaps there is more to her than it seems. I think Miss Elizabeth to be a lovely girl---such affection to her sister is very admirable. But I am not convinced there is anything out of the ordinary about her, as you seem to be. I know why you would wish it, but that does not make it true."
"We shall see," came the reply, and Darcy left the room.
Chapter Five: Involving the Phenomenon of Counter Magic
Posted on Wednesday, 29 August 2007
"Darcy, I may need your assistance," Bingley called into the library, where Mr. Darcy had been attempting to read. "Miss Elizabeth seems to have requested our carriage."
Mr. Darcy rose immediately and followed Bingley into the hall where Elizabeth stood, her expression bordering on outrage.
"Mr. Bingley," she began slowly, her fists clenched, "I do thank you for your kindness and care for my sister, and I understand that you had nothing to do with her unfortunate jinxing. But I must---respectfully---request our immediate removal from Netherfield. Her dangerous symptoms are now at and end. I feel that care for her needs might be more adequately addressed at home."
"Miss Elizabeth, I understand your concern for your sister, but the Apothecary informed us that her recovery would take place over several weeks. You cannot insist that she be moved before his approval," Mr. Bingley reasoned.
"Indeed, Miss Bennet," Darcy put in, "Properly fashioned jinxes are easy enough to remedy, once the counter-jinx is discovered. However, the nature of this particular spell was poorly done, and I am afraid the side effects difficult to remedy, no matter the skill of those involved. It is impossible that your sister should be recovered so quickly. You must be mistaken."
"I am afraid you are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you think that I am not aware of the nature of jinxes and their effects---poorly executed or not. I can assure you that Jane is much better---"
"And I must insist that to be impossible," Darcy cried with some emotion, "Unless you are privy to Magical knowledge that none others are capable of!"
Elizabeth flushed, and raised her voice. "Is I have stated emphatically to you before, I am not able to perform magic! My sister's recovery has very little to do with the performing of spells. If you desire for the Apothecary to return and examine her, by all means, send for him."
"That will not be necessary, if you will allow me to examine her myself. I was not impressed with Dr. Jones' capabilities, magical or not."
Elizabeth raised her eyebrows in disbelief, while Bingley hastened to interject, "Mr. Darcy means nothing untoward, but you may believe that we would be able to quickly ascertain your sister's condition."
"There is no need of that," came a soft voice from the top of the stair. All three turned quickly to see the eldest Miss Bennet, pale but no longer coughing, attempting to descend.
"Jane!" cried Elizabeth, seeing her sister almost slip. All three rushed up to meet her, and return her to her room. With both gentlemen on either side to support her, Jane was quickly returned to her bed, Elizabeth standing close watch.
"I had intended to take you home, but not for you to attempt the stairs yourself!" she admonished.
"I am sure I shall be perfectly well, I cannot abide trespassing on your kind hospitality any longer," Jane said with a look towards Mr. Bingley.
"No, please," he cried, "It is entirely our fault that you are in this position in the first place. Darcy?"
"Your symptoms do seem to have disappeared, Miss Bennet," Darcy said solemnly, still holding her hand. "It is quite extraordinary," he said, turning his eyes towards Elizabeth's.
"Please, you are much too weak to return home this afternoon!" Bingley said with great concern, "I must insist that you stay until tomorrow. Miss Elizabeth, you both must stay until your sister has made a complete recovery."
Elizabeth stood reluctantly for some moments, "I see that my sister has been weakened more than I had anticipated." (Indeed, Jane was struggling to remain awake now that she had been returned to her bed). "We may decide upon a time tomorrow, if Jane is sufficiently recovered. I am only concerned---" she broke of, seemingly at a loss for words.
"I can assure you, Miss Elizabeth," Mr. Bingley said, "that nothing of the sort will happen again. I have taken every precaution---and Darcy has spent several hours adding to our number of defensive charms. Netherfield is now, perhaps, the safest home in the county."
Elizabeth's mouth turned to a slight smile. "I thank you again, for your kindness, Mr. Bingley."
It was with reluctance that Mr. Bingley left the room, giving cause for another smile from Elizabeth, and a frown from Mr. Darcy.
ELIZABETH stayed with her sister for some hours. Jane slept restlessly at first, but soon fell into a deep slumber. In spite of her certainty of Jane's recovery, Elizabeth now began to regret her earlier insistence upon a departure. She had evidently been weakened both magically and physically by her ordeal---and in spite of Elizabeth's suspicions as to the source of her misery, she felt confidence in Mr. Bingley's reassurances.
As the evening drew on, she hoped that Jane might awaken and give her an excuse not to join the ladies downstairs for dinner, but she did not stir, and Elizabeth found herself forced to put on a fresh suit of clothes (a trunk having been kindly whisked over by the obliging Mr. Bingley), and make her way to join the ladies in the dining room. As much as she detested the idea of dinner with Caroline and Louisa, Elizabeth was not pleased when she was interrupted in the hall by Mr. Darcy.
"Miss Elizabeth," he said solemnly, startling her as she rounded a corner, "If I might speak with you."
She hesitated for a moment, but out of curiosity (and perhaps against better judgment), she moved to join him in the library. "Will you not be joining your party, Mr. Darcy?" she queried, taking a seat across from him. There was a table separating them, a large and dusty book opened across it. She glanced across the open pages, looking up, startled.
"Am I here for another inquisition, Mr. Darcy?"
"Only the truth, Miss Elizabeth."
"You are studying a deep and powerful magic, Mr. Darcy. The ability to possess and use another's magic is a dark power---one that has plagued the Wizarding society for hundreds of years. I hope you are not insinuating that I---"
"I do not know what else to think. You claim to not use magic, and yet you counter jinxes. But that is not the only reason for my concern. As you have not been in the company of many accomplished Wizards, perhaps there have been none who noticed the absence of magic whenever you are present. I have noticed it."
Elizabeth's eyes flared instantly. "You are suggesting the reason for such an absence is that I take other's magic to use for myself!"
"Do you contradict me?"
She rose instantly. "One hundred times over!"
"Then how can you explain the power you possess---that I know you possess! Do not think me such a fool, Miss Bennet. Your magical abilities are blatant to anyone of sense and education."
"I cannot perform magic." Elizabeth stated.
"That is not the truth!" cried Mr. Darcy, also rising.
"It is not magic!"
Darcy sat back down in his chair, and Elizabeth moved to leave the room. "Then," he said, his voice halting her, "my theory is correct, however improbable it seemed."
Elizabeth raised a brow. "Your theory?"
"Counter-magic," he stated, crossing his arms.
Elizabeth inhaled sharply, and moved back into her chair. "I would hear your theory, Mr. Darcy."
"There is nothing more to it. Little is known of Counter-magic, I have no personal experience with it. I only know what has been speculated upon---that some, for inexplicable reasons, are immune to Magic. Not just immune to it," he added, seeing her smirk, "but able to counteract the performances of others."
Elizabeth glanced back down at the book between them, "Your suggestion that I was practicing Dark Magic was only a ruse to uncover my secret?"
"A rather clever one, I might add."
"I have not acceded that you are correct."
"But I am, Miss Bennet," Mr. Darcy's face was now unreadable. "Why have you chosen to keep such talent a secret?"
"Upon the insistence of my father."
"You do not retain any semblance of the spells you dissemble?"
"Not that I am aware."
"Are you aware of the power you possess, Miss Bennet?" Darcy cried, his face suddenly alighted, "To be invulnerable to magic! Are there no spells that you are unable to counter?"
"None that I have encountered."
"But that accounts for your inexperience," Mr. Darcy insisted, his face returning to its customary solemnity.
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. "Such as you enchantments, Mr. Darcy? I am well aware of your achievements, and your philosophies." She moved her hand almost imperceptibly, and Darcy hair fell into his eyes. "I found it highly amusing that a man such as yourself would have need for such a great number of cumbersome spells. Particularly one for keeping hair out of one's eyes."
Mr. Darcy quickly righted the spell. "Do you take delight in stripping people of their spells?"
He thought he detected a hint of a smirk on her lips, "Only when they are unnecessary."
"And you are the proper judge."
Elizabeth's cheeks again flushed in anger. "I have no reason to defend my actions to you, Mr. Darcy."
He almost smiled, but quickly caught himself. "The most primitive forms of Magic, evident even in Hertfordshire, have been used to modify, control, or enhance appearances in all forms. A well-trained Wizard learns to see beyond the façade we project for ourselves---but I assume that you are not deceived by it?"
"The façade? No. Such spells are distracting and tiring."
"You have noticed that none of mine are used for the purposes of deception, and rather practicality. Disguise of every sort is my abhorrence."
Elizabeth laughed. "Is that what you think?"
Mr. Darcy stiffened, and rose from his chair. "Have no fear of exposure, Miss Bennet. You may be assured of my secrecy."
"May I?" she replied, rising to meet his gaze. "You are not going to offer me as a subject of study to your colleagues in higher circles?"
Mr. Darcy was affronted. "A person is not a subject, Miss Elizabeth, but there is much to discuss---your ability would naturally be of interest to any scholar."
She laughed. "You will excuse me, Mr. Darcy, when I doubt your assurances of secrecy. I am sure there is much to discuss, but now I think is not the time. I am exceedingly hungry."
Mr. Darcy looked reluctant, but bowed in acquiescence.
DINNER that evening was a singularly quiet affair. Mr. Bingley was preoccupied in his worry over Jane's health, while his sisters were much subdued, to the point of making honest attempts to be agreeable to their guest. For Jane's sake, Elizabeth looked upon them with a kinder eye, and felt that perhaps she had been wrong about Miss Bingley, and the unfortunately jinxed tea.
Mr. Darcy was left to his own thoughts. He began to notice the regularity with which he had begun to turn his eyes towards Miss Elizabeth. Admittedly, he felt triumph in the correctness of his theory, and a fascination with her talent. Who would not? But now he remembered with surprising accuracy the picture she had presented in the forest, (while, admittedly, not actually herself, but only a form taken by the Pixie). He was thinking of her too much. There was no question in his mind that she was not his Heart's desire---perhaps the Pixie had taken that form because he had so greatly desired to discover the truth of her secret---but he could not, now, lead her to hope for something that could never be.
"What are you thinking of, Mr. Darcy?" Caroline moved smoothly into the chair next to him. Their game of cards was at an end, and the company scattering themselves in various places of the room. In spite of his earlier thoughts, his eyes quickly located Miss Elizabeth in a corner, opening a book. His line of gaze was not lost on Miss Bingley, who acted quickly by calling, "What is it you read, Miss Bennet? Mr. Darcy and I are greatly desirous of knowing."
Elizabeth looked up with the same expression of amusement to which Darcy was now becoming quite accustomed. "'Defensive Magic and Its Many Uses.'"
"Indeed?" exclaimed Caroline, "That is your father's work, is it not, Mr. Darcy?" she said, turning away from Elizabeth and back towards Darcy, "I have read it myself, of course, and found it to be one of the greatest influences over my own practices."
Mr. Darcy was trying to find a way not to reply, when Elizabeth spoke up from her corner. "And what Principle did you find the most useful, Miss Bingley?"
"Yes, of the five."
"Why, the spells, of course."
"But Mr. Darcy---the Author, that is---does not emphasize the use of spells in his Theory. His emphasis tends to be on Concentration," Elizabeth said, turning the pages of the book.
Mr. Darcy was surprised, "You have read the book previously?"
"Yes, but thought I might refresh my memory, due to the interesting conversation we had earlier. I understand your methods to be based heavily upon this theorem."
"Concentration," Mr. Darcy raised his eyebrows.
"But you disagree," he stated.
"How could she disagree?" Caroline cried, "You father's Principles have been the cornerstone for Defense over the past twenty years!"
"I did not say that I did not agree, Mr. Darcy," Elizabeth closed the book with a snap.
"That does not take away from the fact that you do," he said quickly, "I might inquire as to why."
"The Principles are good in theory, but not in practice. How concentrated is one going to be when a Dragon is breathing fire down onto your house?"
"And how many Dragons have you fought against, Miss Bennet?" Darcy almost smiled, but she looked somewhat miffed.
"I was not implying that I had fought any, Mr. Darcy. That is not the point."
"Mr. Darcy has fought against five, Eliza! Five dragons," Caroline added, "How interesting that you should choose that as an example."
Mr. Darcy felt his necktie to be rather tight. The conversation had taken an unintended turn. "Miss Bingley, I beg you would not---"
"What of Pixies, then," Mr. Bingley interrupted, to Mr. Darcy's astonishment.
"Pixies are perhaps a better example, Mr. Bingley, I thank you," Elizabeth smiled, "As they take the form of a man's Heart's Desire. I have never heard of any man, (Wizard or not), who resisted the offer of a game of Riddles, no matter how great their concentration. Have you, Mr. Darcy?"
Darcy scowled. "No, I have not."
Chapter Six: Unusual Correspondence
Posted on Thursday, 6 September 2007
THE NEXT morning proved to be a drizzly one. Elizabeth rose early with the intention of walking about the grounds, only to be confined to her room upstairs, (unwilling to venture down until absolutely necessary). Jane had awoken once in the night, murmured that she was exceedingly tired, and then fallen back asleep. Elizabeth resigned herself to another day at Netherfield, unless Jane should suddenly awaken and find herself completely recovered.
Caroline and Louisa made their way up to the room sometime around ten, to inquire after the patient and invite Elizabeth down for breakfast. In spite of their obvious distaste for Elizabeth, the two sisters did fuss over Jane for some minutes, and ordered a tray brought in with tea and rolls should she awake to find herself hungry. Elizabeth thanked them for their kindness, but not before she had discreetly ascertained the magical contents of the breakfast offered. As she could detect nothing amiss, she was obliged to return downstairs with them and leave Jane to her rest.
The company had only just sat down to eat when Elizabeth's mother was announced. Mrs. Bennet moved swiftly into the room without embarrassment, followed by her three youngest daughters. She was adamant in her demand to see Jane, profuse in her thanks for Mr. Bingley's hospitality, and pointedly ungracious towards the person of Mr. Darcy. Mrs. Bennet was a woman of mean understanding, who consequently prided herself upon her unerring judgment of people's characters. Mrs. Bennet felt that she was rarely ever wrong. A man like Mr. Bingley, so agreeable and interested in one of her daughters, could not receive too much praise in her eyes. But a man such as Mr. Darcy---whose fame proceeded him---and who did not live up to Mrs. Bennet's idea of "standards," could not receive too little praise.
The three youngest Miss Bennets said very little, but professed themselves to be greatly in awe of Netherfield's many splendors. They preferred to stay in the breakfast parlor, rather than accompany their mother upstairs with Elizabeth. It was with great amusement that Darcy noticed Elizabeth strip them of their Charm enhancements before leaving the room---although he was certain she must know full well that such trifling charms could hold no influence over himself or Mr. Bingley.
Caroline chose to accompany Elizabeth and Mrs. Bennet to the sickroom, rather than remain in the company of three such young women. The visit was short lived, for Mrs. Bennet quickly ascertained that Jane was too weak to be moved, and returned to the breakfast room post-haste to say as much to Mr. Bingley.
"I can assure you, Madam," he replied with the greatest of respect, "That your daughter will not be moved until she is sufficiently recovered."
"Mama, Jane is only sleeping. After she awakens, it will be a more appropriate time to assess her state of illness---or lake thereof. We might return this afternoon, if she is better," Elizabeth said quietly into her mother's ear.
"This afternoon! You could not possibly return this afternoon, she might take a turn for the worse on the road! In any case, the carriage is needed for the rest of the day, after our return," Mrs. Bennet replied as she found herself a seat.
"Our carriages are at your disposal, Miss Elizabeth, if you should ever need them," Caroline offered quickly.
"Your daughter is no longer in any danger, Mrs. Bennet," Darcy added seriously, "It would not be unwise to move her, whenever she has regained her strength."
Mrs. Bennet sniffed. "I have been informed by Dr. Jones that she would be ill for some weeks."
"Her circumstance has---changed," Darcy said with a glance at Elizabeth, "I can personally attest to the fact that whatever symptoms were caused by the jinx are completely gone."
"I understand you to be a knowledgeable Wizard, Mr. Darcy," began Mrs. Bennet, without any notice to Elizabeth's slight tugging at her sleeve, "But I am sure Dr. Jones has a much greater understanding of such things. Hertfordshire is not so very backward as some might think, whatever they say in town. I might venture to say there are some people here more talented than any---! Would you not say so, Mr. Bingley? My Jane, for instance."
Mr. Bingley was at a loss for words, and so Elizabeth whispered fiercely, "Mama, Mr. Bingley could hardly ascertain her talent in such a short acquaintance."
"Miss Bennet is gifted," Darcy put in, "But Mrs. Bennet, you must not underestimate the knowledge and talent that can be found in London or elsewhere, where there is a greater opportunity for study and education."
"You imply that there is no such opportunity here in Hertfordshire!" Mrs. Bennet cried.
"Mama, you mistake Mr. Darcy, I think," Elizabeth insisted.
"I do not mistake the gentleman, do I?" (Everyone assumed Mrs. Bennet's question to be rhetorical, and deigned not to answer, and so she continued), "My husband, with whom you are well acquainted, may be known as one of the greatest Wizards in the history of our country."
"Mr. Bennet's studies are some of the finest published," Mr. Darcy replied in earnest agreement, with Bingley adding a hasty "Indeed," in the hope of pacifying his guest.
"Has he, perchance, published anything recently?" Miss Bingley suddenly inquired, "Within the last twenty years?"
Elizabeth's cheeks flushed in anger, while her mother's flushed in mortification. "I am sure I don't understand you, Miss Bingley," Mrs. Bennet replied, and then, turning towards Mr. Bingley, said, "What remarkable tapestries. I have always told people that Netherfield possessed the finest quality in the county---Hertfordshire craftsmanship for you! Indeed, if you will note the design patterns shift---"
Conversation continued in this vein for some time, until the youngest Miss Bennet, Miss Lydia, mentioned to Mr. Bingley that he had promised a ball---to which he replied that indeed he had, and so on and so forth. Elizabeth bore her mother's behavior with as much restraint as possible until they took their leave. It gave her great mortification to discern that she was not to only one of the party to breathe a sigh of relief as their carriage rattled away towards Longbourn. Caroline and Louisa did not linger for long in the breakfast parlor, soon absenting themselves in order to discuss "private matters." (Elizabeth could not help but suspect they left to mock her family).
Jane finally awoke from her slumber late in the afternoon, tired, but sufficiently able to come downstairs to rest by the fire with a blanket. Mr. Bingley was most attentive, his warm affection apparent to everyone in the room, except perhaps to Jane, who was too modest, and Mr. Darcy, who was writing a letter and trying not to look at Miss Elizabeth. With graciousness, Jane accepted an offer of tea from Caroline and everything seemed, for a moment, to be as it should be. But of course, it is always during such moments that something out of the ordinary occurs.
"Of all things," Caroline cried. She sat on the divan with Louisa, a pile of letters on her lap, holding one up to the light. "I cannot make out the wording in this at all!"
Darcy and Bingley looked up quickly from their separate activities. Their sudden motion caught Elizabeth's eye, and she looked up from her reading.
"Whose letter is that, Caroline?" Bingley asked sharply.
Caroline was prevented from answering when Mr. Darcy moved swiftly across the room and snatched the letter from her hands just before it incinerated.
Louisa let out a small shriek, and Caroline gasped to see Mr. Darcy's glare.
"Whose letter was that, Caroline!" Bingley repeated with some feeling.
"I---I---had thought it to be a missive from a friend in town!" Caroline stammered, holding a hand to her throat.
Mr. Darcy began to pace about the room. "Your sister goes too far, Bingley!"
Bingley gaped at his sister in shock. "It was one of Darcy's letters! Caroline!"
Miss Bingley was turning red, "I did not know it was his, I thought---"
"You thought?" Mr. Darcy snapped.
"I am sure it was all a mistake!" Jane ventured, paling from worry that anyone should be distressed.
"A letter addressed to me---enchanted of course, so that no one but I could read it---and also enchanted to self-destruct!" Darcy moved to the door, "This is a matter which cannot be overlooked. I will return, Bingley, as soon as possible. If, in the meantime, you will be so kind as to ensure that missives addressed to me do not find their way into the hands of the wrong person---you understand the importance of this." Darcy closed the door himself with the hint of a slam, leaving the room in stunned silence until Caroline burst into tears.
"Well," Elizabeth began, "You will forgive me when I say that I am not at all sorry we returned home as soon as we did." She and Jane sat together in Longbourn's sitting room, the only other person in the room being their father (who was pretending not to eavesdrop).
"I am happy to be home, and not ill," Jane agreed.
"I know you miss Mr. Bingley's chivalrous company, although you will not admit it."
"You know I will not, Lizzy!"
"If not for my belief in the sincerity of his goodness---and affection for you!---I would advise you not to think on him at all, if only for the sake of his sister. A more ridiculous woman I have never met. Poisoning you with jinxed tea and accidentally opening other people's personal missives!" Elizabeth let out a short laugh. "Poor Mr. Darcy, with his very important business."
"You doubt the seriousness of his business, Elizabeth?" Mr. Bennet inquired.
"Mr. Darcy is an extremely serious man, Papa. I am sure his business is equally important," Elizabeth said solemnly, with an expression such like Mr. Darcy's that Jane laughed aloud.
"You do not like him," Mr. Bennet stated. "I cannot blame you. He does not present himself affably.
"He is much too self-satisfied."
"And yet," Mr. Bennet raised his eyebrows, "He discovered your secret."
"Does that worry you, Papa?" Jane asked anxiously with a glance at her sister.
Mr. Bennet sighed. "No, Jane. Not as of yet."
Elizabeth laughed again, but checked herself at the serious gaze of both Mr. Bennet and Jane. "I confess to not having seen much of anything in Mr. Darcy to intimidate me. But Papa, when might I---"
Her question was cut short by the entrance of Mrs. Bennet, followed by Mary, Kitty and Lydia.
"We have such news!" cried Kitty, helping their mother into a chair.
Mrs. Bennet was out of breath and quite distressed. "Horrendous new!" she gasped.
"Of the very worst kind," Lydia emphasized.
"There has been another attack," Mary stated quite blandly. Mr. Bennet and his two eldest daughters looked at each other in alarm.
"Was anyone killed?" cried Jane.
"Or Dismantled?" Elizabeth suggested eagerly, but Lydia shook her head fiercely.
"La, no! It was all a design to trap the Thieving Necromancer into capture!"
"You and your ridiculous names, Lydia," Elizabeth scoffed.
"But that is what he is called, Lizzy!" Kitty protested.
"No one knows who or what it is, let alone whether or not it is a he or she," Elizabeth countered. "And I do not understand what you mean by a trap."
"You are such a bore, Lizzy. We shan't tell you anything if you will be so dull," Lydia crossed her arms.
But Kitty could not contain herself. "I do not understand all of the particulars---there is only so much they will reveal to the papers, or so Uncle Phillips says---but it was originally to be carried out by a militia in some northern city that I cannot remember---"
"---York," Mary stated.
"---Of course, in York. But apparently---"
"Apparently someone else got there first, and there was a terrific row with sparks and lightning and all sorts of smoke!" Lydia finished, causing Kitty to pout. But Lydia never did care if Kitty was sulking or not, and so she continued, "Now, no one knows where the Thief might be, and he will be ever more alert to potential capture."
There was a moment of silence, until Mrs. Bennet spoke from her chair, where she had been sitting quietly since the beginning of the conversation. Her face was pale, and her voice actually quavered as she turned to Mr. Bennet, "Do you think there is any chance of something happening to us? These attacks all over the country---and with the trouble in Europe, I cannot help but fear for our very lives!"
"Tush, Mrs. Bennet," her husband chuckled, "The ‘Thieving Necromancer' in Hertfordshire? And what do you suppose he would find here to add to his collection? Beauty charms and love potions that do not work? However highly you might think of our little county, it is quite inconsequential in the eyes of such a Sorcerer."
Mrs. Bennet did not look at all reassured. "Suppose he came in our sleep, and nothing could be done to prevent it! We could not defend ourselves!"
"I am sorry my dear," Mr. Bennet said as he shifted in his chair, "That circumstances are such that prevent me from assuring you of any magical protection on my part---I would defend your lives to the death if necessary---but you are very aware of my limitations," he glanced for a moment at Elizabeth. "That being so, you may be happy to learn that another gentleman will be residing for a time at Longbourn as my guest. Perhaps now you will be more welcoming at the thought of him---although I have no notion of the strength of his abilities."
All six women immediately demanded to know who the gentleman was, and what his business could possibly be with them.
"It is my cousin, a Mr. Collins---the rector of a respectable parish in Kent, who, when I am dead, may turn you all out of this house as soon as he pleases." Mr. Bennet could not help laughing at his wife's immediate protestations of disdain.
"I ask for reassurances of our protection in such treacherous times and you bring up that odious man!"
"If you would read his letter, my dear, you might think differently," he said.
Several minutes were spent in perusal of the gentleman's correspondence. Kitty and Lydia found it to be (perhaps) the dullest letter written in the existence of man. It was next to impossible that their cousin should come in a scarlet coat, and it was now some weeks since they had received pleasure from the society of a man in any other color. Mary thought its style to be quite elegant, Jane hoped he might have a safe journey, and Elizabeth guessed from its tone that Mr. Collins was something of an oddity.
Mrs. Bennet found herself begrudgingly grateful. In fact, the letter seemed to have done away much of her ill-will. "If he is disposed to make amends to my daughters, I shall not be the person to discourage him."
Mr. Bennet chuckled, but only remained in the room a few minutes longer. Elizabeth noted how he had turned the conversation from the recent attack to something less alarming---and thought his demeanor to be more troubled than he would allow his wife to see. She resolved to speak with him on it in the morning.