[Eleanor]: 668.Margaret - Grethe.VI
It was, in fact, several months before I was allowed home again and only briefly to attend the funeral of my maternal grandfather, the hero whose honouring ball had first brought my parents together. My mother’s letters contained no more erasures, but there was a certain tone I could not ignore and several times glimpsed her in my scrying bowl. Each viewing showed nothing to warrant alarm, but I was very surprised that she had chosen to replace the retiring Ilsa with my childhood friend, Grethe. In one letter she wrote the following:
“As you know, Ilsa has left us to go live with her niece in the provinces. She had been my maid for over 20 years and I will miss her terribly. I could not bear to replace her with just anyone, and it took me a long time to find the perfect girl for the job. Fortunately, Miss Rosa suggested Grethe for the position. She said that it pained her to let the girl upstairs, but she felt that a change of scene would be good for her. The child has, of course, never spoken since the tragic accident that took her parents from this world and Miss Rosa felt that a more discrete lady’s maid would be impossible to find. The few tasks required of her are simple enough that she has learned them with ease and I feel very comfortable having her around. She is quiet, respectful, and attentive to my needs once she is made aware of them. I sometimes have to rouse her from a daydream-like reverie, but she does not take offence at being summoned, nor does she show boredom when she is not. Most important, though, is that she reminds me of you, my darling daughter, and the times you two played together and were my two princesses.”
I had no doubt that Grethe remembered none of those occasions and I wondered why my mother desired a companion with whom she could have no social interaction. I had memories of her and Ilsa convulsing in peals of laughter over some shared joke. The line that jumped out at me was, “The child has, of course, never spoken … and Miss Rosa felt that a more discrete lady’s maid would be impossible to find.” Why would my mother have said that? It made me wonder what she could possibly be hiding.
There was no opportunity to get answers to these questions when I came home for my grandfather’s interment in the family mausoleum. My mother was beside herself with grief and, apart from a tight hug, she spent little time with me. Her tear-streaked face was hidden behind a lace veil and she steadied herself on Percy’s arm while my father read the service for the deceased. As final exams were nearing, I had to return to the academy immediately and spend every waking moment studying and revising. I had no time for personal sorrow.
It would be false to say that my studies consumed me completely. There were moments of intense longing to be with my family in their time of need which I had to suppress as I memorized complex spells and recipes for my ultimate assessment, the results of which would determine my place in the world upon graduation; and I was determined to do my utmost best. It was also a time of anticipation among my fellow students; we had been together for four years and some of us had become intimate. In a few short months we would be going our separate ways as professionals. There were friends I had made whom I might never see again. While we had the means with which to stay in contact, few of us would. This lent our final semester together a sense of desperation as we prepared for our futures.
Graduation day arrived at last and we bade our teachers and friends a tearful goodbye. Some already had positions to go to, others were returning home before embarking on the search for employment. I was one of these, looking forward to a holiday before I sought a position in my capacity as master wizard. I had my specialty and I had also excelled in all my other examinations. As we were granted our parchment diplomas, I was among those singled out for special mention, receiving a silver amulet for my achievements. My parents were unable to attend, but Percy arrived to watch me trip across the stage and then pack up my belongings and transport me back to our home.