The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.
A/N: Not mine in the slightest. I just enjoy playing with Jo's ideas.
I must heap mounds of praise onto my Beta-Reader, Thrennish. Her wondrous writing and editing skills were vital in the completion of this work, and I could never have done it without her. Thanks also must go to my alpha reader, One-N-Jen, who helps keep me somewhat sane. < /br> < /br>
"If a woman dare to cure without having studied, she is a Witch and must die," -Unknown
"Therefore. . . we shall treat the extermination of witches, which is the ultimate remedy. For this is the last recourse of the Church, to which she is bound by Divine commandment. For it has been said: Ye shall not suffer witches to live upon the earth." -Malleus Malificarum (the Witch Hammer)
So you would like to hear a ghost story? I could tell you one, though I am not sure you will want to hear it.
I didn't have an idyllic childhood, though it was far from difficult. Father was a merchant, and spent many months traveling across the country, buying and selling items from various people. Mother bossed the servants around, pretended to tend the children, and spent Father's money with parties and extravagant feasts. I guess it gave her pleasure, though I never understood it.
I had 3 brothers and 2 sisters. As the oldest child, I was expected to set an example for the rest of my siblings, and so I was schooled in the ways of a lady from infancy. Before I was ten, I could play the harp and the flute, sing any number of songs, embroider, weave. . . but I had my secrets.
I could do things that should not have been possible. I was able to procure items and secure endings that should have been well beyond my reach, whether it be a book on the top shelf (eight feet from the ground) or whether my silks would unknot themselves whenever they got so tangled I couldn't continue. Unexplained occurrences punctuated my childhood. At first, no one would believe me when I would tell of the exploits, and then they became suspicious of me. Rightly so, as it turned out. Even at a young age, I had an idea of what I was. However, I learned to keep such occurrences and thoughts to myself.
I was taught to read the bible and a few other religious texts, but it was not thought proper for a young lady to be knowledgeable in the ways of the world. I had to keep my love of knowledge a secret as well.
For as long as I can remember, I have had this unquenchable thirst for information, a drive to know how the world works. It wasn't a desire so much as a need, and I would go to great lengths to accomplish it.
Father kept a library, and I would go there during the night and read everything. Histories, myths, daily journals from relatives long dead, they all held the appeal of Olympian nectar for my parched mind. I drank up every one of them. Soon, I had devoured every book in the Library and would have to start looking elsewhere for my sustenance.
I got the letter soon after that, saying I had been accepted into Hogwarts. I was both thrilled and scared out of my mind.
You have to understand, this was during a dark time of our history. The Church feared and hated witchcraft, and would put to death any they thought accorded with it. Many of those accused were simply unlucky Muggles with odd habits or physical features. Some of the true witches and wizards were lucky and were simply burned. A flame freezing spell would end that quickly enough, and made it almost pleasurable. Most were tortured first, and then put to death.
Flesh is flesh, and is just as easily pierced whether you are Muggle or Wizard blood. Bodies are just as readily broken.
My parents were Muggles, as well as my siblings. I could not see them understanding the missive from Hogwarts, let alone consenting to let me go, so I did the only thing I could think of.
I sent a reply straight away, asking for instructions on how to get there, what I would need. One of my servants took my jewels and sold them for me, giving me enough money for supplies. I had my horse saddled for an afternoon of riding, and hid what I wanted to take with me in the forest near the keep. I threw the acceptance letter into the fire. It seemed the perfect plan.
I ran away. Following the instructions, I went to Diagon Alley and procured my essentials for becoming a witch. I couldn't wait.
I was sorted into Ravenclaw, naturally. I can't think of anywhere else I would have been happy, and I was most happy there. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who were like me. Everyone was so wrapped up in the process of learning, that being a lady was left by the wayside. It was exquisite.
After a few months, I began to send letters to my mother, letting her know I was all right and not to worry about me. I never gave her explicit details about my schooling, but I told her I was happy and I was safe. I continued to write to her all through my education.
I didn't go home during holidays, instead opting to stay at school and even going so far as to work in the library over the summer months. The headmaster was quite understanding, and in the end it was an ideal arrangement for me. I learned more in the summers cataloguing the vast quantity of books Hogwarts has to offer than I ever thought possible. It was heaven.
I never received a letter from my family, no word on the state of things in the keep, though occasionally my owl would return with some small parcel. Once it was an embroidery my youngest sister had done. Sometimes there would be sweets from the cook. Nothing large, but enough for me to know they received my letters.
I was offered a job with the ministry when I finished school, and I accepted immediately. I was placed into their research department and was set to work deciphering manuscripts from Egypt an Greece.
I was immensely happy there, but I missed my family. I wrote to my mother and asked permission to come and visit. After what seemed like an eternity, I received a one word reply.
When I arrived, the keep seemed much more desolate than when I had last been there. It seemed very dark and foreboding when I walked through the door.
Looking back, I should have known something was amiss from the moment I stepped onto the grounds. It was much too quiet for the whole household to be there. There was no movement anywhere.
As soon as I stepped over the threshold, large, meaty hands were around my wrists and my throat. It happened so quickly, I couldn't even scream. I was held fast by several men, while others went through my possessions.
My wand was in my bag. For a fleeting moment I thought about trying to get to it, but then I saw my wand in the hands of one of the men. He muttered something about "abomination against God" and snapped my wand in half. It gave off 3 blue sparks and was still.
I was trapped.
I was about to question what had happened to my family when I saw my parents come from the shadows and into the light. My Father was holding my Hogwarts letter. The letter I thought had been destroyed.
The letter that was my death sentence.
He looked at me and asked me if it were true, if I had really been trained in the ways of magic. If I truly walked with the Devil. I tried to tell him that's not what it was like, but one of the brutes smashed me across the face. My Father stared at the broken pieces of my wand as if it were a viper about to strike. I was vaguely aware of my Mother crying.
The look of absolute betrayal on his face was the worst part. He was a devoutly religious man, and he could not see the difference between the magic I used on a regular basis and the magic Father Johnson spoke against in services. He turned his back on me, as he thought I had done to him.
The Inquisitors, for that's what they were in truth, dragged me bodily from the house of my birth and into an unknown dungeon. I was cajoled into a "confession of sins against God" with hooks and whips and chains. The sessions seemed to go on for eternity, though logically it could not have lasted more than a few days at most. No person's body could sustain the torture of the Inquisitors for long.
I believe I died while on the rack, but could easily be mistaken. That period of my life runs together, and I don't particularly care to dwell on it long enough to sort the details.
To my credit, I never gave them the satisfaction they were looking for. Not once did I scream for mercy or beg forgiveness of the God who was forsaking me.
When I died, I had the option of going on towards the light or remaining here. This was by no means a difficult decision for me.
I stayed for two reasons. First and foremost, because I knew there was a vast amount of knowledge waiting for me here on earth, if only I would search for it. I knew that my corporeal body was not a necessary part of this search, and I held fast the belief that I would gain more knowledge on earth than I would elsewhere.
My pride, anger and resentment brought about the other reason. I could not force myself into an eternity with a Creator who would allow me to be abused simply for being what He made me. I never asked to be a witch, but I have never once been ashamed of it. I saw no reason that He should be shamed by the talents He bestowed upon me.
I do find it ironic, somehow, that through my reluctance to face what fate had set before me, I shall never know the facts behind the greatest mystery of all. In truth, I have learning from the four corners of the globe and from every age set before me on a daily basis, in any language, style and form I could desire. . . yet one eternal question shall always elude me.
Death is a most fascinating voyage, but through my own choices made in pride and anger, it is the one piece of knowledge I have no chance of ever grasping.
Instead I am here, with you on this fine evening, in front of the Ravenclaw fires, telling you a story. May you learn from my decisions, good and bad. . . and make your choices wisely.