The Sugar Quill
Author: Katie O'Brien  Story: Anna Grayson and The Order of Merlin  Chapter: Chapter 02
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Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Fun with Hair

 

Anna walked down the long driveway toward the road at the bottom of the hill. The road turned and twisted through the huge old growth trees that surrounded the Grayson estate. The property, stretching several hundred acres around her, was enchanted to deter any uninvited visitors. From the beach below the cliffs, the house was totally invisible to everybody in the non-wizarding world. If any Muggles, non-magical people, tried to enter the grounds, they would instantly begin feeling an increasing sense of dread as they crossed the boundaries and approached the house.

“Like the way I feel whenever I see Damon,” Anna laughed to herself as she walked along. She thought about their morning fight. “I’m hungry,” she said to herself, opening her lunch bag and removing the sandwich. I’m always famished after a good row, she thought, smiling again.

As she ate, Anna wondered how Damon could have turned out the way he did. In fact, Dowla and Tencha were almost as bad as Damon. A year older than Damon, her sisters were fraternal twins. Cruel and insensitive, Anna never found any middle ground with the girls. They were practical jokers, the two of them, and pitiless toward anything they deemed less than themselves. Whether they were Muggles, magical creatures, or even other witches or wizards from less prominent families, the twins seemed to find fault with everyone.

But then there was Eric. Anna oldest brother, Eric, was nothing like the rest of the children in the family. Erradole Grayson was extremely charming and immensely kind. Anna had never known anybody as compassionate as her elder brother. She remembered the time when one of the horses she was caring for was about to give birth. Eric had stayed up with Anna in the stables all night and into the morning before the mare delivered. Unfortunately, the colt was stillborn, and Anna was devastated. She couldn’t remember a time when she had ever felt so much pain. A part of her simply died on that very cold early morning, and she thought her heart would never recover. Her father tried to comfort her, but he just couldn’t understand the depth at which Anna felt this kind of grief. Anna wasn’t just feeling the ache from the colt’s death; she could also sense the loss within the mother, and the agony in her failure.

No, Anna’s father was not the person who understood the things she was able to sense and feel. That awareness was found solely in her brother, Eric. It was Eric who came to her the next night and slept in the stall with Anna and the devastated mare. Eric: who cried with her through all the sorrow, and told her that what she was feeling was a gift and not a curse. Anna sincerely loved Eric for his empathy and willingness to listen. From that moment on, she knew she had somebody in the Grayson family in whom she could confide. During the long school year when Eric was away, Anna sorely missed her big brother. In fact, it wouldn’t be long before all the Grayson children would be leaving the family again, leaving for Castlewood.

Castlewood Academy for the Magical Arts was a school set-aside for all the children of wizarding families living in America. Settled in a remote area of Pennsylvania, Castlewood’s exact position was a secret to everybody, including the magical community. The reasons for this were never really explained to Anna, but she was sure it had something to do with security from the dark forces around them. There were evil wizards and witches in this world; certainly the existence of somebody like Damon and, in a smaller way, Anna’s two sisters, proved that beyond any shadow of a doubt in her mind.

Anna loved to listen to Eric talking about Castlewood and its Dynasty Unions. Castlewood Academy was made up of five Unions, whose history could be traced back a thousand years, to several countries in the Old World — Europe and Asia. Each Union, at some time, had moved their school to the New World, but over the centuries it became increasingly difficult to keep them out of the way of an ever-increasing Muggle population. Eventually, the five schools came together to establish a new school in the secluded Pennsylvania Mountains, and it was there that Castlewood Academy was founded. Anna had only seen pictures of the castle and the five Union Walls surrounding the school that formed its ramparts. But she had always hoped to see the school in person, and this was the year she believed it was going to happen.

Eric would be starting his seventh and final year at Castlewood the following week. Anna was hoping she would be allowed to travel to his graduation ceremony the following summer with her father, and watch him receive his Diploma with Merit and Achievement from the school. Eric was an accomplished student, and would surely be looking for Castlewood’s top scholastic honors. Graduating at the top of his class was Eric’s dream ever since he first arrived on the Castlewood grounds, and his work to date in attaining that goal had been impressive. Anna watched the excitement in Eric growing over the last week as he prepared to return to school, but she could only meet his enthusiasm with an aching dread. Anna was going to miss her big brother, and she already longed for his return over the Christmas holiday.

Anna’s father, Boris Edmond Allister Grayson, was master of the Grayson estate. More than just the children’s father, Mister Grayson viewed himself as caretaker of the family’s security and traditions, and he always took his responsibilities very seriously. Active and energetic, Anna’s father had a driving personality. Very tall and broad, he was the type of person who looked exactly like the person he was, a very powerful man who wielded a lot of power in the wizarding world.

Mister Grayson held the post of Ministry Director in the Office of the Wizard and Muggle Banking Cooperation. His post included ambassador responsibilities between the worldwide wizard banking community and their counterparts in the Muggle world. From what Anna could tell, it was an extremely difficult job. The position required a wizard with absolute and accurate knowledge of the Muggle world, and the inner workings of their systems of government, banking, and law. On the other hand, Boris Grayson was responsible for understanding and keeping with the traditions of the various wizard ministries, their banking methods, and international laws governing the wizarding world. It was his job to ensure the transferal of riches, investment, and venture between these two worlds proceeded smoothly and without difficulty. The Banking Cooperation represented the only safe conduit and contact between these two groups. Her father always said it was strange that two such systems, totally oblivious to the manner in which worldly goods were sent and received, should know so little about each other. In fact, it was her father’s job to ensure things stayed that way. The two economies were totally dependent on each other in a way only Anna’s father truly understood. His position sometimes put him in the center of world affairs and required personal contact with many of the heads of state both in robes and in pinstripes.

But to Anna, Boris Grayson was just her daddy. He was kind and endearing, and Anna loved him very much. They had been through a lot together. This was especially true recently, when it was decided Anna would go to a Muggle school. It was hard for Anna to accept this decision, even though it happened more than a year ago, but there was really no other option open to her. This was because Anna, unlike her brothers and sisters, never received her invitation to Castlewood after her eleventh birthday. In truth, nobody in her family expected an invitation to arrive like it did for all of the other Grayson children, because, since her birth almost thirteen years ago, Anna had never shown any magical abilities.

This, however, wasn’t the case for her brothers and sisters. By the age of five, Damon was flying about the estate on his door. Unlike most of the European wizards and witches, most Americans didn’t use brooms for their transportation. They used various doors instead. Just as handy and well-disguised from Muggle scrutiny, Americans it seemed, preferred the conveniences of standing as well as sitting while they traveled. And, on the occasion that a Muggle might notice something abnormal, it was easier to explain a swinging door than a broom hopping about a room on its own.

Anna’s sisters were also showing increasing magical capabilities at a very early age. Gabby still talked about the footprints that had to be washed off the walls and ceilings as the young girls ran about the house playing with each other. But there were no magical games of fun where Anna was concerned, and maybe that was the root cause of all the trouble between herself and her siblings. Over the years they tormented her at every opportunity, knowing it was impossible for Anna to defend herself. Her father and Eric did their best to keep their torments in check, but they couldn’t be there all of the time, and Anna paid the price. Many were the times she had found herself waking up stuck to the ceiling of her bedroom. Then there was the time Anna was left in the forest buried up to her neck in mossy dirt, held down by one of the enchanted trees in the backyard. It seemed Damon, Dowla, and Tencha thrived on causing her pain and suffering. But the worse part of their torments came only recently when they started school at Castlewood. It was almost as if they wanted to isolate her from the rest of the wizarding world and keep her existence a secret from all who might find out the Graysons had a squib in the family. 

“Squib…” Anna said to herself resentfully as she continued her long walk toward the bus stop. She hated that word. Although Damon’s recent efforts to segregate her didn’t have the effect he had hoped, just the existence of this word alone set her painfully apart from the rest. “How could this have happened to me?” she asked herself, rounding the final corner to the front gates.

The huge iron gates at the Grayson entrance began to swing aside as Anna approached. Each door had an intricate metal outline of a horse and the letter “G” woven into the center of the figure. As Anna stopped to look at the horse, she could see it galloping at a very slow and enchanted pace. This was this place, this very spot, where the differences between Anna and the rest of her family became most obvious to her. Looking at the moving horse on the gate, she looked down at her feet. She slowly raised her right foot as if to take another step, but stopped and looked up again at the horse. It was still running. Anna stepped forward and just as her foot touched the ground on the other side of the gate, the horse froze in mid-stride. Anna smirked.

She lifted her right foot again, this time pulling it back and placing it next to her left once more. The horses instantly began running again. Anna slowly leaned forward keeping her feet in place until she found the exact spot outside the gate where the horses stopped and started their galloping race.

“This is my real home,” Anna whispered to herself. Stuck between two worlds without any magical abilities, but possessing full knowledge of magic’s existence. She represented something truly rare in the wizarding world. She was a squib, a powerless Muggle born into a family with a very strong wizarding heritage. How could this have happened to her? Anna’s father was an immensely powerful wizard, and from what he had told her about her deceased mother, Victoria Grayson was also a gifted witch in her own right. So how could it have happened? Why was Anna so different?

Anna stood there, looking dejectedly at the now frozen horses on her left and right. She continued to walk ahead, and she could hear the iron gates behind her squeaking as they closed. Clang, they sounded as they locked themselves tight. Anna stopped and turned around. The gates and the horses were still.

“What? Can’t you perform your little dance for a squib?” she yelled resentfully at them, crossing her arms. “I guess we Muggles aren’t good enough for you!” she hollered. Still nothing. “Fine!” Anna shouted angrily.

She took a step backward and then stopped, her arms still crossed in indignation. She took another step backward, bringing her feet together and stopping to wait again. She sneered. She took another step back, and the gates suddenly began to ripple and distort, as if giving off an immense measure of heat as they faded into invisibility. They were gone now, and in their place lay two very large dead trees forming a barricade. This is what the Muggles saw as they approached the Grayson estate. The only reason Anna could see the gates at all, or the house for that matter, was because her father had placed a charm upon her, which countered the spells that existed on the grounds. Apparently, this Muggle needed extra help to live with her own family.

Anna stood there looking at the trees barring her path to the house above. “Good,” she said as she adjusted her book-bag on her shoulder, “I think you look better that way anyway!”

Beep-beep, a horn sounded behind her.

 “The bus!” Anna snapped, turning around to look. She dashed down the dirt road and the last hundred yards to the final bend to the street below. There, with its red lights blinking within a curl of black smoke, was the Muggle school bus. When the driver saw Anna running down the hill, he smiled and opened the swinging door with a loud slap.

“Good morning, Anna,” sang the driver in a happy voice.

“Hi, Mr. Anderson,” Anna panted, leaping onto the open steps and pulling her book-bag off her shoulder. “Well?” she said, breathlessly. “What’s the word?” She was staring at him with anticipation.

“She had eleven!” said the driver, beaming with delight.

“Eleven? Eleven puppies? That’s wonderful!” Anna shrieked, leaning over to hug the man. “Are they okay? When can I see them?”

“Any time you like, Anna. Just give the missus a call when you think you’d like to come up,” he said. “They’re all healthy scalawags, eight girls and three little rascals. I believe their mother is going to have her hands full with them,” he said, with some worry moving on his face.

“Well, if they’re anything like their father…” Anna said, nodding her head in agreement. She smiled and touched his elbow, “I’ll call Mrs. Anderson tonight about a visit,” she said, in a lowered voice.

Anna started moving toward the back of the bus as Mr. Anderson closed the door. She found a seat and sat down.

“Hi, Anna,” said a girl sitting in the seat in front of her.

Anna looked up, “Oh… hi, Teres,” Anna replied. Teresa Flemming was another girl who lived in a large house at the bottom of Grayson hill. She was nice enough, but Anna had been doing her best to avoid her during their first week of school. Anna knew what was coming next.

“So, did you ask your father about the sleepover?” the girl asked, adjusting her position excitingly.

“Yeah, I did,” replied Anna, searching for a nice way to tell her what she had to say. “I’m sorry, Teres. He said… no.”

“No? Really? But… why?”

“Well,” Anna started slowly, “he said he would be traveling for most of the next month and he wouldn’t be able to be there to watch over us,” Anna said, hoping that would end the discussion.

“Ohhhh…” said Teresa, sticking out her bottom lip enough to show her disappointment. But then a smile started to form on her face once more as she spun quickly around again. “What about Eric?” she asked, with a newly lit face. Anna knew how Teresa felt about her older brother; the girl had a crush on Eric longer than Anna could remember.

“No,” Anna replied, with a grimace, “he’ll be leaving for school again next week.”

“Oh, that’s right. I forgot. Oh well, maybe next time, then,” the girl said disappointedly, as she turned in her seat to face front. Anna hated disappointing Teresa, especially since she had taken the time to arrange several overnight parties throughout the neighborhood. But it couldn’t be helped. How could Anna possibly arrange for a Muggle visit into her home? What would her friends at school say if they ever saw Gabby running around the house? It was for the best.

As the bus started down the road again, Anna’s mind began to wander. She could see the trees whizzing by them, and then noticed her reflection looking back at her in the window. Anna was a very pretty girl with shoulder-length red hair and very clear white skin. She was a bit taller than the average girls at school, with beautiful green eyes and very straight teeth. Anna sighed as she looked at her own reflection. Most girls would be happy to be me, she thought to herself. But then again there are very few Muggle girls who knew anything about the magic around them. She wondered if it would have been better if she hadn’t known anything about the wizarding world. It was unfair to know so much, without the ability to take advantage of this knowledge. To her, it was like looking at the biggest Christmas present under the tree without ever being able to open it.

Anna began thinking about her mother. Victoria Grayson was her father’s second wife. His first wife, Leola Grayson, had died very young after Damon’s birth. “Humph!” Anna grunted. No surprise there. Who wouldn’t die after giving birth to that, she thought to herself, rolling her eyes. The death of Victoria Grayson was still very much a mystery to Anna. All she knew about it was that her mother had been out hiking with her father in a remote area of Europe. Her father had told Victoria he didn’t want her to go, especially since she was about to give birth to Anna, but her mother insisted. Apparently, she fell while on the trip and, by some unbelievable miracle, Anna was saved after her mother died. But why would any mother go running off in the woods nearly nine months pregnant? It never made any sense to Anna, and these questions added to her frustration about being a Muggle. Could the way her mother died have anything to do with Anna being born a squib?

Anna’s father never allowed her to act like she was anything less than his other children. In fact, Anna considered herself extremely lucky to have a knowledgeable parent when it came to the ways of the Muggle world. Most wizards know almost nothing about Muggles, or anything about the way they live their daily lives. This is especially true in the Old World. She remembered the time when the Graysons were entertaining another member of the wizard ministry, a man by the name of Arthur Weasley. Mr. Weasley was from the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office in London, England, and was supposed to come for a simple dinner. He ended up staying the entire night. She thought the man would never leave their house, especially after he found out Anna went to a Muggle school.

“Blimey,” he said, “a Muggle school? Extraordinary! Do you think I might be able to visit the place?” He proceeded to ask Anna a series of endless questions about the school, her friends, and their families. It wasn’t until Mr. Weasley overheard Damon talking about Muggles in his normal insulting manner, that the ministry worker realized he had overstayed his welcome and finally left.

Mister Grayson had taken great care to ensure Anna had what she needed to be successful in the non-magical world. He felt it was his duty to secure her future, and if that meant getting closer to the Muggles to do it, so much the better. In fact, it was her father’s study of Muggles on Anna’s behalf that eventually lead to his success in his banking post at the Ministry. His knowledge and abilities had proven immensely valuable to both Muggles and wizards alike.

Anna noticed the bus starting to slow and it finally rolled to a complete stop. Three more girls stepped into the aisle. It was Veronica Drummond and her two sidekicks Polly Peterson and Connie Bains. Veronica was a very pretty girl, and very popular with all the boys at school. Always immaculately groomed, her hair was pulled back in a nice braid, delicately woven and held together with blue clips to produce the perfect effect around her attractive face. Pretty as she was, Anna found her to be rather snooty and snobbish for somebody so young. In many ways, she reminded Anna of her sisters.

“Good morning, girls,” chirped Mr. Anderson in his ever-so-jovial way.

“Yeah… right,” moaned the Drummond girl, in a grumpy-testy tone of voice.

Polly and Connie walked by without saying a word, but Veronica stopped next to Anna’s seat and looked down. “Nice hairdo, Grayson. Did you do that on purpose… or just wake up that way?” she laughed, and then stepped around to sit in the seat directly behind her while the other two girls giggled between themselves.

Anna instinctively moved her hands to her head and tried to comb her fingers through her hair. There was definitely something wrong. She turned to the window again looking for her reflection, and what she found looking back surprised her. All the hair on the right side of her head had been pushed up and over onto the left side. The red clip Anna had placed in her hair that morning had moved itself around to the other side of her head and tried to restyle her hair again. It had done a very poor job. As the girl sitting behind her had suggested, it looked as if Anna had awoken late and hadn’t bothered to brush her hair at all.

“You silly, stupid thing!” Anna whispered angrily as she made a grab for the clip. Sensing it was in trouble, the hairclip jumped off the side of her head with a loud POP, and fell onto the seat next to her. Before Anna could grab it, all the hair piled on top of her head fell down into her face. Looking down at the seat through a curtain of red hair, Anna turned around and started swatting at the clip, trying desperately to catch it. “Come back you… oh… when I catch you…” Anna said, in a fury. “Come back here!”

“Whom… are you talking to?” Veronica asked, in a scoffing tone. “I must say, Grayson, you get weirder every time I see you,” she said with a chortle, looking over at her friends.

Anna froze and then looked up at Veronica behind her. She could barely see her through all the hair now dumped in front of her face. Anna didn’t move a muscle as her eyes darted around still looking for the clip.

“Now that’s a style you should stick with, Grayson. It suits you better than anything else I’ve seen you wear,” Veronica sneered, looking again at her two friends sitting across the aisle. They all started laughing madly. “I tell you, Anna,” the girl continued through her amusement. “You sure know how to perk up a Monday bus ride.” They all continued to laugh.

Anna turned around in a fury and started pulling her hair back behind her head. “Do you have a rubber band?” she asked Teresa, who had turned around to see what all the commotion was about.

“Uh… yeah… sure… hold on.” Teresa reached into her bag and started fumbling through its contents. “Here you go,” she said, holding out the little pink ring.

“Thanks!” Anna huffed, jamming the rubber band between her teeth while she finished pulling her hair back. When she finished, she started glancing around her feet looking for the clip again.

“Hey, Grayson, does this belong to you?” came the same irritating voice from behind her again. Anna spun around to see Veronica holding up her red hairclip.

“Yes it is… give it here!” Anna demanded, reaching out to take it from her. The girl snatched back and then looked at the clip more closely.

“Where in the world did you ever get such an ugly, horrid thing like this?” the girl asked, mockingly. “I’ve seen better looking ornaments on a clown.” The girls next to her started snickering again.

Anna face flushed in anger. She stared at the clip in girl’s hand and back into Veronica’s smiling face. Anna looked at the clip again. “Are you going to let her talk about you like that?” she said, in a low whisper that only the girl, or the clip might hear.

Veronica stopped laughing and frowned. Her eyes moved away from Anna and then to the clip in her outstretched hand. When her eyes returned to Anna, her frown had transformed itself back into an ugly grin. Undoubtedly thinking Anna had lost her mind, she turned to say something to the girls next to her when it happened.

The little clip in the girl’s hand suddenly popped open by itself. Veronica’s attention jerked back to the clip, her frown set once more. She could clearly see the clip’s sharp metal points, like so many tiny little teeth, sparkling in the light. Then, to her unbelievable surprise, the clip snap closed again on the end of her finger.

“OUCH!” Veronica yelped, as she grabbed the clip with her other hand and tried to pull it off. But the little clip was latched tight. “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” the girl barked, shaking her hand wildly over her head.

Another snap was heard, and this time Veronica howled. Polly and Connie immediately stopped their happy laughing, and shot across the aisle thinking to help. Snap! -Snap! -Snap! -Snap! Again and again, the clip nipped and bit wildly at the other girls reaching in to rescue their friend.

“Ouch!”

“Aaaaaahhhh!”

“What? Oh!”

“Ouch!” All three girls were now hollering in pain.

Finally, Veronica made the mistake of trying to pull the clip off her thumb with her teeth.

SNAP!

Anna looked up, and to her surprise saw the red clip had latched itself onto the end of Veronica’s pretty little nose. The girl bellowed in agony as she stared horrified down her muzzle cross-eyed at the thing growling on the end of her snout. Her hands were flailing wildly on either side of her head not wanting to put her sore fingers anywhere near the biting thing. She swatted at the clip with the back of her hand, which dislodged it from the end of her nose and into the air. Anna watched in astonishment as the clip flew up, hit the ceiling of the bus with a light tink, and then fell back down upon Veronica’s head.

“Where is it? Where did it go?” Veronica wailed, tears of pain pouring down her face. Not knowing whether to sit or stand, she began screaming at her friends. “Where is it… where is it?” Another loud POP was heard, and the three girls froze. Anna watched Veronica’s eyes slowly moving up in perfect unison with her shoulders, which were scrunching their way toward both sides of her ears. All was quiet while everybody stared apprehensively at the top of the girl’s head.

Snap-snap-snap, went the little red clip, and Veronica started screaming louder than ever before. Her hands were now pulling wildly at her own hair, desperate to free herself from her tiny attacker. Screams from all three girls were now filling the bus.

“Say… what’s going on back there?” yelled Mr. Anderson from the front.

Anna spun around to see the driver looking back at them from his rearview mirror. She looked back at Veronica again, only to see the blue clips and bobby pins, once nestled so neatly in the girl’s own hair, flying out in every direction. She let loose an ear-splitting yowl of pain, while the other girls pulled and yanked at her hair, trying frantically to help. Finally, there was another loud POP, and Veronica immediately jerked one of her hands out and toward Anna’s face, screaming still louder. The clip was holding on to the end of the girl’s finger again, shaking and growling intensely. Anna reached out and snatched the clip away and jammed it into her pocket.

“Thank you…” Anna said, in a singsong little voice. Veronica was now lying back in the corner of her seat against the window with her fingers buried in her mouth. Her once pretty hairdo was now a complete mess, sticking out in all directions around a very wet and crying face.

The bus finally stopped in front of the school, and Anna was the first to stand and head for the door. Mr. Anderson was now moving to get past her in the aisle, looking for the source of all the screaming. Anna stepped out onto the sidewalk and immediately headed toward the front of the school. She could still hear the girl squawking like a plucked goose somewhere in the bus behind her.

As Anna walked, she pulled the red clip out of her pocket and brought it up to her eyes. “I should be angry with you… you know that, don’t you?” she said, in an angered whisper. The clip was still. “Oh sure, now you’re quiet.” A delay, and then the little clip popped open again. Anna smirked and considered the circumstances. She then slid the clip back into her hair, where it closed again with a sharp snap. Anna patted the clip next to her head, and then pulled open the doors to the school entryway. Looking back at the bus, she could see several students stepping down onto the sidewalk, laughing and giggling as they looked back. Apparently, Veronica was still howling.

Anna reached up to check the clip once more. “All is forgiven,” she said, smiling, as she walked inside. “Gosh… I’m famished.”

//
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