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Harry Potter Alternate Universe >> Ch 1 - A Tour of Tranquility Grove - By Cassandra by CassandraSerenity

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A warm glow shown about the brightly lit kitchen as Diana Serenity hurried about her normal morning chores. Her scarlet red hair kept tied tightly up in a bun at the back of her neck while her dark green eyes scanned over the marble countertops for a misplaced measuring cup. Though still young for a witch her years had been hard and she was not what one would call beautiful. Her crocked nose and pale weathered skin made her quite the surprise to most people. She was the ideal of what a wicked witch from a children’s story book would look like. However, beneath her startling exterior she was a wise and kind person. Cassandra had never known anyone else with as much insight into life, except perhaps Dumbledore.

Sitting at the small wooden table inside of the kitchen Cassandra watched as her grandmother hurried about baking breads and drying herbs. The kitchen was one of Cassandra favorite places at Tranquility Grove. It was cozy with its large stone fireplace near the back door, or as grandmum would always point out what was once the front door. The large fireplace dwarfed a majority of the kitchen and was truly something out of the past with its large cauldron and swinging iron arm. Happily Cassandra could remember many times when she would sit in front of the roaring fire, her grandmother drying fresh flowers from the gardens and the smell of baking breads filling the air.

Taking a deep breath as if she could still smell those breads in the oven Cassandra was brought back to the present as Ray sleepily walked into the kitchen and took a seat opposite her. It was still hard to believe that the Slytherin girl she had helped to rescued nearly seven months ago was actually her unknown cousin. Looking at her now, however, Cassandra could see how much Ray looked like their grandmother. They both had the same green eyes and Ray most certainly had the Serenity’s fiery red hair.

“Good morning Ray” Diana Serenity said her in a low husky voice as she placed a plate of bacon and eggs in front of the just awaken girl.

“Morning Gran” Ray managed to say through a slight yawn.

Ray’s eyes were still laden with sleep and she had to blink several times just to focus on her plate before she could eat anything. Her hair was slightly messed from the nights sleep and she wore deep purple dressing gown that seemed to match the purple night gown she had on underneath. Giving Cassandra a soft smile before she began to eat, Cassandra hoped that Ray was slowly becoming accustomed to Tranquility Grove, the Serenity estate.

“Cassandra dear,” Diana asked from across the kitchen as she placed another loaf of date bread into the old fire brick oven, “why don’t you show your cousin around the grove today? I think she might like to see all of the grounds.”

The soft smile on Diana’s cracked lips told Cassandra she was planning something, but what the young girl had no idea. However, whenever her grandmother had that smile something always happen Cassandra mused. She could even see the smile on her face when she had been passing the letters back and forth between the two girls during their first year at Hogwarts.

“Alright grandmum” Cassandra replied, a soft smile of her own playing on her lips. Turning to Ray who was still trying to wake up by the look in her drooping eyes Cassandra nodded excitedly. “Would you like to see the grounds today, Ray?”

Stifling another yawn Ray nodded her head. “Thanks. I haven’t really been outside yet, is the estate big?”

Cassandra small smile grew into a large grin as she thought about how to answer the other girl. “I guess you’ll just have to wait and find out” she responded, a giggle almost escaping her as she said it.

Out of the corner of her eye Cassandra watched as another form slowly entered the kitchens cozy room. The joy that she had been feeling just moments ago seemed to drain away quickly as the figure shuffled its way across the floor to a small chair by the fire. Cassandra’s heart felt heavy in her chest as she looked on at the frail and sickly woman who shared her face.

Juliet Serenity, Cassandra’s mother, was the mirror image of her daughter in main respects, they would have been identical if it were not for the state Juliet was in now. Her once brilliant blue eyes held no spark of life in them, all the passion and joy that had once lived there gone. Scarlet red locks which should have looked like silken tresses were dull, matted, and limp. What was once delicate porcelain skin was now tingle yellow and hung from her bones like loose clothing. The blank expression in her eyes and on her face made her look like a broken doll tossed aside by a child.

The more Cassandra stared at her mother’s trance like form the more it pained her. Memories of the mother she had seen inside the mirror at Hogwarts only drove the pain deeper into her, making it hard to stop the tears which threatened to slip from her eyes. How she wished she could go back to before she looked into that mirror. Before then she had never imagined a world in which her mother would smile, or talk, or laugh, but now those images filled her mind every time she saw the broken woman in front of her.

Needing to make an exit before the pounding in her heart became too much Cassandra quickly made up an excuse to get away. “I’m going to go and get ready. I’ll meet you near the front door, ok Ray?”

Not waiting for an answer Cassandra quickly exited the room which was always the happiest for her, tears forming at the corners of her eyes. As she made her way to her bedroom chamber she brushed away at the forming tears with the back of her hands. A feeling of loss for the mother she had never had starting to creep into her being.

The Serenity manor was a rather large home; some might even call it a castle if it were made of stone. Four stories high with two wings and center portion. The two wings hadn’t been used in years, however. Lack of need caused them to gather dust as only the center of the house was being used now. Without a team of house elves to clean the manor it was only wise to use the portions of the house that were needed and leave the rest until they were needed again.

The kitchen was on the ground floor near the back of the house with a door leading directly out into the gardens behind the manor. Also on the ground floor were the formal dinning room, something used only for company which hardly ever happen, a grand ballroom, that used to be part of the wizarding worlds social scene, the great hall, a large reception area for visitors, the billiards room, for games and entertainment, the receiving den, the library, and a few other rooms which Cassandra didn’t frequent as often as the others. Above the first floor were bedrooms, baths, closest, dens, and more odd rooms. Portraits of different members of the Serenity family lined the halls as well as paintings of landscapes and other things.

Going up the grand oak staircase which circled down to the ground floors great hall Cassandra didn’t notice the opulent, yet slightly unkempt house around her. These were all mere possession which had always been there. Not having anything else to reference too on how other people lived she could only imagine this was how everyone else grew up as well. Perhaps that was why the stories other people told about their homes and how they grew up had always fascinated her.

After changing into a burgundy sundress with long bell sleeves and ribbon tied waist, Cassandra pulled her hair back with a matching ribbon. The burgundy colored bow instantly becoming lost in the scarlet red tresses it held in place. As she looked at herself in a long mirror Cassandra tried to put on a smile, it wouldn’t do to have Ray feel sorry for her or have her grandmother give her that look of curiosity. Luckily Cassandra didn’t have to wait long before Ray was ready to go as well and the two cousins stepped out of the manors impressive oak doors, closing them behind them.

“What would you like to see first?” Cassandra questioned.

Ray, who had changed from her deep purple dressing gown to what she had told Cassandra was a track suit, shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. I don’t know what there is to see.”

Taking a moment to think Cassandra gave a soft smile. “Alright then, I’ll show you the beach first, it’s closest.”

With wide eyes of delight Ray’s face began to light up with interest. “There’s a beach?”

“Of course” Cassandra replied with a giggle before taking Ray’s hand to lead down the gravel path to the large expanse of beach.

As the two walked down to the seas edge they chatted about many things, school, Ray’s gymnastics (which Cassandra could finally pronounce correctly), classes, what next year might hold for them, and much more. It was relaxing to have someone to talk with besides Rosie and Cassandra’s grandmother. Some how it seemed to lift Cassandra’s spirits more than anything else had recently. No longer was she all alone, but now she had a friend, a cousin.

When the two had arrived at the beach’s edge Cassandra looked over at Ray to see her green/hazel eyes mesmerized by the rocky shore and relentless waves of the sea. Looking out at it now, Cassandra could impact it would have. She had often sat on one of the many drift logs which were scattered about the rocky shore and simply watched the seas ever turning and moving mass. At times Cassandra could remember feeling a strong connect with it, how it moved and flowed.

“Is this really all part of the estate?” Ray asked with a bit of awe.

“Yes it is,” Cassandra sighed contently, “and you don’t have to worry about muggles coming along the shore either. The whole estate is unplotable and has several muggle repellent charms on it. Our family has had this estate for over 600 years, though parts of the house have had to be rebuilt from time to time.”

“I didn’t know that” Ray simply said while picking up a rough stone and throwing it into the surging waves. After a moment of silence Ray looked up with eyes at seemed to be holding something back. “Your families got a lot of history, huh?”

Giving Ray a reassuring smile Cassandra took the other girls slender hand. “It’s your family too, Ray. You just weren’t raised around us, but we’re still family. This is still your home and always will be.”

Both girls exchanged shy smiles before Cassandra whisked them away to see more of the large estate. Instead of taking the gravel path back to the manor, the two girls traveled along the forest edge to the north. Soon a large vegetable garden could be seen. Fruits, vegetables, berries, and every other kind of growing food spread out in front of the two young girls.

“We grow a lot, if not all of the food we eat,” Cassandra began to tell Ray, “we never really go to markets in the muggle world, or if grandmum has I’ve never gotten to go.”

“Wow, I didn’t realize you, we” Ray quickly corrected herself as Cassandra gave her a glare, “had our own vegetable garden.”

Picking a ripe looking blackberry from one of the sticker bushes Cassandra motioned for Ray to take a bit of anything she wanted as well. Ray, with a bit of trepidation, finally decided on a plump looking strawberry. Taking a bite from the swollen fruit, some of its juices dribbled down her chin causing her to laugh before whipping it away with the sleeve of her dark gray track suit.

“Oh this is so good” she nearly squealed with delight.

Cassandra smiled again, finding each time to be more natural than the last. “I know, grandmum defiantly has a green thumb. Unfortunately that wasn’t passed on down to me” Cassandra laughed.

“You’re not good with plants?” Ray asked, her eyebrow raised with curiosity.

Shaking her head Cassandra picked another blackberry from the bush before eating it. “No, well not really, I have made some things grow, but it really wasn’t the same thing.”

Still looking a bit confused Ray looked at Cassandra hoping for more of an explanation, but the older girl had decidedly moved away from the subject for now. Instead the two girls snacked a bit longer of the luscious berries and other available veggies. Soon they had both had their fill and Cassandra lead Ray around the manors side to the gardens behind the manor.

The gardens where enormous in size and divided up into four different smaller gardens. The herb garden, being the closest to the kitchens door, was closest to where the girls where now. In the center of each small garden was a large white framed gazebo with eight small benches circling the inner area of the individual gardens. Cassandra lead Ray to the herb garden first, showing her cousin the different cooking herbs that Diana dries nearly daily.

From there the girls walked farther west to the rose garden which bordered the forests edge. This was one of Cassandra favorite gardens. Roses of every hue filled the garden creating a lingering scent of heaven in their wake. Roses even climbed and wove themselves around the white framed gazebo making it more beautiful than ever. Ray seemed to be in rapture with the different roses bending down to smell each one with excitement in her eyes.

“This one is my favorite,” Cassandra remarked as she showed Ray a deep scarlet rose that smelled sweet and fragrant.

“It’s beautiful,” Ray said after bending down to smell it as well, “they’re all so beautiful.”

Next was the magical garden with all of the magical plants any wizard might hope to see. Even Cassandra didn’t know all of their names or what they where used for, but Ray seemed even more happy than before as she looked around the garden with keen eyes.

“Grandmum prepares these for potions, we have a room in the manor just for potions making” Cassandra said off handily as she looked at one of the large vine plants.

Ray’s attention was immediately snatched. “Really?” she questioned with flash of passion in her eyes.

Cassandra nodded her head as she carefully sidestepped a rather dangerous looking plant. “Yep, on the second floor near the second floor entrance of the library”.

The younger girl was now bouncing on the balls of her feet, a bright smile on her face that lit up the area all around her. Cassandra felt very happy to see Ray so excited about something. A small voice inside of her feeling just a bit jealous of the other girls joy.

“Oh, what’s that over there?” Ray questioned as she moved out of the magical garden and towards the forest back edge.

Before looking Cassandra already knew what had captured the other girl’s attention. A new heavy feeling was beginning to form in her chest as she followed the other girl out of the small garden and towards a single bush standing alone by the forest’s edge. Each step seemed to make the heaviness in her chest grow.

As the two grew closer to the forests edge Ray and Cassandra could better see what had caught the younger girl’s attention. Away from the rest of the gardens a single rose bush stood close to the edge of the forest. It was like no other rose bush in existence. Its supple white petals were touched with gold around each of the petals edge. From inside of the blooming roses the girls could see a soft glow of gold with beautiful gold dust shinning from inside of each rose. The entire bush was without thorns and smelled sweet and fresh.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Ray whispered as she reached out a hand to touch one of the beautiful roses. Leaning down she took in a deep breath of the fragrant flowers, her senses dancing with delight over its smell.

Cassandra felt her face grow hotter and her checks redden even more. “No you wouldn’t have,” she replied with an unusual shyness, her chest feeling constricted with emotion.

Ray looked up to her cousin with wide eyes of curiosity. “Is it magical? Is that why I’ve never seen anything like it?”

Biting down hard on her inner lip Cassandra felt her stomach begin to tie up into knots as her chest stop wanting to move. “Yes, it’s magical, but you wolln’t see another one anywhere else” was all she could think to say. What will she think when I tell her about it Cassandra thought as she watched her cousin stare bewildered at the beautiful rose bush.

“I don’t understand,” Ray asked with confusion in her melodic voice.

Taking a deep breath Cassandra knew she would have to explain. “Do you remember when I said that I didn’t have a green thumb?” The other nodded in understanding, but remained quiet for Cassandra to explain. “And how I said that I did grow something once, but it was a mistake?” Again the other girl nodded her head while remembering the talk near the vegetable garden. “Well you wolln’t see a rose bush like this anywhere else because it’s not really supposed to exist.” Her words where soft and Cassandra wondered if Ray could even hear them over the pounding in her heart inside of her chest.

“Not supposed to exist? Now I’m really confused” Ray responded while finding a comfortable spot on the ground in front of the wondrous plant.

Sitting down next to her cousin Cassandra kept her gaze held firm on the rose bush in front of her. The fear of how Ray would look at her after her story was over too great to risk looking directly at her.

“I made it,” Cassandra breathed in almost a whisper, “when I was younger I used to play here in the gardens and in the forest a lot. I would play with the animals or sometimes with Rosie. One day I was sitting just about here,” Cassandra paused for a moment and looked down to where she was sitting. Taking another deep breath she continued her story, “I was sitting here and I saw a unicorn inside of the forest. It was beautiful with its white coat and shinning golden horn.

I had seen them before, but today it really seemed to mean something to me. I just kept staring at it and wishing that it would never go away because I always wanted to be able to see something as beautiful as it was. I didn’t mean to do it, really I didn’t,” Cassandra feared a glance over at Ray to find that she wasn’t looking frightened at her, but still curious, “the rose bush just started to grow out of the ground as I thought about how beautiful the unicorn was and how much I wanted to see its beauty all the time.” Taking another deep breath Cassandra gave Ray a shy and timid smile. “So you see, I made something that doesn’t exist, a rose bush with the beauty of a unicorn.”

To Cassandra great relief Ray wasn’t looking at her as though she was dangerous or even frightening. Instead she seemed to be smiling and her green eyes held emotions Cass couldn’t read. After a moment Ray looked back towards the bush with white and gold petals.

“I think it’s beautiful,” she said simply, “and I don’t see why you would worry about something like this. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and it’s amazing that you made it with accidental magic.”

Even though Cassandra knew the other girl was only trying to help those last words rung through out her body. Accidental magic it was a common thing for young witches and wizards to have episodes of accidental magic when they were growing up, but something told Cassandra that this went beyond those bounds. It hadn’t been an accident, she has wanted this back then and she had been able to do it even without a wand.

Faking a relieved smile Cassandra tried to show Ray that her words of kindness were well received. They had meant something to her, but had the opposite effect. Besides Cassandra could hear inside of her head that wasn’t the only thing you did with magic while you were growing up. Feeling a cold chill run up her spine Cassandra tried to brush it off and let the suns brilliant rays soak into her. Deep inside of her that heavy sensation was still there, as if waiting for something to come along still and make it smoother her.

The two girls moved on to the last garden, the wild flowers garden, before calling it a day and heading back into the house to find dinner almost ready. It had been a long day traveling the course of the very large estate, but it a good one as well. Cassandra felt better about Ray knowing about the rose bush and feeling like more of the family. Still the young Gryffindor couldn’t stop thinking about the heavy feeling in her chest.

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