London in the summer of 1921 was a lively place, for any involved in the social season. There was no shortage of balls, with each of the large pureblood families taking their turn to showcase their home, and in most cases, their daughters too. The Selwyn family was highly involved in these affairs – they did, after all, only have a daughter. Irene Selwyn, now of age, and therefore ripe to marry, often felt like she carried the weight of her whole family on her shoulders; or at the very least, the weight of the family name.
“Irene, dear, you must be sure to dance with young Mr. Lestrange, I know he’s not much to your taste, but he’s from such a fine family,” Clara Selwyn said stately to her daughter, from her position beside her dresser.
Irene, busy deciding between one brooch, a gold one, and another, adorned with emeralds, took a moment to register her mother’s desires.
“Oh, Mama, stop worrying,” she said, with a flap of her hand, deciding in the end to forgo all brooches. It wouldn’t do too look overdressed.
Standing, she smoothed her skirts and looked down at her mother. She took a moment to compose herself, both women staring at different points in the room, lost in their own musings.
“Is it true what Bitty says then, that William MacDougal’s in town for a few weeks?” Irene posed lightly, thankful for her years of careful schooling, as she was able to keep her face reasonably blank.
William MacDougal, whilst in her year at Hogwarts, was rarely seen in the London scene at summer time. He lived out in the country somewhere, which wasn’t of much interest to her. He’d only become a point of interest to society when cousin John had died. MacDougal, it seemed, was the next heir to the Selwyn estate. There were other Selwyn relatives about, but none in the country. MacDougal wasn’t a blood relative, at least, no more so than any other pureblood family, which was to say, only related when it was convenient. A shared relative several hundred years ago meant nothing in the everyday sense, but when one brought wills, property and estates to the table, a single ancestor could play a major role.
Clara paused, her hand faltering on its path following the chair’s arm.
“Yes, I believe so,” she said delicately, arching her neck slightly.
Silence fell after that, as Irene blinked, not quite sure what to say. She’d had very little to do with MacDougal in the past, and he wasn’t from a particularly wealthy family himself. His new claim, to her own estate, was definitely in his favor. Irene, however, would much rather have the estate fall into her own hands. In that regard, however, wizarding law was even further behind than Muggle law.
A clock chimed, and the two women jumped slightly.
“We’d best get down,” Clara said matter of factly, taking the arm of her daughter.
The two women, with carefully schooled features, headed out of the room, neither speaking their minds. That was the way of such society – true feelings were most often kept secret.
Irene sipped her wine, her eyes surveying the crowd above the rim of her glass. Balls, for her at least, were just as much about analyzing people’s reactions and attitudes as they were about conversation and dancing. What was not said often portrayed far more of a person’s character, she found.
With a rather inelegant skid, a gangly girl with red curls and a pointed face, roughly the same age as Irene and dressed in green silk came to a stop next to her friend.
“He’s not here yet, as far as I can see,” Elizabeth Burke said, only slightly breathless.
Irene sighed, turning her gaze from the crowd to look at her friend. Liz, as she was affectionately known, and Irene had been in each other’s company since infancy – their families were connected, both having been brought up in the same social circles. They were both sorted into Ravenclaw, and had maintained a fast friendship.
Irene’s momentary silence wasn’t lost on Liz. She alone out of their circle of friends was the only one who had suspicions about Irene’s true feelings towards a certain man.
“Well, come on then,” Irene said roughly, and Liz refrained from sending her a pitying look as they hastily retreated from the bedroom, scurrying down the hall.
The advantage of Irene’s family hosting the ball was obvious – the two girls, should they choose to, were easily able to escape to private areas of the house to discuss matters in confidence. For Irene and Liz, such an opportunity was to be treasured.
“You’ve made progress then?” Liz whispered as they turned a corner, moving further into the shadowy depths of the house.
Irene nodded mutely to her friend, nudging a door open with her foot, peering behind her, the picture of nerves, as she did so.
The two girls hurried inside, shutting the door fast behind them. The room itself was dark, a second parlor that never saw any use. Irene had been careful to cover her tracks to and from the room, and was absolutely positive that no one knew about its contents. She hardly dared to imagine the consequences if they did so.
“How’d you get it?” she marveled, circling the table like a hawk, her eyes glued to the glittery substance.
Irene smiled smugly, crossing her arms over her chest.
“You’re not the only one who can be resourceful, you know,” she replied, cheekily, earning a narrow-eyed glare from her friend.
“Oh, shush,” Liz brushed the jibe off, waving her hand, “do you think it will work?”
There was silence as both girls looked intently at the unicorn horn powder lying before them. Pieced with the floo powder they’d both been stealing from their family pots all summer, bit by bit, the fairy wings, Re’em blood (that one had been particularly difficult to get a hold of, though Slughorn, the potions master who’d started the previous year, didn’t quite have the hang on keeping his storage cupboard under high security yet), the crystal miniature hourglass, a shrunken version of a Burke family heirloom, two gold rings, yet to be transfigured and molded together, and Irene’s old necklace chain, the metal slightly tarnished, they were almost certain they had everything they needed.
“It’s only the spells we’ve got to perform now,” Irene said, her voice hushed, her tone almost revered. Neither girl was sure this would work, but they didn’t have much ingredients to waste on failed attempts.
They’d been planning this for years. The idea, Irene’s originally, had been born over a late night reading of one of Rowena Ravenclaw’s letters to her daughter, found freely in the Hogwarts library. A mere mention desiring to travel back a week, and Rowena’s vague musings on the theory of such a thing, were all it took for the two budding inventors to rush off and research the theories of time travel. It had never been done, that much they knew. Travelling into one’s memories, through a Pensieve, that was as close an example as they could find.
In theory, however, if one could apparate to the other side of the country, there should be some sort of equivalent to travel through time. Potions had been attempted over the centuries, they’d found accounts, after subtly inquiring around the castle to various Professors.
After the initial research, they’d set to organizing the practical side of things. Time travel couldn’t unlimited, after all, nothing in the magical world was. There were always consequences.
It had taken them a few months to concoct what they hoped was a successful compilation of objects and ingredients. As far as the two of them knew, it would work.
Liz grinned broadly, excited at the prospect of their idea coming to life.
“When do we start?” she said, rubbing her hands together with glee.
Irene, however, was not so jubilant. She eyed her friend seriously, raising an eyebrow.
“You do realize how incredibly dangerous this is? We’re meddling with time, Liz, not taking a turn about the room on a summer afternoon.”
A slight chill fell over both girls, as they once again looked down at their supplies. Oh yes, there was a large chance this wouldn’t work, and it was almost certainly going to take several tries to produce even some sort of results. Nevertheless, the mere fact that they were attempting it was incredibly.
If anyone had caught wind of it, they would have been scolded beyond their worst nightmares. Inventing powerful magical objects was not a task for schoolgirls, no matter how bright they may be.
“We’ll start once term starts, I think,” Irene decided, and Liz nodded. If they did run into trouble, both girls had a mind to turn to their professors if they absolutely had to. Albus Dumbledore, the youngest Professor, who taught Transfiguration was their ideal choice. Neither girl could exactly say why, but they both held him in high regard.
“We’re really going to do this.” Liz whispered, with a shocking sense of finality, her eyes wide. Irene smiled slightly at her friend’s antics. Yes, they really were going to do this, no matter how insane it might be.
William MacDougal was not a fan of large balls, particularly not large balls where he felt unwelcome. No member of the Selwyn family had ever outright turned their noses up at him, but nevertheless he felt a cold vibe upon walking into their home.
His home, one day, if things all went to plan.
His footsteps echoed across the marble hallway, and he couldn’t help but raise his eyes to the ceiling, marveling inwardly at the grandeur. The city folk certainly lived a very different life.
He’d always known that, of course, as he was surrounded by many of them all day long at Hogwarts. Being subjected to it, being placed in the middle of it all, however, felt rather different.
At the sound of his name, his eyes snapped back to centre, and he felt his cheeks redden slightly, embarrassed at someone witnessing his blatant admiring of the house.
Irene Selwyn. She had her head slightly tilted to the side, and looked flushed. Either she’d been dancing, or she’d been sneaking around the house doing lord knows what, he surmised. Irene was never a particularly calm or obedient girl. Smart, yes, but with an overwhelming streak of curiosity. William found it intriguing, but he knew many others thought it would be her downfall. It was not, in the eyes of society at least, the way a lady should behave.
“Miss Irene,” he greeted her, inclining his head. If the laws had been different, this girl would have been the heir to her family’s fortune, instead of him. He wasn’t even a relation, merely a second cousin of a cousin, who remarried an aunt of a brother of someone who had an ancestor that, three hundred years previously, had been a Selwyn. Pureblood family trees were not the most straight forward things.
“Do come in,” Irene said lightly, holding out her arm for him to take. Just as forward as always, he observed.
She struck up polite chit chat with him as they moved towards the ballroom. Nothing more than an enquiry of health and recent exploits, and he followed along, providing satisfactory answers without really engaging in conversation at all. It was only when he physically came to a stop that he realized she’d stopped speaking, and that they were now standing at the edge of the dance floor.
He glanced at her face, a mistake on his part. She expected him to ask her to dance, it was written all over his face. Standing at the edge of the dance floor was a fairly large hint. He, however, had no desire to do such a thing. Irene, to the best of his knowledge, would marry up in the pureblood circle, and find her way without the family fortune on her side. He, however, would be forever seen as the intruder. Oh, he might be a pureblood, but he wasn’t from around here. He would forever be seen as a country boy.
Irene, though she could not help it, embodied the whole world that he rather despised. He was not oblivious to how elitist their whole social circle acted at Hogwarts, and he rather despised it. As far as he knew, not many shared his views (with the exception of his mate Harold Prewett, who frankly found William’s inheritance a roaring joke).
Irene had been brought up in privilege. Everything she wanted, she was given. Now, as she clearly expected him to dance with her, he couldn’t help but do the exact opposite. She despised him, her whole family did. How could they not? He saw no need in prolonging a rather awkward conversation with her, simply because she expected him to. Oh no, the look of shock of him walking away would make on his face was far too good to resist.
“Have a pleasant evening, Miss Irene,” he said with cold formality, spinning on his heel and heading to the opposite corner of the room.
He didn’t know it, as his back was turned, but Irene’s face fell slightly, her brow creasing. Oh, she’d expected him to dance with her, yes, but not only that, she’d wanted it. William MacDougal, the country boy, was far more interesting than any of the vile Slytherin boys her mother was forever pushing her to dance with.
She stared after him, her gaze both slightly melancholy and wistful, resisting the urge to retire to a chair for a moment. She shouldn’t have expected him to dance, in hindsight. To be fair, she wasn’t even sure he could dance. Who knew how those country folk brought up young men, dancing might not have been required at all.
Just to clarify, before we go any further, William and Irene are not at all related. The pureblood family trees do indeed stretch back a long period of time, and is said many times throughout the books, they overlap a fair bit, so shared relations to exist. In this case, the shared relation is so far back, that they can't really be considered to be related at all.
Now, that said, I hope some of this proved interesting. I was struck with this plot bunny after looking at a banner I made (the banner for this story, conveniently enough), and after having spent a large part of the day catching up on Downton Abbey (created by Julian Fellowes, credit where credit is due :) ). The idea of a time turner, and setting a story in the 1920s is something I've long wanted to do, so apparently now, when I have, er, a fair few other WIPs on my plate, I've decided to go ahead with it.
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