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A Proper Little Lady
By Essy

She could hear things from her bedroom. The private part of the house wasn't really private at all. Her parents' room was above reception. If you sat in there you could hear the soft chatter of people discussing their bills, their appointments and the weather. Granny’s room was above the surgery. All you heard in there was the slosh of running water and the occasional hums and whines of chair, polish and drill. Her own room was above the waiting room. Right now, she could hear Bobby Metcalfe telling his parents he didn't need a brace. He liked his teeth perfectly well crooked and why did they never listen to him? Hermione wished he'd shut up. She was trying to concentrate on her homework.

* * *

Eileen Bloom had been dyslexic before dyslexia was widely understood. Her teachers had thought she was backward and she'd had to fight with grim determination to get any sort of an education at all. After many sleepless nights of cramming and repeating things over and over - learning everything by heart because she didn't trust herself to read it properly - she'd been accepted to university to study medicine. Not as a doctor... not quite, but still more than any of her teachers had expected.

She'd gone to university and met Kevin, who had worked right through his childhood to help support his mother after his father died. Kevin had struggled in a different way to get where he was and he understood all about sleepless nights. After graduation, they'd married, set up a practice together and had a beautiful baby whom they'd given a beautiful name from Shakespeare.

They'd been meant to live happily ever after, but there'd been something wrong. Things would move without being touched. Toys would change shape or colour. They'd found her downstairs once, playing in the chair. It had been spinning and reclining even though it was unplugged and the door to the surgery had been carefully locked. They'd researched and discussed doctors and psychiatrists, but in the end, Kevin's mother had moved in and taken the unusual toddler under her wing. Little Hermione had learned the rules. She learned that the surgery door was locked for a reason and shouldn't be opened whether you did it with your hands or with your head. Learned to carefully control her emotions so she wouldn't set things on fire or make them shrink. Learned to keep herself in check at all times, until she had eventually been pronounced a proper little lady.

She'd learned the importance of hard work and study too; she'd learned that from her parents.

* * *

Hermione had finished her maths homework and was struggling through a French primer. Science and maths came most easily to her. Logic dictated whether the answer would be twelve or twenty, whether the goop in the test tube would turn red or green. Translation was more vague and therefore problematic. She didn't even take French yet, but she would soon be going to Grammar school to learn French, German and Latin, so she was determined to at least make a head start at French.

In private (which she was now that Bobby Metcalfe had finally stopped his whinging), Hermione was nervous about Grammar school. She'd passed the test to get in, but Hermione always passed tests. She'd been top of her class since her first day of school and she secretly worried about what it would be like at a new school full of other clever girls and new rules to learn.

What she wanted more than anything, was to study at Mallory Towers. A dream only slightly flattened by the knowledge that it didn't exist. She wanted to go to school with Darrell Rivers and Alicia Johns and have midnight feasts and get into scrapes and play jokes on silly Gwendoline Lacey.

Hermione gave her enormous collection of Enid Blyton books a longing look before turning her attention back to the French primer. She was too old for Mallory Towers now, anyway. She would go to St. James' and find her feet and be top of the class there, too. More to the point she would finish the exercises in the primer and present them to her parents at breakfast tomorrow to be marked. She would then eat her toast with dignity and maybe get her hair to stay flat and Granny Granger would tell her she was a "proper young lady."

She was so busy daydreaming, she didn't even notice the owl until it soared through the open window, making her squeak with surprise. It deposited an impressive looking letter on her desk and she was pleased that she was able, even in her confusion, to identify it as an eagle owl before it flew out again.

Hermione closed the window before turning her attention to the letter. Her eyes opened wider and wider as she read, until her eyebrows had disappeared completely under her bushy fringe. She needn't go to St. James' now. She'd be going to boarding school! A real-life Mallory Towers, where all the things that made her peculiar and solitary at her current school would make her successful and accepted! A whole new science to study, too. The science of magic!

She gleefully put away the French primer and took the letter downstairs to show her parents and grandmother. She squashed the urge to bound down the stairs four at a time though.

Proper ladies didn't run.

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