elen_nare: (elen)
Title: Warm Welcome
Fandom: Chrestomanci Chronicles - Diana Wynne Jones
Rating: G
Length: 1010 words
Content notes: Set after "The Pinhoe Egg". For the 'suitcase' challenge at [livejournal.com profile] fan_flashworks.
Author notes: I'm not sure how well-known Millie's past is in their society, but given how the Pinhoes tried to stay out of the Castle's notice I imagine Marianne wouldn't know much for a fact.
Summary: "“Welcome to Chrestomanci Castle, Marianne!” Millie’s smile was so pleasant that Marianne felt a little of her nervousness vanish."

Marianne looked apprehensively around as she descended from the Castle car outside a small side door. She’d hoped Joe would be there to meet her, but he was nowhere to be seen… Was she supposed to just go in? How would she know where to go? Before she could panic completely, the door opened and Millie stepped out to meet her.

“Welcome to Chrestomanci Castle, Marianne!” Millie’s smile was so pleasant that Marianne felt a little of her nervousness vanish. “There’s just time for me to show you your room so you can leave your case there, then I’ll take you along to meet the others.”

Marianne followed her obediently, clutching her suitcase tightly and looking around in wonder. Carpeted corridors seemed to branch out in every direction, and rooms could sometimes be glimpsed through half-open doors - luxurious sitting rooms; busy offices where people could be seen typing, though curiously she didn’t hear the tapping keys; mysterious apparatus whose purpose she could not even begin to guess… Realising she was falling behind, she hurried to catch up with Millie, who turned to smile at her from the top of a staircase.

“I’m sorry to rush you along like this, but there isn’t much time before lessons start. Besides, I know the children are planning to give you a tour of the Castle, and I’d hate to spoil their fun! I know it seems rather a maze; I remember when I first arrived - I was about your age - I thought I’d never find my way around, but you get used to it. Your room’s right along here. We’ve put you in the old part; it’s closer to the playroom and the schoolroom, and Cat thought you’d like it best. ”

“Did you come to school here too?” Marianne asked, curious. She knew Millie was an enchantress - even if she wasn’t sure how many of the stranger rumours about her, like that she came from another world entirely, she should believe - so it seemed quite possible.

Millie shook her head, however. “No, I went to boarding school, and just lived here in the holidays. The previous Chrestomanci, Gabriel de Witt, was my guardian, you see.”

They went up a final twisting staircase, and Millie threw open a door. “Here we are! This will be your room.”

“Thank you! It’s lovely,” Marianne said, looking around in delight. Like Cat’s room, it was round, with three large windows, but the walls were painted a pale green. There was a bed with a green quilt to match the walls, a tall narrow wardrobe, a desk - not as pretty as the heart-shaped one Dad had made for her, but still beautifully carved, with details picked out in silver paint - and a bookcase more than half-filled with books.

Millie gestured towards the bookcase. “Janet and Julia have been enjoying themselves picking books out for you. I told them to leave you some space for your own, but they’ll have no problem helping you to fill it if you tell them what sort of books you like. Now, you can just leave your case here, and I’ll show you the way to the playroom. One of the maids can unpack for you.”

“Oh, no - that is, there’s no need - I’d rather do it myself,” Marianne stammered, half embarrassed by the thought of having someone unpack for her at all, half worried that they’d nose through her things. She couldn’t bear the thought of a stranger reading ‘Princess Irene and her Cats’... But oh, how horrible if Millie thought she was being rude!

Luckily, Millie didn’t seem to be thinking anything of the sort. “Just as you like, my dear, I quite understand wanting to unpack your own things. We always did it ourselves at school - I think most of us had things from home that we desperately wanted and just as desperately didn’t want anyone to know we had. One of my friends, for example, had a teddy bear all the way to sixth form!” She winked at Marianne. “The people I grew up with were quite strict, so I was good at hiding those things anyway, but I’d have had to sneak them out of my case then. Doing my own unpacking was much easier.”

Marianne smiled, grateful that Millie was so understanding. “Will it be all right if I unpack after lessons, then?”

“Certainly! Oh, and before I forget, anything you don’t want over the weekend can be left here - and give any laundry to the maids.”

“I can take it back home, I don’t want to make more work,” Marianne said, blushing a little, and wondering what she’d have said if anyone had told her that one day she’d be discussing laundry with Chrestomanci’s wife!

“If anyone’s making extra work, I think it’s more likely to be Roger and Joe than you, with all their new machines,” Millie said drily, leading the way out of Marianne’s room and along yet another corridor. “Don’t worry about it, my dear. And if you’ll take my advice, try to leave as much here as you can. I was a full time boarder myself, but we had weekly boarders too, and I know they all got tired very quickly of carting everything back and forth! Apart from that, though, I think they had the best deal in some ways; they got to be part of all the fun and games we had during weekdays, but they didn’t miss out on everything going on at home. We all hope you’ll enjoy it; but if you ever want to go home specially, or make a different arrangement, you’ve only to ask. We want you to be happy here.”

Pausing outside the closed door of the playroom, she smiled at Marianne, with such genuine kindness that Marianne couldn’t help smiling back. She was still a little nervous about coming to school at the Castle, and absolutely terrified at the thought of lessons with Chrestomanci, but Millie’s welcome gave her the courage to say honestly, “Thank you very much. I think I will be.”


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