"I was informed that you wished to speak with me concerning the fate of my daughter at your school."
Sitting across from Leon Ravenne was the man who had written the letter and given the parcel, the same letter and package residing in the inner breast pocket of the recent father of two. He was a portly man, with a receding hairline, and shiny skin. Obviously an indulgent man.
"Oh that's quite good. Though I would have preferred that you would reply sooner than 5 months-" Edward Skeet started,
"And I would have preferred that you would write later than just barely a week after my daughter was born." Leon finished. He was not in the mood for niceties. If Weston College wanted to sell his daughter off to some snobbish aristocrat, then they would have to go to war with not just house Ravenne, but House Phoenices. He briefly reminisced about when he courted Emily. The Phoenices were a close and the protective kind of family, and perhaps being around them for so long Leon picked up some of their family habits. Emily said earlier that morning she and the children would visit their grandparents. At least then one of them wouldn't walk in on this... conversation.
Skeet tried to fix himself up again, "Oh, well, I, um, I'm sorry that Evelyn's birth came across my attention so soon. Well, better late than never, eh?" an awkward chuckle came from him, obviously trying so very hard to diffuse the tension. But it didn't when it came to the protective father, those dark blue eyes were watching him like a hawk, his face emotionless.
"First of all, when referring to my daughter, do not use her name. You, of all people, do not have that privilege. Second, the name Skeet is familiar. Who are you?"
Skeet sputtered in shock, his pudgy face turning red, "I do not have that privilege?! Y-you don't know who I am?! I'm the one who wrote the bloody letter! I am the headmaster, you imbecile-"
"Before you dare to sully my family name and honor, of which you could never even pray to possess within your lifetime or the next, I know that you are the man who wrote the letter, and are currently the headmaster of Weston College. I merely asked that you introduce yourself, as your name sounded familiar. But that impulsive and temperamental nature of yours has jogged my memory. You were from Red House, were you not?" Leon's voice had gone dangerously quiet.
"I-I was, yes" Skeet answered cautiously. He could never figure out what went through the mind of Leon Ravenne. That was his unknowing disadvantage.
"Ah yes, I remember you now! You were the school snitch! Always following the school bullies, one of their minions. But when you didn't see the benefits, you either sold your silence or sold them out like a common gutter rat, begging for the Prefect's forgiveness. How did you, of all people, become headmaster? Or who did you bribe or threaten to gain such a position?"
"Now see here! I offered you a position that most men would want for their daughter! It will open so many doors for her-"
"Like her title of Countess does not? As far as I am aware of, most fathers would want their daughter to marry under their conditions, not a school's." Leon reached into his pocket, and took out the opened letter and parcel," That was also what I wanted to discuss with you, Skeet. When I was in Weston, I, the prefect of Sapphire Owl House, and the other prefects put a ban to that tradition. Why has it suddenly sprung up again? Was that, Skeet, your doing?"
Skeet sputtered and fidgeted when he scavenged for a response.
"And what is the meaning of this?" Leon revealed the gift as a beautifully carved ring, with the Weston symbol. An engagement ring. An engagement ring meant for Evelyn. His voice was low and quiet. Almost a whisper. But to Skeet, he would have preferred if Ravenne had shouted instead.
"Y-yes, yes, umm, well you see, I had that given to me by the last bride, as is tradition-"
"Would you care to know what I think about your so called traditions, Skeet?"
Leon was poised like a predator going in for the kill, "If you want my daughter, you'll have to wait at least 5 years for her permission." Leon did not give the repulsive man a chance to argue anymore before he called Frederick in, "Frederick, show our guest to the door. We are done here for now."
"Why must I wait 5 years for a toddler's permission?! You're worse than that evil nobleman, Phantomhive!" Skeet shouted out as he was 'guided' through the corridor by Frederick. Leon did not grant him a reason. Skeet was not worthy of it.
"Goodbye, Skeet. I shall see you in 5 years time." Hmm? Phantomhive... Leon mused to himself as Frederick, unkindly, escorted Skeet into his carriage. He was a first year when Leon was a prefect. He did not presume that later on in life would they be close friends. Maybe he himself was an evil nobleman, if he also dealt with dealing with the Underworld of England. When Frederick came back, Leon showed his gratitude, and asked how Maria was with her pregnancy.
"Well, she finds it hard to sleep, and she often craves strawberries, but thank you for asking about Maria."
Leon unexpectedly hugged his well-built friend and butler. He was well aware that though he tried to hide it, Frederick was terrified. Maria was too. "I'm glad she's alright, it won't be long now. I'm sure you shall be a wonderful father, Frederick." Leon chuckled, "I mean, you look after the rest of this household!"
Frederick face lit up as he laughed, "Thank you milord." But his face became puzzled, "...Milord, when you met with Mr Skeet, you said that the topic was closed 'for now'? I presumed that you and milady had chosen to not let miss Evelyn enroll in Weston College."
"Evelyn must make her own choice, and it is obvious to everyone she meets that she is intelligent for her age. I shall let Evie decide her future, and I pray that whatever that choice is, if there is a God, he will give me the strength and grace to support her in what way a father can."
5 years later
As the headmaster's carriage pulled up to the front gates of the manor, he was watched by the man with the stare of a hawk. Leon was apprehensive. But Evelyn has reached the 5 year limit. He had honor, and the end of an unspoken agreement to keep. Besides, he and Evelyn would have the household's support.
Still, it did not stop his heart hammering in his chest just like on the day of Evelyn's birth, in 1871, December 13th. Time seemed to have rushed, but so did Edgar, the toddler became a young boy at the age of 8 years old. After the initial but understandable jealousy, the boy quickly grew to be protective of his little sister. Edgar also inherited Emily's persuasive nature, for he would rope Evelyn into playing practical jokes on almost everyone in the manor. It didn't help with the fact that they were sometimes helped by Frederick and Maria's twins, Jacob and Charlotte. At least Edgar finally got a playmate his own age.
A gentle knock on the door pulled back Leon to earth. "Come in." Emily and Evelyn, the child he had become so accustomed to protecting, entered. Evelyn's dark hair was mid-length, and she had Emily's beautiful green eyes. When Evelyn was older, Leon and Emily were certain she was to break many hearts. "Ah, Evie. Is everything alright?"
"Yes, Papa. I had just finished my arts lesson..." Evie's voice was like a little bell. She played with one of the blue bows on her white dress, "Why must I meet this man? He seems sus..suspick-"
"Sound it out, sweetheart." Emily encouraged,
"Very good darling!" Emily and Leon praised. Emily shifted her gaze to Leon, "She must get her studious nature from me." She teased Leon.
"But still, why must I meet mister Skeet. Even his name sounds strange!"
"How so, dear?" Emily questioned.
"Well, it...it's like you need to be careful around him, like when someone skates on ice. One slip-up, and you fall and hurt yourself."
"Because he wanted you to become part of his school darling, and meet four special boys when you were older." Leon answered.
Evie's face scrunched up in disgust and stuck out her tongue "Ewww, I don't like boys! They're icky!"
Her mother chuckled loudly, "Well what about Edgar, Jacob, Frederick and father? Are they 'icky'?"
Leon feigned hurt, "I can't believe my own daughter finds me icky! Oh the horror!"
Evie's green eyes widened in horror and regret. She ran to her father, clinging to his leg, "Of course not Papa! I didn't mean it! You and Eddy, and Jacob and and Freddy are not icky! It's just other boys that are icky! I-I'm s-so sorry, Papa!" She cried out, clearly upset at supposedly hurting her father's feelings. When seeing how distressed his youngest child was, probably due to nerves of the close confrontation, Leon picked up Evie, and soothingly drew circles into her back.
"I was not really hurt, Evie. I was only joking. I wanted to calm you before you met Mr Skeet." Evie looked up from burying her head into his shoulder,
"Clearly you failed." Emily retorted, "Women get quite nervous at times like these, and setting them off does not help when making decisions."
Leon gave her a playful glare of 'not-really-helping-honey', "Evie, you could never hurt my feelings or you mother's feelings."
"P-promise?" Evie hiccuped,
Leon and Emily gently wrapped their smallest fingers around hers, "Promise. Now dry those tears, you're too young and pretty to cry."
"Alright, Papa." Evelyn looked past his shoulder, "Is that fat man him?"
"Yes." Emily confirmed without even checking to see if it was Skeet "Whenever you're ready." She hated, despised, loathed Skeet even more than her husband-it Emily was the one who suggested that Skeet wait for her Evie to make a decision, and it was Emily who was almost chosen to be a Bride. She would not stand for her own daughter to have that burden on her shoulders. If Emily could, she would show how a Phoenices Lady deals with family. But as a woman, that wish would not be fulfilled by her own hands, "We will always stand by you, whatever your decision, my Evie.
"I see. So this is your final decision."
"Yes, Mr Skeet. I will not enroll in Weston College. I thank you sincerely for the offer though." Evelyn firmly stated. She was facing Skeet, with the rest of the household outside in the corridor. To Evelyn, Skeet was looking worse than what her father had said he was like 5 years ago.
"However, I must ask you something. This is your own decision, and not that of anyone influential?" Evelyn knew who Skeet was referring to. Apparently, he and her father were not exactly the closest of acquaintances
"No. I have considered this for quite some time, and the benefits do not outweigh the problems. I apologize for the inconvenience."
An irritated Skeet grumbled an insincere "Alright then. I'll leave you then."
Later that night, the entire manor celebrated, filling it with music and laughter, with a little bit of fine wine for the adults. Leon and Emily were especially relieved. Now they could be involved in both of their children's lives. They watched as both their and Frederick and Maria's children played and danced together, with Jacob leading Evelyn clumsily but sweetly, and Edgar leading Charlotte. Even Old James, the gardener was playing his violin, whilst Patrick the cook brought in his "famous" Victoria Sponge Cake. And tomorrow the family painting would be hung in the hall. Things seemed to finally look like it was going to get better
"She's safe now. So wipe off that scowl and frown of yours" Emily whispered to Leon.
He looked like he was brought out of a trance, "Was I frowning? Or maybe you were mistaking it for my usual face." He teased with a chuckle. They were glad, like a weight had been lifted off of their shoulders, one that they didn't know was resting on them. It was those moments that the household of Ravenne shared in happiness.
But much like this one, after a time, moments always end.