AN: For those of you who are wondering why I'm working on this tale instead of finishing my WIP, I offer my humblest apologies. The truth is, I've simply become bogged down in "Awakening" and have simply lost the drive to keep writing down my ideas. The story still exists fully in my head; hopefully this will spark my desire to write again and finish my swan song in the PA fandom.
For those of you who have no idea what that first paragraph meant, I also offer my humblest apologies; all you really need to know is that I'm a sucker for strong yet vulnerable and flawed female characters and the tall, dark, and handsome men who love them and leave it at that;). The idea for this story came when I was watching the excellent '69 version of "The Haunting," which is based on Shirley Jackson's book, The Haunting of Hill House, which is also excellent. A thought went through my mind that Eleanor Lance reminded me a bit of Jane Bennet, and the rest is history.
This is going to be 28-30 chapters long, and I will be posting two shortish chapters a day until Halloween. I've already written half of the story, so you at least won't have to worry about me abandoning this one. I've tried to combine elements of both stories, but this is primarily a P&P story. There will be HEAs for E&D and J&B, but everyone else is fair game. I hope I do a good enough job laying the ground rules; if I don't, please feel free to ask questions that I might even answer;).
Content warnings: Anyone who knows about "The Haunting" knows that it features some suicides, and this story references such subjects as well. Nobody will commit suicide on-screen, so to speak, but there will be references to suicides the house has had a hand in causing. There will also be character deaths as one would expect in a story like this; after all, we wouldn't want to paint Netherfield's ghostly inhabitants as incompetent, now, would we? I should also warn you that I'm going to mangle medicine in this story. This is a proud tradition of mine, however, so be advised that nothing medical that happens in this tale is likely accurate. Speaking of accuracy, I'm probably going to get Regency details wrong, too—and probably canon as well. I've done some research, but different sites say different things, so in the end, I'm just going to do what I want. Perhaps I should also offer a content warning for long, rambly ANs, although there hopefully won't be a need for ones quite this long going forward.
Netherfield, being a house, had no idea how long it had stood or how long it would stand. The house cared not for such trivialities any more than it understood the reasons behind its own nature. It did not understand why its influence could extend a certain distance beyond its own property and no farther. It did not understand why integrating new spirits into the harmonious whole was such a long, arduous process. It did not even understand why it felt compelled to kill at all. A lack of understanding, however, did not diminish the house's hunger to claim a new addition to its ghostly gestalt.
The house had long ago given up on trying to differentiate between one spirit and another. Whatever had been responsible for driving the original owners mad untold years ago had absorbed every personality and nature of every victim. Brave and timid, good and evil, wise and foolish, and many other opposite characteristics all combined to form a powerful presence that could destroy a person's mind and heart in a variety of different ways.
Nothing bothered Netherfield more than a strong mind. Strong minds were resistant. Strong minds were persistent. Strong minds were stubborn. Strong minds were almost incorruptible.
Elizabeth Bennet had a strong mind, so the house hated her. It hated her for her curiosity. It hated her for her tenacity. It hated her for her impertinence. It hated her for her defiance. It hated her because, now that it had settled on Jane Bennet as its next victim, it knew that Elizabeth would likely be a formidable protector of the body and spirit of her sister.
While the house had had multiple opportunities over the years to take Jane, it had learned the hard way that absorbing children into the gestalt was difficult enough for Netherfield to refrain from their taking. As Netherfield had waited for Jane to grow up, the house had focused on more mature, delectable targets. Netherfield had been unable to resist unseating Captain Haversham from his horse outside the stables, desiring his keen military mind. It had been unable to resist luring that Carver girl into the depths of the pond near the house, wanting her sweetness that reminded it of Jane. It had been unable to resist enhancing the hidden depression of that pert, young cook who had resembled Elizabeth Bennet, compelling her to put her sharpest kitchen knife to good use. That had been a most satisfying kill, indeed.
Not that Netherfield had ever actually killed anyone; it was neither as strong nor as gauche as that. No, the house had to use cunning and suggestion in order to accomplish its ends. Powerful emotions were ripe for amplification from Netherfield. Animals were easily spooked. Insidious suggestions could easily be whispered into the figurative ears of the weak-willed. Half-formed feelings could be squelched before they could mature. Powerful illusions could disorient and deceive. Only certain minds were liable to be touched at any given moment—especially if said minds were more lively and interesting than most of those around Meryton.
The house was familiar with the mind of each and every person who lived within a mile or two of Meryton, but most of the village's inhabitants and neighbors received only indifference and low-level manipulation from Netherfield. While the house had at times lamented its inability to know people's inmost thoughts, it had to admit that most of the citizens of Meryton did not have minds worth influencing, much less reading. Their drabness was their salvation—especially once the house had learned that it had to keep the spirit of anyone it killed, and that absorbing the nature of a dullard did no favors to its effectiveness in the hunt.
Perhaps previous experience explained Netherfield's desire to acquire Jane: Her mind was quick enough to be an asset yet pliant enough to be blended into the whole. To Netherfield, Jane's worth rested not in her intelligence or wit but in her ability to produce a welcome and harmonious environment for all. The house had learned that few hunting methods were more effective than presenting a false front of warmth and safety to unwary inhabitants and visitors, and Jane Bennet could only help the house to improve its methods.
Were the house being honest with itself, it would have to admit that taking Elizabeth Bennet's treasured sister away from her would be a significant bonus. Her strong mind had long stymied the house; in fact, she was the only one who had ever managed to send feelings of loathing and defiance back at Netherfield. The house had tried to present itself as non-threatening and comfortable to Elizabeth Bennet in the distant past, but the headstrong chit of a girl had somehow learned to see through the illusion at an early age.
Netherfield had come to take a perverse satisfaction in the girl's knowledge of its true nature because no others believed her descriptions of the impact of the house on her mind. While most local people steered clear of Netherfield because of the number of deaths that had occurred on its premises, their primitive beliefs mostly centered around superstition and conjecture. Many of them enjoyed telling lurid ghost stories at the Red Lion or gossiping about the most recent deaths at assemblies, but few of them had the ability to sense the myriad ways that the house preyed on their minds.
The Bennet family in particular was fun to manipulate. Mrs. Bennet was delightfully amusing—especially when the house amplified her fear of the future and natural anxiety. The two youngest daughters were likewise simple creatures whose silliness was easy to enhance. Mr. Bennet was tougher to influence as his mind was still quite keen; however, his love of the absurd and tendency to indolence presented themselves as manageable targets for Netherfield's skills. Even Elizabeth Bennet's mind was not too strong for the house to influence—especially whenever she was in great emotional turmoil. She was also quite proud of her discernment and perspicacity, and the house made sure to encourage her constant certainty in her judgments in hopes that her strong will and overconfidence would someday be her undoing.
And Jane...Darling Jane. Netherfield and Jane had always been drawn to one another, although time, circumstances, and Elizabeth Bennet had usually succeeded in keeping Jane away from Netherfield. At times, the house had been tempted to break its own rule about taking children, but it had ultimately decided to wait until the time was right to help Jane come home.
The first time that Charles Bingley had come bounding through Netherfield's doors full of enthusiasm and exuberance, the house had known that the right bait for its trap had finally come. Bingley was, in every respect, a perfect match for Jane Bennet. He was wealthy, handsome, amiable, and winsome, capable of charming everyone from babes in arms to elderly matriarchs. His casual interest in the supernatural amused the house but didn't concern it. After all, if Netherfield were welcoming to all until the time to strike came, then what could the man hope to learn that could stop the house from acquiring Jane?
Thanks to the voluble natures of the Bingleys, Netherfield learned that its man bait had been taken and that getting Jane on the grounds without her troublesome sister would be a simple matter. Part of the house wanted to simply wait until Bingley inevitably proposed to Jane and brought her to Netherfield as a bride who would never survive her wedding night, but the rest of it was all too aware of the potential cost of enjoying a hunt too much.
After all, Bingley's closest friend, Darcy, was himself the strongest mind the house had ever encountered, and the sooner that man left Netherfield, the better. The house had, to its dismay, noticed a fledgling attraction to its hated nemesis forming and had done its utmost to wither such feelings on the vine. Were those two strong minds to unite...but the house saw no need to dwell on such unpleasantries as it had already worked hard to amplify Darcy's contempt of her relations and status as well as Elizabeth's dislike of his arrogant, snobbish attitude towards her home and loved ones.
The house had increased its focus on Longbourn's residents the morning of the planned attack, amplifying Mrs. Bennet's nerves and her desire to see Jane wed Bingley while decreasing Mr. Bennet's patience with his wife's loud, vulgar effusions. It had even managed to call Elizabeth out on a long walk early that morning, preying on her desire to escape her mother's flutterings.
The men were dining with the officers and so would be unable to render any assistance to Jane should she need it. Darcy had been resistant to supping with such company at first, but the house had, with great effort, been able to amplify Darcy's loyalty to his best friend and thus win his acquiescence.
All the house had had to do at that point was to impress upon the weak-minded Hursts and Miss Bingley just how bored they were, and the final piece of the trap had been set. Even the weather had appeared to be on Netherfield's side as a sizable storm seemed imminent. The house had encouraged Mrs. Bennet to scheme and Mr. Bennet to give in. Jane had obediently set out on horseback.
Netherfield had almost been disappointed with how easily the hunt had initially seemed to conclude. Everything had gone just as the house had planned. Jane Bennet had turned onto the road leading to Netherfield on her horse and had soon ridden out of sight of the main road. A single blast of strong emotion had turned a placid, well-trained mare into a panicked, mindless beast. Jane had flown through the air with a graceful arc, landing with a satisfying thud on Netherfield's path. With great triumph and anticipation, the house had waited to feel the contented, befuddled feeling that always followed a kill as the new spirit began to be absorbed into the overall consciousness, yet only boring clarity had remained as the first raindrops had fallen on Jane Bennet's motionless body.
AN: I honestly forgot that the Carver girls from TuesdayMorning423's "Given Good Principles" weren't canon, so I should probably credit her for their creation (and apologize for killing one of them).