"I hope they don't send you too far Teenie," Queenie sighed miserably. "I don't understand why we can't try for better options. Why can't we get married too? We're as deserving as anyone else!" she finished indignantly.
Tina shrugged nonchalantly before patiently explaining it all to her younger sister once again. "Queenie, you know that's not how it works. Girls like us… Orphans, charity cases… We don't have so many options. We're lucky to even have someone looking out for our interests. I'll be glad to be a governess for a respectable family, I wouldn't even have such an opportunity if not for the kindness of Mr. Graves. I hope they don't send me too far away either."
Queenie nodded solemnly. She couldn't deny that they were much better off thanks to the charity of their wealthy benefactor, Percival Graves. He was the one who had sponsored their education at the prestigious Ilvermorny Academy for Girls, without which they'd have been facing far worse prospects. Tina was now 18 and finishing up her course, so the time had come to arrange her post-Ilvermorny future.
Tina hugged her sister tightly. "Don't worry, I'm your big sister, I'll always be looking out for you, even if I'm not as close by as I'd like. Now, I must go to Madame Picquery. I do believe she's called me in to meet with a prospective employer."
The two sisters embraced once more and Tina nervously shuffled off to meet the head of their school and the family that was going to interview her for the position of governess to their children.
Percival Graves sat patiently in Madame Picquery's study, awaiting the arrival of one Porpentina Goldstein. He was about to make her the offer of a lifetime, one he'd never thought to offer any of his wards before in all the years he'd been taking wards in.
A handsome, wealthy man in his mid-40s, Graves had never remarried after tragedy struck in his late 20s, when his wife had died giving birth to their stillborn daughter. He'd spent the last 18 years channeling his grief for his wife and daughter into charity work. Specifically, he sponsored orphaned girls through an Ilvermorny education, which opened up opportunities and connections they never would have had otherwise, ensuring a comfortable enough and respectable future.
The Goldstein sisters, of course, had come as a pair. He'd traveled to the New York orphanage as soon as he'd heard about the plight of the two sisters, then aged 11 and 12, who had lost their parents in a recent smallpox epidemic. The girls were charming, smart, and pretty. The younger sister was an exceptional beauty, but he found himself particularly drawn to the older one. For one thing, she'd been born on the very same day as his daughter. She also had the same raven black hair. Graves couldn't help but see Tina as the very embodiment of the daughter he'd never gotten to raise, and thus, of all the girls he'd ever sponsored, he felt a particular fatherly affection for her.
It was that fatherly affection that led him to come to Ilvermorny today with a most extraordinary offer. There was nothing wrong with being a governess for a prominent and respectable family, but Porpentina, who reminded him so much of his daughter, deserved more, and he had a plan for arranging a future for her beyond anyone's wildest expectations.
Graves bit down a chuckle as Porpentina entered the study and proceeded to look utterly perplexed upon seeing her benefactor sitting there. Whoever she'd been expecting to see, it wasn't him.
"Good to see you looking so well, Miss Porpentina, please, take a seat, and I'll get right to the point," he gestured to an empty chair, and Tina, still very nervous and confused, sat down in it, patiently awaiting an explanation.
"As your sponsor," Graves began, "I have of course been following your progress here since you started six years ago. You have excelled, and certainly proven yourself to be an accomplished young lady."
"Mr. Graves," Madame Picquery cut in, "she is indeed an accomplished young lady, but there is also the matter of the disciplinary record-"
Graves waved her off. "So she's a bit of a spitfire. Something I loved dearly about my wife and would have hoped to see in my daughter," he sighed. Tina and Madame Piquery both looked down awkwardly at that. No one would dare argue with a man still grieving his lost family after all these years.
"Miss Porpentina," he began again, "I feel it would be a shame for you to be a governess for some family. I want more for you. To that end, I still have some family connections and property in England. I'd like to take you with me on my next trip so I can introduce you to society and find you a proper husband."
Both Madame Picquery and Tina stared up at him in astonishment. Introduced to society? Marriage?
Tina didn't know what to think. She wasn't opposed to marriage, exactly. She would certainly be happy to marry in the event that she met someone and they developed a mutual affection. But always the realist, she'd never spent too much time dreaming about the scenario, because it wasn't terribly likely to happen given her station in life. Besides, a governess’ life was good enough, and far beyond what she could ever have hoped for had Graves not sent her here in the first place. She'd come to accept her likely future and did not feel any disappointment about it. And now, here before her sat Graves with this extraordinary offer…
And yet, what about her sister? How could she leave Queenie behind like that, to cross an ocean and likely never see her again? Did she dare ask Graves for more, to take her sister along too? And she knew that Queenie, ever the romantic, would be absolutely thrilled. Her heart was pumping fast, and she never would have done it for anyone but her sister, but she opened her mouth to ask.
"I-I-I'm speechless, sir," she stuttered deferentially, "but-but my sister… I don't know…"
She trailed off as she saw Madame Piquery staring daggers at her for daring to ask for more in the face of such an offer, but Graves smiled kindly.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, you're right," he cut in, "I couldn't ask you to leave your beloved sister. My offer is extended to Miss Queenie as well."
Tina could have hugged Graves, but of course repressed the urge, merely smiling radiantly. "I don't know how I can possibly thank you, Mr. Graves!" was all she could say.
"No need to thank me. I shall send a carriage for the two of you in three days. You will be brought to my home and I'll have some seamstresses come to measure you and prepare proper wardrobes for the balls you'll be attending in England. We board the ship in six weeks' time. I look forward to my time as the official guardian of yourself and Miss Queenie."
With that, Graves stood up and bowed curtly before striding from the room. Tina, still beaming, floated out after him, rushing back to the room she shared with Queenie to share this incredible news with her. Madame Piquery simply stared after them in complete shock. But obviously the decision was made. Besides, if those two girls managed to marry into aristocracy, it could only further bolster her own reputation.
Three days later, the Goldstein sisters stood outside in their plain traveling clothes with their sparse luggage containing their few worldly possessions. They embraced peers and faculty alike before boarding the magnificent carriage Mr. Graves, whom they were now to call Uncle Percival, had sent to whisk them away to the thrilling next chapter in their lives.