“You can stay in the guestroom off the third wing, no one uses that,” said Malfoy. “Normally we only employ house-elves, but…” he frowned. “I hired you for…for some reason.” He shook his head, puzzled. “For now, though, we need someone to do the dishes. Tea is served at three o’clock, I expect you to have it ready in the parlor before then. I have guests coming so you can’t let them see you, you’ll need to be quiet as a house-elf.” He snapped his fingers and an elf appeared. “Nod will take you to the kitchens.”
Hermione forced herself to say, “Yes, Master Malfoy. Thank you.” How long would she be able to stand being humble? Already she wanted to slap Malfoy for his arrogance….
“Oh,” he said as she began to follow Nod. “And I would like to know…you aren’t a Mudblood, by any chance, are you? Because then I couldn’t hire you.”
“No, sir,” said Hermione, glaring into Malfoy’s cold blue eyes. “I am not a Mudblood.”
* * *
“Miss,” said Nod three hours later. “Master will want Miss to serve the tea now. Miss must go before the guests arrive!”
Hermione finished scrubbing what felt like the four-hundredth dish that day. “Well, tell Master he can—”
Nod shoved a tray at Hermione. “Miss must take this to the parlor now!” he squeaked.
“Alright!” Hermione tossed down her dishtowel, straightened her maid’s cap, and grabbed the tray from the house-elf. The first thing I’m doing, she thought. When I’m no longer Malfoy’s slave is releasing all these house-elves.
After getting directions to the parlor from Nod, she set off. She laid out the cups and saucers as quickly as possible. When she was done, she took a moment to look around the room. She was surrounded by straight-backed chairs and silk-covered couches. There was a fireplace in the back of the room, and Hermione hurried over to examine the pictures perched on top of it. Is that…a baby Draco?! He almost looks sweet! Hermione was amazed as her eyes roamed over pictures of Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy as well as pictures of a young Draco. And there…there he was as a boy, not a child, probably his first year at Hogwarts….
“Miss!” Nod was back, beckoning Hermione from a side entrance to the parlor. “This way, Miss! Master and his guests are coming!”
Reluctantly, Hermione followed the elf. Then she was struck by an idea. “Nod,” she said when they were back in the kitchens. “Are there any hidden passages in this manor? And secret rooms?”
Nod’s eyes grew even rounder than they were. He shook his head. “N-no, Miss! Of c-course not!”
Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “There are, aren’t there? There have to be. Please, Nod, please show them to me. If you do, I promise I’ll find a way to set you free.”
“Free?” said Nod. “Miss could set Nod free?”
“Miss could,” said Hermione hastily. “I mean…I could. Will you show me, Nod? Please?”
He hesitated. “Master would be very, very angry. Master would punish Nod and Miss. Master would—”
“Forget him, Nod! He’ll never know! He’s with his guests, isn’t he?”
“Nod supposes he could show Miss…” He clapped a hand over his mouth. “Bad Nod! Bad!” And he began to hit his head against the marble counter.
“No!” Hermione dragged the elf away from the counter. “Show me, Nod! And I command you not to hurt yourself for it!”
The house-elf nodded, rubbing his head. “Nod will show Miss,” he said firmly. “Nod will show Miss everything!”
* * *
Hermione followed the house-elf through a maze of secret passages. She struggled to memorize the route. “Nod,” she said. “What is kept in these secret rooms?”
Nod shook his head. “Nod dares not say, Miss.”
Hermione sighed. Soon they came to small door in the stone wall. Nod motioned for her to come closer, and he pushed the door open. Inside was a marble floor with carvings of serpents and thorny flowers. The only odd thing about the room was that was a square-shaped indentation in the center.
“Not very inconspicuous,” she whispered. “It’s a trapdoor!”
“But how do I open it?”
“Nod doesn’t know, Miss!”
“No, you have to!” Hermione shook her head. “It’s by magic isn’t it?” She waved her wand, hoping to raise the marble floor by magic, but nothing happened. “It must have a password,” she muttered. She glanced around. No security? she thought. Unlikely! Sure enough, there was a forbidding-looking portrait at the end of the marble room. He was making furious gestures at Hermione and—
“Uh-oh,” said Nod miserably. He pointed at the portrait.
“Come on, then,” said Hermione. “Let’s go!” I’ll come back later, she thought.
Nod led her as fast as possible to the scullery. “Here we is, Miss!” he squeaked. “Nod must go back to his work!” He ran away, positively quaking.
Hermione returned to her work with reluctance. I’ll return to that room tonight with an invisibility cloak, she thought. The sooner I get proof about Malfoy, the faster I can get out of here. No sooner had she picked up another dish to scrub, however, the door to the kitchens burst open and Malfoy entered.
“You,” he said to Hermione. “Come with me.”
* * *
Five minutes later, Hermione was seated in Malfoy’s study. The dragon’s lair, she thought wryly. But she had more important things to worry about at the moment.
“I have received word that you and that house-elf I assigned you entered my ballroom this afternoon!” said Malfoy in a voice of controlled rage. “What were you doing there?”
Hermione’s first thought was to say that she got lost, but that would never do since Nod had been with her, and Malfoy apparently knew that. She thought back to when Dumbledore had first drawn up the plan for her to gain entrance to Malfoy Manor in the first place. The headmaster had had a floor plan, and Hermione had committed it to memory. If her memory served her correctly—and it always did—then the secret room, though not on the floor plan, should be two floors above the kitchens.
Knowing this, Hermione said, “I asked Nod to show me a shortcut back to the kitchens.”
“A shortcut,” said Malfoy disbelievingly. He studied her. “I ought to dismiss you. It isn’t a maid’s place to wander her master’s house.”
Hermione longed to shout at him, but instead she said, “Yes, Master. I apologize.”
“I will let you go this time,” he said. “But next time…” His eyes narrowed. “Make sure that there never is a next time, Miss Graham.”
Hermione forced herself to stare determinedly into those cold eyes before realizing that a maid would behave more meekly. She lowered her gaze. “Yes, Master.”
Author's Note: And there is the long awaited chapter 2!! i'm really sorry it took so long but i've been really really really busy...so, please review...and i hope you like it! also...many, many thanks to everyone who has already given me all those generous reviews! really, i was flattered! ^_^ oh and i seriously PROMISE that the chapters will get longer as we go on. *crosses heart*
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