Hermione went about her daily work in the scullery until it was nearly two o’clock, when Malfoy expected her to serve his guest tea. She heard the great gonging at the front door as she hurried on her way to the entrance hall of the manor. Head bowed, she opened the front door. She glanced up at the guest. He was a stooped man, draped in a long black cloak, and he looked vaguely familiar.
“This way, sir,” she said softly. “I’m to take you to Master Malfoy’s parlor for tea. If you’d follow me…” She led the mysterious guest through the vast manor to the parlor, leaving him off in one of it’s many comfortable chairs. “I’m sure the master will be along in a moment,” she told him. “I’m to serve you some tea now.”
The man only nodded, studying her in a way that she did not like. But she had no time to ponder the stranger just then, because she had to get to the kitchens where a tray of biscuits and steaming cups of tea awaited her. Straightening her maid’s uniform, she lifted the tray and carried it back to the parlor.
This is all perfect, she assured herself. It’s the perfect opportunity to spy on Malfoy…after I’ve finished playing parlor maid for him. She arrived at the parlor doors and took a deep breath. You’re Helena Graham, Malfoy’s lowly servant witch. Remember your place and your mission. With another deep breath, she opened the door and entered for the second time that day.
“Ah, here she is!” Malfoy was standing just inside the door. “I see she has brought our refreshment. I was just telling our guest here how useful you are, Miss Graham,” he said, motioning her to put the tea on the coffee table. She did so, then stepped back and stared at Malfoy. She glanced between her master and the guest, wondering if she ought to take her leave, but Malfoy seemed eager to keep the conversation on her.
“Never knew how useful a real servant could be,” he told the guest. “Almost as good as the house elves.”
Hermione struggled to keep from scowling at that statement.
The guest looked only mildly interested, nodding. “She’s a pretty thing,” he said, speaking as if she were a flower or a picture.
“Is she?” Malfoy cast an appraising eye over Hermione, who tried her best to keep from squirming under their scrutiny, feeling quite uncomfortable. “I hadn’t noticed.”
“Oh, she is,” said the guest, leering at her. “Wish I had such a servant myself.”
Hermione could stand it no longer and scowled openly at the man. Annoyance flashed across Malfoy’s face for a moment, but he replaced it with a smirk. “Quite so,” he replied to his guest. He raised an eyebrow at Hermione. “Well, Miss Graham, you will be returning to the scullery now.”
“Yes sir,” she said tensely, not missing the hidden command in his words. She gave a significantly quick curtsy to both men.
“And,” her master continued before she had fully exited the parlor, “I will be speaking with you later.”
Hermione nodded and curtsied again, ignoring her worry. Malfoy’s tone was indeed forbidding, but she refused to let herself be frightened by him. And soon it occurred to her that she could spy on Malfoy and his guest. That’s what I’ll do, she decided happily. Nice revenge for him treating me so foully in front of his company! After all, good masters defend their servants.
Ten minutes later Hermione was crouched outside the parlor under the cover of her Invisibility Cloak. She pressed her ear against the door, straining to hear the voices from within. Chagrined, she found that she couldn’t hear anything through the thick wooden door. As much as she disliked the idea, she would have to use some special assistance. She pulled a fistful of flesh-colored string from her pocket. They were Extendable Ears, a gift from Fred and George, which she had grudgingly accepted at Ron’s urging.
Now she could hear the proceedings as though she were in the room.
“Master Malfoy, there’s something else you should know,” the stranger was saying. “I’ve had word from the rebels at Azkaban, and I’m afraid that I come as the bearer of bad news.”
“Out with it!” Malfoy said loudly.
“Your father, sir,” said the stranger. “He’s been killed. Tried to escape from Azkaban again and…well…” The guest coughed politely, apparently uneager to complete the details.
On the other side of the door, Hermione stifled a gasp. What would be Malfoy’s reaction to this?
“I see,” said Malfoy coldly.
It seemed that he was not going to make anymore comments on the subject of his father than that, and Hermione sensed that his mysterious guest was not about to press him. Instead the guest simply said, “I’ve heard something else as well.”
“Indeed?” Malfoy’s voice was as cool as ever in spite of the news he’d just heard. Hermione shivered. How could he take such news so well?
“Yes sir!” the stranger gabbled. “They say…they’re saying down in Azkaban that there’s a band of You-Know-Who’s followers on the move. I mean, you know…things have been quite hopeless for those in Azkaban, ever since Harry P-Potter defeated You-Know-Who.”
“I am aware,” said Malfoy idly. “Please make your point.”
“Yes, yes,” said the stranger loudly. “My point is that they’re saying the Death Eaters will rise again with powerful Dark Arts treasures, procured from the possession of Salazar Slytherin. And they say there’ll be a great leader who will wield these powerful items, a leader who will continue You-Know-Who’s work.”
This small speech was met with silence from Malfoy.
Hermione heard the guest shifting hesitantly in his chair. “Well, sir, what do you make of it?”
“It’s not for me to say what I think of it,” Malfoy snapped. “Nor is it for you to speculate, either.”
“Of course, of course,” the guest said hastily. “Didn’t mean to imply otherwise, Master Malfoy!”
“Glad to hear it,” Malfoy replied smoothly. “Because I don’t like it.”
“Surely not,” the other man muttered.
Hermione could hear some—she assumed Malfoy—pacing up and down. “Honestly, Borgin,” Malfoy retorted. “Your careless attitude will land you in the disfavor of the Dark Lord’s followers, which is a dangerous place to be!”
Borgin, Hermione thought. From Borgin and Burkes in Knockturn Alley! It’s been awhile, but no wonder he seemed familiar.
There was a period of silence, punctuated by the sharp clink of a tea cup being set in its saucer. “I understand, sir,” Borgin said tightly.
“I trust you’ll mind your tongue from now on, then?” Malfoy said dangerously.
“Quite so,” Borgin answered shortly. “However…I was under the impression that you called me to your Manor to look at…er…items of great importance…?”
“I did,” said Malfoy. Hermione heard him crossing the parlor, followed by a creaking sound which she assumed to be the writing desk. “I have this for you, butI don’t wish to sell it. I rather hoped you could tell me it’s value.”
“Ah, yes,” said Borgin carefully. Hermione had the impression that he was concealing disappointment at the loss of a potential sale. “Yes, it…it looks as though…” There was a pause. “Is this one of Salazar’s things, sir?”
“What do you think, Borgin? Think carefully before you speak, mind.”
“Of course, sir. I think…I think it may very well be that if…if…one were to use this particular item, one would find it contains immense Dark power.”
“I could have discovered that myself, Borgin,” Malfoy snapped. “What else?”
“I think…” Borgin’s voice was quavering, it was plain that he was wishing he had never come to Malfoy Manor. “That if one wanted to follow in the Dark Lord’s footsteps to the extreme, one would be able to do so using this item.”
“Ah,” said Malfoy. His voice sounded pleasant now, and Hermione was certain that he was smirking his smug little smirk. “Thank you, Borgin.”
“You’re quite welcome, sir. Any…er…anytime.” Hermione smiled wryly, it was doubtless that Borgin actually wished Malfoy to call upon him at “anytime”. “If…if you don’t mind, I’ll be going now.”
“Of course, of course,” said Malfoy. “Glad you could come round for tea.”
Hermione heard the man leap to his feet. “Pleasure’s all mine, sir.” Then Hermione scrambled away from the door, still under the invisibility cloak, just as the door opened to release Borgin and Malfoy. The two men shook hands and Borgin strode out of Malfoy Manor, shutting the door firmly behind him and Disapparating with a loud CRACK, leaving Malfoy to stand alone in the entrance hall.
Watching the young man carefully, Hermione lay on the floor pressed up against the wall. She tried to control her breathing so as not to give herself away, but she couldn’t help gasping slightly as he whirled around suddenly and walked briskly up the grand staircase to the second floor.
What in Godric Gryffindor’s noble name was all that about? Hermione thought to herself desperately. She stood slowly, making sure that the cloak covered her entirely. Then she hurried up the stairs as quietly as possible, listening to Malfoy’s footsteps, which were muffled in the deep, cushy, green carpet. She followed him through the twisting hallways until they reached the master bedroom. She paused before crossing the threshold, wincing as though an alarm would sound as soon as she entered.
She glanced around. Right in the dragon’s den, she thought wryly.
And there, across the room from her, was Malfoy. He was rummaging through a giant chest, still clutching the mysterious Dark item in his hands. Hermione stepped closer to him, slowly. Peering around him she was able to see what he was holding.
It was nothing out of the ordinary. It wasn’t a grand treasure. It had no special engravings.
No, the thing held lightly in Malfoy’s hand was a simple, white gold ring.
A wedding ring.
Author's Note: MUHAHAHA! Yes, a perfectly sinister cliff-hanger ending! I know, I know. So go on and hate me! (I'll only laugh.) But no, in all seriousness I must say thank you (times a billion!) to all my fabulous readers & reviewers. And I am slightly sorry for this ending, but I will compensate by swearing to update quickly.
Yours, Raspberry Jelly
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