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Shadow of a Doubt by slytheringinny
Chapter 3 : Chapter III - Devious Scheming
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 8

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Devious Scheming

"Vault 302," Merope muttered to the goblin quietly, a hood pulled tightly over her head. The goblin raised an eyebrow. "I'm the owner of the vault, now could you please get a move on, I've got to be somewhere..." she snapped. The goblin growled up at her, snatched the rusty key and pointed haughtily to a car that would take them down to her vault.

Merope had a brilliant idea while at home, and she was already close to fufilling it. Half of it anyway...After recieving the exciting letter from the Ministry, Merope had immediately took the vault key with the letter and the potions book and set off to Diagon Alley. She had no idea how to get there at first...

"Miss...miss!" she called out roughly. She knew there were scores of witches and wizards about...she just had to ask the right things. A lady carrying a bouncing baby stopped at her call and the baby's eyes welled up at the sight of Merope's scary figure. Of course it would scare people off. She was wearing shabby robes and a cloak with the hood pulled tightly over her head, her lank hair just barely visible beneath it.

"W-What do you want?" the lady replied. "I have a sitter to get to and I can't dwaddle..."

"No dwaddling Miss...I was merely you believe in magic?"

The lady looked surprised and appalled by the question. "Magic! You're one of those con-artists, aren't you, you beggar girl?! You'd be better off by asking someone with a duller wit than me!" And with that and a hrumph, the lady was off, the baby sucking it's thumb.

Merope sighed. So far, not so good. So not too eager to give up so easily, she trodded down the London street at a quick pace to find another person to ask. She had passed many shops with glass ornaments in the display windows, luxorious fabrics and clothes on display at high prices, and markets as well. But then, Merope's odd-eyes had spotted a shamble of a shop with a rickety sign swinging above it.

No one else seemed to have noticed the shabby shop other than her..."Has to be magic..." Merope muttered, using what little common sense she had managed to save from her homelife's insanity, and she trudged across the busy street into the pub. Once inside, Merope was overwhelmed...

Shabby. Old. Smelly. Loud. Smokey. Brilliant. Six words that ran through Merope Gaunt's mind as she pulled her cloak hood self consciously tighter over her head. People were grouped around scrubbed round tables scattered across the small pub's floor, laughing and drinking. One dared to even have his wand out in public! "This must be a magical gathering...a place where Father and Morfin would never fit in because of their rude gestures. These people are all merry, happy. I envy them...I envy them for being happy, being proud of being different, being magical.

Smiling, Merope tried her best to fit in, yet be unnoticable. She made her way slowly up to a barstool eyeing the long racks behind the bar of alcoholic drinks that could wash away her past. But her subconscious had snapped at her in return for thinking as such. 'Stay on the task at hand, Merope! You've got a lovely muggle heart to win! You can't do that drunken off of Firewhiskey!' But Merope brutally ignored it. Just one drink couldn't hurt. Could it?

"'Cuse me little lady...aren't you a bit too young to be drinkin'?" the barman slid over to her spot, elbow on the counter eyeing her.

Merope was abashed. What was the age you had to be to be legal again? Oh! Like she could have forgotten! Seventeen! "Excuse me," Merope said, trying her best to sound innocent and carefree. "I just turned seventeen." Lie one. 'I turn seventeen in two months. Wonder what the fool will think.' "I would like to have my acclaimed drink," her voice sounded innocent from beneath the hood, and her eyes narrowed, however in opposite ways.

The barman grinned. "Course little lady. One firewhiskey!" He pulled a dusty bottle off of a shelf behind him. "Not too strong for a first timer!" he winked.

Merope was disgusted. He was flirting with her! She had never had anyone flirt with her, nevertheless anyone speak to her other than immediate family, so it was unknown territory, yet the barman seemed simply appalling. She'd rather have a Hippogriff standing in dung flirt with her than this mangy old coot. "I can deal with the strongness sir, for I won't be staying long. I'm wondering...this is a magical building, is it not?"

It was then that the flirty old bartender had pointed her in the direction of the back room, where he expertly tapped random bricks and opened the doorway to Diagon Alley, where she promptly made toward Gringotts to retrieve her money. Now, thinking as she stood on the stoop of the grand white building, she eyed the shops before her with hunger in her eyes. The thought of freedom and having that jingling gold in her pouch beneath her cloak, tied to a small hole in the side of her dress, was sweet and merry and Merope never felt better. Her excitement rose as she spotted the Apothecary with strange looking items sitting out front on sale.

"There you are," she muttered and pushing her way past a witch who was lingering at a shop window for far too long, Merope made her way into the Apothecary and approached the clerk quite more brazenly then she would have liked. "Do you have the Horn of a Graphorn or Essense of Mue?" she asked, none timidly nor shy.

The clerk, surprised at being approached so quickly, nodded and pointed toward the back row of shelves. "Both those will cost you a pretty galleon little lady!" he exclaimed. What would a child such as her, want two very powerful potions ingrediants for?

What is it with people calling me a Little Lady!? Merope thought angrily. But she brushed it off and nodded. "Price isn't a worry with me today, I would just like my supplies so I can be off." Her words were rather rudely spoken and the clerk raised a black eyebrow in curiousity.

"As you wish..."

Merope soon found that she liked bossing other people around instead of them bossing her for a change. But, each time she ordered someone around, whether to fetch her something from a high shelf, or to get the last bronze scale and weights set out of stock for her, she was reminded vividly of her father and brother, both arrogant bullies. I must not turn into them...even though what I am doing takes even more than it should. It's illegal, but it can get me what I've desired so much.

With her satchel full of supplies and a cauldron downscaled to fit into her pocket, Merope walked her way home, into the little familiar village of Little Hangleton. The muggles stared at the odd 'Gaunt girl', carrying her satchel filled with who knows what, walking down in her shabby cloak and threadbare shoes, seemingly happy with a bounce in her step.

Merope came home to once more an empty house. Pleased with herself, she smiled, pulled down the hood of her cloak off of her greasy and lank hair and dumped the contents of her satchel onto the scrubbed wooden table. Essense of Mue, Horn of a Graphorn, Scarab Beetles, and other ingredients fell out onto the table, the Beetles smelling repulsive. Taking out her beloved wand and tapping the cauldron to get it to normal size, she began.

"One last pinch of the ground Pixie wings, and four stirs counter clock-wise and I'm finished. After that, it's a soft simmer and serve," Merope whispered happily. Her plan was coming into focus, into clear view. She was going to make him love her. The hardest part....was keeping up with feeding him the potion, and how to give it to him.

Suddenly, as if there behind her shoulder, her brother's voice floated into her head, repeating words he had said just the other day. "Go ahead, offer him a drink outside, and see how he'll respond to a filthy little child offering him something to drink. Pity is what he'll feel for you, little sister. Pity and embarrassment..." Merope grinned. "Quite the contrary brother, but thanks for the idea."

Offer him a drink...

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