Chapter 2 : Send in the Clowns
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Send in the Clowns
It had always been up to Rose to be the responsible one. There were no all night, and only one late night, parties at her flat, nor did she attend them anywhere else. She had never been escorted home by both the muggle and wizard police. She didn’t live with their parents anymore. She knew how to work a washing machine, a vacuum cleaner and how to feed herself. She had a job, a career, while her brother sat around by the pool somewhere with Scorpius, went out drinking cocktails with Scorpius, slapped Scorpius on the back when he needed it, wiped his ar…
Rose took a deep calming breath, trying to steady her nerves, and her temper. She was more than annoyed at her mother for taking Hugo’s stupid, crazy, absurd idea into her head and deciding that she, Rose, would be the best choice for the Prophet’s stupid candid daily column direct from Malfoy Manor.
Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. She had to admit it; Hugo was right. People were interested. Last week, the Prophet had gotten several Owls asking for more information, even though the ad said to contact Draco Malfoy directly. People couldn’t read, obviously, Rose decided. That, or they were just idiots.
Good idea or not, Rose didn’t understand why it had to be her. Why not one of the other journalists? Well, if it had to be her…she smiled slyly, thinking of all the nasty, horrid things she would be able to write about Scorpius Malfoy, before recalling the first rule of journalism: always remain objective.
“Never stopped Rita Skeeter,” she muttered under her breath.
Rose made a mental list of history’s dictators: Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Lord Voldemort, Hermione Granger…she supposed she was being unfair, including her mother in that list. She did only want the best for the paper, and for Rose, and Rose knew that, irritating or not, this would be a big story, and a chance for her to make a name for herself. The one thing she appreciated about working for her mother was that Hermione never showed her any favours. Rose had to slog it out with the worst of them, ordering coffees, filing, stacking paper, and copping abuse from the cranky old witch who did the photo editing.
Rose checked she had her camera, and sighed again. She’d have to take pictures. She could see it now: Scorpius lounging around poolside while a dozen girls, her cousins included, paraded about in their bikinis. It was all too much; this was definitely going to kill her. Hugo had finally gotten what he wanted – his sister, totally disempowered and in a situation she could not talk her way out of.
Now, a week after her birthday, Rose was standing outside the wrought iron gates of Malfoy Manor. The competition wasn’t due to start for another day, but she was here early to “get some history,” as her mother put it. Rose snorted. She already knew about the Malfoy’s; everyone knew about the Malfoy’s. She didn’t understand why she had to spend even more time with them. But, she knew also that her first article would need quotes, and for that, she had to go directly to the source.
Rose had never met Scorpius’ parents; she had seen them from a distance, on Platform 9 ¾ and at functions, like their end of school feast and graduation, as well as on the street in Diagon Alley, but she had never spoken to them. The idea of doing so was quietly terrifying. Astoria Malfoy looked like a nice woman – tall and slim, with delicate features and fine blonde hair, she had an ethereal quality about her that reminded Rose of the fairies in her muggle story books. Astoria had a nice smile, but then again, Rose had only seen her smile at her son.
She thought then about Draco Malfoy. She knew the stories, from his downfall to his almost redemption all those years ago, and she knew that he had worked tirelessly to make a name for himself in the community – a name other than that his father had carried. The name Malfoy had a different meaning these days, and Rose knew she shouldn’t be concerned, but there was something about him that put Rose on edge. He commanded attention, and she wondered how he would react to her, a Weasley, asking questions about his family’s private life. She hoped he’d be cooperative. She didn’t need much from him, just a nice line to include in her story.
“Well, he did agree to this stupid competition,” Rose said furiously, angry at herself for worrying. “How bad can he be?”
She tried not to think about Scorpius. She supposed the saying, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, applied to thoughts as well. She wasn’t sure what it was about him exactly that annoyed her so much; perhaps it was his lack of responsibility, his careless spending of his father’s fortune, which would not last forever, and the fact that, whenever he saw her, he felt it necessary to wink at her, like they were sharing some deep and torrid secret.
Rose looked up at the towering black gates. Instead of being imposing, she found them oddly pleasant. A delicate filigree crept between the columns, and the centre of the gate swept upwards, reaching for the branches of the oaks that dangled above. The great trees sat either side of the gate, behind the yew hedge, seeming to hold both tightly in their ancient embrace.
Beyond the gates and the stately oaks, Rose could see row upon row of greenery; different shades mingled together, punctuated occasionally by a burst of colour. She could smell flowers on the air – roses in particular. Clearing her throat, she asked the gates if she was allowed to enter, just as her mother had instructed.
A very bored voice answered. “Business?” it drawled.
“Rose Weasley, here to interview the Malfoy family for The Daily Prophet,” Rose said clearly. She almost heard the gate sigh, before it swung free, making her step back quickly for fear of being knocked over. “Thank you,” she told the iron, stepping hastily inside in case it had no patience. Magical things, she had discovered, often didn’t.
The walk to the Manor was long, but Rose did not mind. She levitated her trunk, shouldered her smaller carry bag and took out her camera, slinging the instrument around her neck, just in case. Soon, though, she forgot about the camera, so enamoured was she with her surroundings. The white gravel of the driveway sparkled and crunched gently under her feet. The garden itself was incredible; yarrow, honeysuckle, lavender, purple coneflower, marigolds – their combined scent was almost overwhelming. Ivy climbed gleefully up the trunks of trees, over wooden arches, creeping along beside her as she walked. Willow trees spread their limbs across the path, trailing leaves, and a hazelnut was almost smothered by climbing roses. There were many other trees – ash, alder and the sharp looking holly – and everywhere were daisies, violets and pansies. The grass was lush and vividly green and Rose smiled, wondering if the Malfoy’s would consent to an interview outdoors. She never wanted to leave this magical garden.
The Manor itself was stunning, a grand statement of architecture. Rose had seen photographs of it, but had to admit, it was more impressive in person. A fountain of white marble sat off the drive to the left, surrounded by flowers. She had heard the Malfoy’s kept peacocks, and had hoped to encounter one on her walk. She made up her mind to see the birds before she left. Ivy and climbing roses consumed one side of the grand house; windows peeked through the greenery, decorated with delicate lace curtains. Rose stood looking up at the house, attempting to count windows, and wondered absently which window would become hers while she was here. She hoped for a view of the gardens; her stay may just be tolerable if she could wake up to such a wonderful sight every morning.
The front door was made of dark timber, contrasting brilliantly with the cream of the walls. A small porch spread before the door, and Rose hesitated before stepping onto it, suddenly nervous and feeling like she should not be here. This house was so different from the one she had grown up in; although a nice home, it was small and comfortable, always having just enough room for everyone. Rose’s flat, on the other hand, was like a box in comparison. She thought she understood part of the reason Scorpius had never left home, and why Hugo liked to hang out here all the time. There was such an old-world atmosphere to the place and Rose found she liked it.
The door was flung open almost instantly at her knock and Rose found herself looking down at a rather immaculately dressed house-elf.
“Hello,” she said kindly. “I’m Rose.”
“Mister Malfoy expected you earlier,” the creature squeaked. “You took your time in coming.”
“I was simply admiring the gardens,” Rose said, rather startled at being scolded by a house-elf. She had never met one before, but had assumed they were, well, nice.
“Well, if it isn’t the paparazzi.” Appearing from nowhere, Scorpius leant casually against the doorway and winked at her; Rose rolled her eyes. His hair was longer than the last time she had seen him and he was dressed in what looked like jeans and a simple black t-shirt.
“I didn’t know you had a house-elf,” she said, eyebrows raised. It was supposed to be illegal to keep elves these days. Scorpius smiled, seeming to know what she was thinking.
“Before you get all righteous on me, Clara is a free elf who wants to be here, isn’t that right, Clara?” he said, addressing the elf, who was standing at his feet like some sort of loyal hound. She nodded, fixing Rose with an unnerving stare.
“Clara is very happy to serve the Malfoy’s,” she stated firmly. “Come on now. Master is waiting.”
“I think we should let Rose put her things away first,” Scorpius said, and, with another of those infuriating winks, “I’ll show her to her room.”
Clara simply muttered something about master not being pleased and toddled away, saying it was time for master’s tea. Before Rose could say or do anything, Scorpius had reached out and taken her trunk, smiling briefly before turning and walking away down the hall, the trunk floating after him.
“Come on, then. I’ll give you a tour later, after the interview.”
Rose sighed and followed him across a white marbled floor that clicked under her feet, up a grand, sweeping staircase, two flights up, and left into long and wide hallway, with sumptuous carpet that made her want to take her shoes off and run her toes over it. The walls of this hall were deep green, creating an air of darkness and gloom. Portraits hung on the walls; their occupants watched her critically but said nothing.
Scorpius opened a door tucked away at the end of the hall, pushing it wide so Rose could peer inside. “This is your room,” he stated, flicking his wand. The trunk floated in and the curtains sprang wide at the same time, letting light flood in. Rose could not help but smile; it was beautiful. There was a large and comfortable looking bed to one side, a writing desk of dark mahogany and a cream coloured lounge chair. A vase of roses sat diligently on a side table; their scent permeated the air. A closed door on the other side of the room to the bed indicated the bathroom, which Rose assumed would be as elegant as the room.
“Does it meet your approval?” Scorpius asked, eyebrows raised.
“It’ll do,” Rose shrugged, not wanting him to know just how pleased she was by the room, by the house and the garden, by this whole other aspect to his life that she hadn’t really considered before. Scorpius left her alone, saying he’d send Clara up in ten minutes. Rose told him not to bother.
“I can find my own way downstairs, thanks.”
“Fine. Dad’s study is to the right of the entrance hall, down another hall. Make sure you knock first.”
“Wait,” Rose said, “aren’t you going to be there?” The idea of being alone with Draco Malfoy made her nervous again.
Rose sighed. “Okay, what about your mother?”
“Didn’t anyone tell you? Mother has gone away, until this “whole ridiculous mess”, as she calls it, is finished,” Scorpius answered with a grin. Rose reached for a pen and paper.
“So she doesn’t approve?”
“You’re not quoting me on that,” Scorpius said quickly, looking nervous. “I mean, you should ask father what she thinks.”
Rose put the pen away; as annoying as he was, she wanted him on side. It would make her job a lot easier if the man of the hour was not vexed at her. “You can send Clara up; I don’t mind. But when can I interview you?”
He grinned again. “Eager.”
Rose scowled. “To do my job, yes, and I’m eager for this bloody competition to be over so I can go home.”
“You really need to get a sense of humour,” he sighed, before turning his back and walking away. Rose watched him go, forcing herself to take deep, calming breaths. She did not want to interview Draco Malfoy with her temper so close to the surface. She felt the beginning of a headache and closed the door, dumping her carry bag and letting herself fall face-first on the big bed. It was as soft as it appeared, threatening to swallow her and for a moment, Rose was tempted to let it.
She summoned her carry bag and retrieved her note pad and pen, quickly swapping it for a quill and parchment. When she had gone to see her mother in her office the day before, she had asked how long the articles had to be.
Her mother had furrowed her brow, and turned around in her chair to consider the wall behind her. Tacked there was a page-by-page layout of the paper, showing just how much space there was on each page. Hermione generally stuck to a standard format that followed not only what news was important enough for the first two pages, but how long each article had to be. “I’m thinking of putting these articles on page three, so I would need at least two hundred words, give or take.”
“Two hundred words a day?” Rose had asked wearily. “What if I don’t have two hundred words a day. I’m sure this whole event will be dead boring.”
“Find them,” Hermione had replied, turning back around to fix her daughter with a critical eye. “You are perfectly capable of this assignment, Rose. Don’t let your…animosity for Scorpius Malfoy interfere with your work. Watch everything, talk to the family, talk to the contestants, talk to Scorpius-”
“Oh Rose, it won’t be so bad.” Hermione had softened at the last moment, which Rose had appreciated then and still appreciated, even as she was lying encased in the softest doona she had ever encountered. Her trunk was where Scorpius had so kindly left it – in the middle of the room, waiting to trip her over. That trunk had sat packed and ready for a week, renting the space by the front door of her flat, a constant reminder of what she was about to undertake. Roxanne, almost beside herself with excitement, had stumbled over it just last night, blustering through the door with her eyes glowing. Her cousin had gushed so much it had made Rose feel like she needed a shower. She did not want to know how good a kisser Scorpius was. What surprised her was that her cousin’s excitement seemed genuine – as far as she knew, Roxanne wasn’t interested any more. Perhaps the lure of a thousand galleons was even too much for her usually level-headed cousin to ignore.
Rose had not had the opportunity to speak with Lucy. That particular cousin was ignoring all forms of communication, and she had not spoken one word to Hugo since her birthday.
Sighing, Rose hauled herself upright, found some cleaner, more appropriately professional, clothing, and sat back and waited for Clara. The little elf came up soon enough, knocking loudly on the door and asking (demanding!) miss to follow her downstairs to see her master.
“Master indeed,” Rose muttered, following at a distance behind the elf. Clara led her back down the hall, the flights of stairs, and back across the marbled floor of the entrance hall. From there, they turned right, following a magnificent length of plush cream carpet down another, smaller hall, before Clara paused at a set of double-doors. The handles were large and foreboding, almost gothic-style, and Rose did not want to touch them. All the furniture she had seen so far was gilded and ornate, obviously expensive. It was another reminder to Rose just how different this world was; she could almost, at a distant stretch, see the temptation in becoming a part of that world.
Draco Malfoy was standing behind his desk, facing the floor-to-ceiling window. The drapes were open; sunlight streamed in, casting shadows and illuminating what dust was present. The walls of the study were lined one side with books, the other, with locked cabinets. Parchment was piled elbow deep on the desk; Rose realised she didn’t actually know what Draco Malfoy did for a living.
Nervously, she cleared her throat, and he turned to look at her. Her first thought was, this is what Scorpius will look like when he is older. Like his son, Draco was tall and very blonde, although his hair was thinner, his forehead higher and more lined. He had a tense look about him, an aura of anxiousness, which made Rose chew her lip. He gestured a chair, and slowly, she sat.
Neither of them spoke for a long moment, until he smiled and sat back.
“You’re very unlike your mother.”
“I am?” Rose asked curiously; everybody always said they were so similar.
He chuckled. “Yes. She would have started talking the moment she stepped through the door, and would still be talking.”
Rose tried not to laugh; as insulting as it was, she found the description aptly fitting. She cleared her throat again. “Thank you for letting me stay for the duration of the competition.” He waved her thanks away so she continued. “Do you mind if I ask you some questions?”
“That is why you are here, isn’t it? Or have you changed your mind and wish to compete?” Draco Malfoy asked smoothly; Rose blushed, cursing her fair skin when he smiled slightly. “What would you like to know?”
Half an hour later, Rose had two sheets of parchment scribbled on, a headache, and a hungry wish to go home. The reasons for staging this competition were, according to Draco Malfoy, because he was sick of his son sleeping around and wasting all his (Draco’s) hard earned money. Also, he was sick of lay-about’s (Rose knew he meant Hugo) sponging off his hospitality and that if Scorpius finally settled down with the ‘right girl’ (he gave no indication what that actually meant and no amount of prodding had helped him elaborate) then perhaps his son would begin to grow up and take responsibility for himself as an adult.
Rose sighed. She could hardly quote him on any of that. As much as she agreed with him about Scorpius, it would not make good reading to have the father bad-mouthing the son in the very first article.
Dinner was a long and drawn out affair. Rose did not eat much, not having the stomach for a three course meal, although she tried everything and picked at her plate. It was nowhere near as good as her grandmother’s cooking, but she smiled and said it was fantastic. Between the main course and the dessert, the questions began about her personal life.
“I doubt that your parents, Rose, would have to resort to such measures to entice you to settle down with a respectable man,” Draco said, leaning across his empty plate to scoop up his wine glass.
“Umm, no, I don’t think so,” Rose answered softly.
“What is it like working for your mother? When I went to see her, she was all fire and business, which I respect. I never thought she’d end up running a business, but then again, she was always determined,” Draco commented.
“I bet you get heaps of perks,” Scorpius put in. Clara bustled around between them, collecting plates and clearly ignoring Rose when she smiled and said thanks.
“Actually, no,” Rose told Scorpius in a firm voice. “I am an employee like anyone else. I have to do my job, as much as I may hate it at times,” she added, unable to keep the venom out of her voice; she noticed Draco raise his eyebrows thoughtfully.
Scorpius shrugged. “Still, must come with some benefits. After dinner, you can interview me.”
“And if I don’t want to?” Rose ground out. She hated the way he sat there and clearly judged her; his eyes moved over her face and hair, which she had worked extra hard to control today, being unfortunately blessed with her mother’s hair. She had her father’s colour, which she actually liked, unlike Lucy, who moaned constantly about being unable to go anywhere and not be recognised as a Weasley.
“I’m sure Rose is tired,” Draco said.
“But the girls will be arriving tomorrow. We won’t have any time then,” Scorpius whined. Rose sighed, saying she’d interview him after dinner and then get started on her article; Draco offered the use of one of their owls, noticing Rose had not brought her own. She did not bother to tell him that tucked in the bottom of her trunk was a laptop (and a spare battery or two) and she would simply be emailing the articles to Hermione.
“Great. By the pool. I hope you brought your bathers.” Scorpius grinned that grin again and Rose wanted to punch him.
“Actually, no, I must have forgotten them,” Rose lied. She had indeed packed them, hoping for the chance to swim in this pool Hugo waxed lyrical about so readily. She was not, however, going to be modelling any form of skimpy clothing for Scorpius Malfoy. Rose finished her dessert, swallowed her wine and begrudgingly followed the bane of her present existence through the house and out to the pool.
Chapter title from the song, Send in the Clowns, credited to Stephen Sondheim.
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