Chapter 7 : Freeze
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“You people can do anything, right?” I queried, “I mean guns and bombs shouldn’t really be a big deal.
“I suggest you refer back to your textbooks for the concise details of the war.” She said, with a polite smile.
“I’m sorry, Rose. I don’t mean—“
“It’s quite all right, Mr. Walker. We are friends now, aren’t we? Feel free to ask what you like.”
I nodded. “You were in the war.”
“How did your side lose?”
She blinked, amazed by the question. “We were not gods, Mr. Walker.”
“You misunderstand.” She shook her head, “Take the greatest wizard, strip away his magic and what remains? They use it as a crutch, rely on it more than they know. Without, they are nothing more than men or women. Children. Those subjected to the muggle realms near the end died…such frailty was never meant to thrive.”
I knew I was prying into delicate workings beyond my realm of concern but I didn’t care. Secrets that hid behind Rose Weasley’s hardened mind would be lost with her soon-approaching death; I had to find out what I could.
“Do you believe your loss was inevitable from the very beginning?” I asked, very quietly.
She smiled at me through her crinkled skin, a silent yes, yet without need for elaboration, I could tell she hadn’t always. Time had worn her down, shading all that she knew and loved with harsh cynicism. The turn of the world had broken her resolve, and the only way she could survive was by changing her philosophy.
“Failure was in our design, Mr. Walker. Albus and I are testament of that.”
On his last night home, he attempted sleep but to no avail. Muffled sobbing resonated from the room across, amplified to extremes in the recesses of his mind. Eventually, forced to climb out of bed, he crept into the room across from his.
Lily. Buried beneath mounds of blankets and pillows, bare calf sticking out the end.
He watched her shaking body from the doorway. Wordlessly walking over, he slipped in beside her. The fourteen-year old quickly wiped her face, startled. Al. What are you---he shushed her. Wrapped his arms around her. Pulled her small body close. Murmuring soft words, he stroked her hair with a strange tenderness. This made her cry harder, because the last time her brother had shown such affection was when their father died.
Now he was saying good-bye.
“Did you do it?” She almost choked.
He pulled her closer, mouth grazing her forehead. “My dear, sweet Lily…” His warm breath tingled her skin. “Do you think your brother is a murderer?”
“James said…well he said—”
“Oh hush, Lily.” He kissed her eyelids, “James is always saying things. The question is do you believe him?”
“James doesn’t lie.” She said bleakly, watching his gaze harden over.
Abruptly, he began detangling himself from her. She grabbed his arm with fervent urgency as he climbed out of the bed. In their burning, crippling sham of a family, she would grab onto anything, anything at all from him.
He scowled. “Do you still love me?”
“You’re my brother. You’ll always be my brother.”
“That wasn’t my question.” He snapped, “Do you love me?”
Albus didn’’t wait too long for an answer that wasn’t going to come.
A quick palm grazed the side of her cheek -- the closest to an apology he could muster -- but before she could make sense of it, he was gone.
James would take care of her
With solid snow beneath his feet, her son stood, pink-faced and shivering, glaring wordlessly at her. He had no bags in his hand. She had confiscated his wand, most prized possession, and snapped it in half, so now he would take nothing at all.
Red mane wild around her face, Ginny regarded him with bloodshot eyes, anger drawn over her fading features. She was growing old. She may have been beautiful once, but her husband’s death had sent her into a downward spiral of depression and alcoholism. She was not as strong as she used to be. Still, it would be foolhardy to ignore what took place at Hogwarts; James had told her everything. So, in spite of all her shortcomings, the one thing Ginny Potter was not was an idiot.
Blood ties grow thin stretched over too long a distance.
He was no son of hers anymore.
“This is your fault.” He spoke abruptly, puncturing the silence between them.
“What happened between you and your father has nothing to do with me.”
“You should’ve protected me. That’s what mothers do, you know.”
She winced at the edge in his voice.
Albus continued, teeth-chattering, “So maybe he snapped after the war. Maybe he grew paranoid. Maybe he just needed to fill a void. Reasons don’t matter. The point is that you knew what he was doing to me, and you did nothing.”
Her eyes traveled upwards and she gave a weary sigh. “Remember that your father saved the world. He’d seen things we couldn’t understand.”
“He was a saint, wasn’t he?” He laughed spitefully.
She closed her eyes for a moment but speaking: “Merlin knows I tried, Albus. I’m sorry—“
“No, you’re not.” He interjected, coldly. Turning a heel he took down the street, the unspoken but you will be lingering in the frozen abyss between them.
He would not glance back at her. He would never
glance back. His actions were testament to her lifelong negligence. She’d focused on her first-born –Mini-Harry— and left Albus to fend for himself all these years.
She exercised perfect apathy, that woman.
And she would not get the satisfaction of seeing him hurt.
Christmas lights flickered from inside the house and the pale, tattered figure on the street paused long enough to glance the window. The image it beheld was akin to a holiday card; happy family adorned in holly and ornaments, children laughing, parents exchanging gifts. Perturbed by this superficial cheer, he drew up his collar and stalked away.
Albus did not like holidays, or the misplaced sense of belonging they stirred; it was deceitful and largely impractical. No, he had no need for such fleeting, abstract notions. His current life required the upmost vigilance. How long had it been since he had last eaten? He remembered everything, yet could not recall this vital fact dammit. Somehow the freezing weather had dulled his perception of time.
Shoppers and businessmen and mothers and children and people from all walks of life passed him on the streets, ignorant that they were in the presence of the brightest wizard of his age. Still, brilliance alone would not convince them to help any more than it would convince muggle shop-owners to hire a boy without credentials and any history of schooling. People were not imbeciles, and Albus needed much more than his raw wit to fool them.
He sat on the curb studying them, the muggles, scrutinizing and dissecting everything in sight. They had a strength he could not decipher—maybe it came from a lifetime of looking down on the non-magical world and then being forced into it. It was their autonomy, their resilience, their contentment that threw him.
While Albus could not imagine a world without magic, these people celebrated it.
But the faceless crowd would give him no sympathy.
Sunlight waned, casting long shadows over black and blue and dried patches covered of what had once been perfect alabaster skin—wandering streets Albus deftly resembled roadkill.
Still, his base looks managed to attract unsavory attention in the seedier part of town. The scantily-clad, shadow woman winked at him. “How about it, handsome?”
As Albus trudged past her through the snow, she trailed after him.
“Haven’t got money? I’ll do you for free.”
“Pedal your shit elsewhere.” He grumbled, flakes nipping at his cheeks.
Offended, the woman shot him a glower and stalked away. Albus realized he could’ve easily conned her out of a meal and a warm place to stay had he feigned a little charm. But fatigue etched his patience for such things and all he could focus on were the vicious pangs of hunger shooting down his middle. Burying his hands deep in pockets for any quantity of warmth, he continued aimlessly down his path.
In his desperation he would later scour trashcans looking for sustenance. Finding nothing, survival would drive him to seek that woman out and temporarily suspend his disgust at the prospect of a meal. Sighs and grunts and intertwined limbs and touches— the excess stimulus would overwhelm his honed senses, and the seventeen-year old would clench his jaw to tolerate it. This was an instance Albus would never speak of. His own exploitation. Utterly humiliated, he would embezzle money out of her purse when she fell asleep and slip through the window.
The streets of Stratford, hungry and littered with other homeless, were brutal at night, and a penniless wizard had no way of coping without his long-relied-upon magic. There were brutal beatings by those as hungry as him, as wretched as him, but with the added advantage of guns and knives.
Blood. He could taste it on his torn lips. Feel it trickle down the length of his neck as gruff hands later held him by the shoulder blades against brick-and-cement. The sour smell of alcohol wafted from his captor’s breath. He was broad built with a crude face, akin to a bulldog’s.
“Why don’t you empty out those pockets?” The words came out like fumes inches from his face.
“Piss off.” Albus snapped.
The mistake was followed swiftly by a corrective kick in the groin. The hands dropped and he fell onto pavement, curling from the pain. The accomplice gave a caustic cackle, beady eyes polished with glee. His greasy hair matted over his forehead like it had been painted on. “Pretty boy’s got a mouth on him, innit?”
“I reckon he needs a lesson in manners.” Bulldog fingered a shiny piece of silver tucked in the corner of his pocket.
Abruptly, they jumped him. He was pinned to the ground, held by a blade to the neck as they rummaged his pockets. Kicked his face. Thieves cutting down thieves. His money was taken, along with his shoes.
His teeth chattered as he propped himself against the wall, wrapping his tattered jacket around the new wounds—without healing potions, it was all he could do to prevent infection. Still, Albus would not cry. He was too weak even to make audible noise.
Albus conserved his mental energy to think, think of a way out.
“Now, son, remember that this pain is nothing but a mind trick.”
Out of all his acquaintances from school, there was no one he could trust to see him in such a state. And Scorpius—no—Albus would not think of him. They were no longer on speaking terms.
Night descended and as he slowly drifted off to sleep in the abandoned alley, his last thoughts lingered on Rose.
Prophet Headline: Hogwarts Shuts Down over Dispute with Centaurs
Rose tried not to dwell too long on it, for the affairs of Hogwarts no longer concerned her. She was a world away and, as she often told herself, glad for it.
The sun lingered over the horizon, almost afraid to set on the two figures out in the open field. As Hugo had been making formidable strides in his recovery, Rose had to give in to his demands about learning quidditch.
Nevertheless, losing control of his broom, he plunged headlong into the ground.
Moments later— “It was the wind.” He flinched as she tended to the bruise on his cheek.
“Right. And last time it was the sun. And before that it was a bug.”
“Can’t help it you’re a crap teacher.”
“Find another one then.”
“Would if I could. You’re abysmal.”
Done for the day, they limped off the fields together, her arm gripping his side (his legs still had trouble supporting his weight). She managed to peck his cheek before he swatted her away. Gross! He shoved her aside, and tried to balance on his flimsy limbs. She snuck a grin. “Wanna race, Hugo?”
“Oi, shut it…wait hold on! Get back here!”
Staggering forward, he lunged to grab her arm but ended up swooping to the ground. Laughing, he pulled her down by the ankle as she tried to edge away. But her attempts to punish him with merciless tickling were interrupted by the nearby crack of apparition.
The pointy-eared creature stood dressed in an abominable picnic rag.
“Meister will fräulein zu sehen.”
In the past year and half, Rose had gone from wertlos Kind—worthless child— to a slightly less degrading fräulein.
“I thought there were two.” Hugo hissed. “Where’s the one that wears the dishtowel?”
“Una schläft. ”
“Does that mean sleeping or unconscious?” Rose frowned at the elf. In the past year and half she’d learned a fair bit of German, “Because if the Head finds out you’ve thrown her down the stairs again he’ll—”
“Meister will fräulein zu sehen!”
“Fine, fine! I’m going.” She conceded, “But do me a favor and apparate Hugo back to St. Mungos.”
“Ja. ” The waifish elf scampered over and grabbed the irritable boy’s hand. Hugo fought his grip, all the while moaning: “Rose. C’mon, let me try on my own. How am I supposed to learn if you never—“
In a snap they were gone, and Rose headed to see her boss.
For months she’d been investigating corrupt high-profilers along the lines of Rimbaud and helping the Head acquire a mass following via bribery and blackmail. Still it was mutual –he looked after her so long as she ran his missions and acquired his trinkets.
Granted her duties weren’t safe or normal or even pleasant, but she’d fallen into rhythm with the lifestyle. The pay was decent. Hugo was recovering. Her magic was stronger than ever. She had power and authority over men and women twice her age (all of whom resented her for it). She thought less of her parents and more about the ever-uncertain future.
And the missions were intriguing. Rose had uncovered various threads leading to the underground renegade movement. Remnants of the Great War, anarchists, half-breeds, dark wizards, and other outcasts who, in the widespread chaos, had banded together to upturn Ministry rule. What they wanted after that was anyone’s guess.
Still, Rose wasn’t proud to be uprooting criminals or anyone. The girl with no allegiances cared little for patriotism or politics or laws made by those in power to suit themselves. The Ministry struggled to maintain control against different movements fueled by different agendas. Mobs, protestors, anarchists, magical creatures attacking wizards— death and violence were common outcomes, and in the end, people were only as good as the world allowed them to be.
Profuse amounts of smoke swept her face as she entered the Head’s office.
“Weasley!” He jabbed his cigar at her, “I called for you hours ago! Where the hell have you been?”
“With my brother, sir. You see it’s my day off—”
“If you intend to abuse the rare privilege I give you, I shall take it away.” He said angrily, “Is that what you want?”
“Then sit down. We have much to discuss about your next mission.” He threw her a file and relit his cigar. “Have you heard of a man named Draco Malfoy?”
“No sir.” She lied.
“Pureblood. Ex-death Eater. Part of the Minister’s inner social circle. High-powered attorney who works for many ministry officials here. Mr. Malfoy holds a remarkable amount of influence with his clients, which makes him a threat to my chances of holding office. In which case, I want you to invade the Malfoy Manor and find me something incriminating. Can you manage that?”
Her mouth was too dry to speak.
Rose found out Albus had been missing for a month.
Hope you’re doing well. Thought you should know Mum kicked Albus out. I’m sure you can guess why. Anyway, we’ve moved to France to avoid the fallout, so I want you to look after my brother. We both know he’ll find you sooner or later. Please keep him out of trouble.
All other priorities fell apart.
Outside school, there was very little to interest Scorpius. The life of a young-rich-attractive pureblood revolved around balls and banquets and canoodling with other young-rich-attractive purebloods, and Scorpius was yet again reminded of why he’d chosen to pursue friendship with Albus in school.
Albus was a thinker, a dreamer, an inventor. The pulsating brilliance in a field of ordinary. He offered a different world to Scorpius, outside the adolescent scope. A truly exciting one.
But also dangerous, given...recent events.
Still, Scorpius would be lying if he said he didn’t miss the asshole.
Most days Scorpius wanted to crawl into a hole and not come out—be it from boredom or a still-poignant guilt. His parents hadn’t questioned him about Hogwarts shutting down, and were incredibly understanding of his lilting moods and isolated walks, which made him feel all the more guilty. The mudanity of the evening made Rose Weasley’s intrusion even more startling.
He spotted her, waiting for him at the corner during his regular walks. Cheeks tinged pink from cold, she waved over at him, “Hair’s looking nice, Malfoy. Get new shampoo?”
He watched as she walked over. “How’d you find me?” He asked, brows raised in astonishment.
“I have access to the location of every magical entity with the Trace.”
“Meaning you know where I am every second of the day?”
There was a pause.
“Think you’re hot stuff, don’t you?” He sneered, shoving his hands in his pockets, “Well, just cause you’re a fancy shmancy auror now doesn’t mean I’m going to fawn.”
Rose caught up, walking alongside him. “Admit it, Malfoy. You’re a teensy bit impressed with my stalking skills.”
“Please. ” -- Snow crunched under their feet as they crossed the street -- “Who snuck through whose window in the middle of the night, Weasel?”
“That’s breaking and entering.” She dismissed, “Takes hardly any skill.”
“Setting up a port-key takes more skill than opening up a file.” He countered.
“Now you’re just showing off.”
His mouth curved. “And you’re flirting.”
“I don’t flirt, Malfoy.”
“You’re a god-awful flirt.” He gave a forlorn head shake, “But commenting on my hair means you’re definitely trying to chat me up. Question is, of course, why?”
Rose took in a long draught of cold air, rubbing her hands together.
“So I heard about Hogwarts—” She began.
“Not talking about it.” He murmured.
“We don’t have to,” She quickly tossed the subject, “Let’s talk about the weather. Definitely too cold…wanna get a coffee?”
“Now you’re definitely flirting.”
Moments later -- they sat in a muggle restaurant, out, as it seemed, for the proverbial cup of coffee. Any onlooker would see it as a date, but Scorpius wasn’t interested in pretending and neither was Rose. She cut to the chase.
Scorpius jolted, spilling hot liquid down his shirt. Rose quickly scoured for napkins.
“What…” He winced at her touch. “…the hell? What do you mean he’s gone?”
She told him about the letter. “I was hoping you’d know where he went.”
“Haven’t a clue,” He muttered faintly, and looked up at her. “Can’t you access his files and track him down?”
“He’s seventeen now. He hasn’t got the Trace anymore.”
“Shit, shit shit…This is all my fault.” Scorpius ran a feverish hand through his hair. “I’m supposed to be his best friend. I know he would’ve contact me if he wasn’t mad. If I hadn’t—“
“He’s Albus you know? He treats everyone like shit. Still, that’s not—“
“I left him alone. I never should’ve done that. God I’m such an idiot—“
“Malfoy shut up. ”
Anxious grey met stern brown and held contact until Scorpius finally averted his gaze.
“Our last conversation didn’t go too well,” He admitted.
“You called him a heartless bastard too, huh,” She said stonily.
There was a painful pause.
“So how do we find him?”
“So he’ll have to turn up on his own then.”
“I’m sure he’s fine.” She affirmed. Scorpius gave her a strained smile.
“Bet he’s laughing at us right now, the insufferable git he is,” He chuckled, “He’s sitting on his throne. His henchmen are running around doing his errands. Women are feeding him grapes.”
Rose snorted. “He has a horrid personality. Merlin knows what girls see in him.”
“To hell with girls I say.”
“I mean he’s not even that good-looking,” Rose persisted. “Yeah he’s smart but besides that what’s he got, anyways? Besides that silky hair—“
”--and those green eyes—“
“—granted his smile is nice—“
“—yeah, whenever he does smile---“
“—and those cheekbones—“
“Damn those cheekbones.” Scorpius slammed his cup on the table, “I’ve always hated those cheekbones.”
They laughed, diffusing some of the surrounding tension. In truth neither of them wanted to consider the worst case scenario of something happening to Albus. And he sure as hell didn’t deserve it, the manipulative bastard. How they hated that they couldn’t hate him.
“Never thought we’d share an understatement about something, Weasel.” Scorpius said quietly.
Rose averted her gaze. “I actually didn’t come here to talk about Albus.”
He leaned forward. “Go on.”
Starting awkwardly, she wasn’t sure how she intended to go about it. Listen Malfoy, There’s something I need to tell you. I’m not like other aurors. See I run…special operations. He listened carefully as she explained the nature of her occupation. The theft, blackmail, gigantic political conspiracy -- his eyes widened in all the right places. She half-expected him to stand up and leave, but his gaze was steady, not faltering a moment from hers. Why was he taking it so well?
“I get it. I do,” He said quietly.
“No you don’t.” She scowled at him, “You’re silently judging me, and if you’re not, then you’re as twisted as I am.”
“I’m not looking for approval, Malfoy.” She glowered.
“Then shut up already. ” He snapped, “Don’t believe me if you don’t want to, all right? But I get it. I really do… you’re doing what you have to. Someone told me there are two kinds of people in the world. Those that survive and those that don’t.”
Rose frowned. “That’s the single most depressing thing I’ve heard.”
“Sorry, I’ll go for something more romantic next time.”
She ignored the playful grin slipping over his features. He tugged at her arm to show he was kidding. “Lighten up. ”
Rose didn’t smile. “Next Friday I’ll be investigating your dad. I need you make sure I can’t find anything that might be incriminating.”
“My dad’s clean. He’s been for a while.”
“You’re not listening to me.” She hissed irritably. “I didn’t ask you if your father’s involved in anything. I’m asking you to make sure I can’t find anything.”
It took Scorpius a few moments to make sense of it.
“You’re helping me.” He watched as she stood, “Why?”
“I know what it’s like to lose parents.” She muttered, drawing on her coat, “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
She nodded. On the way to the door, Scorpius called after her.
“So I can tell my mum you’re staying for dinner, right?”
Turned out that Scorpius had not been kidding. In retrospect Rose should’ve seen it coming, given the casual way he approached the revelation about her job or that he had willingly been friends with Albus in the past. Or the ridiculous affections he harbored for her. Signs of a twisted mind. Nonetheless, infiltrating the large manor had not been a difficulty, nor flitting room to room (keeping dark detector settings on low. Rose didn’t want to find anything). But a hand grabbed her from behind as she trailed through the antechamber and somehow, by the end of it, Rose found herself in the most unrealistic predicament of her life.
Having dinner with the Malfoys.
Silence held over the table. She kept glancing toward the exit, with apprehension that at any moment her superior would come barging and drag her to Azkaban with an I knew you would screw up. What did I tell you about trusting boys?
There was the fear she’d lose her job, almost certainty this was all a big trick (or dream), confusion at whether the hand grazing her arm was mocking or reassuring, and self-control summoned not to jump the boy attached to it and beat him senseless in front of his parents.
Astoria smiled at her from across the table. “You haven’t touched your food, dear. Don’t you like duck?”
“Not hungry.” She murmured, ignoring Scorpius’ intent gaze. He kicked her under the table. She returned his kick with more force.
“We’ve heard a lot about you Rose dear. Haven’t we, Draco?”
Painfully summoned by his wife, the platinum-haired man looked up and locked eyes with Rose. His expression looked as awkward as how Rose felt. “Indeed we have.”
“Our son talks a great deal about you.” Astoria gushed.
“No I don’t.” Scorpius grumbled, “She means from the papers.”
“Oh hush, Scorpy. You’ve been on about her since Fourth year—“
“Mum, shut up—”
“Did you find anything in our house, Rose?” Draco interrupted his wife and son.
Silence fell over the table again.
“I didn’t intend to, sir,” she replied.
“And what will you say in your report? Will they believe you?”
“Dad,” Scorpius warned.
“Quiet.” Draco shot his son a glare, “I won’t go to Azkaban just because you fancy the girl.”
“None of this goes on report,” Rose assured him, “What I do remains off-record. If I say nothing was found, then nothing was found.”
“Good,” He nodded, cleaning his silverware. On his wrist Rose could see the waning shadow of the dark mark. “I hoped my past would leave my family alone. I didn’t want any part in the last war… I don’t want any in the next.”
Rose could hear the remorse in his voice and instantly felt sympathetic. She had heard stories of his role in the war from her parents, but -- at least the way her mother described it -- it appeared that Draco Malfoy had simply been with the wrong side of things. Victim of circumstance. Wary perpetrator. Brave coward. Misinterpreted by all. He was as she was.
“I’m sorry, sir.” She said quietly.
He looked over at her, surprised by the sincerity of this remark. No doubt he was questioning her fiery Weasley roots. But if there was anything Rose had learned in service to her tyrannical boss, it was self-control. Oftentimes subsiding your tongue in the face of disdain took more courage than mouthing off.
The Malfoys had tolerated her -- a person of taboo reputation -- at their dinner table and she could not overlook that. Rose counted her blessings carefully.
“I’m sorry for disturbing your evening, Mr. Malfoy,” She stood up, swatting away Scorpius’ arm. “I don’t mean to get anyone in trouble. I can leave if you want.”
Silent urgent exchange passed between the Malfoys.
“Don’t be silly, darling.” Astoria said kindly.
“Stay.” Scorpius persisted.
“Sit down, sit down.” Draco Malfoy waved an irritable hand. “I can’t kick out someone who’s helped us. Even if you are a Weasley.”
“I’m a Granger too, sir.” She admitted sheepishly. He groaned. The whole table chuckled. Scorpius tugged at her arm with a soft smile, but Rose wasn’t ready to forgive him yet. Nonetheless, she sat down and the rest of dinner passed in a more pleasant – if surreal – manner.
Trust was a privilege she hadn’t indulged in a while and so Rose took a chance.
Draco and Astoria asked her about her brother, living arrangements, and the riskier topic of her occupation. They marveled at her passing the auror exams. They sympathized; they were parents after all. It had been a while that Rose had been around normal adults, those not seeking to take advantage of her. It made her hopelessly reminiscent of her parents, saddening her greatly. Having learned to revel in solitude, company unsettled her.
Neither Malfoy brought up her resurrection magic—Scorpius has schooled them well.
Conversation drifted and Draco began to talking about his past.
“ -- and my parents were just awful,” he nodded toward his wife, pouring himself wine, “Like I always tell Astoria, we can’t help who our parents are. You needn’t worry about it, Rose.”
“Dad,” Scorpius warned, but Rose had already heard.
“What do you mean?”
“You never wondered how yours died?” The man rose his brows, “Here I thought you knew. Not as sharp as your mum are you?”
A combination of subdued anger and confusion that laced her tone.
“Your parents never died in the fire; the ministry fabricated that lie. Truth is that their bodies were never found at all.” Draco Malfoy gave her a strange look. “I’m surprised you don’t know this, Rose.”
So was she.
A/N: I edited this chapter, having been dissatisfied with the quality of the previous version. Interesting exchange with Rose and Draco. And Albus…. Review people! Reviews will make future chapters come faster!
Occasionally I feel that Rose needs a break. Break time over.
*promises that next chapter is much darker and shocking*
People were only as good as the world allowed them to be.—this line is paraphrased from The Dark Knight.
Meister will fräulein zu sehen—Master wants to see miss (fräulein is a slightly offensive variant for it).