Chapter Five: The Entire Terrace
Morgan Malkin was justifiably proud of his dining establishment. Located in Diagon Alley, but referred to as being "in" London by many of his more pretentious clients--as if the perverse affectation of a close knowledge of that Muggle city made one more impressive in some way--the Gryphon's Foote was happily situated near Gringott's. Malkin was able to cater to the merchants of the area in the morning at his al fresco café, the patrons of the bank--one assumed the goblins carried in from home--and the civil servants of the Ministry at lunch in the downstairs dining room, the society witches and their beaux in the upstairs dining room at tea time, and the crème of the wizarding world in the entirety of the restaurant at dinner.
The proprietor's pride and joy, however, was his Terrace. It could only be enjoyed by those "friends of the Foote" who were guaranteed to give journalists something thrilling to report in the next editions of The Daily Prophet, the increasingly popular Quibbler, and everyone's favorite magazine, Witch's Weekly. Because of the expense incurred in reserving the Terrace, only the very wealthy made use of it. Conveniently for Mr. Malkin, such people tended to be photogenic, famous, or better yet, infamous. Had not Gilderoy Lockhart been a regular guest--usually of another party--but a frequent guest, nonetheless? Had not Cranston MacNair, the notorious father of Walden, been dragged off the Terrace during high tea? And was not Ree Potter--who rarely made a public appearance--coming to dine upon it that very evening with Severus Snape?
"Oh, the joy!" the florid, portly gentleman exclaimed as he again anticipated his new favorite guests' arrival. "Merlin loves me!"
Of course, Mr. Snape had engaged the entire Terrace for his personal use that evening, which made the proprietor's position as far as alerting the press a tricky one, but he felt he had rallied tolerably well. There were no less than seven reporters sitting in close proximity to the entrance--he had had to be firm with Mr. Snape in dissuading that wizard from his desire to enter by the private staff door; this he had easily done by reminding Snape that "a lady must make her entrance"--so everyone would see the two heros arrive together. Oh, he had forbidden the journalists to bring cameras, but in such a sly manner that they had each understood that they would never again be permitted to enter the Gryphon's Foote if there was not film on the morrow.
"Mrs. Malkin will be so proud of her Malkininny-man, yes she will!" the wizard told himself. "Oh, this night is bound to be over entirely too soon!"
When Trillare Snape had heard from that dreadful Malkin woman that her own son had ordered a new suit of clothing that very morning--"a terrible rush job, it was, too"--she had become desperately curious to know why. So much had she felt that she needed to know the cause that she had floo'd home immediately, selected one of her late husband's favorite bewitched tie tacks, and made directly for one of the more discreet "lending concerns" in Knockturn Alley. The expense of the elaborate wardrobe she had commissioned from Malkin was exactly what was needed to loosen the gossip-loving witch's tongue. Of course, Severus had not deigned to inform the seamstress of his plans, but the witch had set herself to discovering what she could upon receipt of his order. It was her way, as everyone knew.
Trillare could not believe it. "My son has taken leave of his senses!" she exclaimed to Nanette Delacour, her companion for the evening. "The girl is half Muggle, and she did not even begin life as a witch! I'm so glad you'll be there with me tonight, Nette, dear. I feel that I'll have need of the support of a friend."
Nanette, a distant relation of Trillare's--very distant, thought the witch--privately felt that the match would suit very well. "Come now, chérie, you cannot think to interfere in a matter of the heart."
"Now Nette, don't try and change my mind. I am resolved. I am his mother. I know what is best for him."
Nanette resigned herself to letting the woman have her way. After all, I'll have the best seat in the house for the floorshow. And everyone knows how impossible it is to get a last-minute table at the Gryphon's Foote--even on a Tuesday.
Narcissa Malfoy did not, as did her lover, own a quiet interest in several prime pieces of real estate in Diagon Alley, among other places. She did, however, hold the controlling interest in Zoroastrid Zabini. It had not taken much coaxing to persuade the other witch to book a table for the two of them at the most exclusive restaurant in town.
I will not sit idly by and allow that traitor to ruin my plans.
"You truly despise Severus, don't you?" asked Zoroastrid as she finished attending to her coiffure.
Narcissa's smile put the witch quite in mind of Lucius.
"But of course I do, darling. Snape was primarily responsible for forcing Luci out of Lord Voldemort's inner circle. I am quite certain that, if not for his efforts, my husband would have been near our lord to advise him more ably. Matters would now be much improved had this been so."
"Your lord, you mean." Mrs. Zabini had never cared much for the Dark Lord. His blood was muddied, his mind muddled, and his thoughts murderous where Giancarlo had been concerned. She was certain that her dear Blaise would never have become an Auror had his father survived that madman's service and been present to instruct his son as to a proper profession. But no matter. Arguing with Cissa was never productive. "I'm ready to be seen now, my love."
Colin felt a tremendous wave of guilt pass through him as he was shown to his table at the Gryphon's Foote. He was carrying the smallest camera he had ever seen, courtesy of the editor of Witch's Weekly, Mr. Edmund Doggett.
"Creevey, my boy, this is going to mean a lovely fat raise for you if you manage the thing. You get those pictures, boy, and I might just let you keep that pricey gewgaw!"
Looking at the menu, Colin found he did not much care as he remembered the words of his employer. He was about to invade the privacy of someone he admired more than anyone--and the stupid camera did not even have a flash.
Sheldon and Rupert were taken aback to find Rita sitting with Bill Weasley and a striking blonde of unmistakable Veela descent. Poor Rupert had to be nudged by his father surreptitiously more than once before he could choke out a civilized greeting, and even Sheldon found himself a bit . . . struck. This response died almost immediately when the wizard perceived the manic glee in the eyes of his ex-wife.
Trust you to try and work the evening, he thought with something close to bitterness, though mitigated by his professional admiration. Your technique does remain impressive.
Sheldon was relieved on Rupert's behalf when he found that they were not expected to dine with the couple, and detected a bit of that emotion in the expressions of both young people as they made--well, as she made, and the young man followed--a stately exit.
"So, Mum, were they the assignment, or are you here for something else?" Rupert asked.
Sheldon snickered through Rita's glare.
"Why of course you're who I want to see, Rupie," the witch crooned, pulling her long-suffering son into her arms.
"Now, sit down and let me tell you all the latest news in London!"
Disaster fell at exactly seven-fifteen for Morgan Malkin. He was informed of the sorrowful business when his fluster sommelier, Jacque, rushed from the wine cellar to inform him that their "special guests" had arrived by the basement entrance and been shown to the Terrace without delay by Tantina Toadhopple-Thompson, the newest waitress on staff. By previous arrangement, wards had been set to ensure that the only being able to enter the Terrace after Snape and Potter's arrival was to be Milkie, the restaurant's house elf.
"Keep your head, man," Malkin repeated to himself as he began to pace the kitchen.
This is when Tantina returned.
It was all the wizard could do not to throttle the silly cow. He did not look at her for fear of losing control when he declared, "You're fired!"
But Toadhopple-Thompson was her mother's daughter for a reason. Siddling up to Mr. Malkin, she whispered, "You're keeping company with Jacque."
"About that raise, dear . . . ."
It was Tantina who reminded the proprietor that their guests would have to leave, eventually.
"Clever girl," Malkin chortled, rubbing his newest sous chef under her chin indulgently.
Not wanting to press her luck, the witch failed to flinch. It wouldn't do to mess with the timetable of my becoming master chef, she thought with a glance at Henri.
The current master of the kitchen did not notice the exchange that would bring him a new assistant. He was too busy screaming drunken orders in French to his current, terrified, English-speaking assistant who had only today been crying in the alley behind the restaurant, begging for a dark god, any dark god, to kill him.
Don't worry, my darling. I'll treat you much better than you could possibly imagine after your brief vacation as a line chef.
Terpsichore Toadhopple-Thompson congratulated herself. She had been conversing with the man for almost ten minutes without once staring at where his missing right arm should be.
"I trust that my request will not be a difficult one to fulfill?" enquired the dapper young gentleman as Terpsichore led him to his room at the Leaky Cauldron.
The young witch was surprised to find such a posh bloke in her current place of employment, but not to discover his preference to dine at a more refined establishment. She herself was only working at the dreary place until she had earned the last of the money she needed to open her own cheese shop. She thought she might call it The Finger's Wheel, envisioning the use of large lazy susan's she would use to display her wares.
And I'll tell people that finger's are for turning, not pulling! she thought, trying not to giggle. "No, Sir, I shouldn't think so."
"Very good, Miss?"
"Toadhopple-Thompson, Sir. If you need anything, simply ask for me at the bar. I'll leave your reservation confirmation there, as well."
"And you're certain that there will be a table to be had at the Gryphon's Foote at this late hour?"
"I can't promise you their best, Sir," Terpsichore replied as she unlocked Mr. Lézard's door, "but I can promise you that you'll be eating there shortly."
"Malcolm" allowed himself to smile at the witch's cheerful competence. He was relieved to find himself being assisted by someone other than a stern medi-witch, or one of his family's chilly retainers. I'm not about to allow Mother to know where I'm staying--and she'd never believe I'd choose to stay in this sort of place--but I do want dear Narcissa to know that I am out and about.
"Here you are, Sir."
"This will do," he said, handing the young woman a large gratuity and dismissing her with a nod.
Terpsichore tucked the proffered coins into her apron with the speedy grace of one for whom gold is a rarity, nodded back, and stepped out of the room.
Time to collect that favor from Tantina, she thought, rubbing the two cows--or the vast stainless mixing vat--that the coins represented between her fingers.
Pragmatism was a noted attribute of the members of the Toadhopple-Thompson brood.
Blaise was sitting at the tap of the Three Broomsticks perusing Draco's most recent owl to him when the squabbling couple floo'd in.
"'Ow could you, you inconsiderate beast?" demanded a the cultured voice of a French woman in heavily accented English from the hearth.
The Auror did not turn to witness the altercation.
"I am sorry, Fleur, but I was just trying to help a friend. You like Ree, surely you understand."
That's Bill Weasley, Blaise thought, his interest kindled.
"Two Merlin's Beards, if you please, Madame Rosmerta," the wizard called.
"Why certainly, Bill."
Blaise moved from his stool to a vacant chair near the front window that afforded him a discreet view of the fighting couple and allow him to eavesdrop without appearing to do so.
"It is all very well to do ze nice thing for your friend, but we could be eating zere now, rather than--oh, thank you Madame," Fleur interrupted herself to accept her drink. "Rather than," she faltered again, realizing that the proprietress had not removed herself after delivering their order.
"Rather than enjoying the surprise we've been preparing for you?" Rosmerta asked with a wink for the startled Bill.
Instantly, Fleur's expression softened into one of beatific wonder. "Oh, Bill, what 'ave you arranged?" she cried, clapping her hands in excitement.
The wizard looked expectantly at the publican.
"Now, now, you wouldn't want to spoil your young man's efforts," Rosmerta chided. "Why don't I send some stew to you while I see to the final touches?"
She left the two lovers gazing at one another fondly, and glided serenely away.
Blaise was tempted to follow Rosmerta, but thought the better of it as Fleur began to speak again.
"I 'ope zat Ree and her gentleman 'ave a fine time."
Bill chuckled and reached for his girlfriend's hands, rubbing them between his own. "Of course they will. The professor did reserve then Terrace, after all."
Snape did what? Blaise thought. He was aware of the rumors swirling around the two professors—indeed, he had a galleon in the pot George Weasley held that said the two would never act on their evident attraction--but had not paid them much mind of late. It had been years since Snape and Ree had seemed . . . close. And isn't she seeing Charlie? . . . This won't do, the Auror told himself as he pulled on his cloak and walked into the street through the pub's front door.
He knew that he would have to apparate directly to the restaurant and discover what was going on because, should Draco find out that Snape was romancing Ree, the fact would consume his . . . friend's every thought.
Which will leave him none to spare for me.
From the window of the best room the Three Broomsticks had to offer, Rosmerta spied her lover disappearing from the street. She had felt Blaise's attention turn from his parchment to her newest guests as soon as Ree Potter's name had been mentioned.
This had . . . irritated her.
One of the many advantages of vampirism was that one's charms remained forever beguiling. True, over the centuries, the witch had altered her appearance so as not to alert the populace to her true condition, and she, as any immortal creature must, had changed her identity, but all of her forms had been desirable.
Why then does it seem my lot to be abandoned? Cannot one man, wizard, or other male being appreciate what I have to offer?
The publican ignored the better fairy that whispered to her about her poor taste in company, and the delight she frequently took in vexing her partners--bad, not-so-bad, or worse.
Of course one plays with them, Rosmerta thought of her various companions. That's what they're there for!
Bewitching the hand-painted bloom's of the chamber's wallpaper to vivify and perfume the air, she considered her latest involvement. Although she was aware of his obsession with Malfoy's spawn, it had never occurred to her that her lover might throw her over for the boy.
For I am intact, and I will bed him.
And though she had originally allowed the boy to seduce her so that she might monitor his activities, she found she had come to enjoy his lush attentions more than many she had experienced in the past. Despite her avowal to Moody that the wizard was an excellent candidate for death, she knew that she would not permit anyone other than herself to offer it to Blaise.
He is, she thought with a final inspection of the lovers' bower she had prepared, mine.
Setting a password on the door to Room Seven, Rosmerta came to a conclusion.
It's past time that Blaise learned to see the sense of his position.
Having once been an accomplished teacher, she reasoned that she was able enough to impart such a lesson.
And class shall begin this very night.
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