(1938-09-10) Mainly about the French
Details for Mainly about the French
Summary: The Leaky Cauldron is so busy Ismene Malfoy can't get a table to herself. She sits with a half-French girl, and then another one; and after Garrick Ollivander passes out at the bar, Oran Hawthorne comes over to chat…
Date: September 10th, 1938
Location: Leaky Cauldron
Related: Ismene and Rhyeline return to a subject they have discussed once before.

This cramped, angular room is the taproom of the Leaky Cauldron. A long bar runs along one side of the room, plain wooden stools set out before it. Smoke from pipes and candles fills the air. The patrons of this curious little bar, many of them elderly, sit hunched over their mugs at the tables. Waitresses sometimes coined 'Wenches' bustle back and forth bearing trays of food and mugs of ale. Many of the people seem strangely out of place, dressed in cloaks and floppy hats, as if they stumbled out of another century. Notably absent is any modern muggle devices or electric lighting, or any sign of electricity at all. Still, the occasional muggle does find their way in here, usually declaring it to be 'quaint' and 'atmospheric'.

Half past nine in the Leaky Cauldron; a noisy throng of witches and wizards and the odd bewildered Muggle, and every blessed one of them wanting dinner, another drink, or both. A couple of seats are open at the bar, recent occupants who've warmed them for many hours having just staggered out; but the small older witch clad all in black who has just come in from Charing Cross in none too sparkling a humour, has a certain prejudice against bar seating, which she is conveying by word and gesture to a waitress who ought have known better.

"I cannot possibly sit at the bar," she utters with an air of finality, her soprano voice having reached a pitch as high as its breeding. "There must be a table somewhere — there must be."

"Well, Madam Malfoy," the waitress answers unhappily, "I'm very sorry, but such a lot of people came in just before you, and I'm terribly afraid we may not be able to find you a table just at once this very minute unless we…"

"Unless you what?" Madam Malfoy asks, tilting her head back to look up into the girl's face, as though she can't wait to hear this one.

They are standing quite close to one another, in the narrow space between the bar and the first row of tables. Those who pass them, to and from the bar, or in and out of the Cauldron, give the Malfoy witch plenty of air to herself either by experience or by instinct — but the discussion, verging upon confrontation, may have been overheard by someone sitting nearby…

At a nearby table for two near a window Serena sits alone. The blonde witch was sipping her tea in quiet observation when the Madam Malfoy walked in. Having overheard the conversation wit the waitress the young woman glances around and seeing nobody else is going to offer takes matters into her own hands. With grace she rises from her seat and turns to the lady with a shy yet sincere smile. "If you wish you are welcome to share my table Madam." With that she setles gracefully back into her seat and waits to see how the offer is received.

Even with the problem solved, the waitress remains at fault. "There, you see?" Madam Malfoy remarks to her in quelling tones as she sweeps past to join the pretty young pureblooded girl who has such a look of the Greengrasses about her, "Hardly such an insurmountable difficulty." And, to Serena, "Thank you, child. You're a Greengrass, aren't you? Those eyes — I couldn't mistake them."

Close to, her black robes appear more thoroughly worn, the black bombazine gown beneath farther from any fashion which has been current in Serena's lifetime — and the witch within them still steelier and more dignified, her back unbending as she sits in the chair offered her and draws it closer to the table. She brings with her a collection of slightly acrid herbal scents.

Serena inclines her head with a soft smile. "You are very welcome Madam Malfoy and you are correct. I am Serena Greengrass, a pleasure to meet you." She sips her tea glancing around the room breifly before coming back to Ismene. She looks thoughtful but doesn't speak just yet allowing the older woman to order what she wishes to eat or drink and start the conversation, if she wishes at talk at all.

It seems the waitress already knows what Madam Malfoy wants — at other hours, her order may vary, but in the late evening it's always the same — and after an interval brief enough to speak of haste in the kitchens, she is provided with a pot of black China tea, a small jug of honey, and a plate piled high with bread-and-butter. This is all approved with a sharp nod.

"Well, Serena Greengrass," the Malfoy witch says at last, pouring her first cup of tea and spooning honey plentifully into its depths, "if you woke up in a building set on fire, what is the one thing you would carry out with you?"

She stirs her tea smoothly with a spoon held in bony fingers; her eyes, black and stern, don't leave Serena's face.

Serena blinks in surprise at the question but carefully thinks it over. She responds a moment later in a quiet tone. "I would worry about getting myself out more than any particular thing. Most material possessions can be replaced…ones life is not so easily salvaged. Better to make sure you get out safely instead. The thought of all my books burning is a terribly depressing thought though." She meets the woman's eyes for just a moment before lowering her head respectfully and sipping her own tea once more. "Would you please tell me the the reason for that particular question Madam?" Her tone is soft respectful and meek as she tries to show the older woman the respect she deserves.

There is some commotion in Diagon Alley and little Rhyeline scurries into the Leaky Cauldron as quick as she can. But, with the crowd inside, the mouse may as well have jumped into a fire. Eyes wide, the girl looks around, biting her lower lip.

Lifting her saucer in her left hand and then her teacup in her right, Madam Malfoy leans forward to be sure the girl hears her, and drawls: "I wished to know."

And she sits back again, still very straight, bringing the teacup to her lips and raising her eyebrows at Serena as she regards her over the rim of it. It must be tremendously hot but she doesn't seem to mind the temperature.

"You care so much for life," she adds, "or only your own?" The opening and closing of the door gives Serena a reprieve from her gaze; she looks up, sees Rhyeline, and looks back to Serena without registering any reaction.

"I see." A faint nod is given to the lady as Serena glances up briefly noting that that intense stare is still fixed upon her. She seems to do fairly well under the pressure though smiling faintly and replying to the question in a calm tone filled with quiet conviction. "All life is important to me Madam Malfoy not just my own. If another person was caught in the fire I would likely try to help them as well…I find people to be more important and in some cases more interesting than material goods." She smiles faintly her head turning and spotting Rhyeline. She recognizes the young woman from her time at St Mungo's and turns to the Lady Malfoy with a questioning look. "Would you mind if another joined us madam?" She glances back to Rhyeline watching the young woman with a concerned gaze.

"Rhyeline Diderot?" Madam Malfoy inquires drily. "No, I don't object." She raises her hand in a small, economical wave to the mousey witch who has just come in.

Rhyeline seems as if she may be about to continue out onto the streets of London when she notices Ismene's dignified gesture of greeting. The little one pauses and then approaches. Noticing the woman Ismene is sitting with, however, the girl stops dead in her tracks, watching the meek healer as if she possessed dripping fangs of death.

At Rhyeline's hesitance — another wave from Ismene Malfoy, this one considerably more peremptory. No shilly-shallying, young lady. We expect you to join us.

Serena sees that expression and tilts her head looking confused. Then she remembers that the young lady is terrified of healers. She smiles nervously and gestures to the nearby empty seat with a gentle movement. "You may join us if you wish Miss Diderot. I am not here on Healer duties at the moment and promise not to do anymore than enquire politely about you health." She gives the young woman a reassuring look.

"Yes," Madam Malfoy echoes, whilst dissecting her bread-and-butter, "how *is* your health?" Her eyes find Rhyeline's and hold them for the duration of a breath; from her, it's partly a professional enquiry as well.

Rhyeline is not a suspicious creature, but there is no trust either in Serena's promise. However, at Ismene's stern, unspoken command, the girl approaches. Arms folded across her belly, she seems to hug herself as she takes a seat. Peeking over at Madam Malfoy, she murmurs, "I am well thanks." Glancing at Serena, she adds, "Quite well."

"Mmm," is the sum of Ismene Malfoy's appraisal of Rhyeline and her report. She has her mouth full of well-buttered bread when her gaze, which has returned to roving, fixes upon a figure on the other side of the Cauldron — and she makes another similar but higher-pitched sound and lifts her napkin to dab at her lips. "I must have a word with— girls, you'll pardon me for a minute or two."

She rises smoothly, drops the napkin on the table next to her plate, and turns away — then back, one hand descending to scoop up a slice of bread-and-butter to take away with her, and the other to grip Rhyeline's shoulder for a long moment. Her touch is as inflexible as might be expected.

"Don't you scurry away," she tells her; "I want a word with you."

And then she really does leave the young witches to their own devices.

Rhyeline peeks over and catches a glimpse of London as someone heads out into the night. The unexpected hand upon her shoulder draws a sharp squeak of surprise from the fragile creature. Wide-eyed, she gazes up at Ismene Malfoy and then gives a little nod of understanding. Once the healer and the reluctant patient are alone, Rhyeline peeks cautiously over at Serena.

Serena nods smiling slightly at Rhyeline. "That is good to hear. Hopefully you will continue to improve." When Madam Malfoy moves away the young blonde watches her go for a moment before turning back to Rhyeline with a kind smile. She doesn't speak just yet not wanting to frighten the timid woman off. After sipping her tea she studies the dark haired woman thoughtfully. "What have you been doing of late? Do you like to read? I finished the most interesting book on more advanced forms of transfiguration and their uses in different circumstances just yesterday." Serena tries to put the girl at ease with conversation that doesn't relate to healers.

Rhyeline all but narrows her eyes. She is well familiar with healer tactics to sooth a nervous patient. Serena's small talk doesn't fool her. In a quiet tone, she says, "I've been reading many foreign newspapers, keeping track of current events- researching for Cassius Malfoy."

With a nod Serena studies the other carefully. "Its it me you are so wary of or is it the fact that I am a healer? I will not harm you intentionally and only wish to help…is there a reason you are so nervous around healers? Forgive me but I am curious as to the origins of this…dislike. You may refuse to share and I will not be offended in the slightest." Serena looks out the window a moment looking thoughtful before glancing back to Rhyeline.

Rhyeline averts her gaze at Serena's direct inquiry. An overworked and overwhelmed waitress arrives and sets down a cup of tea in front of Rhyeline, despite the fact that the girl hadn't ordered one. Either there's a seer back in the kitchen, or someone's order has gotten misplaced. Hesitating a moment, the little one picks up the cup and warms her hands against its sides. Once Serena glances back over at her, Rhyeline answers in a low tone, "The hospital smells of death and echoes with bad memories."

"I see." Serena looks thoughtful and doesn't comment further for a long moment. "Perhaps I should speak with you healer about the possibility of him doing his check ups in your home? Provided that would help ease you nerves?" She truly seems to care for the woman's comfort if the look of gentle concern is anything to go by.

Rhyeline nods a bit. "Healer Keenan sent me to recover at home some time ago." The little mouse watches Serena with cautious consideration. Perhaps not knowing details of her treatment means this particular healer isn't quite such an immediate threat. Bad news won't be coming from her.

Serena smiles at Rhyeline reassuringly. "I am only a Journeyman Healer so I don't know all the details of your treatment." She sips her tea once more and falls silent looking out the window.

Rhyeline gives a small nod, watching Serena with caution, but not quite so much abject terror. After taking a small sip of tea herself, she peeks back over at Serena and murmurs, "So- you are an acquaintance of Madam Malfoy?"

"I offered to let her sit with me when she could not find a table to herself but we have not met before today." Serena admits her head turning back to Rhyeline with a soft smile. "Are you familiar with her then?"

Rhyeline gives a small nod. "She and my mother are old acquaintances. And since I work for her nephew, she has taken an interest in my situation as a potions master."
All this time Ismene Malfoy has had her pointy hat and the head beneath it together with two wizards, one of her own generation and the other even more elderly, at the farthest extremity of the bar at which she declines to sit; their conversation is low, confidential, deeply engrossing to its participants, whose wary postures offer no hint as to its theme… But by and by she tears herself away and weaves through the tables to where Rhyeline and Serena still sit.

She sips her tea and finds it much cooler now; her lips twist. A wand of unyielding walnut is produced from beneath her robes, and the appropriate words murmured to set a tendril of steam rising from the cup. "You two look to be making one another awkward company," she observes. "Were you not of an age to have been at school together? Or were you awkward there too?"

Serena is once again caught of guard by the lady Malfoy's rather direct question. She smiles a bit nervously. "I have always been a bit…reserved around new people madam and we do not know each other very well." She finishes off her tea and looks between the two of them a moment before she rises with grace from her chair. "Either way I should be going. It was a pleasure to meet you both. Have a good day both of you." With that she pays for her tea and makes her way out onto the streets of London.

Rhyeline takes a long, slow sip of tea, hiding behind her teacup as Serena heads off. Once the healer is safely out of sight, the little mouse peeks up at Ismene.

The elder witch meets her glance; and lifts an eyebrow. "Curious girl," she remarks, pouring more tea into her own cup, which she has almost emptied in the few moments since her reunion with it. And then, of course, it requires more honey. "I don't know her personally; but when she saw I hadn't anywhere else to sit she offered me a place at her table… Had she much to say for herself whilst I was absent?"

"She did her best to be kind. But- I don't care for most healers," murmurs Rhyeline, looking down into her cup of tea before taking another sip.

Madam Malfoy laughs quietly. She's amused; but unsympathetic. "Fortunately, child, it is a matter of indifference to me whether you care for me or not — I'm interested in your case and will prepare a potion for you nonetheless. I'm sure your healers feel similarly."

Rhyeline's cheeks grow warm at such laughter. Peeking over at her, the little mouse murmurs, "I follow the healers' instructions. And… Healer Keenan is in charge of my case. He is one healer I trust."

"How came he to earn such a distinction?" Madam Malfoy wonders aloud, with the same blunt curiosity which has already frightened away *one* young witch this evening. "Or shall I find out, when I call upon him? — Which I intend to do soon, though I wager he would be more forthcoming were I in a position to present him with a letter of introduction in your hand…" She inclines her head meaningfully toward Rhyeline; and bites into another slice of bread-and-butter as though it had done something to deserve it.

Rhyeline blinks at the mention of writing such a letter. With only slight hesitation, she nods. "Of course. Though- I'm not sure how much a letter would help. You see, his sister runs an Apothecary. But- I suspect my mother does not have much trust in them which- well, which is why she wrote to you."

"… Do you suspect, then, that this one healer in all the world whom you trust, is given to professional jealousy? That he would resent the attempts of another to remedy your condition?" The elder witch pours the last of her tea into her cup, holding the pot patiently tilted until the last drops have run out. "Perhaps your mother is right."

Rhyeline bites her lower lip and stammers, "I didn't mean- I- It's just- too many cooks. But- perhaps…" Her voice fades. In general, the noise level of the Leaky Cauldron has been going down as more and more from the earlier rush trickle out and head home.

The door from Diagon Alley opens up to the sounds of laughter. Stumbling in from the drizzle outside comes an older gentleman with a wild mop of silvery-gray hair, and a younger man who needs no introduction to anyone — Garrick Ollivander, the most renowned wandmaker in England. Those of the older generation may even recognize his companion, fellow wandmaker Oran Hawthorne. The men's arms are wrapped about each other's shoulders, each likely holding the other up as they waddle and trip their way inside. "And then…and then h-he drank the entire thing!" Hawthorne exclaims, and his cackles are immediately joined by the younger man as they make their way unsteadily toward the bar.

"Too many cooks — or all hands on deck?" Ismene Malfoy sniffs. In her small, bony hands, a spoon is hard at work scraping remnants of honey from the diminutive pot in which it was brought to her, and stirring it into her tea. "I must speak with your healer about the potions he has already given you; he is unlikely to tell me all I wish to know unless he has your permission. If you wish for my help, you will provide me with a letter encouraging him to speak with me. If you had rather rely upon him alone, it is your choice."

She drops the teaspoon on the table along with the ultimatum; and glances up, past Rhyeline, to the pair of wandmakers who appear already to have made a fine start upon their evening's festivities. Her regard is neither amused nor censorious, but — discreetly curious. She has quarter of an eye, or perhaps a half, still on them even when she looks back to Rhyeline.

The warmth in Rhyeline's cheeks deepens. With a little nod, she murmurs, "I will provide you with a letter and tell him about you soon, myself." Following Ismene's gaze, Rhyeline notices the older gentlemen with subtle curiosity. But then, peeking back up at Ismene, she murmurs, "It's getting late. I should be going."

The wandmakers-cum-merrymakers manage to order up a pair of cups for themselves, despite being nearly unable to annunciate their desires through their drunken laughter. But at last, the need to breathe overrides their raucous giggling, and they settle a bit. Mr. Hawthorn turns to lean back against the bar, observing the other patrons of the Cauldron. "Barman," he calls behind him. "A round for the house, on me, in celebration of…eh…" He looks over to Ollivander, blinking rapidly, "…wh-what were we celebrating again?"

That alone is enough to send Ollivander into another fit of laughter, "I…have no…idea!"

Hawthorne shrugs and puts the order through nevertheless. "In celebration of good cheer!" He lifts his tankard in the general direction of the room, then takes a heavy quaff.

With her cup almost to her lips, and its saucer held with perfect steadiness several inches below, Madame Malfoy pauses — and inclines her head in the gracious gesture of one who has just got what she wanted. "Of course. Don't let me keep you from your rest." She nods toward the gentlemen at the bar, so gifted and so giving, and adds, "I suspect we've run out of peace and quiet in here anyway."

Rhyeline's hold on her teacup tightens at the raucous, drunken laughter. The skittish little thing sets down the empty cup and rises with slow, gentle care. With a hand on the table to steady herself, Rhyeline nods to Ismene. "It was good to see you again, Madam Malfoy. I hope that the rest of the evening finds you well."

"Goodnight, child. I look forward to that letter."

The carnival of laughter and bawdy jokes winds to a rapid close when Hawthorne stops mid-sentence, only just noticing that his pub-crawling companion has lost consciousness, face-first on the bar. He sighs, tut-tutting. "Youth is wa-…*hic*…wasted on the young." Leaving Ollivander to enjoy his nap, Oran slides off of his barstool and starts to wander, offering jovial greetings and smiles to all those he passes.

Rhyeline dips into a little curtsy before she turns and heads for the door. But before reaching the London streets, she pauses and peeks up at Hawthorne who is almost, but not quite as gazeboed as his friend. "Em- good evening."

Scant tea remains in Madam Malfoy's cup; but Rhyeline left a little in *hers*, and she appropriates it to assist in the washing-down of the remainder of her bread-and-butter. Her stomach thus has a good solid lining in it by the time the serving wenches who are dispensing Hawthorne's largesse get round to her; and she appears, if not pleased, then markedly less displeased than usual, to have in her hand a free drink. Well, technically now two free drinks.

Hawthorne beams at Rhyeline, pink-cheeked and red-nosed. "Goo'revening, young lady. Be safe out there." He continues his rounds, meandering about the tavern with his fingers tucked into his waistcoat pockets, chatting up the locals. Finally he pauses by Ismene's table, offering her a wobbly grin. "You seem to have lost your company, Madam. I hope the evening finds you well?"

"It does, Mr Hawthorne," the witch answers, lifting her glass; "and my thanks to you and your friend, for this. I trust he'll recover in time." She nods to the Ollivander boy, peacefully asleep at the bar with one arm dangling, and her lips twist into something which might be counted a smile by a well-meaning observer who's three sheets to the wind. Her teeth are not the very whitest.

Hawthorne barks an amused chuckle. "Oh, Garrick will be fine. He's still young and robust enough to shake it off. But apparently not experienced enough to handle his liquor." A giggle escapes his lips, followed by a sobering sigh. "So…Ismene Malfoy, radiant as ever. Who was that lovely child you were having tea with?"

And there's an answering bark, quieter, but still hardly the most ladylike noise ever to come from the throat of a pureblooded witch, when this old roue reveals himself to be drunk enough to put 'Ismene Malfoy' and 'radiance' in the same sentence — even in jest.

Avoiding the unanswerable, she explains: "Her name is Rhyeline Diderot. I knew her mother slightly, many years ago, in Paris. Severine Moreau, she was then… Another lovely child. When did there come to be so many of them about?" she inquires drily.

Hawthorne apparently decides he's been welcomes to Ismene's table, because he helps himself to a chair across from her. "So many…French people? Well…I daresay I don't know. They do seem to skip across the channel quick-as-you-like, don't they?"

What an unexpectedly social evening this has become. Not at all what Ismene had in mind when she stepped into the Cauldron for a strengthening cup of tea after accomplishing a small and dubious errand nearby. Still, she has in a sense known him all her life, and the door's just there — if he becomes too tiresome in his cups she can step out and Apparate home… "I had the most abominable night of my life on that channel ferry to France," she recalls. "I imagine some come to visit; and then can't bear the prospect of returning by the same means and so are obliged to stay. The law's absurd."

"Well, that is a shame," Hawthorne frowns in sympathy. "I've had occasion to visit France now and then. I only took the ferry once, mind you. But it was tolerable. At least, I seem to recall that it was. My memory isn't what it used to be. Not like Ollivander there. Memory like an enchanted trap, just like his father."

Ismene eyes him darkly. "Then you were fortunate," she utters; and one might well wonder what unspeakable aquatic horrors so impressed themselves upon this Slytherin witch that even now she prefers not to be too specific. "And as for him," she nods to what's left of young Ollivander, and one corner of her mouth twitches, "if his memory's so fine, why couldn't he tell you what the two of you were celebrating?"

Hawthorne cannot help another snicker. "Well, to be fair, we have been out all night, and the Cauldron is our last stop. If you catch my meaning." He sighs, looking over at his unconscious companion. "I suppose I should deliver him back to his home, before some ruffian absconds with his purse." He gives Ismene an apologetic, if somewhat lopsided smile. "Madame, it was lovely to see you. Have a wonderful evening."

"I shan't say the same," the Malfoy witch answers, "for it's plain you already have."

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