(1939-01-09) Judging by the Cover
Details for Judging by the Cover
Summary: Gaillard is alternately annoyed and delighted to meet one of old Sluggy's nieces.
Date: 9th January, 1939
Location: Books Unbound, Verdic Alley, London

At an hour where the thoughts of many might be wafting towards sustenance, Gaillard Beauclaire, Esq, gentleman critic, seems to hanker only after food for the mind. He is comfortably seated deep within one of his favourite establishments, one which almost sums up his identity as well as his career and taste, combining as it does so indiscriminately the best literature of both worlds. Gally is just at this moment engrossed in a battered old second edition of the Quest for Corvo - firmly Muggle, you'd think, if it wasn't for the raven cawing away on the dust-jacket.

Bathed in the perfume of leathery binding and the lively scent of coffee, hands and pages aflutter like young chickadees, Pelafina Slughorn has draped herself onto one of the armchairs. The little dystopian novel called 'The House-Elf's Tale' causes an amused chuckle but is yawned upon a minute later. A little tip with her wand and the book as a whole flutters back to its shelf. Taking the last sip of her mug she raises, straigthens the fabric of her cream coloured dress and lets her eyes wander through the room. It is the unfamiliar face of one of the wizards on which they come to a rest.

Purposefully she walks over to take a look at his lecture over his shoulder, only to raise her brows in disbelief when she spots the cover. "There are certainly more juicy ways to waste one's youth."

At first the studious, youngish fellow appears to have ignored the remark, evidently finding it far less gripping than the misadventures of Frederick Rolfe. But in fact, it seems to percolate into his mind drip by drip, as his eyebrows elevate by gradual tenths of inches, until he looks directly us with a good deal of asperity.

"Juicy?…waste!?…youth…my dear young lady, with such an approach as that to the heady Hippocrene delights of scholarship, one wonders what has drawn you into these premises at all," he enquires sharply. "Besides, Rolfe, and Symons too, are pivotal figures, who have not received their full due in the…wider…London literary scene, or amid the narrow sphere of opinion-makers at the Prophet. I would make bold to say that there was not a man, no, nor a woman, neither, in the country suitably positioned to demonstrate their full importance, with the exception, of course, of myself."

His voice is pleasant and musical, which makes up only in part for the self-importance of its content and the disdain carved into his patrician features and his slightly goggling eyes.

Patiently Pelafina listens, before she attempt to pluck the tome out of his hands. "The pleasure of judging a book by its cover and the joy of seeing all those literates frown, when one deliberately indulges in this first impression. What I know, without any doubts, is that the delights delivered under the wing of a raven remain always somewhat gloomy," she comments daringly.

Enough of studying the book, though. With a scholarly interest she devotes herself fully to study the features of the studious man himself. "I have seen you before, I'm quite sure, either we've met at the time before I left the isle and the sweet nostalgia is somewhat blurred by time or we've met later somewhere else in Europe and the nostalgia might be somewhat blurred by sweet substances. I'm not half as good with names as my uncle, so you might help me a bit by solving this riddle."

"There is something to be said for considering covers," the bibliophile concedes, perhaps slightly surprisingly. "William Gerhardi's will be the death of him, or at least his name, for instance…" He obviously restrains himself from going off on that tangent with some difficulty, frowning partly with the effort, partly with annoyance at the continuing distraction, and a little with (faint) curiosity. "And who in Merlin's name might your uncle be, madam?"

"Answering questions with counterquestions and remaining a secret himself, isn't that a debonair ink daubler?" Pelafina chuckles. "But let me answer yours, at least. My uncle, if you don't know him, you've certainly heard about him, is Professor Horace Slughorn and he has mastered the art of remembering every single wizard that ever crossed his path."

The transformation is so immediate as to be almost undignified. The Quest for Corvo sails across the shop, landing on its resident Manx cat, hitherto asleep in his favoured easy chair, who now awakes with a plaintive yowl. The erstwhile reader has sprung to his feet. "Old Sluggy's niece? But why didn't you say so at once? Miss Slughorn, is it? I…I think I distinctly recall…yes, indeed. Galyard Beckley, Miss Slughorn, but Gally to any friend or kinswoman of Horace, of course. A pleasure to meet again after so dismally long a period. Might you remind me of your Christian name…?"

The way her interlocutor jumps into posture becomes source of quiet satisfaction and vivid amusement. "Beckley?" The single-worded question flutes her forehead. " Gally Beckley? I can faintly recall him mentioning this name at times. Must have been a while indeed, but he only tends to mention those who carry around some surprising talents. Which might yours be? " she says, more to addressed to herself than to the wizard. "I shall send him my regards, I suppose? This niece of his standing before you is called Pelafina. "

"Beckley's the name, yes, Prince on my mother's side, as it happens," Gally responds quickly with the superficial nonchalance and profound bragging which he generally finds to be the easiest root into Pureblood good graces. "As for talent!" His light, dismissive laugh is almost as nauseating in its false modesty as his previous unshakeable self-confidence was abrasive. "Very little of that, I'm afraid. If I was ever much good at real enchantments, dear Miss Pelafina, they've quite faded with my Ravenclaw days. I write a bit, that's all, a scribble here and there, sometimes for the Prophet when they're going through one of their less lamentable periods. But Horace took a shine to me for some reason, yes. I've been meaning to visit him for a while; I owe him many fine evenings…and so much more."

His smile reveals eccentrically disordered teeth. "And yourself, my dear Miss Slughorn? What fraction of the family genius is your especial domain…?" If they ever did have a proper conversation in the past, it's quite clearly escaped him.

"A Prince - well, they tell the Princes always tend to be a bit eccentric, don't they?" Pelafina responds, twisting a little coin that seems to have appeared ot of the thin air in her left hand. "Enchantements can be rather useful, useful indeed. If 'Old Sluggy'" the name is used in the same way Gaillard has adressed him with the relish of the peak of mockery "…took some interest in you, why did you let this talent of yours fade? But don't you worry, I know quite a bit about the feeble art of nurturing talents. Where my own genius lies is one question. How I gain my Sickles is another. I tend to lie over some tea-leaves if that's what people prefer, I tend to make more accurate predictions if one is willing to deal with the results, but that's not more than a distraction. So you decided to become an author. I'll look out for an article of yours, when I find myself in the awkward position of having the newspaper to spend me company."

"Mama is the height of conformism," Gally replies a little more stiffly. "An Obliviator in her youth." One, he does not add, who fully justified the Prince record by eloping with an Irish Muggle. Eager to advance from the uncertain ground of family, he smiles attentively as Pelafina reveals the secrets of her own dubious trade.

"Your confidences are quite safe with me, Miss Pelafina. Some say seers are born, not made…but why should they not be born to the learned line of Slughorn, indeed? As for my writings…they tend," he adds with a mildly teasing tone, "to concentrate upon such literary matters as you earlier claimed to find so dry. But I shall soon publish an essay on whether Crowley truly possesses Divinatory powers; I fancy that may interest you."

A sudden burst into hearty laughter. "Crowley and Divination? By all means!" Pelafina exclaims. "That surely can't be a dry subject, word is the bloke is barely ever sober. Not that that would be an impediment, when it comes to some practices of Divination, but if you study the more effective ways… oh dear. But before I indulge in delivering my opinion in this matter all too non-chalantly I shall wait before I've read yours." Tapping her wand against her purse she retrieves a hat in the same colour as her dress.

"A Prince at the height of conformism? Then you mother must have been the most eccentric of them all." she adds with a last thoughtful look at the man, who introduced himself as Gally. "Beckley, Beckley… I surely don't know a lot about that family. Maybe I should ask my tea-leaves here, since unfortunately time won't allow me to impose more enquiries here. It's been a pleasure, Mister Gally Beckley." Randomly she picks one of the books out of the many shelfs and hands it over to the wizard with a little pat on his shoulder. "Here, return to your excitements. I won't interrupt anymore." With that she leaves.

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