(1939-02-19) The Baroness and the Barmaid
Details for The Baroness and the Barmaid
Summary: The Muggle peeress Lady Lovell pays a visit to Hogsmeade (escorted by her self-constituted aide-de-camp, Gally Beauclaire) to discuss with Tessa Marlowe, bar wench at the Three Broomsticks, a matter touching both their families. And wouldn't you know it, even here she doesn't go unrecognised.
Date: February 19th, 1939
Location: The Three Broomsticks

The Three Broomsticks

Despite the obvious patina of age, The Three Broomsticks has a warm, inviting ambiance. This character the pub has attained is, no doubt, thanks to the years it has been steeped in the environment of this particular village. Just one evidence of the village's influence on the pub can be seen in the dark paneling inside the building. The wood was once the outer walls of the home that housed Hogsmeade's founding family. Put to good use once again after the founding family bequeathed it to the pub, the paneling has served the pub just as well as it once served Hogsmeade's founders. The Three Broomsticks has flourished under its current proprietor and is always open and ready for a customer or visitor.

The dark wood surface of the floor glows with a polished sheen from much cleaning, and exposed ceiling rafters, which appear to be original, cross the ceiling in tidy squares. Wood tables of varying sizes litter the room, and matching chairs are scattered among them. Several secluded booths fill up the space along one wall. A flavorfully aged mahogany bar takes up most of the space near the back wall with a series of mirrors and shelves of varying heights hanging behind it. Those shelves behind the bar are lined with memorabilia depicting the life and people of the village as well as items which are special mementos to the pub's owner.

It's late, and dark, and cold, as one might expect for a night in February in Hogsmeade, since it is someplace in England that Tessa's player doesn't know but she does know it's cold in England in the winter, right? Right. Anyway. There don't seem to be many people willing to brave the weather for a drink at the Broomsticks tonight, but this doesn't seem to phase the barmaid. She's looking supremely competent (and quite attractive, let's admit) as she goes about her business, wiping down the bar, stacking glasses, and now and again bringing a new round of drinks for the only patrons in the establishment, a pair of dowdy witches who certainly aren't thanking her for her troubles. How rude.

It's actually in Scotland, babes. BIG difference.

Oops! Leave this in the log. Carry on.

"Sorry, darling Lady Hen, I know it always makes you a bit groggy," a bright, melodious, but just about masculine voice insinuates itself, surprisingly loudly, from the direction of the Sticks' door, "but I do find it infinitely preferable to the alternative, and I'm sure you would to. Doesn't do to be seen at your son's school, even if it's rather a minor public school in its way, Hogwarts, with ash all over your clothes and powder getting up your nose."

All the same, the man smartly dressed in the last of his youth who leads his feminine, or female, companion - about as feminine, in fact, as he's masculine - into the saloon bar, is liberally decorated with ash on his shoulders and breast pocket, and the frenetic edge to his movement, if worn down by a mundane day, might class him as not wholly innocent of powder, either. He's certainly wearing plenty of the less expensive and inspiring variety to emphasise his already pallid face - a bizarre escort for so formidably practical looking a woman.

Gaillard Beauclaire's companion on this sortie into the frozen tundra of SCOTLAND — the 'Lady Hen' of that not so very apologetic utterance — is an inch taller than he and, as though that weren't enough, fractionally broader in the shoulders. Her wide-brimmed hat (its crown rounded rather than pointy) goes some way toward shading her face, which bears a carefully neutral expression and no powder whatsoever; as her gaze wanders into the darker recesses of the taproom, gathering and collating facts via a process almost visible, the warmth of the air inspires her to unbelt her sensible navy blue overcoat. Beneath, ancient and indestructible grey tweeds, and riding boots selected for comfort and practicality rather than because they are in any way the fashion.

"I don't object," she says quietly to Gally, though it can't be said she was pleased to be hauled from one end of the British Isles to the other by Gally's hand upon her arm alone. She considers appending a second remark, but it wouldn't be intelligent, would it, to reveal oneself as a Muggle in a place like this, where the wrong sort of purebloods might overhear. This is not her world; but in four years of tentative guided visits she has grasped many of its realities. "Shall we sit at the bar?" she inquires of him. "I don't know what she looks like, but we can ask if there is a Miss Marlowe present this evening."

Her consultation is as perfunctory as his apology; she is accustomed to doing what she thinks is right, even when she's so far outside her own milieu, and she is already making her way to the bar with an unhurried tread.

The conversation (seemingly beginning out of nowhere) doesn't phase Tessa; after all, she is a witch. And if she thinks the newly arrived pair a rather strange one, well, she doesn't let on about that, either. They get all kinds in there; well perhaps not -quite- as many kinds as they did before the new owner took over and…improved things. It does seem to be picking up again, though. At least, there's certainly more feminine foot traffic since Fabia's made it her business to be seen out and about in Hogsmeade. Does anyone wonder why?

The pair make their way to the bar just exactly as Tessa slips behind it again, carrying the ungrateful witches' empty glasses (if they wanted Butterbeer, they could have gone to the Hog's Head!) "Evening," she says with an easy smile, open and inviting yet always projecting that air of authority which her apparent age belies, "I hope you're not about to catch your deaths! What can I get you?"

Half in the manner of one determined to dispel any possible aspersions, half simply with the connoisseurship of a veteran, Gaillard Beauclaire Esq. examines, not the pub, which he knows and contemns of old, nor the drinks, which will hardly equal his hip-flask, but the charming bar-witch offering them with such professionalism. Only after a few uncharacteristically unverbal moments and more usual precise inspections does it sink in that she's, not quite, brand new either. "Tessa, isn't it?" the gallant Propheteer enquires in his most syrupy tone. "You're looking especially fascinating this evening, if you don't mind me saying so. I scarcely recognised you. Get us, oh, …lots of Laphroaig. Or firewhisky, as they insist on calling it round here in that dreary, provincial, melodramatic way."

Though eager enough to fawn upon the pureblooded when he gets the chance, in the company of a real Earl's daughter Gally evidently has the confidence to utter exactly what he thinks about the insulated world that is, and is not, his own.

A lady doesn't sit at a public bar — a Lady can sit anywhere she deems convenient. Thus Henrietta Lovell lays claim to a barstool with her usual discreet economy of movement, and folds her deerskin-gloved hands upon the edge of the bar. "A glass of port wine for me, please," she requests of Tessa, regarding her quite as intently as Gally — though with eyes (fine, large, dark eyes) inclined toward the lines of her face rather than those of her figure. "Miss… Tessa Marlowe?" she asks.

The man's comment elicits a chuckle. His hair may not be the same colour it was last time he appeared at the Broomsticks; but now he's nearer and she can get a better look at his face, of course she knows it. "Thank you, Mr. Beckly," she replies, "There were several other more interesting objects to notice the last time you were here, so I shan't hold it against you." Henrietta's request is answered with a nod, as well, and she begins to turns away…that is, until she hears the name. She hesitates, just a fraction of a second, almost too quickly to be noticed, but it's there. Then it's gone, and she's reaching for the whiskey and a glass, pouring it out without even looking, such is her skill with her hands. "Yes," she says as she serves the wine, "though Tessa will be fine."

Gally can't quite suppress a small frown and a small sigh as Lady Henry reveals that the object of their mission is identical with that of his casual attentions, curtailing a little private chatter that he obviously felt was going charmingly. "Well. It seems my dear friend Lady Lovell here has found the most interesting thing of all at once, if you're the one we're looking for, Tess dear," he declares in a slightly petulant tone. "Lady Lovell's son is my god-son, and a first-year at…the old place. Ravenclaw lad, just like I was, oddly enough," he adds, peculiarly combining nostalgia and distaste as he remembers days long gone by, and often better not thought of. "I wonder if you can guess what we might be here to talk about…?"

It would have been Henrietta's inclination to converse briefly with the young person before revealing their errand — to size her up, to gain some idea of her character. She's a witch, a barmaid, and a very pretty girl. Three categories of persons with whom Henrietta is not accustomed to pass the time of day, all combined in one smallish parcel with an apron wrapped round it. Still, that's Gally, isn't it. Reckless. Chatty. Recklessly chatty. She favours him with a slightly doubtful glance from beneath her hat; and then turns her attention resolutely to Tessa. "How do you do?" One hand reaches out for Tessa's, to offer a firm, brief, no-nonsense handshake. "I'm Henrietta Lovell. And if you are indeed young Billy Marlowe's sister and his guardian, there is no need for us to play Mr Beckley's games. I hope you will see your way clear to sparing a few minutes from your duties to talk about the boys."

"Oh? I thought dear little Tessa might rather enjoy playing my games," Gally retorts in an innocent voice beribboned by an insolent grin. He adulterates the latter with whisky, gulps, swallows, winces and smiles widely again. "Anyway, no need to be too…straitened, darlings. Either of you fancy a cigarette? I know I do." He's lounging so much he and a detached coat all but occupy three seats alone. "What's the Marlowe lad supposed to have done again, anyway?" he enquires of his long-suffering patroness with feline serenity.

Tessa reaches forward to shake the offered hand, her own grip in the same vicinity, if not -quite- as firm, or no-nonsense. The only hint of her confusion is a slight lift of one delicately arched eyebrow…that is, until the woman introduces herself. Oh. Lovell. Tessa's smile is still firmly in place, but she's obviously only holding it there through sheer force of will. Which is considerable, but still. She did receive the owl, after all. "I believe I do, Mr. Beckley," she says, nodding once to the man in the manner of one who'd have liked nothing more than to continue the more than to have continued in the same vein, rather than this new, far less pleasant one. Billy. It's always Billy. "Yes," she continues, turning back to Henrietta, "I believe I can spare a minute." The other witches have left, after all, even though no one saw or heard them go.

"I suppose I should've contacted you sooner," she says, "but I just haven't had the time. I'm sure it was Billy's fault; it usually is." Gaillard's question brings the long-suffering sigh of the perennially disappointed, "It seems as though they got into the creature room to, ah…'liberate' some hinkypunks. I daresay Billy'd read some radical nonsense and wanted to try his hand at inciting a revolution." She shakes her head in disgust, "I've already written his professors to hold him wholly responsible. I'm terribly sorry that he got…ah, Theo? involved in it at all."

Henrietta releases Tessa's hand and then unbuttons the wrists of her gloves and pulls off each one with a smooth, brusque motion. A necessary preliminary to the consumption of port wine. "I must tell you that the story as it was related to me sounded strangely unlike Theo," she grants. "I am pleased that he has found a friend in your brother — his letters home have mentioned 'Marlowe' on a number of occasions — and I hope that if we present a united front in this matter, and discourage its recurrence as strongly as we can, we shall have no reason in the future to discourage the connexion between the boys."

For some reason, though his mental energies are mainly engrossed in the complex and courtly ritual of locating cigarette case, holder, and embossed silver lighter, Gally Beauclaire does seem to be finding the situation quietly rather amusing, especially as he examines the countenances of the two women, baroness and barmaid…and pays close attention to Lady Henry's shift of tone, slow and sure as a broodmare's trot. "Probably not even y'boy's fault, 'specially," he remarks magnanimously to Tessa between healthful drags. "Sounds like damned bad organisation to me. Isn't your boy one of those bloody leonine hotheads? Gryffindors handling magical beasts with Ravenclaws? In my day, it was elementary practice that you put the pompous maniacs and the nasty maniacs together to cancel one another out. Just as the eggheads went with the dullards to help them with their prep before they died of old age."

The dubious look that meets Henrietta's last statement says exactly how well Tessa thinks that would work, but when she speaks, her words are much more delicate than her expression. "Ah, Lady Lovell…" she begins, "I'm sure I'd think nothing was more right or proper than for you to discourage your son from associating with my brother. I'd do it myself, but I know how much heed Billy would pay to me." That is to say, none. In fact, it would probably cause them to become inseparable.

She might say more, but Gaillard's comment stops her, and she's hard-pressed to keep a straight face, perhaps because she's of a mind with him on the matter. "Yes, Billy's a Gryffindor," she says, "and I must say, I do think his professors ought to be able to keep him better in hand. I thought he would settle down at Hogwarts, but it seems it's just made it worse."

Henrietta's large, long-fingered hand waves away Gaillard's cigarette case when it makes an overture in her direction; she hasn't a glance to spare for the man himself, so intent is she upon Tessa. She's frowning slightly, not at the girl but at their mutual predicament. "Hogwarts does not seem… as orderly an establishment as one might wish for a young boy, particularly if he is high-spirited by nature." She brings her glass of port up to her unpainted lips and sips from it, sparingly, meditatively. "I don't believe the 'professors'," an odd word for schoolmasters, she considers, "enforce the sort of routine, the regular and reliable consequences of poor behaviour, which one might expect at — a Muggle school. Theo is an intelligent boy, and sensible beyond his years, but no eleven year old boy has any real judgment. I am prepared to consider that he has been led astray as much by the unusual environment of the school as by any efforts of your brother's."

"They do have rather an odd Head of House, these days, the Gryffindors," Gally drawls informatively, before dragging languorously again. "He has his admirers, but you hear the queerest stories, too…" He shrugs and leans back with a slight smile, but all of a sudden it transforms to a frustrated frown. "Confound it! I simply must get that new novel finished this evening if I'm to skewer Connolly to everybody's satisfaction," he laments. "It sounds as if my god-son's well-being isn't yet in imminent peril, so I hope you'll forgive me, Lady Henry, if I ply my trade aside for a little before you're ready for our return trip." Just as before, he asks no more permission and utters no deeper apology before whipping out a novel and sidling off to a separate corner.

Tessa nods absently as Gaillard speaks, though she's really more intent at the moment on Henrietta (though one can't blame her, since she's basically corrupting her noble son). "Yes, it's certainly a bit freeform," she replies, before she really gets a chance to process what's been said to her. Once she does, though, her eyebrows draw together infinitesimally; that's certainly a strange way to put it, coming from someone that is assumed to be a witch. "Well," she continues simply, leaving her confusion alone for now, "I certainly agree with that. I will write to Hogwarts again, though. I don't see how he has so much time to get into these scrapes; when I was at Hogwarts I always had schoolwork to do." Of course, a lot of it was invented by her.

And her native guide's exodus finally draws to him a degree of Henrietta's attention; she gives his retreating figure a look of dubiety, as though she might well be considering calling him back. But no. She was brought up to soldier on through any social occasion — though, granted, conversing over the bar in a magical pub with a serving girl whose brother is one's son's dearest chum at school was not listed in the index of even one of the guides to etiquette which cluttered the dreary and seldom-used schoolroom of her childhood.

Thus Henrietta sips her port wine; and essays another opinion upon the Hogwarts curriculum. "I gather that little time is spent on games — apart from 'Quidditch'," another word she pronounces as though swaddling it in quotation marks, "which involves only the players on the four house teams. Children of our boys' age especially need plenty of fresh air and exercise, to channel their— high spirits, into something apart from getting into hot water. Keeping them cooped up indoors so much of the time is unhealthy." She nods. She presents, certainly, the appearance of a woman who would have been a terror with a hockey stick in her day; and her day is not perhaps over yet.

Despite the chasm yawning between the two, due to their lineage, upbringing…and, well, pretty much anything else about them (because really, they could not be more different), Henrietta's last statement is exactly in line with Tessa's own thinking. "I agree," she says, "I've often suggested this to his head of house, but he doesn't seem inclined to listen to me." So shocking, that a young muggle-born's helpful owls would be ignored by such an august personage as Albus Dumbledore. "I try to get him out of doors on holidays, but it's really not enough." She sighs, leaning against the bar top in a rather uncharacteristic slouch, the only thing she does that might let Henrietta know how tired she must be. "Perhaps your son will have a civilizing influence on him, Lady Lovell. God knows nothing I've done has."

Sympathy registers upon Henrietta Lovell's broad, somewhat weatherbeaten face. Being responsible for a growing boy's welfare is trial enough for her that even her limited and prosaic imagination can conjecture that it might well be more so for a young girl, far too young to be his mother, whose means are so limited that… "I do not care to offer my children inducements to behave in the manner I expect," she says frankly, and takes another tiny sip from her glass of port wine (she's unlikely to reach the bottom of it by closing time, at this rate), "but perhaps if the boys remain friends, do well enough at their lessons, and refrain from blotting their copybooks again…" She's considering some idea, that much is plain to see. She hasn't quite run through its implications yet.

The dubious look that greets Henrietta's words says plainly exactly how likely Tessa thinks either of the last two things are to happen when her brother's involved, but she doesn't voice her skepticism, as she's already made her feelings pretty clear on that score. Talking to the older and definitely more experienced woman has made her a little more hopeful, though, and she even manages a nod. "Well, I hope you'll tell me if you change your mind and find you'd rather they didn't continue the acquaintance. After all, they are in different houses, and I feel sure that they could be kept apart somehow."

Henrietta's voice lowers; and yet she answers with a swiftness and a lack of hesitation which may perhaps be reassuring to Tessa. "Your brother and my son have in common an ancestry which is not — the most fortunate, in the present political climate. They are not," and the daughter of the Earl of Bath, the wife of the present holder of one of the most ancient baronies in the British Isles, smiles with faint irony, "'pureblooded'. And so I would not see a connexion broken which might provide a degree of companionship, of solace, they could not rely upon finding elsewhere. I know," she says frankly, "Theo has found no other close friends at his new school. He is an odd boy, by any reckoning."

The newspaper and tea are set down, but Frid doesn't even unfold it (the newspaper, that is. The tea does not require unfolding), choosing rather to ensconce himself at the bar, arm casually resting across it and half turned towards the women. Henrietta's clothing is the first thing that makes her stand out, naturally, and then the careful received pronunciation of her words, but it's the voice and the face under that hat that rings a bell eventually, despite the cognitive dissonance between seeing her in this world and seeing her in that world.

Tessa nods again, for of corse, Henrietta's quite right. Her position in the Muggle world cannot be denied, but in the world in which they're now treading, she might as well be working in the Broomsticks next to Tessa. Well, perhaps not quite that, but almost. This answer also clears up the few things Henrietta's said that Tessa might have considered a bit odd, were they to have come from a witch. "I must say I'd hoped that Billy might make some nice friends," she replies, for though she hasn't a clue who Henrietta is, she's been at her job long enough to be a good judge of the character of the patrons.

Before she can say more, a movement at the end of the bar catches her eye, and she turns, straightening quickly with the intent of doing her job, despite the headache her brother's caused her. However, as it's Frid, and he already has his drink, she relaxes a bit. "Oh, hello, Frid," she says, "everything all right upstairs?"

Character. Oh, yes. Henrietta is all character. She's sober (just look at the level in her glass), thrifty (those could well have been her mother's tweeds), immune to vanity (not even a dusting of powder on her nose, you may recall), conscientiously attentive to family obligations (cf. her very presence in Hogsmeade, that den of xenophobes), and altogether not the sort of woman who's unlikely to leave a bar bill unsettled. She doesn't like to buy anything on tick.

Her gaze follows Tessa's along the bar; she gives the tiniest, most reserved nod of greeting to this new fellow, whose very normality in her eyes marks him out as a rare specimen in these parts. That must, she considers, be why he appears almost familiar. She looks back to Tessa; and draws herself together to propound the scheme she has had in mind for the past minute or two. "If, as I said, the boys behave themselves," she utters slowly. Ah, here it comes. The other half of the thought. "And if the scheme meets with your approval, Miss Marlowe — my husband and I might invite your brother to visit Theo in the next school holidays. No shortage," she pronounces gravely, "of fresh air and exercise. Particularly if he should happen to like horses."

"Absolutely," Frid assures Tessa solemnly, pausing in taking his sip of tea in order to return Henrietta's nod with a punctilious one of his own and a murmured, "Lady Lovell, how do you do." Niceties thus completed, he finishes his sip of tea and tugs out the newspaper to shake open to the crossword, refold, and set down once more on the bar.

Frid's answer seems to satisfy Tessa, and she begins to turn back toward Henrietta, but in Frid's greeting catches her attention. Her brows knit, and she tilts her head to one side as she regards him. Did he hear her say the guest's name? He is quite stealthy, but surely he couldn't have been there for more than a minute before she'd noticed him.

Whatever she might have thought, or said, in regards to this, is lost with Henrietta's offer. She blinks as she turns back to the other woman, unable to respond immediately. This was certainly not what she had expected the end of that thought to be. 'Not go up to Hogwarts and demand the two be separated,' perhaps. Or, 'Not find you completely useless in your attempts to raise your brother to not become a drain on society.' But a visit? "Oh! Of course," she finally manages, "that is to say, if it wouldn't be too much bother. What I mean is, Billy's quite…but he does like horses. I'm sure it would be wonderful for him." She's still looking at Henrietta as though she's slightly insane, but there's more than a touch of gratitude there as well.

Looks questioning her sanity are bread-and-butter to Henrietta; she wouldn't notice this one even if she weren't so nonplussed by hearing her name, her own name, uttered by an unknown man in a magical pub. She gives Frid a longer, harder look while Tessa is still silent, then clears her throat and takes a discreet sip of her port wine and explains: "We have plenty of room," a calendar house is hardly a two up, two down in East Dulwich, even if it does have entire wings shut up, "and it would be no trouble. We have two other children, seventeen and sixteen, and we often have schoolfriends of theirs in the holidays as well. And, if we should offer the boys a carrot as well as a stick…" She shifts her shoulders in a smooth but not particularly elegant shrug. "It works with colts," she explains.

Frid does the crossword. Lurks.

Tessa doesn't know much about training horses, but she's certainly familiar with the expression, and so she nods again. "Yes, it might serve to motivate him. Thank you," she says quickly, as she suddenly realizes that she hadn't said it, before. "It's very generous of you. I shall send an owl straight away to Billy and tell him…unless you think it would be better for you to tell Theo, for him to pass it along?" She does her best, but this is certainly not something she's navigated before.

"I shall write a letter of invitation to you," Henrietta explains, "to pass on to Billy with some timely admonishment regarding his behaviour. I'll write to Theo in the same post so that he is aware of our plans." She nods firmly; she may take a few minutes to come to a decision, but once she takes it, that's her line in the sand and by God she'll defend it. "Now." She reaches into one of the pockets of her voluminous navy blue overcoat and extracts a small leather purse. "What do I owe you, Miss Marlowe, for my port wine and Mr Beckley's whisky?"

Having arrived at such a good solution to her problem, despite the rather unlikely source of it, Tessa's certainly a lot more like her usual self. "All right, I'll do that. Thank you, Lady Lovell." As soon as she says the name, it seems to jog her memory, and she glances toward Frid again, only for an instant, before she's called on to do her job. "Two sickles and a knut," she says automatically, before she pauses, "I mean, ah…if you have it. Otherwise, two shillings will be fine, and I can change it later." The only reference she's made to the fact that it's clear Henrietta is not a witch.

"I believe I have it," the Muggle peeress murmurs gravely. Her hands are quick and clever despite their size; she opens the purse, pours a handful of wizarding money into her callused palm, and sets the purse down upon the bar whilst she picks through them, identifying after a second's thought the units of currency Tessa mentioned. She nudges the coins across the bar with her fingertips to where the petite girl on the other side of it may easily pick them up, and puts the rest away. "Thank you, Miss Marlowe. You shall have that letter from me soon, and I hope it will provide an adequate," she smiles slightly, "carrot, in your dealings with your brother."

Tessa glances to the coins in Henrietta's hand, though she refrains from assisting her in finding the correct ones. Once they're found and handed over, she palms them quickly and sticks them in the till with a smile. "I believe it shall," she replies, and surprisingly enough, the words are sincere. It's certainly more of an incentive than she could ever have managed on her own, and when it comes to trying to get Billy on a more even path, she'll try anything once. "Come back again whenever you'd like," she says cordially, though it's more for politeness' sake than that she actually thinks that much of anything would induce her to come back to the Broomsticks again.

"Thank you for sparing your time," Henrietta repeats, in a more formal tone; and offers her hand across the bar for another firm handshake, this one lasting exactly one second longer than the previous, accompanied by a similarly firm smile of a similar duration. With her gloves off Tessa can feel, though she may not have been able to see by the glow of the Broomsticks' oil lamps, that though this woman may be called 'Lady Lovell', she is accustomed to working with her hands — perhaps more so than Tessa herself. "I'm sure we'll meet again soon."

One last sip of her port wine (she's had less than half the glass), and Henrietta gathers her gloves in her left hand and steps down sure-footedly from her bar stool. She sets her shoulders (and when a woman like that sets shoulders, you know they've been set) and takes two steps forward in her well-worn riding boots — to Frid and his newspaper. "Have we met, sir?" she asks him quietly.

Frid carefully folds the newspaper and rises to his feet from his stool. "Not formally, ma'am," he admits, posture as stiff as any drink he might usually be serving. "I had the privilege to work for Lord Drury-Crawford for a number of years, however. Lee, ma'am." He doesn't offer his hand. One does not shake hands with the staff, after all. "I'm pleased to see you're well, although I can't say I ever expected to see you here." There's a certain emphasis on 'here' which takes in more than just the Three Broomsticks, and more the whole environs.

Henrietta's fine dark eyes make a close and methodical study of Frid. "Lee," she echoes. "I recollect you now. You were in service with the Drury-Crawfords until the end, weren't you?" The end, that is, of any pretense they might make of being able to keep up a house in London with a staff of fourteen under Frid's direction. "I must say I should not have expected to see you here either. Or," she considers, for the notion has merit, "perhaps the oddity was, after all, seeing you with the Drury-Crawfords. … Have you been well since?" she inquires politely.

The handshake is returned in kind, and with that settled, Tessa begins to go about her business once more, as she's technically still on the clock. She whisks away the half-drunk glass of port to clean, wipes down a spot on the bar, and straightens a few glasses. Of course, she can't -quite- ignore the exchange between Frid and Henrietta (after all, they're -right there-, and it certainly is intriguing), but she's not a gossip by nature, and so before she's gotten more than the gist, she murmurs something along the lines of excusing herself, and exits through the same door Frid had entered from several minutes before.

"Most well, thank you, ma'am," Frid agrees, the thick layer of politeness just about thinning enough to allow through a slight smile. "I was fortunate enough to find that there's still a need for staff on this side of the fireplace, as it were."

"You're not a wizard yourself, then?" Henrietta asks. They can be so straightforward sometimes, these daughters of Earls. They are accustomed to their own way.

Frid shakes his head, clearing his throat quietly. "That's a privilege I don't have, ma'am. Were I a wizard, I'm sure I should have found a quite different profession." He pauses, flicking a glance along the bar. "I'm sorry, might I buy you a drink, ma'am?"

She doesn't refuse automatically, reflexively, as a woman in her position might when faced with such presumption from a man whose duty it once was to keep her glass refilled when she dined (rarely, but how excited they were about it!) with his employers. (Although Frid may recall that her glass was particularly slow to empty.) No, she considers his offer for a long moment; and then gives a slight shake of her head in its wide-brimmed, rather masculine hat. "Perhaps another time?" she suggests. And then clears her throat with a self-consciousness which appears out of place on her, and offers: "I may have occasion to return. My son Theodore came up to Hogwarts last term."

Frid arches a brow. "Ah, I see. And, might I ask if that was… expected, ma'am?" he queries, still rather awkwardly standing there. He can't sit. Not as long as she's standing. And it's a Lady. In a pub. A Muggle Lady. Where do the rules of etiquette stand on such an odd breach? With witches, it's different. Wizards and witches have their own rules of behaviour, but the daughter of the Earl of Bath is a different matter, and she's not following The Rules. It's all very disconcerting.

"It was not expected, no," Henrietta admits, with that same trace of most un-aristocratic awkwardness. She clears her throat again, glancing over to a secluded booth wherein the figure of Gally Beauclaire may just about be discerned, with a glass (empty) and a book (being sneered at in no uncertain terms). "Is the Three Broomsticks — your local, Lee?" she inquires, commencing to button her overcoat over her thousand-year-old tweeds (best quality, mind, and good for another two or three centuries yet).

"My employer, Mrs. Fairfax, is the proprietress, ma'am," Frid explains simply, his gaze following hers over towards the figure at the booth and his posture, already perfectly straight, somehow straightens just an inch more.

Henrietta glances about again — less specifically — as she finishes her buttons and ties the belt of her coat in a pristine square knot, with both ends hanging down exactly the same length. "Not the Drury-Crawfords," she grants with a rueful smile to Frid. "But nor is my house, in point of fact. I hope you're pleased with your situation. I shall remember you to my sister-in-law when I see her, she was always very admiring of your discretion."

Some banging emits from behind the 'Staff Only' door, followed by a muffled and quite unladylike curse.

"I wouldn't change it for the world, ma'am," Frid insists frankly, but then there's a worrying noise close at hand and he clears his throat quietly. "I'm sorry, ma'am, would you excuse me..?"

"Of course, Lee. I must in any case be on my way." And Henrietta Lovell, who has just drawn on her deerskin gloves but not yet had time to do up the buttons, offers him a firm, straightforward handshake as though it were the most natural thing in the world.

There's a moment's incredulous hesitation before Frid hurriedly, if somewhat tentatively, takes her hand to return the gesture. And then fleeeeeeeeeeees.

Henrietta looks after him for a long moment — well, that was odd; but servants can be, sometimes; they have their own ideas, which must be taken seriously if one wishes the administration of one's household to run along like clockwork — and then embarks upon the difficult and perilous mission of separating her escort from his novel for long enough to Apparate her home to Gloucestershire. It's no more her idea of a good time than it is his; but needs must.

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