Excuse me, is this seat taken? No? May I sit at your table – this café is so incredibly crowded.
Is there anything the matter? Why are you giving me this look of – oh. Mr Beaversley. Look, I didn't mean to – kindly put away your wand! Hexing a lady who can't get out her wand is-
Not a lady? You're one of those who hold on to their grudges for ever and ever, aren't you, Beaversley? Look at the bright side. If I hadn't written that article, you'd still be-
Oh I wasn't aware you actually liked your wife. Anyway, why can't we just let bygones be bygones?
Now, listen, my good man. Being a journalist means telling the truth, yes, but with a few-
No, it's not called lies. It's called extrapolation. And I happen to be very good at it. You did sleep with that girl, Clarissa Whatshername, didn't you? See? That's exactly what I meant. I saw you kiss her, and from that kiss I extrapolated intercourse. And I was right.
Oh, come on. We all have to survive. We aren't getting any younger, competition is tough… Yes, of course being Rita Skeeter means you're not easily shoved aside, but still I have to work hard to keep my position.
Really? She's your wife now? Well, congratulations, Mr Beaversley. I'm very happy for you.
Yes, the cake is excellent. Would you like some? Listen, I'll treat you to a full afternoon tea and no hard feelings. And I'll throw in one of my juicy stories, just for you to enjoy. Deal?
All right. Waiter, two teas with all the trimmings, please. And, uh, do you think we could have that booth over there? Where the young couple is just leaving. Oh, thank you very much! You're an absolute darling.
So, here we are. Should I get started with my story? Very well, here we go.
You may or may not know that my Animagus form is a beetle. I'm registered now, of course, have been for some years. But there was a time when I wasn't, and I assure you I made the best of it. The stories I managed to get… But let's not become nostalgic.
Well, you'll certainly remember the time immediately after VW2. The parties, the celebrations, how popular the war heroes were at that time. Yes, I know it was a long time ago, but you surely remember Hermione Granger?
Beautiful? You must be joking. Not even pretty, in my opinion, which is why I always wondered why exactly Malfoy fell for her. He'd probably had enough of no brains wrapped in beauty, so he went after brains only. I know, de gustibus etcetera. Well, anyway, he fell for her and quite hard, if you ask me. The wedding was-
Yes, but that was only the official part. Written by Malfoy's court reporters, those toothless bastards. I wasn't invited of course, but as I told you, back when the wedding took place, I still was an unregistered Animagus. So I did get in of course. And not only where the others were allowed to go.
Well yes, of course. Only the Grand Ballroom and a few salons, so that people and air could circulate. The rest was closed off, and nobody would've dared to venture across those borders.
The Aurors? Well, yes, of course they'd gone over it with the fine comb, but you don't seriously believe the house doesn't have a few tricks of its own? Really, Beaversley, you're a bit too naïve than is good for a man in his seventies! Of course the man used to be a Death Eater. But he's got money, and power, and he knows everybody's dirty little secrets. Of course he got off.
Yes, there's that. And if squeaky-clean Granger agreed to marry him, there's a chance he may really have seen the error of his ways. Anyway, I'm digressing. Try the salmon canapés, they're absolutely delicious. As I was saying, I saw a lot more than the officially invited reporters. Of course I could never write about it, Granger would've known-
Erm, yes. There was this unpleasant little episode fifteen years ago, let's not go there. Believe me, Granger would have known it was me. But spying just for its own sake can be fun too. Lemme tell you, Beaversley, I saw the bride and groom half an hour before the ceremony started, and they definitely weren't saving themselves for marriage. I thought my antennae were going to catch fire. Who would have thought that mousy little bookworm was a closet sex fiend…
I told you they're delicious. Waiter? Another plate of your delicious salmon canapés, please!
Now, where was I? Oh, yes. So the ceremony went just as planned, with all the pomp and glory you'd expect. There's no need for me to tell you all about that, because you read it in the papers anyway. Unfortunately I couldn't sample the buffet – too dangerous, you know how funny people can get when they see a bug crawling over the pâté. So I had to stay hungry until everything was over and I felt I could venture down into the kitchens to eat my fill. After I'd eaten, I went in search of the happy couple.
Voyeur? Well, that's a bit strong, Mr Beaversley. I'd already seen them have sex, so I suppose I wouldn't have watched. But they'd only retired to the library and were lazing about on the rug by the fireplace. They'd both taken off their shoes, he was only in shirt and trousers-
Yes, I know. You'd think he came out of his mother's womb complete with dress robes and cane. But obviously he does, from time to time. She, too, had taken off her bridal dress and got rid of her coiffure – not that I like the girl, but she must've had a terrible headache with all those pins poking her scalp. So there they were, with a carafe of brandy, talking about how the wedding had gone. They were quite satisfied, especially as McGonagall had attended and obviously had a good time. Then again, a person would be hard-pressed not to have a good time with the quantity of alcohol she had in her blood.
Uh-huh, I heard that rumour too. In fact I created it, but I can assure you it's true.
No, I wouldn't call her an alcoholic, but she certainly likes her drinkies. So, Malfoy and his bride were relaxing in the library, talking about this and that, when there suddenly was a commotion that had them both get to their feet and draw their wands. It was impressive, really. Like two vipers poised to strike, and so fast!
Now, before I continue, I have to tell you a bit of little-known back story. When Dumbledore died, he left a testament. Knowing Dumbledore, you can imagine that it wasn't just any old testament you could just open and read out aloud. There were spells and charms and booby traps, and it took the curse breakers years to get through them. They'd managed to open it only a few days before the Malfoy wedding, but neither Lucius nor Granger knew that, because they'd been too busy with the wedding preparations to pay much attention to what was going on elsewhere. I knew of course – the piece I'd written on old Dumbly's testament was on my desk at home, ready to be published. I also knew what he'd left to Hermione Granger, although at the time I had no idea what it really was.
Now don't be so impatient, I'm going to tell you right now. So, there was this commotion. It sounded like hundreds of small feet running at high speed, you could hear the House Elves squeal in panic, and a male voice barking commands. It was touching, really, to watch the newlyweds as each of them tried to shove the other behind them. In the end, they stood there side by side, determined to curse whatever came through the door. I decided to move up and into one of the bookshelves – excellent vantage point, where I could hide completely if the need arose. And it certainly looked as if the need was going to arise quite soon. If those two started firing hexes, the best thing to do was duck and run.
A mere girl? You must be joking! Granger, I mean Mrs Malfoy could duel with the best and win. Didn't you read that snippet, when was it? Maybe three years ago, when the Malfoys were celebrating the arrival of their first child? The garden party? Granger, duelling Potter only a week after giving birth and totally flooring him? Doesn't ring a bell? Okay, I'll tell you afterwards, because that really was quite memorable.
Well, he'd been stupid enough to call the baby the new Dark Lord – stupid, really, because as you know it's a girl, and Granger is a bit on the feminist side. Now let me return to my story. Imagine the two Malfoys standing there, in that enormous library, both in very casual attire, wands ready. The door opens and Shepherd – you know Angus Shepherd, the lawyer? Never mind. The Shepherds have been the Dumbledores' family lawyers for generations. Now, Angus Shepherd is that kind of quiet, dignified lawyer, you know the type. Bald, gold-rimmed glasses, a bit boring, always dressed with impeccable sobriety. Well, it was difficult to recognize him. His glasses were askew, the seam of his robes looked more than a bit frayed, and he was sweating. Really sweating, with droplets running all over his face. So Shepherd comes in running at full speed – then he sees the bride and groom, ready for battle and as dangerous as two rabid hippogriffs, and he stops. The next moment he's lying face down on the carpet, because this box that comes after him-
Yes, I said box. A big wooden box, like an oversized seaman's chest.
Yes of course it was running, because it had lots and lots of tiny little feet. No, I'm not having you on.
Now look, Beaversley, if I wanted to lie to you, I'd certainly do it in a way you wouldn't notice. I wouldn't be telling you about a large wooden box moving at surprising speed – and not only because boxes usually don't move at all, because this one was running really fast. If I wanted to pull a hoax on you, I'd tell you something absolutely believable, which you'd be free to tell somebody else, who'd then make a fool of you by telling all his friends what an idiot you are to believe that kind of story. But I'd certainly not tell you about a wooden chest with tiny little feet and rather uncomfortable-looking teeth.
Hadn't I mentioned the teeth? Well, yes, it did have teeth. I can't really explain, but it also managed to have some kind of facial expression, in spite of not having a face. It just had a lid, which it opened and closed, and you could see the teeth…
Yes, another pot of tea would be an excellent idea. Waiter! What would you like? Lapsang Souchong then, and make that quick, the gentleman is in need of fortification. Yes, why not. Let's try the caviar canapés.
So, Shepherd was sprawled on the carpet, his glasses had been catapulted to the far side of the room, and the box was standing there, giving off a definite aura of expectancy. The lid had stopped moving, and some of the little feet were tapping the carpet. You know, now that I think of it, they were tapping the rhythm of the Bolero.
Ah, so you don't know Muggle music. Well, let me tell you, Beaversley, you certainly missed something there. But it's never too late, you might want to give it a try.
Thank you very much, young man. Yes, you were right, the canapés are looking fabulous. No,not at the moment. We're perfectly happy for the time being.
Have a canapé, Beaversley, your hands are trembling.
From where I was sitting on my bookshelf, I could see the Malfoys' faces – they'd gone from grim to very, very amused. He still had his wand trained at Shepherd and the box, but she was already summoning Shepherd's glasses and helping him to his feet. Then she poured the old man a glass of brandy and guided him to an armchair.
'Mr… Shepherd, right?' she said.
Shepherd merely nodded, trying to catch his breath. Then he emptied his glass in one go and held it out for a refill.
Malfoy was having a staring contest with the box. Don't ask me how the box managed to stare at him. But it did. Neither of them seemed to be sure whether they liked the other. But each of them obviously felt that he, or it in the box's case, was facing a worthy opponent. When Shepherd had pulled himself together, he fished a sealed roll of parchment out of the pocket of his robes and handed it to Granger.
'This is for you, Mrs Malfoy,' he said – his voice was trembling a bit. 'It will explain everything about, erm… this.' He pointed at the box.
Granger looked from the parchment to the lawyer to the box and then at her husband. 'I think I'd like a bit more information before I open this,' she said.
Shepherd sighed. 'We have finally managed to open Dumbledore's testament. There's a legacy for you.'
'Maybe I didn't express myself clearly, Mr Shepherd,' Granger said. 'I didn't mean information about the parchment, but about the, erm, luggage.'
The moment she'd pronounced the word luggage, the box perked up. And it purred, I swear it did. Then it moved over to Granger – Malfoy was taut as a bowstring, following its movement with his wand, ready to cast. The box kind of tiptoed over to her and rubbed itself against her legs. Granger smiled at it and bent down.
'Don't touch it!' Malfoy barked.
'Come on, Lucius,' she said, 'It could already have bitten me if it wanted to. But it seems quite friendly. Aren't you, luggage?'
She scratched the lid, and the purring became even louder.
'You see?' she said, 'It doesn't mean any harm. Maybe I ought to read this letter now.'
There was a short silence. Malfoy and the box continued their battle of glares, and Shepherd helped himself to his third glass of brandy. His cheeks were getting a bit pink, and not only because he was sitting close to the fireplace. Then Granger had finished reading and looked at Malfoy.
'This luggage,' she said, bending down to give it another scratch, 'is a magical artefact which seems to have come to Dumbledore from another dimension. I'll have to read this again, at leisure, but somehow it involves an Orang-utan, a magical library and a glitch I the space-time continuum. Anyway, Dumbledore says that the Luggage – that's obviously its name – is highly loyal to its owner and will follow and protect him or her wherever they go. He also says,' she continued, and I could see the tiny little cogwheels in Malfoy's brain working at high speed, 'that it's made of sapient pearwood and therefore immune to magic of any kind.'
At that point, Shepherd seemed to have sufficiently got his bearings to excuse himself and make a rather hasty retreat. The two Malfoys were alone with the Luggage and returned to the carpet and their brandies. The Luggage followed them on tiptoes and flopped down on Granger's other side. I can assure you, Beaversley, the look on Malfoy's face was priceless.
'It does seem quite, er, attached to you,' he said, shooting the box a venomous glare.
Granger grinned. It was a strange kind of grin, equal parts infatuation and malice. 'Yes, it certainly does,' she said, leaning back to pat the box. It flapped its lid once, in a rather affectionate manner.
'It also seems determined to follow you wherever you go,' Malfoy said. He looked as if he wasn't sure whether to be amused or annoyed. Being Malfoy, he always opted for annoyed, because it gave him the possibility to hex people, but he obviously had more than a soft spot for the Granger girl.
'That's what Dumbledore said in his letter,' she said. After she'd finished patting the box, she'd turned back to her husband and was undoing the buttons on his shirt.
'It's going to follow you to the bedroom,' he said.
'That seems likely, yes,' she said.
'It might want to join us in bed,' he said.
'Hmm,' she said, 'Yes, that might be a problem. Because it might interpret your tying my hands to the bedposts as an unfriendly act, and given its loyalty and sharp teeth, that doesn't warrant an overly optimistic prognosis for the family jewels.'
The box snapped its lid once, as if it had understood every word she'd said. Malfoy did of course notice that immediately.
'It seems to be quite intelligent,' he said. 'And it obviously understands you.' He bent towards her and kissed her. The box growled but didn't budge. He pulled a strand of that frizzy hair, making her squeal. The box got to its and suddenly looked menacing. 'Maybe you could tell it that I'm your husband and thus not a threat to you, hm? Then we could proceed to the bedroom and have borderline illegal sex, what do you think?'
Granger smiled at him. It was an evil smirk rather than a smile, though. 'I'll make sure to do that,' she said. 'But first I'd like to try something different.'
She pounced on him, so that he fell over and was flat on his back, then she ripped open his shirt. The buttons bounced in every direction – I had to retreat behind a book for a moment, because one of them fizzed by dangerously close. When I came out again from my hiding place and looked down, she was sucking at his neck as ferociously as a starving vampire, and then she bit him. Malfoy cried out. The box had sat down again and seemed to be watching the whole scene with an air of smug satisfaction.
'It doesn't seem to mind if I attack you,' Granger said pensively. Her eyes were glinting in a wholly unholy fashion. 'So I think we'll have to settle for a different definition of borderline illegal tonight, won't we, my darling?'
I have to admit I was surprised when Malfoy smiled at her. Knowing him, I would have expected indignation at best and anger at worst.
'An interesting, if maybe slightly unfair way to maintain the balance of power,' he said. 'Nothing I would have expected from a Gryffindor, my dear.'
They rose and left, taking the brandy with them.
I beg your pardon? No, of course I didn't follow them. I'm no voyeur, I told you.
All right, all right. Apology accepted. I'm glad you liked my story.
Oh yes, they still have the Luggage. It would never leave its mistress. One of the Malfoy House Elves told me that it's even more fiercely loyal to little Flavia. They certainly don't need a babysitter for their daughter… Which reminds me, I was going to tell you the story about Granger beating Potter in that duel. Waiter! Another pot of Lapsang Souching, if you please!