She emerged from the tub and covered herself in the towel. She sat on the floor of the bathroom, in this way, hardly covered and not in the least bit clothed, for a long time. She had no one to blame but herself.

Her body was sore and marked. She just wanted to sleep it off-sleep everything off, sleep her whole bloody life off if she could. She'd let this happen. She should have turned the other way, she should have refused to take the bait, but she'd risen to it anyway. It'd been the only thing that pulled her out of bed, in all these months.

Even in the earliest days, after she'd been expelled, he was the only one to bring her out of bed, and as she thought back on how it all began to unfold, she knew she would not have behaved any differently, even now. Part of her even thought she liked it, a bit, that the damage done was what she'd anticipated and hoped for all along, that she would have even been more eager to bolt down the stairs, on that day, when everything began to fall into place...

But how could she have known? And more importantly, how could he?

"Beatrice, there is someone here to see you," her mother said from the doorway.

Beatrice hardly moved from her place on the bed. Ever since she'd come home, earlier that week, she'd been glued to the same spot. Why did her mother think she'd move now? "Tell them I am not home."

"I really think you ought to come down," her mother pressed. She turned her head nervously to the stairs, and then back to Beatrice. She lowered her voice, and whispered almost breathlessly, "He says... he says... his name is Tom Riddle."

Beatrice swallowed hard. "Mum, you're drunk. Leave me alone."

Her mother shook her head and came closer. "I am not!" she hissed indignantly. "And he is not the boy I met just the other day, though they are the spitting image of each other. No, this one is older. You must come see him, immediately. He has come looking for you. Perhaps he has something that could be of help to you."

"You didn't ask?" Beatrice snapped. "You could very well be sending me into the hands of some dangerous man and you didn't bother to ask? Typical." She had already hoisted herself off of her bed and was halfway down the hall, approaching the stairs. She turned to her mother and said, coldly, "But luckily, I have learned to protect myself. If not for me, Isabelle and I could have been far worse than expelled." She saw her mother flinch, and she felt a small satisfaction in it. She did not understand her newfound hatred for her mother, but she could feel it infesting every part of her, and she did not care anymore. Nothing much mattered. It didn't matter that she was a disheveled mess, that she was tearstained and sweaty and had not pulled herself out of bed for anything besides the absolute necessities. Her body had grown weak and she had let it, but she was too tired and too indifferent to the world to give it any thought.

She did not realize, until she laid eyes on the man, that she'd half expected there to be no one at all downstairs, never mind the being her mother had described. She hesitated for a moment before descending the few remaining stairs.

"You wished to see me?" she asked, when she reached the bottom. He stood up from their couch as she entered the room.

"Yes," he replied. She gestured for him to sit back down as she placed herself in a seat across from him. "You replied to an ad my mother placed," he muttered. "... to clean house?"

She eyed him suspiciously. "Why on earth did you come yourself, instead of sending a servant of your own?" she blurted out.

His face hardened. "I was led to believe," he began, "that you were not from the type of family that produced servant girls, and came to investigate, myself. And indeed, upon seeing your home and your mother, I am led to wonder why you have applied for such a position. Rumor has it that you came home from a rather exclusive boarding school. And even without a proper educational upbringing, surely you have other prospects? As a wife perhaps?"

"I am looking," she spoke slowly, "for a job. Do you have a place for me?" She examined his face for motive and found nothing.

"Certainly," he replied, "but I must insist that you tell me why you are interested in a job like this."

"I have a fickle mother," she lied, "with a fortune of an uncertain future."

He nodded. "We will have a spot for you. I live down the way, and you should arrange for transportation there four days a week. My mother will be stopping by my home this Wednesday for lunch. You may come then to discuss the terms with her." He paused before adding, "You will not receive special treatment."

"Of course." She smiled and, after a bit of small talk, he excused himself and she showed him out.

She calmly informed her mother that she was now employed, but beyond that, would not answer a single question about the visit and what had transpired. Her mother had tried to overhear, but a simple Muffliato! had taken care of that. She might not have her wand, but her mother's was not so bad, now that she was used to it...

She hastily excused herself to her room. At first, she was flooded with relief. She was going to have something to do. She would be useful instead of wasting away idly.

But then, all at once, it hit her. This man was the spitting image of Tom Riddle. But this man was a muggle. The two were definitely connected, but as she wracked her mind, all she could remember Riddle thinking about his father was that he had been the magical one, that his mother had been a muggle... and hadn't he been an orphan? So who was this man? And could he help her? She could not help but wonder if Riddle had sent him, if he was up to something, and if, perhaps, she might be walking into a trap...

But so what? What did she have to lose anymore? What more could he possibly do to her?

I need to go to bed but I want to finish this thing. I have known, since before I started it, what the end would be, and I would just like to get it down. I apologize for how long it took and for how long it will probably take me to get the next one up, what with school... and my amazing skill in the art of procrastination. I wrote this in like 45 minutes and you can probably tell... but it is up now. :P So... sorry for the short chapter and a lot more will be happening in the chapters to come. Here is just a teaser, I guess, and a nod to let you know I am still here and still thinking about this stupid storyline.

I hope it is not too blatant, in the tone, that there is a large time gap between when I started this and now...

But ANYWAY: Reviews are, as always, greatly appreciated.

... And a Happy almost-Thanksgiving! to those of you who celebrate it.