The woman had returned to his cell. She was the only person he had seen other than his interrogators for two days. He'd been captured, signed into jail by a clerk, taken to a mediwitch, pronounced healthy and brought to this place. Since then he'd been alone, speaking to no one but the Aurors who'd captured him and this woman, a menial, who made him tea and brought him food.
She always arrived immediately after a questioning session while he was still bound in his chair, for her protection he supposed. The woman didn't seem scared of him, but chattered away the entire time. A holiday by the sea was her current theme. How much she'd like to take one, but how she didn't think she could this year. At first he had found her prattle irritating, but now he welcomed the relief from the questions, the silence and the constant work of keeping the Aurors out of his mind.
"A wizard like you, with your family – you probably have a house by the sea for holidays, probably go there all the time." Strangely he found himself, almost without thinking, agreeing with her and grunting in assent. After the humiliations of his arrest, it felt good to assert even in the smallest way who he was.
"What do you know about my family?" Really, how would she know anything about him?
"Name's on the door. I recognized it."
For the first time since coming to this place, he smiled. His family was important, well-known, admired -- even a girl like this one understood their position. He knew they'd be seeking out every friend they had, demanding every debt be paid, to release him from prison. Of that he was sure.
"They told me to give you something to drink while they take a break," she said in her chatty fashion. "So I thought I'd bring you some tea."
Apparently the Aurors had rules governing how long he could go without drink or food and for how many hours he could be bound or questioned.
He could hear the clatter of cups behind him as she worked. It grew quiet and the girl appeared in front of him carrying the tea. She had a custard cream of a face, sweet, soft and round, a nanny-face -- insipid and kind, young but not terribly pretty. A girl he wouldn't give a glance, if he were on the outside.
"Here you go," she said as she brought the cup to his mouth so he could drink despite his bound hands. She must have done this before, because she seemed to know how to hold the cup to his mouth without spilling and how to remove it before he needed a breath.
He was very thirsty, and drank for a long time, but she patiently helped him till he was done. She smiled at him as she took the cup away.
He wondered if this nanny-faced woman was a Squib. At no point in the past few days had he seen her with a wand. She did the simplest sort of labor, the kind anyone could do without magic. If she was a witch she couldn't be a very powerful one, because no witch with any skill would stick with a job like this for long.
"They strapped these too tight," she said, gesturing to the bonds that held each wrist to an arm of his chair. She leaned over him and seemed to tap something under the chair arm. He wasn't sure what she did, but the bonds loosened just a bit, enough that he could move his hands to keep his fingers from growing numb.
"They're not allowed to tighten it so much. You'll get sores," she said as she gently rubbed a spot on his wrist where the straps had worn his skin red. "I have half a mind to report this to the medi-witch. Have her come in to see you." He found himself wishing she would; he'd have someone else to talk to.
"Wow," she whispered. His sleeves had been pushed up by the bonds on his arm exposing his Dark Mark. The woman reached out and carefully brushed it with her finger.
"Is that your Dark Mark?" she asked. "I've seen them on other prisoners but never one like yours before." She knelt next to his chair, her face level with his and fiddled with the straps on his arm pointlessly. "They're watching us," she whispered nodding toward an apparently solid wall facing his chair. "They listen to what we say. But they can't hear so well when you face away from that wall and I duck down here. There's a bit of a dead zone. If we're quiet we're safe over here. We can't do it too much though. It'll look suspicious."
He stared at her not knowing what to think.
"I'm a pure-blood," she said as if in explanation of her interest.
"And you work here?" he asked.
"We have all sorts in the department. Pure-bloods, half bloods.... blood traitors." She looked firmly into his eyes as if she was trying to communicate something to him.
Did this woman have sympathies for the Dark Lord? If she was a pure-blood perhaps she did, but then why hadn't the Aurors discovered it yet? Surely they'd catch something like that? But perhaps they didn't bother to examine a witch with such a menial job. She must really lack skill and talent if she, a pure-blood, was stuck working like a house-elf, taking care of prisoners. He couldn't see why they'd even need a witch to do her work, but he was sure now she wasn't a Squib. No pure-blood family would advertise the presence of a Squib by allowing one to take a job, even one like this. No, the woman was a witch, a talentless witch whom everyone considered too weak to be a threat.
She had an interest in him, though. He knew he was good-looking and from a powerful family. She wasn't a pretty girl; maybe she liked being so close to a man like him. That could be useful. The Dark Lord had admirers everywhere, apparently even in the bowels of the Auror department.
"I've seen other prisoners, but I've never seen a Dark Mark like yours," she repeated.
"Mine is different. It was an honor given to my family." His father had been one of the earliest Death Eaters, his prominence exceeded only by Nott and Malfoy. How jealous his friends had been at the difference between his Mark and theirs.
Her hand tightened on his arm, and her eyes widened. She stared at him for what felt like too long and then abruptly stood up and returned to work clattering the cups as she fixed more tea.
"Complaining the last cup was cold. You're lucky to have any at all." She walked purposefully back to the side of his chair, where it was safe to talk. "Here it is. I could scald you, and you couldn't do anything about it. But I won't because I'm not that kind of witch. Everyone knows that." She knelt beside him and held the tea to his lips. His eyes met hers.
"Be careful," she whispered. "The young one, he's strong and powerful and he doesn't like you, but he's soft hearted. The old one with the scars, he's the one you need to watch. He's speaks quietly, but he's the tough one. He's hard."
She pulled the cup away. He stared into her eyes willing her, wooing her. "Get me a wand. With a wand there's so much I could do for myself."
As the words left his mouth he regretted them; he'd pushed the girl too far too fast. She would back away from him, perhaps even report him. He should have asked for something easier at the start.
She shook her head in response. The expression on her face surprised him. She looked sad, not frightened, just sad.
"Only the interrogators are allowed to carry wands here," the witch said. "They'd know in a moment if I brought one in. Plus there isn't much you could do with a wand in this room. It's too protected." Of course, he should have known. He closed his eyes at his own idiocy. When he opened them she was still staring at him, a worried look on her face. He needed to keep her on his side. She was valuable; he was sure that if he thought long enough he'd come up with a use for her.
"I have to go now. They'll get suspicious if they haven't already. I'll tell them I lingered over your sores. Their own fault for giving them to you." She stood up and left with a clatter of dishes. She'd had to grab the tray before she left, still working like a house-elf. He felt a small surge of hope rise up in his chest; he had a tool he'd never expected to have.
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Alice was grinning when she walked into the observation room. She'd gotten three good looks into her prisoner's eyes, which were as unguarded as a ten year old child's. How Alice loved arrogant, handsome men with lots of O's in their NEWTS and fine family heritages. No one was easier to manipulate than a wizard with a sense of his own superiority.
Frank met her at the door looking pleased. He rested his hands on her shoulders and walked with her to a work table set up in the middle of the room. "That looked like it went well," he said.
"Smart move making the bonds too tight. It gave me an opening."
Moody grunted without bothering to take his eyes off the Death Eater, who he was watching through the wall.
"Moody's idea," Frank replied. "Did you get anything worth having?"
"Lots, he thinks I'm the charwoman impressed by the handsome powerful Death Eater. He doesn't bother hiding from me."
"He'll ask you to carry messages for him soon. Surprised he hasn't already," Moody piped in.
Alice laughed, because she'd had the same thought. She'd even considered offering to do it, but had backed off for fear she'd lose her fish if she played him too aggressively. Alice wanted many things from her prisoner and if she handled him gently, she'd get them all.
Frank whispered in her ear, "Half of me wanted you to start making offers and the other half was warning you not to scare him off." He grabbed a set of photos of various Dark Marks off the work table and left her to join Moody.
Photographs, letters and other contraband lay scattered on the table top. Alice picked through them until she found the one she wanted.
Three schoolboys joked and japed by the sea, a cottage behind them. They held their fists raised up in the air brandishing their Dark Marks for the camera, showing off as schoolboys will. One was the wizard from whom Frank had taken the picture, one a younger version of the handsome man bound in the cell, but the identity of the third was unknown. He'd pulled a deep hood over his head, keeping his face hidden. However much he postured and gestured with his friends, he remained protected from the camera.
Alice had two questions when she looked at the photograph. Who was the boy under the hood and who was taking the picture? Her prisoner knew, and he would tell her. All she needed was patience.