20 July: More than he is sharing Who: Rabastan Lestrange and Edward Nott What: A civilised and gentlemanly visit to uncover further knowledge about horcruxes and what is going on with Rodolphus. When: Evening of Saturday 20th July Where: Nott’s Home Warnings: Discussion of blood magics, rather mild DE topics
Setting up the conversation using new-fangled technology went about as well as Rabbit had expected; no way to tell if Edward Nott's curtness over text message was indicative or even intentional (part of why Rabbit both loved and hated messaging). He had to give away a little more than he'd have liked--that he wanted to talk about Rodolphus, specifically--with no way of gauging Nott's response, just in order to steer the venue to Nott's home and not some perfectly pleasant but far too anonymous restaurant. But all in all, it wasn't a bad start.
Just a start, though. A lot more of the game still to be played.
So Rabbit put his best foot forward, and showed up relatively well-scrubbed and bearing gifts. A couple of simple, ingenious but baby-proof puzzle toys--Rabbit couldn't remember if Nott had one kid or more. Perhaps another on the way? Whatever. He'd asked his mother for some flowers cut from her finest greenhouse specimens for Mrs Nott, and she'd given him a long and measuring look, but obliged, and even had Tilly wrap them up nicely.
Tamara greeted Rabastan at the door with a little Theodore underfoot. There were a few other children around the home, filling it will all sorts of sounds and life. She was delighted by the flowers, always quite taken by Priscilla’s work, and the toys. Tamara showed Rabastan to one of Edward’s studies, making small talk with a soft offer of staying for dinner, but didn’t pressure. She knew well how busy these men were.
Edward joined them shortly thereafter, going through the appropriate theatre of a guest at his home. Especially a guest who might need something. He found himself rather fascinated with the Lestrange Brothers, especially after Rodolphus approached him.
All of the other presents had been combination buttering up and smokescreen for the gift for Edward Nott himself: a wizarding Japanese puzzle box, all finely lacquered wooden panels and equally complex interlocking charmwork. "Heard about them from a friend," Rabbit said, as he handed over the puzzle box. "Thought it might be your sort of thing."
That was not the lead into business he might have expected, but he accepted the gift. Edward turned it over in his hands a few times, intrigued by it. He had quite a number of puzzle boxes and this was certainly different in design than many he saw before. “Japanese, I presume. How thoughtful.”
"I have my moments." Rabbit watched Nott watching the box, but before that could go on too long, he continued, "Thanks for meeting me like this. I'd ordinarily just lean on Rodolphus if I had concerns, but--" He shrugged. As he'd said in setting up the meeting: his concerns were for (about?) Rodolphus himself. "Everything's unusual right now, I guess."
Nott made a neutral sound, placing the box aside for a moment “I am assuming this has more to do with his current marital troubles.” Bellatrix Lestrange was at least an exciting variable in watching it all unravel. She did manage to kill Arlo. Edward wouldn’t be losing any sleep over that. “However, I will provide what counsel I can about your brother. Tell me what you’re concerned about.”
"Trixie's just the icing on the cake, really." Rabbit slouched a little in his chair, though not as much as usual--aiming for distracted-by-troubles, almost making-comfortable, not all the way to indolent and irritating. (The devil, always, was in the details.) "It's been a hell of a year. The debacle at Godric's Hollow. Everything since. He's--" Rabbit swallowed, a carefully calculated pause like he was weighing up what he was about to say. "He's not been making the best decisions. And that hasn't been helping him." He looked steadily at Nott, weighing up the effect his words were having, and whether their meaning was being taken.
“I always thought fondly of your father. Your brother as well.” Edward nodded with a slight pause. The omission was quite intentional, but he didn’t really think that Rabastan would mind the judgement on his character. He worked so hard to exude a certain image. “The Lestrange men are made of hardy stock. You’ll have to forgive me for being rather surprised to hear that these past months have weighed heavily on Rodolphus.”
Rabbit's mouth got that quirk. "And Dad respected you. Well, he used to sound a bit irritated about you sometimes, but he used to use that tone about me as well so--" He shrugged one shoulder. "I don't view it as a bad thing. And I know Rodolphus and you--" Another pause, gaze steady. "Had some specific commonality of interests recently. Especially in light of all that business, I hope it's not that unexpected that I ask: is there anything I should know about what we've been doing." A tiny pause, and a rephrasing. "About what's been done."
Edward betrayed nothing here. “I might counter that with you first telling me what you know. I do hate repeating myself and would rather correct misconceptions.”
"We've been hunting down artefacts," Rabbit started, flippant and more or less parroting an early briefing from the (now diminished) triad of remaining elders. "Artefacts of power and significance. Horcruxes of the Lord. More than one. More, in fact," and here Rabbit's mouth twitched into a bit of a smile, "than the literature seems to suggest is advisable or even possible, which shows what they know. And I'm honestly really curious here, how many are we looking at?" Rabbit leaned forward, hand on his knee, inviting Nott to boast about the power, the skill, the achievement of their shared Lord. "Four? Five?"
“One could argue that in order to be great, you must risk madness, risk tearing your soul into too many pieces.” Edward tsked. There had been a number of debates over the years and even far more recently. “Hubris can be a dangerous thing. I believe it might also be the downfall of your brother. However, you seem to have the basic premise correct. Are you worried that Rodolphus might attempt to create a horcrux?”
"Well, I am now," Rabbit replied, without any sign of worry save a slight lift to his eyebrows. "No, it's more that there's so much I don't know about what we're doing and what it's pointed towards and horcruxes themselves." He gave a tight and self-deprecating smile. "I get antsy when I don't know things. I make poor decisions. So I'm trying to fix that. Make sure my brother--either of us, really--isn't going to do anything that might get in the way of what needs to happen."
“With Arlo, the best practice would have been to do as you are told and no more. Charles would be to keep a wide berth, especially when he is angry.” Edward leaned back. “I am an artifacts man, I prefer to keep my hands clean of most of their business. Perhaps you would do well to keep your own council.”
"Something I excel at," Rabbit said, almost chirpily. "But it's not just myself I'm worried about. And Rodolphus is not quite himself." A moment's hesitation, and then he added, "Hasn't really been since he turned over the Chalice to Mulciber."
There was a tiny twitch of a smile. Now, here was a man finally ready to play. “The Hufflepuff Chalice was quite the acquisition, especially with the original charms still functional. To maintain that level of charmwork took a great amount of skill from the Dark Lord and later Corvus to protect it. I imagine you are relatively well practiced in the intricacies of blood magics. They can be fickle beasts.”
"Not as practiced as some. I prefer the reliable." It was more that Rabbit didn't trust as easily or deeply (or, perhaps, hungrily) as some; wasn't as correspondingly willing to breach the barrier of his skin for convenience or power or leverage. There were parts of it he couldn't avoid, being part of a group that idolised their own blood and its purity, but if that wasn't precisely a reason he preferred to keep to the fringes, it was a nice perk. Now Rabbit was considering, weighing, turning things over in his mind... and fuck it, just plain asking. "Is that what he did to my brother? Some sort of blood magic?"
“Blood magic was never Arlo’s forte. He dabbled, but not to any great extent or success. He preferred more abyssal or infernal means.” That was also conveniently where someone like Nott was valued. He studied across all disciplines. A Renaissance man. “Of course any number of things could be affecting your brother. Without further data, I might consider improper contact with a horcrux, sequelae from any number of Lestrange blood rituals, and yes, even the actions of Arlo. It also might be all three together.”
The faintest flicker of Rabbit's gaze at the mention of improper contact with a horcrux was the only sign that that struck any greater chord with him than any of the rest; though he was, overall, doing a better rendition of listening-attentively than many would think him capable of. "Data might be complicated." The smile Rabbit flashed was no less so, layered up with suggestions that Nott would understand what he was saying, might also find it amusing, that Rabbit was grateful for the commonality. "Might be best to just push through. We gather all the horcruxes and... then what?"
“Now, that is the big question, isn’t it? And the answer rather depends on who you ask.” Edward certainly had his own opinions on the matter, but those were private members best not shared. He would much rather play second to any fool who wanted more power. It was far safer in the shadows. “We could also debate the necessity or practicality of collecting all the horcruxes. But I wonder what you might try to do if you have a piece of the Dark Lord’s soul. Or even your brother or his wife for that matter.”
"Me?" Rabbit gave a little laugh, and held up a totally-innocent--and empty--hand. "I don't have anything. Trixie, though." He shrugged, and that shrug said, anything is possible, she was clearly well outside the box and accelerating. Rabbit frowned, focused and concerned, as he asked, "What might she be able to do, if she had one? Bring Him back? Or--" The frown deepened. "But she'd never want to harm Him."
Edward raised a brow. He had never implied anything of the sort. “Horcruxes are fine for storage, but that’s not practical if the pursuit is eternal life. Souls need living vessels for that.” He paused. “And no, I do not think that Bellatrix would harm him. She was far too infatuated, and perhaps, not as mad or wild as one might first presume.”
That definitely caught Rabbit's attention, his gaze sliding away to a corner of the desk in a moment of consideration. A moment later he was blinking, looking back at Nott with a tight smile. "Interesting point. Might all be academic now, of course." Because Bellatrix was gone, and there wasn't anything at all there that didn't add up, that didn't feel right, that Rodolphus might not be telling Rabbit.
Rabbit's mouth twisted a moment, then he was saying, "I've wandered us into conjecture now, haven't I? Sorry. You've been very patient with me. I-- well, thanks."
“My pleasure. Now, is there anything else you are seeking?” It was possible that was all, but Edward wasn’t sure the game was finished. Although the games men like them played tended to only end when one ended up dead.
"I don't think you can help me with the rest of my uncertainties," Rabbit noted jovially as he shifted forward on his chair, the very picture of getting himself ready to take his leave. "Let me know how you get on with the puzzle box, though. I had a poke at it myself and I couldn't get more than two steps in before I got stuck. There's this bit where it obviously slides, but there's something--" He lifted his hands, shaping his fingers as though to demonstrate, but they were inadequate to the task. "It's difficult to explain, but you'll figure it out, I'm sure."
Edward leaned forward to look at the puzzle box while Rabastan explained. It was a curious piece, but hardly a challenge. He had easily solved mysteries far greater. He wouldn’t get too far into it, just tinker for a few seconds, as a polite gesture.
Rabbit watched Nott's work on the box, his eyes following fingers following the patterns worked into the timber--and emphasised with spells both related to the puzzle and... extra. He couldn't see the full outline of the hypnosis charm from this side of the box, which was just as well; it still took an effort to shake off the distraction when Nott's attention traced slowly over an edge and out of Rabbit's direct line of sight. He gripped the corners of the box, delicately and carefully, but his finger shifting on the inlay of the box moved slower, and slower still.
Rabbit gave it another moment, looking up at the clock on the mantel and letting the seconds tick, before he looked back. Nott had hardly moved, his eyes behind his glasses not glazed but keenly focused. On the box, on the puzzle, on the challenge. And not at all on the room around him.
Rabbit leaned forward and set his hand on the edge of Nott's desk. Not so much as a flicker of interest in those eyes. Rabbit smiled, and slowly, carefully, silently stood up. He avoided sudden movements and loud noises as he poked around--at the shelves, on the desk, even in the desk, edging around the captivated form of Nott himself. The hypnosis charm was working like a--well, charm.
Rabbit started his hunt feeling quite self-congratulatory about that, but the mood didn't last long. As far as he could tell, there was approximately nothing at all interesting in this room. Charming family nonsense and stacks of common-or-garden books and papers entirely unrelated to anything interesting. Rabbit even fished out the spare pair of glasses he found in a drawer to have a peer through them on the offchance they had some sort of hidden charmwork... but apparently not.
The most interesting thing he found was a copy of Secrets of the Darkest Art and they bloody all had one of those lying around with dog-eared pages these days. Disgruntled, Rabbit flipped it open, on the incredibly slim chance that Nott might have been using a list entitled Our Master Plan as a bookmark. Of course he wasn't. Probably all the really good stuff was in another room somewhere and it wasn't like Rabbit could just go wandering the halls with the wife and all the little Nottlets mooching about and--
Rabbit set down the other books, and flipped back a few pages, smoothing the book flat to look properly at the scribbed notes in the margins. Definitely Nott's writing--he'd just looked over all sorts of mundane nonsense in the same hand. But it made no sort of sense to Rabbit. Some sort of code or shorthand. He didn't have time to figure it out now--the hypnosis wouldn't last forever. But, of course, he didn't have to do it now.
Pulling out his phone, Rabbit flipped back through the book, hunting out the most pertinent chapters, and other places where there seemed to be quite a density of cryptic little scribbles. He snapped picture after picture; he could sort them later, and the more examples he had the easier it'd be to unscramble the code.
Well, it was better than nothing.
And then he replaced all the books carefully where they had been, and gave the desk a quick onceover to make sure everything was where it had been. As a last thought, he stepped over to the mantel clock and wound the hands back several minutes, before quietly slipping around the desk and into his own chair.
Then he leaned forward and knocked his knuckles against the edge of the desk with a cheery grin. "Well, I'll leave you to it. Thank you again for taking the time to talk. I really appreciate it."
Edward looked up from the little puzzle box. It was fascinating. However, clearly an easy thing to get too absorbed in, “Will you be staying for dinner?”
"Thank you, but I've intruded enough on your evening," Rabbit demurred, almost as though he had been paying attention to etiquette at some point in his life, though his grin--easy and broad--wasn't quite in theme. "And please pass on my respects and apologies to your lady wife. No, don't get up. I can see myself out."