6 August: see a man about a dog Who: Rabbit and Fabian What: Fabian has questions about Severus Snape's fitness for conspiracy; further collusion and hatching of schemes ensues When: Evening of August 6th Where: The Swallowed Octave Warnings: Mild scheming and faux flirting is as bad as it gets
With everything he had on the go right now, free was the last thing Rabbit was at any given point of the day. But if it was Fabian asking--especially now--then arrangements could be made.
So Rabbit was broadly within the window of on-time when he slid in next to Fabian at the Octave's bar with an astoundingly casual, "We have to stop meeting like this or people will start to think I fancy you." He caught the bartender's eye, and lifted an illustrative hand, fingers widening by increments as he specified, "Whiskey, water, ice. Ta."
Fabian's eyebrow inched up at the relatively large measure of alcohol. "Good to see you too, darling. Shall we repair to my usual table? I have sweet nothings to drop in your ear." He grinned and fluttered his eyelashes at Rabbit.
"Thought you'd never ask." Rabbit smirked right back. He glanced around--casually and possibly simply habitually--as he followed back to Fabian's table. (It seemed ridiculous to think it might matter who was doing what with whom, but Rabbit's broad philosophy was that you never knew what might matter when.)
"If you're checking up on me already," Rabbit noted, as they took their seats, "we need to have a chat about times when thoroughness is better than speed."
Fabian snapped up a privacy charm--one of the reasons he liked "his" table was he'd prepared it to do exactly that--and shook his head, smiling. "Not at all, and sadly, not merely for the pleasure of your company, though that's a bonus, of course. I find myself in need of advice about one of your lot. Severus Snape. Impressions?"
Not what Rabbit had been expecting at all, and his lifted eyebrows showed it. He took another sip of his whiskey and rolled it around his mouth consideringly, and then didn't try and play coy about who was and wasn't one of his lot. "Stand-offish. Competent. Dresses like he's scared of colour." Rabbit shrugged, apparently carelessly, but he was watching Fabian keenly as he added, "Why do you ask?"
The honesty was appreciated, and Fabian returned it by answering, unfortunately with another question. He could at least clarify what he was interested in, and why, and why he'd come to Rabbit with the question, so he did: "It's his political loyalty I'm interested in.
"If he were approached to make something, or participate in the making of something, that could be used for our mutual goal--" and Fabian let that slide, not willing to say any more than he had already "--and he found or figured out what he was doing, would he be sufficiently loyal to the boss to rat the project out? Or would he keep quiet? Additional consideration: if he achieves the goal, he'll be in a position to write his own ticket careerwise, which might replace other patronage." Not to mention that there might be other intangibles Snape might dearly want and potentially get through this project, but that was the one Rabbit was most likely to know about.
That wasn't a question, it was a shapeshifting mess of speculation. "Bloody hell," Rabbit muttered, "how well do you think I know the bloke?" But he waved a don't answer that dismissive gesture, and considered. "We don't have a boss to tattle to." Or many things would be very different, for good or ill. "And other authority structures are... in flux right now. Not to mention Snape's shown a certain flexibility about them before."
Rabbit paused for a long moment to turn the rest over. Turn over what he did know of Severus Snape. They all had their reasons, their masks, their preferences. I can never resist an academic exercise, he'd said to Rabbit. "I really don't know him that well. But he's in this for his own reasons. And he's clever. And I think he likes a challenge."
He wanted to ask questions of his own, but Rabbit hadn't missed the careful boundaries of what Fabian had laid out, so he kept them to himself.
Fabian nodded, a slow smile curling on his face as Rabbit spoke. This was better than he'd hoped for. "I think we can work with this. Makes sense for Eileen Prince's half-muggle son. One of ours wants to bounce some ideas off his head and work with him. If he was blind in his loyalty to the--authority structures--I'd have to rule it out." His expression softened and he looked at Rabbit, and then, pointedly, at Rabbit's glass, and back to the man himself. "Authority structures being more of a pain in your arse than usual? Anything I can do?"
The quirk of Rabbit's mouth turned wry and rueful, and he tilted his drink; he hadn't polished off all that much of it so far, but then again, it was a big pour. That had been what he'd asked for. "There's a lot going on," he said, which could hardly be considered an admission or a surprise. "I might have a line on another horcrux. Or even two. Still figuring it out." He waggled a hand, a maybe-maybe-not gesture. "What about your side? Apart from recruiting in unlikely places."
"We have lines on three, or at least locations for them. The tough one is the one in Gringotts--I may need some help robbing the bank on that one once I figure out who has the thing." Fabian's grin invited Rabbit to help with what would be the heist of a lifetime, even if they could never tell anyone they'd done it.
And Rabbit was nothing like immune to that sort of offer and delivery, but he'd started grinning even earlier, when the word Gringotts left Fabian's mouth. "That I can help you with," he said with a pointed look, as he lifted his drink for another sip.
"Really," Fabian said, elongating the syllables so it wasn't quite a question as he looked over the rim of his own glass.
"It's our vault," Rabbit confirmed. "Goblet-y thing with handles. I think I even know where in the vault it is." Assuming Rodolphus hadn't moved it since, or set up some sort of illusory doubling decoy... honestly, Rabbit wasn't sure what he might have done. Was sure that between his brother and whatever else was making decisions... "It's not going to be anything like easy to get hold of."
Satisfaction curled into Fabian's smile as it broadened at the confirmation of his suspicions. "We'd tracked that one there. So we know where it is and we can find it if someone moves it. The other two I have a line on are inside Hogwarts--cheeky bastard--and inside an old pureblood home. The latter obviously a little more complicated than the former."
Rabbit's eyebrows lifted. "Which pureblood home? Can't help you with Hogwarts, obviously." Less obvious from where Rabbit was sitting, but some secrets weren't just his.
"Grimmauld," Fabian explained with a shake of his head, and waited for Rabbit to work out why he wasn't needed on that job.
Which didn't take long. "Right. All in hand." It took a moment longer for Rabbit to answer the puzzle of why one would be there, and the answer still didn't make much sense. The Lord had entrusted a horcrux to Regulus Black? He'd not even been out of his teens when he vanished, showing just how trustworthy he was. And why hadn't it been retrieved?
All the potential reasons seemed more far-fetched than the last. And none of them really mattered now, so Rabbit shook the problem off. "Anything more you can tell me about those ones?" Rabbit asked, happy to play fast and loose with the definition of can there. "I've pinched some notes that might be about this or might be about three other things. I'm trying to decipher them. Any info's a good extra angle."
"They're three of the four Founders artifacts from Hogwarts. The Cup of Hufflepuff, Slytherin's Locket, and Ravenclaw's Diadem. Gryffindor's Sword was the one he couldn't get to. So we're looking for other historic artefacts. Your boss doesn't seem to believe in going small with horcruxes. You want some help with the notes?" It wouldn't be the first time Fabian and Rabbit had studied together or collaborated on a project by a long shot. Just possibly the most important.
"Well, it's true what they say about Hogwarts: part of you never leaves." But the quip was idle while Rabbit considered the more important point. "I could probably use the extra brain power," he admitted. "The cipher's fucking fiendish, probably because Nott thinks that sort of thing is a good lark. But the only thing that's been getting me anywhere so far is inside knowledge. Then again--" He shrugged a shoulder. "It doesn't seem to be getting me any further right now." Rabbit set down his drink so he could fish out his phone. "You won't thank me," he warned with a grin. "It's two dozen badly lit photos of handwritten margin notes."
Fabian huffed out a laugh that might have been a sigh. "You won't thank me when I share my current working resources either. How's your early medieval Welsh?" But the question seemed to be rhetorical; he leaned over to scope out what Rabbit was showing him, pulling out his own phone so he could accept anything that Rabbit dropped to his phone. Which was in itself a gesture of significant trust.
"My what?" Rabbit asked absently, but his attention was more on the project in question; he sent a bundle of photos and note files across to Fabian's phone. "The initial coded references, and the notes on bits I've already figured out. Some of them seem to just be snarky marginalia, but they're helping me untangle the other bits. I assume you're familiar with the original source, since we all seem to be on this magic carpet together."
The photos were, as warned, photos of notes scribbled in the margins of an old book. The lighting wasn't that bad--Rabbit had propped the book near a lamp when taking the photos--but the squiggles were clearly not just a cipher but possibly an entire code, or a shorthand. The book the notes were written in might have been determined from the visible edges of text by a keen scholar, but entirely given away by the photos that included the book's header--Secrets of the Darkest Art.
"Don't think I've tangled with this one," Fabian mused, meaning the book as much as the cipher. "There's a lot here to work on. Do you want me to call in the other half of my brain on it? Could have some advantages. But I can see how you might want to keep this between us."
"No offense to your brother, but the wrong people hear a whisper you have this, and you probably won't find my body." And it wasn't that Rabbit thought Gideon had a less keen regard for his survival, but... well, no, it was exactly that, really.
Fabian nodded, because of course Rabbit was right. But: "The wrong people get wind of it and they won't find either one of our bodies. And I don't have to tell him exactly where you got it. Plus--I have additional resources for where we might have found the book. There might be a copy in the Restricted Section. And--there might be, probably not a copy, but something like it, in an older resource I've got access to recently and I'm still exploring." He gentled his voice a little. "We can do this." Even if Fabian wasn't convinced that the 'this' they could do--keeping Voldemort from inhabiting Rodolphus' body--was going to return Rodolphus to the state Rabbit wanted, or end up with a result either one of them, or Fabian for that matter, was really happy with. Sometimes forestalling the worst was what you got.
"Course we can," Rabbit returned, with a flash of a smile--and the boyish blithe wasn't all faked, not in this company. "It's just the how that's keeping me on my toes. No actual guarantee any of this--" He tapped his phone screen. "--will actually be relevant, beyond the few bits I've already got out, but still got to check." He didn't bother sounding too put out; Fabian knew well enough that thoroughness wasn't as foreign to Rabbit as all that, for a good cause. "Speaking of how, though... the Cup in our vault." Rabbit lifted a considering eyebrow and added, "You knew one was in Gringotts, how were you planning on getting it?" Good a place to start as any.
"Figure out who had it and work from there," Fabian said promptly. "Possibly work out how to get myself hired on as solicitor so I could get a look at it. Further plans from there. At least now we can figure out how to get round the security on it trivially--the methodology, not the security or the actual stealing of the thing." At Rabbit's enquiring eyebrow, he added, "Pensieve. You go down on some pretext, get a look, we walk through it, and go from there."
"Yeah, all right," Rabbit said consideringly, and gave a little laugh. "Beats the notion of trying to pass you off as just an innocent lawyer to my brother."
"Tell him you're trying to get in my trousers or something," Fabian dismissed the concern. "He'd believe it."
Rabbit was unfortunately renewing addresses to his drink, and spluttered, splashed, had to swipe whiskey off his chin. "There's a limit to what I'm allowed to flash even in pursuit of getting a leg over and I'm pretty sure the contents of the family vault are past it." He took another--more successful--sip and added, "Now if I were trying to marry you it'd be different."
Tilting his head, Fabian batted his eyelashes at Rabbit and cooed, "Darling, I thought you'd never ask." He couldn't hold the mask for too long, though, and laughed, the corners of his mouth curling up in delighted mirth. "It was a thought, anyhow."
Rabbit's mouth twitched toward a smile. "Let's stick with the Pensieve, if you can get hold of one." He glanced at his phone en route back to his pocket, and pulled a bit of a face. "I should probably get going. Workplace good will doesn't accrue to those who are late for shift change. I'll be in touch when I've had a chance to snoop in the vault, yeah?"
Fabian's brow furrowed as he looked down at Rabbit's glass and then back up at the man. "You're going to work after that? Are you sure you're--" unusually, the right word didn't come to him immediately, so he settled on "--in good enough shape for that?" Which covered a variety of sins beyond mere drunkenness.
Rabbit lifted an amused eyebrow. "I have a mother already." Never mind that she'd never have asked the question with concern rather than disappointment. Maybe that was why Rabbit, instead of downing the remaining dram of whiskey, nudged the glass away from him on the table. "I'll be fine," he said, more soft than scathing.
"If you're sure." Fabian wasn't, from the look of him. (Priscilla Lestrange wouldn't have trusted Rabbit's judgement either, but Fabian knew the old woman and had no desire to emulate her.) "But if it's that bad, I do receive texts."
"You'll regret that offer at three in the morning," Rabbit predicted, with the beginnings of a smirk. After a moment's hesitation, he added, "But thanks."
Fortunately his hands were busy with dismissing the privacy charm, so Fabian couldn't do anything other than say, when he was done, "You're welcome."