4 August: Chips and gelato and murderous schemes, oh my Who: Rabastan Lestrange and Narcissa Malfoy What: Regrouping after the Avery v Travers disaster (and a lovely stroll along the beach) When: 4th August Where: Brighton Palace Pier Warnings: Terrible people doing terrible things. Mention of murder, Dark magic, use of Unforgivables. Purist prejudices.
Narcissa stood outside the large building that had the words "Brighton Palace Pier" written over it in large lighted letters. It had been Rabastan's idea to go to a filthy Muggle place to meet. The only reason she'd agreed to it was that there was no chance she'd be recognised. She was glamoured to be unrecognisable and unremarkable to Muggle eyes: the same sort of thing she'd done when she had to visit Grimmauld and for whatever reason couldn't arrive via the Floo. Those lessons were coming in handy.
The crowd around her was oppressive and smelly, quite literally even over the scent of the sea. The Muggles were too close, and talking, and too loud. She hated it with every fibre of her being.
Undoubtedly Rabastan was going to be laughing behind his hand. Well, Narcissa could endure through this and her revenge, later, would be subtle and only Rabastan would know why.
"Don't hex anybody," Rabbit said by way of greeting, sliding out of the press with a grin. The glint in his eye almost balanced out the overall element of faintly haggard and a little more rumpled than normal. Still, things were looking up. Rabbit would have obliged with the laughing behind his hand, but both of them were currently occupied with a greasy torn-open paper parcel of thick-cut, well-salted chips--one hand with holding, the other with popping another into his mouth. "Best chips in Britain," he declared, and held the parcel out toward Narcissa. "Want one?"
Narcissa looked at it dubiously, but took a small one and popped it in her mouth. She didn't have to be a Gryffindor to be brave. "I've had worse," she admitted after chewing and swallowing. Rabastan would insist on eating Muggle food. "Is it made by--" she avoided the betraying word and settled on "--hand or by machines?" Everything Muggle these days was made by machines, or so Narcissa had been told.
Rabbit's grin widened, like he'd heard exactly what she hadn't said, and he didn't answer her question. Instead he said, "I am genuinely astonished you actually agreed to meet here. Want to go in?" He tilted his head at the garish Palace. There was all sorts of cacophony inside, rattling and ringing and horrible music and shrieks of merriment. "I could cheat wildly at some game of chance and win you an enormous stuffed animal. I wonder if they have rabbits."
"I could take it home for my son." Her tone said exactly the opposite. "Or perhaps I could find out if garden snakes only eat live rabbits."
Rabbit laughed--more like a snigger really--and helped himself to more delicious fried potato. "Rude," he praised her, and jerked his head back toward the beach. "Come on, let's walk along the promenade. You can tell me about your snakes. Unless that's a euphemism. Or perhaps especially if it's a euphemism."
"And you can tell me about your brother," Narcissa suggested. The Muggle men were barbarians who didn't offer their women their arms properly, so Narcissa didn't wait for that courtesy; she simply kept pace with Rabastan when he started moving. "Has he recovered from whatever madness drove him to think he could get rid of Avery so easily?"
The beachfront promenade was less crowded, and the people flowed instead of clumping and swarming; a breeze blew crisp off the sea. It was a pleasant night, but Rabbit's cheerful expression twisted at that question. "It comes and goes," he replied shortly. "Are we rid of Avery?" The message she'd sent had covered the immediate question, but there could be devils in the details.
"Avery will not be found. Certainly not if we go another tenday." Narcissa smiled, bright and cheerful. "I require the Travers siblings for certain work. Miss Travers has useful connections. Can Rodolphus be swayed or distracted for at least the short term?"
That was one relief, at least. "Thanks for taking care of one problem. The other is... going to be trickier. He's got a new bee in his bonnet right now, but--" Rabbit shrugged, still picking absently at his chips. He couldn't predict his brother any more. Or the parts that weren't. "And he has a point; the Travers are a liability. If they get in their heads to try their sister's mercy, we might all swing."
"I've co-opted Madison. She was an Unspeakable before she moved to her present position, and once the situation was clear to her, she seemed to understand that involving the Aurors would only make things worse and not better." Narcissa let a little relief creep into her voice at that. The Aurors hadn't been able to thwart anything Dumbledore's little pets had been up to, never mind the Death Eaters, and a decision to turn them all over would have been unfortunate. Not to mention probably fatal for the Travers siblings. The snake could have been made hungry again, after all.
"Hmm." Rabbit wasn't entirely convinced, but he also wasn't calling it unacceptable. He could make it work. Probably. "And the other one?"
"Can't have either until we're done with this business. I should think the reasons are obvious." Because she understood on a deep and personal level how upset Rabastan must be about Rodolphus, Narcissa restrained herself from the level of sarcasm that would have otherwise been appropriate. "When we're discussing Rodolphus not being himself," she added after a moment, "exactly how much not himself are we discussing him being?"
Rabbit considered his chips--mostly done, some crispy odds and ends scuttling about the grease-thin bottom--and screwed up the package to drop into a bin as they strolled past. "He made use of the Mark," he said, tight and clipped. "To cause pain. To me."
The habitual expression of disdainful disinterest that Narcissa wore fell away a little. Her voice was sober. "I see." A beat, then, "I'm sorry, Rabastan. We shouldn't have let Mulciber and Avery have him." There was no way to say that next time they would do things differently, because there would be no next time, and two of the perpetrators were beyond Rabastan's revenge. "Do you have a plan for this, one that goes beyond destroying the cup and the book and the ring and so on?"
Yes. No. "I'm working on it," Rabbit said. Everything was connected to everything else, these days, and he could chase it all around inside his head forever, if he let himself. "Do we even know where the bloody book's ended up?"
"I assume my sister has it." There was a long beat, then, "It could be in the Mulciber home or in DMLE evidence. But it had a geas of desire laid on it, so whoever owned it wanted to keep it. And Bellatrix would already have been vulnerable to that desire. Anything that was his, she desired."
It occurred to Narcissa to wonder whether Bellatrix had set Rodolphus up, exchanging her husband for a lover she desired even more. This was not a thought she could express to Rabastan. Narcissa was likely enough to lose Bellatrix as matters stood. There was no point in guaranteeing the thing.
"Great," Rabbit muttered. It all made unfortunate and inconvenient sense, and he shoved that aside as a future problem. Maybe destroying the cup would be enough. Maybe he wouldn't have to go hunting for his sister-in-law like half of wizarding Britain probably already was. Luck didn't seem to be a thing running in his favour much recently, but you never knew.
Future problem. For now... "You said something about Madison being useful?"
"I need her to help me with a lead I have on disposition of a certain item. One that I suspect will prove vital to our mutual projects, I can't say yet because I have to wait a week or so for the project to mature." With Nott around she didn't dare test on the Gaunt ring. Not yet. There might still be a link to connect her and Rabastan, and they were both under close scrutiny anyhow. Speaking of which: "Do we have a plan to deal with Nott? Or do we need one yet?"
"He's not going to be as easy as the other two," Rabbit said, in full knowledge of just how aggravating and painful in their various ways the other two had been. "He's also not the same sort of danger, so it might not be necessary for now." Or at all. Or maybe Rabbit could feed him to the other side. "Unless you feel differently?" Narcissa had different instincts and insights, and more importantly saw a different side of things.
Narcissa's nod was decisive. "We have enough on our plates, I think. If we can leave him be, let's do so. But let us consider how to manage things if we need to. The situation with Avery caught us with our robes over our heads. It won't go so well if Nott does the same. And should we continue down the path we're on, we will eventually come to his attention."
"He may have enough to occupy him, though I imagine this would be a priority," Rabbit said consideringly, and drifted to a halt, ushering Narcissa over to the railing overlooking the beach with a gesture so polite it must have been unthinking. "Something else for all of us to think about," he said quietly, "is that Pettigrew seems to have done a runner."
"So we can now assume my cousin and his little friends know everything we're up to." Narcissa was too well-bred to sigh at this news, but if she hadn't been, she would have. Looking out over the waters, she added, "Is this what Rodolphus is focused on?"
"Yes, he's playing cat to the rat. Which would be a merry chase if Peter were smart, but--" Rabbit shrugged; unnecessary to point out that if he were that smart they'd never have been able to get him in that position in the first place. "But yes, let's all assume we're just a little bit exposed. Word of one twitchy traitor is hardly proof, but they can set traps with it, if they're smart."
Which put her perilous contact with Andromeda into an entirely different light. It occurred to Narcissa to wonder whether Andromeda knew and had been holding out on her when they'd talked. Andromeda was certainly clever enough to. "We'll deal with it all as we can. There are ways and ways of getting round things. Possibly even of letting my cousin and his little friends do some of the dangerous and dirty work and aiming Nott at them.
"For instance, who would you like to see framed for Avery's murder? We have that up our sleeves as well to set a different cat among that set of pigeons." Before Rabastan could answer, she added, "You don't have to decide today. But we can consider it for later. It would solve a number of problems."
"Well, my suggestion was going to be the Travers siblings, but apparently not." Rabbit shot her a pointed and amused look. "Fun idea, though. Do we have a deadline on that?"
Narcissa shook her head in the negative, amusement raising the corners of her mouth. "Evidence can be produced when necessary. I'd prefer we wait a week or so but any time after that would be fine."
"A week?" Rabbit repeated, smirk twitching wider. "What, have you dropped him into the lake for the grindylows to eat?"
"I wouldn't poison the grindylows. They're more companionable than--other creatures we might associate with the missing Mr Avery, let us say." Innocence was not a look Narcissa Malfoy could credibly assume in this company; she let Rabastan share in the joke with another slight curl of her lips.
And Rabbit grinned in return. "How poetic. Y'know, I offered to mind the thing, told him he didn't want to scare the peacocks, but off he went." A lift of his eyebrows, but no further comment on whether that was or wasn't the effect he'd been aiming for. "Weird bloody reptile, isn't it?"
"Potentially stranger than we could have known," Narcissa agreed. "I'm taking measures to deal with it; which is why I need the the Travers siblings."
"And we come full circle; yes, yes, I get it, I won't nobble any of your new pets." Rabbit turned to lean back against the railing instead, and noticed for the first time the clear space around them. A party of teenage muggles, shrieking and laughing and phone-screen-lit, suddenly veered away, one shoving and the rest jeering and none of them apparently noticing as they described an arc around the point where Narcissa and Rabbit conversed by the railing.
Rabbit looked from their jostling backs to Narcissa, and grinned. "You priss."
She had, in fact, been waiting for him to notice the increasingly wide berth the muggles were steering round them. "Some of us don't slum even if we have to be present in the slums."
"Some of us are missing half the fun," Rabbit countered, and pushed off from the railing. "Come on, gelato time. My treat. Though you either have to switch this off or wait outside and take whatever I get for you." His grin was not very reassuring.