MID-AUGUST: A Promise of Wonders Who: Fabian Prewett and Rabastan Lestrange What: Plotting a bank robbery When: Afternoon & evening one day in mid-August, a bit after the full Where: Starting at a Muggle pub in Bath; mostly at Cor Tewdws Warnings: Language; sexual harassment; obscene filking of obscure disco hits; discussion of criminal vigilante activity; discussion of Death Eating; potential suicidal ideation.
It was mid-afternoon and Rabbit and Fabian had met, as arranged, at a Muggle pub in Bath, had their pints and a bit of chat, and the moment Fabian had been worrying about, and had discussed extensively with his twin, was at hand. They weren't letting Severus Snape into Cor, but Fabian was about to let Rabbit in, even if he wasn't planning to let Rabbit know where they were going.
Cor's library had the necessary equipment. It involved a lot of trust. On Rabbit's part too--he might not even be willing to go, especially not if he couldn't get out trivially. And Fabian was certain that while an emergency portkey might be able to get someone out, the anti-Apparation enchantments over the university were too strong to break trivially.
Nothing for it but to do it. They had taught Fabian negotiation skills and persuasion in both Auror and solicitor training. Nobody had ever expected him to do anything like this, though.
"So," he finally said as the level of beer in his glass settled at under a finger's height. "I told you I had a line on an untraceable pensieve that you wouldn't have to worry about the authorities getting at." Which had, of course, ruled out the one in Fabian's office, not to mention the one in Dumbledore's old office. "Here's the thing: I can take you to it, but the other parties involved in where it's concealed don't want you to know where it is. Nothing personal," he hastened to add. "I don't think Gideon wants to tell anyone where it is. Not after the Pettigrew incident. So I can take you, but the compromise is a blindfold. Can you do that?"
Rabbit's depleted pint paused momentarily in its journey to his mouth, before he took another mouthful. "Well there you go, I always suspected your brother was a bit kinky." Stalling for time while he thought it over, or at least talked down the hyped-up paranoid corner of his brain. What if this was the trap springing shut? What if this was just bundling him off, unremarked and with his brother off fuck-knew-where chasing the bloody rat, and Rabbit was just walking blindly (literally) into it?
Yeah, what if? How was he, really, that much worse off than he'd be if he walked away? He needed Fabian's help, and he had to trust that Fabian needed him too--or at least needed what Rabbit could provide.
He shrugged, and downed the rest of his beer as well. "For you, darling, anything."
Fabian hadn't expected it to go that easily. He had been imagining Rabbit would put up at least some nominal resistance to the idea of being blindfolded. Either Rabbit had some plans to get round the blindfold--unlikely, since he'd just sprung it on him, though with Rabbit the idea that he'd come up with something was always possible--or he was really giving Fabian that much trust, which suggested he was desperate. There was no answer here Fabian liked, but he smirked anyway, and said, "Then let me finish up, and let's do it, and I promise I'll make it worth your while."
It was easier than making some speech about how honoured he was that Rabbit trusted him, which would just have been awkward for both of them.
"Promises, promises," Rabbit murmured, though a little distractedly. He thumbed at his silver ring, and made himself stop when he realised; he'd been doing that a lot since his visit to Gringotts. And his hands still had a faint grey shadow remnant of whatever had seared itself into them when he'd tried shifting that table. He'd had a glib excuse all ready (for people who mattered, not for his coworkers to whom he'd fed six different wild stories) but he hadn't seen Rodolphus in a week. Wasn't sure he was even in the country.
Convenient, in one way. Unsettling, in others.
Fabian finished the pint, pushing himself up from the table. He paused to look at Rabbit; the fact that something was off hadn't entirely escaped him. There was no point in pushing him, though. Either he'd talk about it or he wouldn't. And Merlin alone, or Rabbit, knew what Rabbit had been tangling with in his own efforts to get at the cup horcrux.
Once they were outside, Fabian led Rabbit down an alley and, once they were out of sight of the street offered him a sleep-mask. "No peeking," he told Rabbit, his voice all dry, as if Rabbit could easily with the enchantments on the thing, or as if Rabbit wouldn't try under most circumstances anyhow.
Rabbit took the mask readily enough, but dithered for a moment holding it in his hands. Talking the paranoia down was one thing, getting it to let go of your physical instincts was another. (And was it paranoia if plenty of people really would do horrible things to you given half a chance?) "Right," he said, casually as he didn't feel, and forced himself to put the bloody mask on. To blind himself. Render himself vulnerable. "Whisk me off and have your wicked way with me, then."
"I feel confident in promising you wonders at the other end. Things you will be one of the few to have seen in the last thousand years," Fabian told Rabbit as he drew Rabbit in, wrapping his arms around Rabbit's body. Then he whisked them away to the opening of the maze that led into Cor Tewdws.
Without vision to anchor himself, Rabbit was going to take a moment to recover from the transit. Fabian just held him up for what he thought was long enough, considering how to do the next bit without Rabbit breaking an ankle or something on the grassy trail. Finally, he just gave up and said, "How would you feel about me putting a lightening spell on you and just carrying you bridal style the rest of the way? I don't want you to trip on the path."
"Are you taking the piss?" Rabbit's hand twitched up toward the mask, but he stopped well short, despite the strong urge to give Fabian a hard look, or at least see the look on his face. The idea of being carried was not appealing--well, not entirely appealing, but the last thing he needed right now was getting distracted. "Did you think this through at all? We could've brought a broom."
"You can't use a broom. We tried that." Fabian's annoyance sounded genuine enough. "If your feet don't touch the ground, you're not getting anywhere. And if you step off the path you can't see, we'll be separated. Plus, the path is asymmetrically reversible so if we were separated at an intersection I couldn't even necessarily find you. I knew I was going to have to hold your hand the whole way but the more I think about it, the safer it'll be if I just do all the walking. That way if something happens, we both end up in the same place."
"You're taking me down a fairy path?" Rabbit demanded, though any outrage was well tempered with curiosity by this point. Where were they? But messing with the blindfold at this point would satisfy far less than sticking it out. "Fine, carry me. Would piggyback be more sensible?" File that under things he'd never expected to say.
"Probably," Fabian grumbled, thinking about how his back was going to feel at the end of all this. "And it’s not technically a fairy path because it doesn’t go to a fairy place. But it’s certainly modeled on one." He sighed and took Rabbit’s arm, more so Rabbit could figure out where he was by feel than anything else, and positioned himself for a piggyback. "All right, hop up, and let’s go."
It was neither the easiest nor the most dignified thing, getting up into piggyback while blindfolded. By the time Rabbit managed it to anything like good balance or comfort, he was sniggering. So he might as well say, "Don't you smell lovely, raiding your sister's shampoo again?" And, for good measure: "Giddy up!"
Fabian snorted, "You need to go on a diet," he told Rabbit, and applied the lightening charm. With Rabbit at suddenly about a third of his normal weight, he continued, "Now I can bloody giddy up."
And then they were off, not at a fierce clip exactly, but certainly at a fast walk, with Fabian singing because he could and to let Rabbit know he was all right. Which he did by singing the complete version of the telly theme they'd been watching at the art crawl on Fabian's birthday, complete with obscene meditations on Rabbit's sex life.
🎵 "--can he fuck? Listen, Mick: he's got a super magic prick! Look out! WAH! There goes the Rabbit man! Wah-n wah wah!" 🎵
🎵 "--he will lennnnnnd some tail since he can't lend a hand!" 🎵
And when he'd finished that, Fabian launched into another song he'd been rewriting in his head:
🎵 "There lived a certain man in London long ago He was short and stout, in his eyes a flaming glow Most people looked at him with terror and with fear But to Muggle boys he was such a lovely dear--" 🎵
🎵 "Ra Ra Rabastan England's greatest back door man There was a bun that really was gone Ra Ra Rabastan Cock big as a soda can It was a shame how he carried on!🎵
And so on in this vein for far longer than the actual song, and without the miserable ending of the actual Rasputin, either. It was just possible from the lyrics and the merriment (and volume) with which Fabian was singing them that he was a bit further over the eight than Rabbit had previously thought.
And the merriment at least was entirely shared by his passenger. Just as well Rabbit was being carried because he was helpless with laughter well before they reached their destination, and there seemed little sense in trying to hide it given his position.
"Bloody hell," Rabbit wheezed, when Fabian stopped--or at least paused for breath. "You have way too much time on your hands."
"Got to do something during those boring all-hands meetings." Fabian had been doing a remarkably good job of not laughing while singing, though the fact that Rabbit couldn't see his huge grin and try to crack him up had been a big help. "Kept me from falling asleep during the bloody things. This is what happens when I spend too much time in the office--and the Office." The latter being the unofficial name for the men's bathroom at the Swallowed Octave, which had clearly been where Fabian had learned what he knew about sodomy.
(If Rabbit was laughing, he wasn't worrying about where he was going. Score one for Fabian's bawdy sense of humour.)
"Our lives are ridiculous, anyhow, so why not? You have anything to contribute in the annals of obscene popular music renditions?"
"Nothing that could hold a candle to your outstanding contributions to the genre." Rabbit wasn't even bothering to try any sort of humility; he still sounded boundlessly amused. "I would prostrate myself in appropriate veneration but then you'd have to start all over again." He kicked his feet a little and added, "Are we there yet?"
"Oddly enough," said Fabian, "we are. Steady on, and steady off." The latter of which was accompanied by a release of Rabbit's weight so he could put his feet on the ground: a process which he had an extra bit of time for since he weighed about a third of the usual.
Once Rabbit was standing firmly, and Fabian had had a chance to stretch his spine, he turned round to remove the mask. "Welcome," he told Rabbit, "to our current hideyhole."
Curiosity was a good reason to not just stand there blinking at Fabian; Rabbit squinted about, shielding his eyes from the late afternoon sun, at the greenery and the stonework. "Oh nice," he said blandly, even as he frowned, trying to figure out where they were. "Homey." They'd done a semi-thorough survey of the various castles and ruins of Great Britain at one point, for similar hiding-out-and-making-use-of purposes, but he couldn't place this one.
It was an effort to keep the smug out of his voice, but Fabian thought he was mostly successful at it. Mostly. Not entirely. "You don't recognize it."
Rabbit didn't. "I thought we'd just established fulsomely that I prefer my nightlife a little more modern than this." He even turned and looked back the way he thought they'd probably come. "I give up, where are we?"
"Cor Tewdws," Fabian said. "The place where they educated wizards alongside Muggle clerics--who were the only ones who could read and write in those days--before Hogwarts. Taliesin learned his wizardry here."
Rabbit whipped back around at that. "Are you fucking serious? I thought that place was a myth." He looked around again at the buildings, as though he could tell a very old stone from an extremely old stone. "Bloody hell, have you been over the place?" The things there might be to find...
"Working on it. Haven't been through the entire library yet but I've been trying to find things that are relevant to our present dilemma. Remember when I was cracking wise about Welsh? I wasn't kidding," Fabian told Rabbit.
He gestured to Rabbit to join him and started to walk, with a bit more spring in his step than he'd had when carrying Rabbit, toward the library. "One of the things they definitely have is a pensieve. Which we are about to use, for the first time in a thousand or eleven hundred years or so."
"Sure it still works?" Rabbit asked, falling into step despite his ongoing curious looks around them. There was no reason to think it wouldn't, of course. Corvus might have been prone to droning on about things not being built like they used to be, but there was something to the sentiment, and look at this place. "Feel like perhaps I should've brought some more grandiose memories than just me mucking about in the family vault."
"I haven't tested it," Fabian admitted, "but it looks like it ought to work. Same fluid as the one in the office as far as I can tell. We're both going to be sticking our faces in it so we'll have the adventure together." He opened the door to the library and gestured Rabbit in. "The books here are ancient and most of them are hand written. Some Latin, some Greek, some in various Celtic languages, some in things I can't even decipher. And there are elves but they don't speak English, and as far as I can tell they don't understand the Welsh I learned from Nelly. So we're on our own, unfortunately."
There were locks and wards but Fabian clearly had the ward key.
Rabbit took a good gander around the library--and look, he wasn't some Ravenclaw to get weak in the knees at the longevity of the written record or anything, but this was still pretty impressive. There were certainly some subjects he'd have loved to dig into--see how history really felt about some of the things presented in various books in his father's collection--but now was hardly the time, language barriers aside.
"I've not actually used a pensieve before," Rabbit admitted, catching up to Fabian again. Which probably wasn't that much of a surprise; given Rabbit's extensive trade in lies, letting the actual truth of any particular moment be confirmed would hardly be useful. "Is it true it takes the memory?"
"Not permanently," Fabian reassured Rabbit. "I've used them before, with my own memories, and other people's. I'm going to draw the memory out of you, put it in the pensieve, and then we'll walk through it together. After it's done, I'll put it back in your head again. The thing is, what you see while you're in the pensieve isn't--there's no emotional context, not like there is when you remember something on your own. You see things more objectively. And there are tricks you can do with it if you're good. I can sometimes manage them; I don't have a lot of independent experience."
Fabian unlocked a cabinet and there it was: a covered stone bowl, ancient, carved with symbols and letters that Fabian could only decipher some of. "They say Dumbledore offloaded some of his memories into a pensieve, and then stored them in bottles, but I don't know if it's true."
Rabbit genuinely hated the idea of anyone or anything messing with the contents of his head. Missing a piece of the world, not having access to everything he possibly could...
Well, at least it would only be temporary. Might even be interesting, to see the memory objectively. He'd written some notes about the visit afterwards--had used them as an aid to taking another swing at Nott's marginalia--and surely he'd still have the memory of those, could compare them back to the events.
Enough dithering, Rabbit. "All right, then."
"Just bring the memory forward in your mind, think of it, and I'll extract it. It's not painful." Fabian had already unlimbered his wand and moved it toward Rabbit's temple.
"Oh good," Rabbit said faintly; he hadn't even considered pain as a possibility, though honestly it was pretty far down his list of concerns. He pulled a bit of a face, but he held steady for Fabian's approaching wand, turning his mind resolutely to the visit to the vault, to stepping into Gringott's ridiculous hall and having a goblin hail him as--
Wait, what had he been thinking?
But then he was distracted again by Fabian pulling wand away from Rabbit's forehead, trailing something that looked like ghostly mozzarella--well, no, it looked most like something that definitely couldn't be discussed in polite company, and Rabbit couldn't have stopped the snigger if he tried.
Fabian couldn't help it. He snickered too, because he'd thought the same thing in the past and hadn't been allowed to indulge himself in Auror training. "Now we put it in the pot," he said, suiting word to deed, adding, "Lean over and take a look."
If he'd thought twice about it, Rabbit might not have trusted that casual tone from Fabian, but there were enough other things going on that he was leaning forward before he really thought about it, and from there the rest of it--the hand at the back of his neck, the shove and the plunge--was really predictable.
Didn't stop his reflex flail, that stilled just as quickly as he realised he wasn't spluttering but in fact standing as Gringotts poured down to coalesce around him, sauntering across the hall to a goblin who eyed him over half-moon spectacles and said, "Mr Lestrange, can we be of service?"
And Fabian was standing beside him, having put his own face in at the same time, waiting for Rabbit's revenge.
"You git." Rabbit spun to jab at Fabian's side--except he (or another he) also kept walking, and his finger didn't so much prod at Fabian's ribs as more pass straight through him. Rabbit blinked, and amended to: "Well, this is weird. You git. You might have warned me."
"If I'd told you you were about to stick your face in the pensieve, you would have shied away." Fabian said this with the assurance of someone who'd seen others do it, and had probably done it himself, a time or three. "You can thank me for sparing you the trouble and start telling me what we're seeing here, to the extent you can." Fabian had all sorts of memory tricks for doubling in cases like this: writing it down for a start. But he'd been trained in how to give pensieve supplements and Rabbit hadn't, so he was probably just going to have to walk through the whole thing with Rabbit.
It was incredibly odd, but Rabbit didn't remember this. He remembered the plan he'd had for visiting the vault, and he knew that the visit had happened, vaguely remembered the notes he'd made afterwards, and armed with all of that his mind kept trying to fill in the blanks, to suggest that yes of course he remembered it, and yet there were bits and pieces of this--this memory that he was shadowing himself through, sharing with Fabian--that he absolutely didn't remember.
He watched himself being escorted away toward the vaults by the goblin--Rabbit couldn't even remember his name, though he'd definitely written that down in his notes--and tried to pull himself together. "Right. Usual Gringotts security, with the goblin and the dragon and the zippy little cart and whatnot. Probably not a problem for us, given that I do have access, but I suppose you never know."
Rabbit clearly hadn't had sufficient memory training, so present-Rabbit didn't know what past-Rabbit was doing. And Fabian couldn't even lay a comforting hand on his shoulder. "I've been down to the lower levels a time or two, so I think we can fast forward through this next bit. It's all right if you don't remember things. We're in your memory and you get it back after this. And then we can discuss it with your full recall."
Fabian sped the memory up; they effortlessly followed the goblin down the shaft, through the unpleasant waterfall, which Fabian winced at even though this time his incorporeal form avoided the ruination of his suit, and then past the entry to the vault, which Fabian observed with interest even though it was a family secret. He knew how to get into the Prewett vaults, of course, not to mention a number of others, but this was a rare occasion when he wasn't professionally involved. Not that he intended to do anything, but he was as subject to curiosity as Rabbit: one of the reasons they got on so well.
"After you," he said to Rabbit; it was hard not to be concerned even though he knew intellectually that this was a memory. It still carried the instinct of I shouldn't be here and in Gringotts, that could be life-threatening.
Rabbit followed himself into the familiar surrounds of his family vault, which was its usual crowded display of wealth in all its accumulated-over-centuries-and-stashed-in-here-for-want-of-a-better-idea varieties. Memory-Rabbit paused at the door, having a look at the big gold-chased leatherbound ledger sitting on a lectern with a gilded quill attached on a dinky little chain.
Here-and-now-Rabbit carried on, beckoning Fabian forward around a ridiculously ornate suit of silver armour until he had a clear view of one of the back corners of the vault. "So we don't get distracted, that there is the goal." And he pointed, to a velvet-draped niche holding a tall, narrow table atop which stood Hufflepuff's Cup. Not that grandiose, really--gold, to be sure, but quite small, and not as ostentatiously embellished as many other things in the vault.
"Not bad, if a bit on the small side for all the trouble it's causing us," Fabian said. "On the upside, it'll be easy for you to get out. If the security precautions don't do us in." He started to say something about remembering what they were, but fortunately he managed to bite his tongue on it before he actually got it out of his mouth. Instead he said, "Let's watch what you did and then we'll go back and figure out what we've got from it."
Past Rabbit appeared to be checking out various other corners of the vault, clearly getting a swat for his trouble from one of the suits of armour in what looked to be his mother's corner of things. Fabian, who'd never been assaulted by his own parents in the family vault, and certainly not left to deal with violent curses against his person, shook his head at present Rabbit, a mildly sympathetic look on his face. The rest of the vault was a little more friendly, with the possible exception of a trunk that had Rabbit scowling.
Finally, finally, past Rabbit got round to the corner with the Cup, and started prodding at things near it. Fabian stopped the memory when Rabbit got himself cursed by one of the boxes in the corner, which sparked purple and green at him. "Your family will go cursing each other. Are you all right from that?"
Rabbit was looking thoughtful. "Actually, that may explain the hideous dreams I had that night. I'd forgotten about that box." He shrugged. "If I went around remembering every time Trixie hexed me I'd never get anything done." He couldn't remember making the decision to try and get Bellatrix's personal chest open, but he'd make it again; satisfying curiosity about what she had tucked away was worth the risk. "And I've slept fine since." For Trixie, that really was barely worth mentioning.
Fabian made a face at Rabbit's comment. Howlers were annoying and might cause nightmares, but at least they were in theory sent from a place of love. "All right, then, let's move on." And proceeded to watch Rabbit's experiments with bringing things in and out, and the work of the quill and ledger at the door. "Hmm, that's going to be tough to get round."
"Not actually the work of my father's suspicious mind," Rabbit commented idly, watching himself messing around with bits and pieces. "Apparently his grandfather was even more paranoid. Though the old man didn't precisely try to do away with the system, since it gave him a nice framework for--oh, yep, there we go." As memory-Rabbit hefted a sword with verdigris creeping over the boss, and nearly ran into it when it froze in mid-air in the doorway. "Yeah, that was never going to work. That was the first thing Dad ever banned me from taking out. I was about seven. I don't think I could even lift it then."
He wandered over to the ledger and peered at it, even as memory-Rabbit slung the sword back where he'd got it from. "I wonder if we could--oh, no, there we are, all vault-registered objects get recorded on exit even if they're sealed inside something." He pulled a face and turned back, as memory-Rabbit wound his way back toward the back corner--and the Cup.
"Can we de-register the Cup? Do you know if the registration is triggered simply by bringing the thing in and leaving it, or if there's something else to do?" Fabian was already calculating where the weaknesses in the scheme might be and how they could exploit them. "Does it--well of course your name is recorded because you took something, right? But does it take down your name or that of anyone who comes in?"
The memory hadn't paused, and it was what they were down here to see, so he said, "Never mind; we'll work all that out later," and moved to follow past-Rabbit pack to the Cup and watch him start to grab for the thing. "Hmmm, I'll want you to fill me in on what happened there once we're back outside and this memory is safe in your head again."
"Don't precisely look chuffed, do I?" Rabbit agreed, considering himself considering the Cup. Watched his hand stop, pull back again with a little twist. Rabbit might not remember this happening, right now, but he knew that gesture. Looked down at his own arm. His left arm, his Marked arm. And he remembered some of the notes he'd written afterwards, now. The shape of the conclusions he'd drawn. Looked up again in time to see himself draw blood and let it fall into the Cup. Memory-Rabbit looked positively grim now, not a common expression on that face (when unmasked, at least).
Rabbit offered a somewhat crooked smile in counterpoint. "I have some questionably good news about getting the thing out. But let's wait until I have all my faculties about me again to really get into it."
There wasn't much more of this, from what he'd noted.
Fabian watched Rabbit make a couple of additional attempts to get at the Cup. The business with the Quaffle had his eyebrows rising as it bounced back and forth between the table and the Cup. "Should have brought a bludger, clearly," he observed, and then it seemed to be over.
There was no point in watching Rabbit go back up, so Fabian pulled them out of the pensieve and fetched the memory again. It hung there from the end of his wand for a moment before Fabian touched it to Rabbit's temple, whence it vanished into Rabbit's skull.
Being hauled out of the pensieve was nearly as unpleasant as being shoved in--so disorienting and wrenching it felt strange that it didn't leave a headache behind. Rabbit wiped a hand over his face, and was ready (as he'd ever be) to receive his memory back.
It slotted back in like the missing jigsaw piece, making so many other partial bits make sense again, shouldering aside the things he'd pieced together with the full weight of everything that he'd figured out--during and since--about the vault and the Cup.
Fabian was waiting for his recovery, with a hand close enough to Rabbit to catch him if he stumbled. Which didn't seem necessary and moreover, from the look on his face, might not be desirable.
"So," Rabbit said, full of patently fake cheer. "Now you've seen it. Plenty of details to be figured out, but on the big point, I have good news, and I have bad news." He lifted an eyebrow, but didn't really give Fabian time to state a preference, before just launching in.
"Good news is, I'm pretty sure that with the right prep, I can just pick up the thing and walk out with it. There's extra warding, but it's one we use a bit, and there's a way through for me basically built-in. The Cup itself has a lot of--" He paused, ran the tip of his tongue over his teeth, looking into the pensieve like there was anything still to see. "I don't know if it's warding or some product of the thing itself or just layers and layers of... anyway, it's filthy." An eyebrow lift there; take it from someone who knows. "But it's keen to be taken up. You can practically feel it. It likes this--" He lifted his left hand, palm towards Fabian--or more specifically inner wrist and forearm towards Fabian, even if there were jacket and shirt hiding any sign of the Mark from view. (Not that there was any to see; Rabbit didn't slip on that, not with the sort of life he led.) "And it likes blood. Maybe any blood, but I think mine in particular. It felt like it wanted me to pick it up. Like a vampire wants you to invite it in."
Fabian nodded, chewing on that, but didn't say anything. If this was the good news, he wasn't sure he wanted to hear the bad. Still, he nodded for Rabbit to continue.
"So there's the bad news. I can pick it up and bring it out, but..." He smiled, tight and crooked. "I'm not sure who or what I'll be by the time I get it out."
Fabian ought to say something blasé about how that that would be unfortunate but what came out of his mouth was: "No. He can't have you."
Rabbit blinked, at the statement so sharp it went straight through him like an arrow, and in its wake he had to swallow hard against a burr of something in his throat. "It might be our only option," he said, just about evenly. "I couldn't even knock the thing off the table to get it into something else to carry out, so unless you want to try destroying it in the vault, someone's going to have to carry it out. It's not going to be you."
"As a purely practical matter," Fabian pointed out, his voice still too loud and too sharp, "if he takes you and knows what's in your head, we are all fucked. And not in the good way. So: no. I'll help you smuggle the damn alkahest into the vault first."
Rabbit grimaced, rubbed a hand over his face like he could scrub it away. "Yes, let's be practical." It was nearly a growl, and now was really not the time to let it all get the better of him. Pull yourself together, Rabastan. "We don't even know what destroying this thing is going to do, I don't think trying it in a magic-rich confined space is the best idea you've ever had."
"At least if we did it that way we'd go out together." Fabian's jaw had set in a way that boded ill for someone. "All right, we rule out blowing ourselves to smithereens in the vault and we rule out You Know Who wearing you like a bloody glove." He pushed his hair back, running his fingers through it as if it and not the world were responsible for his current problems. "What else have we got?"
"I don't know," Rabbit admitted, abruptly weary. He leaned against one of the solid tables. "Even if we--" He turned it all over again in his mind, all the thinking he'd been doing since visiting the vault, all the new impressions from revisiting. "Even if we tried to fake it, polyjuiced as Rodolphus, got his blood somehow to feed to the cup, I don't think it'll be safe without a real Mark. And then--" He waved at the pensieve. "The ledger, of course. Helpfully recording just who's pinched it. You'd show up as my guest, by the way, if you carried it out."
Fabian's voice softened. "Hey." His hand came to rest on Rabbit's shoulders. "We did a lot of work here; we're both tired. We'll figure it out with some time. There is no scam we cannot manage together. It's just going to take a while to work the shape of it out."
Rabbit tilted his head to look at Fabian--possibly not the wisest idea, at this proximity, when he was saying that sort of thing, but how could he resist, for all the same reasons. The curve of his mouth that was supposed to be mocking felt entirely too soft. "This is just a little trickier than pilfering the good firewhiskey from Slughorn's stash."
"We got this far. We're not done yet," Fabian had to remind Rabbit. "I just got you back. I'm not giving you up again."
Rabbit had to close his eyes, lest he say (or worse, do) anything unfortunate. He wanted this, had missed this, more than he let himself admit most days--he wanted this plus, but he wanted this more than he wanted to risk breaking it.
But still, his head tilted more, until he could rest his cheek against Fabian's hand on his shoulder. Just for a moment--just let him have a moment before he got back to juggling impossibilities.
Then Fabian slid his other arm around Rabbit and pulled him in for a hug. When things got too tough for Fabian, he at least had Gideon to lean on. Rabbit had Rodolphus, sort of, except not any more, and he'd just suggested sacrificing himself to save Rodolphus (not that it really would, because who knew what You Know Who would do to Rodolphus for things he'd done in the meantime?). He really must be at wits' end. "Come on, break time. It is hard on you, having that done, and you need tea and a rest for a bit before you go plunging back in."
Rabbit took a breath (unacceptably shaky, but perhaps he was the only one here who cared) and let himself lean into the hug. Closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around Fabian (for the second time today) and let this wash over him, words and scent and reassuring presence. Rabbit wasn't alone in this; better than that, it was Fabian with him.
He wanted to stay just like this for about a week. That would almost certainly be wallowing. And not actually helpful.
Fabian let Rabbit lean on him for a long time, figuring that if Rabbit needed it, it wasn't exactly hurting Fabian either. After years of dancing round the issue, Fabian rather thought it was good to know his affection was returned. That the dance wasn't entirely one-sided. After a couple of minutes, though, he did finally say, "Hey? You ready for a little tea?"
"Yeah." Rabbit straightened, stepped away, with a sniff and a blink. "Tea. Sure." In other company, he might have tried harder to hide the effort of pulling himself together; it seemed a little redundant, here and now. "There's another thing. From Nott's notes. But let's get that tea."
It took Fabian a moment to put the pensieve away properly, a ritual of putting the lid on and closing the cabinet that he'd forgone to console Rabbit. "Tea's in the refectory. Can't order to taste exactly but we can get something. They won't let me make it and I have trouble communicating exactly what I want but if I start making tea, they'll do it. And bring some food, to boot," he explained as he led Rabbit out of the library and across one of the courtyards.
His stomach had been the last thing on Rabbit's mind, but now he realised-- "Food would be good. And I'm easy on tea. Just about anything's better than the stuff they keep in the Floo office." Which he still drank because you needed something when you were on-shift at half-three in the morning.
It was getting dark now, which didn't actually make the looming shapes of Cor Tewdws any less mysterious and full of possibility. Rabbit still didn't feel quite himself; probably couldn't blame the surroundings directly. "How did you even find this place?" he asked, as he followed along.
"I've always been interested in it, both of us have been, because of the Welsh connection. We needed a proof of concept for looking for the horcruxes. This made a good one. I think it worked in part because we used Muggle ordnance maps for the divination," Fabian explained as he opened the door into the rectory. It was full of low tables with benches. "When we got here, there was one elf apparently who spoke English and I'm not sure he actually did. He was under an oath and we fulfilled his oath for him, which let him go. So Gideon and I are in charge." Fabian turned a sunny smile on Rabbit. "He talks sometimes about you joining us here when it's over. Exploring the place, doing the research, that kind of thing."
"He what?" Rabbit blurted, far too surprised by that to even try and hide it. He wasn't even sure which part was more surprising--he had so many things to think about here and now that he'd barely spared a thought for when it's over, let alone the notion of-- "I wouldn't have thought he'd want to share with the likes of me."
"It is," Fabian said serenely, his grin not even wavering "a big campus. And we agreed I'd be in charge of the library, and who's the most curious person I know?" He pushed through the doors into what was obviously the kitchen, complete with cauldrons and hearths instead of stoves. "It's really fascinating to poke round in here. Apparently the elves grow their own foods and it's all things that people ate a thousand years ago. No maize, no tomatoes, no potatoes. And no tea." On which note he stopped at a clearly non-antique kettle and box of tea, and proceeded to produce some leaves while the kettle was boiling.
Rabbit lagged behind a bit, loitering near the doors not so much out of any caution but more still trying to wrap his head around... what? Being invited to dig into a thousand-year-old myth. With Fabian. The things they could find, the mysteries and puzzles, the two of them, together.
It was like looking into the sun.
Vagaries of comestibles seemed a lot easier to contemplate. "Really?" Rabbit stepped forward again, and movement at the corner of his eye snagged his attention; just an impression of something small and grey and rather pointed, ducking behind a counter. "You said there were elves?" Though that hadn't looked quite like a house elf.
Fabian nodded. "Yeah, I think they're descended from the elves who were here when this place was fenced in. Cut off. Whatever you want to say happened. I've tried talking to them in Latin and old Welsh but even the oldest Welsh I know doesn't seem to make the grade. I'm sure my accent is terrible. I've tried writing as well, but I don't think they read." He sighed as he put the tea in to steep. "But I've slept here and had their breakfast the morning after and they're fantastic cooks." He beamed in the general direction that Rabbit had seen whoever it was dashing off in. "Fresh hot bread with honey, eggs, laverock, whole nine yards."
"Nice." Rabbit leaned against the counter next to Fabian, casting a curious eye around the kitchen. He didn't see any more movement. He didn't think that meant they weren't observed. "A thousand years is a long time for a language to be cut off. Whatever they started out speaking, it's probably developed in its own way." Another thought occurred to him, and curled his mouth into a smile. "They don't make beer, do they? Or mead? You could make a fortune out of it. Genuine antiquarian or heirloom or historic or whatever people go mad about."
"There was small beer. I haven't tried the full on brew yet. But yeah, it would be a thing, even just doing it in their style. I'm really enthused about learning how to talk to them. Just to hear their stories about what happened."
Across the kitchen, Fabian noticed a plate of oatcakes with butter and honey had appeared. He went to fetch it, leaving Rabbit in charge of the tea. "Thank you," he told the room, just as if he were at home speaking to Nelly.
Fabian's politeness tweaked a smile at the corner of Rabbit's mouth, as he took over the business of tea-making, warming the cups and whatnot. (Things his mother would probably be astonished to learn he even knew about.)
"So," he said, glancing up as Fabian returned with the oatcakes. "Nott's notes. I went back to them, after my brush with the cup, to see if anything struck a new spark. Figured out a delightful bit involving blood and the cup--" From his tone, delightful was hardly the word. "--but I think more importantly, there was a tally of horcruxes." He set down the teapot and looked up properly. "Did you guys have a number?"
"We counted four but we're pretty sure we don't have the full tally. There's the one in the Manor, and the three associated with Hogwarts. And we're still chasing things like the Thirteen Treasures of Britain, though I bloody hope your boss wasn't that ambitious." Fabian gave a delicate shudder as he set down the plain earthen plate between himself and Rabbit.
Rabbit shook his head, and nudged a cup of tea toward Fabian. "I don't think so. But to be honest, now I'm not sure. Every time I count--" He trailed off, and held up a hand, counting on his fingers. "The cup, obviously. The other two likely Hogwarts artifacts. There's a ring I helped get hold of, and a book of some kind, and--" He trailed off, frowning and wiggling a sixth finger. "And maybe another one, but that's the thing, I get five or six, and this list of Nott's--it's heavily coded shorthand so I'm not even getting much joy on confirming the ones I know about, but it's definitely got seven items."
"Seven." Fabian didn't ask if he was sure; Rabbit was telling him with all the certainty he had. And if Rabbit's and Fabian's understanding of what they'd seen in the pensieve was correct, Fabian was willing to trust Rabbit's instincts. Trusting instincts was what had got them this far. The wizarding brain could do a lot more arithmancy than it could consciously make sense of, after all. "Okay, seven. The book and the ring; the diadem, which we have; the cup, which is in the vault; the locket, which is on its way out of Grimmauld; one extra one you've got a line on. And ... one more."
"One more," Rabbit repeated. "And it's a total mystery. No leads, no mentions, no--" He waved a frustrated hand, and then picked up his tea instead. "Until this, I thought maybe we had them all, at least in theory." It was vaguely tempting to tell his brother about this somehow, see if this current mood of his might stretch to hanging Nott up by his toenails and seeing what else shook out of him. But not that tempting. Rabbit wasn't sure they could trust anything Nott parted with voluntarily, in any case.
Another sip of tea and a bite of oatcake bought Fabian time to figure out how he could satisfy some of Rabbit's discontent. "We did the lot we have by the laws of similarity. We might be able to use that to get the last one," Fabian offered. "Especially if we had you to be the querent." He gestured at Rabbit's left arm.
Rabbit shifted the arm a little, not quite turning it away. He drank his own tea, considering that. "More likely just to point us back at Rodolphus, isn't it?" For all the same reasons as why the cup liked him so much. "I'm not saying no," he clarified. "Just... this can be unpredictable."
"Fair enough," Fabian answered, unable to poke an obvious hole in Rabbit's logic "We won't know if we don't try, though. This would just be you and me and Gideon. Probably done here. Not a whole crew of people. And even if we just found Rodolphus, the failure might tell us something useful." He frowned, thinking. "If we did have a whole crew--one for each of the seven horcruxes--I wonder what we'd get."
Rabbit looked down--at his tea, not his arm--and tried to think his way through this. The idea of any sort of magic leveraging off the Mark made Rabbit's skin crawl, but he wasn't sure how much of that was common sense and how much just the way the Dark Lord wanted him to think about it. He knew a big part of it was his brother having used it the way he had. Which... well. "There's a chance," he said slowly, "that if whatever we do touches on the Mark in the wrong way, he'll feel it."
Fabian stopped looking at his tea to stop and stare at Rabbit. "That would be--not good." Behind his blue eyes, cogs and gears were whirring as he thought about that. "A sevenfold dowsing would have to be done without you anyhow. Too risky to disclose you."
Rabbit gave a faint snort at not good. "I want to help," he said. "But I do have my risks." He polished off his oatcake, and drained the last of tea, and very definitely felt better for it. "All right, what next?"
"Want to go back in the library and poke round some and see what we can find that we can read that might be relevant to this situation?" Fabian waggled his eyebrows at Rabbit, almost as if it were a pick-up line.
"Swot," Rabbit declared, with a curve to his mouth that was more fond than smirk. And he certainly didn't hesitate in setting his cup back on the tray with the rest of the tea things. "Yes, of course I want to get my hands on your abundant literature. Come on."