Who: Fabian Prewett and Rabastan Lestrange What: Two old friends see each other for the first time in a while When: Fall of 2007 Where: The Swallowed Octave, a jazz bar in a basement under the corner of Diagon and Knockturn that welcomes musicians, artists, and other undesirables. Warnings: Discussion of sexual activities (including a FTB)
Rabbit had been months in this job now, and he was still getting the hang of the shiftwork. Sometimes he got off the evening shift (around ten at night) exhausted and ready to crash. And sometimes, when the network had been slippery, connections ready to tangle--or worse, snap--at the first lapse in attention, he found himself still antsy with a restless energy that needed a little more than a pint down the pub to dissipate.
He didn't want to go back to the house where Rodolphus would be waiting with a mildly lifted eyebrow and an always-open offer of some little things that might be of interest. Not now, not yet, not until--
Rabbit shoved frustrated hands in his pockets, and found the card. Tried to remember when and where he'd last worn these trousers, even as he pulled it out, turned it over. The Swallowed Octave? Oh, of course; night out last week, friend of a friend, mouth like sin and an eye that kept catching Rabbit's, and at the conclusion of a very interesting visit to the gents he'd shoved this in Rabbit's pocket, saying something about a more welcoming atmosphere.
Sure. Why not?
Rabbit had almost certainly walked past the place before, busy with other plans, not realising it was there. He dodged a laughing couple leaving on the stairs, the music slinking up behind them, smoky and not quite dissonant. It hooked nicely into the edge still on Rabbit's bones, making promises that did not involve the boring. Rabbit glanced around idly on his way to the bar; time for proper consideration when he had a drink in hand.
There was a familiar voice in the back of the club, at a well-placed table not too far from the sound-charmer's chair. With his right arm round a perfectly lovely witch--or so she appeared; it was hard to tell with certainty--Fabian was holding court, his voice full of well-lubricated merriment. His drink was about half-empty and while he was hardly over the eight, he was definitely over four of them. Catching sight of Rabbit, he grinned and gestured to him to come join the table. "Rabbit! I didn't know you frequented this place!"
The voice caught at Rabbit's awareness, head turning before he really knew why, and the collision of what he'd come looking for and who he'd found left him reeling for a moment. (So disoriented that one of the wild thoughts flying through his head was that he was mistaken and it was the other one.) Barely a moment, taking a sip of whiskey to cover it, before he was coming over, sliding his way between tables.
The place was as had been advertised to him--welcoming--because there was a table nearer the corner occupied by two gents who were quite plainly pleased to see each other. But clearly it wasn't only as advertised. Or some of Rabbit's other conclusions had been incorrectly drawn.
A smile for Fabian, a genial nod for his company, and Rabbit replied: "First time." The smile quirked. "Be gentle."
"When am I not?" Fabian's gaze as it rested on Rabbit was wounded, so far out of proportion that it had to be a put-on job. But he proceeded to make introductions all round, with perfect courtesy, and as he identified each of them, his interest was suddenly clear: these were the musicians who knew him from a part of his life that Rabbit had never really shared.
"--and this is Rabastan Lestrange, whose singing voice is adequate but doesn't play, really."
"Did you come for the music, or the dancing?" The girl who'd been hanging on Fabian's arm, a petite dark-skinned witch whom he'd called Alix, eyed Rabbit with a certain knowing interest.
Rabbit eyed her right back, though with a more speculative gleam. "Haven't decided yet. I'm fickle." And flippant, smile unwavering. Broadening, in fact. "I'm always at home to persuasive arguments."
Fabian looked at Alix, and while it was nothing like the way he looked at his brother, it had the same air of a telepathic exchange that Rabbit wasn't party to. "Go on, take him out for a spin," Fabian said. "He'll only step on your toes if you annoy him."
She unwound from Fabian slightly to reach out to Rabbit. "Never hurts to try the dance floor. You can hear the music better down there anyhow."
There was a slight lift to Rabbit's eyebrows, but he took a swig of his whiskey and set the rest down. As he took Alix's offered hand, he said, "I make no promises," a blanket statement that covered a multitude of potential sins. And he let her take the lead, at least until they were closer to the dance floor.
Alix took Rabbit's hand and led him into the dance, and wasn't necessarily inclined to stop when she wrapped her arm around his waist. The tune wasn't one Rabbit exactly recognized; the instrumentation was wizarding-appropriate and the additional volume for dancing was provided by the sound-charmer whose chair Rabbit had noticed near Fabian's table. But Rabbit could guess the original music was Muggle from the tune and the beat. Possibly even something recent rearranged for this set of instruments.
It had a good, catchy beat, and Rabbit could take enough cues from the other couples on the floor--and his charmingly confident partner--to settle into it. Not at all the sort of improvisation Rabbit's childhood dancing master had envisaged, but Rabbit had put in a lot of practice--more than he'd spent on a lot of the endeavours his parents had promoted--precisely so his body knew how to move while his brain wrestled with far more interesting things. Like said charming partner. "You play this sort of thing?" he asked, close to her ear as the volume required and their proximity permitted.
"Sort of. Some like this, some original work. I was at WADA for composition and performance. They think everyone should go into one of the orchestras, but there aren't enough places. So a little of this and a little of that." She shrugged, which she managed without breaking stride with Rabbit's fancy footwork. "What do you do?"
A lady of varied creative talents; Rabbit liked her. He clearly wasn't the only one, given her position when he'd arrived. Rabbit very definitely didn't look back at the table, but rather answered, glib and impish, "Cause trouble. Though I get my money to fritter from working with the Floo." Not particularly a fascinating job, that wasn't why he'd taken it, so he moved on to, "Known Fabian long?"
As he might have expected, Alix's eyebrows rose slightly at the mention of the Floo. It wasn't the sort of occupation associated with the name Lestrange. "Knew his mother first of course, but we all got acquainted with the kids. Didn't expect to start seeing him here but apparently one of the busts got his attention and he started showing up when he was off shift."
It was a perfectly Fabian story; Rabbit's mouth twisted a little in amused appreciation. And of course Fabian was here for the music rather than... anything else. "Get the law in here much while on-duty?" Sounded like an idle question; really was, at this point, but you never knew when something might come in handy.
Alix grinned at him. "Only if there's trouble in the Office." She leaned in and pitched her voice for his ears only. "If you're looking for certain kinds of amusement, the men's room is where you find it. And sometimes people ask the wrong bloke, and he gets cross, or--you can imagine."
Rabbit didn't have to imagine; he'd had the snot thumped out of him back at school by someone who still cut him hilariously every time Rabbit encountered him in society (not that often these days, sadly). "Is that so?" he said, with far more amusement in his tone than scandal as he added, "What is the world coming to?"
"Fortunately the witches are much more well behaved. And if they don't want a girl to stir their cauldron they don't need to make a scene about it." She beamed at him as if he'd passed some sort of test.
"Well-behaved witches?" Rabbit repeated mildly. "How sad." Though he smiled--not suggestively; he did know how--as the song started to draw to a close and he added, "Speaking of, though, should I deliver you back?" He did look up then, back toward the table they'd left.
"I can make it on my own if you'd like to stay down here." Most of the dance floor was breaking into different configurations of couples; Rabbit could see that more than a third of them were two men dancing together.
Rabbit could see that, as he looked around, eyes lingering. Could also see a gentleman--possibly not the right word, given the directness of his gaze, but Rabbit was prepared to be generous--sitting solo on the other side of the dancefloor. And it wasn't as though he'd ever quite forgotten the itch in his bones or the suggestion that had led him here, not even seeing Fabian here (perhaps especially not seeing Fabian, for the first time since--never mind) but now his memory was quite refreshed.
To be honest, which Rabbit tried to avoid but sometimes had to succumb to: if he went back to the table now, watched Alix tuck herself back against Fabian's side, he'd probably do or say something inadvisable.
He turned back to Alix's lifted eyebrow, and didn't bother with excuses. "Thanks for the dance, love. I'll be along presently, I'm sure."
She went one way, Rabbit another, heading back up to the bar. Before he could even catch the tender's eye, though, someone slid in beside him; the fellow from across the dancefloor. Up close and in this lighting, he was blond, snub-nosed, heftier than Rabbit had realised. Hint of a burring accent as he said, "Did you get lost?"
Rabbit smirked. "I was going to get you a drink."
"Need the courage?" Blondie asked. No, challenged, with the hint of a sneer, and Rabbit stepped away from the bar again.
Told himself he really shouldn't, but couldn't seem to help glancing back to Fabian's table before he turned away.
Fabian's gaze rested on him, light, as Alix said something to him. He laughed, his expression all good humour, and winked at Rabbit before turning his full attention to his comrades.
And it turned out Alix had very much not misrepresented the nature of the business conducted in "the Office". It was perhaps a little more rough and ready than Rabbit had considered, but it suited his mood, and Blondie--they never did manage to get to names--didn't seem to be complaining.
It certainly didn't take a great deal of time until Rabbit was not quite meeting Blondie's eyes in the mirror over the sink where he was washing his hands as he said, "Cheers." Left plenty of time after the door closed behind him, straightening his tie (never that straight to begin with), before he followed. Cast a glance over the dancefloor on his way back through the club; just casual now, the edge of intent taken off his gaze.
Fabian had switched chairs, or perhaps been down to the dance floor or the bar himself; he looked a bit more tousled but merry. When he caught sight of Rabbit, he waved Rabbit up to join him again. The company had shifted; Alix was gone.
Rabbit took a chair with something far closer to his usual indolent sprawl, guaranteed to furrow a society matriarch's brow--though were any of those here, they'd probably have passed out in a dead faint by now. "I like this place," Rabbit declared, and added with a wink and a sly smile, "Even the music."
Fabian's mouth curled in a familiar and cynical grin. "Glad you found what you were looking for. Think you'll be back, then?"
There was that urge in the back of his throat, like the words it'll suffice. But with the edge off, it was far easier to swallow them, smile lazily, say, "I suspect there's more to explore." He seasoned the words with a twitch of his eyebrows, somewhat truncated as he glanced around the table and realised, "Where's your young lady gone?"
"She's not mine, she's her own, and merely lends me her grace from time to time," Fabian answered absently, sounding as much drawing room as speakeasy, his gaze running over the dance floor beneath them, until--"--and she's down there, enjoying the music with a fleet-footed gazelle of her own." Who was, when Rabbit's gaze followed Fabian's gesture, a woman who'd been sitting at the table earlier.
Rabbit's smile widened as a few things snapped into clearer focus (and a few other things remained less clear, but rather more interesting). "Half her luck," he said quietly, and then louder, "She's a peach." He looked back to Fabian, less a turn than just a tilt of his head. "How've you been, anyway?" It hadn't precisely been ages since they saw each other, but it was a lot longer than it used to be, before they graduated. Before--anything else.
"My bruises have bruises, my aches have aches, and my fingers have paper cuts and calluses from all the archive work." For a bloke who was complaining about everything, Fabian looked remarkably pleased with himself. "And I sleep the sleep of the just and innocent and fucking exhausted when I'm allowed to go home. Thank Merlin for Nelly bringing me trays or I'd never eat anything but the Ministry cafeteria and the pub snacks here. How are things in the Floo office?"
"You will go making something of yourself," Rabbit said cheerfully, no sympathy for the hard-working. "And the Floo is dead boring, I'm still not allowed to actually touch anything." He could see all the things that would be possible in the future, though, and that was fascinating. "But it still gets up Dad's nose no end, so..." He grinned, genuinely pleased with the world.
"I'm glad my father, as annoying as he can be, isn't worth me fucking around and fucking up my entire life over. How're your mum and Rodolphus?" There was no point in asking about Rabbit's father. Fabian knew Rabbit's quarrels with him all too well, had witnessed enough of them to understand Rabbit's delight in making the old man sweat. And participated in making Rabbit's father sweat now and again; Fabian imagined that introducing Rabbit to the delights of the Swallowed Octave would be another black mark in his book among the Lestranges.
The grimace whisked across Rabbit's face so quickly it was barely there at all. "As per usual. Mother in her greenhouse and Dolly on his best behaviour." Which, as always, was unfair, because it wasn't like it was something Rodolphus even had to try at, it was just where he naturally lived. Rabbit rolled this dissatisfaction around in his head and, in this company, in these surrounds, let it take on words. "I think I might need a place of my own."
Fabian's brow furrowed. Yet again he was relieved that his family didn't make that necessary. Depending on how you looked at things, moving out of Prewett House might not even be advisable for Fabian. "Have you got enough between your salary and your separate trust to cover it? I mean something you can stand to live in, not something tiny." That Rabbit's Ministry salary, even a starting one, would cover a rental was a given. But Rabbit, like most of Fabian's peers, was accustomed to living well. Fabian wasn't sure junior Ministry salaries, at least not in the Floo authority, stretched that far.
"Best not rely on the trust. I don't think Father will like to let me slip out from beneath his thumb." Not that anyone would suggest with a straight face that Rabbit was currently in such a position. It was delivered with the arch-casual tone of Rabbit bouncing an idea off a test audience, as was: "Chap at work had his flatmate leave to move in with his girl. Looking for someone to help make rent." Rabbit gave Fabian a slight sidelong smile. "How long do you think I could last before it comes to murder?"
Fabian, who had shared a cell with Rabbit in Slytherin, arched an eyebrow. "Six months, tops." His actual bet was closer to three but Rabbit was a slippery creature. Plus his father had to be driving him hard. "Get your own vault?"
Rabbit hummed consideringly, through that smile that wasn't anything but a placeholder, a not-giving-anything-away. Then he reached over and tapped a finger on the table near the base of Fabian's (nearly empty) glass. "Get you another?" His smile twitched. "Before I enter the penury of the self-supporting working class?"
Had it been anyone else, Fabian would have offered to cover the drinks, but the Lestranges had more money than anyone but the Malfoys and the Rosiers, and Fabian knew perfectly well that Rabbit had his pride. "You know my preferences," Fabian told Rabbit with a nod and a quirked smile. "I trust you to take good care of me." Which was more trust than Fabian should have extended to Rabastan Lestrange. Moody's motto echoed in his ears; Fabian ignored it.
An hour ago that would have stung more. It still did, but the twitch of Rabbit's smile was easily tucked into a deepened smirk, matched by the ostentatious curve of his eyebrows. "Darling," he drawled, hauling himself back to his feet. "Lie back and think of England." He tipped Fabian a wink, and headed for the bar.