(1937-12-28) The Cat, the Mouse, and the Guard Dog
Details for The Cat, the Mouse, and the Guard Dog
Summary: This log consists of three parts. Part I: Alis arrives at Rhyeline's home to set up the wards as she promised. The two converse about the need for such wards and in the end, Alis agrees to help Rhyeline improve her dueling skills. Part II: Cyril comes to call, bringing out Alis' protective instincts all the more. Part III: Alone once more, Alis and Rhyeline share thoughts on the Malfoy brothers, and Rhyeline confesses her anxieties regarding the upcoming trial.
Date: Thursday, December 27, 1937
Location: Rhyeline's Flat

It is a winter day. The weather is cold and snowing.

Rhyeline's Flat

A door with stained glass window panels reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright's water lilies distinguishes this red-brick flat from the others on either side.

The mudroom opens onto a foyer with stairs leading to a second floor. A long hallway runs alongside the stairs through to the back door. The foyer opens to the right onto the parlor with an adjoining dining room. From the dining room, the kitchen hides tucked into the back of the house. Upstairs, a master bedroom and a guest bedroom allow for guests or even a flat mate. Outside behind the flat, surrounded by tall brick walls, sits a small garden.

The scent of an ever crackling fireplace intermingles with that of brewing coffee and the pure white roses in the bay window facing the street. Gentle lighting lends the flat a warm and cozy atmosphere.

Part I

A fire crackles upon the hearth, filling the girl’s small flat with a warmth which makes it all the more cozy and comfortable. Not knowing exactly when Alis was to come by, Rhyeline is all curled up by the fire, wrapped in a fuzzy white blanket with a cup of coffee held in her hands. The Daily Prophet rests folded to one side and for the moment, the girl simply stares into the fire, lost in thought.

There was a very simple reason why Alis didn't set a time when she sent her note to Rhyeline that she'd be dropping by. It's because she didn't actually know, though she's working on getting better at managing her schedule. She raps briskly on the door, upon arrival, dressed in a sweater and trousers and a long overcoat over the top of it. It's almost Muggle-fashionable, or would be if she weren't a woman.

Rhyeline slips out from under the blanket and setting aside the coffee, she makes her way to the door. Opening the door, she blinks at the sight of Alis’s attire, before a small, shy smile touches her lips. In contrast with the woman’s boyish attire, the girl herself wears a slip dress of pale rose silk, very delicate and feminine. “Good afternoon, Alis,” she murmurs, drawing back the door to allow her to step into her flat. “How are you?”

Alis steps in when Rhyeline allows it, one hand on the shoulder strap of the bag she's toting. "Hallo, Rhyeline. I'm doing well. Yourself?" The bag is the sort of thing one would see a Muggle postman carry, but somehow it doesn't clash with her attire. "I wanted to get this taken care of before things got too busy."

Rhyeline nods and closes the door behind her. “Thank you so much. I truly appreciate this. Knowing when I come home whether or not someone has broken in will be a great reassurance.” Locking the door behind her, the little one clasps her hands and with a soft, hopeful smile, she asks, “First, would you care for some coffee?”

"I'm sorry it took so long for me to get back to you," Alis says, shrugging out of her coat and moving to hang it up. "Coffee would be excellent. I gave it some thought, and decided to make it so that the wards will sound an alarm if they're breached while you're home. It's not much of a warning, but it's something. There won't be a sound if it happens while you're away, though. Less chance anyone breaking in will be aware that the intrusion's been registered."

Rhyeline blinks but nodding, she draws close and reaches to take Alis’ hand. It is a simple gesture, meant to allow her to lead the woman deeper into the flat in the direction of the kitchen, but it shows how much the little one has started to trust her. “An alarm? Couldn’t it be- perhaps less intrusive? Like- like a bell ringing through the house? If it is a friend, I don’t want them to be startled or offended.”

"The sound is set as a chime," Alis explains, allowing the barely-taller Rhyeline to lead her through the house. "Its purpose is to function as an alarm, however, and it will be audible throughout the house." She resettles the bag on her shoulder. "It will also sound a different pitch depending on the point of entry. Presumably, if it's not either of the doors, you'll want the warning."

Rhyeline nods as she leads the woman into the cozy little kitchen. Turning on the stove, she lets the water start to boil. Resting back against the side of the counter, she murmurs, “That sounds like it should be good. Hope it won’t be necessary. Shouldn’t be. But. As you mentioned- I could be used to affect others.”

"Maybe it won't be necessary," Alis says, nodding. "Better to have it and not need it than the other way 'round, though. My instincts are telling me that you need protection. I've learned to listen to them, when that happens." Since that's what Alis' job entails, pretty much.

Rhyeline gazes with a quiet curiosity over at Alis. In silence, she moves to prepare two coffee cups and brings out a French press. Looking up once more, she murmurs, “It- it was not Cassius who asked you to do this for me?”

Alis arches a brow at the question, clearly surprised, but then she shakes her head. "No. So far as I know, he doesn't even know about it. It hasn't really come up, between us. I'm on retainer as a consultant, presently."

“Oh. I- I see.” Rhyeline pulls a tin of ground coffee towards her. “He invited me to his home, you see. Wanted to ask me to serve as his assistant. I was wondering if- if it was him you were worried I’d be used to harm.”

"Oh, did he?" There's a flash of concern across Alis' face, but she shakes it off. "I wasn't aware of any such interest, honestly. My concern for you is for you, not those you might be associated with." She smiles a little. "Besides, if I'd known Cassius had designs on you, I'd have insisted on more than just monitoring wards."

Having measured a few scoops of coffee into the French press, Rhyeline pauses, the spoon poised in the air. Her brows furrow in subtle uncertainty. “What do you mean?”

"Threat assessment." Alis leans against the doorframe and waves a hand. "Cassius is making enemies of some pretty bad people. Association with him is therefore inherently dangerous."

“Oh. I see. But, it isn’t well known and- and I didn’t accept. Ambassador Troy needs me and I owe him a great deal,” murmurs Rhyeline in a soft tone. The water has begun to boil at last and with care, she pours the steaming liquid into the French press. Pushing down on the handle, she looks up at Alis once more. “Anyone who would harm me to get to him would severely damage the strength of their own argument.”

"It's not well known, but it would only have been a matter of time." Alis is aware of how news spreads, after all. It's part of her job. "I don't know if you've heard, but there's already someone out there willing to hurt people in an attempt to get to him. People he's not even associated with."

Rhyeline blinks. It doesn’t seem that the little one has heard about this bit. It is possible when Constantine Hopewell was at large, the girl was still unconscious in St. Mungo’s and missed it all. “I didn’t realize there were those who opposed unity so vehemently.”

"Ah, but this was a so-called supporter of the movement, if I understood Cass correctly when he was relating the incident." Alis' use of the nickname is perhaps indicative of just how familiar she is with the barrister. "Hopewell attempted to attach himself to the cause, and killed a man on the wireless network when Cass refused to acknowledge his support."

Rhyeline’s gaze widens in surprise. “Oh. I didn’t realize. But then, I don’t suppose the stakes here are any less great than they were in Berlin.” Despite the danger, the girl doesn’t seem particularly frightened. She simply seems to accept it.

"In my profession, the stakes never get any lower." Alis is very dedicated to her profession, and even more so to the people she chooses to extend her protection to. "For me, it's always a matter of life or death, even if it isn't." She flashes a smile at Rhyeline. "Does that make sense?"

Rhyeline nods with a soft smile as she moves to pour the coffee. “I understand. And I know the danger. When I went to Berlin, I was warned and in truth, there were five assassination attempts. And on the fifth attempt, the curse meant for him struck me.” Holding her cup of coffee, she inhales the scent with a smile of pleasure. Closing her eyes, she takes a slow sip.

Alis' brows go up. "You have an appalling lack of self-preservation instincts for someone who's willing to throw herself in front of a curse to protect another."

Rhyeline blinks as Alis immediately assumes she took the curse on purpose, but the girl doesn’t attempt to correct her. Grinning a bit, she murmurs, “Was not myself I was trying to preserve. Was trying to protect the negotiations taking place at the time. If the Ambassador had died, so would everything he had worked for.”

"Regardless, my assessment stands." Alis moves to a vacant countertop and begins taking things out of the bag. A vial of dark liquid, a quill, and a small pair of scissors, as well as a sheaf of papers bearing a curiously haphazard chicken-scratch scrawl. "I'm going to need a few strands of hair to get this to work."

Rhyeline gazes curiously at the materials that Alis places on the counter. With a nod, she reaches up and unpins a braid at the base of her skull. Once she has combed her fingers through the wavy lock of hair, she turns her back to the woman to allow her to cut what she needs.

"This is how the wards will recognize you." Alis takes a moment to brush her fingers through the ends of Rhyeline's hair, then moves most of it aside before picking up the scissors. She cuts four strands up near the nape of the younger woman's neck, though the location is selected so that the missing strands won't be noticed. "I learned this technique in Tibet. From a bloke who told me he knew the secret to eternal life. He didn't, but it was quite an interesting visit all the same."

“Even if you don’t find what you hoped for, might still find something good, murmurs the girl with a soft smile. Once the strands of hair have been cut away, she turns once more to face Alis and reaches behind herself to re-braid her hair. “I didn’t expect at all to find how kind you are.”

"Precisely." Alis uncaps the vial, adds the hairs, and puts the cap back on, then gives it a vigorous shake. She quirks a brow at Rhyeline's statement however. "Why shouldn't I be kind? Because I do what I do, or because I'm good friends with Cassius Malfoy?"

Rhyeline smiles, her dark gaze shining with a subtle mirth. “No. Cassius has been very kind to me as well. And a guardian is not necessarily unkind.”

Alis picks up the quill, giving the vial another shake, and consults the papers on the counter. "Windows first. Front to back, then the same upstairs. Doors last." She starts back toward the foyer, glancing back over her shoulder. "So why is it such a surprise that I'm kind?"

Rhyeline nods and moves to follow the woman as she applies the wards throughout her flat. “Well, I don’t suppose I was surprised you had the capacity for kindness. Only that you would choose to be kind to me, especially not knowing Cassius had interest in me.”

Warding is a complex and time-consuming process, at least the way that Alis does it. She explains some of it as she goes, noting that the runic symbols she draws at each window are only part of the process. Apparently the rest of it will come later, but she seems well enough versed in what she's doing that she doesn't need to consult the notes, which were left behind in the kitchen. "It's a job hazard," she says, flashing a faint smile. "My instincs were telling me that you needed protecting, and I have a soft spot for vulnerable things. I suppose if I didn't, I wouldn't have gone into this business to begin with."

Rhyeline smiles softly up at her. “I am a vulnerable thing?” Sipping her coffee, she watches and listens to the woman’s explanations with interest. For the most part, her flat is quite tidy, but in her bedroom, her desk seems well used, covered in papers and stacks of books, discarded quills and empty ink pots.

"Very much so," Alis confirms. When the last of the symbols has been drawn on the last window, she makes her way back to the ground floor and the back door. "You have to understand, part of why I can do my job as well as I can is that I've learned not only to identify and assess threats, but also to think the way someone wanting to do harm would think. It's not something I enjoy. I do it because it's necessary. Otherwise I run the risk of letting an opponent get the drop on me, and potentially losing a client."

Rhyeline sits down upon the stairs as she watches Alis working on the front door. Resting her head against the banister, she blinks. “You mean- you are able to sense what someone might wish to do to me?”

"Not sense, exactly." Alis shakes her head, frowning in concentration as she uses the last of the ink on the four corners of the front door. She holds a hand out toward Rhyeline. "I need your keys. Just for a couple of minutes. I've kept company with some pretty unsavory people. Been some dark places. Seen some things done, heard about others, when protections have failed."

“Ah. So you simply know.” Rhyeline fetches the key from the pocket of the cloak hanging by the door. Handing it to her, she then turns to sit back down on the stairs. “I appreciate your wisdom then. I have been working to improve my dueling. I am trying not to seem so vulnerable.”

"I know," Alis agrees. She takes the key, draws her wand, and focuses her attention on the little piece of metal. Her lips move soundlessly, her hand moves in a complicated motion, and they key glows faintly with white light. So do the symbols that can be seen from where Rhyeline is sitting. Presumably, the rest of them are doing the same thing. There's a brief flash of light, then the glow fades, the symbols no longer visible around the doors and windows. Alis tucks her wand away and hands the key back. "Trying not to seem vulnerable isn't the same thing as not actually being vulnerable. You know that, right?"

"What would you say it is not to be vulnerable?" asks the girl softly as she rises to return the key to its place.

"I don't know that it's possible for people not to be vulnerable." Alis shrugs, then beckons the younger woman forward. "You remember where the symbols were, right?" She touches the wall next to the door. "This is the one that resets the system. Any time the door is opened by someone who isn't you, it's going to register on the door." She demonstrates this by opening the door, at which point a chime sounds throughout the house. Just above the doorknob, on the outside of the door, is a patch of lighter wood in the shape of an 'X'. "This is what you'll see on the door if the wards have been breached."

Rhyeline approaches and observes with care where each of the marks will be. The sound of the chime causes her to hesitate a moment before nodding. Then looking back up to where outside, the X is marked, she murmurs, “I don’t suppose it matters if others can see it as well?”

"There's a time-delay, for when you're out of the house." Alis has already thought of that. "The mark will appear some five minutes after the door's been closed again. I'd like to think that if you came home and the door was standing open, you'd get in touch with someone to go in with you, or at least be suspicious about it." She closes the door, then gestures toward the wall. "Set your palm on the wall, over the symbol. That will reset the system."

Rhyeline nods and places her hand immediately over where the symbol had been. “Like this?” Once she seems to have it, she goes to take up her cup of coffee once more. Head bowed, she peeks up at Alis and says, “You said it isn’t possible for us to be vulnerable. But I am resilient though.”

"Just like that," Alis confirms, nodding. She heads back into the kitchen to put her tools away. "I don't think it is, no. Resilience is good. Making people not want to hurt you in the first place is better." Which would be the attitude that Alis gives off. In spades.

“As much as I feel I want to sometimes, I have chosen not to hide from the world. I know how dangerous and painful it can be. I realized that to be harmed now and then is inevitable,”Rhyeline murmurs softly as she follows her back to the kitchen. “It is better than hiding. And I do my best to keep myself safe.”

"Pain is inevitable, but you can take steps to minimize it." Alis is speaking from experience, here. "Who are you practicing your dueling with?"

“Mm. I am just practicing by myself for the most part,” Rhyeline admits.

Alis tsks. "You don't get much in the way of actual practice, that way. I mean, you can practice the spells, but it doesn't really prepare you for the chaos of an actual conflict."

Rhyeline nods. “I know. I’ve mastered the spells, but- but I think it’s because I’ve never practiced it in a real situation, I wouldn’t be very good. Would- would you be willing to teach me?”

"There's a lot to take into account when you're under fire." Alis isn't just talking about magic, either, having been in her share of non-magical conflicts, as well. "I'd be willing to work with you, provided we can find an appropriate space for it."

“There are anti-muggle spells on the back garden. We could practice there without being noticed,” suggests Rhyeline with a soft, hopeful smile.

"Not without better wards than I just put up," Alis replies. "You don't want to run the risk of a stray spell going somewhere it shouldn't."

“Ah. That’s true. Mm. I will try to think of a better place. Or- or if you know of a place, we can do that.” Then with a soft smile, she looks towards the living room and then back over at Alis. “Shall we go and sit?”

"The friend I'm staying with isn't going to want her back garden torn up by dueling practice either, I'm pretty sure." Alis smiles a little, then nods, picking up her cup of coffee and the bag of tools and heacing toward the living room, where she settles into a chair.

Rhyeline sinks down into the chair opposite of Alis. Both are nice and close to the fireplace. “Perhaps we could go to my father’s house. He is rarely there, but it would be open to us, I’m sure. There is a very large back garden and it is far from the village.”

Alis considers this suggestion, then nods. "I'd still want to have some wards in place, but I can work up something that can be put up for a temporary basis and taken back down. I can probably get a dressmaker's dummy or something of that nature from my housemate, for practice purposes."

Rhyeline nods with a small smile. Then reaching for the blanket over the back of her chair, she pulls it down. Folding her legs beneath herself, she snuggles down in the chair beneath the blanket. Looking much like a contented kitten, she watches Alis for a moment. “I am curious to know more of you. Will you tell me?”

Setting the bag on the floor, Alis cradles the cup in both of her hands, a gesture that emphasizes that she's smaller, physically, than Rhyeline is. "I have few secrets, and none of them are my own. What would you like to know?"

“Only your own secrets. Would not wish you to betray the trust of others. Tell me of your family? You have many siblings?” asks the girl, watching Alis with such keen curiosity.

The mention of family draws a shadow across Alis' face that Rhyeline's seen before, but she nods at the question. "I have three. Victriola's the eldest, a decade older than I am. Roberta's a year younger than she is. Carletta came two years after me."

Of course Rhyeline remembered the shadow, and perhaps that is why her questions begin with her family. “What was it like? So many siblings. What were your days like before Hogwarts?”

"To be honest, I was never very close to my sisters. Vic and Robbie were both so much older, and by the time I was old enough to be interested, they were away at school most of the time." Alis smiles faintly. "I remember Carlie was annoying, always trying to follow me around into everything. I spent most of my days exploring the countryside. I'm from Oban, in Scotland." This might come as a surprise, since she doesn't have a Scots accent.

“Were you? And yet you have worked to lose your accent. So- little sisters always trying to follow you. You didn’t care for that?” asks Rhyeline curiously.

"I didn't really work to lose it, it just sort of happened." Alis' smile warms a bit. "I didn't care for it, because Mum had tried to set boundaries on my exploring, and I was forever ignoring them. Except Carlie would tell on me, if she'd been following, which got me into trouble."

“When I was younger, I spoke with a French accent because I had learned to speak from my mother.” Rhyeline’s words still hold a hint of her old accent, but it is only slight. “But so you didn’t care for your sister to follow because she could not keep secrets? What of your mother? What would she do when she found out?” Rhyeline’s brows furrow upturned a bit.

"Scold, and look very disappointed." Alis sighs, lifting a hand to brush her fingers through her hair. "Mum's always been a bit fragile. She didn't really know what to do with me, and she was always worried I'd get into more trouble than I can handle. Part of it probably had to do with Carlie following me, too. Carlie was hopeless."

Rhyeline’s features clear as she learns that that is all her mother did. Bringing her coffee cup to her lips, the girl takes a slow sip as she watches Alis from over the brim, sitting across from her. Snow flutters down from the sky outside, but within the parlor of Rhyeline’s flat, it is warm and cozy by the fire. Rhyeline is all snuggled up under a fuzzy white blanket. “Your mother was worried especially that your sister would be hurt. But you kept her safe, no? Perhaps that is where it comes from.”

Part II

Knock, knock, knock. The sound resonates through the house as Cyril wraps upon the door. Whoever opens it will find a snowy Cyril standing out on the stoop, his platinum blonde hair and golden eyes in full view of all those pesky Muggles. Though, he doesn't seem that bothered by it, as people don't really tend to focus on either one of those places when there's so much more to look at.

"I didn't keep her safe," Alis protests, shaking her head. "I learned how to charm the bloody lock on her bedroom door to give myself a head start." She's up out of her chair at the sound of the knock, though, wand in hand, and casts a glance at Rhyeline. "Expecting any more company?"

Rhyeline brings a hand up to hide her smile at the thought of Alis fixing a lock on her sister’s door so that she could go and have adventures. The knocking catches her by surprise. It doesn’t seem that the mouse was expecting the cat to call tonight. “Mm. No. But not everyone warns me before the drop by. It’s alright.” The girl rises and makes her way into the mudroom to open the door and peak out onto the doorstep.

Cyril stands on the stoop, rubbing at his chin and waiting. He's not particularly cold as the warming charm is working wonders but…y'know, standing still in once place for even a little bit longer than you want just kinda sucks. When the door is opened, a grin stretches out over his mouth and before he can be seen, he says, "Hello there, Diderot."

Since it's Rhyeline's house, and because she's just finished warding the place, Alis allows the mouse to answer the door. She doesn't allow her to do it alone, however, and her wand is still in hand, albeit pointed at the floor as she stands half a dozen paces behind the younger woman. Blue eyes narrow at the sight of the visitor, but she tilts her head toward Rhye. "You didn't tell me you were acquainted with Cass's much more dangerous older brother." She pauses a beat, then adds, "Don't take that as a compliment, Cyril."

Rhyeline blinks as she catches sight of Cyril. Immediately her cheeks warm as a powerful shyness settles upon her. Peeking back at Alis a bit hesitantly, she looks up at Cyril once more and murmurs, “Good evening, Mr. Malfoy.”

Cyril grins at Alis' description of him and says, "Oh, Orpington…" Well this is a surprise. One from which the man quickly recovers, though. "I thought we had a talk about candied words." He looks back to Rhyeline and says, "I was just checking in to see how you're doing Rhyeline. No need to be worried."

"Alis." Alis is quick to correct Cyril on how to properly address her. She gives Rhyeline an exasperated look. "Remember that protective instinct? It's diametrically opposed to every single one of Cyril's instincts."

Rhyeline’s intense shyness should be unsurprising considering their most recent encounter. However, stepping back the mouse pulls the door to allow the man to enter her flat. Bad mouse instincts. Bad. Looking curiously over at Alis, the girl hesitates, but remains silent. Whenever more than one person arrives, her voice fades noticeably. If Cyril had brought a couple of friends, it is likely she would have lost her voice entirely.

Cyril grins at Alis and says, "Oh, I wouldn't say that all of our instincts are the antipodes of each other." He flashes her a grin and turns to look at Rhyeline, saying, "Miss Diderot. Whatever is the matter?" Oh, he knows what's wrong. He just quite enjoys tormenting the poor girl. It's a hobby, really.

"I said protective instincts," Alis retorts, but she says it with a fond smile. "And Rhyeline is under my protection." She glances between cat and mouse, and adds, "As you might have guessed, Cyril and I are acquainted."

Rhyeline’s flush deepens just as Cyril had hoped. Lowering her gaze, she moves to close the door behind him before sneaking a cautious glance at him. However when Alis asserts in such an bold fashion that she is Rhyeline’s protector, the girl grows still, gazing at her.

Cyril grins at Alis and moves forward to give Alis a peck on the cheek that perhaps lingers longer than it should before saying, "Oh, Alis. Do tuck your wand away and stop flexing, please. I have no intention of hurting young Miss Diderot. She's a friend of mine." He turns and smiles at the younger woman, saying, "So, how have you been, Rhyeline? Everything is going well, I trust?"

Alis tilts her cheek upward toward the kiss, though her wand remains in her hand. She glances sidelong at Rhye and lets out a melodramatic sigh. "He's so very pretty when he's lying through his teeth, isn't he?"

Rhyeline hesitates a moment, watching Alis before lifting her gaze to Cyril as he turns to her. “I am well, thank you. Would you care for some coffee?” The girl gestures in the direction of the parlor, inviting them both to head over to sit.

Cyril smiles and nods to Rhyeline, saying in an abundantly affirmative tone, "My dear, coffee would be positively /fantastic/." He turns to speak to Alis, his hand resting on her back and knowing full well that there's a wand at just about crotch-level as he says, "You see, Alis? Absolutely nothing to worry about. And I'm very pretty all the time." He says the last bit very matter-of-factly.

There are maybe a dozen people who could get away with such familiar handling of Alis without some sort of violent reprisal. Fortunately for Rhyeline's foyer (and no doubt the rest of the flat and those to either side), Cyril is among them. "I don't believe for a second that there's nothing to worry about," she tells him, but she does tuck the wand away, moving toward the parlor to reclaim her seat by the fire and the cup of coffee.

Once the two are seated in the parlor, Rhyeline turns and heads off into the kitchen, leaving the pair alone for a few moments longer.

"A wise choice." Cyril moves along behinds Alis, watching the sway of her hips, well…what little swaying they do. He clears his throat as they step into the parlor and he moves to have a seat himself, crossing his legs and looking into the flames, causing those eyes of his to glow a little unnaturally.

Sipping from her coffee, Alis regards Cyril thoughtfully. "I meant it about her being under my protection," she says quietly. "Play nice, Cyril, or find someone else to play with."

Cyril looks up from his clasped hands over to Alis and says, "I am playing nice. I promise that the claws haven't come out even once." He leans his head against the arm that is situated on the rest. "I promise, Alis."

"Of course they haven't." Alis is keeping her voice low, so it doesn't carry too terribly far, thoough she's not all that concerned with Rhyeline overhearing. "I know you, remember? You're waiting for the right moment to pounce." She takes a breath, lets it out in a quiet sigh.

Cyril rubs at his knee as the change in temperature is making the pain flare up, though he does a good job at just playing it off as scratching. He sniffs a bit and says, "You /do/ know me, Alis. Therefor, you must know that I'm not all bad."

"No," Alis agrees. She flashes him a wicked smile from across the room. "I'm willing to bet Rhyeline would faint if I were to get into a discussion of your good parts."

At last the little mouse emerges from the kitchen carrying a fresh cup of coffee. Approaching Cyril, she hands it to him with the practiced grace of one who has served many a foreign dignitary.

Cyril smirks at Alis and says, "You speak of them as if you know of them. Is there something you need to tell me, Alis? Should I be locking the door to my room?" He looks up at Rhyeline and says, "Thank you very much, Rhyeline. Come, sit and be merry. Tis the season, after all."

"I've a very active imagination, Cyril." Alis sips from her coffee cup before adding, "As well as a good memory. And it was hot in the desert."

Rhyeline sits once more in her chair, folding her legs beneath herself. She pulls the fuzzy blanket over her lower half. Her dark gaze flickers back and forth between the pair with quiet curiosity.

Cyril chuckles at Alis and takes a sip of his coffee, regarding her with mirth over the rim of it. "I'll just have to let you investigate one day." His eyes eventually flit over to Rhyeline and he says, "I know I've told you once before, but I absolutely adore your home. I plan to go shopping about some day soon and maybe find some place very similar. Maybe a bit bigger."

"Soon, one hopes." Alis smirks back at him, then shifts her attention to Rhyeline, studying the younger woman carefully.

In the presence of more than one, or perhaps it is due to Cyril’ presence in particular, Rhyeline has withdrawn behind a veil of reserve. She meets Alis’ gaze for a moment before shifting her attention to Cassius once more whom she watches with an unwavering gaze. “The flats across the street are bigger. Miss Katherine Sykes lives close by in one of them.”

Cyril stands up and smirks at Alis before walking over to the chairs and saying, "Well, ladies, I do believe that I should be leaving. A day full of house hunting awaits me." He smiles to Rhye and says, "I very much enjoyed and appreciate your hospitality." He dips his head to the two of them and says, "Don't get up. I shall show myself out."

Alis coughs, and looks again at Rhyeline. "Actually, I'm pretty sure that Rhyeline will want to show you out herself. Manners, don't you know." Not to mention the wards that Alis just got finished putting up.

At first, Rhyeline seems content to allow Cyril to show himself out. Getting up takes effort. However, at Alis' subtle reminder, the girl doesn't miss a beat, rising with care from her chair. "Yes, of course. Thank you for visiting. It was good to see you," she murmurs, peeking up at Cyril before leading him to the door.

Part III

When Rhyeline returns from showing Cyril out, Alis fixes her with a level stare. "Well. You certainly don't do anything by halves, do you?"

Rhyeline pauses at such a stare as she returns to the parlor. Blinking, she clasps her hands in front of herself. “What do you mean?” The girl’s withdrawn reserve hasn’t quite faded to its earlier state.

"Trouble." Alis waves a hand in the general direction of the door Cyril just left through. "Malfoys, every single one of them, are trouble. You've drawn the attention of two of them."

“I didn’t go looking for either of them. But. Cassius’ work is important. And I do not wish to be rude to his brother. Besides. His stories of the Near East are fascinating.” The girl settles down once more under her blanket, this time bringing it up to tuck beneath her chin.

"I'm sure," Alis says, regarding Cyril's stories. "He's also very, very pretty when he's lying through his teeth. I'm sure there's very little truth to those tales."

A subtle disappointment emerges in the younger one’s dark gaze. “Oh. I thought- I thought his views were a bit simplistic. But. I didn’t know if that was simply because the politics of the region are simpler, or if he perhaps didn’t understand their complexities.”

"More likely, he couldn't be bothered to care." Alis shakes her head. "Cyril has never been interested in politics, be it here or elsewhere. He's a warrior, born a century or so too late. His interests run to war, and violence, and pain. We were on opposite sides, once, and it didn't turn out so well."

“Tell me what happened,” murmurs the little mouse as she gazes over at Alis.

Alis shakes her head. "That one's not mine to tell, I'm afraid. It taught me a lot about trust, and not to let my guard down around a pretty face saying pretty things, especially when half of them are lies."

“I never let my guard down around those I do not trust. And it is not easy for me to trust. Certainly not him,” she says quietly before taking a small sip of coffee. “You will not tell me because you keep his secrets?”

"No. I won't tell you because I keep the secrets of someone who died. On my watch." Alis' expression is solemn.

Rhyeline blinks but then nods with the utmost respect. “I do not trust either of them. In truth, not even Ambassador Troy. I trust you though. The same way you sense I need to be protected, I sense that you are one who will keep me safe. Only have felt this way before with one other. My dearest friend.”

"I trust Cass." Alis says it quietly. "We've known each other a long time, and he understands me in a way that few people do." She smiles a little. "I have your best interests at heart, Rhyeline. I don't play the deception game very well, mostly because I just don't have the patience for it. I believe rather strongly in being direct, as you might have noticed."

"I know you do. Even if you were to deceive me, I know it would be for the best. And as for Cassius, for you it may be safe to trust him. I do not know him yet though. Am not sure of him yet. Though- I feel much esteem towards him. I was very honored that he invited me to his home last night. Am curious though. What do you feel he sees that others rarely do?"

"More likely, if I were to attempt to deceive you, it would come off very poorly," Alis says. "I'm better at it with strangers than with anyone who knows me. As far as what Cass sees in you, I honestly wouldn't know. He's changed, since we were in school, and he's presently holding me at arm's length."

A subtle, wry smile flickers across her features as Alis says she has no idea what he sees in her. Settling a bit deeper into her chair, she murmurs, “Perhaps he is trying to protect you. I tried to keep Annie at a distance when I first returned. Still do in some ways. I would not wish for Cassius’ brother to meet her. Although- she is much better than I am about- such things.”

"I've never been the one in need of protection, and he knows it," Alis huffs quietly. She shakes her head at mention of Cyril, however. "The flirting? While I don't doubt that he finds you attractive, I'm sure that at least part of it is that he can get a reaction from you as easily as he does. It's the sort of thing he enjoys."

Rhyeline nods. “I know he has no true interest. But as for Cassius, if he is not trying to protect you, then perhaps he is cautious for another reason. He may not be sure of your loyalties yet. At school you were close. But that was long ago and perhaps he wonders if you will remain as steadfast now as then?” A simple suggestion. The girl holds no particular certainty. She merely speaks so that Alis can discern for herself whether her words ring true.

"He's protecting the movement." That much, Alis has been able to work out for herself. "My loyalty to him is without question. He knows that. However, I have as little love for politics as Cyril does, and it's taking me a little bit of time to catch up on what's happening with his cause."

“The movement is everything to him. When he learned what I had done in Berlin, he wished that such devotion to a cause could be applied to his own,” murmurs Rhyeline softly.

"It's an admirable devotion, to be sure." Alis can appreciate it, of course. "Though I can understand why you'd turn him down. It's a matter of integrity."

Rhyeline nods in appreciation of Alis' understanding. "Yes. I could not simply abandon my duties to Ambassador Troy in such a way." Lowering her gaze, she brings her cup of coffee to her lips and takes a slow, quiet sip. Setting aside the empty cup, she murmurs, "Though. If the trial goes badly. I hope that Cassius may still have need for me." Having said this, she looks hesitantly towards Alis, a touch of vulnerability in her gaze. She has just admitted something she can barely admit to herself.

"Trial? What trial?" Hey, Alis has been out of the country and out of touch, she's still catching up on news.

Rhyeline is silent for a time. Keeping her gaze fixed upon her knees, she murmurs rather quietly, "There was an incident at St. Mungo's a few weeks ago. I was attacked by some patients of the mental ward. To protect me, the Ambassador used a powerful blasting curse that- I'm not sure if all of them survived." As she speaks, the girl's dark gaze looks rather haunted. This isn't an easy subject for her to discuss.

Alis stares at her for a moment. Then she takes a deep breath and shakes her head. "Cass may have changed, but some things are still the same. If he's made you an offer, he's good for it. Should your circumstances change, the odds are good that he'll still have a place for you."

Rhyeline nods, not yet meeting Alis’ gaze. Closing her eyes, the girl takes a breath and lets it out slowly. Looking to Alis once more, the haunted quality of her young gaze has vanished. “If you would like, it’s late, and I have an extra bedroom as you saw earlier. Could even lend you something to sleep in.”

Time flies. Alis tilts her head, studying the younger woman for a moment. "I do have a place to stay, though it's not yet fully furnished. Would it make you feel better, having me close by for the night?"

"While I appreciate the offer, it's not that late, and I don't require a great deal of sleep in any case." Alis finishes her coffee and moves to take the cup to the kitchen. "Besides, I took to Apparition like a duck to water. Otherwise the commute from Scotland would be terribly impractical."

Rhyeline nods, trying to hide her disappointment. “That’s good. I have taken up the habit of walking places. Exercise is a good thing.” Like a little duckling, Rhyeline follows Alis into the kitchen, carrying her own cup. Nodding to her, she murmurs, “Thank you very much for putting up the wards. And for the visit.”

"I should like that. Walk me out?" Alis issues the reminder, again, about the wards. Eventually, she's sure, it will stick with Rhyeline. "Travel is good for a great many reasons. I'm glad to hear your friend is doing better."

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