(1937-12-30) The Mouse’s Choice
Details for The Mouse’s Choice
Summary: Having had a few days to reflect on her visit to Berylwood Manor, Rhyeline has reconsidered her answer and made a new choice.
Date: Sunday, December 30, 1937
Location: Berylwood
Related: Unspoken Secrets

It is a winter night. The weather is cold and clear.

Berylwood, London
This villa estate is nestled behind a natural barrier of trees, forming a thinly forested ring around the entire property. A gated driveway winds through a sprawling garden, teeming with sterling roses and topiary trees in various serpentine and draconic shapes. The driveway ends in a large circle, at the center of which is a smaller garden, complete with a stone fountain carved in the shape of a hydra, spouting several fonts one from each of the seven heads.

The three-story manor itself is constructed of brick and stone, resembling a castle. The interior of the house is dark black marble with forest green accents. Silvery-white draperies are used liberally to reflect light and contrast the marble. Entrants through the front doors come in through a reception hall (complete with crystal chandelier), from which rises a grand staircase leading to the other floors. Also on this level is a formal dining room, kitchen, breakfast room, game room, solar, library, and indoor pool. A stairwell from the kitchen leads down to a fully stocked wine cellar. The second story contains the master suite, two secondary bedrooms, a music room, and a study. Four more bedrooms occupy the third floor.

Two other buildings rest on the property, flanking the manor house a staff house and a guest house. Both are in the same style as the main house's exterior, though not as extravagant on the inside.

Around the back of the main house is a second garden, in the form of a hedge maze (enchanted so that only those of strong Malfoy blood can easily navigate it), at the center of which is a domed structure with mirrored glass walls.

The night before the celebration of the new year, Rhyeline arrives once more at the Berylwood Manor. To protect her from the bitter chill of the midwinter wind, she hidden beneath a heavy winter cloak with a fur-lined hood. It isn’t until she has been escorted up the steps and into the entrance hall, where she is divested of her cloak, that a delicate, slip dress is revealed, dangling from her bare shoulders by thin silk straps. The dress is of pale rose silk chiffon and it clings to the curves of her upper body before flowing elegantly to her ankles. Her hair has once again been allowed to flow loose to her shoulders.

Cassius once again greets Rhyeline in the reception hall, smiling warmly. "Miss Diderot, you grace me with your elegant presence once again. You look even more lovely than when last we met." He offers his arm. "I thought we might take wine in the solar. There is a lovely view of the night sky just now."

Rhyeline bows her head with respect as Cassius approaches. Drawing close, she slips her hand into the crook of his offered elbow and keeps close as she always does. “The obscuring haze of the clouds has lifted. The sky is as clear as it was on the coast in Cornwall.” As she walks along beside him, she peeks up at him and adds, “Your request, the last time I was here, caught me much off guard. Caused the waters of my mind to become agitated and muddied. But after a few days to reflect and to weigh matters, a similar haze has lifted.”

Cassius smiles, eyes shining. "Poetry. You have such a lovely way with words." He leads her into the solar, where the large windows provide a stunning view of the half-moon and the endless expanse of stars hovering over Berylwood's rear gardens, where a hedge maze ensconces a strange domed structure of mirrored glass at its middle. A house-elf already awaits them, levitating a wine bottle to pour two glasses for them as they are seated. "Now then, what request are you referring to, Miss Diderot?"

A subtle blush warms the girl’s cheeks as she sees how his eyes shine. Averting her gaze, she lifts it to the magnificent view and stares out at the moonlit landscape in silence until she is guided to sit across from him. Lifting the glass of wine to her lips, she keeps her eyes downcast. “You mentioned a need for an assistant in your work. I have not had the opportunity to speak with Ambassador Troy regarding the matter, but then- I preferred to make this choice on my own.” Rhyeline lifts her gaze, meeting his with a touch of hesitation. “I want to serve where I am needed most. Where I can do the greatest good. The time for diplomacy, as evidenced by my forced return to London, is over. I think- I think that our only remaining solution is- is in fact- unity.” A subtle edge of fear shines in the girl’s dark gaze, but there is also a steadiness to it, hinting at the hidden strength that led her to protect so fiercely the cause she was devoted to.

Cassius arches an eyebrow with piqued interest. He leans on the arm of his chair, his wine glass lazily dangling between his fingers. "I admit my surprise. If I may take license to speak frankly, I did not expect you to willingly part ways with Ambassador Troy…to overrule his wishes, so to speak." He sets his jade gaze upon her eyes, searching…but not yet diving in. "May I ask what brought about this change of heart?"

Rhyeline is silent for a time, lowering her gaze once more to the glass of wine. She takes another small sip. Her brow furrows in thought ever so slightly as she considers her answer. “When I was in my final year at Hogwarts and realized that I couldn’t put off any longer the decision of what to do with my life after leaving Hogwarts, at first I was terrified of venturing into the unknown. My first impulse was to withdraw into the familiar, to perhaps settle for work as a writer like my father or a librarian as my dear friend Annie hoped to be. But then I realized, once I finally was able to set aside my fear and to let the waters of my heart grow still and clear, that I wanted to do something more. I needed to. There was need in the world that far outweighed any of my selfish impulses.”

Rhyeline lifts her gaze to meet Cassius’ eyes. “I had some time to reflect. To realize what I truly wanted beyond my initial impulse to withdraw into the familiar. Though I owe Ambassador Troy a great deal, he will need to understand.” Again, the subtle edge of fear that she cannot quite keep from her eyes deepens. “But it is too important that I serve where I can make a difference, where I can perhaps avert death and destruction greater even than what befell us during the Great War. And the Ambassador- since he was forced to return, has been confined to simply preparing other diplomats to carry out such work, or to acting as a public spokesman for the D.I.M.C.”

Cassius takes a light sip of wine, keeping a neutral expression as she explains herself. He lets a few moments of silence pass as he ponders her words. "I am pleased to know that Unity means this much to you now. Naturally, it has been my goal to inspire this kind of fervor." He sets his wine glass down, folding his hands in his lap. "I have to wonder, though. I understand that Ambassador Troy can be a force to be reckoned with. What will you do if he insists that you remain in his service? If he…commands it?"

Rhyeline’s cheeks warm ever so slightly, but she keeps her gaze steady. “If my feelings in the matter were conflicted, he might be able to persuade me to remain with him. But they aren’t. The waters are clear and I have made my choice.”

"You must excuse my concerns," Cassius says apologetically. "That your feelings are conflicted has been entirely my worry. Have you spoken with the Ambassador about this? It is much easier to make decisions in the absence of an opposing argument." He rubs his chin thoughtfully, "There is also the matter of actual employment. I think it unlikely that the Ministry would transfer you to my service. There is no professional need, and as I've said before, I have enemies in the upper echelons. In any event, I would prefer to hire a private assistant, anyhow. I don't care for Ministry oversight. This would require you to leave your position at the Ministry."

“I have not yet spoken with the Ambassador. I wanted neither his disappointment nor his approval to influence my choice. I felt you would prefer that. And my emotions are no longer conflicting. While I may feel apprehension, I know what I want.” Rhyeline takes a slow sip of wine before meeting his gaze once more. Her dark eyes hold a quiet determination. “I entered the service of the Ministry as a means to an end. If it no longer provides such means, I have no more need to work there. I could submit my resignation with the explanation that my health is no longer allowing me to serve at the standards they would require. And then you, as an act of kindness, allow me to serve as your assistant, patient with my limitations and weakness.”

Cassius smirks with amusement at how her mind has already concocted her plan. "I don't think an elaborate explanation will be necessary, especially when I would be asking as much of you as the Ambassador did, if not more. Which brings me to a secondary concern. Your health. Would you be up to the task? I am a busy man, and my assistant will need to be very active. Forgive me for asking to so bluntly. I don't know the details of your infirmity, so I do not wish to make assumptions."

Rhyeline’s hand which is not holding her glass of wine tightens a bit. Her gaze seems to darken ever so slightly as she watches him with a steady stare. “The healers insist that I be careful, but I do not think they understand my curse. I feel it the same whether I curl up and sleep, or if I remain at my desk, working well into the early hours of the morning.” In silence she watches him for a time before at last she lowers her gaze. “There are times when I am affected by it despite my best efforts. My heart slows to the point where I grow dizzy. The potions I am given are supposed to keep this from happening, but they are becoming less effective. I have been told I will need to make more frequent visits to the hospital for longer periods of time so that they might test more aggressive treatment methods. A few hours, possibly a few times a week. But hopefully, as they develop more effective treatments, the effects of the curse will be able to be subdued for much longer.”

Cassius permits a touch of concern to show in his features when she explains her symptoms and medical issues, but never outright pity. "If you come into my employ, I will expect much of you. You will need to keep meticulous records so that when you are hospitalized, I am not bereft of my assistant's work." He rises from his chair, lowering his hand in a gesture to indicate that she should remain seated. He wanders to the window to gaze out at the gardens. "I can be a difficult man to work for, Rhyeline. I demand loyalty. Utmost loyalty. It seems I have lured you away from Ambassador Troy. I should be greatly displeased if the same happened to me. I reward service generously…but I feel it only fair to warn you that disloyalty will make me quite wroth."

Rhyeline lifts her chin at the sight of such concern as she speaks, holding her head high in the hopes of seeming stronger and more confident physically than she is. Resting back in her chair as the man moves to stand at the window, the girl takes a small sip of wine before speaking quietly.

“You have not lured me away. Had I agreed when you first asked, that might have been the case. But no. Upon reflection, I have realized that I am no longer needed at Ambassador Troy’s side as I once was. While- while he may wish to keep me, he- the work I am given, any competent assistant could accomplish it. The summary of communiques, the translation, the research. But the negotiations- the need to be at the right place at the right moment, or to be overlooked by the right individuals, he no longer has that need here in London. And so I make my choice. Once it is made, I will not question it. It is only when you no longer have a need for me that I will depart once more.

“As I have served Ambassador Troy during his time in Berlin, I will serve you. Only with the utmost diligence and without question. In Berlin many times I was approached many times by men hoping to obtain my loyalty, either by money or- darker things. But my loyalty remained absolute and their advances served only to inform my master of their motives. I know what is expected of me as an assistant and should you demand more, I can be taught and will learn. ”

Cassius's voice takes on a low, grave quality. "You must understand, Rhyeline. My work will never be finished. This is not a few years overseas to secure diplomatic relations. I mean to change the world. This is the beginning of the rest of my life, and I intend to leave a legacy for others to follow. The commitment I require is considerably greater than what Ambassador Troy asked of you. You would, in time, have access to nearly all parts of my life. So, as you can imagine, this decision is one requiring considerable contemplation on my part."

Rhyeline’s gaze is steady as she meets Cassius’ eyes. In a soft tone, she murmurs, “The permanence would be a great reassurance to me.”

Cassius turns to meet that gaze, hands clasped behind his back. "Should anything happen to me, I would wish that my work be continued. You would be ideally situated to see that it does." He arches an eyebrow to gauge her response. But, more than that, this is important enough that he must know the absolute truth. So, holding her gaze, he reaches out with his mind to search hers.

Rhyeline's mind is as it was before, a place of shadows and secrets. But the tangled mess of emotions has unraveled. The waters of her heart are as still as she had said and within them shines a powerful conviction. Nodding, she murmurs, "I would continue it." Terrible flickering images of photographs she has seen of the death and destruction of the Great War flicker across her mind. "The need is great. Unity is the only way forward and to this cause, I will devote myself in your service and in service to your memory."

Cassius shuts his eyes and withdraws from her mind. He has seen enough. He steps around her chair, and offers his hand to her. "You have given me a great deal to consider. I admit, your decisiveness in this matter was unexpected, and reveals another side of you that I quite like."

Rhyeline lifts her gaze and slips her delicate hand into his. In his hand, hers is quite soft and cool to the touch and unlike most ladies, she actually uses his help a bit to rise. “To make such choices it- it is not something that comes easily to me. When it comes to myself, I- I find it much easier to simply accept what is, rather than entertaining notions of what could be.” Standing before him, she lowers her gaze. “In Berlin, you would not have been able to sway me. But now- circumstances have changed. I wavered. I was confused.” Once more her gaze fixes upon his, dark and steady. “I am not confused anymore. I will serve you as long as you need me. As long as you want me.”

Cassius keeps her hand in his, even after lifting it to his lips. "Do not leave your position. Not yet. This isn't a decision I should make lightly, and I don't want you to cast your career aside when I haven't promised anything." He looks to her hand in his, stroking his thumb lightly over her knuckle. "I'm sure I don't need to tell you that all men have secrets. You would likely become privy to many of mine. That can be a heavy burden. Are you truly prepared for that?"

Rhyeline’s cheeks grow rather warm at the touch of his lips against her knuckles. Her dark gaze remains fixed upon his, as if entranced. Nodding slowly, she murmurs, “I am. I have done so before. I will not waver. In working for the greatest good, things that more simple minds might not understand, must be done. I understand this.”

"I hope you also understand that this includes secrets of a more personal nature." Cassius gaze is hard, steely. "I believe you have kept Troy's — and I have little doubt that he has some dark secrets, indeed. All great men do. I will expect you would keep mine as well."

Gazing up into the steely edge of the man’s eyes, Rhyeline’s own gaze darkens. Nodding, she peeks up at him and murmurs, “I will keep them. Keep them safe. More so because I- I do not seem like one who could survive such things, do I?” Tilting her head to the side, she smiles. “Such a little mouse. Surely such things would frighten her. Must just handle simple things, appointments, and correspondence.”

Cassius arches an eyebrow. "I'm sorry? Survive what things?"

“Survive the weight of such dark secrets,” she murmurs.

Cassius smirks, "Let the world believe so. I know better." He lowers her hand, finally relinquishing it. "Appropriately, tomorrow is the New Year. I shall have an answer regarding your new life then."

Rhyeline’s subtle smile broadens. “Yes. I seem such a mouse. But I think- I think I am more a kitten. Small, yes. But. Kittens have the sharpest claws.” Bowing her head with the utmost respect, she clasps her hands behind her back and murmurs, “Whatever your decision, I will serve the cause of unity in any way I can, be it at your side or at Ambassador Troy’s.”

Cassius clasps his hands behind his back as well, and tips slightly at the waist in a bow. "Superb. In whatever form, I look forward to working with you, Rhyeline. Now, I believe dinner is ready. Shall we?" He offers his arm to escort her.

Rhyeline returns the bow with a deep nod of her head. Drawing close, she slips her hand into the crook of his arm and nods. “That would be lovely. Thank you, Cassius.” The girl keeps as close as ever, peeking up at him with a soft smile.

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