(1938-01-01) Friendship Revisited
Details for Friendship Revisited
Summary: On a coach ride home from the Eibon New Year's Ball, Cassius and Alis learn new boundaries for their friendship.
Date: January 1st, 1938
Location: Cassius' Coach

As if driven right out of the 19th century, an old-fashioned black coach, pulled by two white horses, sits in wait outside of the Eibon Estate. At the door of the house, two figures emerge, bidding final farewells to those within. With his winter cloak pulled over his shoulders, Cassius Malfoy offers his arm to his red-haired companion to escort her to the coach.

The winter night is cold, but Alis isn't really feeling it thanks to a warming charm worked into the knit shawl that's draped over her shoulders. It's secured with a brooch embossed with a roaring lion's head, and suffices to conceal the very low-cut front of her dress. As a concession to the dress, she's consented to a pair of heels, though they don't really make much of a difference when she's standing next to Cassius. She glances up at him before taking his arm, her lips quirked in a small smile.

Cassius walks Alis out to the coach, but it is the coachman that opens the door for the both of them. Letting Alis climb in first, he quickly follows, settling into the bench seat beside her. "You missed out on most of a lovely party. I'm confident that you'd have been bored silly." He smirks playfully her way, keeping his eyes fixed on her face, in spite of temptation to glance southward.

Climbing into the coach, Alis settles on the seat and spends a moment ensuring that the skirt of her dress falls properly. She tilts her head back slightly, the better to be able to meet his gaze, and her shoulders lift in a shrug. "Those sorts of parties have never really been my idea of a good time. I only went because of you. I've learned to more or less behave properly, but I don't ever expect to find them anything other than boring."

Cassius chuckles as the coach lurches into movement. "That's fine. Many of them are quite dull. But if you can learn to tolerate them, so much the better. I'll need you there, even at events such as these." He pinches his lips, concern passing through his eyes. "Speaking of which…what kept you?"

"What's that saying? With age comes wisdom? Something like that." Alis waves a hand, then her smile fades altogether. "I'd had a date, originally. For the party, I mean." She pauses a beat, watching him carefully, then adds, "Cyril."

Cassius's amused smile fades almost instantly, his features taking on a much more serious visage. "I see. He stood you up, then?"

Alis gives him an irritated look. "You could give him a bit more credit, surely. He didn't stand me up, as it happens, but I don't think he wanted to turn up here any more than I did. We had dinner."

Cassius frowns, his eyes darkening. "I'll give him credit when he earns it. I would have given you more. You had dinner…with my brother." His lips for a hard line as he glances out the snow-framed window. "It must have been quite a meal to last all night."

"We'd been crossing paths all over the place." Alis is still looking at him, her gaze unwavering. "I went house-hunting with him recently, and then we bumped into each other when Braewyn and I were looking for furniture." Her shoulders lift in another shrug, and she looks out the opposite window, turning her head away from him as she adds, in a quieter tone, "Besides, he's pretty."

"Wonderful. 'Pretty' is obviously important," Cassius' voice drips with sarcasm. "I can't believe you, Alis. Did you take him to bed as well? How deep must my humiliation go?"

Alis sets her jaw, still looking out the window. "I apologize, Cassius, if you find it humiliating that I'm spending time with your brother. Though I don't see what business it is of yours who I choose to take to bed."

Cassius sighs with irritation. "Were it any other man, I wouldn't care one whit. By all means, have a wonderful romp. I'll even pay for the hotel room. But he's my brother. Do you have any idea how awkward that makes things for me? Not to mention that you stood me up tonight for him."

"I didn't stand you up, I just ran a bit late." There's a flash of guilt as Alis says this, however, because she came awfully close to not showing up. "I fail to see why you should find it awkward, though. It's not as if I'm planning to take out an advert in the Prophet."

"Yes, I see. To you he's just another bed partner. But I have to live with him forever." Cassius retorts. "When he came back to town, he wasn't in my house five minutes before he started insulting me. You don't think he'll use this as an opportunity to lord something over me? That he's bedded my closest friend?"

Alis turns her attention back to Cassius. "I don't, actually. Cyril knows how to pick his battles, and he knows where my loyalties lie." She purses her lips for a moment, then asks, picking her words carefully, "Did you know that he'd been injured?"

Cassius frowns, "Please don't lecture me about my brother's priorities. I know very well how he operates. He does whatever best suits him at the moment. A lesson you would do well to learn. I was not aware of his injury, but that is par for the course with him. Please don't change the subject. Are you going to continue seeing him?"

"I'm not so sure you do." Alis sighs, shaking her head. "He's changed a great deal in the years since I saw him last. My curiosity has been satisfied, though, so there's no reason to continue seeing him." She attempts a smile, but can't quite manage it.

"He's a Malfoy. He'll show you whatever face he wants you to see." Cassius leans his head back against the seat, sighing heavily. "In the future, please be a bit more selective about who you date and sleep with, particularly when they are family of mine."

"I don't date." Alis' reply is almost automatic, and the words come out sharp and clipped. She turns her head to look out the window again. "As for whom I sleep with, it's still none of your business."

"Alis, let me explain something," Cassius starts calmly. "Aside from the personal insult I take, as I thought our friendship would have put him off limits, there is also the matter of my public image. If you do become my bodyguard, you will be one of my closest associates. That means that what you do reflects on both of us. My opponents will take interest in your personal affairs, and if they think they can embarrass me with them, they will make them public affairs."

Alis' jaw ticks, but she draws in a breath and lets it out slowly, to the beats of a mental ten-count. "I'm aware that my behavior will reflect on both of us. I do know how to be discreet." Her voice is still tight, and she makes a visible effort to let go of some of that tension. "I don't expect it to be a problem, in any case. In the event that someone else should catch my interest, I'll run them by you first, shall I?"

Cassius gives his head a slight shake. "No. Don't do that. I'm not here to tell you how to live. You just need to be informed. Just…not him. Please. You're better than that." His look shifts from affront to something like concern.

"Better than that?" Alis glances at him sidelong, then shakes her head. "I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean, Cassius. Better than what?"

Cassius meets her gaze softly. "Better than Cyril. He is my brother, and woe unto the man that lifts a hand against him. But I have no illusions that underneath the pretty face and slick words, he is a barbarian. You are a beautiful, passionate woman, and quite frankly, he is undeserving of you."

"I'm not." Again, Alis' response is automatic, and she shifts her gaze away from him again. "Beautiful, I mean. I'll grant you passionate." She's never taken compliments about her appearance well, and some things still haven't changed. "I don't have any illusions about Cyril, either, as it happens. I know precisely what he is. Though, to be fair, he did make an attempt at being charming. He wasn't very good at it, but there you are."

"You are beautiful, and don't call me a liar by denying it." Cassius smirks, but his eyes are hard and serious. "You are also dedicated, righteous, and unfailingly loyal. You are a truly admirable woman, Alis. So, yes, it upsets me that you lower yourself to be with a man like my brother because he is 'pretty'."

"It's the dress." Alis plucks at the skirt again, then lets her hands rest in her lap. "And I didn't lower myself." Her lips twist briefly, but whatever it is that she wants to say is bitten back. After a moment, she adds quietly, "I had an itch, and Cyril was kind enough to scratch it. That's all it was."

Cassius chuckles, finally allowing his eyes to drift to her daringly exposed skin. "The dress is truly stunning. But it is hardly what makes you attractive. And please, he was 'kind' enough? You say it like it was an act of charity."

Alis is still staring out the window, so misses the wandering eyes entirely. "Maybe it was," she counters. "I didn't take the time to prowl through his study and poke around at his schedule. Still, I'm fairly sure I don't believe that he was all that hard up for a date to the party we just left."

"I didn't say anything about a date. You are a lovely woman and he wanted to sleep with you. That wasn't kindness, that was lust. Forgive me if I'm shattering any ideas you had about the man."

"You're not." Alis lifts her shoulders in a shrug again. "I told you, I know who and what he is. Perhaps it might be better phrased to say that we served each others' purposes for the evening."

Cassius sucks at his teeth, nodding slowly. "Yes, I suppose it would. Let us speak of it no more." It's fairly evident in his tone that he finds the thought of it distasteful.

Glancing back at him, Alis nods, then resumes her viewing of the window. "Fair enough. Though… I think your opinion of me is far higher than I deserve."

Cassius scoffs, "Look at me, Alis. Whose opinion of you is better qualified than mine? What opinion should I have of you?"

Alis turns her head, though she can't quite meet his eyes. "Cassius, you know me better than anyone. Yet you're still insisting I prove myself, and lecturing me on my behavior. Clearly, your opinion of me is too high, because I seem to keep disappointing you."

Cassius frowns, shaking his head. "No, I am not asking you to prove yourself. I know the passionate woman that you are, and in some ways, that would be a great benefit. In others, it could hurt us. I simply need to see that you can handle those parts of my life that you would otherwise find unpleasant. It is for your sake as much as mine."

"Call it whatever you like, it's still a test, Cassius." Alis chances the briefest of glances upward. "Which parts of your life do you think I'm ill-equipped to handle?"

Cassius pinches his lips, trying to avoid the topic he veered away from. "This. These parties, at which you will be asked to doll yourself up…not that I am complaining," he smirks. "Dull, boring gatherings at which you will be expected to remain silent, even when someone speaks ill of me. You have never been one to sit idly by when another has slighted me. But it will happen, and frequently."

"Dressing up certainly won't be a problem." Alis looks down at her hands, though, which are fussing with the skirt again. "Braewyn will be thrilled." Alis sounds as though she'd rather endure the Cruciatus Curse. "And… I can hold my tongue, when necessary. In case you hadn't noticed, I'm not a child any more."

"I've noticed," Cassius' voice turns soft. "Please, forgive me if I've made you feel poorly in any way. It's been many years. I worried that you had changed. But I see now that I should have had more faith in you. I'm sorry."

"I wouldn't do this for anyone else, you know." Alis lift a hand, toying with the brooch on her shawl as if adjusting it, except that no adjustment is necessary. "Have you any idea how long it's been since I've worn a dress?"

Cassius chuckles quietly. "I cannot recall ever seeing you in one. It's quite fetching, though. You certainly chose a daring look for someone that prefers a suit and tie."

"Braewyn chose it," Alis corrects, shaking her head. "I don't know how she managed it, either, but then that's her talent. She managed to make it look as though I have cleavage, for Merlin's sake."

There is simply no way not to stare a little after a comment like that. Cassius' eyes linger, appreciating the way the dress shapes her bosom. "She is an artist. She saw something beautiful, and found a way to show it to the world."

Alis' expression turns skeptical, and she sighs. "You shouldn't say things like that, Cassius. Such pretty words should be saved for someone who's more likely to appreciate them."

Cassius frowns, arching an eyebrow. "Do you think me insincere?"

"Were you anyone else…" Alis' voice trails off, and she shakes her head, looking back out the window and making an attempt to change the subject. "Where are we going? Berylwood?"

"Unless you'd like me to drop you off somewhere else. But you are welcome to stay at Berylwood." Cassius eyes her curiously. Were this a more diplomatic conversation, he might let the subject change pass. But a private conversation between friends is different, even for a politician like him. "Were I anyone else…what? You didn't answer me. Do you think I'm being insincere?" His frown returns, bothered by the notion.

"Thank you, but I can make my way home from there." Alis doesn't even take the time to consider taking him up on his offer. There's a faint wince as he turns the conversation back to where she left it, and she shakes her head. "No, I don't think you're being insincere. Were you anyone else, I might be inclined to brush it aside as so much flattery." She frowns. "You don't have any reason to flatter me, though so it just… doesn't make any sense," she finishes, making a face to go along with the fact that she knows how ridiculous all of that sounds.

Cassius sighs. "You never could take a compliment. I flatter you because you made the effort to enhance your beauty, and I wish to recognize it. Does it make you uncomfortable that I would be attracted? I am only human, Alis."

"No, I still can't take a compliment," Alis agrees. "Mostly because most of the time I'm still convinced that the person giving them is secretly laughing at me. And… I'm not sure uncomfortable is the right word. It's just unexpected, is all. I'm not used to you looking more than twice at anyone, really." She takes a breath, as if about to add something else to that, but she thinks better of it and bites it back instead.

Cassius makes a profession out of interrogation, which makes him an expert at spotting those signs of deception and, usually more importantly, omission. "What is it? Speak your mind freely with me, Alis. More than ever, we must learn to trust one another absolutely if you are to be my bodyguard." Just like that, the offer is on the table.

"I trust you." Alis' voice is quiet, and she looks back at him as she says it. "I do, Cassius. That's what makes it so much harder for me, with the compliments and the flattery. I can shrug it off with anyone else, but I can't do that with you, and it's… disconcerting." Which wasn't the word she was looking for, but it's the one she managed to come up with.

"Disconcerting," Cassius echoes, looking a little disconcerted himself. "Tell me why. Why does it bother you so that I would flatter you?" He's got the scent of truth being held back, and like a bloodhound, he follows his need to know.

Alis looks back at him, her jaw set. "You're the clever one, Cassius. Figure it out."

"I can think of many reasons. I want to know yours. Speculation on my part could end up making you even more uncomfortable." He turns a bit in his seat to face her more directly. "Talk to me."

It's clear from the expression on Alis' face that she'd rather talk about anything else. She drops her eyes, unwilling to meet his gaze, though she remains facing him. "In my experience, flattery is a tool, a means to an end, and it only ever leads to one thing. It bothers me because I'm not used to thinking of you like that. And because I certainly never expected you to entertain such thoughts about me."

Cassius nods with understanding. "You're not wrong. It is a tool. But it needn't always lead to sex. I flatter you to show my appreciation for your efforts, and to try against all odds to convince you that you are a beautiful and incredible woman, so that if you ever do decide you want romance, that you won't settle for someone unworthy of you." He smiles encouragingly. "I'm sorry if my comments made you uncomfortable. I assumed that you wished to be attractive, and while I have no desire to do anything that would harm our friendship, I cannot help but be attracted."

"We had enough unfounded rumors back in Hogwarts," Alis says, shaking her head. "Honestly, I don't know what I was thinking, letting Braewyn talk me into this." She plucks at the dress again, and then the rest of what he's said catches up to her, and her gaze flicks upward again. "Incidentally, I don't think there's anything that could truly damage our friendship." Aside from her shacking up with his brother, perhaps. She swallows a little of her pride and admits, "I've thought about it."

"So have I," he admits freely. "How could I not? Well, once those admissions are out, there is no pretending otherwise. So, in the interest of trust and honesty, know that I would never turn you away. My only worry would be that any pursuit on my part would leave you once again disconcerted."

"Have you?" Alis is genuinely surprised by the admission, and equally surprised by the offer. She gives herself a shake, then lets out a quiet sigh, which turns into a yawn. Covering her mouth with her hand, she looks thoughtful for a moment before grimacing. "The wine. I'd almost forgotten I had that glass, just before we left."

Cassius chuckles, giving her a little smirk. "Alis…I have revealed, now you must do so. You've thought about it, but do you wish it?" Outside, the groan of metal gates announces their arrival at Berylwood. "You should take a room here tonight."

"I wouldn't have thought about it if it wasn't something I wanted," Alis points out, stifling another yawn. "I might have given it a little more thought if I'd been aware that it might actually be possible." She still has doubts, though none of them involve his sincerity. The groan of the gates opening has her turning toward the window again, and then she glances back at him. "I definitely shouldn't try Apparating in this condition. I'd wind up splinched, or back in Scotland."

Cassius smiles, nodding. "Then it's decided. You will stay here tonight. Please do not be concerned that this is merely my master plan to seduce you. This is simply hospitality…and getting you accustomed to the notion of staying here. You are taking the job, are you not?"

"Mmm. I can pretty much guarantee that you aren't going to need any sort of master plan." Alis' words are punctuated by another yawn. "I'm afraid I wouldn't be very good company for you this evening, however. And yes, I'm taking the job. Though we should probably hold further conversation until breakfast."

Cassius nods respectfully, "Fair enough." As the carriage comes to a halt, he doesn't wait for the coachman before stepping out himself. "I suppose I should be letting you get out first…but you don't start the job until tomorrow." He smirks, "Alis…I'm glad we can speak so frankly. It's good to have you back in my life. Come, I'll take you to your room."

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