(1938-01-09) Cassius’ New Assistant
Details for Cassius’ New Assistant
Summary: Rhyeline attends dinner at Berylwood Manor with both Cassius Malfoy and his ever present bodyguard, Alis. After eating, he tells Rhyeline that he as accepted her as his secretary.
Date: Wednesday, January 09, 1938
Location: Berylwood

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.

"No, the good silver, and let's lower the chandelier a bit. I want more light." Cassius instructs his servants as they prepare the place settings for the coming meal. For once, dinner is being held in the actual dining hall, though there will be plenty of empty space. He steps out to the reception hall, nearly running into the butler. "Where is that blasted coach?" Not waiting for an answer, he continues on, calling out, "Alis? Are you ready?"

Alis skips down the staircase, ruffling a hand through her hair. "Yes, I'm ready." She's dressed, as is her usual habit, in a tailored suit, in the interest of professionalism. "And the coach should be here any minute." She reaches the floor of the reception hall, and moves to position herself at his side, her hands clasped behind her back.

At last, Rhyeline’s carriage arrives. It is the third time the little one has arrived at the Berylwood Manor. Tonight she carries herself with calm reserve. As the house-elf opens the door, Rhyeline steps into the house, wearing her fur lined winter cloak. Her slender neck remains bare, with her dark curls woven into braids and pinned artfully in place.

Cassius smiles brightly at the appearance of Rhyeline, and moves to meet her halfway in the reception hall. "Rhyeline, you look more radiant every time you cross my threshold. Welcome."

As Cassius moves, so does Alis, keeping a step behind and offset to one side. Her smile is warm toward the younger witch, though she doesn't get in Cassius' way, instead inclining her head in greeting once he's spoken. "Good evening, Rhyeline."

Rhyeline bows her head as Cassius approaches. “You are most kind, Cassius.” Upon hearing Alis’ greeting, the little one peeks over at her and giving a smaller nod of greeting, she smiles with a subtle warmth that Cassius has never seen. Looking to Cassius once more the little one’s usual reserve returns. Lowering her gaze, she allows her cloak to slip from her shoulders for the evening.

Hidden behind a translucent veil of embroidered silk chiffon, a slip dress of ivory silk clings tight to Rhyeline’s upper body before flowing in many sheer layers to her ankles. The intricate embroidery, only the slightest shade darker than the silk, flows from the subtle hollow between her collar bones, over the subtle swell of her breasts before cascading down to her ankles.

"If I am kind, it is only because I am compelled to be so by your charm." Cassius offers his arm to Rhyeline, then his other to Alis. "I thought we would eat in the dining hall tonight. Enjoy a little extra luxury."

Rhyeline merely nods in polite acceptance as such flattery spills easily from his lips. However Alis’ words bring a brief, subtle smile to her lips. At the offered arm, the girl draws close and slips her hand into the crook of his elbow. Her dark gaze flickers briefly to Alis before she peeks up to him once more. With a small smile, she murmurs, “More? Sir, I am certain you wish to overwhelm me.”

Cassius shrugs, "Guilty, as charged. I have luxury to spare. Why should I not lavish it upon those who are dear to me?" He chuckles, leading the ladies into the dining hall. This room puts the extravagent breakfast room to shame. A massive wooden table is stained black, with silver inlays, and dozens of matching high-backed chairs surround it. A servant steps up to take out Alis' chair. But as Rhyeline is the guest, Cassius pulls hers out for himself. Of course, as master of the demesne, he takes the head of the table himself. "Now, I know how you detest small talk, but I forbid any discuss of politics or work until after our meal. I want to know how you have been doing, personally, Rhyeline. I don't consider that small at all."

Alis waits until Rhyeline is seated before settling gracefully into her own chair, though she leans toward the younger witch and murmurs, "Malfoys. Spend enough time in their company, and you get used to it." Her tone suggests that this is not in any way a bad thing. She leans back in her chair, one leg crossing over the other, and folds her hands in her lap.

“I am well,” murmurs Rhyeline with a small nod. “Healer Keenan O’Shea has been most kind and diligent in his work.” Rhyeline does not have much to say throughout the meal. In the presence of a second person, her manner is far more reserved than it has been on previous occasions. Though she answers direct questions, her answers are simple and instead she looks to Alis to hold most of the conversation with Cassius.

Dinner is, of course, all manner of delicacies, and far more food than any of them could possibly eat. After a dessert of iced cakes and sweet pudding, the party adjourns to the solar for wine and relaxation.

Cassius straightens out his jacket, chuckling, "I think my buttons are about to burst. I've not eaten that much in a long while. I think my chef was showing off for you two."

Small talk is not Alis' forte, but she can fill in the silences when necessary. She also has some skill redirecting the conversation back at Rhyeline, who may find herself speaking more than she'd like. Upon adjourning to the solar, Alis loosens her tie just a bit, then takes up a position near Cassius. "Indeed."

Rhyeline takes a seat across from the two with a glass of wine held lightly in her left hand. Nodding a bit, the girl smiles and murmurs, “It was delicious as ever. Particularly the fish. It tasted as if it had been caught just this morning.”

Cassius shrugs casually, "It probably was." He crosses one leg over the other, and sips his wine to pause for thought. "Alright, let's get down to business then. Rhyeline…I want you to come work for me." Simple as that. He gazes expectantly toward Miss Diderot, a hint of a smile curling the corners of his mouth.

Business talk. Alis remains where she is, her features schooled into a neutral, impassive expression, silent unless either of them addresses her.

Rhyeline accepts the sudden announcement with professional grace. Bowing her head in acceptance, she murmurs, “Thank you very much, Cassius. I appreciate the opportunity to serve the cause of unity to the utmost of my abilities.” The girl’s dark gaze lifts and fixes upon his features once more with enigmatic reserve.

Cassius smiles broadly, lifting his wine glass. "To Unity, then. One world, united forever." He sips before continuing. "I'll be placing a great deal in your hands. You will be responsible for managing my schedule, my appointments, keeping notes and minutes for me, taking dictation, and so on. I fear it will leave you very little in the way of free time. I'll need you available for most hours of the day. In light of that, I am prepared to offer you living space here at Berylwood. This can be your home, if you wish it."

"One word, united forever," Alis echoes quietly. It's more than just a minion-esque echo, however, it's an affirmation of her commitment to the cause; if she had a wine glass, she'd sip from it, but she's in favor of remaining awake, and has thus abstained from the wine. Then she falls silent again, her attention still on Rhye.

Rhyeline lifts her glass in honor of the toast. Taking a slow, silent sip, the girl watches him from over the brim of the glass. Keeping her features smooth and calm, she nods and murmurs, “I am prepared for the workload. It cannot possibly exceed what I experienced in Berlin where my every waking hour was occupied by such things. A room for when it is far simpler simply to fall asleep here because work will resume after only a few hours rest would be useful and appreciated. However. If it is possible, I would prefer to maintain my own flat, at least at first. It is connected by floo and my apparition skills are adequate that I may be summoned at a moment’s notice.”

Cassius nods. "Of course. Though we'll have to devise some method of giving you a moment's notice. For I may require such immediacy. Alis will see that Berylwood's Anti-Apparition Jinxes are attuned to you. I'll turn my ledger over to you once you begin work. When will you be available to start? I assume you'll need to give your notice to the I.M.C."

"Patronus," Alis suggests. Her shoulders lift, though her expression remains impassive. "It's not terribly refined, but I can send a message that way, should the need arise." At the very least, she can pass along a summons without giving any potentially sensitive information.

Rhyeline’s hand tightens ever so slightly around the glass in her hand. The suggestion of a patronus causes her gaze to shift to Alis. But of course Cassius’ bodyguard would know such advanced magic. Looking to Cassius, she gives a small nod and with a quiet tone, says, “I have already prepared my letter of resignation. I will send it first thing in the morning. I can begin immediately, familiarizing myself with what I will be expected to know. Starting now, I am yours.”

"Mmm…perhaps in a pinch," Cassius considers. "But a Patronus isn't immediate. I may need to invest in a pair of two-way mirrors." He nods in approval at Rhyeline's words, his smile widening. "Excellent. Then tomorrow, I'll place you in charge of my ledger. Is there anything you need of me?"

"Not immediate, but it's fast, if one is competent with it." Alis lifts her chin ever so slightly. "Faster than Floo, certainly, particularly if one is familiar with the recipient of the message." It's not a common method of communication, by any means, but Alis is confident of her skills.

“As you wish,” murmurs Rhyeline before taking a small sip of wine. “Shall I return here tomorrow morning before you go to the Ministry? There is nothing I need of you. However I was wondering if you might permit me to submit a letter to the Daily Prophet. My withdrawal from Ambassador Troy’s service is bound to be noticed and it would be a good opportunity to draw attention to the need for unity as the only viable solution to Europe’s present problems.”

Cassius nods his affirmation. "I think so, yes. In this position, when you speak you are, in part, speaking on my behalf. At least, that is how the public will view it. So you understand why I must review public statements from you."

Rhyeline nods, “Of course. Under Ambassador Troy it was no difference, hence why I was so careful to maintain such official neutrality until,” she smiles just a bit, “well, you made it clear you wanted my personal opinion on matters.”

Cassius nods firmly. "I do. Your opinion will matter a great deal to me, both as my assistant and someone I personally hold in high esteem. I hope that my demands won't be too much for you. Even Alis hasn't quite experienced me as a taskmaster yet." He smirks over to the red-haired woman. "Since we're speaking of personal matters, I do want to address you health issues again. I will assume responsibility for any medical costs that the Ministry or Ambassador Troy were covering. Your health is of the utmost importance to me, and I expect you to tell me if it is interfering with you work. Do not be concerned that it will lead to your dismissal. I do not part with loyal service so easily."

Alis catches Cassius' smirk and offers one of her own in return. "I'm reasonably confident that I can keep up with you, Cass." The smirk fades at mention of Rhyeline's health, however, and she arches a brow toward the younger woman.

Except for another simple nod of polite acceptance, Rhyeline doesn’t quite seem to know how to accept the man’s compliments. Lowering her gaze, she takes another small sip of wine before looking to him once more. “Thank you, sir,” she murmurs. “I appreciate your patience in regards to my curse. I am required to return within a few days to St. Mungo’s for a few hours to submit to testing. However, Healer O’Shea has agreed to attend to me away from the hospital should there be a need for emergency treatment. So the interruption will not be so great.”

Cassius nods. "Excellent. Please let me know if Healer O'Shea requires additional compensation. I'll need to look into the man. I want to be certain he's the best suited for this. I accept only the best. You're mine now," he grins knowingly as he speaks those words, "And that means only the best for you as well."

"I met him," Alis says, inclining her head to Cassius. "I know little enough about healing, but he struck me as quite capable. He mentioned something about a Healer MacCurry, as well, if you're going to go digging into backgrounds." Yes, Alis was paying attention during the recent excursion to St. Mungo's.

Rhyeline’s manner remains perfectly professional as she says, “Thank you, sir. I believe that Healer O’Shea is most suitable.” She nods in agreement with Alis’ statement. “Though- I do wish he would be open to the possibility of Melania Black’s assistance as an apothecary. Perhaps you can convince him.”

Cassius purses his lips. "Healer MacCurry is my cousin's wife. She lives just down the street, in fact. I certainly wouldn't mind her involvement. Nor Melania Black's. There is no one better at what she does. What is his objection to Mrs. Black?"

“Mm. I believe he has family that does Apothecary work as well,” murmurs Rhyeline.

"While I can respect his devotion to family, that doesn't make it in his patients' best interests." Cassius shakes his head in disapproval. "I trust Melania Black. She would never steer us wrong. If he refuses to respect your wishes in this, perhaps he isn't the right healer for you."

“I cannot comment on his sister’s skills as an Apothecary. I have never met her, nor have I experienced her work. However-“ Rhyeline hesitates a bit. “-I would prefer to not need to get used to yet another healer.”

Cassius sets his jaw and looks to Alis. "Your assessment? Will he be stubborn on the issue of Mrs. Black's assistance?"

Alis tilts her head at Cassius. "It's possible he may be convinced that it is in Rhyeline's best interest. Difficult to say for certain without a discussion. He does seem genuinely concerned for her well-being, and accepted the suggestion of an alternate location for treatment with very little argument."

Having already requested that she remain in Healer O’Shea’s care, Rhyeline lowers her gaze for a moment to take a small sip of wine before peeking over at Alis, listening to her assessment.

Cassius nods. "I'll simply have to speak with him myself. But ultimately the choice is yours, Rhyeline. I believe you are quite capable of making this decision competently. But remember, Healer O'Shea cannot forbid you from seeking other assistance. If you wish Melania Black's help, you shall have it."

“Thank you, Cassius,” says Rhyeline with a small nod. “I would prefer to continue with Healer O’Shea. However, unity is crucial, not only in world affairs, but also and perhaps especially, when it comes to medical treatment. They would need to work together, lest their treatments interfere with each other. I have already told him that Melania Black was interested in working on the project.” After all, it would make any apothecary’s career to cure an seemingly incurable curse. “While I am not certain if it will do any good, I appreciate your offer to speak with him.”

"He responded well when her comfort was brought into question," Alis adds, with a nod at Rhyeline. "Perhaps if you could arrange for Mrs. Black to be present as well, it would prove helpful."

"Perhaps. I wonder if he's even met the woman. Healers can be a prickly bunch." Cassius shrugs, "In any event, we'll see that you have the best care available. So, tell me, how did the two of you become acquainted?"

Rhyeline blinks and tilts her head to the side. “Healer O’Shea and I? One night I arrived for an emergency treatment and Healer Greengrass who had worked with me originally when I was first brought to St. Mungo’s was not available. I believe that Healer O’Shea took an interest in my case and asked that I be assigned to him.”

Cassius chuckles, shaking his head. "No, no. Forgive me. I meant the two of you." He gestures to Rhyeline and Alis.

"I believe he means you and I," Alis puts in. She inclines her head to Cassius, who confirms this. "We met at the Leaky Cauldron, shortly after I arrived back home. We became acquainted over the course of several additional meetings, however."

“Ah yes, forgive me. I should have realized.” Rhyeline offers Alis a soft smile and the subtle warmth she had shown earlier emerges a second time. “Yes, I didn’t quite know what to make of her at first. But. I invited her to my home for coffee. Decided I wanted to understand her a bit better. And then she began to tell me how dangerous and unprotected my flat was, and how I seemed like I was a walking target, no?” Lowering her gaze, she laughs softly before taking a small sip of wine.

Cassius nods, chuckling. "Yes, Alis mentioned to me the security wards on your flat. Of course, now I'll expect you to permit her to erect a more thorough system of spells. Your security is tantamount to my own."

Rhyeline nods and in a quiet tone, she says, “Yes sir. I certainly understand the risk.” Pausing, she looks to Alis and explains, “The curse I suffer from, you see. It was originally intended for Ambassador Troy. You may place whatever wards you feel necessary on my flat tomorrow if you wish.”

Alis frowns briefly at mention of the curse. "I have said that your resilience is commendable. However, should any curses be aimed at Cassius, I recommend you allow me to handle them."

Cassius nods in grave agreement. "Indeed. Not to diminish your past act at all, Rhyeline. It was courageous, and speaks so much to your character."

“Thank you, sir. You are most kind.” Looking to Alis, Rhyeline grins a bit and says, “Had Ambassador Troy’s security detail noticed the approaching assailant, I would have done the same. However, I am certain that protecting Cassius is more than a professional interest of yours.”

"It is." Alis shifts closer to Cassius, setting a hand on his shoulder, briefly, then crosses to where Rhye is seated, repeating the gesture. "As my interest in protecting you is more than merely professional." She glances back over her shoulder, quirking a brow at Cassius. "Which works out well for all three of us, yes?"

Cassius smiles warmly, reaching up to rest his hand over Alis'. "I should like to think that we are all more than merely colleagues and fellow believers. We are friends. Your welfare isn't just a professional concern to me." He directs his words to the both of them.

Rhyeline peeks up at Alis with a shy warmth. Looking back to Cassius, she hesitates, “You are most kind, Cassius. I hope that- that you will be patient with me and show understanding as I- I adapt to new circumstances.”

"Agreed." Alis nods at Cassius, then looks back at Rhyeline, her hand giving the younger woman's shoulder a reassuring pat.

"Of course, Rhyeline." Cassius nods. "I don't expect you to be accustomed to everything overnight. But I have every faith that you'll adapt quickly, and please know that I don't put this degree of trust in just anyone. I feel I have come to know you very well already, and I am confident that your heart is true in this." He smiles and crosses over to sit by Rhyeline, taking her hand. "That makes you practically family. This is your home, both literally and figuratively."

Though Rhyeline has chosen to devote her very life to his cause, when the man approaches and takes her hand in his, both he and Alis may notice how her other hand tightens just a bit around the glass of wine. Of course Alis will also feel beneath her hand how tense the young one becomes. So much, so fast. It seems to be overwhelming her a bit. After a moment of hesitation, she peeks up at Cassius and murmurs rather softly, “Please, sir. I have only just begun to work for you. I- I need time.”

The tension certainly doesn't go unnoticed by Alis, and she glances aidelong at Cassius, over the other woman's head. Her hand gives Rhye's shoulder a gentle squeeze, and she murmurs, "I'm here." From her tone, it's at least meant to be reassuring.

Cassius' smiles fades at the sudden resistance, and he releases her hand. "I see. I had imagined that our growing acquaintence would contribute to our new relationship. But if you prefer it to be purely professional, very well." How easily he slips from warm comfort to cool distance.

Rhyeline peeks up at Alis and offers a faint smile of appreciation. However at Cassius’ reaction the girl blinks and her smile fades entirely. In silence, she observes him for a moment before saying rather softly. “That is not what I meant. I asked for time. For understanding. I would not require such if I merely wished for professionalism. But. So easily you withdraw. There is no need to feign friendship to retain my loyalty, sir. Ambassador Troy never did. No need.”

Probably, this situation calls for delicacy and diplomacy. So Alis coughs, discreetly, except that the cough sounds suspiciously like the word, "Virgin." It's a guess, really, but she gives Cassius a look.

Rhyeline's word earn a frown of displeasure from Cassius…and Alis' 'discreet' cough earns a sigh. "For all of your keen skills of observation, Rhyeline, you have not the insight to interpret what you see. Certainly not in me. I feign nothing. I am disappointed that you feel you must alter your behaviour toward me simply because circumstances have changed. When we dined, you were never so tense at the notion of being a friend to me. You can imagine my frustration at seeing it in you now that I am your employer. I hired you because I trust you, but trust is built on a personal connection. If you withdraw that foundation, that trust comes apart."

Rhyeline blinks, catching the world Alis so ‘discretely’ coughs. The girl furrows her brows in confusion. It makes no sense to her why she would say such a word, so assuming she has misheard, she looks to Cassius once again. Rhyeline’s brows furrow slightly as she listens. Lowering her gaze, she murmurs. “Forgive me. Though you were never so forward, telling me I am as family, it is true you have always been kind. I have never feigned my behavior towards you, Cassius. But in the past, I hadn’t realized you desired such- such closeness so quickly. Had you acted then as you did a moment ago, my reaction would have been much the same.”

Peeking back up at him, Rhyeline bites her lower lip. “In the world of diplomacy, it is dangerous to trust, to let others get close in any real way. The smiles vanish so easily, and kindness, once goals are accomplished, fades as if it never was. I find it very hard to trust. Kind words seem empty to me now because they have been for so long. A gentle touch is a mere tool in the game of manipulation. If you wish to reconsider taking me as your assistant, now that you understand that I do not find it easy to trust, I understand. But it will take time for your actions to speak for themselves, for me to become more than your devoted assistant.”

Cassius remains straight-faced, and leans back in his seat, crossing one leg over the other. "You needn't explain the world of diplomacy to me. Diplomacy is merely the politics of foreign nations. I am well versed, and I know very well the cost of trust. My point is that you should know this about me. It should be obvious." He sighs, tapping his fingers on the armrest. "Devotion requires trust. They are inseparable. Trust is a choice, Rhyeline. It is a risk, and you can never know if trust is well-placed until you actually place it."

Rhyeline’s dark gaze remains fixed unflinchingly on Cassius’ gaze with her brows subtly furrowed. “I would have thought I am placing a great deal of trust in you. Am giving up everything, my career, my place with Ambassador Troy in the hopes that you will accept and keep me. I have made the choice to trust you enough that I am willing to devote my every waking moment to the success of your endeavors. I will keep your secrets with my life. What more do you want from me?”

Cassius sighs, finally letting some emotion show through as he features soften. "A smile."

Rhyeline calms just a bit as well, though her manner remains a touch guarded. “Unless you wish for feigned smiles, you must give me time. Until my heart learns to trust you, your words will feel empty and your touch will seem calculated. I will watch. Demonstrate that such kindness is genuine and my irrational heart will learn. Please understand me. Please be patient.”

The softness begins to harden again, and his disappointment shows. "I'm truly saddened, Rhyeline. So, our dinners, our conversations, the timid warmth you have shown before. All of it must have been an act, if you cannot accept my kindness as genuine. It was clear enough that you were doing Troy's bidding by speaking with me. But I had hoped we'd moved beyond that. But if you were merely humouring me, then you have done us both a great disservice."

“No.” Rhyeline’s voice grows sharp. “It was not an act. I showed timid warmth as you gently lead me into the shallows at the edge of a river. But now suddenly you grab my ankle from the depths and try to drag me in, asking that I trust you all at once, that suddenly I am as close to you as family? It is too much. I withdraw. Especially today. Forgive me. Earlier today, someone who barely knows me, would forget me soon after the conquest is over, tried to profess romantic interest. I withdrew. I suppose I haven’t quite gotten over it yet. My heart feels on its guard. Please understand. Why every time I ask you to understand, you refuse, you withdraw.” Rhyeline’s dark eyes glisten gently in the dim light of the solar as she gazes up at him with a furrowed brow.

Cassius frowns, now fully demonstrating his displeasure. "You have a gift for overstatement, Rhyeline. I dragged you into nothing. I invited you. I opened my life and my home to you, offered to place my deepest trust in you. This comes after you came to me asking to be a part of my world. But, nevertheless, I am met with distrust and accusations of falseness. You ask for distance where I cannot afford to give it. Not in this."

Rhyeline closes her eyes and averts her face. For a time she remains silent, soaking in his words. “That is not what I meant,” she murmurs faintly. Biting her lower lip, she peeks up at Cassius, gaze still glistening. “Forgive me. I have not meant to hurt you. What you say is true. You place more than your professional affairs in my hands. You place your life. A trust beyond mere professionalism is required. I- I have tried to withdraw beyond the mask of professionalism where- where I have always felt safer. I fell back into old habits of mistrust that- that you do not deserve. Your words are genuine, which I found overwhelming to accept. I felt overwhelmed by your kindness so I withdrew into old habits of thought and emotion which made it easier to understand.”

Cassius continues to tap his fingers on the armrest of the couch, gazing silently at Rhyeline for a time. "What is it that has you so skittish, Rhyeline? It wasn't the curse. I'm confident of that. Nor was it your work in the diplomatic field. No, this goes deeper. What events shaped and nurtured the mouse?"

Rhyeline hesitates, her gaze flickering ever so slightly to Alis. In the presence of more than one, she finds it much more difficult to speak, even more so to open up. But still she tries. For Cassius. “I have never found it easy to trust. I grew up- very isolated. My mother did not allow me to learn to make friends with other children. Instead, I was put to study. When I went off to Hogwarts, I was terrified to speak to those around me. Only questions from the teachers could bring out my voice. If it hadn’t been for my friend Annie, I don’t think I would have even learned what it means to trust.”

Cassius sighs, nodding, though his expression remains neutral. "That is quite deep-seated." He leans slightly, resting his hand upon his chin. A subtle shift, but less stiff than before. "Rhyeline, I am quite fond of you. I hope that you can accept and believe that. You have a keen intellect, and a passion for your work. Both are qualities that I hold in the highest respect. But I am concerned. Before, I was concerned that you could be lured away from my service. But you assured me that would not be the case. Now, my concern is that you will not be able to place your trust in me. Where there is no trust, doubt easily fills the void."

In a rather soft voice, Rhyeline peeks up at him and says, “Already I am coming to trust. Had you no true interest in me, if your words had been empty, my apprehension would not have been a problem. Forgive me, I mistook your vanished smile to mean interest easily lost. But no. Now I see instead, you will not allow me to hide behind masks of professionalism. You want what is real. That is also what I want.”

Cassius stares intently at her. His faith has been shaken, and though reluctant to resort to Legilimency, this is too important not to be sure. His reaches his senses outward, peering into her mind. Though mere moments pass, time seems to slow for him as he explores her thoughts, looking for those emotions that indicate if her words are genuine, and seeking those threads to lead him to the core of her mistrust.

Rhyeline returns his stare with a steady, unblinking gaze. Though her hand tightens just a bit on the glass in her hand, she doesn't move.

Cassius holds his breath as he goes down the rabbit hole, swimming through those powerful moments, only breathing again when he has resurfaced, seconds later. He nods, solemnly, finally answering her. "Yes, with you, I want what is real," he echoes. "I know all too well that we live in a world of lies and masks. For that very reason, absolute truth is utterly vital among those I keep close to me. You will likely learn things about me that you did not expect. Perhaps even things you find distasteful. I only hope that you judge the entirety of my character, and do not recoil should some secret be unpleasant to you." He uncrosses his legs and leans closer to her. "If I were insincere, if I didn't care, we wouldn't be having this conversation."

Rhyeline nods, though her gaze remains fixed upon his. “I will accept you for who you are, all you are. Will accept without question. I feel now your words must be real because your actions ring true. Thank you. Thank you for not allowing me to withdraw. Though,” she hesitates and admits with a soft, shy smile, “It scares me a bit, but I am also glad for it. It will be different, but- but I hope better. And I hope that- that should I make mistakes, fail to rise to your expectations, that you will not simply withdraw your- your affection, but rather, as you have now, taught me better.”

Cassius nods, his expression still a bit grave, but softer now. "It's fine to be scared. This will be new for you, in some ways. I told you before that there may be times I will be difficult to work for, and though I may discipline those that serve me if they should misstep, I am not inclined to easily discard them. Only a true betrayal would bring about such a separation. Likewise, serve me faithfully, and you shall see many rewards."

“Thank you, Cassius. For this opportunity and- and for your friendship. I hope you will be patient as I grow accustomed to such new circumstances and- and overcome feeling scared.” Closing her eyes, she bows her head deeply to him.

The bowed head is met with an appropriately imperious lift of Cassius' chin. The lord and his retainer. Master and servant. "I can be patient, but you must also face your fears with courage. My work will not wait for the timid."

Rhyeline lifts her eyes to meet his. A steady determination glows in her dark gaze. “I can be strong and I am resilient. I know it will not wait for me, and I will meet its challenge without flinching.” A soft smile with a touch of shy warmth emerges in her young, snow-white features. “And I will trust.”

Cassius permits a smile of his own, nodding toward Rhyeline. "There it is. That smile I wanted." He sits back again, this time a more relaxed posture.

Having been silent throughout their conversation, Alis sees no need to offer commentary now. She does, however, shift her stance slightly so that she's standing between them, though still behind the sofa.

The subtle smile grows, and the shy warmth deepens. Averting her gaze, Rhyeline peeks up at him just a moment before looking to Alis. A touch of pink emerges in her cheeks and she murmurs, “I hope you will also be patient with me, Alis.”

Cassius glances up to Alis, letting her speak for herself. There is a certain adoration that appears in his eyes when he looks at her.

"Admittedly, patience is not a virtue that I possess in abundance," Alis says, though she glances at Cassius just long enough for that adoration to be mirrored in her own expression. Returning her attention to Rhyeline, she adds, "I promise to give you what patience I can."

Rhyeline’s dark gaze flickers back and forth between Cassius and Alis, curious and observant. However as Alis returns her attention to the young one, a soft smile returns to her lips and she nods, “Thank you very much, Alis.”

"Alis may not be brimming with patience, but you'll find that her dedication and loyalty, once earned, are unbreakable," Cassius assures Rhyeline. "She is my truest friend, and has stood by me since we were children.

"I believe Rhye's seen some of that already." Alis has already proven loyal and determined, when she accompanied Rhyeline to St. Mungo's. There is little else she can say that she hasn't already said, in one conversation or another.

Rhyeline nods to Cassius. “I knew she reminded me very much of my dear friend Annie for a reason.” The girl peeks over at Alis with a soft, warm smile before looking back to Cassius. “She is to you as Annie is to me. Dearest friend, steadfast protect throughout Hogwarts and even now.” Looking to Alis, she murmurs with a subtle, shy blush, “I am honored that you would extend such protection to me.”

Cassius nods, "It's wonderful that you have such a dedicated friend. I hope you'll feel the same from us." He finishes off his wine, setting the glass aside and rising to his feet. "Now, I think we could all use a bit of refreshing. I suggest we fetch our coats and walk the grounds. The paths have been swept, and the cold isn't too biting just yet. The fresh air will do us good."

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