(1938-10-06) The Ways of Powerful Men
Details for The Ways of Powerful Men
Summary: Cassius visits Rhyeline at home to give her the news about her inheritance, and they are soon visited by another Malfoy.
Date: October 6, 1938
Location: Rhyeline's Flat
Related: Plot: The Mouse's Curse

Cassius Malfoy has a special spring in his step this evening. Not that he's known to be a dour man. But calling him cheerful would normally be pushing it. He even hums a little tune as he makes his approach to Rhyeline's door. He lifts his hand to rap his knuckles rapidly, clutching his snakeskin satchel under his other arm.

A light drizzle falls from the dark night sky. Light from the streetlamps shimmers in puddles of water along the path leading to Rhyeline's flat. All curled up under a blanket by the warm light of the fire, Rhyeline loses herself in one of the books she had received for her birthday. The other books sit waiting nearby on the small table next to her tea. Across from her, a painting of Rhyeline leans against the wall. Inside the painting, by the edge of a park, the young girl offers a soft, shy smile and gives little twirl.

Upon hearing the knock on the door, the little one blinks and looks up. Setting aside her book, she rises with that slow, careful grace of hers. As she opens the door, she peeks out onto the street with quiet caution. She pauses and a soft smile that almost seems relieved touches her lips upon catching sight of Cassius.

"Good evening, Cassius," murmurs Rhyeline, drawing back the door, inviting him to come inside. "How- how are you?"

Cassius grins broadly, hurrying inside to avoid getting any more damp. "I'm terribly sorry to drop by unannounced. But believe me, you'll forgive it when you hear what I have to say." He hands his satchel over to her — and she is the only person who ever gets to hold that satchel other than himself — as he removes his overcoat and hangs it up.

Rhyeline accepts the satchel and holds it close as she watches Cassius hanging up his cloak. Tilting her head to the side with the look of a curious little kitten, she murmurs, "What is it? You- you look excited… good news?"

"Oooooh-ho-ho-ho. Fantastic news." Cassius reaches for his satchel again, ushering Rhyeline into her own parlour. "That little trinket I bought you for your birthday is going to seem awfully cheap." The trinket was a ludicrously expensive sapphire brooch. But a Malfoy's idea of "little" can be a bit skewed when it comes to money.

Rhyeline offers up the satchel and then blinks when ushered off into the parlor. Ever more intrigued, she peers up at Cassius. "What is it? Tell me?" Should he sit upon the love seat, she would occupy the place beside him, gazing up with bright curiosity.

Cassius takes a seat across from Rhyeline this time, as he begins to adopt the mannerisms and tones she is so familiar with as his business demeanor. Setting the satchel on her coffee table, he pulls from it a folder, setting it flat on the table and spinning it so she can see it properly. "This is an excerpt from the M.L.E. file on Magnus Troy. It seems that there has been some hubbub concerning his will. Don't fret, he hasn't perished. But there are some provisions he placed in it regarding his possible disappearance or incarceration."

The mention of Magnus Troy's name catches Rhyeline rather off guard. A haunted little shadow flickers in her dark gaze before she bites her lower lip and listens with subtle caution. She blinks as Cassius begins to describe what this is all about. "Oh- he… he left- left his money to me before- before he was sent to Azkaban…"

Cassius gives Rhyeline a devilish smirk. "So you knew. Had you mentioned it, I would have looked into the matter for you. It was happenstance that I came to know of it this way. Ursula Shacklebolt has been trying to get the money released from Gringotts to place into a fund for Troy's victims. As you might imagine, the greedy goblins aren't very keen on letting go of a single knut. But she'll probably succeed, though only to some extent. I am doing all I can to ensure that a sizable percentage of the money goes exactly where Mr. Troy intended it. Of course, I mean to you."

And at this very interesting moment, when all sorts of highly personal and private news might have been given and exchanged — that's when the bell at Rhyeline's door rings.

Rhyeline parts her lips to speak when another unexpected caller rings the bell of her flat. Glancing over at the door, she hesitates for just a moment before peeking back up at Cassius. "E-Excuse me…" Rising, she clasps her hands behind her back and heads over to the door. Peeking out onto the street, she grows perfectly still upon catching sight of Ismene. Her voice holds a subtle edge of apprehension as she murmurs, "Oh. Madam- Madam Malfoy. Please- Won't you come in?" She draws back, opening the door a bit further before peeking over her shoulder towards the sitting room.

The small, erect figure of Ismene Malfoy passes into Rhyeline's flat with the air of one who is at home wherever she may be, shedding in response to the warmth of the air the sensible black woolen robes which have till this moment been covering a black silk gown even more ancient than she usually wears. It's high-necked and long-sleeved, over an impossibly wasp-waisted corset, with a slight bustle behind. Below her knees the silk is gathered into deep scallops above a hem of narrowly-pleated crepe du chine; and from the highest point of each scallop emerges an elaborately embroidered and jet-beaded serpent, coiling up around her body, seeming to writhe with each breath she draws in. The small details which mark her as a witch, a creature wholly outside Muggle time, rather than a mere anachronism of the 1890s, are the silver pomander hanging from a delicate chain at her waist, and the high pointed hat balanced upon her black and white hair.

"Cassius," she utters, lifting an eyebrow, dropping her robes over the back of a chair. "I should say, what a surprise; but, under the circumstances…"

Cassius closes the file when Rhyeline stands, tucking it back into his satchel and fastening the clasps securely. He rises with the entrance of Ismene, straight-backed and the very picture of confidence and surety expected of every Malfoy. "Aunt Ismene, what a delightful surprise, indeed." He offers a warm smile and a respectful half-bow at the waist. "I was aware that you and Miss Diderot were acquainted, but I didn't know she was expecting you this evening. Forgive me if I have intruded on your plans."

Rhyeline follows along behind Ismene as the woman takes up the little one's usual spot by the fireplace. With a subdued look of quiet caution, the mouse hesitates a moment, hands clasped behind her back. "Would- would anyone care for tea? Or- or perhaps some port?"

The chair nearest the fire is the best, the softest in the room; and that is why, assuredly, unhesitatingly, Madam Malfoy arranges herself in it. "We have some slight acquaintance, yes," she admits to Cassius, rather drily, having inclined her head in response to his punctilious bow; "in fact, I made so bold as to drop in for a few minutes last night to wish Miss Diderot a happy birthday, and I believe I left my gloves. Did I not, child?" This last is addressed to their hostess, and then, "A glass of port would certainly be welcome."

Cassius nods to Rhyeline as he retakes his seat. "If you have tea prepared, I would love some." He crosses one leg over the other, giving his great-aunt his attention. "How long has it been, Auntie? Three years? Far too long. You should come by Berylwood for a visit. Aunt Persephone visits frequently as well. It's convenient, as I'm just down the road from Cousin Zephyr's home."

Rhyeline's soft cheeks grow rather warm, blushing as she often does when overcome with shyness. She nods at the mention of the gloves, indeed having found them earlier. Then, dipping into a respectful curtsy, the little one turns and heads off into the kitchen.

"Surely not three…" And then, "Whilst we have a moment to ourselves," Madam Malfoy's gaze both lowers and narrows, encapsulating Cassius in its sudden confidence; "Miss Diderot has told me something of your plan to — seek inside her mind to determine the particular emotions to which this unfortunate curse might be anchored…" Then, just as he might be wondering how MUCH his invaluable amanuensis has taken it upon herself to utter to his great-uncle's relict, "I wonder what scheme you may have to assure the silence of a hired legilimens? I ask you so boldly, for I imagine that as well as knowing some of your personal secrets, the girl must have learned, by now… one or two Malfoy secrets." Her pale lips twist into a parody of a smile. She may only have taken to dropping these conversational bombshells in the last decade or so, but her knack for it, well, that must have been inborn.

Cassius chuckles, lifting a hand in a reassuring gesture. "The only secrets I share with Miss Diderot are my own. I do not bandy family business about in the workplace. But please, Auntie, don't be hasty. A legilimens is a measure I am willing to take, but certainly not the first one. In fact, I should like to try my own hand at divining the source of the curse's power. I pride myself on my understanding of the human mind. I feel that I may have some insights that the Healers…excuse me, Healer…lacks." He isn't coy about the teasing smirk sent Rhyeline's way.

Out of earshot for the moment, Rhyeline busies herself in the kitchen, heating up the kettle. Cassius isn't the only one who wants a bit more tea. In the meantime, she pours Ismene's glass of port with great care.

"Be it the first or tenth idea, I find it intriguing… I am curious to know," and Cassius's aunt favours him with a rueful little smirk. Tonight's gloves are of particularly fitted black leather: she is easing them from her hands, finger by finger, revealing hands which show her age more than any other part of her, and the curious hanged-man signet ring she always wears, neither Malfoy nor Lestrange. "Whatever I might be able to do for Miss Diderot," she refers here to her undoubted skill with potions, "would be, I'm sure, a mere palliative. To deprive the curse of its fuel, now, that would be a triumph." Her soprano voice is distant, thoughtful, as though she sees Rhyeline more as a problem than a breathing young woman.

"Well said," Cassius nods in agreement. "Naturally, I am sure you will hear of any progress we make. After all, the more you know, the better you can tailor your potions to help her. Have you been able to be of some help, then?" He glances over toward the kitchen, directing the question to both women. "I understand that there has been some delay, as it pertains to Healer O'Shea's less than permissive outlook."

Waiting for the water to boil, Rhyeline peeks out from the kitchen and into the sitting, just in time for Cassius to notice her and direct the question towards both women. With Ismene present, the little mouse seems more cautious than usual. "He- I don't think that- that he has had an opportunity to speak with- with Madam Malfoy yet. In addition to- to his work with me, he- he has been rather busy with- with other patients…"

"I don't know yet," the Malfoy witch says, with apparent frankness, "whether I can help her. I am reluctant to *pour* anything into her," a roll of the eyes, in Rhyeline's direction, "until I know just what she has been given by this," a sharp inhalation, "half-blooded Irishman of hers; and how it affected her. The reaction of one potion against another might prove calamitous. He seems, however, to be the busiest man in London; and I was called away upon business for several days; and so I have yet to discuss the matter with him." Freed of the thin black leather gloves, her hands rise in a discreetly Gallic gesture. "I have certain ideas," and now she is speaking to Cassius, as though above the head of a not-quite-competent little girl, "I have taken certain preliminary steps — but we shall see. Is that my port? Thank you, child…" Her bony white fingers close upon the stem of the glass, and she brings it swiftly but steadily to her lips.

Rhyeline maintains a polite, respectful manner as she offers Ismene the glass of port first before serving Cassius his cup of fresh-brewed tea. Warming her hands against the sides of her own cup of sweet and milky tea, the little one sits down beside Cassius once more and sneaks a cautions up at the man and then at his aunt.

Cassius's features barely shift — only the slightest twitch at the corner of his mouth."Mmm…all the more reason to seek the aid of other Healers. Clearly, Rhyeline, your case is relatively unique, and requires the attention and input of more than a single man. A man who has proven notoriously stubborn, no less. Undoubtedly the Irish in him." He sighs, subduing his show of displeasure with a grateful smile as he takes the cup from Rhyeline. "But in the meantime, acquiring the records of treatment should not prove a challenge. Rhyeline, it would be helpful if you could put in the request for them at St. Mungo's. It would give my Great Aunt a good deal more information about what she might safely administer to you."

Rhyeline gives a small nod. "Yes. I could do that. I will send an owl tomorrow." Actually go to make the request in person? No, Rhyeline isn't going to do that any time soon. Taking a long, slow sip of tea, she watches them each in silence.

"Very good. But why," Madam Malfoy wonders aloud, raising her glass to Cassius; "didn't *I* think of asking for those records? Perhaps I'm unaccustomed to putting things in writing…" She inclines her still-behatted head, regarding with clinical interest the two young people sitting together upon the loveseat, drinking their tea, whilst she alone enjoys something stronger. She hasn't relaxed back into Rhyeline's comfortable armchair; partly because of the corset beneath her serpentine gown, partly because of her own inalienable nature, she is sitting bolt upright upon the edge of it. "What insights, I wonder, have suggested themselves?" This is to Cassius, uttered still distantly. "Perhaps somehow between us we might spare the child the indignity of a legilimens poking through her mind…"

Cassius takes a sip of the tea, buying a moment of blessed silence. Deliberate? Probably. There is little that Cassius does that isn't. With a satisfied sigh, he clinks the cup back down to saucer, shaking his head with twinkle in his eye. "I fear we've not had an opportunity to explore it deeply yet. But considering that the curse was designed to affect Magnus Troy, the key is in examining his darker aspects, determining which are strong, and then comparing them to the same within Miss Diderot and ascertaining which of those are weak in her. No small feat, given that Troy was a master diplomat, and could present whatever face he desired. I imagine I shall have to rely upon Rhyeline's expertise on the man for deeper insight."

"She does seem to be," and Ismene Malfoy's tone is purely Sahara, though her expression opaque, "well-versed in the ways of powerful men."

Cassius grins rather like the cat that caught the canary. "Why do you think I was so keen to have her in my employ?"

Rhyeline clings tight to the cup of tea in her hands as the conversation makes her blush grow more and more noticeable. She peeks over the edge of her teacup with a rather vulnerable look of shyness before her dark gaze flickers towards Ismene with noticeable caution.

"But I *don't* know why you were so keen," Cassius's aunt echoes. "My introduction to Miss Diderot was effected via a letter from her mother; but yours…" She tilts her head, glancing from Cassius beneath the bay window to Rhyeline on the loveseat, roughly equidistant from her, as though arranged to form the points of a tense conversational triangle. "She hasn't confided. Perhaps, as usual, she is too shy. Shall you tell me instead?"

Cassius casts his eyes sympathetically toward Rhyeline. There is a measure of what one might take as affection in that gaze. "It isn't so confidential, Auntie. We met at Cafe Tasseo, ostensibly by accident, but I think I know better." He flashes another grin at Rhyeline. "I came to admire her intellect, and I could see for myself how valuable she was to the ambassador. She displayed a keen understanding of what is required to serve a man of power and influence. So, quite plainly, I saw what I wanted, and I set about acquiring it," he nods, punctuating his matter-of-fact tone.

It was no accident. To this day, Rhyeline often takes tea at Cafe Tasseo in order to watch and listen. However, when Cassius expresses that measure of affection, the little one can't help but offer him a soft smile in return that holds a rare warmth. However, when he puts his 'acquisition' of her in such a matter of fact tone, she blinks and retreats once more behind her cup of tea.

This explanation of his association with Rhyeline, his aunt greets at first with subtle curiosity, and then — to the surprise of both her juniors — a soft, appreciative laugh, an octave or more below the register of her usual speaking voice. How mild she is tonight, how unusually pleasant, compared with the last time Cassius met with her, at a Malfoy family party, when she spent the latter part of the evening sitting in the corner drinking an ocean of brandy and uttering remarks which did nothing but devastate… "I see," she answers him gravely; "and was what you wanted, all that you had hoped?" She casts an appraising look at Rhyeline; and then her sharp black gaze returns to Cassius, in order not to miss his response. "How inconvenient for you, though, to depend upon a secretary in such a weakened state…"

Cassius laughs softly, lifting his chin. "She is so much more than a secretary. I have a secretary at the Ministry. Miss Diderot is an aide-extraordinaire. But even in her state, she is worth a legion of secretaries." This time, Rhyeline gets the sort of respectful nod of his head reserved for dignitaries and bureaucrats that he wishes to show favour to.

Even when Ismene is at her most pleasant, she lets slips remarks that cut deep. Upon referring to the girl's weakened state, Rhyeline bites her lower lip and lowers her gaze, hoping perhaps to hide her shame. But then, noticing the warm deference with which he treats her, her eyes widen and shine with a soft glow of such appreciation. Despite how tense the girl seems in Ismene's presence, a luminous smile blooms upon her lips. "It is an honor to assist you in such important work…" she murmurs with sincere feeling.

Madam Malfoy regards Cassius for a few long, considering seconds, then turns deliberately to Rhyeline. "Miss Diderot," she says softly, "would you do me the favour of leaving us for five or ten minutes? I would have a word with my nephew about something; and the present moment seems so fortuitous…"

Cassius gestures demonstratively toward Rhyeline when the young woman expresses her appreciation. "That, Great-Aunt, sums up very neatly why I simply had to have Miss Diderot's service."

Rhyeline blinks as Ismene requests that she excuse herself for a moment. Her gaze flickers to Cassius, but she is already rising from her seat. "Yes… of course," she murmurs with a small nod. Taking her cup of tea with her, the girl hesitates for just a moment, peeking with quiet caution over at them both before she heads up the stairs where she won't hear them.

Cassius rises when Rhyeline does, ever the gentleman, and only seats himself again when she is out of sight. Crossing his legs again, he folds his hands in his lap, fixing a more critical gaze upon his Great-Aunt. "You know, you can always come visit me if you wish a moment alone. My door is always open to family. What weighs on your thoughts?"

A modicum of port wine remains in Madam Malfoy's glass; she swallows it, and sets down the glass upon a table at her elbow without needing to look. His offer, she receives with unspoken consideration.

"I find myself returning," she murmurs in a circumspect manner, "to the idea of… ascertaining which darker thread in Miss Diderot's nature might be providing just sufficient fuel to sustain the curse. Difficult, one might consider, to see any darkness in a girl like that," a tilt of the head, a twist of the lips, "but there are…" Her hand rises, signet ring gleaming in the light as it unfolds into a graceful palm-up gesture. "Evocative glimpses… if one has the wit to see. You do see, don't you? And yet, the prospect of her innermost thoughts being laid bare in the pursuit of this knowledge… Healing may by its nature be a painful process, but I should hardly be discharging my duty to her mother did I not caution against, and seek to spare her, such…" A drawing-in of breath over her (less than pristinely white) teeth. "Such an exposure. Unless you, whose plan it was, had a thought of how to be assured of her privacy."

Cassius sets aside the assured demeanor and quick wit for the moment, nodding slowly and carefully considering her words, and his own reply. "Firstly, I would make the argument that there is darkness in every soul. No human being is immune to it. But, indeed, Miss Diderot's shadows are faint, which has likely been her saving grace. As for your concerns, do have some faith in me. If it does become necessary to acquire the services of a Legilimens, I would call upon only the most reputable. Even if I was not completely certain that I could trust in the discretion of those I employ, I should think you know that few are the fools that would dare to risk the wrath of a Malfoy."

Twice in one evening — how many have heard Ismene Malfoy laugh twice in one evening? In the fifteen years since her husband died, precious few. Though now there's a crowing quality to the sound, which, were there any fools present, would surely inspire them to repent their idiocy… "I don't know you well enough, child," surely something Cassius hasn't been called for half his life or longer; but then, it's rare that Ismene hears the diminutive 'auntie', "to repose in you more faith than any other who bears our name; but it is enough, isn't it, to be going on with?" She doesn't look particularly as though she considers it enough, but, of course, her real thoughts and those which may be read in her face and her demeanour, may have little to do with one another. "So many of us interested," she muses, "in Miss Diderot. We'd do well to keep one another… informed, I suppose, so as not to duplicate or cross our efforts."

Cassius doesn't respond directly, but rather tilts his head in an angled nod. Assent? Agreement? It isn't clear. He rises to his feet, straightening the hem of his overshirt — Cassius Malfoy generally eschews the typical wizard robes in favour of crisp suits with a medieval flair. "Well, I think we've made great strides tonight. I expect there is much we could do for each other, both in regard to Miss Diderot, and other concerns." He collects his snakeskin satchel from the coffee table. "I fear I should be going. But we should do this again soon. I'll repeat my standing invitation to come to Berylwood. I'll have Chef prepare something special, if you give me notice." He smiles warmly, offering her another polite bow. "Good evening to you, Auntie."

The snakes curving up around his great-aunt's strictly-corseted form seem to undulate in the firelight as she looks up at him in a silent, breathing, considering moment. "Thank you," she says finally; and the hand which bears her hanged-man signet rises steadily from her lap and is presented to him. "I should like to take you up on that invitation, one day soon."

Cassius takes his great-aunt's hand, giving another slight bow, dipping his head over it. "Soon, then." With a subtle smile, he turns on his heel, and departs into the evening.

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