(1938-10-17) Lost Lamb Returns Due To Thirst
Details for Lost Lamb Returns Due to Thirst
Summary: Frid misplaces his mistress, finds her again, then fades discreetly into the background whilst she chats with Astoria Bletchley.
Date: October 17th, 1938
Location: The Three Broomsticks, Hogsmeade
Related: Fabia and Astoria's first meeting.

When Frid's mistress, who was allowed to pop down to London on her own when she swore to him wide-eyed it was only for one night and she'd be back on the 16th, isn't in her bed on the morning of the 17th, he's obliged to go a-hunting.

He looks in on (or rings round to) all the usual places. Hotel bars, mostly, and theatre bars, and little shops in Knightsbridge which sell frilly things to women not overly burdened with sense. He even pays a call at her daughter's house in St John's Wood, where he is known, but not precisely understood — and where he is told that she was dropped off at Paddington the previous afternoon to catch the 4.10 to Oxford. A likely story. It is not Eights Week.

Having failed to catch a sniff of her very expensive French scent anywhere he'd expect it, he repairs to the Leaky Cauldron to plot his next move — only to hear a trio of witches at the next table gossiping about the prodigious fur coat of a lady who went through the Floo to the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade not ten minutes since, and she didn't look like a witch, did she?

Frid gives a long suffering sigh, collecting his hat and coat, then giving the ladies a polite nod as he steps into the fireplace, only to return back to the Three Broomsticks in a matter of moments. Straightening and brushing himself off, he lifts his nose to the air briefly. There we go. Mingled with the smell of butterbeer and stale smoke, there it is. That familiar combination of perfume and gin.

Ten minutes since has been time enough for Fabia to procure a martini from one of her own personal bar wenches; and of course to decorate the bar with her dressing-case, her hatbox, and the vast collection of sables she's just shed. The suit she's wearing, black and white and very smart, is unfamiliar to Frid; likewise the brand-new blaze of diamonds around her neck, tangled in her turquoise silk scarf, as she hears his familiar footfalls approaching her bar stool and swivels upon it to offer him her broadest, most placating smile.

"Oh, Frid, sweetie!" she exclaims, waving the hand which hasn't the drink in it. "Tessa was just telling me you'd gone to look for me — I'm *so* sorry to have been gone so long — but, you see, I met an old friend." She can't say that without an expression of pure mischief stealing over her tastefully made-up face.

"I had a feeling that may have been the case, madam," Frid notes drily, unburdening himself of his hat and coat by the door before returning to her side and beginning to clear away the assorted items cluttering the bartop. "An old friend who was delighted to see you once again, no doubt, and would dearly like to see more of you in future, but being so terribly busy you had to sadly decline?" he suggests, just the hint of a smile twitching his lips. "A new necklace, madam?"

"Oh, sweetie," Fabia answers, with a reproving note in her voice, "I didn't *decline*." No wonder, then, she looks as though she's been on an all-canary diet during her recent sojourn in the Metropolis. She drinks healthily from her martini glass, perhaps to wash down a feather stuck in her throat.

The front door chimes several times while Astoria, clothed in black robes and a knit hat, strides into the Three Broomsticks. She snaps the door closed behind her and instantly removes her hat, which shakes a mass of hair free. After taking a moment to comb the tangles away from her eyes, Astoria walks farther into the room and towards the bar. It takes only a moment to spy Fabia. "Ah, Madame," she says by way of greeting, though she does not speak very loudly. Frid is given a brief nod.

"An extra cup for breakfast, madam?" Frid asks simply, claiming Fabia's furs to hang up beside the door with the various hats and coats there. There is a hint of fond amusement in his tone, but then there's Astoria, and he's all business once more, dipping his head politely in response before straightening and lifting his chin.

And that suggestion of an extra cup — which he has had occasion to bring with her morning tray, now and again, during the five years he's been by her side — somehow puts a dent in Fabia's mood. She knocks back the rest of her martini to compensate. "No, Frid," she murmurs, "he won't be coming up here."

She sniffs, and, determinedly cheerful again, answers Astoria's greeting with a wave of her hand, encouraging the younger witch to come over and sit with her at the bar. "Hello, sweetie!" she exclaims. "How lovely of you to pop in again. Are you meeting someone? If you're not, do meet me instead — you and I hardly said a word to one another the other night, and I did so regret later."

Astoria's lips curve upward slightly after Frid's nod, but her attention is soon nabbed by Fabia. "No - no one," she replies, accent light and words enunciated carefully. "I was curious as to whether or not you determined to stay," she explains. "As the owner, that is," she elaborates. Astoria finds a stool and sits upon it. She looks between Fabia and Frid. "I am not interrupting, am I?" she adds a moment later, posture suddenly stiff. One leg finds the floor, in case she has need to leave.

"Oh!" Fabia interjects, "Of course not. But do let me introduce you. Astoria Bletchley, this is Frid Lee, my valet. Frid, sweetie, one of the girls who were in here for a drink the night I arrived. Isn't she pretty?"

"How do you do, madam," Frid offers, with a short bow and a faint smile. "Delightful," he agrees, sharing a conspiratorial look with Astoria. "I think your interruption, if it could be called that, madam, is most welcome. You may, perhaps, prevent me putting my foot in my mouth any more." He moves behind the bar, already beginning to pour another martini for Fabia with the sort of practiced ease that comes of making the same drink for five years. "Drinks?"

Astoria's gaze levels on Fabia after her final question, but the intensity of it disperses with a mild, gentle grin after Frid speaks. "You are most kind," is her eventual reply, spoken slowly and with a deliberate meter. She clears her throat quietly and looks between proprietor and valet. "I would not say no to a drink. I will have what Madame Fairfax is drinking," she replies, for Frid's benefit.

"Delightful," comments Fabia, in a general sort of way, eyeing Astoria in the full knowledge that there's something here she hasn't put her finger on yet — and the full determination to do so before the evening's through. Her black suede gloves are turned inside out as she pulls them off, and drops them thoughtfully over onto the counter behind the bar, where Frid can pick up them up at his leisure. Then she turns round her usual complement of sparklers so that the stones are on the outsides of her fingers, rather than the insides: if she wore them that way under her gloves, their shape and size would distort the suede, and that would never do. Her head is tilted toward Frid and the blissful sound of the cocktail shaker; her big green eyes are still on Astoria. "Now, did you tell me how it is you pass the time in London, and I simply forgot?" she asks chattily.

Astoria rests an arm against the bar's top. She takes a moment to loosen a thin, black scarf around her neck while Frid mixes her drink. "Work occupies the majority of my time - I write, research, interview, socialize - it keeps me rather busy," Astoria answers with a slight grin. "And you, Madame?" she asks a moment later, expression narrowing to its typical state.

"I hardly know what I do all day," Fabia admits, "only that it takes me all day to do it." A glittering smile, transferred from Astoria to Frid as he sets before the ladies two perfect martinis in glasses turned frosty-white by their recent acquaintance with ice, then fades away with his mistress's gloves in his pocket and her luggage in both hands. Fabia raises her glass to Astoria: "To meeting charming new people," she suggests, by way of a toast.

Astoria listens quietly to Fabia, though the smile she returns is only slight. "Well put," she admits easily. When the martinis arrive, Astoria accepts the glass with a slight tilt of her head. She clinks her glass against Fabia's, slight smile resuming. "Agreed," she remarks before pressing the glass to her lips. She tilts it back slightly, using her free hand to hold the tooth-picked olives in place. A fair measure of the drink is gone when she sets it down upon the bar. "I admit to a small amount of sadness that you have not decided to stay as proprietor," Astoria says, after which she pauses to clear her throat.

"Oh, that's terribly sweet of you." Pensive (as pensive as she ever is), Fabia pops an olive into her mouth and chews it. "I haven't decided *not* to stay," she adds, after she has swallowed it and restored the other two to her glass for safekeeping, "I simply haven't… *decided*. Do you think I ought to?" Her big green eyes blink at Astoria, to all appearances genuinely seeking her opinion.

Astoria follows Fabia's example by biting an olive from its pick. She chews quietly for a moment, savoring the bitter, pickled flavor. After Fabia's question, Astoria's eyes shift in a dramatic, sarcastic roll that leaves the irises perched in an upper corner. A smirk accompanies the expression. "Madame," she states simply. "I do believe this venue is in desperate need of your attentions. Do not misunderstand me, I have pleasant memories of the Three Broomsticks, but-" she looks away and her head tilts, as if regarding a shabby stocking. When her attention returns to Fabia, the expression has dissolved.

She finds Fabia regarding her with impish understanding. "Oh, sweetie, I do *know*. One wouldn't want to change it entirely, of course, but—"

"—but?" Astoria asks. "If it is money that concerns you, there is great potential in Hogsmeade. The inn's name is famous, of course-" she shrugs her shoulders. "Your presence, for merely a year, might be enough. I imagine your influence, even from afar, would work wonders." Astoria takes another sip of her cocktail, but this one is merely that - a sip.

This flattery could not be said to take Fabia by surprise — flattery never really does, only the occasional inexplicable lack of it. Wiggling slightly on her bar stool, uncrossing her legs and recrossing them the other way round, she smiles distantly over the rim of her glass and murmurs, "My goodness, what *have* you heard?"

"I imagine a long tale of intrigue follows you, Madame," Astoria replies. "Though I remain ignorant to it. A mystery has its uses, of course." Astoria pauses for a moment to rest her chin against her hand. "Not that I often gather 'round the village well to hear the latest rumors, if I may borrow literary imagery. Aside from your aura of intrigue, well," Astoria gestures to Fabia. "One need merely glance at you to know your importance. Respectfully, Madame, you are well suited to the task. Pardon me if I am too forward." She finishes her glass, wincing briefly after the taste, and slides it towards Frid.

"No such thing," Fabia giggles. The very idea. And, "Oh, there you are, Frid. Yes, another round, bless you." She surrenders her glass to her handsome servant, who has reappeared just as he *knew* she'd be getting thirsty again, but retains her olives; and nibbles at them in between teasing her charming new friend with tidbits of a different kind. "Important? Oh, I should like to be, if only so that you wouldn't be disappointed! But I'm not in the least what you say. I've achieved no great ambitions in my life — why, I've been virtually a housewife," this is an exaggeration, "since I retired from the stage."

Astoria smiles slightly and takes her remaining olives before Frid can spirit them away. She rakes them from their home with seldom-seen, pearly-white teeth. After Fabia's admission, she says, "Truly? I imagined lists of suitors, and an impressive list of connections," while leaning against her hand. "I admit, I am baffled. You are, without question, the most impressive-seeming housewife that I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Not that housewives are not without their own extensive charms - it is just, Madame, that you are the most impressive." She accepts her second drink with a smile and instantly raises it to her lips.

At the word 'suitors' Fabia's hand drifts upward to toy with her diamond necklace — altogether too splendid a piece to be worn with day clothes, even so smart and sleek a suit. Tangled as it is with her scarf, hanging partly outside her jacket, it appears to be an afterthought, thrown on when she'd already dressed for the day… She holds that first taste of her martini in her mouth for a long moment, eyelids half-closed, giving the union of gin and vermouth the appreciation it deserves. "Mmm," she sighs, swallowing. "And you, Astoria Bletchley, are the most persistently-silver-tongued… something. What did you say you did?"

Astoria chuckles slightly. "Only when someone, or thing, interests me," Astoria remarks lightly. She crosses one leg over top of the other. "I'm an author with a focus in ancient runes, though articles and books don't supply a sufficient salary. I took a job at the Daily Prophet after returning to London. I write articles that require a historical explanation or perspective," she explains, enunciation still quite precise despite the alcohol. She closes her eyes for a moment and presses the palm of her hand to her chest. After a gentle cough she focuses on Fabia once more, though her lids droop slightly. "I am accustomed to getting my way. You must forgive me - I can be quite persistent."

"Oh, Lord! Am I a subject for the history-books already? I thought I was quite up-to-the-moment." Fabia pouts slightly, inclining one of her shoulders toward Astoria and stretching out one of her legs, in a pose straight out of a Muggle fashion magazine. Though her suit is too modern to be *in* a magazine yet, you might look for it in next month's number, or perhaps even the month after… "You know, a young man did come to interview me last year, who was writing a book about the Ballets Russes; he was very sweet and not a little awestruck and didn't understand anything nearly as well as he thought he did. I'm sure you understand your subjects much better than he understood his. You seem vastly cleverer than I am. If you know what's what about Ancient Runes you *must* be. What *is* your way, at present? I ask because I find I usually get mine, too." By way of punctuating all this chatter she smiles, dazzlingly, and downs half her martini all at once.

Astoria chuckles. "Hardly, Madame. I am not here on official capacity-" she sips her drink and allows her lips to curve upward. "- though I might like to learn the history of the 'broomsticks, one day." A pause. "Oh dear. The poor gentleman-" she remarks with another chuckle. After the compliment a brief tinge of red appears on her neck, though she does not wait long before continuing, "Presently? Or long term? I fear long term would be exhausting to recount. Let us stay with the present, as that is, in summary, quite simple: to convince you to stay and invest in this wonderful inn. Another habit of mine, indeed even when I am not drinking, is that I can be quite blunt. This, I hope, too, you will forgive. It is not that I am without subtlety, but I find plain speaking is often an underused tact-" she pauses. Her eyes flick to the ceiling for the briefest of moments before a nervous grin spreads across her lips, "practice." The expression is quickly hidden when she sips from her glass.

"Sweetie, be as blunt as you like," her hostess for the night assures her, smirking rather at all this, the words spoken deliberately as well as the slip. "You won't shock me. I assure you I'm quite impervious. If I stay, will you drink here a lot?" she asks, airily, as though setting up the foundations of a castle in the clouds. "Will you tell all your friends to drink here? Will you chat with the people at your paper and see that some favourable item appears within its pages? How's that for plain-speaking, or should I tell you about *my* habits when I'm drinking?" And Fabia swallows the remainder of her martini and sets her empty glass on the bar with a flourish. She's always prepared to up the ante.

Astoria wipes her lower lip with her forefinger with a smooth, swift gesture. She coughs slightly after Fabia's swift, efficient victory of her drink. "My," she says, initially. After the questions, she answers, "Perhaps not so overtly to make heads turn, but yes. And in return I would expect more… conversation and the occasional free drink." Astoria winks and takes another sip from her martini. In response to the final question, she adds, "I never say no to a story," with a slight grin.

"Then you quite understand me," beams Fabia. Her green eyes wander away, to where Frid is doing something or another at the far end of the bar; with a girlish little wave she attracts his attention, then points to her empty glass. He takes the hint, of course, he always does, and seconds later ice is rattling within a cocktail shaker. "I'm so glad you came in again," she repeats, "and just as I'd returned, too. Is all your timing so perfect?"

During the moment Astoria takes to consider her answer, Frid appears just on the other side of the bar, bearing the cocktail shaker and two chilled glasses. "Madam," he murmurs deferentially to Fabia, whilst pouring the fruits of his labour smoothly into first one glass, then the other. "Pardon me for interrupting your conversation, but a matter has arisen which I fear requires your attention… upstairs."

Fabia makes an extravagant moué. But she reaches over the bar to pop an olive into Frid's mouth, by way of signaling her accession to his request. Then she disappears through the door behind the bar, with him at her heels carrying her martini on a silver salver — but not before she's presented the other one to Astoria, and declared, "All on the house tonight, sweetie. See you soon."

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