(1938-11-13) Journeyman's Ambition
Details for Journeyman's Ambition
Summary: Frustrated at her lack of access to the patient of the Mouse's Curse, Sabine seizes the opportunity to speak with Rhyeline when she happens to find her at Cafe Tasseo.
Date: Wednesday, November 13, 1938
Location: Cafe Tasseo

The mid-afternoon sun does its best to warm the streets of Diagon Alley, but to little avail. The clear sky remains a chilled blue. Well past the lunch hour, a serene silence has settled upon Cafe Tasseo. A girl lingers alone, sitting at a small table by the window. The attentive staff have cleared away the little one's plate and wine glass. Now she warms her hands against a cup of coffee, lost in contemplation as she stares unseeingly at the percolation of pedestrians through the street outside.

Sabine has been waiting at her own table in the cafe. Just one of many others enjoying an afternoon treat, except unlike everyone else, her eyes are watching Rhyeline. Standing, she takes her own cup of coffee with her, as she moves unhesitatingly towards Rhyeline's table. Without being invited, she sits, puts her cup down, makes herself at home. Turning towards Rhyeline, Sabine says, quietly: "You don't know me." She doesn't try to smile and reassure Rhyeline. She just observes.

On most occasions, Rhyeline would have noticed at once how lithe young woman of such striking features watches her. But this afternoon, she seems rather distracted by her thoughts. When the establishment had been filled with its patrons of wealth and power, the girl had sat silent, eyes lowered as she listened to the chatter around her. Now she reflects- oblivious to the world.

Across the room sits a witch in her mid-thirties with a tight blonde bun. She wears simple, functional robes, the sort favored by many of those in magical law enforcement. However, hers are far better tailored than what most public servants could afford. She /has/ noticed Sabine's interest, and keeps a close eye on her when she moves to join her charge.

Rhyeline gives a little start when Sabine slides into the chair across from her. Wide-eyed, the mouse blinks at Sabine- caught rather off guard. It's true, she doesn't recognize Sabine as one of the journeyman healers assigned to her case at St. Mungo's. Biting her lower lip, the girl gives a small, silent nod of both greeting and affirmation.

Sabine considers Rhyeline for a moment — most particularly, her silence. "So," she leans forward, speaking conversationally, "do you actually want to get better, or are you just playing pretend at this whole patient thing?" Her voice is so pleasant, she could've been complimenting the weather, or talking about fuzzy kittens — instead of making a borderline accusatory statement to a sick stranger.

An edge of cautious reserve shines in Rhyeline's dark gaze. Resting her cup of coffee upon the table, she studies Sabine with great care. "The curse I received in Berlin is not something I like to discuss. However. It is no act. The healers are doing all they can for me." Lowering her gaze, she brings the coffee to her lips once more.

Either Sabine isn't getting the 'conversation over' vibe or she doesn't care (and all signs points to it being the latter). "Oh, I'm sure your healers are," she says with a faint sarcastic drawl. "But that doesn't absolve you of your own responsibilities, does it?" Then, she seems to change subject, glancing down at Rhyeline's cup: "Is that coffee? I love coffee. Nothing makes me feel better than coffee."

Rhyeline holds her cup a bit closer to herself and doesn't look up. She suspects that this sharp, unfamiliar woman is a political opponent of Cassius Malfoy. No doubt she hopes to find a weakness to exploit, and so the little one remains silent.

"Was that too subtle?" Sabine asks generally. "The coffee," she says, summoning patience. "You know you're not supposed to have it. In fact, you're not even supposed to be here." She drinks her own coffee, then adds, "But don't worry, I won't tell. It's not really my business."

Rhyeline's hands tighten upon the cup coffee. Her eyes flit to meet Sabine's keen, clear blue gaze. Caution shines in the little mouse's stare. How does this one know what Keenan had prescribed? In a rather quite tone, she murmurs, "It isn't…" Though as one of the healers assigned to her case, it certainly is. "Healer Keenan knows I have been drinking coffee… in moderation. And though I have not yet returned to serve full time as Cassius Malfoy's assistant, I am permitted to venture out and- and to carry out research so that his actions are well informed…"

"Oh," Sabine looks immediately apologetic. "I mean, excuse me, I didn't know. Here I was thinking you wanted to get better. I didn't realize that you just felt like wasting everyone's time." Her expression goes from faux-apologetic to mildly annoyed. "Listen, I don't care if you drink yourself to death," though coffee would probably be a first, "but if you're going to lie about it, then there's a problem. I can cure sick people, but not liars." She takes another sip of coffee. "That said, I think you can get better. I wouldn't be working on your case if that weren't so."

Rhyeline maintains her unperturbed composure despite Sabine's cutting remarks. Upon realizing Sabine is a healer, however, the girl freezes. An edge of apprehension shines behind the veil of her reserve. "You… work with Ke- Healer Keenan?" she murmurs.

Sabine smiles at Rhyeline for the first time. "Sometimes," she answers, holding her cup between her hands. "But I prefer to treat people, not case files. I've read yours. It's interesting."

Rhyeline's cheeks warm with a hint of a blush. Lowering her gaze, she rests her cup of coffee upon the table. Self-conscious and cautious, she tucks a loose wisp of a curl behind her ear before peeking up at Sabine. "I know I- I'm not the best patient… But… I appreciate all that you and- and the other healers are doing for me…"

"Oh, I can tell," Sabine hastens to reassure Rhyeline. "After all, here you are, showing your appreciation by following healer recommendations." Her expression grows thoughtful. "Or, maybe you just need some new recommendations."

At the sarcasm, Rhyeline furrows her brows a touch. The mention of new recommendations causes her to shift with unease. "I wasn't lying… Keenan does know that I've been drinking a bit of coffee… just once in a while… and- and not late at night."

Sabine drops the sarcasm, and in fact, looks a little confused. "Is it really so important?" She shakes her head, then pushes herself away from the little table. "Don't answer now, think about it. You may not like rules, or recommendations, but I'm willing to bet you don't like being sick more. When you decide you want to be aggressive about this, and beat it, let me know." Then, the necessary introduction, "Sabine Lestrange."

Rhyeline hesitates, watching Sabine as she prepares to leave. "Of course I don't want to be sick any more… Healer Keenan is doing all he can. The coffee is just- he says it keeps me from sleeping… but I don't sleep well regardless… and instead, I feel like it keeps my heart beating faster… What- what would you recommend?"

Sabine considers that for a moment. "I think it means something. And while rest is important, I would say your heart takes precedence, wouldn't you? You're not going to sleep if you're constantly thinking about how slow your heart is beating, anyway." She stands. "I don't think we've done enough to uncover the source of your illness. We'll never get ahead of the disease process until we know what's happening."

Rhyeline considers Sabine in cautious silence for a time. Lowering her gaze, she brings her cup of coffee to her lips for a small sip. Hidden behind the cup, she peeks at Sabine from over the brim. "…Cassius often encourages me to seek second or- or third opinions. I trust Keenan. But- fresh eyes… they might help…"

Sabine lets Rhyeline trail off, falling silent for a moment. "I'll still have to run everything past Keenan. And you, of course. It couldn't hurt. It might even help. But you don't have to decide anything now."

Rhyeline lowers the cup of coffee warming her hands, but keeps it close to herself. With an appreciative little nod, she murmurs, "You are most kind. At present- In- In addition to Healer Keenan, Balaurius Malfoy has also taken an interest in my case…" The father of Cassius Malfoy was a distinguished and renowned healer at St. Mungo's. It would seem that her curse has been interesting enough to coax him out retirement. "And Keenan, he- he is kind enough to- to require me to come to St. Mungo's as little as possible… would it- would it be possible for- for the same with you?"

Sabine brushes some invisible strands of hair away from her forehead. "I'd certainly prefer it," she says. "I don't see any reason you would need to be there. Maybe we could even take some field trips. I'd like to find out more about /how/ you acquired the curse."

The bell above the door chimes exquisitely; a small black-clad witch crosses the threshold with her lips pressed into a thin line. Four parcels of different sizes wrapped in brown paper and tied with plentiful quantities of string float in behind her in a neat row, level with her high, pointed black hat.

It isn't so very common for the Frenchified Cafe Tasseo to see a patron clad in well-worn robes of plain black wool, and steel-toed boots below. But the robes were of the first quality when they were new; and their dignified, pale-faced wearer is, for all her little ways, known up and down Diagon Alley as a member by marriage of the House of Malfoy. (It's curious, but after she's been in your establishment even just once, you tend to recollect her, years later…)

She casts her usual jaundiced, flinty eye over the almost-empty cafe in the few seconds it takes for a member of staff to approach her. If she sees Rhyeline and Sabine, at their table by the window, watched closely by the latest of the bodyguards her nephew has set upon his 'assistant', she gives no sign of it; "A large table," she says to the waitress, in her highly-bred, highly-educated, highly-superior soprano, "and I shall give you my order directly."

Rhyeline seems relieved when Sabine reassures her that she would not require more time at St. Mungo's. "I- I'm afraid that- that I don't remember-" Her words catch in her throat. The moment Ismene's unexpected soprano carries from the entrance of the elegant establishment, Rhyeline freezes like a mouse catching the hiss of a snake.

"Then we'll have to…" Sabine starts to say, but she can't resist the urge to follow Rhyeline's line of sight to Ismene. To her credit, there's only a tightening her her lips to betray her pleasure at seeing her cousin. "Have you met my Aunt Ismene?" she asks Rhyeline, pleasantly, apparently taking her freezing as a positive sign of such.

Soon Madam Malfoy is splendidly established alone at a table for four, stripping the thin leather gloves from her narrow and bony hands one finger at a time whilst issuing directives to the waitress who has drawn the shortest of possible straws. "I shall have a pot of your best black China tea; remind me, what is the cost of that? … How can your employers expect to remain in business charging such outlandish prices? You might as well tear customers' purses from their pockets the moment they're mad enough to step through the door. Oh, very well, I'm here now, what am I going to do but drink it?" she asks, sourly, rhetorically. She drops her gloves on the table, to one side; her parcels have stacked themselves neatly on the other side, and the top one slides down now into her hands, where she picks with meticulous little fingers at the string securing it. "Honey for the tea, plenty of it, mind you; and a plate of bread and butter, sliced very thinly. Can you manage that, or shall I have to wait whilst you fetch a pencil and paper and write it down?"

The waitress stammers an assurance; curtseys; hurries away to the kitchen.

Rhyeline hides behind her cup, taking an implausibly long sip of coffee. The little mouse peeks at Sabine and gives a small nod. Her voice is a bit muffled as she murmurs, "Yes… She… At- At my mother's request… she took an interest in my case as well. But… I fear that- that she has withdrawn such interest."

"You should ask her," Sabine says, pushing her chair back away from the table. "Her bark is worse than her bite," she adds, helpfully. "Usually. Sometimes. It happened once. I think." Apparently, she isn't volunteering to be an intermediary between the two. Standing, she adds, "I'm sure we'll get a chance to talk again soon. Enjoy your coffee."

Briefly, she stops by Ismene's table. "I'm on my way out, Aunt," she says, "but it's good to see you. Perhaps for longer, next time."

At Sabine's very first word to her Madam Malfoy looks up at her first cousin once removed with an immediate recognition which reveals that she was aware, all along, of her presence in the cafe, and was probably listening to her approach. "Perhaps," she agrees, with a mild furrowing of her brow; the parcel in her hands yields, inch by inch, to her inducements. It contains three books, in varying states of decrepitude, which she lays out before herself upon the pristine white linen tablecloth, whilst adding, "Good evening, Sabine."

Then the younger Lestrange woman is gone; and the elder is extracting from somewhere about her person an inkwell, a quill, a few rolled sheets of parchment which she spreads out in the space she has left empty, smoothing them with quick, precise motions. She doesn't look towards Rhyeline.

Rhyeline's eyes shine with alarm as she watches Sabine approach and then speak with the older witch. Clinging tight to the cup of coffee in her hands, she bites her lower lip. Her tension eases when Sabine departs without another word, but only slightly. Cafe Tasseo no longer holds any peace for the girl to mull over recent events. Setting down her empty cup with great care, she places her hands upon the table's surface and pushes herself up to stand. Across the room, her bodyguard rises as well, preparing to follow the girl back out onto the street.

Rhyeline rose a bit too quickly. She hesitates- lingering at the table. Her fingertips remain upon the pristine tablecloth as she steadies herself. Hoping to hide her dizziness, she lowers her gaze and straightens her elegant little witch's robes. It would seem that all progress Ismene made in the course of her treatments has faded.

Over the topmost sheet of parchment upon Madam Malfoy's table, a quill dances in the air, scratching out words or merely hovering according to whether her lips move as she turns over the pages of one of those crumbling antique volumes. She leaves one; she opens another, at the index in the back, checking a reference and directing the quill to make another note before returning to the first.

Her tea, her honey, her bread and butter are all set down around and in between her books and parcels. She pays no heed to them at first, let alone the waitress who has delivered them, who pours her first cup of tea, who waits for several long, awkward moments for some sign of approval or at least interest. Her concentration is impressive to behold. The waitress gives up and backs away well before Madam Malfoy draws the cup and saucer towards herself. She spoons a plentiful quantity of honey into it with one eye still upon her book, turns the page, reaches into her robes, removes a small silver flask, unabashedly spikes her tea, and recaps the flask and replaces it whence it came.

Rhyeline peeks over at Ismene out of the corner of her eye. The little one knows that she should approach, that she should greet the potioneer, but she's having trouble working up the courage. Lowering her gaze, she tucks a wisp of a curl behind her ear. In the end, she can't quite manage it.

It's taking a bit too long for Rhyeline to step away from her table. Thinking she might be having some trouble, her bodyguard approaches at last and places a hand under her elbow, offering support. Without a word, Rhyeline accepts the assistance and allows herself to be led away.

Rhyeline's passage through the cafe has no apparent effect upon Madam Malfoy, who lifts her saucer in her left hand and her tea-cup in her right, and sips from it with her eyes still upon unevenly printed pages.

Well, perhaps she draws in one slightly deeper breath; but surely that might be attributed to the words she has just read and is even now making a note of, with an air of growing distaste. She sets down her half-empty teacup and shuts the book with a satisfying thump. Her enchanted quill tucks itself into the coils of the silver serpent which is twined, for this purpose, round her inkwell.

And then she selects a slice of bread and butter from the plate set beyond the books and bites into it vengefully with her small ivory teeth.

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