(1938-11-28) Détente
Details for Détente
Summary: Cassius Malfoy invites his Great-aunt Ismene to take tea with himself and his consort; and, after a month or more of silence, an accord is reached between the three.
Date: November 28th, 1938
Location: Berylwood
Related: Ismene and Cassius's last log: Master of His Domain. Ismene and Rhyeline's last log: Imbalance.

The library at Berylwood

Though a formal afternoon tea is most often taken in the solar, the library is the room at Berylwood where Rhyeline feels most at ease. Surrounded by the towering shelves of books, is the little mouse's refuge from the world. And sitting curled up on the sofa, tucked against Cassius' side, not even the fear of the moment to come can touch her yet.

An exquisite china tea set sits upon the low coffee table set up before the fireplace. A delicate cup rests warming the fragile girl's hands. Closing her eyes, she nuzzles against Cassius neck as the two wait for his aunt's arrival.

When one's nephew invites one to afternoon tea, and offers his own carriage to convey one in comfort to his door, how discourteous it would be to decline. And so Ismene Malfoy has attired herself in a silk gown beaded and embroidered with black-upon-black serpents, coiling up and about her neatly-corseted figure as though it were their ambition to squeeze her till her bones snapped; and has set out with her bag in one hand and her misgivings in the other.

Her own projects and pastimes have so consumed her of late that she has been out of touch with the gossip of the pureblooded milieu. She hasn't been, in other words, to any luncheon parties or intimate dinners between old friends, at which the courtship of Cassius Malfoy and Rhyeline Diderot has served to cleanse the palates of the guests between courses. Thus she doesn't expect, when she is shown in to the library, to find that her nephew's 'assistant' has the air of the lady of the house, cuddled cosily upon the sofa next to its master.

She stops two paces into the library and looks at them, arching an eyebrow. "Good afternoon, Cassius." Her hands remain gloved, clasped at her waist.

Cassius couldn't seem any more at ease as he waits. In the calm of the library, with his arm around his dear consort, he looks and feels every bit the master of the house. As his great-aunt is shown into the library, he rises with a warm and welcoming smile, offering his hand to help Rhyeline to her feet as well. "Aunt Ismene, I'm so glad you could make it. It's been far too long." He gestures to a comfortable and suitably high-backed armchair arranged for Ismene. "Join us, won't you?" With all company present, the statuesque butler steps forward, flicking his wand at the teapot, which sets about filling three cups.

A subtle edge of fear flickers in Rhyeline's dark eyes as Ismene steps into the library and arches her brow. However, in the presence of her beloved suitor, its edge of well dulled. Slipping her hand into his, she accepts his help as she rises with a ballet dancer's lithe grace. She keeps rather close to his side as she dips into a graceful little curtsy of the utmost respect.

The ground is still less familiar than she had supposed; but Madam Malfoy takes the measure of it swiftly, and proceeds further into the library, towards the chair which Cassius seems to have marked out for her. The robes over her gown are more or less her best, stitched from glowing black watered silk, utterly unadorned yet lined with something soft and rich and warm which seems to absorb whatever light falls upon it. Another garment dating from her marriage to Cassius's great-uncle, one may suppose, a gentleman of fine but severe tastes.

"Thank you," she says — calmly, pleasantly enough — and stands before the chair for a second or so before depositing herself upon the edge of it and folding her hands in her lap. Tea. She glances down at the cup in front of her, and then up again at Cassius and Rhyeline. "You're too kind," she adds.

"It is entirely my pleasure," Cassius commits the polite lie that is expected of him. "Thank you for coming. I'm delighted that our schedules have finally coincided to allow you another visit. I trust you have been well? I've been concerned that something unfortunate has kept you away." Cassius retakes his seat, again offering his hand to Rhyeline, inviting her to rejoin his side.

Rhyeline retakes her place tucked against his side upon the sofa. It seems the most natural thing in the world for her- not at all an inappropriate closeness between a politician and his young assistant. With a quiet caution, the little one peeks up at Cassius and then to Ismene. Once more, the mouse has whispered details of her past encounter into her nephew's ear. Except- this, she said, was not enough to apologize for. There remains something else.

"I am very well, thank you." Cassius's aunt dips her head in answer to his courtesies. "I have been somewhat occupied with my studies," she allows quietly, and unbuttons first one glove then the other, commencing to ease them from her thin white hands, "but it is always a pleasure to spend an afternoon with — family." Her spine never relaxes an inch. Nor does she betray a real feeling.

"Oh?" Cassius leans forward to pick up Rhyeline's teacup and saucer, offering it to her before taking up his own. "Might these studies have led to any revelations about treating Rhyeline's ailment?" Rhyeline. Not Miss Diderot. Possibly a mistake, but unlikely from one such as Cassius.

Rhyeline accepts the teacup handed to her and brings it at once to her lips. Hidden safely behind it, she peeks over its brim at Ismene once more. The little mouse seems safe and sound within the coil of the snake's embrace. Kept safe from the second snake observing them both, at least for the moment.

The second glove falls into Madam Malfoy's lap. She inclines forward, picks up her tea, and holds the saucer steadily in her left hand whilst raising the cup to her lips with her right. Very formal, very correct. And, though it's a little warm yet for her to wish to drink it, the investigation of its temperature allows her another moment to consider. "My chief consideration of late has been a commission for a good friend of mine," she remarks conversationally, "I believe I mentioned it to you the last time we spoke, Cassius. A potion I have been preparing in various iterations for a good many weeks now."

"That is all very well and good, Auntie," Cassius smiles patiently, "But I'm sure you can appreciate the immediacy of Rhyeline's need. Your treatments were having a measurable positive effect, and we are interested in resuming them. I realise that a commission may bring income, and I am more than happy to compensate you for any time spent on Rhyeline's case, including payment for services already rendered."

Rhyeline rests her teacup in her lap, still warming her hands against its sides. Just as in that music shop, the little one watches Ismene with a pleading look in her eyes. "Please Madam…?" Though sitting tucked against Cassius' side is profoundly reassuring, even now she cannot help but feel unsettled in Ismene's presence. When she speaks, her voice comes scarcely more than a whisper.

Merlin knows, the wizarding world knows, and her own family certainly knows, Ismene Malfoy's partiality to hard cash, and her wish to keep it by her at all times, never trusting any more of it than she can help into the keeping of shop-keepers or restauranteurs. One might think she'd be delighted by the idea of her wealthy nephew paying her not only for what she might do, but for what she has already done… And yet, as her eyes settle deeply into Rhyeline for the first time since she arrived in her presence, they tighten in such a way as to suggest — she is not delighted. Her gaze shifts to her nephew. "I'm sure you appreciate, Cassius, that there arises sometimes a question not of remuneration, but of trust."

Cassius sighs softly, nodding as he gazes into his tea, as if attempting to divine some meaning from it. "Unquestionably," he says, his tone gaining just a bit of an edge to it. "Trust, loyalty, familial obligation," his pale green eyes snap up to Ismene, "You are quite aware, I am sure, of the value I place upon these qualities. It is a conversation that needn't happen twice."

Rhyeline's delicate form grows tense when Ismene's gaze settles upon her at last. Once released from its grip, she looks down into her tea cup. Closing her eyes, she brings it to her lips, hiding for a moment. A keeper of secrets, loyalty is her strongest attribute- but her devotion to Cassius is strongest over all. Never had she dreamed that loyalty to Cassius would contradict loyalty to his aunt. And yet- therein was her great mistake, leading to secrets betrayed.

The tea has cooled. Madam Malfoy has held it all the while; now she drinks, slowly and steadily, two mouthfuls, three. She returns cup to saucer and saucer to table, and folds her hands again, on top of her discarded gloves. "I have said to you several times before, Cassius," she answers, with a tinge of — sorrow? — in her mild voice, "that if my nephew asks something of me, I shall give it. Even if it be," and how clearly she recalls, as she glances away from him to Rhyeline and back again, the words he spoke to her the last time she set foot beneath his roof, "a matter of his household, rather than that of our family."

"The two are not unconnected," Cassius says with a subtle smirk, once again wrapping a familiar arm around Rhyeline's waist. "Perhaps your work has kept you too occupied to have heard the gossip. Rhyeline has accepted my proposal of courtship. So, there may come a day when she is, in fact, our family."

Rhyeline bites her lower lip as she gazes over the brim of her cup at Ismene. However, feeling Cassius' arm slide around her narrow waist, the girl can't seem to help but smile. She peeks up at him with such a luminous smile- such trust.

"I see," Madam Malfoy says quietly, eyeing them. Such a display, in front of anyone, family or no… And during a serious discussion, too. Not the time, nor the place. How her nephew loves to show off. She lifts her cool black gaze quite firmly from the area of Rhyeline's encircled waist, to Cassius's face. "I never pay much heed to gossip, nor indeed had I heard this particular piece of it; but I had come to understand, of course, that Miss Diderot was wholly your creature. I'm sure you shall find yourself fortunate in her."

Cassius's display of affection isn't prolonged, sparing his aunt's strict sensibilities too much discomfort. "I am extremely fortunate. I am also that much more motivated to see to a cure, and the sooner the better. I would have your assistance in this, if you are willing to give it. I could look elsewhere, but I trust you, and I trust that if you say that you will do this thing, that you will devote yourself to the task. So, I put the question to you: Will you help us?"

The ever present blush in Rhyeline's cheeks deepens at Ismene's words. Bowing her head a touch, she gazes into her empty teacup. But then, the moment comes. Cassius puts the question to her, and the little one peeks up at the older witch. Such vulnerable innocence shines in those dark eyes. Her life and well-being is in her hands. Should she refuse, it would condemn her to the possibility she might never fully recover from the curse, despite what progress the healers make. "Please, madam?" she whispers.

It is an undertaking she has already implicitly agreed to make, at Cassius's request; and now he has asked. "I shall help you," Madam Malfoy utters, with no more delay than might be required to underscore the weight of this open-ended commitment to a task for which she has still a degree of reluctance. The words seem to twist her lips. She adds, "What expertise I have is at your disposal. As soon as it is practicable I shall return to the research I had begun into curse-quarantining potions, and other matters of that nature."

"And the treatments that did not involve potions?" Cassius asks without embellishment over a sip of tea.

A slight easing of tension comes at Ismene's acceptance. The potions will come as a great help no doubt. Keenan's caution and gentle care prevents more aggressive, yet perhaps necessary treatments from being tested. However, that second question remains. When Cassius voices it, no doubt he will feel how his delicate consort can't help but shift. An imperceptible squirm as she stares down into her cup of tea.

His aunt meets his eyes curiously. "Is that something you would wish?"

Cassius nods without hesitation. "It was decided some time ago that the treatments were effective and desirable. That said, I should like to be present. I want to see it firsthand."

Rhyeline's cheeks burn and she stares studiously into the empty teacup in her hands. A mouse caught between two snakes, the little one has grown perfectly still.

Madam Malfoy brings her tea to her lips again with the same precise manoeuvres. She sips, while her eyes roam about the library, and, by extension, Berylwood, and, by still further extension, Rhyeline's place here, in Cassius's life; "So much has changed in her," she says frankly, "the effect would be different now. Perhaps there wouldn't be such an effect as there was before."

"Perhaps not," Cassius concedes. "But I believe we are in the process of discovering new avenues. Your intuition and…particular demeanour were of assistance before. I believe they could be again, especially in conjunction with your potioneering skills." He smiles broadly, lifting his teacup to her. "I've said it before, Auntie. Together, you and I could accomplish great things. Mayhap this will be the first achievement."

Something in that draws a low, not particularly humourous laugh from Ismene Malfoy. "Very well, if you wish it, nephew," she drawls. "Now?"

Such a laugh sends subtle shiver up the girl's spine like the touch of a cold, clawed fingertip. She presses closer into Cassius' side. It is done. However, her hope might have been perhaps that it would not happen quite so soon. Her dark gaze flits up when Ismene asks whether treatment is to commence at once. A mouse caught in the tight snake's coil, her heart beats at a quick tempo in her chest. She peeks up at Cassius, wondering what he will decide.

Cassius regards his consort fondly, letting the notion percolate in his head. "Let us have an evening's rest, first. Might we call upon you tomorrow eve?"

Rhyeline lets out a silent breath of relief and she offers Cassius such a warm, trusting little sigh of appreciation. Except now, there will be time for a quiet dread of the unknown to weigh in the little one's heart. Peeking back over at Ismene, the older witch might even perceive this as the girl peeks over at her. Such expressive dark eyes.

A faint clatter of fine porcelain, as Madam Malfoy's almost-empty cup touches her saucer, and then her saucer is deposited in turn upon the table which is all that separates her from — Rhyeline Diderot. She ignores the girl, speaking only to Cassius. "As you wish. I know your duties at the Wizengamot occupy a great deal of your time; perhaps rather than settling a time now, you might prefer to send me an owl in the afternoon, letting me know at what hour you propose to arrive? I shall be in, in any case." She sounds positively tranquil. One might almost think, watching her fit her gloves once more to her fingers, that the concessions made this afternoon meant not a thing to her.

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