(1938-12-01) The First Three Rules
Details for The First Three Rules
Summary: Fabia and Frid have a drink. (Yes, really.) Past, present, and putative future are all up for discussion, before the passing out.
Date: December 1st, 1938
Location: Upstairs at the Three Broomsticks
Related: LoweBorn?

Fabia's Rooms

The rare evening at home, alone. The rare opportunity to get to bed at a decent hour, with one's face scrubbed clean and one's eyebrows plucked and one's hair still damp from being shampoo'd — and a book and a glass of whisky.

Of course, is one ever really alone if one has a Frid?


"Sweetie," Fabia murmurs to the figure whose reassuring dark presence she can sense, just at the edge of her field of vision, "do you fancy a glass of…?"

"We're not going out this evening?" Frid queries, moving into view. "No visitors? I'd be very happy to join you, then, madam," he agrees, moving over towards the drinks trolley and moving bottles. He frowns a little, moving another bottle to the left. It should be here. It's not. This is disturbing.

"No, no visitors…" Fabia gets up from her dressing-table, at which she might very well have been scraping things off her expensively-kept visage preparatory to putting other things on again; and with horrifying nonchalance sheds her dressing-gown and shimmies into the nearest set of pyjamas. She adds, "I shouldn't think so anyway. Unless someone's planning to surprise me, and, God, entre nous, I hope not. One does like a rest occasionally. Bruichladdich for me please, sweetie."

She gets into bed, extracts from beneath her pillow the book she's been hiding there for several hours, and has it open and propped up against her knees, hidden from view, by the time he comes in.

"If we are not at home any evening, madam, you need simply inform me," Frid notes, pouring a dram for his employer and pausing as he considers something for himself. "The Lagavulin, madam?" he calls through in query, frowning as he eventually decides on the clearly inferior malt for himself anyway.

"Oh! The Lagavulin?" Fabia coughs to clear her throat. "I was so awfully pleased," she says a few seconds later, changing the subject completely, "that Miss Potter visited again."

Frid makes his way through with the drinks, sliding one, the larger of the two, naturally, onto Fabia's bedside table, then moving away to settle himself in the armchair with his. "I'm sure, madam, that she comes to see you, and not just for the whisky," he notes, propping one foot up onto the opposite knee. Subtle hint. Stop feeding her all Frid's good stuff!

His employer's hand finds the glass — it's where it always is — while her eyes flutter gratefully up to his face. "Thank you," she says, for the booze and the discreet compliment. She drinks; she sighs. "I was quite mistaken about her, you know." She refers of course to the afternoon she returned from London and informed him of the vanishing unlikelihood of Miss Bailey Potter brightening their doors again. Fabia's eyes drift back to her reading material; she rests her glass upon herself, just in front of it, holding it in one hand. "When she said lunch on Tuesday she really meant lunch on Tuesday." The day of the twine incident. Or, to put it another way, the day there was no twine incident, and thank heavens for that. "She's a very truthful person."

"At least when it comes to luncheon dates," Frid demurs, dipping his head and taking a small sip from his glass. "Do you usually expect your guests to lie to you, madam? That seems rather rude."

"Oh, well," and Fabia takes a larger sip, "at the time it sounded like one of those things people say just to get away politely… Perhaps luncheon on Tuesday, rather than, you're quite mad and I shall do my best to avoid you from now on. I'm so glad I got that one wrong. D'you know what I'm reading?" she asks him suddenly.

"Who's the author?" Frid queries, enjoying another swift sip of his drink and leaning back comfortably. Because clearly she's looking for literary discussion this evening, right? "I may have read it?"

Fabia gives him an odd, apologetic little smile, and nibbles her lower lip. "I don't know that you've read it, darling," she admits. She lifts the book into his view: the cover is embossed in silver with one word. 'LOWE'.

Frid pauses for a short breath, drink half way back down to the arm of his chair. "I think, madam, I would be obliged if that book were to be sadly lost, and you were unable to return it to its owner."

Fabia gives him a resigned little shake of her head. "No use, they'll have other copies," she points out. "It would look odder if it did vanish, than if it were returned to the girl in a completely unconcerned manner." She turns a page. "Is that what it was all about, then, earlier? She wanted to talk about something you didn't? Sweetie, I'm sorry. Something like that was bound to happen, wasn't it? I oughtn't to have brought you here. It was—" She sighs with a degree of genuine feeling. "So selfish of me."

Frid fixes her in a long, serious gaze, fingertip tapping lightly on his glass. "I have no wish to be linked to that family, Mrs. Fairfax. They're not my family, I am not theirs, as was decided a long, long time ago. And I certainly don't need some snot nosed little witch parading me around as some sort of trophy freak. Look, look, it's Uncle Frid the Squib, tuppence a ticket to see him!"

"You're my Muggle valet," Fabia says firmly, looking all the way down into his eyes so that he might see a like seriousness in hers. "Nobody's ever going to hear differently from me. Those people — we're nothing to do with those people," for she has her own, as she has sometimes hinted but never gone into in any detail; Frid didn't even know she'd had a wizard husband in her youth, till he'd popped his clogs, "and they're nothing to do with us. We've heard of them in a vague sort of way, no more than that."

Frid gestures to the book with his glass. "So if she gets her book back, how exactly does one explain… I assume I'm in it? Am I?"

"Frid Lowe," she apologises. "Born twenty-second of December eighteen-ninety-six… passed away first of January nineteen-eleven. Having you down as dead should be a help. No other details recorded at all. D'you want to see?" She turns a couple of pages, finds the right one, and offers it to him. "I thought it would be better to see what was in here, whatever it was… Sweetie — may I ask what made her think—? What have we got to cover up or guard against in particular?" Naturally she assumes that his problem is her problem, in perfectly equal measure.

Frid holds up a hand, shaking his head. "I don't need to see," he insists, pausing to take another long drink. "Frid Lowe is dead, though. If it says so in the book, that ought to be good enough. Nineteen eleven?" He snorts. "I'd expected to be dead from when I turned seventeen. So I was fourteen? How terribly sad for them." He lifts his glass again, knocking back the rest of the whisky in one and rising to his feet, intent on finding himself a top-up. "I look a lot like my brother," he explains succinctly. "Always have. The girl mistook me, then insisted I must at least be a Lowe. If she presses things, I'll dig out my service records."

The book is tucked back against Fabia's knees. She shuts it — well, she's read all she wanted to read in it; she's vastly more concerned with Lees than Lowes — and traces the bold name upon the cover with her fingertip. "Rotten luck there," she says sympathetically, watching Frid's back as he returns to the blessed drinks trolley. "Too late to do anything about your looks, and what a crime against every female eye that would be anyway. I'm lucky I suppose. I look like my mother." Her voice is very soft on the last phrase, as it inevitably is on those very, very rare occasions when she alludes to the woman who put her feet into her first pair of ballet slippers.

"Your mother was clearly a very beautiful woman," Frid calls back through, pouring himself another whisky. "Another, madam? Shall I just bring the bottle?"

"Bring the bottle!"

Frid isn't about to complain at that, returning to top up her glass with care, then setting the bottle down by his feet as he resumes his seat. "It's not unheard of for unrelated people to look alike. I shall simply follow the first three rules of adultery. Deny, deny, deny." He lifts his glass, giving her a half smile.

"Oh," Fabia says happily, "I know those." She echoes his toast; drops the book on her bedside table and stretches out her legs beneath the covers; and adds, in a thoughtful and whisky-darkened tone, "Thank you, sweetie. She was an absolute stunner, I always thought, even by the time I knew her. But those little cousins of mine who pop in and out of here every other weekend haven't the least notion she existed, let alone that she had a perfect ballet body and beautiful green eyes. Unlike your lot they'll never think to ask. … You know… you've never asked, and I've always appreciated that you've never asked." Another salute; another gulp.

"If it ever becomes my business, madam, I have faith that you will tell me as much as I need to know," Frid insists simply, tilting the glass this way and that in his hand, the light reflecting from the cuts and grooves and filtering through the amber liquid to leave interesting, moving geometric shapes against the rug. "You needed to know enough of my history to understand that I could travel here, or to the Leaky Cauldron, or deal with… those sorts of people… without incident. I know what you are, and that you are an excellent employer I hope never to leave the service of. Any more than that I don't need to know at present, unless it becomes an issue we need to address."

The word 'never' rings through Fabia's feminine heart like something very little short of a wedding vow. If only she could have Frid forever, she'd — she'd never — she looks into his eyes again, nodding gently. Perhaps in a moment like this he'll see something there she doesn't intend, or even realise. "I think, though," she says humbly, "I begin to think… I may have made rather an enormous mistake."

"How can I help?" Frid asks simply, the four words summing up succinctly exactly why he's here, and why he's indispensable. He leans forward a little in his seat, holding his glass between both hands.

"Well," and Fabia smiles with relief, for she hadn't hoped to have a straight line as straight as this one, "I thought… a prudent retreat. I'm going to London again tomorrow afternoon. Will you come too, and start — opening the flat?"

Frid arches a brow. "Shall I take the lease off the market, madam? Is this a permanent thing? I'll need to consider the accounts quite seriously, you know. We'd be much more secure if we took tenants."

"I don't… I don't have a good feeling about this place anymore." Fabia's eyes arc about the room, the still-thin layer of her own things over her late husband's. Time enough to tell Frid later — or, better still, not at all — that she'd never have gone through with selling the flat in London. She loves it too much. She had too much really excellent sex in it; and brought up her daughter in it, too. It's home, in a way the Broomsticks would never have been, no matter the fancy she took to having a pub when the idea was put to her. "And… You know so much of my life is in London at the moment. I have more of a life in London," she laughs rather thinly, "living in Hogsmeade, than when I was living in London. Perhaps the flat will jinx it. But I don't think so. I want — I want my flat, Frid."

Frid considers this for some time, totting up figures in his head, occasionally shaking his head and frowning as he starts again, then finally tells her. "We can probably keep both for five or six months. Unless your tulip gentleman cares to contribute, of course. After that, there's no question. One has to go."

"The pub—" She falters. "The pub really doesn't bring in enough? Well… Well, perhaps it would bring in more if I weren't here…"

"If I give up my room," Frid considers, "that gives another room for rent, although it tends to be seasonal. The students bring in some, but the regulars are starting to move to the Hog's Head. If we can bring their custom back, perhaps some sort of deal on Monday and Wednesday afternoons when it's quiet. Fire another one of the staff." He shakes his head. "London is not cheap, madam. Have you considered letting the pub, instead? Give another landlord the opportunity to run it, and they can pay you rent for the privilege? It's a prime location, we could get good money for it."

Pub or flat? Hogsmeade or London? "Let's let the pub," Fabia says instantly. She swallows all the rest of the whisky in her glass in two desperate gulps, and holds it out to be refilled. "To some — very pleasant and unexceptionable wizard, who can bring everyone back from the Hog's Head. Who won't put people's backs up the way I did. And no one will have to be fired. I don't belong here, I never did. I thought I could— but I am what I am, aren't I," and suddenly she sounds exhausted. "I am what I am."

"You are what you are, madam," Frid agrees, stooping for the bottle and, rather than rising, just leans over to pour another slug into Fabia's glass. "A whirlwind of nature. We would have you no other way."

Fabia smiles at him, full of gratitude and whisky, and knocks that back too. Then she puts her glass negligently on top of the history of the Lowe clan and snuggles down in her lovely warm bed, her feet finding the hot water bottle Frid placed there as soon as she indicated she was considering, just considering, an early night. "You'll look after it all, won't you, Frid. The flat."

"I shall see to it, madam," Frid agrees solemnly, adding casually, "Will we want the car brought down, then?"

"… Yes," she says, sleepily. "We'll want the car in London. I am more and more drawn to London, Frid, more and more. I don't know why I thought I could be away from it. Everything happens in London, Frid. All my friends are in London. My flat is in London. I ought to be in London…"

"And it's away from here," Frid notes with a glance to the book on the bedside, before leaning over to extinguish the lamp.

As the light lowers Fabia's eyelids instinctively do likewise; "Frid?" she asks gently. And then, when through that narrow gap between her eyelashes she sees him watching her, waiting to see what it is she wishes, she murmurs, "I feel a little… Would you hug me before you go?"

"I'm not sure that would be…" Frid begins, then pauses, stops himself, and leans in awkwardly to give a sort of manly arm hug thing. Frid is clearly not a hugger.

One of Fabia's arms latches around Frid's arm, up from beneath it with her hand finding the inside of his shoulder; the other manages to curl round his back. For the first few seconds she hangs on as though she expects death to come for her without delay, and then she relaxes a little, without letting go.

Then it comes. "My grandfather," she whispers into his ear in the dark, "was Etiam Est Prince the Second. My father was Kenzington Prince. His legitimate son, my half-brother, the present head of the family as well as of the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes, is Penzington Prince."

Frid gives her shoulder an awkward rub, just… well, just nodding to that. What could he say? Sorry? How nice? Would you like them all murdered at dawn, madam?

Somehow he's pulled nearer, into something which despite his best efforts approximates a snuggle, though with a sheet and two blankets and the bedspread acting as chaperones. "One summer, that's all," she says sadly, softly, "hardly half a summer… I had rather have been a Muggle than a witch, I swear to you that," and she kisses his cheek quickly and lets go, her arms falling limp. "Goodnight, Frid."

Frid doesn't sizzle away with the kiss, despite what he might think, but he's quick to straighten, pulling her sheets up around her to tuck her in. "Goodnight, Mrs. Fairfax. Pleasant dreams?"

"Christ only knows."

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