(1938-12-06) Pulling the Wings off Fabia
Details for Pulling the Wings off Fabia
Summary: Phil has learned a great deal recently about saccharine powder; she feels she owes it to Fabia to warn her against this substance she has been not only indulging in herself, but serving to how many others in her pub?
Date: December 6th, 1938
Location: The Three Broomsticks (downstairs then up)
Related: Commences shortly after the end of Book Club. Refers to events in many of the saccharine powder plot logs.

The Three Broomsticks

Despite the obvious patina of age, The Three Broomsticks has a warm, inviting ambiance. This character the pub has attained is, no doubt, thanks to the years it has been steeped in the environment of this particular village. Just one evidence of the village's influence on the pub can be seen in the dark paneling inside the building. The wood was once the outer walls of the home that housed Hogsmeade's founding family. Put to good use once again after the founding family bequeathed it to the pub, the paneling has served the pub just as well as it once served Hogsmeade's founders. The Three Broomsticks has flourished under its current proprietor and is always open and ready for a customer or visitor.

The dark wood surface of the floor glows with a polished sheen from much cleaning, and exposed ceiling rafters, which appear to be original, cross the ceiling in tidy squares. Wood tables of varying sizes litter the room, and matching chairs are scattered among them. Several secluded booths fill up the space along one wall. A flavorfully aged mahogany bar takes up most of the space near the back wall with a series of mirrors and shelves of varying heights hanging behind it. Those shelves behind the bar are lined with memorabilia depicting the life and people of the village as well as items which are special mementos to the pub's owner.

The one drink Fabia Fairfax was going to have downstairs before she pulled together herself and her shopping (or had Frid pull together her shopping, anyway, one doesn't buy a Frid and bark oneself) has become three.

Students, paying customers, are everywhere budged up together, swilling Butterbeer and dropping bits of food on the floor, while the proprietress sits in solitary splendour in a booth which would have accommodated six, or eight if they were on very friendly terms. She has covered another half-dozen pages of her sketchbook with illustrations of life in the Three Broomsticks and been oblivious to Tessa's hints that perhaps she might like to take herself out of the way. To have understood, she'd have been obliged first to accept the proposition that she, Fabia, could be in the way. Nonsense! Rank nonsense!

Her parcels, her gloves, bits and pieces drawn out of her handbag and abandoned, have spread across most of the table; her sable coat is an enormous dark shape at her side. She's wearing a very smart Linton tweed suit in sage green with a cerise overcheck, a small veiled hat perched upon her upswept henna'd hair, and an expression of creative agony. She's sucking the end of her pencil.

Alarmed but not wishing to alarm others, Phil arrives not through the floo network or the door but with a crack of apparition and a sudden flash of rich royal blue - the blue being her wintry robes. She eases the hood back off her head and looks around for Fabia. Normally it is easy to spot the older witch thanks to the dramatic fashion with which she does everything, but a seated drawing Fabia in an over crowded pub takes some hunting out. Thankfully a disgruntled student's moaning about the 'Old bint in the corner who's taking up all the prime space' gives the reporter a clue. Heading that way she breathes out an pent up breath that Phil had been unaware of holding. "Fabia," she breathes out in a rush.

Her name, uttered so urgently, startles Fabia from the rapt contemplation of her most recent artistic effort; she looks up at Phil with wide eyes and the battered pencil-stub still dangling from her lips. Oh. Pencil. Two fingers pluck it away and hold it as though a cigarette she were in the act of smoking; her lipstick, transferred from here to there to who knows where else, continues its efforts to paint the world a brilliant carmine red. "Sweetie!" she exclaims. "Is something the matter? Sit down and tell me all about it. TESSA!"

Phil's hands slide out across the table as she sits down, her arm pushing some of the parcels and an empty glass aside. Startled by the contact she catches the glass before it breaks and sets it right again. "You must stop serving the powder," she says in a hushed but intense whisper, her blue eyes darting about.

Fabia's eyes widen, not with delight. "Oh, that awful stuff. I beg you, don't say a word to me about it, I don't intend ever to touch it again." Beneath her tweeds and her silks her shoulders wriggle uncomfortably. "But," a gusty sigh as she hoists her latest martini to her lips, and a pause whilst she sips from it, "I don't really think I can make that decision for anyone else, sweetie, if there are still people who are enjoying a bit of it in a drink it's sound commercial sense to serve it to them. Sweetie, what — what's the matter, really? Has something happened to you today?" she asks in a very gentle tone. One diamond-bedecked hand reaches out across the table to Phil.

Frid appears in a flash of nothing. Well, no flash. Or flashing. One minute he's not there, and the next minute there's a G&T on the table and Fabia's martini has been refreshed with a fresh, cold one.

The tip of her tongue runs over her lips and Phil looks around again. "I know what is in it," she confides to Fabia. "I…you must promise me you will not touch it. People could die." Frid's appearance gets a glance, but seeing it is Fabia's trusted manservant Phil perseveres. "The ministry is involved now, whoever is making it….it's ghastly stuff, Fabia."

"I've really rather gone off it after the other night, I must say," Fabia sighs, leaning nearer, "but what — what's the matter with it, sweetie? What is in it? Oh, dear, d'you think I'd rather not know?" she asks anxiously. "What have you heard? The ministry?"

Frid deals. "I shall see it is taken off sale this evening, madam," he notes quietly, immediately heading for the bar to tell Tessa quietly.

After a fortifying sip or three of her gin and tonic Phil shuffles around to Fabia's side, moving parcels and various items, even a pair of shoes which she eyes up but finds are not the right size for borrowing. When she is at last up close and personal she confides, "They kill creatures so they can make the potions. Living things." More gin is required. "Not animals but magical beings…," her voice lowers and she whispers, "they pull the wings off living faeries."

Of course Frid does what needs doing without being directed; Fabia nods at his retreating back and then does her bit to make room for Phil, shoving her coat further into the corner and nestling up against it as though into the embrace of an unusually hairy lover. She puts her hand on Phil's arm as she inclines her head toward her to listen — the girl seems as though she could do with comforting — and then, when the truth has outed, nearly deafens her with an escalating shriek of: "But that's MURDER!"

As heads swivel in their direction Phil tries to shush Fabia, or at least get her voice down to a more quiet decibel level so that bats aren't able to listen in, let alone nosy teenagers. "I know," she murmurs quietly. "There is also poison in the powder. If it is mixed well and you take it once, maybe twice at a moderate level you could be fine." She drinks a bit more, nearly emptying the tall glass. "But someone who takes a higher dosage and does so often could die. Especially if the mixture is done poorly."

The immediate danger of Fabia squealing her feelings to all of Hogsmeade and its environs has passed — she's drinking them instead. The final few gulps of the previous martini — and then the one Frid so kindly, understandingly, automatically delivered several minutes ago. All the gin within reach. Down her throat. Without hesitation. This is no conversation to have sober. She slams down the second glass and takes hold of Phil's arm again, this time more for her own nerves, which are suddenly buzzing, who could imagine why. "Poison?" she utters, in an incredulous, wide-eyed whisper, borne upon breath which could fell a basilisk. "Have I been poisoned? Sweetie, I don't feel poisoned! What's a— a moderate level? We've been so strict about what we'll let anyone buy, but of course I've taken rather more than the customers… What do you mean by — mixed well, or mixed poorly? Where did you hear all this?"

Taking a breath Phil tries to explain. "I went undercover and bought some. I don't know who supplies you, but most people have to go to people who're part of the criminal underworld." She pulls out her cigarette case and lights up a cigarette for herself. Keeping an one eye on the pub's inhabitants and one on Fabia she continues her tale. "I took what I had and went to find a potions expert I knew of. The expert ran tests and broke the powder down into the finest components. Sort of like picking part a cake and working out what ingredients went into it." Another drag off her cigarette and she gets to answering Fabia's other question. "It might be worth going to see her and checking to see if you do have potion damage."

A lit Sobranie Black Russian in a long handled holder is held out to Fabia. This. This is what Frid is paid for. That and disappearing once more to provide yet another martini. And a gin and tonic.

"Mine came from… Well, he was rather… But gentlemen who spend all their time trying to create something new from nothing rarely also find time to cultivate the… social graces… And you say he was pulling the— the wings off— Christ." Fabia's breath shudders. There's a cigarette holder between her fingertips. She smokes greedily, without wondering how it got there. And that's the problem in a nutshell, isn't it. Offer her an interesting substance and she'll never stop to ask you such questions as, where does it come from, and what is your motive in plying me with it.

Phil's cigarette is nowhere near as glamourous but it is lovely and spice scented with a purple glowing tip. "I imagine there are different pushers who the makers are using. You would hardly be tempted to purchase it from the kind of man I got mine from." She pulls a face, "Greasy nasty sort with a hideous hunch back and yellowing teeth.

Frid sets down fresh drinks. Larger drinks, for anyone paying attention, as he's clearly found a bigger glass or two from somewhere. Even the G&T is distinctly more G and less T. For his final trick, he leans over to slide an ashtray between the two women.

No longer is Fabia quite so attentive to Phil; she's inhaling deeply and exhaling desperately, while her left hand scrabbles with mixed results at the buttons on her suit jacket. "Sweetie, I can't… I can't breathe in here," she murmurs, raising the question of why, then, she's doing all she can to fug the atmosphere in the booth with as much smoke as possible. Phil is sitting outside her, as it were, she's trapped between the slim figure of the journalist and the silky bulk of her fur coat. "Will you please let me up — will you please let me…" Glasses. An ashtray. Addled as she is, she knows whose presence such offerings betoken; she looks up past Phil at Frid, beseechingly.

Frid is given a thankful smile but then Fabia seems to be taking it all much worse than Phil had expected. "Of course." Setting her own cigarette down she slides out of the booth, reaching over to offer Fabia her hands for help, despite being the shorter of the two women. "Frid, I think my news has hit her rather hard. Perhaps if we take her up to her rooms?" An eye is cast over all the possessions. "I can handle those if you take her?"

Frid dips his head, crouching a little as he slides Fabia's arm around him for support, his own arm around her waist, and he plucks the cigarette from her fingers, if only so she has a hand free to take her glass. "Thank you, Miss Rowle, if you're sure you can manage them?" he offers, but the shopping isn't his main concern here. Good old Frid. Always there to be leaned on in an emergency.

While her immediate fate is being discussed over her head Fabia sits on the end of the seat and wriggles and gulps another half a martini or so. She's very pale, save for a bright red spot in the middle of each of her cheeks, and very quiet. She gives Phil a look which means 'thank you, sweetie' and lets herself be organised and taken away, stocking-footed and clinging to Frid.

Her glass wobbles in her hand; she leaves a sparkling trail of gin droplets through the taproom (look, Mrs Travers is blotto again, bit early in the day for it, and who's that girl with the wand out making parcels and pencils and shoes dance along behind?) before just knocking back the last of it and leaving it in quite the wrong place behind the bar. Then she has one arm around Frid and the other holding the hand of his attached to the arm he's put round her, and this may not be the most practical arrangement for navigating the stairs, but his presence eases her breath far more than simply getting out of the heat and the noise and her cramped place in the corner of the booth.

Frid helps her to her usual place on the sofa and finds he's unable simply to deposit her there: she just won't let go. In fact she shrugs out of her jacket one sleeve at a time, shifting her hold upon him but never for a moment relinquishing it. She undoes the bow at the throat of her silk blouse, too, and her top button; reclaims her cigarette from Frid; takes a long drag upon it; and looks up, finally, at both of them. "I didn't only sell it," she utters in a small, boundlessly horrified voice, "I gave it to all my friends."

Unaware that her use of magic might bring pain to anyone, Phil does what comes naturally to her and once they are in the sitting room she neatly sets everything into a pile beside the drinks trolley. "I don't know how much you overheard, Frid, but the saccharine powder contains poison and in high dosages or prolonged use could lead to death. Sadly, it is also made with the wings of faeries. The wings are more potent when taken from live creatures." She glances over at Fabia and winces, feeling bad for having crushed the poor woman's spirit like this.

Frid nods very slightly, arm still around Fabia as he… well, given that she's not letting go, he sits down on the sofa beside her, giving Phil a somewhat apologetic look for taking up the space and for not remaining standing until at least she was seated. "Do we know which poison, Miss Rowle? Is there something we ought to source for those who have partaken? An antidote of sorts?"

Shoes off, jacket off, another button absent-mindedly undone on her blouse — but Fabia is still wearing, of all things, her hat, still regarding her companions through a light half-veil. "Sit — sit down, please, Phil," she says at last; just because she's the sort of hostess who poisons her guests doesn't mean she has to keep them standing, too. "I simply hardly know what to — I can hardly believe any of this, it's all too ghastly — to think anyone would — but of course people would, wouldn't they, people are such absolute bastards — and I know you wouldn't, you wouldn't tell me anything that was untrue—" Her agitation is rising again. She looks away, squeezing Frid's hand very very hard. "Thank you for coming to me. Thank you."

Drawing a chair over, Phil sits on it, leaving Fabia space with which to cling to Frid. "Foxglove is the main poison, Frid, the strength depends on the mixing. Wormwood is also dangerous and present in the powder. Enough of that and a person would simply never wake up from a dream-like state." Leaning forward she rests her elbows on her knees. "Fabia, if you could tell your friends but quietly. If we are too noisy about this, too obvious, the bastards as you say will get wind of it and get away. I could recommend speaking to Master Healer Weaver-MacNair, she is a potions master at Mungo's. She could tell you or your friends if there is any damage."

Frid clears his throat, suggesting mildly, "Would you like me to contact our guests quietly, madam, so you need not worry?" It's a kind offer, in general, and surely, SURELY Frid would take no perverse pleasure in telling the various guests to get themselves checked out.

"Oh, Frid." What a beautiful offer. Fabia gazes up at her would-be saviour and rejects it utterly. "No, you can't, though, I have to do it. It's my bloody fault. If anyone's in a bad way because of something I've given them, bleating all the while about how harmless it seemed to me it was, the least they deserve is to hear it from me in person, over a large glass of something."

One more drag on her cigarette; and she gives it to Frid to stub out in the alabaster ashtray which lives on the table on his side of the sofa. "But what hell I have ahead of me," she continues. "I might as well be going round telling all the people I like most that I may have given them the clap. Who was there? Well you took it with me," she sighs to Phil, shaking her head in sorrowful apology, "and so did you…" That's to Frid. (What does go on up here, in Fabia's inner sanctum, where in times of stress her first thought is to cuddle up to her valet on the sofa?) "Who else?" She has a thought, a very palpable thought. "Oh, Christ. I think I'm going to…"

She rises in haste, rests her hand quickly on the arm of Phil's chair as she brushes past, takes three staggering steps round the coffee-table and past another chair. Then she leans over and is violently sick into the elephant's foot she and Frid use as a wastebasket.

"I can tell Astoria," offers Phil. "She knows I am working on the story. If I break it to her and say I am also going to tell you, then she…well I think she will forgive you regardless." Other than that the reporter has no idea how many overnight guests who have tripped the light fantastic with Fabia here or elsewhere. Looking for Frid for help when the third party to their woeful encounter is sick in a hollowed out elephant's foot, Phil asks, "Shall I fetch anything?"

"Perhaps you might like a drink?" Frid suggests, nodding to the trolley. "And I'm sure Mrs. Fairfax might appreciate one." There, there, he rises to his feet, moving to his employer's side like an attentive nanny, removing her hat for her and giving her some support. The elephant's foot couldn't get any worse, after all. He leans in, holding her against him and shhing quietly.

After that first frantic heave which kept Fabia from getting anywhere near the W.C., she simply falls to her knees before the elephant's foot and empties the rest of her stomach — which is not, after all, it would appear, lined with an elephant's hide. Her whole body seems smaller and thinner than usual as she trembles against Frid, one arm wrapped round his solid dark-trousered legs, till rather after she's finished being sick and wiping her mouth with the crisp white handkerchief which he, of course, had waiting in his pocket for her.

When she gets up again (thank you, Frid, for that arm, and say goodbye to your hanky, it's gone into the elephant's foot too now, never to return) and regards Phil, she has made herself very deliberately a new Fabia — that is, the old Fabia. "How very silly of me," she sighs, "do let me beg your pardon for that moment of… I suppose it's probably better to know than not to know, isn't it? And perhaps it might be an idea for you to tell Astoria, too, you know I think you see more of her than I do and if as you say she knows you've been investigating the matter she might think it odd if you didn't go to her as quickly as you've come to me… Thank you for coming to me." Sigh.

Glad to be of some kind of service Phil fixes a drink, albeit a non-alcoholic one. She brings Fabia some soda water to help settle her stomach and offers another handkerchief that is far less starched or perfectly pressed than Frid's now lost and swimming one. "I am so very sorry, Fabia. I wish I had known sooner, had come to you sooner. I became dreadfully worried that a customer might take it and that horrible magistrate shut you down."

Frid can't help but look concerned for his employer, a hand still resting on her back just in case. "Do you know if there's anything we ought to do immediately for those who have partaken of this powder, ma'am? Is there anything I might find for Mrs. Fairfax and her guests?"

Fabia's back arches gracefully into the comfort of Frid's touch; but then she pulls herself together and sits down on the sofa, drinking, naturally, whatever is put into her hand. "Sweetie, we've been serving it hand over fist," Fabia sighs to Phil. What an odd taste. She can't at first work out what it is. Her curiosity diverts her; she examines the glass. Clear, bubbles, no scent of quinine… soda water! "I don't think she likes me anyway. What's her name, Hawkins. Oh, Christ. Well, we can just say for the time being that we've run out. Is that what you said to say, Frid?" She looks to him, dabbing with Phil's handkerchief at her forehead and then her throat; she's perspiring slightly.

Shaking her her dark head, "Not really Frid. If they have ingested it and are clearly suffering a bezoar might help, but for those who have already taken it and survived then the best thing is to just go see the healer for a check-up. She will spot any residual damage." Looking between them she adds, "And we're talking worst case scenario. Fabia herself has taken many drugs, I'm guessing some of her guests are the same. Hopefully such practices have built up a resistance to toxins."

"They have been instructed to inform any potential customers that is it unavailable, madam," Frid informs her gently, thumb moving comfortingly against her back. "I shall arrange an appointment with the healers for the morning for you." And, as it happens, for him.

Frid's hand, which followed Fabia to the sofa and persists in its gentle stroking of her back — Frid's shadow, as he looms over her with what she interprets correctly as protective intent (though it's the carpets and the upholstery he's really hoping to protect) — these things are a panacea for Fabia's nerves. She's dried her face now and crumpled Phil's hanky in her hand. As she sips her soda water you can almost see her wondering why there's no Bruichladdich in it. "Yes, better to, oh, get it over with. Thank you, Frid. Phil." She sighs. "In truth no one I know has had even half as much saccharine powder as I have. The customers aren't allowed such a lot, and I don't believe any of my friends have taken it more than, oh, three times or so. If I'm all right you're all probably all right. But we must make certain." She shudders abruptly. "It's too awful to contemplate. Those fairies."

Leaving Fabia to the fair ministrations of Frid, Phil fixes the woman a proper drink and then seeing a bottle of scotch she pours a stiff couple of fingers for the valet too. He is given his drink first so that Phil can miraculously swap Fabia's soda water for some neat gin. No pretty martinis here, just a good stiff drink. "That's why we must keep it quiet. There are only a few places where one can get faeries wings, fewer still where they sell those torn from the living creatures."

Frid nods his thanks as he's presented with an unexpected drink, too, taking a tiny, tiny sip to at least be polite before he sets it down to one side. "That part we leave in the hands of he police," he insists firmly. "But we shall make sure to warn anyone who has partaken to see a healer. It's not your fault, madam," he adds softly, "You were hardly to know."

To have gin simply appear, without Frid being obliged to leave her side — Fabia is feeling extraordinarily well-taken-care-of. And if she's been poisoned, how much worse can it be than all the other ways in which she poisons herself every day of her life… She drinks her drink in quick, tidy gulps, fancying she can feel it burn away the regrettable aftertaste from her interlude with the elephant's foot. She can taste the juniper on her breath. This glass is empty all of a sudden; she'll have another one, please. "You said the ministry was — aware of it?" she says to Phil, holding her glass in an interrogative sort of way. "They'll be looking for him?"

"Another?" enquires Phil even as she rises to her feet again. This time she brings the bottle and uses it to top up Fabia's drink. "Yes, the hit wizards are involved. Once I knew the danger of the potion I went to the ministry myself. I'm working with a rather eccentric but terribly handsome inspector on the matter." Sinking down onto her chair again after she pours Fabia's drink, Phil muses, "Do you think you could draw the gentleman?"

The horror. Frid moves away for a moment, finding among the pile of things Phil so kindly magicked upstairs, Fabia's sketchbook. He flips to a new page, offering it over wordlessly, along with a pencil and an encouraging nod.

Instead of setting pencil to paper in the state she's just been in — really, what can they be thinking? — Fabia opens the book at the very beginning and turns over the crowded pages. If the others watch they'll see rather a lot of nude studies of Corina Silver — some in astonishing detail — comical sketches of the patrons downstairs — one of Frid that she flicks past in a hurry… She has her gin in hand and sips at it steadily. "I've already done him once," she admits, "a caricature, not a real drawing, he lent himself so well to caricature… I don't know whether he's in this book or one of the others, I can't recall when it was exactly… I'll do a proper one," she promises to Phil, "as long as you stop calling him a gentleman. He's not a gentleman. He's a callous, cruel, lying, murdering, filthy swine. Oh, I knew he wasn't right; but I was mistaken about what it was that was wrong. Oh, Christ. I should have… I should have known."

"Con men work that way, Fabia. It isn't your fault you couldn't put your finger on what is wrong. You don't generally mingle with criminals even if one or two of your friends are," Phil's lips twitch, "choice individuals. He peddled something new and enticing, an experience to be found nowhere else." Gently she carries on, "And he sold it to a woman who's spent her life chasing new and ever more enticing and exciting things. Frankly I cannot ever imagine how you would have resisted."

"I should never have accepted it, madam," Frid admits, shaking his head. "I take full responsibility for not checking the gentleman's credentials." Yes. He's still a gentleman to Frid.

"Sweetie," Fabia murmurs drily up at Frid. She pauses in her exploration of her sketchbook while her eyes rise to his face; her hand lies at rest upon a rough-and-ready sketch, created in no more than a dozen sweeping strokes of a pencil, which combine to give the unmistakable impression of a Frid drawing back a curtain. It's a graceful little piece, as economical in motion as he himself. "It isn't done, to try to look into the credentials of anyone who offers to provide one with powders and pills in return for a certain discreet remuneration. People like that don't have credentials, apart from a friend of a friend of a friend swearing so-and-so's merchandise is the absolute cat's pyjamas." She sighs. "Of course I couldn't resist, I never can. I'll draw a picture for your inspector friend," she promises Phil as she closes her sketchbook, having quite given up on it, "only not tonight. I don't think I could do it tonight. Will you forgive me?"

"Not tonight," agrees Phil. "Wait until you have had a rest and are feeling less to blame in the brightness of the day. Then you can focus on making the bastard pay." Reaching over she squeezes Fabia's hand. "And I will help you do it."

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