(1938-12-19) The Stray Houseguest
Details for The Stray Houseguest
Summary: When Rhyeline realizes that poor Zack has been sleeping outside in a muggle tent in mid-December, she invites him to stay in the empty guest bedroom of her rarely-used flat until he has his own place to live.
Date: Thursday, December 19, 1938
Location: Rhyeline's Flat
Related: This immediately follows Blue Cocoa

Zack, having no idea that Rhyeline wanted to say something to him, taps the appropriate brick that opens the arch to Diagon Alley and steps out into the cold. Shivering a bit, he wraps his arms around himself, hugging them to his chest. His robes aren't that well suited to this sort of winter weather, but he doesn't plan on being there for long. As he wanders along the icy street, it looks like he's trying to find a suitable place to Apparate away.

"W-wait!" squeaks Rhyeline as she scurries after him out into the cold. The tall guard is hot on her heels, but gives the girl space when she approaches Zack. She hugs herself against the cold. "I- I wanted to make sure… You said you didn't have an address.. do- do you have a- a good place to- to stay?" It isn't just the cold turning Rhyeline's cheeks rather pink as she comes to stand before him.

Zack's footsteps falter when he hears someone call wait. It sounds like Rhyeline. Slowing, he glances over his shoulder and sees her hurrying after him. He stares at her for a moment as if not sure of what he's seeing. "Er, what's that?" he asks, his brow furrowing in puzzlement. "A place to stay? Yes, I'm currently camping somewhere in southern England. It's not far from where my laboratory used to be. So I don't have an address and I wouldn't call it a good place. Did you really follow me all the way out here to ask me that?" He's quite confused.

Rhyeline's cheeks grow a bit warmer as she nods. "Yes. It's- it's too cold to be camping. I can- can arrange a room for you somewhere… or- or you can even have the extra room in my flat… I'm- I'm not there much these days… but… you should… sleep somewhere… um… warm…" The little one wrings her hands behind her back, looking as if she wished the ground would just swallow her up.

Quite oblivious to the girl's distress, Zack looks around as if seeing the ice for the first time. "Oh, right," he says. "It is a bit cold. And I don't like it when it snows. That gets irritating quickly. I am sleeping somewhere, though. In a tent a borrowed from some Muggles. It's a bit drafty, but fire helps with that." He peers at her when he finally seems to register her offer. "A room? In your flat? Oh, yes. That would be nice. Is that allowed?"

"I… I don't think there would be any harm in it… I- I don't spend much time there these days… and… umm… so yes, I-" Rhyeline pauses when her guard steps closer to say something quietly in her ear. Rhyeline bites her lower lip. "Ah… I'd- I'd forgotten the wards…" She tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "But… it should be alright… Come with me, and- and let's get out of the cold…" She reaches for his hand, intending to execute a side-long apparation.

"Okay, good," Zack says. "Because Helga scares me. And so does this one, even though I don't know who it is." He eyes the guard wearily. "Wards? I'm not worried about wards. Oh, you mean they might not let me in. But you think it will be all right? Okay. It will be nice not having to sleep in the cold again." He seems surprised when she takes his hand, but he lets her. "Where are we going?"

"To my flat… and don't worry, they only follow me. And… I- I don't sleep there much anymore… so… um… yes, are you ready?" Rhyeline asks, peeking up at him. Her guard doesn't seem to pleased about the girl's poor judgement.

"You don't stay there anymore," Zack says with a nod. "Yes, you've said that a few times now. I'm not going to do any experimental magic," he tells the guard. "So you don't have to worry about her safety. Am I ready for what? Oh, to go to your flat?" He hesitates, but then nods again. "Yes, I think so. It's not dangerous, is it?"

"No… just side-long apparation," murmures Rhyeline to reassure him. When he seems ready, she glances to her guard, waiting for a nod of approval. And with that, she pulls him along with as she apparates into the back garden of her flat. It's a small garden, surrounded by tall walls of ivy. "Um… this way," she murmurs. Still holding onto his hand, she leads him into her kitchen. Her flat is toasty warm.

"Oh, Apparition," Zack says, his brow furrowing. He looks slightly worried, but he lets her drag him from Diagon Alley to her back garden with that uncomfortable squeezing sensation. "You have your own garden," he remarks, peering around with interest as she leads him inside. "And your own kitchen. And it's warm in here. I thought you didn't stay here any more though. Why's it warm?"

"So that it's not cold when I come home…" she murmurs pulling back the fur-lined hood of her cloak. "I don't sleep here much, but I do come here to work sometimes…" She leads him into the sitting room where its walls are lined with shelves upon shelves of books. Stacks of newspapers, books, and parchment surrounds the chair closest to the fire- no doubt where much of said work takes place. "Mm… I think there is a bit of food in the ice box, if you get hungry. And… I'll… Come, I'll show you where the other bedroom is…" Head bowed, still blushing, she leads him through her flat to the stairs.

"That's clever," Zack says, looking around the kitchen with interest. But his eyes light up when they enter the sitting room. "You have a lot of books. What kinds of books are they? Am I allowed to read them? I won't touch them if I'm not allowed to. I don't like touching other people's books without their permission. Food? No thank you. I had some at the Leaky Cauldron." He follows her out of the sitting room. "Oh, upstairs. That's where the bedrooms usually are, yes. Unless it's a single story house."

Rhyeline can't help but smile at his reaction to her books. When his chatter pauses, she murmurs, "Yes, you can read the books… I know you'll be careful with them. Books are meant to be read, after all." Rhyeline's guard follows close behind them, keeping a sharp eye on things as the little one leads the stray wizard she picked up off the street to her spare bedroom. She pauses and pushes open the door for him to go inside and explore. "Um… this is yours now… until you find your own place."

"Oh, I can?" says Zack, who hadn't been expecting to get permission. "Great. I will be careful with them. I won't lose them like I lost the ones I was using to do my research. But that was because of the accident, I don't usually lose them. Sometimes I misplace them, though. But I'll be careful to put them back where they belong since they're yours." He walks into the bedroom and looks around. "Mine?" he asks blankly. "Oh, you mean I can borrow it. Thank you. How long do I have until I have to leave? Finding a place to live hasn't been my main focus so far."

"I… I don't think that- that there's any rush…" murmurs Rhyeline, a bit hesitantly. Her guard does NOT approve, but it isn't her place to interfere unless there is an actual threat. "Until you- you patch things up with your father… or… or you find some- some employment that- that lets you affor your own place…"

Zack turns to look at Rhyeline, thinking he misheard her. "No rush?" he asks. "Okay, well I'll have to start looking then. I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I used to have a job on a research team, but that ended when I died and I don't know where they've gone. Maybe I should ask at the Ministry. But I don't know if they'd want me back since I lost most of their research. Although, if I found it again…" He frowns, thinking about this. "Wait, did you say I should patch things up my father? I don't know how. Oh, do you have any advice for that? Your advice for my brother was really good."

"Um… not- not really… I'm… I'm not very close with my father," Rhyeline admits, biting her lower lip. "Perhaps, in time he- he'll calm down and- and forgive you… but… until you have another place to stay, you- you can stay here… So… you don't have to be cold…" murmurs Rhyeline, biting her lower lip.

"And now my brother is happy," Zack continues, "but my father isn't. Oh, you aren't? That's too bad. I could really use some good advice. I don't know if he'll calm down. He seemed really angry. Why aren't you close to your father?" He nods distractedly. "That's right, I won't be cold. Thank you for that. It's very warm in here. I'm not used to it being so warm."

"Oh… I can- um… make it a little less warm, if you like," she offers as she self-consciously tucks another strand of hair behind her ear. This is NOT a situation she knows how to deal with well.

"You can?" Zack asks. "Yes, of course you can. No, it's fine. I like it. It's better than being cold. I'm just not used to it after camping. It's nice." It must finally seem to occur to him that Rhyeline is not her usual self, because he asks all of a sudden, "Why aren't you smiling any more?"

Rhyeline's cheeks burn with warmth as she plays with a lock of her long, dark hair that cascades over one shoulder. "Um… I've… I've never done something like this before… But- that's not a good reason not to do it… And… I didn't think it'd be a good idea for you to stay at the Leaky Cauldron… so… here is best…"

Zack's brow furrows with puzzlement. "You haven't done something like this?" he asks. "Something like what? Having a guest stay at your house? I mean flat? But I thought this was an extra room. Why would you have an extra room if no one uses it?" He glances around as if expecting to find the answer on one of the walls. "I don't like staying at the Leaky Cauldron. There are too many strange people that go through there. They make me uncomfortable. Why are you doing that to your hair?"

Rhyeline lets go of her hair and quickly clasps her hands behind her back. "Someone arranged this flat for me, and- and thought it might be good to have another room, if- if a friend of mine ever came to stay with me… she never did though… and… we don't know each other well… so… I'm just- a bit shy… Um… but… I- I should be going…" She shifts a bit, as if about to head back downstairs.

"That makes sense," says Zack. "But if your friend never came to stay then does that mean this room has never been used before? That would make me the first person to use it, wouldn't it?" He blinks at her. "Is that what it is? You're shy? Is it because you don't have a glass to hide behind? I can conjure one for you." His looks disappointed when she says she should be going. "Oh, do you have to go already? Okay, well good night then. Oh, and thank you for letting me stay here. And thank you for being so kind to me in the Leaky Cauldron. Most people aren't that kind to me."

"It's… it's alright…" murmurs Rhyeline, tucking another straw wisp of hair behind her ear. She hesitates as she peeks up at him. "I've been fortunate to- to be surrounded by much kindness… I'd be lost without it… and… you shouldn't have to be lost either…"

"I'm not lost," Zack says absently, turning towards the bed to feel the sheets, which look rather posh. "Actually, I sort of am. I don't know where this place is since we Apparated here." He turns back around and peers back at Rhyeline when he finds her standing there. "Oh, you're still here. Good, because I just thought of something. What am I supposed to give you in return for letting me stay here? I think that's how it usually works, isn't it? Someone gives you something and you give them something back. It's called sharing.

"Reciprocity…" Rhyeline murmurs with a little nod, knowing what he means. "But… there's no need to- to do anything… This isn't sharing… it's a gift. And… we're in Lambeth… Although, my fireplace is connected to the floo network. You can use it until- oh, but you shouldn't apparate inside here. There are- are wards against that… Although… I'll try to make it so you can…"

"Yes, that," Zack says. "Reciprocity. So I should give you something back. Oh, I shouldn't? That doesn't seem fair though. It's a very nice gift. Lambeth? Where's that? Oh, isn't that in London? Okay, good. Then I'm definitely not lost. Hmm? But we Apparated into the garden, didn't we? Or do you just mean in the building? Because I can go outside when I need to leave. I don't mind. Why don't you stay here any more?"

"It's… it's a long story… But… So… there is a spare key in the drawer of the hall table by the front door… And… It wouldn't be very kind of me to- to /expect/ something in return… So… please don't worry about it," she murmurs, looking down at the floor.

"How long is a long story?" Zack asks vaguely, sitting down on the bed so he can see how the mattress feels. "Five minutes? Ten minutes? I don't have to set up the tent tonight, so I have extra time. Oh, but you said you had to go, so I suppose you don't have extra time. Okay, so the spare key is by the front door." He hesitates. "Isn't it kind of me to worry about it? This kindness thing is very confusing. I don't remember it being so difficult when I had friends."

Rhyeline hesitates where she stands in the hallway. "Don't let it be difficult… just… don't worry about it," she murmurs, offering him a soft, shy smile at last. "Mm… And… I hope you sleep well, Zack. Good night." And with that, she takes another step back before heading down the stairs. Her guard sends Zack a warning look before following.

"Okay," Zack says, though he seems uncertain. "I won't worry about it then." He peers at her when she smiles at him, and then a smile breaks out on his face as well before he can think about it. "Oh, you smiled again. That's good. I thought you'd forgotten how. Hmm? Oh, yes. I will. It will be much easier sleeping in a real bed. Oh, you're actually leaving this time. Okay, good night. Thank you again." He quails slightly at the guard, and then, even though both of them have already left the room, he calls out, "Your protector is giving me funny looks."

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