(1938-12-22) Treacle Tart
Details for Treacle Tart
Summary: Having patched things up with his family, Zack realizes that he doesn't need to stay at Rhyeline's flat anymore. However, she invites him to return whenever he wishes, and even offers to fund some of his research.
Date: Sunday, December 22, 1938
Location: Rhyeline's Flat

A cold snap has brought on winter in full force. A bitter wind rattles the windows upstairs as a ceaseless snow cascades over London. The invitation into the warm flat came not a moment too soon. Groceries were delivered earlier that morning, along with fresh firewood.

Rhyeline sits in the kitchen with a fresh cup of tea warming her hands. Across from her is Zack. In addition to their tea, each has a small plate of treacle tart. Her guard stands half hidden in the other room, giving them a bit of distance, but still keeping an eye on Zack. The silence is as comfortable and warm as the flat itself. After taking a small sip of tea, little Rhyeline tilts her head to the side. "How is your work coming along?"

Zack sits facing the back door, his eyes distant and unfocused as they usually are when he's thinking about work, which is most of the time. But this time he seems perhaps a bit more solemn, a bit more confused, as though he's trying to work something out that is well beyond his understanding. He holds his cup in one hand at an angle, his tea threatening to spill over its brim, and he has yet to touch his treacle tart. "What?" he says, starting out of his thoughts. "My work? Yes, it's fine. It's in the sitting room. Someone moved some of it."

Rhyeline bites her lower lip, looking a little bit sheepish. "Oh… yes, that- that was Bailey… I… I came here yesterday- last night to- to see how you were… but- you were out…"

"Yes, I was at home," Zack says. "I mean my parents' house. They live in London too. I went to see them. I left my notes here because I thought it wouldn't take long. And when I came back I saw that the ones at the couch had been moved. Who's Bailey?"

"Another guard…" Rhyeline hesitates, peeking over at the one standing in the dining room. Strictly speaking, Bailey wasn't supposed to go and sit with her. Peeking back over at Zack, she changes the subject. "How did it go with- with your parents?"

Zack looks over his shoulder at the guard, and some of his tea sloshes over onto his lap. Frowning at it, he idly brushes at with his hand and then takes a sip from his cup. "How did what go?" he asks. "You mean telling them what you told me to tell them? I don't know. They want me to come back and stay with them for now."

A bright smile illumines Rhyeline's features. "That's wonderful. They wouldn't want you to come back if- if they were angry with you still. It means that- that they understand."

"Is it?" Zack says, surprised. "Does it? I don't think they were angry, because they were smiling. And they said they would clear out my old room so I could use it again. And they want me to stay at least until I find a new job. But that means I have to leave here already, and I've only been here a few days."

"You set up your work so quickly here… I- I'm sure it- it won't be too difficult to move, will it? It's- it's good that you can spend Christmas with your family… I'm sure that with your absence… they had been dreading it… But now that you're here, there will be joy and warmth instead of an empty place at the table…" murmurs Rhyeline with a soft, warm smile before she hides behind her cup of tea.

"My work?" Zack says, confused. "Oh, yes, that's easy to set up. I've done it a lot so I'm really good at it. I had to travel all across Europe setting it up and unsetting it up every day. I had a lot of practice." He then seems to remember that they were talking about his family. "Oh. I don't know. They never said they were dreading it. I don't know how to bring joy and warmth. But they want me there so I'll go. But what about you? Won't you be alone for Christmas then? Oh, right. You don't live here anymore."

"I do live here… but… I- I just spend many nights-" she hesitates, turning a bit pink. "At- at Berylwood… However- my father wanted to spend an evening with me… I- I think he will come here," murmurs Rhyeline in a rather quiet tone.

"Oh," Zack says. "I thought you didn't. It's a nice place. You should stay here more often. Your father's coming here? It's a good thing I'm leaving then. He can use the guest room. I made sure to keep it clean. I didn't move anything. The bed's a bit untidy though. I'm not very good at making beds. What's Berylwood?"

"It's- it's where Cassius lives… And… it's alright, my- my father never stays the night. Whenever he's in London, he- he prefers to stay at the Leaky Cauldron," murmurs Rhyeline, her cheeks growing rather warm.

"Who's Cassius?" Zack asks after drinking some more tea. "Oh. I know. Your consort. Or are you his consort? Why does he prefer the Leaky Cauldron? Not Cassius, your father. It would be strange if your father was your consort." He smiles vaguely at the idea.

Rhyeline bites her lower lip, peeking over at Zack a bit hesitantly. "Mmm… He- he just does. And- and Cassius is my suitor… I am his consort." She takes a small bite of treacle tart. "By the way… if- if anything ever happens… if you ever need a safe place to go… You- you can always come here…"

"Oh. Yes," Zack says. "Your suitor. That's the word. Oh, I can? Great. A safe place. That's good. That will come in handy if my parents decide to make me leave again. So the protective spells will remember me? Oh, I just remembered!" Setting his teacup on the table, he stands up and hurries through the dining room and into the sitting room.

Rhyeline blinks when Zack gets up suddenly and rushes off into the sitting room. The guard proves a rather on edge around Zack. At his sudden movement, she almost draws her wand. Rhyeline waits patiently in the kitchen, taking another bite of treacle tart.

Zack returns, not to Rhyeline in the kitchen, but to the guard. "I'm going to use magic," he informs her as if he was telling her he was popping off to the shops for a few groceries. "I think I'm supposed to warn you. Okay then." He turns back to the sitting room without waiting for a response, pulling out his wand as he walks off.

The guard shakes her head and follows. "Hold up," she says, speaking for the first time. "What exactly do you intend to cast?" Her expression holds nothing but suspicion. Rhyeline hears Zack's words and bitng her lower lip, she rises and makes her way towards them.

"A spell," Zack answers without looking back. He does, however, hold up. "It's not experimental or unstable or dangerous. I'm going to collect my notes. They can't stay here. I have to go home." He hesitates, and then does look over his shoulder as he adds, "Are you going to try to stop me? Because that would be annoying."

The guard studies Zack for a time. She seems very tempted to prohibit the spell. However, in the end she nods and says, "Nothing experimental. Mind yourself." And with that, she takes up a cautious stance against the wall, hand on her wand should Zack make even the slightest mistake. Rhyeline watches her guard with a touch of nervous apprehension before peeking back over at Zack.

"Good," Zack says, turning away from her again. "I didn't want to have to hex you. I don't like using magic on other people. It can make things uncomfortable. What was I doing again? Oh, yes. My notes." Despite giving others the impression that he's clumsy when it comes to magic, he quite easily sweeps his wand across the room and causes the notes and books to stack themselves up neatly. Then he gives his wand another little flick and they vanish, leaving Rhyeline's sitting room nice and orderly once again.

Rhyeline bites her lower lip as her guard narrows her eyes dangerously at Zack's casual threat. However, finding her sitting room tidier than he had found it, she murmurs, "Thank you, Zack… it looks very nice. But- but please… I… I would appreciate it if- if you didn't hex my guards… They are just worried for me, is all…"

Zack starts when he hears Rhyeline's voice, and he turns towards her. "Thank you?" he asks distractedly. "For what? I'm not going to hex your guards. Unless they do something silly like try to steal my research. But she didn't, so it's okay. Why are they worried for you?"

"Well… right now, I- I think that they are nervous that another accident might happen… like the one that left you stranded in Russia. I- I am not so- so resillient as you… I'm not sure I would survive so well…" murmurs Rhyeline in a rather soft tone.

"What?" Zack says with a short laugh. "From casting a simple spell like that? But that's basic magic! How would it even be possible to cause another accident by doing that?" He seems quite amused by the idea, with a little smile on his face. "I'm not a third-year at Hogwarts. I'm an adult. I graduated years ago." He peers at the guard. "Are you not a very good spellcaster?"

"She is, but- but she is just cautious," murmurs Rhyeline, quickly. Clasping her hands behind her back, she approaches and comes to stand before the young wizard. "It… it was wonderful to have you here, Zack. I hope that- that you will return and- and have tea with me sometimes." Although he is of average height, Rhyeline is short enough that she must still peek up at him.

"Oh," Zack says. "Good. It wouldn't be good to have guards that aren't good at magic. It would be like having a Muggle following you around and trying to protect you. Or a puppy." He blinks when he finds Rhyeline looking up at him. "It was? Yes, I'll come and have tea. Oh, aren't we having tea right now? Or are you saying that I have to leave already?" He scratches the back of his neck.

Rhyeline shakes her head, turning a bit pink. "No, no… I- I just meant… in the future… Come…" She tries to take him by the hand to lead him away from her guard and back into the kitchen. "Would you like more tea? I think your cup has gotten cold…"

Zack lets her take his hand and lead him back to the kitchen, but he looks slightly confused. "Oh, so I can still stay?" he asks. "Good. I like it here. Yes, I'd like more tea. Should I not finish the cold one? My mother always said I shouldn't waste food. But tea isn't food. Does it matter if you waste drinks?"

"I think that she might not like it if we were to waste her tea… but… /I/ think that wasting a little bit is better than having to drink a cold cup…" Rhyeline takes Zack's previous cup and replaces it with a fresh cup.

"I won't," Zack says. "I don't waste her tea. I just didn't remember if that was a rule or not. So it's okay?" He blinks when he finds a fresh cup of tea on the table, having somehow missed Rhyeline putting it there. He sits down and takes up the cup in his hand. "Oh, thanks. May I have some of this too?" He points to the treacle tart that is clearly on his side of the table.

"Yes, it's for you," murmurs Rhyeline with a warm smile, charmed by his unassuming manner. She sits down across from him and takes another bite of her own treacle tart. "So… now you get to take your brother to Sweet Temptations…"

"Okay, thanks," Zack says, and he starts to eat it. He gives her a blank look across the table. "What's Sweet Temptations? Oh, is that the place I met you in? Where you showed me where the missing chocolate frogs were? I mean, where they were supposed to be but weren't, because they were missing. Or out of stock. Oh, yes! I forgot that I wanted to take him there. I'll ask my parents if I can. I hope they say yes."

"If not, you can always get him a lot of chocolates for Christmas. Or- or books, if- if he is like you…" murmurs Rhyeline with a bit of a grin.

"Chocolates?" Zack asks, his mouth half full of treacle. "I thought you said I wasn't supposed to buy him chocolates. He won't want books. He's not like me. He's like my father. He likes playing with friends and Quidditch and dragons and that sort of thing. I like dragons too, but I wouldn't want to meet one."

"I didn't think chocolates would be good for- for coming back from the dead. But- for Christmas, chocolates are an excellent gift. Although- I would prefer books. My father writes books…" she murmurs before taking a little sip of tea.

"Oh, that's right," Zack says, remembering. "I take him to the chocolate shop for coming back from the dead, but I buy him chocolates for Christmas. Okay, I get it." He sips his tea, but his eyes light up with interest when she mentions that her father writes books. "He does? What kind of books? Can I read them? Does he sell them in bookshops?"

"Yes, he- he is rather well known… Dillorous Diderot. He writes histories and- and stories as well… from his travels," murmurs Rhyeline with a rather shy sense of pride. "I have copies of all his books… they're in the sitting room. I can lend you one if you'd like."

"I don't know him," Zack says. But he doesn't pay much attention who's who in the Wizarding world, so it might not come as a surprise. "I like reading books about spells and runes. Oh, and history too. What sort of history does he write about? I would like to read one. Which ones do you think is the best?"

"He- he has some good stories about spells and ancient ruins… Some of them are- are a bit frightening though," she admits a bit hesitantly. "He writes all sorts of historical books too. True stories. Some of it focuses on- on our shared past with muggles…"

"I want to read those then," Zack states. "The ones about spells and ancient runes. Runes aren't scary though. They're very interesting. There must be thousands of unknown spells that haven't been found or translated yet. I want to find some one day. But first I have to find my own notes. Maybe some wizard from the future will find my notes and think they're ancient magic. That would be funny."

The ruins contain ancient runes as well, so the confusion will be minimal. Rhyeline smiles from behind her cup of tea. Resting it down on the table, she murmurs, "Well… if they are far enough in the future, your notes /will/ be ancient magic. If you like, before you go, you can search through my father's books and pick one you think looks most interesting."

"That means you'll have to come and visit me again in order to return it… and borrow another one," she adds with an impish playfulness shining her dark gaze.

"But I'm planning on finding them first," Zack says. "Unless I leave some behind on purpose. Then the future-wizards can try to figure them out." He smiles, seeming to find this idea quite amusing. "Oh, I can choose? Okay, I'll do that. Right now? Or just before I go? Yes, I'll have to return it. I could send it by owl though. But I'd rather come in person. That way I'd get to see you, and we can have tea again."

Rhyeline can't help but look pleased despite her shyness at his words. "Yes… I'd rather you come in person too…" she tells him before hiding once more behind her cup of tea. She pauses and then asks, "Would you tell me about your laboratory? The one you lost? What was it like?"

"Oh, you're hiding behind your cup again," Zack says after glancing at her. "That's a lot of fun. I tried it once in the Leaky Cauldron. I think you were there too. Like this." He raises his own cup to cover the lower half of his face. "What about my laboratory? It was big, and it had lots of tables and shelves for reading and writing notes and there was this wide open space where we could practice magic. It had a lot of protective charms in place so that none of the Muggles in the village noticed anything. Only sometimes accidents happened and the Muggles did notice, and the Ministry had to come and set things right."

Rhyeline can't help but give a sweet, impish little giggle when he imitates her. Resting her cup back down on the table, she tilts her head to the side and listens close. "We? Oh… yes, you- you worked with a team, no?"

"A team?" Zack asks, lost in thoughts about his lab. "Oh. Yes, I was on a team. For five years. They weren't there when I blew the place up. Which is good, because then they'd be dead too. Or not-dead and missing like I was. And then they'd have to figure out how to tell their parents and brothers that they're not dead. Except I don't know if they had families. We never talked about that."

"Did- did you work for the Ministry?" asks Rhyeline, looking rather curious. His each mention of his research has never failed to ensnare her genuine interest.

"The Ministry?" Zack says. "No. We were private. I mean secret. I mean, the Ministry new about us. Or some people in the Ministry did. I don't know. I just worked there. Someone from the Ministry sent me to the team, but it wasn't a part of the Ministry. I wouldn't be allowed to work at the Ministry."

Rhyeline blinks. "You wouldn't?" Her guard doesn't look one bit surprise. In fact, this admission seems to have confirmed a number of her suspicions.

"I don't fit into proper society," Zack says. "Or whatever it's called. I can't remember. That's what my father told me. He tried getting me a job there after I finished school, but they wouldn't let me work on what I wanted to. I kept having to do other, silly things. My brother might work there though. After he goes to school."

"Yes… the Ministry has lots of rules… it takes time to rise far enough to- to do what you want. I don't think that Ministry work would suit you… I think it's best if- if you work on your own research…" murmurs Rhyeline with a small nod.

"Yes," Zack says. "They have too many rules and they waste a lot of time worrying about what everyone else is doing instead of themselves. My father kept taking me there and introducing me to people who wanted me to call them by their last name. And he kept trying to make me wear fancy robes. But I refused to unless they were blue. I still didn't like them. They itched."

"I don't think that life will ever be for you… You are too resilliant, and- and brilliant to let that happen… You should follow what fascinates you… as- as long as- as it will help others…" As she speaks, she peeks over at Zack, head slightly bowed. Her cheeks glow with warmth.

"I am?" Zack asks absently. "I do follow what fascinates me. That's why I'm looking for all of my books and notes and bits of my laboratory. I don't know if what I does helps others. But I don't do stuff that hurts others. Some stuff might hurt others if it's used the wrong way, but I don't do it intentionally. That would be mean." He hesitates. "Did you say I'm brilliant?"

Rhyeline hesitates, her shyness deepening before she gives a silent nod.

Zack, caught off guard, doesn't know how to respond. "Oh," he says finally. "Yes. I am." He says it as though he is telling her that he's sitting in the kitchen right now, without any boasting, just stating a fact. But he raises his teacup to take a drink, and then leaves it there, hiding behind it.

Rhyeline can't help but giggle, sweet and impish. Nodding, she murmurs, "Yes… And… and if- if ever you have a spell that you would like to perfect… one that would be of great benefit to many people… I- I might- might be interested in- in funding that research…" The blush returns, even deeper than before when she tells him this.

Zack lowers the cup, revealing an awkward smile on his face, though his eyes are fixed on the table in front of him. But he looks up at her words, and his eyes are bright and focused. "You would?" he says with an almost child-like excitement. "You'd pay for me to develop a spell? I've been working on a lot of different spells, but one of them has to be something that will help a lot of people. Unless you want me to develop a specific spell that you're thinking of? I can do that too."

Rhyeline returns his smile, peeking up and meeting his gaze. "I think that- that it should be your idea… your passion… but… yes, if- if it would be something to help… to make the world better… something safe that would be hard to misuse… that is something that- that I would- would like to make it possible for you to work on."

"My idea," Zack says, nodding. "Yes, that would be better. I have very good ideas. I don't usually think about what helps people or not, though. I just do whatever seems interesting. But what would help someone and not be possible to misuse at the same time?" He frowns thoughtfully, and his eyes slide off into the distance as he thinks.

"It won't be easy… so many things to balance… you should- should study what the needs are… and- and when you're ready, you can send me an owl describing it…" Rhyeline hesitates before adding, "Does that sound good?"

"Yes," Zack says. "Everything can be misused if you do it right. I could misuse a basic locking spell by locking people out of their homes. That would be rude, so I won't. But I could. What? Oh. Yes, that does sound good. An owl. Yes, I'll send one. After I've thought of a spell. I probably have one in my notes. Unless I've lost all the good ones. Then I'll have to find them first."

"Brilliant… you can send the owl here, if you like. Or to Berylwood… I look forward to reading it. But- but for now, I- I should be going…" Rhyeline rises slowly and tucks a loose wisp of a curl behind her ear.

"Yes, I know," Zack says when Rhyeline says 'brilliant.' "You told me already. Okay, yes. I'll send it to Berylwood. The owl. I'll have to find one first. Or think of a new one. Oh, do you have to go already? Okay, well I won't be here when you get back. I'm going back home. Wait, how will I know when to come back?"

"You can send me an owl… You can ask me if I would like to meet you on a certain afternoon and I'll send back say yes, or if I'm occupied that afternoon, I'll suggest another time." Having cleared the table with a flick of her wand, the dishes start washing themselves. "Oh, and- and don't forget to pick a book. They are on the bookshelf to the left of the fireplace."

"Oh," Zack says. "Yes. An owl again. That makes sense. I send one." He blinks as the table clears. "Oh, you're leaving. Yes, I'll go choose a book now. By Dillorous Diderot. One about spells and runes. On the bookshelf left of the fireplace? Okay, thank you." He stands up and awkwardly adds, "Goodbye."

Rhyeline offers Zack a small nod. "Good bye, Zack," she murmurs a little less awkwardly. And with that, she glances over at her guards and heads out into her back garden to disapparate.

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