(1938-12-27) Warm and Toasty
Details for Warm and Toasty
Summary: Zack visits Rhyeline to wish her a merry Christmas and she offers to fund some of his research.
Date: December 27, 1938
Location: Rhyeline's Flat

On the second morning since Christmas, London awoke under a thick blanket of snow. The air is utterly still and even by mid morning, the usual city noises seem muted. In the warmth of her flat, little Rhyeline sits all curled up before the fire. The morning newspapers are set refolded neatly beside her chair, and the girl seems to be lost in thought, meditating on the reported events. A cup of coffee warms her hands, but she has yet to take a sip. Her eyes are distant and thoughtful as she stares unblinkingly into the fire.

A loud crack rings out in the back garden, shattering the silence. Zack appears in the snow and walks unsteadily through it, slipping once or twice but managing to get to the kitchen door unscathed. He raps sharply on the door and then waits in his usual scruffy and worn brown robes, a gift-wrapped box under his arm.

The sudden, but distant sound of apparation draws Rhyeline from her reverie. Rhyeline is halfway to the door when he knocks and a moment later, she opens and peeks out from behind it with a quiet curiosity. Catching sight of Zack, at once she smiles and draws back, taking the door with her in a silent invitation for him to come inside. It's an auburn haired guard today with freckles dapling her complexion. She peers at Zack in silence, arms folded across her chest.

"Hi," Zack says as he steps inside. He looks around the kitchen, then at the guard for a second or two, and then finally at Rhyeline. "Merry Christmas. It's not really Christmas, that was two days ago, but I'm supposed to say it anyway. And I'm supposed to give you this." He holds the gift out at her and watches her out of the corner of his eye as if he's afraid he might have done it wrong. "It's safe."

Rhyeline closes the door and peeks over at the gift curiously as he speaks. Once he holds it out to her, she steps closer and accepts it. "Thank you, Zack… Merry Christmas." With that, she takes his hand in hers and tugs him along into the sitting room. Eager to see what's inside she, guides him to sit down on the sofa and then takes the spot just beside him. Setting the gift in her lap, she tears the paper open and gasps with such sweet, unguarded delight. "Oh! I love these. These are my favorite." She tries to lean close and hug his arm as she peeks up at him wit a luminous smile.

"Yeah," Zack says, a bit uncomfortable with the whole process. "My pleasure. Merry Christmas." He blinks as she takes his hand and then follows her into the sitting room and sits down, his eyes scanning the rows of bookshelves as she opens the gift. "Oh, you do?" he asks, surprised. "That's good. I wasn't sure what to get. You said that chocolates make good Christmas presents." He starts when she hugs his arm, and peers at her uncertainly, but a moment later he gives her an awkward smile in return.

Rhyeline lingers, hugging his arm with a warm smile under the watchful stare of her guard. Slowly, she lets go of his arm, but remains sitting close. "I… got you something too…" she tells him with a bit of a grin, watching him out of the corner of her eye.

Zack isn't sure of what he's supposed to do, so he just sits there with his awkward smile until she lets his arm go. "You did?" he says. "For me? Oh, I wasn't expecting that." He watches the guard for a moment, staring back at her, and then glances back to the girl next to him. "What is it?"

"It's not ready yet… but… I can tell you what it is, if you like…" murmurs Rhyeline, tilting her head to the side a bit. "Or… if you prefer surprises, you'll find out tomorrow… it's- it's being sent to your home…"

"Oh," Zack says, confused. "So you don't have it here? Is it too big? It can't be bigger than this room or it won't fit anywhere at home." He looks around the sitting room just to make sure. "I don't like surprises. They're often unpleasant. But you wouldn't send me an unpleasant surprise. You're nice. I don't know. Would it be better as a surprise or if you told me?"

"I'll tell you," murmurs Rhyline in a gentle tone. "I hope that you will like it… it's not big, but- I asked them to make it rather late, and- and they told me it would take time." She hestates, biting her lower lip as she peeks up at him. "I remembered that- that you told me how uncomfortable the robes your father made you wear were… the dress robes… so I- I found where yours had been made… and- and I asked them to- to make you a set that still looked nice, but- but that above all were comfortable…"

"Okay," Zack says, looking relieved, though it could be because she's telling him what it is or because he doesn't have to make the choice. He listens as she explains her gift to him, his eyes widening. "Oh!" he says. "That's great! I like comfortable robes. The ones my father makes me wear are horrible. I had to wear them to the Ministry a few days ago. They itch. I prefer these ones, but everyone says they look bad. What color are they? The ones you had made for me, not these. These are brown."

Rhyeline brightens when he seems pleased with her gift. "I know you love blue… I asked them to make them with the softest fabric, that won't bind, that won't make you even a little bit uncomfortable…" A set or dress robes made with such care will be rather expensive, but the little one isn't short on funds. "I hope that you love them… I- I asked that they take special care with them… that's why it's taking so long…"

"Oh," Zack says, quite pleased to hear that Rhyeline seems to have thought of everything. "That's really nice. My present wasn't as nice. It was just chocolates. Yours is nice." He looks down at his current robes, which are actually rather thin and ragged. "Yeah, I'll find out if I like them tomorrow. Then I'll come and show them to you. I mean, while I'm wearing them. So that you can see. What kind of blue are they? My favorite's the blue you see at night when it's getting really dark, but before it's completely dark."

"There will be different shades…" murmurs Rhyeline, a bit shy. "But… the main color will be that dark blue… with accents in lighter shades… dignified and formal, but- but comfortable… And… and durable… although, you will probably need to be careful not to experiment with spells in them," she adds with a bit of a grin.

"That sounds complicated," Zack says, his brow furrowing. "I can't do any experimental spells in them? When am I supposed to wear them then? I don't like formal events. Everyone always acts so weird, like they're at a funeral. I don't like funerals either, but you're supposed to wear black to them. Or is that a Muggle thing?" He frowns and gazes off into the distance, trying to remember.

"Mm… well… You wear them, but before you start to work, you change… unless that is hard to remember… then you can just save them for special occasions… where you would /have/ to wear the scratchy ones, you can wear these instead," murmurs Rhyeline.

"Sometimes I work at home," Zack says. "So I would have to change a lot." He considers the logistics of this for a moment. "So I'd wear them to places like the Ministry, or whenever my father says I should wear the horrible robes. That's easy. Oh! would I wear them to visit you? That's not really a special occasion. My father told me I shouldn't wear these robes to come wish you a merry Christmas. But I did anyway. I hope you're not mad."

"I wouldn't be angry over such a silly thing," murmurs Rhyeline in a gentle, reassuring tone. "But- that was kind of him to suggest it. When- when you dress nicely, some people take that as a sign of respect and- and consideration…"

"I didn't think so," Zack says, but he's taken aback at the idea that his father was being kind. "He was? But I prefer these to the ones he makes me wear. It doesn't seem kind. And you don't need clothes to tell you I respect you. You already know that." He looks at her, suddenly unsure. "Or maybe you don't. I don't know. I'm not being disrespectful or inconsiderate."

"I know you do… but… he didn't… and- and perhaps he wanted to make sure that- that your feelings weren't misunderstood… because others might," murmures Rhyeline. Although it is warm and toasty in her flat, the girl looks to the small blanket neatly folded over the arm of her sofa. With that slow, careful grace of hers, she moves to tuck her legs beneath herself and curl up in the corner of the sofa, blanket over her lower half.

"Oh," Zack says, frowning at his old, well-used brown robes. "Well he should have explained it like that then. How was I supposed to know what he meant?" He peers at Rhyeline as she wraps the blanket over her legs. "Why did you do that?" he asks. "Are you cold? It feels warm in here to me. I like that. Sometimes it gets cold in my room at home. I think it's because I leave the window open."

"Yes… that's probably why," murmurs Rhyeline, with a slow, sage-like nod. Grinning over at him, she adds, "I get cold more easily than most… I'm not too cold right now, but- but the blanket is extra cozy."

"I like having the window open," Zack continues. "Otherwise it gets too stuffy. It's hard to breathe." He turns his puzzled expression to the blanket for a second time. "Why do you get cold more easily? I like the cold. When it's hot, robes get more uncomfortable."

"Perhaps I have poor circulation…" murmurs Rhyeline with a small shrug. Tucking a loose wisp of a curl, she glances to the chocolates. A smile appears upon her lips and without hesitation, she leans forward to take the box into her lap. "Have you been able to take your brother to Sweet Temptations yet?"

"Poor circulation?" Zack says. "That sounds dangerous." He watches her pull the box of chocolate into her lap, surprised. "Hmm? Oh, no. Not yet. I'm going to take him tomorrow. I think. Or maybe the day after. Well, I'll take him sometime in the next week. I already promised. He's really excited. Oh! You should come with. If you want to, I mean. Then you can meet him. He's like you."

Rhyeline lowers her gaze when he mentions how dangerous poor circulation sounds. She peruses the chocolates with care, trying to select the perfect one. At last, she picks one and nibbling its edge, she peeks over at Zack curiously. "He is? And- and what is that like?"

"Yes, he is," Zack says with a firm nod. "He's nice to me. Well, I guess he has to be since I'm his older brother. And I guess he's different from you too, because he's not shy. But he's still nice." He watches her nibble at the chocolate, his brow furrowed. "Do you not like it? Did I get the wrong ones?"

Rhyeline smiles when told how she is similar to his brother. But then she blinks, looking confused. "What? Yes, of- of course you did. I love these… sometimes- sometimes /my/ brother brings them for me as- as a treat…"

"Oh, good," Zack says. "I thought you might not like it because you were only eating the edge. When I eat chocolates I usually put the whole thing in my mouth at once." He blinks at her. "Your brother? Oh, you mean Graham? Is he here?" He looks around as if expecting the Auror to pop out from behind the sofa.

"No… but he comes to visit me sometimes," murmurs Rhyeline. Then she closes her eyes and places the rest of the chocolate upon her tongue and with a smile, savors it a moment before peeking back up at him.

"Yes," Zack says. "I was here when he visited once. I like him. His last names Cohen. I remember now that the other Aurors told me." He still watches her, seeming quite bemused. "I've never seen anyone eat chocolate that way before," he remarks. "Does it make it taste better?"

It takes a moment for Rhyeline to speak again, but until she does, she nods with a small shrug. "It… it lets me savor them… to eat them slowly…" she tells him.

"Oh, yes," Zack says as he thinks this through. "That makes sense. The more time it's in your mouth, the more time you have to taste it. And closing your eyes would allow you to focus on one less sense at a time. I sometimes close my eyes when I'm thinking about my spells. Especially when I'm about to try them for the first time." He pauses. "So did you want to come with me and my brother?"

Rhyeline nods with a bright little smile. "Yes, I'd like that. It would be good to meet him, and- and to go to Sweet Temptations. Perhaps… perhaps I could get Graham to come with me too."

Zack nods his head once. "Yes," he says. "And you can have some more of your favorite chocolates. And I can get my brother some chocolate frogs. He likes those. So do I. Oh, yes, Graham should come too. I like him. And we can lock your guard up in your flat while we're gone." He glances up at the woman watching them and explains, "That was a joke."

Rhyeline peeks over at her guard, a bit hesitant of the mirthless smile she returns with. Taking up another piece of chocolate, she murmurs, "If Graham is with us, she won't have to stand so close…"

Zack has already put the guard out of his mind, it seems. "Yes, because he's an Auror," Zack says. "Auror's are very talented wizards. I'd like to be an Auror. They're like knights. They help people. But I like making spells too much. I don't have time to do both."

"I think that there are also a lot of rules to go alone with being an auror. Aaand… you don't seem to like too many of thise," murmurs Rhyeline with a bit of a grin.

"Oh, yes," Zack says, frowning as he remembers. "I'd have to work for the Ministry. I don't want to do that. Oh! I could be a lone Auror. I could go around helping people and doing what Aurors do without actually working for them. Then I'd have my own rules."

"Mmm… I'm not sure if that would be allowed either," murmurs Rhyeline, glancing at the chocolate between her fingers before taking another bite. "I think you might be happiest doing what you already do."

"It wouldn't?" Zack asks, scrunching his face up as he tries to figure out why. "Is it because I'd be calling myself an Auror? I can call myself something else. Oh, yes. I am happy with what I do. Well, not right now, but I used to be. When I was actually doing research and not just looking for it. Why wouldn't it be allowed?"

"Because aurors use violent force at times… and only those who are legitimate to wield such power in the eyes of society may do so… And… a single person deciding for themselves what is right or wrong might not be accepted by others," murmurs Rhyeline before eating the last of the little piece of chocolate.

"They do?" Zack asks. "Oh, yes. That makes sense. Well I don't want to be an Auror then. I don't like violent force. But Graham seemed so nice. I didn't realize he was violent." He frowns at this news, which is quite distressing. "I could already tell that Auror Cooper was violent, though. That was obvious."

Rhyeline blinks at the mention of Cooper and her violence . "She… she is? I- I mean, yes, all aurors have to sometimes use their wands to catch dark wizards… but… it is something they do to protect the rest of us… Graham is still very nice and gentle. He's so nice, that he does something unpleasant to keep us all safe."

"Yes, she is," Zack says. "She got violent with me when I asked her to help find my research. She tried to poke me in the chest! Oh yes, but she apologized, so it's okay. It still seems violent though. Oh, I didn't think of that. Graham is nice. Good, I like him. Even if he does have to do unpleasant things. I don't think I want to be an Auror after all."

Rhyeline's eyes widen, rather startled when told that Cooper had been violent. However, trying to poke somoene in the chest isn't quite so bad, so she calms. "Yes… working on spells would be much better… have you… given thought to what spell you might create to- to help a great number of people?" She asks this, referring to her offer to fund research into a worthy spell.

"Oh, yes!" Zack says, excited when Rhyeline reminds him of her offer. "I thought about it all through Christmas and yesterday. Well, most of Christmas. My father told me I had to leave my thoughts behind while we were sitting at the table together. That was hard to do." He gazes off at nothing for a moment before remembering that she had asked him a question. "Oh, the spell. Yes, I want to make one that finds people who are in need of help. Like the spell that makes your wand point north, only it will point to a troubled person instead. I don't know if it's possible, but I want to try."

Rhyeline's eyes light up and leaning closer, she says, "That's brilliant. Someone who is lost… a child or- or someone that has been taken… such a good spell. I would be very happy to- to fund such research." She names a modest, but not paultry sum to send him each month. And then she asks if he will need a place to work.

"Oh, it is?" Zack says, surprised. "I mean, yeah, it is. It's a great idea. I don't know, I didn't think of the specifics yet. I can try making it focused on children. Or it could work on people who are in some kind of danger. I'm not sure which would be best." He hesitates when she mentions payment and a place to work. "Oh, right, you were going to pay me. Um, I think that's okay. That's more than I made before, so you can pay me less if you want. Yes, I need a place to work. It has to be well warded."

"I will pay what you made before, but- but I will make sure that you have a good place to work," murmurs Rhyeline softly. This is her first time with this sort of thing and she so to some she might seem a bit unsure of herself. "Does… does that sound alright? Is- is there a part of town where you'd prefer to work?"

"Okay," Zack says, his head dipping into a single, firm nod. "Good. That sounds right. Oh, does it have to be in town? I don't know if I want to work near other buildings and people. I don't want to accidentally blow the place up again. That caused a lot of trouble last time. There was a huge hole in the ground. I read it was 40 feet deep and the size of a block. I want to work in the country, away from everyone."

"Then I will find you a small place to work in the country-side," murmurs Rhyeline with a definitive little nod. "It- it might take some time, but- I'm sure Cassius will know who to ask… or- will know who to ask to ask who to ask…" She giggles a bit at her maze of words.

Zack blinks at her. "Oh, is Cassius going to set it up? Does he even know who I am? I think I met him once. I don't remember." He frowns, trying to recall, and his gaze slides past the guard. He peers at her. "Does that mean he's going to have me followed by guards too? I won't like that. I need space when I'm working on my spells. No one can interfere."

"No, you won't have guards… and he knows who you are. He knows you're my friend," she murmurs, hoping to reassure him. Rhyeline smiles over at him and after a bit of hesitation, she asks, "Would… you like a cup of tea? Or- or some cocoa? I learned how to enchant it to make it blue…"

"Okay," Zack says, relieved. "That's good. I wouldn't want to have to hex any of them. I'm not violent, I just can't have them getting in the way. Oh, yes, I'd like some tea. Or some cocoa. As long as it's blue. I mean, it doesn't have to be blue. I just prefer it that way. The violent Auror at the Ministry tried to make me some blue tea, but she burned her hands instead."

"I'm sorry to hear that… I'll be careful not to get burned," murmurs Rhyeline as she sets aside her blanket and rises slowly. The guardwitch behind them had arched her brow when Zack mentioned hexing a guard. She watches him follow Rhyeline into the kitchen with a cool, assessing look. Though her charge seems to think he is harmless, none of her guards seem so certain.

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