(1939-01-06) Questions about a Mutual Friend
Details for Questions about a Mutual Friend
Summary: Gaillard requests a meeting with Zack to inquire about an unusual person they both know.
Date: January 6, 1939
Location: The Drunken Dragon

At midnight, but not before, the runken Dragon will, notionally, lay on its final services, and in fact, lock in its loyallest patrons. Most of them are accordingly far, far gone in drink and deed. One of the more composed looking, however, is a youngish wizard whose dark grey gown only hides in part, and at a distance, a smart if somewhat disarrayed Muggle suit. This stranger appears to be alone, perhaps waiting to meet someone, especially as he is nursing not one but a pair of generous, lightly watered Firewhiskies. His thin and chaotic hair is a dark shade of auburn, and his cold eyes constantly upon the alert.

Zack has never been to the Drunken Dragon before. It's unlikely he even knew it existed before he received a message asking him to meet a Mr Gaillard Beauclaire there. He walks through the pub, looking quite out of place in his fancy blue robes. His hair fits right in, however: it's a bit of a mess, as though he dressed in a hurry and didn't take time to straighten it. He wanders about the place in search of the person he's supposed to meet until he sees a man sitting by himself. He approaches Gaillard with a puzzled look on his face. "Hello," he says. "I'm here to meet someone. Is it you?"

The other dips his head in a greeting that resembles the sort of bow an incompetent trainer might bestow upon a Hippogriff; apparently respectful, but slightly satirical not far beneath the surface. "Mr. Fudge. What a modest entrance for one of your repute…though I suppose it is in accord with your discreet profession. Yes, that's quite right, I'm Gally Beckley." It seems the difference from the name Zack has been told is probably down to pronunciation, not misinformation.

"I do hope you like firewhisky. They tend to serve a lot of it from this hour onward," the strangely suave, yet distinctly Muggle-oriented Beauclaire goes on apologetically…though not sincerely so. "I rather like this place; it's quite convenient when I have any dealings with those fools of editors at the Prophet, and you can't deny it has…character."

"Firewhiskey?" Zack asks, distracted by a couple of rough looking warlocks a few tables down. "Oh. No. I don't like the taste. And it burns." He glances around the pub again, his brow furrowed. "I've never been here. It looks dirty. And full of unpleasant people. Why are you wearing Muggle clothes? Are you a Muggle?" He stands next to the table, not knowing whether he's supposed to sit or stand.

"That is what it's for, you know," Beauclaire points out tetchily. "And I should have thought famous…or at least, well-regarded…researchers were used to exploring…and blending into…unfamiliar surroundings." His voice is pleasant and melodious, but rapidly acquires a scornful tinge for all that.

"Really, Mr. Fudge, are you trying to be amusing? What sort of question is that, especially at a time like this? How exactly would a Muggle have got control of an owl from the prophet? And aren't you supposed to answer questions, not ask them? I'm simply a busy, mobile fellow, who finds it useful to observe a number of unusual scenes. Including Muggle ones." He takes a healthy slug of the firewhisky with apparent relish. "Lately I've found myself wondering particular questions about a particular, and unusual, person. That's where you come in."

"Who, me?" Zack says, blinking at the man. "I'm not famous. Or well-regarded. I'm just a researcher. A spell researcher. I explore unfamiliar magic, not unfamiliar places. Except for Siberia. I explored that. But I didn't mean to explore it, it was an accident." Gaillard might be aware that he went missing just over six months ago, and was presumed dead until he reappeared in the first couple weeks of December. "Oh, and my name is Zack. Not Mr Fudge. My full name is Zachary Norman Fudge, but I like to be called Zack. Just Zack." He frowns. "Oh, yes. A Muggle wouldn't know how to use an owl. So you're a wizard. That makes more sense now. Oh! You want to ask me questions. Should I sit down?"

"We'll be more conspicuous if we take a seat," Beauclaire explains patiently, "and we might also be taking someone else's seat, which would attract unwanted approaches…hearts of gold, the crowd in here, but arms of iron, and they can be a little rough and ready." He nods smoothly, perhaps a hint too much so, and agrees, "I had heard something of your Siberian…incident, nothing substantial, but the fact itself intrigued me. I want to find out about someone much involved with Russians…though chiefly Muggle ones, and emigres in Paris, I think, rather than children of the steppe. Mr…" The informality seems to cause him pain, but he chokes out, "Zachary, then; have you come across a witch called Fabia Fairfax? Or perhaps Fabia Travers?"

"Oh," Zack says, confused. "Then we should stand. So it's a secret meeting. I can't tell you any of my secrets. Or that I have secrets. I can't tell you that either. Oh, you heard about Siberia. That was an accident. I didn't talk to many Russians. I traded some fish for a tent, though. Those were nice Russians. They were Muggles though." He frowns when the man calls him Zachary. "It's Zack," he corrects. "Only my grandparents call me Zachary. And my parents, but only when they're upset. Oh, Fabia! Yes, I know her. I don't know her last name. I think it was the one that started with an F. Fairfax? I don't know. I met her at the Three Broomsticks. She wanted to pay to be my friend."
Nathan has disconnected.

That last phrase certainly breaks through Beauclaire's smug, cool artificial charm. "She…sorry? What exactly do you mean by that?" he asks in something close to a splutter, in equal measure amusd, astonished and outraged. His fluting voice raised in this shocked tone draws the sneering attention of the patrons much more than sitting down could have done, and, annoyed, he takes another, doubly enormous gulp at his glass. "You mean Mrs Fairfax…solicited you?"

"Yes," Zack says with a frown, as though he too finds this very strange. "We paid for our butterbeers. And then she talked about how friends don't think about paying friends back for showing kindness. They just show each other kindness without thinking about it. And then she gave our money back. My friend Rhyeline said that meant she wanted to be friends. I don't really understand it. If I want to be friends with someone I would tell them."

Beauclaire pauses, breathes, and takes another generous gulp, frowning, the very picture of a man - and a man of letters, at that - reconstructing a set of shattered assumptions that had seemed both secure and pure. "Well, well. How extraordinary…I wouldn't have thought you…her type, entre nous. If you asked me yesterday, I would have even ascertained more than a hint of the sapphic…at any rate…that does put a different complexion on things." He finishes off the firewhisky and begins the one he had earmarked for Zack, without offering him another drink. "And who's this Rhyeline of yours? Name rings a faint tinkle. Father wrote some books, didn't he? French?"

"You have a strange way of talking," Zack states. "I don't understand. I like Fabia. She seems nice. I think I will be her friend. I'll tell her next time I go to the Three Broomsticks." He seems suddenly shy when he asks about Rhyeline, and he gives his shoulders an uncomfortable little shrug. "She's my friend. I only met her father once. I don't know him. I think he's French. I don't know." As if eager to move the subject away from Rhyeline, he adds. "I thought you wanted to ask questions about me. Not about my friends."

"It's called French, dear boy," Beauclaire declares rather cattily, scorn ramped up again, "and in truth, I wanted to pay you to ask questions about…well, our mutual friend. Now, though, …I'm not sure that will serve, after all. It seems you've already," he smirks, "got in a little too deep." Beauclaire himself is getting rapidly deeper, into the second Firewhisky. "I fancy some beauty sleep after this nightcap, actually," he proclaims haughtily, once again in obvious and carefree contrast to his surroundings, "but you can tell me about yourself while I finish up, if you like. I shan't complain."

"Oh," Zack says, now even more confused by their conversation. "So you don't want to talk to me. You should talk to Fabia. She would know more about herself. I only met her once. I know her name and where she works. Oh, and she likes Muggle money and fish eggs. I don't like fish eggs. I haven't had them, but they come from the sea. That means they're probably digusting." He blinks at the man. "Oh, you do want to know about me. Okay. My name is Zachary Norman Fudge. My father is Antonius Fudge and my mother is Myra Fudge. I have a brother too. I was born in 1913. I graduated from Hogwarts in 1931. I was in Ravenclaw. My favorite color was green before I was in Ravenclaw. Now it's blue. That's why I wear blue robes. I'm going to wear green robes too after my friend gets some made for me. Oh, yes. And I make new spells. But you already knew that."

"You know, young man," says Beauclaire, a man only a decade or so the elder, "you're really not one to talk when it comes to speaking oddly, you know that? Good." He smiles charmingly, revealing uncharmingly jagged and yellowed teeth, however, and pours the last of the whisky down his gullet. "I was a blue and bronze eagle too, for some reason. And now, alas, I must fly." His drinks already paid for, it is the work of a moment to perform his trademark unannounced apparition, with a crack that knocks over one of the warlocks' tankards and causes considerable, if fleeting, annoyance.

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