(1939-02-03) Underneath The Lamppost
Details for Underneath the Lamppost
Summary: Rena encounters another Lee underneath a lamppost in Muggle London.
Date: 1939-02-03
Location: St. James Park

Early Saturday evening, and while it's not actively snowing, it's icy underfoot and dreich above, with only a few passersby hurrying on their way home, out, or somewhere in between, bundled up in coats and scarves and huffing clouds of breath into the air. The last of the light is just about fading, replaced with the light from the occasional street light, glowing through the murky mist of the park, one of which street lights Frid finds himself waiting at patiently while the small pug on a leash accompanying him sniffs curiously at the variety of marks left there by larger dogs than herself.

Lost in her own thoughts, Rena Lee is taking her time as she meanders out of the park. Inquisitive looks cast upon the young redheaded woman by passersby are not returned. For all intents and purposes, she looks like someone who has a great deal on her mind and went for a walk to clear her head. It would seem that the effort was somewhat in vain, however, given her demeanor.
At length, her steps bring her past the street lamp where Frid waits patiently with the little dog. The animal seems to be the only thing that could possibly break her train of thought. Rena smiles and crouches down to greet the Pug: "'Ello there, luv." Dark eyes also drift up the leash to take in the person holding it, and there is a moment's pause before she recognizes the man with a start. "Oh! Mister Lee!"

It wouldn't be the first young woman to strike up conversation after petting the puppy, and it's hardly a surprise when this one does. The surprise, however, comes when she addresses him by name, and he takes a moment to clear his head and try to establish just how she knows him and why. "Ma'am?" comes Frid's immediate response, if only to give him time to think, but then his finger comes up in recognition. "Miss Lee. The pub. You're well, I trust?"

Heedless of the slightly awkward position, Rena stays on the ground to pet and fuss over the little dog a while longer. He's just too cute to resist. At least she has a reason to smile now, although the question posed by Frid causes her expression to change a little.
"I'm… well enough," she admits. Even though the statute of secrecy may soon fall and the area is largely clear of muggles, Rena knows better than to talk openly about the troubles weighing heavily on her. "Sorry if I surprised you, sir. I couldn't 'elp remembering you." She says with a wry twist to her smile now. "I know it's silly, but seeing as 'ow we share the same last name, it's left me wondering ever since."

Frid gives the leash a slight tug as the puppy gets more and more excited. Well, she would. She's a puppy. "You're with the… police… if I recall," Frid notes, lips pursing a little. "Well enough is well enough. I can't imagine we're related, however, if that's what you mean. I'm no Londoner."

"Oh… I see." Rena doesn't hide her disappointment terribly well. Her dark eyes lower slightly, as do her shoulders. Although her smile fades considerably, a little hint of it remains. "Well, it doesn't really matter," she then says, forcing a lighter tone into her voice. "I don't know much about my family or where everyone came from. Dad never was one to talk. Can't blame a girl for 'oping, though." Her manner is nothing but respectful. Frid is her elder, and if anything, she's a little subdued from her usual chipper self.
Giving the puppy one final fond touch, the young woman rises to a standing position again and fusses with her coat to set it right. "That's right, though. Police… in a manner of speaking," Rena replies with regard to her job. Satisfied that she's no longer rumpled, she looks up at Frid curiously: "If it ain't rude of me to ask - where do you come from if you ain't a Londoner?"

"Berkshire, ma'am," Frid answers her with a slight nod, "Reading, to be precise. Well, just outside Reading, between Reading and Bracknell." He tugs up the collar of his coat against the cold. "Grew up there, anyway, but I can't imagine any of my family would have been related to yours, unless a very long way back." He glances up at the sky, giving the pug's leash another tug as Honey, for that's the puppy's name, sniffs around at Rena's ankles and generally tries to get in the way. "Can I walk you somewhere, ma'am? A woman oughtn't be out alone, after all."

Still somewhat disappointed at the blow of realizing there probably isn't any familial connection between them, Rena does her best not to show it too plainly any longer. It would be rude to do so.
A gust of bitter wind knocks her hat askew, and she quickly sets it right with a nudge of her hand: "It's kind of you to offer, Mister Lee. To be 'onest, I was 'aving a wander 'round to think before going back 'ome to Diagon. Was visiting my dad… I meant to tell 'im about my being engaged and all, and I lost my nerve." She admits wryly. "You said yourself back at the pub that some people won't understand about my marrying an 'oriental' man. Unfortunately, you're right."

Frid flicks her the ghost of a smile. "Families tend to be the worst for it, ma'am. Of course, if you were to ask me, I'd say that marrying anyone at all is a generally foolish plan, but then my experience in the matter is distinctly limited. My advice would generally be of little use." He carefully withdraws a silver cigarette case from one of his deep pockets, hooking the leash around his wrist so he can click it open and offer them to Rena. "Certain types of people, foreigners among them, will never be good enough for some families. The question is whether or not you're prepared to accept that and live with it, or bend to their will. Smoke, ma'am?"

Rena smiles softly, but gives a light shake of her head: "Thank you, but no. Even if my job 'as me inclined to need something to steady my nerves these days."
After a moment's thoughtful pause, the young woman runs her fingers along her collar to raise it slightly against the wind: "I love 'im more than anything. In the end, I suppose that's all that really matters. I can't let other people run my life for me. I'm just going to 'ave to work up the nerve again and tell it to my dad straight. If I can bear up and live with prejudice, other people will just 'ave to deal with it. I sometimes worry about inflicting it on… well," here, she chuckles and gives a small shrug. "If I ever 'ave children, it'll be 'ard on them being half-bloods in more ways than one."
"Why do you feel the way you do about marriage, Mister Lee?" Rena asks abruptly. "You're the second Squ… m-man about your age I know who feels that way."

Frid withdraws one of the cigarettes for himself, tapping it against the lid of the case before settling it between his lips and sliding the case away. "Muggle," he corrects, only it comes out more as 'mu'll' given the circumstances. "I'm vetted due to my employer's status," he explains, pulling out a book of matches next and taking a moment to strike one, cup the cigarette and match with his hand against the wind, then puff as it lights and shake out the match to drop onto the icy leaves on the path. "In general," he muses, taking a drag from the cigarette and then pulling it from his mouth to flick idly in one hand, "I'm a conservative sort of fellow. Traditional. Marriage as an institution is fine. Marriage for me, however, less so. I enjoy being a bachelor too much to give it up, ma'am. Pure selfish intent."

Rena's face tinges a bit toward red when Frid corrects her, stating that he is a Muggle rather than a Squib. She murmurs a low apology, somewhat abashed over her presumption.
Slipping her hands down into her pockets to keep them a little warmer, the young woman listens to his explanation intently. Finally, giving a small nod, she offers an encouraging smile: "There ain't a thing wrong as I know of in enjoying your own company, and being free to enjoy the company of others without being tied down. I'll admit I rather of miss my cottage in 'Ogsmeade. I still own it. Silly," Rena chuckles, nudging at some snow on the ground with her foot. "Can't seem to quite convince myself to give it up, even though I live with my fiance. I suppose some small part of me is afraid to give up the idea of being able to stand on my own."

"It'll be a good thing to hold on to, if Mister Chamberlain doesn't keep things under control in Europe," Frid muses, idly drawing another drag from his smoke. "London isn't the place to be if it comes to war. We've seen it before. The zeppelins. The shortages. Hogsmeade is more secure, and the supplies… well, they don't need to be transported as such. I'm advising Mrs. Fairfax to keep the Three Broomsticks, even if she intends to move back to London herself. Given the current political climate."

War is a sobering thought. Although Rena has had more pressing matters weighing on her mind lately, the threat of war remains a constant, niggling worry in the background.
Before Rena can sink too low, however, Frid mentions the Three Broomsticks. The name causes her head to snap up and her eyes to focus back on the man with slight disbelief: "Do you work for Mrs. Fairfax? There's lovely for you! I never get out to the Broomsticks as often as I'd like. It's my favorite place." She smiles brightly now. "She lets me sing Muggle songs and play on the piano if I'm a mind to. She's awfully kind."

"You know Mrs. Fairfax?" Frid queries with quiet surprise, flashing an easy smile. "I do, I work as her valet. This is her puppy, Honey, whose company I have the dubious pleasure of keeping when she needs a walk. Are you a fan of Mr. Benny Goodman, ma'am? Mrs. Fairfax has an excellent selection of his records for the gramophone and all sorts of Muggle songs to make sure I feel well at home."

Knowing now that Frid works for Fabia, the ice is a good deal more broken between themselves, seemingly. At least, from Rena's perspective, it is. "Oh yes!" She exclaims. "I don't suppose you could say we're friends as such. But, Mrs. Fairfax 'as always been very kind to me whenever I've come 'round the Three Broomsticks, and put up with my shenanigans."
When Benny Goodman is made mention of, the girl seems to be absolutely astonished. She practically forces herself to suppress a girlish squeak in her voice: "I /adore/ Mr. Goodman's music! Smooth as satin, 'e is with that clarinet of 'is. I can't get enough."

Frid grins at her enthusiasm, the staid, sober valet replaced with genuine warmth. "Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, all the greats," he enthuses, pausing briefly for a swift drag from his cigarette. "We're in the process of trying to buy up a small place in London and set up a jazz club. Nothing too big or fancy, we're not trying to compete with the Natrix or anything, but somewhere cosy to get a cocktail and have a nice relaxed time, and encourage the local swing bands to come and play. I think it could work. There's an opening in the market for it, Mr. Hitler's foolishness notwithstanding."

For the moment at least, Rena's mind is liberated from the troubles that were haunting her footsteps before her chance meeting with Frid under a lamppost. Genuine excitement glitters in her dark eyes, and she throws her arms around herself to spin in a delighted circle. "A jazz club! Oh, I think that's a /wonderful/ idea. I 'ope you do make it!" She exclaims, causing Honey to bounce on the end of the leash, yipping at her excitedly. The enthusiasm is quite contagious for the little Pug, apparently.
Laughing at her own antics, Rena casts a slightly remorseful glance at Frid and crouches down again to sooth Honey with some petting. "I'm sorry, sir." She apologizes to the man. "I miss the stage sometimes. I love singing and dancing and get carried away at the thought. 'Ow the bloody 'ell I wound up doing law enforcement is beyond me, sometimes."

"You were an actress?" Frid queries, taking a last drag from the cigarette before dropping the butt to the floor to grind out with the toe of one well polished shoe. "Anything I might have seen, ma'am? I can see why you'd get on well with Mrs. Fairfax. She does have all sorts of wonderful stories about her time as a dancer."

Rena's smile fades a little, and she looks rather furtively between the puppy and Frid before answering with a somewhat subdued bashfulness: "Actress in my own right, I suppose. More the cheap kind of entertainment that higher class people never attend." She pauses, rising to her feet once more, brushing a little snow from her coat.
"Was my father's assistant mainly whether we 'ad a legit theatre or 'ad to perform on the street. As a little girl, I was cute and easily sweetened the deal sometimes if it was 'ard to find a space for the act. When I got older and filled out a little more, they generally used me to fill in gaps." Stopping herself with a wry chuckle, Rena finishes her little narrative, brushing back a curl from her face: "I've found they can always use a red'ead in a chorus line." Nobody wants to admit that their time on stage was largely burlesque in nature, but Frid surely gets the idea.

"Variety," Frid euphemistically agrees, dipping his head. "Well, I imagine you can only have been very popular, ma'am, and the MLE's gain is the theatre's loss." He shakes his leg a little as Honey decides that trousers are as good a chew toy as any, doing his best to dislodge the puppy without too obvious a dance about it. "The sort of entertainment we all enjoyed, I'm sure, ma'am."

"Thanks, Mister Lee," Rena manages to smile again with Frid's help. He certainly didn't have to be so kind about it, but the gesture is very much appreciated. Honey's larking about with the poor man's trouser leg also causes her to suppress a giggle behind her hand.
"Oh, well, if things ever go completely belly up, and I'm still young and pretty enough to make a go of it, I know what I can do." Rena says at length, giving a little shrug. "I'm a little too charismatic for an officer sometimes, anyway. I may wind up back in the theatre one day, you never know. Not sure 'ow my doctor 'usband would feel about that, though."

"Frid," the valet offers, taking a half pace back and yanking on the lead to discourage his trouser/pug interface issues. "Mister Lee is… well, even Mrs. Fairfax uses my first name. Your oriental gentleman is a doctor? My estimation increases."

It takes a moment for Rena to bring herself to agree with calling the man by his first name. Having been raised to be so respectful, it's a difficult habit to break. "Frid, then." She smiles at last, also admitting: "I suppose I know what that's like. My real name is Irene, but I'd rather people call me Rena… you too, if you don't mind."
Realizing that her feet are quite cold by now, the young woman moves a bit. "Well, that's 'ow I'll put it to my dad. Technically 'e would be called a /healer/ in /that/ world, but I prefer the term Doctor. It just feels better to me."

Frid says, "And is your father… of that persuasion, Miss Rena?" Frid queries, glancing once more upwards before offering his arm. "You'll freeze to death out here, ma'am. Where can I take you? Diagon Alley, you said?""

Cold as she is, Rena can hardly refuse the friendly offer. After slipping her arm into Frid's, they begin making their way along briskly for Diagon Alley. In a moment, Rena answers the question with a shake of her head: "No, but every parent wants their kid to marry well. There's a reason I don't tell anybody in /that/ world what my father was, exactly. On stage, for years… 'e was a magician. I'd 'ave been even more of a laughing stock than I already was for being a mudblood."

"From the horror stories Mrs. Fairfax tells, that school sounds absolutely awful," Frid insists, pausing every third step as they walk, to untangle Honey's leash from around his legs and hers as the puppy circles excitedly around the pair of them. "I rather think I dodged a bullet in not having to go there, myself. Every time the students are in, I'm appalled at the sort of nonsense they spout. I'd thought Mosley was bad, but really… well, it's to be expected." He glances around, lowering his voice somewhat. "That entire world is an accident waiting to happen, I swear it. A dictatorship run by ignorants. If you'll excuse me bringing politics into an otherwise pleasant conversation, ma'am."

"For all 'is faults," Rena admits to Frid, "my dad always did right by me. Never believed that that place was good enough, and said I wasn't going to grow up ignorant. So, 'e sent me books to read - any books 'e could afford. Same for when I was on 'oliday. 'e would insist that I read between acts and whenever I 'ad a spare minute. I don't mean to sound arrogant, but I believe I came out of that school more well-rounded than most."
Although politics aren't a particularly enjoyable subject, Rena doesn't object to them. Nor does she contest Frid's remark. "I know. And I'm willing to admit that I'm frightened and don't know what to do. I feel like I'm sitting on a beach, just dumbly waiting for a riptide to drag me out to sea."

Frid nods a little, brow drawing together. "Or possibly, of course, the only course of action is to wait, ma'am. And muddle through under whichever dictator currently wields their considerable power until the circumstances change again. Idealism is for the young," he adds, lips pressing together for a moment. "It's that sort of nonsense which gets a chap killed. I'm sorry… I shouldn't go on. A lighter topic, perhaps. Might you be free on Thursday night of next week, ma'am? Before you think I'm being forward, I assure you I'm not, but you mentioned you enjoy jazz. A number of us go dancing, muggles, not your type, and you'd be welcome to join us?"

Rena is quite capable of holding her own during political discussions. Although past experience has shown that she is equally capable of making a scene and storming out of them, too. Nevertheless, she is grateful for the change of topic.
Dark eyes brighten once more and she smiles with growing excitement. "I would love to!" Rena answers easily, not even giving it a moment's thought. However, giving Frid an inquisitive glance, she can't help but smirk, asking: "What makes you think they aren't my type? I prefer the company of Muggles almost any day. I'm more at 'ome with them than with the other." Slight irony there, given how she is marrying a pure-blood Wizard.

The older gentleman scratches lightly at his beard with one hand, having the unfortunate effect of pulling the puppy closer to the pair so he has to navigate both path and dog once again as they walk. "Well, if I'm honest they might be very much your type," Frid admits with an easy smile. "Mostly old friends of mine from the service, one or the other. But I'd meant… well, Muggles. Rather than the other."
"Aah," Rena nods understandingly. However, the easy smile and lackadaisical shrug remain the same. Her attitude is unchanged. "I'd 'ave a grand time, I'm sure. And I can easily keep mum about certain things if that's what's required." To be perfectly frank, she seems to like the idea even more now. What a strange young woman she is.
"I'll just think up a good cover story. It shouldn't be too difficult. And, provided your friends don't mind a girl like me trailing along for an evening, it would be grand!"

"I'm sure they'll be as delighted as I am, ma'am," Frid insists solemnly, their slow, meandering path beginning up Piccadilly past the statue of Eros now, another exciting and thrilling new thing for Honey to bark at in case it's some sort of golden intruder, intent on breaching her personal security detail. "Just… well, don't believe a word Ted tells you, he spins taller tales than Scheherazade, and if Tom tries to get you to play cards, refuse."

Rena can't seem to get enough of Honey's antics. She's a delight to watch as they walk, and an endless source of smiles and amusement for the young woman.
With a bemused sparkle in her eyes Rena looks up at Frid with a decided smirk as he talks about the companions she's likely to meet on their friendly Thursday outing. Stifling a giggle, she replies drily: "Duly noted." It promises to be an interesting night out, and Rena is looking forward to it, immensely.

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