(1939-11-02) A Pebble in the Pond
Details for A Pebble in the Pond
Summary: Rena seeks advice on political matters from Cassius, and learns some
Date: 2 November, 1939
Location: Berylwood Estate, St. John's Wood, London
Plot: Unity
Related: The Law Comes to Hogwarts

When Rena arrives at Berylwood, brought in Cassius's own carriage, she is greeted by the butler and shown to the study on the second floor. It is a cozy room compared to the rest of the manor, with it's own legal library, hand-carved desk, and several comfortable chairs. Two of those seats are set partially facing one another, with a table between them holding a fresh pot of tea. Cassius rises from his seat as she enters, gesturing in welcome. "Rena," he addresses her casually, "Welcome. Come, sit. I cannot recall, do you prefer one lump or two?" Already, he is personally preparing her a cup of tea.

Unaccustomed to such royal treatment, a part of Rena naturally enjoys her carriage ride to Berylwood with all the enthusiasm of a child. Fortunately, she managed to wipe the absurd grin off her face by the time she arrives at the Malfoy's mansion, and she puts on an air of calm determination. The novelty and grandeur of this place has not even begun to wear off; it still easily leaves her in awe whenever she is lead through by the butler. At least she manages to leave her Cockney commentary on the doorstep for once, though.

Taken somewhat off-guard by Cassius calling her by her first name, Rena stumbles on her own greeting momentarily. Is she supposed to call him Cassius now? Does she dare?

"Th-thank you, Mister Malfoy," she manages to get out, nervously defaulting to his formal name. "One, please…" She then replies with a smile.

Moving to the seat indicated, the young woman does as she's told quickly in hopes of not seeming more awkward and out of place than she usually does. "I can't thank you enough for allowing me to come. I know it's sudden-like and all, but I've got to level with someone who understands these things."

"You are a guest in my home. Please, call me Cassius." He offers Rena her tea on a saucer, then takes his own seat. "I'm flattered that you came to me. I hope that my understanding lives up to your expectations. What is it that you hope I can clarify?"

There is a moment of wide-eyed disbelief as Cassius offers the tea to Rena and tells her that she can call him by name. Silly as it may be, to her, that's rather like being told by some member of the royal family that she can just call him by a nickname, kick back and relax on the couch. She can't even begin to hide the expression until a beat of a second has passed. However, she does finally relax into a gratified smile: "Thank you, Mister Mal— I mean, Cassius. I'll try to remember."

Pausing a moment to collect her thoughts, Rena's expression becomes troubled: "I just… I can't shake the feeling, now that it's all over and done with, that the whole Hogwarts mess was some kind of political debacle. It weren't— wasn't just that Flint needed to be taken down a peg; I feel as though whomever sent me that letter to begin with planned the whole thing from the start, what with the way everything just fell right into place immediately after." Her words come tumbling out, and she is clearly distressed about something in the midst of it all. "I don't know who sent me that letter. I wish I did. It eats at me, now that it's all over."

Realising that it might need to be pointed out, Cassius adds, "Though in formal and public settings, we should use standard forms of address." He sips his tea, listening with concern painted on his face as she explains her troubled thoughts. "I can understand that. Nobody likes to feel as if they've been manipulated, no matter how benign the outcome. Though I think you give too much credit to your mysterious benefactor. How could all of that be planned based on what little information you were given?"

Naturally, Rena realizes that she mustn't ever call Cassius by name in public, and she nods quietly to acknowledge the fact before sipping her tea. But still, her uncomfortable, troubled expression remains. "I don't know, sir," she replies unhappily. "How did they get the information to begin with? How did they get the picture of the Lestrange boy?" She asks, sitting forward on her chair a little. "My investigation - I don't mind telling you - was worse than trying to find needles in haystacks, or locating hen's teeth! It was bloody difficult, and it took months for a reason. Even then, when I submitted my report, I had to admit that there was absolutely no solid proof. Only disturbing implications of something possibly sketchy going on in the background. And yet, somehow, the Wizengamot decided to give a little nobody, an Initiate, a bone and do the unthinkable by giving her a warrant to enter Hogwarts…"

Falling back in her chair, deflated, Rena tries to catch her breath. She shouldn't have gone on that tirade, surely. She just sounds like an emotional, overwrought woman.

"Rena," he says softly, in a tone honed over the years to be as comforting and soothing as possible, "I've reviewed the entire case file personally. Several times over, in fact. You may not have had solid proof, but you had credible testimony. You made a strong case. I'm not at all surprised that the Wizengamot issue a warrant. That you were an Initiate was irrelevant. Your work spoke for itself. I realise that it is in an Auror's nature to examine everything with a fine-toothed comb. But you might never get a satisfactory answer to your questions."

In an attempt to recover some manner of composure, Rena drinks her tea in silence, avoiding eye contact with Cassius until he speaks. Then, she listens in anxious silence to every word. If nothing else can be credited to her nature, she does know how to shut up and listen when wiser people are talking.

Lowering her eyes, Rena's shoulders sink in a way that shows very plainly how let-down she feels at the moment. Seconds tick away before she finds her voice again and she says: "I only wish I understood why they picked me, whoever they were. Was it because I was an initiate and not much of a loss if I were given the sack from the Ministry? Did they actually mean to get me fired? After all the trouble I caused, I couldn't blame them…" Her words drop off, and her cheeks tinge with a blush of shame.

"Oh, I doubt the intention was to get you fired. Had that been the case, you would more likely have received convincing evidence that would lead you to the wrong conclusions. But as we've learned, you discovered the truth. Take heart. You did very well. Let us be realistic. Many an officer would have discarded the case very early on. But you doggedly pursued it, and now Hogwarts is free of that tyrannical menace."

Rena smiles - albeit in a subdued manner - and she looks to Cassius again with a faint chuckle: "Bloodhound. Once I've got a scent, I won't stop following it. Come hell or high water, as they say."

Glancing down at her tea, briefly, Rena's brow furrows again before she hazards to say what else is gnawing at her mind: "I did it for the kids. It's that simple. I didn't care about politics or anything else. All I cared about was seeing that those children were treated as equals and given a chance at an equal education. It's hard enough being a Muggleborn as it is…" Stopping herself a moment, the little woman shifts uncomfortably in her seat before going on: "What I don't understand is the whole faculty of the school. They were right there in the thick of things. They should've been able to reign in Professor Flint - or do something… anything! But they just sat idly by, letting it happen. I put my job, my career and reputation… my future on the line for this. An outsider who hardly had a chance in hell of getting anywhere. Why didn't they DO something?"

Cassius furrows his brow in momentary confusion. "Whatever do you mean? Our information tells us that a number of faculty members risked their careers to oppose Flint. Vindictus Viridian, Uma Patil, Apollyon Pringle, and those are just the ones we know about. But they had to act in secret."

Cassius sets his cup down, leaning forward as he tries to explain. "You must understand something about Hogwarts. It is a cosm unto itself. It is not merely a school. It is a culture and a political entity. What happens there has ripples throughout the wizarding world. The Headmaster of Hogwarts is empowered with considerable authority, backed by the Board of Governors. Any faculty member that openly defied him risked being sacked, cutting off their ability to aid the students. Look at what happened to Galatea Merrythought, and that was simply for suggesting the Gellert Grindelwald is a Dark wizard.

"Those resisting Flint had only two recourses. The first was to act through the students themselves, which they clearly did. Expelling a student is much more difficult than terminating a professor. Their second option was to seek aid from the outside…which I also believe they did. If you're looking for whomever sent you that envelope, I would suggest looking inside the walls of Hogwarts."

Cassius explains the situation in detail to Rena ever so patiently… rather like a calm teacher trying to explain a difficult problem to an even more difficult student with a tendency to wander. She listens intently, her expression gradually sinking into embarrassment and shame.

Very much taken aback, and equally abashed, the little redhead drops her chin and focuses her gaze on the floor. "I'm… I'm sorry, I feel terrible now. I didn't realize that… Oh dear." Her voice drops from being small to simply being nothing at all. Now that she's well and truly humiliated herself and proven how ignorant she is about these things, she feels terribly small.

Cassius leans back in his chair, waving a hand. "You have nothing to apologise for. Politics make for a confounding labyrinth, even without the bewildering twists and turns that Hogwarts throws into it. I'm glad you came to me. I'd like to think that I can be of service in helping you navigate these matters."

Mortified as she may feel, Cassius reassures Rena well enough to make her stop burning a hole in the floor with her gaze. Eventually, she draws up the courage to lift her eyes to meet his once again, and she smiles a little: "I always believe it's best when you don't understand something to go to a person who does to talk to them. You're the best person I know for this sort of thing. That's why I wanted to talk to you… if anybody could help, you would." It's a hopeful sign from Rena - an indication that she's begun to trust the man, far more than she ever expected to.

Finishing her tea, Rena quietly sets her cup down in its saucer. She probably ought not to take up any more of the man's valuable time, now that he's straightened her out. However, one last thing seems to be on her mind. "I don't suppose there's any sign of Unity joining both worlds yet, is there?" She asks without much of a sense of hope. "I only ask because… well, there are some people - friends in the RAF - I think would be awfully glad to know had a witch looking out for them. And I'd appreciate being able to actually help them if need be without breaking the rules."

Cassius sighs, letting some mild frustration show. "Our efforts to push the Unity Act through the Wizengamot have been stymied, largely by the Minister herself. She has set herself firmly against our party, and I believe she will do anything in her power to stop us, regardless of the will of the people." He falls silent for a moment, rubbing his chin. "I fear-…ah, but I hesitate to even say it."

The disappointment in Rena's eyes shows plainly. Her dearest wish is that someday she can live freely among her Muggle friends as a witch, so that she might no longer be forced to walk a perpetual tightrope between two worlds. She teeters dangerously on the edge at times. One of these days, if her hand is forced, she may fall…

"I don't understand her thinking," Rena says with a frown, her voice clearly tinged with annoyance. "How can it possibly be right, now that things have come to this?"

Tilting her head curiously, the young woman fixes her gaze on Cassius and she sits forward in her seat once more: "Hesitate to say what? What is it?"

To look at Cassius, one would never know the devilish smile behind his concerned frown. He sighs heavily, meeting Rena's gaze. "That the only way to see real change happen would be for Titania Gambol's tenure as Minister to end." He picks up his tea to sip while Rena takes in that bombshell.

One might expect the loyalty of a dogged little citizen and Ministry worker to cause Rena to gasp in shock and horror. One might expect her to be appalled, jump to her feet and cry: No! But, instead, the little redhead's intense expression changes very little. She remains firmly entrenched and unmoved by the revelation that Cassius just laid before her.

"If it's the only way, it's the only way. Something's got to give." Rena says with an air of unexpected calm. "When a leader is ineffectual, they need to be changed out - like the spent core of a wand. But… the problem is, you might swap leaders, and wind up with someone who's just as ineffectual in the end. Who could possibly take her place?" She asks innocently, because she simply doesn't know.

"It's a question I've struggled with, myself. At the risk of seeming insincere, I've been forced to accept that there is only one choice I would find acceptable." Cassius's posture changes subtly in his seat, but it is enough to go from appearing relaxed, to assuming an authoritative, almost regal pose. "Myself."

This bombshell does manage to take Rena by surprise. She truly is too innocent and naive. For an Auror, her mind isn't nearly suspicious enough. She never seems able to see the forest for the trees at times like this… But, then again, has there EVER been a time like this?

Instead of replying to Cassius naming himself as the likely candidate to succeed the current Minister, she fumbles and very nearly drops her empty cup and saucer on the floor. The porcelain clatters sharply, and she does her best to recover quickly. Rather than risk damaging something belonging to the Malfoy family, she sets it aside in a hurry.

"Y-you, sir? I…" Rena stammers, trying to sort out how she feels about it, her expression clearly uncertain. After a moment, it eases and softens into one of subtle realization: "I suppose that's only right. Only way sanity is ever going to take hold is if Unity is in charge so they can make things right."

Though tired, Rhyeline returns to Berylwood with a soft smile. Her meeting with a senior aide to a high-ranking Ministry official went well. Support is growing. The flicker of hope in Rhyeline's heart grows stronger with each day. A servant presses a cup of tea into the girl's cold hands the moment she arrives. With a nod of appreciation, she goes to look for Cassius.

Down the hall, she pauses at the sound of clattering china. Tilting her head, she listens to the voices. Just as Rena has finished speaking, the little one peeks into the study with a look of shy caution.

"My reaction to the realisation was not unlike yours," Cassius says, setting his cup down on the tray. An exaggeration, perhaps, but a carefully crafted one. "But I have dedicated my life to the understanding of people and bureaucratic systems. If I may boast of it, I have an encyclopedic knowledge of magical law, and a scholarly understanding of Muggle society as well. I am forced to conclude that I am the most suitable candidate. In fact, the only thing holding me back is my age. But come the first of December, I shall be thirty years old, and eligible for the office." His jade green eyes flicker to the study door, and a warm smile forms. "Darling, come in and join us." He gestures with his wand, incanting, "Locomotor chair," to hover a seat closer to his side for her. "We've been discussing my possible candidacy."

Some little twinge of conscience deep inside of Rena's mind begins to chide her quietly. She's a public servant. She works for the Ministry. She came to her job under the auspices of Titania's rule; and while she has never condoned unification, her leadership has been fair… Is it treasonous to think these things? Rena wonders, silently to herself as Cassius speaks.

The arrival of Rhyeline gives Rena some welcome pause before her mind spins out of control. Looking over, she offers a warm, slightly shaken smile in greeting. Already, the conscientious voice is fading into the background. Her desire to live open and freely is too great. "Came as a bit of a shock at first, but… It only seems right," she offers. "I want so badly for both sides to live together and help one another… If only I could do something to make it happen."

Rhyeline's dark gaze lingers on Cassius. As she takes in the warmth of his smile, her shyness almost seems to deepen, and a subtle blush emerges in her cheeks. Her dark gaze flits to Rena as she approaches to sit in the chair next to Cassius. Nodding, she murmurs, "There is- is much that we can do. And… and after the success at- at Hogwarts… we see that- that change /is/ possible… as long as there are those fearless enough to make it happen." It is easy to see who she means by the fearless as Rhyeline watches Rena with a soft, admiring smile.

Cassius reaches a hand over to take Rhyeline's. "She's right, Rena. You see, in the beginning of any campaign for a political office, two things are essential to getting it off to a strong start. The first is to avoid seeming power-hungry. It is always better when the people express their desire for a candidate before that person announces their candidacy. That should prevent no obstacle, as I have many supporters." The Unity Party is larger and stronger than it's ever been. "The second is endorsements. The public backing of significant figures goes a lot way toward legitimising a candidate in the eyes of the undecided. The endorsement of the Hero of Hogwarts, for example, would mean a great deal to some people."

Rena's gaze drifts between Cassius and Rhyeline several times as they both speak. Why does she have the nagging feeling in the back of her mind… a feeling of wading into water that's a good deal too deep for her, and going in over her head. No, she won't think that way! These people want to change the world for the better. They want to make it a place where Muggles and Wizardkind can live in peace and harmony!

"The… h-hero of Hogwarts?" Rena asks in a tiny, meek little voice. That snapped her right out of her train of thought. "I'm not a hero," she objects dropping her eyes to her hands in her lap, her cheeks becoming hot with a deep blush. "I only did what any decent person would do for the kids."

"You might not feel like one… and- and you might think that anyone else would have done the same… but… no one else /did/ do the same. You alone were persistent and persevered… And to those children… and their parents… to me… you /are/ a heroine, dear Rena… and… and with this… there is much good that you can do."

Rhyeline pauses, peeking up at Cassius. Her hold tightens a bit upon his hand before she looks once more to Rena. "I… I know that… it might feel… overwhelming… How much is needed. But… we have to trust… just- just as the bird trusts… when about to take flight. We will spread our wings and make an effort… and I- I am certain that- that the wind will lift us."

Cassius smiles adoringly at Rhyeline, endeared by her eternal faith in their cause. "I think a true hero does not proclaim the title. You did what felt right, without thought of acclaim. That is what makes you a heroine. You deserve praise, whether you seek it or not. Forgive me for hoping to benefit from your new status. I hope that you understand it is for the cause, not my own ambition."

Still blushing rather hotly, Rena wishes she had something to hide behind or under for several long moments. It's strange for someone so used to being bathed in the headlights and footlights of the stage to wish the spotlight were directed ANYWHERE but on her. It takes time for her to struggle and recover her composure.

"You know I support the Unity movement. I always have, even when…" Well, best not to speak of that incident. Moving past that thought, she lifts her gaze and sits straight in her seat: "Of course you know I'll back you, gladly. But how? I'm not supposed to do public speaking, or get involved with Politics anymore. What can I do to help?"

"All it takes is one comment getting to the press," Cassius explains. "If your name is in print next to your words endorsing my candidacy, it will be noticed. However, don't be hasty. No candidacy has been announced." Cassius looks to Rhyeline, musing aloud, "That is, unless her statement could be the spark to light the fire."

Rhyeline takes a slow sip of tea before looking from Rena up to Cassius. "A spark… Yes. There will be a need for formal endorsements… but first… the spark must be kindled." She looks to Rena. "What I heard you say before… Unity will make things right… We cannot go on as we have. Our world is broken two."

Rhyeline pauses, tucking a loose strand of hair. "If you continue to speak your mind- with your own words… tell others what you think must come next, following the success at Hogwarts… Who we must trust and follow to fight Grindelwald and mend our worlds… Your statements will find their way into the Daily Prophet… you will light the spark that will raise the call for Cassius to replace Minister Gambol who no longer serves the needs of the people in these dark times…"

Again, Rena lapses into uncertain silence. Before now, she's never been at a loss for words; it hasn't ever been a struggle. But now, she doesn't seem to know what to say. Rhyeline and Cassius are putting their faith in her after all that she did in Hogwarts, and taking her into their confidence. It's overwhelming, to say the least.

"But, when would I… how?" She falters, trying to work out in her mind the intricacies of the situation. "The Prophet already did their stories on Hogwarts. Anything else is about the shake-up and the aftermath. They 'aven't come to talk to me or any of the others involved in the mission at all." Something she's actually been rather grateful for until now. "I don't know how I'd end up making a statement that wouldn't seem like I'm forcing myself into the public's eye." Helplessly, she looks between the would-be Minister and his Lady. Without saying as much, she's begging to be told what to do.

"Don't worry about it. Just be yourself. It's what you're best at, anyhow. I'm sure the opportunity to make a statement will come, and you'll be able to be perfectly natural and candid about your feelings." Cassius smiles reassuringly, a perfect mask for the gears turning behind his eyes.

Rhyeline nods with a soft smile with rare warmth. "Yes. And… you won't need to clamor for the- the public's attention… You already have it, even if you don't realize. Speak your mind. Speak your heart. Do as you have been, but look ahead to what comes next."

"My husband isn't going to like this…" Rena murmurs somewhat darkly to herself, remembering the rather strong dislike Takeshi took to Cassius when the man merely offered to see to it that she learn how to better speak. She remains completely ignorant and none the wiser with regard to Cassius' real intentions. Her mind is already too full to take in more.

Realizing that she's being grim, Rena smiles at Rhyeline warmly: "Be myself - I can do that easily enough. And I always speak from the heart." Pausing, she seems to brighten considerably: "We'll find a way to make things right, won't we? Things will get better - and that's all that matters."

Clearly inspired, the charismatic little Auror seems more than ready to dive headfirst into this new chapter of changing things for the good.

"That is exactly what we're all trying to do," Cassius agrees. "I believe that with the aid of people like you, we can remake the world into something incredible. Under the right leadership, we could see a Golden Age for wizard and Muggle alike."

Rhyeline bites her lower lip when she catches Rena's darkly murmured words. Her concern seems focused on Rena. But, she leaves that for another time. Instead, she returns Rena's smile with a warmth of her own. She nods. "Yes. I am certain that we will persevere. After what you accomplished at Hogwarts… there is so much hope. You have me so much hope, Rena…" Lifting her gaze to Cassius, she nods with a soft smile. "Yes. A new age. A world mended. The lies untangled… The future is bright."

Rena just can't contain herself. She's beside herself with a sudden, welling sensation of hopefulness and joy inside. Abruptly, she bounces to her feet and clasps her hands together in delight. Her indomitable happiness is often quite contagious to the people around her, but she quickly recalls where she is and chuckles. "Oh dear, I'm sorry… I couldn't help myself," she says, holding her hands before the lower half of her face to hide the slightly embarrassed smile briefly.

"Really, I've taken up enough of your time…" Lowering her hands to her sides, Rena flashes a genuinely grateful smile: "I feel so much better now about everything. I can't thank you enough. And whatever you need me to do, you tell me - any time. I'm ready and waiting to make this happen."

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