Rabastan placed his suitcase on the bed in his old rooms, looking around at the familiar walls of his youth. Nothing had changed. The same navy wallpaper with white crown molding, the same shelves lined with the same books, the same four poster king bed with the same duvet, the same rugs on the floor. It was as if he'd never left. He wondered, remotely for a moment, if the elves had kept up with the care of the Manor in their Masters absence, or if it had all been restored when it had been given to Granger.
He sneered as he thought about the curly haired witch. What was she that she could and would be given their house? Who did the Ministry think they were giving away people's belongings and birthrights? His family had settled on this land, carved out a homestead with their own hands generation after generation, poured their own blood, sweat and tears into it's creation and protection, and the Ministry just sought to GIVE that away? And to a mudblood no less. Someone who's very existence defied common wizarding logic.
He opened the large wardrobe and fingered the suits he found there. Expensive, well tailored, but even he could tell they were wildly out of style and likely too large for his currently malnourished frame. It appeared he was going to have to venture out and purchase new clothing at some point in the near future. He was, at least, allowed access to his own money. Lucius hadn't said it outright, but the threat hanging in the air was that some families had no access to the fortunes they'd spent lifetimes creating. Some families went from having all the money they could ever hope for to having none, and simultaneously were thrust out onto the street with no place to go.
There was a soft knock on his door and he turned to find Rodolphus standing at the entry to his room, quiet expression on his features. Rabastan stepped back from his wardrobe beckoning him in, a slightly mollified look on his own face. His brother strode over, looking over his shoulder at the clothes hanging before letting out a small puff of laughter.
"I'm pretty sure those were out of style the first time we got out, brother" he teased, clapping his hand on Rabastan's shoulder. Rabastan laughed and nodded.
"I was just thinking the same thing. I'm going to need to get a new wardrobe, I believe" he answered, closing the doors and stepping away. Rodolphus nodded.
"Hermione asked me to let you know that as you have been released, you are not on house arrest and are welcome to come and go as you please. If you need her help, however, in any way, she's happy to provide it" he said gently. Rabastan raised an eyebrow, and his mouth tightened.
"She really is a goody two-shoes, isn't she?" he muttered, with a dark look. Rodolphus laughed.
"She's a good person, but she's certainly not a goody two-shoes. You definitely don't want to be on the receiving end of her temper" he admitted, a small smile around his mouth, eyes shining with indefinable warmth. Rabastan narrowed his eyes at his brother.
"You love her," he accused. Rodolphus shrugged, not bothering to argue it.
"I do. But not in the way you're implying. Like a sister, Bast. She's like family. Perhaps the first family I've had that didn't expect more from me than just being who I am"
Rabastan's mouth curled down in a frown. What sort of family was that? Wasn't family supposed to push you to be better? Stronger? The best version of yourself you could be? Who was family if they weren't the ones who tried to shape you?
"Look, I'm not going to force you to like the girl, but perhaps try to get to know her. She will be living here with us regardless, and it would be far more pleasant to at least be able to tolerate one other, rather than live in open hostilities" persuaded Rodolphus. Rabastan scowled, but nodded his head. His brother had always been the more even tempered of the two, faster to forgive and forget. He often saw logic when tempers flared, and was quick to diffuse them. Rabastan was more fire and ice, quick to give in to whatever bouts of emotion burned through him, whether it be anger or love. His ire was well known amongst the sacred 28, and was one of the reasons why Voldemort had sought him out.
At the thought of his former master, he glanced down at his left arm, unconsciously rubbing the scarred mark through his dowdy shirt. It had been quiet for a long time, though occasionally it still pained him. There were nights he would wake up to sharp pains shooting along his nerve endings, up through his shoulder that he couldn't control and couldn't respond to. There were moments he both feared and hoped his old master was still alive. And then, the pains would subside as quickly as they'd started, and he'd be left, knowing he was alone once more.
"I'll try, brother, but no guarantees" he answered distractedly. Rodolphus hummed and nodded, clasping his hand on his shoulder once more before wandering towards the doors again.
"It is good to have you home, Bast" he called over his shoulder as he left.
Rabastan sighed, before opening his wardrobe once more. He had to get out of this hideous suit. Grabbing a pair of khaki trousers and a black tee shirt, he eyed the bathroom enviously for a moment. Reparations with the Granger girl were going to have to wait.
Despite his cold shower that morning, he could still feel the stench and grime of Azkaban on his skin. His hair hung lankly around his shoulders and he knew he'd need a good cut sometime in the near future to get rid of the dead lengths and stale smell of old urine that was permanently stuck to it. He turned on the shower, fiddling with the knobs and sighing in appreciation as steam began to rise into the room. He couldn't remember the last hot shower he'd had.
Turning to the sink closest to the door, he was surprised to see a small tray of various vials sitting out on the counter with a small card that said 'Welcome home Rabastan' on it. He didn't recognize the writing, but the vials were practical and important for someone who'd just been released from hell on earth. One was for killing lice, another was for removing oil and grease stains, a third was for helping to heal minor cuts and burns, and the fourth was to help remove ingrained smells. It didn't take much effort to deduce that these were left by Granger, which immediately put him at an inner war with himself. On the one hand, he didn't want to accept anything from her that she might hold over him later. On the other hand, he really didn't want to smell like pee anymore either. Sighing, he allowed her to win this small battle and took them into the shower with him.
The potions in the vials had no discernable scent to them, and were designed to use externally rather than via ingestion. As he finished disinfecting himself, he noted three more appear at the edge of the shower. A shampoo, a conditioner, and a body soap. He cursed inwardly at her thoughtfulness, but allowed himself to concede once more. The smell of pears and honey raised up with the warm steam around them, and settled into his skin. He hated to admit it, but he felt better than he had in years.
Thoroughly scrubbed and deloused, he stepped out of the shower and grabbed the clean towels hanging above the sink. He wrapped one around his waist, and dried his hair with the other, padding over to the mirror to look at himself fully for the first time.
Truthfully, he didn't look as terrible as he'd feared. The scraggly beard he'd grown would have to go, as would the long hair. His eyes, dark blue to his brother's hazel, were haunted with dark circles beneath them and his skin had become pale and sallow from long months hidden away from sunlight. But he still maintained the same high cheekbones, sharp jaw, and well defined lips he'd always had. Perhaps, someday, he'd recognize himself in the mirror again.
He grabbed a shaving kit that was tucked underneath the sink and started by trimming his beard short, before lathering his face. There was a click of his door, and a feminine voice calling out as he began removing the hair in even lines.
He paused as he heard the intruder move further into his room, leaning back to look through the open door between his bedroom and the bathroom. A red head – another Weasley he surmised – walked across the room, calling out for the Granger girl again. He cleared his throat, and she stopped short, eyes comically large as they took him in.
"Oh! Not Hermione! Bollocks, I'm sorry, I didn't know you were coming home today. I mean, I know Hermione said there was a chance you'd be released this weekend, I just didn't...She didn't..." she rambled, clearly perusing him as she stammered. He stared at her quietly, until she stopped, "I'll just..."
He chuckled as she fled his room, and finished the job of removing his beard. Drying off his face, he sighed at the lank lengths of his hair. That was something he'd leave to a professional. The last time someone had tried to cut his hair that didn't know what they were doing had resulted in a mess that took the better part of six months to grow out and fix. He was not particularly interested in repeating that experiment.
Finally clean and clothed, he decided to heed his brother's advice and try to track down Granger to make some amends. He had to admit, it wouldn't hurt to get along until he could figure out how to get his home and vaults turned back over to himself. Then, she could go and find her own fortune.
Trotting down the stairs, and a few brief questions later, he found himself directed towards the dungeons where apparently some inventory and organization was occurring. He was surprised, he would have expected the girl to avoid this area of the house, but instead it seemed as if it was normal she would be there. Traveling along the corridor in the lower level, he followed the lighted sconces on the wall to a room at the far back. It appeared that one of the cells had been converted into a storage room, and he could hear voices from inside.
"...And all he was wearing was a towel!" came the first voice – the girl from his room he realized.
"Oh, Ginny, we talked about not just walking into rooms, " came Granger's chagrined voice.
"I don't think you understand, Hermione. He was fit" came the appreciative response. He swore he could hear a little giggle, before the admonishment.
"He's just returned from Azkaban, Ginny. Give him a few weeks before you try to break him in" she answered, teasing tone in her voice.
"That's not what I'm saying!" laughed Ginny, "I have eyes. I can appreciate a fit body when I see one!"
They both laughed now, and Rabastan took that as his cue to walk in. He pushed the door open further, filling up the doorway, causing them to both pause in their laughter. The red head – Ginny – turned bright red at his entrance, and Hermione fell against the wall she was laughing so hard. Ginny turned and poked her friend in the side before scuttling out around him.
"Oh, Merlin. Excellent timing" she said, grinning up at him as she pushed herself up from the wall, laughter subsiding. He couldn't help but return the expression, "I take it you heard that?"
"Most of the important bit" he agreed.
"Well, I'm sorry for the intrusion. I've been trying to get my friends to respect privacy," she paused "And Thorfinn. Though, I think he does it on purpose," she waved a hand, "At any rate, I think I've got them half trained. You may want to put up wards and locks to prevent further intrusion"
"Thorfinn definitely does it on purpose," he agreed, "It's been a habit of his for years"
"Ugh. You make one bleeding heart decision and suddenly nowhere is safe," she muttered. He felt torn between scoffing at her for being a bleeding heart, and chuckling at her declaration. He fell in the middle and shrugged, eyes glittering at her in the dark. He stepped fully into the room then, gently pushing the door to close behind him.
"Miss Granger, I would like to try and make amends for the way I acted this morning" he started, frowning as her eyes jumped over his shoulder towards the exit. Was she afraid of him? The fact that she would suddenly be looking for an exit when it was just the two of them stoked his irritation. He took another step closer, intent on crowding her.
"I appreciate the effort, Rabastan, but I truly do understand this is a big adjustment. Just, don't let the - " the door clicked shut behind them, "- Bugger"
"Afraid to be alone in here with me?" he sneered at her, anger flickering to the surface, "Worried about being left with a Death Eater not kept on a leash?" Her eyes jumped back to his, wide and surprised, and she took an involuntary step back.
"Ah, not particularly. Just the door - " she started. He growled at her, before he turned to yank it back open, angry at himself that he'd even attempted to get along with this chit. His ire turned cold as he realized the door wouldn't budge, "It's locked" she finished lamely.
He turned back towards her, noting her mildly embarrassed look, "Locked?"
"Yes. It's been charmed to be opened only from the outside. And there's a magic dampening spell on the room. We've been using this room to store and inventory some of the more dangerous relics you had around your estate. Don't want someone sneaking in to steal them" she explained. His eyes met each of the walls wildly, he was locked in here?
Her patronus slipped weakly out of her wand before it swam through the door. His heart was beating fiercely in his chest, as his breathing sped up. He'd just escaped a prison, and now he was locked in again?
"Rabastan," came her soft voice as she took a step closer to him. His eyes landed on her, panic rising quickly. She reached her hands up and placed them on either side of his face, "Look at me, Rabastan"
His hands trembled as he reached up and grabbed hers, intent on throwing them away. She stayed firm, chestnut eyes on his. She deliberately took in a deep breath, "Breathe with me. Someone is coming. We'll be out of here in a moment"
His hands clamped firmly around hers, clenching down until he felt the small bones grind against each other. To her credit, the only sign of pain she showed was a little flinch at the corners of her eyes. She continued breathing in and letting it out slowly, keeping her eyes on him. He found he couldn't look away, no matter how hard he tried, and began mimicking her unconsciously. She nodded at him, continuing to breathe with him.
His heart continued to beat fast, but his breathing settled, and his brain began to come back under control. A small click behind him told him the door was open again, and a voice called out,
"Mione, you ok?"
"We're fine, Harry. Thanks for coming so quickly" she answered, releasing his face. He took in one more breath before he dropped her hands harshly, as if they burned. His eyes swept her once more, before he turned and fled from the room, pushing the younger man out of the way.