It had taken Rabastan several hours to get himself back under control. He'd initially gone back to his bedroom, but the four walls there made him feel anxious and agitated as well. From there he'd tried to seek out refuge in the house – first the study, where he came across Rodolphus, and then the library where he'd found Antonin, followed by the attic where Thorfinn and another stranger were practicing hand to hand combat. Finally, he gave up, and found himself outside, walking around the estate aimlessly. His thoughts rolled anxiously around his head, though he found his heart had begun to beat more evenly as he got away from the confines of being indoors.
Rubbing a hand through his hair, he sighed, and took in deep breaths of fresh air. He could smell the soft lilacs from the bushes throughout the garden, and allowed his feet to walk him towards the pond they used to play in as a child. Larger than what most people would expect, it spread out behind the estate, acting as a boundary for curious neighbors and lost muggles. The sun, still high in the sky, glinted off the water and reflected into his eyes.
He was surprised at his body's immediate reaction to being confined again. He'd become used to living in cells, but the promise of freedom and it's swift retraction had thrown his psyche for a loop. The idea that he was once again trapped, unable to see daylight, had created an anxiety faster than he could have expected or even prepared for. It was good to know, so he could anticipate it in the future, but he didn't like the feeling of being out of control.
Even worse, SHE had seen him out of control. And she reacted as if she'd expected it, as if she'd seen it before. And not only that, she'd been calm and talked him down from it. One more favor he'd have to repay her. It was maddening how quickly they were adding up, especially given that she was in his home!
Faculties once again under control, he decided he needed to track down his brother to discuss this arrangement. Discuss how it had occurred, and perhaps talk some sense into him about wresting ownership back to their family. He decided to start where he'd last seen him, in the study. Padding down the hall, he found that the door was propped open, and light from inside bled out into the hallway.
The scene he came across as he entered caused him to pause for a moment. The study was a moderately sized room, with large windows across the front of the house, a fireplace on one side and bookshelves lining the remaining walls. There was a desk close to the windows that was currently abandoned, and a couch and two armchairs placed in front of the fireplace in a cozy configuration that allowed persons to interact without craning heads or bodies.
On the couch he could see Granger seated, feet tucked up underneath herself and book in hand, pressed against one armrest. Next to her, his brother was lying down on his back, stretched out along the rest of the sofa with his feet hanging over the other armrest. She was reading, out loud it appeared though quietly as he couldn't quite make out what she was saying, occasionally carding her fingers through Rodolphosus's hair. His eyes were closed, chest rising and falling in a steady rhythm that either belied complete relaxation or sleep. Behind them, Thorfinn and one of the Weasley boys were engaged in a chess game, both with wrinkled brows as they surveyed the board in front of them. As he stepped fully into the room, he became aware of Dolohov leaning on a wall opposite himself, presence initially obscured by the door between them. His brow furrowed at the complete domesticity of it all.
Hermione noticed him first – or at least acknowledged him first. He was of no doubt that Dolohov had actually noticed him first, but the Russian very rarely let on that he was present. It had amazed him over the years at how easily the tall, broad, brooding man just faded into the background. He'd explained to Rabastan one time that he could learn much more just by listening than by interacting, and that if he pretended he wasn't there most people would play along and eventually he wouldn't be there. It gave him the advantage over someone more charismatic and gregarious such as Rabastan, who's skills at gathering information were based on their ability to charm it out of someone. Old habits died hard, apparently.
The curly haired witch smiled faintly at him as he entered, and she closed her book, putting it in her lap as she ruffled Rodolphus's hair once more. As if noticing the change in her demeanor he stirred, turning his head to meet his brother's eyes. The lazy contentment on his face, accentuated by his gentle smile gave Rabastan a pause. He wasn't sure he had ever seen his brother so comfortable.
"Hello, brother" came the rough voice, and Rabastan cleared his throat before crossing the room towards them.
"Rodolphus. Miss Granger," he nodded tersely at her, irritation flaring at their intimacy. No doubt, this was why his brother was recalcitrant to take back their birthright.
"Please, call me Hermione," she answered, her expression controlled as she regarded him, "After all, we will be living together." The tone of her voice was soft, but firm, asserting her right to be there. He couldn't help the small frown that twisted at his lips.
"Rodolphus, as you observed earlier, I am in need of new clothes. Would you be willing to accompany me to Diagon Alley to purchase a new wardrobe?" he asked, attempting a new tactic to get his brother alone. Granger shifted uncomfortably in her seat, and Rodolphus sought her eyes with his own.
"Ah, I'm not sure I can, brother," came the apologetic reply. Granger shifted again, and Rodolphus reached up, grasping her hand in one of his own as if to settle her, "I'm technically under house arrest"
Rabastan felt his lips curve down more severely, "Surely, you can be allowed out for a few hours. Where, exactly, do they think you're going to go with no magic?"
Granger rubbed the back of her neck with her free hand, eyes darting over to Dolohov, and then upwards, "Well, I guess the real concern is what would you do with your magic?"
"What are you implying, Miss Granger?" he bit out. Her chestnut eyes landed on his, and he was mildly surprised to see warring emotions of irritation and regret.
"I trust Rodolphus not to test the conditions of his parole. However, given our brief interactions thus far, I'm not sure I trust you not to break those same conditions in some misguided attempt to save your brother from me," she answered honestly. The briefest appreciation for her directness lifted inside him, but he allowed his annoyance to flare and trample over it like a herd of elephants.
"And what exactly does that mean?"
"It means that normally, Rodolphus is not allowed any further than the gardens. I am certain, given the circumstances, I would be able to get him permission to visit Diagon Alley for a brief foray if he so desired. Potentially even by himself, though I'm not sure Dolph would prefer to be alone for such a journey," she paused as she glanced back down at his brother's face, and he smiled at her encouragingly, "However, I am aware that your family not only owned this Estate but several others dotted across Europe. I don't think the idea of you trying to steal your brother away in some misguided effort to save him from whatever machinations you believe I have started is completely out of the blue"
He scowled then, annoyed at her foresight and knowledge, but hid it behind feigned outrage, "Are you implying you believe I would be capable of hurting my brother?"
"Oh, stuff it Rabastan," came Thorfinn's voice, even as he continued plotting his move, "The only time you're this much of a drama queen is when you're losing the argument"
Granger had the decency to try and hide her laugh behind her hand, but Rodolphus and the other two men chuckled openly at the statement. Rabastan leaned back then, unable to stop the pout the bloomed across his face. Granger shook her head then, small smile creeping across her lips, even as she opened them to respond again.
Before she could answer, however, the door flung itself the rest of the way open, and a tall, dark haired wizard flounced in and dropped himself into the other armchair. Rabastan raised his eyes at the atrocious manners, finding himself staring once again at the famed Hero of the British Wizarding World, Harry Potter himself.
"'Mione.." he started, words little more than a whine. From his vantage point, Rabastan could see Granger's shoulders slump, and both Thorfinn and the redhead wince over her shoulder. Rodolphus closed his eyes again, turning his head back to it's original position but not releasing her hand.
"Harry," she responded, pointedly. The black haired man had the sense to at least look abashed as he righted himself in the chair. He grimaced as he looked over at Rabastan, running a hand through his already untidy hair.
"Sorry, didn't see you there. We haven't properly met yet. I'm Harry"
Rabastan was certain his face told the other wizard exactly how stupid he sounded, seeing as he was one of the most recognizable persons in their corner of the world, but manners drilled into him since he was a child forced him to extend a hand, "Rabastan Lestrange. It's a pleasure meeting you"
Manners may have forced him to extend the hand, but the Slytherin in him didn't extend it far, forcing the other man to stand and reach out to take it. Granger's face showed that she'd clearly spent some time around snakes, and she twisted her lips at the gesture. Thorfinn's muttered, "Now kiss" from over her shoulder, however, removed the expression as she laughed in amusement immediately. The blonde man's eyes glittered as glanced at her briefly.
"What do you need help with, Harry?" she asked, turning her attention back to her friend. He flushed a little as he slumped forward and tugged at his sleeve.
"I don't know what to do," he said, his voice a little quiet and eyes pleading. Her eyes squinted a little at him.
"What do you mean you don't know what to do?" she asked, her voice becoming a touch strident, "It's not rocket science"
He tugged on his sleeve again, and shifted in his seat, "But she's not like the others. She's...one of them" he gestured at the men in the room. The red head let out a faint "Oi!"
"I mean, she's not...I can't just charm her with who I am," Harry finished lamely. Granger sighed, and she glanced over her shoulder at Thorfinn who let out a low grumble at her look.
"I mean, I'm not sure what you expect from me, Harry. I've certainly never asked out a girl before," she answered, her tone unchanged. Rabastan noted the quirk of her lips, and the small wrinkles around her eyes, and realized she was teasing her friend even if she didn't let on. She'd spent a lot of time around snakes, then.
"I know. But you've spent time with these guys. And your last boyfriend - ," he cleared his throat at her narrowed eyes, "I mean, maybe you can give me some pointers"
"Oh, no. Definitely not. I will not be the catalyst for whatever meltdown you have when you finally do grow the bollocks to ask Pansy out, and realize you are in way over your head" came her firm reply. Then, to Rabastan's surprise, a completely devious smile curled at her lips, "I'm sure, however, that Thorfinn would be very happy to assist you in your efforts to gain her favor"
Thorfinn jerked his head up, and gave her a very pointed glower. She glanced at him, smile still firmly planted on her lips as she fluttered her lashes at him, "Wouldn't you, Thorfinn?"
The big man curled his lips at her in a fearsome glare, to which she only smiled larger. Entirely too much time with snakes, if that was her response to a look that sent most mortals running. After a long moment of silence, with the Potter scion looking back and forth between them, nervously bouncing his legs on the balls of his feet, Thorfinn looked back over at Harry and muttered, "Yeah, fine"
"Excellent," responded Granger, delight all over her face even as the bigger man looked like he wanted to eat her liver for lunch. There was a small chuckle from the wall, and Rabastan looked over in surprise at Dolohov, almost having forgotten he was even there.
Harry jumped up then, leaning over and placing a kiss on her cheek, "Thanks Mione! Thorfinn" he nodded at the older man who scowled and waved his hand at him. Harry took it as a dismissal and fairly bolted from the room then.
Rabastan raised his eyebrow at her then, "That's the Savior of the Wizarding world?"
"The one and only" she answered, eyes filled with mirth.
"He managed to kill the most powerful, dark wizard of our time?" clarified Rabastan. She nodded, grinning.
"With an Expelliarmus no less" she replied. Rabastan shook his head.
"Imagine, all the machinations and planning, and all we needed to end the bloody war was a 16 year old girl with pretty eyes and a dab hand at killing curses," came Rodolphus's voice from the couch. Granger laughed then, slapping him lightly on the shoulder.
"Does bring all of that into rather sharp relief, doesn't it?" she asked rhetorically. Rabastan sighed, running his hand through his hair, frowning as it got stuck on some tangles at the end. Her own gaze landed on the gesture and she sighed again.
"Ron?" she asked, and the red head paused in his move, looking at her, "Do you think we could arrange a time for Rodolphus and Rabastan to go to Diagon Alley together?"
He quirked an eyebrow at her, before looking over at Rabastan, distrust painted across his face, "I'm sure we could ask Kingsley. Though, I'd imagine they'd have to be escorted"
She nodded, thoughtfully, "Rabastan, if you can give me a day or two I'll try to get secure passage for Rodolphus to accompany you" Rodolphus protested from his spot on the couch, and she ruffled his hair before leaning down to place an affectionate kiss on his forehead, "I know you don't, but it would mean a lot to your brother" she murmured at him, before standing to leave the room. She absently placed a hand on Rabastan's shoulder and squeezed before walking out the door. He scowled again at the affectionate gesture.
Rodolphus had rolled partially over, his eyes on his brother, "She'll get it done. No doubt, tomorrow we'll be free to go"
"I'd rather it be without an escort," he groused and Rodolphus huffed at him.
"I'm in the middle of 5 years of house arrest and 15 years magical probation. I can cast a lumos and an accio without getting in trouble, and that's it. I would be surprised it we weren't escorted by Aurors" he answered.
"Besides," came the red head – Ron's – voice from behind the couch, "The escort is as much for your safety as it is to make sure Roddy doesn't slip up. Checkmate" Thorfinn scowled and swore then, swiping the chess pieces off the board as Ron laughed and took his leave.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in quiet conversation with his brother and former comrades, catching up on their own fortunes. Thorfinn had almost lost Rowle tower, but at the last minute his sister – a Hufflepuff who'd stayed with the Light during the war – was allowed to keep it as she had not taken the dark mark. Over thee quarters of their vaults and assets, however, had been seized and given away. He was on house arrest for another 3 years, and then magical probation for an additional 5, but would be allowed to serve those years at his own home if he desired.
Dolohov had been sentenced similar to Rodolphus, though his probation was of an indeterminate duration and even more strict – he was not allowed to use any magic at all, and wore a dampener on his right wrist. Any assets he had acquired over the years, though less impressive than those of older houses, had been seized and sold or redistributed. He revealed he suspected he would never be allowed full use of his magic again, due in particular to his creativity when it came to charms and curses. That, and the fact that the result of one such curse was painted across the body of the witch whose abode they were living in.
To his surprise, none of them seemed particularly upset by their sentencing. In fact, acceptance and mild contentment was the best way to describe any of their feelings in regards to their situation. The fact that Granger was a Mudblood didn't even cross their lips once, and the idea that his friends may have changed their thinking left him uneasy.
Having taken advantage of his first full day out of Azkaban, Rabastan made his way to his rooms well after midnight. Moonlight from windows high on the hallway walls peaked in and illuminated his way in oval mottling along the ground. It was one of his favorite design aspects from his home, and fostered a sense of remembered affection as he padded quietly down the carpeted hall.
Ahead of him, he heard the quiet rush of fabric on fabric, and realized with a start that his brother was running towards the master suite. He paused, pressing himself into a shadow as he watched the man. Rodolphus was completely unaware of his presence as he knocked softly on the imposing double doors insistently. There was a long interlude, before the door opened slowly, with a soft creak of the hinges.
Granger leaned out, face pale in the reflected light. Rodolphus reached forward, gently grabbing her shoulders and pulling her into him in a tight embrace. She wrapped her arms around his waist, returning the gesture. They stood, silently absorbing comfort from each other before she pulled back and looked up at him again. He couldn't make out the words that were murmured, but she nodded at him. He leaned forward, pressing a chaste kiss to her forehead, and she stepped back into her room and closed the door.
Rodolphus stood there for a long while afterwards, head bowed, hand gently pressed on the wood of the door. Eventually, he nodded as well, and turned, walking slowly back to his own room, still unaware of Rabastan's presence as he closed his own door. Rabastan frowned, unsure of what he'd just witnessed, before escaping to the confines of his own room for the night.
He didn't like the way everyone seemed to naturally defer to her. He didn't like the fact that he felt like a stranger in his own home. And he certainly didn't like the fact that his own brother seemed to like her better than he'd ever seen him like any of their blood relatives. He would have to do something about that.