True to her word, the following day Rabastan was informed that Rodolphus had been given clearance to visit Diagon Alley with him, so long as there was an Auror present. And apparently, they'd chosen the biggest Auror they could find. Rodolphus had appeared non-plussed at the presence of the mountain of a man and had simply nodded at him before they flooed to the Leaky Cauldron. There were restrictions on what they could do – they had 4 hours, no magic allowed from Roddy, and no apparition. Rabastan growled when he'd heard the rules, but Rodolphus had placed a calming hand on his shoulder and shrugged. This was the life of an ex-Death Eater.
As they walked out into public, Rabastan became acutely aware of the scrutiny they were immediately under. Having had his face splashed across the papers a number of times over the years, and usually not for positive purposes, it seemed as if everyone knew him, though he himself recognized relatively few faces in the crowd. Not that there was a crowd that formed with pitchforks, gathering to force them out of the streets. No, it was more the looks, the muttering around them, the pointing. He lifted his head and placed the facade of indifference he'd practiced over the years.
Rodolphus, however, appeared less comfortable and took to ducking his head. They worked their way down the street, their Auror escort tailing just a few steps behind them, as they headed for Twilfit and Tatting's. Rabastan glanced over at his brother, inwardly surprised to see mixed emotions of fear and contrition on his face. Scowling at the expression, he grabbed Rodolphus's arm and steered him into the clothing shop.
The atmosphere inside was one in which a lively afternoon was suddenly interrupted by an unwanted visitor. The buzz of society gossip hung in the air, having abruptly stopped as the newcomers stepped in. All eyes were upon them, and Rabastan felt their weight as they were considered. Most of the patrons were unrecognizable to himself, though he thought he caught a brief glance of Narcissa Malfoy across the store before she disappeared into the dressing rooms. Uncomfortable with the scrutiny, but unwilling to show it, he drew himself up tall and straightened his shoulders. He was a Lestrange. No one was going to make him feel uncomfortable in his home town.
A small, hawkish, gray haired woman broke up the silence by scurrying across the room towards them, "Misters Lestrange. Welcome, I received word you would be coming today"
Rabastan favored her with a roguish smile, "Why thank you Madam...?"
"Soleous" she responded shortly, beckoning them to follow her. Rabastan glanced at his brother, who was suddenly quite interested in his own shoes, his face having taken on a pale sheen. He frowned again briefly, touching his arm before jerking his head in the direction they were sent. Their escort followed them silently, a few steps behind, nodding at the others within the shop.
They were lead into a private fitting room, and the woman immediately got started taking his measurements, muttering about sizes and styles. After discussing some preferred garments, she disappeared to get some samples for him to try on, leaving the three alone in the room. Rabastan turned to his brother sharply, "What is wrong with you?"
"What do you mean?" came the weak reply, Rodolphus still looking a bit green. Rabastan huffed at him and crossed his arms.
"You act like a first year about to go to the sorting. And even then, I think you were braver than you have been today"
"I'm just...I'm not comfortable being out in public, Bast" came the soft answer, his brother crossing his arms across his chest. Rabastan growled at the gesture.
"Because I know what they're thinking. I know that they're angry at us. And they're not wrong on either account"
Rabastan scoffed, "Who cares what they think? They're hardly worth worrying about. Hardly worth considering"
Rodolphus frowned at him then, "You can't believe that. They're people, Bast. They may not have had the luxury of our upbringing, but they're people"
Anger flared hotly in Rabastan, "Of course they're people! And they may even have access to magic. But they are NOT the same as us!"
"Why not? Because their first cousins aren't also their second cousins? Because they don't come from that ridiculous sacred 28? Because they don't have more money than they could spend in 20 lifetimes sitting in their vaults? What about us makes us so much better than the rest of the people in this shop? In this whole alley?" it was the strongest he'd heard Rodolphus's voice since he'd returned home. The Auror shifted in his spot against the wall.
"Where is this coming from, brother? What has that Granger girl been feeding you?" he snapped back.
"Nothing, Rabastan! She's said absolutely nothing to me. And so far as having the most right to hate me, to hate us, she's almost at the top of the list," his voice was bitter, full of self recrimination.
"We are of the Lestrange line, Rodolphus. We are as magically pure as they come. There is no doubt as to whether we're wizards or where our magic comes from. The others...They are anomalies," he implored.
"Are they?" Rodolphus's eyes were sharp, reminding Rabastan of his brother's oft ignored intelligence, "So because our parents and their parents and their parents going back hundreds of years made sure they only bred with other people of magical heritage, we are the rightful owners of our magic and they are not? And how does that account for a half-blood like Snape, who was stronger than both of us? Or the squibs who have not a drop of magic in them in spite of their parentage?"
Before he could answer, the seamstress returned, arms full of clothing ranging from casual dress wear to formal robes and suits. Rabastan gestured his brother towards the pile as well, and Rodolphus huffed before joining him in trying on the different clothes. Though their coloring was similar, Rodolphus had always been broader through the shoulders and thighs than his brother, with a squarer jaw. Rabastan tended to be leaner, with wiry muscles and longer lines, favoring more of a runner's build. From the time they had hit puberty they'd no longer been able to share clothing, as Rodolphus's clothing tended to hang off Rabastan's frame and Rabastan's tended to make Rodolphus look like a stuffed sausage.
Looking over at his brother struggling on a dress shirt that was clearly too narrow through his arms and shoulders, Rabastan felt a smile on the edge of his lips. Catching his brother's eye in the mirror, Rodolphus's mouth changed from an irritated scowl to a grin, and they both began to laugh at the old ridiculous familiarity of the situation.
"Some things never change," said Rodolphus. Rabastan chuckled.
"Well, maybe once I regain some weight it won't be quite so bad"
"I'm pretty sure it will be" came the amused response. Rabastan finished trying on the different suggestions and choosing what he liked, while Rodolphus picked a handful of styles as well. The seamstress nodded at them, and told them the clothing would be available in 3 days – or could be delivered directly to their home. Rabastan waved off Rodolphus's suggestion that it be delivered and announced he would return in three days time to pick up all the garments. Errand achieved they were escorted politely, but firmly, to the door and let out.
Rodolphus had an amused look on his face as the door was shut firmly behind them, "I'm pretty sure that was the most polite kicking out I've ever had"
Rabastan looked at him surprised. It didn't even occur to him that they may have been unwelcome, though the fact that they'd been allowed minimal contact with other patrons was somewhat suspicious. Undeterred, though slightly less buoyant with the revelation, he turned towards the local barber shop. Rodolphus looked at him curiously for a moment, before sighing in resignation and following him.
"You know, you could be a little more enthusiastic about being allowed out of your gilded cage today" sniped Rabastan. Rodolphus shrugged, tucking his hands in his pockets as they strolled down the cobblestones.
"It's all a gilded cage now, brother. At least there you know what the rules are"
"And here?" he asked, curiosity getting the best of him.
"Here people pretend. Not well, mind you, but they pretend to tolerate you. They pretend you're not a dangerous convict. They pretend they aren't relieved you can't wield a wand, or play with magic. And they pretend you still belong in a world that has long since left you behind," he responded morosely.
"Well, you're just a bowl full of sunshine, aren't you?" asked Rabastan flatly, pushing open the door to their next stop.
"I can't exactly blame them. It's not like we can claim we were imperiused, Bast," came the soft reply, hazel eyes beseeching him.
A portly, gray haired man approached the brothers, eyeing them suspiciously, "Can I help you?"
"Ah, yes," responded Rabastan, "I am in need of some help with the worst haircut in a decade. Would you have time for me?"
"Sorry, booked up for today," came the short answer. Rabastan's eyebrows raised.
"Perhaps you could check again," he implored, motioning towards the visitors ledger. Sweeping his eyes around the room he could see that it was mostly empty, with no currently waiting patrons.
"Like I said. We're busy," came the harder voice. Rodolphus placed a hand on Rabastan's arm.
"Perhaps we should go, brother," he implored, nervousness coloring his voice.
"I don't understand. I simply need a haircut. I'm certainly not going to steal some sheers and slit someone's throat," Rabastan answered, incredulously. Rodolphus winced at the words, and the Auror behind him coughed warningly.
"And that, sir, is why we won't see you - "
"Maximus? Who are you -? Oh! Rodolphus!" came a feminine voice from the back of the shop. A young blonde woman, with a sweet face and gentle expression came into view. She smiled warmly at Rodolphus before scowling at the older man, "Off with you now, Max. I'll take care of these two"
Grumbling, the portly man turned and trundled off, keeping a hard eye on the three men. The blonde sighed and shook her head, leaning over to kiss Rodolphus on the cheek before turning to greet Rabastan, "I'm Hannah. You must be Rabastan"
Her warm manner put him at ease immediately, and he grasped her proffered hand, placing a kiss on the back of it instead of shaking, "Pleasure to meet you"
She laughed before gently removing her hand from his, and patted him on the cheek, "All manners and flirtatious banter from you Lestranges. My husband would be beside himself"
"And who is lucky enough to call you his wife?" he asked, keeping his tone even and smooth even as he favored her with a roguish smile. Her smile faltered a touch, before she answered
"Neville. Neville Longbottom"
Rabastan felt his stomach swoop to his knees, and he swallowed hard, "Ah"
He heard Rodolphus chuckle besides him, "Ah, says the ladies man. How eloquent"
Hannah laughed again, a soft tinkling sound, before she led them to her chair in the back of the salon. Rodolphus plopped down in the chair next to his as Hannah placed a drape and arranged her tools. For a fleeting moment Rabastan became acutely aware that the wife of the man who's parents he had tortured would have some very sharp implements nears his body. His brow furrowed as he watched her sharpen a blade, and he turned his gaze over to his brother who was smirking in his direction.
"So, how has life been on the outside, Mr. Lestrange?" asked the blonde as she ran her fingers through his lank hair.
"Thus far, very unusual," he answered honestly, watching her as she trimmed off the dead lengths.
"Hmmm, I'd imagine. Though, at least you have the benefit of being able to go home," she responded offhandedly, "Mr. MacNair was in here last week, and was fairly beside himself trying to find a place to live"
"Did you direct him to the apartments downtown?" inquired Rodolphus. Hannah smiled at him in the mirror and nodded.
"Yes. As I understand he has a place to live now, though the trick has always been finding work"
Rabastan stayed silent as Hannah and Rodolphus chatted away around him. He hadn't much thought about what would happen if he was expected to work. Who would be willing to hire him? It was unlikely he'd find a spot within the ministry or the MLE, which would mostly leave retail or purchasing a business. And if he didn't have the capital to purchase, then he'd be at the mercy of those who would be willing to take on a former Death Eater. A convincted Death Eater at that. The thought turned his stomach a bit, and he began to wonder about the others who might not have fared as well.
"I'm so sorry, Mr. Lestrange, but most of your hair has to go. It's quite...well, I'm pretty certain you'll be happy it won't smell anymore," apologized Hannah, her blue eyes catching his in the mirror. He gave her a genuine smile in return.
"It's fine, I always preferred to wear it short," he answered honestly and she smiled back. A few more snips and she pulled off the cape.
"Good as new!" she pronounced, allowing him to see the finished product. Shorter on the sides, a little longer and fashionably tousled on the top, he was starting to feel like a real person again. Standing, he shook her hand and paid before they left.
The return to the Leaky was more somber than when they had arrived. Rabastan felt as if the wind had been removed from his sails, and his gait was slower and less self-assured than before. His brother clasped a hand on his shoulder and gave him an encouraging smile.
"It's alright, Rabastan. The world changes, and we will change with it," he said, squeezing him. Rabastan nodded, but felt his inner psyche flare up. He didn't want to change. He didn't want to have to be someone new. Why wasn't who he was good enough anymore?
I just want to thank you all for your lovely reviews! I don't often have the chance to respond, but I read them all and I'm so glad you're enjoying this story so far. It's been rolling around in my head, and is a bit of my baby, so I'm just so glad it's met with your approval thus far ;) The majority of the story will be from Rabastan's POV, and is a bit of a slow burn. But hopefully, you'll all continue to enjoy the ride! Winds81