It wasn't until the next morning that Rabastan realized he'd omitted the most important stop of his trip. The essential brush off he'd been given, along with the encroaching sense of exclusion from normal society had distracted him enough that he'd forgotten to make his final patronage to purchase a new wand. Of course, it had not been included amongst his tattered belongings in the ratty, old suitcase that had been shoved into his hands as he'd been thrown out of the monolithic prison.
Perhaps most concerning to himself was the fact that he hadn't even noticed he'd forgotten about it. For a tool that was so essential to his life, to his identity, it was near unconscionable that he hadn't even spared a second or third thought about having it on his person. But today, a full 48 hours since he'd been released and found himself, well perhaps free was pushing it, but whole and without a physical prison, he suddenly discovered he missed it. Missed the comfort of the familiar wood in his hand, the focal point that allowed his internal power to come to fruition. Missed the magic that had always been a part of him, even before he knew what it was.
He looked down, in mild bewilderment, at his dominant hand. He was naturally left handed, which was how he carried his wand, and the hand he favored when he participated in sports or performed any of those tasks that rely on memory long coached into muscles. He wrote, however, with his right hand. That was a lesson that had been hammered into him by his father, with the essential core being that only that uncultured brutes and heathens wrote with their left hands, and the Lestranges were neither. It didn't matter the means by which that lesson was taught, only that results were achieved. The irony was not lost on him either then, nor now.
He trotted hesitantly back to the study, intent on finding his brother again. He wasn't sure how he could explain his lapse, but was sure his brother could explain it more clearly to him. Rodolphus always had a way of illustrating the inner workings of one's mind in a way that made it seem sensible, and not as if he were on the verge of losing his sanity. Not that he hadn't been close, more than once. Not that it wouldn't have been convenient, more than once. It would have been, at least, a nice excuse.
Rodolphus was where he expected to find him, though today he was alone, staring at a book he didn't seem to be reading. His expression was pinched, eyes unseeing as his lips spoke words silently. A spell? A prayer? A confession? Rabastan pursed his lips and made a little more noise than strictly necessary as he entered the room, trying to announce his presence without making it obvious he was doing so. At the brush of cloth on wood, Rodolphus jerked his head upright, looking at his brother with a countenance still lost to memory. Rabastan paused, waiting, until the color had returned to his eyes and they focused on him more clearly. It came back in stages, ending with a smile that stretched his lips authentically.
"Am I interrupting?" Rabastan asked, easing more fully into the room now. Once again, as with the previous day, he noted Dolohov standing sentry against the far wall, having been obscured by the layout of the room. Rodolphus shook his head, beckoning him in further. He approached warily, unsure of who this person was before him.
"Lost in old thoughts," answered Rodolphus, an fleeting expression of melancholy passing his face. Looking down again, Rabastan recognized the book in his hands as actually being an old photo album that had long since been hidden in the manor. He smiled then at the picture it was opened to. The brothers were there, along with Lucius Malfoy and Andromeda Black. The boys had their arms around each other's shoulders, and Lucius tucked his around Andromeda's waist as she laughed at something out of view. Rodolphus had been 12 or 13 at the time, face just beginning to lose it's pudginess to the start of teenage angst. Rabastan had soft hair, and rounder cheeks at just 9 or 10, but they still looked like family. Like they always had.
"I'm not sure I remember this one," Rabastan said, reluctantly. Rodolphus gave him a knowing look, and placed his finger next to the picture.
"We were so young," he started, "This was taken on Narcissa's 10th birthday. Father wanted to get a good picture of us with Lucius. 'So we could remember our equals' he said. Lucius pulled Andromeda into the frame right before he snapped it. And then Cissa was so mad that he'd paid attention to her, she tripped and fell into her own cake"
Rabastan could feel the edges of the memory pulling at him, like something he'd seen from outside himself, reflected back from many years ago. He vaguely recalled the event, but like so many fond moments, it had been drawn away from him during his time in Azkaban. It was hard to remember much of his youth, anymore. Most of those memories had been used up and squeezed dry during his first stint in Azkaban, removed as a means to protect himself from the horrors they had faced. Most of what was left were those years when they'd found a cause to believe in, and a purpose to follow. And while many of the early years supplied him with a steady source of affection and lightheartedness, the last decade had been more macabre than pleasant.
"It was sort of the beginning of the end, wasn't it?" he asked rhetorically, but Rodolphus nodded anyhow.
"I sometimes wish I could go back to those days and shake myself, tell myself what was going to happen," he replied softly, flipping the page to the next photo. This one was of Rodolphus, now deep in his teens with the awkward angles and long limbs and burgeoning muscles that went along with that, arm securely around another dark, curly haired witch's waist, both smiling into the camera, a gust of wind blowing at her skirt and his jacket. She'd had that same droopy lidded look even then, but her eyes were clear. Rabastan had remembered Bella as being a bit eccentric, and a touch mean growing up, but nothing that would ever hint at her eventual insanity.
"Would you have listened?" asked Rabastan mirthfully. Rodolphus caught his eyes, returning a tight grin and shook his head tightly.
"You're right. Who we were? Who we are? Would we ever listen to someone who told us we were wrong?"
"The lessons of our youth were absolute," agreed Rabastan, nodding as he looked down at the picture on the opposite side. This one was of Rabastan alone, and one he remembered clearly. It had been taken of him from across the room at Rodolphus's wedding. They'd taken the mark by then, but there was no fear yet. He was in his early 20s, hair brushed back from his face, expression suffused with a smile and joy at the union of two powerful houses, and two persons whom were presumably in love. It was the last memory he had of being genuinely happy. Rodolphus snapped the book shut sharply, and laid it on the sofa next to his leg.
"So much of it seems so far away," he said, eyes seeking Rabastan's again. Rabastan sighed and nodded.
"We've certainly seen a lot of life since then," he answered. Rodolphus's eyes narrowed and he pierced him with his gaze.
"Have we? Truly? We've spent more time in a small box than we have in our own home," he answered. Rabastan frowned again, not sure where the conversation was going to go, and not wanting to broach the subject yet.
"I forgot to buy a wand," he blurted, attempting to divert attention. He was going to need to practice his conversational skills, he internally reprimanded himself. Rodolphus stared at him a moment and then laughed, standing up.
"Well, it's only been what, five years since the last time you held one?" he asked, all traces of melancholy lifted as he walked towards the desk.
"Yes, but...it's my wand Dolph! It's like forgetting to attach my arm!" he whinged back, pouting at his brother's retreating form. Rodolphus walked around to the opposite side of the desk, opening the top drawer. Rabastan sucked in a breath as he saw him withdraw a slender, wooden box that he held out invitingly. He stood on shaky legs, strolling over the desk cautiously, as if the proffered gift might be snatched away before he could even receive it. Rodolphus pushed it into his hand as he reached him, and he unhooked the latch with shaking fingers, opening the lid reverently.
Tears sprung to the corners of his eyes as the light rowan wood came into view. It was not just A wand, it was HIS wand. The first wand he'd ever gotten as an 11 year old. Grasping the worn handle, he lifted it from the cradle it sat in, staring at it in awe in the morning light.
"Where did you get it?" he whispered. Rodolphus smiled softly at him.
"The ministry had retained a hold on it when we were first incarcerated. Wand snapping is considered 'cruel and unusual punishment', which is moderately amusing from a community that supported dementors as jailors" came the wry response, "It was sent over a few days before you got home. I'm sorry I forgot to give it to you before now"
Rabastan swished the wand experimentally, lifting a paperweight off the desk and dangling it overhead. The thrum of magic through his arm felt welcoming and centering, allowing him the homecoming he'd been denied for so many years. Rodolphus grinned at him as he lowered the object back onto it's surface.
"How does it feel?"
"Like I just had my arm restored," he answered enthusiastically, before grimacing at his unintentional gloat, "I mean..."
Rodolphus shook his head, wistful look on his features, "No. None of that. I'm glad you have your wand back, and your magic"
He looked as if he were about to say more, but his attention was caught over Rabastan's shoulder, and he frowned. Turning his head slightly, Rabastan saw Granger enter, eyes looking a little glassy and hair out of sorts. She was muttering to herself, fingers of her right hand twitching as if she were counting something. There was a small, leatherbound book in her other hand, forgotten for the moment as she wandered aimlessly into the room. She paced, unseeing towards the window, unfocused on those around her.
"Hermione?" called out Rodolphus, softly. She didn't respond, lost in thought. As she drew closer to them Rabastan could see the black ink on her fingers, and smudged along her left cheek. His brother drew up taller, consternation clearly on his face, "Hermione?"
"Granger," snapped Rabastan, irritated that she was interrupting their otherwise pleasant morning. She paused, tilted her head at him a moment, before returning to her mutterings. Rabastan turned a curious look at his brother, who's brow was furrowed at the scene.
"My shower was cold this morning," came the gruff voice from the back wall. Rabastan jumped, surprised to hear the other occupant of the room speak. He darted a look at the Russian man, who was solely focused on the distracted witch as she paced by the window.
He turned his head sharply back to the curly haired woman, who paused in her ramblings, lifting her head up to look at them for the first time. She shook her head, mumbling slowing down, pinioning the Russian with a glare finally, "Cold?"
"Yes, megera. Cold. As in lacking in heat?" he retorted. Rabastan felt his eyebrows raise. He'd never heard Antonin take that particular tone with anyone.
"Did you turn the knobs correctly?" she harped back. Antonin sighed harshly, pushing himself off the wall.
"I'm not 5, Hermione. I know how to take a shower," he snapped, eyes flashing at her. Rabastan watched her turn to fully face the larger man, hands dropping towards her sides. Wordlessly, Rodolphus grasped the tome between her fingers and pulled it away as she was distracted.
"Well, it's a MAGICAL household, Antonin. The water is ENCHANTED to stay warm. So I'm not sure how, exactly, YOU and YOU alone managed to get a COLD shower unless you don't know how to use the knobs," she retorted. Antonin growled, stomping over to her and snarled something at her in Russian. To Rabastan's even greater surprise, Hermione yelled back at him in Russian as well. Before he could take a breath, the two were in a shouting match, fingers pointed at each other. As Hermione stabbed him in the chest with her finger, he growled again, shoving it away and stepping closer to tower over her. Hermione sneered in return, continuing to berate Antonin in a shrill voice.
Rabastan swiveled his head to look at his brother, who bore a faintly amused look on his face at the scene. His tension eased at the expression, and he looked back at the two combatants, observing them more closely. For all that Antonin postured at annoyance, his face lacked the harsh lines that Rabastan knew resided there when he was truly angry. His stance, while foreboding, held no rigidity through his shoulders that indicated a true threat. He was, for lack of a better description, acting as if he was annoyed. Rabastan tipped his head to the side, intrigued at the display.
Hermione's reactions seemed to hint that she knew he wasn't actually angry as well. While her voice was sharp and tight, and expression pinched, it suggested at an underlying a mirth at the situation. Her own posture was steady and anticipatory, but relaxed, as if she was enjoying the quarrel but didn't expect escalation. Of course, that could have been related to the fact that Antonin was essentially a chained beast in the house, but his feelings were it ran deeper than that. That perhaps, this was not an uncommon occurrence.
Just as quickly as it had started, Hermione let out a breathy "HUH!" and stomped towards the entry to the study once more. Pausing, hand on the door frame she turned to stare at Antonin once more, yelling, "And call me a shrew ONE MORE TIME and see what happens!"
As she escaped back into the hallway, Antonin chuckled at her theatrics, turning back to the other two men. Rodolphus grinned knowingly at him, and lifted the book towards him.
"New spells or old memories?" asked the Russian, gesturing at the pages. Rodolphus glanced at the writing and frowned again.
"Both, it looks like"
"May I see it?" requested Antonin, and Rabastan raised an eyebrow as Rodolphus passed the book over. The darker man read the page and then huffed a little, muttering under his breath as he grabbed a quill off the desk, striking through a line with deft strokes.
"Hermione learned Russian to help Antonin feel more at home," said Rodolphus, as if it was an explanation for anything, "I suspect she regrets it, now"
"Do they do that often?" asked Rabastan, curiosity over riding the part of his brain that told him to be indifferent. Rodolphus chuckled.
"At least once a week. If they haven't fought in a few days, one of them is probably dying," came the wry response. Antonin snorted next to him, but nodded in agreement, eyes still on the book.
Rabastan rubbed his jaw thoughtfully at the admission. Antonin had always been a tightly controlled entity, for all his rumored insanity. He was brilliant, formidable, savage, and dangerous. But he was never out of control. Every thing that ever happened to and around Antonin was exactly as he had designed it to occur. Aloof to a fault, reticent, and impenetrable, he also possessed patience beyond what most reasonable persons could and would endure. Rabastan had envied him his self possession on more than one occasion when his own impetuosity had twisted under his skin, pushing him to act before the time was right.
His reflection was brought to a halt as two other persons entered the library, conversing in hushed tones. One he recognized as the red head – Ron – from the previous evening. The other was a dark haired woman, with carefully coifed locks and a nose that was just a shade too short for her otherwise symmetrical features. She scowled at Ron before turning to the other three men.
"Everything alright?" came Rodolphus's concerned voice. The brunette looked back at Ron, who gestured at her again, irritation as plain as day on his face.
"Ronald has informed me that I need to alert you all of something" she bit out, glaring at Ron as she stalled.
"Well, what is it Pansy?" came his brother's short rebuff. Rabastan raised an eyebrow again – clearly there was no love lost between them.
She sighed heavily, looking at Ron once more before replying, "Pucey's back. He just came home last night"
Rabastan startled at the thump the little book made as it hit the floor, and instinctively stepped away at the growl that arose from the Russian man's throat.