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Posted: Jan 8 2018, 10:46 PM
His heart was pounding in his chest so fiercely that he wouldn't be surprised if it was visible on the outside. John had read the Prophet ten times over, staring at the words on the page as if they were written in hieroglyphics instead of plain English. This could not be happening. This was not how things were supposed to go. The only reason John had even entertained the idea of supporting Castor as Minister of Magic was that he had leverage on him, and not the other two candidates. And now the man had withdrawn himself from consideration, for no apparent reason. No, this was not how this could end. He couldn't let all this be for nothing.
As he marched through the Ministry, John could taste something foul in his mouth, as if this nonsense had made him physically ill. He had, for a moment, glimpsed the power and notoriety he had so fiercely coveted, all within his reach, and suddenly it was all gone. He would not let that light be snuffed out like a candle. Was this just a gesture to spite him? Had Castor Black finally learned what a pompous and useless knob he really was and decided to disappear into the ether where he belonged? That would be the day, if he was honest, but he didn't want that realization to cost him his biggest opportunity in years. Putting someone so foolish in power was ideal when someone else was the one really pulling the strings, but it was hard to be a puppetmaster if you didn't have a puppet.
Once out of the lift on Level Five, John marched straight for Castor’s office. He’d had half a mind to demand Castor visit him in his, but he knew that was too easy for Castor to ignore, and John would not stand for such a treatment. He would not be eluded, and if that meant he had to corner Castor in his office, that was what he would do. A copy of the Prophet was folded under his arm, his briefcase still slung over his shoulder as evidence that he hadn’t even stopped at his office yet to set it down. Without bothering to spare Bartleby so much as a passing glance -- she was only mildly more tolerable than Castor anyway -- John burst into Castor’s office, slamming the door shut behind him.
“You know, if I thought you had a single cell in your body capable of humour, I’d think this was a joke,” he snapped, all but throwing the Prophet down on Castor’s desk. It fell open to the front page article in question, intended as an accusation. “But seeing as how you’d break out in hives if you so much as smiled, I’m left wondering what in bloody hell you’re thinking. What gives you the idea that you can just drop out of the only thing that could possibly make your whole sorry life worthwhile? Does your cowardice know no bounds?”
He stood over Castor’s desk, anger contorting his face, an undercurrent of fear in his heart. There had been a time he’d thought he knew what Castor was capable of, but based on what Aeronwen had told him, he may have been spitting in the face of a Death Eater sympathizer, or worse. And yet his anger made him blind to his own cautions, his voice nearing a shout as he spoke, a silence hanging momentarily in the air. John pushed off the desk and shoved the paper further toward Castor, the best he could do short of smacking him in the face with it.
“What is the point of you?” he snarled. “You’d better have a good reason for this.”
Posted: Jan 9 2018, 09:48 PM
It felt redundant to read the morning's paper when scrawled across the front page was an article he'd near composed himself, and Castor had wasted an excessive amount of time staring at the photograph shifting above the columns of text--something old and outdated in which his back was mostly turned, as if even in captured image he remained determined to hide himself from probing eyes. He'd risen in the dark before sunrise, waking to a world on which the changes he'd begun to enact the week before were at last starting to dawn, and made his way into the Ministry. The Prophet had been waiting for him, freshly printed, and he'd accepted a copy from the stand in the Atrium, paperboy blinking at him with a bleary sort of surprise as he handed over his coppers and tucked the publication under his arm. Sable House had a subscription, of course, and Castor never allowed a morning to pass without reading the news in its entirety, but he'd left as soon as the owl he'd sent out the night before had returned, heralding the beginning of the end.
The decision to step down out of the race for Minister was a dramatic one, of course, and he was certain that the open mouthed gape that spread across the paperboy's face as the realization of whom he'd just made his first sale of the morning to struck him would not be the last such expression he would receive before the day was through. There was far more to come, however, than simply this, far more that he would change before he was finished. He felt as though he'd settled into a strange calm, eerily silent and isolated, that assuredly would not last, but he had no desire to rush it along. The lift was empty as he rode it up to Level Five, his floor not yet humming with muted activity, and he'd lowered himself into his chair to simply sit awhile before at last he forced himself into slow movement, thumbing through the Prophet's many pages.
Clearwater's abrupt entrance did not surprise him in the least. He'd since moved on to perusal of his first stack of reports of the morning, reading through them with decided lethargy as he reclined in his chair, and he did not bother to look up as the door swung inward with excessive force. He'd wondered if Rowan might be the first to find him, but Clearwater looked as if he'd run from home just for the chance to slam the door shut as he entered, and Castor suppressed the urge to sigh, glancing back at the parchment in his hand to mark his place. The paper that landed in the middle of his desk with a dull smack felt highly unnecessary, in Castor's opinion, considering an identical copy lay off to his left, less than a foot away, but he supposed it was more the gesture of it that held such appeal rather than the practicalities. It did little to rouse him, and he met Clearwater's furious gaze with a quiet apathy. Ironic the other man should speak of hives when his own rage had begun to blot his skin with the elevation of his blood pressure.
"So much you've left dependent on if you thought," Castor responded dryly, laying his reports neatly down atop their pile. The way Clearwater insisted on again shoving the paper at him knocked the sheets out of alignment, summoning the first flicker of irritation in Castor, and he pushed his way out of his seat. The younger man's temper was perhaps unsurprising, but he would not enable it to swell out of proportion, and that was quite enough shouting for the early hours. "The point of me, Mr. Clearwater, in this context, is to lead this department. I find that is the extent of explanation you are owed." His words came measured and calm, and Castor tucked his hands unconcernedly into his pockets, fingers carefully curling around the security of his wand as he stepped around the corner of his desk. He towered easily over the other man, who'd tried so hard to use him as a stepping stone to higher platforms, but Castor was tired of being looked on as if he were someone small. Clearwater knew little of him indeed, but that was only indicative of how little he knew about the world at large. Coward; perhaps that, among the rest, was true.
"You will get nothing from me, sir," Castor stated calmly, eyes narrow with contempt, "neither as remuneration nor by proximity. I suggest you familiarize yourself with such disappointment now before you lose your head to it entirely."
Posted: Jan 14 2018, 03:50 PM
There were a lot of people that John disliked in this world, but so few of them inspired the level of rage in him as Castor Black. He wanted nothing more than to rip him apart with his bare hands, never mind how impossible such a thing would be. Even that seemed like it wasn't enough to satisfy just how much John hated him, and this was just making it worse. Why couldn't this one thing go John's way? It should have been simple. Hold Castor's dirty little secret over his head and finally get recognized for what he knew himself to be, instead of being looked down upon, or worse, overlooked entirely.
This was supposed to be a reckoning. And instead, Castor had ruined everything, just like he always did.
Castor's height advantage no longer intimidated John, who did not immediately move from his position as the other man stood up. He would hold his ground this time, because now he knew the kind of person Castor really was. He was a dangerous man, there was no doubt about that, but it only fed the righteous anger John felt. John turned to face Castor, squaring his shoulders, unwilling to give up any ground. "No," he snapped, mismatched eyes glaring with all the fury he could muster. "Don't get condescending with me, Castor. Don't forget what I know, and what I'm not afraid to do to you. Take more care in how you treat me."
John folded his arms over his chest, his gaze and posture otherwise unmoving. To think that this man was hiding Death Eater sympathies from everyone here, perhaps even harboring a darker secret about his contact with young Tristan Nott -- John wanted to shout it from the rooftops, expose Castor for the twisted, evil bastard he really was, and get him out of the way for good. It was no longer strictly about his own ambitions, although that would certainly help. No, this had become about getting a dangerous man out of this office, and preferably out of everyone's life. He would just have to do it carefully.
"You think you're so far above reproach, don't you?" he hissed, anger welling inside him again. John hated being spoken to like an idiot child more than anything, and he would not stand for it anymore. "You think you can do whatever you want and not face any consequences for it? First with your pet Auror, but that's not enough for you. No, how could it be? You're a bigger man than that, after all. You think I don't know what you've been doing? I've always said you underestimate me, Castor. And that'll be your downfall."
John sat down in one of the chairs, crossing one leg over the other at the knee, unfolding his arms to rest his hands on the armrests. He was not going to budge, no matter how much Castor dismissed him, or treated him like he was less than, or underestimated how much of a threat he could be. "I know about more than just you and your Auror. I know what you've been looking for, and who you've been cozying up to. So if there's anything left in your pitiful soul that has an inkling of self-preservation, you'll give me a real answer. I won't be going anywhere until you do."
Posted: Jan 15 2018, 02:49 AM
Castor had never been in a position quite as vulnerable as the one John Clearwater's discovery had placed him in. He'd made questionable choices in his life, certainly, but so often they'd been for the benefit of another, even if that other perhaps did not deserve the aid that kept them from consequence. The affair he'd engaged in with Rowan, on the other hand, had been a diversion not even he could fully justify. He'd had his reasons, and had argued, that first night he'd allowed Rowan to place his hands where he wished them to go, that it was all in the name of correction, repairing whatever it was that had gone so wrong in the other man's life. The fact that he'd enjoyed how it felt to touch, to kiss, to shed his skin for another man in a fashion that had only escalated over time, had only served to make the situation more complex and far more confusing. He'd been ashamed because the dalliance was wrong. It crossed a line, broke a personal code, threatened the foundations of his own home. More than anything else, however, it left him afraid of how the world might see him. Attraction was a concept that terrified him somewhere deep and unacknowledged, and to feel it bloom into something so intoxicating at a mere look was a feeling more glorious and unsettling than any he'd ever before encountered. It was so deeply vulnerable, and Clearwater had taken that fear and held it tight with words of ridicule and punishment.
There was, however, a great deal that the younger man had not anticipated in his approach--in the easy dangle of a bit of ruination over Castor's head. He'd taken his time, counting on Castor to pull them both to the top, and in doing so, he'd relinquished the initial advantage of surprise that the sudden revelation of the recording in his possession had gained him. He'd thought Castor lame in his slowness; he'd given Castor time to think. The morning's paper was only one piece in a plan that stretched deep beneath the surface, the first step he'd taken that was visible to those around him. It was far too late to undo any part of it all now, however, and Castor never acted on less than certainty. Clearwater's threats fell empty before him because they no longer possessed the ability to cut. Perhaps they would leave him bruised or scraped should Clearwater reveal all he knew, but it would not be enough to shatter him, and in this game of roulette they'd engaged in, it would be Clearwater whose barefaced intimidation would ensure he came out worse for his actions.
"I have treated you with far more dignity than you deserve already," Castor replied, and his voice emerged deceptively soft, low and careful and indicative of a calm that was not fear. Clearwater looked so painfully young to him in that moment, standing before him in cross defiance, and for a moment, Castor almost felt sorry for him. The misstep he'd made was grave indeed, but he was not without potential. Castor was a hard man to work for, unlikely to ever extend praise for less than the most extreme of unprecedented accomplishments, and perhaps that had been less than Clearwater deserved. The vehemence in his eyes could not be overlooked, however, nor the pure foolishness of his actions. They'd both made missteps, but Castor had come to terms with the consequences of his in a way that felt strangely like absolution. Perhaps...this had been a gift, in the end. He doubted Clearwater would feel the same, when all was said and done, but the more the young man spoke, the lower Castor's regard for him sank.
Pet Auror seemed to be a phrasing that refused to die, and he could not suppress the faint irritation that tugged at his brow as Clearwater spat it at him. Rowan deserved far more respect, but he would not stoop to bickering over petty, unimportant slights, not when there was far more of peculiar interest in Clearwater's words. What he could have been referring to--what he believed Castor had done--was not immediately obvious, and all Castor could think of was his interaction with Aeronwen. It had been mishandled, surely, but he doubted Clearwater would understand precisely how, not unless...Aeronwen herself had told him. Even then, there were truths to the situation that painted her in a far worse light, and served to justify his actions at least to a reasonable extent.
"You will find all consequence I face to be of a civil nature," he mused evenly, following Clearwater with his eyes as he sank down into a chair. There was no cause to be nervous, not anymore, but the man possessed a confidence that did not strike Castor as a bluff. Whatever it was he claimed to know, he must have believed its truth. "Of the two of us, I am not the one who has committed a felony offense. I hardly underestimate you. I know you to be just as misguided as you are." Clearwater did not seem to be done, however, and Castor watched him blankly, at a loss with regard to the allusions he continued to make. He would not be intimidated by fabrication, especially when Rowan was the only one he'd been doing any sort of cozying up to.
"I believe," Castor sneered, taking care to enunciate each syllable with a slow clarity that was certain to creep beneath Clearwater's skin, "that your knowledge of me and 'my Auror' is already exceedingly limited. The possibility that you know anything else of me I find highly improbable. I suggest you cease your posturing instead of wasting your working hours sitting in my chair. Unless, of course, you'd care to extrapolate on whatever fool notion Miss Nott has placed in your head." Castor leveled his gaze at Clearwater, throwing away his caution and speaking with confidence in what he believed to be true. Aeronwen's presence in the Ministry, the ring on Clearwater's finger, the way he spoke as though he'd been endowed with immaculate enlightenment of the kind that could only be provided by someone of engorged ego--it was all far too much coincidence to overlook, and who could have told him a single secret worth hearing besides the pale witch? He'd tied the worst of his secrets to each of seven fingers, and the only scar he bore was the one Rowan had left on him.
"You have broken the law and stooped to collusion with a dark witch. I am certain I am correct in this regard. I cannot, however, offer you any example on how to beg forgiveness for a wrong committed. You will have to find someone else to show you how before the world makes an example of you."
Posted: Jan 16 2018, 06:52 PM
John bristled at the suggestion that he'd committed a felony offense. Castor would have a hard time proving anything, the way John saw it -- it was frustrating how little John had to show for all his efforts, but it may just be a saving grace -- but that was all beside the point at the moment. Whatever his own crimes, they were all but justified in the face of the things Castor had done (or at least the things John believed he had done), and John saw himself the righteous hero cutting the cancer of corruption out of the Ministry. Perhaps that would be the thing to catapult him to fame and power, after all. This could be salvaged.
He did not make any other movements, however, as Castor continued speaking. If he was to make this work, he would need to maintain his calm, something which was admittedly a bit of a weakness for him. The words did achieve their goal of making his skin crawl, even break out in goosebumps in places, but he could not be cowed, not if he was going to do something actually good with his life. Castor was too accustomed to people being intimidated by him, and once, years ago, perhaps John had been one such person. But now he knew the truth, or so he thought, and he would not be fooled again.
Such is the way of even the unintentional villain to believe himself the hero.
"Strange that you would try to pin the blame of your own corruption on me," he spat. "You accuse me of collusion with a dark witch when you yourself are the one seeking out Dark artifacts? You have fooled many people, Castor, but you will not make a fool out of me." This was where things started to become dangerous. The door was closed, it was still early, and no one knew that John was here except Castor himself. It was the perfect situation to silence John once and for all, and it didn't seem unlikely, given what John thought he knew.
He tightened the fold of his arms over his chest, one hand discreetly wrapping around the handle of his red oak wand, ready to defend himself if it came down to that. Merlin, he wished he'd thought this through a little better, but he also hadn't expected to need to reveal his knowledge just yet. "Is it a fool notion to question why you'd want the favor of an Auror, and a senior one at that? Is it a fool notion to think that the two of you might be colluding? Tell me, Castor, am I mistaken in that I know you've been searching for Death Eater masks? What business do you have in such a thing, given that you are not a law enforcement official?"
John leaned forward, his lips curling in a snarl, his eyes ablaze with indignation and anger. "You drove Mrs. Nott from her home because she would not cooperate with you, and now you have taken stewardship of her son and her estate so that you can have what you want. It seems your little Death Eater fantasy isn't enough for you -- no, you have to drag a teenage boy into it. I thought you were despicable for your first little extramarital affair, but at least Drake is an adult, but young Mr. Nott being subjected to your perversions? This is a new low, even for you, Castor Black. Perhaps it's good you dropped out of the race for Minister. You wouldn't last five minutes without it all falling apart around you."
Posted: Jan 17 2018, 03:26 PM
The entire messy entanglement that Clearwater had pulled him into was starting to wear on Castor's patience, and he watched the younger man with a faint expression of distaste as he continued to sling his half-garbled accusations around. Whatever he seemed to think he'd stumbled onto was clearly a different matter from reality, and it offended Castor's sensibilities deeply that Clearwater had allowed himself to come this far without at least doing a bit of proper research. He'd clearly managed to fall his way into the mire that was pureblood politics in his struggle to find something of power, and it would be quite the chore indeed for him to find his way out now. What he needed was a firm hand to pull him up and shove him in the right direction, but Castor had so little energy left for the affairs of others. He was tired of these dances, tired of the way his old life had tied him down. He wanted to go somewhere quiet for a while, where there were no petty arguments and insane women murdering their husbands for the sake of property, and most importantly, no Octavia. He wanted to fall asleep with Rowan pulled against his chest and forget all the rest of it, but there were yet miles to go and Clearwater standing in the way as his first barrier to knock aside. He could manage this; to bring him a step closer to peace, he could manage.
"I have no need to make a fool of you," Castor muttered in disgruntled tones, waiting for Clearwater to give some further explanation. He wasn't about to go poking around, asking the young man what in Merlin's name he meant. If he couldn't explain it himself, it could only mean he held nothing of substance, and guessing games could prove far more dangerous than they were worth. Fortunately, Clearwater seemed to enjoy the sound of his own voice, and Castor's expression darkened as he continued. Whatever had taken place between himself and Aeronwen, it had nothing to do with Rowan; he'd made sure of that, even if it perhaps would have been better to enlist the aid of an Auror in his attempts to grapple with a woman so unpredictable. Mention of the mask chilled him, however, and something that Castor had not considered flashed sudden across his mind. He'd been so preoccupied with how the world might see them, with how Tristan might be affected by the revelation of his mother as an insane, homicidal narcissist to the public at large, he had not stopped to think how Rowan might perceive his actions.
Pureblood; the sneer of it still rang in his ears from somewhere distant, and a chill passed across Castor's skin. Perhaps Clearwater's version of events would sound plausible to Rowan's ears. Neither one of them had expected things to go as far as they had; perhaps to Rowan it would make far more sense that Castor's motivations for staying close had been in the interest of protecting himself. He'd known the time would come eventually, when he'd have to tell him all or part of what had transpired, but he'd hoped it would not have to be so soon, not when he'd nearly fixed everything.
"You don't know what you're talking about," Castor growled, but Clearwater wasn't finished, at last revealing the twisted perspective Aeronwen had fed him. It was wrong, so wrong, but if the world believed him so cold he could see how it might be easy to believe. Would the facts of it matter in the end? What would Rowan hear? Castor had grown so disturbed by the notion that he nearly did not understand as Clearwater brought Tristan into the scenario. He hadn't attempted to use him, of course, and Tristan could vouch for that easily when Castor had as good as given up the power of his stewardship in the act of helping along his emancipation...but that wasn't all that Clearwater meant. The words struck him somewhere deep, and for a moment, Castor was dumbfounded. It was only a moment, however, as a deep, burning disgust violated his senses, and suddenly Castor was shaking with rage. He felt certain he'd never moved so swiftly before in his life as his hands shot out to take Clearwater by the collar, hauling him out of the chair and nearly lifting him off his feet as he brought their faces close.
"You...dare...insinuate..." Castor hissed from between clenched teeth, struggling to push the words through. An affair with Tristan. An affair with Tristan, his nephew, a child despite what paperwork might claim. There was so much that needed explaining, but the loathing in him could not stomach the thought of speaking any of it to this foul man. Even in his own head, the thoughts were a struggle, so repulsed was he, and he gave Clearwater a slight shake, muscles spasming with overwhelming irritation. "He is...my nephew." Castor gasped out between shaking breaths. It was all he could say when his mind was consumed by a need to get Clearwater out.
Posted: Jan 17 2018, 06:50 PM
Drakky is Offline
51 years old
There were many things in life Rowan did not understand, and this he accepted as an inevitability. He did not understand, for example, where Dementors came from or what they were, just as he did not understand how creatures as massive as dragons sustained their flight, nor how perfectly simple and straightforward paperwork could get so clogged up in the inner workings of the Ministry as to emerge ten years later entirely unrecognisable and completely ineffective. He accepted these unanswered questions as part of life; they were, so to speak, the great mysteries of his existence, destined to remain forever as unattainable goals to strive towards. Perhaps one day he would learn more about Dementors and dragons, or - unlikelier still - he might even succeed in tracing the path of those ill-fated bits of documentation through all their tangles of red tape and bureaucracy.
Sometimes, however, Rowan came across mysteries which should not have been so, or unexpected questions which leapt out at him from the most innocuous of places. The issue of Castor’s withdrawal from the election was one such enigma. It was more of a relief than anything else, if he were being honest - objectively, this minimised the danger Castor was in to an almost acceptable level, and certainly removed him somewhat from the public eye. But why had he withdrawn when he had seemed so set upon the whole affair in the first place? And how could Rowan not have noticed anything amiss? He had not expected Castor to inform him, because after all what were they? Still no more than an affair, pleasant and temporary at best, a disaster waiting to happen at worst. This was a part of Castor’s life that he had no right to because it was external to him, and yet...there were forces at work here which he had not anticipated and which remained unknown, and the unknown possessed far too much potential to surprise him. Aurors, as a rule, did not like to be surprised.
It was nothing that could not be remedied with a quick trip to Castor’s office; even if he did not tell him why he’d withdrawn, perhaps they could talk about it. Rowan enjoyed having him near and loved everything they did together, but more than anything he found a strange sort of peace in their conversations; it was talking which had brought them together before the wolf (more Rowan talking, really, but it counted) and talking which had consolidated whatever it was that they had now. At the very least, he might be able to set his mind at rest that this was nothing sinister - he’d had enough of secrets and plots to last him a lifetime.
Ramona wasn’t there when he emerged from the lift into Level Five, which was a mercy. She was wonderfully polite and really quite sweet, as he’d discovered when he’d chanced to make her acquaintance the previous day, but she was also devastatingly efficient - there was no chance in hell that he’d be getting into Castor’s office without an appointment had she been around. Perhaps she’d gone for a coffee or something, in which case time was of the essence - after a furtive glance about the area to make sure she wasn’t hidden behind a cabinet or something, he scurried across to Castor’s office, a copy of The Daily Prophet tucked firmly under his arm. Regardless of their situation, he still felt it necessary to knock - it was only polite, after all - but didn’t wait around for an answer, pushing the door open almost immediately to slip inside.
“Castor, do y-...” he stopped abruptly mid-sentence and mid-stride, his attention entirely arrested by the scene unfolding before his eyes. Who the hell is that? Had he seen him around the Ministry before? Vague recollections plagued him, of this same face emerging smug from Castor’s office just as Rowan arrived on Level Five, and of Castor’s demeanour in the immediate aftermath: sullen, almost, so much more closed off than usual. He’d attributed it to some mind-numbing legal problem back then, and so had not pursued the issue, but what if…? His gaze was fixed firmly on this unknown even as Castor backed away from him, taking in the angles of his jaw and the bright colour of his eyes; he was handsome, certainly, and young. Younger than Rowan. The suspicion which taken root in the back of his mind flowered suddenly black and ugly, and he turned to level a dangerous stare in Castor’s direction.
He had cheated once. This was, all of a sudden, painfully obvious. What made Rowan different to all the hundreds of men and women working in the Ministry? Why would Castor risk everything for him? For so long he’d avoided such awkward questions, and now here were the answers: nothing, and he did not. He risked everything for himself, because he wanted to, with Rowan and with this boy and with who knew who else. Speculation, you are speculating. And yet no matter how he reasoned with himself, the certainty of it would not leave him and he was too far gone now to entertain other possibilities. In silence, without moving a step because he could not stand to be even an inch closer to him, Rowan tossed the paper onto his desk; such a pointless, naive thing it seemed now, to have wanted to speak with him about that. Stupid, to have believed he could have more than a night and a morning whenever Castor managed to fit him into his schedule. “You are busy. We’ll speak later.” His tone might have been almost pleasant, were it not for the hint of tightness at the edges and the way he snapped the ends off his words. Without further hesitation and without a backwards glance, he turned and left, shutting the door gently behind him.
[OUT I guess lol]
Posted: Jan 18 2018, 09:01 PM
It surprised him, honestly, that it had taken this long to get a physical reaction out of Castor. And yet, perhaps even more surprising, was the fact that he did not go for his wand, as John had expected him to. It startled him enough to prevent him from immediately drawing his own wand, instead freezing in place, his hands flying up to Castor's shoulders in an attempt to keep some measure of distance between them. John figured he had the upper hand in a physical fight -- Castor was older, and John kept to a strict workout regimen -- but he hardly wanted to resort to such crass violence, especially in the middle of the Ministry.
Castor was close enough that John could feel his breath on his face, and in spite of himself, his eyes widened in surprise. His feet were barely brushing the ground, for how Castor was holding him and the height difference between them. Anger had rendered Castor, normally so irritatingly sluggish and meticulous of speech, grasping for words in broken sentences that left John to infer the rest. For the first time, a true flicker of fear passed through him. There was always a danger in protesting too much, and to see behavior so violently out of character, John was left to think that it may just be true.
Some part of him had held on to doubt, to optimism, to the last shred of respect he'd had for Castor Black. Some part of him denied that such a thing could be true. But what if it was? What had he gotten himself into?
Before he could figure out a response, the door opened, and John's head swiveled toward the sound, his expression still wide-eyed shock. Rowan Drake. John didn't have much in the way of personal contact with the man, but he knew him well enough by reputation and, of course, his investigations after his discovery of their affair to know him on sight. The man was there hardly long enough for John to have half a thought, and then he was gone, as if he hadn't been there at all. What had he been coming for? It didn't seem like he'd overheard anything. A clandestine meeting, then, perhaps one to indulge their carnal desires, or one to further discuss their plans for Death Eater masks -- or even both at the same time.
As the door closed on their temporary intruder, John finally came to his senses. The immediate shock wore off, and his hand flashed to his pocket, drawing his wand and pressing the tip to Castor's ribcage, enough to let him know it was there. "Let go of me," he snarled. "Anything happens to me, and everything goes public. I'm not the only one who knows your secrets." Nevermind that he hadn't actually established a contingency plan -- it was true enough that Aeronwen knew, but John was banking on Castor inferring the rest and, hopefully, still having a sense of self-preservation.
"You've been useless to me, Castor," he said, his voice quiet but unwavering. "But this isn't about me anymore. You have until the end of the month to prove your worth to me. If you're not going to be Minister, I don't see much reason to keep your secrets for you. I imagine you'd agree that my talents and years of service merit more than a mere consultant title, don't you? Figure out a way to make it happen. And breathe a word of this to your leashed Auror, and I'll make sure he knows exactly what kind of man you are. Do we understand one another, Mr. Black?"
Posted: Jan 18 2018, 11:55 PM
The landscape of his morning had shifted with such devastating speed that Castor found himself growing dizzy in his attempts to keep up. He'd been so calm, so mercifully calm when he'd woken, and in a few easy words, Clearwater had disturbed him all over again. Would that that could have been all, but even as he brought Clearwate close to snarl in the other man's face, the door creaked inward and Castor glanced around to discover new horrors. His automatic instinct was to recoil, dropping Clearwater back to the floor and stepping away. He'd meant to let him go entirely, to disentangle his hands from the collar of his shirt and put as much distance between them as he possibly could without the aid of apparition, but he was frozen again in an instant as Rowan's face registered. Dark eyes stared back at him, eyes that were far from kind, and Castor felt the anger in him shrivel and die out like the last ember of a fire submitting to the cold of the wind. What did that look see? Castor had only an instant to wonder before Rowan slapped yet another copy of the Prophet on his desk and turned to go. You are busy; the tightness of the words overwhelmed him so that he nearly did not catch what Rowan muttered next, but as quickly as he'd come he was gone again.
Castor was still starring at the door, hands slack where he'd tangled them in Clearwater's shirt, when he felt the press of a wand between his ribs. With cold repulsion, he turned his look to the pest that continued to haunt him, releasing him nearly before the demand had even left his lips. He had no desire to hang onto the other man and no real wish to hurt him beyond the urge to beat some sense into the side of his thick, heterochromic head--by force, if necessary--and he dropped his hands to his sides, wiping them clean on his jacket as he did. There were threats on Clearwater's lips--he could read them there in the movement of his mouth--but he could not hear them. His head was still pounding with an overwhelming rush of blood and the agitation of uncertainty. What had Rowan seen? The facts of the situation, even on their own, placed him far too close to Clearwater. Perhaps there'd been a bit of ruddy color in his cheeks; would Rowan recognize the face of his anger having seen it before himself? It was all happening much too fast and entirely out of order with the plans he'd made, and Castor could do nothing but snap at his subordinate.
"Shut up," he hissed, the voice in his head escaping at last. In a bid for control, he shut his eyes, teeth grinding tight together as he tried to ground himself in the moment and focus on what Clearwater had just asked him. A deep breath through his nose and he was glaring at the younger man again. "I understand you perfectly." It won't make a difference. He was sick of this, sick to death of it all, and his hand rose to grip Clearwater's wrist, twisting his wand away. "Now get out." He squeezed tight, feeling the way the bones compressed beneath his fingers. Clearwater would leave of his own power or Castor would throw him out. He had reached the end of his tolerance, for the present or for any more of this in the future.
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