April 28th, 2098

08:38:20 [Porthman] Meredith did his best to push yesterday’s events to the back of his mind. What he found surprised him: it was much easier than he thought it would be. He couldn’t stop making jokes about it to himself—‘the closet must be getting full back there’, ‘I’ll need to build an addition’. When Meredith could finally wrap his head around the gravity of his actions (or non-actions), his objective hypothesis was that this was another symptom of shock and that he really must steel himself against such emotional responses for the future. For now, he’d move forward with his laundry list and the remaining, unchecked item: Iwamura. Aleicester was sent on a mission of vague direction after a short scribble-session on a small card to be delivered to his one-time compatriot bearing the simple message ‘we need to talk’ coupled with a sloppy (but legible) signature. With any luck, Aleicester's mission would be fruitful and he'd not have to do anything more than wait. Without luck, Mop's back-up plans involved a lot more effort and energy.

08:46:11 [Iwamura] "Need to talk, hm?" Izuyo Iwamura turned the card over and over in his hand. Meredith Owen Porthman had a distinctively untidy signature, the sort one developed when one didn't sign often or didn't care. Not to say Izzy blamed him for that imperfection, or anything. He'd been in the midst of something fairly important - composing a letter to an individual he felt (likely unfairly) he had wronged during the war - but the distinct urgency of the note coupled with the fact it came from Meredith, whom Izzy needed answers from, meant he could spare a bit of time, at least. The return reply consisted of similarly few words - a room number at the inn where Izzy had been staying for the Conclave, and the initials "K. I." Which, hopefully, Meredith might recognize. Even if he didn't, he'd surely recognize the owl that bore it - the little burrowing owl with the perpetually unamused expression, Doc Holliday. His response sent off, Izzy went right back to his prior task, composing his letter to one Rebekah Lavine. He carried a lot of guilt for his mother's actions, sometimes. Most time. Okay, hell, all the time…

08:58:47 [Porthman] Aleicester’s lengthy absence should have been concerning, but when Doc arrived at the open window before the little puffin, Meredith wasn’t actually surprised. A single bark from Bobby elicited the distracted auror’s response and he gladly snatched the letter from the bored-looking raptor if he hadn’t already relinquished the thing. Mop considered his travel options after digging into the note’s little contents—there were safer ways to go, but nothing quicker than apparition. Since he’d already wasted enough time on this time-sensitive matter, that’s the way he chose to deposit himself somewhere familiar and much closer to his destination. Meredith hoofed it the rest of the way, but it wasn’t long after receiving his note that he was at Izzy’s door with a clear, deliberate knock.

09:06:03 [Iwamura] An expected rapping at his door - Izzy capped his dearly beloved fountain pen and closed his notebook. "Come in, Meredith. The door's open." It was obviously a room he shared - with three other people, by the looks of it - but he was the only one present at the moment. All four beds were neatly made, though one of them was piled with an assortment of clothes, all slightly too big to fit on Izzy properly. Which, as it turned out, heavily suggested they belonged to him. Meriadoc, now a rather venerable and aging black and silver tabby, slept in a pile of long fur, whiskers, and fluffy tail at the head of that particularly mussed bed. The hardwood floor, notably, was rather scratched and scuffed as though by the constant pacing of a midsized dog. (Izzy hated how often Sakako kept him inside. Fortunately, today she'd brought him out with her. It made for a happier dog and a happier everyone else. Particularly Izzy, who rarely got on well with dogs…) "You needed to talk?"

09:21:17 [Porthman] No need to tell him twice, Mop pressed on and into the room. That didn’t mean he looked entirely comfortable with feeling like he’d barged in on something important and assessed the state of the room (but more importantly, the state of the elusive beast he hunted). Ever-distracted by his thoughts, they were a constant commentary running along the margins: when did people start calling him Meredith? When did he start accepting that they did? “Yes! …yes.” Meredith confirmed. Where were the others? What was Izy doing before now? At some point, he felt like he must have been silent just a tick too long and his prying was rather obvious. “Wow, hell, I’m being rude. I’m sorry—this is rude.“ That’s a nice shirt. He lifted a hand to scratch at one side of his nose. “Should I ask how you are first? It seems to be I only pick on you when I need your brain, aye?” Mop cracked a grin and edged further into the room to find a sliver of comfort. “Next time, it should be for leisure… but this time… ah…” Was there any way to start this that didn’t feel like diving in? The resounding answer was ‘no’. “I suppose you know Valen was…” He brought his hands up for air quotes “apprehended” and then dropped them to return to helping his conversation along “…not too long ago.”

09:29:54 [Iwamura] "Apprehended. Died in custody. Probably still alive. Yes, I do follow the news." And he wasn't simple. And, he'd only a few days prior discussed in some depth with one Huian Li the nature of dark magic, and its tendency to push people to greater and greater heights of madness. And, of course, the fact that one doesn't assemble power without aiming to use it. And, of course, for what it was worth, Izzy had always called him Meredith… nicknames weren't really his thing. "I take no offense. You have work to do, as do I. Not everything need be pleasantry. I had questions for you as well, so it all works out, yes? Please sit down." There was, conveniently, precisely one additional chair to be found in the room, aside from the one Izzy currently occupied. He folded his hands in his lap, watched Mop with a slightly canted head. His expression was unreadable - but then, it often was. He'd inherited that particular trick from his mother.

09:45:21 Porthman coughed out a laugh despite his attempts to remain serious. “Oh good,” he rubbed his hands together—either in anxiety or for show—and took a steady course to the chair Izzy had pointed out. When he reached the end of the road, Mop didn’t sit right away. He lingered on. “Well, then I should confirm your suspicions that he is, in fact, alive—“ Meredith cast a glance down to the seat and finally decided he could be comfortable enough to bend. Once he took the chair, though, he didn’t take more than three inches of the edge. Mop leaned over his knees to support himself and dropped his pursuit to give Izzy’s some attention. “Wait,” he paused, contentiously, “what did you need to talk to me about?” He couldn’t imagine Iwamura would need his help in any walk.

09:52:53 [Iwamura] "I need you to sate my curiosity, Meredith, regarding an event I suspect I was not supposed to see." His voice remained, remarkably, quite level. He didn't feel particularly level just now. "I should like to know what, exactly, warranted rooting through Li's memories. I don't suspect it was sanctioned, it seems like a diplomatic incident waiting in the wings. I also find myself somewhat affronted by it personally. I very much hope you can shed some light on it. As, ah, my vantage point was less than ideal. And I suspect there is context I am missing." Yep, not even a hint of venom. Izzy hated his tone of voice just now. It was the same mellow, even, incisively distant tone his mother had used when she informed him, in brusque and unconcerned fashion that he would be difficult to replace. If, you know, he decided to go and get himself killed. Presently, Meriadoc yawned, stretched, and began grooming himself immodestly. Fucking cats.

10:12:38 [Porthman] It occurred to the stray auror that he might obfuscate the truth or outright lie; deny any involvement and see how far he could go. Despite the impressive amount of red flags, bells, and whistles raging in his running-commentary, the only expression on Meredith’s face was utter confusion, followed by a healthy dose of something a little more ambiguous—but certainly not nefarious. He was measured when he parted his lips and pensively slid his tongue along the bottom before he decided to speak. “I say…” he started, locking eyes with his distanced housemate with an expression that belied the betrayal he felt. “Ms. Li’s cavorting with the devil was dangerous, bordering on illegal.” Meredith did his best to muffle how raw and sensitive his tone made him appear. “Now,” He began, regulating his breathing in a conscious effort to remain placid. “She is innocent of being an accessory.” A deep breath cast his worry away now that the secret was out. “What was I supposed to do?” He urged, truly looking for an answer—guidance. “We’ve already got one friend in the bin. I refuse to see another one lost by the same bastard.”

10:19:53 [Iwamura] Izzy certainly hadn't been expecting Meredith to jump up and down with a sign reading 'look I'm a villain!' or anything, but… he found the answer he got less than satisfactory. It elicited a raised eyebrow. "What were you supposed to do." Only the briefest pause. "Other than engage in arguably illegal and questionably ethical tampering of another individual's memories. There was a period of fifteen years after the Second Auror War, wherein the use of Legilemency was outlawed - by international treaty. Part of the Anhuala Accord. It was made so due to the particularly invasive nature of the procedure, and the torturous ways it was used during the conflict. I do not believe that we as a society are greatly improved by returning to the cavalier use of such talents." Rather specifically, Izzy avoided scolding - by falling into something more comfortable for him. Reflection on wizarding history. "You may also recall something I mentioned when you first asked me for help: little good ever comes of an Auror pursuing an investigation when he has an undue personal investment in the case. I don't question your intentions, Meredith, but your judgment is a rather more worrisome line of inquiry. I am worried about you, Meredith. There is a limit to what actions others will forgive. Obsession is a dangerous road with an ignoble end."

13:52:20 [Porthman] The last thing Meredith needed was a history lesson—and Izzy’s attempt to make a point was largely glossed over by the person on the receiving end. He was silent out of courtesy… for as long as he could possibly be. Meredith rose from his seat when Izzy was done speaking and a few seconds had elapsed to signify some kind of information-digestion with a “thank you”. He separated from his seat and his temporary opposition. “But I don’t need a history lesson, Iwamura.” The tone he took was flat and devoid of clear emotion, though his face ran red with the pain of betrayal. “This, though?” He pointed toward his feet to insist the point. “This is not about obsession. I am protecting my own.” Meredith’s face flinched and the muscles in his neck strained with it, but he soothed his woes away on another note, less charged and more diplomatic. Making enemies of allies wasn’t his goal. “So where do we go from here?”

14:05:39 [Iwamura] "In my experience," Izzy replied mildly, in his most infuriatingly passive-aggressive manner, "When someone wants your protection, they do not need to be sedated to accept it." And that was all he had to say, really. Meredith clearly wasn't going to change his mind - which meant Izzy would need to explore different options. "Where, indeed, do we go from here? You had questions for me. I will answer them to the best of my ability." Though the degree to which the other actually valued his counsel, Izzy was no longer certain of. Clearly, he'd entangled himself rather deeply into a case he shouldn't have been involved in. Clearly, Izzy still needed to wander on in to Darby's office and flip her fucking desk over how she was running the place. But, you know, it wasn't his jurisdiction. He didn't really have the right. And he was canny enough to avoid a diplomatic incident. Well, he was now. He hadn't always been… back in the day, he'd been kind of an expert at setting those off…

14:16:46 [Porthman] Just because Huian didn’t want protection or saving didn’t mean she didn’t need it—Meredith remained steadfast in that belief (if only because it was what he had to hold on to). When Izzy turned the conversation back to Mop’s reasons for being here, the latter no longer seemed comfortable with divulging information. “No,” he commented after a long time of chewing over his predicament. “I think… things are quite copasetic now.” Meredith lifted a hand to draw a straight, smooth, horizontal line over the air for effect. His hand quaked and his expression twisted for a second before he was able to conquer his bodily functions. “I meant… what are we going to do about this? Us. You. Me.” Meredith’s counting became mechanical “Botts. Huian." Finally, he added: "Valen.”

14:29:24 [Iwamura] A raised eyebrow. This was really a messy situation. Izzy also gave very little credit for good intentions… "What are we going to do about it? Valen is not my jurisdiction." And, pointedly, he added on. "Nor should he be your assignment. Miss Li was, I believe, privately researching the nature of Valen's regenerated limb. She consulted me extensively on theory related to darker magics. I am uncertain what her interest in the affair was, though knowing her, I suspect it was purely academic. She also has a tendency to pursue…" Obsessions. "…objectives to an occasionally unhealthy degree." He was talking a lot. And he knew he was talking a lot. "Of course, I remain in the dark about many pieces in this game. So you tell me. What are we going to do about it?"

14:43:39 [Porthman] Somehow ‘I’m going to fill that empty grave’ didn’t seem to be an appropriate response to Izzy’s questions. Instead, Mop started closer to the beginning. “I don’t think Valen is anyone’sassignment. I doubt anyone at the Ministry is looking for him.” There was a reason for that, wasn’t there? “They still think he’s dead and buried.” Why buried, Meredith might never know, but the system of disposing of deceased criminals needed reform. The moment of truth came in what he said next—in Mop’s head, this could make or break him. “I intend to make bloody well sure he isbefore they suspect or know otherwise.” That was a goal as good as a promise. Valen was a rabid dog meant to be put down. “He’s had his chances.” Meredith took a step back toward his chair to close some of the distance he’d just put between them. “To that end, I’d like you to help.”

14:53:05 [Iwamura] "Ah, so you know he's alive, and haven't reported it to the proper authorities." Pullin' all those Renegade triggers, Mop. Careful. Izzy shook his head. "That shouldn't surprise me at all, actually. I'm not a killer, Meredith. Not during the war, and not now. I might be willing to help you, but I need some assurances. About you more than anything else." Which was to say, in so many words, that Izzy still found Mop's judgment to be an alarming area of inquiry. He was totally calling Meredith's rationality into question. Pretty much every opportunity he got. "A good start would be telling me why you're keeping this quiet."

15:05:18 [Porthman] “Yes, well, you don’t have to be a murderer or a villain to pull a trigger, do you?” Meredith interrupted, spitefully. He didn’t interrupt again, but mulled over the idea of speaking when he was spoken to when Izzy called his judgment into question. Of course… it wasn’t actually the Welshman that made the call to keep everything about Cyrus’ miraculous rebirth on the down-low. It seemed treacherous to tell the truth, in this case; he couldn’t tell Izzy it was Botts’ decision and he was tagging along for the ride. What Meredith decided upon certainly didn’t sound like the schoolboy of yesteryear, either. “He went through the proper channels and the proper channels only cocked things up.” He reeled in his tone and stepped backward again. “Murderous or not, we’re going to put him back into that grave.” He owed that much to Botts… to Gloriana… and – now – to Huian.

15:25:04 [Iwamura] And to that, Izzy just sighed and shook his head. Meredith was absolutely being irrational. So goddamn irrational. And it didn't seem like he was going to be dissuaded. So… "I have two conditions. I'll help you if you agree to them. The first is that you will not hide information from me in this matter. I will not be kept in the dark in any matter I participate in. The second is that you return what you took from Huian." Izzy stopped, recovered his notebook and fountain pen from the desk behind him. Even there, he was… unhappy with the agreement. His protestations aside, he was - at least in some semblance - a killer. It was war, and he was certain that neither Kali nor her closest confidantes had any intention to come back from the darkness they'd dug themselves into… still, he had a lot of war-guilt. And a lot of other peoples' war guilt that he'd internalized along with his own.

15:39:43 [Porthman] Conditions—friendship and solidarity always seemed to be conditional. Mop couldn’t find it in himself to fault Izzy for it, but he’d most assuredly be disappointed to hear the response. “I cannot.” He told, truthfully enough. “I can agree to exchange information… but the latter is not mine to give.” Meredith raised his hands, palms open for Izzy to see. “It’s out of my hands.” He only became increasingly charged from there, though he managed without raising his voice. “Even if I could, why would I. Are you mental? Didn’t you hear anything earlier? I won’t see her become an accessory to this fucking madness because she can’t reign in her bloody curiosity. I would not give her the keys to her coffin.”

15:52:45 [Iwamura] "What gives you the right, Meredith? To make decisions for someone else?" He remained painfully, unflinchingly calm throughout it all. Never raised his voice, never added any hint of sharpness, barely even changed his expression. Izzy could be just as stubborn as Mop. Of that, he had no doubt. "You distrust her. Implicitly, or you wouldn't have been party to that at all. You have my answer." He opened the notebook once again, to the page with his unfinished letter to Rebekah Lavine. Uncapped his fountain pen, tested the inkwell on the tip of his finger. "Was there anything else, or are we done here?"

16:01:59 Porthman bit his tongue to prevent himself from spitting something out that he’d later regret. He didn’t say anything at all, despite lingering as though the conversation wasn’t over. He stuck around long enough for the silence between them to become awkward before he disapparated – without ceremony and without a word to stick up for himself.

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