April 29th, 2098

15:13:59 Porthman arrived home from lunch much more enlightened than when he’d left for work early this morning. When he arrived, he took Bobby out for a scheduled run and followed up with a late afternoon tea from a large box his mother had sent as a house-warming gift. Meredith had been hesitant to tell her the ‘good news’ because he knew what would come next – the questions, the whining, the visiting. He delayed the point as long as he could by telling her the house was still in renovations, which seemed to placate her for now. Now with a tall, hot chai in hand, Meredith tucked a book under his arm for the trip outside and over to the cottage. Meredith would wait for Botts to arrive there—in a comfortable seat in front of a cozy fire, with a dog at his feet and a book in his lap.

15:36:52 [Hippolytus] And Where has Hip been? A dinner party. The Whitakers were visiting London, which meant everyone had to start pretending they didn’t hate each other long enough to throw a lavish affair that attempted to rub their good fortune in the other family’s face. It was revolting and by the time he managed to disentangle himself, Hip had had just about enough of being maneuvered around like a chess pawn. But he’d bit his tongue and let his mind wander as he’d blurted out all the appropriately disinterested responses to whatever this that or the other important witch or wizard said to him. Cornelia wasn’t even there, so at least he hadn’t had to struggle over finding common ground with her. Instead, he’d been over recent events in his mind, plotting the risks he’d taken with care in opposition to the benefits he stood to earn. He’d quit the event very soon after the first mention of his work had been risked over some very old whiskey. It wasn’t that it was brought up – it was that his parents had been so keen to shoo the Americans off the topic. Hip was only just coming down from fuming when he arrived at Meredith’s house, fine coat over one arm and his hair a tousled mess from flying. He wafted a portal in the protection spell and stepped through, trudging the rest of the way to the little house on foot. Blustering into the room, he tossed his coat to the halltree (which caught it with improving reflexes) and gave his rain-dampened hair a shake. “Bludgers. Came down through a storm off the coast – wasn’t even looking where I was going. Alright, Port?”

15:53:03 [Porthman] Bobby jumped up when Hippolytus arrived but didn’t raise the alarm. Instead, the little dog took up a sleepy, wiggly trot over to their guest to rub up against and crash in to the man’s legs. “Well you look a fucking mess.” Meredith chimed helpfully in reply to Hippolytus’ soggy arrival. He folded the book in his lap and put it down on its face on the nearby end table. Mop jumped up in the seat and perched on the back of it to better swivel and follow Botts as he went around. “Alright.” He ultimately responded to his visitor’s question, but couldn’t leave it at that. “For now.” A brief pause settled over him, but he broke it just as quickly. “My friend is coming by. The one I told you about. He wants to talk to you.” Meredith’s tone was cautionary. “He knows about what we did. I didn’t tell him. He was there.” Trying to get everything out in the shortest time possible, he continued to blurt. “I told him… why—that we were protecting her; he’s going to help us with Cyrus, but he’s coming to talk to you.”

15:53:42 [Kaust] “Bobby…” It’s a soft voice calling from the hall, accented but certainly not in the way that Hayden’s was. In fact, the voice was nothing like Hayden’s own, soothing yet haunting… It’s the voice of Zner and the sound of her light jog. “Bobby..?” The normally not so talkative cat beast is calling for the dog—or maybe checking to make sure it isn’t around but either way she’d soon slink on in, black hair undone and covering most of her face (Mum has been busy, what with her drinking and such, surely someone will groom her eventually). What she’ll probably come upon is Bobby and some delicious wizards, one of whom she recognized while the other was more familiar. Nice, company that didn’t speak another language! “Broom.” That is his name right? Tail wag. They’re not doing anything important are they? She hopes not.

16:13:49 Hippolytus paused in the middle of dragging a soggy sleeve over his brow and locked his eyes on Meredith. “Not feeling much better than one,” he confessed quietly. He proceeded into the house, checking for a pot of tea and helping himself if one was discovered. He’d just emerged from the kitchen, a steaming cup in his hands and a towel over his head when Meredith continued to describe what could be problems for them. Hip blinked and set the cup down before even risking that first sip. “Iwamura?” He didn’t remember too much of the man, but he supposed he liked the impression he got that first night. But Hip knew better than to judge on first impressions. He ran a hand over his face and drew in a deep breath. “Alright,” he said softly after a moment of deliberation. “I’ll talk to him. But what do you think? About him knowing.” He was very uneasy, but he stifled that panic as he kept his eyes glued on Meredith, searching the man for hints of his own fears. He was so focused for a moment, that he started when the silence was broken by an unfamiliar voice. Fortunately he didn’t go so far as to pull his wand, but he was just about jumpy enough to do so. Instead, he whipped around, towel dropping to his shoulders. Spotting the sphinx, he froze a moment. He hadn’t… realized that it spoke at all. He darted his glance from the creature to Meredith, raising his brows and mouthing: “Broom?”

16:26:53 [Porthman] “I think…” Meredith was hesitant to make a call; he wasn’t comfortable being put in that position anymore. He thought he was, prior to this, but now that he’d seen Botts in action… he wasn’t so sure. At the same time, he didn’t think it was wise – now that he was committed – to go around without a contingency plan in case things with Izzy went south. “I think anyone is dangerous when they have the right information.” The topic could be explored no further after that; Meredith’s eyes drifted with the sound of an unfamiliar voice in the house. The ‘animal’ wasn’t hard to spot in the open floor plan. If the wizards spotted it, Bobby wasn’t deaf or blind to it and his response was not the perplexed expression the pair of wizards shared. The terrier tore toward the sphinx, all barks and snarls.

16:37:21 [Kaust] The men seemed a bit confused by her presence, or was it concerned? She didn’t have time to dive into their human emotion though, since Bobby was coming! The large sphinx (around the size of a male great dane) didn’t feel as if it were in immediate danger. In fact Zner would rear up in preparation for a hug of possible death but she looks super happy while preparing for it! Come mere Bobby!

16:44:54 Hippolytus would have simply nodded to Meredith’s opinion about people and information. He couldn’t disagree there. But at the moment, his attention was entirely on the sphinx and – suddenly – the bull terrier who was all set to protect the household. “Bobby! No!” he blurted out (momentarily forgetting that it wasn’t his dog – sorry, Port), but even as he shouted, the sphinx was rearing back and – having been highly interested in magical creatures for most of his life – he knew better than to give one of the sphinx’s reputation the chance to prove she WASN’T going to be the ferocious little dog’s demise. His wand was still in its holster, so his first instinct was to run interference and dash in to scoop the yelling dog up into his arms, twisting his body away from the sphinx to protect the protesting Bobby.

16:47:55 Porthman was, for the record, very uncomfortable with the idea of keeping a highly illegal and dangerous animal in his home. Mark one more thing he did for the sake of making Botts’ life easier. The worried dog-owner just about launched himself off the chair to scramble after Bobby – yet again to try and save the blasted little animal from an untimely demise. Fortunately, Botts was a little quicker on the draw. Meredith arrived just as Hippolytus snatched the scrappy terrier and insisted upon taking his whine, snarling dog upstairs himself while Botts dealt with the vile animal he’d brought in with Kaust.

16:50:10 [Iwamura] "My mother told me many things, but she never accused me of ruining anything. She had too much invested in me." Rather literally. Memories that weren't his, kicking around in his brain, protected for years by a Fidelius charm. Haruhi Kojima had been, if nothing else, a living, breathing example of der wille zur macht. "I'm sure I'll be fine. I'll be careful. Always am." Well, that was just straight-up not true. Izzy was often cavalier and reckless when it came to his own safety. One might've accused him outright of wanting to die, judging by some of his actions, and had a good argument to make. Obviously irrelevant, though. Obviously. "I'll be in touch." Then, he stood - and with a distinctive crack he was gone. And a moment later, found himself knocking at the door of a charming farmhouse in Wales. He only ever seemed to come here when there was villainy afoot…

16:53:26 [Kaust] The sphinx gave a slight frown when the dog was snatched away from her grip, her warm precious grip. It did bring a mild scowl to her features and a low rumble of irritation set to echo from her chest. Now, just what was that all about? “Bobby…?” With Hippo in a protective curl in front of her and the other male moving to scoop up the dog she can’t help but feel as if they were threatened by her presence. Yet, that seemed silly, she just wanted to see the dog. Everyone else got to, this didn’t seem all that fair! Instead the sphinx will have to pad up to Hippo and look up at him. “Why…” It’s a bit confused but not angry. “I want to see Bobby.” Yet someone is at the door! Oh, more delicious company! Instead the sphinx is now padding to the door!

17:01:44 Hippolytus had just handed the dog off to Meredith when he was confronted by an affronted sphinx. He looked taken aback – he hadn’t anticipated ever having to converse with her. “He’s fragile. You could hurt him…” he said frankly. And he assumed that would be enough conversation, considering there had just come a smart knock on the door. “Oh…. Hell. Look – why don’t you go find Hayden. Go find her. Please… now – wait! No…” He darted after Zner and put his back to the door, making a shooing motion. “Go on… back! Good god.” He opened the door a little to peer out. “Ye-? Oh… hello. Sorry.” Given that Iwamura had been there when Kaust had arrived with the sphinx, he figured that it was safe enough. He opened the door the rest of the way with a put-upon smile. “Come in. We’re just having… animal… problems.” He rubbed his face again, looking slightly frazzled.

17:13:27 [Iwamura] Animal problems. Izzy snickered despite himself. "Animal problems. Of course. Hello again, Mr. Botts." And then, looking just past Botts, he focused on the sphinx for a moment. The raving, psychotic, terrifying menace to life and limb from the latter half of his sixth year. Hand-sphinx to the raving, psychotic menace to life and limb that was Chester Flutey's replacement headmaster. "Hello, Zner. Benedict or Florentine?" The very briefest of pauses, and then Izzy continued. "It's a trick question. Don't answer too quickly." He found it easier to deal with the highly illegal creature Kaust had acquired with the support and aid of Cassaday and the pointed obliviousness of Flutey when he treated it with a degree of, ah, irreverence. "Meredith's here too, yes?"

17:19:31 [Kaust] The sphinx gave a slight pout at this. “I… wouldn’t hurt him!” She wanted to play with other things! Things that weren’t empty bottles or pieces of paper. She shuffled to the door all excited before Hippo got in the way. “Hngh!” The look of irritation on her face is pretty easy to understand. “Ngh, Mum is sleeping.” Again, she mostly slept. She’s gotten very lazy, Zner thinks but she’s much too busy rearing up to shove Hippo in her childish irritation. “No!” She won’t leave, he better treat her with respect! But, if she had managed to push up against Hippo—she’s trying to squish him into the wall—she’ll at least be distracted by Izzy as he sweeps in. Oh, he knows her! “Mouse.” And she knows him. “Ah… huh?” What a weird question. She’ll have to think about it. At least she’ll be too busy thinking to try crushing Hippo more. He’s a lucky fellow when she moves back to all fours and begins to head back to the living room.

17:27:11 [Hippolytus] “It’s FINE, but-UGH!” When the sphinx tantrumed a little, Botts was all too easy to smash into the wall beside the door (face first) and was nearly useless as he tried to push himself off of the paneling until Zner decided to release him. Once released, he pushed himself back to his feet with one arm on the wall and the other wrapping around his seriously deflated innards. “Good god,” he blustered quietly with a few coughs. “Yes,” he was finally able to answer Iwamura when he got his breath back under his own control. “He’s upstairs. Should be back in a moment. *coughwheeze* uh.. Tea?” He gestured the eager-to-please teapot over into the room where it hovered, steaming over the end table where a few cups jockeyed for position.

17:35:49 Porthman was busy trying to soothe the Noble Sir Robert upstairs. In the end, he distracted the rowdy dog with a tattered bunch of socks that had been tied into a ball and repurposed, but had to escape eventually – the ruckus downstairs was becoming too loud to ignore. His entry was heralded by the sound of the trapdoor slamming shut and his feet slapping against the stairs. Veryworried was Mop when he arrived to the base of the stairs and into the kitchen, wondering what in the hell he had missed. “Can we just… is it possible to have a relaxing night?”

17:46:07 [Iwamura] "Tea sounds lovely. Thank you." Izzy hadn't really come for pleasantries but there was no reason to turn them down, specifically. Well, you know, other than the bit where he'd seen Meredith and Botts drug and obliviate someone else by way of suspiciously friendly drinks. He wasn't going to go there, though. He had contingencies in place and he was just going to trust that they weren't going to need to be used. "You might have a relaxing night with fewer creatures roaming about your home, Meredith." He knew his advice was probably unwanted and certainly unneeded, so hey. "Sorry I'm a little late. It's been a full afternoon."

17:49:18 [Kaust] Zner is gonna be around, she’s definitely snooping and hanging out just to spite the mean Hippo. She’s in the kitchen, sprawled out on the floor and glaring. She’ll teach them, she’s a people too!

17:56:51 Hippolytus nodded and went to pour and serve up a cup of tea to their guest, as well as refreshing one for Meredith and himself. He’d half turn to see where the sphinx had gone off to. Spotting her in the kitchen, he glanced at the pot in his hands, then back at her. “Tea?” With a look of chagrin, he glanced shyly back at Iwamura, clearing his throat. “Er… that’s my doing, mostly. I’ve… rather descended on Port with some Ministry matters that involve… a sphinx… by proxy.” He sighed. He was still trying to be optimistic about how long he’d need Kaust to be hidden and about NOT having to move her, but he was asking a lot of Meredith as it was and he was feeling guilty about it. Setting the pot down again and watching the steam escape it, he pinched his lips between his teeth. “But you’re not here about that.”

18:04:43 [Porthman] “Yes,” Mop glanced Zner’s way. “I think I might.” He’d deliberately purchased a house miles away from civilization to get AWAY from people and it seemed like he’d become an unpaid boarding house since then. Meredith stepped around Zner to get to his tea on the other side of the house before returning to the peripheral, chai in hand. He remained on the margins thereafter to absorb conversation as it budded between Izzy and Hippolytus… but he couldn’t forget the sphinx sprawled across the cool kitchen floor.

18:15:57 [Iwamura] "A rather specific sphinx, at that! I'm quite familiar with Zner…" Which was an understatement, considering the torment that creature had inflicted on him. Well. Spilled milk and all that. "You're right. I'm here about something else entirely. Two something elses, really. Meredith," A nod in the direction of the other. "Asked for my help with a troublesome individual. I have agreed to offer that help, although it's really not my jurisdiction." He was very fond of saying that recently. "Which means I need to know as much as possible about the current state of affairs. The other thing deals with Miss Li. I believe you have her memories in a phial. She would like them back, and I do intend to see her reunited with her… missing property." Yep, best be straight to the point. Straaaaaight to the point after a minor diversion about sphinxes, anyway.

18:21:43 [Kaust] Zner was pretty sullen as she watched the grown men, her head upon an arm as she silently scowled. That is, until she is offered tea. “!” Of course she’ll have some. How very thoughtful! “Y-yesss.” That sounds delightful… ah, what is tea again? As for Izzy she’d give him a tilted head. “Mouse!” That’s the most she remembered –she hadn’t been very mature at the time and biting and trying to eat things had been a hobby of hers. Still she seemed rather behaved here at least, maybe because she didn’t want to cause any issues for her normally silent owner. Seemed like more problems wouldn’t do her well and Zner didn’t want to get sent away anywhere, she had fun stalking Mop in the halls (he just didn’t know it). “It was fun!” Humans actually don’t get hurt right? They scream and wiggle a lot but she’s sure they can’t feel pain.

18:40:08 Hippolytus obliged and poured Zner a cup of tea. Delivering it, he offered a quiet warning. “Let it cool off a little…” Returning to the circle of furniture in the parlor area, he looked slightly distressed. He didn’t sit down, but did at least stand still, fingers laced before him with his palms facing up, knuckles see-sawing a little. His eyes flickered between the sphinx and the other two. As Iwamura and Port had been classmates, he didn’t doubt they had some untold stories about Hayden Kaust and her … associate. He sighed, eyes slipping closed for a moment and bringing himself back to the matter at hand. “Port has mentioned he trusts you and I trust him with my life.” He had to, really, “So, thank you. And I’m sorry that a matter that should have been taken care of in our division is pulling you from yours.” He paused, swallowing, then looked back at Iwamura askance. “As for Miss Li. I’m sorry. I know she’s a friend of yours, as she is of Port. But what we- What I did was in her interest.” He glanced at Meredith before continuing. “I am prepared for the possibility that we’re caught up to in this matter with Valen. I took the matter out of my own division’s hands. I can no longer trust my superior. But because of that, I’m risking myself and Port terribly. The more accomplices we have, the greater the risk. You’re an Auror and Port has assured me you’re proper for the job but…” He paused in his explanation – he hadn’t really had the opportunity to organize his reasoning into a case before this. “But if by some chance I’m taken in, I have Miss Li’s alibi in a bottle. She’s my victim. Not an accomplice and not even aware of a matter that could put her in danger.”

18:46:55 Porthman rolled his tongue over his teeth and diverted his gaze as his name was mentioned. He drew in some of his chai to put himself on a task to separate him from his anxiety. It was lukewarm, by the time he was able to imbibe. Tea that was not enjoyable was barely worth anything at all… but the prospect of edging into the kitchen to claim more or bring any more attention to himself was worse. He stayed plastered to the wall near the kitchen to drink his muddy milk and spices. Botts’ reply was much better spoken than Meredith’s had been the day prior—and with good reason—so he had nothing to inject to the conversation. He had no reason to distract his trustees from hashing things out. Instead, Meredith let his focus drop to the floor and the sphinx investigating her tea.

19:03:45 [Iwamura] In her interest. To protect her. Really, if Izzy heard that again he was probably just going to flip a table before everything was solved and be done with it. Really had to get to work on that table-flipping jinx… civilization might well soon depend upon it. Still, it was a better explanation than Meredith had given him before. "And was she given a choice in the matter, Mr. Botts? I take a certain degree of issue with a unilateral decision being made about Miss Li's best interests. I am quite certain she wouldn't want this sort of protection, and positive she doesn't need it." He stirred at his tea with his little finger, tasted it. He was kind of annoyed, and it showed. Turns out he was a bit sensitive to the whole concept of messing with memories… funny how that worked… low sigh. "What is it you know about Valen, then?" No, he wasn't done harping on the memory-blasting stuff. He'd just need to come back to it later. Or, perhaps, find an opportunity to reclaim memories by way of theft. Izzy wasn't much of a thief, although he probably could've been with a little effort. Had an easy way to access hard-to-reach places, as it turned out. And a fairly good way to avoid detection, at that.

19:05:52 [Kaust] For now the sphinx is content enough to watch them talk, sipping her tea once it's cooled and listening. Memories? Valen? She doesn't know what any of that is but she's sure Mummy will!

19:24:21 Hippolytus frowned. He’d just reached down to retrieve his teacup, but stopped midway as he turned back to Iwamura. “No,” he said firmly, “I did not give her the option. I feel that would have flown in the face of her being my victim in all of this… I suppose if she wasn’t then you wouldn’t be here.” So…mission accomplished? “And I stand by it. Because my decision made for her would keep her out of prison. Her decision for herself could very well land her there if everything comes down to the worst.” For a moment, the façade had slipped and the small Auror had let show a glint of those badger claws. Hufflepuff indeed. He drew in another deep breath that stretched his ribs. In all honesty, he wasn’t sure what he’d seen in her memories would paint her completely innocent. He paused and went for his tea again for a sip that never quite made it to his lips. “I think Valen might be trying something foolish,” he said rather abruptly. “I don’t have proof, but…” He closed his eyes to file through the memories he’d observed in Huian’s head. “He’s desperate about something – bringing harm to himself for the sake of another… improbable spell. I think he might be trying to raise the dead or… something.” The sordid details were a little disturbing and Huian hadn’t known everything, so things that required a bit more nuance than he’d had time for escaped him and left him to make leaps of logic.

19:36:54 [Iwamura] Yep. Much as he suspected. Izzy hated the explanation no matter how many times or how many ways he heard it. Not that there wasn't a certain degree of sensibility to it, but it touched on an element of magic he found deeply unsettling. "Raise the dead? He can make whatever efforts he likes. He won't succeed. There are immutable laws, and the death is one of them. You don't come back. And magic can't bring you back." Of more concern was the 'bringing harm to himself' bit, but Izzy had trouble finding that alone particularly worrisome. More problematic was what he might do to other people to fuel that sort of spell. "It occurs to me." He offered quite mildly. "Miss Li was quite interested in what he was doing, in an academic sense. She kept rather extensive notes." Pause. Thought. "Have you made use of a pensieve, Mr. Botts?"

19:37:44 Kaust absorbs all this info and drinkz her tea, meow!

19:48:10 Hippolytus nodded. “Yes, I know, but I get the feeling that to even try, he’s already committed enough to harm others in his pursuit. Like he did to Miss Boulstridge.” His gestured with a wave of his hand to one side. “So I still think it’s best he’s … stopped before he proceeds with whatever it is he thinks he’s doing. I’m not going to assume he’ll run himself into the ground before he wreaks more havoc.” He turned to pace, and in doing so, glimpsed Zner’s oh-so attentive expression. Granted, she only had much contact with one other person in her life, but it DID give him pause. For now, he said nothing to her about it… er… maybe later, when he’d thought about the consequences. Iwamura’s question brought his attention back front and center and was answered, at first, with only the slight lift of one brow as Hip’s fingers went back to their fidgeting lacing before him. “I haven’t,” he said finally.

20:02:40 [Porthman] At one point, Meredith slid from the wall near the kitchen to the seat at the table next to him. He continued to watch in silence while picking through his drink. Body language and expressions were key details Mop paid attention to, so when Botts diverged to pay attention to the far-too-attentive sphinx sharing their space, he noticed. Meredith put his tall mug down and jumped up to address the eavesdropper in their midst. “Oi! Get outta here—“ he all but demanded, shooing the creature “where’s Kaust? Go bother her. We’re trying to have a spooky wizard conversation here.”

20:34:37 [Kaust] The sphinx was downright offended! She’s not some dog, Mop can’t just walk up to her like that! She’ll snarl at him a bit before turning her head and staring at the wall like a moody teenager, flipping her long tail in his direction—watch out, it’s heavy! It’s a snap like a whip, he might not want to get smacked by it! “L-leave me alone!” Mop is going to make another woman (creature) cry isn’t he? Though he may be saved, there is an odd sound from nearby, a movement and then alas there is Hayden, interrupting this wonderful meeting looking frazzled with an empty cup in her hand. She’s… also dressed in Mop’s clothing (a sweater and a sagging pair of shorts). She’s not even paying attention as she slips in and while running the water with hunched shoulders –she’s trying to look as unsuspicious as possible though that’s probably backfiring considering what she’s got on—though she does spare a few glances at Hippo with red cheeks. “Fuck.” She didn’t think they’d be home, didn’t they have shit to do? And why the hell was Izzy there… and Zner. She’d suddenly turn to the sphinx and yell: “ Holen Sie sich!“ Only to follow up with a—“ Arsch raus!“ Immediately Zner was up and skittering out the room. Then, with a slight cough the bare foot hatless German began to take her leave. “Guten Abend.”

13:30:59 [Iwamura] "You should." Make use of a pensieve, that is. Not that they were a super common or easily acquired apparatus, but very useful. "I suspect Miss Li's memories will prove quite enlightening. Your own may, as well. It is always helpful to look at what you've seen and experienced without the, ah, veil of your own perspectives to cloud your judgment." Izzy recalled that his mother had kept one, though she hadn't left it him, and he wasn't sure what had become of it since. Probably destroyed by nonsense wizard lasers, or something. That seemed to happen a lot. "Hello, Hayden." A bare acknowledgment to the arrival of the former headmistress. Izzy didn't care for her. He wasn't ever going to, really. Too much history there. But there wasn't any animosity left. He didn't have it in him to hold a grudge. And there was a certain… hopelessness… about her these days that made it very difficult to summon even the barest feelings of animosity. Besides, he had plans and schemes to continue planning and scheming. And that meant Botts was his main concern right now.

13:45:03 [Hippolytus] “Enlightening enough,” he agreed, “Where Valen was concerned, but like I said – I’m missing nuance.” And cavalier as he’d seemed about the first memory theft, he wasn’t keen on doing it again. He paused a moment when there was a sound on the stairs – at first he feared Bobby was going to reemerge and make a stink. It turned out to be Hayden Kaust coming down, MUCH to Hip’s surprise, from Meredith’s room. Too startled to veil his initial response, his head whipped back around so that he could stare at his partner, eyebrows clear up under his curls and his mouth just slightly ajar. The evidence pointed very clearly to something he never would have imagined, considering the history between the two. And… wasn’t it a bit er… early? He cleared his throat and looked elsewhere, rolling his lips between his teeth and trying to gather all of the thought that had been scattered like rabbits before a hound. “Erm. Ah- oh…” He closed his eyes and shook his head. “Anyway… I’m not at complete liberty to utilize the Ministry’s property… particularly in other departments.” #notmydivision.

13:54:32 [Porthman] The sphinx’s pouting gave way to the distinct sound of someone hitting the floorboards above. Meredith could not even comprehend why the hell Hayden Kaust was coming down from his bedroom, but there she was, in his clothing—making herself right at home (nevermind her obvious inebriation). He, quite naturally, turns to her ‘keeper’ for an explanation, but finds an accusatory expression in the place of an answer. Meredith didn’t think he was capable of summoning an appropriate response without showing how exacerbated he really was with everything lately… so he aborted. He took his tall mug, marched over to the chair near the fireplace, and sat down without a word.

14:01:24 Kaust wasn’t entirely inebriated, just a little. She’d only just woken up right? She’d only had time for a glass or five. That was why she’d been getting the water and all but she hadn’t really planned on staying, just drinking her water and preparing to maybe leave this land for a bit of social interaction—mainly, she wanted to see Kat without being harassed for once, that’d be awesome! So she hadn’t stayed for the looks exchanged by the men and had only given Izzy a grunt for his greeting. With her sphinx back in place (granted not before the energetic creature had whispered some stuff to her) she’d have already been in the living room, lounging on some chair and sipping her drink. Mop’s clothes are sooo comfortable! Too bad he appears so frazzled. He should get drunk, that usually did it for her.

14:03:53 [Iwamura] Izzy sighed and threw his hands up in the air. "This, Mr. Botts, is why I usually operate by the book. Because it affords me resources I wouldn't normally have…" Well, no matter. If the Ministry wasn't an option, perhaps a pensieve from somewhere else. "Suppose I could get us access to a pensieve not related to the Ministry. And suppose I happen to have access to Miss Li's notes regarding her inquiry and research on Valen's untoward actions." Which is to say, he could offer nuance. This was, of course, all basically leading towards the same place, but Izzy was content to let the inevitable rest in its inevitability. "Anyway, this is all conjecture and suggestion on my part. I presume you probably already have a plan, or at least the skeleton of one. At least one of you has to." And Izzy meant no offense to Meredith when he assumed Meredith didn't in fact have the master plans around here. Botts seemed much more the type to think ahead. You know, not that there was anything wrong with not thinking ahead. Nothing at all!

14:15:23 Hippolytus actually smiled a little, lowering his chin and lifting his brows. “I always check the author before I delve too deeply into the book,” he said as he finally pulled his attention from Meredith and Hayden. Spat? He couldn’t tell, but Port didn’t seem pleased at all. Not that Hip could blame him – he’d only just purchased his first home, only to have all manners of problems descend upon him. “And I’m sure if I had to, I could scrounge up someone with a pensieve… I might have just now. But…” His brows knitted a little once more and he paced around towards the fireplace, leaning on the wing of one of the large chairs there. “I’ve read Miss Li’s thoughts already. I thought I’d simply keep her memory to be returned later or as reassurance of her innocence should worse come to worse. What did you have in mind for it? I think if we pool what we know, we could arrive at something just as useful without digging up a pensieve. If I knew the exact spell Valen was trying to use, then I might be able to anticipate where I could find him. I already know the girl’s grave is a point of interest…” He glanced to the side at Meredith and shrugged. “But I’m not keen on fighting in those, I’ve decided.”

14:29:45 Porthman watched the sphinx and the devious, expelled headmistress exchange private words – words he wasn’t comfortable with at all (despite not hearing a shred of it) – while he drank his tea in quiet and comfort. Meanwhile, the conversation between Izzy and Hippolytus dragged on and the odd auror out gave a distracted ear to business as it proceeded. His eyes, however, never strayed from the woman who had invited herself to his clothing. He’d have words—and questions—for that when the floor was no longer claimed by important matters… but Meredith made sure to scrunch his face in utter confusion (and a touch of disgust) if she looked his way.

14:33:44 Kaust continued to nurse her cup of water, quirking a brow every so often at her feet as words filtered in from the ‘important business’ once or twice but other than that she appeared to be completely absorbed in the task she was attending, unlike the nosy sphinx. Either she just didn’t care enough or she had a feeling it wasn’t really meant for her to hear (it’s definitely the latter of course). As for Mop she’d catch his look and narrow her eyes in his direction, eyes that aren’t covered by her glasses either. She’s… missing some stuff.

14:51:32 [Iwamura] "Reading one's thoughts and observing the objective reality of them are quite different things. But I will concede that we can approach this from other angles as well." Izzy produced the notebook Huian had left in his care, set it down and opened it to that last page. The one where she had written down her magical formula. Izzy did not, as it happened, speak any dialect of Chinese. Reading it, however, was not so very difficult… it required some guessing at context and tense, but… "This is a formula. It isn't complete - there's a single element missing - but it provides a starting point as to Valen's workings." Fuck it. This might've been #nothisdivision, but Izzy was pretty sure he needed to just start paying attention to problems and solving them even if they weren't. 'cause he kept getting roped into them anyway, and then had to play catch-up on the things he'd been leaving to other people to deal with. Could rest when he died. "…I'm sorry, which girl's grave?"

15:03:25 Hippolytus nodded. Iwamura had a point, but he didn’t want to whip out the memory and flash it around anymore than he had to and for now – he’d rather start at a point that would be less trouble for everyone involved. When the notebook was brought out and laid out to the appropriate page, Hip lifted his brows and moved to stand over the notebook. He certainly didn’t read Chinese, but trusted whatever Iwamura had worked out. “I see! What element? A catalyst?” He ran his fingers lightly just over the page and chewed his lip as he studied it. There seemed to be a degree of potioneering to what Valen was doing, which should surprise no one, and it also gave them concrete goals to focus on. “Good, this is good.” He fell to a moment of silence as he continued to squint. “Mm? Oh. Charlie Gray. A student of his. If he’s doing what I think he’s doing, then I assume she’s… the supposed target.”

15:26:53 [Iwamura] Charlie Gray. Izzy winced a little at that name. "Ah… I knew her, a little. Two years behind us. She was always a bit quiet. Lived more inside her head than anywhere else…" What, exactly, was Valen's interest in her? It was true Izzy hadn't been particularly close to Charlie - passing acquaintance, and he'd wound up very busy being a pawn in his mother's crusade during the second of his two years at Hogwarts - but he hadn't caught on to any sort of connection between her and Valen. Then again, he'd never really pegged Valen for the maniacal Dark Wizard type, either. Possible he was distracted enough at Hogwarts that he'd missed all manner of details about the people he hadn't been very, very close to. Hn. "So you suspect he means to try bringing her back from death, then. That's… problematic."

15:41:48 Hippolytus wrinkled his nose. “I got the feeling it was a slightly unwholesome relationship. So… yes. That’s my guess. I haven’t got firm evidence, but a healthy hunch. He wrote Huian Li a note about her, asking her to apologize to her for him and bury a locket near the gravesite…” He trailed off, and pressed his lips closed as if he thought he’d said too much on a matter that wasn’t particularly his business – an odd line to draw, but it was clearly there. “Anyway.” He shook his head and rubbed at his eyes. Since performing legilimency on Huian, he’d been looking slightly gray in the face. He’d slept most of it off, but living that much extra emotion was a lot of wear and tear on someone who didn’t have the years of expertise under their belt. Dark circles still stood out under his eyes in a certain light. “Probably more problematic for him. Unless she was unusually talented and murderous and made a horcrux no one knows about, then I imagine he’s just delusional. But delusional and dangerous.”

16:17:28 [Iwamura] "I would be very surprised if she'd fashioned a Horcrux. It would be an extremely unusual fifteen year old with that sort of… murderous intent." Fuck, Izzy realized his tea was getting cold. That just wouldn't do. He took a long drink from his cup. Nearly drained it. Not quite, but very nearly. "On the other hand, if he does - in fact - mean to try bringing her back from the dead, he probably needs something from her specifically." He retrieved Huian's book again, closed it, pocketed it away. He'd made no headway on getting her brainworms back for her, but he could revisit that soon… "It can't be done, of course. The closest one can come is a pale imitation, intangible, ill at rest, and transient. Save for one particular artifact - that no longer exists, mind - every effort I know of to call one back from the other side required a piece of them. Bone, blood, ash… something tangible."

16:36:19 Hippolytus made a gesture to the teapot to bring it rushing over eagerly. “Help yourself.” This could be a two-pot problem, to be honest. He glanced over at Meredith and lifted his brows a little. His partner had fallen into an exclusive quiet that tended to serve as a room of his own. Hip didn’t often intrude upon Meredith’s self-imposed emotional solitude, but today, he would tap quietly upon those walls, looking for some familiar companionship in their endeavor. “Port?” he asked softly. Have any thoughts here?” He could feel, like needles, the presence of Hayden Kaust. How much she knew, he couldn’t say, but she was so quiet, he knew she was absorbing what she heard. He fought back his inherent paranoia and took a long, calming breath. “So. He’d return to her gravesite then? That at least narrows down our search…” He let his voice fade, then tucked one corner of his mouth, letting his gaze slide over to Iwamura. This was one who kept more behind his eyes than on his lips. “Particular artifact?”

17:01:26 [Porthman] “Yes?” He asked when Botts called his name. It took him time to tear himself away from his staring contest with Kaust to digest and address the matter his partner wanted looking-at. Charlie—Mop remembered her, the strange little isolated girl. “I think,” Meredith started, putting his teacup on the ground and hoisting himself onto the back of the seat to join back into the conversation. “If we’re expecting he’ll return,” he rattled on, “if it weren’t so tactless, we should exhume the body, firstly.” Mop paused and weighed what cultural values said was normal. “Since that’s against our sensitivities, we should have one of us – posted in shifts – at the gravesite in shifts. When we’re not there, we can pour ourselves into finding out where he might be holed up and his possibilities. Or…” he glanced between Izzy and Botts, hesitant, “we can intercept Huian’s communications, see if he’s going to make contact with her again, and send someone in her place. A Trojan Horse.” Meredith was finished spending time on Cyrus. He needed to be finished once and for all.

17:15:37 [Iwamura] "He might, if he doesn't already have whatever it is he needs." Izzy raised and lowered a shoulder, then poured himself another cup of tea. This was some crazy madness, and he was wondering what possessed him to get involved in- oh, right. Huian. "Shifts at the graveyard isn't a bad idea, even so. If we can cover in four hour shifts it shouldn't be too difficult. Although it might prove troublesome with the legitimate and legal work we all do." A hand lifted to his forehead, pressed lightly against his temple. "I will not assent to stealing correspondence from Li, however." Rather sharp. He wasn't going to be happy about the way they were using her any time soon… "If we really want to track him down, my suggestion is a strategic use of taboos. You might consider his name, and Charlie's, to start with. Individuals he considers of import." Too many taboos, or too general ones, of course, was a gateway to madness. That was a thing to be… careful about. And Izzy pointedly didn't answer Botts' question about that particular artifact.

17:30:40 Hippolytus shifted his (as it would turn out) deceptively soft gaze from Meredith to Iwamura and back again before he looked to the floor, a few fingers catching his chin while he studied the subtle patterns in the carpet. He took his time mulling over the ideas that had boiled to the surface in the tumult of their differences. “I don’t think we have to desecrate a gravesite,” he exchanged a look with Meredith that pointedly inserted the “another” where it ought to be in that statement. “But perhaps some protection spells on her place of rest wouldn’t be completely out of line. It would at least be something to alert us to any tampering.” Again he fell silent, dark brows lowering over his eyes. “I’d like to leave Miss Li out of this, but Port is right – It’s a safe assumption that he’d come back to her.” Taboos were tricky – at least in his reference. People so seldom spoke the exact name or phrase you wanted them to. “A taboo would be a good fall back, but I feel like if we would have better luck leaving Huian Li out of this if we made sure we caught him on his way to her instead of when they were already meeting. I might be able to devise a device that can help us keep an eye on more than one location at once.” The idea wasn’t so different from the innocne t family clock that could tell where every member was at any given time. It would just take some tinkering.

17:43:37 Porthman was not particularly bothered when a couple of his ideas were rejected. He didn’t react at all to the news, in fact. The gloomy Welshman simply teetered on the back of the plush chair and waited his turn to speak again – whenever that may be. Meredith just wanted things to be decided upon, once and for all, so he could return to certainty and silence.

17:57:38 [Iwamura] It didn't really matter if Meredith was right. Of course he was right, it wasn't the point. Izzy wasn't willing to do that. "If we are going to monitor her correspondence, she will know about it." There wasn't any chance he wouldn't tell her about it, he meant. That wasn't acceptable. Nope. Whole lot of nope. "If you can devise a device to do that, you probably should. And if we have to use Li's correspondence, then we should do that, too. But we won't do it without her knowledge, and I absolutely won't be party to any further high-handed and unwanted efforts to protect her from herself." Really, he was trying not to be angry. Trying trying trying. It's not that their reasoning was unsound, it just rubbed at raw nerve. And Izzy was trying to be better than that. Why was everything so fucked suddenly? It was supposed to be a NICE PLEASANT TRIP TO ENGLAND. Now everything was complicated and ethically gray.

18:14:40 Hippolytus paused again for a long time – something he seemed to do often while making decisions. He even turned to direct his eyes out the front window by the door, watching the wind tousle the grass on the field. For an instant, his gaze flicked to Meredith – his partner was really more important to this decision than he was and even though he could foresee a hundred ways for things to go wrong the more people they brought in, there was something that was irreparably sunk at the bottom of this well: “Well, Port? She’s your friend. You didn’t want her knowing before and we took great measures to keep her out of our plot thus far.” He bit down on his own opinion until it bled, but he’d already made it clear. “I think it’s only fair that those who know her best carry the weight of this one.” And it was a decision they needed to arrive at before they proceeded. He loosened his grip on the situation and felt an uncomfortable thrill of uncertainty. He could be handing over his soul to dementors for all he knew.

18:27:43 [Porthman] “Muggles have those devices. They’re called fucking cameras. I’m sure you can make it with magic if it can be made with bloody plastic.” With Botts’ weight in the decision shouldered off to Meredith, the latter’s expression went tense. He shifted between Hippolytus and Izzy, chewing over his answer much longer than he had to, for the sake of looking thoughtful. Izzy received a knife of a glare for his too-far stab at a still-open wound in the meanwhile. The only thing he told – matter-of-fact – in the end, was simple. “I don’t want her involved.” Mop threw his legs over the back of the chair to slide off of it and onto his feet. “She doesn’t have to be, anyway. He just has to think she is.” He pointed out while he ducked to retrieve his teacup and plodded across the house. “We watch the gravesite. We leave her out of it.”

18:37:49 [Iwamura] "Then, we have a plan." Or the skeleton of one. And Izzy was starting to get agitated, and it seemed like he was agitating Meredith, so all things considered it was probably time for him to go. Because fuck everything, tables to flip. "I should be going. I'll keep watch at the Gray's grave. If I see anything, I'll send a patronus." He paused, bit his lip pensively, then made an homage towards civility. "Thank you for the tea, Meredith. Botts. I'll keep in touch." With a rather distinctive crack, he was gone, leaving the other two to their devices. And to scheme more, if they felt the need to scheme more, while he wasn't there to be self-righteous and slightly angry about everything. Of course, the problem with the graveyard - he realized too late - was that upon arriving, he was entirely lacking in tables to flip over. Well, that was what conjuring was for, right?

18:44:48 Hippolytus nodded to Meredith, looking entirely unsurprised by his answer. Maybe he wouldn’t have asked him if he didn’t think his partner’s opinion would so directly reflect his own. Then again, if that was the case, they wouldn’t have gotten this far. In addition, Meredith’s simplified edition of the plan seemed like a good base point of action. Looking back to Iwamura, it was clear they were wrapping up. There was much left unsettled, but Hip was part of a wealthy family and he knew that no one ever left an agreement completely happy. He offered another polite nod to Iwamura and stepped back as the other disapparated from the house. Hip found his tea cup again and went to find a comfortable chair to sit in, closing his eyes.

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