Chapter 1 : Unique Service
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Augustus was not at the party to enjoy himself but he was open to have fun should the opportunity present itself. He was invited to the Notts’ large party to provide a unique service to the Dark Lord. Information and secrets were in high demand, and Rookwood’s skill at getting people to trust him made him an invaluable tool for the solicitation and extraction of key intelligence.
The first rule to seeking information from a target is to let them do the approaching. Rookwood stood at his ease chatting with people as they came up to wish him a happy New Year or ask what new areas of magic he was exploring. The occasional attractively dressed witch or handsome wizard would seek out more than words and small talk from the man, but he could not indulge for the sake of it that night.
Rookwood’s eyes flicked to the man he was targeting as a pretty witch hinted at the two of them finding somewhere private to talk. “You’re adorable sweetheart,” Augustus said rubbing the witch’s cheek with his thumb. “But, I will have to take you up on that another time.” It was with a pang he watched the attractive woman saunter to the buffet and pop a few nuts in her mouth. He would have loved to enjoy her soft lips in a dark corner of the large manor but she would not provide him with the connections he needed to make that night. Ludo was surrounded by a small group of people who eager to fawn over him. Knowing that eventually their path would cross, Rookwood waited.
The broad shouldered, athletic man who was his target approached him about an hour before midnight. “Rookwood!” came the young man’s jovial voice. “Dad said you might be here.” A few years out of Hogwarts, Ludovic Bagman was quickly becoming the star beater for the Wimbourne Wasps. Augustus knew Clovis Bagman from work and had been invited over to the Bagman household for a handful of dinner parties in the last ten years.
“Ludovic, how are you?” Rookwood said with a smile. Taking a sip of his firewhiskey with a twist, he added, “I hear you have some skill on a broom.”
Laughing loudly, Ludo patted Rookwood’s arm appreciatively. “I am good with a broom - oh, and I play quidditch.”
Flirtation was just the in Augustus needed to plant a seed for his quest. He would need more, however, to secure commitment and loyalty. “You should show me how you handle a broom sometime,” Rookwood said in a low voice causing a blush to spread on Ludo’s already red cheeks.
It turned out that Ludo was quite talkative after a few drinks and compliments. Life as a famous quidditch player was not all gold and glamor for Ludo. While at first he enjoyed the attention and affection from so many fans, it soon became difficult to connect with people on a genuine level. “That’s why it’s so nice talking to you Augustus,” Ludo said with a confident nod. “You aren’t just looking to use me for a bit of fame.”
Rookwood was almost moved by the irony of the quidditch player’s words. He was planning on using him but not for fame - he had a much more interesting end game in mind. The man’s growing network of prominent athletes, fans, and internationally based connections made him a person who could be of great use. “Definitely not for fame,” Rookwood said with a winning smile. Their eyes met for a moment while each pondered that phrase. Ludo could feel his palms start to sweat and his stomach squirm pleasantly.
The moment was interrupted by the arrival of champagne being carried on a try over a house elf’s head. “It’s for the toast,” the small creature squeaked. They took a flute and looked toward a bewitched clock floating overhead. Its face was visible from all angles in the large ballroom. Paying attention to the crowd for the slightest moment, Rookwood saw that most eyes in the room were trained on the clock and it ticked towards midnight.
Wrapping his arm around Ludo, Augustus started to count down with the others but he did not shout it as many in the room were. Rather he said each number in a sultry voice in the beater’s ear. “Five, four,” he was stealing himself for the moment, “three, two,” he could feel heat rising from the man next to him, “one.” Ludo turned towards Rookwood and was suddenly pulled into a not unexpected kiss. A few exhilarating moments later, they pulled apart and toasted with the rest of the room.
The night drifted on and the two men continued to drink and talk. Rookwood was surprised to hear that Ludo was already thinking of life after quidditch as the young star had quite a few years before he’d pass his prime. Knowing he needed a way into the Ministry was key information for the death eater. Other party-goers came up to the two men and chatted merrily about the same blather people think is interesting at parties - sports, politics, world events. A few were so bold as to speak of Lord Voldemort and his recent activities. All the conversations became a blur as the evening passed into morning.
Rookwood woke the next morning in a room at the Nott manor where he stayed on other occasions. He felt dehydrated and his limbs were heavy as he stretched out in the comfortable bed. When his arm brushed a person in bed next to him, the death eater tried to recall the previous night. What lies and promises did he make to entice his bed-fellow to fall into his arms? Watching Ludo for a few moments, Augustus remembered - the young man was interested in knowing someone who could help his career later. There had been no promises made however, no exchange of affection for a future job. Could the person in bed with Rookwood be there out of desire and not self-gain?
It wouldn’t be the first time the death eater lured a person to bed with the hint of a favor to come but the sight of the young, possibly besotted, man next to him made Rookwood feel decrepit and vile. He wasn’t one for affection and tenderness but that was all he could recall from the late night romance. Ludo did not deserve to be used as a pawn in his mission for the Dark Lord. His heart did not need to be broken as he learned what it meant to have a one-night stand. With painful clarity, Augustus remembered what it had been to be young and innocent as the person next to him.
As Ludo began to stir, Rookwood began to wonder if he could avoid hurting the young man once their relationship shifted to that of informant and informee. Would Ludo become bitter and jaded when he learned he had been used - not for his fame or for affection, but for knowledge? Out of all the atrocities and crimes he had committed, Augustus did not want to add this man’s loss of faith in people to his list of wrongs. This would be the first he would regret.
Could he change? Rookwood had never considered not using people to peddle information and power. He certainly had never cared before when peoples’ hearts were trampled as he expanded the network which provided him so much access and information. He had destroyed Evelyn Scabior a few years back after a short affair after which she claimed to be pregnant with his child. Rookwood never acknowledged the girl’s claim and she never pursued him legally as her family could provide for her as she raised her son. The Scabior family did not want to create a scandal by accusing the Unspeakable of bringing shame to the young woman. Despite hiccups like Scabior, his model of seduction and secrets panned out quite well. Would he be able to get secrets without seduction?
Perhaps a slight adjustment in behavior would work. There were ways of getting people to spy for him without crushing their hearts in the process. It would be a challenge rather than a retreat - finding new ways to exact the information he sought would push his skill. He would be a better man. One who was caring and kind to his lovers rather than callous and indifferent.
Augustus smiled as Ludo blinked a few times to take in the bright room. “How are you feeling?” the death eater asked. The conversation felt foreign - he would usually sneak out, not cuddle and enjoy pillow-talk. But if he were to change, it would start immediately. “I enjoyed our time together last night,” Rookwood added deciding to give Ludo a bit of encouragement.
“I did too,” he said looking around for his trousers. “We should do it again sometime,” Ludo added pulling his pants on. Rookwood recognized the move immediately. The morning dash - trying to leave before any soppy or awkward moments can happen after a good shag. “I’ll owl you next time I’m in town.”
Rookwood stood up with a rogue grin on his face. “Ludo,” he said trying to hold in the laugh. “You’re not my first shag at a party. I’m not going to wallow after you or pine for you once you’re gone,” Augustus said succumbing to laughter at last. It felt like he was reading from a familiar script but the lines were not his.
Looking reassured, Ludo returned the smile but not the laugh. “You’d be surprised how much some people chalk up one night to mean,” he said with a significant look. “This one witch in Brussels, well, I got that scar on my back from a hex she sent me afterward.”
Parting that morning was unlike any other tryst Rookwood had. The two men left as equals, neither would regret their activities or expect that it meant more than it was. His only remorse was the few minutes when he had considered that ridiculous change. Thoughts of trying to be better were washed away as he returned to his flat in the city. It had been an ephemeral thought of madness brought on by the lingering holiday cheer in his system. Seduction and secrets had served Rookwood well in the past and would continue to do so in the New Year.
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