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Second Floor The Second floor is home to many notable locations such as the Headmaster's Office and the Arithmancy classroom. Constant vigilance, everyone.

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Old 12-04-2018, 12:11 PM
DaniDiNardo DaniDiNardo is offline
 
Default Headmaster's Office


Well, it's an office.

There's a desk, there's bookshelves, the walls are lined with portraits of past Headmasters and Headmistresses as is the custom. Nothing out of the ordinary here.

On the large, wooden desk sits several pictures of a woman with a bright and enchanting smile. Some pictures had (if you asked the Headmaster) the cutest children ever to be created in the history of man's creation. One picture contains these beautiful people and Trent himself. Not all the pictures are still. The little girl in one picture blows kisses occasionally and the little boy who is clearly the older of the pair occasionally breaks into a grin in his own frame. It was his mother's grin, could you tell? Did you need a closer look? Don't smudge the glass and don't leave fingerprints, that's just inconsiderate. Look with your eyes and not your hands.

This is usually where you'll find the Headmaster, getting through some important paper work or making plans. It's of course, not a guarantee he'll be up here as the man does have a habit of wandering. Sitting still for hours was never his strong suit.

If you wish you speak with him, approach the stone gargoyles and have yourself a nice wait. They're not likely to let you in without the password and only the Headmaster and his staff are privy to that bit of information. Don't break them trying to force your way in anyway. They've been here since long before you were born and won't appreciate that kind of abuse. There's ways of trying to let yourself in that would prove to be less a nuisance--not that you're encouraged to. Whatever you've got to discuss with Headmaster Trent can't be THAT pressing. What's a five minute wait?
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Old 05-15-2021, 03:43 PM   #2 (permalink)
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The fury that had swept over them in the later stages of that morning's lesson had lasted, oh, a couple of minutes at least. Once the class was dismissed, Nem was barely around the corner at the end of the corridor before it had all but dissipated entirely. If they hadn't already planned to see Trent, that little taste might have drawn them here all the same, not that Nem would have admitted it or perhaps even been fully cognisant of the fact.

The rest of the day had been dull and empty by comparison. Duller and emptier than usual, but that, at least, Nem had expected. The last time they had felt something like that, ten minutes of silent rage had cost them several weeks of desolation. The thrill of the battle in May had ended in a wasteland of intensified apathy that Nem was still finding their way out of. They had not failed to note, either, that every time they ended up there and extricated themselves from it, a little more would stubbornly linger, no matter what. Still workshopping solutions.

Once classes had ended for the day, Nem headed to the Headmaster's office; they knew the way very well, had visited plenty in the days when Rosier was slightly less dead. Stopping in front of the gargoyles, they looked between them. "If the Headsman's in there, tell him Upstead is here to see him." Nem was not the only Upstead in the school, but thought they were probably the most likely to come for a visit, especially today. If not, let him guess.

Expecting a wait before being let up, Nem back against the wall opposite the gargoyles, reached into their pocket, and brought out a handful of enchanted metal matchsticks, ready to while away the next few minutes working on that particular project. As they held their hand flat, the matchsticks each stood on one end, and began lazily rearranging themselves.
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Old 05-17-2021, 03:13 PM   #3 (permalink)
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”Just the student I wanted to see.”

It was a rather matter of fact tone, neither disparaging nor welcoming, just...a statement as he walked up to them from the opposite end of the corridor. Malachi had had some things to discuss with his staff in a meeting just now and was returning to his office to prepare for another with the BoG.

That Upstead showed up between meetings really didn’t affect much as the man had been intending to summon them if they hadn’t shown up just now.

Now on the spiral staircase, the Headmaster beckoned for Upstead to join them. This certainly saved him a letter or a patronus and told him they had their own things they wanted to discuss, possibly something relating to the morning’s lesson, them thinking they chose when his lessons ended.

Yes, much to talk about indeed.
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Old 05-17-2021, 06:41 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Focused intently on the tiny sculpture forming in their hand, Nem was content to settle and wait. At least it was quiet up here, and they remained totally undisturbed. Momentarily, at any rate, and even then the disturbance that came was a relatively welcome one, given it was the very person they'd come here to see.

Nem looked up, and the metal matchsticks in their hand fell like marionettes with their strings cut. They re-pocketed them and watched the Headsman as he approached. A moment to observe and assess, before allowing a small, almost tentative smile, not a trace of that little blip from today's lesson in sight. Long gone; smoke in the wind.

"You know me. I like to give people what they want." Excuse them their little layered joke. Thing was, it was closer to the truth than he ever would know. Clueless.

Nem waited for the Headsman to lead the way up the spiral staircase before following along after, unperturbed by the fact that apparently there was mutual demand for this little chat.
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Old 05-18-2021, 01:55 PM   #5 (permalink)
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”So you do.” Came the man’s rather cool response as the stairs took them upward. Not frosty by any means. Level, if nothing else. Malachi felt like he was interacting with Upstead through a difference lens and it made it quite difficult for him to be ruffled by little jokes they thought they were the only one in on.

Whether they knew it or not, the tables were turning and a new climate was setting in.

Up in the office, he gestured for them to take a seat if they liked before himself settling behind his desk. “I’ll let you go first.” in case they ended up talking about the same thing. It would be better to have Upstead bring it up should that become the case.

In the meantime, he began shuffling around a few things on his desk, removing many so they wouldn’t become a distracted.
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Old 05-18-2021, 05:18 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Nem was unconcerned with the Headsman's tone, it wasn't so unlike talking to Rosier, whose cool, calm, and collected demeanour had appealed to them, until it was gone. It was less fun, of course, but often much easier to deal with a level-headed opponent in certain situations. That went double when Nem just wanted a relatively straightforward conversation, which had been known to happen.

No, it was the reply itself that might have been a red flag, if only they had been more attuned to danger. They did cut the Headsman a glance when he spoke, but quickly dismissed it. Something and nothing.

Stepping inside the office and closing the door behind them, Nem had a good look around just from where they stood. They'd been in here plenty, and now found little had changed on the surface, so it took no more than a few seconds for their eyes to dart about the place, finish their inspection, and return to Trent again. "Thank you."

But Nem didn't launch into it right away, or move from the space by the door. They stood for long, long moment, watching the Headsman behind his desk, trying to ascertain what, if anything, they felt at seeing him back in what had been the Big Man's place. There was no sense of who should or should not be sitting there, no grief, no sentimentality regarding which conversations may or may not have been exchanged here, the events put into motion. Nothing at all, excepting an unidentifiable hollow ache, which Nem impatiently brushed aside. Business as usual. Strength to strength.

They went to sit down at last, one hand now in their other pocket, where they still kept the name tag from that morning's lesson. "It's funny, now that I think about it... not amusing-funny, the other kind. It's almost the same thing I came to ask you, that first day when you were actually Rosier." Funny, too, the steadily escalating chain of events in their life that came after, possibly as a direct result of one simple little question. "I was just wondering if I could take some NEWT exams early, at the end of this year. Maybe five or six."
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Old 05-19-2021, 12:39 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Malachi remembered the last time he heard this request, locked away in the dark place wondering why Upstead was in such a rush to be up and out. The following two years gave him some sort of answer, even if it wasn’t the full picture.

So the Headmaster didn’t immediately say no.

This wasn’t the sort of request one granted willy-nilly. There were different aspects that needed to be taken into account. The student’s ability chief among them—wouldn’t want to set anyone up for failure. That wasn’t so much the worry when it came to this one. The Slytherin was quite competent. Held their own in a war fighting for the wrong side. All he’d learned of Rosier, the man wouldn’t have commissioned an incompetent child to join his ranks.

What it really came down to was...

“Why?”

A question he perhaps should’ve been asking sooner. Perhaps even a few things could’ve been prevented. It was not too late, not so long as Upstead had not graduated.
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Old 05-19-2021, 04:35 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Not an unexpected question. Nor an unreasonable one.

Nem didn't really care about qualifications, hadn't for years, saw them as nothing more than just another game. They had been ready to ditch school entirely this summer, regardless of the law; nobody could have stopped them, nobody would want to stop them if they decided right this moment that enough was enough, that they were moving on to bigger and better things once and for all.

They shrugged. "Because I'm brilliant." Fact. Nem didn't flaunt the extent of their abilities, especially amongst their peers, but in talking to the Headsman and making this request, it made little sense to act modest. Some things, though, some things they kept locked down, safe, hidden. "But mostly because I'm bored."

Objectively speaking, it wasn't a good mix. They needed something, anything to keep them occupied, stimulated, engaged. Rosier-as-Trent had turned down their request - and they'd done what they wanted anyway - but he'd given them something else instead. Something more. Far too much, it turned out, because now nothing measured up.

Nem frowned, almost imperceptibly, barely a twitch of the brow, but it was there for a second before their expression cleared and they broke into a smile. "I could take five, and the other six next year, or do it the other way around. But if I decide I'm done next summer, I can leave, and you can wash your hands of me. Guilt-free, because I'd already have some fancy pieces of parchment with some fancy letters on them. Everyone's happy."

Thrilled. Absolutely ecstatic.
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Old 05-20-2021, 02:51 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Malachi didn’t respond at first, figuring there would be more to the statement than “I’m bored”. While he had no doubt the Slytherin felt unchallenged, he suspected another standpoint may be offered. The thing he’d noticed with Upstead was, they liked telling people what they wanted to hear. It was like a mind game, a subtle dance in which they taunted and jeered, waited for a response and fell into that to see how long they could.

It was always mind games with this one.

The Headmaster eased back in his chair, giving them a once over. “What happens if I’m in no rush to wash my hands of you? If you getting some NEWTs isn’t what absolves me of guilt, then what? Where do we go from there under the assumption I’d like you to finish your full tenure here at Hogwarts?”

He could, of course, see where Upstead may have gotten the impression...and in hindsight realised he should’ve been better about it himself. It was perhaps too late for most things, but not all.

“You may have two.” Not enough to make a real difference in the real world. “The boredom, we’ll address separately.”
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Old 05-21-2021, 12:06 AM   #10 (permalink)
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There was a long pause; Nem didn't speak. For at least an entire minute, they only stared at Trent. Not because they were waiting for anything else, or because they didn't know what to say, not exactly. But the Headsman was playing the game now, Nem had suspected it in that morning's lesson; he was working an angle, and they needed to know what it was if they were going to proceed. And of course they were going to proceed.

When Nem did answer, they conceded at once. "Two then." Like it mattered. Maybe it would have been better to ostensibly bargain a little more in the name of letting the Headsman think he'd won something, but sometimes it was just too tempting to quickly back down when they thought people expected a fight. Genuine protracted arguments did not tend to be their thing in any case, which was easy when there was nothing they were that invested in, and could always find other ways to get whatever they actually wanted.

As for this business about addressing the boredom, that was not only highly unlikely, but another funny parallel to the Big Man's response. If Nem was not still trying to get the measure of post-war Trent, they might have innocently pointed that out, just for a reaction. Just for fun. As it was...

"How?" Address the boredom how? And, they had to know... if not the truth, which they doubted would be handed to them anyway, then at least the alleged reason, "And why? What's really in it for you if I stay?" What 'guilt' would that supposedly absolve, and how? Why wasn't he jumping at the chance to get rid? To keep an eye on them? They didn't see how he'd think it was worth it.

Nem liked to think they understood people, knew all that there was to know, and it wasn't like they hadn't procured an awful lot of knowledge on the subject from years of observation and research. Sometimes, though... sometimes the gaps in their understanding were closer to chasms, and trying and failing to bridge their way across often left them bewildered. It was tempting to use what Rosier had taught them in this situation, just to see and understand. But Nem's ability was still a little clumsier than they would have liked, and they were still working on improving the stealth factor; surely Trent knew enough to sense it, maybe even block it. Better to wait until they deemed it necessary. For now, they studied the Headsman carefully.
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Old 05-22-2021, 02:47 PM   #11 (permalink)
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”Two.” Agreement. This was a good start to the meeting, even if he felt he could almost see the gears turning in Upstead’s head. He imagined, given their previous relationship, this conversation may have made little sense. Making sense was possibly something the Slytherin valued. Had to have a deep understanding of your surroundings and its people in order to manipulate them after all.

How?

“That depends a little on you, actually.” Not entirely, but enough that it did decide a few things on how they proceeded. If the purpose was to stave off boredom, the first step was finding out acceptable things that broke it. Of course, the Headmaster didn’t expect any direct answers. This would take work. Trial and error.

It was his turn to ask a question. Taking turns and all. “Why does it matter to you what’s in it for me? Does it change anything for you? Affect your need to cut through the monotony?”

It probably did and somewhere inside the man knew as much. It was why he asked.
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Old 05-22-2021, 06:18 PM   #12 (permalink)
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The Headsman was so calm, and Nem wasn't sure what to make of it yet; it wasn't unwelcome, just unexpected. How long could he maintain it, if they stopped pulling their punches?

Boredom was not entirely the issue either. A huge part of it, yes, but just a part. "It doesn't go away, not really. I've been trying for years. So." Nem did not intend to say the rest out loud, were clearly ready to drop the matter; it would give away far too much. Potentially inconvenient, if the Headsman started to suspect what he was looking at. They'd always assumed it was obvious, at any rate, that they provoked him and others largely because they were so bored otherwise. Playing with people was one thing they always fell back on, and even then the games quickly grew dull, because hardly anyone was all that interesting. Regardless, it was not exactly an admission they were going to make so readily.

"Matters to me if you're using me for something." Half-true; Nem supposed it should matter, but the idea didn't hurt them like they knew it should, given this was an ostensibly sensitive subject, after the situation with the Big Man. But they didn't exactly like it either. Nem had allowed Lucien Rosier to use them, as his spy or pawn or weapon or whatever, had offered themselves up for just that and knew he thought of them as disposable. But they'd been using him too, more so, even, and had understood the game perfectly.

"I would say that knowing why someone does anything does change a lot, yes." Casual. Nothing obviously pointed. No reason to believe they were making a disastrous misstep. "Don't you think it's a good idea to know the people you're dealing with; in theory, if not in practice? Is that why you played that trick in your lesson today?"
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Old 05-25-2021, 04:49 AM   #13 (permalink)
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That first response already confirmed a few things for him and Malachi added it to his growing file of information he should have been taking on Upstead long before it ever got to this point. It, whatever it was, had persisted for years. It made sense of course, the menacing about the castle, always looking for a rise even in the least appropriate situations...but as of yet it was still only a fragment of a conversation and as such, he could not draw conclusions from it alone.

The subsequent suspicion was almost laughable, were it not sad.

Almost.

The Headmaster maintained his composure quite well, doing little more than raising a brow at the Slytherin.”What reason would I have for using you? What do I stand to gain, in your estimation, from lending my aid and essentially offering an ear?” Much like the questions he asked in his classes, he did not intend for this one to be a trick. He was very interested in where Upstead’s thought process would take them and how spindly or straight the path of reasoning would be.

”My lesson was not a trick, it was a test. You get several of those throughout the school year.” Just to make THAT clear. “I don’t see your NEWT grade going well after you’ve told the invigilator you have no intention of going any further. But, yes, I did need to see what I was working with. It’s an important part of making any sort of plans or preparation.”

The man steepled his fingers before him, his elbows propping his hands up on his desk. “I do have my own question, again.” As it was now his turn once more. “Are you intending to put up further charades this term or will we be moving on knowing what we both know? I’d only like to know for preparation purposes.”
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Old 05-25-2021, 03:49 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Offering an ear. So it was information he was after.

Nem had plenty they could have said to that, but opted to veer away from the one question in the interests of self-preservation. They obliged him with another response, one they thought far more obvious, and no less true. "You don't like me." Not to state the obvious or anything. "So you wouldn't help me without there being some kind of benefit. Even if it just makes you feel better to do something, there's still that. That's still a use." Which, again, they didn't care about. But they could see it, was the point. They could see there had to be something.

There was no humour in Nem's tone anymore, but no malice either. They kept their voice and their body language as casually unreadable as their expression, matching the Headsman calm for calm. The rest of the office may as well have faded into non-existence for all the attention Nem gave it. "You're telling me you didn't once consider all you could learn using boggarts and patronuses." Not a question. Maybe he really hadn't planned it with that in mind, but Nem wasn't sure if that would be a relief or a disappointment. "If patronuses are likely to be on the NEWT, then the game is rigged. Finding and holding onto a happy memory can't be learned or taught." Nem said all this rather matter-of-factly, though they were inching close to personal territory again, almost enjoying the risk. Not enough to stop them quickly backing away again, however. "And you never said we couldn't find an alternative route through the test. I was using my initiative." Actually, Trent might have said that; they weren't listening at the time, but doubted he'd thought to specify, even if it was implied.

Nem stared dispassionately at the Headsman, waiting for his next question. But when it came, their demeanour changed, though they didn't move at all. They sat very still, eyes narrowed at the Headsman same as they had earlier that day, but this time it held, and their eyes bore into his.

"What are you talking about?" What did he know? What preparation, exactly? Suddenly certain that this had something to do with how off things had seemed, Nem quickly ran through their memory of the entire day, scanning over everything they'd said or done. Further charades, Trent had said. "What is it we both know?"
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Old 05-26-2021, 12:44 PM   #15 (permalink)
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”Clever.” And hurtful. It was true, Malachi had never particularly liked Upstead. Liked them more than a few students, but had never felt the need to be in the same place outside of lessons. That it was so obvious...he felt shame. Honestly, nothing further than shame. That was not what he set out to be an educator for. He never wanted any of his students feeling unwelcome or uncared for. It was an indictment on his own character, something he would have to work on moving away from.

“But inaccurate. I’d say that statement is substantially less true now. I don’t dislike you. I don’t agree with everything you do, but I don’t condemn everything you’ve done either.” To make that clear before they could move on. The new lenses he looked through...they presented a different student, one not deserving of the feelings he’d once harboured...not completely, not all of them, some of them surely but those he had for several students, even his own children sometimes and were no worse or isolating.

“The benefit, if you really must know, falls more to you. I’d like you to thrive in your time here or at least not wither. A brilliant mind, as you well know, is a terrible thing to waste and they often say devils find work for idle hands.” Case. In. Point. ”You have rights as much as any other student.”

As for the rigged system...”You’re right, it can’t be taught, but you forget it’s also not a thing that typically needs to be taught. The average person can successfully conjure a happy moment naturally, if only a small thing that makes their insides melt and it makes no sense to not test on such crucial defense for the sake of outliers. That’s just a fact. Outliers can be taught alternatives. It doesn’t have to be a carnival in one’s head every time they need a patronus. Babies never need to be taught it, nor do children, adults or the elderly. It’s not typically an issue. But for you it is.” Not a question. Upstead...was competent. They cast spells to get them over with. The blatant refusal said as much to him as the boggarts and dementors did. An unintended discovery.

It all felt like mind games, something he expected going in and so wasn’t surprised when he ran into it. “I did, in fact, tell you it was a test for specific spells.” Since the Slytherin wanted to get technical. They could, continue as calm as if they were discussing the weather this was fine. Better than screaming children. “Dementors require a patronus. Let’s say you were trying the alternative. Outright refusal to continue is not an alternative, it’s giving up and dying.” There was a difference. “I meant it when I said the lesson was only a test, but I won’t lie, I have learned a lot.” The unspoken “about you” hung between them for a moment before he continued.

Malachi met Upstead’s gaze, his own unwavering though not boring back. Yes, he would let them sit with the thought a while longer, for the moment leaving the question open while he levitated two cups over. “Coffee? Tea?” This was either about to be a really long or really short meeting.

Malachi levitated some leaves into his kettle and set it to work, in no rush.

“What made Lucien Rosier such an attractive option.”
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Old 05-26-2021, 11:03 PM   #16 (permalink)
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A shrug. That was all Nem allowed him at first. On the surface, it was dismissive disbelief - 'sure, whatever you say' - a great big whatever.

But, just beneath that, confusion reigned. It didn't add up. The chain of events wasn't making sense; they had missed something vital. Nem would have liked to believe Trent was simply trying to deceive them, but they just didn't, and they wouldn't engage in self-deception just because it was easier. There was something there, and they were going to figure it out. Now.

They looked down at their hands, resting in their lap. Nem was very familiar with that little saying, and supposed that that could certainly be said to have happened, or could happen again. But it was always a matter of perspective. As the Headsman went on, Nem idly pinched the tip of each finger, then pressed their fingertips together, pushing their fingers back and touching their thumbs so that their hands made a triangle. By all appearances, they seemed to have stopped listening, like they weren't picking apart each word even as it left the Headsman's mouth, analysing every sentence in the context of everything else that had been said. Refusing to overlook a single syllable, determined not to let anything slip.

"I didn't forget," Nem said at last, tone light. A truth and a lie all at once. Now it was obvious they'd been listening, but somehow Nem thought that the Headsman would have known that anyway. "Suppose I'm just not a typical, average person. Who knew." They pressed their hands flat against each other, then separated them, gripped the arms of their chair instead, and looked at the Headsman. Worth a short, but really, even within those parameters, Nem would have tried to force an end to the lesson anyway. "I'll just find another way." Like in the test. No big deal.

The Headsman's unspoken words hung in the air; Nem heard them loud and clear, ringing obnoxiously in their ears. They'd never felt more off-balance, never more like a confused child, not even during the days when that was exactly what they were, but still now they were the picture of calm. They'd been about to turn down the offer of a drink, true to form, but changed course at the last second. "If you like," they said, quite simply, their tone not quite matching their stare. "I'll let you decide." They didn't look away, not until he mentioned Lucien Rosier.

Unreadable. "Oh." Looking upwards, Nem inspected the portraits on the walls, though they already knew he wasn't there, from the visual pat-down they had given the room upon entering. It was only now, however, this second look, that it suddenly occurred to Nem there might be a snitch amongst the painted subjects. More than likely, that was it. Irritation flared briefly; they'd not once considered the possibility, but this wasn't that bad. Nothing they couldn't salvage. It died away at once.

"Whatever you think you know, it's secondary information at best; not very reliable. You don't know anything." They paused, still looking at the portraits. "Why isn't he up there? Couldn't bear to face him?" Subtle spite, redirect, genuine question, or perhaps all of the above; hard to say for sure.
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Old 05-28-2021, 02:17 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Tea, then.

Malachi brought the water to a boil quickly then poured them both from his inventory of honeysuckle and lemon. It was one of his preferred go tos and he didn’t think either of them really needed caffeine. The conversation was going well, even for all the lulls it fell into while the Headmaster left the Slytherin to sort through their thoughts. He had no doubt he was reorganising or outright shattering some of their previously held beliefs and that sort of thing required readjustment.

He was not dissuaded by the apparent lack of interest, instead levitating a cup of tea across the desk to them.

“You will find a way.” Malachi agreed, taking a sip and a pause. “Life is about adapting, something you’ve proven very adept at.” A chameleon, an unapologetic chameleon that fit wherever there was most benefit, even if the benefit was not apparent. Not a bad thing, but not admired by most.

Sip.

“But it wasn’t secondary.” He informed, his tone matter of fact. “I know.” And that was as much as he’d say about that because it seemed the Slytherin was out making jabs. Malachi spared a cursory glance about the walls, already knowing what was “missing”.

It was his turn to shrug. “He was never appointed by the board, means he was never a Headmaster. No different than a Gryffindor who says they’ve taken the school. Doesn’t make it theirs. Didn’t make it his.”
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Old 05-28-2021, 05:41 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Life is about adapting? Tell them something they didn't know. Trent had no idea, he didn't have the first clue how true that statement was, especially for Nem; it went so much further than just ostensibly ingratiating themselves with the Neo-Alliance back when they were the ones in control. Even now, when he seemed to know something, Nem knew that wasn't it.

Again, they said nothing. Not about that, nor about his information. Just held the cup, grazing the surface of the tea with a fingertip, now watching it ripple instead of staring at the portraits, waiting until the Headsman was done before speaking up.

"He didn't say he took it. He did take it." That made it his, just as much as if someone had decided to just give it to him. Absolute power rules absolutely. In any case, the Board could be changed, bought, threatened, convinced, persuaded in any way possible to appoint anyone. There were plenty of methods that didn't even involve breaking the law, only playing the game, and that went for any other institution too, as high up as it was possible to get. If Rosier had done it that way - and no doubt he could have - then by the Headsman's logic, he'd have been the 'rightful' Headmaster, cult or no. But Nem ultimately knew it wouldn't make a difference; the winning side could move the goalposts just as easily as they made the rules.

It didn't matter. Nem did not rank Lucien high on their very short list of priorities, especially not now he was dead. Their mind was still largely on what Headsman Trent had said. But it wasn't secondary ... I know. They stared into the tea for a little longer before judging enough time had passed, and looked up suddenly, directly into Trent's eyes. "Tell me."

The attempt they made to delve into his mind was sure to be noticed, but the demanding statement, delivered in a flat, lifeless voice, might obscure it for just long enough for them to know, and to understand. It was reckless, and Nem didn't care. They needed to know, and they didn't trust him to tell them.
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Old 05-29-2021, 01:54 PM   #19 (permalink)
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...

....

It wasn’t the offhanded statement about Rosier’s success at taking the school that gave the moment’s pause. No, compared to what came next, it was all too easy to ignore a matter of semantics. He almost didn’t want to believe the Slytherin would be so bold, so reckless, so....over confident, and yet, he felt it.

Make no mistake, it was blocked instantly—a reflex before he could properly assure himself that it really WAS happening. It happened so fast, the man was almost able to convince himself nothing had ever happened, but not before bringing him back to a dark place. The cult had tried using the same tactics on him. The Headmaster put up the fiercest fight he could and earned himself the pain of his lifetime for it. Being forced into the defensive manoeuvre, it triggered memories he’d worked very hard to supprress. Outwardly, that appeared as little more than a brief, distant look in his eyes—fleeting at best. His fingers flexed closed then open then closed again, dispelling the sudden panic that threatened to rise.

Malachi levelled a look at them, stirring the spoon in his cup to give himself that extra moment to make sure he didn’t drop his composure. “Our conversation was pleasant enough on its own. Resort to tactics like that again and you forfeit the information.”

Sip.

“Do we have an understanding?”
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Old 05-29-2021, 06:38 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Nem didn't think it would take long before their attempt was blocked, though they'd have preferred more time unimpeded. They increased their efforts, but then suddenly abandoned the endeavour in favour of studying the Headsman at surface level. From his eyes, they looked to his hand, watched his flexing fingers intently, hunting down a sign of even the slightest tremble as he tended to his tea.

It didn't matter either way; Nem had wrested a victory from him, nobody could have denied it. Maybe they hadn't succeeded in peering inside, but they'd briefly edged ahead in the game, regained a little control, and forced a reaction. That was enough for them to proceed with confidence, even with the added rule.

They looked Trent in the eyes again. "I'm sorry." It sounded perfectly sincere. Just using the tools at their disposal. Tools taught by Rosier whilst he was wearing the very face they stared at now; easy to get confused, or something.

With how calm the Headsman was being, Nem was unsurprised, yet curious, when their actions led to nothing more than a reprimand and a threat, no orders to leave his office, no immediate detention or suspension, not even a hint of anger. All things considered, his composure and patience with them especially, this could be another imposter, but somehow Nem didn't think so. Still, he was more or less as composed with them as Lucien always had been, even claimed to like them - or rather 'not dislike' them - and hadn't that been what had ultimately confirmed Nem's suspicions about the Big Man? Approval and acceptance, from the individual wearing Malachi Trent's face?

"I suppose we do." And, just to be sure, they didn't even try to be subtle: "Do you remember that one kelpie lesson, sir? Who was it, again, that almost lost an arm?"

Understanding. That was what all this came down to. Again Nem touched the surface of their own tea, a gentle tap, tap, tap, as the ripples formed and smoothed out. Predictable. Simple cause and effect. They drank a drop of tea from their fingertip, then looked up again, ready.

Suddenly, politeness and warmth, which on its own might have sounded just as genuine as their apology. Potentially jarring, and deliberately so, after what had just transpired, as though nothing had transpired. A bewildering switch for the unprepared, a quick costume change, an entirely different persona. Pleasant conversation, that's what he wanted.

"So, anyway, will you please tell me what you mean? I'm just curious. Why do you think Lucien Rosier was such an attractive option?" Even if he lied, and Nem figured they'd see it, it might give some kind of indication of the truth. A statement didn't need to be true in order for it to reveal a wealth of information; it just required a little picking apart. "And how do you 'know'? And all this stuff about charades, what does that mean?" Coming in the midst of yet another charade, it could have been taunt, challenge, hint, or just another calculated move.
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Old 05-31-2021, 06:49 PM   #21 (permalink)
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It was decidedly a hint, all of it.

Every gesture, every shift, it all added up to a bigger picture and Malachi was finally starting to think he could see it. Even now, it was fragmented, but it all meant something.

“Phoebe James.” He said, getting the answer out of the way. That they asked meant they also remembered. The who was not necessarily the focus of the scenario. “And what of it?” Not even obliviate could make him forget the horror of that kelpie lesson. It was the first real time he realised many of his students...were not all that there in the head, were poor at strategy and were unlikely to live in the real world if faced with anything bigger than a flobberworm infestation.

The Headmaster remembered every detail of it and was now curious what, if anything, it had to do with Upstead.

And there it was, the shift again. Informative, but by this point not surprising. A real chameleon. ”I see the charade will remain a moment longer. I’m happy to oblige.” Malachi took another sip of his tea, a slow and drawn out sip. Then. “He kept me in his pocket the entire time.” They could figure out what that meant and the far reaching implications of such a simple statement.
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Old 05-31-2021, 10:55 PM   #22 (permalink)
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"Just checking." Nem had already ruled out everyone who had been present in that lesson as a student, based partly on total incompetence, but mostly on all that had been said and done during this meeting so far. They supposed anyone of consequence could have learned that detail before disguising themselves, but they'd have had to anticipate a question about such a throwaway fact. Nem's suspicions had been almost negligible in any case; really, they just wanted the Headsman to know they had cause for doubt.

But if they were making a swipe, that was nothing compared to what he hit them with next.

It took a matter of seconds to see what Trent was getting at. All at once, the pieces fell into place with jarring clarity, and the world around Nem went suddenly still and silent, as did they, while their brain went into overdrive. Trent wasn't lying.

One particular conversation with Lucien Rosier shot to the forefront of Nem's mind. They recalled every word.

Though they had plenty of moves they could still make yet, Nem might have conceded in that moment. They'd come close so many times in this meeting alone, like leaping over an open flame and daring it to catch hold of them, only half-hoping it wouldn't but trying to avoid it all the same. Nem was so tired; it was tempting now, more tempting than it had any right to be, to give into it.

Hands steady, they set the tea down on the desk, leaned back, and gripped the arms of the chair again. Took another leap.

"So, you're making more judgements, this time based on some conversations you overheard between me and the man I later betrayed." Nem stared blankly at Trent now, though their tone still passed as pleasant. Nothing yet reflected what was simmering just below the surface. "I suppose you realise I was never stupid enough to tell him an outright lie, and you'd be right." Meaning, Nem could accept that Trent did know what they'd said to Lucien Rosier the one time they'd risked a display of personal honesty, and all their other interactions as well. Even that he might be able to draw a semi-accurate conclusion, all things considered, if he knew how to use his brain. But they'd not said more than two sentences on that particular topic; to think it could be condensed down to so few words and still be known... it was almost laughable. Nem didn't laugh. "But you are never going to know, or understand. You won't even come close. Not if you keep deciding things for yourself. Not if you don't even ask me."
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Old 06-02-2021, 01:59 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Just checking.

The corners of his lips quirked upward in the smallest hint of a smile. The first real attempt at uncovering if he was truly who he said he was. Yes, some students had asked, but they’d asked questions that were not verifiable on there own. To pull on such an innocuous memory, one most wouldn’t think vital to remember...

Then again, Upstead had always shown much potential. More than their peers at any rate. Malachi had no doubt that if any number of the other students had offered their services to Lucien, he’d have sent them on their way. Many of them were more of a liability than an asset—if that much. The man had made it clear time and time again how disposable they were, not that many of them took him seriously on that account.

That more of them hadn’t been offed was a miracle in and of itself.

Malachi met the Slytherin’s gaze, expecting there to still be some resistance, even after they had been had. It was never easy to let go, not least when you were so used to being in control of every situation you found yourself in. They weren’t wrong either, there was no true way of knowing by assumption alone. The Headmaster set his cup down.

“You’re right. My knowledge will remain limited if I only have my observations to go off of. In fact, I’d say at this point, there’s very little I do know. I know you don’t think like most others. I also know...there’s nothing wrong with you.” Not innately. “But the rest?” He shrugged lightly, openly admitting he did not know. “I’d like to hear from you.”
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Nem's eyes had drifted to their abandoned tea, their mind ticking away rapidly but reliably, assessing the situation with this newfound clarity, making new sense of it.

Control. Nem had lost their hold on it when they'd made such a glaring oversight, and all the mistakes since. As they ran through their memory of this meeting, this entire day, and all those interactions with Lucien over the past two years, they could now see the situation for what it was. A loss. Just this once, just this game, and not even because Trent had intentionally bested them. A loss all the same, and a potentially significant one.

But, now that it had happened, maybe they could get something out of it. Find and hold onto something that might benefit them, something they wanted. Anything. Nem could turn even a clear loss to their advantage; they could do anything, they could adapt to anything.

There's nothing wrong with you.

Assaulted by a rush of memory, Nem looked up, momentarily dazed before they refocused on Trent. "Don't say that unless you mean it." The irony there was not lost on them, but it didn't matter. "It won't mean anything until you know."

Trent had learned some of the truth, but now Nem could control how much more of it he got, if any, as long as they were more careful. There was a certain kind of power in that, a power they'd always had, and enjoyed exercising. It was only now that Trent already knew the tiniest sliver of information - now that he'd expressed that he wanted to hear it - that Nem felt any temptation to use their power differently.

There was a long pause, weighed down by thoughts Nem still would not voice; even now, self-preservation kicked in. If they were going to do this, it would be on their own terms, little by little. They kept their eyes on Trent, and they spoke, quiet but clear.

"I'm the kind of different that is considered 'unacceptable', and I learned to hide long before I understood why I needed to. From everyone: friends, parents, my twin." Objectively speaking, that last was probably where they might draw the most criticism, but that was not for here. "I don't want to, but I know what will happen if I don't." Exactly what, why, the kind of different they were, and the many implications of this, Nem didn't say just yet. Little by little.

"I didn't have to hide from Lucien. He could see the way I think; he can't have entirely understood, but it didn't matter. Anyone else would have tried to fix me, or send me away, or maybe just never look directly at me. He accepted it. There was a place for me in his world. The real me." Nem stopped a moment, a little abruptly; even that felt like a lie on their lips. The real them. They couldn't have possibly said who that was. "... I never looked for acceptance, or understanding. I never cared, about that or about anything else. I still don't, but finding it was a nice accident. I didn't realise what it could mean for me until he gave it to me." Again, they avoided specifics.

"And now he's dead. There's a plaque, and everything." In the courtyard; Nem had noticed it earlier that day, when they went to take a closer look at the place where the Big Man had become The Greater Corpse.

Nem flexed their fingers on the arms of the chair. This whole time, but for a certain subdued look in the eye, they'd kept their expression and tone locked down, their own mental defences up. More shield than charade. "I think that's all I want to tell you today."
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Old 06-12-2021, 11:00 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Hogwarts RPG Name:
Malachi N. Trent
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Emmerson N.J. Cambridge
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For his part, Malachi did his best to listen. The Slytherin had been right in saying he could only know so much and right now, he wanted to know all he could. There was a deep chasm within Upstead, holding many secrets behind careful smiles and comments that were never technically impolite. The man always knew he could see something, but until now, he was never sure what it was.

“You shouldn’t assume I don’t mean it.” There was nothing to suggest he didn’t. “I may not understand it all, but I mean it in enough as I do currently know. It’s up to you to confirm or prove me wrong with your explanation.” And thus far, it seemed he would continue to agree with the deceased cult leader—in regard to Upstead, at least. The Headmaster would never condone what that man did, but even then, he could see Lucien Rosier had done a greater good for the boy than most of the world ever had.

Now that he was starting to get a better image of what he was starting to understand, Malachi found himself disappointed they wouldn’t be allowed to get any further. Disappointed as he was, however, the man understood that there would be no way of pushing. That Upstead shared this much was something of a small miracle. Requiring too much more may have resulted in a shut down.

“That’s fine.” Trent decided, not willing to force the issue.

“Perfectly fine, we have the year ahead of us and I do believe you were looking for something to do.” The faintest mile tugged at the corner of his lips before they flat lined again.

“We’ll catch up again at the end of the week. Until then, you’re free to go.” He said, nodding toward the door. They were done. There would be no further, deeper connecting. This was where the bus stopped and headed back to the terminal. Frustrating as that was, Malachi also understood. Having to hide for so long, being open couldn’t even easy.

This would take time, time he was willing to commit.
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