(1938-12-11) Laying the Ground Rules
Details for Laying the Ground Rules
Summary: After failing to mediate a rational solution between Esther and Alphard, Medusa reminds Esther of the ground rules of being a Slytherin.
Date: 11 December 1938
Location: Slytherin Common Room

A rather pleased looking Medusa sits on her sofa, reading a book. Her hair was wet earlier and has dried in a soft pale halo of tousled curls around her head giving her an even more angelic appearance. Still dressed in her uniform despite it being around curfew, she is alone in the common room. It is rare for Medusa to ever be alone; students come to her for favours, advice, to moan about something or someone or - and this is what really annoys her - just they say to bask in her presence. That she is alone means something is about to happen, people are expected. Those two people, Esther and Alphard, were sent notes that while not quite a summons spoke of an expectation that they would arrive promptly at 10pm to speak to her.

Esther arrives from the dormitories at precisely. She's changed out of her school robes and into her more comfortable jersey and leggings. An attempt to put a brush through her hair has been abandoned, the girl looking as wonderfully wild as she ever does. Far from the pensive girl of the past week, Esther's smiling kindly at Medusa, greeting. "Hello, Medusa." Arranged meetings never end pleasantly. At least this one should start that way.

Alphard did not respond well to summons, or anything that even smacked of one. But a friend making a polite and reasonably phrased request, well, that would be rude to ignore. So he'd come from the boys' dorms, leaving behind the Arithmancy work he had been doing. It was far and beyond his very worst NEWT subject. Partly because his study workload was heavy enough that something had to give, and partly because it just wasn't nearly as interesting as the other subjects he was taking.

"Good evening, Esther." Medusa indicates one of the high winged back chairs that she has had turned slightly so they both face one another and the sofa. "Please take a seat." A similarly welcoming and receptive greeting is offered to Alphard along with the other chair. "Thank you both for coming. I was hoping that as civilised beings of good breeding and class we could work through things and find an acceptable outcome for all the interested parties involved."

The thin young woman turns to take a seat, sitting opposite Alphard with a nod for Medusa. "I hope that won't be necessary, Medusa. Alphard and I are at an impasse; I have decided that my best resolution comes from avoiding him where I may, and tolerating him where I must." She smiles sweetly across at her cousin. "I hope it's something that he could agree to." It's probably not an acceptable compromise.

"Impasse?" Alphard scoffed with open contempt. His dark eyes fixed on Esther with cool hostility. With a flop he was in the chair offered, sprawled out like only a teenage boy could manage. "There is no impasse. Esther started something here in the common room, made a public bloody spectacle of the sort I've only come across once before," and he looked to Medusa when he said it. "She's thrown down the gauntlet. So bloody be it. It ends when she backs down, in the same public way she started it. It should be simple enough."

Peyton sweeps out of the bathroom, expression mildly curious. She'd of course heard that the Common Room was off-limits for the time being, but that was at the start of her bathing routine, some time ago. Surely things couldn't still be so dire. But wait - there's Medusa still sitting mediator, court in session. She looks from one of her cousins to the other, her curiosity outweighing discretion. "Malfoy. You two." Amusement, though she doesn't smile. It isn't necessary. "So good to see everyone kissing and making up."

A slip of paper is tucked in between the pages of the book Medusa was reading. She sets the closed book on her lap. "Let us get to the heart of the matter and cut out all the attempts at obfuscation. Esther, it is clear you hate Alphard. I understand that you believe him to be a cruel creature foisted upon you, but far worse you resent the rooftop incident. However, what you have failed to do is make any reckoning for what you started that incident." A look is then given to Alphard, "And you, I know you well enough to know that when this all began you found the responsibility of keeping tabs on her tedious and an irritating demand on your time. All the same you took the responsibility seriously and felt you were acting in her best interested. What you failed to do was actually speak to her and find out why she was making the poor choices; choices like befriending that imbecile Edwards."

Esther stares at Alphard, making an effort to keep her voice light. Reasonable. To discuss this in front of Medusa as well-bred and well-cultured people. "I've got more than enough reasons to despise you. No-one can take them away from me." She shrugs lightly. "I tried working around you. You were unworkable. I tried working with you. You were intolerable. I wanted to ignore you. You provoked me." A pause. "I understand that the rooftop… I created a situation. /You/ took the situation too far." Of course, as Medusa goes on, and mentioned Edwards specifically, the girl sighs softly. "Edwards was my tutor. When he made the decision to paint a target on his chest, I stepped away. I bear no strong feelings on the subject."

Alphard folded his arms over his chest, and allowed both Peyton and Medusa to get a share of his displeasure. One for interrupting, the other for not simply stomping on Esther like he quite obviously thought she should. He made a disgusted gesture. "What does this matter? I don't care for her reasons anymore. I let her back in, I even interceded on her behalf to her bloody mother when she asked me to. But all she's been doing is plotting with mudbloods and blood traitors to get me. Should I let that go, Medusa? It's been made clearer and clearer where her loyalties lie, and it's not with our kind. Enough is enough. I let her back in, let her off the hook, and she twisted around and bit me." He left the chair, excess energy bleeding off him, like a tightly wound spring coiled and ready to snap. "Mediate? She started a war, her and her 'army'." Again he scoffed. "A pathetic nobody who has hidden in the library for the last five years. Now she thinks she can take on me? Bah. This only ends one way. She surrenders. And then? Then I'll be happy to cut all ties to ESther Lowe, worry not."

There's apparently no kissing and making up after all, and Peyton doesn't stick around to see what happens instead; conveniently missing Alphard's look of displeasure, or at least feigning having missed it well enough. She takes a more circuitous path through the murky green furnishings than strictly necessary - one that doesn't take her any nearer the trio, and heads up toward the dormitory, shooing those less bold but still curiously peeking around the doorframe up the stairs with a withering look.

Raising a hand to stay his departure, Medusa addresses Esther. "You are still not taking responsibility Esther. You," she glances briefly at Peyton's departing back having seen the girl but not wanted to draw her into it, "pulled your wand out with malicious intent Esther. That is a crime. Not only did you do that, you then encouraged another to do the same. Given where you all were, frankly, you are lucky that Alphard believes so wholeheartedly in loyalty because you could have been in the same situation Julian is in. And while, yes, Alphard took things farther than they needed to go the damage he did was, and he knew that at the time, easily repairable. Had you killed him, Esther, had your spells driven him over the parapet Alphard would have died." She lowers her hand then. "Hate each other by all means. I do not care two figs if you hate each other or are snogging in the broom closet. But keep your feuds quiet. When you drag the house into it, when you drag your extended families and friends into it - when your actions bring our house into disrepute then it has gone too far. We are Slytherin not some rabble rousers. We have decorum and rules. A social hierarchy handed down for hundreds of years. If you want to have at him Esther then do so with dignity in a properly supervised duel. Otherwise you're no better than some zygote version of a dark wizard, plotting ways to harm someone with magic. Alphard is a bully who uses his size, popularity and position to physically berate, belittle and on occasion batter those smaller or weaker than him. But he does not whip out his wand and attack people. You do that, Esther. So tell me, which is worse?"

Civilised beings of good breeding and class. Esther bites her lower lip for a moment, ther nervous habit coming to the fore when Alphard begins to rant. The thought is repeated through her mind, encouraging her not to bite. Still level, still reasonable. She looks down at the floor though, when Medusa calls her out on exactly what she nearly did. "I… I did not think, Medusa. I lost control, and it is unacceptable." There is shame there. "There's no question that what I did was wrong. It's a mistake I made… I reached for my wand before my sense. I have apologised for this." "But as for some kind of ambush, or future attack, there's nothing to verify any claim of that short of Alphard's own paranoia. If things should ever come to wands between us again, Medusa, I will ensure it is as…" A pause, and a look at Alphard. "Civilised beings of good breeding, and class. As I said. I am fine with avoiding him where I may, and tolerating him where I must."

Alphard looked at Medusa with crisp disapproval. An accusatory finger was leveled at her for good measure. "You know what? You've been part of the problem. You've given the two faced bitch the impression she has some kind of standing in Slytherin. I have standing in Slytherin, earned not just by being a Black, but by putting in the time and effort. I won't tolerate constantly being disrespected by a fifth year. Listen to her. Paranoia?!?" It took effort for him to reign in a temper that was getting away with him. He made a cutting motion at Esther. "Do you think we're stupid?"

"You are right, Alphard. My intentions like your own, began as an attempt to help Esther. However, I have come to realise that the protection I offered has been taken to mean something it does not. Status must be earned, worked for. I am rescinding the protection order. From tonight Esther's social status rises and falls depending on her own words and actions." Medusa laces her hands together on top of her book. "In your hatred for your mother Esther, you have lost out. Alphard has no great love for your mother or father. He could have become a true ally for you. Someone who you worked with to ensure you had some measure of freedom and a life, even if only here in these castle walls. Instead your paranoia, your intense loathing for your mother led you to assume he would only ever do what she wanted." Her head tilts towards the still standing boy, "Alphard is the most loyal of friends. He will keep secrets, scheme to help someone, even defend others against bullies. But you couldn't see any of that. By all means have the Myrus Lowes and the Jenny Solomons of the world, they are amusing but in a true pinch what might just save you is having an Alphard Black on your side."

"I admit my mistakes, Medusa." Esther answers levelly. "And I live with their consequences." She's markedly uncomfortable discussing her mother. It's making her voice pitch, just a little bit, making her gaze unsteady. "I was never given any other impression. I am playing the hand that I believe I must, doing what I feel I have to. Alphard has /persistently/ been hostile towards me. He has, is, and will be." She's seated still. "I suppose it was easiest to pretend he was a catspaw to justify his actions." She looks at Alphard directly. "We have burned those bridges to the ground. He may the the most dedicated friend you have ever had, Medusa; but that door was never open for me." A pause. A deep breath. Control. "The cause for his loyalty is the cause of our division. I will /never/ be more than I was. I will forever be young, be 'less' than he is. Perhaps Myrus Lowe and Jenny Solomon will never be so loyal at he could. But they are not so myopic that they will /never/ see the world outside of their own narrow, pathetic perspective." Finally, a barb is thrown. "Which is why your ego couldn't stand a mudblood nearly putting you on your ass."

"You can do more than that," Alphard said to Medusa, with emphasis. But he didn't go so far as to specify what she could do. Besides, ESther was quickly tugging his attentions back at her. "You're a bloody idiot, Esther, that's your problem. All you needed to do was keep in line. How hard would that've been? I'll promise you this, though; the next two years is going to be a misery for you. All for no reason at all." He snarled, looking at Medusa. "And you know what she really means by that, don't you? That I believe in bloody purity. She was Edwards' friend for a reason. She's Hart's champion for a reason." "What are you even talking about? The only mudblood to have drawn his wand on me is Hart, and he lost it." He snorted. "Pathetic."
"By the way? She and Hart concoted that whole thing together. He let her do it to him. That's Esther for you. And you know the funny part, Esther? I'd never do that to anyone who called me a friend. For any reason."

"Julian Edwards isn't a mudblood, he might behave as if he is one but he is not. He's merely one of the most ill-bred, unintelligent, whingy half-bloods I have ever had the displeasure of knowing. He is also very unattractive, Lovegood can do much better." But that is neither here nor there. "I know," Medusa informs Alphard she knew about the Gage issue. "If you want people to know you did something you tell everyone, not let it be a rumour." Her steely blue gaze finds its way back to Esther. "Assumptions, allegations. Imaginations." She taps a fingertip against her temple. "You spend too much time up here that you can't see what really is about you. Keeping in line is fairly simple Esther." She ticks off the rules, "Don't date anyone less than a pureblood. Don't behave as if you are better than an elder. Don't bring the house into trouble. Don't associate with mudbloods over your own kind. Keep what happens in our house inside our house. These aren't difficult rules to obey. They have stood the test of time for centuries."

Esther's face reddens when Alphard successfully baits her. Fist clenching in her lap, she's quite glad she's sitting and mediated. "I did what I had to do to a stranger. What he considered after the fact was up to him." She slowly gets to her feet, staring at Alphard. "My friends are the family that I choose to keep, Black. And so yes, I cursed him without hesitation. I hurt him because someone I genuinely care about was on the line. Because doing what you wanted, my way, was the least evil I could conceive of. I even had the audacity to feel bad about it." The anger boils beneath the surface. "But I did it. Because there is nothing I will not sacrifice to defend those I love. So you can do your utmost to make me miserable, Alphard. Push me. And see what happens when you go too far." She turns to Medusa, her words short. Clipped. "I understand. May I excuse myself?"

"Everything except your pride, you mean," Alphard all but purred it, vicious and cruel. "You'll sacrifice everything except your pride, and your bloody need to act out. Because let's face it, Esther, that's all you needed to sacrifice." He turned towards the boys dormitories. "Night, Medusa. I'll talk to you later, alright? I'm tired. I'm going to bed."

"No magic, Esther. You are not permitted to use magic against another student outside a duel. No potions either." Medusa makes it clear that the girl can leave but gives her one parting warning, "You need to tread carefully Esther. Think about the kind of future you want for yourself and those you love." With a sigh she opens her book again. "Good night, Alphard. Sleep well." Medusa glances at him as he departs then once more becomes absorbed in her reading.

"Yes, Medusa." That same, clipped tone. Fury. Esther offers the gentlest of bows to Medusa, and then stalks back to her room.

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