(1938-12-27) An Easy Trap to Fall Into
Details for An Easy Trap to Fall Into
Summary: Adam seeks advice from the person who introduced him to the Wizarding world, only to find that he's just as prejudiced as those he thought were prejudiced against him.
Date: December 27, 1938
Location: Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes

Knowing that the main offices are hardly the place to meet a young Muggle boy, considering the chaos that can sometime ensue, Cassiel chose instead a small meeting room on the same level, a simple thing with two lounge-like chairs, a circular table in the center, and standard, sterile lighting.
Cassiel himself waits in the room, already seated, the boy's files next to him in a small bag.The appointment had been arranged by the boy's father, as requested, but he was eager to see how the young man was faring.
At the moment, he's dressed as he usually does with these young ones purely Muggle outfit, save for the wand stashed in his cane, resting between his knees. Two of the coats are off, however, hanging on a coat-rack nearby, leaving him in just shirt, tie, and vest.

Adam, having been directed to the room by another Ministry worker, pokes his head in to make sure it's the right one. Relieved when he sees Cassiel seated inside, he walks in and looks around. It might be obvious that he finds the Ministry of Magic a bit intimidating, because he isn't as relaxed as he was the other day. But he still manages to give the man a friendly smile from where he stands just inside the door. "Hello, Mr Umbridge," he says. He's wearing grey trousers and a brown jumper, both a bit too big for him.

Cassiel stands, then walks toward the door, opening it further, and waving the boy in, closing the door after him. "Please come in, Adam," he states, his voice calculated to reassure. "Thanks for asking to speak with me. I want to make sure you're transitioning well into our world, after all."
A hand waves to the opposite seat, before Cassiel himself takes a seat again, "I trust everything is well?"

"Thanks," Adam says, hurrying over to the chair. But before he sits down he holds up the small model of an Austin 10 he holds in his hand. "I brought this for you to look at again," he says, remembering that the man was very interested in it before. He sits it on the table between them and sits down in the chair in his side. "Yes, sir," he says, nodding his head. "Everything's going well. Well, almost everything. I'm not doing too well with Potions, but my friend Madeline, the girl you met in the cauldron shop, is going to help me get better at it."

Cassiel's eyes light up as thy see the toy car, and he offers the boy a slight smile. He reaches out for a moment, a single finger sliding the car across the tabletop as the boy speaks, and then nods, "Potions was perhaps one of my worst subjects. First year, I added double the rat whisker to a sleeping draught, and then mistook… well…" He smiles, "Won't tell you the mixture, but let's just say it took a week for my eyebrows to grow back in."

Adam watches Cassiel move the car across the table, bemused. "I think it was made in 1932," he offers. "I think it has the date underneath it." He looks up at the man, quite relieved to hear that Potions was one of his worst subjects too. "Wow, they did?" he asks, unable to help but grin. "I haven't lost any eyebrows yet, but I did destroy my cauldron. What was your best subject?"

"Transfigurations, and Glamers were what I excelled. That, and my interest in Muggle studies, is what actually landed me this job." Cassiel offers, sitting back in his chair again, "So what did you want to speak with me about, Adam? You seemed to have something specific on your mind."

"Transfiguration is my favorite too!" Adam says, beaming at the man. "I love changing things into other things. Oh, do they really have a class that teaches people about Muggles? I didn't know that!" But when the man directs their conversation to the real reason he wanted to talk, some of his excitement fades. "Oh, yeah," he says, hesitating. "Well, er, I wanted to ask you about, um, the difference between pure-blood wizards and wizards like me. Y'know, M-Mudbloods."

"They do," Cassiel offers with a slight nod. "Not the most popular elective, but an important one, in my mind." And his tone suggests he believes it. At the next question, however, his lips actually contract, and he shakes his head slightly. His eyes go to the door. "That, Mister Irving, is a loaded question if ever there was one. And I suspect you already know that much."
The older man sucks at the backs of his lips for a bit, clearly uncomfortable himself, "I'll be honest with you, Adam. It's a loaded subject… which discussed in front of the wrong people, can get really destructive. What's most important, though is what YOU think on the matter… not anyone else. Everyone will have an opinion, some more willing to state it than others. I do, and I'll get into that in a moment… but I need to ask you a very important favor first."

Adam, getting the sense that he might have said the wrong thing, lowers his eyes and stares at his hands, which he has folded together on his lap. "Sorry," he says, his cheeks red. "I know that word's supposed to be really bad. It's just… that's what a lot of the other kids call me, even if I've never spoken to them before." He shifts about in his chair, as if uncomfortable as well, and peeks up at the man. "Er, okay. What's the favor?"

Cassiel nods, "It's very bad, Adam… and the favor I have to ask of you is never, ever again refer to yourself as such. It's an ugly, ignorant, hateful word used by cowards to make themselves feel better about something that frightens them."
He sighs, worried that he's going to toss concepts the boy is simply not ready to hear. "My own views aren't shared by all. Definitely not by those who use the term so freely. And for a pure-blood like myself, thinking this way can be… less than ideal when you're looking to advance. But I feel, strongly, that the question of purity is one of fear, and fear alone. Fear that those of mixed or muggle-born heritage will one day show them that everything their purity stands for is a lie. That a Muggle-born wizard can be just as strong, or stronger, than any pure-blood. That there is no difference, other than the fact that their parents had magic, and yours didn't."

"Oh," Adam says, ashamed. "Sorry, I won't use it anymore." But he looks confused when Cassiel starts talking about fear, especially fear that he might be as strong as pure-blood wizards, and perhaps the man is right about him not being ready to hear it. "That's what I thought," he says. "That there's no difference except who our parents were. But everyone at school always talks about it, so there's got to be something. I don't think they're afraid of me. Some of them push me around, or trip me in the corridor, or push my books off my desk. They wouldn't do all that if they were afraid."

"Not afraid of you, Adam," Cassiel corrects, smiling at the boy in an attempt to assure him that there was no fault there, "but of what you represent. You have to understand the underlying problem. I'm certain there are examples of the same in the Muggle world, although they would be just as hard to see through from the other side. Many believe that the purity of one's blood relates directly to your power as a wizard, that the more generations you can go back having pure blood on both sides, the better you are. This is taught from generation to generation to generation. Muggle-borns and so-called 'half-bloods' challenge this thought… especially when they excel."
He sighs then, rubbing the bridge of his nose, "When someone or something's mere existence challenges that presumption, or even suggests a challenge to it, for many the first reaction is to tear them down. To find weaknesses, exploit them, until they start to believe it to. It becomes more complex the older you get, but the basic story is always the same… exactly what you experience now, and sadly what you will always experience."
"You can let it knock you down, or you can excel despite it. Those are your choices. Sadly, Adam, they don't give you much in the way of alternatives."

Adam returns his smile with a somewhat uncertain one, still a bit confused. "So they hate me because I might be good at magic?" he asks, trying to figure it out. "And they'll always hate me no matter what I do? Even if I pretended I was really bad at magic? Even if I am really bad at it, like Potions?" He doesn't like the sound of that at all. "So what am I supposed to do then? Just let them be mean to me all the time? Some of them don't even know my name, just that my parents aren't magic."

Cassiel sighs, but nods in the affirmative before he responds, "It's not you personally that they hate, Adam. That's the most important thing to remember. In most cases, it has nothing to do with you personally. But yes, there are people who hate you because you are no pure-blooded. And they always will, no matter what you do. So the choice comes to you as to whether you allow that to shape you."
Looking at the toy car on the table, he offers, "You can choose to let them define you, or you can choose to simply ignore them, and pay attention to those to whom it doesn't matter. I would hope you would choose to be better than them, and prove them wrong."

"Oh," Adam says, his brow furrowing as he digests this. "Okay, I'll try to remember that next time. It just seems like it's me they hate. I met a girl before school started, and she told me that something like this might happen, but I didn't take her as seriously as I should've. Now I wish I hadn't told people that I come from a non-magic family." He looks at the man and nods his head. "I will. I'll prove them wrong. I'm going to do well in all of my classes, even Potions." He pauses, then adds, "One of my friends is extra nice to anyone who's mean to her. D'you think that will really work?"

At his last question, Cassiel offers Adam a nod, "There is a saying, a proverb I think, from one of your Muggle religions, that I rather like: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing so, you will heap burning coals on his head.' In short; be better than them, be kind to them, and you will always wind up the better person."

Adam laughs. "But that makes it sound like being nice to them is actually being mean!" he says, grinning at the man as if the proverb has to be a joke. "So do you think it'll do any good? Should I try being nice to them as well? It's mostly Slytherins who are mean to me, and they're pretty scary. Not all of them are mean, though. One of the prefects was really nice to me."

"In a way it is, in that you show them that they have no power over you." Cassiel offers again, steepling his fingers together. "It shows them that they cannot impact you, which is their goal. So yes. I think it will work. Not every time. Not completely. But in time you'll get to a point where your kind response becomes just as natural, and they'll be unable to touch you then."
Cassiel nods at the mention of Slytherin."That's a house you shouldn't underestimate. There have been many great, great wizards to come out of that house. They say Merlin himself was a Slytherin. They're just strong, survivors, and crafty. Some express that in better ways than others."

"I don't like Slytherins," Adam says, suppressing a shudder. "They give me the creeps. I've been trying to avoid them as much as I can." He looks at the man tentatively. "But you think I should try being nice to them instead? I can try… Maybe just the ones in my year though. At least until I see if it works. There's this club at school that I went to once. It's called the Mud Club. Have you heard of it?"

"Fancy that," Cassiel offers, looking at the young boy with a bit of a wry grin, "Disliking someone just because of the house they were sorted into. An aspect of their life they had no control over, but someone decides defines them. Interesting how easy that is to fall into, isn't it?" If Adam had expected just simple comfort from the older man, he may find this less than what he hoped for.
"The Mud Club?" is then asked, Cassiel arching a brow. "No… don't think they had it when I was in school…"

Adam's face goes red again. "Oops," he says, rubbing the back of his neck and giving the man a sheepish grin. "But they were mean to me first! I'd have been fine with them if they left me alone." He pauses and sits up in his chair a bit more. "But that's not fair either," he says, mostly to himself. "I shouldn't dislike the ones that haven't been mean to me. And I should be nice to them even if they have." He nods. "Yeah, it's this club for people like me. Mud- I mean, kids who have Muggle parents. The girl I met before school started said I should join it, and I was wondering what you thought."

The barb had stuck. Good, Cassiel thinks, even as he listens to the boy talk about the club, "As long as it's about support, certainly. I'm certain the staff know about it, so it can't be too bad, at least," is offered with a grin, "I'd say if you like the company, why not?"

"I think so," Adam says, nodding eagerly. "It's run by one of the professors, I think." His face brightens. "Oh, the company's great! I had a lot of fun at the party I went to. We swam in the lake and we played this game where we sat on each other's shoulders and tried to push the other people off. It was great!"

Cassiel nods at this. Good, team-building skills being developed. Nothing too cagey. He smiles once again at Adam and notes, "It sounds splendid. And having more friends is never a bad thing." Just then, there's a single knock on the door, and sounds of footsteps leaving. Cassiel clears his throat, "It looks like I'm running close to my next appointment, Adam. Was there anything else, before we end here?"

"Yeah," Adam says, "they were really nice people. I'll definitely go to more meetings next term." He glances around at the door when someone knocks, and then looks back to Cassiel. "No, that was it. Thanks, Mr Umbridge. I'm going to try to be more friendly to the Slytherins, and hopefully they'll stop being so mean." He smiles at the man, then points to the car on the table. "D'you want to borrow that to look at? I won't mind."

Tempting. Very tempting offer, that, but Cassiel simply shakes his head, "No, thank you, Adam. It's yours. You should keep it. Keep it as a reminder of who you are, and where you come from… and why you should be proud of it. Muggles fly, without magic. They travel around the world, without magic. They defend themselves, and those they love, all without magic. They are important. Just as much as witches and wizards. You'd do well to not let us take that from you."

Adam smiles as he picks up his car and gets to his feet. "I'll remember," he says, looking at it. "I am proud of it. But I'm also proud that I'm a wizard. I know it doesn't make me better than anyone, but I can do magic. I think that's important too." He peers up at the man as if unsure of his own convictions.

"Exactly," Cassiel replies. "You're Adam. You're a wizard. You should be proud." He smiles, "Have a good second half to your year, Mister Irving. I expect to hear great things." And with that he stands, opening the door for the boy. His father stands outside, awaiting him.

Adam grins at the man. "You will!" he says, and then he laughs and adds, "Although, don't expect it to be about Potions." Seeing his father waiting for him, he starts to walk out the door. But he pauses to say, "Thanks, Mr Umbridge. You're the best!" Then he heads over to his father so they can leave.

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