(1939-01-14) Many Machinations
Details for Many Machinations
Summary: Esther, still reeling from her encounter with Zayn, meets up with Elizabeth. They discuss Variel (And Anthony), when Medusa turns up to give her two cents. To Esther's relief, Elizabeth and Medusa seem to get along well, and after a hug, the youngest girl goes off to dinner, leaving Esther and Medusa alone to discuss the Shafiq problem. A final mention is made - Concerns over Jenny; and an idea for ensuring Medusa's beloved is safe, and the pretender to the throne cut down emerges courtesy of the dark places in Esther's mind.
Date: 1939-01-14
Location: Entry Hall; Chamber of Reception, Hogwarts Castle.
Related: Dreams and Damsels immediately preceeds this, and his highly relevant reading. How Fitting might also be of interest.

Esther returns from the lakeside, not too long before dinnertime. The girl holds a piece of paper in one hand, bent towards her, walking with her eyes on it, one foot after the other as if she's on autopilot. It's growing dark, with the sun gone down, the girl her her bookbag open with the other, finding a heavy enough textbook. She pauses in the entry hall, sliding the piece of paper into the front cover of Advanced Charms. One last lingering look, before it's slammed shut, and eased back into her bag.

Elizabeth had been waiting patiently outside of the Great Hall, for a little while now for Dinner time to arrive. Students move to and fro, meeting with other friends now that there's a little bit of free time, after classes. It isn't difficult to spot Esther's mane of hair through the thin crowd, as she occasionally glances up from her book. Though that piece of paper somehow stands out, seeming odd. Elizabeth calmly lifts a brow at that, seeing it hidden under the cover of her Advanced Charm book before it's closed.

Esther looks up, the spell that the piece of paper has broken when she puts it away… Blushing fiercely, until she can bring herself under control. And then, she meets the eyes of Elizabeth, and looks a little more embarassed. "Hey; Elizabeth." She greets shyly. It's been a hell of a day, so far..;

Elizabeth quirks a brow as Esther finally meets her eyes, and while shy, decides to near where she sits on her bench. The corner of her lips tugs absently as she watches the approach, and upon greeting she dips her chin towards Esther in return. Lifting a hand, she cups her fingers loosely around her mouth as she whispers, "Was that a love letter?" She's teasing. But from the way that Esther was asking, it was conspicuous. Obviously.

"Not… Not a letter, no." Esther admits, almost immediately. "But someone certainly wanted to see me blush today." The girl smiles at Elizabeth, taking a seat beside her. Hands protectively folded over her bookbag. "How're you, Elizabeth?" Of course she's conspicuous. Whatever she got has her terribly embarassed. And flustered.

"It doesn't seem that difficult of a task." Elizabeth notes lightly out loud, though she doesn't press the issue. As Esther takes a seat she makes sure there's a comfortable amount of room for both of them to sit. As the question is asked, the younger girl ponders it seriously for a brief moment. "Better. Not normal, but better than usual." Considering the events that had taken place. Even the infamous note that had spread from the Ravenclaw to the rest of the castle.

Esther smiles. "Completely true. I'm a shy creature, despite my behaviour lately." She turns to look at Elizabeth, and admits. "… I've got nothing to do with this whole… Note business. You know that." Esther pauses, "Long as you're a witch, I couldn't give a damn who your parents are." A bite of her lower lip.

Elizabeth absently rolls a slender shoulder, her hands calmly tucked together in her lap as she glances at Esther. "And I have nothing to do with the Sykes Gala terrorism." she replies, just as easily. The small smile is faint, but distinct and genuine. "I never thought you were to begin with, Esther. You're not the type." She's a kind soul. "I think you and I are alike in that aspect. A person's actions and choices are what defines them as a wizard, not their blood. Though, the bloodline doesn't hurt." That last part there's a little bit of a mild tease heard in her voice.

"… I think that if you're a witch or wizard, that's it." Esther shakes her head. "Some of the purest bloodlines are populated by people who don't deserve to hold a wand." She states honestly. "And some mud bloods deserve the greatest respect." It's a term she uses so casually, as if she still hasn't grasped the offense some people can take at the slur. "Still… Whoever spread that note is the worst kind of person."

She exhales a small breath and looks to her small hands in her lap. "They are. Just like the worse kind of people to torture and kill others, and using equality to justify their actions. As if it makes it right." Elizabeth says softly. The releasing a sigh, a longer moment passes before she frowns softly to herself. "Do you think that Variel was in the right to distance himself from me in order to protect me?"

Esther bites her lower lip fiercely. Variel. The boy's name elicits a gentle blush. "… Elizabeth, do you remember when we first met? That I was involved with Julian." The girl shakes her head. "… Julian and I parted ways because we knew what would have happened. My life… Would have been hell." She looks down, and lets out a heartfelt sigh. "… I don't think Variel's… Wholly the same. But he's… He's changed."

Her gentle frown deepens. She hadn't known that Esther and Julian had been involved at one point. Or maybe it was distant enough that it was a time that she hadn't found it relevant. But right now, Elizabeth didn't see how the comparison related. "I know he has." she says softly. "He's been hurt, and…" he had to push her away also, to deal with it on her own. That's what worried her the most. "Do you think it was right?"

"No." Esther answers simply. "… I pushed Julian away because I was scared for my own safety. I think Variel… I think Variel did the same." A pause. "… He wasn't this person when he left Hogwarts, Elizabeth… Anthony told me that he died, in the Sykes hall.. And I think what he said's a little true. Variel wasn't this bigoted - This aggressive… At least, not the Variel I remember." She's uncomfortable talking about him, too.

"But… he repeatedly said that he wanted to protect me." Elizabeth says softly. To the point they had argued endlessly about it. She stares intently at her fingers, as if they contained a hidden message. "I heard that from Anthony too. He's just… not the same. Like he's just acting a part through each day." Her jaw firms, almost afraid to ask. "Just… how aggressive do you mean?" She's never known him to be bigoted though. Has her Variel truly died?

Esther places a kind hand on Elizabeth's, and murmurs. "… Neither of them are." A pause. "Variel's… Said some distasteful things… He tried to make a move on me…" The girl sighs. It's nearly dinnertime, far too early to be talking about such things at normal volume. "This Variel… I don't know if the old Variel's gone, but this isn't the same person. Not exactly."

Elizabeth softly presses her lips together, but doesn't pull her hand away as Esther gently places hers on top. She isn't entirely sure if she can believe this about Variel. Not entirely. She hadn't been there after all, to actually see what had happened herself. "I'm not sure… why he would do that, if he knew of your connection with Myrus." Elizabeth admits softly.

The small inner door to the courtyard opens and Medusa steps through it. Her cheeks are pink, presumably from the cold. As the door swings shut behind her she heads further into the grand hall, tugging her gloves off her hands and shoving them into the pockets of her coat. "Ladies." Taking note of their serious expressions she enquires, "Did someone kick Dweedle while she was down?"

"I'd told him…" Esther blush remains firmly in place. "… Before we even started the fitting. He stopped, when I called him on it… But I don't…" She looks away. "… I don't trust that our friendship is the same either. I /want/ to trust him. I want… I want Variel back."
Medusa's entry is noticed, and Esther puts a smile on her face. "We're discussing an unfortunate friend, Medusa. You're looking wonderful, by the way." A kind way to greet the Queen of Slytherin.

Elizabeth could tell that Esther was embarrassed, even a little ashamed maybe as she admits what had happened. She presses her soft lips together and leans faintly against the other girl's arm. She bore no ill will, just confusion. "Yes, so do I." she admits quietly. "I want him happy…" That's all she ever wanted. The Ravenclaw exhales another, longer breath as she glances up at Medusa. The comment almost earns a twitch of a sad smile. "Just the usual doom and gloom." Elizabeth murmurs, trying to make light.

"Ah well if it is just the usual doom and gloom," says Medusa drolly as she comes to a stop near the pair of dark haired girls. "It is understandable that what they went through has changed them. Even far more pleasant things change us. Esther can attest to that." She reaches up and tugs her Gryffindor hat off her pale head. "Part of me thinks they also must be tired of the rest of us asking how they are all the time."

"Almost certainly." Esther admits, "I've learned that change is a constant. But sudden, dramatic changes are rarely a good thing. Sudden, dramatic changes are forced upon us." The slender girl looks at Medusa, and then Elizabeth. "I think the entire climate… The terrorism… It's all a heavy weight for us all to bear. Even if some of us carry heavier loads than others."

Elizabeth exhales a breath and dips her chin with a small nod. "I agree. And… what they went through. That curse… it isn't something that just anyone can relate to. Not unless they've gone through it themselves." She falls quiet again, for another longer moment. "I miss them. Both of them."

"I don't think any of us have answers either, we're just trying to piece things together same as they are, only we are doing it without having been broken inside." Medusa frowns. "When someone is tortured all you can do is be supportive."

"I guess." Esther slowly pats Elizabeth's hands. "I've nothing more for anyone who has been through torture but my presence and support." She gets up slowly, and looks to Medusa. "Medusa; if you have time, could I borrow you? I need some advice on a… Personal matter." It's an awkward thing to ask the Queen, but considering that she'll be directing the same kinds of question at her boyfriend later… Not so unheard of.

For a moment, Elizabeth quietly bites at her bottom lip as she debates asking Medusa the same question. The one that Esther had managed to evade, in her own way. Since the topic of Variel made her uncomfortable after all. And it's likely that what Esther wanted to as Medusa's advice on. Or it was her best guess at least. "Go ahead." she rises quietly, with the intention of going to the great hall even if dinner hasn't been served.

"Ask away." This is part and parcel of being the Queen. Medusa glances at Elizabeth, "You look like you're formulating a question yourself there, Dweedle. Need some help with something?" She gets a far away look for a moment as she imagines Silas trying to deal with 'girl' problems next year.

Esther volunteers. "My question can wait." It's not something she's in a hurry to ask. In fact, it's incredibly personal and mildly humiliating to discuss with anyone, much less Medusa.

Elizabeth pauses, midstep as she glances up at Medusa, meeting her eyes. Still debating, still wondering. But after a longer moment she turns slightly so she could face them. "I already asked this to Esther, but… do you think it was right of Variel to distance himself from me in order to ensure I'm protected?" she asks softly. "Though I'm not sure if I can really get an unbiased answer to this really. Because pure-blooded witches will say one thing and those that aren't… will say another." She didn't really expect Medusa to be in favor of herself and Variel's relationship, or lack there of now.

"While I myself would never consider a relationship like that," despite Medusa's brother being publicly linked to a half-blood, "not everyone is me. I think that Variel is frightened of many things right now. It is entirely possible he is worried you will be a target by being with him. He had just seen an entire ballroom of purebloods threatened and tortured by fanatics."

Esther remains on standby, her hands folded over her bookbag protectively. She only nods in support, and otherwise keeps her mouth shut.

The Ravenclaw girl lightly presses her lips together, her pale eyes glancing towards the floor for a longer moment until she dips her chin with a small nod. "Alright." A decision has been made it seems. Then, Elizabeth returns her gaze back to Medusa and meets her eyes, giving her a nod as well. "Thank you. For the objectivity. I appreciate it." She really does. And Medusa may have earned a level of respect for it as well.

"That doesn't mean you have to accept it, Dweedle. But it depends on how much you like butting your head against a brick wall. Frankly you might find a boy that's worth more of your time and effort." Medusa reaches up to flick her hair off her forehead. "To be honest most of them are hardly worth it, you just have to find someone who is."

Medusa is a wise one. It's one of the many reasons why Esther defers to her. Although there was that brief rebellious period that the girl doesn't like to talk about it. "It's harder than it sounds." Esther admits, finding some small way to contribute to the conversation again.

For once, her expression visibly softens. A small but gentle smile touching her lips. "If anyone were to be worth the time, effort, and energy, it would be him." Elizabeth takes in and releases it steadily. "But I doubt I can make him change his mind. It's just something I will have to deal with. Move on." If she can. Looking to Esther, there's another moment before she takes a few steps, closing the distance to actually give the other girl a hug. It's brief, but releasing the embrace Elizabeth looks up at her as well. "And I'm sure that whatever you are asking advice for, contending with, it will work out." she reassures Esther. "Let's have dinner. When you're ready." She gives them both another small nod, holding onto the same smile before she turns to walk towards the Great Hall.

With a nod of goodbye for Elizabeth, Medusa then turns towards Esther, pale brow raised in silent question.

The hug is unexpected, but not unwelcome. Esther hugs the younger witch gently, (A little awkwardly), with a reassuring smile. "I… I'll try to talk with him, Elizabeth." She promises. Only hoping that her own problems were so simple. Onto Medusa; "I… I know we've spoke of Zayn before. I wonder… I wonder what else you know. What else you can tell me." The girl asks, with the blush already rising in her cheeks. There's every chance Elizabeth is still in earshot, but with Medusa waiting, Esther's already speaking.

"Shafiq?" Medusa purses her lips. "He is a pacifist and believes in non-violence. He comes from an incredibly wealthy family known for supporting charities of various kinds. He was raised by his father, his mother is not around dead I think." Canting her head she tries to recall anything else she knows. "He fancies brunettes. Is a good dancer. Why do you ask?"

Esther bites her lower one. Firmly. It's her biggest tell, and one that's well out of her control. After a few seconds, she asks again. "I… Do you think he'd ever be cruel? Deliberately, for any purpose?" She doesn't know whether she wants a positive or a negative answer. The consequences of both are difficult to envision. "I've not seen that side of him before, but…" She's not answering 'why', though. Not yet.

"Possibly, yes. He clearly has ambition or he would not be in Slytherin. Ambition requires that sometimes you step on others on your way up." Looking at Esther she enquires, "What has he done? If I knew that I might be able to better speculate."

Perhaps — But no, there's nothing to gain from stepping on Esther. "… I think he has feelings for me." The girl admits, her hand drifting to her bookbag. Carressing it gently, as she looks down at the well-cared for black satchel. "Feelings I'm worried I might be starting to return." And the reason for her worry, of course, should be well known to the Queen.

"Ah," says Medusa slowly. She slips an arm through one of Esther's and guides her towards a door, specifically the door to the Chamber of Reception. "Come, this is not something to discuss in the open where anyone might listen in."

Esther nods, and takes the arm. Walking side by side with Medusa into the frankly inadequately used side-chamber. "A.. Agreed, but I didn't want to distract you too much."

The marble beginnng of the staircases leading upwards into the castle face the heavy oak doors that lead outside across a flagged stone expanse that could fit an average house. Looking up, one can see the staircases shifting from one landing to the next, on up into the shadows making it difficult to tell just how high the Entrance Hall really is. The torches in the walls do little to pierce the dimness overhead, but cast light on the suits of armor flanking the front doors and the many doors spaced at odd intervals leading to the Great Hall, Slytherin Dungeons, Staff quarters, and even a broom closet.
Perhaps the thing of greatest interest in this entry though, at least to the students, are the four large hourglasses housed in niches on one of the walls opposite the doors. One filled with sapphires, one with emeralds, one with rubies, and the last with topaz, these hourglasses keep track of the all important House points. The gems in the bottom half represent the points earned so far by houses Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin.

Once inside Medusa takes a seat on a chair at a table and motions for Esther to also sit down. "You are allowed to be attracted to other boys, Esther. Just because you are in a relationship doesn't mean you stop being alive."

Esther takes the seat, as indicated. The blush on her cheeks doesn't fade, however. "I've… I accepted that he's attractive when I first met him, Medusa. That's not a new feeling. My confusion… Is that it mimics the feelings that I have for Myrus." Her hands gently fumble with her bookbag, opening her Advanced Charms textbook and sliding a sketch out of it. It's held, just out of sight. "… I want to ignore it. Remain his friend… And he promised, he wouldn't do anything without my consent." A pause.

"How much does it…mimic these feelings? Do you find yourself only wanting to be with him? Making excuses to see him? Seeing things and knowing instinctively what his response to them would be?" Medusa realises she's describing more of her own relationship perhaps, but it is her frame of reference for such things. "I - have you kissed him?"

Esther bites her lower lip again. "I… No." She admits. "We… We discussed it. He understands that I wouldn't… And he knows that I want to." A pause, before the sketch is eased onto the table by one shy hand. "And then he gave me this."
The sketch is a picture of the two of them, dancing close to each other, though in the sketch the two of them have their lips locked in a deep kiss, his hand on her face.
"I know he isn't so cruel to play this as a joke… And I'm not so cruel to draw this out, even if I could… But neither can I justify cutting him out of my life, when I enjoy his company so much." Esther explains.

Medusa takes the drawing and looks at it. "And yet you are trying to build a life with Myrus, so you feel guilty and confused." Her gaze lifts to find Esther's own. "Myrus is impetuous but he is serious when it comes to you. I have thought you both a bit young for just how fast things have gone. Did you ever perhaps consider that the intensity of your feelings for Myrus stem from his being the first boy who was equally attracted to you but also from your drive to free yourself from your abusive parents and his understanding and support of that need?"

Esthers nod is slow. Guilty indeed. "… Myrus has always been my best friends. Now we're both… Adrift of our parents, and we have eachother to rely on. But if that's the source of the intensity of my feelings, I don't know what to do about the ones I have towards Zayn…" Esther's hand remains spread on the table. "… Because they're independant. But that doesn't make them more honest, stronger, or more true."

"But you thought that if you were in love, truly in love, then you wouldn't have feelings like this for anyone else and that worries you - it makes you feel as if you perhaps aren't in love." Medusa slides the drawing back towards Esther. "I am not you and I don't know your feelings, but I can tell you that what I feel for Douglas is nothing at all compared to anything I ever felt for the dozens of boys I dated before him." In fact Medusa had a reputation for changing boyfriends weekly for a while there, well during her entire sixth year of school. "I might find others attractive to look at. I may flirt with them but there is nobody else I'd be willing to share my body or my most intimate thoughts with. To me, if you don't feel that way without a shadow of a doubt about Myrus then - well all I can suggest is perhaps your feelings for him are an intense type of infatuation or a milder love but not deep abiding love."

"I think that's what I'm afraid of." Esther answers slowly. The drawing is slid back into the safe place between the covers of her charms book, "Thank you for taking the time to talk with me, Medusa." She nods, "Douglas is…. Certainly unique." A 'Real Man', she'd called him. The same thing she'd call Zayn, now that she thinks about it. The thought gives her cause to blush a little, the pink tinge that rises to easily to her pale cheeks. "I'm glad you've found happiness with him. You two deserve it."

"I know people think we are an odd pairing, perhaps less so now than at the beginning, but we suit one another. Neither of us is ever going to win accolades for achieving the highest marks on an exam, but we're well suited." Medusa wrinkles her nose. "I just wish my parents would look past his problems at school and see that. Hopefully with time they will." She reaches over to Esther, her hand palm upwards. "Speak with Zayn quietly, see what he says. Perhaps it is something you can explore out of sight of others and Myrus need never know. I have no need to tell him. Explore what this is and…" she shrugs, "perhaps it will turn out to be nothing in the end. What I do know of you Esther Lowe is that when something niggles at you you are unable to let it go and will keep worrying it and picking at it like a scab until it bleeds."

Esther pauses. Thinking on it for several long seconds. "I can't tell if that's one of my most - Or least - favourite traits." The girl places a hand atop of Medusa's, and adds. "If there's anything I can do for you, Medusa, only say it. I owe you at least that much." Not that there's much a fifth year would be able to do for the older student's problems, but she /can/ be quite tenacious.

Giving the other girl's hand a gentle squeeze Medusa laughs, "I think it is one of your best personally. Provided it is aimed in a positive direction. Most people would just give up at the first hurdle." She pulls her hand back and reaches up to flick her hair out of her eyes. It has become longer over the holidays. "Thank you for you - actually, maybe you can help. Silas thinks I should take Jenny's threats to dethrone me seriously. I've been ignoring them because frankly I think she's got as much chance of doing it as Alphard has of being in a ballet. However, given her underhanded way of manipulating you - what I am getting towards is, do you think she would try to seduce Douglas to get to me?"

Esther manages a smile when she pulls her own hand back. "… Jenny knows she's attractive, Medusa. She knows it, and I don't think she'd hesitate to use it given the opportunity. I don't think she's above the idea, but…" The girl muses, "But maybe that could be used to your advantage, rather than to your detriment? Give Jenny a chance to come at you sideways, and then pull the carpet out from under her?"

"Sideways? What, like seduce her myself?" Medusa seems a bit confused by what Esther is suggesting. "Or get Douglas to help me entrap her, catch her in the act so to speak?"

"Better'n that." Esther's got that lovely little bit of delight burning in her eyes now. The delight that promises something sinister is ticking over in her head. "Jenny's all kinds of proud. Getting Douglas to help is easy enough, though. I was thinkin' of using something with a little more potential." Specifically? "Polyjuice. Because if she could convince herself she's got Douglas wrapped around her finger, might be she'd admit to a little more. Then bringing her back down to earth's a simple matter."

Medusa laughs. "Clever. I'll have to think on it." And find all the ingredients. "I need to go and you have a dinner engagement." She rises to her feet. "If you need to talk you know where to find me."

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