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The Language of the Flowers was a popular method to express feelings where words might be improper, but did you know other means of doing so? Some ladies used their parasols, as well as their fans, gloves, and hankies to flirt with a gentleman (or alternatively, tell them to shove it!). — Bree


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Ester Montgomery for Thomas Montgomery. The one that got away (with the pornographer...)
This boy, then. He wasn't new. Wasn't one of the worst people in the common room, those rotten rich boys - like Mr. Jailkeeper - who could not fathom a world beyond their own farts. Was a good working class lad, so he'd heard. Had a bit of a weird looking face, and a bit of a weird thing for preaching. Still.

Aubrey Davis in The Under-Sofa


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Little Lost
#1
Private 
Yeah I'm just a little bit lost
Just a little out of touch with the plan
Yeah I'm just a little bit lost
I could use a bit of love and a hand

17th May, 1888 — A Hogwarts Corridor
Constance Sykes
How she had found her way to the Headmaster's office in the first place, she could scarcely remember. Carmelina was sure she had been relatively collected, then - as collected as she ever was - but the interview had rattled her something awful. She'd quite forgotten the effect Professor Black had on people; although perhaps it was an attitude he had honed with his added authorities, like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Just, you know, an utterly terrifying one.

She had entirely good references, though, she reminded herself, as she trotted out and down the hallway, glad to have escaped the griffin staircase's grasp at last. She had governessing experience, and plenty of academic experience to boot! Oh, and she'd written a book, hadn't she? Carmelina had almost forgotten those two years of work, in the moment. The board of governors surely wouldn't dismiss her out of hand, would they?

Well, there was nothing more that she could do about that now, in any case. She would head out, and hope to see the castle again in September.

If she could... find her way out, that was. Apparently navigating the castle was a skill that took seven years to accomplish, and just a few more to lose. She might have wandered down from Ravenclaw Tower in her sleep, but setting off as shaken as she had been from Headmaster Black's office must have seen her make a wrong turn somewhere, because she felt as though she had been walking in a square of corridors for the past quarter of an hour, and found no staircase in sight!

It was exam season, as well, so the castle had an eerie quiet about it - quills upon quills had been echoing out of the Great Hall like a grand scratching orchestra - and those lucky students with less to do had presumably escaped out into the sunshine. Carmelina didn't blame them.    

She had been staring hopelessly at the portraits in this corridor, hoping one of their subjects might be awake (so that she might ask for directions) or so that one might look familiar (and thus, a shortcut she remembered), with very little luck: so, at the sound of footsteps, Carmelina whirled around. "Oh, thank goodness!" She exclaimed to the hallway at large, propelling herself hastily towards them.  



#2
To Connie’s mind the exam period was paradoxically the calmest and most stressful time of the year. The students were occupied constantly and supervised for almost all of that time so there very little possibility of her having to intervene in mischief; but when they did come to her they were frequently in the grip of panic. It was quite understandable of course, futures were at stake and she endeavoured to do everything she could to calm nerves, to mop up tears from the more emotive amongst them and, more often than she would care to think about, sit up in the Common Room into the wee small hours of the morning to make sure nobody was sneaking out to the library in a last minute act of desperation.

As a result she was rapidly becoming exhausted so Connie took the opportunity, when the fifth years were mid-exam – the most in need of calming in her experience – to get out of the Common Room and clear her mind a little. The corridors were unusually tranquil and she felt a knot of tension begin to unravel: right up until the moment that a beautiful woman she most certainly did not know began hurting towards her, smiling like she was pleased to see her.

“Hello,” she said back, pleasantly bamboozled. “Is everything quite alright?”


[Image: Connie_SIG_by_MJ.png]
magnificent set by MJ
#3
The first sign of life she had seen in these corridors proved to be a woman, tall and blonde and most certainly not a student. Carmelina was not sure whether this was a relief or simply more embarrassing, but she was too glad to see her to consider the matter for long.

“Oh yes, it will be! If you can help me,” she exclaimed, although why this woman wouldn’t be able to help seemed a silly possibility. She must work here, in some capacity. A future coworker! Carmelina surveyed her as covertly as she could manage, trying to deduce which role on the staff she might possess, futile an endeavour as it was. Pushing down that burning curiosity, she remembered that regardless of who this was, first impressions would matter; though whether she could salvage this from seeing her known to the staff room as the ditz who could barely find her way to her own classroom was already questionable.

“The castle is even more of a labyrinth than I remember,” she confessed, shaking her head and smiling pitifully at her own hopelessness, “and I am losing all hope of ever getting out again, as the stairs have quite escaped me.”


#4
Seeing other adults at the castle during the schoolyear was a rare experience and not one that usually boded well: after all, for what possible positive reason would Headmaster Black ever summon a parent to the castle? And yet, the younger woman was smiling and cheerful and, other than apparently being a little lost, did not appear to be in distress.

Which meant she probably hadn’t been anywhere near the Headmaster given his ability to suck the joy out of the world.

“They can be a nightmare,” she replied, thinking of her own troubles with the stairs earlier this year. She had been convinced, for a terrible few moments, that she was going to be trapped through dinner with two hungry students but thankfully the stairs had done her a favour and sprang back to life. “I’ll show you out if you like? I’m free as a bird until the fifth years come out of their exam and begin to panic about what they’ve just spent the last three hours forgetting,” laughing fondly at her charges Connie tried not to openly stare. Another adult and one that seemed almost familiar, though she couldn’t put her finger on why.


[Image: Connie_SIG_by_MJ.png]
magnificent set by MJ
#5
"Would you? That would be wonderful," she returned sincerely, the relief settling merrily over the last of her choppy nerves and sense of disorientation of the day's previous endeavours. She drew herself up to wait expectantly for the right direction to be revealed; though she couldn't be certain whether the woman was as free and willing as she had described, even if this were the merest facade of politeness, she did not intend to give it up lightly. She might be lost in here all summer, otherwise!

Rather lost than sitting exams all over again, at any rate. Being in the castle, even empty as these corridors were, was bringing the school memories far more potently than usual. More good sensation than bad besides suffering examinations, of course, otherwise Carmelina supposed she would be regretting even applying for the professorship by this point.

(That said, she was suddenly rather invested nonetheless in getting to see the rest of the school staff. She wouldn't have guessed Hogwarts to be a secret hoard of attractive women, but judging by the first face she had come across, it seemed a distinct possibility. Either this woman was the outlier, or Carmelina hadn't been paying nearly enough attention to her professors when she had been a pupil.)

"I remember that feeling!" She added, failing to suppress a giggle. "Though I feel as if I've just been through an exam, myself."


#6
“Oh?” She asked with a questioning raise of her eyebrow, trying not to look for too many beats of a minute at a time as they began the journey back through the quiet corridors. With very few exceptions she was able to keep herself utterly in control during the school year but if this young woman was here for the reason she thought she might be then Connie thought bemusedly that Rose might finally have some competition in her mental ranking of the overall attractiveness of the female staff.

“Oh.” She repeated with a different inflection as an understanding smile began to form and she grinned at the woman. “You must have been in with the Headmaster?”

Who was retiring this year again? Surely the Arithmancer had to be old enough now, and if not him then Runes; either one would be a welcome change, especially with her renewed interest in the latter thanks to her recent reading. Which, unlike Mr Waffling’s tome, she had actually understood. Mostly.


[Image: Connie_SIG_by_MJ.png]
magnificent set by MJ
#7
The woman appeared to have an inkling of what she meant, just from that; Carmelina noted her grin in visible relief, since it suggested that she couldn't be the only one to have felt like that in his presence.

"How did you guess?" She replied, pursing her lips to try and hold back yet more laughter. "But yes, I've applied for the Ancient Runes position," she confessed, her smile a little shy about that now she was no longer sure how much of a chance she really had. She was still glad to have been able to meet another member of staff in the process, but it would be rather a shame if she was not a future and only a potential colleague. "Though I didn't expect to have been left quite so disoriented by it!" Carmelina added, praying that the woman she was with would account her directional insanity down to that and not an innate uselessness (though it was, perhaps, a little closer to the latter than she would have liked).

She leaned in a fraction closer, lowering her tone in conspiracy, "Is he really like that with everyone?" She supposed it would bode better for her if he was indeed, like that all the time, for at least she would not have proven herself an exceptional nitwit.


#8
Laughter bubbled out of her at the question and Connie could not recall the last time she had taken to somebody so immediately, although she did tend to develop a quick and powerful fondness for anybody that shared her opinion of the headmaster so the unknown young woman was already doing well in her usual assessment of others. Of course she did have other natural advantages but Connie was trying her very best not to notice that too much less it show in her face.

“Oh no,” she answered with a pointed roll of her eyes and a not even remotely subtle air of distaste. “I’m told he’s perfectly amicable if you happen to be another entitled pureblood patriarch with no sense of humour,” and a penchant for blaming little girls for the behaviour of everybody else around them, she didn’t add for the sake of not appearing too bitter about the history of restrictions put upon the female students.

“I’m glad you survived though, we definitely need a few new faces in the castle,” she added with a smile, trying to aim for her former levity rather than revel in her irritation at the Headmaster. It was true though, a new, unquestionably prettier face would certainly brighten her mood.

“Constance, by the way.”


[Image: Connie_SIG_by_MJ.png]
magnificent set by MJ
#9
Carmelina had supposed that being an adult would have been enough to feel on equal terms with the man; evidently not, according to the blonde beside her. (And Carmelina found herself naturally inclined to trust this woman and her opinions, possibly for reasons that were not entirely sensible, but still.) She let slip a wicked grin - not that she'd have been able to suppress it terribly well; she had never been much good at keeping a straight face - at the antipathy in her tone, feeling relieved that at least the headmaster would hardly have ventured far enough from his office to be lurking at their shoulder and overhearing such blasphemy.

Her smile became brighter and more bashful at the encouraging sentiment. "I rather hope I pull through; if he's desperate enough to take on a halfblood witch!" She agreed, crossing her fingers in a joking gesture of prayer. It would be rather a disappointment to have her hopes dashed now - and then what excuse would she have to make this woman's acquaintance?

Constance's acquaintance, as it was. "Carmelina," she replied, thinking she probably ought to tone down the broad smiles all over the place or Constance would think her an utter loon. Trying for a little more poise, she added, "What do you teach?" They hadn't been at Hogwarts together - Carmelina was sure she would have remembered her face - but the blonde did not look that much older than her, certainly not one of the professors who had been settled in their posts for half a century or more.



#10
Ah, always an awkward moment. The staff of Hogwarts incorporated quite a number of them really but Connie could hardly pretend she had not noticed a certain degree of hierarchy in the staff room when everybody was together. (Apart, of course, for the Headmaster’s ghastly staff meetings in which almost everybody joined forces to dislike him intensely.)

She was not ashamed of her position, in fact she was rather proud of it, but still she hesitated for a moment. Carmelina – fittingly a beautiful name - was clearly a woman of some intellect and a nagging part of her was reluctant to expose herself for what she was. She could lie. Pretend to be more than she was, but what was the point?

“Life,” she replied with a wry smile. “I’m not a teacher, I’m the matron for Slytherin house.”

There, it was done, and nobody had died of shame over admitting to an extremely respectable position. And it was hardly as though she were an idiot! She could debate with the very best of them and only recently had been reading a book she was sure her new friend must have come across given her…her…

“You’re Carmelina Cramming.” She stated, realisation washing over her. She had been reading Ancient Rune, Ancient Tombs on and off, had found it interesting and had been impressed that a woman – a married woman at that – could make such wonderful discoveries. And now she might be in their midst. The Headmaster would hardly be swayed by fame but he could not doubt her qualifications!

“I read your book,” she added, for clarification, grinning moments later. “I even understood some of it.”


[Image: Connie_SIG_by_MJ.png]
magnificent set by MJ
#11
Carmelina sensed her own misstep almost immediately, and wondered how best to backtrack, because she hadn't meant to offend. Constance hardly sounded accusatory, but she ought not to have assumed! A matronly position may take different skills, but it was no lesser - Merlin, if she did start here in September she would not be so quick to sound the fool.

"Oh," she exclaimed, with a hint of bashfulness. "A daunting endeavour! You must be better qualified than the rest of us put together," she put in with a hopefully teasing smile: one must have a strong mettle, to take on teaching so many pupils about life! Here she was, at thirty-three, and Carmelina still felt she had barely begun to unravel all the enigmas of life. (She wouldn't pretend she wasn't all the more curious about Constance's background now, and how she might have wandered into such a role. Carmelina was sure the matron she'd know whilst she had been at school had been, well - rather more matronly; grey-haired and deliriously stuffy, even on a good day! What a change.)

Whatever she had begun imagining about Constance, precisely the last thing she had expected of the blonde was to recognise her name! Carmelina's sheepishness became embarrassment of a different kind; she was rather pleased her skin didn't betray her blushes too badly, because she could certainly feel the heat in her face. "Oh, you didn't read that!" She declared, with an amazed laugh, although there was no doubt there - people did not tend to come across books like that long enough to remember it if they hadn't truly tried to bother with it. (She had thought it decently exciting, as academia went, but that said little out in the real world.) So this... was something of a marvel. Merlin, she had never considered the disappointment she must be in person, with none of the poise she had in specialised prose. That boded well for September, now didn't it?

There was a daft grin on her face anyway, though eventually she had to bite her lip to stop her laugh echoing down the empty corridor. "I just hope it didn't put you off reading for ever!"



#12
“Not at all,” she replied with a chuckle, though there had indeed been moments when she had been forced to put the excellently written book down and seek out a more basic tome on runes as a reference for some of the aspects she did not know. Which was hardly something she was going to admit to now but she was mildly concerned that she might have dropped herself in it for the future. Merlin help her if she actually had to have a conversation about runes: she would utterly embarrass herself!

“I try to keep my mind active with new things,” she admitted sheepishly. Teaching youths basic French and simple mathematics before they embarked for Hogwarts had been a pleasant enough form of employment, but the academic aspects were far from challenging. Books like Miss Cramming’s were her lifeline in a world where her sharp eyes were more use than her mind. Nobody really cared for her opinions on…well, anything really, as long as she kept charge of her girls.

“I doubt you’ve ever been bored in your life with the adventures you’ve had, the places you’ve seen.” The very thought of Egypt was mesmerizing, but she doubted she would ever live to see such wonders. Perhaps one day though? It was hardly as though anybody would miss her during the summer months, though with the luck the village had suffered the last few years she might have to be content with simply surviving the summer, let alone doing something that adventurous with it!
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[Image: Connie_SIG_by_MJ.png]
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#13
She wasn't sure why Constance sounded so self-conscious about such a decent activity as trying to keep one's mind active - rather, this convinced Carmelina all the more that they would get on splendidly - but she was mildly relieved not to be the only sheepish one in the corridor. She'd read her book!

"Boredom and I don't do too well together," Carmelina confessed, with a tiny shrug and a conspiratorial glance, though why she was acting like this was any sort of secret she couldn't say. "I suppose it's a side effect of being horribly nosy about everything." She was just far too interesting in knowing, and there was never any greater pleasure in knowing things after burrowing down deep into the arcane and unknown, even if one found themselves a little dusty and dishevelled along the way. That burning curiosity - and that healthy fear of boredom, otherwise - were what had seen her married: she had been seduced by the thought of travelling to Egypt, more than anything. But those desires were not something everybody would readily understand.

"I was hoping Hogwarts would make a worthy next adventure," she added with raised eyebrows, a touch more teasing now - it would be a foray into the past, for sure, and she certainly felt appropriately nervous about it, and she, at least, did not doubt that she would have her hands full getting to grips with it all - "but perhaps I'm being too optimistic, gotten the wrong impression?" If the castle did turn out to surprise her by being dull, well, she would just have to try harder to rustle up an adventure here in Scotland herself.



#14
Oh Lord, had she put her off already? There were many wonderful things about Hogwarts but to labour them now might seem a little bit desperate and Connie was conscious of not being too obvious in her desire to see the other woman become a fixture at the school. It had been terribly dull in the last year – apart from the awkwardness with Professor Sleptova and Rose – so she could desperately do with someone to liven things up.

Miss Cramming seemed just the ticket!

“Oh there’s plenty of adventure to be had when one works with children on the cusp of adulthood all day,” she chuckled, far too experienced with the changing temperaments of students to think they could ever be dull. It was probably a long way from traipsing across sandy dunes in search of tombs but she would hate for Miss Cramming to think anything about Hogsmade was boring.

“I’m sure you’ll see for yourself soon enough,” she said with a grin, doubting even the Headmaster could be enough of a fool to turn this woman away.

wrap? :)


[Image: Connie_SIG_by_MJ.png]
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