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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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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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It's Not About The Mermaids
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November 2, 1888 - The Black Lake

Gideon Ollivander

The lake by the castle and the forest was a frequent haunt for Galina. It was not as remote as the caverns that her fellow vampires tended to keep to deeper in the forest and for that reason more humans wandered its edges. Beyond the desire to see a change of faces from the normal, Galina often came here to meet with Mari. If Mari were being particularly petulant about their situation she’d sulk at the edges of the forest, sometimes by the lake where she could lure out students, and sometimes by the town where she could lure the children. The lake, besides Mari’s own rocky campsite was the second most likely place that Galina would find her sister.

At the beginning of the last month Galina had let Mari convince her of a hunting trip. Or rather, Galina had suggested it as a peace offering. Mari had accepted with the catch that she would continue hunting rather than returning home with Galina and Galina had agreed. Something she was now regretting. She knew sometimes Mari needed longer than her, but it had been two weeks. She didn’t need to worry yet. But after last night, after the incident with the girl in the forest, Galina had begun to worry for Mari’s safety. These magical folk knew of them, what if they didn’t respect the truce and harmed Mari. For that reason Galina had returned to the lake. She wouldn’t admit that even before this she had visited every few days at their typical designated time. Hoping Mari had slipped back without telling her. No, she wouldn’t admit that.

Every few evenings Galina had stopped along the shores of the darkening lake, her eyes peeled for Mari. And every few evenings she had seen the same man. He perched on the stones and intently spoke with the inhabitants of the lake.

Even though Galina had been a part of this world for over a decade, the concept of mermaids still seemed elusive to her. She’d grown accustomed to centaurs, they traipsed through the woods often enough, as did other magical creatures. But the merfolk kept to themselves and were easily forgotten in her mind as myths and legends. Completely absurd seeing as Galina herself was often classified as only a tale and she was quite real enough to suck someone dry of blood.

It was fascinating to watch the man speak with the merfolk. He’d lean down by the water and discuss with hand gestures, but she could never quite make out what they were saying. In the end he always handed them something and they gave him something. So she assumed it was quite simply a deal of some sort. Of course it was none of her business, but as far as she knew, while mermaids might actually exist no one could talk to them. And yet this man did. That was where the curiosity lay.

This evening she had returned to the lake, hoping to find Mari, to reassure herself that her sister was alright. Instead she had found it quiet. Except for the man and the mermaid he spoke to. Maybe it was curiosity, maybe something else, but Galina lifted the hood of her midnight blue cloak around her face and started forward. The cool evening shadows quickly dipping into late dusk. She wasn’t going to ask him about the lake, or the mermaids, no she’d ask him about Mari. Had he seen her sister?

As she approached the mermaid slipped back into the water and the gentleman straightened up. No matter, she wasn’t here for the mermaids. She was here for her sister. Galina smiled slightly, even though the man couldn’t see it in the deep shadows of the cloak. “Excuse me. sir.” Galina started making sure her voice sounded tentative and worried. Not far from the truth in this case. She wrapped the cloak tighter around her as if worried. “Have you seen a small girl around here?” Galina was grateful she had practiced her accent in the past decade. There were few things to do in the long years of her life spent in seclusion and hiding. “She’s about ten.” Well actually twelve, but men rarely looked that closely at the age of children. They were either babies, toddlers, ten, or school aged to men Galina had found. After years of this ploy with Mari nearby Galina was use to breezing over such matters, especially when she knew that to keep suspicions down about a looking for a school aged child around a magical school she would need to floss over such matters as actual age. And really, it wants like Mari's actual age was twelve anyway. No. She was much older than that. Even if she didn’t act it. In fact she was older than Galina by a century and yet Galina often fell into the role of older sister to Mari’s younger sister.


[Image: xKclfq.png]
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#2
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Gideon had started to run low on some of his mermaid core supplies and the last batch he'd gotten hadn't been nearly as effective as he would have liked. That was probably cause his normal mermaid contact hadn't been the one to talk to him. She'd been in trouble, apparently, so he'd had to time his venture a bit better if he was going to get what he truly needed. Of course, there was really no knowing until he'd gotten there.

Luckily enough, that night his favorite was lurking close to the surface and was able to chat with him. He'd flirted with her, as was quite usual for him. She always laughed and batted her lashes at him, tried to talk him into going for a swim with her. He declined, like he always did. Especially in Novemeber. He'd die of hypothermia before he even had a chance to make it back to his shop. It wasn't ideal since he had little Billie to think of now. The little lass was a spitfire, that was for sure, and she'd eat Quin alive if he ended up taking her in.

He'd just finished up with his exchange and was partaking in some more fun banter when the mermaid quickly decided to leave. It was strange behavior, that was for sure but he wasn't too fussed with it. It was getting rather cold, after all, and he was ready to be home. Only, as he straightened up, he realized he wasn't exactly alone. A woman was approaching him enshrouded in a cloak. Well that was ominous.

His hands went into his wool coat pockets so that he had a hand on his wand. Just in case. One could never be too careful, after all. But he didn't judge to seriously as she started to speak, hearing the tremor and worry in her voice as she asked about a young girl. He knew what that could be like and couldn't help but to chuckle at the thought of Billie. The little scamp was often running off and doing her own thing. Apparently it was a young girl sort of thing to do.

"Can't say that I have, miss," he said with a shake of his head, "Sorry 'bout that. I could help ya look for a bit though if ya'd like." It wasn't like he had anywhere pressing to be at that moment so what harm would it be to help her search a bit.
#3
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Details had been what had kept Galina living for well over a century now. The skills she had once used to keep herself safe in a hostile court, now kept her alive in a hostile world. Carefully her eyes took in each small detail of the world before her, a gentleman shifting from one foot to another, the bob of a lady’s adam apple as she worried about a conversation, and in this case the gentleman’s hands shifting into his pockets. Reasonable, as the evening surely felt chillier to him than to Galina’s whose own stolen blood hardly kept the cold from her bones. But knowing the world she lived by, the magical folk who knew this area, she suspected a wand might be hidden in those pockets. Something to keep a watch out for, she decided, however innocent the gesture might have been. Especially given that he had been talking to a mythical creature. Surely that didn’t make him a harmless human. Not that humans were exactly harmless, per say, but they were easy enough to overpower. Memories from her first encounter with Mari stll lingered in her mind. Humans were powerful together, individually they were easy pickings. Magical folk on the other hand were a different story and not one that Galina had yet understood. Perhaps it was her wariness left over from yesterday that kept her on edge.

Her ears picked up a quiet chuckle from the gentleman at her words and her brow quirked in confusion. Was he so cynical that he might not fall into the ploy of a missing girl. Not that it was actually a ploy, but Galina knew the chances of Mari being around were slim to none. It was really only wishful thinking on her part. But one could always hope, couldn’t they? Besides, there was always a chance that Mari might turn up while they were looking for her. Then Galina would be back to worrying about keeping the man safe instead of her little sister.

Despite the gentleman’s seemingly amusement at her predicament he deigned to her help her. A soft smile crossed her lips. “Thank you, sir.” She began with a gentle nod of her head. “I’d appreciate that.” She kept her tone gentle and worried. “I thought I saw her head that way.” Galina nodded toward the edge of the lake, starting that direction so she still didn’t come face to face with the gentleman directly. “She tends to wander.” True enough, she thought. Despite the truth or fiction of such a thing Galina felt as if an explanation might help in this case, a conversation to lighten the situation and keep him from discovering who, or rather what, had wandered into his midst. “I’ve warned her a million times about the forest but she doesn’t listen.” This was fiction. She did have to warn Mari of the town though, so perhaps it could be perceived as a truth. Her tone gave nothing of the lie away. Glancing toward the water, still far away enough that her lack of reflection wouldn’t catch attention, Galina once again remembered the mermaids. Perhaps she was curious afterall. “She’s always wanted to meet a mermaid and I thought perhaps she might have headed this way. Someone mentioned they were in the lake by the forest and well…” Galina spread her hands out in a gesture of exasperation.

I just hope she’s okay.” She murmured worriedly, the truth again, making sure it was loud enough for the gentleman to hear. Perhaps he’d only find the plight amusing, or maybe he might even discuss the mermaids with her. At least it was a pleasant distraction from the idleness of her days and from her worry regarding Mari. After all they were doing something however futile she realistically thought this idea of a search for Mari was. At least here, in the forest, around the lake. No, Mari was more than likely still in the craggy hills of Scotland for all Galina knew.


[Image: xKclfq.png]
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#4
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Gideon easily followed along with her as she began to move toward the other edge of the lake. It seemed a bit odd to him that she didn't come directly to him at first but he could only imagine her own wariness of meeting a strange man at such a late hour. Not all men were good men, after all. And though Gideon wasn't exactly the most proper of men, he still wasn't one to be feared. He did have some morals after all and forcing any woman into anything she may not desire was never something he had thought of doing. Billie had helped in some manner of his own propriety as well. He could no longer go about gallivanting about like some horny school boy, after all. It wasn't exactly the best example to set for the young girl.

"I know a young one a lot like that," he said with a smirk, not daring to mention the gender of Billie or of her direct ties to him. He didn't actually know who he was speaking to, after all, and there were still some secrets that needed keeping. He wasn't even sure if the truth of who Billie was to him would ever actually come out. Her gender, yes, would have to come out. But the fact she was his daughter, well, it was likely better off if that bit never got out. Being a known bastard was never good for anyone.

He chuckled again but gave a slight shrug at the mention of warning the young girl against going near the forest. "The forests aren't really all that bad," he answered simply as he carefully picked his way over the uneven and damp terrain of the lakeside, "Any monsters that may lurk there usually avoid us humans anyways." There was a joking sort of tone to his voice though, showing he really didn't take such thoughts seriously himself. He was well aware of the vampire caverns somewhere within the forests and that centaurs lurked there as well. But he also knew that they preferred keeping to themselves more oft than not. After all, the scrutiny of humankind against their own kind seemed to be enough for most to want to keep their noses clean.

"The mermaids tend to keep to themselves," he added as he looked around, glancing to the lake itself where the mermaids did lurk, "Unless you've got something particularly interesting to offer, they rarely come to the surface." It had taken him weeks to gain the trust of some of them and even then, only a few would bother talking to him. Some only to make fun of him when he was still just learning their language. It had all been worth it in the end though and he always had some mermaid scales and hair for his wand crafting as a result.
#5
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Ah, that explained the chuckle. It hadn't been to dismiss her worry or her words, but rather to sympathize with them. Galina could understand that. A dark chuckle crossed over her lips in response as she considered a way to question him a bit further without being pointedly rude. Over a century as an outcast of society, doomed to roam the wilderness for eternity, had not made Galina forget manners or the proper way to dance around a subject. Perhaps in her earliest years when the thirst has driven her more than rational thought, but not now. Not in the century since she had gained control of her impulses. She still had been breed in a court, a dangerous one at that, and as such knew the way to dance around such subjects with a grace and delicacy which she found she did not use enough. Such a well crafted skill to be left to waste with her and Mari in the wildernesses. But one she used now with an almost half smile in her gentle voice, "Then you understand." She surmised, her eyes laughing at the half joke. The man really didn't understand a thing about Mari, but she supposed that in some ways he did. Children did have a tendency to wander off with curiosity unless checked, Mari was much like them as she had never fully grown up despite her age.

The man was definitely not just a human. She had figured as much after watching his conversations with the mermaids. But not worried about the forest? That was definitely something that would be said from the mouth of a magical folk. Galina refrained from the bitter laugh at the edge of her lips. Clearly the man had no idea just how dangerous the forest could be. Perhaps he should be more wary in his ventures. The vampires were not all the complacent rule abiding creatures that Miss Lyra Potter wanted them to be made out as. No, some, Mari, and even Galina to some extent, were much more dangerous than that. But it appeared the touting of Lyra Potter had begun to soften the magical folks. For a moment Galina wondered how wide spread the idea was among the magical community of Hogsmeade. Again she refrained from scoffing at the idea of us which was uttered from his mouth, but it was easy to do so - court training and all that. It didn’t keep her from internally scoffing though. Really this man should probably be more on guard. It was a good thing for her that he wasn’t though.

He did have a point. The creatures did tend to keep to themselves. Hadn’t that been what Galina had been attempting to do before running into him? And yesterday before the girl wandered into her clearing? Simply looking for some time alone. But Mari wasn’t always so well behaved and there was certainly no saying what new vampires might do if they arrived. No one said that Lyra Potter’s rules would last forever. Infact Galina was sure they wouldn’t last for long. No plan like that ever did. Potter was living in a fantasy world full of delusions for even entertaining the idea that it might work. Being the realist that Galina was, she knew it would all fall apart at some point and if people began to think the forest safe … well then she supposed it might fall apart sooner than anyone expected. The man seemed nice enough, she should hate to see an innocent like him harmed by such a mindset and so she set about trying to warn him, subtly of course. “But, the vampires…” She began worriedly, wringing her hands together for effect. “They roam freely afterall.” She glanced about, her head swerving from side to side as if worried a vampire might jump out at them at any moment. “Mother always worries that they might not keep to themselves. With impulses like their’s…” She let her words trail off, her act of worry really a warning, stopping in her steps across the uneven ground to look at the man from under her hood as if truly worried about the situation at hand.

She allowed a gasp to escape her lips. “So there are mermaids in the lake?” Galina’s gaze returned to the still and murky waters by them. Then she turned back to the man and allowed a ridiculous worry that seemed something the young women of Hogsmeade might think of, “You don’t think they would have taken her, do you?” Again affected worry agitated her tone causing her voice to go up half an octave even as her words lowered as if worried the mermaids might be listening.


[Image: xKclfq.png]
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#6
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Gideon nodded initially in response. He understood quite a deal. It was hard to reign Billie in sometimes though and he couldn't really blame her. He wasn't entirely sure how long she'd been on her own and he was almost to afraid to ask. He knew it would only add further to his guilt and he was already striving to make up for any of that to her. But it was hard to expect a young child that had lived without rules for any amount of time to suddenly reign in all in. He knew she was trying though, and that was what mattered. Besides, he didn't want to kill that spirit she had within her by keeping her cooped up all the time. He knew that wouldn't go over well, he'd been that way himself as a child after all. He just wanted her happy. She deserved that much. And so long as she understood some boundaries and expectations, they'd be just fine.

He shrugged slightly at her fears of the vampires. They were a threat, that was for sure. Especially any that were young. But he also knew that everything had its own sort of price. Vampires needed blood and it wasn't always as accessible as it may be via blood banks. He couldn't really begrudge something for needing something for survival though. He doubted he'd enjoy being such a thing to anyone though but if it was the difference between life and death, well, he'd cut his own arm to offer something just to make sure he got away in the end. "I don't think they're all bad," he answered honestly, "I'm sure some are worse than others and though they could surely overpower a person, magic still trumps brute strength." He'd never really encountered a ferocious sort of vampire before though so he could be totally off base.

"Yes, there are," he said with a nod but was quick to shake his head right after. He couldn't exactly reach her to pat her arm for reassurance though so his hands remained in his pockets. "They've little interest in taking humans," he added with a slight chuckle, "Especially a young child. I'm sure she's just fine. They like shiny types of things. Things they can collect and hoard."
#7
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It had been well over a century since Galina had thought of herself as anything other than a monster. Even before the change she had heard tales that froze her blood and widened her eyes, tales of creatures such as the one she would become. Being one of these creatures had done little to erase this idea from her mind, for now she knew the truth of it, the tasks and true horror that spread behind her. She was a monster, damned by a God she had only mildly put her belief in before, she was sure if such a God existed it had condemned her to a horrible fate. For that could be the only truth of her being, the taking of life for her own survival. How many lives had she taken in the decades since she had changed? How many innocents had she feasted on for the taste and desire of the blood that flowed through their veins? To think she was anything less than a monster was a foolish wish at best. Yet,this man said that vampires were not all bad... By nature Galina was a monster, but she supposed her own set of imposed morals, while nowhere as strict or unrealistic as Lyra Potter’s was not all bad. She tried not to take innocent lives, like children who had yet to live in the world. Galina didn’t think she was bad, other than the nature and essence of her being, her personality was something that was altogether her’s, but this man’s belief…. It would get him killed one day. By someone who had less morals than she did. Or perhaps less curiosity was a better way to look at it. It might even be by her own sister’s fangs as Mari held little whelms about taking lives. In their years together she had always attributed this to how they had been raised and the differences in where they had come from. But Mari was hardly the worst of them out there. There were vampires who wouldn’t even bat an eye to kill someone simply for the fun of it, simply for the mere desire and smell even after they had grown to control their desires. Every once in a while during Galina’s travels she had crossed the path of one such as this. They were worth knowing, of course, but she often felt that they did not hold the answer, any more than Lyra Potter’s preachings held the answer. One lacked morals, one lacked practicality.

The man was right in one thing, that magic did hold some ground against them. She was wary of the magical folk for that very reason. But she didn’t count herself defenseless in those situations. That was where playing the part, trying to blend in, really helped to defend her. It was stupid to wander around flaunting what she was, quite unsafe, especially with witches and wizards around. Humans, certainly, but even then flagrant flaunting of what she was could be dangerous.

Her eyes had widened with surprise at his initial words she was quick to school her face, even if it was hidden in shadow, to show only a worry and a consideration of his words as she picked along the muddy rocky ground toward the further tree line. “I suppose. But they are still wild. Like creatures in the wood. Wolves… and worse.” She let her tone waver again as if she were thinking of all the things that might kill her. Almost laughable in reality. Wolves and others really couldn’t harm her, she was too quick and skilled for that, and honestly most creatures seemed to keep away from the vampires from a sense of self preservation. A good thing for them.

Oh.” Galina allowed a relieved surprise to bubble in her voice. Thinking about what he had just told her for a moment. Shiny things, things of value, not so far off from human nature if she really considered it. “You speak as if you know them quite well.” She ventured after a moment’s pause, curiosity edging into her tone. Of course she knew the man knew of mermaids, she’d watched him often enough. But he didn’t need to know that. In fact she was quite interested now that the conversation had come to a point where she could actually find out more. She hadn’t grown up in a magical world and things of myth still often seemed a myth to her even given her own life. She masked the awe and curiosity with the mantra that it was better to know more, to understand this world she had come to be in. Knowledge was a dangerous thing, perhaps, one of the most dangerous. She had learned this well over a century again, raised in a court full of ideals and ideas of an enlightenment. A court where the pursuit of knowledge was a brave thing and something that all should pursue. It had been engrained intro Galina’s very being during those years and persisted until now. Knowledge of the things around her had saved her many times, so many times that she hardly considered where such an idea had sprung from in the first place, so ingrained in her very being that she didn’t question it in the least.


[Image: xKclfq.png]
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#8
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Gideon was oblivious to the woman's true nature, the thought she was more than what she presented herself as hardly crossing his mind. Besides, women were odd creatures in their own right. He'd been around enough of them, bedded plenty, and they always had one thing in common, Little control of their emotions. Some were worse than others and so he hardly questioned why the woman remained far enough away from him so that he couldn't actually see her face shrouded in the shadows of her cloak. As far as he was concerned, she could have had warts or some sort of scar that kept her covered up. Either way, he didn't much care. It was what it was and he was hardly in the mood or position to be trying to woo some random stranger on the hunt for a lost little girl.

He shrugged at the comment of the vampires being wild as well as the forest housing other wild creatures. "We're all wild in one way or another though, are we not?" he asked, voice nonchalant as he spoke. There were plenty of humans that had done absurd and wild things in his lifetime so it wasn't all that far fetched to think of everyone being wild in one way or another. Some just hid it better than others.

He chuckled at her following remark though and gave a slight nod, lips turned up on one side in a lopsided sort of grin. "That I do," he answered easily, not at all afraid to admit such a thing. He knew it was rather well known that he spoke with the mermaids on occasion, preferring to get his own mermaid cores for himself than to trust some sort of dealer or distributor. "I have my own dealings with them," he continued on, walking along the well known edge of the lake and continuing to look about for the child, "I'm a wandmaker. Mermaid scales and even their hair have magical properties. My own wand holds mermaid scales for the core. They're actually quite interesting creatures. Some of them are funny. Very particular in the things they like though and easily offended at times."


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