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exploring and exalting
May 30th, 1889 — Hogwarts Coming Out Ball

Bragi’s first society function in Great Britain had arrived earlier than anticipated, and had gone rather well, touch wood. Yes he’d accidentally elbowed a gentleman in the back, but he’d made small-talk, and even some medium-talk, and had partaken in the dancing without tangling his tails. Now, for the first time in about an hour, the young Dale found himself without a partner in dancing or conversation, so he seized the opportunity to do something he’d been dying to do all night — peek beyond the Great Hall.

Still holding his glass of Elf-made wine, Bragi sidled away from the chattering, laughing and music of the Great Hall, and made his way down the corridor opposite the Entrance Hall. His pace was leisurely, as if he were strolling through a museum, for he didn’t intend to venture far or to border on nosy. He just couldn’t resist the beckoning of the unknown.

Bragi gazed with silent wonder up at an enormous portrait of a paunchy pointy-hatted Duke, who gazed back down at him from beneath the sternest brow he’d ever seen.

@Elias Grimstone (Tyb/Max/Theo!)
It was almost like old times.

An occasional dip into the past couldn't hurt him, either: his present life - his new profession - was altogether relentless, and the future was too distant to often dream about. Tybalt was dreaming about it now, being here, at the Coming Out Ball. Thank Merlin Elsie had stumbled on the stairs that night, the year they'd graduated. Thank Merlin he'd gone after her.

She must be here tonight - he hoped she would be; the twins were graduating, she wouldn't miss it - but, that said, the most that would happen here was getting a furtive glimpse of her across the room or a dance if he was lucky, if she wasn't being prodded towards other partners in a room full of men with better prospects. His mouth twisting a little at the thought, he excused himself from his current conversation, and wandered out of the Great Hall. (Not because he hoped he might bump into Elsie hiding out somewhere. That was not part of the plan.)

There was no sign of her, anyway, and soon enough Tyb found himself summarily distracted by the castle. God, he missed it. Or missed being a student; missed not having worries, not having to think so much, missed not having to know where he was going all the time. He didn't know precisely where he was going now, tracing his footsteps of a few years ago through the hall, liking the quiet of it: it was like he was out of bed past curfew, up to some kind of mischief.

He hadn't gotten far before he spotted a figure alone in the hall: his first thought, because of their slight figure, was that they were a student out of bed. But no, if the boy was a student - he looked youngish, though Tyb didn't recognise him, and he'd always been fairly good with faces - he'd been invited to the party, he could tell that by his clothes. Still, maybe he was up to mischief.

A grin slipped onto his face as he wandered over, supposing he'd find out. "Have you ever seen him sneeze?" Tybalt asked in a cheerful murmur, cocking his head towards the portrait, not sure if the portrait would be able to hear him. "He sounds like an elephant."

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   Elsie Beauregard

Despite telling himself he was not getting himself into a puckersnatch by wandering off, Bragi must’ve had a guiltier conscious than he thought, for he jumped a little when a voice hailed him along the corridor. The young Dane turned around shiftily, but matched the stranger’s smile as the reception seemed thankfully warm. He did not know the fellow, who was dapper with dark colouring.

Bragi felt a touch shy, but could not help chuckling lightly at the man’s remarks on the portrait, who gazed down at them both looking terribly austere. ”Really? No, so far he’s only frowned and goggled, though I can easily picture him looking a bit like an el — an eleph —“ Bragi trailed off, recoiling slightly under the Duke’s tremendously affronted expression.
When didn't this portrait Duke frown? There were some wonderfully amusing portraits at Hogwarts - Tybalt had been a nosy sort, happy to strike up conversations here and there with more eccentric characters than the common room portraits - but the only thing better than the eccentrics was making fun of the poor grumpy painted souls who had to exist in a school eternally and seemed to hate noise, and children, and life.  

"Oh, what are you going to do?" Tybalt challenged the portrait when the other lad trailed off, grinning brazenly at the dour old man and the lack of its ability to do anything about being teased but grumble. "He's lucky I don't have a feather on me," he joked, with a conspiratorial eyebrow-quirk at the ginger. A little wave of the feather under the old fellow's nose, and the elephant-trumpeting would be echoing right up to the Astronomy tower. A tried-and-true tactic.

"'Course, he's not a patch on Headmaster Black, as curmudgeons go," Tybalt said brightly, not in the least worried about the prospect of the portrait feeding this assessment back in vengeance, being that he wasn't even a student anymore - and it wasn't as though he was the only student (or professor, probably) who had spoken ill of Phineas Black before. "Wouldn't you say?"

Given that they were in a school, it was entirely unironic that Bragi felt really rather childish right now. As the fellow made fun of the terrifically grumpy portrait shooting them such daggers, Bragi could not help but giggle like a schoolboy.

As for his dark-haired acquaintance, Bragi had the strong impression that while he enjoyed entertaining he’d probably be doing this even with nobody else present at all.

”Merlin you’re brave”, Bragi could not help but utter, smiling, impressed. But then the impressive party attempted to tug him good-naturedly into the ribbing session, and Bragi had to shake his head. Not just because he wasn’t as naughty as the other, but because — ”I confess I’m not familiar with Headmaster Black. I attended Beauxbatons”, he explained. ”Though the more I see of Hogwarts the more I wish I’d been placed here. With - with a few sparse exceptions”, he added, glancing again at the affronted portrait in a cheeky attempt at a dig of his own.
“I mean, I was a Gryffindor -” Tybalt interjected, at the stranger’s assessment of his bravery. This sort of thing - provoking a portrait - was not an action Tyb would have classified under that umbrella, but it was rather gratifying to hear all the same, that who he had been during school had not rubbed off since then completely.

But perhaps Gryffindor-ness meant little to this young man, who didn’t know Headmaster Black from Merlin either, because he’d gone to Beauxbatons. Tybalt’s eyebrows leapt up in curiosity to hear it, though between the unfamiliarity and the slight accent, he really should have guessed. “Huh,” Tyb exclaimed, and broke out into an appreciative laugh at the last comment as the portrait before them muttered darkly. Deciding that it would perhaps be prudent to let the crabby old Duke alone before he broke into a real tirade, Tyb turned all his focus onto the stranger, and took a moment to appraise him. “And how much of Hogwarts have you seen, so far?” He inquired innocently, though a gleam in his eyes said otherwise.

Bragi had heard of the four Hogwarts houses, but wasn’t aware of their intricacies. If he had been, it wouldn’t have surprised him in the least o know this windswept, brazen fellow was a Gryffindor. Still, Gryffindor, Hufflepuff or Flimbleflop, he was nice chap and Bragi was very much enjoying his company. Indeed, he laughed along with him at the portrait’s perpetually disgruntled reaction, unable to resist.

He perked up further at the Gryffindor alumni’s question, fidgeting thoughtfully with his sleeve. ”Oh very little. The Great Hall and entrance area. They’re spectacular”, he added truthfully. If that was all of Hogwarts he’d ever see, he was content.

Then again… if there was truly an opportunity to see more
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   Elias Grimstone
“Oh, pfft,” Tyb scoffed cheerfully. The Great Hall and its ceiling was fairly spectacular, that was true, but the school liked to show that off rather too much. “I think we can do better than that,” he declared, brightening to the challenge - a challenge set possibly more by himself than the guest of the castle beside him, (but that was only what politeness prevented, Tybalt was sure). Either way, he was delighted for a distraction such as this.

And if there was a little selfish nostalgia in it, well there was no harm in a hasty turn of a tour, was there? The young'uns would all be safely tucked up in their dormitories, and the professors tied up at the ball. They might bump into the ghosts, or perhaps even to Peeves, but Tyb didn't suppose either of those a particular drawback. Perhaps he should expressly try to engineer that...

“Come along, young man,” Tybalt said, mimicking Mr. Grumpy-Pants Portrait up there in tone and in his chivvying of the stranger down along the hallway. “Let’s give you a real look at the place.” Without waiting for the other young man to trot on - or introduce himself, for that matter - Tybalt broke into movement, bounding off and trying to decide what would be most interesting to show him. Fortunately, it being in the grounds and not the castle, the quidditch pitch was out - he missed it too badly to go back - and the classrooms were very quickly dashed off the list as possibilities. They could go snooping about in the dungeons, perhaps, or up behind some of those tapestry-hidden passages. They mightn’t make it all the way up to the Astronomy Tower - oh, but you could see over all of Hogsmeade from there! - but even the set of staircases on the way up was rather something.

Bragi breathed another soft chuckle of amusement, rather wide-eyed — he'd never met anyone with this sense of humour before. It was incredibly compelling.

He could almost hear the young adventurer's mind whirring — or was that the purr of a satisfied lion?

Still smiling, Bragi hurried elegantly to keep up with the taller fellow's stride, heart thrumming with excitement. "You are making me realise what it might be like to be a schoolmate of yours here", he could not help but remark, amused. Bragi was a follower, the rogue was a leader. But Bragi was resolutely not the type of boy to call this a bad influence...
He had not been expecting the other young man to refuse his schemes, exactly, but he was pleased all the same when he didn’t hear a whiff of protest. “Oh, I was much worse at school,” Tybalt said in impish jest, but he slowed down for a pace to properly introduce himself. It was true enough: most of the time these days all he felt was young and useless and out of his depth.

“Tybalt Kirke, by the by,” he said brightly, coming to a halt just before they broke into view of the hall of staircases, seven floors of them. “And - if you don’t mind me asking - what brings you to Britain, Mr. Beauxbatons?”

In the depths of his fair chest he felt something a bit like… was that envy? (Actually it was most certainly attraction, but Bragi did not know of such things.) He was not envious of Tybalt Kirke himself, for only very few people in this world could pull off such jolly daring, and Bragi was not one of them. No, he was envious that he’d never lived this life. He’d never been so led astray at the age you were supposed to. He’d never explored and endangered and fled the beaten track.

But it wasn’t too late to relive the schooldays he’d never had.

”Bragi Holm”, he replied warmly, ”and I came to Britain because, erm —“ Bragi didn’t hesitate because he didn’t know why he’d come to Britain. He knew precisely why he’d come to Britain. He hesitated because they’d just reached an enormous, cavernous stairwell, and several of the vertigo-inducing staircases above were moving through the air, producing a constantly changing play of candlelight on the walls and floor.

”I came here because it’s marvellous.”

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