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meditations on belonging
May 31st, 1889 — The Black Lake

The sun was white, whiter than snow, and many of the children out that afternoon likely yearned for snow. The weather, after all, was something close to sweltering; at least by Scottish standards. It was the last day before the summer holidays and there was no more studying to be had. No more homework, no more revision, no more sneezing through dusty tomes in the library. Just some sunny, relative sense of freedom. But, like many orphans, Clue was not anticipating the summer break with any kind of glee. Hogwarts was the only home he had, but it unceremoniously abandoned him each year to eight weeks of din and dearth.

As pale as the efficacious sun, Clue sat cross-legged on the bank of the Black Lake. Boys swam in the water, girls bathed their feet and squealed as the boys splashed them. Clue watched the water lap against the shore; it was rhythmic, as if the lake had a pulse. ”Perhaps”, he uttered aloud, ”if I were to hide.”

@Aleksei Nichols
Aleksei was wandering about the shoreline as they watched the people in the water. They didn't feel particularly inclined to join them. Aleksei was still feeling a little lost without their usual Slytherin companian by their side. Their falling out with their best friend seemed like it was going to be a thing that was going to be forever. What had possessed Aleksei to kiss Zak in the first place? The Hufflepuff couldn't blame the boy for never talking to them again but it had just seemed so right in the moment.

Aleksei was pulled from their thoughts by the sound of someones voice. "Why would you want to hide?" They couldn't help but ask curiously.

aleksei is non-binary. in ooc narrative, aleksei goes by they/them, IC people would percive them as he/him
A new thing wafted towards him, and thus Clue looked upon Aleksei Nichols, a Hufflepuff from his year. Clue quirked a pale eyebrow — why was he eavesdropping? Thoughts were private, even when spoken aloud.

But he'd asked, and that was interesting enough, and so Clue replied: "for tactical reasons". The boy returned his gaze to the Black Lake. "If I were to hide I might not be found, and thus not taken home for the summer". The emphasis on the word home was enough to make clear that Clue disagreed with the definition.
Tactical reasons? Aleksei was confused at first but then the boys intents became clear. Just like Aleksei's former best friend, the boy had a bad home life. At the very least, the Slytherin did not see his home as a home. "And if you could go anywhere but there," the tiny Hufflepuff asked, not bothering to call the boys supposed home a 'home' since it was clearly not seen as such. "Where is it you would go?"
Clue had thus far made no effort to actually hide — for he was young enough to dream of it, but old enough to realise its folly.

He didn't take his eyes from the Lake, but he saw the other boy in his peripheral vision, and gave him a thoughtful pause of consideration.

"Anywhere but there", he seemed to repeat Nichols's words, but actually he was answering the question. "That's where I would go."

"Is it the same for you?"
Aleksei was becoming increasingly intrigued by the mysterious Slytherin. As the question was turned to them, they took a moment to mull it over. Aleksei's home life was great despite their parents not fully understanding them the older Aleksei got. Their parents loved them, Aleksei knew.

"In a way but not quite the same," Aleksei finally decided on. If Aleksei could, they would go somewhere where they felt completely right. A place where Aleksei could wear ribbons, dresses and not always have to be a 'boy'. Because sometimes that felt wrong to them in a way Aleksei couldn't understand.
Clue listened, but did not reply. His massive eyes lingered on the other, and it was up to said other to perceive what Clue meant by his stare and silence. Perhaps the blond Slytherin was simply being peculiar, as ever. Or perhaps he was quietly intrigued, and a good listener, and awaiting elaboration should his companion wish to give it.

The truth was a little of both.
Aleksei did not know what to think about the other's lingering stare. When Jason did that, it usually meant that he needed Aleksei to be more clear on what they had meant. Was that what was happening here? "Have you never felt like... you don't really belong somewhere? Like maybe there's another world that you were supposed to go to but instead you ended up here."

aleksei is non-binary. in ooc narrative, aleksei goes by they/them, IC people would percive them as he/him
Hogwarts is the other world”, Clue replied at once, able to relate very much to the other’s quandary. This school, this life, was the closest he’d felt to belonging.

”I don’t know if there is a world beyond magic.”

Or did Nichols mean something else, something deeper?
Aleksei was muggleborn and Hogwarts had been a whole new world to them but it wasn't the same. "And even here I do not belong," Aleksei sighed. "Do you ever feel like... maybe you are more than what society says you are?" Aleksei was told that they were a 'boy' for example but... it didn't feel right. Aleksei lived it but did not resonate with it or feel like they were being true to who they were as a person.

Clue blinked long lashes and gave something of a nod, but he was also hesitant. For the truth was... "I don't listen to what society says I am." For if he did, he'd be absolutely nothing. And that, to someone who was something, made no sense at all.

"What does society say of you?"
"I try to listen to what society says but it doesn't feel right," Aleksei answered with a shrug of their shoulders. They had no idea how to explain something they personally did not understand about their own selves. The simplest way to put it was that they had boy parts and had been raised as one but did not feel like they were one.

Clue's fellow oddity answered well enough, but had skipped the crux and gone straight to how he felt about it. But how did he feel about what? What, to Aleksei Nichols, didn't feel right?

This question was in Clue's grey eyes, looking at him curiously as if to say "go on"...

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