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This would have been very disturbing anyway but then Pet's eye popped out and started rolling along the bottom of the boat. Great. Maybe she would be so fortunate as to have a kraken surface nearby and pluck her off the ship with one of its tentacles and kindly drown her. Petra Sleptova in Land, Ho!
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Breaking Free
September 7, 1889 - Outskirts of the Forbidden Forest

In the last year Caroline would never have expected to find herself here. It wasn’t so much the where but rather the who that surprised her. Mr. Tybalt Kirke. A year ago she had met him and determined he was two marbles short of a mental institution. Then somehow through a series of social events in the past nine month Caroline had formed a rather interesting friendship with the man. While she was still sometimes convinced he wasn’t entirely there, he was a friendly face at events where not everyone was. He had a good sense of humor and she’d somehow convinced him to teach her quidditch.

Caroline had never been a girl to turn down a new adventure. She’d sailed across the sea away from her family for the sake of it. She’d almost played quodpot back in the day, but had been much more interested in her social life to take the time to learn to play. But since arriving in England she had seen quidditch and it was intriguing. Who better to teach her than a former professional quidditch player?

Alright, I’m ready. Now what?” Caroline sat mounted on a broom, stylish green and blue flying robes doing the best they could to make her look femanine despite their very design. Her brown eyes looked up at Mr. Kirke as she smiled. Somehow, in the past nine month since she had determined he wasn’t a lunatic he had become one of the few people she didn’t put an act on. Surprisingly, around him she felt like she could be herself.

Sitting well away from the forest Hope watched the two. Caroline’s maid always up for an adventure herself, and willing to distract anyone who might stumble upon them. Caroline, afterall, had appearances to keep up and a match to make.

@Tybalt Kirke

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He missed this.

This meant lots of things all at once, really. Flying. His quidditch career, stunted as it had been. Even getting to spend time outdoors, skirting a little close to the treeline, though now they were in a clearing on the other side of the castle, just up from Bartonburg. And to be spending time with friends, mucking about and being able to tease and being able to talk. Miss Delaney was not the person he wished he could spend time with, but he could hardly begrudge her that. She was a good substitute. And she had proved herself, in the span of their acquaintance, to be rather a good sport.

Today, though, they were certainly putting that to the test. “You think you’re ready,” Tyb countered with a grin, amused by how fashionable she looked even on the cusp of this. One would think a bludger would be almost too afraid to crease her robes. He surveyed her with a cocked head for a moment more, half-inclined to draw it out and test her patience. “I think you should take the broom for another spin first,” Tybalt declared, gesturing a finger in a little circle, a quaffle resting under his other arm at the ready. But before he started tossing balls at her, he wondered - “Have you ever really flown one-handed?”

At this statement Caroline couldn’t help but playfully roll her eyes. He was putting on his quidditch player airs again. Of course she was ready, but she allowed his critique and waited for him to finish this thought. For a moment more he watched her, Caroline was more patient than most people gave her credit for, and she sat perfectly still as he passed his judgement.

Oh fine.” Caroline gave him an exasperated sigh, reminded of her mother teaching her how to walk in a straight line with books balanced on her head. She kicked off the ground and rose into the air taking a hand off the broom in response to his question. “Of course!” After all she’d grown up with brothers. With a grin she flew in a circle, holding on with one hand and keeping her balance. She’d always enjoyed flying club in school and while she hadn’t flown since graduation it was rather easy to get back into it.

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Amazing MJ set!
Though he had graduated, by now, to being able to tease her rather than only poke fun at himself, Tyb had to admit she was not an easy target for it. She wasn’t kidding: she was no newcomer to flying, nor flying one-handed.

“Show off,” he said, with a grin, mounting his own broom now and rose to hover at about her height. “Have you ever played Quodpot?” He asked: that was the big American broomsport, wasn’t it? (Most of the Department of Games and Sports liked to poke fun at it.) “Because the quod’s practically a quaffle, only the quaffle doesn’t explode,” he explained, “and the chasers still have to get it to the other end of the pitch by passing.” He took both hands off his broom to shift the quaffle about in his hands - it wasn’t often he held the quaffle; it was rather refreshing - and then tossed it at her, gently enough. (He didn’t want to cut the day short by hitting her in the face. No, he was going to savour every minute of this little outing.) “Here, catch!”

Perhaps she was a bit of a show off, but that is what ladies should be in her opinion. The perfect blend of showing off, presenting oneself as capable, and of course, seeming to be modest: able to adjust to each facet as each situation called for it. It was an interesting mix, but one Caroline prided herself on accomplishing well. So at his teasing she merely shook her head with an amused look on her face.

Caroline shook her head in response to his question. She had seen her fair share of quodpot games in school, although she had never played (she had always had too much to do to be able to afford the time). When they had arrived in England Caroline had insisted that Shawn take her to a quidditch game. Society, it appeared, showed up to such events. Having compared the two Caroline felt that the British (as they always seemed to) had rather damped the sport by not incorporating exploding balls, but she still thought the sport look fun. “Seems simple enough.

While flying one handed was simple enough, catching the ball was an altogether different sort of task. This she didn’t experience with, no need to catch most things in general, let alone with only one hand. As such she lunged for the ball she missed and tilted herself to the side, her legs tightening on the broom as she ended upside down, both hands clutching the broom to steady herself. She righted herself again and laughed at what must have been a foolish sight. “Perhaps you should actually aim it at me next time.” Caroline called, although her tone was more lighthearted than annoyed.

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Amazing MJ set!
Perhaps he had chanced it too early, that throw - for all her (abundant) confidence, she was still a beginner at the sport - and the last thing Tybalt needed was for her to get in trouble for trying out some death-defying broom stunts. It was probably best no one ended up in the hospital.

Tyb had watched wide-eyed as she slipped upside down on her broom, which was a useful move when occasionally called for, but not one he would have suggested trying so soon. She managed to right herself but not before Tybalt had made a beeline for her, hovering within reach to be sure she was well. “My mistake,” he said, laughing back at her in relief and rolling his eyes a little to keep up the pretence that anything had been off about his aim.

He tilted his broom downwards to scoop up the missed quaffle and circled back up around her, eyeing her in his best imitation of how the real coaches scrutinised their players. He stopped to hover face-to-face with her, giving it up to grin.

“Well, apparently you’re already a natural at the sloth grip roll,” Tyb teased about her accidental manoeuvre, half-teasing and half-impressed, “but let’s start smaller.” He didn’t start so far off from her this time, and in a light underarm throw, bobbed the quaffle over to her lap, convinced she would not miss it from this distance.

His mistake. Caroline shook her head in good natured disagreement grateful he did not comment on her own ability to catch. She had to admit that she was reassured by his hovering presence as she managed to right herself. She was not looking forward to such a maneuver again. Seeming comforted at her own competency to not fall to the ground when righting herself Mr. Krike swooped down to get the discarded quaffle and then watched her in a manner that was almost as judging as a mother eyeing with a debutante was the right pick for her son. Then he broke out into a grin.

Caroline could answer his statement with nothing but an eye roll. They both knew it hadn't been intentional, but she was grateful he did not point that out directly. A lady should be able to have some secrets about her. "Alright." She agreed readily, this time anticipating the quaffle when he tossed it from what seemed to be an awfully short distance away. Caroline caught it this time with only a slight bob of the broom. "See? It helps when you actually aim at me." She joked as she then attempted to toss the quaffle back to Mr. Kirke (that was what she was supposed to do, right?).

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Amazing MJ set!
“Nice,” Tyb remarked this time, grinning as she redeemed herself a little and caught the easy throw with minimal fuss. “See? I knew you had it in you,” he teased back as she threw it back to him; he made an exaggerated show of outstretching his arm and clutching the ball to his chest, as if he was doing any exceptional work here. “And I could have been a chaser, don’t you think?” He said with a wide grin.

(No, he had liked being a beater just fine. And there was no sense in thinking about what he’d given up - there was no going back now, and it had all been for a good cause, after all. The best cause. He would have given quidditch up a hundred times if he’d had to.)

Silently, he gestured her forwards, and did the same on his own broom beside her in a steady slow pace, thinking that they might try to keep passing back and forth while moving at the same time, staying aligned as if they were zig-zagging down the pitch together towards the opposite hoops.

Caroline laughed, enjoying herself as much as Mr. Kirke's antics (surprisingly). "I wouldn't get ahead of yourself..." Caroline teased despite knowing full well that if one of them should be a chaser it would certainly be Mr. Kirke.

Caroline followed his directions, catching the ball and tossing it back. Mr. Kirke looked happier than she had seen him during their entire acquaintance and as such she judged now would be a good time for a question that had been itching the back of her mind. "So, why did you decide to stop playing?" She asked lightly, more coverstationally than curiosity really.

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Amazing MJ set!
If his hand slipped slightly on the broom handle at her question - a question that had a different tone to all the easy quidditch teasing, however lightly she had meant it - Tybalt tried not to let it disrupt the rhythm of their passing.

“Oh,” he said. But before he had even made the pass, he found himself taking his steering hand off the broom to turn the quaffle over in his hands, fingers digging absently into the seams of it as he tried to stitch together a proper answer. “Guess I thought I’d be thankful for my unbroken nose while I still had it,” Tyb joked, but then he glanced at her pensively, a quick look that wondered would it be safe to say? It was stupid, the thought. He hadn’t said all that much to his former quidditch colleagues, but they were men (self-absorbed prats, too!); they’d not have bothered to press the issue. And although he hadn’t known Caroline Delaney all that long, in the scheme of things, he felt as though they did know each other strangely well: he had made a fool of himself often enough in her presence before. She seemed a safe bet.

“No, I - had to get serious sometime, didn’t I? If I want to get married...” Maybe it was that they had sort of touched on the issue before, of making matches, penniless quidditch players. Maybe it was that he just wanted to tell someone, after years and years of burying it, of not being able to say anything to anyone but Elsie and - even after this summer, even now - barely being able to talk to her at all.

There was a difference between true answers and practiced easy answers, one that Caroline often felt the need to decipher, especially when it came to her brothers. Watching Mr. Kirke as he paused their pattern, she felt the practiced answer that hovered between them. It was a good one, and she laughed at the way he delivered it, but she wouldn’t press it. It was his business and his alone.

It actually surprised her when Mr. Kirke continued, seeming much more serious than he had in the entirety of her acquaintance with him. She hadn’t anticipated that he would wish to get married, after all he had joked before that the type of girl for him didn’t exist. He didn’t intend to press suit upon her again, did he? Caroline quickly dismissed the thought, he wouldn’t look so forlorn if that were the case.

You? Serious?” Caroline chuckled, but it wasn’t mean spirited. She merely wished to lighten the mood. “I admit I’m surprised you wish to marry. I had thought you believed no lady would have you.” Caroline kept her tone carefully cheerful, free of judgment, as a friend ought to be in such a situation.

She paused for a moment, considering Mr. Kirke carefully. “You miss it.” She asserted. The difference between him here, on a broom, out in the fresh air, and stuck in a stuffy ballroom was almost startling. He seemed at ease here, his jokes in previous settings seemed almost… as if they covered up something so pure and happy that was trapped when he was in such a setting.
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She took it well, the half-confession. She was surprised - definitely - but if she thought him a fool, she was taking care not to show it. (Progress, Tyb thought, in their friendship. Who had ever thought it possible!)

“I did believe it, then,” Tyb acknowledged, with a full blown laugh, startling himself by considering how things could change so much from one year to the next. “I’m a good catch,” he gestured teasingly at the quaffle in his hands, “but not that kind of a catch, I know.” It would have depressed him, even a few months ago, but since - well - since Elsie had picked him over the suitor who’d come calling, since she seemed committed no matter what - it was easier to see the funny side again. His laugh settled into a smile that was smaller, a little more secretive. “But she... changed her mind, anyway,” he explained, with a happy shrug; it was as much as he dared to say, without giving too much detail away.

Not that everything was sorted just because he trusted in how Elsie felt. The how they would ever be able to get married was still a question hanging over their heads, and the start they’d made was no security, really. Life was just a tightrope line between making it work and taking risks that might blow up in their faces, and looming at the other end of that tightrope line were obstacles like Elsie’s parents, whom Tyb still didn’t know how he was ever going to face.

Still, he was happier again than the miserable he’d been without having a future with Elsie to even try for, and he couldn’t hide it from Miss Delaney, the hopeful cheer in him. But there was something else he couldn’t seem to hide from Miss Delaney - you miss it, she said. How could he answer that? Elsie had known how much he would miss it; she had done everything to try and save him from the inevitable. He missed quidditch constantly, missed it more than he thought anyone should miss a job, and the only thing he could combat that truth was with the certainty that he still wouldn’t go back and do things any other way.

“That obvious?” He asked, shaking his head as he passed her the quaffle, too gently to miss. Could he bring himself to lie, when apparently everyone could see it? “Yeah,” Tyb sighed, supposing the ache would show on his face even if he tried to fake it. “Yeah, I really do. All the time.” He looked over at her helplessly, as though she’d have some miraculous answer to everything when he knew there wasn’t one.

It was good to see Mr. Kirke laugh, during their acquaintance Caroline had come to find that while he often joked, he rarely laughed and the sound made her smile. “So she has come to see you as good catch in both manners of speaking then?” Caroline didn’t mean to pry, well she did it was in her nature to want to know things, but it was such a change in him that Caroline couldn’t resist asking. Especially when he left it so vague - it was like he was asking her to inquire further.

Caroline watched the emotions on his face for a moment before taking her eyes off him to catch the plan. “Yes.” She put forth simply. He was a completely different person out here, someone she had not yet encountered in the ballrooms and streets of their short acquaintance. “Then why did you stop playing?” Caroline asked guilessly, finding herself concerned for Mr. Kirke in a way she hadn’t been before. Strange how she could be when her first meeting of Mr. Kirke had been a potion induced crazed man and the next had found him stuck in a tree. But somehow, during the course of the past few months she had found a friend in Mr. Kirke, one whom she rather hated to see unhappy.

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Amazing MJ set!
It felt horribly good to talk honestly; dangerous, too, but so rare a thing he had almost forgotten how it felt at all. “She didn’t want me to quit,” Tyb elaborated hastily, in case she found some way to pin any responsibility for this - for the difference in him - on Elsie when it hadn’t been anything to do with her, really. He blamed Lucinda Cavanaugh if he blamed anyone, and even then all she had done was point him towards the inevitable. And it would have been inevitable whether he was in love with Elsie Beauregard or Caroline Delaney or any other girl, anyway; there would have always come a point where it had to be done. There had been no sense in pussyfooting about it. If he wanted the future he wanted, he’d had to take that plunge.

“But I want to do things properly, and if I want to do things properly I have to be able to support her. Obviously. For a wife, a home, a - family - all of it,” he swallowed, the family he pictured something a great deal more in the way he thought of Elsie’s family rather than of his own. He didn’t need to explain again that he’d otherwise have stayed penniless and then have had no other professional experience off a pitch to fall back on later, no plans, no prospects, no previous investment. “You can’t tell anyone, though -” he said abruptly, pulling his broom back to fall to a hovering halt and glancing urgently at Caroline to impress the importance of that on her. Why he had started talking at all with his only true secret was quite beyond him - but now that quaffle in her hands was pretty much a metaphor for his fate. And hopefully she wouldn’t drop the ball. “Her parents don’t know anything yet, see.”

Merlin, what would she even make of this? She’d think he was mad... though of course Miss Delaney was already used to thinking that.
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