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#1
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June 29th, 1890 — Wellingtonshire — Academic social event

Clue sat at a stately dinner in the Valenduris household, slender hand still hovering uncertainly over the three forks by his plate. Three. Clue, who'd spent much of his childhood gnawing down on some snatched bread roll or apple, had not always seen the need for even one fork, let alone three.

But here he was. Combed, comely, obediently silent, but completely out of his element.


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#2
She knew, of course, that the professor had had to invite her parents this evening, but, nonetheless, Idunn felt more than a little ungrateful about her own inclusion, for surely if they were good at anything, Ewart and Ailsa Fraser were good at embarrassing her. Given that they were surrounded by people whose good opinion of Idunn would set the state for her entire future, this seemed as good an avenue for them to do so any.

By some miracle, though Idunn was not the most uncomfortable person at the dinner. Seated beside her fellow apprentice, even the redhead, who ordinarily ignored those around her, picked up on his uncertainty.

"Start at the outside," she murmured to the Slytherin, though her gaze was focused pointedly upon her mother further down the table, "and work your way in with each course."



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#3
Not one to fathom exactly how to ask for help, Clue would've been quite inclined to give up on the cutlery rules (whatever they were) and opt to snatch up the nearest available eating implement. But Idunn Fraser, steady and silently musing in the seat next to him, offered some clear advice.

Start at the outside and work in. Right. That made sense. He selected the correct knife and fork to make an attempt on the small pastry starter that had been placed before him.

Any social cue that he should thank his saviour escaped him. But Clue did glance at Miss Fraser, and in doing so noticed that she was glancing elsewhere. He followed her gaze; "are you looking at Maestro Pavesio?" For there sat the guest of honour, chatting animatedly to a lady across from him.


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#4
That he did not thank her was something that the Ravenclaw did not pick up on—even were she not distracted by the dinner's guests, it had caused her no hardship to aid him.

"Yes," she answered after a beat, redirecting her gaze to the Slytherin. She thought it an easier answer than to explain to someone who she didn't really know outside of potion-brewing that her mother was a walking cloud of impending embarrassment whose sending of a corset to her daughter at Ravenclaw table over breakfast was not even the most traumatizing thing she had ever done.

No, there was a time and a place for such conversations, both of which Idunn hoped dearly never to reach.

"I must admit, I'm not sure what to make of him," the redhead continued. "Have you read his latest paper?"



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#5
Without really thinking about it, Clue had learned a bit about society during his short time in the Valenduris household. Most especially, he'd picked up one or two tips on how to hold an actual conversation. Or at least how to listen and speak without opting to stare blankly into space or force bored silences upon his unwitting victims.

"Conversation", he found, was especially tolerable when the subject was something he found interesting. And he did find Maestro Pavesio interesting. Clue took a small bite of the pastry in front of him (using the correct fork!), then addressed Miss Fraser's question. "The paper on transmuting lead into silver? Yes...

I wonder what his goal is"
, he mused quietly without judgement, returning his cold gaze to the chatting alchemist. "Wealth? Or power..."


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#6
"Wealth and power are much the same thing," Idunn said with all the authority of someone who had heard the statement once and recognized it to be true, rather than made the observation for themself. "Or at least, each breeds the other, serving as either the chicken or the egg as the situation demands."

She paused speaking long enough to take a small bite from the plate in front of her before continuing.

"As to Master Pavesio, however, I would like to think that his goal is simply knowledge." This was certainly a target that Idunn Fraser was capable of understanding, the goal that drove her seeking out the internship to begin with. "Of course, I cannot say for certain until I have better made the measure of him." In fact, she hadn't really much taken the measure of Mr. Leverett yet, either; the Ravenclaw expected she would have a sound understanding of both by the summer's end.



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#7
A more normal young gentleman might've made some comment in the affirmation, or at least a noise of agreement — for Clue did see merit in her summation of Master Pavesio. The pursuit of knowledge was clearly his way, but to what end nobody knew.

He let a silence linger for a while as he stared coldly at the warmly distracted Master, then blinked his gaze back to Miss Fraser. "You're wrong, by the way. About the link between wealth and power. The most powerful people I've ever known have also been the poorest."

Mr Hatchet, Mrs Spragg... those boys on the street...


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#8
"They would be the exceptions, if you are correct," the redhead answered simply, feeling it unnecessary to add that she doubted he was correct. She supposed, of course, there was a metric by which the individuals Mr. Leverett did have a degree of power, but as of yet, it was one she did not quite understand.



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#9
Although he recognised vaguely that Miss Fraser was different to most of the little ladies at Hogwarts, Clue knew that she had an evident degree of etiquette; certainly more than he had. So it was quite possible that her conversational skills were just that: skills. Clue, on the other hand, spoke not out of courtesy or awareness of conversational structure, but out of cold, honest interest when he posed questions such as — "who is the most powerful soul you know?"


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#10
Idunn thought on this question for a long moment as she weighed options.

"I suppose I must say Headmaster Black," she decided at last, "if we consider only individuals I could be reasonably certain to encounter. As the patriarch of a notable family, after all, he bears a great deal of social clout, and as headmaster of our school," Idunn continued, "he holds sway, to some degree, over each and every young witch or wizard. Would you agree with my conclusion, Mr. Leverett?" the redhead asked, finding herself genuinely curious.
— @Clue Leverett



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#11
Power. Professor Black had social power, academic power, and professional power; yes, Clue could see why any student of Hogwarts would consider their Headmaster to be the most powerful soul they knew. "I agree with you", he thereby said.

Clue mused silently as he took another bite of the pastry. It had meat in it. And that reminded him of someone; a butcher, an evil butcher, powerful, very powerful.

"But I'd also argue that a person with great sway over one, has more power than a person with sway over many."

Phineas Black could bend a meadow of flowers to his will. But if there was only one flower in that meadow, he could stamp it ten feet into the dirt.


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#12
"But you did not specify over an individual, Mr. Leverett," Idunn protested mildly, "nor over which individual it should be. It is important to frame one's questions carefully, to say what one means, even if polite company—" here, she gestured covertly at their dining companions, merrily ignoring the two students "—would demand you behave differently."



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#13
Clue did not know what to think of Miss Fraser's assertion that "It is important to frame one's questions carefully" — it was something a Professor might say to a pupil. This alerted Clue to the possibility that she was regarding him as a child in need of lessons; perhaps sparked by the opening of their conversation, in which she'd advised him on which fork to use for which course. He didn't mind, really. But this feeling did make him feel a little more distanced from his conversation partner.

It seemed she was curious as to who was the most powerful soul he'd ever met. "You don't know him", Clue replied, partly because there was no reason why she would be acquainted with a slovenly London butcher, and partly because he would not be spilling his past traumas here at the fanciest dining event he'd ever attended.
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#14
"The answer to your question might even one day be one of us," the redhead remarked, though there was little investment in such a concept in her tone, "though I fancy I'd rather know a great deal—everything, if I could—than be directly perceived as powerful."



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#15
Did Clue want to be perceived as powerful? It would certainly protect him from those who'd harmed him — or wished him harm — throughout the entire span of his childhood. It was a tantalising thought. But he also agreed with Miss Fraser, that knowledge could be a most profound power, and it was not to be sniffed at. Clue was about to voice this agreement when he noticed a series of glances from the lady sitting on Miss Fraser's other side.

"I think that person is trying to get your attention", he muttered. Sure enough, the stately woman was showing signs (unmissed even by Clue) of wishing to engage Miss Fraser in conversation. Perhaps it was a bid to rescue her from the fey boy who, despite being dressed in smarts courtesy of the Valenduris family, was still clearly a ragamuffin.
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#16
Idunn glanced in the woman's direction, which proved to be at once a mistake—the moment she made eye contact, the witch saw fit to dive in, giving the redhead no room to finesse an escape.
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