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The Dirty Part of Physics [ClockworkCadence ║ Ryees]

Joined
Dec 29, 2014
Messages
509
Location
Central US
#1
Taptap, taptaptap, tap, taptaptaptaptap.

The Ministry building contained many rooms. Offices, libraries, archives, bathrooms—if one could think of a kind of room, it was likely to be found within. Of all these rooms, one kind numbered fewer than most of the others on the list, its count barely reaching double digits, disappointingly unable to be described as "a dozen or so." Classrooms were of little need to the majority of those within the Ministry, but a small number of lecture halls were still present within. One such hall was, this day, taken by a thin trickle of witches and wizards filtering into the room. The door would open and close on its own accord, opening to those who had a particular parchment presented and laughing animatedly at those who did not. Even through the cackling, frosted glass door to the classroom, the sound of chalk rapping on the blackboard was audible. Otherwise plain save for the occasional fit of laughter, the door was the only one in the hall that had a permanent placard riveted just under the window.

M. SHERLIN: ADVANCED DEFENSE

The door had complained profusely when that placard was installed, but the occupant in question had insisted. The two did not have a good relationship.

Upon entering the room, a small number of things would beset one's senses. The lecture hall-style room extended to the left, six raised steps containing dozens of desks, separated into thirds by two stairways. Each of those desks alternated facing towards the blackboard on the right wall of the room and facing backwards, in such a way that sitting in the chair would put one dangerously close to tumbling backwards into the row below. On the far end of the room, mirrored to where the door was, a grandfather clock stood dutifully ticking away right on time.

Three strides from the blackboard and aligned to the exact atomic center of the room sat a hardwood desk that seemed too wide for one person, ten feet in length and with two chairs in front of it; one a standard classroom chair, black plastic with black-anodized metal legs, and one a leather-seated office chair on rolling wheels. The desk itself was neatly organized, prominently bearing four stacks of paper in the center of the writing surface, each very obviously exactly ten sheets high. The right-most stack was topped with six blank pieces of white paper—there were only to be thirty-four students to this class, but there was clearly no reason for that stack to be left lower than the others. Around those papers sat a myriad of things: Two clocks, one digital and one analog, set eleven minutes and nineteen seconds apart, and neither showing the correct time; a Remembrall on a folding wooden stand, a myriad of volatile curse words scribbled over its glassy surface in long since dried out dry-erase marker; three plastic racks for folders and such, bearing manila folders that were completely empty; and a bronze armadillo with a constantly irritated expression that sullenly glowered at each student as they passed by the desk.

Chalk rapped against chalkboard in brisk strokes, a visible urgency in the neatly-manicured hand that held the chalk. Tall and thin, he was well-dressed in a proper business suit, complete with an eerily burgundy tie that cinched his collar up tight. His hair was curly and short enough that it was likely able to be tamed by a quick finger-combing every morning—and it certainly looked as though a proper comb had not touched it in days, though it did not shine of grease. A Probity Probe mounted on each side of the chalk board glowed suspiciously as he walked back and forth to write, clearly reacting to something on his person even though he wore no visible jewelry or trinkets. It was nearly the entire length of the board that he walked, as if he was intent on filling the whole thing with dusty scribbles of only-mostly-neat handwriting.

The professor did not pay any attention to the students as they came in, especially the ones that tried to introduce themselves. He somehow seemed to play even less attention to them, as if their introductions made him somehow more focused on his writing. To those students, the armadillo glowered extra sullenly.

Finally, his writing subsided. He turned to his class, putting palms together and somehow affixing the entire classroom at once with a gray-green stare that felt invasive and derisive in equal amounts. Many moments passed in silence. Someone coughed.

A gentle sequence of steps too quiet for his polished leather black brought him to the plastic chair at his desk, which he noisily scraped over to align with the stacks of papers. Fishing in a drawer, he pulled out a notebook that clearly had nothing to do with class material and produced a quill and ink from the same drawer. He set the lot of it on the desk and looked up again, casting his gaze around the room.

"I am Professor Sherlin, Auror combat trainer." His voice was clear and only mildly deep, with no real accent, indicative of his American roots. It did, however, hold a powerfully keen edge of flatness that left an oily feeling in the ears for its deadpan seriousness. "Please follow the directions on the blackboard. Thank you." The room descended into near-silence as he began to scratch away at the notebook, engrossed in his writing almost immediately. The students would not have seen his eyes flick to the only accurate clock in the room, and they could certainly not hear the mental timer ticking down to the point in time where he fired them all if no one spoke up.

The direction on the blackboard seemed perfectly clear. Clear, in this case, denoting the fact that the chalk he was writing with for all those many minutes as the classroom filled must have been clear, because the chalk board was blank.
 
Joined
Aug 8, 2017
Messages
28
#2
“Department of Magical Law Enforcement.”

A female voice with a thick British accent pleasantly assaulted the senses after the crude clank of the lift jolting to a halt graced the ears and body both with a jarringly uncomfortable feeling. It had only been a few seconds, but it became blaringly obvious that the daily trip on this wonderful steel deathtrap was going to be absolutely thrilling. What a great way to start the day.

The dazed woman on the inside promptly stumbled out, heaving a breath to collect herself and ignoring the perplexed stares of those still in the lift that quickly shifted out of sight as she stood for a moment next to the dark wall, taking in her surroundings. The hallways seemed to extend and branch out like a tree from this central point—it wasn’t particularly difficult to navigate for those familiar with the layout, but for a newcomer such as her, this place was practically labyrinthine. The Ministry really should have had a tourist center, or at the very least, a map—but instead, they preferred to torture their foreigners in this bizarre hazing ritual. They must have atrociously slow work days to come up with this dastardly plan.

Low-heeled boots tapped dully against the sleek tile as wide sapphire eyes scanned every door that passed by, trying and miserably failing to find their destination. She hoped at least one person would get a chuckle out of finding her pathetically lost corpse steps away from where she was supposed to be. Her ghost would certainly be laughing.

Everything was labeled with names, far less easy to track than the numbers she’d seen in organizations she was used to working in—what was she looking for again? Professor Sherlin? A tan hand reached to fiddle with the straps on her leather bag, its gaping maw opening for her as she pulled out a crisp piece of parchment, scanning its contents for any indication as to what she was getting herself into. Ah—Advanced Defense. Right there near the top of the page.

There was an odd twist in her stomach as she considered what that might mean for her. Would this be actual defense, or offense hiding under the guise of self-defense? Olivia Hudson was many things, but an impressive combatant was not one of them. She could certainly hold her own—there was no way she could have become an Auror otherwise—but that was all that could be said about the subject. The rest of her seemed to scream pacifism—her international liaising, her specialty in healing and protective spells, even her bright and gentle face. Her presence in these halls wouldn’t have happened if not for her cooperation with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and the Department of International Magical Cooperation here.

Halls that had been for the most part quiet, but now were echoing with…laughter? Unsettling laughter? Dark brown hair whirled gently in the air as her head turned towards the sound, spying a rather frustrated man stalking away from a shaking door, its hinges creaking as its cackling threatened to shake it from its frame. For a moment, the dumbstruck woman just stood there, processing just what in the word happened. This door was enchanted to just laugh at people who tried to enter? What kind of three ring circus from hell was this place? First the Lift of Doom, then the Labyrinth of No Return, and now the Door of Humiliation? How’d she manage to get a ticket to this shit-show for free?

Regardless, it was at least relieving to know she wouldn't have the privilege of meeting the friendly neighborhood sentient slab of wood. All she was looking for was a simple classroom. Her search resumed in that direction, a bit apprehensive of approaching in case it just laughed at any passerby. She tried to put it out of her mind, instead focusing on the names floating by—D. Ardent, E. Midwell, A. Caldwell, M. Sherlin…

Sherlin—ah, she’d finally found it. With a triumphant grin, she turned towards the entrance.

...If the door could see her face in that surprised moment of realization, it’d surely have laughed itself off its hinges.

Professor Sherlin was the mastermind behind this unsettling entity? Of all things he could have done, he chose to ward off people with this?

Yet the door didn’t start laughing—instead, its attention seemed to lean its inflexible body towards the parchment in her hands. Did…did it want to see it? A curious hand offered the paper, opened so the door could read, if that was a thing it could do. Within a few awkward seconds, the door seemed to be satisfied, a loud click cutting through the silence as it creaked open to let her enter.

As Olivia stepped through the doorframe with a bit of fascination, she came face-to-face with a classroom that generally seemed normal at first glance—a blackboard, some desks, chairs, and most other things that could be found in a typical classroom. Her gaze locked onto a tall figure writing dutifully with chalk, his demeanor oddly disconcerting as his focus was a laser pointed onto the task before him, not even seeming to notice that anyone else was in the room with him. It was an intriguing sort of concentration that was intense enough to burn holes in the board, if it were given a physical form. Out of curiosity, she glanced at the contents of his large desk at the middle of the classroom, noting the peculiarly precise stacks of papers, the clocks with what seemed to be purposely different times, and—was that an armadillo?

Sure enough, as she passed, the statue-like stillness of the bronze animal was only betrayed by its beady eyes that followed her, its intense and disapproving expression scorching her back as she walked up towards a seat in the back of the class, preferring to sit quietly and observe in new areas until she learned the culture of the people and the classroom. As other people began to take seats around her, she took note of subtle behaviors she might need to display to better relate to these people, a habit of her ambassador-like career. Seemingly satisfied with the information she’d gathered after a few minutes of people-watching, a soft hand reached down to pull out her notebook and a regular pen, ready for the lesson to begin—she wasn’t too fond of the tendency to use quills here.

The scraping of the chalk on the board was quiet, yet it was very apparent when it stopped—Olivia’s attention flickered to the man at the front of the class as he turned, gaze calculating and almost as cold as the chills that ran down her spine from the sound of the chair scraping on the floor. Her attention vaguely noticed the precision in his placement of the chair, right before he began to speak. His voice held an even tone that seemed unsettlingly devoid of emotion and almost robotic, oddly no accent present to flavor his words despite living in this area.

Yet what was even more peculiar was his instruction to follow the directions he'd written—directions that weren't even there. Wasn't he just writing moments ago?

"Um, Professor? There isn't anything on the board." Some brave soul decided to speak up, a young man eager to learn.

Eager, that is, until a horrifyingly loud creak came from the entrance, the door bulging as it seemed to inhale, a strong gust whipping around the classroom as the man was promptly picked up by the wind and sucked into a gaping mouth that opened on the door. The sound of his body landing with a dull thump was heard muffled through the walls, barely audible over the shocked silence stretching across the classroom.

"Professor!" A timid girl squeaked in horror, standing up apprehensively. "What's going on?"

Standing seemed to only give the wind an easier time with picking her up, eaten by the door only to be promptly deposited on the other side. More indignant and shocked protests rose, all quickly silenced as they fell on top of each other outside. Within a couple minutes, only a few students remained sitting in the classroom, some too terrified to speak, others trying to process what just happened.

Olivia was one of the latter, bewilderment clear in the blue sea of her gaze as she shifted her attention to Professor Sherlin, his nose buried in his writing. For a moment, he glanced up, a bizarre expression on his face as if he was surprised by something, but this barely lasted a few seconds before he focused back down on his notebook as if nothing had happened.

Did he not even have any control over what was happening? Were they all slaves to the demented door?

His plain words ghosted back to her, bringing her attention to the fact that he seemed to be waiting for them to follow the directions he'd written. Maybe it was time to figure all this out. A hand flipped her notebook open, her swift but neat handwriting taking note of the facts:
~Writing, but no words.
~Directions are said to be present.
~Questions are met with a terrifying elimination procedure.
~Door may or may not have taken over control of the classroom.
~Professor Sherlin may or may not be merely a puppet.


That was about all she could gather—now came the fun part of piecing it all together.
~Door has unknown ulterior motives.
~ Professor Sherlin may be under mind control.


No, none of these thoughts were very useful. The man seemed very capable—very focused on anything but teaching, but still intelligent. There wasn’t any way he would be sitting in front of them if he didn’t have a lesson to teach. So if this was a lesson…

~Writing. No words. Chalk enchanted to be invisible?
~A lesson in using wit and innovation?
~Mention this and risk angering the door?
~Revelio?


Her pen paused on the dot of the question mark, gears in her mind turning as she considered her options. He didn’t say “solve the riddle”, he’d just said “follow the directions” as if he expected them to not verbally address this conundrum. That meant…

“Revelio?” A bewildered voice whispered next to her, sapphire eyes shifting to find a chocolate gaze downcast at her writing before flickering to the board in sudden realization. The small woman’s wand quickly found her hand as she repeated the phrase more confidently now, the board suddenly coming to life with stark white writing.

Olivia’s attention shifted to the board too, a bit of satisfaction from finding that she was right bubbling to her chest. Though most would expect that airiness to be weighed down by jealousy at not having been the one to provide the answer, her heart was only a bit uncomfortable with the idea that someone had stolen away her idea. In all honesty, she was just grateful that the door hadn’t reacted to this and that they could finally progress and read the directions.

They were all in this together—surely this was a good development no matter who brought it.
 
Joined
Dec 29, 2014
Messages
509
Location
Central US
#3
Welcome to Advanced Defense. This is not Defense Against the Dark Arts, like you were taught in your primary schools. The Dark Arts are not as common as those headmasters seem to think. More often, you will be assailed by your neighbor's wife, or your bus driver, or the man who made your sandwich last Tuesday. I am not going to teach you a Patronus charm, or reteach you a Boggart defense. I am going to teach you how to defend yourself.

By reaching this point, you have demonstrated one of a few possible character traits:
1: You are daft, and seeing your would-be classmates get vacuumed out by Theodoor Roosevelt stunned you to silence.
2: You are patient, enough so that you were willing to simply sit and wait to see what would happen.
-2b: You are hesitant, and were simple unwilling to speak up, and I suspect this is more likely than the root option for most of you.
3: You solved this riddle. Only one of you may do that, so well done to that person for being either the smartest, or the most reckless.

On the desk at the front of the room, you will each find a paper with your name at the top. This page contains your syllabus, required materials for class, expectations, and how to manage the Armadillo of Honor. He is an important part of our classroom procedure, so do be sure to read and understand that section thoroughly. Whosoever cast the Revelio charm, please bring the Armadillo of Honor back to your desk with you when you retrieve your syllabus. You may get up from your seats when I raise my hand.

8

Professor Sherlin stood, walked one step to his left, and sat down in the leather rolling chair. He spun to face the board, then spun back, his eyes touching each of the students left in the room, eight separate looks meeting each of them in the eye as he perused. His mouth split into a pleased grin, his fingers flattening to let his chin rest atop them. "Always pleased to see that I am not going to be disappointed by anyone."

With that, he leaned back in his chair. One hand took his notebook from the table, held open with a thumb as he idly scanned the pages, and the other perched on the armrest, hand raised in the air with one finger pointing upwards. That appeared to be as clear a signal as he was to give.

As the students funneled in front of his desk, he looked each one up and down thoughtfully, carefully taking in as much detail as he could before turning his eyes back to his notes between each visitor.

A tall blonde boy, clearly a fresh graduate of Hogwarts by his young-looking face and gold-and-crimson striped scarf. Hitchens, Alfred; pureblood, old family, Gryfiindor of Hogwarts; idiot. Alfred smiled at Sherlin as he passed, and Sherlin smiled back, friendly and welcoming and as fake as could be. Alfred did not seem to notice.

Two more students passed, both boring half-blood witches of no note or consequence that would never make a mark upon the world or achieve any relevance. His attention perked back up again, though, as a hand settled atop the Armadillo of Honor. The professor's eyes followed that olive-skinned hand up to meet dark eyes set into a small, rounded face atop a short stalk of a body. "Your class is interesting," she offered, clearly pleased with herself and trying to make a good impression. "We've all been challenged before, but always by the learning itself, never by the obstacle to that learning. Already trying to get us to think differently, I see."

Lying, simpering thief, thought Sherlin with a gracious smile, nodding his head and leaning back in his chair. "You did well," he assured her, intensely annoyed by the way her smile widened at his praise, "a few more seconds and you'd all have been out the door." She blinked at that, and his smile vanished, an expectant look raising his brows as his head tilted. "Oh, my, yes. Should you all have taken any longer, you would have been fired immediately." As if it were the most obvious thing in the world, his brow furrowed. "Do you think I would spend the time to teach a group of hopeless idiots?" He laughed from his belly, leaning forward on the desk and lacing his fingers. The laugh did not reach his eyes. "I am not so altruistic as that."

Bailey, Helen; Muggle-born, valedictorian aspirant, shameless thief, possibly cutthroat; further observation needed to assess potential. Helen's smile had faded and she had frozen in place, hand on the Armadillo of Honor. Sherlin's brows twitched up, and he shooed his fingers at her. That was enough to unfreeze her, and she retrieved her syllabus and returned to her seat, Armadillo of Honor in hand. When she made it to her seat, she uncertainly set it down stop her book bag, next to her chair. It shot her an indignant look and leapt up on top of her desk, nestling down comfortably on her textbook and promptly falling asleep. She stared at it for a moment, then tried to move the book out from under it, only to have its head snap up and a sullen hiss whisper out from... somewhere. Its mouth did not open. Helen did not try to touch her book after that.

The student that immediately followed Helen was the other human in the room that Sherlin did not suppose ran on energy drinks and disappointment. Hudson, Olivia; half-blood, ambassador, coward; she said nothing and allowed her work to be stolen; further observation needed to assess suitability to the field. Sherlin smiled at her, but his eyes locked with hers with a powerful flare of "I know what you did" suddenly blazing to life. As fast as it ignited, it flickered out, a plastic smile tugging his lips into place. "Welcome to class, Miss Hudson," he said, drawing a look from the previous students who had clearly not been important enough to receive a greeting of their own. "We look forward to working with you." Who his royal "we" included was unclear, but that strangeness was overtaken by a second novel gesture as he reached a hand out to her in a peculiarly everyman offering of a handshake.
 
Joined
Aug 8, 2017
Messages
28
#4
Sapphire rolled across pearl letters, taking in the meaning of the words with a bit of intrigue and excitement—Professor Sherlin was different. That much was obvious before she even walked in the door, but reading his introductory directions made it clear that he was going to be an interesting man to learn from. A few things were apparent just from these initial moments in his room—he took a practical perspective on defending against every day problems, a stark contrast from the Defense Against the Dark Arts classes that seemed to be emphasized over everything else. He was very perceptive, already categorizing the students left in the classroom based on their reaction to his puzzle before they even walked in the door—and even more impressing, he actually ended up being right. On top of that, his directions seemed clear, concise, and hiding behind a thin veil of high and inflexible expectations. It was the kind of expectation that told you that you weren't good enough now, but if you were truly dedicated, you could become greater than you could ever imagine.

The only thing she couldn’t wrap her head around was the fact that the crazed door was actually named Theodoor and that Professor Sherlin legitimately referred to the animal sulking on his desk as the Armadillo of Honor. He was eccentric, to say the least. Brilliant, but very eccentric. She wasn’t sure whether to categorize that fact as a good or a bad thing.

Her gaze followed him as he moved, somewhat seeming a bit casual despite his stiff appearance as he sat and met each students’ eyes pensively. The room was uncomfortably tense and quiet, unsure what to expect from the man until a pleasant grin radiated from his face, relaxing the students, but only a little. This man seemed too unpredictable to let their guard down entirely. Tension threatened to build again as he fell into silence, looking back at the notebook that had taken all of his interest these past few minutes, but the feeling ebbed once his hand raised, a finger pointing to the blank white ceiling above.

The cue took a moment to sink in, hesitation finally giving way into action as the students began to stand, making their way up towards his desk with a bit of apprehension apparent in their eyes. Olivia was one of the exceptions—not quite anxious, but just curious as to what would happen next. Surprisingly, things seemed to be progressing rather normally, with each student neatly filing across the desk as they retrieved their syllabus and found their way back to their seats. Olivia stood behind the brown-eyed girl she’d sat next to, her high-pitched voice piercing the silence as she addressed Professor Sherlin. It was a little annoying to watch her whole face light up at the undeserved praise, but the moment was short-lived as soon her gaze shifted from the girl to lock onto the man, a bit of surprise evident in her expression.

They would have legitimately been fired had they not solved the puzzle? Did he really have the authority to do that? She’d assumed his expectations were high and that those people were sucked out of—she internally sighed—Theodoor as a lesson, but only a temporary one. So that was it? That was the last, embarrassing moment of their careers? Landing on their ass in the hallway as if they’d been booted out of some wacky game show? She didn’t know whether it was respectable or unsettling that he so easily disposed of those that he didn’t feel were worth teaching. Probably both. Respectable in the fact that he wasn’t going to tolerate students that would only waste his time, yet unsettling because one mistake could mean she ended up getting blown out of the classroom, too.

The simple callousness of his reply shocked the girl into silence, staring at his face and trying to figure out why he didn’t look like he was joking before taking her paper and the armadillo and uneasily walking back to her seat. Olivia hadn’t thought it was possible for the armadillo to look any more displeased than when it sat atop the desk, but the face she caught before it disappeared out of her field of vision behind her certainly proved her wrong.

She’d intended to just be like the students before the girl—just take their materials, acknowledge the professor, and move on. Yet when her eyes met the cold, steely gaze looking at her, it became blaringly obvious that this interaction was different. He seemed almost…knowing, at least until an oddly artificial sort of smile feigned ignorance as he greeted her, surprisingly the first he'd bothered to offer to anyone. Did he somehow know she was the one that the previous girl had gotten the answer from? Why was he bothering to greet her, yet fake a smile?

Regardless of how different his actions were compared to what he’d demonstrated just seconds ago to the other students, she wasn’t going to squander one of the only amicable interactions he might ever offer her. The smile that warmed her features was a subtle quirk of the corners of her rosy lips, soft and humble as her gaze leveled with his. “Thank you, professor. I’m looking forward to learning from you.” Her hand gently but firmly grasped his, two brief waves of rise and fall bobbing their cordial gesture in the waters of the calm atmosphere before they separated again. Her attention shifted to picking up her syllabus, promptly finding her way back to her seat without another word.

With a soft sigh, her body settled back into the plastic chair, ready to peruse the document in her hands, but not without glancing over at the sleeping armadillo for a moment with a smile of amusement. He was as brash as his owner was apathetic about his students.

Now…

Her gaze trailed along the words, the document’s contents at about the same level of oddity as the board had been. There were a few expected or relatively unsurprising aspects—pens and quills only, always armed in order to be better prepared for sudden simulated attacks, hands-on experience over homework, and a high expectation for grades. A few things like the specification that no pigtails were allowed or shoes during combat drills was a bit strange to see, but she could guess at their utility. The rest, though, only served to demonstrate even more peculiar aspects of Professor Sherlin’s mind and methods. Students would become practice targets if they were late? The Armadillo of Honor was a Horcrux?

A flash of light in the corner of her eye caused her hand to instinctively shoot up, a white, shield-like energy hovering inches from her palm as a red jet of magic sparked and disintegrated against the surface. Her attention shifted to a black-haired man to her left, his wand still pointing at her as a dumbfounded and disappointed expression darkened his face. Guess this guy was already getting a jump start on the “attack your own classmates at random” part of the syllabus. The utility was understandable, but the method was absolutely questionable. Of all the things she’d expected and hoped for from this class, a Battle Royale was not one of them. An unimpressed glare was shot his way as she resumed her reading, making a mental note of the materials she was to bring to class as she ignored the hard stares a few people gave her. Not only was she the only one to have been greeted, but she had just demonstrated her talent for wandless, non-verbal magic. She'd certainly just painted a giant target on her back.

At this point, Olivia wasn’t sure if Professor Sherlin had intentionally sabotaged her chances of keeping a peaceful relationship with her classmates or not, but one thing was for sure—she sure as hell would have to put in a lot of effort to fix this.
 
Joined
Dec 29, 2014
Messages
509
Location
Central US
#5
Watching the girl walk away, Sherlin's mind turned about. First it turned left, then left again, before making a non-Euclidean shift into the blackboard behind him and rubber-banding back to his head in a way that made his teeth ache. What are you, Miss Hudson? He put his hands together again in front of his face, thumbs under his chin, and leaned his elbows onto the desk, still watching Miss Hudson, who was now settling into her desk. Are you a tiger? Are you an eel? Are you cattle? Sherlin's eyes flicked to his left, her right, to a student—Mathers, Ryan; Frat boy, athlete, douchebag; useless—drawing his wand, n length of glossy black wood set into an ornate silver hilt. The motion of his stunner was fluid, but amateur, sluggish to Sherlin's eyes but likely enough to get him by in classes back at school—Ilvermorny, if the gold heart of Pukwudgie on his shirt collar was any indication.

Head to her paper, Sherlin waited for her to be knocked out of her chair. Instead, she almost casually raised a hand, a fully-cast shield from Protego manifesting in her hand. Sherlin's brows legitimately raised at that, an impressed smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. Instinctual; fluid; practiced; well-practiced; Africa? Dumbledore?

Before the spell had ever contacted her shield, Sherlin's own wand was in his hand. It was unclear exactly when or how that had happened. A red-brown wood of smooth grain and just over 13 inches long, it began rounded but flared into a gentle three-faceted helix until it hit the throat of the shaft where the simple rounded handle began. Red sparks hit her shield, and as the airy concussion rippled through the air, he voiced his own spell. "Vestimenta revelio." Focused, concise, expert, as if spoken by a robot; exactly scripted wand movement, as if it were held by a machine; deadly accuracy, as if aimed by a marksman. The white-clear bolt tore from his wand with purpose, spreading as it traveled to take the shape of Ryan's body—specifically, the clothing on it. The boy barely had time to register that the spell had been cast before it hit him... with no visible effect. Not immediately, anyway. As if wet with paint, the color in his clothing started to drip away, the fabrics solid and strong as ever, but becoming ever more clear and transparent as they dripped off. With a panicked shout, he jerked his coat off the back of his chair and quickly wrapped it around his waist just as the color started to leak out of the waistline of his finely-tailored jeans. "You said classroom combat was encouraged!" he shouted in an indignantly British accent, pointing his want at Sherlin accusingly. "Why am I being punished for it!?"

"This is not a punishment," Sherlin replied simply, spreading his hands amicably. "You attacked a student. I attacked you. She defended properly. You..." He let a sardonic smirk pull his mouth as his eyes flicked down to the puddle of color dripping down the steps. "..did not." Defeat blossomed in Mathers's cheeks, and he plopped into his chair. He seemed to have accepted that his clothes were ruined, so it was with another surprised cry that he noticed something crawling up his leg; after a minute or so, he was able to remove his coat.

"Let this be a lesson to you all," he called out, his voice surprisingly strong and authoritative, demanding attention. "You are in an environment of learning, not of beer pong. You are not using spells to prank your classmates, nor are you using them to dethrone your classmates. If you cast a spell on a classmate while they are answering a question, considering the answer to a question, or reading material specifically handed to them by me, you will not be punished for it; however, you will immediately have declared yourself"—he raised his fingers in quotation marks—"'fair game.' The first student to tag you with a successful spell, if you cause such an interruption, will earn themselves one Sherlin point—no, I will not tell you what they do, or how to earn them otherwise." His grin was self-satisfied. "If I am the first to tag you with a successful spell, you will lose one Sherlin point. We are not here to troll each other. Learning is one thing; this is not a battleground. You should be firing spells off to test your classmates, in a constructive way."

His wand tapped the board; the text changed. Each of their names was written, underlined, and an owl, drawn in chalk, flew from the edge of the board and perched at the bottom, similar in function to a living portrait it seemed. It watched them, its head twisting, apparently waiting for something. Sherlin waved his wand to one side, and his chairs slunk back against the blackboard. Deskster yawned, shuffling his legs to move him against the wall as well. Another flick of Sherlin's wand, and two white circles appeared on the ground, equidistant from the outside walls and about three feet in diameter. Spaced twenty feet from each other, their intention was clear.

"Step up, now, volunteers first. And if there are none, you'll be picked by me. Let's see what you all have." Sherlin walked to the desk and hopped up on it, hands folded in his lap and wand braced between his laced fingers.
 
Joined
Aug 8, 2017
Messages
28
#6
Olivia had hoped to just brush the incident off as if nothing happened—this was going to be normal class protocol, after all, wasn’t it? There was no reason for anything else to happen in response. Her mind settled into a firm stance of resignation at that fact, glad that at least she wasn’t expected to retaliate, since nothing good would come of it. Thus, she had no reason to expect anything would follow her defensive actions, save for her peers being alienated even further from her.

Yet something did happen—Professor Sherlin’s expertly executed spell enveloped her assailant, the effect seemingly lost on him until suddenly drops of red and black began to drip from his shirt like paint. The surprise on her face shifted to amusement as her gaze flickered over to the odd spell’s caster, trying to read his expression until a terrified sound demanded her attention to be turned elsewhere. That elsewhere was apparently at the coat covering the exposed man, the faded blue of his jeans puddling at his shoes and the absolute horror and embarrassment in his eyes eliciting a laugh from his previous target. Karma was a lovely bitch.

However, once again she found the unfriendly glares of her classmates honing in on her, the indignant protest of the man that looked like he had clear plastic clothing hanging uncomfortably in the air. He had a point—there was never any mention of punishment, yet here he was, standing in a swirling puddle of color that had relinquished their duty of shielding his body from the world. It seemed in everyone’s eyes that she had been designated the position of teacher’s pet, which unsettled her—not because she didn't want to be a good student, but because she was an ambassador. She wasn’t used to people holding any animosity towards her that she just seemed to have no control over.

Professor Sherlin began to explain his actions, and though it seemed to smooth over everyone’s impression of her, she still felt the prickling doubt that everything was entirely fixed. Still, it was impressive that he somehow managed to teach a lesson, terrify his students, and make a game out of something that definitely should not be treated as such, all at the same time. At least he made it clear that actual instructional time was safe from these sudden attacks, but just what was the purpose of Sherlin points? It was going to take a bit of time to get used to puzzling together the reasons behind his wacky methods. Brilliant methods, but wacky all the same.

Yet his next challenge was sadly much more expected—unfortunate not because she would rather he be like every other professor, but because of the implications they held. Quickly the room began to take the form of an impromptu dueling ground, Olivia's heart dropping a bit at the prospect of combat. Of course she should have been prepared for this sort of thing to happen sooner or later, and she was, but that didn't make its arrival any less unwanted.

The entire room settled with an awkward air as everyone pretended to have not heard him, all eyes wandering the room or focusing downwards in an attempt to not draw attention to themselves. And who could blame them? With how unorthodox his teaching was, nobody wanted to be the guinea pig for his next round of unpredictable lessons. Even Olivia buried her nose in her notebook, suddenly interested in tracing the shape of the words she’d written earlier with a finger. She’d drawn enough unwanted attention to herself today. If she just laid low the rest of class, maybe this could all blow over in—

Or maybe not. Before she’d even finished her thought, she heard her name through the noise of her mind, snapping back to reality with a look of disbelief shot towards her professor. He really wanted her social life to have a slow and painful demise in this classroom. For a moment, she considered just staying put, refusing to partake in this game, but the goody-two-shoes student in her convinced her to stand, apprehensively approaching a circle on the floor. Her stance turned defensive, the gentle spiral of pale wood at the handle of her wand slowly and seamlessly fading into a smooth tip that pointed at her familiar opponent. It was the girl that sat beside her—Helen, she vaguely remembered hearing—her expression hardened yet showing a small bit of satisfaction at getting a chance to take on the woman that had stolen her thunder.

Olivia gave a proper bow to her adversary out of habit, not one to forego the respect that should be afforded to the skills of her opponent despite the bad first impression she’d managed to gather from the entire room. The gesture was returned half-heartedly, eagerness burning in those chocolate eyes as a hand reached to fix her hair—something Olivia took note of with mild interest. The moment quickly passed, however, as Helen wasted no time in kicking things off with a quick flick of her wand and a sharp shout of “Stupefy!”

"Protego.” Came the soft response, sparks of light cascading down to the floor. The blonde shifted her weight, ready to defend against the half-hearted retaliation of the same spell that came her way. The spell wasn’t meant to be an actual attack, rather, just a distraction—a tan hand had waved up towards the chandelier above her opponent quickly after the magic of her defense faded but before the red flash of light came from her own wand, a jet of water extending from her fingertips and settling into the half-domes around the lightbulbs shining above.

Another burst of dazzling red sizzled against a milky white shield. This time, Olivia’s defensive stance dropped to something casual, her wand’s tip pointed towards the ceiling as the simple spell left her lips: “Evanesco.”

Her opponent’s brows furrowed, taken off-guard by the non-offensive retaliation and trying to puzzle together the effect of this spell, gaze still burning on the small figure before her as she seemed to make the decision to go back on the offense. All the while, she was completely unaware of the room suddenly dimming a bit, not noticing the rush of water above her cascading down as the chandelier disappeared. The wand began to move, but came to a jarring halt as the water crashed down atop her head, eliciting a sharp gasp of surprise. Blonde hair instantly flattened from its previous bouncy vigor, shielding her eyes from the light that sent her flying backwards out of the circle.

With a carefully neutral look, Olivia repeated her respectful bow from earlier to her opponent still on the floor, relieved that the duel was over as her gaze fell expectantly yet warily upon Professor Sherlin.
 
Joined
Dec 29, 2014
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#7
A carefully neutralized expression overtook Sherlin as he leaned forward, elbows on his knees. His eyes flitted back and forth between the two girls like a bee, as busy as they appeared. Minutiae of stances, wand grip, eyes, chin tilt, hip leveling, foot placement, height, balance, confidence, and heart rates all flickered through the professor's mind like a data stream as soon as the pair stepped into the circles. More than simple enchanted lines, the dueling circles were an invention of a previous instructor of his, and something Sherlin had taken with him upon finishing out that course, along with the instructor's shoes.

First strike: Bailey, Helen. First blood: Hudson, Olivia. Retort: None. Victor: Hudson, Olivia.

The women squared up, wands at the ready. Sherlin gave no inclination of when to begin, nor did he intend to. A very short silence picked up as all eyes centered on the duelists. Helen's eyes flicked to him, and, seeing his clear intent take up living statue work as a hobby, jumped right in with a fully-worded stunner jinx. Check.

Olivia's shield came up smoothly—Check—and she shot back what Sherlin thought to be the weakest stunner he had seen in all his life. That... was not a real retort. Check. Helen's own shield came up and pounded it easily into non-existence; Sherlin barely noticed it out of the corner of his eye, his attention much more intent on the area above. Aguamenti, wandless; covered by the smokescreen of Stupefy's residue. Opponent unaware? His eyes flicked to Helen, who was already gearing up for her next spell. Opponent unaware.

Another respectable Stupefy bolted across the room, dissipating against a shield that Sherlin was not quite sure even he could get through without resorting to a punchier spell. Sherlin expected just that from Olivia: A change of pace, a more aggressive and more targeted spell. He certainly did not expect her to raise her wand skyward and cast a vanishing—Oh. Tricky minx.

Sherlin curled his knees up to his chest, sidelong disappointed at Helen for the very stupid look she gave Olivia as the chandelier vanished. A torrent of water splashed down atop Helen's head, taping her blonde locks to her cheeks and chin and glued her white blouse to her skin, bright green underneath showing through like emerald cups. She sputtered, shaking the icy water off her arms and looking down, throwing her other arm over her chest when she did. The water began to ripple off of her as she darkly muttered, "Tergeo." It was the bitterest spell Sherlin had heard in quite a while, and it was not only him that cracked a half-laughing grin at the girl, though he suspected the frat boys were grinning at her for a different reason. On the board, the chalky owl had drifted over to the zero under Olivia's name, viciously pecked it to death, and scrawled a "1" from the zero's blood.

Helen moved to step out of the circle and squeaked as she seemed to run into a glass cylinder. Olivia would find herself similarly trapped.

"What did you learn, Miss Bailey?" he asked, stepping in between the two circles. Helen looked at him, confused, and he leaned forward a bit, as if he had not heard her. "That was not a rhetorical question, Miss Bailey." He stood straight, not moving his feet but taking them all in with the parrot-twisting of his neck. "This will be one of your primary learning mechanisms for this class," he explained, gesturing with his wand to the circles. "You will not always be physically enclosed, but you will always be asked what you learned. And you will not leave that spot until you have given me something, even if it is trivial and obvious." He smiled, a real smile, and for the first time, it appeared that he actually cared about them, and about his job. "If you are not learning anything, what good am I to you?"

Then the warmth was gone, his face once more focused on Helen. "So, I ask you again, Miss Bailey. What did you learn?"

The girl considered for a moment, her eyes briefly traveling to her toes, where she examined the puddle of water she was standing in. Then, her eyes cast back up to where the chandelier had been.

"Ah, yes. Finite." His wand flicked casually, and the light returned to the room along with the very expensive chandelier that even Sherlin's intellect could not understand why was placed in a combat classroom.

Helen's eyes lingered on the chandelier for another moment, and as they came down, Sherlin was pleased to see the light of recognition dawning in them. "My wand... is not my only weapon," she began slowly, gaining more confidence as Sherlin did not interrupt her. "My environment is important, and I lost because I was only paying attention to my opponent, and not my environment."

Sherlin clapped, a quiet affair where his palms stayed together and his fingers flapped back and forth against each other and his wand still clenched in the hooks of his thumbs. It was somehow less enthusiastic than a golf clap. "Exactly correct. A Sherlin point to you." He waved his wand and the circle around her feet dissipated. The one around Olivia, though, did not, and Sherlin soon turned to her. "Winning does not excuse you from learning, though your victory was well-deserved. Same question to you, Miss Hudson: What have you learned?"
 
Joined
Aug 8, 2017
Messages
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#8
It was hard to ignore the death glare Helen had shot her way after realizing a certain color of green was shining through a translucent white. Olivia mentally smacked herself for not taking into account the fact that the woman had on white clothing before she resorted to using water—if there was a good way to make friends with someone, dousing them in liquid and exposing their bra to the world was not one of them. Instead, she focused her attention on the owl on the board, the violent display of the number zero being shredded into white bits by the owl a fine, but horrifying distraction. The crumpled remains of zero lay in unrecognizable chunks, white lines of blood trickling down the board as the owl’s talon crudely sliced a ‘one’ atop the carcass of zero, standing like a triumphant victor. It made her a bit afraid of how far Professor Sherlin’s mind may be gone.

Yet the one also caused her a bit of apprehension, considering all of the rest of the names on the board. This was certainly not the last time she’d step into this circle today. One was just the beginning—two may be even harder, considering the fact that the entire class had been watching with great interest to figure out just how she dueled. They knew at least one of her tricks, and who knows what else they may have noticed on their own—her strong defense, her relatively weak offense, the fact that she could only focus on one spell at a time even if she was able to use her wand and her free hand for magic, even the fact that she leaned her weight a bit forward in her stance. She didn’t know what other people saw when they watched her, but she knew that they were all looking for a weakness, for information—what she was capable of, what she wasn’t, how to throw her off. The next duel may very well be the last one of the day for her.

A tiny squeak of surprise caused her attention to fall back on her not-quite companion, her hand pressed against a nearly-transparent barrier that seemed to span the perimeter of the circle with a confused and slightly indignant expression. With a bit of interest, a curious gaze observed her own surroundings, finding the same barely-there glass. When did that get there? Of all the things Professor Sherlin could have done, sticking them in a fishbowl was definitely not expected. Of course, by this point, Olivia should have realized it was unsettlingly futile to ever try to predict the man’s actions.

His voice sounded clear despite the glass surrounding her, his intentions once again filled with nothing but the oddest ways to teach them that somehow ended up effective along the way. He seemed to enjoy his job in this moment, giving what was probably the first glance into just how he ended up in this teaching position here in the first place. Maybe he really had a passion for this—and that would make sense, considering how hard he seemed to want to push them and how challenging and surprising his methods were. Preparing them for anything and everything—perhaps he really did want to make sure everyone had the ability to survive, despite his apparent lack of care for their wellbeing he’d demonstrated thus far.

Helen’s response to the question he'd posed was impressively thoughtful—it looked like she genuinely learned something and took the lesson to heart. It wouldn’t be surprising if her next duel saw a noticeable shift in how she performed. Maybe Olivia underestimated her—she appeared be rather bright, and dedicated to bettering herself. Maybe that’s how she didn’t end up sucked out the door at the beginning of the class.

Olivia had expected the question to be directed over to her, the slightly amused expression on her face from actually hearing the phrase “Sherlin point” being utilized falling as his words sank in. An introspective look dawned on her visage as her gaze wandered to nowhere in particular, her words careful and thoughtful. “My reliance on my environment is risky, at best. I can’t focus on two spells at once, which would leave me open to attacks if I’m in the middle of casting something environment-based. Even then, Helen very well could have noticed my intentions or still fought through the distraction, which means I would have accomplished nothing in terms of gaining the upper hand. I got lucky. In a duel where I can’t use strategy, however…”

Sapphires landed on the woman retreating to her seat, hoping her words might smooth over some of the unintended animosity sparking between them. “I’m pretty certain she would have won. Her spells are strong—much more than mine are. She has good offense, and I have good defense. It’s the kind of match that would drag on until my stamina gave in, because I don’t have enough offensive capabilities to really turn the tide. It’s a weakness I’m going to need to focus on as time progresses.”

The glass’s slight shine dissipated, indicating satisfaction with her answer—footsteps began a calm retreat to her desk, a soft sigh of relief ghosting out of her lungs as everyone's attention was finally off of her.
 
Joined
Dec 29, 2014
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#9
Sherlin mulled the words over in his head visibly: His head tilted back and forth, he rolled his neck, and leaned left and right in his seat, altogether looking like he was stirring a coffee in mind. Coming to some sort of conclusion, he smoothly stilled, fixing Olivia with a remarkably empty look. "Acceptable," he chirped with a crisp nod. "A point to you as well. Indeed, Miss Hudson is correct." His voice rose as he spoke, turning his head now to address the class. "Her spells ae not weak—none of you would be here if you could not produce and adequate shield or stunner—but she lacks the power of some of the punchier Withes and Wizards in history; the Grangers, McGonagalls, and Lovegoods of the world. And she has naturally compensated for it with cleverness. This is good. This habit is good. Good. Very good."

He paused for nearly five full seconds. "Next!" His wand flicked up and out, and a green mote of light appeared over Olivia's head. "During practicals, the format of your duel will be winner-stays. Constant success is to be rewarded, but also tested. I would settle in with each other." Suddenly, his voice was grave. Not quite grim, but it had taken a quiet edge that felt like it would slice through you ankles if you did not watch for it. "You will see each other at your greatest and weakest moments, through this class. I will push you to limits you never knew you had, and I will hold you back from the most menial of tasks you have been practicing since you were first-years. I promise you that." That promise came out as if he was doing them a great service, though perhaps a difficult one.

"So, to test your successes, you will be stress-tested in between duels. Is your success consistent? Or can you only defeat one opponent before flagging? Are you a master of your spells, or do you just take your morning coffee with a little Liquid Luck?" He blinked repeatedly, a thought occurring to him. "No coffee in the classrooms."

His wand flicked again, another green light coalescing at its tip. "These motes will appear when dueling partners are chosen. If they are green, you will proceed to the classroom floor and conduct your duel as per proper dueling rules." His wand changed, and the light turned red. "If red, your only goal is to win, and anything goes except lethal force. For those of you who know the Cruciatus and Imperius Curses, they are fair game during these duels. Only the Killing Curse is forbidden." Another flick, and the ball turned purple. He seemed to not lend any additional weight to his very casual admission of Unforgivable Spells being fair game for dueling—it was no more important than the coffee ban. "A purple glow will always come up above multiple students' heads. At the same time"—yellow replaced purple with a small gesture—"yellow motes will appear above other students. These are teams. Do note that for any team to be a victor, you must all remain standing in that duel. That is all for now." The light on his wand disappeared, but the green mote above Olivia remained.

And a moment later, a green mote sparked to life above Professor Sherlin's head.

"In between victories, any winning parties will square up with me in a green-light duel, no matter the condition of those parties after their previous duel. No matter how successful you are, there will always be another daunting task to face after it." He hopped off the desk, his wand held loosely in his right hand as he approached the circle that Helen had occupied a moment later.

Like a living statue returning to its resting position, Sherlin's body moved into stance and froze as if time had stopped around him. His right foot was forward, bent at the knee, and his weight leaned on it. His left leg extended back, just off his center line, mobile and ready. His right hand held his wand, pointed forward, just and inch from his left hip, while his other hand waited readily on his left hip. It was an odd thing, more akin to a stance of German Longsword than any common magical fighting pose.

"Our rules of engagement are quite simple during these stress tests," he explained, his mouth the only part of him that moved. "You may cast thrice. I may cast twice. You do not need to win, only to not lose. Miss Bailey may call the start of our duel, as soon as Miss Hudson returns to her circle."
 
Joined
Aug 8, 2017
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#10
Somewhere deep within her was internal cursing at the fact that she had to stay, but most of this was drowned out by the much more prominent yet reluctant understanding as she glanced up at the green globe above her head. Endurance—not something that was normally tested for during these sorts of classes, but it was an essential part of survival. It was useful to train for long periods of fighting like this, despite how much she might hate it. Being able to survive was worth a bit of exhaustion. Or perhaps it wasn’t, and this class would end with her on her deathbed. It was hard to say what the result of this day would really be.

One thing was for sure, however—Professor Sherlin’s philosophy on teaching was becoming quite clear with every word he spoke: push the limits now, so they wouldn’t fall short later. Know how to handle anything now, so they wouldn’t be surprised later. It was one of those lessons that she felt they’d all learn the hard way—it was never easy to push beyond boundaries, and it was definitely not a task for the faint of heart, but all of this would certainly benefit them in the long run. It might feel awful pushing themselves now, of course, but they’d surely be thanking Professor Sherlin whenever they happen upon particularly dangerous situations that they wouldn’t have been prepared for without his tutelage. As much as she didn’t want to admit it, even these consecutive duels would help her to hopefully overcome her offensive weaknesses. It was a necessary evil of her career to be able to fight—she’d known that full well when she decided to start her training, despite the fact that she avoided it whenever possible. She might have been a far better duelist, if only she’d dedicated time towards learning. Maybe it was time for her to face her aversion to it.

A bit of resolve solidified in her mind as she mentally accepted the challenge, attention shifting back to his words as the gentle motes of light were explained. At first, she was a bit taken aback at the casual permission he gave at utilizing Unforgivable Spells, a knot twisting in her stomach at the prospect of being at the receiving end of one of those spells, since she certainly would never find herself on the casting end of it. She’d been the target of several of them throughout her work, sure, but that didn’t make it any easier to go up against them, especially not in a classroom setting. Though at this point, she reminded herself that this sort of thing should probably be expected—be prepared now instead of suffering later. That’s what this class was about.

She’d accepted that fact. She was slowly learning Professor Sherlin’s methods and mannerisms. He was brilliant and unique, and it was going to take some time to get used to his teaching style. It might take a while, but she’d get used to expecting the unexpected.

But that moment wasn’t now. A green mote of light appeared above his head, sapphire eyes widening in surprise and disbelief as she blinked slowly, hoping in vain that it was just some mirror in the background reflecting the light above her own head. But no—it was there, bright and vibrant as the morning sun, if the sun was about to crash into the Earth and burn her alive. He was absolutely serious about this, as he moved from his desk to the circle across from where she’d stood, the oddly light and casual gait in stark contrast to the weight crushing Olivia’s chest.

She had to duel him? On the first day of class? And nobody had even bothered to start writing her epitaph yet?

She stood there for a moment as her gaze vaguely took note of the precision and uniqueness in his stance, too dumbstruck to even think about moving. How many years had he trained to get to where he was now? How long had it taken him to find such a solid position so easily? And how long would it take for him to take her down? Five seconds? Three? For a moment, she wondered what it’d take to get good ol’ Theodoor to suck her out of the room. Landing ungracefully on her rear outside was certainly preferable to getting knocked on her ass by her professor, career-ending door be damned. She could always find another job, right?

But she was unfortunately an obedient student that loved what she did in life at any other point except for now, since her occupation was what put her into this oh-so wonderful situation in the first place. His words barely registered in her mind as her heart’s pounding beats reverberated in her ears, wanting to resist but knowing full well that she wouldn’t. Dull footsteps clunked softly against the worn tile floor, crossing the white line of the circle with a bit of hesitation as her focus uneasily shifted to her opponent. Well, she’d wanted to overcome her weaknesses—this was certainly a prime way to do it. The nerves in her body slowly dissipated with her bow before a deep breath straightened her posture as she fell into a comfortable stance, right leg back and both feet turned out to ground herself, weight lightly pushed forward onto her bent left leg through the wide stance. Her jawline tilted slightly downward, her wand hand at shoulder height kept a bit ahead of her free hand hovering in front of her waist, palm open and fingers twitching with apprehension.

Don’t win, but don’t lose. It sounded so much easier than it would actually be. She might get a chance to cast one more spell than he, but he certainly didn’t seem to need any more to defeat her. Expect the unexpected seemed to be something that she’d find useful in more than just his lessons—two chances for nearly any sort of spell imaginable. Just what was he capable of?

But she didn’t get a chance to ponder that further, as Helen, seemingly satisfied with the long pause of tension she’d created, smiled as she reveled in the chance to watch her previous adversary fail, the command coming in a lighthearted tone: “Begin.”
 
Last edited:
Joined
Dec 29, 2014
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509
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#11
Sherlin watched Olivia return to her dueling circle, looking for all the world like a woman marching up to her gallows bearing a rope she had tied herself. She took up her stance readily enough, but the twitch in her fingers and the glint in her eye told him that she was much more on edge now than during her duel with Helen in the minutes prior. He did not blame her for that. Rather, he made a mental note in her favor—had she faked some sort of confidence, he would have noted her arrogant and lost his faith in her.

As his thoughts lingered on her, he took a moment of deeper analysis. Promise and potential existed within all things, and she was no exception, but it had not yet been long enough to see how deep Olivia's ran. She certainly had social potential, as she was clearly intelligent and pretty, well-versed in social situations enough to be an ambassador, and clearly either driven enough to take this assignment or adaptable enough to accept being voluntold. Regardless, her presence in his class meant that whether or not she had any faith in herself, someone up the chain of command did. Sherlin knew his turnover rate. He knew the expectancy of graduates from his classes. She would need to be exceptional. Starting now.

His arm flexed subtly, and the rest of him moved all at once. He stepped forward and his wand hand straightened into what in all regards looked like a thrust. His shoulders dipped, his hips extended, and his leg stepped firmly forward. These things were odd to see in context of a magical duel, but not odd in and of themselves. The oddities lied in two specific places, instead.

The first oddity was his left hand. It moved in time with his thrust, extending forward and aligning with his other. It was the wand that ghosted up out of his boot and into that hand that did not align with reality. Whereas his Red Oak wand was elegant and refined, long and tapered, this one was markedly more utilitarian. Black wood, gloss-shined, with a simple ten-inch cylinder with a collar of gold that separated the handle, it was perhaps the opposite of his wand. If his was a rifle, this was a blunderbuss.

The second oddity was even more noticeable, and likely the most bizarre thing any of the students had seen in their magical careers. Sherlin's mouth opened to cast his spell; as it did, a deep vibrating sound came from his throat as though some aboriginal tribesman had begun a funeral dirge. At the same time, his lips and tongue moved and articulated what sounded to be normal syllables. They were only consonants, though, a garbled mish-mash of what sounded to be the start of the Reductor curse, but ticked and clicked into some other syllables. It became more clear then, that the throaty singing sounds were only vowels. The two tracks overlaid each other in a miraculously precise way so that the casual ear could actually hear both spells simultaneously:

"Corendufcritongo!"

Both wands flashed. Sherlin's flared orange as a roar of flame coalesced into a tight ball and screamed from its tip as the blasting curse. The black snub-nose spat the blue-white ball of the Reductor curse in the same instant, and the proximity of Sherlin's hands saw their spell structures momentously bind. The two balls helixed around each other and merged, a particularly nasty heat and light emanating from them as they sped the distance towards Olivia.
 
Joined
Aug 8, 2017
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#12
As soon as she’d heard Helen’s word, her blue gaze grew razor sharp, scanning every inch of her Professor and her surroundings for the slightest bit of motion. Not that she needed to be so on edge—it was only a green light duel, not a dangerously questionable red one. But it was the pressure put upon her that made her so focused—the first to duel the Professor, the student he seemed interested in over the rest, the need to prove to herself that she could be a capable fighter. All she had to do was hold her own against him, but given his unpredictability, that task seemed to grow into one of the hardest she’d faced in her career. However, it was a career that was honestly most likely hanging by a thread unless she succeeded, considering the ease with which Professor Sherlin seemed to get rid of those he deemed as not worth teaching.

The sudden thrust of his wand was expectedly unexpected, her grip on her light-colored wand noticeably tightening, ready to spring into action until she realized nothing had resulted from the sharp motion. Every muscle in her body seemed to tense at least a bit with anticipation, not wanting to be the first to strike for fear of any opening she left open being quickly and effortlessly exploited. Defense was her strength, and she was going to utilize it. By avoiding the offense, she might just make it through this.

At least, that’s what she’d thought before she realized there were now two wands pointing threateningly in her direction. He wasn’t serious, was he? Was this just a decoy to throw her off, or could he legitimately use two wands at once? That sort of thing shouldn’t even be possible. Yet something in his eyes told her he didn’t play games when it came to dueling—he was absolutely capable of wielding two wands, which meant much more trouble for Olivia than she’d anticipated, despite already anticipating an overwhelming amount of trouble lying in wait to drown her in its black muck.

But perhaps it wasn’t so bad—it wasn’t unlike her ability to cast with both her wand and her empty hand. This was the same concept. Rapid fire casts might become a problem, perhaps, but it was nothing too out of the ordinary. That was something that gave her confidence, at the very least—he wasn’t completely out of her league. She could at least compete, right?

However, the odd drone that began reverberating through the room seemed to answer her hopes with a crushing, strangling fist. It took her a moment to connect the sound to its origin, uncertainty falling across her visage as she listened. It was purely alien to her, and to everyone in the room, as she vaguely noted the confused faces in the audience. The chalk owl on the board fluttered its wings uncomfortably at the noise, its head twisting side to side as its claws dug into the number one that it had found its perch on. A bit of chalk bled from the tiny puncture marks.

But it wasn’t just a drone—it had shape, color, tone, articulation. There were syllables. These were words.

This was a spell.

“Protego Totalum!” The words left her lips as the flash of light registered in her mind. The force of the combined spells slammed against the shield, the heat of the flames leaking through and touching her skin with unsettling tongues of warmth. A gentle crack formed on the translucent surface of her magic at the point of impact, still present even as it faded with the last remnants of the offense.

Olivia took a staggered, steadying step back, a rush of air gusting out of her lungs that she hadn’t realized she’d been holding as she stared across the short gap to her opponent, her mind reeling. Any sort of retaliation she might have hoped to muster was buried under her instinct to just defend and survive, along with the more rational part of her wanting to analyze what had just happened. Confringo? Reducto? At the same time? Just how did he do that with his voice? A part of her was impressed. She’d never seen such a technique before—was that something he’d be willing to teach? It certainly could prove to be useful, for a multitude of reasons.

But the other part of her was nervous. Very, very nervous, for one simple thought prodded her mind, her body going rigid—

Did that count as one or two?
 
Joined
Dec 29, 2014
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#13
Impressive. It was perhaps the simplest thought that Sherlin had had all morning, but it did the girl justice. Her cast was strong, wand motion clean, wording concise, and the resulting shield was strong. Strong enough to take the force of dual curses blasting into it in a way that magic shields never had really been intended. The standard shield of Protego that he had been expecting her to cast—not for any reason in specific, simply that it was the spell typical duelists cast on reflex—would have split like firewood, absorbing part but not all of either of those curses, leaving the back half of those blasts to invade Olivia's skin with very, very angry fire.

Perhaps it should not have surprised him, with her role as an ambassador of sorts: Negotiations that went south often ended with flying spells, and a shield that potent would keep her plenty safe against the average caster.

In this class, though, there was never to be an average caster—not after he was done with them.

Sherlin had ended his spell with his right hand underneath his left, wrists and thumbs pressed close together and wands parallel. The thrusting gesture made the spell feel more punchy, and to this day he was not quite sure if the nature of magic itself really made spells more powerful when cast with dramatic gestures. Those gestures did not hurt, though, and it had worked for him so far. Now, his hands simply twisted, a counterclockwise rotation seeing his left hand rotate down and his right up. And that motion, answered Olivia's unspoken question:

It had definitely counted as one.

The first word was spoken with near-robotic precision, but the foreboding drone in his throat waited until the second word to return. But return it did, and both Sherlin's and the mystery wand charged again.

"Finite Exnpecalnlitaremmus!"

The misty white bolt of a disarmer lanced from the black stick, and as it did, Sherlin's wand added to it a fine blue shell that, as it flew, sharpened to an arrowhead tip. It was extraordinarily rare to see Finite Incantatem used in combat, as it was a fairly unwieldy spell; complex in incantation and in shaping, it was almost exclusively used to end jinxes and curses that had less immediate effects. Nevertheless, in the same way that it would Meteolojinx or Petrificus Totalus, it would bypass any given shield in the same way Sherlin ignored the Prime Minister and his completely excessive complaint mail.
 
Joined
Aug 8, 2017
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#14
She’d survived his first spell—spells?—and that was an accomplishment in itself. It might have sounded arrogant, but she doubted anybody in this class could have done the same, mostly because she couldn’t even believe she had done it herself. But here she was, still standing, a dull ember of flame left from the earlier spell burning a mote of dust near her feet as she solidified her stance again. For a moment, she was grateful for her anxious caution—had she underestimated him, she surely wouldn’t have put up so strong of a shield, which could have ended very badly, to say the least. Respect her opponent’s abilities, but remember that she has her own talents to utilize—a lesson she’d heard many times through her years. Yet witnessing just what Professor Sherlin was capable made her realize just how much more she had yet to learn.

Lessons such as the fact that dual-casting apparently counted as one spell, as he shifted his position without losing the intense point in her direction. It was half-expected, but there was still a mental curse floating within her head somewhere as she sank her weight into the floor a bit further, wand poised to defend against whatever new, odd spell concoction he decided to throw her way. There was just one more chance for him to win, but now she knew what kind of power to expect. If she could muster the strongest shield she could, he wouldn’t touch her, and then maybe all of this could finally be over.

Or not, she realized in the back of her mind, as his sort of endurance-training method of the winner dueling until they couldn’t anymore would just mean she’d be thrown right into another match against one of her classmates. For a moment, she considered how much easier things could be to just give in now, knowing full well that she couldn’t—she wanted to learn, she wanted to improve. These things weren’t going to happen unless she confronted them head on.

Though that sure as hell didn’t make the task any easier.

Professor Sherlin’s first word was surprisingly clear before it fell into the odd amalgamation of sound, deep and unnerving. Olivia had been prepared to cast another shield, determined to stay standing, but her brows furrowed at the implication of that word. Finite. Finite Incantatem? What could he use negating magic for in the middle of a duel?

Her shield, she realized with a jolt—that was the only thing she’d cast that could even possibly be negated, anyway. That sort of magic was never really used in combat unless it was absolutely necessary. Hell, she didn’t even know if it was something that could be used against a shield, but if Professor Sherlin was going for it, then it must work, which was bad news for her. This would leave her extremely vulnerable to whatever else he decided to cast with it—with one spell, he could strip her of her one strength. Was it worth fighting against, trying to deflect it anyway? Was it worth the risk?

She didn’t have the time to decide. The flashes of sharp light came into view, and Olivia suddenly found her body moving. It quickly dropped onto the ground below and flattened against the tiles as a warm rush of energy whizzed above her, tossing her dark brown hair about as the magic nearly dragged its sharp talon down her back. The adrenaline pulsing through her head muffled the sound of the spells sizzling against the wall behind her, dissipating into nothingness.

With a hasty breath, she jumped back up to her feet, wide eyes finding her opponent again as she tensed and raised her wand, ready for another spell mixture that never came. It took her a moment to realize that this was spell number two—he couldn’t cast any more, unless he decided to go against his own rules. She’d managed to avoid it, and now he was essentially unarmed. Somehow, she’d gotten through his challenge—it was still too unbelievable to accept, her posture still poised to guard against whatever else he might throw at her, even if nothing would come. After all, he might just decide to change his rules at the last minute, as some sort of lesson.

The rules. Some small bit of awareness in the back of her head reminded her that she had two spells left to cast. She could disarm him, but as he stayed stoically still, she hardly saw the point—he was going to keep his word. Rules were rules, it seemed. There was no need for further conflict—now was the time for mercy.

Her wand lowered to her side, the prepared posture shifting to something cautious but casual. “I won’t cast a spell against a man that can’t or won’t retaliate. I’m sorry, Professor.” The wand next to her thigh sparked a lazy flame that began to drift towards the floor, a small gush of water promptly summoned from the tip of the wood falling to extinguish the ember and splash against the floor below.

Two spells. Not quite used in the context of dueling, but two spells all the same. The duel was over—at least, she hoped.
 
Joined
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#15
Seeing Olivia toss herself aside brought a legitimate smile to the professor's lips. No contempt or ego was present there; Olivia had, either instinctively or intellectually, determined her only possible recourse, and the lesson was on display, loud and clear: Sometimes, magic was not your best option. That had been demonstrated cut and dry, the moment she moved. And as her wand came back up, Sherlin waited for the next part of—

Her wand lowered, and Sherlin blinked. She spoke, then apologized, and he blinked again.

His mind fluttered through a list of mental note cards, none of them holding an exact course of action. Among the things the duelist had expected, pure mercy, complete pacifism was not among them, and the loop that spliced into his thought processes took a fraction of a second to repair—normally it would have gone unnoticed, but the intense scrutiny of the students that ranged from bewildered to outright scared made the pause seem fairly blatant. The first lesson had been learned, but there was another, now. This one, though, was more brutal than the last.

The light above Olivia's head flashed blue from its green, and the one above Sherlin's head turned to a dull gray. Clearly signifying the winner, the owl on the board began to peck the eye out of the 1, scrabbling a chalky "2" into place once it had died.

Then, the lights extinguished, and in that movement, Sherlin moved like a suddenly uncoiling viper.

His hands opened; his own wand zipped up his sleeve as if held by a magician's tool, and the black stub darted downwards into his boot like a field rodent. The next instant, the buttons on his suit coat slipped loose and the left breast of the coat flared open as it would were a gremlin fishing or his wallet. Sherlin's right arm bent ninety degrees and caught some black object that flew out from underneath. His stance shifted, left leg swinging forward, standing tall, and his left hand coming up to cup underneath the right hand.

The right hand that now held a handgun, the hammer of which was already on its way forward.

The owl flinched and toppled over as an actual, factual gunshot shattered the relative quiet of the classroom, the bullet whizzing into the floor a foot in front of Olivia's feet and spraying fragments of marble over her ankles. The next shot hit the already-blemished marble in the same spot, launching a puff of marble dust that drifted past Olivia's knees. The professor had frozen in that stance like a statue, his eyes prying for Olivia's with the same or greater force of the gunshots.

The students around had balked, some letting out squeaks of terror, some flattening themselves against the walls, some scrambling behind desk chairs. As the echoes of the gunshot in the flat-walled classroom ceased, it was Sherlin who broke the dismayed and dumbfounded silence that followed.

"What have you learned?"
 
Joined
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#16
Professor Sherlin’s face was unsettlingly unreadable as the entire classroom laid still, the gentle hum of the electricity above cutting through the silence. Olivia’s gaze shifted up towards the flashing blue light above her before settling on the chalkboard again, not wanting to watch the brutal slaughter of the number one, yet oddly not feeling capable to look away from it. In the quiet, she could have sworn she’d even heard a soft scream from the dying digit. The fact that such a thing could actually occur was like gazing upon a car accident—tragic, but looking at it for long enough made you appreciate your own life and safety.

Two things that she thought were quite stable in this moment, and very much hers to keep. She hadn’t necessarily won, but she hadn’t lost—just as he’d explained. He seemed very keen on keeping to his rules, so things should have gone smoothly from here. She should have been able to talk about what she’d learned from this interesting experience and walk unobtrusively back to her desk, or even to just resume dueling with some other student. The lessons should have continued along a different path, or perhaps even the same path as they uncovered the deeper complexities of fighting.

Yes, all of this should have happened—but none of it did.

Her professor moved blindingly fast, some fluid, well-practiced movements that she was unsure what their conclusion would be until a dark object found his hands.

A scream. A deafening bang. Another one.

Then, disturbing silence.

Shocked eyes stared down the barrel of the gun before slowly trailing down to the floor below. A fine dust of dark marble had settled onto her knee-high black boots, the rest still floating through the air between her legs, sticking to her skin. Sapphires bore down into the shallow hole ripped open by the shots, the faint shine of a bullet barely visible. The other was buried somewhere deeper within, impressively hidden by the precise second shot—he must be well-trained, despite the gun being a simple Muggle instrument.

The collective pressure of breaths being held weighed the atmosphere even further, threatening to crush all who had witnessed the incident. Her mind absorbed each face slowly, noting their fear, their instinctual survival needs kicking in and driving them to hide, the horrified looks they gave the man that was supposed to teach them, not nearly kill them. To them, there was no lesson to be found in turning a gun against a student—only distrust and dread. This was no way to teach, no matter what subject it was, no matter how high expectations were. There was no lesson to be had in creating a near panic, in damaging their faith in him, in using such a barbaric tool, just to prove a point.

Expect the unexpected, but even this was crossing a line. Slowly, neutrally, Olivia stooped down a bit, a hand gently brushing against her boots, leaving faint finger lines in the dust. Unfortunately, the action only succeeded in coating her hands in the grainy substance, shifting instead to brush the marble off her skin against her black skirt. She took her time with the action, deliberate and careful, gaze focused on the task as she willed her heart to still and her face to remain stoic. She wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of a reaction. For all the faith she’d wanted to put in him, she could feel it scratch against her skin before it rolled off, just as the dust left her hands.

It was meant to be a lesson. But to suggest that mercy was the wrong answer? That was something she would not accept.

In all honesty, she’d learned quite a bit from this sudden shift from magic to steel. He depended on more than just his imposing magical skills in duels. He wasn’t going to kill her, as much as it seemed like he would, at times. He didn’t seem to believe mercy was ever a viable option. He was going to have a hell of a time keeping any student in this class after today. But the most important lesson wasn’t one she’d learned in that moment, but many years ago—this was the one she chose to voice, more as a challenge than a statement as her confident gaze burned into his.

“That I’m willing to die for what I believe in.”
 
Joined
Dec 29, 2014
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#17
Sherlin stood stock still as the silence was slowly filled by the rapid heartbeats of the now-terrified students he had been assigned. His eyes had lit up as he regarded Olivia, who had made quite the show out of not making a show. Dusting herself off literally gave her the time to dust herself off figuratively, and when she lifted her eyes, those ivy circles were smoldering.

"That I’m willing to die for what I believe in."

The smile that twisted Sherlin's lips held a benign pride in it, mixed with some sinister satisfaction and something else, something too him to put a proper emotion to. He chimed, "Correct!" and pulled his coat out manually, replacing the handgun in the holster beneath his arm. "You are willing to die for what you believe in. Just by being here, you must be."

His face went blank, a solemnity coming to his eyes; the pride, though, remained, and it seemed to be honestly and truly beaming at each of them. He was proud of them, for reason he seemed to be opening his mouth to explain before he suddenly closed it and turned to his desk. He pulled from it a box. A quill box, by its length and width, and proven exactly that when he opened it, turning the lid against his chest and displaying it for the class. Inside were quills, glistening black feathers with golden collars and demonically pointed nibs. The quill bore no ink channel to siphon ink into their wells.

"These are Black Quills," he explained, "a very common torture device in the Middle Ages. They do not have ink chambers. They do not write on paper. When you write with them, it leaves the paper blank, but it will be as if you are scratching the words into your skin with the nib." Still calm, a note of something utterly foreign crept into his voice: Sympathy.

"Each of you will take one of these home with you. You may write anything with them you wish, but there is one thing you are required to write: Whether or not you wish to remain in this class. It may be as simple as 'yes' or 'no,' or you may include reasons. It, quite literally, is your blood to sign in. When you arrive at class tomorrow, I will meet with you each privately. Those who wish to leave, may leave, unaccosted and with no poor marks from me." He waited a moment, then added, "In fact, any who choose to will be given a letter of recommendation from me, saying you completed the introductory portion of my course."

Sherlin smiled. Truly, wondrously, appreciatively smiled. On his cold, mathematical face, it looked somehow impossibly warm, inviting, and gentle. "At the very least, you have made it this far. And from here, you are now different wizards than when you walked in the door. I am not like you all; I am not like most. I am no fool in my eccentricity—I can see where reality lies. Reality is simply an opinion, and one I happen to disagree with. But my unconventional methods produce results. The fighters that come out of this classroom after six months of study are formidable. They can fight dragons—that is class material, by the way; they can fight Dementors—also class material; they can fight the most horrendous dark wizards in the world." He paused there, giving a self-referencing, cheeky grin, before dropping his eyes to the floor for a moment. Only a moment, though, then they were back up, and steely once more.

"You are required to appear tomorrow morning. This is your first assessment. I truly hope you all choose to stay. You will appreciate it in the long run, like socks at Christmas or green beans."
 
Joined
Aug 8, 2017
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#18
It was impossible to tell what would happen next as fierce gazes burned into each other, neither willing to back down as two wills clashed against one another. At this point, Olivia didn’t quite care—she wasn’t about to stand here and be told she had to change her very core beliefs. She’d face the consequences of that in whatever form it took—maybe he really would kill her, maybe he’d throw her out of class.

Or maybe his mood would completely one-eighty, as an odd smile blossomed on his face and the gun disappeared from view. She didn’t bother to hide the bit of shock and confusion that flashed across her expression, shoving her wand into the little elastic band she’d sewn on the inside left side of her skirt’s waistband as the danger and intensity dissipated from the room. Wait, what? Correct? Had he expected this answer the whole time? He might have been brilliant with convoluted ways to teach a lesson before this moment, but this? This was just too surprising, even for him—maybe she overestimated her ability to understand him after only one day. His unorthodox methods seemed more boundless than what she originally thought.

A strangely genuine expression graced his face, something she was trying to decipher whether she’d imagined it or not even as he turned his attention to his desk, finding a box with hauntingly beautiful quills. Of course he’d have medieval torture devices just laying around in his class. It was almost worth asking just where in the world he got access to these and if someone had actually approved them for class use, but it definitely wasn’t worth disturbing this bizarre sense of fragile peace that had surfaced. And…was that actually sympathy she heard in his voice?

Indeed it was—he seemed to understand fully if people decided to leave the class. Heck, he would even support their decision. That was surprisingly, well… bold, and caring of him. He was allowing them a way out, knowing full well that some would indeed choose to do just that. He would let those people go and spread the word of what happened today, surely tainting his name and maybe even getting him in trouble with the higher-ups. Yet he seemed fully prepared for any consequence that may come, and he welcomed the possibilities—a mature gesture that Olivia couldn’t help but to respect, despite how much he might not deserve it after his actions.

Then the smile came—a gentle sort of upturn of the lips that starkly contrasted with his usual cold demeanor that left her a bit dumbstruck. It was genuine, and it was the one thing that reminded her that he was human—he had impossibly flawed humanity just like the rest of them. He wasn’t some robot, as much as he may seem like one—somewhere deep in there, he was a man trying his best, just like everyone else. But somewhere on the surface, that person was starting to show his true colors.

It might have been the first time Olivia really looked at him. He was a man not too much older than her, with a handsome face that cautiously hid its true beauty beneath a veil of harsh stoicism and an intelligent mind that must have been misunderstood countless times throughout his life. He was unpredictable only through the virtue of his thoughts and processes being so markedly different from the typical person’s. He operated differently than everyone else—that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just might take a bit of time to fully understand him, as long as she kept her mind open. He seemed to remind her of someone, but the connection was hiding on the back of her tongue, not ready to be made known to her yet.

All she knew was that it was quite eye-opening to hear him fully acknowledge his eccentricities, not only bringing them to light but accepting that it was a part of him, a strong part that he used well. He was intriguing, a man that she couldn’t quite figure out, but knew that amazing things were hiding deep within. She didn’t doubt that he was capable of teaching her more than she’d probably ever learned before, and that was the simple fact that drove her to solidify her decision in her mind, before she’d even moved.

But she finally moved from her spot within her circle, feeling like a lifetime had passed since she had returned to the rest of the class as she approached him, carefully neutral gaze meeting his as she accepted the quill from him. He was right—today had changed her somehow. The implications of that weren’t quite clear to her just yet, but one thing she did know for sure was that she was ready. Ready to face more of his surprising challenges, ready to figure out the man normally hiding behind a robotic face and unpredictability—she was going to stay. She was going to truly learn.

The rest of the class appeared to follow her lead, all shuffling to the front as she found her way back to her seat, pausing to give the bronze armadillo a quick pet as it sat at the edge of Professor Sherlin’s desk—apparently it had scuttled its way back here, and had watched everything with the same enthusiasm she’d expect from someone that had watched paint dry for a few hours. As she sat back down in her desk, her mind started to reel with its desire to process the day, ready to go home and study everything that had happened.

But there was one more thing she had to do. Her notebook was still left open from the notes she’d scribbled at the beginning of class, eyes looking over the words as if she’d discovered something she’d written years ago instead of merely minutes. Promptly, the tip of the shiny black quill pressed firmly onto the page, deliberately sliding across the page as loops and lines formed a single word. As her fist clenched around the instrument in pain before tucking it safely away into her bag, her resolve began to bleed across the words that were etched into her skin like a promise—the word was small, but the impact of it was huge.

Yes.

She had said yes to the challenges and moral conflicts she’d undoubtedly face. She’d said yes to his surprising methods that would invariably push her beyond her limits. She’d said yes to learning from the world’s most insane professor with a confident grin as she tossed her notebook into her bag and found her way out the door.

The rest of the class had been not-so-subtly watching her, something seeming to shift in their demeanor as they all found the red word screaming out from the back of her hand. The woman who’d taken the brunt of the day’s events had still walked out of here with a smile, and would actually keep returning as many times as she wanted to. Was she just as insane as he was, or did she see the true value of the knowledge he could give them all? If it was the latter, it was clear that she’d deemed this knowledge important enough to endure whatever might be thrown at her over the course of the next few months. Maybe she was right. Maybe it was worth pursuing through the hardship.

The result of her action's influence on her classmates' decisions would reveal itself tomorrow. But for now, Olivia made her way through the foreign building, determination coursing through her veins as a silent affirmation rang out in her thoughts:

I'm not giving up.
 
Joined
Dec 29, 2014
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509
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#19
Sherlin's eyes latched onto Olivia as she returned to her desk. The No Fun Allowed charm on her desk that was meant to root out cheaters and students passing notes in class saw her hand move, saw the quill dig into her skin, but even without it, the professor would have grinned behind the steepled fingers that hid his mouth. He knew her answer. No one who spoke like she did gave up after a display like that. She would rise to this challenge, and hopefully bring the more lard-brained of her classmates up with her.

She gathered her things, and she left, the other students filtering out, some with their eyes glazed in though, others turning the quills over in their hand ponderously. As they walked past his desk, some offered him looks, others strained, curt farewells. Those gestures told him all he needed to know on their return to class; three did not make the cut. Helen Bailey only gave him a silent look, and Alfred opened his mouth three times in an attempt to try and find something to say, failing each time; both of them, he knew, would return, she for her pride and he for his bewilderment. The rest of the group were a mix of determination and curiosity, potent enough to keep them coming back at least for one more class.

Once the room emptied, the wizard leaned back in his chair. He propped his elbows up on the armrests of the leather chair and pressed his palms flat together, thumbs extended underneath his chin and fingers thoughtfully tapping against his nose. The typewriter in his mind chattered off its rails, filing away notes and observations and ideas of each of the students; true that only two of them had drawn their wands, but the reactions around the room had not gone unnoticed. At the front of his mind, though, was Olivia Hudson. And she would remain at the front of his mind as he stood, loosened his eerily burgundy tie, donned his coat, and flicked the lights off in the classroom. As the Armadillo of Honor curled into a ball, the owl on the board settled at the bottom, tucking its head under its wing. Theodoor closed behind him, and the room was left quiet.

* * *


The morning broke bright and early as Sherlin apparated into the Ministry building.

"Sherlin, nice t'see you this morning."

Sherlin stopped and turned as Odius Perlstop stepped from the toilet booth and adjusted his shoulder bag as he approached Sherlin. One of the few who was able to tolerate the odd professor's company, Odius had become the only thing Sherlin could really call a friend amongst his peers. Tall and very Irish, he consistently carried a friendly demeanor and pleasant, intelligent conversation that Sherlin had come to value and appreciate. "Odius," Sherlin responded briefly, with a short nod of his head.

"Had t'pick up some o' your mess las' night," Odius quipped with a smirk, flapping his fingers amicably against Sherlin's shoulder. "Theodoor gave quite the scare t'a couple'a freshly-graduated students. Don'tyou ever get tired o' scarin' the lads out of their diplomas?"

Sherlin's laugh was muted, for the crowd of people that surrounded them, but it was not lacking in mirth or sincerity. He gave a pointed straightening of his uncannily amaranth tie and leveled his shoulders with a sharp look in his eyes. "No sense in teaching a par group of students sub-par material, is there?" Odius smiled, a nod of farewell his only other response, and headed for the lift that led up to his office. Odius was on his way to head investigator, currently a detective, well above the cut for the average Auror. That competence mixed with his friendly outlook and understanding heart had been a welcome distraction from thoughts of the students that had consumed him the night before and into his morning. Now, though, his focus returned, and he stepped into his own lift, heading down.

* * *


Sherlin was seated at his desk as the students began filing in. He offered a welcoming smile and an affirming nod to Helen as she bent and scooped the Armadillo from his desk. He noted the pair of black leather driving gloves that she wore as she entered, and it seemed that her apprehension was shared: The students sat further from each other today, and their eyes were more downcast or wandering. It seemed none with the word "yes" on their hands wanted to meet the eyes of a hand bearing a "no," and vice-versa.

He waited for all the students to have entered and seated themselves. Seated behind his desk, he leaned forward on his elbows. "Welcome back, everyone, and good morning." A stifled rumble of the same echoed through the room, and he continued on. "Today marks the day you choose your path. Whether or not you continue in this class, you will have benefited from it. I will not waste your time with some inspiration lecture—I am not good at them and you would not want to hear it anyway." He leaned back in his chair and produced a scroll from a drawer on his desk, unfurling it and holding it before his eyes. "One by one, you will come to my desk, and we will talk as much or as little as you like. There is a lesson plan today, but whether we get to it or not is entirely up to you all. I will cut no one short, should they wish to speak. Your words will be private." He set a hand indicatively over his wand, laid on the desk in front of him. "Only you and I shall ever know the contents of what transpires today."

Seemingly satisfied, he looked to the list, starting at the top. "Bailey, Helen."
 
Joined
Aug 8, 2017
Messages
28
#20
The next morning brought soft light filtering through the window of Olivia’s bedroom and a dull ache on the back of her hand. Blue eyes squinted against the brightness of the world as she pulled herself out of unconsciousness, glancing down at the odd source of pain only to be greeted with a single word beginning to scab on her gently tanned skin. Yes—that’s right. The memories of yesterday began to flow back into her awakening mind, the determination she’d felt coming back to her full force and inspiring her to crawl out of bed. She’d taken on a challenge that seemed to loom bigger than any she’d ever faced. And today, she was more than ready to face it head on.

The trip back to the winding halls of the Ministry was a bit more comfortable than last time, the slightest bit of familiarity starting to form in the back of her mind—though the ride on the lifts weren’t any less terrifying. A few prominent landmarks had guided her muted footsteps, offering a gentle smile to the people she passed. Many seemed too focused on their destination or the papers they shuffled through while trying not to collide with anyone, but a few returned her wordless greeting. It was definitely a different atmosphere here compared to a few of the other places she’d been sent to—work over relations was the apparent hierarchy of things. Not that she could blame them—the Ministry here was one of the most efficient she’d ever seen. That sort of achievement took a lot of hard work.

“Department of International Magical Cooperation.”

The clear and almost harsh voice rang out as the lift clanged to a stop, the foreign woman stepping once again into unknown territory. The layout was a bit similar to her explorations of the second level the other day, but it had still taken her a bit of time to find the correct room. In a twisted sort of way, she wished her room would have announced its presence with a scary bout of laughter as Professor Sherlin’s had. But unfortunately, she had to find it the good old fashioned way by glancing at passing brass nameplates until one finally stuck out: O. HUDSON: LIAISON OF AURORS.

It surprised her that they had labeled this space specifically for her—her assigned areas were usually only a few months’ worth of work, at most, before she was shipped out to another location. Normally, any label for her office just started at the “liaison”—were they expecting her stay to be longer than usual, or was this just the British way of making her feel welcome?

Either way, she entered the cozy, small room with appreciation and excitement—there was so much to learn from this place, lessons that she could spread across the globe and share with Aurors everywhere, vastly improving their overall operations, training programs, and skills. They had given her a few days to get situated, but soon she’d be expected to report on her new assignment and what she’s gathered thus far.

A report that would undoubtedly be filled with information regarding the class she now made her way to, after dropping off a few papers she’d acquired as a part of her research on how things operated here. The class of the ever-enigmatic Professor Sherlin, with his bizarre teaching methods slowly revealing themselves to be one of the most practical—yet potentially unethical—approaches that she’d ever seen. He was…curious. He explored aspects of defense that were hardly ever considered, in ways that were surprisingly thought-provoking and useful. If he proved to be effective, she’d have a hell of a time trying to relate her findings to her colleagues.

Yet with that effectiveness, the caveat of attrition had to be addressed—she had found her seat in class again, the only one plainly displaying the answer etched on her hand. The rest of the students seemed much more apprehensive about sharing their decision, wearing gloves to veil their word or carefully positioning their hand to either be covered or pointing away from everyone towards the wall. Some of these people wouldn’t continue past today—the rest would form a wordless pact amongst each other, deciding for better or for worse to stick together and find the true worth of the long and challenging journey ahead.

That group of students would become known soon—but for now, they all sat in tense silence, unsure of what to do while they waited their turn. Olivia herself felt a little uncomfortable with the tension, shifting in her seat as she decided to make productive use of her time with a notebook and pen finding their way onto her desk. Now was a good a time as any to begin writing her initial report. She fished out a strawberry leftover from her breakfast from a container in her bag, popping it into her mouth as she began a thoughtful analysis of yesterday until a low grumble from her right caused her to turn, meeting the Armadillo of Honor eye-to-beady-eye. Curious, she procured another strawberry and laid it carefully in front of the creature, watching with interest as it slowly approached the red fruit and rolled into a ball with it, the armadillo orb perfectly still as stone and the food hidden from sight.

After a few seconds of a concerned stare, she decided the armadillo was probably okay, so she turned her attention back to her writing.

Professor M. Sherlin’s Advanced Defense class may perhaps end up teaching the most valuable information I might encounter here, especially when it comes to aspects typically overlooked in your average lessons. The premise appears to be defense no matter the circumstance, broadening the utility of combat readiness to an impressively wide yet crucial scope, considering the dangers of the world aren’t always an obvious, black-and-white sort of ordeal. While very unorthodox and perhaps morally questionable, this class simulates the very real possibility of unexpected surprises in the real world—something that every witch and wizard should be prepared to face, yet we’re seldom given the tools and knowledge we need in order to do so.

Professor Sherlin has the answer to that sorely lacking aspect of our curriculum. He is—


Her pen paused here, mind reeling as she tried to decide upon a suitable word.

odd

practical

highly intelligent

Her focus shifted as she noticed movement out of the corner of her eye—the armadillo had unrolled itself, looking slightly less like it hated life and everything in it. Curiously, there was no trace the strawberry had ever existed—no juice, not even one seed left behind in its wake, almost as if the creature had just absorbed it. And judging by the fact that its mouth didn’t look capable of opening, this was probably what happened. Why it happened, though, was anyone’s guess.

scary

unpredictable

indescribable


Her mind hovered on that last word, feeling it was the best fit despite being the vaguest of them all. Yet that was what Sherlin was—someone that people had to experience, because words just couldn’t do him justice.
 
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#21
“Thank you, Professor. Thank you.” The Quietus charm faded with a tap of Sherlin's wand. Helen had the glistening of tears in her eyes, a bittersweet sort of reminiscent smile on her face. Sherlin had one of his more genuine grins on, something more akin to "pleased" than "happy," per se, but the emotion was at least real, if muted. Of all things she bounced around the desk and hugged him, Sherlin carefully bringing one hand around to gingerly pat her shoulder while she pressed her chest against his.

Miss Bailey turned, wiping tears from her eyes and grinning a private smile, floating up the stairs in her own little world and moving to her notebooks. Sherlin moved on down the list, calling students, talking for anywhere between a few moments and a few minutes

"Carmine, Angier." The only old-looking man in the room stood, easily in his fifties by the white hair sporting a bald skullcap. He was dressed well, but not finely. Successful, of his own merit. Left-handed. Left-side sciatic nerve pain... Cancer diagnosis? In remission, though. His second calling perhaps? Sherlin stood, reaching a hand across the desk to respectfully shake the man's hand. Military. "Quietus."

"Henley, Marcus." A young Ravenclaw, identifiable by his atrocious socks, stood, nervously smoothing his shirt and taking a visible breath. His thigh sported a clearly-brand-new leather slip, a quick-draw holster for his wand. A little gimmicky but the effort is cute. Poor marks in his classes, then. Excellent duelist if he's here. Siblings? Private schooling? Marcus strode up to the desk, standing adjacent Sherlin with his hands folded at his waist and awaiting further instructions. Private schooling. "Quietus."

"Hitchens, Alfred." The blonde-haired Gyffindor stood, confidently striding up to Sherin's desk and taking a seat in the chair opposite it without direction. Definitely right on the pureblood, but it's deeper than that. Political family? Definitely from money. "Good morning, Sherlin," the boy preened, smiling the most self-indulgent grin Sherlin had seen outside of a Cabbage Patch Kid. Eugh. Not politics. Nobility. "Quietus."

"Hudson, Olivia." He spoke the name no differently than any other. The room was already quiet, most students up to their own tasks in their unexpected down time. Eyes flickered, though. Postures shifted. There was a collective rustle as the name was spoken, but all went back to normal a moment later. Sherlin waited no less expectantly for her, eyeing her as she approached the same as he had any other student. But this time, it was not only Sherln's eyes that were on the called-out witch.
 
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#22
…Overall, I’m certainly looking forward to the next few months here.

The pen had stopped here after a few minutes of thoughtful writing, considering if more words were necessary as she nodded appreciatively at the succinct statement. She was looking forward to it. She’d learn a lot about the culture, the systems, and plenty of other useful aspects of structure and knowledge that she could apply to her work and beyond. All the while, she couldn’t deny there was something captivating about the idea of also unraveling the mystery that was Professor Sherlin during her time here. He was undoubtedly the most intriguing and unique person most people could ever meet—yet why? What was it that made him so different? Was it just personality alone, some aspect of his past, a mix of both and more?

What are you, Professor? Her eyes shifted to the Armadillo staring sullenly at everything yet nothing, making it a point to take interest in anything Helen decided to busy herself with. Notebook for writing? A cozy place to lay. Phone in hand? Something that seemed fun to curl up in a ball with for a while. Headphones? Suddenly, they made the top of her head seem much more comfortable to lay on. Olivia wasn't sure if it was intentionally trying to spite her, or if any new object meant it had something to temporarily distract itself from the misery of its own life. Either way, Helen wasn't quite fond of it, to say the least.

“Hudson, Olivia.”

The name jolted her out of her thoughts, her hand going to briefly fish the black quill from her bag before she stood, making the short trek over to his desk that felt like miles. It was no different from any other time somebody was called up, and yet it was—eyes not-so-subtly followed her, peeking out from long hair shielding the accompanying expression or from the eyelashes of a downcast face. Even if they would never know what words she'd exchange with the Professor, they still watched intently as if this walk would unveil her deepest secrets. She'd inadvertently become an outlier, something unique and new that was interesting to see through the fishbowl glass, and they waited for the moment when she suddenly would perform a trick for their amusement, or transform from a fish into a flower.

Yet soon she stood in front of Professor Sherlin's desk, offering a small smile on her face and the quill in her hand to him. "Good morning, Professor." She greeted him simply, noting his oddly casual posture that seemed in stark contrast to his usual tenseness, even going so far as to lean back and relax in his chair a bit. Past the initial surprise of it, the sight of him caused her to relax a bit herself, settling herself into the seat across from him, a bit reassured that this was going to be just a comfortable discussion. A quick but simple affair.

The spell shielded their words from the prying ears of the class—as he asked to see her hand, she obliged, lifting her hand to him, the word scabbed into her skin dully screaming up at him. Then came the simple question: "Why?" Perfectly neutral curiosity lilted around the question.

“I’ve been exposed to a lot of different classes, Professor—it’s a part of what I do as a liaison. I’ve had the pleasure of learning from some of the most impressive nonverbal wizards in Africa to amazingly resourceful witches in Japan. But honestly, there’s so much I have yet to learn, so much I have yet to experience and to understand, despite everything I’ve done. And somehow, I get this feeling like I’m going to learn more than I ever have before here.” She shifted in her seat a bit, a subtly pleasant expression plastered on her demeanor as she expressed her excitement and anticipation.

“You…you’re intriguing, Professor—you’re unconventional, but brilliant all the same, and I’m looking forward to my time here with you.” The answer was clinical, proper, the barrier of teacher and student, stranger and stranger, a thin but palpable veil shielding herself from him. It was all true, but all very light, very uplifting. Very inaccurate to the true depth of her answer.

Sherlin glanced her up and down, meaningfully, bringing his hands to his face again, fingers flat and thumbs under his chin. "You wouldn't be here if you were simply looking for a challenge; you'd apply to be Mr. Scamander's PR woman, or apply for the Hogwarts Defense Against the Dark Arts position. Your humanitarian work sent you here, but this class is not relevant for that. I will be teaching you to fight and to kill, and to not be killed." He paused, his eyes sharpening to needle points that seemed to try and bury themselves in her veins, to try and understand her at a genetic level to better understand her intellectually. "Why are you here?"

A nearly imperceptible twitch in the corner of Olivia's mouth betrayed her inner thoughts, hidden behind a pleasant layer of professionalism that Sherlin was hell-bent on peeling back to reveal the darker gems within. Of course he could tell there was more behind all this. But did she really want to express her deeper reasons?

Something in his gaze said that keeping her reasons to herself wasn't an option, however. His stare bore into her body as if it was trying to carve the answer out of her, causing her to shift uncomfortably under its scalpel. The oceans of her gaze fell downcast for a brief moment, staring into the corner of his desk thoughtfully as she softly bit her lip, the subtle barrier she'd put up dropping as her gaze returned to his. "To keep a promise."

Sherlin leaned forward, elbows on the desk, hands still splitting his face. "Family, or lover?"

“Family.” Her weight shifted in her posture as her arms drew inward, lightly crossing as her eyes fell from his again, studying the grainy details of the wood of his desk. The concept of a lover just wasn’t feasible, with how often she’d find herself at the other end of the world from where she’d once been. Her life had always been centered on her family, the only thing that had kept her going through everything—her family motivated her towards nearly everything she'd set out to accomplish. “Kaira, my sister. She’s…she’s had mental and physical disabilities since she was born. The most vibrant and determined person I’ve ever known, with a wonderfully unique perspective on life, able to think outside the box more than anyone else. I suppose why you intrigue me, Professor, is because you remind me a bit of her.”

Her gaze flickered up to his face for a moment, cautious for his trademark unpredictability as her attention fell upon her hands in her lap, fingers interlaced and thumbs slowly switching positions between being on top of the other to being covered by the other. “But she’s never really been able to venture outside of her hospital for very long—her health is very frail. I was…I was always her protector. Still am. Whatever she's faced, I've been there to help her through, both things that are beyond her control, and things she attracts to herself—she isn’t afraid to speak her mind, so that’s garnered her a few enemies over the course of her life. I kept her safe—guess that’s what inspired me to be an Auror, just having the ability to keep her and everyone else away from harm. Might sound dumb, but that's just how it is for me."

A sigh escaped her rose-dusted lips, the pads of her thumbs tapping together in contemplation. "I was... a different person when I first started out. Capable of fighting and holding my own. Didn't have any opinion about violence, it was just a necessary part of the job. But one of the times she was well enough to go outside with me, just doing some late night shopping, there was this man..." Her hands were still now, lightly squeezing one another as she sank further into herself. "He'd threatened her. Pulled a gun on her. And I lost it. The terror and fear in her eyes—that was the worst part of it all. Not directed at the man that had nearly killed her, but at me. At seeing what I was really capable of." Her voice's strength gave out a bit, swallowing past a lump in her throat as she continued on, a bit quieter. "I'd killed a man in front of her. He'd dropped the gun and was ready to run and never bother us again once he saw that I could use magic, but I still..."

She took a deep breath then, blinking twice as she shoved her thoughts back into the depths of her mind, her voice back to its strong yet carefully neutral quality. "I chose to be a liaison after that. Couldn't handle the guilt. Even when negotiations get dicey, I'm the shieldnever the sword. But I still learn it—I hate it, but I still need to know how to fight. Because if there's ever a time when I need to protect Kaira like that again, I need to be sure I can take on anyone to keep her safe."

Her eyes finally lifted to meet his again, guarding the darkness hidden in those blue depths. "Safe, and happy. Kaira sees the world through me. She never gets to experience anything outside of our hometown, except for when I visit. I get to tell her all sorts of stories about where I’ve been, who I’ve met—it’s the kind of life she always wanted, just having the freedom to go out and do whatever she wants, to see everything the world has to offer, to learn everything she can about this life. The international trips might mean I don’t get to see her for long periods of time, but her face just lights up so much, every time I come back with so many pictures and stories. She loves what I do probably as much as I do." Arms crossed again, then, observing her professor as the shield began to resurface between them.

"So that was my promise—I’ll keep her safe, and live for us both."
 
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#23
A narrowing in Sherlin's eyes brought his focus away from the story and to Olivia herself. The scrutiny that had faded during her reminiscing had returned, but now it was focused on her eyes. He was searching for something in those pools. A minute passed. Two. Four. He did not speak, but the pressure that seemed to be coming off of him in waves held the silence as if in a steel vice. When he finally spoke, the contrast made his low, quiet words seem booming.

"Explain to me how you killed him."

Despite the heavy atmosphere threatening to crush her lungs, Olivia held his gaze confidently, a calm yet tense demeanor settling on her features—at least, until his question shocked her into wide-eyed disbelief. "What?" She responded automatically, caught off guard—of all the responses he could have given, she certainly didn't expect him to focus in on that one particular detail. It wasn't quite something you asked someone about. However, she quickly found herself recovering from the initial surprise of his words as her brows furrowed, gaze scrutinizing, probing for answers. "Why?"

Sherlin shrugged, dismissive and off-handed, and leaned back in his chair."I really just want to see if you would," he chirped, bracing his chin on his thumbs again. "I have to say, though, it is nice to get through that shell, finally. You are so..." He shook his head, searching for a word. "...polite. It's annoying. If I wanted to speak to a robot there are sites for that—by the way can your spells pass—no never mind you'll find that in the next lesson—anyway, I digress."

Sherlin leaned forward on his elbows. The glint of challenge sparkled in his slate-green eyes, and he folded his hands down to rest in his elbows. "You have now told me why your sister wants you here, and why MaCUSA wants you here. You have neglected to tell me why you want to be here." He tapped his wand on the desk and a group of images floated up from the dust, crystalline sparkles turning to color and forming shapes. A young girl; the MaCUSA logo; a pair of people shaking hands; and a wand, Olivia's wand, all gently rotating around each other. Sherlin's eyes glanced to hers, then to the classroom, and he muttered, "Don't worry about them seeing this, they will only see us sitting at a desk speaking. And besides," he added with a derisive, dismissive wave of his hand, "most of them would be too dense to read into it anyway."

The images cycled around towards Olivia, one by one—and one by one, Sherln's wand slashed through them until only Olivia's wand remained. The particles from the others coalesced on the desk as a pile of books that kept building up higher and higher towards the wand, and a tiny, crystalline Olivia climbed that ever-growing mountain hand-over-hand. "Before a liaison, before a sister, before an Auror... you are a witch." His wand tapped the desk; the mountain of books fell over, but the tiny Olivia waved her wand, a broom flying in from off-screen and catching under her legs. "You have your own ambitions and projects and goals, no doubt." A pair of hippogrifs floated into frame, snapping their beaks at the tiny Olivia who was forced to dodge and roll and duck around them. Eventually, she perched on her feet on her broom, standing on the thin wood shaft as it slowly ascended. Finally, she jumped, her hand clenching around the floating wand in her crystalline sky.

"Why are you here?"
 
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#24
The initial shock of his question began to fade, but a much more uncomfortable feeling caused Olivia to shift in her seat. She wasn't going to deny information—it was her past, and she'd learned to confront that fact and acknowledge it like every other part of her history. That still didn't make it any easier to mention, though. "Impedimenta, to save Kaira. Then Confringo." The response was simple, carefully dull, fearing the slightest bit of emotion given to it would ignite a whole world of regret that she didn't want to delve into right now. Still, she couldn't help but drift slightly back to that day, her mouth set into a bitter line at the apparent lack of sensitivity he displayed about the topic. "Have you ever watched a man burn to death? It’s not something you really want to remember."

She'd hoped that he was done probing into more sensitive aspects of her, but a slight twitch of indignation narrowed her gaze at his next observation—accurate, yet very inaccurate. Annoying? That politeness was what kept her from getting stabbed or having spells shot at her during negotiations more than a handful of times. It wasn't robotic...was it? Contained, maybe, but robotic? She was just showing some common decency and respect! Something he clearly was lacking, given the callous and casual way he analyzed and criticized her—teacher or no, some boundaries just shouldn't be crossed.

Yet maybe that was one of those many somethings that caused him to be so effective at his job. Unafraid to bring shortfalls to light in order to learn from them, harshly calculating and critical because the world sure as hell wasn't going to baby anybody, either. Maybe she shouldn't take any offense to his words.

This new perspective framed her mind as she listened, watching as small orbs of memory began to fill the space between the two Aurors. An image of a young Olivia, a bright-eyed new witch, awed and excited as she first stepped into the halls of Ilvermorny. MaCUSA's symbol, blending seamlessly into the moment she first accepted her position as a liaison for the organization. Then, a simple image of her wand, the willow wood gently spiraling and flaring from the handle slowly and seamlessly transitioning into the thin, smooth point at the tip. For a moment, she wondered just how he was able to conjure these images, feeling apprehensive at how easily he'd managed to invade into and steal her memories, only soothed slightly by the fact that nobody else would be aware of them. But something else made itself aware in her mind.

He had a point, whether she wanted to admit it or not. He was reaching for the very core of her being, the personification of that reflected in the shimmering apparition of her as she fought for her ultimate goal. She'd never been keen to talk about herself. Her goals and dreams were just that—her own. If it didn't help her to do her job, then it was pushed to the back burner—and discussing these aspects of herself with someone else certainly would never become relevant to what she was currently doing.

Except for now, when the only thing standing between her and great knowledge was one stubborn Professor.

And then the question came again. That damn question.

Well, if he hated her politeness, she could definitely adapt to that.

“God, you really dig and claw your way right to the heart of things. But my business is my business, Sherlin, and you'll learn what that is when I want you to." The bluntness of his name instead of her usual 'Professor' dropped flatly on the ground like a ton of bricks. Her thinly-veiled annoyance seethed and bubbled to the surface, tired of answering a question when none of her answers were ever accepted. There was a bit of embarrassment hiding in her heated cheeks, hating that it seemed she divulged a ton of personal background for no reason, since here he was, still insisting her answers weren't good enough.

He wanted her own reasons? Fine. She'd give him her own reasons, if only to stop him from asking the same question like a damn broken record. "I’m here because I want to be. I’m here because I like to learn. I'm here because I want to be a great witch and to have a vast knowledge of things, so people can depend on me and so I gain a sense of accomplishment. I’m here because I’d like to not die or lose someone just because I don’t know enough." Her hand splayed out against the smooth wood of the top of his desk as she leaned forward, eyes burning into his. "I’m here because I can damn well choose whatever I want to do in life, and I just so happened to choose this." She stayed quiet for a moment, the watery color of her eyes betrayed by the burning fire within for a bit longer before they cooled, leaning back away as her arms crossed defiantly under her chest.

"That should be enough for you. And if it isn’t, then why are you here, then?"
 
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#25
Sherlin stared at her for a long moment, unblinking and still. It was almost unnerving, the quietude that had come over him as his thoughts cycled in and out of his mind. The other students had been so much more pedantic and dull than Olivia, certainly, but there was more to it than that. It was not simply that this girl was interesting or talented, not just her clear determination and unwillingness to be stepped over or on. It was more than just her power, magical, willful, and otherwise, that pulled that cheeky, satisfied smile to Sherln's lips.

Simply put, he liked this girl. He had not liked anyone since he had met Odius in his first days of Ministry work, and that had been years prior. What it was about her he liked, Sherlin could not quite dig up yet. She had not yet presented anything but a willingness to get in his face, and that, in and of itself, would be listed off as foolish by most who knew him. It was something about the way she presented herself that amused and delighted him, and he found himself excited to dig into that over the course of her study.

Sherlin's hands unfolded, and with that cheeky, satisfied smile pulling his lips, he raised a hand, a finger, to Olivia's face. And he tapped her nose. "Boop." He chuckled to himself, light and somewhat foreign. "Settle down, Miss Hudson. I did not ask you in here to dig up your past." He paused a moment, considering his thoughts, then corrected himself. "Well, perhaps with you, I did in fact do just that. The other idiots were so much less worth digging about with."

He scooted his chair back and began pulling out drawers, closing them and pulling out the next one more times than seemed possible with the number of drawers actually contained within the desk. Sixteen drawers later, he finally muttered a satisfied, "Ah ha..." and shoved his hand—and wrist, and forearm, and indeed his whole arm up to the shoulder—into the drawer, rooted around, and came back up. When he did, he was holding a hairbrush.

"Take this. It will be of use to you," he said, setting the brush on the desk in front of her in a very of-course-I-was-looking-for-a-brush-what-else-would-I-be-looking-for kind of way and leaned back in his chair.

A moment of pause pursed his lips, and he spoke again, abruptly. "I am here because they pay me to be," he answered flatly, "and because the last time they gave me a field assignment, four new roadways and forty-one funerals needed to be conducted as a direct result of my personal actions. They could not fault those actions, but they were not keen to have them repeated. So now I teach, and I consult, and I research." The thin line his mouth tightened into belied the satisfied tone in which he presented the words, but it was gone a moment later. "I am here to find aspiring young geniuses like you and make sure that an idiot doesn't get a hold on you and forget to teach you how to hold your wand, or tie your shoes, or paint your window."
 
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