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Thread: But For A Stone (A Matou Shinji Series AU)

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    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    Chapter 31.
    Spent and Drained

    Matou Shinji stood in the foyer of the cottage that belonged to the Tonks fa—the cottage that now belonged to him, almost sagging in relief as he noticed how the babbling of the world outside had ceased, and how the world through his new set of glasses was so…uncluttered.

    ‘It’s been a very long day,’
    he thought to himself. Too long, really, and filled with far too many happenings for his liking, but it was over now. Maybe. Probably. He didn’t think his mind could handle another natural (or unnatural) shock after—

    And then the boy fell on his arse, yelping as something like a living stuffed animal appeared with a crack before his eyes, bowing to him with its outsized legs and ungainly torso.

    ‘…no. Not a stuffed animal,’
    Shinji realized, noting that the face had been removed, with the bulbous eyes and bat-like ears of a house-elf visible through the resulting opening, and its spindly fingers protruding out of the ends of the stuffed arms and legs. ‘…what the hell?’

    He’d heard that house-elves wore discarded items like pillowcases and tea-towels, and had been prepared to accept something like that, but this was…

    ‘What the hell?’
    he repeated in his mind, trying not to let any trace of the discomfort he felt from the contrast between ragged old plushie and wrinkled house-elf show on his face. ‘Why. Why is he wearing a plushie?’

    “How can I be helping new Master?” the house-elf whispered in a voice that sounded like two stones grinding against one another. “Isa Master needing dinner? A bath? Or—”

    “Dinner, please,” Shinji said with a very strained smile, keeping the house-elf from finishing its sentence in a way that would give him nightmares for months to come.

    …not that those would be worse than those where he ended up married to his sister, or where the monster that called itself his grandfather killed him, or…

    “Dinner,” he repeated, shaking his head. “A basket of fried chicken, if you can manage that.”

    While he might not overly care for western food, fried chicken was the traditional Christmas meal for people in Japan.

    “Anything else I can being of help with, Master?” the house-elf asked.

    “Can you make a pumpkin pudding, and some potato salad?” the boy replied, thinking back to his boyhood days, when he and…the man who had called himself his father had waited in line at KFC for hours for the Christmas bucket. “Maybe a sponge-cake too?”

    “That, Rumpy can be doing,” the creature agreed with a bow, as it popped out of sight, presumably vanishing to the kitchens.

    ‘…what a day,’
    he mused as he took off the glasses he’d purchased for the handy sum of ten thousand Galleons and rubbed his eyes.




    When he’d woken up the morning after Christmas, having slept a sound and dreamless sleep for the first time in many weeks (likely due to the potion he’d imbibed), he hadn’t known what to expect, really. Perhaps he’d finally get a day to just rest, as the word holiday seemed to imply? With catching up on his studies and being dragged onto one “adventure” after the next (well, sightseeing trips, really), he’d not really had a chance to collect and refresh himself.

    Perhaps today, after Christmas had passed, and with a week until the New Year, he would be able to just forget his worries for a—

    ‘…no. That’s right, I have to go to Gringotts.’


    Honestly, he didn’t want to, but the goblin who served as his account manager had presented him with some opportunities and told him he had until the day after Christmas to let him know if he was interested, and since he didn’t own an owl, he supposed he would have to visit the bank in person.
    And since Exton Hall wasn’t a residence built by practitioners of witchcraft, nor connected to the Floo, their transportation network, he supposed he would have to ask Amber and her family if they wouldn’t mind giving him a ride to London.

    ‘I feel really bad that I have to rely on them so much.’


    Fortunately, things had turned out better than he’d expected, since the Noel family had already been planning on heading into the city: Phelan, because he wanted to go to Diagon Alley and use the Floo to visit the Weasleys, Amber because she wanted to visit Natsumi and her family, and the rest of them because they always attended the King George VI Chase over in Surrey – a distance horse race in which competitors are required to jump diverse fence and ditch obstacles – which was the second most prestigious of its sort in England.

    “Of course, you’re very welcome to join us,” Amber had replied brightly. “It would be a shame if you were left all alone in the manor.”

    “Huh, well, you can come visit the Weasleys with me if you’d like,” Phelan had grunted. “Good old Ronald does owe you one for stopping Granger from making his head explode.”

    “…I don’t think she was going to make his head explode,” Shinji had said, shaking his head. “She may be a…witch, but she isn’t…well, maybe she is that bad,” he conceded, remembering the way she had treated him.

    “All that aside,” the earl’s younger son had noted, waving off the Japanese boy’s uncertainties, “maybe you’d like meeting a whole family of British wizards. You know, since you’re magical and all yourself.”

    Shinji had attempted a smile, but the expression was so obviously pasted on that even Phelan had looked away.

    “Maybe you’d like to join me for a visit to Natsumi’s house?” Amber had spoken up. “You’d be able to meet her pig, Marten.”

    “A pig,” he’d mused. “That could be fun. I’ve never seen a pig raised as a pet before.”

    Well, except in Ranma ½, but then again, life wasn’t exactly a shonen manga.

    “It’s not any stranger than seeing goblins in a bank, is it?” Phelan had countered, glancing over at the two. “I mean, in all the books I read – Lord of the Rings and the like – goblins supposed to be cruel, and wicked, slaking their lusts by plundering the possessions – and taking the lives – of the free peoples—”

    “You mean…just like bankers?” Amber had quipped, with Shinji snorting despite himself. “You’ve seen how Gringotts works, with its storage fees, usurious interest rates, and of course, how it takes the properties of wizards who default on loans?”

    Phelan shuddered.

    “…fine. Maybe goblins working as bankers make more sense than I thought,” the youth had muttered. “Society is scary.”

    “Yes. Yes it is,” Amber had agreed. “Just as scary and dangerous as those unknown lands you often dream about visiting. And unlike those lands, you can’t get by with just a sword on your back, goblin-forged or not.”

    “That’s another thing,” Phelan had grumbled. “Why is it goblins who forge swords and armor?”

    “Because there are no dwarves?” Amber had offered, to which Phelan made a face. “And the elves are, well…”

    House-elves just didn’t fit the Tolkienesque image of an elf, really, and they seemed far too servile to ever have really been a proud people.

    “Just once, I’d like to see some masterwork that’s not made by goblins in the magical world,” the earl’s younger son had sighed. “If non-magical folk can make something like that golden ship we saw in the museum, why can’t wizards?”

    “Maybe Mister Weasley’s parents will have some idea of that,” Amber had remarked, whereupon the boy had nodded

    “Huh, that’s right,” Phelan had said. “They might, at that. I keep forgetting that they’re purebloods, since he well…”

    “…looks like a poor street urchin?” his sister had supplied. “And is about as uncouth as one?”

    Phelan had winced.

    “I wouldn’t go that far, but he, well, he doesn’t act like Malfoy either,” the earl’s son had replied. “Then again, I never really forget that Ernie is a pureblood, so…” He’d shrugged. “Well, maybe clothes do matter. A little.”

    Making such an admission to his sister of all people had hurt, but then again…even Gilderoy Lockhart, the greatest adventurer in all of Britain, would agree that while substance mattered more than appearance, appearances could affect what one thought of substance.

    “Is that why one of your gifts to the Weasley family was a set of new books and clothes for their youngest?”

    “Well. Boys can take being made fun of,” Phelan had sniffed. “We’re tough, after all, right Matou? But I wouldn’t want a girl to have to suffer such a fate. They’re delicate, after all – present company excluded.”

    “…and to think I was about to say that even you could be a gentleman sometimes.”




    Sometime later, following a car trip which he endured while dressed up in some of the fine clothes he’d bought in Vertic Alley, and being peppered with questions about Japan, Hogwarts, magic, and everything else under the sun he could think of, Matou Shinji had been dropped off in front of a rather large townhouse in London, alongside Amber Noel.

    “Is this where Natsumi lives?” Shinji had asked, marveling at just how large it was.

    “When she and her family are in the city, yes,” Amber had replied. “They have an estate in Surrey as well, but aren’t often there.”

    “Huh.”

    Shinji had blinked as the duo walked up the path from the curb to the door and rang the bell, with a rather casually dressed Natsumi answering it a moment later, with Marten, the black potbelly pig, trotting along behind her.

    “Ah, Matou-kun! Amber!” the cheerful chestnut-haired girl had exclaimed at the sight of them. “Welcome!”

    “Merry Christmas,” Amber had offered, pressing a small box into the other girl’s hands. “It’s a day late, but…”

    “Eh, late, early, close enough,” Natsumi had said, though Shinji noticed her giving the box a discreet shake. “At least you remembered.”

    “Of course. I would never forget my best friend. After all, how many years have we been together?” Amber had noted warmly, with Natsumi leaning in and giving her a peck on the cheek.

    “Long enough,” the other girl had responded, while Shinji looking on, went red as his imagination…grew perhaps a bit overheated. “Thanks.” She’d glanced over at Shinji and sighed, noting the reaction on his face. “Matou-kun, have you been well?”

    “I-I, uh, I, uh, yes,” the boy had finally managed to reply. “Did you receive my present?”

    In answer, Natsumi just lifted the sleeve of her dress, revealing the wyvern-hide holster she wore on her arm.

    “It was lovely, thank you,” the chestnut-haired girl had noted, bowing her head a bit. “Thank you, Matou-kun. Did you get mine?”

    The boy couldn’t help but notice that she hadn’t given him a kiss, but then, he remembered that she wasn’t exactly used to being around boys, so…it would probably have been too familiar.

    “I did,” Shinji had responded, giving her a deep bow. “I…thank you.”

    “None of that, Matou-kun! We’re close enough that you don’t need to do these kinds of things, right?” Natsumi had remarked.

    “Even so, giving me an hour’s worth of Felix Felicis…that’s too much,” the boy had answered. “You won that potion, while I…I fell into Slughorn’s trap,” he’d admitted bitterly. Yes, the Potions Master had said that she could split up the potion as she wished, but he’d hardly expected her to give him some of her precious luck – as much as he probably needed it.

    “Then hopefully this will keep you from falling into a trap again,” the Japanese girl had said brightly. Glancing at the both of them, she’d stepped back. “Come in!”

    And so they had.

    Amber had obviously been there before, given how at home she acted, but even Shinji – to his surprise – had felt comfortable as he trailed behind them, marveling at the tasteful – and obviously Japanese – décor.

    The morning passed in a blur, what with tea, pleasant conversation, and an introduction to Natsumi’s parents (as well as her very temperamental pig, which seemed to prefer Amber’s lap to his). But then, he’d thought to himself, that was fine, since he would prefer Amber’s lap too.

    “Thank you for taking care of Natsumi,” her parents had said to him.

    “No, she’s the one who takes care of me,” Shinji had responded, quite gravely at that. “She and Miyuki-senpai.” And then, feeling a pressure from beside him. “And Miss Amber.”

    They’d chatted for a time, before Natsumi’s parents had noted that they needed to go to an event at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where the New Years’ Gala that he was attending with Amber and Natsumi would be in just a few days.

    “Did you want to come with us, Natsumi, or did you want to spend more time with your friends?” her mother had asked.
    Shinji, feeling the urge to speak, had glanced over at the chestnut-haired girl.

    “If you want, Amber and I are going to the Magical part of London for a while,” he’d offered, recalling that she hadn’t been able to come with them when the large group had gone. “I have some business to take care of, but after that, it might be fun to wander around.” He’d paused. “I mean, only if you want to. If you don’t, that’s—”

    “I’d love to.”




    Thinking that Natsumi and Amber wouldn’t really be interested in speaking to Gimblegyre, his account manager at Gringotts, Shinji asked them to browse the shops of Diagon Alley without him, most of which were apparently open – though unlike the Muggle side of London, apparently there were no Boxing Day deals to be had.

    ‘Then again, I wonder if Christmas is really a big deal for practitioners of witchcraft, or if they only celebrate it to blend in with those around them.’


    He rather had the impression that Halloween was a much bigger deal, given the massive feast that the school had put on the night of October 31, as well as events like the Masquerade, not that he could imagine a good reason for this.

    ‘Maybe they’re still scared of non-magical people, and Halloween is the one day they can come out of hiding, without anyone really suspecting them of being more than they are?’


    It was hard to say, really, as he hadn’t given it much thought. Nor did he have time for such contemplation today, for the moment he stepped through the doors of Gringotts, he was intercepted by a waiting goblin.

    “Mister…Matou?” the goblin had rasped, with the diminutive humanoid peering up at him uncertainly.

    “Yes?”

    “…Manager Gimblegyre awaits,” the guard had noted, directing him to a chair at the end of a rather long hallway, the door at the end of which led to a rather cavernous office, if he remembered correctly.

    After some minutes, the door had opened, with what looked like Draco Malfoy and his father, of all people, emerging. Neither spared him a glance, of course, but then, he was somewhat unimportant.

    “Father, are you certain that it was a wise idea to cede 12 Grimmauld Place to Aunt Andromeda?” the young blond had inquired, with the older man fixing his son with a gimlet stare. “Since we acquired it, should it not remain in the family?”

    “Since it is going to your Aunt – and your cousin – it is remaining in the family, Draco,” Lucius Malfoy had stated. “And should you and your newly betrothed, the young Miss Black, find yourselves on good terms when you graduate from Hogwarts, perhaps it will even be something you own one day.”

    Draco’s nose had wrinkled as he screwed his face up in displeasure.

    “At my age? Engaged? To that troublemaking Hufflepuff?” the young blond had fumed. “But…what of my life at Hogwarts? What of—”

    “—the things you have left out of your letters, such as your dispute with this ‘Lady’ Selina?”

    The young Slytherin’s face, already remarkably free of pigment to begin with, grew even paler, if that were possible.

    “I – everything is under control, father!”

    “Which is why you have been seen referring to a Mudblood as a Lady, and have not protested being labelled her manservant?” Lucius’ tone was remarkably cold. “I was unaware that accepting such a state of subservience to such a one was having ‘everything under control.’”

    “Father, I—it’s a ruse.”

    “A ruse? Do explain, my son.”

    “By allowing her to do as she wishes for now, I aim to make her lower her guard, and once she is vulnerable…”

    Lucius sighed.

    “By which you mean she is stronger than you, else you would not need to resort to such ridiculous lengths.”

    “I-it isn’t my fault. Slytherin is full of blood traitors who have flocked to her side!”

    “And why would they not, seeing how she crushed a Malfoy?” the older man had stated with impatience, as if explaining something incredibly obvious to a child. “Do you not understand that by making a wager with her, by accepting her terms, you acknowledged her as an equal? Approaching her – seeking to crush her – that was your mistake.”

    “Wha…do you mean I should have ignored her? A mudblood in the heart of Slytherin’s house?”

    Shinji had blinked to see Lucius Malfoy quite visibly take a breath, as if having to explain any of this was…frustrating beyond words.

    “Yes!” the older man had hissed. “Had you done do, your peers would have followed your example in considering her someone beneath your notice. Yet, you did not, and worse, you allowed her to outplay you at your own game. Through your acknowledgement, your peers accepted her as an equal. Through your loss, they saw her as your better. Thus, why I must resort to…more drastic measures, such as giving you a fiancée whose lineage is unimpeachable.”

    “U-unimpeachable? B-but N-nymphadora isn’t even a pureblood!” Draco had nearly screeched. “Her father was a mud—”

    “Her father was a war hero, who died in battle against the Dark Lord, and she herself is the only daughter of Andromeda Black – the current head of house,” Lucius had interjected. “That is what people will remember. That through her – and you – Black and Malfoy will finally be completely, irrevocably tied in ways more timeless than gold.”

    “Father, I—”

    “Draco, I am not giving you a choice.” Shinji had almost – almost – sympathized as he witnessed Draco Malfoy’s mouth closing with a click, with a look of horror and despair crossing the blond boy’s features. “You have already brought shame upon our family with your selfishness. Pray do not shame us further.”

    With that, the two had walked away, out of earshot, with Gimblegyre poking his small head out of the room some moments later, eyes widening as he saw Shinji seated on a chair beside his office.

    “Ah, Matou. Come in, come in…”

    The boy did as the goblin had directed, with the Account Manager offering him tea.

    “Have you decided if the items I mentioned are of interest?”

    Said items being, of course, a country cottage, Nimbus 2001 prototypes, a bespoke wardrobe, and tickets to the Minister’s Ball, the New Years’ Eve gala event where one could hobnob with the movers and shakers of Britain – for a price.

    “Some.”

    “Very well then. What have decided on?”

    “…I’ll take the cottage,” the boy had said, with a nod. Thirty thousand Gallleons wasn’t a bad price for an elegantly appointed country cottage, especially one that already had modern amenities and came with a house elf. “I expect there is some paperwork to fill out for that?”

    “Yes. I will have that ready in a moment,” the goblin had responded. “Is there aught else you were interested in purchasing?”

    “A pair of tickets for the Minister’s Ball, and one of the so-called Duelist Wardrobes.”

    “Excellent choices,” the goblin had stated, sliding over some folders, as well as two slips to sign. “Sign these, and we will transfer the money from your account.”

    “...very well.” The boy had glanced over the slips, and, seeing nothing overly objectionable, signed his name where indicated, authorizing a transfer of 7000 Galleons from his account. “And the paperwork for the cottage?”

    “Sign this.” The goblin slid a form authorizing a transfer of 30,000 Galleons from his account, with the money to be held in escrow until his name was put on the deed. “And now, we go to the Ministry.”

    “The Ministry?”

    “Yes.”




    And so it was that after a rather roundabout turn of events, Matou Shinji had found himself sitting in a room at the Ministry’s office of records, across from none other than his acquaintance, Auror Trainee Tonks, who seemed taken aback at the sight of him.

    “…this isn’t a joke, is it?” she’d asked, trying to see if there was anyone else around. “You’re the buyer?”

    “I am.”

    "...and you're not a metamorphmagus who has decided to infiltrate Hogwarts for some reason, are you?” she’d asked sharply. “Using a false name, perhaps?"

    "Would I admit it if I was?" Shinji had snorted, not really expecting an answer. “Can we get to business? The money is in escrow, waiting to be transferred once you deliver the receipt of the new filing.”

    “I suppose it’s really none of my business as long as you're not breaking any laws." The Auror trainee looked uncomfortable, but shook her head. "Just tell me one thing. Why a house?"

    "...it sounded like a good idea at the time?"

    "Just like most other bad decisions in the world,” Tonks had noted with a mixture of amusement and resignation. “...well, you're definitely that Noel kid's friend, I'll say that.” Then she’d smiled, a bit slyly. "So, will it just be you who owns the house?" She’ lowered her voice, her lips curving up into a saucy smile. "Or will you be sharing it with Miss Noel. Your girlfriend, right?"

    "I-its not like that!" Shinji had exclaimed, blushing violently at the insinuation. "D-don't get the wrong idea. Sh-she's not my girlfriend or anything."

    "If you say so, Mister Matou. If you say so.”

    And so, they filled out the paperwork, with Shinji putting his name down as the new – sole – owner on a form she’d supplied, and Nymphadora Black signing her agreement to the proposed change.

    “Black?” Shinji had echoed. “I thought your name was Tonks?”

    “…if it’s all the same to you, I don’t want to go into it right now. And it’s none of your business anyway.”

    She’d looked away, the expression on her face distant.

    “Well…that’s fair.”




    All this business took longer than he expected, but at last, the boy was able to join his comrades, who by now had looked through most of Diagon Alley and had moved onto clothes shopping in Vertic Alley, something that likewise took longer than most boys would expect.

    “Oh, you’re back,” Amber had noted, seeing him walk through the door of Twilfitt and Tattings. “We’re almost done here. Care to carry our bags?”
    Shinji, not really feeling like protesting, had agreed.

    “And then, maybe onto Horizont Alley?” he’d suggested

    “Horizont?” Amber had echoed. “Well, I confess I wouldn’t mind seeing some masterworks that aren’t goblin made.”

    If there was anywhere where such things could be found in Magical Britain, it was Horizont Alley, home to the best craftsmen and artisans in all of Wizarding Britain. On most occasions, it catered exclusively to the upper-class, with everything made to order and priced in the thousands of galleons (at least).

    And well, the Duelist Wardrobe establishment was located there anyway, and he needed to get measurements of himself taken.

    “Neither would I,” Natsumi had chimed in as she walked over to the group, wearing a dress as dark as night of some heavy, but fine woven fabric, and a mantle that seemed as if it was wrought from feathers. Streaks of red ran through her chestnut hair, and the odd cylinder – flashgun – that Quirrell had given to her was clipped inconspicuously to her waist. “How do I look?”

    “Like a Dark Lady,” Amber had quipped.

    “Perfect,” Natsumi had replied, twirling about prettily. “I thought I would buy myself something more western for formal occasions. Does it suit me?”

    “Perfectly, Nats.”

    “Do you both have something to wear for the gala, by the way?” she’d asked.

    “Nats, how long have you known me?” Amber had retorted.

    “Well, true. And you, Matou-kun?” Natsumi had questioned.

    “…not yet,” Shinji had to admit, much to the Japanese girl’s disappointment. “I mean, I will. I’ll have something. I just need to visit a tailor later today anyway, over in Horizont alley.”

    “Would you rather wear a kimono?” she’d asked offhandedly. “My family can certainly arrange to have one made for you, if you’d prefer something eastern.”

    “Oh, yes, please!” the boy had replied, flushing slightly. Then, something else had come to mind. “Hey, Natsumi?”

    “Yes?”

    “Would you care to come to the Minister’s Ball with me?” he’d asked, while his courage was still intact. “I mean, you don’t have to, but if you’re going to go out of your way to have a kimono made for me, and you got Amber and I tickets to the gala…”

    “That sounds fun,” Amber had noted, glancing at her old friend. “You should go.”

    “What is it?”

    “A New Year’s Eve gala to be held at the Ministry,” the boy stated, “where you can no doubt meet all kinds of people.”

    “Oh, so like the award reception for the Professor, but fancier.”

    “Just about.”

    “I’ll go.” The girl’s answer had come out as something like a murmur. “Thank you, Matou-kun.”

    “O-of course.”

    “But – does this mean I need to get another dress?” the girl had wondered, or—

    “Let’s just go with formal Kimonos,” Shinji had replied. “I’m sure you have some of those.”

    Natsumi had been silent for a moment, before she answered

    “Hm, well, I guess those are close enough to dress robes,” she’d noted with a nod. She did enjoy the rare occasions when she was able to wear a formal kimono. There was something lovely and refined about them, after all, more so than a western dress - or dress robes, for that matter. “Ok.” She’d hesitated for a moment. “These two galas aren’t happening at the same time, right?”

    “…I don’t think so. I think one happens during the afternoon and evening of the eve, while the other is that night, heading into the new year. Perhaps the day before you can come over to my new cottage for a housewarming, and we can take the Floo over?” he’d suggested.

    “Wait, what.” Amber had been content to listen for a while, but felt compelled to respond to this latest outrageous statement from Shinji’s mouth. “Your new cottage? I thought – weren’t you staying at Exton Hall?”

    “…well, yes.” Shinji had looked around, not wanting to meet her eyes. “I just…the cottage is just across Exton Hall, so….”


    “What. That’s…there’s no cottage there!” Amber had exclaimed. “I’ve been by. Many times, so how—”
    “It was hidden magically, I guess?” Shinji had just shrugged. “All I know is it belonged to Auror Tonks, or I guess Auror Black now, and now belongs to me. She’s moving to the city.”

    “…you own Auror Tonks’ old house.”

    “…yes?”

    “…furnished?”

    “…yes?”

    Amber had quickly found herself rubbing her temples, as if to stave off an impending headache.

    “What?” Shinji had asked.

    “You’re going to be sleeping in the same room – probably the same bed – that that Auror used to. My brother is going to go spare.”

    “…you’re all invited to visit? I’ll have the house elf let you in whenever you want?”

    “…maybe that will help.”




    After everything else, shopping in Horizont Alley had been a pleasant distraction from the rest of the days travails, given that the shopkeepers were – in addition to taking commissions – selling off the wondrous items they’d created as examples of their skill.

    Mostly, aside from getting himself measured at the Duelist’s Wardrobe, he was looking for gifts, since it struck him that he hadn’t really gotten Sokaris anything of note – not even a holster.

    ‘Well…she’ll like this…’


    This
    referring to an amulet which drew/nullified magical attacks intended for the wearer from an establishment known only as Henderson’s, a five thousand Galleon item purported to be the ultimate in defensive items.

    Happily, that had been the first stop he’d made, even before the wardrobe, and he felt rather pleased to have found something so quickly.
    Finding something for Miyuki-senpai had proved much more of a chore though, given that he wasn’t sure if there was something she’d like.
    Certainly, there was nothing that dealt with plants or potions – well, aside from a pocket-sized pensieve designed to allow easier memory modification (deletion, blending with more "generic" memories, etc), but he didn’t think she was the sort who bothered with that kind of thing.

    It wasn’t until he arrived at Corbenic's Curious Creations that he found items he thought might be useful - a pocketwatch, enchanted with the ability to track moving sources of magic (strength + distance) and the ability to jam apparition in an area, keeping people from coming in or out of the area of effect, selling for 8000 Galleons, and a set of glasses which essentially allowed those wearing them to use legilimency, and more, could be used to store the memories/information one gathered, 10000 Galleons.

    Both of them seemed quite remarkable – though there was just one problem: those together would cost 18000 Galleons, and after everything he’d spent, he only had a bit more than 17000 in his account.

    Seeing his hesitation, the proprietor, a wizened wizard long past his dueling days, had shuffled over from where he had been slumped in the back of the shop, his eyes lighting up as he saw a serious young man considering his items.

    “You remind me of an old colleague of mine,” he’d said without preamble. “A young man who worked for Borgin and Burkes before leaving for parts unknown. Wonder what became of him. Promising lad, though his past was quite...a riddle.”

    “I’m sure.”

    “You be looking for glasses?” the man had questioned. “Do you need lenses? For your eyes?"

    "Um. No. My eyes are fine," Shinji had stated, feeling slightly nervous as the proprietor just looked at him.

    "So they are..." the old man had noted, his voice fey and soft. "So they are."

    "Why?" the boy had added after a beat. "Are these no good?" He’d gestured to the glasses he'd picked up.

    "Are you saying my life's work is of no worth, Matou Shinji?"

    "No, that's not—" And then the boy's jaw clicked shut. "Wait. How did you know my name?"

    "...I listen, lad."

    Old Man Corbenic had glanced over at where Natsumi and Amber were admiring the pocketwatch he’d been looking at earlier. This had been one of the man's other creations, which had been made for a customer, but apparently, had gone unclaimed.

    "Ah."

    "And since I listen, and you spent a fair bit at my humble shop, perhaps you would like to buy the little trifle your friends are examining? A pretty bauble can sometimes get you out of trouble with a girl – or into some trouble, if that's your fancy."

    Corbenic had smiled then, somewhat unpleasantly.

    "...how much? I don't have enough for the both of them," the boy admitted, thinking perhaps the man might be sympathetic to a declaration of poverty. "I'm not very rich you see."

    "And yet you came to Horizont Alley and bought Henderson’s work?” the old man had questioned, seeming almost offended. "Curious choice."

    "...it is what it is."

    "So it is, when young men seek to impress young women," Corbenic nodded sagely. "Perhaps...a slight discount. Unthinkable I know, but let’s say – fifteen thousand for both items, since you remind me of my old colleague. I won't be going any lower than that, so don't waste my time, or yours, trying to bargain."

    Shinji had given it a moment’s thought, but only a moment, as the choice was rather obvious.

    “…very well.”

    It would leave him with just over 2000 Galleons, out of what had been tens of thousands, but he supposed one couldn’t put a price tag on someone’s happiness.

    The man, after he’d passed along an authorization form, had set about explaining how the items worked, with the pocketwatch being straightforward enough. The glasses, however, had a fairly complex control scheme, and four distinct modes.

    Privacy Mode, in which the only things it showed are a "!" if someone has something urgent to say or do, a "?" if someone had information to offer or clues for what one was working on, or a "..." if they were not finished with a thought.

    “Good if you’re the awkward type and just want a hint, here an’ there,” the man had explained.

    Then there was passive mode, which apparently read people’s surface level thoughts and – for the wearer of the glasses – made them above people's heads like word bubbles, allowing one to see what others were thinking, without delving too deeply or any risk of detection.

    Active mode, of course, probed people more deeply, with the effect being improved the close one was – and especially if one was looking into another’s eyes, which the man had noted could be quite useful for negotiations or other important conversations.

    And then there was Interrogation Mode, which was essentially an enhancement of active mode intended to break through occlumency barriers and retrieve information in as much depth and detail as possible, though one would almost certainly be detected when using it, as this was very intrusive.

    “And which mode did you want to set as default?”

    “…passive, please.”

    Still, even those took some getting used to, with the visual clutter giving him a headache once he stepped out onto the street, despite the glasses not being fitted with corrective lenses. No, perhaps it was because they hadn’t been fitted with corrective lenses in this case. Had they been so,
    Matou Shinji would have understood why he had a headache, but as it was...

    'People's thoughts...I can see them...'


    The information wasn't flooding into his mind, thankfully, just onto the inside of his glasses (which would have caused him some anxiety, save that the crafter had explained that only the wearer could see the information on them, via a magical effect similar to that evoked by the Hand of Glory), but it was still overwhelming. People's thoughts - even their surface thoughts - were so incredibly rich, complex, and contradictory - often at odds with what they said or did. It changed how he saw them, though not the point of eroding his trust, since he wasn't a very trusting person to begin with.

    And then...

    "What's so fascinating about everyone else, that you won't spare a glance for us?" Amber chided, with Shinji turning, despite himself, towards her, finding himself feeling a frisson of trepidation at what he might see.

    ...only, as he looked upon her - and Natsumi - the glasses remained blank.

    'Huh?'


    ...was something wrong with his glasses? No, that wasn't it, since when he turned, he could see the thoughts of others pop up on them, but why did they show nothing for Amber and Natsumi?

    "Something on your mind?" Amber questioned

    "It's just..." the boy trailed off, feeling uneasy for some reason. "You heard the shopkeeper talk about what these glasses do, right?"

    "Yes, I heard," Amber noted, with a mischievous gleam in her eyes.

    "Well...they don't work."

    "Ehhh?" Natsumi interjected, blinking. "Even though you paid fifteen thousand galleons for them and that pocketwatch? You should get a refund, Matou-kun!" The chestnut-haired girl seemed unusually emphatic about this, but then, maybe that was to be expected from the daughter of a prominent lawyer.

    "Err, that is, they work on other people," the boy had temporized. "Just not on you two."

    "...heh," Amber had noted with a smirk, realizing what was going on. "Haven't you learned by now that girls are supposed to be mysterious and hard to read?"

    "Urk. Well..." Shinji had trailed off, unable to think of a good response. "...it works on other girls though." The boy had shaken his head then. "But why not you two...?"

    "Matou-kun, you're not the only one who studies Occlumency, you know." So Natsumi had commented wryly.

    "...huh, but where...?" He'd had a book to work off of, not to mention help from Miyuki-senp...oh. "Senpai taught you how?"

    "We practice together," Natsumi had admitted. "But it was Sokaris who taught me how."

    'Sokaris?
    ' But why would she know how...? The boy’s expression had shifted to a frown. Well, given that the Ravenclaw had stared down his monstrous form without flinching, there had to be a trick to it, he supposed. "What else...ah, what else did she teach you?"

    "Just a few things here and there," Natsumi had replied with a sly smile. "Probably nothing you don't already know, from all those books of yours."

    “Tell me?”

    “…only if you tell me what’s in those books of yours,” Natsumi had countered.

    “…fine.”




    Back in the present, he still couldn’t believe what he’d heard from the chestnut-haired girl. He’d had to tell her about soul magic, curses, and all manner of other things, but learning about some of the calculations she was learning to craft, the alchemical formulas, and some of the mind abilities…

    ‘She said…Sokaris was teaching her a method to think
    faster? But that’s…’

    Could that be…was that…thought acceleration?

    But that…that wasn’t possible.

    Thought Acceleration,
    after all, was the exclusive province of the Alchemists of Atlas.

    Did that mean…?

    ‘Could it be…?’


    And if it was so…

    ‘What is she doing at Hogwarts?’




    How does Shinji intend to deal with his suspicions about Sokaris? (choose one)

    [ ] Write her a letter
    [ ] Confront her in person - and directly - ask if she's an Alchemist, and why she's here
    [ ]Pretend he never learned this piece of information - he doesn't want to get in her way
    [ ] Ask Nigel or Professor Quirrell about her - find out more about her before he does anything else
    [ ] Ask Natsumi if he can sit in on a lesson

    How often should he wear his glasses?

    [ ] Only when in class
    [ ] Only when not in class
    [ ] All the time
    [ ] Only for special occasions (like balls or galas)
    [ ] (write-in)
    Last edited by alfheimwanderer; July 3rd, 2018 at 12:02 AM.
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  3. #1223
    [X]Pretend he never learned this piece of information - he doesn't want to get in her way

  4. #1224
    Maybe I'm just reading it wrong, but [Confront her in person - and directly - ask if she's an Alchemist, and why she's here] sounds awfully confrontational. I mean, it even starts with 'confront'. It then seems to become an interrogation, with a significant accusatory tone. Is this how it would actually play out? Because that seems like a terrible idea.

    If it is, then would it be possible to ask her in person without being so hostile about it as a write-in?

  5. #1225
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    You can try.
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  6. #1226
    Quote Originally Posted by alfheimwanderer
    You can try.
    That... sounds an awful lot like Shiji's going to turn it confrontational regardless of his original intentions. Doesn't he know the value of a magus' secrets?[

    [X] Only when not in class

    I get the feeling that using them during class would cause more distractions than it would be worth, and would negatively affect his studies.


    [X] All the time - a good point was made about obsuring why he's wearing them. Of course, he hasn't seemed to need them so far, but maybe he lost his contact lenses...

    For the first vote, I'm not sure yet. On the one hand, I'd like Shinji to know. On the other, Sokaris probably doesn't want to tell him. On the other other, learning Thought Acceleration would be extremely valuable, but Sokaris would almost certainly not want him inviting himself to a lesson. Right now, I'm sitting between [pretending he never heard] and [asking Nats if he can sit in].

    Hmm. If he asks to sit in on a lesson, is that asking for permission from Natsumi? Or is that asking Natsumi to ask Sokaris?
    Last edited by apsalar; July 6th, 2018 at 05:01 AM.

  7. #1227
    [X] All the time

  8. #1228
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by apsalar View Post
    That... sounds an awful lot like Shinji's going to turn it confrontational regardless of his original intentions. Doesn't he know the value of a magus' secrets?
    He does. He's also not very good about the diplomatic confrontation thing.

    Unlike some of his more socially adept peers, this isn't a battlefield he's particularly experienced at it, you see.

    Quote Originally Posted by apsalar View Post
    Hmm. If he asks to sit in on a lesson, is that asking for permission from Natsumi? Or is that asking Natsumi to ask Sokaris?
    He'd ask Natsumi, who would then ask Sokaris. As good of a friend as Shinji is, Nats isn't letting him crash a lesson without permission from her teacher in the mind arts.
    Last edited by alfheimwanderer; July 4th, 2018 at 05:23 PM.
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  9. #1229
    [x] Ask Natsumi if he can sit in on a lesson

    So yeah, confronting Sokaris here will go about as well as confronting Elesa did. There is no leverage that Shinji has to confront her directly. I learned my lesson thank you very much. However hopefully by asking to take part in it, Sokaris would ask/discover the fact that Shinji has a clue about who she is since Shinji is not very subtle yet. Sokaris coming to him is better than the other way around.

    [X] All the time

    Above any other consideration, Shinji has to act like he needs the glasses otherwise people are going to wonder why he is only wearing them half the time. And if they suspect he wearing them not for improving his vision then that leads them down a path based not explored on what they do.

    Now he can pretend he needs it only for reading, but then he not wearing them in the places that he likely will need to use them when he interacts with people. So that leaves us to just wearing them all the time and have people think he needs them.

  10. #1230
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    I see a lot of indecision about how to deal with the Sokaris suspicions...
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  11. #1231
    Sokaris already knows that Shinji has a clue; she gave it to him at the Masquerade, when she introduced herself as Eltnam Atlasia. Seeing his response, she knows that he knows the significance of that name. He just can't figure out what to do his clues.

    [X] Ask Natsumi if he can sit in on a lesson

    My only concern for this option was that Shinji would fuck it up somehow, and that's (mostly) been put to rest, so no reason not to pick it.

  12. #1232
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    [X] Ask Natsumi if he can sit in on a lesson

    [X] All the time




    Finally, after days and days of having things to do, Matou Shinji finds himself with one of those rarest of things: an actually free day.

    What does he do?

    [ ] Explore the Exton Estates
    [ ] Catch up on reading and Occlumency
    [ ] Invite the twins over and practice dueling
    [ ] Floo to Hogsmeade with friends
    [ ] (write-in)
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  13. #1233
    [X] Catch up on reading and Occlumency

    I'd also be fine with dueling. But I really think we need to focus on self-improvement, because there will be challenges that we can't overcome with friendship alone.

  14. #1234
    [X] Catch up on reading and Occlumency

  15. #1235
    [X] Invite the twins over and practice dueling

    Honesty could go with either Occlumency or this but what tips the scale to me is the fact that the entire purpose of this christmas break is bonding with the Twins.

    So I think it we need to spend time with them and not just shut ourselves in our new home. Consider how it looks when as soon as Shinji moved away from them. he shuts himself away from them. Heck he was already doing that when he was at their place. Doing that move now just makes everything worse. Occlumency, I hate to say, can wait. Especially since we are likely to work on it more this year with Sempai and Nats.

  16. #1236
    Also, it hadn't really occurred to me before, but Lucius seems to not be very much of a blood purist. He certainly acts like it most of the time, but it doesn't seem to bother him that no future generation of (main family) Malfoys will be purebloods. Assuming he intends to follow through with this engagement, anyway.

  17. #1237
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    He's something of a pragmatist when it comes to certain families, and increasing his own wealth/influence. And well, the offspring of half-blood x pureblood is actually counted as pureblood, since neither parent is a muggleborn or muggle (which is why the Malfoys have other half bloods in their ancestry).

    So technically, the child of a Nymphadora Black x Draco Malfoy pairing would still be considered pureblood.
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  18. #1238
    吸血鬼 Vampire Desann's Avatar
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    [X] Invite the twins over and practice dueling

  19. #1239
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    [X] Invite the twins over and practice Occlumency (in combat)




    Though it was a free day, Matou Shinji - like nature - abhorred the prospect of letting the time go to waste. There was just too much to be done, too much to study and catch up on if he ever wanted to one day be able to walk by Senpai's side. Even Natsumi and Amber were quickly pulling away from him, in terms of their respective capabilities, as their practical display of the utility of Occlumency had proven.

    'Figures. After spending thousands of galleons on mind-reading glasses, it turns out that they don't work on the people who I'd like to know the most about.'

    Others - well, he didn't care as much about other people, and what they thought. No, he wanted to better understand his friends, who, for all their affection for him, seemed...

    ...well, alien was probably the best word he had to describe what he thought their thought processes must be, though it seemed such an impolite way to put it.

    'And with Natsumi learning what might be thought acceleration...'

    He needed to work harder if he didn't want to be left behind. And yet...he couldn't learn how his friends thought if he didn't spend time with them, so...

    'That's it. I'll have them help me practice Occlumency and dueling at the same time!'

    The practice equipment the Noels had ordered for him should be ready by now, and perhaps it would be a good opportunity to see if he could hide his thoughts? Though they probably didn't know Legilimency, which could be a--

    'I'll just lend my glasses. What could go wrong?'

    Who should he lend the glasses to?

    [ ] Phelan
    [ ] Amber
    [ ] Both, have them take turns
    [ ] On second thought, this is a terrible idea
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  20. #1240
    [X] On second thought, this is a terrible idea

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