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» 19 June 2021 || Took the Stars From Our Eyes, Levi
Nicolette Babineaux
 Posted: Apr 16 2018, 10:57 AM
QUOTE     
Kris is Offline
362
posts
38 years old

Headmistress/Divination

Hogwarts
Hogwarts Staff


The storm whirled overhead, gathered water and ash and stone rising to the meet the painted sky with a shattering thunder that seemed to roll up from the very ground beneath her feet, lightning splintering the world around her into fragments of vision that burned as afterimages like multitudinous paths into the unknown, and Nicolette could only watch her maelstrom as it roared down, hands raised to hold it there like the manifestation of all her rage, a beast fed by indignity and punishment. Even as Morrigan shied away from the cacophony, form shivering down into a twisted darkness that resolved as the blackened feathers of the crow, there was nothing but the rain: her flood to Ashley's fire; the anger she'd hidden behind all her calm. The lightning did not want to let the white witch go, arcs of cutting brightness spitting after her as she took to the sky, threatening the shores of the lake, but Nicolette held it close. Her cloud continued to twist and turn in a thick, roiling column as she watched Morrigan's flight, and as its winds died and dissipated, so too did the black crow fall, struck down by assault from all sides so that all that was left of her was the sharp sound of her remains striking the surface of the water. The tombs were burning as the world righted itself, returning to her in a rush of sound that seemed to break her from the stupor of her earlier charge, and Nicolette stood for long moments, staring into the lake's reflections as she observed that finality with which death's hand could resolve even the most quarrelsome of souls.

What followed rang in her ears like the vacuum of a sudden silence succeeding an immense sound.

There was something disquieting in the familiarity Nicolette found, wandering the charred battlegrounds of Hogwarts' formerly green lawns, but she'd seen it before and somehow suspected she might find it again, that place on the other side of a world newly changed by pain and loss. Where the sky had been so bright before, it seemed to pale with the color of rising smoke and the scent of burning flesh, and water hissed feral as it alighted on each fire so that even as the flames ceased, the smoke simply grew higher until the entire landscape had become an indefinite sort of dream. In the midst of all the haze, Nicolette sent her children on their way, loading up those carriages that remained with their wide, innocent eyes and packing words of comfort in along with them. Ashley would ride to London on the Express and guard against further harm, should it come to it, but the fall of Morrigan seemed final enough that Nicolette trusted their danger was done, and she was needed there. The fighting had finished, but repair stretched before her, a gargantuan beast in its on right.

How long it took to see the last of them off, she could not be certain, but as the last carriage departed through Hogwarts' gates, weariness draped itself heavy across her shoulders, and Nicolette turned to climb the entrance footpath back toward the castle's front doors, steps slow and tired. It would have been so easy to walk the other way, to start her journey as she'd longed to do for months now and find the lonely little cottage she kept for summer's months, tucked away in the isolated woods outside of Hogsmeade; though the thought tempted her, its effort was minimal. Perhaps she'd known already, perhaps even since the moment she'd stepped forward to take on the mantle of Headmistress, that it would not be so easy to leave Hogwarts again, but no longer did she possess the heart to feel sorry. This was her home and she would care for it, pick up its pieces and see it healed, even if the task did appear larger than what she was capable of at the moment and the thought of another step seemed a physical impossibility. She was wishing for rest as she approached the castle's stone walls, and more than that, she was wishing for Levi.

She'd seen him at some point, she could recall, his shape suddenly solid through the acrid fog, but there had been time only to smile at him then, soft and perhaps a little sad, and then she'd lost him once more through the press of students around her. Perhaps he'd only been waiting for her to need him again. As she crested the hill, he seemed to materialize through the brume, etched in dark lines, clear and calm and contained as if reality itself were made of the immaterial and he alone had mastered what it meant to be truly solid. It was the easiest thing in the world, to melt into his arms, and Nicolette did so with a faint smile lingering at the corners of her mouth, slow step carrying her near enough she could lean her weight against his shoulder.

"Bonjour," she murmured quietly. "Did you enjoy your boat ride?"

@Drakky
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Levi Lightner
 Posted: Apr 21 2018, 12:39 PM
QUOTE     
Drakky is Offline
175
posts
41 years old

Astronomy Professor

Hogwarts
Hogwarts Staff


They had been here before. A different place, a different time, but the colours ran together just the same: an infernal miasma of burning red, a choking grey that settled on his tongue in films of ash and turned it to stone. There had been no Lake last time, only a hulking beast of metal rent into a hundred painful pieces - cold as the water and just as empty, now that the squid had fled to the depths to escape their fog of sorrow. The same, the same, in every way that mattered it was all the same; he’d lost the feeling in his fingers just the same, the air hurt his lungs just the same, and the world again seemed fragile and transparent, as though reality had bled away through the wounds pecked open by a hundred black beaks.

There was nowhere safe to look while he walked that wasteland: the sky hung poisonous and grey with lingering smoke, the ground was littered with tragedy and dark, ghastly shapes floated still in the waters of the Lake. It didn’t matter, because Levi felt none of it and saw none of it; he meandered through the devastation as a wraith, soulless and removed, watching it all from somewhere beyond the reach of light and darkness both. This was the only way to remain entire: his hands and his voice and his eyes were needed, but not him. The Head of Slytherin was needed, Professor of Astronomy, teacher and colleague and failed defender, and behind these masks Levi could retreat and fade for a while into comfortable nothing.

She needed her staff, so it was towards her that he wandered, slow and careful across the damp, blackened lawn. It had crunched once, frost-tipped in the winter, and when he’d picked his way along the edges of the forest murmuring treason with Castor Black, but there was no sound that could survive now in the world they’d made - every step was strangely muted, not a single voice echoed, and all he could hear was the roar of his breath and the torrential rush of blood pounding in his ears. Perhaps they had all gone away with him to their silent spaces, leaving empty shells to wander the earth as he did and pick up the pieces so that when they returned, it would not be to quite so much pain.

Or perhaps not. He found her at last, an eternity later, after he’d walked a thousand miles, after he’d learnt every expression a dead face could make and after his arms had grown tired of lifting shells both empty and full to clear the shore of the taste of extinction. And still the hardest thing he’d done was to stand only frozen and silent while she fell against him, until he forced an arm to rise and curl around her and found that that was harder still. She was warm as only the living could be, and it burned him because he was far gone in death and could not explain it to her; the path was straight as an arrow to follow outwards, long and convoluted in the return - he would be trapped along it for hours yet.

Pretense was necessary, then, so that she might pour her tragedy into the shell he’d abandoned and leave it buried there where no-one would feel it again. Words came slow, because his tongue had forgotten speech and it was imperative that he not sound stilted, nor anything less than entirely genuine, entirely present. The school needed her and soon he would too, when he remembered what it was to see and hear and feel again. There was little he knew to say to that at any rate, so perhaps the delay in responding was natural after all - as he spoke he found himself shifting gently away, stepping down the hill towards the dark, waiting gloom of the castle. “I suppose it’s a good sign that you can make light of it. The water was a little...unquiet.

@Kris

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Nicolette Babineaux
 Posted: May 4 2018, 11:16 AM
QUOTE     
Kris is Offline
362
posts
38 years old

Headmistress/Divination

Hogwarts
Hogwarts Staff


He'd seemed to her a contained shape when all the world had broken apart, lines solid and connected as if naught could shatter him, and feet at home where they met the ground; he'd seemed to her refuge in the misty aftermath, and she'd thought them far nearer than this. Nicolette met Levi's shoulder, weary frame relaxing against his, but in that moment her stomach seemed to lurch as if she'd misjudged some distance and overbalanced herself reaching too far for something she'd believed at a much lesser distance. She nearly lifted a hand to steady herself against Levi's side, a sudden surprise catching like a hard lump in her throat, but caution held her fingers at bay and she waited, hovering just there beyond the hem of his robes as his arm rose, reluctant to hold her. The silence was eerie around them, thick with absence; she'd expected him warm, but even in his embrace she felt lonely as if she'd been left with only a ghost. Her cheek knew it was not so, for the fabric of his robes shifted over her skin and there was weight about her shoulders where he held her, but it seemed such weight could just as well have been the heaviness of loss, and the coarseness against her cheek a memory of tears painted in the dry salt they left behind. It was only that she hadn't cried that assured her otherwise.

"Pardon my jest," she said with a soft breath of laughter, an exhalation she'd thought to make her words softer where perhaps she'd been too insensitive before. To her own ears, it seemed a desperate sound, too loud in the quiet, and as Levi shifted away, she allowed his arm to slip from about her shoulders, breath coming shallow in an effort to hide her surprise. "It is...not ze place for lightness, is it." She had not meant to offend him, nor diminish the magnitude of what had just occurred--and to their students, no less--but she needed to rest. She could not go far. It would not have been right to go far. She could not sleep. She could not leave this to anyone else, not now she'd given herself as a voice for the school, her hands for its stones, and at the nearest possible convenience, the Ministry would have to be contacted. Still, there had to be somewhere she could escape to, if only for a little while, if only for a moment of rest. In her thoughts, the world could return to the bright sun and chuckling waters of the earlier afternoon; in her thoughts, her weariness would not be selfish.

"You are...unhurt?" The question seemed to fall inadequate and somehow hollow, for she could see that he was whole. But still he did not feel it. Even when she had not presumed to know him, even the night after the train had leaped its moorings and shaken the faith of them all that they held some power, however small, to keep at bay life's natural inclinations and guard their students against the deepest of tragedies; even then, he had not felt like this--Aura heavy, yes, but real and warm and dark like a space she might turn into for just a while and close her eyes. He'd felt like rest and now she was left to wonder if perhaps she'd misjudged it all. They could not sit in silence and speak of the stars, not this time with the sky turned dull and filmy behind a thin layer of smoke, wan light stealing through to prove that the sun still hovered above them.

Threading her own fingers together, Nicolette started down the hill.

@Drakky
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Levi Lightner
 Posted: May 7 2018, 01:44 PM
QUOTE     
Drakky is Offline
175
posts
41 years old

Astronomy Professor

Hogwarts
Hogwarts Staff


The dice were thrown now, to land wherever they would, and Levi had not the slightest power to influence them; he never did, when the world turned sharp as this and forced him back into the skeleton of who he was, small and dense to occupy only his bones because bones could not feel. Certainly he saw that she was weary, and he saw that there was much she needed, but action and reaction remained hopelessly out of his reach. Like a tortoise terrified of existence, he would emerge only with time - once the universe had calmed, perhaps, once he reached the castle and could feel the permanence of its heavy stonework, deceptive though that may be. Everything had changed again, all at once, in a rush of fire and blood, and he needed something that was the same to remind him of who he’d been before. He didn’t know; how could he know? There was so little of him left to describe, all of it withdrawn so far through the years that he was hidden now even from himself. Levi just was, from moment to moment, except those moments when he was not.

The silence stretched between them, long and snarled with thorns where once it had been only feather-soft; he should say something, he knew, but the construction of sentences was a delicate thing to be approached with a cautious tongue, not one so swollen with tragedy as his was. Maybe lightness did have a place here, and who was he to say otherwise? Lightness they needed above all things, and it was not her fault that he was hidden where no feeling could find him. What a wonderful Headmistress she made - the thought struck him as he glanced back to take her in, exhausted and small but nonetheless gigantic in presence. Lightness. If only she’d brought it to someone who knew how to give it back - to Teague, to Ash, to Delaney, all of them so much more alive than he was. There was a disappointment looming dark in their future, and Levi did not think he could duck out of the way fast enough to avoid it.

Unhurt, yes.” He was surprised to hear his tone dip to distinct sorrow - unhurt, even though all those young ones had died. Unhurt because he’d done nothing to stop it. But if he allowed himself to dwell on these things now he would not recover; with a slow blink and another glance in her direction, he forced himself to continue. “And...you? I saw you...from the boats. Duelling the witch. She is...dead?” The question was near terrifying for all that rested on her answer: what if she was not? After all they’d done, everything they’d thrown at her...surely nothing could have survived such a barrage? And if she had survived, well, what hope did any of them have to stop her when she rose again?

@Kris

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Nicolette Babineaux
 Posted: May 10 2018, 01:32 PM
QUOTE     
Kris is Offline
362
posts
38 years old

Headmistress/Divination

Hogwarts
Hogwarts Staff


She'd hoped to settle peacefully into the world around her, released far easier from the strange dream that was a battleground preoccupied with tearing itself in half; such a theatrical dance, it had seemed to her, watched from so distant a perspective as a mind removed, drifting high above the chaos and content to understand reality as a place in which people hurt and lost and suffered and died as much as they experienced any joy. She'd fallen flat, however, had stumbled in her approach, for she was just another person now, and here was her hurt to return to. Nicolette twisted her hands together tightly, fingertips tracing the shapes of her knuckles, skin smooth yet thick from years of dedicated use and dotted with cracking dryness. There was age there, in the space between fingers, the passage of time made evident in those small, precious signs of wear that attested to the way her body continued even as her mind floated away. It never ceased to surprise her, that she could forget the solidity of her own skin, that it could be a jarring sensation to pull close into her own flesh, contained and alone and only human.

Her eyes fluttered shut for a bare moment at the peculiarity of Levi's voice, soft even as she expected a sharpness to its edges, and for an instant the brush of something like disappointment seemed to pass near that the hem of her robes. It surprised her, so that for a moment she nearly meandered from its path, but it ebbed again as quickly as it had come and Nicolette continued with naught but a slight faltering in her steps and a glance toward Levi that fell low about his knees. There was more there beneath his calm surface, something dwelling deep that she might have touched had she determined to hold him, but what was the point in her searching if he did not want her to? Nicolette swallowed a tightness in her throat as a feeling of foolishness burned through her; that she should be worrying over such a thing now was shameful enough on its own, but even more she felt embarrassed that it had become a worry at all. Levi's feelings were his own to offer or keep as he saw fit. She was owed nothing.

"She is dead," Nicolette responded hollowly, turning to gaze out at the world around them, dreamlike still, even as it grew stark and cold in her eyes. She might have mistaken it for the chill after a warm rain, steam misting up from the grounds and hovering in an oppressive fog, if not for the acrid scent of the burning. I will plant fruit trees, she thought, one for each of our young. And when they grow and bloom the air will turn sweet in memory of this and thoughts of them will not be sour but cherished like honey. The thought was a lightness all her own, and she held it in her palm in the absence of a stone to trace, shaping it until she could feel the cool weight of it there, made physical by the power of her mind and the hope in her heart--something to hold onto.

She allowed their short journey to fall into silence, for so settled as the grounds around them had grown, committed to their animations of ruin, it seemed her voice could carry no power to part its clouds; when at last they reached the oaken doors she paused just at the edge of the cool darkness beyond, half cast in shadow. She wanted to rest, the thought was almost oppressive in her mind, nearly urgent, but she could not fathom how she might allow it, not now. The North Tower was far too far from the chaos of the castle, removed and somewhat lost. She needed to retire somewhere she could be found, but the Headmistress' office would offer no solace, and she could feel it already, the restlessness in her feet that would only require time to find its way into her hands if she did not stifle it now. It would be no rest at all.

"I must..." her voice came soft into the dense quiet, and Nicolette found it had become difficult to speak into the uncertainty that hovered between them. "I must inform ze Ministry. Zey will...want to know she is gone. If zere is...anything you need from me...." she glanced at him then, on the verge of asking yet just as wary of such a gesture. Selfish, again, so selfish, but she could not stomach the thought, just then, of a hand extended and turned away. "If you need me. I am 'ere."

@Drakky
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Levi Lightner
 Posted: May 13 2018, 11:47 AM
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Drakky is Offline
175
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41 years old

Astronomy Professor

Hogwarts
Hogwarts Staff


She is dead.

Levi relaxed marginally, releasing a breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding. Thankfully, Nicolette was still a few paces back and not likely to have seen his reaction; he was so very ashamed of his reluctance to engage the white witch, from beginning to end. He’d been repulsed by the concept of her, by her mere existence, and could not bring himself to confront her throughout her stint at the castle, no matter how dire the situation had become or how great the need of his colleagues. In the end, it had been Nicolette and Ash to take her down, and lucky for Levi that he’d been out on the boats because who knew whether he’d have found the courage to face her? Better inept than a coward.

Every step was a reminder of her fall, as Levi made the transition from crisp, crunchy spring grass to blackened swathes of land that sucked up sounds and would have swallowed him whole had he thought to allow it. There the Inferi had come out of the Lake, there Morrigan had paraded Dumbledore’s corpse, and there the Fiendfyre had roared to life and eaten everything within its reach. The grass would grow again, and next year would bring its crop of fresh-faced first-years, innocently ignorant of the history they walked on, while beneath their feet the soil remembered those who would be forever eleven, or twelve or thirteen. Forever children.

He stopped just outside the heavy doors of Hogwarts, tilting his head back to stare up at them as though truly seeing them for the very first time. If they had been inside when she attacked...if the doors had not yet opened...but Morrigan had been watching, obviously, and had planned everything out to the most insignificant detail. And yet still she had lost, because the universe craved balance and would not suffer one being to hold such power unmatched. His fingers twisted into nervous fists and then loose again, over and over until he thought perhaps he was real at least up to his wrists. The rest of him would have to wait.

Almost the whole way, they’d walked in silence, and now he felt as though he were standing on the edge of a precipice, compelled to answer because not doing so would be a step into black unknown, and perhaps one he would regret once existence had come back to him. “The Ministry...of course. Perhaps I should-...but Ashley has gone to the station, hasn’t he? Then there is no need…” He frowned lightly, as though irritated at his own superfluousness. There was very little to be done in the wake of such destruction, and what little there was did not fall to him on this occasion; he would retreat, then, to his Tower, and allow himself to return bit by bit. The Ministry would be here soon, he had no doubt, and when they arrived he would have to be as present as possible. “You have much to do. I would not add to it.” Slowly, he pushed open the doors. This was something he could suffer alone. “Should you need me, I will be in my office.

@Kris (could be an out)

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Nicolette Babineaux
 Posted: May 20 2018, 04:07 AM
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Kris is Offline
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38 years old

Headmistress/Divination

Hogwarts
Hogwarts Staff


It was not what she had anticipated and not what she had sought him for, their sudden lingering in the doorway as though the both of them stood at the threshold of a change they were not prepared for; a day for culminations and passages into the new and unknown, a day for upheaval, and from it, nothing appeared to be exempt. Nicolette turned to Levi, watching the details of his face, his expression, with a faint sort of disbelief, something mildly staggering in his indifference even still. Perhaps it seemed, if she watched long enough, she would understand, and the way the air seemed to crackle with wrongness and reluctance would shift and it would only be the tiredness that clung to both of them that revealed itself culpable for such misunderstanding. But here was something older than the touch she'd extended, something that had endured before ever Levi had sat down beside her in the Great Hall and wrapped her in some measure of his dark protection, open and welcoming even as he seemed to hide away from the rest of the world. They'd been distant for so long, until he'd volunteered to her his solace, and perhaps it all came back to that in the end because they were not as close as she'd believed.

Nicolette wondered suddenly if it was her own disappointment she'd felt as they crossed the grounds, and as Levi pushed open the doors, she turned away, back toward the mist and the smolder. She had much to do; he would not add to it; it felt the acknowledgement of a chasm between them, and she made no move to stop him as he drifted away with a murmur of professional formality. Had he been waiting, she wondered, for some glimpse of the albatross that hovered about her shoulders, anticipating a level of foresight, a level of control, that could not be there, not for her, not for anyone, not even in Prophecy? Bulgraham had searched for signs of the same in her features, and all at once Nicolette felt exceedingly tired, as though she'd come to the cessation of whatever will it was that had kept her moving forward.

Levi's muted presence faded slowly on into the dark of the castle, but for some time, Nicolette simply stood still, watching as the smoke began to fade into a sheeting, dull brightness--thin and wisp-like, present enough only to reflect the glare of the sunlight and hover in a thin screen that drained the color from the world seen through it. Isolation seemed to settle down beside her in that ringing stillness, still so present despite how she'd tried to walk away from it, and Nicolette allowed herself to ease into it, sinking down to the flagstones that lined the entrance to the castle, cool in the protection of their marginal shade so that the temperature bit sharp through her robes. It was good that it so simply reminded her she was real as she sat perched, watching the end.

OUT

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