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Schematics of Pandora's Box

on Wed Jun 21, 2017 1:14 am
It had started out routinely enough, at least as far as ER's went. It was a perpetual flow of patients' unpredicted illnesses and injuries. He believed Zabini was here on some sort of task but he had not yet seen him. Robert had seen a young man, newly married, who had wanted to rid his new home of doxies and had been overtaken and bitten until he was more than a little uncomfortable. He'd dealt with a number of typical summer time things--sunburns and the like.

He was leaving a treatment room after reassuring an anxious mother about her son's stomach ache, which had turned out to be the boy's overindulgence in a box of chocolates, to which the boy had denied vehemently until faced with Robert. He'd found the business amusing and had eased both parent and child and sent them on their way, but as he was about to return the boy's chart to the nurses' station, the senior nurse on the floor hurried over to him.

"You'd better not plan on going anywhere for several hours," she said. "We're about to get very busy."

"What's happened?" Robert asked.

"There's a group of elderly witches and wizards being brought in. I don't entirely understand it, but apparently they were going to travel together somewhere for a holiday. There's some confusing story about them trying to save some galleons by buying a couple of black market port keys and getting badly splinched."

"That's apparating, not porting," Robert frowned. Black market portkeys--when would people ever learn not to buy those things?

"All I know is what I was told. We'd better be ready because it sounds like it's a mess. We're gathering supplies and..." Robert did not miss what she was saying, not entirely, but, he also was thinking of looking out for Zabini. The lad was most likely not entirely braced for what they were about to see and deal with.

"Where's Zabini?" Robert interrupted her.

"What zucchini?" she stopped midstream, looking blankly at him. Robert tried to resist rolling his eyes at her.

"Not a what--a who. The apprentice. Where is he?"

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Re: Schematics of Pandora's Box

on Fri Jun 23, 2017 4:39 pm
[ooc: hahahahahaha yes. 10/10 for that pun.]


Apollo was around, though he was only half paying attention to everything around him. After all, the day before had been his seventeenth birthday, and - surprisingly - people had remembered. Having a summer birthday meant he and Christian were towards the younger end among their classmates, but the boys had gone to their parents' - however reluctantly - for lunch before reconvening at Apollo's flat in order to spend some time with a few close friends. He was shocked to find, that evening, that they stayed up much later than usual and actually had a fair amount of fun despite their previous distance.

So now, he was a little tired to be sure, but mainly he was just distracted by how different things were now. How good they were. How unusually and perhaps undeservedly happy he was. But that could apparently cause problems, considering he wasn't really listening to the sudden influx of noise around him.

The healer Robert talked to had no idea who he was on about, at first, but someone walking by knew who the Minister was on about. Two minutes later, Apollo Zabini was alert once more and striding down the hall with renewed purpose. He was looking forward to working with Robert again, though he hoped that it would be a bit more than hunting ingredients this time. His experience with Corner had made him nervous about getting hands-on experience.

He walked into a hallway full of elderly patients, and blinked a little in surprise. He had no idea why St. Mungo's was so understaffed, but it was almost laughable for a moment. How in the world were they supposed to cover everybody at this rate?

Apollo walked up alongside Robert, eyebrow lifted curiously. "I could be wrong, but this seems unusual. What's happened?"

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Re: Schematics of Pandora's Box

on Fri Jun 23, 2017 7:44 pm
Robert saw it was beginning. There was a panicked rush of people bringing in elderly wounded—walking wounded, wounded in wheelchairs, and wounded on stretchers. Healers and nurses raced to immediately start to triage the patients to try to prioritize them. They came in so fast that the treatment rooms filled up immediately and other victims started lining the halls. This wasn’t the first Robert had seen this sort of thing, but there was great deal of blood and gore from what he’d been told was a dangerously malfunctioning portkey, clearly not made by a licensed portkey creator.

“It is unusual. Bloody black market portkeys. I swear I'll put them all out of business. Senior citizens group--all splinched somehow by a cut-rate portkey.  Be careful--pace yourself, Zabini, because this is going to get a little phrenetic,” Robert told him in a steady, calm tone, heading towards what looked like the worst of the patients. He did not want the young man being any more panicked than necessary. “We do magic, not miracles. Stay close if you wish…”

“Life! Life!” Someone was screeching something sounding nonsensical, and Robert didn’t really pay any attention to it, not exactly. It happened in situations like this where people were so desperate and suffering from panic and shock. There was a din of screaming and moaning, and he had numbed himself to be able to see who needed help first. They all wanted help, but he was obligated to serve the worst first. He was passing a very old woman on a gurney when she reached out and snagged onto his hand, clutching onto him like an iron vice. In a fraction of a second, he felt his own energies being yanked out of him, and it completely blindsided him. He hadn’t been so completely out powered since he was a first year. Whoever this old witch was, she had dark energy working powers and abilities like he had never dreamed were possible. He had tried to shake loose, to fight her off, to…

He realized she wasn’t looking for healing—not like he believed in. She was convinced she was dying, and she was terrified and looking for self-preservation, regardless of who she had to hurt to make that happen. He could feel that much as her own energies started to race through his system, and she had begun trying to drain off his healthy life energies and offload her own pain and injuries onto him just to escape her own fate.

Bloody hell—she’s transferring….no…. stop…it’s too much…” His mind was rebelling and trying to make it all stop. Transferring could easily be deadly. It was the one thing an energy worker never wanted to do, but faced with death, that was exactly what this old woman was desperate enough to try, and once she had realized he was also an energy worker, she had latched onto him like iron.

If he couldn’t stop her, her damage would soon start manifesting on him in a noticeable way. Bones would break, he would bleed, and his own physical systems would start to fail like hers were failing. He would die, and she would heal.  He had not realized this might even be possible to this extent, but he was realizing quickly that there was far more to energy work than what little he knew. She was willing to kill him in order to save herself, and he was now sharply aware she was not going to let him simply disconnect. She had some sort of a magical hold on him that he could not disconnect from. He did not know anyone could simply lock on like she had, and he had no intention of not putting up a fight.

He had to offset her energies from his systems himself. It was the only way to stay alive and defend himself so he did not have to keep the terrible damage as his own. He needed the physical touch of another to bolster what strength he already did not have. Before he’d even realized it, he’d blindly reached out and clutched onto whoever he could find within his grasp.

Whoever he’d grabbed was not a trained energy worker, he could feel that. Young, healthier than he was now, …and, wait…he recognized who it was. Zabini. He knew magical signatures. That was part of what he needed to know as a healer to recognize what was normal and what was not for each particular patient, but this was not a patient. This was his apprentice—and an apprentice he was very fond of.

Zabini! Damn! It had been pure instinct and adrenalin to find a way to ground away the black parasitic energies like an out-of-control electrical current, but partnering with Zabini? That wasn’t okay. Still Apollo’s energies could serve as the merely a ground if Robert could direct it to simply run through him much like water running over him and off again. Regardless—whether Zabini knew it or not, Robert’s survival at the moment completely depended on young Zabini. Robert truly did not know if he would survive if Zabini shook off Robert’s grasp.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, just give me a moment. I’ll work it out, I promise, he thought, wishing Zabini could hear him and understand even a modicum of this. I only need one little moment. God, I hope you trust me, Lad.

Ground her away from him. I can’t let it hurt him. The toxic energies needed to only pass through Zabini. They could not stay, not if Robert had anything to do with it. He wanted to focus to simply ground and not transfer the injuries in any way onto Zabini, and he knew he did not dare to make contact with the young apprentice for more than a few short seconds at best. If he let go too soon, Robert knew he would die, but if he did not let go in time, well…he would have to let go, regardless of the old witch’s intentions, and regardless if his own systems were responding properly again. No other option was acceptable.

What is that?  A sudden deep internal anguish began to sweep all through him. It isn’t mine—it’s her! You cheeky old biddy! Who do you think you are? He’d never seen or heard for himself any sort of that freaky seer’s stuff that Kate or Khaat did, and straight off, he didn’t want to. He hated seeing or feeling anything that wasn’t his own, but he saw a flash for a fraction of a second. The black market portkey was an old, moth-eaten wool cartwheel hat, and the group had all chipped in on the cost, expecting a portkey made in the legal way. The witch had bought the discounted portkey in order to keep the difference to put into her own pocket, deliberately deceiving and robbing her friends and putting everyone’s lives at risk, and now she was paying the price and was afraid.

So that’s it, is it? Did this to yourself. Robbed your friends with no thought to their lives and now you want to rob me of mine too? I have no pity for you. I won’t accept your broken bones or your bleeding. You might have gotten past your friends, but you won’t get past me.

The flash of the faded milk chocolate colored hat was intruded upon and overloaded with a flash of an old memory of his own. He was six again. Remus was five, and they shared a bedroom in the little cottage his family had. One night, he’d been awakened by a noise, and he’d seen an enormous hulking figure creeping in the window. He remembered trying to hide by pressing himself tight against the wall, making himself as small as possible. He remembered Remus’s terrified, painful screams as the monster saw only Remus, attacked only Remus, drawing in their father. He remembered shaking in panic and peeking out from under the blanket and witnessing the fierce battle his father waged, without any thought to his own life, to drive the demon away. It was, singularly, the bravest thing Robert’d ever seen—even now--but the damage had been done.

They never looked for me. They never looked to see if the monster got me too or if I was even there. No one missed me.  He remembered how desperate it had all been, how frightened his mother was for Remus, how overwhelmed his father had been with guilt. Nothing moved without tears, no words uttered without pain, no food prepared, no light through the drapes. Life, as the Lupins had known it, would never be again, and in the days that passed, despite being too young to comprehend it all, Robert had seen hours of anguished adult conversations at his injured brother’s bedside between his mother and father, his father saying that he’d failed, that he’d failed as a father, failed as a man, because protecting the ones he loved was all that mattered—it was the only thing. Lyall had believed he had bungled everything that irreparably. It was not permissible to show it, but Robert knew the burden had never diminished.

It was what Robert had learned mattered. It had labeled Remus, him and his parents as “that” family, the animals, the monsters. His parents never dared to take Remus to St. Mungos, even as serious as the wound was because of greater fear of where Remus might end up being taken to. He didn’t remember when it had dawned on them that Robert yet lived, or if it had just been a foregone conclusion. Robert had sunken himself into any book he could find in the house as soon as he could read. Lyall had never blamed Robert for not protecting Remus, not that Robert had ever heard, but Lyall repeated the lesson to him often enough, until it was indelible in his brain. A successful man did not ever give a jot about the cost to himself so long as he protected of the ones he loved.

I will never let my children forget they are loved, not ever, he’d repeated to himself when he was small, not necessarily parroting his father, but rather to parent himself. He’d stuck to that, and he had done his best to convey that to Khaat, Brian, and every other youngster he’d taken underwing—including the young apprentice upon whom his life energies were depending. And at the moment, Zabini would be at risk if Robert did not pull himself out of the negative energy’s effects and put his all into separating himself now from Zabini. He had only one idea left, and he had to make it count.

“Return!” Robert bellowed, commanding the old witch’s ill-intentioned magic to spin back and fire from him back upon her. He wanted to startle her into stopping the drain to keep anything from leeching over to the boy. Then, his only other thought left was to try to use all of whatever he had left to make a complete severing of himself from Zabini. His family, he believed, would understand

“Let go, you old cow!” he heard the charge nurse suddenly bellow, inadvertently interrupting Robert’s best intentions and striking the old woman’s hand, doing what Robert had been unable to do for himself--knocking Robert free from the old crone. The force of it threw him unintentionally away from Zabini too, and his last thought before he lost his grip on the boy was his own desperation to try to insure that Apollo’s safety.  He fell, momentarily stunned. Zabini—where was Zabini?

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Re: Schematics of Pandora's Box

on Fri Jun 23, 2017 9:05 pm
Apollo had expected something bad, of course, but he hadn't paid a great deal of attention to the black market world. Then again, he was discovering all sorts of things that he had apparently failed to notice or invest his time in. So he couldn't feel surprised at that point. But he wasn't sure what he could do besides minor healing spells, so while Robert worked on those who needed it most, Apollo tried to calm others by sorting out small cuts or by providing little pours of dittany for those that looked just bad enough but not so horrible that he could risk making it worse inadvertently.

But then Robert got quiet, and just as Apollo turned to look at his most prominent mentor, Lupin flung a hand out and grabbed onto the apprentice's wrist.

Shock, mainly, washed over him. Vague, blurry images of pain, horror and what Apollo would later describe as literal nightmares. Images of young boys, one attacked and one ignored. It felt like he couldn't breathe, and perhaps he'd stopped trying to somewhere in there. His chest clenched, and panic sped downwards from the top of his head and towards the floor beneath them.

What felt like hours later, Apollo fell backwards against a wall, almost unable to brace himself as his feet slipped. Bleeding heck, what was that? His wide eyes dove towards Robert, and something instinctive within him knew that the kids he'd seen were Lupin and his brother.

But he still didn't understand. It still felt like something was wrong inside him, like he was shivering. Maybe he really was. "Minister?" He asked, suddenly unable to explain what he wanted to ask. Moreover, he wasn't sure he'd be able to explain what he felt if questioned, so he just stood there, leaning heavily against the wall with an utterly dumbfounded look on his face.

What he didn't understand, really, was why Robert had grabbed hold of him. Apollo didn't want to see any of that, and now felt like he could never un-see it. Already, he was nervous about going to sleep that night. Who knew what he would see when he did? He couldn't help the fact that a bit of hurt worked its way onto his face, as well.

Not pain, mind you. Just in the internal sense. Because, wasn't a man like Robert supposed to look after their chosen apprentice? It hadn't really been stated as such, but Apollo had just presumed. But now he'd been thrown through the actual ringer without warning or immediate explanation afterwards. Perhaps he'd expected too much, or maybe the profession was more dangerous than he'd anticipated. But it didn't matter, because he hated feeling weak and scared.

Yet, here he was. Feeling exactly that.

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Re: Schematics of Pandora's Box

on Fri Jun 23, 2017 9:48 pm
Nurse Agatha, who had knocked Robert's hand free, saw Zabini overcome too, but she believed she had seen Zabini take Robert's hand, not the other way around. Robert was dazed. She didn't know exactly what had happened, but she'd seen enough damaged seers to recognize he had that same "lights-on-nobody-home" look. Zabini didn't look more than a thin thread better.

She went to him and cast her eyes over him in a quick visual once over. So far he looked like he was all attached, good. No limbs laying apart from their owner.

"You're not bleeding, are you?" she asked the lad. "You saved his life, you know. Thank you." Nurse Louise went over to Robert's form on the floor, and knelt beside him. "Louise?" Agatha asked.

"He'll be alright. Give him a minute to chase the bats out of his belfry," she replied. "Bloody tough way to earn your stripes, Zabini. Might take a few minutes to feel like yourself again." Louise looked up at the figure of the old woman on the gurney, and the old woman gave her a toothy grin and started to laugh bitterly. A young healer went to approach the woman. "Don't touch her!" Louise said sharply.

"But she'll die," the healer protested.

"She's dead anyway," Louise said coldly. "Damned energy vampires. The Minister's energies will only last a moment longer. There's nothing we can do. Go on to the next."

Agatha looked at Zabini another moment. He was fiercely confused, and she felt for the boy. "Let me see if I can explain a little. The Minister was attacked by that old battle-axe, and as near as I can guess, her energy was too much for him. I don't understand how it's done, but sometimes when an energy worker is about to short circuit their magical system, if we can make physical contact with them, their energy passes straight through us, rather like water though a straw. Does feel frightening, I'll grant you. Doesn't usually hurt us, but it can save the energy worker's life. You alright? Can I help you?"

Out of the corner of her eye, Agatha saw Robert waking and trying to right himself.

"I'll go brew a pot of seers' tea in the staff lounge for both of them," Louise said, getting up and leaving them.


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Re: Schematics of Pandora's Box

on Sat Jun 24, 2017 4:00 am
Apollo looked down sharply when the nurse asked whether or not he was injured. On a physical level, he didn't think so, but on the internal scale? Yeah, pretty damn. He shook his head, though, considering he had absolutely no idea what had happened or if he was even supposed to mention it. After all, he couldn't be sure if this was some sort of thing attributed to seers - and if that were the case, Apollo didn't think he was prepared to take that in at the moment.

But saving someone's life? That wasn't at all what this felt like. And he hadn't done a bloody thing, actually. Robert had grabbed onto Apollo, not the other way around. Apollo wasn't even half skilled enough to save somebody as powerful as the Minister of Magic.

Still, as he glanced down the hallway, people were staring with open mouths, and days later Apollo would feel like people were watching him, only for his picture to end up on the front page of the Daily Prophet of all things. Merlin help him when his parents found out. Or, rather, when they heard the rumor.

So he just blinked at the nurses as they continued to talk him up, much to his immense confusion and surprise. But they seemed to realize that this sort of thing was uncommon - especially for the young man in question. So maybe they presumed he'd read up on whatever had just happened and given it a go, bravely though perhaps foolishly. That was clearly not the case.

"Energy vampires?" Apollo repeated, baffled. That was an entirely new concept. Thank Merlin someone decided to clue him in.

"I don't know. Maybe I should just wait a little, like you said," he replied, looking at Robert rather than at the nurse herself.

But then some sort of tea to do with Seers was mentioned, and he nearly startled visibly. Yeah, he didn't want to worry about what that might mean for him. Not right now. He was far too out of it for such things. So instead of responding properly to the nurse, Apollo stepped around unceremoniously, and looked at Robert again.

The Minister had used Apollo to stay alive, and usually such things didn't hurt. Apollo had been made the bearer of the risk, but Robert was still alive. So he didn't know how he felt about it, now understanding the situation a bit better. All he could actually do, unfortunately, was stand there, distant and confused.

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Re: Schematics of Pandora's Box

on Sat Jun 24, 2017 4:39 am
Robert was getting a bit of an understanding now about how Kate and Khaat felt when their energies were completely tapped. That, and it drew him back to feeling like he was eleven again.

"Of all things," he sighed, disgusted with it. It rather felt like that evil old witch had crawled all through his magical system, leaving him to feel like he needed to shower inside and out.

"Can you sit up, or shall I roll your carcass over for you?" Agatha asked Robert dryly.

"Thank you, no," Robert sighed, tiredly. He managed to sit up, lean back against the wall, groaning. His head pounded. He glanced over at Zabini. "I'm so sorry," he sighed. "I didn't see that coming. I didn't mean to grab you, but I'm grateful you were there."

"I told him she was an energy vampire," Agatha said.

"Figure of speech," Robert told Apollo. He glanced at the old crone on the gurney. She looked dead, from a distance, but he wasn't sure. "She panicked when she knew she was dying and reached out to grab hold of me, probably to try to get my attention, but when she touched me, she knew I was an energy worker. I've never seen an energy worker with as much power as she had, and her's were dark energies at that. Someone like me is worth more to someone like her because of all the years I've spent training in energy work."

"I also told him he'd saved your life--because he did," she told Robert, looking at Louise who was waving from the staff lounge doorway.

"That is the short explanation of it," Robert said to Apollo. "I'll try to clear it up for you shortly."

"Your tea is ready, Robert. Will you need help to get up?" Agatha asked.

"I don't know yet. Find us some chocolate, would you?"

"You want tea, or do you want candy?" Agatha scowled at him.

"Just get the chocolate, would you? We can manage the tea. And call any available staff down to help down here with the wounded. Just do not touch her--no one. I'll deal with her myself in a little bit." He managed to get to his feet on his own. After righting himself for a moment, he started to feel like he was getting a bit of his own back.

As he was standing there, he was already hearing the scuttlebutt in the house about Zabini being a hero, a child prodigy, saving the Minister's life.  Robert rolled his eyes. This was not anything he'd counted on, and he felt fairly sure it wasn't anything Apollo was going to be jumping for joy about either. He looked again apologetically at Apollo.

"I really need a bit of peace and quiet, and it looks like you do too. Coming?" he asked. "We'll make sense of it, but I'd prefer we not do it out here..." he cast a glance around all the spectators. "All things considered. Come on. Can you make it? I'll tell you about this tea. I think you'll like it, really. Agatha, if you let anyone in to bother us I swear..."

"I know, I know. Bug jars and matchboxes. I know," she said, gesturing for them to get moving towards the lounge.

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Re: Schematics of Pandora's Box

on Fri Jun 30, 2017 5:42 am
Apollo wanted to say no, at first. To claim that he needed to go home because he was... late. Or busy. Or too freaked out by everything to stay and listen and try to handle his reaction in front of another person. Not that he wouldn't just end up going back to Lily after this if that were the case. And he wasn't sure how he'd explain it to her if he didn't stay and learn the truth. It would end up worrying her more than she would admit, he really believed that.

So, evidently, that wasn't a real option. He would go with Robert whether he felt confident in his choice or not.

That didn't stop the outrageously arched eyebrow when the nurse spoke as they walked by. What? Oh, Merlin, who cared? Everything was confusing and weird already, so whatever.

Apollo trailed along behind the Minister, his attention pretty much shot, as far as knowing where he was going went. His fingers curled into his palms over and over as they walked, moving into a room that would apparently be uninterrupted while some sort of explanation was offered. Inside, he immediately found a place to sit and then looked around a little before giving up and blurting out his question.

"Does whatever just happened mean that I'm a seer or something? Cause I don't know if I want to deal with that."


Last edited by Apollo Zabini on Sat Jul 01, 2017 3:13 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Schematics of Pandora's Box

on Sat Jul 01, 2017 2:48 am
Zabini looked a bit worse for wear, Robert had to admit. It wasn't what he intended. He did rather wish Kate were here. She was better at the mothering that was sometimes required after someone suffered an energy drain. Come to think of it, he could use a tad of her hovering himself. Ah, well. He knew he had to suck it up and deal with it.

First things first. There was a vending machine here. It ran on sickles. He fished in his pocket for a couple of sickles, deposited them, and was immediately rewarded with no candy. Fabulous. Ripped off by a vending machine--these were no better than muggle machines, and now was not the time for it when he was not awash with patience. He snapped his finger at the machine in irritation, watching two chocolate frogs drop to the bottom of the machine. He fished them out and handed one to Zabini.

"My brother did get this bit right. Eat it. It does help," he said quietly. "The hows and whys of it aren't important. Magic does weird things." He was actually more interested in the tea. He poured a couple of mugs of tea.

"This seems to help, too, for some reason," he said. "It isn't black tea, but do drink it anyway. It's an herbal thing for energy drains that my wife's family has sworn by for longer than her family remembers. Her family calls it Seers' Tea, but, more accurately, it seems to help rebalance magical energy systems. Between the tea and the chocolate, it should help you feel better."

He hadn't forgotten Zabini's question. He'd merely postponed it while he tended to first things first. He sat down tiredly and leaned back in his chair, sighing heavily.

He didn't know exactly how to explain what he didn't entirely understand himself. This was more Kate's bailiwick than his. He did not know why he'd actually seen much of anything, unless that miserable old biddy had been one. If she had any medical records, perhaps he could answer that. Perhaps.

And, actually, he didn't feel much like explaining until he'd had a sip or two of tea. It wasn't his first brush with the veil, and it would surely not be his last--but, still, he hadn't wanted Zabini to be a witness to it. That was the bit that bothered Robert. He had no intention of creating any nightmares for anyone. He had worked for a long while to try to develop a certain amount of control, at least for appearances sake. And when it had mattered, what had he done? He'd reacted without that control and let instincts take command. So much for emotional distance. Hopefully, he hadn't seen all that much anyway. Training--he needed to return to his training, he decided.

"You're not a seer," he replied quietly. "Not that I know of, anyway. I'm sorry about grabbing you like that. I hadn't intended to. Long story short, she didn't have a chance to fry me because you kept her from it.

"It would not be unheard of for someone in your position to have seen things or heard things that were not yours," he said absently fiddling with the chocolate frog box. "If you remember, Harry had similar things happen, and he was surely no seer either. It certainly can happen. The mechanics were different in his case, but it's close enough. You could have seen things that were hers, or you could have seen things that were mine." He was startled by the frog leaping out of the chocolate box and disappearing behind the staff lounge sofa. "Oh, blast. Totally off my game now, aren't I? Buggar."

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Re: Schematics of Pandora's Box

on Tue Jul 04, 2017 5:11 am
He wasn't answering. Not a great sign. And, okay, so it was hardly the worse news he could've received. After all, the scars on his chest suggested entirely difference problems he could have been stuck with. At least seers had the potential to do some good.

Apollo cut off that line of thought immediately, unwilling to consider what that meant for the alternative -- that is, for what Lily was. She wasn't like that.

He reached out automatically, accepting the drink and chocolate. He didn't start on either for a little while, though, still waiting. Robert sat, and Apollo started to believe that this man he thought of as his mentor, as a strong adult figure in his life, just didn't know the answer. That, or he didn't want Apollo to know the truth, given how blatantly haunted he still looked.

But then.

Relief overwhelmed him, regardless of the twisting in his stomach, and he decided to give the tea a go first. It wasn't half bad, he found, and so he took another sip as Robert went on. The Minister's frog abandoned him just as Apollo opened his mouth to reply, but he waited until the nerves had settled instead.

"I think-- I mean, I could be mistaken. But I thought I saw... you, and some other lad. But, you know, younger obviously. I'm not sure," he shook his head. It was easy to presume who the other boy would be, but it was only based on the Minister's last name. And perhaps that wasn't legitimate, Apollo didn't know. But he was quite certain he'd seen two younger boys. And it hadn't been good. "I guess, I mean, it could've been something she's seen. It was... dark."

A little slither of uncertainty slid up his spine and he found it impossible to suppress the fidgeting of his fingers on the cup as he shifted in his seat.

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