Title: over the river and through the woods
Walburga Black - November 10, 2011 08:32 PM (GMT)
Walburga had never been in the Forbidden Forest before. Throughout her five and some-odd years at Hogwarts thus far, she had avoided it through a variety of means, from simply refusing to go and accepting either docked points or an alternate assignment or invoking the help of her father, who could always be counted on to be displeased at the thought of his daughter trouncing through the woods. But this time there had been no way to get out of it. Professor Slughorn had announced that the next exam would be taken with a partner, that it would involve creating a potion from fresh ingredients the pair had collected themselves from the Forbidden Forest. There was no way that Walburga had been able to find to avoid the bitter agony of venturing into the forest, although she had requested of Professor Slughorn that she be partnered with someone appropriate.
Apparently Slughorn lacked any sort of idea as to what "appropriate" meant, for now Walburga was standing in the Forbidden Forest with her arms full of mushrooms and other things that her partner had pulled from the ground, very close to the edge of tears at the thought of what must be living in the dirt now covered her robes and blouse. Despite her deep distress at the situation, she still managed to spare a vicious stare for the back of the mudblood's head: Grugwyn Rufford (a ridiculous name, suitable for filth, she supposed) may have come with the professor's most excellent recommendations, but he was still filth.
Perhaps it would have been better to fail the class and withdraw in shame than to have subjected herself to this. Walburga was trembling not from cold (although it was night-time; Professor Slughorn had mentioned that it was best to gather a majority of their ingredients in moonlight) but from pure, unadulterated terror. There were things worse (if possible) than mudbloods lurking in the Forest, or so she had hear: werewolves, centaurs, all sorts of foul mixes of human and animal that surely had no right to exist. She wished that Alphard was there, or, barring that, Cygnus - or, if nobody else could be found, even Orion.
But instead she was left with a mudblood in a bow-tie. She thought that she might faint.
Instead she pulled the mushrooms closer to her chest as if they could protect her and recoiled after a moment when she realised where they'd come from. Stepping delicately over a raised root that she could barely see in the moonlight, she glanced up from the ground and tried to pretend that she wasn't probably breathing in all sorts of contaminants from the halfbreeds that she was sure were hidden in the Forbidden Forest around her.
"How much longer is this going to take?" she called ahead imperiously towards Rufford's back. There was a distinctly wide, carefully measured space between them; Walburga refused to come close to the mudblood and had insisted that she would only pick up the mushrooms he'd gathered from a rock in the middle of a clearing once he'd retreated to its edge. She had far better things to be doing than trailing around after a mudblood in the Forbidden Forest in the middle of the night. Surely he could do this alone.
Grugwyn Rufford - November 12, 2011 03:11 PM (GMT)
Slughorn's reasoning may well have been that Grugwyn was one of the top students in the year. Perhaps naively he had expected this was the criteria upon which Walburga might judge a class partner. There was some evidence to suggest, however, that it had been a far more canny choice -- whilst pairing a muggle born student with Walburga Black may on the surface seem a grievous error, Slughorn likely knew well enough that Grugwyn Rufford was as unflappable as they came, and that no matter how shrill or demanding Miss Black proved to be on the trip into the forest, he would be clinically disinterested in the lack of social parity between them. So it was that as she called her instructions from the rear, Grugwyn stooped to retrieve a small sample of fungus for his own collection, oblivious to the growing discomfort his partner experienced.
"It's a mutation," he explained helpfully, holding up the small sample jar between thumb and forefinger, "quite rare, in the Muggle world, but perhaps there is a magical reason for its occurrence -- I mean to plant some in the toilets and see if the change in light source affects it at all."
He tucked it into the breast pocket of his blazer.
"I am not certain that we have sufficient ingredients for the experiment," he added, glancing at her. "I am not familiar with your work in Potions and so must collect an amount suitable for redoing the entire brew if you prove incompetent enough to ruin the first attempt. Furthermore there are at least two more items on this list we are yet to discover."
Grugwyn delivered this as though it was all terribly matter-of-fact, and to him it was. Walburga Black had never been one of his subjects, and he was beginning to see that she might make a good one. He looked at the list of ingredients. Of the two they had left, one of them was a flower that only bloomed in the moonlight, and even then only near a source of water. The other was an insect.
"You appear to be sufficiently capable of carrying the burden you bear with room for more," he said. "Is this not the case?"
Walburga Black - November 19, 2011 01:31 AM (GMT)
Walburga was terribly pleased at that moment that men and women didn't use the same lavatories. The thought of pushing open the door to a stall and seeing whatever was in the mudblood's hand was horrifying - almost as horrifying as him thinking that she was interested in his collection of filth on the side. Having spent her entire life in the rarefied upper echelons of the wizarding world, she really had no idea what a mutation technically was, besides the fact that there was something wrong with it. That was all she needed to know, really - that and the fact that the mudblood was interested in it automatically precluded it from anything she would ever think or worry about.
"I beg your pardon," she said sharply, "but I'm sure you're the one more like to 'prove incompetent.'"
It made perfect sense in her mind: clearly being a mudblood made him a far less talented and capable wizard, and that status quite obviously made him more like to be the one to ruin their entire attempt at brewing the potion. Why, she was sure he was just attempting to shift the blame onto her so that when everything went wrong in class he could point to Walburga and whine and claim it was her fault when it was clearly his.
"You are a mudblood, after all," she added helpfully. "And you may think again if you think I'm going to carry anything beyond these mushrooms."
That 'mudblood' was generally considered a rather horrible thing to call someone didn't bother her in the slightest. It was true, after all; there was no reason for her to mince words with someone as awful as Rufford was proving to be. He'd made her carry filthy mushrooms and now he wanted her to carry more things?
It was as if Slughorn was after her. She ran over the past few classes in her mind, trying to recall if she'd done anything that someone not as understanding of the rights and privileges of the Blacks (and, she admitted, perhaps a few other families) might take as insulting. But no, Slughorn generally knew whose favour it was ideal to curry, and he'd never been anything but polite and encouraging to Walburga.
No, her detentions didn't come from her Head of House, and she had no idea why this particular trial had come from him.
Grugwyn Rufford - November 21, 2011 11:27 PM (GMT)
"Do you find scientific basis for your prejudice, or is it purely personal?" Grugwyn asked, though it was posed genuinely, and not as a return slight in the least. He was so socially removed that he was incapable of reading her ire with anything remotely like accuracy, he presumed that she was discontent with the task set because it was in the forest, and she was, at least outwardly, apparently a girl.
"I wonder because though I am well apprised of the apparent stigma of being Muggleborn, I am yet to find any reasonable evidence that proves it."
Grugwyn was already beginning to ponder what sorts of blood tests he might perform to prove or disprove the notion, even as he tramped listlessly over the muddy forest ground. Far from being hurt by her slander, he absorbed it as though it were nothing. The only thing that was guaranteed to work Grugwyn up to an ire was presenting scientifically unsound data.
Or perhaps being an alleged expert in social sciences.
Walburga Black - November 22, 2011 04:06 PM (GMT)
She took it personally, of course. Walburga took everything personally, from the way the rain would fall just so and land along her collarbone and trickle downward to mudbloods in class getting higher grades than she did. Of course, it was merely because they were required to work at magic if they wanted to better themselves beyond their miserable beginnings, whereas she was engaged and set in the course of her life, but that didn't mean receiving an E while some filthy brat gloated over his O didn't bother her.
"It's not an apparent stigma," Walburga sniffed, stepping carefully over roots. "It's a well-known truth. Sometimes I'm not sure how you could possibly bear being so filthy all the time. It must be awful, I imagine."
Of course, she didn't take the time to imagine it. The mere thought of being born a mudblood was enough to make her skin crawl; she had no desire to spend more than a moment necessary thinking about the filth with which she was forced to fraternise. How did they even manage in the Wizarding world, having grown up steeped in Muggle superstition and foolishness before they learned how the world world properly? The thought bottled the mind.
It was unfortunate, then, that it seemed that this task was still far from completion. Walburga paused, perched on top of a rock, grateful she'd thought far enough ahead to wear her flattest, most comfortable shoes, before stepping down with a grace born of years of learning to dance properly. "What is there left to find?" she demanded.
Grugwyn Rufford - December 19, 2011 02:50 PM (GMT)
"A well known truth?" Grugwyn repeated mildly. "A widely believed fact. Truth is absolute, it is either known or it is not known, in which case it is not yet proven. I am yet to find anything in which I am notably deficient that cannot be traced to other means, which, I find, makes it difficult to prove blood purity is the cause. There is no direct linkage between cause and effect in this instance."
Had Grugwyn been the sort to take such discrimination personally his words might have become heated, but as it was he tramped rather lifelessly ahead of her and spoke over his shoulder as if correcting her on something utterly mundane.
"I also find that your notion of filth is metaphorical rather than literal, I am as well-bathed as any student at the moment. Unless you refer to the dirt in the forest, in which case we are at least as filthy as each other, so far as I can see."
There had been a time when Grugwyn had foregone bathing, but it had been in the interest of gauging whether or not his own soap invention worked better than that in the castle. It did, in a technical sense, but also removed body hair and left lesions where it had been, and it was now on the list of banned substances in the school.
Walburga Black - December 23, 2011 08:16 PM (GMT)
"We are not," Walburga snapped. Nothing in which he was notably deficient, indeed. More like clearly notably deficient in everything that mattered. Academics only got you so far after all; there came a point in everyone's life when it was who you were or who you knew that determined the course your life would take. "I don't know where you got that idea, but I would suggest you lose it immediately."
She tramped after him, too offended by his implying that they were in any way similar beyond attending the same school to realise that he'd failed to answer her question. If she never came back to the Forbidden Forest again - especially with a mudblood - it would be too soon.
"Besides, of course there's a direct link," she continued haughtily. "Mudbloods are hardly good enough magic, you know." Really, this was ridiculous. She didn't need to be justifying herself to a mudblood, much less a mudblood who couldn't even grasp the basic hierarchy of the wizarding world: namely, the one that had Walburga and her family at the very top and didn't even include Rufford's parents except as a footnote that they had somehow produced a wizarding child.
Grugwyn Rufford - December 30, 2011 03:06 PM (GMT)
"Were it the case I would surely have less buoyant grades," Grugwyn said, "I find that your theory holds no water."
He wasn't sure why he was bothering to make the point, Grugwyn was tormented at school for far more than being Muggle-born and despite his parents' role in the present Muggle war he found little emotional claim in the idea that he was inferior. He thought that such an idea was ridiculous, like declaring the moon to be made of cheese, or that a fairy would come to collect fallen teeth -- it was the sort of fallacy that people insisted on believing despite obvious evidence to the contrary. Grugwyn's mother and father had been terribly proud when, aged five, he had disproved the existence of Santa Claus (by questioning, of course, the aerodynamic properties of a sleigh yanked by reindeer) and concluded that parents were unreliable sources of information.
"Do you find that if you say something enough at home it just becomes true?" he asked quizzically, supposing that if one had grown used to being assuaged by fallacy one might throw a tantrum in the forest when faced with irrefutable scientific evidence, "or, to rephrase, that nobody bothers to tell you otherwise?"
Walburga Black - January 2, 2012 09:11 AM (GMT)
Beliefs as strong as Walburga's were not easily disproved, even when she was presented with evidence that might have otherwise convinced someone else... zealously devoted to the idea that her blood and lineage made her better than almost anyone else walking the face of the planet, she clung to them as if she'd used a Permanent Sticking Charm. She'd never let go of anything easily. "All the teachers here are Muggle-lovers," she snapped, "except for my cousin, of course, but astronomy doesn't exactly require magic." Of course, she had no idea whether or not Rufford actually took Astronomy - and pity poor Cedrella if he did! - but she thought that the point ought to be made.
She wasn't about to stand for anything he said without refuting it, the filth. It was a wonder that he was allowed to speak, much less allowed to remain at Hogwarts and study the same subjects as - and with! - those who were clearly his superior.
"Of course nobody would say otherwise," she pronounced indignantly, temper rising slowly in heat, although nothing he had said would quite prompt her to snap yet. "There's no point in saying something that's the complete opposite of the known truth." She sniffed to make even clearer her opinion of the ridiculousness of his opinions. "Trust a mudblood to think himself better than he actually is."
Grugwyn Rufford - January 22, 2012 01:42 PM (GMT)
Professor Black had an issue with Grugwyn, but so far as he knew it was less to do with his blood status than it was his tendency towards speaking out of turn and trying to correct her. Though he was yet to find anything wrong with her science, he often felt she chose to do things in a rather illogical order, and it was common for him to call out as much, then be reprimanded for failing to raise his hand (a concept Grugwyn could not wrap his mind around, why did elevating his hand improve the validity of anything he had to say?) and then to be further reprimanded for questioning her authority in the first place.
"Oh, she is your cousin," he said, as though the name had passed him by completely (and it had, Grugwyn didn't care a whit about who was related to whom, and he especially didn't care about status amongst wizarding families). He looked at Walburga. There was a passing similarity in their dark hair, the complexion of their skin. He supposed she must be correct, for Grugwyn would rather trust his own observations even when it came to the declaration of family ties.
"Professor Black is a scientist too," he noted, musing at the prospect. "Though perhaps not a terribly good one. It wouldn't make sense for her to hold such archaic and unproven beliefs."
Grugwyn thought less of everybody often regardless of their merits. Rather than afford Professor Black the respect she likely deserved for being more than competent in astrophysics, he chose to concentrate on areas where he found her mostly to be lacking; by and large in the area where she wouldn't allow Grugwyn to do just exactly what he pleased.
Walburga Black - February 5, 2012 10:31 PM (GMT)
The fact that he had not realised that Cedrella was her cousin - and that he seemed to be judging the validity of her claim in the way he looked at her - was rather shocking, if she was going to be completely honest with herself (and she hardly ever was). She had never bothered to take the time to imagine that somebody might not be as familiar with the intricacies of pureblooded families as she was, and the fact that a mudblood hadn't even been polite enough to familiarise himself with the most important of families seemed to be nothing less than offensive to her.
For a moment she struggled with Rufford's comment about Cedrella's abilities as a scientist. It wasn't as if Walburga approved of the fact that her cousin was employed or that she did something as questionable (meaning that it had the potential to be connected with Muggle thoughts, something that made her skin crawl and had been part of the reason that she'd fled Astronomy after her OWLS) as Astronomy. However, criticism from a mudblood was absolutely unacceptable; Walburga had never been able to stand by and allow people to say negative things about the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black without feeling the need to respond.
"How dare you criticise my cousin!" she snapped. "Cedrella is a brilliant scientist, I am sure." In fact, she wasn't; the idea of science was intimidating to Walburga, since she'd grown in up a world infused with magic that was simply accepted rather than question. Indeed, she hardly knew what being a good scientist entailed, but she was willing to defend the fact that her cousin was a good one to the bitter end. "And I don't know what you're talking about," she continued haughtily. "That mudbloods are inferior to proper witches and wizards isn't a belief, it is a fact."
Grugwyn Rufford - February 11, 2012 04:44 PM (GMT)
"Facts are indisputable, and we are in dispute," Grugwyn said. "Therefore I find your logic flawed. If you can undertake to show me scientific evidence that your assertion is true, then I will concede it. In fact, if you would care to take the matter to task, we might conduct experiments with the view to proving your claim."
Grugwyn would have been a dramatically different boy if he had taken the abuse he'd received over the years personally. It wasn't that he was incapable of being hurt emotionally, but that he categorised it inside. As a very small child he had been as prone to tantrums as Walburga was now, but he had learned from it and had improved his outlook. He did not like to be underestimated, but found that in matters of the ego the offending party tended towards ignorance, and that he could win an argument just by the strength of his evidence.
He stooped to collect a specimen from the ground.
"If you are correct, you should have no qualms about putting this matter to the test."