March 21, 2019, 06:49:18 PM

Author Topic:  [TTB] Raise your glass to us [Graeme]  (Read 259 times)

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Joanna Hennings [ British Ministry ]
31 Posts  •  28  •  Heterosexual  •  played by Ann
[TTB] Raise your glass to us [Graeme]
« on: March 03, 2019, 05:05:42 PM »
It had been a while since Joanna had been to Hogsmeade. Years in fact. She thought it might have been when the dome had disappeared and she spent months helping to repair Hogwarts to it’s former glory. But today she was in Hogsmeade for a completely different reason. Tragedy free and nothing to do with work… well, unless the topic came up of course. And, although Joanna was not to happy with herself about it, she was fully prepared for it to come up and push her own agenda while doing so. When had she gotten so sneaky? It was just that Joanna knew that if she did not approach this in the exact right way then there was no way Graeme would ever agree to her request. And she really wanted him to. And the department really needed him to. Not that she would be saying that. After all, she knew how he viewed the Ministry. And she did so want to catch up with him outwith the favour she needed. They hadn’t really spoken since he had left the department, before the war, and went to pursue his own path. She even had a copy of his published book and she could say it was very well written given that when Joanna knew him, concentrating on one task long enough to do anything was a challenge. So a whole book. That was a miracle.

Hogsmeade was tranquil on this particular autumnal evening. Dusk had begun to set casting a glorious sunset that painted the sky orange and silhouetting the imposing castle. Joanna was able to stroll through at a leisurely pace, for once taking time to enjoy the atmosphere when it wasn’t full of either students or shoppers. Though she appeared relaxed, Joanna was attempting to talk herself out of the spiral that had formed in her head the second she had set up this meeting. Or not meeting, that was too formal, but chat? Yes, that was better. Her spiral was very determined for her to get out of there, reminding her again and again that the manipulative way in which she was about to behave would be disastrous and Graeme would see straight through it and walk away. Leaving her sitting in an empty booth with the other patrons gazing at her with both pity and loathing, because they would have heard what had happened and agree with Graeme. And she was not impressed that she was having to do this, Joanna would have much preferred to go through the official channels, but Hogwarts stance was that careers advice was provided by professors, not actual members of the career in question.

So, when she and Graeme said that they should do drinks sometime, Joanna knew that she had to at least bring it up. The worst he could say was no. Her brain was helpful enough to point out that there was many worse things he could do not limited to verbal retaliation. She shook it off however as she kept walking, passing Honeyduke’s to the right. Honeyduke’s brought back many flashbacks of the amount of time she had spent there while a student herself. Despite being closed for the evening, the smell of caramel and chocolate wafted out into the fresh air and Joanna was hit with a wave of craving possibly for a toffee apple - it was Autumn after all. Unable to satisfy that craving she instead stopped to dig through her handbag. Being of practical size, where she could carry papers without creasing them, Joanna was unable to find the small bag of sweets that she always carried around immediately. When she finally grasped it with triumph she withdrew a sweetie. Ah, a rhubarb and custard boiled sweet. Perfect. Unwrapping it, she dropped the litter on the ground.

“Evanesco,” She whispered firmly, pointing her wand at the plastic wrapper. Joanna was many things, but she was not a litter bug. When you can simply vanish your rubbish away then leaving it lying on the ground was worse than laziness. Popping the candy in her mouth, she sucked it, grateful for the rush of flavour and sugar it brought her. Unless they were going to be ordering food at the Three Broomsticks it was unlikely that Joanna was going to eat proper food tonight so sugar was a necessity. She probably would like to order food, but on the other hand what if it arrived and then she was stuck there for longer than was the amount of time designated for a chat? And Graeme had probably eaten at the castle, it was not like they skimped on the meals there. No, Joanna decided it was very unlikely she would order anything beyond a drink. She could always scrounge something up from the pantry once she got home. Maybe there was still something left over from dinner at the weekend?

Although Joanna’s stomach continued to twist tighter as she approached the pub, she kept going. She had never let her nerves get the better of her before and a simple meet up in a pub was not going to break her. The Three Broomsticks looked inviting in the evening light and a gentle buzz of noise, but nothing too extreme, greeted her as she got closer. Drawing a deep breath, she pushed open the old oak door and wandered inside, immediately noticing the change in temperature. While it hadn’t been cold outside, inside could definitely be described as comfortably cosy, as if someone had just wrapped a fluffy blanket around her, and she was grateful for the warmth. Graeme and her had agreed that whoever got there first would grab a booth and the other would find them when they arrived. Joanna was about five minutes early so had assumed she would be the one getting a booth. However, she was pleasantly surprised to note that Graeme was already sitting in a booth in the corner.

Raising her hand slightly to catch his attention, she pointed her head in the direction of the bar, indicating that she would be getting a drink first and headed over to the worn counter to place her order. A desire not to splinch herself when she apparated home to Audlem following this meeting meant that Joanna was drinking an non-alcoholic beverage tonight. When the barman came over to take her order, Joanna smiled pleasantly, “A butterbeer please?” She wondered where Madam Rosmerta was, but supposed that everyone was due a day off from time to time! The barman grunted what she hoped was an affirmative and went away to get a glass.

Standing at the bar meant that she could observe Graeme from a distance and really note the changes since she had last seen him. He definitely seemed more relaxed and contented than he had at the Ministry, not that that would come as a surprise. He looked good, her mind provided her, criticising her own lack of effort into her appearance. She had let her short locks out of their ponytail following work but was still wearing a navy set of robes with fitted sleeves that she had been in since heading into the Ministry that morning. She hadn’t even taken a look in a mirror before leaving to see if her make up required touching up. The butterbeer being dumped on the bar in front of her brought Joanna back to her senses. Gratefully paying for her drink, she picked it up - carefully, it was full to the brim - and began to walk over towards the booth Graeme had chosen.

Placing her drink on the table, she gracefully, well, she hoped it was graceful, slid into the bench opposite him. Finally getting a up close look at her old colleague she smiled. “Long time no see Gray,” Joanna kept her voice playful, “you even have a bit of a tan.” It really was good to see him again.

@Graeme Becker

Graeme Becker [ Professor ]
23 Posts  •  30  •  Heterosexual  •  played by Louise
Re: [TTB] Raise your glass to us [Graeme]
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2019, 09:18:25 AM »
It had been a long time since Beck had met a girl in The Three Broomsticks.  As one of the few ‘dating’ spots around Hogwarts, he had brought girls to the pub many times over his years as a student.  It amused him to remember those shy and awkward encounters over butterbeer.  Regrettably teenage Graeme hadn’t exactly been a hit with the ladies and had struck out more often than not.  But those days were very far in the past now and he was returning as a far more successful – and supposedly mature – grown man.  He did not expect that there would be any embarrassing attempts at hand-holding with his drinking companion tonight anyway.  Whilst @Joanna Hennings was undoubtedly an attractive woman – at least so far as he remembered – he had not been stupid enough to assume that her interest in ‘catching up’ was romantic in nature. 

He knew the Hit-Witch from way back in his days as an Auror, and even before that they had been housemates at school, but it had been many years since last they’d seen each other.  Beck didn’t have such a high opinion of himself to believe that Joanna had gotten in touch with him purely out of a sense of nostalgia.  From the little he understood about women, he knew that they didn’t typically feel the need to dredge up men from the past just to have a drink.  He didn’t fancy for second that Joanna had been nursing a secret attraction for him all this time.  No, clearly the witch wanted something.  This did not bother him at all though.  Beck was curious to find out what her ulterior motive was and, at the end of the day, he still had a genuine interest in finding out how much she had changed – if at all – since he’d known her. 

As he remembered, Joanna had been very competent at her job and therefore automatically more likeable than the majority of Ministry employees.  They had gotten along quite well inside and outside of the workplace.  Whilst he had lost respect for the Ministry, he had never lost respect for her – even though he couldn’t understand her idealistic desire to continue working for an institution run by bureaucrats full of hot air and little sense.  A difference of opinion had never been enough to turn Beck off of anyone though.  In fact, he enjoyed disagreements as they often led to the most invigorating debates. 

Beck’s current working theory – and private hope – was that she had contacted him because she had finally grown tired of working for the ineffective Ministry.  If she was looking for a change of profession, he would definitely be in a position to assist.  In the back of his mind he already had a list of connections and meetings he could arrange for Joanna if she was interested.  The private security sector was more versatile, exciting and lucrative – making it the clearly superior career choice as he saw it.  He certainly considered the change from public to private service to have been the best choice he had ever made. 

Excited about the reunion with his old friend and colleague, Beck had headed down to Hogsmeade a little early.  Upon arriving he had attempted to order his favourite drink – a Pina Colada.  Based on the barkeep’s bemused expression, it was evidently an unusual request for the pub.  Unfortunately, he had misinterpreted the other man’s raised eyebrow as an invitation to launch into a history of the beverage.  As Beck regaled the increasingly surly bartender with tales of the 19th century Puerto Rican pirate who had supposedly invented the drink, he had been oblivious to the man’s expression that clearly stated ‘how can I make you stop talking?’.  Finally losing his patience, the barman had told Beck to have a fire-whiskey or get out.  Sheepishly accepting the alternate refreshment, the DADA Professor had finally left the bar to find a booth to sit quietly in.

The booth he had instinctively selected was in a corner and he sat himself facing the rest of the pub and the entrance.  Old habits die hard.  There was hardly any need for Beck to take up such a defensive position but it was the sort of thing that had been second nature to him for a long time.  There was no ‘on-off’ switch for such behaviour.  In any case, it entertained him to be able to watch the other patrons whilst he waited for Joanna to arrive.  He sipped at his drink without much heart – wishing that the burn of whiskey could have been the smooth flavour of pineapple and coconut instead. 

Soon he observed a witch entering the pub dressed in navy robes with the fitted sleeves he recalled Joanna favouring.  It was unmistakably a slightly older version of the girl he had known.  He caught her eye and gave a friendly wave in return to her raised hand of greeting.  It pleased him that they had so easily recognised each other.  However, in their respective lines of work it was important that they be able to remember faces.  She had a nice face, he reflected privately as he watched her walk over to the bar.  Very pretty but with a no nonsense look about it.  Beck did his best to be subtle in his assessment of her.  (It would not do for her to think that he was leering.)  Ultimately he thought she was a nice looking woman, with an appearance of being very capable and professional.  She’d left her light brown hair down and it loosely brushed her shoulders, which was a nice relaxed touch. 

In his usual manner, Beck had not given much consideration to his own appearance.  However, by some stroke of luck, the clothes he had selected that morning were not offensive to the eye.  His robes were deep blue velvet with a silvery pattern of stars and, aside from being a little rumpled from the day’s wear, quite handsome.  None of the credit for the outfit belonged to Beck however as his sister was the one who had bought the robes for him.  Apparently now as an successful businessman, author and Professor he was supposed to dress with a little more class.  But he was still just the idiot who had blindly put them on.  The only real contribution he had made to his appearance were the mismatched and colourful socks that were currently well hidden under his robes and the table.

He smiled at Joanna as she approached the table with a very full glass of butterbeer.  It was unclear whether he should stand and greet her.  Beck wasn’t sure what the circumstances called for – A handshake?  A hug?  A kiss on the cheek?  After taking too long to ponder the options, it soon became a non-issue as Joanna slid gracefully onto the opposite bench.  “Hi!”, he said brightly as she sat down.  The familiar way she addressed him then drew a soft laugh.  It was something he had almost forgotten, that she liked to call him ‘Gray’.  Dear Joanna had always been much too sweet and kind to engage in name-calling or to address people formally by their surnames.  She was just about the only person in the Ministry who had never called him ‘Beck’.  He was glad at least that she didn’t address him as ‘Graeme’ since his mum was really the only person who did that.  For some reason he didn't want to think of Joanna in the same category as his mum.

"Tan?" It seemed like a funny thing to comment on considering how long it had been since they'd seen each other but as an ice breaker it was effective.  "Huh, I guess that's what happens when you're not chained to desk."  He matched her playful tone and gave her a wink.  "I'm glad to see the Ministry hasn't managed to drown you in paperwork yet."  It was an exaggeration of course but Beck really didn't miss dealing with all of the different forms the bureaucracy liked having completed for every little thing.  "Your hair looks different." He offered lamely by way of a comment on her appearance.  "It's nice.  I like it."  As compliments went, it wasn’t impressive but Beck was unfazed by his own awkwardness.  "How have you been?  What have you been up to?  What's new with you?"  He propped his elbows on the table and leaned forward as he fired off the questions.  Realising belatedly that he might be coming off a little too intense, he drew back after a minute.  "Sorry, I'm just interested."  He shrugged and smiled warmly.  "My Joanna knowledge hasn't been updated in a while."

Joanna Hennings [ British Ministry ]
31 Posts  •  28  •  Heterosexual  •  played by Ann
Re: [TTB] Raise your glass to us [Graeme]
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2019, 11:20:38 AM »
Had Graeme laughed at her? Joanna did not react but internally it set off fireworks. One part of her brain unhelpfully supplied her that he had a nice laugh, low and not grating. The other part went over everything she had done to warrant laughter. Did she spill something? No, she had been very careful not to. Was there something on her face? She really hoped not, but there was no place for her to check unless she went to the bathroom. And it was rude to go to the bathroom when you had just arrived. What about what she had said? Oh Merlin, she hadn’t even bothered to say hello! How rude was that. No wonder he laughed, it was probably a polite ‘please get me out of here away from this rude witch’ laugh. She definitely wouldn’t blame him. Externally however, Joanna simply kept the soft smile on her face and listened to him.

She threw him a fake scowl when he mentioned his distaste for paperwork. Yes, that had been obvious. Joanna knew he had hated the amount of paperwork the job required. She thought the whole department probably knew. He didn’t exactly keep it a secret. Personally Joanna had very few issues with paperwork. It was vital to have accurate records and ensure that correct process had been followed. She usually even enjoyed the satisfaction of completed files leading to successful convictions. However, she wasn’t above a bit of fun. She leaned forward, her eyes darting towards the rest of the room as if concerned that someone else might be listening. Her hand beckoning him to come closer, Joanna dropped her voice to a low volume “I’m actually out on good behaviour. Got to get back by curfew so they can reattach me. Who knows when I’ll be needed to complete a FG75A.” She retreated backwards until she was back sitting up straight and took a sip of her butterbeer keeping her face completely straight. And then laughed. It had been a while since she had joked with anyone about her job.

“Hmmm,” Joanna hummed in response. Of course he would notice the rattiness of her hair. She had been rather proud of her hair before it had been hexed off and was still struggling a bit with the new length. While Joanna might not be vain by any means, her vanity over this issue troubled her. After all, it was just hair, not a permanent injury so why did it bother her so much? Possibly because she had considered it her best feature. “Not through choice, trust me. Raid on Knockturn Alley gone wrong.” She paused, then considered that sounded worse than what had happened, “on our side. New recruit was very green and got spooked. His spell misfired in my direction and I never managed to get out the way quick enough.” Joanna was never one to blame someone else for problems, “At least it was only my hair that got caught.” She shrugged, “and that we caught his need for more training before he had been out with a group of novices.”

Graeme had always been a talker, spanning what felt like a hundred topics in a minute. Joanna thought it must match his mind, processing information at speed and spitting it straight back out. When they had first really gotten to know each other at the Ministry, she had struggled to keep up with the way he flicked through conversations. One minute it would be about a case, the next about a quidditch match. If she hadn’t been a fast learner, and eager to be able to keep up, Joanna was sure she would have gotten information completely mixed up and ended up thinking the potential criminal was at the quidditch match! To hear the rapid fire of information again after so long felt like nostalgia hit her across the face. There really was no one like Graeme left at the Ministry. A lot were under trained and lacked basic knowledge, and others Joanna had many, many suspicions about their true loyalties. She had always felt like she could trust Graeme in a professional capacity. He was competent and unwaveringly light.

He also always seemed so genuine. He was, her brain again unhelpfully supplied her. He was open and she was a manipulative trickster. No, she tried to push back. She was also interested in catching up. After all it had been a long time and he had accomplished seemingly so much in the period while she had done very little. Novelist and Professor versus her, trying to run a struggling squad and metaphorically tearing her hair out over the release of prisoners. “I’m good,” she eventually settled on. She shrugged, both hands holding onto the glass in front of her. “I don’t know. There’s nothing really interesting. I was promoted to Lead Hit Witch following the war. Did you already know that? I can’t remember.” Maybe this had been a bad idea. To catch up with someone you haven’t really seen for a while, when an entire war has happened during that time.

Not pausing really to allow him to answer, Joanna continued. “Sooo” she dragged the word out before resuming her usual clear steady tone, “I’ve got an office rather than my old desk. Jocasta Callaghan, but she’s married now so it’s Silverman, is Head of Department now too. So I think that will be a good thing. She’s very dedicated and will hopefully be able to make waves. She just took the role on recently though so hasn’t found her feet in it yet. But soon though.” Joanna considered what other information she could share. A lot of her job was not public knowledge and so she was unable to discuss many of the recent developments. “My little cousin now works for the Ministry too. But in games and sports.” Joanna pulled a fake look of disgust at this. “ I think she’s enjoying all her celebrity run ins with all the quidditch players coming and going. She almost went into professional quidditch, you know? How weird would that have been. Me having a famous family member!” Despite the fact that Joanna had said very little about herself, and a lot more about both Emma and Jocasta, she was ready to put the topic of ‘herself’ and ‘her life and achievements’ to rest for the moment. Graeme would have a lot more exciting things to say about his life anyway.

“But,” she flapped her hand, almost pushing the topic away, desperate to get onto something else, “Enough about me. What about you professor?” The emphasis on his title was designed to be kindly teasing and Joanna hoped it came across as such and not mocking. It was so weird that Graeme was a professor. Not because Joanna thought he couldn’t handle himself, she had faith in his abilities. But rather because he was so young - in teaching standards. When she had been in Hogwarts, her professors were all ancient. They also had varying levels of competence so maybe younger, more relatable professors were the answer. In Joanna’s opinion anyway, any change to some of the teaching staff would be a positive. Did they seriously have a ghost teach history?

Graeme Becker [ Professor ]
23 Posts  •  30  •  Heterosexual  •  played by Louise
Re: [TTB] Raise your glass to us [Graeme]
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2019, 08:42:57 PM »
Beck was laughing so hard that it just about brought tears to his eyes.  Here was someone who really got his sense of humour.  Joanna’s conspiratorial tone and mock serious delivery had been spot on.  He had to clap a hand across his mouth to smother his guffaws and try to maintain some composure.  It impressed him that she’d managed to keep a straight face through the whole rendition – form FG75A and all.  The joke probably wouldn’t be so funny to anyone who hadn’t worked in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, but Beck appreciated the reference and thought that Joanna was very witty.  He felt that this whole meeting was worth it just for that.  When she laughed too, he noticed that it made her eyes sparkle a bit. 

It was hard not to chuckle again as she explained her new hairstyle but he had enough sense to refrain from expressing humour at a part of her physical appearance which she was clearly not too happy about.  He was learning from his sister that women didn’t always like receiving honest opinions on how they looked.  For example, if she asks ‘does this make me look fat?’, one should never respond with ‘yes’.  However, in Beck’s honest opinion Joanna’s shorter hair was perfectly lovely.  He listened attentively to her tale and couldn’t completely contain the curious questions that bubbled up…  “What?  Really?  What kind of spell was it?  What were you raiding Knockturn Alley for?  Sorry, no, that’s not important.”  The 30-year-old was making a real effort to keep his excessively curious nature under some kind of control.  He sipped his drink to give Joana enough time to finish her explanation without interruption. 

“That’s by far the best story I’ve ever heard for a change of hairstyle.” He said enthusiastically as he lowered his glass.  Beck then felt like he should elaborate on his earlier compliment, since she seemed to have misunderstood it for a tease.  Stumbling on he attempted to put her at ease about the whole subject.  “It really looks nice though.  Comfortable.”  Probably not exactly how a lady would like her hair described but it seemed like a pretty good thing to Beck.  “I wouldn’t have known it was accidental if you hadn’t told me.”  That was a simple truth.  It wasn’t like there was anything about the appearance of her short brown locks that advertised the source of their last trim.  All that remained was for Beck to cap things off with some humour.  Raising an eyebrow, he spoke with the same pretend solemnity she had used with her joke.  “You know, you might start a trend.  I’m sure soon all of the ladies will be lining up to have their hair hexed off.”

“Just good?”  He smiled widely at Joanna as she began to good-naturedly respond to his questioning.  “I doubt your life has really been so uninteresting.  And if it has, we’ll have to do something about that.”  Immediately his mind leapt to thinking about interesting places and activities to introduce her to.  Beck couldn’t imagine anything worse than being trapped in a tediously mundane life and was entirely ready to rescue his old friend if that’s what was happening to her.  It never occurred to him that at this point his tone and behaviour might be coming across as flirty.

“Oh wow.  Congrats.”  He hadn’t known about the promotion but couldn’t think of anyone more deserving.  Though by his assessment Joanna was too good for it really.  Her talents were wasted on the Ministry.  It would be far better if she found herself some exciting freelance work – which he still hoped was her motive for this catch-up.

The war.  She pressed past the subject before he could latch onto it.  Privately he was glad that Joanna had (apparently) made it through the conflict unscathed.  His exit from the Ministry had happened before the true escalation of the Dark Lord’s rise to power and that developing situation had actually been part of his justification for leaving.  Even now he was still annoyed by the Ministry’s failure to take any pre-emptive action.  As his mind flicked back to his activities during the war, he had to wonder if all of the people who had left the country had made a return yet…  He’d helped to smuggle many families to safety at the time but didn’t know much about what had happened to them after.

He tried to keep his attention on his companion as she spoke about her boss and her cousin.  It was still fascinating background information about Joanna’s life but he didn’t miss the fact that she had avoided sharing anything truly personal about herself.  There had been no mention of anything outside of her work.  Does she have a partner?  A family?  Beck couldn’t help but wonder.  A lot of people their age had already taken those steps so it wouldn’t completely shock him to learn that Joanna had kids.  However, he didn’t see a ring on her finger and she didn’t exactly have the ‘mum’ look either.  It seemed like something she would have mentioned, but without her providing any information herself, Beck's mind starting looking for clues in her appearance and behaviour.  It was then that he curiously noted she was drinking butterbeer, not an alcoholic beverage.  Just a professional choice? Or could she be expecting?

Not all of Beck's ideas were brilliant and in this case it was a rather inappropriate leap for him to make.  Unfortunately, however, he didn't have the best understanding of what was and what wasn’t considered 'private' information.  "Joanna, are you-?"  He began the ill-founded query but by some miracle she successfully brushed him off with an 'enough about me' before he could make a complete fool of himself.  The teasing way she said 'Professor' sufficiently distracted him from that line of thought.

“Professor?”  He smirked at Joanna, half daring her to call him that again. He'd be lying if he said he didn't like the way it sounded.  “Ok, I’ll tell you a secret."  Letting his voice drop to a whisper, Beck leaned close across the table.  "I only applied for the job to get my sister off my back.  She thinks I’m of an age where I should start thinking about settling down.  You know, be more stable and reliable.”  The 30-year-old made no attempt to hide his disdain for the concept.  He didn't really know why he had told Joanna that...  Maybe just so that she wouldn't go mistaking him for a someone who cared too much about meeting societal expectations.

Slouching back in his seat, Beck took another sip of his whiskey (and noted the glass was almost empty).  Then he blurted out almost randomly, “My nieces started school this year.  They’re both Hufflepuffs.”  There was a little bit of pride and affection in his voice when he spoke about the twin girls. "Can't believe they're actually old enough for Hogwarts."  He shook his head at the passage of time and shrugged before continuing with the previous topic of conversation as though he'd never deviated.  "But I’m enjoying it so far.  It’s a different kind of challenge than I’m used to.”  It was certainly a big change to the way he'd been spending his life over the last couple of years but change could be interesting and he was happy enough to see how this Professor thing worked out.  He only had one real concern which he then spoke out loud, "I just hope I don’t make a boring teacher."  Beck paused, receptive to whether Joanna had any questions.  He wasn't sure what she'd like to know but he was an open book.  "Oh I have an office now too.”  He added in the comment with a chuckle and ran a hand through his hair as he pondered how weird at was that they were both grown ups with their own offices. "I'm more used to working out of hotels", he admitted unashamedly.

I'm sorry he's so... Random lol

Joanna Hennings [ British Ministry ]
31 Posts  •  28  •  Heterosexual  •  played by Ann
Re: [TTB] Raise your glass to us [Graeme]
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2019, 12:40:58 AM »
It was nice to laugh with someone, Joanna mused, as Graeme burst into laughter following her little joke. Although, she wasn’t sure she had been that funny to warrant the extent of laughter that he was currently providing. Or maybe she was the weird one and had lost her sense of humour over the years? She certainly did not know what was actually appropriate humour these days, normally being the one to shut jokes down and insist that everyone get back to work, thank you very much. Was she becoming too serious in life? Was this the place to question her entire life? Of course not but that did not stop her brain unhelpfully supplying her with concerns regarding her entire direction.

Graeme’s questioning regarding her hair incident was unexpected, but Joanna scolded herself. She should have expected it, it was after his way to excessively demand information. He seemed to enjoy collecting facts to build a full picture, just like her, although she had forgotten how extreme his questioning could be. Not finding anything wrong with giving up more information, Joanna did not mind answering. It was all public knowledge after all. “Yeah, would you believe it was meant to be just a warning spell?” She let out a soft laugh in disbelief, even nearly five months on, it was still almost unheard of for that to happen. “He completely mucked the whole thing up. It went in my direction rather into a clear space. He got the wrong wand motion and I don’t know what language he was speaking but it more gobbledegook than latin. It was actually surprising that something actually happened!!” She paused, “Although, it could have been a lot worse so I’m glad for that.” The hit wizard was still in his additional training. Joanna supposed she ought to see a progress report soon although part of her really wanted to keep him on training until her hair regrew.

“We do a lot of routine raids now.” Joanna explained, “to try to deter the influx of dark items in one particular location. Hopefully our frequent presence will mean that Knockturn Alley becomes less desirable to use and the area will clean up a little. A lot of people don’t want it so close to Diagon Alley, being such a prominent shopping faire. Which obviously I understand, but I worry it’s just going to go deeper underground.” Joanna had not actually meant to say that much to Graeme, especially not about her doubts on the effectiveness of the operation. She was being too harsh too. They had to tackle it somehow, and Knockturn Alley was a cesspit for darkness and needed fixing. It was just quite comfortable to talk to him that she almost forgot herself.

She smiled slightly at the compliment, comfortable, really? Just what she wanted to hear. Her ragged dressing gown was comfortable, it didn’t mean she was proud of displaying it in public. No, it stayed firmly in the house when the only other person present was her father. Joanna raised her own eyebrow in return at his humour. Was this the type of thing a normal person would find funny? She kept her voice light as she replied, but was unable to find the idea of people putting themselves in danger amusing. “I doubt it. I don’t think anyone is stupid enough to risk danger for that. Well, I hope they’re not anyway!” Although, maybe there were stupid enough people out there. She had definitely read enough ‘beauty is pain’ columns in Witch Weekly to know her idea of an acceptable appearance was not exactly others.

Eyes widening in shock, Joanna stared at Graeme. Was he flirting with her? The inflection was there. As was the innuendo. But no, no. She must have misunderstood. There was no way he would do something like that with her. She was just putting her own nostalgic feelings for him out there and expecting something in return. Clearly she was being an idiot. There was no way Graeme Becker would be flirting with her. He was just being friendly and she was the one being weird about the entire thing. Get a grip Joanna, she thought harshly to herself. She was just hallucinating due to hunger. That’s what it was. But she would not embarrass herself tonight. Now, get out of your head and back to reality.

Graeme had started a question before Joanna had interrupted him. Like the rude person she was. Was she what? Oh Merlin, what had he been going to say? Was she as boring as she sounded? Yes, definitely. Joanna made no claims to being more interesting than she actually was. Was she going to shut up anytime soon? Yes. No wonder Graeme was bored of her talking already. He flipped through exciting topics quickly while she just rambled her way through boring stuff. Was she lying about why she had wanted to catch up? Oh Merlin yes. He knew. He had been an accomplished auror after all, of course he could see through her to the truth that she was just a manipulative madam and was planning on asking him for a favour? Oh Merlin, what had his question going to be?? Surely nothing to bad as he kept talking merrily.

Joanna remembered Graeme’s sister. Well, rather, she remembered how close they had been and the fact that he loved talking about her. If she remembered correctly, she was married to someone that Graeme was not fond of. Like at all. And used to loudly recount what rubbish thing he had done that week. “Does your sister not realise that you’re a lot younger than any of our teachers at Hogwarts? I was shocked when I heard about it. Not because I don’t think you’ll be great,” she quickly blurted the last sentence out, lest he think she did not have faith in, “but because they’re breaking their record for only hiring old, incompetent staff. Merlin, we had some awful ones.” Smiling slightly in recollection, she recounted some of her least favourite professors from her time there. “Do you remember that Defence Professor? Em, I think I was 3rd year at the time? He was half blind and broke a window trying to demonstrate a stunning spell? Seriously, Hogwarts’ teaching criteria couldn’t even extend to alive! Professor Binns?” Joanna lost some of her nerves getting into a rant about the uselessness of Hogwarts and their inability to hire sufficient teaching professionals.

She struggled to imagine Graeme settling down. He still seemed as much of a free spirit as he had years before. Flitting through life and commitments as quickly as he made them. Girls always seemed to struggle with that when she worked alongside him. Everyone seemed to have higher expectations than what he was able to provide. Of course, Joanna had only been interested in Graeme as a friend and source of amusement and companionship. She had been much too busy trying to climb the career ladder and prove her worth to allow such thoughts to enter her mind. Now however… she pushed those thoughts away. And took a drink of butterbeer to calm herself.

His nieces? Oh yes, Joanna knew his sister had kids. They were some of his favourite people after all. She racked her brains to think of their names. “Oh, of course. Anna and, was it, Sarah? How are they finding Hogwarts? Are they enjoying having their uncle teach them?” Why was it always so much easier to talk about other people rather than themselves? Joanna was genuinely curious about the answer. Was it a complete lack of self worth? Or something far simpler, like a pride in others that made them eager to share their stories. “You? Boring? Never!” She almost spat out. There was many ways to describe Graeme. Boring was not one that would ever enter her mind.

Laughing lightly in response to his jest about the office, it seemed they were both in the same mind about the thing, an unnecessary piece of information about themselves, used to fill a gap. His next sentence surprised her though. “Hotels? There’s a story behind that, I’m sure.” Joanna asked, her voice full of surprise and curiosity. Why hadn’t Graeme been staying at home?

Graeme Becker [ Professor ]
23 Posts  •  30  •  Heterosexual  •  played by Louise
Re: [TTB] Raise your glass to us [Graeme]
« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2019, 10:59:53 PM »
Beck listened with wry amusement as Joanna mentioned being shocked at his appointment and then quickly tried make it clear that she wasn’t doubting his ability.  He was not in the slightest bit offended.  Instead he laughed, recalling hearing about that incident with the Professor Joanna had described.  "Well, at least I have that reassurance.  I really doubt I could ever be the worst DADA Professor they've ever seen.  And I'm not a ghost, so points for that.  I can imagine that there would be some advantage to a dead Professor though... No sick leave and minimal upkeep..."  Ghosts with occupations was an interesting concept.  Momentarily distracted by that thought, his voice trailed off briefly but then he found his way back to the main topic.  "I guess Hogwarts has always been a bit of an 'equal opportunity' employer." 

“Actually, it might interest you to know that they've got quite a young staff now,” he said conversationally.  "I'm not even the youngest one!"  It was kind of nice that the other Professors weren't all ancient.  This way he didn't feel too out of place.  It also made for a fairly fresh environment since none of them seemed particularly 'conventional' in their approach to learning.  "But try telling my sister that I'm still a young stud with my whole life ahead of me!  According to her, I should be getting more serious."  He pulled a face at that.  Generally her definition of 'serious' matched his idea of 'boring'.  "I think the only reason she's holding back from setting me up blind dates is that she thinks I'll embarass her."  Beck chuckled and shook his head.  Jessica had always told him that she thought he was a social weirdo.

But this chat with Joanna seemed to be going well enough.  He was really enjoying her company, despite whatever hidden agenda she might've had for setting it up.  Regarding her curiously, he again wondered about her personal situation.  "Have you managed to get yourself tied down with anyone yet?"  The care he took to make the tone of that question sound casual was strange.  He generally didn't try to hide his curiosity about things.  For some reason though, he didn't want Joanna to think he was too interested in the answer.  However, his effort to sound uninterested was perhaps more suspicious than anything. 

He could admit to himself privately that he was interested.  Joanna was a beautiful, smart and funny witch so it would be stupid if he wasn't at least a little attracted to her.  It was odd that he'd never noticed it before but perhaps this reunion after so long helped him see her in a different way.  He wasn't entirely sure whether or not he should have any interest though.  Joanna was not some foreign floozy he could charm with his British accent and then forget about a week later.  The 30-year-old was not completely unaware of his flaws, just generally not inclined to change them.  He was pretty sure it was a non issue anyway, since there was no way someone as lovely as Joanna could still be single after all this time.

"Sarah and Hannah."  He corrected her good-naturedly.  It was flattering that she had bothered to commit the names of his neices to memory.  Even if it hadn't been a perfect recall, it was still impressive.  "They're doing well I think.  Those first days are always overwhelming...", he said with a nostalgic smile, while thinking of his own first year at Hogwarts.  But those times had been positively dull when compared to the more recent history of the establishment.  "It doesn't help when the school's reputation is suffering due to incidents.  Just now, on the first day of term, the boats wouldn't work!  So the girls had to take the carriages from the station." 

"I try not to favour them, but..."  He shrugged sheepishly, fully aware that when it came to those two sweet girls he would always be biased.  "It's nice that I can be there for them.  They've been having a bit of a rough time with their parents divorce."  It occurred to him that Joanna obviously wouldn't have heard about that.  "Oh, yeah, Jessica finally dumped that loser."  He announced gleefully.  It probably wasn't appropriate for him to be grinning so much about the breakdown of his sister's marriage but it was no secret that he'd never liked the man.  He thought he should get some credit for restraining himself from saying 'I told you so' to his sister.

Registering Joanna’s surprise, he supposed that it did sound a bit odd that he’d been staying in hotels.   The way he’d been living over the past years was certainly not typical, even for someone who travelled for work.  He respected that not everyone was as comfortable with the constant unknown as he was.  There seemed to be this strong instinct in most people to have a ‘home base’.  Beck considered it to be like an animal’s need to have a den and the sense of safety and security that came with same.  In that way he reflected that he was probably more like a migratory bird, but even that suggested more structure than he liked.  In all these years he’d never had any desire to settle down in one place. 

“I’ve been travelling a lot.”  He started by way of explanation.  “So there’s never been any point to getting my own place.”  A moment’s pause was required to draw up a list of places in his head.  “Let me see…  I spent a little time in Italy but have also worked in France, Germany, Spain, Poland, Romania, Russia…”  Beck went on to list most of the countries in Europe.  He rattled off the register casually, without any intention of being a show-off.  “Oh and Sweden.  Have you heard about the political situation over there?  It’s crazy how their government has shifted to support such strong discrimination against Muggleborns.”

Politics was not a subject he was particularly fond of though so he moved on to the next thought that popped into his head: Food.  "Hey, can I buy you dinner?  That is, if you haven't already eaten.  Or... well, they do a nice apple pie if you're interested in dessert?"  Without really allowing much of a pause, he rambled on to cover any awkwardness.  "Did you know that whilst the apple pie has now become associated with the idea of American comfort food, the earliest known recipie originated in 14th century England?  The Dutch, French and Swedes have also developed their own distinctive styles of the pie over the centuries."  A little voice in the back of his head reminded him that Joanna probably didn't care about the history of apple pie.  Even his own family didn't always appreciate his little factoids.  He stopped talking and smiled sheepishly.  "Sorry, that's usually about when people start to roll their eyes at me."

Joanna Hennings [ British Ministry ]
31 Posts  •  28  •  Heterosexual  •  played by Ann
Re: [TTB] Raise your glass to us [Graeme]
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2019, 01:19:28 AM »
Equal opportunities! Joanna laughed slightly. That was one way of putting it. Another was ‘competence not assessed, please come in’. Clearly she was more put out by Hogwart’s hiring criteria than Graeme. But she supposed he must be fond of the place given he was now staying there. With younger staff as well. She was a bit surprised to hear that. 30 wasn’t that old. How young were these people? Or had Hogwarts gone the opposite direction and instead of hiring ghosts, they were now hiring students? It genuinely would not surprise her. But she was discreet enough to keep these thoughts quiet. Joanna thought from the tone of Graeme’s voice that he liked his new colleagues, and she was aware enough to bite her tongue rather than go for the questioning offensive and demand to know their qualifications.

“Blind dates are the worst.” Joanna assured him point blank. She had not been on many but they had all been awful and only ended well when she had decided to let loose and drink. She had even started a drinking game on several where every time her date said something offensive she had downed another gin and tonic. You would have thought that the more she drank, the less offensive they would get, but somehow no. The only good outcome was the lovely floating feeling from many, many, many units of alcohol. “They are so awkward and you usually work out that you would both rather be somewhere else but feel obligated to see it through.” Wow, she sounded rather bitter, didn’t she? Oh Merlin, Graeme probably thought she was an old hag the way she was talking. “It’s better to go out with someone you already know a bit. At least then it’s not a complete spell in the dark.” So lost in her head on thoughts on her similarity to hags, Joanna did not even consider how her last two sentences sounded like for the current situation.

Was it not obvious, Joanna wondered, that she was incredibly alone? Probably. Was that pity she detected in his tone? Probably. Clearly he knew that she was single but wanted to ask so he could pretend he didn’t already know because it wasn’t as glaringly obvious as it actually was. She dipped her head slightly, looking at the glass in her hands and wishing she could answer differently. “No, there’s not really been any opportunity you know? Work. It’s always been busy, and it’s just got more busy. And then I had to move back home to help Dad so there was that.” She paused, then tried to put a humorous spin on it, “plus I spend most of the day working with idiots. I don’t have time to try and do that after work too.” She shrugged and smiled at him, as if saying it is what it is. She might not like her relationship status at all, but Joanna could not think of a decision she would have made differently, even if sometimes she grew nostalgic for one of the boys she went out with in Hogwarts. And that nostalgia was very rose-coloured as she had been unable to stand him at the time.

She shrugged apologetically with the name correction, for it being over five years, two missing ‘h’s weren’t too bad. Wait. What? “I’m sorry,” Joanna interrupted, “but what did you say? The boats weren’t working?” She looked rather worried, thinking about everything that had happened previously at Hogwarts. The horrors that the poor students had gone through. “No one had informed us about it,” she said contemplatively, already going through potential reasons. Grounded boats did not sound like a big deal, but in Hogwarts, she shuddered to think if it was a sign of what was to come. “Do they know why they weren’t working? How can boats just stop working? They’re boats! Have they been fixed now? Has someone examined the magic used and where else it is used? Is there anything else out of the ordinary that has happened?” Joanna was aware she was rapidly firing questions at Graeme but the situation just brought it out of her. There was a potential situation at Hogwarts and, as Lead Hit Witch, she needed details incase it escalated. She was unable to forget the trials her colleagues went through stuck inside the dome, while she was unable to help outside.

Once the topic moved on, Joanna burst out laughing. She contained it quickly but the first, loud peal had escaped. “Of course you’re happy about that! You hated him! I don’t remember a day you weren’t complaining about him!” She shook her head at him affectionately, “I take it Jessica is happier now too?” Her stomach had grown rather warm and tense sitting there with Graeme, talking and laughing. It was clear to Joanna that it was the butterbeer and lack of food, nothing else. And obviously it was twisting in guilt that she still had her agenda to raise. Joanna nodded along to his explanation, slightly jealous of everywhere he had been. She would love to go to Italy and try true Italian food. And see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, all the muggle sites in Ancient Rome and even Neroli. “I spent just over half a year in China hunting Sirius Black. Of course, he’s now known to have been innocent…” She trailed off, unsure of why she gave up that silly anecdote. It was completely unnecessary for the conversation. Joanna was clearly just trying to look impressive and she was deeply unhappy about that.

Luckily, or unluckily, he moved on to her least favourite country. Sweden. Home of the Death Eater releaser. Joanna’s face rapidly dropped, displaying a look of complete anger, something that was rarely seen on the normally level headed witch’s face. “Yes. I have encountered their many failings. And their extreme interference with our country and justice.” At that moment Joanna did not even know if it was public knowledge that Sweden had pushed Britain into releasing that man. All she could think was that Sweden was going down an awful path and were intent on dragging numerous countries with them.

Graeme moved on before she could open her mouth again, allowing Joanna a moment to collect herself. It would not do to let loose her frustrations on him. The fact that the politics that was happening at the moment made her want to simultaneously scream and cry. As well as pick up her wand, learn the Killing curse and head to Azkaban before they could release anymore Death Eaters. After that she would hunt down Purcell and kill him too. This was why Dementors were necessary she kept reminding herself. If Purcell had been given the Dementor’s Kiss like he deserved then he never would have been around to get released.

Dinner? Yes, dinner would be very nice. Joanna was starving. But, “did you not already eat up at Hogwarts?” she asked, “I can easily get something once I’m home.” The thought of eating at the table while he stared at her was horrifying. What if she was an ugly eater? While the thought had never crossed her mind to worry her before, it decided to show itself just then. Oh Merlin, maybe she was an ugly eater. She actually enjoyed his information about apple pie, it might be pretty much useless but it was better than many useless subjects that others found it interesting to talk about. She smiled, and rolled her eyes exaggeratedly. “There you go. I’m living up to expectations.” Joanna grinned enthusiastically, “but did you know tarte tatin was named after the hotel it was created in?” Take that silly cooking shows that her Gran watched, “and was created by accident because the cook over burnt the apples.” She batted her eyelashes at him as if she had just said something flirtatious and gave a small laugh, “feel free to roll your eyes too.”

Graeme Becker [ Professor ]
23 Posts  •  30  •  Heterosexual  •  played by Louise
Re: [TTB] Raise your glass to us [Graeme]
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2019, 07:12:03 PM »
He smirked at Joanna's candid response to the subject of blind dates.  Unless he was completely misunderstanding her disgusted tone, it seemed that the brunette witch had been on some truly terrible dates.  It was highly tempting to ask Joanna about her experiences but what she said next was highly distracting.  He couldn't help reflecting on how he technically qualified for not being a 'spell in the dark'.  "Oh really?"  Averting his gaze almost shyly, Beck smiled down at the table and traced a ring of condensation on the wooden surface with one finger.   "That surprises me."  He shrugged and proceeded to elaborate on that statement while still not meeting her eye.  "You being single that is.  Not the work thing.  You've always been a hard worker."  Joanna had always been a very focused and driven person as he recalled.  Those were qualities he could admire.  "So you're not into idiots?  Good to know."  He ended playfully, drawing his gaze up briefly to give her a wink.

"No.  The magic that propells the boats across the lake wouldn't function.  As I understand it, they just wouldn't move.  I guess it's not 'fixed' exactly.  They worked around it by sending the first years by carriage.  We're looking into it.  There haven't been any other incidents that I'm aware of - yet."  It was invigorating being the one answering all the questions.  He liked the look of intensity Joanna got on her face as she pumped him for information about the boats fiasco.  However, the sense of concern he picked up as well brought out in him a desire to be protective.  He reached across the table to rest a hand on her arm reassuringly.  "I'm already planning to investigate.  And I'll let you know if anything else happens, ok?  But don't worry.  I'll get to the bottom of it.  Besides keeping people safe is sort of what I do."  Withdrawing his hand slowly, he sat back and tried to act casual about that uninvited physical contact.  At this stage even he was unclear about whether or not he was actually hitting on her.

"Ok.  Guilty as charged. I'm over the moon about it."  Beck laughed when Joanna called him out on his dislike for his sister's ex-husband.  "It'll take some time to get used to but yeah, I think Jessica is happier.  Sucks for the girls but it's not like an unhappy marriage makes for a good family life anyway.  I'm sure it will be for the best once they've all had a chance to heal."  Since children of divorce were not too uncommon, he wasn't too worried about long term effects on his neices.  They were pretty resilient girls anyway.  "Oh wow China! I've never been.  That must have been exciting hunting down a notorious criminal like that - even if it turns out he was innocent."  That whole situation with Black had been a bit of a mess as he understood it but he was still impressed by Joanna’s experience.  It randomly reminded him of Sweden, which he brought up to finalise the list of countries that he had visited.  His desire to avoid getting into anything too political meant that he didn't really notice the extent to which the topic had upset his companion.

"Oh, well..."  He almost considered pretending that he had intentionally not eaten so that the could share a meal with her.  But that would be a silly and unnecessary deception.  "Honestly, I was planning some classes and forgot.  To eat."  He could have a bit of a one track mind when he got focused.  As he watched Joanna prettily indulge his apple pie ramblings with an eye-roll, he thought that he had never seen anyone look so lovely while doing so.  "Thank you."  He said laughingly.  "I feel validated now."  Light grey eyes widening with surprise, he listened with delight to her anecdote about tarte tartin.  Not only was Joanna apparently enjoying his conversation, she was actively engaging with him.  It wasn’t like he was really into dumb girls anyway but he wasn't used to this kind of back and forth.  It felt like she was on his level, which was thrilling.  "That's fascinating."  He stared into her eyes as he made the comment which was only partially about the conversation.  "I don't think I could ever roll my eyes at you."  He said softly while holding her gaze. 

"Ah..."  After a moment he cleared his throat a little awkwardly and broke eye contact.  Beck really hoped she didn't think he was being weird.  They'd been having such a nice time catching up.  Leaning down the table, he grabbed a pair of menus from the end and passed one across to Joanna.  "Anything you want.  My treat."

Joanna Hennings [ British Ministry ]
31 Posts  •  28  •  Heterosexual  •  played by Ann
Re: [TTB] Raise your glass to us [Graeme]
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2019, 05:13:35 PM »
Graeme’s wink, no doubt meant to be friendly, an agreement that idiots were the worst, sent a bolt of heat and fluttering into Joanna’s stomach. And she could not pretend to herself that it was anything to do with her lack of food for the day. Why was she being so ridiculous, Joanna shook herself internally. She had known Graeme for years as friends. The stupid saying absence makes the heart grow fonder had no place here. Why was her stupid mind and body failing to cooperate and insisting on unnecessarily telling her that Graeme was quite handsome, and even more so when he was playing around? She already knew that. But it didn’t mean that she had to feel like a schoolgirl over it. Especially since Joanna had not reacted this way when she was actually in school!

She would have said more about the boat incident. After all, it was not as if any of that had been reassuring at all. Part of her wanted to tell him to grab his nieces and run away from the castle as fast as possible before Hogwarts could show what other horrors it had hidden away. It was not as if anyone could be certain of all the mysteries hidden inside the school. So many powerful witches and wizards had made their marks over the centuries, it made sense that they would want to leave a permanent legacy. Joanna would have said all of this and more. But the warmth of his hand on her arm stopped her in her tracks. It rested reassuringly only slightly gripping to keep from slipping off. The slight weight and heat it provided was comforting in one part, but deeply concerning on the other. Joanna did not have a problem with physical contact. She really didn’t. She just didn’t receive genuine comfort a lot. Most days she was in close proximity to criminals and the only physical contact she received was more violent.

All of this churning through her head, and her full willpower going towards making sure she did not look down at Graeme’s hand in surprise, maintaining that a friendly hand was not so out of the ordinary for her, Joanna could only smile helplessly at him. How was she being like this? She was being pathetic and ridiculous. Two adjectives that she had absolutely no time for in a person. “Just be careful,” she couldn’t help but add, the power of speech returning to her as he removed his hand. “The dome was terrifying for everyone trapped inside. And no one could do anything about it.” She hated that feeling of complete uselessness. So many innocents had suffered and she could not think of the aftermath of the dome falling without also thinking of the aftermath of the Battle of Hogwarts. So much structural damage to the building. So many injuries. So much desperation to find loved ones. Joanna was sure it was not just her who had flashbacks of both events.

At the knowledge that Graeme had forgotten to go to dinner, Joanna’s face dropped into a hypocritical, worried glare. “You’ve got to remember to eat! After all, you’re at Hogwarts now. The food is one of the best parts.” She smiled, then asked as the thought popped into her head, “Is there even better food for professors? I always wondered what dishes were on that table when I was there!” Wow Joanna, way to sound like a complete pig. Why was she sounding like the only thing she had done at school was eat or think about eating? She contained her inner urge to blurt something out about the library. That would not make things better. Best to brush past the comment and move swiftly on. Maybe next time she had a stupid question she could control herself and keep it to herself.

Graeme was staring directly into her eyes. He was staring at her eyes. He was staring at her. The gaze felt intense. And strangely intimate when combined with the tone of his voice. Oh Merlin, she could not react. She could not do something as silly as to blush or look away. She had to hold gaze with a smile. He had nice eyes, Joanna mused, as she desperately hoped her composure had held. Open and grey, if she had felt like it, she was sure she could have stared into them for hours. His comment felt like it had other implications, but surely she was completely imagining that. There was no way that he had meant anything apart from not rolling his eyes at her little tarte tatin story. Although, why wouldn’t he roll his eyes? It was a short anecdote she had picked up from Muggle television that her Gran liked to watch. Nothing worthy of how intensely he was staring at her.

When Graeme eventually looked away, after what felt like forever and a split second simultaneously, Joanna hurried herself to take a large drink of butterbeer to ensure she had something to do. ‘Compose yourself. You are a 28 year old witch. You are above acting like you have been acting. Get a grip!’ She recited in her mind. Gratefully accepting the menu from Graeme, almost so she could immediately bury her head in it, she opened it and tried to focus on the words in front of her rather than the man across who was occupying her thoughts. Food, think about food. She had just acted like all she thought about was food at Hogwarts, it was time to use that and just think about food here too.

“I’ve not eaten here in years,” she commented as she perused the menu, “it was the place to come for Hogsmeade weekends though.” She paused contemplatively, “probably still is unless the student body has collectively fallen for the… charms of Madam Puddifoots.” Joanna grimaced slightly in recollection, “hopefully not though, I think I’d lose all faith in the future generation if that was the case.” She had definitely never been a fan of the tiny teashop with an overabundance of frilly pink and decorative items. Times move on though and it had been over ten years since she had left school. Maybe things had changed?

“What are you thinking?” Joanna asked, raising her head from the menu to gaze at Graeme, while gesturing at the menu. “I think I fancy a baked potato and salad.” It seemed like that would be a fairly safe food choice to eat in front of him incase she was actually an ugly eater. “Although this must be so plain compared to some of the things you must have eaten in Italy!” She smiled at him widely, “you have to tell me about it. I’ve always wanted to go and eat proper Italian pasta. And gelato!” And Joanna was back to sounding like a pig again. Internally groaning she berated herself for once again allowing her thoughts to come pouring out her mouth without filter.

Graeme Becker [ Professor ]
23 Posts  •  30  •  Heterosexual  •  played by Louise
Re: [TTB] Raise your glass to us [Graeme]
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2019, 02:45:56 AM »
Beck kept laughing at her.  Or at least, it wasn’t so much that he was laughing at her but that he found her company fresh and entertaining and the only way his body seemed to know how to express his appreciation was by grinning like an idiot and laughing at every second word that came out of her mouth.  “I don’t disagree that food at Hogwarts is awesome.”  He paused to seriously consider her question.  It hadn’t occurred to him that the fare provided to the Professors might be different to that on the student tables.  “I think the Professor’s get the same food.  But we can make requests.”  It wasn’t like the cuisine on offer was ever really limited.  Beck couldn’t remember ever struggling to find something to eat when he was at school.  However, whenever he mentioned a particular craving to the house-elves in the kitchen, it always appeared on the table for his next meal.  This perk wasn’t necessarily restricted to Professors though.  The elves were so accommodating he doubted that they would deny any requests.

“I imagine the Three Broomsticks is still a popular dating spot.  Though I may have to ask my students.”  No part of Beck’s bright mind gave any thought to whether any part of what he’d just said was weird.  He lost himself briefly in recollections of past visits to Hogsmeade before admitting honestly, “I never hated Madam Puddifoots.”  He’d never had any particular aversion to the colour pink, frills or dainty tea cups.  However, the tiny tea shop had taken all of those things to extreme levels.  “You know, as a place to experience once and then never again.”  There was certainly some merit to the shop being part of the intrinsic Hogwarts experience, even if it had never been worth frequenting.  “But the best shop has always been Honeydukes.”  He grinned as he thought about the candy store and made a mental note to come back during opening hours to get some Fizzing Whizbees.

What're you thinking?

Obviously Joanna only meant her question in terms of what he wanted for dinner, but his head was full of a lot of other thoughts - topmost at that moment was that she had a beautiful smile.  And pretty eyes.  A pleasant voice and lovely laugh.  His mind had helpfully assessed all of her features and categorised them very favourably.  Fortunately, his mouth (that usually lacked any kind of filter) had the sense not to blurt out any of those thoughts – at least for now.  “Hmmm, steak and mashed potato.  Followed by apple pie.”  Since talking about the dessert, he was craving it quite badly. 

“Ah Italian food.  I'd be lying if I said the food didn't have something to do with the amount of time I spent there.”  He chuckled lightly, enjoying the change in topic.  Beck was very fond of the time he’d spent in Italy and happy to discuss same.  “Fortunately, my work kept me active enough to offset all of the eating…  otherwise, I’d be twice the man you knew.”  He held out his arms in front of his torso to mime having a large belly.  Despite enjoying a lot of pasta and pizza over the last few years, he had managed to maintain a trim figure.  “Good food and good wine.”  He said wistfully while glancing from his empty whiskey glass to Joanna’s butterbeer.  “Would you like some?  Wine, that is.”

“I actually learnt to cook a little while I was there.”  He divulged unpretentiously.  Beck always loved to learn new things and cooking was no exception.  “I'm no pro chef but it certainly expanded my repertoire of pastas and risottos.  And gnocchi!  I know how to make some really nice gnocchi with Pomodoro sauce and balls of mozzarella.”  He spoke enthusiastically as he reflected on the recipes he had memorised.  Rolling those little potato dumplings by hand had been some of the most fun he’d ever had in a kitchen.  The thought of sharing that with Joanna filled him with delight so he didn’t hesitate to ask, “Maybe I could cook for you sometime?  Or take you out for gelato?”  His only regret was that he didn’t know how to make gelato himself but he was sure he could find somewhere that served it, even if he had to take her all the way to Italy.

Beck’s eyes widened slightly as he processed what he’d just said.  Did I just ask Joanna out?!?  Whilst he couldn’t deny that he was interested in spending more time with her – and yes, maybe in a more intimate setting – he hadn’t actually intended to make a move.  Although they’d been out of contact for a while, he’d known the Hit-Witch for years which automatically made the prospect of dating her much more serious than any of his previous relationships.  Even though he genuinely found her to be the most interesting and enchanting woman in the world right now, he couldn’t promise that wouldn’t change and it didn’t seem like Joanna would be the type of girl who would be happy being just a quick fling, which would undoubtedly make a mess of their friendship.  Beck generally considered himself fairly smart and the smart thing to do would be to forget about his attraction to her.

Relax.  He told himself mildly.  You haven’t done anything wrong yet.  It’s not like friends can’t share gnocchi and gelato.  Smiling in what he hoped was just a friendly way, he waited to see how she would respond.

Joanna Hennings [ British Ministry ]
31 Posts  •  28  •  Heterosexual  •  played by Ann
Re: [TTB] Raise your glass to us [Graeme]
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2019, 11:27:51 AM »
He was still laughing at her. Was she really behaving like that much of an idiot? Oh Merlin, this was going disastrously. Joanna was just glad that she did not blush easily otherwise she would be beaming bright red right now. Bright red and talking nonsense was a combination that she was absolutely sure she could not handle. No, best to get hold of herself and seriously not get caught up in Graeme’s smile which reduced her to word vomiting the thoughts in her head. He just looked so good though, and Joanna had forgotten how much she enjoyed his company. Even though she was sure she would enjoy his company more if he stopped laughing at her! Maybe it was a good thing he was laughing at her then, there was no way she should be enjoying this chat this much. It was entirely unnecessary the direction her thoughts were taking her.

Unnecessary and inappropriate, she scolded herself. They were friends and that was it. Not even really friends anymore, though she would like that to change. And friends did not spend time going over every little interaction they had for signs of feelings of a romantic nature. She was being ridiculous and she had somehow turned the conversation to Hogsmeade weekends, a concept she had not previously thought about in years. If Graeme had ever had any interest in developing their friendship then they would have done so at Hogwarts when they met. They had not therefore it was obvious to Joanna that these stupid feelings that she was experiencing were entirely one sided and had to stop. “The Flumes retired and Honey took over. Do you remember her from school? Her brother, Fergie, works at the Ministry so I always get something from him when I’m up in his department.” She smiled, Fergie was always guaranteed to have an array of treats in his office that he good-naturedly shared.

Determined that this entire conversation would not be about food, and conscious that friends did not do that, Joanna contained herself from asking if he wanted to share dessert. That was something a couple would do, and despite what her stupid brain wanted, they were not a couple.

Her eyes were drawn down from Graeme’s face to the rest of his body with his gesturing. Despite what he was saying, she was seriously reminded that he was an extremely fit man and had always been toned from all the exercise and activity they got on the job. Joanna could only imagine what he looked like under his robes, but she was sure she would enjoy the sight. Trying not to stare too much, while at the same time appreciating the view across from her, she smiled wistfully and barely caught what he was saying. “Oh, I’m apparating home later so I don’t really apparate and drink.” Pausing to look at his empty glass, she threw caution to the wind. Splinching somehow seemed less of a negative than not sharing a drink with Graeme. “Actually, you know what? One small glass would be lovely.” She looked up at him in conspiracy, “don’t tell anyone!”

And he cooked! Oh Merlin. He really wasn’t helping. Her mouth watered slightly as he spoke of what he could make. Even if Joanna barely knew what gnocchi was - a type of pasta? - the way he spoke made it sound amazing. Joanna prided herself in being thoroughly predictable. She was not one for surprises. She followed rules and protocol and she did not suddenly decide to do things on a whim. She further prided herself in usually being able to predict others. Her job called for a lot of observation, and she felt it gave her a strong insight into people and picking up small cues as to what they were thinking or going to do. This skill served her well. But not tonight. True, she may have been distracted thinking of Graeme in a kitchen and generally just lost in her own thoughts over her own behaviour and his presence but that was no excuse. Joanna did not think she had been caught this off guard in a long time.

“You want to cook for me?” She uttered in shock, not really aware of even speaking it out loud. Her eyes widening along with his as they stared at each other briefly. The obvious answer was yes. Yes Merlin, let’s just go back to yours now. Yes, please cook for me, it’ll be ridiculously hot and I really want to spend the night with you. The reality was that clearly Graeme had not meant it like that. He had meant in a ‘lets be nice to old friends way’. She could stomach that disappointment though. She was aware that she needed to get her fantasy under control and enjoy the genuine friendship offer he was displaying, rather than trying to manipulate it into something more. “I’d love that,” she offered cautiously, just incase he had only said it as a mistake. “I don’t think I’ve ever had someone offer to cook for me. And who am I to turn down genuine Italian food!” Yes Joanna, make yourself sound like a fat pig. Do anything rather than focus on his clean shaven face and how his lips would feel against hers.

Luckily a waitress chose that moment to appear, allowing Joanna something to distract her from her fantasy thoughts. She smiled up at the woman, “can I please get a baked potato with cheese and a side salad? Thanks.” Allowing Graeme to put in his own order too, the waitress then asked about drinks. Joanna smiled, and gestured the question back to Graeme. “You pick the wine. I expect you to be the expert on the matter!” Once the waitress had left, she seemed to take the easy atmosphere with her. She was left staring at Graeme, at odds for anything to say and suddenly part of her wished that she had not ordered anything to eat. What if this was the level from now on?

Not one to allow someone else to control the conversation, she focused on the previous topic and drew a breath, “so, tell me more about Italy? Did you get the chance to do much sightseeing?” She would brush past the potential dinner talk. It was clear that she was losing herself in a complete fantasy and had to pull herself together. She was a grown up. She also had a hidden reason for this chat and she needed to talk about it. Joanna was determined to let it come up organically though, rather than blurt out the question. It would not do to make Graeme think that was her only interest. And Italy really was a fantastic subject. She could listen to him talk about his time there for hours. “If I ever get the chance to go, whereabouts would you even recommend?” Leaning forward slightly, she awaited his response.

Graeme Becker [ Professor ]
23 Posts  •  30  •  Heterosexual  •  played by Louise
Re: [TTB] Raise your glass to us [Graeme]
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2019, 02:16:09 AM »
"Hmm Honey…"  Beck cast his mind back to his teen years.  "Pretty girl with red hair?" He did vaguely remember the Flumes daughter.  She had been pretty popular due to her tendency to give out free candy and also for being quite a looker.  There had to have been at least a dozen boys he'd known at school who'd had a crush on her.  Beck had no idea what the candy makers daughter was like these days though but right now he doubted she was as charming as his present company.  He couldn’t help but reflect that he preferred brunettes anyway.  Or at least a specific brunette with pretty grey eyes, a charming smile and...  A friend shouldn’t be wondering whether their friend has nice legs.  He reminded himself internally, stopping that train of thought.

He was pleased by Joanna's reasonable explanation for not drinking (and relieved that his earlier line of thinking had clearly been way off the mark).  It was very responsible of her not to mix alcohol with apparating.  He'd witnessed the results of such poor decision-making himself.  However, he did not think a single glass of wine was dangerous enough to cause such problems.  Unless Joanna is a complete lightweight.  Yet as amusing as it would be to test that out, he would never pressure her to drink.  It would be particularly unfair to get her intoxicated when she had to travel a fair way to get home, whereas he only had to stumble down to the castle.  Not that he was planning on becoming inebriated either.  He hardly wanted to earn himself a reputation as that kind of Professor.  But a glass or two of wine with dinner was pretty safe in his experience.  Still, Beck was a little surprised when she conceded to drink with him after all.  "I won't tell." He grinned and then mimed zipping his lips.  “And I promise I’ll make sure you get home safe.” If she ended up too tipsy to apparate, he'd take responsibility and find her some other way to travel.  It was just the gentlemanly thing to do.

Beck could've sworn that his heart actually skipped a beat when she accepted his offer to cook for her.  Although the idea had come to him so naturally and with genuine delight, he started to panic a little bit now that he'd had time to think it through.  This felt like delicate territory - somehow teetering on the edge between friendship and something more.  He still wasn't sure whether she thought it would be a date and then there was the whole logistics of the thing...  Beck didn't have his own place and couldn't exactly bring her back to his quarters at Hogwarts, even if he had a kitchen there - which he didn't.  Getting a room in a hotel or inn would just send completely the wrong message so that was out.  He didn't think he could exactly invite himself over to her place and she'd mentioned she lived with her dad anyway.  As for his sister's place...  Actually, there was nothing wrong with that.  If this was just a friend thing then they didn't need privacy.  Stop picturing a candlelight dinner, you idiot. He scolded himself.  It would be just fine to use Jessica's kitchen and have her there as a buffer so that he couldn't do anything too stupid with Joanna.

"Great!" He replied heartily.  "I'll just clear it with my sister and then maybe you could join us for dinner next week?" Hopefully that sounded casual and friendly enough to clear up any confusion.  Fortunately a waitress arriving at their table interrupted any further awkwardness on his part.  "A steak and mash for me please." He placed his dinner order cheerfully then he paused to consider the wine options.  Since Joanna had called him an expert, he felt the need to impress.  However, as nice an establishment as The Three Broomsticks was, Beck could hardly be surprised that their wine list didn’t extended to many rare Italian varietals.  Fortunately, his companion’s dinner choice was fairly neutral so he didn’t have to worry about choosing a wine that would conflict with her meal.  A hearty red would match best with his steak but he wanted to treat Joanna to something she would enjoy.  “Please bring us your best bottle of Moscato.”  He finally advised the waitress.  The fruity Italian wine was generally considered more of a dessert wine, however, if he had judged his companion correctly as being a bit of a sweet-tooth, he was confident she would appreciate it.

Usually Beck had no trouble thinking of anything to say but he found his mind oddly stalled after the waitress left them.  It seemed like Joanna was staring at him and he just stared back at her, lost for words.  For a brief second he was afraid she’d read his distinctly non-friend thoughts towards her.  The Hit Witch evidently found her senses first, for which he was grateful, bringing up the subject of Italy again. 

“I never miss a chance to explore!”  He grinned at her enquiry and thought over the best things he’d seen on his downtime in Italy.  “Well, obviously there’s the Colosseum, that’s pretty impressive.  And Venice makes quite an impression too with its lovely little canals…”  Pausing, Beck hummed a little as he got lost imagining Joanna on a gondola ride; wearing a bright red dress and floppy wide-brimmed hat.  It was a pretty vivid day-dream and took him a minute to shake off.  Think about Italy, not Joanna in Italy.  “Ummm…  I was personally quite fascinated by my visit to Pompeii…”  He muddled on, giving his mouth free-reign to blurt out any thoughts that popped up – though only the ones that pertained to Italy, not how nice it would be to reach out and caress Joanna's cheek.  "It’s quite amazing to see just how much of the city was preserved by the volcanic fallout.”

Yet, as interesting as ancient ruins were there were certainly more aesthetically pleasing experiences to be had in Italy.  He rubbed a hand across his chin pensively and considered his companion.  Surely he could think of a beautiful place to recommend to a beautiful woman.  “Ah!  The Grotta Azzurra!”  He exclaimed delightedly as he recalled the spectacular sea cave on the coast of Capri.  “Or Blue Grotto, that is.  Don’t let the name fool you, it’s one of the most breath-taking sights I’ve ever seen.”  His grin slipped momentarily as his mind added present company excluded.  Leaning forward on the table, his voice became more and more passionate as he spoke.  “There’s a special way the sunlight touches the sea water there which causes the cavern to be illuminated with glowing blue light.  You can take a boat in there and just float along in the sapphire luminescence.”

His brain then circled around to match the aforementioned qualities of ‘volcanic’ and ‘beautiful’ with one of his favourite experiences.  "Ah but Mount Etna!  That is something else entirely.”  Beck’s eyes twinkled as he recalled the starkly beautiful mountain in Sicily.  “Just picture an otherworldly landscape of black sand, jagged rocks and oozing lava.”  Perhaps he was painting it too harshly but it was difficult to describe the stunning, almost lunar appearance of the land.  “Yet just a short way away are lush vineyards and orchards, fed by the volcanic ash.”

“It’s an active volcano.  A very active one.”  He explained enthusiastically.  “It has erupted more than 200 times over the last 3000 years and resultantly the Muggles have come up with many intriguing stories about the mountain over the years.”  Beck had unashamedly become a little hooked on Greek and Roman mythology during his time in Italy.  It particularly amused him to consider what magical influence the witches and wizards of the time might have had on such legends.  They came from an age before the International Statute of Secrecy when magical folk had not gone to great lengths to hide their powers.  “In mythology it was believed to be home to the legendary one-eyed monster, the Cyclops as well as Vulcan, aka Hephaestus, the god of fire and metalwork.  The fires of the mountain served as his forge.  It is also the location in which Zeus was said to have imprisoned Typhon, a deadly 100-headed monster.  In other lore it has also been cited as an entrance to the underworld or in Arthurian legend, the fairy realm.  The mountain has featured in numerous other stories as well, the common theme being a way for the primitive Muggles to explain why the mountain rumbles and sometimes spits fire.”

Returning from mythology to reality, he added, “With a few simple charms to protect against the intense heat…  It is possible to lie with the glowing magma to your back and gaze up at the stars on a clear night.  It’s a spectacular view.”

The waitress returned with the wine he had ordered and helpfully filled two glasses before leaving the bottle on the table and sashaying away again.  It was at this point that Beck realised he had been talking non-stop for a fair few minutes.  “Sorry.”  He smiled apologetically at his companion.  “I think I may have gotten a little carried away there.  I hope I didn’t bore you.”  The subject had been fascinating to him but he wasn’t going to assume that Joanna had been letting him talk out of anything other than politeness.  “Please take a turn to talk so that I don’t feel so rude.”  He did feel a little bad for taking over the conversation completely, especially since he was still interested to hear more about Joanna.

Joanna Hennings [ British Ministry ]
31 Posts  •  28  •  Heterosexual  •  played by Ann
Re: [TTB] Raise your glass to us [Graeme]
« Reply #12 on: Yesterday at 12:46:43 AM »
His sister!?!? It took her mind a few seconds to process past that drop of information to provide her with an explanation. He now lived at Hogwarts, he probably couldn’t cook there. What did Professor’s quarters even look like? No, Joanna, do not start thinking down that line… Pushing away the thoughts of Graeme’s living situation, Joanna acknowledged that his sister’s house was probably his summer residence when he wasn’t travelling. So, it would make sense that if he wanted to cook it would be there. Just… she wasn’t really expecting an invite to a family dinner. That felt like a recipe for awkwardness and disaster. She had never even met Graeme’s sister before, why would she suddenly want to share a dinner with her?

“Oh, no. I don’t want to intrude,” she said hastily. “Family meals are important.” Goodness knows she would do anything for the ability to have had one last meal with her brother. Her thoughts such a fluster from the recent facts, Joanna had successfully managed to push the disappointment of thinking that he wanted to cook just for her out her mind. Stupid, that’s what that fantasy had been. Pure stupidity. “It must be nice to be so close,” she commented quietly, looking down while he ordered. Quietly, nostalgically, Joanna was not sure what her tone really was. After all, for all that, she had never really had time for her brother while he was alive. She was always too busy.

She didn’t know enough about wine to know exactly what a moscato was, but trusted Graeme that it would be satisfactory. Joanna may not be a heavy drinker but she knew that, even if she didn’t like it, she was practiced enough at downing her drinks before she could really let the taste fester in her mouth. Hopefully it would not be the case tonight though, downing wine probably didn’t send the best impression across…

His insight on Italy was fascinating, and Joanna couldn’t help but prop an arm on the table so as to rest her face on her hand, gazing at him, almost caught up in the pictures he painted. It all sounded breath-taking. He seemed to be as similarly interested in the muggle history and architecture as she was and Joanna could not help but think how awesome Italy would be with a willing (and handsome) companion and tour guide. Although she wasn’t sure she was that much of a risk taker to lie on top of lava… magic or not, that seemed like asking for trouble.

“Oh, you could never bore me,” she replied, eyes sparkling with the information she had just digested. “It all sounds so wonderful. I could genuinely listen for hours! The culture, the history, I’d just love to experience it all!” She removed her face from the palm of her hand and sat backwards. “Maybe one day,” she shrugged. It would involve taking an extended holiday, something that just was not an option at the moment, but Joanna held out hope that it would be in the future. She took a sip of the wine that had just arrived, allowing the sweet flavour to linger on her tongue. “This is very nice,” she commented, allowing a moment to pause and think of what in Merlin’s name she could talk about that was even vaguely interesting.

Her social life was non existent. Her work accomplishments were either classified or standard procedural, not interesting dinner conversation despite Joanna’s usual love of discussing her job. Her own family was also off the table for any form of general chit chat. Absolutely nothing she could say would hold a candle to Italy. She may as well resign herself into boring Graeme to sleep by whatever topic of conversation she came up with. Why wasn’t she more social? Joanna was sure others did not have this many difficulties thinking of something to say. Oh well, at least Graeme would have a nearly full bottle of wine to get him through her stories.

“I love Muggle myths and legends,” she told him, half eying his glass waiting for it to be drained. “My grandparents are muggles so I was kind of raised at the local library. Gran used to take me to all these castles and ruins. She would tell us all about the history. The cold facts as she would call it. Me and,” she couldn’t help but choke slightly on his name, “Robert would then look up the stories later. She really didn’t like telling us about anything magical. As far as Gran is concerned, King Arthur should have never ran into Merlin, and only Fairy Godmothers from children’s books should have wands.” The war had only increased her Gran’s distaste for the magical world who had taken her daughter and grandson away.

“So it kind of became a game. Gran tried to convince us that the ‘magical’ elements of history all had a rational, muggle explanation, and we’d find the most obscure mythical monster we could and try and make her explain it away. You should have heard her try to tell two children that Scylla was just a hallucination from sailors with scurvy.” Joanna paused, smiling in recollection. “Actually, she tried to say a lot of things were hallucinations. I think she’d be happy if everything from when mum was eleven had just been one long one.” Her smile fell at this last sentence. What had possessed her to say that out loud. It was definitely one of those truths that were unspoken. There was just something about Graeme that made her feel like she could open up to him.

“Sorry,” she said quickly, her eyes falling to the table in-between them. “I don’t know why I said that. You can’t change the past after all.” Joanna raised her eyes back to Graeme and gave an attempt at a smile, “that’s one magic that doesn’t exist in this world, no matter what we wish for.” Wow. Well done Joanna, she thought to herself harshly. Way to completely ruin the entire tone of the conversation. Now watch Graeme run out of here because who wants to listen to this at dinnertime?

Graeme Becker [ Professor ]
23 Posts  •  30  •  Heterosexual  •  played by Louise
Re: [TTB] Raise your glass to us [Graeme]
« Reply #13 on: Today at 02:11:58 AM »
Beck was a bit disappointed when she brushed off his invitation to dinner.  Joanna had seemed eager to try his cooking just a moment before…  So it was a little curious that she lost interest so quickly.  Unless she was the one who was disappointed?  Did she want it to be just us?  He hadn’t meant to give the Hit Witch the wrong idea.  It was not his intention to seduce her – no matter how attractive he found her.  Still, he wondered what would happen if he actually tried to turn on the charm.  Beck had been much more successful with the ladies as an adult once he’d realised that some women found his unbridled enthusiasm for life to be exciting.  However, he felt sure that Joanna was too level-headed to get caught up with such frivolous feelings.  It was best to try and push such thoughts out of his mind anyway.  Whether or not his lovely companion had desired a private dinner with him, did not change how unwise it would be to pursue such a relationship.  He should stop overanalysing her behaviour for signs of mutual attraction and just focus on being a decent friend.

Yet it was proving difficult to get the idea of him and Joanna out of his head.  Usually his mind was slippery and all thoughts passed through quickly, but very occasionally something managed to get stuck and it was almost impossible to get past it until he did something about it.  So when she responded favourably to his tales, claiming that she could listen to him talk for hours without growing bored, all he could think was that he loved the way her eyes sparkled.  When she expressed her desire to visit Italy one day, he found himself rather preoccupied with an unexpected fantasy.  “Maybe…”  He murmured softly as he looked at her, a mischievous grin forming on his face.  Maybe you should take my hand and we’ll go now.  Don’t worry about packing.  Leave everything behind.  We'll figure it all out on the way!  That was the kind of impulsive thing he could do as someone without any ties.  She certainly wouldn’t be the first witch he’d whisked away for a weekend of adventure and passion.  But he’d signed on to teach Defence Against the Dark Arts for the year as well as making promises to his family.  Beck actually had responsibilities for a change.  Besides this was Joanna and there was no way she’d ever agree to such a thing.

So instead he said, "Maybe you should come over for dinner so I can give you a taste of Italy.  You know, to hold you over until you can go yourself."  Everything else aside, he did genuinely want to cook for her.  He was also sure that his sister would enjoy having someone normal to talk to, which would also help to distract Jessica from pestering him and teasing him about his life.  “It would really be no imposition.”  Please say yes.  Beck took a sip of his wine, enjoying the way the sweet fruity flavour played on his tastebuds.  It was lightly sparkling, a common style for the Italian wine.  It pleased him that Joanna seemed to like it and so he couldn’t help but add, “Moscato is actually a very light wine.  It has half, or even less, of the alcohol content of the average white.”  Smiling he nodded towards the bottle on the table to indicate she was welcome to drink as much as she liked.  Hopefully she could enjoy it more now that she knew he wasn’t trying to get her drunk.  It was certainly something that had factored into his choice. 

Generally Beck was none too impressed with anyone that avoided or tampered with the truth just because they didn’t like it.  As such, he could not approve of the way Joanna’s gran apparently approached history.  However, he was very entertained by the idea of the game she and her brother had played with it.  “I love Muggle mythology!”  He said brightly, having not yet registered the subtle sadness in Joanna’s tone.  “I honestly don’t think the Muggles are that imaginative.”  He chuckled happily and drank some more of his wine.  “So I like to play a similar game.  But I do the opposite – I try to find the magical explanation for the stories!  Like the Minotaur!  That was clearly a partial transfiguration by a wizard.”

Then his cheerful smile dropped suddenly as his instincts kicked in and told him to pay attention to what Joanna was saying – and what she was not saying.  In his line of work he had to know how to read people to at least some extent.  Joanna was clearly practiced at managing her expressions but he thought he had caught something in her voice or the glint of her eye…  She’s sad.  He was shocked to realise.  She’s really, really sad.  Putting down his glass, Beck leaned forward with a deep frown of concentration and concern furrowing his brow.  Even though at times he’d been accused of being emotionally detached, Beck did really care about people.  Right now he wanted to cheer Joanna up but he wasn’t sure why she was even sad in the first place.  It hadn’t sounded like her childhood was really bad enough to explain this unexpected shift in Joanna’s mood.  So what is it?  If he was going to fix this, he needed more information.  For the second time that night, he reached across to place a reassuring hand on her arm.  “What’s wrong, Joanna?”  He asked softly and with much more tenderness than he usually used in questioning.  “What do you wish you could change?”


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