1994-10-18: Amortentia

Participants:

Sechnall_icon.gif Madeline_icon.gif

Scene Title Amortentia
Synopsis Sechnall and Madeline have another potions lesson, and then a bite to eat.
Location The Chaser/Downtown London
Date October 18, 1994
Watch For Non-sheep Salt and Pepper Shakers
Logger Sech

It's nearing closing time, and Sechnall is occupied in the front of the shop, sorting out the last of the evening's paperwork. Not that there's a whole lot of it to do - the register has been charmed to do its own, when possible - but he has always despised paperwork, and so it usually takes him an hour or so to do because he tends to procrastinate as much as possible. Glancing up from where he's seated behind the counter at the young man who is trying to look busy organizing the front of the shop for approximately the one-hundredth time, he motions toward the door. "You're free to go, Alexander. Thank you." Looking relieved, the assistant quickly departs, letting the door spring shut with a loud bang that causes Sechnall to frown a bit.

It isn't too long after Alexander departs that the quiet mousy woman approaches uncertainly on the shop. Not that there is ever very much she does do certainly, this time Madeline's uncertainty is borne out of a slight doubt that she should be here. There was that invitation to return, but that was given some time ago. Perhaps he's no longer interested? Still, her want to continue the lessons outweighs this hesitation, and so she finds herself making her way to the door and rapping upon it in warning before she tries the handle, intending to open it just enough to peek in and make her presence known.

Sechnall is so absorbed in his work - well, trying to pretend he's doing his work when he actually isn't, that is - that he doesn't notice Madeline's approach to the shop in spite of the large glass windows giving him a clear view of the street just a few feet away. The sound of the door opening causes him to startle, and he stands suddenly, a few stray sheets of paper that had been drifting toward the edge of the counter suddenly floating lazily to the wooden floor. "Ah.. oh! Good evening, Miss Sagace," He exclaims, slightly flustered. "Please, come in."

Madeline goes a bit red as she gets more of a reaction than she was intending. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you," she says immediately, before any of the usual pleasantries, or even taking him up on the offer to come in. But once that sincere apology is given, she steps over the threshold and pushes the door shut gently behind her. "I- Good evening, Mr. Swancoate. I should have knocked louder. I thought-" Thought he might have seen her. "I … hope I'm not intruding?" she goes on instead, taking in that paperwork before him and growing yet a little more uncertain.

"N-no worries at all. My fault entirely," Sechnall replies, bending over to pick up the papers and stuff them back in the pile with the others. He actually looks somewhat glad to be rid of them for the time being, a fact that is reinforced when he shakes his head firmly in response to her last question. "No, you're not intruding at all, I assure you." He glances down at himself, realizing he probably looks rather dishevelled - he's still in his smock and gloves, with an old blue dress shirt underneath, collar currently flipped up, that seems to have been burned in several places. The gloves and smock are quickly removed and set aside.

Madeline doesn't seem entirely convinced that it was Sechnall's fault - after all, it isn't as though he startled himself. But then arguing about it might just prolong the awkwardness, so she just gives a small, awkward smile, shaking her head a little. "Just the same, my apologies," she says simply instead, happy to leave it at that. Only once he confirms that she's not intruding does she step further inside, glancing momentarily at the pile of papers before looking back to him again. "Ah, well, I - I know that you're busy. I just thought that… You had mentioned perhaps another lesson?" Her voice gets a little quieter towards the end, so it's probably just as well that she's stepped closer.

Moving out from behind the counter, Sechnall walks toward Madeline, offering a timid smile in place of another apology. "Y-yes, certainly. I hadn't planned anything specifically, but.. I'm certain I can think of something." He considers, and then extends a hand in her direction. "Ah, may I take your coat? There's, er, a peg in the back. Unless you're chilly, that is." Which would be quite a feat, considering the shop seems to be kept /very/ toasty by the large fireplace in the rear section of the building. "There's.. hm.. well, there are a few we might try today, since the last lesson went well enough to tell me that you're beyond the basics."

"Perhaps I should have sent a request ahead…" Madeline realizes now, going a bit pink at having caught him unawares, even if he doesn't seem the list bit put out by it. Still, she pulls off her coat at the offer, holding it out for him. "Thank you. That's - No, it's … quite warm," she notes with a faint flicker of a smile. It fades away rather quickly, but then returns a little more strongly as he pronounces her past the basics. She can't help but look just a little bit pleased, either with the compliment or with herself - or both. "Whatever you think is … appropriate."

"No, er, no need for that sort of thing. The invitation was an open one, after all," Sechnall notes, taking her coat when it's offered and transporting it to the back of the room, where he hangs it on an empty peg before returning. "I.. well. Hm." He glances over at the stack of papers sitting on the counter once more. "I've seen that you're quite adept with poisons and antidotes. Perhaps I should evaluate your skill with more contemporary potions.." Withdrawing his wand, he flicks it once, summoning a single sheet over to himself. "Hm.. I presume you know what Amortentia is?"

Really, it hadn't occurred to Sechnall that proposing such a thing should be embarrassing, although when Madeline blushes, he seems to realize the implications and immediately does the same. "Ah.. y-yes, that's correct. They're actually quite popular and I need to replenish my inventory.." Clearing his throat, he glances between her and the rest of the paper stack nervously. Obviously he should have picked something slightly more bland to begin with. "Of course, erm, if you feel as if that might be too difficult, there are plenty of others to choose from.."

Madeline has started to find those shelves rather interesting again, to judge by her swiftly changing eye-line. "Well, no. I mean - If it's … something that needs doing… Unless you think it's too difficult for me. I, ah, I never did as well on … those as … others." That is, the poisons and antidotes side of things. "But I - I did come to learn, so…" She lets out a breath, taking a moment to collect herself. "It's - I don't … object, unless you do." Yes, that sounds nicely decisive. Maybe too decisive. She goes a shade pinker again.

Amazingly, Sechnall seems to get the general gist of what she's saying. Possibly it's because they both speak the language of Awkwardese fluently. "Ah.. no, it should be appropriate, I think. For your level of skill, I mean.." He off-handedly sets the paper back on the counter, and then goes rummaging about the shelves, picking out a few different ingredients before turning back to Madeline. "Er, this way, then? If you're ready." And, assuming she is, he strides towards the back room, opening up the locked door quite quickly with his wand and holding it open for her.

Sorrel nods as he determines her skill level, glancing briefly over at him, with just about perfect timing for him to be moving off getting the supplies. So she watches this, light gaze following his movements as if making note of where these things are. It's doubtful she'd ever be in here alone with a burning need to make a love potion, but who knows. "I, er. Yes. I'm ready," she agrees, following behind him a little ways towards the door. With a nod of thanks, she ducks through the opening and moves a few feet inside before waiting for him to join her again. "A … lot of people use this then?" she asks conversationally, after clearing her throat.

After Madeline enters, Sechnall follows, setting all of the gathered ingredients on the bare workspace-counter inside. The terrarium from the other day seems to have disappeared completely. "Ah, well.. actually, I'm not sure. A lot of people do /buy/ it, however," Sechnall elaborates, looking a little confused about that himself. Eventually he merely shrugs, and after glancing furtively over at her for a few seconds in thought, seems to remember something and reaches down to open the cabinet just next to him. "The most important ingredient, of course, is Ashwinder eggs - here we are. They need to be kept frozen, or they'll set fire if left alone too long." He seems far less verbally clumsy when he's talking about something related to his profession. The eggs - gray-colored and covered in frost - are deposited on the counter, and then a flask is placed next to them. He picks one up, cracks it one-handed against the edge of the counter, and lets the red-orange yolk flow into the flask. The second egg is extended to Madeline. "You, erm.. here. Quickly, or they'll start to warm up."

Madeline considers that important distinction for a moment before nodding. "Of course. You wouldn't - There must be some people buy and don't use," she replies in a quiet and awkward tone. She moves over a little closer as he draws out the eggs, giving them a curious look. And perhaps grateful for something safer and more concrete to talk about. "That … would be important, yes," she agrees with a faint smile, of not wanting the eggs to catch fire. She watches as he deals with the first one, and then finds herself a bit flustered as he holds the second one out to her. "Oh. Uh. Right. Yes," she says, taking it hastily as he points out the importance of quickness here. She isn't quite so smooth at it - the first attempt of hitting it on the counter isn't hard enough, but her second go manages to crack the shell and she leans over to promptly empty it into the flask as well.

Offering a nod to that sentiment - or at least to the fact that he's not really sure what people do with the potions they buy, and doesn't ask in most cases - Sechnall watches her as she cracks the egg open, giving an approving nod. He reaches out to take the shell from her, which he places along with the one he'd just emptied aside. "Those can be, er, used in other potions, actually. Brew of Bitterness calls for the shell of an Ashwinder egg," He notes, before reaching for the next ingredient. It appears to be several small cubes of some dark brown solid in a loose bag. "Unsweetened chocolate," He explains, and retrieves a mortar and pestle from another cabinet. Several pieces of the stuff are dumped into it, and he uses the pestle to crush one up, then reaches over to take her hand and place the instrument therein. As during their last such lesson, he seems much more self-possessed - or perhaps just less self-aware - when doing this sort of thing. "Go ahead and crush it up - you'll want it even but slightly coarse, even though most texts will tell you otherwise. Too fine and the potion will lose some of its potency."

"Oh, well, that's … efficient," Madeline notes of the using every bit of the egg, though to her it sounds a little lame and is accompanied by a self-consciously brief grimace. "I mean, it … makes sense to keep them then. I - don't think I'm familiar with that, ah, brew." She doesn't really have the benefit of being any less awkward herself, but at least there is plenty to keep her mind off of it. She allows him to place the mortar in her hand, looking over at him and then nodding to the instruction. At least this seems less likely to burn the place down if she does it incorrectly. Though she's clearly not horribly practised at it, there's a certain enjoyment of this task as she grinds down the chocolate, stopping herself before it can get too finely ground.

"Rather nasty stuff. Makes the drinker very, erm, irritable," Sechnall replies, although that's probably quite obvious just given the name. "Ah, quite good.. now, let's see." The next ingredient is a strong-smelling herb with a small white flower; this, also, is placed in the mortar and pestle after the chocolate grounds have been dumped into a small bowl and set aside. "Levisticum officinale. That is, er, lovage. Quite common." He starts to mash it up, then moves the mortar and pestle in front of Madeline, indicating that she can continue doing the same. Meanwhile, a cauldron is produced from a nearby shelf.

"So the … inside of the egg helps make them, ah, warm hearted, while the shell makes them irritable?" Madeline hazards a guess, a little uncertain whether she should be drawing such conclusions already. But there is a certain desire to prove that she is paying attention here. She picks up the mortar after he's set it down, continuing with the grinding action as he moves on. The movement has started to come back to her again, and she's seeming less rusty at operating the tools. Her attention only needed half on it now, she keeps an eye on him with the cauldron.

"Ah.. yes, that's quite right. And the lovage contributes to - well, to emotional instability. Good intuition," Sechnall remarks, glancing at her with a bit of a smile. While she works, he starts the cauldron by tapping his wand on it, and then adds the flask of Ashwinder eggs immediately. "Now.. after you're finished with that, the powdered moonstone - it's just over there - can be added first. Two tablespoons, you'll find a measurer just beneath you in the drawer. And then the chocolate and lovage."

Madeline can't help but give a small smile at the comment on her intuition, at once surprised, self-conscious, and just a little bit pleased with herself. "Thank you." Her gaze drops down into the mortar, and seeing that the lovage is really quite well ground by now, she sets it down gently upon the work surface and heads over to where he'd indicated the moonstone. "This here?" she confirms, even though she's fairly certain she's got the right one. She holds it up for verification as she starts looking into the drawer for the measuring device.

Apparently it's better for both of them to have something intellectually stimulating to do, since there's been considerably less verbal floundering in the past ten minutes than usual. Sechnall does redden a little when she thanks him, but then he paces quickly over to the mortar and pestle to inspect the lovage, which he seems satisfied with. "Ah, yes, that's it - make certain you add level tablespoons. The moonstone has, erm, balancing properties, and adding too much will offset the benefits of the lovage." He glances into the cauldron once to check on the Ashwinder eggs, which are beginning to flame slightly.

"Level. Yes, ah, all right," Madeline confirms with a nod, as she sets the container down on the workspace and opens it so that she can begin measuring it out, making very certain that her spoonfuls are nicely level. "Too little will … have them too unstable?" she guesses again, giving the moonstone a thoughtful look. To be certain, she's grateful for the distraction and the excuse to keep busy. She starts to carefully add the moonstone to the mixture, tapping the back part of the spoon's handle with a nail to lightly knock it all free.

Sechnall watches her work, nodding slowly to her next inference. "Correct. Amortentia creates a very pronounced change of personality even when brewed correctly, so a balancing agent is necessary." Once the powder is dropped into the cauldron the contents begin to bubble goopily, prompting the apothecary to reach into the drawer in front of Madeline for a large brass ladel and stir it clockwise three times. "Very good. Now the chocolate, which is for, erm.. an element of.." He struggles for an appropriate word momentarily. "..cupidity."

Madeline gives a quick nod, pleased to have managed another right answer, though her focus remains largely on the potion in front of her, since things are really starting to cook now. She steps back just slightly as he reaches into the drawer, just working around this as she reaches forward herself to pick up the chocolate, dumping it in when he instructs her too. "Cupidity," she repeats under her breath, amused by that idea, though also a little sheepish about her amusement.

The chocolate is stirred into the mix in a similar manner to the moonstone, although now the potion begins to bubble even more furiously, and occasionally emits a plume of dark flame. Sechnall doesn't really seem perturbed by this. "Now for the lovage. Sift it in slowly - ah, here. Stir while you do, the flames are mostly harmless." 'Mostly' being the operative word, but it's unlikely he'd thrust her into a very dangerous situation. He takes her left hand and moves it over to the ladel, continuing the clockwise stirring motion for an instant before releasing it, and nods toward the container of the herb.

"I- All right," Madeline replies. She caught that 'mostly' and it gives her pause, but it's really too late to turn back now, anyway. She'll just have to be careful, is all. Once more, she lets him guide her hand, following the instruction on stirring as she takes over, keeping as well back from the flame as she can without disturbing the work. She gives it a few stirs to get the rhythm down before she risks splitting her attention to pick up the lovage in her free hand and start carefully tipping it in, stirring all the while.

When the last ingredient is dumped into the cauldron the flames flare up again, although they quickly begin to die down as more and more is added. After a while the liquid begins to take on a mother-of-pearl sheen, at which point Sechnall reaches over to indicate that Madeline should stop sifting additional lovage into the mix. "Hm.. that's, erm, very good! Three more clockwise stirs and then one counterclockwise and it should be left on its own for a while," He notes, bending slightly lower to inspect the stuff. After leaning back, he smiles just a bit, and nods. "The scent is correct."

Madeline leans back from the cauldron as the flames flare up, though she's at least got the sense not to stop what she's doing. She's just going to make sure that as much of her is well out of harm's way as is possible. When he indicates for her to stop, she deftly rights the mortar, tipping back into it the lovage that hasn't been spilled into the brew. Still holding the herb, she focusses on getting these last four stirs correct before finally stopping and setting the mortar back down. "So that … went all right then?" she confirms with a small smile of her own. She even risks leaning in to peer into the cauldron now that it seems safer and more stable.

"V-very well, actually," Sechnall responds, tapping the cauldron with his wand to bring it down to a low simmer. "If you'd like to test it yourself, just smell it; you should smell, ah.. the things that you consider most attractive." He coughs softly at this last bit, and tucks his wand back into his pocket, since he's not wearing a robe or jacket to keep it in today. "But, the real test is being able to brew a potion without assistance. Would you have time to make one yourself, at home, Miss Sagace? I can, erm, provide the ingredients.." He produces a slightly timorous smile and glances over to her. "Simply bring the results back for your next visit."

Madeline hesitates just a moment before she gives the potion a small, testing sniff - and then a longer smell. To judge by her expression as her eyes dip down to it, it's worked successfully, though she doesn't share what exactly it does smell like to her. She straightens back up promptly and tucks her hair back behind her ear. There's a pause as she considers this assignment, contemplating on something before she gives her head a small shake as if dismissing it. "I … can make the time. I'll - Yes, all right. Thank you. For the, ah, ingredients." She manages a slight smile of her own, nodding her head just the once.

Watching her as she sniffs the concontion, Sechnall does look mildly curious - but of course he wouldn't dream of asking her what she smells. In fact, he'd probably be mortified if someone asked him the same thing. "Ah - no need to thank me. You'll be bringing the potion back, after all, and if you get it correct you'll be s-saving me some work." He chuckles wryly and begins to put away the various implements they've been using, cleaning out those that need it. After a moment he turns toward her, smiling with a slightly darker expression than he's accustomed to using. "Oh, and Madeline," He adds, using her forename for the first time since they've met. The usual bumbling apothecary is gone, briefly, and he reaches out to set a hand lightly on her shoulder, making certain that his eyes hold hers as he smiles. "I do /hope/ you get it correct - I would be very pleased." Then, after clearing his throat, his face softens and he walks over to the door to open it for her.

Madeline seems more surprised and curious by this sudden change in things, those clear blue eyes sweeping up to meet his after flickering sidelong to take in the hand on her shoulder. Her eyebrows lift just a bit as that gaze searches his, trying to puzzle out what, exactly, has happened here. But the moment is gone before she has the chance - not that she'd be likely to have much luck even with all the time in the world. She stays in place for a beat or two as he heads over to the door, before remembering that moving is conducive to getting places, and she starts over with a little nod. "I, uh, hope so too," she finally replies, managing a small smile with that before she steps through the doorway.

Indeed, the moment seems to have passed quite quickly, and Sechnall is his normal socially awkward self, replying only with a slight nod and smile to her reiterated statement. The door is closed after her, and he reaches over for her coat from where it's still resting on the peg nearby. "I'll owl the ingredients to you within a day or two, Miss Sagace - if that would be alright, I mean. Erm, the eggs are quite touchy, so they'll be packed in ice.." He extends the coat to her tentatively, although he doesn't seem to be in an especially big rush to get her to leave.

Though she's still quite confused by what just transpired, Madeline tries to shrug it off and roll with this more familiar side of things. She reaches out to take her coat as she considers this, nodding a few times. "Yes, that - that would be fine." She hesitates, deliberating, and then adds, "If you could … wrap them under plain cover. I - don't know that my, ah, family would … encourage this new… hobby." That word doesn't seem quite the one she wants, but unable to think of any better, she lets it stand. There's a bit of extra awkwardness as this talk of family, but she tries to diffuse it by taking the time to put on her coat now.

"Ah.. yes, I'm sure I could manage that," Sechnall says, arching a brow slightly at her request and chuckling lightly. "Your, erm, family doesn't sound so dissimilar from mine.. they were not especially fond of my choice of profession. Ah, not that I should be boring you with such trifling personal anecdotes, sorry," He continues, glancing over at the clock once more before clearing his throat. "You know, it's still quite early, and I, uhm, haven't bothered to eat since breakfast - I was thinking of perhaps going to get a quick bite somewhere." He hesitates briefly, looking somewhat paler than usual. "P-perhaps you'd like to join me? If you have the time, that is.. and, erm, no prior plans, of course. I wouldn't want to intrude upon your schedule."

"No, it's … Well, it's nice to know I'm not the, er, only one, I suppose," Madeline tries to reassure him in her awkward way, managing a small smile, which fades as he glances over at the clock and then clears his throat, mistakenly taking this as a hint that she's over-stayed her welcome. So it's with a bit of surprise that she registers his actual offer. Her eyebrows go up in the pause it takes her to process, though she certainly doesn't mean to leave him hanging. "I - No, that's - I mean, you … wouldn't be intruding. That's- I… could do that, yes." At least she manages to get there in the end.

Although the color continues to drain from Sechnall's face in response to her surprised expression - probably because he expects something entirely different than what actually happens - he looks decidedly relieved when she finally answers. "Oh.. really? Ah, that's good.. just as long as you're certain I'm not bothering you." He probably looks a little like someone who just walked on to the edge of a cliff to test and see whether it was stable or not, but he does manage to smile a bit as he fetches his own coat from the group of wall-pegs. It's tossed on over the ill-used dress shirt and buttoned up quickly.

"No, you don't … bother me," Madeline replies, quietly but quite sincerely, as if she's actually thought about it and decided, rather than just rushing in to reassure him. She's quiet for a moment or two, before going on, "You're the one who's - who's been going out of his way to … to help me." So as long as she's not bothering him… She reaches up to flip her hair over the collar of her coat, while she waits for him to be ready.


(Change of locale to a sidewalk in downtown London.)


It's warm out, actually quite a nice day to go walking around London. Which is a good thing, because Sechnall is not familiar enough with the Muggle parts of town to really know where there are too many proper restaurants; when he's by himself he generally just goes to somewhere like the Cauldron, which is not exactly the most atmospheric place in the world. Well, unless by atmosphere you mean actual tobacco smog. It doesn't help that he's Pureblooded and rarely finds a reason to do this sort of thing. Luckily, London is a big enough place that there are /plenty/ of restaurants within walking distance, and it doesn't take too much time traversing the busy sidewalks before a large sign spelling out 'De Luca's Italian Eatery' presents itself. The apothecary pauses briefly to examine it and turns to Madeline hesitantly. "Erm, do you like Italian food?"

Madeline has never spent much time at all in Muggle London either, even despite her mother's Muggle-born status and the fact that the family company dabbles in Muggle shipping every bit as much as Wizarding trade. But she's always been kept at arm's length from that, and certainly hasn't found any of her own reasons to traipse around these parts on her own merit. Still, she doesn't seem to mind the walk, keeping a curious watch on their surroundings and Muggle company. As Sechnall pauses outside the restaurant, she slows to a stop herself, turning to look up at the establishment. "I- Yes. Italian would be fine. If you like it, that is." Decisive as ever.

Well, that seems to be about as sure of an answer as he's likely to get. Sechnall stops once they reach the door to the establishment, where the operating hours are posted, just to make certain that the place is indeed open (since the windows are all the tinted variety that make it difficult to see the interior). Apparently it is, because he opens the door for her and glances around once as if trying to memorize their location. He'd prefer not to get lost in an unknown section of the city if at all possible, although it's not as if he couldn't just sneak off an Apparate; still, it'd be a little embarrassing to have to do. "N-never tried it, actually. But there's a first for everything." He smiles almost mischievously, though it's still timid enough that most people wouldn't notice the difference.

"Yes, I … guess there is," Madeline agrees with a small smile, not quite sure if she did notice any difference in his smile. Still, since that earlier change, it has had her watching him a little more closely - at least as much as she dares do without being overt or obvious. "I hope that you'll like it then," she adds, as she slips through the open door, pausing not too far inside to give her eyes a moment to adjust as well as wait for him to catch up, moving just to one side of it so that she's not in his way. She clasps her hands loosely in front of herself and takes the opportunity to glance around the restaurant.

The restaurant is a small affair, not especially upscale but not checkered-tablecloth tacky, either. Sechnall looks around momentarily before a host appears and directs them to a seat in the back of the place; it looks to be relatively empty at the moment, probably due to the fact that it's a Wednesday evening. After the host bustles back to his podium, the Wizard pulls out Madeline's chair for her and takes a more detailed look at the place; low lighting, mostly off-white and tan decor, several booths against the far wall in the same color scheme. "Well, erm.. it looks.. pleasant enough," He says cautiously, unsure as to what her reaction happens to be; he's not exactly the greatest judge of interior decoration himself.

Madeline murmurs a thank you, first to the hostess who sees them to their table, and then to Sechnall for drawing her chair for her. She settles into it rather primly, falling back to those etiquette lessons of youth in the face of so much newness. Divesting herself of her coat, she also takes the moment to give the place a better look over. "They do seem to like things so … orderly," she notes, 'they' meaning Muggles, and her tone fairly neutral, just an observation. "But it's … nice," she decides with a faint smile, nodding her head. And then she pauses before adding what she feels is more daringly: "Better than that, ah, tea shop at least?" It's said with a faint, awkward smile - an attempt at an inside joke from someone who isn't used to having such things and isn't quite sure how to go about it.

"Hm.. yes, I suppose that's true. I never really noticed," Sechnall muses, looking around at what is indeed quite an environment organized almost to the point of banality. It does make places like the Cauldron look horribly messy, surely.. not that /most/ places don't do that. Her mention of Pomfrey's causes him to smirk, and he shakes his head at the memory. "Much, much better than that, I daresay.." The apothecary seats himself once Madeline has, and begins to look over his menu; he's not really sure what quite a few of the foods are, but if people pay for them, they can't be /that/ bad, surely? Soon a waiter appears and asks for a drink order, and after some brief deliberation, he orders a glass of red wine, picking a cabernet at random from the list.

"Maybe it's some way of compensating," Madeline guesses, though she's a little indifferent really. Still, it's the best she can figure, that the orderliness somehow relates to their utter lack of magic. Her smile then grows a little as he shares in the humour of that previous experience. She glances to the salt shaker, the plain ceramic thing, noting how it looks absolutely nothing like either Little Bo Peep or her sheep. Noticing that he's gone for the menu, she does so as well, her eyes flickering down the columns of options. When it comes time for the drink orders, she leans heavily on one trick she's picked up over the years, and opts to just have what he's having.

With the waitress quickly departing to get them their drinks, Sechnall folds his hands over his lap, continuing to look the menu over with a vaguely apprehensive feeling. Most of it actually /is/ in Italian, which means he'll probably be picking something almost completely at random. Still, at least it's a Latin-derivative language, so he can pick out a word here and there.. "Er.. anything stand out to you?" He asks somewhat hopefully, wondering if she happens to have any more idea of what she's doing than he does. After a few seconds he glances up at her and smiles uncertainly, although he does seem to be slightly amused by the whole situation.

Madeline isn't having huge success with the menu herself, though she's at least able to recognize a few things here and there. "Maybe the, ah, cannelloni… I think I've had that once before," she muses, though as her gaze continues over the menu, she has to amend, "Or maybe it's cappelletti I'm thinking of. They all sound so … similar." She looks up with a sheepish expression, giving her shoulders a slight shrug. Seeing his smile, she returns it with a small one of her own before dropping her gaze back to the menu. "What … are you thinking?" she inquires, likely in reference to his choice for dinner.

"Ah.. well.." Sechnall puzzles over his menu for a few moments more before he spots something that he can semi-decipher. "Perhaps the Risotto alla Milanese.." Because he knows the latter word is 'saffron', which is an ingredient he's quite familiar with. And although he's never had risotto before, he thinks he has a pretty good idea of what it is. Possibly. The waitress eventually returns with their wine, setting it down on the table and looking at them expectantly for an order; deciding that he might as well get it over with, Sechnall orders the aforementioned dish and then picks up his glass to take a calming sip of cabernet.

"Ah yes," Madeline replies, nodding as if she knows what it is he's chosen, even if she hasn't actually a clue. When the waitress comes before she's quite ready, it gets her a bit flustered. She lets Sechnall go first and spends that moment hovering between the two dishes she can't distinguish between. When it comes to her turn, she just ends up pointing at the cappelletti at random, since it was nearest to her hand, leaving the waitress to peer over and see which it is she wants. Still, it could have gone worse. It takes Mads a moment to remember to hand over the menu, but then it's all over and she sits back with a bit of relief. "I'm … sure that will be good," she says quietly, as much to reassure herself as to note to him.

Well, at least the waitress didn't look at him like he was a complete buffoon, meaning he probably pronounced the name of the dish passably. Sechnall clears his throat and takes another drink of his wine, glancing over at Madeline now and nodding once in reply to her. "Er, yes, I'm sure it will." Right, so. Now they wait for their food to come out. "So, erm.. how have things been at the Ministry, lately?" It's the first thing to come to mind, and although it's hardly inspired, at least it's something to do other than sit there and stare at the lacy patterns on the tablecloth.

Madeline picks up her own glass to have a sip before giving it a considering look and then nodding. Not bad. She sets it back down, taking a moment as he asks that question. "It's … been good, actually," she replies, rather than going with the rote answer. "I've managed to, ah, make a bit of a change." She's a little more hesitant and awkward in admitting this. "I- It's- Well, I don't know. I … think it's good, maybe?" She doesn't seem to realize she hasn't actually given him any pertinent information here.

Left to try and decipher that string of statements, Sechnall eventually nods and arches a brow. "Er.. I see, that sounds.. good." Realizing he's still got his coat on, he takes it off and drapes it over the back of the chair. Perhaps he really /should/ have changed into something a little more formal beforehand, but oh well. At least it's still a dress shirt. "So, um, what kind of change would that be?" He's unsure as to what exactly one might change in a secretarial capacity, although her job does seem to have some interesting quirks. Like, apparently, speaking with the dead denizens of a party.

"I've, ah … taken an offer with the Department of Mysteries," Madeline admits quietly. "Though I … suppose I can't really say more about it than that." The realization gets a bit of a frown, as if she's still not quite used to this new level of secrecy. Still, there's a sheepishness to the whole thing, as if she expects the rest of the world to find it as hard to believe as she does; surely they all can see she's nothing more than a file clerk. "I'm also … working part-time as an assistant to an independent cursebreaker," she goes on after a moment of silence, studying the wine glass as though it's fascinating.

"Oh.. well. That sounds quite interesting," Sechnall admits, his eyebrow still quirked upward just a little at that revelation. He actually /does/ seem somewhat interested, although apparently she can't say anything else. "Ah.. an independent cursebreaker? It's funny, I, erm, actually met a fellow a just a while back - well, I've run into him a few times, now that I think of it - he seems quite pleasant. I think the name was Noble." He takes another drink of his wine and watches her momentarily, unsure of what else to add at this point. "Things at the shop… have been rather quiet, so nothing new on that front, I suppose…"

Madeline seems relieved that at least he doesn't laugh outright or sputter in disbelief. "It's … been a tumultuous few weeks, I suppose," she admits with a faint smile, still a little overwhelmed at how fast everything has been changing. "I'm not … used to all the excitement." There's a soft, self-deprecating chuckle to go with that as she ducks her head. And then looks up rather promptly at the mention of that name. "Oh! Well, that's … that's him, actually. Jack Noble. He's, uh, yes, quite nice," she agrees, nodding a few times, before she picks up her wine to have another sip. "Is it a, ah, a good quiet or a bad quiet?" she inquires, not entirely sure what the difference would be herself.

"Well.. a little excitement now and then can be a good way to break up the boredom, I suppose. It's not good to get /too/ used to one's daily agenda," Sechnall theorizes, looking almost as if his words have an ironic double-meaning, judging by his grin. It doesn't remain for long, though, especially once she mentions the cursebreaker by his full name. His eyes widen slightly, and he nods, obviously as surprised as she is. "Ah, yes, Jack. I couldn't quite remember his first name - but yes, he does seem like a sensible enough sort." The wine is sipped at for a moment longer as he thinks over her question. When he sets it back down, he clears his throat and frowns just a bit. "Well, erm, I'm not certain, at this point. I feel as if.. there's going to be some kind of change in the future, possibly the very near future. I just haven't quite figured out what that change will be, yet." Aware of how vague and possibly superstitious that sounds, he reddens slightly, his frowns deepening. "Erm, not that I'm, you know. Certain about anything. It's just a sort of.. hunch."

"Yes, I … had become somewhat, ah, in a rut. But when I thought maybe of … getting out a little more, I had no idea," Madeline admits sheepishly. Apparently when she sets her mind to something, the results even surprise her. His grin is noticed and met with a vaguely puzzled expression, but she doesn't have too long to wonder on it. "Yes, he's been quite, ah, kind to me. I think he … felt a little sorry for me, stuck as I was. And he dislikes paperwork, so it … should work out, I hope." There's a quick smile at that, though it fades as he goes on about changes and hunches. "A hunch? I - I'm not sure, but I … think maybe I know what you mean. Maybe. Not that … I really know it with regards to your shop," she allows, but then cuts herself off from further rambling with another sip of her wine.

Nodding understandably, Sechnall seems about to add something, but is interrupted by the appearance of the waitress and their food, the latter of which is placed on the table in front of them. To his relief, the meal he ordered doesn't look like it's made out of anything that was alive in the very recent past. "Ah.. thank you," He says, nodding to her once and then leaning closer to inspect the meal. He tentatively picks up a fork and pokes at it for a moment before looking back up at Madeline. "W-well, it seems you're.. making progress, at any rate." Lifting a forkful of the risotto, he very cautiously tastes it and then nods once to himself with relief. "So.. what exactly was it that you ordered, again?"

Madeline is a little surprised by the sudden appearance of food, as if she'd forgotten their purpose for coming here. She looks between their meals for a moment, and then follows his lead in picking up her own fork. "Making progress. Yes. I suppose I am," she agrees with a slow smile, pleased with how that sounds - and that, upon reflection, it's quite true. "It's the… cappelletti, I think," she replies, trying to recall which of the two she wound up going with. She stirs the pasta around in the sauce before spearing one of them and taking a bite. Only to quickly set the fork down and pick up her napkin to hold in front of her mouth. The explanation comes once it's been finished: "It's, ah, a little hotter than I was expecting." But nothing a sip of wine can't fix, even as her cheeks go a little pink.

"Oh?" Sechnall honestly has no idea what in the world cappelletti is, but he pauses to examine it from across the table anyway. "It looks quite good, anyway." He takes a few more bites of his own food before noticing that she's suddenly grown quite silent, and arches a brow at her as she gives her explanation. He can't quite help but grin, although for the sake of politeness he keeps that to a minimum. "Ah, oh dear.. well, if it turns out to be too much, you can just, erm, share mine." Chuckling, he takes another drink of his wine and looks down at his meal. "It's.. probably far more than I'll be able to finish on my own, anyhow, to be honest."

Madeline still feels a little bit silly about burning her mouth, but as he grins, she is able to find the humour in it as well, offering up a grin of her own even as she ducks her head. "It's good, but I just … probably should have let it cool a little." She looks between the two plates then, nodding. "Their servings are quite large, aren't they. Do you … like yours?" she asks, giving it a curious look. She's at least getting a little more settled and a little less awkward, though that isn't saying a whole lot. She spears another piece of pasta, but this time blows on it a few times before trying again.

"Ah - well, it's certainly interesting. Not exactly like the food I'm used to having, but.." Then again, the variety of food within the Wizarding world is surprisingly limited, unless you decide to travel abroad. And the British are notoriously narrow-minded cooks, whether Wizard or Muggle. He picks at his dish for a while longer, occasionally sipping the wine in between bites, although it's apparent he doesn't have much of an appetite. This, also, is not especially surprising considering his build. "I'm not really familiar with too much in the way of, erm.. Muggle food, though," He admits, lowering his voice just a little when he speaks. "I come from a rather traditional family."

Madeline looks over as he speaks in that lowered voice, nodding with understanding. "I've … had it occasionally. Not that … we've gone out for it much, but - sometimes at home, when, ah, when circumstances arise… It's a bit hard to explain," she admits, rubbing absently at a water spot on the side of her wine glass. Not something she's entirely used to going into either. She learned early not to detail her half-blood status, but it isn't exactly as if it's a secret either. And perhaps it's the wine that has her a little more open tonight, or the fact that they have dared to go out and about in Muggle society.

There's another understanding nod from Sechnall, and he continues to pick at his meal slowly. "Well.. I had an unusually, erm, orthodox upbringing." He doesn't seem surprised by her half-admission - after all, the vast majority of Witches and Wizards are half-blood - though he doesn't really comment one way or another on the matter, himself. "But I know that wasn't the case for most - in fact, most of my Housemates knew quite a lot more about, erm.. non-Wizarding matters than I ever did." He sips on his wine a bit more and considers ordering another glass; he only has a vague idea of the impact of prices in the Muggle world, but he's hardly worried about spending too much. "Just out of curiousity.. what year did you graduate from Hogwarts, Miss Sagace?"

"My mother is… Well, she maintained some ties after - My parents discovered they could double their money working for both," Madeline finally manages to explain. "At least that's … how I understand it. I don't … have much to do with the business, to be honest," she admits with a faint smile that seems a little more forced than the others. Her eyebrows lift just a bit at his question. "I graduated in 1985," she replies with a slight shrug, offering a faint smile. "And, ah, yourself? If you don't mind my asking." Though why he'd mind when he just asked her the same thing… She takes another cappelletti, careful to again blow on it once or twice before she takes a careful mouthful.

"That, erm.. sounds quite sensible," Sechnall admits, not entirely sure he understands exactly what she's speaking about, although he seems to gather that her parents dabbled in both Wizard and Muggle affairs. He realizes his question might have seemed a bit rude, and he reddens at the thought, quickly explaining himself: "Ah.. sorry, I mean.. it's just that I have a younger brother, and I wondered if you were in his class. He was in Slytherin - graduated in.. erm.. 1988, I believe." Which, at least, is a sort of compliment, in that he thought she was younger than she actually is, even if he didn't intend to frame it that way. "No, not at all.. I graduated in '78. An old man, comparatively," He says half-jokingly.

"They are nothing if not … prudent," Madeline agrees in a slightly odd tone that doesn't make that sound exactly like the compliment that it should. But she seems quite content to leave these matters lie for talk of the alma mater instead. "I didn't realize that you had siblings," she notes, realizing how little she actually does know, though it doesn't exactly trouble her. "I … must have seen him around, but I don't recall offhand. I did largely keep my own company," she admits. Big shock there, no doubt. As he mentions his own year of graduation with that half-joke, she smiles faintly. "We must have just … missed crossing paths then. I would have, ah, started that fall." She pauses, not quite sure if she should address that joking part of the comment. "But you're - you're hardly an old man," she finally attempts, awkward but sincere, at any rate.

Sechnall chuckles wryly and nods. "Yes, two of them. We aren't.. all.. on the best of terms, I suppose," He says, not wanting to assault her with a long history of family drama. Nevermind the fact that he barely speaks to his family nowadays, with the exception of his younger sister. "But, er - yes, that must have been the case. I'm afraid to say I didn't really get to know any of the younger students the year I graduated.. I was, ah, rather caught up in studying for NEWTs." He realizes he's more or less finished with his meal, and sets his fork down - at least he's managed to eat a third of it or so - and takes another drink of his wine. /That/ is almost gone. "Well.. t-thank you," He responds just as awkardly, although he smiles in a way that seems to indicate he's pleased with the sentiment.

"Oh. I - I see," Madeline replies, looking a little chagrined that maybe she's made a misstep by bringing up the bad blood between him and his siblings. "I'm an … only child myself. I suppose I always … wondered what it was like, that's all," she hastens to explain, though now she's not quite so sure she wants to know. "Ah yes. The NEWTs. I … remember those. They did keep us quite busy that year," she says with understanding as to why he'd be so caught up in them. She's still working on her own meal, though she's done just a little better than he has, perhaps, though she's beginning to slow. The cycle of awkwardness continues, as she gives a quiet, "You're welcome," in reply. And then is perhaps grateful to still be eating, since it gives her cause to take another mouthful and hence stop talking.

"That must have been nice," Sechnall muses, when she mentions that she was an only child. For a short while he continues sipping his wine in silence, until the waitress approaches to check up on them; since Madeline is still eating, he orders another glass of wine, looking askance at her in case she wants another as well before the server departs. "Ah.. anyway.." Trying to think of something to talk about in a situation like this is apparently quite a bit more challenging than he would have imagined. What exactly does he have to talk about that might be deemed noteworthy? "Oh, er. I did meet a rather interesting fellow the other day - I was in Hogsmeade practicing a few dueling charms by myself and he happened to be passing by. He was really quite good."

Madeline makes a quiet, noncommittal noise at the niceness of being an only child. Just as he was reluctant to go into his family matters, now she's feeling a bit that way too. It's only when the waitress arrives that she notices Sechnall has finished. She takes him up on the offer of another glance of wine, but then sets her fork down, figuring in some foggy part of her brain that it's probably ladylike to finish around the same time that he does. It sounds vaguely right. She's kept from puzzling over it too much as he comes up with another topic of conversation. "Oh really? I - Er - So you had a duel then?" she sounds almost a little impressed at the idea of that.

"Ah.. well, something like that, I suppose. A bit of practice, at least," Sechnall says with a mild chuckle. "As I said, he was quite good, and I suspect he was probably being easy on me." He finishes off the last of the glass of wine he's still got, perhaps to discontinue that line of thought; something in the way he speaks suggests he might not be telling the whole truth. His plate is pushed slightly to one side since for all intents and purposes he's finished with it. Unable to think of anything else to talk about for the time being, he glances down and raps a set of fingers on the table. Thankfully the awkward silence is broken by the return of the waitress with their next round of drinks, and he gladly takes the opportunity to pick up his wine and sip on it rather than simply sitting there and looking boring.

"I've never … done much of that. Duelling, I mean," Madeline admits a little sheepishly. "But it seems rather exciting. So it - Well, it was good you ran into him for some practice?" She isn't quite sure the appropriate line to take on this, so wraps up there, sitting back and letting the waitress take her plate away when she comes with the drinks. Mads still hasn't quite finished her first, so she polishes it off quickly to try and keep up. The silence descends then, and since he's been so good as to break it a few times now, she tries to come up with something of her own to offer. "Well, that was … not bad, at least? The food, that is. Did you … like yours all right?"

The new glass of wine is half-drained before the period of silence is finally broken, and after realizing he should probably stop, Sechnall sets it down firmly and interlaces his fingers. "Oh? I'm hardly an expert, but.." He's already giving her Potions lessons, so he hesitates for a few moment before extending an additional such offer, afraid that it might seem a little.. strange. Eventually, though, he just bites the bullet. "..er. Well, since you're stopping into the shop for lessons already anyway, I could probably work some dueling practice in?" Suddenly remembering his food when it's mentioned, he looks over at it briefly and manages a bit of a smile. "Oh.. it was quite good. I wasn't sure what to expect, but.. I can't say I was disappointed, anyway."

It may be a strange offer, but Madeline is not exactly the most normal young woman, so she rather fails to notice anything weird about it. Still, it is a little surprising and that shows in her expression. "Oh. Well, you - you must be busy. I … wouldn't want to take up too much of your time." She looks down at the table for a moment, deliberating, before her gaze sweeps back up to him, eyes lifting without the rest of her head. "Only if you were … quite sure it - I wouldn't be a bother." She's awkward for the moment, but the talk of food is a little easier. "I'm … glad it wasn't a disappointment. Sometimes it … works out, trying new things?"

"N-no, actually - I could use the practice myself, really.. I don't get too many opportunities myself, these days.." Sechnall shakes his head as if to ward off her worries, and against his better wisdom picks up the glass of wine to take a sip of it again. "Ah.. of course you wouldn't be a bother." He, too, seems somewhat relieved to move on to the very ordinary subject of their dinner, and nods, looking over at her still-unfinished dish as well. "Yes, I suppose that's quite true.. how was yours? Not too spicy, I hope?"

Madeline is having a bit of trouble keeping up with him in the wine drinking department, though she does try her best. And the awkward lulls do make it easier to put it away fairly quickly, looking for something to do. "If … If you're certain then, perhaps," she decides with a small smile. "Though I … don't know how much practice I will be. I've - I've some theory but not much practical." But she does pick things up fairly quickly when given the chance, even if she won't give herself that much credit. "Mine was, ah, just fine, thank you. It was - Well, it was nice coming here, thank you. Though I … should probably start thinking about getting back before I'm missed," she realizes with a bit of reluctance.

The apothecary motions to the waitress as soon as he catches sight of her, since things seem to be coming to a close. "Well, I'll leave it up to you - erm - I certainly wouldn't want you to, ah, feel obliged to if you'd rather not." It's not long before the server approaches with their bill, and Sechnall busies himself fishing some Muggle pound-notes out of his pocket, glancing in slight confusion at the total for a few moments before he settles on setting in amount down on the table that is probably far more than is actually needed. "Y-yes, it is getting a bit late. I probably shouldn't have kept you out so long," He says apologetically, reaching behind himself to fetch his coat from the back of the chair. And, after standing and putting it on, he hesitates for a moment - then walks quietly over to stand behind her chair so that he can pick her jacket up and help her into it. It occurs to him that it's rather old-fashioned, and something he was expected to do as a youngster with his family more than anything else, though at the moment he blushes just a little in spite of himself.

"No, I - I think I'd like to. If you're sure you … don't mind," Madeline puts in a bit quickly, offering another of those awkward smiles. "It would … be good to learn." She deals with finishing her drink while he fusses with the bill, either missing or pretending to miss his confusion with the Muggle money. "No, it's fine. I was - It was nice to be out. I just … would rather avoid questions," she admits in a quieter tone. She seems a bit surprised at his gallant move to hold her coat for her, but then smiles again, awkwardly and inwardly, as she gets to her feet and deftly slips into the garment. "Ah, thank you."

"Of.. of course. I understand completely," Sechnall assures her, perhaps not entirely understanding the reasons for her secrecy - but certainly understanding the need for secrecy in the first place. "Er.. you're welcome." He pauses for a few seconds, just studying her face, for whatever reason - but quickly catches himself and, his pale cheeks growing redder by the moment, starts off slowly in the direction of the door. "Well.. feel free to stop by the shop again whenever it's convenient for you, if you'd like.."

Madeline seems at least relieved that he understands her desire to keep certain things private. At the long pause and the lingering look, her own cheeks get a little pinker of her own accord, though she doesn't quite seem to understand what's going on. It's been a bit of a confusing night. As he turns to head for the door, she takes the opportunity to give her mouth a surreptitious wipe with her hand, just in case the look was because she has sauce on her cheek or something. "All right. I - I'll do that then," she promises as she follows him towards the exit.

Once actually at the door, Sechnall glances back over his shoulder as if to make certain that Madeline's still tailing him, and then steps forward and into the doorway so that he can hold the door open for her. "Well.. erm.. I suppose we'd both better be going our separate ways, then? I'll be walking back to Diagon - but I believe.. there's a little alley right over there that you could Apparate from that I saw on the way here." He glances around discreetly before adding this last, although even if any Muggles did hear them, they'd have no idea what they're talking about.

Madeline is indeed, following along behind, exactly as expected. There's a brief smile of thanks as he gets the door for her again. "I - Yes, that … would work, thank you," she decides, considering the alley and then nodding. "And, ah, thank you for the … lesson and the meal. And, well, the company also," she adds a little more awkwardly, but managing a smile with it. She hesitates a moment more, but then moves to slip through the open door so that she can get back before it gets much later.


If we didn't just take the trophy for the longest two-person scene, I'm mildly afraid of whoever /did/.


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