|Scene Title||Prelude to Poison-Making|
|Synopsis||Madeline arrives at The Chaser for a potion-making lesson.|
|Date||September 16, 1994|
|Watch For||Caterpillar genocide|
The inside of this shop - The Chaser, as the large wooden sign outside declares it - is kept snug and warm by the huge fireplace at the back end of the display room. The interior is quite neat and clean, with shelves full of ingredients from ceiling to floor covering most of the walls. Large racks of vials containing all manner of liquids, solids, powders and other oddities take up most of the center of the room, but there's enough space between them to navigate easily. All in all the decor is pleasant but unexciting, mostly consisting of earthy greens and browns.
Two doors in the back of the shop are kept locked at all times - one leading to the owner's personal living quarters upstairs, and the other to a small laboratory area where potion-brewing and alchemical processes are carried out. During open hours there is always a clerk posted behind the register. Occasional glimpses might also be caught of the resident house elf, Mixie, going about her duties.
From outside, the shop will look empty despite the open sign on the unlocked door. Sechnall is currently tucked away in the back laboratory, although he's got the door cracked to be able to hear anyone that enters. The man is dressed in a practical dragonhide smock (considerably less interesting looking than it sounds) to protect himself from the various dangerous materials he's been working with, and is poised over a large terrarium filled with what would seem to be furry, multi-colored insects.
With no exact date or time, it's hard for Madeline to be either early or late, and yet somehow she manages to be just as punctual as ever. It's a gift, less hidden than some of her others. The empty-looking shop does give her pause, and she's uncertain for a moment in spite of the open sign, considering heading back to return another time. But then curiosity, as it will do, gets the better of her, and she wanders up to try the door. Upon finding it unlocked, she first just pokes her head in and then follows with her body. "Hello? Is … anyone in?" It takes her a moment to work up the nerve to call out, even in such a stage whisper as she uses, and by that time, she's drifted another step or two inside and shut the door behind her.
Being somewhat absorbed in his work, Sechnall doesn't notice the sound of the door opening for at least a few seconds, and continues doing what he has been doing for the past hour or so: he lifts one of the little insects out of the terrarium, holds it over a beaker a foot or so away in a gloved hand, and *pulps* it. The clear fluid produced from this messy task has already nearly filled the beaker. At this point, though, he's suddenly aware of the sound of footsteps one room over, and then a voice. "Oh.. one moment! I'll be right out!" The gloves are rinsed off and then discarded, and he strides out of the little room with a smile. "My apologies, my assistant called in sick today, Basilisk Pox, what can I get for y— oh!" His eyes settle on Madeline, widening just a bit as they do. "Miss Sagace.. v-very nice to see you again."
Madeline passes the time once again eyeing the stores of ingredients, leaning into to look at some of them more closely, but always careful to look with her eyes, not her hands, which was clasped loosely together behind her, to remove the temptation to touch altogether. As Sechnall enters the room, she straightens up rather quickly and offers him a demure smile. "Hello Mr. Swancoate. I … hope I'm not intruding? I just thought perhaps I would … ah, take you up on that offer?" It's more of a question than a statement, really, since she's grown a little unsure - perhaps the offer was just an idle one or made in jest.
Shaking his head, Sechnall reaches behind himself to untie the apron, which is then taken off and set aside on a hanger. He's got on a simple high-necked black robe today, more traditionally Wizard-esque than what he normally wears, but just as functional. "Oh, no, not at all. Actually, you came at the perfect time, really.. I need a bit of a break from juicing Glumbumbles, and there are quite a few work-orders on potions you could help me with, if you'd like to learn how to make them. If, ah, you'd be interested, of course.." He raises a hand and nervously pushes his hair back, although it refuses to comply and falls instantly back into the same place.
As he assures her she isn't intruding, Madeline makes her way further into the store, though she still stops at a considerable distance from him. "I'd be interested…" she replies with a slow nod, the sentence spoken in the same quiet way, but for once coming without hesitation. "I was only… really good with the- well, with certain ones," she adds, back to her more characteristic halting speech. Her clothing is the same as ever, bland and intended to make the eye pass right over, while her hair is more compliant, but she so happens to like it in her face a great deal of the time, feeling safer when she can hide behind it. "What sort of … help are you needing?"
After listening to her intently, Sechnall spends a moment in silent thought, obviously not quite certain of how to proceed. "Ah, well.. we can begin with something easy, if you'd prefer. Or, um, perhaps it would be best if you described what kind of potions you've had experience making, so I can get some idea of your standing?" Managing a smile, he gestures to a large stack of forms sitting on the shop-counter. "Those are all orders I need to fill by the end of the week; less than usual, and I'm in no hurry to get them done. But we could start on any of them.. or, well. Just try something different if none of them fit the bill. Most kinds of potions have a rather extended shelf-life."
"I must say, you are … a more accommodating teacher than I am used to," Madeline notes with a demure smile, a hand coming up to tuck some of that hair back behind an ear as she considers the options and the questions put to her. "I've … not really done much since Hogwarts, I'm afraid. There isn't … a great deal of call for it in my line of work." No, file clerks don't tend to need to do much brewing. "I- I did manage to get a NEWT in it, though I mostly excelled at, well… the, ah, the - poisons. And antidotes." There's some hesitation as she tries to decide if she should admit to that or not - and the last bit seems rather tacked on. She finally really notices the size of the stack, or perhaps it's a convenient change of topic. "If that's a - a slow week, you must … keep very busy."
"Ah.." The line about 'poisons and antidotes' is enough to make Sechnall arch a thin brow, and he looks mildly surprised at the admission - but not necessarily disapproving. "No, I don't suppose a clerk would normally have a need for such things. Still, perhaps it's better to, ah, start you out with something we know you're good at.." The man paces over to the stack of papers and picks it up, then sifts through it briefly before selecting one and putting the rest back. He pauses to glance at Madeline, his eyes settling on hers with that same calculating look he'd given her at their last meeting. "I have an order here to produce Ballard's Bane. It's a poison made from Lobalug venom typically used to subdue large and dangerous animals. Typically. Of course I don't know precisely what /this/ batch'll be used for, but that's none of my concern." He seems remarkably more self-assured while speaking, although he quickly slips back into his usual mien: "..er. Well, of course, if that sounds too advanced, we could find something simpler.." He looks back at the stack of papers and chuckles timidly. "Ah.. less than you'd think. That would normally only take me a day or two."
Madeline isn't oblivious to the surprise, and she tucks her head a little more self-consciously than even her usual. Still, as he moves over to the stack of orders, she looks up, raising her eyes without lifting her head, though they're averted again as he gives her that calculating look. Nothing to see here, move it along. As he explains the chosen order in this new tone of his, her own surprise is enough to get her to look up properly, and she doesn't seem quite sure how to respond right away. "I … don't think that sounds too advanced? Though you would … be the expert, of course," she grants with a shy, inward smile. Her eyebrows lift then a bit as she takes in the size of the stack again. "Perhaps … expert is selling you short."
Despite the momentary change, Sechnall seems just as timorous as ever now, and he nods once or twice in response to her agreement, smiling just a bit as he does. "Very well, then.. let's give that a try." Still holding the order, he starts toward the far wall of the shop (where he'd hung up the apron previously); then, stopping and turning quite suddenly, he clears his throat. "Oh.. you can come this way," He murmurs absent-mindedly before pacing the rest of the way to the wall. He ignores the aprons hung there for himself and, presumably, his assistants. Instead, he takes down two pairs of thick gloves. "You'll probably want these. Lobalug poison is, hm.. somewhat of an irritant." And something about the way he says that suggests it might be an understatement. The alchemist also turns a few shades redder at the compliment, turning aside just a bit from embarrassment. "Oh, not at all. I'm quite average, I assure you."
Madeline steps forward in a carefully measured pace, as she's given leave to come around that way; and she offers a faint and flickering smile. "Thank you." She watches him take down the gloves, listening to his explanation about the need for them. "Ah, yes. I - I see. Quite … a potent substance, I take it." It must do something amusingly wretched, but she's in no hurry to find out on herself what that is. Somewhat hesitantly, she holds out a hand for the gloves, offering another wan smile as he tries to side-step the compliment. "Then I … would hate to think where I rate," is noted quietly, a bit wryly, but perhaps not entirely in jest. After all, if he considers himself only average, she must be several steps below. But that is why steps are needed to rectify this situation.
"Quite potent, yes. Merpeople have been known to.. erm.. use Lobalugs as weapons, in fact," Sechnall replies, extending the gloves to her. He puts on his own pair quickly thereafter. Her self-depreciation causes him to shake his head slightly and smile. "Well, as I mentioned before, it seems to be a rather unpopular art these days, despite its uses.. most people just want the results without having to deal with the process." Reaching over to open the door to the little laboratory-room, he walks inside in motions for her to follow. The terrarium still taking up most of the workspace is moved aside with a flick of his wand. "Considering that, it's just good to find someone with an interest in learning."
"Really?" Madeline replies with some ill-disguised interest. "What - What does it do?" Perhaps she's just worried about what a spill might do to her, but that isn't quite the tone she uses. Still, the gloves are pulled on without further pause and she flexes her fingers a few times inside, not so used to the sensation of wearing protective gloves. It isn't entirely unpleasant though, so she just moves to follow him into the back. "The process is … interesting though. Knowing not just what but … why something does what it does." Especially poisons and antidotes, apparently. She glances around his workspace, gaze lingering on the terrarium as it's flicked aside. "How did you … know this is what you wanted to do with your life?" she asks, perhaps a little out of nowhere.
Pointing his wand at a storage compartment on the other side of the room causes its door to open; a wide jar hovers out and settles on the counter in front of them before the door snaps shut. Seeming slightly more in his element here, Sechnall reaches forward and grasps its top, twisting it open easily. The contents are odd, elongated aquatic creatures comprised of a tube-like snout and a jellyfish-like sac in some kind of saline solution. "Precisely. Knowing how to create one potion gives you insights into creating many others." He glances sidelong at her, seemingly taken aback by the question, and pauses. "…well, hm. Part of it was that this was what I was best at, you know, in my Hogwarts years. But, hm.. being a potions-brewer and alchemist provides a great deal of insight into the world. I suppose I've always found myself intrigued by the knowledge you can attain, and.. well.. it was less of a choice and more of a natural conclusion."
Madeline is quite happy just to watch the master at work, though she takes it all in through slightly widened eyes. And from the way she leans forward to look down at those funny little creatures, she isn't too easily squeamish. "Insight … would be good," she agrees quietly, only looking up from the saline mixture when she notices her question seems to have taken him a bit by surprise - and she's clearly a little self-conscious about that. Still, she simply listens to his response, head tilted slightly to one side. "A natural conclusion," she repeats, as if weighing that idea, and then nods. "That … must be nice. To be so certain." There's a shallow, fleeting smile at that, before she drops her gaze back down to the jar again.
Sechnall reaches down to open a drawer set into the counter they're working at, and removes a pair of simple tongs and a scalpel-like cutting tool. A flask and a funnel are fetched from another drawer, and he sets the latter in the former, then picks up the tongs and uses them to lift one of the Lobalugs out of the jar. "I suppose I never really thought about it," He admits, turning to look at Madeline for an instant before he picks up the knife. It seems she doesn't have a very finicky stomach for such things, but.. "Just to warn you, this can get a bit messy. We'll only need the one, though.." He positions the cutting instrument to slice the thing open, but then stops. "Actually, perhaps I should let you do this..?"
"It must be like money. The only ones who worry about it … are those who don't have it," Madeline observes in a quiet voice, gaze still on the jar of critters. It's only when he begins to issue her the warning that she looks back up at him. "That's all right. I'm … tired of things being so neat." A strange statement, perhaps, but the sentiment remains the same, and as he offers to let her do it, she pauses for only a moment. After that beat, she removes her gloves so that she can pull a clip from her bag, deftly twisting her hair back and pinning it loosely so that it is actually out of the way for once. It's quite a different look for her. Once the gloves are quickly pulled back on, she nods. "I can - I can do it," she says, trying to sound confident. "What … do I need to do?"
"An interesting way to look at things," Sechnall replies, though there's a slight look of puzzlement in his copper-hued eyes as he chews the thought over. Considering his background, money is one more thing he's never really needed to worry about. "Perhaps I was just lucky. Truth be told, I was a little surprised when you said that you're a file clerk. Er, of course, there's nothing wrong with the profession.." He watches her pin her hair back, then slowly transfers the tongs and scalpel into her hands. "But it wasn't quite what I expected. Ah.. well. Let's see." For a moment he seems to hesitate, then he moves behind her, being awfully careful not to get /too/ close. Still, he sets his hand on hers, positioning it so that the edge of the tool rests just above the top edge of the creature's 'tube'. "Straight down. Don't waver - if you look carefully you can see that its skin is semi-transparent. You won't hit any organs if make it a clean cut down."
And it isn't the money that worries Madeline either, just the other thing. Finding that passion, that calling in life. "It's a job that must be done. And I've been told it's … fitting for me." Which isn't exactly the biggest compliment, but at least she doesn't seem to have entirely clued into that yet. She might have more to say, but she leaves it alone for now, focussing on the lesson. Too close or not, this close proximity isn't something she's entirely used to, and there's a bit of stiffening up. But her hand moves readily under his as she leans in a little closer to see what exactly it is she's meant to be doing. "Straight down, don't waver," she repeats to herself, giving a little nod. And then, biting down lightly on her lip in concentration, she moves to do just that. Her skills are rather rusty, but she doesn't seem put off by the task.
Sechnall nods in reply to her statement. He can, at least, understand the appeal of regular work; it's something to keep the mind occupied when one is unable to solve.. larger problems. "..Ah, that's quite good," He proclaims once she's made the incision. The venom - a white, milky substance - starts to drip into the funnel. The shopkeeper steps back to his original position and offers her a small smile as encouragement. "Now, for the next step…"
Madeline seems rather pleased with herself - a rare flash of pride before she remembers herself and suddenly comes over all awkward again. "Thank you," she replies quietly, watching the venom drip for a moment before she sets the tools down delicately and looks over at him for direction on this next step. She is, at least, a quick and ready learner when it behoves her to be.