|The library is a good place to begin...
||[Oct. 17th, 2004|04:00 pm]
In the center of the storm
[Blaise is sitting in the library, in the stacks, really, back pressed against the shelves of the Potions section, legs folded under him as he worries his lip and reads. He jots down a note every now and again, trying to keep his mind focused on the task and hand and not letting it... wander.]
[Ezekiel opens the door to the library and creeps in. He gives Madam Pince a brief nod and hurries in between the shelves. He doesn't know what Dumbledore would say if he were found in here, and he doesn't want to take the chance. He feels his mouth almost water in anticipation at the thought of 20 years of potion improvements at his fingertips, and shakes his head, telling himself to be more decorous as he darts between the rows of shelves.]
[Blaise gives up on the pretence of reading, setting his book to the side and pulling his legs up. He rests his chin on his knees, sighing a little as he thinks about Severus.]
[Ezekiel discovers the potions section and clamps down on the thrill of excitement in his stomach. He looks around in short, sharp movements, almost convinced Dumbledore will know he's doing something wrong and talk to him about it as soon as he stepped out of cover. But the stacks of books are much too close, much too tempting, and he hurries over, not realizing that Blaise is sitting in the aisle until it's already too late to stop, and he falls over the other boy.] ...Ow.
[Blinking, Blaise looks down the length of Ezekiel's body, rubbing the side of his leg absentmindedly. He shifts, rolling Ezekiel over and, one hand on the other boy's shoulder, peers down into his face, concerned.] Hey, are you alright?
[Ezekiel flushes, looking anywhere but Blaise as he sits up.] Fine. [Belatedly, he adds] thanks.
[Blaise bites his lip, remembering how... anti-social the other boy had been at dinner, and says,] No problem. I. [Figuring it's better to try,] I probably shouldn't have been sitting here, but no one ever comes into the Potion's section so I wasn't expecting it to be a problem... [Moving back and offering Ezekiel his hand,] Blaise Zabini.
[Ezekiel nods.] Se--Ezekiel. Grey. [Ezekiel stands up and brushes off his robes, looking around.]
[Blaise drops his hand, figuring that's that then, and moves to go back to his potions reading, darting glances at the other boy from the corner of his eye.]
[Ezekiel focuses his attention on Blaise.] What are you reading, if you don't mind me asking?
[Blaise looks up, mildly surprised,] A potions text, nothing you'd be interested in. It's... pretty advanced.
[Ezekiel's eyes spark in sudden interest, and he hesitates a moment before asking] What year was it written?
1984, I think... [Blaise murmurs, surprised. He opens to the front page, checking,] 1984, [He says more firmly. Then, brows furrowing,] Why?
[Ezekiel shrugs, staring at the book. before saying mildly] just curious. [He stands off to the side, looking at other books.]
Do -- [Blaise hesitates.] Do you like Potions?
[Ezekiel steals a glance at Blaise from the corner of his eye] It's delicate, complicated--what's not to like?
[Blaise smiles a little, shrugging,] I enjoy it. It's just that... most people don't, it's not... Flashy enough for them. A lot of Slytherin House claims to enjoy Potions, but I think that's just because our Head of House teaches it.
[He picks up a book and leafs through the pages, eyes greedily following the words.] Oh? Does the Slytherin Head command much respect?
Yes and No, [Blaise murmurs,] He is feared more often than he is respected, but Professor Snape is a man who should be respected, for his talent with Potions if nothing else. And he's a good teacher, despite being a demanding task master.
[Ezekiel's eyes widen, and he turns his back, burying his nose in the book he's carrying. Attempting a disaffected tone] Snape?
Yes, [Blaise says, sounding surprised Ezekiel doesn't know,] Professor Severus Snape? I know I didn't see him at dinner, but surely you met him when you transferred in?
[Ezekiel freezes] I. Ah. No.
I'm sorry then, [Blaise says honestly,] He'd be the person to ask about Potions texts from a certain time period, if that's what you're looking for. If you don't see him before hand, I'd suggest asking him after Potions on Monday.
[He turns and nonchalantly says] You sound as though you know him pretty well.
[Blaise flushes, ducking his head so his hair falls in his face,] I enjoy Potions... And. We have tea. He. Knows my father and I. Just became his apprentice, [He says jerkily, kicking himself for sounding so stupid.] I don't have many... friends.
Oh? [Ezekiel closes his book and gives Blaise a measuring look.]
[Blaise licks his lips, taking a calming breath,] Which part? Yes, I enjoy Potions. Yes, we have tea regularly. No, it's not just because he knows my father, but yes, he does know my father. Yes, I just became his apprentice. And [Softer,] No, I don't have many friends. Though what bearing that has on my relationship with him I'm not sure. [Blaise blinks, surprised at himself.] Er. Sorry, I um. Don't know where all that. ...Came from.
[Ezekiel stares at Blaise for a moment before bursting into laughter] Are you always so. Ah. Verbose?
[Blaise flushes, then flushes deeper when he realizes he likes the sound of Ezekiel's laughter. It's... familiar somehow.] Er. No. Not. Not usually... [Then, swallowing and trying to smile,] I guess you just caught me on a good day.
And I. I guess it's been kind of an... Odd day for me. Hey. [Ezekiel tucks a strand of black hair behind his ear.] I'm. You know. Sorry, if I was rude, or anything. It's kind of difficult... being here. [Ezekiel looks around again, shivering in anticipation of reading as many of these books as he possibly can.]
[Blaise laughs, shaking his head,] Given what I'm used to, you were far from rude. [Then,] I understand how this could be. Strange for you. ...What made you decide to come here? [Head tilted.]
[Ezekiel shrugs] Hogwarts is supposed to be the best school, right?
I dunno, [Blaise says, shrugging,] They say that, but. Well, I think you get out what you put in - as cliché as that might sound.
[Ezekiel nods] Well, they say that clichés became clichés because they were so true.
[Blaise's lips quirk,] True. [Curious,] So where did you go before?
Ah. Durmstrang? [he desperately hates the quaver in his voice and hopes that Dumbledore gave him enough information to pull it off.]
[Blaise frowns a little,] Did you not like it there?
[Ezekiel shrugs] Not really. It's cold there. I hate the cold.
[Chuckling, mildly sarcastic,] You'll love the dungeons then.
[Ezekiel flushes.] Yeah, well. English winters are milder than Bulgarian winters.
[Blaise smiles a little, noticing Ezekiel's flush and trying to put the other boy at ease,] I would imagine. [Softer,] I've always wanted to travel, but I've never left Scotland... [Then,] You don't have an accent, so you must be English-born?
[Ezekiel nods, relieved now that he's on firmer ground]
Well, I hope you like it better here at Hogwarts than you did at Durmstrang, [Blaise offers, fingering the edges of his book.]
[Ezekiel smiles, a fleeting expression.] I already kinda do.
[Blaise finds himself smiling wider in return, wondering who it is Ezekiel reminds him of.] I'm glad then. [He feels foolish, then, and flushes, ducking his head. He darts a glance at Ezekiel through his hair, wondering if that seemed off or forward.]
[Ezekiel, not sure exactly what else to say, gives a little shrug] I should probably, ah. Let you get back to your reading. Do you have any suggestions?
Oh, [Blaise says, looking down at his book. He'd rather forgotten about it, actually. Finally distracted from his thoughts. He puts it down, standing up next to Ezekiel,] Yes, actually. Well. [Turning to look up at him, almost surprised by the other boy's height] What have you read?
[Ticking them off on his fingers] Moste Potente Potions, Discoveries of the 20th Century Vol. 3, Potions and the Nature of Immortality, Common Misconceptions of Mythical Potion-making... [he takes a breath] And several other... obscure scripts.
[Blaise laughs, lips quirking,] You forget I'm a Slytherin; I know what you mean by obscure. [Then, running his fingers lightly along the spines, pulling books almost at random,] You'll want to read this one, this one and well. [He pauses, looking at Ezekiel,] This one is. Not so good content-wise, but the theories are really interesting. I don't buy into all of them, but they are certainly thought provoking. And then I would read, [He pulls Discoveries of the 20th Century Vol. 4, 5 and 6 from the shelf,] These. [He chews his lip,] That's probably good for now. I don't want to... swamp you, [He laughs, flushing and hoping that Ezekiel doesn't feel he's gone overboard.]
[Ezekiel’s eyes shine with pure, unbridled joy for an instant before he clamps down on his expression. He clutches the books to his chest gratefully.] Thanks.
[Blaise smiles, oddly pleased with having made the other boy happy, and looks down to hide the slight blush of his cheeks.] No problem, I. I'm here most afternoons ... well, most of the time, really, if you want more recommendations or just to... talk. About Potions...
[Ezekiel nods, and then frowns] You really don’t have very many friends, do you?
No, I don't, [Blaise says, looking up. Then, a slight edge to his voice,] But I'm not starved for company, if that's what you're thinking. I ... dislike my housemates as much as they do me most of the time. It was just an offer, you don't have to take me up on it, [Pulling a text off the shelf for himself, he sits,] You just seem to like Potions is all, [Blaise says to the floor, head bent over the new text despite that he has yet to finish with the other.]
I. Ah. Didn't mean. [Realizing he's made a mess of things, Ezekiel shrugs.] Whatever. I'll see you around, I guess. [Ezekiel goes to the nearest table and sets his stack of books to the side, taking the first one off the top and opening it to the first page.]
[Blaise sighs, cursing himself. He hadn't meant to get so defensive, and, really, that's not like him anyway. There's just...something about the new boy that puts him on edge. He doesn't want him to think the same things about him as everyone else seems to, which is weird, but he's not going to bother analyzing it. He stands, pulling The Dictionary of Potions Ingredients, 10th edition; From the Everyday to the Obscure off the shelf. He walks over to the table and sets it down, saying softly,] I forgot this one, it came out just last year. It's got a lot of Potions information, despite being a catologue of ingredients, [He says by way of an apology.]
[Ezekiel nods, tugging it over and caressing the cover. (10th edition. Wow.)] Ah. You can sit, if you want. [He puts the book on top of the pile and turns the page in the one in front of him.] I can’t promise that no one will fall on you, but at least it’s more comfortable.
[Blaise laughs, smiling a little.] Ok, [He says, walking back over to the aisle to gather his things. He returns to the table, sitting opposite Ezekiel and arranging his things before going back to his note taking - on the original book.]
[Ezekiel watches Blaise through the veil of his hair, raising a hand to his mouth and disgusting his laugh as a cough.]
[Blaise frowns, scribbling down a few random tid-bits. He grabs the other book, flipping through it quickly before finding what he's looking for. He scribbles a couple things down, before going back to the other book. He pauses, reaching the end of a chapter, and glances up at Ezekiel, watching him through his hair.]
[Ezekiel is almost cheerful, absently sucking on the end of his quill as he reads.]
[Blaise flushes, berating himself for his sudden train of thought, and ducks his head quickly, going back to his notes.]
[Ezekiel chews absently at the tip of the feather. he thinks this is rather exciting--he has company, he's reading about potions (from the future! yay!), and there's no Dumbledore around to stop him. Life can't get much better than this.]
[Blaise frowns, chewing at his lip and scribbling on his parchment. He likes the fact that he's not alone, but also that he's not expected to entertain.]
[Ezekiel sighs softly, wishing he could dare to write any of this stuff down, and turns another page.]
[Frowning harder, Blaise starts flipping through the other book, looking for something. Then, hesitant, he says,] Ezekiel? Do you mind if I borrow Volume Five for a moment, [He asks, indicating the stack of books beside the other boy.]
[Startled, he pulls the quill out of his mouth and shakes his head, pulling it from the pile. He hands the book to Blaise.]
Thank you, [Blaise murmurs, smiling a little as he opens the book and starts flipping through the pages.]
[Ezekiel mumbles a response before sticking the quill back in his mouth and looking back down at his book.]
[Blaise pointedly does not look at Ezekiel (or his mouth), finding the pages he needs and making notes. He returns the book to Ezekiel's pile, humming a little as he goes back to the other book.]
[Beginning to feel guilty for breaking Dumbledore’s trust (as he has never been one to break any rule Dumbledore’s given him) Ezekiel closes that book with a muffled sigh and goes through the stack of books, hoping to find something closer to his year. He settles on the book of theories and sets the other on top of the stack.]
[Blaise, finding it warmer in the main part of the library than it is in the stacks, and shrugs out of his robes. He looks up as Ezekiel sighs, asking] Not what you were looking for?
[Ezekiel raises his head and blinks at Blaise before taking the quill from his mouth.] I'm not really looking for anything. [He shrugs and makes a face as he realizes his quill is wet. He spells the quill dry and continues.] Just reading.
[Blaise nods, absentmindedly loosening his tie and undoing the top two buttons of his shirt. Rolling the sleeves up,] Well, let me know which ones you like and I'll cater towards them next time. [He flushes, having implied there would be a next time.]
[Ezekiel’s eyes flicker to the hollow of Blaise’s throat briefly before he nods.] I’d like that. Thanks. [Ezekiel wrinkles his nose.] I seem to be saying that a lot today.
[Blaise smiles a little, looking up at Ezekiel through his hair,] I don't mind. You can say something else, though, if it bother's you, [He murmurs, slightly teasing.]
Mmmm. I'll be sure to consult my thesaurus. [Ezekiel smirks and then looks down at his book, inattentively brushing the quill against his mouth.]
[Blaise surprises himself by wondering what Ezekiel's mouth feels like and flushes hotly, ducking his head and staring blindly at his book. He wonders if kissing Severus has made him all...something and he darts a glance up at Ezekiel, swallowing and looking away quickly.]
[Ezekiel shifts in his chair, drawing one leg beneath him as he flips to the next page.]
[Blaise toes off his shoes, folding his legs up under him. He reads for a while, taking random notes, before the little hairs on the back of his neck begin standing on end. He casually glances around, notices Malfoy glaring at them from the Dark Arts section. He frowns, looking away before Malfoy can notice he was looking.]
[Ezekiel turns the page and shakes his head.] You were right. Some of these theories are awful.
[Blaise laughs a little, lips twitching in a slight smile.] It's sad, because she starts off with something you think you could get behind and then, suddenly, she goes all... Weirdo on you.
[Ezekiel laughs] I guess she needed something in order to get this published. Quantity, more than quality, it seems
[Blaise nods again, darting another glance at Malfoy only to find the boy still glaring at them. He leans forward, brushing his fingers over the back of Ezekiel's hand. Softly,] Don't look, but Malfoy's sorta glaring at us. Or me. or maybe you... I'm not sure. You. He doesn't much like me... [He trails off, nervously waiting to see if Ezekiel will decide to treat him like a leper or not.]
[Ezekiel looks up quickly] Lu--oh. [he shakes his head and mutters to himself] the other one. [Ezekiel fights the urge to look and shrugs instead, looking back down at his book.] So what did you do?
[Blaise laughs in surprise,] I was smarter than him, I think. Or maybe it was just that I wouldn't - won't - kiss his arse. [He watches Ezekiel curiously, trying to figure the other boy out.]
It's probably safer to do it, don't you think?
[Blaise's lips quirk and he arches an eyebrow,] I don't care much for 'safe,' he doesn't put out much that I can't handle by simply ignoring it. He's not as ... clever as he'd like people to believe. Besides, it's a little late now for a change of pace.
[Ezekiel laughs at that, shaking his head.] Probably.
Really I just. [Blaise sighs a little,] I don't like the idea of following anyone, I don't see why I can't just be myself. He might hold a lot of sway, but Hogwarts isn't everything. One day we'll leave it and... Well. [He frowns,] Malfoy will still hold a lot of sway, but I hope not to be here to see it.
Oh? [Ezekiel looks at Blaise curiously.] Where do you intend to be?
[Waving a vague hand about,] Somewhere else. Doing Potions research or studying ancient forms of magic or. Living in a shack and begging for bread, I don't know. Just. Anywhere, really.
[Ezekiel wrinkles his nose] living in a shack and begging for bread? That's terrible. Me, I intend to go to India. [he nods decisively]
[Blaise laughs, suddenly shy,] I just. Anything would be better, you know? Better than being here... And I. I would love to go to India, [He murmurs,] Old magic...
[Ezekiel's eyes shine at the idea] I’ve got a family willing to board me there for a while after I graduate. I'm learning Hindi, too, but it's kind of a difficult language...
[Blaise nods, looking almost jealous,] That must be great, knowing you'll have a place to stay... [Then, smiling a bit,] Do you like languages? I've learned as many as I can, still am, really, so that I can go anywhere.
[Ezekiel nods slowly] I like languages, but they don't really like me. I'm not... very good with words, in general.
[Blaise tilts his head,] You seem just fine with them to me, [He says. Then pinks.]
[Ezekiel flushes and drops his eyes to his book.] Ah. Thanks. [He flushes redder as that particular word slips out.]
[Blaise clears his throat, flushing deeper though he's not sure why. He's almost certain he's losing his mind,] Then again, the only person I regularly converse with is short, to the point, often snarky and more fond of silence nine times out of ten. [He realizes that could be taken as him being rude and presses onward,] So while I might not be the best judge, I don't mind... I. Yeah... [Blaise says, flush spreading down his neck as he ducks his head, berating himself even more.]
[Ezekiel looks curiously at Blaise and says teasingly] that must be why you talk so much.
[Blaise darts a glance up, laughing shyly,] I. It's. Not usually a problem. I. Guess I'm just not very good with people. [Then, teasing himself,] Are you complaining?
[Ezekiel arches his eyebrow] I do not complain, Mr. Zabini. I get revenge.
[Blaise laughs outright then, smiling widely before he clamps down on it. Eyes still laughing,] So, are you going to seek revenge for my talking too much?
[Ezekiel innocently returns to his book] Perhaps. [He looks up at Blaise.] Surely you don't expect me to tell you?
[Blaise bites his lip, somehow not worried,] Then I suppose I shall just have to keep my guard up, [His voice trails off as he notices Malfoy coming over toward them. He shoots Ezekiel a mildly worried glance, preparing himself for the worst.]
[Ignoring Draco, Ezekiel nods.] mind that you do.
[Blaise tilts his head; pretty sure Ezekiel isn't talking about himself anymore. He's hoping Draco will pass them by, but that would be too easy.]
Zabini, [Malfoy says by way of greeting, his lip curling slightly. He looks to the new boy, inclining his head,] Hello, I don't believe we've met. I'm Draco Malfoy, 6th year Prefect.
[Ezekiel closes his book and nods cordially at Draco.] Ezekiel Grey.
I realize that you are new, [Draco says, sounding for all the world like he's trying to help the other boy out,] So let me give you a few pointers; Tormenting of Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs is smiled upon by those who matter, you can get away with just about anything during Potions and Zabini is not the type of... [lip curling further,] Riff raff you want to ally yourself with so early on.
[Blaise flushes, embarrassed, and pointedly ignores Draco, going back to his note taking. This only causes Draco to scowl, focusing all his attention on Ezekiel and smiling charmingly.]
Oh? [Ezekiel's voice is cool, but still cordial.] May I ask why?
[Draco arches an eyebrow,] Obviously you've not spoken with him long enough to realize. [Loathing,] He was. </i>Mis-sorted</i>. [Then, trying to goad Blaise more than anything,] I'd also avoid the showers if he's taking one.
[Blaise flushes deeper, not rising to the bait. He knows it'll only upset Malfoy more if he keeps his peace, but he's too embarrassed at this point to say anything that wouldn't be lame or a hex. He avoids glancing at Ezekiel.]
[Ezekiel frowns] Mis sorted? I don’t think that’s possible—the sorting hat has never been wrong before.
[Shrugging,] You'd be surprised, Grey. He might be in Slytherin, but he's too broken to function properly.
[Blaise stiffens, turning cool, murderous eyes on Malfoy,] I wonder, Draco, how much your personality would be improved if your father had beaten the shit out of you just once in your soft, pampered childhood.
[A smirk crosses Malfoy's features before the anger settles in.] I won't have you talking about my father that way, Zabini. Though I suppose I can't blame you for not understanding, pathetic as your childhood must have been.
[Blaise shakes his head, honestly having expected better. And goes back to his reading. He wonders if Draco's trying to impress Ezekiel with his control and clenches his teeth slightly.]
[Ezekiel arches an eyebrow as he watches the two boys spat.] It takes more than a beating to break someone, I should think.
[Draco smirks, cruelly,] oh, I can assure you he's taken more than one. [He shrugs,] Not that important, however. We just ignore him and he goes away. And, [Smirking again,] There are times when he comes in handy. [He dismisses the subject then, saying,] You can sit with me tonight at dinner.
[Feeling a muscle in the back of his neck twitch from tension, Ezekiel nods] Thank you for the invitation, but I'm afraid I'll have to decline. The headmaster has requested my presence in his office for dinner.
[Draco inclines his head, surprised but not showing it. However, as Ezekiel turned him down for a legitimate reason, he's confident the other boy will see the error of his ways and stop hanging out with Blaise. Draco rather likes the boy being a social pariah.] Another time then, [He says, turning to leave.]
I'll look forward to it. [Ezekiel says coolly, and then turns back to his book.]
[Draco smirks, taking that for victory and walks away. He accidentally knocks Blaise's books to the ground as he goes, not bothering to pause and apologize.]
[Sighing, Blaise moves to pick the books up, trying to keep his face hidden from Ezekiel's view. He knows he must look murderous, and embarrassed.]
[Ezekiel moves out of his seat, helping Blaise pick up the books. Continuing nonchalantly, he says] He really doesn't like you.
[Blaise snorts, shoulders tense,] I believe that's putting it mildly. [Then, darting a glance at Ezekiel and looking away again,] I. Understand if you'd...rather I don't...sit here, anymore... [He murmurs, trying to keep his tone light. He just hopes that Ezekiel missed the inference to his sexual orientation.]
[Ezekiel shrugs] You can sit here if you'd like. I don't mind.
But, [Blaise takes a breath, looking at Ezekiel.] I'm not sure Malfoy's offer will stand if you continue to...be seen in my presence. [He murmurs, already thinking of subtle, small ways to make Draco's life hell for the next few weeks.]
[Ezekiel says simply] I know.
[Blaise stills, looking at Ezekiel openly shocked. Confused, his brow furrows, but he doesn't say anything, just nods a little, looking away. ]
[Ezekiel plops Blaise’s books back on the table and retakes his seat, turning the page and picking his quill up again.]
[Blaise sits, hesitantly, and goes back to his books. He keeps shooting glances up at Ezekiel through his hair, however, waiting for the boy to explode or change his mind or something.]
[After a couple of minutes of feeling Blaise look at him, Ezekiel sets down his quill.] Yes?
[Blaise blinks, not even realizing he was looking at the other boy. Slightly confused,] What?
You keep looking at me. Was there something you wanted?
oh, [Blaise flushes hotly and looks away, shaking his head,] No. Sorry.
[Ezekiel shrugs] okay.
[Blaise chews his lip, forcing himself to go back to his work. He relaxes, slowly, toes brushing Ezekiel’s knee as he shifts to fold his legs up underneath himself.]
[Abruptly] it’s your father that does it?
[Blaise looks up, startled,] my father that does what?
[Ezekiel twists his quill nervously] you know. hurts you.
Oh, [Blaise says hollowly, looking off over Ezekiel's shoulder.] Yes.
[Ezekiel sets his quill down and says quietly] mine does too. [Then he picks up his book and buries his nose in it, embarrassed]
[Blaise makes a soft, startled sound in the back of his throat, looking sadly at the top of Ezekiel's head. He's not sure what to say, I mean, what do you say to something like that?, and reaches out, brushing his fingers over the back of Ezekiel's knuckles. He offers the other boy a soft, if sad, smile, commiserating, and goes back to his book himself.]
[Unused to any sort of sympathy, Ezekiel frowns slightly, looking at Blaise through the curtain of his hair.]
[Blaise, oblivious to Ezekiel's scrutiny, is smiling softly, biting his lip on it. He doesn't know why, but he likes the other boy. Likes that he already doesn't feel so alone. He brushes his hair back, out of his face, though it doesn't do him much good as it immediately falls forward again.]
[Coming to the conclusion that Blaise was actually being sympathetic, he smirks.] It’s not working, you know.
[Looking up, Blaise blinks,] What?
Your hair. [Ezekiel mimics Blaise's movements.]
[Blaise laughs, pinking lightly,] I know, it. It prefers being in my face.
[Ezekiel smirks] I can see.
[Blaise shrugs, stomach fluttering oddly,] I like it most of the time though, as then people can't see me. [And I can't see them, he thinks.] It's just a pain when reading, [He laughs.]
[Ezekiel nods] It sounds like an imposition. Then again, I always read.
[Blaise shrugs,] I'm used to reading through it by now.
[Ezekiel nods, and then, tired of reading, he shuts his book and indulges himself in a long stretch.]
[Blaise blushes, shifting his eyes quickly from the long line of Ezekiel's body, and goes back to his book, idly fingering the pages and not really reading.]
[Not really interested in reading any longer, Ezekiel charms his quill to float, and watches the feather fly around in circles.]
[Blaise glances up, smiling lightly as he watches Ezekiel's quill and asks, softly,] Bored?
[Ezekiel nods.] A little.
[Blaise chews his lip for a moment before asking hesitantly,] Do you want a tour, maybe? I could show you some of the nicer parts of the castle?
[Ezekiel opens his mouth, about to say that he's already seen the castle, but stops himself at the last minute.] Yeah, sure.
Yeah? [Blaise says, surprised Ezekiel actually said yes.]
[Ezekiel eyes Blaise] Was I supposed to say no?
No, no, [Blaise says quickly, leaning forward,] I was just. Surprised. You. Forget I'm something of a social pariah...
[Ezekiel shrugs] You seem nice enough. It’s not really necessary for me to be social, anyway.
[Blaise laughs, shaking his head at Ezekiel.] I kinda like how you put that, [He murmurs, ducking his head and collecting his things. Then,] Do you mind if we stop by the dorm first? We can drop off the books and what not...
No problem. [Ezekiel stares at the books, wondering which ones he’d be able to get past the staff, as they’d probably all had orders not to let him by with anything.]
Don't worry about the books, [Blaise says,] Madame Pince knows that I'm working with Professor Snape, I'm allowed to take out whatever I like. I don't even have to check them with her. So, [He arches an eyebrow,] Want to help me carry them?
[Ezekiel turns bright red and shakes his head furiously.] No, it's just that. I. ah. have an agreement with the headmaster. [He finally chooses Discoveries Vol. 4 and spells the rest to their places.]
[Blaise frowns, wondering. He doesn't say anything, just nods, and begins picking up his own stack of books.]
Would you like any help?
[Blaise shakes his head,] I can manage it, you needn't trouble yourself. [He juggles his things, clutching the books against his chest, and turns,] Ready?
[Ezekiel nods, picking up his things and heading toward the door.]
[Blaise nods to Madame Pince as they leave, thinking random thoughts and wondering where all he should take Ezekiel as they walk.]
[Ezekiel looks around nervously, hoping that he won't have to hide from one of the professors, because really, it would be rather hard to explain.]
[They walk, not really seeing much of anyone, and reach the Slytherin common room without distraction. Blaise murmurs the password, letting them in, and heads for the dormitory, ignoring the mandatory stares his entrance always seems to bring.]
[Disliking the attention, even if it isn't his, Ezekiel hurries out of the common room, following Blaise into the dorms.]
[Blaise sets his stuff down, unlocking his trunk and putting his books away. He looks at Ezekiel, asks,] Do you mind if I change really quick?
[Ezekiel shakes his head and sets his book on his bed.]
[Blaise nods, turning and grabbing a few things. He turns his back, moving into the corner created by his nightstand and bed, removing his school clothes and pulling on a pair of black corduroy trousers and a charcoal grey button down shirt. He doesn't bother putting back on his robes, or his shoes, toeing off his socks.]
[Realizing that he's actually looking, Ezekiel averts his eyes, pinking slightly.]
[Blaise runs a hand through his hair, which doesn't much help, really, and turns back around, asking,] Did you want to do or see anything in particular?
[Ezekiel shakes his head.] Nothing in particular.
[Blaise nods, moving toward the door,] Ready to go, then?
Mmhmm. [Ezekiel nods and heads toward the door.]
[Blaise tries not to... bounce or something unseemly like that, following Ezekiel out the door and then out of the House. Trying to ease the tension left by the stares he murmurs,] You can always say I had you under Imperious.
[Ezekiel gives Blaise a long look] I don't need an excuse to be seen with you.
[Blaise flushes, looking down at the stones of the floor,] you might change your mind about that one day, [He murmurs, shrugging a little.]
[Ezekiel shrugs] Perhaps. But the same could be said about me, as well. We never know what'll happen in the future, unless we're gifted or something. And I'm not. [he gives Blaise another long look.] Are you?
[Shaking his head,] No. I guess I'm just too used to it by now... [He offers Ezekiel a smile,] I'll let it alone though.
[he nods firmly] Good.
[Blaise laughs slightly, leading them up a flight of stairs and onto the main level of Hogwarts. He opens his mouth to say something when he hears a familiar voice calling his name.]
Blaise! [Terry shouts, rushing toward them. He's smiling a little, like he's pleased to see them - or Blaise, at least.] Hey, [He says softly, causing Blaise to squirm a little and look away, then, to Ezekiel,] you’re the new transfer student, right? I'm Terry Boot, a Ravenclaw.
[Ezekiel nods.] I'm Ezekiel Grey, a Slytherin.
[Terry nods in return, unsurprised by the boy's formality. He is surprised, however, to see him in Blaise's company. To Blaise,] So, I was wondering if maybe you wanted to get together and study sometime this weekend. I know you don't have any problems with Herbology, but I find Professor Sprout’s voice hard on the ears.
[Blaise laughs a little, nervous sounding though he's not sure just why he's nervous, and says,] Sure, Terry. Is Sunday afternoon alright with you?
[Terry smiles widely, pleased Blaise didn't say no, and murmurs,] That sounds great, [Brushing Blaise's arm with his fingertips. Then, to Ezekiel,] So where are you two off to?
[somewhat put off by Terry’s demeanor, Ezekiel shuffles awkwardly, pulling slightly away from Terry and Blaise.] Blaise was going to give me a tour.
Ah, [Terry says, nodding. he's somewhat relieved to think it's a school-thing instead of a social-thing, and smiles at Blaise again.] Well I'll just let you get back to it, then. See you later, Blaise?
Er, yeah, [Blaise says, a smile plastered on his face despite the nervous slant of his eyes. He watches at Terry walks back the way he came, letting out a slow, relieved breath.]
[Ezekiel shifts uncomfortably]
Er, [Blaise turns to Ezekiel, nervousness still churning in his belly,] Sorry about that. He. um. He. Thinks he likes me or. Something. Anyway, tour?
I. ah. if you'd rather. ah. [he gestures vaguely toward Terry]
[Blaise chokes, shaking his head quickly.] Ah, no. No, I um. Really wouldn't rather.
[Ezekiel looks at Blaise curiously]
He uh, [Blaise flushes, looking down and rubbing the back of his neck,] Just no... [He doesn't really feel like explaining his sexual orientation, terry’s interest in him, his own lack of interest in Terry or any combination of those facts right now.]
[Ezekiel shrugs and starts walking again.] I didn’t particularly care for him myself.
He's rather... serious, [Blaise says hesitantly, following,] A lot of times I will say something and he doesn't get it or just blinks at me and yeah... It's. Disconcerting. [He murmurs, rubbing at his arm where terry touched him.]
[Ezekiel snorts] He has no visible sense of humor.
[Blaise laughs,] Oh, I agree. I don't think he realized you were mocking him before. [Lips twitching,] Sorry about that.
[Ezekiel shrugs] That’s what you get with Ravenclaws. All intelligence and generally nothing else to keep your interest.
[Blaise blinks, looking curiously at Ezekiel,] ...Have you spoken with many Ravenclaws since coming here?
[Realizing he made a mistake, he shrugs] One or two.
[Nodding,] They're a lot alike, but there's a few cool ones. I like Padma Patil and Michael Corner
I haven't met either of them yet.
I think you would like Padma, [Blaise says considering,] She's from India; Her and her twin sister, a Gryffindor.
[Ezekiel instantly makes a note in his head to speak with both girls.] How lovely.
[Blaise nods, saying,] I'm not sure there's much that would interest you in the castle you won't have already seen or get to see, but the grounds are very nice...
[Ezekiel smirks] You can show me, if you'd like.
[Blaise smiles back, almost shy, and nods, ducking his head and indicating a small, easily overlooked door to their left.]
[Ezekiel looks at it curiously and heads toward it.]
[Blaise follows, moving to push open the door once they get there. It leads out onto the grounds, just down from Hagrid’s hut.]
[Ezekiel notices Hagrid's hut as he steps out into the open. To himself] Merlin, is he still here?
[Blaise blinks, looking over at Ezekiel,] Who?
[Ezekiel blinks innocently] Mmm? Nothing.
[Blaise looks a little confused, but nods, leading them around the side of the building, edging the forest.]
[Ezekiel follows gamely, keeping his step with ease.] Where are we going?
Um, [Blaise shrugs,] I thought we'd go around the grounds, really. They're nice the time of year, and I can show you the whomping willow, which I really like. I [slightly shy,] Like to take pictures of it.
[Blaise smiles a little at him, ducking his head and letting his hair fall into his face. He walks with Ezekiel around the grounds, pointing out various things of interest. When they draw close to the whomping willow he stops, murmuring,] I've always wondered if there's a way to get past its branches.
[Ezekiel makes a noncommittal sound, privately impressed that it's gotten so big.]
[Blaise bites his lip, watching Ezekiel for a moment. He looks away, drawn by a sound in the forest. After a moment he shrugs, disregarding it, and says,] I could take you into the forest, but it's late.
[Ezekiel smirks] Is there anything in there we should be afraid of?
[Shrugging,] some people say so.
[Gives Blaise a sideways glance.] what do you think?
I know there are things in there, [Blaise murmurs,] But I don't fear them. I've gone into the forest a lot to pick ingredients...
oh? [Ezekiel moves closer to the forest, peering into the foliage.]
Yeah, [Blaise says, stepping closer to both the forest and Ezekiel,] Sometimes I see things or hear things, but nothing has ever hurt me. I like the forest, actually, but it's the only thing most students are openly afraid of.
We're forbidden to go in, aren't we? [Ezekiel gives Blaise another sideways look] Are you fond of breaking rules?
[Blaise laughs, shrugging,] It's forbidden, yes. But I think they turn a blind eye to it, provided you aren't causing any trouble.
[Ezekiel laughs slightly and shakes his head, taking a step back from the forest's edge.] I think I'll tempt fate another day, then.
[Blaise smiles lopsidedly at him, the tilt of his head making it look even more slanted,] Planning on causing trouble then? [He murmurs.]
Never. [Ezekiel smiles another one of his now-you-see-it-now-you-don't smiles and shrugs] But as you said, it's getting late anyway, and we wouldn't want to chance getting lost.
[Blaise nods, ducking his head again, and smiling to himself. Then,] It's almost time for dinner, I bet. Do you want to head back? I don't want you to be late to your meeting with the Headmaster.
[Ezekiel nods] I suppose so.
I can take you the long way, [Blaise says, hesitant, not wanting to take up too much of the other boy's time, not wanting to seem too eager.] You can see the rest of the grounds that way and we should have time for it.
[Ezekiel thinks it over briefly and nods] okay.
[A smile flashes across Blaise's features and he starts walking again, leading Ezekiel around the side of the castle,] I hope you end up liking it here.
[a hint of a smile] it’s looking quite possible that I will.
[Blaise flushes a little, though he couldn't tell you why. He smiles a bit, more to himself than anyone, and says,] I'm really looking forward to you meeting Professor Snape. I really think you'll like him.
[Ezekiel smirks] Maybe.
[Blaise stops himself from going on about Professor Snape and the man's many good points, saying simply,] You like Potions.
[Ezekiel nods, turning his head slightly to hide his deepening smirk.] Sounds like you really like him.
[Blaise flushes,] He's a good man.
[Ezekiel shrugs] to each his own, I guess.
[Blaise frowns, unsure of Ezekiel's meaning, and shrugs a little himself. Indicating a hidden door,] That way leads back to the dorms.
[Blaise pulls the door open for Ezekiel.]
[Ezekiel nods his thanks and steps back into the castle, moving to the side to avoid blocking Blaise.]
[Blaise follows Ezekiel through the door, shoulder brushing the other boy's on the way past.] I'm sorry there's nothing horribly interesting around here.
[Ezekiel shrugs] it hasn't been too bad.
I'm glad to hear it, [Blaise murmurs, letting Ezekiel down a narrow flight of steps ahead of him. He's about to say something when his foot catches on his robes, sending him tumbling into Ezekiel. He squishes his eyes closed, bracing for impact, and feels all his breath leave his body as the two boys roll down the stairs together. They reach the bottom and Blaise cracks one eye open, surprised to find himself beneath Ezekiel, clinging to the other boy's shoulders. He blushes.]
[Ezekiel turns crimson and tries to disentangle himself. He stops after a moment to catch his breath.] …Ow.
[Blaise lets go of Ezekiel's shoulders quickly, wincing at his own aches and pains as he murmurs a quick,] Sorry, sorry.
[The edge of Ezekiel's mouth curls up into something that's not quite a sneer, or a smirk, but somewhere in between.] Remind me to let you go first next time.
[Blaise flushes darker, then says,] You started it.
[Ezekiel ponders it for a moment] You made me fall down then, too.
[Blaise laughs, shifting unconsciously in order to get more comfortable under the other boy. Smiling,] I see, my apologies then.
[Looking vaguely mollified, Ezekiel attempts to untangle himself again.] Apology accepted.
[Blaise's lips quirk in a quieter, more private smile, and he reaches down, untangling Ezekiel from his body and robes so the other boy can stand up. He tries not to let his hands linger longer than necessary, flushing again.]
[Ezekiel winces as more aches and pains hit him, and he squirms uncomfortably.] I think you broke me.
[Blaise frowns, face suddenly concerned. He pushes Ezekiel up into a sitting position, kneeling before him. He chews his lips, hands hovering over Ezekiel's skin.] Are you serious? Where?
[Ezekiel blinks, surprised.] You didn't-- [he pauses, and then smirks.] Everywhere. You should register yourself as a lethal weapon or something. [Ezekiel rubs the back of his neck, wincing again.]
[Blaise flushes darker,] I really am sorry, I didn't mean to be so clumsy. [He murmurs a spell softly, and begins passing his hands over Ezekiel's body, starting with his neck. His hands are warm, soothing, and the magic works out any aches and pains as he waits with held breath to be alerted of a broken bone.]
[Draco comes around the corner, eyes growing wide as he takes in the scene before him. His face hardens, eyes narrowing as his fists clench.]
[Ezekiel makes a small sound, startled at how fast the spell (and Blaise’s hands) is making him feel better.] Where’d you learn that spell?
[Blaise flushes, smoothing his hands down Ezekiel's arms and chest. Softly,] My mum, she. Does it for me often... [He trails off, looking up into Ezekiel's face. He's about to say something when a harsh voice cuts into the silence.]
[Draco storms over, taking in the scene with a glare of contempt. To Ezekiel,] I hadn't thought you were a pouf, Grey.
[Ezekiel calmly looks up at Draco, arching an eyebrow.] I beg your pardon?
[Draco arches an eyebrow in return, sneering as he gestures at the two of them, Blaise's hands still resting on Ezekiel's shoulders as Blaise flushes, unable to look at the other two boys,] Is he going to suck your cock next? [He makes a disgusted sound, eyes angry.]
[Still calm (and relieved he was able to shutter his expression so quickly)] I shouldn’t think so. Perhaps it would befit you to learn of the situation before you jump to conclusions.
[Blaise drops his hands, shrinking away from the other two boys.]
[Draco sneers again, tossing his head arrogantly.] And what, Zabini was just touching you for...? [He trails off, mocking. Then, smirking lightly,] I'd be careful, Grey, you might not be a faggot, but that one is, [He gestures to Blaise with his chin] He might just take advantage of you when you least expect it. Isn't that right Blaise, [He murmurs false-friendly.]
[Blaise is too embarrassed to glare properly, muttering,] Fuck you, Malfoy. I wouldn't touch you if you fucking paid me to.
[Draco's eyes narrow and he takes a step towards Blaise, fists clenching.]
[Ezekiel stands up (he wishes it was a more fluid movement, but damn it, falling down the stairs hurt!) and arches his eyebrow.] How interesting. [Turning to Blaise,] Are you all right?
[Draco makes a choked noise in the back of his throat, staring between the two boys.]
[Blaise looks up hesitantly, nodding.] Yes, I'm fine. [He too tries standing, wincing slightly as his knee makes a funny noise.]
Ezekiel cups a hand beneath Blaise’s elbow, offering support. He gives Draco a cool glance.] We are going to the infirmary. If you wish to continue exercising your juvenile wit, please, accompany us.
[Blaise stifles a laugh, grateful for the support of Ezekiel's arm, but trying not to lean on him too much.]
[Draco's fists clench until his knuckles whiten and he glares hotly at Ezekiel,] I don't know who you think you are, Grey, but I run this place. I can just as easily outcast you as I have him.
[Ezekiel shrugs.] That wasn’t threatening in the least, Malfoy. You shall have to do better than that.
[Malfoy sputters, lips going white with anger. He says nothing, just glares at the two of them. His eyes come to rest on Blaise, eyes darkening dangerously.]
[Blaise swallows, elbowing Ezekiel lightly in the ribs,] Perhaps we should kick on, [He says softly, eyes never leaving Malfoy's face.] Malfoy seems at a loss for words.
[Ezekiel looks at Blaise, and nods once.] We should get you to Madam Pomfrey. [his eyes narrow coldly as he looks back over at Draco.] it is in your best interest, Malfoy, if we do not continue this later. Do have a good evening.
[Draco's jaw tenses as he watches the two boys leave.]
[Blaise walks, supporting most of his own weight despite a slight limp. Once they're out of hearing distance,] S-sorry, about that. [He's blushing, carefully not looking at Ezekiel.]
I, [He hesitates, swallowing,] I can get to the infirmary on my own, if you. Don't want to take me. I mean, I understand if you don't, that was. Weird and. [He swallows again,] I wouldn't, you know, do anything to you; I'm not like that, really. I mean, yes, I like boys, but um. I wouldn't force myself on you -- on anyone. Malfoy he just. Likes to get under my skin. [Blaise is so red in the face at this point he can feel the heat coming off himself.]
[Ezekiel looks at Blaise, surprised.] I hadn’t assumed that you would. [curiously] do you think that spell that you used on me would work on your knee?
Perhaps, [Blaise whispers. His chest is tight, eyes stinging a little. He wonders, idly, if this is what it's like to have a friend.]
I could try it, if you wouldn’t mind?
[Blaise flushes, shaking his head,] No, I. I wouldn't mind.
Ezekiel nods, and kneels before Blaise, murmuring the spell (as well as he can remember it from when Blaise said it) and cups one hand behind Blaise’s knee, hesitantly holding his other hand against the front of Blaise’s knee before looking up at him.] Am I doing this right?
[Blaise flushes a little darker, nodding.] Feels better, [He murmurs, hoping Malfoy doesn't come back this way.]
[Ezekiel nods] How long should I...?
Oh, [Blaise smiles nervously, ducking his head,] You can stop, really. I can do it for myself when I get back to the dorm...
[Ezekiel snorts inelegantly.] I've already begun it. It's rather redundant to stop, isn't it?
[Blaise shrugs, chewing his lip. Then, voice soft,] Another minute or so and it should be fine.
[Ezekiel nods and looks back at Blaise's knee, forehead furrowed in concentration.] I've never... tried healing someone before.
Er, [Blaise blinks] I'm sorry? You. Aren't bad at it...
[Ezekiel shoots Blaise a look] Of course I'm not bad at it. It's just interesting.
[Blaise laughs, somehow unsurprised by Ezekiel's outburst.]
[Ezekiel scowls, wondering what's so funny.]
[Blaise tries to stifle his laughter, which only makes him giggle harder. He presses his fingers to the line forming between Ezekiel's eyebrows and says,] It's fine, really. Thank you.
[Ezekiel blinks, surprised that Blaise is touching him, and shrugs, ending the spell and standing up.] You're welcome.
[Blaise lets his hand fall away, flushing again.] To the dorm?
[Ezekiel shrugs] Sure.
When are you supposed to meet the Headmaster?
He just told me to come by for dinner and a chat. [Ezekiel wrinkles his nose.]
[Nodding,] You should still have time to get there if you go to the dorm first.
[Ezekiel nods, a small smirk playing on his mouth.] You first.
[Blaise laughs,] Fine, [He says,] Just don't trip over me.
I only trip over you when I don't know you're there.
[Blaise laughs,] Lucky for you, then.
[haughtily] Unless you're going to try and surprise me, I think I shall manage well enough.
[Blaise smirks, low,] Don't put it past me.
[Ezekiel glances at Blaise slyly from the corner of his eye.] Unlike Malfoy, Zabini, I would never underestimate your capabilities.
[Blaise is pleased into smiling again, ducking his head as he walks.]
[Ezekiel remains silent, thinking about Malfoy and how he reacted during their encounter.]
[Blaise watches Ezekiel out of the corner of his eye, barely noticing the time slip by.]
[Still contemplating Malfoy, Ezekiel smirks slightly, amused that the caliber of Slytherins seems to be less imposing now than in the past.]
[Blaise draws up short, blinking, he jerks his head to the side,] We need to turn here.
[Ezekiel nods, and continues to head toward the dorm, staying a careful and precise step behind Blaise.]
[Blaise hums a little as they walk, wondering what Ezekiel and the Headmaster will be talking about. He doesn't plan on going down to dinner.]
[Coming to a decision, Ezekiel nods to himself.] Malfoy isn't as much as he thinks he is.
[Blaise lets out a surprised sound, turning his head to look at Ezekiel,] You're telling the wrong person, Ezekiel. This is something I've known for a long time.
[Ezekiel nods] I didn't feel as though I were unveiling some hidden truth, you know. Just saying. [He pauses before continuing, wishing he had a book to hide behind.] I think. I think I'd like it if you and I were friends. If. You know. You wanted to be.
[Blaise blinks, flushing as he tries not to gape at the other boy,] I would. Like that.
[Ezekiel looks at Blaise, openly shocked.] Really?
[Blaise blinks again,] Well yes. Should I not?
[Ezekiel backpedals, his composure in tatters.] I. no. it's. ah. Just that. I mean. No one's actually... agreed to be. I just. [Ezekiel trails off, silence making more sense than that babble he'd just tried to spew.] It surprised me.
[Blaise smiles a little. Voice soft,] I'm glad you want me to be your friend. I. [Blushing lightly,] I've liked talking to you.
[Ezekiel gives Blaise a small smile.] Me too.
[Blaise finds he's rather fond of making Ezekiel smile and smiles a little wider himself,] Great.
[Ezekiel nods firmly] That's settled then. [He picks up his pace slightly] I do hope Malfoy takes my warning seriously.
[Blaise laughs,] I give it a day. Malfoy likes asking for trouble.
[Ezekiel heaves a sigh] Oh, children are so exhausting.
[Blaise blinks, arching an eyebrow,] Children?
[Ezekiel gives Blaise a look.] I think if someone acts like a child, he should be called one. I'm 15, and I have more maturity than he does. It's rather grating.
[Blaise looks surprised,] You're only 15?
[Ezekiel nods, almost shy.]
[Blaise grins lopsidedly,] I would have thought you were older than I am. I just turned 16 earlier this month. I'm used to being the youngest...
[Ezekiel shrugs, a little embarrassed.] Well, now you aren't.
But like you were saying, age isn't everything...
Yes. [Ezekiel nods firmly] I'm just saying that you should be careful, I guess. Children tend to throw tantrums.
[Blaise glowers a little,] I'm well aware, [He mutters, already wondering what Draco will do next.]
[Ezekiel shrugs] If worse comes to worse, I'll just teach him to leave you alone.
[Blaise blinks at Ezekiel, surprised.]
[Ezekiel shrugs again.] I watch your back, you watch mine, yeah?
[Blaise nods, smiling again,] Deal. [He looks up, noticing they're just down from the entrance to the common room.]
Good. [Ezekiel prods a finger into Blaise's back.] You first. [teasing] After all, I don't know what kind of things you can fall over in Slytherin.
Everything [Blaise says with mock-doom in his voice, preceding Ezekiel into the common room.]
And that, [Ezekiel says archly] Is precisely why I'm behind you.
[Blaise laughs, shaking his head as he avoids the gaze of various Slytherins, making his way down the steps and to the boys’ dorm.]
[Ezekiel hunches his shoulders and scurries to their dorm, shuddering delicately as they close the door behind them.] I can't stand that. Ugh.
[Blaise looks at Ezekiel, timid again. Unsure,] You. Get used to it...
You should tell them all to shove it up their arses. [Ezekiel goes to his bed and shrugs out of his school robes, searching through his trunk for a change of clothes suitable for dinner with Dumbledore.] How do you stand that?
[Blaise averts his eyes, blushing for more than one reason,] I just. Don't notice, anymore.
[Ezekiel wriggles into his robes, voice muffled by the cloth] I’m impressed. How long has that been going on anyway?
er, [Blaise blushes purple,] First year.
[Ezekiel's head pops out of his collar, and he smoothes his robes into place, tugging them down.] I'd've killed them all by now.
[Blaise laughs,] I find other ways. [He smiles lopsidedly again,] You should go, if you don't want to be late.
Yeah, yeah, I know. [Ezekiel runs a hand through his hair (the good thing about lanky hair is that it stays put)] I'll talk to you later, then. [He moves quickly to the door, and pauses] Don't forget to eat dinner, Madam Pomfrey says it's bad to skip. [He darts out and closes the door behind him.]