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Linus Paddock

Steady as she goes

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Following an extremely eventful Sorting Night where he had been at the mercy of this maniacal moving castle, Linus was not eager to tempt fate. For the remainder of the week, he traveled with herds of his classmates, sometimes even with those outside his year. He wagered that Hogwarts itself had a vendetta against him, that it wanted nothing more than to lead him astray at every opportunity. He thought that traveling in numbers would minimize these chances, while likely also giving him the advantage of being the fastest runner in most groups of students on the chance he needed to escape a crumbling hallway or a living suit of armor.

 

But somehow he found himself in a classroom he had never seen before.

 

"Damnit," he echoed into the empty room, dusty chairs and tables the only thing breaking up the space.

 

In truth, though, Linus was somewhat glad to be lost. These new Prefect duties were keeping him up longer these nights, all while he and Altair were busy trying to set up Quidditch tryouts. It had already been the busiest first week of term that he had ever experienced, so maybe traveling off the beaten path was exactly what he needed. Stepping over to one of the chairs, he shifted his wand and with a word polished it off. Taking a seat, he pulled his bag out and reached in till he felt the hard plastic of his camera.

 

Holding it up to eye level, he noticed that it, too, had accumulated a little dust. It had certainly been a while since he had taken it out throughout the grounds, but he was suddenly struck by an idea.

 

What if I took pictures around the castle? As a way to maybe... orient myself? Keep track of things?

 

It had never honestly occurred to him before, and he quickly set about making sure his camera had the proper settings in place and, more importantly, that it had film. Fixing his eye on the viewing piece, he propped his elbows up on the desk for stability. Moving from corner to corner of the room, he started clicking and adjust the focus in turn, trying to ensure that it didn't need any more tuning. But as he set his sights on the door he had come through, it swung open at the very moment his finger depressed on the shutter button, capturing the surprised expression of the person who'd just entered.

 

"Oh, uh, hi!"

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Columbia was exhausted after staying up late joking around in the common room the previous night, and so, after her first class of the day, she decided to duck into one of Hogwarts' dusty empty classrooms, put her head on a desk, and nap away the rest of the afternoon. It would be quieter than the girl's dormitories, certainly, at this time of day.

 

But as soon as she opened the door, she saw that the classroom wasn't so empty after all.

 

"What are you doing in here?" Columbia said immediately, her eyes flashing instantly to Linus's prefect badge. "I mean, should I not be in here? Is there a prefect... thing... going on?"

 

Linus surely was only a year older than her, but somehow the prefect badge changed things, and turned him into an authority figure. And Columbia was too pooped to deal with that at the moment. "Uh... I'll go..." she said, backing up. Then she stopped. "Oh, um. I didn't look too ugly in that picture, did I?" She hadn't posed or anything.

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"No, no, nothing like that. I was just..."

 

Stopping short after realizing who had just entered, Linus' shock wore off quickly. Columbia was from the year below his, just like Kaelyn and Briar. He didn't know know her personally, but he'd seen her around a few times in the Commons, or even around Kaelyn and her brood. He typically tried to steer clear of Kaelyn and all the rumors that swirled around her and hers, but somehow he had still gotten caught up with Briar.

 

Columbia seemed reasonable enough, and Linus hadn't even considered that it might look odd for a prefect to be hanging out in an empty classroom all alone. This new notoriety was like living in a new skin, one where people recognized you for accomplishments that were largely unearned. But Linus was beginning to learn that modesty wasn't his strong suit.

 

"Oh, um, no. Not too ugly. I mean, you know. Not that ugly. Er, you looked fine. You looked good. But not too good! You looked... okay?"

 

And neither was polite conversation, it seemed.

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Columbia tried to take that bizarre insult/compliment hybrid in.

 

"Well, I guess they can't all be good," she said, sighing. The boy's discomfort made Columbia uncomfortable too, and it struck her that if she left now, this prefect might think she was rude. Not that politeness was necessarily HIS strong suit, but...

 

"Do you like taking photos then?" Columbia asked, approaching him, looking at his camera. "I used to on my phone, when my parents lived in a Muggle town... but I'm not even sure I'd know how to use a real camera like that. So are you just waiting for people to come in so you can take pictures of them looking surprised?" That sounded kind of perverse, Columbia thought.

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"No that's not what I mean, I swear..."

 

Linus stood up as Columbia looked like she was about to leave. But then she didn't, which was even more surprising. He was so used to hurling insults at Kaelyn that speaking to any person of the female persuasion could suddenly prove to be challenging. Hopefully he'd salvaged it as best he could, though. No sense making even more bad impressions whilst wearing the badge.

 

"Um, I guess you could say that. Haven't used it in ages, though. I was just, uh, how do I put this..."

 

Holding the camera in his hands, his gripped knotted against the worn leather, finding the metal frame cold to the touch. In trying to find his words, he most certainly looked foolish, almost pitiful. But that wasn't really the case. Not really.

 

"Well, you may have heard, I suppose. Sorting Night I was meant to lead the firsties on a tour with Darcy, yea? But I'm rubbish at getting from place to place in the castle and got lost. That's how I ended up here, actually? So I don't know, I just thought that maybe I'd take pictures of the castle and try to map it out. So I don't get lost anymore."

 

Okay, maybe he was pitiful.

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Linus seemed embarrassed—shaken, even. For the first time, Columbia considered that being a prefect must have been kind of weird. Some people were natural leaders—for a time, Columbia had been one of them. But most people found a position of authority a difficult mantle to wear.

 

"I hadn't heard about the tour," Columbia admitted. "But it's not a big deal. No one really knows how to get around this place. It's magic, innit? You did the firsties a favor to show them that."

 

It had been a while since Columbia had attempted to cheer someone up, or do something actually nice for them. The realization made her feel weird, uncomfortable in her own body.

 

"Hey, um," Columbia said. "Can I try taking a picture?"

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Rather than confirming all that confidence that he had built up last year, the Prefect Badge seemed to do little else than make Linus question his credentials. In the back of his head his drew images of Professor Fjord speaking with Headmistress Flamel (a woman who certainly did not hold the Paddock name in much regard), and how that conversation went:

 

Fjord - "As it is written in the stars, Linus is a good choice for Prefect."

 

Flamel - "Blast you and your stars Kirsei, he's a fool and a louse, just like his father."

 

Fjord - "Well, he seems... to have a pulse?"

 

Flamel - "I guess that will do."

 

But Linus had dealt with such crippling self-doubt before, and it had only taken three years to overcome, so he had some hope at least. But perhaps this was all a bit distracting from his fellow Gryffindor who was trying to be... nice.

 

"Oh, uh, sure. Just um, here."

 

Waving Columbia over, he slid the neck strap off his own and, with a nod of consent, hooked it gently around hers.

 

"So this is the view finder. It's like a frame, and everything within its view ends up in the picture. When you have an image you want to capture, you press the release shutter, like this..."

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"Ah!" Columbia said, startled by the lens flare. "Um, sorry, I must have flipped something on or something." She was hopeless, like a muggleborn first year trying to get on Platform 9 and 3/4. This camera used film, unlike the digital cameras you mostly saw in muggle cities; the whole device was heavier than she expected. She noticed a dial near the top of the camera, and ventured a guess that she needed to turn it slightly to move the film forward.

 

"Well here," she said, moving away from Linus and facing him. "Lemme take your portrait. Don't object! You're a prefect, this will be of historical import." She looked at his symmetrical face through the viewfinder and was struck by something. "Hey, you're Kaelyn's brother, aren't you? Or something like that? You look... similar."

 

Columbia was glad that the camera was covering most of her face; she didn't want Linus to see her own conflicted feelings about his relative etched across her eyes.

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"You want me to what? Oh, um sure. Like this?"

 

Linus was much more used to capturing candid moments. Having to pose for someone else, then, was something he was wholly unfamiliar with. At first he was concerned with looking natural, or whether he was smiling weird, or even if his hair was a mess.

 

But then Columbia mentioned Kaelyn.

 

It irked him how often he was merely "Kaelyn's brother". He was Quidditch Captain and Prefect now, not to mention the fact that he was older than her; why did she get that recognition? But, in defense of those who didn't know better, Linus had definitely spent at least part of his stint at Hogwarts trying to escape social occasions rather than engage in them.

 

"Yea," his tone was flat as he approached Columbia and gestured for his camera back, "I'm Linus Paddock. And you are?"

 

Still slightly annoyed, he was starting to feel like he was in the mood for taking some house points away. He didn't even really mind that he'd essentially be taking them away from one of his own. That's kind've how being petty worked, a lesson he'd learned from his dear sister.

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At first, as Columbia snapped away on Linus's camera, she found herself being charmed by the older boy's discomfort; it was cute, even. But at the mention of Kaelyn, a change fell over him.

 

"Yea," he said, reaching for his camera, "I'm Linus Paddock. And you are?"

She handed over his camera, matching his annoyance. Columbia was an only child, spoiled to death until... well, until she stopped having parents. Now, she had something of a sister in Grace Foster, but it was hard for Columbia to map her annoyance with Grace onto any kind of real sibling rivalry—Columbia was certainly not competing with Grace for Peggy's love and affection. So Linus's annoyance with his sister seemed abstract, trivial.
"Columbia Greybridge," she said. She had thought he had known. "Don't worry, I'm not Kaelyn's friend." She didn't blame Kaelyn for dating Gary*, but Columbia wasn't keen to buddy up to her, either. "I just thought—you look alike, is all. Are you mad at her or something?" It wasn't exactly tactful, but Linus's sudden coldness made tact seem quaint.
*(As far as she knew at this time.)

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The name was familiar, but in that "seen that on a list" kind of way. Perhaps when he had been grading that one year? Regardless, the Gryffindor had seemed to throw up her own defenses, which was territory Linus was familiar with. With girls who took interest in him? He was utterly useless. But girls who didn't want to talk to him, though? They made more sense, funnily enough.

 

"I'm constantly mad at Kaelyn," his words oozing of petty sentiment, "She's not exactly the easiest person to get along with, despite what her bubbly attitude would have you believe. But I guess you would know that."

 

Perhaps Linus was being a little too forthright; using his sister as a talking point was not only crass, but had been the whole reason he had become annoyed with Columbia to begin with. However, filtered through this lens, he felt a little less guarded with the Fourth Year. He couldn't be certain she wasn't one of his sisters spies trying to pry information out of him, but he didn't sense that was the case (it had been years since Kaelyn had left an Extendable Ear in his dorm room).

 

"Anyways, do you have somewhere to be?"

 

At this, he lifted his camera to focus on Columbia, and clicked repeatedly as she started to reply.

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"I'm constantly mad at Kaelyn," his words oozing of petty sentiment, "She's not exactly the easiest person to get along with, despite what her bubbly attitude would have you believe. But I guess you would know that."

 

"That sounds right," Columbia thought, though she barely knew Kaelyn at all. Still, she was horribly jealous of her, of course; that was just love triangle rules. She was Betty, Columbia was Veronica. Gary was Archie. Or maybe Jughead. (How did she know these references? An image suddenly flashed through her head, of her aunt's old house, her trunk of muggle comic books.)
Linus lifted up his camera, and to Columbia's surprise he began taking photos of her. She rolled her eyes and mugged for the camera, sticking out her chin like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Linus asked if she had somewhere to be and she rolled her eyes again—too sarcastic for this boy of slight authority over her, perhaps.
"Charms," she answered, honestly. "I'm running late. I wasn't planning to go, though." She had planned to nap, though no need to tell Linus that; she wanted to see his reaction to the skipping class part, not the overwhelming exhaustion part. Would he take points away? "Why, do you have somewhere to be?"

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There wasn't a whole lot going on behind the lens as far as Linus was concerned. Columbia was a pretty enough girl from the viewfinder, but he wasn't doing anything fancy. Magical camera or otherwise, photographs relied on not only a certain perspective, but on timing. Their timing, though, was a little off.

 

"I'm where I need to be, actually," he said, lowering his camera and taking a few steps towards his housemate. "But if you should be at Charms... maybe you should be heading to Charms?"

 

It was an honest question, if not a little pushy. Linus wasn't trying to suggest he would force her or take away points or anything silly like that, but if that's how she understood it then that would be enough. But before she left (if she decided to leave), he added,

 

"If you miss too many lessons, you won't learn how to develop these with me."

 

He held his camera aloft for her, a sly grin on his face. If Columbia wasn't a big fan of Kaelyn, she was alright in his books.

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