Leaning back in her wing backed chair, the brunette ran the back of her hand across her eyes, stifling a yawn. "Merlin, what a day..." she murmured aloud. Of course the beginning of a new term was always a difficult time for everyone, and never more so than this year, with so many new students appearing throughout the school and with so many tensions arising as a result, not only amongst the students, who were capable of causing quite enough difficulties on their own, but also amongst the staff. It was, in her view, unprofessional to allow one's personal views to affect one's teaching, but then no one had bothered to ask her. She would, in any case, do what she could to keep things from flaring over, not because she was kindhearted, because she didn't think she was, particularly, but because it would make her job so much more difficult to have open warfare taking place in the corridors.
Slipping her wand from her pocket, she flicked it towards an antique cabinet across the room, which obediently opened its dark wood doors and discharged a large bottle of red wine. Clara was not in the habit of drinking in the evenings, generally speaking, but there was something about a good vintage glinting in a crystal glass that eased the stress from taut muscles and smoothed the creases from a worried brow. It was, in short, an excellent relaxant, and she felt very much in need of it. Had she intended to lumber herself with the difficulties of students moving to new schools, she reflected, she would have taken charge of the first year students rather than the sixth. But then she'd never even considered the possibility of something like this; no one had. It was a complete break from just about everything that she'd come to expect from Durmstrang, and while Merlin knew she didn't object to it, it might have been nice to have a little more warning. Say a decade or so.
"Unbelievable!" Martin fussed under his breath, a piece of parchment clutched in his hands as he walked through the halls of the staff manor, heading in the direction of his lodgings. The parchment in his hands was a letter from Johan, detailing an episode of some old, stuffy pureblood elitists trying to have him barred from an open government meeting. They had no right to do so, and news like this made Martin's blood boil over.
He wanted to express himself using every single negative word that there was in German, but, for all of his temper, he knew better than to explode right by the doors of his colleagues. A few of them would love to find any reason to declare that Martin was unprofessional and not fit to fill his post, and there was no way he was giving any of them that satisfaction. Especially not Dabrowska.
Folding the letter with sharp hand movements, Martin pushed open the door of the staff lounge and set his course to the dark wood cabinet that held liquor in it. His determined pace slowed down once he realized that the doors were already wide open and he could hear the sound of liquid being poured. He turned his head and spotted one of his colleagues. Thank God it wasn't Dabrowska.
"Ah, Frau Schmidt," he addressed her, slipping the folded letter into the pocket of his slacks and pulling up the sleeves of his dress shirt, "I do hope that this day has treated you better than it has treated me. What are you indulging yourself in tonight?"
The sound of footsteps drifted in from the corridor, and Clara, ever curious and on the lookout for a conversation, leaned out of the recesses of her chair, checking on the identity of the passerby. After all, there was a reason why she had placed this chair very carefully opposite the door, and the ability to see who was passing the corridor had provided her with all kinds of salacious gossip which she would of course never be so crude as to share with anyone, though it did provide her with a certain degree of private amusement when she was in the mood for such things.
As it transpired, there was no need to crane around corners, as the Deputy Headmaster seemed perfectly willing to announce himself, and the brunette gave him her best attempt at a gracious smile, raising her glass vaguely in his direction. "Herr Herder," she returned, mimicking his form of address. In truth, she had never developed a particularly discerning taste when it came to wines, so it was as well that the house elves who kept the cupboards stocked knew what they were about, and a brief glance at the bottle still standing on an occasional table beside her confirmed it as some French vintage which she would not attempt to pronounce. "The day's specialty, of course!" she told him instead, gesturing invitingly to the chair on the other side of the table- and, by extension, the bottle. "But won't you join me? I should hate to think I was depriving you."
He stood halfway between the door, the cabinet and the table at which his colleague was sitting, considering his options. The day's specialty seemed like a simple white wine, and, while Martin preferred Port, or the sickly sweet taste of Eiswein, after Johan's letter he'd drink moonshine pressed from old rubber boots if given the chance.
"I suppose a glass or two wouldn't hurt," he answered, going over the cabinet to get a wine glass before closing it and joining his colleague at the table. As he poured himself a glass, Martin considered asking Frau Schmidt her views on the current situation and their intended reforms, but, after a moment of considering he realized that if she didn't like what the Herder's were doing, she wouldn't have invited him to share a drink with her. And after that letter Martin wished to think about anything else but work.
"Do I have permission to call you by your name, Frau Schmidt?" he asked, finally sitting down, crossing his legs and lifting the glass to his lips, "I find that these formalities might sour any conversation we strike up," he continued, a light smile playing on his lips before he took a sip of the white wine. It was sweet, but a far cry from Eiswein.
"It never has yet," Clara returned with a faint smile, topping up her own glass before sliding it over in her colleague's direction. Merlin, she didn't know where the teaching profession as a whole would be without it. Though she was by no means a regular drinker, she equally wasn't opposed to a glass of something, or even several somethings, in the evening if the mood happened to take her, and it could work wonders under the right circumstances.
She shrugged as she raised her glass to her lips once again, appreciating the flow of the liquid over her skin for a moment. "That is what it's there for," she pointed out. As a matter of fact, Clara did not particularly care how her colleagues addressed her so long as it was not derogatory; her students, of course, were quite another matter, but then she would never have dreamed of inviting any one of them to address her by anything other than her surname, whereas she saw no earthly reason why she should object to Martin calling her by anything much. "And may I take it that the same courtesy is extended in return?"
"Certainly, Clara," he responded, "I think I won't be comfortable being referred to as Herr for another 20 years or so. It makes me feel almost ancient, though I'd like to think I am a man in my best years. Physically, at least." Mentally, emotionally and morally? That was an entirely different story, one not meant for a light conversation with a colleague with whom Martin hadn't had much conversation since taking his position along with Johan at the start of summer. They've only ever spoken at meetings, about organizational topics and such. No, it was far too early to divulge his tragic backstory -- not that he was too eager to do so. Picking at scars that have barely healed over wasn't something he enjoyed.
"I suppose you're not prone to wine hangovers? Wine has certainly hurt me before," he continued, taking another sip and closing his eyes as he began to feel the fuzzy fog of alcohol descending upon his senses. Though he didn't like to admit it, Martin was a lightweight, never being able to keep up with Johan at the pub table when they had been younger. Nowadays Johan had became far too important for their brotherly drinking competitions.
As Clara continued the conversation, Martin watched her, taking a proper look at his colleague for what had to be the first time ever. She was the paragon of elegance, even when exhausted by a long day. He'd always wondered how some women manage to stay so exquisite despite everything. Perhaps he should just ask? To sate his curiosity?
"I wouldn't argue with that," Clara conceded with half a smile, topping up her glass. Merlin... It wasn't that she was an alcoholic, or even anything approaching it, but sometimes, a little wine or whisky or even vodka was necessary to take the edge off a long day... week... Merlin, it had been a long time since the end of the last term, and an awful lot of things had changed since then. The new term would bring with it dramas which the school had not faced before in all the centuries of its existence; problems which Clara had not needed to address in all the decades of her life, and sometimes, she couldn't help but wonder whether it was going to be worth all the trouble. For all the issues that she had with her students, she enjoyed her job for the most part, and there was no denying that it afforded her an opportunity for carrying out her own research which would be very difficult to come across in another career path.
Leaning back in the chair, she crossed her legs at the ankle, surveying her colleague over the top of her glass. "Not generally, no." Clara wasn't particularly prone to hangovers in general, if she was honest; she tended not to get drunk very often, although she did drink often, and so the consequences, if any, were usually mild. "If I'm going to get a hangover, I find it is best to make sure that at least the drink was worth it. Something expensive."
"I wish I was capable of such self-control," he answered, taking another sip, "If it is self-control that saves or damns us to be hungover. If not, I wish I had whatever other magic it is about you." He smiled over the edge of the glass. For a minute or so he stayed silent, letting in the pleasant fog roll over his mind and enjoying the sight of his attractive coleague. He was allowed to enjoy the sight, wasn't he? There was no harm done...
And, in truth, would there be any harm done if he were to make a move? If she said no, it would be a no, but if she were to say yes... Martin couldn't think of any way Johan could chastize him about it, nor could anyone accuse him of not being professional if two adults were to engange in a consensual relationship. And, to add, when he was a student, there were several married couples between the professors -- and as far as he was aware, they hadn't married before arriving to Durmstrang.
The wine did its thing, encouraging Martin to take a step beyond chatting about hungovers. "Clara, I know we've been coleagues only for a few months," he began, "but I've noticed that you always seem to be... How to say this," he took another sip to give him time to think, "Elegant, even if you've just had a class with a bunch of rascals." He was reffering to the current second years -- there were a few that were quite a handful, and, even though the school year had barely started, Martin had had to raise his voice in class. "I always feel like I look utterly disheveled by the end of the day, and yet, you... How do you do it?"
Pursing her lips, the brunette surveyed her visitor over the rim of her glass. "Charm and grace are all the more effective for being effortless." She smiled. "Not that I'm so conceited, you understand, but it was what my mother always said when she opened a bottle of wine. I'm still not quite sure of the connection, but I'm sure it made sense to her." Speaking of bottles of wine, she glanced over to the rack which held the remainder of her supply. Plenty to keep them going for a while yet, she thought, and even if it wasn't, the house elves would be happy to replenish it. Quite where her colleague was going with this particular line of conversation, she hadn't the faintest idea, but she was going to enjoy finding out. Especially if it was going to continue to involve remarkable amounts of alcohol...
His eyes were lingering, and so she allowed hers to do the same, tracing over the lines of his form, noting the fit of his robes, enjoying the aesthetic of the soft evening light as it played over his face. There were, all things considered, far worse ways of spending an evening, and yet she was beginning to wonder whether he had any definite purpose in being here, and, if so, how much longer it was going to take him to get to the point. Merlin knew it was better than delving into her seventh year marking again, since that really would result in a hangover, but all the same, surely it had to be gong somewhere.
Now this was more promising... With a wry smile, Clara shrugged. "I'm afraid it's natural. Thank you for the compliment, but really, it's nothing to do with me; it simply... happens, as if by magic."
"Ah, magic, of course," he chuckled, "Where would we be without magic?" Indeed, what would he be doing if he wasn't a wizard? Living as a muggle, sure, but what? Be a professional athlethe, or follow his heart and teach history just as right now? And maybe, if he had been a muggle, his fate would have been different, and his father would have never found anything wrong with his bride-to-be?
Wine and this particular pattern of thought was a trecherous path to go down, and after the upsetting details of Johan's letter, the last thing Martin wanted was to revisit the ghosts of the past -- these weren't the pages of history which he called home. No, out with it, it hadn't even been 30 years since the events, it wasn't history yet -- so it had no place in his head.
With sharp movements he grabbed the bottle by the neck and filled his glass once again, not caring that he would certainly regret it in the morning. At the same time he was counting to ten and taking deep breaths, trying to ward off the bad memories. Once the sweet wine crossed his lips, bringing another wave of fog over his mind, he looked back at his colleague and focused on the evening sun playing with her hair.
"In that case, your mother's words sound like magic not taught in the classroom, and reserved only for women of your stature," he continued, not really thinking about his words," Makes me wonder, if it is only your looks that are charmed, or is your touch magic, too?"
Clara was not a patient woman. This was a fact which, she was sure, any one of her students would be happy to attest to, but then she didn't believe that patience had any place in teaching. If you let your students think that they had an unlimited licence to make mistakes then they would make an unlimited number of mistakes, and that would not do them any good any more than it would her. Of course she had to allow a certain amount of leeway, for Arithmancy did not come naturally to everyone, but if she had told her class something twice then she fully expected them to have retained it, and she would not repeat herself any further since it was so self-evidently a waste of time. If they really didn't know, she maintained, they could consult the library.
Equally, she had a limited tolerance for people who would not say what they meant; chiefly, she suspected, because she had never been such a person herself. If a student's work was inadequate then she would tell them that it was inadequate; she expected the same treatment from her superiors should her own ever become so, although she highly doubted that such an occurrence would ever take place. And she had, she decided, had just about enough of her esteemed colleague's apparent penchant for talking around the point. "Martin," she began briskly, taking advantage of the permission earlier granted, "It would save us both a lot of time and trouble if you would stop talking. For Merlin's sake, kiss me if you're going to."
He had not expected for Clara to be so direct. It wasn't his style. But, his concerns about professionalism had flown out the window with the first rays of the golden sun in her hair, with the first taste of the wine... And, if the lady demanded he act upon his desires, Martin wasn't one to fight back. He placed the wine glass down on the table and got up from his seat, walking over to Clara and leaning down, his right hand sliding under her chin, pushing it upwards. A moment of glancing into those large, brown eyes that, upon first glance, feigned innocence -- and then a kiss.
A greedy, open-mouthed kiss, with his tongue running over her lips, having yet another taste of the wine, which somehow was even more intoxicating this way than it had been from his glass. He wanted more than this, more than just a kiss, he wanted to bed her -- but not right here, not in a public space. Somewhat reluctantly he pulled away, standing up straight and extending his hand towards her.
"If you are up for a continuation, I would prefer we moved from here. Wouldn't want anyone interrupting."
Professionalism was a wonderful thing, and very necessary in some circumstances; she would never, for example, have dreamed of inviting a student to address her by her first name, not only because it would have led to a breakdown of respect for her, but also because it would have led for a breakdown of respect for the whole school system. If professors had no authority left then they had not a hope of controlling a schoolful of students, who did, after all, outnumber them by a considerable proportion. With her colleagues, she tended to maintain a chilly formality, but they were the only adult company that she was likely to have any access to for the immediate future, and so to go around addressing them all by their surnames at a respectful distance would grow very tiring very quickly.
She leaned back into the sofa as he leaned into her and parted her lips, allowing him in. It was quick, it was intense, it was forceful, and Clara found herself enjoying it rather more than she had expected to. Indeed, she was almost sorry when he pulled back, though the query which he followed it with was something of a consolation. The idea that any of her students would disturb them so late was an amusing one; she had enough trouble getting them to turn up to her regular classes, but even so, she reached for her wand on the coffee table. "I can lock the door."