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John Umland, Aladren
Plagiarism, relativism, and other fun things (tag Professor)
Fri May 5, 2017 21:58
67.140.213.42

Freedom was, John thought, a strange thing – one never realized one hadn’t had it until suddenly, one did. He had always thought he had it, but it had been on a bus somewhere in American flyover country that he had seen that the day and a half he'd been on said bus was the first time he’d really been free at all in his life. Before, he had tried to grasp at freedom when he was ten – decided for himself what he ought to do, which rules were important and which could be disregarded – but that had just pushed him even further away from it. He had lied and kept secrets because he had felt the need to protect people, he had acted one way when he wanted to act another to try to fit into different societies – why? For his family. He’d been obliged to them, had been tied down by a desire to connect with them – whatever. It didn’t much matter now. They were all gone now, and when he was lying in bed staring at the canopy – or worse, a photo album Julian had put together two summers ago – John sometimes felt terrifyingly light, as though he could float off the ground at any time, whether he wanted to or not.

At other times, though, he forgot about all that and instinctively thought about something he’d like to tell one of them. The only one he consistently remembered with was Lenore; she had written him twice for some reason, but since the sight of her handwriting plunged him into almost violent bouts of self-loathing, he hadn’t actually read the letters, much less thought about what replies he’d like to make. The others, though – Mom, Dad, his brothers, his sister, Joanie – sometimes, he forgot that he had resolved to do the right thing just once, as Dad and Julian had put it, and leave them all alone. When Professor Taransay wrote the words Thaumavores in the magical and Muggle worlds on the board, he actually glanced to his left, as though he somehow expected to find Joanie sitting there, and he pulled out his notebook and flipped restlessly through the pages before he Remembered that he could no more write to her about this topic of mutual interest than he could actually speak to her in person at the moment.

It was not, he told himself, as unpleasant as having supper alone on Sunday was. That was such a miserable experience that he had started skipping the meal altogether since the first week. He also reminded himself that it was his own fault he was in this position, and that Clark would probably still respond to mail from him with missives where the majority of the words were not of the kind that would redden the face of a drunken sailor. But he still felt decidedly sorry for himself as Taransay blathered on about the essay.

”I’m also available if you want to talk through ideas,” said Taransay as he wound down, and John was bored enough with self-pity by that point that he caught the remark. Taransay could, he thought, no doubt offer him an interesting conversation, the sort of thing that would do him good. He had decided to say the hell with his conscience and let Aislinn imagine he was her boyfriend as long as she wanted simply out of desperation for intelligent conversation, as he found it was easier after a good conversation to avoid the bursts of capriciousness – not doing his homework sometimes just to see if anyone would notice, over the past weekend deciding to scribble notes to Louis and Jack informing them that he was ill (he hadn’t been) and that Louis was to work with Dustin and Amelia for the day instead of doing his own duty, contemplating the thought that if she insisted, he might deliberately sin with Aislinn as he had with Lenore, except while completely sober and therefore fully aware that making a decision primarily for the sake of his emotions or hers was not Correct – he had started to fall prey to as the weeks passed by and the demands stacked up. The only problem was that he was not…well, he couldn’t say for sure, of course, but he was pretty sure he was not in good books with any of the staff right now. First there had been the fight with Joe, then the missed assignments….

Still, he had held himself together better here than anywhere else, not least because Taransay so rarely gave them proper work like this. As the group began to work, he hesitantly approached the teacher.

“I – “ he began, and immediately hit an obstacle: everything he had to say was based on studies he’s casually broken school rules and international laws alike to pursue. His feet were on the ground now. “Hello, Professor. I – grew up – there were Muggles where I grew up,” he said, not bothering with going through the tiresome routine of social niceties with the professor. He was too busy thinking how to say the bits that actually mattered. “I have a – hypothesis about – metals and magic and organic substances.” Joanie had had the hypothesis, not him. He’d done a lot of work after she’d elucidated it, but it had been her idea. She was the one who wasn’t just so used to everything that she missed the obvious. John would never understand the idea that women weren’t suited to scientific work. Perhaps most did find it more difficult to rotate a figure in their heads or whatever, but that was certainly easier to accommodate for than a lot of shortcomings…His head felt like a lead weight. He pulled up a chair and sat down. “It’s that – metals don’t conduct electricity well, as such – metal-charming, you know, difficult, a specialty. But wood, animal bits – even if they are magical creatures,” he acknowledged. “I wonder about bowtruckle trees – is it the tree that attracts the bowtruckle, or the bowtruckles which alter the tree, or some third….that’s not relevant,” he said. “What’s relevant is…chizpurfles. Do you think they critically damage m – the hypothesis?”

He didn’t think they did, as their ability to work with both electricity and magic had been one of the things which had made him think his experiments in fourth year could work. He couldn’t say so, though. For one thing, he was on the ground, and for another - it wasn't relevant, but -

What if he could recreate it all? Redo all the research, only this time better, because he was older and knew more, and this time legitimately? What if he could work out in the open, not hiding, if he could make something – not what he had before, that had been a crude prototype he would get interest from the wrong quarters for publicly perfecting anyway, but something – get recognition for it, and, more importantly, money? If he did that –

His thoughts were not so much words as a blur of images and emotive colors: being able to go home on terms that wouldn’t humiliate him. His father being proud of him instead of just regarding him with a rather mild and rather more puzzled sort of affection, even if Dad still didn’t have a clue what it was John had done. Mom being the mother of someone who mattered, not a Muggleborn woman living in obscurity in the Muggle world, an underemployed borderline recluse with almost no life outside the church and a pack of children who didn’t deserve her. Julian smiling, coming back to them, not being ashamed of who she really was anymore – look, she could tell them, someone in her family had accomplished something, she didn’t need those parasites she’d been mixing with all this time - he could save her, stop her from wandering away from everything they had been taught was right before she went too far....

Of course, on the heels of these pretty pictures came darker ones: Julian not being able to throw it in his face that she had money – no longer having to think, as he had since their last argument, that his sister saw him as a charity case instead of a brother, someone to be pitied and looked after out of Christian kindness instead of actual affection. Lenore’s bored, rich-girl drawl losing its permanent mocking edge. Miss Breaman – if she came back to his house and told him he was insane again, he’d be able to laugh at her instead of giving way to irrelevant emotions -.

He crossed himself without looking away from Professor Taransay or thinking how the professor might, regardless of whether or not he recognized the gesture, find it an odd one for someone to make in the context of the parts of this conversation that were happening outside of John's head. John was more concerned with the fact that he was unsure if he had done so to ward off the thoughts or to pray that some - or all - might come true.

It was supposed to be the former. Worldly ambition was a sin - but so was lying, and they all did that. In his low moods, he understood that his current circumstances were his punishment for doing so – for not telling Joanie the truth and then telling Mom he had done so and living with whatever consequences came of that for all three of them, then later for not taking the second chance he’d had to come clean after the Satori incident – but most of the time, now, when his feet didn’t feel quite anchored to the ground, he couldn’t quite see how it made sense. The Rules felt arbitrary, no longer part of the neat system he had always known, and it seemed like it would be so easy to just conclude that his error had not been one of presumption, but one of false premises. He could still hear Mom's voice in his head telling him that easy solutions were not to be sought in such matters, but another, unattached to anyone he knew, pointed out that this was an awfully convenient principle for the people who stood in authority over him in the system - people including parents. If he hadn’t seen what he’d seen while he was delirious, he thought he might have already started to listen, and at night, he still sometimes had the nagging thought that it had just been a hallucination, his brain’s last-ditch attempt to impose order on aimless, pointless chaos after a random wrong turn had brought the house of cards he’d spent most of his life building tumbling down onto his head.

Not relevant. Concentrate on Taransay. What did Taransay say on Wednesday while gathering hay for the fourth of May…I'm officially mad the day I think I was meant to be a poet.

  • A bit of a change from the normProfessor Taransay, Fri Apr 28 12:31
    Rory arrived at the classroom just as his students did, looking a little bit rushed. The last few weeks had been busy, as he’d been writing up his part in the book he was publishing on Nundus, with... more
    • Plagiarism, relativism, and other fun things (tag Professor) — John Umland, Aladren, Fri May 5 21:58
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