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Well! Augustus thought. Why turn his nose up at such a crime of opportunity as was presenting itself to him right now? The hall was empty, the office was closed and dark, and the fact he’d already asked Olivia after Soren would work in his favor—he’d just have to say he’d gone intending to introduce himself to the man and had found the door unlocked.
He burned a small pocket charm to cast a stored mage eye spell—it was one of the few spells he kept charged in a charm, since the times one most wanted to see the magic in the area around you were often the times you didn’t want to go hunting for ingredients in the moment—and tolerated the brief flash of searing kaleidoscope colors from the magic baked into this school, looking the door over quickly. His own lack of a mundane alarm spell for his office had clearly bit him, and he wasn’t sure if someone else might have anticipated finding a need for one.
The standard wardings that came with the university itself were up, but those only protected from magical teleportation or damage, and he didn’t note anything more custom on the room in the few moments before the spell faded again from his vision. He blinked blurriness away. It seemed safe enough, so long as he was careful not to damage the door.
His lockpicking skills were a little rusty, but while he still wasn’t aware where he had acquired these skills—back in that lost period of his life, he assumed—he had never actually lost the muscle memory. He pulled his wire kit out of his pocket and got to work quickly, positioning his body to block what he was doing and trying to keep his ear out for any arrivals.
Fortunately, this lock was fundamentally similar to his own—he’d have to keep in mind that it was possible that nobody had borrowed Yujin’s keys but instead had the same skills—and he’d broken into his own office many times after locking his keys inside. (Whatever fool had come up with the idea of a door you could lock but still open from the inside only was someone he wanted words with). The lock took a few moments longer than he’d have liked to spend, but he got it open relatively quickly regardless.
Augustus entered and shut the door carefully behind himself—locking it just in case someone tried the handle for their own reasons—and looked around slowly, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkened room. The frosted glass of the window would show if there were a light on in here, so he had to do this without lighting a lamp or opening the curtains. Fortunately, the curtains weren’t blackout-thick, but nevertheless, it was dim.
It would be a real challenge to find a black hair in this lighting, even if Soren had gone out in his shirtsleeves and left a coat or something similar draped over the chair—which of course he hadn’t. Augustus did a quick pass through the area—books on the shelves, though not as many as he himself had (no surprise, given what a recent hire Soren was); an empty coat-rack; a desk with some papers and a mug on it; a chair; an empty trashcan. He did wish that Soren were a messier person.
Augustus considered the papers briefly—handwriting should count as something belonging to someone, assuming this was Soren’s handwriting and not someone else’s research or a missive from a friend—but dismissed it; people were on alert for missing papers thanks to Augustus’s own efforts.
The mug, though, that might be useful. Nobody thought anything of a mug going missing; they’d just assume they absently put it away, or took it to be washed, or left it somewhere unusual. Hopefully it was Soren who had drunk from it, not a student or Feather St. Saint, but its positioning on Soren’s side of the desk was promising.
As he reached for it, his hand brushed what he had initially thought was a smaller book, but realized with surprise was the frame of an ambrotype, laid on its front. He picked it up, eager for whatever information he could glean from it, and had a moment of disappointment when he realized it was just a shot of a class of university students. The first or last class Soren had taught at his last school, perhaps?
As he went to lay it back down, however, Augustus froze, recognizing one of the faces even in the dim lighting.
It was his own.
He had been younger then, maybe in his early or mid twenties, dressed to the nines even then. His hair was overgrown—he recalled that in his younger years of schooling, the teachers had forced him to keep it trimmed. When he’d gone away to university, he’d reacted to the loosening of restrictions in his life by defying those old rules. Even so, his hair was longer than he’d recalled letting it ever get. He was laughing, leaning a little on a student next to him who he could not recognize at all, though there was a nagging sense that he should recognize him. A young man who must be Soren stood on his other side, expression cool and composed, even superior.
For a long moment, he just stood there, tilting the ambrotype this way and that in the hopes of getting better light on it, maybe recognizing more faces. It was no good; he did not remember anyone in this class, and he did not remember this ambrotype being taken.
Augustus had to fight the desperate desire to put it in his satchel. It might be an even more useful material than the mug—something from that time period! Something that both he AND Soren were in!—but he was sure it would instantly be missed, and that would put Soren on his guard. Beyond which, if it was found on Augustus or in his belongings, it would be extremely incriminating in the way a mug wouldn’t. He forced himself to put it back face down, the way he’d found it.
He knew where it was now, anyway. He could always come back for it later.
It was like putting it down broke some kind of metaphorical spell—he was fairly sure it wasn’t a literal one, though there was no way to be certain—and he was able to move again, grabbing the mug and putting it in his satchel. He just wouldn’t think about it for now; he couldn’t, not without getting caught up in implications.
Augustus left quickly through the locked door. Maybe the locksmith had been on to something after all—the inconveniences of locking himself out of this office were quickly forgotten in the face of not having to try to relock this one with picks. It was just as well, because a moment after he’d shut it, someone rounded the corner at the end of the hall; looked like a student on their way to someone’s office hours.
Trying to act like he’d only just got there, Augustus rattled the knob, peered in through the frosted glass with a sigh of irritation, then turned and walked away.
So. First mission was possibly a success, if not an uncomplicated one. Now, it was time to cram in as many more things as possible. Augustus was sure he could do more if he wasn’t doing them alone—so he headed toward Yujin’s study room. He could get Yujin to interview Feather about Soren, and spend the same time talking to Fitzfleming. After that he’d need lunch, and could see about skipping office hours to go get Olivia to introduce him to Soren.
Yujin was in their study room, and answered the door after a quick casual knock. They looked a little pale, only opening the door a crack, though they relaxed minutely when they saw who it was. Were they worried about someone just barging in?
“Morning, Yujin,” Augustus said cheerfully.
“Morning, sir. Something I can do for you?”
Augustus bobbed his head affably. “Do you know Feather St. Saint?”
“Feather?” Yujin’s brows furrowed briefly. “Yeah, we’ve met a few times. Why?”
“Can I step inside?”
Yujin stepped aside, allowing Augustus to come in, and gestured to the desk chair. “Did something happen?”
Augustus shook his head—he didn’t plan to be long—and just shut the door for some privacy. “Not at all. I was hoping you’d talk to them and get some information on Soren Kincaird.”
“Professor Kincaird?” Yujin blinked a few times. “Sure. Wait, do you think he stole your things?”
“He might have,” Augustus lied. “I have reason to believe he might have interest in me, and I’m not sure why.” That half wasn’t a lie, given the desk photo. “So any information you can get on him would be useful. Where he got his degrees—” Though Augustus assumed it was at the Twent College of Arcane Arts, given the photo and the fact he knew he’d gone there. “—past job, why he came to this job, any of those things. What sort of papers he’s currently working on. Try to be subtle.”
Yujin seemed stressed about this for some reason. “Uh, okay. I’ll go now? It’s urgent?”
“That sounds great,” Augustus enthused. “Thanks, Yujin. Maybe you’ll even make a friend out of it, if you hit it off with Feather!”
The expression Yujin gave him was pure mortification. “Yes, sir. If you’re willing to step out, I’ll lock up?”
“Of course—that’s everything for now,” Augustus said, heading out and waving back as he walked. “I’ve got other things to attend to, but let me know once you’ve heard more.”
So, two things checked off the list. What a productive morning he was having, compared to most!
Next up was Ivory Fitzfleming, who was in her office. Augustus knocked, two quick raps, and then let himself in.
“Good mor—Pennywright!” She half-stood from behind her desk, grasping onto the edge. “What brings you here? I hope there hasn’t been any trouble with any of my students, or anything like that, or is it—is it a personal visit?”
Oh, her RA had been right, she was acting strange. Normally staid and straightforward, not jumpy like this. When the RA had commented about how she’d even cried, it had been hard to imagine from the normal Fitzfleming, but this Fitzfleming seemed on the edge of a breakdown.
That complicated things a little. He knew how he’d normally approach her, straightforward and blunt in the face of her tendency to look down on his field. But he wasn’t familiar with this current mood she was in. Should he push on that emotional edge to see what came out from under it? Try to work around it delicately? Behave as if she were acting normally?
[What should Augustus do? Comment with details.]