2009, the first year of the takeover. All early LR posts from the first year of the takeover are here.
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by: Former Members
(Sezja Sokolova portrayed by former member Victoria.)

December 20, 2009
11:20 am

Sezja sat quietly at a table, as she had for the last hour or so, with an expression of acute perturbation on her pretty face. The attention of the customers had come and gone, it seemed, for she had refused to speak to anyone thus far. Still, she stared at the door, thinking to herself that this whole procedure was ridiculous and uncalled for. Her supplier, a man specializing in particularly difficult-to-obtain wand cores, had refused to meet her in her own shop. Why? She was only half-human, and therefore he must 'exercise caution'. Her hands grew hot and her eyes glimmered slightly red as she thought of it. She couldn't exactly grow a beak and throw fireballs like Mariska could, but when she was angry, her features certainly did take on a less lovely aspect.

To make it all worse, the man was an hour late. She was beginning to wonder if he would come at all -- but damn it, she needed his delivery! Although only very rarely did a wizard come along whose wand would contain a chimaera scale, she had been told (in the way that wandmakers are told, which is too secret to mention) that there would be need for one. And he had said that he had siren hair, too, and she had never worked with it before. It was an exciting prospect.

Finally, a cloaked and shrouded man entered through the doors, and the dodgy way that his eyes swept around and then met hers and fell to the floor indicated to her that this was her man. She stood up, crossing her arms over her chest and looking severe. Her thick double-breasted tweed coat fell just past her knees, and another god-awful floral pattern continued below it as the end of her full-length skirt, ending in two dainty brown lace-up boots.

His eyes were on her boots as he approached, and as soon as he sat down, the deals started pouring out of his mouth. As a business-woman, being half-Veela had its definite uses. Usually she insisted on paying at least fair market price for her supplies, but this man had thoroughly ticked her off. He slid a small wooden crate toward her (dashed all over with all sorts of markings and warnings) across the table, mumbling about high quality and wiping his sweaty palms on his sleeves. She took his delivery paper, signed it, and then shoved her supplier contract at him. He signed it without further ado. She sat down at last, waving her hand for him to go. As he was just about to do as she said, Sezja asserted, "Zey vill be delivered to my shop from now on."

As the man left, Sezja sagged, thinking that she wanted some ale. But no, she didn't drink. Not since... ugh. That was a fiasco. She gathered her package up under her right arm and stood, pulling her clothing back into order. She had bundled a thick scarf around her neck and pulled all of her hair up and under a magenta fedora that sported a depressed little pink flower on one side that seemed to be sighing and drooping as if in complaint. Her smooth pale hands and face stuck out among the chaos of a badly planned outfit as the only parts of her left visible. For a woman with Veela ancestry, she really had no sense of fashion.
December always brought a chill to the city of London. Liam loved this time of year, though. He loved bundling up in his coat, scarf and gloves and heading to work at the Abby, the pub he'd run for so many years. If all was functioning as planned, he would enter this pub, it's fire would be blazing on either side of the dining area, his fellow bartender would be behind the bar filling up mug after mug of ale, cider and other drinks upon request for those who chose to seek refuge from the freezing weather.

His trek from where he'd apparated in to the Abby wasn't too far; a few steps around the block in an alley where there were no judging, unexpected eyes to catch his entrance, and he had arrived at his destination. The burly Irishman pushed through the heavy door and took off his coat, shaking it of the ice that had been caught on its clutching material and threw it over his arm, with the intention of throwing it on the hook behind the bar.

He didn't get to move very far, however. Two steps in as he turned heel to walk to his place behind the bar counter and he had happened to bump into one of the inhabitants. She was quite beautiful, he noted, not of this world, the Muggle world, but of his own. Liam raised his brow as he reached his hands out to steady himself, and the woman if she allowed. "Pardon me," The immediate warmth from the amber flames had touched his cheeks, mixing in with his sheer embarrassment from being so clumsy. "I can't seem to keep my head on straight today." He chuckled softly, trying to look the woman in the eye, to express his deepest apologies.

"Are you departing, or staying for another glass of wine or ale, perhaps?" It was an invitation, yes, to try to erase the last ten seconds of his folly. "If so, it is on me."
Sezja was bumped suddenly by a particularly large person, and letting out a squeal of surprise she stumbled a bit, but hands extended to help steady her. She fumbled to catch her package, which had lifted and nearly flown from her arms with a will for freedom. It was all very quick and disorienting. Her first thought was panic, of course, because bumping into a large man in a London bar could get downright dangerous; then it was confusion, for she was trying to orient herself once more and shocked to find, at the level of her eyes, a chest and neck. Yet when she finally lifted her eyes to his face and saw the ruddy, wind-bit blush on a handsome face, she relaxed. He was a large man, but seemingly not an angry one.

His apology she understood perfectly, but the next sentence forced her to pause and decipher. His accent was different from other Londoners, and it confused her a little as she searched through her knowledge of English. No matter how she guessed, it made no sense. His head wasn't on straight? Why would he tell her that? Wizards could have that problem when some particularly nasty spellwork went awry, but she was pretty sure that muggles didn't ever end up with their heads upside-down and be able to tell someone about it. Oh well. He moved on to something she could understand, and he didn't seem too concerned by his crooked head problem, so she didn't mention it further, just smiled.

Perhaps this was a bit of luck. It was hard to resist the offer for some wine or ale -- she particularly enjoyed nice ale -- but impossible to decline staying inside and getting a free drink of something warm and bubbly by this nice fire. Her spread further across her face. Besides, she did not look forward to rushing headfirst into that cold and finding her way back to the alley she had apparated into.

"No worry," she said, waving her gloved hand nonchalantly. She spoke slowly, as her English was still not wonderful and her accent sometimes made her difficult to understand. "I am vayll. I vould like cider, if you vould like chat." She flashed a brilliantly white smile, her dark eyes glittering. She didn't want to sit at a table alone again. It was awkward and lonely.

Liam wasn't exactly the best in the women department, but he seemed a little relieved and felt a bit of a victory over the mere fact that she had decided to stay and take him up on his offer. It wasn't every day such a beautiful woman strolled into the Abby, other than the occasional Kara and 'Lana, or other patrons he recognized from the other side. Of course, 'Lana was an acquaintance, a buddy more than anything and Kara was...well, she was the object of his affection. She'd been spending a lot of time pining over that Kevin fellow, or whatever his name was, and Liam had been urged to moved on; he'd been supported by 'Lana and the others who knew his dirty secret to try to find his own companion, to shift his attentions elsewhere, should Kara not actually come to realize his true feelings.

So here he was, at work today, unknowingly bumping into another person from the other side. There was definitely something about this one that was particularly strange, but he was sure that it was not a bad thing. He suspected that she was definitely special like him, but even more so, she was alluring. He hadn't particularly paid attention to blonds since his ex-girlfriend Wendy Waltham from Hogwarts, his fourth year. They didn't appeal to him as much as brunettes, he realized. He took her in slowly, from the bright, curly hair to the dark, shadowy eyes, then down her thin, lithe, slim body. He swallowed, hard. She was simply breathtaking. He hadn't seen someone so awe-inspiring since...No. He shook the scarred-one out of his mind as he walked this new acquaintance towards the bar, throwing his coat over a hook and turning to yank a couple of clean mugs from under the counter.

"M'names Liam O'Donnell. Liam for short," He made a poor attempt at cracking a joke, as he looked back on it. Merlin, this was not his department in the least. It had also been years since he's pursued someone other than... "Well that's what everyone calls me. And if I might be so bold as to ask your name?"

The bartender showed off his skills as he expertly poured the woman some warm cider and ale for himself, putting the mug on a square napkin he'd set out for her. He took a sip quickly, and tried not to be so sloppy. First impressions are the key, he knew. And as swift as he was making himself look like an ass, he was trying to recover from his constant thoughts of Ms. Viridian, his clumsy way around woman and Liam was simply trying to be himself.
She smiled and averted her eyes as his eyes slid over her. Most of the time it felt rude; but sometimes, she felt girlishly pretty and wanted to blush. She shuffled her feet a bit, busying her hands by removing her hat so that she wouldn't fidget. It wasn't usual that she met a real charmer -- well, young ones. There were quite a few charming white-haired men who had perfected the art of being a gentleman far past their prime, and she enjoyed their company and playful, silly flirtations. It was different when the man was handsome and young and buying her a drink (even though it was just cider).

She followed him to the bar, unwinding her scarf and then running her fingers through her long pale hair as she watched him curiously. She glanced nervously at the bartender, wondering if the man would stop him... Liam. What a peculiar name. He wasn't being harangued for going behind the bar and serving himself, so she didn't mention it. Maybe that was just the way these things worked in muggle London.

"I am Sezja Sokolova. I have store, Lisovyk Mariska's," She said, the introduction pouring out like a well-rehearsed speech. It was what she always said, and it worked perfectly at rooting out muggles from wizards. She had no real talent of telling upon sight, though sometimes in younger ones she could tell by her impression of what wand they should have. Mariska's was well-known as the most reputable surviving wand distributor in London -- everyone else had been murdered, enslaved, imprisoned, or managed to flee. Most of the replacements were phonies and frauds. She had come afterward, and the very fact that her fellow tradesmen were now missing helped her ability to gain legal status greatly. So if he was a wizard, he would know. If he was a muggle, he'd likely ask, and she would tell him that she sold ice cream. When she didn't like a person, she told them that she nursed lepers... but he would deserve the ice cream story. She smiled at him, enjoying the sincerity and warmth of his presence, happy that he had bumped into her.
"What a beautiful name," Liam wanted to say. It wasn't until he heard her accent in more than a handful of words that he realized he must've sounded strange. The Irish-Scotch accent he usually had was blending in with the English bit. He was just so used to spending time with people in London, his voice went through a lot of weird fluctuations in his accent. Still, he remained silent for a time as he sipped at his ale, and drank in the features of the stunning Russian woman in his company.

"Mariska's? I've heard of that place, yes. Wonderful little shop." He kept his voice low, of course, as he revealed his secret to the woman. Muggleborn he was, yes, but he was definitely something more than just a plain old human. Liam was indeed a Wizard, and he knew that the woman he'd bumped into was special. Lisovyk Mariska's was a wand shop on the 'other side', the only one remaining, since Williams took over, he noted. It was strange he didn't find her too familiar. He thought he'd met everyone on the right side of the battlefield.

But of course, he couldn't jump to conclusions just yet. He already felt a sweep of worry, telling this woman he was a Wizard. For all he knew, she could be a spy, or even Williams himself, in disguise? Liam shuddered to think of a man with such masculine features, like Trevor Williams, dressed as a woman. Even polyjuice couldn't transform that properly. (Yuck.) Merlin, he hoped that was not the case.

Liam gave her another look over, though it was more for himself than an actual professional assessment. Sezja had the accent, and the figure for one of those spies he'd fantasized, er...daydreamed about. Foreign. Mysterious. Deadly. He hid a fearful gulp with a sip of his ale. "And though this is not much, I suppose it's no secret anyway, this is my place of business." He raised his mug proudly and nodded at her. "Welcome to the Abby, Ms. Sokolov." Liam felt a little boost of confidence as he spoke. Maybe thinking that he was skating that fine and dangerous line with this intriguing stranger made him more suave, more dashing. He was glad to see the charm decided to finally kick on.

"Welcoming visitors from...all ends of the world, no matter which side you come from." That was ambiguous enough, right? Maybe a nice little segue? Liam hoped he was speaking enough in code, though clearly enough for her to understand. That's why Kara was always better at this than he was...though if she were here now, it would probably ruin things. Sheesh. He needed to stop thinking about her already.
Sezja began to pull her gloves from her hands, one dainty finger at a time, but her eyes remained on his. As surely as she was eager to put the bare flesh of her palms to the warmth of her mug, she was set on guard by her companion. So he was a wizard. She hadn't been expecting that; then again, she wasn't entirely too surprised. That opened up a whole new range of possibility, one that was always hovering these days whenever she met someone from her world. Did they support Lord Williams or not? Or, more rightly, were they a risk to her or not? She was a little bit more tense and wary, but it hardly showed. She seemed about as relaxed as when she had thought him a muggle.

She smiled upon knowing that it was his place of business. She should have guessed, he was right, but she hadn't, and now she was just happy that he wasn't being thrown out for serving himself. Finally free, her long fingers slid around the warmth of the mug and she let out a small sigh of pleasure as the heat flowed into her cold skin. Raising it to her lips, she took a sip to disguise whatever reaction she had had upon his question.

Sides. He had spoken of sides. No one could say 'side' around here without double meanings, and the way he was looking at her suggested that he meant something other than geography. Able to calm herself, she let the mug gently rest back on the table, and she leaned forward slightly, preparing to be Veela. Her eyes smouldered, and she let a small crooked smile creep onto her face.

"Moskva, Mr. O'Donnell. And you?"

She wasn't going to tell him anything. For the sake of her shop, her still missing friend, and the battered escaped slaves that occasionally slept three days straight in her loft out of pure exhaustion and relief, she would never risk it. She was registered with the Order and with S.A.V.I.O.R., and if he was one of them, he would be able to find out on his own. Otherwise, she was just an uninvolved foreigner who understood nothing of politics.
Liam couldn't take his eyes off of this alluring new guest. Maybe he was just surprised that he had any company at all, maybe he couldn't believe someone like her would actually stay and have a drink with him. Or maybe, simply, he was enamored. There was something hypnotic in her eyes, something very powerful, that was compelling him to keep them locked on hers. He noticed that she had removed her gloves, but that detail was quite unimportant. The bartender's head was clouded with thoughts of the woman's face, and how interesting it was.

Still, the mystery in this woman was enough for Liam to know that there was something strange afoot. Magic was involved, surely, but even though this woman was confirmed a witch, she couldn't be trusted. Kara often gave him crap for trusting people so easily, and he knew he couldn't give in to her wiles, even if they were powerful. (Ah. There he went again, thinking about Kara. Merlin, it was so hard to think of something that didn't remind him of Kara or make a reference to her in some way. How frustrating!)

The Abby was buzzing softly with conversations scattered around the pub, and there were only a couple of drunk people seated near the newly paired magicians who were drunken out of their minds, so they had little to worry about when it came to speaking up of their other-world happenings.

"Dublin," he replied bashfully, setting his empty mug aside and wiping his hands on a towel, "Most of the family are back in Ireland, though I hardly get to see them unless it's around the Holidays, but even then it's random whether or not I can get the chance." He smiled, that charming smile that seemed to get the other ladies riled up. Whether or not it worked on this woman was yet to be discovered.
She knew that he was suspicious of her. She also knew that, in his own charming and unpracticed way, he was flirting. It was an odd mix; she wished that one of those things could be easily dispelled, but it couldn't. It was tiring, all of this fancy footwork needed to get through a basic conversation, and it was even more frustrating when she wanted to flirt a little with a handsome man -- a handsome man she wasn't sure she could trust, is all. A man who, for all she knew, might take her life if he knew the truth about her. Or he might be one of the people she admired, people she assisted day after day in resisting the tyranny of the current UK wizarding regime.

She thought briefly about her friend -- a friend who she knew only from pictures, letters, and a long-ago memory of an English child. A pretty child who had grown up and... disappeared. Sezja's eyes teared up, but she took a deep gulp of her cider to push the lump in her throat down. She choked on a little, but managed to say, "Vy London, then?" among minimal coughing and spluttering.
It was a good question, indeed. Though there were many Irish and Scottish blooded folk roaming the streets of London, there was always a curiosity piqued when it came to them inhabiting England for so long, especially as proud of a people they could be. But Liam waited a couple of beats before speaking, making sure to choose his words as carefully as possible. "School." Was all he'd said for a moment, before looking into her eyes again. "My parents did a lot of research and realized that there was a special school for me here in England, not back home. I moved here when I was eleven, visiting them often when they could not come to town, but I have lived here ever since."

Whether or not the woman took the hint about his 'special' reasoning, his magical blood, was yet to be seen. Still, it was as safe as he could have gone, trying to out her like this. He didn't expose himself as a mugblood, nor did he reveal his stripes, his support for the Order of the Phoenix, for it was still too early to poke that time bomb with a sharp, flammable stick just yet.

But he had to take a dive, he had to know where her allegiance lie. It was tactless, wreckless and simply dangerous, something he knew Kara would not approve of if she was present. But it took everything within him to shake the thought of his beloved friend from his head and focus on the now. Sezja was his focus, his guest in his humble tavern, and Liam felt really good to finally get to know someone other than drunken muggles, Death Eaters who got wild and crazy in his pub when visiting the muggle world (as rare as it was) or the Order folk he'd seen every day for so long now.

"I guess this place just grew on me."
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