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Welcome to Charming, the year is now 1892. It’s time to join us and immerse yourself in scandal and drama interlaced with magic both light and dark.

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“Got the morbs” was Victorian slang for a temporary melancholia — Dante
In a panic sort of reaction, she shut the door but neglected to make sure she was on the other side of it.
the thrill of the chase moves in mysterious ways


Private
never knew that everything was falling through
#1
3rd February, 1892 — Ben Sterling’s House, Bartonburg
@Benedict Sterling/@Tilda MacFusty
Ari had spent Tuesday night – privately – with Ben, then gone home for the morning, washed and quickly gotten ready for work and gone for his shift at the hospital as usual. He’d taken an early shift on Wednesday, so that he might be home in good time to celebrate – Wednesday 2nd was Dionisia’s birthday, and he had every intention of spending it at home with her.

She knew that. They had planned that much; they would have a cake after supper together; it would be quiet, but nice. They hadn’t crossed paths that morning, which was usual enough, in his rush – but when he got home, she was nowhere to be found. Elliott was there, being looked after by his nanny; the card and presents Ari had left on the dining table to give to Dionisia later were still there, unopened; the staff hadn’t seen her in hours. He checked the greenhouse and the garden; checked her bedroom, neat and empty; checked every room again for a missed note from her. Nothing.

Something didn’t feel right. He ran through the possibilities. He could take a walk down the High Street, lest she was still out doing errands hours later than she should be. Maybe she had gotten a better offer of birthday plans, had met up with some friends – Ari wouldn’t blame her there. Maybe he oughtn’t be so worried: her independence was a good thing, and, married or not, he had no right to pry too far into her life – she let him have his secrets, after all.

But it had gotten later and later and later, and eventually Ari had owled some of the family, and found that even Zelda hadn’t seen or heard from her. And Zelda was one of her closest friends, Zelda would have known if anyone did – and now the unease in the pit of his stomach was deepening by the hour.

He waited until dawn had broken again, Dionisia’s bedroom door still standing open. He ought to be at the hospital in a couple of hours, but he couldn’t go to work still not knowing where his wife was. He ought to report it. A girl had gone missing from Hogsmeade just the other day. The constables or the Ministry, then –

He found himself at Ben’s house instead, hoping Ben would talk some sense into him if he was overreacting here, merely being too frantic for his own good. He had a spare key and so let himself in, aware that bursting in like this was not being as discreet as usual but hardly caring, given the circumstances. “She’s gone,” Ari blurted out without preamble, sure that he looked a dishevelled mess, because he had been thinking about little else for the last twelve hours. “Dionisia. I can’t find her. She’s gone.”

#2
If someone had told Ben during his Hogwarts years that he would eventually spend a free evening poring over multiple options for a Valentine's Day gift for his lover, who just so happened to be his best friend...he would have told them they were a nutter and gotten them a one way ticket to St. Mungo's; extended vacation. And yet, here he was, genuinely puzzled over two options he'd sent away for via owl. Luckily no one had asked him to place a bet.

Things had fallen into a comfortable routine for them, and there were even moments when Ben's guilt over them sort-of-cheating on Ari's wife ebbed to an almost nonexistent place. It helped that Dionisia knew at least half of the circumstances of their situation; Ben wouldn't have felt remotely comfortable had she been completely left in the dark. In a way, Ari telling Dionisia all those years ago had been a blessing in disguise. It'd just taken Ben this long to truly realize it.

Only he hadn't realized he'd signed up to overthink gifts for Ari as part of the situation.

But he had time to decide - the day wasn't until a week after the next, and he and Ari hadn't had plans to see each other for a few days besides. It was becoming clearer which present would eventually win out, but Ben began nursing the idea of giving both to him in the end. It took him a few moments to come to this conclusion, which included carrying them around the house with him and occasionally placing both side by side to see if that would help his indecision. Figuring he would have at least the rest of the evening to decide before becoming slightly overwhelmed, the auror went to place both gifts inside a box on the table in the sitting room.

It was at this moment that the sound of a key in the door echoed in the hallway. Completely panicked, Ben shut the box and stuffed it unceremoniously behind a pillow on the couch, tucking the pillow back and turning around just in time to hear the familiar footsteps of Ari in the hallway. Forgetting that this wasn't usually how they visited each other, Ben had been ready to plaster a broad grin on his face until he saw the look on Ari's face and the half-smile that was on his expression dropped immediately.

The first thing he noticed was Ari's clothes were rather wrinkled; the creases on the arms his jacket were worn in as if he'd constantly bent his elbow to run a hand through his hair, which Ben noted was also slightly sticking up on end. Given that of the two of them, Ben usually was the more chaotic one, this immediately put him on alert, and he flicked his gaze over Ari's shoulder, half expecting someone to be chasing him. But instead it wasn't Ari who was potentially in trouble, but Dionisia.

The discarded box forgotten, Ben stepped forward, reaching out to Ari. "What do you mean gone?" He echoed, though this semi-asinine question was more to give himself time to shift his mindset from being excited to see Ari sooner than he thought, to preparing for an entirely different situation. "She didn't come home today?"
The following 1 user Likes Benedict Sterling's post:
   Ari Fisk

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#3
Ari stood there, waiting – with an unfair flicker of impatience – for Ben’s cheerful look to catch up with the actual circumstances of his being here. Of course he caught on quickly enough, but he seemed to be approaching, had reached out – and Ari threw up a hand in some kind of dismissal and stepped back in agitation, meaning please don’t.

He couldn’t let Ben touch him now, couldn’t have that comfort, couldn’t just stand here and let himself be held: that wasn’t fair. (If he spent less time with Ben, he might actually have some bloody idea where Dionisia was now.)

“She wasn’t at home when I got back from the hospital yesterday,” Ari explained rapidly, a thrumming urgency in his body as he tried to stay calm enough to get the words out. “And she didn’t come back all night, no one’s seen her or knows where she’s gone – I don’t know where she is.” He felt like the calmness was unravelling from him, something pulling every thread of reason out of him by the yard. “It was her birthday,” Ari added, not sure if he was being overanxious or nonsensical – no doubt Ben would tell him if he was – and raking a hand unsteadily through his hair again, besides. “This is all my fault.”

#4
He could tell that Ari was agitated, however it wasn't until Ari stepped back from his advance that it really struck Ben just how bothered he was by this. Doing his best to ignore the sting of rejection that shot through him and dropped his arms rather lamely by his side, though his expression remained concerned as he watched his beloved slowly spiral. It wasn't even in Ari's movements that he picked this up; no, Ari had never been one to gesticulate wildly to indicate agitation. And maybe it was because Ben felt more in-tune with Ari than he ever had before, but there was an almost buzz of panic that seemed to slowly radiate off of Ari in visible waves.

He could only nod in confirmation at Dionisia's birthday, since he couldn't make heads or tails of anything else. Could it be that Dio had found out about him and Ari and had ultimately decided she was upset about it? About having been lied to and deceived? Perhaps, but of all the things to be upset about, Ben figured Ari admitting that he was attracted to someone else - another man - would have come as the worst shock of all, and that had already been laid out between Ari and Dionisia. Besides, Dionisia didn't seem like someone to fly off the handle so...dramatically.

"This isn't your fault." Ben finally managed to get out. He tried to say it firmly, as if that would somehow ground Ari in his panic, but he knew what happened to Ari when he felt like something was his fault. There was no way she'd gone off to the Fisks, since Ari just said no one had seen her then. "When was the last time you saw her? Did anything seem off about her? There wasn't a note that could have been overlooked?" All the possibilities tumbled out of Ben's mouth, stiff as he slowly shifted into work-mode, sifting through anything that might ring a bell for Ari.
The following 1 user Likes Benedict Sterling's post:
   Ari Fisk

[Image: uDpyi8.png]
#5
“You don’t know that,” Ari said bitterly – bitterly, because one way or another he was at fault, and Ben wasn’t going to make him feel better by lying to him. “I should know where my wife is.”

He took a few paces past Ben into the next room, too wound up to think clearly about the situation. “There wasn’t a note,” he snapped. And maybe that was a sign that she hadn’t actually left him – along with her leaving her son and all her possessions behind – because Dionisia had always been rational, a woman of resolve, blunt enough to make things plain. (I’m sorry, she could have written. I can’t do this anymore. He could picture it easily enough, because it was just one of his fears – that there was some quiet, building unhappiness in her and one day it would be enough to tip the scales and upend everything.)

But if she hadn’t left purposely, if he hadn’t driven her to it – then she had been taken, or something had happened and she was in danger, and that was ten times worse. Last time – on the ship – at least Ben had been with her. This time, something had happened, and where had Ari been? Off with Ben.

“Tuesday night. I saw her on Tuesday,” he added, a sigh shuddering somewhere in his chest; but Ari let his eyes fall on Ben again, – he did not mean to sound so accusatory, but – “before I came to see you.” And then Ari had missed her in the morning, had worked all Wednesday, and Dionisia hadn’t been home for her birthday and he had waited until now, the early hours of Thursday morning, to dare to admit it aloud. She had disappeared and now he had to report this to the aurors and be questioned about it and...

He shouldn’t be getting Ben mixed up in this, shouldn’t be railing at him like this, shouldn’t have even come to his house first – but who else could comprehend the full extent of their situation but Ben?


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