Charming is a Victorian Era Harry Potter roleplay set primarily in the village of Hogsmeade, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and the non-canon village of Irvingly. Characters of all classes, both magical and muggle — and even non-human! — are welcome.
With a member driven story line, monthly games and events, and a friendly and drama-free community focused on quality over quantity, the only thing you can be sure of is fun!
While she might have been the one to have the maze constructed, it was magical and therefore it was useless to memorize a path through it because it would change before one could even commit it to memory. As such, she was aware as she entered it that she was likely going to get lost herself. Fortunately, the magic used to animate the maze provided an incantation to make the thick hedges move away so she could make it to the center on time. It wouldn't look good to be absent for the next spectacle.
She didn't want to be left waiting for the better part of an hour at the center of the maze while everyone tried to get there, however, so she was taking her time to start with. She'd also be a liar if she said she wasn't hoping to cross paths with Thom on the way. So far, however, she hadn't seen him and she could hardly dawdle aimlessly at her own party so into the maze she had gone!
A very short while later, she had yet to meet a dead end - or other people - and thought she was doing marvelously well. This self-satisfaction lasted a few minutes longer before someone grabbed her wrist and dragged her down a path she hadn't been intending to take. Naturally, she squealed like a cat thrown into a swimming pool.
Parties were not her thing. They never had been and, Annabelle assumed, they certainly never bloody would be which was why she had partaken of the champagne slightly more liberally than she ought to have done – rare were her nights off after all, but being the head of department surely had to have some perks other than being able to look at Mr Carmichael almost daily – and she was annoyingly lost in the maze. Sadly not with her junior colleague.
Her sister was supposed to be here, she thought irritably, taking another generous sip of the glass she had taken with her into the maze and wondering aimlessly. Rufina’s friendship with Mrs Black was the entire reason Belle had been persuaded to come along but she couldn’t find hide nor hair of her sister, especially in such darkness.
Then, as if hearing her thoughts, a dark haired woman appeared from a half-hidden turning and began to walk ahead of her. Belle smirked playfully as she crept after her, sure it was Rufina without even considering the alternative, and carefully placed her glass onto the ground as she followed – then she pounced, grabbing hold of her sister’s wrist and tugging her down a path to their right.
“Come on slowpoke-”
The woman screamed and, startled, Belle dropped her wrist, blushing furiously when she realised quite how mistaken she had been.
“Oh Merlin,” she couldn’t help it, she laughed nervously. “I’m so terribly sorry Mrs Black, I thought you were Rufina.”
To her surprise - and slight disappointment - it was a woman who had dragged her down the wrong path. Not just any woman either. It took Ursula a few moments to realize it was one of Rufina's (many) sisters. How her dear friend managed with so many of them, she didn't know. The very thought of having even one more sister like Benilda was absolutely horrifying and enough to give her nightmares.
It hadn't been anywhere near the forefront of her mind seconds earlier, but now that she was starting to recover from her surprise, she was disappointed that it hadn't been Thom. It wouldn't have been the most discreet thing for him to do, but Merlin, it would have been thrilling. Where had he gotten to? She was feeling frightfully neglected and it was entirely his fault. Perhaps he'd drag her into a quiet corner of the maze during the firework display...
Ursula finally remembered she wasn't alone and was thankful for the surprise and the cover of darkness for hiding the inevitable flush of color in her cheeks. "Oh that's quite alright, Mrs. Bones, no harm done. I couldn't possibly take offense to being mistaken for Rufina, of all people." If she hadn't have been her best friend's sister, she would probably have been quite annoyed indeed. Ursula had no idea where Rufina was but hopefully she'd turn up before too long to take Mrs. Bones with her. She now had it in her head that she wanted to find Thom and make sure he wasn't getting to cozy with his new trollop wife. "I'm sure she's around here somewhere, hopefully she hasn't gotten too lost in this maze of mine." Ursula looked around, hoping to see either Rufina or Thom but seeing neither.
Mrs Black seemed miles away from her mind for a moment and Belle wondered whether she was altogether all there. Granted she was the one who had dragged them both down a path, which didn’t scream normality, but she knew her reasons were perfectly good, if a little influenced by the champagne she had consumed. Mrs Black on the other hand she barely knew at all and her healer’s instincts immediately kicked in as she considered whether she might have accidentally scared the other woman out of her mind.
“Ah, well, I’m sure she would say quite the same thing about you Mrs Black,” she said amiably, wondering, not for the first time, why her sister was friends with this woman. Rufina was far from stupid even if she had no inclination towards work, but there was something distinctly airy about Ursula Black that always reminded Belle of one too many other debutantes from her own youth. Merlin, she would have gone mad with no one but women like this to talk to!
“Isn’t that the point of a maze though?” Belle asked with a bemused smile as she took a step back, realising belatedly that she was still standing rather close. “To get lost first?”
"I rather thought the point was to try not to get lost, even if it's almost inevitable in a decent maze." What was the point in trying to get lost? That seemed illogical to Ursula. What strange sisters Rufina had, wasn't there one that had moved to America of all places and another that had married beneath her? Rufina was clearly the most sensible of them all.
"You're a healer aren't you, Mrs. Bones?" Work was an alien concept to Ursula who had never worked a day in her life, why any upper class woman would choose such drudgery was beyond her. Perhaps Mrs. Bones could enlighten her to what sort of madness had possessed her. She couldn't possible enjoy dealing with invalids, could she?
Belle had to force herself to conceal the smirk that threatened to emerge when she heard the unmistakable, familiar tones of disapproval being levied at her by a woman of her own class who thought her profession abject madness. She had never understood them in her turn yet Belle could w ell imagine the sort of reputation she would gain for herself if she began asking in the same disbelieving way what they did with their time.
So many free hours were enough to make her shudder with boredom whilst also dream of sleeping for more than six hours at a time.
“I do indeed Mrs Black,” she replied patiently, not having the highest opinion of her temporary companions grasp of medicine. [b]“Bugs primarily. Though of course we all have a grounding in everything if there’s something you’d like to ask me about?”
Ursula hadn't really wanted the amount of information she had been given and definitely had no intention of requesting even further details. "Whatever inspired you to take up such a... past time?" It obviously wasn't a hobby but Ursula didn't think she could utter the word 'job' or any synonym without sounding particularly disparaging. "Surely you had no need to?" Of course not or she wouldn't even have an invite, Ursula didn't care to have her home tainted by the painfully middle class folk who so desperately longed to imitate the wealthy lifestyle.
Perhaps it wasn't the best subject for conversation, she hoped Rufina would come along and interrupt the exchange soon, just in case it did veer towards the awkward. What else did one discuss with a woman who had dragged her through a maze though?
Belle had imbibed quite enough champagne and she was confident enough in the dim light to roll her eyes without any shame at yet another woman of her class dismissing her actual profession as something no more significant as their occasional charitable endeavours. Every so often she received the invitations to such events and Belle almost always lost them amongst the piles of paperwork that came with running a department.
“There’s every need for those of a sound mind to help others if they are able,” she replied, making an effort to mask her irritation from her host. Society was an unfortunate necessity for her but she was not so self-involved she wished to destroy her sister’s efforts or that of her daughters before they had even begun to make their mark. So she added: “And of course, being a widow, it does distract one’s mind from an empty home.”
The fact that she had worked for a decade or so before she entered the state was immaterial - Mrs Black was hardly likely to remember!
A sudden fear gripped her as the older woman mentioned being a widow. What if Rufina got it in her head to do something as ridiculous as get an occupation? She was a widow now and once her little indiscretion was all dealt with nicely, what was to stop her from following in her sister's footsteps once out of mourning? To do so sooner would just be all the more unseemly. Ursula didn't want to lose her closest friend and now confidante.
"Your sister doesn't feel so lonely, does she?" she could help but ask. She had largely been distracted from her disapproval of Mrs. Bones to concern for Rufina. To lose her dearest friend after everything to a job was just unthinkable! If there was any risk of it, she would simply have to put Rufina straight. It simply wouldn't do!
What her sister did or didn’t feel was mostly a mystery to Belle. They weren’t exactly the sort of sisters who confided in each other about their deepest and darkest secrets. Not that Belle had any of those really and neither, she assumed, did Rufina, especially not if she valued her position as much as Belle believed her to.
“I’m sure she keeps herself occupied well enough,” Belle replied. She certainly couldn’t imagine Rufina taking up an occupation though, to Belle’s ongoing chagrin, her sister was more than intelligent enough to do something quite worthwhile with her mind and yet she clung to social convention like a well-dressed limpet.
“Although I can never imagine what idle people do all day to fill the time,” she couldn’t resist adding, entirely truthfully because the sheer boredom of pottering around her house all day long when her children were away at school would probably drive her to madness. "Perhaps you could enlighten me?"
It was somewhat reassuring to hear that Rufina probably wasn't plotting to take up an occupation once she was rid of her little... problem. However, it sounded to Ursula as though Rufina's sister was trying to suggest that her lifestyle was in some way inferior, lazy even. The nerve! As if having a job was somehow proper!
"Oh there's plenty to do," she insisted, a touch defensively. "Social obligations, paying attention to one's children, seeing to the servants, planning the evening meal, organizing events. A wife cannot simply return home and be done with her job, it's constant and very demanding." Which was obviously why Mrs. Bones was probably a very poor wife, in her opinion.
Eyes fully adjusted to the dim light now Belle traipsed the paths of the maze with sharper looks than she had before, beginning to notice patches of light and…could it be? Were those footsteps of people that had gone before them? If they were then thank Merlin for that, Mrs Black might be their hostess but Belle was rapidly running out of patience with such a foolish woman.
Surely she couldn’t truly believe that was everything in life?!
“I managed all of those things quite well even with a profession and my husband was never discontent,” at least to the best of her knowledge. Henry hadn’t been the best liar though so she assumed she would have known.
Her eyes alighted on a blessed sight – an exit – but before she was done she couldn’t resist letting her tongue run. She considered herself a dignified woman but there was only so much one could take.
“He even taught me the best way of finding hidden openings,” she said in a low voice, flitting away from Mrs Black as she finally found the centre and, blessedly, more champagne.
Ursula wore a doubting look on her face, but it was wiped clean off at the older woman's parting words. Was she saying what she thought she was? Was she implying... Ursula couldn't tell and was consequently flustered, caught between suspecting herself of having a filthy mind and of Mrs. Bones being shockingly crude. All she could really do was blush into the darkness and stare after the healer as she disappeared.