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The Language of the Flowers was a popular method to express feelings where words might be improper, but did you know other means of doing so? Some ladies used their parasols, as well as their fans, gloves, and hankies to flirt with a gentleman (or alternatively, tell them to shove it!). — Bree ( Submit your own)
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This boy, then. He wasn't new. Wasn't one of the worst people in the common room, those rotten rich boys - like Mr. Jailkeeper - who could not fathom a world beyond their own farts. Was a good working class lad, so he'd heard. Had a bit of a weird looking face, and a bit of a weird thing for preaching. Still.Aubrey Davis in The Under-Sofa
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How Much You Wanna Risk?
#1
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March 9th, 1889 — Darrow/Bilton Flat

Alfred had been writing to Zelda Fisk fairly consistently since their "accidental meeting" at Fudge & Sons in December, but the letters they'd exchanged had been merely conversational. They were friends, that much was agreed, and he had asked her to come over and take a look at the potentially-cursed flat as a friendly favor. It was almost a professional visit, since this was what she did at the Ministry. Even so, he was nervous as he waited for her to arrive that morning. He was very much aware that this was the first time they would be alone since the night on the boat. Of course neither of them were going to let that happen again, but the day still tingled with possibility. She could just come over here and look around the flat, maybe get rid of the curse or maybe tell him how to contact the spirit division, and then leave. That would be fine. They were friends, and this was a friendly favor. If that was all it was, that was fine.

Or he could kiss her. This would be his first opportunity, since that night. The last time they'd been alone before that night, she'd asked him to kiss her, but that had been half a lifetime ago. Would she still want him to? She hadn't said anything in any of their letters over the past few months that pointed firmly to a yes. When they'd spoken in August they'd both agreed that they were very much interested in that sort of thing — but that had been before he'd been cornered in a closet by Ari Fisk and they'd stopped talking for months. He didn't know if Zelda had had a similar interaction with her brother after word had gotten around that they'd been seen together again, and he didn't know if she'd changed her mind.

He didn't need to kiss her. He didn't need to ruin things as they currently stood by pushing their relationship down a path she didn't want it to go down. If she just came over and had a friendly look around the flat and then left again, that would be fine. But he'd invited her over on a day that his flatmate was working, just in case — and he'd been very particular about that fact in his letter to her, just in case.

Alfred's heart was beating hard by the time the fireplace lit up green. Be cool, he told himself. Maybe nothing would happen. Maybe she didn't want anything to happen.

"Hi," he said with a smile as she stepped out of the fireplace. He had the impulse to wave, for some stupid reason, but stopped himself. Be cool, he admonished internally once again. Don't be stupid. Don't do anything stupid.
#2
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She wasn't on call. That was the explanation as to why Zelda was wearing a dress, instead of Ministry robes that swallowed her whole. That was the explanation, but it wasn't the only explanation, and if she was being honest with herself, the other explanation was that she felt more attractive in the dress and wanted Mr. Darrow to remember that she was attractive. It wasn't that she wanted to sleep with him - that had gone so terribly last time - but she wanted him to think she was good looking because, well, she liked him, and he liked her, but they had not done anything about it.

Also, she wanted to fix his problem. Zelda's mind was already churning through potential localized curses before she stepped into the floo in Katia's house - the thing with having a billion children was that you did not ask too many questions when your sister showed up at your house with no warning - and rattled off the address Alfred had sent her. She arrived in a rush of green flames and brushed some of the soot off of her indigo-colored skirts, already grinning at him.

"Hi," she echoed, suddenly very aware that they were alone and in a house, and the last time they had been alone they had ended up undressed. Her stomach plummeted with a mixture of nerves and excitement as she remembered that evening. This could be very bad. (Or - she hated even thinking it - very good.)

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   J. Alfred Darrow


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#3
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Zelda was wearing a navy blue dress. The color suited her, and it was far more form-fitting than the Ministry robes he usually saw her in. The last time he'd seen her wear a dress had been... the last time that they were alone together, actually. And even then, she'd started off with a heavy cloak over her shoulders. This was more of a silhouette than he was used to seeing from her, and combined with the color he thought it was vaguely reminiscent of some sort of mythical figure — like a neriad, with the sea as a gown. She'd stepped out of the fireplace, but she may just as well have been Venus emerging from the clam shell in that famous painting; the contrast with the dark fabric made her hair glow like a Roman goddess. He was starting to get sappy and metaphorical, Alfred realized. He was definitely going to kiss her.

"So, uhm," he said, not sure where to start. He wasn't going to just walk up and kiss her, not after they hadn't actually done so much as exchange a hand squeeze in nearly a year. He had to find the right moment, and he had to be cool in the meantime. Unfortunately, he wasn't really good at being cool.

"You want the grand tour?" he asked, because despite her very-pretty dress, she was actually here to fix his flat.
#4
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A few more swishes of her hand and the soot was off her skirts; or, at least, it was as absent as it was going to get. At least she usually flooed back from Katia's, given the restrictions on magic in Irvingly. No one was likely to have any questions about where she had been. (But she was not doing anything wrong. She was just doing her job. She was definitely, definitely not looking at Alfred's face and wondering what it would be like to kiss him today.)

"Sure!" Zelda chirped. A tour could bring them to somewhere even more isolated the root of the problem, where she would be able to solve the whole situation of the possibly-haunted house and hopefully not accidentally kiss him. This was, she was realizing rather quickly, an extremely risky situation for her to be in, and yet she had absolutely no desire to remove herself from it.

This was going to be awfully embarrassing if she couldn't fix the problem, she was realizing. Zelda tapped her fingertips against her skirt. Hopefully things would become more clear during the tour?



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#5
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"Great," he said, not because there was anything great about his home but just because it was something to say. "Front room here, obviously," he said, quickly calculating the risk/reward ratio of taking her hand and physically leading her through the rest of the house. He decided against it; she was already much younger than him and he didn't want to do anything to make her feel juvenile. Besides, there wasn't that much to see, so it might have seemed silly. Particularly if she didn't want him to take her hand. (But she would, right?)

"Kitchen through this way and the dining room past it," he continued as he led her down a short hall, gesturing through the doorways as they approached. "The flatmate is across from the kitchen. His room is pretty sparse, so... well, I don't think he's harboring any cursed artefacts," he said with a shrug.

"Loo's in the middle, then at the end here is... me," he said, realizing as he finished that he had Zelda Fisk in his bedroom, and no good reason to take her anywhere else.
#6
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Walking through the little flat gave Zelda other things to think about - namely, things that did not involve touching Mr. Darrow - until the little tour ended in his bedroom. So she was not stuck with 'this flat is sort of small' or 'I wonder where the artifact activity is,' but 'damn I am in his bedroom and I would very much like for him to kiss me.' Asking Alfred to kiss her was something that, historically, ended in embarrassment for Zelda - so she did not want to ask. She wanted it to just happen, and her heart thumped furiously against her ribcage at the thought of it.

"Um -" Zelda said, her cheeks turning a faint pink color. "- thanks for the tour!" She glanced at his bed, and then at him, and felt that swooping in her guts once again. "Is this - uh - have you noticed anything happening? Here?"

Things could happen here, if he wanted them to, was the thing that small and terrible part of her wanted to say.

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   J. Alfred Darrow


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#7
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Zelda seemed as flustered as he was. For the same reasons, he wondered, or not? Was she waiting for him to kiss her... or aware that he wanted to, and dreading it? Was she coming up with things to say to kill time and seem collected, or thinking up things to say so that he wouldn't have an opportunity to try?

"Things have been happening all over the place," he answered. "And, uhm... listen, I know that's why I asked you to come over, but... would it be alright if I talked about something else for a minute?"
#8
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Zelda raised her eyebrows at him, cheeks still pink. She could not think of anything that Alfred would want to talk to her about - well, she could think of a few things, but they tended to avoid talking about those when they could.

"Yes!" she said, a little enthused for all that she had been caught off guard. "Talk away, of course."



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#9
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Her enthusiasm was bolstering his confidence somewhat, but his stomach was still a bundle of nerves as he tried to think over exactly how he wanted to continue. He had a vague idea of what he wanted to convey, but hadn't figured out the best way to go about it. He should have thought through this beforehand, but somehow even when he'd issued her the invitation to his flat knowing that they would be alone he hadn't quite anticipated the feeling of being here with her.

"Alright," he said, taking a breath. "This is — it, uhm, might be a little scattered, but... just bear with me, okay?" He shifted his weight from foot to foot. "I — uhm, about that night." He didn't feel he'd need to specify any further than that. There was only one thing he could mean, and if she had any doubts the color in the tips of his ears would identify exactly which one he was referring to.

"So," he continued haltingly, "Growing up, I learned these rules that we have in England. The customs and the ... moral code, I guess. And then after I was shipwrecked, we ended up with the tribe, and they were entirely different. And at first I thought they were wrong — uncivilized. Savage," he said, using the last word almost tenderly. It was one he'd used extensively when he was first interacting with them, and therefore one of those that had the worst connotations for him now. It was a reminder of his own ignorance and intolerance more than any of the others.

"But after I lived with them, I realized it wasn't — wrong, necessarily, just... you know, different. So — I've questioned a lot of the things I grew up believing." Hopefully she was following him, because Alfred felt like he was getting somewhere but would likely not be able to retrace his steps. "And what I'm trying to say — about that night — is that it's one of those things I'm not sure about. I wrote you that letter afterwards and apologized and everything because that was — you know, the English thing to do — and I thought that would probably be what you wanted. Or at least what you expected. But — but I don't know if I regret what happened," he confessed, meeting her eyes as his cheeks flushed deep red. "The only thing I know I regret is that you had to leave afterwards."
#10
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He was scattered, and he was blushing, and Zelda was hyper-aware of his words and the way that Mr. Darrow shifted his weight back and forth as she looked at him. She, meanwhile, was almost stock still - except for the tapping of her index finger against her side, a nervous twitch as she looked at him and waited.

When it became clear what he was talking about, Zelda flushed a bright red. She didn't move, though, and didn't interrupt, even though almost all of her instincts were calling on her to interrupt. This was Dangerous Territory. Talking about sex was normally off limits, and it was especially off limits with someone you had had sex with. Instead she focused, heartbeat quickened, on what he was saying.

And what he was saying was that sex wasn't really that bad.

She didn't know what to do with that.

If it hadn't been for the pregnancy - and Zelda believed, now, that she probably had been pregnant, until the troll - then she would have fully agreed with them. Instead there was that nagging bit of doubt in her stomach, and she had to try to answer him even as she had never, not once, been prepared for this.

"I've never left England," she admitted, "So I don't - I don't know what things are like in other places, if that would make more sense to me. But I've never regretted that it was you. Things were just so confusing, after. They didn't... make any sense." She was English and she was young and it had been so risky, but.

"Now - I don't know if I regret it, now."

Key - and she did not say this - was that she had regretted it in some of the aftermath.

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   Ophelia Devine


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#11
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The conversation had taken a turn towards the Serious and Important, which Alfred hadn't anticipated when he'd invited her over. He'd thought a lot about that night, of course, but he hadn't anticipated that he would want to talk to her about it — obviously. If he'd planned this, he'd hoped he would have been at least a little more eloquent. Having her here, though, and not knowing how she felt about the entire thing (about that night, about their relationship following it, about their relationship now) had proven to be too much uncertainty for him.

"You should go somewhere other than England," he said, to lighten the mood slightly. "Preferably not via shipwreck, though."

Returning to the subject matter at hand, he continued softly, "The way that night ended... sort of made it feel like a mistake. And maybe it was," he admitted. "But things might have been different if..." He drifted off, not sure exactly how to continue. He knew what he was trying to articulate — the difference, at least in his mind, between a drunken escapade and an act of affection — but he wasn't sure how to articulate it. He had a sort of romanticized idea of how the evening should have ended based on his far-distant sexual encounters in the past, but he was hardly going to bring up any of that to another woman (particularly not one he liked).

After struggling to try and find appropriate words for a few seconds, Alfred had a different idea. "Can we maybe — just for a few minutes — pretend you didn't have to leave right away?" he asked. He closed the space between them and tentatively reached to place his hands on her hips. Even given what she'd just said, the action made butterflies erupt in his stomach. It was so taboo that he couldn't help but think she would jump back in surprise, or slap his hands away.


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