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one less travelled by
#1
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June 20th, 1889 — The Black Lake, west bank from Hogsmeade

When your role in life is to gander over each and every horizon, an unknown space becomes a priority. Arven Fisk, a tall and scruffy man with bright green eyes, had glanced from the window of his temporary residence on the High Street that morning to realise that he’d never walked the west bank of the Black Lake from Hogsmeade. And so he set out to do so immediately, wrapping his pet ferret Virgil about his shoulders and throwing on his long coat to ward off the unseasonal chill.

The day was a pale silver colour, but the Black Lake was bluer than forget-me-nots. When Arven looked at it he thought of his years at Hogwarts, splashing in the water with his friends during the hot summers, skimming the surface on a broomstick, observing the lakelife and “conversing” with merfolk. So as he went west at the Docks and took the narrow path between the forest and the lake, he knew to expect quite a nostalgic stroll.

Until he saw something bobbing out in the lake and wondered what it was.
#2
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This was not quite sailing with her father. This had, however, like many a sailing trip with her father, been a spontaneous decision, taking a boat out in Hogsmeade. Porphyria had had enough bad experiences in Padmore Park to be suspicious of the thought, but it was a fine morning, blue-skied and calm and deserted, and so she had rowed out - without magic; she hadn't wanted to lose her wand in the lake - past the lazy inlet in the park, out further and further, towards the widest part of the Black Lake, to a place where she had a splendid view of the castle across it, standing vacant and silent for the summer.

Her gaze was currently turned up toward the skies, having been sprawled on her back on the boat's little wooden seat, using a book of poetry as a pillow, her feet kicked up over one side. She may have been dozing a little, because she had not noticed the oar loosened from its lock, and now floating off halfway to the bank. Nor had she noticed, yet, that the boat's stern was gradually dipping lower and lower in the water, lakewater seeping into the bottom through a worn hole in the boards.


#3
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It was, he noted with a quizzical brow, not one thing but two. One, a seemingly deserted boat drifting across the loch. And two, a oar drifting out further still. Arven frowned, and noticed the seemingly deserted boat did in fact show a pair of feet — with ladies shoes — leaning over the side. Now this was cause for concern; and that was even without knowing that water was trickling in.

He halted and drew the blue spruce wand from the pocket of his long coat. Arven pointed the wand at the oar and muttered an incantation which pushed it back towards the boat. Upon reaching its destination, the oar knocked on the wood as if to say — ahem.
#4
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Tap. Tap. Tap. A gentle rapping appeared out of the stillness. Phyri, eyes closed, murmured a few lines of Poe to herself in her drowsy daze, and mimicked the sound with her fingers against the side of the rowboat for a while before she realised it hadn't been her to start it. Startled, Porphyria sat up and peered over the side, watching the oar move of its own accord with a bemused furrow of her brow.

She fished it out, scanning her surroundings - the lake was empty - and squinting towards the bank, trying to figure out who had enchanted the oar. She should be thanking them, probably, only she didn't feel the gratitude long.

Because she had glanced down, and there was water in the bloody boat. Porphyria stared at it a while calmly, and then patted at her sides as if to draw out her wand. "Shit," she said, when she remembered she didn't have it on her. "Shit." She glanced over at the bank, trying to calculate how long it would take her to get there, rowing. Better sink trying than sitting here like a stranded idiot, though. Nor had she ever been inclined to shout for help, thank you very much. Phyri lurched forwards and tugged off her shoes and socks, trying to stuff her socks in the hole letting in water. It didn't do a great deal - valiantly, though, she secured the oar and started rowing towards shore as the whole bottom of the boat began to flood.


#5
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The tap-tapping of the oar on the boat did the trick. The owner of the feet so lackadaisically resting on the side of the boat was alerted — a beautiful girl gazed at him across the waters. Arven might've been on his way, content to let her remain a serene mystery no longer in danger, when the danger re-doubled in a trice. Just as he lowered his wand arm, he saw her react swiftly to an evident problem with the bottom of the boat. The stern dipped. The water lapped around it. The stranger rowed for the bank, but the boat steeped menacingly.

Not realising he'd walked so close to the lake's edge now that the water was nearing his ankles, Arven tossed his blond hair distractedly from his face and raised his wand again. It had been a while since he'd performed such powerful magic, but he focussed his mind and felt his objective flow from arm to wand tip — "wingardium leviosa".

Slowly, dramatically, the moving boat began to part from the surface of the lake, water flowing from the hole as if from the ascending ruins of Atlantis.
#6
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Porphyria did not, on the whole, have a great deal of faith in others. Or at least in others’ competency. As such, she had presumed she was on her own in this - no one else was in the same boat, as they said - and, regardless of whoever had helped her out with the nudging oars, she had not counted on them paying enough attention to counter the situation now.

The situation, the predicament, whatever you wanted to call it. She was a fool for not having brought her wand along, though she still was not planning on panicking: if worst came to worst, she could always swim to shore. Not all poets could speak to that. (Certainly that bastard Shelley might have lived longer if only he’d coupled a love of sailing with the ability to swim.)

It had not yet come to that, however: before she quite knew what was happening, Porphyria found her oars slicing through air, the boat floating through it, suspended above the water quite miraculously. Or indeed if it hadn’t been for the man at shore - blond, long-haired, his wand aloft. And, apparently - competent. Porphyria gripped the sides of the rowboat warily at first, just in case his concentration faltered and the boat tipped back into the lake, or tipped her out; after a few moments, and as the bank neared however, she let go and threw her head back in a laugh, rather enjoying the thrill of the sensation. A pity for it to end, almost!


#7
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At first resembling a trapped boatman lost at sea, it was not long before the mysterious young woman proved herself to be a romantical soul instead. She rode the levitating boat with a laugh, dark hair ruffled by the magical breeze. Arven could not help but give a crooked smile at the rather enchanting sight. And Merlin was she a beauty, the stranger in the boat. Perhaps a little damp of foot, but no more worse for wear.

”Hold on, we’re about to drop anchor”, said the adventurer as the flying boat came closer to the bank, slowing down at the will of his wand. For all the spellcaster’s graces, the boat was likely to object as it was lowered onto the reeds.
#8
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Her hair had been whipping about her face even before the man’s warning, but the sensation heightened as the boat slowed, descended towards the ground again and landed in a juddering, skidding halt, sending a spray of water up behind her. Porphyria let out a cackle of glee as she was jolted momentarily off her seat, one of her shoes and a sodden sock thrown out of the boat somewhere onto the grass nearby. With a daft grin on her face, she clambered out of the wooden boat and collapsed on the grass, sprawling contentedly there to collect herself.

Pushing a stray strand of hair out of her face but too lazy to yet get up, Phyri turned her eye - as best she could from her angle - upon the man. Even up close, she didn't recognise him. Not one of the overblown society regulars, obviously. (She might have waded back into the lake if he had been.) “Nicely done,” she remarked, with a rare note of gratitude.


#9
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Adventure wasn’t always about fleeing from home and landing between a mountain and a hard place. Arven had left his front door this morning seeking adventure, realising there was a path he’d not yet tred, and he’d found it in a trice. The scene of the beautiful, wild young woman laughing as the boat carried her above the surface of the lake would be seared on his memory for some time; an invincible illustration for an adventure novel.

”And you”, he replied gruffly with a light smile, sure enough quite impressed with how she’d handled the perilous situation.

And yes okay, there was the smallest note of playful sarcasm in there as well. It wasn’t often a witch finds herself alone in a sinking boat, after all.

Arven offered a graceful hand to the lady, should she wish to rise from the albeit comfortable-looking bank. Lounging in a boat, flopping on the grass… with a considerable bout of hazard in between. This individual knew how to live.
#10
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He had his hand out to her. Phyri deliberated for a moment and then took it, pulling herself up with gusto, feeling her bare feet squish - deliciously - into the muddy grass bank. (Shoes probably ought to be her next priority, but...)

There was something in his tone of voice, or the line of his smile, that made Porphyria think he might be laughing at her. “Well, what’s a day without a near-drowning?” She quipped back breezily, not opposed to the odd near-disastrous experience, though she wouldn’t agree that she had been responsible for this. It wasn’t her fault the park and its environs clearly had it out for her. Mistletoe kisses, stolen bags, a sinking boat now: what was bloody next?

“Porphyria Dempsey,” she added, taking advantage of still grasping at the man’s hand to shake it in the most manly fashion she could muster. He mustn’t think himself her saviour, after all. Though she supposed she did want to learn his name, at least, if only because he seemed the sort of acquaintance worth collecting, whoever he was. He looked almost as windswept as she imagined she must, only his seemed to be an aura consolidated over time: it was too thorough for a single lakeside walk to have fashioned. “But I’ll admit that that sort of floating was much better fun.”


#11
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As the would-be flounder rose readily to her feet and shook his hand firmly, Arven was reminded briefly of a plethora of individuals — none of whom were prudent British ladies. He was reminded of a merchant in Persia, a falconer in Mongolia — even a bandit in Anatolia. This woman was very much of the outside.

”Arven Fisk”, he introduced himself in turn, making a conscious effort not to treat her lunging hand like a rose petal.

He smiled at Miss Dempsey’s quip, then looked down at the boat parked tilted in the long reeds. ”I’m not sure your steed feels the same.” He gave it a pat on the bow, now noticing the hole in the flooring. ”Looks like the old girl’s seen better days!”
#12
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Fisk as a name did not mean much to her: she had been friendly enough with one of the girls of the family once, and she was aware of their link to the Minister of Magic, but... they were not the most predictable of the families to be found at society gatherings - and Mr. Arven Fisk, she suspected, was even less so than that.

Porphyria could only laugh when he patted her ‘steed’ as though it were a living thing. (Though it did almost seem that way now that it had been skimming the lake like a gull.) “The poor old thing,” she agreed with a grin, absently looking about for where her shoes had been tossed. (Haven’t we all, she almost wanted to say.) “You mustn’t think it was I who treated her so ill,” she added with some zeal, for she had only found it with those rowboats floating in the park inlet of the lake for general use (and obviously had been charmed by the most dilapidated of them, though perhaps she should have looked a little closer when she had gotten in). Until the unconventional landing, of course.“Someone else must have given her a rougher ride before... now.” She looked at the little rowboat a little longingly, quite as though one might adopt a stray animal. Would anyone miss it?


#13
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The quirky water dryad played easily along with the anthropomorphism of the boat, and Arven looked down at it again, as if man and boat were exchanging meaningful glances. "Oh so she's a rental. Or...

Arven returned his jungle-green eyes to Porphyria Dempsey, narrowed, jokingly very suspicious. "Or... purloined from some poor old fisherman, searching high and low for his faithful boat even as we speak."


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