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The Dead of Winter
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December 27th, 1890 — Wellingtonshire, Hogsmeade

Tentatively Charles had started his long overdue search for a house. Now that his personal life was starting to take shape his bachelor's apartment seemed every bit as childish as he'd pretended to himself it hadn't been up until now. He was the Junior Assistant to the Minister of Magic, a widower, and albeit it regretfully, a father - his living situation was not in keeping with any of it. While it was hardly a secret where he lived it wasn't something he ever felt induced to drop into conversation and so it was entirely possible that Miss Lestrange didn't yet know. If there was a chance he could acquire accommodation more befitting before she did then all the better.

London wasn't an option - Noelle's ghost was far too close - so Hogsmeade was the next best place. There was a newly refurbished Wellingtonshire house he had decided to start his search with and so he'd made the trip to Hogsmeade that morning to do just that.

Charles walked down the street, staring intently at the buildings until he spotted number nine. It looked like a handsome enough building albeit smaller than he'd expected, otherwise there was not much to remark upon. He climbed the front steps to the door and was only slightly surprised to find it ajar. Clearly the house agent had already arrived, that was good, he didn't fancy loitering on the doorstep in the cold while nosy neighbors spied on him around the edges of their curtains.

He opened the door and walked in. The foyer was very nice - the staircase was quite grand and- "Bloody FUCK!" Charles recoiled with such violence that he stumbled backwards through the doorway, slipped on the icy doorstep, and then fell backwards down the front steps, landing supine in the dirty slush on the sidewalk.

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   Melody Crouch


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With the Christmas and New Year's Holidays so close together, Ingrid had taken it upon herself to temporarily move down to her Hogsmeade home; flooing back and forth between the two houses allowed her to fetch anything that she needed with ease, however she figured she might as well stay in Hogsmeade until after the New Year.

There were a few people she needed to pay calls to; as it stood, she was running quite late (at least by her standards), and she hastened down the steps. On the last step, she reached a gloved hand to steady herself - a previously thick blanket of snow had turned into a dreary pile of slush. Sighing with derision, she took a few steps forward before something was thrown in her path. "Oh my —!" she exclaimed, hand over her mouth as she realized it wasn't a feral animal but a man.

An incredulous expression crossed her face as she realized who the man was. "Mr. Macmillan," she greeted him, peering down at him from under her hat. "Are you quite alright?" The question was harmless enough, however, coming from Ingrid Rowle, it was an inquiry with more than one meaning.
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   Ursula Black


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#3
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What he had seen had been disturbing enough but the fall had disoriented him even more. He had at least not hit his head very hard, thanks mostly to the fact his elbows and back had taken the brunt of the impact. What had taken the most damage, however, was his dignity which took a second blow when he realized he'd been seen by someone. A third blow was dealt when he looked at the owner of the voice that had addressed him by name and saw that it was one of Miss Lestrange's friends.

Merlin's buttocks why couldn't he have sustained a terrible headwound instead?

He knew of Miss Lestrange's friends only because he'd made a point of familiarizing himself with the names and faces of those she spent the most time around, he had wanted to know what sort of company she kept and furthermore he wanted to make sure they only saw the very best of him. Women liked to talk amongst themselves and he didn't want unfavorable talk getting back to Miss Lestrange, not that he thought he ever conducted himself poorly but misunderstandings did happen. Here was a prime example of a misunderstanding waiting to happen. There was no possible way anyone could reproach him laying in the snow if they'd seen what he'd seen and saw him lose his footing as he tried to back away, but without that context he looked absolutely pathetic. He also couldn't invite Miss Lestrange's friend to take a look, that would only make it worse.

There was only one thing he could do and that was damage control, starting with getting back up onto his feet without any need for assistance. "Aside from a little bruise or two I'm quite all right, thank you." As he said this, he began to pick himself up off the ground. In doing so he noticed a pain in his elbows that suggested both bruising and scrapes. His rear also seemed a little tender and his head stung a bit and seemed to be preparing itself for a nice headache. He'd actually gotten off quite lightly everything considered. Charles pitched a little as he almost lost his footing but otherwise managed to get to his feet with minimal embarrassment. No thanks to his heart which was pounding or his legs which were shaky from the adrenaline.

"Miss Rowle, isn't it?" he inquired as he brushed the snow and dirt from his clothing. The back of his head was wet and starting to drip down his neck which was highly unpleasant but he left it alone, not wanting to draw attention to it. "I must apologize to you for having to see me as you did, I only hope I didn't startle you." The longer he was back on his feet and trying to recover Miss Rowle's impression of him, the more he started to think back to what he'd just seen. What was he to do about it?



#4
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Witnessing the object of her best friend's sights in such a compromising position was a feeling that Ingrid was not accustomed to; were it anyone else she would have given them a disgusted look mixed with some amount of pity before merely moving on. As it was Mr. Macmillan, however, and not a member of the lower class (or even someone of lower blood status), her look of incredulity only held a fraction of the distaste that it would have otherwise.

He did his best to clamber to his feet, though Ingrid had seen ladies recover from fainting spells with more grace. That was hardly the man's fault, though she could only imagine Tatiana's face were she here. "Mrs." she corrected with a stiff smile.

Clearly, he was either too flustered to have remembered her correct title, or his research into Tatiana's friends failed him. Either way, the misstep caused Ingrid's brow to raise a fraction of an inch, despite her placid expression.

She was far from a curious and doe-eyed debutante, but to see a man of his position coupled with the knowledge that his temperament was not of the eccentric type piqued her interest and encouraged her to stay put longer than she would have otherwise. "I'm sure you have an excellent explanation, Mr. Macmillan, though I would be dishonest if I said I didn't wonder what caused you to fall from the tops of the stairs all the way down here."
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   Ursula Black


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#5
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Shit. This was a nightmare. How could he have forgotten Miss Rowle was really a Mrs.? Damn it, it was no consolation at all that she had no husband to show for her honorific! The faux pas had been made and it likely wouldn't be forgotten before it could get back to Miss Lestrange. Not that he believed she'd want nothing more to do with him, it wasn't that serious of a misstep, but it was a telling lack of attention to detail and gave the impression that he was careless which he very much felt he wasn't. He'd have to make Mrs. Rowle see why sprawling in the snow and not being entirely in full possession of his wits was entirely understandable without making excuses and looking pathetic.

"Of course, please forgive me, Mrs. Rowle, I must have hit my head harder than I realized." That was two apologies now and both had left a bad taste in his mouth. There was something about the way she was looking at him that he didn't care for, though he couldn't put his finger on what that was. It was also easier to resent her for catching him in a compromising moment and making him look bad than it was to accept responsibility.

He started to draw his wand as he glanced back over his shoulder towards the doorway. The door was now wide open but thankfully they couldn't see much from the angle at which they were stood. He moved so that he was stood next to Mrs. Rowle and facing the open door. "I cannot in good conscience reveal to you exactly what lies beyond that doorway, Madame, it is so appalling I stepped back onto a patch of ice and the rest you bore witness to."



#6
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"It doesn't matter, really." — (it did) — she responded with a benevolent gesture of her head.

And it took much of recalling her debutante training to not immediately smile with pleasure at watching Mr. MacMillan realize his mistake. She took little to no offense to his slip-up, and would take possibly even less offense if he weren't the object of one of her best friend's affections. But she couldn't make it too easy for him, could she? Not when he'd been dragging his feet so.

"I certainly did," She agreed, though she tilted her chin up slightly in the chance that she might have at least a glimpse of what had so appalled Mr. Macmillan. "Curioser and curioser, said Alice — is it at least something that you must attend to, lest it get out of hand, or should we call for someone?" Ingrid briefly looked about them, as if someone would apparate right next to them at a moment's notice.


[Image: jokZ9m.png]
#7
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Charles thought he caught Mrs. Rowle trying to get a subtle look in and decided he couldn't allow the door to remain open a moment longer than it had. The naked man draped across the bottom of the staircase either dead or in a drunken stupor was not a sight anyone ought to see - especially not a lady, even a married one. The man's legs were positioned in such a way that they naturally drew the eye in to the genital region. The image had seared itself into his hippocampus, he was pretty sure it was memory charm resistant.

"I'll send for law enforcement..." he trailed off as he fumbled trying to draw his wand from his pocket. He hoped it wasn't the gentleman that was supposed to be showing him the property. With his wand finally free he wasted no time in using it to close the door. Unfortunately haste caused him to slam it shut rather loudly. He winced, hopefully the man was dead.

Now that he'd probably woken the dead (or just the heavily drunk) he shot emergency sparks up into the air and lamented the turn his day had taken. "There we go. Perhaps we should stand a little further away?" His blood froze at what sounded like scuffling noises from behind the door.



#8
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She thought she'd seen a glimpse of the contents of the entrance, however she only glimpsed a bit of flesh before Mr. Macmillan sought to close the door. Without protest, Ingrid agreed and moved further away, awaiting law enforcement. Perhaps they'd be required to give statements, though she wasn't entirely sure how she would explain the position in which she'd found Mr. Macmillan whilst at the same time preserving any amount of his dignity.

She could see the headlines now. Society Socialite Witnesses Junior Assistant to Minister of Magic Found Amongst the Slush Fleeing Certain Compromising Positions

No, Tatiana would not like that at all.

She was about to respond when she observed a peculiar expression on the man's face. Drawing to a halt, a rattling caught her attention. It was coming from the very door Mr. Macmillan had just closed. Her brow furrowed, and she peered over to the wizard. "Golly, Mr. Macmillan," she mused, "The scene you just left appears to have changed yet again." Just as she finished her rather obvious observation, the noises escalated and shouts were soon heard from behind the door.


[Image: jokZ9m.png]
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It seemed the man wasn't dead after all which was a great relief for it would inevitably simplify the rest of his day but it was mostly the absolute worst thing that could've happened. No, that wasn't true, the best case scenario was the man staying asleep until law enforcement arrived and charged him with public indecency or whatever the steepest charge was for forcing him to see his manhood, indirectly assaulting him with the shock of it, and then robbing him of his dignity as a result, also indirectly. If he was now awake and making noises such as that the man's sanity couldn't be counted upon and he may very well throw open the door and blind Mrs. Rowle with his penis. It was so very bright out. The bright morning sun was only made more intense by the snow, she'd see everything in crisp detail.

Charles moved so that she would have to turn her back towards the doorway to face him. He would've gently placed a hand on her arm to steer her in that direction but it felt improper still. After all, there was no guarantee the man would actually open the door and he could hardly explain the seriousness of the situation without mentioning the nude state of the man which was even more indecent. "Mrs. Rowle, I think it would be wise for you to leave the area at once for your own wellbeing."



#10
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Oh, men and their presumptions every woman had the mental acuity and resolve of a piece of fragile china. This would, Ingrid mused, be an interesting tale to relay to Tatiana eventually. With a delicate sigh, the witch turned to face Mr. Macmillan. "You are quite right, Mr. Macmillan." she gave in. "Though I trust you shall bear no consequence of whatever might be going on in there," she added innocently, her brows furrowing. "What was it that you said you were doing in that house?"


[Image: jokZ9m.png]
#11
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"Certainly not!" He sneered towards the door at the very thought of being associated with that. He paused at her question though, he wasn't doing anything questionable but he rather wanted to keep it from Miss Lestrange that he was looking at houses, that way it might surprise her at his leisure if he so desired. "The house is for sale, I came to inspect it on behalf of my brother, though I rather wish I hadn't." That sounded convincing enough to him and he couldn't imagine she'd want to press for more details. At any rate he wouldn't be buying the house anyway, he didn't fancy reliving the moment every time he walked through his own front door.





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