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Lightning Before the Thunder
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March 22nd, 1891 — Outside Hogsmeade Hospital

Juliana hadn't entirely decided what to think of the interlude with Lachlan MacFusty on Wednesday night (or, in truth, early Thursday morning). Her conversation with Camilla had been... enlightening, but not particularly decisive. She knew she could go see him again, if she wanted; no one had caught on any of the previous times she'd snuck out through the floo late at night, and her parents were only going to get less uptight about her movements the farther away they got from the incident. His house was so remote that they were unlikely to ever be surprised there, especially if she only came in the middle of the night. She was perfectly capable of carrying on an affair with him, if she wanted to — but on a level that went beyond the mere logistics of it, she simply couldn't.

She had found herself thinking about him more than she would have liked, which Camilla had said was one of the signs, but she was convinced that was just because she'd accidentally walked out while still wearing his coat. It was a very damning piece of evidence indeed — and a very large piece of evidence, because he was a very large person, so ensuring it stayed hidden over the past few days had been quite the task. She'd hung it in her closet first, because as an unmarried woman with no interest in fashion no one ever came to help her dress these days — but then she'd gotten anxious about the housekeeper discovering it if she came to do laundry, so she'd take it down and folded it up and shoved it under the back corner of her research desk instead. Except it was so bulky that she kept accidentally brushing it with her toes, which always made her cheeks flush and entirely distracted her from whatever she was doing. She couldn't get anything done like that, so she'd moved the bundled coat to beneath her bed. It was dusty down there, though, so she hadn't been able to leave it more than an hour before she'd fished it out again. She was going to return it to him eventually, somehow, so she didn't want it to get dirty and moth-eaten in the meantime.

So she'd hung it up again, but over the edge of the door instead of in the closet, so she could remember to hide it again before she left her room. The problem then, however, was that it was exceptionally visible, and therefore distracting all over again. So it was the coat's fault, was the point — she wasn't thinking about Lachlan MacFusty because she liked him or wanted to be thinking about him, it was just because his damn coat kept staring at her while she was trying to work. She had to get rid of it, but how? It was too big to mail. Gertrude would never manage it, and if she tried to send it with Gertrude the senile old owl would probably misdeliver it, which would be yet another catastrophe — this time much worse than his handkerchief. It would be too large and bulky to take it to the post office, though; the package would be conspicuous and she wouldn't have any excuse for what she was doing.

She could have just taken it back to his house, of course; she knew the address and he never seemed to lock his floo. She might have done that, if she could be absolutely sure that she would be able to deliver it while he was out. She had no idea what sorts of working hours dragon-tamers kept, though. The only thing she knew for certain was that he had been home both of the times she'd called on him before, which was very little to go on. Both times were at night, so presumably he worked during the day? But he'd known to expect her both times, so might have taken extra steps to ensure that he was home; perhaps his schedule normally was more erratic. Or perhaps dragon-tamers worked like the members of the werewolf capture unit did, with several days working straight through the day and night followed by several days off. In any case, she didn't have enough information. She couldn't risk being in his home with him again, alone.

Which was what had brought her to the Hogsmeade Hospital, with a conspicuously large brown parcel under her arm. She needed to give it to someone else to give to him, because she couldn't see him herself without risking something else happening like what had happened on Wednesday. Anyone she gave it to, however, was going to make a good deal of assumptions. Unmarried women did not just end up with the coats of men they had no business even being alone with in the first place, and there was no reasonable explanation for why she had it. So she needed to give it to someone who, if they were going to make assumptions, at least wouldn't share those assumptions with anyone else. She hoped that the family ties in this case would be enough to make the idea of gossiping about this unappealing.

She'd timed this well, after having done her research to find out which shift Miss MacFusty would be on that day. She was a researcher, after all, so she had a particular set of skills which came in handy in this sort of circumstances. Juliana only had to wait outside about five minutes before she saw a redhead. She hadn't ever met Miss MacFusty before, but was reasonably sure she'd guessed correctly. The family resemblance was there, and she was here at the right time and the right place.

"Excuse me?" Juliana called, to get her attention. "Miss MacFusty? Juliana Binns."

@Tilda MacFusty
[-] The following 2 users Like Juliana Binns's post:
   Kieran Abernathy, Lachlan MacFusty


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Tilda had always found the hustle and bustle of the hospital to be something that put her at peace. Especially when all the chores were done for the day and it was quiet. Today was no such day, however, and by lunch time, the redhead was rather worn out from the morning's work. Her hands were chapped from fetching hot water and cramped from fiddling with the smallest of instruments. Leaning against the door frame, Tilda leaned her head to the right to stretch out her shoulders. As she rubbed her thumb and forefinger together, she was just thinking perhaps she'd make a quick run to the apothecary for more hand salve when she felt someone's eyes on her. Only a fraction of a second later is when she heard her name being called.

Turning to look, she saw a brunette standing a little ways away. She was slightly smaller than Tilda herself, and something about the way she looked at her told Tilda that she wouldn't be making that run to the apothecary anymore. Her blue eyes traveled down to the large parcel in the woman's hands. What on earth?

Juliana Binns.

Ah.

Tilda's lips parted slightly, understanding dawning on her as she realized who this was. The healer was grateful her cheeks were already flushed from the morning's rush, for they surely would have deepened in color had her pallor been in its usual pale, freckled state. "Miss Binns." Tilda finally replied after a pause. "How do you do?" She turned to face the woman though her figure never left the door frame she was leaning against. Partially because she was already exhausted (and Miss Binns' unexpected appearance did anything but help), partially because any further forward would bring Tilda out of the comfort zone she immediately drew for herself.


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She had surprised the woman, that much was clear. Juliana had been expecting that, though, so it didn't deter her. It would have been far more alarming if Miss MacFusty had been seeming to expect her, or even if she had recognized her, but this was just as everything should be. Lachlan hadn't told her, then. Her knowledge of Juliana probably only extended as far as the Witch Weekly article, or if it went any farther it certainly didn't cover that had transpired between her and Lachlan on Wednesday night. She took a small step closer to the doorway where Miss MacFusty was loitering, so that she wouldn't have to speak too loudly as she continued.

"Very well, thank you," she said. This was a lie, of course, because she had been abnormally distracted over the past several days, but it wasn't as though Miss MacFusty needed to know that. It wasn't as though she'd actually been asking the question; it was just the sort of thing people said to be polite, and she answered it in the same spirit of superficiality. "I know this will seem terribly forward, but I was wondering if I might ask you a favor?"


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A favor?

Her brows knitted together in confusion; they barely knew each other and Miss Binns was asking a favor of her? Her skepticism was mostly born out of the fact that Tilda genuinely had no idea what she could offer Miss Binns, and only slightly out of indignation that she had any obligation to do her any favors whatsoever.

Nonetheless, she knew it was rather uncharacteristic of her to not want to help; matters pertaining to her brother's reputation notwithstanding, Miss Binns had truly done nothing wrong. But it was easier to be angry at someone she didn't know instead of her own co-workers who she knew were whispering behind closed doors. "I'm not sure how much I can help, but I'll do what I can." she eventually responded.


[Image: sfHNlD.jpg]
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Miss MacFusty's words were affirming enough, but the long pause before she answered and the tension in the air spoke volumes. Juliana chewed the inside of her lip nervously while she waited. She didn't really know what she had expected. She didn't know whether Lachlan MacFusty had told his family anything about her — either in the beginning or since their interaction a few days ago. She didn't know what Miss MacFusty would have known about her, and from what sources — whispers from Marianne Finch, her own words from the article, something from Lachlan, or a combination of any of those things? And she didn't know what assumptions she might have made about her, beyond whatever she had heard. Miss MacFusty's hesitance, then, was understandable. When she finally agreed, Juliana let out a quick breath of relief, but only for a moment. This next statement was even more potentially fraught than asking for a favor in the first place, and it was with no small amount of nerves that she delivered it.

"I was hoping you might return this to your brother," she announced, holding out the large package in front of her.




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