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Welcome to Charming, the year is now 1893. It’s time to join us and immerse yourself in scandal and drama interlaced with magic both light and dark.

Where will you fall?

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Discovered today that spotted dick is a pudding with raisins in it. But more importantly that "dick" was the victorian word for pudding. — Fallin
His sister and her group were not yet performing, however. Instead it was a plain looking young woman that he did not recognize. She seemed to believe she was singing.
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wonder why I only show up in blurry photographs
17 March, 1893 — Padmore Park

Ben had finished his work for the afternoon with two hours to spare before Melody expected him home, so he'd set off to Hogsmeade with the intention of paying Aldous a visit. He'd checked with the housekeeper earlier in the week to see what time Aldous was expected back home and felt confident they could talk through everything before causing any suspicion from his wife. He was nearly at the end of it, now. He'd been so careful at every step not to show his hand, but reading the rest of the family in to what he was planning was the last step before telling Melody, and then he could let out the breath he'd been holding since the beginning of the year.

It was strange to be coming to Aldous without the expectation of advice. There was nothing Ben needed his brother to fix, in this case — there was nothing left to fix. Just loose ends to tie up. He was only telling Aldous and Roman at all so that they wouldn't be surprised when rumors inevitably trickled their way about it; so that they would know how to respond when someone said is it true your younger brother lives in London now?

Ben knocked at the door and the housekeeper let him know that Aldous wasn't home just yet, and would he like Mrs. Crouch to receive him while they waited for his brother? Ben would not. He had no reason to dislike Aldous' wife (though he hardly knew her well), but the idea of trying to make small talk didn't appeal — to say nothing of the fact that if the conversation began with her in the room, someone would have to decide whether or not they asked her to leave before it continued. Ben hadn't been planning on explaining everything to Helga; he'd rather talk to Aldous and have him filter whatever details he wanted to share with his wife, and be able to speak more freely. So instead of going in for a cup of tea, he decided to take a turn around Padmore Park and circle back to Aldous' home after another half-hour.

He had reached the edge of the Headmaster's boundary and turned back around before it happened. It wasn't a remarkable occurrence — just the sort of thing that happened all the time at Padmore Park, but it stopped him in his tracks and seemed to lift all the air out of his chest. A family was walking on the path ahead: a man, a young mother, and a girl a few months older than Nora. She had dark curls peeking out of her bonnet and she was teetering along the path, tiny fists grabbing at a moth that fluttered overhead, far beyond her reach. She was laughing with the sort of wild abandon unique to young children, and her mother was echoing with a more restrained giggle, amused by her daughter's enthusiasm. And it struck Ben all at once: he would never have that.

MJ made this <3
Eight months.

Eight whole months had passed since Mr. Hunt’s death, and the visions of that day still haunted her. She had been content enough to meander through on Christmas Day because she was miserable enough, but most other times unless it was absolutely necessary, Irene had elected to avoid the park as much as she could. The ambiance of liveliness was never so great that it could drown out the sights, sounds and smells of that day. It wasn’t until Bear had darted off for the second time since she acquired him, and Irene was left to chase the damned creature once more, that she really was forced to go back into the park. This happened so many times that by now she was seriously considering if someone had sent her the cat with the express purpose of desensitizing her. Regardless of how the cat had come to be in her possession, it had done the trick. She’d ventured onto the paths once with some hesitation at first (she’d purposefully left the cat at home), and now she was able to walk the complete length of her old route without outwardly wincing. Screams of laughter and playfulness still caused her heart to leap out of her chest, but at least she’d gotten herself used to merely glancing this way and that as opposed to wanting to jump into the nearest obliging bush.

Today was the day that she’d decided it was time to start painting once more. Out of some mad impulse, she’d also brought the cat. Mercifully he had leapt inside her basket, curled up and was content to snooze for the time being. After laying out a blanket and taking out a sketch pad and pencils, it wasn’t long before Irene had lulled herself into a rhythm of sketching everything she saw: plants, flowers, women’s hats, croquet equipment, her own basket with Bear’s black tail protruding from underneath the flap, and even a few horses.

She’d been unprepared for the gust of wind that suddenly billowed out behind her. It blew through the loose sketches she’d discarded, immediately scattering them. Cursing to herself, Irene leapt up and shoved a hand in the basket to find her wand. The yowl of protest told her she’d clearly woken up the cat. The flap popped open and what looked like a massive black ball of soot had shot from the basket and off on the path. Cursing again, Irene lurched after him, wand in hand. The papers immediately obeyed and started to sweep back towards her. The cat, however, darted into a bush. Sighing, Irene slowed down to a walk, holding out her hand to collect the pieces of parchment. Up ahead, she could see one of the pieces struggling to get back to her. It was caught under a man’s foot, but he seemed to be paying no mind to it, and instead was looking at a nearby family; the same one Irene had been focusing on from afar when the wind had disrupted her.

There was nothing about this man that looked familiar, and yet when she walked towards him, she thought she recognized the pang that was plain on his features. There was something about how his eyes; he stared at the family, then she could see his gaze unfocus, then refocus. It told Irene all she needed to know; caused her to slow down even more as she approached him. She cleared her throat. “Excuse me,” She inquired tentatively. “Erm - my apologies, but…it seems my drawing got caught under your foot.” Upon further inspection, Irene realized it was the very drawing of the family he’d been staring at that he’d stepped on.

impeccable loveliness by MJ <3
Ben wasn't aware that he had lost focused and drifted off until someone had addressed him. He snapped back to the present, immediately sheepish about what she might have observed. How long had he been lost in thought? Had she seen him staring off into space, or did it look as though he'd been staring at someone in particular? He didn't have any attachment to the family he'd seen, and he certainly didn't want to get a reputation for the sort of person who might obsess over strangers. Best course of action was probably to end this interaction as quickly as possible and get out of the park as soon as he could, even if that meant beating Aldous back to his home, Ben figured.

"Oh, my apologies," he said, stepping back and stooping to pick it up. "Hope I didn't ruin it," he added, imagining a dirty boot print right in the center of the page. He glanced at the paper to see if that was the case and saw no stain, but what he did see arrested him once again. It was just a sketch, but it had plenty of life and motion to it. It was the same family he'd just been looking at, and just seeing them on the page he could feel that they were happy.

"Oh," he murmured. His mouth felt dry. He nearly lost himself in thought again and had to make a conscious effort to stay in the present moment. "It's, ah. It's very good," he said, to try and explain why it had so obviously caught his eye for a moment longer than it should have, before he pressed it back towards the young woman's hands.

MJ made this <3
She hadn’t been sure if he was going to answer, or if she would have had to ask him once more to break him out of his reverie. Even so, it took him a beat and Irene saw his eyes refocus before he started moving. In any other scenario where she hadn’t gone through witnessing Mr. Hunt’s death - or where she hadn’t known the look on his face like she knew the back of her hand - Irene might have brushed off his apology, taken the paper and walked off. Instead, she remained there, papers in hand and watched his expression flicker once more.

It was an intrusive thing to watch him take in the picture in his hand, something that Irene knew she sympathized with; at least on some level.

The picture was returned back to the pile, and Irene looked back down at it. It was crumpled with a bit of dirt here and there, but otherwise the paper remained intact. She should have said thank you. Should have smiled and walked away, wished him a good day. Instead, looking up at him, placid with a wry expression: “Is it?” as if he’d just commented on the impending weather. “I only saw them from further away, not closer than you.”

Irene looked up from the sketch, not at him but at the family who were now walking away. It was her turn to furrow her brow and stare after them. The father was tall, almost as tall as Elias. Even if he had been all alone, she would have known with one look from across the park that it wouldn’t have been him. The only similar appearance between the two was his height and hair color. The mother had darker hair too. And the child…looked a perfect combination of the two. “Lovely family.”

She shook herself from her own thoughts before pressing her lips together and peering up at him. “You don't know them, do you?”

impeccable loveliness by MJ <3
Is it? she asked, and Ben felt as though he needed to defend his statement or she'd see right through him. Even as she continued he was scrambling to compose his thoughts for his eventual reply. When she continued with you don't know them he felt as though she'd found him out, like he'd been caught red-handed, although he couldn't have said what crime it was she'd caught him at.

"Ah — no," he admitted. A part of him wanted to deny it, but he knew that was a slippery slope; he'd get himself into trouble quickly if he started trying to spin up lies or half-truths to get through this conversation with a stranger in a park. And he hadn't really done anything wrong, just gotten caught staring, which wasn't a crime — so there was nothing to lie about. "No, it's just — a familiar scene, I guess." That wasn't quite right — it wasn't a familiar scene in that it was like something he'd seen or experienced before, but it was somewhere in the neighborhood of familiar. It was the sort of thing that he could have had, if everything had happened differently, and that was what he'd found so striking about it.

"Your drawing," he continued, rather ineloquently — not because this flowed particularly well but because he'd already thought of what to say, and now it seemed a waste not to say it. "It wasn't the details, so much, but it had the feeling. That was why I said it was good — you could sort of feel like you were there."

MJ made this <3

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