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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.

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The first patented espresso machine was in 1884 by Angelo Moriondo. — Fallin
They hadn't been thieves before, at least. Noble had not been a murderer before either. Now he was one. Did thieving make a difference, at this point?
but the system is done for

supermassive black hole
September 3rd, 1893 — Astronomy Tower

Out of all the places should could end up at, Mercy McKinnon had to come to Hogwarts. How had she even decided to commit to a position like that? She couldn't just get up and leave in three months, because Mercury was in retrograde. Being a Professor was not for the fickle minded. Then again, Mercy was not getting any younger and being a Hogwarts professor offered security -- decent pay, a roof over one's head and food. It gave him an odd sense of satisfaction to think that Mercy was a desperate spinster, who had to take up a teaching position to support herself.

And now what? She was going to teach the next generation of young women to dump their beaus because their Venus signs were not compatible?

He had spent the entire weekend sulking. He had been tempted to tell Mason about it, but there was still a sense of loyalty towards Mercy and he didn't want to badmouth her on her first week of the job. Cleander figured, that the two would barely cross paths. She wasn't senior faculty, she didn't even teach a core class.


Midnight had already passed and he was unable to sleep, so he decided to head for the Astronomy tower. His quarters were connected to the tower by the Floo network, so it took him less than a minute to get there.

Even from behind, Cleander recognized her immediately, her presence feeling like a black hole in his heart. "Careful with that telescope," Cleander chided, as though she was a student. Of course, out of all the telescopes, she'd gone for his. Did she remember if from Alexandria and pick it in order to taunt him? Surely not, a woman who could end a courtship for a reason so fickle as their birth charts, couldn't possibly remember such details about him.

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   Mercy McKinnon
Level-headed as she considered herself to be, Mercy had been in a rage since seeing Cleander's face alongside the other professors' at the Sorting Ceremony. It was a calm rage, the skin that simmered beneath polite smiles and distant states. It wasn't just an angry rage, either, but a tornado of panic and sadness and fear that whirled in her chest, causing her so much stress in the three short days since she arrived to settle in that she was surprised she hadn't sprouted a streak of grey hair. This was supposed to be her moment and her future, and Cleander had the audacity to exist within her bubble—and to look even more handsome than he had a decade ago while doing it.

She chided herself for thinking of such childish, trivial notions. He would always be handsome (he had been, and probably would always be, the most handsome man she'd ever met) but now she was one-and-thirty and had no intention of letting any man take up space in her mind that could be better used preparing for classes.

She told herself this over and over again, and yet still found herself stealing glimpses here and there. At the dinner table, when she leaned forward just enough to see Cleander leaning down to sip at his soup from behind Professor Valenduris' beard. Through the window into the staff break room, where she stopped in the corridor just long enough to watch him bend over and pick up a book out of his bag. From across the courtyard, where she watched him speaking to a student from the corner of her eye as she walked by, pretending to have her nose in her book. He was everywhere—in her space, in her thoughts, in every decision she made—and she hated him for it.

Which is why she'd made the clever decision to invade his space late at night, when she knew he'd be sleeping in preparation for the following day's classes. The Astronomy Tower did not belong to the Astronomy professor, but it was their domain, and she took her sweet time poking and prodding at every telescope and tool she could get her hands on. She'd just picked up a vaguely familiar-looking one, her fingers tracing the ridges and the familiar designs, when his voice suddenly filled the silence.

"Fuck," she hissed, and dropped the telescope. Luckily her instincts took over, and she caught it before it fell more than a few inches. Face bright red, Mercy hastily turned to face him, her expression resembling a wounded animal. "You know I hate being snuck up on," she chastised, turning her gaze to a portrait off to the side of him, avoiding his gaze.

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   Cleander Huxley
The sight of Mercy being started was a familiar one, as it had happened before. Of course he knew that she hated being snuck up on. He wished that he no longer remembered that and that Mercy wouldn't remind him that he knew it. This would all be easier, if they could somehow forget that they had even known each other. Now, they were like stranger, with a whole baggage of history to carry. But if they were strangers, it wouldn't be any better. Then, they might have fallen for each other again, only to have his heart broken a second time. Cleander couldn't go through that again.

Not that he'd fully recovered from the heartbreak.

"I am a heartless Capricorn, remember? I don't care about people's feelings," Cleander said dryly. Making humour and being passive-agressive was a lot easier than saying how he truly felt. Also, how Air energy of him. "Or was it my Aquarius stellium? Seems like I've lucked out on the 'having a heart' signs."

So there would be no hi, how have you been? then? Her heart began to race as he began quoting back his own birth chart placements to her like she had all those years ago, a dryness to his tone that she recognized as a Cleander Huxley brand of aggression. He'd never yelled or screamed or been cruel to her all those years ago—just cold, uncaring, unfeeling. Any true anger bottled up and hidden deep in his chest, never to see the light of day around her. It was what had driven her back to Scotland. She would've rather he called her names or told her he never wanted to see her again, or anything that would've allowed her to write him out of her mind and out of her heart.

She hadn't been able to cope with him acting like she was a stranger, like she meant nothing to him.

Except now she thought she detected a hint of bitterness. Maybe just a little. Enough to make her grimace.

"That's not how astrology works and you know that," she admonished, forcing herself to face away from him by turning to place the telescope back where she'd grabbed it from. She didn't want him to be able to analyze her like she'd been analyzing him. Didn't want him to be able to look at her and see the bubble of anger and pain that she'd never been good at hiding. "If you're angry that I'm here—" (She didn't know if here was Astronomy Tower or Hogwarts or even this corner of the globe) "—you can just say that. We're grown now."

Cleander used to know how Astrology worked. He'd even enjoyed learning about it. Anything that Mercy enjoyed, he used to be thrilled about. If Mercy had taken an interest in mid-century carriages, he would have bought a book to learn all he could about them.

As always, Mercy went straight to the point. She had always been the one to talk about the uncomfortable things, force him to talk about his feelings. She was also making him out to be the problem, the unreasonably angry person who was making a fuss and not acting like a grown person. Who was she to talk about acting like grownups, when she judged people based on the location of the stars at one's birth?

"You can do whatever you want with your life, Miss McKinnon," Cleander said coldly. "I just ask that you are more careful. Telescopes are fragile things and I know that you have a propensity for carelessness."

He wasn't even trying to be subtle about it.

If Mercy had dreamed of how a reunion would go between them (and she had dreamed of it, even though she refused to acknowledge it, even to herself) she would've expected him to play dumb. Act like he'd never seen her, maybe steal a glance or two while she was pretending to be looking at anyone other than him. Maybe they would have circled each other around the room, trying to see how they'd changed over the past decade, debated whether or not it was worth saying hello. Mercy would've manufactured a scenario where she had to acknowledge him. Maybe she would've tripped herself over a nearby gentleman's shoe just as she was passing Cleander, forcing her to grab onto his sleeve to steady herself. She'd pretend that she was surprised, that she hadn't noticed him before then. He would be awkward and maybe nervous, but he'd be kind. Because he'd always been kind to her, even when he was angry.

Cleander was not being kind now. He was being bitter and cold and she didn't understand whether it was her employment at Hogwarts or her existence that led him to treat her this way. Had he continued to resent her all these years?

"I know how to handle a telescope," she said, a little sadly though she tried to hide it. She told herself she was sad that her career at Hogwarts would begin with someone who already disliked her—not that she was sad because it was he who so obviously disliked her. "If it broke, it would be due to its own fragility. They're not meant to fall apart at the barest touch."

When they had first ended things (when Mercy had ended them, he reminded himself) Cleander had been devastated. During those first weeks, he would have done everything to get her back. He had considered where he might have been at fault. How indeed, he was unable to express his emotions, he got closed off whenever a discussion from the heart was needed.

He hadn't allowed himself to feel the true extent of the pain that their separation had caused him. He told himself that it was foolish to get so worked up on a woman he was merely courting. They had not even been engaged to be married. People ended courtships all the time. That was the whole point of a courtship, to see if two people made a good match.

He had also told himself that Mercy McKinnon was simply not the one. Maybe the stars were right and there was a woman far more suitable to him out there. Except, any attempt at meeting other women had failed. He'd made many lovely and beautiful and smart women over the last decade, but they had never filled his heart the way Mercy had. He couldn't help but compare these women to Mercy. Soon, he just accepted that he'd never be able to feel love again.

Her words only agitated him more. That was Mercy, causing pain and then blaming others for hurting as a result of her actions! She was selfish, so selfish and Cleander hated her for it, and he also hated himself for being unable to hate her, truly and fully. He wanted to hate her, to despise her, to not care at all about her. Anything but this bitter yearning.

"That's very convenient, isn't it? It is the telescope's fault if it breaks, not your carelessness. For you it may be the barest touch to throw it on the ground and stomp on it." This was the most he could do at expressing his emotions, using telescope metaphors. He cringed at himself for even being that vulnerable. He wished he could turn his feelings off completely, go on about his day without caring about Mercy or anyone else for that matter.

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