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Welcome to Charming, the year is now 1894. It’s time to join us and immerse yourself in scandal and drama interlaced with magic both light and dark.

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It’s quite unusual for a caster's patronus to be their favourite animal, but very possible that it will take the shape of a creature they’ve never before seen or heard of. — Amy
As he fell, Ford recalled the trials of Gulliver during his interactions with the Lilliputians.
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#33
Ford frowned. Cash saying he'd been worse meant nothing in the grand scheme of things — at one point he had been unfathomably low, the sort of mental state people didn't usually survive. Saying he was doing better than that was saying nothing at all. So he'd been better, and he was snapping at Ford over nothing. The difficult thing was that Ford wasn't even properly sure whose death had caused this particular mood. There were three Lestranges (or nee Lestranges) in the death notices, but the newspaper hadn't listed everyone who had been injured, and Cash might just as easily have been upset about one of those. Or someone who he'd been close to that Ford had never realized. A year ago, after all, Cash had announced he was getting married to a girl he'd never spoken to Ford about even once, and apparently had decided to do so in order to protect a man he had also never mentioned. It wasn't as though Ford had ever had access to Cash's inner life, and he certainly hadn't had it in the past few months since they had tentatively rekindled their friendship.

"Your sister-in-law?" he guessed (and felt a little lousy for having to guess, but that was the state of things, wasn't it?) "Were you two — close?"




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#34
Cash exhaled, and looked down at his empty palm. ”We were very close when we were children,” he said. It was a fact much of his family knew, but it was still odd to say it — like admitting that he was grieving meant admitting a vulnerability.

”Less, after, but — still,” he added. She was not Angie, had not been Eli, was not Ford or Theo — Ellory was not privy to Cash’s inner world or secrets. But that did not mean that he had not loved her.

I was with her, he wanted to say, but could not manage. Cash swallowed.






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#35
Ford watched Cash while he responded, then nodded. "Still," he echoed. It was enough to have been close when you were children, he thought; losing someone in that sense was like losing a whole chapter of your history. All of the memories may have still been there, sure, but they were all tainted from this moment forward with the knowledge that things would never be that way again. They were changed.

After was a loaded term. Ford could guess at what Cash meant, but that was an interesting distinction. Someone he loved having died did not necessitate all of his other relationships changing... but maybe it did, depending on how Cash had handled his feelings in the immediate aftermath. They hadn't really ever talked about that period of his life; when they'd been having regular weekly chats, their conversations had mostly focused on the present. And not even the entire present, since Cash had still had a whole swath of secrets.

"I'm sorry," he said, and although that was probably something dozens of people had said already Ford tried to put as much sincerity into it as possible.




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#36
Cash shrugged. People kept telling him they were sorry; his family kept trying to look at him. He did not like it. Ellory was dead and he had loved her and he did not think that he wanted to join her — but he would not have left small children in his place if he had.

”I’m sorry for what I said,” Cash blurted, ”About other people’s opinions.” Ford did care too much what other people thought — but as he’d once drunkenly told Cash, he was out of money. Cash would probably care too much if that was the case for him, too.






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#37
Ford wrinkled his brow. He wasn't sure what to make of that. When had Cash said something about other people's opinions? He scanned his memories for any obvious things Cash might have been referencing and came up empty.

"Huh?" he asked, quirking an eyebrow.




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#38
Cash furrowed his eyebrows at Ford. "Ten minutes ago?" he said, hoping to prompt Ford's memory. Ford was being weird. But where had the rock from Cash's hand gone?





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#39
Ten minutes ago significantly narrowed down the amount of conversations Ford had to mentally sift through to figure out what Cash was talking about, but it didn't help in the slightest. Had they even been talking for ten minutes? Maybe just. Everything they'd said up at the market proper had just been small talk though; just the sort of stuff they said to fill the air while they navigated away from everyone else's ears where they could really talk. Certainly Ford would have remembered if Cash had said anything up there worth apologizing for.

"No," he said deliberately, brow furrowed. "I don't remember you saying anything about other people's opinions."




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#40
That wasn't possible. Cash pulled his pocket watch out and looked at the time; that also was not possible, as they had surely been here longer than the time indicated. "What about — the Halloween masque?" Cash asked. They'd talked about that before the phrase Ford kept repeating.





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#41
This was such an abrupt change of subject that Ford practically had whiplash. "The one on the Saturday before Halloween? Sure. I mean, I guess." He wasn't exactly clear what Cash was asking, which meant maybe he was missing something. He remembered being invited to the event, but he didn't recall any reasons why Cash would have cared about it. He didn't think they'd ever talked about it, but Cash had asked as though it mattered.

"Are you okay?" he asked, glancing from Cash's pocket watch to his face. Why had he suddenly checked the time?




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#42
Ford didn't remember discussing the masque, and Cash was certain they had — just as certain as he was that Ford had good reason to be upset with him.

Cash looked back up. "Of course I am," he said, with an entirely feigned sense of bravado. "We didn't grab anything to drink on the way here, did we?" Maybe they had been dosed with something.





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#43
"Er... no," Ford said. Cash was being weird enough that it had him a bit off-balance. They would have both remembered stopping for a drink, of course — this was an odd question indeed.

"Is there... something else on your mind?" he tried. Cash had said he was alright, and Ford wasn't buying it, but he couldn't just repeat the question and hope for a different answer. "Besides your sister-in-law?"




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#44
Cash furrowed his eyebrows. "Something's wrong," he said, to Ford's question. Maybe that wasn't an answer, or it wasn't the answer he meant to give — but it was right. "We keep — repeating ourselves." How many times had Ford tossed that same rock, after all?





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#45
Ford's brow furrowed again. This was another strange thing to say, and a slightly more concerning one than Cash checking his watch and looking vaguely suspicious, or asking whether they'd gotten a drink. Something's wrong. Ford thought he agreed with that, but what Cash said next was harder to follow.

"... is this, like, a metaphor?" he asked after a moment. Repeating themselves, like they were making the same mistakes over again or they were going in circles? Small talk always felt like going in circles, but Ford had been trying to be more genuine, just now when he'd been asking about Cash's cousin, so it didn't exactly make sense. Whatever Cash was referring to, though, it was almost certainly a bad sign if he thought they were repeating themselves.




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#46
Cash's frown deepened. "You really don't remember?" he asked. He wasn't losing it, was he? But he felt grounded, and he knew where he was, and his heartbeat hadn't quickened with anxiety at any point. But if it wasn't Cash, that meant there was something wrong with Ford.

"Are you sure you're alright?"





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#47
"Me?" Ford asked in surprise. He was used to being the one always worrying about Cash's mental health and emotional wellbeing; it was odd to have the tables turned on him when Cash was the one grieving family members and acting weird and making strange comments about repeating themselves. When was the last time Cash had actually asked how Ford was doing? Really asked, not just in the superficial way people asked when they were saying hello. Not since they'd reconnected, Ford didn't think. He thought about when Cash had pulled him off to a private room at Black's and told him he had to be careful what he said, back when he'd been seeing Macnair. Was that the last time they'd actually talked about Ford's feelings? And even that wasn't something that Cash had sought out; Ford had made the comment (though now he didn't even remember what it had been), and Cash had just reacted to it.

So this was weird, and left him feeling off-balance. And was Ford sure he was alright? Not particularly — he had two new cousins to look after and he was running thin on likely Wellingtonshire addresses to burgle and neither Clem nor Grace were making any degree of progress towards marriage. But Ford wasn't going to say anything about any of that, because they didn't talk about his shit in conversations like these.

"If this is about that night I stopped by your house —" he began — because it had to be, he'd decided; there was nothing else that would have made Cash ask if he was alright. But fine, okay, that had been weird and he'd been acting weird but now he had some distance from it and could come up with better excuses, even if they were lies. "That was just —"

Ford glanced at the stone in his hand, struck by the feeling that he'd been just in the middle of saying something, but he couldn't think of what. "We don't have to talk about it," he said, with a shrug — if it was important it would come back to him. "But we should talk about something."




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#48
Cash had finally felt as if Ford was going to say something real, because he'd mentioned the weird night when he'd shown up at Cash's house with no warning. Cash was really hanging on the outcome of this, because maybe it would finally be something that would break the pattern of this conversation — Ford finally telling him something real.

And then Ford just repeated himself. He looked, disbelievingly, at his friend, resigned shock all over his face. "One minute," Cash said, and — not knowing what else to do — sprinted for the lake.


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