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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.

Where will you fall?

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Queen Victoria was known for putting jackets and dresses on her pups, causing clothing for dogs to become so popular that fashion houses for just dog clothes started popping up all over Paris. — Fox
It would be easy to assume that Evangeline came to the Lady Morgana only to pick fights. That wasn't true at all. They also had very good biscuits.
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I'll back myself into this corner
October 28, 1893 — Oz & Sina's New House in Mayfair, London

Come at once. I need you, said the letter he'd sent to his brother that morning. The only real urgency in the request was his own impatience, but it certainly felt pressing enough to Oz. After parting ways with Sophia on Wednesday night he had been expecting an owl admitting that he was right, and perhaps apologizing for their argument, and probably pleading for help — which he would, of course, gladly swoop in to deliver. He'd kept an eye on the windows for the remainder of Wednesday night, and when he'd gone to bed without a letter he'd cursed her for being stubborn. When Thursday had likewise brought no mail — none from her, anyway; as the expectant Minister Oz was receiving more daily mail than he had at any previous point in his life — he'd revised his assessment and cursed her pride instead. When Friday still brought no sign that she intended to change her mind, he'd began to actually worry. By Saturday mid-morning he was desperate enough to summon Endymion for help.

They'd only bought this house this week, and the staff was still bustling about unpacking and arranging things when Endymion arrived. "Come on, let's get out of here before my wife sees you," he said, practically dragging Endymion into the downstairs study (which currently contained mostly empty shelves and a too-large desk that had been pulled from some forgotten storage nook at the Galway estate). "She'll insist on giving you a tour and I don't have time for that nonsense." When they got into the study he turned his attention to pouring them each a drink — and nevermind how early it was — but to his irritation none of the glassware or liquor that ought to have been in this room had been unpacked yet. He rang for a servant and asked them to fetch something stronger than tea (probably best to avoid specifics; whatever they found first would do) and then turned his attention back to his brother.

He might not have had a drink to hand, but he did have a few cigarettes left, he realized. He'd mostly smoked cigarettes with Sophia, and now presumably he'd have to kick the habit and go back to evening cigars as his only source of tobacco consumption, but he didn't have to kick the habit yet. He fished the case out of his jacket and pulled one out, lit it with his wand, and put the case back without offering any to Endymion. He paced to the chair behind the desk and leaned his elbows on the back of it as he took the first drag. "I need you to negotiate terms for me," Oz said, as seriously as though he were about to ask Endymion to be his second for a duel. "With the London ballet's prima ballerina, Sophia Voss."
Endymion Dempsey Elias Grimstone

The following 1 user Likes Ozymandias Dempsey's post:
   Endymion Dempsey

MJ is the light of my life <3
Endymion might have mistaken the tone of that note for a missive of seduction if he had been in the habit of receiving such letters, and if it had not actually been from his brother. He still wasn’t sure he believed the summons were intended for him – he was rarely ever needed urgently for anything (even at Gringotts, which said unfortunate things for his career), and Oz was the next Minister, so could presumably ask anything he liked of anyone at all – but he was curious and confused enough to oblige it.

His confusion did not ebb when he was dragged into a rather bare-looking study. Having only just breakfasted, himself, he felt no real urgency about the drink or desire for a cigarette, but he did feel a little nonplussed for being here without the least idea of why.

Of course – in classic Ozymandias fashion – his brother’s explanation only muddied the waters. Negotiate terms with a prima ballerina?

“Do you ever suppose I might have something else to do with my days than run about on strange errands for you?” Endymion said plaintively – but he sighed nevertheless, because he was sure he would give in. Because there was something obviously off about Oz today – and when Oz was vexed by something he was very good at making it everyone else’s problem, one way or another.

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   Ozymandias Dempsey, Thomasina Dempsey

Oz scoffed. "Like what?" Perhaps at some point, if his anxiety over this issue continued to rise, he'd be too distracted to spare time to casually belittle his brother, but evidently they hadn't reached that threshold yet. And the idea that Endymion had anything important to do with his days was laughable, really. It was especially laughable when he was talking to Oz, who was not exactly drowning in free time since the election results had been announced. (It wouldn't be getting any better in the near-term, either — Mrs. Ainsworth had already written and asked what time he planned to arrive at and leave the office on a typical day so that she could schedule his meetings appropriately. Oz hadn't had to commit to being in a specific place at a specific time since Hogwarts classes, and did not much care for the idea of it being a regular occurrence moving forward).

"This is serious," he continued, and took another hasty drag of the cigarette. "She's going to ruin her life, and I don't know if she intends to ruin everyone else's in the process but she's certainly on track for it, and someone has to stop her." He did not exactly believe that Endymion was the best suited to make the case on his behalf, but he couldn't go himself. She probably would have refused to see him, he thought, even if he could find enough time to sneak away and try to convince her. And he couldn't write; from this moment forward any physical artifact that tied the two of them together, every letter he'd written or glass he'd drank from in her dressing room or clothing item he'd discarded, was evidence that might come back to haunt him — it wasn't worth the risk to go creating more of it.

He'd forgotten to lock the door, he realized. The last thing he needed was Thomasina bursting in, so he paused here and paced over to the door to turn the key and pocket it. "You'll be able to find her after any of the ballet performances. I'll have the manager get you backstage. I want you to tell her I'm prepared to compromise," he said. The word compromise felt thick in his mouth; his expression looked as though he'd swallowed something distasteful. "But that there will be conditions."

MJ is the light of my life <3
Oh, this was serious. Everything always seemed to be with his brother. (Endymion rather thought that a problem with his general outlook on life, but he supposed it did inject a little melodrama into everything.)

A prima ballerina was going to ruin her life, and apparently everyone else’s, and Endymion tried to conceptualise what on earth that could possibly entail and – in a few long seconds – came up adrift. But someone had to stop her! You might have called in the hit wizards, then, he might have put in, if he were not trying to be amenable. (He would not – could not – judge until he knew what in Merlin’s name was going on, after all.)

“You would like me to go accost a ballerina backstage, tell her that you’re prepared to compromise – on who-knows-what – and deliver your conditions?” Endymion echoed, eyebrows raised. “And if she doesn’t acquiesce? What then, shall I challenge her to a duel for you?”

By that, he mostly meant, exasperated: please tell me what’s really going on.

A prima ballerina was an artiste, though, was she not? And Oz had been a patron of the ballet for as long as he had asked about sending those flowers after the misunderstanding – oh dear, was this about his mistress again? (Had he really had the same mistress for that long? More than a year; that was impressive for Oz, to pay attention to any one thing for so long. Endymion had not much hope for the fate of the country.)

Hang on: hadn’t he sent those flowers last year to break things off?

His mouth had fallen open without him realising. Endymion thought he had actually figured things out for a moment there – but it seemed he had just succeeding in confusing himself the more.

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   Ozymandias Dempsey

Oz had forgotten how little context Endymion had up until he said on who knows what. Of course, Ozymandias hadn't launched into a full explanation of the situation, but part of him felt like he shouldn't have had to. Didn't Endymion notice anything? Merlin, he had to know Oz had been fucking Sophia Voss for over a year, or he had to be willfully ignorant of the fact. He knew Oz was one of patrons of the London Ballet (he had to know at least that much, didn't he? Where did he suppose the tickets came from for the occasions when Endymion had been invited along for a performance, and why did he think Oz always had the same box and was treated so deferentially by the front of house staff?) From there it was hardly a leap to the obvious. Why would Oz be investing this much money in the London Ballet if he weren't having an affair with one of the ballerinas? He had never professed any special love of the art form before. And Endymion even knew which ballerina, because he'd helped with the flowers last year. Granted, those flowers had been sent to put an end to things — but even Endymion, inexperienced as he apparently was in matters of the heart, had to know that arguments seldom ended the way people thought they were going to when they began. Come on, Endymion, honestly. Keep up.

Of course, Endymion couldn't be expected to know the nuances of the situation — couldn't be expected to know how he felt about Sophia or how his feelings for her had developed over time into something rather more than a casual affair — but he also didn't have to know any of that to grasp the particulars of the situation. It should all have been quite obvious from Oz's opening statement: negotiating terms with the prima ballerina. Endymion didn't have to suspect his brother of having any depth of sentiment at all in order to put those puzzle pieces together — and indeed, for their purposes today it was probably best that he didn't, and he continued to think Ozymandias utterly incapable of anything approaching romantic sentiment.

"If you like," he drawled, barely resisting the urge to roll his eyes. "If the matter isn't resolved it'll be her bastard challenging you for control of the estate, someday." Not that Oz intended to let it get to that, obviously; that was the whole point of handling the situation now, so that the fallout didn't haunt all of them for years to come. The short-term ramifications might have been entirely on his own head (or rather, his and Thomasina's — he wasn't sure if the distinction was useful at this point or not) but the long-term ones would be on the lot of them, and Endymion and his eventual children more than most.

Oh, Merlin's beard, Ozymandias thought, as it occurred to him that perhaps Endymion hadn't put that together, either. Oz had been planning to leave the estate to whoever Endymion's heir was since he was seventeen and had sworn off children — and unlike many of the proclamations he had made at seventeen about how his life would play out and the resolutions he would keep to, this one had stuck rather than fading into the realm of teen folly. He thought everyone probably knew by now, six years into his marriage with Thomasina, that Oz never intended to have children — but Endymion couldn't connect the dots from negotiating to mistress and come up with bastard, so maybe he hadn't pieced that one out yet, either.

That really wasn't the conversation he was trying to have at the moment, though. Oz took a long breath as though to reset the moment, then took another drag of the cigarette. He considered opening a window to disperse the smoke, but considered the (admittedly farfetched) possibility of being overheard by someone lurking in the garden and thought better of it. "I could have gotten anyone to accost her," he said in a level tone. "I need you to convince her."

MJ is the light of my life <3
Endymion blinked.

By the time Oz had finished lecturing him, Endymion had at least confirmed that he’d been right about Oz still seeing the ballerina after all this time. That was no comfort at all, of course, and he might have furrowed his brow and tried to chastise him for the affair again, if he hadn’t been dumbstruck by a multitude of other things in that little speech.

Control of the estate – that had stunned him viscerally enough, because – well, it would go to Oz, of course. That had always been so, and the responsibility never would have gone to him so – so Endymion had never much considered where it would go afterwards. He did want children one day, if he ever found the perfect wife – and, yes, he supposed Oz hadn’t had any children of his own yet, and he had never felt the need to interrogate that, because, well, that was Oz’s own business.

Should be Oz’s own business, but here he was. Making it Endymion’s problem too. He heard, vaguely, the correction about being the one to convince her towards a compromise, but there was a ringing white noise in his ears and the world felt a little like it was spinning, and right now he wanted more than anything to back out of the room and not stop until he had crawled back into his bed and started the day again, preferably in a less disastrous way.

“Her bastard,” he repeated, aghast. Your bastard.” This was – too much, and too far, and Endymion wished, fervently, that he could erase the last minute from his mind and not have to know about this. “Are you – that monumentally stupid?” he exclaimed, pressing his hands to his face and then raking them fretfully through his hair to prevent himself from trying to – box Oz’s ears, or something. “I can’t believe you,” he muttered.

He had never even thought his brother capable of being stupid. A nuisance, certainly; ridiculous, always. But so idiotic as to threaten ruining, well – everything? (The family lineage, apparently, as he’d said; things with Sina, no doubt, because how could she stand for this?; and even his public position, with so untimely a scandal?) Never. No, Endymion had most always been happy to believe that Oz was the cleverest person in a room: but he was just as foolhardy and morally vacuous as his old friends after all, wasn’t he? Just happy to strew devastation in his wake wherever he pleased.

Oz grit his teeth. He had expected some degree of moralizing from Endymion — Endymion, after all, had started moralizing at just the suggestion that Oz was going to buy a mistress flowers, and this was rather more serious than that. Still, being called monumentally stupid was hyperbolic and unfair. Yes, Oz would readily admit, he had made a stupid mistake — or rather, he and Sophia had jointly made a stupid mistake, since he had hardly conceived the child in isolation. But he'd hardly thought one slightly sloppy finish to a tryst would lead him here, and it wasn't as though he'd planned it when he'd gone to see her that night. He'd been under a lot of pressure the past few months, or had Endymion maybe missed that he'd just been elected Minister of Magic? So he ought to have been allowed to let his guard down once, he thought — if there were anything like cosmic justice in the world, it would have been allowed. And even if there had been consequences, it should not have ended up with him here, not speaking to Sophia and fretfully wondering when she would see sense and change her mind. How was he supposed to have known that at the first sign of pregnancy, this otherwise rational and intelligent woman would lose even the slightest trace of good sense?

"I'm not stupid," he ground out. "Locklyn is stupid, and that's why I wrote to you to help." Locklyn with his cadre of bastards living in his home, Locklyn who had had a more front-row seat to Ozymandias' relationship with Sophia than probably anyone else — Oz did not trust Locklyn not to take Soph's side in this issue, even though her side was insane. There was no future where she kept the child and was happy, and someone needed to point that out to her. If she wouldn't listen to him, then maybe Endymion could make the case in a sufficiently empathetic way that she would hear him.

MJ is the light of my life <3
Maybe not quite so foolhardy as his friends, then, if Oz was still protesting he was smarter than Locklyn. It was – and Endymion never would have said this aloud, and felt mildly stricken to even think it – not a particularly high standard to meet. But he supposed it was something.

It hadn’t lessened Endymion’s exasperation any, or his feeling of grand old helplessness – this was a rather large issue to grapple with any morning, and rather more serious than he’d expected Oz to share with him – but he did his best to keep riddling out the crux of the issue in spite of it. “She’s your mistress,” Endymion ventured eventually, “and it’s –” this was harder to say, “your child...” And if Oz was asking him to be an intermediary, and was willing to compromise (from his brother, that sounded as good as a surrender), then... “But, what – she won’t listen to you? Surely Oz, Oz who had persuaded half the country to vote him into the Ministry, could persuade his mistress of anything he pleased. “What did you ask of her, that she won’t do?”

Ozymandias felt this was another thing he shouldn't have to actually say, but clearly Endymion had never been in this situation before. Oz shrugged irritably, as though Endymion had asked him a question that was entirely besides the point and he was annoyed by the diversion. "Get rid of it, of course. And I'm not sure she won't — it's the only logical thing to do, obviously." Obvious to him, at any rate. He was not entirely sure what his brother's stance on illegal abortion potions was, but given Endymion's stance on everything else it was probably an impractical and sanctimonious one. "She's a widow with two children to support, and on indifferent terms with her family. If she doesn't she'll lose her career and end up destitute on the street. But she has decided to be cross with me for pointing this out."

He took another drag of his cigarette and waved his hand to dissipate the smoke that was clouding around his head. "She'd come around to it eventually, I think, without me — or you — doing anything. But as you might imagine I would prefer to have this handled soon, and she's being rather — uncooperative, on that point."

MJ is the light of my life <3
Certainly Endymion had not had to fathom such a situation as this before, in his own life. He hadn’t a tendency to throw himself into physical relationships very often – he would not have dreamed of acting the cad with a respectable debutante, and had no inclination to strike up sexual relations with strangers (unearthly-attractive-female-beings occasionally excluded); and even in the few briefly-consuming affairs he had had, any illusion of love had not lasted more than a few months. Besides, if anything had occurred, he would have always offered to marry her, social standing be damned.

But Oz was already married, so obviously lacked the honourable option here. (Not that Endymion expected his brother to ever have taken the honourable path unless pressed, but.) His face fell in considerable distaste as the remaining options were (bluntly) stated; get rid of it. (Endymion was not sure that he would have the mettle to repeat that, so callous did it sound.)

But the ballerina’s position was clearly precarious, even to Endymion’s eyes, so he continued frowning. If she had children already, perhaps she would find it harder to give up this one – but if she did not get rid of the child then she would lose her career, her livelihood. Merlin, this was a mess. He didn’t like it. He didn’t like it at all.

(He did not much like hearing about Oz’s hypothetical bastard and the Dempsey estate in the same breath either, but that felt similarly mercenary to admit.)

“You mentioned a – compromise,” Endymion repeated, his thoughts faltering through ways this might play out (and sputtering out more than a time or two on the possibility of Thomasina finding out and possibly burning the theatre to the ground). “What would be your compromise? And your conditions?”

"I want the child out of England," Oz said simply. "And I'm willing to give her just about anything she demands to make that happen. I want her abroad while she's pregnant, and then — " And then he wanted to never hear about it again, but he was too cynical to leave it just at that; there had to be specific conditions negotiated in order for him to stay secure. "— she can stay abroad with it for at least two years, or she can return without it. I don't much care which. If the child comes back to England it would have to be with a cover story — a ward, an orphan cousin, that sort of thing — that leaves me well clear of it."

That seemed good enough, to his mind; if she chose to keep the child with her and return to England, she would only be endangering herself. People were always likely to raise an eyebrow at an unmarried woman running around with a 'ward' of unverifiable parentage, but if this was happening two years in the future no one would remember that he'd once been her lover; no one would care to drag him into the middle of it if he had no current ties to the situation.

"I'm willing to pay for the entire thing," he continued. He'd probably be able to cover the difference just by cutting his patronage of the ballet, honestly, but between his personal income from past inventions, his salary as the Minister of Magic, and the generational wealth of the Dempsey estate he was hardly pressed for funds. "The travel, room and board for her and her children, everything. For as long as she stays abroad, certainly, and if she ends up giving the child to an orphanage and coming back sooner we can work out suitable terms to ensure she's fairly compensated," he said. Personally, Oz would be willing to pay a premium for the knowledge that the child was in a foreign orphanage and unlike to be tied to either of them ever again, but he suspected Endymion would disapprove of that sentiment, so didn't voice it.

"Oh," he added, almost an afterthought. "And if she has any mementos, letters, that sort of thing — I need those returned so that I can destroy them. Obviously."

MJ is the light of my life <3
Endymion sucked in a breath, doing his best to conceptualise all this. Of the options, of course getting rid of it would be the surest and most heartless – but sending her abruptly abroad was no small thing, either. It was – either way – rather a lot to ask of someone. He rather hated Oz for having put her in the position at all; and the ballerina may be partly to blame for the whole mess, herself, but he knew his brother well enough to feel quite secure in blaming him. Ozy had never seemed particularly capable of exercising self-restraint where there was something he wanted.

And the compassion he might be extending her (in the generous compensation, in allowing her to keep the child if she chose) felt heartless in its own way, as ruthless as it did humane. Endymion was... struggling to keep up with the matter-of-factness of this conversation, of talk about cover stories and the destruction of evidence. Oz had had longer to digest all this, he was sure. Had obviously moved on from an emotional response to a practical one.

So this was perhaps not relevant to the outcome of anything, except perhaps Endymion’s participation (complicity?) in all this, but he had a burning need to know that there was some emotion buried in his brother about this. Something, somewhere. He could not be this cool and composed to his core, could he? “But you care about her. You do care for her, don’t you?” This was hard for Oz, right? This wasn’t – just business to be dealt with, surely. This oughtn’t be easy for him, either.

(Endymion would have said love if he had dared, but he knew better: he was certain he would only get defence and mockery in return for that presumption.)

Oz stopped at the question; sighed. Endymion was always a romantic, even at the worst moments for it — the Dempsey curse. Oz sometimes felt as though he was the only one who had escaped their upbringing without an unhealthy obsession with romance or Romance, one of the two. It was a pointless question to ask at this juncture, because the answer didn't change anything. Hopefully Endymion was asking for some sort of personal moral reason, some burning need to know, rather than the belief that it would change anything. Oz had given up on the idea that he would be able to entreat Sophia to his side of the issue with pretty words, and he didn't want to have to backtrack through it all and convince Endymion of the fact, too.

"Does it matter?" he remarked listlessly. The truth was yes, he did care about her, but he didn't think it helped anyone — himself first and foremost, of course — to admit it now. He crossed to the desk and stubbed the cigarette out in an ashtray, then leaned on his side of the desk with both hands, shoulders tense. "I told her I'd look after her, and protect her, and she could get rid of it and nothing would change between us, and she told me to go back to my wife." So that just about closed the book on caring for one another, as far as he was concerned. He had been fully prepared, in the days after their argument, to make the same promise again and again if she would see reason and compromise — but it had been long enough now that it seemed imprudent to continue hoping she would come around. Go back to you wife she had said, so what did it matter if he cared for her now?

MJ is the light of my life <3
Yes, it did matter, but Endymion was even more sure that the answer to the question was yes. Oz had sighed, not scoffed at the question – he sounded at his wits’ end about this – and he had clearly devoted excesses of time and thought and energy to her situation, but Endymion was convinced he cared about how his paramour came out of it too. He may not care about the child – but, beneath all the businesslike conditions, he must care deeply about her.

Because he seemed almost hurt about what his ballerina had said to him, about going back to his wife. (But weren’t Oz and Sina happy together, in their inexplicable, obscene way?) Or Endymion was – letting his imagination run away with him, here.

He considered that the more he thought about it, the more nonplussed he became by it. He never would understand his brother.

I don’t like this, Endymion wanted to say, plaintive. I don’t want to be involved.

But he was less worried about his own feelings in this than everyone else’s – Oz’, and his ballerina mistress’, and Sina’s if she ever found out. So – maybe he would suffer through his doubts and try to be of some use.

“I suppose not,” he sighed.

There was something a little depressing in having Endymion agree with him. Endymion was always one for sentiment, so if he was agreeing it didn't much matter at this point then the affair was well and truly dead. And Oz had known that already, obviously, based on the way they'd left things and her lack of correspondence since then — but it did still give him a slight pang to think he would likely never hold Sophia again. He leaned heavily on the back of the desk chair.

"If she does seem as though she might reconsider —" he started, but then cut off mid-sentence when he realized how pitiful he was in danger of sounding. He cast about for somewhere to stub out his cigarette, but of course ashtrays had not been unpacked yet either. With an exasperated grunt he retrieved his cigarette case from his jacket and put the cigarette out against the cool metal side, then left the case and the trash both on top of the otherwise empty desk.

"I'm sorry we don't have anything to drink," he said. "Disgraceful hosting — probably the state of things for the foreseeable, with Thomasina running the household. I don't know how it could possibly take them this long to find some brandy, whatever the state of the kitchen."

MJ is the light of my life <3

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