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Catherine Smith for Percival Adlard Jr..
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Boys Like You
September 13, 1889 - A Fundraising Banquet in London | set at the same time as THIS THREAD

Momma said there'd be boys like you
Tearing my heart in two, doing what you do, best
Taking me for a ride, telling me pretty little lies
But with you, I can't resist

The end of the Season was looming like a dark storm only a little ways off in the distance. Every evening at supper her father made a point of mentioning the potential matches he had found on her behalf, each more decrepit and repulsive than the last. If it were at all possible for her to disappear from these meals - from the ever so grim glimpse of her future - Melody would vanish on the spot. However, as it stood she would be married before Dorothy debuted or she would be on her own. There were no other favorable options.

The event tonight proved rather hopeless in terms of finding a new match. The most eligible bachelors had already been snatched by the women much more eager to wed than she. It was in moments like these, as she stood in relative silence besides Mrs. Bradley watching the fireworks explode in the sky, that she cursed Ben's interference in her life the most. Had he not charmed his way into her heart, she might be married to someone desirable. Melody might even have been able to convince her husband to allow her to start a library collection worth having. She certainly would not have wasted years pining for someone who very obviously never felt the same.

Their conversation at the quidditch after party two weeks ago still stung to think about. Drunk as he was, it was clear Ben was speaking from his heart - or lack of it. Melody was the naive little rich girl who knew nothing of reality, and he was the dreamy man far too unsuitable to be obtainable. She should've known better. "We should return home." She directed to her chaperone, not caring to see the last of the dazzling display. The fireworks were doing little to cheer her mood, and Melody was suddenly exhausted.

The pair made it only a few steps before the chaos began. Melody froze as she turned to see swarms of fiery flies racing towards the guests. How could anyone have thought enchanting the ash of the firework to become anything but that was astounding to her. There was too much delicate magic to manage in the explosion, a single wand movement too far out of the range and this was precisely the result. She turned to gauge her chaperone's reaction but Mrs. Bradley had already fled, her apparent fear of fire greater than her responsibility to her ward.

Melody was unaware of the swarm of flies moving towards her when someone grabbed her hand and pulled her into a run down shed. After quickly snatching her hand back from her savior and casting a quick lumos, she turned to greet her would be champion only to freeze once more. "Perfect." She greeted flatly, her talk of gratitude dying on her tongue. "It's you."

Beautiful set credit goes to MJ
[Image: rVeL1F.png]
Tonight was one of those nights where Ben didn't like his job. He'd been invited half because of his own personality and his acquaintance with the host, but half because they were stocking the cocktail bar with his booze — which meant the bartender kept running over to ask him questions and ruining the flow of his conversations. He'd had two pretty girls ushered away by their friends when he was busy talking to the waitstaff. It wasn't a good look, talking shop with the serving crew. And what was so damn hard about making drinks, anyway? The bottles were labeled. The hosts had paid for more than enough to see the entire party entirely sloshed. Just grab the right bottle and pour. What questions could you possibly have about that?

Plenty, it seemed. Ben was almost looking forward to the party being over, just so that he could put this night behind him. He made his way to the far edge of the crowd for the fireworks display (as far away from the bar as possible) — which, conveniently, meant that he was able to get out of the way when tiny beads of fire started swarming the guests. Since he was near where the fire had emerged from, he liked his chances hiding better than running — even though the shed he chose to duck inside was definitely made of wooden walls, and therefore most likely flammable.

The fires were small, though, and they didn't seem to have found a way to light the thick wooden walls up yet. At the very least, it was a safe place to hide while the hosts brainstormed some sort of magical fix and came to their rescue (which, hopefully, at least one of them still had the brains and sobriety to do).

Ben wasn't exactly the picture of chivalry, but when there was fire raining from the sky, he would hardly let someone walk by when he had the opportunity to shelter them. When he turned to shut the door and saw a girl outside, then, he reached out without hesitation, realizing only as he touched her arm who the girl was. She wasn't far behind him, and had the gall to act offended that he'd just saved her from being burned alive.

"It's me," he confirmed dryly. "But if you'd rather chance it outside, Princess, by all means, be my guest."

Set credit to MJ! <3
Two remarks from him and Melody was already considering fleeing and taking her chances with the fiery swarms outside. The hostess had to have some sort of plan for this, right? No one in their right mind would arrange for such an elaborate charm without a plan for when it went wrong. With any luck, it would only be a few minutes before the flies would be dealt with. She could survive for that brief interval.

She opened the door just enough to peek outside before promptly shutting and leaning against it. The flies were everywhere, and she was pretty certain that the screams they could hear were not out of fear but of pain. Melody might've been confident that she could survive a minute or two without being burned, but she certainly couldn't withstand that many flies for long. No. They were definitely trapped for the time being.

"Stay over there." She ordered as she moved to be further opposite him. "And be quiet." Everything that needed to be aired between them had already been said and dealt with. They would occupy the same space in silence and then when they were freed she would never so much as glance in his direction. Ben made an utter fool of her. He wouldn't be afforded a second chance.

Beautiful set credit goes to MJ
[Image: rVeL1F.png]
Ben wasn't exactly sure what she was implying by her choice of warnings, but he was offended by it all the same. What danger was there in the two of them standing close to each other, or of him talking? Did she think he was going to try and pull a move on her, after she'd made it quite clear already that she wanted nothing to do with him? He wasn't an animal — and if she thought she was just so irresistible that he would be overcome with emotion just by the scent of her hair, or something, she could probably benefit from a little ego check. He didn't even think about her all that often anymore, really — despite what he'd told her the last time they'd run into each other, when he'd had a bit too much to drink and had misplaced his common sense.

"Be quiet?" he asked incredulously, crossing his arms and leaning against the dusty wooden wall. "What, you think the fire is going to hear us?"

Set credit to MJ! <3
"No. I'll hear you, and you've already made your thoughts of me apparent enough." She snapped quickly. Somehow, Ben had devolved her into some foolish, naive girl who sought an unachievable happily ever after at every opportunity. He had taken something that she believed to be meaningful - that she had spent years pining for - and destroyed it. Melody refused to give into his games again. Every time she did it only caused her more pain and frustration.

What did he have to gain from a conversation with her anyway? Ben hadn't seemed the sort to enjoy harsh conversations to her when she knew him last. There was nothing left for him to prove to her; Ben was just the bastard who broke her heart.

Beautiful set credit goes to MJ
[Image: rVeL1F.png]
"My thoughts?" he asked, startled by the direction her accusations had taken. From his perspective, he didn't think he'd done anything wrong here — or at least, not recently. Back when they'd first met and had unwittingly placed him on the road to Canada, maybe, but in their last conversation... well, he'd just been honest with her, and he'd even been nice to her (unless there was some portion of the conversation he wasn't exactly remembering, which was possible), and she was the one who couldn't cope with reality. She had some sort of crazy idea that the two of them were going to live happily ever after, which wasn't going to happen. Not only was it not going to happen, it couldn't happen. That wasn't his fault — it was her nativity that had made her fall in love with an impossible future in the first place.

"You're the one who —" he started, but then cut himself off. Reviving this argument now was not going to do either of them any good. With any luck, they'd only be here another minute or so before someone got the firefly situation under control and let them know the coast was clear.

In the meantime, he shifted his weight with a huff.

Set credit to MJ! <3
"The one who what, Ben?" She heatedly demanded, already forgetting her resolve to ignore him as best she could. What was the point of their relationship back then if he had never envisioned more with her? Why seek her out? Why write letters and charm his way into her heart if not for some greater goal? It couldn't only have been in pursuit of something physical, right?

"The one who was willing to take a leap of faith with you. I'm the one who was willing to sacrifice a pretty decent life for whatever it could've been with you. I'm - I'm the one who stupidly and foolishly fell in love with the man you portrayed yourself to be, and I will never stop regretting the day you walked into my life. You might've been a Gryffindor, but you're the greatest coward I've ever met." Her rant ended with them standing a foot apart. In any other situation, Melody would've realized this with a flood of embarrassment and a long list of apologies. This time, however, she was too furious with him (and herself if she was being honest) to back down.

Beautiful set credit goes to MJ
[Image: rVeL1F.png]
Her rant had his face burning with anger, and he didn't even know where to start responding to it. He knew that he really shouldn't respond to any of it. He should have taken her cue and just stood in sulky silence until they were rescued. It was hard to hold his tongue, though, when her accusations were so totally unfair. Really, they just showcased how delusional she still was, even after time and space should have given her some time to thoughtfully reflect on the situation. She might have thought she could sacrifice a "pretty decent life" for "whatever it could have been," but that wasn't the reality of the situation. Reality was that she didn't have a pretty decent life, she had a god-damned charmed life, compared to most people in the world — and the alternative wasn't some unknown path for the two of them to blaze together, it was nothing. No money, no prestige, no social capital, none of the things she'd grown up taking for granted. And he hadn't ever pretended he could give her any of that, whatever she thought about him misrepresenting himself. She was just too naive to understand exactly what she'd be missing out on — and that wasn't his fault, and it certainly didn't make him a coward.

But if nearly two years hadn't convinced her that her dream of a happily-ever-after with him were founded on nothing but misconceptions and childish fantasies, nothing he could say now was going to convince her of that, either. She could go through life that way, if she pleased, and maybe it would lead her to disaster with some other man if the opportunity arose — but, whatever his other sins may have been, Ben had no intention of seeing her ruined at his hand, particularly when she had no idea what that really meant for her future.

"Yeah, alright, I'm a coward," he responded tensely. "A coward who's going to go chance it with the fireflies now, if you'll excuse me."

He had been a Cursebreaker; he didn't dislike his chances of surviving whatever inferno existed beyond the shed door. At this point, it sounded more pleasant than remaining.

Set credit to MJ! <3
So, that was it then. After everything - after two bloody years of wondering what would've happened it was going to end there. Melody turned to watch him move towards the door, rage boiling within her chest. How dare he! What was the point of flirting? Of the midnight rendezvous? Of any of it?

Before she realized what she was doing she slammed the cracked door shut. "My father is going to marry me off to some old, revolting man come the new year." She told him angrily. "I had from the time I debuted to then to find someone suitable - someone as privileged as me. And I was going to. Even if it wasn't what I desired. Even if it meant never being allowed to pursue any of my interests again." Because, really, what man wanted a wife that was more intelligent than he?

Melody glared at him as she continued, "and then you happened. And everything - everything - was derailed from there. I no longer fit like the perfect society girl I should have been. Your influence on my life caused me to understand why poets dream of love instead of listening to logic. And I despise you for that." Finally, her hand moved and she stepped back from the door. The reality of everything she just spewed at him hitting her faster than the best cast stun. He was never going to understand because he never felt what she did. He was never going to care because everything had existed solely in her head.

Merlin, She really was the naive child he thought her to be.

Beautiful set credit goes to MJ
[Image: rVeL1F.png]
Her interrupting outburst made him feel truly chastised — more so than all of her earlier chiding had done. Ben couldn't have said what was different about this from anything else, but it put things in a different light, somehow. It wasn't that she had been a naive girl when they'd met, the way he'd always assumed she was. It was easy, looking back on their relationship, to blame her ideals, her expectations, and never examine how they had come to be there. But if what she'd just said was true then... this entire thing was his fault. Something that he'd done had set her up with those expectations, and then... well, no wonder she'd been angry when he'd disappointed them all. They were expectations built up around him, not just some childish dream that she'd tried to force him to fit into.

He stood for a moment, too startled by the revelation to know what to say. The anger that he'd felt a moment ago was gone, as though it had just deflated. It was replaced with a feeling of... he wasn't exactly sure. Guilt was definitely a part of it, because she was right — she should have just gone on and had the sort of life her parents had wanted for her, and he had ruined that. Part of it was failure, too — one more thing he had inadvertently ruined — and a bit of ... defeat, he supposed, though he couldn't explain why.

"Are you really getting married next year?" he asked quietly.

Set credit to MJ! <3
Melody stood rooted in place with her thoughts racing as she awaited his departure. Despite how horribly the encounter had gone, when they first ran into one another again this summer a small spark of hope had blossomed inside her chest. She would never have admitted to it aloud - would sooner say 'I do' to whatever man her father chose - but it was there. He always chose the most opportune moments to crash into her like a tidal wave. Somehow or another, Ben always managed to wreck her heart when it was at its most vulnerable.

Except, this time, he didn't leave. He wasn't forced out of the country by her father and his brothers. Yet another small fleck of hope bloomed within her, like a single snowflake on a cloudy day just waiting to melt. Melody folded her arms tight around herself. Perhaps, this time there was a chance. She might've been a foolish girl with an unrequited love, but maybe it would end in her favor this time.

"Yes. My father hopes to have me out of his hair by the end of February." The bastard was already searching for a potential husband despite Melody having three more months to find one herself.

Beautiful set credit goes to MJ
[Image: rVeL1F.png]
Whatever clothes he wore or whatever expensive food or drink he indulged in, Ben would never truly understand the upper crust of society. Out of his hair. How could someone think something so cold and unfeeling about such a bright, passionate, interesting young woman as Melody Finch? Particularly, how could her family think that of her and still call themselves family?

Maybe that was what he'd unintentionally conveyed to her: a sense that things didn't have to be that way. A false sense, actually, because as he'd told her repeatedly, it was a naive idea for someone like her. She couldn't have that— not without giving up so much else, so much that she wouldn't understand the value of until after she'd lost it. It was his fault, though, that she wanted it.

"I'm sorry," he said, softly. He didn't know what else to say. It wasn't as though he could do anything about it. He hadn't ever been a knight in shining armor, and couldn't become one now... but damn if she didn't need one. And damn if she didn't deserve one.

Set credit to MJ! <3
She nodded mutely, for there was little else to be said. The reality of her situation was spread between them as glaringly obvious as she could make it, and he was offering nothing but an apology. What could he offer her, anyway? He wasn't a first son. He wasn't of the upper class. Regardless of what she dreamt of, Ben could never realistically do what she desperately hoped he would. To do so would ruin them both.

"I guess this is goodbye, then." She stated quietly. They couldn't keep circling one another like an inevitable force, nor could they keep arguing at public events. Something - someone - had to give. That someone had to be her. Stepping towardss him, Melody placed a soft kiss on his cheek and turned to take her chances with the fireflies.

Beautiful set credit goes to MJ
[Image: rVeL1F.png]
Ben couldn't really explain what happened next. Maybe it was the tone of her voice when she said goodbye, the resignation and finality of it. Maybe it was how she leaned in to kiss his cheek, a gesture shockingly intimate given how aloof the two of them had been since Canada. Maybe it was the sudden loneliness that her last little speech had inspired in him, or the feeling of utter failure. Maybe, despite his saying otherwise and despite Art Pettigrew warning him away from it all, he just missed her, and everything else served as the catalyst to make that feeling boil over into action. Admittedly, ill-advised action — Ben knew it was a mistake before he'd even done it, but that didn't stop him. He reached out to grab her arm as she turned to go, and pulled her in to a real kiss — rushed and bittersweet, yes, but real all the same.

"Wait," he breathed as it ended. He wasn't sure what he was asking her to wait for — his brain, he supposed, hadn't caught up to this point, much less figured out where they were going next — but he knew he couldn't just let her walk out of the shed like that, and ostensibly out of his life. "Just... wait a minute. Please."

Set credit to MJ! <3
The kiss both started and ended before Melody's brain could register any of it. She had finally made the decision to end this cycle of torment they'd found themselves in, and with one move he managed to pull her back in. Her head was swimming with the excitement of her first kiss and the sudden, sharp, and sad realization that this still likely changed nothing.

"Please, don't do this. Not if you don't mean it." She pleaded. Bravery had never been her strong suit. She wasn't the type that could garner the strength to leave him twice - especially not after a kiss however brief. If nothing were to come off them now she would be left in an even more unbearable situation. A loveless, miserable, intolerable situation.

Beautiful set credit goes to MJ
[Image: rVeL1F.png]
A part of him knew that she was right, and that he was only making things harder for her when she inevitably did have to leave. He shouldn't have kissed her in the first place, and he certainly shouldn't do anything else to detain her — but —

Melody had said don't do this if you don't mean it. Ben wasn't sure whether he 'meant it' or not. He wasn't even really sure exactly what she meant by the phrase. But... what if he did mean it? Whatever it was — what if he found out that it was what he wanted, and that there was a way to make it happen, and by the time he figured it all out, she was already gone?

"Maybe I do," he said, cheeks flushing slightly as he struggled to find words to put to what he was feeling at the moment. "I don't know. Can't you just — stay a minute? Maybe... I don't know, maybe if you stay we could figure it out."

Set credit to MJ! <3

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