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Queen to H7
December 28th, 1889 — Zabini House, London
"The Night After"
How tedious it was that Tatiana had been born to a life of small-talk!

Though the witch played the part of society girl well, she often loathed it, having always preferred the companionship (and conversation) of her aunt or brother to the mind-numbing gossip and flattering of dresses that was so often expected—demanded—of her. And even then, how well could she play it if she had had opportunity to grow into an aging debutante? Still, as tiresome as the role was, Tatiana Lestrange would continue to play it as diligently as an any actress, knowing it was the only way forward for a woman of her station.

Some companions, though, made the game far more desirable to play.

She would never compose love ballads about Charles Macmillan, but Tatiana could not deny that he was a desirable match: though widowed, his only child was female; he was older than she, but not ancient; his bloodline was a good one, and one already tied to her extended family. Then there was the latest piece of gossip, gleaned from, Tatiana believed, a particularly desirable source—one that confirmed for the witch that Charles Macmillan would not stagnate in the Ministry of Magic but instead had ambition—and ambition was something that she, in turn, could capitalize upon.

"...and you must correct me if I am wrong," Tatiana added conspiratorially after the usual niceties were made, "but I have heard that congratulations are in order—that you are to be working under Minister Ross directly!"

The congratulations was not for working under Mr. Ross, of course; even Tatiana with her notions of female empowerment was not so progressive as the present Minister of Magic. It was, however, an excellent stepping stone if one hoped to progress in domestic politics, and while Mr. Macmillan's promotion had not been announced publicly yet, he was no doubt already enjoying some of the benefits of his new position.
[-] The following 1 user Likes Tatiana Lestrange's post:
   Ursula Black

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The party was aesthetically something to appreciate, he supposed, but like most balls he found himself regretting his life choices and wishing he'd steered his evening in a different direction. He had begrudgingly danced with a lady or two but was trying in earnest to avoid much more dancing. His dance partners seemed always to be either vapid and thus incredibly dull or they were the sort who had varying hints of Noelleishness about them and he wanted nothing to do with them.

His efforts to avoid further females had been going well and then they suddenly hadn't. As usual his gut reaction was to internally groan at being trapped by etiquette and this was no different when the female opposite him was Tatiana Lestrange. Charles defaulted to autopilot almost immediately and it wasn't until she mentioned his promotion that his brain started to actively join in the conversation. His perception of Miss Lestrange was vague at best - he could probably count the number of words he'd exchanged with her in the past on one hand if he could actually remember what they were. What he did know about her was that her father was Tybalt Lestrange and if pushed for an opinion he'd probably shrug and say that she'd never caught his attention (nor apparently that of other men) so she was probably a bit vapid and uninteresting.

"Thank you, I'm pleased to say that you've been well-informed." It didn't necessarily mean anything but it suggested she wasn't entirely vapid and self-absorbed. It also gave him pause. What did he really know about Miss Lestrange? Yes, she was the daughter of mass murderer Tybalt Lestrange, but a Lestrange all the same which carried plenty of weight. Hadn't she also been at finishing school or was he mixing her up with another Lestrange? She was unmarried, he could think of no immediate gossip or scandal involving her name, and she was actually attractive. Why wasn't she married? Something had to be wrong with her.

Perhaps she was too clever or too desperate, she wasn't one of the younger ones anymore was she? "You must have your ear quite close to the ground, I didn't think anyone knew yet."

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   Aldous Crouch, Elladora Black

"Mr. Macmillan, surely you have spent enough time at the Ministry to know there is a keen difference between no one knowing and no one saying," she pointed out with a coy smile. In the upper circles of society, information was a far more valuable currency than galleons and sickles could ever hope to be—even seemingly innocuous trivia like this.

"I make a point of remaining as well-informed as possible in a variety of areas," she continued lightly. "After all, one can only endure so many conversations about the weather."

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Too clever, that seemed to him the most likely. Not that she had been flagrantly and offensively intelligent yet but he wasn't catching a vibe of desperation yet either. Now here was the issue, an empty-headed and obedient woman was ideal but he couldn't stomach the idea of wooing such a woman which meant such a match would have to be arranged. That would be a royal pain to organize plus he ran the risk of a second Noelle if he didn't vet her properly which inevitably meant spending time with her. Thus finding a woman through social interaction ought to be preferable, however, that left him enjoying the company of the more astute lady but they were also less likely to be good little wives. Either way he couldn't really win and no one could be surprised that he wasn't having any luck finding a second wife.

He wasn't sure he appreciated what he was taking as a jibe from her but perhaps she hadn't meant it that way. He decided to try and give her the benefit of the doubt for now. If she was in possession of an ugly personality and it was already showing then it was hardly going to become less apparent the more time he spent in her company.

"What would you discuss if not the weather?" The weather was a particularly dry conversation topic (even when the weather itself wasn't) but he was curious to hear what she deemed a suitable alternative. That would be telling.

[-] The following 1 user Likes Charles Macmillan's post:
   Tatiana Lestrange

She paused for a moment, both giving the appearance of careful consideration and actually considering carefully. Effective poisons was not appropriate conversation for anyone outside of her immediate family (Tiberius and Aunt Mariana), while imported silks would drive both of them mad—though, then again, he did work on an international level, at least for now.

"I must confess," she settled on at last, careful, but almost wistful in her tone, "that curiosity is my most cardinal vice."

If one discounted ambition, jealousy, manipulation, and that time she instigated her aunt's miscarriage, at any rate.

"I have so little opportunity to hear about things outside the realm of gossip and petticoats that I yearn for interesting conversation about anything else—so long as it is not too shocking."

Each word that left her lips was entirely in earnest. It was hardly Tatiana's fault that Mr. Macmillan lacked all the information necessary to see the full picture.
— @Charles Macmillan

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Curiosity could be highly undesirable in a woman when coupled with other questionable attributes such as brazenness and defiance. A gentle, safe curiosity on the other hand was preferable to stupidity. Could she possibly be in the latter category? "I daresay there are far worse things to be than a little curious." Like Noelle. His late wife had absolutely no redeeming qualities, she had certainly had curiosity of her own but it seemed to be reserved for new ways to make his life miserable. It really was a good thing she had died of her own accord or else he'd have probably had to take action by now for fear of her ruining the future of his career. Hiring an assassin would have been incredibly risky and distasteful thing to do, albeit necessary.

However, he was now left with a problem he could never have foreseen. He suddenly couldn't remember how one was supposed to converse with a lady without being acerbic. He was not accustomed to being lost for words. The pressure to be interesting was unexpected. He couldn't actually remember the last time he'd felt any sort of inclination to make a good impression on a young lady.

But why hadn't she been snapped up already? Why had a creature like his late wife, and a great many other women in society around her age, locked down a husband while she remained unattached? Provided she had no serious faults of character that were turning men away the only other blot on her eligibility was her father, but that was old news and not reflective of her own behavior. Had she received proposals and turned them down? That would give him pause also but it seemed more likely than the alternative. It wasn't impossible that someone was courting her and he'd simply failed to catch the gossip, he supposed.

"Your beau must consider himself very fortunate, although he must also be sparse in conversation if you are left wanting so." It was rather direct for his tastes but as indirect as he could make it without launching into a direct question and if Miss Lestrange wasn't too good to be true then he might very well alienate one of the only ladies in society who was without a doubt, the complete opposite of Noelle. He also didn't care to waste his time wondering about her if she was unavailable.

[-] The following 1 user Likes Charles Macmillan's post:
   Aldous Crouch

Either Mr. Macmillan was the sort to be keenly aware of social goings on (but also flubbed in this situation) or he was asking a question without asking anyone. Tatiana considered herself to be a reasonably good judge of character, and so was please to determine it was almost certainly the latter.

This was not the dance of the frivolous sheep around them but a more sophisticated waltz with higher stakes.

Tatiana Lestrange was a pragmatic woman. Love and lust were not nearly at the top of the list when it came to finding a potential husband. Power, however, most certainly was, and Charles Macmillan was inching ever closer to that power, making him a fine prize indeed—so long as she knew the steps to this dance well enough.

"And thus, I fear we are but acquaintances now," came the wry response, though she had not entertained any beaus of late; her high standards and advancing years were not productive bedfellows. Then again, with the affections of her brother and aunt both guaranteed, Tatiana could quite literally afford to have those standards—though that wasn't to say she did not wish to find the right match.

"But what of you, Mr. Macmillan?" the debutante inquired. "It must be difficult to have so rich an announcement but be unable to make it."
— @Charles Macmillan
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   Charles Macmillan

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Whether she had actually had a beau or was cleverly working with his set up he neither knew nor cared at present. He had his answer and that pleased him well enough. Her method of responding did reiterate her cleverness which, as he could tell for now, was at least of the level needed for expertly navigating society. How many ladies would have blushed and simpered and corrected him? Not that that wouldn't have given him his answer either but it would suggest a lesser intellect.

What he definitely wasn't expecting was for her to turn the question back around on him. If she knew about his promotion already then she couldn't possibly have missed the fact that he was a widow and the way women gossiped she'd surely have heard if he'd so much as stared too long at an eligible lady. If he took her literally then his answer would have been along the lines of an outright denial at needing the praise of a wife to feel fulfilled but that almost certainly was not what she was asking. "Such an announcement would be lost on the wrong recipient." He waited a beat before continuing. "Hopefully the situation will be different next time."

He was starting to feel as though he ought to be asking her to dance but he didn't want to do so straight off announcing that he was seriously looking for a wife, she might think him interested and if that was what he ended up being he wanted to keep that information to himself until he was sure what his next move would be.

"How are you finding the evening thus far?" He was now curious about far more personal things; he needed to find that deal breaking flaw, if it was there, before he started to get the idea in his head that maybe the tedious search might be coming to an end. He would have to ease it out of her slowly though or else she'd catch on, he doubted he'd get much past her which could well be the very flaw he was looking for.

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   Tatiana Lestrange

Quietly, Tatiana was impressed—bar, perhaps, her brother (an Unspeakable), she could not think of any men in her acquaintance apt to keep a promotion altogether under wraps. Mr. Macmillan was doing a fine job in at least feigning nonchalance; the witch was happy to follow his lead on the matter, then.

"One of the hostesses is a close friend of my brother's darling wife," Tatiana offered by way of response, "so I fear as though my opinions may be rather biased on the matter."

She was enjoying herself well enough, but given Bellona Zabini's connection to Antigone, was hardly likely to sing the younger woman's praises too loudly.

"I must admit that I find myself impressed by the charmwork upon the ceiling, but I am not certain to whom that particular credit belongs."
— @Charles Macmillan

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Charles was inclined to assume that the magical aesthetics were not the work of the hostesses but rather some third party. Nevertheless it was certainly a pleasant enough sight to behold. Not impressive enough to even consider a Zabini bride no matter who truly conjured the decor.

"My guess is a hired professional." He meant to imply his doubt against the magical competency of ladies hosting rather than to compliment them but he supposed she'd take it whichever way she preferred and that was probably for the best. The music then changed. Ordinarily he would very possibly have ignored this but in present company it might be taken as a slight if he didn't offer and that might be inconvenient later. Perhaps dancing with her would be enlightening anyway, if she was a godawful dancer he'd make sure never to make that mistake again and should that not rule her out then he'd certainly insist she never dance again.

"May I have this dance, Miss Lestrange?" He held out his hand with every expectation that she would accept.


"I should be quite honoured, Mr. Macmillan," Tatiana replied with a gracious smile as her gloved hand raised to take his own. To spark the flame of admiration (passion was overrated and temperamental, and so seldom led to marriage) had been very much the witch's intention; to now be granted opportunity to fan that spark was a stroke of luck.

No, not luck, she corrected herself—it was the reward of a well-executed military maneuver.
— @Charles Macmillan
[-] The following 1 user Likes Tatiana Lestrange's post:
   Melody Crouch

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For the thousandth time in such a short span of time Charles found himself asking himself again how Miss Lestrange was not attached to anyone yet. Perhaps he ought to ask around about her, see if anyone knew the reason or reasons behind it. It couldn't possibly be for lack of interest! It seemed so impossible that - assuming she was exactly what she seemed - that she wouldn't have been snapped up yet. Ladies like Miss Lestrange did not grow bountifully on trees and that much he knew because he'd been looking long enough, she was a black swan indeed. It was almost enough to put him right off her with how unfathomable it was.

Ah but he was getting ahead of himself, he was so ready to stop feeling the obligation of finding that impossible female that he was prepared to believe he'd found her before he'd even spent half an hour in her presence. He was being obscenely foolish.

Charles led her onto the dance floor as he mentally chastised himself for his folly. Miss Lestrange was still a woman, she would have faults of some variety and they were sure to surface sooner or later. Possibly even during this dance. "I understand you live with your aunt?"

She allowed her face to betray her surprise that he knew this fact about her—and Tatiana did not hide her pleasure at this revelation, either.

"I do, and have since my father's arrest," she answered as the pair waltzed in time to the music, her long legs gracefully being led through the familiar steps. True, it was typically not wise to remind a potential suitor of one's criminal father, but given Tybalt Lestrange's notoriety, it would certainly come up sooner than later regardless. "With the exception of my schooling, of course," she added,"Aunt Mariana and Uncle Eustace truly have been my parents, though my brother has quite diligently taken on a more active role since entering the world."
— @Charles Macmillan

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It surprised him that she would mention her infamous father so openly, he would have thought she'd want to avoid the subject as much as possible. He supposed she must be accustomed to her father's shadow hanging over her perhaps she found it easier to be upfront about it. She couldn't possibly be proud of the shame Tybalt Lestrange had selfishly brought upon his family. "You are a credit to them." He regretted the compliment immediately; even though it had been a remark he'd thrown out without much premeditation he feared it might have given her some sort of impression of partiality.

"You are close with your brother then I take it?" He couldn't claim a close acquaintance with Tiberius Lestrange but with his sister's mention of him he was suddenly seized with the idea that maybe the brother was overprotective and was the true cause of his sister's unwed state. He'd heard of it happening before, men who guarded their sisters from anyone unworthy when the reality was that no one was good enough. If his daughter wasn't a liability waiting to happen he might understand the sentiment, but she was and he'd marry her off the second the law and a willing gentleman allowed him to do so.

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   Tatiana Lestrange

"My uncle and my brother find themselves tied in my affections," Tatiana lied easily. While she was fond of Uncle Eustace in her own way, he could not hold a candle to her brother. "Mrs. Macnair and Mrs. Lestrange are so fortunate to have found such admirable men."

She gave Mr. Macmillan an appraising look, one intended to make her appear as though she were looking to see if he might be the equal to the others.
— @Charles Macmillan

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Charles, for the first time, felt his scrutiny directed back towards him and he didn't really care for it. It took him by surprise and he couldn't help himself from internally flustering. He knew he was a good catch, yes he might be a second son, and yes he might have been married already but he was well off, he came from a respectable pureblood family, he was handsome, he only had one issue from his first marriage (and it was female), he was freshly promoted and aiming higher still, his older brother Edward... Well he could die young, it happened to plenty of people all the time. The only thing she could possibly fault him on was his character and really, how could she? He was restrained and clever, chivalrous when absolutely necessary, his political leanings were admirably conservative (not that she needed concern herself with those), and he certainly felt as though he was the sort of man who immediately demanded respect from others. He certainly had an ample helping of insecurities but he had those under control and locked up tight, they never ruled him and that's what really mattered.

Nevertheless, he squirmed.

Was it possible that Miss Lestrange was unwed for the very same reason he presently was? He'd never considered that the blight on young ladies these days might also have struck his own demographic. Were the gentlemen of society as lacking as the young ladies? He thought of his brothers - both of them were idiots in their own ways. One in three gentlemen not being a disappointment was a poor statistic indeed. Perhaps there was something to it.

"Fortune, I wager, has little to do with it." He certainly wouldn't be leaving his second marriage to luck, not that he really had before, he'd left it to others he'd trusted but now he would only trust his own instincts.

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   Tatiana Lestrange

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