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Welcome to Charming, the year is now 1891. 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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As clocks and other timepieces were expensive, working class folk who could not afford to rise with the sun could employ a “knocker-upper” to tap on their windowpane at a scheduled time. Knocker-uppers would work through the night and into the early morning. — Kayte
But then Miss Dempsey paid her so great a compliment that she wanted to hurl herself over the edge of the theater balcony in delight.
sobbing alone in front of a haunted piano


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there's a little bit of hell in everyone
#1
17th June, 1891 — The Ivy Leaf Tearoom & Bakery, London
@Meredith Edgecombe
Months. It had been months now, and he had turned over the thought plenty of times in his mind and never quite done it. And that was sensible, of course: she had been a passing stranger and her suggestion entirely thoughtless, without weight or expectation. She worked at a bakery. Why should she not want the custom? Why should she remember him now?

It was better that she didn’t, to be sure; better that no one knew him, besides the customers of Fox & Sons. After Simeon - well, Jay had been busy sorting things out since, had been doing more than he had used to for the business, had been doing worse - so the ordinary world of people going about libraries and shopping and to tearooms and bakeries was like peering through a looking glass, sometimes.

He had started walking more than he’d used to, to try and shake the tension from his shoulders after long nights of turning profits in terrible ways, and Jay had passed The Ivy Leaf regularly during these, had made it a fleeting thought in a routine, as if the thought counted for anything. Because he had made sure he was in no danger of seeing anyone or seeing her or being remembered by her - Meredith - because his walks were early enough at dawn that even the bakery front was not yet open.

Except last night had been a long, unpleasant one; the smell of bread baking was too warming and comfortable as a replacement to the tired emptiness; Jay had lingered by the front windows too long. He sensed someone over his shoulder before he did it, but it happened anyway, the natural reaction, the flinching almost out of his skin.

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#2
Merlin, she hoped today wouldn't be as slow as yesterday. There wasn't much in putting too much hope in that thought, since today was the day of the Hogsmeade Markets. Most of the hustle and bustle would be at their Hogsmeade Location. But she had done her duties in helping the staff get ready for that, and it was time for her to take a step back and let them figure out the rest. Meri tended to hover too much when it came to cooking, and so last night had seen her tossed from the kitchen (almost literally - her baker had convinced their accountant to come in and carry her out).

And so, with a great deal of extra energy stored up from the lack of activity last night, Meri found herself cleaning the entire store from top to bottom. She'd been outside dumping out the dirty water when she saw him. She'd only seen him once, and in the dim shadows of the Crowdy Library, but there was no mistaking that mess of black hair. Her own dark hair was pulled back by a kerchief she had found lying around, and she hadn't changed into her work uniform yet, so it might have been likely he didn't recognize her. But Meri recognized him. She was good at her job, and one of those tasks was remembering people even after one introduction. She hurried over to him, a bright smile on her face. "Jay!" she chirped, beaming up at him.

"You finally came!" She swung the bucket at her side, freeing the other to push a stray strand of hair out of her face. "I was beginning to think I'd imagined our encounter at the library." An encounter where she'd ended up forgetting about the book she'd originally gone in for in the first place.
— @Elias Grimstone /@Jay Fox

[Image: MeriSig.png]
#3
She looked different, but – her smile was the same, and she remembered him. Meredith, then.

I wish you had, he thought. I wish you’d just forgotten it. Maybe then he wouldn’t feel so bad, maybe he wouldn’t still be here all the time, contemplating coming by; and it would have been a great deal easier if he were not here now, because he didn’t know what he could possibly say to her, how long he could keep up this vague façade.

“So – so had I,” Jay agreed lightly instead, as if he hadn’t passed by the bakery and thought about it countless times since. “I’m sorry I haven’t,” he added, and he was, in a way; sorry he hadn’t worked up the courage. “I’ve been away,” he said – a lie, and then a sliver of truth – “and I wasn’t sure it was open yet, today.” He nodded toward the building, as if he’d only had bad luck in passing, as if pleasantly surprised she was here. But it still didn’t look open, and she’d come out with a bucket, so maybe that was a convenient excuse to leave her be.

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#4
He'd looked a bit bewildered before, didn't he? She peered up at him, wondering when the last time he'd gotten a decent night's sleep. He'd looked the same during their first encounter, but Meri had all summed that up to the fact that it was late and they were in a dim library. But perhaps this was nothing but normal for him, which made her all the more curious. The moment the apology was out of his mouth, she batted the air (and thus, his apology) away with her hand. "Nonsense, I'm sure you were busy." She said, following his gaze towards the building, before looking at him.

Perhaps he'd just been surprised to see her there? She stared at him, slightly puzzled at the expression on his face. No, on second thought he seemed content to be here, which in turn pulled the grin at her lips into an even wider smile. "You look hungry." she said simply. "We're not open yet, but you have an in with the store manager, so I think we have some freshly baked bread with some jam somewhere!"

She motioned him to follow and spun around to lead the way around back before he had the chance to say no. When it came to feeding people, Meredith Edgecombe didn't wait for people to say much other than "alright".

[Image: MeriSig.png]
#5
She was very – warm, wasn’t she? Had an easy way with people, could speak to someone like they were an old friend. And in spite of his accidental loitering, she was grinning, and had just invited him in.

Too trusting by half, Jay thought, with a miserable feeling in his gut, although there was no terrible plan in this, no reason to tell the Foxes about her and no intention of robbing the tearoom of anything (except maybe the bread and jam she had offered). He just felt bad that she was being so nice to him for no good reason: the moment she turned around, he was almost ready to retreat.

But she seemed so sure of herself, and he didn’t want to leave, and – “I’m – usually hungry,” Jay admitted, a little wry, falling into step after her in spite of what he had told himself to do. “You’re here early,” he added, making a concerted effort to make some ordinary small talk, like ordinary people would. “You must be busy too?” And she must work long hours if she’d already cleaned the whole place at this time, and was busy delivering things as late as he’d seen her last time.

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#6
Though he could only see the back of her, Meri grinned triumphantly, glad to know that her instincts had been right this time around. As he drew up next to her, she was able to truly get a good look at him for the first time since she’d encountered him in the library all those nights ago.

Her eyes widened slightly. Because she’d found him asleep, she assumed that the dark circles under his eyes had been a result of lack of sleep, and that he’d have made up for it since then. But if possible, it looked like he’d gotten less sleep than that since then. She opened her mouth to say something, then closed it - he wasn’t Key or Jude or Monty or Kingsley or even any other of her friends that she would normally gently admonish for not taking care of themselves. She couldn’t chide him like she did them.

Adjusting the bucket at her side, she led him around back - going around the front would have just encouraged customers to start lining up - and pushed the door open where she hoped they would find the kitchens empty. Jay seemed a bit nervous and her cook could be a bit boisterous. ”I’m the manager here,” she replied easily, crossing the threshold, taking a step forward and catching the door with her other heel so he could enter in after her. ”I’m always here.” It was meant to be a joke, but in truth, she simply lived in the small flat above the shop. ”I couldn’t sleep this morning so I came down to begin the baking and perhaps give our cook a little rest.”

The smell of fresh loaves of bread wafted through the air as they came in, a warm draft contrasting with the cold of outside. Thankfully the kitchens were empty. Freshly cleaned, the appliances had a slight sheen to them, all lined up in a U shape on the outer edges of the room with a large table in the middle. It was usually used for extra prep work, but the mornings usually saw it bare.

Meri set the bucket down and went to the sink to wash up. ”Please, have a seat!” she said, waving her wand to make a stool slide up next to the table before she stuck the wand back in her pocket and started the water.
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   Jay Fox

[Image: MeriSig.png]
#7
“Oh,” Jay said. She was the manager, and always here. (Well, he shouldn’t walk past the bakery so often then, if there was always the danger he might see her again. Jay made this resolution in his mind, tied it up neatly with a string, and promptly discarded it.)

As he followed her in, he turned in a slow circle to cast his eyes across the kitchen, feeling the way he had when he was younger, and new to living on the streets, new to meeting Mr. Fox: trusting nothing, assessing everything, marking out escapes. But there was no more trustworthy scent than fresh baking, was there? Nothing more homely, nothing more guileless... and very soon he gave in, taking a place on the stool she had proffered and settling in to watch her. His expression softened. Even washing up at the sink, Meredith was the most interesting thing in here.

For someone who couldn’t sleep, she was decidedly bright. And energetic. And talkative. And – Jay decided it was better to ask her things, so she would keep talking and he could avoid it, because that seemed like the fairest outcome to them both, for all her hospitality. “It smells nice in here,” he admitted with a small smile. “How long have you worked at the bakery?”

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