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Welcome to Charming, the year is now 1892. 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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“Got the morbs” was Victorian slang for a temporary melancholia — Dante
In a panic sort of reaction, she shut the door but neglected to make sure she was on the other side of it.
the thrill of the chase moves in mysterious ways

September 4th, 1891 — Fox & Son, Knockturn Alley, London
Coming into the family place of business had held a certain gloomy element in the few months following the death of Simeon. He had been the only father figure that Florence could remember and shaped much of her life and the woman she had become. Even so, she did have to come to the shop every now and then, even if it was just to drop off a basket of food and drink for Jay and the others. In her current position, she was often able to procure such delights.

This time around, she had some trinkets to add to the shops inventory, lifted from various socialites at a party she had been taken to. "Jay, are you here?" She called out as she placed the basket of food on the counter along with the purse full of obtained jewelry.

@Jay Fox / @Elias Grimstone
The shop was closed; the voice inside made him startle, though he could tell it was only Florence. Ever since Fox’s death, though – murder, he was convinced, though they had not found the culprit – Jay had been a far cry from trusting anyone.

Even his family. No, that was not true: he may not trust Simeon’s (real) son, but he never had; and the others were the only people left he had, the ones he had to protect. If not for Florence and Imogen, Eli and Hestia – well, Jay might have disappeared one night and never come home.

But he couldn’t leave them behind. Business was bad enough without Fox to steer it, and Jay was doing more of it, more than just the accounts now, the parts of the work he’d never liked; he wasn’t sleeping well, rarely remembered to eat if he was left alone long enough. (The Ivy Leaf was like a dream place, somewhere that existed a little beyond his life and the limits of it.)

“I’m here,” he said quietly, traipsing up from the storeroom below and fully aware that he looked terrible – dark circles under his eyes, tousled hair from a night and a day spent not sleeping, the faintest tremor in his hand from the kind of spell-casting he didn’t like to do. The last wasn’t helping him much now, as he worked on forging the authentication for some artifact, so maybe it was a blessing Florence was here, a well-timed distraction.

So he tried to smooth himself out, soften into a smile to greet his sister, but he didn’t manage to meet her eyes; instead, Jay moved immediately to the counter and the purse, easing open the drawstring without another word.

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Florence eyed the man in front of her with a furrowed brow. He looked terrible and like he had not slept a wink in days. "You know if you need help with things here, just tell me." She had always been used as the distraction. The pretty face that kept the marks eyes on her while they picked them clean. But she thought she could learn more if Jay showed her what to do.

"Sickle for your thoughts?" She asked as she played with a sickle as he opened the purse to check the contents. Was their little family falling apart without their patriarch of sorts? Merlin, she hoped not.

Florence thought he needed help. “I’ve got it under control,” Jay said curtly, inspecting a brooch determinedly as he felt her regard him. He squeezed his eyes shut, aware that that was as close to snapping as he usually came, and that she didn’t deserve that. She had brought food, and done her part, and what she did, she did well, but – she didn’t need to get involved with any more of it.

There was not a lot of security in this kind of life on the edges, but Jay would protect who he could.

And she had a good life, or, at least on the surface, a comfortable one. He wouldn’t endanger that just because he couldn’t cope here. His gaze flickered upwards in apology. “You do enough as it is,” he amended quietly, though there was a foundation of firmness to it, as if he were worried she was going to insist. “I’m – tired. That’s all. How are you?” He set the brooch aside on the counter and rummaged in the purse for the next.

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Florence rose an eyebrow in response to Jay's curt response. That was as close to snapping as he ever got which only served to make her worry more. Mixed with a light dose of 'speak to me like that again and I'll hex your behind with boils'. Her concern for him was not assuaged by the claim that he was just tired.

"I'm as I usually am. Nicking baubles from the men who are charmed by me. Fencing them here," she said with a shrug. "How do you think the younger ones are?" She felt like she had not seen Imogen, Eli or even Hestia in ages. The moments sporadic since the death of their leader.

“What?” Jay asked belatedly, having asking a question and then tuned out her answer to peer at more of the trinkets she’d brought. He’d heard next to nothing of her answer – which, again, was unlike him – and he snapped his gaze up, feeling trapped in her presence.

“Oh, they’re – fine,” Jay said hastily, trying to recover himself; this was a lie, an absolute lie, because Hestia was distant and Imogen swore she could take care of herself but she had almost certainly been shaken by it, and Eli was even quieter than before, and Jay was worried about each and every one of them, but if he said that then Florence would really think he needed help here, and he didn’t want her to get more involved. For her own sake.

He was already worried enough about her, too.

“I’ve been busy. They’re all busy, it’s just –” Jay said, averting his eyes again and pulling out a necklace with such force that the stones it was inlaid with broke apart on their chain, and scattered on the counter and the floor. “Fuck –” Jay swore under his breath, his open hands trembling involuntarily. He pressed them against his face until he could breathe steadily again.

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Florence knew things were not fine. At least, not with him and she suspected it would be the same with the others. He was being unlike himself and it was causing her to have sisterly concern. What was happening with him? Was there something beyond grief over Simeon going on here? She did not want to press, knowing him all too well.

"If this is you being fine, I'd hate to see you falling apart," she said as she took out her wand to round up the stones. She inspected one of the pieces she had summoned into her hands. "These are still worth getting a good price on their own."

The following 1 user Likes Florence Fox's post:
   Jay Fox
There was something so no-nonsense – completely matter-of-fact, so unceremonious and practical and calm – in her response that it grounded Jay, a little. Maybe she’d always been that way; maybe something in her just now reminded him of Simeon, cool and razor-sharp and preternaturally assured. The world felt like it was ending; every night seemed impossible to get through alone; even the shop didn’t feel safe anymore; and the worry and the work were eating at his insides until he was sure he was completely rotten to the core somewhere under this facade – but Florence seemed solid and steady and secure. So her remark cut through the noise, all those gasping breaths caught up in his throat that were in danger, he suspected, of emerging as sobs.

Fighting that feeling and the trembling in his limbs, Jay surrendered silently to her help, letting her clear up the mess he’d made. Instead, he placed a hand on a stool to steady himself, but when it proved not to be enough, he lowered himself down to the floor. Leaning his head back against the side of the shop counter, Jay slumped there and closed his eyes for a moment, letting his lungs drag in a long, slow breath. He kept his eyes closed. He could close his eyes in front of Florence; that was safe enough, he knew. She was his sister, as much as anyone was, so if he could trust anyone, he could trust her.

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Florence kept a side eye on her brother as he lowered himself down to the floor. She finished tidying up silently before putting some things back into their place. She then cast a repairing charm on the necklace.

"You are my brother, Jay. If you can't fall apart in front of me, who can you fall apart in front of? You don't need to be strong for me."

He was her brother, so he should be strong for her: he was older, had been in this life longer, had been nearer Fox’s darker business deals from the off. But Florence, he was finding, was more naturally like Simeon than he could ever be. He didn’t know how he had never noticed that before.

“Do you ever—” Jay said quietly, and then stopped, thinking better of it. Do you ever wish you could get out of this life? It had been on his mind more often than usual – and his answer was yes, even though the reality was no, he had done too many illegal things to get out intact without fleeing the country for good – but if Florence had been all but raised in this, and was calm and controlled even now, maybe she didn’t. Maybe she liked what they did. He would have helped her get out and leave them behind, if he could, but maybe he was a fool for even thinking it. And she said he didn’t have to be strong, but he didn’t know what she would think of him if she understood just how weak and cowardly he was.

He didn’t know how best to protect her anymore.

Jay covered his eyes with his hands again, letting her tidy up whilst he fought the tears welling up for no good reason. “I know,” he said finally, dragging his hands down when he felt mostly stable again, calm, if not quite recovered; he looked up at her to prove that he was grateful for her. “I’m just – not like Fox was,” he admitted. “I’m not as good at this.”

She could probably see that well enough for herself, but this was already more open than Jay was used to being.

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"Ever what?" Florence asked curiously as Jay cut himself off. She wasn't sure what was up with him but she didn't feel comfortable just traipsing back to Hogsmeade. Perhaps she would sleep in her childhood room tonight. At the very least so she could be sure he had a good breakfast the next day.

"No one is expecting you to be," Florence assured. "You have your own area of strength, we all do. What's brought all this about?" She was glad that Jay was nothing like their father figure. Much as she adored him she was also aware that he had not been a particularly good man. He had given an abandoned four year old a home but she had not gone to Hogwarts and she had been raised to be con artist. Florence was aware that this wasn't exactly a good thing but it was what she knew.

He shouldn’t say anything else. She was kind to be so reassuring, but Jay could tell Florence was made of sterner stuff, didn’t understand his fears to the same extent. She had never been as afraid as him.

“You – aren’t worried about all this falling apart without him?” He murmured, anyway. Fox’s actual son was no grand replacement. And Jay wouldn’t have even minded the thought of an unfortunate end to this whole business, if that didn’t also mean dangerous consequences for the others; and Florence, Imogen, Eli and even Hestia, a little – Jay felt bound to them, responsible for them, and he couldn’t abandon them to the law or to a collapsing life in good conscience.

(One was not supposed to have a conscience in this business.) “I just – don’t want to be here, sometimes,” Jay whispered very softly, leaning his head back against the counter and angling his face to the ceiling in sudden weariness. “I wish I was someone else.” Someone living a different life, someone who could afford to be honest and who deserved to be happy.

But he wasn’t. They were here, and the past could not be undone.

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"Honestly. Sometimes I feel like we did all the work and he just delegated, anyway," Florence pointed out. "We'll be fine. The important thing is survival." Which had been how she had been living her life, really. The important thing to her was to stay alive. It had served her well in the past and she figured it would continue to do so in the future.

"Then don't be here," Florence murmured softly. "Be someone else, even if for a while. The shops not going to fall apart if you explore other avenues a little. If need be, I can stand in though I might need to disguise myself a little." Occasional nips into this shop under her cloak was one thing. But the potential of someone who recognized her was something she would rather avoid if she manned the shop while Jay did some self growth. That was what Polyjuice was made for.

His mouth quirked a little at her criticism of Mr. Fox, but he couldn’t work up the courage to say anything aloud in response. And Fox was dead and gone, so if ever it was safe to make remarks about him, it was now – but Jay had spent too many years with the man, maybe, too many years of taking care with what he said, to work up the nerve, even now.

Thoughts could be dangerous enough.

Like that thought, right there, the one Florence had just verbalised. Then don’t be here. Jay had tied himself so well and truly to the shop, to the night shift and the flat above it, that it felt practically part of him, like he was rooted here. But maybe she was right, and it would do him some good to... get a little distance. Explore other avenues. Be someone else.

He swallowed slightly, thinking of the person he had been – on a few strange occasions – who ate fresh bread in the kitchens of the Ivy Leaf with a woman who had eyes the colour of honey and the warmest smile he had ever seen.

Dangerous, see. “Maybe you’re right,” Jay allowed himself to say, studying Florence seriously now to see if she had meant it, or was only trying to soothe him. He still felt as though he oughtn’t lean on her too much – but it would be worse for them all if he couldn’t sort himself out sooner rather than later. “You’re sure you wouldn’t mind?”

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"I'm always right," Florence said with a smirk that softened into a smile as he studied her. "I do not mind. You already do so much for me. For all of us. You're my brother in all but blood and I wish for your happiness and well-being. I feel like we'll lose you too if I let you fester here in your woe."

There was something comforting in her surety and smirk and impervious manner, however naturally Jay tended toward worry and and pessimism and doleful thoughts... so, quite in spite of himself, he did suddenly feel lighter.

Affection, in Mr. Fox’s eyes, had always seemed irrelevant; what was more important was how things and people could be of use. But Jay felt a rush of it now, for his sister – because in the end, what did blood matter at all? They were bound by shared history and memory and honesty like this, and blood was nothing, nothing, to that.

“Thank you,” Jay managed more solidly than he had all conversation, which was still only the tip of the iceberg of his gratitude to her today. If he had been a different person, he might have embraced her somehow – but he wasn’t that person, so he only reached out and pressed her shoulder, fleetingly, a ghost of a touch. “You’re never going to lose me, though.” No matter how bad it got.

He gave her a ghost of a smile, too.

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