Floo Network

[Belgravia] Perpetual Infinity

Started by Declan O'Dwyer, January 19, 2021, 08:55:47 pm

Declan O'Dwyer

Declan felt deflated. For months he had been working on getting the London branch of Viridian ready to open. He'd invested the same love and devotion that had gone into the Dublin flagship store, at times driving himself to the brink of exhaustion. Though he'd had his doubts, in the end everything was ready in time for the exclusive pre-launch party two days before the official opening of the new store. He thought he should have felt thrilled, but now that festivities were underway, he silently pondered how to gracefully make an early exit. What he fancied more than anything was some time to rest.

He leaned against one of the black walls, watching his guests rather than properly engaging with them. Given the dark colour of his three piece suit, he was almost fading perfectly into the background. The only thing that stood out about his looks tonight was the one piece of jewellery he was wearing. A heavy, silver snake necklace resting against his pale chest where the top three buttons of his white shirt had been left undone. Maybe, not quite right for fancy society, but Declan took a great amount of pleasure in offending in a small way.

A gaggle of young ladies had formed around a diamond necklace featuring and absurdly large teardrop cut on display in the centre of the room. He was momentarily worried that someone was about to topple over the potted white orchid plant located next to the display case. Meanwhile his shop assistants, easily identified by the green pins on the lapels of their jackets, were trying their best to keep the crowd orderly. Catering, on the other hand, seemed determined to have the all guests drunk by the end of the evening. Dry, sparkling mead kept flowing while empty, lipstick-stained glasses were left behind on any available surface. Every so often Declan would vanish one of them with the soft pop.

This was nothing like opening day in Dublin. He briefly wondered if getting a different agency involved with the marketing would have been the correct thing to do. This party wasn't to his taste. He had to admit though that he had been invited to others just like it many times before and that they generally were successful. Still, in his heart he wondered if anyone would remember the beautiful jewellery pieces on display, the handwritten calligraphy tags on each item, the exquisite scents or really anything else about Viridian other than getting wasted on mead. Time would tell.

Maybe the evening wouldn't have been as dreadful if some of the interesting people on his invitation list had turned up. Unfortunately, his customer base usually involved those witches and wizards with more money than sense. It was almost unbearably loud. He'd have thought that 50 exclusive guests would be a manageable and pleasant number. Instead, they almost managed to drown out the string quartet playing with their noisy chatter. What Declan had envisioned as a classy and elegant soirée, felt more like a plague of locusts befalling his Belgravia shop floor. Why did people have to make such spectacles of themselves?

"Look at those hair combs!" one of the female guests squealed, picking up a golden, butterfly design. Somehow, it seemed like her face would turn into a pig's snouts any moment given the sounds she was making. Watching her made Declan feel viscerally uncomfortable. He hated it when people picked up items in his shop, instead of letting one of his trained shop assistants handle the merchandise. The golden butterfly on the comb flapped its wings, eliciting further squeals. How undignified that a design made for a young girls produced such a reaction in a grown woman.

Elsewhere of the floor, another lady had just lifted up one of his fragrance bottles. "I love peaches," she shouted happily to her friend standing next to her as if her companion was deaf. "It'll mix beautifully with that honey and milk lotion I have..."

Declan doubted it. The scent had been carefully crafted to remind everyone of something fresh and fruity they enjoyed smelling. It was citrusy to one person and distinctly rhubarb-like to another. There'd been a lady earlier who swore it smelled of honeydew melon.

"Allow me," Declan said, elegantly taking the bottle from her before the lady had much of a chance to protest. He carefully applied some of the fragrance to a sample card and handed it back to the lady instead. "This one is meant to be just a straight up, light, fruity scent. It will change a bit for each person who smells it according to their preference - so you might want to be careful about combining it." As he spoke his eyes were searching the shop floor for one of his assistants. "Sarah, would you be so kind as to show Mrs Bannatyne our collection."

He was quickly on the retreat again, not wanting to get entangled in a lengthy conversation with Mrs Bannatyne. The last time they had spoken at length, she had been rather keen on introducing Declan to her younger, unmarried sister. A threat he would not forget anytime soon.

Though he didn't usually like playing shop keeper, even in the Dublin store, he busied himself for a couple of minutes with helping out where help was needed. With a subtle charm he displaced some of the fragrances in the room that were close to becoming a rather overpowering mélange of everything being worn by his guests. He cleared away some unsightly fingerprints. Why did people feel the need to touch everything? Really? Even the glass candle holder had a print on it?

When catering walked past him he picked up a flute of mead. Maybe alcohol would make this evening more tolerable. For a moment he thought he'd caught a glimpse of a gorgeous lady wearing a statement gown in rich blacks, but when he started walking towards her she seemed to disappear into the crowd. Most likely, his mind was playing on tricks on him inventing a possibly interesting person for him to pursue in a sea of tediousness. He let out a soft sigh. It was probably time his staff opened the buffet soon. Then he could obsess over people leaving trails or breadcrumbs on his shop floor.

Farren Abercrombie

Farren Abercrombie Rosier had never expected to like living in London. When she'd moved into the townhouse provided for her by her husband on their wedding day she'd planned on being there only as required. Then, suddenly, her husband had died. The mansion, the money, and the power of being Mrs. Rosier remained but any commitment to the act of it all faded. There was no version of the wizarding world where Farren Abercrombie wasn't the darling of society but her actual circumstances codified her firmly on the throne of London magical society, at least for now.

Invitations to parties, events, debuts, and openings were so common they didn't even cross her desk anymore. Her trusted assistant pilfered through all of them and RSVP'ed to the good ones and wrote them into her diary. As the Culture Editor of the Daily Prophet it was her job to attend these functions. As the Queen Bee of pureblood society it was expected that she be there. So this evenings event hardly warranted special attention from Farren who'd read the note in her diary that morning and immediately planned her ensemble and arrival plan. Seeing as the event, a shop opening, was in her own neighborhood she'd walked there. It was certainly a unique concept to put a luxury jewelry, potion, and concoction store in the middle of Belgravia. It was miles from the nearest magical shop on Diagon Alley. It was also apparently miles above most people's price points. So it was a destination and exotic experience all in one. Clever.

As soon as she had surrendered her cloak at the door and stepped into the foyer of the shop she was greeted by women she knew well, the Dames of Society as she called them. She'd selected a unique look for the evening, an Edwardian style silhouette dress with a black velvet lace up bodice and train over an airy white skirt. Her long hair was pulled back in with haphazard elegance, a few strands falling loose from the crown where she'd casually nestled a priceless Rosier family heirloom, a delicate diamond bandeau tiara, in her hair. Her only other accessory was a pair of statement diamond and onyx drop earrings. Mrs. Farren Abercrombie Rosier was used to making a fashion statement and it was immediately noticed by the gaggle of women closest to the door.

Instantly she was swept into their buzz. Charlotte Yaxley was already complaining about her cheating husband which everyone knew paid for his misdeeds in diamonds and looked the other way when she took her young children's tutor Mr. Ferris into the guest wing. Drascilla Malfoy was oooing and ahhing over her tiara, she was always obsessed with the dark glamour of being a wealthy widow so young. Pippa Blishen instantly started talking about how she was going to buy this perfume she'd just tried to wear on her next date with Marshall Prewett who surely would make a move then. If she wasn't used to the deluge of gossip and personal fretting she'd have been overwhelmed.

Catering brought drink and Farren gladly took a crystal glass. Better to deal with the ladies when hydrated. A clerk approached them with some kind of elegant pamphlet but Charlotte Yaxley shooed her away saying that they would explain everything. For a moment she wanted to protest and take the information but she'd just arrived, she could read the brochure later. More than likely she'd be sending a reporter to the shop tomorrow to follow up on the details and do a little write up. Afterall the place was impressive. Dark and sultry with a glimmer of luxurious gold, orchids, the air scented like they'd stepped into heaven itself. Though the Prophet would not print a description if she were to describe this place she'd say it reminded her of a sexy, sophisticated, boudoir.

Moving with the crowd around her Farren moved to the first case where the ladies admired a great many sparkly bobbles. There were elegant racks with beautifully hand lettered potions on them. Elegant perfume bottles with pretty pastel liquids inside them lined another counter and it made Farren wish her vanity were stocked only with bottles this elegant. The gaggle of ladies around her drew her from counter to counter pointing out the things they wanted or would ask their husbands or lovers to buy them. Of course most of these women could walk out of the shop with their desired trinkets. A check from Mrs. Yaxley or Miss Malfoy was always honored but she agreed it was more fun to suggest someone buying these things for you was more romantic.

Leaning over a little cabinet filled with sapphire bracelets Farren sipped at her mead. Miss Malfoy had distracted most of them by swearing one perfume or another smelled just like if you put peonies in the library at Hogwarts. "You know, he's rather odd seeming, but this place is amazing," Charlotte Yaxley commented from beside her.

"What?" Farren asked absently, having no idea what she was talking about.

"The owner. You need to introduce me to him. He might be an interesting evening out of the house when Carmichael is off with that...." Charlotte Yaxley trailed off unable to even mention by name or title her husband's mistress. Farren was still clueless as to what she was alluding to.

"O'Dwyer. You went to school with him didn't you? Drascilla said he was in your year." Charlotte said as if this was obvious.

Looking up from the case she furrowed her brow staring at her old friend. "O'Dwyer? Declan O'Dwyer?"

"Yes! This is his shop. Didn't you read the information about it?" Charlotte implored, sounding almost annoyed with her.

"No. I never read the information about these things," Farren hissed but she was already scanning the crowded room for Declan. Logically it made sense. The O'Dwyers owned mines. Declan had been the best potioneer in her year. Of course, it was possible, reasonable even that this place would be his. Leave it to Charlotte Yaxley, the only woman to bemoan her affairs in public to be the one to tell her, so indelicately too.

"This is his place. Declan O'Dwyer. He's here somewhere. Or he was. Suppose he left now. I saw him though. Odd fellow.."

Farren didn't wait for her to finish her sentence. She waved her hand at her dismissively. Declan was here? This was all his? This beautiful genius was his? Why was she not surprised? It had been so long since she'd seen him. Not so long ago he'd been one of her dearest friends and then they'd graduated and everything had somehow gone mad with life. She'd seen him when? Last year at the annual Mungo's holiday ball? Her dance card was always full and her attention was always dominated by young society ladies clamouring for either marriage advice or a feature in the Prophet. A ball was hardly a good place to run in with a lost best friend, too much attention. Other than the odd run in here or there at these events, surrounded by people she was sure the last time she'd really seen him was at Clive's funeral and before that her wedding.

A sad smile crossed her lips as she recalled those days. How sad it was that her most recent memories of someone who was once a dear friend revolved around those two sad days. It was clear in her mind now, seeing him at the funeral, glancing at him quickly at the gravesite from under the sheer black veil as she tried to look as sad as she thought she was supposed to look. How badly she'd wanted him to lock eyes with her. A friend. A true friend. Not like these women in this room who were no one's true friend.

"So will you introduce me?" Charlotte was still yammering on about Declan being some kind of entertaining oddity to distract her.

Scowling Farren shook her head, "Charlotte, they are ushering everyone towards the buffet."

Turning from her friend she stepped into the crowded center of the room. If this was Declan's shop,  if he was here, she certainly wasn't going to miss out on seeing him. It made her sad that she'd found it out like this. This relationship so pivotal to her adolescence had fallen so by the wayside that he'd literally opened up shop a few blocks from her house and not called on her for tea. There was no one to blame but herself. Pressing into the center of the crowd the women moved out of her way quickly, everyone moved for Mrs. Abercrombie Rosier without question or her asking.

As they parted she found herself in the center of the shop being left behind as they eagerly trotted towards the next diversion. Clearing left her with a direct sight line towards the back of the shop and there he was, so close, as if he was moving towards her even. Instantly recognizable, Declan O'Dwyer in the flesh. Her bright eyes locked on him and she strode toward him as the ladies around her pressed forward in the opposite direction clearing the floor for them. She was surprised to see him there, that it wasn't a myth, that he was here tolerating this. If the room wasn't full of the biggest gossips in London she might have reached out to hug him. But she didn't, she stopped a pace away, a sly little smile tugging at the corners of her red lips.

"Declan," she breathed smiling, "Mrs. Yaxley just told me...." she glanced over her shoulder in the direction of the crowd, "I can't believe I didn't know. I'm just around the corner, you could have come by....tea.....dinner...." Pursing her lips she considered him. He was indeed a bit odd yet she'd always found him alluring, his lips were still somehow deeply attractive to her. "I'm sorry. I should have written..."

Declan O'Dwyer

January 20, 2021, 05:07:00 pm #2 Last Edit: January 21, 2021, 12:29:02 pm by Royal_Poet
There she was again, the lady he had seen earlier in the black dress. It was with some astonishment that Declan realised he knew her: Farren Abercrombie Rosier. She looked different than he remembered her. Sure, the striking blue eyes were unchanged, but something about her demeanour had shifted from awkwardly nervous to confident perhaps? He couldn't quite put his finger on the emotion, but he thought she was more at ease with the world and those around her than he had seen before.

What a strange thought to hold. She was the darling of high society, universally adored and looked up to; it was only now that it occurred to him that she had probably felt overwhelmed by that role as a younger woman. Back when they had been good friends, discussing books, politics and whatever else crossed their minds. How had he never connected the dots? They'd been so stupidly young, and so full of a naïve and innocent ideas. Ten years his mind eventually worked out. Had it really been that long since their last cup of hot chocolate at Madame Puddifoot's? How could it feel like forever and not long at all at the same time?

Something about her pretty gown and tiara resurfaced a rather quaint memory of his. Shortly before their graduation he had been meaning to ask her out on a date. There had been a thought of inviting her out to Ireland to attend one of the annual summer festivals in the Wicklow mountains with him. He'd planned it all out in his mind, the alcohol, the dancing, a chaste kiss by the old well under the glittering stars, but his plan skipped over one key element: his utter lack of courage to ask her. What if she didn't like the idea, or worse yet, didn't want to be his friend anymore? He had kept his silence on the matter instead and with time the thought of what might have been faded from his mind as he tried to negotiate his path in life and society.

He really should say hello to her. But what would he even say? Hello, it's been ages since we last exchanged more than polite pleasantries. How about we change that now? He'd never been the best at making easy conversation at evening gatherings.  Before he had a chance to retreat, he realised he'd looked at her for too long to back away now. No matter how awkward it would be, he'd have to brave the conversation now. Declan was about to pull himself together and say something, but she beat him to the chase, by closing the distance between them and opening the conversation before he had much time to consider his words. She seemed surprisingly easy - not awkward at all. If he didn't know better, he'd have gone as far as to say she'd missed him.  

"Welcome to Viridian, my fairy queen. What a pleasant surprise. I was not expecting this at all!" A rare, genuine smile spread across his features. He leaned forward to place a peck on her cheek, a decidedly un-Irish habit he'd acquired during many years spent abroad.

What in the name of Merlin had he just said? Surely, he couldn't be drunk from a single glass of mead, even if he had taken it on an empty stomach? Maybe, just a little bit tipsy at best - or his tiredness was getting the better of him. Oh well, no point in beating himself up about it now. It had happened.

"Have you been keeping well? You look well, no, make that stunning.  I might start developing serious regrets.  Have I ever told you that I almost invited you out on a date when we were still in school? I'm starting to think maybe I should have."  

This was most certainly unusual. He rarely felt as unconcerned and fancy-free as he did in this moment. It was just fun to be talking with Farren again, and what harm could there be in some light-hearted flirting to alleviate his overwhelming boredom with the evening? It occurred to him she was the perfect partner for this: utterly gorgeous and simultaneously completely out of his league and therefore quite safe. There was also a fair chance she was still preoccupied with her deceased husband. From what Declan knew, he had been handsome, kind and, well, a bit dull. In short: the perfect pureblood husband if ever there had been one.

Declan still remembered her wedding day and how happy everyone had seemed. Of course, in society such impressions were relative. Everyone faked and pretended to keep the mutual lie of pureblood status alive. Still, he thought she'd been genuinely pleased that day. Maybe. It was hard to tell. There was no point in pondering upon it now. Clive was gone and she was here. Time had passed. Things had changed. Maybe, they could be friends again now that their lives had provided a convenient intersection. Did she really just live across the road?

"Do you want to join the vultures?" he asked gesturing in the direction of the young ladies that were descending on the buffet. "One could be excused for thinking they all don't get fed at home." His eyes were dancing with amusement. "This one over there," he vaguely indicated in the direction of some reporter he didn't know by name, "is eating part of the decorations."  He leaned a little closer again as if conspiring with Farren. "Not that I necessarily disagree with that move. That radish does look more tempting than whatever those skewers are." He narrowed his eyes for a moment trying to make it out. The food, of course, was perfectly fine, but despite the many ways in which Declan had changed over the years, he was still a fussy eater the same as ever.

Farren Abercrombie

Farren's eyebrows raised in surprise at his reaction to her. Fairy Queen? Viridian. Had she even bothered to remember the name of this place? She was so lazy, she really should pay attention to things so as to not get caught out like this. What happened to the shy, quiet boy that had been her constant companion in school? He leaned in to peck her cheek and she was surprised to the point of almost being flustered at how forward he was.

She leaned into his greeting as was typical but nothing about this was typical for Declan. He smelled so nice, he was warm. Her mind almost went hazy for a moment as she felt the tiniest patch of his skin against hers and she frantically processed everything happening. Was she comfortable? Not exactly. But she was so glad to see him smiling genuinely, a familiar face, a true confidant from her past when things were so simple.

"Declan..." she said his name in a tone somewhere between cloying and cautious, an extremely subtle sign that she wasn't sure what exactly to do, "This place is absolutely perfect." That was true. Her smile was true. This was awkward, frantic somehow, but she was smiling so brightly her eyes danced as she took him in.

Laughing a little she demurred at his compliment. It was a habit. People complimented her all the time, it was not just her ego, it was fact. Her response was automatic. A light laugh a smile somewhere between a smirk and embarrassment. Just as a lady should. But her eyes flickered over his figure - he didn't look bad either. He looked hip, bucking a tie in favor of one of his sculptural pieces, showing the ladies of London society a hint of ghostly pale skin. She liked it. But he didn't stop there. Now she was actually shocked. Her eyebrow arched again giving her away. Regrets? He'd wanted to ask her out? What?

Somewhere deep inside her teenage Farren was squealing. Declan had been so important to her during those years. When they'd first become friends she'd been terrified of girls in Slytherin teasing her about them dating or her liking him. But she had liked him. Sixteen year old Farren would have been so happy if he'd asked her out. She didn't know it was possible to feel nostalgic for a teenage crush but she did. Her mind quickly moved to wondering what her life would be if he had asked her on a date. What would that have been like? Surely it would have been so natural? They spent so much time together by then. As quickly as her mind changed track she re-directed it. Now wasn't the time for memory lane.

Instead she returned her attention to the moment. "You never mentioned that date," she said with a half hearted grin, "Too bad. I'm sure I'd have said yes." Smirking she eyed him more obviously as if to tease him.

How long after school had he wanted to ask her out? What had stopped him? Her mind was going off the rails again. Was she not clever enough? Declan wasn't a socialite type, he probably thought her graduating only to immediately make her debut into society vapid and pointless. He wasn't the type to go to balls and make a show to society. It seemed like she spent a great deal of her life in situations everyone else envied and she only tolerated. Society. Her marriage. Her family. There were times she felt cursed to carry a torch she didn't want all that much. It had never occurred to her to think about the people and relationships it cost her along the way.

When he called them vultures she smiled reluctantly and glanced over her shoulder at them. Wrinkling her nose she turned back to him, her expression a playful look of disapproval, "I do not actually," she said trying not to laugh. Bemused, she giggled when he commented that they act like no one ever fed them. "It's free food, no one is cheaper than rich people," she commented off the cuff a sneer crossing her lips as her bright eyes flashed towards him.

He leaned in closer to her, they were conspirators now, judging the small crowd. Again she giggled as he pointed out a reporter was eating the garnish. "Hey, at least he's not mine, I would never hire a reporter who doesn't realize to leave the decor on the plate," she smiled brightly looking over at him. Her gaze was soft but she lingered on his face for a moment. It was so sweet, familiar, the smile, the tiny hint of lines at the corners of his eyes when he smiled. Perhaps she'd not lost him but just gotten lost from their friendship for a few years. Something about the moment felt warm and fuzzy, like she had shared this kind of moment with him before when they were kids and this was just normal for them. She leaned in closer yet so they could speak in whispered tones more easily.

"I have the pleasure of hanging out with some or all of these women on a weekly basis," she was trying to be matter of fact but could barely keep from grinning, "So I can guarantee you we aren't missing much if we skip the buffet with them. Unless of course you're dying to know about Mrs. Yaxley's affair with her children's tutor or perhaps that Miss Malfory has promised her father to marry the first man to offer her a ring worth more than ten thousand galleons." Glancing back at the girls she pursed her lips to keep from giggling. "I'm assuming that kind of thing isn't enough to tempt you?"

A waiter walked by with a fresh tray of drinks on his way to the crowd. "Psst," she got his attention and waved him over to them. "I have a counter offer," she said to Declan as she took two glasses off the tray. Without waiting for him to question her or even catch on she thrust the glasses towards him and took two more for herself. "Your buffet is over generous. You really should have called me. I have the best PR people.  Half these women are wearing corsets to fit into these gowns. It's going to take them at least an hour to eat their plates." Glancing at the women she sneered, "Ok maybe not the one eating the garnish but everyone else definitely."

Turning to him again she smirked, Farren had perfected making an arrogant smirk effortlessly charming. People expected her to be a selfish snob so it was almost endearing when she did it so cutely and she used that to her advantage in persuasion.  "So we have at least an hour probably an hour and a half before anyone who is going to spend money here notices we're missing." Her grin was actually starting to strain her cheeks. It was tiring to actually smile so much but she couldn't help herself. "And you can't say no to me because I'm the Culture Editor of The Prophet and I am demanding an exclusive. So....you really don't have a choice but to indulge me." She smirked up at him daring him to turn her down. He wouldn't.

Declan O'Dwyer

He took the offered drinks of mead from her and, as he saw her taking two more for herself, drowned the content of the first for a bit of liquid courage. He felt a weird mix of excited and nervous to be conspiring with her, even if it was just about the silly guests at his even sillier party.

"I can't say no? You demand? I have no choice but to indulge you?" repeated with just a hint of feigned outrage. He grinned from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat. 

There were no words for just how amusing he found her way of phrasing her request. He didn't think he knew anybody quite like Farren. Of course, he had seen this song and dance before a long time ago. She had a way of making it seem like she was trying to do another person a big favour, when in reality she was just following her own impulses. A big infectious smile, a request stated as a fact, a light-hearted, teasing comment and boys and men alike lost their heads, suddenly declaring themselves to be quite in love with her. It had worked on him too in the past, and quite a bit better than he would have liked to admit.

Declan felt tempted just yield and let her be in charge of the situation, if only to see where she would take it. There was a part of him, however, that wasn't in the mood to just let her sweep him up in her whirlwind and let her do as she pleased. Call it instinct but making it too easy for her to mess with him just didn't feel right. He could have sworn there was a hint of implied challenge in her smirk. He would happily take her up on it.

"An exclusive for the Prophet?," he shrugged. "I don't think so." It was a strange thrill to be standing up to her, even if his tone gave away that he was teasing her rather than being serious. He was more than happy to get out of this tedious affair. Even if this fancy gathering was his, he didn't enjoy this kind of thing any more today than he did usually.

He cast a quick glance around them to check if anyone was looking in their direction. His guests were still preoccupied with the buffet and, of course, each other. Feeling safe, Declan reached out to take her drinks from, casting a hasty enchantment over the glasses. Then he took her hand, gently pulling her with him towards the counter. Their drinks dutifully trailed behind them, levitating at shoulder height just within easy reach.

"How about you indulge me instead?" he whispered to her, briefly making eye contact. "There's something I've just got to show you." His tone had taken on a rather smooth and darkly characteristic quality as he was hamming it up a little bit for her entertainment. He figured that she still knew him well enough to rest assured that he had nothing too scandalous in mind. After all, he'd been the voice of reason at some point in their shared history.

What Declan couldn't deny was that there was something she had said that kept flitting through his mind: she would have accepted a date with him? He was of half a mind to test if the assertion still held true now almost a full decade later. Oh Merlin, had somebody put something in that second glass of mead? He felt tipsy. There was no denying it now. 

"It's me demanding an exclusive, you can't say no." There was such pleasure in turning these words around on her and being over the top silly with it.  He pulled her with him as he stepped into the backroom and out of sight. They had such momentum, he almost fell into one of the very tall, carved, mango wood cabinets. The drinks were still following them, nearly crashing into them like the accident waiting to happen that they were. Since when was he this undignified? How fortunate that none of his guests were able to witness this. He just about managed to steady himself, regaining a superficial level of control. His nerves were fraying, but his jumbled thoughts had coalesced into a vague and scary plan he didn't care to think about too hard, least he convinced himself otherwise.

Declan fished a key out of the pocket of his suit. "I only just got this today," he explained while unlocking the door to one of the cabinets. "And I thought you might find this fun. Haven't tried it yet" As he opened the cabinet door an empty space with no shelves or content was revealed. She had to think he was absolutely barmy. Maybe he was. He hadn't felt playful or mischievous like this in a long time.

"Let's get out of here," he said while trying to usher her into the cabinet. For a few brief moments he really felt like a teenager again, about to play a game of seven minutes in heaven. He pulled her closer, and once their drinks had floated along, closed the door behind them. They were standing not quite close enough to touch, but he still feared that his knees might give out from under him any minute. The intensity of it all was overwhelming. It was a heady mixture of excitement and thrill and maybe something else? He decided again that he didn't feel drunk, at least not on alcohol. 

When he opened the door again just a mere moment later, they found themselves in a completely different place. Vanishing cabinets were a wonderful thing. He loved them and he was well pleased that Viridian London finally had one, saving him the exhausting hassle of frequent apparition. Declan stumbled forward and out of the cabinet, laughing again.

"Hope you don't mind."

The space in front of them was arguably a lab, though it seemed to have some ballroom heritage. The room they entered was wide, spacious and airy, with charming exposed brick work and very high ceilings. One side of the room was lined in massive, arched, gothic windows framed with heavy, long, dark green curtains. They were pulled back, revealing a lake and forest outside. The stark darkness outside was broken up with a bright moon a wild smattering of stars.

A positively gigantic landscape painting spanned almost the entire back wall, making the room appear even larger than it really was and seemed deceptive enough in its depth and detail to briefly be mistaken for a window to the other side.

The room itself seemed to divide into two loosely themed sections. The bit that seemed to be a lab with dried herbs and flowers hanging from an overhead rack.  There was a minimalist centre island with smooth black marble surfaces, kept immaculately clean. A heavy chandelier, provided warm, but muted light.

There other half of the space, home to a black velvet sofa and matching armchairs, a chunky white rug, a low table, several overgrown plants and a telescope.  Here and there, one could spot a few personal touches. A photograph on the wall taken with Declan's grandfather, a duellist's half cape left draped over an armchair, a stack of journals and books resting on the table with bold calligraphy on the covers.

"It's less noisy here." Declan offered as an explanation for the change of venue. "You can hardly expect me to catch up with you properly with those nattering ducks around." He made a vague gesture encouraging her to find a place to settle down with her drinks.

Farren Abercrombie

His smile was so bright as he challenged her she almost laughed but she stood her ground even if her seductive little smirk was wavering to something closer to a beam. When he shrugged and turned her down she actually broke out in laughter. Quickly she covered her mouth with her hand turning her head to make sure none of the Dames had noticed. Of course he was playing a game, an exclusive with her could make or break his little shop and Declan was no fool, he just knew her better than anyone else who'd ever been in his situation. He managed to pull it off without laughing, engaging in the silly power play somewhat gracefully and she couldn't help but laugh. Giggling she bit her bottom lip shaking her head slowly at him with an incredulous expression. "This shop is ruined," she laughed even as she said it. Utterly incapable of taking herself seriously.

He took the drinks and charmed them. Her eyebrow arched up again as it always did when she was skeptical. But he hardly gave her time to question his actions. He wrapped his hand around hers and was pulling her towards the counter and she followed without question. The request was unexpected. What could he possibly have to show her? Surely all his greatest wares were on the floor for this event? She was intrigued though so she happily followed along a bemused smirk fixed on her face at whatever this production was.

She felt like her evening was suddenly incredibly exciting. Never in a million years would she have predicted running into Declan at just some other stupid event. Never in a million years would she have predicted smiling so much in the span of a few minutes at just some stupid event. Until Charlotte Yaxley had dropped his name she'd put very little thought into what he was doing or where he was. She was busy, she liked being busy, it kept her from dwelling on things. Constantly being surrounded by things and events kept her preoccupied and focused on just one thing after another filling her calendar. Moving from thing to thing with little time to worry about actual life between. This was so refreshingly joyful she almost couldn't bear how giddy it was making her.

An exclusive with him. That she couldn't say no to. Again she giggled, shaking her head at him as he pulled her into a back room. Of course it was ridiculous his turn of words but she would indulge him without protest. When they nearly slammed into a wooden cabinet she had to lean suddenly to one side to avoid her bobbing glass bobbing right into the side of her head. She laughed. If this was any other man she would protest at this behavior. But she was smiling too brightly to think of any such thing. He was after all, Declan O'Dwyer, the only boy who wasn't a blood relation who had sat with her for hours and let her talk and talk about whatever matter of the day had irked or provoked her. He was the boy who had been there when she wasn't Mrs. Farren Rosier, when she was just Farren Abercrombie, a little brat from Cumbria. Not that she'd ever really been a nobody, but she certainly hadn't been what she was now and yet he'd been an unfailingly constant friend back then.

A key was produced. The cabinet was opened. It was empty, not even a shelf. The cogs in her mind started to turn when he mentioned he hadn't tried it. A voice in her head started to protest to whatever she was going head first into at full speed. But it was too late, he was pulling her into the cabinet and despite the little cautionary voice in her head she wasn't even pretending to protest. Instead of a rebuke she smirked as he pulled her into the cabinet with him. Her drinks bobbed into the cabinet awkwardly after her and she scowled ducking her head as once again it almost assailed her head. As he pulled the door closed she looked directly at him, smirking, but a look of cautious concern in her bright eyes as she heard the cabinet door click. Didn't people die in these?

But as soon as the door clicked closed he was pushing it open again. She was decidedly not dead. This was obvious because she could feel where her stupid little glass had dribbled on her shoulder and she was positive if you were dead there were no sensations. Blinking she waited for her eyes to adjust to the change and watched as he ambled out of the cabinet before her. For a moment she stood in the doorway, her hands resting on the wood frame on either side of her. For a moment she considered pulling the door closed and vanishing back to London just to mess with him but not only was that cruel she was somewhat in awe of whatever the hell place they had landed.

If it had been anyone else she would have minded. A lot. But it seemed she was making a great many exceptions for him this evening. Slowly she stepped out of the cabinet, silent as she took in her surroundings. It was like something from one of the gothic novels they'd shared in school. Part mad scientist, part artistic studio, opulent. It needed little explanation. She glanced at him, her expression unclear. Even she wasn't sure how she felt. Was she a bit irked at him? Yes but she wasn't sure if it was for more or less abducting her or having never invited her here before. Was she impressed? Completely. Did she feel overwhelmed? Yes, already the evening was unexpected this was, well she didn't have words. The Declan she'd known was a serious boy. His dreams and passions were closely guarded. Everything about his life held an air of mystery just because he was shy and quiet at first pass but even when you knew him there were layers. This somehow felt deeply intimate.

Having her bearings again she reached up and took one of the glasses still bobbing behind her. Sipping it lightly she took a step towards the marble counter in the middle of the room. Her free hand reached out to touch the cool stone and she let her fingertips trail along it as she walked slowly down the length of the counter sipping her mead. At some point she looked back at him over her shoulder, the corner of her mouth pulling into a hint of a smirk before she turned away from him again. He wanted to play. It was comical really but she was never one to shrink away from a game, especially games she never lost. If he was still questioning if he regretted never asking her out he would be now.

At the edge of the counter she tilted the glass back and finished it off. Turning to look back down the counter towards him and the cabinet she delicately lowered the empty glass to the counter. Her bright eyes danced, the dim light favored her, she knew this so she stood staring him down so he could admire her in his little lair for a moment. She wondered how much of his time was spent here. There were a few personal artifacts scattered around from what she could see but nothing that gave much away at first glance. She was curious what the books and journals were but she wasn't going to be so obvious as to walk up and flip open his journal.

She had no idea which house of the O'Dwyers this would be but there was no other option for some place that was so thoroughly Declan. It was in fact the most Declan place she'd ever seen or imagined. Tilting her head she considered the space, her eyes flitting up to the elegant chandelier before moving to the massive landscape and the competing windows before settling back on him. She leaned forward, her elbows on the counter, her belly pressed against the edge of the counter. For a moment she just stared down at him an odd sense of that nostalgia consuming her for a moment. At this point it was taking active work to not smile and give herself away entirely. She bent her elbows, folding her hands under her chin like a perch to rest her head on as she took in the general splendor of the space.

Again her gaze flickered back to him as he moved closer.  "It's cute, for Ireland," she said smirking for a moment so he'd know she was intentionally downplaying her assessment to tease him. She managed to hold out on laughing for a few beats before she finally gave herself away with a giggle. If she was able to contain herself she would have asked him if this was where he played with his little potions set and wrote all the fancy labels for his perfume bottles. But she couldn't play that angle tonight. Not with him. There was absolutely nothing to actually criticize him over or tease him about when it came to what was clearly a vision and a reflection of something actually personal. When she was a kid if he'd told her about all of this as an idea she probably would have discouraged him. It would have sounded outlandish but it was perfect.

She waited until he joined her at the counter before saying anything else. They'd just escaped a noisy room, she didn't fancy shouting across this massive space at him. Her expression and demeanor was easy, she felt relaxed here with him already. "I've never been so glad to leave a party, as lovely as your shop is. This is an instant improvement," she said, her tone warm and genuine. "I won't even pretend that this is what I would have expected to see you doing. I guess I always expected you to do something unique but I wasn't thinking anything like this. It's truly exceptional." Slowly she stood back up, pushing herself up from the counter with her hands. Snatching the other glass from the air beside her she jerked her head towards the sofa indicating she planned to land there.

It occurred to her as she stood up and she felt a rush to her head that they'd been foolish to not bring food to their little secret meeting. She again felt that warm, fuzzy feeling tugging on her she'd felt briefly when he greeted her. This was all so strange she thought, how was it just ten minutes ago she'd been having a perfectly normal, boring, lonely evening with her entire social circle? Now she was in bloody Ireland with the boy she honestly had never expected to not be part of her life that had disappeared from his familiar place beside her so quickly so long ago. That nostalgic pain was returning and she was sure that drinking a second glass of mead on an empty stomach was a poor choice she was about to make.

Taking her time she began to wander towards the sofa waiting for him to fall into step with her. "So...what do you want to catch up about? You just showed me your secret potion labs and most recent illicit furniture purchases. What could possibly be left to cover?" She was teasing, grinning, bemused with herself and the warm fuzzy feeling she carried now.

With a pleased little sigh she sat down on the sofa setting her mead on the table in front of it. "Other than the fact that it's absolutely unacceptable you built that place exactly 7 minutes walk from my house and never bothered to come by. Or I don't know....failed to come round for tea anytime in the last eight years." Her smile was gentle, it wasn't solely his fault, she was to blame as well, but that sweet nostalgia that kept nipping at her was now swelling to something closer to regret. "If I knew you were so good at making perfumes I'd surely written more often though as you're probably aware literally nothing worth discussing has happened in my life," she teased gently hoping to hide her genuine regret at having disconnected under well placed sarcasm as she internally grappled with the mix of emotions she felt each time her eyes landed on his face.

Declan O'Dwyer

Having Farren in his brewing room was a feeling that defied proper description. She was a dear friend and having her around was only natural. On the other hand, there was an exciting quality to having her visit that remained inexplicable in his mind. He'd have thought he'd be at ease now, but the slightly drunken feeling that had made an appearance ever since Farren had stepped into his party was still there. Maybe, it was all down to the fact that they hadn't seen each other for such a long time. What did they really know about each other anymore?
He followed her further into the room, his thoughts still trying to catch up with the uninhibited spontaneity of the evening. She looked even more beautiful in this lighting and he found himself wondering again why nothing had ever happened between them. He tried to push the idea out of his mind with some vehemence. It wouldn't do for him to keep thinking about it. Surely, if such things were meant to be, they would have happened by now. And why did he care anyway? He wasn't really looking for any attachment, casual or serious. He'd just started a new business venture, so his thoughts should be on that.

"I was hoping you'd like it here," he said. His mind was unhelpfully thinking about all the other options of where he could have taken her. This space was a good compromise. Quiet, beautiful and yet not too personal. Anything else, no doubt, would have been even more inappropriate. It was with some surprise he noticed that she hadn't ripped his head off for his reckless behaviour. Luck had to be on his side today.  Belatedly realising just how forward he'd been with her, he felt awkward now. He was temped to just fill the encroaching silence with idle chatter about the lab, just to keep their conversation alive. 

"I'm sorry if this is too ..." No. He couldn't come up with a word to fill that gap. He waved his hand vaguely and hoped Farren had enough of an idea of what he meant. Inappropriate. Insane? All of that. "It's just I missed you. And I hardly know anything about you anymore." He'd not been around for anything, save her wedding and her husband's funeral. Of course, that was entirely his fault. He'd spend so much time abroad and even after returning to the British Isles he had kept himself busy. In hindsight he regretted that he hadn't taken the time to get reacquainted. He'd just assumed that they'd both moved on.

She started moving towards the sofa and he followed along. A moment later, he was making himself comfortable plucking his glass out of the air to lift the spell he had placed on it. He carefully set it down on the table in front of him. He resolved to not drink any more until he was relatively sure the alcohol hadn't gone to his head.

"Really?" he asked. "It's just a short walk?" He wouldn't have said that he knew Belgravia well, but he'd walked around a couple of times when taking a break from Viridian. It was possible he'd even walked past her home without knowing. How strange he hadn't run into her before. "Anyway, tell me everything. What's working for the Prophet like? Do you like living in Belgravia? How's Pyxis? Is there a new beau in your life I should know about? Do you still play the violin?" He could have easily supplied an even longer list of questions, but he stopped himself as soon as he realised that he was babbling again.

Farren Abercrombie

He was right, he hardly knew her. Perhaps she was being foolish tonight. Letting him separate her from her friends. Shoving her in a vanishing cabinet. Bringing her to Merlin knows where. If he were nearly any other wizard had tried this she'd have expertly separated him from his most precious appendage the second he attempted to drag her into a cabinet. There was something about Declan though or perhaps tonight in general that had made her reckless. The Declan she'd known was shy, tender, and harmless. Then again the Farren he'd known was uncomplicated and naive. Here she was galavanting around with a stranger, dangerously careless, without a second thought.

It seemed he had realized too they were being irrational. His excuse for all of this was that he missed her. When he said it it sounded nice. The string of the bitter sweet nostalgia she'd been feeling since she laid eyes on him was plucked by his simple statement. But the questions he launched at her, while certainly things you would ask someone you'd not seen in eight years, were ones with ugly answers. The giddy, free spirited feeling that had seized her and driven her here evaporated.

He'd not meant to do it and of course he couldn't know but his questions were scratching deeply into the shiny facade she put on everyday when she left her house. This had been all light and fun, teasing even, flirty perhaps and then these simple questions had pierced the thin, delicate veneer of all that. Falling into a serious expression she turned them over in her mind trying to arrange them in a way that would make the answers less depressing. She didn't want him to pity her, she wanted him to admire her like he'd done so far this evening, but the truth was in fact rather pitiable.

"Yes, it's very close. I'm bad at muggle streets but I think it was about 4 blocks to your shop?" she found herself so anxious about the answers to his questions she was distracted from keeping his gaze by the mental gymnastics she was going through to figure out the least depressing way to answer him without flat out lying. "I like Belgravia actually. When Clive bought the house before the wedding I was horrified. London....scary, big, muggles. I thought I'd never adjust but I have and I do enjoy it." That much was true at least. Maybe later she'd tell him she had had all the paintings of her wedding and husband sequestered to a single guest room that was like some kind of horrible misery museum a week after he died to make living there bearable.

"Pyxis is..." she glanced at him with a smirk. "Well he's still a misery guts. I'm not sure why we still allow him to stick around to be honest," she giggled a little, clearly joking but it wasn't exactly wrong either. "He is in the Ministry, Magical Cooperation...International something something desk. Honestly he probably does nothing just like most of us who go into the Ministry. Stamps papers, greets funny little foreign wizards, and sits around complaining about his co-workers lack of custom tailoring." Declan certainly knew Pyxis well enough to get the gist of it. Pyxis was never going to change. He'd been a 47 year old man when he was 14.

Sighing she leaned back into the velvet cushions of the sofa. The easy questions were answered. Looking over at Declan she fell silent still contemplating how to respond without shredding the happy little bubble she'd found herself in since laying eyes on him. Why was he so intent on pushing boundaries when they'd just run into each other tonight? Why not last year at that ball she'd seen him at? Or at that play thing they'd seen each other during the reception? If he missed her where had he been all this time?

"I still play," she found herself wishing she had a cigarette to suck on and distract herself from the intenseness of his gaze and this room. Her drink was in front of her but she would be too drunk if she kept at it just now. "It's a bit....different though. When I got married somehow my music became about him. The write ups for each performance were about if he was there or if the piece was somehow about our relationship. So I stopped performing. When he died I tried to go back but it was even odder then. Everything I touched was turned into some kind of supposed music code about grief or how he died or how I was having an affair all along. Obviously I'm not so stupid as to use public performance in that way. Not in my circumstances. It became unbearable so I quit - again. Thankfully my servants are very good at lying about my playing not annoying them. I published a concerto piece last year under a pseudonym. It was played by my old cohort in Vienna and very positively received. So....all that schooling isn't entirely wasted." She looked down at the space on the sofa between them. Perhaps she shouldn't be but she was ashamed. It would be unheard of for a man to have to literally give up his career because of his wife's celebrity status and the attention it brought. But she was not a man and so her career had all but ended under the scrutiny being someone's wife had brought down on her. It wasn't her fault but she still blamed herself and pitied herself for it.

"So....that's why I went to The Prophet. If people want to gawk and poke around in my life at least I should be the one controlling it. Everyone hated the idea of it, my mum, the Rosiers. They all thought it was too soon, too vulgar for a widow to work like this. The Rosiers even offered up another boy to just marry me instead. Some cousin." she waved her hand dismissively as this was a truly ridiculous notion to become Mrs. Rosier Rosier and end up living in her husband's house with his own cousin. Even for her traditional mindset it was too old fashioned.

"Of course I was having none of that. You know me. When the elders tell me I can't do something I just do it better. If I can't play my music freely I should at least be able to tell everyone what music is good. If people want to know what party I'm going to. What designer I've discovered. Which gallery I've visited - fine. I have better taste than 99.9% of our people so why shouldn't I be the one dictating what is tasteful and what is not? If they are so desperate to know my life as to literally chase me from my stage then they can bloody well pay for the access and have it dolled out to them how I want."

Her blue eyes flicked back up to his gaze. She was actually rather proud of what she'd done. There was more to it than that. It wasn't just about controlling the access and dictating taste. She had long term plans for this job of hers. Though she had no idea where he stood on things now she was sure past Declan would appreciate her ulterior motives. "There is the added and very intentional benefit that when I control the cultural content in our paper of record I can push my own cultural agenda. I have bigger plans for it than just hear this music and see this art. So far only a handful of such pieces have been run but I suspect with the way things are going the very definition of what is wizarding culture will need to be clearly defined to the masses and I intentionally put myself at The Prophet so when the time comes I am the one controlling that message. For the benefit of all of us."

The part of her brain that was so deeply coded to play social games and present herself in a perfect way was directing her to smile and tease to dull the bluntness of this revelation. But she didn't. Declan had known her once and the line between her and this self made occupation was clear and obvious to anyone who had truly known her. Modest she was not, never had been, of course it made sense that if someone was going to dictate to the masses what it meant to be a British wizard then it should be her above anyone else. It was ambitious, it was indelicate but she was the snakiest of snakes under the frills and tiaras wasn't she? Declan had always known that much. The sorting hat had never been wrong about that.

"And no, there is no beau," she said softly. "A few have tried but it seems most of the blokes I know are fairly terrified of a 25 year old widow that lives alone in her own mansion, has a real job, and all of Clive Rosier's wealth on top of her own. Unless you count the over 45 crowd. They seem less bothered by it but I am deeply bothered by them."

 If you read between the lines of what she'd just said to him it was pathetic. Forced from her art and true passion because of marriage she'd had little say in. Forced in his death to literally go underground with her life's work to avoid speculation. Dogged by intrusive attention to everything she did or said or put on or in her body. Somewhat alienated by all of it in the society who had put her in the very box they were scared of now. But somehow she was proud. Despite what her mother said she was still young and yet despite it all here she was, still standing, winning even by some measures.

The corners of her mouth pulled into a bit of a smirk. "Are you deeply shocked?" Declan had been fairly reasonable in his youth, more diplomatic than most of their rank. Perhaps he was unphased but if so he would be perhaps the only one. It was 1969, she would soon be 26 and she was unmarried and childless, a true discredit to her sex and beauty as her mum reminded her often. Would the boy who had idolized his powerful mother now think that way? "I suppose I am shocked. I certainly hadn't planned on any of it going this way."

Biting her bottom lip she considered him again. In the dim light of this place that so embodied him he seemed almost beautiful. He seemed so curious as to her relationship status and how he'd been interested in her in the past. Now she found herself wondering why nothing had happened all those years ago. She might be a proudly single widow. She might have a job. But she still believed it was the duty of men to start romances so if he was truly regretting it, he had only blame himself. It seemed unfathomable that she'd have turned him down back then.

"And now you. Tell me everything. Where do you live? Who do you see? What do you fill your days with? What woman do you lavish with all of this?" She smiled weakly. It was a sad smile. For as she said it aloud she realized how disappointed she'd be if there was anyone.

Declan O'Dwyer

He listened to Farren carefully. Good, she liked Belgravia. Still, he thought she didn't sound entirely happy. There was something wistful about her description of it all. She was probably just missed her husband. Fair. He couldn't quite imagine what losing Clive must have been like for her. It probably had turned her life upside down and was hard to adjust to. If that was how she felt, he could hardly blame her for it. And of course, Pyxis was still Pyxis, in all his boring glory. Born middle-aged sounded about right. Not that Declan didn't like the young man, but he'd always been a touch to conservative.

Unfortunately, her story soon changed to take on a more sombre note. There was a part of him which had expected something like this. Women in general weren't treated as well by society as they were supposed to be. He had hoped that somehow there would be an exception for Farren, but as she spoke it became obvious that her rank didn't make her impervious to the usual rules. It was ridiculous, unfair and strangely regressive. He had a lot of sympathy for her struggle with her art being compromised. He held her gaze firmly, as if trying to look at the layers underneath before softly shaking his head. He wasn't sure he would have coped with the loss of not being able to do something he love. 

He probably could consider himself twice lucky. Hailing from Dublin, the London rules of society were of relative rather than absolute importance. Of course, being born a man helped a great deal as well. Still, she had made the best of a bad situation and the appointment to the Prophet suited her temperament and agenda. He inclined his head to the side as he wondered exactly what Farren wanted to dictate to the shallow masses. Everything must be beautiful and expensive. Do not wear unfashionable clotes. He could just about picture how her student-self would have reacted to such power. Hopefully though, she'd use her platform for a more politically ambitious agenda now. He could hear a hint of that in her description and he nodded along approvingly. There was much work to be done in modernising society.

"Things rarely go as planned," Declan tried to comfort her. "But don't worry to much about shocking people. What have most of these folks ever done for you and what do they know about being at the centre of society? I can scarcely figure out how you can stand it. I find myself thinking the attention I receive is far more than I can care - and I'm not nearly as interesting for the papers as you are."

He had more questions he would have liked to ask, but Farren fired off a couple of her own and he figured it was only sporting to try and give her as detailed and thoughtful a response as she had given him. For the most part they were easy to answer as well. He figured the true question here was how much of himself he wanted to reveal in his answers. Though seeing her again was wonderful, there was some friction in the room he hadn't felt before. His school friend Farren he would have told anything and everything without a second thought. This grown version of her he wanted to impress. He cared what she would think of him.

"I moved back to Dublin some time back," he told her honesty. "Just a small town house away from my family. It helps with not fighting all the time." He wondered how much she really knew. The papers were usually focused on his father Fintan and his handsome younger brother Lorcan. They'd tried their darndest to keep the O'Dwyer succession struggle out of the papers, but of course no such cover-up was every entirely successful. There'd still been some reports on the bitter feud dividing the O'Dwyer family. In a way, all the drama whether Declan or Lorcan should inherit had been the catalyst for Declan to move abroad. He'd needed time to figure out if he even wanted to compete in this stupid battle. 

"I honestly thought winning would feel better. Instead, here we are so many years later and my father and I still barely have a civil word for each other." Declan rolled his eyes indicating that maybe his life wasn't all that perfect either. However, compared to her problems his seemed rather harmless. It was mostly about money, the line of succession and the constant pressure to get married. He doubted these were things she really wanted to hear about.

"I've been keeping busy with work, to be honest. Not much time for anything else. The shop in London isn't my first, and the parent business in Dublin has been quite demanding on my time. I'm still brewing most of the custom orders myself. It's hard to find decent apprentices. I am getting an appreciation how Master Penhaligon must have felt about me back when I was an apprentice running roughshod over his lab."

He smiled at the memory. His relationship with Penhaligon was one he held close to his heart. Being expats in Saint Petersburg together had created a special bond between master and apprentice that was as strong as ever even years after Declan had left to walk his own way. They still conversed regularly, exchanged potion ideas and met for Sunday roast. In a way, Penhaligon was more of a father figure to him than Fintan O'Dwyer had ever been.

"I suppose aside from that, it's much the same as ever. I still like being out on horseback. I still like tending to the gardens. I spend a lot of time writing - I suppose that is new."

He didn't want to give more detail there. During his apprentice years he had started writing poetry, even gotten halfway decent at it; but he was scared she'd judge him for such a revelation. Part of his family certainly had, and the memory of that still stung. His inner conflict and displeasure at the memory was briefly visible on his features before he pushed it away. Again, this was hardly what he wanted to show Farren about himself. Being overly sensitive was an unbecoming trait for a gentleman.

"And I don't keep much company. I mean I still see Master Penhaligon regularly, but I don't suppose that's what you mean. I'm still friends with Glendan and Moira Byrne. We see each other often as they live just around the corner from me in Dublin. Some friends in Petersburg of course, but I don't see them as much as I'd like. I've been letting Lorcan have his share of society and accept most of the invitations to the family. He enjoys it a great deal more than I do. And after all that happened, I feel bad for him. I wished he'd understand that none of this was ever about him. He'll always have a living and an estate."

He shrugged. No, he really didn't want to talk about O'Dwyer politics, but the matter kept following him around whatever he did. There was no way to catch up when the whole blasted affair had defined the past decade of his life. He somehow needed to brighten the mood.

"No ladies though, if that's what you're asking. I'm undatable. Workaholic, funny eye, megalomaniac father who hates me." He gave her a playful little smile. "Well, I suppose winning against said megalomaniac must earn me some points. Not enough tough for any good offers. I was hoping you could introduce me to one of your friends. Preferably one that isn't detrimentally stupid." Of course, he was teasing her there just to see her reaction. He was holding onto a bit of hope that she might express her disapproval of such a concept. He wasn't sure where the thought was coming from - but now that they were face to face again the question of asking her out had returned to the forefront of his mind and he was trying to work out if he was going to risk taking a first step. 

Farren Abercrombie

January 26, 2021, 03:53:31 am #9 Last Edit: January 26, 2021, 05:03:58 am by K
He was sweet, trying to offer a diplomatic response to what was ultimately a pretty tragic story. She agreed that she didn't actually owe these people anything but it was hard to maintain that mind frame long term. Either way she smiled a little at his compassion and empathy towards her situation. Perhaps in time she'd tell him so much more, what she actually wanted to say. "Thanks," she said in a small voice with her hesitant smile.

As she listened to him all she could really think about was where they had sailed apart and why. There was not specific when, though surely her wedding put one of the last nails in the coffin she supposed. Even more unclear than the timeline was the reason. People moved apart after school, people drifted, but sitting here, realizing she'd missed him all this time, she just wanted to be able to have a better reason for having lost her friend besides 'it just happened', something tangible she could blame.

Frowning a little at the bit about his family she tried to recall what she'd read or heard about them. Perhaps she'd subconsciously avoided absorbing the gossip about him but most of what he told her was almost all news to her. It seemed he would prefer to dance around the topic and she couldn't figure out if rolling his eyes to almost shrug it off was performative or genuine. But she just nodded thoughtfully watching him carefully.

"There's another one?" she said quickly, genuinely surprised when he mentioned the original store in Dublin. It was so absolutely unique she felt bad not knowing there was an original. Not that she ever went to Dublin.  "I want to see it," she quipped her eyes on his so he'd know she was being serious.

He was sparse with details about most of it. She arched her eyebrow curious at the mention of his writing. She wondered if the journals scattered about were his writing or just bookkeeping type business. During school he'd always been appreciative of the arts but made few inroads into being an artist himself that she was aware of. Now she nearly jumped in to pry more detail from him about that but he moved on quickly.

When he said no ladies, which was what she was asking exactly, an odd thing occurred. That funny little wave of nostalgia she'd been feeling all night rushed to her stomach and clenched into a bouncy little ball there. He was making a joke about it and she smiled but in reality she was distracted by the feeling. He proceeded to suggest she set him up with a friend. He made a joke about picking one that wasn't stupid and even though she knew he was joking the sensation in her stomach tightened. Her practiced smile faltered for a moment, she clearly wasn't taking the joke so easily, her brow almost furrowed, her lips pursing. She looked very much like she disapproved of this and for a moment her bright eyes flickered from his face back to the patch of sofa between them.  It took a beat for her to regain her composure and she wondered if he'd noticed how she faltered? How could he have not? The ball in her stomach was now mixed with an unfamiliar feeling - anxiety.

"Ha..." she managed a weak recovery plastering her practiced grin on her face. "Are you suggesting the majority of the fine ladies of London are not esteemed academics? What an impudent sentiment," she giggled a little though even she was not sure if she was genuine. Whatever was going on in her stomach was a problem but she wasn't going to let that knock her too off her game.

Her smile was charming and she casually draped her slender arm along the back of the sofa as if she was completely at ease. "I guess that's it then? Exactly everything we've done in the last eight or so years. No details skipped in those synopses." Her eyes sparkled, she was calling them both out. Of course neither had time to sit here and explain every day of the last few years but he'd been quite light on details and she had a list of things she wanted to tell him when she felt more confident. Besides it seemed a bit somber now, likely her fault, depressing widow and all. Of course she wanted to hear all about his life but she'd also quite enjoyed the impish game they'd started all this with. Her grin was devious,  "I think we should play a little game with these glasses of mead. Ask me any two questions you like. If I don't want to respond to one of them I have to take a sip instead but I can't skip both questions. One skip for a sip per turn. Then it's your turn, same rules. This mead is too good to let go to waste."

If she finished this glass of mead she would be drunk. Perhaps that was OK tonight. Being irresponsible and forgetting herself once every few years was acceptable especially when there was this good an excuse. Or maybe she would just answer him honestly and not take a single sip of the mead and drag the game on all night just to savor his companionship?

Declan O'Dwyer

"Hardly anything skipped," Declan confirmed with a wide smile. "Just the sad little details we'd rather not admit to. But alas, we can't let the evening become too maudlin." Of course, there were a lot of things he'd like to hear about in more detail. There had to be more to that marriage of hers than she had mentioned.  Her new career seemed fascinating and he wondered about that as well. However, if they were really reconnecting - and from the looks of it they were - there would be plenty of time to ask those questions over time. For now, he agreed with her on taking a more light-hearted approach and having some fun with the evening.

"I'll agree to this on one condition." Declan said, "Since you want to see the Dublin store why don't you meet me there after work some time this week or next? There are a few nice places nearby where we could grab some dinner." He hoped the offer sounded casual enough and didn't betray how desperately he wanted her to agree. Having another meeting planned in the future would solidify their attempt at rekindling this friendship. "Just pop me a message via the floo when you are free. I'm usually pretty good about closing up on time."

Was there such a thing as too casual? Almost as soon as he'd said the words he wondered if his attempt at casual came across as disinterested instead. Why did it have to be this difficult to find the right tone.

He picked up his glass of mead from the table and gave it a critical look. "I probably shouldn't finish this glass, so you better go easy on me with the questions. But I suppose it's my turn first. Let me think." He made a bit of a show out of coming up with something to ask, theatrically scratching his head.

"I've got it! If you could go on a date with anybody, who would you pick? And I also want to know what the biggest lie is you ever told your parents?" Now there were hardly serious questions and Declan felt reminded of their school years again, sneaking out of their common rooms after hours to play truth or dare or spin the bottle in an empty classroom, praying none of their professors would catch them.

Farren Abercrombie

Again he made her laugh. At least they agreed that they'd left out all the sad bits. He called them sad little details but in reality for her they were more like sad many details. Of course there was much more to both their stories but at least he was polite enough to not bog them down with those details now.

What was this now? Was he asking her out on a date or casually inviting her over? All of that about regretting having not asked her out. Saying he'd missed her. He'd literally ferried her without asking across international borders to his private potions lab to be alone with her. She probably had no right to be dissatisfied with his ask but deep down she was. She blamed him for bringing up having wanted to ask her out after school, her wild mind had already run wild with that little bit. He wanted to see her again which was good, it was ridiculous to expect some kind of grand gesture or date after seeing each other again for literally twenty minutes.
Clearly she'd misinterpreted things. Clearly this knot of nerves in her stomach was misplaced and exaggerated. They were old friends reconnecting. Whatever assumptions she'd made about there being anything more was probably wrong. He'd wanted to ask her out some eight years ago. Clearly she'd read far too much into that. It was probably just a sign of how bored and lonely she was. She'd let all of this silliness give her the wrong impression and rush to her head. Drunk on her own excitement and some attention from a boy she'd once known. He'd just said he hardly knew her and that was true. Of course he hadn't actually been flirting with her. Eight years ago she was young and uncomplicated. There was no Mrs. title hanging around her neck. No famous dead husband. She hated how foolish she felt.

"Of course," she said with a small smile. "I'm sure we can find an evening that works. I'd love to see the original," and she would love it, she knew already that it was going to be magical and beautiful. "I'll consult my diary in the morning and let you know." In moments like this she was glad that she was a professional. Ladies of society had to be nimble in every sense. She was disappointed of course but she still wanted to go and wasn't going to let her best friend from school slip away again because she was a twit.

When he asked his first question she scoffed, unable to not laugh a little. Her fingers ran gently across one of her brows as her head tilted. She was uncomfortable and confused. Now he was just mocking her was he? Or was he really just so clueless? Did he want her to say it was him? Did he think whatever he'd just invited her on was a date invite? Was he still waffling about asking her out 8 years later and waiting for reassurance? If she said it was him, was he going to back track and ask her properly? Or did he genuinely want to know who she fancied? If she said him would he feel deeply uncomfortable? If he was trying to be clever she wasn't following at all.  His second question was far more manageable at least. "Ok...." she said thinking over her responses in her head trying to come up with a response that was both acceptably honest and clever.

"Well, I don't know who I'd most like to go on a date with," she smiled sheepishly over at him, "So I suppose I'll have to take a drink on that one for I have no name to supply you." Her tone was light, easy even. Leaning forward she picked up her glass. "To be honest I've been out of the dating game for so long I worry I'm too out of touch with the way things are done now. Things seem to be so casual now, even in society, I can't quite make heads or tails of it sometimes. I certainly would enjoy being taken out and having an excuse to get dressed up for a gentleman sometime." For a moment she held his gaze. If this invitation was meant to be a date he should be aware that she was utterly clueless as to his actual intention. If it was truly a platonic offering, which she was also happy to have, he'd have no problem with her response. Dating was confusing, especially when you were a young bride and a widow 100 years too soon. Smiling she took a small sip of the mead.
"Hmmm the biggest lie. Well, after Clive died they wanted me to move back to Dalemain so they could you know - manage me. So I told them I would move back to Dalemain as soon as I sold the Belgravia house. You can imagine their shock when the house was getting no inquiries. One month - ok. Two months - bit odd. Three months for a house like that, unheard of." She laughed, genuinely, it was true. "By the fifth month they were insisting I remove all the wards and charms and move home so it could be sold empty to muggles. Finally after 6 months Grandfather sent his valet to the broker's office to make an offer on the house and was shocked to find out the house was spoken for and every single inquiry was being turned down. After that my little charade was over. They were furious of course but it gave me plenty of time to have all the money from the Rosier's sorted so when they threatened me for not coming home I could throw it right back at them." Smiling she set her glass back down on the table in front of her.

"Ok, ok, my turn," she somehow felt a little better now. "Ok question one...." she bit her bottom lip thinking, "What is something you wish you could say to your dad but never have? And question two is...why didn't you actually ask me out after graduation?"

Declan O'Dwyer

Declan felt relieved when she agreed to his proposal to meet again. He'd have to come up with a proper plan on where to take Farren and what to do for the evening, but that was details he could worry about in the morning. Deciding for a nice restaurant in Dublin and reserving a table was easy enough.  He only had to give his last name to be promoted to the top of any reservation list in the magical community. Hopefully, he could come up with something that would meet with Farren's expectations of a night out. Being used to all the fancies and foibles of London society, it probably wouldn't be all that easy to please her.

When she started answering his questions, any thoughts about venues were forgotten as we were listening with great interest. He noted with some amusement that she was dodging his questions about a potential date. He couldn't tell if this was a good sign or a bad sign. In truth, he hadn't really thought about what he would have wanted her to answer. Had she mentioned anyone he would have probably been rather jealous. So, all things considered, her not giving him a name was probably a good sign. At least it meant he wasn't entirely out of the running and maybe had a chance to make up for some things he had missed out on many years ago.

Her second response though was far more fascinated. "Oh no!" he burst out laughing. "You didn't, did you?" He could just about imagine the sour expression on the older Abercrombies' faces as they voiced their displeasure with their daughter's antics. "Not that I blame you, Farren, but that it quite something. I'm surprised you got away with it, but I suppose they had little choice in the matter, thinking about the family's reputation. Brilliant really." He probably shouldn't have felt this way, but her ingenious way of defying her parents just made him like her all the better. He'd made the right decision asking her out.

The questions she asked him in return were quite tricky though. Both were aiming at something he wasn't particularly keen to reveal the details of. "I suppose I didn't ask you out because I was quite worried it would damage our friendship. I was sure you would have said no, and I didn't want things to be awkward between you and me afterwards. And of course, I think I might have just died on the spot. You know how dramatic everything is when you're a teenager." There she had it. He didn't feel particularly happy to own his being a coward, but since he had to answer at least one of her questions he'd been left with little choice.

"Please don't think ill of me for that. I was a very stupid teenager. Really, much more stupid than most of them." Hopefully, cracking a bit of a joke would lighten the mood sufficiently.

"As to what I would like to say to my father, I don't think that bears repeating in the company of a fine lady such as yourself. I'm afraid I will have to drink to that one." He raised his glass to his lips and took a sip. A nasty string of swear words was running through his mind. Would he call Fintan a feckless gobshite or worst-looking hallion he'd ever seen? Now, there was a serious decision to be making.

"And I guess this makes it my turn again. I want to know what kind of cuisine you prefer and your favourite kind of flower." He figured, while they were playing this game he might as well engage in some light-hearted recon for their next get-together.

Farren Abercrombie

She smiled at his reaction to her antics with her house. Of course she hadn't put much thought into the plan at the time. She'd only just tasted freedom- kind of. At least from her parents. Clive had been in charge of her for a year and a half. He'd not cared what she did as long as she didn't work or cause problems or upstage him in the papers on days Quidditch things went on. So in a way that was kind of freedom. Him dying was her first chance to be truly free though and she wasn't going to lose that so her parents could have her at home and marry her off to someone six months later.

"Well, there has to be some advantage to being a young widow, right? Might as well use the power it gave me to do something I want, right?" She smiled more brightly at him giving a little shrug like upturning her parents expectations had been nothing.

When she'd posed her questions, as much as she'd hoped he'd answer, she'd expected him to drink on why he hadn't asked her out. His reasoning made perfect sense. Of course, being a teenager was horrible and everyone was scared all the time. If only she'd known then what she knew now, how little the world had cared about her. How dumb everyone else was, just like her.

She couldn't help but giggle a little when he said he'd of died on the spot if she rejected him. Pursing her lips, offering a sympathetic smile she reached out, not thinking, and placed her hand on top of his. Reassuringly running her thumb over the back of his hand. "Of course I don't think ill of you. I can't believe how stupid and horrible I was as a teenager. To be honest I think I would have been shocked you asked me, so I might have died of shock on the spot. I always thought you were far too clever for me. Or that perhaps you thought I was too vapid even though you adored me as a friend." Giving his hand a little squeeze she held his gaze for a moment. The tight ball in her stomach was back ricocheting around inside her so suddenly she pulled her hand back sheepishly.

Shaking her head she giggled again, "Oh I assure you, I might be a fine lady but I am very familiar with the crude language of men." Grinning at him she tilted her head a little wondering what he could say that would be so horrible but was surprised by his questions. Perhaps it was a date? Perhaps he was just too clueless to make a suave move of it? She went through her mental catalog of dates her friends had been on and outings with men they gossiped about. Men didn't provide flowers unless they were sincere. Certainly that was a sign?
"Well I don't need to drink on either of those queries though I suppose they are instructive to you. My favorite flower is the Dahlia. As for cuisine I'm quite versatile. As long as it's a quality product thoughtfully prepared I'm open. I don't do particularly well with high spice levels would be my only note. Though, my favorite food is the meat pie the elves at Dalemain make. I'm afraid we can't replicate that in Dublin though."

It was her turn again. Furrowing her brow slightly she thought on her questions. He'd just given her something very easy but she was not the one taking him out so no need for her to go quite that easy on him. "Ok...what is your favorite thing you have made for your shops? Question two is...." she could come up with a dozen questions, all of which she was sure were inappropriate and entirely the fault of that nervous ball in her stomach. "Do you think of me every time you hear Hoyer?"

Declan O'Dwyer

She seemed to be onto him and his motives for asking his questions. He gave her a shy smile, not sure what a correct reaction in this situation looked like. Sure, he'd been anything but subtle, and yet he'd not expected to be called out on his behaviour so openly.

"Dublin offers a great many diversions to fall in love with." he commented. He'd gotten away with the idea that Farren liked her simple home comforts and found himself mildly surprised by the fact. Somehow, he had expected her to pick something fancier and grander than a meat pie. He could relate though. Some of the simple foods of his childhood were still among his favourites as well.

A favourite piece? He had a few, for various reasons. He paused for a moment, wondering what she wanted him to say. Other people had jobs, but he viewed his work as a profession, a calling. It suited his nature, firmly grounded in science and academics and yet requiring a flair for artistry. He enjoyed the making of medical potions just as much as his excursions into the world of scent. There were potions he had worked on he loved for the academic principles underpinning the project, others that he was proud of for the technical execution of the brew. Especially when venturing into the world of scent there were creations he enjoyed for their artistic value or the emotional response they stirred in him. Sometimes, these varying elements came together. Perhaps, strangest of all there were some brews that had gone terribly wrong and yet counted among his favourites. Something about living in the moment and beauty remaining solely in the eye of the beholder.

He got up from where he'd been sitting making his way over to his counter. "Let me see if I have any of my favourites in to show you." He pulled on one of the drawers underneath his work top, carefully looking at the bottles stocked inside. "As for Hoyer..." he hesitated unsure of how to word what was on his mind. She was a fellow artist and music her chosen medium. Any response he gave to that question would likely be taken to heart. "Sometimes," he admitted eventually. "They're beautiful pieces and you play them well." He didn't dare to look up to her and instead pulled the drawer out further into a position that defied the laws of physics. Clearly there wasn't enough room inside the pedestal to house such a large collection of brews. After much deliberation he settled on two bottles to take out.

"I love Hoyer, her music is very conceptual and very intelligently crafted. I do have a tune that always makes me think of you," he decided to tease, "but I am afraid she cannot take the credit for that one."  He figured he had done his duty as far as answering her question was concerned and he turned to her, setting his two chosen bottles on the table in front of her without any explanation as to what and why.

"There you go. My favourites."

The first of the two, was a long and elegant vial containing a wine-red coloured liquid with golden glitter suspended throughout the solution. If she removed the stopper, it would be easy to determine that this one was a scent: spicy and sweet in equal measure. Heavy, dark and seductive it was not the kind of perfume a lady would purchase for everyday wear. Elegant layers of rhum vanilla, cinnamon musk and ambery patchouli left a sensual and sinful impression.

The second bottle was simple and square. The liquid contained had shone a cold green light when he was holding it. Now that he had set it down on the table in front of her the light seemed to have extinguished, leaving behind an utterly unremarkable looking bottle. He was curious to see what sort of colour it would take on if she picked it up.

"I'd recommend holding the second one away from yourself when you open it. The content can be a bit surprising."

He figured this was enough of a hint to give.

"I suppose I should ask more questions. Tell me, what makes you genuinely happy? When you dream, what do you dream of?" These questions were certainly more meaningful than the last two, and yet he seemed more at ease than a couple of minutes ago. He expression has taken on a distant quality for a moment - as if lost in a dream of his own, albeit a happy one.