Floo Network

🍂 Autumn 69
[Mayfair] Destiny is calling me [open]

Started by Rose Pemberton, April 03, 2021, 10:31:33 pm

Rose Pemberton

Rose was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. September had come quickly, and the once abstract idea of accompanying Harold Prendergast to the social event of the season had become a daunting reality. She still wasn't sure how she had gotten herself into this thoroughly ridiculous situation. Here she was going to a fancy ball with a handsome man, and yet the occasion wasn't even a romantic one. Instead, she was going on a mission of reconnaissance, hoping to help Harold uncover the truth about his missing wife, Sylvia.

She was rather afraid she would stick out like a sore thumb. The Bannatyne Ball was mostly frequented by pureblooded, rich or famous people. She didn't fit into any of these categories. In fact, a couple of years ago she'd looked at being employed as a server for one of these occasions. Even then, there had been other witches and wizards who made for better suited candidates. She'd never felt so unwanted in a place in her entire life, but she was determined to make this evening a success. She could do it. Her muggle family was quite well to do. She knew how to navigate in muggle society. How hard could it be to apply that knowledge to the upper echelons of wizarding society.

It didn't help that Rose knew the wife of their host, Bradford Bannatyne, in person. Verity and she had worked together at the ministry; well before Rose dropped out and Verity had gotten married to Bradford. They weren't the best of friends anymore, but apparently still close enough for Rose to ask for a favour. Rose had ended up fibbing a little to secure her and Harold's invitation to the ball. The story she'd told Verity wasn't miles and miles from the truth, but just thinking about it again made her uncomfortable. She'd said  that there was a gentleman she was trying to impress. She could only pray this story wouldn't come back to haunt her today. Rose was also worried that if she made a mistake, she would not only embarrass herself, but potentially also Verity. The thought of it sent her stomach somersaulting.

In an effort to distinguish this event from going on a date, Rose had insisted that Harold and she should travel to the venue separately. It was a decision she rather regretted now. Standing in front of her bedroom mirror she felt ridiculous. Her corset was laced so tightly she was struggling for air and she was still worried that her cream-coloured organza gown wouldn't fit her, or worse that maybe it wouldn't fit the occasion. Well, it was too late to get a different dress now. With the help of one of the house elves she put on the strapless sheath dress with a jet-beaded bodice and the matching long overskirt, fanning out behind her like a peacock's tail.

Yes, it was a pretty dress. She liked it. If she was going down tonight, she supposed she was going down in style. The gown had taken her the best part of two weeks to put together and she was sure that if it weren't for the three house elf girls that worked in the kitchens helping her out, she would have never finished it in time. They'd embroidered the overskirt with her all night every night for the last week. Rose supposed she should consider herself lucky. Most women didn't even have one fairy godmother to help them get ready for a ball and here she was being supported by three. She wanted to gift each of the elves something to wear out of sheer gratitude, though she figured such a gift wouldn't be appreciated.

Her heels felt awkward to walk in even with a cushioning charm and a rune of stability on them for good measure. Rose tentatively negotiated her way through Hogwarts castle, hoping that none of the students would see her. She didn't fancy having to explain what she was doing. Thankfully, her evening cloak covered most of the gown or she would have felt even more self-conscious. She still hadn't come up with a story to tell Grace, should she find out about this evening.

When Rose finally stepped outside the castle, she was pleasantly surprised at how warm the weather was for an evening in early September. She placed a couple of quick charms on her gown, making sure the hemline would float behind her for a little bit rather than dragging on the dirt. The last thing she wanted was to arrive at the venue looking like she had marched through a field.

Thankfully, the walk to the apparition point wasn't long. She paused, took a deep breath, and tried to remember where she was going. Verity had told her the address of course, but Rose had never been to her new home in Mayfair. She tried to picture it in her mind's eye, but her nerves were playing up. When the materialised in London she found herself in Park Lane, rather than in Grosvenor Square as intended. Great. Appearing into the middle of a busy muggle area was exactly what she needed. A little boy walking along Park Lane with his parents was pointing at her, but thankfully the muggles didn't pay her any mind. This was not how she had pictured her Cinderella story going.

She had to ask a muggle concierge standing in front of one of Mayfair's fancy hotels for directions. She earned a raised eyebrow for wearing a cloak, but at least the man was polite enough to not question her further. As luck would have it, her apparition hadn't been too far off the mark and she could easily reach the venue on foot. Only a five-minute walk. Normally, she wouldn't have minded at all, but walking through a muggle residential area in an evening cloak and gown seemed less than pleasant.
 
At long last she found the Bannatyne residence near the newly opened Britannia Hotel. Even the entrance area and cloak room were breath-taking. Decorated in white marble and with golden columns, Rose wasn't sure if she would have described the place as beautiful or ostentatious. She wondered how Verity could live in a house like this. When there weren't a couple of hundred guests to entertain, didn't the place just seem woefully empty?

She could see a small crowd congregating around a few tall drink tables near a gigantic double door, painted with a pair of loved up black peacocks perched in a tree surrounded by spring florals and other colourful birds and butterflies. Rose supposed that this had to be the way to the ballroom. Apparently, she was also still early judging by the door being closed.

She felt herself struggling to navigate the situation, but thankfully the house staff was immediately there to help, asking to take her cloak and informing her about the drinks on the menu. Rose had no idea what an absinthe frappé, peach shrub or gillywater sunrise were, but the first sounded so intriguing she settled on that option hoping it would be something tasty. Part of her rather longed for a strong fire whiskey, but she supposed that was not a very ladylike choice to make. There was also that she didn't want to be drunk by the time she found Harold.

Looking around she took in the few people in attendance she recognised. There were tonight's hosts, Bradford, and Verity Bannatyne happily chatting with Blythe Bannatyne and a pale gentleman with an Irish accent. Rose didn't recognise him. Next to them a couple of faces Rose was certain she had seen in the paper. One of the ladies was Lavinia Lockwood, the famous fashion designer. Rose had seen her robes for sale in Diagon Alley - not that she'd ever be able to afford anything like it. Unfortunately, still no trace of Harold.

Her drink arrived, which seemed to be a highly alcoholic, aniseed-flavoured slushie and Rose has a little sip from the straw, happy to just stand at her table and watch people. One of the staff members slipped into the ballroom and she caught a brief glimpse of what was to come. The ballroom was spectacular. A high ceiling, tall windows framed in dusky lavender curtains, a highly polished wooden floor displaying the Bannatyne family crest, heavy, sparkling chandeliers: in short perfect. She could just catch a glimpse of the doors to the adjoining gardens being open as well. Roses, wisteria flowers, bluish glowing will-o'-the-wisps, and... the door shut again leaving Rose to her drink and people watching.

Where in the name of Merlin was Hal? Her gaze got stuck on a gentleman she recognised, but it was not Professor Prendergast. Instead, she found herself looking at Marlowe and Hecate Winterbourne. She quickly turned away taking another sip from her drink. Oh Merlin, what now?

Declan O'Dwyer

April 04, 2021, 04:29:51 pm #1 Last Edit: April 04, 2021, 04:35:51 pm by Royal_Poet
...earlier, in Belgravia

It had been a good couple of months since Declan had been to a big social event and normally, he preferred to keep it that way. He was too awkward to converse with people easily and it didn't help that he found a fair amount of the frequent attendees to be shallow and poor conversationalists. Usually, he ended up feeling quite bored around halfway through the evening, frantically trying to come up with an excuse as to why he had to leave earlier.

This time, his mind was more pleasantly engaged. He'd uncharacteristically volunteered to attend and was even looking forward to the occasion. He doubted that it would be boring when he was going with Farren and he didn't mind the Bannatynes as much as some other pure-blooded families. His uncle's fiancée, Blythe, was a charming witch and quite knowledgeable in her field of study, wizarding history. He could be happy for Ardan for having found himself such a sensible woman. Maybe, he was even a little bit jealous. Not that Declan had any interest in Blythe Bannatyne in particular, but the idea of a well-matched relationship appealed.

Getting ready, thankfully, didn't take long. The menswear for such events was pretty easy to put together and mostly boring. White shirts, white waistcoats, a white tie of some sort, classic trousers, a dark robe to wear over the top, frills optional depending on taste level. This time, Declan was trying to err on the side of caution and look as conventional as possible. He was aware of having bit of a reputation for flouting convention at such events and looking flamboyant, but of course going with Farren he had more than himself to consider. Therefore, boring choices were the winning options tonight; white and anthracite grey, no frills, mixed with a very dark green outer robe. The only thing that was really him about the look was the perfect fit of the clothes. He'd never be seen in an ill-fitting suit if he could help it.  

Declan found hadn't looked this dull since he couldn't remember when and the person reflected in the mirror struck him as rather vulnerable. All the while people were busy complaining about his eccentric jewellery pieces, weird fashion choices, or bold colours he could easily keep them at a distance. The criticism was about the style not him as a person. This was inviting a different brand of criticism he wasn't sure he felt entirely prepared for. There really wasn't much that would distract people from his odd eye. Fortunately, the appearance of the eye was a problem he could fix. Maybe, that would help with not feeling so vulnerable.

Declan grumbled as he cast an illusion over the injury to make his eyes appear even. He hadn't cast it in ages, not really since graduating from Hogwarts, but he supposed if spending time with Farren propelled him into the limelight and the papers it was a habit he would have to start to get into again. Unpleasant, he decided, but potentially worth it. However, even with the concealment charm in place he found himself feeling a little bit out of his element. He didn't usually try to conform and doing so now went against his grain. It felt quite unnatural.  

Were they moving too quickly? Maybe, he should have discussed things with Farren a little bit more. He wasn't sure that she'd ever paid attention to him during the few events where their paths had crossed. Was she comfortable with his public persona? She hadn't complained during Viridian's opening celebration and he'd been somewhat over the top then. Yes, definitely a conversation to have some time. Tonight though, caution was the number one order of business.

Once he'd apparated to her doorstep, he felt even more nervous than before. Whatever doubts and concerns he had, were suddenly amplified by the fact Farren weren't yet ready to leave. He had not anticipated that at all. Come to think of it though, it was rather silly of him to expect anything else. In some ways Farren was quite stereotypically girly and this, clearly, was one of them.

He was led to a fancy parlour where he could sit down and wait. Too nervous to take the chair offered to him, he instead paced up and down the room as if trying to will the seconds to tick by faster. Relief arrived in the format of crup Jeff, whom he had taken a liking to during his last visit. The slightly daft little dog seemed to be delighted to see him again and Declan was happy to entertain Jeff by wrestling him for a rope toy if it meant he didn't have to think about his obvious nerves for a couple of minutes.

Declan wondered if Farren felt similarly overwhelmed by the situation. It had been fine when he had asked a couple of weeks ago, but now that reality was catching up with them it seemed a little bit more daunting. Parts of his family would be in attendance. There was probably a good chance there would be parts of her family at the ball as well. There might be nosy reporters with questions. Why he was worried about that he didn't know. Growing up around his father had also entailed dealing with the press. He'd successfully handled it. And yet this all felt quite different and like a whole new game to learn how to play.  

Farren Abercrombie

Another day another ball. Farren attended every major social event on the London calendar and this ball should be like any other ball with the exception that it would be the first time since the death of her husband that she attended a social event with a man that wasn't her blood relative. Not just any man at that. It wasn't one of the 30-something, pureblood, heirs her mother constantly paraded around her. Instead of one of those fancy stud horses constantly thrust at her she'd picked her own date for once and it was none other than her childhood friend, Declan O'Dwyer. Of course on paper he was just as fancy as the men her mum liked. The O'Dwyers were powerful and wealthy purebloods. His father was world famous. There was no reason he being her date should ruffle feathers. Somehow though, she knew it would.


For such an occasion she'd been careful to select the perfect gown. If she was going to make a scene with Declan she should at least look the part. There was a message to be communicated with her look this evening. Primarily that she was the queen of this whole show and her choices were not to be questioned. Green was selected, an homage to Slytherin, the cold stone dungeon walls that has housed many of the attendees of this ball and a common thread that ran through their society. Crystals embroidered on the dress like stars and star spray across the sky, a literal sign of her star power within society. The back of the dress was missing the multiple layers of air green fabric the rest of the dress had, it was entirely sheer, covered only by a single sheer piece of fabric, fastened with small green buttons. This was for the benefit, or punishment of her date who would have to spend all evening touching her nearly bare back the thinnest of fabric separating his finger tips and her bare skin. As usual she'd styled her hair into a loose, elegant updo which showed off the back of the dress and made the perfect style to nestle her favorite Rosier Star Tiara into so it looked like the antique diamond stars were set into her soft dark hair.

If there was one thing she enjoyed about being a married woman it was that she was officially allowed to wear tiaras and what woman didn't love tiaras? Of course she was running late and she was informed that Declan had arrived and been show into a parlor. She was a little nervous, not because it was a ball, not even because her family would be there and see what was happening. None of that worried her, she had too much social credit built up to worry about what anyone said about her at one event. No, she was worried about how things would go with Declan. When they were on the dance floor or between songs when it was just the two of them in proximity.

Declan had been very clear that he wanted to pursue something with her. It was flattering, welcomed, much needed seeds on genuine affection but that didn't stop her mind from wandering in quiet moments. What was really going on? They'd known each other for a decade and suddenly, now, after a chance run in he was setting the stage to romance her.  Why not sooner? Why now of all times? These were all things she could just ask him, she knew that he would answer her if she asked but it was new and fast and different and Farren was a creature of ritual and habit. There was something simultaneously scary and comforting about whatever was going on between them.

Her maid slid her shoes on her feet as Farren sat at her vanity making a final touch up to her lip stick. Shoes on, make up perfect, signature perfume on, dress and jewels perfect Farren took one last look at herself before picking up her crystal encrusted clutch and heading downstairs. Since he was in the parlor he would miss her grand entrance down the stairs into the foyer which in retrospect she regretted not planning better. Never mind though. She felt very pretty and very happy to be going out with Declan. Her nerves about how things would go or not seemed to be largely contained. Her heels clicked on the floor as she made her way towards the parlor, flicking her hand the doors to the room opened ahead of her.

"Hello," she said sailing into the room a picture of youthful, sparkling beauty. "I would apologize for keeping you waiting but in fact my only real regret is my butler having the decency to let you rest instead of having you wait for me in the foyer so you could appreciate my entrance down the stairs." She was beaming and clearly in a good mood. The crups diverted their attention from Declan to run across the parlor to their master only to get as close to her as the hem of her skirts would allow. "Are you nervous? I have been thinking you will be nervous."

Harold Prendergast

April 05, 2021, 04:40:15 pm #3 Last Edit: April 05, 2021, 04:47:00 pm by Arantor
Harold was, understandably, nervous about such an event. Balls and fancy to-dos were not, to coin a phrase, his cup of tea. And he internally noted that tea was rather unlikely to be on the drinks menu, which would be a shame. Though, he did note that there was a reasonable chance of having some kind of alcoholic beverage that might do in the form of liquid courage - both to not disappoint the inestimable Miss Pemberton, and to perhaps wheedle something out of the patrons there.

He had, of course, acquired suitable clothing for the occasion - and that should be perfectly adequate both to muggle and wizarding eyes; it seemed that the fashion for such things was towards the more 'traditional', the top-hat and tails, white scarf, stiff collar with white tie, shoes so polished they shined. And squeaked with every step. Even trying to wear them occasionally in his quarters hadn't done much for reducing the squeak but it was at least not piercing his very soul with every step.

The note from Rose had made it very clear when to arrive - at the venue, separately - which Harold wasn't quite sure was the socially acceptable or done thing, but at least it should at any rate avoid questions about the nature of their relationship; if not seen arriving together and presumably not leaving together, they might hope to avoid being some footnote on the society pages. That would never do.

He found himself fully ready to go, dressed, behatted, but with more than an hour to go - and he dare not stop for an hour to drink tea; Rose would probably never speak to him again if he were late, as this was in essence for his benefit.

With that, he took his shoes off, switched them for a very worn pair of shoes - carrying his shiny shoes under his arm - then did some minor charm on his trouser cuffs to ensure they repelled the mud he was sure to be walking through on his way to the edge of the castle grounds. As he walked, he tried to remember which of the places he had been to in London that were near enough to the venue in question to make Apparition worth doing, and strong enough memories to make it safe enough. He hadn't exactly spent a great amount of time over in the part of London in question, and even staring at it on a map did little to ease his nerves.

He arrived at the apparition point, shiny shoes and top hat intact. He quickly flipped the muddy ones off his feet, slipped the shiny ones on. It then suddenly occurred to him that he had no way to take the muddy shoes with him, or anywhere to put them, and so, with a sigh, left them at the side of the road with a vague-if-forlorn hope that they might still be there when he came back. With that, he took off his glasses, inserted them into his pocket, stowed his hat under his arm, closed his eyes and Apparated.

It had been a toss-up between Marble Arch and Trafalgar Square, but the Square won out just because he could rely on his memory of the Square being stronger, though that didn't give him as much time as he would have liked to make it across to Mayfair. There was maybe a little over a mile's walk to Grosvenor Square - should be perfectly doable. And if not... well, he had his pocket watch on him just in case he needed to fix something for a few minutes.

He arrived at the venue as per the note Rose had given him - near to the rather well-to-do Britannia Hotel - and Harold swallowed. Anyone that could afford a residence here would have more money than he would ever see, and he was not - objectively - on the poorer end of the spectrum.

But he had found the right place - there were a few others similarly dressed, similarly earlier than anticipated because 'fashionably late' was not, as far as Harold understood, apt for the upper echelons of society.

He wondered idly if Rose was already inside or not, or whether he should wait outside for her. He thought he'd give it a few minutes and venture inside a little closer to the expected hour - perhaps he might see Rose outside.

Declan O'Dwyer

It seemed like a small eternity had gone by before he could hear Farren move down the hallway. Part of him wanted to burst from the parlour he'd been waiting in to catch a glimpse of her as soon as possible. He restrained himself, naturally, not wanting to come across as creepily keen. He had the distinct impression that Farren hadn't yet decided if she was all in on them dating or hedging her bets. He could hardly blame her. He supposed this could technically count as their third date. It was too soon for big decisions and big feelings and yet he was fairly sure of where he himself stood in all of this.

The parlour doors finally swung open, and he smiled as he saw her enter. She looked elegant and sophisticated as always. Green, suited her rather well. He was about to greet her in his usual manner, a brief hug, a kiss on the cheek when he suddenly took a startled step backwards. The crups were getting into his way and he couldn't help a soft laugh.

"I am sorry, guys, but I won't be deterred," he told them firmly before negotiating a path to their mistress. Hug and customary kiss on the cheek followed.

"You're a vision tonight," he told her truthfully. "You'll have all the eyes in the ballroom on you, I am sure of it." Of course, she would have his undivided attention. As stunning as she looked though, it also stirred some strange feelings in him. He was nervous, as she suggested, about being so very centre stage of things. Normally, Declan preferred to keep out of the spotlight, rather than embracing it. But he could do this. He was a respectable gentleman with nothing to be ashamed of.

"Of course, I'm nervous. How could I not be when you're my date for the evening?" He gave her a playful little smile. "You should make that a rule. If your date isn't nervous about seeing you it's not a date worth being on. Well, at least that is my opinion." And as much as he was just joking around, it was easy to tell that he really meant it. What was the point of going out with somebody you didn't care about? He would never understand those people who weren't taking dating seriously. Finding a suitable life partner was not a casual thing.

"So, shall we?" he held out his arm for her to apparate the both of them. He knew the Bannatyne's home well, having been to visit on plenty of occasions. Transporting them both only took a moment before they found themselves outside the building on Grosvenor Square. The came into being just next to a rather confused looking gentleman wearing a top hat. Declan thought for a moment that he looked rather like Amadeus T. Prendergast, a duellist his father had once competed against, but the more he thought about it, the less certain Declan felt. It had been an awfully long time since he had last seen the duellist in question.

Turning his attention to the footman beside the door, Declan briefly nodded in his direction. He was frequent enough of a visitor to be recognised and he doubted anyone would ask Farren Abercrombie to produce an invitation. At least not, if they fancied avoiding a swift and sudden death caused by mortification.

The door was opened for them and Declan and Farren stepped inside to a bustling crowd talking in the foyer and slowly filtering into the ballroom. 

Rose Pemberton

April 05, 2021, 10:03:29 pm #5 Last Edit: April 05, 2021, 10:05:04 pm by Royal_Poet
Time had slowed down to a crawl. Where was Harold? Rose was so nervous she thought she was going to keel over. Not to mention that she had spotted Marlowe Winterbourne just moments ago and was hoping she'd escaped his notice. If she was lucky, he might pretend not to recognise her. Anything else would be so unspeakably awkward she didn't even want to contemplate the option. Instead she was drinking her absinthe frappé as quickly as the straw in her beverage allowed for. At one point, she thought the straw had made an undignified slurping sound signifying that she had consumed the entire serving.

She cast a nervous glance around, but nobody seemed to have noticed. Verity Bannatyne was still talking, and whatever eyes may have roaming the room were quickly diverted to the entrance of Mrs Abercrombie-Rosier and her escort of the evening. Just wow. Rose had never expected she would see the culture editor of the Daily Prophet in person, looking so stunning and effortlessly elegant. How wonderful and amazing her life had to be. For a moment, Rose let her thoughts be preoccupied by a bit of daydreaming. Being here on this strange charade with Harold was probably the closest she would ever come to being anyone's date at a fancy ball. And Harold wasn't even there.

Was he standing her up? The thought occurred to Rose with such sharp acuteness that she almost gasped. Oh no, he wasn't going to leave her to the wolves was he now? Rose figured she couldn't leave until she had expressed her personal thanks and appreciated to Verity for the invitation, but the prospect of having to interrupt her mid-conversation to do so and then feign a stomach-ache was daunting. Even though she thought she felt her cheeks heating up a little already, she'd probably need another drink before braving that. Or maybe Harold was yet to show up? Being on time, rather ironically, wasn't one of his strong points.

Maybe he'd been playing around with that blasted Turnverein again or whatever he had called the thing. Really, when there was a chance, she should really take it off him. Nothing good ever happened to witches and wizards who meddled with time. Everyone knew that, except of course Hogwarts's professor of Arithmancy.

Rose set her empty glass down on the table in front of her, watched it being cleared away by one of the staff members and a little while later she was being brought another. A rather strange thought occurred to her. Was she supposed to pay for these at the end of the night? Maybe, it was better she paced herself before producing a bill she couldn't afford to pay. Then again, how much could one of these aniseed flavoured slushies possibly cost?

Harold Prendergast

Harold paced outside, it was approaching a quarter-hour to the 'scheduled' starting time of this little... he supposed he could use the word soirée, though he rather thought his mother would be apt to call it a 'shindig'. He shuddered at the thought.

He supposed Rose was either earlier than him - or he'd been stood up. He didn't want to speculate at the latter possibility. Hat, scarf, gloves, all the accoutrements correctly placed, he entered and was met by the footman who, upon being given his name, offered to take his hat, and acquiesced with little more than a 'very good, sir', to which Harold was - momentarily - flabbergasted. He didn't think he was important enough to be a 'sir' but such high-toned and fancy to-dos were not his general disposition. He resolved to continue, on his guard.

He found himself strolling as nonchalantly as he dared pretend - he walks amongst them, but is not one of them, in his own mind - trying to will himself into 'feeling like he's meant to be there'. After all, he is meant to be there, he was invited. But even the most thorough of invitations can be uninviting enough.

He found himself entering the main room shortly behind someone that everyone was talking about. This was perfectly timed, if he did say so himself, specifically because if they were talking about her, they weren't talking about him or Rose.

He stood at the edge of the room, smiling faintly, looking around - ever the awkward wallflower - looking for Rose amongst the crowd. There were quite a lot of people here, many of the gentlemen dressed much as he was, but if he were any judge, at a price of several hundred Galleons more apiece. Not that Harold minded; he looked every bit the part, but only someone extremely knowledgeable about fashion would be able to tell them apart from any kind of distance, and frankly he imagined none of those would be getting close enough to him to notice.

After a few moments he noted Rose standing at one of the high tables with a drink - and thought that was a perfectly reasonable plan. He quickly scanned the room, noted where he could obtain something that wouldn't make him violently ill, and then fashion a path through the gradually clumping guests to beat a path to Rose without it looking awkward. His father did teach him some things.

He found himself moving with more grace and elegance than usual round the room, waving hellos to people he'd never met, taking two glasses of something cold and bubbly from a waiter's bewitched tray - to keep it cold - and slid smoothly into the space next to Rose.

"Well," he smiled, "Miss Pemberton, might I say... you look stunning tonight." He then dropped his voice ever so slightly, "I did wait for you outside for a bit but I think I missed you. I didn't want you to think I had stood you up."

He set one glass down on the table. "Can I introduce you to this wonderful..." He gave it a sniff. "This wonderful... sparkling glass of wine?" He presumed it was wine. It smelt like wine. It looked vaguely like some slightly off-colour champagne but he suspected it was brewed in England rather than in France, and had been bottled many, many years ago.

He took a small sip, found that it was about as palatable as white wine got for him, and took another. Noticing the glass already in Rose's hand, he wondered if he should have gone for something else, perhaps something more suited to his palate and pace, perhaps a good snifter of brandy, or a well-fortified port. Or maybe a cognac. But all of these were after-dinner drinks, not the sort of thing one opens with at a fancy event, so sparkling for the first round, it was.

Rose Pemberton

Rose struggled with her nerves while waiting for Harold to finally appear. She'd have thought seeing him would come as a massive relief, but as soon as she spotted the man near the entrance looking rather dashing in a no doubt expensive suit, she found that she was feeling even more nervous than before. She mentally reminded herself that they were just attending as friends and that Harold wasn't really interested in her. How could he be? He was a decent man, looking for his missing wife. But there was no denying that a part of her felt rather charmed by the handsome professor and wouldn't have minded being on a date with him. Oh, the useless and blasphemous thought of that. What kind of woman was she to even think this way about a married man?

When he joined her with drinks, she had sufficiently steeled herself to not break down in front of him. The way he smiled and payed her a compliment had her stomach fluttering, but she tried to conceal any genuine reaction with a polite nod.

"Thank you, Hal. That's very kind of you to say."

He'd been waiting outside? Hmm, how odd that she had missed him. Maybe she'd been too distracted upon arrival to notice him or had beaten him to it by a couple of minutes? It didn't really matter. He was here and they could get down to business. The sooner they questioned everyone here, the sooner she could get home, collapse onto her bed, eat all the chocolate in the house and feel sorry for herself for the rest of the night.

Harold leaned closer to offer her a drink and she looked a little perplexed. Had he not seen that she was still holding a glass of absinthe?

"Thank you, but I think it might be better not to mix drinks. I don't think you'd appreciate seeing me drunk."

The thought was appealing though. Marlowe and Harold were here. Her emotions were all over the place. What was it with her and being drawn to very inappropriate men? Not that the two could be compared. Harold was a kind and sweet soul, and still her little crush on him was starting to get rather annoying. Why couldn't she just flick a switch and be rid of these unwanted emotions? What was the point of mastering magic if it couldn't save you from situations like this?

"Alright," she said trying to force her mind back onto their agreed upon agenda. "I had a look around and there are some people I recognise from my time at the ministry." Rose let her eyes wander to the Bannatynes. "These two are our hosts, Bradford and Verity. She was International Magical Cooperation the same as me. I don't think she's met your wife. He's a rich socialite. His sister Blythe over there also doesn't have ministry connections."

Rose took a small sip from her drink and turned slightly indicating some more people. "He's Eamonn Daly, with his wife Aine. He used to be an Unspeakable when I was still at the ministry, heavily involved with prophecy. Maybe worth talking to."

"Those two over there, I only know of her. Farren Abercrombie-Rosier, culture editor of the Daily Prophet. No idea who the gent is, though he does look familiar. Don't think they're of much use to us. Next to them, that's Marlowe Winterbourne and wife. He's International Cooperation and we're not on the best of terms. I'd prefer not to speak to him if that's alright with you."

Rose looked white as a sheet as she mentioned Marlowe and subconsciously stepped closer to Harold, almost snuggling up against him.

"That lady over there, Gayle Mordaunt, I think you should try getting something out of her. She's the secretary to the head of the auror department and the most determined gossip to ever grace the ministry canteen. She knows everyone in every department. If you flirt a bit she'll tell you anything and everything. Likes the sound of her own voice."

Rose paused. "Okay, that's me for now. Anyone you recognise? Who do you think I should talk to? I could pretend I'm looking for an old friend or something like that."

With her mind firmly on the task at hand the situation became a little easier to handle. The rather intrusive thought of sinking into Harolds arms or dancing with him kept flitting through her mind though, returning very so often, unwelcome and unbidden. He smelled nice too, warm and like books. It was comforting and upsetting in exactly equal measure.

Farren Abercrombie

Declan swept them off to the ball before she could give him the little pep talk she'd loosely planned. He was nervous but there was no need to go into the event unprepared. For years she and Pyxis had been operating under a very strict set of codes that kept the other well aware of the other's mood. Of course there was no time for Declan to memorize all their signals and codes but a few would have been helpful.

Didn't matter though. Here they were in the doorway. Farren paid no attention to the staff or the others arriving with them. If someone important was within ear shot they would call her attention. At no point in her life had Farren bothered to check with the doorman or fuss with security. She was on the cover of Witch Weekly multiple times a year, if a staff member or door person in London didn't know her they clearly weren't fit for the job they held.

Instead of paying any mind to the staff or other arrivals she turned her head ever so slightly so she could speak to Declan in confidence without appearing to be so intimate as to whisper in his ear. "Listen to me Declan, there will be photographers before we get to the main ballroom. The rule is three shots together and then I will take two alone - for the dress, they will want to see the dress. After that we don't pose for any photos all night. If they allow photographers in the ballroom they will try to photo us often and we ignore them. If we don't indulge them with cute behavior they will flutter off. To avoid too much attention I will dance three dances with other men. Whomever is most appropriate and asks first. If this hugely upsets you tell me after the photos when we have a moment alone but I'm doing this to protect you, us. Finally. There's a safety word. If at anypoint something is not OK and we need to be alone to discuss something or something is going all wrong, the code word is 'pickled figs'. Any mention of pickled figs and it's a subtle slide into a side passageway or the garden. Got it? Good."

She didn't give him time to respond before looking straight ahead of her, plastering on her perfect mega-watt smile and striding into the foyer, head held high. Immediately people took notice of them. No one gawked but ladies eyes were darting from her to him to each other. "Don't worry about any of them, this will be fun," she said as a small cluster of photographers in the wide hall leading to the ballroom turned to watch her walk towards them.

"Mrs. Rosier! Mrs. Rosier!" the lead one called to her in a sing song tone waving her over. "Where is Mr. Abercrombie? Is this Mr. O'Dwyer of all people filling in for him?" the man smirked at Declan in a mischievous way eyeing him for a moment.

"Pyxis is pre-occupied with a grueling assignment for work. My dear friend Mr. O'Dwyer volunteered to be my white knight for the evening and shield me from you Fitz," Farren maneuvered them seamlessly into place gently guiding Declan beside her as she teased the photographer she was clearly familiar with. The photographer laughed at her comment.

"Is Mr. O'Dwyer aware he's the first non-Abercrombie to escort you to an event since Mr. Rosier?" a female photographer asked as she raised her large camera.

Farren turned to Declan, not looking for an answer to the question but to check in on him. "Here we go, we don't smile, smirks are allowed though, three flashes and then just step five feet to the right for two flashes and then it's over. You look very dashing," she spoke so quickly and so low it was as if she'd perfected speaking in undetectable code. Holding his arm she posed, head high, tilted slightly to perfect her angles.

Their camera bulbs flashed once. "Mr. O'Dwyer do you consider yourself lucky to be Mrs. Rosier's first date in two years?" Their camera bulbs flashed again. "Farren who are you wearing?" Their bulbs flashed a third time.

"Perfect," Farren said softly and let go of his arm signaling he should step aside momentarily. "It's Annabelle Wrightworthing, couture," she said adjusting the skirt so it could be photographed fully. Her hand on her hip she posed coolly as if it was as natural as breathing. The bulbs flashed. "She just opened her own atelier in Godrics Hollow. You must include that so people know where to find her," she said as she turned, her back to the cameras so they could capture the back of the gown, she turned her head glancing over her shoulder at them as their bulbs flashed again.

The photographers thanked them both and waved them off apparently happy with the access and photos they'd been given. Farren stepped back to Declan's side and immediately reached for his arm again. "Thank you," she said softly to him smiling at him. "Now....if we can make it to the ballroom without being interrupted 70 times you must introduce me to your people and our lovely hosts and we must pick up a dance card for me so I can at least try to pretend you are not my sole focus." Her hand on his fore arm she gave him and encouraging little squeeze.

As they made their way to the ballroom, people turned and stared, watching them walk past. Farren hardly noticed as this was indeed very normal. People moved out of their way, squishing against the wall so the two of them could pass. Whispers exchanged as they did. "Oh and champagne, we need champagne immediately don't you agree?" she smiled over at Declan positive that he would agree liquid courage would help them.


Harold Prendergast

"Well, to be rather honest, I'm not sure I recognise anyone at this point in time. I never was the social butterfly; that was, well, Sylvia's hobby more than it ever should have been mine."

He carefully timed looking over at Ms Mordaunt to avoid hints or accusations of 'staring', another thing his father had impressed upon him for such events, and upon reflection, Harold considered that she looked a shade familiar - as if she were someone he'd met a few years ago, perhaps when a few years younger and a few pounds differently weighted. Not that Harold was sure whether that would be skinnier or not; just... different and yet familiar. Though just a restyling of hair might have been enough to confuse his slightly hazy recollection.

"I think Ms Mordaunt might indeed be of interest. Also, Unspeakable Daly, now that you mention the name, that seems more familiar. My department wasn't prophecy but... not unrelated."

Harold took another sip of his wine. "I don't know who I should suggest we speak to - I was just going to do the rounds, so to speak, once others had had a drink or two inside them, and see what loose lips have to say. But for now, let us speak to these people."

He offered his unencumbered arm. "Might I accompany you around the ball?" He wasn't quite sure if that was socially acceptable or extremely awkward. The bubbles had rather gone to his head a little and he couldn't quite remember what his father had had to say on the subject.

Declan O'Dwyer

Declan gave a vague nod. Farren's rundown was appreciated, though not altogether unfamiliar. He'd been given such instructions before, usually by his father. Declan fancied he knew enough on how to not make a fool of himself in front of the media, but a refresher was always useful. The last thing he wanted to do was embarrass Farren in any way or cause any negative press coverage concerning them attending this event together.

"Yes, of course. Don't worry about me. I understand the rules."

It was cute that she was concerned he might be jealous about her dancing with other men. His teenage self might have been, but as a grown wizard he was well aware of the culture and etiquette of London's ballrooms. Of course, she would have to dance with some of the other gentlemen in attendance. There were always family friendships and acquaintances to honour and what as the point of attending a public event if not mixing with people. Farren had little to worry about from Declan in this regard. If she hadn't wanted to attend this event with him, he was certain she would have said so. For that reason alone, he was clearly a step ahead of any other gentleman in the room. That was good enough for him. 

Her chosen passphrase almost made him laugh, and he secretly wondered if Farren and Pyxis had a funny story to tell that somehow involved pickled figs. It was an oddly specific term. However, he supposed it did the job. Mostly innocuous and hardly something you'd say by mistake in the flow of conversation. He nodded again to confirm he'd heard and understood, but he doubted things would go so wrong as to either of them needing it. 

As Farren walked towards the photographers, he squared his shoulders and took a confident step forward with her. It was rather impressive to see her switch on her smile from one second to the next. She was in her element. Even Declan wasn't sure how much she was genuinely enjoying herself and how much of it was put on. He thought it was rather impressive.

Questions were being asked and Declan had to admit that he found that part somewhat entertaining too. He was named her valiant protector against Fitz the photographer, though he doubted Farren needed any protection there. She had things confidently under control. Did the reporters think he was mute? Questions were being asked about him, but they were addressed to Farren rather than himself. He let her answer since she was the media personality people were interested in rather than him. 

Farren turned to him briefly, to check in on him and he gave a subtle nod, letting her know that he was doing okay. Her words that he looked handsome somehow grated. He was sure she meant it kindly, but it was hard to be accepting of compliments when he didn't feel all that comfortable in his own skin. It didn't matter though, a small irritation that would pass just as soon as this photoshoot was over and done with.
Farren, seemingly effortlessly, posed for the cameras to show herself off to perfect advantage, while he assumed a regal stance, mirroring how his father would have handled such an occasion. His expression though remained carefully neutral and inscrutable as ever. One, two, three clicks and he stepped to the side.

One of the reporters gave him an expectant look, now that one of the questions had been addressed to him.   

"Luck had nothing to do with it," he offered with a slight smirk.
 
What else was he supposed to say? Farren wasn't some sort of prize to win in a lottery. He supposed the question might have been some reflection on him not being who the reporters expected to see, alas that was their problem more than it was his.

He waited the new brief moments until Farren was done and joined her again.

"That was much quicker than I expected. Thank you for keeping it brief." 

"Drinks, dance card, introductions later." He said, deciding the order of doing things. He looked around and sure enough a nearby server was ready to take their request. He didn't care for champagne much, but he thought enjoying a glass of it with her would be fun. He'd switch to something else later.

"I am sure Bradford, Blythe and Ardan will be delighted to meet you and they'll find us at some point as the evening quiets down a little."

"Anyway, what's your favourite dance? I have to know which one I can't possibly allow to go to another gentleman in the room."

Rose Pemberton

April 11, 2021, 07:02:02 pm #11 Last Edit: April 11, 2021, 07:04:53 pm by Royal_Poet
It seemed to Rose like Harold didn't have much of a plan. She didn't know if she felt annoyed by that or relieved. On the one hand it meant she could maybe enjoy a little bit of time with him aside from their mission, but on the other hand she was a little frustrated to have put so much effort into this gathering only to find that he was playing it by ear. He wasn't sure who to talk to first, but she supposed they had time. Her friend Verity had told her the balls could last until the early hours of the morning.

She took the arm he'd proffered, feeling a little nervous to be traversing the room with him. It felt exciting to have his attention like this, though Rose kept reminding herself that none of this was genuine and Harold was only putting on a show for the sake of their quest.

"Actually, Hal,..." she hesitated not sure how to say what she wanted to say. "Would you mind I'd picked up a dance card?" Rose knew that in her case the card would be unnecessary. She doubted any of the gentlemen in attendance would ask her to dance. She was too old to draw much attention and Harold himself had let her know beforehand that he didn't enjoy dancing. Still, she wanted to have a souvenir from the ball, and the dance cards seemed like the perfect little thing.

As they approached the table where the dance cards were given out, Rose wanted to squeal in delight. The dance cards had been fashioned like delicate paper fans, each leaf holding the name of a dance and an empty space for any suitors to put their name. She loved the beautiful carved and painted wooden handles. It was almost with reverence the picked up one of the cards and strapped the strings around her wrist.

"You know, when I was a girl I always dreamed about going to ball like this one. The occasion isn't quite what I imagined, but it is great to be here. I suppose I'm trying to say thank you for being here with me tonight."

She didn't really let him respond, because now that she'd secured her trophy she had everything she wanted and could give their quest her full attention again. She headed straight for Gayle Mordaunt, eager to begin a conversation.

"Gayle," she approached the lady in question with a wide smile. "My friend Professor Prendergast expressed a desire to be introduced. Miss Gayle Mordaunt, Professor Harold Prendergast." She debated for a moment how to start a benign conversation when a thought occurred to her. "Miss Mordaunt here has a great fan of music and dancing. She particularly loves the waltz. What do you say to that?"

Harold Prendergast

Harold honestly didn't quite know what to make of it all. In the back of his mind, he had known that, yes, he probably wouldn't know anyone here and that even with months of planning, there was likely to have ever been little chance of changing that. And so he had gone in with limited plan, because there wasn't rather a lot of planning he felt he could have done.

Rose at least didn't seem on the surface to be having a thoroughly awful time, but his ability to read expressions never was the greatest, so it was entirely possible he had it entirely wrong. He had noticed the excitement in her voice - while she had apparently downplayed it, it was evident that she was on some level excited to be here and he wanted her to enjoy the evening. He resolved that when the situation arose, they would dance and he would try hard not to embarrass her. He would try even harder than that, in fact.

She had at least taken his arm and steered him in the direction of Ms Mordaunt, and beamed her winning smile as she introduced them. Though, he did rather get the impression that his lack of preparation might just have been called into question.

"Miss Mordaunt, how wonderful to make your acquaintance." Harold smiled politely. "It is... rather... I beg your pardon but I feel like we may have met sometime in the past - but unfortunately I cannot recall when."

At Rose's prompt, he was about to push his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose when he remembered - thankfully in time - that one arm was being held tightly by the redoubtable Miss Pemberton and the other holding a glass of something consumable, and that his fingers were not in a convenient place for him to continue holding the glass while adjusting his glasses. At best he was likely to spill something on himself, at worst... he didn't even want to contemplate. But inwardly he sighed a breath of relief that he had caught himself not only in time but apparently entirely inconspicuously so.

He looked down for a moment, trying to recall what he knew of the waltz.

"The waltz, a wonderfully elegant dance. I must admit I haven't danced in years though I do rather enjoy some of the delightful music that goes with some of the forms, particularly works by Strauss the Younger. Do you have a preference for composers, Miss Mordaunt?"

He also took a sidelong glance at Rose, wondering what her answer to the question would be. Perhaps he'd find out later in the evening.

Rose Pemberton

April 12, 2021, 04:28:46 pm #13 Last Edit: April 12, 2021, 04:44:18 pm by Royal_Poet
Gayle Mordaunt was all smiles and easy conversation. She greeted Harold and Rose enthusiastically, though it was evident she was a little surprised to see Rose.

"My pleasure to meet you Professor Prendergast. And I daresay I'd agree the Austrians have the greatest musicians, though I am afraid I would prefer Lengauer and Ilgenfritz over their muggle counterpart. The Blue Danube though... it's a beautiful piece. I will give you that."

Rose wanted to inwardly cringe listening to Gayle talking. Not that they'd exactly been friends before, but it was distasteful to bring bloodism into something as innocent as a conversation about music. Hopefully Harold didn't think she condoned what this witch had to say. Swallowing her pride, she decided to intervene and attempt to salvage the situation before it could get out of hand.

"You're right about Ilgenfritz," Rose was hasty to agree with Gayle. "I love all his works from the Lake Woerth Cycle." Truth be told, Rose wasn't sure she could have even hummed a single bar of any of Ilgenfritz's works. However, the wizard's name and his works came up regularly in the crossword puzzle that the daily Prophet published each Saturday. Who'd have thought that being a loyal crossword enthusiast would ever come in handy.

"The Woerth Cycle," Gayle swooned. "It's my favourite."

Jackpot.

Unfortunately, Gayle did not continue along this more pleasant trajectory of conversation.

"And look at you Rose, you've lost quite some weight and look absolutely gorgeous. How have you been? No where have you been? I don't think I've seen you in... gosh it must be ten years now. Marlowe was quite sad to see you go. Where is it that you work now?"

Rose swallowed. Gayle, same as ever didn't require much in the way of replies to keep a conversation going.

"Very w-... I'm w.. eleven..." Rose tried to rejoin the conversation at various points. When Marlowe was mentioned she felt a sudden bout of panic, squeezing Harold's arm a little bit harder than could be considered polite. She was proud the managed to keep her face impassive and when Gayle finally ran out of things to say, Rose had recovered enough to just smoothly continue the conversation.

"Working at Hogwarts these days. It's wonderful. Been there for a couple of years. Headmasters Dippet and Dumbledore have been very kind to me. Anyway, dear if you might excuse me for a moment. I believe I've seen Verity over there and I ought to thank her for the invitation. I'm sure professor Prendergast here will be happy to keep you company in the meantime."

Rose couldn't say what took precedent: getting away from Gayle so she wouldn't talk about Marlowe again, or wanting to leave Harold alone with her so he could flirt, dance, and get some information. It seemed fairly likely to Rose that the biggest gossip to ever grace the ministry had to know something about Sylvia Prendergast.

Harold Prendergast

Harold smiled a pleasant, but wry, smile. "I would tend to agree with you that the Austrians produce the greatest musicians, but I'm afraid I must correct you on one lesser known detail; Strauss the Younger is, in fact, not a muggle. There is wizarding in him from his mother's side - and the father tried to, as he claimed, 'beat the music out of him' but this was on the advice of an elderly wizarding relative to encourage that tell-tale spark of magic. But Strauss the Younger found his love of music trumped his desire to cast magic, and largely renounced his magical ways." And with that, an ever so slightly triumphant sip of his wine, all the sweeter for it.

The commentary about Marlowe on the other hand... caught Harold somewhat by surprise. He had not asked questions about how Rose might have obtained their invites for the evening, but it was evident that she had had some connections to the Ministry prior to her time at Hogwarts, and that she was speaking terms with a number of the guests here this evening. He wondered if Marlowe were here, and if he were, whether he should avoid the chap at all cost - circumstances favoured avoidance, it seemed.

He understood Rose's apparent desire to leave - he wondered how much of it was out of a desire to continue their mission, and how much was a desire to not be around these kinds of people. He had, himself, after all turned his back on society many years ago.

With that in mind, he plucked up courage to keep Miss Mordaunt engaged.

"I can't say I was ever the fondest fan of the Woerth Cycle, it was always a trifle... bombastic, but shallow, for my tastes. I believe rather similar thoughts have been had about that German fellow - though he was indeed a Muggle. What was it... oh yes... Der Ring des Nibelungen." Harold hoped his accent was not too abysmal. "My father was deeply disappointed to learn it was composed by a Muggle and eventually forbade it being played in the house, whereupon I came to learn of Strauss's magical leanings." Another sip of wine.

"So, Miss Mordaunt, what other matters interest you besides Austrian composition?"