(OOC: I had hoped to run this by you, Ren, before you signed off, but I was five minutes too late. Alert me if I need editing.)
Adaman Knaughts thought much the same as he stepped out of his cottage-esque house, nearly all the way on the other end of the village. It was small, dark, and damp- but in a very stylish cottage sort of way- mostly composed of stone with a nice wood door and a few less-than impressive windows. It was a cave, a hole, a hut- and Adaman couldn't help but feel that it was absolutely perfect.
A small movement of his lips nearly molded them into a smile; he was in a good mood. Most people who knew him would swear the man had no moods at all- but they were not here and they were not correct. Adaman was excited, enthused- even energetic. Part of it was relief, but there was also a good deal of anticipation.
It all began last year, when he was alerted to the death of his grandmother- the last living parental figure he had left. He had mourned, of course- the woman had not, perhaps, raised him in the best possible manner, but he had respected and revered her; her passing did not go without grieving. After mourning passed, business quickly took its place. As the reigning male and the only one of his family that could pass on the family name, Adaman had found himself left with everything his grandmother possessed- from her daunting old estate with an impressive, run-down mansion and extensive weed-reigned gardens to her daunting new debt, which was just as ugly.
Luckily, the two had pretty much canceled each other out. Ignoring harsh lectures from his older sister and pleading from various portraits, Adaman had sold all the rusty memoirs of a diluted family line, trading in sentimental value for financial stability. He was left with the Knaughts family fortune: a small sum of money that when combined with his savings would afford him a year “off.” This, for Adaman, was a year devout to his studies without classes, grading, and lesson planning to take up his time.
He had begun planning immediately, kneading Knuts where it was possible to make all transitions financially smooth. The school was informed of his planned leave next, making sure to assure him of a job when he returned the year after. Location, however, was something Adaman hadn't been quite sure of until very recently. He had planned on a flat in London; but when he happened upon word of Loch Village, his plans changed immediately. For one, it was cheaper- probably from over-eagerness. For another, the idea of a more peaceful setting had him wondering how he had even been considering the former. His rented cottage was a small, cold, cozy little hole and perfect for his social hibernation.
Adaman had arrived this morning with enough books and study materials to cut the house down to half its estimated space. On top of that he had packed a suitcase or two of more conventional clothing than he was used to. Slacks and sweaters had suddenly begun to appeal to him- and even more distastefully delicious were a few pairs of second-hand, worn-down jeans. They were still, however, packed away in the bottom of his suitcases like dark secrets; he for now adorned simpler, draping robes over a nice pair of pants and a thinner turtleneck. His thick-framed glasses had been abandoned on the other side of the door for the time being; he would give himself a day to explore before adorning them and settling into the life of a hermit. The red-flecked brown of his eyes surveyed the scene without help or hindrance.
His expression was one strange to his face; his eyes were fully open and slightly crinkled at the ends; his eyebrows were weightless and serene; his mouth was pulled every so slightly upward into his cheeks at either end, the prophet of a forthcoming smile. Adaman Knaughts, as he glanced around the bright but empty day, looked content, just shy of happy. There were so many good things just waiting around him to happen, and so many bad things left behind him that he overlooked the barren streets.
The day awaited him; Adaman stepped away from the cottage and began his adventure. He would head back toward the entrance of the village in search for a decent cup of coffee.
Upon immediate entrance he had expected a crowd, since people were so prone to gather around entryways and exits, but much to his surprise found absolutely no one. His general impression was that he had been tricked by the greasy character guarding the portkey, but a second glance at the village proved him wrong. People were there, walking to cross the earthen-colored cobbled streets or sitting on benches outside stores trying to go unnoticed, just keeping to themselves and occasionally looking his way only discreetly.
They too seemed able to match their surroundings as capably as if it were a defense mechanism, and although he wore dull colors himself, Louis found that he was feeling very self-conscious of his infamously noticeable characteristics. Warily, he made his way towards one side of the street and under an overhang that sagged despite it’s recent construction. Peering into the window behind him, cupping his large hand besides his eyes to block any glare, he was delighted to find that it wasn’t a shop he was looking into at all, but a quaint little café with just the right look to suit his fancy: round tables positioned mostly in corners, a suspended menu with an impressive list, stacks of newspapers with differing front pages (only one of which looked even remotely like the Daily Prophet, he noted with childish anticipation) and chairs who’s long legs were curved into artfully clawed spindles. All of this was positively drenched in pleasantly warm colors that could have easily put anyone in a good mood, not to mention....it was empty.
Louis had seen the ad while sitting in a café quite similar to the one he was looking in on in Loch Village, although at the time he was sitting shoulder to shoulder with a few other regularly overlooked Ministry employees and trying his hardest to enjoy his paper and tea without it sloshing in his lap.
It was after work hours, 7:00 P.M. to be precise, and he had agreed to an outing to a local café although it was far too late at night to be out having ‘brunch’. A trip to a pub would have sufficed, but out of courtesy towards his female co-workers, one of the men politely suggested a café assuming no one would be interested in going other than their little group at that time of night. The women, also out of courtesy, encouraged the idea, even though they would have approved the idea of a few drinks themselves without hesitation after working from the crack of dawn until the sun sank, regretting the day they would no longer have the privilege of witnessing high noon in their barely efficient cubicles.
They hardly knew each other’s names. Only some had any interest in actually knowing. It was the fact that they all knew the same, repetitive white-collar work until they saw numbers and signatures in their sleep that brought them courteously together without a word spoken.
All in all he got paid and that was the bottom line, he informed himself on more than one occasion. He had a house. He had enough money to support himself and buy his little wants in addition to his needs. It was a job, and it was a job to be considered more honorable than teaching in his father's eyes, and that is what mattered, he wasn't getting any galleons, and that is why he had promptly quit Hogwarts, thank you very much, Marie.
Encouraged by the sight of the charming little place, Louis, spirits lifted considerably, elected to spend his day exploring the entire village, spending only when he thought he couldn't get a better deal anywhere else. Taking one last glance inside, he slid his hands in his jacket pockets and meandered towards a hanging sign in the shape of an inkwell, window shopping at his leisure to the sound of dead leaves scraping quietly against stone.
Overlarge backpack in tote, succumbing to the force of gravity more than it’s owner would ever admit, Arianna LeFay stood before the rustic, wooden cabin, the makings of a scowl starting to form on her freckled face. She had not even opened the vibrantly blue door (well, at least that feature reminded her of Ireland) and yet the utter stupidity of her decision in her coming here was already dawning. What had she been thinking? Call it buyer’s remorse, but while it seemed like an intelligent, fun thing to do for this small holiday of hers, now that the time had arrived and the quidditch player was standing in front of her temporary residence, the novelty of the idea seemed to be fraying away at the edges... and fast.
Perhaps it was the town’s fault. The place seemed completely empty. People were scarce; the woman had only seen four people since arriving. The shops didn’t seem all too bad, but why the lack of people? There had been a rumour of this “Loch Village” floating around before the ad had appeared, and what better than a complete wizarding town outside the confines of Hogsmeade. But why weren’t there more people? Well, the ad had been small enough in the Prophet, suspicious in its own right, but, all the same, it did manage to catch her eye and somehow get her here.
As the floor boards creaked beneath her shoes, Arianna, peering all around, got the first look at what was to be her holiday home. Perhaps it wasn’t so bad… at least the view was decent enough. The cabin sat on the lake, the large porch that winding its way around most of the house actually over the water itself.
Tearing her pale eyes away from the scenery outside, Ari went on to note the insides. It was actually quite cozy, having an inexplicable feeling of warmth about it. No… perhaps this Loch Village fiasco would not be as bad as I had initially come to think, the small part of her brain not obscured by the initial buyer’s remorse mused.
An hour passed before she emerged, freshly changed into a light sweater and skirt, backpack mercifully unpacked and sitting abandoned in the closet. As the redheaded woman made her way back towards the main part of town, her thoughts went to the shops she had previously passed. This house, this place, it was a reward of sorts for Arianna LeFay. The last few years of her twenty-two year long life, ever since leaving school, had been rather rough. At the age of nineteen, she had been kicked off her league team, the Dingle Daredevils, for reasons she did not and would not discuss, and the year that had followed was something of a “soul searching” period for her. The age of twenty came and, fearing it would pass without results, Arianna decided to take fate in hand and was soon accepted onto a team she had been yearning to get on for quite some time, the Kenmare Kestrals. It had been a year and half since she initially joined and this past season, after fighting her way through the ranks and working harder than she had ever worked, she got to be apart of the main, starting squad in the various cups. Sometimes they did well, others not so much, but the fact that she had finally beaten her past, changed for the better, and was actually rewarded for her exceedingly trying endeavors was the best feeling in the world. So why not reward herself with a treat, a well deserved one, now that she had her month of in between going from league to national training?
The sunlight flecked off her soft curls, streaks of gold glinting under it’s influence, as Arianna stopped in the path, deciding where to go first. The idea of her family had been that Arianna should come here (mainly to scope out a place so that they could follow) was so that she could relax, not exert herself, and finally take a break, but that would never do, and they knew it. Arianna could never be idle, no matter how hard she tried. She got bored. No, she would be getting a small time job at one of these places. Perhaps the pub, the Goat and Rose Inn… the picture still made her laugh every time she passed it and she had always been good with drinks. Or even the cafe could be an option. If this place is as dull as it appeared, perhaps she wouldn’t have to do much work after all.
The downy-soft scratch of a quill upon parchment whispered throughout the confines of the office, the delicate sound joining in with the ever-ascending chorus of crackling paper that issued from numerous enchanted parchment airplanes fluttering about a young man’s head of wine-dark hair. On his part, the fellow seemed ignorant of the bothersome papers, his honey-golden hues focused upon the parchment beneath his long, golden-plumed quill.
With an especially passionate flap of its miniscule wings, one of the paper planes took the initiative. It dove directly for the young man’s face, and it was with a tremendous curse from the parchment’s unsuspecting victim that the delicate airplane went straight into one caramel hue.
Growling and knuckling his injured eye, Kagen McCree resigned to the fact that no would could be accomplished with these blasted papers flying about willy-nilly. He would have to take care of them. Standing, he snatched the planes from the air before dropping into his chair and spreading the notes out over his desk. It was not until he had unfurled the fifth of the ten memos that he noticed a pattern. Each differed in no way from the other. They were exactly the same.
An expression of utter befuddlement passed across McCree’s face, and he pursed his lips. “Well, this might be a touch more urgent than I thought,” he muttered.
Kagen placed a hand over the top-most memo and dragged his fingers over the paper, pressing out the remaining creases in a meticulous, almost obsessive fashion until the length of parchment lay flay on his desk. Then, content with the memo’s state, caramel hues began to trace over the long, curled print scrawled across the page.
With every line read, the corners of McCree’s lips pulled further and further southwards until, reaching the final words, Kagen was wearing such a terribly exaggerated frown that the expression was almost comical in nature.
“They want me to what?” he moaned. Uttering a tired sigh, he passed a hand across his face in an exasperated gesture and pinched the bridge of his nose between a thumb and forefinger. “I just get back from spending a month in bloody Borneo with arachnids that make horses look small, and now I’ve got to spend another two months babysitting some little town.” He shook his head and rubbed at his eyes, the left still aching dully from its former injury. “I’ll never get home.”
Kagen looked back down at the letter, staring angrily at it for a long moment before closing is eyes and emitting another sigh. “Well, nothing to be done about it,” he retrieved a fresh roll of parchment and dipped his quill into the owl-shaped bottle of ink at his side. “Besides,” he muttered, heading the leaf of parchment with ‘Thank you for this great privilege...’ “anywhere is better than Borneo.”
It was amazing. Adaman had never in his twenty-eight years of life had a relaxing vacation. Sure, he went away to places as a boy, but as a boy he had the vigor of youth and with it an endless amount of energy and occupation; as most children, he used the time more for fun than rest.
As the years passed, his activity didn't really lessen; his motivation had simply changed. If the adult Adaman didn't feel busy or stressed, he felt guilty of laziness and sloth. So intense was his work ethic that he didn't notice the rising levels of anxiety in the months preceding his grandmother's death. No, it wasn't until he reached the peak, the climax, that he discovered just how far he could descend. Getting there had been like free falling from a cliff, a quick adrenaline rush, but the dizzying impact of the bottom he found strangely soothing and slow-paced. There was a weight lifted from his shoulders, taken from his chest. He had never noticed the weight before, but he felt so light in it's alleviation that he was sure it must have been there. Adaman was doused in relief, and without his burdens (whatever they were) he glided down streets with the gravity of a ghost.
He was looking around at various shops when something caught his eye- yet, it was not in the shop at all, but reflected in a painted, frame-less glass display window. It was his reflection- so startling to him he nearly stopped in his tracks. Adaman had been avoiding casual glances at mirrors for years now, always afraid of what he'd find. A mirror was a checking tool- check your appearance, check your manner, check your expression, check your presentation. A mirror was a tool of judgment and assessment, a way to pick an image to pieces. That was the way Adaman had grown to use them. But now he found himself glancing casually, and the man looking back at him seemed untouchable by scrutiny. His reflection was a regular stranger- the kind that a person would see regularly because of common routines, but would never exchange a word with- a familiar face in the crowd, sans history or personality. The normality of it all passed a flicker of a smile across his face, and he moved on down the cobbled street.
A few structures later he came to a bakery, or a deli, or a very small restaurant, which Adaman hoped would sell his drink of choice. Inside (as the outside looked much like anywhere else in the village) was the very picture of quaint. The wall paper was something close to pink- perhaps a light salmon- with delicate vined flowers crawling along edges and corners. There was a counter in the back for ordering, while the rest of the space was filled by a crowded arrangement of clothed tables and metal, skeletal chairs. A few pictures hung; old looking things that seemed to take pride in moving slowly or very little at all. Their frames were dark and aged in the most fashionable manner.
The woman at the counter was an aged witch, her long grey hair pulled back into a loose, fraying ponytail. Her smile was kind and genuinely thrilled; her eyes sparkled and her round, warm, grandmother cheeks flushed red. Adaman pegged her as the type who was just mentally present enough to function, but at length would come to seem without the whole of her wits.
"Lovely place," Knaughts spoke an opinion opposite his own, approaching the counter. He glanced up from under a very slightly bowed head toward the large board displaying the menu. It was white with a floral boarder and spidery red writing that tried very hard to look hand-written. "Please, do you have coffee?"
The old witch smiled kindly back at him. His expression, she thought, was very endearing. He gave the impression of something naturally honest, warm, and kind, she thought. Were the witch to inspect his features further she would have found that they were indifferently soft and didn't really express specifically any of those things, but she was somewhat simple and a little hard of sight so would neither see nor think any more of it.
It was her greatest regret to tell the nice man that she only made tea, but was all too happy to give him uncertain directions toward what she supposed was perhaps the best place in the village for his coffee.
With a rush of cool, cedar-scented air, Kagen pushed open the cabin door and stepped inside. This was to be his home for the next eight weeks. The establishment was by no means lavish, but it had a quaint, earthy feel to it that tugged at McCree’s heartstrings and tricked a smile from his lips.
Having sent his belongings ahead of him, Kagen was happy to see his bags piled in a neat little heap in the far corner of the foyer, which so happened to be the living room as well. Directly across the room from the entryway was an open door that appeared to lead to a bedroom, and east of the living room’s center was narrow doorway that McCree supposed lead to the kitchen. All in all, the home was quite small, and the ministry had supplied only the most essential of furnishings, a bed, a few chairs, but it was fine little nest. At least here he would not have to worry about being ambushed in the dead of night by great hairy arachnids.
When he stepped forwards to gather up his bags, the redhead noticed a small square of parchment resting upon a squat wicker table just to the right of his belongings. He plucked it from the tabletop.
Others involved in the Ministry’s divisions concerned with the study of magical creatures have done quite a through job searching the area for dangerous beasts, and, as of yet, we have not found any that were not easily taken care of by a small force of one or two wizards. This being true, we do not suspect this project will be especially stressful in any way, but regulations state that, “A Ministry official devoted to beasts and the like must be stationed for a minimum of two months time in any and all newly erected wizarding areas that are expected to remain in service for a period of two years or more.” (Chapter fifteen, paragraph five.) In any case, do keep a sharp eye out, but try to enjoy yourself a bit, lad. Goodness knows you need to.
Gary Harthon, Lodgings Coordinator
Kagen smiled softly and shook his head. Nobody at the office ever could get used to his nose-to-the-grindstone attitude.
With a delicate sigh, McCree dragged his belongings into the bedroom before slipping a hand into his pocket and brushing his fingers over the coins resting within. He might as well “survey” the area. Hmm… a nice new book and a warm cup of tea would be a fine place to start...
With this thought in mind, Kagen exited the cabin, locked up, and headed into town.
If Adaman were to make a list of things that he was (happily) not thinking about, in no particular order, it would go something like this:
1. That he, Adaman, now nearing the daunting age of 30, had done near nothing to further the credibility of his last name in the world- as had been his grandmother's first and final request of him. Of course, part of this trip would be working toward research and discovery and fame, but success nor progress was ever a guarantee.
2. That he, Adaman, was now the last remaining person in the entirety of the wizarding world to have the surname Knaughts and all the responsibilities that came with it.
3. That his elder sister, Helen, had surely not finished harassing him on this matter, as she would on many others. In some ways it seemed unfair; both of them would rather have her bearer of the name and him the one who'd exchanged it for another, but circumstances and history made the roles simply irreversible.
4. That his elder sister, Helen, was most certainly being physically abused by her husband; and, he didn't know how he particularly felt about it, either.
5. That even though they are so incredibly similar, he may not be able to have a decent conversation with said sister ever in his life.
6. That his younger sister, Ariel, had come to his grandmother's funeral and, to add to the scandal, nearly spit on the casket.
7. That even though they are so vastly different, he is most certain he will be able to have a decent conversation with said sister many more times over the durration of his life.
8. That Genevieve Darcy had not only re-entered his life as of a few days before the aforementioned funeral, but had also grown into a surprisingly gorgeous, classy young woman. These facts were not to be touched, for they would require thoughts about feelings, intentions, relationships, and
9. Daedalus Alexander Darcy. Was he alive? Was he dead? Did Adaman or did Adaman not find a familiar scar in an otherwise severely overlooked handshake at even the same funeral all three people included in the preceding problems had attended? And the biggest question of all: Did Adaman (or did Adaman not) actually want to know the answers to any of this?
These were nine of the many troubling thoughts that neither here nor Adaman's mind have the space or time to attend. These were nine of those many thoughts that Adaman was not thinking as he turned hesitantly down a corner after a minute's debate on whether "Grimbly Lane" was actually the "Grimby Lane" before him.
"Excuse me," he called to a local that was coming his way. "Do you know if I am indeed heading in the direction of the cafe?"
Three months. A quarter of a year. The amount of time it took to see, in turn, the leaves adopt shades of red and yellow fires would be envious of, to the first delicate flurry flutter down from a grey canopied sky, to a the whole countryside blanketed in icy drifts of snowflakes. … Three months. The result was the same, however unvarnished or elegantly one chose to think of it. And it was for this allotted duration of time that Tara Hart was under mandatory obligation to remain in the newly established community of Loch Village. The exact decree had been stated thus:
“Your services will be required at the recently founded Loch Village. I have the pleasure of gifting you the honor of critiquing, analyzing, and recording the goings on of this new town for archive purposes. Your skills and talents will be of great benefit in this endeavor. A minimum of three months residence is required, though any addition time requested for continued study will be granted upon grounds review. Well wishes and best of luck.
Upon receiving the notice, the woman had reported to her supervisor to return what she could only explain to be a mistakenly delivered letter. “Critiquing, analyzing, and recording” were no where within her occupational realm; someone had obviously had one too many shots of fire whiskey the night before they made out the address. It was with great shock and confusion, therefore, that she was informed that, no, there had been no error. She was to go to Loch Village and act as a scribe.
It did not take long afterwards for her to understand the reasoning behind the assignment. The third sentence spoke clearly enough with its ridiculous, “your skills and talents will be of great benefit in this endeavor.” In her entire career, she had never done so much as evaluate the condition of a broom closet. The absurd obsequiousness was so blatant she found it insulting. She was an investigator of crimes and transgressions, not some ruddy journalist! The woman knew this was an interim project to allow her time to ‘unwind’. Given the nature of her profession, she had readily noticed the concern directed at her from peers and supervisors after the trial. She had requested no leave – taken no break – but instead returned the following morning as if nothing unusual had transpired. This task, this assignment, had been her boss’s way of forcing her to take time off. Had Tara not been “gifted” with such a prideful nature, she might have been thankful for worry on her behalf as well as the cushy project. As it were, however, she could not help but feel affronted and underestimated.
Still, though she had difficulty admitting it, there was a part of her that was grateful for this release, a sentiment that was only fueled upon arriving at the town. The fallen leaves crushed under heel gave off the earthy smell of autumn, and the scent of the fresh grass sweeping the lawns beside the lake stirred old memories of the horse filled stables and misty sunlit trails of that expansive estate which she would have given anything to call “home.”
She stood surveying the small cottage before her. It was anything but a stately château or gothic mansion, but it held a different sort of charm the young woman found just as appealing. The house was small, of course, as it had been provided by the ministry, but was nevertheless lakefront property. The dark stone walls complimented the thatched straw roof, with the willow tree to the left of the tiny house draping its slender bows in a charming veil over the adjacent roof corner. Taking in the cozy, picture perfect scene before her, Tara could not help but feel perhaps simply living in this building would make the three months of useless transcribing somewhat worthwhile.
Hart had taken her time in getting situated, unpacking enough of her belongings to make the place look inhabited before deciding to trade the hearth of her new residence for the streets of the small village. She would blame it on curiosity, brushing aside the notion that her choice might stem from an uncharacteristic desire to be in the presence of other people. Thus, a half hour later, she found herself browsing the window displays of the store fronts with a richly colored ochre traveling cloak draped over her slender shoulders. She had gathered her pale blonde hair together and curled it to one side of her neck, consequently making herself appear a few years younger than her true age of twenty-five. It served to soften her appearance, as her hair no longer hung straight and severe around her face – no longer enforced and image of austerity and willfulness. The way her crystal blue eyes browsed the displays in the fashion of an eager child only accentuated this youthful façade, and it was in this manner the young woman made her first venture down the central lane of Loch Village.