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First names were most often used by childhood or school friends. If the friendship was made after school age, first names would only really be used by women. Men were far more likely to refer to their friends by their surnames, a mark of familiarity. — Documentation


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Emilia Wright for Jude Wright. Casually alienating offspring since 18882.
Separating was also not a great idea, though they weren't doing great at staying together anyway. If she were to volunteer to be the human sacrifice.. well... Hogsmeade had plenty of debutantes anyway...

Barnabas Skeeter in CYOA: Group D


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Well-Traveled

Complete threads set in ten different forum locations. Threads must have at least ten posts, and three must be your own. Character accounts cannot be combined.

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So, Bonding?
#1
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10 August, 1888 — Beautiful Beast Boutique

This was, he supposed, his penance for having entirely ignored the existence of his family for the past two months. Ever since the fog had descended on Wellingtonshire, Ernest had been more or less living in the Department of Mysteries, making occasional excursions only to find a good multiple-course dinner at Black's or to venture into the fog and investigate some element he hadn't previously considered. All for nought, as it turned out, since it had never occurred to him to venture into the Casino, and apparently that was the key to the entire business.

He was certainly interest in the Casino now, and he'd been spending the majority of his time since his family's return to Hogsmeade last week setting up different sensors and data-recording devices around the premise, to try and pin down the exact nature of the time field that had apparently engulfed the building. Since this was no longer in the territory of a national emergency, however, he was begrudgingly pulling himself away from work long enough to go home every evening, which gave his wife plenty of opportunities for nagging him into things.

Ernest thought pets in general were largely useless. He had never owned an animal; he had children, instead, who had least had the benefit of someday having the potential to develop into interesting human beings, which an animal never would. He supposed he owned an owl (was almost certain that he did), but he had never bothered to name it or grow at all attached. He simply put the mail out for the servants and one of them saw it dispatched via owl. Why an eleven year old girl needed a pet before departing for Hogwarts as a mystery to him, but Rufina had assured him that it was a necessity, and so here they were.

"Well," he said to his daughter, perhaps a minute or less after they had entered the store and already a bit impatient. "Pick one out." There were only three options, anyway, if she was to take a pet to Hogwarts, and Ernest could not imagine there could be much real difference within them. All cats were the same as all other cats, weren't they? And he imagined they would be leaving with a cat; Flora was a girl and would have no interest in a slimy toad, nor did she, as an eleven year old, have any practical use for an owl.


#2
Now that the fog had lifted, so had Flora's spirits; the road to Hogwarts was now clear in sight, without any further impediments that her imagination could muster. She'd received her Hogwarts letter, been chosen by her wand, and would now be purchasing her companion - her feline companion, she'd decided. It was made even more exciting by the fact that her Papa had chosen to accompany her on this very important venture, as she very rarely ever got to do anything with him! She tried to bottle up her glee and maintain her composure, knowing that he (like the now boring, adult Merriweather) would grow annoyed very quickly if she showed too much enthusiasm.

The difference between her Papa and Mama was that her Mama was more patient with her (or she at least humored her for a bit). Papa wasn't that sort of person and it wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but she'd come with the hopes of being able to browse a bit. She wanted to give this decision careful thought, as she would presumably be stuck with it for the next seven years. Thus, she cast her father a small, hopeful smile and puttered off down the aisle.

The row was a noisy one to say the least. The cages were stacked three or so to each column, each containing a creature that seemed to be paying her little mind. She supposed they were used to this; children came in every year to purchase their pets, and throughout the year there were parents and adults who came to find their newest friend. She'd once heard that owls and cats had connections to witches and wizards that no other creatures had, which brought her to the question of - toads.

"Papa?" she called from halfway down the aisle. A gap between the cages of cats was filled by a number of tanks containing the dull, somber-looking creatures that just - sat there. "Do you know anything about toads? Why do they look so sad?" she asked, tapping on the tank glass. "Is it because nobody ever wants them?"




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#3
For half a moment Ernest thought he'd been mistaken in his assumptions about his daughter, when she paused in front of the toad tank. What could possibly attract a little girl to a toad? Nothing, it turned out; he hadn't been mistaken at all. Flora was just a child like every other child, and she probably would have made some sort of ridiculous squealing sound had she accidentally come into contact with one's rough skin. That was the only reason that little boys ever bought toads, Ernest thought — in order to thrust them at little girls and make them scream.

He wasn't particularly a toad expert (did such things even exist? and if so, why?) but even if he had an excellent answer to her question, he would have had no desire to expound on the subject to his eleven-year-old. Instead, he said in a very casual and matter-of-fact tone, "It's because they're tired of being toads. About a decade ago, the Hogwarts Transfiguration professor transfigured all the students who failed their OWLs into toads. No one was able to turn them back, so they've been selling them as pets here ever since."


#4
The answer did little to soothe her curiosities - in fact, it only managed to make them more morbid. She brought one hand up and rested her palm against the glass as she stared intensely at the creature. The explanation, she thought, sounded fake upon first hearing it - but then again, her Papa was a smart man and always seemed to know what he was talking about. She turned her eyes back to him, her brows furrowed in concern.

"Perhaps I might be able to lift their parents' sorrows by learning how to turn them back," she responded. Turning a toad to a human didn't seem that difficult, she thought; she'd seen people turn chairs to mice, mice to rabbits, and rabbits to beavers. Why not toads to people?

"And if Hogwarts can't teach me, I'm sure you can, Papa. You're one of the smartest men in the Ministry, aren't you?" He did work in the Department of Mysteries, and they hired only the best!




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#5
Ernest honestly had no idea what he had been expecting his daughter to say (he had very few expectations regarding little girls in general, and the fact that this one shared half of his DNA did not make much of a material difference in that regard), but he was taken aback at her apparent zeal for solving the imaginary problem.

"I imagine their parents have moved on," he commented dryly, unsure of what else to really say on the matter. These were people that didn't actually exist, after all, so he was finding it hard to muster up any sympathy for their pretend plight. He had very little sympathy for real people with real problems, when those people and problems didn't directly impact his life. "They'd all be adults now, you know, if you did turn them back. Adults who have never done anything except croak and hop." Not exactly the most marketable job skills. If they were returned to their human forms, they'd likely just be a drain on their families or on society. They were better off as toads, really.

Except of course they were, because they'd never been people in the first place. He was getting caught up in the fabric of the story he had lazily woven.

"But if it's really important to you, I'm sure you could manage it," he said, albeit without a great deal of conviction — Flora was far more likely to follow in her mother's footsteps than become any sort of transfiguration expert. "When you're an adult."


#6
Flora could not imagine any parent being able to accept the loss of a child, especially if given no closure.

(What would Mama do if she or Merriweather vanished one day? Flora dearly hoped she - along with every one of her Mulciber and Longbottom relatives - would never, ever stop seeking answers.)

Flora did not take note of her Papa's dry tone, her attention instead set on the number of tiny, sad-looking creatures in front of her. She could not reach in and touch them like she could the caged cats, nor could she hover around them like she could the gawking, wide-eyed owls, but she let a finger trace down the tank's glass, trying to catch their attention. Nothing. With a sad smile, she turned her head and looked up at her father.

"I shall do so," she agreed, almost solemn in her way of speaking. "But I must purchase one of them until then. If I cannot save all their sorry souls, the least I can do is save one." There were a number of them that she could choose from: a small speckled one, one with one eye that was larger than the other, and then -

There he was, the perfect one!

"I'll take him," she declared, pointing towards the oddball of the group. The toad, which was more green than brown and covered with the ugliest-looking freckles she'd ever seen, stood in the corner away from the others, his tongue seemingly stuck to the glass tank. "I think he needs my help more than the others. Yes, I shall have mercy on his poor, froggy soul." As any good philanthropist might!

"And his name will be Mr. Afton until I decipher who he truly is!"

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#7
Well, this was an unexpected turn of events. Ernest wasn't going to stop his daughter from buying a toad, particularly after she had settled so quickly on the stupid, ugly one that she had, but he did wonder over her choice. Surely she would lose interest in this little salvation charade sooner rather than later, and then she would be stuck with a toad she had no particular fondness for — or she could ditch him somewhere, Ernest supposed, and have no pet at all, which might be better for a little girl. How long could her attention span and her supposed charity really hold out?

Hopefully not terribly long; eventually she would realize that his story about the transfigured OWL students was entirely bullshit. While that hadn't bothered him when he'd created the tale, he hadn't really been expecting her to buy a toad; he'd supposed she would forget the conversation shortly after leaving the shop with some cute little fuzzy kitten and that would be the end of it. If she really held on to the toad as a pet, it was bound to come up sooner or later... unless she did manage to transfigure him into a person at some point. It had been done before, though of course a physical transfiguration could not affect the little toad's brain, and a personified toad probably wasn't destined for a very long life in its strange new form.

Maybe if she ever got close, Ernest could just transfigure a Ministry intern into a look-alike of her toad for her to work on; that might be less trouble than explaining himself.

"Alright," he agreed, fishing out the money for the purchase. "Do you need anything else for him, while we're here?" What did toads need to be happy? (Were toads capable of such an emotion?) Owls and cats would need a cage for travel to and from the school, but he had no notion how one was meant to transport a toad, or what they were supposed to eat. A shop clerk might have advised them better, but none seemed to be handy at the moment.
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#8
Papa did not seem to have any objections to her choice, and, taking this as an indication of his approval, she was pleased with herself. She would save the toad, and prove herself both a formidable and charitable witch in the process. Perhaps in two, three years, she might find herself on the front cover of the Prophet beside a very human Mr. Afton, presenting him to the family that had lost him long ago. Her Mama would be so proud!

She looked over both shoulders, a frown forming across her lips as she realized there was no shopkeeper in the near vicinity. How rude! It wasn't as if there were many people shopping there that day, anyways. Feeling anxious to ensure that she grabbed the right toad (as opposed to having it get mixed in with the other ugly-looking ones), Flora took it upon herself to push back the glass tank's top so she could fish out Mr. Afton by herself.

It took a few moments - even one in which she almost tipped the entire tank over - but she eventually managed to snag the freckled creature out of the tank, it's long legs flailing behind it as she extracted his limbs from the glass. Upon closer examination, Flora noted that he was large, but not too large, and definitely not as slimy as she imagined. Her eyes went to the little paper stuck to the side of the tank, which fortunately listed instructions.

"It says they eat..." Her gaze traveled down the list; it first gave a number of basic facts about where the creatures were found, what environments they best flourished in, their lifespan and breeding habits, and then - "Ew! It says they eat worms, Papa, worms!" Her nose wrinkled in disgust, and she could only feel pity for the poor human man who was now being fed toad-food. A second glance, however, led her eyes further down the list, which only revealed other gross (but some less-objectionable) options.

"Well, it says some can also eat lizards and spiders." Both were still disgusting, but none as bad as worms. "Perhaps I shall take him outside and let him hunt for himself. That way, he will only be eating what he wishes to eat?" It seemed like a much better option than forcing him to eat the scum of the Earth!




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#9
If Ernest hadn't already lied to his daughter about the nature of the toads for sale in the shop, he might have found the idea of a toad going hunting outside rather ridiculous. As it was, it struck him instead as a lovely way to see that the pet was almost certainly killed, misplaced, or otherwise dispatched of before he had to deal with a teenage daughter who thought she could transfigure him into a human. A toad — particularly the one she had chosen for herself — could not possibly survive several years of being left to its own devices on the Hogwarts grounds. It would probably disappear into the Black Lake or be caught and killed by a cat sometime before Christmas, he decided. Hopefully Flora wouldn't be too grief stricken about it — but he could buy her a kitten, or something, for her second semester, which would prove less problematic in the long run.

"Certainly," he agreed with a nod. "He'll be able to stay sharp, that way. You don't want him to get too bored, you know; his mind is most likely half turned to mush already by being trapped in a tank for so long."


#10
However illogical the thought of an eleven-year-old girl caring for a toad-man might seem to the outside world, it made perfect sense to Flora. Once she advanced in her Transfiguration studies enough to return him to his human state, she would open a foundation to fund research into all the unclaimed toads in pet shops - and only then would she be touted as one Magical Britain's great philanthropists! (Maybe she'd call it "Toads To Toes" or maybe - even better - she'd find a way to pay homage to Mama...but in a way that did not associate her with toads.)

"I wonder if transfiguring a man back to a toad only changes his...shell," she said, holding the creature up to the light to examine him closer. "Would I need to transfigure his brain back separately? Or would I need to somehow manage it all at once?" she pondered aloud, all the while rotating Mr. Afton in her hands (at one point even holding the poor toad upside down!).

A bright smile across her lips, Flora promptly readjusted the toad in her hands and looked up at her Papa. "Oh, I shall certainly send you updates throughout the year to update you on my progress!" she promised.




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#11
Ernest actually did know a bit about the questions she was asking, since he had just concluded an inquiry into that precise subject after one of his Unspeakables caused the irrevocable transfiguration of Mr. Pickering the Lift Operator into a chicken. The miscellaneous administrative types at the Ministry placed a good deal of value on the lift operators, it would seem — more so, at any rate, than Ernest would have done in their positions. The paperwork involved had been positively dreary. He had no particular desire to get into any of that again for a good long while — much less with his as-yet unschooled and unlearned daughter. Instead of answering, then, he made a noncommittal sort of noise that conveyed something along the lines of what a brilliant question, dear Flora, but one you will unfortunately have to investigate for yourself.

She seemed determined to do just that, and what was more, she planned to write to him about her progress. It had never occurred to him that his daughter leaving for Hogwarts would mean that she would write him — Merriweather never did, that he knew of, unless the letters were mercifully intercepted and answered by Rufina on his behalf. He may have lived with her for her entire life, and was occasionally subjected to stories about her silly childhood antics, but he had never felt the need to pay attention. It was impossible to pretend to be listening over letter, however; he'd have to read them and compose some sort of response. The idea filled him with a vague sense of dread. They could be, at best, a tedious waste of his time, and at worst — well, what was worse than being a waste of time?

"Delightful," he said thinly, because there was nothing else to say to an eleven year old girl. "See that you do."




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