Basil John Stretton
Bas; pennames include: ‘Major Xerxes Madderwort’ and ‘Herodotus H. Bane’
16th February, 1845
Manager of The Three Broomsticks & penny dreadful writer.
Larch, 9 1/2”, unicorn hair, springy.
Lower (high end of)
Family: Diggory Stretton | Father | 1809
In his youth - and thanks to his grades earning him an unexpected scholarship through his NEWTS - he made his living as a cursebreaker for a few years, then picked up a slightly more sedentary career at the Ministry to support his family. Nevertheless, having worked hard for decades has taken its toll on the halfblood wizard’s health, and he is now much more of a homebody. He and his wife now live on the Norfolk coast for the fresh air.
Cicely Stretton | Mother | 1818
A doting but pragmatic mother, Cicely makes up for not living in close proximity to her children by springing surprise visits on them, or just sending Howlers when she hears anything suspicious about their lives.
Angelica Stretton | Sister | 1842
Both of Basil’s sisters moved into the spare room of his Hogsmeade residence to ‘keep him company’ after his wife had died (and take advantage of being nearer to the heart of the magical community whilst saving on rent), and have both lived with him since. Angelica is overbearing at the best of times, and butts heads with Laurel constantly. What she cannot match in shrewdness, she makes up for tenfold in sheer loudness. A spinster: although she has been engaged twice over the years, both suitors jumped ship before marriage on account of her tyrannical temperament. She has been working since she left Hogwarts, possibly as a mediwitch.
Laurel Stretton | Sister | 1854
Laurel is a secretary (at the Ministry or DP) and is the Most Efficient. She has the strategic mind of a chessmaster and is a good five steps ahead of the people she is employed under; she could probably run the whole circus herself. She’s steadfastly unmarried, but is hopelessly in love with someone who is so generally hopeless that she’s rather ashamed of what’s come over her; she shows this to them by being especially crabby and unforgiving of their fuck-ups. She cannot stand sharing the space at home with her older sister but like hell is she going to give her the satisfaction (and Basil some peace) of moving out first.
Susannah Stretton | Cousin; Orphan | 1861 | Housemaid
Her father was Diggory’s younger brother, but when her parents were both killed in a house fire in 1866, Diggory and Cicely took her in, seeing her through five years of Hogwarts. Though truly quite bright, a crippling anxiety about exams saw her achieve lacklustre OWLs, crushing the high aspirations she’d had for her next step. Instead, for lack of a better opening - and determined not to continue to be a burden on her aunt and uncle - Susannah immediately went into service, and continues to work as a housemaid, however little she enjoys it. Her older cousins still look out for her, though she is probably closest to Laurel. She joins them for sunday lunches occasionally on her half-days.
Alicia Stretton née Barnes | Wife | 1851 - 1875
A muggleborn witch and a former Gryffindor, every minute being married to Alicia was dreadfully fun, until she blew herself up in a potions experiment. She wasn’t a potioneer by trade; she was a welcome witch. Essentially, she had no hazard perception. Dabbling in potions was one of the safer hobbies she had.
Oscar Stretton | Son | 1870
With a razor-sharp wit and just a dash of his mother’s recklessness, Oscar is Basil’s BFF, basically. They get along rather well; the only sliver of good that came from losing Alicia was a strengthening of their bond. That Oscar is away at Hogwarts probably allows them to have more fun in the holidays and on Hogsmeade days (though there’s a touch of that teenage embarrassment when he’s with friends at the Three Broomsticks). Nevertheless, Oscar serves as Basil’s editor sometimes for the serials; when he’s stumped, Basil sends an owl and his son helps brainstorm ideas.
Right-handed, 5’5” and not as young or thin as he used to be, Basil hardly stands out in a crowd. He has dark hair, dark eyes and an oft-furrowed brow. He smiles fairly easily, though it counts for a lot more if it meets his eyes. The one expression he has perfected is his deadpan stare. He’s always dressed shabbily-smartly for work but he’d rather save money than spend anything on clothes, and also he has been wearing the same coat for more than a decade and will not throw it out, ever. If you destroy it, Angelica, he will destroy you. Who’s got time for a fashion sense.
1845 | Basil is born.
1850 | Sent off to a small muggle day school, Basil keeps his head down and gets on with it, keen to learn. He shows a sign of magic or two, but his temper is so controlled and they are subtle enough that he explains them away without anyone noticing otherwise.
1853 | His sister Angelica goes to Hogwarts.
1854 | Evidently an accident baby (though neither parent much minds), Laurel is born. Basil, in any case, has more interesting things to pay any mind to than babies.
1856 | Basil goes to Hogwarts and is sorted into Hufflepuff. He has an easy enough time making friends, though Angelica has already proven herself such an opinionated loudmouth that he does occasionally have to shake off that association.
1858 | Angelica gets solid OWL results and begins working instead of returning to Hogwarts. Basil picks up Arithmancy and Ancient Studies.
1861 | Basil takes his OWLs and gets decent results all round, having done remarkably well in Arithmancy, Transfiguration and History of Magic. With no particular desire to join the Ministry, he begins working as a clerk in a muggle office, near where the Strettons are living.
1865 | His sister Laurel goes to Hogwarts.
1866 | Diggory’s younger brother and his wife are killed in a house fire. Their only daughter, Susannah, comes to live with them. It is a bit odd at first for Diggory and Cicely - the youngest of their brood already being away at Hogwarts - but parenthood is old hat for them, and they don’t mind.
1867 | The family moves into a house in London, not too far from Diagon Alley. The move is convenient for everyone, particularly their father’s job (though not so much his health). Basil answers an advertisement and is hired to work for a magical business.
After getting mixed up in the middle of one of Angelica and Laurel’s squabbles during the latter’s summer holidays, Basil winds up in Hogsmeade Hospital. It is there he meets Alicia, a welcome witch who is not half so mundane as she sounds.
1869 | Basil is promoted to a higher position within the company, and apparently Alicia’s irrational nature is rubbing off on him, because he takes it in stride and proposes to her. They are married in a month, and move into a small flat in London.
1870 | Alicia has a son, and they name him Oscar. Laurel leaves school with her OWLs.
1872 | Susannah goes to Hogwarts.
1874 | Basil is promoted within the business again.
1875 | One day, Basil comes home to find that Alicia has blown herself up experimenting with potions, as had been her most recent interest; the room is a disaster. Her body is mangled. Oscar has been sitting quietly by the front door for hours, it looks like; Basil doesn’t know whether his son is quite old enough to understand.
1876 | About to move back home to the parents, Basil is recovering what he can from the other rooms, cleaning out Alicia’s desk (not that the table-covered-in-years-worth-of-clutter counts much as one) and discovers, amongst her recent potions records, a stack of serials, the penny dreadfuls Alicia had been collecting for years, and apparently enjoyed reading quite as much as the schoolboy audience did. Literal mounds of them. Basil has never understood the appeal: it’s the sort of balderdash anyone could write, with unrealistic plots and cheap villainy and cliché all around. Even he could write that kind of rubbish.
It’s not a bad business model, as it turns out. People only pay a weekly penny, but apparently rubbish spreads like wildfire, and when you hook them, they keep on paying. Plus, those tales help teach Oscar to read, and plenty of boys in worse positions than he benefit from them.
Basil sits down with the intention of giving a paragraph a try before he throws the towel in on that idea... and finds that the streams of bullshit just come pouring out. Before long he has pages and pages, weeks’ worth of writing and a ludicrously detailed plan that could easily span hundreds of chapters.
It is a strange thing to throw himself and all his grief into, but when he comes home from his actual job he writes through the night - there are many sleepless ones - and his series begins getting published weekly. It is spinning along nicely, Basil often drawing his inspiration from the wizarding world, things he’d learnt in History of Magic, all that sort of thing - but not enough to see the Ministry hounding him about breaking the Statute of Secrecy! (He might’ve named a villain after Herpo the Foul, but. What does his muggle readership know?)
1877 | Soon, the muggles know quite a lot, and society is torn into disarray. With his parents deciding to pick up and move somewhere secluded (Norfolk is where they choose), Basil ventures to Hogsmeade instead, and with his savings, he purchases a decently sized house.
What he doesn’t plan on is both of his sisters joining him, not only in Hogsmeade, but in his own house. To ‘keep him company’, they insist (and argue about that too, as if what Basil wanted in his thirties was to have to put up with them both). He and Oscar get their own small rooms, so Angelica and Laurel are forced to share the third bedroom. Basil hopes this will encourage them to seek lodging elsewhere (though he is grateful for the company).
Susannah does poorly on her OWLs, and coupled with the fear incited by the muggle riots, she takes the first position of domestic service she can find in Hogwarts, desperate to do something of use and have some place to go.
1878 | The business Basil works for never really recovered from 1877, although his penny dreadfuls are still popular with muggle readership. Trying to balance his unlikely second career better with his first - and with raising his son - Basil takes up a bartending job, which offers less strain than something corporate, and he writes in the mornings at home with Oscar (who helps).
1881/2 | Oscar goes off to Hogwarts.
1882 | With his penny dreadful serials floating along and Hogsmeade’s population swelling every year - and there being plenty of children in the slums (though children are hardly the limit of the readership!) - Basil starts planning an expressly magical serial about a dashing cursebreaking criminal. When he has a good headstart on the writing of it, he finds someone to print it for him, and it begins to sell on the street and by owl subscription, for a knut an issue. Like ‘penny dreadfuls’, the weekly chapters get christened ‘knutcrackers’.
1884 | He becomes the manager of The Three Broomsticks.
1885 | Neither Angelica nor Laurel has yet moved out; with Oscar at school, they get a room apiece, and the squabbling has lessened somewhat. Basil isn’t sure who is likelier to marry first (though... a man would need to be a saint to take Angelica) - ridiculously, it looks like it might have to be him - nor which of his sisters will give up the game first and move into a boarding house somewhere else.
The Strettons and a few of their neighbours also begin the tradition of sharing a Sunday lunch, squeezing a large gathering of friends into their homes when it is their turn to host, for some sense of community amongst the rather lacklustre slums. (Basil is not best pleased by the standards of living, the crime rates, or the apathy by which the rest of Hogsmeade treats them, if he’s honest.)
1886 | Whoever thought he would still be writing terrible literature? And enjoying it?
His optimism is an optimism tempered by realism, but he doesn’t like to be defeated by the bad. A rational man, Basil has always seen the benefits of being practical and organised, a feat he manages without becoming overwhelmingly uptight, though he is incredibly tenacious. He works very hard, always throwing himself fully into a task, though doesn’t tend to expect quite as much commitment from other people. At the same time, he is family-oriented, though attempts to be loyal to and protective of even those beyond his household. On the whole, he still comes across as honest, sociable and generally likeable, though his sarcasm and dryness can occasionally put people off. He does his best to be boring, in fact, and yet somehow finds writing lurid tales of adventure startlingly easy.
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