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Fern-hunting parties became popular, allowing young women to get outside in a seemingly innocuous pursuit with less rigid oversight and chaperoning than they saw in parlors and drawing rooms. They may have even had the occasional romantic meetup with a similarly fern-impassioned beau. — Bree


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WANTED:

Bunny Devon for Anne Devon. My fair lady of the night
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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Mr. Brightside
#1
Private 
April 19th, 1888 - The Sailors' Last Hurrah
It started out with a kiss
How did it end up like this
It was only a kiss, it was only a kiss

Zelda had spent most of the day waffling on whether or not she was going to come. It was her last chance to see him, but he didn't want to see her. Their last interaction felt unfinished, but what good could come of finishing it? She was going to embarrass herself. It was undignified. He made her sad, and her father would be mad at her. But she really wanted to see him. He might die. If he found what he was looking for, then he was going to come back and be even more famous and want nothing at all to do with her.

She may not have gone at all, except that Julian was going because one of his friends was leaving, and if Julian was going she had an excuse to tag along. She lost him almost immediately, her brother darting off to get a drink with his friend. Zelda pulled up the hood of her jacket, holding to shroud her face from some of the scrutiny that could come. But she doubted it would. Everyone here was a bit sloshed, and if this was anything like last time - well. Mr. Darrow would refuse to have anything to do with her.

Merlin, why was she even here? (Because, despite the consistent sense that this was just embarrassing, there was that hopeful wave in her heart.)

Zelda got a pint of something-or-other from one of the sailors. She didn't even know how she was going to find him here. She brought the mug to her lips and took a deep sip, standing on her toes to try and spot him. She was going to have to get somewhere higher if she was ever going to find Mr. Darrow, and ducked around a small group to skitter up the ladder to the Voyager, mug tucked against her chest.

And perhaps she would have given up, or changed her mind, or tried somewhere else - but then she saw that familiar cloud of ridiculous hair on the same boat she'd clambered onto. Her heart pounded. Zelda ducked under a man's arm, scurrying past a tiny crowd just to reach him.

"Mr. Darrow."  



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set by MJ
#2
Alfred was very well aware he was drunk, and didn't feel guilty about it in the slightest. The day before he'd been subjected to a seemingly endless parade of wealthy people, and he'd behaved himself the entire time, which given his social history since his return from the wilderness was particularly impressive. It had also been exhausting, and although he knew that smoozing with people who had money was necessary if he actually wanted to go anywhere, he still felt as though he deserved something of a reprieve. Here, surrounded by his predominantly working class sailors and other restless middle class men like himself, he felt as though he could really let loose and actually enjoy himself before the real work started.

So he didn't feel guilty about being drunk. Someone had gone to fetch his captain's coat, (as a joke, he thought, since he'd been forced to wear it entirely buttoned the entire night before to impress the rich folks) and thrown it loosely over his shoulders. It was too warm of an evening to actually wear a coat (he had even taken the liberty of unbuttoning the top three or four buttons of his shirt, leaving the tops of his tattoos peaking out in the ever-changing vee of skin as he moved), but he was enjoying cavorting around on his ship, surrounded by his men, and being called 'Captain.'

He was enjoying himself a good deal, at any rate, until he was suddenly face to face with a girl he hadn't been expecting to see. Alfred had been in the middle of a laugh when he saw her, but it died in his throat. "Miss Zelda," he exclaimed. He ought to have called her Miss Fisk, but it was too late for that. He couldn't help it; he'd never thought of her that way. Miss Fisk was someone he'd gone to school with; Miss Fisk was another boring English girl. It just didn't seem to fit her, and never had. Miss Zelda, on the other hand, was far too familiar, given the tenor of their last conversation, and he knew it.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, wondering whether the question sounded like an accusation or not. He hadn't intended it as such, but he really didn't have any idea what could have brought her here. She surely would have mentioned it previously if she had a friend or relative on his expedition, and she never had, so he thought it rather unlikely that she was here for someone else.

Had she come tonight to see him? Did she plan to try and convince him to change his mind about their last conversation? Was there any chance that her methods of convincing him would involve her asking to kiss him again, or perhaps even trying to initiate one herself? Merlin, he hadn't prepared for anything like this — but there had been no reason to, because he'd had no reason to assume he would see her again before the ship departed.

(Could she tell that he was drunk? How obvious was it? He suddenly wished that he wasn't).


#3
He said Miss Zelda! and her ears turned pink. She felt suddenly warm under her hood, and brought the mug of mystery alcohol to her lips. There was an added trouble to having found him, and it was that she didn't have a good answer for him. She didn't.

Truthfully some part of her had hoped that a lightning strike of peace and awareness would strike her when she saw him - as if, suddenly, she would know what she wanted to do with him. There were no answers to be found.

Miss Zelda.

She wished that she was drunker than she was. He was drunker than she was. She should have spent more time here before she found him, because now this was weird. (It would have been weird anyways.)

Zelda shrugged at him. "My brother was going," she said, talking more to her mug than she was to him. He would probably get along with Julian, actually. "So. I decided to come along. See the boat off."



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set by MJ
#4
She was here for him, then. She hadn't exactly said as much, but she hadn't really given any other good reasons for her presence there, and he hardly believed that she had become so attached to the ship itself during her ten or twenty minutes onboard before that she now had any sort of investment in actually seeing the physical vessel depart.

"We don't actually leave until Sunday," he pointed out, though he was sure she already knew this. "So if you want to see her off, you'll be here a long while." He had meant that as a joke but after he'd said it he wondered whether it had come across that way or whether it had seemed rude. He really wasn't trying to be mean — he wasn't even particularly trying to call her bluff on the reason why she was here, because calling her on it would have opened the door to another awkward discussion of feelings, which he was in no state of mind to navigate.

He took a drink and looked off at some point just past the rail of the ship, so that he wouldn't have to look at her. He decided it was time to change the subject. "Did you do any dancing?" he asked, with a vague hand gesture towards the fiddle music drifting up towards them from the pier. That wasn't exactly what he'd meant to say, he thought. Probably he'd meant to say are you enjoying the party?

There was a chance that what he'd really meant to say was Did you want to dance with me? She'd come here with some motivation along those lines, he imagined, because if she had wanted to forge ahead into another Talk she would have said so already, and she hadn't. Chances were that she had some sort of idea that the two of them would spend the evening together and pretend their last conversation hadn't happened, and maybe they'd go down and dance or maybe they'd just sit and talk, or maybe eventually they'd kiss — something along those lines.

Alfred couldn't honestly say he was opposed to all of that, but he thought that was probably the alcohol talking.


#5
He was making her feel small again. She wanted to shrink down into her mug, where he couldn't look at her anymore - not that he was looking at her, anyways. Zelda flicked her gaze over past the railing. It seemed as if everyone else was having fun, and then there was just her, desperately saddened (yet again!) by a man who would forget her in just a few days.

Maybe it was that he was talking about dancing. After the summer and fall, dancing just reminded her of Mr. Jameshill... And she was trying very hard not to think about him anymore, no matter what the situation with Mr. Darrow was.

So she took a sip of her mug before she replied. "I haven't yet," she admitted, "I'm usually rather skittish about dancing."



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set by MJ
#6
"Skittish?" he repeated, before he'd had a chance to think better of it. His tongue was getting ahead of his brain tonight, as tended to happen when he'd consumed any significant portion of alcohol. Skittish was just such a strange choice of word, though, and not one he would have thought applicable to her in any context. Cats in an alleyway were skittish when they heard sudden loud noises. Horses that hadn't been trained as hunting mounts were skittish around gunfire. Miss Zelda Fisk snared sailboats out of midair; she did not seem like the sort to be skittish about anything, much less something as mundane as dancing.

"You don't have to be any good," he continued, gesturing towards the railing. "C'mere." He had momentarily forgotten to wonder about her motivation or to be cautious of how he proceeded and was focused only on proving his point, which would be better done from the edge of the ship's deck. He sauntered over (not because he intended to saunter but because that was what came across at the moment when he tried to walk in a straight line without assistance) and leaned his elbows against the railing, not bothering to stop and check that she was following. He would not realize until several minutes later that he had inadvertently lead the two of them out of the more crowded area of the ship and onto a section where they could have some relative privacy. Not that anything tonight was truly private, but at least they stood fairly little chance of being overheard.

"See? This isn't like that fancy dress party you were at on Halloween," he said, gesturing down at the dancing on the pier. "Mostly it's just holding on to someone else and moving around in circles. You can do that."


#7
Once they were at the railing, they were significantly more isolated. Zelda dangled one hand over the edge, the other holding tight to the handle of her mug. The people down there really did look relaxed, and happy, and the dancing didn't look that complicated. But still it made her heart pound a little faster with nervousness - she could not imagine being that relaxed right now.

"I think I could," Zelda said, moving her free fingers to gesture at the dancers. "But I'm still worried I'd be just terrible at it. What if they laughed at me?" The corners of her lips twitched up. She reached her free hand up to tug her hood down and looked up at Mr. Darrow.

"You're right, though. Looks pretty easy."



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set by MJ
#8
Alfred nodded. He had no doubt at all that she could dance; anyone could. At least, anyone could dance like this. Dancing at wealthy parties seemed to be something else entirely, but that was a world Alfred had never really found himself a part of and thus couldn't even begin to comprehend.

"The whole point is just to have fun," he pointed out. "It's not like those formal dances with all the set steps. That's like — I don't know, like people are dancing to show off," he said with a shrug. "I get not being able to dance like that. But anyone can dance like this, if you've got the right partner."


#9
He was right: there were no steps.

This cheered Zelda immediately; dancing with no steps was better than any and all of the parties that she had gone to with Charlie Williams, and all of the parties that she had attended due to Ross' campaign.

She needed a partner, though.

"Would you dance with me?" she asked, turning towards him, "Like this. Please? I haven't tried it before."

Of course this was yet another opportunity for Mr. Darrow to reject her, Zelda realized.



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set by MJ
#10
He honestly hadn't been trying to be flirtatious or leading with the way he'd been talking, but he realized once the words were out of his mouth how they'd sounded. He'd more or less led her step by step to this point, and given that, it seemed rather cruel to even consider turning her down. Besides, a dance wasn't a kiss. He could say yes and it didn't have to turn into a thing.

"Uhm, sure," he said, turning to face her while still leaning against the rail. He supposed he ought to actually put his coat on, or else take it off entirely, if they were going to go dance. Otherwise he might end up losing it in the crowd on the pier, and that would be quite the mess when they all set sail in a few days (though someone would end up leaving tonight with quite the souvenir).

"Gimme a second," he said as he shrugged the coat off of his shoulders and turned in the direction of his cabin. "Or— you can come along if you like, I guess. I need to go put this away."


#11
Zelda smiled brightly; it was impossible to curb her enthusiasm at his agreement. A dance was not a confirmation that he liked her. A dance, mostly, did not mean anything, so she should not be nearly this pleased, especially not when he was leaving in a few days - except she was this pleased.

"I'll come along, I guess," Zelda said, hoping her forced-casual tone implied that she would not try to seduce him in the cabin this time. She wouldn't. That would just be embarrassing. She tugged her hood back up over her hair with her free hand, and took a large gulp of the mug. She was going to have to finish it before they went dancing, after all.



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set by MJ
#12
It honestly hadn't really even occurred to Alfred that he'd more or less just invited her back to his cabin. If it had, he probably would have put together that given what had happened the last time she'd been in his cabin, that was a very bad idea. As it was, his state of inebriation was making it difficult to focus on anything other than the superficial aspects of this encounter, much less read in to anything. They were going to go dance, because she hadn't ever danced like this before. He needed to go store his coat before they did that. She was going to walk with him. Simple.

Given his line of thinking, it was rather unsurprising that his conversation as he started off towards his cabin was focused only on the uniform. "I know it looks pretty impressive — people say so, anyway — but it does get awfully hot. Especially when it's all buttoned up." He also thought that perhaps the dashing naval officer look was a bit sullied by the fact that he had refused to get a haircut any time in the last month, but if others thought so they had been at least polite enough not to say as much to his face.

"It does have an effect, though," he continued as he weaved his way through the folks assembled on the deck. "When I'm wearing it properly, anyway. People treat me differently. Fancy folks, too," he said, looking back over his shoulder and shooting her an isn't that hilarious? sort of grin. They had reached the door of the cabin, which he pushed open without any ado. He was on into the next room before he'd even bothered to see whether Miss Fisk had followed him inside or not. He tossed the coat down on his small bed and turned to head back into the office area, leaning on the door frame as he smoothed out the loose white shirt he'd been wearing beneath it. He'd set his beer down — somewhere in this room, he thought. It wasn't importantly. He'd find it later.

"Even though I'm really just a sailor," he continued, slipping his hands casually into his trouser pockets as he continued to lean on the door frame. He was quiet a for maybe two seconds before his eyes lit up with a sudden idea. "Hey," he said, standing up a bit straighter (but still mostly slouching). "Want to see something?"


#13
It took Zelda a moment to realize that Mr. Darrow was talking about his coat. A second beat passed before another realization clicked in her mind: Mr. Darrow was at least tipsy. Sober people did not ramble on about their garments. She couldn't help but shadow his grin. "I think I know what you mean," Zelda said, "People always take me more seriously in my Ministry robes."

Maybe she wasn't exactly sober anymore, either. She was drinking her mug of mystery juice pretty quickly, and was mostly a lightweight, besides.

She stepped inside the office and leaned against the wall next to the door. Her face flushed pink at the memory of what happened the last time they were in here. There was something about the casual, relaxed way that Mr. Darrow stood that made her heart beat faster. Stupid, Zelda chided herself. She still wanted to kiss him. But he had been very clear that that was not going to happen, and well - loose shirt beside, she wasn't going to ask him to kiss her and face more rejection again.

"Absolutely," Zelda said without missing a beat, "What is it?"



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set by MJ
#14
Alfred grinned. "C'mon, I'll show you," he said, without answering her question. He headed out the door she was standing by, then started to lead her through what might seem very well like a labyrinth to one not experienced with the inner workings of a ship of this class. Around corners, through doors, and down ladderwells — so named because although Alfred and all experienced sailors went down them at a walk, like stairs, they were really little more than ladders tilted to perhaps a twenty degree angle (hardly suitable for sober persons who were unaccostomed to them, much less to the inebriated, but Alfred wasn't paying enough attention to think to pause when he reached one or check to see whether she was navigating them as easily as he was) — and speaking over his shoulder as he went.

"Y'know this ship was one of the originals, from the Navy that my old Captain commanded. The Ophelia is, too. We renamed them both when we refit them — sponsors got to decide what. Which is how we ended up with the Ophelia," he said, glancing back at her and rolling his eyes slightly. He personally thought the Voyager was a much more fitting name for a vessel, and was glad that if he was commanding the smaller ship, at least he had the better name. "But anyway — oh, see this, here? We're going down beneath the waterline, now. You won't see any more portholes. But anyway — the whole old fleet was in bad shape when I came back, but they're all good ships, you know. Sturdy, been through a lot. And this one's been to the Far East and back," he said with a grin, reaching out and patting one of the boards in the hull as they walked by the way a man might a faithful hunting dog. "Around Cape Town and through the Indian Ocean and all the way to China."

They had arrived at their destination, though she likely wouldn't have known it if he hadn't opened the door and stepped inside. The room held eight bunks — two stacked opposite the door, with three each on the right and left walls — and as many trunks and storage lockers as could be reasonably crammed in to the room.

"These are officer's quarters," he explained. "Not very glamorous, but they're better than the crew berthing. But here, c'mere," he said, crossing to one of the bunks in a triple stack and sliding with practiced easy onto the empty rack. It was just a bare mattress at the moment, as it was either unoccupied or else whoever had claimed it was very late to pack for the expedition, but frankly Alfred probably would have climbed in even if it had looked occupied; he wasn't thinking about propriety at the moment. That was evidenced again when he gestured for Miss Zelda to join him on the bed, which didn't even have enough headspace above it for an adult to sit up straight in. "You won't be able to see it from there," he explained — as if that really explained anything at all.


#15
Zelda followed him, so nervous about getting left behind - what the hell were these stairs - that by the time they reached the water line, she realized that she would never be able to find her way back to the deck by herself. She reached out to touch one finger against the boards of the ship. They were beneath the water. What if it sprang a leak?!

It wouldn't, though - he said it was in good shape. Even though the ship had traveled further than she ever had, even though the darkness of the Thames loomed above them, she was safe down here. Even if she was feeling rather nervous about it. In one of the hallways, Zelda downed the dregs of her mug in a quick, unladylike gesture. Now that she wasn't worried about spilling, it would probably be easier to navigate those damned fake stairs.

And now he was bringing her into a bedroom. It was even more packed than the Hogwarts' dorm rooms, with suitcases and - that empty bed he slid into. Zelda set the mug down on the floor. She pressed her palms flat against her sides, and her eyebrows shot up when he indicated that she join him.

She didn't trust herself to say anything other than what? at the moment. So with clumsy ceremony, Zelda slipped into the rack next to him, propping herself up on her elbows to look at him. Hopefully she wouldn't - hit her head, or anything.



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set by MJ
#16
He was not quite so intoxicated as to not have noticed her hesitation, but she did slip into the bed next to him without complaint, which made him smile slightly. While she looked at him, he turned his attention towards the wooden beams that held the rack above them. The light wasn't as good down here as it sometimes was — only one of the several lamps had been left lit — and it wasn't as easy to see into the dark corner as he'd thought it would have been. He frowned and reached up to run his fingers over the board. He wasn't carrying his wand, and he didn't know any tribal magic to create light, unfortunately, so he supposed there wouldn't be much to see after all.

"Ah, it's too dark," he mumbled — there was no need to speak loudly when she was only a few inches away from him. "Here, give me your hand," he said, but didn't wait for her to offer it before he reached out to lightly take the hand closest to him in his own. Bringing it up to the board, he pressed her fingers up against a deep groove in the wood grain, then looked back at her with a wide grin.

"Feel that? Those are my initials," he said, inordinately proud of what was, for all extents and purposes, only graffiti. "I carved them up here when I was — probably your age, I guess. This was where I lived for two years," he said, leaning back against the wall to one side so that he could see her more clearly. "When we went to the Far East and back. This was my ship back then, too."




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