They call you Magpie, occasionally— Bloodhound more recently— and you like to collect things.
You’ve always been careful about it, of course— learning where, if they exist at all, the lost and founds are, how to stumble across the people around who have the uncanny ability to know everyone and everything that matters to them, the places locals always check for items gone adrift— and you’ve heard strange things about EU, even before you actually arrived. Nothing concrete, nothing substantial, but enough on the forums and ratemyprofessors and hidden in deep corners of the web that you take extra care this time before continuing your finding (and returning, which is, admittedly, more of an entertaining challenge).
So instead of picking up the curiosities or collecting the feathers and bits and baubles, you watch, as you always do, and you’re thorough, as you always are. It takes some months and some seeing things you perhaps shouldn’t have and some time spent imagining solutions you likely couldn’t spare, but when all is said and done you think you’re ready to begin.
When you take the feathers, you leave behind piles of birdseed (your cockatiel’s favorite, and millet too when the plumage is especially colorful). When you find bottle caps, you bring them to the fountain and throw them in the highest tier; for the koi in the pond and their gasping mouths, you bring stories (words, the important thing is the words) whispered in the dead of night and shut up in the pretty green bottles left for you on the sidewalk. You find marbles in your pockets, bright as bubbles catching the sun, and make earrings out of them using the delicate wire you’re given every time you leave interestingly-shaped driftwood in that hole beside the dumpster (the earrings you keep, and sometimes give away to classmates worried about getting caught (or getting Caught, depending) in the rain). You give poetry and songs (whatever’s in your head, be it Bon Jovi for a week, the lines of that play you’re struggling with, or the rhymes that occasionally overtake your thoughts) to the crows and the trees and they give you nothing, but nor do they take.
The squirrels you know better than to deal with. A senior warned you (indirectly, eyes straight ahead as you both walked along), and when you accidentally leave your doodle notebook under the tree, you are left shaking pine needles out of your hair for weeks (it does smell nice, to be fair).
You never take found things without giving in return, and never give without expecting to leave empty-handed. It is a kindness, all of it, and you treasure the thanks you get (you do not always get thanked, and you do not mind).
With the lost things, you tread more carefully. You peek at them from the corner of your eye and wait a day (sometimes two, sometimes three, depending on how hard it is to only cast a glance) in order to see if the item is claimed; eventually (reluctantly, sometimes, but you do know how to help lost things find their homes, and you don’t want to leave them), you pick them up.
If it’s made of anything shiny, you leave it by the crows, rattling off as many interwoven lines of poetry you can cobble together about guarding and glittering, returning and finding, dropping off folded tinfoil sculptures as well (the crows have never given you anything back, but nor has anything been taken, and so you figure it’s fair they keep whatever they feel they’re owed). Though you only intend for them to keep watch and draw attention (whenever something pretty is misplaced, everyone looks at them), you begin to leave them your little aluminum figures whenever you catch wind of anything (or anyone) disappearing as a good luck charm, fond of how they watch and listen and protect what’s them and theirs. It is meant to be an idiosyncrasy, but you start to notice that they gather around the places those lost things turn up. You don’t give thanks and you pick up no more of their feathers than usual. When something is returned you make sure those involved discover a sudden and temporary interest in reading classic poems aloud.
When it’s anything that seems personal (or urgent), you hunt It down; a sigil that looks like an abstract swirl or perhaps an eye or perhaps a hand. Usually someone’s wearing it, frequently it’s purple, and always it’s on the softest-looking piece of fabric around; you drop the item nearby, wrapped in pairs of the warmest socks you can get on short notice, and grin before moving along. After the third time, when you get pins and needles walking away, you also start folding paper flowers out of the lists you keep of what you pick up where (and, if applicable, what you left in return). You leave those stuffed inside the socks, and notice that in certain places nothing turns up anymore (you do not blame It for being more skilled than you).
When it’s just an ordinary lost thing, you bury it, and leave a circle of pebbles above; later, you place a crow’s feather in the middle as well. You check back in a week and usually it’s gone. If it’s still there in two, you put it in the school’s lost and found, and at that point, more often than not, you later end up discovering it in your room.
You begin to get a reputation.
You hope, perhaps (probably) vainly, that it will do you no harm, and that you will not become one of the lost things you are so fond of.
You do what you can to keep safe; you owe no one a thing, and there are quite a few that owe you (and owe you very much).
You like to collect things, but you don’t collect debts. You do much freely, and you find value in kindnesses, but you value yourself, of course, most of all.
You hope you will not become lost, one way or another. You try to remember that, before, your help was freely given and the debts you were owed forgiven more often than not. You hope your (what-started-out-as-)innocent hobby will do you no harm.
You begin to get a reputation.