I don't make many fan fiction recommendations. To be perfectly honest, I don't read much fan fiction anymore.
However, since Alexandra has been called a femme!Harry often enough, I am kind of enjoying Alexandra Potter, by Taure. It's not, like, OMG fantastic or anything, but it's a readable femme!Harry story. You should be aware that Taure is a DLPer who treats HP canon and debates over things like whether or not a Shield Charm can stop bullets and how do wizards fit into the British peerage system and who would win if a Jedi and Dumbledore got in a fight as VERY SRS BZNSS, so there's a lot of riding of his favorite hobby horses. But it's still pretty interesting. I think his decision about where to Sort Alexandra is... questionable, but we'll see where it goes.
As to my OF novel: I'm up to almost 85K words. I am starting to write the run up to the climax, which means I should be getting close to finishing, right?
Sigh. If only. Between distractions (like playing six rounds of computer go when I promised myself I would write that evening) and plot holes I am still banging my head against, it feels as if I've only added words without getting closer to the end.
Anyway, back to my first ever novel, and my favorite part of it.
Chapter 9: Troublesome.
The first part of this chapter, I am distracted by "snapped, snarled, suggested, demanded..." Must. Resist. Temptation. To edit.
Alexandra's first visit to the Dean's Office.
Previously, we've talked a lot about Claudia and whether or not she's been a bad mother, but there has also been a fair amount of discussion about Lilith Grimm. Some readers like her as the scary authoritarian she is who nonetheless obviously had some kind of soft spot for Alexandra. Others have spoken scathingly of her, calling her cruel, incompetent, a terrible educator, and someone who has no business being in charge of children.
Which, uh, also applies to half the staff of Hogwarts, but never mind...
“Well, you've had an eventful past few days, haven't you?” she said conversationally. “Violating the rules against underaged use of magic not twenty-four hours after I cautioned you not to, getting in a public brawl in Grundy's, and now invading my office because what you had to say was just so very important it couldn't wait until I was ready to talk to you.”
“I didn't like seeing Anna and Constance and Forbearance –”
“Yes, you were concerned for your friends. Admirable.” Ms. Grimm's voice was dry, devoid of any humor whatsoever. “Do you often find yourself worrying about the consequences of your actions to your friends only in retrospect, Miss Quick?”
Alexandra closed her mouth, feeling her face burning. But she didn't look away.
“So far you have violated the law and embarrassed this institution, and now you've shown great disrespect to me personally.” Alexandra didn't think it was possible for Ms. Grimm's voice to become colder, but it did, and she finally dropped her gaze.
“I didn't mean to disrespect you, Ms. Grimm,” she said. “I just –”
“Did whatever popped into your head without thinking about the consequences,” said Ms. Grimm. “I suspect you do that rather a lot.”
This was really the first hint that Alexandra gets special treatment. (Well, aside from the whole part about Dean Grimm showing up personally at her house...) Would Lilith Grimm have allowed anyone else to just barge into her office like that and not immediately turned them into a centipede? Alexandra's behavior here is brave, yes, but mostly it's just stupid. She didn't stop to think about what a dumb-ass move this was, but acted on impulse.
Later, when Lilith finally loses it, it's after many, many provocations like this, from a girl too foolish to even realize the special treatment she's getting, the disrespect she's showing to her greatest benefactor, and mounting evidence that she's so reckless and rash that she's going to get herself killed if she can't be made to curb her impulses.
Feeling a bit smug, she frowned when Hobbes then told them they'd spend the rest of the hour reviewing Militades's Elementary Transformations. She wanted to do magic, not read about it. At the end of the hour, Hobbes asked, “All right, who can tell me the four most elementary transformations and an example of each?”
Several students raised their hands. Alexandra didn't, but Hobbes called on her anyway.
“Inanimate to inanimate, like rocks to candy. Inanimate to animate, like a rock into a mouse. Animate to inanimate, like a bird into a music box. Animate to animate, like a fish into a cat,” Alexandra said.
David looked at her with surprise.
“What?” she whispered.
“I was wondering if you were ever going to start reading your books,” he whispered back. She glared at him.
Alexandra is foolish, but she's also smart. And she can book-learn like a Ravenclaw, when it suits her. This isn't the last time she will demonstrate that she could be a really good student if she wanted to be, and that when sufficiently motivated, she can study intensively. However, she would not really make a good Ravenclaw because studying is a means to an end for her: she doesn't just sit down and pore over books because they are interesting. There has to be something she wants out of them.
“I won't need tutoring,” said Alexandra. “I'll be out of remedial classes in no time, you'll see.”
She didn't notice the exasperated looks that the others exchanged as she swept up her books and said, “See you later!”
Her friends are already starting to figure her out, while Alexandra's going to take another couple of books to start really seeing her friends. She likes them. She cares about them. She wouldn't hesitate to risk her life for them. But she doesn't really see them, yet.
So much of this chapter was also introducing Charmbridge Academy and bits of the American wizarding world and my own bits of magical theory. We meet Mr. Grue, and Ms. Grinder (who never became more than a one-chapter gag), and several other teachers, but this was really the chapter where Constance and Forbearance get the spotlight for the first time.
Alexandra was now paired with David, who was doing fairly well though he didn't seem to have Alexandra's flair for plunking the balls, but when Constance and Forbearance stood across the circle from them, they found themselves staring in amazement as the Ozarker twins began plunking, spinning, and bouncing the balls in every direction with deft flicks of their wands. They soon cleared the circle, then turned bright red as everyone cheered.
Constance and Forbearance are bad-asses. They always have been. They just don't... go around bad-assing much, so it's easy not to notice them.
Then follows Alexandra's first one-on-one confrontation with Larry Albo.
This whole encounter was not particularly well-written. The sentence "her eyes were baleful and unblinking, as icy-green as a pair of emeralds" should just be dragged out behind a barn and shot. There were a lot of "saidisms." There are some subtle POV shifts. And Alexandra is pushing the Sue-boundary. After having just marched into the Dean's office, she faces down a bigger, older boy and talks to him like she's the Queen of Badassia (a title that clearly belongs jointly to C&F :D).
He tried to tell himself he was taking the high ground, not lowering himself by letting the filthy little Mudblood girl drag him down to her level, as he spun around and stalked off, but with the eyes of most of the sixth grade on his back, and his own friends now watching his retreat as well, he knew that wasn't how everyone else saw it.
Oh dear. I thought that Larry never actually called Alex a Mudblood, but here (in one of those badly-executed POV shifts), I have him clearly thinking it. So... okay, yes, he really was a racist bigot, not just a bully. But in fairness, in book one he's thirteen. (Funny how he seems like a big, intimidating older boy from the POV of Alex and her friends, isn't it? A kid who's younger than Alex is in book four.)
And finally, Alex gets her nickname. And this bit here, the real heart of this chapter? (Which otherwise, could have also been much trimmed.) Pay attention. 'Cause you may have figured out, as of book four, that it means something. And yeah, this part, I knew what it meant and what I was setting up, all the way back in book one.
Alexandra frowned. “You make it sound like Troublesome is a person.”
“She is,” said Constance.
“Perhaps not a real person,” said Forbearance.
“But famous in Ozarker lore,” said Constance.
“A girl named Troublesome.”
“Born to trouble and named for trouble, for trouble is what she is.”
“No boy will court her.”
“No man will marry her.”
“And wherever she goes, trouble follows.”
The twins were speaking in tangent, finishing each other's sentences as usual, but Alexandra interrupted. “Great. Like I want any boys courting me?” She snorted. “So does Troublesome always get blamed for trouble she didn't start?”
“Sometimes,” Forbearance said.
“Often,” Constance admitted.
“But she gets blamed for trouble she did start as well.”
“For she does start her fair piece of it.”
Alexandra was certain that Constance and Forbearance were both looking at her with something like amusement.
Constance said, “It's true, no one wants their daughter to be Troublesome.”
“But some say, there has to be a Troublesome,” Forbearance continued.
“Or there might be far worse.”
And to Alexandra's surprise, the twins began reciting what sounded like a children's rhyme, in unison.
“Troublesome vexes, Troublesome woes,
Troublesome's trouble wherever she goes.
Troublesome's wicked, high-headed, and vain,
Troublesome's awful, a trial and a pain.
Troublesome's misery, misfortune and malady,
Troublesome's dangerous, doleful calamity.
Troublesome's reckless, ruthless, and bold,
Troublesome never minds, nor does as told.
Troublesome's stubborn, but brave as can be,
Troublesome stays when others would flee.
When trouble's afoot, and all ills are set free,
Troublesome's finally where she ought to be.”