Chapter 12 — A Confederation of Wizards.
This chapter starts out with more banter between Alex and her friends, including Darla and Angelique (who I have always liked, even if they began as minor characters mostly intended as comedy relief). We also see the beginning of David's ASPEW involvement, and he and Anna settling comfortably into their roles as Alexandra's friends who will stick by her even when she's being a jerk. (Constance and Forbearance too, but they are mostly absent from this chapter.)
Now that David was talking to Alexandra again, he began talking a lot about the various causes taken up by students at Charmbridge – abolition of elf slavery, recognition of the rights of ghosts, a lifting of wand restrictions, and outlawing Obliviation. He was becoming quite passionate about these issues, especially ASPEW.
“You've still never actually talked to an elf,” Alexandra pointed out.
“That's because they keep the elves out of sight here at school. Why don't you come to the ASPEW meetings? Anna said she would.”
Anna nodded, looking a little embarrassed. They were eating lunch. Darla and Angelique were sitting a little further down the table, trying to ignore them.
“I would,” Alexandra said sincerely. “But I still have to do detention every evening.”
One of the perennial complaints of hardcore Potter critics is that Rowling raised many social issues in her books — the status of elves, goblins, and Muggle-borns, use of magic on behalf of Muggles, the ethics of Unforgivables, etc. — and mostly let them drop on the floor in the end.
I have taken up some of those issues in my own stories, both the AQ series and HHD, but sometimes people overestimate the degree to which I am trying to "fix" the Potterverse. I have even been accused of writing "Take thats!" directed at Rowling, but honestly, that was never my intention. Yes, I did think Rowling left a lot of things unresolved or lazily dealt with, but for me, those issues are thought exercises, ideas for me to explore, not "ARRRRGH RAGE WHY DIDN'T ROWLING ANSWER THIS VERY SERIOUS QUESTION?"
The issue of elves is one that I do intend to follow up on, but that doesn't mean that every issue will eventually get a resolution. (Alexandra only has seven years, she can't fix all the ills of the Confederation!)
You may notice in this book and the later ones that Alexandra is kind of half-assed in her support of David and his cause. She perceives a basic wrongness in house-elf servitude, but she's easily convinced by Bran and Poe's seeming contentment, and the elves she meets at Croatoa, that maybe there is something she's missing. The truth is, she doesn't see anything overtly cruel being done to elves, so the injustice of their slavery doesn't stoke the fires of indignation in her like it does for David.
Which means, basically, some of the excuses she gives for not joining ASPEW are pretty lame. She just doesn't want to, because while she thinks David is kind of right, she's also not sure he's completely right.
Anna was not a goblin, however. She was one of the students who spent most of her time in the library or study hall. She was terrified of getting less-than-perfect grades, and so she joined the other students who were called “wyrms” for their endless book-learning. Alexandra didn't pay too much attention to the cliques at Charmbridge; as at Larkin Mills Elementary School, she was aware they existed, but was an outsider to all of them. She knew that the athletes who played team sports were called “brooms” and were quite popular, especially with girls like Darla and Angelique. And there were other extracurricular organizations that students divided themselves into, such as the Wizard Rangers and Witch Rangers, and the Junior Regimental Officer Corps, and the Magic Band. Alexandra could not participate in any of these, since she and Larry Albo were still spending every evening cleaning floors and hallways with their Clockworks.
I do mention cliques like the wyrms and the brooms from time to time, but I never have made much of them. Likewise, while the JROC has obviously played an important part in the story, I haven't done much more than mention the other extracurricular organizations.
One reason I never had Alex actually going out for Quodpot or joining any other club until book two was that I just didn't want to have to write a Quodpot game every book. We saw Rowling got tired of doing that.
I'll note in passing that I've had, not many, but one or two readers, comment that Anna being the grade-obsessed Studious Asian Girl is a little stereotypical and unfortunate.
I can't say they don't have a point. But I'll plead the "Sometimes stereotypes are true" defense; I've known plenty of girls like Anna. If all the Asian girls that appear in my stories are meek and studious, feel free to whack me over the head for cliched writing.
She did learn that much of wizarding society divided itself roughly into “Old Colonials” and “New Colonials.” Old Colonials included Ozarkers, Highlanders, Palatines, Salem Traditionalists, Plymouth Traditionalists, and numerous other divisions she couldn't be bothered to remember. Darla and Angelique were New Colonials (they called themselves simply “Colonials”). Then there were Muggle-borns like David and Alexandra, and students like Anna who were from traditional Chinese or Native American wizarding families. There were other students who didn't fit into traditional wizarding society: Radicalists and members of the New World Druidic Order and other designated “Cultures” whose non-standard wizarding practices were recognized (reluctantly) by the Department of Magical Education.
There are a lot of names dropped here. :D Yes, I have a general idea of what sort of Culture each one represents, as well as some of those "Alternative magical practices." Some will appear later, but I can't promise they all will. I did manage to mention Salem and Plymouth Traditionalists in book two, albeit only in passing. I actually have their basic philosophies and the differences between them worked out, but I don't know if there will ever be an opportunity to describe them. Perhaps sometime I will write them up in detail just for your entertainment. (Plymouth Traditionalists: think "Puritan wizards." Salem Traditionalists: think "Witches still holding a grudge from 1692.") I know I have not always made clear the distinction between Old and New Colonials. "Old Colonial" is a broad category that includes many of the Cultures. So for example, Ozarkers are considered Old Colonials (though they would not group themselves with other Old Colonials or call themselves that, being even more exclusive). New Colonials are people like the Dearborns who subscribe to traditional Colonial culture but consider themselves modern, and don't link themselves to a particular Old World heritage. Torvald Krogstadt is an Old Colonial, but not a member of a recognized Culture. (He is from the Scandinavian wizarding communities who settled parts of the Midwest, but while they are loosely affiliated by history and tradition, they're too diverse and scattered and independent by nature to be a Culture.)
Ms. Grinder had finally started, grudgingly, teaching from their book, and the current unit was “Wizards in the New World.” In fact, it was almost entirely about America, but it wasn't an America Alexandra recognized, as names like Alta California, Deseret, New Amsterdam, and Arcadia were unfamiliar to her. She didn't see how any of this was immediately relevant to learning magic, so Alexandra wasn't paying much attention, particularly when Ms. Grinder went off on her frequent tangents.
Yes, I do have a fuzzy map of the Confederation, too, but I'm not likely to ever list and delineate every Territory.
“Exactly!” Grinder said. “Congress hasn't appointed a single woman Governor-General! Almost every other country in the world has had witches as Ministers of Magic. Britain had one over two hundred years ago! Yet we've had only a handful of women as Territorial Governors and in the Wizards' Congress.”
The Governor-General is not elected like the President of the United States.
“Those who weren't killed or imprisoned went into hiding,” Journey said. “Then, about the time you would have been a baby, that Dark Lord in Britain returned, and took over. Over here, there was panic and paranoia again, and no one trusted anyone else. It was a bad time, Starshine.” He shook his head.
“In Britain, they got rid of their Dark Lord. Here, the Dark Convention was driven into hiding again.”
Alexandra mulled this over. It was a little confusing, and not at all like anything she'd heard either from her fellow students or in Ms. Grinder's class.
“So who were the good guys and who were the bad guys?” she asked at last.
“That's a good question, Starshine,” Journey replied. “Now, I think you have some leaves to rake.”
And this is the part that gets me lots of flack on DLP (well, one of the reasons), that the brief association of Abraham Thorn with Voldemort is pretty much the only reference in AQ to Harry Potter characters and events.
A couple more canon characters just might show up, or at least be mentioned, at some point. But no, I repeat my solemn vow: Alexandra is never going to Hogwarts.
Not a lot of forward momentum in the plot, but this chapter is short, and it was a useful one for me to reread. I did remember most of the historical details I mentioned here, but it's good to refresh my memory as to what I have actually described in the text already.
Since this was the history chapter: any questions, class? ;)