Is that not a beautiful piece of art? Yes, it's totally going on the cover of the next edition of the ebook.
Courtesy of Pierre Raveneau, asahisuperdry on DeviantArt
Chapter 20 — Larry's Wager.
“You're not in trouble?” Anna asked incredulously.
“I guess not.” Alexandra was still a little dazed, after her meeting with Ms. Grimm.
Okay, so maybe Ms. Grimm did Confound her...
“Do you know Darla and Angelique are doing complex animate transfigurations already?” David asked. “And the regular Charms class is halfway through the basic Sixth Grade-Level Charms curriculum. They can start fires and clean spills and freeze water and cast tripping jinxes. We're still levitating feathers and making little sparks at the ends of our wands!”
he said in disgust.
See, that dialog tag at the end is glaringly unnecessary. I am so tempted to edit things like this.
Mea culpa - I just did. For the most part, I am not actually editing my master copy of AQATTC as I reread it, even when I see things I wish I could rewrite. I've corrected the occasional typo, but otherwise I'm leaving it pretty much as is.
She wished that Section Four: Wizard History had questions about the Dark Convention, because she was sure she could answer those, but here it was almost a repeat of her earlier SPAWN – to her detriment, because Ms. Grinder had gone off on tangents so frequently. Alexandra scribbled what little she could recall about the Declaration of Territorial Autonomy and the First Wizards' Congress, and when goblins first emigrated to the New World, and how that resulted in the Great Goblin Compromise, but it was just bits and pieces she had overheard, mostly while Anna was studying with her classmates.
Ah yes, the Great Goblin Compromise...
No, really, I have at least a vague idea of what most of the wizarding history I refer to means, though that doesn't mean it's all relevant or will figure into the story later. Though some of it will.
The first part of this chapter is basically letting Alexandra catch her breath. She gets out of remedial classes, nothing dramatic happens, and the pace once again slackens. This isn't necessarily a bad thing at this point in the book - it's basically the end of the second act and the beginning of the third, right when a lull is appropriate before a steady ramping up of tension to the climax. Unfortunately, I have several such lulls and peaks before the end.
Then along comes Larry and the Rashes for another round of grade-school grudge-holding. Despite Constance and Forbearance delivering a tiny smackdown, Larry plays Alexandra like a fiddle with his tale of hodags and his double-dog-dare-you.
“Stay in the woods overnight,” said Larry. “Without getting caught, or eaten. And you can have a boon from me.”
“A boon? Like a wish?” Alexandra squinted at him.
“It's an oath,” said Anna. “If he swears a boon, he has to fulfill it.”
“What if I ask you to go jump off the Invisible Bridge?” Alexandra retorted.
He smirked. “Oh, I don't think you'd do that, Troublesome. Especially since if you fail, you owe me a boon.” He leaned closer. “And if I wanted you dead...” he whispered.
“I saved you too, or have you forgotten?” she hissed back. “If you really believe there's a hodag in the woods, then you are trying to get me killed.”
“If you don't, then you've got nothing to worry about.” Larry laughed. “But of course I'm just fooling around. I knew you're all mouth.”
“You're an idiot. And you're on,” Alexandra said.
“I'm what?” He looked confused.
“It means I accept, dummy!”
“You and your Muggle slang,” he snapped. Then smiled triumphantly and drew his wand. “Touch wands.”
Boons and wagers... a recurring theme in the books.
“And what would you expect from a pair of hillbilly crackers?” added Forbearance icily. The Ozarkers turned and stalked away, leaving David gaping.
“That wasn't nice,” said Anna to David. “And you know how you react to the m-word!”
He sighed. “I didn't mean them. I meant the...”
“The other hillbilly crackers?” Anna said, raising an eyebrow.
Ooh, burn, Anna!
“Yes!” said Anna, a little shrilly. “Why don't you ever listen to me, Alex? This is what I keep trying to tell you! There are things out there that are dangerous that Muggles don't know anything about! You think the woods are like a park!”
“You don't know what kind of dangerous things I know about!” Alexandra said. “Anyway, you won't be complaining when I win the wager and Larry has to do whatever I say!”
With that, Alexandra stalked off in the same direction as Constance and Forbearance.
“Well,” sighed David, “she's back to her old self, I guess.”
Anna bit her lip. “Larry knows she'd never back down from a challenge like that, and he knows she'll stay the whole night. Either he really does expect the hodag to get her, or he's up to something.”
Gee, ya think?
Okay, so this chapter was (I think) kind of interesting, especially if you like details about magical education and history in the American wizarding world, which some readers do. There wasn't really much plot progression — it's just set-up for another round of the Alexandra/Larry grudge-match, which of course will lead to Alexandra being in greater danger. There were a few character details firmly underlined here which will recur in future books. And I totally broke POV at the end there. Not a bad chapter, but the working-on-being-a-professional-grade-wr
And next chapter, The Hodag, in which I get really annoyed at Rowling's inconsistent precedents for capitalizing or not capitalizing the names of magical beasties.