Constance and Forbearance remained rather cool towards David, though they claimed to have accepted his apology. Alexandra had not realized, with all the taunting and name-calling she had been subjected to, that the Ozarker girls were in fact mocked quite a bit themselves, for their speech, for their old-fashioned mannerisms, for their homemade clothes, and for not fitting in with any of Charmbridge's cliques. She thought this was terribly unfair. While she didn't exactly like being known all over school as “Troublesome” or a girl supposedly obsessed with the Dark Arts, she sort of understood it. The Pritchards, however, were never anything but nice, and didn't deserve such treatment.
Even at age 11, Alexandra does every once in a while notice other people besides herself.
Anna looked curiously at the card Alexandra opened. Alexandra smiled and rolled her eyes, as she withdrew a pair of bills folded inside.
“Money,” she said. “That's what they always give me for my birthday.”
“It's your birthday?” Anna squealed.
“Yeah.” Alexandra was twelve today, but she hadn't really thought about it until the owl came. At home, her mother usually bought a cake on the way home from work, and if they weren't too tired, she and Archie would sing “Happy Birthday” and then give her some money and tell her she could buy whatever she wanted at the SuperMart.
Alexandra's relationship with her "mother" is something I never quite developed consistently or satisfactorily. I knew the truth about her parentage, of course, but I wanted to portray Claudia as distant, possibly a little damaged, and Archie likewise as a bit remote, but neither of them abusive or completely unloving. What I think I accomplished was mostly Dursleys-lite. I mean, sending your daughter cash in a birthday card is better than a toothpick, but still kind of a shitty way to acknowledge her twelfth birthday. But I also wanted to illustrate that Alexandra is used to this and doesn't even feel much resentment over it — the hands-off upbringing she's had has not done much for her socialization skills or empathy, but it has made her very resilient.
“Well,” the Dean said pleasantly. “I hope you have a very happy birthday, Miss Quick. I know you've had a difficult first year at Charmbridge, but it's over halfway through and I'm pleased to see you've managed to avoid my office lately. I'd say you're almost out of the woods, so to speak. Miss Chu, do you have a cold?” Anna was shivering, and Alexandra elbowed her again.
“No, Ms. Grimm,” Anna stammered.
“Good. Well, happy birthday again, Miss Quick.” The Dean gave her that cat-like smile.
“Thank you, Ms. Grimm,” Alexandra muttered.
“Oh,” Ms. Grimm added, taking a step away from them and then stopping. “Miss Quick, I do hope you'll be cooperative and helpful during next month's field trip? Since you've had a Muggle upbringing, you'll be more familiar with the Muggle world than most of your classmates.”
People noticed starting in book two that Dean Grimm always greets Alexandra for her birthday. I didn't remember that in book one, she actually didn't have Galenthias with her. Oops — a minor oversight on my part. Lilith did this, of course, for sentimental reasons (though she would never admit it); she knows Hecate isn't going to remember Alexandra, but still, she wants her to see her daughter.
I had a little fun with the field trip to Chicago, from eleventh-graders telling Constance and Forbearance that Muggles practice human sacrifice, to Darla and Angelique's "prosti-tots" outfits.
I don't think I've mentioned Muggle Awareness Month since book one.
I think I like this chapter because it's one of the few where Alexandra is truly, jovially bratty in a non-malicious and non-serious way. Also because I got to describe the clash of wizarding and Muggle culture, and do some world-building.
At the end of their four-block tour of The Loop, the students were all chattering so excitedly that Dean Price had to yell repeatedly to get everyone's attention. “Children! We're about to enter the Territorial Headquarters Building. I'd like to remind you again, this is where Very Important Wizards and Witches are doing government business, and if we're lucky, we might even see the Governor himself! You are all representing Charmbridge Academy so I expect to see you on your best behavior...” Her voice trailed off as she noticed Alexandra was silently mimicking her, word for word, as this was the same speech she'd given them at least a dozen times since their field trip was first announced. Anna elbowed Alexandra, who cleared her throat and adopted an expression of innocent attention.
Of course the real point of the chapter was Alexandra sneaking off to the Census Office.
He still hadn't blinked. He didn't reply immediately, then said, “The Registrar's Scroll?”
She nodded. “The Dean told me since it registered me as Alexandra Quick, which was my Muggle mother's name, then if my father was a wizard, the scroll must not have known who he was.”
“The Registrar's Scroll records the names we send,” said the man.
Now Alexandra blinked. “But, I thought it magically knows the names of students who are being registered?”
He shook his head. “It magically transcribes the names we send it.”
This is where Alexandra first realizes, definitely and incontrovertibly, that Dean Grimm has lied to her. As I mentioned before, Alexandra's fragile trust in adults really begins to crumble at the point when she realizes that not only do they frequently not take her seriously, but they will actively lie to her. Not that she was ever the sort to trust authority or unquestionably believe what she was told, but when you realize that the people who are supposedly in charge of your well-being are lying liars who lie... well, in Alexandra's case, it has a lot to do with why in subsequent books, "Let's tell the grown-ups about this" is not an option she considers very seriously.
Many readers liked the vampiric clerk, Mr. Bagby. (He may appear again.) I wanted to make him both creepy and comic.
Many future seeds were planted in this chapter. The true story of Alexandra's parentage would begin to emerge here, but not, of course, the whole story. Even after four books, the whole story still has not emerged.
“Muggle Subject C. Quick interviewed 3/25/96 (see rel. file). No knowledge of pater. whereabouts (poss. Obliv?) Per case handling instructions, will follow up. BMO conducted post-interview Obliv. Signed: Diana Grimm.”
Overall: I think one of the better chapters, because some interesting things actually happened (after many chapters of school filler) and because there was humor, plot development, and a glimpse of the wider wizarding world. I also found a lot of things in this chapter that I meant to do something with later and have since forgotten about...