I sure intended to finish rereading AQATTC faster than this! But here we are at the penultimate chapter. If writing a for-publication novel, these last two chapters really should have been one, rather than dragging on resolution and inserting things to follow up on in the next book over a couple of chapters. But I do tend to be wordy in the home stretch.
So, Alexandra is now known publicly as Abraham Thorn's daughter, which means now she has an even worse (or scarier) rep, something I haven't always been entirely consistent about showing in subsequent books, but partly you can attribute that to us seeing things mostly from the POV of Alex and her friends, who don't think she's particularly dark or scary. But the whole time she attends Charmbridge for the next four books, she is basically Osama Bin Laden's daughter in the eyes of most of the student body.
She also receives an invitation to the Mors Mortis Society (at this point, they were not much more than an idea in my mind), and gets teased some more by Torvald and Stuart (at this point, I had a very vague idea that one of them might be a - brief - romantic interest for her in the future).
And Charmbridge prepares for the Governor-General's visit, with portraits of former Governor-Generals being hung all over the place for added security.
(In American public schools, there is always some long hallway or auditorium with a row of U.S. Presidents hanging on the wall. I was kind of spoofing that idea.)
And during her final SPAWN, she gets another dose of hard-knocks from Ms. Shirtliffe.
Alexandra collapsed to the floor, breathing heavily. She hadn't been hurt like that since the night she'd gone into the woods after Mr. Journey.
“You... already... disarmed me!” she gasped, as Ms. Shirtliffe knelt next to her and put a hand on her back.
“Yes, but I wanted to make sure you got the point,” the teacher said, no longer smiling. “Your ability is impressive – for your age. You're starting to let it go to your head. This isn't a real test, Quick. A real test is when someone is actually trying to kill you and you survive.”
Alexandra looked up at her, startled.
“You're not good enough to take me on,” Ms. Shirtliffe said. “Not even close. Someday... maybe.”
“And you wanted to make sure I know you can beat a sixth grader?” Alexandra muttered, as she got to her feet.
“No, Quick, and watch that smart mouth. I wanted to make sure you know that you still have a lot to learn. Have you thought about the JROC?”
Alexandra picked up her wand.
“You know,” she said, “I think I've been tested enough this year. I passed – and no thanks to anything I learned in class.”
Which shows Alexandra is very proud, very strong-willed... and very thick. Or at least, unwilling to give credit where credit is due when her ego has been bruised.
And she really should listen to Ms. Shirtliffe more.
Sixth Grade Level Standardized Practical Assessment of Wizarding kNowledge
Assessee: Alexandra Octavia Quick
|Section One: Magical Theory||A|
|Section Two: Alchemy and Herbology||A|
|Section Three: Arithmancy and Geomancy||A|
|Section Four: Wizard History||U|
|Basic Magical Defense||S|
I actually have notes laying out the entire SPAWN system and grading schemes and so on.... way too much tl;dr! I sort of combined the American school system's A-F grading system with the Harry Potter OWL/NEWTS system, and ended up giving grades for classes and separate scores for SPAWNS, which I guess was not entirely clear because I never posted my tl;dr notes in the story.
So, just before the Governor-General arrives, Alexandra is summoned to the Dean's office, where the Dean finally gives her a straight talk.
“The Governor-General,” she said, “is not a man to be trifled with. He is very, very important. And very, very powerful.”
“Why would I trifle with him?” Alexandra asked, a little sourly.
Ms. Grimm scratched Galen under the chin. The cat purred while watching Alexandra through slitted eyes.
“I think you might be tempted to ask him... inadvisable questions. You might be tempted to reply to his questions in a sharp, dare I say, impertinent manner.”
“Who, me?” Alexandra drawled.
“Yes. Like that.” Ms. Grimm didn't look amused. She leaned forward.
“Alexandra,” she said quietly, and there was a note of earnestness in her voice Alexandra couldn't recall ever hearing from the Dean before. “If you never trust anything I say again, if you never believe anything I tell you, believe this: do not make Governor-General Hucksteen your enemy! Do not sass him. Do not be sarcastic, impertinent, impatient, indignant, or disrespectful.” Her gray eyes were fixed intently on Alexandra's. “In fact, the very best thing you could do is not speak at all unless spoken to. And of course, speak only the truth then.”
Alexandra looked back at her. “How could I make an enemy of the Governor-General of the Confederation?” she asked in disbelief. “What is he going to do, send me to prison if I'm not polite enough?”
“No,” Grimm said slowly. “He will smile ever so politely and send you on your way.”
“Governor-General Hucksteen,” said Ms. Grimm, “holds grudges. Even against twelve-year-old girls. Any disrespect you show him will be remembered. But more importantly, you are the daughter of Abraham Thorn. He wants to know not only if your father has had any contact with you, but if you show any signs of being at all like your father. Because if you do, Alexandra, then you can rest assured that the modest level of involvement the Confederation has had in your life since the day you were born will increase dramatically. If you march into his presence with a fire in your eyes and demands and accusations on your lips, he will mark you as someone to watch very, very closely, and believe me, Alexandra, you do not want that! Because he will make his presence felt – not just by you, but by your friends and your family.”
Well, not entirely straight, since she is still telling half-truths:
“He had my mother Obliviated, didn't he?” Alexandra asked quietly.
“I doubt he gave the order personally, but he was aware of it,” Grimm nodded. She leaned forward again. “And that is why I am telling you to tread very, very carefully, Miss Quick. Because he can have far worse things done.”
But Alexandra is not in any position to be casting stones:
Alexandra thought about that long after she left the Dean's office. She told Anna a lie that night – she told her that the Dean just wanted to lecture her about behaving while the Governor-General was at the academy. She felt guilty about it, but it was a lie to protect Anna, and it was an easily believable one.
This will become a more frequent habit, and as we know, it will bite her eventually.
He chuckled. “Very good. Alexandra, then. This is my special assistant and good friend, Mr. Raspire.”
“Alexandra,” said Raspire with a slight nod. His voice was quiet and smooth, and she could feel his eyes, never leaving her. She nodded back at him.
“I know it's been a long day for you, Alexandra,” said the Governor-General, “and probably not very interesting, listening to a lot of grown-ups talk, eh?” he chuckled.
Alexandra looked at a spot on his chin, and nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“Well, this won't take long, and then we'll let you run along to dinner.” He smiled, and looked at Ms. Grimm. “Lilith, would you mind terribly if we had a word with Alexandra in private?”
“Not at all, Governor.” She smiled. If she were afraid of Hucksteen, she didn't show it. She barely glanced at Alexandra before leaving the room. The wizard outside closed the door behind her.
There were no portraits in this room, Alexandra realized. That was why they weren't meeting in the Dean's office.
I wanted Governor-General Hucksteen and Mr. Raspire both to make a sinister, creepy impression without actually doing anything, and then fade out of the story... so far as Alex is concerned. And I'm pretty pleased with their conversation, which I think set the tone I wanted, and showed Alexandra, for once, being perceptive, controlled, and smart.
“And understandably, you've been trying to find out about your father! I truly regret that we couldn't simply tell you everything we knew about him from the beginning, but we had your well-being in mind. I wouldn't blame you for being upset, but it was for your own good. I hope you can understand that, Alexandra.”
She nodded. “Yes, sir.”
Can you just feel her wanting to explode?
Hucksteen nodded. Raspire spoke up for the first time. “Are you absolutely certain you've never had any contact at all with your father, Alexandra?” His voice was silky, insinuating; he sounded perfectly polite and friendly, yet something in his tone seemed to cast doubt, to pry at her conscience and suggest she was lying. “Perhaps you didn't even realize it was your father at the time. A man you didn't recognize who occasionally appeared near your school, watching you? Gifts sent anonymously? A telephone call, anything of that nature?” He was almost whispering now, urging Alexandra to confess, to admit that perhaps she was hiding something, or maybe, now that he mentioned it, there was just one little thing she had neglected to mention...
She shook her head and said firmly, “No, sir. My father's never contacted me. Ever.”
Raspire and Hucksteen were both silent for a moment. Then the Governor-General said, “Well, we believe you, Alexandra. But – and this is very important – it is possible he might contact you in the future. Any father would want to talk to his own daughter. It's only natural.” He smiled. “If he should contact you – with a visit, or an owl, or even – what do you call that device, Richard?”
“A telephone,” murmured Mr. Raspire.
And did you get that Raspire was trying to play Jedi mind tricks with Alexandra here?
Slowly, she reached for the card and picked it up. It was a plain piece of stiff white cardboard. Printed on it was the Seal of the Confederation, the Governor-General's seal to the right of that, and below the seals, “The Governor-General's Office of Special Inquisitions.”
“That's a very special card, Alexandra,” said Hucksteen. “I don't just hand them out to anyone, especially not children. But you're a very important person, because you could help bring peace to the entire wizarding world.”
Alexandra took several long, deep breaths, as if studying the card, while she was actually concentrating so she could hold it easily between her fingers. She kept her face slack, her hands relaxed. It was very difficult.
“All you have to do is press your thumb to either seal,” said Raspire. “You'll be contacted immediately.”
She looked at the card while remaining silent as long as she dared, and then she asked, “What will you do with him if you catch him?”
Both men were silent for a second, and then Hucksteen said, “Well, he's committed some rather serious crimes, Alexandra. I won't lie to you, because I know you're a mature young lady and you deserve to hear the truth. He'll be tried by a wizard court, and then I expect he'll be sentenced. Our laws are strict but fair. But I can assure you, you'll be allowed to see him, while he's in prison. And he has a lot of information we're interested in, and if he were willing to show remorse for his crimes and help us stop other Dark wizards, it's very possible he might receive a much more lenient sentence. You might even be able to help make that happen, Alexandra. I imagine he'd want very much to be able to have as much time as possible with his daughter.” Hucksteen smiled.
So maybe I should have condensed the ending a bit, but I do love these two oily villains. They may not have been seen directly since book one, but you (and Alex) will most certainly see them again.