So, for the record, this is what my star ratings mean:
5 stars = FREAKING EPIC, gigantic story, everything works well, my mind is blown that a human being thought this up.
4 stars = love this book, it's just not as humongous in scope as a 5. But it's totally awesome and everyone should read it, it's a keeper.
3 stars = mixed feelings (this is where the "I think others might like it, it's just not for me" reviews are likely to go). Not that bad, but has some issues, or it's an okay story but nothing really stands out to me as being memorable. It was a pleasant enough read for a few days, but I'll probably just end up giving the book away rather than rereading it again.
2 stars = generally pretty terrible, but not 100% so. There was at least one thing in this book that made it not totally horrible. This book isn't really recommended to all and sundry, but you might get some value out of the one thing if you try.
1 star (rarely seen here): It's a wallbanger. Nothing is redeemable about this book, it's utter crap, and I probably only finished reading it so I could do an awesome bitchrant about it and I can't justify doing that to books I didn't finish.
Harry, still in the cloak, is shoving food into his face and eating in a random corner, trying not to hate all humanity and failing. Harry, it's impossible to not hate other humans--especially now.
Feeling revulsion when you look at other humans is not a good sign, Hufflepuff said. It's not reasonable to blame them for having not had your opportunities to learn what you've learned. Inaction in emergencies has nothing to do with people being selfish. Normalcy bias, like that plane crash in Tener-something where a few people ran out and escaped but most people just sat in their seats not moving while their plane was literally on fire. Look at how long you took to really start moving.
It serves no useful purpose to hate, said Gryffindor. It's just going to damage your altruism.
Try to figure out a training method you could use to prevent this from happening next time, said Ravenclaw.
I'll go ahead and register the experimental prediction, said Slytherin, that we'll always observe exactly what would be predicted on the hypothesis that people cannot be saved, cannot be taught, and will never help us with anything important. Also, we need some way of keeping track of all the times I'm right.
Harry ignored the voices in his head and just ate slices of toast as fast as he could.
Harry gets a Patronus-phoenix message telling him to take off the cloak and accept a letter from Dumbledore, which he does. His parents left him some letters, and then after he reads them, Dumbledore has a (non-funeral) announcement to make in the Great Hall, for which Harry should show up and be visible for.
The important thing was keeping your vulnerable friends and relations out of harm's way, it might be a cliche but so far as Harry could tell the logic was valid. Damaged relationships could be repaired later.
(a) It's sad to see Harry, breaker of tropes, finally falling for this irritating and depressing one.
(b) Regarding the damaged relationships: maybe not so much, bud.
Anyway, Michael Evans-Verres's letter is surprisingly cool, and immediately starts out with:
"No matter what you've read in books, keeping us out of harm's way isnotas important as having adults who can help when you're in trouble."
We're not going to abandon you because of your dark side, but are you sure you're not just like, telepathic or something? "Their thoughts might seem evil to a child who grew up in a saner civilization."
BWAHAHAHAH YOU THINK MUGGLES ARE SANER?! All humans suck!
Anyway, Dad is confident that Harry will stick to the Light Side of the Force and ignore whatever evil spirit is whispering in his ear.
Idofeel the need to emphasize that you should exercise special caution to ignore this evil spirit even if it is suggesting what seem like wonderful creative ideas and I hope I do not need to remind you about the Incident with the Science Project which would, I admit, make a deal more sense if you were struggling with demonic possession.
Bwahahahahah. I love the Verres traits of science + total geekery. Anyway, his parents won't stop loving him due to his dark side.
We may not have expected you to gain magical powers or develop an affinity for black magic, but we did expect you to become a teenager. Which, if you think about it from your poor father's perspective, is already a sufficiently worrying prospect regarding a child who, by the age of nine, had been party to the summoning of a total of five fire engines.
BWAHAHAHAHAH again. You're an awesome dad, Michael Evans-Verres. Anyway, they'll always love him even if they don't think what he did right now was acceptable, but they can't really lecture him about it now. But don't keep us out of the loop, we're pretty terrified right now.
I would like to tell you that you are absolutely forbidden to mess around with any magic that the adults around you consider the least bit unsafe, but for all I know, the teachers at your school are giving everyone lessons in advanced necromancy every Monday.
Bwahahahahahah some more. Beyond that, I don't even know what to say, other than I'm sure Harry will pick that up on his own without official classes in it.
Dad asks him to be as cautious as he can be, please let us know if we can help, and he'll try not to act like a parent who makes things worse, and "I can't tell you that you shouldn't take responsibility for anything happening around you, because for all I know there are other children in trouble. But remember that it isnotyour moral responsibility to protect any adults, their place is to protect you, and every good adult would agree with that."
As for Mom:
The last page said only,
You promised me that you wouldn't let magic take you away from me. I didn't raise you to be a boy who would break a promise to his Mum. You must come back safely, because you promised.
Awwwwww. Harry tries not to cry.
On to the Great Hall, where people are not talking and some are wearing plain black robes. McGonagall can't eat.
For a Gryffindor there was only one path. It had taken Minerva only a short time to remember that, when after the Defense Professor's urgings her mind had stayed empty of clever plots to try. That was not a Gryffindor's way; or perhaps she ought to say only that it was not her way, Albus did seem to try his hand at plotting... and yet when she thought back on their history, there were no plots at the moment of crisis, no cleverness and games in the last resort. For Albus Dumbledore, as for her, the rule in extremis was to decide what was the right thing to do, and do it no matter the cost to yourself. Even if it meant breaking your bounds, or changing your role, or letting go of your picture of yourself. That was the last resort of Gryffindor.
As Harry comes in, she steps up to the podium. She asks the Weasley twins to come up. She can tell they think they're going to be expelled. That's not the case.
She drew up all the steel in her heart, and said what was right.
"I am ashamed," said Minerva McGonagall, "of the events of this day. I am ashamed that there were only two of you. Ashamed of what I have done to Gryffindor. Of all the Houses, it should have been Gryffindor to help when Hermione Granger was in need, when Harry Potter called for the brave to aid him. It was true, a seventh-year could have held back a mountain troll while searching for Miss Granger. And you should have believed that the Head of House Gryffindor," her voice broke, "would have believed in you. If you disobeyed her to do what was right, in events she had not foreseen. And the reason you did not believe this, is that I have never shown it to you. I did not believe in you. I did not believe in the virtues of Gryffindor itself. I tried to stamp out your defiance, instead of training your courage to wisdom. Whatever the Sorting Hat saw in me that led it to place me in Gryffindor, I have betrayed it. I have offered my resignation to the Headmaster as Deputy Headmistress and as the Head of House Gryffindor."
So I repeat: if not McGonagall, then who should rule? Who's the second-in-command of Gryffindor, anyway?
(I kinda think this feels like wish fulfillment on the part of the author a bit? Maybe he doesn't like her too much? Just wondering.)
"However, the Headmaster has declined to accept my resignation," she said.
Which sounds ridiculous. I mean, if McG flies the coop anyway, come on. But...whatever.
"So I will continue to serve, and try to undo what I have wrought. Somehow I must find a way to teach my students how to do what is right. Not what is safe, not what is easy, not what we are told to do. If all I can teach you is to turn in your essays on time, there might as well not be a House Gryffindor. This road will be more difficult for me, and maybe for all of us. But I know now that before I was only taking the easy path."
She stepped down from the lectern, moved down to where the Weasley twins stood.
"Fred Weasley, George Weasley," she said. "The two of you have not always done what is right. The path of wisdom does not lie in flagrant and needless defiance of authority. And yet today you proved to be the last of our House to survive my mistakes. Because it was the right thing to do, you defied a threat of expulsion and risked your lives to face a mountain troll. For your astounding courage that honors your House to have you, I award each of you two hundred points for Gryffindor."
"I will not award any points to Ravenclaw," she said. "I suspect that Mr. Potter would not want them. If I am wrong, he may correct me and take as many House points as he pleases. But for whatever it is worth, Mr. Potter, I am," her voice faltered, "I am sorry -"
Harry starts screaming at her to stop, and to award points to Ron and Susan Bones, who she didn't know did anything to help. Also, Neville did try to do something even if it wasn't the right thing.
"because Neville tried to do something, even if it wasn't the right thing, doing what's right is the second lesson, you can start practicing that after you learn to do anything at all -"
Um, I dunno....doing anything at all isn't always the right move either. But...whatever. Anyway, the other kids all get ten points apiece, until Neville objects. Okay, make it five points then. Susan stands up and says that there were seven other kids who tried to help that Harry didn't see, which touches Harry.
After it's all done, McG comes to see Harry and casts a ward around so people can't see or hear what's going on so well. He's choking and saying she didn't have to and he was just being nasty to her. She knows that, but wanted to do better. And now, for once, she feels better. Harry cries and she hugs him.
"I had a sister once," she whispered. Just that, and nothing more.
Just to make sure, said some part of Harry, while the rest of him sobbed into Professor McGonagall's arms, this doesn't mean we've accepted Hermione's death, right?
NO said all the rest of him, every part of his mind in unanimous agreement, warmth and cold and a hidden place of steel. Never, ever, forever.
And an ancient wizard to whom that ward meant nothing gazed upon them both, the witch and the weeping young wizard. Albus Dumbledore was smiling with a strange sad look in his eyes, like someone who has taken one more step toward a foreseen destination.
The Defense Professor watched them both, the woman and the crying boy. His eyes were very cold, and very calculating.
He did not think that this would be enough.
It wasn't until the next morning that it was discovered that Hermione Granger's body was missing.
Ruh-roh? But seriously, why is anyone gonna be surprised at that.... Anyway, I'm giving 3.5 stars (to Gryffindor) for McGonagall trying to do her best to honor those who did the right thing (or tried to). And for making up with Harry. And for Harry's dad being awesome.
True enough. And agonizing for Harry to be in a situation like that.
"The Boy-Who-Lived-Unlike-His-Best-Friend trudged the long, echoing corridors toward the Great Hall."
Awwwwww. He's wearing his cloak, for the record. Then he comes across a certain Slytherin waiting for him--Lesath, who I guessed. Yeah, I'm invisible, just say what you want to say.
"My lord, did I do the right thing - I thought you would not wish me to step forward before all those others, that they might suspect our connection - I thought, surely if you wished my help you would call on me -"
It was amazing how many different ways there were to kill your best friend by being stupid.
"I -" Lesath hesitated, then said in a small voice, "I was wrong, wasn't I?"
"You acted exactly as you should have, under the circumstances. It is I who was a fool."
"I'm sorry, my lord," whispered Lesath.
"If you had come with me, would you have been able to kill the troll?"
Oh, okay, I totally read that wrong. So now there's something else to beat himself up for: Harry had a secret ally he could have brought along. Oops. Forgot that dude. Anyway, Lesath doesn't know if he would have been able to kill the troll or not, really. Harry recommends that Lesath stop calling him his lord and that he take up some defense techniques. Lesath leaves.
Because having Lesath Lestrange for a minion seemed sort of Dark-Lordish? Hufflepuff said in a small mental voice. I mean... that decision was probably mostly me...
Harry's Slytherin side didn't answer that in words, just radiated contempt and flashed an image of Hermione's corpse.
Stop it! Harry screamed internally.
Next time, Slytherin said icily, I suggest that we spend more time worrying about what is efficient and effective, and less time worrying about what seems sort of Dark-Lordish.
Point made, Harry thought, I will.
No, you won't, said Slytherin. You'll come up with more rationalisations for your petty qualms. You'll start listening to me after your next friend dies.
Harry thinks he's going insane. Yup, won't argue that.
After the Grangers have left, "Quirrell" barges in on McGonagall to ask how Harry is doing.
"Miss Granger was the only one whose worries he truly heeded - with her gone - all checks on the boy's recklessness are removed."
Which is to say, Harry doesn't respect anyone else around here.
"The path leading to disaster must be averted along every possible point of intervention."
McGonagall is Done For The Day and tells him to leave. He turns on her and says that she'd be the next likely person to stop Harry from doing something bad. Bad guess, dude. He says she hasn't done her utmost, which of course doesn't go over well.
"Has your confederacy deduced who I really am?" The words were spoken with deceptive mildness.
"Yes, in fact. Now -"
Pure magic, pure power crashed into the room like a flash of lightning, like a thunderclap echoing about her ears that deafened her other senses, the papers on her desk blown aside not by any conjured wind but by the sheer raw force of arcane might.
Then the power subsided, leaving only Hermione Granger's death certificates drifting down through the air to the floor.
"I am David Monroe, who fought Voldemort," the man said, still in mild tones.
ANSWERED THAT QUESTION, HE'S A FANFIC INVENTION. Anyway, Monroe is all grumbly and chewing McG out and she starts yelling back.
"It is my professional judgment, speaking as a learned wizard almost on par with Dumbledore or He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named,"
Brag brag brag.
"that the boy could join the ranks of those whose rituals are inscribed upon the tombstones of countries."
Um, what? So he's a possible....country nuker?
"His deliberate choice is not required. Wizards rarely set out to invoke their own dooms. Mr. Potter may not strike you as malicious. Does he strike you as reckless once he is resolved upon a goal? I say again that I have specific reason for the gravest possible concerns!"
"Have you spoken to the Headmaster of this?" she said slowly.
"That would be worse than pointless. Dumbledore cannot reach the boy. At best he is wise enough to know this and make things no worse. I lack the requisite frame of mind. You are the one who - but I see that you still look for others to save you." The Defense Professor turned from her, and strode to the door. "I think I shall consult with Severus Snape. The man may be a walking disaster, but he knows the fact, and he may possess a greater understanding of that boy's mood. As for you, madam, imagine yourself at the end of your life, knowing that Britain - but no, Britain is not your true country, is it? Imagine yourself at the end of your life as the darkness eats through the fading walls of Hogwarts, knowing that your students will die with you, remembering this day and realizing there was something else you could have done."
This chapter is frustrating, albeit finally confirming something. Yeah, I get that Harry could explode, everybody knows that. It's just that nobody has any idea what to do about it. McG doesn't, Dumbledork has no idea, Hermione wouldn't have known, Draco hell no...If it's not you, Mr. Monroe, then it ain't nobody. Get to work, bro.
Will nobody leave Harry alone? Of course not. Here comes Snape.
"Fine. Let's just skip ahead to the end of this conversation. You win, Professor Snape. I concede that you were more responsible for Lily Potter's death than I was responsible for Hermione Granger's death, and that my guilt can't stack up to your guilt. And then I ask you to go, and you tell them that it would probably be best to let me alone for a while. Are we done?"
Thanks for the fast-forward, Harry. But....
"Almost," the Potions Master said. "I am the one who put the notes under Miss Granger's pillow, telling her where to find the fights in which she intervened."
DUM DUM DUMMMMMMMMMMM. Why? Well, Snape may not like bullying, but really he realized that if he was head of Slytherin, Dumbledore must have decided that Slytherin House cannot be helped. But Snape was impressed that Harry and company were trying. He says that Dumbledore didn't know about the notes and asks not to tell him. Snape basically wants to confess if everything goes super wrong.
"Lovely," the boy said. "Thank you for clearing that up. Is that all?"
"Do you intend to declare that your life is now a ruin and that there is nothing left for you but vengeance?"
"No. I still have -" The boy cut himself off.
"Then there is very little advice that I can give you," said Severus Snape.
The boy nodded distantly. "On Hermione's behalf, thank you for helping her with the bullies. She would tell you that it was the right thing to do. And now I would be much obliged if you could tell them to leave me alone."
The Potions Master turned to the door, and when his face was unseen, his voice came in a whisper. "I truly am sorry for your loss."
Well, there's that. Harry remembers Snape saying that he cannot learn from books what it is like to lose the one you love.
Hours later, Harry's mom and dad arrive, horrified at Hermione's death. They haven't heard anything else. Dad asks what's happening and Harry says he can't pretend to be a little boy right now, he doesn't have the energy.
"Dad, you know those fantasy books where the hero has to hide everything from his parents because they, they wouldn't understand, they'd react stupidly and get in the hero's way? It's a plot device, right, so that the hero has to solve everything himself instead of telling his parents. P-please don't be that plot device, Dad, or you either, Mum. Just... just don't play that role. Don't be the parents who won't understand. D-don't yell at me and give me parental demands I can't follow. Because I've wandered into a bloody stupid fantasy novel and now Hermione's - I j-just don't have the energy to deal with it."
Awwwww. Harry's dad asks what happened.
"They t-tell me the Dark Lord I defeated may still be alive. Like that's not the p-plot of a hundred sodding books, right? So, it could also be that the Headmaster of my school, who's the most powerful wizard in the world, has gone insane. And, and Hermione was framed for an attempted murder just before this, not that anyone would've told her parents about it or anything. The student she was framed for attempted-murdering was the son of Lucius Malfoy, who's the most powerful politician in magical Britain, and used to be the Dark Lord's number two. The Defense Professor position at this school has a curse on it, nobody ever lasts more than a year, they have a saying that the Defense Professor is always a suspect. This year the Defense Professor is secretly a mysterious wizard who opposed the Dark Lord during the last war and may or may not be evil himself. Also the Potions Master has been pining after Lily Potter for years and might be behind this whole thing for some twisted psychological reason." The boy's lips pressed together bitterly. "I think that's most of the bloody stupid plot."
Yeah, that covers it. Dad decides that's enough, we're all getting the hell out of here, but Mom says they're not allowed to because they're Muggles. Harry grumbles that since his parents have no power, nobody will listen to them. Dad says he'll go to the "real" government, but Harry says they'll just declare him crazy and he'll probably get his memories wiped.
"And that's the situation, Dad, as Mum already knows. They'd never have brought you here or told you anything, if there was a single thing you could do about it."
Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Harry's mom notes he's different. Harry starts attempting to talk about his dark side and how he was using it. Long story short:
"I only figured out today... every time I call on it... it uses up my childhood. I killed the thing that got Hermione. And it wasn't my dark side that did it, it was me. Oh, Mum, Dad, I'm sorry."
WHOA. Harry explains again, and his dad still wants him out of there, and Harry still says they won't let him out. Dad is all, are you sure it's a magical dark side and not just like, puberty? How would any of y'all know that, I guess. But Harry says it makes him smarter. Dad says that he shouldn't believe he's turning evil, don't hurt anybody or mess with black magic while they try to think of a way out of this.
"That'd be wonderful advice, Dad, if only I were in a comic book."
"Police can't do that. Soldiers can't do that. The most powerful wizard in the world couldn't do that, and he tried. It's not fair to the innocent bystanders to play at being Batman if you can't actually protect everyone under that code. And I've just proven that I can't."
Poor emasculated parents who can't do anything. It's all just sad. Dad asks him to stay out of all of the craziness...excellent point, but...
Harry stomps off to find McGonagall to tell her off for bringing his parents here to be targets for the bad guy. He wants them out of here before the bad guys notice. McGonagall tells them Harry can't leave and shouting ensues. Dumbledore arrives, prompting Harry to say "Not here. You can argue with him anywhere but Hogwarts." Not sure who he's referring to with that one, other than he later says to make sure his dad doesn't do anything to piss off the Ministry. Which hurts Dad's feelings.
"You know perfectly well what I'm doing," Harry Potter said. "You read those comic books long before you gave them to me. I've been through a bunch of crap, matured a bit, and now I'm protecting my relatives. Actually, it's simpler than that, you know what I'm doing because you tried to do the same thing. I'm having my loved ones taken out of Hogwarts immediately, that's what I'm doing. Headmaster, please get them out of here before You-Know-Who discovers their presence and marks them for death."
So that was fun. Dumbledore freezes Dad in place and then leaves.
"Clever move, bringing them here," Harry Potter said. "Probably damaged our relationship permanently. All I wanted was to be bloody left alone until bloody dinnertime. Which," the boy looked at his wristwatch, "it now is anyway. I'm going to go say goodbye to Hermione by myself, which I promise will take less than two minutes, and then after that I'll come out and go eat something like I would have done regardless. Do not disturb me for those two bloody minutes or I will snap and try to kill someone, I mean it, Professor."
SO THAT'S GOING WELL. Harry goes back to her body. McGonagall feels very hurt at this whole thing, but cannot for the life of her come up with the right action to take or the right thing to say right now.
A minute and a half later, Harry emerges, asking McGonagall to seal up the room and they'll leave. Which she does. Harry asks if she has that rock he kept Transfigured--he figures he should take it back "since it did prove useful." She'll mention it to Dumbledore. Is that a usual battle technique or practice? Nope.
Harry leaves. McGonagall goes to her office to tell Hermione's parents what happened.
Three stars for anger, heartbreak, nobody can do anything right, and GOD WON'T YOU JUST LEAVE ME ALONE TO THINK?!?
This book kinda took a bit of time to get super interesting for me, but when it did, it took off.
Emma's always been haunted by things she can't explain. Why she paints certain faces into her artwork, one special man in particular. Why she's been doing the same with a house. So when she finally comes across the house, in Benina, South Carolina, she immediately buys "the old Bennett place," which of course everyone local thinks is haunted. And well, it is haunted. Emma both feels perfectly at home in the place AND at the same time is weirdly creeped out by certain sounds, that she sees a cat that other people do not necessarily see, that she wakes up and finds that someone's been using her paintbrushes, etc. (We find out before she does that she's been sleep-painting some very freaky images.)
That's not the only weird thing about Emma, who was adopted and has found out that her birth mother was from Benina--and a lot of shifty, awful stuff happened to the poor girl, who ended up dead in a mental institution. Supposedly her baby died too. But anyone who tries to help Emma find out what happened quickly ends up very dead.
Emma also has fallen like a ton of bricks for Mike Ruhl, who's done the same for her pretty much at first sight. Both of them feel like they've known each other before--and Emma feels similarly about Mike's sister Cara, albeit with less boinking. All three of them get more and more creeped out prying around Emma's Civil War-era house and they start finding stuff like a doll that really gets to Cara and the diary of the mistress of the house back in the day.
Turns out Mattie Bennett was unhappily married to a creepy older man, Ian, but was secretly in love with his younger brother Sam. After Ian died in the war, the two happily wed and had a family...but, well, happily ever after didn't happen there. As the three try to figure out who they were in the past, they need to figure out who Emma's mysterious father was--and who the hell creepy Ian is in this lifetime. And hoo boy, is it ever creepy. There's one creeper in the story from the getgo and another one who seems fine at first and becomes more creepy as time goes on.
There's nothing like a good ol' past lives and loves story--especially when you figure out how to thwart the bad guy this time. Overall, I found it to be very enjoyable, and the last half of the book was so gripping that I'm giving it four stars.
"Yesterday morning? I was a stand-up guy, trying to do right by his girlfriend. Twenty-four hours later I was just some jerk who'd taken off his clothes for the first person who smiled at him."
This Dear Author review is so good I feel like I can't say anything better than this. But I'll try... I will first issue a trigger warning that this book deals with the topic of slut shaming, so those who freak out at that sort of thing may want to avoid it. However, this book is excellent at handling the subject matter, so you may want to suck it up and read it anyway.
Anyway: it's a new school year from the previous books,, Hartley's graduated but Corey and Scarlet are still around in cameos, Bridger's nowhere to be seen, Graham and Rikker are happy. Bella, who was introduced in the most recent book, is starting her senior year and she's kind of at a loss as to what to do after graduation. But she's always looking for a few good hookups, whether they're on the hockey team or no. Bella doesn't really believe in relationships, but she is totally down with fuckbuddying--she tends to make friend with dudes by sleeping with them and then befriending them afterwards. She's aware of what kind of reputation she might have/is risking, but in general, she's cool with what she does. Everyone's consenting and using protection and she doesn't go after taken dudes. What's wrong with that? Nothing--though Bella's suitemate* Lianne sounds like she gets annoyed at hearing all of the sex sounds coming out of Bella's room a lot. Well, who wouldn't.
* in this context, both girls have single bedrooms but share a bathroom with no sound insulation.
Then there's Rafe, Bella's 20-year-old neighbor in Beaumont House. Rafe was raised a good Catholic boy who needs to be responsible about sex, and would never push a girl into boning. He's a virgin and he's been patiently waiting for his girlfriend Alison to be ready for sex. Finally, it's their mutual birthday and she's given the go sign. He's made reservations, he's got a nice suit, he's got wine, he's got condoms.... but unfortunately, what he doesn't have is Alison because when he shows up at her door, he finds another dude in there that Alison apparently lost her virginity to while she was in Ecuador. A devastated Gabe can't go back to his room because his roommates are getting it on, so he's out in the hall with his wine bottle when Bella comes in. Gabe tells his story, Bella is incredibly sympathetic and tells him her own embarrassing story about walking in on Graham and Rikker once upon a time, they drink, and they get down with their bad selves and have a very, very good time. (Though no, Bella doesn't know it was Gabe's first time.) However, Gabe wakes up the next morning and feels weird and bad about losing his virginity outside of a formal committed relationship and doesn't know how to behave around Bella for awhile. Bella reasonably assumes Gabe must be some kind of a "shamer" and moves on, eventually boinking a Beta Rho frat brother named Whittaker when she's lonely one night.
That is a move she ends up regretting forever. Not only does she come down with an STI, breaking the news to Whittaker in person down at his frat house turned out to be a terrible idea--because he has someone get her a drink, and next thing she knows she wakes up at the frat house, feeling terrible and is covered in nasty words written in permanent marker. And Gabe finds her in that condition when he takes his morning run by the frat house.
Oh, poor Bella. And of course, they took photos and posted them online. After that experience, Bella feels way too ashamed to even leave her room, and she certainly can't stand to go among her hockey friends or show up to her beloved job, which she eventually loses. Graham and Rikker will totally be there for her if she lets them, but she feels so bad she's generally ignoring phone contact and declining invites for pizza. (I do concur with the Dear Reader review that it's a little weird to have all these guys who care about Bella mostly AWOL so that Rafe is the only one she can depend on, but I can understand her logic at wanting to stay away from jock culture under these circumstances.) But Rafe and Lianne, who were there when Bella came home after the incident, are worried about her and do their best to take care of her, get her out of the house, etc. Gabe, Bella, Alison, and some random girl are also working on an intense redesign project for their Urban Studies class, which is both distracting and interesting to Bella.
Bella has other issues too with her family in this one--her brother-in-law is an amazing skeezebucket and the rest of the family is on his side, which makes it terrible for her to have to be around them after her sister wins a major award. She brings Gabe as her date and he is just charming and a good dancer and sweet and awesome and handles everything with aplomb. Might I just say how super impressive Rafe is as a person? He's up there with Jason Vanderholt in being EXCELLENT at relationships and how to handle them. He's super sweet and supportive and nice and quotes chick movies with no shame. Plus his swearing in Spanish (and affectionate nickname for Bella, belleza) is just so adorable. Sure beats the "chingo tu madre" shit I hear out of dudes in real life :P Bella may not like the idea of having an official boyfriend, but Rafe won't settle for less, and even Lianne thinks they're inevitable.
"Oh, this guy! How any girl could cheat on him was beyond me. You had to wonder if the girl also kicked puppies just for fun."
And while I'm at it, I must talk about Lianne, who starts out as "the grumpy girl who won't leave her room and is probably thinking bad things about Bella" to turning out to be a cool person. She is actually a famous actress--hence why she doesn't leave her room--and spends a lot of time on the computer, having learned hacking skills. She and Bella become friends and even leave their rooms together, which is lovely. And they have an epic teamup when they have a great idea on how to get public, anonymous revenge on the brothers of Beta Rho. Which is delightful. It's entirely reasonable why Bella knows that going to the cops isn't an option due to her bad reputation, frat houses, public shaming, etc., so it's great that she figures out another way to point out their public assholery in such a way as to warn other girls and have it hit the media. At the end, the author mentioned that Lianne needs a book, and I TOTALLY agree and look forward to it. It sounds like she has some interesting issues of her own with a controlling manager, so I think Bella's a good influence on her. And when Lianne finally starts playing sexy music every time Rafe and Bella are together...that's adorable. And also totally something I did back in the day.
But other than obvious bad guy Whittaker, anyone who starts out as "bad" in this book has hidden depths. Alison turns out to have her own issues that make it more understandable why she behaved in the way that she did with Rafe, and another person who does something bad early on has a crisis of conscience towards the end of the book that makes you think a lot better of them.
Fred's not dead, just has some broken bones. Harry has mentioned the Weasley twins's brains being tampered with to Dumbledore, but he isn't really processing that so much.
Harry still stood over Hermione's body, he hadn't moved from that spot, thinking as fast as he could through the sense of dissociation and fragmented time, was there anything he should be doing now, any opportunities that were passing irrevocably. Some way to reduce the amount of magical omnipotence that would be required later. A temporal beacon effect to mark this instant for later time travel, if he someday found a way to travel back further than six hours. There were theories of time travel under General Relativity (which had seemed much less plausible before Harry had run across Time-Turners) and those theories said you couldn't go back to before the time machine was built - a relativistic time machine maintained a continuous pathway through time, it didn't teleport anything. But Harry didn't see anything helpful he could do using spells in his lexicon, Dumbledore wasn't being very cooperative, and in any case this was several minutes after the critical location within Time.
Dumbledore tries to get Harry to leave, but he's still thinking of anything he can do. Harry casts Frigideiro so that she can be revived/stop brain damage. As the twins cry, Dumbledore pulls him away.
The Cooling Charm would buy him time. Hours at least, maybe days if he could manage to keep casting the spell on Hermione or if they stored her body somewhere cold.
Now there was time to think.
McGonagall is also devastated and cries. Harry won't leave her body and is telling everyone to go away. We're told that Fawkes tried to sing to him and Harry yelled at him to stop trying to heal his feelings like they were a disease. So much for that. Anyway, Dumbledore thinks McG has a better chance of reaching Harry right now, so she tries to pull herself together.
Harry has not been crying. He asks why she's here when he asked to be left alone. McG can't think of anything to say, but she asks what he's thinking about. This doesn't go well.
"Nothing I could have done? " Harry's voice rose on the last word. "Nothing I could have DONE? I've lost track of how many different ways I could've saved her! If I'd asked to have us all given communications mirrors! If I'd insisted on Hermione being taken out of Hogwarts and put in a school that isn't insane! If I'd snuck out immediately instead of trying to argue with normal people! If I'd remembered the Patronus earlier! If I'd thought through possible emergencies and trained myself to think about Patronuses earlier! Even at the very last minute it might not have been too late! I killed the troll and turned to her and she was still ALIVE and I just knelt next to her listening to her last words like an IDIOT instead of casting the Patronus again and calling Dumbledore to send Fawkes! Or if I'd just approached the whole problem from a different angle - if I'd looked for a student with a Time-Turner to send a message back in time before I found out about anything happening to her, instead of ending up with an outcome that can't be altered - I asked the Headmaster to go back and save Hermione and then fake everything, fake the dead body, edit everyone's memories, but Dumbledore said that he tried something like that once and it didn't work and he lost another friend instead. Or if I'd - if I'd only gone with - if, that night -"
Harry pressed his hands over his face, and when he removed them again, his face was calm and composed once more.
"Anyway," said Harry Potter, now in a monotone again, "I don't want to repeat that mistake, so I'm going to spend until dinnertime thinking if there's anything I should be doing. If I haven't thought of anything by then I'll go to dinner and eat. Now please go away."
McGonagall cries at this and tries to tell Harry it's not his fault, but...duh, he'll never believe that. Who would? It's the ol' Peter Parker Guilt Complex Of Heroes, donchaknow. McG says it was Voldemort who did it, and Harry says that's not how responsibility works.
"When you do a fault analysis, there's no point in assigning fault to a part of the system you can't change afterward, it's like stepping off a cliff and blaming gravity. Gravity isn't going to change next time. There's no point in trying to allocate responsibility to people who aren't going to alter their actions. Once you look at it from that perspective, you realize that allocating blame never helps anything unless you blame yourself, because you're the only one whose actions you can change by putting blame there. That's why Dumbledore has his room full of broken wands. He understands that part, at least."
I actually concur with Harry on this one. You can't do anything about anyone else, you can only do anything about yourself--so if you focus on that, you'll think that you could do something.
In my daily life (especially my job), I generally take the blame for everything--at the very least I have a certain "guilt by association" thing going on there because if something goes wrong in my area, it's a reasonable assumption that it was me. And even if I didn't technically do it, I'll end up with the blame and the responsibility for fixing it.
And then there's the opposite of me: I have a counterpart who blows everything bad off and assumes it's everyone else's fault and she doesn't really give a crap. I tend to think she can get away with that sort of thing, since she's senior to me and is essentially biding her time for the next few years and doesn't have to be super concerned about the future or potentially getting canned in the way that I do.
So I have to scramble and outthink every possibility in case something goes wrong and cover my bases all the time....which is where I relate to Harry. I love the superprepared hero or heroine (which is why I love The Rook so much), but I do find it hard to think of every damn thing. Then again, it's not like I have whopping amounts of magic or supernatural powers to help me out with that.
Sure, it's not Harry's fault in that he didn't kill her. Duh. He just wishes he had thought everything out better ahead of time--which in retrospect, I think the dude was doing the best he could in a situation where only a handful of allies were even trying to help him GTFO. He was trying to rally help, which isn't a bad idea either...
McGonagall claims it's the professors who are in charge of student safety, and Harry gives her the ol' gimlet eye and is all "You want me to hold you responsible, Professor McGonagall?" She nods, thinking that would be an improvement.
Harry recounts his actions, pointing out that he was trying to do "the sensible thing." He begged for help and nobody would help him--
"Because you gave everyone an absolute order to stay in one place or they'd be expelled, no excuses. No matter what else Dumbledore gets wrong, he at least thinks of his students as people, not animals that have to be herded into a pen and kept from wandering out. You knew you weren't any good at military thinking, your first idea was to have us walking through the hallways, you knew some students there were better than you at strategy and tactics, and you still nailed us down in one room without any discretionary judgment. So when something you didn't foresee happened and it would've made perfect sense to send out a seventh-year student on a fast broom to look for Hermione Granger, the students knew you wouldn't understand or forgive. They weren't afraid of the troll, they were afraid of you. The discipline, the conformity, the cowardice that you instilled in them delayed me just long enough for Hermione to die. Not that I should've tried asking for help from normal people, of course, and I will change and be less stupid next time. But if I were dumb enough to allocate responsibility to someone who isn't me, that's what I'd say."
Well, he's got a point: playing by the rules or doing what a child is supposed to do didn't help him or Hermione here. (Ironic, when we say that about Hermione.)
I guess there is plenty of blame to go around on this one.
Though frankly, I think a bunch of them were also citing that rule as an excuse to not have to do anything. Or just passive-aggressively let Hermione freaking die. Jerks.
McGonagall is crying again.
"That's what I'd tell you if I thought you could be responsible for anything. But normal people don't choose on the basis of consequences, they just play roles. There's a picture in your head of a stern disciplinarian and you do whatever that picture would do, whether or not it makes any sense. A stern disciplinarian would order the students back to their rooms, even if there was a troll roaming the hallways. A stern disciplinarian would order students not to leave the Hall on pain of expulsion. And the little picture of Professor McGonagall that you have in your head can't learn from experience or change herself, so there isn't any point to this conversation. People like you aren't responsible for anything, people like me are, and when we fail there's no one else to blame."
Ouch. Ouch ouch ouch.
I don't think she is THAT stern of a disciplinarian, mind you, but I can see where his rage is coming from.
And here comes the real rage: Harry pulls out his doctored Time-Turner.
"This could've saved Hermione, if I'd been able to use it. But you thought it was your role to shut me down and get in my way. Nobody has died in Hogwarts in fifty years, you said that when you locked it, do you remember? I should've asked again after Bellatrix Black got loose from Azkaban, or after Hermione got framed for attempted murder. But I forgot because I was stupid. Please unlock it now before any of my other friends die."
Unable to speak, she brought forth her wand and did so, releasing the time-keyed enchantment she'd laced into the shell's lock.
Harry Potter flipped open the golden shell, looked at the tiny glass hourglass within its circles, nodded, and then snapped the case shut. "Thank you. Now go away." The boy's voice cracked again. "I have to think."
Apparently Dumbledore was hiding in the vicinity listening in, and she grumbles at him to stop doing that. He's surprised she took the abuse. Well, sometimes all we're here for in life is to take other people's abuse.
"All I had to do was say 'Mr. Potter', and he would have stopped." Her voice had dropped almost to a whisper. "Just that, and he would have stopped. And then he would have had no one to say those awful things to, no one at all."
Though I don't know if I think that exactly helped him or her to say it out loud, really.
"I thought Mr. Potter's remarks were entirely unfair and undeserved," Albus said.
"If it had been you, Albus, you would not have threatened to expel anyone leaving the room. Can you honestly tell me otherwise?"
Albus's brows rose. "Your role in this disaster was tiny, your decisions quite sensible at the time, and it is only Harry Potter's perfect hindsight that lets him imagine otherwise. Surely you are wiser than to blame yourself for this, Minerva."
Here we go with the blame placing again.
She knew perfectly well that Albus would be placing a picture of Hermione in that awful room of his, that it would occupy a place of honor. Albus would hold himself responsible, she was certain, even though he hadn't even been in Hogwarts at the time. But not her.
So you also don't think it's worth the trouble of holding me responsible...
Hmmm. Well, as Harry pointed out, some folks are prone to blaming themselves and what's the point in blaming others? Okay, so clearly Harry does blame McG on some level. And probably Dumbledore for not waving his magic wand and reviving her too.
Anyway, we leave McGonagall saying she's not fit to be Headmistress someday and Dumbledore disagreeing (well, if not her, who the hell would be better?!). Who would Harry listen to?
The ghost of Hermione would be my best guess, but I don't know how you'd pull off that one.
Now it's time for "Quirrell" to show up. And apologize. Smooth move.
"I should have thought to check for the presence of yourself, Mr. Longbottom, and Miss Granger, all of whom were obvious next targets," the Defense Professor said without hesitation. "Mr. Hagrid was not mentally equipped to command the student contingent. I should have ignored the Deputy Headmistress's request for silence, and told her to leave behind Professor Flitwick, who would have been better able to defend the students from any threat, and who could have maintained communication via Patronus."
"Correct." The boy's voice was razor-sharp. "I'd forgotten there was someone else in Hogwarts who could be responsible for things. So why didn't you think of it, Professor? Because I don't believe that you were stupid."
There was a pause, and the boy's fingers whitened on his wand.
"You did not think of it either, Mr. Potter, at the time." There was a weariness in the Defense Professor's voice. "I am smarter than you. I think faster than you. I am more experienced than you. But the gap between the two of us is not the same as the gap between us and them. If you can miss something, then so can I." The man's lips twisted. "You see, I deduced at once that the troll was but a distraction from some other matter, and of no great importance in itself. So long as nobody sent the students wandering pointlessly through the halls, or uncaringly dispatched the young Slytherins to those very dungeons where the troll had been spotted."
The boy did not seem to relax. "I suppose that is plausible."
"In any case," said the man, "if there is anyone who can be said to be responsible for Miss Granger's death, it is myself, not you. It is I, not you, who should have -"
Well, that's interesting. Same logic with those two.
"I perceive that you have spoken to Professor McGonagall and that she has given you a script to follow." The boy did not bother keeping the bitterness from his voice. "If you have something to say to me, Professor, say it without the masks."
There was a pause.
"As you wish," the Defense Professor said emotionlessly. The pale eyes stayed keen and sharp. "I do regret that the girl is dead. She was a good student in my Defense class, and could have been an ally to you later. I would wish to console you for your loss, but I cannot see how to go about doing so. Naturally, if I find the ones responsible I shall kill them. You are welcome to join in should circumstances permit."
"You are not claiming to have liked Hermione, then?"
"Her charms were lost on me, I suspect. I no longer form such bonds easily."
The boy nodded. "Thank you for being honest. Is that all, Professor?"
"Quirrell" points out that he used a cursed fire spell to try to get there faster, and burned through some walls and floors that will have to be patched over.
"You did want to save her. You wanted it so strongly that you made some sort of actual effort. I suppose your mind, if not theirs, would be capable of that."
Hah. Harry requests that he be left alone again, and "Quirrell" says he thinks Harry is about to do something foolish.
"Such as what?" said the boy.
"I am not quite sure. Perhaps you have decided that a universe without Miss Granger is devoid of value, and should be destroyed for the insults it has dealt you."
The boy smiled without any humor. "Your own issues are showing, Professor. I don't really go in for that sort of thing. Did you, at some point?"
"Not particularly. I have no great fondness for the universe, but I do live there."
Good point. So what are you planning then? Harry says he's still thinking about it. "Quirrell" offers himself as someone to talk to, someone without a whole lot of scruples and has lots of secret lore... well, okay....of course, Harry's plotting resurrection because he doesn't believe in an afterlife. They discuss the possibilities.
"I haven't decided yet on an object-level angle of attack. If I have to brute-force the problem by acquiring enough power and knowledge to just make it happen, I will."
"And to go about that," the man in the corner said, "you will use your favorite tool, science."
They discuss magical help. How are spells created? Who does it? "Quirrell" posits that some who read a lot sometimes can write spells, but no one knows how.
"So much for the direct solution, then. It would've been nice to just invent a spell for 'Raise Dead', 'Become God' or 'Summon Terminal'.
"Quirrell" offers to teach him almost any magic he wishes to know. Harry asks about the cursed fire, and "Quirrell" says it requires the permanent sacrifice of a drop of blood (um, big whoop? people have worse nosebleeds) and a lot more magic than Harry's going to have for a few years. He asks about the Memory Charms/Oblivation that was probably done on the twins, and again, Harry's not powerful enough yet. Eh....Harry once again requests to be left alone to think.
When "Quirrell" leaves, he's met by McGonagall who probably fetched him in the first place, wanting to know what's going on. "Quirrell" says he did his best but didn't think he was consoling. McG is just impressed Harry would speak at all. "Quirrell" says he promised to not talk about what Harry said, and now it's time to visit the library to strengthen the security on the Restricted Section. Keep Harry out of there, tell the professors to say nothing about spell creation....
"And though it is not my own area of expertise, Deputy Headmistress, if there is any way you can imagine to convince the boy to stop sinking further into his grief and madness - any way at all to undo the resolutions he is coming to - then I suggest you resort to it immediately."
Good luck with that. I don't think anyone can pull that off, though having read a tiny bit ahead, McG does think of another tactic to try.
I'm giving this five stars for emotional devastation and rightful blame throwing and a lot to think about. Whoa. What a gutwrencher. If this dude wrote his own fictional worlds, I wonder how it would go?
Continued from cliffhanger. On the terrace, they find the troll, about to do some clubbing. Everyone's screaming, and Harry's Patronus shatters. One of the Weasleys disarms the troll with magic and clubs it in the face, but then its nose reforms. Damn.
OMG HERMIONE IS LYING IN A POOL OF HER OWN BLOOD WITH HER LEGS EATEN OFF.
Harry breaks out his healer's kit and tourniquets, while the Weasleys cast various spells that aren't doing much. Even when its EYES explode, it reheals. Harry yells to try fire or acid. Meanwhile one of the twins somehow has the Sorting Hat, (where did this come from?) which yells out GRYFFINDOR! and.... one of the twins pulls out The Sword.
The twin charges. The twin slices off the troll's right arm, but the club knocks the twin down into the nearest wall. The sword falls through a hole in the floor. FRED!, screams George, who starts casting spells again. Even though he's trying to blow him off the balcony, the troll doesn't blow.
Harry gets his Transfigured diamond from his ring and casts Wingardium Leviosa to direct the rock into the troll's mouth, followed by Finite Incantatem, which blows the troll's head off as the rock gets suddenly bigger.
AND IT STILL FREAKING REGENERATES!
Harry stabs his wand through the troll's eye and into its brain, then transfigures it into sulfuric acid and...IT FINALLY STOPS REGENERATING.
Hermione's still alive...whispering "your fault."
Followed by "not your fault." And then she dies.
Dumbledore shows up too bleeping late. Harry asks to bring her back, "have Fawkes cry on her or whatever," but of course that doesn't happen.
"I don't want to hear about it. If it was me lying there, you'd pull some kind of amazing rabbit out of your hat and save me, right, because the hero isn't allowed to die before the story's over. Well, she's the hero too, so whatever you were saving for that extra-special occasion, just go ahead and use it now. I promise I'll pay you back."
Awwww. Dumbledore says he can't do anything once her soul has left.
I do not accept this.
There isn't any reason to accept it, not when there's magic in the world.
Harry would learn whatever he had to learn, invent whatever he had to invent, rip the knowledge of Salazar Slytherin from the Dark Lord's mind, discover the secret of Atlantis, open any gates or break any seals necessary, find his way to the root of all magic and reprogram it.
He would rip apart the foundations of reality itself to get Hermione Granger back.
Back with "Quirrell" and Trelawney, the former of whom has realized what happened.
He'd felt the boy exterminate his enemy in seconds.
He'd felt the boy's dismay as one of his friends died.
He'd felt the fury the boy had directed at some annoyance who was likely Dumbledore; followed by an unknown resolution whose unyielding hardness even he found adequate. With any luck, the boy had just discarded his foolish little reluctances.
Unseen by anyone, the Defense Professor's lips curved up in a thin smile. Despite its little ups and downs, on the whole this had been a surprisingly good day -
"HE IS HERE. THE ONE WHO WILL TEAR APART THE VERY STARS IN HEAVEN. HE IS HERE. HE IS THE END OF THE WORLD."
Four stars for horror.
Why am I wondering if Cthulhu is going to be summoned or something?
WHAT THE HELL IS QUIRRELL?!?!
Okay, now that we're past that chapter....look, one of the very few spoilers I've heard about this series--I've oddly managed to duck hearing most of 'em--was that Hermione died. Damn. Still was hoping that was BS, of course, but ... of course not. What an awful way to go. Poor girl.
This is hardcore shit, yo.
I'd probably give this five stars except well, this is devastating and sad and OMG HERMIONE.
Still on spring break. Harry goes over to the Gryffindor lunch table, where he hopes to find some sympathetic folks. The "Weasley-twin group-mind" informs him that Trelawney just dropped an entire soup tureen on herself and Hagrid. Nobody else has noticed. "Quirrell" seems to be having issues catching his food. Some girl named Brienne asks Harry what she's thinking and she's got That Look in her eye.
"So," Harry said, "you know those really simple Artificial Intelligence programs like ELIZA that are programmed to use words in syntactic English sentences only they don't contain any understanding of what the words mean?"
"Of course," the witch said. "I have a dozen of them in my trunk."
"Well, I'm pretty sure my understanding of girls is somewhere around that level."
Yeah, I would not argue that. Of course, I don't think she's got anything in her trunk either.
Everyone goes silent, but not because of Harry this time--Mr. Filch has come in to announce that there's a troll in the dungeons and it ate his cat. Snape stomps out, and McG does the magical equivalent of firing her gun in the air to shut everyone up. The kids are told to go back to their dorms. "Quirrell" wants to offer her advice, but--
"Sad experience has taught me that on occasions such as these, it is not a good time to take any advice the current Defense Professor may offer. Indeed, I think it wise that the two of us search for the troll together, so that no suspicions may be cast upon you for any untoward events which occur during that time."
"Quirrell" hops on the table and asks one of his army second-in-commands to advise McG on battle tactics.
"Students walking through the hallways would be spread out and impossible to defend. All students are to remain in the Great Hall and form a cluster in the center... not surrounded by tables, a troll would jump right over tables... with the perimeter defended by seventh-year students. From the armies only, no matter how good they are at duelling, so they don't get in each other's lines of fire." Michelle hesitated. "I'm sorry, Mr. Hagrid, but - it wouldn't be safe for you, you should stay behind with the students. And Professor Trelawney shouldn't confront a troll on her own either," Michelle sounded much less apologetic about this part, "but if she's paired with Professor Quirrell the two of them together can form an additional trusted and effective battle unit. That concludes my analysis, Professor."
"Adequate, for being put on the spot," the Defense Professor said. "Twenty Quirrell points to you. But you neglect the still simpler point that home does not mean safe, and a troll is strong enough to rip a portrait door off its hinges -"
*snicker* But good job anyway! Kids, do what she said. Trelawney, do what she said. Well, just babysit him, ya wuss, all right? Hagrid will babysit.
The time is 12:14 p.m. Dunno why the time is so important here, but I'm mentioning it anyway. Harry hasn't figured out what's going on yet. (OMG! HARRY HASN'T FIGURED SOMETHING OUT BEFORE EVERYONE ELSE!) Then eventually he wonders where Hermione is.
"The first Defense class of the year was rather fuzzy in Harry's mind, but he distantly remembered something about trolls being able to track prey that was alone and undefended."
Harry can't use the Time-Turner, or get his cloak on without notice, and he doesn't know where she is, and he thinks she'll go looking... but she dose now have an invisibility cloak and a broomstick in her pouch. (Um, there's TWO of those cloaks?! Did I miss something?) Maybe whoever framed her has sicced a troll on her, maybe jinxed her items... Harry asks for a seventh-year from the armies to fly with him to look for her ASAP. Any volunteers? Nope.
"People went on looking at other people."
Harry finally picks on someone at random--Miss Morgan--who is all "we got told to stay here." Okay, her actual response is "You - you're the Boy-Who-Lived! Just go off by yourself and snap your fingers, if you want to help her!"
This is slightly hard to argue with, but Harry tries.
"That's just cleverness and bluffing, I don't have any power like that in real life, a young girl needs your help now are you a Gryffindor or not?"
"Why are you saying any of this to me? " cried Miss Morgan. "I wasn't left in charge here! Mr. Hagrid was!"
Everyone passes the buck around here. Harry asks Hagrid to authorize the expedition now. He hedges.
"Great, now can we also keep Hermione Granger safe? You know, the student framed for a murder she did not commit who needs someone to help her?"
Oh, good one! Hagrid says he'll look for her himself, but since he can't ride a broomstick--
"Then you can't search fast enough. Sixth-years! Calling all sixth-years! Are there any sixth-years here who aren't worthless cowards?"
"Fifth years? Mr. Hagrid, tell them they're authorized to go with me and keep me safe! I'm trying to be sensible, damn it! "
And see what good that does.
Harry stomps off to do it himself and Hagrid blocks him, saying that whatever it is might be after him too. And then Susan Bones Stupefy's Hagrid (OMG!) and she apologizes as she sets his beard on fire. Now Neville tries to stop Harry, saying it could be a trap, but then Ron freezes him and tells Harry to go. GO RON AND SUSAN! Ten points for Gryffindor!
Harry books it and starts yanking things out of his pouch, and finds that the Weasley twins are already out there looking for her. They think there's some quick way to do it, but they can't think of what it is...HEY, WAIT A MINUTE, WHERE IS THE MARAUDER'S MAP? As the twins try to figure out what they're forgetting, SOMETHING IS COMING. As they run for it, Harry deduces that somebody tampered with their collective brain.
They run into the library, where Madam Pince snaps at them that it's closed for lunch. Have you seen her? No, bug off! Can you get ahold of McGonagall quickly? Madam Pince won't really answer it.
Harry's brain flagged this as I'm talking to NPCs again and he spun on his heel and dashed back for the broomstick.
Hah. Harry and the twins run out again, and then it occurs to Harry that he knows of another messaging system...EXPECTO PATRONUM! The twins are shocked. Harry tells it to find Hermione and tell her there's a troll and to get into direct sunlight. The Patronus leaves, comes back and then reports back that Hermione is screaming. Take me to her! As they enter an outdoor section of the building--
Three and a half stars for that. Good lord, most people at this school are kinda shitty. Well, points to the Weasleys and Susan, at least, so there's that.
When Seattle private investigator Harper Blaine gets attacked by an angry guy, she ends up dying for a little under two minutes before being revived. And ever since that head injury, she's been seeing weird things and having weird shit happen to her. Luckily for Harper, her doctor has not only heard of this happening before, he knows who to tell her to see. Not a doctor-- his married friends Ben and Mara, who are a professor who researches ghosts and a witch, respectively. They identify Harper as a "greywalker," i.e. a person who has access to and sees the weirder things in that place halfway between here and death. Now that she's been temporarily dead, she can see and access weird things, which means that she'll attract a weirder clientele because she can see them.
You have no idea how hard it is for me to get a hold on what a "greywalker" is, actually, and to attempt to describe it. I concur with this review that the one weakness of this book is that figuring out what's going on "in the grey" and how it works is very confusing to follow.
Sure enough, Harper has two weird cases going on: an extremely strange client asks her to track down what turns out to be a very evil organ, and a mother wants her to look for her missing 21-year-old son, who turns out to be missing because he's recently been turned into a vampire. Cameron was just trying to save his sister from an evil boyfriend (named Edward, HAHAHAHAHAH foreshadowing for real life there), but after he got vamped, he told Edward off and now he has no one to mentor him and is being shunned by the other vampires. He turns to Harper for help, asking her to negotiate with the vampires and see if she can get him into a better situation. And as the organ hunt gets weirder and weirder, Harper finds that she'll need some vampire assistance in order to deal with it--maybe everyone can help each out here? But between being afraid of some kind of "guardian" in the grey and one vampire doing something incredibly freaky to her out of the blue, this is one scary world she's dealing with now.
In other news, Harper attempts to date a lovely older gentleman named Will, but her paranormal activities keep getting in the way. However, there's a mysterious tech guy named Quinton that she hires for a few jobs that looks like he'll stick around. (And speaking of tech, this book was published in 2006 and yet pagers are being used and floppy disks--not sure when this series is set, but I'm guessing before the mid-2000's.)
The best parts of the book were the cases--I was invested in Cameron and his story and how to solve his problem most of all. The not so great parts were that the entire grey situation is confusing to follow--though I'm not at all sure how you'd make that clearer to get, especially since Harper herself and even her helpers aren't all that sure what is going on. As for Harper herself, she doesn't stand out as a super memorable personality, but she's not bad either. Mostly just very pragmatic and down to business--and she has an adorable pet ferret named Chaos.
Overall, I'm giving it three and a half stars. Not bad, but it can be hard to follow in certain aspects.
"Friday was the kind of day that gives reincarnation a bad name. I mean, who'd want to do something like this twice?"
This is a collection of a trilogy of mysteries from the 1990's featuring Bast, a New York City witch. Why the heck has nobody told me these exist? I found this recently and was absolutely delighted by the snark and tone of these books. These do feature hardcore witchery based off of real life practices, so if that sort of thing bothers you, this probably isn't the series for you, especially if you prefer those "fun fluff" witch books that don't really have any basis in things you'd find in life. But I enjoyed them immensely. The expertise, the snark, the making fun of everything despite being deeply invested, the knowledge...honestly, it was great fun for the likes of me to read.
For the record: Bast (mundane name: Karen Hightower, though she's really not into it or mundane names in general. That said, I LOVE that her last name is Hightower) is a layout artist in a dying industry even then, but it allows her flexibilty. She's Gardnerian-trained but in a coven that's drifted away from that, called Changing. She seems to know everybody in the pagan/witchcraft/ex-hippie scene. And she has absolutely brilliant insights and commentary on everything around her and I found myself bookmarking a lot of things. Oddly enough, she doesn't have a cat.
I'm going to review each book separately even though they're in one omnibus. The links I'm providing are the openings of each book.
Speak Daggers to Her: Bast gets a phone call at work from Lace, a lesbian acquaintance of hers in the pagan community. Lace has just found her girlfriend, Bast's sorta-kinda-friend Miriam Seabrook, mysteriously dead in her apartment, and Lace is way too (and reasonably so) afraid of the cops to make the phone call. Bast, who's straight and straight-looking enough to pass around police, goes down there and publicly "discovers the body," calls the police, and takes Miriam's witchy jewelry off her body before the cops find it. Except she's not wearing a pentacle, she's wearing a ... chicken foot?
Miriam wasn't a close friend of Bast's, though Bast did buy her a very nice athame at one point (which is now missing from the house). Miriam was always looking for The Answer and flitting from one coven to another. After coming home, she finds a panicky message from Miriam on her answering machine looking for help. Uh-oh. Bast takes over the job of calling Miriam's estranged sister, packing up suitable objects to send to the olde hometowne, and removing witchy items from the house. Which is when Bast finds Miriam's creepy new book of shadows from her new coven and other related items, and her diary. Bast smells a rat and starts snooping around, wondering what the hell Miriam got into, especially since her diary entries reveal that she was in some mysterious distress. Looks like the coven she was in was quite abusive, which makes Bast wonder how the heck she got into this sort of thing and then stayed. Which led to...
"How could she let them do that to her? Easy. She forgot she was a grown-up. Our childhood is spent doing things against our will. Against our instincts, our desires, our judgment (such as it is) we're compelled to do things we don't want to do. Eat our vegetables. Wash. Go to school. And usually we look back on those things and realize they were the right things to do at the time. Childhood is about trust. And somewhere in most of us the trusting child lives on. And sometimes, years later, it can be lured into horror, step by step. And sometimes, years later, it can be lured into horror, step by step, by the voice that says: Just do it. I know what's best. You need to do this. It's best for you. The icons of Manson and Jonestown are never far from us, and sometimes adulthood is the easiest thing to give away when people ask us to give them things. Some people thrust their adulthood into any hands even halfway willing to take it. I didn't know where to assign the blame. I only knew my chest hurt."
Didn't that just pound you in the gut reading it?
Anyway, Bast starts getting creepy phone calls trying to dissuade her from looking into this stuff--which gives Bast the creeps since her number's unlisted and whoever called knows she's a witch. Bast has some issues to worry about when investigating a case that your normal amateur detective doesn't have to worry about. "Why was I doing this? I wasn't the Occult Police. Even if Miriam's coven leader was the original bad there was nothing I could do. I couldn't prove it to the mundane authorities, and nobody ever gets thrown out of the Craft." She finally gets a lead on the Russian coven--which in retrospect seems mighty fishy-- from Julian, an employee at The Serpent's Truth bookstore. Soon after that, she gets a phone call--yes, another person knowing her mundane name and number out of nowhere--from the coven leader. Bast pretends to be interested in the group, and in turn the group and its leader do their damndest to creep her the hell out--and also they've got Miriam's athame, with her name sanded off of it. This was definitely a scene in which you're all, "DON'T GO IN THERE! YOU KNOW IT'S BAD!", which bugged me. Okay, not that Bast had any other way to find out except by going, but it was incredibly creepy, especially since it was obvious they were inviting her to be creepy and threatening and demand back Miriam's stuff--oh yeah, and they poison the wine, so good thing she didn't swallow that chloroform she smelled in it.
"This was not how it was supposed to go. I was supposed to be sure there was a murder and not know who did it. But I wasn't sure there had been a murder--and I had somebody confessing to it. Hell, bragging about it." Bast can only conclude that Ruslan the coven leader killed her--with sorcery, or just that poisoned wine, or both. But how can she prove it when the cops aren't doing an investigation on Miriam's body? Her coven leader Bellflower considers it too judge-y to do anything about it, but Bast disagrees. And then she finds a slaughtered cat on her door...which she mails back to those who delivered it to her. Bast has to do something and is the only one who can--but what can she do? She finally gets the idea to blanket NYC with anonymous informative fliers informing the community that there's a black coven in town that uses illegal drugs and are responsible for one member's death. Of course the coven's Very Upset by this....
What happens after that? Okay, I won't spoil that far, but let's just say that the situation...resolves, in a way that fits with what's going on. According to an interview I found online, the story was based on someone the author knew IRL who died randomly and out of nowhere.
"I hate having this much power over someone else's happiness, and I hate the possibility that because I'm tired, because I'm irritated, I'll use that power without thinking and leave welts on someone else's psyche that a lifetime can't erase. This is why non-judgmentalism is so very popular. Because judging and choosing and making decisions means saying yes to one possibility and no to all the others. To do that is to take back all the responsibility that Society encourages you to give away. Real freedom scares most people to death."
This book starts out several months later with thievery going on--various people are having their Books of Shadows disappear out of their locked apartments. Bast finds this fishy, but she's soon distracted by a potential guy who wants to join her coven, Ned. Ned has been knocking around the various pagan groups, looking for someone to take him in. However, Bast finds him immediately off-putting, as do many others, apparently. She doesn't like the guy, but when Ned attends a Beltane ritual and starts bragging about how he's found the real life Book of Shadows of Mary, Queen of Scots and can authentically prove that the Craft is thousands of years old--well, Bast does her best to dissuade him from doing it because everyone's going to laugh at him. So he brags anyway (Ned clearly won't take anyone's advice ever), and everyone laughs.
Coincidentally, Ned's employer Ilona is the owner of a pagan bookstore that's about to go out of business, except Ilona mentions that she'll be able to save it by (a) selling a treasured heirloom, and (b) taking on a business partner. And Illona doesn't make the Beltane gathering because she ends up dead. And pretty soon all of the places with old rare books are getting burgled, and some slick, suspiciously unfazed English guy starts sniffing around and asking Bast out. And Ned comes to Bast with a giant package, wanting her to keep it safe. Hm, gee, I wonder what all of that could possibly be? And was Ned right---did Mary have her own Book of Moons?
On the one hand, like the previous book, there's not a lot of "whodunit." Even Bast admits that she knows whodunit and why, she just needed to figure out how. And more specifically, what can she do about it as a single witch? Bast goes to her coven leader and best friend Bellflower for help and advice (especially since Belle has a police contact Bast would really like to get involved in this!) but... well, this builds on Bast's previous issues with Belle as being someone who refuses to ever make judgments, even in situations where someone should. Can these two still be friends over this fundamental difference, this lack of belief? Probably not, which leads to some sadness for Bast...as well as certain danger when she's proved right.
I enjoyed the resolution of this one and its sticky situation, especially how Bast handled the question of the book. As for her personal life, Bast leaves this one more personally scarred and needing to find a new path...but what will it be? At this point she's expected to start her own coven, but she doesn't seem to really want to and is afraid of the consequences. I also found it interesting how Bast sympathizes with the plight of Mary Stuart--"If there's something you want, something you think you need to have to survive as the person you think you are, what price is too high to pay for it?" Bast mentions that once she was "at the hub of her century's Manhattan glitterati circle," and I was all, wait, what? The lesson she learned was that you can't trust others for your own happiness and once you've been kicked out, that's it for you.
I mentioned a gutwrenching paragraph in the first book. Here's the one that got me in the second:
"Look, you're not mad at me, are you?" he blurted out. It was not a question one adult should ask another. It contains too much acknowledgement of subservience, of emotional comfort that depends on someone else's whim. But Ned Skelton was--still--looking for someone else to provide that. Looking for someone else to give him what he thought he needed: power. As the ad campaign for the Godfather movies reminds us, power cannot be given, only taken. The great flaw in the Western mind-set is the conviction that power must always be taken from someone else. We all have power. It can't be given to us. And when we take it, we take it for ourselves, not from anyone. This is the great mystery."
And on a related note: "If I'm perfectly honest, the thought of that kind of responsibility scares me. It's not just that power corrupts. It's that power magnifies every action, until nothing doesn't count. Nobody's behavior can be flawless under those circumstances. And I can't stand the idea of making mistakes with people's lives."
"What was important enough for me to betray a friend for? A dead man I'd despised? Yes. Exactly that. Because Jackson Harm had been murdered. And if we do not count murder to be so extraordinary a crime that we will take extraordinary measures to punish it, we devalue human life, and with it, all hope of human dignity. It was cold in my ivory tower, but I didn't mind it so much now. Because if my Goddess came to me and set a price that I would have to pay for justice, I knew now that I was willing to meet that price."
It's now October and everyone's driving up to Hallowfest, the pagan gathering held in the woods. Bast has split from her coven and is going along to help out with The Snake bookstore's display along with Julian, the hot but ambiguous manager she's been lusting after there. And they're sharing a cabin...hubba hubba! However, when Bast finds a body in the woods and it turns out to be the Reverend Jackson Harm, an anti-pagan bigot.... who got stabbed and even...anointed? What the heck? The police are brought in and they are generally very nice, but there's no denying that a bunch of pagans would be the first reasonable suspects. And when the cops want the list of attendees, the lady in charge of them (Maidjene) flatly refuses to turn them over for fear of what would happen to identified witches. Heck, she's about to throw them into a bonfire, which leads Bast into a mental crisis of making sure she saves those forms even if it may ruin her friendship with Maidjene forever. And then during the big ritual, a bunch of guys with guns come shooting. One of them gets shot instead--but which pagan had a gun? Well, Maidjene's future ex-husband the survivalist is here with plenty of them....and he's very upset about his wife leaving him.
As for Bast's ah, personal relations: Julian is enigmatic as ever, but when Bast starts to worry about STD's, he says he was a virgin. WHAT? Meanwhile, an ex of hers from ten years ago, Lark, has returned to the East Coast. If Bast is to start another Gardnerian-ish coven on her own, she's required to have a priest to form it with--but she has no suitable candidates (even if she could get a few of her ex-covenmates as members) except maybe Lark. Except he turns out to have quite a temper and the reason he's been away for so long is...well, he's only now free to come home, I'll put it that way.
In the end, it's when Bast is left alone and bored and starts raiding the store's reading material that she finally gets a hint as to what went on, and she finds out how hard her previous vow is going to be. Suddenly petty concerns like who to start a coven with mean nothing, and suddenly her entire life as it was....well. It's all quite a blow, and in the end, you can figure out pretty easily why there's only three novels. I'm reminded of "Once More With Feeling:" where do we go from here?
These books are incredibly powerful to read on an emotional level. While I'll admit the mysteries aren't super complex (the last one is probably the only one with more than one or two suspects at all), Bast's tone is addictive and her emotional dilemmas as to what to do about bad people in her community and what should be done about them are gutwrenching. So, I give all the books, separately and together, four and a half stars.
It's Easter break time and most people went home except Ron and Susan and Hermione and Harry. The latter two haven't been talking until now, she's been avoiding him.
"I was going to give you more space," said Harry Potter, "only I was reading up on Critch's theories about hedonics and how to train your inner pigeon and how small immediate positive and negative feedbacks secretly control most of what we actually do, and it occurred to me that you might be avoiding me because seeing me made you think of things that felt like negative associations, and I really didn't want to let that run any longer without doing something about it, so I got ahold of a bag of chocolates from the Weasley twins and I'm just going to give you one every time you see me as a positive reinforcement if that's all right with you -"
Does she hate him. No, but she's...overwhelmed, basically. Whatcha reading? She hides the book. He sees it anyway--she's reading Wizarding Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, essentially, trying to figure out how to make those Galleons. Harry understands. Though he'll work on it himself, of course. Anyone seem promising? This guy who people assume is Nicholas Flamel, maybe... though Harry thinks it sounds fake because everyone would be trying to make a Philosopher's Stone.
"It's not a secret." Hermione flipped the page, showing Harry the diagrams. "The instructions are right on the next page. It's just so difficult that only Nicholas Flamel's done it."
"So entire countries would be trying to kidnap Flamel and force him to make more Stones. Come on, Hermione, even wizards wouldn't hear about immortality and, and," Harry Potter paused, his eloquence apparently failing him, "and just keep going. Humans are crazy, but they're not that crazy!"
Interesting. Anyway, Harry doesn't think reading this book will work because if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it (same logic as the stone, I see), but Hermione is all...
"So? That wouldn't stop you," Hermione said, her voice now roughening again. "You do impossible things all the time, I bet you've done something impossible in the last week and you didn't bother telling anyone."
(There was a slight pause, which, if Miss Granger had known, was exactly the length of pause you'd make if you'd fought Mad-Eye Moody and won exactly eight days earlier.)
YUP. CALLED THAT ONE.
"Not in the last seven days, no," Harry said.
"Look... part of the trick of doing the impossible is being selective about which impossibilities you challenge, and only trying when you have a special advantage. If there's a money-making method in this book that sounds difficult for a wizard, but it's easy if we can use Dad's old Mac Plus, then we'd have a plan."
Okay, good point. In short: only try the impossible when you think you've got a cheat code!
"I know that, Harry," Hermione said, her voice wavering only slightly. "I was looking to see if there was anything here I could figure out how to do. I thought, maybe the difficult part about making a Philosopher's Stone was that the alchemical circle had to be super precise, and I could get it right by using a Muggle microscope -"
"That's brilliant, Hermione!"
Geeks FTW! Though they then argue how maybe it's not quite that easy, so just keep thinking and snarfing chocolate.
"This one is to reinforce your brain for generating a good candidate strategy."
Harry spoke again. "So with all that said... and please take this as a positive reinforcement... did you really try to invent a way to mass-produce immortality so that I could pay off my debt to Lucius Malfoy? "
"Yes," she said in an even smaller voice. Even when she tried to think like Harry, it seemed she hadn't yet got the knack of it.
Lord, that'd be hard to do, honey. But yes, this idea is totally amusing and right up his alley, so I think she's doing pretty close on this activity. Harry's still trying to bust the "Who Framed Hermione Granger" case, which would be easier for him than her.
"Fine. You do everything. You gather all the clues and talk to all the suspects while I just sit here in the library. Let me know after it turns out that it was Professor Quirrell who did it."
With the lead wand, in the conservatory.
Hermione is generally sad that she needs rescuing, and that all anyone's going to think about her now is that she's a damsel. And they're right.
"I've got a dark side that definitely isn't a child, and who knows what other crazy magical stuff going on in my head - Professor Quirrell claimed that I become whoever I believe I am - that's all cheating, don't you see, Hermione? There's an arrangement that the school administration made that I'm not supposed to talk about, so that the Boy-Who-Lived could have more time to study every day, I'm cheating and you're still beating me in Charms class. I'm - I'm probably not - the Boy-Who-Lived probably isn't even something that you could properly call a child - and you're still competing with that. Don't you realize, if it wasn't for people paying attention to me, you'd look like the most powerful witch to come along in a century? When you can fight three older bullies by yourself, and win?"
"I don't know," she said, pressing her hands again over her eyes, with her voice wavering. "All I know is - even if that's all true - nobody's ever going to see me for myself anymore, ever."
"All right," Harry said after a while. "I see what you mean. Instead of the famous Potter-and-Granger research team, there'll be Harry Potter and his lab assistant. Um... here's an idea. How about if I don't focus on making money for a while? I mean, the debt doesn't come due until I graduate Hogwarts. So you can do it yourself and show the world you've still got it. And if you coincidentally crack the secret of immortality along the way, we'll just call it a bonus."
The thought of Harry relying on her to come up with a solution seemed... like a crushing burden of responsibility to dump on a poor traumatized twelve-year-old girl, and she wanted to hug him for offering her a way to restore her self-respect as a heroine, and it was what she deserved for being a horrible person and speaking sharply to Harry all the time, when all along he'd been a truer friend to her than she'd ever been to him, and it was good that he still thought she could do things, and...
"Is there some amazing rational thing you do when your mind's running in all different directions?" she managed.
"My own approach is usually to identify the different desires, give them names, conceive of them as separate individuals, and let them argue it out inside my head. So far the main persistent ones are my Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor, and Slytherin sides, my Inner Critic, and my simulated copies of you, Neville, Draco, Professor McGonagall, Professor Flitwick, Professor Quirrell, Dad, Mum, Richard Feynman, and Douglas Hofstadter."
JEEBUS CHRIST, DUDE, TOO MANY PERSONALITIES. See a therapist.
Hermione considered trying this before her Common Sense warned that it might be a dangerous sort of thing to pretend. "There's a copy of me inside your head?"
"Of course there is!" Harry said. The boy suddenly looked a bit more vulnerable. "You mean there isn't a copy of me living in your head?"
There was, she realized; and not only that, it talked in Harry's exact voice.
"It's rather unnerving now that I think about it," said Hermione. "I do have a copy of you living in my head. It's talking to me right now using your voice, arguing how this is perfectly normal."
Sorry I'm not thinking more deep thoughts while doing this. I keep being interrupted, sigh.
Harry and Hermione continue to read together, until Hermione gets up the nerve to ask if Harry is friends with Draco. Well, yeah, I was temping him to the Light Side of the Force...Hermione is horrified and won't even repeat the stuff she's been told Draco said about her. Harry says he was changing now that his environment was, and Hermione disagrees.
And I'm not going to recap all of this argument either, other than Harry finishes by saying that despite the environment Draco grew up in, "it only took him four months to get to the point where he'd grab a Muggleborn falling off a building." Harry's eyes were as fierce as she'd ever seen him. "I'm not finished corrupting Draco Malfoy, but I think he's done pretty well so far."
Hermione wants to know why she wasn't in on this, and Harry said it wasn't his secret to tell. Oh, come on, what was it really? SCIENCE. Hermione considers this a betrayal, and Harry is all "It's not like I was doing real science with him!" Nor did he tell either of them about the other. Hermione is still betrayed. Harry doesn't consider it cheating.
POLY SCIENCE THREESOMES AT HOGWARTS FAIL.
Hermione looks like she's about to explode, and I guess she just reasonably assumed that if Harry spent his entire fortune to save a girl from doom, shouldn't she be special? But not in a romantic way, of course! Nobody's there yet! Harry hasn't even hit puberty yet!
"For all I know at this point, six months from now my brain is going to wake up and decide to fall in love with Professor Snape!"
Harry goes into the probabilities of his likelihood of falling for Hermione later.... and Hermione runs away crying. Again.
Some random Ravenclaw overhearing this shit tries to sympathize with Harry:
"Witches! Go figure, huh?"
"Remove your hand before I cast it into the outer darkness."
The library doors slammed open again in the wake of another departure.
Two stars for this chapter making me want to slap my head into a monitor again. I realize that Shipping Must Be Covered because everyone else has hormones (and really, Harry and Hermione were a far better match in general, romantic or no, than Hermione and freaking Ron), but ....graaaaaaaaaah this is irritating to read. Whatever, dude
JEEBUS H CHRIST, THE IS THE LONGEST CHAPTER TO RECAP EVER (uh, so far anyway). It has taken me WEEKS to try to write this sucker up, WEEKS.
April 7, 1992, here's today's headlines: They're about Harry scaring a Dementor, people thinking they made that up, Draco is becoming a Veela, werewolves are moving to Wyoming.
Hypothesis: Voldemort (April 8th, 1992, 7:22pm)
Dumbledore, Snape, McGonagall, and Harry are meeting in the office again, waiting on Mad-Eye. McG is inwardly moping at the loss of Harry's innocent childhood (man, I'm tired of the author hitting that anvil like it's Dumbledore being emo, it's so one note) and blaming it all on herself and Dumbledore. Dumbledore says that prophecies are strange and vague and unhelpful, essentially.
Harry talks about his friends being targeted and he wants to know the prophecy, especially since Voldemort knows it and he doesn't. Dumbledore looks at McG and she is all "nope, I didn't tell him that the Dark Lord knows." Dumbledore is all "well, him knowing only brought him harm, so think about THAT" and I am all, dude, come on, now is time to fess up.
"Yes, Headmaster, I do understand that. My home culture also has a literary tradition of self-fulfilling and misinterpreted prophecies. I'll interpret with caution, rest assured. But I've already guessed quite a bit. Is it safer for me to work from partial guesses?"
Heeee. Eventually Dumbledore gives McG permission to tell it, and Snape also chimes in. .
"Actually, hold on, can you write that down? I need to analyze this carefully -"
"Let's see..." Harry said. "I'm male and born on July 31st, check. I did in fact vanquish the Dark Lord, check. Ambiguous pronoun in line two... but I wasn't born yet so it's hard to see how my parents could have thrice defied me. This scar is an obvious candidate for the mark..." Harry touched his forehead. "Then there's the power the Dark Lord knows not, which probably refers to my scientific background -"
Snape disagrees-- Voldemort could just read science textbooks too, ya know. But it should be something he's like, never heard of. Like scientific thinking, Harry suggests. There's some debate on that. Also, how do we know Voldemort is alive anyway? Maybe the prophecy is already over? If he survived, he's the most likely suspect for the Azkaban breakout.
"You could even say that the Azkaban breakout is Bayesian evidence for the Dark Lord surviving, because an Azkaban breakout is more likely to happen in worlds where he's alive than worlds where he's dead. But it's not strong Bayesian evidence. It's not something that can't possibly happen unless the Dark Lord is alive."
And at this point I'm quietly snickering to myself.
Anyway, Harry cites Quirrell as thinking some other wizard might want Bellatrix for her knowledge, and someone surviving bodily death isn't all that likely, so it's not enough Bayesian evidence about him being alive. Snape grumbles if the prophecy was fulfilled, he'd know because then he'd freaking understand it. Harry has no idea what to do with that. Dumbledore says that here are resurrection rituals, but SOMEHOW nobody can find those books, so it was probably proof that Voldemort has it. Uh-huh. I think at this point I am sick of trying to recap nitpicking about probabilities. But hey, there could always be someone else on it. Like, gee, the Defense Professor, because every year it's the Defense Professor. Harry *cough* would like to move on from that please. Dumbledore vouches for the accuracy of that prophecy and where it's recorded, and of course Harry wants to check it. After Dumbledore says it's unwise, Harry just takes it as "assumed accurate for now."
Anyone know what "his equal" means? Nope.
"I'm not dumb, Headmaster. Muggles have worked out a thing or two about temporal paradoxes, even if it's all theoretical to them. I won't throw away my ethics just because a signal from the future claims it's going to happen, because then that becomes the only reason why it happened in the first place."
Harry posits that having the same wand, being a Parselmouth, and the prophecy seem like a lot of coincidence. Could some of his powers have transferred over with the scar?
"Meh," said Harry, still looking meditatively at his wand. "I'd fight the Dark Lord without any magic at all, if I had to. Homo sapiens didn't become the dominant species on this planet by having the sharpest claws or hardest armor - though I suppose some of that point may be lost on wizards. Still, it's beneath my dignity as a human being to be scared of anything that isn't smarter than I am; and from what I've heard, on that particular dimension the Dark Lord wasn't very scary."
The Potions Master spoke, his voice taking on some of his customary contemptuous drawl. "You imagine yourself more intelligent than the Dark Lord, Potter?"
"Yes, in fact," said Harry, pulling back the left sleeve of his robes, and rolling up the shirtsleeve beneath to expose the bare elbow. "Oh, that reminds me! Let's make sure nobody here has the clearly visible tattoo in the standard, easily checkable location which would mark them as a secret enemy spy."
*dies laughing* I'm just going to quote the rest of it for funsies.
"Tell me, Harry," Albus said, "how would you have crafted the Dark Mark?"
"Nonstandard locations," Harry said promptly, "not easily found without embarrassment and fuss, though of course any security-conscious person would check anyway. Make it smaller, if possible. Overlay another non-magical tattoo to obscure the exact shape - better yet, cover it with a layer of fake skin -"
"Cunning indeed," Albus said. "But tell me, suppose you could craft any conditions you wished into the Mark, fading it or raising it as you wished. What would you do then?"
"Make it completely invisible at all times," Harry said in tones of stating the obvious. "You don't want there to be any detectable difference between a spy and a non-spy."
"Suppose you are more cunning still," Albus said. "You are a master of trickery, a master of deception, and you employ your abilities to the fullest."
"Well -" The boy stopped, frowning. "It seems unnecessarily complicated, more like a tactic a villain would use in a role-playing game than something you'd try in a real-life war. But I suppose you could put fake Dark Marks on people who aren't really Death Eaters, and keep the Dark Marks on the real Death Eaters invisible. But then there's the question of why people would start believing in the first place that the Dark Mark identified a Death Eater... I'd have to think about it for at least five minutes, if I were going to take the problem seriously."
Dumbledore is all, "I tried stuff like this. The only reason the Order survived is because Mad-Eye didn't trust those bare arms." Anyway, nobody exactly knows how it works and Snape can't tell them because of bindings.
Wait a minute, Harry's just finding out now that Snape is/was a Death Eater? What?
Okay, now he comes up with a fun way to test this:
"You say someone with the Dark Mark can't reveal its secrets to anyone who doesn't already know them. So to find out how the Dark Mark operates, write down every way you can imagine the Dark Mark might work, then watch Professor Snape try to tell each of those things to a confederate - maybe one who doesn't know what the experiment is about - I'll explain binary search later so that you can play Twenty Questions to narrow things down - and whatever he can't say out loud is true. His silence would be something that behaves differently in the presence of true statements about the Mark, versus false statements, you see."
Oh, come on, I'd love to see them try this. But nooooo, Snape isn't down with that.
"Headmaster, I can now speak freely of the Mark. If we know we are caught for a Death Eater, before others who have not yet seen our bare arms, our Mark reveals itself whether we will it or no. But if they have already seen our arms bare, it does not reveal itself; nor if we are only being tested from suspicion. Thus the Dark Mark seems to identify Death Eaters - but only those already found, you perceive."
"Ah..." Albus said. "Thank you, Severus." He closed his eyes briefly. "That would indeed explain why Black escaped even Peter's notice... ah, well. And Harry's proposed test?"
The Potions Master shook his head. "The Dark Lord was no fool, despite Potter's delusions. The moment such a test is suspected, the Mark ceases to bind our tongues. Yet I could not hint at the possibility, but only wait for another to deduce it." Another thin smile. "I would award you a good many House points, Mr. Potter, if it would not compromise my cover."
Huh. Harry then basically debates whether or not Voldemort is his intellectual equal.
"Darn it, how can I explain this? I suppose, from your perspective, the Dark Lord came up with a clever puzzle and I cleverly solved it and that makes us look equal."
"I remember your first day of Potions class," the Potions Master said dryly. "I think you have a ways still to go."
Dumbledore wants to know why Harry thinks he's better than Voldemort in cunning. Harry can't explain stuff like oh, the break-in, or there being no such thing as souls, and that the Wizengamot is a bunch of maroons.
"The obvious takeover route would be to Imperius the Minister of Magic and a few department heads, and owl a hand grenade to anyone too powerful to Imperius. Or owl them knockout gas, if you needed them alive and in a state of Living Death to take hairs for Polyjuice potions. Legilimency, False Memories, the Confundus Charm - it was ridiculous, the magical world was supersaturated with ways to cheat. Harry might not do any of those things himself, during his own takeover of Britain, since he was constrained by Ethics... well, Harry might do some of the lesser ones, since Polyjuice or a temporary Confundus or read-only Legilimency all sounded better than an extra day of Azkaban... but...
If Harry hadn't been constrained by Ethics, it was possible he could've wiped out the eviller sections of the Wizengamot that day; all by himself, using only a first-year's magical power, on account of being clever enough to figure out Dementors. Though Harry might not have been in such a great political position after that, the surviving Wizengamot members might've found it easy and cheap to disavow his actions for P.R. purposes and condemn him, even if the smarter ones realized it was for the greater good... but still.
If you were completely unrestrained by ethics, armed with the ancient secrets of Salazar Slytherin, had dozens of powerful followers including Lucius Malfoy, and it took you more than ten years to fail to overthrow the government of magical Britain, it meant you were stupid."
I am trying to not laugh hard in public right now at this. Harry finally says that everyone would be dead if Voldemort was smart on top of evil, which upsets them because they're all "everyone nearly did die." Um, sorry.
"All that isn't on remotely the same threat scale as the enemy being smart, in which case they Transfigure botulinum toxin and sneak a millionth of a gram into your teacup."
I suppose we should all be grateful Voldemort doesn't have any brains. Anyway, McG keeps insisting that Harry regard ol' Voldie as more dangerous than Transfiguration. This makes Snape snicker to himself in the corner. Okay, I'll do that, just give me five minutes to think about it.
"His Ravenclaw side divided into three."
OH JEEBUS NOOOOOOOOOOOO I CAN'T RECAP ALL OF THIS ARGUMENT. I cannot imagine what the hell the author has going through his brain every night as he goes to sleep. It must be a trainwreck of massive confusion in there. How does he ever sleep? And if he does, his dreams must be freak-ay.
Harry notes his compulsive need to think of all of the creative ways one could kill people with first year Charms and Potions.
"He hadn't been able to help himself. Literally. He'd tried to stop his brain from doing it each time, but it was like looking at a fish and trying to stop your brain from noticing it was a fish."
Harry Potter-Evans-Verres, budding killer in the making.
"The question was whether there was a significant probability of facing anything so terrible as a Dark Rationalist in the first place."
Besides yourself? Sure, why not. Anyway, there's a lot more debate about the intelligence of Voldemort that I am still not gonna recap.
"...well, one thing at least was certain.
If the calculation could be done at all, it was going to take a piece of paper and a pencil."
The giant amount of thinking is broken up by the arrival of Mad-Eye, or so they presume. The author takes a break to cut to-
Back in the Great Hall during dinner, Dean and Seamus are moping about their loss of innocence at the hands of Harry Potter-Evans-Verres, essentially. The girls at the Gryffindor table are yakking about a love triangle and does Malfoy count if he doesn't love anybody in it or vice versa. Finally some random girl thinks that all three of them were romantically MFEO.
POLY THREESOMES AT HOGWARTS HOLLA!
I can't stop snickering at this stuff. Dean Thomas just lost his lemonade down his shirt.
"Look, you all, we need to keep this realistic," said Eloise Rosen, a tall witch who'd been General of an army and hence spoke with an air of authority. "We know - because she kissed him - that Granger was in love with Potter. So the only reason she'd try to kill Malfoy is if she knew that she was losing Potter to him. There's no need to make it all sound so complicated - you're all acting like this is a play instead of real life!"
Real life? Since when? Anyway, some other girl thinks there's more to it than that, and Dean finally starts yelling that Harry told them all that-
"if you didn't predict that something would happen, if it took you completely by surprise, then what you believed about the world when you didn't see it coming, isn't enough to explain..."
Nobody's listening, and Dean realizes it's hopeless. Lavender wonders how he ever made Lieutenant.
"Oh, you two be quiet!" Sherice snapped at them. "It's obvious you both want the three of them for yourselves!"
POLY FIVESOMES AT HOGWARTS HOLLA! This is delightful.
Then a few other kids (I'm not bothering to keep track of all the noobs mentioned in this chapter) start positing that someone DID put Hermione up to this and make her do it. And that person could be...TRACEY! Well, the girl is nuts. Hey, why not.
Dean, Lavender, and Seamus mutter to themselves that they too could have been this nuts once upon a time without Chaos training. Thank god they're sane now!
Hypothesis: G. L. (April 8th, 1992, 8:08pm)
Who the hell is GL?
Harry meets Mad-Eye for the first time. Dude looks messed up. Mad-Eye asks if the room is secure, Dumbledore is all "we're all friends here" and Moody is all "even HIM?"
"If Harry Potter is not our friend," Dumbledore said gravely, "then we are all certainly doomed; so we may as well assume that he is."
The man's wand stayed level, not quite pointing at Harry. "Boy almost drew on me just then."
"Er..." Harry said. He noticed that his hand was still tightly holding the wand, and consciously relaxed his hand and dropped it back to his side. "Sorry about that, you looked a bit... combat-ready."
"The scarred man's wand moved slightly away from where it had almost pointed at Harry, though it didn't lower, and the man let out a short bark of laughter. "Constant vigilance, eh, lad?" said the man.
"It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you," Harry recited the proverb.
The man turned fully toward Harry; and insofar as Harry could read any expression on the scarred face, the man now looked interested."
OOOOOOOOOOOH. Dumbledore actually perks up a bit here, introduces Moody as his 2nd-in-command and he thinks these two will get along fantastically. Mad-Eye is all "Heard they're calling you the Dementor Spooker, in the Department." That's accurate. Harry smiles "knowingly" in return. How'd you do it? The hard way...or maybe he's just lying. Anyhoo, Mad-Eye is on the hunt for whoever Voldemort was possessing before he took over Hermione.
"So the obvious question is who's gained too much power too quickly," Moody said abruptly. "And it turns out that there's a fellow who's gone and banished the Bandon Banshee, staked an entire rogue vampire clan in Asia, tracked down the Wagga-Wagga Werewolf, and exterminated a pack of ghouls using a tea-strainer. And he's milking it for all it's worth; there's been talk of the Order of Merlin. Seems to have turned into a charmer and a politician, not just a powerful wizard."
"Dear me," murmured Dumbledore. "Are you certain that he is not relying on his own skills?"
"Checked his grades," Moody said. "Record shows Gilderoy Lockhart received a Troll in his Defense O.W.L.S., didn't bother with the N.E.W.T. Just the sort of sucker to take the deal Voldie was offering." The blue eye whirled crazily within its socket. "Unless you remember Lockhart as a student, and think he had enough potential to do all that by himself?"
"No," said Professor McGonagall. She frowned. "Not a chance, I should say."
"I fear I must agree," Dumbledore said with an undertone of pain. "Ah, Gilderoy, you poor fool..."
Harry's not entirely convinced about this, which annoys Mad-Eye.. Maybe Lockhart's an innocent?
"Aurors hurt people," the scarred man said shortly. "Bad people, if you're lucky. Some days you won't be lucky, and that's all there is to it. Just remember, Dark Wizards hurt a lot more people than we do."
That's cheerful. As Mad-Eye continues to disagree, he grumbles about a first year being allowed in this room. Dumbledore basically says Harry is super awesome, and Mad-Eye calls him a naïve liability with no clue about war, so let's get him the hell out and wipe his memories before the bad guys get him.
So much for liking Harry right off the bat.
Harry announces that he's an Occulmens, and then Moody ATTACKS! Harry is out of practice. Ruh-roh. Duly noted. No credit for supposedly being an Occulmens after all.
Moody makes him the same offer he makes to all his trainees: hit me with one spell and you can mouth off to me. McG thinks that's unfair given Moody's hundred years of fighting experience. But of course this Harry is so perfect that doesn't faze him. Let's go!
And here's where it gets weird and confusing.
Harry wakes up to only find Dumbledore and a headache. But oh wait, it was all part of Harry's fiendish evil plan. As he puts on his Cloak...
Cut back in time to everyone watching as Harry immediately falls over and gives Snape a laugh. Mad-Eye thinks it'd be fun to give Harry another scar to remember him by (O RLY?), but Dumbledore stops him. Crashing ensues.
Cut to Harry and Dumbledore in the future, with Harry getting up off the floor while invisible and grumbling about Mad-Eye's reaction time and speed.
Uh...I'm really not at all sure how to recap what is going on here, but there seems to be some back and forthing going on.
Cut to the original scene, of Harry pulling the hood off his cloak and noting that The Eye sees through the cloak and everything else he's been trying with the Time-Turner. So much for showing off. Mad-Eye has encountered this sort of thing before. And yet, Harry somehow manages to best him ANYWAY. I suspect with one of those random curveball shots out of the Wanted movie. Huh? Dude, maybe you are just too perfect.
In the end, Harry tells Mad-Eye he went to Quirrell (who *cough*wasn't available*cough*), then to Flitwick to get a specialized charm to make a lot of shapes that only Mad-Eye could see. And then got Flitwick to show him a "Swerving Stunner" hex on top of that.
How'd you do the impossible? Well, neither of us were fighting SERIOUSLY, of course... which is to say, to the death. I think.
"Wizards are used to duels where people fight back and forth with spells for a while. But if two Muggles with guns stand in a small room and fire bullets at each other... then whoever hits first, wins."
Wizard roulette = not the same.
At this point even I think I am hitting my limit on how much Harry is smarter than everyone else on the planet and showing off. And recapping it. Anyway, now that Harry has earned the right to mouth off, he says that he thinks Lockhart is innocent, so try not to hurt him, please. If I can, Mad-Eye says.
End of the "GL" (Lockhart) hypothesis. On to Dumbledore's....
Cut to "Quirrell" drinking tea a little more sloppily than usual, which Harry notes. How are they back together in his office again?!?!
They agree that "insanity can be a signature all its own." Harry seems to doubt whether or not Dumbledore is the bad guy here. Quirrell says he has too many purposes, so who knows which one he might be basing his actions on. Harry really doubts Dumbledore would plot to send a kid to Azkaban, which is...well, a change from Harry's usual. I guess he's decided Emo Dumbledore is too emo for that.
"Quirrell" says: "If he must, in some sufficiently noble cause, sacrifice a student - why, who would he choose, but she who declared herself a heroine?"
Well, maaaaaybe.... Anyway, "Quirrell" posits that Dumbledore might be the bad guy, or Snape, though he doesn't seem to have a motive.
"The Aurors have a rule," said Professor Quirrell. "Investigate the victim. Many would-be criminals imagine that if they are the apparent victims of a crime, they shall not be suspected. So many criminals imagine it, indeed, that every senior Auror has seen it a dozen times over."
Then they start debating other professors as the culprit It could be possible that an outsider did it, he just doesn't quite think it's Lucius--especially when he was refusing tons of money for Hermione's life.
Who's the final suspect? "Quirrell" brings up the Trelawney prophecy,
"Oh, that prophecy," Harry said. "Sorry! It went clear out of my mind."
"More than the question of whom the prophecy spoke - who was meant to hear it? It is said that fates are spoken to those with the power to cause them or avert them. Dumbledore. Myself. You. As a distant fourth, Severus Snape. But of those four, Dumbledore and Snape would often be in Trelawney's presence. You and I are the ones who would not have spent much time around her before that Sunday. I think it quite likely that the prophecy was meant for one of us - before Dumbledore took the prophetess away. Did the Headmaster say nothing more to you?" Professor Quirrell's voice was demanding now. "I thought I heard too much force in that denial, Mr. Potter."
"Honestly, no," Harry said. "It had honestly slipped clear out of my mind."
"Then I am rather put out with him," Professor Quirrell said softly. "In fact, I think that I am angry."
Well, yeah. "Quirrell" dismisses Harry, but Harry asks about one other suspect not on the list.
"As for that suspect," the Defense Professor said softly, "I think you shall prosecute him on your own, Mr. Potter, without help from me. I have heard such requests before, and experience leads me to refuse. Either I will do too good a job of prosecuting myself, and convince you that I am guilty - or else you will decide that my prosecution was too half-hearted, and that I am guilty. I will remark only this in my defense - that I would have needed a very good reason indeed to jeopardize your fragile alliance with the heir to House Malfoy."
So let's go on to...
Hypothesis: The Defense Professor (April 8th, 1992, 8:37pm)
Cut to Dumbledore, McG, Snape, Mad-Eye and Harry (and all the hidden versions of Harry somewhere) again, and Dumbledore telling Mad-Eye that he promised he wouldn't try to figure out who the Defense Professor actually is, and Mad-Eye calling that a fool promise.
"And Minerva made it clear to me that Hogwarts required a competent Defense Professor this year, even if I had to haul Grindelwald out of Nurmengard and prevail on old affections to persuade him to take the position."
Old affections? Hubba hubba... erm, I'm sure that would have gone well....
"The sad thing was that by this point, having his own body visibly lying in a corner didn't seem all that crazy. It was just... Hogwarts."
Mad-Eye opens Amelia's report of who "Quirrell" is. A seemingly ordinary student who went vacationing in Albania after graduation, disappeared, returned after 25 years and got caught up in the Wizarding War.
"It was murdering the House of Monroe that made Voldie's name," Moody said. "Until then, he was just another Dark Wizard with delusions of grandeur and Bellatrix Black. But after that -" Moody snorted. "Every fool in the country flocked to serve him. You would've hoped the Wizengamot would turn serious, once they realized Voldie was willing to kill their own sacred selves. And that's just what the bastards did - hope that some other bastard would turn serious. None of the cowards wanted to step in front. It was Monroe, Crouch, Bones, and Longbottom. That was nearly everyone in the Ministry who'd dare say a word that might give Voldie offense."
"That was how your House came to be ennobled, Mr. Potter," injected the solemn voice of Professor McGonagall. "There is an ancient law that if anyone ends a Most Ancient House, whoever avenges that blood will be made Noble. To be sure, the House of Potter was already older than some lines called Ancient. But yours was titled a Noble House of Britain after the end of the war, in recognition that you had avenged the Most Ancient House of Monroe."
"Flush of gratitude and all that," Mad-Eye Moody said sourly. "It didn't last, but at least James and Lily got a fancy title and a useless medal to take to their graves. But that's leaving out eight years of complete horror after Monroe disappeared and Regulus Black - he was Monroe's private source in the Death Eaters, we're pretty sure - was executed by Voldie. Like a dam breaking and gore flooding out, drowning the whole country. Albus bloody Dumbledore himself had to step into Monroe's shoes, and that was barely enough for us to survive."
Harry thinks this sounds partially right.... but who does he think it is? Oh, Harry:
"The obvious next thought is that this 'David Monroe' person died in the war after all, and this is just someone else pretending to be David Monroe pretending to be Quirinus Quirrell."
"That's obvious? " said Professor McGonagall. "Dear Merlin..."
"Really, boy?" said Mad-Eye Moody, his blue eye spinning rapidly. "I'd say that's a little... paranoid."
Pot meet kettle on that one, bro. Either that or "When Mad-Eye Moody thinks you're too paranoid...." Times like this, it's getting a little too fanficcy around here.
You don't know Professor Quirrell, Harry did not say. "It's an easy theory to test," Harry said out loud. "Just check whether the Defense Professor remembers something about the war that the real David Monroe would've known. Though I suppose, if he's playing the part of David Monroe pretending to be someone else, he has a good excuse to pretend he's pretending he doesn't know what you're talking about -"
"A little paranoid," said the scarred man, his voice rising. "Not paranoid enough! CONSTANT VIGILANCE! Think about it, lad - what if the real David Monroe never came back from Albania?"
There was a pause.
"I see..." Harry said.
"Of course you do," Professor McGonagall said. "Don't mind me, please. I'll just sit here quietly going mad."
Me too, McG.
Mad-Eye grumbles about the Dark Wizards that change their names a lot, and "Monroe" was very good at offing Death Eaters. Which by all means made him the enemy of them, right? But why is he back now?
"He, ah..." Harry ventured tentatively. "He says he always wanted to be a great Defense Professor because all the best fighting wizards have taught at Hogwarts. And he kind of is being an incredibly good Defense Professor, actually... I mean, if he just wanted to keep up a disguise, he could get away with much sloppier work..."
Professor McGonagall was nodding firmly.
"Naive," Moody said flatly. "I suppose you all haven't wondered if your Defense Professor set up the whole House of Monroe to be wiped out?"
Oh goody, now we can discuss paranoia all over again.
It is kind of obvious, though, observed his Slytherin part. I mean, do you actually believe that under natural circumstances, anyone would end up as the last heir to a Most Ancient House AND Lord Voldemort killed his family AND he has to avenge his martial arts sensei? If anything I'd say he went too far over the top in setting up his new identity as the ideal literary hero. That sort of thing doesn't happen in real life.
This from an orphan who was raised unaware of his heritage, commented Harry's Inner Critic. With a prophecy about him. You know, I don't think we've ever read a story about two equally destined heroes competing to see who's cliched enough to take down the villain -
Yes, replied the central Harry over the distant vroop-ing noise in the background, it's a very sad life we lead and YOU'RE NOT HELPING.
OH BEJEEBUS MAKE IT STOP even though that bit's a bit funny.
Anyway, Mad-Eye always wants the Defense Professor fired and grumbles that the only way the rest of them would want to let him go is if he was Grindelwald in disguise. (He's not. They checked.) McG points out that "Quirrell" has a health problem that would probably save them from having to fire him. Mad-Eye thinks that's a dark ritual gone wrong. Harry asked about the use of the Killing Curse, i.e. turns out you don't have to be evil to use it. "All it takes is power and a certain mood." The reason it works is that it strikes directly at the soul, and it just keeps going through EVERYTHING until it hits one. Ouch! Also, you have to really, really want them dead, not just "for the greater good" either. Ruh-roh... Harry wonders about his mom trying to cast one.
Mad-Eye thinks all the problems will go away with the Defense Professor. Will he teach instead if that happens?
"Ha!" said Moody. "If I ever say yes to that question, check me for Polyjuice, because it's not me."
Harry says he'll test it experimentally, but whoever he is, he did save Harry's life twice.
"If the Defense Professor isn't behind it all - he's not someone we can afford to just get rid of."
Cut to Harry and McGonagall talking privately. Harry asks who her first loyalty would be to: Hermione or Dumbledore. Uh....ouch. She doesn't really know the answer to that one and can't guess ahead of time either.
"In a moral dilemma where you lost something either way, making the choice would feel bad either way, so you could temporarily save yourself a little mental pain by refusing to decide. At the cost of not being able to plan anything in advance, and at the cost of incurring a huge bias toward inaction or waiting until too late... but you couldn't expect a witch to know all that."
Well, that's a good point. Anyway, Harry is disappointed that there's no one adult to take Hermione's side. McG wants to know why Harry wanted her to watch Snape, and Harry says he can't say why. What has she observed?
"Mr. Potter, have you read many books that young children are not meant to read?"
"I've read all of them."
"Of course you have."
Okay, anyway, there's always some kind of pervy girl giving him the eye in school, except now he's...well, he's not giving them the eye back, but.... he's noticing. And that makes McG thinks that Snape's loyalty to Dumbledore might have broken. Over hormones?
"Snape and Dumbledore? " Then Harry heard the words that had just come out of his mouth, and hastily added, "Not that there's anything wrong with that -"
"No!" said Professor McGonagall. "Oh, for pity's sake - I can't explain it to you, Mr. Potter!"
The other shoe finally dropped.
He was still in love with my mother?
This seemed somewhere between beautifully sad, and pathetic, for around five seconds before the third shoe dropped.
Of course, that was before I gave him my helpful relationship advice.
"I see," Harry said carefully after a few moments. There were times when saying 'Oops' didn't fully cover it. "You're right, that's not a good sign."
Professor McGonagall put both hands over her face. "Whatever you're thinking right now," she said in a slightly muffled voice, "which I assure you is also wrong, I don't want to hear about it, ever."
"So..." Harry said. "If, like you said, the bond that held Professor Snape to the Headmaster has broken... what would he do then?"
McG doesn't know, and gives up. End of conversation.
Next day in Potions class, Harry gets told to stay after--because Snape ruined his potion deliberately. Don't worry, it won't be reflected in your grades. Oh goody, more emo time. Snape wants to know what Harry remembers about his parents' deaths. Harry doesn't really want to answer that one, and asks about the prophecy instead. McG was holding interviews for teaching positions and Snape and Trelawney were in line...at which point Snape fled immediately to the Dark Lord.
"Seers are the pawns of time, Mr. Potter. Coincidence is beneath them, and they are above it."
Anyway, Snape tattled to Voldemort and got adopted into the Death Eaters, and Harry starts telling the gory story.
"She died... Lily died without pain, then? The Dark Lord... did not do anything to her, before she died?"
She died thinking that she'd failed, and that the Dark Lord was going to kill her baby next. That's pain.
"He - the Dark Lord didn't torture her -" Harry said. "If that's what you're asking."
Behind Harry, the door unlocked itself and swung open.
It was Friday, April 10th, of 1992.
Oh god, I don't even know what to make of this chapter. Too much information, too many headaches...three and a half stars...well, I give some big credit to outing "David Monroe," whoever that is.
(I have read the sequel to this, The Lottery Winner, previously. Hoo boy, is this ever a different tone...but I'll update thoughts to that over at that review.)
Actress Elizabeth Lange is still reeling from the death of her sister (and fellow actress) Leila LaSalle, who was thrown off of a balcony to her death. Leila's fiancé, rich and handsome Ted Winters, is going to be on trial for the crime soon and Elizabeth will be testifying to hearing the two arguing in a phone call in the last time she heard from Leila right before her death. Elizabeth thought Ted was a great guy before, but under the circumstances of what she heard, she's pretty convinced he must have done it. Leila was in an incredibly bad mood and throwing temper tantrums and screaming at Ted and chucking her ring at him in public that night, after all.
As the trial date comes up, she's advised to well, stay out of sight (there's a remark along the lines of "if this was a mob trial I'd have you in hiding"). But nope, instead Elizabeth goes off to the Cypress Point Spa, run by family friend and Leila's former employer Baroness Min von Schreiber. Elizabeth reasonably suspects that Min and her husband Helmut are going to plead with her to back down on her story because they think Ted is innocent--but when she finds out that her sister's former assistant Dora "Sammy" Samuels has some poison pen letters Leila was mailed, she goes down there to talk to Sammy about it.
Plenty of guests are hanging around the hotel this week, including (dum dum dum...)
The aforementioned Ted Winters, who's attempting to relax one last time while working on his defense strategy,
His lawyer Henry Bartlett, supposedly the best defense lawyer ever, who Ted doesn't get along with and vice versa. I think it's pretty telling that Henry keeps insisting on calling Ted "Teddy", even after Ted explains in great grueling detail why he does. not. want. to. be. called. that (it's what they called his dead son). Yikes, dude.
Ted's second in command, Craig, who introduced him and Leila in the first place...when Leila was his date. Awkward. Ted's feeling cranky around Craig these days too as he's about to lose his autonomy.
Syd, Leila's former agent who's in dire financial straits and REALLY hoping the deal with his current client goes through,
Cheryl, a rival actress who is super desperate to get into Ted's pants even though he's not interested, and is happily resorting to threats and blackmail to get her way about things.
Alvirah Meehan, a cleaning woman turned recent winner of $40 million in the lottery. She's been secretly hired to write an article on the spa by a newspaper editor, who's provided her with a tape-recording sunburst pin that she wears and fiddles with constantly. Alvirah finds there's a lot more going on than just classes and massages, and starts investigating all the drama.
Naturally, it's totally awkward and uncomfortable for Elizabeth to keep running into Ted around this place--pretty much to the point where normal non-fictional people would be all "Um, yeah, I think normally someone would leave here." But they don't because this is kinda Agatha Christie-ish. Anyway, we find out that Ted himself doesn't remember the murder at all for some reason and has no bloody idea if he did it or not, but he keeps finding people who have more and more damning sighting evidence against him. Suffice it to say it's in doubt for well, everybody as to whodunit for awhile. But after attempted murder and death goes down, it's up to Elizabeth to figure out whodunit, and who's still doing it at this supposedly peaceful spa. What the heck was Helmut secretly up to? Was Min up to anything? What does the word "voices" mean as a clue?
Anyway...it was an interesting read, albeit kinda weak in pieces and a bit heavy-handed in others, and on well, the logic of these folks hanging around each other for so long. And one other thing I'll mention below the spoiler cut.* Who the detective in this book is is split in half between Elizabeth and the newbie Almirah, which is...an interesting writing decision, I suppose. Kind of a weird narrative choice, especially when things come down to the end and the author had to decide who was doing the investigating here. I did finally guess who the killer was, so good for me there. Reading the sequel first definitely gave me an odder/less good impression of the people in this book compared to that one. Huh.
Three stars. I have a bit of other spoiler talk below the cut as well.
"Sometimes there isn't one big bad wolf to kill. Sometimes, it's all the little things in life that build up." -Karen
This is the sequel to Nobody's Damsel, picking up where the previous book left off. (It also takes place around the same time as another spinoff book, A Safe Space, which I haven't read yet.) Chloe and the APD are still desperately looking for Carl Eisner, the murderer from the previous book who's turned out to be excellent at disappearing. Weeks go by with no hope of catching this dude, which ties into Chloe's feelings in the previous book about what it's like to stick with a job like this.
Jason is still doing guest stints on Blood Ritual, in which he plays the father of the abducted girl who ah...now is getting romantically involved with Vicki's detective character. Fun. But what's even more peachy is that each episode of the show is now turning up with crime details from the Eisner murders and other cases the APD are working on that aren't public knowledge. Chloe is of course suspected, so she has to attempt to use her contacts with the show to find out where they are getting these details or if it's just a coincidence. This is hard to do when everyone is being surly and cranky and Kenji the showrunner (also Vicki's very beleaguered boyfriend) keeps hanging up on her. And due to the nature of television production, so many hands are in the product that it seems nigh impossible to figure out where one person may be leaking when one day it's a scarily exact script and another day it's a scarily exact crime scene.
At work, Jason's having more Vicki issues--she has a very personal secret that she told Jason but refuses to tell Kenji, and it appears to be ruining her relationship with him. Vicki and Kenji are having screaming fights and yelling at Chloe when she calls about work issues. Jason is kind of moody in general at the moment, which quietly freaks Chloe out because unlike his relatives, she could very well be disposable family. She's feeling insecure about her former virgin status and wondering if she can pull off "wife and mistress" at once and if she's just the boring safe choice. However, Jason is Jason and he eventually fesses up to what's bothering him, and draws a line with Vicki.
As for family drama, Chloe has some interesting discussions with her mom (Karen) in this one--her mom has the experience to say that Jason ISN'T cheating on her with Vicki ("a cheater would give an excuse"), and gives her insight into why she was in the relationship she was in with Chloe's dad back in the day. Both of them used each other as a vacation from their regular lives and money worries, apparently, which leads Chloe to realize that she has the ability to help her mother out in ways she'd like. There's also some stuff going on with sister Beth behind the scenes, and not just the part where Chloe had Beth help her out by having the DA's office lean on the annoying detective working on the Eisner case, but I'll leave that below the spoiler cut.*
Chloe ends up giving out a LOT of relationship advice in this one, as there's a lot of couples having issues:
Her mom is in a stable relationship in North Dakota and in a boring day job, but she's very ho-hum at having to pick out a new car with good gas mileage and can't decide whether or not she wants to settle down with her boyfriend ever since he proposed.
Her best friend Lori may have a kid with her guy Charles, and she may be engaged, but Charles is sounding incredibly ho-hum and obligated to marry her at this point and Lori isn't enthused at marrying a guy who isn't super into the idea.
There's Kenji and Vicki's tantrum-throwing, phone-hanging-up relationship, with Jason issues thrown in for fun.
And finally, there's the offscreen relationship between Lizzie and Devon from the spinoff book--Chloe and Devon bond over the strange experience of having a celebrity be there for them when their usual friends weren't.
Turns out Chloe is very good at giving down-to-earth practical advice, even when she's annoyed or downright ticked off at the dudes in particular (Charles is also rather grudge-y about Chloe having money).
The Blood Ritual drama keeps continuing, and Chloe keeps very slowly finding clues towards where the hell Carl Eisner has been....but it's taking a long ass time to find him and that's upsetting. And then the case starts spilling into her real life as her family and friends start being affected too--and even THAT makes it on Blood Ritual! Yikes. Brad the paparazzo is enlisted once again on that one.
Eventually Chloe realizes that she's had more involvement with the case than she thought. Taking off to LA and the show set, she's determined to figure it out once and for all, and it happens in a cool and satisfying way that I'll mention below the spoiler cut** Even Vicki and Kenji, who were driving both Chloe and me crazy all through the book, manage to pull their heads out of their asses enough to help her get to the bottom of this.
I'm going to give this one four stars. I really enjoyed the mystery aspect of this one in particular, and even though certain characters seem a bit repetitive in theme in this one, eventually heads are pulled out of asses and it's all good. Though I do worry a bit about the future of the series***.
"Much as Vicki irritated me, she also had a way of getting into my head and heart, playing my issues on the screen in a way that said she really did get it. For this reason, I could never hate her. I could be annoyed by her and even dislike her, but we'd always have this bond." -Chloe
"Chloe, I can't imagine what this is like for you." "Well, in my job I learn exactly what angle to strike someone on the head with a baseball bat to make blood splatter laterally along a wall. I can't imagine what that's like for you." -Jason and Chloe
"Jason's family members were out too. Not that they didn't care or they wouldn't be happy to help me out, but they had each told me in turn that Jason was "moody sometimes." It appeared that, whenever he got like this, they just kept their distance until he got over it, and that sort of strategy would of course work for blood family. It wasn't like he could decide his mother wasn't his mother any more or his twin was no longer his sister. I was in a different situation." -Chloe
"I have an amazing family, and because I pretend to be other people for a living, they're all in danger. I wish I'd taken a stage name. I really do." -Jason
"But I have the feeling you're about to do something interesting." "Why?" "Because you usually do every few months and it's been a few months." -Brad and Chloe
"I was never the one he was with by default. He had to choose to be with me every day." -Karen
"You know how I edged into your father's marriage? I listened to him." -Karen
"You are not the safe choice." "What, I'm dangerous?" "You do not give up your heart easily, and even once you do, you are ready to snatch it back if it gets mistreated. You're not safe at all." -Karen and Chloe
"It was just more exciting. Life was more exciting. I woke up every day not knowing what would happen next, and even when it was bad or scary or painful, the next day could be the opposite. I liked not knowing where I'd be ten years on, if that makes any sense. I liked living in the now. Being up here, with my savings account all set up and my own place, the same routine day in and day out...It feels like a part of me has died." -Karen
"Maybe I"m shallow. I just liked waking up some days and finding out I was getting my nails done or going on a trip to Mexico." -Karen
"Maybe my problem is that I don't go out and find adventures. I'm not hitchhiking across the US or on a deep-sea fishing boat in Alaska. I'm not going to live forever though, and I don't earn a whole lot of money, so I have to be boring, or else the end of my life is going to be exciting in all the wrong ways." -Karen
"My mother was doing well for herself, but her life was hard. It was a lot of work with little reward. She didn't follow her passion for a living; I suspected she didn't even know what her passion was." -Chloe
"Gifts had been breadcrumbs tossed from a better world. Money wasn't the solution to everything, but it made a lot of things in life easier." -Chloe
"You want the fairytale? You've gotta work for it--every day." -Chloe
"I'm going to stick around and hug her constantly and pester her the whole afternoon because she lets me do that now." -Jason
"I can't say I love having the world know that stuff, but I'm not ashamed of it either. There's no reason I should be." -Chloe
This is the sequel to Falling From The Sky and features Hank's aforementioned sister Stella and his best friend Bear. It takes place essentially before and after that book, with the first half of the book starting out on the weekend before Hank's accident* and then picking up months later after Hank has gotten together with Callie. While it's not bad and the characters are nice, the way the book was set up is kind of...well, it felt like it was missing a middle, I guess.
* In the previous book review, I made a comment thinking that something bad had happened to Hank in this book. No, it's just referring to Hank's original snowboarding accident.
In the first half of the book, we find out that Stella is also a professional snowboarder--something I pretty much had zero idea about from reading the previous book. Meanwhile, Hank's best friend Bear finds out that weekend that his competition career is essentially over- he's losing his sponsor and getting cut from the team because he's just not quite spectacular enough, especially during an Olympic year. He's feeling down and not wanting to be pitied and he has no idea what he's going to do with his life. Meanwhile, Stella has had a whopping crush/been secretly in love with him since about age eight when he was good to her as she was going through a bout of leukemia. She made a move at age sixteen and was brutally rebuffed since she was a kid/best friend's sister/boss's daughter.
You might guess-and you'd be right--that this all leads up to Stella finally getting her bear for the night, and then the next morning is ruined by the phone call notifying her of Hank's accident and Bear backing the hell outta there emotionally. Then the story cuts ahead to when Hank is enjoying life again, Bear has become a sports filmmaker trying to put together a video on a shoestring budget, and Stella is going back to competitions again. The cast and their other snowboarding buddies all go along on a film shoot to Alaska, where Stella very seriously debates whether or not to risk it all on tackling a super dangerous cliff and Bear angsts the hell out about it.
You know what? Stella and Bear are nice people--Stella's especially fun--but this plot literally feels half baked. The major emotional drama of why they can't be together is pretty much Bear's own angst about not being good enough to date a rich girl/boss's daughter, thinking she pity fucked him, blah de blahcakes. And well, duh, eventually he's gonna get over his shit. Stella has slightly less angst about it--the only angst she's got is that after cancer she's infertile and Bear might want kids someday. (Bear's reaction to this boils down to "hey, we're not planners, let's worry about it later and adoption exists, so no big." I have more commentary about this below the spoiler cut though.*) In short: the conflicts are pretty much everyone's inner drama that would all be resolved easily if folks just spit it out a bit, which eventually happens.
And I gotta say, I really hate that we are missing the middle of this story for these two. I really wondered what the heck was with Stella during the previous book, since she's not snowboarding or doing much of anything besides being cranky and doing business stuff she is not so much into. I thought this book might explain it, but NOPE. Did Stella quit snowboarding because of Hank's injury? Does his injury ever make her afraid to go snowboarding again? Did her parents demand that she quit after he got hurt? I have no idea how this affected her own career at all. And while I did like hearing Stella's very reasonable thought process on whether or not to attempt that slope in Alaska**, she never even thinks about what happened to Hank and how that could happen to her if she fucked up here. Really? Because I'm not even a winter sports person and daredevil or not, I can't imagine that wouldn't be up front in her brain on some level. Likewise, we don't really see Bear's professional transition so much. I just felt like we were missing a lot of story and character development by skipping ahead to "now that Hank has a happy ending, let's get these two back together!"
So...I'm going to give it three stars. It's a good read, but this isn't quite as developed as the author's other stories and it could have had a lot more potential, which made it feel like a slighter book to me.