Caleb Nova Presents His Own, Special READER–DESTROYING AUTHOR’S NOTE
Ah, welcome. Pull up a chair, though I imagine you’re already sitting in one. If not, I might wonder how you use your computer. I myself am lying on my bed with a laptop resting on my considerable girth.
In a few hours, the rest of the family will awaken and vacate the house, leaving me free to make nachos for breakfast. But before that happens, let us sit and chat, you and I. It will be a very one-sided conversation, I fear, at least until I can reply to the MANY REVIEWS you will no doubt lavish upon me.
Before we begin, you must understand that this will be the longest author’s note you’ve ever seen. And if not, then I have to ask what in the good goddamn hell have you been reading? I will expound at vast length on all aspects of this story. I will examine my writing in detail, display bits and bobs that were cut or simply never included, and make you severely disappointed in me when you realize just how shoddy of an enterprise this whole thing was.
The disappointment is easy enough to address, however — LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS. I won’t rise to meet them, so you should lower them. I think that makes sense.
If you found nothing of interest in any of my previous author’s notes (and I imagine that would be most, if not all, of you) then I suggest you cease reading at this point. We are going off the map, abandoning plot and character and all semblance of good taste. Here be dragons, my friends. Large, horny dragons that will have sex with you before you can even think about running away. And if that makes absolutely no sense at all, then get used to it. I have no idea what I’m doing, and I never have.
I began forming the ideas for this story in, oh, I’m going to guess the summer of ‘06. That could be entirely wrong, but you’ll never know the difference.
I had finished up my previous story, a romantic/horror/comedy called Tenebrae. I was flush with success: Tenebrae had the highest length to review ratio I’d ever achieved. I had managed to beat the crowd and write a defining story for the chosen pairing. I was the king of a very small, ultra-specific mountain.
I’m a writer, though, if not a good one. I have to write. So about the time I wrapped up Tenebrae I found myself window shopping for my next idea.
Now, I switch fandoms frequently. Too frequently, in fact, to stay inspired for long. For quite some time now I’ve been in the position of writing Harry Potter fanfiction but not actually reading any. But that summer, I had been going through the HP novels again. I went though some fanfiction as well and found a fair amount to my liking.
What struck me the most about Harry Potter fanfiction, however, was not so much the quality of the writing (it was generally high, as befitting a more adult fanbase, though not as dependable as the X-Files had been) as it was the number of reviews. I remember clicking through pages over at fanfiction dot net and doing a double take at a couple stories with 5000+ reviews. Five thousand! INSANITY.
For a guy with something around two hundred reviews on his largest story to date, that was temptation in its purest form.
So I did some thinking. I knew a lot of those stories with massive review counts were essentially what Tenebrae had been: fanservice. They appealed to the lowest common denominator and gave people what they wanted. Given the proper motivation (and those reviews were motivation indeed), I thought I could probably set my artistic suicidal inclinations aside and tap right into that well of reviews.
I considered one-shots, maybe a few chapters at most. Harry and Ginny romance, straight up, no frills. Sex, maybe (definitely). They love each other and they don’t know it, a comedy of errors, misunderstandings and missed opportunities, jealousy, and then the big climactic get together and hot sex. Review bait, in every sense of the word. Like literary candy.
But I knew I had a snag. A one-chapter story wouldn’t get the reviews I craved. Large review numbers require a base of readers, chiming in over a long period of time. I had to have a multi-chapter story. I had to make something big enough to be filling, even if it was pure sugar shit.
And there was the crux. Harry Potter couldn’t keep my attention that long, and I knew it. I’d run out of steam halfway through, maybe even a third of the way through, and my grand HP epic would join the ranks of the other stuff I started, or even posted, and then never finished.
I had to have a hook. Not for the readers, but for me.
I knew what I needed to do. The problem was that in order to keep myself involved with my story, I had to un-involve everyone else. Somewhere along the way, I became resigned to shooting myself in the literary foot.
I toyed with the idea of starting with the beginning, book one. But I quickly decided that was more than I wanted to deal with. It was a bit of a toss up between books five and six, but I chose the most recent one. I printed out a bunch of chapter outlines from the HP Lexicon and starting scribbling on them, crossing out things and adding tons of illegible notes. Predictably, much of what I ended up writing diverged considerably, but they helped me get started.
Scott had made a brief appearance in my story On Earth As It Is In Hell, but not in any solid capacity. He was just an idea, ghosting about the edges. Before that, I hadn’t really given much thought to using him or the very limited place that was his original world.
The story I ended up writing confounded many expectations, my own included. It was decompressed fanfic, sprawling and meandering and more concerned with character than forward momentum (ironic, considering the title). In that sense, it mirrored its source material. Book six is a good read, but it’s not exactly the most focused of the novels. As I was making my way through it, I came to realize that there actually isn’t a whole lot happening most of the time.
Many reviewers have commented how little TTM diverges from book six. Believe it or not, that was intentional. I’m sure you’ve noticed how often this story disappoints when it comes to expectations. Very, very few predictions made by readers ended up being correct. What you guys seem to think will change doesn’t, and what seems constant is altered.
Basically, I’ve written a story about an American exchange student who isn’t an American or an exchange student. It’s an alternate book six where the details shift, not the overarching plot. My all-powerful OC has abilities of limited usefulness and no grasp of magic. And the story never belongs to one person alone.
It’s not an easy fic. It’s long, it’s equally full of exposition and unanswered questions, and original characters share the page with the canon cast.
Essentially, I’m amazed you guys are still here.
Introducing Scott as a transfer student was a necessary evil, one that was increasingly downplayed in further rewrites. It was the most elegant solution to his problem of integration. It also sets off alarm bells for any experienced fanfiction reader. Between that and the sketchy information Scott was privy to, mostly concerning the Prophecy, I knew that it was deadly to bring it all up in the first chapter. No one was going to read my story.
But I had to. I felt it was the right thing to do. As a reader, you should know what you’re getting into. Nobody should get fifteen chapters into my story and then I suddenly introduce Scott. If you were in for this ride, you knew how it was going down. Right onward from the second chapter where it becomes clear that Scott is not a transfer student and this story is not what it appears to be.
By the time Lila gets chapter six all to herself, I think you guys were either in or out. Most people were out. So it can’t be overstated how grateful I am to those of you who stayed in.
Some quick thoughts on character, in no particular order:
Now I shall endeavour to bore you beyond all reason by going over each chapter in minor detail.
–Nothing Important Happened Today–
This chapter was originally chapter three, but after I cut out the prologues it had to stand alone as an introduction. It can be noted that the opening is very verbose, almost flowery. I’m about as descriptive as I ever get, and it’s a lot of images piled on top of each other.
That opening was worked on a great deal. It had to catch people’s attention, it had to be focused on Harry and explore a character familiar to new readers. I had to give you my best, right from page one, or not even the bravest fanfictionist would go any further.
Logistically, it’s not pretty. I have to introduce Harry (as he is at that moment, anyway), introduce Scott, hint at Scott’s true nature, bring Tonks in to show the Order’s interference, and then explain as much as I can with as little exposition as possible. Then Scott has to leave, which was originally much more dramatic, but I’ll cover that later when we discuss (or rather, I cut and paste and you skim through) what was removed.
It should be noted that the title for this chapter was taken from an X-Files episode, though somewhat unintentionally. I had known that was an episode but had forgotten about it by the time I started writing TTM. When it came time to name the first chapter I had that phrase stuck in my head and it seemed so perfect. At first I thought it had simply occurred to me, but it was a bit too familiar so I Googled it. Obviously, I used it anyway.
–Shape and Diverge–
Shape and Diverge and Summer Night Showtime were originally all one chapter, but I decided they were better separated.
The earlier versions of this chapter were complete shit. I just couldn’t get it right. Throwing Scott into Diagon Alley sounded fun but actually wasn’t. He could only walk around mocking things for so long. His interactions with Borgin were much different before the rewrite, something else for later. I changed all of that because it was pretty much out of character.
The scenes at the Burrow were difficult because it’s me taking a dry run at canon characterization. I have no body of experience to build on, just what I remember from the books. Consequently, I think they come across as a bit stilted, but hopefully recognizable.
Scott’s interference with Malfoy was something I struggled over a bit. I thought it might be too much too soon. But from a standpoint of in-universe logic and characterization, Scott had to do something. It wouldn’t make sense for him not to.
I seem to recall there was a small part where Scott’s introduction to the cabin of girls that Ginny is with ended with titters and the conversation turning to him. Some reviewers couldn’t stomach that, they thought it was very Mary Sue for him to be attractive to them. This was a misinterpretation of my intentions, since I wasn’t thinking that they were all swooning over him, but rather that he was a new kid with an American (or so they think) accent, so of course they’d talk about him as soon as he left. Besides, in my experience, girls of that age don’t need much encouragement to talk about boys. I took it out anyway.
–Summer Night Showtime–
This chapter is mostly notable for the introduction of Trevor and Kylie. As I’ve said before, the only reason they were created is because it seemed odd for Scott to be in a boat by himself. There was no overarching plan to the characters, nor did I really think they’d show up again, to be honest. I thought one original character was pushing it.
But OCs are easier to swallow as background characters. Trevor and Kylie gave me some more players in the supporting cast, and since I created them, I would have an easier time of characterization than trying to get a minor canon player like, say, Lavender Brown to act right.
It’s also notable as the chapter where I pussied out and didn’t write a song for the Sorting Hat.
This chapter used to go in a totally different direction under a totally different title. For those of you who never read the old version, when Snape attacks Scott in class, Scott reacts automatically with a leg sweep and knocks the wind right out of Snape. This ended with Scott being taken to the Headmaster’s office, and then having to explain things to Dumbledore. It also gained him some notoriety.
There were a few reasons this was all changed, but mostly because it was out of character. Scott has more control over his combat instincts than that, and he should know better than to attack a teacher on his first day, even in self-defense. It brought attention that he didn’t need.
Besides, I like the new scene much better. Scott’s bitingly sarcastic response when Snape knocks him down is just the essence of his character.
Figuring out the class schedule was a pain in the ass, especially because it’s never made clear in the books and JKR sometimes contradicts herself. I managed to hold it together for a few chapters, but later in the story I kind of gave up keeping the characters to a schedule.
The line, ‘a mystery as dark as Snape’s wardrobe’ still strikes me as amusing. Yes, I do amuse myself.
The Felix Felicis has some fairly major foreshadowing as well. It’s not often that I plan things well enough for that to work, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t here. The last line of the chapter worked much better when the prologues were still in use, but I was apparently feeling lazy, because I left it.
–Some Internal Bell–
It cannot be overstated what an unholy fackin’ nightmare this chapter was to write. And rewrite. And then write again, before rewriting it again. Six thousand, two hundred and seventy-one words of utter exposition. Not just a logistical difficulty, a logistical suicide. This is my overload approach to plotting, my very own Council of Elrond.
The interlude with the Sorting Hat gives us a brief respite, but it’s not enough. If I were to write this story all over again, I don’t think this chapter would exist. I’d just keep going, dropping small hints along the way and leaving you to puzzle it out. The problem with that is, Scott’s work can’t be just puzzled out. It’s not based in reality or logic. The only way you can understand this stuff and what he’s doing is if I tell you.
But I should have done it slowly.
–The Best Kinds of Monsters–
Up until Summer Was the Reason, this chapter held the dubious distinction of being quite possibly the least popular chapter in the story. It’s the full introduction for Scott’s previously mythical sister (note the way her name is never said until she introduces herself to Molly).
Lila has proven to be a (surprisingly) popular character, but this chapter was a mistake. Originally, it was intended to be the only view of this time period, and the Remember October, November? chapters would not exist. But upon completing this, I realized I had gone too long without POV from the canon cast.
The paragraph at the beginning about Lila’s breasts was slated to be cut out about a hundred times. I rewrote it, cut it down, and nearly cut it out. Even one of my beta readers was initially turned off by it, dismissing Lila as masturbatory fodder until she got further along and saw that Lila was in fact a full character.
The reason, and the only reason, that part was not removed was because of my stubborn, unyielding love for the punch line to the whole affair, delivered with great relish by Scott. Gigantos and Enormia. It’s stupid, and childish, and maybe not even funny, but goddamn if I don’t love that joke. So it stayed.
The long-term, deep insight into Lila’s character offered by this chapter would have been more welcome later in the story, I think, once you guys were familiar with her and came to like (or at least appreciate) who she was. I know some readers really liked this chapter, and really like Lila… but I wouldn’t do it again.
I kept meaning to address this in an author’s note, but consistently forgot. It’s been pointed out to me that Scott’s shortening of Lila’s name to Lil doesn’t make any sense, because then he’d be calling her Lyle, essentially.
But Lila’s name is, in fact, pronounced Lill-Lah (or Lill-Luh, as most would say it) not Lyle-Lah. Like Lilly, not Lilac. The Kharadjai don’t say it the same, apparently.
–Remember October, November? Part I–
My response to having an entire chapter devoted to Lil was to immediately follow it up with an 18,000 word monstrosity called Remember October, November? But even I eventually had to realize that was just too damn long, so I cut it in half.
Due to Lila’s hogging of the previous chapter, the entirety of this one is told in canon cast POV. Practically nothing happens here that’s important to the overarching plot, but there’s a ton of character moments.
Harry gets his say, but I think Neville and Ron steal the show.
–Remember October, November? Part II–
I honestly can’t remember whether or not I edited Hermione’s fantasy in this chapter to comply with my T rating. Let me check.
Ah, as it turns out I did. I removed exactly six words. It’s amazing how just six words can change what is nearly explicit to something more vague.
Phoenixsong: That didn’t stop the scene from playing out like a silent movie in her head… Ron’s strong hands wrapped around her thighs while she lowered herself down and — no!
Original: That didn’t stop the scene from playing out like a silent movie in her head… Ron’s strong hands wrapped around her thighs while she lowered herself down and he slipped his tongue into — no!
Both are sex-type things, but the original version clearly alludes to Ron enjoying a hot lunch. This was during the early stages of the story, when I was much more worried about meeting my rating. As I progressed, I learned that Sherry was willing to give me some room as long as I didn’t make a segue into hardcore pornography (however tempting that may be).
Shortly after that segment, I skip a great deal of time in a few paragraphs. It’s not something I do often, but the book glosses over a big chunk of time right about then and there wasn’t much for me to fill it with.
Luna’s lion hat gets a lot more attention in this chapter than it did in the book. I don’t know, but the image of her wearing that thing never really got old for me. Luna pretty much steals the rest of the chapter. I think it may be the longest POV segment for her in the story.
The title for this chapter was originally ‘Killing Cassandra’. This was in reference to Cassandra Syndrome, and was basically another Kharadjai slang term. It was so obtuse that I chickened out at the last minute and changed it because I thought that title would be completely incomprehensible and might actually detract from your enjoyment.
Hermione takes the lead with this one. Scott’s old man-esque rant at the breakfast table makes me laugh every time. That newspaper made him so mad, he just had to go all armchair general on everyone in the vicinity.
“I think,” Scott mused conversationally, holding up his fork and looking at it closely, “that I’ll stick this fork in your fucking eyeball.”
He’s so matter-of-fact in threatening to gouge out Harry’s eye.
The Ron and Hermione scene that eventually follows wasn’t as hard to write as I’d thought it would be. It came to me without a whole lot of work, which, compared to how things usually go, was a welcome relief. It’s very mild and not particularly sexy, which I think is about right. They aren’t a reconciling married couple, they’re a couple of kids hooking up for the first time.
The Luna in the hallway scene was something I wrote separately. Sometimes parts of the story come to me in one shot form, and then I incorporate them later. Scott’s role in it is problematic. Interfering in this manner, fighting on the behalf of a canon character, is a very Gary Stu type moment. The thing is, it’s also very in character for him. On occasion I will find myself in this situation, and I feel like I’m screwed either way. It’s either out of character or a bit much too swallow. Not much of a choice, but my stubborn insistence on staying true to my characters, even when it is probably better not to, is always a constant.
Scott is genuinely upset that anyone would do that to Luna, but his underlying motivations are also seated in his integration; sticking up for her can only help him in the long run. That puts a decidedly non-Mary Sue spin on the event, but it’s too subtle to register without a lot of thought.
Good Lord. This chapter is fifteen thousand words long. Ugh… I feel for you guys.
Ginny is up next, it seems. We get her view on her relationship with Harry. This was interesting to write because it’s something we get pretty much zero insight into from the books. So I made it all up, which wasn’t fun considering how hard Ginny can be for me. I had trouble hearing her, more on that later.
I see Scott spaces out and recites something or the other when talking to Ginny. Poetry, literature, stream of consciousness, who knows. That’s an aspect of his character which I think started showing up less and less as the story progressed.
Bleh. The chronological shift right after Ginny’s POV is jarring. I didn’t do a very good job of making that clear, you have to read a bit to get it. As I’ve said, messing with time was a theme that worked much better when the prologues were in place. Didn’t stop me from persisting, though.
Did anybody catch the Simpsons reference Scott drops? It’s when he starts telling Neville some made up story about how he became King of the Morlocks. The conversation between Harry and Ron when walking to the Room of Requirement is one of the few times I think I managed to write Ron’s humor correctly.
Then we get to the big reveal. Again, exposition is not fun to write. That scene was just a terrible ordeal. Too many people have too many reactions to too much information. It was crowded in there, and all the crazy was coming out. The chapter ends on a dark note, probably by necessity. I needed a counterbalance.
–The Dark Line on the World–
This is the twin chapter to Summer Was the Reason. Both are prefaced with a quote, the only two chapters in the story with that distinction, and both are preoccupied with a time and place. Environment defines them.
With that pretentiousness out of the way, there isn’t much left. This entire scene was tied into Winterlude before I decided it should probably be a standalone thing. Scott talks a lot in this chapter, even more than usual. It’s not left clear at the end just how much of Scott’s advice Harry is willing to absorb, which is for the best, I think.
This will go down as the most controversial chapter in the story, I think. I’ve had more than one reader tell me I should have just cut it out. Certainly, it’s not necessary from a plotting standpoint.
I think the intention of the chapter was not very clear. I didn’t name it Winterlude just for the hell of it, that’s exactly what it was intended to be. It’s an interlude chapter, a break from the main story. It’s also a blatant excuse to give a brief nod to some other fandoms.
Looking over the beginning of it now, Scott’s line about Los Angeles really bothers me. Given the amount of time he’s spent on GEPs it makes sense from a character standpoint, but it feels entirely too obvious of a reference. I’d like to get rid of it, but Sherry has enough to do without me resubmitting old chapters to change one sentence. (Sherry’s note: LOL! Notice how he just slipped that in there, even in his book-length A/N?? ;-))
The three short stories in the chapter are just the three that made the cut. I had quite a few other possibilities I considered:
Zed, set in Max Brooks’ World War Z.
Grace, the Snow is Here, set in David Eddings’ Belgariad.
Let’s See if You Bastards Can Do 90!, set in no particular universe, it was a car chase/shootout with Scott and Lila.
The Melting Point of All Creation, set in the Fallout universe.
There were a bunch more, but the document where I had them jotted down has apparently vanished.
My Love for You is Like a Truck
This is from Gears of War. The odd title is a reference to an achievement in the game, which is in itself a reference to Clerks. The best part of this story is the interactions between Scott and Lila. My friend Thomas Paxton was especially tickled by Lila’s declaration that she was Queen of the Tomb and that Scott should bow to his queen, worm. Scott also makes a rather excellent RPG reference.
The rest of it is, in retrospect, rather pedestrian. I’m not sure I’d do it again (which is true of the entire chapter, really).
…And I’m All Out of Gum
This is definitely the best of the three shorts. It takes place during the final events of Final Fantasy VI, but that’s never explicitly stated. Scott’s fight with Atma is probably the most violent part of the story; reading it over again I see that it’s quite brutal.
It also gives Scott an excuse to frustrate Hermione by informing her that he had died.
If This Was a Movie, You’d Die in the Prologue
This was originally the first story told, hence the title. It exists pretty much to introduce the unstable element Blue and the fact that the Kharadjai weaponize it. This one doesn’t take place in any other fandom, I invented the (very limited) setting.
This chapter is the first of four to have an addendum. The first three are all in a row, and each chapter deals heavily with the Kharadjai (both chapters featuring Sophie and Eva have addendums). The addendum for Winterlude goes into greater detail concerning Blue, which was not strictly necessary, but I thought some more explanation might be helpful.
–Three to Get Ready…–
This is the first part of a two chapter arc that goes into entirely too much detail for what is a relatively small portion of book six.
Here’s how it happened. I started writing the build up to the party, introducing the concept and taking my beginning cues from the book. But minor nature of the get together conflicted with what my writing style had become by this point. If you haven’t noticed, the chapters in the middle segment of the story tend to be very long.
I had fully embraced the decompressed nature of my story, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. I kept writing parts of party preparation, but then when I went to skip to the next important bit it felt like I was leaving out too much. Scott shows up, and he has a suit, but where did he get it? Who all is coming, and how did they get invited? It seemed logical at the time, but this part of the story arc became too detailed.
A good case in point are Scott’s multiple phone conversations. These are moments that could have easily been glossed over, but instead of just alluding to Scott making another call, I actually wrote it out. I had this compulsion, this feeling like I couldn’t skip over stuff or it wouldn’t make sense.
The result is beyond meandering. I think it works if you accept this story as a character study as much as anything plotted, but not everyone sees it that way (occasionally, myself included).
Scott’s well-timed Dr. Seuss reference on the way to library still gets me, even the stuff beforehand (“Would you do it if it was a good poem?”). In direct contrast, Scott’s chemical soliloquy is a bit much. He name-drops no less than four different drugs in a paragraph, and while it’s not entirely out of character, I’m not sure it was needed.
That seems to be a pattern for this chapter. Scott will say something really great, and then follow it up by stepping over the line. His ‘friends with privileges’ spiel I like, and then the ‘pop a cherry’ bit after isn’t half as funny.
I know that’s missing the point. Scott isn’t always funny, even if he thinks he is. But I can’t help judging his humor as a part of my writing instead of a part of his character, sometimes.
Chatmandu did note that Scott was in rare form this chapter, and I can’t help but agree. I didn’t realize it while writing this, but he really never shuts up.
There is a very minor joke with the introduction of Sophie, in that because Lila always refers to her as Strauss, the fact that she is a woman is not immediately apparent. This leaves some of Scott’s initial interactions with her cast in the light of possible homoeroticism, but of course Sophie ends up being a hundred and ten percent woman.
The addendum at the end offers more pointless insight into Kharadjai bureaucracy. I’m sure you’ve noticed that all insight offered by me is pointless.
–…And Four to Go–
Ah, another single POV chapter from a non-canon cast member. I do like to sabotage myself, don’t I?
Sophie is one of the few (possibly the only?) characters to get any major description. You know what Scott looks like, at least sort of, just from all the little descriptions spread out over a lot of chapters. And you know that Lila has a strong resemblance to him, barring the whole being a woman thing. But Sophie is studying herself in the mirror, and since the narration is inextricably tied to her POV you pretty much get a straight window into her thoughts.
Lila’s guess as to what the password might be is, I think without question, the most obscure reference in this entire story. Not only would I be surprised if someone understood it, I’d be goddamn amazed.
Sophie is a fun character for me because she’s so different from my two main OCs. Scott and Lila are both forceful people. Sophie is a sweetheart. Only her choice of career and her ability to see it through are obvious indicators of her inner strength. And we are all, after all, strong and weak in differing ways.
Lila’s massive simplification of each Kharadjai’s role was really only for Hermione’s benefit, though considering how misleading it was it’s not very beneficial. Lil doesn’t touch on the system of designations that separates Primares.
Confining myself to Sophie’s POV was mainly a tactic to prevent plagiarizing the book directly. Harry’s eavesdropping on Snape and Malfoy is only hinted at, which I think works better than I thought it would (I think it works better than I thought it would? Good God, who told me I could write?). Obviously, you have to have read book six to understand this story anyway, I’m not covering a lot of old ground.
Hermione apparently misinterpreted whatever little tidbits of information she could glean this chapter. Scott is not, of course, a celebrity in his own universe. He’s known pretty much in the same way the rest of us are, by friends and family and those who travel in the same circles. Whatever minor renown (or infamy, as the case may be) Scott has doesn’t go any further than his peers and the chain of command. As an apt comparison, how many members of Delta Force, or the SAS or the KSK, can you name, no matter how skilled they may be?
In retrospect, not making this clearer was a mistake. I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought at the time, but giving the incorrect impression that Scott is somehow famous is an annoying original character cliché and never my intent. His personality and his accomplishments make him slightly more visible to his superiors than soldiers of comparable rank. Nothing more.
Lila really doesn’t help matters, because she’s obviously enjoying the wrong impressions she’s giving Hermione. Scott is not a ‘polarizing presence’ within the Council — it’s doubtful that most of the Councilors are aware of his existence. Lila is most likely referring to past discussions in the Primarius command as to whether Scott’s conduct in the field made him unsuitable for promotion. Given the Oritorius’ sponsorship of him, this may have come up in a political context as inappropriate favoritism; not that any of the Councilors had much stake in this. Opposing political factions will take whatever leverage they can get, making Scott entirely peripheral to the actual issues.
I apologize for being so misleading in this section of the story. Sophie is so preoccupied with her teen form that Lila’s half-truths never seem to register with her.
–Our Holiday Home, Part I–
This holiday two part segment was not originally intended to be so long. It looks like my original notes suffered some water damage, but from what I can read all that I jotted down in the margins of the chapter outlines was this:
Scott and Lila at their house
Invited to the Burrow for Christmas Eve dinner?
Lila asks about meeting with Dumbledore
And from that we get two chapters.
The technicalities of the magical barrier Scott circumvents are not in the books, but I also don’t think they are ever contradicted by the books either. The workings of magic are kept very vague by Rowling, no doubt intentionally so, and I’d imagine she did that for the same reason I reveal so little about the shape — it’s a great way to cover your ass. If solid rules are never set down, then how can there be any inconsistencies?
When Scott responds to Lila by sighing, “Why do you always have to bring reality into things?”, that’s basically the relationship I have with my mom reduced to a sentence.
–Our Holiday Home, Part II–
I like Scott’s interpretation of the Grinch theme, and Lila staring at the owl through the window still strikes me as a humorous image, though I’m nobody else even noticed it.
The descriptions of the Weasley household pre-dinner can be attributed mainly to a youth spent skirting the edges of the football-watching crowd during the holidays and trying to find something to do until food was served. I used to pester my cousins to play videogames with me instead of, you know, socialize with the family. Come to think of it, I guess not much has changed. I got older, and discovered that for me, it doesn’t mean a whole lot.
Scott’s exchange with the twins was a bit of a hassle. I wasn’t sure how their brand of humor would mesh with Scott’s, and unfortunately the meeting wasn’t long enough to really go for it and just let the characters talk to each other. It didn’t help that Fred and George don’t really show up for the rest of book six. I tried to get the most of the limited interaction, but I don’t think I succeeded. I don’t remember anybody commenting on the scene which could be a good or bad thing, depending.
The fight between Scott and Harry was inevitable, I think. Scott had been pretty upfront with Harry most of the time, but certainly not all of the time. I hadn’t planned on the conflict to come up this chapter, but that’s just how it happened. I knew Harry wouldn’t be happy about being kept in the dark concerning Scott’s interference with Lupin and Tonks.
The actual dinner itself, despite being the focus of all this, was not written out. Thinking back, I’m pretty sure the reason I did it was because writing an all dialogue scene where people are chewing and no one is moving sounded like a nightmare. A massively boring, pause-intensive nightmare. So I pussied out and skipped the whole ordeal. This partly accounts for the unusually short length, about five and a half thousand words.
I do like how Ron catches Scott out during their conversation, forcing him to own up to his hypocrisy. Ron sometimes has a slow grasp of the obvious, but he’s not stupid (and I resent it when some authors write him that way, because it’s just not true).
Scott’s line about ‘backwards syntax’ is another reference to a prologue that doesn’t exist.
–The Most Final Equality–
This chapter comes out at a pathetic 2,000 words, hence the additional scene I clumsily tacked on for the Phoenixsong posting. Perhaps a small interlude chapter would normally be followed by a larger one, so there wouldn’t be any need for padding, but my updates come infrequently at best. Being aware of this, I decided to try to give you more.
It didn’t work, not really. I gave you something else to read, but only after an apologetic author’s note. And on top of that, what I added wasn’t chronological or fitting. Hell, maybe it didn’t really happen at all.
This chapter was actually one of the earliest things I had written for the story, far before the release of Deathly Hallows. Consequently, the nameless Dark wizard killed by Dumbledore was originally written as being Grindelwald. But then book seven came out and, surprise surprise, Grindelwald wasn’t actually dead. I changed it, but without a recognizable adversary the chapter loses a lot of its impact (out of however much impact anything I write can ever have).
Interestingly (or not) the World War II facts at work are at least fairly accurate, to the best of my ability. The American Third Armored Division did indeed occupy the city on March 6th, following an extensive bombing campaign. I very much doubt there were any wizards hunting each other amongst the ruins, but perhaps you’ll allow me that historical liberty.
–I’ve Been to a Marvelous Party–
At least parts of this one came out pretty early in the writing process. This chapter is a ‘mere’ 9,000 words. I’ve seen stories with comparable word count and, like, eighty chapters.
This is the chapter where Hermione really steps up the pressure on Scott, unwilling to be shepherded through her own destiny. I like the paragraphs that follow more, where the underlying reasons for her prodding are detailed. She’s the brains of the outfit, has been since book one, and not being in on whatever Scott is doing to their lives hampers that. She feels like she needs to know these things, know everything, because it’s entirely possible their lives might hinge on it at some point.
It’s too bad that offensive magic can’t take the form of a soul-seeking magic missile, that would be something to see. As far as I could remember, there wasn’t ever a point in the books where Dumbledore couldn’t find someone within the castle, so having that sort of spell made sense. And if I’m totally wrong, then oh well. I’m much too lazy to change it now.
I seem to remember that Scott used to jump off the tower at the end of his conversation with Hermione, just to scare her. Obviously I felt that was too ostentatious, but I honestly can’t remember when I changed that. I didn’t know it was different until I read it over again just now.
Scott’s theoretical ball of string is one of his many analogies. Like all the rest, it may or may not work.
The bombing scene was something I wrote long before the rest of this chapter, back when I was still spitting out fragments of story, bashing out small ideas that might eventually be worked into a whole. The rough draft was markedly different in several ways, most notably in the characterization of Scott, which was pretty off. He was less professional and even a bit angsty over Harry and Ron’s perception of him as a killer.
I just dug up a couple old bits from my story folder, so here’s some contrast:
Original: “I was putting the fear of God into ‘em, that’s what I was doing,” Scott said harshly. “They may be above the law but they’re not above me.”
Current: “Perhaps. What’s necessary isn’t always easy,” Scott said mildly.
Original: “Killers,” Scott finished for him. That hollow look had returned to his eyes. “The Death Eaters are monsters…” He paused, collecting himself. “But I can be a monster too. That’s why you need to let me handle this. This is what I do.”
Current: “Killers,” Scott finished for him. The Kharadjai was clearly unbothered by Harry’s reservations. “Your feelings are understandable — they really are. It’s a simple fact; not everyone is mentally equipped for these extremes as they become par for the course. That’s why there is, and always will be, the option to let me handle this. It’s what I do.”
I think I remember earlier versions that were even more overdramatic.
–Look Now Look Again–
For those who remember that pointless trivia question I posed in an author’s note, this is the second chapter with its name taken from something else (the first was Nothing Important Happened Today). Look Now Look Again is an album from the band Rainer Maria.
The first three or so pages of this chapter were actually the original ending for the previous, but it worked better as an intro to a new day. This chapter has a lot of extraneous stuff in it. However, though I’ve had people tell me there are entire chapters I could cut out of this story and it wouldn’t matter, I don’t regret that. Decompressed fiction gives me the room to focus on character, and I like meandering sometimes.
I still wonder what Lila had been doing that she hung up on Scott. Given the usual route my humor takes, I think the obvious joke would be that she was masturbating. But that’s a little too obvious, if you ask me. I think she was watching a chick-flick type movie and was mad that Scott pulled her out of the drama.
After the whole Kharadjai explanation, Hermione asks for more and Scott yells, “No, enough! Enough exposition. I’m tired of it.” I figure he’s pretty much speaking for the audience at that point. And for me, really. I get so tired of having to explain things. But I have to.
I just realized that the first paragraph of the Room of Requirement scene contains a placeholder. It says, “they were missing two as they had been unable to contact Luna, and Neville had already been asleep.” I wrote that with the intention that I would come back later and fill in the dialogue and reaction parts for Neville and Luna. Either I forgot, or I was lazy. Either one is likely.
The whole part with the punching still makes me laugh, I can’t help it. It’s always pathetic to find your own stuff funny but I just love that entire sequence. Scott is so clearly having the time of his life getting those dudes to trade a punch.
–What to Do While Waiting for the Other Foot to Fall–
Scott’s brief explanation of apertures still feels too forced. I couldn’t seem to find a good place for it. In fact, the whole first section of this chapter isn’t that great… I’m not too fond of any of it. The back and forth between the guys seems especially lame to me. Scott’s POV wasn’t the best choice, and if I did this over again I’d probably go with someone else. I might even scrap the aperture lesson entirely and skip straight to Ginny.
Things improve when we get to her section. The second trip to Hogsmeade wasn’t in the book, obviously, so I’m free to do whatever I want (you might notice that it was never made clear whether Scott consciously kept Ron from eating the love potion, or if it was unintentional).
The whole thing between Harry and Ginny talking about Scott was much more dramatic in the original version, as I recall. Harry really did some fifth-year level shouting. But I didn’t like it and I thought he was overreacting, so away it went. He’s still not on an even keel but he takes it much better in the current incarnation. I leave it to the reader to decide how much of what he said he really meant.
There’s a lot happening during all this from a character perspective, but out of all the Hogsmeade stuff I think there’s one little moment that stands out to me. It’s when Scott is talking about how a knife can be a toy, and Hermione counters by saying you can play Russian roulette but that doesn’t make the gun a toy. I like that little bit because Hermione so clearly won that argument — Scott’s response isn’t even a comeback, he knows he’s lost. When so many of their arguments end in a draw, it’s nice to see Hermione come out on top.
Once again I failed to remember how long a chapter is. This one clocks in at a crushing 13,000 words.
I don’t think Scott was entirely serious when he suggested ‘removing’ Malfoy, a rather mild euphemism. Certainly there wasn’t enough information at this point to make that kind of decision. However, he is definitely testing Harry’s response. When Harry balks at the idea, Scott doesn’t push it any further.
Scott’s notes have a bunch of thermodynamically related equations and some musings on the nature of spellwork. I’m not sure why he crossed out ‘Maxwell was right?’ since that may be the case here. Perhaps he was frustrated by the possibility.
The addendum is by none other than Albrecht Kresser himself, making his only tangential appearance in this story (unless you count his name on the field report). He’s an important figure to both Scott and Lila, but doesn’t have any place in this story.
–So Helpfully Anomalous–
I seem to remember that this chapter was slated to be called ‘Funeral for a Fiend’, and Scott and Harry and perhaps even some others were to attend the funeral in detail. I don’t see anything about that in my notes, so either that was planned at a later point or I’m full of shit.
I’m not sure why I bothered to put the short classroom scene dividing the conversation between Harry and Scott. It slows things down for no real reason, so I’m thinking that maybe the timing in the book demanded it. Sometimes I tried too hard to keep the schedule constant.
I think I was going to comment on Tonks’ appearance here, but I can’t remember a goddamn thing about it. It was in the book, wasn’t it? But why was she there…? I honestly have no idea, except that maybe it was something about Lupin or whatever. Hmmm. As you can probably tell at this point, I’m not entirely on top of things.
Scott is slightly cruel in basically manipulating Hagrid to give him a lesson despite the man’s obvious emotional distress. The death of a giant, man-eating spider doesn’t mean much to Scott, even though it does to Hagrid.
The descriptions of the impacted shape tie back in to the short bit in chapter six where Lila is following the lines in Diagon Alley. The shape has no equivalent in real life, obviously, which leaves me free to describe the indescribable. That can be fun, and it can also be difficult. In this case I’ve never really described the shape heavily before, so I don’t have to work hard to avoid repeating myself.
The entire deal with the mead is my roundabout way of tying up a few plot points. They all come together at a moment when they were almost unrelated in the book, and I’m actually fairly happy the way it all pans out… with one exception.
Scott’s healing of the poison is problematic. The specific nature of his healing abilities puts a neurotoxin in a very gray area. We have to assume that the shape gave him an opening, basically, or that he was simply lucky. Maybe changing age before healing made the act more instinctual. Regardless of how I choose to retcon it, I’ve almost contradicted myself. If I wrote it again, this scene would end differently.
The shootout in Diagon Alley is my attempt to convey the speed and brutality of modern combat as contrasted to the slower, more ‘traditional’ wizarding approach to death dealing. I’m something of a gun nut and it’s always been very important to me to nail the realism down and make it clear. People don’t die in one shot, small caliber weaponry won’t remove limbs or decapitate anyone, and so on. It always bothers me in films when a few shots are fired and everyone drops dead. A human reaction to a gunshot wound is so incredibly variable. I have to consider where they were shot, by what, and the mental and physical state of the wounded person. Of course, writing all that out ends up being a boring, technical clutter of a fight. So that may be what happens, but I mostly spell out the results.
I think this fight falls a bit too much on the technical side of things. I was trying a bit too hard to illustrate my point and concentrating more on realism than entertainment.
Note that Scott fires two shots. Lila assumes this is to finish the man by the window, but one of the other men was struck in the lungs, and another in the spine. Either of these injuries could be lethal. But Scott may have needed an extra bullet for one of them, not just the man shot in the shoulder.
–Your New Favourite Foe–
This scene is pretty straightforward. The setting and intent is lifted straight from the book, and then I threw Scott in there. I remember this coming very easily to me, Scott was especially talkative. The whole wine thing was pretty good fodder for him. He mentions again that he doesn’t drink, as he also did the previous chapter.
Dean is introduced into the conversation in a very roundabout fashion. I’m actually a little proud of how that works out, I think it flows like a real discussion and then Scott does that thing that I myself have done on occasion where you’re talking about someone and then you turn towards them and ask loudly if they agree when they have no idea what you’re talking about. Scott is fond of that one too, it seems.
I’m not sure I like the joke about radiation. It’s kind of lame. And Ron’s response is even lamer, he just parrots what Scott said for emphasis. I think this was one of those moments where I just couldn’t tap into Ron’s humor.
The part that follows is better. The stuff about the station and then Harry calling Scott a total prick is funnier, and Ron’s response is more like him. I’m very hit and miss with jokes.
The setup for the next section of the chapter is a bit long, I might have trimmed that more. The entire confrontation with Snape in the bathroom was rewritten… well, I don’t know how many times. But a lot. It played out a few different ways, with mostly the same result. Myrtle was more of a problem in a few drafts, but I didn’t know what to do with her. Scott knocking her away is a cheap way out for me, I admit. I couldn’t think of any elegant alternatives. I added a line about the possibility of her running into Snape anyway.
The primary purpose of this scene was threefold: to free up some of Harry’s time from detention, to allow Scott and Snape to have their inevitable confrontation, and to allow the audience to see what Scott was capable of.
I think the last reason is sort of biting the hand that feeds, a little. A lot of people had written reviews about how awesome and cool and totally awesome cool Scott was. This scene was designed to make them think a little bit more about what they were embracing. Hmmm… Let me qualify that. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying Scott as a character (and I’d very much prefer it if you did), but I wanted you guys to understand that he wasn’t here just to tell jokes and distantly kill some really evil Death Eaters now and then. I thought maybe people might be a bit more leery at the prospect of interrogating Draco as he bleeds all over the place, even though it does make sense in the context of Scott’s purpose.
I’m not saying that Scott is evil here, or even necessarily in the wrong (from a standpoint of the big picture), but there was an element of shock value intended.
In retrospect, I utterly failed. I don’t think anyone even batted an eye at Scott’s casual brutality. It seems I had been far more effective in conveying his personality and war-centric viewpoint than I’d thought. My intentions were either unnecessary or ignored.
Snape has his say here, as well. Scott wins the confrontation, but only because at that moment he had a backlog of information to throw in Snape’s face. Scott played most of his cards. It was enough to get Snape off his back for a little while, at least.
The greenhouse scene was another one shot I incorporated. It had a slightly different ending in its first incarnation. I had left it open ended with Neville devising some sort of plan to help Luna. This plan would have been the possibility of getting Luna moved to the Gryffindor house for her protection — Neville thought that Scott might be talked into taking such an action because of his desire to consolidate his Primes. I didn’t have it all thought out, but Scott probably would have talked to Dumbledore and maybe the Sorting Hat about it. The lines leading in to such a subplot were removed when I decided not to pursue it.
There’re a couple lines of description during the Quidditch game that I was really proud of. The image of Scott and Hermione sitting and glaring at each other while everyone around them stood and cheered was very vivid to me.
The confrontation with Dumbledore is yet another instance of the two of them trying to manipulate each other. If you read all of Scott’s conversations with Dumbledore, you can read between the lines and really see all of the machinations at work. This is two puppeteers, each trying to control the other. Dumbledore sometimes seems to give in… but you may notice, he still gets what he wants.
–Summer Was the Reason–
The twin chapter to The Dark Line on the World. The quote is from the seminal Chicago indie group Cap’n Jazz, far larger in death than they ever were in life. If one person listened to that song and thought it was crazy but awesome, then my work is done. I remembered, ‘Hey coffee eyes, you got me coughing up my cookie heart’ and thought of Ginny.
Unfortunately, I believe this is actually the least popular chapter in the story (although as of right now chapter 28 also has five reviews, so we’ll see if it ends up tying for the dubious honor). I honestly expected more of a response based on the Harry/Ginny content, since so many people had been clamoring for it. But I guess either it went by too fast or I didn’t deliver in the expected manner. It is kind of a slow chapter, but my intention was to focus on the pairings while Scott flitted about and did his thing.
This chapter has the only remnant of what was supposed to be a much larger part of the story. Scott was intended to be friends with Lavender, Parvati and Seamus, although in a more distant way than his Primes. Specifically, he gave all of them a hard time in a friendly manner. Scott would call Seamus a dirty potato eater and a mick bastard and accept the return abuse good naturedly, while also flirting with/antagonizing Lavender and Parvati.
Of all of them, Lavender was supposed to get the most page time. I’ve always felt she was interesting in the books. This is mostly because I noticed that she was always braver than the others, or that is to say, she participated when the rest of her year did not. She assisted Harry, Ron and Hermione in helping Hagrid corral some of his animals at least once (I believe more than once). She always seems to be mentioned in an offhand manner in the books when involving herself in brave sorts of things. So I wanted Scott to interact with her more, but none of it ended up getting written. And let’s face it, this story is already long enough.
The original title for this chapter was That Terrifying Momentum Part I. It was the first full chapter I wrote for this story, the very beginning piece. I was feeling inspired by that part of the book so I sat down and typed it all out. It would finally be posted, in highly altered form, years later.
This chapter had a lot of little differences, but the key points remain almost the same as they were when I first wrote it. The beginning segment examining the point of Scott’s actions over the course of the year was added in to provide more context; the chapter originally began when Scott feels the shift.
I’m reading over my first draft right now and let me tell you, it kind of sucks. I’m glad I changed so much before it ended up getting posted.
The part where Scott breaks in the stone doorway was almost cut. I thought it might be kind of a bit much. I let him get away with it because it’s a seaside cave and therefore probably sedimentary, which would be easier to break (could be limestone). Also, Voldemort altered the wall and created a doorway there, even though it was hidden. That rock has to go somewhere, and it’s probably not entirely attached to the surrounding cave. Scott apparently had enough faith that the door was a trap to hurt himself breaking it open.
–Of The Essence–
At first I didn’t put any timestamps into this chapter. That would have tied into my sometimes-revisited theme of irregular chronology, but it was also damn confusing. So I compromised; I put Scott’s POV in military time, and everyone else’s in standard time, which provides timestamps but is still confusing.
The section where Scott exits Hogsmeade and is making his way to the school is actually an altered version of my old prologue.
I feel a little sorry for Lila in this chapter. She did the best she could with what she knew. Her decisions make sense within the context of what little information she has available. I’m not sure if Scott would have done things differently, but it doesn’t matter.
The fight in the hallway was a mess to write. A lot of people involved. I actually ended up drawing crude little diagrams to keep track of everyone’s locations when Lila and Ginny were moving upstairs and gathering the force.
Luckily for me, as the story progressed Ginny became easier to write. This is probably because I invented my own version of her instead of trying so hard to glean more from the books. I just couldn’t find her in the books, I really couldn’t, and I did try. Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, but I always felt like Rowling didn’t give me enough of Ginny to understand the character.
–Gazes Also Into You–
Ginny and Lila’s headlong charge though Hogwarts was another instance of a difficult crowd to manage. Everyone had to say something at least once, if only so that the reader wouldn’t forget they were there. But since the POV is Ginny’s, I was able to give it more focus than someone else might have. She’s worried about Harry and that sort of drives the story forward.
I probably took some unintentional liberties with the layout of the school. I did do some research, but the books aren’t especially consistent. The stairways used and the positioning of the Astronomy Tower are all correct, I believe, but the connecting hallways and such are largely conjecture (and the twin hallways below the tower were pretty much invented for this scene).
Lila tells Ginny not to hug the wall at one point. This advice is probably not applicable in that situation, but it’s caution or force of habit on Lila’s part. Bullets will actually skip across a solid surface, following it, so in a gunfight it’s a bad idea to place yourself against the sides of a hallway.
When confronting the first Death Eaters, Lila uses her gun in such a way that she can engage them and control any return fire. The first man is shot clean through the head, which puts him out of action immediately even if it doesn’t kill him right away. The other two each receive a shot to the chest; Lila is using .357 magnum, which packs considerable stopping power. This gives her the time needed to finish them without worrying about a counterattack.
Scott’s decision to shoot Snape (and shoot him through Malfoy, at that) gave some readers concern. It obviously isn’t the best decision, especially with how little information Scott is working with. But he thought that getting rid of them would be the best thing to do, cutting down Voldemort’s forces further and, even more importantly, sending the message that such attacks would not go unpunished.
He was wrong. But I should hope that, however much certain aspects of Scott’s character might give readers pause, you still understand that he’s human. He made the wrong choice, and he paid for it. That’s just how it goes.
The chapter originally ended with Scott grabbing the gun from Harry and shooting Snape in the back. How he managed to revive himself and get outside so quickly, I don’t know. I came to my senses at some point, obviously.
–But Sleep Came Slowly–
This chapter was created to bridge the gap between Gazes Also Into You and This Morning’s Account. I hadn’t thought to write this, but the chasm of information was too great. This Morning’s Account couldn’t support such massive denouement alone.
The chapter title finishes off that stupid trivia question — the title is from the Red Star’s Theory album of the same name.
I’ve already talked about the mental image that inspired the beginning segment. I didn’t do it justice, but I never do.
The second chapter segment was intended to provide a sharp contrast to its surrounds. Basically, I use Scott and Lila as an angst buffer. They keep the chapter from becoming maudlin beyond all sustainability and provide a few Kharadjai tidbits in the process. I remember Lila’s conversation with Ginny much differently, apparently I cut that down at some point.
I like Hermione’s POV in that it neatly sums up her purpose in the books, more or less. Aragorn suggested the narrative of this chapter was more flowing, or ‘elegant’, due to Scott being unconscious for its duration. I suppose I can see that. Scott is so visible whenever he’s around that his absence means he never interrupts anything.
Ron is much easier for me to write in a dramatic moment. As I’ve said before, his sense of humor generally escapes me. He’s the only person to point out that the first Death Eaters were quite possibly intent on raping Lila, which I don’t think would have shown up in the books, even only alluded to as it is here.
My eternal friend Mr. Paxton thought the Neville/Luna scene at the end was a prelude to premature underage sex, but of course he missed the point entirely, as usual. Luna is not being ‘forward’, she’s being embarrassingly honest. And she’s not the one embarrassed, anyway.
–This Morning’s Account–
Exposition ahoy. This chapter played out a bit differently before I pulled the plug on a pointless concept.
Kylie was slated to die in the final battle. I thought this would give the events some more emotional heft. However, Paxton then pointed out to me that the audience probably hadn’t become particularly attached to a tertiary original character. She has a handful of lines in the story and only shows up intermittently. If you intend to give a moment dramatic weight through character death, then you really need to pick a character that someone will miss. So Kylie lives not out of mercy, but because there’s no point in killing her.
Instead she serves a function in being present for Scott’s awakening. Trevor isn’t there. He was probably too hyperactive to stick around, but I didn’t latch on to his character like I did Kylie. I don’t know, I guess I find her more useful in a third tier character capacity.
There was a whole big chunk of dialogue between Harry and Scott that got cut. And I know that doesn’t mean much, since there’s still so much of it. Scott was rambling on about the reasoning behind Voldemort’s large attack. I felt it was cumbersome and ultimately pointless, so away it went.
Hermione’s bit provoked a lot of speculation, I think. I’m not going to comment on it much. I’m sure you’ve noticed that I haven’t really explained anything about the story other than the writing process so far, which is intentional. In the event of a sequel, there are threads I’m unwilling to close.
–All Roads Lead Home–
Big difference between this and the book. The chapter revolves almost entirely around the Harry/Ginny dynamic.
The thing is, I understood the Ginny in the books so poorly that I essentially invented my own version of her for this story. And in order to keep her characterization consistent, she couldn’t just give in to Harry like she did in the book. I guess that worked with that Ginny (though it never seemed quite right to me), but it simply wouldn’t work with mine. So her refusal to agree was more organic than anything I really planned on. She’s so fierce and stubborn that having her capitulate after a few words would be ludicrous.
The Spiderman thing tied in nicely. That was a oneshot scene I put into this chapter. I wrote it after reading some Ultimate Spiderman comics where Parker did to MJ the same thing Harry did to Ginny. It didn’t work out, and I felt that Scott would see the situations as analogous.
The scene where Ginny confronts Harry in the library is the one I had to rewrite. I think it might be the same, maybe even a little better, but I don’t know for sure. I don’t remember much of what I wrote before the USB drive broke.
I ended on a slightly upbeat note. Not sure why I gave it to Ron… I guess I felt he deserved his turn, ending or not.
Well, that does it for that. Now to push the word count of this author’s note into the stratosphere with my deleted scenes!
I would tell you to enjoy, but we both know that’s impossible. So tolerate!
This scene was the very first thing I ever wrote for this story. Ironically, it didn’t make it in.
…Unnoticed on the sidelines, Scott froze with a spoonful of porridge halfway to his mouth.
“I never found much use for it,” Ron mumbled, obviously preoccupied with his plate. Ginny didn’t seem convinced that a private luxury bathroom wasn’t to be considered all that useful. Hermione started to launch into a response, but was interrupted.
“A hot tub?”
Hermione frowned at Scott. “What?”
“Prefect’s Bathroom. It’s got a hot tub in it?”
“Well, yes. But it’s only for Prefects,” she replied, repeating herself.
Scott leaned back in his chair and glared at all of them as if he had been gravely insulted. “Why?”
Ron, Ginny and Harry looked at him in confusion. Hermione’s frown creased a little deeper, as if she was examining a particularly stubborn Arithmancy formula. “Why what?”
With a clatter, Scott dropped his spoon to the tabletop. “Why the hell was I not informed that we had a hot tub at our disposal?”
“Because it’s not,” Hermione said rather severely. “It’s for the Prefects to use. You’re not to go in, and you couldn’t anyway because it’s passworded.”
Scott acted as if she hadn’t spoken and instead looked to Harry and Ron for answers. Ron shrugged uncomfortably, keenly aware of Hermione’s displeasure at the route the conversation had taken. “It’s not the sort of thing you really think about all that often. I don’t even remember the password half the time. Besides, it’s only a hot tub. What’s the big deal about that?”
Harry nodded in agreement. “I was in there once. Nothing to get excited about.”
Scott merely closed his eyes for a second, like Ron and Harry had joined forces to say something so stupid that it caused him physical pain. “You just — you just don’t get it, do you?” He shook his head, dismissing them. “Ask me about it later.”
There wasn’t much to be said to that. Harry decided to let it go…
…Ron’s head lifted sleepily from the book in front of him as he remembered something. “Scott,” he said, getting the Kharadjai’s attention. “What was that you were going on about earlier? With the hot tub?”
“Right,” Scott answered, immediately warming to the subject. He set aside the textbook he had been skimming. “I was trying to get something across but obviously you motherfuckers don’t get it. It’s not the hot tub itself that’s important — it’s what you do with it. Or rather, what you do in it.”
Ron was not, in fact, getting it. Harry looked at Scott a bit warily, understanding not so much the specifics of what he was trying to say but rather where his mind was likely to go. But this didn’t seem to be a random filthy joke. There had been the set up but no delivery. So what exactly was he getting at? “What exactly are you getting at?”
“Oh for the love of — haven’t you ever been to a party with a hot tub? Okay wait, nevermind. Let me put it this way then. There exists no better situation in which to innocently get into close quarters with half naked girls.” He leaned forward, using mildly disturbing hand gestures to illustrate his point. “If you guys had half a fucking brain between you, you’d have figured out a way to get your respective girlfriends in there.”
Ron’s mouth was open but he seemed to be lacking the capacity for a relevant rebuttal, so Harry took up the torch. His first instinct was to disregard any relationship advice from the often hyperactive and sometimes unreliable boy, but he had been surprisingly useful in that field in the past. Well, perhaps ‘relationship’ wasn’t the correct word. Scott had occasionally spouted some things that made the inner child in Harry recoil in abject horror, and in his presence Harry had learned more about certain aspects of the human body than he was comfortable knowing. There was no question that Scott knew what he was talking about. In many cases, that was actually more disturbing than if he hadn’t.
Harry decided to respond with a verbal jab, to gauge whether Scott was serious. “I’m not sure I’d need half a brain to not need some of the advice you’ve given us in the past. I seem to recall that one of those other bits of wisdom about women you told me was, ‘Don’t ask if you can smack her tits around’.”
“Yeah and that still stands, it’s a bad way to start a conversation.”
Ron had apparently recovered his voice. “Where do you get off?” he sputtered.
Scott grinned. “In the hot tub.”
Ron colored even further. “Sod off, that’s not what I meant.”
“It’s what I meant.”
“We’ll think about it,” Harry butted in, cutting them off before Ron and/or Scott started yelling. “Let’s just go to bed already.”…
I don’t know when Scott would have told this story. I guess I might have realized that even when writing it, because it’s not finished.
…Scott was relating a bizarre story from another universe that somehow involved turkeys, or rather some turkey variant that Harry had never heard of before.
“…And I see them — two turkeys over in the bushes, just sitting there. It was kind of cold out and my legs were getting cramped from sitting around for so long, so I was damn glad to finally see some targets,” Scott said dramatically, enriching his story with grand gestures. “Now I’ve got a Relschner Stiletto-10, a high powered rifle that fires a 10mm armor-piercing round that would go through you like you weren’t even fucking there. That’s some serious shit. Those turkeys wouldn’t even know what hit them. At that point, I’m figuring I’ll be eatin’ good in the neighborhood by sunset after I finish off those suckas, so I flip the caps off my sights and line ‘em up.”
“Like I said they ain’t really moving around much so I squeeze the trigger and BAM! The turkey on the right drops dead like God reached down and just turned off the lights. His little peanut sized brain didn’t even have time to register the sound of the shot, he was gone man, gone with the wind, the wind of my bullet passing through his brain. Game over. Do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars, don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.”
Scott leaned forward. “Now here’s the thing — you shoot at a deer, and the deer will run away. You shoot at a possum, and the possum will run away. You shoot at just about anything on God’s green earth and if it knows what’s good for it, it will run the hell away. You shoot at a Plak Turkey — and that sommabitch will come raging out of those bushes like he just caught you fucking his sister! You could be driving a tank and shooting 120mm HEAT and that fucker would still charge straight at you. But this one was different. He was cold.”
“This turkey’s buddy just dropped stone dead right next to him, and what does he do? He looks at me. No turning and running, no ‘Oh God I’m gonna die’. He just looks at me. And it’s not the look of a dumb animal either, he’s staring straight into my eyes, and it’s a challenge. I’m holding a weapon that can put a hole straight through his fat turkey ass, and he just doesn’t give a fuck. He’s like, ‘Yeah, you got a gun. So go ahead and shoot me. Pussy. Or you can put that shit down, ya little bitch, and come over here and fight me like a man’.”
A lot of stuff that didn’t make it into the story is just Scott ranting on random subjects, often philosophical. Given the amount of exposition he already has to impart, I didn’t let him go off on a tangent too often or too long. Here’s a few things he might have wanted to ‘discuss’.
“Nietzsche said, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, but that’s just bullshit. What doesn’t kill you wears you down. Everybody’s heart has cracks in it. And they say, you know, that time heals all wounds, but it doesn’t work that way. You know how when you get injured, you’re supposed to immobilize the wound? That’s so it can heal. If you’re flexing a damaged joint, you break it faster than it can fix itself. But you can’t immobilize the heart. It keeps beating, day after day, year after year. And every time it does, the cracks in it get wider. Your past is hemorrhaging, and you don’t even know it. Then one day you wake up and you’re thirty-five years old and barely half the person you used to be. And you used to love your wife, but you hate her now, and you used to love your kids, but you don’t know who they are anymore, and you used to feel important at work, but it’s become routine. So you ditch your wife, offload the kids at some expensive school, buy a convertible and some hair transplants. You try to recapture your youth, but nobody at that stage ever seems to realize that you can’t find what doesn’t exist anymore. They call it a midlife crisis. It’s really a midlife awakening, and that’s the danger of going through life on autopilot.”
“So what would you suggest?”
“At least once a week, stop what you’re doing and examine your existence. If you find that you are completely clueless and are stumbling blindly through a sea of uncertainty punctuated by panicky, desperate choices, then you’re in good shape. It’s when you delude yourself into thinking that you have a handle on life that you’re headed for trouble.”
“—So what’s the final building block? Everything is made of something, but technology takes us down to the point where substance can no longer be measured or even confirmed. What is the basest of all building blocks? What is that elusive final ingredient that forms everything as we know it? What is the fuel of creation? When you eat food, your body converts it into energy, if you drop a ball it will roll down the stairs. We know how things happen, what we’ve never been able to figure out is why. Maybe it’s the ultimate leap of logic to consider that everything works not because of cause and effect, but because of will. Maybe everything we know exists and functions because someone wants it to.”
“I don’t know. I was hoping you might.”
“Maybe all crime prevention is pointless, you know? You can’t stop the tide. Maybe for everything war stop, a hundred more go on without interference. Maybe for every Prime I help, somewhere out there ten more fail. You can’t change the world. But you can help an individual, right? I can’t save the Multiverse, but I can save a universe. And even though they’ll still all die eventually, life can be good despite the problems it brings. You gotta remember that that you can’t kill evil but isn’t killinh one evil still worth it?” Scott sat in silence for a moment, and then said with a whimsical expression on his face, “Besides, I gotta do something for a living.”
I could practical make another story with all that didn’t go into Winterlude. This a second person segment that I wrote separately and then adapted for that chapter. It was cut partly due to its odd POV, but mostly because it’s the epitome of non-action. It’s depressing and mundane, which is the point, but not the point of Winterlude.
Kinder to Sleep
You sit on your usual park bench.
A park bench provides you with a ringside seat of humanity. Life moves by in a cross section laid bare for your perusal. Like a filmstrip viewed in fast motion eventually the shifting script being played out in front of you loses its coherency. The images bleed together while the sound fades out, and what you’re left with are the base textures that are normally concealed. Every complexity is only a mix of primary colors. Every existence can be simplified down to its root problems.
You don’t enjoy these revelations, but you appreciate them.
You sit on that park bench during weekends, and watch people as they pass. You wonder who they are, and where they’re going — and if anybody will care when they get there.
They are like sparks rising above a campfire, bright and ephemeral. Their lives flit in and out of your peripheral vision and that’s as close as you’ll ever get to the truth of them. You think perhaps it’s better that way.
The day comes to a halt with the sun. It gets harder to leave the park each time you visit. You still pull yourself to your feet because moving forward is what you do. It’s a meaningless action without purpose, only routine. You suppose everyone has to cling to something.
You stop on a bridge on the way home and stare over the edge into the black water. It’s black because of the cold, a cold deep enough to chill you even where you stand so far above it. It can’t draw any warmth from its surroundings — steel, wire mesh and concrete. It’s one of those nights in the industrial section of the city where everything is grey or rust red and you can’t tell the difference between your breath on the air and the smoke from the cars.
You wonder if anyone else is sleeping on the riverbed, and kick a rock down to say hello. Someday you might join them down there, in the gravel and the dark. It would be so easy to place one hand on an icy girder and lift yourself into that short blissful moment of freefall. To trade one darkness for another, and skip town the only way to can afford to.
Instead you take a deep breath and count to twelve, an arbitrary number. There are still four blocks to go.
As you walk you fix your gaze on the sidewalk beneath your tattered shoes because you know the rest of the city is rolling past in the same grimy monochromatic pastel. You miss nothing besides faded graffiti. Sirens come and go in the distance as if they were a ringing in your ears. Someone’s porch door swings shut with a clatter. Your breathing is loud beneath the hood of your threadbare jacket.
Your home is a one story box amongst a scrubby dirt field that hosts many others exactly like it. Unlike some of your neighbors your trailer has no sign of any concessions to personality. It could be a display at a dealership.
A heavyset pregnant woman with a baby on her hip waves to you from a window as you move towards your door. You raise your stiff fingers and return it, and somehow manage to bend chapped lips into an approximate smile. Even here there is life, but you are not a part of it.
With a sharp stab and turn of your key your door is opened and you close it behind you to hold off the cold. It’s a futile gesture since the weather has already made itself comfortable inside. You don’t bother to turn on the lights as you move through the narrow corridor that is your shelter. At the end of the thinly carpeted path your bedroom is an unlit cave. Your bed is still rumpled from the previous night. As you sink into it and pull the covers up you remove nothing but your shoes. A flick of one finger activates a small space heater. The small orange light reassures you that it is gradually bringing itself to the highest level of meager warmth it can produce.
There is nothing else to do but close your eyes and wait for morning.
The sun has not yet broken through the curtain of smog when your alarm brings you back to wakefulness. The press of a button insures that the device will do the same the following day, and you throw back your covers to absorb the chill of dawn.
You stumble into your tile box of a bathroom and brush your teeth in a cracked mildew-yellow sink. You try not to look at yourself in the medicine cabinet mirror. It is Monday but that means nothing to you. It is the most dreaded day of the week for many, the harbinger of the work to come. For you it is just another day in which you feel every inch as tired and empty as you do during all six of the others. Time only has meaning to those who use it. Your days are filled with nothing, and nothing is what you feel when they pass you by.
Your shoes are pleasantly warmed by the space heater as you slip them on but the sensation is soon swallowed by the gaping fissure in your chest, like they all are.
It’s so melodramatic that you have to smile to yourself, even if it doesn’t reach your eyes. Such thoughts belong on paper and not running through your mind in any seriousness. That kind of emotional indulgence is for people who still remember how to accept the benefits. You are not emotional. You are not anything at all.
The city never gives in to sleep. The sound of commuter traffic reaches your ears as you lock your door behind you and walk towards the street. Any early morning dew which might have been freed as a refreshing mist on the air is instead frozen to the ground in a muddy frost. Your world remains hard and unlovely, and you know the summer will bring only heat and never vivacity.
The sidewalk guides your feet to the bus stop. There are a few of the usual familiar faces who nod to you in recognition, huddled and talking in steam filled whispers. The morning dampens boisterous talk, and demands that the quiet be maintained. The others exclude you not out of hostility but because they’ve never really learned anything about you. There is nothing to learn; you are a shadow of yourself, as cheap and empty as the discarded beer cans littering the curb. You represent only a face and a name.
The bus pulls up with a belch of diesel smoke and a grumbling roar. The door hisses open and at the top of the filthy black rubber steps you deposit your scanty handful of coins as required. You take the first available seat. The other occupants are a sampling of the general populace: a construction worker in a heavy and grease stained all-weather parka, a single mother with a too-long grocery list and a purse full of food stamps. An old man wearing two layers of jeans and at least three shirts cradles a faded blue duffel bag to himself with fingerless gloves. You think to yourself that the man’s whole life is probably in that bag. What would he do if he lost it?
You know what it’s like to lose yourself. Outside the cold window the steady scenery of urban decay moves past in a smear of concrete and asphalt. You know what it’s like when the days blend together into a formless stream and slip by without pause or notice. You’ve felt the sum of your existence distill into the steady ache in your heart. That pain is your only connection to the penalties of your condition — a solid, throbbing hurt that makes it harder to breathe, as if someone were sitting on your chest. Constant, crushing hopelessness manifests itself not in outbursts but in this ever-present constricting hurt.
You lean your head against the window and absorb the chill of the glass through your hood. The heat inside the bus is stifling. It makes your eyelids heavy and they struggle to stay open, drooping and rising in time to the rocking motion of the road. It is hard to remain awake on the ride to work, because these days you are always tired. From the moment you get out of bed to the moment you climb back into it, there is little differentiation. Energy leaks out of that hole in yourself that you are so dramatically aware of. Like a punctured tire you sink more every second, and sleep can never fully re-inflate you.
Maybe if you fell asleep on the bus, you would wake up somewhere better.
The bus grinds to a noisy halt outside the factory. Here foliage is a foreign substance and the air is tinged with a visible miasma of dust and pollution. The building itself squats over a paved empire spread beneath a steel sky.
You shuffle through the large doors, past I-beams and grates covered in a thick paint that has flaked away to reveal the rust underneath, until you come to rest at the back of a human column. You punch in with your employee card when you reach the head of the line, a symbolic transfer of ownership.
For the rest of the working day you belong to the company. They have your card, your name, your time. The corporation feeds upon its own ideals. You will spend your shift removing manufactured pieces of steel from an assembly line, while you yourself have been taken from a shuffling line of people, and will be returned there at the end of the day to punch out. You have been itemized. You are every much a part of the inventory as the thousands of boxes that line the loading docks.
Your job is based in rote repetition. They could easily replace you with a machine and no one would be the wiser. The rubber belt of the line scrolls past in an anesthetizing procession of identical products. The cavalcade is there for your inspection but aside from filling a required slot on some employer’s checklist you serve no real purpose. The hours tick past with a sluggish regularity. Your senses dull to the point that the only thing you can ever clearly recall afterwards is the smell of oil.
The loudspeaker sounds for lunch break. Across the street there is a restaurant that serves food identical to all the other franchises dotting every street and corner. You could stay inside and eat with the crowd, but the press and shuffle of the people around you steals the breath from your lungs. Loneliness is an addiction, and without it you are bereft of a familiar hold on the world. Instead you find yourself perched on an empty barrel with a greasy burger in one hand and a drink with too much ice in the other. You are finished within five minutes. The break stretches on for ten more, and you count the scrubby clumps of grass that cling to life between the cracks of the pavement. They are just like you.
When your shift ends you file out with the others into another cold night. Clouds streak the evening sky like the trails of jets over purple velvet. Groups of workers form up to say their goodbyes but you are already moving away from them, a planet on a separate orbit.
The walk home makes you wonder if your footprints will wear themselves into this route with time. You stop by the bridge again but force yourself not to stare into the water. Once was enough, until the next time the rippling dark pulls your soul to itself. A passing car stirs you from your reverie, and you continue forward with a blank mind and a leaden chest.
The woman is not in the window this time as you open the door to your trailer. You don’t remove your coat as you settle onto your threadbare couch with an old book from a yard sale. You’ve decided to read chapters six through eight tonight and purposefully slow the pace of your comprehension to drag it out. You turn the pages to the buzzing of your single fluorescent light.
When the time comes to turn off the lights and climb into bed, you skip any pre-sleep procedures and move directly to your mattress. The alarm is set as usual. The room seems even colder than normal. Sleep eludes you for an hour until the heaviness behind your eyelids slowly pulls them shut for good.
And as you drift away you wonder if maybe tomorrow really will be something new.
This segment was discarded as a possibility for Winterlude. I felt it was too dark, and again a bit too odd. I only wrote the beginning and the very end.
There is something unfitting about the scene as it plays out in the darkened room behind a mirrored window.
A little girl faces a grown man across a blank wooden desk inside blank white walls and under a single dim bulb. The room normally serves suspects as they sweat out lies and delusions beneath the harsh gaze of their accusers. This girl is a witness — but the station is crowded, and whatever space is available must be used.
Kharan shuffles the stack of papers with steady hands and offers the child a gentle smile. “Hello little miss,” He drawls in his southern accent, a holdover from his years as a sheriff in a much smaller town. “I’m sorry we couldn’t find someplace more comfortable for you. I know you’ve had a… a rough night. I’m just going to ask you a few questions and then you can go to bed, alright?”
The girl nods silently with empty eyes.
Kharan leans forward, trying to project whatever sense of comfort he can. “Can you tell me, in your own words, what happened tonight?”
“I was listening to my songs,” The girl’s voice is soft and unsteady from disuse. “Like Momma always tells me to. She didn’t come in, but I didn’t move because she told me not to. After awhile I was thirsty so I went into her room but she didn’t wake up so I fell asleep too.”
Kharan nods sympathetically. “Was there anything strange, or, not normal?”
“Momma usually comes in after the pounding stops,” The girl says seriously. “And takes her aspirin. She can get a headache something awful.”
“Okay,” Kharan tells her soothingly. “Okay. Now this is very important, Sarah — did you see anybody else there at all?”
“Just Momma, on the bed,” Sarah shrinks in her chair as some memory flits over her visage. “She had her hands tied up. Why would she do that?”
Why indeed. The story is written in black and white on the sheets and notes Kharan holds in his hands. They read like excerpts from some pulp novel, made immediate and horrific by the truth behind them.
A girl and her mother, living in the city. The mother comes from an affluent family and once was herself — it can be seen in the way she walks, talks, and in the delicate silver jewelry box that she carries with her everywhere as the last tie to a forgotten past. Park benches, subways and spare change. Then eventually, hotels that charge by the hour. Fur coats traded for rent stockings and cheap lipstick. A child gives you the drive to do things you never thought you could if it means enough food for one more day of survival.
“Just for an hour, baby girl,” The mother might whisper. The daughter is packed into the small tile bathroom and sits in the bathtub with portable radio and a flashlight, hands over her ears to block out the rhythmic pounding of a headboard against the wall. When it’s over there’s a few more boxes of cheap noodles and canned soup to heat up over the propane camping stove, a once proud woman with smudged lips and new fingerprint bruises on her arms stirring a small boiling pot. She is left sore and with a headache in tune to the beating of her aching heart. She’d do it twice more in a row if it meant more food for her daughter.
And like a branch in an ice storm something deep within him fractured. Pain, a bright light in the eyes, ripped through his head and he collapsed against the wall, those weak hands feebly gripping the edge of the coffee table as he sobbed so hard it felt like he must shake apart.
It gave him a headache something awful.
This was based off Watchmen, and while it was written after Winterlude I thought that situation might come up again. This is essentially just a character study, and in this raw form wouldn’t have any place in the story. I’d have to expand it. In its current state it’s nothing but Scott ranting uninterrupted at Dr. Manhattan. I thought some of his opinions were interesting, and might have use again.
“So all of your superfluous rambling can essentially be summed up by asking, ‘what is the point of it all’. What’s the point? I ask you instead, what’s the point of looking for a point? If there is no God, then you have no obligation to him. If no possible effort can effect real change, then you have no obligation to society. If existence is basely meaningless, then you have no obligation to yourself. How very convenient.
“Your argument is as meaningless as the life you observe. We are alive. You obviously recognize that is in itself an obvious and unimportant statement, but where your vaunted comprehension falls so drastically short is in the corresponding realization that if our lot in life is to exist then why does there need to be any more to it? An animal doesn’t need any more reason to live than to eat and sometimes to mate. Only we humans are looking for something more. There’s nothing wrong with that; I’ve found a few more reasons myself, although eating and mating are still pretty high on my list. Your problem is that in your search for a higher meaning, you’ve crossed the threshold into inanity.
“You’re operating under the assumption that life is such a hopeless, dark, and terrible struggle that the end of the human race is not a tragedy but rather a form of euthanasia. If that’s the case, then why are any of us still breathing? If hope is a lie and life is a burden, then who wouldn’t shed it for oblivion? Oh, but I’m sure you already have an answer for that. Only you can see the truth. The universe hides no secrets from you, I’m sure. Your ability to view the world at an atomic level has given you deep insight into the triviality of existence, and only you and you alone could ever truly grasp this.
“Actually, there’s a word for that. I don’t have a dictionary handy, but I think it’s probably conceit.
“But if you refuse to see the stupidly obvious, perhaps this will appeal to you: sometimes it’s enough to do something simply because you can. Why save the world? No. That’s incorrect. The proper question is, why not?With great power comes great responsibility, unless, of course, you’re an arrogant shit like yourself, in which case with great power comes being naked, blue, and creating pretentious geometric structures on Mars.
“You talk about lack of change. You talk about how the sum of humanities efforts have amounted to nothing. I wonder why you’re even concerned with the efforts of mankind at all. You’re looking at a picture so big it has become irrelevant. You can’t see things up close anymore. The details are lost in a vast universal canvas that doesn’t mean anything to anybody, not just you. Has the notion ever occurred to you, knocking around somewhere inside that big blue noggin, that if existence has lost its coherency, maybe you should take a step closer?
“No. I bet it probably hasn’t. So you know what? Go ahead. Leave the rest of your species behind. You’ll find a lot of things out there in this big ol’ universe of ours, but what you won’t find is someone to talk to. So since this is probably the last conversation you’ll ever have, I’ll leave you with this:
“You will float through the cosmos for eternities. You will see things that no one else has ever witnessed, catalogue a billion sights so brilliant they will sparkle in your memory for millennia. You will taste the supernova, wrestle a black hole and watch your essence flirt with the event horizon. You will walk across a hundred thousand planetoids and moons, devoid of life but not beauty and watch as their orbits send them reeling past nebulae so dazzling they will stop your eternal heart. You will rest on a bed of dark matter and wrap your sleeping fist around a neutron star. You will put your ear to the beating heart of the universe…
“…And you will still never understand.”
This was part of This Morning’s Account until Kylie’s fate was decided differently.
It was good that Ginny was watching over Harry until he awoke, Scott mused as he moved further down the rows of beds. It proved their lines were already tightening to workable levels. What kind of strength that would lend to Harry remained to be seen, but Scott knew it could only be helpful. But Scott wasn’t in the infirmary to be thankful that his Primes had survived and were growing closer.
He was there to say goodbye.
The furthest corner of the infirmary had been closed off behind a hastily constructed wall of cabinets, blocking the sights within from the other patients. Scott ignored the barrier and walked around to the small entrance — covered by a blue blanket — that had been left in the partition.
Inside on the cold tile floor laid the still forms of the few who had not been lucky. Most of them Scott hadn’t really known. He had only come to see one of them.
The bodies were all draped in sheets but the one he was looking for was immediately apparent, half as big as the others, the sheet sinking into the spaces between the limbs and framing their frail nature. A few wisps of strawberry blond hair fluttered faintly in the antiseptic air from where they had slipped from beneath the covering.
Scott knelt down and gently peeled back the fabric, exposing the child’s body down to her pale shoulders. There was no obvious damage to her face, and she seemed to be at peace. He hoped her death had not been painful. He leaned back, set one hand on the floor and awkwardly lowered himself into a cross-legged sitting position.
There he sat in silence for a little more than half a minute. He rocked back and forth with his hands on his knees, looking at the ceiling, the blanket, the cabinets, anything but her. He licked his lower lip and rubbed at his eyes, not to erase tears but to give his hands something to do.
Then he sighed, and it seemed to release the words in him.
“Hey, Kylie. It’s me, Scott. I guess you probably knew it was me already, but your eyes are closed so I wasn’t sure.” He paused, clasped his knees again. “I heard about what happened. Trevor’s having a hard time, you know, he’s not taking it too good. I think he’ll be okay eventually. You know, it’s funny — I’ve died a lot more times than you but you already know more about it than me. Isn’t that weird? I’ve never done it for real. Maybe someday you can tell me what it was like for you. You might have to wait awhile. Seems like something else is always coming up. I’ll be here for a long time still, I think. I could be wrong.”
He noticed that the girl’s pale lips had opened slightly, and he reached over to ease her jaw shut. “Uh, anyway, I guess you’re probably wondering why I’m talking to you. Lila says this is my way of letting go, whatever that’s supposed to mean. I mean, you’re already gone. I’m the one that’s still here. Shit, maybe you’re letting go of me. Lil doesn’t think of stuff like that. I wish you could have gotten to know her more. You guys didn’t really talk at the party.”
He sighed again and scratched his head, feeling like the words weren’t coming out right. “So, I wanted to say, that… Well, I’m sorry. I know you thought you had to be brave. Maybe you did, I don’t know. I’m not you.” He shook his head. “I suppose this is the part where I’m supposed to say that things weren’t supposed to turn out this way. Thing is, I don’t know if that’s true. Maybe you were supposed to die. I don’t know if that makes you feel any better. It doesn’t make me feel any better.”
Scott gingerly lifted the sheet again with his fingers and pulled it back up to cover the corpse’s neck. “They’ll probably tell your parents what happened today, or maybe tomorrow if they don’t already know. I think they’re gonna close the school after this. So at least you know that everybody gets to skip class because of you. That’s something.”
He uncrossed his legs, rose up to his knees. “I’ll try to make Trevor feel better if I can, but I think he’s probably going home and I doubt I’ll see him again, at least for awhile. If there’s any way you can help him, that would be good. I don’t know where you are right now but I like to think you’re having fun, wherever it is. Maybe someone else is trying to get you to talk more. Or at least some. If you run into my mom, I think I remember her being nice. You could tell her that you know me. You won’t see my old man, so don’t worry about that.”
He moved the sheet back over her face and stood, looking down at her. He swallowed hard, feeling a sadness so old and familiar that it was like an unwelcome friend. He barely registered the ache. “Bye, Kylie. Maybe I’ll see you around sometime. You could save me a seat.”
He turned and made his way back to the living, thinking, as he always did afterwards, that perhaps he didn’t entirely belong with them.
This is Lila and Scott being ridiculous.
“So I hear marmalade is better than jam.”
“Don’t be stupid, it’s a maple tree.”
“I was just making the point that TV dinners go well with soup.”
“And I understand that, but my hat is on backwards and I can’t find my keys.”
“You wouldn’t have these problems if you’d ever change your sheets.”
“But if I don’t stand on the left side I’ll get run over.”
“So you want it broiled, then?”
“Call the Pope first; he’ll need to be informed.”
“I would, but I have to shingle the roof of my car.”
“You’re avoiding the issue, and I want my quarters back.”
“I think pillows make the best pets.”
“YEAH, AND ONCE I TRIED TO BRUSH MY TEETH WITH SOAP,” Scott shouted.
Lila fell silent. She stared hard at him for a moment before reluctantly cracking a smile. “Okay, you win this round.”
“Ah, but it was an unfair victory. I resorted to shouting again for maximum comic effect,” Scott admitted. “I do seem to do that.”
Lila’s concession brought about the end of the siblings’ battle of non sequiturs.
This prologue went through about ten different revisions and then I cut it, partly because some websites require the author to submit the first few chapters and my very short double prologues were not a good starting point. Eventually I felt that Nothing Important Happened Today could bear the weight of being an introduction.
It was night time in Hogsmeade when they arrived.
The moon shone down on the village, sharing its chalk white illumination. Every shadow was inked black on the pale backdrop. There was an eerie unreality about the scene and especially the stillness. The way the ground was rocking beneath his feet he would have expected a cacophony as everything collapsed.
The world was convulsing and he was a leaf in a windstorm.
It was difficult regaining his feet after the transfer — he tripped and barely caught himself. The sweet summer air filled his lungs in rasping breaths. He was nauseous, dizzy, stumbling across the pavement like a drunk. He had to get a grip. He had to force himself to ignore his senses and concentrate on the more mundane.
The starry expanse over his head revealed the true cost of his incapacity. There was no time to recover or call for help. Everything could go wrong in a turning second.
The Dark Mark hung above the school.
Amazing, how quickly it had come to this.
There was little room for distractions. The path was always just before his feet — if he looked closely, he could make himself see it. Disarray had been inevitable. Control would be necessary if anything was to be recovered.
Someone was speaking. “We need transportation, brooms—”
The words were blurred by the shaking. He had to focus.
He tried to concentrate, delivering a sharp mental slap to himself. The night wasn’t over yet — if he couldn’t save the situation, then he could salvage it. He needed to centre himself. He had work to do, no matter how much the universe was spinning around him. He fought through the sickness, swallowing his bile and the indecision with it.
“Accio Rosmerta’s Brooms!”
There were two brooms, of course. It didn’t matter. All eyes turned to him and he waved them off, moving with newfound strength. “Go, I’ll enter through the ground floor. Go!”
Out of the corner of his eye he could see a figure rising and then it was gone. The cobblestones of the street were sharp and hard under his feet. They flashed below him and then gave way to grass, whipping against his ankles and crushing beneath his heels in the cool night air.
It wasn’t hard to think while running. The action of motion was repetitive and broken only by the bypassing of small obstacles. His earlier thoughts revolved in his head like a helix spiral, repeating while moving forward. The current state of unrest would make things harder, but he was nothing if not capable. It was not the moment for feeling helpless. If he was being forced to react then he would do so quickly.
Looming bright against the shadowy canvas above him the Dark Mark hung as a harbinger of things yet to come. The mark itself was nothing to be feared. Instead he worried for those unable to defend themselves, who had so much to lose. Life was a small thing. But it was the only existence offered.
He wished that it would never coalesce into such cruelty, though history taught him a different lesson. His presence was not a guarantee. There was nothing to do but make the most effective attempt possible.
All he had to do was make the right choices at the right times. He could avert it, avoid everything, anything. The most hideous potentials could not come to pass if he would throw himself fully into the struggle. This was unavoidable but not incontrovertible. He had to have faith.
So he ran.
And all the while the thought came, ‘I can fix this.’
If only he would be allowed.
Prologue number two was an utterly bizarre thing. In hindsight, I think it’s far too pretentious for anyone to take seriously.
A Backwards Syntax
Why do some stories start at the end?
“You feel it?”
“Surprised him, did you.”
“I think we should try again.”
“Is that supposed to mean something to me?”
“I always notice that you’re gone.”
“This is my job.”
“I like it here. You can make anyplace your home, you know.”
“Good effort, but not good enough.”
“I think I’d rather be set on fire right now.”
“How’d you know that?”
“I hate to interrupt your sparkling wordplay…”
“I don’t know what he told him. He won’t talk to me, and I hate it.”
“You don’t have to believe me.”
“So what are you going to tell them, Albus?”
It’s a reversal of natural order. You already know what happens — so why should you care how it all came to conclude in that place, in that moment. It’s the result that justifies the means. The journey exists only to finish.
“…Who the bloody hell are you?”
“What did you do?!”
“Thanks for your time.”
“Perhaps I am approaching this incorrectly…”
“THAT’S RIGHT! RUN!”
“What were you doing for, uh, the largest part?”
“I’ll tell you later.”
“The belief will come with time.”
“…I’ve still got a lot to do.”
“How could I?”
“How many this time?”
“And what’s that supposed to mean?”
“Let it go, mate.”
“It’s true. He wouldn’t listen to us.”
“I was in there once. Nothing to get excited about.”
Maybe you think you already know how this story goes. Maybe the words are in your head, and you believe nothing can change them.
“In the cosmic sense, yes.”
“You think that stool disassembles so he can take it with him?”
“Were you planning on telling the others?”
“Are you even listening to me?”
“Why can’t you tell me what you’ve changed?”
“Oh I’m so sorry Harry.”
“This is a password, a past written sign…”
“It only hurts when I breathe. Maybe I can walk it off.”
“What information could you give Harry?”
“I just walked over here to introduce myself.”
“Try to suspend your disbelief for a few minutes.”
“That does happen sometimes.”
“I don’t ‘know’ anything about you.”
“It is frustrating sometimes. I wish I could do more.”
“I don’t feel it. Guess I still have a long way to go.”
It’s a fallacy. Nothing is immutable. Not creation. Not even time.
“What did you say?”
“It’s too nice a day out for this crap.”
“You’re also barking mad.”
“He never listens.”
“Things are always shifting. What’s more interesting are the things that stay the same.”
“And who are you?”
“Is it really that important?”
“It’s best not to think about it.”
“You might never believe me. It doesn’t matter.”
“I wanted to talk to you.”
“Thanks. I think.”
“I’m going to kill him. He needs killing.”
“Can’t go wrong with those.”
“You must be tired. That almost made sense.”
“Maybe. I could always use another suitcase.”
Really, it all started in an empty house.
“Are you going to tell them how he screamed?”
Or perhaps you could say it all started in front of a desk.
“Get out of my sight, Kharan.”
But if Harry Potter is the centre of this familiar chronicle—
“Nice talking to you, Harry.”
—then it just might be that something important happened in an empty playground on a hot summer day.
“I don’t know you.”
It’s the larger shape you recognize.
“I never change as much as you’d think.”
But the devil is in the details.
I have a bunch of other stuff. But I might be using some of it. The rest is either too revealing Kharadjai-wise, or entire chapters that only are slightly different than they are now.
Well, now that I’m pushing the 20k word mark, I think it’s past time to wrap this up.
Thanks for reading. The story, I mean, not this pile of pretentious, rambling garbage. I feel a bit guilty not thanking each person individually here, but I do that in my review replies. To date, I’ve replied to every review I’ve received. It’s the least I can do.
So thanks again. If not for this website and you guys, I would have probably given up on this thing a long time ago.