POSTS TO HPFGU
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Weekly Archive
February 24, 2002 - March 2, 2002

RE: Enviable and pitiable characters

Playing a bit of catch-up here...

Cindy asked:

This is the opposite of Devin's question about which characters we pity. In other words, which character seems to have a very good lot in life? Careful now, because your answer may reveal something about what you value.

I will consider myself warned. ;-)

Bearing in mind, of course, that the less we know about people the easier it becomes to envy their lot in life, I would still like to cast my vote for Most Enviable Character for little Professor Flitwick.

He has a comfortable job, and he is good at it. He is confident enough in his role as an instructor to allow the students to slack off and have a bit of fun at Christmas time, but he is no push-over either: in GoF, he gives Harry and Neville extra assignments when they both seem to be faltering in his Charms class. He is friendly and accessible and gives no impression of House bias in his dealings with the students. If he were one of my teachers and I were having difficulty with his subject, I would feel perfectly comfortable going to him out of class for extra help; I suspect that most of Hogwarts' students feel the same way. Flitwick's teaching style may not be as flashily challenging as Snape's, nor as blatantly "tough but fair" as McGonagall's, but it is rock-solid. His students learn their stuff, and they seem to learn it well. He's a very good teacher.

Flitwick is also well-respected among his peers. We know that he has talent in his field: in his youth he was a duelling champion; McGonagall enlists his aid in checking Harry's Firebolt for signs of tampering; and when discussing the Fidelius Charm in Hogsmeade, the other adults instantly defer to him to give the explanation of precisely what the Charm is and how it works.

He would also seem to be quite well-liked and to have the ability to get along well with a wide variety of types of people. He goes out for drinks with McGonagall, Hagrid and the Minister of Magic himself in PoA, and there is no indication that he is not perfectly comfortable with all three of them. Everybody seems to like him. Even Snape never has a single snipe for Flitwick.

And he seems very content. If he cares at all that House Ravenclaw never nabs the Quiddich or House Cup, then he does an excellent job of hiding his resentment. He would seem not to be particularly competitive at all, really — although given that he was once a duelling champion, we can assume that this isn't because he's at all incapable of showing a good fighting spirit when he feels like it. He's just plain too well-adjusted to give way to envy or resentment or jealousy over such trivial matters. And good for him! He's sane. Sane, cheerful, kind...the guy has simply got it together.

Of course, there may well be some dreadful tragedy in the poor man's past. But if there is, then he would seem to be handling it remarkably well. And that's an enviable quality too, come to think of it.

So Flitwick gets my vote for the character I envy the most. After all, who wouldn't want to be well-liked, well-respected, eminently well-adjusted, and comfortably ensconced in a secure job at which you excel?



As for pity, my vote goes to Diggory.

No, no. Not Cedric. Amos.

Like Judy, I don't pity the dead. Cedric died cleanly and quickly, and while it's certainly very sad that he died so young, I tend to think of the dead (with the exception of ghosts) as being well beyond the need for pity.

No, I pity Amos Diggory. The poor man. Cedric would seem to have been an only child, and it's just painfully obvious that the kid meant all the world to him. He was if anything over-involved in his son's life, over-identified. And when we see him at the end of GoF, he is grieved beyond the capacity for speech. He doesn't even seem capable of providing any support at all to his wife. The man's just a mess.

I think that losing a child to murder must be one of the most horrible things that anyone could ever undergo, and when you're an overidentified parent like Amos Diggory, it's got to be just that much worse. So Amos gets my pity vote.

And as for that suggestion that someone (I can't remember who, sorry) made a while back that poor Amos Diggory might be high on the list of Characters Now Vulnerable To Seduction By the Dark Side, all I can say is: my God, have you no heart? I mean, the very thought! It just makes me want to drop my head down on the keyboard and weep, that does.

—Elkins, fearing that she may well losing her Edge

Posted February 24, 2002 at 7:30 pm
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RE: The Big Bangers and Neville

Cindy, who only beats up men, wrote:

So I issue a challenge. Something Big must be going on with Neville. Surely he isn't going to spend seven books as a timid, forgetful boy chasing after a useless toad. What is Neville's backstory, then? Any takers?

Hmmmph. Well. The last time we tried to discuss Neville, I seem to remember that you gave me my ring back. And all of the love letters. And you mocked my SYCOPHANTS badge.

But maybe now that you're captaining that big scary destroyer, I can convince you to change your mind?

Cindy:

But look what happens if we push back the attack on the Longbottoms into 1983. Suddenly, Neville is over 3 years old. And do you know what happens next? People come streaming out of the woodwork to tell me all of the horrors visited upon them when they were 3, how they vividly recall being spanked in the supermarket at this age, how desperately they wish they had received a Memory Charm...

But that's the entire point, Cindy. We want him traumatized. We want poor little toddler Neville, huddling in the closet while the Evil Death Eaters horribly torture Mum and Dad. And do you know why we want it that way?

Because it's a Very Big Bang. That's why.

I mean, please. What is all this wishy-washy "oh, let's keep him only an infant, because that way he could never have really been traumatized much anyway" nonsense? What is all this "Oh, we can't give the poor kid a suppressed traumatic memory—that's just so ugly, it's all so crooo-el—so let's just make it a Reverse Memory Charm instead" tripe?

Really! What sort of talk is that for the Captain of the Big Bang Destroyer?

Sheesh. Some people just have no idea where their best interests really lie, do they?

Look, Neville at the Court Hearing is a Dud, okay? You know it, I know it. Everyone knows it. It lacks drama. It lacks pizzazz. It lacks oomph. It lacks any sturm-und-drang at all, frankly. An infant gurgles his way merrily through a scene of unspeakable atrocity, but is later enchanted to be able to point one pudgy finger at the Lestranges and blurt "Gah?"

Booo-ring.

No. No, what you want here is toddler Neville. You want sentient Neville. You want capable-of-understanding-cause-and-effect Neville. You want huddling-in-the-closet-whimpering-pitifully-with-his-eyes-squeezed-tightly-shut-while-rocking-back-and-forth-autistically Neville. Come on. You know that you do. You know that deep down in your heart, you want it that way. It's Bigger. It's Bangier. It's far more cinematic. And besides all of that, it also gives you the opportunity to remove that Memory Charm later on and get the even Bigger and even Bangier Flashback Neville.

Or, if you really wanted Big and Bangy, you could even grit your teeth and adopt Tex's suggestion of Tortured Neville. I've not got quite the Edge for that one, myself, but you're the one with the passion for the catalytic backstories. And really, you can't get much more catalytic than Tortured As a Toddler To Get Stalwart Hero Father To Crack, now, can you?

Heh. If I didn't know better, I would be starting to suspect that deep down inside, Cindy just might be a tad...well. Dare I even suggest it? Squeamish, perhaps?

And besides, who ever heard of a "Reverse Memory Charm," anyway? There's no such thing in canon. What we do have are Memory Charms. They mess up your mind; they make you absent-minded and forgetful; they make poor Mr. Roberts talk just like Neville does after Fake Moody's DADA class; they've been amply foreshadowed through the last three volumes of the series — and you want to make it a Reverse Memory Charm just 'cause you're a little bit squeamish? Just 'cause you're not man enough to Tough It Out when it comes to traumatized Neville?

::shakes head sadly::

Oh, Cindy. Cindy. Can't you see reason here?



Cindy wrote:

Big Bang is actually quite a busy-body, because Big Bang also plans to weigh in on CUPID'SBLUDGER (that is, that Florence's kissing behind the greenhouse is important for some reason and is related to why Sirius hates Snape). As soon as Big Bang can think of a Bang that is sufficiently Big, we will report back to the group.

Jake said:

And I propose that we put Cupid's Quaffle to the Big Bang test.

Hear, hear! Enthusiastically seconded!

I'm tempted to believe that having her surreptitious snogging with Sirius brought to light, combined with the 'realisation' that she's been being used, nay pitied by Sirius in the first place is enough to turn her from simply a nasty-tempered but bookish girl into the Vamp that becomes Dead Sexy Mrs. Lestrange.

Well, it's certainly catalytic, all right. And I personally think that it's quite Big Bang-worthy.

It would be even Bigger and Bangier, of course, if only we could up the adult content a bit and make it so that Florence is actually carrying Sirius Black's love child at the time...but of course, we can't do that. JKR has stated that she isn't going to deal with those sorts of issues so ::very earnest look here indeed:: that would make the theory non-canonical.

And heaven knows we can't have that.

—Elkins

Posted February 24, 2002 at 9:49 pm
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RE: A Credo For George

Marina wrote:

George fidgets in his chair, stares at his shoes, and wishes rather desperately for a dry martini.

Well, I did offer him a nice hot cup of tea, but for some reason he just didn't seem interested at the time. Silly boy.

A huge thanks to Marina for helping George to cut those apron strings! I'm feeling ever so much better about George now. In fact...

<Elkins pins S.W.E.E.T.G.E.O.R.G.I.A.N.I.S.M. badge happily to her chest>

I'm with George.

Although George will have to forgive me if I occasionally toss a few theories over to those guys out there on the Big Bang Battleship. I may like my Snape all SweetGeorgiany, but I still love my Ewwwws as repulsively Ewwww-y as they can get, and my Neville just as Bangy as can be — and I've still a lingering fondness for Bloody Ambushes, as well.

As none of those really have all that much to do with Snape himself, though, I will assume that while George may whole-heartedly disapprove, he will nonetheless refrain from putting me to the stake.

As for my quibbles about the word "visceral," I do think that this gets into the realm of...well, of quibbling. There are levels of viscerality, to be sure, and the distinction between a truly visceral response, an emotional one, and one based in moral principle or cultural upbringing is one that I don't think it is even always possible to make with any degree of accuracy — which is why the word "squeamish" can be applied to so many different types of hesitation or balking or disgust. As Marina wrote:

Some natural inclination, some visceral push is needed in order to get the moral faculty to engage.

Indeed. But if I may describe the distinction I was trying to make, I do see a difference between ones immediate emotional response to, in this case, enforcing dominance over another through pain or terror, and the secondary response of moral repugnance at having witnessed or committed such an act.

In my own experience, at any rate, these aren't necessarily the same response, and they don't come at quite the same time. Both certainly feel visceral—both hit you right in the gut, so to speak—but I do tend to think of the first response as the "visceral" one, while mentally labelling the revulsion that strikes a moment later as the "reaction of principle."

In a perfect world, of course, there would never be the slightest bit of disconjunct between the two. But people aren't always perfect, and their instincts aren't always pretty. Sometimes they can be very ugly indeed.

Um. Am I revealing far too much about myself here?

Elsewhere, Marina wrote:

See, there's cruelty and there's cruelty. A predilection for reducing people to quivering globs of jelly through dark threats, deadly insults and viciously clever mind games is not the same as a predilection for reducing people to quivering globs of jelly through pulling their intestines out through their left nostril.

Isn't it? This may be where we disagree. I tend to think of the distinction as more one of degree than of anything else. Sadism is a predilection for taking pleasure in holding others in ones power, and I don't think that it changes all that much in its fundamental emotional dynamic when the cruelty enters the realm of the physical. What changes, I think, is the recognition of the severity of trespass against the other person involved — which I tend to classify as one of those instinctive reactions secondary to, and often following just a heartbeat behind, the first "visceral" reaction.

You know, I went through a stage during my teenage years when I got pretty appallingly mean myself. My balk threshold was far lower than physical torture, of course, but it was not nearly as low as I dearly wish now that it had been. I remember once walking into the girl's bathroom in my school, only to discover that someone to whom I had just been quite verbally vicious was sitting there in a locked stall, sobbing. I mean, she was really bawling her head off in there. She was beside herself. I'd obviously really hurt her. And I felt utterly repulsed with myself. It was one of many occurrences that eventually got me to thinking that maybe my behavior could stand more than a bit of self-examination.

And yes, that revulsion did feel visceral. But it wasn't the first visceral response that I had. The first one was pure and simple pleasure. I liked the fact that I'd made her cry. I liked the feeling that my words could have that sort of power: the power to wound, the power to hurt, the power to strip someone so utterly of their self-control that they would actually have to hide away somewhere to weep. It can be really exhilirating, you know, that feeling of power. It doesn't feel bad at all. It feels good.

Yeah, I know. That's horrible, isn't it? But there you have it.

The revulsion...well, the revulsion came a heartbeat later. It certainly came in force when it did come, but it was the secondary response, not the primary one, and I don't think that it derived so much from pure instinct as it did from a more intellectualized extrapolation. ("If she's crying like that, then I must have really hurt her badly. And it wasn't justified at all for me to have done that. She's never really done a thing to me, and she wasn't threatening me...and, well really, there was just no valid reason to do that at all. I sure as hell wouldn't like it if someone made me that unhappy. Gee, you know, as fun as this sort of thing unquestionably is at times, and as personally gratifying as I might be finding it, maybe it really isn't the way that I want to be behaving towards other people.")

Now, obviously there's a considerable difference in degree between intimidating others through verbal cruelty and waging a war of terror by means of torture and murder. But then, there's also a considerable difference in degree between taking relish in making someone flinch with a carefully-aimed quip and reducing someone to a snivelling mess with an all-out verbal assault. And yet in my experience, there was no qualitative difference between the two. The pleasure I took back then in making others flinch was exactly the same (if somewhat less intense) than the pleasure I took in making people cry. It was the same thing, really. All that had really changed was the severity of the injury, recognition of which made me take stock and actually start to think, rather than merely continuing to do what I have to admit was, at that stage in my life, something that I not only found instinctive, and not only intensely pleasurable, but also a great deal of fun.

So, um. Now that nearly 4,000 perfect strangers know all about what a rotten person I am...

Marina wrote:

Now, at the time Snape joined the DE's, his moral faculty must've been taking a nap (since George maintains that Snape wasn't ignorant of what he was getting into). Something must have happened to make him sit up and start analyzing the philosophical implications of the DE agenda, and I believe that this something was his instinctive revulsion at murder and physical torture.

Based on his current canonical behavior, specifically his seeming disinterest in making even the slightest attempt to curb his psychologically sadistic impulses, I tend to suspect that his revulsion was not altogether instinctive, although as I said before, this is largely a matter of definition.

The ramifications of murder are far more severe than the ramifications of verbal cruelty and require more in the way of justification. Psychological abuse shatters people's self-confidence, erodes their self-esteem, and places them gratifyingly under your power. Killing people indeed places them most unquestionably under your power — but it also makes them dead. I don't really think that it requires much in the way of instinct to perceive a difference between the two actions and to begin to wonder whether you truly have any justification for the latter at all, other than your own selfish desire for personal gratification.

So in short, I wouldn't be surprised if murder had indeed been one of the big wake-up calls. I think that I just tend to frame the dynamic somewhat differently than you do.

But I also see a strong possibility that it could have been a change of belief about the justifications themselves, rather than anything at all about the severity of the acts that he was committing, that might have led him to reconsider. Even if you believe that physical cruelty is wrong, you can still rationalize its commission by resort to ends-means justification, and in this way comfortably avoid altogether any introspection about whether or not you actually like what you're doing. (What does it matter whether or not you enjoy it? It simply Has To Be Done, and that's all there is to it.) If you reach the conclusion that your pragmatic justification is logically flawed, however, then all you're left with as a rationale for your behavior is that you happen to enjoy it — which is far less defensible for anyone with any degree of moral integrity.

It seems quite possible to me that Snape really did at one time believe in all of that purity of blood nonsense, as well perhaps in the notion that the status quo was so deeply corrupt (Prank, anyone?) that it needed to be overthrown by any means possible. Any number of things could have set him to reconsidering those beliefs, and without them, he wouldn't have had any legitimate justification left for what he was doing.

Pleased to see, by the way, that you share my preference for viewing Snape's old DE companions as people he really did like. That's my own weird little personal Snape fetish, you know.

This is exactly what George is about, after all — the idea that Snape has put principle over sentiment.

Indeed.

::smiles down at shiny new badge::

There; I hope that cleared the waters somewhat.

It did! Thank you! And do apologise to George for me, will you, for the...er, catechism? Now he seems afraid of me, and there's really no need for him to be. I'm actually a very nice person these days.

—Elkins, who doesn't like to contemplate what her own life might have ended up like if some Evil Dark Wizard had approached her at the age of sixteen or so.

Posted February 25, 2002 at 1:24 am
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RE: Flitwick, Amos Diggory

About Professor Flitwick, Catlady wrote:

Yes, but if he were my House master (Flitwick is Master of Ravenclaw and I am a Ravenclaw) I don't think I could bear to go to him with any problem about sex or broken hearts or other students picking on me... This short guy who squeaks in excitement and falls off his desk...

::laughs::

True. But then, when it comes to that sort of thing, pretty much everyone except for the female Hufflepuff students is out of luck. Professor Sprout seems like a real sweetheart, but I very much doubt that any of the boys would go to her with their personal problems. And while the McGonagall types were always my absolute favorite teachers when I was a student, their demeanor does not encourage personal revelation. And as for Snape...

Well. Um. Snape's not exactly the nurturing type.



About pitiful Amos Diggory, Jo Serenadust wrote:

While I agree with you that he's unlikely to be seduced by the dark side, I think that he may be vulnerable to being unwittingly used by them to harm Harry. . . .I fear that as time goes by, that grief will turn to bitterness and anger, and who is most likely to be the target?

I fear that you're right. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if Amos did cause Harry some problems in Book Five. The thought still makes me want to drop my head down on the keyboard and weep, though.

Evidently, I've gone soft.

Catlady suggested:

The only way I can think of for him to be seduced by the Dark Side (the murderers of his son! on whom surely he seeks more vengeance!) now is if some Death Eater recruiter persuaded him that Voldemort's Dark Magic and Immortality Spells could bring Cedric back to life.

Oh, now that's a nasty thought! Amos Diggory meets the Monkey's Paw. Ugly.

If poor Amos were actually to be seduced, though, rather than merely being an unaffiliated thorn in Harry's side, then I think it far more likely that it would happen by his becoming convinced that Harry, rather than anyone on the "Dark Side," had been the one to murder Cedric.

Strangely, while I still find that notion a very upsetting one, it doesn't make me want to weep quite so passionately as Unaffiliated-Thorn-In-Harry's-Side-Diggory does.

Of course, Cindy doesn't believe in unaffiliated thorns. She practices Constant Vigilance. She's Tough enough to know the Truth: that anyone who opposes the triumph of Good in any way—Ludo Bagman, Cornelius Fudge—is most likely a Big Bad Evil Death Eater, and must be Watched Carefully At All Times.

She wrote:

I think Amos will manifest his grief by stirring up trouble for Harry at MoM. This won't be hard, after all, because everyone at MoM is an evil DE. Fudge. Bagman. McNair. Avery. Oh sure, Harry has Percy and Arthur Weasley to watch his back for him at MoM. Small comfort, that.

Especially given what we all know about Arthur Weasley's unfortunate history with the Imperius Curse...

—Elkins, still plumping hard for Imperius-Victim-Arthur, even if no one else is willing to join with her

Posted February 26, 2002 at 1:57 am
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RE: Life Debts, the Crouches

Cindy signed off:

Cindy (wondering how Crouch Jr. is able to kill his father when his father sprung him from Azkaban, which ought to create at least a mini-Life Debt)

Judy wrote:

Yeah, not to mention, Crouch Sr. sprung Crouch Jr. from his loins (You can tell that I've been reading the Bible a lot lately.) You'd think that would create a big life debt.

Hey, I'm sure that it did. After all, just look at what happened to Crouch Jr., will you? His plan was proceeding perfectly, he was all on top of things, everything was going great for him. Then he kills his father, and what happens next? Everything goes all to pieces, that's what! Harry escapes from his original trap, he loses his second opportunity to deliver the kid to Voldemort due to a sudden descent into bwah-hah-hah "Mad, am I?" villain mania, and then he gets himself Stupified, Veritaserum'd, and Dementor-Kissed.

Clearly, violating that life-debt was a biiiiiiig mistake on young Barty's part.

Me, I think that we've been framing this life-debt business in completely the wrong way. It's obviously not a bond that restricts you from taking action against someone. After all, Pettigrew managed just fine in the graveyard — sure, there was a bit of discomfort, a lot of not-meeting-Harry's-gaze going on there, but he pulled it off all right.

No, I think that violating a life-debt is probably a lot more like the classical conception of what happens to someone who assaults a herald, or who desecrates a temple. You do something like that, and the gods just hate you from that moment onward: everything starts to go wrong for you, you become far more prone to madness, and the universe never cuts you the slightest bit of slack ever again.

Boggles, whom I love to death for having a Geek Code in her .sig, wrote:

In both cases, wouldn't the primary life debt be between Crouch Jr. and his mother, not his father? She was the engineer of Jr.'s escape — it was obviously her idea and her will that drove it. And she's the one who screamed in labor for 24 hours straight (or however long it was, with the state of wizarding medicine and all) to give life to him. Crouch Sr.'s part in both cases was necessary but minimal.

I suppose that this all rather depends on whether the metaphysical enforcers of life-debt are more like the Eumenides or more like the Goddess Athena. ;-)

Young Crouch's fate certainly does seem to indicate, though, that having ones mother give her life for you does not, in and of itself, provide one with any particularly powerful magical protection. It didn't seem to bother the dementor much.

So perhaps Crouch Jr. owed the life-debt to his mother - but she's dead now, so he's either free or (more likely, given Snape's reaction to his life-debt to James) in limbo, unable to pay the debt at all. Perhaps that's one reason his mental state seems so, um, rumpled.

Rumpled. Heh. Yes. Well, he's had quite a number of rumpling experiences, hasn't he? Near-death in Azkaban, ten years of Imperius Curse...and I suspect that he was really pretty wrinkly to start out with.

But it's always seemed to me that the parricide was what really pushed him over his last remaining edge. When Harry, Ron and Hermione go to visit Crouch/Moody the morning after the murder, he doesn't seem to be in very good shape at all. He's utterly exhausted, he's even twitchier than usual, and he's swigging down that Polyjuice Potion like there's no tomorrow. It seems possible, in fact, that he might even be in the very first stages of transforming back when they first run into him ("The eyelid of his normal eye was drooping, giving his face an even more lopsided appearance than usual"), which if true would certainly speak to a profound lapse in concentration and care on his part.

Barty sure hated his Dad, all right, but I don't get the impression that parricide really agreed with him very much at all. I think that it added quite a few new creases to his already considerably rumpled mental state.

—Elkins

Posted February 26, 2002 at 2:56 am
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RE: SHIP: E.L.G.I.N.M.A.R.B.L.E.S. (OT-Chatter)

Charis Julia wrote:

Therefore I would like to make it clear that E.L.G.I.N.M.A.R.B.L.E.S. is offered with an open invitation for an anarchistic carnage at it's expense. Wreak havoc guys!

Now, none of you really thought that I'd be able to resist this, did you? Like catnip to a kitten, that was.

Alas, having wreaked my havoc and anarch'd to my heart's content, I now find that even I can not quite justify claiming my respose as "canon-based" speculation any more. It's just grown too absurd, even for me. So I've moved my reply onto OT-Chatter. I hope that people will feel free to follow me there.

Oh, DOOOOOOM!

Oh, indeed! ;-)

—Elkins


[The following message was posted to the OT-Chatter list, message #9715]


A bit of Silly!Ship goofiness brought over here from the main list, because even I couldn't manage to justify claiming this sort of thing as truly canon-based anymore. This is really Spec Parody. It's unlikely to make very much sense if you haven't been following the exchange up to this point. So, um. You have been warned.

-------------------

Tabouli, running about frantically while tossing various hats, brooches, and strange wraps into the air in her search for the appropriate TAGS costume, tossed off, seemingly without even a moment's pause for thought:

C.U.P.I.D.'S.Q.U.A.F.F.L.E. (Cruelly Undermining Proud, Infatuated Damsel, Sirius Quickened Underage, Awkward Feminist Florence's Lapse into Evil)

Elkins' jaw drops. She stares. And then, suddenly slipping back into those bad old SYCOPHANTS habits, she moans helplessly and throws herself forward to prostrate herself at Tabouli's feet, grovelling mindlessly while gasping out incoherent phrases of awe-struck praise and worshipful devotion.

In a somewhat suspiciously friendly tone, Tabouli continues:

Maybe ships, like cities, could have twinning deals. We could exchange students! Have the captains shake hands in front of the municipal fountain for the cameras! Unveil plaques for each other! We must talk about this, Captain Elkins.

Alas! All too late, Elkins remembers what her mother always used to tell her about negotiating. "When dealing with potentially piratical colleagues," Mother always used to say, "you must always open negotiations by giving the impression that you are dealing from a position of strength."

Now, Elkins was never altogether sure what Mum used to mean by that word, 'strength,' but she is almost certain that prostration, grovelling, and other such grand gestures of self-abasement do not qualify.

Well, darn, she thinks, picking herself up off the ground with a slight wince, the wrenched hip serving as a forceful reminder that prostration really is a younger woman's game. If only I'd remembered that.

She smiles weakly at Captain Tabouli, brushes a few twigs off of one shoulder, and wonders if there is any point in hoping that her momentary lapse into sycophancy might have gone miraculously unnoticed.

Here (says Captain Tabouli, discreetly hiding the parrot under her captain's hat and removing the knife from between her teeth), let me extend a plank... er, platform for discussion...

Elkins is beginning to get the idea that Captain Tabouli did indeed notice. She tries to ignore the sound of Tabouli's crew scraping something heavy and wooden across the deck somewhere behind her and instead glances back to shore. Cindy's little booth on the dock suddenly seems very far away, and the water looks...cold. She slips one hand surreptitiously into her pocket, but comes up with nothing but a lint-covered cough drop and thirteen cents in change.

Oh no, she thinks. Where the devil did I leave that remote control? And what on earth could have possessed me to set foot on this ship in the first place?

Elkins can see the gun-metal gleam of the Big Bang Destroyer not too far away, but somehow suspects that the SWEETGEORGIANISM badge that she still (as she only now realizes with a thrill of sick horror) has pinned to her chest might make her considerably less than welcome there.

Doom. Doom, doom, doom.

Elkins blinks. It's not that she's never heard voices before, mind. But in the past, they've usually not reflected quite so accurately her conscious internal thought processes of the moment.

DOOOOOOM.

Glancing once more over to her left, Elkins is startled to see Captain Charis Julia, tooling by in her motorized C.U.P.I.D.S.B.L.U.D.G.E.R. inner tube and tugging along behind her an extraordinarily frilly pink barge labelled E.L.G.I.N.M.A.R.B.L.E.S.

Deciding not to think overmuch on why such an innocuous-looking vessel might be going "DOOOOOM," Elkins makes a quick promise to Tabouli to continue negotiations at some future time—preferably someplace more, er, dry—and bolts for the edge of the deck, bowling over the Captain's attractive young cabin boy (who bears, she notes with profound disapproval, an uncanny resemblance to Marina's young George), and vaults herself over the side and down onto the frilly pink barge, where Charis Julia has been musing nervously:

"...there's two birds nibbling from our bird feeder outside! How cute!" Pause. "You know it's no wonder they're hungry. We've had some awful weather indeed over here lately let me tell you! A regular storm last night! Rain pouring, lightning flashing, thunder bawling! I don't mind telling you...

Elkins lands sprawling on board the E.L.G.I.N.M.A.R.B.L.E.S. barge, inadvertently splashing Captain Charis with sea water for the second time in as many weeks. She scrambles to her feet, shrieking hysterically:

"For God's sake, Captain! Don't you see where you are? Run! Run, you fool! IT'S LOLLIPOPS! LOLLIPOPS OFF YOUR STARBOARD BOW! TABOULI'S ON DECK! SHE'S GOT ACRONYMS! SHE'S GOT UNCANNY VERBAL POWERS! SHE'S GOT SPIRIT OF CANON! SHE'S GOT FOLLOWERS WITH PLANKS! RUN! RUN FOR MY...I MEAN, OUR LIVES! GUN THE ENGINES! RAISE THE SAILS! MAN THE OARS! IT'S...No. No, wait. What am I saying? We can't outrun Tabouli. No one can outrun Tabouli! Tabouli has the mystic power of the International Date Line; she'll always be ahead of us. All right, then, MAN THE CANONS! MAN THE—"

Elkins stops suddenly, noticing her surroundings for the first time. She looks about her, gaping. This frilly pink barge has been decorated with pastel flowers, big red hearts, and smiling chubby putti. Refreshments have been laid out for visitors—spun candy floss, dainty little tea cakes with pink icing, sugared violets. A wide assortment of big-eyed stuffed animals sits on a nearby divan, ready and waiting for snuggling.

A music box somewhere is tinkling out "Send In the Clowns."

Elkins sits, very abruptly, down on the divan.

"Oh. My. God."

She looks about her again, slowly shakes her head.

"You, uh..." She swallows and closes her eyes. "You, uh, don't actually have any canon on board this thing at all. Do you?"

Charis points to two dainty canons, one mounted on the barge's prow, the other on its stern. The canon in the rear bears a label reading "MUGGLES ARE IMPORTANT!" The one in front reads: "LILY WAS NICE."

Manning the forward canon with a girlish giggle, Charis explains:

I think she [Lily] ought to have had two girlfriends. IMO, she's the kind of girl that would have two girlfriends. Why? Well, for starters, she's nice. And nice girls aren't loners. Nice girls have girlfriends. They have girlfriends because then they can have midnight feasts on chocolate with those girlfriends in their dormitories gigglingly trying to decide who the cutest boy in class is.

Elkins picks up a large mauve stuffed bunny rabbit and hugs it protectively to her chest.

And so that they can exchange dress robes and hair clips with them. And so that they can sit on the bank of the lake with them lounging in the sun and dreaming all the thrilling things that might just happen if they do everything right in their lives...

Elkins hugs the bunny rabbit even harder. It squeaks "Mama." She gasps and throws it away from her, shuddering.

Canon clearly states that Lily is nice and I'm prepared to take Canon at it's word, even if it is voiced through emotional Hagrid.

Charis continues to outline a sweet romantic tale of Marauders and their girlfriends, of doomed young love, of angst and woe, and so forth, concluding with:

That's E.L.G.I.N.M.A.R.B.L.E.S.: Excitable Love God's Irresponsible Negligence over Marauder's Affairs Results in Break—ups and Love—starved Educators Sorrowing.

Right. So there you have it. The reason I was so reluctant to send it is that I have long realized that really my tastes are far too sweet and calm for this e-group.

Elkins manages a sick sort of smile.

"Sweet?" she repeats. "Oh, noooooooo. No, no, no, no, no. Not at all. I, er...well, as you know, my tastes are usually, er, a little more, um, violent and, uh, ugly, but that's...that's perfectly all right, Captain. That's just fine. I..."

She takes a deep breath, then states firmly:

"Look. I'll tell you what I'm gonna do for you here, okay? You get me out of here, away from this, away from all of these vessels, away from the whole romance thing, back to dry land, and I'll see if I can whip up some more canon for you? Okay? Do we have ourselves a deal here?"

"Good. Now, let's see..."

---------------------

<Elkins rises to her feet, turns the stuffed animals to face the wall so that they will all stop staring at her, and begins to pace back and forth, wishing that she had Dicentra's pipe and deer-stalker hat with her.>

Okay. So what we've got here is the introduction of not one, but two non-canonical characters, two non-canonical romances, and an entire host of rather, um, floral speculation thereabout. Yes?

So. It seems to me that what E.L.G.I.N.M.A.R.B.L.E.S. really needs to do, if it wants to pass itself off as Fanspec, is to present itself as the key to resolving a number of issues that canon has left disturbingly unresolved. The principle under which we wish to operate here is what we might call the "Cherchez l Femme" Principle: namely, that all canonical mysteries can only be resolved by the addition of a romantic interest for one of the male leads. That canon does not mention these romances—or their major players—is utterly irrelevant. We know that they must exist, because only their existence will suffice to resolve canonical issues satisfactorily. They are therefore actually strongly suggested by canon, and therefore legitimate grounds for speculation. Quod Erat Demonstrandum. You with me so far?

Good. So let's first deal with the canonical evidence for the existence of Campanula, shall we? We'll tackle Campanula first, because I like Campanula. In my garden, Campanula hangs out right next to the front door, along with with our own list member Dicentra Spectabilis Alba's glamorous first cousin, Dicentra Spectabilis Rubra, as well as with her poor relation from the wrong side of the tracks, Dicentra Eximia — thus, of course, finally answering my, er, perennial question: "Where Are All The Bleeding Hearts?"

But I digress. So. Campanula, school-day sweetheart of Remus Lupin. Have we evidence for her existence?

Yes!

<Elkins hauls a small and rather flimsy-looking canon out of one of her very deep pockets. The canon is labelled "THE CASE OF THE WEREWOLF ON THE TRAIN." She nods to herself and mounts it on the side of the barge, which immediately begins listing alarmingly to port>

Don't worry, Captain. We'll balance that out with another one later on.

::stands back to evaluate the effect of the dull black canon on the pink frilly barge::

No. Er...it doesn't really match, does it? But that's okay. We can paint big pink and red hearts on it later, if you like.

Okay. Now we've all been wondering why Lupin was on the Hogwart's Express at the beginning of PoA, right? Was he too ill to apparate to Hogsmeade without splinching himself? Did Dumbledore ask him to be there to look after Harry? Was it his own curiosity, could he just not resist the desire to get a sneak preview of James Potter's son?

NO!

No. What we clearly must do here is CHERCHEZ! We must cherchez 'till our eyes fall right out of our sockets. There was a woman involved. There must have been! A woman, and a very tragic romance. After all, what other motivation does anyone ever have for doing anything? Lupin must have been on that train to see a Lost Love.

No other explanation will suffice.

So. Who is Campanula?

<Elkins turns her canon around to reveal the writing on the other side, which reads "THE CASE OF THE TROLLEY WITCH'S SMILE.">

Isn't it obvious? Campanula must be none other than the witch who operates the lunch trolley on the Hogwart's Express!

And I can prove it!

Now, the trolley witch is always smiling, isn't she? She's smiling, she's cheerful, and she's plump. (The plump is important, because we all know what sort of person would have had a crush on sickly teenaged Lupin, don't we? That's right: it must have been a maternal girl. A girl who wanted to fatten him up some. A girl with a yen to take dear sweet Remus home and feed him some nice, warm, nourishing soup. A girl who might well have grown up to be smiling, dimpled candy-trolley woman.)

But what happened to the lunch trolley witch's smile? In Book One, we have:

Around half past twelve there was a great clattering outside in the corridor and a smiling, dimpled woman slid back their door and said, 'Anything off the trolley, dears?'

In the beginning of PoA, we have:

At one o'clock, the plump witch with the food cart arrived at the compartment door. . . 'Don't worry, dear,' said the witch as she handed Harry a large stack of Cauldron Cakes. 'If he's hungry when he wakes, I'll be up front with the driver.'

(You will note that, in this scene, the children refer to Lupin only as "Professor." They never once use his name in the trolley witch's hearing. Keep this in mind, as it is significant.)

But look at what happens to our trolley witch next! End of PoA:

...when the witch with the tea cart arrived...

Beginning of GoF:

The lunch trolley came rattling along the corridor, and Harry bought a large stack of Cauldron Cakes for them to share.

End of GoF:

They broke off their conversation about what action Dumbledore might be taking, even now, to stop Voldemort only when the lunch trolley arrived.

Why, that trolley woman just never smiles or twinkles or maternally 'dears' Harry again, does she? She becomes...silent. Sad. Brooding.

Clearly something happened. Something between her appearance at the beginning of PoA and at the book's ending. What became of the Trolley Witch's smile?

Well, isn't it obvious? She encountered Lupin again, after the dementors boarded the train. Lupin would have needed to talk to her, because he would have needed to get more chocolate for all of the children. And I propose that when he did so, that was when our Campanula first recognized him not only as the same Remus Lupin she had loved and lost Lo So Many Years Ago, but also as the haggard, exhausted, prematurely-grey Professor she had seen in the compartment only an hour or so previous.

Why, she hadn't even recognized him, so changed had he become from the boy she had once giggled over in the Gryffindor dormitory. And he...well! His smile had become...slightly twisted, his speech patterns cool and lazy. He had clearly aged badly, and in more ways than one. Why, he'd gone all...all Edgy! Horrors!

Oh, poor Campanula. She knew that it must have been All Her Fault, for as we all know, Love of a Good Woman can smooth all edges and fix all ills. It can even prevent the hair from going grey. Campanula, clearly, had failed him.

And so the trolley witch woman never smiled again.

As for poor dear Remus...well! He did indeed get to speak with Campanula, which of course must have been the only reason he was on that train to begin with. But it was obviously no great comfort to him, because if it had been, then he wouldn't have given off that attractive whiff of Love Lost all through PoA, and he wouldn't have hoards of adult readers lusting after him so.

Yes, yes, yes. Poor Remus. Poor Campanula.

Now, as for Dimorphotheca...

<Elkins hauls yet another flimsy canon up to the starboard side of the barge. This one is labelled "THE CASE OF VOLDEMORT'S WAND, PETTIGREW'S GRUDGE, THE RAT IN THE MILK JUG, AND THE AMIABLE CENTAUR." The barge begins to list to starboard.>

Yes. This one is a bit heavier. You may want to find some way to bolster Campanula's case after this, just to even things out a bit.

Now, under the Cherchez Principle, we may legitimate posit Dimorphotheca's existence because to do so properly can resolve so very many canonical mysteries. How did Sirius find Peter so quickly after the Potters' deaths? What became of Voldemort's wand? When Peter escaped Hogwarts as Scabbers in PoA, why did he then run off to hang around Hagrid's hut, of all places? And why on earth is this theory called E.L.G.I.N.M.A.R.B.L.E.S., anyway?

CHERCHEZ!

<Elkins pauses for a moment here to eye the refreshments. She thinks longingly of those spicy Vienna Sausages they serve on board the Big Bang Destroyer, lets out a deep and soulful sigh, and then just grits her teeth and carries on>

Mmmmm, yes. Cherchez indeed. So obviously, we need a romance to explain these matters properly. Nothing else will do. So here we introduce Dimorphotheca. And obviously we'll give her to...

<Elkins blinks, then very slowly smiles. A twisted smile. A lazy smile.>

To Peter.

We'll give her to Peter.

::notices Charis' expression::

Hey, come on, now! James has Lily, Remus has Campanula, and Sirius—as we all know—is busy toying with Florence's affections behind the greenhouses. And besides, what's so dreadful about Peter anway, huh? Why doesn't Peter ever get any action?

Charis explains:

(Incidently, Peter doesn't get a girlfriend just out of spite and because, well, let's face it, who'd have him?)

<Elkins throws the Ever-So-Inaccurately-Named Charis a very cold look indeed>

I see. Well!

And you people always wonder why the poor little rat went bad?

Okay. That's it. That. Is. It. My sense of group loyalty towards all of those of us who...well, who Learned The Truth At Seventeen, shall we just say, has now been invoked. It's been invoked with a vengeance. This time around, Peter's getting the girl.

For a little while, anyway.

Besides, giving Peter the girl gives this backstory the internal tension, the conflict, the sense of tragedy that it so desperately needs. It also makes it LOLLIPOPS-friendly, which I gotta tell you, you're really going to need in these waters. That Tabouli can be just plain vicious.

So. Dimorphotheca is dating little Peter.

<Elkins notices that Charis is still glaring at her and sighs>

Okay, fine. She was only dating him because Lily talked her into it, okay? After all, you know how nice we're all starting to suspect that Canon Lily is — and LOLLIPOPS Lily...well, she's even nicer, isn't she? "Oh, Sirius, stop picking on poor Severus. It's not his fault if he's weird and creepy and knows all of those curses. I'm sure that he's just misunderstood. And besides, can't you see that he's just desperately unhappy?"

Yup. Lily's nice, all right. The sort of girl who wants all of her best girlfriends neatly hooked up with her own boyfriend's buddies, so that someday maybe they can have a Great Big WEDDING together. But she's not at all the sort of girl who would ever hook up one of her best girlfriends with a play-the-field sort of guy like Sirius, 'cause that would be just plain mean. After all, look what happened to poor Florence! So instead, she badgered Dimorphotheca into hooking up with Peter. "Oh, do give him a chance, Morphie. He's really kind of cute, in his own way. And he likes you. And besides, you know he'll slim down once he hits his growth spurt." All that sort of thing.

<Elkins smiles to herself and begins humming softly, "So pity please, the ones who serve...they only get what they deserve...," then realizes that her smile is beginning to take on that lazy quality again and shakes her head. She clears her throat>

Well. Yes. Right.

So now we've got Peter and Dimorphotheca as an item. But what happens once all the fallout from the Florence incident dies down?

Well, Sirius begins looking for a more stable relationship, that's what. He's tired of playing the field. He's tired of those Slytherin girls with their creepy Dark urges and their disturbing hex-manias. No, he wants a nice girl this time around, a girl with not the slightest bit of twist to her smile, a girl that he could feel comfortable bringing home to introduce to Mother. And so he sets his sights on Dimorphotheca.

Well, what do you think? Short pudgy guy that your girlfriend only talked you into giving the time of day in the first place, or Dead Sexy Sirius Black?

Yeah. Not much contest really, is there? And this, you see, is what laid down the groundwork for the entire tragedy — for as we all know, romantic rejection in ones early teen-aged years is the only reason that anyone ever has for going bad.

Ever.

Just ask Cindy. She'll tell you that I'm right.

This, you see, helps to explain Peter's otherwise seemingly-uncharacteristic malice in the muggle-blasting incident. After all, it really does seem a strange way for Peter to have ensured his own safety, doesn't it? He's not usually a particularly malicious person, nor a vengeful one. We've never once seen him take any other violent action that is not either commanded or absolutely necessary to ensure his own survival. When he makes his escape at the end of PoA, he doesn't even hurt Ron, even though Ron refused to speak in his defense in the Shrieking Shack. He just stuns the kid, that's all. Peter just doesn't seem like the type to dream up the utterly vindictive wickedness of his frame-up job on Sirius.

Ah...but cherchez, don't you know. Cherchez, cherchez, cherchez.

And this, in turn, explains how it was that Sirius was able to find Peter so quickly after the Potters' deaths. Peter wanted to be found, you see. He was just dying to get some payback for Sirius stealing his girl back when they were sixteen years old.

Charis moons over Dimorphotheca's angst:

Think about it. All in one night she looses two of her best friends allegedly because the man she loves (Ahhh!) ratted on them, only to be informed a few hours later that he's being hauled off to prison laughing his head off in true lunatic fashion for murdering another good friend plus 12 innocent bystanders...

Ah, but it's even worse than that! The man she (thought she) loved is being dragged off to prison for murdering not only a good friend, but her EX! The boy she should have chosen. The boy she threw over, for a handsome laugh and a Dead Sexy flying motorbike and a heart as black as coal.

Oh, how shallow she must have been to allow external appearances to sway her judgement like that (she agonizes)! How superficial, how base! Why, she even found herself thinking Bad Things about that little tart Florence, just to justify Sirius to herself, when all the time he truly was a Very Bad Man. A Man as Wicked As They Come, that Sirius Black.

Yes, yes. Poor Dimorphotheca.

Now here is where I start to diverge really wildly from Charis' version of E.L.G.I.N.M.A.R.B.L.E.S. In hers, the muggle-born Dimorphotheca retreats utterly from the wizarding world to resume a life of muggledom.

I say no. No, no, no. Perhaps she thought of doing that, but what actually happened was...

Well. First let's get back to Voldemort's Wand, shall we? People are always wondering about Voldemort's wand. Where could Peter have hid it? Is it possible that he had an accomplice? Did he hand it over to one of the other Death Eaters sometime between the muggle-blasting incident and his disappearance from sight? And if so, then how did he get it back to give it back to Voldemort in GoF?

Fear not, because E.L.G.I.N.M.A.R.B.L.E.S. can explain!

Of course Peter didn't have an accomplice among the Death Eaters. How could he have? Sirius claims that the DEs held him responsible for what happened at Godric's Hollow, and the DEs all certainly seem surprised and dismayed by Voldemort's return in GoF. Not one of them seems to be smirking to himself there in the graveyard, thinking: "Boy, Pettigrew really owes me one for giving him back that wand a few months ago." Not one of them seems to be expecting Big Rewards from Voldemort for keeping his wand safe for the past thirteen years.

Nope. Peter did have someone to keep the wand safe for him, but that person wasn't a Death Eater. It was the deeply-grieved Dimorphotheca.

The way I figure it, he must have come crawling round her house just after Sirius' arrest and taken advantage of the poor girl's guilt by feeding her some marvellous tale about his Great Secret Battle Against the Forces of Evil. "Tell no one I am alive: the Ministry is full of treacherous agents of Darkness. Just look at that Fudge, for example! Evil as they come." "Keep this mystic artifact safe for me and tell no one of its existence." "When Mars burns bright in the heavens, I shall be called once more to battle Evil and shall return for it." "Ouch! Morphie, dearest, snookums, love-bunny, darling...I do adore you, but could you please stop trying to bandage that? I mean, it really really hurts, okay?" And all that sort of thing.

This was before all those years spent as a rat muddled his mind, you see. He actually used to be a really, really good liar. And besides, dear Dimorphotheca...well, truth be told, she was never the brightest star in Gryffindor's firmament anyway.

So. There's the E.L.G.I.N.M.A.R.B.L.E.S. answer to the Voldemort's Wand question. Peter took it with him from Godric's Hollow; it transformed along with him when he made his animagus escape from Sirius; and he brought it to Dimorphotheca that night, which was the reason that he didn't have it with him anymore when he transformed back in Shrieking Shack.

But what happened to Dimorphotheca then, you ask? Well...this is where we have to...

::strikes dramatic pose::

CUE THE CENTAURS!

Yes. Of course there are centaurs! How could there not be? This theory is called E.L.G.I.N.M.A.R.B.L.E.S., after all, so we need centaurs.

Besides, we've all been wondering about those centaurs, haven't we? What is their deal, anyway? Why were they out in force that same night that Quirrel/Voldemort was on his unicorn hunt? Is there any particular significance to Mars burning unusually brightly, other than as a generalized portent of war? Why does Firenze seem so much more human—and so much more human-friendly—than the other two centaurs? And just what secrets—other than feral Fords and giant Spiders—might the Forbidden Forest be hiding, anyway?

E.L.G.I.N.M.A.R.B.L.E.S. is here to save the day!

See, Dimorphotheca meant to stay faithful to dear Peter's memory. She really did. But then came the fateful day when the centaurs descended in force upon that Hogsmeade wedding to carry off all the women for themselves.

Because centaurs do that, you know. They're notorious for that sort of behavior. That, in fact, is the reason that in canon we never see them anywhere outside of the Forbidden Forest. The Wedding Incident was the Last Straw for the good people of Hogsmeade, who thereafter banished them to the forest.

Dimorphotheca was, naturally, serving as one of the bridesmaids at that wedding, 'cause she's just an always-the-bridesmaid sort of gal, and so she soon found herself dragged off to the Forbidden Forest as the prize of a strapping big centaur named, uh, Polygonatum.

Not much she could do about it, really. But you don't have to worry too much about her: in time, she adjusted to her new life, settled down into a state of romantic bliss, and bore her centaur lover a son: Firenze.

Firenze is really only a half-centaur. This fits nicely into canon's tendency to provide us with characters of mixed heritage, and it also explains why he's so friendly to humans, and why Bane gets so very cranky with him when he helps out Harry in his overly humanish way. The other centaurs had been trying to train him out of that sort of behavior, you see. Hence all of the crankiness, and all of the "such is not our way"-ness, and Firenze's own absolute refusal to answer Harry when Harry asks him why Bane was so angry.

As for Dimophotheca herself, on her deathbed (what, you think giving birth to a half-centaur is easy? No, even the centaurs couldn't save the poor girl's life, but that's okay, because as we all know, dying in childbirth is both virtuous and romantic), she handed Voldemort's wand over to the father of her son, telling him all about her Lost Love Peter Pettigrew, destined to return to fight the reborn Voldemort when Mars would burn bright in the heavens. She made him promise by all of the oaths that centaurs hold sacred to keep her secret, and to keep the wand, and to deliver it to the right person when the proper time came.

Polygonatum ate this up, of course, because centaurs just love prophecies, and this one happened to coincide neatly with a number of their own: Voldemort returning when Mars would burn bright in the heavens, a man named "Grew-Petty" having some important role to play in the Dark Lord's return, the innocent always being the first to go...all of that. Clearly, Dimorphotheca was telling them the truth. (Hey. Even centaur divination isn't a very reliable art, you know.) They took the wand and kept it safe and hidden.

So this explains why all of those centaurs were out and about in the Forbidden Forest the night that Quirrel went unicorn hunting. Their mystic arts had told them that the Dark Lord's return was imminent, and so they were out looking for Pettigrew, to give him back that wand. And this is the true significance of Bane's admonitory "What have you been telling him?" And of Ronan's "The Forest hides many secrets." And of Hagrid's own "They're deep, mind, centaurs...they know things...jus' don' let on much."

This is also the reason that Pettigrew was hanging around in Hagrid's cupboard, instead of heading straight for the hills like any sane coward in his position would have done. As he had been making his escape through the Forest, you see, he'd overheard the centaurs talking. Talking about Dimorphotheca. And about him. And about the wand. So he had to hang around the Forest. He was trying to figure out just what it would take to convince those nutty centaurs to give the wand back to him. And eventually, he did — which is how he then managed to retrieve Voldemort's wand and to have it back in his possession by the beginning of GoF.

And this is the real reason that this entire theory is called E.L.G.I.N.M.A.R.B.L.E.S. in the first place. Not only because the acronym worked out well that way, and not only because I myself seem to be losing my own marbles, but also because the entire plot hinges on the abduction of Dimorphotheca from the wedding at Hogsmeade.

<Elkins exhales hard and throws herself down on the divan in utter exhaustion>

There. How's that?

Charis said:

Therefore I would like to make it clear that E.L.G.I.N.M.A.R.B.L.E.S. is offered with an open invitation for an anarchistic carnage at it's expense. Wreak havoc guys!

<Elkins salutes wearily>

Always glad to oblige, Captain. Oh! Look! Land!

<suddenly energized, she leaps to her feet and hops over the side of the barge, into the comfortingly knee-deep water>

Thanks for the lift, Captain Charis. I hope that the new canons suit you. Do feel free to redecorate them however you like. They're yours now.



—Elkins, wading wearily back to shore while muttering darkly to herself: "Never. Never again. Never again will I set foot on someone else's SHIP. Never again am I leaving land. Never, never, never, never, never..."

Posted February 28, 2002 at 2:00 pm
Topics:
Plain text version

 

RE: The Big Bangers and Neville

Elkins sloshes her way through the surf and stomps up onto the sand: dirty, dishevelled, soaking wet from the knees down, and with a nervous tic fluttering madly under her left eye. Once above the high-tide line, she collapses onto the beach and fervently kisses dry land, then rolls onto her back to stare blankly up at the sky.

After a moment, she notices Cindy and Eileen both looking down at her.

"Oh," she mutters. "Don't ask. Just do not ask."

Sitting up, Elkins notices a pink candy heart still clinging stickily to one elbow. She peels it off and tosses it to one side, shuddering. It is immediately snapped up by a passing seagull.

"Really," Elkins repeats. "I mean it. You do not want to know. It was...it was horrible. Just horrible. There were SHIPs involved. And pink things."

She wraps herself tightly in her featherboas, then looks around the beach, frowning.

"Say," she says. "Has either of you by any chance seen my Snitch controls lying around here anywhere?"

-----------------

Cindy:

I thought we decided we could still be friends. Besides, I see that you have rebounded to George, and deep down I'm very happy for you. Really, I am. I'll just have to remember what we had. Or at least, what I thought we had.

We'll...

<Elkins' voice breaks. She turns quickly away>

We'll always have Avery in the DMC.

I sense a serious misunderstanding about exactly how Big the Reverse Memory Charm can be. Neville as a small toddler who later gets a Reverse Memory Charm is Big. Heck, it's Huge.

Ah! Well, if Neville can be a toddler at the time, then that's different!

The aspect of Neville-with-Reverse-Memory-Charm that I was really objecting to, you see, was your "it has to be 1981, because Neville has to have been but an infant at the time, he just has to have been" stance.

You seemed to be taking a rather firm stand against the entire idea of Traumatized Neville, and frankly, that just offended my featherboas.

So you can certainly have the drama of toddler Neville cowering in the corner, flinching, sucking his thumb, whatever you want. . . .Reverse Memory Charm Neville suffers, you see. I'm giving Neville a tremendous amount of pain. I'm enhancing his memory so that he hears the shrieks of his parents every darn day.

Well!

<Elkins tosses her bloody featherboa over one shoulder with a satisfied air>

Okay, then! So long as he can be a toddler. It was that infant thing that was really the sticking point for me, you see. So can we call it 1983, then, and forget all about that canonically-suggested-but-nowhere-actually-stated "it happened in 1981" nonsense?

Not only has the Reverse Memory Charm wrecked his memory for things like where he left his toad, it has caused him to repeatedly experience his parents' torture in Dolby and Technocolor. Reverse Memory Charm Neville has to be Tough to avoid losing his mind completely, if you ask me.

Sounds good to me. I have never wanted Neville to join the ranks of SYCOPHANTS. I want Neville to be Tough. Tough...but weird. Weird Tough. In fact, what I want most for Neville is for him to develop—yes, you guessed it—Edge.

So if Reverse-Memory-Charm Neville can be a toddler, then I'm cool with it. But earlier, you seemed to be all hung up on this 1981 thing, and that just wasn't flying for me.

(I objected to Reverse-Memory-Charm-Neville on the grounds that it was—snicker—unsupported by canon.)

OK, now, that really hurt. Aside from the fact that you've come right out and said I'm squeamish and therefore not Tough, you're saying the Reverse Memory Charm doesn't exist in canon. Ouch!

Forgive me. People sometimes say hard things when under pressure. And besides, you know how Edgy I can get sometimes. Especially on the subject of timelines. Timelines put everyone a bit on edge, don't they?

It was that insistence on 1981 that did it. 1981, 1981...I just hate that year 1981! As if 1981 doesn't hog up enough of the timeline already. Some people just seem to want to wrap up the entire aftermath of the whole darned Voldemort's Reign of Terror backstory in only two short months. Bah to that, I say. Bah!

I say, it's about time we let 1982 and 1983 see some action. They were good years, they deserve a bit of excitement too. Why should 1981 get all the glory?

Cindy:

Reverse Memory Charms are not directly mentioned in canon, true. You know, kind of the way Avery's backstory isn't directly mentioned in canon. *g* But the Reverse Memory Charm clues are there.

At this point, Eileen chimes in:

Take that, Elkins!

<Elkins stares at her in wounded disbelief>

Boy. You really do just go with the biggest bully on the playground, don't you?

::suddenly remembers that she herself gave Eileen her very own SYCOPHANTS badge and slaps herself on forehead as comprehension dawns—along with a vast quantity of reader sympathy::

Oh! Riiiiiiight! I'd forgotten all about that. Well...yeah, okay. Okay. Fair enough. That's quite all right, Eileen. I really do understand. I guess I'd probably do the same to you, given half the chance.

Cindy, Toughly ignoring this minor SYCOPHANTIC spat, continues:

And you said you were agnostic on the subject of Memory Charms and were willing to work with me if I'd go along on Avery. I feel soiled somehow.

Well, that was before you showed any willingness to bend on the whole timeline issue, wasn't it. But now that you've offered me a traumatized toddler Neville, as well as a gut-wrenched Moody and a remorseless Crouch and a Great Big Bloody Dramatic Battle between Moody and the DEs—it's every bit as good as a Bloody Ambush!—I'm in again.

Just don't try to make Neville an infant when it all happens, and I'll follow you wherever you lead. Really. I'm all yours.

Well...so long as you don't step on George's toes.

And...well...except for maybe when it comes to that Toadkeeper thing. I just don't know about that whole Toadkeeper idea.

<brightly>

But aside from that, I'm your willing slave, Cindy. Honest, I am. Just keep the Big Bangs coming when it comes to Neville, Aurors and DEs, and I'm, er, almost all yours!

Eileen expresses her own SweetGeorgian concerns:

But we can still be Georgians and believe in bloody ambushes, can't we? Otherwise, you and Elkins are pulling me apart.

::patting Eileen reassuringly on the shoulder::

But of course we can! George himself may not like it very much, but we don't need him anymore. We have an acronym now! So long as we don't start ascribing any Bangy motivations to Snape's big decisions, then we can have as many tortured toddlers and anguished Aurors and Great Bloody Ambushes as we like, and still wear our SWEETGEORGIANISM badges with pride! But...um...

::nervous glance out to sea, lowered voice::

But we should probably watch out for that Captain Tabouli. She can be just vicious. And sneaky, too. I don't know how you sleep nights on that ship, Eileen. I really don't.

Eileen expresses her preference for a Tortured!Neville scenario:

Why would the Lestranges leave Neville out of the picture, Cindy? They tortured Mrs. Longbottom to make Frank talk, why would they leave his little toddler out of the business? Because Florence Lestrange was a kind maternal woman in whom Neville awakened the thought of a lost life as Mrs. Sirius Black barefootedly baking cookies for the hordes of little Blacks? No, I don't think so.

"You won't talk? Well, do you want to see your child tortured?"

Cindy squirms squeamishly:

OK, you're going to force me to think about little babies being tortured, aren't you?

Eeeeeee-yup! We sure are. (And he's not a baby, dammit. He's a toddler.)

Here, Cindy. Have a featherboa. Have two: they're warm, and made from murdered owls.

Cindy:

I have to address this, or I will be heckled as "squeamish" and I will lose all credibility (or what smidgen of credibility I have left). So here we go.

You see, the reason Mrs. Lestrange leaves Neville alone during the attacks is that she doesn't see him as a risk. He is too young to identify her, she thinks.

Nah. I think she just didn't know he was there. He was hidden in the closet. I make the case for the closet for two reasons: (a) every cheesy issue-of-the-week made-for-TV-movie ever written that deals with early childhood trauma always has the kid hidden in the closet, and (b) it, uh, provides a literary parallel with Harry's own early childhood experience.

So it's canonical to have Neville in the closet. Really it is.

Cindy:

We want our DEs to be grey, right?

We sure do! Or at least, I do. And that's why, as sweet as I found Eileen's suggestion that it might have been Avery who saved him, I'm nonetheless going to plump here yet again for my favorite Sympathy For the Devil Theory: Neville Owed a Life Debt to Barty Crouch.

No, it wasn't Avery who saved poor Neville. Avery was too busy keeping a look-out for the Aurors and trying not to be sick. Or perhaps participating while under the Imperius Curse, depending on which variety of Fourth Man you favor. And it wasn't Mrs. Lestrange who spared him either, are you kidding? As we all know, Florence is Ever So Evil now, thanks to Sirius toying with her affections like that back in her school days. And it sure wasn't Mr. Lestrange. He doesn't even have a first name, so why would he spare Toddler Neville from torment?

Nope. No, it had to be young Crouch. I mean, think about it. Given the vast quantities of information that we have now accumulated, through our irreproachable extrapolations from canon, about these four characters, which of them do you think would have had the most invested in the entire "don't judge children by their parents" concept? Which of them would had been the most likely to balk at the notion of a child being forced to suffer for his parents' sins? Which of them, throughout all of GoF, stands in as the thematic representative of the Apple-Fallen-Far-From-The-Tree? Which of them is practically a personification of the principle of parricide itself?

It had to have been Crouch. It just had to have been. This was pre-Azkaban, pre-Imperius Crouch, remember. He wasn't quite so damaged back then. Bouncing Ferret Crouch was still years in his future. Back then, he still had some qualms about the whole punish-child-for-parents'-sins thing.

Yeah, I say that Crouch spared Neville. He came across him huddling in the closet where he had been hidden, took one look into those big pure-blooded eyes, and then closed the door, went back to the others, stared meaningfully at the Longbottoms, and said: "No, sorry, couldn't find the brat anywhwere. Guess they were telling the truth after all. The boy just isn't here."

Which explains, of course, why it is that the Longbottoms don't recognize Neville. They were forced to spend so much mental energy during their ordeal trying to keep it in mind that the kid wasn't there that it's just about the only thing that they now do remember about him. They remember that "the child is not here." So whenever Neville goes to visit them in the hospital, they look right at him and repeat dully: "My son isn't here. He's not here."

There. I don't know if that's Big enough for the Bangers, but I think it's probably at least horrid enough to satisfy everybody's featherboas.

And it meshes fairly well with Reverse-Memory-Charm Neville, too. Under the influence of the Reverse Memory Charm, Neville fingered all four of them, right? And yet both Dumbledore and Sirius seem highly dubious about Crouch's guilt. Clearly there was something about Neville's testimony under the Reverse Memory Charm that didn't seem very convincing, at least when it came to the question of Crouch's guilt. (And, er, Avery's, of course. We can't forget Avery.) Must have been the life-debt. The poor kid was all torn, what with the trauma, and the Reverse Memory Charm, and then the life-debt to Crouch on top of all of that -- it just muddled his testimony all to pieces.

After all, life-debt to Crouch would explain so much! It would explain why despite his usual timidity, Neville was willing to volunteer information about such a traumatic subject as the Cruciatus curse in Fake Moody's class. It would explain why, in spite of being absolutely terrified of the man, and in spite of showing obvious signs of having been weeping when he returns from his little tea party with him, he nonetheless strikes Harry as looking "cheered" — and yet then spends that entire night lying awake in his bed. Would a simple word of praise about Herbology and the loan of a book have had quite that dramatic an effect, do you think? Would it have the power to inspire such obvious and deep-seated ambivalence?

No, the poor kid's seriously conflicted when it comes to Moody. He just doesn't know what to make of their relationship.

I'm tellin' ya, it's gotta be one of them life-debt thingies. Just gotta be.

Well...that and strange feedback from his super secret time-shift powers. But that's a subject for my next post, in which I try to provide the Big Bang Battleship with a satisfactory Neville backstory...

—Elkins, who really is going to get back to serious canonical discussion of these books one of these days. Really she is.

 

RE: The Big Bangers and Neville

Cindy wrote:

OK. So under my timeline, Neville is born sometime in 1980. Let's pick the middle of 1980. That makes him a proper toddler when the Potters are killed because he is 16 months old or so.

<Elkins the childless strains her (almost as bad as Neville's) memory to remember what her young nieces and nephews were like at that age.>

Weeeellll...

So if the torture happens ::Cindy pauses to think of a torture date that will give the greatest possible Bang:: on Christmas day 1981, Neville is 18 months old, and still a toddler.

Ooooh. You almost got me there, with that Christmas Day thing. I imagined a decorated tree crashing to the ground, gaily wrapped parcels trodden underfoot...it was all good. Very Bangy, and my featherboas liked it as well.

But then you offered me this:

Can you give me June 1982 as the latest date for the torture? Can we have the Lestranges caught quickly, so that it is more likely that Neville's evidence caused their capture? Can Neville be just turning two when the torture happens? Can we have Mrs. Lestrange burst through the door as Neville is blowing out his birthday candles or something?

Okay. Tell you what I'm gonna do, since you're being so accomodating here. We'll push Neville's birthday back to the very late winter of 1980, the Event can occur in 1982, and it can be Neville's second birthday. Okay? That way, I don't have to swallow down any more of that Everything-Happens-In-1981 that annoys me so much, you can still have things happening reasonably quickly, the Lestranges can have been reasonably swift-to-take-action, Neville can be unquestionably a toddler (I like to think that he was just entering that horrid "NO!" stage at the time), and we can still have gaily-wrapped parcels trodden underfoot.

Also, that way we can declare Neville to be a Pisces. This is actually strongly suggested by canon as JKR, in spite of her apparent distaste for divination, nonetheless seems to enjoy giving her characters apt sun signs (Hermione the Virgo, Harry the Leo, Ron the Taurus, and so forth).

Also, this would explain why we never hear a word about Neville's birthday in canon. He's never told anyone when it is, see, 'cause Neville just hates his birthday. It brings back bad memories.

Now that Kimberly and her Faith, they're definitely squeamish. Something needs to be done about them, don't ya think?

Faith lacks Edge. She definitely lacks Edge. But I'm afraid that she does have the author on her side, so she probably outranks us. ::sigh::

I'm not too sure about ToadKeeper. Don't tell Judy or anything, but she stung me pretty good with her assault on ToadKeeper.

'Stung' you? She sank Toadkeeper straight to a watery grave, actually, but ssssshhh. We'll keep that our little secret, shall we?

I'm just putting on a brave face at this point. I'd love for you to come up with something for this Neville/Trevor issue so that I could scuttle ToadKeeper, 'cause it is seriously taking on water.

Mmmmmm. Well, I was working up a Neville backstory, but now I realize that it has no Trevor Oh, no!

Note to self: revamp backstory to include Trevor. Preferably with Big Banginess.

I'll, uh...I'll be getting back to you on that.

Hmmm. If Reverse-Memory-Charm Neville is repeatedly re-living his parents' torture, doesn't it, uh, help, if he actually saw it?

Two options here:

1) He could see little bits and pieces of what was going on through a crack in the closet door, just like the kids on all of those made for TV movies.

2) He couldn't see a thing. It was pitch black. All he could do was hear what was going on — which might be a whole lot worse, really.

How about if the torture happens right there in front of Neville (with toddler Neville wearing his pointy birthday hat and all), but someone tells Mrs. Lestrange to spare Neville?

You still haven't sold me on the entire group of DEs being willing to spare Neville. I do like my DEs grey, it is true, but I also like them vile. If they had known the kid was there, then they would have brutalized him.

How about option (3): Neville was sitting right there at the table, birthday cake in front of him and wearing his pointy hat and all, but hidden under the Invisibility Cloak that Frank had hastily thrown over the kid when the DEs first burst through the door? Moody had an Invisibility Cloak, so Frank might have had one as well? Seems like something that an Auror might have had lying around the house.

I don't like option (3) though. It's hard to reconcile with my Life Debt To Barty Crouch theory.

Also, if we stick to Crouch Lying To The Others About Neville In the Closet, then we can add to our supposition that young Crouch, fearing that the kid might start snivelling or screaming or otherwise giving the game away, also smacked him with a full Body-Bind, to keep him quiet.

In this way we could account for Neville's expression of utter and complete horror when Hermione does the exact same thing to him in SS/PS, as well as for his appearance—"white with shock"—when he wins the House Cup for Gryffindor and gets praise and hugs from all of his classmates at the end of the novel. Harry's dead wrong about what's happening with Neville there. He's not shocked and pleased to be receiving all that unaccustomed praise. He's shocked and appalled that he is actually being stroked for having been victimized in this particular way — yet again!

As an aside, I am having some trouble closing the loop on Reverse-Memory-Charm Neville, and now that Elkins is back on board, maybe she can help. Why is Neville's memory so bad, exactly? Was his memory actually damaged by the charm? That's possible, I guess.

Hmmm. Well, how's this? The Reverse Memory thing wasn't actually a charm at all. It was a potion. A new and experimental potion, in fact, which had just recently been invented by that young hotshot of Dumbledore's — Severus Snape.

The Memory Retrieval Potion was still in the testing stage when Crouch authorized its use on young Neville. It hadn't actually been cleared for use on human subjects yet. But did Crouch care? Are you kidding? He wanted this case wrapped up, and fast.

The reason that the Memory Retrieval Potion has never been mentioned in canon, of course, is that as it turned out, it had some...unfortunate side-effects. The initial tests on the lab rabbits and such had all gone fine, but apparently when used on human subjects you start running into problems. Problems like permanent memory damage. Problems like suppression of natural magical talent. Big Problems.

Because of these problems, the substance was in the end never cleared by the Ministry for use at all, and everyone would really much rather it just be forgotten about altogether.

And that's the real reason why Snape's so cranky about Neville's incompetence in his potions class, you see. That's guilt, is what that is. Guilt, and anger that he was made to look like such an incompetent by that blithering moron Crouch, who simply would not listen to him when he had tried to explain that his tests had not yet been completed, and that he could not therefore make any promises at all that his new potion would not, in fact, turn the boy's brain to mush.

It's also why Dumbledore's asking him to brew up that Wolfsbane Potion for Lupin was such a very big deal to Snape, and why he became so very irritable when Lupin seemed to be hesitating before gulping it down. And why it was really quite kind of Dumbledore to insist on using Snape's "strongest" veritaserum on Crouch at the end of GoF.

That was a gesture of trust, that was. And I'm sure that Severus appreciated it.

—Elkins