1. Fanfic Competition -- Topic -- HOGWARTS DAYS

    Word count? 500-17500 words!

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Entry #2

Discussion in 'Summer 2022 Flash Competition' started by Xiph0, Jul 12, 2022.

  1. Xiph0

    Xiph0 Yoda Admin

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    A Study in Green
    “I didn’t kill my husband,” she said.

    “I didn’t say you had.”

    “It’s all over the paper, I saw it this morning.”

    “I wouldn’t trust everything you see written in the Daily Prophet.”

    “They say I killed him for his money.”

    Harry looked at the Quidditch pitch, and its perfectly cut grass.

    “Pure speculation,” he said. “Although I can see where they get the idea.”

    She was not amused. “Are you here to arrest me?”

    “Not really. I’m here to ask some questions.”

    “I’ve already told the aurors everything I know.”

    Harry chuckled. “But you haven’t told me.”

    “They questioned me under Veritaserum, Potter. Boy-who-lived or not, I don’t see how you can do better.”

    Harry shrugged his shoulders. “You have some lovely gardens, Mrs. Malfoy. And an even lovelier Quidditch pitch.”

    “Don’t call me that. He 's gone. I’m not his wife anymore.”

    “What should I call you then?”

    “You may call me by my name.”

    “Alright then, Astoria. Mind if we take a walk? I spent all night cooped up inside my office, I’d like to stretch my legs.”

    “It’s not like I can go anywhere else.”

    “Just a precaution. You shan't be under house arrest for much longer. Shall we?”

    He began to walk in the direction of the house, a grand marble building, and she followed.

    “Walk me through the events of that Friday, if you would be so kind. Spare no detail.”

    “There’s no detail to spare. I woke up late, and by that point Draco had already left. There was a Winzengamot session that morning, and he stayed there most of the day.”

    Harry hummed. “Do you usually wake up late?”

    “No, I had a horrible headache that night, that’s why.”

    “So you didn’t see Draco until…”

    “Five, maybe six.”

    “And what did you do all day?"

    “What I usually do. Read, paint. Sometimes I go out for lunch, but – as I said – I did not feel well, so I stayed home.”

    Harry stepped to one side to avoid a rather aggressive-looking peacock. “You were ill, but you still went to a party that evening?”

    “Draco was insistent. He had matters to discuss with Nott, and he didn’t want to miss it.”

    “So you went. By floo, I imagine.”

    “Yes. Does it matter?”

    “Maybe, maybe not. What happened afterwards?”

    “What usually happens at these parties. Draco and a few others went into a separate room to discuss politics. I stayed until it was polite enough to leave, and then returned home. I went to bed straight afterwards. Must have been nine, or then.”

    “Did you notice your husband’s return?”

    “No.”

    “How come?”

    “We sleep in different rooms.”

    Harry scratched his chin. “You didn’t like your husband much, did you?”

    “I liked him well enough, I just didn’t love him.”

    "I see. Did you put out the fire, in your fireplace, after your return?"

    "No."

    "Was it lit when you woke up the next morning?"

    "I – I don't remember."

    He clicked his tongue. "A pity. When did you realise your husband was missing?"

    "I didn't. Your people were at my door going on about a murder before I even knew what had happened."

    "So you didn't see anything weird about your husband disappearing on a Saturday?"

    "No. I woke up late again. I assumed he had gone out for lunch.”

    “More headaches?”

    “Yes. If you don’t believe me you can ask–”

    “Not at all,” Harry said. “You have been very consistent. I’m just trying to get to the bottom of things. How long have you had these headaches for?”

    “About a week, give or take.”

    “Have you gone to a healer about it?”

    “Not yet.”

    Harry hummed again, and then pulled a notebook from his pocket.

    “Well, you see, I’m here because the theory we came up with back at headquarters has a few holes. I’ll tell you what we know for certain.

    “Friday at nine your husband arrives at the ministry. The Wizengamot votes on a bill for muggleborn integration at ten, which passes narrowly, and with his support. Your husband then meets Susan Bones for lunch. He returns home at around six, and at half seven both of you arrive at Nott’s party. Per your own testimony, you return home early, at around nine. So far so good. We’re told things got a little heated at Nott’s party after some late drinks – apparently your husband’s vote left some of his old chums miffed, and the word ‘blood traitor’ was thrown around – and so your husband storms off and Floos back home.”

    “You seem to have everything figured out.”

    “Yes, well, things get a bit less clear, from here on out. We know that your husband gets home before midnight, and we know the blood wards here don’t allow any apparition in or out, and we don’t have any reason to suppose he just walked out. Which places him here. We also know that at Saturday at eight, Walter Bigbsy, having left his hat there the previous evening, enters the Wizengamot chamber to notice Malfoy’s name having been stricken off his seat, which, if you didn’t know, only happens if a member is convicted of a crime, expelled from the body, or dies. This means he was killed here, between midnight and eight in the morning.”

    “I’ve said so already, under Veritaserum too. I did not kill my husband.”

    “Well, it would be hard to believe if it wasn’t for Veritaserum. But I haven’t finished. We did some digging, and found that past midnight, on Friday, the Floo Office registered a trip from the Leaky Cauldron to your husband’s office. One of the patrons swore he recognised him. Walter McNair, he said. Do you know who he is?”

    “No.”

    “Then I suppose you don’t know that the man was a Death Eater. Disappeared after Voldemort’s defeat. And he shows up right on the night of your husband's murder, at his office, fifteen years later. Bit of a coincidence, don’t you think?”

    “I–”

    “Were you aware that your husband was also a Death Eater?”

    She shook her head, taking a deep breath. “You’re wasting your time. I don’t know anything about this. He never talked business with me, or politics, or about his past. He never talked to me much at all. Besides, I don’t see the hole you speak of. It seems pretty obvious to me.”

    “It all fits, no?” Harry put his hands in his pocket. “McNair, pissed off at his perceived betrayal and somehow having gotten access to your husband’s office, murdered him last night, and then got rid of the evidence. It all fits, save for one small detail. Walter McNair is dead.”

    “Wha– how do you know?”

    “Died round two years ago in Albania. We found out just as we started to ask around. Happy coincidence, really.”

    “I – I don’t understand. If it wasn’t me, and McNair is dead…”

    “Well, I’m afraid I don’t fully share your optimism, but yes. It means that someone else did it, and, believing him alive, tried to frame McNair.”

    “... that still doesn’t have anything to do with me.”

    Harry had to snort. “Doesn’t it? You see, the first thing that struck me about the whole thing, is just how darned guilty you looked. You had motive, means, opportunity, the whole lot. And yet, if we are to believe that this murder was comitted by a third party, we must also believe that said third party took pains to give us a whole second suspect that wasn’t you. Why? Why is this third party so concerned with you being found innocent? Do you happen to be friends with many murderers?”

    “As I said a million times–”

    “And under Veritaserum, yes, I know. But do you know why Veritaserum is not used as evidence in court?” Harry did not wait for a reply. “Because it can be cheated with a simple memory charm. And how long did you say you were having those headaches for?”

    Astoria opened and closed her mouth. “You can’t mean… you don’t say…”

    “That you conspired to have your husband killed and had your conspirator erase the memories? Well, that is my working hypothesis, yes.”

    Astoria seemed frozen in place. “I – I want my lawyer.”

    Harry smiled. “I’m sorry I gave the wrong impression. I’m not here to charge you, I’m here to ask you about the whereabouts of your sister. We’ve not been able to locate her as of yet.”

    “I want my lawyer,” she repeated more strongly.

    Harry stared at her for a moment, before shrugging his shoulders.

    “No need, I'll be going then. I’d just thought I’d save my boys the bother.”

    He turned to leave but was stopped by a hand on his arm.

    “If it’s like you say…” There was a slight anguish in her voice. “What was my motive?”

    Harry looked around, at the gardens, the quidditch pitch, the large manor.

    “Well, I thought that would be obvious. Good day, Mrs. Malfoy."
     
  2. Shinysavage

    Shinysavage Madman With A Box ~ Prestige ~

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    Strong entry. The narrative to dialogue ratio is bold, but I think just about works in the piece's favour, contributing to a reasonably tense atmosphere. If the dialogue itself weren't so strong though, it would probably fall flat. The mystery is as compelling as it can be in the limited word count, with a fair twist at the end, and you manage to sketch in enough detail about Draco and Astoria's life to make it engaging. Minor point - it's Walden Macnair, not Walter.
     
  3. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    1500 on the dot, damn.

    Kudos for listening to the rules.
     
  4. BTT

    BTT Viol̀e͜n̛t͝ D̶e͡li͡g҉h̛t҉s̀ ~ Prestige ~

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    This is good stuff. Personally, when I started and saw the amount of dialogue I raised an eyebrow, but you've managed to convince me it's deliberate instead of a mistake.

    It's a good use of Veritaserum, I think. It comes together very neatly, so that the reader thinks of the headaches the minute you bring up Obliviation as a possibility at just the right time. I also quite like Harry's final insistence on still calling her Mrs. Malfoy, twisting that dagger just a little deeper.

    My only real quibble is that if Astoria's motive really is materialistic - and it could be, could be otherwise, at this point, considering you paint her life as rather miserable and cold - it could've used maybe just a touch more foreshadowing. Possessiveness over the peacocks or the house, for instance.

    4/5.
     
  5. James

    James Auror

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    Interesting enough, and I'm happy to see capable Harry, who seems to be all for the off-beaten path, but since this is a flash story, I'd cut some of the dialogue to resolve at least some of the questions that popped up:

    - is Harry not an auror?
    - why doesn't he care about the malfoy murderer?
    - why does he care about Daphne? (Is she the other person?)

    Other than that I enjoyed it. Tiny things: I don't think Astoria would say "call me Astoria", probably preferring "Ms. Greengrass". The Malfoys don't have a Wizengamot seat (remember Malfoy Sr. sneaking around when Harry had his trial).
     
  6. haphnepls

    haphnepls Seventh Year

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    Mixed feelings about this.

    Forgive my inner comparator, but it's rather stronger entry of such format that the last one I've read so if you're the author of the both, well done about the improvement.

    I liked it, I think, but the mixed feelings part comes from this grip I had had where I though I was playing a game of squash as I've read through it. It replicates the fun well enough as long as there's a second player, but if you play alone, it kinda misses the engagement. And I'm not sure I liked that.

    It's an interrogation, the whole story, and as Harry confirms it, it's just a follow up on a thought process he have already had. So while the ending was neat, it just made me nod as I had to expect something on the note. Otherwise it would have been just the dialoguesation of auror's thoughts. The too defensive Astoria got a bit too much too at the times as well, in my opinion.

    Maybe it's just not my kind of a deal, but considering the format once again, I can say it's a job well done, just for different audience than I am.
     
  7. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    Well, it’s dialogue heavy. I almost want to suggest you go full dialogue with nothing else. There’s a few short stories that make that work and the tricks tend to make them interesting stories. As it is this just feels like the author needs more practice adding in description and setting, etc.

    I mean there’s like, entire paragraphs of dialogue chunks. Sometimes interspersed with description that feels like it’s there just to be there instead of adding something, etc.

    I couldn’t get into it. The dialogue sort of works, but I really do think if you rewrite it you could try for full dialogue. Split up the chunks of it a bit more and you’d have a strong story. The idea is solid enough at it’s heart.
     
  8. peche

    peche Muggle

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    You have a solid foundation here, but unfortunately, that’s the extent of it in the absence of descriptors. This would make a fun screenplay, but doesn’t quite work on paper. I don’t get the sense that we’re seeing things through Harry’s POV. I’d expect Harry to have more emotions/ thoughts given that his old childhood nemesis was murdered. Some of the dialogue sounds more like Sherlock than Harry (especially towards the climax), and Astoria feels about as anemic as she is in canon. She’s just lost her husband and is being interrogated for murder, but sounds more like she’s on a job interview.

    That said, the reveal was clever and I liked the little hints you laid down leading up to it. I’d very much like to read a fleshed out version of this that’s not restrained by a word limit.
     
  9. Mr. Mixed Bag

    Mr. Mixed Bag DA Member

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    I really enjoyed this one. It's right up my alley, since dialogue is generally my favorite part of any story, and this entry does it very well. Which is crucial, because with about 90% being dialogue anything less would've sunk the story.

    Bold to go with mystery, a genre generally built around slowly slipping readers clues and letting them guess. At least that's my outsider's guess at what the mystery genre is about- really not my sphere. That's also I think the biggest failing this piece has: there isn't time to weave in multiple clues or a cast of characters to guess at the perpetrator from. The headache foreshadowing is done well enough, but it's also the only of its type. Basically you have a vivid, fun interplay between characters, but not much mystery or a real AHA! moment.

    Really though, the biggest issue is with it as an entry, rather than as a story. I don't see much to fit the prompt here. When I saw Harry POV, I assumed the entries would all be first person. Having gone through two and looked ahead at the others, obviously I was interpreting too limited, but even in the third person you need some interiority to call it Harry POV. This is a story with Harry as a character, but he's no more the point of view than Astoria. That's a slight exaggeration, but you see the point.

    So, more or less, great story but maybe not a great entry.
     
  10. Niez

    Niez Competition Winner CHAMPION ⭐⭐

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    A mystery story told in a thousand and a half words (exactly). Over ambitious given the nature of the competition, but I had fun with it. My only criticism not born out of the word limit is that Harry doesn't really read as Harry, but given you titled the story after 'A Study in Scarlet', I think the more Holmesian vibe to his character was intentional.
     
  11. Jibril

    Jibril Headmaster

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    Good pacing, but in my opinion this could end after the first "I want my lawyer." - that way it would have a better impact, and would allow the audience to draw their own conclusions and speculate on the rest of the background suggested through the story.
     
  12. LucyInTheSkye

    LucyInTheSkye Sixth Year

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    Love a mystery plot, thanks for writing one! I think what you accomplished with this wordcount is really commendable, it’s surely one of the most difficult genres to pull off with so few words.

    There is only one author who can really write Harry in a way that I buy (and that author mainly writes badly-reasoned tweets these days) so in a way I can’t really judge any entries based on that. Still, Harry doesn’t read like Harry at all. I wasn’t expecting him to, and I think what you did well shows as both the title and the beginning neatly do away with most expectations. But since the brief was to write Harry’s pov I still feel a bit let down.

    Astoria feels pretty nondescript as well, I would’ve enjoyed a bit more personality than just stuck-up, even with the reason you provide at the end. Almost anything would’ve done, some like or dislike or facial quirk or a plausible motive or anything to push her into 3D.

    Great ending and build-up with the head-aches.
     
  13. FitzDizzyspells

    FitzDizzyspells Sixth Year DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    I don’t get why everyone has so many opinions about this entry being dialogue-heavy. I didn’t need more description. I could picture it perfectly. The strong dialogue made it very clear how each of the two characters were looking and reacting as they engaged with each other.

    Good characterization, good pacing, good ideas.
     
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