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Entry #4

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

  1. Xiph0

    Xiph0 Yoda Admin

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    Thunder



    The whole episode took place exactly a week into Harry’s stay in the pub fronting Diagon Alley.

    He’d left the window open overnight and that morning he could taste the thunder in the air. He put his glasses on and got dressed, reflexively flattening his fringe over the scar on his forehead. He smiled to himself when a sleepy voice in the mirror told him there was a sale on for something called Sleekeazy’s hair potion at the Bedazzling Beautician which might interest him.

    There was nobody on the landing and he skipped several steps: the smell of bacon and fried eggs in his nostrils. Tom the landlord took his usual order and Harry got seated at a table by the window where he could follow everyone who came and went. Occasionally, when the correct brick was tapped, he even got a glimpse of Diagon Alley through the window. He opened it and fastened the latch; the air outside felt heavy with impending rain.

    “No Polly, you mustn’t feed strays!” Harry heard a horrified mother tell her daughter, but even though he leant as far back as he could, he didn’t spot the animal in question. An encounter the previous day near Eeylops had taught Harry that some wizards kept much more interesting pets than cats and owls, but whatever it was the little girl had attempted to share a sticky fistful of icemice with seemed to have vanished, possibly into the arched entrance of the cobbled street beyond.

    Having breakfasted like a king, Harry made his way into the backyard. The sun was out despite the dark clouds in the distance. He tapped the brick three above the left over the bins.

    With a scraping of stone, the magical world lay before him. The shops were open for the day and there were customers bustling outside every entrance. Harry spotted two elderly warlocks outside Blaguard & Enguard who were arguing about the best wandwood for beating a cypress wand in a duel. He saw a bandy-legged wizard who was selling tickets for a sold-out Weird Sisters concert along with some colourful mushrooms he appeared to be growing inside the lining of his long overcoat. There was a witch pacing to and fro across the path of traffic, she was dictating to a quill which scribbled away furiously at an unscrolled roll of parchment trailing the ground after her, forcing shoppers to jump over it to pass. Harry even thought he spotted the girl with the icemice and her mother, they had stopped outside Eeylops Owl Imporium to look at a particularly baffled-looking owl that had tufty eyebrows high above its bulging, dandelion-coloured eyes.

    Harry jumped over the trailing parchment and set off down the road. Occasionally, a witch or wizard would catch themselves and look back after him, but in the crowd he was one of many, indeed he thought he must be far from as interesting as the man with a horn growing out of his forehead he had just passed.

    His legs took him on his usual route, his feet came to a stop. There were just a couple other people there, ogling, but he knew soon there would form a crowd that would stay for much of the day. He had first spotted the beauty in the window two days ago, and he imagined he’d never quite get his fill just from looking. He contemplated whether he’d go ask the shopkeeper whether they would let him touch, maybe he could offer to pay a little for a moment alone, but then he felt eyes on him and he spun round. There were some girls crossing the road, laden with shopping. Behind them he glimpsed another face, but he recognized it as a wanted poster of the escaped convict, Sirius Black. There was a narrow close beside it and Harry squinted at it. He crossed the road, getting there in seconds, but it was empty. He had made his way more than halfway through when he recalled his promise to Fudge. He wasn’t to go exploring outside of Diagon Alley. Harry hesitated, then he heard the first rumble of thunder.

    He turned and jogged back, finding that the sun still shone on Diagon Alley, even though the clouds had undoubtedly edged nearer. Sending the Firebolt in the window a last, longing look, he continued down Diagon Alley.

    “Hi Florean,” he said eagerly, and the man in the ice cream kiosk beamed at him.

    “Back again, are we? And what shall it be today, hmm?”

    “Could I try the pear-flavoured one, please?”

    “I dare say you could,” Florean Fortescue said and raised his hand, palm up, and in front of Harry’s wide eyes a small, creamy, spinning ball took form, rotating blindingly fast at first, then becoming heftier and heftier and losing speed. With a flick of his wrist Fortescue made the ball of ice cream flop into a waffle cone with a satisfyingly loud squelch.

    “Thank you so much,” Harry said, reaching for the cone with one hand and grabbing a tissue with the other.

    “What is it today, then?”

    “I’m almost done with the essay on medieval witch burnings,” Harry told him, breaking off to lick at the ice cream, which had begun to melt. “Mmm – just need two more inches. My book mentions cats, is it true muggles killed cats that belonged to witches?”

    “That’s right, muggles did always associate witches with cats. As you know, almost no true witch was caught during the witch hunts, and so their pets, be they cats or something else, were quite safe.”

    “I see.”

    “As for why cats, particularly… This all has to do with familiars, are they something you’ve studied in school? Cats are perhaps more likely than any other animal to turn into a familiar. You can’t get a familiar just by becoming friends with your pet, nor by training it. They say a familiar is something that sees you, truly. All of you, the good and the bad. An animal with a different dynamic won’t do, not one that worships the ground you walk on, nor one that depends on you. They won’t see the real you. It needs to be one that has taken its time learning about you, has judging you and concluded you need its help.”

    “Need its help,” Harry repeated, and he thought he could feel that prickling at the back of his neck again. “Could a different animal than a cat become a familiar?”

    “I think so,” Florean said thoughtfully. “They’re uncommon enough as they are, you know, but nothing in this world is impossible, except flying a Cleansweep to the moon.”

    “But a familiar wouldn’t – it wouldn’t try to harm you, would it?”

    “Heavens, no. Not if it was your familiar, certainly.”

    Harry’s ice cream was melting over his hand and he went back to licking it up. There was another roll of thunder, and then, suddenly, the heavens parted.

    “Come in here!” Florean shouted and opened a door at the side of his little kiosk. As Harry stumbled inside, lightning struck in the middle of the deserted street. Several cobblestones flew into the air and Harry heard shouts in the distance.

    “Thief!” a piercing, but rather quivering voice yelled over the cascading smatter of rain. “Come back with it, it’s not a stick for playing with, you belligerent mongrel!”

    Harry looked up and saw Ollivander, the wandmaker, standing outside his shop, flapping frail old arms, his candyfloss hair now the texture of seaweed, flat and white around his head. He was shouting after a massive black shape that was careening down Diagon Alley, and as it turned to the side and escaped into a close, Harry saw that it was carrying a wand in its maw.

    Florean began to laugh, and Harry, hesitating only for a moment, did the same.

    “Come have some ice cream Ollivander!” Florean shouted over the noise of another clap of thunder. “It’s summer, after all. I’ve got pear, peanut, elderberry, nougat – take your pick!”

    “Elderberry, you say? And pear? Do you have any idea what the wandwoods that produces those two fruits are like? Only the foolhardy would keep them anywhere near each other. I wonder if you’ve found that they’ve brought a combative atmosphere to your kiosk?”

    “No shop talk if you want free ice cream!”

    “Ah – we meet again, Mr Potter,” Ollivander said, and he bowed his head as he squeezed inside the kiosk. Harry got splattered with rainwater from his seaweed hair.

    “Do you think the thing that stole the wand was a familiar?” Harry asked of the two wizards.

    They exchanged a look and Harry saw them smile.

    “Nah, I’ve seen that thing before,” Florean said. “Not for many years, mind, but it used to knock about here, begging for scraps and bellyrubs. Completely harmless.”

    “Oh,” said Harry, feeling relieved. He hesitated, but then he had to ask: “D’you think I could try the elderberry as well, please?"
     
  2. Shinysavage

    Shinysavage Madman With A Box ~ Prestige ~

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    Not much to say about this one, which is a bit of a shame because I do like it, overall. It's a nice bit of slice of life fluff...but that's all it is. The detail on familiars is somewhat interesting, but otherwise it's just a nice bit of fluff. Nothing wrong with that, but...yeah, not much else to add.
     
  3. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    1499 words-- under the wire!
     
  4. BTT

    BTT Viol̀e͜n̛t͝ D̶e͡li͡g҉h̛t҉s̀ ~ Prestige ~

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    Yeah, I dunno. I started reading this and when I reached the end I wondered where everything other than the opening was. You've got a setup, sure, but I can't help but feel like you don't really do anything with it.

    You've got a bunch of plot threads here. Thunder, Harry and his summer of independence, the creature, wherever you pulled this stuff about familiars from, even maybe the other shopkeepers or whatever. By the end, absolutely all of these plot threads are still unresolved and haven't made any progress whatsoever. What's that about? What can I really take from this story? Not much, really.

    Also Harry's a dickhead for thinking about an animal companion that sees you at your best and your worst and not immediately thinking of Ron Hedwig.
     
  5. haphnepls

    haphnepls Seventh Year

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    It's a neat canon-adjacent piece, no doubt about that, with solid writing all around.

    The opening is rather good (although something about the words' order bugs me), and I hoped it would lead to something substantial, something real and tangible. I think your story fails on that account. I understand it's a flash format and that's what we got -flashy, surprising, sudden, yet very disconnected from the build-up.

    If you take a step back and look at your story, you get the first part, in pub, where most of it plain narration, some description, the pace is slow, and interesting details stand out as something that my mind expects to be used. Then, Harry gets out there and it shifts, it's mostly dialogue and a series of events, following one another without a real link that makes story a story.

    I mean, sure, you can argue that the topic is a wild summer afternoon, but in reality it is no more than, Hey, guess what happened to me earlier? thing that happens to your buddy and he tells you the story once.

    It's really once to be told (and read) sort of story and I think it makes the story sluggish even though pace is perfectly fine.

    It's solid, yeah, but I feel you should've picked one of the motives (or add a new one) that would have somehow united them all in a story that has worth telling beyond the whole episode. Missed chance, I guess.
     
  6. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    Not sure what to make of this one. It’s interesting and the type of thing I enjoy as a rule. We’ve got a fairly young Harry and familiars… except I thought this was going to be more like a prologue, ending with Harry finding a familiar and hinting at a larger story. A good prologue often has a proper ending despite clearly being, well, a prologue.

    But that’s not where this went, and that’s fine. But it does mean that instead of having a solid plotline or ending that it’s more of a slice of life story. Harry is doing homework, enjoying ice cream, and occasionally hanging out with Diagon Alley shopkeeps like Ollivander.

    And also… the ending made me feel a bit like I was supposed to know what the animal was----- oh shit, is it supposed to be Sirius as Padfoot? The timeline matches, if Harry is staying there after running from Marge. But all the talk of cats being familiars threw me off when the ‘massive black animal’ wasn’t described as a dog; my mind went to cat. Plus at this point shouldn’t Ollivander and Florean be wary of Sirius, not fondly recalling the gigantic Grim that used to roam around Diagon but disappeared for over a decade before suddenly returning?

    Bleh. So maybe not as much a slice of life as I thought if that’s what you were going for.

    Honestly not sure what to think, except to say that with some polish and a bit more clarity on what you’re going for (and some edits to get things in line with it) this would be a solid little oneshot.

    Oh, and a bit wordy in a few places, using four or five words sometimes where two would do.
     
  7. James

    James Auror

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    I have only one thing I'd like to say, adding to everything other said (too many threads, too little clarity)

    I think you've been trying to go for the canon feeling of whimsy and curiousness, and I think you've captured it quite well, just a smidget not enough wonder, and a word or two too much.
     
  8. peche

    peche Muggle

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    You’ve done a nice job capturing the whimsy of Diagon Alley. Feels like an excerpt straight out of Book 3. That said, this piece feels a bit redundant since JK Rowling gives us a lot on Diagon Alley in canon and because the plot is rather static. Also, I find it hard to believe that it’d be that easy to steal from Ollivander, and that he’d stick around to chat about ice cream given the circumstances.

    Overall, I don’t have much to say. The writing is perfectly serviceable, but I wish you’d given us more to chew on plot-wise.
     
  9. Niez

    Niez Competition Winner CHAMPION ⭐⭐

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    What a tease. Your opening promises some sort of story but what we get is a slice of life scene instead. And though scene is well written, some nice touches to it, it's just not a story - certainly not an 'episode' of any kind whatsoever. So I must use this opportunity to call you out for deception and false promises. You sir/madam, are a scam artist.
     
  10. Jibril

    Jibril Headmaster

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    The first sentence reads like it's taken from 24, and I was expecting something more bombastic. Instead, we got a slice-of-life of Diagon Alley which is dime-a-dozen in a lot of fics. The narration did not lead to anything.
     
  11. Mr. Mixed Bag

    Mr. Mixed Bag DA Member

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    The prose has some extra words that stop up its flow, for me. For example:

    Bold parts are unnecessary, words that while not grammatically incorrect are also clunky to include in a narration. Combined with some very loping sentences, it made the reading a chore at times, which wasn't helped by the lack of actual plot action.

    At first, I expected the story's focus to be some wacky animal that Harry picks up as a stray. Then you mention a poster about Sirius, and I expected a familiar bond between the two. In the end nothing happens at all.

    There's no closure on the threads, leaving the plot nonexistent. Sometimes that's fine, if the interactions have enough X factor to hold attention. Unfortunately these don't. Harry's conversation with Fortescue, the general narration and shorter talks between characters... they are functional in a larger plot, but in plot's absence did nothing for me.

    In an expanded, more complete form, these could be an interesting story. As is, I'm not convinced it's a story at all.
     
  12. LucyInTheSkye

    LucyInTheSkye Sixth Year

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    Don’t read this if you haven’t yet reviewed and voted…



    Oof. I didn’t realize I’d handed in a dud before reading all your reviews. Seems I should reconsider my stance on one-nighters, clearly a different approach is needed to craft anything lasting. I’m hopeful I would’ve caught the issue if I’d left another day for editing, and for what it’s worth I’m sorry you lot had to read something unintelligible and, (what’s much worse) boring.

    Was there ever a plot? Yes, although it wasn’t a divinely inspired one by any means. Middling plot with a bad ending, seeing as I didn’t get that burst of inspo that usually follows when you near the end of the story. Ched more or less got the plot (thank you!!) but I’ll spell it out the way I thought I had:

    1. Harry gets to experience a bit of nice, relaxing summer. Only canon places to do it (I reckon) is 2nd or 3rd year, I went with 3rd.

    2. PoA does give Harry 3 weeks of freedom, but there’s a shadow looming, one I find really fascinating in canon and think is rather well-written, mainly because I remember it having a huge effect on me as a child reading it. Harry is actually scared, and he doesn’t know what the thing he is scared of is. That uncertainty is skilfully threading the book and never repeated in the exact same way again in the later books (could argue OotP when he’s scared of himself, but I think the fear of the supernatural and the paradox of it being in a world where the supernatural is everyday, is really interesting.)

    3. Give plausible explanations for how Sirius knows how to gift Harry a firebolt (we already sort of know, but still) and lend explanation to how Sirius gets a wand (another major fuck-up on my part, actually the one I was prepared to defend myself from but alas… Obviously it’s a lot more likely that Sirius doesn’t have a wand until GoF)

    So the story I wanted to tell is Harry post his near-death experience (as he sees it) in Magnolia Alley when he calls for the Knight Bus and nearly ends up underneath it after seeing the grim, and also post him seeing the book on Death Omens in Flourish and Blotts. (No clue why I neglected to explain this in my fic.) Point being he’s been handed an explanation for what the big black thing he saw was, but he isn’t having it. He doesn’t want to believe that he is marked for death. So he looks for other explanations, which is where I shoehorn in some nonsense about familiars (Fortescue canonically helps him with his homework on witch burnings so it felt like a good way of doing it to me) and Harry tries to figure out if this Death Omen could instead be a familiar (when I got here I seriously considered rewriting the whole thing with a sinister atmosphere and make Harry’s conclusion be that the Grim is Voldemort’s familiar who’s come to hunt him down. This would have been a better story [I get the feeling just about anything would’ve], but I didn’t have the time). Harry realises it’s not a familiar, after all, which means he’ll continue to look for an explanation. He enjoys his ice cream, the end.

    I like writing animals, and I suppose another thing that adds to making PoA my favourite of the books is how the animals in it work. Like we have Crookshanks for Hermione, Scabbers for Ron and the Grim for Harry. Harry suspects both Crookshanks and the Grim of being something other than what they seem, and all along it’s Scabbers he should’ve kept an eye on. I also enjoy the idea of Padfoot sort of being his familiar, it does show up to aid him and becomes such an important part of his life. I don’t know, I just really enjoy all of these little things and this was supposed to be a nod to that. I would also like to clarify that this was never meant to be a Hedwig-bashing fic, I have nothing but the greatest respect for the grand old lady of the HP skies. That comment actually hurt :/
     
  13. FitzDizzyspells

    FitzDizzyspells Sixth Year DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    This was enjoyable enough, but I found all the dialogue to be a bit dry. The writing style was a little stilted, and I would’ve appreciated a more structured plot.

    Still, the personality of each character — including Sirius — shines through, and I did love all your descriptive ideas you used to build a morning in Diagon Alley.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2022
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