Now. The age of miracles is not past: I have NOTHING to write that must be written right now. Admittedly I have loads that I ought to be cracking on with, but in the spirit of the holidays, I am reading fanfic instead. Hurrah! And so, some recs from the current hd_holidays. Where I have so far managed to read about 7% of posts … Oh well. Still, recs!
Take a Chance, Make a Change for stellamoon is just under 24,000 words of Harry the sore-backed Healer and Draco Malfoy, real estate agent trying to find Potter a house big enough to fit a comfortable bed. That they might both have designs on what goes on in that bed would surely have been easier to notice if Harry wasn't so exhausted and Draco so shy.
The author has a real lightness and surety of touch that made this a swift and enjoyable read. Friends and work situations are deftly drawn and although there is a comfortable familiarity about many of the settings, there are also moments of delicious originality, my favourite being:
"He was, however, a fan of the crisp notes bearing their Queen's head. Draco currently had a handful of them tucked neatly inside his wallet, much lighter than a pouch full of coins. In fact, so strong was his approval that he had been lobbying both Gringotts and the Ministry for quite some time for Galleon notes at the very least. If for no other reason than the fact a pocketful of weighty coins did nothing for the line of a good suit."
Department of Mysteries for marianna_merlo is a beautiful series of art panels with text. I was lucky enough to beta this piece, and it was a joy! From the opening images of a coolly interested Draco and a wary Harry, it's a compelling ride along with the two of them as they attempt to sort out things that have gone very wrong in the Department of Mysteries. The original material on the Ministry and magic is utterly convincing, and very clever, sketched out with shirt prose pieces that link the images. But it's the images that will stay with you: I am tempted to say boots! and patronuses! but then I would have to say longing! despair! kindness! action! and it would all come down to They're All My Favourites, as it may well for you.
Here's the Pencil, Make it Work for fireflavored sits at just-under 50,000 words, but the writing is so smooth and assured that it feels like nowhere near this length. To say that this is the most competently written story on my list sounds as though I am damning with faint praise in this age of arch commentary, but I mean that at face value: there is a lilt and flow to every aspect of this story that comes with skill on the part of the author.
The story itself is simple enough: Harry is worn out from the expectations of the media and has taken to prowling Muggle London, er, which is to say, walking around to familiarise himself with Muggle London. When he one day enters a new coffee shop, it comes as a great surprise to find Draco Malfoy behind the counter:
"Malfoy is working. He is wearing a nametag and a smock. He is counting muggle money and making various drinks with practised ease, and chatting to his obviously muggle co-worker like they do it all the time. He is flirting with the customers, most prominently with the old lady who comes in shortly after Harry sits down. He is humming along and even dancing a bit to the muggle music on the radio, swaying and mouthing the words as he pumps flavoured syrup into someone's latte like a normal, chipper fucking person.
What the fuck."
I will confess that I had my old pouf issues with the word smock, which means something very different for me, however, this added to the comedy on several occasions. Let us not speak of flavoured coffee: you people who would defend it know that you secretly want a milkshake. Philistines! And don't tell me it's popular: 50 Shades of Grey!
Back to the story, the central relationship is rounded out by a marvellous cast of canon and OC friends, who enrich our view of events and characters, with real depth and humanity. It's the perfect story for a bitterly cold or oppressively hot December or January day, when you just want to settle in.
Manticoria for ashiiblack will probably be the longest fic of the fest at 70,000 words, but it's worth the effort. I know that traditionally one is meant to say only lovely things about fest fics, so you can call me honest, a rebel or a bitch when I say that this is a flawed fic. I have to say that upfront, because you will notice things as soon as you start to read that might make you stop, and that would be a tremendous shame, because its flaws don't matter half as much as its successes, and indeed, some add to them. Set after the war, there is no time to rest because the wards that protect wizarding Britain from Muggle view are falling. With the New Ministry at a loss, the students whose seventh year was interrupted by the war are called back to Hogwarts and divided into teams then set to work on parts of the problem in a bid to see if they can solve the problem that has defeated the older generation. Because it worked last time …
The level of imaginative effort that has gone into this story is immense and sustained. Much of it is anchored in original ideas of wandlore that are complex and compelling. Harry has had dreams ever since he won Draco's wand, and he is not alone. But personal feelings must be pushed aside as they battle against seemingly insurmountable difficulties and an increasingly desperate deadline. There is a broad cast brought in to play here and all move in and out of the action as characters rather than as plot devices – in itself a great achievement – as the impossibility of succeeding in time becomes more apparent and more terrifying.
As to the flaws, most are byproducts of trying to write a big story in a small period of time: literal errors, shifts in the scope of some parts of the story, sections that could do with expansion or added clarity – especially the politics … Some are a matter of taste: having the Celtic pantheon suddenly invoked at every turn irritated me hugely, but that's probably because I spent too much of my childhood on communes listening to women named Storm telling me how you had to wait for the Elder tree to give you its wood for a wand and then being sent off to gather herbs for their 'spells' while they made cow eyes at my father. That I kept reading regardless is a testimony to the main parts of the story being strong and vital.