At the age of 27, I have written my first ever Harry Potter fan fiction for a BSpec contest. I am actually rather proud of it. It was voted a very Slytherin story. And since the story authors have been revealed, I can now post it here!
It is partially a loving critique of J.K. Rowling’s personal tropes and (ahem) problems (seriously, how many times are Mrs. Weasley and Hermione described as shrill?!), and partially a tongue in cheek exploration of the idea of how a third person limited narrator might be shown and perceived in-universe. The inspiration was the fact that in interviews Rowling has mentioned that there were two Gryffindor girls in Harry’s year that were never shown in the book. I got to wondering who were those two girls. So I did some research. There is a list of all of the students in Harry’s year, but there is only speculation as to which ones were the two Gryffindor girls. The fact that these two girls managed to escape Rowling’s extensive world building inspired this story.
The Smart Witch’s Guide to Hogwarts
by Isobel MacDougal
Hogwarts is a very unusual school for many reasons, but the most peculiar, and most annoying, aspect is Harry Potter. He’s a nice enough guy if you’re into jocks with daddy issues, but trouble follows him everywhere (people say that’s related to You Know Who but honestly the boy goes looking for trouble sometimes) and the other thing that follows him everywhere is his creepy Biographer. Avoid the Biographer at all costs.
Let me repeat that.
Avoid the Biographer at all costs.
You do not want to wind up in the Biography. The Biographer will find the most unflattering way possible of portraying you. She will find your flaws, your weaknesses, and your quirks and use them to make you a colorful background character. It will be mortifying. It may also get you killed.
Somehow anyone who gets mentioned as a background character returns later on. They are injured or dead or are victims in some other way of the Death Eaters. Or they turn out to be members of the Order of the Phoenix, but that’s hardly a guarantee that you’ll live to the end.
There is, however, hope. And that hope is the unnamed Gryffindor girls.
Hermione Granger, Parvati Patil, and Lavender Brown are not the only Gryffindor girls in Harry Potter’s year. The Biographer admits there are two Gryffindor girls she never mentions by name. So we can look to those two girls as our models of how to stay out of the Biography.
From conversations with the two “unnamed” girls, Sally-Ann Perks and my dear friend Sophie Roper, I have come up with seven rules (plus one bonus rule!) for how to avoid being put in the Biography and survive your seven years at Hogwarts.
Rule 1: Keep your head down.
Never mention anything, anything at all, around Potter or the Biographer will mention you.
Avoid interacting with the following individuals, or the Biographer may mention you: any member of the Weasley family, any member of Gryphindor, any member of Slytherin, Cho Chang, Cedric Diggory.
While it is not smart to avoid talking to your professors because for heaven’s sake your purpose in attending this school is to learn, avoid talking to them in front of Potter or the Biographer may mention you.
Rule 2: Do not be unusual or noteworthy in any way.
Do nothing interesting, funny, or unusual, or the Biographer will mention you.
Avoid having anything unusual about your appearance: acne, braces, freckles, a large nose, obesity, etc, or the Biographer will mention you in the most unflattering way possible.
If you are not white but have a “white” name, try to have some stereotypically ethnic aspect of your appearance, for example dreadlocks if you are black. If you do not, every time you are mentioned your race will be mentioned as a defining characteristic of you. For all her talk about embracing Mudbloods and the magical purists all being evil, the Biographer is actually kind of racist.
Never show any negative emotion around the Biographer or you will be described as shrill. The Biographer is also kind of sexist.
Rule 3: Do not take Care of Magical Creatures.
The class is rubbish anyway. I do hear Arithmancy is fun though, and Potter doesn’t take it so you should be safe with that one.
Rule 4: You can take Divination, but be extra careful with Rule 1.
The Biographer focuses so much on Trelawney you can get away with taking this one without notice, just don’t join the Trelawney fan club because then you will be marked as a vapid, silly girl and the Biographer will mention you. Did I already mention the Biographer is sexist?
Rule 5: Do not join Dumbledore’s Army or The Slug Club or play Quidditch.
This should go without saying. I don’t care if you are the greatest Keeper who has ever flown a broomstick this side of the Channel. I don’t care if you really want to learn proper defensive magic. I don’t care if you actually like Horace Slughorn. Do not join these three clubs. Stick with Gobstones or wizard’s chess or something equally unheroic.
The Dueling Club is okay. There’s so much drama there you can easily stay in the background.
Rule 6: Travel in large groups.
There is safety in numbers. In a large group you are less likely to be noticeable. The group may make into the Biography, but as an individual you will not be mentioned and will stay safe.
Furthermore, never ever travel alone. Or really in twos. A minimum of three is best. Isolated girls are easy victims of the Biographer. If you are alone you are more likely to run into Potter, Weasley, or Granger and trouble will follow. Going to the bathroom alone means someone could put an Imperius Curse on you or slip you a cursed diary. Studying in the library alone means you could run into Granger and wind up petrified. Be smart. Stick with your friends.
Rule 7: Set aside your convictions for the next 7 years.
This is really an extension of Rule 1 but it is so important I felt it needed to be mentioned separately.
Acting on convictions may get you killed, whether you hate Muggle-borns or want to take down You Know Who. There will be many opportunities to act on your convictions as long as Potter is at Hogwarts (like I said, he and trouble seek each other out). But don’t. Keep your head down. Or you will not survive.
You’re a kid. You have a lot of life ahead of you full of opportunities to change the world but right now your job is to learn. Let the adults be the heroes.
Bonus Rule: Be nice to Luna Lovegood.
Sure, she’s weird, but do you really want to be mentioned in the Biography as the witch who stole her shoes? But more importantly, if we have learned anything from the Biographer it is that we should be kind to other women. Because, Merlin’s beard, she sure as hell isn’t.