Clara (serpentclara) wrote,

Cliché Rant: The Awakening (and the Subsequent Shopping and Training) of Harry Potter

As creator and manager of the Darker Harry fanfiction C2, I have encountered a pattern with few variations while reading hundreds of Dark/Independent/Powerful Rebellious Harry fics. You might object that all of these are cliché and you're probably right. So let's look at what makes them so cliché that after a good dozen of these, you feel like going to sleep as soon as you see the signs. By the way, kudos to those who manage to write a Rebellious Harry fic without using all these plot devices.

I say Rebellious Harry instead of Independent Harry, because Harry is independent in the books. Have you read OotP? The yelling at his friends and demanding information from the Order, the arguing in Umbridge's class no matter what she does to him, the standing up to Snape and even to Sirius? Going to the Ministry in defiance of all advice and logic? In books one through seven, deciding of his own accord and against advice, rules and laws to go rescue people or stop Voldemort from getting things he wants? The long-suffering contempt towards the Dursleys, without at any point doubting himself or internalising their hatred of him or wondering if they are right and he's a bad person/freak? Not even in the first book. Harry is the type of mistreated child who developed an angry "I'm OK, they are not OK" attitude.

So. Dark or Rebellious Harry fanfics. Some distinguishing features are usually present in this kind of stories. First, these fics usually start right after OotP, even if, as I see it, Harry exhibited more characteristics that can be interpreted as Dark in HBP than in any other book. So why do these authors prefer to pretend that the sixth book never came out? One, almost all of them claim they didn't like the sixth book.

All right, it's their opinion and while it may be an opinion I partially share, if I were writing Dark!Harry, I would still be giddy about all the possibilities HBP provides. Harry nearly killing someone with Sectumsempra and not feeling any guilt afterwards? Harry behaving like the epitome of a Slytherin after taking Felix Felicis to wheedle the memory out of Slughorn and not feeling horrified or guilty about his actions at any point during or after the scene in Hagrid's Hut? And let's not forget his double attempt at casting the Cruciatus in chapter 28.

But the main reason why 99% of such stories are pre-HBP brings us right to cliché #2: Sirius's (but why not Dumbledore's?) death is always the event that opens Harry's eyes. It is what prompts his awakening - to what? Always to how Dumbledore, and often also the Weasleys, have been manipulating him all his life. Ignored or, in most cases, abused (because child neglect is not abuse...) by the Dursleys, Harry spends a few weeks shut in his room, moping like a girl who has been dumped by her boyfriend, blaming himself and wondering what he did wrong.

Then Harry has an epiphany: it's not his fault - it's Dumbledore's! Dumbledore has been manipulating, brainwashing and controlling him. Teenage rebellion comes in and Harry decides that he won't stand for it anymore. He suddenly realises that he hates the Weasleys and that his friends aren't really his friends. This is often followed by him sending an owl to Lupin/Snape/Draco/Neville/Gringotts/the bookshop in Diagon Alley, running away, deciding to join, trick and/or kill Voldemort, etc.

And then comes the dreaded cliché that puts every reader to sleep no matter how tolerable the story seemed up to that point: shopping. For clothes, books, a trunk (though he already has one), a new wand... Harry visits all the shops in Diagon Alley and in Muggle London, somehow evading the Order of the Phoenix guard that is necessarily on his tail (who, for some reason, is never Moody). He spends the whole afternoon in the shops trying on cool new clothes with a gusto only a teenage girl can understand, because the author thinks that's what a deprived teenage boy who just found out he is rich would do.

He spends without counting, and pays for his purchases with money from a self-refilling wallet or with a magical credit card (!) connected to the Potter-Black-Gryffindor/Slytherin vault (wouldn't that be a debit card? Dead giveaway that the author isn't old enough to have a credit card). All thanks to goblin magic, of course; Harry is the goblins' favourite customer because he is the only wizard who has ever been polite to them and who can remember their names. Even if there is no such thing as "goblin magic" in the books.

A central part of the shopping trip is getting The Trunk. It has to be magical with more compartments than Moody's (with whole rooms inside), a spell that makes it weigh no more than a feather, and a spell that can make it shrink to fit in Harry's pocket.

And let's not forget the Reading of Sirius's Will at Gringotts. Naturally, while there, Harry confides to the goblins that he thinks it's outrageous that the wizards treat them so badly (he has had a personality switch with Hermione, have you realised? Buying more books than she does should have clued you in) and he finds out that Dumbledore has been stealing his money (of course!) because he hasn't got enough of his own after being Headmaster and Chief Warlock for decades. Then Harry gets emancipated - even though there is no such thing as emancipation in Britain, my American friends - and takes Dobby and Winky as his personal house-elves.

This is often wrapped up with Harry accidentally finding his nose pressed against the door of a hairdressing salon, being lured in by an attractive female employee who is no older than he, and leaving many hours later with his hair dyed a dozen colours all at once and much longer than it was before the pretty witch got her hands on it. Miraculously, he also gets rid of his glasses, which he has just realised are ugly. They are replaced by brand new contact lenses, a pair of stylish, magical glasses that makes him see auras (not a concept found in the HP books, but so what?), or a vision-correcting potion (yes, there is such a thing and no, you don't need to go to St Mungo's to get it).

Then Harry arrives home, wherever "home" is now, with locations ranging from Privet Drive to the rediscovered Gryffindor Castle (no, not Hogwarts - Gryffindor's other castle!) or the Chamber of Secrets, and decides that he needs to train if he is to fight Voldemort, the Order and the Ministry all at once and win. So he forgets that it's the summer break and makes a schedule for himself. That's right, Harry Potter, a teenage boy who thought his friend Hermione was barmy for drawing up revision schedules at school, makes a strict timetable for himself and follows it slavishly; that's how independent he has become. Hey, he changed after Sirius's death! He is now a male Hermione, but without the social awkwardness.

Following this rigorous timetable, Harry teaches himself advanced magic, martial arts (!), Occlumency, Dark magic, wandless magic, and how to be an Animagus, all without a teacher and with the help of one or two of the hundreds of books he has bought... and often without ever leaving his room at Privet Drive. Occasionally, he invites an adult to tea; it is always an adult who sympathises with his quest for independence, doesn't tell the Order, and knows how to shield their mind from Dumbledore's evil twinkling eyes that can see into people's skulls. This person is, of course, Lupin or Tonks (did I mention that Harry was a Metamorphmagus all along; he just didn't realise it?)

And what's next? I don't know; these stories never seem to get past the training part.

Alternatively, how about a visit from Voldemort and/or Death Eaters because they've finally managed to overcome the "wards" (a word that is never used in the HP books, not once) a.k.a. protection spells on Privet Drive after years of trying? The visit somehow results in Harry being sent to Azkaban, where he gets to work full time on mastering Occlumency, honing his anger into a terrible weapon against his enemies, and befriending Dementors who it turns out really like him but not in a "your soul would taste good" way.

originally posted at potter_cliche
Tags: essay, meta
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