While I’ve been too busy making progress on my programming projects this week to give you a themed list, I don’t want to leave you with no fanfic review at all, so, this week, let’s talk about 0800-Rent-A-Hero.
For those who are unaware, 0800 is one of the prefixes for toll-free numbers in the U.K., equivalent to 1-800 numbers in North America. Now, despite the somewhat flippant title, this is actually a fundamentally serious fic, with bits of wit included to keep the mood light.
The basic gist is that, having finished canon events, Harry Potter gets sucked through a tear in dimensions by a summoning, forced through a too-small hole, and nearly dies in the process. When he wakes up, permanently disfigured, he discovers that another reality’s Order of the Phoenix tore him from his friends and adopted family with no hope of return in a gamble to foist one Iris Potter’s prophecy off on him… naturally, he doesn’t take it too well but, legally, he’s a non-entity, so he has to pay lip service to Dumbledore’s machinations.
What makes this story most distinctive is the world-building the author put into an aspect of “Harry White”‘s cover story that he made up on the fly… that his best subject was divination. This is a story where we get to see Harry rediscovering “lost” means of practical divination because he’s the only one didn’t know they were supposed to be lost and did the bloody research. It’s also a story where he starts building interest in divination among the student body after, during a potential crisis, he looks like a badass when combing tea-leaf reading and a form of scrying to find and stop an imperioused student from causing harm.
At the same time, it’s also an interesting story about the developing familial relationship between Harry and Iris after she discovers that the Marauder’s Map says “Harry Potter”, and the friendship between Harry and Tonks after he eventually forgives her for her part in the initial ritual.
It’s another story that’s incomplete and unlikely to be completed, but I’d rate it at at least a “4.5 out of 5: Great”, which would probably have earned a 5.0 if it were complete. (or +1.5 on a more intuitive -2 to +2 scale where 0 is “I can’t point out any problems, but this is too boring to read.”)
It’s one of those rare stories where the world-building surrounding Iris and the divination feels skillful enough that I feel curious about them in their own right, rather than merely in the context of the plot. (This is one of the things that makes nonjon’s A Black Comedy the pinnacle of this genre for me. Among the other stories I’ve reviewed recently, I think Blue Magic by Tellur is the only other fic that pulls this off… not even Browncoat, Green Eyes, which is also by nonjon, manages.)
…and, as a bonus, let me suggest Potter vs. Paradox as an enjoyable story going in the opposite diection, with a 43-year-old Iris Potter attempting a desperate gamble to go back in time, and winding up a child allied with the Black family in a world which has reflowed itself into canon as a “known hazard” of the kind of advanced time meddling she, Hermione, and various others spent years putting together.