Hi there, my_voice_rising – it’s lowered_expectations from the forums come to happily fill your request for OC critique. Keep in mind, when reading this, that I’ve only had a chance to look at the first chapter of your story so far.
I think what you have is a lot of small details that don’t a Mary Sue make, but when combined together are pretty much wearing a neon pink fedora. Being friendly with Harry, particularly someone he’s so infatuated with– can make people feel uncomfortable with a character and, even though she’s quirky, Harry seems to love her for that, rather than in spite of it, which means that the quirk is no longer humanizing her. I see, over the course of this chapter, that you’re setting up a history for their relationship and I don’t think his motivation for connecting with her is particularly clear – it’s an opportunity to pull out more of the human aspects of her as well as some of the human aspects of Harry. Perhaps instead of making him infatuated with her because she’s strange – as he never showed that attachment to the equally quirky Luna – or because he see’s a beauty in her others can’t (a major Mary Sue red-flag), what he sees in her is someone who is lonely. Harry has always been one to reach out to the lonely and friendless. If you look at the kind of friends he keeps- Ron, who doesn’t see a lot of respect from his fellow students for his academic and financial shortcomings – Hermione, who is so engrossed in her own schoolwork that no one feels particularly endeared to her – and even Luna, who people find to be just plain odd – it’s easy to see that Harry might reach out to her because he feels a bit sorry for her. After all, she has just lost her parents because he hasn’t yet slain Voldemort. Maybe he feels a bit responsible.
To go more in depth with technical advice, what you’re doing up-top is giving a lot of information about her – the way that she looks and the family that she comes from, etc… and it’s great to get all of that information in but I think your story would benefit by breaking it up a bit more. For instance, wait to explain about her parents and her name until later in the chapter when she’s telling Harry about her family or, if you would like to leave that where it is, consider moving discussion of her appearance further down and making it a bit less flowery (boys don’t generally say things like that :P). Have you considered trying it near the passage where you mention that her face has been haunting his dreams? The trick seems to be fooling people into learning about a character rather than giving them all of the information in a neat little package
Finally, I also think that her friendship with the Hogwarts ghosts might be working against you. You’ve compared her, in a way, to Luna Lovegood, but it’s good to note that, even though she is often seen alone and people don’t frequently talk to her, there are still some who feel comfortable doing so – in saying that she’s made friends with only the Hogwarts Ghosts, you might be adding another detail that works against you. Perhaps it would be a good idea to replace it with a passage like, “The more he noticed her, the more aware he became of the fact that she always seemed to be alone and he wondered if she, like Hermione, chose it.” It gives her darkness but it’s not quite as “don’t cry for me. With that having been said – if the ghosts become important to your story, there’s nothing wrong with saying that she has befriended them – Harry did, after all – but pointing it out seems to be a little…dramatic.
The last thing I wanted to mention is a little bit about the scene in which she is unloading her memories into the pensive and Harry walks in. While we haven’t seen exactly what happens when a person extracts a memory from themselves and deposits it into the Pensive, it might help to demystify this scene if she seemed – off…more off than usual, anyway. If Harry took a moment to find her detachment odd and note the wand in her hand or if, during the narrative (rather than the flashback) he mentioned what she had, in fact, been doing it might help to humanize her character. True, he’s angry, but perhaps he might be getting angry at the fact that she doesn’t seem to register his presence or really know why she’s in the office. He would perceive it as total disrespect on her part, but a more detailed description of it would prepare the reader for the end of the chapter and also might give them a sense that there was something “up” rather than that she’s just unfeeling or unusually strong. There is just a bit more of that in the fact that she doesn’t flinch when Harry is yelling at her – that quality might make it difficult for readers to connect with her. While she doesn’t seem to have had a particular interest in him – he is still the Harry Potter, so she would know who he is and what he is capable of. Fear or guilt or anger would be more normal reactions here.
After all of that, I think you’ve done some things that really work for you as well. You haven’t gone out of your way to make her character seem particularly pretty. While I still think Harry’s description of her lips, etc… is a little bit flowery, saying that she has “mousey” brown hair rather than the ever-popular “chocolate” helps, and the fact that her eyes are a bit oddly shaped is another point in her corner. And I think that you’ll be able to make her non-traditional background work for her. You’ve also taken the time to give her a reason for interacting with Harry – the death of her parents – his innate desire to protect people, mixed with his sense of responsibility for all things Voldemort does, is a more believable option than a drooling “She’s so…curvy!”
That's all for now!
Author's Response: wowwwwww your reviews are amazing. :) thank you SO much, the length really helped--i can see what you're talking about completely. i agree now, about the ghosts, why he was "drawn" to her and how her reaction should have been in the pensieve, and i'm going to fix that right away! i hadn't thought about how flowery descriptions were very non-Harry, either. thank you so much for pointing these things out, i'll be sure to fix them!!