This was a great story. I am glad not to see the confidently-evil-Narcissa cliche. I liked your Lucius too - great characterization job.
Author's Response: Thank you for the nice review, I'm glad you liked it!
I love the Black sisters, though Narcissa was never my favorite. I guess it was all the fics where she was the too perfect pureblood wife. Considering that her sisters don't seem the fit the mold of the perfect pureblood wife - Bella's one of the few female Death Eaters and Andromeda married a muggle-born - it makes sense that Narcissa wouldn't either. This story showed differently.
First, I loved Narcissa's desire to be independent, to have her own destiny. In so many Lucius/Cissy romances, Cissy seems to love being this perfect pureblood wife. It is interesting to read her when she doesn't want to. “I understand the importance of being a Black, but what if there is more than this? Do you really enjoy being restricted to the point…to the point of…to the point of not being able to breathe? Don’t you feel like you are missing something?” asked Narcissa, shaking her head desperately. I think that really brings out her character. The image of being restricted so much that you can't breather is something that is so powerful. It must be horrible to have no choice in your fate, and as a reader, I felt sorry for Narcissa.
Her first talk with Lucius with interesting. Lucius felt trapped by his destiny, but unlike Cissy, he took it without complaint. It's such a contrast to Cissy's feelings, yet Lucius really seems to relate to her. I love how he cares for her well being. Even though they don't each other that well, it was sweet that Lucius would sit there and listen to her. In the books, you never feel sorry for him. But here, I really wanted to give him a hug. The last line of this scene - “Let’s go inside, you’re freezing out here.” - was so sweet. Even though he didn't get its real meaning, it was still nice that he thought about how she was feeling.
I loved the scene where Narcissa tells the house elf to put up the Christmas decorations. She seems to be different from the rest of her family here with her liking of all the festivities. Grimmauld Place was so dark and gloomy.
The party scene was good. The part with Mr. Malfoy was a bit iffy to me. I don't know whether he would come up Narcissa in the middle of a party and tell her that she was going to marry Lucius. I always thought that Lucius had a lot of tact in the way he did all of his dirty doings. I thought that his father would be the same, not directly telling Narcissa she was marrying but kind of pushing the two to dance with each other.
The scene where Narcissa and Lucius was dancing was nicely done. I loved Lucius' increasing frustration. I think it made that Narcissa would talk out on him. It felt realistic.
I loved how Lucius went after Narcissa. It was so nice to see how much he cared about her. It was very romantic. I liked what Lucius said about destiny. It contrasted nicely with what Narcissa had about being trapped and forced to do things. It was also very romantic. At the same as telling her to accept her destiny, he was complimenting on how wonderful she is. Very Lucius-like.
I loved the ending. It said a lot about pureblood society. The reason it has continued, like a lot of other things, is because the people involved thought that it supposed to make them happy.
The Narcissa/Lucius romance fit nicely into the story. It didn't seem forced. It was natural and real. The fact that both seemed to have a lot of doubts about they were doing was perfect. No one at sixteen is going to feel comfortable about getting married to someone they don't even know that well.
I love the Black family, and I loved this fic. Nice job!
Author's Response: Thank you for the thorough and amazing review! I haven't had such an in-depth one since I left SPEW! Thank you so much for all your input and nice comments. I'm not worthy!
It's really amazing how you maintain the bittersweet tone and ideas throughout this entire fic; no one ever really knowing, as you say at the end, what's real and what's fake. A brilliant job! Your characterization of Naricssa is great, too, how you don't turn her into a "blood traitor" but you do have her question things. Absolutely great!
Author's Response: Thank you very much! It makes my heart happy to know I didn't mess up poor Narcissa more than she already is! Thanks for taking time to review!
Ashley, dear, I’m sorry to write this so late – I should have reviewed weeks ago, but here I am. I picked this story because I love reading stories about peripheral characters; the primary reason I read fanfiction is to see minor characters in new lights. Narcissa is one of those characters that often get dropped by the way, especially since we are given such a brief, stereotypical image in canon. You’ve done a great job of taking that brief image and expanding on it, creating a Narcissa whom we may not necessarily like, but definitely sympathize with.
What I find really fascinating in your story is the way you move through Narcissa’s different phases. In the beginning she openly questions her place in her society; upon being quelled by Bellatrix, she continues to think of it. However, she doesn’t bring up her questions directly when talking to Lucius – instead, she hints at the issue, and guesses at his answer. She has learned, though she doesn’t yet know it, the beginning of the pretense that is going to characterize the rest of the story. After that she’s shown at home, where the pretense is built in, as she smiles and dances for the party guests. It’s a lovely progression, and you do a great job of showing it.
My one criticism, besides a few nitpicks and grammar things, is that I’d like to see more of what Narcissa wants. She has an entire conversation with Lucius about fitting in to society and losing one’s soul, but I’d love to see what having a soul would mean to her. How is it that he’s already made me forget my own dreams? I’ve become a prisoner of my own household, Narcissa thinks. (Incidentally, because she’s thinking, that sequence should be in italics.) What were her dreams? I know you mention that she just wants the freedom to make her own choices, but all the same, I’d like to see her imagining what choices she might make, if she had the freedom to choose.
Okay, let me break from the substance for a moment to include a few nitpicks. Most importantly: be careful of your commas, tricky things. Most people use too many, but I think you err on the other side; I found myself adding them as I went along. “Oh Narcissa,” Mr. Malfoy said… Just about whenever someone is being addressed, you should have a comma before their name, whether it’s “Oh, Narcissa,” or “Look, Lucius,” or “Hi, Ashley.” Narcissa just nodded in submission letting Lucius lead her out onto the dance floor. When you have two separate clauses connected without a connecting word such as “and” or “but,” you’re probably going to need a comma. So it should be “…nodded in submission, letting…” and “stare out the window, imagining…” and the like. And finally: Lucius wasn’t stupid though. When you’re adding conjunctions on to the ends of sentences, they should be separated by a comma – it should be “Lucius wasn’t stupid, though.” Those three things cover most of the comma mistakes in the story, I think. /confusing attempt to make general corrections. *crosses fingers and hopes she hasn’t made any glaring errors in comma rules*
On the ungrammatical nitpickiness side, I was curious as to why Andromeda doesn’t appear in the story. I’d have liked to see how she fit into Narcissa’s pretend world – or maybe it’s just that Narcissa is busy pretending she doesn’t exist. And while I’m on the subject of the sisters, Bellatrix says, I like the way we live; we are powerful, and Father is really looking out for our best interests.” I found that fascinating, especially since it was Bellatrix who said it. I like that she's concerned with power (could you possibly do more to show this? Why does she want power? What does it mean to her? Why does she like that they are powerful, and what makes it worth giving up her freedom?), but her comment that Father was looking after their best interests surprised me - Bellatrix has always seemed like someone who would take her interests into her own hands, judging from her behavior at the Department of Mysteries and her status as perhaps the only female Death Eater. What makes her so confident in her Father? What is he offering in terms of power or other things that make her so willing to submit?
“…heaven knew she would never want to marry a half-blood or a Muggleborn. It was just that she wanted to know she could, just to have something in her life not dictated to her by her family or the Dark Lord.” This is great, and it does in a sense explain what she wants, but I think if you could give an example of how this desire manifests itself, it would do a lot to show us her motivations, rather than telling us, which in turn would make her an even more vivid character. On a side note, I love that you show her faults openly, instead of trying to portray her as a poor, innocent girl, miraculously free from her family’s prejudices.
Sometimes she could forget herself when caught up in playing Narcissa, but as she had speculated it was very lonely to be living in your own world. Lovely! I love the idea that she is “playing Narcissa,” trying out different styles and trying to coach herself into the right one. As I mentioned before, the progression really is great: She didn’t feel much of anything lately; she hoped this was a good sign, this numbing feeling. Perhaps she was losing her soul, or at least she could only hope. Someone (I forget who, at the moment) once said that you become the person you are pretending to be; you illustrate that very well here. So pathetic, that she considers the loss of feeling to be a necessary and good thing. I'm still a bit surprised by the idea that she actually wants to lose her soul, though – what happened to her rebellion from the beginning? Is it still lying dormant, or did Lucius convince her to give it up? Has she playacted for so long that it’s beginning to come true?
The Lucius/Narcissa interaction got more and more interesting as the story progressed, and I particularly loved the end sequence. “You think that you’ve been put in a cage, when you really have just been…you’ve been…led,” Lucius says, and I can see him imitating the argument that the purebloods must have used for years to justify their actions. Taking that a step further, …Lucius reflecting on whether he had been completely honest, and whether or not it mattered. I absolutely love this, as Lucius is honest to himself about his priorities. It doesn’t really matter to him whether or not he was honest, as long as he convinces her that her only choice is to keep pretending. He needs her to keep pretending because he needs to keep pretending, because that’s the only way he can see to preserving their society, which is built completely on pretense. That idea leads perfectly into my favorite line in the entire story: “Just as long as we can always pretend to be happy together.” They think that in order to be happy they have to maintain their society the way it is, and in order to maintain their society the way it is, they have to pretend to be happy. Lovely circularism here.
The more I think about, the more I like this story – now I want to take a shot at writing Narcissa! It’s the measure of a good story, I think, that it makes you think enough about the characters that you want to try writing them yourself. Great job, spew buddy!
Author's Response: Thank you so much for the lengthy and quality review. This is definately the most challenging review I've ever gotten and I am so glad for it because that really is the point of reviews. I surely can't address all your questions here but we will chat over IM and talk it over. Thank for the review dear!
Very nice. A wonderful take on how Lucius and Narcissa came to be. Also a very good view on the life led by a Black. I loved it!
Author's Response: Thank you for the nice reivew, I apprciate it so much!
Wow, this is a really great portrayal of Narcissa, and even Lucius. It makes me like them both a bit better than I did from the books or movies.
You've done an excellent job with characterization and really getting into their characters thoughts...nice job.
I particularly like the little exchange at the end, thought it was quite cute.
Author's Response: Thanks so much, that puts my mind to ease very much I was very afraid of going OOC on this.
Some slight corrections:Narcissa forced a smile. “I still suppose it concerns me as well though, as I am still apart of the wizarding society.” (I think there ought to be a space in 'a part')
This is definitely a new and deeper look to Narcissa. I really liked that internal struggle where she questions her family and her life slightly, but does not have the courage to act upon it. It truly feels like something she would have done. The best thing about it is that you didn't go overboard and made this extremely angsty.
I love Lucius' line: "You have only become a prisoner in your own mind." and he comes across as sweet but not too sweet - sweet yet formal thus making this all the more believable.
Happy Birthday Ashley!
Author's Response: Thank you very much for the lovely birthday present, I will go through and fix that.
You’ve reviewed every chapter of one of my stories and so it really is about time that I reviewed one of yours. Reading this story was both enjoyable and useful. I got to see how you perceive Lucius Malfoy and his pureblood status, along with how this has influenced the young Narcissa. I liked how you kept returning back to the politics of being a pureblood and how Narcissa was just wrapped up, without a voice, in the middle of it all.
Narcissa considered this question carefully, before casting her eyes down, “Probably not well enough for him.”
Neta mentions this briefly in her review… you do have a trend where you write a sentence explaining the narrative linked by a comma to a dialogue, like the example above. This needs to be a period rather than a comma because the description is independent from the dialogue. The exception to this is when it is a speech tag: For example… “Looking very cheesed off, Harry said, “Where is the Horcrux, Sevvy-poo?” *giggles at dumb example* Here, you need a comma because it follows on directly from the description.
I’ve noticed that you tend to begin a lot of sentences with “she” – this is a popular convention used when narrating from a single third person’s POV but if you’re not careful it can stagnate the flow of your story and become repetitive. There are different ways of beginning a sentence and dropping in a little bit of variety here and there doesn’t take away from your overall message but does help maintain the readers interest.
I may never know what that is, because I may never get to see the world but through the eyes of my father. How is it that he’s already made me forget my own dreams? I’ve become a prisoner of my own household.
I liked this thought aside. It captured Narcissa’s worries on the subject very nicely and summarised the key issues of the one-shot. As a young woman, I can see why she would have ambitions of her own (she is a Slytherin, after all) and why it is during her final years at Hogwarts that she begins to challenge what she’s so easily accepted. It gives her some integrity, even though she is aloof and, on the surface, not a likeable character.
The thing was, status wasn’t something you could just give away, and it was something you had to destroy.
I liked this… it was almost Narcissa’s unconscious admittance that status isn’t everything, showing how if she was just raised in a more tolerant environment, she wouldn’t be looking down on people. She understands the risks that are involved with “destroying status” – like Sirius had done – and knows that her thoughts towards freedom are close to crossing the line on what is acceptable for a pureblood witch to believe. I pity her at this point, I really do. One bit of concrit – your wording could be a bit sharper here. Instead of using “and” you could use “but” because this would help balance out her argument better.
It wasn’t that Narcissa didn’t like Slytherin or her family’s ambitions; heaven knew she would never want to marry a half-blood or a Muggleborn. It was just that she wanted to know she could, just to have something in her life not dictated to her by her family or the Dark Lord.
This was a very subtle twist to her character and I thought it was very revealing of Narcissa’s personality. She wants the power to chose who she marries – pureblood or not – for the sake of having that power, even though she wouldn’t use it. It’s a very teenage rebellious trait, I think, but it may be what Narcissa considers as freedom. It’s a selfish freedom; to want something just so that you can have it. I think it’s very true to her character to behave this way.
a little more timidly then she had intended.
Than instead of then
It almost looked a little un-natural, like it wasn’t quite right for a family of four.
Unnatural not un-natural
“the party isn’t until next week Miss Narcissa.”
You need a comma before “Miss Narcissa”
“Narcissa, and Bellatrix were supposed to remain…”
And you need to kill this comma
There were ghosts from time to time but the house was hardly haunted.
This line made me chuckle – in our world, any place that makes a small rattle is deemed to be haunted, and so by showing Narcissa’s indifference to her home’s resident ghosts shows how unlike Muggles she is. I really liked you’re description of the house, in fact; it was very fitting of a pureblood family.
As it would turn out, Bellatrix would mostly likely remain in Rodolphus’s arms the entire night, and Narcissa would have to dance with strange men from other powerful wizarding families.
Your characterisation of Bellatrix is very accurate, and I like how you show the differences between her and Narcissa. She is evidently the stronger of the two, who despite being very faithful to her family and its principles, has successfully managed to chooe her own partner. She’s much more of a practical person than her sister who is better at catering for her own interests. Whilst they are both selfish, Bellatrix is selfish successfully, as shown here with the dancing.
“Lucius I have tried so hard to pretend I’m something I’m not, after years of lying to myself. I’ll never be able to understand. Don’t you ever feel trapped? You are just a puppet, we will always be puppets,”
Sometimes your dialogue, here for example, uses a lot of symbolism and metaphors. It can be used on occasion to create dramatic impact, such as here, but you need to consider whether the character would realistically use such phrases. Sometimes it’s better to use the metaphor in your narrative and keep the dialogue rather more simple and conversational. Also, I noticed you used quite a bit of hyperbole in “No Turning Back Now” and whilst it is a good way of creating atmosphere and heightening the tension, if you overuse it, it becomes melodramatic. Hyperbole is brilliant when used well, and metaphors are my best friends, but not always in dialogue. I’m saying this from my own experience; reading back some chapters (including ones in Warmth) I inwardly cringe at some of it.
“Maybe you had to take classes at school, but you succeeded on your own. Maybe you were told to dress in the finest robes but you were beautiful on your own. Maybe your were told how to act or how to dance, but you were graceful on your own.”
Conversely, I liked this piece of dialogue because you didn’t jazz it up too much, but rather kept it controlled and persuasive. By using balanced language in compound sentences, you create a convincing argument; it is a suitable technique for such a sly man as Lucius Malfoy. If I didn’t know Lucius better, I would perhaps even believe him. This a great bit of characterisation.
If there was anything she had learned about Lucius, there were few things that would awaken his emotions; at all other times, logic served him correctly
Ooooh! You do know Lucius well! *grins* I liked your portrayal of Lucius throughout – I’d struggle to understand what he was like as a young man. Was he still as cold and cunning? Or was there a more trustworthy, even naïve, side to him? But you write the young Lucius wonderfully. I liked how he is content to follow in his father’s footsteps – like an automated being that doesn’t look for an alternative path. Yet his ambitious side shines through in his loyalty and desire to serve the Dark Lord. Beautifully handled. Tres Bien!
And that concludes my review… My first handwritten review, in fact, that I wrote whilst waiting for cricket to start on Thursday. I’m sorry that we’ve not had longer to chat about our stories, but I’ve learnt lots of things from reading your stories, and thoroughly enjoyed them at the same time. You’re a great and supportive friend, and I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to give a little bit of advice back (as feeble as my advice is these days) because your reviews keep Warmth going. *huggles*
Author's Response: *huggles Laura to death* That is the best review I've ever gotten. It was so helpful and informative and just amazing. I love how people pick up on metaphors and symbolism that I don't purposively put in stories, it makes me smile. I went through and fixed almost everything. Yay! I <3 you!
Yummy! What a delicious little fic!
Author's Response: Thank you Hamstergeist! It's not everyday an undead hampster reviews my stories! I find it rather delicious as well :)
Mine's real quick... Basically, I'm impressed. I'm impressed with the way you handled Narcissa's emotional drama and drew sympathy from the readers. Several times in your story I went, "Aw..." and then I had to ask myself if it was real or just a strategic thing to say at that point--like Malfoy asked himself. I'm very impressed with the emotion and characterization. I think you captured an essence of people that not many people capture very well--we all feel trapped in one way or another. It's nice to read a non-typical romance story, and I really enjoyed your first chapter. Please, continue...
Author's Response: I'm sorry to say, I didn't mark that this is a one-shot...I wanted to leave the end up to the reader to decide for themselves what happened. I'm glad you liked it though, I also appriciate the detailed review, it is so nice. Thank you for reading, I'm glad you liked it.
I don’t know about romantic, but there is something sweet in the idea that they both in fact DO always have someone to dance with. You’ve drawn a very sympathetic portrait of two characters who don’t normally invite sympathy. Her question to Bellatrix—Do you really enjoy being restricted to the point…to the point of…to the point of not being able to breathe?—made me feel so sorry for her; in trying to say it, she expresses exactly what she feels. You show exactly how heavily the expectations of her family must weigh on her. I also like how your protagonist, no matter how much she suffers, still clings to her good breeding and disdain for those below her (meaning just about everyone). It makes the story that much more believable.
So obviously I don’t have any complaints at all about characterization or plotting because the story holds together so well and does an excellent job delving into Narcissa’s (and Lucius’) psyche. About the only thing I can make suggestions about are a few typos I noticed. For example, I think you need a “the” before “wizarding” in Ours is one of the only pureblooded families left in wizarding world . The verb “feel” also should probably be “felt” in the following: …and though this relieved the physical pressure from her chest, she still feel the weight of sovereignty lying upon her heavily. And “a part” is two words when you’re trying to indicate belonging rather than separation, as in the following: Narcissa forced a smile, “I still suppose it concerns me as well though, as I am still apart of the wizarding society.” Other than that, you might want to review punctuation with dialogue since sometimes you have a comma when you need a period.
Overall, however, I love what you show us about these two characters. Even Lucius, who doesn’t voice his discontent, tells us something through his refusal to complain. He’s determined to be strong and do exactly what is expected of him. Your interpretation of this character seems right on. I really enjoyed reading your story. What a great gift!
Author's Response: I don't really think it's romantic either, but it was supposed to be...and I think in some ways it is...but it isn't really a romance. I try to leave that up to the imagination. Thank you so much for the helpful review...I went through and fixed the stuff you pointed out. I appriciate the help so much, these reviews mean a lot to me, and the reads :)
Interesting premise; I like it. Now for some con-crit:
Bellatrix now sat down her quill
This should be “set.”
Bellatrix now sat down her quill and turned to look at Narcissa, “I don’t see the problem with upholding the honor of this family. Ours is one of the only pureblooded families left in wizarding world; would you really want to be the one to ruin that? I like the way we live; we are powerful, and Father is really looking out for our best interests.”
Very good job of capturing Bellatrix. She accepts her position and all the baggage that comes with it – we know that in her later years she still believes purebloods to be superior.
“I understand the importance of being a Black, but what if there is more than this? Do you really enjoy being restricted to the point…to the point of…to the point of not being able to breathe? Don’t you feel like you are missing something?” asked Narcissa, shaking her head desperately.
And an excellent job of understanding Narcissa, being smothered by duty.
Narcissa looked at her sister wide-eyed and opened her mouth as if to respond but just shook her head looking vaguely at the ground, “I don’t know.”
There seems somehow to be too much description here. It’s sort of cluttery. You can try something like: Narcissa looked at her sister, opening her mouth as if to respond, but dropped her eyes to shake her head at the ground. This helps a little to take away some of the…clutteryness. I don’t really know a better word for it.
There must be something more to me than just being a Black. …
You might want to italicize her inner thoughts to make it clearer that it is her thinking.
she still feel the weight of sovereignty lying upon her heavily.
You may want to choose a word other than “sovereignty”, which has meanings for both “dominion” and “independence.” I’m not a chess piece in a master game of wizarding families,” she growled, looking at him vengefully. Lucius cold glare abated a little and he sat back down.
It should be “Lucius’.” But I’m not sure “vengefully” is quite what you’re looking for. Does Narcissa really want revenge, or is she just angry?
As it turned out, Bellatrix would mostly likely remain in Rodolphus’s arms the entire night Are you saying that it did turn out, or that it would most likely turn out? You’re using both tenses here.
She wrenched away from him and looking up whispered disdainfully, “Is that how you would treat your wife?” She held her hating glance for a long time before finally stalking out of the ballroom. Waving off worried glances with a gorgeous smile. Lucius stood stunned in the middle of the ballroom and his eyes followed her long after she had left the room.
Bunch of things here. First, I like Narcissa’s comeback a lot. Second, usually a glance would be described as “hateful,” not “hating.” Also, you have “ballroom. Waving…” that should probably be a comma instead: “ballroom, waving off worried glances…”
This is really quite good. I like that it lets us explore another side of both Malfoys. Who’s to say that what we see in twenty years isn’t the result of years of hardening into the forms they were shaped for? Very nice.
Author's Response: Thank you for the wonderfully helpful review...I've gone through and fixed everything. Thank you for taking time to go through and help...I know it needs it.