I don’t read much HP original character centered fiction, but I liked your title and the mystery of how a person would have such a Patronus.
Joseph is a sympathetic character. He studies hard and has big dreams. You do an excellent job hooking the reader with worry while setting the scene for his disappointment. Sprout was delightfully in character and shrewdly used to reveal Joseph’s situation and character (he’s competing against students with higher marks, but he’d be atop the list if decisions were made on effort alone) and to state what struck me as the theme of the story: Given enough time, anything is possible.
In the second paragraph, I noticed that you’re telling when you could show to greater effect. What does “looking dejected” mean to you? Slumped shoulders, feet dragging, long face: whatever you “see” can be shown to let readers make inferences.
Also, when you italicize a character’s thoughts, you don’t need to say “he thought to himself.” The italics are doing that for you.
Joseph’s humanity, for lack of a better word, was expressed very nicely when It infuriated and hurt him when he laboured so assiduously to meet deadlines only to see his work go completely unnoticed. He has pride and a writer’s ego that would rather collect rubbish than work for the Prophet.
In the second scene, his inconsistent emotions seemed very true to life. He’s tried to brace himself, but it’s still a painful blow. He tries to find solace that the torturous wait is over, yet sends out his application knowing in the back of his mind he’ll always be waiting, he’ll never abandon his passion, no matter how he appears to move on. He’s realistic yet optimistic, and quite likeable.
I did wonder about Joseph’s background when I read Two torpedoes had just slammed into his hull. Did he get the expression from his Muggle father? Comparisons usually clarify, but this one muddied the story waters.
When Jessica says, “That’s my favourite!” the “she” in “she beamed” should be capitalized. Characters can only speak dialogue. They can’t beam it, even if they’re transporter room engineers on the USS Enterprise. :)
It was interesting to find out Joseph didn’t go back on his vow not to work for the Prophet, that his pride wouldn’t allow it, yet he could work as a short-order cook. His elation at receiving the letter and Jessica’s thoughts on what her husband endured for them was vivid and touching. The only thing lacking was an explanation of what Jessica had been doing the last four years. Did she work? If not, why not? Joseph’s pride, or a medical condition? I assume her parents are wizards but it isn’t stated, and until I read about Uncle John I wondered whether Joseph was an orphan or estranged from his family for them not to be mentioned. I think it would have had more impact if you’d mentioned Uncle John along with Harry Potter at the beginning (or if the character occurred to you when writing, to have gone back and edited him in afterward).
The scene with the Dementors was riveting, the explanation behind the Patronus moving. There was a Tiny Tim air to the whole thing, a subtle foreshadowing. If I’d been your beta, though, I would’ve gently demanded you edit His son’s eyes exploded to Aiden’s eyes grew huge with delight or sparkled with delight. You used “his son’s” two sentences prior, and “exploding” gives a cartoon air to what is a tender, pivotal moment. As a reader and fellow writer, I implore (since I am in no position to demand, :D) you to edit that one line before any other.
In the final scene, the image of the grass waving like his son’s hand was so poignant; I read that paragraph twice to enjoy the beauty fully.
The ending was bittersweet, in a satisfying way. Thank you for writing the story.
First of all, go Hufflepuff! I love reading stories about fellow badgers. It’s so much nicer to have variety in characters, especially since there are four houses.
I loved the way you showed Professor Sprout. She’s seen very rarely in the books, and even less rarely in fan fiction, it seems. What I appreciated particularly in your depiction of Sprout was that she was completely honest with Joseph. She knew it was going to hurt Joseph to hear the bottom line, and she could have chosen to simply sugar coat it or skirt around the harsh truth, but she knew that it would be more beneficial to him to know now, no matter what. I think that’s something that people do when they truly care about others. They care more about the ultimate happiness of those they care about rather than just pleasing them in the moment. And, yes, that was a short scene, but you illustrated that small, yet very important, Hufflepuff characteristic very well. It is evident how much Sprout cares about her students.
Jessica seems to be such a strong, lovely girl. I was so glad that she was there with Joseph when he got his scores back. She’s such a support to him, and seeing as he doesn’t take that knowledge for granted, and then the subsequent suggestion for tea when it’s not his favorite, I’m confidently assuming that he’s just as great to her as she is to him. Then, in the next section of the story, my assumptions are wonderfully confirmed. The two young people have such a beautiful and healthy relationship, and you’ve shown the readers that without stating it point blank. I think it’s hard to simply show and not tell sometimes, but it makes stories so much better when the former happens rather than the latter.
(I’ve just read the other review for this story now, and I didn’t feel like you overdid things on the telling side. Sometimes you, as the author, may want to emphasize things a little bit more, and there’s nothing wrong with that, so I think it really just depends on the rhetorical situation and your own preferences.)
I have an issue with one thing in the story, though. That would be when Uncle John, ex-Auror, as you very well know, has to walk across the room to get his wand out of a special case. I’m sure Alastor Moody was an extreme case, but I cannot believe that an ex-Auror would not have his wand immediately at hand. It just does not seem logical.
I’m not quite sure I forgive you for not letting Aiden be alive. Really. Reading about that tender memory of Joseph giving Aiden the bear and then going on to read that he’s not alive anymore was so heart-wrenching. You wrote it wonderfully.
I can see why this story won the challenge. You told it very well, and I enjoyed reading it!
Thanks, Mar! I know you reviewed this ages ago, and I've been a big time slacker in terms of responding. There is a lot of person significance in this story for me - probably not in ways that I will ever share. Still, I really poured a lot into it emotionally ... and it came out pretty much as good as I could have hoped (it's the only story I have that I like 100%).
Joseph was a Gryffindor in the first draft, and then I made him a Hufflepuff. Not sure why. The conversation with Sprout was added later on, but I am glad you liked it.
I'm glad you liked the part with Joseph and Jessica. I really wanted to show how he feels like all of his dreams had just been crushed, then immediately latches on to the one thing he has left ... her.
Hmmm ... I did the Auror thing they way I did because it was supposed to be post-war, and symbolic. Even the old war dog has laid down his sword ... you now? I can see your point, though ... and it is valid.
As for Aiden, my parents have told me so many times about how much a child becomes a part of your life, how much they mean, and this sort of intense love that goes into that parent/child relationship. The whole point was, here is Joseph, who has never been able to do a Patronus, and what is the one Memory that finally comes through and does the job. A memory of his son, who he loved more than he could ever say.
Thanks for the great review Mar!
Awwww! What a sweet, sweet, lovely story you’ve written! Beautifully put together too, which is more rare than you’d think with one-shots. I particularly liked how you started each segment with a single word. The words really set the tone and help pull the story together in an interesting way. My only complaint about them is that the last two, Memories and Remembrance, seem a little too similar for two such different parts of the story. It’s a little jarring, because the first pulls you back into the past, as the title suggests, but the timing of Remembrance is, upon reading, clearly quite a ways after Memories, chronologically. I wasn’t exactly confused by it, but it did cause me to pause and think “Wait, what?” for a moment. The sudden, unexplained death of the son creates enough of a disconnect on its own (though, that part works beautifully and I wouldn’t try to change that), without binding the last two sections with their similar titles. Perhaps you could change Remembrance to Mourning? I don’t know. Only you can really know what’s right for it.
My only other criticism is that there are a couple of short paragraphs where you rely too much on telling (or explaining) emotions. In particular, I’m bothered by the paragraph beginning His uncle did not ask Joseph to explain what he meant. What his nephew had been through… The sentence about “What his nephew had been through” is unnecessary and brings down the level of your writing. You don’t need to tell us that––we’ve seen it. Moreover, you shouldn’t have to tell it. If you want to communicate the uncle’s understanding, you can just leave the mention of his reticence and maybe add a description of his facial expression or something like that, allowing the reader to comprehend the uncle’s empathy on their own. There were a couple of other cases when I thought you explain characters emotions too much, but that was the one that stuck out at me most.
Criticism given, I really did enjoy this story. It was beautifully written and heart wrenching. You started early enough in Joseph’s life that we were really able to empathize with him and care about what happened to him and to his family. You did a great job making Joseph into a very real and very human character, and you did a great job of showing his personality in how he approached obstacles in his life. The pacing is good and the story is compelling. All in all, excellent writing!
Thank you so much for the in depth review, HermioneDancr! I really appreciate that you put that much time and effort into it. You do have a couple things there I would like to respond to quickly. First, the funny part about my one word titles is I nearly dropped them out of the last version until my one of my betas influenced me otherwise. The original title of the “memories” section was “gifts”. I changed it when one of my betas expressed some concern over the timeline in the story getting confused. However, the version she got did not include the two paragraphs that immediately follow “memories” as it appears now. I added those the day I submitted the story. So, I may just change it back. I’ll have to look closely at that.
I agree with your criticism about relying too much on telling. I have a tendency to over-cook things sometimes, but I am much better at spotting it in someone else’s work as opposed to my own. Once again, I’ll take a look at the passage you specifically called out.
Thanks so much! I love your feedback and am glad you took the time to give me so much of it.