Wow! What an original story! It had never occurred to me to think about the Wolfbane Potion's invention, nor the fact that since it was invented fairly recently, there must have been many centuries of trial and error before it was brewed.
You conveyed the seeming hopelessness of the situation nicely right at the very beginning. From Belby talking about drowning out the sounds of the nightmare of transformation, the reader can tell how deeply he does care. However, I think you could have used a few less exclamation marks throughout the story and still made it just as dramatic.
It's quite funny that you show the inspiration for the successful potion's key ingredient coming from an "old wife's tale". It fits nicely with the interest in alternative medicine today with old remedies.
Author's Response: Thanks for enjoying the story. It was interesting to write with a different tone. I usually just stick with the light, Quidditch- or Lockhart-related stories. I really should go back and tone down some of the over-the-top-ness of the story. I got a bit melodramatic at times, admittedly. Thanks for reviewing!
When you mentioned that your challenge entry was also about werewolves, I was immediately interested to see what angle your fic took, since it’s a subject I definitely find very intriguing. I thought this was a great idea, especially for this challenge. We don’t know how Damocles Belby came up with the idea for the Wolfsbane Potion, and it’s also just nice to have another insight into the slightly mysterious St. Mungo’s.
I love the way you start this fic, with just one line set off, because it immediately grabs the reader. This is also something you do throughout the fic, and you do it very well. Sometimes authors try this technique but use it too often, thus minimizing the effect it has, but I thought you handled it nicely. Sentences like “He worked in the Howling Hall,” “Another failure,” “Wolfsbane was its other name” – they’re all important to the story as a whole. They all advance the plot. Separating them from the rest of the narration obviously makes them stand out, and it also contributes to the overall tone of mystery this fic has. You’ve got these sort of vague sentences, and you kind of just throw them out there, and the reader is left thinking about them and wondering what’s going on, you know? Additionally, there’s a great dramatic irony with this, because we know what will eventually happen, but Damocles is still figuring it out.
Speaking of Damocles, I think he’s a very interesting character. I think in general you did a good job characterizing him. It’s difficult to write a fic focused on a character we don’t know from canon, especially when we don’t really have a canon character to sort of anchor ourselves with, if that makes sense (you do have mentions of Remus, which helps but isn’t quite the same as having a major character). Here you have two completely foreign characters, Damocles Belby and Anne Brewer. They’re both compelling characters. I almost find Damocles a little too classically creepy, though, to be honest. Some of the things he says just seem a bit contrived, like they’re put in there for fright’s sake rather than because someone would actually say them. Our guests should be arriving any minute. That’s something I sort of expect from a cheesy horror movie, you know? If you had just said ‘patients’ instead of ‘guests,’ for example, I think that might have been better. There’s another part where Damocles refers to the werewolves at the full moon as a ‘show,’ and – would he really speak of it with such casualness? I thought you conveyed Damocles’ bitterness and sadness well, but for me he felt almost like a villain, and he’s not. I liked his attitude towards Anne, and the dedication he has to the werewolves, though. It was clear that he had spent much of his life trying to help them, and naturally he feels like a failure for not succeeding. I just thought he felt a little too scary, you know? If I had met him for the first time the way Anne does, I might have thought he was taking me somewhere to murder me rather than teach me (and obviously he doesn’t want to hurt Anne, but that’s almost what I expected of him).
The St. Mungo’s part of this was great. Using Anne to reveal the history of the hospital’s relationship with werewolves was very effective. I identified with Anne because I wanted to know the answers as well. And at the same time, you integrated some of Damocles’ own backstory, but it didn’t make the fic feel heavy or weighed down at all. It was just good storytelling, really. As a side note, you spelled the ward’s name differently throughout the fic; sometimes it was ‘Stokley’ and others it was ‘Stokely.’ I’m inclined to think the latter is the right one, because the former is kind of difficult to pronounce reasonably. That said, there were some other little mistakes I noticed in this, so I would just suggest another thorough read-through next time before you submit.
The only other thing I really wanted to comment on was the dialogue in this fic. I thought the pace was great and overall the dialogue was placed well; it helped the fic move along and, as a storytelling device, it worked well. But I had trouble picking a time period for this fic, because the characters’, particularly Anne’s, speech felt slightly antiquated. I can see this for Damocles, because we don’t really know how old he is, and presumably he’s getting on in years, so his speech would reflect that. But Anne is young, just out of Hogwarts, and yet she felt like she belonged perhaps in the nineteenth century. The only real time reference we have is Damocles’ recollection of Remus Lupin as a child, which would be in the seventies, but we’re a good deal past that by this, aren’t we? At the very least we’re only in the eighties, and Anne just doesn’t feel like a youth from that era. For instance, when she questions Damocles about old wives’ tales, she says, “Do you really believe in all that nonsense?” Simply the word ‘nonsense’ feels out of place. Would a young person from this time period really say ‘nonsense’? It’s a word that, at least for me, connotes someone much older. It might seem nit-picky, but it’s just small things like that that confused me a little about the setting.
Overall, though, I really liked this fic. I thought you took an intriguing idea and executed it well. We learned about how the Wolfsbane Potion was invented as well as some of the secrets that St. Mungo’s holds. Good job!
Author's Response: Thanks so much for the review. I appreciate you taking the time to write this very in-depth review. It's been very helpful to me, since I haven't really thought about the story since I submitted it. I love picking characters and situations that could theoretically fit in the HP world (technically Damocles has one or two mentions), but obviously even an 800-page HP book can't fit everything, right? You're right about Damocles being a bit too creepy. Having read the story over several times, I think it's easy to tell that I wrote a majority of this in two block sessions: the first half in which he says all this wild and crazy "Frankenstein" stuff, and the second half in which he's a little more normal. Well, "normal" for a defeated Healer in a mysterious division of a magical hospital, right? I think I really couldn't decide on exactly who he was as a character until I was a good 2,000 words into the story. Once the judging and whatnot is over, I'll definitely pour back through this one and straighten a few things out. Most things I've written are not terribly serious things (Gilderoy Lockhart stars in two of my fics after all!), so tone and characterization was a real challenge for me. Narration wise, I thought it turned out well enough with my fair sprinkling of short, fragment-y paragraphs, but I should definitely tweak some of the character. Thanks for all the comments! How awesome! I'm glad you enjoyed reading the story!