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Reviews For Smoke and Mirrors

Name: Maple_and_PheonixFeather (Signed) · Date: 05/15/12 2:13 · For: Chapter 1
Hey Lily!

This is a very interesting piece. The exploration into the world of an unknown character was very well done, and quite interesting to read, especially since it is a character that gains little sympathy throughout the actual novels.

Upon a second reading of this story, it came to my attention that there is very little description of the scene around Pius. Interestingly enough, it was not necessary . Typically, I like a little bit of a picture of what the place looks like before I start reading, but I found that I didn’t need it in this fic. I think that the lack of description actually further emphasised the dreamlike state that Pius is in. All that matters is what needs to be done, and not what is around him, like a dream where all you remember is what happened, but the scenery remains fuzzy.

I found that both characters were very easy to sympathise with, even though neither are ones that I felt any sympathy for in the books. I think one of the saddest parts of the interaction between the two characters is that they refer to each other by their first names. In the books, characters only referred to each other by their first names if they were friends, so watching the interaction using first names really drove home the feelings that Pius would later feel – he killed someone he had known for a long time. His brief hesitation and the clenching of his heart really emphasises that, and I thought it was a beautiful thing to add. The small details really made the situation more real and more heartbreaking for the reader.

The way that the Imperius curse plays on Pius’ need for control and his envy of Rufus was very effective. Having the commands play at his jealousy towards Rufus’ success was quite clever. Through this, you have shown just how cunning Voldemort really is. He guarantees Pius the position of minister and then has him create a world where Pius feels that his power will never be questioned, which is something that I get the impression that he has wanted since he failed Auror school, whether he knew it, or not.

I loved your interpretation of Rufus. He was definitely not a character I particularly liked in the books, but here, you made me feel sorry that he had to die, and with him only saying a few words. His last words really shine and show us who exactly he was as a person. While his attempt at help may have been in order to spare his own life, his refusal to cave to the pain really showed the reader how brave he was and how he had his heart in the right spot. Having Rufus refer to Voldemort by his name was also very effective in showing just how strong Rufus was.

Your use of repetition was very nicely done in many places, emphasising exactly why Pius was so easy to keep under the Imperius curse – he was always jealous of Rufus and he loves his dreamlike state. That being said, I thought that the use of the words “smoke and mirrors” was a little over done. While it made a really fantastic title, I thought that using it in the middle felt a bit off. I really liked it in the beginning and the end, but it felt a little overbearing in the middle.

One thing I would have liked to see more of was the end. I think there was a lot you could have expanded on. While I loved the “I am simply Pius”, I really wanted some more. I would have loved to see a bit more regret in him, and have him expand on why he didn’t think he was strong and righteous.

Overall, I thought this was a very nice piece of writing. The exploration of unknown characters and the way Voldemort controlled Pius made for a very interesting read. It was wonderful to read something so obscure without always questioning the legitimacy of it. Great job, Lily!


Name: MissMeg (Signed) · Date: 03/08/12 2:53 · For: Chapter 1
The first thing I noticed about this is that the formatting/punctuation on this site needs to be taken care of. There are boxes with question marks everywhere, which did irritate me slightly, because it detracted from your story. However, without the question mark things, I think your story would have been even more depressing…

Despite the formatting stuff (which you have no control over), you still managed to control the tone of the story. Right before he tortures and kills Scrimgeour, Pius recalls Scrimgeour always being better more talented than he was. The whole idea that now Pius is the minister, and he can kill Scrimgeour seems so ironic, and I think the way you organized the scene emphasized that. First Pius recalled the history, and then the next paragraph began with: "But now" which really emphasized the contrast between who historically had power and who currently has power.

What really struck me about the scene was that Voldemort didn't order Pius to torture Scrimgeour. He simply ordered Pius to ask where Harry was (using the imperious curs) and to kill Scrimgeour. So, the torturing was all Pius. Yet, in the moment of guilt and anti-Voldemort sentiment Pius has after Scrimgeour says the word "imperious" does seem to indicate that he's torturing Scrimgeour on because of the imperious curse.

For me, the paragraph that really blurred the line between what Pius was doing because of the curse and what he was doing on his own was: "But now I will rule whether or not he gets to live or die. The Dark Lord has helped me succeed. The cloudy blanket that I live under is his doing, and I will follow his instructions to the end of the world." I generally don't quote paragraphs in a review, but I thought this paragraph was the strongest in the entire story. I think in these three sentences, you got across the confusion that characterizes the entire story over what Pius is doing under his own free will. There is such an optimistic tone in the first two sentences; Pius seems to have finally succeeded over his rival, and it seemed to me like he was thrilled about destroying Scrimgeour out of jealousy. Then in the last sentence you changed the tone of the paragraph from controlling and dictatorial to much more helpless. Pius seemed completely devoted to Voldemort and quite unaware of what was happening.

However, I felt like the amount of context that you gave about Pius and Scrimgeour's past broke the flow a bit. Some of the information you gave in context didn't seem entirely necessary to me. For example, the information that they've known each other for twenty years felt unnecessary, and I felt like you could have gotten the impression of jealousy in the history across in fewer words. The point you make is that Scrimgeour succeeded and as a result Pius was ignored. The way you seem to be describing the imperious curse suggests, to me, that Pius isn't really thinking; rather he's sort of floating from thought to thought, not entirely conscious of what he's doing. Having him spend sentences summarizing the history, I think detracts from the hazy feeling he seems to have under the curse.

I thought expressed the tug of war that seemed to be taking place inside Pius's head during the scene with Scrimgeour quite well. Every couple paragraphs, there seems to be a single moment in which Pius questions the voice/smoke/Voldemort, but each moment is quickly repressed and he returns to the mindless devotion to Voldemort. The moments in which Pius remembers whom he used to be, most notably when Scrimgeour says the word "imperious", were, in my opinion, what got across the magnitude of power and control Voldemort had over Pius, and even made me feel sorry for him. The fact that after brief moments in which he glimpsed the horror of what he was doing he could go back to a state that was almost blissful (in that he seemed very content and even relaxed in his satisfaction over torturing Scrimgeour and the ease of it, which he notes toward the end of the scene).

In addition to the quick moments of realization, the short paragraphs captured the brevity of Pius's thoughts. Things just seemed to be happening, and he remarks on the things he's doing with frankness and almost with emotional detachment. The brevity of the paragraphs, I thought, emphasized how little Pius is actually thinking. When I was younger, my teachers told me that a paragraph should express a complete thought, which was why they didn't allow students to write one to two sentence paragraphs. However, Pius's thoughts are so abbreviated and lacking in depth or feeling, because of the imperious curse, that they only need one or two sentences to express. Between the moments of realization and the paragraph length, you evoked a tone of powerlessness, which too was ironic in that Pius has complete power over Scrimgeour and others, yet he is completely powerless because of the imperious curse.

Throughout the story, Pius used a mixture of contractions and phrases that weren't contracted (e.g. don't, do not- in case I'm not being terribly precise), which sounded slightly awkward to me. The impression you gave me was that Pius's thoughts were almost slurred together in a fog by the imperious curse, and this piece was characterized by fogs of thought broken by a brief moment of almost realization. The contractions that were spelled out to a certain extent broke the fog of his thoughts under the imperious curse, which, I think, detracted from the feeling of fog and powerlessness.

I liked how you concluded, with Pius finally out from under the imperious curse. His guilt over doing those things connected to the moments under the imperious curse when he realized what he was doing. I previously hadn't really thought about the way people who had done horrible things under the imperious curse would have felt when they came out from it.

The note that you ended on tied back to Pius feeling inferior to Scrimgeour earlier on when Scrimgeour was being tortured. However, I feel like it could have been stronger. It read: "maybe that proves that I will never be as strong as Rufus, or as righteous as Harry Potter. I am simply Pius Thicknesse." Earlier on, when Pius is recalling his history with Scrimgeour, it felt like you showed that Pius didn't see himself as strong or righteous. I took the word strong to mean unrelenting and unbreakable. So, Scrimgeour chose to stand up for his beliefs rather than give in under enormous pressure. I didn't get the impression that Pius felt inferior because didn't feel strong or righteous. I got the impression that Pius saw himself as neither "powerful enough", "smart enough", nor talented enough. I think when Pius says that he "will never be as strong as Rufus", you merely grazed the surface of the insecurities he had about himself in comparison to Scrimgeour. Obviously this is just my opinion, but I think exploring the idea that he was "not powerful enough, [and] not smart enough" to resist Voldemort's imperious curse while Scrimgeour died still resisting Voldemort, even under torture.

Pius blended in to the background so much in "The Deathly Hallows" that I hadn't really thought about how he must feel, assuming he survived the battle, when the imperious curse was lifted and he realized what he'd done or at least facilitated. This was a lovely introduction into your writing.

Author's Response:

Hi Meg, thank you very much for your review :) This was one of the first fics I wrote (and, not surprisingly, the one that inspired me to join the boards after I got a SPEWly review from Soraya) and I haven't reread it in a while, and I adore getting more crit. I am slightly in awe of this review, to be honest, and this could be a longgg response.

I'm sorry about the formatting stuff, like I said, I haven't reread this in a while, and I'll fix that as soon as I finish responding to your review. I wrote this right before the archives switched around and became all newfangled with all these glitches and question marks, and I added a lot of hyphens in this story because Pius’s thoughts were so fragmented, so I didn’t find it necessary then, but I feel the same way…I’ll fix them straight away.

I feel like the characterisation of Pius was all that really mattered to me while writing this fic, which I did very rushedly and without a beta, as I didn’t know that the forums existed and/or that a beta existed. I’m actually quite proud of my “ability” (hehe, it’s actually something I quite regret) to take a character we basically know nothing about/are a bad guy/are completely insane, and give them some sort of life that nobody really knows about (i.e. in my fic Droobles Blowing Gum, Alice has a “big secret” and a real reason that she chews gum all the time, and in this fic, we learn a lot more about why Pius does what he does). So there’s that.

I always felt like Pius would be jealous of Rufus, as I specified in this story. However, I don’t think he would have done anything about it (being too scared of Rufus, or maybe just wasn’t brave enough to do anything) until he got put under the Imperius Curse and Voldemort issued him to kill Rufus. I feel a little like Pius might have taken that a little too far, as something close to revenge, and that he would have done the torturing on his own account but, per sey, Voldemort (or Yaxley I believe who was actually controlling him) wouldn’t have stopped him and would have perhaps found it amusing.

On that note, I feel like you would have to know Rufus’s background with Pius in detail to understand his motives on purposely torturing him, which is why I find it a little odd that you feel like that dragged a little. The fact that they have known each other for a long time and that Pius has always been jealous of Rufus really shows these motives imho, and I think you really had to show that Pius had been shunted sideways and the only direction Rufus went in was up. I do understand, however, what you say about detracting from the tone I went to portray in this story, but I don’t see any other way to do it.

From the few minutes in GOF where Harry is under the Imperius curse is where I did most of my “research” on how it would be like to be under the Imperius curse if you couldn’t fight it. Pius, obviously, was in charge of some verrryyy important Ministry thing that I cannot remember the name of atm but was very important when Yaxley controlled him, so I would think that he would have at least gotten some basic training on how to combat the Imperius curse, but not from someone like Yaxley who actually meant what he was doing. Therefore, I remembered that part in GOF where the voice was trying to convince Harry to jump on to the desk (or something of that nature) and Harry kept combating the voice. I used that to some extent with Pius, but I went the converse route with it, where the voice won out even though Pius fought a small amount.

The short paragraphs and the detachment from the action are another part of Pius’s sinking into his own mind (for no better way to put it). I feel like most of the time, Pius would be caught up in his own head, placing only a small amount of importance on what was actually happening in the world. I also believe that the rock and hard place (power and powerlessness) is why Pius felt so combated in his own mind in the first place. On at least some level, he knew he wasn’t really thinking for himself, even if he didn’t want to believe it, but he also just wanted to “take the money and run,” take the urge to be in control over Rufus and listen to the voice without fighting it.

I’m also very sorry about my switching between contractions and full words. I think I wanted to go for the dramatic effect and do full words, but I forgot, or perhaps I wanted the speech to sound realistic and therefore added contractions. I don’t know, but I’ll go through and check that out.

The reason I added the ending, honestly, is because the fic ended up being something like 759 words and I couldn’t submit without adding a few more words. Personally, I also hate being left on a cliffhanger and not know what happened to the character at the end of the story, so perhaps my subconcious just wanted to save the readers. I always feel like the characters under the Imperius curse would be able to remember every last thing that they did with more clarity than they ever could when they were under the curse. For this very reason, I wanted to write a fic about Stan Shunpike and his actions (chasing Harry, being locked up in Azkaban) but I’m still working on that.

I’m a little surprised you don’t like the ending (or perhaps just think it could be improved on). I quite like it myself. Throughout the whole fic, Pius *knows* that he is lesser to Rufus, and not as brave or as physically/socially powerful as he is. But he doesn’t want to admit it to himself and therefore, just listens to Yaxley telling him what to do. I think at the end, he’s finally admitting to himself that he isn’t that great and powerful person that Harry and Rufus were, and he’s just telling himself “fine, I’m Pius, isn’t that enough?” Perhaps I could have gone into more detail on that, but since the rest of the fic was so fragmented and short, I don’t think it was necessary.

Thank you once again for the lovely review, and for forcing me to type a response that is nearly as long as the review itself (okay, so maybe that wasn’t necessary, but I like giving full responses). Pius is a very very minor character, and I think it’s a lot of fun to get into a minor character’s head (which is part of why I wrote about him at the SBBC drabble a thon thingy). I’m so glad you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it a very very longg time ago, and I’m glad it was a lovely introduction into my writing (but hopefully not the conclusion, hm?)

Lily xxx

Name: xxbabewithbrainsxx (Signed) · Date: 07/22/11 8:40 · For: Chapter 1
Hi there. I clicked on this not knowing what to expect, since I’ve never read your work before. I was glad I did, though, because I really liked what I read. I don’t normally comment on titles or summaries, but may I just say, your title really ties in with your story. And your summary was short and to the point, and that drew me in, especially because you didn't give anything away. Summaries and titles are so important, and I thought you nailed it here.

Having said that, I think you repeated the title in the story itself a bit too much. I understood what you were trying to get at here, but it was just a little overdone, and I think a few deletions of “smoke and mirrors” would do. The title arc was intriguing, and I loved the idea — I just think that when it comes to repeating your title in your story, less is more, really. This is especially significant considering how short it was, although its length was by no means a bad thing; I actually think that the story had a good length, and that meant it didn't drag and flowed nicely.

A few things regarding spells: in the books, the spells are always italicised, and Avada Kedavra was spelt incorrectly. These errors didn't detract anything from what I thought of the story — I was just slightly distracted by the mistakes to focus on it, so another read-through would iron these errors out. Or, alternatively, you could use a beta.

I will never leave Him.

I thought this line was intriguing; capitalising the “him”, which is only ever done to describe God (as far as I know) was a great way of emphasising just what Voldemort meant to him, as well as how much power he had over Pius. I really liked this — it was subtle, and far better than just stating this outright.

Present tense has always been something I love, but only when written well. Here, it added to the tension in the atmosphere of the story, and it made Pius’s predicament even more unfortunate, making me feel almost (almost!) sorry for him. Well done for managing that — I’ve never sympathised with Thicknesse before now, yet now I come to mention it, I suppose it was rather unfair of me to think that, given he was Imperiused. That was one of the things that drew me into your story; I've always been... curious, if you like, about Thicknesse, and the whole premise of this was so interesting and definitely unique. I’m yet to find a decent fanfic other than yours which explores Thicknesse’s character as well as yours has.

Since we don’t really see much of Thicknesse in DH — in terms of characterisation, at least — I thought you did a good job with him, considering he’s an OC, to all intents and purposes. I would have thought it impossible to write a story in the first person, whilst that very character is under the Imperius Curse, but I thought, again, you did extremely well. The narrative and the tone is just so, so... subservient, to Voldemort, which was fitting and appropriate given that he was under the Imperius Curse. I applaud you for being able to maintain that tone from start to finish; Pius’s voice is clear and sustained throughout.

I also thought Rufus’s characterisation was spot on. He, unlike Thicknesse, was more fleshed out in the books, but whenever we saw Scrimgeour, he seemed tough, or, at least, pretending to be. At no point did he seem weak, in canon. The fact that you drew on the parallels of their characters was very interesting, and Scrimgeour’s display of weakness was very in character and effective, so well done.

“It was Imperius, we know,” says Hermione Granger, the second of the Trio.

Something I wasn’t too sure about was the use of “the Trio”. I thought it was unnecessary and, to be frank, a little clichéd, and this really sort of stood out for me because up until that point, I thought the story wasn’t clichéd and was wholly original both in its premise and its plot. I would suggest taking this part away entirely, because I’m not really convinced that Hermione was “the second”, either, since that kind of undermined Ron in a way, assuming Harry was “the first of the Trio”. I don't think that was entirely accurate, and nowhere in canon were Harry, Ron and Hermione described as “the Trio”. I still hold to my opinion that this story is unique and un-clichéd; the lapse in cliché, really, is very minor and certainly didn't affect my overall thoughts of the story once I’d finished it.

Aside from my quibbles, I thought this story was superbly written; the dialogue was excellent, and you really fulfilled my curiosity in Pius Thicknesse. If I didn't know any better, this story could’ve been canon. An excellent read, with not quite as many reviews as it deserves, and I hope you continue to write more.


Author's Response: Hello Soraya. Thanks for giving me such a lovely long review. I am very aware that I spelled things wrong (I wrote this at 1 in the morning, submitted it and promptly forgot about it.) And as for the ‘smoke and mirrors’ thing, I did think that I used it a little too much while rereading, but see the 1 in the morning thing. And finally, the Trio quibble. Remember that Pius has been under Voldykins’ control for nearly a year and been thinking of H R and Hr as a unit rather than humans, hence ‘Trio.’ Other than that, I’m considering writing a sequel to this starring Stan Shunpike. It’s good to know all the best things about my story and thanks again for reviewing! ~Lily~

Name: Equinox Chick (Signed) · Date: 07/20/11 9:56 · For: Chapter 1
Hi there. I clicked on this because it the summary was intriguing and I like reading about characters who you're never quite sure about. Pius Thicknesse is someonw who I do imagine getting seduced by the Dark Side because it offered him power and even though he was under the Imperius Curse, he wouldn't have fought it much. I like how you've portrayed this as him being in a cloud of smoke. I would have liked the story to be longer, maybe exploring some of his other deeds when he was Minister, but that's the only criticism (if it can be called criticism) that I have. ~Carole~

Author's Response: Hi, Thanks for the review. I didn't think I'd seen a story like this and I decided to write it. Originally it was over 5000 words, but rereading before submission I realised it sounded forced. But who knows; maybe there'll be a Part Two. Glad you liked it. ~Lily~

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