The girl at the back of the library.
This is one of my favourite stories by you. It's happy and hopeful, which is unlike your regular writing style, but it doesn't feel forced or unnatural. It's one of those stories that, when I read, I just get this huge grin on my face because the characters are so likeable and the storyline is unusual. Mostly though, this felt like a bit of a look into a young man growing up, and I thought you managed to mature him wonderfully.
The strongest part of this story is Cormac's characterisation. Cormac is a bit hard to characterise, as we only ever see him through the shades of Harry's perception, which isn't at all favourable. He is arrogant, rude, and a little forceful, and those are the characteristics that Harry really sees in his personality. Here, too, we see these attributes. From the opening scene, he harasses Eloise really just because he is bored and he can. Yet, in the books, we also see that Cormac is dedicated (he worked hard at Quidditch and at getting Hermione) and, you could also argue, adventuresome. This is why it is no surprise when I read this that Cormac is willing to jump headfirst into the books.
Cormac's development throughout the story is very realistic. At fifteen, he is a rude, arrogant, and drunk on his own perceived power. As someone who has a younger brother, I totally agreed with the portrayal. At fifteen, my brother was big, rude, and had a mean streak. It's a natural teenage boy thing. Then, as he started to read, he began to understand himself a little more. You even managed to justify his behaviour in Half Blood Prince. I think Eloise defined his attitude in the beginning of the story perfectly - teenage boy syndrome. Near the end, we really get to see the more positive side to Cormac, and interestingly, they are the traits that we do see in the books but they are painted as so silly in Harry's perception. For example, Cormac runs towards a Death Eater shooting Killing Curses. You could definitely argue that it's because he loves Eloise, but at the same time, it could be that wild stupid side of him that we see when he Doxy eggs on a dare. You managed to develop these qualities from the annoying Cormac in the books (well, annoying for some people) to this attractive young man in this story.
If there was one thing that I would have liked to have been added, it would be why Eloise is missing HBP. As I said earlier, it really justifies his actions, but I would have loved to have known the background of Eloise's departure from Hogwarts.
I really enjoyed the use of Muggle books in this story. A lot of times, the inclusion of Muggle culture can really through off the feel of a story and make it seem unrealistic. Some might question why Hogwarts would have Muggle books, but really, why wouldn't they? They teach Muggle studies and the arts and literature really have a way of transcending all cultures and times to deliver the message that they are supposed to deliver. The story that you chose to connect the two was perfect. In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy is a general jerk, like Cormac is. In the novel, Darcy refers to Elizabeth as "barely tolerable", similar to how Cormac picks on Eloise about her acne. And like Darcy, Cormac actually turns out to be an all right guy. The parallels are perfect, but not so forced as to feel cliched.
Ellie, you surprised me when you sent me to beta this on how you managed to make Cormac, a character I love, into someone so amazing, and I love every part of his development. It's definitely a very unique story from you, and I'd love to see you write more stories like this :)
Author's Response: Eeep Maple. I'm so sorry it's taken me this long to respond, but I've flailed every time I've tried.
Cormac was a challenge. It's hard to make him a protagonist, simply because he was such an antagonist in the limited view we see of him in the books. I had to search for the character traits you mentioned to be able to even attempt this, and I think that Cormac is an 'all or nothing' kind of bloke, so I decided to throw him into the world of classical literature. I'm also thrilled his development seemed ordinary, because for someone like Eloise to even give him a second glance, most of his prat-ishness had to disappear. :) I believe that at some point he would have to mature, and I think the war probably sped that along quite a lot. And yes, though Cormac wanted to keep Eloise safe, most would not barrel towards someone intent on killing everyone in his path. I do truly think Cormac has the capacity to be a good person, and I tried to explore that here.
I've gotten a lot of comments on Eloise disappearing: I didn't want her to, but it's canon. JK says in HBP that she's pulled out of school, so I had to leave her out of that year. Then, once attendance is compulsory, she'd have to return.
I'm also shocked by the positive reaction to including Muggle literature, based on all the SBBC discussions. I did feel like Hogwarts would have to have some, if only for Muggle studies, but I think it would help the Muggleborns feel more at home. I love P&P, and when I decided Eloise would read it, the parallel clicked into my brain and I sat there grinning. They do have some differences, and different environments, and I think that helped separate the two.
Thank you so much for the simply stunning review. I'm blushing and grinning like an idiot, and I'm so glad you enjoyed it.
The girl at the back of the library.
This was a really nice read, Ellie. Cormac and Eloise--who would have imagined it? But it worked here because of the transformation we saw in Cormac over the span of the piece. He's such an ass in canon, really, there's just no other word for it. ;) And after the scene you wrote at the beginning, when he treated so horribly I wanted to stangle him, I thought, how is she going to get them together NOW? But you managed it well by doing it slowly, and an inch at a time in terms of the way his character changes.
Your characterization of Eloise is lovely and very believable. She handles herself well, and I like that she doesn't take his abuse like a wimp, but dishes it right back out to him.
My favorite part was the battle, which you wrote SO incredibly well. Great action in just a few words, really, and I find that so difficult to achieve.
I'm glad Cormac was the one to get badly injured. Not sure why, but I just think it was fitting, rather than him realizing his feelings while sitting by her bedside, he realized them when he woke and found her sitting by his. Nice stuff.
Really nice job making this rarest of pairs believable and enjoyable! I need to read more of your stuff! ~Lori
Author's Response: Lori!!! Thank you so much for the amazing review! I'm sorry it took so long to respond - I was out of town last week and didn't see it until now.
I can't tell you how thrilled I am that you liked this piece. I totally agree that in canon Cormac's a complete ass, and that made it so hard for me to write him. (Don't worry, after the first bit I was contemplating actually having Eloise strangle him. Or just hex the magic out of him.) I'm glad that you like Eloise, and the battle. I was worried that the whole 'go!' 'No!' thing was cliched, so I'm glad that you liked it. :) I think injuring Cormac was the karma from his horrible-ness in canon, and also like you said, the fact that Eloise was the one there made Cormac realize just how he felt.
Thank you so much for the review!
Reviewer: Ginny Weasley Potter
The girl at the back of the library.
I am so glad to have read this fic, because honestly, I’ve not seen anything as unique as this. Starting with the pairing, and even the way Cormac and Eloise finally got together, everything about this story is different, and very beautifully handled.
First of all, I liked the style of this fic. The way the story proceeds complies with the topic very well. It starts off with a very over-confident and terrible Cormac, and he slowly bows down --with each snippet, I could see him becoming a better person, and I loved that about the story. It truly showed Cormac humbling.
Another thing was the books. I have never read anything like this before --with two people falling for each other because of their love for books. I think it was a fresh idea. I’m glad that Cormac felt terrible for picking on Eloise that first time in the library, and I loved that he was intrigued at her affinity towards books more than anything else. And you’ve nicely explained why he had that little crush on Hermione too. It fits beautifully.
A third observation is about the way you’ve started the story: I’m standing here, and she’s slowly walking towards me. Cormac mentions that it might sound clichéd, and unoriginal, but I think it was beautiful. It never gets old, no matter how many people say it, and I’m very glad that you’ve used it here --for Cormac, because it shows a very different side of him. I liked looking at that side. It’s a good exploration, in my honest opinion.
That brings me to the characterisation. I adored how you’ve made us look at Cormac differently, but in fact, he’s actually still the same. He has only mellowed towards Eloise. And also, I loved how he still wasn’t all that a good person; he changed, but he didn’t become a fantastic person. He just changed enough to become more tolerable, and probably just towards Eloise. Also, I noticed how his personality was slowly moulded and changed by the books he read --because it is so true --books that have an effect on us do tend to change a lot of who we are as a person. You stuck to this throughout the fic, and in the end, I actually liked Cormac. Eloise has a smaller role here, but I like what you’ve done with her too. I loved how intelligent and caring she was --we only know her as the girl with the pimples, but you filled some essence into her, and I can now imagine a lot more of her, thanks to you.
I think writing the story as little snippets was a good idea. I loved the time-to-time glimpses of events, and the way Cormac and Eloise’s relationship became better, and how Cormac, with each snippet, seemed to become better too --but I’ve probably said that too many times. I enjoyed the occasional quoting of books, and the references to literature. Quite honestly, it made the story much more realistic, because that’s how I speak to my friends who are into literature, and that’s how I’ve observed people speak in general, when they read so many books. It’s difficult not to quote your favourite lines in any situation!
The first person writing format made sure to give us a deeper look into Cormac. I think this is what makes the story a lot about character exploration too. You’ve entered every corner of Cormac’s brain, pulled out the thoughts from there and tied them all together in this beautiful piece, and the romantic sub-plot makes it all a lot better. Needless to say, my eyes were glued to the screen the whole time that I read this.
So all-in-all, I think this was a fantastic read. It was light, and dark, and beautiful, and I loved it. Keep it up, Ellie, and good luck with the cotillion! :)
Author's Response: I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to respond, but every time I try I just end up blushing like mad and I can't write anything coherent. I'm honestly just thrilled that you like it; it was a long shot written on a dare from Jess. :) (Another note: I'm beaming that the connection to the title was emphasized - I knew the title was oddly cryptic, but I'm squeeing because it wasn't completely obscure.)
I was terrified of putting the literature in there, to be honest. The SBBC constantly reiterates how difficult it is to integrate Muggle book references without something going wrong, and I'm glad you liked it. I thought it would be fun to throw a character like Cormac into a world of books, and I needed someway to tone down his arrogance for Eloise to even consider him, lol. I love all of the books I put in there, so it was a way for me to slightly put in my opinions on some of the good classics, too.
Ah, Cormac. He is horrible to write, but I'm glad you think he was in character. That was probably the hardest part about trying to write this: keeping him in canon, but trying not to make me want to punch him in the face. (All I can say is thank Merlin for Eloise. Otherwise this story would have been impossible). I'm also thrilled you liked the beginning; it was so hard for me to picture being so in love with someone that you would marry them (as I'm about as inexperienced as can be with romance), but I stand by the hope that it can exist. I guess that poked out a bit there.
Honestly, this is probably horribly incoherent, but I'm still sitting here smiling like an idiot. I'm beyond thrilled you liked the snippets and just Cormac, and thank you for being an amazing SPEW buddy!
The girl at the back of the library.
This is a really sweet and enjoyable story. It's nice to think that Cormac redeemed himself eventually, and I think you did a great job of sticking to the way he was in canon but also showing a different side to him.
Eloise was an interesting choice - she is so rarely mentioned in canon, but I liked that you suggested that Cormac's comments pushed her to try to hex her acne off - it gave them an interesting dynamic. I liked the dialogue when Eloise said he didn't have to apologise because she knew he'd changed - it seems to fit with her character and really shows how actions speak louder than words.
I liked the way you showed Cormac's character development retrospectively - as in from the start, he is aware that he was a complete arse, but you still showed the development really well. I especially thought it was realistic that he would take on all the dangerous missions to try and assuage his guilt.
I also loved the idea that their relationship came about because of books - I loved how you described what it's like to read a good book, and how Cormac became intrigued by Eloise because of that, and then how reading taught him to grow up and finally drew them together. Books are a lot more powerful than people often give them credit for. I also liked how you referred to novels in the storyline - like Cormac and Eloise as Darcy and Elizabeth, or the DA as like the rebel students - it made sense that they read and enjoyed books which they could relate to in a way.
I am curious though as to your reason for Eloise not being there during the year of HBP - it might have been nice if you'd explained that in the story, because it didn't quite make sense to me.
But over all I really loved the story - I thought you did a nice mix of a growing up story, a romance, but also including the war. Plus it was an unusual pairing, which is always nice to read.
Author's Response: Kantrinnaaaaaa. Thank you so much for your (as always) amazing review!
This story was a dare from Jess, because she wanted someone to make him be able to love by having him fall in love with someone who's not very attractive. That's why I chose Eloise, because in canon she's essentially the butt of so many of the jokes. I'm really glad you liked her, because now I fear I'm growing attached and may write more of her. Oh, and it said in HBP that her father pulled her out of school at the beginning of the year, so I had to pull her out, though I didn't want to.
I'm thrilled you liked the integration of literature, and how it helped Cormac. I'm on a classics kick right now, so when I wrote this I had just reread Les Mis and P&P. And I'm smiling that you caught the parallels.
Thank you so much, Katrina, and I'm really glad you enjoyed it.
The girl at the back of the library.
OMG, Ellie, how could I not have reviewed this? D: Jess was squeeing about this a few days ago to me, actually, so I am very sorry for not having reviewed till now. I won’t lie; when I first saw you were writing Cormac/Eloise, I did kind of think you were joking, lol. And yet you made it work -- so well, too. I love the use of first person here. Cormac is hands down one of the most difficult characters I’ve ever come across in the fandom, so much so that I don’t always like reading about him because he’s often abused in fanfic (and, you could argue, rightly so considering what an arse he was in the books). But here, you’ve redeemed him, and I like that. :) It makes me even happier that his road to redemption is paved by books, because, as a Claw, I can’t think of a better way for Cormac to become a better person than by reading.
And Eloise! Again, another character who I find gets a bad rep both in the books and yet who you made so likeable -- well done. I love her love for literature and think you dealt with *that* really well -- I mean I know we talk about this a lot in SBBC but it was integral to the plot here and yet wasn’t used as a plot device. Also, I was so sad at how Cormac bullied her, but at the same time, I was glad she fought back. Considering she doesn’t have any lines in the books, it was good that she had a voice here.
I was so glad Cormac failed his NEWTs and had to return, lol, because it meant he was part of the DA! :D No, really, I think that was a great way of making Cormac a better person, just like the books, but this went deeper than that. What made me squee more still, though, was the fact that Eloise was so concerned for him and that this led to their eventual friendship and then relationship.
AND OMG THE BATTLE SCENE. Talk about intense! It was written really well, Ellie, and I loved the way they tried to protect each other. Oh and I loved the quotation :D And then they kissed, yayayayayay. I love their snark and just how natural their pairing is. It’s all done so well, and THAT ENDING. Being married under an arch of books is just fabulous and so fitting. :D :D :D
Overall, Ellie, this is one of my favourite stories by you! I think your writing has matured a lot recently, and I love again how pared down your style is now. Well done!
Author's Response: Wow. I'm sorry if this sounds really incoherent, Soraya, but I'm not sure I can form the right words. I'm blushing so much right now. :)
I can't tell you how glad I am that you like it. Originally, it was a joke, but then the idea just kind of took hold, and then that turned into a a full-fledged plot. :/ Cormac is extremely hard to write, I learned, because he is an arse. And for him to end up with someone like Eloise he can't be an arse, so that's where I hit my first problem. I'm glad I redeemed him, though, especially through books.
Eloise is one of my favorite characters. I feel so bad for her in the books, simply because she's always mentioned as a passing joke, so I tried to make her more than that. I know from experience when people can be like that you turn to books, and I'm so glad that I didn't completely murder the literary references. And Eloise didn't strike me as the type to not fight back, and it was something Cormac needed, anyway.
I think joining the DA was Cormac's turning point. He realized that he had been, for lack of a better word, an idiot, and with the war he had to mature and choose a side. I think the war would have forced a lot of people to grow up quickly, and the ideas that the books gave him suddenly made sense, and he had to apply them to real life. I also think that seeing Cormac that year was Eloise's turning point, especially when she watched his progression. Eloise just isn't the type of person to hold a grudge for so long she wouldn't be concerned, and that scene was one of my favorites.
I really wasn't sure about the battle scene, to be honest. I thought it was going to be borderline cliche, and I almost took it out. I'm so glad I didn't, and my only regret is that Cormac wasn't really conscious when they kissed. :p (and I'm ngl, I got the idea for an arch of books from tumblr. It just seemed to fit.)
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, and write such a lovely review. I'm grinning from ear to ear, and I can't thank you enough. I know I still have a long way to go, but I'm glad I'm starting to get there. <3 you, Soraya,
The girl at the back of the library.
Sweet. Good to know Cormac grew up.
Author's Response: Thank you for the review! Yes, Cormic did grow up, and it was mostly due to Eloise. :)