So I had a look at your QSQ nominations so far this year, just like you suggested, and I have to say, this story is up there with your best work. I thought the lyrical style of this really brought out Lily as a character, and the whole premise of unrequited love was so beautifully presented here. I’m sure the experience of childhood crushes is something most people have gone through, but it was the simplicity of your setup that I liked most. I’ve read quite a few Teddy/Lily stories lately, and this one is definitely my favourite because of your somewhat different slant on the pairing. The dynamic between Lily and Teddy was such a joy to read. I could really feel Lily’s sadness that Teddy didn’t love her the way she loved him. Equally, though, I could see how Teddy loved Victoire, too, and seeing both points of view in your story was really intriguing.
What made this story stand out amongst your other works, to me, was your style, your attention to detail and how vivid every scene was. Your emphasis on Lily’s physical discomfort, with her too-tight robes and her overdone hair and even Harry’s somewhat dubious reaction to how neat Lily looked, was what made the opening of your story come to life. I especially liked the line about how “her hair comb feels like it is stabbing her scalp”; the bluntness of your description was really powerful and harsh there. As a reader, I could feel Lily’s discomfort and I understood how that mirrored her emotional discomfort of being there when Teddy was getting married.
Also on the subject of style, your description of Teddy really brought out his character and, quite literally, how colourful his personality is. The way Teddy’s hair changed to electric pink when he was with Victoire reminded me of Tonks and how she, too, seemed to wear her heart on her sleeve through her Metamorphmagus abilities. On another note, I loved your use of present tense. It gave your story an immediacy and an urgency, of sorts, and that was fitting considering how uneasy Lily felt at Teddy marrying Victoire. Your choice of tense made me feel closer to Lily as a character, and I think that was what made your story read and flow so well.
I thought you characterised Lily beautifully. I liked the way her mindset was conveyed through the style, but also, it was heartbreaking to read how much of a front she was putting on to everyone, even Teddy. The fact that everyone, barring maybe Ginny, was oblivious to how Lily felt, made her situation even more relatable, to me. When reading the other reviews for your story, I noticed someone objected to Teddy kissing Lily, but really, I think that was a focal moment in which both of them realised that they didn’t work together romantically, particularly because Lily was the one to move away.
As for Teddy, his characterisation was great. There was something really quirky and likeable about him in this that reminded me again of Tonks and her sense of humour. When he asks Lily to dance, for instance, I could clearly see his ease with Lily, but I could also sense his hesitance, as if he knew something was wrong. And I think, more often than not, unrequited love stories tend to have the person not reciprocating the love as being the villain or in some way the bad guy. So I liked that you stepped away from that, because Teddy’s portrayal as an ultimately sympathetic character truly made me understand the other side of this story: it wasn’t that Teddy didn’t love Lily, but he just didn’t love her in the way she did. I really appreciated Teddy himself pointing out that he obviously wasn’t that sensitive or observant, because that kind of humility made it impossible to dislike him as a character for not reciprocating Lily’s feelings.
Overall, Jess, this is the best story I've read by you since Dust to Dust (and I know for a fact that you raised a pretty high bar with that story, so that’s saying a lot). I loved the wedding setting, the gorgeous style and how you presented unrequited love here. It certainly deserved its win for the Milestone challenge, and I really hope it wins a QSQ in something, because I think this was a fabulous read. :)
Reviewer: The owl
Somehow, I managed to miss this when you put it up, and now I really wish I'd found it sooner! Like a lot of people, I suspect, I can really relate to Lily in this situation, and I found the way you handled her feelings very effective. Teddy, too, was so lovely - everything I'd want him to be except in love with Lily.
First of all, I thought the way you built up their back story, right from the opening of the fic, was very important to how believable I found Lily's feelings for him. Fifteen years of history between them is summarised in that favourite god-daughter joke. Having that as a foundation made the subsequent revelations about her feelings more convincing for me, helped me to understand exactly why he was so hugely important to her. The pet name “Ladybug”, too, played a part in that, and little details like how she understood the significance of his hair colour meant that I could never forget the strength of their relationship. It was a great base for the plot, and really made Lily feel more convincing.
Secondly, I liked how you handled Victoire's role in this. She could easily have become a simple plot device, present only to show definitively that Teddy could never love Lily in the right way, but she felt more than that. Her stressiness, the near meltdown when Lily was late, her understanding of Teddy's disappearance - she was more than just a perfect bride in the background to make Teddy more sympathetic. This was a story of unrequited love, but I felt like there was a true love story playing out in the background, and it sweetened my sadness for Lily, to a degree.
Then onto Lily herself, the main feature. I don't read an awful lot of Next-Gen, and neither do I write it, so I don't have a very set idea of Lily in my head, but your take on her felt very much like Harry and Ginny's daughter to me. The passion of her love for Teddy was part of that, but more so, I think it was her self-sacrifice, her determination not to tell him and to keep the pain to herself, rather than making it hard for him too. That seems very Harry-like, to me, and I like seeing that sort of connection. But of course idiot Teddy insisted she tell.
It would have been very easy for Teddy to become some sort of villain, hurting the sweet little eighteen-year-old girl, his god-daughter, but he was so lovely I can't quite imagine it now. Right from the start, his determination to make her smile, to cheer her up, was adorable. I can see why Harry and Ginny would have wanted him to be godfather. That light-hearted, silly touch while they were dancing seems like something any child would love to have directed at them, and clearly Lily did. The only thing he did wrong, really, was to kiss her, but even that was well intentioned. As he made clear himself, he isn't perfect, but by Godric he seems to come close. You've created an incredibly loveable character in him, Jess.
I've told you before how much I adore your style of writing, and that applies no less to this story. The balance of your phrasing, the mix of fantastical vocabulary and simply conveyed feelings - there are so many nuances that seem, to me, just right. That final description of Lily, as “the girl beneath the stars who won’t think he hung them in the sky anymore”, was so gorgeously sad. The one thing I would say is that perhaps the star motif could have been put to more use. I noticed a few references to the night sky in Teddy's portion of the narrative, and I liked that it recurred within the second half, but I felt like something could have been added by using that in the first half too, to unite things somehow. When you have such a lovely line to end on, you might as well make the most of it!
However, apart from that one minor suggestion, I adored the story exactly as it is. I felt very much connected to Lily, but you managed to make Teddy incredibly sympathetic too. I'd love to see more of Teddy and Vic's relationship, and who manages to win Lily's heart, for I don't doubt that someone will eventually. I'll have to have a wonder through your author page, to see what else I can find :)