Hello, BehindTheVeil. This is Vicki of Slytherin House, commenting on your wonderful story The Summer Outing. It is an excellent elaboration of the events mentioned so briefly in Half-Blood Prince, and you have perfectly achieved your goal of being true to canon.
The structure of the story was quite effective. The first third of the story was from Mrs. Cole’s point of view. This allowed us to see how Tom’s nature and behavior appeared to other people, a set of observations that were diagnostic of a serious personality disorder. You included some vivid metaphors that described him precisely. “Like the wrong end of a magnet, Tom Riddle had repelled the other students…” when no other children would sit next to him, and “..the bitter cold of that night had in some way managed to penetrate the womb and leave its indelible mark upon the child inside,” describing Tom’s cold-heartedness, were two of my favorite examples.
The central third of the story, from Tom’s point of view, included a fascinating number of references to things that we later knew were characteristic of him. His use of Parseltongue appeared for the first time; he tortured the mouse as a prelude to torturing human beings (a step beyond pushing Billy out the bus window); and he encountered the cave where he would later hide a horcrux. Your line in this section, “He excitedly looked from one frightened face to another, adrenaline still coursing through him unlike anything he had ever experienced, and considered the options open to him, was a gem. This was the moment when Tom realized he could do infinitely more than simply bully people around. And I appreciated your explanation, sorely needed, of exactly how Tom had used magic instead of ropes to descend and ascend the cliff face with the terrified children, as Dumbledore explained to Harry many years later; that had always been a sticking point in my mind.
The final third of the story, from the point of view of the police officer Pete and secondarily the doctor Henry, showed a glimmering of understanding on their parts that went beyond that of the long-suffering Mrs. Cole. You gave us the line, full of foreboding, “…the men, now both united in the possible knowledge of an unexpected horror,…one they would have preferred and been happier not knowing at all,” suggesting that they were not going to tell anyone about their suspicions, losing the chance to do anything about it. And thus the story ended, with the menace still looming over the wizarding world.
Your characterizations are strong: Mrs. Cole, Tom (of course), and the police sergeant and the doctor; even Mr. Willis, the bus driver, had a bit of personality to him.
Your writing style is very fluid, with no awkward sentences, so it is enjoyable to read. The only thing that gave me pause was Tom’s first glimpse of the cave, where the story says that the cave entrance had ”…raged rock resembling sharp fangs all around the sides.” I figured that the rock was probably ragged rather than angry.
This story filled a gap that probably many Harry Potter fans have been feeling for a long time. Tom’s discovery of the cave and his activities there are important points in the story, and yet J. K. Rowling gave us virtually no details. You have shone a light on this crucial episode in the development of the darkest wizard the world has known. Thank you for writing.
Thank you first and foremost for taking the time not only to read my story, but also going to such lengths in response. In particular I appreciated the help with the typos. After living abroad for a while and jumping between languages, I have started to notice a certain decline in my spelling abilities.
When it comes to literature, I have always believed that what a writer chooses to omit can often be of equal importance to what was written. Certain horrors are much worse when left to our imagination rather than committed to paper. J. K. Rowling knows this well and it is precisely these omissions that have driven many of us to write fan fiction. In retrospect this was the reason I opted to change perspective and narrator and, most importantly, why I didn't describe what happened inside the cave. There are other examples of these "omissions" that I have written and may upload here if I ever deem them up to standard. Lord knows when that will be.
I am relieved that my efforts to be canon compliant haven't backfired (so far). Had I known when I started what a minefield it can be, I probably would not have started at all. I enjoyed the experience, particularly creating parallels to the events in the books (the disappearing glass was a pretty obvious one), and will continue.
The line ("He excitedly looked from one frightened face to another, adrenaline still coursing through him unlike anything he had ever experienced, and considered the options open to him.") initially lacked the information between the commas and was therefore more about the options available to get out of trouble rather than your interpretation. This is how I imagine Tom Riddle at this age, constantly causing trouble and then evading the consequences by hiding the evidence. I am going to hold up my hands and admit that the other meaning was unintentional and ... I couldn't be happier.
An excellent expansion on something that just got a passing mention in the original,