I'm 19 and a college student, which means that my writing tends to be produced very sporadically. I discovered fanfiction a few years ago, and have found it to be a wonderful place to grow as a writer. I'm a member of SPEW (Society for the Promotion of proper Evaluations for Writers, by readers), which provides all kinds of writing related (and non-writing related) support.
I knew that there was a new chapter here, but forced myself to save it until after finals. Now finals are over, and lo and behold, there are two new chapters! *squees*
The sinister beginning literally sent chills down my spine. You really did an amazing job of evoking a mood here; I was left with a feeling of horror, and even as Sam described the sun, I was waiting for the dark undertones to reappear. By beginning with the muggle perspective of Waverly, you gave us a very different glimpse of the world, and showed that there is a horror to this place which is not only to be found in the knowledge of what goes on there – even the muggles recognize that something is wrong. I was in a way reminded of To Kill a Mockingbird, where Scout describes the Radley house; it is a perspective of uninformed fear, but it is fear nonetheless.
A few grammatical nitpicks: “Many more miles from the little “Closed for Refurbishment” notice that marked the street entrance to St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries…there stood a signpost.” I find the ellipses a little distracting here; it might be better replaced by a comma. “The terror of what may lie within was said to be so awful it could drive one to madness.” This should be “what might lie within” in order to make the tenses agree. Despite the tense problem, I think this is a great sentence – you really capture the villagers’ horror of the asylum. “…seen the raged face of an escaped madman…” Raged is a word, but do you mean ragged, or possibly enraged? “Nobody knew if the asylum existed–no one had seen it, and no one wished to.” I was somewhat confused by this, because you mention later that the townspeople look in the windows. I also found myself wondering how they know it is an asylum, as they are surprised to see people there – although this could be explained by the rumors passed down through generations.
Done with nitpicks. I always love going through your chapters and pointing out my favorite lines, because there are so many, and they are so good. I will refrain from quoting all I wish, and point out a few especial favorites. “Schoolchildren, awed with the power of the word, threw it at each other.” This is wonderful. Not only does it completely show the way in which the people of the town interact with the asylum, it’s completely in keeping with Rowling; she emphasizes the importance of names in people’s conception of things, as in the case of You-Know-Who. It’s just another instance of the power of words. “…only to tumble down the hill again, screaming at the sight of their own reflection in the cracked glass.” I loved this; it was a wonderfully depicted image, and at the same time, it really typifies all the villagers’ fears of this place; what they fear is merely their own imaginings, which they have connected to Waverly, rather than the actual place itself. They really have no idea of what is inside. Nevertheless, we are left with the sense that this is indeed something to be feared, even if they fear it for the wrong reasons. The specific connotations they have with Waverly – the scratching sounds and footprints – may not actually be important in the great scheme of the story (though again, they may), but the pervading feeling of fear remains even after the reader has discounted the specific instances to the brush between the muggle and magic worlds.
“Sun and wind and sweeping wishes weren’t for him.” Here, you completely wrap up Sam’s feelings of estrangement. You already showed the difference between the easy conversation of Sam’s siblings, the way in which they make light of the place they are in, and Sam’s silent observation. There is a stark contrast between Andrew with his fair skin, glowing brilliantly in the sun, and Sam’s darkness. (Funnily, though you have yet to describe to us what he looks like, I always imagine Sam as being dark.) In this line, you sum up the differences, and show that Sam believes himself to be estranged from all that his siblings stand for. He would get used to any idea put before him, and as quickly as possible. It was the only way. Agh! Sam! So much foreshadowing in this line. He will accept the things that are coming to him now, and it’s such a pathetic line – and yet, at the same time, we know that he’s going to have some very different ideas put before him in the future. Very sinister!
The log entries at the end are brilliant. Every single time, you manage to consolidate the chapter down into a few lines, and show the difference between the way Sam presents himself to the world and the way he sees the world himself. And the way he crossed out the last line, because it’s what he wants to present, and yet it’s too much of a falsehood, even for him. “I am happy here,” he can say – yet he can’t bear to say that he hopes his mother isn’t sad.
This is amazing. On to the next chapter!
Mala. How do you manage to leave me speechless, every single time? I love this story. I love this chapter. You are amazing. I don’t know what else to say.
However, being the loquacious spewer that I am, I will say more; once again, I have very little criticism, and so I’m going to point out the things I noticed, in hopes of inspiring you/letting you know what’s coming across.
“He didn’t bother to inform her that he was already used to it.” This sentence caused me to stop and think for a moment, trying to figure out exactly what he was already used to. At first, I thought you meant wearing the pajamas, and I began wondering if he had to wear pajamas all the time when he was at home; then I realized that he was saying something quite different. Since the time he had arrived, he had grown used to the pajamas. He is determined to accept anything that happens to him, “get used to any idea put before him,” to quote from the last chapter. So he is already used to the pajamas, because he’s not going to let anything bother him.
The description of the experiment room and its various apparatus was very well done; I would have liked to see more obvious references to magic, though – as it stands, it could very well be a muggle experiment room. I don’t think it should be overpowering, and I can completely see the wizards using the equipment you described (it seems like a very potions-like set up), and yet it would be nice to see an obvious difference from a muggle set up. “The entire room seemed alive with a negative force and sharp cornered stares.” That line alone gave me shivers. “Alive with sharp cornered stares.” How do you come up with things like that? You think outside the box, and have a very special gift with description. No “golden suns” and “blue skies” for you. I can’t say how hard I have to work to come up with a single description like that, one that causes the reader to view things in a completely different way, and your chapters are full of them.
“He had his patient, and his lab, and his success to get, and nothing to give Sam.” Beautifully concise. I have nothing to say about it, because it speaks for itself – I just wanted to point it out and tell you what a wonderful sentences it is. “If Sam knew anything, anything at all in his entire life, it was this. Kinnian, the little slip of a memory, a tragic skeleton of what was once a dog, and never truly a full dog. They were both only prototypes now.” This was an amazing end, though I found myself boggled down a bit in the syntax – the second sentence is a fragment, and while this almost works, I found myself searching for a verb, not just the first time through (which is understandable), but every time I read it. At the same time, it still manages to express what you’re trying to say, and it’s a tragic and pathetic ending. And I want to hug Sam – preferably now, while he’s lost and lonely, before the story goes too much farther. (Though I imagine that those sentiments won’t go away, even after he’s gained power.)
As usual, to end with the log entry: it’s as wonderful and pathetic as always. He knows that he and Kinnian are experiments and prototypes, and yet he gives the experimenters what they want to hear. He pretends to be a little boy, one who knows no more than they choose to show him, but the chapters show us differently.
Wow. I don’t usually read AU, but this story had me stunned. Your language and imagery is beautiful, the contrast between your long sentences and your short sentences, and the overall idea – it left me without anything to say, because you had already said it. You paint such a strong picture of “what might have been,” that we are left grieving for Peter, because he broke under the pressure to prove himself. I have always been an advocate for the character of Peter – not so much that I like him, but that I think he must have had a great many qualities that are ignored by the majority of fanfic writers; I doubt the other marauders would have spent time with someone so obviously dreadful as the character of Peter in most marauder stories. Peter, after all, was not placed into Gryffindor by a fluke, and you show us what would have happened had he used his Gryffindor courage to a different end.
And, with a lurch and a spin and a shout and a fleeting flash of light, the war fell to the ground and crumpled, once and for all, in a dark, man-shaped sprawl of inelegant limbs and robes, before a team of Aurors with the wind at their backs and shock on their faces. This is a beautiful sentence, full of wonderful language and words. I love the way you have personified the war, and melded it with the character of Voldemort – Voldemort is the war, and the war is Voldemort. Also, there is something very striking in the image of Voldemort sprawled out inelegantly on the ground – such a comparison from his boasts of immortality. The one thing that bothered me about this sentence is its length, but it’s so good I’d hate to trim it down. I went over it several times trying to figure out a good place to break, but it flows very well despite its length, though the many commas do slightly impede understanding in my opinion. If you did choose to cut it down, I’d take off the last clause (“before a team of Aurors…”); while this is another wonderful image, having it tacked on it at the end slightly takes away from the strength of the rest of the sentence.
The Saviour of the Wizarding World is exchanging wry, commiserating glances with the shabby, greying werewolf and the cutlery at the fifth place gleams, and the napkin is spotlessly white, and the seat itself is empty. This is another place that I think you could cut into two sentences; it seems to me that there are too many ands and commas. As this review probably will show you, I tend to use ands and commas rather rampantly myself – however, dragging sentences on for too long sometimes takes away from their strength. Here, I think you could end the sentence after “graying werewolf;” leaving the next part (“the cutlery at the fifth place…”) as its own sentence will emphasis the emptiness and the separateness of that one place.
Part three – the pretending not to notice, was beautifully done. She pretends not to notice that James has grown up. I don’t even know what to say about this part – you somehow caught the lingering sadness of change, even change for the better. They have all gained, but they have lost as well. You remind us that even the happy AU ending to the first war is bittersweet. Besides the ideas which you present, what really had me stunned about your story was your ability to say the most startling things, and completely change our perspectives, in such few words. The others are dead. That is their tragedy. Peter is not. That is his. How can I respond to such a powerful statement? The way you mix short, concise observations with long, drawn out imagery really creates a powerful sense of contrast, and draws our attention even more to the short sentences (even though I think some of the long sentences are slightly too long).
His untidy black hair falls over his forehead to cover a scar that has never been there and that now never will be. This sentence stopped me in my tracks for a moment, because it wrapped up the entire premise of your story, showing us the enormity of the difference Peter could have made. It’s very ironic – Peter wanted to be someone, he wanted to make a difference, he wanted to prove himself – and he could have, if only he had remained loyal. I never thought about it this way before, but it’s an oddly haunting thought. Peter was the greatest one of them all. And he could have been.
In a very short time, you’ve developed your characters wonderfully; you have an obvious talent for characterization. I’m finding myself quite attached to Jimmy and Demelza, despite the length of time we spend with them. Demelza’s fear and realistic attitude make a nice contrast with Jimmy’s idealism and eagerness – they are both realistic and easy to identify with, and you’ve done a beautiful job in building a story around their interaction.
Just a few typos, which weren’t serious problems at all: …a letter clamped in it's beak. ‘It’s’ should be ‘its,’ since it is showing possession, not a contraction. many families insisted that their children come home for the holidays. Very few actually decided to stay. ‘Many’ should be capitalized. Also, you might consider replacing the period after ‘holidays’ with a semicolon – it’s not grammatically necessary, but it might flow better. A small number, yet, Jimmy had no idea who they were. The comma after ‘yet’ is unnecessary. He was under the vague impression that he was being ignorant, not knowing. I think you could clarify this by saying ‘by not knowing’ or ‘by not attempting to find out.’ …since that I'm locked up… The ‘that’ seems to have crept in somehow, but it’s not necessary.
You do a wonderful job of characterizing Jimmy in the beginning. He’s the bored teen, looking for some outlet for his bravery, looking for something to do and some way to prove himself. He feels rebellious for feeling bored during a war, but he can’t help it. You’ve really caught a piece of human nature here, in the conflict between what he feels and what he feels that he ought to feel – good job! The way Jimmy and Demelza speak almost reverently of Harry is very well done as well.
You touch on a very interesting subject when Jimmy and Demelza discuss whether it’s better to know or to live in oblivion. Demelza’s longing to go back to a time when she knew nothing is perfectly understandable, given the circumstances. The kiss was very sweet as well, and realistic. I could just see it, neither of them really expecting it, and both shocked; it was the perfect mix of not being too serious, but still meaning something. Jimmy’s response is wonderful: 'Well,' said Jimmy, sitting straighter, 'if you were a Muggle, that wouldn't have happened either.' You’ve managed to tie together the good parts and the bad parts of their lives as wizards, and shown us that the pleasure and the pain go hand in hand. It was a very enjoyable read, and I hope to see more of your stuff!
To start out with, I have to compliment your first sentence. He was back. There’s something about brevity which stands out, especially when followed (or preceded) by longer sentences, and you make good use of this, and return to it in the end. Overall, your structure is very nice – you both start and end with a single, concise statement; the beginning leads to the end, and they compliment eachother. Very nice!
I found a few errors, some with tense and some just typos. He took revenge ten years ago. I believe this should be “he had taken revenge,” because your story is written in the past, but this happened before the story begins; you used the right tense in the sentence before, but it should carry through. Similarly, “he met Voldemort with a fury Harry had never felt against anyone before,” should be “he had met…” Otherwise it sounds like he is meeting Voldemort while walking down the road, not reflecting on his meeting while walking down the road.
…and so the Death Eaters. I’m not sure exactly what you mean here. If you mean that half of the Death Eaters had been killed, you might want to say something along the lines of, “as had half of the Death Eaters.” Also, in the following sentences, you repeat the word ‘killed’ several times; you might want to vary it a bit; you could do this by adding some description instead of telling us straight out. Thus, instead of saying “Kingsley Shacklebolt, Charlie Weasley, Minerva McGonagall, Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom were among those who had been killed,” you could say, “The bodies of…lay motionless on the ground,” or something of the sort. Not only does it avoid the repetition of a single word, but it gives you some opportunity to show us what has happened, rather than tell us.
…laughing lowly and manic. ‘Manic’ should be the adverb ‘manically.’ Icing breeze probably should be “icy breeze.” Sad enough, her father had been killed… ‘Sad’ should be ‘sadly.’ That was what he had wanted to, right after The Battle. ‘To’ should be ‘too.’ It felt like freedom to him, to know he would never se those glasses again. ‘Se’ should be ‘see.’ That didn’t bother him at all, but there were a line. When people knock at the door… ‘Were’ should be ‘was,’ and ‘knock’ should be ‘knocked.’
These types of errors are really easy to make, because spell check doesn’t pick up on them, and when you’re reading over your own work, your eyes tend to fill in for you what you think you’ve written, not what is actually there. You might want to consider finding a beta to check over your work for you – I know I’d be lost without my own betas!
Ginny had knelt down beside him and stroke his hair. Ron and Hermione hadn’t said anything; they knew Harry good enough to understand his sorrow and yearning. “Stroke” should be “stroked,” since you are writing in the past, and “good” should be “well.” I like that you’ve shown that the Trio’s friendship can be manifested in silence, and the idea that Ron and Hermione can offer comfort merely through their presence.
You started summarizing at some point in the middle, listing the past events in an effort to give us the necessary information. While I understand the need to summarize, because you don’t have time to tell us in detail everything you need us to know – the point of the story is Harry’s reflection, not the actual winning of the war – it gets a bit dry. You could capture our interest a bit more by adding reflection throughout – let us know what Harry feels about these things. Is he bitter that he spent so much time working against Voldemort? Does he think that the death of his friends is justified by the ending of the war? Don’t just list facts – make them important. It’s understandable that you don’t want this part to drag on for too long, since you’re making a different point; you can leave out some stuff, such as the fact that Lupin taught Harry and his friends how to communicate using the Patronuses. While this would be good to know if you were telling the story of Harry’s defeat of Voldemort, it’s not really necessary for a story that focuses more on Harry’s reflection ten years later, and it merely adds to the listing of the facts.
All Harry wanted to do was to grow old with her. This is a very nice part, and I’d love to see you expand it a bit. We can sympathize a lot with Harry, who’s been through so much and now wants nothing more than a peaceful life with the woman he loves. This would be a perfect place to tie the past in with the future, and tell us why he has to look back before he can look forward. You return to this later when you talk about Harry’s need for Ginny to feel safe. This is a very realistic sentiment, and adds a nice touch to the story. Good job!
It’s interesting that Harry doesn’t trust anyone besides his old friends, now; interesting, but very feasible. He’s lost a lot of loved ones, and been hurt by a lot of people. It makes even more sense in light of what you share next – the publicity after the last battle. Again, though, I’d like to see this expanded on and tied into the idea of looking back. Why does staring down the empty road remind him of his inability to trust?
I find it a bit odd that Harry finds it strange that Ginny wants to name their daughter Lily. By sacrificing herself to save Harry, Lily was instrumental in winning the war – I would have thought he’d be honored by Ginny’s desire. Is he confused that she’s looking backwards, and if so, does his own day of reflection help him to see why? You could do a lot to tie this section in with the overall theme of looking back.
The ending was very nice, as you showed us what this short period of reflecting has done for Harry. He’s finally allowing himself to move on, to understand that things are not always going to be the way they were. My biggest criticism is that I’d like to see more tie ins to this theme throughout the rest of the story, but overall it was very nice. Good job!
Though I never was much of a Snape fan, I left HBP with a distinct impression that he was innocent, and since then I’ve found myself supporting him with great passion. Not only do I love that your fic supports my theory, I love it for being wellwritten and beautifully constructed, and for digging deeply not only into the question of Snape’s innocence, but into the characters of both Snape and Dumbledore. You’ve developed them both wonderfully, looking at their motives and their motivations, but especially their feelings.
He had no doubt that Eileen Prince's half-blood son was the stronger wizard, but how much could Severus be asked to sacrifice? I found this line, and the entire sequence, actually, very intriguing. Dumbledore is worried about what will happen if Severus is forced to kill Lucius, his friend, and wonders if he will be strong enough. Despite this, he goes on to ask Severus to be prepared to kill his mentor, Dumbledore…It makes me wonder what’s going on in Dumbledore’s head. Does he underestimate his own importance to Severus, or does he overestimate Lucius’ importance, or does he merely trust Severus? I’m inclined to go with the last one – he believes that no matter the odds, Severus will, in the end, do whatever it takes to defeat Voldemort.
When was the last time Snape had begged for anything? It’s strangely moving to see Snape in such a position. Snape does not beg, he orders, or agrees with a curled lip, or simply ignores. But here he begs, and it works perfectly. “Do it because it is my wish, and because I ask you not in fear or desperation, but in love." This is beautiful, and it’s so like Dumbledore, to base everything upon love. The relationship you’ve drawn between him and Snape is very, very well done; you’ve reached a balance between friendship and admiration and love, and their mutual devotion to overcoming Voldemort, which in the end must come before everything.
Though Snape had always been a survivor, tough and gritty, he had never in Albus' recollection been truly happy, and now he never would be: he would carry first the burden and then the guilt of fulfilling this request for the rest of his life. Wow. This sentence has implications on so many levels! First of all, Snape’s devotion and love (no matter how much it is disguised), that allow him to do this no matter the consequences of his guilt. Secondly, the Dumbledore’s devotion to the higher ideal of saving the world and defeating Voldemort – he will convince Severus to undergo this pain for the cause. Finally, the trust Dumbledore has in Snape – the trust that Snape will be able to do the right thing and that he will endure and go on. Dumbledore trusts Snape enough to ask him to sacrifice both of their lives. …there was nothing left for him here now except the faint hope that Voldemort's evil would not prevail. Once again, you show the full effects of what this will do to Snape, and it makes the fact that Dumbledore is demanding it even more significant.
You’ve raised a very interesting question throughout: do the ends justify the means? In general, the good guys usually proclaim that they don’t, that happy endings must be brought about by just means. But really, though I’ve never seen it like this before, Snape killing Dumbledore is using murder to bring about good. Coupled with Snape’s realization that he can’t fix everything and that sometimes his best is not enough, you’ve written one of the most thought provoking stories I’ve come across in a while.
Ashley, dear, I’m sorry to write this so late – I should have reviewed weeks ago, but here I am. I picked this story because I love reading stories about peripheral characters; the primary reason I read fanfiction is to see minor characters in new lights. Narcissa is one of those characters that often get dropped by the way, especially since we are given such a brief, stereotypical image in canon. You’ve done a great job of taking that brief image and expanding on it, creating a Narcissa whom we may not necessarily like, but definitely sympathize with.
What I find really fascinating in your story is the way you move through Narcissa’s different phases. In the beginning she openly questions her place in her society; upon being quelled by Bellatrix, she continues to think of it. However, she doesn’t bring up her questions directly when talking to Lucius – instead, she hints at the issue, and guesses at his answer. She has learned, though she doesn’t yet know it, the beginning of the pretense that is going to characterize the rest of the story. After that she’s shown at home, where the pretense is built in, as she smiles and dances for the party guests. It’s a lovely progression, and you do a great job of showing it.
My one criticism, besides a few nitpicks and grammar things, is that I’d like to see more of what Narcissa wants. She has an entire conversation with Lucius about fitting in to society and losing one’s soul, but I’d love to see what having a soul would mean to her. How is it that he’s already made me forget my own dreams? I’ve become a prisoner of my own household, Narcissa thinks. (Incidentally, because she’s thinking, that sequence should be in italics.) What were her dreams? I know you mention that she just wants the freedom to make her own choices, but all the same, I’d like to see her imagining what choices she might make, if she had the freedom to choose.
Okay, let me break from the substance for a moment to include a few nitpicks. Most importantly: be careful of your commas, tricky things. Most people use too many, but I think you err on the other side; I found myself adding them as I went along. “Oh Narcissa,” Mr. Malfoy said… Just about whenever someone is being addressed, you should have a comma before their name, whether it’s “Oh, Narcissa,” or “Look, Lucius,” or “Hi, Ashley.” Narcissa just nodded in submission letting Lucius lead her out onto the dance floor. When you have two separate clauses connected without a connecting word such as “and” or “but,” you’re probably going to need a comma. So it should be “…nodded in submission, letting…” and “stare out the window, imagining…” and the like. And finally: Lucius wasn’t stupid though. When you’re adding conjunctions on to the ends of sentences, they should be separated by a comma – it should be “Lucius wasn’t stupid, though.” Those three things cover most of the comma mistakes in the story, I think. /confusing attempt to make general corrections. *crosses fingers and hopes she hasn’t made any glaring errors in comma rules*
On the ungrammatical nitpickiness side, I was curious as to why Andromeda doesn’t appear in the story. I’d have liked to see how she fit into Narcissa’s pretend world – or maybe it’s just that Narcissa is busy pretending she doesn’t exist. And while I’m on the subject of the sisters, Bellatrix says, I like the way we live; we are powerful, and Father is really looking out for our best interests.” I found that fascinating, especially since it was Bellatrix who said it. I like that she's concerned with power (could you possibly do more to show this? Why does she want power? What does it mean to her? Why does she like that they are powerful, and what makes it worth giving up her freedom?), but her comment that Father was looking after their best interests surprised me - Bellatrix has always seemed like someone who would take her interests into her own hands, judging from her behavior at the Department of Mysteries and her status as perhaps the only female Death Eater. What makes her so confident in her Father? What is he offering in terms of power or other things that make her so willing to submit?
“…heaven knew she would never want to marry a half-blood or a Muggleborn. It was just that she wanted to know she could, just to have something in her life not dictated to her by her family or the Dark Lord.” This is great, and it does in a sense explain what she wants, but I think if you could give an example of how this desire manifests itself, it would do a lot to show us her motivations, rather than telling us, which in turn would make her an even more vivid character. On a side note, I love that you show her faults openly, instead of trying to portray her as a poor, innocent girl, miraculously free from her family’s prejudices.
Sometimes she could forget herself when caught up in playing Narcissa, but as she had speculated it was very lonely to be living in your own world. Lovely! I love the idea that she is “playing Narcissa,” trying out different styles and trying to coach herself into the right one. As I mentioned before, the progression really is great: She didn’t feel much of anything lately; she hoped this was a good sign, this numbing feeling. Perhaps she was losing her soul, or at least she could only hope. Someone (I forget who, at the moment) once said that you become the person you are pretending to be; you illustrate that very well here. So pathetic, that she considers the loss of feeling to be a necessary and good thing. I'm still a bit surprised by the idea that she actually wants to lose her soul, though – what happened to her rebellion from the beginning? Is it still lying dormant, or did Lucius convince her to give it up? Has she playacted for so long that it’s beginning to come true?
The Lucius/Narcissa interaction got more and more interesting as the story progressed, and I particularly loved the end sequence. “You think that you’ve been put in a cage, when you really have just been…you’ve been…led,” Lucius says, and I can see him imitating the argument that the purebloods must have used for years to justify their actions. Taking that a step further, …Lucius reflecting on whether he had been completely honest, and whether or not it mattered. I absolutely love this, as Lucius is honest to himself about his priorities. It doesn’t really matter to him whether or not he was honest, as long as he convinces her that her only choice is to keep pretending. He needs her to keep pretending because he needs to keep pretending, because that’s the only way he can see to preserving their society, which is built completely on pretense. That idea leads perfectly into my favorite line in the entire story: “Just as long as we can always pretend to be happy together.” They think that in order to be happy they have to maintain their society the way it is, and in order to maintain their society the way it is, they have to pretend to be happy. Lovely circularism here.
The more I think about, the more I like this story – now I want to take a shot at writing Narcissa! It’s the measure of a good story, I think, that it makes you think enough about the characters that you want to try writing them yourself. Great job, spew buddy!
Author's Response: Thank you so much for the lengthy and quality review. This is definately the most challenging review I\'ve ever gotten and I am so glad for it because that really is the point of reviews. I surely can\'t address all your questions here but we will chat over IM and talk it over. Thank for the review dear!
Eek! I’m long overdue on a review for this beautiful story you wrote me. I didn’t realize you had posted it here (though I’m not sure why it never occurred to me to look), or I would have done it before. *huggles MJ* This is exactly the type of story I had in mind when I wrote my request, and it still gives me the same warm fuzzies that it did when I first read it. I absolutely love the way you’ve painted a picture of the collision of two very different worlds, both of them appealing in their own way; the choice can’t be easy, either for Charlie or Angie – you show us just enough of each of their worlds to make us see how hard it must be to leave.
In Angie, you’ve created a beautiful match for Charlie. I love the way she’s so sure of herself and what she wants. She is, in a way, stronger than Charlie – she is willing to face life directly and make the choices Charlie is afraid to make, even though she’s afraid. He runs away, and needs her strength in order to return to his family. I can really see this pairing working, and I just wish I could see more of Angie’s interaction with the Weasley family or Charlie’s interaction with Angie’s family. (I’m not saying that the story needs it, because it seems complete as it is, and you’ve told us enough to guess – I just think it would be really fun to read.)
Of all the wonderful things in this story, I especially love the part at the beginning when Angie comes out looking for Charlie, and he’s disillusioned. I’m not sure what about this strikes me; maybe it’s the way that Angie knows he’s there, even though she can’t see him – we get a sense of how well she knows Charlie; she knows that he’s frightened and hiding, and she loves him too much to let him hide. “You can hide yourself from me, but you won’t keep me from talking to you.” She will go after him, even if he is hiding from her, because she loves him that much. When he taunts her about talking to herself, I can just see him trying to put up shields and force her away – he’s afraid that they are too different, and he tries to chase her away by pointing out their differences. Fortunately for both of them, she’s stronger than that. The following part, where she calls him a magician and he reflects on the difference between their societies is wonderfully done as well; they are different in the little things as well as the big.
The idea of the relationship between Charlie and Angie really is fascinating, and it’s intriguing to contemplate how they would have learned to love each other, she being from a rigid community shunning outsiders, and he being sort of a secret, and definitely more of an outsider than they are used to encountering. One of the things that makes this story special, though, is that you don’t focus on the differences. You show us that Charlie and Angie must make choices, but you don’t show friction between the two of them because of their different backgrounds. Of course, that friction will probably surface at times, because they’re both human, but you chose to focus their story on their love despite their differences. I couldn’t help that it brought to mind the Zoe/Wash relationship in Firefly (it didn’t the first times I read it, as I’ve only been introduced in the last month, which is probably why I’m making this comparison, since it’s sort of been constantly on my mind since I started watching it). I absolutely love stories that bring together two completely different people, and show their differences without making them too big of a deal – you’ve done a wonderful job of this.
I\'m absolutely tickled that you enjoyed this and that it fit your expectations so well! I was on pins and needles, hoping you wouldn\'t be disappointed! Thanks for taking a moment to review!
I ran across this one-shot completely by accident, and really enjoyed it, though I had been looking for something a bit angstier (I wanted to wallow a bit, but this cheered me up quite nicely). You write the perspective of a hat very well (do you have any experience?), and provide a convincing and consistent point of view, that kept me interested even as the subject matter wandered around.
I loved the history the hat provides, and found his accounts of the ways in which he sorts fascinates. I’ve never seen the problem addressed so directly in a story before, and it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about in my attempt to sort various OCs. Rowling gives us tantalizing hints at the process, but she never explains it in full, and your explanation seems quite feasible. I very much enjoyed the hat’s description of the founders fighting over the students – very well done, and perfectly believable.
There were a couple of great one liners that had me laughing out loud; “Well, after more than a millennium in the same job, you're bound to repeat yourself occasionally, aren't you?” and “I really am a very remarkable magical object, and I can say without undue modesty that Hogwarts is lucky to have me,” were my favorites, but there were gems sprinkled throughout the entire thing. I am rather deficient in writing humor (and writing concisely), and really appreciate your ability to sum up a funny situation in a single line.
The twist at the end was very well done as well. I had guessed that the student was Ron, and was glad to see him getting the credit that is so often attributed to Harry alone. I liked the mention of his insecurities as well. The description of Percy came as a complete surprise – my first thought had been Harry, quickly replaced by Tom Riddle, as I imagine you had planned. A lovely glance into the character of both Percy and the hat itself.
Author's Response: Thank you very much! I remember working out a ‘sorting theory’ when posting on some thread in which it was being discussed -- when I started thinking about the possibilities of the Hat saying Percy would have fit anywhere, I put the two together to make a fic out of it. It did wander around a bit, admittedly, although I tried to keep it reasonably focused by having it be a sort of \'conversation\', even if you only hear one side of it. And you were indeed meant to think it might be Tom Riddle. Not that I think Percy is in any way as bad as Tom. :)
Originally the idea was that it was just a random student under there and the Hat chose to talk about Percy because it had been thinking about him, but I made it Ron because that didn\'t work very well, and I was fed up with seeing him bashed! I\'m glad I did, I think it made a lot more sense that way.
I didn’t even realize you had published this; I became very excited when I was looking for something to review and I found a Lian-story I hadn’t read. It’s nice to read a light story from you – I’m not really feeling up to something heavy at the moment. ;)
I love what you’ve done with this. You characterize Luna perfectly, and I’ll come back to that later, but I also love the little things you’ve done, the tiny details that the reader passes over. The full length mirrors on the walls of the Ravenclaw common room – I immediately thought of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles; for some reason it seems like a very Ravenclaw way to decorate – full length mirrors lend dignity to a room, and it probably adds to the reflective environment of the room. (Eek – I really didn’t realize that pun until after it was written.) Or maybe I’m reading too much into mirrors, but you know me. ;) The comparison of the dancing snowflakes to the dancing students was absolutely lovely; Luna looks for imaginary creatures, but she also manages to see the beautiful little things that the people around her miss. I absolutely love the fact that her perspective of the world is completely different from that of the people around her. Not just her belief in the imaginary, but the way she ranks her priorities; the ball is nowhere near as important to her as the snowflakes.
Luna herself was priceless. There are so many things I want to quote, just so I can tell you how much I enjoyed them. The way she didn’t mind not going to the ball, because of the nargles in the decorations. Her observation of Roger Davies had me giggling wildly, to the bewilderment of my roommate: . His trancelike state struck her as odd, especially as there didn't seem to be any floodering willowgumps flying around. Luna supposed it must have something to do with the ball. So like Luna, to look first for floodering willowgumps and, seeing none, nonchalantly chalk it up to something else.My one little quibble is a very tiny and insignificant one, that probably doesn’t even count. Grabbing her hand (for it was, in Luna's opinion, very bad manners to be unwilling to touch a ghost), Luna pulled the ghost from the bathroom and down to the door. Myrtle hesitated on the threshold. I loved this, but have to question the word ‘pulled.’ Can you pull a ghost? I can totally picture Luna ‘holding’ Myrtle’s insubstantial hand, but I don’t think she could actually pull her. As I said, totally insignificant.
I don’t know what to say about the dancing scene. I loved it that Myrtle was her partner, I loved it that even Myrtle could see the snow dance, I loved it all. I think it was C.S. Lewis who said that “we murder to dissect.” I don’t want to pick apart your ending and explain why it was beautiful, because I’d rather just read it. It’s a little glimpse of joy, two girls dancing in the snow, and it stands by itself.
I'm glad you like my interpretation of Luna. She's not a character who I really dissect... there's just this "feel" to her, which I can't really describe, though I think you know what you mean. She has a point of view completely different from anyone else's, and that's why she's so endearing. I just tried to pick up on that.I'm glad you liked the dancing scene. Many of my stories are based around a single image or phrase, and I wrote the entire one shot around the image of the two figures whirling in the snow. It was a happy little image which kept me going through some totally gruesome final papers back in December...
:: huggles Nan :::: sends the llama chasing after her ::
One of my favorite things about reading fanfiction is stumbling through the waves of mediocre stories and suddenly coming across a gem. I knew from the first sentence that this story was going to be special, and I wasn’t at disappointed. “This is her world, and these are her rules, and they’ve never, ever been compromised.” The sentence itself is uncompromising – straight and direct and to the point; you illustrate your meaning with your words. In the first sentence you manage both to interest the reader and to set the tone for the entire story.
You have the ability to make simple, important statements that are all the more powerful because they’re understated. “No, she says, and doesn’t finish her sentence. I’m doubting you.” Instead using a lot of words to describe her feelings about her husband and his affairs, you’ve shown us exactly what they are in a scene that is much more emotional (and interesting) than the narrative could have been.
I absolutely love your writing style; your imagery, your word choice, and especially the way you show us what’s going on through very concise and evocative scenes. My one general critique (other than a few nitpicks) is your comma usage. Commas are, of course, a matter of opinion and are subject to debate, but I think your story would have even more flow if you could crop a few of them out. Some of your paragraphs flowed perfectly, while in others I found myself being halted by too many commas. The stream-of-consciousness style in which you are writing naturally lends itself to long sentences of many clauses, and as a writer you want to be clear – it’s a natural tendency to put in commas between every clause. But when you have long sentence after long sentence, the commas in combination can be a bit much.
“But that goes against her edicts, it goes against everything she’s ever pretended to believe, and every hidden belief she’s ever sheltered from them. Without her rules, she has nothing to blame but herself, and her rules take away the fault. They give her a scapegoat, a safety net, insurance that when the gates of hell try to receive her, she’ll be able to point the finger.”
Every sentence in that paragraph is good by itself, but altogether the effect is stilted; there are too many pauses for it to be able to flow. Try looking to see where you can pull out unnecessary commas; the fewer pauses you have, the more effective they’ll be. In the second sentence, for example, if you only used the first part, “without her rules, she has nothing to blame but herself,” the first comma would be fine. However, when you add another clause on the end, you no longer need the first comma. “Without her rules she has nothing to blame but herself, and her rules take away the fault.”
This is the tiniest of critiques, but: “She has a bad feeling that it’ll get her killed as well.” The phrase “a bad feeling” felt somehow out of place, a colloquial phrase caught in the middle of grander and more dissociated language. Once again, though, this is just a matter of opinion.
To move away from technical matters, you’ve done a wonderful job with the characters – and that’s what makes me like this story so much, even apart from your writing style. You’ve kept Narcissa totally in character – she’s still cold, and reserved, and judgmental, and firmly entrenched in her own world – but you’ve also made her real, and pitiable, and interesting. To do that to a character like Narcissa takes real talent, and I can’t wait to read more of your stories!
One of the things I admire most in other authors, both of fanfiction and original fiction, is the ability to come up with new ways of describing things; new adjectives to describe familiar nouns (days the colour of dust, and that only in good light), combinations of words that don’t usually go together (your days are only quick-phrased sentences punctuated by darkness) – things that make the reader look at the subject in a totally new way.
You have the gift of putting words together, and I am completely in awe of you for it. I’ve read some of your stuff before, and really, really enjoyed it – but this is my new favorite, and I knew from the first paragraph that it was going on my favorites list. This is how it feels, to fly featherlight, in a sort of Daedalian imitation of movement; that strange-familiar sense of watching from above, sunlit and golden and triumphant, and then slow, deliberate plummet downwards, hurtling in a controlled dive of feather and wing and wax towards the ground - Absolutely beautiful, and an amazing twist on the Icarus story. The long, stretched out sentence with its many commas (incidentally, I’m not sure the comma after “featherlight” is necessary, though I’m not sure it’s grammatically wrong, either – it just feels like it stops the motion for a moment) pushes the reader forward – Icarus’ dive to the ground. At the same time, however, the emphasis on every word adds a sense of deliberation, which is surprisingly effective. I love the way you twist the story, describing the dive as slow, deliberate, and controlled – he can’t stop his fall, but he controls the way in which he falls – and support this twist with your very language.
things diametrically opposite, you have thought, and idealistic, and crazy. I’m not sure about this phrase; it feels like it ought to make sense, given the style of the narrative, but I couldn’t quite make it work – I stopped to try and figure it out, and it interrupted the flow of the narrative. (I think your syntax is rubbing off on me – that was an incredibly long sentence, though it didn’t have the aesthetic that all of yours seem to have.)
I can’t possibly point out all the phrases I love in this story, for all that it’s only 800 words. There are so many things I love. Your characterization of Sirius, by Regulus. The way you rush the narrative forward, only to pull it to an abrupt stop with one or two short sentences. (The next day, he left. Perhaps you should have known.) The parallel between Regulus and Icarus (the choice, the knowledge of impeding death, the acceptance). The end (everything about the end – I don’t know where to begin talking about it, so I won’t). This is an immensely powerful story. You are an immensely moving writer. I know this review is nothing but flattery, but I really don’t have anything else to say, other than to keep writing.
I was searching for something to review, and originally skimmed right past this because it’s Draco/Ginny, a pairing which has never interested me at all. I decided to risk it because I wanted to review for a spewer I’d never reviewed for before, and was quite pleasantly surprised. I actually don’t think I’ve ever read a Draco/Ginny fic before, so I guess my prejudice was completely blind – and I’ll give you credit for helping me get rid of it.
To start with, I really like what you’ve done with Ginny. “She wondered what kind of freedom she could have if she swapped places with one of her brothers, just for a day.” She obviously feels that she’s being limited and restricted by her family and her position. I wonder how much she really is being restricted, or if it is only in her own perception. Either way, it makes a lovely introduction for Draco/Ginny, as I imagine that a romance between them – or really, any sort of friendly interaction – will be in some sense rebellious.
You clearly tell us about Ginny’s need for freedom several paragraphs in, but you show it to us from the very beginning. Ginny’s very obvious enjoyment of the peace around her demonstrates that it’s not something she finds in other settings. The transition at the beginning of the third paragraph – “then she thought” – is very abrupt, but in a good way. It shows a definite progression; Ginny has taken the time to come out to this peaceful place, and given herself a time to relax and be free – only after that does she allow herself to start thinking.
My one qualm with the beginning (primarily the first two paragraphs) was with the syntax. When I went back and looked at the first two paragraphs closely, counting the number of times you used certain structures in a row, it didn’t seem like it was hugely repetitive. Despite this, while I was actually reading it, it seemed a bit heavy and lacking in motion. This completely disappeared after the first two paragraphs, so I think the problem was due to the description of scenery. In normal narration, where you’re describing actions, if you tend to use a specific structure a bit too much it’s likely no one will notice because they’re caught up in what’s going on. However, when you’re spending a paragraph or more describing a specific thing, whether it’s an object or a view, there’s less for the reader to pay attention to. If you aren’t very careful to vary the sentence structure it degenerates into a list. I doubt that I would have had a problem with the syntax of the first two paragraphs if you had been describing actions or thoughts, but as it was I felt a bit overloaded with sensory information. This is something which could easily be fixed by varying the structure of a few (not all) of your sentences – you have a lot of sentences which begin with, “the [subject] [verb].” I hope that makes sense – I think I’m going into ‘English-major’ mode, but it’s only because I think you’re a good enough writer to be able to pay attention to these things.
“She had learned through experience that, especially in the wizarding world, trust shouldn’t be handed out without consideration of the consequence.” I love this sentence in relation to Ginny’s experiences with Tom Riddle – you give us the feeling that she’s really grown up. It’s a little sad, really, when you think about Ginny in her first year, so eager and so inclined to hero-worship (of both Harry and Tom). I would quibble with the middle of the sentence, though. I don’t know why this stuck out to me, but it seemed odd that her experience would be especially true in the wizarding world. Trust is an issue which comes into play in both wizarding and muggle society, but even aside from that, I doubt that Ginny would be comparing trust in the wizarding world to trust in the muggle world – as a pureblood, it probably would never even occur to her.
“The mud squelched underfoot as Ginny made her way along the worn path through the forest behind The Burrow.” Should ‘the’ really be capitalized?
The chapter definitely got stronger as it went on. Ginny’s trepidation as she approaches the unknown person – it ought to be cliché, but it’s really not, and I can’t wait to see what Draco’s doing in the forest. As I mentioned, I never thought I’d like a Draco/Ginny story, but I’m interested despite myself – on to the next chapter!
Author's Response: *bows* Thank you for the marvelous review! I can\'t wait to go back and find the bits you suggested changing. I\'m completely grateful for all of your suggestions! You have such useful advice. Thank you again! I can\'t wait to read the next one.
Interesting, and not at all what I expected (though I don’t know what it is that I was expecting.) Once again, the writing was very good, both in terms of syntax and diction. You have a lovely, unobtrusive style of third person narration – when I’m reading, I’m not thinking about your writing style, I’m thinking about what you’re writing about, which is as it should be.
I found the beginning to be a bit abrupt. While Ginny’s belief that Draco is her responsibility because she stunned him is perfectly understandable, I didn’t understand her sudden conviction that she had to take him home and hide him from her parents. Why doesn’t she want to turn him in to the Order, if he might be able to provide them with something they need? It’s not implausible – there are multiple reasons why she could do it, ranging from pity to her need to break out of the mold her family has made for her, but I’d love to see you explain her thought processes a bit. You go into a bit more detail later on, but especially in my first read through, I was left wondering why she was acting the way she did
“She heard her mum’s cracking patience reverberating from the kitchen.” Maybe it’s just me, but I was confused by this sentence – I kept trying to read ‘patience’ as a concrete noun. Do you mean that Mrs. Weasley’s patience is cracking and she is yelling?
“She didn’t know this boy, but she knew his manner–he was always pretending, always pretending to be so unafraid.” This was an intriguing sentence, and does more than anything else to explain her actions at the beginning of the chapter. She’s fascinated by the difference between the persona he’s always presented and the way in which she has just found him. Perhaps she sees something of herself in him – always pretending, caught in a mold into which she doesn’t quite fit. You might consider introducing this theme a bit earlier, and allowing the reader to understand why she takes him in – unless, of course, you’re purposefully allowing us to figure out her motives as she goes. Maybe it’s indicative of the fact that she herself doesn’t quite know why she has taken him in, and she’s figuring things out as well.
You’ve managed to go for two chapters while dangling the promise of character interaction before us – I kept expecting them to start interacting, and you kept putting it off – and yet you haven’t lost the tension, or allowed it to get boring. Great job. I’m not sure how I feel about the pairing yet, but you’ve definitely caught my interest (it’s amazing how a good writer can make you interested in things you never thought you’d like), and I’ll look forward to seeing more.
Author's Response: This review is.. frame-able. Ginny\'s motives and conflicting options aren\'t really as apparent as they should be in the beginning, and that makes perfect sense. Maybe I coulld suggest something about a sense of accomplishment... we shall see.
And.. squee! I did that last bit on purpose, not letting them talk or interact until Ginny can figure out what she\'s about. Thank you again and again for the valuable encouragement and suggestions.
I generally avoid the humor section, but this is the second time I’ve found myself laughing out loud over one of your stories. You’ve caught the voice of the typical business-journalist perfectly. The movement between “you” and “I,” the adjective-filled narrative, the quick background for readers who aren’t familiar with the story – it practically screams “newspaper interview.” Which, of course, is what makes it so funny. The fact that this interview could actually be found in a newspaper or magazine displays the pure genius of Fred and George; I bet they really could have pulled this off without anyone noticing. What makes this story so good – and so hilarious – is the fact that the joke is on the narrator. Everyone reading the story knows that the marvels are due to magic, while the narrator prattles along happily about Santa’s elves and spectroscopic techniques.
The twins are wonderfully in character as well; you’ve avoided the clichés too often associated with twin behavior, and instead provided an interaction between them that could have come straight from canon. I loved the switched identities in the beginning, especially since you did not have them refer to each other as Gred and Forge, which was funny in canon but tends to be overused in fanfiction. Your list of products is both creative and amusing – Marching Minions and Sharp Cards! – as is their ingenious way of preventing people from looking at the insides of their products.
Tracey, and her Muggle outlook, added a very nice touch to the end of the story; I was intrigued by her mention of having become involved with George through one of the episodes where the twins had trouble with the boundaries. I’d love to see you write this scene, by the way. All in all, it was a very amusing one shot (I wanted to give some useful concrit, but I really didn’t see anything to which I could propose an improvement), and I’m definitely going to keep reading through your stuff.
Author's Response: Thank you! I did try to make it sound like a real newspaper/magazine article, and it was a lot of fun writing the twins saying things that were perfectly true as if they were jokes. I think George was crossing boundaries by merely becoming seriously involved with \'Tracey\' -- you\'d imagine it would be really awkward trying to explain to a SO that their partner was a wizard. Glad the product lines worked -- thinking of things like that is always rather a pain. :)
One of the hardest parts of writing is one-shots is the technique of leaving the story ambiguous, and yet keeping the reader’s interest, even without providing a specific character. You do a very good job of this; though I spent most of the first half trying to figure out who you were writing about, the ambiguity never caused me to lose interest. You also managed to transition successfully between time periods without totally confusing me. I am easily confused by time changes, so this was very well done.
You use a couple of interesting techniques in here – the ambiguity and time changes, of course, but also the way you refer to the characters by their hair color; this was a very clever way of allowing us to differentiate between them without ever having to mention their names. My one problem was that we are never actually told who has what hair color, either in canon or in your one shot. Unless I’m forgetting some obscure canon reference (which, of course, is quite possible), I think it tends to be a fanon thing, in which people automatically assume that Hufflepuff is blond, Ravenclaw is dark, and Gryffindor is red-headed. Adding a further association between their hair color and their best known trait (for example, referring to Hufflepuff as gentle, or sweet) might help the reader be sure of whom you are talking.
A few nitpicks, before I get to the more important stuff. Be careful about your ellipses (…). Ellipses can be a very strong tool when used sparingly, but when overdone they tend to distract the reader. Use them in moderation, and they will be more effective. “He remembered her tears as she begged him not to go, but he was adamant--he had seen the look in his eyes and knew that if he stayed, he would die. Before him, before her, came himself.” I found this part rather confusing – too many pronouns. I know you’re avoiding the use of proper names, and you do it very well for the majority of the story. In this part, however, I found myself getting lost in the ambiguity – I had to work very hard to figure out who you were talking about. You should try to make the act of reading as effortless as possible for the reader – you want them paying attention to what you’re saying, not trying to poke your words apart. You might try clarifying the pronouns, not necessarily with proper names, but with other characteristics. If by “her” you mean Ravenclaw, refer to her as “his lover” or something. (At least, I think you had set up Ravenclaw and Slytherin as lovers, though I wasn’t really sure.) Or if by “his eyes” you mean Gryffindor’s eyes, say “his friend’s eyes” – otherwise we think you’re referring to Slytherin.
Overall, I think this is well written story, and you have a lot of potential. I love the overall theme – I’m a great fan of the friendship between Gryffindor and Slytherin, and you portray it very well. I’d like to see a bit more of the reasons for which Slytherin left, but you do a great job of showing that no matter who made the mistakes, they were still friends, and they still cared for each other. The scene about the naming of Hogwarts was humorous and poignant at the same time – you gave an amusing depiction, and yet at the same time you showed an essential bit of characterization and the dynamic between the four friends. The ending was lovely as well – I love the way that you suddenly pull back from the narrative. You’ve been showing us Slytherin’s thoughts through the entire piece, and at the end you distance the narrative from Slytherin, showing us only his actions, which are themselves strong enough to finish the story. It’s a lovely example of showing, and the transition is done perfectly. Good job, and I hope to read more of yours.
It’s terribly ironic, Mar, that I both wrote and received a Percy story for my SSSSS, and yet I couldn’t be more pleased. I have suddenly more interest in Percy than I’ve ever had, and now I want to figure him out. I had been thinking a lot about him after writing my own story, and I loved the way your story made me think about him.
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the first thing that struck me was the similarity between Percy and Sarah. Though he was head boy and she’s next thing to a squib, they both know what they want and will work however hard they have to in order to get it. I love the attraction between them as they recognize and admire this quality in each other. And I absolutely love the idea of Sarah, the almost-squib, powering her way through Hogwarts by sheer force of will. My favorite fanfiction stories tend to deal with characters on the fringes of canon who might not fit into the world in a normal way, and Sarah is perfect.
‘“I’m an opportunist.” “You’re also paying,” she said as she sat down.’ This exchange really typified what this story is about. Two opportunists interacting and falling for each other, and you managed to catch it in a two line piece of dialogue. Percy’s arrogance somehow manages to be appealing, and I admire you greatly for being able to do that – it’s one of the things that most puts me off about writing him, simply because I don’t know how to deal with it.
This is a very small thing, but I really, really liked the little concessions to the wizarding world that you slipped in; without making a big deal of them, you managed to make the story seem right at home in the middle of Rowling’s world. The Collective Conversation Catcher was my favorite – I could totally see that appearing in one of the books.
As I told you, I really wasn’t expecting a Percy story because I didn’t think anyone would want to write him. To see Percy with a squib was far beyond my expectations. The entire idea fascinates me, because Percy has tried so hard to make a position for himself in society, and has rejected his family because they don’t function the way he wants in the society he wants. To become paired with a squib means compromising all his self-imposed rules, and going against the society he values so much. It’s a fascinating idea, and Sarah was the perfect match for him! Thank you again for this beautiful story!
I love stories about Molly. She’s such a fun character, bossy and caring, worried and comforting all at the same time. You did a good job of capturing that, and I loved the way the story moved gradually from the desolation of the battleground, through Molly’s memories, and to the quiet warmth of Molly and Arthur under the tree. Very smooth, and very fun to read!
On the purely technical level, you obviously have a good command of language and know how to set the scene. In places, however, it seems a bit stilted; it’s not because of your subject or your wording – I think that varying your sentence structure a bit more would do a lot towards helping your writing flow. At the moment, you have a lot of sentences which start the same way: a noun followed by a verb. “She scanned…she had seen…she was afraid…she headed…she passed.” This is an easy trap to fall into, but it’s also very easily fixed. When you have a lot of sentences that start in the same way, a story will start to degenerate into a list. Repetitive things are more easily disregarded; if you want the reader to pay attention you need to be constantly changing things, even (or especially) little things like sentence structure that they won’t notice.
Another thing you might try is playing around with sentence length. Your sentences tend to run on the short side, which isn’t a bad thing (I tend to have hopelessly long and convoluted sentences which confuse people terribly). However, when every sentence is short (or long) it has the same effect as when every sentence starts with the same word – the reader gets bored. You can liven things up by varying the sentence lengths. If you mix up your long sentences with your short sentences, both will be more effective. I think that a lot of your shorter sentences could be very easily combined into longer sentences. For example, you started a couple different sentences with conjunctions (“and” or “but,” mostly) – in general, though we use these to start speaking all the time, they shouldn’t be used to start sentences in formal writing. (Who makes up these rules? I have no idea.) The places where you started with conjunctions could be easily merged into the preceding sentences, for the most part.
Sorry for rambling on about technique – I’m an English major, and tend to get caught up in issues of syntax and diction. Two typos, and then I’ll move on to more fun stuff. “The darkness had past” should be “the darkness had passed.” “She motioned for him to remain quite.” “Quite” should be “quiet.” Don’t you hate those ones that slip by spell-check?
I enjoyed your description of the wizarding celebration of Voldemort’s defeat – very Rowling-esque given the way they celebrated in the beginning of the first book. “Never again could anyone truly say that her family was a disgrace to the name of wizardry.” Great sentence, and so true! It’s about time the Weasleys get some recognition. Your story definitely improves as it goes on; the end flows very well, and there’s nice variety of sentence structure and length in there. The ending was very sweet – I loved seeing Arthur and Molly have some quality time together, and I think you captured their relationship wonderfully. Thanks for the fun read!
Author's Response: Thanks for such the awsome response. It is really great to get a review that has some depth to it. I appreciate the suggestions to help me improve my wiriting. Thanks again!
I realized, after I finished my other review, that I had done one of your older stories, and thought it only fair to do something newer as well. I could tell within the first two paragraphs how much you’ve improved as a writer over the months in between. Your writing is clearer, it flows better, and is altogether more fun to read. That being said, this review is going to be much more critical than the last one, because I know you can handle it, and the better a story is, the more critical and nitpicky I get. Also, last time I looked at broader themes, so now it’s time for language. So rest assured that I really enjoyed your story, and prepare for nitpicks. ;)
To start with – the lovely and well-established literary device of Potions class partners. I can’t remember a single case of partnering up in Potions in canon, and yet somehow in fanfiction, Potions class always happens in pairs. It’s just too good a chance to pass up, I suppose, because it’s the perfect place to get people who wouldn’t otherwise interact to interact. You do it, I do it, everyone does it! Yay for Potions class! It’s funny, it’s one of the few non-canon clichés that really doesn’t bother me at all.
The assignment was to make Veritaserum. This feels like a very abrupt, choppy sentence - can you find a way to work it more smoothly into one of the sentences around it, or put some other information into the sentence? When you put in a short sentence solely for the sake of getting across a necessary piece of information, it often disrupts the story's flow. If you have to give boring details (and sometimes you have to), make them as exciting as possibly by sandwiching them among other important details. You do this very well in the first paragraph, where you have a nice balance between sensory details and scene setting. It's the same principle as describing characters or sensory information. Instead of saying "his eyes were green," refer to "his green eyes." Instead of saying, "The assignment was to make Veritaserum," see if you can work in a reference to Veritaserum, or put other detail in that sentence to distract the reader from the fact that you're feeding them necessary information. (That was a very long rant for a very short sentence – sorry! I like to explain why I think you should do things, rather than just saying that I think you should do them, and I’m not very good at being concise.)
He wasn’t one to point this out to the professor and get mauled by the students after class. Most characters would just say, "he wasn't one to point this out to the professor," implying that they don't want to be teacher's pets, or that they don't want more work. You totally change the focus by adding the next part, "and get mauled by the students after class," which implies that the reason he doesn't point it out is not fear of either of those, but instead fear of the other students. Wonderful example of subtly conveying character information.
Remus had always been very perceptive -- human emotions seemed easily translatable.Is this really necessary? You're telling us about Remus, but I think that he can speak for himself. When he asks Lily, it will be obvious that he is perceptive, and you'll avoid unnecessary clutter in your dialogue scene. You do a very good job of showing us Remus' personality here, so don't tell us as well. Later: However Remus wasn’t like most teenagers. (You need a comma after however.) Here as well, I'm not sure how much of this paragraph you need. Don't waste space reiterating too much of what your readers have already figured out. Make your readers pay attention to figure out what Remus is like, don’t just tell them.
He felt like he had just taken an arrow in the chest.This seems like a very random metaphor, unless he's been reading a lot of Robin Hood lately. Metaphors that fit a person's situation usually fit the story better, and are also less likely to be accused of being overly dramatic. How about "a bludger to the chest?"
Severus was just another person, and he really hadn’t done anything as horrendous to deserve what Sirius and James usually dished out. Should be: “anything horrendous enough.”
Something inside him had always instinctively told him to always despise Severus, but reflecting on this feeling it now seemed unfounded. You don’t need the second always. This feels more like Sirius and James, though perhaps Remus is just better at hiding it. At the same time, would Remus really have been as bothered by his friends' taunts and his own passive watching if he had an instinctive dislike of Severus? He does tell Harry in the sixth book that he does not dislike Severus.
“Why is it so important?” he asked her. This felt out of place to me. He had his realization earlier, and had a very extreme reaction to it - picturing all sorts of images, feeling deadly sick, ect - and then he turns around and asks why it's important? Lily's reaction bothered me a bit as well. It's not important because he's a person they ought to treat humanely, but because they'll need him some day? There's nothing wrong with her sentiments, but I think they need to be reprioritized. Perhaps you could start with the "doesn't everyone deserve a chance?" and then have her add, "besides, I think we're going to need him one day. I want him..."
… he and Lily walked back the Gryffindor tower and going to their respectable beds… “Going” should be “went.”
I really like your Snape – you have some great characterization moments. “It was a setup of some kind,” for example. Poor Snape, always jumping immediately to the worst conclusion. I was a little unsure of some of the moments in the first Hospital Wing scene, though. “One act of kindness hardly makes you my friend,” was pure Snape, but in the rest of it, I felt like he could have been a bit less ready to accept kindness. The one sentence that stuck out particularly was, “Why did you stop James from destroying me?” First of all, James should probably be Potter. But also, I’m not sure if Snape would admit to the fact that Remus saved him, or that James could have destroyed him. I imagine he'd be more vocal about his own abilities to protect himself, even if both he and Remus knew he couldn’t. After all, you saw him in his worst memory scene, when it was four to one without a chance to protect himself, and he refused to accept Lily’s help.
After all he spent too many late nights with the “Slug Club” eating crystallized pineapple and the occasional firewhiskey came up in the stories. You need a comma after “after all.” Also, “came up in the stories” doesn’t make sense in the context of the sentence.
Remus knew that James would not leave humiliated today but to hurt everyone else to gain glory, Remus knew it just wasn’t right. I got a bit lost in here. Do you mean “would not leave humiliated today, but would instead hurt everyone else to gain glory for himself?” Is James really out looking for glory in this case, or is he merely trying to save himself from embarrassment?
Beware of the ellipses – don’t let them take over in the end! Ellipses are like that, I’m afraid – you let one in and suddenly you have paragraphs full of them. I spent about twenty minutes the other day just removing ellipses from chapter eight of my story. ;)
So now that I’ve completely overwhelmed you with random pickiness…>.> Sorry. I really enjoyed seeing Remus and Snape interact, and as I already mentioned at least twice, I really like what you did with Snape. Ever since the scene in OotP, I’ve been fascinated by the relationship between the two of them, and I love the way you somehow managed to stick Lily into the middle of it. You have some great ideas in here; friendship and forgiveness being two of my favorite themes, which unfortunately are not dealt with in fiction nearly as much as romance and revenge. (Note my alliteration! Purely accidental.) And I like that Remus and Severus don’t magically become friends, that Remus’ step doesn’t fix everything, and yet that they can still reach a resolution in the end. I’d go on for a long time in this vein, but this review is already waaay out of control, so I’ll just thank you for the enjoyable story!
Author's Response: Wow, I am again amazed at your thorough review. Thank you so much, I definately will talk to you about this one too. We\'ll have a little chat. You are definately amazing.
I really like what you’ve done here with turning the conventional ghost story upside down by inverting the characters. Instead of showing us a live person’s reaction to a ghost, you start by showing a ghost’s reaction to a live person. It almost seems that the haunting goes both ways – Ginny is haunted by the memory of Harry, who is in turn haunted by Ginny’s unhappiness.
I’ll start with a few nitpicks, to get them out of the way, and then get back to this.
“Why won’t you look at me Ginny?” When a character is addressing another character, you’re generally going to need a comma before the name; in this case, it should read, “Why won’t you look at me, Ginny?” Similarly, “Goodbye Harry” needs a comma.
I think you tend to overuse contractions. Technically, contractions aren’t supposed to be used in formal writing (except, of course, in dialogue), but it’s usually possible to sneak a few in. However, you should avoid using a great deal, as it makes the writing seem too informal, so I’d advise expanding them: “she’s” goes to “she is,” and the like.
I was surprised to see Ginny using a lighter to burn the clipping – couldn’t she just use her wand? It’s a silly little nitpick, I know, but sometimes little things like that are enough to make or break the atmosphere of a story.
No one can hear the screams of a ghost. Nice! Very interesting idea here. I’m wondering about the distinction between this Harry-ghost, whom no one can see, and the usual ghost, which seems to be quite a common occurrence. I can understand the idea of having a ghost that isn’t physical, but you might want to mention this distinction at some point. Nevertheless, I really like that line. A ghost that can’t make a difference no matter how hard it tries – how sad, to be able to watch but not to do anything.
I really like what you’ve done with the perspective switch. It starts with Harry, who is unable to make himself heard at all. We see his growing frustration at being unable to comfort Ginny, and I expected that you were going to show us his relief when Ginny finally let go of her pain. However, I like what you did much better. Switching to Ginny’s perspective as Harry fades away is very well done, because it emphasizes the fact that the focus of the story is not Harry, but Ginny. Your story is a switch from the ghost-philosophy of Nearly Headless Nick, who says that the people who become ghosts are the ones that are too afraid to die. Nevertheless, I really like your idea, that there are two kinds of ghosts – the physical ones that can be seen, which are ghosts as a result of their own decisions, and the intangible ones that cannot be seen, which are there because of other’s reactions. Also, I like that you include an element of choice in this second kind of ghost – Ginny chooses to end her stage of grieving, and thus she chooses to set Harry free. Very nice!