I think it was probably inevitable that I was going to enjoy this story, Natalie, because it slots perfectly onto the niche of my absolute favourite type of story: rarepairs with minor characters who are damaged by the events of DH. I've read a lot of stories in that vein, but yet you've managed to do something very new and fresh here that I haven't seen before.
I haven't encountered a damaged Ernie before, and so I found your take on him here particularly interesting. I suppose I always saw him as the sort of person who is pretty resilient and would just plod on through life, so it was a bit of a revelation to see just how damaged he could be, and made me reassess my take on his character. I really liked the way you made his decline quite so passive. It highlighted how different he is to the Gryffindors who so often seem to be so much more explosive in the way in which they fail to cope in these sorts of stories. They are all action, even if that action is self-destructive, whereas with Ernie, it all about his lack of action and the way he just stops and doesn't do anything other than just go through the motions of life.
I think you sum it up perfectly when you say he'd 'purposefully grown apart' from Justin and Hannah: he's not pushed them away or run away himself, but instead he's just sort of allowed things to slide. I think your phrasing there paints a very sad and believable picture of how a Hufflepuff could fall apart in the aftermath of DH.
I suppose the only thing I found myself wishing was explored a little further (and it's probably only because I really do love backstory) was what it was exactly that drove Ernie to this state. You mention him seeing people dying, which is clearly going to mess with his head, but I just found myself wondering why he seemed so much worse affected by it than his friends, who were also there but didn't seem to understand his decline. I know the story was more about his state of mind by this stage rather than how he'd got there, but I just felt like I was missing a little bit of a connection between where he is and how the battle took him to this point.
With Mandy on the other hand , I could really see how her scars had affected her. At first I assumed that her blunt brashness was just the way she was, but when her vulnerability started to appear, I began to wonder if part of that was a defence mechanism. Ernie's the more obviously damaged of the two (at least on a non-physical level), but I got the impression that perhaps Mandy is really just as much of a mess; it's just that she's much more adept at finding her feelings and doesn't wear her heart on her sleeve like Ernie.
I don't think I've ever read anything with Mandy as more than a supporting cameo, but you managed to develop her so well here that I found myself really caring about her as a character.
One little thing I did notice though is that where you have Ernie's speech being a little more stilted and formal to bring out his pomposity, that occasionally seems to bleed across into Mandy's speech too and it doesn't seem to suit her general demeanour quite so much. Like for example here: “I was unaware of the group’s existence during fifth year.” It just seems to sit a tiny touch awkwardly against the casual tone that she has most of the time.
Something else, beyond the characters, that I found refreshing was the subtlety of the ending. I thought it was great how you didn't fall into the sex-and/or-love-fixes-everything cliche and instead had something much deeper and more complex happening. I loved the way that it seemed that what happened between them was more about Ernie trying to help her accept her scars than about the sheer physicality of it and how that act of doing something for someone else unlocked that dormant Hufflepuff side to him and brought him back to himself.
I really did enjoy this story, Natalie dear. I think I'll have to start working my way through some of your other stories (there's a fair few to choose from after all!)
Author's Response: I love this review, which is why I have been kicking myself for not responding. D: I guess I just wanted to do it when my mind was unburdened. : )
You know, this wasn't anything like I expected, but I really liked it. I love your characterisation of Molly: how she seems all prim like Percy with her rules, but yet clearly there is another side to her completely that came undone at Scorpius' kiss, and the fear of the dark was a very cute little vulnerability.
And as for Scorpius, I utterly adored this charming, manipulative Scorpius who is the consummate Slytherin. Clearly though, seeing Carole's review, she has more sense than me because my first response wasn't to hex him at all - I was too busy joining Molly at going weak at the knees. But then I've always had an unfortunate weakness for caddish charm (kind of one of the reasons I love Gone with the Wind so much).
I may have to bug you until you write more of these two now, Jess.
Lol, I think Carole's reaction was more because she has a daughter dangerously close to Molly's age. We're more inclined to swoon at his behaviour. There's no way to tell whether he truly is attracted to her or if he was just playing on her insecurity and innocence to get out of being caught by a REAL prefect. One will never know...
I might write this pairing again, but there are so many randomly random couples out there, waiting to have their stories told. For instance, Amelia/Augustus. I might do that one next, actually. :D
Oh this definitely brightened my afternoon, Carole. I love that you partially redeemed Romilda with the way she cares about her job, even though it's entirely unglamorous and how she tries not to take advantage of Harry, but in the end there's still a bit of the girl who spiked Harry's chocolates in her.
Seamus was a brilliant, blunt and matter-of-fact foil, and the ending very nearly had me snorting tea over my keyboard! Poor Draco.
Author's Response: Who wouldn't turn down 'The Boy Who Lived'? Thank you for the review, Hannah. This was a bit of a last minute fic once I'd trawled through my drabbles and found one I could adapt for V day. I'm wondering if I should rescue Draco ... no perhaps not. Thanks again ~Carole~
The harsh realities of life separated them, but the even harsher realities of death brought them back together. But could an apology bring back the loss of innocence?
A companion piece to Hollow Soldiers.
This story has been nominated for a 2011 Quicksilver Quill Award: Best Dark/Angst Story.
Well, finally here is some much promised and much belated birthday reviewage for you, Jess. It's only two months late!
I always thought I wrote messed up Ravenclaws but you've really taken it to whole new levels here and made it work so well.
You already know that I adored this story the first time I read it (admittedly that's probably not quite the way to phrase it with a story this dark, but I did find it moving, compelling, stark and so haunting that it stayed with me for a long time afterwards), and now that Hollow Soldiers has filled in the back story for me, it just takes my breath away.
This story did leave me with questions originally, but of course those have all been answered now. What makes it even more powerful for me is that with Hollow Soldiers, you didn't just answer the obvious question of what happened to Lisa, but you answered what was to me the far more compelling question of what happened to Michael, and now that I know that, it makes the state he is in here both more comprehensible and more tragic.
It's a given that we agree that people would be thoroughly messed up after the events of DH, but even set against that backdrop, it intrigued me that Michael seemed so much more of a mess than those around him, and I wanted to know why. In the light of the backstory of Hollow Soldiers though, it now makes perfect sense for him to be in such a state.
The only thing I find myself not entirely sure about though in light of the events of Hollow Soldiers is why Lisa's death doesn't kick him straight back to rock bottom (well apart from the fact that from a storytelling point of view it wouldn't fit with the theme of healing and second chances that you are working with; I mean from a psychological standpoint though). I know his guilt over Lisa is only half the story and there's what he did to Miles traumatising him too, but as he blames himself for what happened to Lisa, even though her eventual death was pretty much inevitable by this point, I'd have thought her death might have hit him harder than it did. He seems very together by the end and the reconciliation between him and Padma feels far more stable than just a grief-provoked need for intimacy, which is perhaps the response I might have found a little believable. I do understand why you shaped the ending the way you did though, because it achieves the hopeful themes of the fic, which a darker ending wouldn't.
I just love the way that you've made these characters all so flawed and self-loathing so that no one is truly sympathetic. It's a brave choice in a story to have no character whose choices the reader can entirely condone, but you make it work and I find myself caring about the characters even as I'm angry at them. Everyone seems too caught up in their own issues to be there for Lisa, and that is so tragically reflected in the way that they miss the final moments of Lisa's life. Michael has screwed up royally and dealt with things all wrong and is too caught up in his guilt over Lisa to think about her rather than himself; Anthony is so lost in his own self-righteous anger; and Padma even acknowledges that she is more caught up in her issues with Michael than her friend's death. Yet I still feel sorry for them all.
Also with Padma, I find it very sad that it felt to me that she was compromising herself somehow by taking Michael back and that she was aware of that but it was better than losing someone else. Their relationship might help Michael heal but I feel like it might be more damaging for Padma.
On a different note, I have to say that, despite the fact that I'm usually a huge fan of imagery and description (as you well know), I actually think the very stark way you tell this story is really effective. Stripping away all the frills lets the reader get straight to the cold, hard heart of the story. It's effective too that the only time you let imagery creep in is within the flashback because of course that would be burnt in vivid detail on Padma mind.
I love the symbolism of her walking across the broken glass. It's a great image on its own but by describing it as her walking across the strewn vestiges of her plans for their night, you elevate it to something more. I get a feel of her walking across the sharp-edged shards of her broken dreams. It's just tragic and beautiful.
Tragic and beautiful are perfect words to sum up the story in general actually, Jess dear. It's so dark and yet hopeful, and I really hope you write even more one day in this messed up little Ravenclaw universe you've created, because I can promise you that you'd have at least one avid reader.
Lol, I have a weird relationship with reviews like this. They make me squee, but then I have no idea where to start answering them. Eep!
This fic was originally meant to leave questions unanswered but alluded to in passing. Sort of like how we might meet someone with a lot of problems on a bus or a train, see what we see, hear what we hear, and make assumptions about the rest. I didn't really think anyone would care so very much about why Michael was the way he was or what had happened to Lisa outside of knowing, "Oh, it was in the battle. Gotcha." In a way, though, this fic ends up being more of an addendum to Hollow Soldiers than the latter is a prequel to it (if that makes sense).
The thing about Michael is that his eighteen-year-old self was a child fighting in a man's world, so sure that what he was doing was right until the real war started. Mentally, he was just so very unequipped to deal with everything that was going on, with the addition to essentially having two murders hanging over his head. It took his emotional development and arrested it. taking away his ability to move on and to properly heal. For him, though, his watershed moment, his moment of clarity, had been when Padma walked in on him with the hooker. Up until that point, he'd been in a self-pity coma, not realising that in his own destruction, he was taking other people down with him. That was why he had distanced himself from Padma until she sought him out, because he was fairly certain that she was better off without him. It wasn't until Lisa's death, which served as a form of closure for him, that he finally came to terms with what he'd done in the past. He always cared deeply for Padma and found that, in allowing himself to love her, he had nearly wasted what they'd had. He finally saw that he needed to let himself be happy, because steeping himself in misery and self-destruction wasn't going to bring back Lisa or Miles. That's what I was going for in the end. But, as the story was in Padma's POV, these are perimeter concepts that sort of have to be inferred.Yes, he will always be that damaged man-child who killed someone before he truly knew what it meant to do that, but that man-child grew up finally.
I really like that you picked up on the idea that all of the characters were reprehensible in their own way. Sure, it was easy to single out Michael, but the rest of them played a part in his implosion, as well. Padma left him to rot because she took his iniquity as rejecting her rather than a side effect of the battle that she didn't even know about and never asked. Anthony was busy judging him, and Terry was just trying to be friends with everyone, but that didn't help anyone, either.
I really thought that a stark, no-nonsense narrative was more poignant toward what I was going for than prose that would likely have bordered on wangsty. Instead of being an after-school special, it was a raw, heart-felt memoir of a group of people who lost everything because they lost each other.
Hehe, I will admit, I was going for a bit of symbolism with the broken glass. It was meant to show that, despite how badly their relationship was broken, shattered if you will, she would always cross any distance for him and always would've done. As you mentioned, her continued relationship with Michael seems self-destructive, but in the end, he was all she really wanted. She never dated anyone when they were apart.
All in all, I really owe my love of screwed up Claws to you. Before we bumped into each other, I had no idea who Lisa Turpin really was in my head, and Michael was just a guy that I gave a son whose mother didn't matter who she was. Now, I know them like friends, I know their buttons that get pushed, and I know how far they can bend before they break. I'm just happy to be able to share them with you and that you can partake in their richness.
Thank you for the lovely review. :)
~Jess / Your Rarepair Soulmate!
This does exactly what a Prologue ought to, Soraya, it sets up the major plot arc really well. You set up a lot of backstory into the investigation but without it feeling like an info dump, and the newspaper is a really clever device to do that because it makes it natural for Scorpius to be considering the necessary details of the case.
I did feel though like the story didn't perhaps grab me at the very start as fast as it might have done. I wonder if it might perhaps make the opening a little stronger to shift those first two paragraphs about Scorpius's working relationship with Harry and Adam to a little later and launch instead straight into the third paragraph and the details of the case, which is the part that really sparks the reader's interest and the point at which the story really did start to grip me.
A serial killer makes for an interesting premise, because even in the mystery genre, the modern, serial killer-based, crime novel style is rarely done in fanfiction, so it instantly makes me feel like your story will be refreshingly different. The macabre signature adds an element of intrigue too, although I found the reference to the blood being magically extracted a little jarring because it just felt a tiny bit contrived to me, as if you felt you needed something to set it apart from Muggle crimes. Perhaps it may actually be a feature that is important later, but if that's the case, then I just feel like it might benefit from being developed a little further here to feel a bit more natural than it does as a passing reference.
Obviously, it's a very short chapter so there's a limit on the amount of character development possible, but I did feel like Scorpius was relatable and I warmed to him and felt for him in his shock and grief at the end of the chapter. The only note of caution I'd add is that sometimes it's just not necessary to tell the reader something when you've already shown it through what a character says or does. I really like the insight into Scorpius' upbringing that he'd been taught that respect was key but that didn't mean interaction was permitted, but I felt like the line, He hated it when minorities were discriminated or stereotyped like that, wasn't really necessary. You'd already showed that was how he felt by his reaction to what Adam said. I know there's a natural tendency as an author to want to distance yourself from a character saying something that makes you uncomfortable and to really highlight that you don't share their prejudices, but for me having that in the narrative too just felt like a little too much emphasis on a fairly minor point.Â
The chapter as a whole sets up enough questions to spark my interest and make me want to know what answers will come, just as a good mystery should, as well as totally shocking me at the end with the twist about Scorpius' daughter that I really didn't see coming! If you can jolt me quite so much with such a small revelation, I have a feeling that this is somewhere that your skill really lies and you will probably manage to make the big revelations, which are an inevitable part of a mystery, truly earth shattering.
Hannah! Wow, thank you for such a wonderful review. I'm so honoured to have been reviewed by you <3
This was written quite a while ago, but it is probably my favourite simply because it's Scorose XD Anyway, I know what it's like to have the info dump, and I'm glad -- and flattered -- to find that you thought the information wasn't overboard or anything. Re the start: I know, I suck at beginning anything, lol. Sorry. I know, it was a bit information overload with Scorpius and Adam and Harry, but it was kind of important for the plot etc. so I needed it, though you're completely right that it should have been written later on.
I've always wanted to write a crimey/mystery/serial killer story. I don't know why, probably because I love crime shows (especially the Mentalist -- Patrick Jane is my husband :D) and crime books. I'm glad you thought the premise was original, though part of that is obviously down to Kara, for setting the Mysterious May challenge. I'm also pleased you liked the MO of the killer, though I definitely agree that it was a bit jarring. It was kind of... well, yeah, it was supposed to be distinctly set apart from Muggle crimes (i.e. a wizard/witch did it).
I think you reviewed Checkmate too, and you said something similar about showing/telling. Sorry :S I'm pretty busy right now, but when I have some time spare, I will definitely consider your critique if I edit this. On the plus side, though, you liked Scorpius, which is something :)
I'm really glad you liked the twist at the end! There are a few more to come, as expected for a mystery, lol (but only if you decide to read on, that is). I always planned for Scorpius to have a child with Dominique so I'm pleased, sort of, that it shocked you XD
Thank you, Hannah, for the thorough and honest review. Muchly appreciated :)
This will probably be totally incoherent, Jess, because I am just aghast at how amazing this story is. I had a truly shit day and to come home to find this and be lose myself with a glass of wine in such a wonderful story all for me was just the best pick-me-up imaginable.
I wondered when I read Azure not only what had happened to Lisa but also what had happened to Michael, because whilst I know we both agree that people were messed up post-battle, the level of Michael's screwed up-ness was exceptional so I wondered what had happened to him beyond the norm to take him there.
It makes total sense now why he goes on to make such a mess of everything. The combination of blaming himself for Lisa fighting and for killing Miles must have utterly torn him apart.
I'm intrigued by the deal with the curse on Lisa, that it kills her finally so much later. Is she in a coma-like state in the interim or does it just gradually weaken her.
Michael was the perfect viewpoint, and I loved how he had a genuine moral struggle with casting the cruciatus, which I was disappointed in Harry that he never seemed to face. It meant I had totally empathy with what it would do to him when he killed Miles. He wasn't a boy who could kill lightly, even in battle.
Urgh, and Miles was just vile. You did such a good job in making so deeply, unrepentantly unpleasant.
I just ... thank you! This is probably a really gushing, aimless ramble, but there was just so much I loved and I connected with this story so completely.
I totally love it, and you are fab!
Well, then, I'm glad the story's late as to afford you the best possible pick-me-up. :D
At first, I wasn't sure what I was going to write you for your birthday, but when I thought of your love of Ravenclaw angst, as well as the loose threads in AitS, it was obvious. I actually started this ficnearly a month ago, and my whining, bitching muse has just now deigned to let me finish it. At any rate, there you are.
The deal with Lisa is a curse that Voldemort himself had concocted for his minions' use, which is why Madam Pomfrey had no idea what it was or how to cure it. Ultimately, it also killed Lisa. She wasn't in a coma the whole time, but she went to St Mungo's after this incident and never left until she died. She had good weeks and bad weeks, ranging from a decent amount of lucidity to having 'relapses', where her vitals tank and they have to try like hell to save her. I should prolly name that curse, but I can't even rightly say what it does, lol. Baaaaaaaaaaaad author! Bad!
Michael, to me, has been one of the ones who, with different influences, could've been just like Miles. In true Claw fashion, he's convinced that he's nearly always right (which didn't help his relationship with Ginny) and likes having an element of control. This is why the DA worked so well for him, because he was less subject to first Umbridge and then the Carrows. But in the heat of battle, he loses that control he craves, and he doesn't like the person it makes him.
Miles was supposed to be a bit vile, but it was mostly him trying to goad Michael into making a mistake so he could capitalise. He never dreamed that his cousin would actually be able to kill him. No one ever said he was all that smart, hehe.
I'm glad you liked the story, and I'm so happy it was able to nurse your bastard day back to some semblance of health. I heart you much, and it's no mistake that we're both Gemini: two of a kind. :D
Note to self: don't leave reviews on my phone when knackered. I submitted, read it back through and realised it was riddled with daft grammar! Sorry about that. I will go an ritually fall on my grammar sword now, promise.
Plus, I forgot to say, it was the briefest of cameos but I loved Kingsley: you completely nailed his characterisation.
No worries about the grammar. I basically only gave the story a shoddy once-over before posting. I'm horrible about that.
I almost had Kingsley introduce himself to Michael to eliminate the postulation about his identity. However, I figured that, if anyone is clueless enough not to know who it is, I really don't care what they think anyway, hehe. I is ebil. But his presence ultimately gave Michael the chance to see the battle in a larger scope than his little circle of friends and the people he knew. Don't know why I picked Kingsley, but he just seemed right for it.
Yay again! I hope tomorrow is better. Heart!
A year ago, two damaged people found they made each other whole.
Little did they know that the fault lines were still there, waiting for the right moment to break apart once more.
A companion to â€˜Not Broken.â€™
Nominated for a 2011 QSQ - Best Non-Canon Romance
Nominated for a 2012 QSQ - Best Dark/Angsty Story
This is a birthday present for the absolutely fabulous Jess/ToBeOrNotToBeAGryffindor.
I owe an indefinite amount of thanks to my super speedy and gorgeously amazing beta Elenï¿½ for making this story readable.
And while we're here I should probably mention that I'm not JKR
Why have I never read this before, Ariana? Because I was clearly always going to enjoy it. I'm not sure there's anything more up my street than a messed up, angsty rarepair after all, and you do write these sorts of emotionally heavy stories so well. It's compelling and heart-wrenching, but you keep it all very restrained. This is a couple who have been to hell and back, and the reader with them, but there isn't a hint of melodrama.
I think the opening paragraph is probably one of my favourite parts of the fic. It is so vivid and sensual and raw. It's clear Susan has gone from his life but she still has such a physical presence. It's as if the thought of her isn't haunting him so much as she is still there, even when she's not.
I love the way that you use description in this story to really heighten the emotions. I think that's what allows you to steer clear of melodrama, because you allow the reader to infer the characters emotions from the way you portray them rather than battering the reader around the head with who is feeling what. That opening paragraph shows the connection between the pair of them instantly and how passionately Theo feels, despite his laconic detachment that he shows through most of the story.
Another moment where you really heighten the emotion in such an understated way is the image of Susan spending nights out on the balcony with her hand resting absentmindedly on her stomach. It's so sad but yet beautifully subtle. It shows so well their isolation from each other and the clutching at something that's gone.
Also, I rarely tend to focus on word choice, but I have to just dwell briefly on the reference in that section to her staring out over the 'dirty' city. It's a single adjective that just strikes me as a really inspired addition as it offers so much. It somehow widens things so that the world seems broken in the wake of what's broken between Susan and Theo so that there's nothing of beauty left for them.
Maybe it's just because some sections, like those I've mentioned, had such intensity that anything would feel a little flat by comparison, but I just felt that sometimes the intensity flagged a little in places. It's really hard to keep up such intensity throughout a fic, but I feel like this is the sort of story where it would be possible and I genuinely believe you have the talent to do it, Ariana.
I think perhaps part of it is that, after the fantastic opening, you lapse straight into backstory, which takes away from that lovely immediacy that you created in that first paragraph. Obviously, this is the sort of story that requires backstory, but I wonder if perhaps, rather than giving it all in one go at the start, it might be a little more effective to break it up, weaving it through the present day narrative more and withholding some details until later in the story or even leaving a little more to inference. I just wonder if that might allow the early part of the story to be a little more pacy.
That said though, that section of backstory does give some real insights into Theo as a character. It shows his pragmatic and the defensive detachment that he wraps himself in. Perhaps, as well, that's another factor that allows you to avoid melodrama, because, whilst, as the opening paragraph shows, there is a lot of passion bubbling beneath the surface with him, he has an icy hard shell that he seems to try to prevent anything piercing. I love the line about a small part of his heart deflating a little because it is so very understated and very much the reaction of a man attempting to keep the world at arm's length. Similarly, there is an almost studied callousness to his reference to 'the baby incident'.
I think those elements of his characterisation really feed in to portraying the fragile state of their relationship and why they fall back together but also why Susan still has to leave and they have to heal apart. I did find myself though wondering what brought them together at the start and held them together before things fractured. I assume that is probably explored in your companion piece, but I wonder if perhaps a little allusion at least to that would just make this story stand alone a little better. Whilst it makes sense on it's own and it's easy to connect to the characters, I felt like perhaps the emotions would be even more powerful than they already were if I had a little more idea of what it was that was shattering between them rather than just how.
So fittingly, I'll end with the ending, which I thought suited the story perfectly in its unresolved state. I wasn't frustrated by its ambiguity; it felt right. Hope was what they needed to be left with. It would have been too hard an ending to pile yet more misery on them but they weren't ready for a happy ending yet either. It was the perfect end to a very accomplished story.
Author's Response: Thank you so much for this review! I didn't think this story would be getting any more, to be honest, and I'm incredibly happy that you stopped by. I am also glad you liked the story, overall. This was such a lovely review because everything you said - even, actually, especially the crit - rings so true. I'm thinking about starting a chaptered fic/follow up on Susan and Theo sometime, and so hopefully that will give more insight into their relationship background. I realize now, as I read back, that the beginning moves kind of slowly because of the whole explanation thing, and not reading the companion piece makes this a difficult standalone.
Thank you so much for choosing to review this! Seeing a SPEW-length review for this story definitely made my day. xx Ariana
The darkness looms the harshest before dawn, but light will always cross lines drawn in the sand.
This is the story of the battle of Hogwarts.
This poem has been nominated for a 2011 Quicksilver Quill: Best Poem.
This poem has also been nominated for a 2012 Quicksilver Quill: Best Poem.
So Jess, here I am killing several birds with one wordy stone: another belated birthday review for you, learning to review poetry in accordance with your royal wishes, and ensuring that you don't have to excommunicate me for tardiness!
I'm obviously not really going to comment much on any of the more technical elements of the poem because I wouldn't have the foggiest clue what I was talking about, apart from the fact that I was going to mention that I thought it had a lovely rhythm and flow to it, and seeing you mention in response to another review that it's in iambic pentameter, I now understand why. It suits the tone of the poem so well and you've used it beautifully. This is very much the sort of poem that just begs to be read aloud.
You've done a wonderful job of capturing the whole ebbing and flowing maelstrom of emotions that the battle evokes, in so few words. The whole poem is an emotional rollercoaster, with each new stanza bringing in some fresh response for the reader, from the edgy calm before the storm, to a strident martial call to arms, to the horrors of battle, to the draining loss of defeat, to the resurgence of fresh hope and finally the glory of victory. That's a huge amount to pack into eight brief stanzas!
I think perhaps the opening verse may just be my favourite because it's so wide. It feels universal. It's not just this battle; it's any battle of good over evil that repeats time and time again.
I love the use of fatalistic in the first line too because it carries hints of the prophecy and destiny that we know lurk behind it all.
The reference to dawn in the final line of that stanza is really effective because there is just a kernel of hope there right from the start: if the light comes, evil must be vanquished. It's so neat and tidy how you return to that theme at the very end as well. It gives the poem a real feeling of completeness.
The change of pace in the third stanza is an effective contrast. You've set up darkness and fear and looming death in the opening two verses, but then as a counterpoint you bring in hope and the secret weapon that means a chance of victory and a chance that the fight can mean something. The last line of that stanza really has the feel of a battle cry to it.
The fourth stanza feels wonderfully dark in the midst of the battle. You really highlight the depravity of Voldemort and his cause. I find myself half expecting it to lead into some sort of dark ritual rather than just a victorious displayal of Harry's body. The phrase 'noisome hearse', I think, is a large part of that impression; it's not just a fabulous turn of phrase but it's a very strong piece of description too. I get this horrific image of them carousing their way back to the castle bearing his body like a trophy amidst their revels.
I like the way you then focus back on Harry again in the fifth stanza, and like in the third, the emotional tone slows it right down. It feels heavy and hopeless and lost, but then you twist it again going into the final stanzas, and it feels like the whole poem builds to a satisfying crescendo.
I may not know a lot about poetry, but I do very much know when I like a poem and this definitely qualifies, dear. I think you've done a fab job with it and written a very stirring poem.
I've been grappling for a month now with my inability to respond to this review. It truly is a masterpiece, and it's no mistake that it helped you on your way to winning a well-deserved SPreviEW award.
One thing I really wanted to point out is that you picked up on SO many of the underlying themes, like the darkness of war/hope of dawn theme. Unlike my normal lyrical vomit, I actually did that on purpose in this poem. I really liked that it was there but not 'in your face'-like, but still recognisable.
Honestly, as this is technically free-verse, there really wasn't much in the structure upon which one could possibly comment, other than flow (which you did).
You are a fearsome poetry reviewer. I really think you could do this more often. :)
I have to start by saying I really enjoyed this brief little insight into how damaged anyone and everyone could be by the Battle, Carole. I think you've packed a lot into a very short piece, and I love the way your choice of characters shows how everyone could be messed up by what happened from the most central participant in the Battle to someone like Parvati who might sometimes be passed over as peripheral.
I think you've done a great job at giving Parvati depth and negating that silly, feckless image her and Lavender so often get tarred with (and I do love the little aside about Lavender being concerned for her despite her own poor health). Of course they have to have more than just the silly, giggly girls people sometimes dismiss them as to stay and fight.
In fact, the bulk of this review I think is likely to be devoted to Parvati's section of the story because in some ways I found that the richest and most satisfying.
I thought the opening was really effective and it was a clever choice to delay naming Parvati until the second paragraph. There's no mystery of course because we know who the girl is from the summary, but by not naming her, it gave the first paragraph a much more universal feel: the girl is just one more tragic, lost woman walking the streets of London.
It's a good choice of opening setting too because London can sometimes be such a faceless, empty place to be feeling alone, and the feeling of Parvati being alone in a crowd is much more powerful than her being on her own and feeling alone.
I find Parvati's guilt more compelling for its complexity too since you didn't take the obvious route of having her just feeling guilty for not being able to save Padma. Her guilt for not feeling Padma die and for not being a suitable replacement to her sister's friends is so much more subtle and hence, I tend to think, more interesting. Also, it's clearly not healthy that she is spending so much time with the Ravenclaws and trying to replace Padma, but it feels totally understandable.
It's a brave choice not to shy away from the horrors of war and the reference to Padma being trampled is horrific, but the glancing references you make to it are more effective than lingering would have been. You give just enough for it to be distressing without being nauseating.
I think generally actually that balance between giving the key detail that makes the scenes feel real, allowing an emotional connection beyond just reciting the characters' thoughts, and not letting the detail bog the story down or become cloying is very well handled.
The only area I felt myself craving a little more detail, was Harry's brief scene. I couldn't really connect with him there, even though the isolation he felt made sense. It wasn't the brevity as such that just made it not quite work for me, but more, I think, the lack of physicality in that scene. All we get in Harry's scene is his thoughts and no connection to the world around, which just didn't quite fit with the very real-world-rooted feel of the rest of the fic for me.
Particularly, when in contrast in the final scene, you go onto a description of Parvati's gin and tonic that was sufficiently compelling to really make me fancy a gin and tonic (it's probably a little early in the day though so I probably ought to give it a miss), and I love how the bitterness and sharpness seem to parallel her feelings.
I think my favourite moment though in that final scene, for its raw power, is the brief discussion of how there's always tomorrow, and I love how you pare that little section down to its essentials and really highlight it with the change in pace to short, choppy paragraphs.
I think in someways though, the ending is perhaps the most powerful concept in the story. I think you mentioned in reply to one of the other reviews about this being a 'doomed' ship and I think it becomes totally clear at the end what cross-purposes they are at. Of course it could never be more than it is here, because they need such contrasting things from each other: Parvati needs to feel again and Harry needs not to feel anymore.
Well, this story has certainly got me thinking, Carole, and I'm really glad I read it.
Author's Response: Thank you very much for such a wonderful review. I fear my response will not live up to it. :).
I do get, totally, what you say about the Harry scene. I think his part is far too brief, and I might possibly rewrite this to include some more about him, but, in truth, I wanted this to be more about Parvati beause as you say, she's so often dismissed as a silly giggling girl. Extending Harry's part would have made this much longer and I was kind of on a frenzied mission to just capture a certain moment.
The twin aspect was something I always wanted to explore. They must have been very different girls to be in different houses, so I wanted to show that. And Padma's face - yes - far too often we hear about scars and a slight marring of someone's face, but to be trampled on, or to see the mirror of your face smashed is something I wanted to explore. George loses an ear, but really he's still George who looks like Fred. Parvati's face is still perfect; in death her sister's wasn't.
Thanks again. Much appreciated. ~Carole~
What an intriguing set up for a story! I've always enjoyed vampire-based tales, but in recent years they seem to have been everywhere and generally in a depressingly diluted form, so it's refreshing to see a story that seems to take vampires back to their Eastern European roots and contains the sort of vampire folklore that it's easy to imagine being passed down through generations.
The curse concept is a great way to tie vampirism to the magical world, and it feels like a very believable addition to vampire mythology. I think the concept of Original Infection is a very interesting one and the brief mention of the societal, moral and philosophical connotations that arise from it definitely makes me hope that it's something that you explore in more depth later, because I found it fascinating.
In fact, I really liked the brave narrative choice of injecting some of the vampire lore via that almost textbook-style interlude. That sort of narrative switch can be hard to pull off without sounding contrived, but I thought you made it work really well and it suited the tone of the rest of the chapter, even though the chapter was otherwise quite character-driven.
Meleia already seems like a compelling character, and I'm looking forward to learning more about her. It was a really nice touch how you started by introducing the closeness between her and Maria, and the way she soothes her sister makes her very easy to warm to. It also created an interesting distance between her and her family how, at the end, she is the only one unable to act as if everything is normal. It promises to create a lot of tensions and undercurrents, and I find myself wondering what effect those will have.
Actually, I find myself wondering about a lot of things because you do hold back enough mysteries to keep things intriguing and puzzling, but yet you also gave enough hints and details that I didn't find myself getting frustrated and confused at what was going on. Generally, I thought the balance there was really well handled.
I especially like how little you give away at first about the two sisters in the opening scene. It sets up the characters and atmosphere really well even though at that point I didn't know who they were, what the backstory was, or what that atmosphere was building towards. It was a lovely, mysterious start that got me hooked straight away.
The only place I felt there was perhaps a little too much information given all at once was with the introduction of Nicolae's tragic backstory almost as soon as he appeared. It may all be important for the reader to know at some stage, but it just felt a little bit overpowering to me all told together like that and I wasn't sure I necessarily needed to know it all that early, and I wonder if it might be the sort of character backstory that may be a little better suited to being woven in more gradually.
I did like some of the dark hints though in that scene that added a real sense of foreboding, like Nicolae seeing the tower for the first time on the night of Maria's birth. There was a great, brooding formless sense of menace throughout this chapter. Right from the start, I found myself sharing Maria's conviction that something bad was going to happen, but without knowing what it was I expected, merely that I was uneasy. I always really enjoy reding that sort of tense, claustrophobic writing and I thought you captured that brilliantly.
All in all, I'm looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here, because I think it could be a very interesting journey.
Author's Response: Thank you for your amazing review, Hannah! I am honoured by time and thought you put into this SPEWly review. First I want to say I'm so very glad you enjoyed this chapter. It underwent about a million re-writes, but I steadfastly believe that the first chapter is the most important one. I'm almost glad that you disliked how artless Nicolae's backstory was--because you're absolutely right--it isn't immediately important. It's arguably never important. I know I could have developed his backstory differently, but I'm going to stand by my decision to include it now. In the short run I absolutely agree that this isn't the best way to develop a character, but if this decision of mine doesn't become at least defensible in the context of what's to come, then I haven't done my job well. I'll do my best to make it so! I'm always torn between being explicit about events and being subjective and vague. I'm glad you're enjoyed the suspense so far, and I hope that I continue to do all right in upcoming chapters. Thanks you! Merlynne
AU. Severus and Remus forge a damaged and damaging relationship in the aftermath of the war.
For hestiajones, who cheered me on to the minimum word count.
There's something so elegant about this story. I think perhaps it's the simplicity. I want to say the raw simplicity, but it isn't raw; it's measured and retrained and subtle, and it's that very restraint that enthrals me and leaves this story haunting me.
I think a large part of that is the style and specifically the way you've used the present tense. So often, with present tense, everyone always seems to talk about its immediacy and the way it hooks you into the action, but for me, the present tense works best the way you've used it here: with that sort of cold remoteness as if the present moment is all there is because both past and future are too painful or precarious.
There's a sparseness to your prose, and it makes it into something beautiful because the rare moments of imagery and metaphor really shine against the bare backdrop.
The remoteness of the tone beautifully mirrors the relationship between Severus and Remus as if Remus keeps the reader at arm's length the same way Severus does to him.
I have to confess: it's not a pairing that I would normally consider to be believable at all because they are two characters with such differing values and so much to keep them apart, and yet here I never even questioned them being together at all. It felt totally natural for them to be together. They just are and it's undeniable. I think a part of that is that you never seek to justify them as a couple, and so I just accepted them together because that acceptance of them runs through the entire narrative itself. You don't need to pontificate about why Remus loves Severus or how much because it's so painfully clear in his actions, and how he stays despite how hard that is, that he does and ultimately why or how they got together feels meaningless compared to the power of his staying.
I can completely see how the renewed sense of purpose when the students come back in September would refresh Severus and start to thaw him. He doesn't like students much but at the same time, teaching at least keeps him busy and stills the incessant accusatory chatter of his mind. Similarly, I like how you draw out that he withdraws in October and then allows Remus back in once the horror of his recollections of Halloween has passed. It would be very like Severus to push someone who dares to care for him away when he is hurting most, and it would never occur to Severus that Remus too would struggle with the anniversary of the Potters' deaths and that perhaps his lover might need him then or that they could help to support one another to it.
I do find myself wondering though why Severus' mood should dip so drastically into spring in particular. Perhaps I'm missing some subtle point, but it doesn't seem quite so clear cut to me, and whilst mostly I really liked the way this story didn't slow itself down with explanations, that is one point on which I just found myself wishing for a little clarification.
That said though, I do like the contrariness of Severus withering as the world comes back to life.
I want to know more: I want to know why Remus loves him so much that he stays even when at best Severus' response to him is mediocre; I want to know why Severus' year follows the pattern it does; and most of all I want to know if Severus really does love Remus in return. But I don't need to know any of those things, and it's a real testament to your story I think, that it leaves me with more questions than answers, but in the best possible way.
To Harry Potter, his life's destiny was to save the world, become an Auror, and be with Ginny Weasley forever. He did all right on the first. The second wasn't turning out to be all he thought it would, and the third... well, that's a story for a different day.Â
Where does that leave the Chosen One so soon after his twenty-fourth birthday? And will a past acquaintance show him what or even who he wanted for his future?
I find myself wondering how it could possibly be that I haven't read this before, Jess. It's clearly a major oversight on my part, and one I'm glad I've rectified now.
The funny thing is that reading a story of yours is always like revisiting an old friend even when, as with this one, I actually haven't read it before. I think it's because your writing style is so familiar to me now but also that your stories are so easy to read. Of course I don't mean they are simplistic or anything like that! What I mean is that there is something so comfortable about reading your writing. I know that, reading something by you, I can just relax and enjoy the story without being jarred out of the story by awkward phrasing or the like.
I also appreciate how matter of fact your writing is too though. Your style is quite stripped down, and you don't try too hard to be over-fancy or over-'literary' in doing silly things with tense or point of view or anything. What I think is great is that you really let the plot and the characters speak for themselves and don't fog that core of the story with trying-too-hard-to-be-clever-and-actually-making-yourself-look-like-a-moron-instead-style literary tricks.
It means that actually, when you do throw in a metaphor or some other device, it really shines. For example, I adored the phrasing of 'vomited mirth', because whilst that moment where you have to laugh or you'd cry instead must be a familiar one to almost anyone, you succeed in pathologising it with that phrasing. You hint at it being something darker, more akin to illness or perhaps even madness, by that one simple phrase, and that's so effective. And you know me and my love for moments of dark imagery.
It barely needs saying that you characterise Harry flawlessly since it's been said so many times before, but you do just seem to have such a natural affinity with him. He retains his essential 'Harry-ness' despite being this jaded, cynical, burnt-out shadow of himself. The contrast is set up wonderfully between the wide-eyed boy, full of wonder at the magical world, who first wandered into Ollivander's, and this man who is returning with so little interest in the process that he would just take the first wand to come to hand, if he were allowed. I can't for the life of me decide if I want to hug him or shake him.
Katie is such an interesting take on her character here too. Obviously, there's a lot more flexibility with her than Harry in many ways and you can mould her however you need her for the story, but at first glance it's hard to see much of any similarity between this bitter shell of a woman and the hopeful, albeit naive, version of her in In the Ashes. I can actually see though how life going against her could take her on this path. She's not very good at being strong and standing up for herself so I could see her being dominated by her husband like this and yet with that constant conflict tearing her apart inside because there is that braver, more Gryffindor side to her that hates her weakness too. I think the damage to her in many ways was probably as much wrought by her own hands as by Roger (not to excuse the way he treated her at all though).
I do love the way that you can write such subtle darkness. This is in many ways, I suppose, the 'fluffier' end of your repertoire at first glance, but actually the characters ate still comprehensively messed up and make a fascinating psychological study. Your stories, and most especially your characters, are never simple even if, like here, they may seem a little deceptively so at first. There's such depth of characterisation even where the darkness isn't explicit.
Is there anything better than a review from you? I'm thinking not, because it makes my grin like an idiot to see your name at the top of the review. Always excellent, and always bringing such joy.
I love that you appreciate the way I write. I acknowledge that my work tends to be on the simple side, and sometimes I feel like that makes it inferior. But then you swoop in and review like a champ and make me feel like deciding against pretence and masked meaning was the right choice.
Harry, I suppose, will always be the character I love the most. I see so much of him - past present and future - beyond what the books say that I can't help but imagine the possibilities of how his life could've turned out if not for that noisome little epilogue. His desire for normalcy in his life, to me, is one of the things that makes him a real and relatable character, and something I try to put into his portrayal when I write him.
You know how I feel about Katie. She is very much naive, like she was in In the Ashes, but in this story, her unworldliness led her to someone who wasn't patient with that aspect of her and squashed the innocence right out of her. Git.
Overall, I think I like the idea of characters who really need each other in other ways than sex. It's about being anchored to life and not letting it slip away, only to wake up at age forty and seeing crow's feet, a bored expression, and a wardrobe full of clothes for only one. It makes them so irrevocably and irresistibly human.
Anyway, gorgeous review, and thank you for participating in the review drive. I need to shake the stick and get people to do it more. I'm glad you like the story, and if you'd like the smuttier version...check spewswap. :D
I tend to be most interested by characters who don't get written about very often, so I loved reading about Cormac here, Maple, and I thought the pairing was really original and interesting (which was generally what I loved most about the Cotillion - the variety andÂ originality of the pairings).
Normally, I'm not much of a fan of cross-gen pairings, because I find it hard to comprehend what a couple could have in common when they are in such different points in their lives. I can see the attraction of someone older for the younger half, but I'm rarely persuaded as to why the older party would have any interest in someone so much younger. You make it work here though in the way you characterise Cormac. He strikes me as the sort of man who never grew up and lives off of the back of his past 'glories'. I get the impression that Lily's interest makes him feel young and like he's still 'got it', so it doesn't feel at all out of character when he offers only the briefest resistance to her advances.
I really like the boldness that you give Lily. It very much shows her to be her mother's daughter and makes sense for a girl with two older brothers. She deserves a better man than Cormac though, and I really hope, now that she's obtained the unobtainable, the thrill wears off quickly for her.
Her friendship with Emma is nicely worked and the two balance each other well - Lily's adventurousness against Emma's level-headedness. It's clear that they both bring something to the friendship, which is a clever dynamic on your part to have worked out.
In some ways though, I find myself wishing that the story had focused a little more on the interaction between Lily and Cormac and a little less on Lily and Emma. A lot of the development of the story occurs through Lily's discussions with her friends and as much as I did enjoy that, I found myself craving the immediacy of seeing the interaction between Lily and Cormac rather than having it reported. There is a definite chemistry between them in the final scene in his office, and although I could understand on an intellectual level how that could have built through the time they spent together, I'd have loved to have seen a couple more scenes in which that really built and intensified, so that I could have connected to it on a more emotional level.
There's a very fun feel to some parts of the story; I particularly loved the awkwardness of Lily having had a crush on Neville. It left me torn between laughter and cringing and seemed to sum up so much of the awkwardness of being a teenager.
The opening of the story did feel a tiny touch flat to me though, and I found myself wishing that there was just a little of that later fizz in the first few paragraphs. Your version of Lily has such spark as a character that I'd have loved to have seen that at the outset.
This story was a really fun and different take on the usual next gen romances, Maple, and I'm very glad I read it.
Author's Response: Thanks for the lovely review! I really like the idea of having more Lily/Cormac scenes. I definately want to write a sequel :) And your comments have now made me want to write a Lily/Neville (which was the pairing I wanted in the first place)... Haha, thanks :) Maple
Michael Corner muses on his short-lived relationship with Daphne Greengrass.
Originally a drabble written for the amazing Jess/ToBeOrNotToBeâ€¦in the SBBC's Musical Drabble Exchange. It was based off the song "Ain't that a B*tch" by Aerosmith and the title is taken from the lyrics of that song.
A big thank you to Natalie, the impeccably wonderful beta for this in its drabble form.
Winner of the 2012 Quicksilver Quill Award - Best Non-Canon Romance.
Oh Ariana, when I haven't read something of yours for a while, I could almost forget how stunning your writing is, and then I read a story like this...
The amount of characterisation, emotion and atmosphere that you pack into such a short piece is just astounding. In some ways reading this story was like running repeatedly into a solid wall, because every time I thought I had got my head around it, some new revelation hit me: But Michael did not love Daphne ... BAM ... In his seventh year she had performed the Cruciatus Curse on him without flinching ... BAM ... Iâ€™m glad youâ€™re here, Michael. I need someone to love me ... BAM ... The day she left him it was sunny and hot ... BAM ... The skin there was burned. So were her lips ... BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM.
I didn't see any of it coming, but yet not a single twist felt forced or inexplicable: as soon as it happened it felt like a totally natural progression and like the only natural response could be 'oh, of course.'
After the gorgeous sensuality and intensity of the opening paragraph, and the obvious desperate longing in Michael's memories, the last thing I expected to be told in the next paragraph was that he didn't love her, but then instantly I was brought to doubt his reliability as a narrator with the naivety of the comment about being smart enough not to love someone he couldn't have. It marks him out from the start as a Ravenclaw, and yet at the same time, had me rolling my eyes that he should claim love could ever be a choice. There's a real edge of desperation in that comment that smacks of trying to convince himself of it and that only strengthens each time he repeats the refrain that he doesn't love her. It's so effective the way that you keep returning to that phrase and each time it rings just a little hollower
The next moment that set me reeling was the revelation that she'd tortured him. It would have been nothing new to suggest that she had tortured people, maybe even his friends, and that he had seen it, or that lust could lie between them despite that, but that he could love her (as it's clear he does, whatever he says) even though she had tortured him is breathtakingly intense and wrong and yet powerfully ... romantic isn't the right word - it's too soft - but I'm not sure what is. You're invoking emotions that I don't even have names for because they're so complex!
Then, having set up that Daphne is just playing games, or so it seems, you oh-so-casually throw out that she loves him and is vulnerable and lost and needs him. It's such an inversion of the brazenly flirtatious character that you set her up as who wants to make him jealous and kisses him in a way that bruises. It instantly deepens her character in a really clever way. Only to twist things once again when it turns out that actually is was Daphne who left Michael. Despite the fact that that was what the start had sort of lead me to believe with the way he was brooding, by the time it occurred, it had become so unlikely, with her being the one to admit to needing what they have, that it came as a real shock.
And then the final revelation; oh the final revelation. It was like a knife to the heart. The ugly brutality of it was so stark and even in just a thousand words I'd come to care for the characters so unexpected fully that it was truly horrific and gut-wrenching.
This is such an amazing roller-coaster ride of a story, Ariana, that I am just in total awe.
Author's Response: I don't even have words for how happy this review made me. I was so excited to see that you had left a review (because yours are always incredibly lovely) and I finished reading it with a smile on my face. I am so, so happy that you enjoyed this story - I know you have a particular fondness for the Ravenclaw boys so I'm glad that Michael's character met your expectations. I'll admit that the story surprised me too, because originally I had just planned to write an angsty, post-war relationship but throwing Daphne into the mix completely warped everything. She's such a complex, troubled character, and was the real reason for the final twist. I'm so happy that it worked for you, and that the twists weren't forced - I like surprises in stories, but not if they take away from the 'canon' of what's already happened, if that makes sense, and I was a little worried about throwing this one in there for that reason.
Again, thank you so incredibly much for this review. I don't think I can write a review response adequate enough to tell you how wonderful you are! xx Ariana