I am sure I've said this before but even trying to write a relatively constructive review for you is almost impossibly difficult, so I apologise now for any incoherency or mindless rambling later on.
You mentioned being unsure about your style - I really don't think you have anything at all to worry about. Everything you write is so eloquent, sophisticated and elegant and that is undoubtedly applicable to this. It flows so effortlessly and beautifully and it's so obviously you because of how accurate it is, if that makes sense? It's flawless; completely flawless.
Dumbledore's characterisation was a bit of a shock, actually, and yet highly believable. The frustration that comes with his inability to answer that question is so vivid and understandable, and I think it was a way of making him a little more universal. Everyone has had that moment where they see a question and no matter how much they claw at their brain, the answer just doesn't appear, and to see that applied to Dumbledore really humanises him.
That wasn't really the shocking part, though. It was his feelings towards his family, namely his sister. I can't remember off the top of my head how Aberforth describes his brother's relationship with Arianna in canon but this was so scarily believable. The emotional distance that Albus has from his sister, in that wish that she'd been sent away, was heartbreaking. His selfishness gives him a brilliant flaw and the unselfishness that counteracts that is marred by the fact that he is mourning (in a way) the loss of his own life. It creates a really interesting take on him, and one which is thoroughly believable.
Also, Aberforth stuck out greatly. He contrasts so wonderfully against his brother and I did feel far more sorry for him than for Albus. To see him so tender was really different to that angrier, more emotionally unstable side we saw in DH and I much preferred this take on him, in all honesty.
This is absolutely wonderful and I see no reason at all for you to doubt yourself with it. It's fantastic.
Author's Response: Eek! Super long, but super amazing. Thanks for this stunning review, Rachel! I really appreciate it. ^_^
A flawless flowing style? That is excellent news and a fantastic compliment from you. When I read these things over, they sound so strange in my head and I keep feeling the need to edit and revise - that's why I'm continuously unsure of how it sounds.
It was awkward writing Dumbledore like this, so cold and selfish - it makes me wonder how he could have been a Gryffindor now that I think about it. But he had to be to care so little for his siblings and desire so much power for himself and Grindlewald. Probably the frustration you mention increased his harshness, making him even worse than usual. He couldn't stand being wrong or forgetting something - his personal standards were just too high.
There were two options for how Dumbledore would act toward his sister - with pity and love, or with bitterness and almost jealousy. With the latter, he could see Arianna as the cause of his family's problems, being the reason his father was sent to Azkaban. Their mother would also spend a lot of time with Arianna, and probably none with her sons. Only once she was gone did he realize just how much distance he'd placed between himself and her, especially knowing that he could have been the one to kill her. It was tempting to actually write about that moment, and I still may. ;)
I'm glad that Aberforth was a strong enough presence in this. I was worried that Albus would be too overwhelming and his brother would only appear as a dim shadow. It's interesting to think about how much the brothers changed as they grew older - Albus becomes more tender, while Aberforth more bitter. It's like they changed places somewhere in between.
Thank you again for this review! It's wonderful to hear your opinions on things - this review in particular has really got me thinking. :D