Eeee, this was so lovely! It's the perfect example of how beautiful simplicity can be; how intriguing and powerful and memorable a simple scene between two characters just -interacting- with one another can be. ^.^
I love the beginning. Honestly, the choice to use a canon line immediately to grab us, to choose something that we're already so familiar with, was just so brilliant of you. And then it continues to be incredibly similar throughout the entire first two paragraphs, not really shifting until we see Dudley there, standing surprised, afraid, and frozen on the stairway. I thought it was so clever of you to structure it that way because it really pulled me in, and it actually surprised me a bit to see Dudley still there, even though the summary clearly states that that was bound to happen!
And then as I continue to read, your wonderful talent as a writer starts to shine. Your writing style is so similar to JK Rowling's, which is probably what sold the story the most for me. Especially with Harry's character. I've only read so many Harry-centric fanfics that try so hard to capture him, but they always seem to be off by at least a bit. But your version of him and of this scene is so in character and so similar to JKR's style that I actually found myself surprised when I reached the end of the chapter only to see that just two of the lines were borrowed from the books. It felt so authentic! You managed to capture his inner monologue as if he were your character all along. Especially the bit about Hermione. I think the books themselves have a line similar to that, but I may be remembering incorrectly? Maybe your writing really is so close to JKR's that I'm just baffled as to what was canon and what was simply you! Ah, confused! LOL But that's what makes this story so wonderful! I'm just entirely impressed by your abilities as an author to have tricked me so thoroughly! :-p
Dudley is fantastic here, too. Obviously the story is from Harry's POV and so we don't get the same sort of first hand thoughts with Dudley's character, but the way Harry sees him is exactly how it felt in the books. But what I really loved about Dudley was his dialogue and the inner battle he had with himself -about- his dialogue. Like how he tiptoes around saying what's really on his mind, or saying something that was actually complimentary of Harry. He's fishing for information, but struggling so hard to not come right out and say that maybe he's worried, or disappointed, or sad or something! I mean, Harry's been in his life for so long, and now that Dudley is growing up, maybe he's finally realizing that his parents brainwashing him about Harry was wrong, and maybe he was hoping for a second chance? I never really thought that much about Dudley as a character, but this story just really made me curious about him and about the -why- he was changing, you know? It takes a truly talented author to inspire curiosity, and even more so when it's with a character that I've known for so long, but wasn't curious about until -you- wrote them. :-)
The dialogue and interactions between Harry and Dudley were spot on, in my opinion. I think you really captured both Dudley's desire to say what he felt needed to be said along with Harry's hesitancy, and especially the awkward tension that was almost palpable between the two. This isn't a humor piece, obviously, but that underlying layer of complete and utter awkward made me giggle and helped to keep the piece from becoming too heavy or too simple - so simple that it borders on boring. I feel like writing is such a balancing act, and you seem to have the perfect weight distribution to create unforgettable pieces.
I also think that you use description so well in this story. It's never over the top or layered on so heavily that I feel like I'm drowning in adjectives and tiny, insignificant details, but it's also not so simple that I question what's happening because you didn't provide enough information. And the little extra details that you do add in just make the story flow with perfect ease while also adding a light layer of humor between the two characters.
The finale of this piece is so hopeful and heartwarming, and I think that's why I enjoyed it so much, because it takes two people who made mistakes with each other their entire life and gave them a chance to repair, to start over and have a chance at a positive relationship. The ending is just so sweet, but because it's awkward, too, it feels completely plausible for the two to have said those things! And I especially loved the line about Harry planning to ask Hermione if it was possible for dementors to blow new souls into people, hahaha! It's kind of a really intriguing idea! You're so clever. ^.^ hehehe
I wonder if Dudley waddles during this time in the series? I remember that after he gets attacked by the dementors, he starts taking up wrestling and ends up losing a lot of weight. He's still large, but in a more muscular way, and I'm not sure he would waddle anymore. That's a tiny detail, though, haha ^.^
"Yes, probably and dementors are really the least of my concerns." - I would maybe shove a comma after probably? Also tiny detail! LOL
This is a bit random, but I really love that you didn't mark the lines that you borrowed from the book, but saved all of that information for the end. Most people either make a note at the start or they put a little asterisk in to mark it, but leaving yours completely unknown until the end seriously boggled my mind between "Wasn't this in the books? Or is this all her? I'm so intrigued and confused!" LOL
So I'm constantly hearing wonderful words about your writing and your stories, and now I understand why. You're truly talented and I sincerely hope it won't be too long before I'm back to read another of your stories. :-)
Please keep writing,
Author's Response: Wow, I just...wow. I'm dumbstruck by how awesome this review is. Thank you! A millions times, THANK YOU! :D
It always amazes me a bit when people respond so positively to this story, since it's so similar to canon. I actually almost didn't post it because I was afraid that it would be too much like the version we already have in DH.
I try really hard to make my characterizations as close to canon as possible, and it makes me really happy when people think that I've done that well. Some of the internal dialogue from Harry was definitely borrowed and paraphrased from canon (like the bit about asking Hermione about healing spells, and the 'did the dementors blow a new personality into you?' bit :P)
When I started writing this, I was convinced that a lot of Dudley's worry that Harry wasn't coming with them, was kind of Dudley being selfish. He hasn't had a very good track record with wizards (pigtail, ton-tongue toffee, attacked by glasses of mead, etc) and Harry had saved his life once. So, part of him wanted Harry along for protection. However, the more I was writing it, the more I realized that Dudley actually did care about Harry in some weird, twisted way.
Thanks again so very much for this review. It's incredible! Feel free to read and/or review my stories any time :P