This is gorgeous, Amanda. Very beautiful and vivid, full of imagery that simply takes my breath away. I say it time and again, but I swear your writing gets better with each piece you write.
I think my favorite paragraph has to be the one with the shadows, like the children she'll never have, dancing around her legs. It's just fantastic and it speaks a lot about Bellatrix as a character. I love how she married Rodolphus out of convenience and the line about them sharing nothing more than a name - god, that is just such a fantastic line that reveals so much about their relationship, or lack thereof.
Voldemort's entrance is nothing short of perfect. The loss of her composure says so much about Bellatrix's obsession with him and he plays off of that, knows her so well that he can manipulate her with a handsome face and sweet words. As you said, he trapped her and Voldemort is nothing if not adept at ensnaring people into his web of deceit. He plays her so well and she's all too willing to help him and keep him safe. It's a very interesting look at Bellatrix as a character.
I know you wanted me to comment on Voldemort's characterization and I'm sort of stuck here. I feel like his dialogue is a bit more sane than I expected? I don't know, Voldemort has always come across, to me at least, as slightly mad. So in that regard, the dialogue seems a bit too formal for me. On the other hand, it's easy to picture this handsome Voldemort spinning these lies and trapping Bellatrix with his pretty words and when I imagine him dancing with her and looking quite dapper, I can imagine him saying those lines. So you can see how I'm not quite sure how to address it.
Also, I was a little surprised that he actually told her about Horcruxes. I guess I was just under the impression that she knew she held items valuable to Voldemort but she wasn't quite sure what they were. However, I can see the draw she would have to that sort of magic and how desperate she'd be to learn that from him too.
One minor correction - curses and poisons she invents in her spare time. This jars a bit while reading just because everything else is written in past tense except for this line. So invents should be 'invented.'
Otherwise, this was very well-written and beautiful, as always. I'm sorry I couldn't be very constructive about Voldemort since I'm still torn on my thoughts about him. I think if you feel that he's characterized as he needs to be, like this charming man, than you should leave it as it is. You know your story better than anyone and how the characters need to act and what they need to say, so don't stress too much about it. You have time to figure things out if you need to.
I'm so excited to continue watching you grow as an author. Your maturing talent just shines through with each new piece you submit and I can't get over how much you've grown in just the last few months. You're fantastic. :)
Author's Response: Hey! I really appreciate you coming by.
I'm so happy that the imagery worked! I was afraid I was laying it on too thick, but if it all flows together well, that's great. That line where I compared the shadows to the children Bellatrix doesn't have is my favorite in the piece, and it's actually the first one I wrote. I built up and down from there. I'm very pleased that the eerie comparison worked for you.
I'm also happy that you liked Bellatrix. I've since gotten more crit back that suggests that I softened her too much, but I'm glad she worked as a kind of "victim" for you here. That's exactly how I meant for her to come across - easily manipulated into his web.
Thanks, especially, for taking a look at Voldemort for me. I think I was drawing on my portrayal of him in At Great Personal Risk and also that initial DH scene at Malfoy Manor when I designed him as the "femme fatale" here, all composure and charm. For me, the illusion of trust was part of that package, and I think that's why I had him tell her about the Horcruxes, though he didn't go so far as to actually let her in on how to create her own. Plus, we've seen that she continues to pine after him even after he refuses to show her attention, so I didn't figure that he'd be too worried about her betraying him. The Horcrux theme was kind of important for me to create the existential theme (again, for the sake of film noir), so I felt that it needed to be included. You've definitely given me a lot to think about and I really, really appreciate that.
Good point -- I struggled with that line, as neither one sounded quite right to me tense-wise, so I'll take a second look at it.
Thanks again! You've been helpful as always!