Wow. I'm a bit speechless here. I have a hundred things I'd love to say about this story, but that would require finding the words to say them.
I guess I can talk about the repetition, the reason I'm here in the first place. That was incredible. The glass cage image prevailed throughout the whole story, though it built on itself slowly, so it wasn't distracting or confusing, just another detail until I realized how often I'd seen it. I think these were my two favorite references, because they said so much in so few words:
"...since she had locked her heart in its tiny glass cage, still visible so that she would always know of her weakness," and "But rules were not glass; they did not shatter like her nerves, nor break like her heart."
The first one rings so, so true. Everyone feels like love is a weakness at some point, I think, that it's making you too fragile, so the glass idea fit that beautifully. As for the second one, I thought that was interesting, because though it made sense, many would say the opposite. To McGonagall rules are not breakable, and I see that. But many would say rules are there for the breaking as well. ;)
What else? Well, there was just this idea of her two loves, sort of floating around one another. I don't know the updated version of McGonagall's story (waiting for Pottermore to open to the public to get into that...), so though I don't think I had all the pieces here, I didn't really feel like I needed them. I watched her complicated feelings for this other man, and I saw the simpler ones she'd had for Dumbledore all along, and the beautiful thing is it's all completely canon! Got to love that.
And then there was how absolutely sad this story was. You spun this lovely history of two people, a sort of love that's not there for all to see but truer than many other loves, and then at the end you have to remind us that Dumbledore's dead. You chose your details well and your moments better, because I always felt like the story was moving forward, in a way, even though it jumped around in time. That's hard to do. But the end really hit home.
I was going to end the review there... but then I saw the notes I'd jotted down while reading this, because I knew I wouldn't have time to review it the same day. I remembered I wanted to point out that I loved the idea of them mirroring each other. That thread running through the story was beautiful as well.
This is far too long, isn't it? That seems to keep happening these days, I think I'm rambling more and more as time goes by. I'll just end on the same general note I end on in every review I leave you, that I am in awe. Thanks for entering this in the challenge!
Author's Response: First of all, thank you for the challenge! I'd begun writing this at the end of December (originally for the writer's duel, but the muse wasn't taking to this story), and when I picked it up again, I needed a bump in the right direction - your challenge was the perfect one. I love being able to include consistent elements - either in the style or an object/image that keeps reappearing - and it was fun to highlight that rather than keep it subtle (and hope that no one complains, because some do).
Also thank you for this amazing review! I'm sorry to have taken so long to respond to it, but I've been astounded by the reactions to this story. I wanted to write something moving, a tear-jerker, but I didn't expect it to become as deep a story as it did. A lot of this depth did come from adding the repetition, which helped give the story more focus - it wasn't just the glass lamp that carried through, but the whole idea of glass - the cage, the shattered heart, things being breakable. You've described it all much better than I ever could - fragility! I never thought of using that word for some reason, but it describes everything in this story perfectly. The one thing that isn't fragile is their relationship - even though they're both shattered and damaged, together, they find strength in their friendship (which isn't even the right word for what it really is, but it will have to do). This relationship is strong enough to continue on after his death - he never really leaves because, like Harry was told, the loved one keeps living in one's heart (but Dumbledore also possesses a pretty powerful presence, which helps :P).
I'm glad to hear that the structure still had the story moving forward for all that it jumped around (mostly moving back in time - I originally meant it to be straight back, but then the parts fit together better this way - I still think of it as a form of reverse chronology).
I don't know if my response has made any sense, but know that I'm incredibly happy that you liked this story. I never expected it to win the challenge - do have done so means a lot and has done wonders for my confidence levels. Thank you very much! ^_^