Pardon in advance if this isn't completely coherent. This is a lot of story to take in in the span of an hour (though I mean that in the most positive way possible). I did a quick read through of the first eight chapters just so I would know what was going on, and then a careful read of chapters nine and ten. You said on the forums you're looking for input on how to structure the end of the story, so I'll try and tailor my feedback with that in mind.
First, I have to say, this story is kind of amazing. And not just amazing as far as fanfiction goes, but really and truly amazing. I've paid for dozens of books not half as interesting and intriguing as this is. It's this odd and wonderful mix of Bronte meets Doctor Who. Lily is all at once the brave heroine Jane, the conflicted, less than whole Rochester, and the crazy, doomed wife Bertha.
Focusing in on chapter nine, this was an incredibly moving chapter. When the chapter opened, I was actually thinking it seemed like a good place to end the story. Lily had traveled Moody's life and now the crazy women in the portrait was going to "wrap things up" by explaining to Lily and the audience what the cabinet was and why she could control it. Then, of course, the story took a left turn (at least for me. I'm sure there were more hints in previous chapters but I may have missed them in my haste). Lily was now off to fill a noble destiny: to be with Moody when he died. How sad and lovely and poetic. Again, I'm thinking, good place to end. Tack on a prologue and you're set to go.
Then I get to chapter ten. Once again I'm thinking, we are ready for a wrap up. Lily will reflect on how she is a better person for knowing Moody, even briefly, and the story ends on a somber but introspective and hopeful note as Lily thinks on how she - handicapped as she is - can do great things. Just like Moody, with his missing leg and one good eye. But of course, another left turn. Lily IS the crazy women in the portrait and now must find her back to Moody to be his wife.
Wow, what a ride.
Based on all this, I'm trying to think of helpful suggestions on structuring the ending. I think, after two false (though highly effective) starts, the story does now feel like it's ready to end. The further away we get from the time travel, the more it diminishes that part of the story. I think the next chapter should be THE big one. Where Lily finds out how to be master of the cabinet and everything she has to do to reach the life she wants to live. I think you mentioned there were two more chapters left and you weren't sure where to divide them...? Not knowing, of course, what you've written/plan to write, if I was sketching this on paper, I'd say the next chapter ends with Lily reaching the point of full understanding - where she comes to terms with who she is, how to get back in time, and what leaving the present will mean for her current life. The last chapter would then be the final physical steps that get her into Moody's arms. It would be perfectly poetic if somehow both their injuries played into it...It's something that makes them different from others but similar to each other and it would be fitting to see that physically bring them together in the end. But that's just an aside really.
I think you hit the nail on the head as far as the "moral of the story" in chapter nine with these two lines:
For what was a person but their time? The times they failed. The times they succeeded. All action, all feeling, was based on time.
The same attic, the same cabinet, but not the same Lily Potter. No. She was gone forever.
To me, however you structure the ending, it should totally tie back into this. Lily does not start this story a happy person. Obviously, a big part of that is because she feels less than whole. As a reader, I want her as a character to see beyond that. To see that the bad parts of her life have made her who she is, have led her to this point - to Moody. Only by becoming MORE disfigured, by traveling further down a bad road, can she find her "time" of happiness. Moody loves everything Lily will become. She must learn to love everything she is right now.
I have NO idea if any of this is helpful or was in any way what you were looking for. I've never done this kind of review before and I may be so off base on how you plan to end the story that none of the above is of any use to you. Should that be the case, then just take away that this is an AMAZING piece and you've got a new reader who is anxious to see how you bring it all to a close.
Author's Response: Thank you very much for coming to read and review this story - it was a great surprise and honour to have a staff member take the time out to help me finish off this story. Like I mentioned in the comment, you discussed ideas that I'd been thinking over myself, but I wasn't sure whether they would work - it was fantastic to get a second opinion and it's made me feel a lot more confident that I can actually finish this story and do so successfully. :)
Oh my gosh, you've got it in a nutshell! The story is very much Doctor Who and Jane Eyre put together, just as Lily is a strange combination of the courageous Jane, mad Bertha, and maimed Rochester. I didn't mean at first for her to be all three, merely a combination of Jane and Bertha (both the love-object and the despised, monstrous wife, which is why they're forbidden from seeing one another until Lily possesses all the necessary knowledge), but throughout the story she is physically marked, damaged in body and mind - and those marks are eerily similar to those of Rochester's with the leg and now the scars. Creepy. These unintentional things are great to find, though - I'm glad when readers find them out! :D
It is getting close to the wrap up. It's strange how many ways this story could end - like you mentioned how the portrait could just explain things and bam, there's the end. Then there's these chapters back in her own time - again, the story could just stop there. But I do want to try and give a happy ending of sorts, one that follows through the romantic aspects of this story. I hope that I'm not dragging it along by doing so, yet it's funny because I keep thinking that I'm wrapping things up too quickly. XD Ending this story is hard, not because I don't know what to do, but because I've enjoyed writing it too much.
Thank you SO MUCH for your suggestions for the final two chapters. It made a big difference to get another opinion and visualize the conclusion from an alternate point of view. I made the next chapter end a little vaguely, though it's pretty obvious what she's going to do - there are parts of the story that I just don't want to explicitly relate (does she say goodbye to her parents? does she pack before she goes? does she just leave immediately? that sort of thing), all of which is left up to the reader's imagination.
What your review inspired me to do was make the explanation of the time travel more important - somehow, Lily has to find out how all of this was possible. There had to be someone behind her journey, and that question needed to be answered... yet in my original plan, I didn't include it. The other major thing was the necessity of having Lily think over her future - what does she want to do, how can she do it, and will she choose to live out her future in the past? I thought a lot about this after reading your review, and it added a lot of meat to the next chapter, really fleshing out Lily's character and her intentions in a way that wouldn't have otherwise happened.
YES! That would be a perfect way of tying the story together! I was planning on remarking on the similarities of their injuries - he returns from the war with the magic eye, and therefore both of their faces are scarred (ideally, in a mirror image, but I have to recheck my details). It will help unite them at the end. What I didn't think about was that Lily should use that to see beyond her own disfigurement and even find the beauty in it. That's perfect! ^_^
This was extremely helpful! I'm writing the last chapter now and I've come back to this review for reference a few times - it puts the pieces more firmly together in my mind. I will finish this story! It'll be awesome! And I'll owe a lot of it to you. Thank you!