Sorry about the really long delay between reviews. :( I feel so bad about it! It's been almost 2 weeks since you requested! I've been so busy and sleepy recently - I think its the un-English hot weather! But here I am, hopefully with a solid review to put your worries about this chapter (and the next) to rest.
I really, really liked this chapter. I think probably so far it's one of my favourites. Sure, it was shorter than the others but it was a length that complimented the rest of the chapters. It was like a breather, or, (Ok, I'm about to quote Gandalf) "the deep breath before the plunge". I don't think it came across as stunted or forced or anything - because I know you've mentioned that you found this one difficult to write. I guess if I really looked into it, I could sense a hesitation with continuing with the heavy plot lines, probably because of the things you've indicated - that the material wasn't fresh in your mind. Don't dwell on that though! An ordinary reader wouldn't pick up on that (because you won't have told them that in 'critique focuses' (; hehe) and instead it just feels as though the dynamics of this story are just very, very well timed.
I've said before that you do a wonderful job of consolidating the relationship between Avrille and Severus, but here you exceeded that by a million percent. This wasn't clouded with actions scenes or a menacing plot to switch to; instead you've given us a hefty, enjoyable and tangible snapshot of them together instead of it being a passing phrase to set the atmosphere (which in the context of the other chapters wasn't bad either!). It was very, very comforting and inviting, and yet coupled with the sense of foreboding Avrille feels at the end it was exciting too. Especially as I haven't read the story that precedes this, I found the mention of bits and bobs that have gone on before really helpful and insightful, such as about Severus' family. (I really do need to read it!!) It colours the story so much more because this isn't stand alone and brand new, in a way - its something returned to and repolished and picked up. But I think that's one thing that is so effective in this story - the characters have a background and history from their trials that went before this. Especially in this chapter, you drawing on that, on events that went before this, you've managed to keep the flow going and have tied this chapter in really well.
Agh, you attention to detail again astounds me so much! I wish I could write like you! There are so many parts of this, even if it's something one of them mentions, that makes me think you've covered every possibility for the way they might act and talk, and decided on the best one and made it match the story. The way Sev and Avrille interact is just amazing. And I love the way you write Char. Do you have children of your own? I would be so bad at writing toddler scenes, but you make Char seem so small and fun and curious, just like he would be.
Okay, so right now, take all of those worries you have about this chapter being inconsistent and put them in your hand. Gather them up from floating around your brain and squeeze them into a ball. Are you doing it? Oi - no, actually do it!! I don't care if you look silly. Got it? Ok. Then - chuck the ball into the nearest bin.
This chapter was brilliant, Renny! Honestly :) it flows on from the next one just as perfectly as I knew it would even before I clicked "Chapter Five - Avrille".
:D Laura x
Author's Response: You really need to stop apologizing about the "delay" in between reviews :) I have no right to complain (not that I want to at all!) when you're doing me such a huge favor offering your time and advice. It sounds like you're really busy this summer, so I appreciate it even more.
So I normally don't indulge in annoying net-speak, but OMG Gandalf quote! :) It's been too long since I've read LotR. I should remedy that. I'm so so so glad this chapter came across just as how you thought it did, as a breath before the plunge. I'm sure you can guess just from knowing stuff from the OotP book that some tough things are in store for my characters, and I definitely wanted them to have at least one solid happy memory to look back on when things get difficult. This was pretty much their last chance to do whatever they want before Umbridge descends on the school. I feel like her arrival at Hogwarts is really the moment where stuff starts to get bad in canon. Voldemort coming back a few months earlier was horrible of course, but Umbridge's presence at Hogwarts removes that sense of security a lot of people in the story had. Like Harry, Severus and Avrille both view Hogwarts as their home, not just a place of employment, so it's going to be even more difficult for Severus in particular to not even have that to come back to after dealing with Voldemort.
Ugh, so glad as well this chapter didn't read as forced at all. I felt like I was banging my head off of things trying to write it. I knew exactly what I wanted, but finding the words was so hard. Probably cause like I said, I have an 18 month old little boy. He's amazing for source material but leaves me sort of unable to do anything except lie on the couch and watch tv once he's in bed. I don't think I would have been able to write babies or toddlers (or the way moms feel) accurately before having a baby myself. It's one reason I'm so glad I waited four years after finishing the last story to start this one. It worked out so coincidentally (random fact, the date used to calculate my due date ended up being Avrille's birthday and I was due on Severus's birthday! WEIRD!) If you ever want any insight into the toddler mind, let me know ;) I actually ended up not exaggerating too much when I wrote Char likes to climb bookcases *face palm*
As far as details, thank goodness for the internet. I've never been to England sadly, so I had no idea what the Hampshire coast would look like. Hopefully it will come across as realistic in the slight chance anyone from the area ever reads that :) I always really liked that property I thought up for Severus's family to have owned, so it was fun to expand it a bit.
Ok, doubts have been binned. Now I just need to get in a writing mood again. The chapter after this one got written in less than two weeks, so I got sort of paralyzed by how fast that was and haven't even started the next one. I feel like I can move forward now, even if it's slow and slightly torturous to me like this chapter :)
Thanks again so incredibly much, Laura. It helped me immensely to have an objective review of this chapter. I hope you like the next one (and aren't too offended if you're a Sirius fan). If you don't mind in the future, I'll keep putting in for a review when I get a chapter done. Your feedback has been invaluable! Truly! ~Renny