Okay, I've got a feeling already I'm going to hit my character limit on this so I'm going to dive right in!
Before I start in on the AoC, I've got a few technical matters I thought I'd mention first. There were a lot of comma splices in this chapter, like:
- She felt a gentle warmth spread through her heart, these boys really are great friends.
- He tried to remember what he had done when Lily cried over the summer, he hadn't had to do much of anything, really.
And while comma splices don't always generate run-on sentences, they did in a few places here:
- Remus had injured his wrist, and Belle was the most capable at Healing spells, she also hated being hovered over and after sending Lily and Sirius a few glares, they finally got the hint and fell back.
- The moment the players kicked off from the ground one thing became obvious Belle was quite possibly the worst Quidditch player in all of history.
- The Hall was calmer than usual, probably because it was nearly six, most students would have arrived an hour earlier when food first started popping up on the tables.
That second one isn't a comma splice since it doesn't have a comma, but it is a run-on sentence. Be weary of both. They really can make a story a lot harder to read than it needs to be.
Second, there were a few times where the punctuation at the end of your dialogue doesn't match the tag to follow. I noticed this in a few early chapters as well, which is why I thought it was worth mentioning here.
- "Lucius," the slithering voice jerked him from his thoughts and direct his attention to his Master.
- "Lily too, since I'm fairly certain she'll end up with that last name someday," Sirius smiled as he spoke, happy to see Belle laughing through the rest of her tears.
There should be a period after Lucius and someday. Only use a comma if what follows is DIRECTLY related to the words (ie "Lucius," the slithering voice said, jerking him from his... or "last name someday," Sirius said with a smile, happy to see..."). You can fudge it a bit if you use words like laughed or interrupted, since it's assumed the words are being said as a character laughs or are themselves an interruption. Otherwise you need the period.
Okay, now on to the chapter itself!
I'm continuing to love the DE bits. I can't say enough how much I like the dimension they add to the story. Obviously, the rest of the chapter isn't all fluff, but you really look at everything that follows in a whole new light...wondering which one of these people's families might be the target the DE are plotting against. Thinking back on chapter one, I also can't help but notice a big improvement in your description choices. The things you've gone into detail on really add something to the scene. I loved the eerie rhythm of the branches scrapping on against the window. You picked up on the things you knew would help set the mood and say something about the scene itself. That said, I'd be careful of falling into a pattern of setting your physical scene before actually diving into it, especially this far into the story. You did it here and then again with the next scene. As an opening to a story, it works really well -- like the panoramic opening shots of a movie that then slowly zooms in on the action - or when you're using it to transition through a large period of time, like the passing of the seasons. But it feels a little more out of place here, especially since the next scene picks up exactly where the previous chapter ended. Not right, not wrong. Just something to think about...
Polly is adorable. She's all sorts of cute and spunky. I remember being that age and how "old" seventeen/eighteen year olds seemed. One of my favorite parts of the whole chapter was when Sirius is all "Nice to meet you!" just as she starts to ask about Alice and Frank. Too perfect. You said in your review that Polly will have a role going forward, and I think this was a great introduction in light of that. I don't know what you have planned for her, but she "fit" into the overall chapter nicely. She had a reason for entering the scene, and a quick departure soon afterword, no one giving her more or less attention than she deserved in the moment.
The only CC I'd point out in this scene is the two paragraphs that start "It was widely known..." The information itself is fine and makes sense in terms of canon and all, but the paragraphs are just sort of floating out there. They don't belong to anyone. No one is thinking/saying/remembering them. The topic fits the scene but they should be tied to someone, ie: As captain, James knew it was up to him to decide what would happen with first and second year tryouts...
I liked the Belle/Sirius scene, and I really liked the use of the letter. It was an effective way of conveying a lot of information, which in dialogue form, might have sounded odd. And I like that you didn't put all the cards on the table by having Belle bare her soul to Sirius. It feels very natural this way. I also really like the way the two characters' lives have a bit of a parallel thing going. He's an outcast with his family; she's on her way to becoming one. And I really like the idea of the Potters sort of picking up all of James' semi-orphaned friends. It's sweet.
As for the Anamagi changes, I thought it all made for a great addition to the story. Really, anything that takes the time to make the magic feel more real is an A+ in my book. A lot of times it's skipped over altogether, which can work really well depending on the type of story. But with a piece like this, where it's meant to slip naturally into canon, I really that you take the time to remember and expand on all the little details associated with spells and potions and the like. That's part of the reason I like the HP books in the first place - all the little details. *Darn, I've exceed again, so...Wonderful chapter! Can't wait for the next.
Author's Response: Ahh I swear comma splices and myself are just attached to each other. But they drive me nuts, so thank you for pointing these ones out!
Yay for description improvement!! Watching the panoramic style setting really makes sense. I reread through the second section and definitely see that it wasn't needed in this one.
That's exactly what I was thinking of when I wrote this! When I was just starting junior high and the seniors of high school were practically completely grown up. Then you get there and learn you have ages to go until your even close to it :P. I'm really happy you got that feeling from Polly, it was exactly what I wanted. And that she fit into the scene. She definitely has a plan, other than what part she plays in the future Quidditch team. And I really wanted her introduced early so when that does take place, it makes the right kind of statement.
Hehe I love Sirius. And I liked giving Alice some attention in this. She's extremely intelligent, but still quiet and reserved. She has no desire to be a leader, and is content to just be part of something and part of a team. Those are some very strong qualities, and I wanted to show that Frank is by far the only bloke who knows that ;).
The fact that the Animagus change is skipped over so much really spurred this. I wanted to give it a reason. I'm writing a story about people who do it often, so just kind of glossing it felt sort of cowardly. I'm so happy that you like that and didn't think it sounded crazy.
And thank you again for another amazing review. I can't say how often you make my day. Not only because of your compliments, but with your CC. Because you point out things to make me a stronger *writer*... not things like... "I think that Belle would have reacted differently here." that kind of CC would be fine with a strong canon character. But Belle is *mine* and no one knows how she would react but me. What I'm trying to say, is a lot of reviewers try and CC in a way that makes it seem like they are trying to rewrite your story, but you put out the things that can help someone become a better writer. And it's awesome. I'm fangirling over here :wub: