Hello, again! I'm back for another fascinating peek into the lives of Helena and Venn.
I thought Helena was a really good choice for the narrative voice of this chapter. She seems so intrigued by Venn. Not smitten. Not swept off of her feet. It's definitely not love at first sight, but none of those things would be consistent with her character. She's too intellectual for that. So her interest came off as very genuine.
You picked a really good chapter title for this, I think. Each of these awkward, introverted young people seemed to be able to be able to see elements of themselves as they sort of admired the other one from a distance. Their small similarities -- their love of books, the outdoors and solitude -- gave them just enough hope to gloss over some of the glaring differences -- Venn's dismissive attitude toward peasants and elves, Helena's love of dancing and Venn's materialism.
I really loved the look you gave us into the inaugural class of Hogwarts. You built so much gradualism into your descriptions, which made all the sense in the world. It doesn't make much sense to assume that the school opened with four well-defined houses and a full faculty on day 1. Instead, it felt more like Plato's Academy. A place where learned men and women conversed with one another and passed on their knowledge to a select group of students. But by Venn and Helena's seventh year, the groundwork had been laid and more formal structures were taking root. It was sad to see that many of the students did not make it to their graduation, but entirely realistic based on the time period.
The progression of events from the meal to the dancing felt somewhat Victorian in its elegance and simplicity. The conversation between Helena and Venn as they dance had so many highs and lows, it was really interesting. She stumbles a bit over his father's death, but the idea that he would barely recall her from among a Hogwarts class of fewer than 30 doesn't speak well for his attention to the world around him. He definitely doesn't flatter her, which actually seems to work to his advantage.
It's strange, after reading so many tales of "true love conquering all" in the HP fandom, to see two individuals whose primary concern in seeking a spouse seems to be finding somebody who shares their desire for space and won't bother them too much. Yet that seems to be exactly what Venn and Helena see in one another. I love this story for being so unconventional in so many respects. Your attention to historic detail is also really amazing. I feel like I learn a bit of history in every chapter.
I have to admit that I'm finding it hard to even guess where you're planning to take the story from here. Helena and Venn each have exogenous reasons to want to be together. He covets his father's crown and she covets her mother's diadem. I think they both desire freedom from the constant prodding of their relatives to get married, and both of them see a potential partner who meets the physical criteria of attractiveness and will give them the emotional space they want. It's a little hard to imagine how we'll get from here to Helena's flight to Eastern Europe and Venn's jealous rage that leads to her death. But I'm looking forward to finding out!
Author's Response: Hi Dan! I'm glad you returned once again :)
I'm happy you think the chapter title fits. I really wanted this chapter to be about Helena and Venn discovering one another--as you mentioned, that includes both the good and the bad, although two young people falling in love are much more likely to notice one and ignore the other, at least for now! Helena's definitely a bit reserved, not quite ready to throw herself into Venn's arms just yet, but as you can see there at the end, she's hopeful. Venn is also cautious in his own way, I think.
I'm pleased to hear that you like how I structured the beginning of Hogwarts. I was going for a Plato's Academy-like feel, as you said, something where only those known personally by the Founders would be invited. As you'll see in the chapters to come, some of the Founders are ready to expand more and more, and others are a bit more reluctant.
It's great that the stiff sort of Victorian atmosphere at the gathering described here worked for you, too! Neither Venn nor Helena are quite ready to jump into courtship yet, despite their parents' cautious hopes for them. However, who knows what feelings will emerge as they get to know one another?
Oh, and I'm happy you like the historical details. I didn't want them to weigh the chapter down too much, but I also felt like putting in the extra effort to make this at least mostly accurate was worth it. It's a unique experience that can come with this era.
Thanks for another wonderful review!