SUSAN! Firstly Happy New Year and I hope you're well. Secondly ahh I adored this. It was absolutely not what I expected from hearing that you'd written a James/Lily one-shot. This reminds me of... I think it was The Third Man, or whichever of your other stories that examined the pedestal James puts Lily on? I'm pretty sure it was The Third Man but my memory is really awful so I may be wrong but anyway -- you know how hard it is to find Lily/James stuff that transcends trope. And I don't think I've read anything that ends on such a note as this and I love it.
I see that some reviewers have said that this needs more but I don't think so at all. I think it's such an innovative take on Lily and on James. James as a privileged but talented wizard isn't rare, but making him so naive (and so perceptive, evidently) and so cut to the quick by Lily's constant evisceration of him, whether verbal or otherwise, has never been done with this level of expertise and empathy. It's never examined, but as Sarah said, it couldn't have been easy for James to put himself out there and constantly get rejected, and his pain is palpable that it makes my heart twist a little, a little sick.
And Lily, of course, navigating the spaces between one life and another, between boys, her struggle for the success canon tells us came to her almost as easily as it came to James -- never better. Perhaps one of my favorite Lily portrayals ever. I'm just constantly impressed by what she said and amazed by her brusqueness; you see Lily being harsh to James all the time, but it never cuts as bitterly as you did it here.
Tbh, though, I have a feeling that most of my praise is colored by how floored I was by the ending, because that was where things really picked up for me. James walking away in the middle of what we as readers and devourers of other pop culture and literature and stuff are conditioned to believe is a ~significant moment~ was something I've never seen before and it elevated the whole thing, which was remarkable to begin with but not something supremely lazy me felt like reviewing immediately, to something really super remarkable. (Wow, I'm eloquent. Very out of practice in reading and reviewing so blargh please forgive me!) It makes me look at everything in a different light, in a much darker light than the one I went into the fic expecting. Just. ack I really liked this. After all this time you never fail to bring something new to these parts and I love, love seeing it.
Author's Response: Gubby! It's always a pleasure to receive one of your reviews! Thank you very much for reading this story, too. It does build from "The Third Man" in its examination of Lily, and a bit also from "Seasons of Discontent", though that Lily was quite a lot darker. In "Genius" I think I've finally found a characterization of Lily that feels right - there's something far more natural about her here that I've not been able to capture in any other story. It probably means that I'll never be able to write about her again, haha (not that it'd be a bad thing to stop writing about her - she appears in half of my one-shots XD).
I can't even start to describe how happy your compliments have made me. I can't even explain how this version of Lily came to be, but it's fantastic that you like how she turned out in this story. There had to be something that brought them together, yet I've never been satisfied with the way I've seen it done (or done it myself). Both characters underwent a significant change within themselves, whether willingly or not is never certain on Lily's side. If James had remained, it would never work between them. He had to leave in order for Lily to experience her epiphany, to realize that she has misread him. This is also why I never explain why he had drunk himself into a stupor - it might be about Lily, it might be about something else entirely. What is important is how Lily reads the situation and reacts to it. It goes back to the way in which she builds him up onto a pedestal while she observes him at work. Is he really the careless genius she has believed him to be? Probably not. But for some reason, she places him on the opposite side of the spectrum from herself. It is in many ways a safeguard, but from what? I wouldn't blame her for being wary of any pureblood who came her way. She's already in a delicate state after both Petunia and Snape have betrayed her. There's a lot going on in Lily's mind, her emotions a whirl of uncertainty. Perhaps that's what makes her so interesting in this story.
I hadn't realized how much the story was focused on her. It should have been obvious, but I distracted myself but thinking of this as a "pre-relationship" story rather than a character study. We have to read between the lines to find James, but maybe that's always been the case. He "rescued" Snape from werewolf!Remus for a reason; Lily fell in love with him for a reason. There's a lot that one could do with James - I imagine that a sheltered, well-loved young wizard would be slightly naive. How much of his behaviour in the books is bravado, I have no idea - maybe more than we think.
It's absolutely wonderful that you liked the ending. It needed to be sharp, something to make the story memorable, if frustrating for some readers. Like you've said, it makes the story feel darker - perhaps deeper or more intense. I never thought the story would end in this way - it was supposed to be a fluffy story... - but it forces Lily into a position that she can't avoid any longer. It's the kind of ending that I love to find when reading stories.
Thank you again, Gubby! â¥