So I've been meaning to pop over here again ever since the Review Swap. I'm sorry I'm too late to help you hit 800, but actually, I kind of like being the first to launch you toward 900... assuming no one beats me to it while I'm writing this (Oh, the pains of being a long-winded reviewer!).
The opening to this chapter was absolutely phenomenal. You set the scene and the mood without benefit of any real physical description. That takes real skill; I mean it. A lot of authors fall into the trap of describing everything but saying nothing. Not here. This was brilliantly done.
I know I mentioned this in another review but I think you've nailed an important part of Harry's character that often gets overlooked: his dry wit. Without it, it's just not the Harry from the books, even if he's supposed to be many, many decades past adolescence here. My favorite Harry line:
-- He was the perfect tool for whoever had orchestrated it all, Harry reasoned. Young, ambitious and stupid.
I also really liked the part where you mentioned the family putting their grieving on hold to present a united front. I thought it really captured both what kind of family they are and what a family in this situation must be going through. It was poignant and incredibly true to life.
I did notice one small thing in the trial scene:
-- He had practiced for two days to deliver his closing argument, and he took a second to quickly go over the points in his mind.
You moved into Percy's POV here. Since you didn't have any other POV changes, I thought this might have been an unintentional slip...?
I had a suspicion it was Percy who killed Stoops, but only because of your review reply when I commented on Percy's skirt chasing. But it was still a shocking revelation and very well executed. I thought Percy's dialogue in the forest scene was fantastic. My favorite line was: The man who killed Fred turned his back on me and all I could think to do was stun him. Wow, what a visual, in both an emotional and literal sense. A perfect detail to both bring that night into sharp relief and compare it to how far he was come since.
Of course, the best line of the whole chapter for me came at the end: He doesnít need Father Christmas over there gifting him any more Herculean tasks. Dumbledore is the worst sort of Santa, isn't he? He gives you missions and memories and riddles and horcruxes when all you really want is a Weasley sweater for Christmas.
So, great introduction of the back story. Solid writing. Nice plot advancement. All in all, I'd say this was a keeper. I'll try and pop back for another review soon...assuming you don't mind, that is ;)
Author's Response: Hi, there! I'm so pleased to see you back again!
At the start of the chapter, I tried to focus on the things that I thought were most important to defining the mood and the gravity of the situation the trio was facing. I'm glad that worked well for you.
At this particular moment in his life, I tend to think that jaded, cynical, dry wit is the only kind that Harry has left. His wife has been murdered and he's been falsely accused, along with his two best friends, of murdering her killer. He's in a pretty dark, awful place. Which is sort of old hat for him, since he spent most of the first 18 years of his life in dark, awful places. So I guess it fits well.
The Weasleys are probably the ultimate "circle the wagons" family when it comes to dealing with hardship and tragedy. Goodness knows they've had enough practice. :(
Eh, I see what you're saying about slipping into Percy's PoV. I could definitely tweak that a bit to make it obvious that it's Harry's perception of what Percy's doing.
Wow. I think you're the first reviewer who figured that out before Percy drops the bomb. Props to you! Percy is very distraught about what he's done, so I'm glad that his emotional state came through clearly.
I really, really loved the idea of magical portraits from the books, so I've tried to make good use of them in CoB. And Dumbledore is a horrible Santa. This probably isn't a good spot to completely run through my personal rant on what a lousy mentor he really was to Harry. Suffice it to say that by the end of Deathly Hallows, I felt very ambiguous about him.
I'm so pleased that you liked the chapter and thank you for all of the kind words. I look forward to hearing from you again!