(Fair warning. I get a bit carried away towards the end of this one!)
Hello again, my dear. I'm back for round twelve (12!!). This was a really sweet and funny chapter. It was definitely a change of pace from the last few, but not in a negative way or because it seemed to drag at any point. It's fun to be reminded that these are kids (or at least teenagers), especially in light of everything that was discussed with the Order in the last chapter. They may be choosing sides in an upcoming war, but they still have family problems, relationship dramas, the need for extra study time, and a desire to just have fun once in a while.
You mentioned a couple of things in your request, but I'm going to hit on the characterizations first. My short answer is that I'm really enjoying the way all your characters are developing. I see them growing, but at the same time, still true to who they were in chapter one. I think you've relaxed (is that the right word?) them a bit since the start. Of course, the story began on a very emotional high note and people behave differently under stress. But to me, at least, it feels like maybe the characters are coming out more naturally for you now? Like you don't have to try so hard to give the audience a certain impression of who or what kind of people James, Lily, and the gang are. Maybe that's not actually true on your end, but it reads that way to me -- like you've really grown to know your characters more and more with each passing chapter.
James stole the show for me in the opening scene in terms of characterization. His prank, if you want to call it that, was very in character. As was his sort of laid-back response to the anger it provoked. As the chapter progressed, I started to notice too how strong the voices of the other characters had become. Sirius' line... I don't see why not. The Blacks make up loads of things to make themselves seem more interesting... was perfect. As was Belle's: Not particularly. I am rather fascinating to pay attention to.
Going back to the other things you mentioned. No, I didn't think there was too much dialogue at all. There are a lot of people in some of these scenes, and for the most part, you keep each individual line of dialogue relatively short. No major monologues, which can really slow down a scene. I also had no trouble telling who was saying what, so if you haven't already edited your tags, I really don't think you need to.
On a sort of related point, I'd suggest being on the lookout for ways to sharpen your transitions, some of it related to the dialogue, some not. Here are a few examples of spots where I thought it could be a bit cleaner.
This first one is towards the middle of the chapter. Lily is having some internal thoughts, and then there is this bit:
-- Her mind halfway rejoined the conversation after another few moments and she was able to figure out right away that Alrek was asking the group about some of the spells they were learning. And of course Remus was the one answering his question.
It feels a little heavy-handed, like you the author are thinking, "oops, better fill me readers in on what's happening so this next part makes sense." Of course, you DO need to do that very exact thing, but maybe look for ways to be a bit more subtle with it. Maybe something like:
By the time Lily returned her attention to her friends, the conversation had already moved on to a new topic.
"Lily's really the best with Potions, though," Remus was explaining to Alrek, who seemed unusually interested in what Remus had to say...
Also, the use of the * transition was a little odd for me, partly because you usually use page breaks, but also, it didn't really feel like you moved as smoothly as you could into the next scene. I'm having a hard time explaining what exactly didn't feel right here, so I'm going to just post another possible alternative. I don't mean it to suggest that the way I'm writing it is better. It's only because I can't think of another way to say what I mean.
"We'll take nine butterbeers, please," Remus said to the barmaid as James and Sirius pushed a table next to a booth and added enough chairs for the group to sit.
They'd just arrived in Hogsmeade when they spotted Alrek waiting for them at the entrance to town. The gang had made a beeline for The Three Brooksticks, making quite a show of it as they tried to find a spot big enough to accommodate their large party. Poor Peter, who Lily knew really hated having to make conversation with new people, had ended up wedged between Sirius and Alrek.
"Vell I suppose that vill taste enjoyable.
I guess maybe I'm suggesting trying to set your scene a bit more. I love the tactic of starting off with a line of dialogue and then backtracking, but maybe doing it sooner here? Also, there was a lot of placing people in their seats again, which I know I mentioned in another chapter. The bit about Peter was a nice touch, since it spoke to his character, but maybe the rest wasn't so much needed...?
All right, that's enough out of me for one day. I hope I didn't get too carried away with the suggestions. I know you've said before that you don't like it so much when people try to re-write your story through reviews, which wasn't my goal here. The content is lovely. I was mostly just trying to get at a few technical things.
See, it's getting harder the farther I get in the story because your writing is improving so much. I have to dig down deep to find areas to offer CC.
Until next time :D
Author's Response: First of all, I love your long reviews you crazy girl!!
You absolutely hit the nail on the head with what you said about me relaxing on their characterizations. It feels like I'm trying to find the words to use/things to do to bring out who they are less and less, and their just doing that more. I always had a hard time giving James and Sirius different personalities, because they are a lot alike, but somewhere along the way they really managed to carve themselves out. The fact that it feels like I've grown to know my characters more is such a huge compliment ♥
So that part about the scene transition with Lily, that's pretty much identical to what I was thinking. hahahaah. "Oh yeah, we're in the middle of Hogsmeade and I need to get Lily back into real world and out of her head.." thank you so much for mentioning an alternative way to transition that, because this paragraph was one that always annoyed me.
This entire Three Broomstick section was one of those that you kind of go, 'well, whatever,' because you know it isn't what you want but you just can't get it tweaked enough. And I could just hug you for getting my wheels spinning with it, because like I said it's been one that I was always unhappy with. I'll absolutely go back later today and rework a few things, thank you ♥
It doesn't seem at all like you were trying to re-write this through reviews! You suggested alternatives to a few parts that do feel very rough, which was awesome of you because you could have just said that they feel rough and left it at that -- and I'd still be left trying to figure out how to change it. My thing is when people say things like, "I don't think they would have went into Three Broomsticks first, it would have made more sense for them to go into Zonkos because the boys all love pranks.." those kinds of comments that have nothing to do with the actual story, just a personal preference on a store that the reader would have had them go into first.. if that makes sense. I've only had one or two reviewers leave those kinds of things, and that was easy enough to fix by not re-requesting ;). But yeah, you've never made me feel like you're trying to rewrite my story and every bit of CC you've offered throughout the last 12!! chapters has been more than helpful ♥
I'm so happy you see improvements in my writing as the chapters go by. You have no idea how often I go through your reviews to try and pinpoint what I still need to work more on, you've been so much help ♥
I AM SO EXCITED AND SO NERVOUS TO SEE WHAT YOU THINK OF THE NEXT CHAPTER. IT'S SUCH A SCARY ONE FOR ME.