I've got to say, I don't know why you were nervous about this chapter. You know I love your Bellatrix, so I was sold on this from the start. Everything after that was just going to be the cherry on top of this very evil sundae.
As you can already guess, I really loved the opening scene. It was fun to spend a few more minutes with the "others." Of course, we knew Alrek was up to something, but it was great to see it finally confirmed, and to see how deeply involved he is in what's going on. And I loved the references to both Snape and the use (or lack thereof) of the Vanishing Cabinets. You always think to include these little canon details that I wouldn't have noticed were missing, but really enrich the story with their inclusion. I mean, of course, the cabinets! They were all the rage during the first war. It makes sense he'd have asked about why they didn't use one.
You mentioned Voldemort's motivation for going after James and Lily, and I think you hit the nail on the head when you said we'll probably never really know for sure. And even if we did, it might not be all that logical. He clearly isn't the most rational villain every, or he wouldn't have allowed himself to be so singularly focused on Harry. But I do think you made a good argument for at least one reason he might have singled them out, especially while they are still so young and seemingly a non-threat. The best answer to me was what Bellatrix said on the matter: Enough about why. Your mission is not to analyze the Dark Lord's orders. I imagine more of the Death Eaters were focused on (a) establishing a society where they could assume their rightful place at the top, and (b) not winding up dead themselves. If Voldemort says a few teenagers need killed in the process, what's it to them, really?
Okay, enough about all that. On to the meat of the chapter!
First, I'll say up front, I VERY much liked the way you mixed the memories in with the dialogue. If you weren't going to go them same route as you did with Sirius's accident, it was really almost a must here. Otherwise, you would have been looking at an incredibly long monologue. Personally, I prefer this style to a full-on flashback. I don't "know" these other characters from Belle's past, so having them suddenly pop up in a flashback I think might have diminished the impact of what Belle was saying. It's not only about what happened to her that's important. It's this moment, opening up and sharing it with her friends that is part of the emotion of the scene, something you'd lose in a flash to the past. Using these sorts of lucid memories breaks up the actual talking, but it also gives the reader the sense that all of this is still very raw for Belle. She can still feel those moments, not just remember them. To me, at least, I didn't think they broke up the flow one little bit.
Gah! You're going to make me comment on the emotions, aren't you? Okay, fine. I'll give it a go, but no promises it will make any sense.
The most emotional part of her story for me really wasn't Belle's expulsion from the family, or even her losing the baby, but Christophe's denial that they'd ever been intimate. For me, that was the real knife through the heart. I don't know if that's just my personal take on the situation, but teenagers love hard sometimes, and I can imagine Belle "dealing" with the rest, even the rejection by her family. But that sort of disownment by him is gut wrenching. Of course, even if he'd stayed by her side, there wasn't going to be a happy ending here, but how does someone walk away from that sort of betrayal and ever trust again? It also felt like one of the most authentic reactions to the situation I've seen portrayed on this site in a long time. People seem to like to imagine that these young boys would step up to the task, do the right thing, when this probably a lot closer to the reality of it all.
Phew! Okay, I gave it a shot there, but once I get all the feels going, I know that's my cue to jet. Though I just realized, I didn't really offer you any CC. I guess I'll just have to double-nitpick next time to make up for it :P
Author's Response: Ahhh. What am I supposed to do? I just want to fail around all bubbly. That's all. I'm way past cloud nine. I have to go to the gym as soon as I finish responding to this, and this review may be enough to get me through without wanting to throw a weight at someone.
I'm copy and pasting your review into a pages document so I make sure to reply to everything.
This chapter is one of those that I just feel like has so much important stuff, and those ones always get me all anxious. I'm not sure what Bellatrix would think about being referred to as an evil Sunday... hahahaa
I wondered if the Vanishing Cabinet would seem too convenient for some people, but it just made sense to me. Like you said, they were all the rage in the first war. And the cabinet that Peeves dropped when distracting... Filch I think? was the vanishing one, which is why it was broken when Draco tried to use it. So we know it was around the school for a while... AND how sweet to think of Auntie Bellatrix slipping the idea to use the Vanishing Cabinet into Draco's mind. Anyway, I'm so happy you thought that it made sense.
With Voldemort -- Exactly! Instead of figuring out more way to try and really control the world and own the wizards and witches in it, and just keeping an eye on Harry, he focused all of his attention on killing him. Come on, Voldy, didn't anyone ever to tell you not to put all you eggs in one bucket? Or.. something like that :P
Ahh I'm so happy that all felt okay! I really wanted to get the rawness of it all with, like you said, the feelings of Alice and Lily and Belle all going through it together. Or talking about going through it. And I'm SO happy you said that about Christophe. You and Sirius may be thinking along the lines. Well, not in this chapter because he obviously don't know, but in chapter 17 :P.
I don't mind the good teenage pregnancy drama, but I do get sick of seeing these young male characters half freaking out, then just going along with it. A lot of boys, especially boys like Christophe who have been born into an privilege and have never been held accountable for their actions, have no reason to think they'd need to stand up for what they did. He knew his parents wouldn't want the shame and would believe him just as much as he knew the people in his school would sink their teeth into the story he made about Belle. I end up getting pretty emotional while writing that whole part out. I just felt so bad for her :(.
AND I LOVE making you comment on emotions! I'm going to have to do that more, aren't I? heheh jk. But like I mentioned, this chapter really did worry me so I'm extremely happy that you liked it. And if I could think of any better ways to say how happy and thankful I am for your amazing reviews, I would use those ;) .
AND my 'favorites list' just told me you updated :O! Today is my lucky day!!