Hi Rachel! Yay! I'm so glad the review exchange has given me an excuse to read something else of yours. My fan fiction reading lately has been... zilch. Which really bums me out since I know there is an unimaginable amount of good writing out there. I've been trying to sign up for the exchange at least every other month or so to keep a trickle of reading coming and to expose me to some wonderful stories I normally wouldn't be able to read due to real life constraints :)
So on to your review! I love reading stuff of yours because without even starting I know, at the very least, I'm going to get a clean, well-written story. Commas are always where they're supposed to be, spelling and canon references are perfect, et cetera. I don't usually set out to read a piece critically, like I'm beta-reading it, but sometimes I can't help myself. So your stuff is extra nice because I don't end up distracting myself with noticing grammatical errors left and right :)
The description is just great. Maybe because it's the same time of year right now, but the beginning in particular with the old, mostly melted snow dirtied by shop patrons just transported me there instantly. I could feel the biting wind, whistling nastily down the alleyway, nipping the back of Lavender's neck. We can tell from her behavior straight off that she's doing something dodgy, and the cold winter setting fits perfectly. It wouldn't seem nearly as sinister in the summer with everyone in sun dresses eating ice cream cones. Only one description confused me for a sec: "and folds of black cloth that hardly looked real covered nearly every inch of her dark skin." --I'm not sure what exactly you meant by "real." What came to my mind with it worded that way was that the black was almost transparent and weightless like smoke, sort of the way Voldemort's robes are in the GoF movie when he's reborn. Maybe just a little more clarification in that one sentence would help drag the reader even deeper down into the darkness Lavender seems to be falling into herself.
I liked the format of breaking it up into segments with the time. I can almost hear the "Law and Order" dunk-dunk chime with each time stamp (ok, I have no idea how to describe that noise, but if you watch the show you know what I'm talking about...)
Are you like me in that you sort of wonder how Knockturn Alley is even allowed to exist? It seems like it should be a huge neon sign with arrow pointing down to say, "HEY, AURORS! REALLY ILLEGAL, DARK STUFF HAPPENING HERE!" But that's part of our willing suspension of disbelief in the Potterverse. Your creepy lady with the knotted hair was just...eew. Creepy. Must be the daughter of the one who was trying to sell fingernails to Harry in CoS. See, that's why you need to pass your O.W.L.s. Fail your exams and you end up either being a conductor for the Knight Bus or selling body parts on trays. Kind of makes you think Hermione wasn't quite so mental with her marathon revising before exam time.
It's interesting how Lavender's paranoia seems to evaporate after obtaining the poisonous candle. At the very beginning, she nearly freaks out considering if the man she randomly bumped into would remember her face. Then later at the Ministry, she comes face-to-face with Harry, who obviously knows exactly who she is, and she's so high on her mission that she doesn't even care. I think this ties in well with your final author's note about mental illness. Obviously something's gone wrong with Lavender, who maybe wasn't quite perfectly all right when she was at school with her obsession with Ron. Innocent teenage infatuation or something darker? I like how you took it to the dark place.
Until I got to the very end, I had the thought in the back of my mind that maybe she was going to actually poison herself in his office, not Ron. Sort of a "I can't live without you" thing with the added bonus of maybe implicating Ron in her death if it was in his office at the Ministry. But in the end Ron bit the dust after all. I can't say I'm disappointed since Ron was never one of my favorite characters. Maybe Hermione can marry Viktor Krum now like she was "supposed" to (you know, in my mind.)
One last thing, and this is only something I noticed and was curious about because I took years of Latin in school so 90% or more of your readers wouldn't pick up on it. The story title, "Ad Venenum," means "to poison," like you said, but as a prepositional phrase, as in "toward poison." Did you mean it as an infinitive, like "To poison Ron would be awesome" instead? Because that would be "venenare." I think either works, personally. In the first half of the piece, Lavender is literally making her way TO the poison. Funny how we both used foreign languages for the titles we reviewed in this exchange. I'm acutally not 100% sure mine is right! Hahaha... I think I might have reversed the word order, but I'm pretty sure it's ok. Like I said, I'm just being nit-picky cause it's so rare I get to talk about Latin, and I totally miss studying it. :)
Great job as always, Rachel! Thanks so much for your review too! I'm off to reply now, if you want to check back when you have a chance. Keep up your writing, ok?! I demand it!! You're too good at your age to not get something published by the time you're mine! ~Renny
Author's Response: Renny! ♥ Okay, first and foremost -- I know I said it would probably take me a while to respond to your review, but I didn't think it would take THIS long. Yikes! Please forgive me for being so tardy!
I always appreciate a well-written story (like yours!), so knowing you feel the same about m writing is quite lovely. And I'm so glad you like my description, too! Call me weird, but since starting my mass media writing class this semester -- I'm a professional writing major, but that's through the journalism college, which means I need to take a bunch of standard journalism classes before moving on to novels and short stories and the like -- I feel like my writing's become more terse and to-the-point than it has been in the past, which isn't something I'm sure I like. So knowing that someone sees things like descriptions and still enjoys them is a huge boost of confidence! I see what you mean about the "real" cloth, and I was trying to sort of allude to that ephemeral, shadowed cloth like Voldemort's. I'm heading right back to this story as soon as I finish typing up this response to make that a bit clearer. Thank you!
I know exactly what "Law and Order" sound you mean! :D I didn't do that intentionally, but now you've pointed it out, I totally see the whole timestamp dunk-dunk chime. :P And also -- right?! Knockturn Alley is officially the sketchiest place in the entire universe. Hagrid's description of it being "dodgy" doesn't even begin to come close. They are doing straight-up Dark stuff there, yo.
Lavender's "mental illness" does evolve a bit over the story, and that was intentional -- I'm glad that you pointed it out. :) She gets just a bit more careless, almost reckless, toward the end, and I kind of think she subconsciously wants to be caught, wants someone to stop her, but Harry fails to do so. Her infatuation is a bit darker than just teenage puppy love; in my headcanon (and people are totally free to interpret it differently) Lavender didn't die in the Battle of Hogwarts, like the movies allude to, but just got severely injured by Greyback. I think that she could have have a bit of brain damage from that injury, resulting in the Lavender I wrote about here. But taking into consideration the fact we don't know she's alive for sure, you could question whether this entire thing actually happened at all...
Confession: I love Ron/Hermione, but I'm a secret Krum/Hermione shipper too. :P There are several good ones out there!
I'm definitely going to keep writing! ♥ When I get such lovely feedback from kind reviewers such as yourself, how could I not? Your vote of confidence seriously does mean so much to me, though, and I really do mean that.
Thank you for exchanging with me this month!!