I'm going to have a lot to say on this opening scene, but hopefully that's ok since it took up 2 spots on your AoC list! Right off, I totally agree with the choice not to depict Sirius's conversation with Belle. You're right that it might have felt redundant. This aftermath scene was a GREAT way to pick up their plot line again. To the reader, the important thing is not what she said, since we already know her story, but how Sirius takes the news, which is admittedly not very well.
It's also really nice to see a James/Sirius moment. There's been a lot of James/Lily taking center stage recently, and since this is also a story about the Marauders/their friendships, this felt like a great time for the pair to share a moment together. And I thought you struck a really great mood here: some lighter moments, some very dark moments, but all the while, a very strong sense of familiarity between the two.
The one thing I'm a little torn on is Sirius's reaction. Not the running away from Belle part. Of course, I'm disappointed that he couldn't handle the situation with a bit more maturity, but it's understandable based on what we know about him. He felt himself losing his temper and wanted to get out of there before he said or did anything he'd regret/that might make things worse on Belle. On a human level, that wasn't a great idea. On a character level, given his age and his past, it works perfectly.
But I did feel a little like within the scene itself, Sirius was a bit inconsistent. The running away I get, but then he says: She's used to people walking away from her. She probably already figured I would... If Sirius understands so well what his behavior must have looked liked to Belle, it seems harder to believe that he would see abandoning her at that moment as the better alternative to saying something nasty about her family. She'd just told him was that she's been abandoned by everyone she's ever loved, and he knows this, yet he still leaves. Or, if he's just realizing that this is how it must have looked to her NOW, in this very moment, sitting there with James, than I'd think he'd want to turn right around and go find her, not go to the kitchens. I LOVE the idea that he runs out. It makes him less perfect as a character, more human. But knowing and leaving anyway makes him selfish in a way you really haven't painted him to be.
And just as a technical note (and if I missed it, just ignore this part), I might consider adding a time stamp of some sort in this scene. We get a hint at how much time has passed later, but last we saw of James, he was in the hospital wing. Now he's chasing after Sirius, so clearly some time has passed, we just aren't sure how much.
Yay! More nasty Slytherins. I love that you continue to play with a range of baddies in this story. On one end you have Voldemort and Bella, totally evil and crazy-pants. Then you have Regulus and Alrek, these sort of middlemen, out there doing some dirty work while still maintaining a more respectable front. And then there are these Slytherin bullies, nasty in there own right without being Voldemort's trusted henchman, at least not yet. Not everyone who believes in what he's doing is out there killing people already. But that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous and scary and nasty in their own right.
It still breaks my heart that you don't like Snape, but alas, I shall forgive you for it. And I thought you did a great job with him here. It makes sense that he'd be hanging with this lot, and that despite their past friendship, he wouldn't be dumb enough to intervene on Lily's behalf in front of his friends (well, he'd probably be good enough at nonverbal spells to curse anyone who really meant to hurt her, but that's another story for another day :P). As for Lily herself, I was a little surprised she seemed so detached from Snape. You sort of tiptoe towards her feeling in the paragraph that starts: Lily did meet Severus's eyes this time. She wondered if all this was worth it... But the lines are very rational on her part. There isn't any sense of regret or longing for that old friendship. Or on the other extreme, anger at his being stupid enough to tangle himself up with this crowd, or thinking he's the worst of them all because he should know better. She's not even really indifferent, though I could see that too, if it was too painful to even dwell on it anymore, but that wasn't really addressed either. I just felt like their past warranted some sort of emotional response on Lily's part. Especially if she's then going to feel her heart break at the sight of his wand pointed at her. That tells me she still cares, or at least still held out hope he might change. And it would have been nice to see him mentioned in the last scene too. I assume he's still in the room, but Lily doesn’t give him a second thought. But of course, that could just be me wanting more Snape!
One other little thing on this scene. Lily opens the chapter by saying she just wants to be alone, but then she suddenly wants to find James and Sirius. And then she’s back to thinking, "but having a minute to just listen to the silence of the stone castle and enjoy the view." It just felt a little inconsistent.
I feel like I was extra critical on this chapter. I hope it doesn't come off that way. I REALLY enjoyed this. It's just the more we go forward, the richer the emotions get and there's more to discuss, which is hopefully a good thing. I think you mentioned that you hoped people could see an improvement in your writing. I know I sure can. Not that it started out bad by any stretch, but your mechanics continue to improve, your sentence structure is clearer, your details flow more organically, I haven't spotted an unintentionally change in POV in ages. You hardly even comma splice anymore! Really, you're just getting better and better with each post, which only makes the actually story itself shine all the more!
Author's Response: Hii ♥
I love James Sirius moments. Actually just any bromance type of moments. I think IÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™ve already went on my rants to you about how much I hate when the Marauders friendship is ignored, so IÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™ll spare you another one of those :P
Okay, I hope with the changes I made I smoothed out the inconsistent feeling. But I was thinking along the lines of what you said... that he didnÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™t realize how it looked until James said that she wasnÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™t even mad, and then it kind of clicked. Hopefully IÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™ve made that more clear, and with changing his reasoning to the kitchens.
Bellatrix Crazy Pants. HAHA. I love it. She makes another lovely grand appearance in chapter 20 ;) IÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™m so happy that you like the different looks into the baddie worlds.
IÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™m sory I donÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™t like Snape!! I like variations of him in certain stories, but I donÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™t like the one that JKR created. BUT I hope now IÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™ve given his and LilyÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™s past friendship a bit more... significance. I really want to not leave him out in the complete dust with this story, so I am extra happy that you do like him enough to stick up for him if IÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™m not giving him and LilyÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™s past enough recognition.
No! You didnÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™t seem like extra critical at all! The things you pointed out all made a lot of sense, and IÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™m excited to see what you think about the changes IÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™ve made!
Aww and IÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™m so happy that you see improvement. ThatÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™s such a huge compliment, and if I could reach through my computer IÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™d be hugging you right now :P
IÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™m sorry this response seems so short, haha. But I think I said the majority of it in the PM I sent you. Thank you again so much for taking the time to stop over here ♥ I know my chapters arenÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™t a short little walk in the park, and it makes me so happy that you havenÃƒÂ¢Ã‚Â€Ã‚Â™t gotten burnt out or anything ♥