One chapter away from being all caught up! Though it's Saturday, so by the time I've finished typing this, that will probably have changed :P
This was really an interesting chapter style-wise. Obviously it was a fair bit shorter than a lot of the previous chapters, but it also had a lot more scenes, even though the time elapsed in the chapter was relatively short. That said, it still felt very in-rhythm with the rest of the story. I don't actually have a point here... it's was just something I noticed.
I thought the opening scene was very sweet. The whole "who's packed what" discussion is such a couples problem. Who hasn't been there? And I liked the idea of the Heads helping get everyone off to the station. It reminds me of field-trip day in school. Getting everyone on the bus was always a nightmare :P
The scene with McGonagall and Dumbledore was also very sweet, though with a much more ominous undertone. I'm getting the feeling that things may not go well at the wedding for reasons that have nothing to do with Petunia being a brat. Minerva really is the ultimate Deputy Headmistress. In many ways, she's far more protective of the students than Dumbledore is. Of course, he has bigger concerns, but still...
I'm always going to be iffy on flashbacks for reasons that have nothing to do with how well you or anyone else writes them (it's like you with Snape :P), but objectively, I thought the transition here was fine. It's a style/pattern you've chosen for the story, and the most important thing is to be consistent. It would be totally weird if this flashback was the only one in 130K words, but it's not. It's just the way you've chosen to explore the Petunia and Lily relationship.
And I definitely liked the content of the memory. You've fleshed Petunia out a lot more than most authors and gave her a nicer side, which I think is much truer to life. Even nasty, mean-spirited people have their moments, and with siblings it's not uncommon to see them drift apart as the age (or sometimes just the opposite, but the point is the change, not really the direction). But we know how far this relationship falls, so at some point, the scales have to tip from Petunia just being mean and jealous on occasion to there really being a wedge between the two. Having Lily (through no fault of her own) come between Petunia and her friend is telling. It sets up one more reason for her to fear people in her life meeting her sister. On one level, she's afraid they will think Lily is a freak, but perhaps on another, Petunia is afraid they will just like Lily better. I'm not sure if that's how you view it at all, but that was at least what I took from the scene.
I really liked the ending, where Lily reflects on spending Christmas with the Potters. I know she cares for James a lot, maybe even loves him at this point, but I also think this touches on the fact that she also really needs him, even on a level she's not yet fully aware of. She has a huge hole in her life now, and though he can't fill it all, him and his family can give her something she can't get anywhere else at the moment, and really, something none of her other friends can provide either.
I saved your AoC about the chapter being too slow for last since it's more of a tough one to address. The scenes themselves and even the chapter as a whole didn't feel slow to me. When I think of something being slow in a story, I usually think more of having to wade through 500 words of description on something mundane, or characters spending an entire chapter in one conversation without actually saying anything. Your scenes are always fun and easy to read. No matter what the characters are doing, I can always just sort of jump in and go with it.
But since you mentioned the chapter being a transition into the big stuff, I'm thinking maybe you were wondering if the story itself feels slow at this point, as opposed to a particular section being too wordy...? It's hard to say on my end without knowing what will be important in the future of the story, or how long the story is going to be to know if we should be nearing the climax anytime soon. A scene where characters appear just to be doing housework might actually have major plot points cleverly tucked inside (I'm thinking of like in the HP books when Harry seems to just be going to class but is really learning about something he'll need to fight Voldemort by the end of the book). I don't know how helpful it will be to you, but when I'm unsure of my pacing, I take a look at every scene and ask, "what's the point?" The more basic the answer is, the shorter the I try and make the scene, maybe even eliminating it altogether. If it's just to show the passage of time or something, a few sentences may be more than enough. If it's more complicated, like to show something important about the character or relaying information that will be needed for the plot later on, the more likely I am to flesh out a scene. And then, if I'm really trying to build tension, that's when I go for the big moments that are depicted the closest to real time. Again, not sure if that is at all helpful (or even what you were really asking about), but that's my amateur, unsolicited opinion -- something I probably give out all too freely :P
Well, that's more than enough out of me on this chapter, I think. Just a few typos I spotted below. I can't believe I'm almost caught up!!
-- "Put the students in these two," the head girl instructed, glancing over them. (glancing over at them, or glancing them over)
-- Just as the unmistakable stands of Sirius's dark hair came into view, she felt her boots slide under the snow. (unmistakable strands... and I think her boots would slide over the snow, not under, or slide out from under her across the snow...?)
-- Of course the sisters had ended up on speaking terms again, making up only a few hours before Lily left for her fifth year to Hogwarts. (at Hogwarts)
Author's Response: I love how your first paragraph was so true, hahah. I posted chapter 21 then clicked my author page and there was a review!
I'm happy that even though it was set up a bit different, it still felt right with the rest of the stories.
That's exactly what I was thinking in this, is field trips. Make sure everyone has their sack lunches packed and permission slips... haha. I like giving the Heads things to do so they don't seem like they're just sort of pointlessly floating around with that title.
I really agree with what you said about Minerva. I think Dumbledore looks at the big picture, and she does focus more on the people that make up that big picture. I get so sad when I think about what she looses too... i can't imagine watching the children you've practically helped raise from age 11 all get picked off one by one :(
We've talked about before how family is never cut and dry. Petunia didn't just decide she hated Lily and the two never spoke again, so I really love getting to explore the different things that may have added up to tear them apart piece by piece.
That's exactly how I view it. I never thought that Petunia's feelings for Lily were as simple as her deciding Lily was a freak and cutting her off. We know that she wrote to Dumbledore, so we know some part of her really wanted to be able to be special like her sister. And watching her best friend stand up for her sister was a big deal for her. Sure, the girl was just being nice to Lily, but Petunia didn't see it like that. She saw it as her sister out doing her once again, and her best friend gravitating toward Lily the way she thinks everyone did. I remember my older sister getting so mad when her friends would talk to me, haha. I just amplified those feelings up a bit in Petunia's case :P
I always want to hug you when you pick up on these things. You have like a zillion mental hugs from me.
Your section on how the chapter is feeling made me feel a lot better. Because we are very, very close to a big thing in this story happening. It isn't the biggest thing of the story, but it's close to it. Your opinions ARE solicited! Haha! And I love them! I'm excited to see what you think in a few chapters, and to see if you feel like these last few more build up chapters were worth it. I think I've been really careful to make sure all of me scenes have a point, whether it's to make something else make sense or to work on my characterizations.. okay... I'm not sure where I'm going with this section of the response. Haha. But when you get a few chapters ahead, if you feel like compared to the amount of build up sort of chapters I've had and the events, and it falls flat - pretty please tell me ♥
I always feel like my responses are inadequate to your insanely helpful and detailed reviews, bu I hope you know how much I appreciate them ♥