Before I make any sense of this review, allow me to gloat a bit. YES YES YES! It was Lily. It was LILY! I suspected it all along. You my lovely Susan, are a master of leaving enough hints to keep your theory going but not enough to be certain of it at any point. I haven't been this confused about something I thought I knew/felt in a long time. I guess your preference for mystery stories has paid off :D I am SO happy that I got it right...right? Because this is what I understood at the end of the chapter. That the woman in the mirror was indeed Lily from some other past, other dimension tainted with her decision to stay by Moody's side. You know what? No, I'm not going back to being confused again haha Lily is the woman in the miror! She's got to be her...
Okai so hopefully now I'll make more sense lol. I'm sorry it took me so long to come back and finish the story, but I promise now I won't leave before it's done. Reading this chapter reminded me why I loved it so much. I never realized I missed reading it, missed the puzzle I needed to complete. I loved the story so much that I guess deep down in my unconscious I didn't want it to end. So I took longer than allowed to finish it. But it's that moment, so here I am!
This chapter made me think so much about my own profession as a psychologist. Even if in the end I decided to work with adolescents on more palpable and provable problems, I have considered going the therapy road for a very long time. This chapter, or rather, the theme of the chapter (believability...what's the limit between fantasy and reality) brought back so many memories of my own questions, doubts that I felt like I was a younger version of myself for 10 minutes (I read a chapter this long in about 10 minutes; yes, I am a slow reader!). As a potential therapist, I have always wondered what my reaction would be if a client came to me with a story like Lily's, something so out there and improbable that you could hardly believe it to be true. Would believe the client or cling to what my training drilled in my brain since the beginning, that only what's proven stands as true? This is one of those questions that a straight answer couldn't possibly cover all the implications, intricacies of the answer. I think that I'd believe the client, which could prove detrimental for the treatment, but I couldn't see any other way. I have been brought up to second guess what reality really means (because in the end, what IS reality? isn't it subjective to everyone's own interpretation of the world?) and I was also always surrounded by religious members of my family. Needless to say that I am a religious person as well and that means believing in something that can't objectively be proven either. In light of that, how could I possibly have the audacity to doubt what someone else tells me?
Ok - enough philosophies. I get so carried away with these kind of subjects, it's not even funny haha. With all of that said, I felt a lot for both Lily and Harry this chapter. Especially Harry. We've been present at Lily's sufferings throughout the whole story, but this is the first real glimpse we have on how the family deals with her situation. It pained me to see that he hadn't recovered from the war. Not truly at least. In some way I imagine that's understandable and pretty probable. To live what Harry lived and still keep your sanity, well...I'd call that an accomplishment in itself.
OH, I am so eager to see what comes next. I need to know what will Lily do now! So I'm going to end this monstrously long review and get on with the next chapter lol
Author's Response: It may be ridiculously long, but it's the kind of reaction I was hoping this chapter would garner. I hadn't planned for the story to make this sudden turn, but after the previous chapter, I felt that it was necessary to explore the effect of the journey on Lily's mind. She was already weakened by depression, then to suffer that trauma at Moody's death... it proves too much. This is reflected in the narrative, which is why it's somewhat confused - Lily is not only uncertain, but doing her best to conceal things from her audience. She saw the portrait's face in the previous chapter, but she doesn't actually tell us (or rather Healer Patil) what it looks like. Then there is the more significant gap in Lily's story - what happens after the fire. It was very interesting to write a character who had forgotten part of her own story, and she never gets it back, but rather pieces it together based on the evidence. It's fascinating to do this with fiction and navigate the boundaries of storytelling. :D
The thing to do is not overthink things. :P The difference between the portrait and Lily is slight, primarily based on their age difference - the portrait has seen what happens after the story ends, and has no ideals or illusions left. The mirror was actually supposed to act as a replacement for the portrait - if Lily had seen the portrait, it would have been like looking into a mirror in the future (have you tried those aging programs? If so, it's rather like that).
I really like what you've said about looking at the story from the perspective of a therapist. There's nothing to disprove Lily's story - in fact, there's evidence to support it - yet it's also impossible. To Lily it's more real than the world she's returned to. There's that annoying saying about "losing one's grip on reality", but you've nailed it in asking what actually is reality? Everything depends on the individual and their interpretation of the world. To force Lily to believe that it was all a dream would be more detrimental than allowing her to continue with her "delusions".
Since you've already finished reading, I can mention here that the story can be interpreted in two ways: either the time travel was real or it was not. Because it's told entirely from Lily's point of view, it always appears as though it's real, but there are clues that point to the other interpretation, which inevitably leads to Lily's death by drowning. It depends on how the reader wants the story to end - happily with Lily reuniting with Alastor, or tragically with her madness, followed by suicide (where the final scene of the conclusion, filled with water imagery, is the vision she has as she dies).
It really is a crazy story. I was hardly able to keep myself sane while writing it! It's fantastic that you've enjoyed how this chapter turned out because it was one that particularly worried me - I wasn't sure how readers would respond to the change in tense and its effect on Lily's frame of mind. Thank you so much for reading and reviewing this story! I'm proud of it, and hearing any compliments make my ears pink. ^_^