Another brilliantly written chapter. *sigh* you spoil me, you know that? Although it does make writing a review that's not just line after line of "brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!" a bit more of a challenge, but I'll do my best :)
I really love the way you focus on what your character's thought processes. I always feel like I'm right inside their brain and understand the motivation behind all their actions. I mean this is only chapter 4 and I already feel like I know Draco and Astoria better than I've known some characters at the end of a 20 chapter novel! Your attention to the detail on your characterisation of your main characters is incredible. I'm imagining you sitting in some study somewhere with page upon page stuck to walls with details about them :P
The thing about not being able to do magic in Hogsmeade surprised me because I'd always thought students could do magic in Hogsmeade. So at first I was a bit like "Uh...is this right?" But by the end of the chapter, I understood why this detail was so important and it didn't matter anymore if it was canon or not, because in the context of this story and especially this chapter, it fits in brilliantly.
Astoria's ruminations on Harry and Ginny were perfect, the way she longed to not always be 'proper' and just be this free, impulsive teenager was not only a great spot of character development, but added some foreshadowing for her future actions (in both this chapter and the next). I did feel (and this is totally a personal interpretation of canon thing) that Ginny and Harry's display felt a little bit too much for them. I don't know, I just couldn't see them acting that way, at least not this soon after the end of the war. But as I said, that is completely based on my interpretations of the characters so there's not really wrong or right about it and it certainly didn't detract from the story. PLUS, as I already mentioned, it was a great catalyst for Astoria to think about her own feelings and secret desires.
Oh Draco...poor old Draco, I did feel for him in this chapter. Just can't catch a break, eh? Once again, you've captured that balance between Draco being someone you feel sorry for and someone who's getting what he deserved. I adored that way it just seemed to be never ending, like it wasn't this one little fight that he walked away from, but first it was Ron, and then Hermione and then the three that attack him at the end. By the end of the chapter I was practically screaming at the computer "Oh for the love of Merlin, just get out of there!!!"
I just want to stop and say how much I loved Ron in this chapter. I love how there was this bully-esque feel to his character, not in an unrealistic way, but in a "I have the power and you're not going to push me around anymore Malfoy" way. I could see years of pent up frustration at being picked on by Malfoy and his cronies, as well as everything that happened during the war (and I'm sure he's directing some blame from others like Bellatrix at Draco too). And the fact that Ron punches him? Heh...that was such a Ronald Weasley move :)
And Hermione's little cameo was great too, the 'mudblood' moment seemed to echo back and reflect both their interactions as younger students but it also made me think of Snape's worst memory (not that there's really an comparison between the characters and their relationships, but it just made me think of it). I especially loved her parting shot “I should have had you expelled for that, Draco. Professor McGonagall probably would have just handed Gryffindor the House Cup for getting rid of you. But you do need to learn a lesson. And I have to admit, that was fun.” Hehehe :)
I'm loving Astoria so much, although I would err on the side of caution just because sometimes I feel like she's a little too perfect. I mean I love the contrast between her being so beautiful and almost angelic as opposed to Draco who is just so tortured and trying with all his might to change but struggling with it. But I could see myself getting irritated by Astoria if she doesn't develop a more pronounced flaw. Just a thought.
I loved the reality of the effects of fighting, and how by the end Draco was just this puddle who could barely move. There's nothing worse than a battle sequence where the character casts perfect shield charms and executes perfectly aimed curses while their opponent seems to miss every time. I mean unless you're Voldemort duelling Dennis Creevey, that just ain't gonna happen! You write in such a realistic manner, to the point where it sometimes makes the reader uncomfortable - not in a bad way, but in a 'empathise with the character' way. It's not something you see a lot, and the fact that you're willing to push that boundary is impressive, you certainly don't see a lot of that in fan fiction.
Your technique is incredible - as always. It just flows so beautifully and is so effortless to read. The only error I picked up on was this sentence: “Well? Don’t you and the Weasel King need to run off and find Potter so you celebrate?” I'm thinking it should be 'so you CAN celebrate?' but otherwise, it was just about perfect.
I'm sorry if my thoughts are all over the place in this review, it's late and I'm tired, but I feel like I've been a bit slow with these reviews so I was determined to write this before going to bed tonight!
Great chapter, great story. I'll be back soon to review the next chapter :)
Author's Response: Hello, again! This review sort of set me on my heels. It was so long and detailed. I read it through a few times and I was thinking to myself, "where do I even begin to respond?" It's a good problem to have. I guess I'll just start at the beginning!
I'm obsessive about following characters' thoughts and feelings. You should see the notes I make for myself in comments when I'm working on a chapter. It's like I write a parallel narrative just for me so I can keep track of what's going through each character's head, even if it doesn't end up in the final version. At any rate, I'm glad that it shows. Really, what's the point of writing from a certain character's point of view if you're not going to really get inside their head and explore?
I admit, I sort of guessed about not being able to do magic in Hogsmeade. In the books, it always seems as though there are only two places where underage sorcery is allowed: Hogwarts and the Hogwarts Express. In the movies, there's no rhyme or reason to it. Like you said, it worked well with the plot in this situation.
With Harry and Ginny, I wanted to put an alternative version of romance in front of Astoria, one that flies in the face of her upbringing. So admittedly I was thinking more about her than about Harry and Ginny when I did it. That said, since Ginny doesn't get to see Harry when she's at school and he's off doing his Auror training, I could imagine her being very excited to see him. ;)
Draco has a really rough go of things in this chapter, doesn't he? Again, I'm not sure that the objective was to make anyone feel badly for him, but to show that he's going to be living the consequences of his role in the war for the foreseeable future. In retrospect, I feel a bit bad about how I wrote Ron in this. Part of me feels like he comes off as too much of a bully, but then I remind myself that we see the events through Draco's eyes. I guess it serves its purpose.
Hermione, on the other hand, was a joy to write. Her sense of right and wrong is so strong, and for Draco it cuts both ways in this chapter. He completely loses his composure after Ron humiliates him, and he snaps at the one person who was trying to help him. I liked making Hermione very human in terms of how she reacts.
I agree with you about Astoria, actually. In future chapters, I've tried to show more of her flaws and portray her age a bit more realistically. In this chapter, I think she's a bit torn between crushing on Draco and feeling the need to mother him. I guess the two aren't completely mutually exclusive.
Draco is a mess by the end of this chapter. Whether or not he wants to admit it, he really needed Astoria's help. He also has a very strong survival instinct, though. He wouldn't have survived the war otherwise. At any rate, I'm glad you liked the fight scene. I really enjoy writing them.
Thanks for spotting that typo. I'll go in and patch that up!
I thought the review was actually pretty easy to follow. And I really enjoyed reading it! Thanks so much!