Trying desperately to catch up on a little reading and reviewing this week. It's amazing how easy it is to fall behind!
This chapter was definitely the one I'd been waiting for. I'd been all ready to read about them having their first real heart-to-heart in the last chapter, but those pesky Ratcliffe had to go and spoil everything. But before we get to all that...
Yikes! You did a fantastic job of capturing Draco's injuries. Perhaps a little too fantastic. Feeling dizzy and sick is just the worst! But that aside, this opening scene really demonstrated an interesting dynamic between the two. Draco is a man of contradictions. He's so resistant to even the slightest show of help or support, yet he's very introspective and willing to be open with Astoria about how is feeling. It's fun to watch Astoria try to navigate it all and keep up with him.
I think my favorite moment from this opening bit was the line, "It seemed that the Slytherin in her was giving some serious thought to taking him up on his offer." I love that Astoria has at least some measure of self-preservation hidden inside of her. She's going to need it if she tangles herself up with a man like Draco.
I really enjoyed the way you worked Bellatrix into Draco's confession. While it's obvious that he's been scarred by many of his past experiences, he still manages to keep some perspective and humor about certain things. "Then we flooed to the Ministry and she put her wand to Mr. Twycross's head and told him that his signature was either going to be on my license or his own death certificate, his choice." This is a perfect example. Under normal circumstances, death threats against Ministry officials would be a big deal. But in light of all he went through, this has almost become the kind of humorous story he can share at a dinner party.
Draco's answer to why he didn't run away was very revealing. A Malfoy doesn't run from danger. This is, of course, very ironic seeing as the Malfoy men proved rather cowardly in the books. It's really Narcissa who risks danger to save her family. I guess maturity is bringing out more of her traits in him.
I loved the little aside about Wormtail. What a rat-like thing to do -- conjuring up fake money. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if the spell only lasted a few hours and ends up leaving the recipient shortchanged.
The time had come to spend some of that credibility on a worthwhile cause. Astoria really has fallen hard for Draco, hasn't she? There is such an innocence at that age. She may in fact be totally right about him, but her lack of any real doubt isn't something a lot of adults could replicate. Which leads me too McGonagall...
I love how Astoria's response to McGonagall's question is "We had tea, after we fled Hogsmeade. And we talked." Of course! Obviously that would explain everything :P Astoria is definitely very mature for her age and a good and caring person, but next to McGonagall, she looks like the young, naive girl she really is. Though I do like that at the end of the conversation, we're left with a feeling that McGonagall has something to learn from her. I still like the way McGonagall is keeping Draco on a short leash. She knows what kind of person he use to be and she has a responsibility to keep her other students safe. But I also like that Astoria is right when she says people can't change if they aren't given a chance.
Oh, and good for Hermione too! No matter how much she dislikes Draco, I like that her anger with him doesn't erase her sense of right and wrong, or her desire to make sure that all parties are given fair treatment.
I spotted one typo. Hardly worth mentioning, I know, but...
-- She punched him on the arm, trying to look serious as she dabbed her her eyes with the sleeve of her robes. (repeated "her")
Also, there is one line in the opening scene where you seem to slip into Astoria's POV while the rest is in Draco's POV:
-- As much as she tried to stay cross, Astoria found it infectious.
Last, if you're interested in opinions on the issue, I like the idea of grouping action and dialogue in sections like this: Astoria arched her eyebrow at his revelation. "Did you actually take the test?" I feel like I might have read somewhere you were trying differing formats (or maybe I'm just making that up out of thin air), and I feel like you grouped things this way in CoB. I used to do it the way you're doing it in this story -- using separate lines -- but a reviewer suggested I switch. Looking back at it, I find grouping it is less disrupptive to the flow and has the added benefit of acting like a dialogue tag, identifying the speaker without using a version of said. Anyway, just throwing that out there for whatever it's worth.
Author's Response: Your reviews are never easy to respond to. So much good feedback! I really have to wait until I have time to sit down and think and respond intelligently.
I'm really glad you enjoyed this one. I had been waiting for a way to get the two of them off by themselves that didn't feel contrived. So I'm pleased that you found it worth the wait.
Draco took some pretty hard knocks in Hogsmeade, so there was no way that he was going to pop right back up and dance a jig. Still, he's too proud to let Astoria be openly sympathetic toward him. But she's clever and intuitive for her age. Pretty soon, she's able to figure out how to deal with him. And she's not so altruistic that she doesn't give at least a bit of thought to what's best for her. I'm glad you picked up on that.
I don't think I could write a story about Draco without involving Bellatrix in some fashion. Until she came along, he didn't really have any idea what Death Eaters were all about. His father is quite genteel, after all. But I think she quickly laid to rest any romanticized notions he might have been harboring about the Dark Lord and his followers. She's cruel, vicious and completely crazy. And the fact that he survived his time with her definitely put a bit of a different spin on things for him.
I'd like to think that Draco became more like his mother and less like his father as he aged. I'm still pretty much in awe of what JKR was able to do with Narcissa's character in her very brief appearances in the books. She went from being a snobby pure blood trophy wife to one of the stronger examples of what it means to be a mother. I still hope that she and Andromeda were able to reconcile at some point. They probably had more in common than they realized.
I'm pretty sure that those notes turned back into napkins at some point, by the way. ;) Hopefully not until after the proprietor counted the till at the end of the day.
Astoria is very smitten with Draco by the end of this chapter. He's so very different from the boys that she's grown up around. He's been through hell and back, and it's given him a quiet sort of strength as well as a profound vulnerability. Based on her limited experience, he probably seems like a beautiful, blond character from a teen romance novel come to life. Don't worry, she'll see some of his flaws before the story is all said and done.
I felt like I was walking a really fine line with McGonagall in this chapter. It's way too early for her to let bygones be bygones, but I also wanted to show that she's still able to consider the possibility that she misjudged him. Especially when two people whose opinions she finds worthwhile -- I won't go so far as to say that she accepts them at face value -- are telling her similar things.
Thanks for spotting those problems. I went in yesterday and patched them up.
Ah, the style of writing dialog. That was a decision I made back when I started writing this story. And to be honest, I wish I'd never made it. It makes writing painful at times, and I know it's given some readers real difficulty when it comes to keeping track of who's saying what. That said, I would really need to go back and rewrite the whole thing if I decide to abandon it. I may make that decision someday, but for now, I just want to finish writing the story. I appreciate the feedback, though.
Thanks for the long, detailed and insightful review! It was really helpful.