I loved the family Christmas. The whole thing was so warm and wonderful and just all-around recognizable and normal. You did a great job of making the whole series of events feel familiar and easy to relate to. I remember visiting my family during the holidays after college, when I had a "real" life far away from where I grew up. A few of my cousins were starting to have kids and it always felt a bit strange being the unmarried uncle from far away. Emily's experience really resonated with me.
You named the dog Astro! I had to do a double-take on that one. I ruv roo, Reorge!
Claire was a nice addition to the story. When a character decides to embark on the path to recovery, I think two things always make the decision seem more realistic. First is a catalyzing event. We saw that in the last chapter. Second is a mostly impartial third party to give the character a shove in the right direction. It's just one of those things that seem to happen in life. It was nice to see Emily opening up and being honest with Claire -- and honest with herself, possibly for the first time -- about what she's been going through. Honesty is always the first step.
I thought you did a brilliant job with Heather, from beginning to end. I have read one or two other fics where characters see a Healer who specializes in mental health. More often than not, the Healer is portrayed as being sort of an eccentric or even a mystic in some cases. There's always this new age, other-worldly quality to them. Sort of like a mix between Dumbledore and Trelawney. I much prefer what you've done with Heather. Her approach was so much more measured and realistic. She didn't diagnose Emily on the spot based on first impressions. She didn't have any clever tricks to get Emily to instantly divulge some huge, traumatic event from her past. She just asked basic questions and listened closely. For some reason, I really liked the fact that she took a lot of notes. It was a very down-to-earth, reassuring detail. Aside from that, she's sympathetic, but not doting, and she's straightforward without being harsh. She's a very well-rounded, realistic character.
Emily's reactions were also really good. She was somewhat guarded at first, not wanting to seem like too much of a mess in front of the Healer. But at the same time, there's a reason that she's there. She wants to get better, so she doesn't allow pride or fear to get in the way of answering the Healer's questions. And she doesn't have some off-the-deep-end reaction to Heather's conclusion that she's suffering from depression. It seemed like a relief to find out that her suffering is real, that she isn't just over-reacting to the same sort of problems that everybody has.
Poor Emily, holding up the wall at the party. I've definitely been in that position a few times, myself, but it seems like it's a lot harder on her. She really used to be a social person, so it's saddening to see her reduced to such a wallflower. Not many people would have had the social confidence to look back on a past relationship with an older, very desirable boy like Cedric Diggory and sort of brush it off as no big deal. I thought that said a lot about the person Emily once was.
Ooh! Is that a romantic interest I see developing? I'm not really the world's best when it comes to critiquing romance plots. I know what I like and what I don't, and at this very early stage of the game I like the dynamic between Emily and Timothy. He has a quiet sort of confidence about him, and he brought out a flash of something similar in her. For just a moment, she felt like her old self, and that was really nice to see.
The only thing I saw in this chapter that struck me as a little strange was the situation with the alcohol. Alcohol and depression are a volatile mix, so I was sort of surprised to see her down what sounded like really strong drinks and then be in a better mindset. Every person handles alcohol differently, so it's probably not a big deal, but I do remember thinking it was sort of risky.
I saw one measly little typo, as well:
ďItís alright Emily, we donít need to go in to it now,Ē She says and automatically let out a breath I didnít realise I was holding. -- "She" shouldn't be capitalized, since it's a dialog tag.
Just when I was feeling bummed about being out of chapter to read, you posted another! Be back soon!
Author's Response: Wow! What a review! :) Where do I start to respond?
I could have spent so much more time on the family Christmas but I knew it wasn't really necessary so I reigned myself in. But it was hard because it was so nice writing the family scenes. I love the idea that with everything else going on, Emily has this normal, loving, unaffected by war, muggle family. Just adds to the theme of duality she's developed in her life.
Astro! Oh my goodness, I had this entire back story about Astro, that involved anecdotes about how Emily and Owen loved watching the Jetsons when they were kids and when Astro was a puppy they would pretend that they were in the future. And there was something in there about Emily making comparisons between the futuristic technology of the Jetsons and magic when she first went to Hogwarts. But I ended up leaving most of that out of the story because it wasn't really relevant to the rest of the plot.
Claire was also going to be a bigger part of the story, but her being a muggle and not knowing about Emily's magical abilities just made it too complicated. So she is just a person to push Emily in the right direction, but I think it still works. I think it also worked to have her confide in someone completely removed from all of her problems because she knows she will get an objective view.
McGonagall is probably the only character who gives me more grief than Heather. I really wanted Heather to be real and genuine and someone you could believe that Emily would trust. I felt that it was best to base her on a muggle psychologist because I developed my own headcanon about healing being quite far behind medicine in terms of mental illness and the magical healing therapy practises being influenced by muggle psychology (feel free to ask if you want the detailed idea I came up with). So to me it made sense that Heather would be modelling her techniques on a muggle psychologist, which is where the whole talking/listening/note-taking concept comes in. I, too, have read some 'interesting' interpretations of therapists or counsellors in fanfic and they always seem to come across as negative or slightly crazy characters who don't understand the poor, complex main characters. I didn't want that, I wanted Emily to benefit from the help of her healer, because in reality, psychologists/therapists/psychiatrists/counsellors actually do help a lot of people with rather serious problems.
Emily really was a different person, and it's funny, because in my head I see her as two complete people: who she was and who she is now (actually 3, now that I've planned out the ending I see her as who she will be too!), but because I'm trying to reveal her old self slowly, I forget that you guys are only catching snippets of her old life. She really was a different person. Although Cedric wasn't really an 'older' boy because they were in the same year at Hogwarts. Timothy was a year older though.
Speaking of Timothy, this isn't really a romance story, but I am planning to include a little romance because I think that's just a natural part of life, plus it always adds a nice dimension to the story and gives Emily something else to try and deal with :P
The alcohol issue is an interesting one, and whilst it can have a seriously adverse effect on people suffering from mental illness, it does vary from person to person. There are also a lot of other factors that impact on mood and temperament even within people suffering from mental illness. There are plenty of people suffering from anxiety and depression disorders who are able to tolerate alcohol just fine. That being said, I wouldn't say the alcohol is what put Emily in a better frame of mind, her interaction with Timothy is what affected her mood.
Thanks for pointing out the typo...I seem to have made that mistake a lot lately, not sure where I've picked that habit up from :(
Thanks again for the amazing review, I love hearing your thoughts! :)