Ok, I need to start by including something I forgot in the last chapter review because I was in a bit of a rush: I absolutely loved the ending of the last chapter! The fact that he slipped backwards, that he thought she could never love him, that he went back to the alcohol! Oh brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! That simple decision made your character so much more real and I think it was just perfect. Draco wants to change, for himself and Astoria, but change is HARD. So often in fanfic people forget that. So well done you.
Ok, on to this chapter. Hahaha, the scenes with Daphne were great, I loved all the squealing and consumption of way too much champagne and the uncomfortable dresses...it was almost like a caricature, but it really worked well. And the conversation with her mother was fascinating. The whole arranged marriage concept is an interesting one, but I think it works incredibly well with the whole 'pure blood' system. What's amusing is that in another time and place, her parents would be falling over themselves to marry her off to Draco.
I really like the choice to have their relationship develop through letters, it adds to the anticipation and drama of the whole piece. Nothing brings two lovers closer together like being forced apart (Romeo meet Juliet :P). I like the way that Astoria's feelings for Draco seem to give her this added strength too, the fact that she's now almost planning the 'run off and get married' plan B is a big step from where she was at the start. I like that growth in her.
The Draco/Zabini interaction was really good, such a contrast to Astoria's difficult situation and yet so similar at the same time. Rather than making Draco into someone he's not (my main gripe with draco-centric fics), you bring out the qualities that are apparent in canon and build on them, resulting in the character maintaining integrity and being entirely believable as the same person. His shrewdness, sarcasm and intelligence are all things that we saw in Malfoy from the very first book, and you've brought them all out really well. It's really impressive and you should be proud because it's very difficult to do that with someone else's character.
The final paragraph was perfection. It sums up this motivation for Draco to stay out of the firing line and bring about change in his life. Of course there's not just one reason, but here you've touched on a very real issue that Draco would have faced, a very real emotion and anxiety to stay out of the fight. I just thought it was very clever.
As always, your writing is brilliant and beautiful and I loved reading this chapter. Only one left and I've caught up :( Hopefully there will be more up soon :)
Author's Response: Hello, again!
Draco had quite a setback at the end of the last chapter. He was having a rough go of it anyway, and his father's antics pushed him over the edge. In my mind, it was bound to happen at some point. He's dealing with a lot of stress in his life, between preparing for his N.E.W.T.s, trying to keep his relationship with Astoria a secret, worrying about what's going on with his father and trying to walk the straight and narrow path. So he slipped a bit. Let's hope it's not the start of something. ;)
In my mind, Daphne is a pretty horrible bride. She's vain, flighty, spoiled and very high-maintenance. Plus, there were aspects of that scene that were just too much fun not to write. Pansy getting physically abused by the dress fitter? Come on, that's gold!
Astoria's mother is one to keep an eye on. Like a lot of characters in the post-war world, you're going to see her struggle a bit to find a balance between the things she was raised to believe and the new realities of life. And you're right: in the absence of the war, Draco would have been one of the most eligible bachelors in the entire wizarding world.
I see the way that their relationship is mostly developing through letters as being somewhat double-edged. By the nature of the letter-writing process, they do get to learn about each other's thoughts, dreams and ambitions. But they're missing out on the chance to get to know the real human being that goes along with all that deep stuff. I'm pretty sure that will become an issue at some point.
I'm really starting to enjoy putting Draco and Blaise together in a room and letting things develop. They're both Slytherin through and through. They're shrewd, cunning, motivated, high-bred and pretty ruthless when it comes to pursuing what they want, but in a refined sort of way. *Big* contrast to that coming up soon...
Draco has a distinct advantage over Zabini, though. He's been through a lot more. He knows what happens to idealistic idiots like Zabini when real conflict breaks out. And he wants no part of it.
I'm starting to work on the next chapter. I have a pretty good outline through to the end of the story at this point, so hopefully the writing will go a bit faster. Thanks for the awesome review!