I... I feel like there are hardly words sufficient for this chapter. I'll find some, because that's just me. I'd feel pretty useless if I couldn't think of something nice to say about such a beautifully written chapter. But part of me just wants to write "N-O-O-O-O-O-O-O--O-O-O!!!" and that would be the whole review.
Probably the most amazing thing about this chapter was how your pacing concealed the outcome until it was nearly over. The first 2/3 of this chapter was written in such an unhurried, casual sort of way that it totally lulls you into feeling like this is just another "fluffy" chapter showing some very normal moments in the lives of these very special young people. The effect is powerful. Devastating, even. When Belle is attacked in the Leaky Cauldron, I remember feeling my stomach drop like a rock. And I knew what was going to happen. I can't imagine coming into that unaware.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I loved all the sentimental things that Lily and the others go though as they're leaving Hogwarts for the final time as students. Seven years is a long time, after all, and the tears and reflections and memories were a perfect way to capture the event.
Moving along to Belle's point of view, I enjoyed seeing all of the same sentiments echoed through the thoughts of the newest member of the group. They sucked her right up and made her one of them. And she got more out of it than she bargained for, as well:
This, she thought. This feeling was what so many people lost their heads over, and she knew she’d always treasure the fact that she’d gotten to experience such an intoxicating love. -- This, he thought. ;) But what's this talk of "gotten to experience"? Are you trying to make me all sad and feelsy?
I'm also sad that they think they'll get the map back from Filch. It will be so long before that actually happens. :(
Sirius and Belle get one last private moment together. I really liked that, although it obviously couldn't become more than just a kiss and a snuggle. Everything seems like it's going perfectly for him at that moment. They're ready to move into their new flats. He's going to get his money from his mother. He's in love with Belle and she's in love with him. Gah, you set up the ending of this chapter in such a beautifully harsh way!
"Oh Sirius," James said, making his voice higher than usual and changing it around so it would mimic one of the girls. "We're casting spells, this is so funny," he gave a false giggle and added a mock hair flip just for good measure.
"And we’re casting them together," Sirius added in the same ridiculous tone, covering his mouth with a few fingers as he giggle back at James. -- This line was laugh-out-loud funny. Also, "giggle" should have been "giggled" and your beta reader missed it. You should smack him. ;)
I love that we get to see the girls bounce around like popcorn and squee all over Alice now that Frank managed to pull himself together and pop the question. One more happy moment in the big build-up. Poor Sirius doesn't know quite how to relate the happy event to his own future, but at least he's dealing with the feelings in a more or less straightforward fashion. He has time to figure it out, doesn't he? :'(
I loved every last thing about the group tricking Walburga. Some of the little details you worked in were very unique for your style of writing. The fact that you actually made her a beautiful woman and not some shriveled, awful old witch with a wart on her nose was actually one of the most realistic things I've ever read. Sirius and Regulus were both quite easy on the eyes, so why would their mother be hideous? And Kreacher! I love his one line and I love Belle's reaction to him!
And then things go terribly, awfully, tragically wrong. So wrong that what's left of this review is probably going to be rather short because I don't feel at all like analyzing this part of the story in any detail. Why on earth did they let her go to the bathroom alone? Girls NEVER go to the bathroom alone! That's breaking the Girl Code into a thousand pieces and stomping on them. When it happens, I can hardly explain how horrible and realistic the feeling of being helpless and trapped was. Even when Alrek attacked Lily, she had some measure of space and separation. And they never left the relative safety of the castle.
"Bring Sirius or that Mudblood and I can make it stop hurting," the voice cooed, barely reaching Belle as she struggled to block out the pain. For the first time, something inside her realized that this might be it.
This could be how she’d spend the last bit of her life. -- Ouch. This just made it all hurt that much more. Belle knows that this is it. Maybe she hasn't fully admitted it yet, but she knows.
They’re here, Belle thought with a fleeting rush of hope. It was the last thing she felt before a shower of green light doused over her. -- Even though I knew exactly what was going to happen, I still felt that same fleeting rush of hope. And it hurt. More than I like to think about.
Sirius's anguish was written perfectly. Normally I'm not a fan of using boldface in stories in the Archives, but this is one of the very few places where it was perfectly appropriate and suited to the moment. It's hard to adequately explain how much I felt his pain in this. It's just a hollow feeling in the center of your chest that aches and doesn't go away quickly. Belle became such an important part of this world that you created, and now she's gone. There's a hole there that can't be filled.
I don't know how you made it through writing this. I'm glad that I was able to help get you through it, whatever small role I played. I know that you agonized over this and we talked through several ways to do it differently, none of which would have made sense in the long run. You're not a monster, because you feel. And so do we. Amazing chapter!
Author's Response: Ugh, okay, I'm going to try and remain coherent while responding to this.
I think the slower pace of the first half of this chapter resulted a lot in me just not wanting to get to the end. Obviously I knew what would happen, and dragging my feet felt like the best option. Hahaha.
Okay I tried to figure out if i put 'he' instead of 'she' and I didn't, but if I'm missing something tell me in an email so I can fix it :P.
I really think that Sirius and Belle could have had a good future together. I don't think it would be an easy or relaxing one, but I really think they could have made it work an Alice and Lily wouldn't let them stop trying :P
Well Dan, if I smack my beta reader he might not be as apt to spend every friday night editing with me :P I think I'll just add a D instead :P
That was exactly what I was thinking when Belle went alone. Why are you guys letting her go alone?! Come on, it's the rule of bathroom going, they never go alone! Ugh our poor Belle ;(.
I didn't want to give any of the fight sort of hope I gave during Lily's attack. First, we knew she'd live, and even if we didn't we could still see she was fighting and could fight. Belle wasn't up against a crazy 18 year old, she was up against a woman who has dedicated her life to murdering, and there was no way she was going to slip from it. Not after Bellatrix had already lost Lily and James once before.
Sirius's pain is what killed me more than anything to write. With Belle, it was all happening in that blurry sort of way. But Sirius's was hot and real and there and ugh. I just wanted to be like, 'JK Belle's still alive!'
I think if it wasn't for you there's a solid chance I'd have gone a different way with this. And that wouldn't have worked and this had to happen and ugh, but I'm so happy I at least had you to be sad with me during the editing process!
Thank you so much for all your help through this entire book, m'dear! Especially this chapter. It was absolutely the most difficult out of the 39.