I am absolutely speechless. I don't know where to begin to fully express how much this story has drawn me in, this early on. Everything from the idea, to it's execution, character portrayal, description, scene visuals and the overall handling of the plot you're laying ahead is masterfully done. I know this might seem like an over praise, but I have done my share of book reading, and your style is amazing, rich, so visual! It would be ashamed not to pursue a side career in writing. Have you ever thought about it?
Anyway! Going back to the story, this chapter is exactly what I imagined it to be after our first peek into what had become Draco's life. I am especially happy about how you're handling Draco's path of recovery. He is still weakened by his desire to immerse himself in a state of forgetfulness that alcohol brings, thus he feels the temptation creep on him again. However, he resists. Even if I sense that at some point there will be a relapse (or not?), the scene when he steels against his unconscious desire gives me hope that he will eventually overcome his addiction. Which makes me oddly happy. You'd think I'd be more happy to see Draco in such a pathetic state, but I'm not. I think he deserves another chance at a normal life, a family and a place in the wizarding world without anyone shooting him glares, muttering insults behind his back. It will be difficult of course, but totally worth it!
I am also very happy to see we're going to see Astoria's perspective! That could offer great inside into what kind of person she is, and I think we've started this chapter. Having a sweet, kind girl besides Draco is an image I can picture very easily. In fact, I think only a girl like Astoria could manage to steer him in the right direction. He desperately needs someone to believe in him, that he's more than who his father is and more than what his family's done, and Astoria is that person. I think her father will be one of their most difficult obstacles to overcome. He seems really set on hating Draco, and to a certain degree I can understand why. The legacy the Malfoy's left to Draco isn't one that he can be particularly proud, but Horatio is also very hasty to judge Draco just because he is part of the Malfoy family. I always try not to judge people by groups, rather by individuals. Otherwise, you can make big mistakes.
I am really, really looking forward to the next chapter!
Author's Response: Hi, there!
Wow. I'm not altogether sure how to respond to your first comment. I did have a lot of time to think about Draco and Astoria before writing this, between Conspiracy of Blood and Marked. I guess it paid off. I really, really appreciate the compliments!
Draco has started the long road to recovery, but as you correctly guessed, there will be bumps along the way. I didn't really think it through to the point of affixing a label to Draco's condition before I started writing, but as I've gone on I've decided that Draco is suffering from a form of post-traumatic stress. He has most of the textbook symptoms: flashbacks, substance abuse problems, difficulty controlling his anger, depression and feelings of hopelessness and disaffection. Astoria finally offers him something that seems worth pulling himself out of his downward spiral. His path ahead will certainly be difficult, but we already know from canon that he makes it.
Ah, Astoria. I love her as a character, but I still have a bad feeling that she comes off a little Mary Sue-ish in these early chapters. Her father has definitely made his mind up where the Malfoys in general are concerned. It's actually understandable, from his point of view. He wasn't ever part of Voldemort's inner circle, so he has no idea how powerful and dangerous the Dark Lord really was. In Horatio's mind, Voldemort was more or less a crazy cult leader who would have remained on the margins of society if the Blacks and Malfoys hadn't elevated him with their money and influence. It's a naive viewpoint, but one that he comes by honestly. He just might learn a few things in this story, as well.
Ah, so glad that you're enjoying the story! It started out as a challenge entry and has sort of become a labor of love to finish it. Thanks for your lovely, supportive reviews!