Hey Susan, here with your requested review! By the way, I do intend to make it back over to Black Sands sometime soon -- it's just a matter of finding time to devote to it.
I really love the tangible regret Albus feels in this piece. I think it's only appropriate for his character to go about it in a complicated, poetic way, but I can still sense his emotion beneath that surface. The symbolism of the snow is interesting because it suggests that it covers Albus as much as it covers up the memories of those who can never return. In particular, I liked the image of the wind hitting the shutters; it's like he's just standing against the cold, waiting until it finally topples him over. Perhaps it would be comforting to join the others.
It's hard for me not to comment directly on the description in the passages concerning Ariana because it's just stunning. Albus treats her with this lightness, this fragile touch even after death. I sense it's an old habit of his, the way he extends her a sort of reverence because it is well known how powerful she can be without even trying. Yet I see this understanding between them. This piece of the narrative is especially interesting because we have Aberforth's claim from canon that he was the favored of her brothers, and perhaps she had a closer relationship with Albus than either he or Aberforth realized--or wanted to realize. I think of it like they feel the similarity between them, that they both possess powers that could be threatening if used improperly. Maybe I'm off track now :)
As for Gellert, it's clear that Dumbledore is unable or unwilling to disentangle his romantic attachment to the man from his knowledge of Grindlewald's dark intentions. I have to admit that I don't feel as deep an understanding of Albus's feelings toward Gellert as I got from reading about Ariana here, though I know you had word count constraints. I did like the brief glimpse we got of his motives, in terms of the greedy look in his eyes and the way he "knew how to use" Ariana and her power.
I'm not very familiar with Coleridge, so I'm afraid I can't comment too much on the poem or the symbolism of the Albatross. I think the theme of suffering in the wake of an error is universal nonetheless, and it definitely felt tangible for me.
Nice work! Hope this review is helpful.
Author's Response: It is helpful! Thank you very much, Amanda! :D
The poem was more of a touchstone, something I added halfway through writing to help shape the story's plot - it does work to add another level to the story, the brief allusion replacing the need for a long explanation, but otherwise it's not necessary. There is a lot more symbolism beyond it, as you've found. I really like the idea of the snow also acting as a cover for Albus. This could also imply the persona he shapes for himself in future years, acting as the wise old man when inside he's still aching with guilt and desire. I see now another allusion, albeit unconscious, to Eliot's "The Waste Land" with the lines "Winter kept us warm, covering / Earth in forgetful snow" - the snow allows him to bury the dead, bury his memories, and bury his guilt. It's silent, and thus it doesn't judge him. This is perhaps why he doesn't join the others - as much as he'd like to, he still fears their judgment.
I'm very glad to hear that you liked the passages regarding Ariana so much! There definitely is a strange understanding between them, the kind that can't even be described, but it's still powerful. I like to think that what Albus resented was having to care for her and always be protecting her, etc. rather than Ariana herself - there's nothing to say that she didn't share Albus's genius, especially since even Aberforth had a kind of genius too. It's a wonderfully murky part of canon, so reliant on hearsay, but that's what makes it fun to write about. :D
The depth of connection between Albus and Gellert is lacking, but that is on purpose. For Albus, it's almost that first crush, or first lust, I should probably say - he has a physical desire for Gellert and adores the other boy's brain, perhaps because Gellert is the only person he knows who is smarter than he is. There's no real emotional attachment between them - all he desires in Gellert's absence is the physical touch, nothing more. Ariana is the focus, and Albus is torn between mourning her and being happy that she is freed from her curse. I'm pleased that the difference between the two relationships was evident - with the word constraints, I didn't think it would.
Thank you again for reading and reviewing! As always, it means a lot to hear your feedback. ^_^