Hi Zayne! I just got around to responding to an amazing review you left me, like, a year ago (I am the worst!), but I saw this under recently added stories, so I thought I'd leave a review! And you'll be my first review since coming back to the site! Yay! :-D
I want to start by saying that I'm a real fan of your use of description. There are some really prettily written moments throughout this entire chapter that really stuck out to me. What's funny is that my favorite bits are the sort of transitional details, things that don't really matter as far as the plot line goes, but really made a difference in the quality of the story! One of my favorites was in the third paragraph where you describe her walking to the train, patting down her hair, and having a Hufflepuff scarf kick up into her face! haha It seems like such a silly thing to point out, but I just loved the way you wrote it! Same as when you describe the scene outside the windows of the Hogwarts Express as it makes its way to school, with the sheep and farmers, the blend of colors as the world creeps up on autumn - it was just very lovely. I also really liked how you described Mary's entrance back into Hogwarts. It was not only written well, but it was very intriguing! But my FAVORITE line was this gem: "Mary was sometimes convinced that this was only a show, a play to cover the fire that lay at their feet." Love.
I also really liked your group of friends! I can't even quite put my finger on why, but there's something special about them! haha They're just... refreshing. Like, refreshingly honest, maybe? Florence and Mafalda have a nice give and take that really stuck out during the nail polish exchange. I thought Lily being their friend, but not being a close friend was original because you didn't just do the we're-roommates-and-therefore-all-BFF's thing. I'm not sure yet what I think about Lily - I usually see her more put together and envision her that way myself, but it's interesting and could work! Although, I have to ask: Did you mean to not have her be a prefect? In canon she becomes Head Girl, and I think only James ever became a Head student after not being a prefect. At the end of this chapter, your author note mentioned how this story is really about the girls of Gryffindor, and I think that you've done a really good job at setting them up for some potentially great story lines! So you're definitely doing something right! Woot! ^.^
All of that said, however, there are a few things that could use some tweaking!
Something that isn't my favorite (though it's something a lot of author's do, so this could certainly be just a me thing and easily ignored!) is how you begin the story. It's not that it's written poorly or that it doesn't serve a purpose or anything like that, but simply that it feels a bit too... explainy. You begin the story by slating some characteristics about who the main character is rather than writing her into a situation and allowing us to discover her for ourselves. Instead of telling us that she's a good but not great student with strict and expectant parents, maybe she fails an essay and is shocked by the rarity of it all and afraid of what her parents will think when they inevitably find out. Or maybe she gets another Exceeds Expectations or Outstanding on her summer projects and it's just as she suspected would be the case - how proud her hard-to-please parents would be! Or even just meeting up with her friends she hasn't seen all summer who, while catching up on life, talk about the summer homework. Maybe one of them isn't the best student, Mary tries to say she's sure there's nothing to worry about, and they mention that 'Yeah, YOU have nothing to worry about, Mary! You couldn't get below an Acceptable if you turned in a piece of parchment with nothing but your name on it!" And then it can expand from there: 'Well, perhaps they did have a point about her grades, but one could blame her parents for that' - etc. I actually think the story would be more gripping right from the beginning if you started with the third paragraph: "The weather was startlingly cold for September 1st..." and so on. But that's just me. :-p
In the end, though, I think the only thing you truly struggle with a bit is grammar and punctuation! Here are just a few examples to give you an idea:
'"Alright, do you like this colour?" *She said and held up her other hand which was already done.' - Should be '"...colour?" she said, holding up her other hand...'
"Probably, mind if I sit here then?" - Should be "Probably. Mind if I sit here, then?"
'...ignoring all the well-meaning parents around her as they clung to their *child who was squirming to get away.' - Should be 'children who were'
"The train was already buzzing with noise from the squeals of girls as they met up with their mates after two months and the low laughs of the boys who were appreciating how the girls had seemed to get really fit over the summer months." - This sentence is sort of a combination of noticeable lack of comma's plus a run-on sentence. The comma thing especially is something you miss a lot of opportunities for; I think you may have a slight aversion to them! And while comma's can easily be overused, there were a lot of places that I really felt a comma was needed.
I think you had a really strong ending, though! The story really built it's suspense. I thought something bad happened to the blonde Ravenclaw girl (I'm still unsure about her!), but you have me intrigued! That combined with the whole Mary and the Slytherin's thing has me really wanting to know what happens next! And is there any better way to end a chapter than by having your readers want more? I think not! Kudos!
All around, I think it's a really great start! I would consider maybe grabbing a beta who specializes in grammar and punctuation, though! But other than that, this was really good! Yay!
Author's Response: Hey Tanya, I'm finally responding! *waves flag*
Those bits were probably my favourite parts. I loved getting caught up in them, though I fully realise they are extraneous details that probably aren't as needed to the plot. But hey ho, I enjoyed writing them. I'm really pleased you liked that too as I wanted to paint some sort of picture of this journey and make it seem a little different from every Hogwarts train chapter we know of. Make it more of my own because I know how many back to school stories start like this and they are fuzzy feel good stories. This isn't a story like that and i'm still uncertain if this was the best place to start since i don't think many people click for the next chapter.
I'm SO pleased you enjoyed the characters. They are so fun to write and they keep changing in front of my eyes. I enjoy Mafalda and Florence together too. They give and take and can be quite mean to one another, but I do think that beyond their bickering and differences they are friends. I also didn't want Lily to be right in on their friendship group. I've always the envisioned the Gryffindor's to be a little bit more separate than the whole, as you said, we're BFF's forever ohmygosh, type thing. If you look at Harry's year for instance. There was Harry, Ron and Hermione. Then there was Seamus and Dean. Then Pavarti and Lavender. They were friends with each other, but they weren't all close. I'm really pleased that you felt that this works as well. I do realise that she isn't prefect and it will be sorted out how she came to be Head Girl, i promise you :)
You know, funny that you should say that because it was only a day or two before you left this review that I reread the chapter and had the same thoughts, especially about those first two paragraphs. I had been toying with the idea of changing it and then you reviewed and confirmed my suspicions. So, i've recently edited and changed that bit of it. Hopefully it feels more active because there is nothing I dislike more than having passive, boring narrative. So i've changed it and started at the third. Thank you also for pointing out the grammar issues :)
Thanks for this lovely and long review which honestly made my day when i read it!! It's fabulous and the fact that it's your first one coming back is super special! Thank so much for taking the time to read this little story :) And for nominating it for the hufflepuff featured story!! *hugs*