I just stumbled across this story, when I was looking for a fan version of ABBA's Winner Takes It All (much like Frank Turner's Dancing Queen) and I may have entered something to do with ff or hpff on the search box and this story came up. It's the one time google search has actually led me to something that I loved, so right now I'm just thanking the Google gods. Firstly, apologies for not leaving chapter-by-chapter reviews, which is the only explanation for such a long review but since my finding this story was a result of a strange typo and once I started reading it, I couldn't really pause between chapters and because the ending was so fantastic, I just knew I had to leave a review (and so I began searching for the password to my account, I haven't been on the site for two years now) and I decided to make it a single review about the whole experience of reading the story as it stood complete.
What struck me the most about how you portrayed Rose was the fact that she managed to capture this constant oscillation between the need to love and be loved and the need to set about defining who you are and what you want that I as an early twenty-something experience everyday (and see my friends experiencing). There is a charm of having something 'steady' but there is a stronger charm of wanting to do something for yourself, no matter how crazy it is or what you have to let go of in order to do it. What I mean to say is, being of an independent disposition is not always about putting yourself first (which Rose does do)_but also about realizing what exactly you are foregoing in that process and what you may eventually end up gaining. What made Rose real for me was that she understood the charm of a settled life, even fleetingly yearned for it sometimes and because of that recognition of what she was not choosing, her choice became more human. And hence it was absolutely heart-breaking, when she was placed in that position again where she needed to take a stand, lose something and gain something. It was beautiful how she was uncertain despite having lived a life of certain independence in China, when she returned. Which is why her decision to go back became all the more meaningful to me as a reader. Also the fact that the journey to realizing who she is and who the guy she loved once is was not graceful- something one can completely relate to. It felt good to read about someone who was human enough to say hurtful thing and hear hurtful things and make mistakes, someone who was confused and still not sure where they're headed.
From the minute he entered the story, Teddy became the articulation of pain and loss that Rose was feeling but could not completely accept. I loved how you portrayed Teddy. I just can't see him as anything other than a poet now. He was this strange bearer of bitterness (and wisdom that comes from a certain bitterness) that is touching in its intensity but moving in its refusal to solidify into cynicism. So there was hurt but there was also a sense of regret and loss and it was very heartening to see both Rose and Teddy move from a grudging acceptance of what life has dealt them to a cautious hope of turning the tables.
And I felt that since most of the narration is through Rose, Lily's portrayal as a dramatic- almost meta-theatrical young woman worked. It was good to explore the possibility that the Trio may not always be the best parents and the way Rowling wrote the characters, as flawed (and so human) teenagers they were meant to grow into flawed adults. The references to Harry's inner drama queen were hilarious. It made sense that it manifested itself in some form in his children (or one of them, at least). Having said that, I thought both Ron and Hermione were amazing. I'm not a big fan of Ron, I always suspected him of latent misogyny if not sheer simple-mindedness, but you made me like Ron as a parent. His simple reactions complemented the more complicated reactions of Hermione. It worked: one parent is angry/concerned/upset/raging, the other is remembering their own mistakes. What would parenting without drama and history?
I don't know how long this review has gotten and I'm sorry for that but I absolutely loved this story. It was beautifully written and I'll have bits of it memorized soon (the Teddy ones -sigh-). Also, it's made me pick up on hpff again and for that no amount of gratitude will suffice.:)
Author's Response: This review has had me reeling this last month. It was so unexpected and an amazing treat to receive - this one review has made my day and more! (I don't know what I would have done with chapter-by-chapter reviews because if this one has floored me, what would a whole set do? This one review is perfectly lovely on its own, so please don't apologize. Hearing that the story kept pushing you forward is in itself a fantastic compliment!)
It's amazing how you came across this story by accident - Google can certainly manage some wonderful things at times. :D
Wow. First of all, I'm really glad to hear that Rose's her uncertainty and struggle to define herself reflects the twenty-something experience. At times while writing this, she seemed overly confused and almost inconsolable, and it was a challenge to bring her out of that state, to give her something tangible to move toward and find her confidence again. She can be very contradictory, feeling the pull between two worlds, the two lives she could have, depending on her final choice. She is definitely aware of what she would lose - she almost focuses more on what she would lose than what she would gain, should she make a particular choice. Her idea of what it means to settle is very abstract - she has a vague notion of comfort, luxury, and a lack of anxiety over the small things of existence. Rose is caught between two dreams, two possible futures, and despite the fact that she's living one of those dreams, she still doesn't want to let the other go. It was oddly therapeutic to write a story about someone like Rose because, as you said, she makes many mistakes, is terribly confused about the world and where she exists within it, as well as about herself, who she is, what she wants, and whether it's right. Her flaws were painful to write because they were real.
You've described Teddy perfectly. I love the idea that he is the articulation of pain that Rose can't accept. He is what Rose could become, struck by the same hurt, the same uncertainty and wavering, but it leaves him in a darker state from which it takes him longer to emerge. Yet there's still hope for renewal, which is why Teddy is associated with the garden, a place over which he can have some measure of control and also a place of spontaneity, where uncertainty is entirely natural - sometimes a seed won't grow, but it's not the end of the world. You can always plant another and try again.
It was interesting to write Lily in this way because her dramatic nature is, to a degree, a product of Rose's perception of her. Lily is spoiled, but inside she suffers from the same fears as Rose - her desire for something steady and secure is twice as strong as Rose's, so while Rose suffers through indecision, Lily goes out to get what she wants without caring about the consequences (another similarity to her father - I hadn't noticed it before). One thing I enjoy about writing Next-Gen stories is the potential to make the children of the trio very complicated, flawed individuals - their parents are far from perfect, and the fame that would follow them everywhere would only make things more difficult.
I'm very glad to hear that you liked this characterization of Ron. I like to think that after the war, and especially after becoming a father, his personality would improve - he would put more effort into expanding his perspective and try to be a decent example for his children. Having a daughter as a first child may have helped him with that misogyny, too (I agree that his opinions certainly veer toward misogyny - his character makes for an interesting study with its flaws and complexities). Rose reflects both parents equally, and they're a major influence for her own problems.
Thank you, thank you for reading this story and loving it. You understood it so well, and there's nothing more that I could want to hear than that. ^_^