I'm so sorry for how long this review has taken. I read the chapter quite a while ago, but didn't have time to review and i've been working ever since. Anyway, ever so sorry for the long wait.
I like the fullness of this chapter. There is so much happening in it, but it really adds to the atmosphere you have here. You not only go into what is happening to your characters, but there is also this other stuff that's going on that gives a really rich look into the trip of Hogwarts. This other stuff has less to do with your main plot, but it just seems to add to the story and give a wider view of the world you're writing in. I hope that makes sense! (Harry and Ginny for instance, or just the mention of what else is going on and what it look alike).
I think right now I have less of a feel on Astoria. You write her as if you want her motivation to be simply figuring him out? You've got that in there a bit, but I feel like there is other things sneaking up with her that seems to make that less believable. She has the naive youngness to her that makes this seem more like a school girl crush (which isn't necessarily bad, she is young and has a naive feel about her. It just doesn't help the motivation of her there to figure him out). She seems to ignore, at the moment at least, most of the rubbish about Draco as being rumour (she was at school with him before, it's not like she wouldn't have seen him being cruel). There is also in her character an almost saintlike feel to her which makes her less believable because she seems perfect. I mean, she's able to look passed someone's faults and actually believe in them. She doesn't let other people's opinions sway her, she's non judgemental, she looks for the best in everyone. She seems angelic. It's great to have a lot of different characteristics in a character, obviously, but I think that she falls flatter for me. I'd have to see more of her to really believe she is all of that. I don't see a lot of weakness or faults unless you count naivety as a fault. I suppose she's clouded by her own optimism which could account for her actions. I feel this way too because every other character i've read so far seems so full and round. Then there is Astoria and I feel like, although, she isn't a bad character, she just isn't great like the others. She seems bit too mary sue or too something and I don't believe her motivations of just wanting to figure him out. It seems more like an excuse than anything. I hope that doesn't seem mean or anything because i don't think you've done badly, she's just not as well done in my eyes as your other characters.
Ron seems very Ron. He has absolutely no professionalism and lets his prejudice and preconceived ideas take him to challenging Draco. I don't think that bit is overboard at all as we see Ron acting on impulse all the time in the books and only later regretted his decisions. So you did fabulous with him and made me just roll my eyes at Ron for being so stupid and not being able to hold it together, especially for being an Auror. Though, i suppose you can't get too angry considering everything that he's experienced Draco to be. He just needs more time to see that Draco is attempting to get a hold of his ego.
I also have to comment on Hermione and Draco. That bit was perfect. I had chills run up my spine the moment he called her a mudblood. It was too perfectly Draco to let his temper take over and be blinded by rage. It also just portrayed where he is in his growth and how hard it is to truly change. He's done himself no favours in the eyes of others by screaming that in the streets of Hogsmeade. It'll just reinforce everyone's ideas of him. Really great job.
The moment between Draco and Astoria... hmmm i'm a little undecided about it. I think it's fine by all accounts, but then I think it may be a bit too soon if it was meant to be utterly romantic that he'd try and save her, but then I don't see him not trying to protect her at all if their wands were trained on her. Especially since she's the only one giving him a chance. We don't know what his intentions are with her really (which I like). So... I don't feel like i can be much help with that. I'm sorry!
The end bit though... what? I'm trying to figure out who those people were and why on earth they'd ever try and kill someone in the middle of a street with lots of witnesses. How stupid could someone be? I could understand Draco, but to take it out on Astoria as well? Very curious. I suppose this really just shows that whole idea you have here about the fine line between good and bad.
I'm just going to reiterate that I do love this story. You've done such a good job at creating this atmosphere and really keeping it consistent. I love all the topics and themes that are coming into this and it's simply beautiful. Really great job! Thanks so much for requesting and feel free to continue to do so.
Author's Response: Wow. Let me start by saying that this is one of the longest, most involved and thoughtful reviews I've ever gotten. I apologize for taking a while to respond, but there was a lot to think about here. Thank you so much for putting so much time and thought into this.
I'm not a big fan of stories that focus too narrowly on their own plot and fail to work in the context of the surrounding world, so I'm really pleased that you felt like I was able to show a broader picture here. Just because a character has a romantic interest doesn't mean that's the only thing that character thinks about.
What you've written about Astoria really lends credence to a lot of the concerns I've had about her character in the early chapters of this story. Once I got into the later chapters where more of her faults and less mature traits start to play more of a central role, it dawned on me that she wasn't well balanced at all in the beginning. What she's meant to be feeling toward Draco -- at least what I had in mind -- was partly a desire to figure him out but with a sizable schoolgirl crush lurking just beneath the surface. So it sounds like that didn't work all that well. I can also see where her reactions and thoughts about Draco make her pretty one-dimensional. He and Ron are both behaving like jerks in some parts of this chapter, and she lets Draco off very easy for that behavior. It's a lot to think about, and I really appreciate your honesty and the effort you've put into detailing her good and bad points. I don't get that from most reviewers.
It pained me a bit to write Ron as such a jerk. I really don't like stories where he's written like this. That's mostly because while he's kind of immature and a bit obnoxious by nature, I don't think he's a bad guy. Also, most of the stories that portray him like this are Dramiones. Enough said. But I felt like it was necessary to set the scene for what happens later on in this chapter. I've tried very hard throughout this story not to portray Draco in an overly sympathetic light. He's done some terrible things and he's not a character that deserves unconditional sympathy. At the same time, though, the world is definitely not giving him a fair shake. Se la vi.
I really liked how both Draco and Hermione ended up in their exchange. She's trying to be helpful to him and he's too blinded by anger and pride to have any of it. He crosses a line. She reacts in much the same way that she responded in Prisoner of Azkaban. It was immensely rewarding to write.
Again, you may be right. Astoria does rise to his defense in a way that's not quite set up by anything that's happened between the two of them so far. Needs work...
There is a valid explanation for why the old witch and the two wizards attack Draco. You'll find out in the next chapter. It goes back to his actions during the war.
I'm pleased that you still love the story in spite of its flaws. Again, thank you for being so honest about them. Unfortunately, I don't hear people's negative reactions as often as I'd like. They're as important to improving as the positive ones. Thanks so much for such a great review!