This was another one of those chapters where not a lot of things happened in terms of events, but there were lots of significant developments in Devlin's relationship with Harry. These are the kinds of chapters that are fun to read and kind of painful to review, because it's a lot easier to gush about action and scenes and descriptions. Nevertheless, it was a good one.
Hermione is such a tactician in this chapter. You can definitely see where a bit of Ron has rubbed off on her. She knows that the conversation with Scrimgeour didn't go as well as they would have liked and she's already figuring out angles and strategies. At the same time, she helps Harry to calm down and center himself before the conversation he needs to have with Devlin. She's pretty amazing.
It's a little sad that after all this time, it still terrifies Devlin to be wandless in Harry's presence. Deeply-engrained fears are hard to overcome, I suppose. And Harry's struggling a little from his side of the exchange, too.
"Devlin..." He said, his brow furrowing. "I wasn't - please tell me - never mind - don't tell me." -- Harry's getting a lot better about accepting the things he can't change, I see.
I'd be completely remiss if I didn't mention Devlin's fear of the elevator. "You're in a cage that is falling and you don't completely understand why we're not going to die?" That was really funny. I guess when you spend your life in tents, you don't ever see those.
Another story from Devlin's life growing up with Voldemort. That was definitely a side of the Dark Lord that we've never seen before, soothing Devlin and settling him down. I guess it goes without saying that Voldemort is not the nurturing type, and this story is definitely a new facet for the character. I'm not sure how I feel about it, to be honest. He understands nothing of love and friendship, but in this case he seems to develop this strong bond with Devlin where he's telling him old stories and explaining how great Devlin is going to be. It's like Voldemort is getting a chance to relive his fractured life vicariously through Devlin. Oh my god, Voldemort has a little bit of Pageant Mom in him!
I think the thing I loved more about this chapter than anything else was the desire Devlin feels -- and it's still a want, not a need -- to tell Harry more about his life with Voldemort and to have Harry understand where he's coming from. He had never felt such a want to tell someone else all of his secrets. Along with his heavily-suppressed desire for comfort and affection, it's one of the most humanizing things you've shown us so far.
So Voldemort hasn't just told Devlin that they're alike, Devlin is actually supposed to be better. That's an odd thought, coming from a man with a debilitating fear of death. If Devlin could be greater than Voldemort, isn't it also possible that he could turn on Voldemort and destroy him? That doesn't seem like the sort of thing Voldemort would be OK with. Just a thought.
That's an interesting tidbit, about Devlin being able to break Voldemort's wards. I have to wonder whether you highlighted that fact for a reason.
It's really nice to see Harry being honest with Devlin about the Ministry and what Scrimgeour was hoping to get from sharing the pictures. I think it's a good strategy, treating Devlin more like an adult whereas Geoffrey treats him like a foolish child and Voldemort treats him like a jealously-guarded possession.
I think I'm understanding more and more where Geoffrey is coming from. I guess keeping Devlin safe "at all costs" eventually came down to a need to get Devlin away from the single most dangerous thing in his life: Voldemort, himself. Your writing was really gripping in the last section. Especially passages like this: "There are things you are not meant to tell, Dubhán," Geoffrey said, soft and warning, taking a step into the room. For a moment he didn't sound like a traitor. For a moment he was still the man who stood between Voldemort's wrath and his body. For a moment he was still the man who explained everything patiently about how to be like Grandfather wanted. For a moment, just long enough to draw in a breath, he was a Death Eater. "Ever." Chilling...
And then you cap it off with this: "Ask Potter what the Dark Lord does when he is uncertain."
I found but a single possible typo to bring to your attention: A boy who is on his way to doing anything. A boy of who will be great. -- A boy who will be great.
Author's Response: Yes, this chapter wasn't so action packed - I'm getting back to that, though.
I'll fast forward to the bit about your review that I really want to touch on first: Voldemort being comforting.
My belief has always been that a) Voldemort is a psychopath, only really caring for himself b) all the Horcruxs have really unhinged his mind c) either because of the Horcruxs or simply because many psychopaths are not very 'organized' - he doesn't see the things he doesn't understand or at the very least disregards them. Like love. Like Harry. Like the Deathly Hallows.
Re: Devlin being better. I've already established through Devlin's thoughts and words to Harry recently that Devlin sees himself as all tangled up in Voldemort's head. Right now it's harder to make it clearer because we only have Devlin who is understanding this (obviously Voldemort doesn't, or he wouldn't be mad and this wouldn't be happening). But, if I were to put it in my own brief words I would say this: Voldemort doesn't really see Devlin as an individual. Part of him knows the boy is a boy who isn't HIM but he treats the child as if the child were HIM - feeding him, clothing him, teaching him, treating him like he would have felt others should have treated him. He's not often kind (I don't think he felt that was something lacking in his reception as a child) and when he is - he soothes by speaking about greatness; a reassurance that I picture Tom Riddle saying to himself alone in the orphanage "I am better. Someday they will all see that I am better" etc etc. He isn't right in the head.
But Geoffrey took him away. And Geoffrey has told us that he hid the fact that Devlin was capable of Mind Magic from Voldemort because he was afraid Voldemort would see him as less of a toy and more of a threat. This is another good point to consider.
I think Voldemort would eventually wake up to the reality that Devlin is not him, before the boy got too strong. Maybe the first time Devlin managed to disarm him in a duel, or if he saw that love in his eyes, or if Devlin realized something in a strategy sense before him - who knows what the trigger would be, but it would happen and Devlin would no longer be the experiment or the part of him - he would again be an individual that was a threat. And because Voldemort only loves himself, he would kill him then.
This is how I imagine that my Voldemort is still 'in character'. Hope that helped. We'll be touching on this once more in the upcoming chapter but like I said - it is pretty difficult to explain it through Devlin right now.
FYI: "Oh my god, Voldemort has a little bit of Pageant Mom in him!" FUNNIEST thing I have heard this year! :D :D
I really feel that Harry is getting a better grip of this.
And the elevator was one of my favorite things to write. LOL
Definitely made sure you saw the fact that he can break the wards again. I've mentioned it before when Devlin tells Harry about Maria (the girl in the blue dress), but I want to make sure everyone remembers. It will be important.
I think the 'need' was decided when Geoffrey was captured. He has said himself that he knew if he went back Voldemort would never trust him, and he knew without him to hide Devlin's abilities and act in the background, Devlin would be in danger. I've always wanted to write an AU one-shot of Geoffrey being captured by someone else.
Thanks for the compliment per the last section. I am trying very hard to not have Devlin realize the game Geoffrey is playing completely, because I don't think it's something an almost-ten-year-old would realize.
Thank you for the heads up on the typo!