Isobel! Hi! And also ugh! It's so good! I don't even know where to start!
*organizes sporadic thoughts*
Okay, first of all, I just adore the style you've chosen to write this in. It's immediately captivating and unique and feels quite mysterious even from the very first line, which is almost odd considering you're mostly talking about coffee at the start... And yet I'm all like 'WHO DAT?' about this cafe girl! The way you speak about her and the descriptions and details that piece her together have me so curious to find out who she is! I love that! And sort of hate it cause I want to know things... but LOVE!
Speaking of, I was actually going to start up a big monologue of pestering along the lines of, "WHO'S THE GIRL WRITING THE BOOK?" but as I was sifting through previous reviews to see what TenthWeasley might have said (cause after that dedication, I just had to see her response) and it seems to actually be Rachel herself that is the girl in the cafe with the coffee and the book and the Snape obsession - which totally makes sense now that I think about it. hehehe I just adore the way she was described; in particular the comment about dog-earing her precious book! LOL Not only did you paint a really clear picture of who this woman was without actually telling us who is she is directly, but you also snuck in some humor, which I always love to see lightly sprinkled throughout darker stories; it adds a really special element, in my opinion.
"Your blonde hair is tied in a ponytail, although a few stray wisps have gotten loose; one of them is millimetres away from your coffee and is curling as the steam emitting from the hot liquid heats it, but you appear to be so engrossed in your book that you haven't noticed." - This line is so great; I love the small details that piece 'the girl' together for us little by little. The description in the opening paragraph is to die for.
The plot, though only just touched upon thus far, is already so intriguing. To be honest, I have no idea where this is going, other than to the telling of Tobias Snape and his story, but you've set it up so that the only thing we know about him is that his story deserves to be told, and that alone is enough to have me desperately curious about exactly why it is that his story deserves to be told! I want to point out that this is particularly impressive because I don't generally gravitate towards Snape-esque stories, and even then, I don't think I've ever spared a second thought about Tobias. In fact - and don't tell anyone I'm admitting to this - but I had to look up who exactly Tobias was before I started reading. Seriously, he's never been a character I've particularly cared to learn more about, but this story, this prologue, has completely turned that around. I cannot wait to find out more about your version of Tobias Snape.
My knowledge of Eileen is about the same. I remembered who she was, at least, but never really spared much thought outside of what's spoken about her in the books; yet you've crafted her so well here, as if she hadn't simply had only a brief appearance in canon. You speak through her with this level of understanding and wisdom that, as a person much younger than Eileen, doesn't even seem quite possible. Perhaps you are simply an old soul? Regardless, the voice you've given her is just stunning. She feels like this perfect combination of gentle and fragile, but still strong and determined, which is exactly what I might expect from a mother who was beaten to the grave by her son.
I love this line: "It's ironic, isn't it, that of all the diseases a pure-blood witch could suffer from, I'm recovering from a Muggle illness I happen to share a star sign with?" Beautifully phrased.
What I also love about your choice to give a pure-blood witch a Muggle disease - and this is something that's totally subjective to me but that I'm going to mention anyway because I want to - is that it's a reflection of the personal canons we make for ourselves and how differing they can be from other HP fanfiction authors. What I mean is that in my own personal canon, I've decided that Muggles cannot get Wizarding diseases and pure-bloods cannot get Muggle diseases, but half-bloods are exposed and prone to both. Because of that, I think it's seriously unique from my point of view to see Eileen suffering in this way, and that it's just so beautiful and tragic an idea. I simply love the choice.
"When I suggest simply turning the corner of the page to mark your place, your head jerks up abruptly and you're looking at me as if I've just confessed to harbouring a secret desire to resurrect Voldemort..." hahaha I had to bring it up again; it's just that good.
It's a phenomenal beginning, Isobel. You're an author who knows her way around words and doesn't dare throw stray ones around; each serves a purpose and that's what makes your writing so exceptional. I'm so ridiculously intrigued by what the following chapter(s) of this story will hold because I know that based on how fantastically executed Eileen was, Tobias and his story are going to be just as - if not more - captivating. Hopefully I'll be back sooner than later to leave my next review on chapter two, but either way I definitely plan on reading it right now, cause I simply cannot wait! Just don't tell my boss, yeah? ;)
This is so great. Yay!
Author's Response: Hi Tanya! That is quite a long essay you've written, and I just want you to know that I appreciate every word. (I'm also hoping that there isn't a review response character limit, haha!)
I'm so, so pleased that you like the style of this prologue! I'm definitely writing the interludes (where we go back to the present) and the epilogue in the same way, because all the lovely feedback is fabulous to hear. I'm afraid I can't take credit for the style, though; it was inspired by teh tarik's one-shot Sanguini, the Vampire, which I definitely recommend.
I'm also really pleased that you enjoyed the balance of information I gave out and withheld with regard to that cafe girl. You're absolutely correct in your guess that she's inspired by Rachel - since this is Rachel's story, I wanted to give her a connection to the story and really tailor it to her, so I created a fictional character based off of some of her traits. Now you understand why there's so much coffee in this chapter ;) I will give you a little spoiler though - as if you don't already have enough - and say that this cafe girl has more to her than meets the eye. ;)
I'm glad you like the humour that I included! When I was a little girl, my grandma's OAP club used to organize day trips, and my mum and I used to go on those too. Often, I was the only child around, so I chatted often with the pensioners and I drew on my memories to create an elderly Eileen, who's clinging to the past in a changing world, and who's sorely missing the good old traditions of the past.
Hehehehe. My headcanon about Tobias is intertwined with a lot of spoilers, which is why I've sent that info through PM. However, I'm so pleased that my writing has made you want to know more about a particularly obscure character in canon, especially one you had to Google! :P As someone who likes a well-written Severus, I can tell you that often, Tobias is alluded to as an unpleasant man who isn't particularly nice to his wife and son, and I wanted to put a whole new spin on that.
This also applies to Eileen, who doesn't seem to get much attention in fanfic (I can only think of one novel about her right now) and again, I wanted to change that. I laughed when you called me an old soul; the explanation for that is above. Clearly, spending time with pensioners turns you into a very youthful-looking pensioner :P I'm really excited that you're enjoying her voice, because that's one of the things I enjoy most about writing this story. (It also probably explains why this was originally a one-shot and expanded into a novella, haha!)
Oooh, I'm going to share some of my headcanon with you, too! Basically, a Muggle-born child pre-Hogwarts would be susceptible to Muggle illnesses but not magical ones, because they don't practice their magic deliberately (Lily Evans was an exception). Once they're at Hogwarts, when they're practicing magic, they /can/ be vulnerable to magical diseases. With a Squib, it's vice-versa - growing up, they're surrounded by magic so they're susceptible to magical illnesses, but when they try to build a life in the Muggle world and leave their families, they risk contracting Muggle diseases. Using this theory, Eileen, although a pure-blood witch, hasn't been using magic for decades now, and has been living as a Muggle away from magic in general. I hope that makes sense, but regardless, Iâm insanely happy that you love the choice! :D
OMG YES. It was actually an educated guess that Rachel would react in that way; I didn't realize until she said so in her review! I just knew she loved books and was blonde, and expanded that into a character :P
Thank you so much, Tanya! I'm so grateful for this absolutely lovely review, and I can't imagine how long it took you to write - especially at work! I look forward to your chapter two with eager anticipation (and chapter four of Lying Josephine ;)) and I'm so pleased that you're enjoying this story so much; I hope you continue to!