Well, this was a gut-wrencher - right up to the very end. I suspected from the title of the chapter that Draco would, at some point, succumb to the pressures and take a drink, but I actually thought that we would make it through without that happening.
So Isadore is getting on my nerves a little bit. She doesn't hide the fact that she isn't a Draco fan, but I didn't like that she immediately assumed that Astoria was acting improper with Draco. Perhaps she feels like she is losing her best friend a little or she is still harboring ill-will toward the Malofoys because of their involvement with the war.
I loved the scene in McGonagall's office. Astoria, while managing to be truthful with her father, still acted the Slytherin and twisted the situation around to try to convince him that her actions were similar to his during the war. That was great! The voice you gave McGonagall was spot-on! I could see her standing before them with the overly tight hair bun and stern look on her face. The only part of the whole chapter that seemed a tiny bit off was Snape. I can't quite put my finger on it, but he seemed a bit too philosophical from what I remember his character to be. Telling Astoria that other people's opinions don't matter if she believes Draco isn't evil seemed a little bit off from his character. But, maybe he doesn't have too much else to worry about now that he is dead...
Draco's emotions were so real and permeating in this chapter. They flowed through every paragraph. You could feel the hope within him as he cherishes Astoria's letter and dares to make plans for their future. It is short lived by the news his father gives him and Draco's mood turns to self-loathing and hopelessness consumes him.
I also really liked how Draco is angry at his father for being weak and ill. This is a common emotion, but it is often skirted or poorly constructed in fictional stories and I think you did a great job by describing Draco's reactions. When we first realize that our parents are indeed mortal, it is a tough pill to swallow. Even parents like Lucius, who was never a positive role model for Draco. Lucius, at minimum always acted confident, and the obvious physical degradation, combined with his mental demise is just too much for Draco. Instead of dealing with the issue, he chooses to be angry at Lucius.
I'm going to make a guess that Lucius is mad - like legitimately insane. The weight loss, the rhythmic movements and the delusions of meetings with people who aren't around point to a man on the brink. This makes him doubly dangerous.
So, Dan. Now that you've got me invested in this story, I'm a little upset at this chapter. Draco needs Astoria. They must find a way to see each other. She was right about one thing. If no one believes in him, then he most certainly will fail.
Thanks for making this story so much fun to read and review!
Author's Response: Hi, Beth!
Like most recovering addicts -- and most people struggling with the aftermath of a traumatic experience -- I don't think the story would have been realistic without Draco having a few setbacks. There will be a fair bit of "three steps forward and two steps back" in this story.
If Isadore is only getting on your nerves a little bit, you're probably on the upper end of the bell curve for finding her likeable. Likeable isn't necessarily what I've been going for. I think of her as a good friend to Astoria in that they're different enough for Astoria to see how different ideas sound when they're coming from somebody with questionable judgment. ;)
Astoria is every bit the Slytherin. The story would be far too AU for my tastes if she wasn't. She has spent her life watching her mother carefully "manage" her father, so she has a pretty good idea how it works. That said, she came incredibly close to being sent off to Beauxbatons in this case, so she knows she has to tread very lightly. I'm really glad you liked McGonagall's voice. I had this mental image of her reactions and I think it came through pretty well. That's an interesting observation on Snape. You're definitely right that he was never the philosophical type while alive. I just needed somebody to offer Astoria somebody she would respect with an alternative point of view. Something to contrast with the idea that "proper pureblood daughters" always accept their fathers' opinions at face value. Hmmnnn...
I really enjoyed the chapters where the story ventures deep inside Draco's poor, twisted head. He has a lot of issues and at times he's really struggling to hold it all together. Sometimes he doesn't succeed.
Without giving too much away, I can't really comment on Lucius's condition. Azkaban and the war obviously took a major physical toll on the man. As to how much it affected him mentally... well, you'll just have to read on. ;)
You're absolutely correct that Draco needs Astoria in his life. She might actually need him a little more than you realize. This is a canon story, so it will all turn out alright in the end. The question is how difficult will things be between here and there?
Thanks so much for reading and reviewing!