After the intense action of the past few chapters, I thought this one was an excellent change of pace. Not that any of your chapters lack a huge psychological aspect -- I think everything has a huge psychological aspect where Devlin is concerned -- but I really enjoy the ones where you set everything else aside and just focus on his inner turmoil and the way he's trying to make sense of a new life that's 180 degrees opposed to the one he lived as a captive.
Hmmnn... so maybe they're not at Shell Cottage. Or maybe you read my last review and you're purposefully trying to throw me off with Devlin's musings. Goodness, don't I think highly of myself? At any rate, it's plainly somewhere that Emma and Devlin don't know the secret to, since Emma can't even seem to recall whether she's been there before. That was a nice little touch.
Dubhán's approach to things is so quid pro quo. Harry keeps a secret, Dubhán emphasizes secrets he's still keeping. Harry opens up, so does Devlin. I like the consistency.
I'm not sure whether we've seen this particular nightmare before, but my guess would be that this was the time Devlin tried to escape and was caught by Voldemort. Incinerating an entire field seems like the kind of grand gesture that he would go for in that situation.
Then we enter into what I think is one of the best conversations you've written between Devlin and Harry so far. You can't help but feel for the kid and what all of the conflicting messages in his head and the lack of absolute certainty are doing to him. Young children don't like uncertainty anyway. Then you throw in the dire consequences that Devlin believes will happen if he makes the wrong choice... it's easy to understand why he can neither think nor stop thinking.
I love the way that Harry reaches deep into the darker recesses of his own personal experiences to try to help Devlin in this chapter. Before this point, I don't think that Devlin was ready. He might have heard what Harry was saying, but he wasn't ready to appreciate what any of it meant. Now that Devlin is struggling so much to sort out Devlin vs. Dubhán vs. the sharpness vs. all of the other personae he's taken on, it was a really opportune time for Harry to open up.
I had a few really intriguing thoughts about Harry's offer to extract the memories that are troubling Devlin so. On the one hand, it would be an easy path back to a different sort of normality. It wouldn't really solve Devlin's problems, though. Then I had another, darker thought. Devlin is so terrified of Voldemort finding out about his "betrayal". You wouldn't ever have Harry remove any of Devlin's good memories if he was in imminent danger of being recaptured by Voldemort, would you? Say you wouldn't! I don't think I could handle that...
Harry's analogy to Emma was brilliantly done. It didn't solve the problem, but it was a big step in the right direction for Devlin's understanding of love, I think.
Sometimes it was easier being the monster, he thought. Sometimes it was easier knowing what you were supposed to do. -- I loved that sentiment.
You have to admire Harry's unshakeable belief in Devlin's underlying goodness and that every bad thing he's done is a consequence of Voldemort's manipulations. I'm sure I'd feel the same way about my own kids, but it's different somehow when you read somebody else in that position.
Man, Harry really lays all the cards on the table there near the end. Again, it's something that I think Devlin was finally ready to face. Not in the sense that he deals with it well, per se, but in the sense that he actually deals with it. Or tries to deal with it, anyway. I guess the definitions of "success" and "failure" are debatable here. The point is that he didn't throw up his emotional shields and avoid the entire conversation.
So I think I saw one small typo:
In some ways, when Harry had told him, after his failed escape, that he would always be his Devlin, it had given Dubhán a kind of permission be his Devlin, without having to combine the two identities. -- did you mean "permission to be his Devlin"?
Fantastic chapter! I really enjoyed it.
Author's Response: I'm glad the relative 'calmness' of this chapter didn't disappoint. :)
Haha! This chapter was already written prior to your review, but don't think less of yourself. If you were onto me I might sneak a sentence in to throw you off. ;-)
I think the "quid pro quo" as you put it, is probably a pattern he's picked up from Voldemort. And yeah, I see him as the type of kid who would quietly do the oneupmanship sort of thing. When someone else reveals a secret there must be part of him that still thinks 'if they tell mine, I'll have something equally embarrassing to tell about them'.
Oh, interesting that you read it as a literal memory. I suppose I should have seen that coming since I do often have him dream of memories as a way to incorporate the background. In this case it was just a nightmare. You might notice that a lot of his nightmares are beginning with the pattern of trying to escape and finding something other than the woods that should have been there: the dream about the yellow curse (memory), the dream about hiding in the closet (memory), the dream about Voldemort with Maria (nightmare) - they all started with this same introduction.
I actually imagined that he really DID hurt his head, and probably suffered a jolt not just psychologically but physically, which leads to this sense of jumble in his head.
"Then I had another, darker thought. Devlin is so terrified of Voldemort finding out about his "betrayal". You wouldn't ever have Harry remove any of Devlin's good memories if he was in imminent danger of being recaptured by Voldemort, would you? Say you wouldn't! I don't think I could handle that..."
Oh my, how intriguing. You really shouldn't give me ideas like that. ;-)
"You have to admire Harry's unshakeable belief in Devlin's underlying goodness and that every bad thing he's done is a consequence of Voldemort's manipulations."
You know, I was thinking this same thing as I posted the chapter. Writing it I get into my character's heads so much that it seemed there was no other way to express it but to have Harry believe in Devlin's utter goodness. Proof-reading it before I submitted the story, however, I had the same idea as you did. It's a bit different to see it from an outside perspective, yet you know as you are reading it that, put in the same position, you would be unable to imagine something else.
Thanks for the typo warning! I found a couple more on a recent skim for a piece of information and will fix that one too. :)