You sure do leave it in suspense, I was so close to flicking through the story to find out exactly which loveable character had been poisoned. I sort of started to guess part of the way through, as Mrs. Longbottom (Hannah?) started to reminisce about how he would spend so much time in the garden with his plants, doting on them as if they were his own children and not parts of nature. Although I waited till the end to actually confirm that it was Neville.
It's a rather sad story, even if you never actually see what happened, I think it was because Mrs. Longbottom seemed so emotional about it, in her own way. The way she reminisced about her beloved Husband, how she regretted her agreement and now, knew she should look after her husbands plants cause that's what he would have wanted. She adored him, and I think that's what makes it sad. That she didn't have Neville anymore.
Some of the story dragged on a bit and felt a bit repetitive. I think it was more how she always went back to his love for the plants and staying out in the garden with them.
This is one of those stories I would happily read over and over. Even with the slight repetitiveness, I really enjoyed reading it. I do quite love his wife. :) Report Review
W.o.w. I swear my mouth is right now hanging open. Such, such, *such* a moving piece! I love just how you handled her grief, without mentioning a single tear or sob. It's taking everything I have right now to just not spaz out on you.
Beautiful description and wonderful characterisation. I loved how you described Hannah's character- the way she turns a blind eye and pushes away the reality- she doesn't want to accept anything, does she?
Another thing I loved (I loved everything about this, but anyway...) was the way you handled the two time frames. It's possibly the best one I've seen yet.
"She agrees and squeaks the door shut again. The door at St. Mungo’s didn’t squeak."
The part where Neville died was just so tragic; I could've cried. In short, just one word comes to my mind after reading this fic- perfect. :)
Another favourite!:DAuthor's Response: Aw, thank you so much! I'm really pleased with the way this story turned out. I was uncertain at first, but after I let my insecurities sit for a while, I decided I really liked this story.
More than any of my other stories, this was really an exercise in writing for me. I am intrigued by the short story format, and I really was trying to write a real short story here (not as defined on HPFF by word count), not just some little story that happens to be short. In particular, I was exploring no dialogue (since I tend to lean heavily on dialogue) and symbolism.
I am so pleased you felt the emotion in this piece. I was hoping as I was writing that I would be able to move people, and I thought it probably would. You never know until you get feedback, though. Report Review
This is.wonderful. Don't worry about the "two different times" because I thought you handled it perfectly and is one of the best I ever read.
Okay, I have to be honest with you: the only part that was confusing (to me) were WHO the characters were. I only figured out it was Neville (this is when I suddenly got very sad, because it is a very sad and tragic story) when I read the reviews. And at first I thought it was Neville's grandfather. I'm afraid I haven't read enough about Neville to realise the signs and symbols but either way I got really sad at the end. Even if I didn't know who the wife is (now I know its Hannah) I could feel her agony and her sadness - when she was waiting for news on Neville and remembering him - and her guilt when she felt that she could've done more to save him.
I think the symbolism of the African violet was great. The part about blocking the Ministry men and how it seemed to be dying and comparing it to dogs that yearn for their masters. And then giving it away at the end.
I really am a bit thick for not noticing the connection between you description of the man and the plants with Neville. Gah.
All in all, wonderful story. Exceptionally written!
10/10Author's Response: Finally I am responding to these lovely reviews you left me. It's shameful how long I left it. Anyway, on to the response.
It's fine that you didn't recognize Neville as the character! I kept it vague on purpose. Yes, there are clues, but this is all told through Hannah's POV, and until the final line (which is the only spoken dialogue in the entire story) where there's an actual name shared (I even considered taking that out), these characters really could be anybody.
I did this for a couple of reasons. One was that I wanted to try writing something with no/little dialogue. The second was that I wanted to try to capture the feeling of being an observer of a character's thoughts, and I felt that too much specific information about the characters' identities might be distracting to the atmosphere. I wanted this story to be more about emotion than facts.
The African violet was an exercise in symbolism for me. Of all my stories, this is the one I was probably most careful in crafting. I definitely used it as a writing exercise for myself, rather than just banging out something for the sake of writing it.
I really should go back and edit out that A/N since I have received so much reassurance on the way I handled the past/present in his story.
Again, thank you for reviewing, and I'm glad you enjoyed the story. :) Report Review
Noo you handled the two different times brilliantly. I didn't even notice the seams. I really liked the touch of having the Ministry and the bustle of people there, the people who don't see the story we see, who are there as another day on the job. It's almost like the other side of one of those crime procedural shows, if you understand what I mean.
Stories like these always make me extra sad. A mixture of more elderly leads, death from doing something he loved, the lonely widow, not having the chance to say goodbye. You really get across the emotion without floweriness.
I like that one of the things that really hits time and time again is her regret. Her why-couldn't-I-have-done-this-instead? I think it takes a lot to show a death in this fashion, so real and with such depth to the grief. And as always, your description is lovely; I especially loved your description of Neville's frail frame.Author's Response: I should remove that comment, as I've had positive feedback, and my confidence regarding this story has increased significantly. (I tend to not like stories much when I first post them, and over time, my opinion mellows.)
I have a pet peeve regarding flashbacks. It drives me crazy to see *flashback* insert huge wall of italicized text here *end flashback* stuff written into stories! Gah! Therefore, I wanted to do it a little differently. I'm glad the seams between the times weren't too confusing/strange to you.
Young deaths are tragic, sure, but I think there's something deep in the death of an elderly character as well. Despite the magic, I wanted this to seem ordinary and therefore relatable to readers. I really wanted readers to feel impacted by this story.
Thanks for your comments about description! One challenge here was that I didn't want to use any dialogue, except at the end, which meant I put a lot of effort into crafting some of my sentences. I tend to rely on dialogue at times, so this was good description-writing practice. Report Review
What a moving piece! As with the last one, this is nothing like my usual reading choice, yet by the first paragraph, I was hooked. This is a really interesting take on an area of the potterverse that I had never considered - where is Neville's grandfather?
It's funny that you mention disliking the way you handle separating the two "times", as this was one of my favourite things about your style! I love that you separate them using tenses - most writers have a hard enough time using one consistently, yet here you flawlessly carry off two simultaneously, without ever causing confusion as to what's happening when. I really feels like she's telling the story as it happens; like we're right there in her head. I also love the choice of the "present" - setting the story around the plant being removed gave a slightly dark, sombre and tense feeling to the piece, but with none of the forced-ness (that's a word!) that using the funeral would have done. Perfect for the character chosen, in fact, as she is all about the stiff upper lip, and this setting helps to capture that.
Overall a lovely piece of writing, and a refreshingly original story. Thanks for sharing it with us!Author's Response: Aw, thank you! I'm not sure what you mean about Neville's grandfather, though. I read through the story again, since it's been a while, but I couldn't find that reference.
I was worried that mixing the tenses would make it confusing to the reader, but people have liked it so far, mostly. That was a huge relief to me! I did want to create the sense that she's preoccupied by her memories--yet pesky things from the present keep attracting her attention. I also wanted to avoid writing a series of flashbacks.
The inclusion of the African violet was my attempt to dabble in symbolism. I see the violet as a symbol for Neville--more specifically, for his death. I pictured the plant declining as his health declined. In Hannah's mind, Neville and the plant are linked. So soon after his death, she's still blaming herself, just as she feels guilty over not being able to care properly for the plant.
Thanks again! Report Review
I loved that the only time you mentioned a name was at the very end. And I loved that the African violet was the touchstone for the story. Your portrayal of grief is very touching and very real. She blames herself for what happened, though it can't be her fault.
The only critique I have is that your verb tense (present narration at the beginning) made it seem a little bit awkward. But other than that? Nothing.
Great job. 9/10Author's Response: Hi Abhorsen. I'm sorry I didn't notice this review sooner; I often neglect to check for new ones since I don't receive many. Thanks so much for reviewing. :-)
Present tense can be awkward and annoying. I certainly find it so at times. I had a devil of a time trying to merge the two tenses so they didn't sound awkward, and I'm not totally satisfied with the results. Overall, I like the effect, but I know there are rough patches in the execution, so I'm not surprised you pointed it out.
I did want to maintain a certain mysterious air in the story, which is why I didn't name any names until the end. I did drop clues, and I think most readers will have worked out the characters by the end, but there's something about having it confirmed, I feel.
Thanks for mentioning the African violet . . . that was an exercise in symolism for me. I'm also pleased you thought the portrayal of grief was touching. I've had a good response on the emotion in this story, which makes me happy. It's difficult to tell sometimes if what you're picturing in your own mind will really come through to the readers.
Again, thank you very much for taking the time to review.
~Alopex Report Review
Done! I read it Apop! Haven't I read something by you before? That was rhetorical - I read your piece on Colin Creevey. Nicely done that, but this is different. This story is guided by a different stroke I believe than the previous. Well, that's to be expected right? Different story, different theme and feel, right?
Well, see, that's the thing, there's things that lead back to every author in their stories. Unless they are attempting to emulate an author (because that is an important distinction) - you get the feel for the author in some form or another. Well, how about that here?
You've inhabited your story, is basically the point I'm trying to make. Besides a few awkward phrasings that I found, it is a woman and the death of Neville Longbottom. His wife. And we don't really know that for sure until the talk about the man's hair being white - then that could have been Neville's grandpa - and this his grandma - but that boyish face. It was Neville. And his wife? You like canon I think - so it was Hannah wasn't it? I mean the thing with the Quibbler kind of made me think of Luna, which in this story... well - how important is the character of the woman?
I mean, reading it not at all. She could be Hermione and this story would stay intact as is. And I don't really think that's a bad thing, but she was rather stagnant as a character, wasn't she? And that's a hard thing to work with, a character that we know rather little about. Unless it's Luna, in which case maybe the picking up of the Quibbler qualifies her, but I think even Ginny and yeah, Hannah would look it up. So what exactly separates her from an object?
Nothing. She is an object in this story. Which is an interesting thing to... well, think about - I mean, this whole story kind of seems detached. Maybe like a dream. The men are simply tall and fat. The woman is old and fidgety. They're representations of an action. Of a thought.
I don't really know if that's a bad thing or not. It's just an observation, right?
Now, onto the violet. You were slightly worried if that was annoying at all if I recall. Not really. It was a person just as much as the men and old lady were (because that's what we're calling her :P) - which is fine by me, considering the fact that it obviously held some serious significance to her. It reminded her of her failure. Sure of him as well, but where she let him down. Her weakest and most pathetic moment. It would drive her mad, like the door. It would really become all that she could see and all that she could think of, becoming wretched with guilt and immobilizing dreams, you know? The violet had to go, for her life to continue. I don't see it as her getting rid of him. When you're with someone that long there's no way to get rid of them. Now, it is a bit of a... weakness on the character (or lady... or whoever she is) that she can't manage with her guilt, which makes her human. A good thing. A grounding thing. This moment was probably clearest in the dream. Her face came into focus, and her words too tangible shape.
And about your time frame. Flashback? No. I don't think that's what you called it. But really, the story is on an arc, and about the time that she realizes things can't keep going with the violet there she relives what had happened. It works seamlessly and allows us to get a glimpse into why the African violet is so important - why it keeps coming up. Without that bit of the story the violet would be annoying. The violet would be without purpose, and we wouldn't understand the full implications of why she handed it off to be taken from her house.
And it kind of felt like the natural order of things. We were going to get the story and then why. We needed that why. So it was done very well, going from one thing easily to another. Though - I can't help but notice a few awkward phrasings. Something about commas looking to be out of place. Now - I might be wrong, but I do like to think I have an eye for grammar that isn't my own :P
So what did I think? It was good. It was well written, characters, while kind of flat, were flat in a quality way. The story was vague - mysterious even. The garden put it in some parameters and slowly the layer of the onion (or cake, pending on your food preferences) to get most of the picture. It was great.
Anything else? I think I covered the gist of it. We could go deeper, but I'm worried we might run out of characters, so I'll just leave it where we are. You should be proud of this piece Apop, it's worthy of... pride.
Heh. We can't by witty geniuses ALL the time ;)
JacksonAuthor's Response: This story IS different than the Colin story. When I wrote this, I had been reading stories by Axjion and Celestie, who both have a very dreamy quality to their work that I'm absolutely in love with. I was loosely trying to emulate that, but it wasn't a primary goal.
In its original incarnation, this story was completely different and not dreamy at all. I had to completely revamp it to make it ToS-compliant. The original version was told from Neville's POV and took place in what is the past for this story--the actual day of his death.
You are correct that the woman could be anyone without greatly affecting the story. I had to make the man a specific character for the challenge, but I've considered editing out the last line that confirms her (and his) identity. I'm intrigued that you brought up the Quibbler. It was meant to be an off-hand thing (I wasn't creative enough to come up with another magazine, and I wanted to use something people would recognize anyway), but I wondered if people would stumble on it a little. There's no hidden meaning, but I do imagine Neville and Luna as friends, so it's a subtle nod to that. I'm thinking perhaps a gardening magazine could work just as well there.
I like the way you describe the woman and other characters as objects in the story. I think it's an apt description. This story is not ABOUT the characters, really. It's not even about what happens to them or what they do. It's more an exploration in reactions, if that makes sense. There is this Thing that has Happened. Now what?
I'm sure you noticed there was no dialogue until the very end--this story is less about what is said/done than what is thought/felt. It's passive, I suppose. There's a sense of unreality, because the woman's reality has just been turned upside down.
Ah, the African violet. You've read a bit more into it than I had intended when writing it, but I did put a lot of thought into this symbol and did my best to use it carefully (writing this story was also an exercise in symbolism for me). Here's the way I look at it: The violet does in fact represent Neville, although not directly. It is more a representation of his death--as he declined, so did it. Once he was dead, so was it. As you noticed, the plant died under Hannah's care--and she also failed to save Neville. She does indeed feel a sense of failure.
Further, notice that she uses the pot to block out the men from the ministry. Right now, his death is so big and recent that it's blocking out everything else. She is using the fact of the death--which she feels looming over her--to block out completely facing what it means to her--because she might fall apart. But she won't be able to move on until she faces it . . . so the dead African violet has to go. That's the writer reason for it. The character reason? Well, you hit the nail on the head. It's driving her mad, and she just can't bear it for another moment (btw, excellent tying it to the doorĂ˘Â€Â”you ARE an alert reader). (But once she's removed the block . . . see?) It's only fitting that the thing that killed him and the thing that represent his death leave together.
I don't feel that the time-merging is seamless, but that's possibly because I can still see the stitches I made. :-P I think there are a couple of jarring transitions.
I re-read the story after your review, looking for awkward phrasing and misplaced commas. I did find a couple of places where it initially looked like the commas were misplaced. In fact, they were correct, but it looks wrong at first because I worded the sentences oddly. I do have some odd phrasing and words in here . . . trying too hard to sound like a distant observer (and also taking sentence-crafting way too seriously), partly.
By the way, I like both cake and onions, although not together. Except in zwiebelkuchen, but that's not sweet.
Thanks so much for the review, JR.
Alo, you're not supposed to make a grown man cry. Its not nice.
You've captured the numbness of grief here spectacularly. Hannah's just so isolated. Everything keeps going on around her, but she isn't a part of it. Sure, her body's there, but her spirit is trapped, alone in her own pain as the rest of the world is simply tuned out.
The exceptionally slow reveal was very very well done. At first, I assumed it was Ron, then Harry. Eventually, since the plants, and especially the African Violet was so central to the tale, I realised it was Neville. But even, so, the grief here is so palpable, by the time I got to the reveal, I almost didn't want to know.
Excellent work here.
Well done.Author's Response: I won't tell if you don't. ;-) I'm happy to hear the story gripped you emotionally, though. I want readers to be affected by this story, but since I know what I meant to convey, it can be difficult to step back and know how other people will react.
Yes, Hannah is very grief-stricken and isolated here. Her husband of many, many years was buried two days ago, and she feels helpless and lost. I wanted to make her seem shaky but still trying to keep a grip.
I'm very glad you liked the slow reveal. Of course, by the end, most readers will know, but I think having that final, irrefutable confirmation affects people somehow.
Also, I received your PM about merging the times, and I'm glad to hear you thought it worked all right. More than anything, that makes me nervous about this one-shot. I do think the style is congruent with Hannah's state of mind, but I worry people might be confused.
Thank you very much for the review. Report Review
This is really lovely -- definitely one of the best entries for this challenge I've read so far. I'm not at all surprised, though! Your writing is excellent, and I wish you'd write more!
Telling it all through Hannah's eyes, after the fact, made it especially heart-wrenching because of the combination of her memories and her current emotional state. You did an excellent contrast between her sadness and the businesslike behavior of the Plant Removal Squad (I also liked how you poked fun at their title - very clever! Job titles in the wizarding world tend to be pretty ridiculous.)
The whole thing was just saturated with emotion, but it wasn't overdone at all. I really got a good sense of what their relationship was like - and it was even more heart-breaking because they had already lived a long life together, so there was possible even more for her to be sad about, if that makes any sense. I got a sense of how much she loved and lost.
I don't think you should worry about the use of past and present in this fic. I know you have a general distaste for flashbacks, but I don't think this qualifies as a flashback, and you handled the different time periods very well. I mean, let's face it - you have to deal with differing periods of time when you're writing, and unless you always write everything in a strictly linear order (which can get boring), you need to tell parts of your story through memories, recaps, etc. Honestly, it didn't even seem like there was a clear split between what happened then and what's happening now in the story, because it all blended together so nicely, and Hannah's memories were woven seamlessly into the rest of the story.
You wrote Neville in such a lovely way. It reminded me a lot of my grandpa, who is an avid gardener. And, oh my gosh, the African violets! That was a brilliant touch, how you kept coming back to it, and how it grew to consume Hannah's thoughts until she couldn't stand it anymore.
Really excellent! Most definitely 10/10Author's Response: First off, thank you for the amazing review. I was so excited and happy when I saw it. I've had several very nice and flattering reviews, but never such a lengthy one.
Yes, titles in the Wizarding World can be ridiculous! I couldn't resist that one. I also thought it would enhance the slightly pompous, efficient air I wanted the men to have, which is quite different from the air I imagine Neville having.
I have to admit that I killed Neville near the end of his lifetime anyway because I couldn't quite bear to kill him in his prime. I think that makes the story less tragic but more poignant. His death, I think, is especially difficult for Hannah because she knew he was in poor health, and that's what she expected to be the end of him, not some freak accident like that.
Flashbacks are definitely a legitimate literary device. Storytelling wouldn't be possible without them. I just see so many lousy ones in fanfic (*flashback* *end flashback*) that I'm probably overly critical. This story was falling into the "huge italicized section" type of flashback, and I couldn't stand to do it.
After receiving your review, I went back and re-read the story. I like it better than I thought. I want to know what part of my brain wrote that bit at the end (between them going to bed and Hannah getting rid of the African violet), because I want it on duty more often. That part was SO bad originally, but the day I submitted the story, I sat down and told myself to shape it up and get it over with already. I guess what I'm trying to say is that part pleases me a lot more than the version I still had stuck in my head.
I do imagine Neville to be a lovely person. Who couldn't love him? The African violets (I'm not sure why I chose those, really; I just did) were my attempt at symbolism. I didn't want to bang anything over my readers' heads, but since I had built part of the story around the African violets, they were the perfect thing to use as a common thread through the past and present, as well as to be a sort of proxy for Neville.
Again, thank you for this fabulous review. :D Report Review
This is one of the better fics I've ever read, at least one of the best about Neville. It has all the elements of professional quality fiction. Usually I like to leave very balanced reviews, but there is very little to say in terms of criticism.
It's definitely worth the ten I'm giving it.Author's Response: Wow, thank you so much, Ydnas Odell! To have the word "professional" applied to something I've written is unexpected but flattering. I struggled with this story; its first incarnation was completely different (and a ToS violation). There are still a couple areas I'm not totally happy with and that I might criticize as a reviewer, but I do think the amount of re-writing and editing I did paid off and made this story much better than it was to begin with. Report Review
I'll be honest; the story was so gripping and moving that I didn't notice the two different times. You did a very good job of keeping the present tense in the main part with the past tense in the flashback parts. It was seamless and easy to read. I normally find present tense reading to be distracting, but you did it very well and it gives your story an immediateness (if I can coin a word).
I had figured it to be a Neville/Hannah before I was too far in and I loved your descriptions of the way he would potter (pun) in the garden and she would watch him. This is sort of the reverse of what I do with my wife; I watch her in the garden; of course she has roses, not a venomous tentacula (or whatever killed him, I suspect a hybrid he was creating, a la Hagrid).
You do a very good job of showing that Hannah's barely keeping her emotions in check. The reader gets the feeling that one more little thing and she could break. Wonderful emotion and great prose.
If this isn't a featured story for this challenge, I'll eat my hat.
It also seems like you write the part about sitting by a bedside waiting for a loved one to die from experience as it rings so true. I have experienced something like it, so I can say it with certainty.
Beautiful, heart-rending and it makes this old man a bit weepy.Author's Response: I believe you are aware of my general distrust of flashbacks. Therefore, it was with reluctance that I used them in my own story, because I wasn't sure I'd be good enough to pull it off. I tried a few other ways of telling the story, but I kept running into the same problem: there were events I wanted to describe as happening now and events I wanted to describe as happening in the past.
I really wanted what is the beginning (the men at the door) to be the beginning, but I couldn't make it work without a flashback. So I figured I might as well embrace it and try to weave the two parts together. I'm gratified to hear it came across well to you. Present tense writing can be difficult to read, but I do like the sense of immediacy (though immediateness is a fine word too) it imparts.
I'm so glad you commented about Hannah barely keeping her emotions in check! That is precisely what I wished to convey. After all, the funeral was the day before yesterday, so her grief is still very raw.
Yes, Neville was breeding hybrids a la Hagrid, although we may never know if he bred this one on purpose or if it mixed itself while he was incapacitated. I actually pictured the Tentacula crossing with a fanged geranium, but I couldn't find an appropriate place to slip that in.
I'm relieved the bedside part rang true for you. I actually have never experienced it firsthand, so I was quite worried about it. I wanted to be honest, respectful, and realistic without being overly sentimental.
Thank you very much for such a detailed review. I respect your opinion a lot. Report Review
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