Reading Reviews for The Orchard
27 Reviews Found

Review #1, by Unwritten Curse Ancients

19th May 2015:
Hi again! I'm back for your third review. Sorry it took so long.

First, I have to get something off my chest… OMG REGULUS BLACK I LOVE HIM GAH. Okay, now I'm done.

But really, I adore Regulus Black. He's such an under appreciated character. So even though he's kind of being a jerk in this chapter, I still loved seeing him and knowing that he's part of the plot in some small (maybe big?) way. I'm really curious what the Slytherin boys are alluded to that happened in Mary's past. I hope I didn't miss anything, but I'm assuming you're leaving breadcrumbs and we'll find out in a later chapter.

You keep drawing me in with the Laura plot line! Why did she approach Mary? What was she going to say? And why is she in Ancient Runes when she isn't usually? I'd say you're doing a great job at sustaining the intrigue/tension. I'm certainly intrigued!

And Mary. Mary is the type of person I wish I was, but at the same time I'm grateful I'm not. Does that make sense? She's so organized and studious and she's a great friend and the "mom" of the group--all good qualities that will take her far in life. But at the same time, keeping everything together all the time is HARD. She's bound to explode one of these days, and I wouldn't want to be her (or be around her) when she does. She's kind of like Hermione in that way.

Anyway, I've really enjoyed reading these three chapters. If you'd like to continue this exchange and read/review three more chapters, just let me know on the forums. (Although I think you were asking to just read three chapters and leave a review at the end… Oops!)

-- Gina

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Review #2, by Unwritten Curse These Walls

11th May 2015:
Oh, how eerie! I really like this plot line with Laura. It's so sad, but so realistic… to be affected by war in this way… it's just… *sigh* I don't know how you do it, but you create this tone that's spot on. I think it has to do with the details you add in--just simple ones, like the candles and the birds and Mary reading a book at dawn. I need to do more of that in my own writing, because those little details have really brought your story to life. I admire that.

OMG James. Sometimes I hate him and sometimes I love him, and this is one of the times that I love him. How precious that he and Mary were childhood friends. I love that they can now chat about things as serious as war, but in a roundabout way--through talking about Wilkes, who has changed. Again, such a *normal* thing--friends drifting apart--yet within the context of war it's haunting.

Also, part of me hopes there's some Mary/James action about to happen. But at the same time I don't, because of Lily. I ship Jily always. It's not my OTP or anything, but… I hate seeing them apart. But since they don't get together until, what, seventh year (?) then I suppose I'd be okay with some Mary/James action. Yeah.

And as to your questions at the end--I still hate Florence. Why are they friends with her? WHY? I just don't get it.

- Gina

Author's Response: I hope I can continue that plot with Laura and not mess it up. I find that carrying a plot forwards I have trouble with. Or feel like I have trouble with doing so because I meander my way through a story writing those descriptions and tone into it that I think makes a story move a bit slower.

James is fun. I think it's interesting writing him from Mary's POV because we see another side of him we don't if this was in his POV or Lily's. We just see the side of their friendship and how they interact with one another. It also helps that they've just known each other so long that they are incredible comfortable with one another, even if they don't hang out all the time anymore. It's a bond that won't disappear. Furthermore, we see, perhaps, the softer side of James. He's still a bit of an arrogant toad and prankster, but people act differently or show different sides when they are with certain people. We see him this way with Mary. I have no comment on Mary/James :) That would be an interesting thought.

Thanks for the review! I hope you warm up to Florence, but it's okay if you don't. She can be really terrible. It's always good to know I can write a character realistically that people hate, so I can take that away from this :) Thanks for stopping by!

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Review #3, by Unwritten Curse Welcome

11th May 2015:
Hi there! Here for our Swap. :)

I'm not sure where to start, so I'll just ramble off the things that I liked:

- The bit at the beginning about Hogwarts having lost its "magic" for Mary. That felt so real to me, yet I'd never considered it before--that students began to feel the drudgery of school and forgot about the excitement of their earlier years.

- When Florence threw the nail polish out the window. I died.

- The small details, like the Slytherin boys swishing their robes at her, and the gold and red sparks coming from a compartment on the train, and the fact that the girls were painting their nails on the train. It's such a *normal* thing to do. It made the characters feel real.

I'm quite curious where Laura was and why Lily was so concerned. Did something happen? Or was it just the reflection of their paranoia, what with being on the bring of war (at least I think so--is my timing right?).

I do have one question for you. And maybe you answer this later. But I'm really curious why Mary and Mafalda are friends with Florence. She's AWFUL. Like, a serious downer and a cynic and sometimes downright MEAN. She doesn't seem like any fun to be around, so I'm wondering if she's just an old friend they've hung on to or if there's some reason I'm not seeing why they're friends with her.

Anyway, I'm off to the next chapter. Enough of my rambling! :P

- Gina

Author's Response: Hi Gina,

Thanks for reading this story! I can imagine it happening to some students. Perhaps earlier for students who'd grown up with magic who weren't so enthralled with it. It was a normal part of their life so school was just an extension of that. Muggleborns may never because it's something that's so new and so different from their everyday experience. They knew what it was like without magic.

I wanted to focus on the normality of the scene. How they were just girls getting ready for another school year. Their world couldn't be filled with just odd or strange happenings. Some of it is just sitting around petting a cat or doing your nails.

I think it was a mixture of Lily being Lily (at least the Lily in my story) where she's paranoid and obsessive about certain things. She doesn't like not knowing something. Also, I think any strange happenings would, at this point, contribute to the fear of the war that was happening.

Florence. I love her. Not in the you're a good person sort of way, but the fact that she is fun to write. She IS awful sometimes. She... there's a lot of words I could use for her, but she's interesting to put into the story. I'm sure that probably says something about me, but I do enjoy her. I think you'll warm up to her as the chapters go on. She isn't always awful. Their friendship is also explained more as the chapters go on. It's probably a mixture of her being their friend since first year and so now it just sort of 'is' and the fact that there are good things about her past her cynical and mean personality that make her 'good'.

Thanks for your review!!

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Review #4, by St. Brigid. Welcome

31st March 2015:
You set the scene well in the opening paragraphs.

Hmm, I'm now intrigued as to why she feels magic makes beasts and monsters of them all. I assume it's something to do with the wars, but it's not as if our own world is devoid of wars and cruelty.

This line - "Half her body was in the compartment the other was outside holding onto her trunk as if she was ready to bolt" should have a comma after "compartment".

I'm being REALLY nit-picky here, but this sentence sounds a little awkward: '“Ah- well-” Lily said and dithered in the entry for a few moments.' I'd be inclined to say something like, "Lily said, as she dithered in the entry."

I like the way you indicate that the book she's reading is NOT well written.

Oh, I wonder if the new Arithmancy teacher is going to play a part in this story.

"Built up a reserve of expectation so it wouldn't have thrown her so off gaurd." "Guard" is misspelled in that sentence.

I wonder what is happening with Laura. Her absence sounds kind of ominous.

The chapter ends nicely with a couple of "hooks" to encourage us to read on - the question of what's going on with Laura and the fact that the sorting hat has just begun its song.

Author's Response: Hi!

Thank you for your comments and taking the time to read my little story. Yes, there is cruelty in any world you are a part of. Perhaps Mary is naive to think she could ever escape it, whether it be war or cruelty. However, our experience is what tells us what to love or fear. Perhaps she is feeling such fear for what she is going through here.

Thank you so much for your suggestions as well. I have went ahead and made those changes in the chapter!

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Review #5, by writeyourheartout Games Continue

15th March 2015:
Hey Zayne! ^.^

I was so happy to see you'd updated this story; it's truly one of my favorites! And this was another excellent chapter! Yay! ♥

I just love Mary. I loved her from the beginning and she grows on me more and more each chapter. I love her subtlety, her quietness (I've always been drawn to quieter characters), how unassuming she is, and her internal monologue is always so fascinating and intriuging, even when nothing much is really happening. She sees the world just a little bit differently and is highly observant where everyone else is somewhat indifferent and/or oblivious.

Your Lily is so unique; I don't think I've ever read a version of her quite like yours. There's something so... unlikeable about her! But I mean that in a good way, I promise. ;) I don't even quite know how to put my finger on it... I do thoroughly enjoy the choice, though.

The air of mystery that surrounds every single chapter, in one place or another, always leaves me dying to know more. This chapter it really started off with Mafalda. I have no idea what Peter might have meant, why it effected her so deeply, why she's seemingly such an anxious person, or anything else - which I love! Reading a story with this element of mystery and feeling like I don't know where it's headed is endlessly exciting.

Oh! And what about the Remus and Lily and Laura thing? That was strange... What in the world was happening with that?!?! I want to know so badly because I legitimately have no clue! I love-hate it! haha

Still love Florence. She's kind of awful, but also kind of brilliant, and every scene with her is great.

Your Sirius is another exceptional character, and different than I've seen before. A little less... exhausting? I mean, he's almost tame at both the Quidditch match and the party that follows, which is not a Sirius I often see. He's usually the life of these events in some fashion. I love that you chose to allow his upbringing in the Black family to effect him a little more. I think it makes sense that some of those things are ingrained in him, much as he may loath his family. But that superiority sort of complex - feeling like he's above the party - is a pretty direct reflection of his upbringing.

Also... is it bad that I'm shipping Mary/Sirius now? PLEASE TELL ME NO! hahaha Seriously, I really like them together after that conversation.

I wonder what's up with James and this Helen chick... Like, why is he (I assume) dating her? And why was it so important for Mary to meet her? Does James have some sort of ulterior motive here? Or Helen, even? Dun dun dunnn! I really have no idea, they could be totally legit, for all I know. :-p

THAT ENDING! Omg, please tell me you plan to update again soon, because THAT WAS SUCH A CLIFFHANGER! I must know what happens next.


I feel like I should tell you that Remus is my all-time favorite character and if you hurt him... I will be very upset. ZAYNE. WHAT DID YOU DO WITH HIM?? Seriously, he's been MIA, like, this entire chapter, and you've got me all sorts of nervous because of it! Eep!

Anyway, all of that aside, your Author's Note inquired about the Quidditch match and how you handled it, so I thought I'd comment on that as well to say I thought you did it exceptionally well! I loved the fog which added to the mystery of what was even going on out there - especially when the Snitch chase began. It was suspenseful and action-y without being too overwhelming or distracting from other important things that were happening simultaneously. It was the perfect balance of life in the stands versus what was happening on the pitch. Really well done. :)

If you're rusty at writing, it honestly doesn't show at all. Other than a few typo's or missing words here and there, the chapter read wonderfully. Here are a couple examples of those moments, though:

“*Professors, wait, who is the student?" - *Professor

He jumped * and down chanting a Quidditch song the boys had made up in their second year. - *up

Anyway, there are a handful of those little details, but that's honestly my only tiny critique! You're brilliant, this story is amazing, and I sincerely cannot wait for the next chapter! :-D


Author's Response: Tanya!

Gosh, this review still makes me giddy. Mary is such an interesting character, but I'm always a little worried she gets overshadowed or overpowered by Florence who... is very dynamic if you want to call her that (or just horrid, i'd be okay with characterization as well). It's good to hear you really like her and think she is her own character. I love writing her even though it's a lot more quiet and contemplative than a story featuring someone like Florence or Lily.

Talking about Lily... It's easy to side with Lily because she's 'Lily' and supposed to be this great person because of what she's done. I think most will remember the good things about a person and paint them with rose coloured glasses. Especially to the son of said person. I wanted to look at her differently because I've always had trouble being able to write her. She always seemed to mary sue - so perfect. But people aren't really like that. This is me trying to find the person she was, negative traits and all, and looking at how she grew into the person we know her more for. I don't know if it'll work, but she's always struck me as a harder character to make feel like a person. I'm really pleased with how I like that you think she's unlikeable but you aren't running from the hills because of it. That sounds strange to say. I don't want her to be wretched, that wouldn't work either, but I wanted to play with her begin less likeable. Looking at things like would the other girls question her loyalty because of the long standing relationship with Snape? If she was fiery and fierce - that could also mean she was bull headed, pushy, and had a refusal to listen to anyone.

Sirius is fun to write as well. I don't think it's right to ignore all the things he's been through. Even though he doesn't believe the same as his family he spent most of his life being raised by them. That, one, must leave scars, and two, affects how his behaviour will be. He may be an extremely popular and well liked person - but I think he still would have this aristocratic air about him. It's hard to throw off everything you've raised to be. Even if you throw off the beliefs there has to be something in the behaviour that reflects who he was. I think he'd be moody and outwardly arrogant. I think he'd be exhausting in some respects - mostly when he's showing off or with James. I may be wrong, but it makes sense to me.

Hahaha, Sirius/Mary. I don't know what to say to that.

With Helen - i knew it would be weird bringing her in. I think she was working in the back of my mind since the beginning. In retrospect I should have introduced her earlier. But again, this is Mary's story and she's so focussed on other things she doesn't notice all the people James may be meeting. What I can say is the importance for Mary to meet her is that even though Mary and James aren't as close as they used to be, they have a long history of friendship. Sort of like brother/sister and in the same way it's important for a brother or sister to meet a significant other it would be the same here.

Remus. Don't worry about the bloke, he's probably kicking about somewhere. Getting into things and causing trouble ;)

Thank you SO much for your lovely review! I hope the next chapter doesn't disappoint. It will be up very soon. It's just at the beta's :) .

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Review #6, by Ribbons Welcome

14th August 2014:
Oh darling, I love it! This story holds so much potential! Seeing how well you're writing all the characters, I can't wait to see what you do with the Marauders when they come along.

However, the serious stuff has to come sometime. Here it is: I'm finding that there are a lot of run-on sentences in your writing, a habit that is incredibly common and easy to fix.

This is an example of a run-on sentence:

Someone bumped against Mary’s back causing her to stumble forward and if not for Mafalda grabbing onto her arm she would have fallen to the ground.

If I was to rewrite that I might consider this instead:

Someone bumped against Mary's back, causing her to stumbled forward. If not for Mafalda grabbing onto her arm she would have fallen to the ground.

Do you see what I did there? Punctuation exists to organize and direct the reader, kind of like instructions. When you're reading aloud, what happens when you reach a comma, semi-colon, colon or period? You pause, for varying amounts of time. The reason run-on sentences exist and are a problem is that those pause marks are missing in important places, so that that the reader (even when they're not reading aloud) become distracted and confused. I guess it's habit, but you can feel when punctuation is missing, and it's hard to read without it.

Well, now that my grammatical lesson is done for the day, I'd just like to congratulate you once more on an excellent story. Although I might have made it seem like your run-ons were a complete tragedy, don't worry about it.

GRAMMATICAL MISTAKES HAPPEN TO EVERYONE! And they're so easy to fix, especially when they're not spelling, cause that can be a pretty nasty habit to break out of.

Number one tip when battling run-ons? Read your stuff aloud to yourself. When there's a funky sentence, you'll notice it immediately and be able to dispatch your super duper editing skills accordingly.

Sending love and the fervent hope that you will continue to write!

Author's Response: Hi,

Thank you for your advise and review :) . I know i'm pretty bad at run-ons and I think (or hope) that it's gotten better recently. I'm going to have to go back and try to make this all sound better.

Thank you for your kinds words about the story as well! I really appreciate it and I hope you continue to like it.



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Review #7, by Tina Clock Tower

30th July 2014:
I love The relationship between Mary and Regulus. I hope you'll update soon

Author's Response: Do you? That's interesting I hope you continue reading so you can see where it goes! If it goes anywhere, that is :) . Thank you for your review!!

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Review #8, by Pretense Of Perfection Confession

22nd June 2014:
Another good chapter!!!

I'd honestly say you seem a bit like me with your writing. I'm always adding in extra words that really don't need to be there. "That" is something a good example of a filler word. I do this all the time, and literally have to revise my story multiple times before I even think about sending it to a beta.

But again, great job so far!!

Author's Response: Again, thank you so much!

I'm going to go back and check on that. I know I add 'that' in like it was candy... *hides*. I'll try to sort it out so it isn't dropped in there so much!

Cheers and thanks again for reading and reviewing!! These reviews have honestly made my day!


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Review #9, by Pretense Of Perfection Dreams

21st June 2014:
Hey there, just wanted to say another great chapter!!

I have noticed some odd phrasing, and a few spelling/grammar/tense errors. I get stuck with this stuff as well, but just thought I'd point it out.

For some reason I thought that they were all in their fifth year, and whatever happened to Mary hadn't happened yet. I'm daft sometimes, what can I say? I now see that they are in their sixth year, and this event has already taken place. i think that explains one of my earlier questions, about why Mary viewed everything with such a doom and gloom type of attitude. I'm burning with curiosity as to what actually happened to her!!

Author's Response: Thank you so much! I'm glad you're still reading and enjoying it.

Gahh! I try to revise before sending it to a beta, but I find that there are things that slip by. Or I'll read it right in my head, but i've misspelled something. Or written it oddly. I'm going to try and go back and since it's been a while since I looked at it hopefully I'll be able to catch the errors! Thanks for letting me know!

Yes, haha, sixth year. I hope it doesn't seem melodramatic. Let me know if it does, I want Mary to see things in a bit doom and gloom as you say, but I don't want it to be so super angst ridden it gets annoying.

Thank you so much for your helpful review!! I appreciate it so much! -Zayne

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Review #10, by Pretense Of Perfection Ancients

21st June 2014:
I've read the last few chapters, and just wanted to say I think you're off to a great start with this. It's been interesting to read, and I'm having trouble stopping!

Your characters are quite unique...I'm honestly not so sure about Mary at the moment, as I feel we haven't gotten to know her completely yet (it's only chapter 3!), but from what I know so far I like her! Florence is quite over the top and dramatic, not to mention kind of mean and bitter, but definitely not completely unlikable. I think she's a very realistic character. Did I see somewhere that her last name is Meadowes? I'm assuming she's related to Dorcas in some way?

I also like Mafalda so far. She seems pretty level-headed. I don't think I've ever read a fic that she was in, and while I'm not convinced she's in the same year as the Marauders, I really like how you added her in. She seems pretty well-rounded so far. Lily isn't my favorite yet, but then again I feel like she hasn't been around much. I'm assuming that will chance, based on what happens with her friend Laura.

I would like to see more about what Mary and her friends are actually doing...maybe portions of classes they are attending, etc. I feel like a good chunk of the story is Mary's internal thoughts/feelings, and a good bit about their surroundings, but so far their actions haven't really stuck out in any particular way to me yet.

I also like how Mary and James were childhood friends. It's a nice chance of pace, and honestly, something I don't think I've ever thought of, although it definitely fits and makes sense. I'm curious to know more about their relationship, especially as it pertains to the Slytherin boy that they were friends with (I can't remember his name at the moment, sorry!).

And the bit with Regulus was quite interesting as I sense a Sirius/Mary/Regulus love triangle coming on? Probably not, but a girl can dream.

Author's Response: Hello!

Thank you so much for your review! I'm so pleased you're enjoying it so far. I really enjoy writing the characters, to be honest. I'm glad you find them just as realistic. Mary is a hard person to know because of her introversion and the way she doesn't speak her mind too much. It makes her harder to read, I think. Florence is very bitter and angry. It's great you picked up on that, there will be more on it later. She is a fun character though, past all of her horrible traits. I'm also somewhat pleased you don't like Lily right off. I don't really want people to. I've always read her as someone who is perfect and everyone just loves. I wanted to try and change that up to where, perhaps, she has her own things and problems to deal with. She'll eventually become the woman we read about in the books.

I'm glad putting Mafalda in isn't completely ridiculous. I'm not convinced either, but she sounded like she was middle aged from the books and it could potentially fit the timeline. She had to go somewhere so I thought it might be fun to have her here.

I get what you're saying about the actions!! I can sometimes get carried away with describing the surroundings and thoughts I forget about what they're actually doing. I think it get's better as the chapters go on, but I'll definitely come back and edit some more to these chapters, just so everyone has a nice idea of what's happening! Thanks.

It makes sense to me too, if Mary was a pureblood and so was James, they probably would have interacted. Chances are, they would interact with a few other purebloods/halfbloods as well since they don't have to worry about hiding their magic. The other wizard was Wilkes.

Thank you so much for your review! I hope you continue to read and enjoy this!

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Review #11, by katherinesage Welcome

17th March 2014:
Your story sounds really good so far! Can't wait to read the next chapters

Author's Response: HI!

Thank you so much! I'm really pleased you think so! Hope you enjoy the rest of the chapters just as much! Cheers!


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Review #12, by nott theodore Dreams

25th January 2014:
Hi Zayne, I'm here with your requested review!

As always, your description and writing in this chapter is really lovely. The way you write Mary's internal monologue and describe the events that are happening around her make this a really enjoyable story to read.

I think your opening sequence, with the dream as the central focus, was really intriguing and effective. I feel like Mary's dream might have been about whatever happened last year - the thing that was referred to in The Prince's Tale by Lily to Snape? It's definitely about something in her past that is trapping her and still holding her back, and whatever it is that happened has clearly changed the sort of person that she is - the way that you include the subtle comments from James help to allude to a past that we don't yet know about.

I really liked the way that you dealt with the dream, as well. To begin with I hoped that Mary might have opened up to her friends, but I can see that wouldn't exactly be in character for her. Mafalda and Florence are nice, but I'm unsure about them as friends - they're quite self-absorbed at times. I suppose part of that is their age, and the fact that they don't seem to be as affected by the war as Mary is at the moment. The way that the dream continued to haunt Mary throughout the rest of the chapter was great, too; it seemed to lurk at the back of her mind and I felt like that was reflected in the writing. There was something hidden, unspoken, but affecting what was happening to Mary.

You asked again about the flow, but I honestly didn't think it felt that choppy. There were a few changes in scene but I think you paced them well, and there weren't any problems with that.

One thing you managed to do in this chapter was keep the war at the forefront of the reader's mind, even though other characters are ignoring it for the time being. James, however, has clearly noticed what's going on, Mary's affected by it, and there are students among them whose families have been directly affected by it too. It's this constant presence and I get the feeling it's going to grow and become more dominant as the story goes on.

This chapter definitely answered some of the questions that have been raised so far about Mary, although it didn't give specifics about what has happened, so I'm still curious to read on. Mary's clearly suffering because of her family's stance in the war, even though she's a pureblood - I imagine that she's a much easier target for them than James, and easier to get alone. As to what happened last year - definitely something with Mulciber, and I even found myself wondering whether there'd been some romance between them that had gone wrong. I'm still not sure about that, but I'd like to find out more soon.

I'm also really interested in the letter that Florence received, and whatever it is she's hiding - is it also something to do with the Quidditch? Including that was a good idea because it helped to illustrate some of the other things that are occupying the girls' minds instead of worrying about Mary.

The ending definitely felt realistic to me. Mary's emotions were well written in that section and understandable, considering the way the Slytherins treated her and the other things she's dealing with. She clearly needed some form of escape, but her resolve to behave more stoically made sense too, since I feel like that's part of what has been driving her behaviour thus far in the story.

Another great chapter, and I hope this review was helpful!

Sian :)

Author's Response: Hey Sian!

Thank you so so much for this review. Your comments are far too nice.

It definitely is connected to that in a way. It's something that has to slowly unfold and I think the more pressure that gets put on Mary the faster it will go, but at this point, it's still isn't something she's willing to deal with. I'm glad you're seeing that other part of her, the one she was before. I don't want it to seem like she was massively different, but she had a lot more courage and daring before the incident and before the war really took hold as well. But I hope it hints of what she could be and perhaps, how much she's lost. I think i'm probably taking some liberties with the incident, but I reckon this is fan fiction and there is very little information about it that I can take those liberties. :)

The dream is definitely important, but more so with the idea that she's getting nightmares and you're right, it's not in her character to really open up and talk about it. She knows her friends and she knows where their limits are. It's not like Mafalda and Florence are terrible friends, but well - there is an aspect of all this they don't understand and won't understand till later. They are loyal to her, but I think Gryffindor loyalty only goes so far. I don't really think the Gryffies were known for their loyalty so much as their courage and bravery (to the point hey become stupidly brave sometimes). But that is a discussion for another time. I do enjoy writing Florence and Mafalda, and I think another part of things is sometimes, people give the love that they think the other person is expecting.

I think i'm going to try and make the war more forefront in everyone's mind. I don't want it to be an island of just these characters lives so although i'm glad you felt the strength of it within the circle and with James, I think i'm going to try and bring the focus stronger as the chapters go on. I think that most of the year the Marauders were in school were quite dark.

The letter she received is very important to Florence and you know, it is connected to her new found interest in the sport. Very perceptive! I don't know what else to say other than that, there is a history with Florence that makes it harder for her to really focus on anything else. She's definitely selfish and self involved. A lot of growing up to do for one thing, but she also needs to deal with things.

Thank you so much for your review! I've always really appreciated your feedback! Thanks so much!

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Review #13, by nott theodore Chains

10th January 2014:
Hi, I'm here with your requested review!

Your descriptions at the beginning of this chapter were really beautiful. There's an almost lyrical quality to your writing sometimes, and when it comes to those descriptions I can picture them in my mind's eye really clearly. I liked how you juxtaposed the serene calm in the imagery and scenery with the horrible facts about the war that were appearing in this chapter, it's really effective.

As far as the interactions between Florence and Mafalda are concerned, I think they do seem realistic. They're two different people and that comes across in their different reactions to situations, but to me that makes perfect sense. Generally I think the conversations seem to flow well and seem authentic and natural; the only suggestion I'd have is use a few more contractions in the speech so that it reads a bit more naturally. Other than that, the conversations are ones I can hear in my head and don't sound out of place for their age or situation.

I really like James's characterisation in this story, actually. It's refreshing to see him from this perspective actually - an old female friend, rather than someone who's considering him or one of his friends as a love interest. I think that gives us a much clearer view of his character, and it's interesting to couple that with the fact that Mary and James used to play together as children, so they've known each other for a long time. It's also nice to see him as a character who isn't obsessed by one thing, and who isn't so loud and outgoing necessarily as other versions I've read. I liked the subtle hint you included about him and Lily, but I feel like you're giving us a chance to like James for James rather than other reasons. It was nice to see his humour shining through here.

There were a couple of typos that I found and I'll just point out:
"Mary caught herself starring at the cracks" - I think you mean 'staring'
"seemed to indicate though that it things wasn't ended as she said" - I wasn't quite sure what you were trying to say here, but I think you might have an extra word or two!
"there was a cordially there" - cordiality
"we were passed all" - past

I know you're worried about the pacing of the story but I don't really think it's a major problem. With Mary as the main character I think it's natural for things to be paced slower than normal. If you wanted to, I think you could include a few more events to move the story along a little, but the pacing does suit Mary's reflective, quiet nature. There are still hints about things that have happened in the past and things which may happen in the future that are enough to keep me interested in the story.

As far as the backdrop of the war is concerned, I think you're doing quite a good job. Mary and James both seem so used to the idea that their conversations about the news are almost blase at times, which I think is actually something that happens in situations like this - people get so used to something they almost seem immune to the effects. I liked the fact that you showed Lily's reaction and her almost blind optimism, because I can't imagine that will be something she manages to keep in place for long, with the role she takes in the war outside. It might be nice to see a few more reactions to the war when events like this happen - younger children scared about it, etc. - but at the same time I think Hogwarts is a bit like a bubble for them and they're only touched by what's happening outside if it directly affects their family.

Mary definitely seems to be remaining consistent to her characterisation thus far in the story. It's really a nice change to read a story from the perspective of someone who's so quiet and reflective. There's definitely some things that we have to find out about Mary and I'm curious to know what they are. I'm wondering if the fact that the Slytherins are targeting her stems purely from what happened last year, or if there's something else as well, especially since Mary's a pureblood...

I want to compliment you for your characterisation of Lily in this story. I genuinely think it's the most original characterisation I've read of her in any Marauders story, and though these girls don't really seem jealous of her, it's interesting to see things from their perspective.

I hope this review was helpful, and feel free to re-request!

Sian :)

Author's Response: Hey Sian! Thank you so much for this brilliant review!

I really enjoy writing Mafalda and Florence, but they are so different and I just hope that they don't seem fake or just characters on a page. I want them to have a realness to them. I'll change eh contractions. I spent way too much time last semester writing essay's apparently. I'm glad you felt that M&F seem realistic together and as characters. Florence has always been really awesome to write because she can be funny and fun but she will always see the worst in everything and is a bit of a complainer. Whereas Mafalda is quite different from that. There personalities are constantly clashing it seems.

James! Gosh, i'm glad you like him. He's almost as difficult as Lily is for me. There are so many versions of him and so many preconceived ideas of who he was that it's just a bit overwhelming to write him. I too really like the fact that we're seeing him interact differently than most stories. I think most people act a bit differently with the different people they're with. I think it makes sense that James isn't so flamboyant or loud with Mary because she's anything but that. Also, there are different sides to a person and I can imagine that someone isn't going to always be a bully or always be outgoing, funny etc in every moment of their life. Mary knows him and I think that also helps because he doesn't have to put anything on for her. He doesn't have to be anything but himself.

Okay, well, if you think the pacing is going fine then i'm going to leave it. It does start to pick up, but it's so slow and it picks up by hints and small steps. I think i really like focusing on the ordinary sort of lives of people which doesn't always make the most exciting of stories, but I see what you're saying and agree with you that it fits with Mary's perspective. You can't expect it to be too fast paced when the main character is so quiet. That makes me feel better anyway. :)

The war is always an issue and I want to make sure that it is in their lives and I get what you're saying about bringing it out with the wider population of Hogwarts. I think i'll edit that in somehow and continue with that as the story is about all Hogwarts and not just these few characters. Lily's optimism won't last forever, obviously, not with who she becomes later on anyway. Right now though while she's still tucked away in school she's still selfish and optimistic about how great magic and people are at their core. She's been really fun to explore and create. I want her to have elements of being a good person because she has that ability, but she's always seemed so Mary-Sue and perfect to me in a chunk of stories so I've really just wanted to explore her in some way. I'm really pleased you feel like she seems real and that you like how different she seems! Sometimes i expect people to throw apples at me for making her less than perfect!

I like how you're questioning whether it's just from last year or what other elements might come into play. A lot stems from last year, but it also stems from the fact that her family is pureblood, but they don't take stance in the war against muggleborns. Sort of like a blood traitor, but not to the extent of Sirius. The MacDonalds are the sorts that would probably stand by and let Voldemort take over, but they wouldn't agree with it. If pushed hard enough, they would take a stand against Voldemort though. If someone they loved was being threaten or something. The Slytherins see it as betray though, if you're not fully in it than your against it even though you may not be actively fighting against Voldemort. That's part of it. Other parts of it will come up as the story goes on, and as it becomes clearer what happened last year. I can't say much more than that without giving it all away!

Thank you so much for your thoughtful review!!


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Review #14, by AlexFan Welcome

2nd January 2014:
Sorry that I've gotten to this so late for the review swap but I'm finally here now.

I've got mixed feelings about Florence because she seems exactly like the type of person I'd probably hang around but at the same time it seems like she thinks the worst of people. Like with Lily for example, Lily might've sat with the three girls on the train to Hogwarts because she couldn't find her friend but at least she was nice and took an interest in everyone's life.

Mary seems like the really quiet and ordinary type. She doesn't attract attention to herself and she doesn't feel the need to talk for no reason. I also feel a little bit bad for her because the Slytherins seems to pick on her. I think it has something to do with her being muggleborn but I'm not sure.

I really enjoyed this first chapter and the main reason for that is because of how ordinary it is. I'm so used to seeing September 1st being full of excited best friends that tackle their friends to the ground in hugs and such in fanfiction. This was a nice change from that. It showed that September 1st was just another ordinary day, slightly crowded and full of magical folks but normal nonetheless.

The summary makes the story sound very interesting however so I'm quite excited to see what happens next.

Author's Response: Hey, no worries at all!

I'm used to people having mixed feelings with Florence and that's entirely the point. She's a great character to write. I love it, but there is an aspect of her that I just don't like. Sometimes she can be quite funny and I'd probably enjoy her sarcasm, but there is definitely a darkness underneath that makes her quite destructive. Thinking the worst of Lily for one thing, i'm not saying Lily is the greatest character in this story, because she isn't, but Florence will always, if given the chance, think the worst of someone.

I've never really connected to the overdramatic entrances of September 1st. I like the ordinary things in life which is why i think i have a tendency to focus so much on them in my stories. I think that most of life for most people is quite ordinary. You have some you may be a bit overdramatic about seeing friends, but I can't remember ever actually ever seeing someone tackle someone to the ground for joy of seeing a person. But anyway, thank you so much for your review and your comments! I really appreciate it!

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Review #15, by patronus_charm Welcome

20th October 2013:
Hello, I’m here with your requested review!

I thought that the way you began the chapter was really good, with some really lovely description of the first day back and the excitement that went with it. I also really got to know and connect a little with Mary in that section, and as I assume she is going to be the main character of the story, it was nice to establish the relationship early on.

Then in the next two section it was either quite a lot of dialogue or quite a lot of description, so the lack of variety there could be improved a little by perhaps mixing them up a little so it’s not just dialogue or just description. It will also help us connect Mary’s thoughts about them more actively with the person meaning that it will engage readers more and keep their interest up.

The mixture of the girl’s personalities and backgrounds was really good though. I’m sure it’s bound to make for a more interesting read with the great dynamics they all have. Two are standing out to me so far. Mary, obviously, but she has this really nice quality about her and it’s making me want to know more about her as she’s quite quiet at the moment. Then Mafalda as she’s one of the most boisterous ones. However, I can’t really tell whether this will prove to be annoying or not.

The slight change in Lily’s characterisation with her making appear not to be the nicest of people was great too. I love it when people mix up her characterisation as I hate to see her as the one who is loved by all and flawless so it will be interesting to see how this progresses.

I do have to agree, that the first half of the chapter is rather on the slow, but hopefully if you mixed it up a little it will get rid of that problem. Then the second half was a lot better in terms of pacing with the altercation Mary had with that Slytherin and some slight tension between Lily and the others. My only CC for that area would be perhaps to expand the scene when Mary crashes into the Slytherin with maybe a little more reaction, because it was already really great but if you did that it could be even better.

Other than that, I think you’re off to a good start it just needs a few tweaks :) I hope you find some use from this review!


Author's Response: Hey! Sorry for the late response with this. I don't know why it took me so long to get around to it!! I have appreciated your comments immensely though!

I think I sometimes fall into that a little where I'll get into the dialogue for a bit too long and forget to continue with the description and narration and balance things out. That would probably smooth the story out quite a lot if I were to focus more on that. Thank you for pointing that out, it is good to know what someone else sees that as well.

The dynamics are my favourite bit to write about this. I love writing the three of them as they are all quite different. I really like Mafalda as a character and I don't think she'll end up being annoying. He's a bit boisterous, but I think Florence brings that out in her. Florence on the other hand, i think she'll either be loved or hated. As the story continues I think people will understand her more, but she has the ability to drive everyone mental. I've really liked using Mary as the main character (you are right when you say that). I hope she continues to be relatable in her own little way.

Lily. I am always a little annoyed when she comes off as this perfect saint or her biggest flaw is that she eats a lot of drops things. I think any story would be more interesting if we saw a character grow into the woman who was willing to give her life for her child (i think many mothers would do this). But I want Lily to go through a lot in this story and she has to grow up quite a bit too. I hope i can keep bits of what we know about her still in the story, but also introduce her to be a more rounded character. We'll see how it works.

Yah, i'm thinking as well i'll have to change that scene up a little to draw in readers. It is quite quick, though it is fairly important. I think i sometimes like to keep things subtle for too long which makes the writing seem slower and slightly boring.

Thank you so much for your review! I definitely found it helpful and i'll be looking over this chapter soon to make it work better!

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Review #16, by Debra20 Welcome

19th October 2013:
Hey there! I am so very sorry this review has come this late :( I intended to leave it sooner but school started and I got mixed up in so many things I forgot I had a review thread lol. But I'm here now, so let's get set!

I will first address the concerns you left on my review thread and then I'll make some more general and pointed notes. First off, you told me that you are worried that this first chapter might not catch the interest enough to keep people reading and I share your concern, but not in a high degree. It does read a little slow because there is not much action going on (and I don't mean "fight" kinda action). It feels like it's missing the much needed hook a chapter can't go without.

Luckily, the chapter as a whole is very well done. The pace is good, especially since it focuses on the coming back to school of the girls. When I said earlier that this first chapter lacked that certain 'something-something' to grip readers I wasn't completely true. You have that, and it's the conversation Mary has with Florence at dinner, after the Slytherin boys ram into Mary. That there is the perfect hook to keep readers wondering what it's about and come back for more.

You asked me how you can improve the chapter so that the chapter can capture more attention. Well, I have two suggestions. Move this scene between Florence and Mary at the start of the story. The way you set it up, it can easily happen on the Hogwarts Express as well. That way, not only do we have something to keep our attention drawn to the story from the first half of the chapter, but we will also be immediately introduced into the dynamics of the friendship these girls share. Imagine reading the story and in the first part of the chapter Mary is shoved aside by some Slyhterins. Florence jumps to her defense but Mary tells her to drop it. Why does Mary tone Forence down like that? What did she mean with "you are the same"? Also, what can we make of Florence? Is she just being a good friend or a good deal too nosy? In my humble opinion, I think this would be the perfect way to attract readers enough to make them come back for more.

Characterization is a bit slow in the beginning but picks up pace as the story moves forward. In the first part of the chapter there is no apparent conflict, so it's difficult to make out the girls's personalities. Characterization is another reason why I think that amazing, short interaction between Mary and Florence would fit the beginning better than the ending of the chapter. You can end the chapter with another hook, or some more hints. I don't know the plot of your story, but if you are a planner, I am sure you can drop more little hooks like these around. That's my second suggestion to improve the chapter even more: drop more scenes like this. Minor things that are major enough to make people wonder and come back ;)

I for one would continue reading thanks to that little scene. I see a lot of potential for this story :D

Author's Response: Hey! Sorry for the massively late response.

Thank you for everything you've said. I really appreciate your comments. I do agree that something is off with the first chapter. I've always been a slow started, but this doesn't really have a strong hook to keep the interest of people. Especially since this story is going to be quite dark and I think this chapter makes it seem like it might be a lighter story. Which is why i've been toying with changing the chapter up a little.

I do like your suggestion about moving the Slytherin bit up front and I think i may play around with that before the next update just to see if more people end up continue reading on after this chapter.

Also, with your note on characterization - I think it is hard to grasp our main characters characterization simply because she is so introverted and quiet. In RL it is sometimes hard to pick up on their defining traits because they are so quiet and withdrawn. Mary is like that, though with her history, it makes her stronger as a character to tell this story. I will try to highlight that a bit more so that it becomes clearer for the readers how they're like.

Thanks for your suggestions! I'm not a planner when it comes to things. When i started this story and wrote this chapter I had vague ideas of where I wanted to take this story and not much else which is why I think some of the hooks that could be in it now aren't there. I've got a clearer idea of what this story is, but that's because i've written four more chapters. I think I can go back and try to liven up the first chapter a tad. Though, not make it too dramatic for as a writer i like the slower, more subtle beginnings. :)

Thank you so much for your help!

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Review #17, by MrsJaydeMalfoy Ancients

5th October 2013:
Another amazing and intriguing chapter, dear! I was glad to see Laura reaching out to Mary, and I'm really hoping they can talk soon!

This story's off to a great start, and I can't wait to see where it goes from here! Update soon please!! :D

Author's Response: Thank you for reviewing all these chapters! I'm really pleased that you continued with it and enjoyed it. :) It has been updated ;)

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Review #18, by MrsJaydeMalfoy These Walls

4th October 2013:
Another great and suspenseful chapter, dear! I have so many questions; I can't wait to read the next chapter to see if any of them are answered!

First of all, I'm really curious as to what's going on with Laura. I mean, I'm pretty sure it's got something to do with the war, but I'm still very curious!

Also, I'm curious about what happened in Mary's past, since she says she can related to what Laura's going through. And speaking of Mary's past, it really broke my heart to find out that she turns away from the Slytherin table because of Wilkes.

Mary's characterization is really lovely. (Well, everyone's is, but I especially like Mary). She seems unaffected and cold, but she's not... she only SEEMS that way because she tries to block herself from her emotions... like she did by paying attention to the stairs instead of thinking about her conversation with James. And the way you described her as thinking that those thoughts were 'dangerous' was a nice touch!!

A really, really great chapter, and I'm ready for more!! :D

Author's Response: Thank you for your review! i'm glad the suspense is still coming through and unfortunately a lot of these questions you're probably having won't be answered right away.

Yah, something has happened to Laura alright and it's connected in a very real way to Mary, though neither of them really know how much it is connected. Thank you so much for your review and some of your insightful comments! It means so much to me!

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Review #19, by MrsJaydeMalfoy Welcome

4th October 2013:
Hey there, dear!

First off, let me say CONGRATULATIONS for winning Featured Story!! :) And now, on to your review!

I really like the way you've got things set up here. It's the start of a brand new year, and we're getting to know each of the girls as they make their way to Hogwarts. It's just a normal, start-of-the-year chapter, except for ONE tiny detail... the suspense.

There were a couple of times throughout the chapter where I got the feeling that something's coming... sort of like foreshadowing. The one that stood out to me most was when you said the castle felt colder; it was very subtle and just awesome!

I like your characterizations; each of the girls clearly has their own personality! Overall, this is a great first chapter, and I'm eager to read more! Well done!

Author's Response: Thanks!

I'm glad you liked the beginning of this. It's slow I know and I think it may be too slow but i'm glad you picked up on the suspense. I didn't want to make it massively obvious and have aliens coming down and hitting them over the head or something. I wanted it to be a little more subtle where things seem okay at first glance, but really, things are anything but that.

Thank you so much for your lovely review :)

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Review #20, by nott theodore Ancients

22nd September 2013:
Hi Zayne! I'm actually really glad you requested this because I was checking it the other day to see if it had been updated!

I've already said this in previous reviews but I really enjoy your characterisation of these girls. Choosing Mary as your protagonist allows us to see this story from a really unusual perspective, since she's such a quiet person and sees a lot that's going on around her. It's very refreshing to read characters like these who seem so real to me, as if they could be girls I know.

I think you're doing very well with keeping your characters consistent so far. Mary seems quite calm and introverted, and that came through really well in this chapter, especially with the way that she enjoyed the seclusion in parts of the library, and the details that we learnt about her friendship with Florence. Her attitude towards schoolwork seems consistent with what we've seen so far, too; I remember it being mentioned that her parents had high expectations of her, and she's clearly doing the best she can to live up to them, and slightly fearful of what will happen if she doesn't. I get this image that Mary is quite calm on the surface, but underneath, even if she doesn't acknowledge it at times, she's paddling like mad to keep up the grades and all the other things she's expected to get.

Florence is rather an obnoxious character, but there's something about her that I'm quite warming to. The friendship between her and Mary is believable and I think she reminds me of people I know who can be moody and dramatic and want people around them to react. It's great that you're writing characters here that put me in mind of real people! Florence Meadowes, as well - is she related to Dorcas in some way?

You definitely kept me interested in this chapter, especially with the beginning and the way that Laura came to seek Mary out. There's obviously something that she wants to ask her or talk to her about that's connected to the summer, and I'm really intrigued to know what it is. The interaction with Remus and the mentions of the other Slytherins make me very curious as well. I know that Mulciber did something to Mary in fifth year, but I'm not sure if that's part of the 'secret' or if there's something else. I feel like there's something besides the fact that she's a pureblood and was friends with Wilkes which is making Mary so nervous around the group of Slytherins. I could be completely wrong of course, but to me it feels like there's something else there that we haven't found out yet, and I'm intrigued to see what it is. As far as building of the plot is concerned, I do feel like enough is happening to keep the plot going. The story isn't fast-paced but I think it suits the pace that things are happening at, when the war is on the horizon but hasn't fully broken into the students' lives yet.

I spotted just a couple of typos in this chapter:
"She always gripped about the moment Mary" - griped
"only told Black because he might the only one who understood" - might be

On a couple of occasions it might help the writing flow a little smoother if you vary your sentences and use semi-colons or dashes instead of commas - I know that you're looking for a beta though, and it isn't a major problem.

I also wanted to say that I really like your dialogue. There's something about it that seems really natural and flows nicely, and I can imagine these characters saying everything. Your description and imagery is also great; it's quite subtle at times but you include unusual similes and images which are really nice to read.

Overall I thought this was a really great chapter, Zayne! I hope you found this review helpful - please feel free to re-request!

Sian :)

Author's Response: Why haven't i responded to this?? Ahh! I'm so behind!

Thank you so much for this lovely review and your thoughts. I'm really pleased, still, that you feel that way about the characters. They are my favourite part about writing this and it's great to hear that you still find them effective and relatable. I'm really enjoying fleshing them out, especially Florence for some reason. She's become one of my favourites to write. She's such a terror :) Yes, she is related to Dorcas in someway :). You've really hit the nail with Mary. She thinks she's doing okay and getting through everything like a star, but she doesn't realize how she's just treading water and not really going anywhere. It'll be an awful pill to swallow if she ever realizes that she needs to deal with things. At this point she doesn't deal she just locks it up and all this locking her emotions up has turned her into a really timid person.

I'm really pleased to hear you comments about the pace. I'm always feeling like it's too slow and needs to pick up, but for the life of me I can't do that. I think I enjoy the small little moments too much to do that. But i'm glad you feel like it's moving forward in some way. The whole situation with Mulcibur and Wilkes is involved, but as you said, there's more and it's really just the tip of the iceberg. I'm trying to put things here and there about it, but it's hard to do that as there's a big part of this that makes it impossible for me to write about what happened till much later in the story. If that makes any sense at all.

As always thank you for your insightful review!


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Review #21, by writeyourheartout Welcome

18th September 2013:
Hi Zayne! I just got around to responding to an amazing review you left me, like, a year ago (I am the worst!), but I saw this under recently added stories, so I thought I'd leave a review! And you'll be my first review since coming back to the site! Yay! :-D

I want to start by saying that I'm a real fan of your use of description. There are some really prettily written moments throughout this entire chapter that really stuck out to me. What's funny is that my favorite bits are the sort of transitional details, things that don't really matter as far as the plot line goes, but really made a difference in the quality of the story! One of my favorites was in the third paragraph where you describe her walking to the train, patting down her hair, and having a Hufflepuff scarf kick up into her face! haha It seems like such a silly thing to point out, but I just loved the way you wrote it! Same as when you describe the scene outside the windows of the Hogwarts Express as it makes its way to school, with the sheep and farmers, the blend of colors as the world creeps up on autumn - it was just very lovely. I also really liked how you described Mary's entrance back into Hogwarts. It was not only written well, but it was very intriguing! But my FAVORITE line was this gem: "Mary was sometimes convinced that this was only a show, a play to cover the fire that lay at their feet." Love.

I also really liked your group of friends! I can't even quite put my finger on why, but there's something special about them! haha They're just... refreshing. Like, refreshingly honest, maybe? Florence and Mafalda have a nice give and take that really stuck out during the nail polish exchange. I thought Lily being their friend, but not being a close friend was original because you didn't just do the we're-roommates-and-therefore-all-BFF's thing. I'm not sure yet what I think about Lily - I usually see her more put together and envision her that way myself, but it's interesting and could work! Although, I have to ask: Did you mean to not have her be a prefect? In canon she becomes Head Girl, and I think only James ever became a Head student after not being a prefect. At the end of this chapter, your author note mentioned how this story is really about the girls of Gryffindor, and I think that you've done a really good job at setting them up for some potentially great story lines! So you're definitely doing something right! Woot! ^.^

All of that said, however, there are a few things that could use some tweaking!

Something that isn't my favorite (though it's something a lot of author's do, so this could certainly be just a me thing and easily ignored!) is how you begin the story. It's not that it's written poorly or that it doesn't serve a purpose or anything like that, but simply that it feels a bit too... explainy. You begin the story by slating some characteristics about who the main character is rather than writing her into a situation and allowing us to discover her for ourselves. Instead of telling us that she's a good but not great student with strict and expectant parents, maybe she fails an essay and is shocked by the rarity of it all and afraid of what her parents will think when they inevitably find out. Or maybe she gets another Exceeds Expectations or Outstanding on her summer projects and it's just as she suspected would be the case - how proud her hard-to-please parents would be! Or even just meeting up with her friends she hasn't seen all summer who, while catching up on life, talk about the summer homework. Maybe one of them isn't the best student, Mary tries to say she's sure there's nothing to worry about, and they mention that 'Yeah, YOU have nothing to worry about, Mary! You couldn't get below an Acceptable if you turned in a piece of parchment with nothing but your name on it!" And then it can expand from there: 'Well, perhaps they did have a point about her grades, but one could blame her parents for that' - etc. I actually think the story would be more gripping right from the beginning if you started with the third paragraph: "The weather was startlingly cold for September 1st..." and so on. But that's just me. :-p

In the end, though, I think the only thing you truly struggle with a bit is grammar and punctuation! Here are just a few examples to give you an idea:

'"Alright, do you like this colour?" *She said and held up her other hand which was already done.' - Should be '"...colour?" she said, holding up her other hand...'

"Probably, mind if I sit here then?" - Should be "Probably. Mind if I sit here, then?"

'...ignoring all the well-meaning parents around her as they clung to their *child who was squirming to get away.' - Should be 'children who were'

"The train was already buzzing with noise from the squeals of girls as they met up with their mates after two months and the low laughs of the boys who were appreciating how the girls had seemed to get really fit over the summer months." - This sentence is sort of a combination of noticeable lack of comma's plus a run-on sentence. The comma thing especially is something you miss a lot of opportunities for; I think you may have a slight aversion to them! And while comma's can easily be overused, there were a lot of places that I really felt a comma was needed.

I think you had a really strong ending, though! The story really built it's suspense. I thought something bad happened to the blonde Ravenclaw girl (I'm still unsure about her!), but you have me intrigued! That combined with the whole Mary and the Slytherin's thing has me really wanting to know what happens next! And is there any better way to end a chapter than by having your readers want more? I think not! Kudos!

All around, I think it's a really great start! I would consider maybe grabbing a beta who specializes in grammar and punctuation, though! But other than that, this was really good! Yay!

Author's Response: Hey Tanya, I'm finally responding! *waves flag*

Those bits were probably my favourite parts. I loved getting caught up in them, though I fully realise they are extraneous details that probably aren't as needed to the plot. But hey ho, I enjoyed writing them. I'm really pleased you liked that too as I wanted to paint some sort of picture of this journey and make it seem a little different from every Hogwarts train chapter we know of. Make it more of my own because I know how many back to school stories start like this and they are fuzzy feel good stories. This isn't a story like that and i'm still uncertain if this was the best place to start since i don't think many people click for the next chapter.

I'm SO pleased you enjoyed the characters. They are so fun to write and they keep changing in front of my eyes. I enjoy Mafalda and Florence together too. They give and take and can be quite mean to one another, but I do think that beyond their bickering and differences they are friends. I also didn't want Lily to be right in on their friendship group. I've always the envisioned the Gryffindor's to be a little bit more separate than the whole, as you said, we're BFF's forever ohmygosh, type thing. If you look at Harry's year for instance. There was Harry, Ron and Hermione. Then there was Seamus and Dean. Then Pavarti and Lavender. They were friends with each other, but they weren't all close. I'm really pleased that you felt that this works as well. I do realise that she isn't prefect and it will be sorted out how she came to be Head Girl, i promise you :)

You know, funny that you should say that because it was only a day or two before you left this review that I reread the chapter and had the same thoughts, especially about those first two paragraphs. I had been toying with the idea of changing it and then you reviewed and confirmed my suspicions. So, i've recently edited and changed that bit of it. Hopefully it feels more active because there is nothing I dislike more than having passive, boring narrative. So i've changed it and started at the third. Thank you also for pointing out the grammar issues :)

Thanks for this lovely and long review which honestly made my day when i read it!! It's fabulous and the fact that it's your first one coming back is super special! Thank so much for taking the time to read this little story :) And for nominating it for the hufflepuff featured story!! *hugs*

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Review #22, by teh tarik These Walls

6th August 2013:
Hello Zayne! I'm finally here with your requested review. :) So sorry it's taken me ages to get down to this; I got distracted by so many things, including the House Cup excitement and all. I'm so glad I finally got the chance to read this story; I don't usually read a lot of Marauder Era WIPs because they tend to revolve around Lily and James and their burgeoning relationship, and Lily/James is one of my least favourite ships to read about. So it's such a joy to read a fic in this era, which is written through the perspective of a minor character like Mary, and in which the massively popular Lily/James ship is distanced, at least right now.

What I think is particularly strong about these two first chapters is how much detail you've gone into to establish a very unsettling atmosphere, which is appropriate with the context of the First War; there is a general sense of foreboding to the start of the new term. I think your terrific set-up of the ominous mood and the mystery about Laura's sudden change are crucial elements to these opening chapters, and they certainly do set your fic apart from the hundreds of other stories which also begin in a similar scene with the protagonists heading back to school on the Hogwarts Express. Another thing I really liked was the idea of how the recent summer was not as ideal or as pleasant as is usually the case; Mary finds her summer holidays rather bleak and hardly restful, while James is disturbed by a random breakout of violence involving family and old acquaintances.

Another very unique aspect of your back-to-school beginning:

Mary tried to ignore it but it smelt of dung and she was reminded of her earlier thoughts of how unwelcome the castle seemed this year. How it felt like things were just rotting around her.

This is a very powerful image, and it is very striking that Mary has such a strongly averse reaction to Hogwarts, given that she's usually such an introverted and passive character who lets others' opinions and chatter pass over her and through her. It's a very bleak image of Hogwarts, and a starkly different one to the warm, cheerful haven that the castle always seems to be. I'm guessing that this is a foreshadowing about how there is little safety even within the walls, and that the students are more exposed to danger than expected. Also, I remember that Mary was attacked by Mulciber or something in the books? While this image of 'rotting' and decay is really strong, I would have liked to see you incorporate a bit more of this into the first chapter, which is slightly more fluffy than this one. I think it would have made the tones of both chapters a little more consistent, and there would have been some continuity in maintaining the darker atmosphere of the story.

As for characterisation, Mary is certainly very insteresting. She's incredibly passive, and sometimes she's so introverted that it's easy to forget that this is actually her story, and that we're actually reading this through her POV. It's great to see that introvertedness is one of her defining characteristics, but at the same time, I would have liked to feel her presence a little stronger, especially in the first chapter. She's much better developed in the second chapter, where she actively reflects on the action around her instead of withdrawing completely within herself, and of course, there's the very revealing conversation with James Potter. I was actually very pleasantly surprised by that conversation; it was very deftly written, and it's a welcome change to see James have a serious talk with a girl who isn't Lily, and with no mention of Lily. It's also refreshing to see that Mary and James are in fact childhood friends, along with Wilkes, who is now a Slytherin. With that brief conversation, you've shown how the two have grown up, and how they've changed over the years, and there is a lovely moment of nostalgia over there. I also adored your portrayal of Lily! This is one of the most unique Lilys I've ever come across - flawed, not particularly attractive, not the centre of attention, someone who tags along (similar to Pettigrew, in fact), with an unwelcome flair for drama and not well-liked by all. Honestly, I can't wait to see more of her through Mary's eyes. :)

I have to say that I found the pacing of your first chapter a little slow. There was a lot of detail, and not all of it was particularly relevant, and some of the scenes (e.g. the nail polish bit) went on for a little too long. I would suggest going through that chapter again and streamlining things a bit, sort out the unnecessary details and shorten scenes and really focus your description on things that heighten the atmosphere of the story, or contribute to character development. You might possibly consider making your first chapter a lot shorter, and more of a prologue.

Another thing: you seem to be missing a lot of commas. I usually dislike commenting on punctuation, but as I was reading, I found myself tripping over sentences a fair bit, and having to go back more than once to reread certain phrases. I do think the lack of commas in the right places might possibly disrupt the flow of the story a little, and I recommend going back and editing the punctuation as well as the grammatical errors, of which there were a few.

Well, other than that, this is a lovely and very original story, Zayne! It's certainly exciting, and it captures the brooding First War atmosphere superbly. The characters are engaging and they interact well with each other, and there is a great but brooding sense of mystery about the fic, which is definitely keeping me interested! I can't wait to see where you'll take this story to! Great work :)


Author's Response: Hey teh!

I'm sorry for the late response! There really isn't any excuse! I'm just behind on responding to reviews at the moment.

I really love Lily/James actually. I think they're brilliant. However it is rare that I find a good Lily/James that handles them well in my opinion. It makes me not read them as much simply because they're usually fluffy pieces with stale chiches. You are right when you say they are distant in this. Although I will be handling them as it happened in canon, it is definitely a sideshow to the actual story, which focuses on Mary. I find it interesting to write about minor characters and give them a story in canon as well. :)

I really appreciate you saying you liked the details and description of the first couple chapters. I've always felt Hogwarts was hectic during the first war. That it wasn't safe or even really fun to be at. The first war, to me, was always a bit darker then the second and things were in complete chaos. I see the students having to grow up faster than usual. It's one thing I try to keep in mind when I write this.

I'm pleased you liked the atmosphere of this and the rotting darkness imagery. Mary is a passive character at the moment but we'll learn more about her. I get what you're saying about the consistency of the two chapters and i've been unhappy with the first for a while, so, i'm really pleased that you've given some suggestions of how to improve it. I feel like that's where i want to begin the story and show that their life at Hogwarts isn't going to be lovely and fluffy. I agree that the first chapter didn't quite get there.

I do understand where you are coming with Mary but at the moment I need her to be this. I think most people want really strong main characters who can control the story and leave a mark on the reader. The very point of Mary, at the moment, is that she is so passive, and that she'd rather watch life pass her by rather than take an active role in it. Her very characterization means for her to be this way and the fact that people have a hard time defining her actually makes me a little happy. Simply because I want her to seem lost, passive, introverted, and unable to accept herself. This is about her growth and regrowth.

I'm really pleased you enjoyed the James and Mary scene. I had the most trouble with that and was constantly questioning if I should even have it. I almost deleted a few times. I liked the idea that the boys knew the girls and it wasn't Lily that brought them together (which if you think about it, doesn't make sense as they spent so many years in school together before Lily and James got together! You'd assume some friendships would have sprouted between the boys and girls of Gryffindor in that time.) I'm also excited that you liked Lily! I feel afraid portraying her this way because I expect people to yell at me that she wasn't like this, and that she was a lot nicer and more wonderful and perfect. but anyway, it makes me happy that you enjoyed her and I hope that you continue to appreciate her characterization. :)

Thank you SOO so much for this stunning review! It was massively helpful and thanks for helping out with the first chapter! I'm definitely going to have to go back and fix some things with that :)


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Review #23, by nott theodore These Walls

1st August 2013:
Hi Zayne! I'm sorry it took me so long to get around to reviewing this chapter!

First off, I love the fact that you've chosen to write about Mary as your main character. I wasn't that sure about her in the first chapter but I feel like I got a much better handle on her character here and I like the view on other characters that she offers; she's rather quiet and reflective and I think she seems to pick up on more than she lets on. It gives us a really intriguing insight into other characters.

The reappearance of Laura White is very intriguing! I find myself wondering what has happened to her and how that is connected to Mary - there's obviously something that has happened to her in the past that she avoids thinking about. I have a feeling that it involves Wilkes or Regulus, but I'm not entirely sure. I wonder if there is anyone else that she's told about it?

I'm not sure what to think about Florence yet. Normally I'm biased towards characters like Lily just because of what we know of her in canon, but she hasn't really done much in this story to endear herself to the other Gryffindors, so I can understand Florence's attitude towards her. Her response to get rid of Peeves made me laugh.

I like the conversation with James. You don't often see one of the Gryffindor girls in the Marauders era having a friendship with someone like James that doesn't stem from his relationship with Lily, so I like the idea that she knew him before they both started school and their families have been close. The influences of the war are also becoming clear here, and I'm looking forward to see this develop in the rest of the story.

Overall, a great chapter!

Sian :)

Author's Response: Hiya, sorry for the late response!

I am glad you're warming up to Mary. I really enjoy writing her even though she's so very 'into' herself if you know what I mean. It can make it hard to connect with simply because of her introversion and she doesn't let on about a lot of things. You got it right, she does understand more than she lets on but she'd rather coast through things at the moment. I'm really excited to continue writing her because I love exploring this sort of characterization where the main character isn't larger than life. She's a very timid, scared girl and more interested in other people lives.

I'm also pleased you caught onto to something that is haunting her past. Whether Laura is connected or not time will only tell. She will continue popping up in the story though.

I know what you mean with Florence. I think she's a character people will either hate or love. I love writing her but if i were to meet her in RL i'm not sure if i'd want to be her friend. In a way she's really fun but there's definitely a darker side to her that will be coming up within her.

Thank you so much for your lovely review and you nice comments. i'm pleased you like how the story is building :)

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Review #24, by MadiMalfoy Welcome

22nd July 2013:
Hi there! Here with your requested review. :)

So, as far as reader interest goes, I think it's decent enough right now. I think if you added a little bit about the Marauders (boys) to connect your OCs Mary, Mafalda, and Florence with someone other than just Lily, it would help out a lot! I love that you wrote Lily as still avoiding James and not giving in to his pleas. :)

It actually flows very well for a beginning chapter, so great job on that! There aren't any awkward time jumps that don't make sense or POV changes that seem out of place, which helps a ton with flow. Because you wrote in third person, it makes it easier to understand and read, because then you're not having to think about what this character thinks of that character, etc. Your writing style is great too, so there really isn't anything wrong with that!

A great start to this piece, love the OC's and other obscure characters! Please feel free to re-request. :)
~MadiMalfoy xx

Author's Response: Hey, thank you so much for the review. It is a slow chapter and I'm planning on shortening it up even more and adding a couple things to point toward future chapters. The next chapter there is already a connection made to the Marauder boys. I just couldn't fit it in this chapter because although they are important to the story they aren't main characters and I didn't want them to take over. This will be focussing more on Mary, Florence, Mafalda, and Lily.

I'm really pleased though that it flowed well and that you liked the style of this. I've really enjoyed writing third person as my other main WIP is first and this has a completely different style to that one that i'm enjoying immensely.

Than you so much for your review!

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Review #25, by Violet Gryfindor Welcome

8th June 2013:
Here for the review swap! ^_^ I have to admit that I read this a couple of weeks ago, but never had enough time to sit down and properly review it until now. There's a lot in this chapter to discuss, especially with the way that you've reworked many of the Marauder-Era conventions (some could call them cliches if they wished :P) and found a new, exciting way to write about the girls in the Marauders' year. The writing is also fantastic, which only made this a more engaging story to read.

My review will primarily focus on characterization because that's what stood out most to me, and it also seems to be what you spent much of this chapter on. Most interesting is how the girls, while they obviously know each other well, aren't close friends, but instead have a more complicated relationship. It's wonderfully realistic to characterize them in this way, as people thrown together by their ages and magical skills - they are each their own person, independent and unique. I'd like to think that, if something went wrong, they'd stick together, but there's a note of cruelty or something otherwise dark lurking beneath the surface, especially with Florence. It's the kind of thing that makes a reader curious about a character and how you'll choose to develop her throughout the story.

Your version of Lily is very refreshing because she's more human, not idealized or perfect in any way - she's gangly and has her secrets, and even better, she's not universally liked! By her fellow Gryffindors! It's actually sad to admit that I've not seen such a thing in Marauder-era stories, even though it makes perfect sense when one takes canon into account. Being best friends with a Slytherin, particularly one like Severus Snape, would hurt Lily's reputation amongst her fellow Gryffindors, and while some may think her brave, others might see her as a traitor. (I think that this story takes place after Mary was bullied by Snape and Rosier, right? If so, even though Lily's breaking with Snape was very public, people might still be uncertain of her loyalties.) And somehow Lily has to deal with that, deal with Snape, deal with her sister, deal with her social position as a Mudblood... Although she's somewhat outside of this chapter, drifting in and out of the action, she still has a strong presence, and I'm curious about what role she'll play in this story as it develops.

And then there's Mary, who is another interesting character. She's so quiet and unassuming, but it gives her the opportunity to notice and feel more of what goes on around her - that level of perception makes her a perfect central character, especially in a period when so much is going on and when a story contains a larger cast. I like how you paint her in broad strokes - the way that she has to live up to high expectations as a McDonald, the way that she likes staying beneath the radar, that she likes consistency, that Hogwarts just feels like school to her. I love these kind of details because she emerges from the beginning as a fully-formed character. It's amazing to see how much work you've put into the characters of this story, both canon and original, giving them - and the Marauder-Era - new life.

There is nothing I can think of to critique with this chapter. It's a great way to begin your story and I look forward to seeing where you take this. Hopefully it gets more attention soon because it's definitely worth a read! :D

Author's Response: Hey Susan! Thanks so much for reading and reviewing! It's always a pleasure!

Marauder tales can be quite overdone, tired, and predictable stories. I've always been interested in them though and love seeing new reincarnations. It is such a compliment to hear that this story of mine seems to be one to stands out. That's different than all the tired, age old Marauder stories. I didn't necessarily set out for it to be that way, I only set out to try and make the characters real.

It's rare that I come across a reviewer who gets me characters so perfectly. Rarer still to have them dissect them as well. It's really cool to see them from your eyes though. I'm glad that it makes sense to someone else as well that they'd be very different people. I think that they were more or less friends because of their proximity. (To me, it also depends on the house a little as well. I've always the Hufflepuff's to be a bit of a tighter group than the Gryffindor's for example.) This is something that continues to be explored as the story goes on, the friendships between them, the pressures that they face because of the war and if they stick together or fall apart.

Lily! Yes her. She's been interesting to think up and try and map out. There are so many versions of her but a lot of them focus on her perfection, her wonder, her kindness. As much as i'd like to believe there was a person who was like that (especially at 16!) I can't. Especially with, as you so adeptly pointed out, her history. Being friends with Snape, dealing with Petunia, being a mudblood. Why did she stay friends with Snape after Mulcibur did that to Mary? These are the things she has to face with the other girls. With the whole school really. She has to find where she belongs. I'd find it more believable too if a person grew into their namesake. If that makes sense. It seems more powerful if you see the growth of a character from being just a girl who's loyalty is questioned, whose considered less worthy to someone people remember as being a great woman and able to make a huge sacrifice like she did.

I'm also happy you can feel Mary in this. She's quiet, timid even and some people have pointed out that she seems flat or hard to get a grip on. Which may be true to an extent but I think quiet people in general seem like that to an outsider who doesn't know them yet. I'm really happy that you've grasped who she is though and it's nice to hear that she has a strong enough voice to carry the story on.

Characters to me are the most important part of the story. It's probably why I write at all. I think of my ideas mainly because of the characters in my head and i'll continue reading a story if the characters are good. It makes each story unique in their own way.

Thank you so much for your wonderful review!

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