First off, I just want to say (a late) congratulations on this story's victory in the challenges. I know the challenges were awhile ago, but hey, you probably still like it when someone says congrats. Right?
Anyway, I just want to say that I thought this was a great story, and I liked it very much. It definitely deserved its reward in placing. You did a very good job in pulling off the idea of conflict that was the prompting for this challenge, and the ending result showed such.
I also like your OCs in this story. Usually, I'm not a big fan of purely OC stories, but this one definitely caught my attention, and I wasn't disappointed. Personally, I liked Labella -- cool name, by the way -- better than Maria, and I think one of the reasons behind that is that she's the sort of person that almost everyone knows at at least some point in their lives. She has her faults, and I really love the phrases that you employed to tell the reader that -- "But she was as impressionable as melted wax." Such a phrase leaves a vivid picture in a reader's mind, and it's a good and different way to say her particular flaw in this case.
Your portrayal of the actual conflict in this story -- that of Maria's internal struggle to side with what she knows is right, and what she believes is right -- is also very well done. She (believably) feels very strong loyalties towards her friend, as well as a protective nature, in a way; what makes that even nicer is that Maria states that she knows Labella feels the same. These two are clearly portrayed in a realistic way as best friends, even like sisters, really, and I give you some congratulations on achieving that sort of realistic connection.
A couple criticisms, however, is that the ending seemed just a bit difficult to get around at first read, but it's not impossible. There's a shock that comes with reading it for the first time, because one can't see how she can make such a decision, especially after the many times she stated her utmost hatred for Voldemort and the Death Eaters. It seems a bit like a contradiction in her character to a slight degree, but after reading it a second time, it's clearer that the stronger part of her character -- or the more dominant trait, I guess -- is her loyalty and need to protect her friend. She'd do anything for Labella, and in this story at least, it means going towards something that isn't technically right.
(Please forgive the bit of rambling that that paragraph might feel like it contains. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that, as readers, you make us want to side with Labella, even though we know that a decision to join the Death Eaters isn't the right one. It's sort of like a situation where there isn't really a clear-cut this-is-the-right-choice; it's all a big grey area.)
Lastly, I felt that it was slightly confusing in the time -- how it went from the present in the beginning paragraph, then to a flashback (a very recent flashback, but a flashback nonetheless), and then back to the present time. Personally, I would have liked the separation to be more clear on when the changes occurred, and this could have been done with italics, divisions, or something similar.
Other than that, the story was like I said: wonderful, brilliant (though slightly short), and truly deserving of its first-place finish.
Author's Response: wow, what a fantastic review! It's always great to get reviews on my older stuff. I will definetely take your crticisms into consideration- a truly SPEW worthy review!
Ah, I'm sorry, but it seems that somewhere I didn't close the italics code. You only need to put the closing tag < / i > in your 'Author's Reply' and it won't extend into the other reviews. Sorry about that :o !
Author's Response: done. thanks!
To be honest with you, I wasn't very sure about the story when I read the summary. Heh, I have the very bad habit of not reading a lot of stories with original characters. Yet, I decided to read this one and see what happened.
First of all, I think that the way you connected the events and the flashback was very interesting. It gives you the impression that Maria is actually going to abandon Labella. And this phrase, "Still, I walked away." makes you wonder what kind of person is Maria to leave her friend behind. As the story progresses, though, you begin to not only understand Maria's actions, but to support them as well. That is way, at the end of the story, we are surprised by her decision.
Just one thing: "They always did, when she cried." Maybe it is just me being insane, but I think that comma is not needed.
"...and sat me down across from her in a stiff wooden chair that I couldn’t get comfortable in." I completely enjoyed the way you connnect her discomfort with the chair with the one her talk with Labella was causing her. Now, I also want to commend you for Labella's character. Truth be told, I liked her more than Maria, and that is not because she is a more appealing character than Maria, but because the way you made her be 'like a sheep, without an intelligent thought.' It is sad to see people that share this same trait; people who do not have a mind of their own or only repeat thinigs others tell them to... but anyway, I'm straying :)
Now, I have to admit that in the end I was a little bit reticent about Maria's decision. After reading her thoughts about how much she disliked the Death Eaters, it didn't quite sink into me that she had accepted at last. Yet, you do give us a reason as to why there is no other way: "...she was as impressionable as melted wax." Labella would have never accepted any salvation plan presented to her by Maria. So, in conclusion, I understood why she made that decision :)
Overall, I really liked your story. Although not very long, I think you were able to set the mood from the very beginning with that conflict going on between Labella and Maria. Excellent way to start!
As a last comment before making my way out, I think you could have varied some more your sentences' structure. It is somewhat hard when using first person, I know, but there were some spots where you could have written it differently. When writing first person, 'I' tends to be repeated quite a lot, so you have to watch out and be sure not to overuse, and so make it repetitive to the reader.
Okay, I finish my review here. As I said, I did like your story very much. I think it was well written and very original! Congratulations on winning the challenge!
Author's Response: WOW! I'm so glad you decided to read the story... summaries are not my strong point, and my large amounts of original characters is probably why most of my stories only have a small number of reviewers- it makes each new one even more special! I'm not sure which of the two characters I like best, but they both have attributes that makes me fond of them. Thanks for the absolutely fantastical review!
Noooo!! Don't do it, Maria!! *clears throat* Anyway... great story! I love how you show how Maria feels responsible for her best friend, and, even though she doesn't want to hurt others, can't bear to hurt her own friend. It makes for a much more human character than someone who always knows right away what the right choice is. I also like how you end where you do. The reader can assume she's going to join, but it's not really said for sure.
Author's Response: LOL. Glad you liked it! And yeah, Maria is definetely a Hufflepuff, in case you hadn't guessed. It's a tough choice... I'm not sure I'd be able to make it. Glad you liked it the ending as well! Thanks for the great review!
That is a really good story.Labella and Maria are nice names for the characters.Poor Labella.I hope she learns to stop being so impressionable.Please write a sequel;that's a great story and I want to find out what happens next!
Author's Response: Glad you liked it, and the names as well! Unfortunately there will be no sequel, but it's great you like it so much that you want one.
I'm surprised no one has reviewed this. I think your writing was excellent, I especially loved the line about being as impressionable as hot wax! I was a little surprised when she decided to join Labella. The death of a friend is terrible, but somehow I don't see her killing others instead. Just my thoughts though. Go Badgers! Good luck!
Author's Response: Glad you liked it! (also glad you didn't follow the examples of other readers and not review.) And while Maria is not actually a killer, she'll do whatever it takes to protect her friend. Reminds me of someone....