I loved the fic. Just one thing: after Voldemort came back with Hagrid, there was no more fighting outside because the reinforcements from Hogsmeade and the centaurs mowed down the Death Eaters and forced the battle into the school.
But this is awesome otherwise :)
Hello! This story hasn't got any traffic for a while.
I'm glad you liked the fic. And as for the no fighting outside, even if there were reinforcements, the fighting still couldn't have stopped immediately, so there would've still been skirmishes around the building. When I was writing this, I probably re-read that chapter at least eight times to make sure the timing was right. It might be a bit different, but the nature of it is still compliant with the information presented in DH.
Anyway, thank you for reading, and for your diligence. I always appreciate reviewers, especially on stories I love. :D
I came over here from LJ to read your top five, and of course started with this one. (It was the one on top, after all.)
Very clear, very concise - which is not to say short, but, rather, that you didn't throw anything in here that does not play to the effect of the story - a masterful show of restraint and good judgement.
I don't find myself particularly horrified, but then, I have lived longer and seen more than most of your readers. Yes, life is like this, people have very unclear motivations, the motivations shift from moment to moment, they do things they regret - but they also don't do things they should do, and they also regret things that make no sense to regret. In that sense, I find this story very true to life, indeed, but not so much dark as just the color of the sky - overcast, perhaps.
On a related note, pertaining to one of your responses - yes, many times in history, you find that the disciplined troops are the winners, however, it is by no means always the case. Moreover, to say that the Americans had no real victories until the French came in and taught them how to be an army ignores several important things, including Trenton and Von Steuben, who was by no means French. They were a key ingredient at Yorktown, but they were in some respects mixed blessings and to just hand the Revolution over to their organizing influence is over simplification. The issues of supplies and pressure on an ancient enemy and so forth do not carry through your analogy, if analogy is what you were going for...
But that is in the responses, not the story. Yes, I'm left quite convinced that Michael will be affected by this for the rest of his life. I don't think the Cruciatus should bother him at all, however. Those characters have done far worse for far less.
There are issues here no one else has mentioned. Is it so certain that Miles wouldn't kill him at this point? I have no problem seeing the character you've described hitting him in the back just because he can, as a last grasp at some sort of victory, even if he is on his way to Azkaban. I'd have at least disarmed him and tied him up, myself.
The question of how much of the killing was motivated by previous things the cousin has done is a good little complication.
Overall, a good job, and I think you did what you set out to do. Congratulatoins...
I think you hit the nail on the head in terms of the moral ambiguity of what people did during the war. Even Lupin himself berated Harry for not being willing to kill when he Disarmed Stan Shunpike rather than Stun him or worse, and it's more or less a given that Remus was a man of above-average character. And he was willing to kill people to get done what needed to get done. Many others, I wager, were aiming for the same. That's where I created the baseline for what Michael did and how he reacted to it.
Miles is a character with a story in my head canon, and yes, he has a history with Michael. While I won't go into it because it's convoluted and rather detailed, suffice it to say that neither of them would've cared overmuch if the other dropped dead. What Miles did was throw whatever punches he could before the inevitable happened. They both knew what was happening, and Miles wasn't stupid; he knew where he was going to end up. But goading Michael and hurting him was a battle he thought he could win. He didn't count on Michael snapping, but they were maybe a bit more alike they either of them cared to admit. Neither was a killer by nature, but when their buttons were pressed and the issue forced...well, you see what happened.
The analogy between the non-Death Eater side and the American revolutionaries is actually pretty apt, I think. The Death Eaters were unified in that they dared not stray, but the Order members in canon often had their own agendas and things they had to worry about outside the cause. However, like the Americans, the Order side were fighting for their equality and the right to exist the way they chose, and I think that provides an unique motivation for them that, eventually, might have tipped the scales to be in their favour, or at the very least not so lopsided.
All in all, I wanted to tell a story about a 'winner' who didn't think he was all that much of a winner. Whether Michael hated himself for killing Miles or if he hated himself for not feeling as bad about it as he possibly should've been, I'll leave that for interpretation. But ultimately, this story is about moral dilemmas and how not everyone makes the right choices and, when they go unpunished, they go about punishing themselves in some manner because it's the only way they can cope. Yes, Michael is messed up for a long time, for life, but this is only the beginning of his story and how he learned to live with the man he had let himself become. And this is why I lurve Dark/Angst!
Thank you very much for your visit. I hadn't actually expected anyone to read/review due to the meme, but it made a long, s*** day a lot better because you did. Very much ♥
Jess-This is one of your most powerful stories and I hope I can write a review that does it justice.
One thing I love about this story, and Azure In The Snow, is the immediacy of it. You immediately tie a story of minor characters to a single canon event, and then take the reader straight into the mind of one of those characters. Your characterisation of Michael is, for me, this story’s main strength. You flesh him out brilliantly, making him incredibly realistic. Because we know so little about Michael, except that he was in the DA, we expect him to be basically a good person. It is one of the many things you do so well--highlighting the darker side of those on the ‘Good’ side, and the way in which the circumstances of that last year at Hogwarts, culminating in the battle, could easily turn a normal person. You basically show Michael falling further and further away from any sense of morality, from when he feels it’s Lisa’s duty to stay, to the final moment when he kills Miles.
I like the initial shock to the reader of Michael manipulating Lisa. His strong sense of morality, a ver Gryffindor streak within him, even though he’s a Ravenclaw, comes through. I particularly love the realism of: It is better to die for something than to live for nothing., I think in the situation Michael is in, it is very realistic that he would cling onto a single phrase to carry him through, and this happens to be it, which comes to particular fruition at the end of the story, when he is confronted with the effects of following this philosophy. This morality is also shown when his anger at Lupin’s death, is not focussed on the fact his old DADA’s master has died, but that: “That bloke had murdered Lupin without even facing him.” This very black and white approach to morally complex situations is one you explore throughout the fic- for example whether Michael persuading Lisa to stay, given she was in a coma for the rest of her life because of it, was a ‘Good’ decision or not, as well as the extent to which Michael’s actions are justified given the events that surround him.
I also find the lack of control, at least initially, that Michael prescribes to his situation, of great interest. At the beginning of the story, whilst understanding Pansy’s desire to rat Harry out, he at the same time feels obliged to the nobility he proclaimed to belong to during that year of suffering at Hogwarts. You, however, show his lack of self will at several points- for example, he “almost involuntarily” moves to attack when Lupin dies, and while other members of his house escape the fight, he is curiously stagnant. In a story of mine, I quote a far better writer than me, Jimmy McGovern, who has his central character in the UK TV Show Cracker say that heroes are people too afraid of being cowards. I think it’s interesting that Michael fulfills this perfectly-he is too afraid of not fulfilling the values he preached to flee, which is what his, and Lisa’s, gut reactions tell them to do, and therefore feels obligated t stay, and become a hollow soldier, as per the title.
Your writing style is, for the most part, bare, very much showing but this line is beautiful:He fought and fought, ploughing his way through these faceless, hollow men until the sun finally staggered its way over the horizon. particularly when with the title, it’s really the survivors and not the losers who are hollow.
This story brilliantly shows how war can change a man, or even boy, as Michael really is, for all his violence. The conversation with Miles, the jeering, the tension, particularly since you’d already established an existing conflict between the two characters in their first meeting, was excellently established. I would say that the mention of the racist term ‘Paki’ threw me somewhat, as the implication throughout your story is that Miles and Michael are purebloods, and therefore would be absent from the racism according to nationality (as opposed to blood status) which, unfortunately, the rest of the world was, and to some extent still is, at the time. That is, however, a minor nitpick. I particularly love the ending where you have Michael say:
He truly understood what Unforgivable meant.
Now, while I firmly disagree with Michael’s thought process, you have characterised him so well, that I think within the context of JK’s universe, where murder is the highest sin, and your characterisation of MIchael, this fitted seamlessly.
The ending is breathtakingly sad. The fact that, after committing the unforgivable of killing someone, Michael only wants to fall asleep and hope to wake up, already puts me at a sad point on which to end it, but no, Jess you had to go one further. When, several hours later, he awakes, and you mention, Terry’s ‘far-too-innocent gaze’, the distance between himself and his friends (including Terry) suddenly becomes very sharp and uncomfortable, making his situation all the more heart-breaking. And though he says “I remember” really, he’s remembering as if it were a dream, and there’s something rather horrific about that final image, unable to connect to one of his closest friends. Excellent story Jess, and I hope this review was good enough.
Sorry for the late reply, but hopefully the fact that I wanted to do your review justice makes up for it. :D
It is my belief that every character, no matter how good or dedicated to just causes, has darkness within. We know this about Harry and have to speculate whether it was borne of the Horcrux occupying part of his soul or something borne of his own innate dark side. He was not able to use the Cruciatus on Bellatrix out of righteous anger, but he was able to toast Amycus Carrow for *spitting* on McGonagall. If the one-in-a-million man worthy to be the master of death is capable of that, imagine what the rest of us can do if we feel justified. And, for Michael, Miles was simply the culmination of every dark thought and hatred that had haunted the back of his mind.
One thing I believe about Michael is that it’s hard not to have a black-and-white view on justice after the Year of Hell at Hogwarts. The dynamics were simple: Slytherins and Carrows were evil, and the DA were good guys. In his mind, he couldn’t fathom there being a middle ground for those of age to fight. While Lisa wasn’t a member of the group, it was easy for non-members to side with those who were brave enough to piss in Carrow cornflakes and go to Support Harry Potter parties. But when the time comes to run away faster than a cat with his tail on fire or face down Death Eaters and the possibility of death, not everyone has it in them to get past that sort of hurdle. I imagine that a number of people who didn’t stay wish they had, but also that a few who stayed wholly wished they hadn’t.
Control is a deep theme in war. In a vast majority of wars throughout history, the more disciplined ranks triumphed over the ragtag soldiers nearly every time. The Romans conquered because they were a military machine. The American Revolution, while seemingly an exception, didn’t turn in the Americans’ favour until the French stepped in and showed them how to be a proper army. Some people don’t have it in themselves to forge ahead with purpose rather than an adrenalin-charged haze of emotion, and I think Michael is one of those people. But, as you said, he was afraid of being like his pure-blooded cousin (Miles), who turned to the Dark Lord as easily as Michael had fallen into the DA. The two boys are a lot alike in my head, as well as on paper, but with radically different outcomes.
The title and the theme of hollowness were inspired by an absolutely gorgeous banner by Minna (poke me on AIM, and I’ll show it to you), depicting a scarecrow and text that said ‘we are the hollow men’. For once in my life, I actually knew that it was from a poem and even who the poet was. I looked it up, flailed, and then thought. After that, this story just came spilling into my brain. I had a loose thread from Azure in the Snow about Michael and his level of messed up-ness, and this gorgeous plot for a battle fic to go along with it. It just…worked.
Miles’s comment about Padma’s race wasn’t really meant to be slanderous to her, but rather because it would make Michael angry. It was more the tone and contempt with which it was said that was meant to offend rather than the word itself. It goes back to the pre-existing hostility between the boys, which went back before either set foot in Hogwarts or even knew what a Death Eater was. That childish desire to hurt someone who hurts you never quite left them.
Unforgivable means a lot of things to me. I don’t find killing unforgivable in all instances, and the same goes for the Cruciatus and Imperius. There are dozens of ways to do all of these without using the three Unforgivables, yet they are not considered unforgivable. Punishable, yes, but not on the same level. This is where my head canon comes into play. In my head, the thing that separates the Unforgivables from the rest of the spells in the Potterverse is how defensible they are. No known defensive spell or shield can stop a Killing Curse, and the only thing that seems to stop the Cruciatus is the will of the spellcaster. The only one that seems like one can defend oneself from it is the Imperius, but even that takes supreme willpower and effort. It’s not a spell, curse, hex, jinx, or charm. There are not words or wand movements or protective objects to ward it away. And the people who are most susceptible to it are the weak-willed and already defenceless. The long and short of it is this: Michael could’ve killed Miles in so many ways, most of which would go un-looked-at as a natural result of battle, but he used the one spell that Miles couldn’t fend off and would kill him for sure. And, as you pointed out, it was because he couldn’t control himself. Miles knew it, which is why he mocked Michael and insulted Padma and all of that, but it bit him in the end.
Speaking of the end, I have a *thing* about characters feeling hollow and full of regret all at once as a story ends. Whether it’s because I’m depraved or I believe that happy endings are far rarer than people wish they were, I don’t know, but the one thing that blows the cork off of my brain is when battle survivors and their families go on like everything is okay afterward. Things happen in the heat of battle that make people wonder if they know themselves half as well as they think they do. When Fred died, Ron’s first reaction was that he wanted to go kill Death Eaters, rather than run to his brother’s side and grieve. Lupin chided Harry for merely Disarming during the Seven Potters thing, telling him that he had better be prepared to kill. In a way, I wish this dual morality had been better explored in Deathly Hallows, because so many parts of the book craved attention in that respect. Characters moved away from who they were and who we knew them to be and became something darker. Hence why fan fiction is glorious; we can do that on our own. No, Terry didn’t kill anyone and was mostly the same person, but he didn’t leave the battle with a boulder-sized guilt complex, either.
All in all, this story was an exploration of what people are like and what people think they’re like and how they deal with the disillusionment of their preconceptions of the former. And yes, typing that out made me feel like a pretentious a-hole, but it was what I was going for. Thank you so much for the lovely review, and sorry about the long time it took to respond. It takes rather a while to think critically about how I wanted to respond, and I did want to respond in the best way possible. You know where to find me if you care to discuss further. Again, thank you, and ta for now.
Wow, this is really awesome. There aren't many fics that focus on the non-core characters and their loss in the battle. Beautifully written!
I'm glad you enjoyed the story. The other story of mine that follows this story canon, Azure in the Snow, shows how Michael's life was affected by these events. Incidentally, that one was written first, and many people wondered how Michael could be that screwed up, where even Harry came out of the battle in better shape.
Thanks for reading. :)
I feel like squee'ing, Jess, but it feels wrong, considering the subject matter(s) in this story. It was powerful and really heartwrenching, but explains some of the backstory in your other Lisa/Michael/other Ravenclaws story, Azure In The Snow, I think? Anyway yeah, this story was great. I will be SPEWing you later in the month, on one of your older works. I find that your stories are the ones I always want to review, which is probably why my monthly reviews almost always include one to you. Great story, and happy birthday Hannah and you!
Haha, I get what you mean by the squeeing feeling inappropriate. It's meant to be a stark reminder of the things that war and conflict drive us to do, as well as how it brings out the baser nature in us all. I remember Hannah asking me how I came to the conclusion that Michael was the most screwed up of the bunch, and this is the product of that.
I love when you review me.... not gonna lie. Even the cringe-worthy pages three and four, hehe.
Thanks for the visit, and I'm glad you appreciate the story (since enjoyment seems rather inappropriate, lol).
OOOH. Dear God. That's why he became a drug addict. Jesus, the emotions here are so real and raw. Wowzers.
Confession, I didn;t read this before because it's D/A and I was too busy to get into something intense, but the pace has slacked off, so I foraged around a bit. This is brilliant. I love stories about the fighters that weren;t sure they could fight. Not everyone is as brave and fearless no matter what they say beforehand, no one really knows how they'll react when the fight is actually on. So Lisa's dilemma really struck a chord with me. And Bloody Hell, Michael, you got her to stay. That is a shed-load of guilt to be carrying around with you.
I love the end. Killing Miles made me want to punch the air. He needed to do it at that moment, but I know he's going to suffer so badly longterm. And the fact that the incident has now sullied the rest of his life, the way he brushes off Harry's victory. Just. No. Words.
Well done (and Happy Birthday) ~Croll~
Well, his tumble into addiction and bad behaviour couldn't have been for normal war trauma, I think. He was always a good kid at school, so for him to actually kill someone, it takes a monumental event. Murdering your cousin because he's pushing your buttons at the very wrong time and in all the wrong ways isn't something anyone would ever want to believe themselves capable of, but it's something he could never take back. The worst part of it between this story and Azure in the Snow is that it was wartime and no one judged him for it. He never paid for it in penal terms, so he tortured himself for it instead.
Not everyone has a pair of brass balls and can fight in a battle. They do because they must, but their lives are never the same. Michael isn't cut out for fighting because he had issues controlling his impulses, and Lisa certainly wasn't. And he has to live with that.
Lovely review, Croll of the Dungeon. I'm glad you enjoyed the story. :)
Wow. This story is very impressive, Jess, although rather bleak as well.
I liked the fact that Michael is essentially good. He sacrificed himself for other people and fought bravely etc and he had qualms about using the Cruciatus Curse.
But as Michael looked down at his hands through a blur of tears, his murderous hands, what he truly wanted was entirely different. He truly understood what Unforgivable meant. I loved this part. For some reason it reminded me of Shakespeare - in both Macbeth and Hamlet (through Claudius) he shows guilt through hands... anyway, I could be reading too much into it, but whether or not it was like Shakespeare, it was a fantastic paragraph. It just summed this whole story up so well.
I liked that Michael used all three Unforgivables. I find that whole concept rather interesting... after all, Harry uses two Unforgivables (although I don't think he really does any harm with Crucio), and particularly when he uses the Imperius Curse, he doesn't seem to regret it. I also wonder how Molly killed Bellatrix. Anyway, I'm getting off track. The interesting thing about how Michael used the spells, though, particularly Crucio and Avada Kedavra, was that they were entirely unnecessary. Miles was not hurting him at those times. Neither was the Death Eater whom he continued to kick. I loved how you described the feeling of power it gave him.
I'm sure there's a lot more to say about this fabulous story, but I can't think of anything more right now... this story nearly had me in tears. It was very well-written.
P.S. Happy Birthday to Hannah and to you!!
I believe that times of trial are when people are either at their best or at their worst. Harry killed the most evil wizard of all time; Ron used quick wits to destroy a Horcrux; Neville pwned Nagini; Michael did none of those. He fought becuase he felt like he had to, like there was no option, and he even made Lisa think she would be a lesser person if she didn't, as well. But when the battle started, he quickly realised that he wasn't meant to be a fighter, and he wasn't half as brave or level-headed as he'd thought.
Miles was added because he knew how to push all of Michael's buttons. They had known one another for ages, and hated each other for nearly as long. It wouldn't take much for Miles to know how to turn the screw. But one thing that Miles had not counted on was the idea that MIchael would go that far, being a goody-goody and all. It shows a bit of both of their borderline childish naivete. Had they been anywhere else and Miles had said all of those things, Michael probably would've cursed him with a Stinging Jinx in the crotch and left him alone, but nothing could've prepared Michael for the amount of hate, outrage, and injustice that Michael felt in those moments of weakness. Miles ended up paying for it dearly.
Anywho, I'm glad you liked it, and I'm sure Hannah will be thrilled with the bday wish. I'm so glad you visited, and thank you for the happy birthday. It's been amazing so far. :D
Note to self: don't leave reviews on my phone when knackered. I submitted, read it back through and realised it was riddled with daft grammar! Sorry about that. I will go an ritually fall on my grammar sword now, promise.
Plus, I forgot to say, it was the briefest of cameos but I loved Kingsley: you completely nailed his characterisation.
No worries about the grammar. I basically only gave the story a shoddy once-over before posting. I'm horrible about that.
I almost had Kingsley introduce himself to Michael to eliminate the postulation about his identity. However, I figured that, if anyone is clueless enough not to know who it is, I really don't care what they think anyway, hehe. I is ebil. But his presence ultimately gave Michael the chance to see the battle in a larger scope than his little circle of friends and the people he knew. Don't know why I picked Kingsley, but he just seemed right for it.
Yay again! I hope tomorrow is better. Heart!
This will probably be totally incoherent, Jess, because I am just aghast at how amazing this story is. I had a truly shit day and to come home to find this and be lose myself with a glass of wine in such a wonderful story all for me was just the best pick-me-up imaginable.
I wondered when I read Azure not only what had happened to Lisa but also what had happened to Michael, because whilst I know we both agree that people were messed up post-battle, the level of Michael's screwed up-ness was exceptional so I wondered what had happened to him beyond the norm to take him there.
It makes total sense now why he goes on to make such a mess of everything. The combination of blaming himself for Lisa fighting and for killing Miles must have utterly torn him apart.
I'm intrigued by the deal with the curse on Lisa, that it kills her finally so much later. Is she in a coma-like state in the interim or does it just gradually weaken her.
Michael was the perfect viewpoint, and I loved how he had a genuine moral struggle with casting the cruciatus, which I was disappointed in Harry that he never seemed to face. It meant I had totally empathy with what it would do to him when he killed Miles. He wasn't a boy who could kill lightly, even in battle.
Urgh, and Miles was just vile. You did such a good job in making so deeply, unrepentantly unpleasant.
I just ... thank you! This is probably a really gushing, aimless ramble, but there was just so much I loved and I connected with this story so completely.
I totally love it, and you are fab!
Well, then, I'm glad the story's late as to afford you the best possible pick-me-up. :D
At first, I wasn't sure what I was going to write you for your birthday, but when I thought of your love of Ravenclaw angst, as well as the loose threads in AitS, it was obvious. I actually started this ficnearly a month ago, and my whining, bitching muse has just now deigned to let me finish it. At any rate, there you are.
The deal with Lisa is a curse that Voldemort himself had concocted for his minions' use, which is why Madam Pomfrey had no idea what it was or how to cure it. Ultimately, it also killed Lisa. She wasn't in a coma the whole time, but she went to St Mungo's after this incident and never left until she died. She had good weeks and bad weeks, ranging from a decent amount of lucidity to having 'relapses', where her vitals tank and they have to try like hell to save her. I should prolly name that curse, but I can't even rightly say what it does, lol. Baaaaaaaaaaaad author! Bad!
Michael, to me, has been one of the ones who, with different influences, could've been just like Miles. In true Claw fashion, he's convinced that he's nearly always right (which didn't help his relationship with Ginny) and likes having an element of control. This is why the DA worked so well for him, because he was less subject to first Umbridge and then the Carrows. But in the heat of battle, he loses that control he craves, and he doesn't like the person it makes him.
Miles was supposed to be a bit vile, but it was mostly him trying to goad Michael into making a mistake so he could capitalise. He never dreamed that his cousin would actually be able to kill him. No one ever said he was all that smart, hehe.
I'm glad you liked the story, and I'm so happy it was able to nurse your bastard day back to some semblance of health. I heart you much, and it's no mistake that we're both Gemini: two of a kind. :D