Di, you know that I don’t usually get emotional when I read, but you must know this is the first fanfiction that ever made me cry. There were a good number of sensitive topics here, and this could have easily gone rolling down the hill. However, you managed to handle it quite well. Your eloquent writing and the use of first-person ends up offering so much emotion that strikes the readers in just the right place. It’s impossible not to be moved.
The use of first person was an excellent choice -- it gives us a much clearer view of what goes on inside Al’s head. There’s so much raw emotion in there from the start, and I can’t help but feel drawn into his despair. The use of the flowy, descriptive language adds to the sensitivity of it. However, I’m glad that the flashback is in third person, for it helps the reader to see the entire scene as if it’s going on right in front of them. It shows the scene instead of telling it, leaving a greater impact on the reader. Having Al recount it would seem rather brutal for the poor guy, and this way it seems like Al is actually just remembering the entire thing.
Albus’ character was one of the major fortes here. He seems so... so genuine. The use of first person certainly helped in this case, for I could feel much more intimate with him. His description of himself certainly showed how much he’d aged just because of the incident. I liked how he had tried to be brave, but in the end he caved in to his “weakness”. It’s just like a boy to refuse to acknowledge what he went through in front of other people, and I felt horrible when he refused to go to the Auror office. You’ve managed to show his insecurities well with the “aftermath” paragraphs, especially him leaving the flat and dating other women. Al is, as you know, my favourite character; seeing him like this nearly killed me. I can’t imagine how much he had suffered through. Though the scenes were heart-rending to read, they just add to the realness of the whole thing, and you managed to handle it so well. Your characterisation of Albus was so realistic, it’s just like any male rape victim would act. His daily ritual of brine-induced vomit just so he could avoid defecating was very horrifying -- the post-traumatic stress disorder he was going through showed just how scarred he was by this incident.
The cutting scene nearly killed me. The descriptions were so vivid and uses of phrases such as “pulsating artery” and “Bright red blood spurts out” add to the poignancy of the whole thing. I couldn’t believe he was going to die, after trying to act so brave in the beginning. When Harry and the others came up, I was so sure that he’d end up saving Al. I really wanted him to, because Al simply couldn’t die, could he? Then again, him dying added to the darkness of the whole story, and that was, in fact, a very good ploy, for you managed to bring across the fact that everything is not a fairytale with happy endings.
By the end of the whole thing, you had me bawling. You managed to create such despair, what with Harry trying to revive Albus. It shows the strong bonding between them, that Harry refuses to believe that Albus is dead. It makes me wonder if the pulse he felt was just wishful thinking because he wanted it to be true. The letter is another thing that brought about Albus’ character. With just a few words you managed to bring across three things: his love for his family, his hopelessness and just how little he managed to open up in the end.
I’m glad you finished the story in a lighter note, with Harry managing to finally catch the culprits. Despite the lightness, there still is a heavy undertone at the end, because though the rapists are caught, Albus’ story reminds us about the dark side of the society, where men are supposed to be considered the strong ones and they are bred up being taught not to show any weakness. Had that not been the case, if Albus hadn’t believed that he was not supposed to show any vulnerability, he could have been alive.
Overall, I salute you for being able to spectacularly pull this off. This certainly deserves the feature. Well done, Di!
I had my doubts about this story, Pooja, as you know, but I think you dealt with the horrific subject matter (the rape, the bulima and the suicide) very well. I was rather upset that he died, though because I wanted a happy ending (or at least more resolution for Albus) but I understand why you wanted that ending.
The only crit I have, really, is that the end felt a little rushed. I would have liked more insight into how Harry found the rapists and set about proving it. But, then, if you'd done that you'd have had a chaptered on your hands and the story would have lost having Al as its focus.
Compelling and dark story, but bleak. :( Poor Albus ~Carole~
Author's Response: Hey, Croll!
Sorry for the late response! But I'm here now. :) And yayyy! I'm so glad you read this one! I do remember the chat we had about this story. :) And I'm so, so happy that you liked the way I dealt with the topics, though it wasn't bulimia, really, it was PTSD-- I will explain some day. I was as upset as you that he dies, believe me, but this just had to happen-- I don't know, but I felt like it had.
Oh, yeah, the culprit-chase. I honestly thought it was pretty much insignificant as compared to what this story was about, but I might write a sequel from Harry's PoV, explaining how he caught the culprits-- I don't know-- let me see. :)
Thank you for the review, Carole, it's the only truly dark story I've written in recent times, ha! *hugs*
Hi Pooja :)
Well, I’ve been meaning to read something by you for a while now, so when this story was featured, I thought it was about time I read and reviewed it. And I was so glad I did, because I was very moved by this story for so many reasons, particularly your excellent handling of what are some very, very sensitive issues, as well as great characterisation throughout.
First off, your title is a fabulous one. There’s something lovely and simple about the wording of it, but at the same time, it speaks volumes of what the story is about. I thought you made brilliant use of the way Albus resembled Harry in such a way and yet felt so different from him; I can really see why Albus would view himself like that, and of course he would feel maimed after being raped. And I have to say, you treated the topic of rape very delicately, and I really appreciate how well you handled it. It’s far from easy to write what would be a very upsetting thing to read, so well done there. While I can’t say I enjoyed reading that section in particular, I thought it was great that you didn't have to make it explicit and yet it was clear exactly what was happening. I think what is important with difficult issues is that you have to address it properly, and I certainly thought that was the case here. Similarly, the issues of bulimia and self-injury were painful for me to read, but that was because of how real and raw the emotion was. The actual writing was heartrending to read, especially the way in which Albus would undergo the daily ritual of making himself vomit as well as the three times he had cut himself.
I think the style of the writing was what made it so very powerful. I liked, for example, the way the flashbacks were in third person and the main body of the narrative was in first. I felt an intimacy with Albus’s character and thought you really got to the heart of the story, and his emotions, with first person, because I could feel his self-loathing and his pain. Third person was certainly the right choice for the flashbacks, especially when Albus was raped, because that showed rather than told the story, which I think can sometimes be an issue for that choice of PoV. Here, I think it worked perfectly, because I got to see for myself how horrific Albus’s experiences were, and the immediacy of present tense added to the tension, too. One thing I did notice, though, was that there were quite a few paragraphs beginning with “I”. Perhaps this is something to bear in mind in the future -- even though it definitely didn’t significantly detract from the story, I did find that certain parts didn't flow quite so well at times.
Ultimately, I think this story is a character study and an intense one at that. I loved the characterisation of Albus; his self-hate is so understandable, and I think the details you added emphasised that so much -- not just his bulimia and self-harm, but also him not eating, not sleeping, not even going to the toilet properly. It’s an understatement to say my heart went out for him, and what I liked best was that not once was Albus melodramatic about what had happened to him, but at the same time, I could see just how badly affected Albus was by being raped. I felt such a numbness in his narration, and there was something incredibly systematic about his voice. And though I wasn’t sure if this was done on purpose, I did smile when I saw what could be an allusion to AlRose. Even if it wasn’t, just the fact that Albus had lost his closest cousin and could not talk to anyone about being raped makes the story all the more poignant.
I must say, at one point, I thought Albus would be saved. Perhaps it was when I read the heading of “Meanwhile”, with the far more optimistic side to the story, or maybe just the fact that I had this expectation of Harry to save Albus somehow. And again, I think the fact that Albus’s voice is so resonant for me is what makes the events in the story so much more touching, because perhaps even Albus expected that of his father. I think that’s why seeing Harry attempt to revive his son was so difficult to read -- not, of course, because it was written badly, but because I could really see the disastrous consequences of Albus being raped on his whole family. On that note, however, I think the ending was perhaps a little too easily resolved. While I understood the significance of the 31st July and know that that was part of the challenge, I wasn’t sure that only a year later, Harry would have captured his son’s rapists and simply locked them away. I can’t help but think that it would take longer than a year, and Harry doing so on his birthday exactly a year later seems too neat to me. If you expanded it a bit, in a sequel maybe, it might be explained more, because I think that was what was missing for me, so perhaps consider writing a follow-up one-shot? I would definitely read it if you wrote it, anyway. :)
This was a great story, Pooja. I thought it was an excellent read, and I can definitely see what you mean by you hacking Albus to this many pieces! At any rate, the issues were addressed with due respect and the writing really touched my heart. I will have to read more of your stories someday :)
Author's Response: Hey Soraya!
Sorry, it took long for me to respond, but you do know my exam situation. :) Anyway, I'm so glad that you took time to read this, and that you liked it because this was very difficult for me to write-- it was stressful and emotionally draining and there were times that I'd want to give up, or put it away, but then I'm glad I stuck to it. :)
The title actually was a spur-of-the-moment thing. I was filling out a Beta form and instead of writing 'untitles right now', I just wrote this down. I feel Albus and Harry are similar, and different. Albus would have a lot of insecurities, and a lot of issues, I guess, I don't know-- but I've always felt this way about him. And I'm tired of how sometimes Albus is entirely like Harry, so I turned this around and made him different from Harry on a very important point. As for the rape and self-injury, these emotions were what I derived from reading a few psychological papers and articles that spoke about male rape. It seems to have such a different effect on men-- but I think the emotions here are easier to capture than female rape. The bulimia wasn't bulimia-- it was something even more crude, which I really couldn't mention here. You can poke me sometime, if you want to know what it really was. :)
I agree with you on the first-person imagery problem. It is very difficult to 'show' the entire... the events, when it's in first-person format and the 'I' just keeps repeating. I'm also not very used to this format, as most of my stories are in third person, which I'm most comfortable with. That way, the emotions and the gestures are easier to show and the bond between the reader and the character are easier to create. But I will remember your wonderful suggestions and keep this in mind the next time I write from such a PoV (in fact, I'm writing it just now) and it is very wonderful on your part to share this honest opinion with me! :)
Yes, this was a character study-- because I'd written it for the Triathlon, I guess. I wanted to explore a darker side in a person's mind and I chose Albus for my sacrificial lamb. Like I said, all his actions were based on a psychological study of male rape-- it's sad to know that these things happen out there and people go through these very emotions. No one would want to live in hell like this, it's distressing. And sometimes in life, the grief and the distress is so much-- the agony is so intense that a person becomes numb. This is a stage beyond pain and agony-- it's pure torture and suffering that a person goes through when the pain is so bad, they can't bear it anymore. And hah, the AlRose! I didn't write this keeping that in mind, but it's open for interpretation. Maybe they were in love and just didn't know it yet. You never know. ;)
At the point where you thought Albus might be saved, I was honestly about to save him. I was ready to rebel against my original plan to off him and I thought that maybe he could live and talk to someone about it-- and maybe they'd find the rapists like that. I felt bad for Harry too-- he's lost so many people in his life, this would have been horrible. And about the ending-- I must admit, at the time that I wrote this, I didn't think it would matter how they found the rapists, really. But I guess it does, and I promise I'll try and write a sequel to this, once I can plot it well enough. Ha, I've closed my own doors here by making Harry solve it in just a year... but well, I'll try to write a sequel, and am flattered that you'll be around to read it! :)
I see why you won the best reviewer QSQ, Soraya, because you really deserved it! This review made my month, and I was so sad that I couldn't reply right away! Anyway, thank you very much and I'm really glad you liked this story! *huggles*
Hello, Pooja. :)
Wow. This was very dark. It was almost uncomfortable at times, but that was what I enjoyed about it. Boundaries were pushed, and it really haunted me after the first time I read this. It made me think.
This piece dealt with many sensitive topics. You handled them all extremely delicately; the suicide, the eating and sleeping disorders, and the male rape. I had never read a story with male rape, but this honestly scared me (and I mean that as a compliment). It was just so raw, and I could feel deep in my gut how hopeless Albus was. I just felt so bad for him, and I understood, no matter how heartbreaking it was, how the rape lead to the disorders that finally led to Albus killing himself.
Another major strength of this piece for me was the characterization. Even though Albus wasn’t himself, we still knew what he would have been like. You gave us little lines here and there that gave such great background without big paragraphs of exposition. We knew how close he was to Rose, and how he loved his siblings. That being said, though, at times the story did seem slightly tell-y. I know it was mostly Albus explaining why he was about to kill himself, but sometimes it seemed like most sentences started with a name. That can be easily fixed, though, by just changing a few words around. :)
I loved the format of the piece. The dates, I felt, really added to the story. It stopped it from becoming confusing, with the two important things that happened on two different July 31st’s. And when you had the ‘meanwhile’ section … Merlin, I really hoped that somehow they had gotten there in time. I just wanted Albus to be okay. When it was clear they hadn’t, I can honestly say my heart dropped into my stomach; you wrote everyone’s reactions to Albus’s body so well. It was heart wrenching- especially Harry. For me personally, writing him as a father is hard. I think you did a brilliant job with his reaction, though; it had the right mix of confusion, anger, and of course grief. The only person I had a slight issue with was Ginny. I don’t know if she could remain that calm in a situation like that, especially when she was so emotional when she bumped into Albus at the ministry. I know she is a very strong person, but I think that she would have been a little more frantic. Otherwise, though, brilliant job.
Overall, this piece was just dark. You covered so many sensitive topics, and it was just heart wrenching. In an odd way, I thought it was beautiful. Everything was just so raw, and this piece has stuck with me. I loved how the ending had a slightly uplifting tone to it as well, and it gave the piece closure, which is hard to do with something that complex. I was so glad that Harry had caught who had done it. To sum up, I loved this piece, Pooja. I wish it had done better in the challenge, but I can definitely say I’ll remember it when QSQ’s come around next year. :)
Author's Response: Ellie, I must admit, this has taken me so long because I couldn't think of anything else but to squee at your wonderful review, and had decided that I wouldn't respond to it unless I was making sense. :)
Anyway. I can understand it was uncomfortable to read. It was a difficult fic to write, tbh, I settled on male rape after a lot of other themes had passed my mind and decided I should write this, because people rarely write about it. And it's not that it rarely happens either. I was shocked at the estimated statistics of male rape. This is also my first D/A fic in ages and it was depressing to write in places because I'm not the kind of person who reels around in my own angst. I do things to cheer me up and am all smiley in hours, usually. But I really, really wanted to tell this story.
Actually, the eating disorders were not really eating disorders. It was something else... actually, it was associated with PTSD, which, I read in many research papers, is very common in male victims of rape. I'd be more blunt if the real implications of Albus's rituals weren't so disturbing that I can't think of mentioning it here. And I sort of felt the necessary to keep it raw because that was really how Albus felt, and I was writing in first person.
Yes, I wrote Albus as a family person in this one.But I'm glad you actually liked his characterisation. I know what you mean about this being tell-y. The trouble was, it's someone narrating a life story thingy and I wasn't sure how to put it any other way. I will take your suggestion and try to correct it though. :)
The dates were important because of the prompt I was using for this. :) But, yes, I have a certain OCD about timelines. I get very confused about how to put them and end up messing them up. And in that meanwhile section... I must admit, I almost got weak enough to let Albus live. I argued with myself about how him dying was unnecessary, and how he must live, but I feel the poor boy would have never gotten over this otherwise, and he'd have never told Harry about it and the same vicious cycle would continue. I mentally apologised to Harry and Albus a number of times once I wrote this and felt terrible. I agree that Dad!Harry is hard. We've grown up with him and suddenly, he's so much older... it's very difficult to figure how he'd be as a parent. I'm writing Ron and Hermione as parents in another fic now and it's equally difficult.
Ginny's reaction... well, I honestly thought she'd be too shocked to react much. I think Ron is more reactive, Harry is somewhere in between and Ginny is just very, very shocked for a while. She's rarely frantic, though. She's strong and stubborn. First, she'd make sure she knows what happened to her son and then cry. I did write her frantic at first, but my Beta asked me to change it. :)
I'm surprised you thought this was beautiful, because I frankly thought this was the ugliest fic I've ever written. Everything was very crude and all the unpolished thoughts... the mental disorders associated and the way Albus met his end gave it a very ugly appearance, in my opinion. But to each, their own I guess, and I'm really glad you thought this was beautiful. :) And I hate ending stories too darkly. Sad endings, yes, but I don't like very angsty endings because I'm miserable for days then. And awwwh... you liked it so much? *huggles* Eeep, this is the first time anyone has thought anything I wrote was QSQ worthy. :').
Thank you so much for this, Ellie! This was amongst the loveliest reviews I've ever had and I'm so glad to have touched your heart. :) Pooja
Thank you for bringing up this difficult and disturbing topic, and for portraying it with compassion and dignity. Someone I love was raped as a young man and went through many of the same reactions as Al did in the story. (Including isolation from friends and family and a suicide attempt.) Men are taught to be strong and independent, that they should be able to fight for themselves and loved ones; grief and shame as the victim of such a crime can be overwhelming. Like Al, the man that I knew never reported the crime, never got any assistance or counseling.
Author's Response: Thank you for sharing this, DaisyMaeEvans. I don't like society and I find it disturbing that men and women do not have the same emotional status in society. Men are so much weaker with their emotions-- they're forced to be so, and that does lead to some rather terrible consequences. Society has always been unforgiving: mostly towards women, but, in some aspects, men too. I am sorry to hear that you know someone who has actually gone through this. I don't know what else to say... just that, this is terrible and unjust... and I hope your friend is able to get his justice.
How difficult this must have been to write. It was difficult to read. Thank you for not going into detail; the word "rape" is graphic enough. Perhaps there was not enough said about the loved ones left behind to deal with the loss and confusion caused by the suicide? You presented Albus' feelings of despair, shame, and hopelessness quite well...in fact, you fairly justified the suicide by diminishing his family's love and obliterating any hope for emotional healing. This is disturbing. Without hope, The Hope, there is no life.
Author's Response: Yes, this was difficult to write. Especially as it was so... heavy and draining as a topic. It made me feel miserable in places and I just felt worse while revising it over and over. I thought that maybe more than the rape, it was the whole psychology... Albus's whole struggle that made it difficult to read. About his loved ones-- yes, I purposely did not mention them much because this fic was to be more about Albus than anyone else. As this was primarily a challenge submission, I wanted to make the focus of the story quite clear. Plus, the vagueness went better with the mood. Describing everyone's emotions would have been like forcing the readers to feel for Albus and I didn't want that. I am quite glad that you found my description of Albus's emotions good. And the suicide was still not justified, in my opinion. Suicide never is justified in my eyes. But that's just me. I was writing for Albus and for him, this was the right way. You're right, without hope, there is no life. And I'd suggest listening to some good music and a chunk of chocolate if you're too disturbed. Thank you for that short, yet huge review! :)