I read this a while ago but didn't get around to reviewing it... so after getting your lovely review today I came back to it, and I'm really glad I did. It's a nice unique story and well-characterised.
I liked how you set up Leanne's situation at the start - she is clearly dealing with something potentially traumatic, but you don't let us know what it is, which works really well. Plus she's unhappy because of the party she's at, so I think those two things worked well together.
I also really liked the whole idea of the party being as you described it "an exercise in bridge-building" and that families like the Bulstrodes were taking a chance to climb the social ladder - that fits so perfectly into what we know of the pureblood society from canon.
I liked Malfoy's entrance - you showed their awkwardness really well through the dialogue, but I think you also show a connection between them straight away - I guess because they're both hiding.
Having Katie Bell as their connection worked so perfectly - it feels like it's her memory and both of their guilt about it that draws them together. I really liked this line - The look of shock on Malfoy's face and the satisfaction she derived from it made the risk she had just taken worthwhile., because I think it would be very natural for her to get some satisfaction from surprising him, particularly when he expects her to hate him.
I really liked Draco's response to Leanne's confession - while her friends and family just didn't know what to do with her to help her, he knew exactly what to say, and that's probably because he understands guilt probably better than anyone. I liked how that honesty from him did really help her and made them both able to laugh for the first time; somehow I feel like Katie would have been happy for them.
I thought it was really cute that they didn't notice the party had finished because they were so caught up in talking to each other. I also thought it was realistic that Leanne didn't want to go to Malfoy Manor - there would definitely be something very difficult about going to a place that had witnessed so many terrible things.
Just a few notes, sometimes it seems like you overwrite a bit, eg quite an unexpected and unusual occurrence - you probably only need one of the adjectives, or the same thing with not something she usually did easily. Also I think somewhere you wrote "wondered" instaed of "wandered", but I can't find the spot anymore, sorry that's not too helpful!
But I did really enjoy this slightly unusual pairing and their characterisation was so canon and it worked so perfectly. It had a nice mixture between grief and awareness of the war and love and trying to build something better, which can be really hard to get right. So overall I enjoyed it :).
I’ve been meaning to read another of your stories for a while now, and am glad I got to read one more this month. This was quite a rare pairing, and it seems impossible when you look at the histories which these two characters -- Draco and Leanne have. But I loved how you brought them together in a completely believable and enjoyable way in this fabulous story of yours.
The story started on a cheerful note with Christmas, and I felt myself warming up to it as I read about Leanne, and Millicent’s family. It’s all fairly light at this point, and I could see that a happy, well-rounded story was on its way. I enjoyed reading about how much Leanne wanted to avoid Millicent, and I found myself smiling at her thoughts. And then, Draco entered the story, and I grinned, knowing that it would certainly be a light, fluffy read.
The first few paragraphs in the Draco-Leanne interaction are very well written. I especially love how you captured Draco’s character here, complete with the snarky attitude. And then when he got to know of Leanne’s name, I loved how the dejectedness set in. I also expected him to apologise, and was not surprised that he actually did. And at this point, where Draco becomes aware of who Leanne is, the fic drops into a fold of darkness, and suddenly, the cheer is replaced by despair. This was a wonderful way of transforming the mood. It was natural, and it progressed into the darkness very softly and beautifully. But there is a point before the beginning of the confessions, which I found was wonderfully written. This was the part when Malfoy got up to bring some wine, and by now, I’d already wanted him and Leanne to end up together, so I was as curious as Leanne to find out what was going on beyond the curtain. I loved Malfoy’s reaction to this too. Particularly his dialogue: “I haven't drunk any of this yet, you know. I'm still sharp enough to spot a curtain twitching as I turn around.” This is such a contrast -- the snark, the gloom and then the snark again. It seems very much like Draco.
I wondered about what happened to Katie when Leanne grew sad at her thought, and was shocked to find out about her death. Leanne’s emotions at this point were put forward very well, I must say. I can see why she would blame herself, and how, at this point, she would feel that what Draco had done to Katie was still not as bad as what she had done, when in fact, Draco’s actions were worse. I also loved that Draco pointed this out to her. It blended well with his character until now.
The despair persists for a while, and the mood is slowly escalated again, starting at the point where Leanne realises she is drunk. I also enjoyed reading about the obvious sexual tension between her and Draco, particularly this line: Sleeveless dress robes had been a bad idea; she shivered noticeably at the touch. After that, I enjoyed the cascade of hints that followed, suggesting they’d soon be together, and finally, the kiss (or kisses, in this case), which were very well written. Out of the two kisses, I loved how the first one felt exactly like a first-time kiss with all the hesitation. The second one, though, was sexy and passionate, and very well-written, and I felt happy reading it, as I realised that this was what I wanted to see the whole time.
I enjoyed your characterisation of Draco. I normally don’t sympathise with him. Readers are usually forced to pity him, all because of Felton. This, though, was Draco from the books, who had changed after the war. He was quieter than he is in the books and much less confident, and I can understand why. But that didn’t mean that his snarky demeanour or his smirk didn’t come back. The self-pity blended well with his character too, and also the fact that he warned Leanne not to be like that. I also liked some of his rich-boy traits, like the manicured hands, and the fact that he knew all about wines. Apart from that, I adored the half-smile. It reminded me of my portrayal of Scorpius.
Leanne, on the other hand, was well-rounded and defined. We don’t know much about her from the books, so I reckon writing her must have been like writing an OC. She was realistic in everything, starting from her dislike for Millicent, and her wish to hide behind the curtains. Apart from showing how much she wanted to stay from her family, the hiding also proved that she still felt guilty about Katie. You made me feel for her and sympathise with her, and as her mood improved towards the end, I felt better too. So yes, I like how you’ve made her easy to empathise with.
Your writing is powerful and descriptive. Your characters prefer to convey their emotions and thoughts through actions rather than dialogue, and that promises a better bond between your characters and the reader. I also like your use of the tactile sense in some cases, for example this particular line: tucking her knees up into her chest and leaning back against the cold glass. The description flows easy, and there’s enough of it to paint a vivid picture in the reader’s mind without tiring them out.
All-in-all, I found this a smooth, easy read, and can’t praise you enough for producing something as lovely as this. Your grammar is flawless, of course, and the plot is properly fleshed out, and the ending leaves me hoping for more. And I must ask: will there be a sequel? Will we know what happened to these two; how long they lasted, or if it was only the one night? I know that I’d most definitely enjoy more. :)
Good luck with this challenge!
Author's Response: Oh, Pooja! Thank you so much! SPEW reviews are the loveliest thing; I just wish I was better at replying to them! I'll never get everything down coherently enough.
This is most definitely a rare pairing, and one that wasn't really in my comfort zone, so it's really reassuring to know you were convinced. Perhaps the story could have leant itself to a lot of angst, but that doesn't come naturally to me, so light-heartedness it was, hah. There was so much heavy subject matter in the backstory that I needed to use the Christmas-y touches, I suppose.
Thank you for all of the compliments about my Draco. I've not written him much at all, so it was all a little nerve wracking! I feel like, with his past, you can't really avoid some darkness. I couldn't help but add lighter touches, of course -- the snark is always fun to come up with -- but there's a lot of suppressed, negative emotion there. The same goes for Leanne, of course, and I wanted to use that to bring them together. It's really pleasing to see that you could empathise with her and understand how she related to Draco when I've not written something like this before. And then there's the romance. Like smut, I find sexual tension, uhm, relatively enjoyable to write, so I'm glad you enjoyed reading it too :)
I know what you mean about people sympathising with Draco because of Felton. They seem to forget what a bully he was at times. I hope I've managed to make a more likeable version of him without actually changing his nature. The war would have changed him, and I really hope it was for the better. You could never get rid of certain traits, like, as you say, a knowledge of wines and things. And yay to reminding you of your Scorpius! He's lovely :)
Ooh, a sequel. I haven't got one planned at the moment, but it's not impossible. I think I'd like to write more, and now I know I have one interested reader at least :D I shall have a think, although it will have to go on the back burner for a while. I suspect I'll mention it on the LS if I try to write it – I certainly moaned about this one enough, hah.
Thank you again for a lovely review, Pooja, and sorry for rambling on so much. <3
First of all, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Although, sadly, you will probably get this the morning after, but the sentiment is still there and I hope you had a great day!
Second of all, I loved it! Seriously, I wish this had more reviews. It's lovely. Why? Well, it's fun, to start. And that probably sounds odd given that these are two people who have done bad things and are suffering for them. But the setting--hiding behind the curtain--and the quick and copious amounts of wine they drank made it easier to deal with, didn't it? It made it fun with all the giggling amidst the confessions.
I also like these kind of stories, where two wounded souls come together. Even better when it's Draco and we see that yes, he did feel badly about his actions and yes, he did suffer some consequences for them (sorry, but I do go for redeption!Draco, lol) I thought Leanne was a great character to go with here. You made the connection between her, Katie, and Draco, and then gave her her own issues to deal with--namely, running away. That's powerful. And it makes sense that in spite of it all, she might connect with someone like Draco...especially at a party they didn't want to be at, and with all that wine to boot. I am always envious of people who can take minor characters and bring them to life like this, so kudos.
I also really liked that Leanne was a bit more forward and Draco more reserved and respectful at the end under the mistletoe. Don't know why, it just struck me as gentlemanly of him and good for her. I mean, why not? He's rumoured to have leather pants, after all. ;) Her hesitation was good--it made it more believable--and then they just went for it and yay! Maybe they will have a healing relationship for a bit before he finds Astoria, who knows.
I thought you did a great job with this and I really enjoyed reading it. I hope it does well in the challenge (or did - are there results yet?) And I hope to read more Remus/Poppy soon!
Once again - Happy Birthday and great job!!
Author's Response: Ahhhhhhh, thank you, Gina! This was a fabulous birthday present, and I'm just sorry it took me so long to respond. I wish the story had more reviews too, (duh :p) but I don't suppose Draco/minor character ever will be popular. You and Pooja have both given me lovely reviews now, though, so I can't complain!
I see why you found it fun. That wasn't my intention upon starting, but I'm not very good at angst, so it just kind of happened, hah. Romance should have something fun about it, I reckon, and both characters could certainly use it!
I wasn't sure how well my links between Draco and Leanne would come across; Katie's death not being canon, I was hoping people wouldn't question it, or Leanne's reaction. I think she's going to be important for Draco's redepmtion -- it's something I go in for, too, hah -- so yeah, I'm glad you picked up on/liked that. I guess guilt is a powerful thing, and finding someone who understands it could be a big deal for both of them, even though they were supposedly on opposing sides of the war. I think Leanne's the first really minor character I've written, so yayayayay to her coming alive! (I didn't intend that to sound self-referential, oops.)
Tbh, I couldn't imagine Draco making the first move in any but exceptional circumstances -- partially his innate Slytherin-ness, partially the way I see him changing after the war. He'd doubt himself a lot more after what he'd been through, I reckon, doubt his family's past and his personality and all sorts, even if he wouldn't want to show it. Maybe he'd have to let go of the leather pants, ahaha. Yeah, I reckon they would stick together for a little while, pre-Astoria, if only because it would help them both heal in various ways. It wouldn't be long term, of course, simply because I could never contradict canon!
There haven't been result yet, so I'm still in need of the luck :) Thank you so much for the gorgeous review -- this is an unusual piece for me, so a confidence boost is greatly appreciated!
Author's Response: Thank you!