And I'm Still Here
Hi, Dawn. This is Vicki of Slytherin House. I was looking through the titles published during the last year, seeking particularly good stories to nominate for the 2014 Quicksilver Quill Awards, and so I read your Marauder-era story about the four Marauders and Lily, and I was struck by what a wonderful story it was.
First let me say that the structure of the piece is well planned, one chapter focused on each of the five principals, but with the others playing supporting roles in each chapter, and well-conceived original characters providing depth and interest. I like that you have all the chapters occurring within the same general time frame, but without the stricture of having them all occur on the same day, which would have limited what you could do for maximum effectiveness. And by starting with James (and Lily) and ending with Lily (and James), you tie the two ends of the story together so neatly. I’m sure you did this purposely, and it works very well, giving a story arc to what is basically a non-plotty story. (I say “non-plotty” because, although things happen, nothing is resolved.)
Your depiction of each of your characters in his or her own chapter shows multiple sides of that character’s personality; no one is flat or has a one-note image. Sirius, for example, shows great restraint while watching the Death Eaters torture the Muggle girl, in contrast to his often impulsive and devil-may-care behavior. He acts the goofball when he is brought drunk to James’ and Lily’s house but is deadly serious when thinking about the tortured Muggle girl. And I loved your line by Sirius: I promise not to let your child ride my motorbike until he is at least a year old.” His usual flippancy, which is, unbeknownst to all, darkly ominous…
Peter is probably the most difficult of all these five characters to write, but you have created a good exploration into his thoughts, feelings, and motivation. I like your development of his thoughts as he overhears Cynthia’s words; ”It is easy to overlook him, I guess.” and begins ”…wishing someone would explain why the other three Marauders were friends with him.” He seems to vacillate between being glad to be part of the group and feeling like a total outsider, between being proud of his ability to understand people well and his anguish at not being able to be larger-than-life, like Sirius or James. A question that has always haunted us readers is Why? Why did Peter go over to Lord Voldemort’s side? What was he looking for, that he wasn’t getting from his friends? What could Lord Voldemort offer that would tempt him so badly? There is a clue in your line: “He had to stop doing this, had to stop finding the negative in everything anyone said or did.” He has a bit of insight but not enough to stop him from making the biggest mistake of his life.
Remus appears to be more consistent; non-confrontational, long-enduring, frequently badgered by his friends to be something he’s not. In all his interactions, with Mrs. Rubrum, Moody, Sirius, Cynthia, James, nothing goes well but he never becomes riled, never gives up. He has a perspective that none of the others do.
You have created an interesting dynamic between James and Lily. Of the two, James is the more well-rounded character, torn in several directions by competing interests. Lily, on the other hand, is uniformly negative, to the point of being remarkably unlikable, almost unstable. Her expressed emotion is anger 100% of the time, with her hapless husband as the target. I find myself trying to reconcile this melted-down Lily with the more stable, loving (even though the war is still going on) Lily who wrote the letter to Sirius thanking him for the little broomstick gift to Harry on his first birthday. James must be a saint, to say “I would still take miserable and painful with you than not have you in my life at all.” But if it had continued indefinitely, he would have changed his mind.
Although much of this story is introspective and reflective, it is not too much so, as some stories are. It holds onto a firm balance between the action of here-and-now and the insight into why the characters are doing what they do. The writing is graceful and fluid, the word choices are apt, and the editing is refreshingly clean.
I think that these times and these events have been written about so much that it is a challenge to come up with fresh perspectives on them, and it is certainly a challenge to be successful in writing about a time span in which nothing seems to become resolved, no one is making any progress, and yet our attention is captured nevertheless. I enjoyed reading your story, and it certainly deserves to be included among the QSQ nominees.
Author's Response: Thanks for the review! I'm glad you liked the story despite its depressing nature and the fact that nothing ever gets resolved. I did have a lot of fun writing it, and trying to get into the minds of each character, and show how war can steadily destroy people. Peter was particularly challenging to write, and I agree that trying to understand why he switched sides during the war is something a lot of readers struggle with. So I was trying to make some sense of that.
And I'm Still Here
You literally had me in tears by the end of this story. I read it straight through and even though of course I knew where it was going, you expressed the characters and articulated their problems so clearly and beautifully and poignantly in this.
I liked the way the whole story fit together. I thought it worked well to have the four Marauders first and then Lily, who is almost part of them but then not quite. I also liked how Cynthia's death ran as a theme through all the chapters and how you showed each character responding to their grief in a different way.
Your characterisations are fantastic. You really nailed James - I liked the line He was usually so much better at picking up on her moods, even if he didn't know what to do about any of them. I think that shows James so well - it's not that he's unaware of Lily, he just so desperately wants to fix everything and he has no idea how to. I think you compare him to a puppy at some point and that works well too because he does want things to be ok. I also think you articulated his conflict between caring for his family and fighting in the war, for which there is really no answer because not fighting would mean not being true to himself, but it does mean putting himself in constant danger which could (and of course does) eventually hurt his family. Although I sometimes find some solace in the fact that James and Lily died together (same for Remus and Tonks) because I'm not sure they could have survived without each other.
As for Sirius, I loved how you worked in the idea of him turning into a dog, particuarly the image of him as a dog with his tail between his legs when he saw the girl being tortured. That worked really vividly for just showing how much Sirius was affected by the war as much as he puts on a brave face.
With Peter you showed his not quite belonging to the group so well - I loved the conversation he heard between Remus and Cynthia and how that made him feel and sort of reverberated through his thoughts and changed his interpretations. I also liked that he isn't a Death Eater yet - a lot of people write him as becoming a Death Eater during Hogwarts, but I think this is much more realistic, because at this point he has felt a lot more hopelessness about the war, and a lot more fear, and a lot less heroism because he is doing different things to his friends. I also liked that you made him perceptive and be the first to realise something was wrong with Lily and James - being observant and perceptive must have been necessary when he was working as a double agent, and I don't think of him at this stage as the really broken character we see in canon.
I really liked how you drew in the werewolf situation as being separate from Voldemort, and how Remus was affected by talking to the other werewolf. I thought it was really interesting to have a rift in the Order over it, because as much as we like to glorify them, it is entirely believable that that prejudice would have been there since it was pretty much ubiquitous in the wizarding world. I also liked how this played out in arguments between him and Sirius and James, because even their strong friendship is tested by this.
And then Lily. I liked how you compared the apparent difficulties of pregnancy with her challenge of waiting all the time, which also tied in perfectly with the title. I liked the bit when she says she isn't waiting for James to come home, but for him not to come home - that is such a simple phrase but it expresses so much. I also thought it worked that she is aware she is angry all the time and she doesn't want to be and she knows there is no resolution but she still feels that way. In both Lily and James you've created a really nice paradox between youth and naivity and a more mature almost cynicism about the world, particularly relating to Lily's pregnancy and what it means to bring a child into this world. I loved her conversation with Cynthia about what it means to fight or do something else in the war, and it was all the more heartbreaking for her when Cynthia died and that was their last conversation.
I liked that you brought this story to a resolution between Lily and James at the end - not a "happily ever after" resolution, but a sort of coming together anyway. It makes it bitter sweet, because there is so much love between them but we know that that won't last.
Anyway I really loved this story, even though it covers a very familiar topic you've written and characterised it uniquely and really effectively and you pose some really interesting questions about war and its effects, and I like that you don't give answers because there aren't any anyswers to that.
Author's Response: Thanks for the review! I'm so glad you liked the story. I was a little worried about it because it is rather depressing and doesn't resolve the James/Lily issue in a perfectly happy way. But I really wanted to write something where things aren't perfect and happy because they're fighting a war and their friends are dying and that kind of constant grief and fear and stress often really hurt people.
And I'm Still Here
I love this!!! The insight into each character, what they felt and thought through their different roles in the war, was brilliant. And so sad, because you could see the future and the events that would shape their lives hanging over them. You are a beautiful writer and I love your work. Thanks for another wonderful fic!
Author's Response: Thanks! I'm glad you liked it even though it was so sad. Sad seems to be much of what I've been writing lately...
But Your Dreams May Not
Oops! Guess I should pay more attention. :) Not a Sirius fic, but still one of the best I've read. I'm consistently blown away by your work and love every chapter I read. Thanks for all the hard work and wonderful stories!
Author's Response: Thanks for the two reviews, I'm glad you like the story! It's okay to think it is a Sirius fic! :) He does end up working his way into most of my stories.
Satan Laughing With Delight
It's taken me a while to get back to this story, but I am ever so glad that I did. SIRIUS!!!! I'm burdened for Sirius and the pain that I now realize he's going to suffer with Cynthia's death. But I'm so excited for a Sirius fic!!! Great work!!!
Satan Laughing With Delight
This is extremely well written.
Author's Response: Thanks, so glad you liked it!