Hey, Noelle - I'm here to review your story!
Wow. Just wow - what else can I say. I'm gobsmacked and flummoxed by the awesomeness of this story. It is well worthy of being named February Story of the Month (2020).
But, seriously, woman - this was fabulous. Chilling even, with the way that Tobias just smooths his way into Eileen's life. You've written a well rounded character in him that I was like creeped out. (We all know what he does to Severus Snape, so we know he's a creep.) But, you had me hoping that the dude wasn't going to turn out that way. That he hadn't treated our dear Severus that way - and that poor Eileen had found a true knight in Shining Armor in him. With him. In spite of her family's misgivings.
I'll be honest - your Tobias reminded me a lot of my ex-husband. You could have modeled the dude after him, and I'd be asking if you knew him. Text book abuser - and I saw a lot of myself in Eileen. That was the scariest part of it all. I was screaming at her to run, no girl, RUN! Get the 'f' out of there, and then sighed sadly when she didn't.
It was amazingly heart wrenching, but also the reminder that I got of it. I just wish that Eileen's outlook in life could have been better. For her sake, and our beloved Severus' sake.
Thanks for writing this story, Noelle. Maybe in reading it, someone will feel the need to 'run' by seeing the truth of things. That would be awesome.
Hey there! So I read this story a while back, and it seemed only appropriate to take this chance to stop by during the review event :)
I loved this so so much - it's such an enthralling, engrossing, horribly toxic but enchanting kind of story: the kind of thing where even though you know it doesn't end well, you still can't help but read it hoping that it'll turn out differently, that maybe you were wrong somehow, or that Eileen gets out, gets safe, and things change. Of course, things don't, and the ending it as much as triumph for Tobias as it is a loss for Eileen - and it's such a horribly beautifully-written moment, with the kind of false sweetness on the surface, because it's such a romantic-seeming moment, but there's always this undercurrent of hostility there, that it's as much a threat as it is a promise - and perhaps the promise itself is dangerous too, yk? And she believes him because of course she does, because that's how abuse works and abusers work - that's part of the horrible, horrible, toxic genius of domestic abuse :/
I wanna say, quickly, that the whole way you handled this subject matter was so so good. I volunteered for a bit as a phone volunteer helping people fleeing domestic abuse to get court orders against their former partners, and part of that involved taking details of their relationships and what had gone on - and it was exactly as insiduous and this story shows it to be. It's cruel and it's incisive and it breaks you down and builds you back up - or, at least, makes you think it's built you back up, only it hasn't really, because your foundation is the abuser. It was just so so good - the way their relationship starts out good, how he seems nice and friendly and funny and interesting and interested in her and slowly, over time, he turns out not to be, but by the time it's clear he's not who he seemed to be originally, it's too late and she's in too deep and too stuck to him.
I really, really appreciated as well how you showed that kind of strange contradiction about domestic abuse: that so often people stay because they're in love and they believe the other person loves them, and that matters somehow, more than everything else. It's horrific and it seems so bizarre to think about - it doesn't seem to make any sense at all - but it's so incredibly, awfully true, and I love that you brought that out: because that's such a part of Eileen and Tobias' story: that she falls in love with him and she genuinely, honestly believes he cares about her too. She trusts him to look after her, even when he's shown time after time that he's bad for her and bad to her, and ughhhh it makes my heart hurt, yk, but it's exactly spot on and I just. Yea. It's perfect.
Your Eileen is brilliant, too. I love how she's so independent - she and Clytemnestra (who's name I adore, btw) want their own lives, their own jobs, their own opinions outside of their obviously kinda conservative, reactionary parents. She's such a contradiction, too, which is my favourite thing about characters: she's brave, but she's shy; she's vindictive, but she baulks at going to far; she can be cruel but she has lines she's not willing to cross. But she's just so much a follower and I really feel for her - because she just feels like she sort of doesn't entirely know how to just be herself and just have her own mind. And of course, Tobias shows her that - or a bit of that - at first, and then he moulds her mind to be his and her wants to be his and uses her gifts for his own ends.
I loved as well how Tobias uses her magic to suit him. It makes so much sense to tie it into canon with how he ends up so frightened of magic and so abusive because of it - because in his head, it's a weapon, and like all abusers or dictators, he's afraid that in the end it'll get used on him. It's a little thing, but it's something I would never have thought of and I loved it as a plotpoint. It was so clever and makes so much sense.
Your writing in this was incredible, too. Honestly, just so so good. All the details in this - it was so packed and I feel like I could read it ten times more and still be finding more little things here and there which I hadn't seen before, appreciating more and more of it.
Ahhh, I love it. Have I said that already? :P But I do, it's so twisted and so dark and my heart breaks for Eileen, but I lovelovelovelove it.
Thank you so much for coming by this story--and for leaving me such an amazingly detailed review! This story was really hard for me to write, and I'm thrilled that it came off the way I intended it to.
There's this question about why did Eileen stay with Tobias when he was, as far as we can tell, a terrible person and an abusive husband and father? And, as you point out in this review, it's the horribly insidious way that domestic abuse work. Once you're in deep enough to know you're in trouble--you're in so deep that it's almost impossible to pull yourself out.
But I loved that you noticed the "happy" beginning and the "happy" end--I did do that on purpose. Eileen really wanted this all to work out--and there were always signs and behaviors that Tobias would cycle back to in order to convince her it would, and keep her trapped.
Kudos to you for doing that kind of volunteer work by the way!
I think you're very right about Eileen--she wants to be herself, but she doesn't know how.
I'm also excited that Tobias made sense. I see him as being a pretty intelligent--and evil--person. You make an awesome point about how he sees magic as a weapon, and grows to hate and fear it, because it might be used on him.
Thank you so much for this awesome review <3
I really enjoyed the complexity of this story, especially within the context of Snape's parents. Few write about them other than tangentially in a Snape-centric fic, but you really developed their relationship well using the structure you chose (which I also liked).
I felt like one of the major things this story had going for it was the evolving dynamics between sisters, between parents and daughter, between biological family as a whole, between magic and muggle, between romantic love, and even between good and evil in a sense. The sisters seem to stay together through it all, but it's interesting to watch Eileen's family largely fade in the background as she starts her life with Tobias. On some level this is natural. But you also layer in some DV that, based on Eileen's feelings, and the progression through the story, mirrors the DV cycle: the early relationship as bait, the isolation from others and even from things important to you, violence as control, and justification of the abuse coupled with self-blaming. Followed by more of the illusions that got the person sucked in in the first place. Maybe I'm reading more into the felony assault by strangulation than there is, but it just made me think about that pattern.
Anyway, I think you did a really great job with all the characterizations, which almost had to be OF quality.
Thanks for sharing!
It's interesting that you mention that you've only read Eileen and Tobias as part of a Snape-centric fic, because my original plan was to weave this story into my larger Snape-centric fic. But I'm glad that you decided to run this challenge, because I think this story deserves to stand on its own.
I'm really excited that all of these relationships worked and came off the way I was trying to show them--there was a lot going on and I didn't want to cut any of it. The DV cycle was totally on purpose and I'm so glad you picked up on it.
The sisters do stay together, although even they drift apart by the time Sev is a little kid.
I adore how you compared the realtionships in this story to really being about good and evil!!!
Thank you for this lovely review, and for running this challenge!
Hey Noelle! I’m here with your review request from the forums.
I love the tone you build up in the first few paragraphs of this story – very atmospheric. Your perfect choice in wording continues throughout the entire piece, and your descriptions are so rich, with excellent attention to detail. THIS IS SUCH GOOD WRITING. I also really like the choice of doing the seven different sections rather than a more traditional narrative. It creates windows or snapshots into this relationship which allow you to focus very closely on specific moments but still cover a long time span. And with this type of relationship and what you’re trying to portray about it, it’s really those little moments that say the most.
I thought your characterization was great, honestly. I once read an Eileen/Tobias fic that made a strong impression on me; it was one in which Tobias is quiet and serious, much like Severus himself but less snide or bitter. It’s the way I always imagined Tobias. So, what I found in your story was very different to what I expected when I started reading it, but honestly I thought this interpretation was perfect, and is so believable I think it’s my new head canon. It explains a lot about why Eileen stayed with him despite the abuse – he could be so charming, and she sees this outgoing, charismatic man who tells her she’s beautiful and clever, as the “real” Tobias, even when he is not being any of those things.
The fact that Tobias is so friendly gives an eerie overtone to the story, in fact. Knowing the background and how things will turn out for them, it’s like this false veneer of fluffy love, and it’s even almost funny at times! I loved Eileen’s line about how the pastor will still be a heretic the following week, haha. And that ending! I simultaneously hate and love that you left it there, haha. You can almost believe that things will get better. Except you know they don’t, and that Tobias’ threatening behavior was more than a one-time thing, and Eileen struggles to stand up for herself – even struggles to realize she needs to. Even if I didn’t already know how this relationship would turn out, if this story were the whole thing with no more background, the red flags are all still there.
And I can’t help but notice that Tobias’ thoughts about his parents – how he appreciated his mother but thought his abusive dad was the worst – so strongly mirrors what Severus will eventually think about Eileen and Tobias. So I think your portrayal of abusive relationships was absolutely spot on – both in the way Tobias conditions Eileen with compliments and implied threats, and how the cycle of abuse continues through generations. I’m sure Tobias wanted to be nothing like his father, and yet… ah. Eileen also seems to have grown up seeing the very dysfunctional and loveless relationship of her own parents, and she has pretty low self esteem, which makes her such an easy target for someone like Tobias.
The mixed Muggle and magical in their family is fascinating. (And I found it funny how of the two sisters, the one with the more wizardy name, Clytemnestra, is the Muggle, and Eileen with the more traditional Muggle-sounding name is the witch.) And Eileen herself, having all this magical training and education but works as a midwife in Muggle society. It’s kind of interesting, actually, her relationship with magic. It’s got a lot less effect on her life than it does for most of the characters we read about in the books, even the Muggle-born ones. Eileen uses magic as a hobby, almost – like a little skill she has on the side, but it otherwise doesn’t dictate her life, which is in Muggle society.
I really liked this story, despite it being so hard to watch Eileen fall so deep into the trap of abuse. It’s so sad – mostly because it happens in real life just like this, just like the relationships described in this story. You should write outside your comfort zone more often if it produces incredible work like this one!
I’m trying to come up with some useful CC and this is all I got. This line at the end of section 3:
I’m so happy for your, Eileen – should be “you” instead of “your”… but that’s all I could think of. You honestly did such a wonderful job writing this and I particularly like this depiction of Tobias Snape as it was such an unexpected way of imagining him. I can’t believe I hadn’t seen him this way before but this is such a believable characterization. Great work!
This was a big story for me; and it could have been a novel--but since it had to be a short story I thought using a series of scenes would do exactly what you pointed out and allow me to show a progression in a tight word count.
Thank you so much for complimenting my descriptions!! I have to work very hard for them.
I'm delighted to have won a spot in your head canon! Since we learn in canon that Eileen is physically similar to Severus, I thought it made sense to carry over the similarities to their personalities as well. And I think you are spot on that she tells herself that the charming Tobias is the 'real' Tobias, and not the abusive one.
The story is full of red flags that one might miss as one goes along--but since we know how the story turns out in the end they are so sad to read about. I'm glad that they came across the way I intended.
The cycle of abuse is so hard to break. :(
I decided that the wizarding world was unfortunately laboring under some of the sexism of the times, and that is why Eileen couldn't get the job she wanted, which was to be a Healer. If she had had that to help build up her confidence, things might have been very different for her.
Thank you for pointing out the typo--I'll try to get it fixed soon. And thank you for this lovely review!
Noelle, there are not enough words for this. I honestly feel like you should consider this fic an achievement. It's beautiful and haunting and repulsive in the best way because we all know where this story goes from here. In that sense, I really like that you ended it how you did, and on a false high note. It's ironic.
I've never read a Tobias/Eileen fic and never thought I'd want to. There's so much to explore there, but they're just such an icky, uncomfortable pair in canon because of the abuse and the fact that this home was the first domino to fall in the chain of events in Severus's life. But I am really glad I did read this. You did so well with the dynamics of domestic abuse, starting with how charming Tobias was in the beginning (and remained, when he needed to be). It made me wonder whether he really felt something for her in the beginning, or whether he was a predator from the start, honing in on someone who would be easy to control. And of course his dad was also abusive and he knows that - and yet, here we still are.
I was pleasantly surprised by how much you were able to develop about Eileen's family, and in a relatively short amount of space you painted a vivid picture of them. I am fascinated by the idea that their family is half Muggle/half magical. I always for some reason assume that when a wizard/witch marries a Muggle, all the kids are going to be magical, but obviously not. I wonder if they're considered Squibs if they only have one magical parent?
I really love your descriptions. These lines in particular stuck out to me:
Within minutes Eileen was finding it difficult to breathe, and she gripped her pint between her hands until her knuckles turned white and the condensation on the sides of it trickled over her fingers.
He was on the positive side of plain, and appeared to be a man of solid good sense.
He was just shy of being handsome—his eyes were a little too sunken, his nose a little too crooked for the word—but his body vibrated with youth and strength. Something about the way he moved commanded attention, and he drew eyes to him the way the moon draws the tide.
I actually really enjoy the fact that a substantial part of this story is focused on their positive interactions (or at least the ones that Eileen tries to see as positive, and almost certainly latches onto throughout the duration of her marriage). For one, because it reminds the reader why she would stay with this person, and/or how she became too trapped to leave, throughout her marriage. We don't need to see graphic descriptions of the various forms of abuse, because we know it will take place and sometimes it feels worse when left to the imagination. And especially, because the flirtation and affection is not exactly what the reader expects going into this fic, so you subvert those expectations a bit, and fic is all the more disturbing because of the "good" content, since we know what comes next.
And yet, for all the discussion of feelings of love and attraction, there remains something very gritty and melancholic about the tone here, which is perfect.
Thank you for writing this. I think it was a story that needed to be told.
Hi Melanie!! Thank you for coming by this story--it was way out of my comfort zone and I appreciate the encouragement and the feedback.
The irony of the ending was in my earliest concepts of this story. We all know that this relationship ended up badly, but I wanted to explore how it might have started not quite so badly. So the red flags are all there from the beginning, but even by the end of the story there's a possibility that things might have gotten better; even though we know that they don't.
My concept of Tobias is that he has narcissistic personality disorder. This typically happens to people who suffer some early trauma, like an abusive parent, and it's a pretty nefarious disorder. They are almost incapable of feeling empathy for anyone and use the people around them to prop up their own (pretty fragile) egos. And they tend to prey on people who are craving attention or affection themselves, because those people are easy to manipulate.
I'm not sure if the non-magical children of a half wizard half muggle pair would be called squibs; I decided that in this family at least they are called muggles. I was a little concerned that developing Eileen's family might take away from the central relationship between Tobias and her, but I thought it was important to show so that the reader would understand why she was ripe for the picking.
Thank you for the compliment about my descriptions and for pointing out some of the lines you really enjoyed :D
This is exactly the feeling I was going for too--that focusing on the positive would make the reader feel even worse than if I'd only dwelt on the negative stuff.
Thank you so much for this lovely review and for the SOTM nomination!!!
I'm here for the gift exchange.
German headings and Greek Mythology names. Eileen certain comes from an interesting background.
I love the way you weaved so many elements that we are familiar with, from the aquiline nose and Severus's name to Tobias's anger and his mom starting to lose her magic. I wonder if his anger at magic later was because his wife was no longer able to help him with his schemes.
I also really liked the seven stages of love and how you weaved them into the story. Was Anbetung because she worshiped him so much that she was willing to do magic or was worship because he was worshipping her abilities?
The gradual revelation of Tobias's true nature was well done until we realize, in Wahnsinn, that it is too late. The last stage, Tod, I found was interesting as death due to miscarriage but also death to her freedom and her magic.
Well done, Noelle! Have a wonderful Christmas season!
I really appreciate your reading this story--it was out of my comfort zone and I appreciate getting some feedback on it.
I did try to take Severus's character and think of what ways his mother would have similar character traits--and also where his name had come from. I'm glad that it worked :D. At some point, I hope to write a few more stories about Eileen and Tobias and young Severus; at this point I think that Eileen's magic was unreliable around Tobias because of the mental state that he put her in.
Anbetung is Eileen worshiping Tobias so much that she was willing to do magic for questionable purposes. Tobias only worships himself.
I really tried to pace the reveal of Tobias's character so it would be understandable why Eileen was trapped by him and it's good to hear that this went the way I intended it too.
Thank you for this lovely review! Merry Christmas to you too!