Stunning Banner by floralprint @TDA!
Written for DraculoraMalfoy's Plus Size Challenge
Madame Maxime and Hagrid are on a secret mission for The Order of The Phoenix, but the clock is ticking and their every move is being followed. Can they accomplish their task and make it out in one piece?
This is the first fanfic that I've read about Madame Maxime, and I love that you've chosen to fill in a missing moment in canon with her and Hagrid in search of the giants; this chapter feels like it would fit in with the books really well. Your descriptions of their surroundings are gripping, and when I read that line about the sound of footsteps following them I had to check there was no-one in the room because honestly, I was creeped out in all the best ways and your writing made what happen feel so genuinely real.
You've done really well with their speech here -- I'm always nervous about tackling characters with strong accents, but you've achieved a good balance between their accents and not making their words unreadable. *bows down*
It was interesting reading the Death Eaters' conversation about Maxime's appearance, but I'd have liked a little more of her thoughts in this section. We know from canon that she takes offence when Hagrid calls her a half-giant, so although I know Maxime is in no position to take offence here, I'd like to know more about that affects her emotionally, especially since this is for the Plus Size Challenge.
As a reader, I definitely want the second chapter already! You've done a good job of leaving readers with unanswered questions to tempt them to read on, and there's a lot I'd love to know -- we know that Maxime survived, so what happens to those Death Eaters? How does Hagrid get out of that tiny cave entrance? And of course, I hope there are no serious ill effects from what that horrible Death Eater did... *shakes fist*
Overall, this was a super story to read! I really enjoyed it, and if you ever find yourself on an airplane somewhere with words to write, I strongly suggest chapter two of this fic!
Men become accustomed to poison by degrees - Victor Hugo
It is October 1949: Lycus Malfoy is dying, quarantined in his house alone but for his wife, Adelaide, who still hopes there is a miracle cure; Eileen Prince has vanished into a Muggle life, washing the dead and arranging flowers, away from the sneers she endured at school; Cygnus and Orion Black are at war with each other even as they bury their secrets six feet deep.
There is a murderer on the loose, shrouded in paranoia, and the old structures, things of blood and age and time, are starting to crumble.
And a ship arrives from Lübeck bringing Tom Riddle home.
Laura!! I told you that I would be here eventually, and I have arrived!
So, you know this already, but I worship your descriptions. They're so beautiful, and poetic, and because I can't quote your entire story back at you, I'll stick to this wonderfully descriptive gem: With the heavy drapes closed against the chill of the October air, the air hung heavy and sombre, stifling almost, thick with the scent of cigarette smoke and sweat; they swamped an entire side of the room, a wall of deep crimson velvet from start to finish, the only part of them moving the shadows and light from the candles dotted here and there, on the desk and on the bedside table, either end of the fireplace, as the white-yellow flames jumped and flickered, their light fractured and refracted on the glass shades which surrounded them. Like... you've not only crafted this incredibly detailed scenario in your head, but you've painted such an image with words that I can picture it easily.
I love how you've described Tom's return from Lübeck! At first, I thought it seemed a little odd that he wasn't using magical transportation, but then I realised that he didn't want questions to be asked or something within his belongings to be found, and slipping through Muggle customs was the easiest way to do that, even if it meant he had to tolerate their presence. Wise, clever Aph! That port certainly didn't seem like the most pleasant place to be, too; no wonder he wanted to leave so quickly.
Choosing to have Tom dishevel his hair and appearance was interesting. We see a young Tom who's very sleek and smart in HBP, so to see this glint of a wilder, more animalistic, human personality in that tiny action was so interesting!
Eileen!! I love the career you've chosen for her! It's part of my headcanon that she disappears into the Muggle world after graduation, but your take on the situation -- on her job in a funeral parlour, this rather bothersome Mr Simmons, a general empathy towards Muggle soldiers -- I love it all, and Eileen's scene is so tantalisingly enticing that I want to know more about her life! (You wouldn't mind writing an Eileen spin-off to this story, would you? :P)
WHAT IS THIS TOM/CYGNUS SHIP?! I never in a million years imagined that this ship was possible (despite of course, in hindsight, the pair being around the same age) and it is thrilling to read this Cygnus, so perfect, so loving, so willing -- and to Tom, inconsequential. He's fun but temporary. I know that this pairing is doomed, but I want to read more anyway, and that's testament to your talent as an author.
Adelaide is so mysterious. She's married someone thirty years her senior... why? What are oranges doing in Malfoy Manor? Why did she use a key to open the door instead of magic? Where are the house elves? What's that letter she wrote, and who is she writing to? I think this may be my favourite section; you've given the reader so much information about Adelaide, but with that information comes endless more questions.
I can't believe that it's taken me so long to read this story - I've been missing out on something incredible. No more. *stalks story*
This is an amazing first chapter and, if I may say so, I think this may be some of your best work!
banner by abhorsen. @TDA & SP
I don’t really know how I got to the point where I was entirely too drunk and alone in a Death Eater’s flat with him, but there it is.
2nd place in the prefects' inter-house friendship challenge
Hello, Branwen! I stumbled on one of your stories a while ago, and accordingly fell in love with your Draco and Astoria. This one-shot now highlights everything that's incredible about this ship and your writing.
(One quick thing, before I forget -- there's a typo in your first line, where you've said is is instead of it is. It's relatively minor, I know, but the first line packs such a punch that the typo's letting it down a little.)
It's not often that I read a first-person POV with a character who's so self-aware. I've read attempts at this style before that come across a little Mary Sue, but that absolutely isn't the case here. That self-awareness and the sense of emotional detachment here is very much a part of Astoria, and you write it really well. This one-shot feels like Astoria's sitting here, right opposite me, telling me about Draco and her past.
Your mentions of her first meeting with Draco is so well interwoven with the story that if I hadn't already read DEaRE, I'd be clicking that "Add Tab" button right about now. I'm definitely intrigued to know what went on at that second meeting -- I, grudgingly, like this Draco to the point I feel a little sorry for him that he almost got stabbed in the neck by a witch and had other multiple attempts on his life.
I did laugh out loud when Astoria found that vaguely endearing, though. Her rationale makes a lot of sense, and I'm now firmly in agreement. There's definitely a positive correlation between assassination attempts on Draco and his likeability.
Those little hints that the war still has its effects on Astoria -- the alcohol, the sudden loud noises -- are really well incorporated. These aspects don't feel overwhelming or like they're ticking PTSD boxes; your Astoria feels real, and reading fanfics with this level of authenticity is always an amazing experience. I love how you've kept some of Draco's canon personality evident; he hasn't completely changed and despite his co-operation, he still has a long way to go before he can be a decent human being.
I didn't expect Astoria to open up to Draco; that must be the alcohol at work (I've never been drunk, I wouldn't know :P) but it's good to see that their relationship is taking small steps towards a future where marriage happens and Scorpius exists. You're developing their relationship slowly, and I love it, because slow is the only way these two are going to be okay.
This was a wonderful read, Branwen, and I look forward to more stories about this ship because your headcanon is wonderful and your writing is beyond incredible.