Perhaps one of the most poignant and eloquent stories I've seen from you, Susan, at least in this length. As always, you write Dumbledore to absolute, heartwrenching, eyewatering perfection, and this was left nothing to be desired. Albus was literally perfect ... the cruelty of his gaze, of his demeanor, towards his brother is absolutely on point. It's terrifying, to know that this young, avaricious, and ambitious boy could become the man with the twinkling blue eyes that we know so well. But, again, everyone has skeletons in their closet.
And in regards to those skeletons, you've presented a beautiful one here: that Albus cannot, will not, allow himself to be defeated, least of all by a question. Thinking about it, I kind of realized that a question to which we do not know the answer is the most terrible foe: it can deal you countless damage, but what can you do in return? Beautiful, Susan, absolutely beautiful.
And Aberforth! So young, so determined, so completely dominated by his older brother. Strange that he'd become the man and goat in the Hog's Head ... I'd like to see a story that develops his character, writes his life out (and there we go, another plot bunny on the run).
I am absolutely unsurprised that you won the staff challenge, as I can hardly imagine anybody writing something more touching, more real, than this. A masterpiece, Susan. Really, really astounding. I doff my hat to you. :)
Author's Response: Wow! I really don't know how to respond to this. I've tried a couple of times, but just can't make it sound good enough. This review is amazing, and I really didn't expect this story to be much of anything. I rushed to write it and just went with my gut feels, no plans or anything. Why is it that the stories I don't think will be important end up becoming so? It's so weird and disconcerting, but you know, I love it! XD It's really amazing to have been able to come up with a story like this.
Dumbledore's personality is a strange one, and this was the first time I'd really gotten into his character as a young man, before his transformation, the guilt that haunts him beyond his death. I tried to think of the most egotistic, intelligent person I could imagine - so there was House and Sherlock Holmes. What was scary afterward was how easy it was to write from that perspective. It was like unleashing some unconscious side of myself. :P Or maybe not so unconscious. That's where I got the idea of centering the story on that one question. I've had them too often and they're excruciating. No matter how many have told me not to worry so much over one question, it's impossible not to.
Aberforth? Now there's someone I didn't pay any attention to at all. :P It's great that you liked him, though. I think that, like Albus, Aberforth changed after the death of Arianna - how could he not? It could have made him go mad with grief and anger.
Thanks so very much for reading and reviewing this so thoroughly, Kalina. It means a lot to hear from you. ^_^