I am quite honored to be requested to review one of your stories! I’ve long revered you as a legend among HPFF fanfic writers so I hope that any feedback I present on this story will be of use to you!
I like reading stories from Minerva’s perspective. (As an aside, I often call her “Minerva” because I can’t seem to EVER get her last name spelled right. Maybe one day, when I’m not so lazy, I’ll take it upon myself to write it out in lines so I get it right :P) She’s such an interesting character, so strong and fierce yet the head of Gryffindor house, known for bravery, courage and loyalty. There’s also the added layer of her being a leader and a woman, one always, at the risk of looking anti-feminism, wonders where her vulnerability is. I at least do.
First, a little cc, since it’s the first thing I see (Running Review remember?):
but to take on the [reigns] of Hogwarts - [reins]
I can totally be there with Minerva as she’s entering what she’s probably thought of as Dumbledore’s domain for decades. It is a bit like being an imposter and I would totally feel like I couldn’t move anything. Basically, I’m just saying that you’re bringing me along with you on this story. You’re making it connect. This is good.
Then moving into this moment of having left Harry on the Dursleys’ doorstep, I feel like you eloquently capture Minerva McGonagall’s (practicing!) feelings here. She’s relieve that the war is over, that Harry is alive, but saddened by the price that had to be paid. She also knows that it probably doesn’t compare to what Dumbledore is feeling and is being a friend to him in how she wants to cheer him up.
She had [one] deluded herself that - [once]
It was like the ringing of tiny bells, the bells of Peter Pan’s fairy, the bells her father had told her hearkened the birth of an angel. - I loved this line. I don’t know why. I think it’s because it speaks of innocence, how Minerva’s reminiscing on this at a point where she’s coming to face that she is going to lose a very dear friend. This particular scene, too, is quite bleak and so offset by such a pretty thought, it adds a sweet tinge to a bitter moment.
Ah, now I get a little confused, but only because I haven’t read the bio on her on Pottermore (somehow must include that in my internet travels) as well that I think you mislead me on purpose, starting out with her husband’s death before you tell of the other parts. Sneaky, sneaky.
she [focused] her gaze on the tension in his jaw, - [focused]
I love how you introduce this lasting unrequited love (maybe not so unrequited) in a quiet way. It’s understated yet not. You don’t spell it out for me but leave enough there for me to string the thoughts together and just come to the sad conclusion myself. The way you have made Dumbledore and Minerva is very nicely done. They’re similar and understanding of the other. This moment of sharing secrets is such a brilliant way to forge a bond and very nicely done as well.
Though you did flit from past to present to past again, I didn’t feel like it was disjointed or non-sequitur. The moments seemed to have relevance to one another and it was like going back to the beginning and the basic of this relationship. Also the tone of the early past compared to the present was clear to be seen; in the past, there is more formality, more tension between them while closer to the present, there is more understanding and familiarity.
The repetition of “glass” wasn’t that repetitious to me. I did notice how it kept popping up, but you couched it in terms that made it seem new and on its own and didn’t become annoying.
A very lovely look at McGonagall and I do feel like you’ve given me more insight into her character and answered some of the questions I had posed at the beginning.
Author's Response: Thank you very much for your review! I liked the way you reviewed one of my other stories, and when I posted this, I knew you'd definitely be the right person from whom to request a review. :D Thanks also for pointing out the typos - I try to catch them, but it's amazing how they slip past the eyes nonetheless. I've since fixed each of them.
Oh no, I see Minerva in much the same way. She's a very strong character, and also one of the first we meet in the series, so from the beginning, JKR put her in a significant role - we're meant to take note of her. Although I've heard it argued the other way, I see her as a strong female role model in the series, even more than Hermione. There's something about her that I find fascinating, which is I suppose why I keep writing about her. :D
I'm very glad to hear that the first scene helped you connect with her character. I liked the idea of starting at the end, after the battle is over when she's finally entirely in control of Hogwarts. It's a big moment for her, and entering the room in that new capacity, no matter how often she'd been there before, would be meaningful, to say the least. She does feel like an imposter, even though she's very deserving of the new position.
It's wonderful that you liked that particular line about the sound of bells - it's very whimsical for her, more like something Dumbledore would think of, but she focuses on it because of how dark the moment is. She needs something good to hold on to so that she can maintain control of her emotions. It's the one scene I'm not sure actually happened in canon, but I wish that it did, that he revealed to her the dire nature of his condition. It seems in line with their close relationship.
Haha, I meant the story to throw readers off a bit with its non-linear structure. The secrets are revealed one-by-one, like the peeling of an onion, and each of the parts is related to one another not in time, but by shared ideas and similar moments. The impending death of Dumbledore leads right into the actual death of her husband, building a connection between those two parts and the emotions contained within. Confusion is one of the inevitable results of reverse/non-linear chronology, and I hope that it didn't throw you off too much.
The question of unrequited love is THE question of this story. Although the story is limited to Minerva's perspective, even she does not reveal just what it is she feels for Dumbledore. It's a kind of love, but not the same kind of love she feels for Duncan and her husband - it's something unnameable, and perhaps more powerful and lasting, built on trust and strong devotion with their shared secrets at its core (which is why that ends up being the "founding" scene of this story, the one that comes just before the conclusion). I originally came up with the idea of this story for the Writer's Duel prompt "a different kind of love", but I left the kind of love uncertain - it starts as mentor/student then develops into a highly complex friendship. It's impossible to put into words just what kind of bond they share, even now.
Thank you again for reading and reviewing this story! I really appreciate hearing your thoughts as you experienced the story. :D