I've been meaning to read this one-shot for ages and ages -- I've heard near-endless things about its loveliness and profundity -- and you yourself gave me the perfect excuse to head over here. And oh my gosh, I am literally so angry at myself for waiting as long as I did to read this. This... this was perfect.
The entire way through this, I had a literal ache in my chest, right between my rib cage. There is so much harsh truth and blunt beauty here, and it's just so evident in your writing that you have an extremely rare and special view on the world that can only be shared in writing. I don't even know how to begin to describe to you the things that absolutely enthralled -- captivated -- me about this story. Your use of imagery and description is literally unparalleled, something I saw in reading "Riddle in the Dark" and re-enforced by reading this one-shot. I just fill up with something imagined, something lush and thick and rich, and most published authors can't get me to feel half of what you've attained in less than three thousand words.
I love Snape/Lily, but only as long as it's realistic and has ties to canon. And you know, that's a lot harder to find than it sounds. But this was absolutely everything that I could ever want out of a Snily story. Snape and Lily were characterized absolutely spot-on perfect, and I've got no qualms at all in saying that. They were canon in every capacity I am allowed to deem canon from non-canon. I was especially impressed by the comparison of Lily and fire to Severus and shadow; I've never picked up on, but it's exactly how you say it is: Equal, and opposite. That's a flat-out brilliant thing to write.
My favorite line:
Those little smiles that played upon his lips so tempted her to lean forward and take them with her own to taste the last dregs of the bitter tea he drank each morning. -- I literally ached with how beautiful and poetic that was, and that's probably kind of stupid-sounding. But that is life at its clearest, emotion at its peak, and there are very, very few people who can pen that so accurately. That is love in a way that most people can't even come close to reaching in writing. You've got a way of articulating emotions most other people call indescribable, and I just cannot get over how much that blows me away.
This is going straight into my favorites, and into a story recommendations thread -- if someone hasn't beaten me to it, and I would be the least surprised person in the world if that happened. This stands out as one of the best one-shots I can remember reading in a long, long time, and it's pretty clear I'm going to have to start making frequent pilgrimages over to your author's page when I'm in need of some truly quality work.
This was gorgeous, Susan, and the word doesn't even begin to do it justice. Fantastic, fantastic work!
Author's Response: OMG, thank you! O_O This is one of those reviews I've been staring at, only to have weeks pass before I realize that they have, and I still haven't responded. *gasps for breath* Yes, that's how it generally goes when awesome people review my stories with amazing things to say about them. And then you say that people are talking about this story and I melt into a puddle of illegible, unintelligible squee.
Or not. I'll try to sound more intelligent for the remainder of this response, but be warned that it may not be possible. :P
I don't think I can take credit for the darkness in this story, nor in the film noir, because although I love reading and writing about dark things, those things and places filled with secrets and depth, I'm drawing a lot from other sources. "Riddle" is its genre, while this one emerges from my adoration of Conrad's style. It's often that way when I write - I'll take out a "lens", a certain way of looking at the world, put it on, then the story emerges. It's rarely a happy lens, but that's mostly because I don't read happy books - even Jane Austen has jaded notes in her song. It's part of the curse of the English Lit grad student: a lot of my stories are interpretations and re-interpretations of things I've read, as a way of understanding them better, and sometimes I don't know how much of these stories is actually mine. It makes it more awkward to accept compliments, that's for sure.
But I am really, really pleased - tickled pink more like - that you have liked this story so much. You've pointed out something hugely important about Snily stories: that the balance between realism and canon accuracy is a difficult one. How can a person make the ultimate tragic unrequited love story sound realistic? JKR couldn't do it, not entirely - something must always be lost, and most often it's the realism side that suffers in everyone's scramble to remain canon. I liked the feeling of going the other way with this story. It may sound ridiculous to call this story realistic because of its style and atmosphere, but one thing I wanted to do was make this story about Lily's desire. It's a small thing still, she being hardly fifteen in this story, but she has something that she must act upon, and Snape is the one she knows best, loves, even, in her own way. That desire makes her the fire, whereas Snape remains strangely passive - but that's what he is throughout their relationship, the quiet one, hiding in the shadows, watching her burn brightly in a world that would always reject him. Snape is a void - he fills himself with love for her - but she, even in the books, is always so full - of power, of love, adored and adoring, defying and respected. She had everything Snape could not. James may have been the conventional match, in the end, but Snape would have been the scientifically perfect match because they would have completed one another... but is that a good thing? I don't know.
*blushes* That line! It mirrors the one later one, at the climax of the story, but unlike the real kiss, which demonstrates the violence of Lily's desire, this one is pure banality - it's so personal an intimate. She knows him, his habits, like she was already his wife of many years - and she loves him for what he is. That's a tragedy right there: he doesn't realize that she loves him in this simple, everyday sort of way. You're right, that is love - not that crashing romantic thing, but the actual one, the thing that lasts forever.
Gah, what have you done to me with this review?! I never saw these things like this until your review! You've made me think, you've recommended my story, you've reviewed it, /and/ you've read it, and I don't know what else. This is too much! Too much! I'll never be able to thank you enough.