Here is your holiday review swap review! So you had to know where I was going to go for this. Back to the story I'm enjoying so thoroughly!
I really loved the way that you characterized Helena. So studious and introverted, in love with her books and devoting all of her time to reading and drawing. I thought it was telling and rather sad that she feels the need to hide her drawings from her mother, especially the one of the faceless bride. The content of that drawing spoke volumes: Helena is quite taken with the idea and imagery of being married, but she isn't so keen on actually marrying any of the suitors she's found so far.
For her part, Rowena seems very torn and unsure how to manage her daughter. It's obvious that she loves the girl dearly. Otherwise, she probably would have married her off already. She also seems to have a strong appreciation for the girl's thirst for knowledge, which matches her canon characterization perfectly. At the same time, she seems rather concerned that life is passing her daughter by. She mentions her age, which does seem quite old for a girl to be unwed in this time period.
Helena's father doesn't seem to harbor the same concerns about his only daughter. Either that, or he was satisfied that she was still going to see Brenner and she caught him off guard with her explanation. Regardless, he seems like a happy, gregarious old fellow. The Ravenclaw family, in general, is quite a contrast to the Selwyns. They don't revel in their nobility the same way, nor do they seem to look down on the peasants and muggles around them. In fact, they seem rather pleased to be part of their community.
Ah, the first indirect mention of Hogwarts, and Salazar Slytherin. It seems that he's already charmed young Helena to some extent. As intellectual as she is, he's still able to successfully appeal to her vanity. She speaks of him almost like a favorite uncle. When you mentioned that he would play a key role, you definitely weren't kidding. He certainly has influence on both sides of this tragic, doomed romance.
Our first look at the Ravenclaw family was lovely and intriguing. Once again, you've perfectly couched your back story in the canon of the books while expanding upon it and filling in all of the gaps with rich, nuanced detail. Very lovely. Happy holidays and I will certainly be back again soon!
Author's Response: Hey Dan! Nice to see you again!
Helena was difficult for me, but it's the kind of challenge I enjoy, so that's all right. I wanted her (and by proxy, Rowena) to reflect the traditional gender roles and attitudes of the time, so it felt wrong to consider having her totally opposed to marriage. At the same time, though, I really wanted her to be spunky and bold and to put social proprieties on a shelf lower than that of most other women, so to speak. What I eventually decided was that she would love the idea of marriage and a wedding and would just be struggling with finding the perfect husband to fit into that little idealistic picture.
Rowena does have some conflicted feelings about Helena. The girl is her only daughter, so she wants to make sure Helena is happy, successful, and married to a proper husband. At the same time, though, she probably knows that she was lucky to find someone so accepting of her studious tendencies, and I think she's afraid that Helena either won't find anyone or will end up in an unhappy marriage.
I like Witter, because he's the Ravenclaw with the fewest concerns. He's content to work on his farm and support his family. As you noted, they like being part of their community, and you'll see more of that in a later chapter.
Helena knows she's a beautiful girl, and I think that's part of what factors in to make her willing to be so choosy. I imagine that she's quite curious to see what sort of man the famous Salazar Slytherin would choose for her.
Thanks for all of your lovely compliments, as always, and for this wonderful review :)