My world is spinning... I'm reading another story about Draco and it's all your fault!
Okay, okay, I'll attempt to set aside my strong prejudices for a moment or fifteen. First off, let me start by telling you that I'm reading this chapter with Sesame Street songs playing in the other room, so if I'm more off-kilter than normal, that's why. Actually, it puts an interesting spin on the Ragged Fang (whose name I love!) and the "drab kaleidoscope of confusion and nausea". Maybe this will work out for the best after all. ;)
The first scene was so vivid. You have an easy knack for these kinds of things that I envy. Most of my scene openers remain quite sparse until the last minute and then I'm all panicky for a week trying to figure out what the best way to fill in the void is. Somehow, I can never find my beginnings. I'm reminded of this every time I read your stories.
As vivid as it is, I am both drawn in and repulsed by the descriptions, kind of like watching a car wreck as a helpless passer-by. You can't help things by jumping in front of the out-of-control vehicle, but you still feel like you're in the middle of the tragedy. My face hurts now. Ouch. Knockturn Alley is aptly named.
I loved how you went into detail about the Dark Mark fading away, now that Voldemort is gone. Of course it's going to fade, just like it had before. Makes me wonder how much and how long it will take before it's not even noticeable anymore. Probably longer than anyone would like. It's going to be a nasty reminder to everyone involved and probably start a lot more bar brawls than we'd care to admit.
The minute that Draco stepped into the Leaky Cauldron, I had a strong feeling that things wouldn't be going in his favor for very long. Not that they had been going well in the first place, but he's not with "his own kind" any longer, and the sympathy won't be flowing anytime in the next two decades at least. As Draco meets the cobblestones again, I am starting to feel a little sorry for the guy. He must be quite a sight when Astoria finally gets to him. The way he reacts to her, the way he thinks about her seems so out of place, so weird that he'd be having those thoughts at that moment, and he reacts to himself in a shell-shocked kind of stupor about the whole thing. And then I'm reminded of who he used to be and how old habits surely die hard with this:
"He honestly didn't give a toss about the coins, but his mouth moved faster than his brain could restrain it. They were his father's words, and he hated the taste they left behind."
The letter he wrote is full of wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-brilliant-clarity. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and written down your brilliant thoughts? Have you read them the next morning? I have. Somehow, it never reads the same and is always a bit cringe-worthy. I can totally see him writing that letter after he's been lying awake in bed for hours, pondering his very existence. I can see him re-reading that letter a day from then, maybe a few weeks from then and cringing from the blatant desperation that's coming through. He is lucky to have someone as supportive as Narcissa for a mother. I'm sure she's been up to her ears in all those father-son post-war bonding sessions that have been going down at home these past few months.
You managed to keep Draco entirely himself in this life-changing moment. He knows he's got to change, but he still needs to lean on his mother to succeed. I don't think he'd believe himself capable of what he's trying to achieve without her.
You always put an interesting spin on this Draco-guy as he goes through what we all know he must have at some point in his life. I like how Astoria's father is not at all happy about his daughter's brief association with Draco. It should make for an interesting time indeed.
Good luck, Draco. I hope you don't make Dan need a detox session after this story.
Author's Response: Sesame Street? Wow, I think we've found a new level of cognitive dissonance.
Draco is absolutely a car wreck at the start of this chapter. And the only people who are really trying to stop him are his mother and father, and his mother is the only one who's going about it halfway correctly. On the other side, you have his "friends" from school, who are in their own spirals of self-destruction. More about this in future chapters.
The Leaky Cauldron was definitely the wrong place to seek refuge. The scene that plays out inside is the first of many you'll read where people have neither forgotten nor forgiven Draco for the things he did -- or they believe that he did -- during the war.
There's still plenty of "Old Draco" running around inside that platinum blonde head of his, but it tends to come out more in moments of duress. Situations where he doesn't quite take the time to think things through and acts on instinct.
Once or twice in my life, I've had one of these sorts of "moments of clarity" in the middle of the night and felt so strongly about it that I had to get up and take notes. I agree that it isn't often when people do their best thinking. But in Draco's case, he arrives at some very important conclusions about himself and where his life is heading. And he knows that there's only one person in the world who can truly help him make the changes he needs to make.
I'm really pleased that you found Draco consistent and sensible. I've said this again and again in review responses, but my number 1 priority when I write Draco Malfoy is to find that balance where he doesn't come across either totally redeemed or like a completely unrepentant villain. He's a much more complex character than that, and I think it's a shame when people white-wash or black-wash him.
I don't think I'm going to need any therapy when I'm done with this, but you never know. It has been eating into my sleep.
Thanks so much for another long, lovely, insightful review!