First off, super big apologies for taking more than a week to get to this chapter. Shame on me! But I have gone through each of the concerns you listed and shall do my best to provide some helpful feedback... though I may hit on a few of them out of order.
I think the opening was perhaps a lot better than you think. I thought you did a perfect job of identifying each of the speakers. There was nothing choppy or confusing about who was speaking when. There were a pattern of formatting the dialogue tags the same way (ie., he/she said, making a physical gestures...) but it wasn't over the top, and it fell into a more relaxed rhythm once it was just the girls talking.
Speaking of... I didn't think there was too much girl talk at all. What teenage girl WOULDN'T be talking about this sort of thing with her friends? Personally, I'd much rather read a character discussing all this with her friends than have to wade through a long internal monologue where the character contemplates their relationship -- and not just in this story but any story. There is a fine line between using a conversation to ram information down a reader's throat and using a scene to move the story forward. We know Lily is close to her friends and this was a great way of showing us they now know what's going on between her and James AND to get some insight into how Lily is feeling post-kiss.
If I had any CC about the opening it would be that you might have been a bit slow to introduce the setting, especially with James's parents not having appeared in a chapter for a long time. I actually tucked back to the previous chapter to see if I'd missed/forgotten something. Of course, I should have just kept reading on, as you do state where they are about 100 words in, but those opening lines hang there a bit in space. If it was just James and Lily talking, or James and Sirius, my mind would have been better able to place the setting. They would (almost certainly) have been somewhere in or near the castle. But with William having the opening line, I'm left hanging a bit on any frame of reference for the first few lines of the scene.
I don't think skipping the match was a problem at all. Unless something happened during it that was going to be central to the plot moving forward, like Death Eaters arriving in the middle of the game or something, it's no different IMO than not depicting a class they attend, especially with it being an "end scene" kind of moment. If you'd picked up in the next sentence immediately after the match was over, it might have felt heavy-handed, but I thought it was perfectly fine as is.
You know I LOVE your Bellatrix, and it was so great to see her one-on-one with Voldemort. (And yay!! I finally got to see where that scene snippet you sent me fit into the story.) I thought you did a fantastic job with his character. I much prefer to see him in this cold, more detached way than as a raving lunatic, killing people left and right. And her almost sexual draw to him was totally creepy in the loveliest of evil ways. And I thought putting this scene in the middle of the chapter was fine, especially if the events overlap time-wise with the scenes before and after it.
The only thing that was a *tiny* bit confusing was that I didn't really know until afterward that this was all happening on the same day, so there is a little bit of that "hanging out there" feel again. From Bella's line, "I believe Alrek is informing me that both her and Potter, and only her and Potter, will be attending and staying at least a day for it," I know this is happening sometime after the opening scene, ie., after Alrek asks if Belle and Alice are going to the wedding too. But I kind of assumed the Bella/Voldemort scene was happening the next day or even farther down the road. It's a lot to have happened in the span of a few hours: Alrek sending the note, an owl needing to deliver it, Bella working out what it all means, her contacting Voldemort, him having and arraigning the time to meet with her, etc. Not impossible, of course, and it isn't an issue of it contradicted your timeline, but it was a surprise to find out that the last scene opened later the same night as scene one. I know Bella says the letter just arrived from Alrek, but there isn't really a reference to when Alrek sent the letter in relation to the opening scene. Maybe there is a way to make the overlap in time a bit more obvious to the reader...
The last scene felt totally natural!! You set the scene for public kissing (that sounds so silly as I'm typing it, but you know what I mean :P), and this follows up on it perfectly. James issues this challenge of sorts, and just as he's about to back down from it, Lily takes it one step further. It was a really sweet little back and forth for them.
I wouldn't ever know you had trouble writing this if you hadn't mentioned it. It's another really solid chapter. We know a bit more about where we are headed -- Christmas with the Potters, perhaps. And definitely trouble at the wedding. We feel like James and Lily are on track, and that hopefully Belle and Sirius aren't far behind. What more can you ask for from a chapter!? Speaking of chapters...
If you want to hit me up with AoC for the next two chapters at the same time, I'll try really hard to crank them out this weekend. No promises, but the weather is supposed to be crappy, so I'm preparing my stash of good stories to catch up on now :)
Author's Response: Becky!! You have no idea how huge my smile gets when I click on a new review and see it's you. Well, you probably do know that because I'm sure I've told you :P
Don't apologize! I super apologize that I'm a bit over the top with my requesting. If you ever need me to back off, let me know ♥
That's what I kind of thought about the girl talk too. But for some reason people often seem to dislike girls being.. well.. girls in fan fiction. But it did seem appropriate to me that they'd dwell on it a bit. Because, like you said, they're teenage girls! Thanks for making me feel better about that. I was really second guessing myself.
I wondered if the setting did feel odd at first without really knowing why William was there until we get a few sentence down. I'll play around with that and see if I can get something that roots you to where we are right away. thank you ♥
Oh good, I'm glad the match-skipping didn't turn you off! I will write one eventually, but only one :P
Hahahah that's what I thought about when requesting this chapter! Was, yay it's finally the chapter that has the part I had questions about! Bellatrix really is fun to write. I hope I'll get an idea for a one shot for her someday or something, but right now just her little appearances in this are a lot of fun for me. And you saying you love how I write her as put me on cloud 9 ♥
I don't love when Voldemort is raging around all 'I'm going to murder every single person.' We do see him get angry sometimes, but for the most part we see him appear very calm while doing these terrible things. He's still a really intimating character for me to write, so I'm relieved you liked how he turned out in this section ♥
I was worried about that -- with how I didn't really make it clear exactly when this was. I think maybe I'll add an end of the last scene with Alrek actually leaving after faking ill so we'll see it. That way it would give us more immediate feeling of, wait, why's he leaving? Then Bella's scene, then 'ohhh!'... yeah, I think I'll try something like that. Thanks for getting my wheels turning ♥
The last scene was so scary! I didn't plan that, which is odd for me because I plan most of the stuff, so I always get nervous about the scenes that kind of pop up out of nowhere in my head, haha. I'm really happy you liked the public kiss ;)!
Aww Becky, I'd love to post the next two chapter AoC, but like I said, if I get to be a bit much just tell me ♥ I hope you can see improvement with each chapter, though, because I really take your advice to heart and want that to show.
Thank you again so much ♥. Also! I'm about to go in strike from the snow. Are you getting as insanely sick of it as I am??