Hi Kayla and Emma! I’m here for CMDC Round 3 :D
This story is another one that grabs you by the throat and runs you through the ringer. Kayla, you just break my heart and make me breakdown along with Sirius. He’s staring at this terrible question, and he full well knows the answer from personal experience. I love how he goes through all these answers—answers that would break his teacher’s heart as surely as they are breaking my heart. Especially the part about how James cries a lot and the nice things that James’s parents do for Sirius. And then he leaves it blank—because really he can’t put the effects of the cruciatus curse into words. They just can’t capture it.
Emma, I love your voice! And I loved how you kept repeating the refrain of the story—the question that Sirius is staring at—in the same dispassionate tone. And then you read Sirius’s internal monologue with all this passion that is so at odds with this question that he can’t escape. Really well done!
Hi Kayla! Since I've already reviewed this last year, I'm stopping by with another review on Emma's podfic of it. Congratulations to both of you on the FROGS nominations for this wonderful piece.
This story has stuck with me since I read it the first time, and I honestly didn't think that there'd be any way it could be made more effective. But Emma's narration of this story was so powerful and talented that it really brought the story to life even more, and gave the heartbreak a voice. In podfic form, this was even more powerful because I could listen to it as if Emma was voicing Sirius's thoughts, which worked really well because this story is Sirius's thoughts in response to the question that he's staring at, not something that he's written.
I thought the narration was so clever here. The repetition of the question was almost monotonous, and very insistent, which showed how much staring at it was tormenting Sirius. Not pausing much between Sirius's response and the repeated question also worked really effectively, because it wouldn't let up. Sirius couldn't get away from all of the thoughts that it brought up, but not pausing for long illustrated that so well. I thought the intonation of each of Sirius's answers was also really effective, because it brought to life his desperation and the trauma that the exam was bringing up. This was a wonderfully heartbreaking story, but Emma's podfic brought it even more to life. This was brilliant, both of you!
Hello, Kayla, my dear! Here for CMDC round 3! Congratulations for your FROGS nom! And congratulation to Emma for the podfic nomintation as well! <3 <3 <3
I had actually typed out most of the review earlier, and then lost it... I'll do my best to rewrite it again...
I love, love, love this piece! It's heartbreaking and so painful but just so good! Sirius' personality shines through so well (it always does in all of your stories, but there's something so special about this piece, about the way you write his train of thought... the style is so unique, too, and so perfect!!!)
I really love the repetition of the question, the contrast between the abstractness of it and all the heavy emotions it suscitates in Sirius, it's incredibly powerful! It's even more evident in Emma's narration, with the impersonal, sing-song tone she uses, while Sirius' thoughts sound so real... she truly gives Sirius' voice life, which I adore! You both did a brilliant job!!!
I also really love all the details you put in this! The bits about the Potters made me happy and sad at the same time! They are so lovely and Sirius is fortunate to have them taking care of him and I love the gratitude he feels towards them, but at the same time it's so cruel that he can't have that kind of love from his actual family. Oh, Merlin! I want to punch Walburga in the face for the pain she caused to her own son! It's horrifying and it makes me shake with anger and I just want to hug Sirius tight! The bits where he actually describes how it feels to be subjected to the Cruciatus Curse are so terrible and the idea that the people who should've loved him did that to him is just... I don't think I have words strong enough to describe it!
Despite all of the heartbreak, another thing I loved is how Sirius' sarcasm and humor somehow shine through at times! I chuckled at the bloke cries at the end of Muggle romance films (did I mention I adore James Potter, btw?) and I smiled at I hope the prize is a flying motorbike, because I really want one of those. How did you manage to make me smile, cry and shake in anger all at the same time, I don't know, but it shows how talented a writer you are!!!
I'm not sure if I'm doing a great job at reviewing this, but this is just so, so, so good and that's all I can say! And Emma's narration is just perfect as well, her voice, her pace, she conveys all the emotions so brilliantly!
Good luck in the FROGS to you both!
The biggest snowball hug ever!
Oh my god, Kayla, I don’t even know where to begin. I feel like you’ve found all the nerves in my brain that go YEP FEELINGS and pushed them (because that is how nerves work, yes :P), but all jokes aside, I think you are the most perfect author of Sirius Black I have ever read. In this very short work, with less than a thousand words, you have communicated so much about our poor aggrieved Sirius, without saying any of it directly at all. And I think that’s a testament to how good a writer you are; you create this completely creative idea, which on its own would be enough to draw my attention, and turn it into a gorgeous masterpiece, raw with real emotion and teenage self-doubt, all through the thinly disguised answers that Sirius could have given.
Though it’s not explicitly mentioned in the story, but I imagine that Sirius was writing each answer, then scratching it out to replace it with something else, leaving a fat trail of scratchy ink down the page until he finally decided not to leave an an answer. The way that the answers progressed, it’s like he initially intended on brushing it away with some flippant, sarcastic comment, but then the question triggered the horrible abusive memories that sent him running away to James’s house. (I love your Sirius so much that I just want everything you write to be canon, even all the things in different universes -- you think about him in such an intelligent way, and describe his messed-up state of mind with such creative, beautiful writing, it’s just amazing. For instance, your headcanon in this story that he was viciously abused before running away makes perfect sense; I haven’t thought about it that much before, but Sirius is definitely the person who would stick horrible things out UNLESS they were literally damaging to the worst degree.)
The image of James crying because he was so furious with Sirius’s parents is touching and heartbreaking all at once. Because James is like the brother that Sirius has always needed, he’s going to feel all of Sirius’s pain -- the idea of James being an angry crier makes this even more painful. How bad in a condition must Sirius have been for James to be furiously crying at the Potter home? How neglected and horribly treated must Sirius have been in order for him to be surprised that loving parents would happily take care of him?
When his responses reach the point where he’s actually describing the effects of the Cruciatus Curse, I wanted to cry. Each one sounds worse than the last, until he says “I wanted to die,” which sounded frighteningly final. It’s just a short sentence, but there is so much pain packed into it. And then there’s the second “is this a fucking joke,” which has SUCH a different meaning at this point in the story; the first one can possibly be written off as flippant and sarcastic, but the second one sounds like he can’t even think about it anymore without breaking down entirely. And that makes me want to bawl my eyes out.
The emptiness of the last response left my heart lurching.
You are the most talented Sirius writer in the world, I love love love your stories. <3
So I totally read this and somehow didn't review it? Anyway, here I am.
This story is amazing. You use such a unique format - a test question - to build-up through a really dark life story for Sirius and get really visceral emotions out of him. When talks about the possibility of a meltdown toward the end I was left yelling how could he NOT have a meltdown to myself.
For not a terribly lengthy piece, I also thought you (as you always do) characterized Sirius incredibly well. He tries to be light-hearted toward the beginning giving off the idea that he's just that joking Marauder we see in most fics, but it gives way thought by thought to the person at his core - horribly damaged by his upbrining at the consequences of his courage to be his true self - and it strips that facade bare. It shows - like is actually often the case with many seemingly happy-go-lucky people or rebellious-jokesters - that their humor, effective though it may be at amusing others, is also actually deliberately designed to conceal themselves from the world. To give people a positive impression that's so different that the one they may have of their lives or even themselves. To not burden others with their own struggles.
The ending of the story, while the shortest part, was really powerful. By then we've heard it all through Sirius's own eyes - the facts, his reactions, his clinical descriptions, then his raw emotions. And then we get the reality - for someone who hasn't lived it, it's impossible to describe the effects of such torture because worse than the curse may be its cause(s) and worse than those moments of sheer and utter pain may be the lasting pain that never goes away.
Thanks for sharing!
I love this story. It was so creative, so simplistics in design yet so much depth. I can see Sirius plowing through his exam and then his quill stopping suddenly at number nine. His first answer, a gut reaction, is completely understandable but then the way he goes through different “phases” as he approaches the pain of his family was excellent. The reaction of James to Sirius’s past as well as the Potters was so touching. It’s nice to see how they supported Sirius, but one can still see how adrift he is. The description of the pain was well done. The multiple way it does main just made me shiver, but the screaming was the most effective. I like how he then jumps to something a bit “lighter” (if there is such a thing as lightness in this topic) with a joke about setting a record as if he focus on the horror for two long before he turns away from it and tries to pretend it with humor. The ending was particularly effective with the “I can’t” and then nothing at the end.
I wonder if Sirius every finished the exam, if he ever even looked at question #10, but in truth after dealing with all that, how important is a lousy exam score?
I'm here to drop off a review for the CDMC - Round 3 event! Congratulations on your nomination in the best angst and niche author categories! Very well deserved indeed.
I remember reading this story when you initially posted it and being absolutely gutted by it, so I'm not expecting it to be any less heartbreaking on second read.
Yep. This is exactly as tragic and horrific as I remember it. In some ways, it's even worse the second time around because I'm anticipating all of the terrible things that I know my poor baby Sirius is going to go through. This seriously has to be one of the most effective ways to convey the level of horror Sirius has been through. The way you juxtapose the statement "Describe the effects of the cruciatus curse." against Sirius' feelings and memories makes this so much more painful and real. It really allows the reader to understand the depth of his abuse and just how affected he is by it.
You also did an extraordinary job of describing the post traumatic stress that Sirius suffers in such short sentences. The fact that he wakes from nightmares and Mrs. Potter makes him Chai and sits with him was a great piece that highlights how messed up he is. His flinching when adults go to move their wands and the mix of fear and desire to die also really added to that hoplessness that is so common in trauma survivors. And the ending is perhaps the starkest reminder of what living with PTSD can be like. Something as simple as a phrase or a smell or a sound can trigger an entire, all-encompassing wave of emotions and you really encapsulate that in this piece.
One thing that I will say that I didn't mention in my previous review (I don't think) is that I like that you break up the despair with little bits of kindness by his friends. Mrs. Potter knows he's been through horrors, so she tries to help with Chai and quiet companionship. James knows what Sirius is freaking out about and covers for him with a lie about a hysteria hex. It's those little moments that keeps Sirius alive, hanging on, and slowly healing. I know in this particular moment, that things are still raw and close, but years down the road, it will heal some and the trauma will become more manageable for him.
I'm sure I've said some variation of this before, but I'm always so amazed by your creativity in your stories. This was one of the most unique set ups for a one-shot that I've read so far (on any site) and I think it really speaks to your talent as an author.
I also had the chance to listen to this as a podfic this time around and boy, that did not make this any easier for me. Emma does a brilliant job of differentiating in the question and Sirius with her vocal tones. She really gets that snarkiness in Sirius' voice just right in the beginning. It's like he's initially using that snark to protect himself and she really gets that in the way she reads his bits. Then you hear him start to break down as the story progresses. And she contrasts it really well against the way she keeps her voice neutral while repeating the question. Excellent narration on her part.
Really great work (even though I'm still mad at you for torturing my poor baby Sirius!)
I’m looking for angst currently and damn did you give me all the angst with this piece, like, wow, thanks for that. I love a uniquely formatted story, and you serve that up on a silver platter with this repeated question on Sirius’s Defence Against the Dark Arts exam and the various answers he really wants to put down but absolutely cannot put down. Your writing is so expressive when it comes to Sirius, who is, admittedly, entirely within your wheelhouse, but I think that’s why this piece works so well! You know your headcanon about his character SO WELL that you can have him rewriting an answer to a question literally twenty eight times but have it tell a story. The question being so blunt and rather unassuming considering the year in which this exam is taking place (hey, that means he’s in N.E.W.T.-level DADA, good for him!) and Sirius literally being unable to answer it because of how traumatizing those last two words are is so so heartaching. He clearly uses humor as a coping mechanism, but James saw through that many times over the summer Sirius stayed with him, and now knows when Sirius is struggling with his trauma and will do what he can to cover for Sirius, which is the mark of a true friend. This is written so well, Kayla, I can see why it’s won a POG award! Great job with this.
Kayla, this is completely amazing. I came over here to review this after listening to Emma's podfic of it (which she did a stellar job on, by the way!)
In such a simple format and relatively few words you have told an enormous story. In fact, I love the format you've chosen to use for this, with the repetition of the question as he keeps staring at it and re-reading it, and the progression of his thoughts as he does it. You don't even have to say he keeps staring at it and re-reading it, you just show it by the repetition, which I think it just a brilliant execution.
I love his voice here, I can hear it so clearly and get such a strong sense of who he is, through his thoughts. The anger and bitterness and dark, mirthless humor, and below it all amazing strength.
I also really love how you made James a crier, it's a nice spin on his personality, and especially how overcome he was in his anger and sadness at knowing what had happened to Sirius.
And the way the fic ends just makes me so, so sad, because I can just see him sitting there staring at the question, unable and/or unwilling to answer it, just sitting there paralyzed. Such a strong image, and all from one question and his inner monologue. Amazing job.
This was dark just as you warned, it just surprised me all the same. My heart was thudding slowly in my chest as Sirius brocessed through the question and the weight of that question. The Cruciatus Curse is a nasty beast and I don't think the exam creators would think that the question could spark a trigger for a student. The idea of a student suffering this type of curse which is unforgiveable seems beyond imagining and yet it would not surprise me if Sirius did experience the curse.
You did a very nice job with this piece. I like how things were flippant at first before there was avoidance before Sirius started grappling with the truth slowly but surly. That is very really to how someone would deal with something like this and was very well down by you. Then the final breakdown was pretty strong. I think the most powerful part of this peace is at the end that the final answer of the question is nothing but a blank. That blank is poiniant and speaks volumes for the silence that it is.
Wonderful job with this quick peace it leaves me in a very thoughtful and reflecting moment.
- A magical menagerie review
Hi again MC!
Yeah, I take my warnings pretty seriously - I definitely wouldn't want anyone to go into this story unprepared, because as you say it's dark. I totally agree, it would never occur to whoever wrote this exam that one of the children taking it may have experienced the Cruciatus Curse - since, you know, they're children and not Aurors. But that has very unfortunate consequences for Sirius.
I definitely imagine Sirius trying his best to deflect and downplay, but even someone who uses those coping mechanisms can't keep them up forever. It was Emma (facingthenorthwind)'s idea to leave the last question blank, to be honest, but it was just so perfect so of course I took her suggestion.
Thanks for the lovely review!
Hi there! I'm stopping by forthe Magical Managerie!
...Ouch. That doesn't even begin to cover it, really.
First, I'd like to applaud you for using such a unique method to tell this story. It's unconventional, sure, but that's what made it so fascinating. I've never seen anything quite like this before, and I give you major props for taking a risk.
And said risk definitely paid off. Despite being relatively short, this story packed in so much raw emotion and was immensely powerful. With such few words, you truly made me feel Sirius's pain, both mental and physical, that I swear I forgot to breathe at one point. Seriously. I'm writing this review several minutes after reading the story because it took me that long to process it all. You, my friend, have a particular talent for cutting straight to the soul.
I think what made this story feel so real was how each time Sirius "responded" to the question, he reflected upon or recalled a different moment. That's typical with people who've experienced trauma; it tends to come back in fragments, and often out of order. What I really enjoyed, though, was how Sirius, every once in a while, remembered the good things, such as Mr. Potter bringing him medicine and Mrs. Potter sitting with him at night. I think that's very in-character for Sirius; despite all he's suffered through, he still finds the light.
I also found this to be a very poignant cautionary tale about how those who haven't experienced trauma or harship tend to forget that literally anyone around them may have. It's particularly common in the realm of education; even today, questions on exams, in workbooks, etc. are often worded in ways that can be triggering to people who have experienced certain things. The people who write them don't mean to hurt or offend anyone, but they just weren't thinking through the lens of someone who's experienced some difficult things. In the case of this story, I highly doubt the person writing the exam could have even fathomed one of the students taking it as experiencing such a horrific thing. So, in that regard, I found this story to be an important lesson of being careful orwhat you say around/what you ask of certain people, because you never know what someone has or is going through.
This was a gripping and moving story. Well done.
This unconventional format was actually so fun to use. This whole story just flowed out of me so easily because I wasn't stopping to get hung up on setting or description. It's not the right method for every story, of course, but I would be really interested in using a similar format in the future!
I wanted to tell you that I'm really very touched by this review, and I'm sorry for taking so long to respond to it! As an author this is just absolutely amazing feedback to receive, and I really really appreciate it. I'm not even sure what else to say, just thank you much <3
I'm here to drop off a review for the Magical Menagerie review event on the forums as well as for Gryffindor's Red vs Gold Battle for January 2019.
KAYLA WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY HEART?! EVEN WORSE, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY POOR BABY SIRIUS?! HOW DARE YOU?!
I've been hesitating on reading this because I know how you like to torture Sirius so much and I've been in a place where I couldn't really take a super dark story. I'm glad I waited because this was intense. So intense.
I love that you went with an unusual format for how you told the story. I thought it really added to the whole feeling of the story. It kind of helped cement just how horrific the whole event was.
I also thought you did a good job of showing how PTSD and flashbacks can be triggered by the smallest little things. A smell, a touch, a sound, a question. It can all cause all of those horrible memories to come rushing back.
The ending was so perfect and absolutely killed my heart. I like how you left it unanswered. The simplicity of that sort of spoke mountains about what Sirius was going through.
And also, I love your headcanon of the Potters so much. They are the sweetest.
I'm still mad at you for this, but well done. This is definitely going into my FROGs nominee list.
Hello Kaitlin <3
I am... very sorry for doing this to Sirius and you. (Not really, but it's polite to say! LOL)
I'm glad you waited too, this is definitely one of the main things on my AP that I would caution people to hold off on reading if they're not up for something super dark!
This format was so fun to use and made writing this story so easy for me. I'd definitely be interested in using a similar format in the future.
I always appreciate getting your feedback on the PTSD/trauma-related aspects of my stories, it's so valuable. Thank you for that <3
I love the Potters! I'm hoping to write more about them soon!
I hope you're not still mad at me! XP Thanks so much for the review Kaitlin <3
So Kayla, I yelled at you WHILE you were writing this, but I haven't actually left you a review, so I am here for the menagerie!!
The structure of this piece is so gooood. The way the question repeats, as if Sirius keeps reading it and then answering and then erasing the answer (in his head, given he is writing this exam in ink, presumably) is so evocative. It becomes like a pulse, like Sirius's heartbeat in his ears as he stares at this question that is simultaneously the easiest thing in the world to answer and also impossible.
You manage to tell us SO MUCH in SO FEW WORDS, it's honestly astounding. Obviously that relies a lot on our prior knowledge, but I feel like even if we hadn't met Sirius before, the 'don't worry I can answer in great detail' already has your stomach plummeting. I love that he clearly didn't expect his friends to react that way to his offer for them to skip the reading -- he's on the defensive here, calling them swots. Like he's downplayed it in his head, normalised it, even as he recognises it's not normal because he's furious that it happened to him.
I have a firm headcanon that James of all the Marauders is the one who is most likely to be comfortable crying and showing emotion and giving easy physical affection because he's been… allowed, I guess? Like, Remus can't because he's a werewolf and therefore evil and he shouldn't be allowed to touch anyone and don't even look at him oh god, and Sirius is a Black, and I imagine Peter is too self-conscious? So I love that you've made James a crier here.
Also the bit where Sirius wonders where he's staying this coming year is HEARTBREAKING because he isn't even assuming he can stay with the Potters again! Even though I am S U R E they offered it before he went off to school for this year! Because they know he is homeless now!!!!! BY EEEEEE.
Also James covering for him by claiming he used a hysteria hex is so good, what a legend, what an excellent friend. As you very well know Kayla, this whole fic broke my heart and I am SO glad you wrote it, you should write more often because everything you touch turns to gold. <3333
Why, hello again Emma! Let me just say, it feels literally hilarious responding to your reviews? Like I already talk to you literally every day but here is a structured response for you :P but lol, anyways
Others have actually raised the idea of Sirius leaving a very long trail of scratched-out sentences down the page, but as usual you have shockingly Read My Mind and Seen My Intentions, because yeah I definitely meant for him to be answering in his head. He wants No One To Know, so writing any of this down (even if he proceeded to scratch it out) would be a huge no-no. Too risky.
YES, thank u for your comment about how he is downplaying and normalizing what has happened to him, even though he simultaneously recognizes that it was horrible and not normal at all. It's dialectical, babey! No, but really, he's downplaying because how tf else is he going to cope, if he lets himself feel every single each of how horrendous what happened to him was? He can't cope, he will break (or at least he thinks he will), so here he is calling his friends swots and making sarcastic quips about winning flying motorbikes.
You have me fully, 120% converted on the James-is-a-cryer front, I'm all in on that headcanon.
THE POTTERS ABSOLUTELY OFFERED HIM A PERMANENT HOME AND WANT HIM TO BE WITH THEM, AND THAT COMPLETELY DID NOT EVEN REGISTER TO HIM, AND I'M UPSET ABOUT IT! Yes, I know that I wrote this story and was in total control of everything that happened in it, but guess what, I played myself.
While you're here I'm going to say that your podfic of this was absolutely fucking incredible, I am so completely thrilled that it won the podfic FROG. Whenever I listen to it it's just like "Yup... Emma gets me" because you made every single choice I would've made without me coaching you at all. You took this story and you just GOT IT and were able to communicate EVERYTHING I wanted to communicate. I love it so much and I love YOU so much, you are a legend.
<3 <3 <3
Hello! I'm here for the Magical Menagerie Reviewing Event! O/ (And because I haven't swung by your AP in a hot second.)
So, this was both brilliant an extremely hard-hitting. What Sirius had to endure while he was living at home with his parents must've been awful, and it's certainly shown through his answers to number this question on the quiz. I think you hit some really major points about his friends, too, while exploring this. Like, they understand that he must've gone through some things, but seem to skirt around the horrors of it -- and James's straightforward avoidance was hard to watch. It's like they're unsure of what to do and, to tell the truth, they are just kids so that's probably a good portion of the issue.
Of course, his anger over Sirius being hurt is something that hurts him, too. So crying about it makes a lot of sense, especially angry crying. Sirius's nightmares sound a lot like PTSD too, which wouldn't be unheard of after actually being tortured. It's almost uncomfortable to read, thinking about what's been done to him and his bitter tone about it -- almost like if he doesn't try to play it off with some sort of bitterly unpleasant humor that it's going to devour him -- he's only 16 and he's been Crucio'd repeatedly.
And then, of course, there's even further proof of PTSD as the sheer memory of it can send him into a full-blown panic attack. And the exam itself is clearly triggering for him. There's always something so pinpoint about your Sirius when you write him, and it's always devastating (in a great way, of course, your characterization is amazing).
Re: the responses of Sirius's friends, it's so tricky - obviously Sirius needs some support at this time, but it can be so awkward and hard to know what to say in response when someone is being sort of flip and using sarcasm/dark humour as a coping mechanism. It's just like "Ah! What's the correct response here?!" - because you want to be caring and supportive but you don't want to joke along or anything like that. And yeah, like you said, they're just kids and therefore probably have even less of an idea of what to do or say. It's hard because Sirius needs support but they aren't necessarily equipped to give it to him. (But I did try to address this a little bit in my sequel to this story, which is Things Unseen.)
Yeah, Sirius most definitely has PTSD - in pretty much every story I write, tbh. Even in a bunch of my fluffy stories there are hints that Sirius has PTSD :P It's a very integral part of his character to me. But I definitely do think that he would be the type to try to play it off with dark humour, sarcasm and bitterness, because if he treats it seriously he's just going to break.
Thanks for the review!
Hi Kayla! Here for RvG and the Magical Menagerie :)
Ughhhh. I know that you said that you'd returned to your roots by writing some sad Sirius Black, but this - this isn't just sad, Kayla, it's heartbreaking. I think this really captures your writing, though - it seems like a simple premise on the surface but when you delve deeper into it, there's so much happening and so much thought and detail that's been put into this story, and it's really impressive. I know you've been struggling with writing lately but honestly, when you produce something like this, you make it look effortless.
The question seems so innocuous, at first - something so simple that of course would come up in an exam, because it's on the syllabus and they've all had to learn about Unforgivable Curses by now. But what I think you showed here is the way that PTSD can affect someone at any moment, and that something so seemingly simple can be a trigger for some of the worst trauma. I felt so sorry for Sirius, sitting in the exam and trying to come up with an answer to a question that holds so much pain and so many memories for him, until in the end he just leaves that question blank because he's experienced it, and he knows that the effects are indescribable.
I think another element that's really interesting is the fact that this question is assuming what the immediate effects of the curse are, while the consequences go far, far beyond the initial pain that someone feels. Alice and Frank Longbottom are an extreme example of that, but Sirius gives us someone who's lived through it and is still "passing" as someone who's living a normal life, yet who is still suffering from the effects.
You covered so much in this story, as well - the pain, the torment of the memories, the fact that his mother used the curse on him, not once but time and time again, the fact that James is the brother that he turned to in that time, how lost he's feeling about what will happen next... you just managed to pack so much detail into a really short story and it's so impressive.
The repetition of the question was the most powerful thing about this piece, I think. It's the question that's staring at Sirius as he looks at his paper, and it appears again every time he tries to come up with an answer that actually explains what the question is asking. But at the same time, it's the repetition of the trigger for him, the insistence of the memories intruding into his mind when he wants to be able to push them away and forget. It's the repetition of the curses that his mother attacked him with, saying the words again and again while her son was in torturous pain... There's so much to that simple repetition of the question and it's really powerful and effective.
This was a really poignant, powerful piece, heartbreaking but wonderful for it, and I'm really impressed with it.
Hi there, beloved <3
I must confess to giggling quite a lot over this review starting with "Ughhhh". I'm so sorry I did this to you, but you know I can't resist the call of sweet, sweet angst.
(One thing about responding to this review so belatedly: It's honestly sort of funny to see your comment about how I've been struggling with writing, because I've been writing way too much as of late. Struggling with writing? IDK her!)
I am always amazed when I read your reviews, because you're always able to describe so eloquently exactly what I was trying to do in any given story <3 Everything you said about PTSD is exactly on the money, which makes me feel great because it means I did what I was trying to do. So thank you for that <3 I seriously treasure your reviews, even if I am awful at responding to them.
It's interesting that you bring up Alice and Frank, because in the books we actually get a glimpse of how the Unforgiveables have a secondary traumatizing effect on the loved ones of those who've been subjected to them - with Moody's DADA lesson using spiders. We see that Neville and Harry are so deeply affected by that lesson, just from secondary trauma. So I definitely do think that even someone who wasn't tortured to insanity would experience a lot of lingering effects to mental health. (I... can never keep effect and affect straight, lol. Hopefully I got it more or less right?)
Thank you so much for the truly wonderful review! I love you to pieces, and I'm sorry for breaking your heart :P
okay so i kind of teared up a bit at this story, especially at the part where james goes away to the bathroom to cry because one of his friends already suffered so much, even though he is still so young. i think you've shown sirius' character and personality really well through this would-be answers to a single question - he first doesn't want to say (write) anything, but then, slowly, we see first the reactions of his friends, then mr and mrs potter and then, he painstakingly lets us see what happened to him and how awfully hurtful it was. the fact that he had to live in that house with people who tortured him is incredibly sad and when i think about how later he has to come back and live there like in a prison, i get so angry. it's worse when you realise you can actually imagine his mother using the cruciatus curse on him and what we know about her is only through a few sentences and a crazy portrait. you did a great job in exploring sirius character and the background of his flight to the potters.
sorry to respond to this review so late, but i really appreciate it! and UGH, i totally hear you about being angry that sirius had to go back and stay at grimmauld place in order of the phoenix! it makes me SO ANGRY. but that's a whole other rant hahaha. thank you so much for your kind words, i'm glad you enjoyed my story!
I'm stopping by for Magical Menagerie and RvG - Team Red.
Well this is just heartbreaking in every way possible. The fact that I could actually imagine this happening to him, makes it even sadder - I mean how could anyone do this to a child?
It's such an unusual premise for a story, using the same question over and over again and I really liked what you did with it. I really thought it was going to be different questions, so making it all the same was really creative. It isn't at all what I imagined clicking onto it. I thought I was going to get lots of setting and descriptions and was rather nervous, to be honest. I'm so glad I did read it though.
I can't even tell you how gutted I felt reading this whole thing. Sirius goes through so many emotions in his answers; angry, indifference, hurt.
James cries a lot - I mean, the bloke cries at the end of Muggle romance films - but I don't think I'd ever seen him like that before, the way he was that night. Angry crying is not a good look for him. He tried not to let me see but I caught him at it. - This really got me. How did you even write this?!
I want to give him a great big hug now. Great job.
Hi Tasha! <3
I'm sure there are stories out there that explore why Sirius's parents are the way they are, but that's not something I'm personally interested in doing. They're evil, idc :P hahaha.
I find it so interesting what you can achieve with these epistolary-type formats, what you can manage to communicate without really using setting and description! In terms of it being the same question over and over, my thinking was that he's just sort of stuck and unable to move past this question to the next one because it has just triggered him so badly.
Honestly... call me a monster, but I was really just going for Maximum Angst with that James answer :P
Thanks so much for the lovely review <3
Hey Kayla! Here for RvG (go Gold!) and for the Magical Menagerie!!!
I can see why people said to bring the tissues! My heart is racing from this fic because I can relate so well to how Sirius is feeling. The exam question is innocent enough. After all, it was a topic of study in Defense Against the Dark Arts. But sometimes at school, curricular content can trigger someone's PTSD. Sometimes, people's unassuming comments or questions can lead you down a rabbit hole. You capture this so incredibly well.
I also love how you include James's reactions, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Potter's. They are a beacon of light for Sirius. Even his attempt at humor is well captured as a coping mechanism... but it still falls flat for him. Despite his efforts, what shines through is the love the Potter's have for him and vice versa. I think that is what is saving him right now.
It's heavy, heavy content, and I think you do it justice with the repeated question and the non-answers. The piece is quite poetic with the various answers, and how it begins and ends with blank space. What a well written piece!
Yes, this fic definitely could require some tissues. Sorry to hear that you can relate to how Sirius is feeling here :( I hope this story wasn't too upsetting to read!
Triggers really can be so complex, and can be found anywhere, including in school cirriculum. It sort of reaches a point where you won't be able to eliminate triggers and will just need to be able to mitigate harm. In an ideal world, someone besides the Marauders would know what had happened to Sirius - i.e. his teachers would know - and he could've been pulled aside and warned about that question in advance, or could have received a different question instead or something. But obviously that didn't happen here - with bad consequences for Sirius and his mental state.
I'm super glad to hear that the love that James and his parents have for Sirius shone through here. Sirius has really been conditioned to think that he doesn't deserve love and even has trouble recognizing it when it's aimed at him, I think. So I wanted to strike a balance between showing that the Potters love and care for him, and showing that he doesn't quite recognize that yet.
I'm also really glad to know that you thought I did the heavy subject matter justice. Thank you for the wonderful review <3
I thought it was so good, I loved the form of storytelling that you used. It was so effective and it was just powerful.
I think this piece was so powerful because it really shows the ending effects that the curse leaves on a person that it had effected every people around him. His pain is so deep yet he plays it off so well in the beginning. The dark humour tries to hide everything that he has been through.
His pain just seeps out with any different answer that he gives. His story is so heartbreaking, I can't imagine that pain he has felt but you really made all those feelings and emotions come alive. It was harrowing but vivid. I love that even in this piece which is so angsty, you still have created such a wonderful and deep friendship between Sirius and James.
I keep looking at each line trying to decide which line is most effective but I don't think I can decide because each of them offers an amazing insight into his pain. I think the last line says it all. it's too hurtful. the memories are too strong.
you are a master at sirius black's pain. this is the best.
- Abbi xo
For: Magical Menagerie
This epistolary-ish form of storytelling was actually really fun, and I found it super easy to use. This story honestly just flowed right out of me!
I think this idea of the lasting effects of the Unforgiveable Curses is such an interesting one. It's something that we see a little bit in Goblet of Fire especially, when Neville and Harry are both very affected by Moody's spider demonstration. But yeah, I definitely think the Cruciatus Curse and the Imperius Curse would be super traumatizing to experience. As for Sirius, I very much imagine him as someone who would use dark humour and sarcasm as a coping mechanism - but obviously sometimes that would start to fall apart (when he's particularly triggered, for example).
You know I had to squeeze some Sirius and James feels in here. I love their friendship so much!
Thanks so much for the compliment! :') Should "master of pain" be my new member title? I think it kind of has a nice ring to it.
<3 you rock, Abbi!
So like, this was such a brilliant way to write a fic and so creative because even though there’s no descriptor of the scene, you can just clearly imagine everything that Sirius is experiencing while looking at this question on his exam, and it’s HEARTBREAKING. Often I feel like we get a lot of Sirius joking around about his experience living with his parents, and not as much an exploration of the reality of just how traumatising it probably was.
Like, this line was just the first killer - “I told my friends that they could skip the reading as well and that I’d tell them whatever they needed to know, but they all just looked at me funny and James excused himself and went to the bathroom for way too long and they all did the reading anyway.” - because I can so imagine Sirius throwing it out like that and trying to be casual about something that’s clearly hurt him so much, and JAMES CRYING is just. OUCH. He just keeps alternating between trying to make light of it and admitting just how awful it is, which is both so in character and somehow more painful to read because you KNOW he’s putting up a front and failing.
And then Sirius being like “They didn’t have to let me stay with them.” and “I don’t know where I’m going to go this summer.” makes me want to just give him the world’s biggest hug because he’s been conditioned to think he doesn’t deserve kindness and doesn’t deserve a place to call home, which is such an unfair and tragic mindset that he’s been given.
And then the fact that there’s no answer to the last iteration of the question - there’s so many potential reasons that it’s blank and NONE OF THEM DON’T HURT ME.
Alright. Well. This was so creative and well-written, even if it broke me in the process.
-Written for the Magical Menagerie event and January RvG
Taylor! Because I am exceedingly rude.
I do definitely think that Sirius is the type to use humour as a coping mechanism, but there are some situations where that method of coping just isn't going to work anymore. Particularly, imo, when you are a) caught off-guard and b) have no way to leave the situation, which I think about captures "question in the middle of an exam".
But yeah, I do picture him often putting up a front and really playing up this thing of being cool and unaffected - but he's really not unaffected at all.
James Potter Is A Cryer, I will not be convinced otherwise :P hahaha.
Ugh yeah, poor Sirius. I really do imagine him struggling to accept or even understand that James's parents actually care for him and aren't just taking pity on him :(
Sorry for breaking you, but thanks for the wonderful review!
KAYLA WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?
Look over there, in the corner. Do you see those little shreds? That is my heart.
I am destroyed.
Oh, I'm here for the magical menagerie. I almost forgot to say becase, as I may have mentioned, MY HEART HAS BEEN DESTROYED.
Alright. Okay. Moving on. *dries face*
Your head canons for Sirius are definitely the best head canons for Sirius. Please know this. They're not the most happy. But they are brilliant all the same.
Another thing that is brilliant is the structure of this piece. Absolutely amazing! When I first started reading, I was expecting each question to be different, and it actually took me a minute to realize the number wasn't changing. He's just stuck here at this question on the test, and who can blame him?
James crying was a gut punch. Hugs for him.
And so, so many hugs for Sirius. The line that really broke me was "I’m still not really sure where I’m going to go this summer." It situates us in this experience as something happening Right Now, something inescapable and ongoing. And god, teenagers are so not ready to have to figure this stuff out alone. They need their parents, and when they don't have them it just breaks my heart.
I don't want to make this about me but I'm going to because I'm a high school teacher and this makes me want to wrap a protective arm around every single one of my students and never let go. Systems - and people, but especially systems - are so thoughtless. They don't consider individuals. They don't consider trauma. No student should have to experience what Sirius experiences due to a test question. And yet I'm sure many students do encounter things in their schoolwork that are triggering, and which the adults have not given a second thought to. I'm sure I've been one of those oblivious adults, and that's what really kills me.
This fic is truly inspired. No surprise, since everything you write is extremely well done, but this is particularly creative and if you can't tell, I LOVE IT.
Now, I must go sweep up the shards of my heart... better pull out the superglue ;)
UHHHHH............ SORRY RENEE.
(Not sorry. Muahahahaha.)
I am so very touched by your comments about my Sirius head canons <3 Obviously Sirius is very near and dear to my heart, so I would probably keep writing these fics even if literally everyone else hated them, but it's always so wonderful when people tell me that they enjoy what I'm doing with him. (Or... enjoy might be the wrong word here? LOL. You know what I mean.)
I'd never written a story like this one before, but I really loved this structure and found it such an easy way to write. This whole story just flowed out of me without stopping. I really enjoyed writing this fic, to be honest (yes I know, I'm sadistic lol) and I honestly may write even more fics with this almost-epistolary sort of format in the future.
I love your comments about how this experience is happening Right Now! Because yes, based on the timeline in canon it seems like even after the deed was done, it was kind of a situation that dragged on (like, since Sirius was disowned he was also disinherited - if Alphard hadn't died and gotten disowned himself for leaving money to Sirius, what would Sirius's situation be like? Obviously he could get a job, but until he could get a job and get on his feet, he'd be relying on the kindness of his best friend's parents, basically. And that's where he's at here - because all of this has just happened, and Alphard hasn't died yet, so he has no idea that he is going to be financially secure/well off and won't need to basically continue relying on charity that could, in theory, be yanked out from under his feet at any time. Of course, the Potters would never do that, but he isn't quite there yet in terms of understanding that the Potters genuinely care for him.
Sorry, that was a bit of a ramble!)
Based on what you said about your students, I bet you're a really really good teacher <3 it's nearly impossible to be perfect and NEVER trigger someone unintentionally imo (as triggers can be very specific or "benign" to those not experiencing them) but the fact that you even care and consider it is so good.
Thank you for reading, and for the super lovely comment! I'm really glad you liked this, and I hope the superglue worked! :P