Hi Kayla! Here for February's RvG!
I know you've been working on this piece for a little while now, and it really didn't disappoint. It's so wonderful to see you writing again and I really enjoyed reading your characterisation of Minerva in this story, even if most of the story was still focused around Sirius (would I expect anything less? :P).
Your portrayal of McGonagall was brilliant here. You managed to pick out so many different elements of her character - and I think she has quite a complicated personality - and write them so well. I could believe all these scenes happening so easily, as heartbreaking as it was for her to suspect what was happening and not really be able to do anything about it.
McGonagall always comes across as quite a strict teacher in the books, but we get so many glimpses of her that through the series that show how deeply she does care about her students, and you captured that really well here. She's been teaching a while already by the time that Sirius started school and I liked the fact that she noticed almost immediately that he was in an unusual (to understate it terribly) situation at home and that she was going to keep an eye on him through his years at school. And she really does do that, even though she's not necessarily fully equipped to make the difference she'd like to. But her perceptive and caring side came through so strongly in this story and I really liked the way that you captured that.
James's characterisation - of course - was brilliant, too. Again, there are so many different aspects to his personality that you captured here, and I really liked the way we got to see his mischievous, trouble-making side and the side which is so fiercely loyal, and how good a friend he is on different occasions. I think it says a lot about both him and Minerva that he was willing to go and talk to her about Sirius when he was so worried about his friend.
The fact that he lied in class to cover up for Sirius breaking down over his trauma is so completely something that James would do, as well, even if it's horrible that he had to do it.
I really liked the way that you traced Sirius's journey through school in this piece, even though we only see him interacting with McGonagall at the end of the story. From that first expression on his face when he's sorted into the wrong house, to the moment when he comes back to school after the letter that was sent home to his parents, and then when his mother has tortured him and he had to run away from home. You captured the effects of the building and lasting trauma really well, even though we only saw him briefly in the story.
Also, can we just talk for a second about Dumbledore? Ugh. The more I read about him, the more I question his integrity. McGonagall's reaction is exactly what a teacher's should be, wanting to protect her pupils, going above and beyond to do so, but Dumbledore seems barely bothered that one of the children under his care is being abused and tortured when he goes home and doesn't see the need to do anything about that? Not only does he already know the effects that neglect can have at this point (see Tom Riddle), but he does it all again with Harry, and... ugh. His juxtaposition against McGonagall is really effective here for showing the quality and integrity of her character.
The final scene was great, too - the way that McGonagall was so sensitive and perceptive, noticing the way that the Marauders were so protective of Sirius and figuring out finally the full extent of what happened to him that holiday. She broached it with him really well and even though he was defensive and annoyed, the fact that he opened up and admitted what had happened to her was brilliant. Her determination to protect him now is kind of heart-breaking because we know she doesn't succeed, but that last interaction was really sweet and poignant.