What a compassionate story. I love it when writers take a second look at characters discarded by canon, used to score a point and then dropped from the hero's narrative. Marietta's scapegoating never sat well with me, even though what she did could have had serious consequences. But it makes sense as the act of an infatuated girl trying to impress a more popular friend, with no thought to the moral dimensions of her act; naturally she's the one who will bear the mark of shame forever.
The relationship with her mother is a brilliant stroke, because it makes her outcast status all the more excruciating and really highlights the pressure she's under to behave as if everything will be fine. It's a relief when Millicent comes on the scene and they can be awkward together, sharing an oblique understanding of how unwelcoming Hogwarts has become (assuming it was ever welcoming in the first place). Even through Marietta's self-absorption, Millicent's aloneness is palpable, a mute backdrop to her bluntness and defiance.
Part of what makes this fic appealing is the way first love saves them from this desolation, this friendlessness in a dark time. It's potentially all so much bleaker than the adolescent cruelty of being ostracized or looked down upon. It's quickly becoming a matter of life and death, although they may not know that yet.
You're very good at pacing your lines, delivering small character insights that stay within Marietta's viewpoint but tell us all we need to know. For instance, the way she flinches back into her shell: She's not looking for a fight. She's not looking for anything. The instinctive flattening-down, training herself to have no expectations. The not-looking.
I love the subdued, semi-grudging tolerance the two of them start with, up until the moment of Marietta's decision They might as well keep talking, resigned yet almost reckless, the moment that propels them toward intimacy.
Her only friend, her friend only. Ouch. So concise and devastating. The wounded bafflement of having to accept that one's feelings are not returned.
You do a wonderful job of keeping the girls' increasing awareness of each other flickering in the reader's sight, the awkward dance of not-quite-looking, looking away or not daring to look, wondering what would happen if they looked plainly, until the moment when they finally do.
I already liked Millicent; her muttered "Damn" just before she kisses Marietta made me want to hug her. Or perhaps give her a thumbs-up.
They are both bold now, as brave as any Gryffindor, and neither of them wants to be a coward for the other. In the end, Marietta has her face between Millicent's thick thighs, her sneak's brow pressing against coarse dark curls. This is wonderful and sexy and it gave me a pang, because it harkens back to Hogwarts and the house that branded them both, the house that lays special claim to courage. In the end, they don't have to be Gryffindors. They're good enough as they are, flaws and all.
It's the first promise they have made to each other … The view is beautiful, the cliff is beautiful; the two of them are almost beautiful as well, Marietta thinks. Millicent Bulstrode, of all people, has made her beautiful. She wishes she could tell her mother, and then wonders why she can't.
I love the way this implies a future for them, not only in the sense of a first vow but of there being more to follow, and how Marietta, who started without hope, hardly able to bear looking at herself or anyone else, is now alive to beauty, even her own. And because this isn't a year of happily-ever-afters, it figures that there would still be a shadow, however slight, in the unspoken knowledge that she can't tell her mother.
What a lovely, deft, expertly orchestrated story, a small gleam of happiness in a world that is, as Marietta suspects, about to tear itself apart.