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"Counting to Five Thousand," Epilogue

"Counting to Five Thousand," Epilogue

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M31
You saw it here first.  Here is the final chapter of "Counting to Five Thousand."  I'll post it to SIYE after inserting the HTML tags, and to Mugglenet after they (if they) validate Chapter Two, but you get first crack at it.  I'm going to pose a question to you -- stmargarets  and bandcandyhave already heard it -- at the end of the chapter.  It might make for some interesting discussion.

Even now, this story is for Christine.
 
Epilogue:
Counting to One
 
Under the enduringly blue sky and the warm morning sun, Georges-Jacques wandered among the trees and flowers with the three or four hundred others who had come for the event, although he was also wandering alone. One somehow did not expect this sort of pleasant weather in England even in the springtime, but then again, he had not been to Britain for many years and, in any case, Devon was different from the north.
 
He had never visited Burrow Park before; France had its own heroes’ cemeteries and he was not the sort who went looking for such things. Still, had he come to England during the last twenty years he might have made a point of coming here. The variations among the colors of the flowers were breathtaking, if somewhat over-exuberant,  and their arrangements around and about the grave sites wove a complex, recurring pattern he could not quite interpret. And there were other reasons.
 
He had tried introducing himself a few times, but ran into the same maddening phenomenon he had seen before with the English (and also the Americans): when they heard his accent they immediately began to speak more loudly, as if (1) he had trouble understanding the language, and (2) shouting would somehow remedy this. The third time, when a Muggle woman (but the English were no longer using that term, he corrected himself) bellowed into his ear, “Georges-Jacques Delacour? What a charmingly foreign name! My husband and I went to Paris last year!” he gave up and decided to enjoy the ceremony on his own.
 
Others were stopping at each stone, reading the epitaphs and checking them against guidebooks, which they held in their hands along with the program for the ceremony. Some appeared to be giving each other history lessons. Georges-Jacques strolled slowly in the gardens, giving most of the graves only cursory looks until he found the slightly larger stone he was seeking:
 
WILLIAM ARTHUR WEASLEY
29 November 1970 – 3 March 1999
 
FLEUR DELACOUR WEASLEY
3 February 1977 – 3 March 1999
 
PHILLIPE DELACOUR WEASLEY
22 August 1998 – 3 March 1999
 
Love is stronger than Death.
 
Georges-Jacques smiled sadly. He knew that the grave contained not three, but only two bodies.
 
Phillipe Delacour had already been a grandfather before he discovered that he was a Weasley. Not until the death of his “sister” Gabrielle, who turned out to be his aunt, did he find the letters and the Weasley family photograph album she had kept. These, it seemed, had been in the Delacours’ possession at the time of his parents’ deaths.   From them, he was able to piece together the truth: that his mother and father had hurriedly sent their infant son to his grandparents in France just before the disaster that destroyed the Burrow. As to why his grandparents had withheld his parentage from him, no one was left alive to say. Perhaps it was because they believed, as Phillipe himself did after reading the documents, that all of the other Weasleys had been killed by the Death Eaters. Neither they nor he knew that his aunt Ginny had survived. Phillipe himself died in an accident not too long afterwards, but he left the letters and the album to his grandson.
 
Georges-Jacques, after he came of age, began to research this mysterious branch of his family, and discovered, just a few months too late, his connection to the famous Mother Ginevra of Manchester. His infuriating failure to find her before her death spurred his desire to learn as much as he could about her. Working exhaustively and alone, sitting in dusty libraries, Ministry offices and newspaper file rooms, he slowly fleshed out the story: how Ginny Weasley had lost both the boy she loved and her whole family in the war against Voldemort; how Ginny and The Seventeen had destroyed the Dark Lord, but Ginny had blamed herself for the deaths of her family; how Ginny had become Mother Ginevra, that icon of compassion and ceaseless devotion, ministering to the poor and sick for a lifetime.
 
Georges-Jacques had studied the faces in the family album as one studies a book of prayer or a treasure map, but no face more carefully than that of his great-grandaunt, in the pictures still a girl and full of mirth and hope. As a young man he had mused to himself, pondering how the energetic, mischievous face in the faded, torn photograph had become the grim, sorrowful, endlessly strong face of the figure everyone knew. Two decades later, in his many moments of solitude, he still took that album out from time to time and pondered it.
 
All of the Weasley stones were relatively close together. He strolled on and found another:
 
HARRY JAMES POTTER
31 July 1980 – 21 June 1998
“The Boy Who Lived”
 
It pleased him that Harry Potter was buried beside the Weasleys rather than among the other heroes of the war. From what he had learned in his researches, he felt sure that Harry would have wanted to be counted among them.
 
Right next to Harry’s grave, he found a somewhat newer stone:
 
GINEVRA MOLLY WEASLEY
11 August 1981 – 31 July 2070
No longer left behind.
 
Georges-Jacques wondered how many would understand the inscription as he did. It troubled him, just a bit, that after today most visitors would ignore this small stone in favor of the grand monument about to be dedicated.
 
He continued his slow circumnavigation of the cemetery, stopping at the graves of each of the Weasleys, of The Seventeen, of the other heroes of the Dark Wars who rested in this enchanting place. He marveled, even after all this time, at the unremarked mingling of wizards and witches in robes with non-magical people in their flowered dresses and loud ties. So many.  He wondered how they had learned of this dedication and elected to come to it. He himself had received an engraved invitation; the English Ministry of Magic, which had learned of his existence during his research, insisted that the last of the Weasleys be present at this event.
 
The crowd was now beginning to move towards the fan-shaped array of seats that surrounded the speaker’s platform and its lectern, which were immediately next to the new, ten-foot-tall monument, covered in a brilliant green cloth. Georges-Jacques found a seat close to the front where he would be able to see the monument clearly when it was unveiled. A few rows ahead of him, in the first row, he saw a tall, raven-haired, muscular witch; from this angle he couldn’t really see her face, but nevertheless his eye was drawn to her for some reason.
 
After about fifteen minutes of people laughing, chattering, and sitting down noisily in the wooden chairs, a hush fell over the crowd; a plump, cheerful witch in scarlet robes stood from her chair and moved behind the lectern.
 
“Ladies and gentlemen, witches and wizards, I am Diana Fitzroy, Director of Burrow Park Memorial Cemetery. It is a great pleasure for me to welcome so many wizard and non-wizard folk to witness the unveiling and dedication of this wonderful memorial to one of the heroes who made our world what it is. Before introducing the main speaker, let me simply express our sense of gratitude and delight for the work of Petra White, the sculptor whose creation you will all be seeing today. Petra, will you stand and let everyone see you?”
 
To George-Jacques’s surprise, the tall woman he had noted before stood and waved shyly to the crowd applauding affectionately behind her.  The black hair he had already seen was curly and a bit wild; her eyes were dark too, but her skin was unusually pale, like cream; she was about thirty. Her nose was long and straight, and (he saw when she smiled) she had a slight overbite. He found it mildly ridiculous that he was cataloguing her features in this way; what was wrong with him today?  Apparently she had noticed his look, for she caught his eye as she sat back down, smiling slightly as if they shared some private joke.
 
The Director continued, “It is a measure of the place in history of Mother Ginevra of Manchester that so many of you, from such disparate backgrounds, are gathered in one place to honor her life and mission, even twenty years after her death. It is a further measure that no less a person than the Minister of Magic is here to dedicate this monument. Yet in another sense it is no surprise, because the Minister himself is the prime mover behind this memorial, and devoted personal attention to the selection of the sculptor and the details of the statues within.” The Director gestured at the covered monument. “And so, with no further introduction, please welcome the Minister of Magic, Edward Mason.”
 
The renewed applause as the Minister stood and approached the lectern was enthusiastic. He was a slim man of nearly sixty, dressed in dark grey robes that exactly matched the color of his hair. A sense of energy and intelligence radiated from him like an aroma.  He looked fondly at the place where the monument stood, and cleared his throat.
 
“It is ironic,” the Minister began, “that I first met Mother Ginevra, nearly thirty-five years ago, in my capacity as a young agent of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, to investigate a violation of the Statute of Secrecy.” The crowd rippled with gentle, appreciative laughter. The Minister smiled.
 
“It was a rare moment, for indeed Mother Ginevra rarely used magic in any form, but ministered to the poor using the tools she had to hand. She inspired others to work with her, and through her efforts many hungry were fed, many homeless found roofs over their heads, many sick had their pain eased, and many dying their fears assuaged. Apart from the uncounted thousands she made whole or whose lives she improved, it can be fairly said that she directly saved the lives of nearly four thousand people.” For some reason the Minister’s voice caught for a moment and he had to clear his throat. Georges-Jacques agreed that the saving of so many lives was an awesome, moving accomplishment.
 
The Minister continued, “Through these many works, over so many years, she earned a reputation in the non-wizarding world as a benefactress and even a saint. In the last ten years of her life she was known to many thousands of those without magic and her opinion was widely sought on matters relating to the poor. She had a significant influence on policy among the non-magical, and effected many changes in government services that benefited tens or hundreds of thousands. When she died, a throng wished to attend her funeral and mourn at her graveside.
 
“But the woman who was born Ginevra Molly Weasley left instructions that she was to be buried here, at Burrow Park, in the grave beside her beloved Harry’s and near her parents and her brothers. As she was the last of The Seventeen, the funeral was sure to be attended by many Aurors and the families of the other heroes of that war. The Ministry was presented with a dilemma: the only way a person without magic could attend the service would be if his memory were to be altered afterwards; but what merit is there in attending a solemn ritual of intense personal meaning, if one is not permitted to remember that it happened? Further, I knew that Mother Ginevra detested the Statute of Secrecy, and that it would be a poor tribute to apply that very statute to her own burial rites. I was then a department undersecretary, and prevailed upon my colleagues to find another way of handling the problem.
 
“The Ministry cautiously approached the Home Office and presented the difficulty. To our very great surprise, the officers of the Crown had little difficulty believing that Ginevra of Manchester was a magical person – the response most often heard was, ‘Well, if anyone in this world is magical, she was.’ They had a somewhat harder time believing that there was a whole community of us.” He grinned, and there was more appreciative laughter.
 
“Several different proposals were suggested, and none adopted, for trying to maintain secrecy at this event. Finally, we all made a completely irrational leap of faith – we simply decided to hold the funeral, allowing to attend whoever wished to attend, and see what happened.”
 
He beamed at the crowd. “What did happen was something none of us expected. The magical and non-magical, put face-to-face with no masks or lies or deceptions between them, accepted one another with no fuss, distrust or manipulation. Contrary to what had been feared for so long, there were no importunate pleas for magical assistance, no fear or superstition, nor any disdain or bigotry on the part of wizards that might have characterized some of us while the Dark Lord still lived.
 
“Then began the great work of our time, which is known to most of you. I – that is, we – repealed the Statute of Secrecy in England, and its counterparts are now in the process of being repealed worldwide. With increasing confidence, cooperation between wizards and non-magical scientists and technologists is remaking the world we share.   Food and shelter are becoming increasingly available to all, and soon there will be no hungry or homeless in England.  Healers and physicians, working together, have radically reduced the incidence of death by preventable disease. Non-magical geneticists have discovered the sources of the inheritability of magic, and someday soon they may have the ability make it available to all. Arithmantic and Transfigurational theory have been applied to the problem of gravitation, generating a true Unified Field Theory that, among other things, makes cheap energy available to all and may bring the exploration of the stars themselves within our grasp. Without meaning to overstate the case or bring bad luck upon us, I think we may be on the verge of creating paradise.”
 
His eyes lit with an infectious joy.
 
“All of this began with the life and death of one blessed woman. Could Mother Ginevra have known what would be wrought from her work when she made her choices, early in life? Surely not. Did she know of these marvelous consequences before she died? Sadly, I think she could not. But she would have wished for them for all her heart and welcomed them with open arms.
 
“One who thought she had done wrong, who thought she had cost lives, dedicated her own life to saving others. She succeeded beyond her wildest dreams – not only did she save lives, she healed the rift between Wizard and Non-wizard that has existed for millennia. Because of her, tens or hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved. One person, one soul, working patiently and with dedication, changed the face of our world. It takes only one.” The Minister quoted from the Psalms, his voice still strong but betraying the merest hint of a tremor, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the headstone of the corner. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.”
 
The Minister flicked his wand at the memorial, and the cover vanished; there was a collective murmur from the crowd.
 
The monument was comprised of two statues. Unlike wizard paintings, wizard statues do not move; but under the influence of Petra White’s marvelous gifts the marble seemed to breathe, and one could almost feel the warmth of the skin and the moisture of the eyes. An old woman, obviously Mother Ginevra, attired in her customary work-dress and her hair in its customary braid, stood behind a girl of perhaps twelve or thirteen, her hands resting on the young shoulders in a gesture of comfort and acceptance. The girl had apparently just ceased weeping, whether from loneliness, sorrow, anger or shame it was impossible to tell; the sculptor had managed to convey a lingering tear in her eye. But under the touch of Ginevra’s loving hands, the younger face had calmed and quieted, and the girl now seemed to forgive the world, or to forgive herself, for whatever awful thing had happened. It was as if the older woman had opened her heart and drunk in the misery of the girl, soothing and consoling her.
 
Georges-Jacques’s eyes widened and his breath caught. He saw something there that no one else, except perhaps the Minister or the sculptor herself, could see, and he thought his heart would break.
 
The girl was the young Ginny Weasley.
 
Through the sudden tears that none around him understood, Georges-Jacques prayed that it was so: that the patience and kindness of Ginevra had forgiven and finally consoled the anguish of Ginny.
 
As he wept, unable to keep his sobs inaudible, he did not notice the surprisingly light touch of the sculptor’s strong hands on his own shoulders. Finally he lifted his head and turned around in his chair, looking into the blackest irises he had ever seen; in full sunlight he could not make out where Petra White’s pupils began. Those eyes were full of concern and worry – but also a sort of recognition, as if she knew why he was crying without being told.
 
It seemed that they might have some things to say to each other.
 
The pedestal of the monument bore the following inscription:
 
Our beginnings never know our ends.
 From the love of one heart, a new world can be born.
 
 
***
 
Author’s Note:
 
As always, I express my gratitude to my valid valedictorian of a beta, Frelling, whose input was crucial to the final shape this chapter took.
 
I named Georges-Jacques for Danton, the only leader of the French Revolution who ever had any fun. Of course it was St Margarets who originally named Bill and Fleur’s son Phillipe. The name Petra means “rock”, so I thought it appropriate for a sculptor; only late in the writing process did I realize that “Petra White” is a translation of “Peter Weiss”, the playwright who wrote Marat/Sade – which happens to be about the French Revolution.  It also was not until late that I realized that I had given Petra the features and demeanor of a Betazoid. Go figure.
 
In case you’re wondering, yes, George-Jacques has flaming red hair.

***

Here's the question I was going to pose:  Petra White was originally going to be mentioned only once, when Diana Fitzroy pointed her out to the crowd.  But I found it impossible to keep her and Georges-Jacques from interacting, and by the time I had finished the second draft it was clear what was going to happen to them eventually.  This caused me some anguish in those last few paragraphs, because I still badly wanted the emotional punch of the statues and the inscription,  but I now felt that their hinted-at destiny together was the only tolerable ending to this sad story:  there must be birth after death, love after loneliness, and a promise that the Weasleys will survive.  (Somehow the rebirth of the whole damn world wasn't enough for me!)  But I still worry that I've muddied the ending.

Opinions?
  • This was a beautiful epilogue! I love the speech the minister made - how uplifting it was and hopeful. Do you think we'll ever hear a speech like that from one of our politicians? I would hope so someday.

    I also like how you described Burrow Park and I was fascinated with the dates. How Harry died on the summer soltise and how Ginny died on his birthday.

    I can see your wish for George-Jacques and Petra to be shipped - but even though I'm a fluff writer - I don't think any more than the last line was necessary to show their budding romance. And I don't think you needed more than a bud because even though this story took place in a graveyard at a memorial service, it was bursting with life - from the flowers blooming to the minister's uplifting words about a new society - to the very creation of the statues. All of these things point to the world turning and life on going.

    Still, there's a great comfort in a specific person with a specific genetic makeup reaching back and reaching forward. I think JKR showed that with great skill in Harry's mirror scene in the first book and I think you do this here as well.

    I can also see how you are outgrowing SIYE. Perhaps this really is a story cycle more than it is a one shot with a prologue and an epilogue?


    • Thanks, Mary.

      Hmmm... Which last line did you mean? The first draft ended with the inscription, as this one does, but Petra didn't enter into that scene at all; Georges cried silently and no one noticed him. In the second draft it was much clearer that he was smitten even when he got his first good look at her, and the last line of the story was "It seemed that they would have a lot to say to each other" -- but after talking with Valerie I pulled it way back. I don't think I had a clear sense of how to suggest that they would have a future together without actually showing it beginning, or showing the embrionic connection (in this case, Ginny) that would draw them together.

      I think the reason I felt compelled to create that future for them was because of how Georges-Jacques evolved as a character. Originally he was there entirely for practical reasons: I needed someone who wasn't Ned to watch Ned's speech; I needed someone who would not think of Burrow Park as anything but a cemetery; and -- this was crucial -- I needed someone who, twenty years after she died far from her origins, would nonetheless recognize young Ginny Weasley on sight. So I created this solitary figure of the last of the Weasleys, and to make sure he was alone I imagined that he was estranged from his parents, an only child, and unmarried. But something about the image of his sitting there, solitary and crying, at the end of the story, deeply dissatisfied me. And it hit me in a flash that the one other person on earth, apart from Ned, who could comprehend what Georges was feeling would be the sculptor herself...

      I'm intrigued by your last comment -- what do you mean by "story cycle?" I gather that you guessed that, yes, I had to make this a multichapter fic because Harry was killed and SIYE rules don't let me do that in a one-shot. But here's the thing: I don't think the Ron-Harry scene, which I really liked, would have been written at all if not for that pesky rule.

      On the other hand, I'd welcome being directed to a site that would be more appropriate for what I write, if there is one. The Snape story I think (but I'm still not sure) I want to write ("Returning Were As Tedious") really couldn't go on SIYE, and I had an idea for another story about H & G in old age together (which I wanted to call "Anniversary Day" or something like that) that I'm given to understand wouldn't be acceptable because of how I wanted to end it (happily, or so it seems to me, but...).
      • I looked up a cycle in my Handbook of Literary Terms, just to make sure I was using the word correctly. "A cycle is a collection of poems, stories, or plays centering about some outstanding event or character." The Arthurian legends, Homer's epics centering around the Fall of Troy, and the mystery plays (centering around bible themes) are cited as examples.

        In this case Ginny would be the outstanding character. You have a story about Harry deciding to reunite with her. You have a story about Ned looking for her and then finding her. And you have George-Jacques looking for her and finding the resolution in the statues - which were carved by Petra. Of course, you cleverly managed to do this within a story-with-plot format. And you succeeded in writing a beautiful piece. Like you said, by working within the constraints of SIYE, you were able to write a Ron-Harry chapter. And you covered a lot of ground - big sweeping events and themes - in an astonishingly short period of space.

        However, if you feel you have more to say and you still wish you could have said it, then it might be that a different form would serve you better.
        I see a lot of poetry in your writing - not just in the imagery - but how you choose to juxtaposition scenes. Oftentimes those scenes are separated by long stretches of time, so that the cause/effect of a plot isn't as important as how those scenes rubbing against each other spark a new revelation or shed light upon the another. I adore novels that are written this way since I love to puzzle out how the pieces fit together. Part of the fun of The Time Traveler's Wife was getting information out of sequence and watching the gaps fill in.

        Of course these sorts of things are so hard to write! I wanted to combine my NZ Chronicles and my Ron the Builder story lines - but I found I couldn't make the parallels happen when they weren't in the same time zone. I couldn't even hold the events in my head - this is happening to Ron now - this to Ginny. I needed to write both out the conventional way first. I will eventually intersect the two stories - but I won't be able to put them together for unified whole, more's the pity. But someday I'll figure out how to write something like that.

        So you go first, Ken and tell me how you did it! :)

        Oh, I meant this line:

        It seemed that they might have some things to say to each other.

        I think that is a great indicator of romance to come and you didn't need anymore.
        • Ahhhh, now I see what you've been talking about!

          You're right, I really do enjoy juxtaposing scenes for their thematic or metaphorical contrast, rather than for plot. (And I love that you called it poetry. *struts and tosses head happily*) It isn't that plot bores me, exactly, so much as that when I'm really working on plot it feels much more like a technical exercise to me. (Thus, "Fibonacci's Fortune" got bogged down and ultimately stalled because I couldn't think up the plot events I needed, and the success of the story depended on plot.) Where plot gets fun, from my POV, is where it has non-plot implications (character, theme, emotional progression, narrative contrast, etc.).

          Now, if I were approaching the NZC/RtB "cycle", I'd be asking myself not what it is that would happen, but what it is I was trying to convery about it. Then I'd write the juxtaposed scenes to convey those feelings, or themes, or ideas, or whatever, and might completely ignore chronological sequence except as it helped those things. So, for example, if Ron & Ginny each experienced a similar emotional moment with his/her spouse (maybe "the honeymoon's over" moment?), but reacted to it differently, I might juxtapose those two scenes even if they occurred far apart in sequence. (Oh, I'd have a cheat-sheet somewhere telling me what happened in what order, so as not do be confused. I had one in this story, actually: A chart which listed dates in the first column, events in the second column, and then the ages of Ginevra, Phillipe, Phillipe's son, Ned and Georges-Jacques in the last five columns. I had to fiddle with birthdates and events dates and get them exactly right before I was able to write Chapter Two, because I knew Chapter Three was coming...)

          As to wanting to say more than I'm allowed to say -- well, it's hard to know. The prologues to both this story and "On the Headmaster's Wall" were written in response to rules with which I didn't particularly agree and would rather not have followed, and were initially viewed having very simple functions: Set this mood and do some foreshadowing. But in both cases, the prologues became more than I ever thought they would once I started writing them. Something about having a narrow set of requirements -- "make sure you do this one thing" -- is very liberating because it gives you something to wrap yourself around and/or push against. (Like a very strict rhyme or rhythm scheme in poetry, or the Unities in classical drama.) On the other hand, I'm finding the Christmas Engagement Challenge to be a bit of a nightmare, because there are so many things on the checklist that I really have a hard time putting them all in to one coherent story without feeling incredibly artificial (see what I said about plot, above). Oh, if I could write a six-chapter, 20,000-word story, in which each one of the plot requirements had its own chapter, and could think up some unifying theme, and spend six months working on it, then we might have something. But as it is...Well, I hope for the best.

          Now you point it out, it hits me in the face like a coconut cream pie: The inscription on the monument became completely superfluous once we had Ned's speech, Georges's reaction to the statue, and Petra's eyes. Oh, well...
  • Wow...that last part packed a punch. All I kept thinking was Ginny's preceived wrong decision..and the changes it made. I wonder what Hermione would have thought?

    Very moving. Yes, it did bring a tear (a little one, but a tear) I loved the inscription for Ginny. It was gift she wanted her whole life and finally got. Thanks for the inclusion of the royal family reaction. The subtle mystery and revelation of Georges-Jacques was a nice touch. Yes, I felt a pang when I read this...the last of the Weasleys. The appealing character of Georges-Jacques really sweetened the fact it was not (and maybe more in the future). I thought it was clever the way you got Preta and Georges-Jacques. It had to take a good written character to do this, and you did.

    I loved the mingling of magic and non-magic folk. Yes, even in the magic world the English and French....well...they do try and get along. I can't help but think if J Rowling read this, she would have appreciated it.

    This has to be my favorite from you now. Yes...it had a great title too.
    • Rachel, you are always so nice to me. Thank you.

      I know it must just be the fact that I'm still sleepy and need a cup of coffee, but I'm not getting what you mean by "royal family reaction." (Go easy on me, I know it'll be obvious when you point it out...)

      You know, I do understand why JKR had to give us the Statute of Secrecy; it's an important plot device and without it much of the canon would fall apart. But it has always struck me as bad policy, and potentially quite cruel. I think I just had to write a story in which someone (Ginevra) said what I think of it, and convinced someone like Ned who could finally, when he got the chance, get rid of the pesky thing. And I wanted to show what Muggles and Wizards could do together if given half a chance.

      Thanks again.
  • Just quick feedback—we're running out soon.

    This really is a lovely epilogue. Once again, you've filtered the pain of Harry and Ginny's deaths through the historian's long view—Mother Ginevra's pain and Harry's reckless decision are redeemed in the sculpture, in the celebration, and of course in Georges-Jacques.

    I love that you brought back Edward Mason—and that his encounter with Ginny brought about so many miraculous transformations.

    I loved too that she didn't quite reach five thousand, but I hope that she found her job to have been well done nonetheless.

    And I liked the connection at the end—two of what Joyce would have called "soft people," people with views beyond the literal and the here-and-now, people who can perceive the whole story coming together through a shared vision of a piece of art and of the past. Well done!

    You're really making this triptych story quite an art form—shifting points of view and wildly shifting time frames that allow for emotional impact and for an ironic wide-angle view. Well done again! ;-)
    • Thanks! Before I posted this chpater, someone on SIYE asked whether Ginny was going to find redemption in Ch. 3, and I didn't know how to answer. My feeling as I was writing it was that she, herself, may never have subjectively experienced redemption, but that the world at large experienced redemption through her, and that her -- what, blood? flesh? -- could partake of that redemption through Georges-Jacques and Petra. I wanted it that way specifically because I don't know whether it's really a redemption or not. This, it seems to me, is one of the great mysteries: the world goes on without us after we die, and is affected (hopefully for the good) by our having been here; but what is our part, our share, our participation in that posterity?

      I'm glad that you liked Georges and Petra's connection. It meant more and more to me as I went through successive drafts.

      You know, Mary said something similar about the shifting points of view and time frames. But after I replied, it occurred to me that one of the reasons I engage in those shifts is because then I don't have to maintain a single narrative thread (consistency of character or timeflow or events) over a long period. When I imagine trying a multichapter fic like Nightmare of Futures Past or New Zealand Chronicles, or even a comparatively shorter one like Facing Backwards, keeping my focus on a single series of events for that long seems really daunting. I think I'd find it hard to maintain my concentration. I think I'd also fall into the trap of thinking that I needed to narrate every step of the process, rather than skipping around to only the parts that the reader needs to see, or that I feel like I really want to tell.

      But also, as I was saying to someone else, the long lense really highlights the recurring rhythms of life and how perspective changes what's important. Harry made the best decision he could, and it was the wrong one; Ginny probably over-reacted to her part in the disaster and deliberately took from herself any chance of personal happiness, but did more good than she could know. Ultimately her "bad" decision was the best thing that could have happened; strange, strange, perplexing and humbling -- and the way life really is, I think. I hope. I wish.
      • Well....

        Or the redemption is there for the reader.

        A good work of fiction is, after all, by way of being a myth, a sort of narrative rite, which transports the initiate through a transformative experience....

        (I think it's time for me to go to sleep....)

        (But a couple of things first)

        I too have found it easier and more rewarding to tell my tales as story cycles rather than linear narratives. Facing Backwards was a real challenge for me—a through-line that needed to touch on a number of bases, that had sideplots, but that basically followed Harry's dilemma(s) as he stumbled through his time at Hogwarts.

        Back to the Garden is a bit of a cheat, in some ways—unlike Weasley Family Picnic or my Locked Room stories or even Monster, it's a plotty story, a hero-against-villain saga, but I'm telling it through a shifting series of points-of-view; in a weird sort of way, it allows me to skip over some of the stuff that you get stuck having to focus on when you stick with a single PoV character, as JKR does....

        But YOU—you shift not only voice and perspective, but centuries' worth of time! What a wild, wonderful device!
  • So, I just read this after reading your account of your Poland trip, and now I'm properly crying. There's so much in this that's beautiful and real and hopeful.

    And I'm amazed at your ability to tell stories that effortlessly link events over such a long timescale in such a clear way. I can barely make my stories last more than a week or two. But then I can't tackle these grand themes in this kind of way either. You're a great writer, and one day, I'd love to read the novel that's clearly waiting to burst forth from you.
    • Thank you so very much. It honors and humbles me when someone is so moved.

      (Please permit a really stupid question -- you did read all three chapters, right? If you've been moved to tears by the Epilogue alone then I'm more than honored, I'm on my knees and kissing your feet.)

      I've not read your stories, although I've seen them on PS for a while, and now I certainly must. However, as to the large timescales -- let me just say that it's a convenient way of not having to maintain continuity through many adjacent chapters. I don't know that I have it in me to write a multi-chaptered fic that covers a week or two -- it may just be too much to keep track of! I look at something like "The New Zealand Chronicles" or "Facing Backwards" and I wonder whether I could pull that off. And while I do love the grand themes, I am awestruck by the way someone like Mary can teach us volumes about the profound changes in a relationship from day to day or month to month.

      This story will appear on PS next week, as soon as it can go through the beta process; I'll be posting it chapter-by-chapter.
      • Yes - I read all three in the right order this time!

        I too look at The New Zealand Chronicles with awe. St Margarets has the great talent of saying profound things through mundane and funny events. So that her stories, though they can appear frothy and light, actually have real depth to them. Mine, on the other hand, are just frothy and light.

        Don't feel obliged to read them, but if you do, I'd love to hear what you have to say. I'm good at taking criticism so don't hold back.
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