Rating: Outstanding Minus
The Basics: Phoenix Era, Angst/Action/Romance, 400k
Warnings: Non-consensual (not SSHG), Violence, Dark!Hermione, Torture
Hermione Granger is tired of hiding under under the title of ‘child’ in the protective bubble of Hogwarts while others risk their lives daily to protect her and her friends. The Wizarding War has been raging for years and Voldemort is only getting stronger. Someone needs to turn the tide, but Ron and Harry seem content to remain blissfully ignorant at Hogwarts. She is smart, she is strong, and she can end this. For them…and for him.
First, I want to disclaim that I read this many months ago and am just reviewing it now, so I might have some of the details or warnings missing or incorrect.
You can probably tell by the extra effort I put into my little summary blurb that I loved this story. I am really excited to bring his fic to you because it is truly a hidden gem. I found it trawling through harmony_bites’ Phoenix Era Work-In-Progress list. 95% of the WIPs on that list were still incomplete…but this one was eventually finished, and to make things even better, it was spectacular! What a treat! I hope that this fic will be new to you all and that you will enjoy it as much as I did.
The most important thing to cover is that this is a very dark, very strong Hermione. She is capable of controlling any room – Dumbledore, Voldemort, Snape, or otherwise – with her determination and charisma. This veers into Mary Sue territory, but not so much that it ruined the story for me. She is purposeful in her actions and she suffers major consequences. For me, a bad Mary Sue fic is one in which everything is easy or accidental, like Wesley Crusher. This Hermione is intensely intelligent and powerful in a Mary Sue way – but she fights, plots, and sacrifices her way to this power and it takes every scrap of her strength to do it.
Despite the above paragraph, I found the characterizations to be pretty excellent. This Snape is all about sacrifice and duty; character details that were not fully understood until Deathly Hallows. It’s wonderful to see an author extrapolate these qualities as early as the Phoenix era. This fic deeply understands and probes these aspects of his character. Morever, this Dark!Hermione shares his obsession with duty and sacrifice and together they give every scrap of themselves over to ending war. These are beautiful, bleeding, ends-justify-the-means-ian heroes and I am HERE for it.
Regrettably, the other characterizations are not as stellar. A lot of time is devoted to the side characters, so this is an important criticism for those of you who can’t stand OOC fics. Dumbledore twiddles his thumbs in his office and is out of ideas. Draco is more Scorpius than Draco; kind, brave, a skilled spy, and essentially Hermione’s best friend. This is fun – I really loved Draco’s storyline – but wildly inaccurate. Additionally, Ron and Harry are infantilized to highlight how strong Dark!Hermione is. They play Quidditch and study for their NEWTs, content to leave the war to the adults. This childlike state gives Harry a great growth arc (seriously – it’s fantastic) but it’s unfairly exaggerated by having Harry grossly out of character in the beginning.
The writing is also a bit uneven. The author has a lot of raw talent; the fic is full of great action, great ideas (the Thanalos potion!), wit, and earned character growth. These qualities are lumpily churned into a messy first draft. She writes one or two sentence clumps of short, clipped action or dialogue rather than long descriptions or ‘internal monologues’ which we expect in this genre. However, I didn’t notice the awkward rhythm at all when I was listening to the fic with my text-to-speech program. Perhaps the writing has a nice flow but author over-presses the Enter key, or the author’s talent made this rough formula palatable, or maybe I simply liked the plot enough to overlook it? You might balk at the messy writing, but if you give it a chance I think you will become immersed in the story and forget about the rest.
The romance is lovely and heart-wrenching but again – messy. I re-read the scene where they admitted their feelings to each other for this review (because I read the fic months ago) and it felt absolutely real and in character. They fall in love with the deepest parts of each other for exactly the right reasons and their interactions are very satisfying. Unfortunately, this romance resolves early and the author relies on tragic misunderstandings to drag thing out. There is enough action and side-plot to fill the pages, but it’s a shame that the romance did not progress at the same pace as the warplot. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, there is a beautiful romantic conclusion in which Snape finds out why Hermione really decided to become Dark!Hermione that is completely satisfying and deeply in-character for both of them. I will say, though, that there is a beautiful romantic conclusion added near the end of the story in which Snape finds out why Hermione really decided to become Dark!Hermione. It’s lovely enough to almost make up for uneven romantic pacing and I was very glad that the author held something back for the end.
The action and the Voldemort-defeating mechanism in this fic are straight-up awesome. I LOVE fics that really take the time to set a trap for Voldemort, make a plan, and throw all of the the Order’s combined intelligence and strength together in one evening. The readers come along for the ride to every brainstorming session and training class and are rewarded with a glorious Final Battle in which we see everything come together. This is truly what an Epic length fanfiction should be! (We were robbed of this in Deathly Hallows, by the way. I’m not bitter.) This aspect of the fic reminded me of Looking for Magic‘s epic conclusion.
The bottom line: This fic is sloppy in a lot of ways, but if you suspend your cynicism and overlook the lumps and bumps, there is a lot to love. Marvel at the beautifully and (mostly) accurately written Phoenix era Snape. Be burned by the ferocity of this Dark!Hermione’s determination and power. Cheer for Harry as he puts down his Quidditch broom and takes up the mantles of responsibility and leadership. Read this when you are in the mood for a truly epic ensemble action fic, with Harry as the Hero (he definitely starts fic only concerned about picking up power converters from Tosche station) and Dark!Hermione and Snape as dual Byronic heroes.