When a Lioness Fights – by Kayly Silverstorm

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/2162474/1/When-A-Lioness-Fights
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.


Mobile Friendly at Last

Hello Snape Hermione fanfiction fans – I know it’s been a long time, and and I’m sorry about that. As an apology, I’ve finally taken the time to tinker a bit with my layout, updating my ancient WordPress theme to a modern responsive one. I hate change and I feel like the new one is super ugly, but at least you can read it on your phones. The sidebar disappears to the bottom in mobile mode, so I added a ‘Browse by Rating’ feature as a Page which comes up on the top ‘tap menu’ in mobile mode. I also chose a layout with a built in top search bar (rather than merely the sidebar widget) so that it will also be available to you in mobile mode. Lastly, I chose a layout that still includes the sidebar in desktop mode for the change-averse among you (like me.)

Edit: This paragraph refers to a theme that I have since changed. I HATE that the posts have a stark white background – WordPress allows me to change the main background, but not the post background. I should just build the site on my own with actual code. I thought I was taking a lazy shortcut by selecting WordPress when I started this site but doing it myself would probably have been easier. Anyway, I recommend the ‘Hacker Vision’ app to those of you out there like me who can’t stand bright white backgrounds; the site looks great on my computer with Hacker Vision turned on.

Update: I changed the theme again when a user pointed out that on widescreen it rendered all of the way to the left. This new theme isn’t perfect either, but at least we can have a dark background! I don’t like the giant picture size, but the theme requires it (on free WordPress, I have no access to the code.) I found a gorgeous picture to use, since it will dominate so much of the page. It is by artist Abigail Larson, whose work is AMAZING. You should Google her and check it out. I will need to edit it to include her name, and will do that very soon.

I’ve had a lot going on in my life including a new job! Hooray! I have been establishing a new routine and trying to figure out where fanfiction fits in. I used to listen to it while I was sewing for my job and I no longer do that, so I will be reading more slowly. I finished a wonderful fic several months ago that I have been dragging my feet about reviewing (When a Lioness Fights – by Kayly Silverstorm.) I will get to it soon!

The Phoenix, the Raven, and Prince Charming? – by Dragons Quill

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/3530941/1/The-Phoenix-The-Raven-Prince-Charming

Rating: Acceptable

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Angst/Romance, 160k

Warnings: Angst, Torture. I did not finish the story so there could be more.

Severus Snape kills Albus Dumbledore. Harry Potter saves the world. Now, Snape is in Azkaban for his crimes. Curiously, Albus Dumbledore’s phoenix, Fawkes, voluntarily joins Snape in Azkaban and refuses to leave his side. Hermione Granger is intrigued by this mystery – and besides, she needs Snape’s help.

This is a really interesting fic. It’s a combination of factors that I don’t think I’ve seen before – excellent, creative, original ideas and storylines combined with really, really bad writing. I actually prefer it to well-written fics with terrible ideas/characters, which is usually what you find in fanfiction.

I skimmed most of this fic because the writing was so bad – I just couldn’t fully immerse myself in it because I was constantly drawn out by mistakes and awkward phrasing. The worse offense is the author’s proclivity to summarize rather than flesh out a scene. The majority of chapters are summaries of events rather than concrete moments. This works really well for something like flashbacks – of which the story has plenty – but it feels cheatingly disappointing to read what ought to have been an interesting scene in a short summary.

There are some awkward conceptual mis-steps, too. I’m selling this idea of an idiot savant creative genius author who is only held back by bad writing, but that isn’t strictly true. For example, Hermione wants to bring Snape some comfort in prison. He is starving to death and has lost the will to live. She brings him…shampoo. Cringe. Any serious fan of the pairing should immediately recognize that this is pouring salt on an old inflamed wound of Snape’s. It’s not comforting! She ought to have brought him a collection of books or a Potions journal. There are plenty of other examples like this, too. Overall, though, the concepts of the fic were excellent and the writing was terrible. I found that dissonance interesting.

It’s also interesting to see how the writing improves throughout the story. The author gets a beta reader, which helps tremendously. She is clearly utilizing feedback from her reviews. The writing is still pretty bad at the end (for example, having a 4000 year old phoenix use the phase, ‘get the ball rolling’) but I enjoyed the meta-journey of watching the author grow.

The bottom line: Honestly, this is worth a read for almost any fan of the pairing. You’ll know right away if you can tolerate the low quality writing or not. If you can’t, well, skim a bit like I did. If you can, you might be in for a treat. Fawkes looking over Snape in Azkaban! Hermione Granger, Mistress of Horses! Snape, learning to forgive himself and find the will to live. There are great concepts and soulful insights here, hidden beneath layers of grimy writing.

She Married Her Choice – by averygoodun

Link: http://www.thepetulantpoetess.com/viewstory.php?sid=1589
Alt link: http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=12777
Other: There is also a prequel, Marry a Choice, which I link in ‘the bottom line’ section.

Rating: Acceptable

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Teen Drama/Romance, 150k

Warnings: Dumb People, NC-17, Violence, Non-Con (not SSHG). Also, I did not finish the story so there could be more.

After the defeat of Voldemort, seventh year Hermione Granger chooses to marry Severus Snape before the Marriage Law is passed in order to prevent worse Death Eaters from drawing up contracts with her against her will. The wedding is over, and the couple returns to Hogwarts. Hermione’s seventh year is going to be difficult.

It’s been quite a long time since I put down a fic this early, especially a fic of this seeming quality. The first thing I should mention is that I only read about 4 chapters before I was so frustrated that I had to stop. So, some of you who do not share my pet peeves might really enjoy this fic, and you might also find a lot of things in the middle and later chapters that I did not that redeems it. I’d be interested in those insights, but I just can’t read this anymore, so I will review what I managed to choke down.

Let’s start with the problem, since I’m sure you are wondering. The problem is that Snape and Hermione both act like complete idiots. They both act in the moment with their emotions like teenagers (which, granted, Hermione is, but she’s shown throughout the entire series to be level-headed and cautious.) They both jump to nonsensical conclusions about each other over and over again – I call it ‘tragic misunderstandings’ and it is my biggest pet peeve both in life and in fanfics. I’m too old and grumpy to read a fic that has 3 of them in the first 4 chapters. Snape thinks Hermione is ‘spreading rumors about him’ because the school is rampant with rumors day the after their wedding. Utterly asinine. Then, Snape publicly shames her by giving her a detention and when she refuses to go, he attempts to physically drag her there. Sorry, but that’s not a character I’m interested in reading about AT ALL. He bears no resemblance to my beloved Potions Professor.

Hermione is slightly more in character – after all, she immediately sets Snape on fire when he manhandles her, which is exactly what any mature Gryffindor worth their colors would have done – but she also suffers from plot-contrived stupidity when the author requires it. It’s as if the author pulls everything, included the characters, out of shape in order to accommodate her ideas for fun scenes or moments, even if it does not make sense for the characters. For example, Hermione says incredibly blunt/rude things about Snape while he is in the other room and he’s angry the next day and she can’t figure out why. HMM I WONDER. Real, intelligent people are automatically anxious about being overheard and do damage control right at that moment. Hermione doesn’t think about it. She doesn’t think about anything other than her own selfish impulses at the moment. This is not how you create conflict or write intelligent chcaracters. Hermione is a bit Mary Sue, too, which is surprising in a Half-Blood Prince era fic when it was looked down on as a cliche, as it is today. Lucius Malfoy, my beloved glittering arctic fox, apparently wants Hermione for a bride. This isn’t the worst Mary Sue I’ve ever read, but it’s there.

From what I’ve written so far, you might expect that this is a terrible fic, but it really has a lot of redeeming qualities. There are a lot of fun ideas – using storm clouds and sunlight in the Great Hall for humorous effect, giving Snape chicken pox, Snape subtly coaxing and then viciously eviscerating a couple of boys hassling Hermione, Ginny smuggling Hermione chocolate mousse to comfort her after a bad day, Hermione setting Snape on fire when he pushes her too far. All of these are fun ideas, and most of these scenes are written well. It’s just the terrible, terrible, ham-fisted emotional conflict between two characters that /know better/ that ruined the fic for me. I feel like there is definitely a good fic IN the author somewhere, but this isn’t it, because her characterization preferences are not at all suited to a serious fic about Hermione and Snape. Her strengths lie in friendship, comedy, and the dynamics of a group. Maybe even a pair of emotional lovers, like Ginny/Harry or even Draco/Harry. But serious, calm, slow-to-action, always trying to outfox each other, curled-up-with-a-book Snape and Hermione? No.

The bottom line: The romantic tension is non-existent because they are married when the fic begins. Lackluster characterizations, tragic misunderstandings, and impulsive and asinine emotional conflict ruin an otherwise funny and well-written fic. Read if you don’t mind ‘teen romance’ type conflict. Note that I only read the prequel (60k, http://www.thepetulantpoetess.com/viewstory.php?sid=861 )and the first 4 chapters of this.

A Matter of Trust – by SGTRJ

Link: http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=16492
Alt link: https://sshgreview.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/sgtrj-a-matter-of-trust.pdf
Adding my own files to Ashwinder-only fics since Ashwinder has gone down for long periods of time twice now and I don’t want to have to edit the dozens of Ashwinder-only stories on this site with links to my own files every time it goes down.

Rating: Exceeds Expectations Plus

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Action/Romance, 150k

Warnings: Violence, NC-17, Torture, Angsty!Harry

Severus Snape is a hunted man; hunted by the Aurors, the Order, and the Death Eaters. Hermione Granger stumbles across a group of Death Eaters torturing Snape and in a wild moment of compassion, Apparates him to safety.

We’re nearing the end of the Half-Blood Prince Era now, finally. I ought to be tiring of kidnappings, Horcrux hunts, and Dumbledore’s portrait, but somehow this excellent fic manages to find freshness in the fic tropes of this era. I gathered from the Author’s Notes that the author was new to the pairing and this freed her from the rampant groupthink that had developed in the ship by the end of the Half-Blood Prince era (sandalwood, chestnut curls, eyebrow quirks, lip-chewing, Dark revels.) This fic is still a logical extension of HBP so there is plenty that is familiar – even a whiff of Classic Era tropes that most well-read-in-the-ship authors had started to avoid by this point in time – but somehow, I found most of it charming and fresh.

I have to say, I really enjoyed this far more than I expected to based on the early chapters. They focused on Harry, Ron, and the Order which bored me a little bit. There is quite a bit of focus on Harry and unfortunately I did not find this Harry or his struggles particularly compelling. It’s the ‘Order of the Phoenix’ Harry who is angry and constantly struggling with his emotions.

Once the SSHG arc really gets going, it’s very compelling. It’s my very favorite standing-too-close-to-each-othe while focused on Voldemort and stirred with two drops of introspection and one drop of academia. The author might be new to the ship, but her insights about Snape are accurate, interesting, and thoughtfully drawn. These insights aren’t new or ship-shaking, but they are clarified in a fresh corporeal form. She understands that Snape’s acerbic tongue is an armor that he wields to keep people away – he isn’t merely an asshole. He’s a wounded boy who turned into an asshole to protect himself. She also does something with the Dark Mark in relation to Snape’s character that I found both interesting and original, though I disagree with the results a little bit.

I do think Hermione is probably a little too timid and a little too understanding, but that’s my preferred version of her because it’s a bit more like me. For those of you who are a more Gryffindor, you might find her patience out of character. For me, though, it worked perfectly; and it certainly complemented this version of Snape.

I keep mentioning a feeling of ‘freshness’; it’s one of the greatest strengths of the story for me. It’s all familiar, but somehow new. Snape and Hermione work together to create a potion to defeat Voldemort, but the potion is a new idea that is clever and thought-provoking. They have to gather rare potions ingredients, but the ingredients are much more than a substance in a bottle and lead to an exciting adventure. That sense of wonder and newness is really what we read fanfiction for, isn’t it? We want to visit the world again, breathe that Hogwarts air again, and when the ideas are fresh and clever enough, we can (almost) believe it’s our beloved world and not merely ‘fanfic’. I found that wonder again in this fic. The ideas are not amazing, not transcendental (like the ideas in The Lioness Prophecies or Looking for Magic), but wonder-giving all the same. The only whiff of staleness in the entire fic was Angsty!Harry, and even that had a few unique aspects that I did not expect.

The next paragraph is spoilery, but I think it’s important to know before you read; consider yourself warned.

The start of the fic focuses rather cheerfully on the Order and Trio before progressing to a fairly innocent romance (this adult Hermione is very innocent which I like but some may not.) Next, though, the fic takes a bit of a turn and explores some dark aspects of war – there is a major character death, then a MAJOR character death, then a rather disgustingly dark portrayal of a minor character. Perhaps I should have felt this leading toward an unhappy ending, but I did not. I know some people insist on happily-ever-after in their fics but for me, I don’t mind darkfic and unhappy endings – Chaos is Come Again is one of my all-time favorite fics – but they have to be /earned./ Chaos is Come Again spends the whole fic meditating on a very dark character study of Snape. It could not have had any other ending, in my opinion. However, this fic sets up a happy ending and snatches it away. There is a lot of angry reaction in the comments and I think their anger is a result of the dissonance between the set-up and the pay off. The ending feels like a broken promise.

The author has an unfinished sequel, which I read, because I wanted more. Strangely, it was all really, really bad. The villain is forced and awkward in a way that did not feel authentic to me at all (many pages of A Matter of Trust were wasted setting up this lame villain for the sequel), and the talks between Snape and Hermione are artificially drawn out and stilted. I felt like the author threw away the ending of a /great/ fic (A Matter of Trust) in order to set up a barely readable unfinished sequel. I wish so much that she had condensed the entire sequel into three or four chapters and made it the true ending of A Matter of Trust. That would have catapulted this to my highest rating, for sure.

The bottom line: The beginning is a little slow and too filled with Angsty!Harry. The ending is somewhat unsatisfying in order to set up an unfinished sequel. The middle, however, is excellent, excellent SSHG and as a result I really recommend this to almost all fans of the pairing. This is a careful, thoughtful, intelligent, believable character study of Snape with great slow-burn romantic pacing. Just…imagine your own epilogue.

Poll – Thoughts on Deathly Hallows

I had a lot of fun with my last poll (Scent of the Potions Master) and thought that I would do another one.

The fic I am currently reading was written in the Half-Blood Prince era and the author remarks that she hated Deathly Hallows and was even more determined to finish her fic excellently as a result. I wonder how those of us in the Snape/Hermione ship felt about Deathly Hallows?

I know for me, I was already heavily involved in fanfiction and in the ship before Deathly Hallows came out, and as a result the final book hasn’t really solidified in my head as canon. It felt like just another version or interpretation of the end. I was greatly relieved and vindicated that my ‘crazy’ theory about Snape and Lily turned out to be correct.

Here is the poll! You can select multiple answers.

My thoughts, now that you’ve hopefully taken the poll – at the time I was more or less happy, but now that I’ve had more time to reflect on it, I feel disappointed. I felt like it needed to be severely edited down. They had tons of Horcruxes to hunt down, and JK decided to complicate it with adding Hallows and wands and Dumbledore’s backstory and Peverells and what? That is way too much stuff to cram into one book. Why waste the entire second book on one Horcrux and then cram 5 Horcruxes and 3 Hallows into the final one? It makes no sense, pacing wise. She should have included some of the content in earlier books or written more books. Because she did not, Deathly Hallows felt messy and bloated. I will refrain from complaining about Ron and Hermione because JK has since admitted that it was a mistake. (I seriously believe with the content of Cursed Child that she has recognized the viability of Snape + Hermione, even if she hasn’t said it publicly.) My biggest complaint, though, is the Voldemort defeating mechanism. I would argue that MOST fanfics are able to come up with something more clever than “I disarmed Draco and Draco disarmed the Headmaster so the Elder wand which was just invented in this book responds to me, so I win.” Accidental, convuluted, and underwhelming. My favorite Voldemort defeating mechanism (so far!) is the mother’s magic lulluby from The Lioness Prophecies, so I will head-canon that. 🙂

I am also, selfishly, disappointed that Deathly Hallows revealed Snape’s awesomeness to the rest of the world, because he gained a bunch of new fans who only like him because of his love for Lily. I have to admit I sneer at the ‘Always’ and doe merchandise. He would hate that, wouldn’t he? Many of us loved him when he was just the dour Potions Master, because we could see that there was something going on underneath (why would he hate them so much yet protect them so fiercely?), because we admired his intelligence, because we thought his sardonic remarks were funny. We loved and believed in him without proof. I struggle to accept those who needed proof. Again, it’s my own selfishness and arrogance. I’m glad (for him) that his true alliance was revealed in such a beautiful way.

Some of my readers have pointed out that they read the books straight through because they are a bit younger, and because of that never had a chance to ‘believe in’ Snape before they uncovered truth. This is an excellent point! Thank you for making me aware of it and putting up with my curmudgeon ways.

Thank you for indulging my Ravenclaw curiousity! Please write your thoughts, below, too. I am really interested in what fans of this ship in particular feel about Deathly Hallows.

The Professor’s Discretion – by Twelve Years in Azkaban

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/5441799/1/The-Professor-s-Discretion

Rating: Outstanding Plus

The Basics: Modern Era (2009), Action/Romance, 140k

Warnings: Violence, Torture

Hermione Granger works on a potion that she hopes will separate Harry’s life from the Horcrux inside him, allowing him to live. She works secretly, not wanting to tell Harry the truth about his fate. When Severus Snape uncovers what she’s up to, he agrees to help her because he wants to find out more information about the Horcruxes and Dumbledore’s plans. Loosely follows the events of Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows.

This fic is incredible. I’ve really, really spoiled myself in the last week reading some of the best recommendations my readers could give me. The fic before this was ‘Beyond 84 Charing Cross Road‘ which I completely adored to the point that I want to write my own epistolary tale. All of that…and yet ‘The Professor’s Discretion’ is still my favorite of the week. Or month. Or year. Ever? Time will tell.

The characterizations are shining, stellar, ideal. I really don’t think I can overstate it. These characters made me question my own understanding of Snape and Hermione; particularly Hermione. The author embraces the Gryffindor depths of her character that most authors shy away from and even more impressively finds a way to explore these traits in a way that draws her closer to Snape. She thinks of others before herself – Severus is accustomed to being used by everyone and is wary of of her endless, guileless concern and care. She can babble and be an ‘eager puppy’ when it comes to a subject she is excited about – Snape initially uses this babbling to gain information on the Headmaster, but her endless chatter soon begins to mean something else to him, something poignant and lovely, which I will leave for you to discover. She is extremely loyal and refuses to give up – when ‘turncoat’ Headmaster Snape tries to push her away by playing the loyal Death Eater, she holds fast to her conviction that he is on their side. He is deeply affected by her refusal to abandon her belief in him, even in the face of danger and violence. This is not mere ‘Gryffindor stubbornness’ or ‘foolhardy girl’…this is something else, and he can not bring himself to deride it.

This fic adjusted my head-canon. Shame on me for preferring a more reclusive and reserved Hermione. THIS is the true Hermione and she still fits beautifully with Severus Snape. “The Professor’s Discretion” clicked a few more puzzle pieces in place in my head-canon understanding of this ship. For others who want to explore all of the possibilities and depths of this pairing, what better praise can I offer than that? I just read a 490k epic that I called an excellent psychological study of Snape, yet “The Professor’s Discretion” is nearly as thorough at one-fourth the length because it shows Snape’s complexities through well-conceived themes and beautifully written scenes rather than telling through emotional conversations about the past. This is extraordinary stuff. I want to read it again right now, but I have to finish this review.

The excellent characterizations extend to the rest of cast, as well. Ron and Harry are very much themselves; so much so that some of the scenes felt like the original books. There are many adventurers with the Cloak and the Map. Detentions with Filch. Peeves. All of the lovely things that occurred in the early books (and less so in JK’s final books) are present and I was very happy to see them. I loved the idea of having the Trio stay at Hogwarts during the canon Seventh Year, resisting the Carrows and defending themselves as best that they could. “No one goes anywhere alone,” Hermione tells Snape of the Gryffindors. This, in beautiful contrast to Snape’s overwhelmingly lonely and excruciating solitary existence as the turncoat Headmaster. I’m nearly crying again just thinking about it.

I think what I’ve just said touches on the most important reason that this fic rises to another level. It’s trying to say something. It’s trying to do something. It has multiple themes. You feel them, rising and falling, beating together, pulsing through the story, bringing Snape and Hermione together and bringing the Dark Lord down. It’s a work of literature, not merely a plot and a romance. It’s been a long time since I read a fic I felt this way about.

There technically no romance, though there is an extremely satisfying arc of emotional intimacy with a breath and a promise of romance. They are both focused on what they should be; Snape, on his duties and information-gathering, and Hermione on saving her friends and protecting herself and other Muggleborns. Their duties bring them together. There is no wasted time here; no hiding away having indulgent conversations for hours and days, thinking of themselves. Snape and Hermione are both dutiful individuals and would never do that. This is another head-canon puzzle piece that has clicked for me. Additionally, this focus on duty prevents the romance/intimacy arc from completing until the very end which is a deliciously positive thing. That question, that tension, that desire for more, that beautiful mist of romantic ambiguity, remained throughout.

There are a few grievances to list in my final paragraph, of course, and I suppose it’s my duty to enumerate them to you. Most importantly, the story starts slow and the writing is a bit average or even wobbly at first. It took me quite a few chapters to get in to the story. If you excitedly click, fresh off my review, you will probably disappointed with the first 1/4 or so. Stick with it. I also felt the Dumbledore was a bit too cold and calculating, though I realize it’s sort of canon with Deathly Hallows. My biggest issue is that the ending felt rushed, especially the last chapter. It seemed to be written much faster and in more of a summary than the rest of the story. I can sort of understand why the author did it – because the story is about Snape and Hermione and not the events of the final chapter – but I wanted more – much, much more. I was very sad when I clicked on the final chapter because I desperately loved the fic and was not ready for it to end. To have that chapter be little more than a summary was very disappointing.

The bottom line: I recommend this fic above all others that I have reviewed so far. I’ve loved others more, but I think objectively this is the best characterized, most well-rounded, most satisfying SSHG fic I have ever read. This Hermione is an absolutely stellar characterization, as is the Snape. The lack of on-screen actual romance is made up for by the beautifully poignant and realistically written arc of emotional intimacy, in my opinion. Forgive the wobbly writing in the opening 1/4 and hopefully you will love the rest.

Thank you to the readers who recommended this to me.