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, I think this freed her from the groupthink that had developed in the ship by the end of the Half-Blood Prince era (sandalwood, chestnut curls, 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. Everything felt thought-out and authentic; it didn’t feel like a shadow of a better fic.
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-other, focused on Voldemort, stirred with two drops of introspection and character study. This author is new to the ship, but her insights about Snape are accurate and thoughtfully drawn. Her insights weren’t new to me, exactly, but they were concepts I hadn’t quite figured out how to properly express. This fic gives those concepts life and 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 mentioned 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, clever and thought-provoking. They have to gather rare potions ingredients, but the ingredients is so much more than a substance in a bottle and it requires an exciting adventure to procure. 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 believe it’s really our beloved world and not merely ‘fanfic’ of it. 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. But in this fic, I felt as though we were set up for a happy ending and we were denied it. 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.
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.
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. I 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. Read it. If you’ve already read it, read it again.
Thank you to the readers who recommended this to me.
Rating: Outstanding Minus
The Basics: Modern Era (2016), Epistolary/Romance, 113k
Two years after the fall of Voldemort, Hermione Granger is the manager of a prestigious wizarding book store in London. She receives a request for several extremely rare Potions books from a mail order patron named Simon Sopophorous.
I am very tempted to write a whole little essay about all of the epistolary stories I read as a child (Boomer’s Journal, Go Ask Alice, Babysitter’s Club: Chain Letter, the Dear America series) and as an adult (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Yellow Wallpaper, S) and even expand into how my favorite films are narrative-driven documentaries and found footage horror which are the film equivalent of episotolaries; but look, I managed to squeeze all of those thoughts into just one overlong sentence and spare you the drudgery of reading a longer version. Suffice to say, this is my favorite narrative framing device and I was absolutely over the moon when I discovered that there were a few SSHG fics that used it. So, take my rave review with a bit of caution, given my zeal for its structure.
Almost everything about this fic worked beautifully for me. This was the best building-passion scintillating romance that I have read in ages and ages. I can’t even remember the last time that the passion of a fic was good enough for me to feel that giddy excitement and grab a glass of wine. A romance through letters is slow enough for me to really believe it and feel it. I talk so often about the importance of building passion through ‘standing too close to each other, trying to resist’ foreplay of restraint. The letter format causes this to go on for many, many chapters because they aren’t physically near each other. When they finally do see each other in person, the history of denied passion crackles between them, adding electricity and weight to the slightest of movements.
The plotting and pacing are nearly perfect. After they come together in real life, the romance is believably and slowly drawn out due to plot. These plot hurdles are no mere ‘tragic misunderstandings’; they are tied directly to the characters in a way that moves the story forward and further explores their relationship. I absolutely loved the nature of the curse that they discover together; I loved it to the point that I stopped reading and raved excitedly about the curse idea to my husband who agreed that it was an awesome idea nearly worth of head-canon. The full understanding, commitment, and closure to the relationship did not happen until all of the plot was resolved, just as it should be.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the absolutely excellent writing. The old-fashioned wit of letters is perfect for Snape’s personality. The subtle insults and wordplay were delightful to read. This is Severus Snape at his finest; snarky, insulting, sharp, closed, reclusive, lonely, guilty, bitter, hilarious. It’s sometimes difficult to believe that Snape would let someone in but the premise of letters subtly and believably penetrates his solitude. He might very well be more open in letters under a pseudynom and of course Hermione Granger would be smart enough to eventually put the pieces together. Everything here is so well-conceived and so excellently done.
I will say that the in-person scenes in the final quarter of the story were not as strong as the letters. Snape would rave to his letter falcon Yorick, which I found strange and a bit out of character. When Snape and Hermione are together, towards the end, the author used a quick back-and-forth point of view that I disliked. I think it was intended to mimic the feeling of letters, but the viewpoint changes made it difficult for me to keep track of what was happening (perhaps because I listen to audio rather than reading.) I felt as though some of the latter important scenes moved too quickly and did not allow enough breathing room to fully convey the weight of the events. This was especially true in the last chapter. It’s possible that the author rushed things a little bit in the end; but it’s a minor complaint in the overall scope of the fic, and the only complaint I can muster.
The bottom line: The crackling electricity between Snape and Hermione given their history of a long romance of letters with no physical contact made this one of the most scintillating romances I have read (keeping in mind that I am uptight/Victorianish; I doubt what is exciting to me is normal.) Beautifully paced and plotted. Sharp, intelligent, and witty throughout. Plot ideas worth raving a about. All wrapped up in epistolary form? Perfection, except for some of the rushed chapters towards the end. Recommended to everyone unless you feel that the letter format is not for you.
Rating: Acceptable Plus
The Basics: Modern Era (2011), Action/Romance, 84k
Warnings: Sexual Content, Violence, Torture, Attempted Non-Con(not SSHG)
Bellatrix Lestrange puts a twisted curse on Hermione to prevent her from conveying vital information to the Order unless she unlocks the spell using with a Key assigned by Bellatrix. The Key is a humiliating task that will change Hermione’s relationship with her professor, Severus Snape, forever.
This fic is only 84k, which means it is shorter than what I usually review, but I read it and figured I might as well review it.
There were a lot of aspects of this fic that I enjoyed. There is a very, very clever Voldemort-defeating mechanism. The writing is aggressively paced (as one would expect in a short fic) but each scene still feels fleshed-out and whole. The characterizations are reasonably good (more on this later), including the side characters. The romantic pacing is nearly perfect; the climax of the plot almost coincides with the climax of the love story, as it should. This sounds like fairly benign praise, but in my fic experience it’s rare for this simultaneous plot + romance climax to occur (yes, yes, obvious simultaneous climax joke is obvious, well spotted) and I’m always delighted when I find it. Even an ‘almost’, as it is here.
The chief problem for me in this fic is that Snape is aggressive and lustful, while Hermione is meek and innocent. I really dislike it when still-her-professor Snape is attracted to a still-his-student Hermione without a strong established friendship. I realize because of the plot events that the sexual aspect had to come to the forefront immediately, but I think Actual Snape would have erected 10 mental brick walls between himself and Hermione after that encounter, rather than watching her and lusting after her. This is exacerbated by a busy, tired, oblivious Hermione who does not often reflect on her feelings and seems confused by Snape’s behavior. A domineering Snape can work, if Hermione is quite mature and can stand up for herself, but that does not happen here. It felt like she was an innocent child and he was her lecherous teacher because there was not enough friendship/relationship development and because Hermione was so meek.
Similarly, I struggle to believe that Snape would have initiated breaking Bella’s Key task. I think they would have brought the information to the Order, and the Order would have argued about what to do, and Hermione would finally volunteer to have the information tortured out of her (since Snape later admits this would have worked.) That whole scene was squicky to me because Hermione did as she was told (by a frightening authority figure) with very little agency or choice in the matter. There were hints of non-con because of the power dynamic that made me uncomfortable. There needed to be other people involved in the decision, or it needed to be privately initiated by Hermione. To be clear, I am not overly sensitive to these issues. I don’t mind the teacher-student dynamic as long as the relationship is firmly established first. To have Snape command her to do it without consulting other adults felt like an abuse of power (as did a lot of his other actions in the fic.)
This is now my third paragraph of complaints about a good fic, but I’m tired and rambly today, so here we are. There were a few Harry Potter as-a-whole mistakes that surprised me. Some exaples: Hermione enduring 15+ rounds of Crucio and retaining her sanity (after checking, I guess this isn’t officially wrong but most fics put insanity and death around 6-8), students brewing Polyjuice in class (nope, the recipe is in ‘Most Potente Potions’ in the Restricted Section; it would never be taught in regular class) and the Yule Ball being held every year (nope, only during the Triwizard Tournament). These seem like minor infractions, but they add up. The Polyjuice error especially made me wonder if the author was new to the pairing or even new the fandom. That lowered my immersion and interest quite a bit.
The bottom line: Very well paced, plotted and written with fun original ideas – but I struggled with Snape’s characterization. It might be personal preference because I like highly disciplined academic recluse Snape while this Snape struggled with lust, aggression, and self-control. If Hermione had been stronger and stood up for herself more, or if the fic had developed the friendship connection more, his characterization would have worked better. To be clear, it’s still a very good fic, especially if you’re in the mood for some Innocent!Hermione and TemptestousRage!Snape.
Rating: Exceeds Expectations Plus
The Basics: Modern Era (2012), Action/Romance/Time-Travel, 110k
Warnings: Sexual Content, Non-Con Reference (not SSHG), Time-Travel
Hermione Granger’s emotions are raw in the heat of the Final Battle in the devastation of what Harry has told her about Snape’s memories, of Harry’s upcoming sacrifice, and the death all around her. She is given the choice by a Headmistress portrait to go back in time and change the fate of one of the war’s casualties – her former professor, Severus Snape. Little does she realize that this is no mere time turner – the Headmistress transports her all the way back to Severus Snape’s sixth year at Hogwarts in the 1970’s. She has thirty-one days to change his fate. But how?
This fic is just what I needed after reading two 500k+ highly revered epics back to back. A short, charming, witty and well-conceived fic that brings Hermione and Snape together in a realistic way. I don’t often enjoy time-travel fics because I imagine teenage Severus as being sort of a Kylo Ren-esque nightmare, but he is drawn much more subtly here. I really enjoyed his character. Hermione was even better; a razor-sharp Gryffindor spitfire who would not suffer fools or tolerate being mistreated. She’s far braver and sassier than I, a rather spineless Ravenclaw, prefer, but honestly, it’s perfect! She’s a Gryffindor! It felt right. Excellent characterizations.
I also appreciated that Hermione did not have a clear understanding of her mission; this provided so much page-turning tension. At first, she thought she should stop him from trying to join the Death Eaters. Then she thought he needed to make other friends, like the Ravenclaws. She thought perhaps she could convince him to invent a powerful antivenin to use against Nagini. Of course, the true answer involved her starting a relationship with him, and I won’t spoil the reason that this would help him survive Nagini. It was so true to Snape’s character, and so beautiful; her realization about what she needed to do nearly brought me to tears.
I will quibble that the ending, when she arrived back to the present day, was not quite what I hoped. They had this beautiful, emotional moment, which one chapter later was destroyed by Snape immediately joining the Death Eaters in his rage, but I guess that’s how it had to be. Hermione’s discovered ‘purpose for going back’ did not play out plotwise, which I found very disappointing. The method of his survival was not thematically satisfying, nor it didn’t make sense. Why even bother going back, if she was just going to meddle in the present to save him?
There are a lot of minor plot mistakes and inconsistencies like this (some of them are enumerated below in the comments.) The fic is imperfect and imprecise, almost rushed, which would usually bother me – but somehow it seemed to fit with the aggressive pacing of the fic and Hermione’s sense of disorientation. Another interesting issue were these little ‘this is what I learned today’ character reflections at the end of each chapter which felt too neat, too juvenile, like a Young Adult version of SSHG. The pairing usually needs more seriousness and heft than this fic offers; but I was in the mood for it and found it charming and refreshing.
A small digression: one of my favorite hobbies is board games. I used to think that I preferred huge, epic, all-day-long board game adventurers like Twilight Imperium III or Arkham Horror because I enjoy deep immersion and flavor. But as I have advanced in the hobby a bit, I’ve learned that some very clean, very well-designed games can deliver this feeling in a much shorter time. Arkham Horror: The Card Game for example delivers all of the awesome Lovecraftian spine-tingling adventure of Arkham Horror in a condensed version in a tiny box. I can have an adventure in one hour, put it away, and pick it up again to progress the campaign later. All of the same awesome immersion, but much more accessible and honestly more satisfying because it’s far less hassle. That is what I feel this fic is; almost all of the romance, emotional content, and satisfaction of a sprawling epic, but condensed into a tiny box, a few hours. A truffle instead of an entire cake, with almost the same satisfaction level. That’s incredibly difficult to do and I think she the author does a bang-up job delivering her story in this short length.
Lastly, I issue my standard disclaimer for all Maurader-era time-travel fics; it’s not believable that Hermione would meddle with Snape’s life but not whisper to James and Lily, ‘Do not make Pettigrew your Secret-Keeper.’ I understand all of the reasons why she ‘can’t do that’, but I find it unbelievable than anyone could resist that temptation, or that Harry could ever forgive her for not doing so. This is a huge, story-breaking issue that needed a lot more explanation than it was given. This is one of the reasons I struggle with time-travel fics.
The bottom line: This is a clever, intriguing, page-turning fic with tons of momentum and fantastic characterizations (above and beyond the norm, a truly excellent witty spitfire Hermione) and a beautiful emotional heart that nearly brought me to tears. There are some plot mistakes and inconsistencies that are disappointing, but the fic is still worth a read. If you are looking for a deep, immersive, thorough undertaking, this is not for you, but if you are feeling like a bite-sized SSHG romp that still delivers emotion, romance, and satisfaction, this is just about perfect.
Rating: Outstanding Minus
The Basics: Modern Era (2012), Angst/Romance, 490k
Warnings: Sexual Content, Violence, Gore, Non-Con (not SSHG), Torture
In her fifth year at Hogwarts, Hermione Granger takes on a new role studying under Madame Pomfrey, as she is interested in learning how to become a Healer in an effort to assist in the War. She is sworn to secrecy about the things she will learn in her role as a Healer – because unbeknownst to Hermione, Madame Pomfrey’s chief job is patching up Dumbledore’s double agent, Severus Snape. The story follows canon threads from Order of the Phoenix through Deathly Hallows; however, the deepening friendship between Hermione Granger and Severus Snape changes many canon events.
This story (as well as Loten’s other huge SSHG work, ‘Post Tenebras, Lux’ which I have not yet reviewed) came extremely highly recommended to me by the readers of this blog. I think perhaps I allowed those high recommendations to inflate my expectations. In my mind, I heralded this as the greatest SSHG work ever, that all others would pale in the light of. I saved it for the rainiest of rainy days when I was completely exhausted and needed a great, riveting story to keep me sewing on schedule (I use text-to-speech programs) and to transport me away from my stresses. Perhaps because of this combination of work stress and exaggerated expectations, I ended up very disappointed by this fic. It’s also possible that I was mixing together the recommendations for Loten’s ‘Post Tenebras, Lux’ with the recommendations for this fic – perhaps I’ll like that one better? So, please keep all of this in mind when you read this review. Many fans feel this is the best SSHG fic ever written – and perhaps it is – but not for me.
This fic navigates through OoTP, HBP, and DH from an SSHG point of view. This is not something I see very often, nor is it a method I particularly I enjoy, but it’s done well here. Sometimes the SSHG shoehorning stretched credulity – Snape giving the Golden Trio intensely personal, on point, psychological and physical training for the War, or Snape leading the Trio on a search for the Horcruxes – but often it really worked. I enjoyed Snape’s casting of Fiendfyre in an attempt to destroy Horcruxes, and the struggle of his emotions as he did so. I liked when Dumbledore tried to leave Snape out of the Locket Horcrux adventure, which caused Snape to remark (upon seeing the potion at the Inferi lake), ‘How fortunate that you thought to bring a Potions Master who is also a Dark Wizard on this little adventure to fish a Horcrux out of a Dark Potion.’ I LOVED Ron’s clever idea to destroy the Hufflepuff cup. My favorite moment of the fic (or very nearly any fic) was Snape, buoyed by his friendship with Hermione, deciding that his life was worth something and carrying out a plan to throw off the collars of both of his masters.
The characterizations are also well done, although I would quibble that both are not as interested in academia as they should be (they are described as being that way, but the included conversations are 90% emotional rather than theoretical.) This is jeans-cigarette-emo-music grunge Snape which is not one I prefer, but it’s a viable interpretation here because of how subtly and skillfully those aspects of him are presented. Snape often makes extremely important decisions ‘in the moment’ with no plan in advance, which felt out of character to me. Additionally, he spends an excessive amount of time spent reflecting on himself and Hermione rather than planning for the War or theorizing about the aforementioned important decisions (more on that later.)
The plotting is extremely slow. This is fine in the beginning of the story, because the slow, probing conversations were supported by Hermione’s curiousity about the Snape and the growing romantic tension. But when the romance had been resolved and these conversations continued, over and over again with very little plot advancement, they began to feel superflous and I started skimming. The romance was completely resolved halfway through, and the plot is one we have already ready dozens of times. There was absolutely no tension or a reason to turn the page, for me. Why keep reading? What could possibly fill the second 200k of the story? Severus’ reflection on his feelings, Severus talking to Hermione about his feelings, Hermione talking to Severus about her feelings, Severus talking to Harry about Harry’s feelings, and then a very minor plot event that starts the entire cycle over again, as everyone examines their responses to this minor plot point.
I want to be clear – the study of Snape is beautifully, painfully, artfully drawn. If you are in the mood to fully explore our dark Potion Master’s psyche, this is the fic for you. The issue is that it is 500k with no tension in the last half. Conversations (nearly) alone cannot sustain a fic of this length. I cannot believe that Snape would talk about his feelings more than War strategy, research, and Potions. He is the epitome of duty, sacrifice, discipline, repression and getting the job done. Having long conversations in bed with Hermione every day during the final months of the War just didn’t feel right to me. I needed more clever original ideas, more academic connection, more characters, more plot, more action, and just /more/ in a fic of this extreme length.
One of my readers suggested that this fic is best read slowly, on-and-off, and savored. That could be true; I ‘gobble up’ fics very quickly because I listen to them while I work. Perhaps for this reason, it began to feel repetitious to me while it did not for others.
The bottom line: An excellent psychological study and emotional look at the pain, past, and future of Severus Snape. Recommended for those who are not fans of the pairing, as it exhaustively explores the SSHG connection and the full history of Snape. Also recommended for those who enjoy thoroughly exploring emotion, through music, poetry, reflection, conversation, etc. An Outstanding in the view of the community, but for me the lack of romantic or plot-driven tension in the second half of the story made it a struggle to finish.
Edit, several hours later: I felt the need to come back and report that my feelings on this fic were not precipitated by stress or a bad mood, because I started another fic and am so far immensely enjoying it (Thirty-One Days by keelhaulrose.) There is mystery/tension in this new fic – how will the plot resolve? How will the romance resolve? I have no idea, and that’s exciting. The problem for me with ‘Chasing the Sun’ is that it runs out of excitement and tension 250k words too early.