A Matter of Honor – by Amy McWilliams
Rating: Exceeds Expectations Plus
The Basics: Classic Era (compliant up to GoF), Friendship/Romance, 150k
Hermione works with Professor Snape to develop a potion that will allow the drinker to painlessly withstand the Cruciatus Curse. The fic starts in Hermione’s 7th year, but the romance is not tangible or spoken until she returns to Hogwarts as an Arithmancy Professor.
This is an excellent, excellent fic; especially considering how old it is. The characterizations are absolutely spot-on. One of the major pitfalls of Classic Era fics is that Snape is not given much face time yet in the actual Harry Potter books; as a result he is often woefully out of character as the author fills in blanks with the wrong personality traits. This fic, if you look at characterization alone, could have been written in 2012. Snape is perfect. I give the author a hearty round of applause for that.
This is an intellectual fic; there are poetry and academia references as far as the eye can see, and Snape and Hermione’s relationship grows out of their mutual respect for each other’s minds. For this pairing, this is my favorite kind of romance. Highly intelligent, studious, less-than-social people have unique, isolating view of the world; finding someone who shares that worldview is both rare and intoxicating. The highest praise I can give this fic is that never *once* (pre-romance) did I roll my eyes and think, ‘yeah right.’ Not a single line, not a single action; everything was believable, in character, and at the proper time.
The one criticism I have of this fic is that once the romance is acknowledged, it becomes full-fledged in a matter of paragraphs. Even after physical admission, it should be somewhat awkward – Snape is not used to completely openness and expression of affection, so I expect some learning curve on his part, and Hermione’s as well. This fic rushes the early romance to a pastoral idyll far too quickly. Snape is almost instantaneously open and romantic, using phrases like ‘my love’ which I have a hard time imagining him saying, at least at first. Perhaps the academic-minded author found the social/romantic aspects of her story more difficult to write. Similarly, I find the fic’s pacing and tension evaporate once the romance ensues; I had to trudge through the last 10 chapters or so, waiting for the action plot to resolve itself so I could be finished.
The bottom line: I would have given this fic a higher rating if it weren’t for the character/pacing issues that occur once the romance is acknowledged. Despite that criticism, it is an absolutely stellar fic. I would recommend this to any SSHG fan, especially those who enjoy the studious, intellectual aspects of the pairing.