All Secrets Sleep in Winter Clothes – by enlightenedkitty

Link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/986820/1/All_Secrets_Sleep_in_Winter_Clothes

Rating: Acceptable +

The Basics: Classic Era (compliant only up to OoTP), Action/Romance, Harry/Draco, 100k

Warnings: Implied Slash, Violence

Reading this fic, I thought I was going to give it the next rating up – but as I sat down to write the review (having just finished the story 5 minutes ago) I suddenly could not remember anything about the fic.  I couldn’t remember what the premise was in the beginning, and I couldn’t remember how the romance started, or even if I found the romance believable.  All I could remember was Harry’s plot and the action/war scenes, because that’s what the last 10 chapters or so focused on.  In this story, I found Harry’s scenes and Harry’s story more compelling, MUCH more compelling, than Snape and Hermione’s relationship or their part in the action plot.  Given that this was supposed to be an SSHG fic, this is pretty shocking – so I felt that a lower rating was warranted.

So, after skimming back through the fic I just finished reading, here are my thoughts.

Hermione, an Auror, returns to Hogwarts with an unusual mission – protect Professor Severus Snape.  She is given the temporary post of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, and is soon swept up in a war plot with Snape, Harry, and Draco as main players.

The root of this fic’s problem is really lack of planning and focus.  You can tell from the author’s notes that the author was riddled with self-doubt and insecurities as she was writing, and it really reflects in the overall quality.  I think if she would have known she was going to write 38 chapters, she would have built the romance to at least chapter 30 or before acknowledgement and consummation.  Instead the tension-bubble of the romance bursts halfway through the story, the fic wanders around resolving the war plot and ‘tragic misunderstandings’ to string out the romance.   That’s why I became enthralled with Harry’s plot – his major tensions were not resolved and became the focus of the story for the latter half, while Snape and Hermione basically twiddle their thumbs.  No wonder I couldn’t remember what their plotline was!

Another example of the lack of focus – this fic was written after GoF, and OoTP comes out in the middle of the fic (the author talks about it in her notes.)  There is a the CLEAR line that stands out sharply between GoF and OoTP.  The fic begins completely Hogwarts-y and Dumbledore-y, full of Classic Era goodness, but suddenly lurches into a full on Order of the Phoenix advanced war plot halfway through.  Seriously, in ONE chapter, Sirius’ death is addressed, Grimmauld Place is introduced, the Prophecy is mentioned, and the entire Order descends into the plot. What?  I understand wanting to include the new elements and being excited about the new book, but it was very jarring.

The bottom line: This starts out as a decent Snape/Hermione romance, but the romance resolves far too quickly and fades into the background as the (wandering, average) war plot takes over.  Harry’s storyline, however, is fabulously compelling and should have been a stand alone story.  Read it if you love Dark!Harry fics, war plots, AND Snape/Hermione; skip it if you are looking for an epic-length SSHG.

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The Student in Question – Jan. McNeville

Link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/983571/57/The_Student_In_Question

Rating: Acceptable

The Basics: Classic Era (compliant only up to GoF), Humor/Romance/Action, 150k

Warnings: Original Characters, Underage, Time Travel

WARNING: PARTIAL REVIEW
As with many of my low-rated fic reviews, I only read a few chapters into this story before skimming to the end.
If anything in my review is inaccurate or misconceived as a result, please feel free to let me know and I will amend my review.

This fic starts out well enough; Hermione is working on a Potions project, Dumbledore is twinkly and meddling – classic, right?  Wrong.  About 3-4 chapters in, it becomes very clear that this fic is going to heavily involve original characters – Cassandra and John, American werewolf Aurors.  I had just finished reading Snape Gets His – by Clarity, a great fic that is heavy with original characters, so I wasn’t much deterred by Cassandra and John’s presence.

The writing style is the biggest problem in the fic for me.  The majority of the text is rapid-fire humor dialogue, delivered in a rush without preamble.  The author is obviously witty and creative, but I felt that the vision was not transferred well from mind to text.  There is no painting of the scene or characters, and very little internal monologue – just dialogue dialogue dialogue that becomes increasingly difficult to digest.  I missed a lot of the humor because the speaker was unclear, or the subject of the joke was unclear.  The author jumps from person to person and subject to subject, without the trail of breadcrumbs necessary to bring the reader along.

For example, John and Cassandra are treated as old friends almost immediately, with winking jokes being made about them by canon characters – jokes that I was unable to ‘get’ because I didn’t understand John and Cassandra’s personalities yet.  Some of these jokes were contridictory, as well; John is described as intelligent, verbose, and affectionate in his first scene, and then suddenly a joke is made about him being silent and aloof in the next.  What?   I found myself reading without comprehension until I slowed down, scrolling backwards constantly to see what I had missed (and more often than not, no explanation was there.)   It was not pleasurable reading, so I gave up the fight around chapter 8 and skimmed to the end.

I was glad that I did.  The last four or five chapters hardly mention Snape and Hermione at all – it’s all John and Cassandra (though in fairness, I think there was some sort of time-travel plotline that explained a connection John and Cassandra had with Snape and Hermione.)  I read the reviews for the last chapter on fanfiction.net and many of the readers seemed to be in agreement with me – many people were confused and apparently there were major plotlines left unresolved at the end of the story.

Aside from the trouble with writing style and original characters, the romance is also eye-rollingly bland.  There are a lot of ‘convenient coincidences’, which are a pet peeve of mine.  ‘Oh dear, I ran into Professor Snape in the hallway in the dark and now we are in a compromising position!’  ‘Oh dear, Professor Snape is filling in for Madame Pomfrey today!’  Both characters are far too interested in each other at the get go. Hermione has had sexy dreams about Snape as early as her sixth year (and indulges the fantasy, rather than dismissing it.)  Snape has a hard time taking medical care of Hermione because he is noticing her smell and her skin.  These are common fic devices, yes, but NOT in the early chapters!  It’s out of character, and worse, it’s lazy writing.  Snape and Hermione should not be in an already-attracted-to-each-other state.  It’s not interesting and it’s not canon.

The bottom line: This fic is the reason I started this site.  I read all the way to chapter 8 of this mediocre fanfic because it seemed promising in the beginning, but it quickly falls apart.  Let me save you the trouble – skip it.  You might enjoy it if you like humor and original character fics – many of the reviewers on FF.net really loved John and Cassandra.

Pygmalion – by Pidwidgeon37

Link: http://www.obscurusbooks.org/html/pigwidgeon37/Pygmalion/
My hosted copy: https://sshgreview.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/pygmalion-pidwigeon37.pdf
Sadly, the entire fiction archive that hosted this fic went down in 2015. I am happy to report that I found a copy of the story and am hosting it here, at least until it is back up on a proper archive site.

Rating: Exceeds Expectations Minus

The Basics: Classic Era (only compliant up to GoF), Humor/Drama/Romance, 100k

Warnings: R SC, Non-con (not SSHG)

This fic is at the lower end of Exceeds Expectations and should probably be lower, for reasons which I will detail below, but this fic has that special something; I have too much affection for it to rate it any lower.

I was highly amused by the basic set-up of this fic.  It has that hindsight-enabled naivete that only Classic Era fics can have; Hermione is married to Harry (who is now a grumpy, distant, starched-collared Minister of Magic) and Snape is Headmaster of Hogwarts – working alongside his best friends, Sirius Black and Mad-Eye Moody. What a ridiculously charming premise!  It doesn’t feel out of character (except Harry – he’s definitely out of character), it just feels like nostalgically wonderful Classic Era. Back in 2002, the author had no way of knowing that Sirius Black and Mad-Eye Moody would both be dead by the end of the series.  Black and Moody provide most of the humor in the fic; their dialogue is ripe with R-rated winking and twinkling.

While I loved the aforementioned Classic Era nostalgia and humor, the fic does have some serious problems. The SSHG romance is rushed – it’s basically love at first sight and the rest of the fic is resolving real-life considerations and tragic misunderstandings.  There is no satisfying, symmetrical physical or emotional plot; merely new issues that arise every few chapters and are quickly solved.  However, most of the tragic misunderstandings are unique and the solutions are usually creative.

The Hermione in this fic is decently well-written and has a lot of depth.  The author goes into the details of her relationship with Harry – why they got together, what went wrong, dreams deferred, etc.  There are spotty characterization moments, though which drove me crazy.  For example, Hermione is  a mysterious, reticent, Slytherin-esque goddess in many scenes, and an irate, irrational, childish Gryffindor in others.  What?  The same goes for Snape – he will wink and twinkle with Black and Moody, but then be a tortured, emotionally unstable ex-Death Eater in the next scene.  I have read fics that blend humor, romance, and drama in their characters, beautifully, but this is not one of them.   It is like eating a cake where the dough was not thoroughly mixed; overall it is delicious, but there are chunks of flour and lumps of flavor that sour in your mouth; it should have been blended better.

The bottom line: This fic is charming and unique, and I have a lot of affection for it, but if I’m honest, it has serious problems that do not allow for a higher rating.  The plot is scattered, the characters have multiple personalities, and the relationship is rushed.  Read it for humor, nostalgia, and fun – but skip it if you’re looking for a carefully plotted, slow-burning romance.

Note: There is a 150k sequel, Orpheus, which I have not yet read or reviewed.  http://www.obscurusbooks.org/html/pigwidgeon37/Orpheus/

Snape Gets His – by Clarity

Link: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/752536/1/Snape_Gets_His

Rating: Acceptable +

The Basics: Classic Era (compliant up to GoF only), Romance, 200k

Warnings: NC17 SC, Original Characters

This is a nice fic, at the very top end of Acceptable.  I very nearly gave it the next rating up!   Hermione returns to Hogwarts as a student-teacher, the last step to earning her teaching certificate. All of the teachers welcome her warmth and respect…with one notable exception. Severus Snape.

I was tempted to stop reading in the second or third chapter with the introduction as an original character as a main, but decided to wait it out and see what happened. I’m glad I did! The original character is a Wiccan named Ailie.  There are a lot of interesting comparisons of the Wiccan world and the Wizarding world, all drawn with respect and thoughtfulness. As far as original characters goes, Ailie is stellar – unique, interesting, and an important plot device that does not seem out of place in the story.

The romance in this fic is that of chemistry and sexual tension; not usually my favorite approach to this pairing, but is slow-burning and fairly believable in this fic. They are both relatively in character – Snape is perhaps a little more forward than we are used to, at least in the beginning, and Hermione is more explosive and childish than I prefer, but of course, she is a Gryffindor.

My biggest problem with the fic is the loose structure and the wandering plot. It is clear from the author’s notes that the fic took some time to write, with major interruptions, and the story reflects that. It begins as one fic and ends as another. I was very intrigued by the Wiccan culture aspect of the early chapters, but this (incredibly focal) plotline was completely gone by the end. I expected it to be cleverly used to resolve the war, or something…not just to disappear. It felt like the author ran out of ideas for the plotline and just deleted it. I expect more symmetry than that, in the best fics.

The bottom line: An enjoyable fic if you love drawn-out standing-too-close-to-each other sexual tension and explosive fights. Avoid it if you can’t stand original characters or sloppy plotting; overall, it’s probably worth a read!