The Basics: Classic Era (compliant to GoF and some references to later books), Romance, 180k
Warnings: None. PG Rated
Professor Snape’s seventh-year Potions class brews and imbibes an ancient love potion, the hayam, that causes the drinker to fall superficially in love with the other drinker. Hermione Granger, however, seems unaffected by the potion – a rare occurrence that has not been seen in decades. The only way to be unaffected by the potion is to already be deeply in love with one’s soulmate. Hermione is shocked to realize the implications; that her schoolgirl crush on Professor Snape is actually much, much more.
Wow, what a wonderful story. I had very strong deja-vu from the first few chapters – I definitely had read those chapters before. My guess is that I originally stumbled upon it while it was still a work-in-progress, and when I realized that, I stopped. I had completely forgotten about the fic and I am so glad I re-disovered it in this process. This is definitely one of the best, if not the best, SSHG fic I have ever read. So beautiful, so whimsical, so witty and funny, and so painfully in character.
One of my top complaints in SSHG fanfiction is that the romance moves too quickly. Snape is a very private man and it would take A LOT to get him involved with a former student. Even if he had extremely strong feelings, he would likely never act on them without certainty of reciprocation and no hint of impropriety. This fic fully appreciates that, almost to a fault, and as a result the relationship feels quite natural and the romance is drawn out tantalizingly over an excruciatingly long period of time. There is a particularly wonderful section in the story that involves gathering potion ingredients late at night and a Midsummer festival. Reading that section, I felt incredibly giddy and heady with romantic intoxication, far more than I usually do with these stories. It was just beautifully written. We all read fan-fiction for those rare moments, and believe me, this fic delivers.
Another strength of the story is the witty banter. There is a cauldron full of raised eyebrows, quirking lips, sideways glances, and generally hilarious and intelligent conversation. This is SO important in SSHG fics; their sharp tongues are one of the most important things they have in common. Witty banter has been sorely lacking in the last few fics I had read and I was so glad to stumble across an author who could really write it, again.
There are a few issues with the fic, however. For one, there is no sex. None. The relationship fully matures and there is a small amount of physical payoff (if beautifully written kisses will satisfy you – they sure worked for me!) but there is no smut or consummation within the story’s pages. My second issue with the fic is that the story sagged a little in the last quarter and the ending was not totally satisfying. For me, the author seemed to be doggedly determined to finish the fic even though she had run out of ideas and interest. There is a slight lack of creativity/beauty in the last the quarter, as compared to the rest of the fic – it definitely feels like we are barreling towards an inevitable conclusion and eliminating plot points, even if it is being done very well.
My biggest pet peeve with the fic is VERY small, but it annoyed me enough that I decided to write a whole paragraph about it. It’s an occasionally out-of-character personality quirk for Hermione – she is incredibly DENSE. There is a gentleman with interest in her while she is away at college, who goes out to eat with her every week, yet it never even *enters her mind* that he is romantically interested. Even when he’s trying to explain it to her, she can’t even conceive of what he’s saying until he spells it out. What? Another example – Harry and Ron show up completely irate on her parents’ doorstep over Christmas, and she has *no idea* what they could possibly be upset about (how about the fact that Molly Weasley might have finally told them about her relationship with Snape, which she had been threatening to do for 4 chapters?) Lastly, she agonizes over how to tell her parents/friends about her relationship with Snape, where there is a simple solution – the hayam potion! Everyone in the school knew that Hermione Granger was in love with her soulmate but she wouldn’t tell anyone who. Wouldn’t saying, ‘Hey remember the hayam potion? I want to tell you the whole story from the beginning to now. You will understand why I agonized over it, why I wouldn’t tell anyone, and why it is so hard for me to tell you, even now.’ Instead, she blurts out half-explanations that are obviously going to make them angry. I just didn’t get it, and it made me very annoyed.
The bottom line: Any fan of the SSHG should read this. It is especially strong in intelligent banter, whimsically lovely romantic moments, creative academia-based plot devices, and overall strong characters. It has a few problems, but they pale in comparison to its qualities. The beautiful tantalizing watercolor scenes the author paints during Midsummer are perhaps my favorite SSHG scenes ever written.