The Buried Life – by Kalina
Rating: Exceeds Expectations Minus
The Basics: Classic Era (compliant to GoF), Romance, Adventure, Angst, 160k
Warnings: Underage (no consummation), Dark!Harry, Non-consensual threats (None occurs, not SSHG)
After the war and the defeat of Voldemort, seventh-year Hermione must work together with Professor Snape to track down a kidnapped Harry Potter.
I was quite skeptical of this fic when I first started reading it. I was so skeptical that I actually skipped it during my run through Classic Era epics, and came back to finish it only when I had read the rest of them. This fic starts out as Harry fic – all Harry for about the first seven chapters. I grew bored with this during my first reading and decided to skip it. But I was glad I came back to finish it, because what little SSHG the fic provides is intellectual, top-quality SSHG.
The early SSHG attraction is written perfectly in character, perfectly believably, and completely intellectually. I found myself clapping my hands with glee at the delicious witty banter and snarky comebacks. This is SSHG at its finest! Very rarely in my fic-reading do I find something so hysterical and so in character that I take a snippet and e-mail it to my fiancee; that happened twice as I read this fic. Snape is standoffish and annoyed, Hermione is happy to have someone to talk books with. Their conversations at the breakfast table had me laughing out loud! The latter half of the relationship is not as solid; it is unfortunately over-rushed to that ‘paradise’ status, and then we have to slog through the rest of the book waiting for the warplot to wrap up and the usual Whack-a-Mole romance roadblocks to be removed. I enjoyed the early romance far more than the late romance.
The biggest problem the fic has, however, is pacing. As wonderful as the early SSHG interaction is, it doesn’t start until the central chapters. That would perhaps be forgivable if it continued throughout the fic, slowly rising in intensity, but unfortunately it stops cold in the last third of the fic, as I mentioned. Additionally, we don’t pop back and forth from an SSHG scene to a Harry scene. It’s separated into chunks; we spend the first and last third of the fic with Harry, and the central third with SSHG. It’s jarring.
This fic strongly reminded me of “All Secrets Sleep In Winter Clothes” by Enlightened Kitty. It is another Dark!Harry meets SSHG plot. The difference, however, is that All Secrets Sleep In Winter Clothes has a fantastic Dark!Harry storyline, but a weak SSHG storyline; this fic has great SSHG and mediocre Dark!Harry. All in all I would recommend this fic over that one – since we are reading for SSHG, after all – but the pacing issues in this fic are tough to overlook. I don’t mind a bit of Dark!Harry, but the Harry storyline isn’t very compelling in this fic.
The bottom line: Read if you love Dark!Harry and adventure fics as well as SSHG. If you’re just looking for a straight SSHG fic, maybe just read the central third and then skip to the end? I hardly ever recommend that, but the central chapters are truly fantastic SSHG and really worth reading.