Cloak of Courage – by WendyNat
The Basics: Phoenix Era, Romance/Darkness/Angst, 190k,
Warnings: Attempted Non-Consensual (not Severus), NC-17, Violence, Marriage Law, Dark, Character Death
After much death and destruction in her life, Hermione Granger turns to the Dark Arts for revenge. Only one person can hold her back from the dark precipice – Severus Snape.
Wow. This fic was extremely impressive. Turbulant, emotional, but restrained, extremely dark, but still clinging to Light…incredible.
The beginning is a little rough, especially the first chapter – honestly I might have rolled my eyes and moved on if I were reading this just for pleasure and not for review. But hang in there, because it is ABSOLUTELY worth slogging through the first bit.
The driving force of the fic is the system of Dark Magic that the author creates, “The Call of the Blood.” And it is SO well done; better than some mechanics that you find in published fiction. It is unique, fascinating, and revealed slowly throughout the course of the story. The Dark Arts is at once looming shadow and a siren’s song. It brings Snape and Hermione together, it threatens to drive them apart. It could be the answer to defeat Voldemort, or it could signal the downfall of the Order. Primitive. Brutal. Beautiful. Unknowable. All this, and yet and still somehow feels like it could organically and truly fit in with the Harry Potter world. “The Call of the Blood” would explain so much about Snape, and about Lucius, and about Voldemort. Honestly I think am going to adopt it is ‘head-canon’ for the real Harry Potter – it’s that good. This is all vague, but I don’t want to go into the details, because everything is revealed slowly and it would be spoiler-y to explain it.
Another strength is the plotting. It is beautifully plotted. All of the side characters, side plots, and off-screen events work together. Everything matters, though you may not realize it at first (as it should be – too often in fanfiction something stands out and you know it will come back later. Not so here; it is woven in subtly.) There was one particular “A-ha” moment for me that literally made me grin with wild glee because it made perfect sense, but I didn’t see it coming. A surprising, on-point, subtle, ironic, deftly written twist – to check all of those boxes at once is a very difficult thing to do.
The romance and characterizations are also great. It is a Marriage Law fic, so they are forced together, but there is still a long, satisfying period of coming together physically and emotionally. I found it quite believable. Hermione is too darkly out of character, probably -, but if the horrible things that happened to this Hermione had happened to canon Hermione, she may have ended up this dark. The Snape is excellent – extremely dark, extremely disciplined, extremely sexy. I would say that he is slightly overconfident. My Snape is inwardly insecure, but outwardly confident; this Snape is inwardly confident as well. I found it kind of sexy, though, so I can’t say I disliked it – just a tiny bit off point, for me. Last note on the romance – this is my favorite wedding ceremony of any fic, ever. I got married last year and honestly if I had read this last year, I might have incorporated some of the wedding ceremony into my own.
I don’t usually comment on the smut, but it was so good in this fic that I didn’t skip ANY of it. It wasn’t overused, and it was always useful – there was a plot point or an emotional revelation or something every single time. It wasn’t just filler; it was part of the story. THAT is the way smut should be done.
The bottom line: This is an extraordinary fic, but it might be too dark for some. I didn’t think I was a fan of Dark!SSHG but this converted me. It was seductive and brutal and tear-stained and I loved it. Read this if you would like more of an inside look into the Death Eaters and Dark Magic. It might become your head-canon. And definitely read this if you are a fan of SSHG, period. The first few chapters are just good, not great, but wait for it.