Breeding Lilacs Out of Dead Land – by Areola
[Note: added a link to my personal copy only because Ashwinder is down; I will try to come back and edit this out when it comes back up.]
Rating: Exceeds Expectations
The Basics: Phoenix Era, Romance/Darkness/Angst, 130k,
Warnings: NC-17, Violence, Non-Consensual, Self-Harm, Child Abuse, Language, Character Death, Torture
In her seventh year, Hermione Granger flees the British wizarding world. 9 years later, she and her daughter return to Hogwarts to battle Lord Voldemort – and to finally face Severus Snape.
I am really torn on this fic. There is so much about it that is meaningful, unique, and interesting. It definitely deserves ‘Exceeds Expectations’, and possibly higher. Let’s start with the ‘good.’
Hermione’s daughter, Audrey – introduced immediately, so not a spoiler – is really a unique, fascinating character. I really enjoyed almost everything that she did and every description of her. I have never wanted children, but this child was a very pleasant read for me. Logical and soft-spoken, she makes impossible situations possible with her thoughtful, innocent kindness, and softens even the grumpiest of hearts (including mine.) Very often children are just annoying accessories in SSHG fanfiction, with no place in the story – but Audrey is very much at the heart of the story, propelling the action and making everything possible. This fic is almost worth reading just for the character of Audrey.
The romance is paced well and believable. Severus Snape does not have easily breachable defenses, and would be extremely reluctant to befriend Hermione, let alone romance her. This fic understands that and doesn’t try to over-romanticize or over-soften Snape. He is miserable and keeps the world-at-a-distance, and the romance blossoms tantalizingly slowly as a result.
The characterizations were not quite on point for me. Hermione is fairly close to herself, though perhaps somewhat bland. The Snape is more troubling. I found him to be too dark, too violent. Those are tolerable things that I can usually accept. What I could not accept his is overly emotional indulgence in self-hate. My head-canon Snape is disciplined and logical at all times, including his private time. He has a swell of emotion underneath all of that, for sure, because he represses everything – but in this fic, personal drama and emotion seem to overwhelm everything. He spends an enormous amount of time thinking about his miserable childhood and his miserable present, indulging in sad poetry and alcohol. Childish. Undignified. I think the ‘real’ Snape would be embarrassed by this kind of behavior .
Continuing on this path, I felt that the author was over-projecting her own life into the fic. At least one character was named after someone from her personal life – revealed in the author’s notes – and it was a name that didn’t seem appropriate for the Harry Potter world. There was another name I strongly suspect was from her personal life. ‘Justin Snape?’ There were may of these ‘crude labels’ posted on to characters they didn’t quite fit, in a reflection of the author’s own life. I understand that writing fan-fiction is personal and that everyone has their own perspective, but it was far too prominent in this fic. Just as one example, Judaism is a major theme in the story, and Dumbledore/Snape share a Jewish prayer at one point. I have no problem with Jewish themes, but I certainly don’t look for them in SSHG fan-fiction. I found it too unusual, too out of place. It took me out of the moment.
Similarly, and worst, there was a black-covered-poetry-book full of indulgent emotion. Quoting Sylvia Plath and Baudelaire at every turn, self-harm, self-hatred, it was just so…ugh. Eyerolling. I like dark themes, I have experienced a lot of sad things; I have no problem exploring those feelings. However, in this fic, I found those self-indulgent moments to be laughable, not serious. It was too heavy-handed. Quoting ‘Oh Captain my Captain’ when one of the characters died? My eyes were in physical pain from rolling. I feel that I’m being overly rude – this is the rudest I’ve ever been in a review – but I just can’t find another way to describe this, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my gut reaction to the fic. I suppose it’s preferable to be rude in an positive review – like this one – than to be rude in an negative review.
Let’s close with some more positives. The writing is absolutely excellent. The plotting is good. The academic references are second to none – many, many, many poets are quoted, as well as philosophers and other great minds. I enjoyed some of the references. It’s certainly an intelligent fic. The warplot is something of an afterthought, but there is already so much going on between the characters that I think it worked in the context of the fic.
The bottom line: There is a lot to like here, for sure. The writing is absolutely excellent and the academic references are second to none. Hermione’s daughter Aubrey is one of the best original characters I’ve read in SSHG. If you can handle emotionally-indulgent, extremely dark themes, stained by the author’s personal life, then this might be a great fic for you.