The Amber Solution / The Amber Effect – by wandlimb

Amber Solution:
Amber Effect:

Amber Solution:
Amber Effect:
[Note on second links: I HATE linking to WIKTT/Masque because they are so Javascript prompty and annoying; it may take you several attempts to manage to log in and and then click back to the story link. Ashwinder is known to go down on occasion and this is the only other place that hosts it.]

Rating: Acceptable

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Romance/Action/Angst, 130k,

Warnings: Sexual Content, References to Non-Con

Hermione Granger and Severus Snape are drawn together following a potions accident. Could this accidental potion be the key to defeating Voldemort?

First off, this is two fics – ‘The Amber Solution’ MUST be read before ‘The Amber Effect’. In my opinion the better of the two fics is ‘The Amber Solution’, the shorter prequel, so don’t skip it!

This fic is pretty solid, right down the middle. It has a lot of problems but it has a lot of good points, too. A solid Acceptable if there ever was one. My biggest problem with this fic is a common one – the romance is rushed. For me, the most satisfying part of a fic is the tantalizing chapters between realizing they are attracted to each other and consummation – and that is sadly absent from this fic. The potions accident rushes the relationship to it’s conclusion in the first 10k. The rest is just inconveniences and warplot. Why bother?

Well, I recommend ‘bothering’ because these inconveniences and warplot are actually fairly well crafted and pleasant to read. There are some incidents that take place in the first few chapters that end up being explained and useful in the final conclusion; I always appreciate a fic that is able to plant a seed in an early chapter, and then have that seed bear fruit in the final one. The plot isn’t intricate enough to be sure that it was actually plotted beforehand – I suspect it might have been edited in later once the author figured out the plot – but that’s still better plotting than 80% of the fics I read.

I also really enjoyed the technical aspects of the fic. The author put a lot of thought into the potions and their various stages and uses, although I must confess that the main potion reminded me strongly of Veritamoria in For Someone Special, which the author even mentions once in her author’s notes. I am glad that she gave ‘For Someone Special’ credit, because the potion and its effects are almost an exact copy, with a little Voldemort-defeating cherry and cream plopped on top.

One major problem that I had is the idea that Snape was always attracted to Hermione, even as a student. I don’t find this believable for the character at all, and it smacks of this Creeper!Snape and Pedo!Snape that I just can’t stand. Maybe I’m getting too old, but my canon Snape is so unbelievably closed off that attraction to a student isn’t even something that would cross his mind. It’s a serious problem for me that made me uncomfortable throughout the fic. I wish more authors would realize that writing Snape as attracted to her ‘all along’ cheapens the fic. Can’t they see that it is MORE interesting to describe the long, difficult process in which he admits to himself that he IS attracted to her? That’s the best part!

The characterizations are fairly bland in this fic. I would blame that on the soul-binding potion, except that in ‘For Someone Special’, Hermione and Snape remain firmly and perfectly in character, despite the potion. They aren’t terrible out of character in this fic, but there just isn’t enough wit and spark in their conversations; no life to them. This is especially evident in the chapters where Snape tries to run away from the situation to protect Hermione – a trope that I absolutely loathe. I almost put down the fic in those chapters, because I didn’t care enough about the Snape character to overlook the annoyance of the trope. I had to skim through those sections.

Despite my reservations, it’s overall a pretty enjoyable read. Skim through the boring parts and enjoy the good ones. The warplot and Voldemort confrontation are interesting, and the technical aspects of the potion – even if borrowed from a superior fic – is excellent, and the smut is very good, if a little overused.

The bottom line: Take it or leave it. It’s all right. I definitely recommending reading the prequel, ‘The Amber Solution’ as a nice 12k fic, as it is short and relatively satisfying. If you really enjoy that, maybe move into the longer fic, but it’s really just more of the same + Voldemort.


Albus’ Scheme – by Acadia Elle


Rating: Acceptable Minus

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Romance 100k,

Warnings: Sexual Content, (there might be more, because I stopped reading)

As with many of my low-rated fic reviews, I only read about halfway 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.

Hermione Granger, in her final year at Hogwarts, joins the Order of the Phoenix and trains with Severus Snape.

I feel like I should add this small disclaimer: have just completed reading a string of very high quality fics when I came across this one, so my review might be harsher than necessary as a result.

I read a pretty big chunk of the way into this fic. I thought it was going to be all right, but after Snape and Hermione married in the first quarter of the fic, I started to lose hope. Then there were a couple chapters of Hermione throwing tantrums when people were surprised by her marriage, and I just couldn’t read it anymore. So I skimmed for a bit and found more of the same – idealized relationship, sex, Order meetings, rinse and repeat. Not an interesting plot, not an interesting character study, not well-written enough to continue.

I did enjoy the romance in the first quarter of the fic, though. It had a nice curve to it and didn’t proceed too quickly. The banter between Snape and Hermione was interesting and believable. Snape was a little too open, I think, but not egregiously so. Hermione is a bit Mary Sue, but again, not egregiously so. Perhaps this would have been a nice 25k fic, but the author’s mistake was to drag it out another 75k words. Authors, please, the romantic tension needs to be in sync with the warplot tension. Otherwise the story just becomes tiresome, as it does here.

The other major problem I had with this fic is that they turn Dumbledore into a villain, which is one of my least favorite Harry Potter fic devices. He is sickeningly out of character, to the point that it made me very angry. I guess I’m a Dumbledore apologist. I like Classic Era Dumbledore best – twinkling, meddling, and handing out candy.

The bottom line: Maybe read the first 25k up until their marriage as a short fic, as that was enjoyable. Skip the rest, as it is little more than tragic misunderstandings and arguments with secondary characters.

Needfire – by Bicycle Built for Two (Melisande88 and Areola)


Rating: Exceeds Expectations

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Angst, 200k

Warnings: Underage, NC-17 Sexual Content, Self-Harm, Suicide, Incestual Child Molestation, Slash, Harry/Draco

Hermione Granger, in her final year at Hogwarts, is drawn the mystic power of Druidism. Her Druid mentor is none other than her potions master, Professor Snape.

Some of you know that I am using Harmony_Bites’ guide to SSHG Epics, in chronological order, and I am reaching the end of the Order of the Phoenix era. We have well and truly left the classic era now – some tropes of the genre have become cliches and the authors are seeking new and unusual ideas. In my opinion they are straying a bit too far from canon in their exploration, and this fic is an example of that.

Let’s start with the writing, because that is the strong point of this fic, for sure. I usually dislike angsty, incredibly dark fics for this pairing, but the writing in this fic is so incredibly stellar that I quite enjoyed it despite the emotional themes. It is a collaboration between two authors, Melisandre88 and Areola (author of  Breeding Lilacs out of Dead Land). This fic does remind me quite a bit of ‘Breeding Lilacs.’ It was also an well-written, beautiful, extremely dark fic.

The Druid aspects to this fic are very strong. Unique premises can be hard to come by in this genre and this is very unique, and also believable to Snape’s character. I could see him liking the order and solitude of Druid rites. And Hermione, of course, would be incredibly curious about this whole other type of magic. The beautiful prose-poem writing style really meshes well with the mysticism of the Druid rites. Some of the Druid scenes are quite magical; immersing you in a moment, a river of words that carries you away. Almost like the writing of Virginia Woolf, my favorite author.

Unfortunately, this fic has some problems, too, at least for my preferences. I don’t mind a little darkness, but in this fic, the writing is SO dark that it becomes out of character for Hermione and Snape, especially Hermione. Hermione in this fic is self-harming, OCD, and at times, suicidal. To me, that is an interesting theme to explore, but it’s just not what I look for in SSHG. There’s no witty banter, there’s no potions projects, just lots of sex and lots of extremely dark, self-indulgent angst. There is a deep selfishness to the level of angst that Hermione experiences in this fic that frustrated me endlessly. Just as an example, she throws a fit and cuts herself almost to the point of death when Severus leaves her to go to a Death Eater meeting. Um…all you have to do is stay home and sit in a chair. Snape is the one going to a Death Eater meeting! Have some compassion! Have some brains! Unforgivable. I understand that she was in a really dark place and not thinking clearly, etc, but I couldn’t get over my annoyance at the character.

I think, for me, it comes down to the fact that I prefer this pairing as an academic pairing, an intellectual pairing. There is lots of that here, yes, but it is completely overridden by the emotional angst. I don’t see these pair as two who are inclined to emotional indulgence. Harry/Draco, perhaps. Snape/Lily, even. But Snape/Hermione? No. Snape is too experienced, mature, and cold; Hermione is too orderly, studious, and logical. It felt out of character; it felt as though the author was projecting her personal problems or personal life on to the characters.  This was my chief problem with ‘Breeding Lilacs,’ as well.   I understand the concept of retconning and exploring in an alternate universe fic, but this fic was retconned to the point that Hermione was no longer Hermione, and then, what is the point?  Just write an original story with your own characters.

I mentioned it above, but it bears repeating –  the lack of witty banter is a serious problem in this fic. I don’t prefer humor-based fics, I’m not looking for lightness and brevity, but snarky banter is pretty much a defining quality of Snape, and it only would theoretically increase with a Hermione around to snark back. I find that witty banter is a supporting beam of the genre and that I never can fully recommend a fic that lacks it. It is especially needed in these darker fics to bring an occasional release from the unrelenting angsty pressure, and its absence is sorely felt.  This fic has scene after scene of heavy, emotional, stream-of-consciousness angst that becomes tiresome despite the beautiful writing.

Edit: I am here a couple weeks later to add that some of the imagery and words from this fic are still rattling around in my head, despite the passage of time and the completion of 3 more fanfics. There is definitely something here that will get inside and make you think; that will get inside and make you remember.

The bottom line: If you don’t mind incredibly angsty, emotionally traumatic fics, this will be a great read for you. The writing is incredibly strong and the premise is unique. This is not a traditional SSHG romance; it’s an alternate universe version of Hermione having an emotional/angsty journey, guided and helped along by Snape.

You Can’t Have One Without The Other – RachelW


Rating: Acceptable Minus

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Angst, 100k

Warnings: Non-Con-ish, BDSM, Abuse-ish, NC-17 Sexual Content, Darkfic

Hermione Granger is forced by new Marriage Laws to make a difficult choice. She makes the best decision that she can, but is she ready to deal with the consequences?

First off, one very important thing to know is that this story has two different endings.  If you read it the story on Ashwinder, it has an unhappy, non-romance, non-thoughtful ending.  Do not recommend.  I actually gave this my lowest recommendation until I read somewhere that the Petulant Poetess ending was different.  That ending was BRILLIANT!  It’s still not what I would call a romance, but it’s beautiful and interesting enough to make the story worthwhile, in my opinion.

The story is beautifully written, but I must strongly insist that there is a ton of barely consensual brutal sex.  The author calls it BDSM, but I am not quite sure I agree, as BDSM takes place between equal and willing partners and that is definitely not what you have in this fic.  It’s just short of sexual and psychological abuse and torture, in my opinion, but sex + pain is not my preference.  This sex is almost nothing but aggressive ‘BDSM’ sex, so if you don’t like that, you might want to skip this one.

That said, I did find the strong, independent Hermione to pretty fabulous. I liked her immensely.  But I don’t read SSHG fanfiction for a fabulous Hermione – I read it for fabulous SSHG.

The bottom line: Barely an SSHG romance.  Definitely not an SSHG friendship. Snape is very nearly the villain.  It’s sort of an uneasy, imperfect, incredibly dark take on the relationship, but the unique and thoughtful ending (Petulant Poetess version only) is enough for me to still recommend it, if you can tolerate the metric truckload of BDSM sex.  I’m not sure I would recommend it to myself, but for people with stronger tastes for pain + sex, maybe.  The writing is fantastic.

Chaos is Come Again – by Aashby (Theatersm)

Sadly this is another fic that has disappeared from the Internet because of an entire archive website going down (Mirror Dance.) I’m hosting it myself until it reappears on another archive. This is a /great/ copy, including all of the original charts, fonts, and spacing. It also includes the short epilogue sequel.

Rating: Exceeds Expectations Plus

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Angst/Intrigue, 300k

Warnings: Non-Con (ish), UnusuallyCruel!Snape, Graphic Violence, Torture

A decade or more after the defeat of Voldemort, Severus Snape and Hermione Granger work together to stop the Ministry from grossly misusing its power to solve wizarding Britain’s genetic problems.  Starts with Marriage Law, and approaches near dystopian levels of corruption.

Well, well, well.  This is a very interesting fic.  Very often in these reviews I struggle with finding enough to write about.  I go down a checklist.  Plot.  Writing.  Snape characterization.  Romantic tension.  This fic is quite different.  I finished the fic and pulled up this window to write, but had so many ideas churning around in my head that I stopped and took a shower first.  Unfortunate result – I only came up with more interesting things to add to jumble, rather than sorting it out.  So, here goes a messy review.

Some would say that this is more of an intrigue fic than a romance fic.  I have to agree with that, on some level.  There is a certain ‘rising romantic tension’ or at least ‘rising sexual tension’ that one expects from a romance fic.  This does not have that.  Rather it’s more an examination of how two personalities – loaded with past baggage, quirks, and barbs – interact with each other.  There are no cliched characters or Mary Sues here, not at all.  This author created a ‘real’ (though I hestitate to say that, because the relationship portrayed in this fic is not my preference or favorite) vision of what Hermione and Snape together might have been like.  She looks it straight in the face and it isn’t pleasant.  My gut reaction is to balk ad this and say they’re out of character, but honestly, I can’t.  The relationship here is gritty, unflinching, and at times, repulsive, but it’s not out of character.

There is an action Severus takes in the early chapters that many WILL call out of character.  As I read it, I thought, ‘Oh, here we go, this is going to be Dark!Snape.  I hate this Snape.’  Yet, as the fic progressed, the Snape WAS my Snape.  Insecurities masked by snarls, wounds masked with whisky, relentingly intelligent, with sparkles of humor and wit and raised eyebrows.  As I continued reading, the author convinced me –  the early action that I so repulsed WAS in character.  It was very upsetting for me to realize and admit it.  And as I began to experience that feeling of sickness and regret, so too did the Snape in the story.

This fic has all of the trappings of a romance fic – starts with Marriage Law, they grow closer together, they realize what they have in common, they make each other laugh – but it is not a romance fic.  The ending will leave you quite unsatisfied if you continue to expect that everything is building toward romance and a happy ending (as I did.)  Traditional SSHG Snapes have a redemptive arc – no matter how terrible he seems in the beginning, Hermione heals him and we get a satisfying ending.  Not so, here.  Realizing that the Snape was not going to change, in the final chapters, made me feel almost silly or trivial for expecting him to.  I find that quite intriguing.  If you like this kind of meta exploration, not only of Snape and Hermione but of yourself, you might enjoy this fic.  It is the first Dark!Snape fic that convinced me that this could be the true version of Snape, and that my view was perhaps wishful thinking.

With those thoughts out of the way, I do have a few quibbles with the fic as a whole. The writing is excellent, but not compelling.  I was able to easily put the fic down every night.  I think the fic could have been improved with a bit of editing and tightening up – it’s 300k, which is VERY long, and I didn’t find the intrigue plot particularly page-turning.  I wish there had been a few more twists and turns, or some sort of big reveal. The warplot wrap-up, once it started down that path, was entirely predictable. “Okay, time to wrap this up.” The plot premise is good, even extraordinary, but it is drawn painstakingly slowly that I lost interest a few times and stopped reading to do something else.

Though the ending wasn’t strong, some of the middle action is. There are some great passages that will remain in my mind for quite some time. At one point Hermione and Snape investigate a Muggle insane asylum at night as urban explorers, and they find absolutely horrific things there.  This was the highlight of the fic for me, for sure. Unfortunately, it’s at the halfway point, and not the finale, and it was the only compelling action sequence in the story. So it isn’t a romance story, that’s fine, but it isn’t quite an action story either. Nor is it particularly angsty or dramatic. It’s a character study, perhaps, with a tiny bit of intrigue/spy thrown in.

Important note: Make sure you read the epilogue tacked on to the end of my copy, ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Favour.’  I’m not sure it really helps, although (like everything else about this fic) it is very thought-provoking.

The bottom line: Honestly I think this is worth reading for just about any fan of the pairing.  I prefer romantic fics, and this is NOT a romantic fic – don’t read this if you’re in the mood for some fluff. Read this if you’re looking for stellar writing and a meaty story. Steel yourself, expecting a Snape that will make you unhappy and a less than perfect ending.  Expect a molasses-slow plot.  Maybe skim through some of the parts where it drags a bit.  At the end of the day, the quality of the writing and the deep exploration of the relationship makes this just about mandatory reading. You just need to be in the right mood.

For Someone Special – by LadyoftheMasque

Link: (Instructions for joining author’s Yahoo group that has the files, requires signing up for a Yahoo account)
Alt Link:
Note that the final two links are in two parts, you will need to read both, of course! I’m only hosting because the Internet ate the Restricted Section and it’s sad for a classic beautiful fic to disappear from the Internet for that reason; I’ll remove my files once it is back up properly again. Hopefully that is okay!

Rating: Outstanding Minus

The Basics: Phoenix Era (inspired by OoTP era, with additions from later books) Drama/Angst/Romance, 550k,

Warnings: Underage, Non-Con, Extremely Kinky in Every Way, Slash, Violence, Suicide, NC-17 Everything.

In the direst of circumstances, with no other options, Professor Snape performs the ancient Veritamoria ritual with Hermione Granger, binding her mind to his and saving her life.

First off, this fic is 500k and I first read it more than 10 years ago.  I loved this fic so much that I used “Veritamoria” as my password for years.  I scrawled the words in the margins of my college notes, with hearts and Snapes.  I fangirl this fic.

My favorite part of this story is the ancient love ritual potion, Veritamoria.  Essentially, it is a love-enhancing potion that works over a period of months, strengthening the bond between two individuals by giving them a telepathic link that increases slowly in power as the lovers progress through the stages –  Mind-Bound, Heart-Bound, Soul-Bound.   Most couples have incompatible thoughts and never make it through the first stage.

Veritamoria is a genius idea for this pairing; you can imagine how much fun the author has with the telepathic communication between Snape and Hermione.If you have read many reviews on my site, you will note that I often look for ‘witty banter’ as part of my criteria for a good SSHG fanfic.  They are both intelligent and snarky (“I see no difference,” and “emotional range of a teaspoon,” for example), and they should rile each other up with hilarious biting comments, in my opinion.  “For Someone Special” is what GAVE me that opinion.  So much fabulous, unrestrained, occasionally telepathic, stream-of-consciousness snarky verbiage is spilled.

The writing and characterizations are perfect. They define the genre, for me.  Snape, in this fic, has an incredibly strong tumultuous undercurrent of emotions that he keeps firmly repressed. That is so canon – Lily – yet this was written during OotP era. This is absolutely how I see Snape. So few authors get this right. He often does and says the opposite of what he feels; at first it was self-protective, then it was necessary (to pretend he was a loyal Death Eater.) then it became an unconscious misery-reinforced habit. The Veritamoria link with Hermione slowly strips away those protective barriers, both conscious and unconscious.  Beautiful.

There are a few problems, of course.  The author seems to have difficulty writing relational conflict. There are a series of ‘tragic misunderstandings’ in the final section of the fic that are utterly frustrating.  I understand that tension is needed for a satisfying resolution, but the way it unfolds is ham-fisted. One of the misunderstandings could have been easily avoided with a simple conversation; something horrible had to happen, yes, but it would have been through tearful agreement rather than a stupid misunderstanding. Then, just when that obstacle is wrapping up, ANOTHER stupid misunderstanding, even more frustrating than the first, occurs, through deux-ex-machina Dumbledore meddling.  It’s obvious to the reader that both misunderstandings were going to be resolved, so reading through them was absolutely drudgery.  Both misunderstandings could have created tension enjoyably and satisfactorily if they were handled with more maturity from both characters, and had been briefer.

Additionally, I must complain that there is way, way, way too much sex in this fic for my taste, and that Snape and Hermione are far more focused on sex than they should be.  Yet, because of this clever Eromancy plot, and Mudslut Voldemort Performance Spy plot, it’s tied to the plot and doesn’t feel like filler.  I should also add that the sex is very kinky.  This is one of the earliest fics that I read, when I was very young, and I must say that it shocked the hell out of me.  It’s all done tastefully, but there is pretty much every kind of sex you can think of, magically altered in EVERY way.  It’s an exploratory Tantric Eromancy project, after all.

If you’d like a LadyoftheMasque story that is slightly less sex-focused, you could try In Annulo by the same author. (Clarification: less sex, but still way too much.)

The bottom line: I am slightly concerned that my review might be over-praised or irrelevant for modern readers because I have adored this fic for more than a decade. However, the best part of this fic has not changed – LadyoftheMasque’s dialogue skills are the best in the ship to this day, in my opinion.  There is way too much sex, and a series of extremely annoying tragic misunderstandings at the end, but there is also a beautiful, well-written, highly imaginative love story. The QUALITY of the writing is utterly spectacular.  Read it for the snark, read it for glorious Veritamoria, and skim through the any parts you find tedious – because the overall quality of this fic is well worth it.

The Incident in the Great Hall – by Acadia Elle


Rating: Acceptable Minus

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Romance, 100k,

Warnings: Underage

As with many of my low-rated fic reviews, I only read about halfway 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.

Harry Potter must go back in time to his seventh year at Hogwarts to prevent the violent deaths of Severus Snape and Hermione Granger.

I feel a little under-caffeinated today, so if the tone of this review is mildly annoyed, that’s probably why.  I think this might be an all right fic, but I was just in a bad mood today.

This fic has the usual problems of Acceptable fics.  The writing is mediocre at best, although it does improve slightly as the fic continues. It also has that ‘young’ perspective; only surface interest in the greater plot or in emotional consequences, and almost completely focused on the exciting emotions of the budding relationship.  Maybe it’s because I’m entering my seventh year in a committed relationship, but for me that isn’t enough to sustain a fic anymore.  Romantic tension, maybe, but not simply ‘lol relationship with Snape he’s Scary but also Handsome!’  This fic feels like the latter.

I really SHOULD have liked this fic – it has my two favorite tropes, Seventh year apprenticeship/project and an ancient love binding with varying levels of success.  Somehow it just felt like going through the motions in this fic, though.  Nothing gripping, nothing touching, nothing tantalizing.  As an example, an ancient love spell ceremony in described in only a handful of sentences.  This is something that would have been a beautifully painted chapter in a high-quality fic.

The Snape is a pathetic Snape who doesn’t find himself worthy of Hermione.  He continually insists he isn’t worthy of her, he won’t taint her, blah blah blah.  I have a hard time with this type of Snape.  For me, this is a layer of Severus, yes, but one that he keeps carefully hidden and would never betray.  Hermione would guess at it or see flickers of expression that *might* betray this.  To have Snape say these things, and to repeat these things, was just totally annoying to me.  It took me far out of the moment and away from the characters.

Plotting is also a problem.  The love relationship is fully resolved, consummated, and legal by the halfway point.  Why keep reading?  Sometimes 100,000k fics can still feel short and rushed, because the author actually wrote an okay 50k fic, but didn’t know when to stop writing.  This fic just meanders into nowhere.

My last gripe with this fic is that Hermione loses interest in her friends and family in favor of her relationship with Snape.  It would be one thing if they were examining this, and if it were some sort of hurdle in her maturity or something, but nope, the author just seems to think that it’s okay and normal.  Protip: Not!  Hermione and Snape are far too intelligent and passionate about their interests to become codependent.

The bottom line: Rushed writing that lacks description, childlike perspective, pathetic Snape, and meandering plot.  There are some good ideas in this fic but the result is disappointing.  I wish the author would do a rewrite, because the ideas are strong and I imagine that he or she was very young when they wrote this.