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.