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.