Ordinary People – by Hayseed
Rating: Acceptable Plus
The Basics: Phoenix Era, Romance, 94k
Warnings: Seventh Year
Hermione Granger, bored with the ease of her Hogwarts classes, begins self-guided academic research and even has some papers published under a pseudonym. She corresponds with some other academics about her ideas…one of whom turns out to be her Potions professor, Severus Snape.
Technically, this is not an epic-length fic; it’s only 94k and ‘epic-length’ (as defined by harmony_bites’ guide) is 100k. I included this firstly because it is very close at 94k, and secondly because the author is Hayseed. Hayseed wrote “Dark Gods in the Blood” which is one of my favorite SSHG stories of all time. I actually literally squealed with delight when I realize she had another very long fic.
I absolutely adore the academic tone of this fic. I feel like Severus and Hermione are naturally, obviously, drawn together in an cerebral way, yet it seems to me that hardly any fanfic authors use this as a basis for the spark of friendship. I think it’s a disservice to the SSHG pairing that a majority of the fics have the relationship begin under Marriage Law type duress. Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent. Suffice to say that I was very excited as I began to read this fic. Written by Hayseed? Academic premise? I giddily poured myself some wine and settled in for an amazing read.
Unfortunately, the fic had a major problem – the Snape is out of character. Almost grossly out of character. I don’t understand how an author like Hayseed, who wrote such a painfully perfect Snape in ‘Dark Gods in the Blood’, could mess him up so badly in this one. He is immature and makes rash, foolish decisions. I can accept him not having any experience with relationships, maybe, but sleeping with Hermione without attempting to resist, without consulting the headmaster, and without considering the consequences? Getting caught snogging Hermione in her room with the door unlocked with no wards? Stealing scientific equipment (because he has no money, I guess?) No. These are the mistakes of a teenager, not a grown man. And especially not a grown man who is a double-agent spy; dangerous, careful, and precise.
The other problem, smaller but still significant, is what I perceive as lazy writing. There are a lot of things that were terribly “convenient.” Snape and Hermione single-handedly rescue Harry from a sticky situation. Snape and Hermione single-handedly defeat Voldemort (well, Harry too.) Dumbledore and the Order are characters in the story, but they are all magically ‘busy’ at these crucial times, and they don’t seem to be planning or doing anything important for the rest of the story. Those kind of contrivances are immersion-breaking to me. There is also a point in the story where Snape and Hermione recount the activities of the previous chapter to Dumbledore, and take almost the entire chapter to do it. So you’re reading the same chapter twice, essentially. What?
If you can overlook these problems, there is a lot to love here. The academic portion is thoughtful and interesting, mixing Muggle science with magical principles. There are a lot of charming scenarios and fun hijinks involving side characters. There are some really well-conceived ideas about the Dark Arts. But for me, none of that really matters when the Snape….just isn’t Snape.
The bottom line: This might have worked well if it were a time travel fic, and Hermione was visiting a teenage Severus Snape. If you can squint and imagine that, or if impulsiveness and immaturity don’t bother you as personality traits, then the story is fantastic. As it is, I would still hesitantly recommend it to most fans of the pairing, especially those who like plots involving academia. Just be prepared for an out-of-character Snape.