Vanity – by Wartcap

Link:
https://sshgreview.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/vanity-by-wartcap-2005.pdf
http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=12541
Linking my own file only because Ashwinder is currently down.

Rating: Exceeds Expectations

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Romance/Humor, 160k

Warnings: Seventh Year (involving time travel, though), Sexual Content

Hermione has a crush on her Potions Master. Frustrated that he doesn’t have any interest in her, she decides to use her time-turner to meet him on fair ground when he was a student at Hogwarts. The author says she intended to write this as a parody of the ship, but for me it didn’t really read as a parody? It seems to me that there should be a OBVIOUS difference between an earnest fic and a parody. I didn’t even know it was meant to be a parody until I read her notes afterwards.

I have only read one SSHG time-turner fic before. As I started reading, it surprised me that I haven’t seen it more often. After all, not many ships include a student and a professor; for that reason, shouldn’t time-turner fics be rampant in this ship? As I continued reading, I started to realize why we don’t see it often. First, there are the basic time-travel paradoxes; Hermione travels back because Snape is ignoring her, but of course Snape knew all of that time that he loved her because he’d met her in the past…? Secondly, seventh year Severus Snape is in the darkest period of his life. He’s desperate enough to take the Dark Mark. How does one write a light-hearted romance, given that? How do you write Snape’s friends – Rodolphus Lestrange, Macnair, Avery – when we only know them as cruel, evil Death Eaters? Why would Snape take the Dark Mark, after meeting Hermione and having this positive force in his life?

I adored this author’s answer to one of these questions – the young Death Eaters are the Knights of Walpurgis, a Shakespeare-quoting, cloak-swirling, hyper-intelligent group of men.  The pride of Slytherin. (How they turn into monsters who torture people into insanity is not answered, but I enjoyed them in the context of this fic.) The best part of the fic was Hermione’s time spent in the past with teenage Severus and the Knights of Walpurgis.

When Hermione comes back to the present day, the author tells the entirety of The Half-Blood Prince through Hermione’s eyes. I thought this was an clever idea, but the tone was off.  Half-Blood Prince is about the Unbreakable Vow; saving Draco Malfoy, and killing Dumbledore.  Strangely, this fic almost completely ignores all of that.  Hermione and Snape spend most of their time in the bedroom, fighting with McGonagall, attending to their company’s business, playing pranks, etc. I realize the tone is meant to be light-hearted, but come on, it’s Half-Blood Prince! Where are Snape’s meetings with Dumbledore? Order meetings? Death Eater meetings? Why isn’t Hermione trying to figure out what Horcruxes are, or what Draco is up to? None of this happens.  Snape and Hermione are more focused on each other than on Voldemort, Dumbledore, or Harry.  This gets a pass in Classic Era, but in Half-Blood Prince, when Voldemort is on Hogwart’s doorstep, these things cannot be ignored.

All right, I’ve spent a lot of time rambling. Let’s break down the basics. The romance is okay but not great. It peaks too early, earlier than halfway. There is also way too much smut. Hermione is decently in character, although she ignores her friends and interests once falling in love.  Hermione would never do that! As for Snape, he’s softer and less damaged, but given the time travel aspect, a little straying from his character felt natural.  The plotting/pacing is terrible – everything grinds to a halt when Hermione comes back to the present. Honestly, I think the fic should have ended there. Why bother going all of the way through Half-Blood Prince if you aren’t going to address any of the core issues of the story? Everything was trivial nonsense after the halfway point.

I will say that much of the ‘trivial nonsense’ was very, very funny. The author definitely has a gift for wit and clever ideas, though she frequently sacrifices sensible plot and characters for laughs.  McGonagall, Luna, Flitwick are all horribly out of character. There are also a few original characters (cameos only) that are meant to mimic famous SSHG fic authors. I understand that it’s a cute gimmick, an inside joke; but for modern readers it’s an unfunny waste of time.

This review is mostly negative, but there are absolutely some high points; after all, I rated this Exceeds Expectations!  The witty banter is great – wonderful creative and clever lines. The teenage romance and much of the adult romance, is believable and endearing. There are also some really beautiful, tender moments.  Hermione’s first few minutes after coming back to the present are wonderful; one of the best scenes I have read in ANY fic.  The Knights of Walpurgis are beyond amazing. I even enjoyed some of the crazy slapstick style comedy – a battle at Stonehenge comes to mind.  Don’t let me talk you out of this fic with my anti-comedy bias.

Fun fact: An actual JK Rowling quote from a 2003 BBC interview: “…in here is the history of the Death Eaters and I don’t know that I’ll ever actually need it – but at some point – which were once called something different – they were called the Knights of Walpurgis.”  I think it’s amazing that this author used this old sort-of canon name in her fic for the young Death Eaters!  Super extra gold star bonus points.

The bottom line: This is a charming and occasionally beautiful fic. Lots of people adore it. But for me, most of the laughs come at the expense of plot, character, and sense. The flippant tone, set in such a dark era, was frustrating. Overall, I would say that the first third is excellent and worth reading. Read it for the Knights of Walpurgis and a well-written teenage Snape romance. Put it down a few chapters after she comes back to the present, unless you really like a meandering comedic plot and tons of smut.

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One thought on “Vanity – by Wartcap

  1. I quite enjoyed this story also. I mean, it wasn’t great, but it had some excellent lines at times. Like when she shouted at Rabastan (or the other Lestrange brother, their names are honestly too stupid to remember) to let her go because she went to school with his brother. I got quite a giggle out of that whole scene. Also ‘playing Malfoy’ – the Death Eaters in this fic kind of remind me of the Big Name Death Eater series, which you should definitely check out if you haven’t read them yet; they’re tiny so you might have missed them.

    Still, that surprise villain is…um. Let’s go with surprising. I’ve always had a fondness for the character so it made me a bit sad.

    It is a story desperately crying out for a sequel though – I mean…really? You’re going to leave it there?

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