Accountable – by Dyce
Rating: Outstanding Minus
The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Romance, 160k
Warnings: Seventh Year, Pregnancy, Dubious Consent
At the Victory Celebration at the end of the war, a drunken Hermione Granger acts on her long-held crush and seduces her even-more-inebriated Potions Master. A month later, she has to deal with the consequences of her actions.
This is going to be a very long review, because there is so much ‘context’ required for the review of this fic. I don’t normally include the backstory of the fics or the kind of impact they had on the fandom, but I could tell from the Author’s Notes that some serious stuff was going down in the fandom as a result of this fic. I ended up Googling a bit afterwards and reading about the controversy. While I was not directly involved with WIKTT where the drama took place, I was LJ friends with many authors and a member of all of the LJ fic communities, and I remember hearing about the controversy second-hand as it was happening. I feel as though I should include the controversy and the effect it had on the ship in my review, because it’s very interesting, and I think will make the fic more interesting to my readers. It was an important moment in the fandom, and I want to throw my two cents on the pile, all of these years later.
::begin history and context::
So, let’s start with a history lesson. When Harry Potter fan-fiction first started, most of it was on fanfiction.net. There was a small community already established on ff.net – the anime community, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, etc (I was a part of that. I wrote a Sailor Moon fanfiction in 1998, on ff.net, lol.) Harry Potter fics, of course, basically took over the site. However, ff.net had a lot of annoying restrictions, and as the fandom grew, fan archives started appearing, freeing us from the restrictions of ff.net.
One of the biggest community hubs for sharing for SSHG fiction was a Yahoo! mailing list called, “When I Kissed The Teacher” – WIKTT. The vibrant community there had an enormous impact on the ship. They would post challenges, such as the ‘Marriage Law’ challenge, that would spawn thousands of fanfics (many of them beloved epics that I have reviewed on my site.) While it was awesome to have such a strong community, there was a bit of groupthink that started to take place, as is the case with any organized creative group. The definition of the ship began to narrow; anything irregular would be pounced on and thoroughly discussed.
Some started to think of WIKTT as a bit cancerous, and become exhausted with the ship as a result of WIKTT’s dominance. Many felt that homogenized ‘Fanon’ versions of the characters were emerging as a result of everyone collaborating so closely. Some left the ship and drifted to other fandoms or pairings, but those who wanted to remain a part of the ship without WIKTT started community more heavily on LJ in their own filtered groups, rather than using the WIKTT system. Some even stared private or invite-only fiction archive websites. Many WIKTT users perceived this as snobbery and elitism. Tensions were high.
Around this time, ‘Accountable’ began posting. It was posted on ff.net, that old neutral site, so one would not expect it to become a breaking point in the fandom’s tensions that would cause people to abandon WIKTT and the ship as a whole in droves, but it did. Why?
As you can see in my ‘Warnings’ section, this fic touches on the topics of dubious consent and abortion. (No abortion takes place in the fic, and the dubious consent is complex and thoughtful, especially if you finish reading the story and receive the full, spoilery picture of the event.) All sides of both topics are considered and represented fairly, in my opinion. However, a few people in the WIKTT list commented about the fic in outrage. Given the high tensions in the community, it was just the wrong topic at the wrong time. Some who harbored growing resentment about WIKTT’s groupthink and pearl-clutching decided to take a stand and defend the fic. De-hard WIKTTers flamed right back, defending themselves.
More and more ‘famous’ community figures got involved in the argument, and it quickly escalated into an all out war, eventually spilling over to LiveJournal and everywhere else. Pages upon pages upon pages of vitriol was spewed on both sides. People flounced from the community. Rants about the state of the community were all over LJ. Authors left the ship in droves; if a well-written and intelligent fic like ‘Accountable’ could be undeservedly eviscerated, anything could. The ship was was now seen as over-dramatic and judgmental; no longer safe to participate in, let alone to share one’s intimate writings with. (Dyce, the author of ‘Accountable’ never wrote again for SSHG. No surprise.) Blood was all over the walls, and for what? For an intelligent, thoughtful fic that barely touched on a couple of controversial topics? This was not about Dyce’s fic – this was about the state of the ship.
By my estimation, ‘Accountable’ marked the apex of the ship’s community; it was no longer ascending, but descending.
Many beautiful high-quality SSHG stories were still being written and released (and still are) but community is a powerful thing and losing our big safe space was a blow. LiveJournal, by default, became the main community hub of the ship, but you had to be friends with the right people in order to keep up and it just wasn’t the same. Fic rec and fic award communities slowly wound down and disappeared. And of course, Deathly Hallows coming out and the end of Harry Potter happened only a few months later. The end of an era.
‘Accountable’ did not deserve this fate or this reputation. It may have brought up controversial topics, but they were approached with thoughtfulness and intelligence, and not overly dwelled upon. Plenty of other fics approached these same topics in crude or judgmental ways, but ‘Accountable’ was respectful and philosophical. It simply had the extremely bad luck to be the spark that ignited the house; a house that had been filling with gas for months.
::end history and context::
All right, let’s get to an actual review of the fic itself.
The greatest strength of this fic is how exceptionally well-written it is. I do not like pregnancy fics; in fact there are a few pregnancy fics I have skipped (and bookmarked to go back to) in my chronological review list because I have such an aversion to them. Not only that, but I found the inciting incident beyond believability – Hermione, throwing herself at Snape while they were both drunk? What? But in the context of the story; given the level of her contrition, her acknowledgement of her stupidity in forgetting a Contraceptive Charm, and the strength of her characterization, it did seem plausible (the end of the story explains the situation much more fully and removes all question marks of consent, but it would be a spoiler to explain.) Much can be forgiven with intelligent writing and thoughtful explanations. I was drawn in to the characters and to the scene, and the things that bothered me paled in comparison to the quality of the writing.
I very much enjoyed the setting of this fic. Many Half-Blood Prince fics are set away from Hogwarts and involve the search for the Horcruxes. I was refreshed by the idea of a post-victory Seventh Year at Hogwarts. The author included a fantastic examination of the after-effects of the war. Everyone is back at school, as though everything is normal, but how can things be normal? Slytherin would be torn apart by the losses and turncoats. Professors would have a hard time taking away House points for minor offenses, after fighting side-by-side with their students in a violent conflict. Many would experience PTSD. People would deal with the after-effects in different ways, due to their experiences and individual personalities. There was a beautiful scene with Snape and Colin Creevey, of all people, that nearly had me in tears. On the other hand, plenty of students were not involved in the war at all. How does Professor Lupin teach Defense to a class half-filled with war veterans, and half-filled with totally inexperienced children?
Hogwarts itself felt like a character in this fic. Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff are present and represented (shocking!) Many minor students are fleshed out and playfully examined, just as they are in the real ‘Harry Potter.’ Everyone feels unique, quirky, and ‘real.’ When is the last time you read an enjoyable Millicent Bulstrode? Never, for me, but she’s excellent in this fic. Did you wonder what became of Marrieta Edgecomb? And the biggest gold star of all – Severus Snape fully acting in his capacity as Slytherin Head of House. Of all of the fics I have read, never once have I read a thoughtful examination of the political inner-workings and ideals of Slytherin, but it is beautifully presented here. Snape is magnificent in his capacity as Head of his broken House.
Now that I’ve gone on and on about Hogwarts (the real main character of the fic) let’s proceed to the romance. It is well-paced and proceeds slowly, but for me it was a lackluster because of the major inciting incident of the pregnancy. The forced intimacy of bearing a child together makes the romance between them welcomed, preferred. That removes all of the sexiness from it, for me. If they are open to the idea of romance with each other, there is far less restraint, far less sexual tension. The best romance is a scintillating, unbidden thing. Here, we merely have a polite courtship. There is also no smut at all, if that is a concern for you.
Lastly, let’s tackle the elephant in the room. I am sure the ‘history’ part of this review leads you to believe that this is some highly shocking, politicized fic, but it isn’t, at all. When you read the fic, you will find it hard to believe that it created such controversy, just as I did. Abortion is barely mentioned, no abortion takes place, and all sides are thoughtfully and respectfully represented. The ‘dubious consent’ issue is a non-issue by the end of the fic, and also handled with the utmost consideration and acknowledgement of its seriousness. Don’t avoid this fic because of these difficult topics. They are NOT what this fic is about, they are barely present, and when they are present, they are handled with fairness and gentle thoughtfulness.
Edit 5/2017: A commenter noted that from my review, she was expecting a stern, serious, fic, and I wanted to edit to emphasize: this is not that! There are many parts that are absolutely hilarious, brilliant, and fun. It’s a multi-faceted fic with light-hearted hijinks, serious sad moments, and intriguing philosophical moments all in turn…just like Harry Potter itself. This is well-rounded reading.
Bonus: I strongly recommend ‘Survivors’ by Dyce as well. It will not be reviewed on this site because it is only 50k, but it is excellent.
The bottom line: I dislike the pregnancy aspect and the watering-down effect it had on the romantic tension, but the rest of this fic is incredibly strong and I recommend it to any fan of the pairing. I usually use text-to-speech programs and listen to fics while I work, but this one was so good that I had to take a day off and read it with my eyes, because I couldn’t put it down. I especially recommend it to those who love Hogwarts as a character, because there is a thoughtful and beautiful examination of its Houses and its healing process after the War.
This fic is a love letter to Hogwarts, and to ‘Harry Potter’ as a whole. It is so sad that it became a scapegoat in the SSHG shipping wars. Thank you for this gift, Dyce, and on behalf of the ship, I am sorry.