His Draught of Delicate Poison – by Subversa

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10393075/30/His-Draught-of-Delicate-Poison
Note: There is also a copy on Ashwinder; I usually prioritize linking Ashwinder above ff.net, but the Ashwinder copy is missing the Chapter 30 Christmas Epilogue. The epilogue is a bit silly and you might like the fic better without it, but it seems proper to link to the extra content when it’s available.

Rating: Exceeds Expectations Plus

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Regency/Romance/Comedy-of-Manners, 200k

Warnings: Sexual Content, Mild Violence, Alternate Universe, Original Characters, Attempted Non-Con (not SSHG)

After the fall of Voldemort, A new Ministry Marriage Law means all unmarried witches and wizards of child-bearing age must marry by December. To aid in this mandate, the Ministry hosts a long series of parties and balls, along with strict courting protocols. Severus Snape, recently engaged to Fleur Delacour in an attempt to avoid the damanable parties, is acting as guardian of Dumbledore’s grand estate while Dumbledore is away. The charges under his care at the estate include his three beautiful half-sisters and his ex-student Hermione Granger, whose parents are away for the summer. It seems he will be attending the Ministry balls, after all. It’s a Harry Potter Regency romance! Based on Georgette Heyer’s wildly popular Regency romance novel, The Grand Sophy.

Fun context: We all know about the WIKTT Marriage Law Challenge that spawned 1000 fanfics. This fic, His Draught of Delicate Poison, is also a response to the next WIKTT Challenge – Regency. We will likely see a few Regency fics in the next year of reviews as that is where we are in the ship’s chronology.

This is a great, great, fic – but I should state right away that I love Regency literature (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, etc) and the polite courtship of wit, manners, scheming, restraint, etc. If you don’t love those conventions, you may find this fic confusing and annoying because of the alternate universe content and out-of-character moments that are gently paying tribute to Regency-era tropes. There is one scene in particular that the author admits in her notes is copied almost exactly from The Grand Sophy; and that is the scene for me in which Hermione is MOST out of character. Sophy is quite colorful, extroverted, and overtly manipulative – not much like Hermione. There are a lot of occasions in this fic where ‘Wizarding World accuracy’ is ignored in favor of ‘Regency fun.’ I loved it because I love Regency fun, but it is certainly not for everyone.

That said, the author puts in a LOT of impressive effort and creativity in to her Regency conversion. The writing is excellent; this is not a lazy copy/paste of The Grand Sophy with the names changed. She writes a compelling Draco/Luna. She writes a non-caricature Lucius Malfoy, which many authors seem to struggle to do. She invents a ‘Princess Party Tent’ which is like the Weasley’s World Cup tent, except all pink and princess themed, with a castle inside, just for rich little girls (so fun!) She invents the legend of the faerie-silk dress, which I found very charming. She includes, about 3/4 of the way through, a beautiful backstory for Snape and Hermione that was so exciting to read and discover. Until that point, the reader assumed their interest in one another was recent. I just loved the choice to include the backstory non-chronologically. She draws many of the romances subtly; it wasn’t completely obvious who everyone was going to end up with in the end. I really loved some of her interesting pairs. She doesn’t write with the top-notch wit of Austen or Georgette Heyer, but who does? It’s an excellent effort.

The romance is very satisfying. It has been a really long time, more than a year, since I found a fic that actually made me excited about reading the SSHG genre again; I had begun to worry that I was permanently burnt out. Thank you, His Draught. I’m not sure how much of it is lifted from Grand Sophy (except for the one scene she admits is 90% Grand Sophy) but His Draught is well-plotted, full of wit, full of interesting believable characters, and teeming with absolutely smashing romance. Even the smut, which I usually am not interested in, is very, very good. Modern romance (and thus modern fanfiction) often moves far too quickly for me. My favorite part of a romance is a slow and sensual build up – watching these characters realize they are in love with each other, deny it to themselves, and nearly lose their composure over and over again. The thrill of accidental contact. The scent of the other. Avoiding each other, but ending up forced together and attempting to contain the maelstrom of passion and emotion that rises up in the presence of the other. THIS is romantic literature! I have missed it so much! The Regency genre highlights and sustains this section of courtship for a deliciously long time. I am so very tired of ‘we’re married, now we’re in love’ and ‘you’re kidnapped, now we’re in love.’ It all happens too fast; the thrill lasting for only chapters or paragraphs. In this fic, the thrill lasts the entire time. Sensational.

There are some negatives, of course. It’s a bit annoying that everyone is extremely rich and can buy anything their heart desires (the men shower the ladies with jewels and vacations and summer homes.) Snape, though decently in character for most of the story, is a bit Too Perfect by the end. Many authors struggle to write Snape-in-love as accurately as Snape-alone and this fic suffers quite a bit from that. Another character issue – and the largest negative for me – is the treatment of Fleur. In the beginning of the fic, she is Snape’s fiancee. She is shown to be a bit cold and materialistic, but still basically a good person. I felt that Snape and Hermione treated her horribly. They were ‘forced’ to do so within the rules of Regency propriety (a gentleman never breaks an engagement!) but I still felt very bad for Fleur. She did not deserve that treatment in my eyes and it made me think less of our hero and heroine.

I also want to emphasize that while this fic pays tribute to Regency romance novels, it is NOT strict, at all, in its conversion. Lovers of Regency romance know that a significant part of the genre is strictly adhering to the titles, locations, and etiquette of Regency England. This fic largely ignores all of that and casually wonders, ‘What if a Marriage Law with a deadline caused a Wizarding World ‘season’ of courtship similar to the Regency?’ Those of you who dislike Regency tropes, don’t be afraid to give this fic a try. Those of you who love Regency, try to relax your criticism of it’s imperfections. It’s inspired by the Regency romance genre, not a strict imitation.

The bottom line: A light-hearted vaguely Regency-inspired romp through a Marriage Law season of courtship with a smashing SSHG romance. For me, this is the top rating; but I am rating it lower because I know that my adoration for it is heavily colored by personal preference. If the tantalizingly slow-burning passion of courtship is your preference, and you can overlook the innate silliness of the Regency-esque scheming, you will love this. I would recommend it to almost any fan of the pairing.

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8 thoughts on “His Draught of Delicate Poison – by Subversa

  1. My sister ADORES Georgette Heyer, and I can’t stand regency on principle (gender roles and customs and rituals and JUST STOP – give me some young women who want more out of life than climbing the social ladder or finding a husband, please). Based on this review I know never to bother reading this fic, but it also makes me really wish my sister were an SSHG fan, because I would totally send this to her, as I think she would definitely share your enthusiasm.

    • I do have to say, I am knee-deep in my next SSHG fic, ‘The Language of Flowers’ by LadyStrange, and this one is WAY more Regency than His Draught was. The author’s notes on each chapter are longer than the text. The dinners are more about how people are eating than what they are talking about. Everyone goes by different names, because no one went by Christian names in Regency times. It is set in actual Regency London and the titles are all tied to actual cities. I can’t even tell who the author is talking about half of the time because of the titles. It is so maddening, I can’t stand it! I am hoping it will get better. I say that to say, I unreservedly loved His Draught, which seemed to brush upon Regency romance more than emulate it. I think I’m going to edit this review to better reflect that.

      • You’re back! I’m so glad! We’ve missed you. 😀

        Also, I’ve read The Language of Flowers and sadly enough, it doesn’t get better. The plot gets lost in all the technicality and never finds its way again. I finished it but I rather wish I hadn’t wasted my time.

        Have you read Chasing the Sun by Loten? I think it could be a good change in pace from all the Regency you’ve been reading. Plus it has a BEAUTIFULLY and i mean beautifully realistic Snape

      • You are the third person to recommend that fic to me! It must be amazing. I confess, I am saving it for a rainy day when I am desperate for a good fic. 🙂

  2. As a life-long Georgette Heyer fan and having read The Grand Sophy several times I loved His Draught of Delicate Poison even if it is almost too alternative universe. In fact together with Cloak of Courage it’s my favourite SSHG fanfic even though they are both so very different. I enjoyed reading your review and it’s nice to know another lover of Regency romances. It’s also nice to read one story where Lucius Malfoy (don’t you just love Jason Isaac) is NOT a big bad ogre. Thank you for reminding me of this story, I shall now go and read it again.

  3. I really enjoyed this one! Subversa handles the regency theme wonderfully without missing the forest for the trees. (Also, agreement on the above Loten rec- Post Tenebras, Lux is a personal favorite)

    • I think the reason I missed Loten is because I started this site in early 2012, and Post Tenebras, Lux finished posting in mid-2011. Maybe it had not gained enough traction/reviews for me to find it in late 2011? At that time, I remember desperately searching for a new well-reviewed SSHG epic that I hadn’t read and not having any success. Or maybe I’ve read Post Tenebras, Lux and won’t realize it until I start reading it again – that’s entirely possible.

      I’m rambling, but TLDR I can’t wait to read Post Tenebras, Lux and Chasing the Sun! I don’t want to skip ahead and read the good ones lest I find myself with a pile of terrible fics to slog through when I reach 2012 in my chronological reviews. I hope I can manage to hold out until I reach their time periods, but I doubt that I will. 🙂

      • There’s definitely something to be said for going in chronological order. As a newcomer to the pairing I find myself bopping all over and have had a lot of moments of: “Wait, is this a deliberate AU or. . . nope. It was written in 2003.” Good luck holding out!

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