The Phoenix, the Raven, and Prince Charming? – by Dragons Quill

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/3530941/1/The-Phoenix-The-Raven-Prince-Charming

Rating: Acceptable

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

Warnings: Angst, Torture. I did not finish the story so there could be more.

Severus Snape kills Albus Dumbledore. Harry Potter saves the world. Now, Snape is in Azkaban for his crimes. Curiously, Albus Dumbledore’s phoenix, Fawkes, voluntarily joins Snape in Azkaban and refuses to leave his side. Hermione Granger is intrigued by this mystery – and besides, she needs Snape’s help.

This is a really interesting fic. It’s a combination of factors that I don’t think I’ve seen before – excellent, creative, original ideas and storylines combined with really, really bad writing. I actually prefer it to well-written fics with terrible ideas/characters, which is usually what you find in fanfiction.

I skimmed most of this fic because the writing was so bad – I just couldn’t fully immerse myself in it because I was constantly drawn out by mistakes and awkward phrasing. The worse offense is the author’s proclivity to summarize rather than flesh out a scene. The majority of chapters are summaries of events rather than concrete moments. This works really well for something like flashbacks – of which the story has plenty – but it feels cheatingly disappointing to read what ought to have been an interesting scene in a short summary.

There are some awkward conceptual mis-steps, too. I’m selling this idea of an idiot savant creative genius author who is only held back by bad writing, but that isn’t strictly true. For example, Hermione wants to bring Snape some comfort in prison. He is starving to death and has lost the will to live. She brings him…shampoo. Cringe. Any serious fan of the pairing should immediately recognize that this is pouring salt on an old inflamed wound of Snape’s. It’s not comforting! She ought to have brought him a collection of books or a Potions journal. There are plenty of other examples like this, too. Overall, though, the concepts of the fic were excellent and the writing was terrible. I found that dissonance interesting.

It’s also interesting to see how the writing improves throughout the story. The author gets a beta reader, which helps tremendously. She is clearly utilizing feedback from her reviews. The writing is still pretty bad at the end (for example, having a 4000 year old phoenix use the phase, ‘get the ball rolling’) but I enjoyed the meta-journey of watching the author grow.

The bottom line: Honestly, this is worth a read for almost any fan of the pairing. You’ll know right away if you can tolerate the low quality writing or not. If you can’t, well, skim a bit like I did. If you can, you might be in for a treat. Fawkes looking over Snape in Azkaban! Hermione Granger, Mistress of Horses! Snape, learning to forgive himself and find the will to live. There are great concepts and soulful insights here, hidden beneath layers of grimy writing.

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She Married Her Choice – by averygoodun

Link: http://www.thepetulantpoetess.com/viewstory.php?sid=1589
Alt link: http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=12777
Other: There is also a prequel, Marry a Choice, which I link in ‘the bottom line’ section.

Rating: Acceptable

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Teen Drama/Romance, 150k

Warnings: Dumb People, NC-17, Violence, Non-Con (not SSHG). Also, I did not finish the story so there could be more.

After the defeat of Voldemort, seventh year Hermione Granger chooses to marry Severus Snape before the Marriage Law is passed in order to prevent worse Death Eaters from drawing up contracts with her against her will. The wedding is over, and the couple returns to Hogwarts. Hermione’s seventh year is going to be difficult.

It’s been quite a long time since I put down a fic this early, especially a fic of this seeming quality. The first thing I should mention is that I only read about 4 chapters before I was so frustrated that I had to stop. So, some of you who do not share my pet peeves might really enjoy this fic, and you might also find a lot of things in the middle and later chapters that I did not that redeems it. I’d be interested in those insights, but I just can’t read this anymore, so I will review what I managed to choke down.

Let’s start with the problem, since I’m sure you are wondering. The problem is that Snape and Hermione both act like complete idiots. They both act in the moment with their emotions like teenagers (which, granted, Hermione is, but she’s shown throughout the entire series to be level-headed and cautious.) They both jump to nonsensical conclusions about each other over and over again – I call it ‘tragic misunderstandings’ and it is my biggest pet peeve both in life and in fanfics. I’m too old and grumpy to read a fic that has 3 of them in the first 4 chapters. Snape thinks Hermione is ‘spreading rumors about him’ because the school is rampant with rumors day the after their wedding. Utterly asinine. Then, Snape publicly shames her by giving her a detention and when she refuses to go, he attempts to physically drag her there. Sorry, but that’s not a character I’m interested in reading about AT ALL. He bears no resemblance to my beloved Potions Professor.

Hermione is slightly more in character – after all, she immediately sets Snape on fire when he manhandles her, which is exactly what any mature Gryffindor worth their colors would have done – but she also suffers from plot-contrived stupidity when the author requires it. It’s as if the author pulls everything, included the characters, out of shape in order to accommodate her ideas for fun scenes or moments, even if it does not make sense for the characters. For example, Hermione says incredibly blunt/rude things about Snape while he is in the other room and he’s angry the next day and she can’t figure out why. HMM I WONDER. Real, intelligent people are automatically anxious about being overheard and do damage control right at that moment. Hermione doesn’t think about it. She doesn’t think about anything other than her own selfish impulses at the moment. This is not how you create conflict or write intelligent chcaracters. Hermione is a bit Mary Sue, too, which is surprising in a Half-Blood Prince era fic when it was looked down on as a cliche, as it is today. Lucius Malfoy, my beloved glittering arctic fox, apparently wants Hermione for a bride. This isn’t the worst Mary Sue I’ve ever read, but it’s there.

From what I’ve written so far, you might expect that this is a terrible fic, but it really has a lot of redeeming qualities. There are a lot of fun ideas – using storm clouds and sunlight in the Great Hall for humorous effect, giving Snape chicken pox, Snape subtly coaxing and then viciously eviscerating a couple of boys hassling Hermione, Ginny smuggling Hermione chocolate mousse to comfort her after a bad day, Hermione setting Snape on fire when he pushes her too far. All of these are fun ideas, and most of these scenes are written well. It’s just the terrible, terrible, ham-fisted emotional conflict between two characters that /know better/ that ruined the fic for me. I feel like there is definitely a good fic IN the author somewhere, but this isn’t it, because her characterization preferences are not at all suited to a serious fic about Hermione and Snape. Her strengths lie in friendship, comedy, and the dynamics of a group. Maybe even a pair of emotional lovers, like Ginny/Harry or even Draco/Harry. But serious, calm, slow-to-action, always trying to outfox each other, curled-up-with-a-book Snape and Hermione? No.

The bottom line: The romantic tension is non-existent because they are married when the fic begins. Lackluster characterizations, tragic misunderstandings, and impulsive and asinine emotional conflict ruin an otherwise funny and well-written fic. Read if you don’t mind ‘teen romance’ type conflict. Note that I only read the prequel (60k, http://www.thepetulantpoetess.com/viewstory.php?sid=861 )and the first 4 chapters of this.

A Matter of Trust – by SGTRJ

Link: http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=16492
Alt link: https://sshgreview.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/sgtrj-a-matter-of-trust.pdf
Adding my own files to Ashwinder-only fics since Ashwinder has gone down for long periods of time twice now and I don’t want to have to edit the dozens of Ashwinder-only stories on this site with links to my own files every time it goes down.

Rating: Exceeds Expectations Plus

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Action/Romance, 150k

Warnings: Violence, NC-17, Torture, Angsty!Harry

Severus Snape is a hunted man; hunted by the Aurors, the Order, and the Death Eaters. Hermione Granger stumbles across a group of Death Eaters torturing Snape and in a wild moment of compassion, Apparates him to safety.

We’re nearing the end of the Half-Blood Prince Era now, finally. I ought to be tiring of kidnappings, Horcrux hunts, and Dumbledore’s portrait, but somehow this excellent fic manages to find freshness in the fic tropes of this era. I gathered from the Author’s Notes that the author was new to the pairing and this freed her from the rampant groupthink that had developed in the ship by the end of the Half-Blood Prince era (sandalwood, chestnut curls, eyebrow quirks, lip-chewing, Dark revels.) This fic is still a logical extension of HBP so there is plenty that is familiar – even a whiff of Classic Era tropes that most well-read-in-the-ship authors had started to avoid by this point in time – but somehow, I found most of it charming and fresh.

I have to say, I really enjoyed this far more than I expected to based on the early chapters. They focused on Harry, Ron, and the Order which bored me a little bit. There is quite a bit of focus on Harry and unfortunately I did not find this Harry or his struggles particularly compelling. It’s the ‘Order of the Phoenix’ Harry who is angry and constantly struggling with his emotions.

Once the SSHG arc really gets going, it’s very compelling. It’s my very favorite standing-too-close-to-each-othe while focused on Voldemort and stirred with two drops of introspection and one drop of academia. The author might be new to the ship, but her insights about Snape are accurate, interesting, and thoughtfully drawn. These insights aren’t new or ship-shaking, but they are clarified in a fresh corporeal form. She understands that Snape’s acerbic tongue is an armor that he wields to keep people away – he isn’t merely an asshole. He’s a wounded boy who turned into an asshole to protect himself. She also does something with the Dark Mark in relation to Snape’s character that I found both interesting and original, though I disagree with the results a little bit.

I do think Hermione is probably a little too timid and a little too understanding, but that’s my preferred version of her because it’s a bit more like me. For those of you who are a more Gryffindor, you might find her patience out of character. For me, though, it worked perfectly; and it certainly complemented this version of Snape.

I keep mentioning a feeling of ‘freshness’; it’s one of the greatest strengths of the story for me. It’s all familiar, but somehow new. Snape and Hermione work together to create a potion to defeat Voldemort, but the potion is a new idea that is clever and thought-provoking. They have to gather rare potions ingredients, but the ingredients are much more than a substance in a bottle and lead to an exciting adventure. That sense of wonder and newness is really what we read fanfiction for, isn’t it? We want to visit the world again, breathe that Hogwarts air again, and when the ideas are fresh and clever enough, we can (almost) believe it’s our beloved world and not merely ‘fanfic’. I found that wonder again in this fic. The ideas are not amazing, not transcendental (like the ideas in The Lioness Prophecies or Looking for Magic), but wonder-giving all the same. The only whiff of staleness in the entire fic was Angsty!Harry, and even that had a few unique aspects that I did not expect.

The next paragraph is spoilery, but I think it’s important to know before you read; consider yourself warned.

The start of the fic focuses rather cheerfully on the Order and Trio before progressing to a fairly innocent romance (this adult Hermione is very innocent which I like but some may not.) Next, though, the fic takes a bit of a turn and explores some dark aspects of war – there is a major character death, then a MAJOR character death, then a rather disgustingly dark portrayal of a minor character. Perhaps I should have felt this leading toward an unhappy ending, but I did not. I know some people insist on happily-ever-after in their fics but for me, I don’t mind darkfic and unhappy endings – Chaos is Come Again is one of my all-time favorite fics – but they have to be /earned./ Chaos is Come Again spends the whole fic meditating on a very dark character study of Snape. It could not have had any other ending, in my opinion. However, this fic sets up a happy ending and snatches it away. There is a lot of angry reaction in the comments and I think their anger is a result of the dissonance between the set-up and the pay off. The ending feels like a broken promise.

The author has an unfinished sequel, which I read, because I wanted more. Strangely, it was all really, really bad. The villain is forced and awkward in a way that did not feel authentic to me at all (many pages of A Matter of Trust were wasted setting up this lame villain for the sequel), and the talks between Snape and Hermione are artificially drawn out and stilted. I felt like the author threw away the ending of a /great/ fic (A Matter of Trust) in order to set up a barely readable unfinished sequel. I wish so much that she had condensed the entire sequel into three or four chapters and made it the true ending of A Matter of Trust. That would have catapulted this to my highest rating, for sure.

The bottom line: The beginning is a little slow and too filled with Angsty!Harry. The ending is somewhat unsatisfying in order to set up an unfinished sequel. The middle, however, is excellent, excellent SSHG and as a result I really recommend this to almost all fans of the pairing. This is a careful, thoughtful, intelligent, believable character study of Snape with great slow-burn romantic pacing. Just…imagine your own epilogue.