Rating: Acceptable Plus
The Basics: Modern Era (2011), Action/Romance, 84k
Warnings: Sexual Content, Violence, Torture, Attempted Non-Con(not SSHG)
Bellatrix Lestrange puts a twisted curse on Hermione to prevent her from conveying vital information to the Order unless she unlocks the spell using with a Key assigned by Bellatrix. The Key is a humiliating task that will change Hermione’s relationship with her professor, Severus Snape, forever.
This fic is only 84k, which means it is shorter than what I usually review, but I read it and figured I might as well review it.
There were a lot of aspects of this fic that I enjoyed. There is a very, very clever Voldemort-defeating mechanism. The writing is aggressively paced (as one would expect in a short fic) but each scene still feels fleshed-out and whole. The characterizations are reasonably good (more on this later), including the side characters. The romantic pacing is nearly perfect; the climax of the plot almost coincides with the climax of the love story, as it should. This sounds like fairly benign praise, but in my fic experience it’s rare for this simultaneous plot + romance climax to occur (yes, yes, obvious simultaneous climax joke is obvious, well spotted) and I’m always delighted when I find it. Even an ‘almost’, as it is here.
The chief problem for me in this fic is that Snape is aggressive and lustful, while Hermione is meek and innocent. I really dislike it when still-her-professor Snape is attracted to a still-his-student Hermione without a strong established friendship. I realize because of the plot events that the sexual aspect had to come to the forefront immediately, but I think Actual Snape would have erected 10 mental brick walls between himself and Hermione after that encounter, rather than watching her and lusting after her. This is exacerbated by a busy, tired, oblivious Hermione who does not often reflect on her feelings and seems confused by Snape’s behavior. A domineering Snape can work, if Hermione is quite mature and can stand up for herself, but that does not happen here. It felt like she was an innocent child and he was her lecherous teacher because there was not enough friendship/relationship development and because Hermione was so meek.
Similarly, I struggle to believe that Snape would have initiated breaking Bella’s Key task. I think they would have brought the information to the Order, and the Order would have argued about what to do, and Hermione would finally volunteer to have the information tortured out of her (since Snape later admits this would have worked.) That whole scene was squicky to me because Hermione did as she was told (by a frightening authority figure) with very little agency or choice in the matter. There were hints of non-con because of the power dynamic that made me uncomfortable. There needed to be other people involved in the decision, or it needed to be privately initiated by Hermione. To be clear, I am not overly sensitive to these issues. I don’t mind the teacher-student dynamic as long as the relationship is firmly established first. To have Snape command her to do it without consulting other adults felt like an abuse of power (as did a lot of his other actions in the fic.)
This is now my third paragraph of complaints about a good fic, but I’m tired and rambly today, so here we are. There were a few Harry Potter as-a-whole mistakes that surprised me. Some exaples: Hermione enduring 15+ rounds of Crucio and retaining her sanity (after checking, I guess this isn’t officially wrong but most fics put insanity and death around 6-8), students brewing Polyjuice in class (nope, the recipe is in ‘Most Potente Potions’ in the Restricted Section; it would never be taught in regular class) and the Yule Ball being held every year (nope, only during the Triwizard Tournament). These seem like minor infractions, but they add up. The Polyjuice error especially made me wonder if the author was new to the pairing or even new the fandom. That lowered my immersion and interest quite a bit.
The bottom line: Very well paced, plotted and written with fun original ideas – but I struggled with Snape’s characterization. It might be personal preference because I like highly disciplined academic recluse Snape while this Snape struggled with lust, aggression, and self-control. If Hermione had been stronger and stood up for herself more, or if the fic had developed the friendship connection more, his characterization would have worked better. To be clear, it’s still a very good fic, especially if you’re in the mood for some Innocent!Hermione and TemptestousRage!Snape.
The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Romance/Time-Travel, 100k
Warnings: Sexual Content, Pregnancy, Nonsense
Hermione is accidentally flung back 19 years time to the reign of the Marauders at Hogwarts. Oh, and their nemesis Severus Snape, of course.
I am not usually a fan of time-travel fics in this pairing, because teenage Severus is sort of a nightmare, right? As most teenage boys are. I love Kylo Ren and joke that he’s ‘seventh year Snape.’ He’s angry, immature, and directs his rage to all of the wrong places. They are both great characters, but they are not great romantic heroes. (Of course, I have a giant crush on Kylo Ren, but any good romance story with him would require a major growth arc.)
Whether the author intended to or not, she did a great job at writing this Snape and Hermione as painfully teenage. Hermione ignores the ‘little voice’ in her head warning of her all of the consequences of her actions and seduces teenage Snape. (However, she still somehow manages to avoid warning Lily and James about Pettigrew’s betrayal – to me, that should have been a much greater temptation, but she isn’t tempted at all.) Hermione and Snape somehow forget to consider contraceptive potions. Oops! That is probably my number one pet peeve in this pairing and I nearly quit reading.
The writing is also ‘teenage’ in quality, which I doubt was a conscious decision. There is a major overuse of cliches such as ‘heart beating wildly,’ ‘lips crushing into hers,’ ‘mouth gaping open like a fish,’ etc. It’s hard to define what good writing is, but one can identify the signs of its absence. Cliches are one of those signs. Another sign is short scenes that lack description or depth; more montage than scene. Most of the scenes in this fic are written this way – except for the sex scenes, of course, which are written in painstaking detail. The plot is similarly basic. Rather than coming up with a creative way for teenage Snape and Hermione to be thrown together, the author literally has them run in to each other multiple times, and then magically be seated next to each other every class. Harry manages to break the simplistic wards on Snape’s office (LOL NO) and find papers explaining Plot MacGuffins on his desk. These forced contrivances really took me out of the story.
The author seems to skip over all of the ‘getting to know you’ details like what they discuss in Potions class, or intimate discussions about their hobbies, or everyday ‘witty banter’. Hermione’s blossoming attraction to adult Snape is detailed in a few quick paragraphs. I am more interested in the interactions that formed this attraction than anything else in the story – and they are absent. Without those scenes that define them as individuals and establish the tenor of the friendship and relationship, the fic feels like it could be about any generic people. It doesn’t feel like our Hermione and Severus unless one wears Harry Potter lexicon tinted glasses while reading it and even then it’s a bit of a stretch.
The dumbest possible tragic misunderstanding I have EVER read occurs in Chapter 7. It was beyond obnoxiously out-of-character and moronic, even for a teenage Snape. Another two stupid misunderstandings occur back to back a few chapters later. As an example of how awful these, ‘I won’t let you finish and I’m storming out,’ misunderstandings are: RON of all people allows Hermione to finish explaining something that angers him. Once he hears her explanation, he understands and is sympathetic. How is the Ron in this fic more patient and mature than Snape and Hermione? That’s the level of out-of-character nonsense we’re dealing with in this fic. Perhaps even worse than the tragic misunderstandings, though, is Hermione’s character arc. She goes from being a headstrong and intelligent girl thrilled and excited by her studies, to a woman who cries herself to sleep out of boredom when she is forced to be away from her husband and child. Why don’t you read a book? Study something? Work on a project? Hermione is NOT a woman whose life ‘means nothing’ without her husband and child. OFFENSIVE NONSENSE.
Then, the only justified anger in the fic occurs when Harry finds out that Hermione was willing to meddle with the future by sleeping with Snape, but not willing to risk the future when it came to saving his parents’ lives. All she had to say was, ‘Do not make Wormtail your Secret-Keeper.’ I actually 100% agree with Harry here and probably would have cut Hermione out of my life after this. (BOTH of these time-meddling actions were wrong, but if she was going to risk one, she ought to have risked the other.) In the fic, though, Harry’s anger is presented as unjustified and Harry eventually apologizes to Hermione by buying her chocolates and groveling. I cannot wrap my head around the characters’ behavior in this fic. Everything seems upside down. Perhaps the author is a very different person than I am.
So, after all of that complaining, I should cover the aspects of this fic that are good. It is rated Acceptable which is relatively high for me. Despite my complaints about content, the writing itself is relatively error-free and page-turning in its own way. Sometimes when reading a fic, it is immediately obvious that the writing is awful. That is not the case here. The writing is clean and flows nicely. I finished the fic, albeit with heavy skimming towards the end. I know that many of the fic’s problems are pet peeves of mine (cliche expressions, teenagers, terrible decision-making, pregnancy) and that many of my readers will not be as annoyed by the fic as I was. Really, I’m struggling to muster up praise, but believe me when I say it’s not that bad, if you’re desperate for a new fic.
The bottom line: This is a completely average fic. It’s readable, it’s page-turning, but everything about it is basic and predictable. It is filled with avoidable conflicts and tragic misunderstandings. With stronger characterizations and longer in-depth descriptions and dialogue, this could have been something. As it is, it’s passable. Barely. Maybe.
The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Regency, 140k (1/3 of it is Author’s Notes)
Warnings: Alternate Universe
Miss Hermione Granger and Lord Sterne (Severus Snape) hatch a plan to help their friends, Lady Ginevra Weasley and Lord Villiers (Draco Malfoy), court each other despite Duchess Mallefille (Narcissa Malfoy)’s disapproval.
When I read His Draught of Delicate Poison, I thought that it was a Regency fic. It wasn’t until I read this fic, The Language of Flowers, that I realized His Draught of Delicate Poison was only lightly referencing Regency romance. The author of The Language of Flowers exhaustively converts all of Harry Potter into actual Regency London; giving everyone proper titles and peerage related to actual places, converting all of the schools to real schools, converting all of the men’s clubs and stores to real Regency clubs and stores, and notating it all in the Author’s Notes with history lessons and citations. The level of detail here is insane.
When I told my husband I was reading a Regency SSHG fic based on the language of flowers, he joked, ‘is there a preface dedicated to you?’ because Victorian flower language, gardening, old England, and SSHG fiction are pretty much my favorite things in life. I was 100% sure that I would adore this fic and I was so, so disappointed to find out that I did not.
First of all, many of the characters are referred to by their invented Regency titles rather than their names, because that is the way it would have been in Regency England. Snape is ‘Lord Sterne,’ Draco is ‘Lord Villiers,’etc. I understand why the the author made this choice, but it’s jarring. Next, there are hugely extensive Author’s Notes that I had to give up on reading because they were extremely pedantic and boring. I thought I would love the little lessons on flowers and on Regency England, but they were overly verbose and never seemed to enhance the story. And again, I feel as though I should stress the idea that if ANYONE was going to enjoy these Author’s Notes and this story, it should have been me! These are my exact interests and I was bored to tear by both the story and the notes. What went wrong?
One major problem with the story are the characterizations, especially Snape in the latter half of the story. He is raging, irrational, and pathetic. He follows Hermione around everywhere and screams at her jealously for absolutely no reason. He’s acting jealous because he’s in love with her, of course, but…what a heavy-handed and silly way to express that. Aren’t Regency fics supposed to be about restraint, wit and subtlety? Why the temper tantrums? The Snape in the second half of the story does not even resemble Snape. If the character were supposed to be Ron, I would have written that the author did a disservice to Ron by making him such a jealous crybaby. Can you imagine Snape being more of a jealous crybaby than Ron? That’s what we’re dealing with in this story. Not sexy, not interesting, not intelligent, not Snape.
When readers complain about the characterizations, the author responds by explaining that it is a necessary part of the Regency conversion. Hermione would be cold and aloof because fill-in-the-blank Regency reason. Snape would be possessive and jealous because fill-in-the-blank Regency reason. In some fics, I will accept bad characterizations if I feel the author has ‘done the work’ to justify these character changes, but that is not the case here. As an example, Draco (I’m sorry, Lord Villiers) is shown to be a bit of a bad boy who is sincerely reformed because he wants to marry Ginevra. Things seem to be going well for him. Then, out of nowhere, he decides to go back to the gaming hall, get drunk, and duel-murder not one but TWO people. Why? Why would he do that? There is no explanation, not even in the 30 paragraph long Author’s Notes for that chapter. The author puts in plenty of work, but it’s all on Regency England and not on the characters or the story. I wish the author had focused more of her considerable intellectual prowess on portraying the characters accurately and writing a creative story.
Disappointment and a strange sort of dread filled my chest as I drew near the final chapters, realizing that the mild, boring scenes that were wrapping up were actually the climax of the story. That’s it? What about all of the flower stuff? What was this great mystery I was trying to piece together and decode? Was there nothing to solve, just floral references to the themes of each chapter? What was all of that build-up for? A little trip to France, a few tantrums, and all of the people we thought were going to be engaged in the beginning are now engaged?
I really want to muster up something positive to say here, because the fic is such a tremendous effort, but I am left with the overwhelming feeling that if I didn’t like this fic, which seemed to be made specifically for me, how could anyone else like it? I think the root of the problem is that the author is more of an academic than a creative. I had to come to the same conclusion about myself when my brief foray into creative writing ended with me crying into an empty notebook on a park bench in London (after a 6 month creative writing study abroad semester during which I wrote nothing.) I love literature, but I was not meant to write it. I do not have the electric spark of creativity. I feel that this author might have the same issue and I’m sure she could (and probably has) written fantastic non-fiction.
The bottom line: If I were grading this fic on its historical accuracy and academic merit, I might be giving it an A+. This site, however, is grading the quality of the SSHG content, which in this fic is mediocre at best. The author is extremely intelligent and well-studied; but when you take away all of the research, footnotes, history lessons, and Regency conversion efforts all that remains is a simple fic with serious out-of-character problems. Worth a read if you love Regency, maybe.
Note: The link is actually to the author’s LJ post, where she has listed her own upload links. I thought it better to link to ‘her’ rather than directly to the uploads. If this goes down or is inaccessible, please let me know.
Rating: Acceptable Plus
The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era (AU), Romance, 700k
Warnings: NC-17, Violence
I am back from a long hiatus; for personal reasons and because I was stuck on this fic. It’s 700,000 words – that’s INSANELY LONG, like 7 big novels. For me this fic was in that grey area of not-good-enough-to-keep-reading but not-bad-enough-to-skip, so I was in a holding pattern for months and months trying to go back to it. I’ve given up and am posting a review, because I need to make a post here, and because I miss reading SSHG.
After the events of the Wizarding War, Hermione Granger becomes Minerva McGonagall’s Transfiguration Apprentice, earning her place amongst the Hogwarts staff. She strikes up a friendship with Severus Snape that becomes something more.
I was extremely excited when I first started reading this fic. I knew going into it that it was 700,000 words, which was exciting, because if it was good, it would be an entire SSHG series. I was delighted as I started reading – the writing is excellent, check, Snape is in character, check, one of my favorite settings (Hogwarts, with Apprentice Hermione), CHECK! How had I missed this fic? Why was it not recommended EVERYWHERE? As I continued to read, I learned the answers to these questions.
My longtime readers will know how much I prefer slow-simmering romance – I mention it in every review. This romance is VERY slow – I was probably 100,000 words in before the first tendrils of romance began to creep in (that’s the length of the average fic I review here, for reference.) The author iterates in her authors notes that she finds most fics to be ‘unrealistic’ and that SSHG should be very slow and reluctant. “I totally agree! This is going to be an amazing fic,” I thought excitedly. But as I continued, on and on and on, I started to realize that the passion/sparks were not only slow, but absent. It’s one thing to enjoy the slow, tantalizing, drawn out period of standing too close to one another, wondering if the other feels the same, resisting the urge to act inappropriately. But this fic, that delicious tension is not described, hinted at, or present. When it’s time to move forward in the relationship, they sit down and clinically discuss their feelings. The same is true for every new physical step. I understand that this is the author’s idea of ‘realistic’ and I don’t totally disagree, but…there should be a LITTLE deliciousness in there, no? I am pretty tight-laced and prude-ish to be honest but there is definitely more passion in my old married relationship than there is in this freshly minted Severus and Hermione relationship.
Similarly, the plot moves very slowly. I am fine with not having a warplot, but there should be some feeling of excitement that makes you want to stay up late and continue reading. “For Someone Special” is a great example of this: in FSS, there’s almost no plot, just fast quips and charming pieces of their every day lives that make for excellent reading. (It’s obviously unfair to compare this author to LadyoftheMasque, who is working as a professional romance writer now, but I think for fics that are 700,000 words, that quality of writing is necessary.) This fic has great writing, but it’s not great enough to read for 50 hours, as the length demands.
Lastly, and I think this was really the dealbreaker for me in this fic – I really disliked the Hermione in this fic, though I can’t necessarily say she’s out of character. The author just focuses on aspects of Hermione that I don’t really like – bossy, VERY dominant, VERY Gryffindor. I’m a bit more of a Luna Lovegood and I prefer a more understanding Hermione. This Hermione forcibly shampoos Snape’s hair, forcibly manipulates him into attending parties he doesn’t want to go to, exposes his weaknesses to Lucius Malfoy of all people because she thinks it will help her get what she wants…I was very uncomfortable with all of that. It seemed to me that she was constantly humiliating him, both publicly and privately, which is not acceptable in a relationship.
Snape is insecure, so private, and sensitive to people exerting control over him (as his father, Voldemort, or Dumbledore have for his entire life.) There is no way he would tolerate a bossy, aggressive Hermione like this fic presents. He would recoil into his protective privacy and shun her after that first ridiculous demonstration. Hermione should be wise enough to temper those inclinations around him. She can still be Hermione and boss around Ron and Harry and other idiots as much as she wants, but she should see Snape as the sensitive, formidable time-bomb that he is and treat him with a little more caution, respect, and kindness. She should treat him as an intelligent equal, not as a child with dirt on his nose. The author kept saying in her notes that Hermione was “asserting her place on the staff,” and “earning Snape’s respect” with these actions, but to me that kind of behavior would be seen as childish. Adults do not treat each other that way. I don’t mind a little Mary Sue in my fanfic, but if you Mary Sue to the point that you’ve emasculated your male lead unintentionally, there is a problem.
After all of those complaints, let’s re-iterate the good. There is a TON of good here. The writing is excellent. The author is very intelligent and everything is very well thought-out. There are some really fabulously creative ideas, like a special Egyptian-themed bracelet Hermione wears that has some very clever spoilers, inter-House politics that you rarely see in fics, and some great original characters. There is also a focus on the world as a whole, which I loved – a lot of fics tend to cozy up with just Severus and Hermione, but this fic is interested in everyone, while keeping the focus clear.
The bottom line: Despite my long paragraphs of reservations, this story really is very special. It’s amazing to have a fic this long, and especially this well-written. It definitely has its faults, for me, enough to stop reading and finish by skimming, but if you don’t mind a (very) gentle/clinical romance and a (very) strongly-opinionated Hermione, there is a lot of good here (literally LOTS, 700k. Too much for me.)
Thank you to the commenter who let me know that this fic was recently posted on Archive of our Own! It is so exciting to me that some early SSHG authors are reposting their classic fics.
Rating: Acceptable Plus
The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Comedy/AU/Romance, 100k
Warnings: Violence, Pregnancy, Kink, NC-17, Language, AU elements
Severus Snape and Dracy Malfoy have a plan to flee the British Wizarding World after the Final Battle, regardless of the outcome. Severus, hand on Portkey, makes a last moment decision to take a shocked Hermione Granger with him.
This is the second fic I’ve reviewed by Bloodcult of Freud – the first is Tyger, Tyger. It’s amazing how different they are. Tyger was a fairly serious, covering-a-lifetime, mostly classic story. Seven Preposterous is often comical, takes place over only a couple of months, and is so wildly different from most SSHG in setting and tone and character that it feels AU. Pretty much the opposite of Tyger, Tyger.
This fic spends a lot of time – at least a third, maybe more than that – on the perspectives of Millicent Bulstrode and Draco Malfoy. Millicent is very fleshed-out and interesting. I found her more compelling than the Severus and Hermione in this story. Her background is rich and detailed, delving into Pureblood culture by bringing in elements of fairy tales, which is something I had never considered or seen before. in fanfic. Those parts of the story were very fun. Draco is a bit more useless and dandy than I prefer, but I can’t really argue that it’s too far out of character.
So, Millicent and Draco are married, and they hatch a plan with Severus Snape to all escape together to the United States after the Wizarding War – Texas, specifically. The majority of the fic takes place there. They live in a Muggle home and take Muggle jobs, and rarely use magic to avoid the radar of United States Wizarding authorities. Severus is in love with Hermione and has been for years, but is reluctant to pursue her, so Hermione takes matters in to her own hands. I don’t usually give this detailed of a synopsis in my reviews, but this fic is so nutty that it seems necessary. It’s also important to note that the random insanity of these events is a major intentional theme; I am tempted to write ‘this fic is a mess,’ except that I know it was done intentionally and even the title ties in that theme. ‘Seven Preposterous Things.’ Life changes on a dime. Coincidences, foretelling, a kind word; the smallest things can shape the future. Life is wild and unpredictable.
With the lengthy preamble completed, let’s get down to the meat of it. My biggest problem with this fic is the characterization of Severus Snape. In this fic, he’s a pitiful mess – no confidence, bad hygiene, no game with women, victim complex, and a drunk. For me, Snape is many things, but he is not a groveling slob. He works with dangerous chemicals, has three jobs, and is a spy – he has to be disciplined and on his toes at all times. His entire life is about discipline and outward strength. I think that’s the key point for me here, where I differ with the author’s portrayal – I think Snape has many of these traits (self-loathing, self-pity, frustration with his life, bad habits) but in my opinion, he goes to GREAT LENGTHS to hide his faults from others. He always wants to seem in control, in the know, in authority. He is no longer Snivellus who gets bullied; he is Professor Snape, he is formidable, and no one will dare. He keeps his insecurities and faults LOCKED.UP. Bleeding out on the floor of the Shrieking Shack, he still performed his duty with dignity, without a trace of Snivellus. This disgusting, smelly, groveling man begging for scraps from Hermione is Snivellus, not Severus, and I couldn’t get over it.
Hermione is fairly in character and Millicent is fantastic, but Snape and Draco are both alternate reality pathetic groveling slobs in comparison to their canon personalities. There are a lot of feminist motifs in the story, which is awesome, but emasculating the two male characters is going a bit too far. Speaking of motifs – it seems worth pointing out that the foursome encounters 2 abandoned infants in the course of the story that they take in and make their own. It serves no purpose in the plot. I thought the first one was weird, and then they found a second? I suppose the story is called ‘Seven Preposterous Things’ and the strangeness of life’s course is a theme, but it felt messy and strange.
The writing is acceptable. I know the author is very well read and intelligent (there are a ton of literary, historical, and philosophic references in Tyger, Tyger,) but this fic has a much more casual tone and the writing reflects that. Most of it feels rather slap-dash, definitely written for fun rather than perfection. I liked the tongue-and-cheek nature of the fic – the author acknowledges that her fic is pretty insane at times by having her characters joke about it. However, I had the feeling that the author really enjoyed writing some sections and would put a lot of detail in to them, and then would boredly sketch out other sections with minimal effort. I found most of the Millie sections more compelling and than (generally shorter) Hermione and Severus sections; it seemed like the author was a lot more interested and invested in Millie than anyone else.
Additionally, I think the author changed some of her ideas as she was writing. There is a mention of a time travel machine, and what appeared to me to be a set-up for a time travel plot – lots of weird coincidences and random things working out for the group. I thought, ‘Oh, this will turn out to have been set up by one of them from the future, coming back and placing things for them to encounter.’ Nope…although the author went out of her way to exclaim how weird the coincidences are, and explicitly mentioned a time machine, they turned out to just be coincidences. The story wrapped up with a very weird deux ex machina, which I won’t spoil, but it was just another head-scratching thing this fic does. It plays to the theme, but it makes for a very weird reading experience.
Gold star for a fascinating Millicent Bulstrode and a positively magical take on Pureblood culture. Those were absolutely my favorite parts of the fic. Millie’s backstory is ‘delightful,’ to steal a word from one of my commenters, but…this is not a Millicent Bulstrode fic review site, and the rest of the story is not nearly as strong.
The bottom line: A very strange fic. One of its themes is the madness of chance and choice, and the author sets up many ridiculous, comical situations to explore that theme. There are a lot of good ideas and fun moments, but for me the Snape was gross and unfamiliar. Recommended if you want to try something zany and enjoy humor fics (and can tolerate a pathetic Snape) but I’d skip if you’re looking for great SSHG romance.
The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Romance, 180k
Severus Snape barely survives the battle that results in Dumbledore’s death at his hand, and completing this final duty, he finds himself unable to return to the Death Eaters. He staggers back to Hogwarts and throws himself at their mercy, where one Hermione Granger nurses him back to health.
I feel like this is going to be one of the lamest reviews I’ve written, so apologies in advance for that. Every once in a while I run into a fic that I can tell is decently good, but that I really just don’t like. I can’t quite bring myself to skip to the end, but reading it is miserable, so I put it off for months. I’ve just come back to it again, for the third time, and I still can’t read it, so I’m finally skipping to the end. It’s pretty unfair to review a fic that I’ve read in spurts, separated by six months, and finally gave up on, but here we are. So, keep that disclaimer in mind.
This fic was well-received when it came out, and it won some fic awards, and is on most SSHG rec lists. It is decently written (somewhat messily in the beginning, but improves over time.) The plot is fairly basic, but not egregiously so. It’s unique in that it has Snape on the grounds at Hogwarts with the Trio and the Order searching for the Horcruxes. 90% of Half-Blood Prince fics have Snape with the Death Eaters (as he is at the end of HBP) and have to resolve that issue somehow, with a kidnapping or communication device. This one just turns him right around and sends him back to Hogwarts.
The main problem I have with it, other than the blandness, is that everything tilts towards classic romance novel tone, which does not suit this pairing. Snape is ridiculously idealized – great at sex, great at dueling, always has a witty one liner, always supremely confident, knows exactly how to interrogate a prisoner, can get whatever response he wants out of Hermione (or anyone), etc. It’s very predictable and makes it difficult to connect with him, or with the story, on an emotional level. The supreme confidence is the worst of it. Snape is outwardly confident, yes, but inwardly? Not at alL.
It’s not that he’s completely out of character – all of the classic Snape mannerisms and descriptions are there, it’s just this layer of Sexy Tough Romantic Hero Football Player added on top of it. Everything he does is ‘CSI Miami putting on the sunglasses and offering up a one-liner for the camera,’ you know? The worst example of this is Snape’s torturing of Lucius – that’s when I finally gave up on the fic. Snape carelessly, joyously, tortures his friend, with all sorts of great lines – but without a word on what he was actually feeling or thinking. It could have been a great scene of the author had delved in to the emotional level. The tone was completely wrong. This was a scene for character development, for sadness, for empathy, for nostalgia, but resolution to do what was needed. But no, just a bunch of cool one liners and zero emotional depth. A nice summary of the entire fic, as it happens.
As for the romantic pacing, it moves way too fast. The delicious coming-together is basically non-existent. It’s the ‘nursing him back to health, oops we’re in love’ trope that has been done hundreds of times, and not especially well here. They are kissing in the first few chapters. So, we can’t look to the excitement of romance to save this fic.
The bottom line: A fairly interesting set-up for a Half-Blood Prince fic, and well-written – but the supercool/confident Snape, rushed romance, and lack of emotional depth made the fic unenjoyable for me.
Rating: Acceptable Plus
The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Romance/Action, 200k
Warnings: Non-Con Pregnancy (sex was consensual, pregnancy was not), Seventh Year, Violence
Triggerish warning for this review.
Fred and George place a special potion into the Hogwarts biscuits; one that makes people aware of their own soulmates, if they happen to touch each other. It was meant to be a harmless prank, but the ancient and very serious potion has lasting consequences for a flabbergasted and enraged Hermione Granger and Severus Snape.
There is one important thing you should know about this rating; it dropped about a full rating in the course of several chapters, where something that deeply offended me was presented as easily forgiveable and understandable. I’ll get into it later so you can judge for yourself whether or not it would bother you, but I thought it fair to mention that the fic certainly qualifies for a higher rating, if you subtract my disgust and rage over that one particular incident.
I very much enjoyed the beginning of this fic. The ‘potions accident’ trope is something that was often used in the Classic Era, and I haven’t seen it much, if at all, in Half-Blood Prince. It was refreshing to see the crew in their Sixth Year at Hogwarts (the book includes the events of the Half-Blood Prince, happening off-screen) and to have a soul mate potion as the inciting incident. The difficulty with these potions is, of course, the forced intimacy it creates. It’s rather difficult to write an exciting romance when the protagonists are being forced together emotionally and physically by an outside force like a potion (or a marriage law, or a kidnapping, blah blah…I can’t remember the last time I read a fic where they just fell in love of their own accord.) The romance progressed much too quickly for my tastes; marriage and consummation happen in the early chapters of fic. That leaves the reader 180k of warplot to muddle through.
That said, the warplot was well-written and enjoyable. The author really takes her time with each Horcrux, coming up with clever ideas and implementing them in realistic ways. The Trio, realizing that Horcruxes are a bit too much for them to tackle alone, recruits Order members on the quest when their expertise is needed – Bill Weasley for Curse-breaking and disabling of Cursed objects, McGonagall for Animagus training, Lupin and Tonks for Ward-building and training, etc. Each Order member only knows their specific piece of the puzzle, so no one is given full knowledge of their Horcrux quest. Additionally, the Trio takes a cerebral, let’s-plan-ahead approach to defeating Voldemort. They talk about the best plan for defeating him and develop a spell that will let them accomplish that. They study Occlumency and hexes. They take a Muggle police approach and put their current knowledge up on a board to consider visually, which gives them a breakthrough in the Horcrux hunt. The Trio in this story are smarter and more careful than the real Trio, and for me, that was very enjoyable.
Hermione and Snape’s characterizations are where we run in to trouble. I found Snape to be too possessive and domineering – not horribly, but just a bit. Hermione is a bit of a GentleAngel!Hermione, too pliant and open to his manipulation and demands, with too many people in love with her. As an example of what I mean – someone (Lupin, Ron, Bill at intervals) grip her upper arm and leave bruises, and then Snape gets enraged about it. He casts an ancient Greek spell on her that shocks anyone who touches her with romantic intent (no spell on himself that does the same.) The spell also allows him to ‘call her to his side’ at any moment (no spell for her to do the same.) Misogynistic nonsense. None of it seems to bother Hermione. This makes the romance between them quite wooden, with him constantly ‘crushing her lips’ and her ‘sinking into his arms’ and other generalized romance cliches that do not belong to this pairing. I rolled my eyes quite a bit at the romance scenes.
Despite my annoyances, I was still very much enjoying the fic – until Snape purposefully and intentionally gets Hermione pregnant without her knowledge or consent. In fact, she believes that he is giving her Contraceptive Potions and has expressed that she has no wish to get pregnant. Voldemort says that he wants Snape to get Hermione pregnant in order to enrage Harry. THE REAL Severus Snape would have discussed this with Hermione and probably the entire Order before taking action, but this Snape takes it upon himself to give her a Fertility Potion, and let her be pregnant for a long time, unbeknownst to her, without saying a word. She puts herself and the child in considerable danger by turning into her Animagus form, taking serious injury while destroying Horcruxes, Apparating, etc., because she does not know about the pregnancy. Snape apparently doesn’t consider this. That is bad enough, but willfully impregnating her against her wishes is unforgivable. It is just as bad or worse than physical rape. It is life-rape.
And let me be clear – there is no explanation. There is no reason for him not to tell her. Snape even thinks to himself, ‘I should tell her right now, but she’ll be so upset, and I just can’t deal with that right now.’ That’s his reasoning, apparently. Emotional inconvenience. I would not have forgiven him so easily – I very well might never have spoken to him again. I would still meet him once a fortnight for a tryst so I wouldn’t die of potion-induced madness, but I would shut him out of my life completely, or at least for a very long time. I usually am pretty calm and prefer characters to be calm, but this is one situation that required Unspeakable Rage (while still listening to explanations first of course, which Snape does not have in this case.) But no, Hermione basically shrugs it off and is happily engaging in sexual activity with him just hours afterwards. I was shocked and furious. I actually quit reading at that point and skimmed to the end.
I have spent a lot of this review complaining, but I want to emphasize again how well-written the fic was, and how much fun the fully-functioning, fully-intelligent Order and Trio were. There is a lot of good here, despite my previous two paragraphs.
The bottom line: Read it for an excellent Horcrux adventure and great writing. If you don’t mind a domineering Snape, and the non-consensual pregnancy doesn’t enrage you, definitely give it a try. For me, the romance was a bit too bodice-ripper cliche and I could not forgive the purposefully-inflicting-an-undesired-pregnancy-upon-an-unknowing-woman issue.
The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Romance/Angst/Drama, 110k
Warnings: Seventh Year, Sexual Content, Violence, Dubious Consent (seemed more like Non-Con to me)
The Golden Trio hunts down the Horcruxes needed in order to defeat Voldemort, both helped and hindered by Severus Snape.
More southernwitch69! I have really enjoyed the growth arc that she seems to have had as an author. I rated her early fics badly, but I did insist that they were full of good ideas. I rated a couple others ‘Acceptable’ and was amazed how much she’d grown. Here we are with another ‘Acceptable’. I was tickled to see, when I looked at her Petulant Poetess profile, that she has continued writing all the way up to the present day! It seems as though I can look forward to many more southernwitch69 fics in my chronological journey.
This one was a pretty big miss for me, unfortunately. I think I preferred at least one of her older fics more than this. Like most of her stories, the writing is acceptable but lackluster; usually her fics are saved by her very imaginative and enjoyable ideas. This fic felt very expected for the period. Hermione kidnapped by Severus they fall in love. She learns that there is another side to Death Eaters. The trio hunts the Horcruxes in her absence. I just read a fic in the last week that had almost the exact same plot, down to the Rabastan Lestrange as the friendly Death Eater. (“Shades” by Orm Irian.) Without the author’s usual inventive ideas, it’s difficult to find something to praise in this story.
Her characterizations are off in the way that they almost always are – Snape is extremely commanding and possessive, a hyper masculine version of himself. The characterization has come a long way since her early fics, but it’s still off. He’s very nearly a tough-guy cop trope; always knows what to do, always barking orders, always in charge, always cool. That’s just not Snape. Similarly, Hermione is a bit too passive and timid. She doesn’t even try to escape her kidnapping until Draco comes up with a plan. She lets Ron and Harry bully her into ideas that she knows are bad. She spends too much time worrying about physical intimacy with Ron and Snape, and not enough time worrying about Voldemort, loyalties, and escape. As a positive, the Harry in this fic was quite good. He seemed to be the only one in the story focused on Voldemort and thinking with his head instead of his heart.
The romance was disappointing. They came together physically through lust, time, and proximity rather than coming together cerebrally through getting to know each other. They had to pretend to be intimate for the benefit of the Death Eaters, and they had to sleep in the same bed together. Of course they were going to fall in love! They had ever incentive to do so. For me, that is not interesting. I want to see them come together despite the circumstances because they are drawn to each other’s minds. They are very compatible; you don’t have to stick them in the same bed together for them to fall in love. I don’t enjoy that premise.
Lastly, I have sort of a weird recommendation: skip the first chapter. Snape does something extremely out of character that made me upset and almost made me put down the fic. The writing improves after the first chapter, and the uncomfortable event does not take place again.
The bottom line: It’s average writing quality and a too-familiar plot. The very definition of ‘Acceptable.’ There is a bit of bad (terrible first chapter, boring romance) and a bit of good (Malfoys hiding in the Weasley’s chicken coop, Harry.) It will satisfy that fan-fiction itch for you though, I think.
Rating: Acceptable Plus
The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Adventure/Drama, 130k
Warnings: Seventh Year, LoyalDeatheater!Snape, Sexual Content, Violence
Hermione Granger is captured by the Death Eaters and guarded as a prisoner by Severus Snape.
When I first started reading Half-Blood Prince era fan-fiction, I loved the idea of people re-writing Deathly Hallows from an SSHG point of view. Now, about halfway through the Half-Blood Prince epics, I’m so very tired of this premise. There was so much we knew about Deathly Hallows; most authors guess the Horcruxes correctly, and Voldemort-defeat gimmicks are all pretty much the same, too. I think my review of this fic might suffer a bit from my exhaustion with this particular era. However, at the end of the day, it’s the author’s job to come up with something new and interesting to set his or her fanfic apart. This author did not do that.
Both Snape and Hermione are a bit out of character. I found Hermione to be a bit too willing to befriend and assist the Death Eaters; there was just not enough Gryffindor defiance in her demeanor. Snape was even more out of character. In this fic, he is a loyal Death Eater. I would be okay with that, but it requires explanation. WHY does he support Voldemort? Self-preservation? Actual belief in purity of blood? Some sort of Unbreakable Vow? It was never examined or explained. He doesn’t seem to really care either way. Similarly, Hermione doesn’t seem to care about his allegiance, either! Maybe the author assumed that killing Dumbledore meant that he was LoyalDeatheater!Snape and that the point was moot, but clearly the author is deeply lacking in her understanding of Snape, if that is the case.
Grumpy tangent: When I read ‘Lightning-Struck Tower’ for the first time, I screamed and threw my book across the room. I was HORRIFIED and I knew, I just knew, that there was more to the story. I was determined to find it. An SSHG author who lazily accepts ‘Whelp, guess he’s Voldemort’s man…’ without further probing or consideration is a big problem for me.
This lack of logic and cerebral consideration was a problem throughout the fic. Hermione and Snape seemed to be mostly victims of circumstance; neither seemed to plot, plan, or take any action to determine the course of their lives. Harry and the Order take the actions that end the war, while Snape and Hermione go on walks and look at star charts. What? Passive, accidental protagonists do not a great story make.
Yes, Harry defeats Voldemort, and hunts down all of the Horcruxes, and does all of the research. We spend about half of the fic with Harry, Ron, and the Order, because obviously prisoner-Hermione cannot aid them. I understand why this was necessary, but doesn’t it seem like bad plotting? I could understand it a bit more if the author had tried to paint Snape in ‘shades of gray’ (doesn’t the title seem to infer that?) and had Hermione come around to understand the reasons behind his blended morality. The Harry scenes could then serve as a contrast; the ‘white’ and how it was not really any different from the ‘black.’ JK Rowling attempted to do something like this in Deathly Hallows by exploring the darker side of Dumbledore, and the lighter side of Snape. It’s a very interesting theme, but the lack of proper characterizations and the clumsy plotting prevented the theme from being explored in this fic. Harry seems good, Voldemort seems bad, and Snape seems passively disinterested (NOT his character, and not ‘gray.’)
We have yet to arrive at the biggest problem of this fic, namely: no romantic tension. The fic goes from ‘barely tolerable friendship’ to ‘sex’ in one very confusing chapter. The author’s notes for the chapter mentioned that she received negative feedback for the abrupt change, and that she had gone back and edited it in a bit more ‘hints’ about the future romance. I read the future version, obviously, and let me tell you, there is no romantic tension (nor should it be crammed into just one chapter, even if there were!) Additionally, there is no romantic resolution at the end of the fic. Considering that, this fic is basically, ‘Snape and Hermione have casual sex for a while, Harry defeats Voldemort, and everyone goes back to their lives.’
I must focus on the positives at least for a paragraph. It’s ‘Acceptable Plus’, after all, which is a pretty high rating from me. The fic was page-turning, which might sound like faint praise, but after reading hundreds of fics, I am excited when I find one that actually sparks my interest and keeps me reading past my bedtime. The plot moves along quickly; we don’t stay in one place for too long and there is always a bit of excitement in each chapter. The writing quality is also good; you can tell the author is well-read with a nice vocabulary and her words flow together nicely. (Bonus points for including a Lord of the Rings reference in almost every chapter.)
The bottom line: Well-written and engaging with some very nice moments, but the characterizations are off and the romance arc is a mess. I would recommend this to almost any fan of the pairing as a light Classic-era type read. Be ready for the unsatisfying ending, and be ready to spend half the fic with Harry and the Order. Skip it entirely if you are looking for something deep or complex.
Only hosting my copy because Ashwinder is down. Thank you to the reader who sent it to me. I will take this down when the story is hosted properly again.
The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Parody/Romance/Humor, 100k
Warnings: Time Travel, Silliness
Professor Granger and Professor Snape fall into a book – a book that seems to be parodying the events of their younger lives. “Harriet Stranger” and “Seximus Snape” must work together, re-living the events, to escape the book.
As you know if you have read any of my reviews, I prefer a reserved, scholarly, intellectual approach to this pairing…because that is the kind of people that Hermione and Snape are. For me, this pairing just does not lend itself to comedy. As a result, I tend not to like most of the WIKTT (When I Kissed the Teacher) Archive stories, as it’s sort of a humor inside-joke based community.
However, this is an interesting WIKTT prompt – Hermione and Severus must fall into a book together. It seems like the spirit of the prompt is meant to have them fall into a bodice-ripper, but thankfully this author chooses a vaguely more acceptable direction, a parody of the Harry Potter stories. Everyone in the story has different names – Elvis Slumbermore, Barry Plotter, etc. It’s a fun idea, although reading the fake names for 90,000 words was tedious.
I feel as though the author missed a lot of opportunities with this story. Having Hermione and Severus go back and relive the events of the Harry Potter books as adults provides an opportunity to get Severus’ perspective on the events of the books – which is the Holy Grail of this genre for me, something I have been looking for a long time but have never found. How was Snape feeling about having to kill Dumbledore? What possessed him to say, ‘I see no difference?’ The Shreiking Shack from his point of view. The exact nature and history of his friendship with Karkaroff? The author choose not to indulge in any of those potential beautiful drama and psychological depth. Instead, she gives us an almost verbatim play-by-play of the events of the books, with changed names.
Their journey through the last book, “Barry Plotter and the Search for the Sundered Soul”, is interesting, because Deathly Hallows had not come out yet and she was forced to improvise. This was by far the best part of the story. I have really enjoyed the few fics I have read that are essentially Deathly Hallows from Snape and Hermione’s perspective (perhaps because I am not a huge fan of Deathly Hallows) and that is what we get in the last section of this fic. Hermione and Severus (I’m sorry, ‘Harriet and Seximus’) work together to create a potion that will destroy Horcruxes. The Final Battle is interesting; our heroes have to relive it over and over again, via Groundhog Day, because the book is waiting for them to do something (spoiler: kiss.) I thought this Groundhog Day plot device was excellent – frankly I think the story would have been improved by framing the whole thing this way.
I must say that the characters were spot on. I think by this time in the fandom, HBP era, everyone pretty much has Hermione and Severus down. There’s a lot of seepage from other fics – you see things like, ‘Insufferable bastard!’ and ‘sandalwood’ that have started to define SSHG. It’s like on Project Runway; everyone is spending so much time together that ideas from one designer are bound to leak into another designer’s project. This happens in SSHG, especially in communities like WIKTT. They’re in character, but it’s missing that something special, the author’s take or special touch. It feels like ‘student work’, to use the Project Runway acronym again. Almost like a fan-fiction of better SSHG fics. It is a parody, so I suppose that might be literally what it is.
I should add that there are no ‘lemons’, no sexual content. This doesn’t bother me, as you can write a scintillating romance without that, but this fic is pretty passionless.
The bottom line: The author creates a parody setting appropriate for humor, and then wrote 100,000 words. Nothing is funny for that long. I found the first 3/4 very boring. I’d recommend starting with the “Barry Plotter and the Search for the Sundered Soul” section, as that is when the romance and the original content begin. Everything before that is a summary of the HP books, with the names changed.