Search Results for: outstanding

Pet Project – by Caeria

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/2290003/1/Pet-Project

Rating: Outstanding

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Romance/Action, 330k

Warnings: Sexual Content, Violence

Sixth Year Hermione Granger, in her infinite Gryffindor compassion, observes that Professor Snape is exhausted. He barely eats, he never sleeps, he’s miserable – and worst of all, no some seems to notice or care. Given all that he continues to sacrifice for the Order, this is the very height of injustice as far as Hermione is concerned. She resolves to right this wrong, as only the full force of Hermione Granger’s study, intellect, and stubbornness can.

This fic is incredible. We’ll start there. I’m going to indulge in a few rambling Ravenclaw digressions for a bit, and then I’ll get back on track.

This fic is one that I missed when I did my Phoenix Era read-through. Although the fic was started in the Phoenix Era, 2005, it was not completed until 2013. Thus, it did not make it on to harmony_bites’ Completed Phoenix Epics list. I found it on her Work in Progress lists, which I recently went through to see if any of those were ever completed. I also had a commenter recommend it to me, which reminded me that I had bookmarked it – thank you!

Many epics are written over the course of real-life years, but it is very unusual for one to span EIGHT real-life years. I believe this is the first one I have read that was written over such a long period of time. I found this process delightful on a meta level. The fic starts out exploring Phoenix Era themes – Dark!Harry, Misguided!Dumbledore, Pureblood!Snape, Occlumency/Legilmancy, the Mauraders vs. Young Snape, and the Prophecy. The first third or so of the fic focuses mostly on these motifs. Then, as Half-Blood Prince descends, the author (skillfully, subtly) starts to weave in those new ideas – HalfBlood!Snape, Ruthless!Dumbledore, Slughorn, and Invaded!Hogwarts. Mercifully, she does not attempt to cram in Horcruxes or Snape killing Dumbledore, as both would have conflicted with her established plots. She adds in a few things from Deathly Hallows as well – Lily, Snape’s certainty of his own death, Badass!Neville, Occupied!Hogwarts. Many of my readers are relatively modern fans of the SSHG ship, and it’s difficult for you to understand what I mean when I talk about a ‘Classic Era’ fic, and how different in tone and content it is when compared to a Half-Blood Prince era one. Each ‘era’ has new themes and content that writers tend to fixate on, and they really are, in most cases, quite distinct from one another. This fic is an excellent remedial course in Phoenix Era, Half-Blood Prince era, and Hallows era fics, because you can feel the tone, themes, and content shift as the chapters and years pass. If you’re interested in this, make sure to read her Author’s Notes and track the changes. I found it fascinating.

I also want to give a bit of a disclaimer that this fic was practically tailor made for me. Sixth/Seventh Year Hogwarts meeting-of-the-minds that blossoms in to actual romance after Hogwarts is my favorite setting for SSHG. Hermione taking on Snape as a (VERY secret) ‘project’ is one of my favorite premises, because I find it to be very true to both characters. I prefer a long, lingering getting-to-know-you journey before romance. I love the mentor/mentee dynamic (that eventually blossoms in to equals.) I love the ‘meta’ aspects of fic-reading that occur because of the eight year writing span. This fic hits every one of my buttons, and obviously, a lot of my positive regard is going to be generated because of my preferences. I will try to be objective, though.

All right, actual review content, let’s go! We’ll start with the characterizations. Because the fic is so old, they feel a bit ‘Classic Era’ and traditional in their roles of school girl and Potions master. Hermione is VERY much herself circa Order of the Phoenix, which is of course, an innocent, overeager, idealistic Gryffindor. She has all of the tenacity and intelligence that we always see, but modern fics tend to make her a bit more powerful and mature – that is not the case here (although she matures considerably as the fic progresses.) Snape is deliciously in character. I believe Snape’s characterization was my favorite part of this fic – it really felt PERFECT to me. Absolutely perfect. Harsh teaching methods (but for the greater good), regretful and bitter about his past but committed to correcting his mistakes (for himself, not for anyone else), resentful of Dumbledore’s control and meddling but full of care for the old man, unrepentantly hateful towards Harry both for being a symbol of Snape’s failures and because he sees Harry as carefree/careless despite his responsibilities – the greatest of sins to trapped-in-a-web-of-duty Snape, masks upon masks for the Slytherins/Trio/Voldemort – masks to the point that he forgets what it’s like to be vulnerable and pushes everyone away out of habit. I don’t need to tell you all what Snape is; you know. This fic gets it. He’s not Fanon!Snape or Dark!Snape or SadLonely!Snape or SexyMasculinePowerhouse!Snape or OverlyTortured!Snape – he’s just truly Severus Snape, with aspects of all of those various Snapes. Perfection.

The romantic pacing is excellent. I think it will be too slow for many of my readers, but I really enjoyed the detailed consideration of the developing friendship. Too many fics skip this! There are sooooo many lovely things to explore in this pairing – why rush? Sometimes slow romances can be clinical or tepid (as in The Five Winters) and that is not the case here. The friendship-into-romance is a tender, natural, beautiful life-form that is fully and delicately nurtured with each new page and with each new understanding that the characters gain about each other. Lovely stuff. Regrettably, there is a disappointing ‘tragic misunderstanding’ meant to roadblock the relationship that lasted for a handful of chapters, but it wasn’t bad enough that I had to skip ahead (as I often do for tragic misunderstandings.) After that, the romance felt a bit clunky and rushed (comparatively) as it had to contend with the descending warplot. Still, though, the romantic arc climax coincides with the warplot climax, which is always my hope for epic-length romance. It’s remarkable that she accomplished a tandem finish in a 338k fic.

I adored the writing in this fic. The world feels really fleshed-out, with believable and interesting minor characters. She somehow writes charming, sympathetic, and funny House Elves – even JK Rowling was not able to do that! I also really enjoyed Professor Vector, Neville Longbottom, and Ron. Yes, Ron – most fans of this ship dislike Ron, including myself, but there are a few fics that manage to make Ron likeable and give him some redeeming qualities. This is one of them. His loyalty and steadfastness are a great help to this fic’s Dark!Harry, and his usefulness as a Chess General as the war descends is really well done. A lot of fics describe Ron as a Chess General, but this fic shows him making excellent tactical decisions and cutting to the heart of complex situations. That is not easy to write! I also love that the author takes each of the Trio members on a coming-of-age journey. When you start reading the fic, you might be turned off by Innocent!Hermione, Angry!Harry, and BigDumb!Ron, but stick with it. Each of them matures and grows and is a powerful, passionate, mature witch or wizard by the end of the story. This author writes a full story that has themes and involves everyone; there is much more here than mere romance. That is not easy write, and I really appreciated the effort to create a whole story of value. For me, it works beautifully.

There is a lot of creativity on display. Hermione is dedicated to her books, her research, her checklists, and her innovative solutions. This is Hermione! I loved her solutions to Snape’s problems, especially the enchanted item of protection. It may be one of my favorite fanfic inventions ever. I loved the way she stumbled across the idea, I loved her struggle to make it and I loved her eventual success (and the way it wasn’t quite what she expected.) The Voldemort-defeating device is clever, although I’ve read something similar before (FAR more clever than the stupid Deathly Hallows wand technicalities. I will never get over that.) I really enjoyed this author’s version of Arithmancy; a confusing magical topic that most authors avoid. (Arithmancy was explored really well in A Walking Shadow, but I believe that’s the only other Arithmancy-heavy fic I’ve read.) It was a fantastic device for foreshadowing and creating tension in the warplot. There is also an exploration of House Elf culture and motivations that is splendidly done. Many authors avoid House Elves because Dobby was so damn annoying (rest in peace, free elf), but this author does an excellent job handling them. Somehow, she manages to make them so interesting, sympathetic, and crucial to the plot. The combination of great minor characters and great magical ideas really made this feel like the Harry Potter books through an SSHG lens, and that’s about the highest praise I can give to any fanfic.

I do have a few criticisms to levy, of course. The overall plot pacing was a bit uneven. It’s no surprise, as it was written over eight years in real-time. Unevenness seems bound to happen. The middle section stalls out for a while; there are many many conversations and developments that could have been better resolved in a descriptive section to keep the pacing tight. The writing is still page-turning and filled with delightful conversations – I absolutely could not put it down – but the middle section was not as good as the rest. I was also a bit disappointed with the romantic content. Yes, I loved the slow meeting-of-the-minds in the first third, but I felt that the most exciting part of the romance (the space between realizing you care for the person and acting on those feelings) was short-changed a bit. There are only a handful of romantic scenes between the first kiss and the full consummation, and it would have been better to explore that area a little more. The consummation was a bit awkward for me, because it took place somewhere that I felt others could barge in at any moment and I was stressed out the whole time. It just didn’t quite feel right due to the lack of physical build-up. So, although the romantic pacing was great, the romantic content in the latter stages of the relationship was not as good as it could have been. Lastly, I found Dark!Harry really tiresome, and was very relieved when he finally chilled out. Harry is one of my favorite characters and I don’t like it when he is out-of-character for plot, even though it was explained very well here.

The bottom line: For me, this is a nearly perfect fic. The writing is excellent, the banter is witty, the characterizations are spot-on (considering Hermione’s age and remembering that she matures as the fic progresses), the House Elves are ridiculously charming, the warplot is inventive – this fic gets high marks across the entire board. I think for some readers the romance will feel too slow, but I really believe you will still love the fic. I recommend this without reservation to any fan of the pairing – I even recommend as a ‘gateway fic’ to those who are NOT fans of the pairing, because the romance is so believable. Thank you for finishing your fic, Caeria; it’s amazing.

The Lioness Prophecies – by AMR

Link: https://sshgreview.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/amr-the-lioness-prophecies.pdf
Only linking my copy because it is not currently hosted anywhere else, and because it’s a shame for a beautiful fic like this to be lost. I will link to another site if it’s ever properly hosted again.

Rating: Outstanding

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Action/Romance, 260k

Warnings: Sexual Content, Violence, Pregnancy

Professor Trelawney gives another True Prophecy that Professor Dumbledore believes will ensure victory against Voldemort. He is sure that one of the targets of the prophecy is Professor Severus Snape, but who is the other? A long, epic tale that takes us from the Trio’s Sixth Year summer into the Seventh Year fall, winding through elaborate balls at Pureblood Manors, to long days of readying for the Final Battle with spell-crafting and Potion-making, to the secrets behind the doors of the Department of Mysteries, and much more.

Wow. This fic was incredible. I basically gave up all efforts to work on anything else for the past two days because I could not stop reading this. I really enjoyed AMR’s other SSHG fic, Snape’s Boon, though I felt like it had a few problems. This fic is longer, better, and corrects most of the problems. Let’s get down to it.

The biggest strength of this fic is the quality of the writing and of the ideas. There is so much amazingly creative world-building in this fic! The prophecy is subtle and clever, with a myriad of meanings that the reader slowly begins to understand as the fic progresses. Hermione and Snape work together to create a huge number of spells and potions, invented by the author, in their quest to defeat Voldemort. A potion to help resist Legilmancy, that has the unintended side effect of boosting dueling, because duelists unconsciously use Legilmancy to read their opponent’s moves. Those who take the Duelist’s Draught prevent their opponents from making these readings (an idea AMR also uses in Snape’s Boon.) A net spell, adapted from an old Victorian millinery spell for creating hat lace, enlarges the net and adds defensive wards and is used to trap Death Eaters. The attempt to use computer programming and Arithmancy together to correlate data and extrapolate likelihoods and stratagems. The idea to use Muggle Post-Its as portkeys to safely remove survivors from the battlefield, the color and location depending on their allegiance and the severity of their wounds. A beautifully heartbreaking and completely thorough explanation of Pureblood family magic and how it is passed on to the children. The traditions of Pureblood manners and etiquette (suspiciously similar to Regency customs – the Pureblood section of this fic very much reads like a Regency fic.) Hermione’s parents finding a place in the magical world – I have never read a fic that attempted to assimilate them in to magical culture and it is done so well, here. I could go on and on – these are just the ones that came to mind first.

The plotting and pacing is also top-notch. I really appreciate the skill with which the author avoids many of the traditional pitfalls of fanfiction. There were so many times when I thought, ‘Oh no, here comes the tragic misunderstanding,’ or ‘Hmm, this particular aspect of the story is getting tedious,’ and without fail, the author zigs or zags to avoids the mistake. Dumbledore’s refusal to see reason beginning to bog the story down? The very next chapter, he gives in. Hermione kidnapped by Death Eaters and me dreading several chapters of her pointless torture and misery? She escapes almost immediately, impressing and fascinating Voldemort with an amazing twist. Pregnancy fic, which I tend to dislike because I find it out of character and boring? Only becomes pregnant for essential Order reasons and maintains her intellectual spirit and curiosity throughout the pregnancy and beyond. The author’s foresight and cleverness kept the story page-turning and spellbinding, to the very end.

I do have to take a bit of an issue with the characterizations. Snape is an alternate universe fabulously wealthy and impeccably bred Pureblood in this fic – which I do not mind at all, but I know that this portrayal bothers some people given that this was written in the Half-Blood Prince era. In addition to that, I found Snape to be a bit too open and a bit too kind. The fic attempts to explain this by showing the Trio and Snape spending time together offscreen at Grimmauld Place for months, and by suggesting that much of his cruelty is a show for the Death Eater students. I don’t like it when authors take what I believe are essential Snape qualities and write them off as ‘an act’, but it’s a minor quibble in the overall context of the fic. Secondly, Snape is a little too willing to pursue Hermione, but again the author offers multiple explanations as to why he is behaving this way (he is in his childhood home, his great-grandfather is scheming to get them together because he wants an heir, they have been spending every day together working on a potion, their ages are not so different when in the company of the very aged members of his household, etc) so I was not too bothered by it, even though it was probably out of character. I will say, though, that the Albus Dumbledore in this fic is egregiously out of character for most of the fic. He is outrageously cruel to Hermione and incredibly dense for seemingly no reason (the author does have an explanation that she gives at the end of the story, but the explanation is not at all sufficient.) Lastly, one of the original characters, Septimius Snape (who is absolutely fabulous by the way,) has one scene where he is disgustingly vulgar and cruel seemingly out of nowhere that really bothered me, but it was just that one little instance. I mention this only because I was so shocked by it that I nearly put the fic down and I felt as though I should warn future readers.

Despite the bumpy-at-times characterizations, I was very, very pleased with the romance in this fic. It progresses in phases, which keeps the relationship evolving and interesting thoroughout the fic. The Pureblood setting of Snape’s ancestral estate, Houndsnape Hall, is Regency-esque, with balls, dance cards, formal dinners, curtsies; it’s the perfect place for two reticent people to dance slow courting circles around one another (with a little help from Snape’s clever meddling great-grandfather who desperately wants a Snape heir, of course.) This idyllic setting does not last as they are forced to make a difficult choice for the Order that involves their relationship. Next, they must go back to Hogwarts for Hermione’s Seventh Year and pretend nothing has happened between them for the benefit of the public. During the Seventh Year, they plan and plot, mixing potions and creating spells for the upcoming confrontation with Voldemort. I LOVE that they were more focused on the war than on each other – so many fics get this wrong. This is exactly what Snape and Hermione would have done. Then we have the actual confrontation and war which shakes everything and everyone to their very foundations. Though the relationship is technically resolved early for Order reasons, I felt that the author maintained enough tension, choices, and changing circumstances so that the romance arc felt as though it completed at the same time as the war arc. After all of that, we are even treated to a long glance into Severus and Hermione’s future, which somehow continues to be filled with new fascinations and insights to Wizarding culture – just amazing. I found the romance incredibly satisfying.

Much of this fic feels like Classic Era, which might be part of why I love it so much. Pureblood!Snape, out-of-character devious and meddling Dumbledore, and innocent wide-eyed Hermione (at the beginning.) This might sound a bit strange, but bear with me; I think thematically, this fic progresses much in the same way that the Harry Potter books do. The idyllic twinkling and magic of the Houndsnape Hall is reminescent of the magic of Hogwarts and the childhood innocence of the early HP books. The Pureblood balls and early courtship feels very much like the shy dances of Goblet of Fire. The frustration with authority created by Dumbledore’s terrible decisions causing Hermione to break the rules and make her own independent choices for the first time feels very much like Order of the Phoenix (with Dumbledore avoiding Harry Fifth Year, causing Harry to become less obedient and more independent.) The safe haven of the early chapters is cloaked in an inky cloud as the heaviness of war, duty, and sacrifice descend upon the characters just as they do in the later HP books. So, some might say that Hermione is too gentle or innocent in this fic, but that’s only at the START of the fic – I believe the author intentionally uses Philosopher’s Stone Hermione (even though she’s 18) in order to re-create the whole bildungsroman journey of the Harry Potter books the reader’s mind. If you’re a bit skeptical of my theory, look at Hermione’s Transfiguration N.E.W.T project in this story for confirmation that the themes of childhood journey to adulthood are indeed the author’s intention. I absolutely adored going on same Harry Potter journey that I so love – but through the lens of SSHG and completely new plots, prophecies, and magical theories. I could be crazy, but this is what I felt. ❤

The bottom line: This fic definitely has a 'Classic Era' feeling (AU goofiness, Innocent!Hermione, Pureblood!Snape and a ridiculously out-of-character Dumbledore) which might be a problem for some of you, but if you can overlook it, you are in for a magnificent treat. Brilliant magical concepts, well-crafted setting changes that keep the pages fresh, great romantic pacing, precise plotting, interesting minor characters, prophecies, spell-crafting, cauldron-stirring…perfection. For me the ‘Classic Era’ issues were far outweighed by the beautiful writing and endless creativity on display. This is one of my favorite SSHG fics ever. I hope that you will love it, too!

Accountable – by Dyce

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/3245929/1/Accountable

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.

In Annulo – by LadyoftheMasque

Link: http://www.thepetulantpoetess.com/viewstory.php?sid=1480

Rating: Outstanding

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Romance/Action, 360k

Warnings: Seventh Year, Sexual Content, NC-17, Non-Consensual SSHG

At the start of her seventh year, Hermione Granger receives a letter and a magical correspondence ring from someone claiming to be a spy in the Death Eater camp. When Dumbledore was murdered by the Traitor, he lost his only contact to the Order. He’s hoping Hermione will be his new liaison, passing on his information to those who need it.

Full disclosure: I had read this many years ago when it was first published. Lady of the Masque is my favorite fanfiction author of all time; her For Someone Special is one my favorite fanfics. I was predisposed to love this fic. I did a full re-read for this review.

It is, obviously, outstanding. It’s Deathly Hallows and the hunt for the Horcruxes in an SSHG context. There are so many amazingly clever ideas – the betrothal correspondence ring and guardian, Chronomancy, Diario di Lucrezia Borgia as an incredibly Dark potions book that judges the worthiness of its reader, Artifacts and Artificy, having Dementors eat the soul out of Horcruxes (GENIUS!), delving into the function of origin of the Dark Mark, and more.   So much of this story hits the sweet spot of magical, whimsical, practical, and funny that the real Harry Potter does.

I love Snape and Hermione’s function in the warplot. They spend huge amounts of time researching, creating charms, creating Potions, gathering information. They take an intellectual approach to defeating the Dark Lord – which is the way it should be! So many fics send them on cloak and dagger action adventures, or have them ignore the warplot completely in favor of their romance. This is what they REALLY would have been doing – using their brains and books to find a chink in Voldemort’s armor. Snape and Hermione are in love, sure, but their focus is 100% on Voldemort. They even sometimes ‘use’ each other and hide things from each other, if necessary, to the further the fight against Voldemort. These aren’t the kind of people who get swept up in passion and forget their circumstances, and this fic remembers that.

Hermione is absolutely, fabulously, beautifully in character. One thing I especially loved about her is how close she is with Harry and Ron. Many fics shove the boys them out of the picture or villainize them in order to focus on Snape.  Hermione LOVES Harry and Ron and they are absolutely part of her life. This fic seamlessly and believably bridges the gap between her friendship with Ron and Harry and her romance with Snape. She remains close to them all and interacts with them all throughout the story.

Snape is a bit out of character in the beginning (it’s explained – because he is in disguise and because he has his own agenda, but it still bothered me.) My biggest problem with Snape (and Hermione, by extension) is that he introduces sexual talk and content in his first few interactions with Hermione. No way that Snape, alone in the heart of the Death Eaters, would jeopardize his only link to the Order with blatant sexual advances. Especially with Hermione Granger, his former student!  Ridiculous. My face just fell and I groaned in disgust when it happened. As a result, the romance happens way faster than it should.  (The fic is 360k!  Why rush?) There is also way too much smut.  Metric tons, enormous boatloads, full continents, of smut.  WAY too much. Maybe I’m just a prude, but I was annoyed by the amount of sex they had. Multiple times every time they see each other?  Come on.  They have much better things to do with their time.  I didn’t find it believable for either character.  There is also a non-consensual SSHG scene, which I almost always find out of character, but in the context of the moment of this story, I believed Snape might have done it, as difficult as it was for me to read.

Despite my gripes about the early romance and the overabundance of smut, the pacing of the romance and warplot are mostly tight and page-turning. The romance peaks early, yes, but there are little hurdles to be overcome that kept it from feeling resolved and boring. Their romance begins in writing and then must progress to real life. Hermione knows Snape by an alias, and must learn to accept his true identity, essentially resetting the romance (but in an organic, realistic way, not in a Tragic Misunderstanding sort of way.)  The warplot is almost perfectly paced, though I think it sagged a bit in the middle, and there is a little deux ex machina speed cheat in order to find the last few Horcruxes. Ideally, I would edit the entire fic down by 100k  by removing 90% of the smut and tightening up the pacing in the center of the story;  but honestly those are minor gripes in the greater picture.

The dialogue and descriptions are just wondrous.  In my review of ‘For Someone Special’ I called LadyoftheMasque the Reining Queen of Witty Banter and here, 50 epic-length fics later, I support my original assessment.  No one does hilarious, clever dialogue like she does.  Not even JK Rowling.  So many of the conversations, insults, snark, descriptions, and wry observations are pure gold.  For the entire cast of characters, not just Snape and Hermione.  I wish I could write like this.

Super duper gold star to the scene at the end of the story in the courtroom. It was so witty, tied so many lose ends together, and had so many fun reveals, jokes, and cameos.  It was just so…Harry Potter.  It took me back to Hogwarts, and back to that magic.  At the end of the day, isn’t that why we read fan-fiction?

The bottom line: I had read this fic before, and I still stayed up until DAWN finishing it on my re-read, because I couldn’t put it down. I have been reading and reviewing fics for a long time now, and this one thoroughly impressed me, almost without reservation. Skim through the excessive amounts of smut, forgive Snape being a bit too forward in the beginning, and you’ll love this beautifully painful, charmingly whimsical, amazingly clever, deeply romantic adventure.

For Someone Special – by LadyoftheMasque

Link: http://snapeyluvshermy.livejournal.com/269240.html?thread=1517240#t1517240 (Instructions for joining author’s Yahoo group that has the files, requires signing up for a Yahoo account)
Alt Link:
https://sshgreview.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/ladyofthemasque-for-someone-special-part-1.pdf
https://sshgreview.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/ladyofthemasque-for-someone-special-part-2.pdf
Note that the final two links are in two parts, you will need to read both, of course! I’m only hosting because the Internet ate the Restricted Section and it’s sad for a classic beautiful fic to disappear from the Internet for that reason; I’ll remove my files once it is back up properly again. Hopefully that is okay!

Note that the pdf alternate links are in two parts. Make sure you read the second half, too, of course!

Rating: Outstanding Minus

The Basics: Phoenix Era (inspired by OoTP era, with additions from later books) Drama/Angst/Romance, 550k,

Warnings: Underage, Non-Con, Extremely Kinky in Every Way, Slash, Violence, Suicide, NC-17 Everything.

In the direst of circumstances, with no other options, Professor Snape performs the ancient Veritamoria ritual with Hermione Granger, binding her mind to his and saving her life.

First off, this fic is 500k and I first read it more than 10 years ago.  I loved this fic so much that I used “Veritamoria” as my password for years.  I scrawled the words in the margins of my college notes, with hearts and Snapes.  I fangirl this fic.

My favorite part of this story is the ancient love ritual potion, Veritamoria.  Essentially, it is a love-enhancing potion that works over a period of months, strengthening the bond between two individuals by giving them a telepathic link that increases slowly in power as the lovers progress through the stages –  Mind-Bound, Heart-Bound, Soul-Bound.   Most couples have incompatible thoughts and never make it through the first stage.

Veritamoria is a genius idea for this pairing; you can imagine how much fun the author has with the telepathic communication between Snape and Hermione.If you have read many reviews on my site, you will note that I often look for ‘witty banter’ as part of my criteria for a good SSHG fanfic.  They are both intelligent and snarky (“I see no difference,” and “emotional range of a teaspoon,” for example), and they should rile each other up with hilarious biting comments, in my opinion.  “For Someone Special” is what GAVE me that opinion.  So much fabulous, unrestrained, occasionally telepathic, stream-of-consciousness snarky verbiage is spilled.

The writing and characterizations are perfect. They define the genre, for me.  Snape, in this fic, has an incredibly strong tumultuous undercurrent of emotions that he keeps firmly repressed. That is so canon – Lily – yet this was written during OotP era. This is absolutely how I see Snape. So few authors get this right. He often does and says the opposite of what he feels; at first it was self-protective, then it was necessary (to pretend he was a loyal Death Eater.) then it became an unconscious misery-reinforced habit. The Veritamoria link with Hermione slowly strips away those protective barriers, both conscious and unconscious.  Beautiful.

There are a few problems, of course.  The author seems to have difficulty writing relational conflict. There are a series of ‘tragic misunderstandings’ in the final section of the fic that are utterly frustrating.  I understand that tension is needed for a satisfying resolution, but the way it unfolds is ham-fisted. One of the misunderstandings could have been easily avoided with a simple conversation; something horrible had to happen, yes, but it would have been through tearful agreement rather than a stupid misunderstanding. Then, just when that obstacle is wrapping up, ANOTHER stupid misunderstanding, even more frustrating than the first, occurs, through deux-ex-machina Dumbledore meddling.  It’s obvious to the reader that both misunderstandings were going to be resolved, so reading through them was absolutely drudgery.  Both misunderstandings could have created tension enjoyably and satisfactorily if they were handled with more maturity from both characters, and had been briefer.

Additionally, I must complain that there is way, way, way too much sex in this fic for my taste, and that Snape and Hermione are far more focused on sex than they should be.  Yet, because of this clever Eromancy plot, and Mudslut Voldemort Performance Spy plot, it’s tied to the plot and doesn’t feel like filler.  I should also add that the sex is very kinky.  This is one of the earliest fics that I read, when I was very young, and I must say that it shocked the hell out of me.  It’s all done tastefully, but there is pretty much every kind of sex you can think of, magically altered in EVERY way.  It’s an exploratory Tantric Eromancy project, after all.

If you’d like a LadyoftheMasque story that is slightly less sex-focused, you could try In Annulo by the same author. (Clarification: less sex, but still way too much.)

The bottom line: An almost perfect fic.  There is way too much sex, and a series of extremely annoying tragic misunderstandings at the end, but there is also a beautiful, well-written, highly imaginative love story. The QUALITY of the writing is unbelievable.  I am sure that LadyoftheMasque must be working as a  professional author, now.  Then there’s glorious Veritamoria, the best plot device in all of SSHG, widely beloved and used by other authors.  Skim through the parts that you don’t like, because the overall quality of this fic is WELL worth it.

Cloak of Courage – by WendyNat

Links:
http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=1574
https://www.fanfiction.net/s/1678592/1/Cloak-of-Courage

Rating: Outstanding

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Romance/Darkness/Angst, 190k,

Warnings: Attempted Non-Consensual (not Severus), NC-17, Violence, Marriage Law, Dark, Character Death

After much death and destruction in her life, Hermione Granger turns to the Dark Arts for revenge.  Only one person can hold her back from the dark precipice – Severus Snape.

Wow.  This fic was extremely impressive. Turbulant, emotional, but restrained, extremely dark, but still clinging to Light…incredible.

The beginning is a little rough, especially the first chapter – honestly I might have rolled my eyes and moved on if I were reading this just for pleasure and not for review.  But hang in there, because it is ABSOLUTELY worth slogging through the first bit.

The driving force of the fic is the system of Dark Magic that the author creates, “The Call of the Blood.”  And it is SO well done; better than some mechanics that you find in published fiction.   It is unique, fascinating, and revealed slowly throughout the course of the story.  The Dark Arts is at once looming shadow and a siren’s song.  It brings Snape and Hermione together, it threatens to drive them apart.  It could be the answer to defeat Voldemort, or it could signal the downfall of the Order.  Primitive.  Brutal.  Beautiful.  Unknowable.  All this, and yet and still somehow feels like it could organically and truly fit in with the Harry Potter world.  “The Call of the Blood” would explain so much about Snape, and about Lucius, and about Voldemort.  Honestly I think am going to adopt it is ‘head-canon’ for the real Harry Potter – it’s that good.  This is all vague, but I don’t want to go into the details, because everything is revealed slowly and it would be spoiler-y to explain it.

Another strength is the plotting.  It is beautifully plotted.  All of the side characters, side plots, and off-screen events work together.  Everything matters, though you may not realize it at first (as it should be – too often in fanfiction something stands out and you know it will come back later.  Not so here; it is woven in subtly.)  There was one particular “A-ha” moment for me that literally made me grin with wild glee because it made perfect sense, but I didn’t see it coming.  A surprising, on-point, subtle, ironic, deftly written twist – to check all of those boxes at once is a very difficult thing to do.

The romance and characterizations are also great.  It is a Marriage Law fic, so they are forced together, but there is still a long, satisfying period of coming together physically and emotionally.  I found it quite believable.  Hermione is too darkly out of character, probably -, but if the horrible things that happened to this Hermione had happened to canon Hermione, she may have ended up this dark.  The Snape is excellent – extremely dark, extremely disciplined, extremely sexy.  I would say that he is slightly overconfident.  My Snape is inwardly insecure, but outwardly confident; this Snape is inwardly confident as well.  I found it kind of sexy, though, so I can’t say I disliked it – just a tiny bit off point, for me.  Last note on the romance – this is my favorite wedding ceremony of any fic, ever.  I got married last year and honestly if I had read this last year, I might have incorporated some of the wedding ceremony into my own.

I don’t usually comment on the smut, but it was so good in this fic that I didn’t skip ANY of it.  It wasn’t overused, and it was always useful – there was a plot point or an emotional revelation or something every single time.  It wasn’t just filler; it was part of the story.  THAT is the way smut should be done.

The bottom line: This is an extraordinary fic, but it might be too dark for some.  I didn’t think I was a fan of Dark!SSHG but this converted me.  It was seductive and brutal and tear-stained and I loved it.  Read this if you would like more of an inside look into the Death Eaters and Dark Magic.  It might become your head-canon.  And definitely read this if you are a fan of SSHG, period.  The first few chapters are just good, not great, but wait for it.

Dark Gods in the Blood – by Hayseed

Links:
http://www.fictionalley.org/authors/hayseed/DGITB.html
http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=24214

Rating: Outstanding Minus

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Friendship/Mystery, 150k,

Warnings: Violence, Original Characters, Sexual Content, Horror

13 years after graduating from Hogwarts, Hermione Granger comes back to England from a long absence in order to solve a mysterious murder.  It’s an SSHG whodunnit!

This fic is absolutely incredible.  The only reason I rated it ‘Oustanding Minus’ instead of ‘Outstanding’ is because it is more of an SSHG friendship fic than an SSHG romance fic.  But every other detail of this fanfic is perfection.  Honestly, it’s SO good, that I would have recommended it even if it wasn’t SSHG at all.

It’s violent.  Horribly violent.  It’s intellectual.  It’s beautifully plotted.  Little seeds that were planted in the early chapters spring to glorious fruition in the later ones.  It’s heartbreaking – the Snape especially, is so, so, so heartbreaking, and so perfectly in character.   If Hermione and Snape were to come together in ‘real life’, these are the kind of circumstances that would have transpired.  It wouldn’t be romantic and pretty; it would be academic, reluctant, and under extreme duress.

The only drawback to this fic, other than the friendship-over-romance angle, is that it could possibly seem a bit pretentious sometimes, if that is an annoyance of yours.  I actually liked it; my degree is in English Lit so I have a pretty high tolerance for academic references.  But to some, the amount of quotes and referenced works might seem a little over-the-top or highbrow.

Another great thing about this fic is the RON, of all things.  This is the best Ron I have ever read.  It’s pretty much the only time I found him likeable and sympathetic, including the actual Harry Potter books themselves.

The bottom line: I recommend this to EVERYONE EVERYWHERE.  If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, you’ll probably like this fic.  It’s that good!

Heart Over Mind – by Regann

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/1215092/1/Heart-over-Mind

Rating: Outstanding

The Basics: Classic Era (compliant to GoF and some references to later books), Romance, 180k

Warnings: None. PG Rated

Professor Snape’s seventh-year Potions class brews and imbibes an ancient love potion, the hayam, that causes the drinker to fall superficially in love with the other drinker.  Hermione Granger, however, seems unaffected by the potion – a rare occurrence that has not been seen in decades.  The only way to be unaffected by the potion is to already be deeply in love with one’s soulmate.  Hermione is shocked to realize the implications; that her schoolgirl crush on Professor Snape is actually much, much more.

Wow, what a wonderful story.  I had very strong deja-vu from the first few chapters – I definitely had read those chapters before.  My guess is that I originally stumbled upon it while it was still a work-in-progress, and when I realized that, I stopped.  I had completely forgotten about the fic and I am so glad I re-disovered it in this process.  This is definitely one of the best, if not the best, SSHG fic I have ever read.  So beautiful, so whimsical, so witty and funny, and so painfully in character.

One of my top complaints in SSHG fanfiction is that the romance moves too quickly.  Snape is a very private man and it would take A LOT to get him involved with a former student.  Even if he had extremely strong feelings, he would likely never act on them without certainty of reciprocation and no hint of impropriety.  This fic fully appreciates that, almost to a fault, and as a result the relationship feels quite natural and the romance is drawn out tantalizingly over an excruciatingly long period of time.  There is a particularly wonderful section in the story that involves gathering potion ingredients late at night and a Midsummer festival.  Reading that section, I felt incredibly giddy and heady with romantic intoxication, far more than I usually do with these stories.  It was just beautifully written.  We all read fan-fiction for those rare moments, and believe me, this fic delivers.

Another strength of the story is the witty banter.  There is a cauldron full of raised eyebrows, quirking lips, sideways glances, and generally hilarious and intelligent conversation.  This is SO important in SSHG fics; their sharp tongues are one of the most important things they have in common.  Witty banter has been sorely lacking in the last few fics I had read and I was so glad to stumble across an author who could really write it, again.

There are a few issues with the fic, however.  For one, there is no sex.  None.  The relationship fully matures and there is a small amount of physical payoff (if beautifully written kisses will satisfy you – they sure worked for me!) but there is no smut or consummation within the story’s pages.  My second issue with the fic is that the story sagged a little in the last quarter and the ending was not totally satisfying.  For me, the author seemed to be doggedly determined to finish the fic even though she had run out of ideas and interest.  There is a slight lack of creativity/beauty in the last the quarter, as compared to the rest of the fic – it definitely feels like we are barreling towards an inevitable conclusion and eliminating plot points, even if it is being done very well.

My biggest pet peeve with the fic is VERY small, but it annoyed me enough that I decided to write a whole paragraph about it.  It’s an occasionally out-of-character personality quirk for Hermione – she is incredibly DENSE.  There is a gentleman with interest in her while she is away at college, who goes out to eat with her every week, yet it never even *enters her mind* that he is romantically interested.  Even when he’s trying to explain it to her, she can’t even conceive of what he’s saying until he spells it out.  What?  Another example – Harry and Ron show up completely irate on her parents’ doorstep over Christmas, and she has *no idea* what they could possibly be upset about (how about the fact that Molly Weasley might have finally told them about her relationship with Snape, which she had been threatening to do for 4 chapters?)  Lastly, she agonizes over how to tell her parents/friends about her relationship with Snape, where there is a simple solution – the hayam potion!  Everyone in the school knew that Hermione Granger was in love with her soulmate but she wouldn’t tell anyone who.  Wouldn’t saying, ‘Hey remember the hayam potion?  I want to tell you the whole story from the beginning to now.   You will understand why I agonized over it, why I wouldn’t tell anyone, and why it is so hard for me to tell you, even now.’  Instead, she blurts out half-explanations that are obviously going to make them angry.  I just didn’t get it, and it made me very annoyed.

The bottom line: Any fan of the SSHG should read this.  It is especially strong in intelligent banter, whimsically lovely romantic moments, creative academia-based plot devices, and overall strong characters.  It has a few problems, but they pale in comparison to its qualities.  The beautiful tantalizing watercolor scenes the author paints during Midsummer are perhaps my favorite SSHG scenes ever written.

The Other Side of Darkness / Survivals and Remembrances – Abby at Witchfics.org

Other Side of Darkness: http://www.witchfics.org/abby/tosod.html
Survivals and Remembrances: http://www.witchfics.org/abby/survival.html
My hosted copy: https://sshgreview.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/the-other-side-of-darkness-and-survivals-and-remembrances-by-abby-2-files-merged.pdf
Sadly, the last site that was hosting this went down in 2016, so I’m hosting it myself until it is up on a proper archive again. It’s a tragedy to see a fic disappear from the Internet simply because the link is old. My copy includes both fics.

Rating: Outstanding

The Basics: Classic Era (compliant only up to GoF), Drama/Romance, 200k

Warnings: NC17, Torture, Slash, Non-Con (not SSHG), disturbing villain

This fic is the first to get my Outstanding rating; and it is well-deserved.  The Other Side of Darkness is a stand-alone fic, a well-scripted action plot that brings Snape and Hermione together.  The sequel, Survivals and Remembrances, refuses to accept the easy ‘now we’re in love’ ending of most fanfics and delves deeply into the intricacies and struggles of Snape and Hermione’s relationship.

In The Other Side of Darkness, an Auror is hurt by the effects of a mysterious potion that Hermione, working for the Ministry, attempts to cure.  In her frustration, she turns to Professor Snape.   I won’t bother to go down the checklist of everything that this fic does right; that would be far too long a review.  Instead I will focus on the highlights.  Snape.  He is perfectly in character .  Frustratingly, heartbreakingly perfect.  Every sneer hides a whisper of fear; every cold stare hides a glint of uncertainty.  The duality that the author brings to Snape is powerful and gripping, matched only by the quiet confidence of the Gryffindor who stubbornly refuses to let him give up on himself.  The villain in this fic must be mentioned as well – I will let you discover the details for yourself, but this is a chilling, deeply disturbing villain that I fully expect to haunt my dreams.

Survivals and Remembrances, the sequel, is a great piece of writing that surpasses the first.  It is all too easy for most fanfic authors – and readers – to wrap things up quickly, with a fairy ending, once Snape and Hermione have found each other.  We read for the romance, after all, yes?  I certainly do.  But this sequel goes far beyond that cliche to show a realistic, raw, and occasionally turbulent relationship.  Not everything is solved with “I love yous” and kisses.  There are unchecked tempers, unhealed scars, clumsy friends, and oppressive families.   These problems are slowly and subtly drawn; not tragic misunderstandings pulled out of a hat., and these problems are solved with rational discussion and steadfast commitment.  Another highlight that must mentioned is the chapter delving into Snape’s family and childhood background.  This author humanizes the Pureblood culture, and by proxy, the Death Eater movement, in a way I had never fully felt before.  And Snape’s mother…well, she’s an extraordinary character.  You’ll see.  I would love to see Joan Crawford play her.

There is a bit of imperfection in the grammar and punctuation, especially in Other Side of Darkness, but that’s common among these very old Classic Era fics. It was written long before ‘betas’ were popular. At first, I thought there was something wrong with my copy of it, but I found the same errors in another copy of mine, so it must have been written that way. The quality of the writing and plotting is much improved in Survivals and Remembrances.

Edit 06/2015 – I re-read the first half of Other Side of Darkness today and it was actually not quite as good as I remembered; maybe I had exaggerated it in my mind, or – more likely as this was my first Outstanding rating – it was the first fic of this quality I encountered and it naturally blew me away. Current qualms would be that the romance was a tiny bit too hasty, and that this Snape is slightly ‘weaker’ than I prefer, though I can’t argue that it feels right in the context of the fic.  It’s still an excellent Outstanding fic, but I thought it was worth editing the review to add these realizations and further comments.

The bottom line: They are both excellent, but Survivals and Remembrances is better. I would compare this fic (if you include the sequel) to Joseph Campbell’s Heart of Darkness.  Through the action plot and the eyes of Hermione Granger, the chapters tear away  at Snape’s protective sneers and cloak-billows to reveal the full pain, the full darkness, of the man beneath.  A sorrowful portrait from child, to Death Eater, to the unapproachable and nearly-stone Potions Master – and beyond . If you can stomach the creepy villain and non-con elements, it’s an excellent read for any fan of the pairing.

What is SSHG Review?

SSHG Review is intended to be an review archive of all epic-length (larger than 100k) and completed Snape/Hermione fanfics.

We’ve all waded through pages and pages of summaries, trying to find something new; we’ve all read the first 3 chapters of 10 different fics, only to be disappointed at the writing or characters and give up.  I kept thinking, ‘There has to be a better way’ – this is my best attempt at a better way.  My eventual hope for this page is that you can simply reading anything from my ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Exceeds Expectations’ columns and know that they will be excellent; and if you’re picky, you can use the search bar to find in-depth reviews of fics tailored to your interests.

I am using harmony_bites’ “Guide to Completed SSHG Fics” to review all epic-length SSSHG fics chronologically.  (Her guides are listed in her LiveJournal profile: http://harmony-bites.livejournal.com/profile ).

As of 06/2017, I am nearing the end of the Half-Blood Prince era, circa 2007, in my chronological reviews.

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All reviews are subjective, of course, so I should like to tell you a little bit about my preferences.  If your preferences are similar to mine, my reviews will be very helpful to you. 

I prefer a proud, socially aloof, intelligent, and snarky Potions Master – inwardly battling insecurity and guilt.  He must be reluctant and reticent to get involved in the romance, rarely the instigator.  He cannot be too wimpy (in modern post-DH fics, he is often weak and self-indulgent, thanks in part I suspect to his Lily-derived Gryffindor/Hufflepuff fangirls who belatedly jumping on the Snape ship. – “Poor little Snapey-whapey.’  That’s a ridiculous sentiment that he would rage at.  Snape detests pity – but I’m ranting and digressing.)  So, he can’t be too wimpy, but neither can he be too cruel.  I find a Snape who enjoys torture or rape to be out-of-character and uninteresting, but, if I’m honest, perhaps less offensive than the aforementioned Snapey-whapey.

EagleChild’s 25 Rules for Writing Severus Snape are quite accurate.

I feel their romantic connection is best rooted in academics and intelligence. Their greatest commonality is their awkward bookworm tendencies – I think First Year Train Hermione and First Year Train Severus were nearly identical, don’t you? It’s only their friendships and Houses that led them in different directions (Cursed Child agrees with me, by the way.) This is best explored through a common goal or research project, or through ‘witty banter,’ my favorite trope in this ship. Hermione is smart enough to see that Snape’s sardonic observations are often darkly humorous.  She should also be able to see the place in his heart where these snarky comments come from, and be wise enough not to comment on it; rather, she should be able to dish back in kind, with wit and whimsy, once they have reached the stage of intimacy in which she can do so without fear of rebuke.  

I also have a huge soft spot for Lucius Malfoy. I find that very often, an author’s ability to write or to understand Lucius is a great indicator of the quality of the fic. Many write him as a gross caricature of evil (pre DH) and many others write him as a pathetic coward (post DH.) The truth is of course, somewhere in between. I believe he is nearly as complex as Severus and I truly enjoy it when SSHG fics write him well. As one of Snape’s only friends, and certainly the only friend who fully understands what he has been through as a Death Eater, he is an important part of the ship. He’s not perfect, and he’s almost certainly an asshole, but he’s an important part of Snape’s life.

Pretty much any fic can be amazing with the right Snape and the right Hermione. Their deep, academic, reluctant connection is the reason I read this pairing.  I believe Hermione is the only person in the HP world capable of understanding Snape (and perhaps vice versa) yet they are so, so, so very far apart.  Enjoying the long journey to each other is infinitely more rewarding than any other pairing I’ve found.

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And lastly, if you should like to know a little about me personally: I am a short, bushy-haired Slytherclaw (probably more Ravenclaw, as my anxious waffling over this issue can attest.) I have a tall, pale, reserved, and snarky Slytherin as my husband (though he’s more like Lucius Malfoy than Snape, if I’m honest), and two cats (none named Crookshanks.)  I discovered Harry Potter over my little brother’s shoulder on a road trip in 2001, and have been reading Snape and Hermione fan-fiction since 2002. I have a degree in English Literature, but it is quite useless, as those degrees tend to be. I make my living by selling costume dresses on Etsy. I am also studying computer programming and hope upgrade careers in the next few years.

I listen to fanfic using text-to-speech programs while I sew, so I go through fics at a decent pace, when I am in the mood to read.  I have written no fanfics myself (other than one Sailor Moon one in junior high. We will not speak of that.) I tend to read in cycles; I will overdose on fics for a few weeks and post a dozen reviews, and then I will post nothing for months. Please forgive my erratic reviewing schedule.

I am becoming something of an archivist with this site because so many fic sites are going down as of late (Digital Quill, Witch Fics, Obscurus Books, Granger Enchanted, and even occasionally Ashwinder.) I always try to obtain a copy of a lost fic and post it here, whenever that happens. If you are in the mood to send me your collection of epic-length(longer than 100k) SSHG fics, I would gladly take them, and may end up posting your copies here in the event that the site they are archived on goes down. Let’s save these old fics, together! My e-mail address is serpent.and.lily [at] outlook [dot] com.

Thank you for visiting my blog!  I hope you enjoy my reviews.

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Public Service Announcement: I have heard from several readers that they did not see the ‘Older Posts’ button at the bottom of the page and did not realize how many reviews were actually here. This layout by default only shows about 10 reviews in the search results; you need to click ‘Older Reviews’ at the bottom to see the next 10.