Rating: Outstanding Minus
The Basics: Modern Era (2012), Angst/Romance, 490k
Warnings: Sexual Content, Violence, Gore, Non-Con (not SSHG), Torture
In her fifth year at Hogwarts, Hermione Granger takes on a new role studying under Madame Pomfrey, as she is interested in learning how to become a Healer in an effort to assist in the War. She is sworn to secrecy about the things she will learn in her role as a Healer – because unbeknownst to Hermione, Madame Pomfrey’s chief job is patching up Dumbledore’s double agent, Severus Snape. The story follows canon threads from Order of the Phoenix through Deathly Hallows; however, the deepening friendship between Hermione Granger and Severus Snape changes many canon events.
This story (as well as Loten’s other huge SSHG work, ‘Post Tenebras, Lux’ which I have not yet reviewed) came extremely highly recommended to me by the readers of this blog. I think perhaps I allowed those high recommendations to inflate my expectations. In my mind, I heralded this as the greatest SSHG work ever, that all others would pale in the light of. I saved it for the rainiest of rainy days when I was completely exhausted and needed a great, riveting story to keep me sewing on schedule (I use text-to-speech programs) and to transport me away from my stresses. Perhaps because of this combination of work stress and exaggerated expectations, I ended up very disappointed by this fic. It’s also possible that I was mixing together the recommendations for Loten’s ‘Post Tenebras, Lux’ with the recommendations for this fic – perhaps I’ll like that one better? So, please keep all of this in mind when you read this review. Many fans feel this is the best SSHG fic ever written – and perhaps it is – but not for me.
I very much enjoyed the way the author navigated her way through the actual HP books from an SSHG point of view. This is not something I see very often, nor is it a method I particularly I enjoy, but it’s done well here. Sometimes the SSHG shoehorning stretched credulity – Snape giving the Golden Trio intensely personal, on point, psychological and physical training for the War, or Snape leading the Trio on a search for the Horcruxes – but often it really worked. I enjoyed Snape’s casting of Fiendfyre in an attempt to destroy Horcruxes, and the struggle of his emotions as he did so. I liked when Dumbledore tried to leave Snape out of the Locket Horcrux adventure, which caused Snape to remark (upon seeing the potion at the Inferi lake), ‘How fortunate that you thought to bring a Potions Master who is also a Dark Wizard on this little adventure to fish a Horcrux out of a Dark Potion.’ I LOVED Ron’s clever idea to destroy the Hufflepuff cup. The characterizations are also well done, although I would quibble that both are not as interested in academia (they are described as being that way, but their conversations and choices do not reflect it.) Also, this is jeans-cigarette-emo-music grunge Snape which is not one I prefer, but it’s a viable interpretation.
The plotting is extremely slow. It worked in the beginning, because the slow, probing conversations were supported by the growing romantic tension. But once the romance had been resolved, I struggled to stay interested. The plot is a rehash of the final three books, so there was no plot/action tension and no romantic tension. Why keep reading? What could possibly fill the second 200k of the story? The emotional conversations that seemed so interesting in the first half began to feel like repetitive filler. I actually started skimming, because it seemed that each new scene was Severus’ reflection on his feelings, Severus talking to Hermione about his feelings, Hermione talking to Severus about her feelings, Severus talking to Harry about Harry’s feelings, and then a very minor plot event that starts the entire cycle over again, as everyone examines their responses to this minor plot point.
So, this is a well-written, complex, emotional fic, but there is very little tension or original plot. I think this will work excellently for some people, but it did not work for me. I am more of a cerebral meets whimsical Ravenclaw and I was bored to tears by the plethora of emotion and the extensive examination thereof. There needed to be far more talk about Voldemort and far less talk about Snape’s feelings. He is damaged, yes, and it’s interesting to examine that, but it can’t be the focus of a 500k fic without far more support than is offered here. I needed more clever original ideas, more academic connection, more characters, more plot, more action, and just /more/ in a fic of this length.
The bottom line: An excellent psychological study and emotional look at the pain, past, and future of Severus Snape. Recommended for those who are not fans of the pairing, as it exhaustively explores the SSHG connection and the full history of Snape. Also recommended for those who enjoy thoroughly exploring emotion, through music, poetry, reflection, etc. An Outstanding in the view of the community, but for me the lack of romantic or plot-driven tension in the second half of the story made it a struggle to finish.
Edit, several hours later: I felt the need to come back and report that my feelings on this fic were not precipitated by stress or a bad mood, because I started another fic and am so far immensely enjoying it (Thirty-One Days by keelhaulrose.) There is mystery/tension in this new fic – how will the plot resolve? How will the romance resolve? I have no idea, and that’s exciting. The problem for me with ‘Chasing the Sun’ is that it runs out of excitement and tension 250k words too early.
The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Action/Romance, 780k
Warnings: Sexual Content, Violence, Non-Con (not SSHG), Torture, Original Characters
Hermione Granger applies to a new-fangled wizard university in the United States because Muggleborns are unlikely to be accepted for Apprenticeships in Wizarding Britain. However, there is still a war on, and she makes time to research defensive medicinal potions and offensive weapons to use against Voldemort with her former Professor Severus Snape.
I did not consider this fic for SSHG review because it is incomplete. However, my awesome readers brought it to my attention that although it is technically incomplete, the last chapter is it good ending point and most of the plot and romance is resolved. I decided to give it a try and I’m very glad that I did. If I had not known that it was technically incomplete I would have thought that the last chapter was the intentional ending, albeit slightly abrupt. Believe me, I hate unfinished fics as much or more than anyone and to me this was totally fine. It felt 99% finished.
This is one of the most beloved and well known SSHG fics of all time. If there were an SSHG museum, this would be in it. I was surprised to discover that I had read it before, given that I never read incomplete fics. Perhaps this is the fic that gave me my aversion to them? I read (the beginning) of this while I lived in London during my study abroad semester in 2006 – the best year of my life. The updates ceased in 2009, so I was nowhere close to the end when I stopped reading. Ironically, given that I was abroad in London at the time, one of the few things I don’t like about this fic is that it is set in the United States half of the time. There are many references to the American and specifically Chicago lifestyle. I prefer my Harry Potter to stay firmly placed in Great Britain, but it’s a minor quibble.
This is one of the best written fics that I’ve ever read. The author has a great gift for humor, clever turns of phrase, creativity, original characters, inventive plot lines, and so much more. Ima LeDrox, Professor Littlehorse, and Daniel Schuler are the strongest SSHG original characters I have ever read, and they are all in the same fic! Wow. However, I do have to mention one huge mis-step as far as the writing in this fic – the author decides to switch to first person perspective about one-third of the way into the story. It really took away so much from my immersion and enjoyment. It was difficult to remember whose perspective I was reading because it would switch back and forth from Snape to Hermione, using ‘I’ instead of their names. Additionally, long internal monologues are very boring to read. A good story will ‘show’ you the character’s feelings through their actions and conversations. It was to disappointing to read the character’s thoughts rather than experience them through an inventive scene of actions.
The romance is good, though I confess it was not as scintillating as I would have hoped for given the length of the story. In the author’s notes she describes her story as “the longest SSHG foreplay of all time”, but it is not the best SSHG foreplay of all time. They are rarely together and much of their romance takes place off screen or through journals. This is my largest issue with this fic – there is just not enough SSHG. It is 70% fabulous warplot, subplots, and side characters, with 30% SSHG. Yes, we usually see things through Snape or Hermione’s point of view, but Hermione is often concerned with her life in America and her friends and studies there, and Snape is often concerned with the Death Eaters, Pureblood politics, Hogwarts, and the Order. I’m not sure I’d read this if I wanted an amazing SSHG fic and I was in the mood for romance.
I’ve said quite a lot of negative things, so I want to re-iterate the positive qualifies of this fic. The writing, as I mentioned above, is amazing. The characterizations are perfect. There are some deeply angsty/dramatic moments in the first quarter that are handled with incredible insight and maturity. This fic shares with the original Harry Potter stories the ability to move from charmingly whimsical antics to deeply poignant and meaningful emotion, and back again. There is just so much there; 780k words that often feel like playing in the real Harry Potter universe. I love SSHG, but I love the Wizarding World more, and this fic really nails every single character and setting. This is the most fleshed-out Narcissa Malfoy I’ve ever seen, including the original books. The author holds unwaveringly true to Lucius Malfoy, good, bad, often hilarious, sometimes ugly. I could go through each character and each plotline and talk about how clever and good it was, and how much it just felt like Harry Potter; like going home (not always; like most fanfics it is a bit uneven.) There are too many good things in 780k words to even mention, but I hope this gives you an idea.
Special gold star mention for the Final Battle. This story spent a ridiculously large amount of time on planning the battle – maybe 50k or 100k words on the Order’s preparations for the specific day. I was getting tired of it and planned to say that it was overlong, however, the length of the planning made Final Battle extremely tense and exciting, because I knew exactly how everything was supposed to go and where everyone would be on the battlefield. I was thrilled, giggling with fear and adrenaline, as I read through it. Would their plans work? Oh no, a hitch, they hadn’t anticipated that! Reading about who felled who, who died, who lived, and ‘feeling’ the battle in real-time was simply awesome. I have never read a fic that detailed a Final Battle as well as this one did. Even JK Rowling skimmed over most of the details. This is one of the joys of fanfiction, right? No publishing house editor would let 100k of battle preparation make it in to the final draft, and it was a bit tedious to read, but it really paid off in a very special way, in my opinion.
The bottom line: Recommended to almost everyone, even people who aren’t fans of the pairing. I adored the rigorously academic, geeky, research-based attraction that bloomed between Snape and Hermione; to me that is the most realistic scenario for them to become attracted to each other. The plot is sprawling and massive but excellently done. If you don’t already love the Malfoys, you will fall in love with them in this fic. Hold your breath during the Final Battle. Gaze in awe upon the splendor that is Professor Littlehorse’s Animagus. Roll your eyes when it suddenly turns into a Regency fic post Final Battle. There are problems, to be sure – the first person perspective shift is disappointing, there is not quite enough romance, and the romance that is there does not sizzle as hotly as I would prefer – but all of that is completely eclipsed by length and breadth of this magnificent fic. Enjoy it.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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)
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!
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. Read it just for glorious Veritamoria, the best plot device in all of SSHG, widely beloved and used by other authors – all inspired by this fic. Skim through the parts that you don’t like, because the overall quality of this fic is WELL worth it.
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.
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!
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.