Thirty-One Days by keelhaulrose

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8751734/1/Thirty-One-Days

Rating: Exceeds Expectations Plus

The Basics: Modern Era (2012), Action/Romance/Time-Travel, 110k

Warnings: Sexual Content, Non-Con Reference (not SSHG), Time-Travel

Hermione Granger’s emotions are raw in the heat of the Final Battle in the devastation of what Harry has told her about Snape’s memories, of Harry’s upcoming sacrifice, and the death all around her. She is given the choice by a Headmistress portrait to go back in time and change the fate of one of the war’s casualties – her former professor, Severus Snape. Little does she realize that this is no mere time turner – the Headmistress transports her all the way back to Severus Snape’s sixth year at Hogwarts in the 1970’s. She has thirty-one days to change his fate. But how?

This fic is just what I needed after reading two 500k+ highly revered epics back to back. A short, charming, witty and well-conceived fic that brings Hermione and Snape together in a realistic way. I don’t often enjoy time-travel fics because I imagine teenage Severus as being sort of a Kylo Ren-esque nightmare, but he is drawn much more subtly here. I really enjoyed his character. Hermione was even better; a razor-sharp Gryffindor spitfire who would not suffer fools or tolerate being mistreated. She’s far braver and sassier than I, a rather spineless Ravenclaw, prefer, but honestly, it’s perfect! She’s a Gryffindor! It felt right. Excellent characterizations.

I also appreciated that Hermione did not have a clear understanding of her mission; this provided so much page-turning tension. At first, she thought she should stop him from trying to join the Death Eaters. Then she thought he needed to make other friends, like the Ravenclaws. She thought perhaps she could convince him to invent a powerful antivenin to use against Nagini. Of course, the true answer involved her starting a relationship with him, and I won’t spoil the reason that this would help him survive Nagini. It was so true to Snape’s character, and so beautiful; her realization about what she needed to do nearly brought me to tears.

I will quibble that the ending, when she arrived back to the present day, was not quite what I hoped. They had this beautiful, emotional moment, which one chapter later was destroyed by Snape immediately joining the Death Eaters in his rage, but I guess that’s how it had to be. Hermione’s discovered ‘purpose for going back’ did not play out plotwise, which I found very disappointing. The method of his survival was not thematically satisfying, nor it didn’t make sense. Why even bother going back, if she was just going to meddle in the present to save him?

There are a lot of minor plot mistakes and inconsistencies like this (some of them are enumerated below in the comments.) The fic is imperfect and imprecise, almost rushed, which would usually bother me – but somehow it seemed to fit with the aggressive pacing of the fic and Hermione’s sense of disorientation. Another interesting issue were these little ‘this is what I learned today’ character reflections at the end of each chapter which felt too neat, too juvenile, like a Young Adult version of SSHG. The pairing usually needs more seriousness and heft than this fic offers; but I was in the mood for it and found it charming and refreshing.

A small digression: one of my favorite hobbies is board games. I used to think that I preferred huge, epic, all-day-long board game adventurers like Twilight Imperium III or Arkham Horror because I enjoy deep immersion and flavor. But as I have advanced in the hobby a bit, I’ve learned that some very clean, very well-designed games can deliver this feeling in a much shorter time. Arkham Horror: The Card Game for example delivers all of the awesome Lovecraftian spine-tingling adventure of Arkham Horror in a condensed version in a tiny box. I can have an adventure in one hour, put it away, and pick it up again to progress the campaign later. All of the same awesome immersion, but much more accessible and honestly more satisfying because it’s far less hassle. That is what I feel this fic is; almost all of the romance, emotional content, and satisfaction of a sprawling epic, but condensed into a tiny box, a few hours. A truffle instead of an entire cake, with almost the same satisfaction level. That’s incredibly difficult to do and I think she the author does a bang-up job delivering her story in this short length.

Lastly, I issue my standard disclaimer for all Maurader-era time-travel fics; it’s not believable that Hermione would meddle with Snape’s life but not whisper to James and Lily, ‘Do not make Pettigrew your Secret-Keeper.’ I understand all of the reasons why she ‘can’t do that’, but I find it unbelievable than anyone could resist that temptation, or that Harry could ever forgive her for not doing so. This is a huge, story-breaking issue that needed a lot more explanation than it was given. This is one of the reasons I struggle with time-travel fics.

The bottom line: This is a clever, intriguing, page-turning fic with tons of momentum and fantastic characterizations (above and beyond the norm, a truly excellent witty spitfire Hermione) and a beautiful emotional heart that nearly brought me to tears. There are some plot mistakes and inconsistencies that are disappointing, but the fic is still worth a read. If you are looking for a deep, immersive, thorough undertaking, this is not for you, but if you are feeling like a bite-sized SSHG romp that still delivers emotion, romance, and satisfaction, this is just about perfect.

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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!

His Draught of Delicate Poison – by Subversa

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

Rating: Exceeds Expectations Plus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unlikely Partners – by Dafina

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/2539247/1/Unlikely-Partners

Rating: Acceptable Plus

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Romance/Angst, 110k

Warnings: Seventh Year, Sexual Content, Violence, Remus/Tonks

I was very close to putting this as one rating higher; but the last few chapters were so weak that I decided to downgrade it. This is probably the best of my Acceptable Plus reviews, at least currently. It’s readable and enjoyable, with no moments that really irritated me; but it also lacked high points. No gripping action, deliriously romantic tension, or clever “A-ha’s!” It was simply ‘pretty okay’ all of the way through.

I think the largest problem is the Mary Sue syndrome in the fic. There is a magical deity who is fixated on Snape and Hermione as the saviors of the wizarding world. Voldemort is jealous of Severus’ power (LOL.) Hermione is a rare beautifully bright pure soul who is wounded by Voldemort’s presence. Their love is a transcendent soul bond. Just eyeroll after eyeroll of lavish praise and circumstance bestowed upon our heroes. These characters are best written as two who bond because of isolating intellectualism, in my opinion. To have them as superheroes in transcendent love is just silly.

Following that criticism, you might have guessed that both characters are slightly out of character. Neither is as witty or biting as they should be. Snape, especially, is way too concerned about Hermione’s welfare. He’s a double-agent Death Eater spy. His life is extremely stressful and FULL to the brim. He doesn’t have time to spend entire days teaching Hermione Occlumency so she can bear Voldemort’s presence. And certainly, if he brought himself to do that, he wouldn’t be concerned and courteous. He would be annoyed at the inconvenience and snipe at her the entire time!  Hermione, similarly, seems to lose her agency after falling in love. They consider committing an act that would remove Harry’s magic permanently (for the greater good) and Hermione doesn’t even consider, mention, or even seem to think about the repercussions of that for HER BEST FRIEND. Even if it’s logically right course of action, she should have had a lot of inner turmoil about causing such harm to her friend; it’s not even mentioned.

Another problem is the action pacing; we spend almost half of the fic in the first few days thoroughly exploring minor events, yet the last few chapters fast-forward through incredibly important events with short summaries. I would say the author was bored with the fic and wanted to sum up, except that she wrote a(n unfinished) sequel! It seemed like she enjoyed the build-up but didn’t know what to do once the romantic tension had burst. As a reader, I felt quite the same.

That said, the fic does do a lot right. The Voldemort Death Plot is extremely clever and interesting, and one that I had never read. It’s something that could have believably happened in the books and been amazing. (Certainly better than, ‘Draco disarmed Dumbledore and Harry disarmed Draco,’ but I digress.)  The writer has a knack for coming up with totally original ideas that still believably fit into the wizarding world.

The romance does progress at the proper pace – maybe a tiny bit too fast, but acceptable. he smut is written well. Unfortunately, after consummation, the romance becomes totally unbelievable and non-compelling.  In the latter sections of the story, they have transformed into Generic Leading Man and Lady; a common problem in fanfiction, but especially horrible in this fic. There’s a bit of telepathy and soul-bond action, which is one of my favorite plot devices, though the payoff of the telepathy is low because of the blandness of the characters.  No witty mind-sarcasm to be found. I do like the use of Occlumency/Legilmency to bring the characters together; but again, the good idea does not bear fruit of any kind.

The bottom line: This fic was written by a good writer; it’s well plotted and very creative. However, the writer did not have a deep understanding of Hermione and Snape and the story suffers greatly for it.  The story is littered with good ideas that lack payoff and satisfaction, either of the romantic kind or the action kind. It’s an acceptable read but I’d put it at the very bottom of your ‘decent’ list because of the bland characterizations.

Tea and Sympathy – by Jocemum

Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/2490727/1/Tea_and_Sympathy

Rating: Exceeds Expectations Minus

The Basics: Half-Blood Prince Era, Action/Adventure/Angst, 110k

Warnings: Seventh Year

The most important thing to know about this fic is that it is a wonderfully written, excellent fic, but it barely qualifies as SSHG. If not for that fact, I would have ranked it higher.

After the death of Albus Dumbledore at the hands of the traitor Severus Snape, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, and Harry Potter search for the Horcruxes from their home base at Hogwarts. Hermione has a great secret she must keep from the Order and her best friends…she is secretly working with the traitorous Potions Master, and believes he is still on their side.

This, like many fics before it, absolutely delighted me for the first third or so. Snape is largely absent, because he is a ‘traitor’ and spends his time with the Death Eaters.  ‘How exciting,’ I thought.  ‘This will be such a delicious slow burn!’  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.  The romance became physical way too early, seemingly out of the blue.  I just can’t believe that a highly disciplined, paranoid, double agent spy can lose control in a moment of passion with an 18 year old he’s had a handful of meetings with. It’s just absurd.  If the romance blossoms because one of them loses physical control – which I don’t think really works for this pairing – it has to be because they are spending bucketloads of time together and have become very close emotionally.  That is not the case here.  It just happens.  I actually groaned out loud in dismay when that bubble of rising tension burst prematurely.

However, the saving grace is that the warplot is beautifully told. The Hogwarts crew are well-written and in character, as are the Order members. The action and adventure was the highlight of the fic. It was amazing how much the authors ‘got right’ pre Deathly Hallows. They had really done their research – from the locket in Kreacher’s nest, locket to Hufflepuff’s cup, even Nagini. Maybe they added those in after the release of Deathly Hallows? I would have the check the dates. I kept reading all of the way through the story, mostly eagerly, despite the absence of Snape and my annoyances with the romance. An excellent warplot, indeed.

I will say, as a negative, that many of the characters are hot-headed and childish. It’s always the Hogwarts students, and usually Gryffindors, so it might have been a deliberate choice by the authors. Still, it’s difficult to sympathize with characters who are making impulsive decisions and screaming at each other in caps. I always skim ahead, frustrated and bored, when that happens.

Gold star to the Draco in this fic. He had the best storyline of anyone, although it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. A letter he writes near the end is my favorite Draco moment of all time. I laughed hysterically and even read it out loud to my husband.

Honestly, you might just read the first chapter as a one-off and leave it at that. The first chapter is the best romance (and the biggest Snape appearance) of the whole damn thing.

The bottom line: This is an excellent fic, but Snape is barely in it, and when he is, he is often out of character (no enough self control, not enough hiding of emotions.) If you are in the mood for romance, I’d recommend something else, but this is a great read if you feel like a fantastic Hogwarts Horcrux adventure with a dash of barely believable SSHG.

The Man Who Sold the World – by Meggory

Links:
https://sshgreview.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/meggory-themanwhosoldtheworld-chapter28missing-txt-1.pdf
Note: Hosting my copy because Ashwinder is currently down. I will remove this as soon as the story is properly hosted again. Thank you to the reader who sent me their copy, although unfortunately the only one she had was missing chapter 28. The ending is still there and it’s still absolutely worth reading.

http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=10178

Rating: Exceeds Expectations Plus

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Intrigue/Action/Angst, 100k

Warnings: Sexual Content, Attempted Non-Con (not SSHG), Torture, Post-Apocalyptic Dystopia

Severus Snape and Hermione Granger, on the run from the law, take a post-apocalyptic road trip through Death Eater occupied Europe.  Is that the greatest tagline you’ve ever read in your life? Yes. Yes it is. It’s not strictly true; that only covers the first third or so of the story, but it’s so great that I’m using it anyway.

You don’t find many ‘Voldemort Won’ dystopian fics, at least not in the Phoenix era.  I would guess that a reason for that is that it’s difficult to create that kind fictional world, and even more difficult to write an ending that includes toppling a government.  The author of this fic does a great job at creating a world full of bleak, believable aftermath and war-scarred protagonists.  She does not do a very good job at writing the ending.

The characters are damaged by their experiences in the war, especially Snape. I won’t give away the spoilers, but the slow reveal of Snape’s past is excruciatingly well done. I actually had bile rise in my throat and I had to stop reading in shock and horror after one of the flashback scenes. I watch a ton of horror movies and don’t usually blink at violence, horror, etc, on the screen or in writing. This scene wasn’t gruesome physically, it was gruesome psychologically. I would recommend this fic on the basis of that scene alone. It was inventive, well-written, heartbreaking, and horrifying.

The story is written in a tight, action-style point of view. There are no time shifts, except for sleeping, from the opening scene to the penultimate chapter. I started to worry about halfway through that it was moving TOO slow; I knew it was only 100k and I couldn’t imagine that they could resolve the hefty plot and the romance in the last half, at the current pace. It turned out that my fears were well-founded. About two-thirds of the way through, things started making less sense.  It seemed like the action was starting to go in circles, and I started to lose track of ‘whose side’ secondary characters were on, because it changed so often and didn’t seem to matter.  Clearly, the author wasn’t sure what to do next.  Moving from ‘road trip’ to ‘toppling the government’ is not easy, but it’s what the set-up of this fic requires.  Unfortunately, instead of working through this difficult task, the author gives up. There is a half-hearted attempt at a wrap-up, and then the action just stops.

The author is very gifted at writing close focus adventures with a small, clear goal.  I felt that she was overwhelmed by the larger plot of this fic.  A sprawling dystopian fic requires writing about politics, large groups, battle plans, etc. Instead of delving into those things in order to resolve the plot, she simply ended the fic and left the plot where it was.  I wish there had been a ‘Five Years Later’ epilogue – that would have provided much more satisfaction.

I did find the romantic arc satisfying.  If a traditional romance arc is Friendship, Intimacy, Rising Sexual Tension, Consummation, Commitment, this fic ends in the ‘Intimacy’ stage, before sexual tension even appears. However, it is so page-turning and well done that I didn’t mind the absence of sensuality. Again, though, a ‘Five Years Later’ epilogue was desperately needed.  Even three paragraphs would have made all of the difference in the world.

I spent a long time in this review talking about the major problem, the clipped ending, but I want to reiterate how much good there was in this fic, as well.  I enjoyed the slow build-up of trust and friendship between Severus and Hermione so much.  I enjoyed that their post-war lives were a mystery to each other and the reader, and I enjoyed the series of flashbacks that revealed them.  Most importantly, it felt like the characters really could be Snape and Hermione, and I was excited about their adventure together.  Sometimes I read so many bad fics in a row that I forget what a good one feels like.  This was a good one! I felt the giddiness and page-turning excitement that I only feel when reading a really good fic.

Lastly, this fic reminded me quite a bit of of Dark Gods in the Blood.  Shattered Snape, contains a ‘road trip’ adventure, focuses more on friendship than romance. This is not nearly as well done as ‘Dark Gods’, but if you enjoyed that and are craving more, this might scratch that itch.

The bottom line:  This fic could have been 600k and magnificent. Instead, it’s 100k, and very good. Be wary that it’s more action/intrigue/angst than romance, and be wary that the plot falls apart completely.  Enjoy the good parts, the journey and the blossoming friendship, because they are well-worth the read.

Before the Dawn – by snarkyroxy

Links:
https://www.fanfiction.net/s/2267793/1/Before-the-Dawn
http://ashwinder.sycophanthex.com/viewstory.php?sid=10633

Rating: Exceeds Expectations

The Basics: Phoenix Era, Romance/Action, 350k

Warnings: Sexual Content, Mild Violence

Hermione Granger, to help the war effort, begins brewing potions for Madame Pomfrey.  This gives Professor Snape more time to focus on his spy duties and his brewing research…and on the new bushy-haired guest in his potions laboratory.

This one was really tough for me to rate.  I adored the beginning, and hated the end.  To demonstrate how much I truly loved the first two-thirds: I sent the following Skype message to my best friend: “so good so good, this is what fanfiction should be / weeps everywhere / it feels like 2006 again / weeeeeeeeps / not even drunk / if i were i might shimmer in and out of existence and slip into the dimension where snape exists.”

The first two-thirds of the fic, the romantic story arc, are WONDERFUL. Standing too close to each other, smoldering eyes, while maintaining silence and propriety, is my favorite thing in SSHG. Hermione is of age, but she is still a student. Snape is dignified and duty-bound. They are falling for each other as they work together, but they are in denial about it both to themselves and to each other. He is called to a Death Eater meeting and she waits up all night for him, against his orders. She catches the scent of ashes and sandalwood on his robes as he leans over to correct her potion ingredient cutting. He misses her conversation in the workroom when she is absent. It’s my favorite trope, my favorite setting, and it’s that beautiful slow-burn, baked to perfection. The timing was perfect for every step (or at least, for the first two-thirds.)

Unfortunately, the last third of the fic takes a nosedive at an alarming rate. I almost stopped reading, which is incredible considering how much I loved the rest. Once the romantic plot is finished, the warplot descends. I am not against warplots; I have read some fascinating ones that I loved. It’s just that this one did not hold my attention at all.  There were some attempts at twists and exciting events, but they fell flat, because I didn’t really care about any of the characters other than Snape and Hermione (and I even found myself bored with them by the end.)  A boring warplot would be fine if it were a minor part of the story, but this warplot was 100k; enough for an entire epic-length fic on its own.  It was quite tough to get through.

The characterizations are good, but not great. There was a bit of witty banter and snark, but not as much as I prefer.  I also think Snape might have been a bit too well-behaved. I read another review of this fic that said that snarkyroxy and this story were partially responsible for the rise of Fanon!Snape in fanfiction. While I think that is a bit of an exaggeration, it’s true that Snape’s rougher edges are sanded completely smooth by the end of the story. The Snape in the beginning of the story was good, but by the end, he’s quite bland.  A bit of Snape-healing is expected, but he shouldn’t become genteel and perfectly well-behaved. This could just be me projecting the boring final act onto Snape’s character, though.

Edited to add: I started reading the next fic on my list, and even though my new fic is quite terrible, I’ve been immediately pleased and excited by the Snape.  He’s grumpy and biting and sarcastic and I’ve MISSED him.  Because of this, I think I might have to agree that the Snape in ‘Before the Dawn’, the subject of this review, is a pretty tame, soft, Fanon!Snape after all, at least by the end.

The bottom line: The first two-thirds of this fic are slow-simmeringly sexy and extraordinary and I highly recommend them. Unfortunately, there is another 100k of boring warplot and dissembling tacked on to that wonderful fic. I honestly recommended reading until you are bored, and then skipping to the end or just putting it down. DON’T skip this fic, though! Better you read it in its entirety than skip it, because the majority of the fic is well worth it.