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

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

Rating: Acceptable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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She Married Her Choice – by averygoodun

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

Rating: Acceptable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Matter of Trust – by SGTRJ

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

Rating: Exceeds Expectations Plus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forged in Flames – by mswhich

Link: https://archiveofourown.org/works/1862259/chapters/4008186

Rating: Acceptable Plus

The Basics: Modern Era (2011), Action/Romance, 84k

Warnings: Sexual Content, Violence, Torture, Attempted Non-Con(not SSHG)

Bellatrix Lestrange puts a twisted curse on Hermione to prevent her from conveying vital information to the Order unless she unlocks the spell using with a Key assigned by Bellatrix. The Key is a humiliating task that will change Hermione’s relationship with her professor, Severus Snape, forever.

This fic is only 84k, which means it is shorter than what I usually review, but I read it and figured I might as well review it.

There were a lot of aspects of this fic that I enjoyed. There is a very, very clever Voldemort-defeating mechanism. The writing is aggressively paced (as one would expect in a short fic) but each scene still feels fleshed-out and whole. The characterizations are reasonably good (more on this later), including the side characters. The romantic pacing is nearly perfect; the climax of the plot almost coincides with the climax of the love story, as it should. This sounds like fairly benign praise, but in my fic experience it’s rare for this simultaneous plot + romance climax to occur (yes, yes, obvious simultaneous climax joke is obvious, well spotted) and I’m always delighted when I find it. Even an ‘almost’, as it is here.

The chief problem for me in this fic is that Snape is aggressive and lustful, while Hermione is meek and innocent. I really dislike it when still-her-professor Snape is attracted to a still-his-student Hermione without a strong established friendship. I realize because of the plot events that the sexual aspect had to come to the forefront immediately, but I think Actual Snape would have erected 10 mental brick walls between himself and Hermione after that encounter, rather than watching her and lusting after her. This is exacerbated by a busy, tired, oblivious Hermione who does not often reflect on her feelings and seems confused by Snape’s behavior. A domineering Snape can work, if Hermione is quite mature and can stand up for herself, but that does not happen here. It felt like she was an innocent child and he was her lecherous teacher because there was not enough friendship/relationship development and because Hermione was so meek.

Similarly, I struggle to believe that Snape would have initiated breaking Bella’s Key task. I think they would have brought the information to the Order, and the Order would have argued about what to do, and Hermione would finally volunteer to have the information tortured out of her (since Snape later admits this would have worked.) That whole scene was squicky to me because Hermione did as she was told (by a frightening authority figure) with very little agency or choice in the matter. There were hints of non-con because of the power dynamic that made me uncomfortable. There needed to be other people involved in the decision, or it needed to be privately initiated by Hermione. To be clear, I am not overly sensitive to these issues. I don’t mind the teacher-student dynamic as long as the relationship is firmly established first. To have Snape command her to do it without consulting other adults felt like an abuse of power (as did a lot of his other actions in the fic.)

This is now my third paragraph of complaints about a good fic, but I’m tired and rambly today, so here we are. There were a few Harry Potter as-a-whole mistakes that surprised me. Some exaples: Hermione enduring 15+ rounds of Crucio and retaining her sanity (after checking, I guess this isn’t officially wrong but most fics put insanity and death around 6-8), students brewing Polyjuice in class (nope, the recipe is in ‘Most Potente Potions’ in the Restricted Section; it would never be taught in regular class) and the Yule Ball being held every year (nope, only during the Triwizard Tournament). These seem like minor infractions, but they add up. The Polyjuice error especially made me wonder if the author was new to the pairing or even new the fandom. That lowered my immersion and interest quite a bit.

The bottom line: Very well paced, plotted and written with fun original ideas – but I struggled with Snape’s characterization. It might be personal preference because I like highly disciplined academic recluse Snape while this Snape struggled with lust, aggression, and self-control. If Hermione had been stronger and stood up for herself more, or if the fic had developed the friendship connection more, his characterization would have worked better. To be clear, it’s still a very good fic, especially if you’re in the mood for some Innocent!Hermione and TemptestousRage!Snape.

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.

Chasing the Sun – by Loten

Links:
https://www.fanfiction.net/s/7413926/1/Chasing-The-Sun

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.

This fic navigates through OoTP, HBP, and DH 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. My favorite moment of the fic (or very nearly any fic) was Snape, buoyed by his friendship with Hermione, deciding that his life was worth something and carrying out a plan to throw off the collars of both of his masters.

The characterizations are also well done, although I would quibble that both are not as interested in academia as they should be (they are described as being that way, but the included conversations are 90% emotional rather than theoretical.) This is jeans-cigarette-emo-music grunge Snape which is not one I prefer, but it’s a viable interpretation here because of how subtly and skillfully those aspects of him are presented. Snape often makes extremely important decisions ‘in the moment’ with no plan in advance, which felt out of character to me. Additionally, he spends an excessive amount of time spent reflecting on himself and Hermione rather than planning for the War or theorizing about the aforementioned important decisions (more on that later.)

The plotting is extremely slow. This is fine in the beginning of the story, because the slow, probing conversations were supported by Hermione’s curiousity about the Snape and the growing romantic tension. But when the romance had been resolved and these conversations continued, over and over again with very little plot advancement, they began to feel superflous and I started skimming. The romance was completely resolved halfway through, and the plot is one we have already ready dozens of times. There was absolutely no tension or a reason to turn the page, for me. Why keep reading? What could possibly fill the second 200k of the story? 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.

I want to be clear – the study of Snape is beautifully, painfully, artfully drawn. If you are in the mood to fully explore our dark Potion Master’s psyche, this is the fic for you. The issue is that it is 500k with no tension in the last half. Conversations (nearly) alone cannot sustain a fic of this length. I cannot believe that Snape would talk about his feelings more than War strategy, research, and Potions. He is the epitome of duty, sacrifice, discipline, repression and getting the job done. Having long conversations in bed with Hermione every day during the final months of the War just didn’t feel right to me. I needed more clever original ideas, more academic connection, more characters, more plot, more action, and just /more/ in a fic of this extreme length.

One of my readers suggested that this fic is best read slowly, on-and-off, and savored. That could be true; I ‘gobble up’ fics very quickly because I listen to them while I work. Perhaps for this reason, it began to feel repetitious to me while it did not for others.

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, conversation, 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.

Looking for Magic – by Hypnobarb

Links:
https://www.fanfiction.net/s/2737071/1/Looking-for-Magic

Rating: Outstanding

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.