Mar. 15th, 2013


This fic. My friends, this fic is a revelation.

Really I want to say FOR LOVE OF GOD, GO READ THIS NOW, but that wouldn't do it justice. And I want to do it justice, because it is the story that jarred me out of fic apathy, that made me sit up straight and realise, in a kind of shock moment, the revolutionary potential that can be set free by rewritings and explorations of ›canon‹. That sounds very abstract. Really that's just me, not the fic; or rather, it's what the fic does without ever having to say.

Some of you may remember [personal profile] o_mayari from her spectacular alternative universe take on the Golden Trio, The Eleventh Birthdays (my rec is here). Or Romance of the Age (the original [ profile] deeply_horrible post with comments is here), with its breezy, savage, gloriously unfettered deconstruction of the brightness and glam and simultaneous monstrousness of the first war generation.

The Comfortable Wound is related to Romance of the Age, although they don't belong to the exact same universe. (You absolutely do not have to know RotA in order to read TCW.) Many of the same families and institutions -- the Blacks, the Malfoys, the Potters, the Weasleys, the Ministry -- play a starring role.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead )


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Dec. 12th, 2012

If one cannot sleep, why not rec

There are many reasons to be interested in Loki, reasons that deserve a true essay. I cannot seem to find rest precisely when I seek it. There will be no essay today.

One of the reasons I am interested in Loki has less to do with his character than the circumstances that constitute his character. In Thor, Loki wonders why Odin rescued him, but a runt-baby-of-the-enemy-king-left-to-die, what purpose he could have served, he being considered a monster both on his own world (as a runt) and on Odin's (as a Frost Giant) alike. When Loki hears the answer, he then fears that he will end up no better than as ›another stolen relic‹. In the film, he then sets plots in motion that could be perhaps interpreted as an attempt to escape that fate at all costs.

The idea of Loki as a stolen relic, as a living prize-prince-monster-sorcerer kept in a collection of dead weapon-objects stolen and stored for the ostensible purposes of enlightenment and law, probably fascinates me more than it should. (I should probably explain that one of my favourite novellas is Tynianov's Voskovoj persony (Wax Effigy), unfortunately not yet translated into English, but available in German as Die Wachsperson and in French as Une majesté en cire, in which a six-fingered ›monster‹ sold to Peter the Great's natural history museum by his own brother manages to escape from the Kunstkammer and St. Petersburg, moving from the periphery to center of the story.) For a few weeks now I have searched for fic about Loki sharing a similar obsession with this concept, with the logic of preservation and sovereignty and memory and scientific order, and although Thor fandom is quite literary, until recently I searched in vain.

Not so anymore. [ profile] circa1220bce's magic, lost and found (Thor/Loki, WiP!) not only plays with my simple idea, it goes well beyond it. I do not wish to spoil too much, but this is a story that plays beautifully with the concept of the natural wonder/›monster‹, the singularity, the creature whose solitude, based on appearance, on difference from the ›norm‹, is not so unlike that of a king. It plays with our prejudices and scientific order and then goes beyond, showing how such imprisonment can create of the innocent the very monsters it claims to display.

This is a deeply Oedipal story, not only in its focus on the monster (Oedipus was club-footed) and the king, and on their fall through too much knowledge (Odin sacrificed his eye for it; what Loki would do for knowledge is probably too terrifying a thought) and through the implicit incest (Thor and Loki may not be brothers, but we readers know of a world in which they were raised so), but also in how it shows that attempting to escape a murderous destiny can ultimately end up sealing it. The story is not complete but I don't particularly care, for the arc I am particularly interested in is complete. I don't see this ending happily, rather in the excess of a final, desperate act of true free will, but no matter. Whatever this becomes, even if it were to remain as it is, it is currently so wonderful -- so full of trickery and transgression and thought -- that I am overwhelmed just by writing glancingly about it.

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Aug. 25th, 2012

Rec: The Eleventh Birthdays

My friends, something absolutely magical has just happened.

I have long been begging [personal profile] o_mayari to post some of her work. Finally, finally she has.

[personal profile] o_mayari possesses an astonishing narrative voice. One can hear the influence of Dickens -- a conscious, deliberate choice -- but above all one is left ravished by her wit and daring and the sheer intelligence of her storytelling. This is an author with a gift for creating complete fictional worlds, worlds like complex webs which however do not break under the weight of their intricacy. Far from it: these are whole worlds, worlds carefully ordered and thought out down to the smallest, finest detail. They are worlds blazingly, startlingly real. This is extraordinary because the world she portrays in the story here is a world out of joint, a dystopia if you will. It is also extraordinary because her narrative voice is a critical, distancing voice, a voice very conscious of its own fictionality. But it is precisely this difference between the narrative and the horrors of which it speaks that makes this thought-provoking fiction of the highest order, fiction which not only narrows in on the problematic kernel of the Potterworld as such, but also of the reality we ourselves inhabit.

The Eleventh Birthdays (gen, mentions Lily/James) is part of a much longer, as-yet unfinished work, but it stands well on its own. The ostensible focus is the trio: Hermione, Ron, Harry. And Dudley.

Cut for story spoilers )

I have been writing this in stages between visiting no-fees and writing to realtors. Hopefully it makes sense. You shouldn't be wasting your time reading this anyway. Go read the The Eleventh Birthdays.

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Aug. 22nd, 2012

Enormous recs post

This should have gone up days ago, but although I kept hacking at it I was too sluggish to finish. Now it is finished, but I cannot promise that it makes any sense.

1. I have been rereading some of the darker Snarry classics, where hatred and addiction and obsession and madness run together in a manner so dangerously volatile that either Snape or Harry ruins or even kills the other in the end: [ profile] nothingbutfic's by the light of lesser stars, [personal profile] loupgarou's Dangling Conversation, [ profile] debchan's What He Wants, [ profile] atrata's Nine Adulteries. I love each of these stories to death, even though they are supremely painful and even though they are entirely AU now that canon has closed. As I suspect many of you know them as well, I shall refrain from boring you with detailled reviews of each. But if you don't know them, and you are interested in portrayals of Snape as a deeply horrible man (with a conscience or in self-denial), and of Harry as war and trauma and Horcruxes might have twisted him, then you may enjoy giving them a try. (Please heed all warnings.)

1.1. Not convinced? As Nine Adulteries is particularly fresh in my mind (the order above is my reading order), let me offer you a little teaser. Believe me when I say that every word here, from the title which should be taken very literally to the shocking closing passage, is significant. As a result, you will probably be like me and need to read this more than once.

Snape's characterisation could not be more brilliant to my mind. This is Snape as I want to write him, as a (Faustian) scientist, as a (mad) experimenter fighting for self-control and objectivity and at once wildly succeeding and failing in that quest, whose very work with dark potions and of course the magic of the mind is the consequential product of both complete objectification and uncontrolled, wild passion. His laboratory is a fantastical biology lab gone out of control, filled with hybrid products, products at once natural and artificial that were once alive and now are bottled in preserving solutions to make them easily accessible for study. It is a most gruesome and extraordinary setting that he has created as his own stage. The glimpses we are granted into his mind are equally frightening, equally fascinating. The story is told from his very skewed perspective (and oh, the self-denial, the self-interest, the self-hatred). At the same time, the structure adheres to the logic of his own classification system for certain potions. In this way, the hybridity of his lab, the split in his mind, the dichotomy between cool precision and overwhelming feeling is preserved in the very form of the tale itself ... and I shan't say any more for fear of giving the game completely away.

2. [personal profile] delphi's entire [community profile] kink_bingo card (links to tag). I can do that, right?

2.1. Here are a few titles to get you started: Girls Just Want to Have Fun (Filch/Millicent) features deliciously awful Filch, tantilising glimpses into the Slytherin girls dormitory, and a wonderfully sensible-in-a-Slytherin-way Millicent. Then there's Poison (Snape/Dumbledore), a chilling foreshadowing of the Astronomy Tower -- powerplay in bed. In a very few perceptive words, [personal profile] delphi reveals both characters' strengths and weaknesses. I cried for them. Finally, Wicked Game (Horace + Argus + Severus), where Filch is horribly, wonderfully depraved, Severus is forced into making a wretched self-discovery, and Horace hides boredom and a nasty, manipulative streak beneath mild manners and a common sense approach.

3. Speaking of the wonderful [personal profile] delphi, she recently recced [ profile] kellychambliss's extraordinary Right nor Wrong (unrequited Filch/Snape and Umbridge/Snape; Snape/McGonagall) on [ profile] crack_broom here. I thought I had read this story before, but it turns out I had misremembered, and oh what a pleasure it was to discover it for a first time! This story deserves a very long review (one I still owe the author) because it is a masterpiece on several levels. There's the matter of Filch's pitch-perfect inner voice, for one, and one of the most convicing Filch backstories I've encountered, for another. Furthermore, there's the brilliant deconstruction of Filch's name to provide the structure for the story's main kink, voyeurism. For reasons of space, I've chosen to focus on only the latter element here.

Argus Panoptes Filch. I have no idea if this is the middle name JKR gave him, but if it isn't then it should be. For of course Filch doesn't merely harken back to the mythological creature with a hundred eyes, to mythological conceptions of policing. His penal institute is also fairly modern. In other words, the striking feature of modern caretaking, of modern policing, is the panoptical gaze. And Filch has it -- can see anywhere and everywhere. Why? How? The key, it seems, is desire. Aesthetics. The love of looking, not just the machine act. With this his desire we gaze at the quintessential object of desire (our own desire): Snape of course, Snape in places we should not be able to see him, Snape the Legilmens, the spy, the master of seeing who does not realise he is being seen. No wonder Filch desires to see him. Is it a wonder we, who can only look, who as readers are destined to be voyeurs, desire to see him? And so it is not only Filch we come to understand in this story but also (ourselves) Snape:

Severus were a man what made people feel things - - strong things, dark things, needy things. The Headmistress weren't the first person to want him. To want to understand him or save him or join in his righteous darkness. To want to share the power of him. To have him want them.

Oh yes. I think I have gone on too long, but hopefully you see what I mean. This is absolute genius.

4. [personal profile] dueltastic wrote Though I do not wish to wish these things (McGonagall/Snape, McGonagall/Scrimgeour) speaks directly to questions I have been surrounding myself with of late: questions of choice and conscience and what Snape meant when he said in DH that the only people he'd seen die of late were those he could not save. Well, this is one of those instances where he cannot save a prisoner, where he decides he cannot save him. For the prisoner is none other than Scrimgeour, Minister of Magic. He is tied to Snape through McGonagall: both men loved her, and still love her, ultimately even willing her their posessions after death, finding anchor in her once they have vanished from this earth. And so throughout the interrogation, the torture, Snape appears controlled and yet is anything but, plagued by thoughts and perhaps even fantasies of McGonagall and Scrimgeour together. There is torture and death, and as he tears apart Scrimgeour's face so do the ribbons of their connection through McGonagall seem to intertwine in broken strands. And of course one can argue with Snape that he must keep cover, that putting Scrimgeour in Bellatrix' hands would be worse, that the best he can do for this man in suffering is to end his life quickly. To give him a mercy death. But that is horrible. One wants to scream at Snape to find another solution, even as one is made aware that he has an audience, that he himself is in danger. One wonders whether it was his own decision to run the interrogation or whether he has been directly ordered to do it, and what that means for his position, his conscience. There are no easy answers to the questions this fic raises, and that is part of its brilliance.

5. Finally, a recent article from the New York Times: The Art of the Sequel, which does not speak to fanworks directly but nonetheless gets at something essential about them.

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Aug. 9th, 2012

Rec: Two glorious verbal duels

Fandom is such a rich place; I rarely go a day without finding some new treasure to cherish. As a result, I now have several recs posts in the works. Here is the first:

[personal profile] dueltastic wrote two incisive, extraordinary pieces that, each in their own way, are masterpieces of dialogue and characterisation. Both proceed from premises that at first glance might appear a bit strange, for some of you possibly even squicky. Do not fret, do not run, or you shall miss out on something quite astonishing.

We Change The Nature of Things is one of my new favourite stories of all time, right up there with In Infinite Remorse of Soul, In Memory of Sigmund Freud, Mutability, Sadness of Eros, The Lost World, Faithless Ganymede etc. It features a threesome between Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall and Severus Snape. Stop! Don't run. This is the most intelligently rendered threesome you might ever come across. Characterisation is the heart and soul of the piece, a piece told through the perceptive, if always somewhat skewed perspective of Albus Dumbledore as he skips back and forth in time to reflect on his childhood, on Minerva McGonagall's growing up, on Severus Snape becoming a powerful wizard, on their meaningfulness to each other all the way up to his death. This is an allegorical piece as much as it is a realistic one. You will come away from it with an understanding of these characters and their situation that stuns and shocks and makes you reel with staggering insight.

Circumstances of a Small and Accidental Nature is an epic tale spanning some twenty-five years of a relationship between Severus Snape and Minerva McGonagall. I shall avoid mentioning the genre/premise to keep you on your toes while reading, but to quote [profile] kellychambliss: "This would never happen. But if it did happen, it would happen exactly like this." This story is much lighter in tone than the piece above, but no less of a pleasure to read. In fact, it is probably the wittiest text I have read in years. One simply cannot stop reading it; stopping would cause physical pain. Snape and McGonagall are engaged in the most merry and scornful and deadpan battle of wits you could ever imagine, and as the stakes are upped so are the terms of the verbal battle. One begins to sit on the edge of one's seat. The supporting cast is also fabulously rendered: look out for clueless but well-meaning Harry and a clever Narcissa (for whom I have an improbable soft spot). My favourite aspect of the story is probably this, however: despite covering a span of twenty-five years, neither Snape nor McGonagall change radically in this story. They remain believably themselves throughout, brisk, professional, sarcastic, cutting, glib, cool, ever unwilling to admit defeat, ever up for a new challenge. If you're looking for some entertaining summer reading, then you have found it here.

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Jul. 26th, 2012

fic recs from hp_friendship et al.

I am not remotely caught up with [ profile] hp_friendship, but every story I have had the pleasure to read has been immensely satisfying, aesthetically and emotionally and because each story expands canon in unexpected yet entirely plausible ways, making me think and dream. I wish I had even an ounce of the verbal talent that these authors share. Below you will find some of my favourites so far (many of which I have not yet had a chance to comment upon):

- Anonymous wrote Mad Dogs and Scotsmen (Alastor Moody, Emmeline Vance)

I have a fairly good guess who this author is -- a genius and master at capturing the diction and habits and sheer fucking insanity that define Alastor Moody, in any case. This Moody is so real, and so infuriating, that I found myself lifting heavy objects to throw at him. But the real show-stopper here is Emmeline Vance, whose believably fraying patience, quick instincts and sharp tongue make her more than equal to dealing with a man as difficult and paranoid and suffering as Moody. Their friendship is beautifully reflected in several ways: through the metaphor of Emmeline's poorly-maintained house, through their more-often-than-not frustrated dialogue and through Emmeline's own clever self-reflections, which to this reader hit the nail right on the head:

Excerpt )


- Anonymous wrote The Secret of Black Hall (Arabella Figg, Argus Filch et al).

The author, who came up with the idea to place these two -- wonderfully perceptive, capable and in their own way, truly magical -- Squibs at the centre of a period piece, is a genius. This story, a colourful and unforgettable adventure, seamlessly plays into canon while expanding on it believably and memorably. I am particularly fond of sensible young Arabella, a character about whom I quite honestly had never spared a thought for at all, whose cleverness and calm in the face of a crisis are a testament to Dumbledore's later trust in her as a caretaker for Harry.

Excerpt )

- Anonymous wrote Five People Who Insisted on Being Friends with Severus Snape ... (Severus Snape et al.)

I wasn't sure what to expect when I clicked on this story, but I found myself thoroughly enjoying the brief glimpses it provides into Severus' (rather damaged) life. In particular, I enjoyed the portrayal of his friendship with Minerva -- such fun! I was smiling by the end of this quiet, well-written little story.

Excerpt )

- Anonymous wrote The Road to Roundabout (Dudley, Harry, Draco, Millicent, et al)

I believe this author also wrote the extraordinary And It Could Be Me, And It Could Be Thee, recced earlier in this journal. Now I will state up-front that I had some difficulty understanding many of the references (primarily made by Dudley and his countrymen), the intricacy of the details that make the prose here shine, but I will also say that once I realised that Harry and Draco were in my shoes, I settled in and truly began to enjoy this masterfully written story about Dudley having finally come into his own, about a Dudley settled and interesting, whose friendship with Harry feels real, whose bond with Harry runs deep, beyond words. These two boys grew up together, really, and it was like being struck in the face to be reminded of this, of all the potential for friendship -- and networking -- that lies between them. There are many lovely details here, details that connect one with Petunia's world of Gardening Competitions etc. and yet somehow never make this world seem ordinary, but rather even more magical. The mystery which drives much of the plot is also rather wittily done.

Excerpt )

- I should also like to reiterate my love for Cocktail Time, which I recced earlier and still love to bits.

- And, as though this post were not long enough already, I have one last rec. As it is not the sort of story I would ordinarily rec, let alone read, I feel I should preface it with a bit of explanation. Namely: I am not fond of Snily.

But this was worth it. )

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Jul. 23rd, 2012

fic rec: dragonwatch (snarry)

Jay Tryfanstone ([ profile] tryfanstone) has crafted an unforgettable and atmospheric new tale, Dragonwatch (Snarry; R), which functions both as an allegory and an amazingly realistic montage. Set at the wild, stormy origin of a sea-dragon nest (the metaphor of Snape as dragon comes to mind, and the setting fits him to a T), the story convincingly, beautifully and thrillingly (there is some excellent action) tells, amongst other things, of the discovery of peace and understanding after the war, of the discovery of what it means to look on to something from a distance or to live it in reality. Severus and Harry are middle-aged and given such breath and flesh, such reality as to astonish this reader, and their diction! the language! the detail! is just perfect, utterly memorable. This is a story to savour unrushed with a cup of tea, and you needn't like Snarry to be drawn in by the author's verbal magic or self-reflective play (there is a character with selective amnesia and a narrative, too, with selective amensia! for example). A must-read!

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Jul. 14th, 2012

happy bastille day! and some recs

Happy Bastille Day! We are making Julia Child's coq au vin (classic but mercifully uncomplicated) and shall watch a French film and perhaps even open a bottle of champagne in celebration. And I shall study French.

There is so much to celebrate today. [personal profile] perverse_idyll, I will especially be toasting you! Tetley, Kelly and TRS, a heartfelt toast to you as well in beloved Berlin!

At present I am exceptionally behind on my fest reading thanks to a number of circumstances. Over the past few days, I have only read three stories. All three are breathtaking, gorgeous and full of surprises, but only two are publicly available at present, so I shall leave one of those recs for later.

And It Could Be Me, And It Could Be Thee (Griselda Marchbanks, Augusta Longbottom, Neville, Harry, Dudley, Minerva, Pomona Sprout, et al) defies my paultry abilities of description to summarise. It is dense with historical and political and domestic and literary and surprising, satisfying canon-enriching details, but not in the way of a dull encyclopedia; no this narrative lives through its historical and political situatedness, through the specificity of its context which fills the language with the brilliance of unexpected colour and the form, the immediacy of intaken breath. And rhythm and poise, -- the language alone is STUNNING. There is such intelligence in the writing, such wit, and it not only serves as the perfect complement to the two formidable women at the narrative's heart, but lends them reality as neither mere genial plot nor mere bright reflexivity could. I could go on and on about the language: how it is no mere vehicle, but also no mere self-absorbed game -- only I fear repeating myself stupidly. There are lessons here that struck me hard; together with Harry and Neville and Dudley I sat once again before a venerable great-grandmother and absorbed and learned and -- cried. Now I am not even making sense. This story deserves a far more eloquent response; you will not regret taking the time to read it.

Excerpt )

[ profile] sarkysue's Yet Here You Stand (A Snarry Novella) is the kind of Snarry I physically crave and yet cannot write on my own, a mangled relationship defined by brokenness and stubbornness and uncontrollable anger and unstated, instinctual understanding and sheer need, where neither can sever himself from the other entirely, even if one hates the tie, even if one hates that one loves the other, even if one truly loves. The structure of this piece is particularly effective: it is composed of three non-linear parts (or four, if you like: there are two epilogues) which move forward, then backward in time, respectively, giving the reader very gradual insight into a relationship that, on the surface, seems everything but functional or good. Although initially somewhat disappointed by the structure, which seemed to move forward in time with relentless speed, barely stopping to provide insight into the scenes, I soon realised that anything but could be the case, that the author was in fact stretching the tension, slowing down the pace, and thus leading the reader to even more satisfying dénouement than I could have ever anticipated.

Snape is a proper bastard here, spine-tinglingly wonderful whenever on stage, and his interaction with Harry all the more satisfying and real for it always consisting or culminating in verbal or physical assault. [ profile] sarkysue has an enviable gift for sarcasm, for wounding and defensive dialogue; at the same time her Snape is one who has almost physical trouble speaking except by deflection, except to wound, which I found to be very satisfying. If fluff bothers you, if you like your Snape nasty and ugly and yet, in his own way, deeply capable of love and soulsearching, if you believe that both Harry and Snape cannot have escaped the war unscathed, untroubled, untouched, then I think you will find this a wonderful, wonderful read.

Excerpt )

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Jul. 9th, 2012

Quick rec: Cocktail Time

I just opened the doors to the feast that is [ profile] hp_friendship, and my God, what a feast! I have only had the chance to read -- devour, more like -- one story as of yet, but cannot wait to sink my teeth into the rest, so delicious do the summaries sound.

Before I do that, however (admittedly, not till tomorrow permits), I simply have to point you to Cocktail Time (Rita Skeeter, Gilderoy Lockhart; PG-13). It's fabulous, darling. So fabulous I haven't yet mustered the head to write a proper review. Let's just say it's not at all what I expected and all the more brilliant for the surprise. The story somehow -- magically -- combines that enviable Slytherin breeziness, that unruffled facade and total egoism and gorgeous flamboyance with hidden and self-consuming inner demons in an absolutely terrifying and believable way.

Don't waste your time watching me mangle the English language -- go read this extraordinary account of a rather unforgettable friendship.

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Feb. 19th, 2012

not quite so verdeckt

(verdeckt means something like undercover; it is my usual state of being.)

I have not been around much this week, except to fiddle behind the scenes with the BBB profile page. My apologies; getting into the rhythm of things with the new semester has not been easy or pleasant, and my mood of late has been too dark for company.

There is nonetheless much to celebrate. First, I would like to thank you, dear [personal profile] albalark, [personal profile] alisanne, [profile] kellychambliss, [personal profile] mblfree, [personal profile] pale_moonlite and [personal profile] perverse_idyll for the glistening crystalline hearts on LJ -- what a lovely, wonderful surprise! Much ♥ also to [personal profile] delphi for brightening (and hilarious) post-Valentine's words. I cannot express how much it means to me to know you all. My life has been brightened and enriched through the beauties you bring to it. I . . . am left speechless when trying to express what I feel for you.

Second, if you have not been following [ profile] dysfuncentine (which I admit, I have barely been able to do), it is full of gems. I will write a full recs post later, but for the meantime would like to at least direct those of you who like Petunia/Snape to The Survivor, a fabulous, really fabulous take on the pairing. Also, I am excited beyond words (despite not having yet had the time to read) Half-Term Saturday, which has this tantalising plot (thanks to none other than [personal profile] tetleythesecond, of course): 1950s AU, magical or not. Prim schoolmarm and upper-class mother get together in a constellation worthy of a lesbian pulp novel. Throw a taboo-less Quidditch or lacrosse player into the party or Lucius into the swimming pool for added drama. In short: give us the penetrating story of a scandalous affair, told with unblushing honesty!

Third, [personal profile] delphi has written Snape/McGonagall! I have not yet had the chance to comment with all of my undying love for this story, but had to let you know about it. If you have not yet had the chance, you simply must read In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning.

Fourth, [profile] kellychambliss wrote a stunning (no pun intended) and bittersweet drabble, Stunners (Hooch/McGonagall). It packs quite a punch, despite its length, and wonderfully develops the metaphor of flying.

Fifth, a request: So I hated season 2 of Downton Abbey, especially the last few episodes. Mary (whom I sort of liked and despised at the same time in season one because of her resemblance to a dear friend) and Matthew should have sunk with the Titanic, Isobel was turned into a repellant nuisance, Violet had nothing to do, Lavinia and Jane and Richard and Mrs Bates and etc. etc. were turned into the most boring and predictable plot devices I have ever seen, etc. etc. etc. Please, please direct me to some reasonable, well-written fic about the downstairs crowd (Hughes, O'Brien, Carson, and so on) if you know of anything to doctor the excruciating pain, so to speak.

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Feb. 10th, 2012

quick, desperate rec

Oh God. Oh God. I have been waiting with keen anticipation and something almost akin to dread, but positive, electric, for a particular entry at [ profile] snapecase, for The Lost World to be precise, knowing it would spell a new chapter in my life, knowing it would eat me alive just as I devoured it, knowing it would be cleansing, redefining, humbling, devastating -- and above all combine a savage with an angelical beauty in such a way that would pierce my heart and string it up to the wall for all to see.

It's here, finally, and oh fuck I am lost. This story is fucking incredible, I am sorry to resort to the profane, but I am so overwhelmed that I have to. At this point, I have only read through once, and will need to read through several times before I can comment coherently, and I fear that won't happen before Sunday, as things are crazy here. But I want you to go read this before the [ profile] snapecase reveal tomorrow, because I want to talk to you about it. I think most of you will recognise the author and the intertextuality, the relationship to her other work, and in particular how this relates, in a fascinatingly inverse way, to her [ profile] snapecase entry of last year.

Right now I am thinking this: martyred saints, the death of Orpheus, the tragedy of Cupid and Psyche, Paradise Lost, Heart of Darkness, and for some reason, Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold. Because the author is experimenting here with dissolution, with falling apart, with decentredness in a way. The decentredness of the self -- our many unrelated masks. Externalisation of inner fragmentation. I think. Here, at least, there is no outsider point of view, no camera lens giving us objective, distanced access to the characters. We are to stay close to Harry (a Harry that is grounded, fittingly enough, unable to fly), to that murky, unreliable, untrustworthy narrator, and oh how untrustworthy and mercurial he proves to be!

Now I am recalling the motif of electric blue. Of ozone. Of dragonflies and how I need to go back and think about this more. Oh am I lost.

Read this, please. And don't just tell me what you think -- tell the author herself.

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Feb. 8th, 2012

snapecase recs

Sadly, [ profile] snapecase is coming to a close. I have not yet managed to read, let alone comment, on everything, and I expect I will be writing another rec post for the last two stories, but here are a few of my favourites so far.

Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree is a story to be read again and again; it lingers with you like fragrant smoke clinging to your clothes, and it is no accident that one of the central motifs here is smell. The author's prose is stunningly beautiful, and yet the story is chilling in a number of ways, not least because of how the title is personified and manifested in the story, because of how numb Severus comes across, because of her use of blankness and space and silence, because of the startling and vivid and at times deeply unsettling imagery. I have not yet summed up the courage to tell the author how brilliant I think her work, but she deserves many more comments than have been posted, and I think you will find the story well worth your while.

Mother is a beautiful portrait of Eileen and young Severus, based on poses of the Madonna and Child, I believe, but very revealing of the HP characters as well.

Valentine's Day Surprise has a wonderfully disgusted Snape and a devious McGonagall and is a pleasure to look at.

It Only Gets Worse features a very snarky, witty Snape in doubly written form, as portrayed by snippets from reports given to the Hogwarts Board of Governors and Snape's own journal entries. The contrast between the reports and the rude entries is amusing. It's interesting to see a Snape who isn't completely depressed and gloomy during what I tend to think of as that "dead period" between his agreeing to work at Hogwarts and Harry's arrival. Which is not to say that this Snape doesn't have his own depressions and problems, but that he is intact, here, and that it is refreshing to see.

Hand-Me-Down is a well-written and unusual take on Tobias. Rather than going the drunk-and-evil route, the author shows Tobias to be a proud father to his magical son. Tobias' feelings are so persuasively conveyed that one warms to him, and his eventual cowardice hurts even more as a result.

The Other Half is another excellent Tobias fic that reinvents fanon assumptions about his relationship to Severus with a nuanced, beautifully crafted and ultimately heartbreaking narrative.

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Jan. 23rd, 2012

fic/art rec: an exercise in futility

There have been a number of wonderful entries at [ profile] snapecase, and I am in the midst of compiling another recs post, but -- I simply couldn't wait, and must direct you to my very favourite story from the showcase so far.

This story is not just a story, but an absolutely fabulous multimedia entry with a glorious bastard!Snape, some very volatile post-war Snarry, a plot that functions well on both the emotional and symbolic level (!) and several complex and thought-provoking illustrations by one of my very favourite HP artists. If you like a Snape who, after the war, has lost his ballast, who is unappreciated and emotionally, physically starved and vulnerable and angry, bitterly angry, ungrateful and lost and horrified to be lost, horrified by his own needs and determined to squash them with a venemous tongue -- if you like a Harry who, literally starved most of his life, has no idea how to respond to the feast suddenly offered up by life after Voldemort, who is desperately in need of help and only just beginning to realise it -- if you like stories set at a Spinner's End that resembles its owner's hair and inner state of being -- if you like stark, expressive illustrations -- if you like even just some of these things, then you will enjoy:

An Exercise in Futility (R; Snarry; EWE)

Summary: Sometimes you can only help yourself by helping others. Sometimes when you're helping others, you realize that it's you who needs help.

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Jan. 15th, 2012

snapely recs from assorted fests

- [personal profile] pale_moonlite wrote Black Queen, Dark Pawn (NC-17; Bellatrix Black/Severus Snape, past Bellatrix/Narcissa). You may wish to read the warnings beforehand. A fascinating sojurn through Bellatrix's head that, through clear, cutting prose, illustrates the fine line between madness and rationality. It's only fitting that a master Legilmens be brought into the fray, and -- if Bellatrix is interesting, Snape is the true piece de resistance. The author's portrayal of Snape -- ugly and awkward and rude -- is just delicious. Best of all, she cleverly brings out his strengths and weaknesses at once, foreshadowing the Spinner's End argument in HBP, where Snape is coldly able to outmanipulate Bellatrix even when she thinks she's got him cornered.

Excerpt )

- Anonymous at Snarry Swap wrote The Winter Out There (NC-17; Snarry). You may wish to read the warnings beforehand. This is a fic that could give you nightmares, especially if you associate bagged human hair with more than its use in Polyjuice. Nonetheless, in only a few thousand words, it captures something essential about Harry and something monstrous and pitiful and desperate about Snape. I won't give an excerpt, as I don't wish to spoil the horrible twist here more than I already have . . .

- [ profile] igrockspock wrote The Journey of a Thousand Miles (Gen; Severus Snape, Luna Lovegood). What a beautifully told story! The shades here are never very bright; in this post-war world, Luna is isolated even from her father, whom she can't bring herself to forgive for betraying her friends. Seeking a connection to her mother, she tries to recreate the experiment that killed her and ends up taking up an apprenticeship with an even more isolated and estranged Snape, who runs a struggling potions business. Luna is a marvel here, never ridiculous or exaggeratedly silly, but a troubled, searching human being who brings a unique perspective to all she sees, who is strong and unexpected and interesting. Snape is wonderfully bitter. And Xenophilius is troubling and heartbreaking at once, a moral and emotional puzzle for the reader and Luna to solve.

Excerpt )

[personal profile] schemingreader wrote At the Scramble Crossing (NC-17; Snarry). Alright, I know I've recced this before, but I love it so much, this fic means so much to me personally, has made me cry several times -- that I helplessly offer it up to you again, in case you missed it the first time. Severus and Harry exude a palpable loneliness; in Tokyo, of all places, they find each other and, in their own awkward, impulsive, personal ways, begin to discover, in that surprising yet perfectly natural way [personal profile] schemingreader has, essential things about themselves. This is a love story to Tokyo as much as to Severus and Harry; every word is like a fruit, sweet and complex and like a jolt to the senses. I think this reads well together with the story [personal profile] schemingreader and [personal profile] green wrote together earlier last year, Wild Thyme Honey. Both have a similar premise -- Harry finds Snape hidden away in another country after the war, and they recover and heal together in this magical place away from home -- and yet are complementary, in that WTH is told from Harry's perspective, and ASC from Severus'.

[personal profile] schemingreader also wrote Moonlight Saving Time (NC-17; Snupin), a very unusual and interesting alternate universe with a lot of wonderful humour and mystery and snark and the unforgettable appearances of Sirius Black and Lucius Malfoy.

Excerpt )

And now for three contributions from the wonderful [ profile] snapecase:

- Anonymous wrote That Time of Year (R; Severus, Eileen, Remus, Albus, some Snape/Remus). Severus' father is dead. The repercussions of this, of having to go "home" for the funeral, of trying not to think about it and thinking about it and trying not to cry and trying to think about what to teach -- the hysteria and depression and raw pain of fresh grief are convincingly portrayed here, thanks to the beautiful prose and a repetitive structure that just hammers you with Severus' pain.

Excerpt )

- Anonymous wrote Memories, Dreams, Reflections (PG-13; Snape, Remus, Poppy). The incredible suffering of recovery -- of recovering from a cursed gigantic snake bite -- are unflinchingly portrayed here. Severus' courage shines throughout his pain, and though he can barely speak, his actions and expressions speak volumes. A sobering and yet rewarding tale.

Excerpt )

- Anonymous drew Defence Against the Dark Arts. Severus is just wonderful here -- arrogant and supremely focused and calculating and dangerous and yet isolated, inwardly sad. You can read almost everything about his character in this face, he is so multilayered and interesting.

. . . Let me know if I'm reccing too much or too often or not enough. I have a femmeslash rec post planned with some more [ profile] hoggywartyxmas favourites that I loved so much I haven't been able to overcome my shyness and comment, but can wait to post it for a few days if you need a break. :-)

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Jan. 9th, 2012

i'm late, i'm late . . . last-minute hoggywarty recs

The utterly glorious [ profile] hoggywartyxmas is over . . . woe is me. For it was an extraordinary pleasure -- an honour -- to take part in this fest. I owe it much of my inner stability over the past weeks. Every single contribution I have had the pleasure to encounter thus far has been a delight, and although I am not quite caught up, I am positive that further gems await me. [ profile] therealsnape, I cannot thank you enough for hosting such an unforgettable party, for letting me in at all, and for all of your patience and kindness towards me. Here's to Hoggywarty 2012!

Right now, I'm studiously ignoring the reveals: since the posts themselves are still anonymous, this should be possible for a bit longer. There are a number of fabulous stories that I began to read over this past weekend (on my phone, unfortunately) which I would like to complete and review without the additional distraction. I also have a few recs (hopefully not too late). These should have gone up this weekend, but instead of going home to books and computer like a rational person, I lingered in the city for as long as possible.

The Insomniacs Social Club is a delightful and delicious portrait of those characters I like to think of as the shamefully overlooked: Filius, Sybill, Septima, Aurora and, my favourite of the bunch, Mr. Filch. These otherwise neglected characters are given fascinating histories and quirks and colour in a very few deft strokes and under a brilliant premise: They all gather informally and sort of unconsciously at night, when unable to sleep (see the title of the story). I think I have an idea who wrote this, because there is only one person I know who can write Filch this brilliantly: as the most serious of the group, in a way, as their reluctant chaperone or parent. Each character is wonderful, though, particularly Aurora and (I never thought I would be saying this) Sybill. Yes, Sybill.

The Circle is witty and thought-provoking and wonderful and contains Minerva's ironic notes about great witches in history. I don't want to spoil the story, but there is a certain timelessness about this that is achieved both through the continuity of the stories of past (and present witches) told in the notes and the outer frame of the story, which is about Minerva's present and how she herself belongs to that lineage and heritage through her actions. I'm pretty sure I know who wrote this as well, because there is only one person I can think of who writes such clear, beautifully direct prose and understands German Quidditch this well *g*.

And ack, so much for remaining unrevealed -- the names are going up already. I'd better stop while I'm still ahead . . .

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Jan. 6th, 2012


A wonderful, talented still-anonymous author at [ profile] hoggywartyxmas has written a fabulous post-DH Snape/Slughorn -- with my name on it! I can't even begin to describe how very lucky and humbled and grateful I feel to have received such a splendid gift.

Aristophanes and Aesop has really made my (otherwise very depressing) day. Allow me tell you why:

Even if Snape/Slughorn sounds awful to you (which it shouldn't, not if you've read [personal profile] delphi's The Courtship of Benjamin Jink, which converted me to the pairing with force) it certainly won't after you've read this story. It not only contains one of the most original solutions to Snape's survival I have ever encountered, but also a Slughorn with an entirely plausible, dare I even say sympathetic inner voice. His methods to rouse Severus out of a post-war depressive funk are positively Slytherin at first, and -- typical for Slughorn -- involve a certain amount of psychological repression, but progressively and realistically both Horace and Severus begin to bond and heal and redeem themselves in a way that, in hindsight, seems entirely natural: over good food and wine and experimentation with both.

The author appears to have also had supernatural powers, for she knew exactly what sorts of European delicacies I secretly love to read about (the result of having great-grandparents who were fine pastry cooks in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, of having grown up with a great-grandmother who played Die Fledermaus constantly and told us in a hushed voice of her late husband's travels across the world, making ice sculptures for President Teddy Roosevelt in Egypt and studying at Rumpelmeyer's in Paris and opening up a now-gone, but then well-known konditorei right across the street from the Budapest opera; the result of living in Germany surrounded by foodies and a French snob who adored her foie gras and once even shared her bottle of Château d'Yquem . . .) The story manages to capture the glamour -- the magic -- of late 19th-century imperalist culture without the imperalism and -- most important -- without nostalgia. Horace simply lives this magical life; in his world, it still exists and is very costly, to be sure, but is nonetheless not categorically closed off to Severus, that depressed, guilt-ridden, impoverished half-blood. For, as Horace discovers, there is something magical about showing and giving Severus that kind of pleasure. There is no pity involved here; simply the joy of excess, of indulgence, of self-indulgence. (The joy of poetry.)

I think it's this generosity of Horace's that ultimately (alongside the lucious descriptions of both the food and Severus himself) took my breath away. So often Horace is portrayed as a greedy collector of students who will only give if he receives. Here, we have a Horace who, yes, has something of an ulterior motive, but ultimately does what he does for Severus out of the pure pleasure of giving, because he enjoys Severus' company and Severus comes to enjoy his.

The story also adeptly deals with a question I've always had about Severus, the question of adaptation. It seems to me that Severus, in his youth, struggled both in his attempts to be accepted and to be brilliantly different; that in a way he attempted to conform (through the Death Eaters) and yet in other ways attempted to remain firmly himself (his notebooks, his greasy hair, etc.). In this story, Severus is taken under someone's wing for perhaps the first time in his life, and as a result, begins, in subtle ways, to become more like Horace (in his interests and outlook) while at the same time remaining uniquely himself (in his tastes, in his wit, in his suspicions and sarcasm). I think there is something quite profound about that, something I have to think more about, and I would be very interested to hear your thoughts at some point.

Now that I have babbled long enough, here's an excerpt from this glorious story:

Slowly, Severus drew his wand from his sleeve. He closed his eyes, looking for all the world sure and peaceful, and incanted the familiar words. As a supple, silvery frog coalesced in light and hopped about them, he turned to Horace. There was such trust, and hope, and attraction - gods, yes, it was attraction - in his eyes that Horace's heart at once did somersaults and plummeted in his chest at the secret he had been keeping.

In that awful split second, Horace considered his options. The Slughorn of yore would always have taken the easy route: say nothing, let him assume, avoid confrontation - and he had to admit it; that voice was strong.

However, he had grown. He had fought, he had been grateful, and he had vowed, no more guilty secrets. -And it was with that spirit that Horace opened his mouth to put off the wonderful young man who had just come to his bedroom, even though he wanted him more than he could imagine wanting anything else. "Now, Severus, you really mustn't think that-"

(Apologies for any typos; I only have smartphone internet at present and am not very adept at typing on a phone.)

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Jan. 3rd, 2012

more recs, part two

Sorry for spamming you of late. I have to go offline for the next two days, so I wanted to get at least one more rec post in before then:

- Anonymous at [ profile] hoggywartyxmas drew and wrote From Severus' Journal, December 24th (Severus Snape, Hermione Granger, G). This clever panel by one of the foremost artists in HP fandom will brighten your day with its witty plot and beautiful illustrations. A page from Severus' journal, it captures his sneakiness and sarcasm right down to the the prickly lines of his handwriting.

- Anonymous at [ profile] hoggywartyxmas wrote All That is Mine to Give (Sprout/Moody, PG-13). I had never given much thought to this pairing, but this story has not only made me believe in its plausibility and rightness, it has also convinced me that this is how canon should have been. A masterful character study with sharp-edged, gritty, honest dialogue that suits these two characters perfectly. Here's an excerpt:

“Come right on through, Alastor,” she called, and a moment later he stood on her hearth rug brushing off the soot, that absurd eye of his giving her the once over. Merlin, but the look in his normal eye was making her blush, even if she hadn’t suspected that magical eye of being able to see right through her robes.

“Your Floo connection ought to be more secure, Pomona,” he said gruffly. “I could have come right through without your permission, so it’s a good sight that I remembered my manners. The Death Eaters won’t be so refined.”

“I’m glad to see you, too, Alastor,” said she, as she stepped forward to kiss his cheek and help him with his coat. “I had the connection open specifically for you, you great goose, keyed to your voice. Not even foolable by Polyjuice. We do learn from our mistakes, dear.”

- Anonymous at [info]snapelyholidays wrote Tensile Strength (Snape/Neville, NC-17). This story was quite nearly too much for me. Like Neville, I was practically raised by a grandparent, and devastated when she began to deteriorate towards the end of her life. Neville's anguish at losing yet another family member to mental illness is palpable and oppressive and masterfully evoked. His situation in a post-DH world is a grim one; this is not a world of happy endings and flowers, but depressing reality. That Snape, a natural inhabitant of such a world, flickers into his life only seems natural. Battered and bruised, pitiless and overconfident, Snape is paid by Neville to develop a cure for his family . . . But I have no wish to spoil the story. Suffice it to say that it is incredible how much this author accomplishes in 5000 words. An excerpt:

"All of these plants are potions-grade." Neville said nothing to that; Snape was simply stating a fact, and he'd learned through seven years of classes with the man not to speak when it was unnecessary. "I'll need a sample of each plant for testing purposes. With luck, I'll have a recipe for a treatment within the next few days."

Neville sighed and rubbed his eyes, applying so much pressure that a sharp pain shot through his skull. "And then likely a month to brew the treatment."

"Don't be ungrateful."

Dropping his hands, he attempted a smile. "I'm not, really. Just thinking of the mountains of paperwork this will require, not to mention how closely I'll need to monitor the other plants." And the loss of income. Then there was Gran and her appointments to consider... He had no time for this.

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Jan. 2nd, 2012

more recs

I'm still behind on my fest reading, but here are some absolutely wonderful stories from [ profile] hoggywartyxmas that I simply cannot get out of my mind. Yes, they are that good.

- Anonymous wrote Into the Silence (PG-13. Severus Snape, with appearances by Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, Lily Evans, Narcissa Malfoy and assorted others). This sequence of missing canon scenes told from Severus' perspective during his painful tenure as headmaster and in the present tense is exquisite in every way. Tone, pacing, dialogue, verbal music and colour and variety work together to create an atmospheric narrative that really does take the reader into the silence -- if you're like me, you'll find yourself holding your breath until the very last line. Characterwise, the story couldn't be more interesting: We are given surprising and deeply plausible insights into Severus' relationships to Lily, Draco and Narcissa, Albus, Minerva and even Flitwick and Slughorn. An excerpt, to give you an idea:

He makes himself light. Around him, the forest softens into darkness and the air deliquesces. He rises amid the trees; it feels oddly effortless, as if he were being lifted on a scale, counter-balanced by a heavy weight.

The forest spreads out below him, black and silent. Potter is somewhere under its branches. Lily's son, the boy on whom all their hopes rest.

Fixing his gaze on the north, he flies.

- Anonymous wrote Happy Christmas, I Wish It Were (Or, Visiting With The Ghosts of Christmas Past) (PG-13, Severus/Minerva). Absolutely charming, with the intelligent banter and inherent competitiveness that makes McGonagall/Snape such a satisfying pairing. This is also wonderfully written, sparse and well-paced and bittersweet and sexy. An excerpt:

Minerva smiled. "You're a piece of work, Severus."

"Please don't tell me you're the last to notice," said Snape, turning another page.

"Yes, I've lived this long through two wars by being an unobservant little biddy who thinks the best of everyone," said McGonagall.

- Anonymous wrote An Old Fool's Folly (PG-13. Horace/Albus). Now, you may be thinking: Slughorn and Dumbledore? As told from Slughorn's perspective? That could never work! But it does, and brilliantly. This is one of the most insightful and interesting takes I have seen on either of these characters. Slughorn is shown to truly care about his craft, to have real, complex feelings extending far beyond an incessant craving for pineapple and fame. These feelings are skillfully twined together with fear and guilt and a psychological mechanism to explain the character plausibly and charmingly. Albus is also masterfully drawn--as clever and manipulative and yet as boyish and sweet and mischievous as in the books. An excerpt:

It wasn't that he didn't want to do his friend a kindness—Horace quite liked giving (and receiving) favors.

No, it was that somehow, by giving Albus the ointment, he would have to acknowledge what had been done to him, which would include acknowledging, however obliquely, that it was Horace's fault.

Because Horace knew why Albus had needed to touch a Dark object, knew, more or less, exactly what sort of Dark object he had been touching.

He didn't dare utter the word, even in his own mind. Instead, he cursed himself at his inability to perform a proper Memory Charm. He contemplated trying again, but didn't dare. Better just to not think about it.

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Dec. 22nd, 2011


I've got a splitting headache and fear I don't make any sense, but these stories are such absolute gems that you would be missing out not to have read them.

- [ profile] hoggywartyxmas has opened and begun posting, and wow, did the fest begin with a bang! A Change of Plans for [personal profile] delphi (Snape/McGonagall, NC-17) is a masterpiece of prose. Told by an omiscient and personable narrator with great self-awareness, the story flirts with all sorts of literary devices (intertextuality, narrative voice, questions of representation - how much do I or do I not tell?) while being more than witty or sexy or psychologically realistic, while managing to tell us something essential about these two intensely private, powerful and scathingly intelligent people. I am not doing justice to this with words. Just go read it.

- Father to the Man by Anonymous for [personal profile] bethbethbeth at [community profile] snapelyholidays (Snape/Filch, R). Author's Summary: A restricted spell goes awry, and Severus Snape is left scrambling to cover his tracks. Meanwhile, Argus Filch turns out to be surprisingly good with small children, the nature of time is proven to be fiddly and anyone's guess, and (at least one) Severus gets a second chance at life.

I have my suspicions as to who wrote this - *eyes f-list slyly* - but no matter. This is a story to be savoured over and over again. Severus, obsessed with the idea of seeing Lily, ends up summoning himself as a child by means of a botched spell involving a holy well. Argus is on hand to help, and good thing too, for Severus' self-hatred and emotional instability are as dangerous to the child as to himself. I don't want to give too much away, but let me say at least this: Every line of this story is a story in itself, and yet the prose is by no means unnatural or self-conscious or distorted by pretentiousness -- on the contrary, the prose is as humble and calm and pragmatic, as simply beautiful, as Argus and Severus themselves. The motifs of seeing and not-seeing, of misjudging and falling and being rescued just in time, represented by the emblem of the well, are woven throughout the story with great deftness. Reading this is like healing yourself with a magical balm, it's that wonderful.

There were several other pieces I loved at [community profile] snapelyholidays but have not yet had the time to review. Let me briefly list my favourites here:

- gift art by Anonymous for [personal profile] fluffyllama (Snape/Moody, NWS). The loveliest and most thought-provoking Snape/Moody art I've seen. There are three panels, so don't forget to click ahead.

- At the Scramble Crossing by Anonymous for [info]7types (Snape/Harry NC-17). Author's Summary: Harry learns that Snape has found work at the Genius Bar at an Apple Store, far from home, and tracks him down. I think I know who wrote this, another one of my favourite authors. In any case, while the premise and wonderfully realised Japanese setting alone should catch your interest, the dialogue itself is so lovely, so natural and convincing, that you'd be missing out not to read this.

- To Some a Gift for [info]akatnamedeaster by Anonymous (Snape/McGonagall NC-17). Author's Summary: After Voldemort's first defeat, Severus has a great deal to atone for. Minerva finds a way to help him. I loved this story. It's difficult to speak of it without giving away spoilers, but let's just say that I very much enjoyed seeing the author's take on two particular dynamics: Snape/Dumbledore and Snape/McGonagall.

- Bumblethwacker, Broken Nose and the Wizard's Finger by Anonymous for [personal profile] delphi (Snape/Aberforth, adult). The wit in this story would be reason enough to read it, but it was the subtle and utterly convincing portrayal of these two men that stole my breath away. The story also has a fabulous structure. Albus, for example, is conspiciously absent and in his absence even more present - not easy to represent, yet masterfully done so here. Really worth a read, even if you've never thought about this pairing before.

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