I can’t begin to praise this fic enough. There’s a great rec of “Roman Holiday” over at Know It Alls which does a good job of breaking down why this fic is so fantastic. My gut reaction is to express my adoration by squeeing loudly and flailing about, which means I’m far less articulate than Harmony_Bites is in her KIA rec.
“Roman Holiday” was written prior to Order of the Phoenix and serves as a bit of a time capsule of that era by reflecting a lot of the fandom hopes and tropes of that time, particularly in how the Slytherins are perceived. Not all of these perceptions proved to be inaccurate in canon when the last books were published, but it’s still fun to look back and remember how the fandom approached characters at that time. The way that Anna’s Hermione is willing to fudge on the rules to a certain degree, displaying a vindictive streak when necessary, was positively prophetic in light of her Order of the Phoenix interactions with Umbridge. Regardless of the canon-centric characterization hits or misses, it’s important to keep this fic’s time capsule effect in mind while reading this fic, lest you get hung up on the differences between how Anna viewed these characters prior to 2003, and how they actually turned out once JKR was through with them.
That said, the characterizations are just absolutely brilliant. I am crazy about how thoroughly the author climbs inside her protagonists’ heads. She makes them so real, so relate-able, that at times it kills me that they didn’t all turn out to be this way in canon. Hermione is, of course, the masterpiece in this regard. She goes through a bit of a metamorphosis in the opening chapter, but it is easily consistent with the Hermione we knew from JKR’s mind. Hermione isn’t turned into a completely different person, as occurs in some ugly-duckling stories within fandom (and just to be clear, this fic is not an ugly-duckling/”Pretty Woman” fic); she merely undergoes that transformation which puberty and maturity thrust upon all of us at some point, whether gradually or all at once. I clearly remember a moment from my own teen years when I first realized I had sufficiently come into my own, both in my physical development and in my ability to successfully use wit, to be able to flirt with great success. There was such a heady rush of empowerment! Anna’s Hermione is a teenage girl who is experiencing that same kind of moment and that same sense of strength and invincibility that comes with inner confidence, education, and the development of breasts. 😉
The story is not a shipper’s tale. I.e., those who prefer to see Hermione with only one particular person might not like this. She has romantic moments with Draco and Snape in this fic, as well as another character later in the series. She isn’t bed-hopping; she’s just behaving as a normal teenage girl would, in that she isn’t attempting to settle on her One True Love at such a young age. She is monogamous and thoroughly devoted when she is dating, but she has her eyes wide open and is able to move on when the time comes. Personally, I loved this realistic approach to her character. Although I’ve no objection to how JKR ended the series, it’s certainly true that most teenage girls, particularly ones as confident and secure in themselves as Hermione, would not assume that they are meant to marry their high school sweethearts. It’s a lovely thing when that happens, but in real life most people date around and experience at least a handful of relationships before settling down. Anna’s Hermione is operating within that type of pragmatic, yet hopeful/romantic, mindset.
I’m still struggling to convey why this story is so completely beautiful and is a huge favorite of mine. In the end, it’s not just the wonderful characterizations or the exciting new magics which the author mixes bee-yew-tifully and quite articulately with muggle science, nor even the edge-of-your-seat, multi-layered, utterly-engrossing plot. There’s something intangible here which just makes the overall story unforgettable. I love it.
My only critique: There are very few mistakes in this story, but I did catch one or two minor continuity goofs. Also, while it kills me to admit it since Anna’s story contains such scintillating, clever dialogue, there are occasions where characters use American-isms and muggle phrases (e.g., Draco referring to rocket science) which don’t quite fit a British wizarding tale.