Story Title: So…
Author Name: Shiv5468
Story url: Story Link 1
Alternate url: Story Link 2
Content Rating: Teen
Length: 5,876 words
Story Summary: So what happens now? When the hurly-burly’s done and the battle’s lost and won?
Shiv has written numerous stories which I’ve read and enjoyed. But this one still managed to surprise me. Truthfully, as much as I love UC (Unconventional Couple) pairings in stories, many Draco/Hermione fics don’t work for me because they fail to overcome the issue of prejudice. It isn’t just Draco’s prejudice which must be overcome, either. The truth is that after being subjected to his bigotry for 6 years in school, it would be odd for Hermione to jump into a relationship with Draco under normal circumstances, without any mention of her hurt or her own prejudice towards him. As anyone who has ever been looked down upon knows all too well, human nature generally causes us to return like for like. I.e., if someone hates or insults me, my instinctive reaction is going to be to hate and insult them. Hermione was always far better than Ron and Harry at restraining her temper around Draco Malfoy, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt her to be treated with such disdain.
But Shiv manages to indirectly address all of that very skillfully in this fic. Hermione’s voice is captured perfectly, sounding utterly in-character during a time of great weariness and even gloom. The war has just ended; the final battle is barely over. But Hermione is smart enough to see what is ahead of them, and she isn’t entirely thrilled with that outlook. Along comes Draco Malfoy, and though very little is said about it, it’s easy to see just from his body language in the opening scenes that he shares her resignation about the way things are shaping up to be. In addition, things aren’t quite over for him; he’s still got a crisis on his hands. So in the end, Shiv manages to overcome bigotry, prejudice, pride and hurts with that great equalizer: exhaustion. Ultimately, holding on to those hurts and that anger is just too damn exhausting. And thus Hermione is in the best possible frame of mind to turn to something she thrives on, something she actually requires in order to just keep putting one foot in front of the other: a cause.
The story isn’t that long, but it felt much bigger because of the way it so concisely captures what turns out to be a pivotal moment for both Hermione and Draco, as well as several other characters. Even Ron and Harry, who don’t feature directly in this story, are going to benefit because of the decisions Hermione makes in this story. Just compare the way Hermione refers to her two friends in her thoughts at the beginning of this fic as compared to her musings and actions in the final paragraphs. She’s still exhausted, and she’s still got her eyes wide open to their faults, but it’s as if that “great weight” so aptly refered to in the story’s opener is no longer quite so heavy. It also feels like she’s more open to sharing her burdens with her two friends after her experiences with Draco. Again, compare the story’s opener, where she is alone, listless, rather morbid in her brooding, and feeling a bit preemptively forsaken, to the end of the story, where she seems to have a renewed spirit of camaraderie and determination.
Finally, I like the way it isn’t the Final Battle which changes things for these people, but the acts of mercy and faith which follows it. C.S. Lewis said that “friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'” Take that idea and multiply it by the intensity, imperative and importance of the moments which Draco and Hermione share. Before the events of this story, they likely each thought of the other as self-serving and cold. In uniting together in an act of compassion for another, though, they are better able to display the best of themselves and find a kindred spirit in the process. As a result of their newly discovered commonality and burgeoning friendship, the very idea of a Draco/Hermione ship ends up feeling so much more plausible and even probable because of the foundation which Shiv establishes here.
In many ways, Hermione and Draco are still the same basic people at the beginning of the fic as they are at the end. The difference is that Hermione’s kindness and Draco’s trust have allowed them, and those observing them, to see things better, including their areas of common ground. Note how Hermione acknowledges mid-fic that Draco has no need to prove his courage, as his inherent bravery had long since been established the night he faced Dumbledore with a lowered wand. Would she have been as quick to acknowledge that valor before she saw him showing kindness in this story? Now, she looks at him and instantly sees the strengths that were already present.
Shiv therefore overcomes all of those hurdles I first mentioned, without even directly addressing most of them. And to my mind, any author who can manage to do all of that so concisely in such a believable, poignant and captivating narrative, all without pages and pages of talking and angst, deserves serious kudos. Brava, Shiv!