...And yes, SS/HG fic still disturbs and intrigues me by turns. I was dumb enough to go trolling for it on ff.n today - yeah, yeah, I know. Breeding ground for Mary Sues and all that. Still, I held out hope, because I've found what I thought were decent fics there before. Hell, I posted there before the NC-17 thing. (For the record, I had no smut on the site. Goodness, I can't write the stuff without blushing. I left in support of my fellow slashers.) If I could find one that was reasonably well-done, where Hermione doesn't get raped and Snape doesn't self-harm or get drunk on a regular basis, I'd be happy. Nothing against people who do those things, but... well. It's kinda silly to put a character through such extreme things when said character has potential problems already.
Overworked!Hermione I can handle. Stress and sleep deprivation trigger depression and health problems; both are issues that are plenty meaty. She's a perfectionist, and while it's true that society tends to pressure perfectionists into things like self-harm (of all forms, EDs included), one must consider that Hogwarts is part of a different society altogether. She sees her parents during the summer and on certain school holidays. That's maybe four months of twelve. She spends the other 2/3 of her year with wizards, so naturally she's going to be influenced by them. By the time she's gotten to the age and to the point where she falls apart in all of these fanfics, she's been part of wizarding society for a good six years. If you are immersed in a culture for that long, with comparatively brief breaks, whose conventions are you going to typically follow? And until I hear that Parvati slices her arms up every night or that Lavender regularly pukes in Myrtle's stall after meals, I'm not going to believe that it's so prevalent among wizards. Call me stubborn, call me discriminatory (gods, you won't be the first) and guess what? Not going to change my mind until JKR gives us some basis in canon.
You may ask me "then why do you slash this fandom?" and the answer is "I don't." At least, not actively. This is that rare, mostly-het fandom for me. I find slash pairings almost impossible to believe here, if I'm going by the books, with the exception of Sirius/Remus, and that's mostly because of Book 3. For some reason, that pairing stood out as one of the more plausible ones. Also, I suppose the Quidditch team is a breeding ground. But that's as far as I'll go and still claim basis somewhere in canon! *shrug* I consider a lot of HP slash to be mild AU for this reason - there really isn't much indication, if any, in the books that these characters dig each other. With The Sentinel, there's the Sentinel and Guide thing, plus the staggering amount of touching that Jim and Blair do. With Enterprise, it's a lot of actors sharing a lot of heated looks. There's Trip/Malcolm potential, as well as Archer/just about anyone. (Even Shran... actually, that's more plausible than Archer/T'Pol in my book.) But with Harry Potter, we didn't have actors until the films. Not only that, but the chemistry in the movies is nearly completely absent from the books. The actors helped, but if the actors are doing all the work... well, where exactly is your basis in canon? So yes, I do consider much Potterslash to be AU, and it doesn't stop me enjoying the stories. It just won't convince me that this is the path JKR would have chosen or will choose.
(Damn, I wish I could do my author project on fandom instead.) Going back to variants on damaged!Hermione-and-Snape...
Morbid-and-depressed!Snape I can see, but I picture him showing those almost the same way he shows everything in canon - with arrogance and a dry wit. In fact, I would make a case for that being his state during the books. He's mildly bitter about his experiences, and can you blame him? Talk about your checkered past. I can also see him isolating himself, but not because he wants to hurt himself. Rather, he's not like the rest of Hogwarts; would you willingly associate with teenagers if you were Snape? And the staff's no better. Maybe the Arithmancy professor could keep up, and even McGonagall, but for the most part, I'd say Hufflepuffs just don't get where Snape's coming from (they're complete opposites) and Gryffindors are far too noble and good. Ravenclaws could get along with him, but they'd have to be sharp enough and just crafty enough to understand his point of view. As for Slytherins, think about the man's role. He's spying on their mummies and daddies. He may act the role of benevolent Head of House, but he's not going to drop his masks around them. That's far too dangerous. Who does he have left? In some fannish 'verses, Draco goes good. I don't think there's enough basis in canon yet to make that assumption; then again, "yet" is the operative word. Book 5 may change everyone's perception of Harry Potter.
[a/n: it didn't. hoo boy, did it ever make things stay the same!]
So arrogance and lack of trust do factor in. Also, there might be fear of possibly getting someone else into trouble like his involved. There's a little nobility in Snape; there has to be if he's spying for Dumbledore. This would explain why so many authors see him as being protective of Hermione. I just can't understand why they think he'd wait for her to be raped and/or abducted before his protective instincts kick in. There's almost some of Jim Ellison in this character; both use unusual resources (heightened senses, special connections and Potions talent) to protect a "tribe" (Cascade, Hogwarts). Is it so illogical to think that perhaps he's already doing something to keep the students safe, and that said something is not going to fail as soon as Hermione is of age? It would, in fact, be more logical to think he's going to be even more careful as Harry and his mates age. Even he isn't so blinded by the past to see what a mind Hermione has. If nothing else, she's worth protecting because of her intellect. (It would, in fact, be dangerous to send him out spying if he's still dwelling that much on past events. One must be able to focus on a mission and not lose objectivity.)
Protective!Snape is a lot more logical than wreck!Snape. We know canon!Snape can function; what we do not know for sure is how well, but we get some indication of that by the number of roles he juggles. Sane men would have trouble with teaching while spying on the side; a man who was on the skids, as so many authors persist in stating, would fall apart due to the teaching alone. So we'll presume he's sane for now. Then we start lurching towards the other extreme of bad characterization - hyper-protective-and-sappy!Snape. That's as unbelievable as completely-strung-out!Snape, if only because any warmth in his personality was buried long ago by events and his own choosing. Heck, it's rare to find a healthy man who's as much of a Prince Charming as this Snape is. I may as well keep drawing comparisons with TS fanfiction - it bugs me like nothing else when Jim starts dropping a "sweetheart" here and a "baby" there in reference to Blair. Blair is as much of a man as Jim - he's actually even braver when you consider that he never intended to become a cop's observer and de facto partner. It is likewise with Snape and Hermione. I doubt spying ever really crossed her mind in the first four books, although keep in mind that as the books progress, she begins to take matters into her own hands and do a bit of sneaky work. She's a capable woman; she does not necessarily need coddling. I don't trust a version of Hermione without backbone. I don't trust sniveling-and-whining!Hermione much at all, because to me, that's not how she'd react. She'd slap some sense into Snape if he needed it, but I don't know that he would need it as often as authors claim. So when these authors throw these two together, I'm more inclined to believe the version that has Hermione adjusting fairly well. She has the brains and the fortitude, as has already been demonstrated by JKR. She does not need a hovering man who calls her "darling" every five minutes and thinks she's some sort of hothouse flower. (That's Viktor Krum. ^__^) What she does need in a situation where she's got to be a spy, or otherwise put herself in danger, is a partner who can back her up and make her feel useful at the same time. I'm sorry, but taking away part of what JKR has already demonstrated is Hermione's personality is pretty bad characterization - and having Snape pick up the pieces for that Hermione is just as bad.
By now, you may be asking "why write these two, then?" Well, there's still plenty to explore. Spying is enough of an adventure for authors like John Le Carre and Ian Fleming to write multiple novels on the topic; why can't it be just as much of an adventure in HP? No, it's not going to be all brightness and sun, but it's not like Hermione's got a giant sign on her back reading "Rape me!" There are other forms of torture that are just as, if not more, effective. Also, if you're going to write these two in a romantic relationship, please consider that due to intellectual and societal factors, their courting is almost certain to lack hearts and flowers. I can see them getting to know each other slowly as part of a joint mission. I can even see her getting a crush on him out of the blue, although I can't fathom how she'd be dumb enough to act on it. Both Hermione and Snape seem the types to woo prospective partners using their weapons of choice: finely honed minds. Hermione may have used her looks to snag Viktor in Book 4, but that took some planning and no small amount of cleverness. When these characters finally listen to their gonads, the lust explosion will be huge. In order to have such a huge explosion, there's got to be a lot of potential energy buildup. She's not going to wake up one morning and say "Oh, the sun's out, brilliant, and by the way, I want to shag Sev." Nor is he going to say "Hmmm, she's a cute student. Wonder if she likes it doggie style?"
A meeting of minds can be just as romantic as the latest chick flick, if you know how to milk the situation for all it's worth. Use what your imagination and JKR give you. If you think it could happen and you don't plan on making either Hermione or Snape blatantly OOC (and yes, that means you can't use a crapload of adult contemporary ballads as incidental music. argh.) then go for it. If, on the other hand, you're using this pairing as a cypher for some other situation - or even, gods help you, as a Mary Sue - then please reconsider posting. It's not fun to read through five pages of fic on ff.n and come up with one story that's moderately readable.