2. The 'A Bittersweet Potion' Series
authors: Alchemia Dent and Bugland
fandom: Harry Potter
rating: chapters vary from PG through NC-17, for psychological stress, graphic sex, and graphic violence
summary: Harry Potter gains the powers of a super-animagus, able to transform into anything. In the form of a cat, he is adopted by Snape, which leads to a complicated relationship. This isn't the only problem he has: Harry also has to deal with his bond to Voldemort and the more mundane struggle with identity that every teenager goes through.
status: WIP; 3 books finished, 1 in progress, several to come
rec poinds: +5
Beginning with such a simple premise - Harry becomes Snape's cat, this story moves on to cover complex issues brilliantly. Though several themes wind through the four books, foremost is that of identity and the search for it. When Harry receives the ability to change his form, he finds that his grasp of self is even more tenuous than ever before. Suddenly, not only is he The Boy Who Lived, Just Harry, and Voldemort-Through-Visions, but he is Snape's Cat. The problem escalates when he discovers a sexual attraction to Severus, and then again when he initiates a soul bond, which allows him to see Severus's thoughts and memories. Meanwhile, Harry is a fifteen-year-old boy who is struggling to gain maturity and acceptance, just as his peers are doing. He is lost and confused much of the time, with rare, thin strands of confidence when he knows what he wants.
The imagery is at times subtle, but always strong, giving a sense of loss and confusion that permeates each chapter, echoing the feelings of both Harry and Severus. For not only is Harry struggling to define himself and grow up, but Severus, too, is attempting to do the same, having never had a chance to be truely independent, with no one else for master. Their responses are stiking in similarity, yet completely opposite. In their cravings for affection, neither knows what to do, but while Harry clings to Severus, the older man grows colder and shoves Harry (and everyone else) away. These similarities and differences are cleverly highlighted by the occasional chapter written in Severus's point of view by Bug, though the majority of the novels are seen through Harry's eyes as written by Al.
The NC-17 rating is earned several times over, but do not think that it is a smutty story. Yes, there is sex, but it is deftly woven into the scenes as necessarily as the violence shown. Indeed, for every heartwarming sex-scene, there are at least two more that invoke cringing horror, whether as seen through Harry-as-Voldemort, or between Harry and Severus themselves. In reference to the latter, no two people as unsure about their places or acceptance can have a healthy relationship, though it is attempted. Yet even the violence and sex pale in comparison to the powerfully psychological content. With the former two removed, the pyschologically disturbing material alone would keep the rating high - it is not for the weak of heart or stomach.
However, that is not to say the entire epic is dark. There are very few fluffy chapters in the second or third novels (Procul His and Purification), but both A Bittersweet Potion and The River have plenty. As with the presentation of points of view, the lighter scenes are skillfully interspersed as necessary, adding further depth to an already well-designed plot. It is unfortunate that these scenes never last long, but their marks perpetuate, as in the stars Harry places on the ceiling of Severus's bedroom.
There is very little that could be improved upon. As previously mentioned, the imagery is fantastic and the tale is deftly woven. The darkness is offset by lightness, and each is as necessary as day and night. The themes present are portrayed by people who have experienced the issues (or something like them) themselves, therefore creating very convincing arguments for why things are so. If anything, the story is so complex that it could use occasional summaries to remind the reader of previous events. The epic might be separated into books, but they may very well be termed 'volumes,' because of how even the earliest events play important roles later on. This requires the reader to go back and reread earlier parts, which after 3 novels and another half a novel can take quite a long time, and small details can be forgotten.
I highly recommend this series to anyone who can stand the scenes necessitating the rating. It transcends 'snarry' or 'Harry becomes a cat' into so much more, it ought to be required reading for anyone wanting a deep, complex novel. If Bug and Al weren't constantly editing and improving the earlier books, it would hold a special place in my library of fic, and it is the reason I created the +5 recommendation points.