Reviewed by Kathryn A on 5th February 2012 (3)
Tags: Novel, AU, Alternate History, World Building, Abusive Dursleys, Manipulative Dumbledore, Slytherin Harry, Snape-meets-Dursleys, Friendly Draco, Friendly Lucius, Mentor, Adoption, First Year AU
Characters: Harry Potter, Severus Snape, Draco Malfoy
(1860K, 345592 words)
Summary: 11 yr old Harry misses the Hogwarts Express. Snape is sent to find out why. What he finds changes any preconceived notions he might have had about the Boy-Who-Lived. AU, manipulative!Dumbledore, DE's, Voldy, but no horcruxes.
Another first-year AU, another epic, another abusive!Dursleys story. Why do I keep reading them? Because I like Snape, I like seeing a Snape who meets Harry in different circumstances and loves Harry for the sake of his mother rather than hating Harry for the sake of his father. Such a theme never gets old for me, so long as the execution is good.
And here, the execution is good. Not perfect, mind you. There are some mistakes, some stumbles, some loose ends, and a few times when the author does a bit of an info-dump in the late part of the story about something that happened in an earlier part of the story, where I felt like saying "yes, I know this already, get on with it!" Also, the story suffers from one of the fanfiction.net scene-separator massacres, so one has to be careful in figuring out when there's been a change of scene. But the characterisation is good, the world-building is good, there is a mix of action and relationship-building, not just between Snape and Harry, but with other people too.
If I told you what happened, if I told you how it ended, you would justifiably scoff at how unbelievable it was; these characters would never behave like that! But I tend to give an author one "what-if" for free. What if the Dursleys were much more abusive than in canon? After all, that's the premise of a story such as this. But even if you give the Dursleys their free "what-if", you would still think the other characters such as the Malfoys, the Grangers, and Dumbledore, simply wouldn't behave like that. And yet the author convinces you because she allows it to creep up on you slowly. And she roots it in canon. That's why it works. What if Lucius really had been put under the Imperius curse when he was a Death Eater? What if Hermione's obsession with books had something deeper to it? What if the seemingly crazy actions of Dumbledore had reasons behind them?
Yes, I say "seemingly crazy actions" because when you look back on it from the perspective of the whole series, a lot of Dumbledore's actions did not make sense. Don't read this story if you didn't have at least one moment of "what was Dumbledore thinking?" when you were reading the Harry Potter series. If you can't bear a shades-of-grey Dumbledore, you won't like this story. If you're open to an interpretation of a possible Dumbledore who manipulates people for the sake of the Greater Good, then I think you'll be okay with it.
Another thing I like about this story is the themes: what it means to be a family; learning from your mistakes. Again, these themes don't just apply to Snape and Harry, but to other characters, in big and small ways.
A good story. Set aside a fair amount of time for it, because it is Epic.