Status: Complete, Word Count: 34,700, Pairing: Harry Potter/Hermione Granger, Genre: Angst/Mystery
Read the Fic Here: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/13108396/1/For-Lack-of-a-Bezoar
Summary: “Canon Divergence from HBP. When Harry fails to save Ron’s life in Slughorn’s office, he and Hermione are thrust into a search for answers. But the path is thornier than either of them could have possibly imagined.”
My Thoughts: As you could probably tell from the summary, For Lack of a Bezoar is a short story that asks the question “what if Ron died in Slughorn’s office in sixth year, when he drinks the poisoned mead?” The answer is, apparently, a gripping and gritty action thriller that grapples with themes of grief, guilt, and love. Also, as this is a BolshevikMuppet fic, (you know, the author of the infamous Downward Spiral Saga), lots of brutality, darkness and insanity ensues. All told, this is a fairly short story, and I think it can be roughly divided into three acts. Act One chronicles Ron’s death and the immediate reactions of his family and friends, Act Two tells the story of Harry and Hermione’s bloody and brutal attempts at taking revenge against those who were involved in Ron’s death, and Act Three follows the war through to its immediate aftermath, before giving a touching, bittersweet resolution.
So as you can probably already tell, I think this fic is excellent. It has an excellent, well-crafted plot (mostly), it has absolutely stellar characterization (all of the time), and generally speaking, it’s very well written and does a great job emoting without holding my hand through the emotions. So that’s what I’m going to be talking about, in that order. So let’s do this!
The thing that works about this fic’s plot is that it’s both deceptively simple and shockingly unpredictable. Like from the way it starts out, and the way Draco Malfoy is…let’s say handled by Hermione and Harry, you would then assume that, when they turn their sights on Snape and Dumbledore, a similar fate will befall them. However, in a truly masterful twist, the Dumbledore assassination attempt ends with a genuinely emotionally touching, yet incredibly tense scene in which they discuss their differences and which ultimately culminates in Harry and Hermione coming to agree with him! It’s a brilliant twist, derived purely from expectations established through tone and knowledge of the genre, and that was the moment when I realized that this fic might just be something special. But the crazy thing is, that’s only the very, very beginning of the madness.
From then on, we get a few scenes wrapping up year six, eventually culminating in Dumbledore’s death (although through different means than in canon), and then it’s off to the war! This is where I think this fic displays another excellent strength, which is that Bolshevik completely avoids showing us rehashes of canon events. If something will happen in an even vaguely similar way to canon, it will be skipped over so the story can stay focused on the things that actually matter. This is a fantastic choice, and I support it whole-heartedly. It not only keeps the plot lean and interesting, but it makes room for some genuinely fantastic character moments, which….oh boy howdy will we get to that soon. But anyway, the last proper chapter is easily the longest in the fic, and it chronicles the actual war against Voldemort, and I don’t know what else to say except that it’s a straight up incredible finale. I don’t even want to get into it too much, because that’d be talking spoilers, but I’ll just say that it follows Harry, Hermione, Dean, Luna, and Remus as they go full on vigilante mode against Voldemort’s forces. It’s not the most original concept ever, but the set of characters used is unique and the execution is masterful. Kreacher and Snape are also pretty involved, and are both given some excellent characterization. In fact, I genuinely think that this might be the best version of Snape I’ve ever read in a fanfic. But more on that in a bit. Anyway, it all comes together absolutely beautifully, and the epilogue ends in a really nice bittersweet place.
In terms of characterization, this fic fucking shines. I was never all that impressed with any of the characters in Downward Spiral Saga, and I am so, so happy that he got better at writing them between fics, because holy shit his take on basically everyone is genuinely stellar. It says a lot about a man’s talent when he can write canon Snape but get me to genuinely like him after he goes through some growth. Dean is also a fairly memorable character here, and Remus was one of my absolute favorites! While none of Voldemort’s death eaters are particularly memorable (nor is Voldemort himself, for that matter), I don’t think that’s a problem here, as Voldemort isn’t really the point of the story. This is the story of Harry and Hermione and the journey they go on, and not wasting time building up a super intriguing villain was probably the right here. Although I’m probably partially saying this because Harry and Hermione are both fantastic. I was talking the other day about how I wanted to see a good take on dark!Harmony, and this is about as close to that as I’ve seen before. Their corruption feels very natural and like something that genuinely could have happened had Ron died at this point in canon, their raw grief is genuinely powerful, and their relationship is fantastically built to. However, my personal favorite character in this story is Ronald Weasley, and that is saying something, because he only gets one scene at the very end. But oh man, does Bolshevik make the most of this scene! It’s emotionally poignant, managing to payoff every single scene involving Harry grieving up until this point, and it just hit me like an absolute ton of bricks. This fic managed to get me to tear up twice in the last two chapters, and that’s an extremely impressive feat right there. Well done, Bolshevik. Well done indeed.
The writing is also very good. Not much to say here, it just is. Lots of showing emotions, rather than just telling me what people are feeling, the dialogue flowed pretty well, and I just thought the prose were very solid, if not particularly exceptional.
Now, I’ve been pretty much only positive here, so I’ll throw off a few criticisms as well. First of all, this should have been longer. If more time had been spent with Harry and Hermione after Ron’s death, particularly between Draco’s murder and their going after Snape, I think this would have worked way better. Because Harry going fucking crazy and going off on Draco the way he did? Yeah, I can see that. He did a similar thing to Bellatrix in Order of the Phoenix. Hermione doing something similar? Yeah, I can also see that happening. She has a cruel, vindictive streak that’s showcased in canon a few times (see Marietta Edgecombe, Rita Skeeter, and Dolores Umbridge), and I definitely think it’s plausible for Ron’s death to completely unhinge her. However, I think that as is, their rapid descent stretches my suspension of disbelief a little bit. Because like, I understand that this fic makes dark magic have negative impacts on characters’ morality and soul, but it still would have worked way better if we had a bit more time to see Harry and Hermione simmer on the consequences and morality of their actions before proceeding, and I think a tad bit more of that could have been useful in the War chapter as well.
Also, this fic has a weird obsession with teeth that got a bit distracting at times. There are a lot of scenes where characters bare their teeth, and it was just weird. The one time it worked was when Lupin’s teeth became a bit pointier as anger filled him, that was a nice touch.
But yeah, other than that, For Lack of a Bezoar is genuinely fantastic. It’s consistently awesome and tragic from beginning to end, and it’s one of the better short stories I’ve read in the Harry Potter fandom. I highly recommend giving it a read, no matter what your tastes are, as it deserves more attention and love.
Tier: Top Tier
Written on 11/19/2021