I Know Not, and I Cannot Know; Yet I Live and I Love

By billowsandsmoke

Status: Complete, Word Count: 31,800, Pairing: None

Read the Fic Here: https://archiveofourown.org/works/6693841

Summary: “Severus Snape has his emotions in check. He knows that he experiences anger and self-loathing and a bitter yearning, and that he rarely deviates from that spectrum… Until the first-year Luna Lovegood arrives to his class wearing a wreath of baby’s breath. Over the next six years, an odd friendship grows between the two, and Snape is not sure how he feels about any of it.”

My Thoughts: I Know, and I Cannot Know; Yet I Live and I Love is an odd little canon-compliant fic that explores a potential relationship (no, not the romantic kind) that could have grown and developed between Snape and Luna over their six shared years at Hogwarts: her as a student and him as a teacher. It does not have much of a plot to speak of, as it simply follows canon, but is instead both a character study of Snape as he is presented in canon: really getting into his head and exploring what makes him tick (and what it would take for him to begin to be redeemed), as well the effect that Luna has on the world around her, through her unwavering outward presentation of optimism and contentment.

I’ll begin by saying that the actual prose of the story is admittedly clunky. There are lots of things to nitpick about it, and many clauses that run on for far too long. If the whole thing had been tightened up a little bit, it could have been closer to 20,000 words long, and probably a hell of a lot more evocative and impactful as a result. However, I think Billows does a solid job working with the writing ability they had at their disposal. Despite my somewhat lukewarm feelings regarding the prose, I still found that there was emotional resonance to be had throughout. Snape’s interactions with Luna are very engaging and enthralling to read about, and watching his subtle transformation unfold before my eyes was as touching as it was impressive. This fic never engages in canon!Snape apologetics like many fics do, but instead took the approach of acknowledging the flaws Snape had (trust me, plenty of child bullying is done at his hand), exploring why he is the way he is, and ultimately showing that truly despicable people are still capable of doing good things. This comes with a nuance that many fanfics lack, but I think the true genius of this particular premise comes from Billows’ choice of perception.

Using Luna Lovegood to explore Snape’s character is simply brilliant. Of all the characters in the series, they are perhaps the two least similar characters that exist, and as a result, watching them interact is just fucking priceless. There really isn’t any other word for it. As I previously mentioned, this fic does not shy away from portraying Snape as a shitty, pathetic person, and this is especially prevalent at the start. Much of this fic can be a bit touch to stomach at times, because the first portion of it is just Snape flinging abuse at a young girl who just….refuses to fight back. But where it starts to become interesting is when I began to notice his gradual change. First his justifications for being so shitty to her shift over to something resembling a twisted sense of nobility, and then the way he treats her just….gradually transforms. This not only leads to a deeply interesting character arc, but it allows the fic to make small, mundane actions into touching character moments.

This fic also doesn’t have what many would qualify as a happy ending. As I said, it is canon-compliant to the end, and it does nothing to undercut that. But at the same time, much of the ending feels bitter-sweet, and the cherry on top is the small epilogue at the end, from Harry’s perspective. All it features is a simple conversation between him and Luna, at the location of Snape’s grave, and so much subtle characterization (as well as the completion of multiple character arcs) is done that it kind of boggles my mind. This motherfucker managed to work in a plausibly canon-compliant explanation for why Harry named his son Albus Severus, without ever drawing attention to the fact that he did it, and I honestly love him for it.

If the prose was stronger, this fic would be in the running for another Crusade-Worthy placement, but as it stands, I don’t think I can justify putting it there. Nevertheless, I think most other aspects of this fic are on point. It’s not very plot-driven, but if you enjoy interesting twists and extrapolations on canon, along with a healthy dose of compelling character work, then I see no reason why you wouldn’t enjoy it.

Tier: Top Tier

Written on 03/13/2022

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