The first time I read “slash” fanfiction, it was in the Harry Potter fandom on Livejournal. The first time I encountered “slash” fanfiction, it was in a different fandom altogether. It took me a while to come around to the idea of reading it. Looking back, there was definitely a deep-seated feeling of fear associated with the little jolt I felt at seeing gay pairings listed in these works. When I finally got past that, I was a junior in high school, reconnecting with a friend who I’d been super tight with in middle school but hadn’t spent much time with since. I’d only recently read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, despite it having been released almost a year prior. I wasn’t ready for the series to end, so I put it off.
Plus, I was angry. I was going through a significant amount of personal trauma. Among intense familial issues, I was also struggling to fight my growing attraction to women, something that made me worry I would be disowned by my family. I was depressed. I was struggling to hold onto friendships that had made me feel validated and safe even as I watched them slip through my fingers like so much sand. It was a lot to handle, and although Harry Potter had always provided me with solace, at the time, I just couldn’t get in the headspace to read it.
Then, the friend I mentioned above asked me if I had read The Shoebox Project. My answer was a simple “no”. I hadn’t even heard of it. She seemed genuinely stunned by that, given my propensity for reading fanfiction at every possible opportunity. Then she told me it was a Marauders-era fic featuring Remus and Sirius as one of its main pairings, alongside James and Lily. I balked. She gave me side-eye.
We spent the rest of the night talking about fanfiction, gay characters, and J.K. Rowling’s refusal to acknowledge Remus and Sirius in the text of the Harry Potter books. It was an eye-opening conversation, though it made my heart race the entire time. Had she figured out that I wasn’t straight? Is that why she was recommending this fic to me?
The next day, I went home and actually read it. The Shoebox Project is a mixed-media transformative fanwork combining fanfiction, fanart, and a carefully cultivated collection of notes from the Marauders to each other. It’s expansive, and beautiful, and is considered by many to be supplemental, pre-series Harry Potter canon. Personally, anything I read that goes against The Shoebox Project‘s narrative gets put down as an AU in my head. Sometimes, that even includes Rowling’s actual books.
Once I read The Shoebox Project, it was like my entire world had shifted. I devoured Remus and Sirius fanfiction like it was the only nourishment I would ever need. I fell deep into stories wherein Sirius survived the Department of Mysteries, or never went to begin with; I became familiar with shipper terms for different eras of the pairing, including “lie low at Lupin’s”, a Dumbledore quote that launched some of the most heartbreaking fanfiction I’ve ever read. Remus and Sirius rapidly climbed to the top of my list of all-time favorite ships, a #1 spot they’ve maintained for over a decade.
Beyond establishing a rapidly-growing love for them, Remus and Sirius fanfiction also made me realize some of the most glaring issues within the canon of Harry Potter. Rowling’s insistence upon making her characters straight and binary suddenly glared at me when I dove into a re-read that summer. When Deathly Hallows was released, I struggled through piles of grief over the characters lost but also a deep, pervasive anger at how some of them were written before their deaths.
It no longer seemed right for Remus to marry Tonks; Rowling’s motivations for shoehorning either of them into a heteronormative relationship angered me beyond belief. I discovered, through chats with other fans and research of my own, that Remus’ lycanthropy was written as a metaphor for AIDS, which meant Rowling blatantly co-opted a queer narrative for a character she refused to make canonically queer. Supposedly, she discovered the vast swaths of Remus and Sirius fanworks on the internet and opted to marry Remus off in Half-Blood Prince to prove the fans wrong. Whether or not that’s true, it feels deliberate that she married Remus and Tonks just one book after Sirius’ death.
In 2017, I still get angry just thinking about how poorly Remus was treated by Rowling’s narrative. Sirius, too, though to a lesser extent. He never had a canonical love interest aimed at blatantly disregarding the way LGBTQ fans had (rightfully) read into a queer-coded narrative and come out feeling bolstered by his presence in such a phenomenally popular series. Then again, he died two full books before Remus, so perhaps that’s the only reason why.
In many ways, Remus and Sirius began what has become a deep passion for wanting more LGBTQ representation in the pop culture I consume. I have spent more time in the last decade debating and discussing Rowling’s treatment of these characters and their relationship than I have discussing any other component of the Harry Potter books. I use them as an example when I discuss representation in children’s literature. I remind anyone and everyone who will listen that AIDS was called “The Gay Plague” when the epidemic started spreading in the US. Frequently, I point out that what an author says is not the same as what they write — so no, Rowling proclaiming that Dumbledore was gay doesn’t make it canon. Not if it’s not in the books.
And I reiterate that if it’s not explicitly stated in canon, it’s entirely up to interpretation. That’s the beauty of literature; once it’s in the hands of the reader, the author is dead. Sorry, Rowling. Your straight-washing won’t stop us from queer-coding these characters.
Queer-coding, for many of us, has been a necessary practice for finding representation of people like us in the fiction we consume. That’s slowly beginning to change. LGBTQ characters are cropping up more frequently, especially in children’s books. Rick Riordan has a cast of characters so diverse in his Percy Jackson universe that some of his POV characters are gay and even genderqueer. That’s incredible. But it doesn’t change the fact that LGBTQ fans are still forced to read between the lines more often than not. And for LGBTQ Harry Potter fans, the cast is rife with characters who can easily be interpreted as existing outside the cis-heteropatriarchy.
Remus and Sirius certainly played a part in helping me figure out my sexuality. Beyond that, however, they drove me to think critically about the media I consume and to re-think media I’ve loved. To the fans who took these characters and wrote them into fanfiction, drew them into fanart, or otherwise let them be as in love as they were always supposed to be: thank you. I owe you. And I’m still recommending your work to people now, a decade after I started to consume it.
And Now, A Remus and Sirius Fanfiction Rec List
- The Shoebox Project by dorkorific and ladyjaida
A multimedia, collaborative fanfiction exploring the Marauders in their school years. Rated Mature.
- Stealing Harry by copperbadge
In an alternate universe where Sirius Black never went to Azkaban, Harry divides his life between the Dursleys’ house and Mr. Black’s bookshop — until Sirius realises what the Dursleys are doing to him, and takes him away from their care. Rated Mature.
- A Bright Particular Star by flambeau
Remus and Sirius celebrate their last Christmas at Hogwarts. Rated Mature.
- Promised Eternity (A Ring of Endless Light Remix) by victoria_p (musesfool)
When he falls through the veil, Sirius is taken back to the night he told James and Lily to make Peter their Secret Keeper. And, knowing what he does now, he makes a different choice. Rated Mature.
- Christmas 1977 by thistlerose
Remus and Sirius look for a separate peace. Rated Mature.