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Could This Fanfiction Actually Be the Best ‘Harry Potter’ Novel?

"You like ... are magic, you know?"

Remus Lupin and Sirius Black (played by David Thewlis and Gary Oldman) stand in the Shrieking Shack in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I have been living in transformative fandom spaces for 20 years, more or less, because I was a kid with incredibly unsupervised internet access who wasn’t going to let something silly like a language barrier stop her from scouring FanFiction.Net. And in all those 20 years, there are very few things that still boggle my mind like the whole Harry Potter universe.

I’m sure the facts are pretty much common knowledge by now—how J.K.Rowling is the poster woman for TERFs and is immensely proud of it, how the warning signs were kind of always there in Harry Potter (but not every reader had the means to understand them at the time), how playing one game that allows you to be a Hogwarts student isn’t worth the actual tangible harm that supporting the Wizarding World franchise does to people.

What confuses me, though, isn’t the fact that an author revealed herself to be an active supporter of anti-trans policies who is using her considerable monetary and social wealth to actively harm people—not that it’s not horrible and shameful, of course, because it very much is. But what I still can’t really wrap my head around is how much the fandom has taken on a whole new life of its own, and much more so than with other properties. It’s a fascinating phenomenon, really.

Hermione Granger is sorted into Gryffindor by the Sorting Hat in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
(Warner Bros.)

Now, I might be biased in the sense that I grew up with Harry Potter and there’s no downplaying the impact this saga had on me. Then again, I think it’s a pretty objective thing that anyone can observe. It’s a story written by a very conservative woman, who poured much of her personal beliefs into it, and that has somehow cemented itself in the minds of readers as something completely different; something that lives on in transformative fandom spaces in a way that has become very distinct from its canon. 

Fans have been transforming the original Harry Potter story pretty much from the very start, thinking critically about the world and its rules, filling in plot holes, diversifying and queering its cast, and delving deep into side characters barely mentioned in the source material. And sure, this is all very standard transformative fan work; look at any decade-old fandom and you’ll find years and years of incredible headcanons that have taken on a life of their own.

Still, I think the Harry Potter fandom takes it to a whole new level. Maybe because the characters mean so much to readers, many of whom decided they needed to be wrenched out of the hands of their terrible author. If you need proof, just look at All the Young Dudes.

What is All the Young Dudes, exactly?

Let’s start with the facts. All the Young Dudes is a fanfiction written by Archive of Our Own user MsKingBean89 and posted between March 2017 and November 2018. It sits at 118 chapters (plus some extra scenes and snippets posted throughout its publication) and clocks in at a whopping 526,969 words—almost half the length of the entire Harry Potter series, which is 1,084,170 words. Honestly, the incredible gift that fanfic writers give to us all on the regular will never cease to amaze me.

The story starts in the early ’70s and focuses on Remus Lupin, wizard and werewolf, as he embarks on his Hogwarts journey and meets the group of people who will change his life forever—in particular James Potter, Sirius Black, and Peter Pettigrew, with whom he’ll found the infamous Marauders. 

The Marauders Harry Potter
We didn’t see much of the Marauders in the Harry Potter movies, but their most prominent scene was in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Warner Bros)

The Marauders first come into play in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where we learn of Harry’s father and his friends. The group was hellbent on making mischief throughout Hogwarts when they were students, and immediately signed up to fight in the first wizarding war against Voldemort. 

Even though there isn’t an abundance of details about them in canon, fans have latched onto them from the very beginning. It’s something about their friendship at Hogwarts, where they learned how to become Animagi to keep Remus company during the full moon; it’s the tragedy of their end, with James and Lily dying and Sirius getting thrown into Azkaban for a crime he didn’t commit; it’s Remus and Sirius meeting again after 12 years, only to die shortly after. 

There has always been plenty of fanwork about them, including the iconic 2010s fancasts that have by now become legend—so much so that Ben Barnes and Andrew Garfield are both very well-aware they’ve been cast as Sirius and Remus, respectively—but then All the Young Dudes came along and cemented the fandom’s headcanon into its own sort of canon.

Is All the Young Dudes canon?

So no, All the Young Dudes isn’t canon. It wasn’t written by J.K. Rowling and therefore isn’t part of the official Wizarding World—then again, that’s just a technicality. We’re in the business of transformative fanwork, after all. And that means that for many fans, myself included, All the Young Dudes is the prequel to Harry Potter, and that’s the end of the story.

Like all good prequels in which you know things are going to end horribly—looking at you Star Wars prequel trilogy—All the Young Dudes absolutely tears your heart apart and leaves you an emotional mess when you’re done reading. And that’s just an added bonus.

Is All the Young Dudes LGBT?

That’s because All the Young Dudes isn’t just a beautifully written story of friends and war and happiness and loss. It’s also a love story that chronicles how Remus and Sirius meet, become friends, fall in love, and get absolutely ripped to pieces by the war. It’s glorious. It’s heart-wrenching. I love it so much.

Remus and Sirius being shipped together—with the ship name Wolfstar, which is just perfection—is nothing new. I would argue that the queer subtext has always been there, even if Rowling didn’t mean for it to be, or added it in with malicious intent.

Harry Potter hugs Sirius Black and Remus Lupin in Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix
Sometimes I think about an alternative universe in which Sirius and Remus raise Harry and I have to take several minutes to calm myself down. (Warner Bros.)

You can’t just create two characters—one ostracized by society for his otherness and one actively rebelling against his conservative, fascist family—and expect people not to read some queerness into it. And let’s not forget that passage in Chapter 5 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix where Remus stares at Sirius for forty uninterrupted lines. Forty. I rest my case.

All the Young Dudes makes the story of Remus and Sirius realistic and beautiful, immersing it in its historical and cultural context and delivering on the high stakes the characters are living through. But it’s not just Wolfstar that MsKingBean89 takes to new heights— the whole werewolf subplot is a masterclass in writing, taking the scraps that J.K.Rowling has bothered to tell us about this particular part of the wizarding world and transforming them into an incredibly meaningful character arc for Remus.

Remus Lupin (David Thewlis) talks with Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) in 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban'
(Warner Bros.)

And that’s without mentioning the perfection that is the character of Grant Chapman, or the way ATYD expands on some members of the original Order of the Phoenix who were barely mentioned, like Marlene McKinnon and Mary Macdonald. Or the beautiful soundtrack that each chapter is given, perfectly in keeping with the actual time period and always relevant to that particular story beat. Or even how Remus himself is much different from his canon counterpart, and yet so much more compelling, angry, gentle, brave, and selfish—all at the same time.

How many books are in All the Young Dudes?

All the Young Dudes started out as a fanfiction that operates in chapters rather than separate books. The whole story develops in that single fanfic, while the other works in the related series on Archive of our Own are short stories, snippets, and the beautiful extra epilogue titled Out of the Blue.

Still, fans have taken to dividing the entire work into three separate books. Book One follows the Marauders from their first year at Hogwarts until the end of their fourth, Book Two tackles years five through seven, and Book Three, aptly dubbed “’Til the End,” chronicles the events of the first wizarding war and its aftermath. 

(image: Warner Bros.)

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Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading. She loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. A Targaryen stan first and a human second. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.