Slashing the Text

I finished a long, wonderfully well written Harry/Draco fic last night, and caught myself wondering why, in the mad bad world of HP fanfiction, with its multitude of pairings, I read mostly slash.

And not just any slash. My favourite, as mentioned before, is Remus/Sirius slash. I have read the hell out of this pairing, and despaired for a time, thinking that I had read it ALL, but luckily the internet reminded me that it is a bottomless pit of time-wasting-but-super-entertaining literature, and threw a couple of gems my way. These have been bookmarked and categorized for a later time.

Apart from Sirius/Remus, I read Harry/Draco. I suppose this is because a) there is so much out there for this pairing, and again, you are unlikely to ever feel the crunch and lack of fics; b) one of my favourite fan fic SERIES, the Sacrifices Arc, revolves around this pairing and c) because it can be done so beautifully, requiring barely a flex of imaginative muscle for you to buy the premise, the mid-bits and indeed, the (usually) heart warming and knee-weakening conclusion.

When I read about Sirius’ confusion over his unanticipated feelings for Remus, about Draco’s nervous tingles when Harry’s fingers brush his arm, the lack of coordination and comprehension that haunts the characters as they fumble their way through the story, I’m not so much titillated as I am reminded of what it felt like to be a teenager and in love for the first time. I can recall the heady feelings that accompanied the eternal questions: ‘does he like me?’ ‘how will I know?’ ‘do I tell him?’ ‘am I too obvious?’. Yes, the non-slash romance fics also ask these questions, but given the social situation of most slash fics, the trepidation and anxiety is much more pressing.


While the world around us ensures that coming out as homosexual is a much more fraught and (apparently) political act than to declare heterosexual desire, I cannot, with a clean conscience, stand up and say that yes, I understand the anxiety of these boys in fan-written literature, that I know what it is they feel and struggle with when they admit to desire for their male friends. I do not know, I cannot and possibly never will be in that situation, but I can sympathize as best I might. I am of the firm opinion that first ‘love’, or crush or whatever you want to call it is the same, or should be the same, no matter who the object of that desire is. In an ideal world, that would be the case.

Slash fics, often enough, create that ideal world. In the ‘Sacrifices Arc’ for instance, there are a multitude of gay pairings (both male and female), homosexuality being an accepted and institutionalized aspect of wizarding society. From what I’ve read (admittedly limited, given the ocean out there), Harry/Draco fics seem to have a more permissive feel to them than the Remus/Sirius ones, often because, I would assume, Harry and Draco have so much more than social homophobia to deal with. Adding this to the  mix would just be cruel, don’t you think?

Aw. Bookworm Harry is so endearing.

Aw. Bookworm Harry is so endearing.


But in Sirius/Remus fics, I see a lot more of the ‘real world’. Given that the two are already friends  (if the writers are following canon, however loosely), how does one introduce drama and tension into their (new) relationship? It often comes in the form of disapproval, of disowning (for Sirius), of a new layer of insecurity and self-hatred (for Remus). This delays the utterance of feelings, leading to more mind-games, more doubt and finally, more emotion for a truly spectacular catharsis at the close. Trust me, it can be done spectacularly. Reference the Shoebox Project if you have any doubts on that score.

I read slash fiction because it is eternally new, celebrating aspects of relationship and romance that transcend sexual orientation and pooh-poohing all those who call homosexuality ‘unnatural’. I read it because it is, quite simply, hot.  I read it because there are amazing writers out there who have seen fit to celebrate friendships that, in the book, formed naught more than a background to a larger battle. There is a definite statement in the creation of this fiction, yes, reminding authors that the commercial profits of their creations are theirs alone, but the world they created is the fans’ to rove in and plunder. Given the current fraught condition of that word–‘homosexuality’–the reading of it into a mass-market children’s series is certainly a political act. It’s a reminder that there’s nothing unwholesome about these relationships, that they can exist (we insist sometimes, quite vociferously that they exist) in a magical, ‘child-friendly’ world.






17 thoughts on “Slashing the Text

      • It’s an illustration for a fanfic, I think. I know the artist did a bunch for a couple of fics my friend rec’d to me, and I think this was one of them. It was a Snape-Remus-Sirius triangle.

  1. I hadn’t thought much about it (although I should have, since I helped a friend write about this very subject for her university honors thesis), but I completely agree. I may have to look up this Sacrifices series you’re talking about; I don’t think I’ve read it.

    I think part of the slash attraction, too, is that there are many more “unattached” male characters in the Potter fandom that we know and love. Hermione gets Ron. Lily gets James. Ginny gets Harry. The boys, however, (Draco, Remus, Sirius, Harry) were all single for most of the series.

    I wonder if this has to do with gender expectations, now that I think about it. Lily is labeled “mother” from the beginning (even if the Marauders and Snape aren’t), but Hermione and Ginny weren’t seriously attached to anyone until the last book. Yet, we seem to feel more comfortable with pairing the boys with everyone under the son. Hermione and Ginny, however, tend to get one of the triad: Harry, Draco or Ron (not for Ginny).

    Anyway. Great post!

    • Thank you for a really thoughtful and thought provoking comment! It’s so rare to get these (or any comments at all, really!). That’s definitely an excellent point you raise and something I’ve never considered, the choice of character (to be written about) being a gendered thing. Do you think it’s because, as a society, we have long been conditioned and taught to write ‘male’ desire much more easily than female? Because we do not have the language (as many feminist writers would argue) to represent it (female desire and subjectivity) adequately? Does this unconsciously limit our choices of character in the HP universe and hence the various pairings they might enter into?

      I’d love to read your friend’s work. Any chance you could send it to me? And I just checked out your blog. Fascinating stuff. We must keep in touch. 🙂

      • As a writer, I haven’t had problems with representing female desire, so I think it’s more our comfort level than language. We’re used to talking about and thinking from the male perspective. It’s familiar, so it’s comfortable.

        I have to see if I can find her paper again, but I’ll send you a shout if I do find it. I’ll have to read the rest of your blog now that I have a free day. The skimming I did the first time was fascinating.

      • I was gesturing towards the larger ‘canon’ of writing rather than individual abilities, but yes, that was probably a very general (not to mention pretentious) thing to do. Is it because, unlike with the girls, we actually have moments where we get into the male characters’ heads (Harry, Snape) to see what exactly they feel when confronted with someone they desire? JKR mostly hints at (in the case of Hermione) or outrights states (such as with Ginny) their romantic preferences. Perhaps with the boys there is more nuance?

      • Most romance out there is from the female perspective. In fact, if we look back at the classical romance stories, they’re mostly from the female’s perspective. I can’t think of a story that has a male-centric perspective. But in those cases we’re focused on the romance more than a larger story, whereas in books like Harry Potter romance is secondary at best. Perhaps we have a harder time weaving romance in as a backstory to a more action or thriller-centric story from a female’s perspective.

        If that’s the case, then there’s a bigger problem. In that situation, it’s not that we don’t have the language to talk about female desire, but that we can’t talk about it in a way that doesn’t make that desire central to the story. That is worrisome, since females are often in male-centric stories as relatives or symbols of desire, and it means that women are in stories only in those very rigid aspects of their personality: mother/sister/daughter (family) or romantic/sexual partner.

        Sorry. I went on a bit of a rant there.

        In the HP books we see things exclusively from the male perspective. Even when we’re in Snape’s memories, Harry isn’t immersed as Snape, but only seeing what Snape did through Harry’s perspective. Harry is a very focused character. He doesn’t have a wide range of close friends or family to think about.

        To Harry, Hermione is a friend, almost a sister and very firmly in the non-sexual bracket in his mind. I doubt he thinks very much about her desires (nor does he likely want to). Ginny is his, well, target, so his concern over her is through whether or not she might want him. We also see that he focuses more on Remus, Sirius, and Severus, who are all connected to his parents. So, we get more vivid images of their personality than we do for, say, Tonks. He just doesn’t care that much about her until she is linked to Remus. Because Harry is so focused, we get a rather limited view of people.

      • Great points. Shall definitely keep these in mind. You’ve really, really thought about the HP books! It’s so energizing to meet someone who does. I’ve only got one other friend (the one who is the co-namer of the JP complex) who debates Potter with me. I hope our correspondence (via email, blog, whatever) flourishes!
        Have you done any academic work on Potter yourself?

      • Great points. Shall definitely keep these in mind. You’ve really, really thought about the HP books! It’s so energizing to meet someone who does. I’ve only got one other friend (the one who is the co-namer of the JP complex) who debates Potter with me. I hope our correspondence (via email, blog, whatever) flourishes!
        Have you done any academic work on Potter yourself?

      • I was going to ask – have you read either Drop Dead Gorgeous (or anything by Maya a.k.a. Sarah Rees Brennan) or the Shoebox Project?

      • Sadly, she took it down when she got professionally published. I do have a pdf copy of all her stories (she has several good Harry/Draco ones and a few gen). Send me an e-mail and I’ll give you access to it.

  2. Pingback: Growing up Potter: For the Dog Star | Where the Dog Star rages

  3. Um, hi. i don’t know if and when you might get this but honestly, reading your blog and the comments are really thought-provoking. Also, my motive here is selfish. I scour the internet for fellow academic potterheads and yours is an excellent example. Also, would you mind sending me some lovely Harry/Draco and Sirius/Remus fics, particularly those mentioned above? I’m kinda new to slash shipping in Potterverse. Quite odd, considering all my other major ships are gay

  4. Pingback: Growing up Potter: For the Dog Star – Where the Dog Star Rages

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