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Desert-Island Fic

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Since 1942, BBC Radio 4 has been doing a program called “Desert Island Discs,” in which famous guests are asked to name several music recordings, a book and a luxury item they would take with them if they were stranded on a desert island.

(We’ll assume they have a music player with a solar-powered battery, I guess.)

Among the Potter-adjacent guests have been Dame Maggie Smith (1972), Sir John Hurt (1984)Dame Julie Walters (1985), Sir Michael Gambon (1988)Zoë Wanamaker (1995)John Cleese (1997)J. K. Rowling (2000)Imelda Staunton (2005)Dame Emma Thompson (2010)Dawn French (2012)Warwick Davis (2016)Daniel Radcliffe (2020), and Helen McCrory (2020).

In that spirit, I’d like to offer my “desert-island fics,” HP fanfic that I find myself turning to again and again for their brilliant characterizations, insight into the human condition, and all-around gorgeous writing. Here they are in no particular order:

by MarsEverlasting is a tale of unlikely bedfellows Minerva McGonagall and Oliver Wood (he’s sixteen, so there’s your chan warning right there) that somehow manages to be totally in-character. It’s tender without being sentimental and very, very hot. It does male-May/female-December realistically without condescending to either party. No Tea and Sympathy here, only lyrical writing and trenchant observation. (Minerva McGonagall/Oliver Wood; MA/NC-17; 14,407 words)

by Morgan72uk shows us an Albus Dumbledore that we don’t often see: a man unsure of not just the correctness, but of the morality of his actions. The story is set during the trials immediately after the first Voldemort war, and we see Albus confronting the ugly pragmatism that emerges in wartime and its aftermath through Minerva’s tender, practical, and ultimately unsure eyes as she offers him (and herself) a kind of comfort she’s not sure is really right. (Albus Dumbledore/Minerva McGonagall; M/R; 8,955 words)

by dueltastic has Severus Snape and Minerva McGonagall managing a small, dark-haired problem. Spot-on characterizations, dry wit, and wonderful dialogue are highlights of this genre-fic that somehow makes you say, “Yeah, that could happen.” (Minerva McGonagall/Severus Snape; T/PG-13; multi-chaptered)

by selmak puts you firmly and frighteningly inside Alastor Moody’s head as he copes with the horrors of being locked in that bloody trunk for months, and what goes on there isn’t pretty, but it helps him cope. As does Minerva McGonagall, once she stops castigating herself for a moment of indiscretion that ends up torturing them both. This Minerva and Alastor are recognizably in-character, but they’re shown dealing with a very odd situation, and it brings out things we don’t often see from either. The way the relationship between them develops is beautifully drawn: painful, tender, funny. Read it if you want to gasp, cry, and laugh, all in the space of a few paragraphs. (Minerva McGonagall/Alastor Moody; M/R; 20,000 words)

by DaphneRunning puts Minerva McGonagall and Alastor Moody into a relationship that at first seems vaguely toxic but grows into something else entirely. Both are vividly characterized, deeply real people with flaws and fears and love and humor that make you cheer for them. (Minerva McGonagall/Alastor Moody; NC-17/MA; 23,087 words)

by MMADfan is the epic foundation of the author’s popular “RAMverse” stories. It’s a tender, hot, slow-building romance that portrays 1950s Minerva McGonagall and Albus Dumbledore and fleshes out the HP world in such vivid detail that you feel you could step right into it. A cast of thousands surrounds an exquisitely portrayed Minerva and Albus, and MMADfan’s OCs are so well drawn that you want to read all about them in their own stories (and the author has obliged in some cases.) (Albus Dumbledore/Minerva McGonagall; NC-17/MA; 877,737 words)

by MMADfan is another long story in the “RAMverse” that excels in both world-building and characterization. Even better, it proposes an AU ending for Deathly Hallows that, IMHO, is far better than the one JKR came up with. (Albus Dumbledore/Minerva McGonagall; Severus Snape; R/M; 285,796 words)

by psyfic finds Minerva McGonagall and Severus Snape in a somewhat awkward (ahem) arrangement after the war. Psyfic manages to make Snape both vulnerable and in-character, and I love that they don’t shy away from the age difference between the two characters. The awkwardness and tenderness of their “first-time” story is mirrored by one concerning the surprising duo of Millicent Bulstrode and Viktor Crumb, which just works. (Minerva McGonagall/Severus Snape, Millicent Bulstrode/Viktor Krum; NC-17/MA; 19,021 words)

by kelly_chambliss is an unusual post-war AU that finds Minerva McGonagall and Severus Snape in a refugee camp. The POV is unusual: a now-elderly former student is looking back on the relationship while relating his story to a callow academic. It allows for a narrative that is at once distant and tremendously personal, and it draws a subtle, compelling portrait of a complex relationship observed in snatches. The post-war setting is particularly well done and adds a depth and poignancy to the HP world that I’ve seldom encountered elsewhere. (Minerva McGonagall/Severus Snape, OC; R/M; 7,700 words)

by kelly_chambliss is another, completely different take on the third-person observer. It throws Minerva McGonagall and Severus Snape into Muggle America and the sights of precocious twelve-year-old Adela. It’s wry, and tender, and funny, and perfectly characterized. Read it (and its sequel, Now That I’m Older by Adela.) (Minerva McGonagall/Severus Snape; OC; multichapter)

by Headmistress X is a dense, multi-chaptered story that moves around in time to tell the story of how Minerva McGonagall and Hermione Granger came to be lovers and partners. It features an unusual and fascinating backstory for Minerva, told in a way that evokes lucid dreaming. (Hermione Granger/Minerva McGonagall; R/M; 52,451 words)

by dueltastic is a masterpiece of a musing on the subtle and profound ways three very different people affect one another. It involves a highly unlikely threesome that ends up making the reader nod in agreement. (Albus Dumbledore/Minerva McGonagall/Severus Snape; R/M; one-shot)

by tetleythesecond is one of the most brilliant subversions of Pottermore I’ve ever read. It plays with expectations and gender identity and creates a very believable love story along the way. (Elphinstone Urquart/Minerva McGonagall; MA/NC-17; 17,250 words)

by kelly_chambliss gives us voyeur-Argus Filch, observing (and lusting after) Severus Snape, who is otherwise entangled. It’s a story about desires fulfilled and unfulfilled and makes Filch into a three-dimensional character and acute observer rather than a simple figure of fun. (Argus Filch; Minerva McGonagall/Severus Snape; R/M; 11,800 words)