All the Young Dudes is a work of Harry Potter inspired fanfic that focuses on the relationship between Remus Lupin and Sirius Black, making it what is known as a “Wolfstar” story. Apparently, it is the #1 download on Archive of Our Own (AO3). I first heard about it a couple of weeks ago in this Slate piece, which raved about it. At 188 chapters (and some half a million pages) it is, they say, half as long as all 7 HP novels, and readers, let me tell you, it is fan-fucking-tastic! The Slate writer says it’s the best HP novel, and I must say that it is at least as good as Rowling’s best. I loved this work, and it made me cry many times. It also made me laugh pretty hard at one point, and I don’t think I can ever look at the novels or movies the same way again.
All the Young Dudes is the biography of Remus J. Lupin, from his troubled childhood through the reformation of the Order of the Phoenix (it ends where that novel begins). Writer MsKingBean89 turns Lupin into one of the most interesting characters in the Potter universe. I always liked him, but now I LOVE him. Remus, born March 10,1960, is the son of a wizard father (Lyall Lupin) and muggle mother (Hope Jenkins). In this story, Lyall committed suicide after his five-year-old son Remus was bitten by the werewolf known as Fenrir Greyback. Hope, whose family disowned her after her marriage, is unable to care for her son and gives him up to St. Edmund’s, a muggle reform school for boys that has some experience with the magical world, but what we all learn is that no one has experience with werewolves. They are a terrifying and hated (and poorly understood) group of people, forced to register with the wizarding government and essentially caged every time there’s a full moon. They will never be hired in the magical world, never be integrated or accepted. Remus Lupin was not registered after his bite, but life in the boys’ school is grim. Lupin grows up physically and emotionally scarred both from his affliction (locked in a cell whenever he turns) and from abuse received at the hands of other boys and the school matron. When Dumbledore comes to the school and tells Lupin he is going to Hogwarts, the boy is skeptical. Lupin distrusts authority, but a chance to leave St. Edmunds for 10 months of the year is too good to pass up.
The set up for young Lupin is great and we learn that there are several strikes against him right away. Obviously being a werewolf is a big one, but Dumbledore keeps it secret. Only the head of his house (Gryffindor) and the school nurse Madam Pomfrey are in the loop. And I love the development of the Madam Pomfrey character as a nurse who admits how little is known about werewolves and who fights to get Remus the best care possible, educating him about his condition and showing him genuine love along the way. Another strike against Remus is his poverty. He must rely on donations from Hogwarts for his robes, books, etc. His roommates — James Potter, Peter Pettigrew and Sirius Black — are all from wealthy “pure blood” wizarding families. Remus is aware of his disadvantages right away and feels no special kinship to his fellow Gryffindors initially. Once Remus arrives at school, MsKingBean89 gives Lupin another disadvantage — dyslexia. At St. Edmund’s, Remus’ teachers had called him “thick”. Remus describes looking at pages in his books and the letters getting all mixed up. His first weeks at Hogwarts are full of detentions because he never does his homework (because he can’t). What Remus does have is a great memory, so he can do well when he hears the information. Remus keeps his reading problem a secret and maintains a pretty tough image at school, but Sirius is the one who observes Remus and figures out his problems and even tries to help Remus overcome them. Their friendship is pretty cool because they both come across as tough kids with a thick outer armor, but inside they are still vulnerable boys. We learn that Sirius comes from a nasty and abusive family and that he and Remus have scars in common. Thanks to Sirius’ help, Remus is able to turn things around and become one of the best students in his year. He also is very clever and talented when it comes to pranks, and he and his roommates become the “marauders.”
Sirius’ backstory is important to the story of Remus and despite the fact that he comes from a privileged and wealthy family, Sirius’ life is no picnic. We learn that his parents have abused him and that the abuse turns up a notch when he is sorted into Gryffindor. Sirius loves all kinds of things that his parents hate, including muggle music. This is something that he and Lupin can bond over since Lupin does, too. One of the fun things about this novel is that chapters open with lyric snippets from the years in which they occur, with lots of Bowie and T Rex in there because it’s the early ‘70s and those are the boys’ favorites. Sirius is sure that Bowie is a wizard! Sirius’ mother becomes more angry and abusive as Sirius rebels, and we see that the marauders will do everything they can to come to his rescue. Some of the descriptions of abuse are just so sad, but MsKingBean89 gives content warnings for each chapter.
As the boys grow older, matters of love will arise. James has a thing for Lily Evans from year 2 even though she thinks he’s a drip. Sirius is considered one of the hottest boys at Hogwarts and seems to date a different girl every week. Even Peter Pettigrew has some serious relationships while at Hogwarts. Lupin (Moony) meanwhile, has become very studious and spends a lot of time in the library and forming study groups. His fellow students, especially girls, think he’s amazing (and his black market cigarette sales add to his legendary status) but he never seems to hook up with anyone even though plenty of girls are willing. Remus actually likes several of his fellow Gryffindors — Lily, Mary and Marlene — very much but not romantically. What Remus discovers after a summer back at St. Edmund’s and a friendship with a boy named Grant is that he is attracted to guys, especially Sirius Black. Obviously, this is going to complicate things but it is very interesting to read how that relationship develops. It is not all smooth sailing when you have two traumatized guys trying to trust and be open. Remus can be very secretive, and his anger (especially when the moon is waxing) can make him hard to be with. Sirius can be insensitive and does a particularly terrible thing during their fifth year that nearly ends their friendship. But reading about these two guys trying to let their defenses down and tell their friends that they are gay is one of the loveliest things I’ve read this year.
As the chapters and years go by, the reader familiar with the HP universe knows that terrible tragedies are on the horizon, and I found myself both wanting to know how MsKingBean89 would write them and bracing myself for the tragedy. There are some very VERY sad chapters in this novel that include death, alcohol abuse, betrayal and separation. MsKingBean89 does not retell the books (Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, Order of the Phoenix) but they are alluded to. The description of Remus’ personal trauma after the deaths of friends and loss of Sirius is heartbreaking as he cuts himself off from most of the magical world and retreats into booze. I felt like the return of Sirius into Remus’ life was handled particularly well, as it shows the damage done to the relationship and the work needed to begin to repair it.
I cannot say enough how much I LOVED this work! The Hogwarts years are a lot of fun to read, and the funniest thing I’ve read all year is in the chapter that covers the final Quidditch match between Gryffindor and Slytherin when the boys are in their last year at Hogwarts. I laughed out loud. It’s clear that MsKingBean89 knows and loves the Harry Potter stories and I feel like the depiction of the marauders’ time together at Hogwarts and beyond is completely in line with the world that Rowling created. The relationship between Remus and Sirius is both sad and beautiful. This beautiful story broke my heart and I loved it.