The last book I reviewed for CBR13 was a work of Harry Potter fanfic called All the Young Dudes (ATYD). I had submitted my “best/worst of CBR13” list before finishing ATYD, which is a shame because if I had waited, All the Young Dudes would have absolutely been one of my best of the year. I loved MsKingBean89’s imaginative, romantic and tragic story of Remus Lupin and his relationship with Sirius Black, and during the holidays I went back in to AO3 to see if this writer had any other works on offer. I’m glad I did because not only did MsKingBean89 write some wonderful supplemental pieces to ATYD (Out of the Blue, ATYD Christmas Compilation), but they (I’m unsure of this writer’s pronouns) also wrote another Remus Lupin/Sirius Black (WolfStar) novel called Dress Up In You. While this is listed as “Marauder” and “Harry Potter” fanfic, Dress Up in You is also “Alternate Universe” fanfic. MsKingBean89 revisits the development of a romantic relationship between Remus and Sirius, but this time there is no magic, no Hogwarts, no werewolves, etc. They’re just a couple of 20-somethings in modern London still struggling with family and personal relationships while trying to figure out their relationship with each other. I have to admit that while I generally don’t find myself much drawn to romance novels, I am enthralled by these Remus and Sirius stories. MsKingBean89 does an extraordinary job fleshing out characters, whether they had sizable roles in the HP universe, or were merely mentioned in passing, or were created out of MsKingBean89’s imagination. The author also addresses serious topics such as sexual identity, child abuse, and suicide with great compassion and honesty while also making the stories enormously entertaining. The writing is funny, sexy, and very sensitive to mental health matters.
Dress Up In You is set in London, 2019, when Sirius, Remus, James Potter and Lily Evans are all about 25 years old. James and Sirius are still best friends and from wealthy families, and the Black family are still horrible. They disinherited Sirius and kicked him out of the house when he came out as gay at the age of 16. Instead of quidditch, James is into rugby. Lily has degrees in psychology and nursing and works at a local hospital. The story opens with a charity rock show that Lily has organized featuring a band made up of hospital workers (The Flu Fighters!). On bass is a very quiet guy from admin named Remus. When Sirius sees Remus on stage, he falls hard and is determined to impress and sweep him off his feet, but Remus somehow manages to turn the tables on Sirius. Both Sirius and Remus say they don’t want a serious relationship (pretty much just shagging) but Sirius finds himself falling hard for the mysterious Remus, who manages to keep Sirius at arm’s length and seems to call the shots in the relationship.
Most of the story is from the perspective of Sirius. He is handsome and sexy, but he is also troubled and, as we can see, headed for some big relationship problems. Sirius has abandonment issues thanks to his family and a terrible on again/off again relationship with a guy named Gid, who always cheats on Sirius and Sirius always takes him back. Sirius’ self esteem also suffers as he sees his old school friends all growing up and moving on. They pretty much all graduated university (Sirius didn’t) and are involved in careers and long-term relationships. Sirius feels like a failure, even though he and Marlene McKinnon, an old school friend, have been working hard to open their own salon (Sirius is a hair stylist). When he meets Remus, the chemistry between them is undeniable, but Sirius is constantly feeling as if he is going to lose Remus, which can lead to erratic behavior that only hurts him more.
Remus is a mysterious fellow, too. He doesn’t like socializing much at all, and is very quiet about his past and his personal life, but he loves performing music. He also is very attracted to Sirius, but his relationship with his band Full Moon and its lead singer Fenrir Greyback seems very unhealthy if not dangerous. We learn in later chapters about Remus’ own troubled past, but since he and Sirius have agreed that their relationship is just physical, not officially dating, Sirius is unaware of the considerable emotional baggage that Remus carries. He has a history of health problems and suffers from debilitating migraines, but the emotional scars are much worse and not revealed until later in the story.
Reading this romance unfold, you cannot help but wish these two would find a way to be together, but it’s obvious that that cannot happen until they both come to grips with their own personal, emotional issues and then figure out how to talk to one another about them. It’s a very grown-up kind of story, with some pretty steamy sex scenes and a good number of content warnings due to the mental health issues involved.
I found myself just tearing through this story (19 chapters, just over 88,000 words) and as ever, I am impressed with MsKingBean89’s talent. As with ATYD, music and lyrics play an important part in the story, and the title Dress Up In You comes from a song of the same name by a group I’d never heard of before, Belle and Sebastian. I always love what MsKingBean89 does with HP characters in their work, many of whom were only mentioned in passing in the original novels. Marlene McKinnon, Mary McDonald, and Lily Evans get some nice development as friends of James, Sirius and Remus (even more so in ATYD). MsKingBean89 also incorporates bisexual and trans characters into this story in a seamless way. It’s nice to see that kind of representation and have it treated as not a big deal for a group of friends when one (or several) of them come out; they’re still friends and support each other. If you enjoy romance novels and/or HP fanfic, I recommend Dress Up In You.