Once upon a time, January came for us and proclaimed itself supremely uninterested in taking prisoners. Under the sustained assault, there were simply too many avenues of stress tearing into my brain. On one side of the field stood so many books (as they have always been there for me) ready to be read—to help. And on the other side loomed a distressing number of chasms inside me desperate to find solace and reprieve. But the two could not meet. No matter how many peace talks I attempted to broker.
In February, in a move so unprecedented that I can only describe it as a lifeline thrown down into the deepest of the chasms, my exhausted mind decided it would be a good idea to finally give fanfiction a whirl. Now, there's no getting around the fact that for someone who has read as many novels that involve fic in some way or another as I have—seriously, novels that began as fic, novels written by authors who got their start writing fic, novels about characters who write/illustrate/love fic with every fiber of their being, novels about novels about fic—it's
somewhat mystifying dead preposterous that I'd never wound my way around to seeing what was out there for me. Because of course there was something.
As it turns out, there was an entire world. And now—now it will always be mine.
So I wandered onto AO3 and pondered which of my favorite fictional worlds I might test the waters in (I'm going to go ahead and wager that those of you who've known me the longest—or the best—have already guessed which ship I boarded). I mean, I certainly have a type. And the thing is, I cannot emphasize to you how dire my inner straits were at the time. To be clear, I want to acknowledge that I'm using the word dire in the context of someone who was not (and is not) actively dying or dealing with a life-threatening illness, someone who was not (and is not) supporting a loved one who is dying or dealing with a life-threatening illness, and someone who was not (and is not) going through relationship-based trauma.
That clearly said, the strain was nevertheless at something of a breaking point and that shimmering gold lifeline whispered calmly, "Remember? Remember how enemies to lovers makes you happy? How your brain basically comes online when the morally grey character takes the stage and proceeds to steal every scene. Remember how you love a retelling down to your soul? How you sign up repeatedly for a redemption arc because, at your most fundamental, you believe in redemption and compassion and forgiveness and the ability we deeply flawed humans have to change. How stone-cold competent heroines and the (highly intelligent, if severly misguided) rakes who proceed to lose every last shred of their minds over them are your baseline kryptonite. How you've lived and breathed inside fantasy worlds since you walked through the wardrobe."
Since I was wholly uninterested in debating any of these perfectly factual statements, I set about doing my research and decided to fight fire with fire. In short, Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy felt like not only a good place to start, they felt like the only place to start. I cracked open my first Dramione fic that night. I went dark AU, figuring that if I could swim in the deep end, we might just get out of this hellish place alive.
I don't know that I would exactly recommend as dark as I went as the place to start, but it certainly gave me an idea of the caliber of writing that was just casually floating around out there. These wordsmiths. My word. And that first fic ("Only because you asked.") sent me searching for contrast, for variety, for more—of which I found a wide and infinite sea. At this point, Dramione is my ship and I've accepted that I will one day go down with it. But more importantly, I understand now. I understand how you can read endless incarnations of the same two characters and soak each version up like it is a lifesaving elixir. Which, of course, they were for me—these two idiots in love. Which they continue to be.
I needed them. I needed them so much.
And so, possibly from here on, I will be sharing my best fics of the year. Rather than sticking only to fics that were completed that calendar year, I'm going to simply list my very favorites that I read that calendar year. At the end of this year of discovery and salvation, I do have a current all-time, god-tier favorite. I'll mark it at the bottom of the list. And I'll be sure to let you know if at any point in the future another fic ever takes its place. Right now it feels impossible. But if this year is proof of anything, it's that nothing is impossible. That magic is real and being continuously and lovingly and selflessly crafted in the hands of so many, it makes me tear up every time I think of this community.
(listed in the order in which I read them)
The Right Thing to Do by LovesBitca8
Remain Nameless by HeyJude19
Wait and Hope by mightbewriting
Sight and Seeing by mightbewriting
Breath Mints / Battle Scars by Onyx_and_Elm
Between Certifiable and Bliss by HeyJude19
A Season For Setting Fires by mightbewriting
Apple Pies and Other Amends by ToEatAPeach
Who I Was With You by Curly_Kay
Innocent Monsters by itscometothis
Things We Say In The Dark by rubber_soul02
Ten out of Ten by morriganmercy
Meet Your Match by morriganmercy
The Watergaw by smokybaltic
Until The Ink Runs Dry by AccioMjolnir
Love and Other Historical Accidents by PacificRimbaud
Remember One Thing by PacificRimbaud
Of these beautiful, beautiful stories, Wait and Hope is my all-time god tier fic. I think mightbewriting is an immaculate writer, and I am here every hour of every day for a marriage in trouble/Hermione has amnesia/pining Draco tearing doors off of hinges and giving big "My wife" energy like he's never known pain fic. As Sarah MacLean would say, "Put it in my veins."
All but two of the fics on this list are Dramione fics. They will always be endgame for me. Of the two that aren't, one is Dramione adjacent by way of being a novella set in the Wait and Hope world. Sight and Seeing features Theo Nott and Blaise Zabini and is utterly brilliant. The other is a result of the fact that I have rather a large soft spot for Panville (Pansy Parkinson/Neville Longbottom) fics, so I've read a handful of those—the very best of which being Remember One Thing. Oh my word, it's good.
And just in the interest of more stats (my interest, to be clear), this list includes 13 Post-War/GoldenTrio Era, 2 Eighth Year, 2 Wartime, 2 Seventh Year, 1 Epistolary, 1 Time Travel AU (Alternate Universe), and pretty much all are EWE (Epilogue What Epilogue). As always, when you wade into fic, be sure to mind the tags. But honestly, I get lost in the magic of every part of the mosaic, from the tags to the kudos to the fantastically talented artists that create such gorgeous art inspired by these fics.
And so on this the last day of a year that came for the blood of me and mine, I'm saying it in so many words. I had to. I didn't see it coming at the time. I couldn't see past the cloud of pain to see what would save me. But they came. And I knew them.
This magic. This magic is real.