Hey hey, Kayla! I’m here with the first of your prize reviews. <3
So this was beautifully written, and of course you won first place with this because this is beautiful and haunting and realistic, but before I get started on how much I loved this story, I just want to talk about your author’s note. Because I recently learned about the AIDS crisis too; my English teacher last year (literally the coolest woman on this planet) was adamant that everyone know about it when my History teacher failed to do his job, and she had us watch a documentary. (Did we watch the same documentary, because I can’t remember the title of mine either haha.) But anyway, I was horrified but not surprised at the government’s (lack of) reaction to the crisis. And I think you captured everything about the AIDS epidemic beautifully.
Okay, onto your story. <3
I love how you made this canon. (Yeah, this is 100% canon to me now.) You tied a very real, very harrowing crisis into the events of the books, and that just impresses me beyond belief. Furthermore, you spoke about HIV far better and more eloquently than JKR ever did with her half-assed “lycanthropy is an allegory for HIV” on Pottermore. (Like, there are many things I appreciate JKR for. Her “behind the scenes” claims are not any of them.)
The discovery of the Muggle club felt so magical. I felt his relief and comfort upon finding a place specifically for queer people, and it made me so happy for him that he could find a place to be himself after all the horrors he just witnessed. And Oliver – "Red is for life," he tells him with a soft smile. "Orange is healing. Yellow for sunlight. Green for nature. Blue for serenity. Purple for spirit. It's the pride flag." – he said the most beautiful phrase I’ve ever heard about the flag.
Then the sudden heartwrenching line of “And then people start disappearing” comes, and you don’t hesitate to dive deep into what the epidemic was and who it affected. The line about how straight people don’t care about us was so heartbreaking because it was true. And I love how you managed to tie Remus’s personal growth (separate from his lycanthropy) with his friend Oliver into the story as well without taking away anything from the stories of the AIDS victims.
Anyway, this was beautiful. I loved it very much. You’re the most talented Remus and Sirius (and, really, all the Marauders) writer I know. <3
Kayla, congrats on your FROGS nominations!
Okay, my heart is broken after only about 5 paragraphs because of just how happy Remus is for those few minutes hearing the war is over, before he hears the rest of the news. And this section really sets the tone for the rest of the piece.
And by the end of the fic I am ruined. Utterly ruined. From the very beginning when Remus feels hope only for it to be crushed again when he realises he's lost everything that was important to him, the cycle repeats as Remus finally finds comfort and hope in a new community that is welcoming and where he feels safe, and he meets someone who cares about him a lot and whom in return he cares about, only for this temporary balloon of happiness to burst when Oliver dies at the end.
I really want to commend you for taking on the topic of the AIDS epidemic and pulling it into the world of HP. That's a difficult topic, and you handled it with such tact, making it so personal to Remus as Oliver contracts the disease and ultimately dies from it. It's also very fitting that the character you chose to write about is Remus, because there are strong parallels between HIV and lycanthropy in the way that there's this huge stigma on each from the rest of society, and in a way lycanthropy is as close as I can think of to the AIDS of the wizarding world.
I just feel so bad for Remus throughout this whole story and want him to be happy. The way you wrote his emotions and his heartbreak and all this guilt he feels is so compelling. It was nice (and well, kinda bittersweet because I had the feeling you wouldn't let this nice moment last :P) that he found a place where he could feel comfortable and that the club was a form of healing for him, and that he is able to feel joy for the first time after the war. And then the disappearances start.
Regarding the disappearances of all these people and how no one knows what's going on at first - this section was so striking and I loved how you related it to the war. Of course Remus would see it that way, because it really must have felt like that, all the confusion and not knowing why people are disappearing and the fear that anyone could be next. That's terrifying and I think that the way you compared those two really effectively emphasizes the depth of how scary the AIDS crisis was in those days. The scene when Remus asks for help at St Mungos and no one will help him is so heartbreaking.
As much as I wish that Oliver could have lived, the ending really is wonderful. I'm glad that visiting James' grave and recalling how he never could say goodbye gives him the strength to return to Oliver, and the image of him reading his Hogwarts Astronomy book to Oliver was so bittersweet. I'm so glad Oliver didn't have to die alone. Those last lines are beautiful and haunting.
You really did an amazing job with this. Good luck in the FROGs!!
Hey! This is a very belated response, but thank you for the well-wishes ahaha <3
HIV/AIDS education is really important to me, and is actually what I hope my career will be in. So I wanted to see if I could bring that (I guess, for lack of a better word) passion of mine and combine it with HP. It's actually interesting that you bring up the HIV/lycanthropy allegory, because (and I don't say this to reproach or shame you at all, just to explain my perspective!) I really don't like that allegory, so I actually wrestled a little bit with the decision to use Remus for this story. I'd be more than happy to chat about my feelings on this issue if you're at all interested - you can hit me up with a PM on the forums anytime!
But putting that aside, I'm really glad that you enjoyed this story and all these parts you mentioned had an impact on you. It's really great to hear exactly which parts stuck out to people! Thank you so very much for the lovely review and for sharing your thoughts with me, I really do appreciate it <3
Hello Kayla <3
How have I not reviewed this before? I don't know because honestly this is beautiful. It's so heartbreaking but it's a really special piece of writing. You've covered such heavy themes here but you've managed to educate me while also creating an interesting and engaging story. I really enjoyed Remus as your choice of main character (though you mentioned that it was first meant to be Sirius.)
I know this was for a challenge and another thing that I thought was really good is you didn't go for an 'obvious' choice with it. I liked how you covered something quite recent (in terms of history). It was a really interesting take on this challenge. It really worked for me. I mentioned in the first paragraph that I enjoyed this piece because I felt like I was also learning from it. It's not often that you get that in fan fiction but the details like the meaning of the rainbow gay pride flag. I didn't know that before also I felt a little more educated on the effects of hiv.
I thought charactersation wise that this piece was really strong at showing the emotional impact on Remus both with fallout from the first wizarding war ending and his new found life in the muggle gay community. I thought you explore these issues through Remus' eyes perfectly and I felt you got his emotions spot on using the information we have about Remus' character from canon.
Just a quick word on the ending, I loved it. It was this huge emotional punch which really got me. I think I read that line over and over again. It was perfect because it was so blunt like a wave of reality smashing you in the face. It really made this piece for me. You should be very proud of this piece because it's everything that angst should be.
- Abbi xo
Hiii Abbi <3
Honestly, it means a lot to hear that you maybe learned something from this story <3 HIV/AIDS education is really important to me, so if I was able to spread some knowledge through my writing, that's just awesome! Also, not a lot of people know the actual meaning behind the rainbow pride flag but it's one of my favourite Fun Facts, so I had to sneak it in here somewhere, ahahaha!
Ah yay, "strong characterization" is one of my favourite compliments to hear! I'm so glad Remus worked for you in this <3
I was actually super nervous and unsure about the ending, so it's actually good to hear that it affected you so strongly. I was worried it was maybe too simple or too abrubt. So thank you for the reassurance <3 and thank you so much for the really lovely review!
I wanted to help you out and vote for a story to put in CFS, but I hadn't read either yet, so here I am, reading them :p.
THIS. IS. TRAGIC. I mean, you wrote it wonderfully, but it's just so heart-wrenchingly, terribly sad (and beautifully so, of course). Topically, it's a fantastic snapshot into an absolutely horrific period of time, and I think you handled it fantastically. Being able to bring it into the HP fandom, well that's all the more impressive.
I have a love/hate relationship with the period of time directly surrounding James/Lily's deaths, especially when it involves Remus' struggles. It kills me inside to read, but with each story I feel like I'm able to experience a new perspective of it, and this obviously adds that to an entirely new level.
That being said, I think you handled Remus's grief wonderfully (all aspects of it, even that not concerning his friends, but especially that). His depression is real and so very tragic.
Wrapping it up with those two sentences, "He dies on a grey Tuesday morning in December. He is not alone." is absolutely powerful.
This story really packed punches -- you did such an amazing job with it!
Hi Rumpel! So sorry for the late response!
Thank you so much for the really lovely review! I'm glad you thought everything was handled well and that I was able to present a bit of a different perspective around this point in time. It's really great to get this kind of feedback, and it means a lot to me. <3
Thanks for taking the time to read and review!!
What is this, Kayla. I can't even. I just literally cannot even.
I've read this three or four times, and it's been gut-wrenching each time I'm done so. I keep meaning to leave a review, and then... I just don't know what to say, because it's so raw and painful and real.
So I'll just say this: you captured a horrible, horrible period in history so, so well. You brought it to life, and you brought it to life by showing it through the eyes of a character who is absolutely perfect for the part. It's so heartbreaking that Remus finds a place he belongs, only to have it yanked away from him in such a painful way - and I imagine that's how a lot of young men felt, just... without the werewolf thing. And of course this brings back all the pain from his past that Remus is trying so hard to escape... and of course he's the one to survive and to not end up being HIV+ (which I think is the implication here).
Hi Branwen ;)
Ah, well I'm glad you enjoyed this enough to read it so many times! :') I honestly am flattered, ahaha. Thank you so much, it means a lot to me to hear that you thought I captured the period well. Remus wasn't my original choice of MC for this story, but I'm really glad I went with him because I now truly feel that he was the best choice. And yes, the implication was that he does not end up being HIV+ (I guess looking at it again it's actually not that clear, oops!).
Thank you so much for the wonderful review!
*splutters* Excuse me? How dare you all have a gift giving competition without ME?!?! Well, lucky I caught you all before it ends.
This was incredibly powerful. You've done the most amazing job here, and you've definitely opened my eyes. What I love most about this story, though, is the parallels between Remus' magical life, and what was going on in the LGBTQ community. I love the comparison between the bruising and the Dark Mark, how they both symbolise death, and how the disappearances in both communities stirred the same fear in Remus. I love how Remus took the fact he didn't get to say goodbye to James and Lily and used it to say goodbye to Oliver. Absolutely all of this is so amazing and I'm so blown away by your writing.
Congratulations on winning the challenge, too!
Hello there, anon!
Thank you so much, this review is really nice. I appreciate that you mentioned the comparison between the bruising and the Dark Mark, I don't think anyone else had made note of that and I'm just really glad to hear that that worked the way I wanted it to. I'm also very glad that this could open your eyes a little, because education around HIV/AIDS is really important to me. Thanks very much for reading and for saying such kind things about my story!
Hi, Kayla! The fifth review for 1st place at Auror’s Tale Challnge!
I’ve already read this before reading your comedy. I’ve been wondering how I should write a review for this story. The theme of this story is very heavy and serious. What I can tell you first is, the theme of your story reminded me of “The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness”. The world lost such a talented singer like Freddie Mercury because of the disease. The loss coincided with the theme of your story. This story is so impressive that you expressed the loss, friendship and love. I wondered how long you have prepared for this story. Did you learn about AIDS at school or uni? It is well written, Kayla.
Back to canon story, I think it is my first time to read how Remus was informed about the death of Lily and James. I’ve read many stories about Sirius after the war though. So it was very new to me. You wrote about it, after the war from Lupin’s POV very well, Kayla.
I love this expression : refusing to think about the three-quarter moon looming tauntingly above him
Sauntering Muggle town, running away from the magical world with full of sorrow caused by the war, Remus couldn’t resist entering the gay pub. The descriptions how the street and the pub looked like for Remus, is visually well written. Many kudos on them!
It’s sad that Remus couldn’t resist having a relationship with the Muggle boy, I guess he wanted to forget Sirius.
“behind the bar there's a massive flag - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. A rainbow.” I like you put the Muggle World claim for sexual diversity, human rights in this scene.
I like these conversations, too. : He asks Oliver about the rainbow flag a few months after they meet, and he gets a much more thorough explanation than he'd been expecting.
"Red is for life," he tells him with a soft smile. "Orange is healing. Yellow for sunlight. Green for nature. Blue for serenity. Purple for spirit. It's the pride flag."
Then you struck a powerful blow for readers. You didn’t end this story just about a healing story for Remus. You cast a serious problem happened around 80’s and 90’s. There were lots of misunderstandings around the disease and I heard there were lots of discriminations. You embodied that period’s suffering and fear into your story through the relationship between Oliver and Remus. I hope St. Mungo’s could cure Oliver. At least, Remus stay along him and he didn’t let him feel lonely. The beautiful end. You really did a great job, Kayla.
Yeah, this is definitely a pretty heavy piece. It was heavy to write too. Sidenote, it's interesting that you bring up Freddie Mercury because I LOVE Queen. I say all the time how unfair it is that he and so many other really talented people died during this period :(
I learned briefly about HIV/AIDS in an LGBTQ+ history class I took in high school, but most of my learning about it has been extracirricular. I haven't learned about it in college, but I am taking the program I'm taking because I want to work in the HIV/AIDS sector, and my placement for my second year is with an organization in that sector!
I'm glad you enjoyed this story! Thanks so much for the lovely review :)
This story was incredibly powerful and it's easy to see how it won Story of the Month for August. You cover so much here, from Remus's existing pain to his opening up more about his identity (even if it's only in the Muggle world), to the AIDS epidemic.
One (1) of the things I thought was very powerful about the latter is the way you compared it to a war, but a war fought by a few (comparatively speaking) in the face of incredible odds. You could feel the titular silence in the way that the Healers at St. Mungo's said there was nothing they could do (seemingly, at least to me, without any real effort) and the way the fear and suffering was so tightly contained. Coupled with the swift death of so many - both because medical science was not prepared AND because medical science on the Muggle side didn't seem terribly interested either. It's a dark part of our history to be sure.
As always, your characterization of Remus was incredible and I thought you captured his depression very well. Both the worst of it and its persistence in his inability to feel joy about most things until he begins to embrace himself. I was very proud of him for rising above his fear however to comfort Oliver as he slipped away. It seems that in the end this is always something Remus does, rising above his insecurities and perceived weaknesses and fighting and sacrificing for friends and for a greater good.
Thank you so much for this story, Kayla. It was beautifully done.
I very much appreciate all your nice comments! I'm really glad to know that you enjoyed this story. Also, I love the way you articulated Remus's character here, talking about how he rises above his fear.
Thank you for reading and for this lovely review!
I'm sorry, I don't have the time nor the mindset to leave a long and thoughtful review, but I just wanted you to know that I've read this and that I thought it was incredibly powerful and beautiful (although heartbreaking) writing.
Not what I was expecting to read at all, but really touched me deeply and also gave me a lot to think about. I might have cried a tiny bit too...
Thank you for sharing this and sorry again for the quick and vague review.
There's no need to apologize! I really appreciated this review. It means a lot to me to know that you were touched by this story. Thank you so much for taking the time to read it and leave a review <3
Kayla, that's beautiful. You added significantly to it since I saw it as a draft and honestly it's one of the most moving things I've ever read. I can totally see why it won the challenge and it more than deserved to. Wow.
I'm going through a journey with Remus in this story and I feel like I'm right next to him every step of the way. The day James and Lily died. The pain of stumbling through a post-war existence (not a life, an existence at that point). The revelation of the club, the feeling of safety and security. The understanding that there were other people like him and he wasn't going to be judged about it. That would have been amazing at that time in his life and you captured it brilliantly.
And then the AIDS epidemic. The disappearances. I loved how he compared it to the war, because you're right, it would have felt just the same. People scared, people disappearing, people not knowing who they could trust - not with information, in this case, but with their bodies. Not knowing how it was transmitted. Not knowing what if anything they could do about it. So you've got that fear and helplessness and yes, he would have felt like it was the war happening all over again, in a different community.
I loved the inclusion of Oliver and his fate. Okay,that came out wrong. I hated his fate, but I love how you did it. How you portrayed the pain, the fear, the fact St Mungo's couldn't do anything ... and the fact he didn't die alone. I loved how Remus got his courage from visiting James' grave, too. He wasn't a Gryffindor for nothing, but I can see how sometimes that would have seeped below the surface a bit.
This was just so so moving. Brilliant job, Kayla. I'm really glad I read it.
Hi Mel, thank you so much for this really lovely review. This story means a lot to me and so it also really means a lot to me to hear that you found it moving and worth reading. I was particularly nervous about Oliver, because I always feel like OCs are a big weak spot of mine, so it's great to know you felt his inclusion was valuable.
Really, thank you so much for this review and for taking the time to read my story!
Hi :) Congratulations on winning first place in the Historical Headcanon challenge! Sian said your story was really great, so I came here to check it out
You have a very powerful start with the ending of the war moment, I feel so sorry for Remus as he is thinking that James and Lily would be able to come out from their hiding, and I know already that they won’t.
“Hello, Remus," Dumbledore says gravely. "I'm afraid we need to talk.” Oh what is this? I so would have wanted to know what Dumbledore told him. When I read this line I was thinking that Dumbledore accused Remus of being a spy. The next part says that he wasn’t arrested or anything (in fact we know that Sirius was arrested shortly after James’ and Lily’s murder), but I still had the feeling that in this moment of chaos Dumbledore might have interrogated Remus.
I think it’s very powerful that you choose to write about AIDS using Remus, since werewolfness is a methaphor of AIDS according to Rowling and now we have both in the same story. I especially like the scene when you say that the werewolf transformation was almost a relief. That says it so well that what Remus was going through in his life was so painful (and you describe the pain of the transformation so well). Although it’s hard for me to capture him as gay, I still think that this character caller Oliver you invented is a powerful and well-described one. I’m quite unaware of the specifics of the AIDS crisis, and I though your story was a powerful eye-opener!
Hi Vilja! Thanks very much for stopping by!
I think my intention with the part at the beginning with Dumbledore was just that he was there to inform Remus that Sirius had "betrayed" James and Lily (obviously we know that's not what happened, but... yeah). However I do imagine there would be a tiny bit of interrogation mixed in there, along the lines of wondering whether Remus had known that Sirius was a "traitor".
I'm not a fan of Rowling's lycanthropy=HIV/AIDS allegory, actually, which is part of why I wanted to use Remus for this story. It's nice to hear that you were able to put aside your own conceptions of Remus and his sexuality in order to read and enjoy this story! It's also really great to hear that this story maybe taught you something about the crisis, as it was definitely partially my intention to spread some awareness.
Thanks very much for reading and taking the time to leave a review!
So, you know I've decided to read through all my entries for my challenge judging today, and you also know that I've been kind of worried about how this piece is going to make me feel when I read it (because I cry very easily). Anyway, I've just been sat, staring at my screen for the last few minutes in silence, because this has had such a strong effect on me - and now I'm worried that I'm not going to be able to do this story proper justice in my review.
I've watched some films and documetaries about the AIDS crisis before, and I knew that reading anything based around it was going to be difficult and upsetting, but this... it just felt so profound. You've captured the complete tragedy and horror of this crisis so well, and painted such a vivid picture of the time, and I had tears in my eyes by the end of this story.
(My mouth is still hanging open after reading it. It isn't a pretty sight.)
Your choice of Remus was brilliant for this story - I think with him, more than with any of the other canon characters from this period, you can really display the horror of what happened with the AIDS crisis and convey that to the reader. He's already lost so much and the parallels that you draw between the war that he's lived through and the AIDS crisis which he then lives through later, and the way that the ending is almost a chance for him to do what he couldn't the first time, just works so well. It's so poignant and moving for the reader and drawing on those parallels helps us feel the raw emotion more. There are plenty of people who read and write about the Marauders era and the fear that pervaded during the war, and the pain of loss afterwards, and I think it was so intelligent and creative to use that to really help emphasise the scale and tragedy of the AIDS crisis to people who aren't as familiar with it and the impact in had on the LGBTQ community.
With regards to the purpose of this challenge - historical head canons - you tied everything together so wonderfully. I found this such a believable story, seeing Remus escaping into the Muggle world to try and find some peace of mind and for that peace to be snatched away all too soon and replaced with more tragedy. You combined the two worlds incredibly well and I could certainly accept this as a canon piece.
The opening of this story really pulled on my heart strings - from the start, you know that all of Remus's hopes are going to be dashed as he wants to celebrate the defeat and death of Voldemort, but he learns that in the process he has lost everything which is important to him. Those sections dealing with the loss of his friends, and his feelings of guilt and loneliness, were so stark and his emotions were conveyed so well.
I loved the way that you gradually worked the Muggle LGBTQ community into the story and into Remus's world - the way that, at first, he's trying to escape his own demons and then he finds something new, a place where he might finally belong. Even the little details like the fact that the two men kissing outside the bar were scared when they looked at him helped to illustrate the (lack of) tolerance of the LGBTQ community in society at this point in time.
Remus's exploration of the gay bar and slowly becoming a part of the community was written so well - the little details like the rainbow flag over the bar and the fact that he doesn't know, at that point, what it symbolises - and that without even properly meeting anyone, he finds himself smiling again for the first time in a long time shows how happy he is and the way that he feels comfortable and accepted there.
Oliver <3 I loved the way that you introduced Oliver to the story and the fact that there was a friendship which could, in the future, become more. I think that made this story have even more of an impact, because the AIDS crisis starts appearing as something terrifying and faceless, and then it takes on a face for Remus in the form of Oliver and he has to really deal with it in ways he hasn't had to before, and so does the reader.
The arc of this story was brilliant - the loneliness and despair to hope and happiness and then to fear and suspicion and tragedy again. It was like watching a wave rising and falling, and at the end of reading this I almost felt like an enormous wave had just crashed over me.
The beginning of the disappearances was so, so heartbreaking. Especially the fact that Remus didn't realise what was going on at first, and then the increase in the numbers of people who were falling victim to the disease and nobody knew how to cure it or where it had come from, only that it was a death sentence. Tracy's death, again, brought tears to my eyes.
The parallels in that section with the war which Remus had lived through, him recognising the fear and the suspicion and the terror of death which might take people at any moment, worked so well. I think it helped to make the tragedy more understandable for a lot of people and I felt for Remus so badly then, seeing what was happening and not knowing how to do anything to stop it or help it - not even St. Mungo's were able to (or wanted to?) do anything.
When we found out that Oliver was ill it was so upsetting. Like I've already said, I think it put a human face on the tragedy, so that we saw the real effects of it in someone who mattered to Remus and the reader. The numbers are overwhelming and heartbreaking, but sometimes a personal story can have much, much more of an effect than thousands of statistics.
I'm so, so glad that Remus made the right choice at the end, and that instead of running away from Oliver he went back to him, and kept him company and read to him. It's so, so important than Oliver isn't alone at the end and I'm glad that you ended with that, and the knowledge that Remus was able to be there for his friend and that he was able to say goodbye this time and do things right, at least as much as he was able.
This was a really, really profound and moving story, Kayla. You can probably already tell that I loved it and that you captured the tragedy and horror of the AIDS crisis incredibly in this piece. Thank you so, so much for entering my challenge and for writing this <3
Hi Sian <3 I've left this way too long but I'm going to take a shot at responding to this very wonderful and very long review, haha.
(For what it's worth, I feel like a review this lovely would do justice to any story.)
I'm really glad some people came into this with some background knowledge about the crisis and others came in not knowing much, it was really helpful to have that range of reactions!
Honestly, this was originally going to be a very different story, but I'm actually super glad that that original path didn't end up working out, because I do think that Remus ended up working really well. I think (if my original idea had worked) it could have still been a good story, but I do feel that using Remus allowed me to do a lot more than I could've done otherwise.
I have to admit, I was actually a little nervous about entering this in your challenge, because it is a more recent period in time than a lot of the other entries and an era that's quite common to write. I kind of felt like I hadn't done enough, in a way? So I was super floored and honoured to actually win <3
Oliver was a lot of fun, actually. I've always felt like I'm really bad at creating characters, so it was exciting that a lot of people seemed to like him. I was honestly thinking I might want to write something that's actually focused on Oliver? We'll see what happens, I'm not sure if I could even pull that off.
Honestly, I was pretty nervous about the way I chose to end this, so it makes me happy that you felt it worked.
Thank you very much for the absolutely lovely review, and for hosting such a great challenge!
So, I'm not sure if you know, but I'm old enough to remember this and you describe it vividly. I was in HS in the 80's and I was going to go into the military, so I had a physical, and when I got my results, I had to ask my Mom, who was a nurse, what HIV was, then the crisis really hit. A positive result in the 80's was a death sentence with a short period before it was executed. You wrote this very well.
Hi pookha. So sorry for my late response to this, but I wanted to let you know that this meant a lot to me and was very appreciated. <3 Thanks for taking the time to leave a review!