I started reading the Harry Potter books around the time I started writing fan fiction, though I didn’t combine the two until a few years later. Still, Harry Potter was easily the most popular category on FanFiction.net, surging to the forefront with thousands of new fics each day. As of writing this post, there are 528,202 stories listed on Ff.n, though the number would be larger if there hadn’t been The Great Porn Fic Shakedown of 2001.
It was up to authors to both rate and access fanfic of a mature nature; Ff.n’s dubious system basically had a pop-up ask if you were over 17 when you clicked on an M/NC-17 fic. All you had to do was click “yes” and you’d be let in with no need for further proof. It was no secret that there were smut fics in every innocuous fandom, from Care Bears to Animorphs. We just didn’t read it and didn’t mention it. Then, users outside of the site learned about these erotic stories — and it was the ones in the Harry Potter fandom that got them up in arms.
To be fair, the subject matter of these stories was far more mature than the books of the time; Goblet of Fire was the latest book to be published back then. And the writers didn’t pull any punches. Aside from the OTP of Draco/Harry that still lives on in photo manips today, you had a lot of Hermione/Snape professor-student stuff… and the crowning offender, Snape/Harry BDSM. I don’t think I ever read any of the stories, but I remember they involved a lot of “Mr. Potter, you’re just as bad as your father…” and wands as sexual objects. At least in the Hermione/Snape stuff she was an adult! The lure of the Harry stories was the man-boy love concept. (Even though they “aged up” Harry so he wasn’t 11, there was still some leery stuff going on with that age difference.)
Parents and advocacy groups rallied against Ff.n and forced them to not only yank all the offending fics, but to forbid any NC-17 fics. Of course, the new rating caps stories at M, and it’s still the writers’ prerogative to rate them. Though I’ve traded Ff.n for LiveJournal, I’m sure that I’ve still read M fics on the former that are just as naughty as the old stuff.
So, while I’ll remember J.K. Rowling‘s series for the incredible world she created, the always-fascinating dynamic of Harry fighting against his fame, and many tears shed, I’ll also always associate it with an experience that determined the boundaries of slash fic and made all of us a lot more careful about what we write.