This has been sitting in my inbox for a hot minute, honestly, because this is a super difficult question. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to answer! I want to preface by saying that I’ve read a ridiculous amount of fic in this fandom, and I’ve loved so much of it, and there are plenty of fics that I would die for that aren’t on this list. also i’m constantly reading and finding new universes to love, so this list could change any day? but here goes, my top 10 favorite (at this very moment in time) hl fics:
What can I say? Is this fic overhyped? Maybe. Is it ridiculously long? Sure. Is it nothing but pure fluff? Yeah, you’re right. Would I die for it? Absolutely. I find myself revisiting this universe over and over again, and that’s saying something for a fic this massive. I just love how fun the relationship is, so whenever I’m feeling blue and need to get away from anything angst, this is one of my go-to’s.
This is one of the first fics I ever read twice (I’m not normally a fan of re-reading fics) and I still go back to it from time to time just to experience the amazing aesthetic this fic has. It’s set during the Belle Époque, one of my favorite historical eras in terms of the arts, and the imagery is just beautiful. Read this while listening to some Chopin or John Field; it’s totally lovely.
Oh, god. This fic is incredible. There are a lot of really great original plots out there, and there are a lot of good time-travel/universe swapping fics, but this one takes the cake. The angst and the conflict resolve are super well done, and this is one of those fics you just can’t stop reading even for a second. I remember staying up one night reading it all in one go, yelling at Kelli the entire time. I think I’m due to revisit this one myself!
The Barcelona Fic™!!!! I read this pretty early on when I became a 1d fan and it’s stuck with me as one of the most fun and adventurous fics I’ve ever read. The entire idea of a whirlwind romance while traveling abroad is an automatic set-up for fun times (as well as a little angst) but the best part of this fic is the slow burn. If you haven’t read this one, you absolutely must.
If you’re looking for originality, look no further tbh. Listen, I’m a huge horror/sci-fi/fantasy fanatic, and I’m obsessed with anything different, so obviously there’s some bias going on here, and I recognize that this fic may not be for everyone. However, it feels like this fic was written for me. This is one of those fics where the romance takes a bit of a back seat to the actual story, which is something I love, and the actual story is what keeps you hooked. On top of that, fucking phenomenal writing. Read this one when it’s raining, preferably with the lights off.
Listen. Are you listening? Okay, good. This fic changed me. This was the first of Shelly’s fics that I ever read, and I couldn’t stop screaming about it for weeks. Shelly is, quite honestly, the queen of hurt and comfort. Did I cry while reading this? Of course. But I finished this fic feeling so content, hopeful even, for Harry and Louis, and for how strong their love is in this universe. I got hooked on the writing right away, but even more than that, I got introduced to Shelly’s incredible ability to write about the pain of the real world while highlighting all of the good things that happen as well. This fic is a huge gift; it brought me comfort during a really shitty time in my life, it made some of my friendships stronger, and it introduced me to one of my favorite people in this fandom. Anyway, the writing in this is totally poetic, so if you want to know what it feels like to be adored, read Harry’s letters to Louis in this fic and get back to me.
It’s crazy to me that this fic is number 4 on this list instead of number 1, because the first time I read this fic I ranted and raved about it for a ridiculously long time. The first time I tried to read this, I couldn’t get into it. Fortunately, I tried again after a few weeks and when I did get into it, I got into it. I adore the characterization in this fic. The writing is, of course, totally on point. “You’re just obsessed with fluff,” you might say. Well you’d be right, but that doesn’t change the fact that whoknows has a gift for writing a fun, playful romance.
Ah, here’s where I really get emotional. When lysha posted this, I had already read her first work, which I adored, so I was really excited for a well-done historical au (I’m a hoe for historical au if that isn’t obvious, btw). But nothing could have prepared me for this fic. Not only are all of the historical details totally spot on (the MUSIC IN THIS IS.. INCREDIBLE!!!), but the story itself handles the coming out “trope” with such incredible finesse and care, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. There is so much LGBT+ history in this fic, and it’s treated with the respect it deserves, which is something I really haven’t ever seen in any other fic before. When I finished it, I just had this immense feeling of thankfulness for the pioneers of LGBT+ rights, which is not something you’d necessarily expect to get from a fic?? Anyways I’m rambling but I really can’t emphasize enough how wonderful and important to me this fic is. You absolutely must listen to 70′s rock while reading this, btw.
Am I a fake for making this my #2 even though I only first read it a few days ago? Maybe. This fic, just recently completed, is another absolutely original fic that stands out from anything I’ve ever read. The thing about this fic is, the romance (like BWAR) is secondary. This is more a story about a soldier, who has to deal with the loss and pain he was left with after WWII, and his struggle to accept his own self-worth and happiness. Everything about the story itself is just flawless: the writing, the characterization, the plot, the imagery, the dialogue, the vocabulary itself - all of it is fantastic. I know the MCD tag scares people (it definitely scares me too!) but I promise it’s survivable, and the ending is happy! Given, if you like cookie-cutter fic with a predictable plot with all smiles and no tears, this fic isn’t for you. Then again, real life probably isn’t for you. If you want to read something real, something powerful and thought-provoking, read this. (Also, bonus points to this fic for SLOWWWW burn, an amazing tension-release, and a beautiful ending).
You knew I couldn’t make a fic rec without having cherrystreet on here twice, right? The reality is, all of Shelly’s fics should be in my top 10, because I love them all, but there is no universe that compares to TOW. As always, her writing and characterization are on point. It’s obvious how much Shelly cares for this universe in the details of this fic, and it’s obvious how much she loves Louis and Harry in the way she carefully handles their fragile hearts in this particularly angst-driven story. Like the previous recommendation, this fic perfectly captures the pain of the real world, while still emphasizing that things can get better, that if you don’t give up, or even if you have already given up, you can change things for yourself just by believing that you deserve it. This fic is, naturally, littered with hardships and addresses real human sorrow, but it’s also full of love and hope, and lots of laughter. I’ve read it multiple times, and every time I’m left smiling and a little more in love with hl than I was before, so if you’re waiting to read this one or you haven’t done it yet because you’re afraid of the angst, I promise it won’t hurt you.
Sorry this was so long and so extra, but Top 10 is truly an outrageously difficult question! And like… it could change by tomorrow, for all I know! Anyways I hope you enjoy these if you haven’t read them yet, and even if you have read them maybe try giving some of them another go! All of these universes are too wonderful not to enjoy multiple times.