The Shoebox Project by Lady Jaida and Dorkorific.
Hosted on their website, shoebox.lomara.org.
I swear everything you've heard about this is true, this is that good. But I think it's best to go in knowing that this story ends abruptly: it's got an ending that dangles you 20 feet above your destination - the place that anyone who has read the Harry Potter books knows it will end. For the sake of the 25% who haven't read Harry Potter and are still reading this review - hello, seems rather unlikely that you are reading this, even rounding up you'd be 1% - I won't spoil the books.
The Shoebox Project is a Marauder's Era fic, detailing the school years and beyond of Harry's parents and their friends. This is mostly appealing because the romance of Harry's parents, James and Lily, is assured, and these kids get up to some hilarious and dangerous trouble. This includes: getting high on Gillyweed, accidentally seeing Professor McGonagal in a bathing suit , and almost killing a fellow student. It's coming-of-age, long, illustrated and epistolary. It also features a thing that has become a sub-fandom of Harry Potter itself: Wolfstar, a portmanteau of the good ship Remus Lupin and Sirius Black, RL/SB for you old-school folks.
Now, I know what you're thinking: 'A girl like her who has reviewed the likes of Escape Velocity, what can she know about a book that other people would like?' Firstly, I find your tone a little alienating, but I've been there, I understand where you're coming from. Secondly, this is well written with great character voices, even Peter Freakin Pettigrew was interesting, and furthermore, sympathetic! Even by the lengths these authors went to make it clear that Peter was not a pity-member of the Marauders, I actually wanted to read more about him. The illustrations, done by Dorkorific, sometimes known as Rave, are really good, and the handwriting done by the two authors, examples included, made it feel like found mementos as it's purported to be. The premise of The Shoebox Project is, after all, one of memories, photographs, collected notes and journal entries all saved by Remus. Despite the fact that this story does not entirely coincide with the information that Rowling has released about her intrepid quartet in recent times, and canon established by the last couple books, this still holds up. I enjoyed it, many fans I encountered in London recommended it, and I was finally inspired to read it because of Mark. There is no happy ending, but with efforts of fans like these, you can pretend and just dwell in the fact that while some truly abject books get big-six published, a book like this can never get a cent. It is some kind of madness, I assure you.
Just a quick aside: I understand and believe we should be compliant with copyright law, not making a profit off others intellectual property, but then I remember all those Star Trek and Star Wars novels, some of which, if not most, are not considered canon, but are officially allowed.
Back to the review: It amazed me how slow the romance between the lads built, considering how many failed starts James and Lily have in this version of events, it was a good foil, and really kept me into it. I can't imagine how poor folks must have felt, back when this was hot off the hard-drives, waiting for each update until there were no more... They also made sure to make this story avoid any heavy angst, playing up the humor, allowing dark moments, but not detailing the tears and fears. It worked, and might seem crazy to the average fanfic reader, but I hope more people try writing a story like this. It's certainly still very enjoyable and effective. It's also hard to keep a balance between avoiding angst and holding your readers at arm's length.
Did I mention the notes and the pictures and the drawings?
Averages more than 500 pages in PDF. First published in 2008 on LiveJournal.