To take a leaf out of Hermione Granger’s book, it is best to familiarize yourself with the history, language, and social practices of a world different from yours before even entering it.
Like every other fan-created subculture, the world of Harry Potter fan fiction has its own jargon. So before you tap your digital wand onto those web links, be a good little Muggle and take note of these words:
AN or A/N (Author’s Note): A short message from the fan fiction writers. It also includes the disclaimer that Rowling and Warner Bros. still own the copyright to “Harry Potter.” And that these writers don’t earn galleons from their stories, either.
AU (Alternate Universe): Stories set in an Alternate Universe may have a different period (Victorian Era Harry Potter, anyone?), laws of physics (no magic), geography (Harry is American), or a major story line (“Neville Longbottom and the Sorcerer’s Stone”).
Beta or Beta Reader: A Beta or Beta Reader is the writer’s editor. The fan fiction author writes the story, and like having Hermione for a best friend, the Beta corrects grammar, spelling, and factual errors, gives feedback, and suggests revisions.
Canon: The official published material from the “Harry Potter” series, as well as the other books in the Potterverse (“Quidditch Through the Ages,” etc.). Canon also includes facts further revealed by Rowling interviews—Albus Dumbledore being gay—and in her website.
Crossover: A Crossover is a story where an entirely different story universe intersects with the Potterverse. Some crossovers feature “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Lord of the Rings” and, uh, “Twilight.”
Drabble: A very short story, usually with 100 words or less.
EWE (Epilogue? What Epilogue?): EWE stories disregard the epilogue in the seventh book (no, Draco Malfoy did not grow up to have a receding hairline).
Flame: A Flame is a harsh review or comment. Like “Mudblood” taunts, it has no other purpose than to insult and hurt people’s feelings. In some fan communities, Flaming is like using an Unforgivable Curs;, it merits social expulsion (and maybe the Dementor’s Kiss, too).
Fluff: Fluff is a light-hearted, feel-good story, usually romantic in nature.
One Shot: A One Shot is a story written in its entirety in a single chapter.
OOC (Out of Character): These are stories where the behavior and personality of Canon characters don’t follow how they are portrayed in the novels (like a nice, happy-go-lucky Severus Snape).
Plot Bunny: A story idea
Post-Hogwarts: Stories set after Harry, Hermione and Ron have left school.
Ship/Shipper: Short for relationship; a Ship is what fans call the pairing they feature in the story. These pairings may be Canon-based (Harry and Ginny) or made up by fans’ wishful thinking (Harry and Hermione). Ships are usually indicated through the characters’ initials (R/Hr for Ron and Hermione) or a portmanteau (Dramione for Draco and Hermione). A Shipper is a fan devoted to a particular pairing. A fan’s favorite Ship is also called OTP or One True Pairing.
WIP (Work In Progress): Unfinished stories, but will be continued.
There are many others terms in the fan fiction lingo, and those mentioned above are just your basic, general terms. Now, before you jump on your brooms and go off to the magical world of HP fan fiction, always remember two things: Observe proper netiquette and have an open mind.
Fan fiction is not meant to replace the novels; Harry Potter will always be J.K. Rowling’s creation, and he will always have one true story. But one thing I learned from reading the story of The Boy Who Lived is magic can come from numerous, even unlikely, sources. And fan fiction is just one way in keeping the magic alive.