Twinship, incest, and twincest in the Harry Potter universe

Vera Cuntz-Leng

Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany

[0.1] Abstract—Among the large group of Harry Potter fans who write their own stories about the boy wizard, his friends, and his foes, and publish them on the Internet, some are interested in the exploration of the erotic and romantic bond between identical twins. Because the Harry Potter saga features two sets of identical twin pairs of different gender—the Weasley brothers and the Patil sisters—the series not only provides a unique playground for the recipients in terms of the possibilities for twincest stories; more importantly, it offers ample opportunity for researchers to examine how fans actually use such pairings. In this essay, the examination of twin relationships as portrayed within Rowling's works, the movies, and in twincest fan fiction are confronted with each other to outline how Rowling's different concepts of the sibling pairs and the author's general ongoing interest in doubling motifs is consistently expanded by fan fiction writers to discuss the complex relationship between source and fan text.

[0.2] Keywords—Fan community; Fan fiction; Slash

Cuntz-Leng, Vera. 2014. "Twinship, Incest, and Twincest in the Harry Potter Universe." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 17.

1. Introduction

[1.1] George, wearing an identical smirk, leaned to the side slightly and bumped his shoulder against Fred's. They are lovers, Snape thought to himself. It was a simplistic and thoroughly obvious thought to have at that moment. (bar_bar_ella 2006)

[1.2] Although the names of the characters in the quotation above—Fred, George, Snape—are well-known to an audience familiar with popular culture, the erotic context in which these characters have been placed does not seem to be the world of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter that we know from the books or the movies. The twin brothers Fred and George as lovers? One might even dismiss this excerpt as an absurd homoerotic fantasy of a fan fiction writer with no footing in the source text whatsoever. However, the incest trope is deep-rooted in the Harry Potter novels and movies, though its nature is neither as obvious or simplistic as it might appear to Snape in the fan fiction passage above. By closely examining this trope in connection with the motif of twinship in the source text and in several fan fiction works, we can improve our understanding of the complex relationship between fictional works and their follow-up explorations through fan writings.

[1.3] Incest and the incest taboo have a long history as recurring motifs in myth, art, literature, and cinema (Hoff 2003; Pollak 2003; Flannery 2007; Corbett 2008). Examples include Greek mythology, Richard Wagner's Die Walküre (1870), Thomas Mann's Wälsungenblut (1906), and the more recent Les Bienveillantes (2006) by Jonathan Littell, as well as George R. R. Martin's epic fantasy saga, A Song of Fire and Ice (1996–), and its television adaptation by cable network HBO as the critically acclaimed Game of Thrones (2011–). Incest is a complex term that refers simultaneously to the relation, the sexual attraction, the sexual intercourse, and its prohibition between biologically related persons. Willner (1983) defines incest as the "intersection of three sets: a set of sexual behaviours, a set of kinship categories and a set of prohibitions" (136). According to Engel (2011), a desire for sameness, indistinguishability, and inclusion is articulated through incest; it signifies the individuals' strong investment in the familiar. Conversely, the incest taboo, prevalent in Western societies, signifies the ideal of individualization and distinctness. Incestuous desire can be interpreted as the narcissistic wish for completion, as the desire to find the strange in oneself and the Self in the Other. In positive terms, this means that incestuous desire is lived as an openness toward the ambivalence of similarity and difference. It can contribute to a reshaping of existing kinship hierarchies and their politicization. By questioning the validity of the incest taboo, other naturalizing tendencies within the heteronormative society (Wittig 1980) can be stressed and unmasked.

[1.4] Contrary to what is postulated in most theorizations of the incest taboo, incest does not necessarily have to take place between adults and children, be heterosexual, or involve violence and the victimization of one party by another (Willner 1983). In my essay, I will argue that fan writings can describe and imagine social relations in which incestuous desires need not necessarily be denied and blocked. Instead, incest fan fiction stories question the validity of the incest taboo and explore the positive potentialities of queer relations. After a brief introduction to Harry Potter, its fandom, and the phenomenon of incest as a trope in fan fiction in general, I will focus on close readings of the representation of possible incest desires in both the source text and in the movie adaptations, and their concrete exploration through Harry Potter twincest fan fiction in the pairings Fred/George and Padma/Parvati. By showing how twincest fiction operates as a logical extension of an underlying structure that has already been established by the source text, I discuss to what extent fan fiction takes on certain tropes, erotizes them, and therefore, harmonizes the struggle between latent meaning and resistant reading.

2. Potter's journey from infancy to incest

[2.1] The seven Harry Potter novels by British author J. K. Rowling and their top-grossing eight screen adaptations are well known all over the globe. In the form of a clever genre pastiche (Westman 2011), the books tell the monomythic story of an orphaned boy who discovers that he is capable of doing magic. On his 11th birthday, he is invited to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he meets mentors, friends, lovers, and enemies. But rather than the expected task of surviving school life and adolescence, Harry is primarily supposed to defeat his archnemesis: the evil wizard Voldemort, who murdered his parents and gradually regains power.

[2.2] Harry Potter has attracted a highly diverse group of readers and audiences (Westman 2011), providing them with numerous points of entry for their own fantasies, through fan fiction, fan art, video mash-ups, and the music genre Wizard Rock. In fan fiction narratives, fan writers have the opportunity to tell their own stories, poaching the characters from the source text (Jenkins 1992). The majority of these literary fantasies feature a romantic and/or sexual relationship (pairing) between two or more characters (Driscoll 2006) that were not necessarily romantically or erotically involved within the source text. The Harry Potter fan fiction community is currently one of the biggest and most productive fan fiction communities on the Web, with more than 650,000 stories archived on the multifandom-platform ( and about 52,000 texts on the younger platform Archive of Our Own (AO3; that has become an important gathering point for fan fiction writers in the last five years.

[2.3] Alongside the plethora of popular pairings—both canon (e.g., Ginny/Harry) and fanon (e.g., Remus/Sirius), heterosexual (e.g., Hermione/Severus) and queer (e.g., Harry/Draco)—numerous incest pairings and sibling incest pairings in particular are dealt with in fan fiction, and a critical and creative debate around the phenomenon of consensual, homosexual love between identical twins (twincest) takes place. Since identical twins are necessarily of the same gender, twincest fan fiction is always slash or femslash. Although Harry Potter fan fiction—and Harry Potter slash in particular—has been widely discussed (MacDonald 2006; Willis 2006; Tosenberger 2008a; Bond and Michelson 2009; Noppe 2010), sibling incest and twincest in the Harry Potter fandom have not yet been explored in detail. A close reading of twincest fan fiction stories with the twin brothers Fred and George Weasley and the twin sisters Padma and Parvati Patil in comparison with each other and in the context of their portrayal in the books and movies can illustrate how slash finds different, sometimes conflicting strategies to contribute to the queer struggles against the incest taboo and in the active deconstruction of the normalization of heteronormative relationships (Engel 2011). Following the lead of Jones (2002), Willis (2006) and Tosenberger (2008b), I intend to show how the Harry Potter twincest fan fiction author should be perceived not only as a queer reader in the sense of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (1994) but as an active decoder and recoder of subtextual meanings and elements, as a unifier of latent meanings and resistant readings. Although the bond between queer reading and slash fandom has been articulated before (Lothian, Busse, and Reid 2007; Dhaenens, Bauwel, and Biltereyst 2008; Cuntz-Leng 2013), this connection becomes exceptionally strong in twincest stories because their source texts feature twin relationships that prepare a semantic field, which already has a certain erotic potential and a higher degree of intimacy between two characters of the same gender than usual, and can quite easily be expanded without bending the source material by force.

3. Sibling incest in fan fiction

[3.1] Incest between siblings has been a theme in fan fiction of striking permanency and persistence. In almost every fictional universe that features biologically related characters (e.g., Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Supernatural [2005–])—brothers and sisters who have not been romantically or sexually involved in the source text or "mothership" (Scott 2013)—an exploration of the incestuous potential of these relationships through fan fiction can be detected. To illustrate the persistency of the sibling incest phenomenon in fan fiction and the immense variety of the motherships from which these stories originate, table 1 shows a list of sibling incest pairings from various fandoms (book, movie, comic, anime, TV series, even pop music [bandom]) over different periods of time that have been posted on AO3 (note 1).

Table 1. Incest fan fiction on AO3

Fandom No. of Stories No. of Incest Stories Percent of Incest Stories Pairing
Oasis (band) 39 29 74.4 Liam/Noel
Wizards of Waverly Place (TV) 109 81 74.3 Justin/Alex
Simon & Simon (TV) 64 42 65.6 A.J./Rick
Tokio Hotel (band) 636 384 60.4 Bill/Tom
Boondock Saints (movie) 473 231 48.8 Connor/Murphy
Frozen (movie) 687 196 28.5 Anna/Elsa
Supernatural (TV) 63,646 9,457 14.9 Dean/Sam
The Hobbit (all media types) 9,476 1,261 13.3 Fili/Kili
Lemony Snicket (book) 65 7 10.8 Klaus/Violet
Ouran High School Host Club (all media types) 680 64 9.4 Hikaru/Kaoru
Heroes (TV) 2,576 183 7.1 Peter/Nathan
Marvel (movies) 54,370 3,558 6.5 Loki/Thor
InuYasha (anime) 2,015 100 5.0 Inuyasha/Sesshoumaru
Firefly (TV) 4,131 74 1.8 Simon/River
Underworld (movies) 83 1 1.2 Marcus/William
Lord of the Rings (all media types) 6,870 68 1.0 Boromir/Faramir
Star Wars (all media types) 4,050 10 0.2 Leia/Luke
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV) 16,295 14 0.1 Buffy/Dawn

[3.2] The examples in table 1 show that the occurrence of incest fan fiction is independent of the media type of the original source. Movies, anime, books, TV series, and music fandoms alike can attract fan fiction writers that are interested in exploring sibling incest relations. Further, the date of origin of the source text seems to be irrelevant, since TV series from the early 1980s stand side by side with current pop acts. However, the predominance of male slash pairings is striking. Anna/Elsa of the Disney production Frozen (2013) and Buffy/Dawn of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003) remain the only two femslash pairings on the list; and this is on a par with the minor role of femslash in fan fiction writings in general. The only heterosexual pairings are Justin/Alex of Wizards of Waverly Place (2007–12), Klaus/Violet of the Lemony Snicket books (1999–2006), Simon/River of Firefly (2002–3), and Leia/Luke of Star Wars (1977–). One hypothesis for the predominance of slash in sibling incest fan fiction is that, because of their investment in the slash genre, slash writers are generally more used to and more interested in the exploration of unconventional and noncanonical relationships than het fiction writers. Furthermore, table 1 allows the assumption that a franchise with a large ensemble cast, like The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Heroes (2006–10), or the Marvel movies, offers many different possibilities for relationships that can be explored by the fan fiction writers and, in consequence, fewer incest stories are published. Conversely, when only a small number of pairing possibilities are available within the source text, and the characters in question are major players, incest is of high relevance in the respective fan fiction community (e.g., Oasis and Tokio Hotel fandoms, Wizards of Waverly Place, Simon & Simon [1981–95]).

[3.3] To my knowledge, the concrete and explicit exploration of homosexual love between identical twins is, with the exception of Michel Tournier's novel Gemini (1975), limited to the field of fan fiction. Whereas in fandom, the exploration of heterosexual incest relationships between twins of different gender (e.g., Luke and Leia of Star Wars) predates Harry Potter, twincest as an integral part of slash fan fiction originated in the Harry Potter fandom. As a result, the term twincest is nowadays strongly connected with slash and rarely with het stories; only 188 stories (17 percent) of the 1,112 total fan fiction stories on AO3 that are tagged as twincest explore heterosexual relations. Without taking Harry Potter into consideration, table 1 reveals four examples of slash twincest that are of differing popularity within their respective fandoms: the musicians Bill and Tom Kaulitz of the German pop band Tokio Hotel, the fraternal twin brothers Connor and Murphy of the vigilante film Boondock Saints (1999), the anime characters Hikaru and Kaoru of the Ouran High School Host Club franchise (2006–), and the vampire elders Marcus and William from the Underworld movie franchise (2003, 2006, 2009, 2012).

4. Incest and twincest in Harry Potter fan fiction

[4.1] Incest in Harry Potter fan fiction is relatively rare. Again, the formula "big cast = little incest" proves to be true and many other powerful figural constellations fire the imaginations of the fans. All incest pairings in Harry Potter must be called rare pairings. Of the 52,460 Harry Potter stories archived on AO3, only 1,056 (2.0 percent) are tagged as containing an incest pairing (note 2). Although this seems a comparatively small number of stories, the proportion of incest in Harry Potter fan fiction is significantly higher than in other fandoms. In comparison, 13,045 (1.28 percent) of the 1,020,665 total stories that are currently archived on AO3 are tagged as incest. Table 2 shows a selection of the Harry Potter incest figural constellations.

Table 2. Incest pairings in Harry Potter fan fiction on AO3

No. of Incest Stories Pairing Relationship
190 Fred/George Twin brothers
185 Fred/George/X Twin brothers + 1 (note 3)
185 Other Weasleycest Various
161 Blackcest Siblings
157 Malfoycest Parents/child
62 Pottercest Various
22 Padma/Parvati Twin sisters
15 Lysander/Lorcan Twin brothers
11 Padma/Parvati/X Twin sisters + 1 (note 4)

[4.2] Similar to table 1, table 2 shows that slash pairings are more dominant than heterosexual pairings in fan fiction stories dealing with the incest trope. The only heterosexual relations explored by fan writers are between Ginny Weasley and her brothers and between Draco Malfoy and his mother. With pairings like Bellatrix/Narcissa and Padma/Parvati, femslash plays a more prominent role in Harry Potter incest stories than it does in other fandoms, possibly because the Harry Potter franchise provides its fans with more and, possibly more interesting, female characters (Fry 2001). Further, it is striking that with the exception of Malfoycest (Draco/Lucius, Draco/Narcissa, Draco/Scorpius) and the Pottercest pairings involving Harry and his future children (23 out of 62), the majority of incest stories take place between siblings (875 out of 1,065—82 percent). The Fred/George pairing, and threesomes consisting of the Weasley twins and a third character, are by far the most common incest configurations in Harry Potter fan fiction (35.2 percent of all Harry Potter incest stories). With only 3.1 percent of Harry Potter incest stories, Patil twincest is not very popular. In addition to Patil and Weasley twincest, Luna Lovegood has—as part of the so-called next generation—a pair of twin sons named Lysander and Lorcan. Their existence has been revealed by Rowling in the made-for-TV documentary film J. K. Rowling: A Year in the Life (2007) that came out after the release of the last novel, and the small number of stories with this pairing (1.4 percent of all Harry Potter incest stories) indicates the minor impact of extratextual information provided by the author on fan works.

[4.3] Patil and Weasley twincest, which will later be explored in more detail, may not top in total numbers Fili/Kili (The Lord of the Rings) or Sam/Dean Wincest (Supernatural) slash fiction. Even so, the Harry Potter franchise is singular in that two sets of identical twin pairs of different genders appear in the same fictional universe. This unique feature enables us to look simultaneously at two different approaches of fan writers in dealing with sibling incest—one reflecting the desire for sameness, the other discussing the need to become an individual. By identifying the coexistence of both approaches in the source text and in fan fiction stories alike, the strength of the bond between both worlds can be foregrounded.

5. The Weasley twins

[5.1] The redheaded and freckled twins Fred and George are the older brothers of Harry Potter's best mate Ron. With their unconventional and subversive behavior, they seem to be the ideal couple when searching for homoerotic subtexts of the novels and films alike. They are connected with a special bond that is much stronger than the bonds between the other Weasley siblings. This "friendship extraordinaire" (Segal 1999, 97) mirrors the relationship that the majority of monozygotic twins experience in reality.

[5.2] Although Fred and George are older than Harry and his peer group, girlfriends of the twins are never mentioned. Only at the Yule ball in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (GoF) do girls accompany them as dates. But the dating originates not in any desire for women that the twins might express; instead, they only seem to want to tease their little brother Ron, who cannot manage to find a date for the ball himself (Rowling 2004a). In general, Fred and George finish one another's sentences and frequently complement each other like an old married couple; in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (OotP), they even drop out of school together to make a living from their curiosity and gag shop (Rowling 2003). They are never depicted as being apart from one another in the novels until the last installment of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (DH), when they are separated in the final battle against Voldemort's forces at Hogwarts. In that fight, separated from his brother, George is severely hurt. Later in the same novel, Fred dies, which is a trauma for the family and, we must assume, George in particular (Rowling 2007).

[5.3] It is crucial that the first six movies feature no sequence where only one of the twin brothers appears; moreover, they are together in the same frame most of the time throughout all films. Shots of one twin alone are quite rare, which underlines their inseparability. The close and special bond between the twins is visible in many sequences in the films—as, for example, where George and Fred drink an aging potion in GoF, link their arms, dance in a circle, and fall to the floor scuffling (Rowling 2004a). The high level of intimacy between the characters in the source text may facilitate the "one true pairing" trope that is at the heart of romance novels and essential to many fandoms (Driscoll 2006).

[5.4] Since conjoint trickery is their preeminent feature, the Weasley twins can be seen in the tradition of comedy in boarding school narrations comparable to Enid Blyton's St. Clare's series with the twins Patricia and Isabel O'Sullivan, or the comedy of mistaken identities in Das doppelte Lottchen (Lottie and Lisa) by Erich Kästner (1949). Just like these two pairs of girls, the Weasley twins trick people with their identical outer appearance. This corresponds with the movies, where Fred and George wear similar clothes until the age of 17; these are often jumpers that only differ by the initial of their given name. The Weasley twins also play with their identities through exchanging their names; several times, they even downplay the concept that they are two autonomous personalities. This is most obvious in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (PS) during Harry's first Christmas in Hogwarts, when their mother Molly sends presents to Harry and all of her children: "'You haven't got a letter on yours,' George observed [referring to a wool jumper Harry got from her]. 'I suppose she thinks you don't forget your name. But we're not stupid—we know we're called Gred and Forge'" (Rowling 2004b, 149).

[5.5] This character and name confusion shows simultaneously the sameness and connectivity of the twins and their discomfort in individualization. Tournier's Gemini uses a comparable stylistic device by naming the two separate twin characters Jean and Paul as one entity, Jean-Paul; likewise, the twin brothers Eric and Sam of William Golding's Lord of the Flies (1954) are called Samneric by the other characters. Like Jean-Paul and Samneric, the Weasley twins are so deeply related to each other that not only their mother but also they themselves mix up the identities. That their unity is expressed through the names is one tool that writers of twincest fan fiction use, such as in "A Little Problem of Virginity" (beren 2010), where a confused Harry has his initial sexual experience with the twin brothers:

[5.6] Harry decided to stop playing mental tennis with the pair and just to think of them as one entity with two bodies: it made the whole situation easier as well as saving him a headache. He labelled them Fredngeorge in his head rather than Fred and George and suddenly he wasn't quite so on edge. (beren 2010)

[5.7] By combining linguistic strategies to indicate the sameness of characters—from Gred and Forge via Samneric to Fredngeorge—elements of the original sources are skillfully expanded by the fan text. "A Little Problem of Virginity" (beren 2010), as well as the majority of Weasley twincest, focuses on the idea of sameness. The implication of amorous feelings is mostly grounded in the corresponding identities and trains of thought of the twin brothers that have been characteristic tropes in the original series. Many fan stories contain expressions like "perfect unison," "perfect synchronization," or "stereo" to describe their relationship. Miss Mathilda May's "Let's Get Metaphysical" (2003) is another good example to show how fan fiction authors focus on the interrelated personalities of the twins. In this particular fan fiction story, it is even unclear from which perspective the story is told. Is it Fred or George? Does that even matter or is there a difference? "I [Fred or George Weasley] realised that I didn't love him [the other twin] or me and I never had and I didn't have to. I didn't love him, I loved us. We loved us. And I never want to be lonely again."

[5.8] Several studies on the sexuality of male monozygotic twins have shown that homosexual twins strictly reject erotic feelings for their brothers (Heston and Shields 1990, 56; Segal 1999, 113–14). Still, the phenomenon of genetic sexual attraction exists. Segal (1999) describes separated biological mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, and brothers and sisters experiencing a strong sexual connection after reunion. They "described it 'as though you have met a part of yourself.' Others have commented that it 'seems to be a type of self-love. One you never knew about or could understand before.'" (113). "Let's Get Metaphysical" evokes associations with the genetic sexual attraction phenomenon, where the sexual attraction between close relatives has been described as some kind of autoeroticism, with self-love being the most intimate form of sexuality, paralleled in twincest fiction.

[5.9] Another interesting example to illustrate how the intimate relatedness of the twin brothers in the source text is translated into sexual desirability can be found in "Recompense and Return" (bar_bar_ella 2006), a story from Snape's point-of-view. The author argues that the twins' synchrony must have been unnerving for their teachers and most pleasurable for their lovers. The author concentrates on the motif of doubling and reflecting each other's actions throughout this story about the twins making an obnoxious Snape the gift of physical love, continuously referencing the relationship the twins had with Snape in the source text:

[5.10] The simpatico the twins shared had often unnerved Snape over the years of their acquaintance. And it had quite obviously been something of an unfair advantage to them and their blasted House on the Quidditch field. But in the bedroom…in the bedroom, Snape thought, it was utterly perfect. Their rhythm and timing were impeccable. As one cock pulled back from his body, the other was thrusting in. If one slowed in pace, the other sensed it and adjusted accordingly. When Fred's breath became heavier, George's did too. Every groan seemed to be in stereo. (bar_bar_ella 2006)

[5.11] The misbehavior of the canonical characters is reinterpreted as seductive potential, with seduction being the second major characteristic of the twins that Rowling had developed in the novels. In the tradition of mythological tricksters that have been described by Turner (1968) as characters with an unstable—or queer—sexual status (580), the twins seduce others to do forbidden things, as for example when in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (PoA) they tell Harry to use the Marauder's Map to illegally leave Hogwarts (Rowling 2004c). In twincest stories, their mischief from the books and films is logically extrapolated into sexual intentions.

[5.12] This high potential of subversion through mischief-making might be the main reason nearly half of all Fred/George stories include a third character that is being seduced by the twins. These are often first-time stories. Harry is a popular third man in those threesomes, though Snape, Ron, Percy, and Draco are also seen. The Weasley twins sometimes function as seducers of a virginal Harry who is afraid to die without the experience of sexuality, as in "A Little Problem of Virginity" (beren 2010) or Emma Grant's "Checking it Twice" (emmagrant01 2004). Many Weasley twins/third character fan fiction stories feature the humor that is also typical for Rowling's characterization of the twins, as in "Recompense and Return":

[5.13] Snape sighed languidly as Fred closed his fist around Snape's cock. "I've certainly never…" Snape had to pause while Fred's thumb smeared through the pre-come on his knob. "I've never been with twins." "Neither have we!" they said in unison, identical grins lighting up their faces. Dear gods—too much of that and Snape might be forced to actually smile back. (bar_bar_ella 2006)

[5.14] In Hui-Buh's post–DH story "Ein unmoralisches Angebot" (Indecent proposal) (2008) with the pairing George/Draco and implications of Fred/George, the relationship between the twins is described with allegories like being whole only together, inseparable, Siamese twins, and being head and ass. The metaphor of conjoined twins is used to increase the intimate relationship between twins. After Fred's death in DH, George lost more than just a brother; he lost his half and, in Hui-Buh's interpretation, is nearly unable to function. Rowling herself regards George's trauma comparably: in a talk after the release of the final novel, she revealed that George never recovered fully from the loss, and honored his brother's memory by naming his eldest child after his dead twin Fred (note 5). This corresponds with Segal's (1999) work on twinless twins, where the death of a twin was reported as the more devastating loss when compared to the loss of a spouse or another sibling. She pointed out the influence of this harm on the surviving twin, who becomes "a living reminder of the deceased, experiencing the confusion of others, dreading the approach of solitary birthdays, facing decisions alone, and questioning one's status as a twin" (171).

[5.15] "Ein unmoralisches Angebot" is a valid example of the ongoing narration and modification of the source text. With the end of the series and the death of several characters, the creative examination of the novels does not end. With Fred's death, a new aspect for further discussion has been added and thus the debate on the special intimacy between identical twins can live on within the fan community.

6. The Patil sisters

[6.1] Although identical twins share the same genetic code, they remain two different people, as Wright (1997) argues in his work on twins. While most of the Weasley slash stories ignore this, it is, on the contrary, the main focus of Patil femslash writers. The Indian sisters are the same age as Harry and remarkably beautiful. Unlike the Weasleys, the Patil twins are sorted into different Hogwarts houses (Rowling 2004a): Parvati is in Gryffindor, while her sister Padma is sorted into Ravenclaw. Rowling points out that they are integrated into different circles of friends. In the movies, the Patil sisters are both in Gryffindor, probably for reasons of plot simplification.

[6.2] While the books give little subtext on a potential homosexuality of the twin sisters, who are more minor characters than the Weasley twins, Mike Newell's movie adaptation of GoF features an interesting sequence in the scene where Hermione walks down the stairs to the Yule ball. Parvati is Harry's date for the ball; her sister Padma accompanies Harry's best friend Ron. For comic effect, in the first half of the film the two sisters walked hand in hand several times past Harry, until he and Ron finally asked them out. Parvati is the first to recognize Hermione when the usually rather unimposing girl appears on the scene. Parvati is totally fascinated by her beauty and shows no trace of envy, as would be typical for such a cinematic situation, although her date Harry is fascinated by the physical appearance of the other girl. Normally, the male act of lustful looking (Mulvey 1989) would escalate into a conflict between the couple, as shown in many romantic comedies. Parvati's failure to demonstrate jealousy indicates her lack of interest in Harry. She is further masculinized by sharing the admiration of another female with the male protagonist. This potential of lesbian desire combined with a desire toward otherness that is strong in the cinematic adaptation of Rowling's text provides a fertile starting point for twincest stories.

[6.3] In this context, it is quite striking to note that the Patil twin sisters in the movies are, in contrast to the Weasley twins, not played by real twins, but instead by two actresses who are not biologically kindred. Furthermore, they wear different albeit related saris in the Yule ball sequence: Parvati is dressed in orange with a pink sash, while Padma wears a pink sari with an orange sash. This corresponds with the novels, in which the Patils try to be seen as individual characters, in contrast with the perfect symbiosis of Fred and George.

[6.4] In Girlykisses's "Washed on the Delicate Cycle" (2006), for example, Padma is described as heterosexual but shy, whereas Parvati is self-confident, lesbian, and secretly in love with her sister. In Salmon_Pink's "Echoed" (2006), Parvati dresses up as her twin by changing earrings and hairstyle. She wants to explore how her sister would look when she orgasms by masturbating in front of a mirror. The mirror implies the narcissistic component in Parvati's erotic act, and additionally refers to the genetic sexual attraction phenomenon mentioned earlier. The tragic story "Flower Plait" (confiteor_3 2007) mentions that Parvati and Padma, who turn to each other as lovers in time of impending war, never had the opportunity to switch their identities because their voices were extremely different. It seems typical for Patil twincest to feature at least one element that separates the twins and makes it easy to tell them apart. An example of this persistent motif is Tickled's "Sisterly Love":

[6.5] They each had traits the other envied; Padma wished she were brave like her sister, and Parvati wanted Padma's intelligence and great use of logic. But when they were about fifteen, the twins started noticing their own (and, subsequently, one another's) physical beauty. They realized that their identical bodies were one of the only things they had in common. (Tickled 2004)

[6.6] These examples show how their differences are played out over their character traits, their physical appearance, or their Hogwarts house affiliation. Gryffindor is associated with bravery while Ravenclaw represents wisdom and intelligence. As a Ravenclaw student, Padma lives in the same house as the strange girl Luna, while Parvati is best friends with Lavender Brown in Gryffindor. Although Patil threesomes involving a female as the third participant are seen less often than in Weasley twincest, whereas cross-gender threesomes with a male character are more common, some Luna/Patil twins and Lavender/Patil twins stories can be found on the Web. These stories also share the aspect that—in reference to the source text—the differences rather than the similarities between the twins are explored by the third character. In a very intimate situation in "Something New," Luna makes the discovery that Parvati tastes like a paperwhite, whereas Padma tastes "greener, like a daffodil" (Alisanne and Celandine 2007).

[6.7] Patil femslash writers revisit the motif of individualization that has been established by the source material. Stories about the sisters focus on the dissimilarity of the twins, whereas Fred and George act together in ideal harmony. This may be a reason for the lesser popularity of the Patil pairing: admirers of twincest mainly want to discuss the sameness of their couple, because otherwise they could as well write about two characters who are not kindred. The sameness of identical twins is the crucial reason for their fascination. That is, while differences can be discussed between any characters, sameness is optimally depicted via identical twins. Patil slash might also be less popular than Weasley twincest because the Patils are less present in the original series than the Weasley twins, and femslash in general is not as widespread as male/male slash within nearly every fan fiction community—Gabrielle/Xena of Xena: Warrior Princess (1995–2001) might be one of the few exceptions.

7. Conclusion

[7.1] The analysis of the two figural constellations of Fred/George and Padma/Parvati indicates an imbalance between the Patils and the Weasleys in terms of their importance in fandom, both quantitatively and qualitatively. At the same time, this mirrors their relevance in the source text. The analysis of Harry Potter twincest fan fiction stories shows that they are not arbitrary creations, because elements of the source text are still recognizable in the fan works. For example, the seductive potential of the Weasley twins and the highlighting of small differences between the Patil sisters support this conjecture. Fan writers preserve the quite different portrayal of both sets of twins in the source material. Harry Potter is a unique environment, in which the two contradictory connotations of incest—the desire for sameness and the desire for individuality—can be and are explored. In this sense, Harry Potter underlines, through the coexistence of the exploration of both incest motifs in fan fiction, the idea that fans primarily try to enhance the characters according to the canon rather than forcefully bending them.

[7.2] Weasley and Patil twincest share the interest in the investigation of doubling motifs for erotic purposes. In this context, it is crucial to recognize that Rowling has created a fictional universe that is profoundly enriched with doubling motifs and twin symbolism. First and foremost, this observation applies to the twin wands of Harry and his archnemesis Voldemort as well as the hero and the foe themselves with their strangely mirroring appearances and biographies (Piippo 2009, 69–70). Furthermore, body-switches and bodily duplications with Polyjuice Potion, Animagi (humans who change into animals at will), and other characters with double and mistaken identities (e.g., Quirrell, Lupin, Moody, Snape) show the persistence and importance of this trope. Magical objects like the Mirror of Erised, the two-way mirror Harry received from his godfather, and the Time-Turner, which allows Harry and Hermione in PoA to follow their own footsteps, add to this list. Further, the movie adaptations can be understood as interpretive doubles of the books for an audience that is familiar with both versions (Hutcheon 2006, 139) and, therefore, a doubled vision on the narrative is created. In addition, because of the chiastic structure of the monomythic series, the novels themselves can be seen as doubles of each other: PS and DH mirror each other, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, PoA and OotP, and finally, GoF operates as the main turning-point for the overall story arc.

[7.3] Twincest fan fiction can be understood as the execution of the next step in exploiting this inner logic of the Harry Potter text. This may explain why Harry Potter twincest is—in contrast to the majority of incest stories in art, literature, film—never about breaking of taboos. The consensuality of incest is not a question in Harry Potter twincest stories; it is a basic requirement. Because of the underlying logic of the source material, twincest in Harry Potter fandom is something that seems easy, natural, logical, and mandatory. This teaches us not only about the relationship between source text and fan text as well as the relationship between authenticity and resistance in fan creations, but also shows that the analysis of fan works can give us a better understanding of the source material and should be taken into account for academic literature and film analysis. Taking and emphasizing an existing strand are self-evident for a fan; and Harry Potter twincest is a prime example for the hypothesis that fan creations—especially fan fiction—help enlighten the basic logic and the underlying sexual connotations and tensions of the original text.

8. Acknowledgments

[8.1] I thank Abigail de Kosnik, Andrea Horbinski, Kate Mattingly, and Mihiri Tillakaratne for their helpful critiques in the New Media Research Seminar at the University of California, Berkeley.

9. Notes

1. All data retrieved from AO3 on March 3, 2014.

2. All data retrieved from AO3 on March 3, 2014.

3. The third characters in threesome fan fiction stories with the Weasley twins are as follows: Harry, Hermione, Draco, Severus Snape, Lee Jordan, Angelina Johnson, Percy, Ginny, Ron, and Charlie Weasley, Neville Longbottom, Tonks, Blaise Zabini, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Cedric Diggory, Lucius Malfoy, and Luna Lovegood.

4. The third characters in threesome fan fiction stories with the Patil twins are as follows: Harry, Hermione, Ron, Luna Lovegood, Seamus Finnegan, Blaise Zabini, Viktor Krum, Dean Thomas, Cormac McLaggen, and Arthur Weasley.

5. Transcript from the Live Chat on with J. K. Rowling on July 30, 2007 (

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