Do you know what makes me emotional? The end of summer. It means the days will start to get shorter, and school is back in session. Does anyone need more of a reason to cry than that?
If you do, and emotional fics are your cup of tea, I’ve collected some of my favorites that made me sob. We’re moving into dangerous territory here, so please take the content warnings for these fics seriously. Some are severely triggering in nature and won’t be for everyone. They all have a happy ending besides 7 Up (debatably – I consider it bittersweet).
As I mention every month, some of these works require an Archive of Our Own account to access, and you need to sit on a waitlist – typically for a week or two – to gain access. I recommend hopping on that list as soon as possible and diving into the open fics now!
- 7 Up by cherrystreet
Summary: Very loosely based on the British TV show “The Up Series” and somewhat inspired by the song “Something I Need” by Onerepublic, we follow the lives of Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson in an interview setting every seven years. They fall apart and come together, their lives and emotions recorded. Harry calls it a time capsule. Louis calls it a pain in the arse.
Why I Liked It: 7 Up is the only Major Character Death story I’ll ever read and recommend. It’s not too long but spans the entire lives of Harry & Louis, including all of the realistic ups and downs in their time together. There’s no question: you will cry. And this story will stick with you.
Content Warning: Major Character Death
2. Chasing Empty Spaces by Lis (domesticharry)
Summary: The year is 1934 and Harry Styles was to inherent the largest tobacco firm in the south. His parents have picked out the “perfect” girl for him to marry and he has the privilege of receiving the highest education possible. The problem was, Harry hadn’t realized he didn’t actually want any part of that future until he met a mechanic named, Louis Tomlinson.
Why I Liked It: This fic has a gorgeous slow build as Harry discovers and tries to process his sexuality at a time and place where it isn’t allowed. Louis in Chasing Empty Spaces is incredible, patient and almost like a mentor for Harry in addition to a love interest as he navigates his struggles. Lovely moments of nearly poetic fluff are interspersed through the angst-filled storyline.
Content Warning: Internalized Homophobia, Forced Marriage
3. Fading by tothemoonmydear
Summary: Louis knows about beauty; the combination of qualities that pleases the aesthetic senses. He creates that combination every day in the garments he designs while studying fashion at uni. The cut of the design, the color of the fabric, the intricacy of the stitching; it all comes together to create something beautiful. When the science student with the long legs and dimpled smile agrees to model for him, Louis decides he’s found beauty personified. Harry just thinks Louis needs someone to show him how beautiful he is.
Why I Liked It: Fading is one of the most challenging fics I’ve read. It has an incredibly well-done use of perspective and broke my heart over and over. This fic is very detailed regarding the aforementioned eating disorder, so if you think you may have an ED, are currently coping with one, or are in recovery, it might not be the best choice for you. For those who can handle it and want intense hurt/comfort fics, this will put you through the wringer.
Content Warning: Severe Eating Disorder and Body Dysmorphia, Past Domestic Abuse
4. to live on the moon with you by toastghost
Summary: In which Louis is a struggling writer who gets sad sometimes and Harry works in an ice cream shop. Zayn is the best friend in the world and Liam is shy and Niall thinks they’re all definitely a clique.
Why I Liked It: This fic is a cathartic, emotional read. Louis struggles to recover from depression and meets Harry, leaving little sticky notes of prose that the ice cream shop worker finds. The way the prose is utilized to tell the story is gorgeous, and I think anyone who’s struggled with mental illness in any way will take something away from it.
Content Warning: Depression
5. a concert six months from now by wolfiemcwolferson
Summary: Harry Styles met Louis Tomlinson at the Hollywood Bowl in 2011 and it’s going to be a problem for the rest of his life. feat: songwriting for Niall, The National, Martin guitars, pearls, and the author’s love letter to the cliffs of La Jolla
Why I Liked It: This fic starts with some of the most well-done fluff I’ve read, and it goes on for quite a while. I typically struggle with fluff at times in fics, but not once did I here. The next thing I knew, I was sobbing out of nowhere, the plot taking a turn I didn’t anticipate. Don’t be afraid of the Ambiguous Ending tag! The drabbles round everything out with a happy ending. Make sure to read them as the fic prompts you to do so.
Content Warning: Cheating (not L/H cheating on each other), Anxiety Attacks, Discussion of Cancer
6. another hazy may by deLILAh
Summary: louis is a terrible poet and harry lives in the now and they have six weeks to fall in love but, really, it only takes six seconds. bookshop meets military meets summer romance au ft. marlboros, the backstreet boys, and underrated literary devices.
Why I Liked It: I can’t believe there isn’t more to it! another hazy may is beautiful. It features freeform poetry, bringing a gorgeous atmosphere to this summer romance fic. The way dread builds up as you read is incredible, always making you well-aware of where Harry needs to go. One of those fics that I read once and never wanted to let go of, a comfort read.
Content Warning: Description of Past Injury
7. Take My Breath Away by RealityBetterThanFiction
Summary: Lt. Harry Styles, call sign Sparrow, is a prodigy when it comes to flying. The owner of an unrivaled Naval pedigree, being a pilot was always written in the stars for Harry. With his trusty RIO, Lt. Niall Horan, Harry has made an unprecedented ascension in the ranks of the Naval aerial combat elite, and has been recruited to the esteemed Premier Delta flight school, carrying on his family’s legacy. What he finds there are unexpected friendships, perilous challenges, and something beyond what he ever thought possible. Because as his father had always told him, before the great Captain Styles went tragically missing in combat, you don’t fall in love with the sky, you fall in love with what keeps you on the ground.
Why I Liked It: The naval jargon was a struggle for me, admittedly, only added to the fact that I have never seen Top Gun, the fic this was inspired by. That being said, the story is incredibly well-written and features multiple significant beats. There’s a lot of sexual tension, a lot of pain, and a lot of drama. I laughed, I cried, I wanted more Niall. Always more Niall.
Content Warning: PTSD, Character Injury, Plane Accident, Air Fight
8. all we can do is keep breathing by thealmightyavocado
Summary: a fated story of two broken and battered boys who barely survived the unimaginable and how the love of one little brave girl defies all the odds and somehow puts them back together.
Why I Liked It: Inspired by Grey’s Anatomy, awcdikb follows an epic story of love, loss, and second chances. It’s tough to read, including the story of a gorgeous young girl named Avery, but the pain and tension are frequently broken up with beautiful, sweet moments. Get ready for heartache. thealmightyavocado is working on a sequel as we speak, and from what I’ve heard, it’s even more heartbreaking.
Content Warning: Many Triggers – Please Read Tags
9. Here in the Afterglow by fondleeds
Summary: 1970’s AU. In a tiny town in Idaho, Louis’ life is changed forever by the arrival of a curious stranger.
Why I Liked It: A must-read piece of queer literature, Here in the Afterglow sees Louis meeting Harry and falling in love in a time and place where not everyone accepts it. This fic has one of my favorite first-meet scenes of all time, and though you’ll feel a lot of angst, you’ll be rewarded with idyllic fluff and hope. I tend to compare this fic to Harry’s song Matilda – read it and see if you agree.
Content Warning: Period-Typical Homophobia, Mentions of Past Abuse, Slurs, Bullying
10. Mine Would Be You by crinkle-eyed-boo (KimmieRocks)
Summary: Louis returns to New York City five years after he left it – and the love of his life – behind. He didn’t intend to see Harry again, but fate has a funny way of pulling them together, whether they like it or not. After making a begrudging truce, they both start to wonder: Would it be so bad if history repeated itself?
Why I Liked It: Exes to lovers fics are always emotional roller coasters, but the amount of effort that crinkle-eyed-boo put into Mine Would Be You is staggering. There are so many distinct scenes and flashbacks, and many moments and feelings live rent-free in my head. Get ready to hate designer clothes and Xander.
Content Warning: No Major Triggers
If you have questions or are seeking additional recommendations, you can find me on Twitter at @FitzandLarry – happy reading, and have a lovely September!