Gray Skies Will Give Way to Sunlight
“Harry, quickly, come in.”
Dumbledore was at the other end of the room, a room already filled to bursting with people Harry did not even know; half of them he recognized from the previous Order meeting, the other half were ambiguous. Dumbledore did not react to Ron and Hermione’s presence behind him, so either he didn’t care or hadn’t noticed at all. Dumbledore grabbed Harry’s shoulder as soon as he was within arms’ length and steered him in front of the table.
“The students have reacted as I expected,” Dumbledore said. Harry looked at him, a little confused. “I anticipate they will be angry for quite some time, but as long as they comply with the new schedules, I will allow them their outrage.”
“What do you plan to do if they refuse?” asked a man not far from them.
“I will refuse their refusal,” Dumbledore said simply. “If I must become the proverbial villain to protect those under my charge, I will do so.”
“The Board of Governors, though,” someone asked. “What if they refuse your refusal of their refusals?”
That was too many refusals; Harry was getting even more confused.
“I feel it fair to say a majority of the school governors are on my side,” Dumbledore answered. “In this area, we are at the advantage.”
“We should discuss how we will handle the students’ reaction to Harry’s testimony,” said Professor McGonagall. “Miss Granger’s quick thinking earlier, while effective, will not be appropriate for everyday usage.”
“I am hoping the threat of privilege loss will dissuade anyone from harassing Harry, but if need be, we will put him in private lessons until the situation calms.”
“I don’t want to be put in private lessons,” Harry said bristly.
“Harry, please recognize that you are no good to use running constantly from your own peers,” Dumbledore said, sighing. “This is not a fight you must participate in.”
I told you.
Harry tried not to shoot a glare over his shoulder at Ginny. She could tell he was irritated with her again, and he could tell that she didn’t care.
“The evening Prophet has already been released, and as I expected, not one of us is given a good light.”
Then Dumbledore pulled a copy of the paper from his robes and set it on the table before him and Harry saw his own face glaring up at him; his jaw clenched, his eyes wild and mad, his brows knitted together, even his hair was a disaster adding to the air of hostility. He felt his heart drop at the headline, POTTER, UNSTABLE AS HIS LIFE .
“I had hoped they would have more respect for the dead, but not even Madam Bones escaped scrutiny,” Dumbledore kept speaking. “The Wembley Act is being portrayed as a saving grace and us as angry rebels.”
“We shall press on,” Professor McGonagall said stiffly. “We do not need to coddle them until they feel better.”
“Thank you, Minerva,” Dumbledore said, nodding to her. “This is of the utmost importance; we press on, no matter what our actions are painted to be. We are at war.”
Harry’s gaze dropped down to the paper again, watching camera flashes give his eyes a manic light. He hardly recognized himself in the photograph.
“That is all for now,” Dumbledore said, jerking Harry’s attention up again. “Keep on your guard, warn as many as you can but do not risk your positions. Kingsley, I’d like you to stay a while longer to speak with me. Minerva, start drawing up schedules for the extra lessons. The rest of you may leave.”
Chairs scraped against the stone floor as the room full of people rose and made their way down to the fireplace. Dumbledore quickly moved away from Harry to approach a tall black man further down the table, and Harry just stood there, looking awkward and unsure, wondering if he was meant to leave too.
Sirius walked up to him, setting a hand on his shoulder. “You and Ginny are staying in our quarters tonight,” his godfather said in a hushed voice. “I don’t want you having to deal with this mess any more than necessary.”
Harry only nodded; he was grateful, even if he felt guilty about hiding. He looked at Dumbledore again, but the Headmaster was focused on the person he was talking with. He nodded again, letting Sirius steer him away. Ginny slipped her hand in his and, even though she was still mad at him and he at her, she squeezed his hand. Remus joined them on the stairs, saying something quietly to Sirius that Harry didn’t catch; Sirius just nodded and they kept walking. They left the office, Ron and Hermione turned right as they turned left, and at the door to their quarters, Ginny dropped Harry’s hand. She went into the spare bedroom without a word, and Harry’s shoulders drooped.
“It’ll be alright,” Sirius murmured to Harry. “You’ll patch up.”
“Tea?” Remus said; ever the Englishman, Remus started making tea before they could answer, but it wasn’t necessary, of course, they wanted tea. Harry dropped onto the sofa and hung his head in his hands, while Sirius sat across from him in the armchair.
“You want to talk about it?” Sirius asked him. “I can help.”
“I don’t know what to do,” Harry admitted quietly.
“Of course, you don’t,” Sirius said to him, “you’re fifteen, you’re s’posed to be focused on OWL’s and sex, not acts of war and terrorism.”
Harry nodded. Remus set a cup of tea in front of him and he picked it up, taking a cautious sip from it. He liked it better when Ginny made it.
“Was it like this?” he asked eventually. “Before — Last time.”
“Yes,” Sirius said hesitantly, “and no. There were… fewer opponents, I think. Voldemort was bolder, or maybe he was just more open, but there wasn’t doubt about his presence.”
Harry set down his tea and rubbed at his face with a hand. He wished Sirius was right, that his biggest stress were OWL’s, but exams would be a blessing compared to the mess he’d landed in
“I’d like to read what the Prophet’s said,” he murmured a moment later. “Have you got a copy?”
Sirius and Remus exchanged glances, then Remus nodded. He walked into his bedroom and came back a minute later with the newspaper in hand.
“Just, remember, please,” Remus said before he handed it to Harry, “that their whole goal is to discredit Dumbledore and you and anyone who thinks you’re telling the truth.”
Harry unfolded the paper and found the top of the article.
POTTER, UNSTABLE AS HIS LIFE. In the aftermath of yesterday’s terrorist attack on King’s Cross Station and during the back and forth proceedings of the Wizengamot over the implementation of the Wembley Act of Caution, Harry Potter spoke up in protest of the Wembley Act. Harry Potter, who lost his only family to needless magical violence in a Muggle village 14 years ago this Halloween, seems to be the sort of person who would champion the breakthrough of the Wembley Act, however, his speech before the Wembley Act was voted in was anything but celebratory. Rather, Potter claimed that the attack upon the train station was planned and executed by the long dead He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Furthering his outrageous claim, Potter accused Sir Lucius Malfoy of foreknowledge of the terrorist attack and of writing the Wembley Act for the benefit of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. These outlandish claims, however, are understandable when one considers the stress that Potter has been under since August when he was forced into marriage by —
Harry stopped reading. He folded the paper again, then balled it up and threw it as hard as he could towards the fireplace, where it landed in the hearth and began to smolder. Remus sat down next to Harry and set a hand on his shoulder, but Harry got to his feet and started pacing.
“They’re blaming Ginny?” he demanded. “What the hell! Why are they doing this?”
“They want people to think you’ve gone round the bend!” Remus said. “On the next page, they go in depth on Dumbledore’s dementia and follow it up with Madam Bones’s expressing her grief over her niece’s death in unhealthy ways!”
“What more can they accuse us of?” Harry said, hardly listening anymore. “This is insane! They’ve been attacking Ginny ever since it came out that we got married; it’s driving her insane! Is it so hard to believe that Voldemort is alive that they’d rather paint me and Ginny as hormonal and idiot teenagers — that they’d say I was forced into it!”
Sirius stood up and grabbed Harry by the shoulders, his fingers almost digging into Harry’s flesh. “Harry, listen to me and listen carefully. They needed something to blame and now that they’ve found it, they’re not going to let it go.” Harry tried to pull away and Sirius jerked him back, his face hard and pale. “But you listen, you cannot let rumors and gossip drive a wedge between you and someone you love.”
Harry just clenched his jaw for a second, refusing to look Sirius in the eye or at the closed spare room door.
“I’m speaking from experience, Harry. You can’t let that happen.”
Harry lifted his gaze, not to Sirius’s eyes, but to Remus, who was watching them from the couch. Slowly, Remus nodded.
“Okay,” he murmured, and Sirius let go of his shoulders. His godfather looked at him for a second, and it struck Harry suddenly that Sirius was shorter than him. That he had a few gray hairs at his temple. That his eyes had wrinkles at the corners, that his stubble was less black than it had been when they’d first met, that he was older.
Harry was older, too.
He stepped past Sirius and opened the door to the spare bedroom, stepping inside and shutting it carefully behind him. The room was empty at first glance, but the attached bathroom door was ajar and there was a light on inside. He crossed to it and knocked.
Ginny opened it, then held up a finger. She was brushing her teeth. Harry stood there while she brushed and then spat and rinsed out her mouth, silent while she dried her lips and put the towel back on its hook, while she stepped past him and dropped onto the bed.
“We should talk,” he said eventually.
“I know,” she mumbled.
Harry moved to the other side of the bed and climbed onto it. Ginny rolled over, putting her back to him. Harry clenched his jaw, then lay down behind her and pushed his arms around her waist. She let out a little squawk of protest but Harry had locked his arms around her and she couldn’t escape him.
“We’re talking,” he said.
“What if I just want to sleep?” Ginny demanded. “What if I don’t want to talk?”
“I don’t give a shit,” Harry said forcefully. Ginny shifted in his arms to look at him, her gaze hard. “New rule. I’m not letting you go to sleep mad at me, you can’t let me go to sleep mad at you. Deal?”
“Why not?” Ginny huffed.
“Because neither of us are idiots,” he said.
“And where did this wise wisdom come from?” Ginny asked. “The inventor of all things wise himself?”
“Sirius,” Harry said, and Ginny went quiet. Apparently, she hadn’t been listening. “From experience.”
“Fine,” she murmured finally, and Harry loosened his grip a little. “What do you want to say?”
“I’m sorry I shouted at you.”
“I’m sorry I called you an idiot.”
“I forgive you.”
Ginny nodded, then she yawned. “I’m sorry that I got mad at you because of what Dumbledore did,” she muttered. “It wasn’t fair to you.”
“I’m sorry that I tried to shoulder this alone and that I forgot about you.”
“I forgive you,” she murmured.
Harry kissed her forehead. “You can go to sleep now,” he said. Ginny slipped an arm around his waist and rested her forehead on his shoulder. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
For a moment, they said nothing. Ginny’s slow inhales filled Harry’s ears, his own heartbeat adding a faint rhythm. Then, she spoke again.
“I think you should call your aunt tomorrow.”
Harry hesitated, for a second unsure, then remembered that his uncle had been at the station. That his uncle was numbered among the dead. He nodded.
He did speak with his aunt the next day, using the Floo to the Burrow to contact her. She didn’t cry, but her eyes would never meet his. Vernon, she’d said, had been sober. He had been coming to the village to show her proof that he’d been attending Alcoholics Anonymous, and he’d been sober for almost two years. He was trying to fulfill Step Nine and make up for how he had wronged her and Dudley, and even Harry. When they said goodbye, Harry retreated back to the spare bedroom where he stared at the ceiling until night fell, wondering what he would have done if his uncle had tried to apologize to him.
For a week, Harry and Ginny stayed out of sight; they slept and ate in Sirius and Remus’s private quarters. Neither of them touched the copy of the Prophet Remus would get, and they didn’t listen to the radio at all. After that week and the dust had settled some, they returned to Gryffindor Tower and their rooms, but they still avoided the other students. This seemed fine with everyone else, however. Hardly anyone even looked at them, and if they did, it was with barely controlled glares and blank stares. Pavarti and Lavender, who usually sat in the middle of the common room to chat and laugh loudly, gave them looks of distrust when they passed by. Alicia looked at the ground when she neared them. Lee stopped smiling, and not even Fred and George could cheer him up. Head Girl Hollins would turn her back to them when they exited their rooms at the same time as her. Seamus avoided everyone, even Dean, who eventually stopped trying to get his best friend to talk to him it seemed. Not even Collin and Dennis Creevey looked at them.
It would have been a relief, to no longer be whispered about and stared at, if it hadn’t been for the fact that all these people were not only angry, but grieving. Harry didn’t judge them. He, too, walked with deflated shoulders and his eyes on the ground. It was like a heavy blanket had settled over the whole castle; no one could escape the ever-permeating aura of grief. Students that had once been bright and lively were now hidden behind dull eyes and watery smiles. Even the skies seemed to be mourning, with naught but clouds and colorless air, not even the sun shining upon them to lend the barest hint of yellow to the graying world.
The new semester started, and despite the students' anger at the initial announcement, no one protested the new defense lessons. Initially, Sirius, Remus, Tonks, and even Professor Flitwick taught in tandem; spellwork from Flitwick and Sirius, and hand-to-hand defense from Remus and Tonks. When Harry asked how Remus knew so much, his godfather shrugged and said he’d attended a Muggle school before Hogwarts with not-so-polite leanings towards children of his origins. When Harry asked what that meant, Remus told him to ask another time. Within another week, Dumbledore had hired Alastor Moody once again to take over from Sirius, Remus, and Flitwick. The additional lessons were given every day after regular classes, first and second years on Mondays, third and fourth years on Tuesdays, fifth years on Wednesdays, sixth years on Thursdays, and seventh years on Fridays.
During normal lessons, extra things were added to the curriculum. Flitwick began teaching simple healing spells, advancing them for the fifth years and above, Snape started them on healing potions and calming draughts, McGonagall started the sixth and seventh years on how to transfigure large objects like desks into big cats and bears. By the end of January, even the first years knew how to break an attacker’s hand and wand in one motion.
Dumbledore hadn’t had time to continue their private lessons, with all the going back and forth between the ministry contesting the emplacement of the Wembley Act, and since everyone was getting extra training, Tonks stopped doing their lessons at the crack of dawn, though they continued to do physical exercise before breakfast. McGonagall kept them doing their Animagus training, and by the first week of February, all of them had managed to transfigure at least halfway into their complete forms.
But despite the hustle and bustle, the students remained hushed and distant. They still walked with their shoulders drooping and their eyes on the ground. It snowed two feet halfway through January and no one started even a snowball skirmish, let alone a fight. Not even Fred and George tried. Quidditch matches were half-hearted and empty without Lee’s enigmatic commentary. But slowly, the skies turned blue and the gray seemed to be lifting from the eyes of the students.
With February came the first Hogsmeade weekend of the year. The night before, Dumbledore announced at dinner that for special circumstances, even first and second years would be allowed to go with the accompaniment of an older student. For the first time in weeks, students were smiling for more than a moment.
When Saturday morning came, the common room was nearly empty when Harry and Ginny entered it. In fact, it was devoid of life except for Seamus, who was sitting in front of the dying fire. Harry hesitated, then walked over to him and dropped down beside him. Seamus glanced at him, then muttered an absent greeting.
“How’s your mum?” Harry asked quietly.
“Stable,” was his answer.
Harry nodded, his eyes fixed on the rug in front of him. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“Still. I wish there was something I could do to help you.”
Seamus nodded back, then pushed himself to his feet. “I don’t think anyone can do anything, really,” he murmured, then left for the dorms again. Harry watched him go, his shoulders sagging again. Ginny took his hand and pulled him to his feet.
“He’ll be okay,” she whispered. “Just let him be.”
No one was particularly excited for Valentine’s Day that year. The Great Hall had been decorated with pastels and hearts, rivaling almost the debauchery that Lockhart had set up back in second year, but with less confetti. The students in the hall talked a little more loudly than they had been as of late, but the mood was still blue, not pink. Harry and Ginny took their seats at the end of Gryffindor table, with a morose looking Dean and Neville sat across from them and Ron and Hermione beside them, looking as if they were about to fall asleep into their breakfasts. Harry poked at his food and Ginny turned her eggs with her fork. None of them felt like talking, it seemed.
Seamus joined them a while later, however, which was a first since mid-January. Harry looked up as his old roommate approached and offered him a smile, but the boy ignored him in favor of dropping down beside Dean. The both of them looked miserable, Harry noted. Seamus poked Dean in the shoulder, at which point Dean shifted away from his friend. Seamus prodded him again, then reached out and grabbed his friend’s hand.
“Hey,” Seamus said, which was the first thing any of them had said all morning. “I want to tell you something.”
“I don’t want to hear it,” Dean answered and Harry frowned.
“What’s the matter with you?” Harry asked him, and Dean shook his head.
“Dean, I want to tell you something,” Seamus repeated, and Dean continued to shake his head. “Please, Dean.”
Ginny caught Harry’s eye, and Harry shrugged. Ron lifted his head from where it had been propped up on his fist to frown in Dean and Seamus’s direction. Neville stopped shifting his food around his plate and Hermione set down her coffee.
“I’m telling you or the whole table,” Seamus said. “I want to tell you.”
“Seamus, I’m tired,” Dean said shortly. “I’m not doing this right now.”
Harry had to wonder what Dean’s issue was; their friend had been grieving for a month and Dean couldn’t take the time to listen to what he had to say?
Dean shook his head again. “I’m not doing this anymore. I can't do this one day and have you ignore me the next. No.”
Seamus stared at him for a moment, then he rubbed roughly at his cheeks and stood up. “Your choice,” he said, then climbed onto the bench.
“What are you doing?” Harry asked Seamus, but his friend was already clearing a space on the table to climb even further. Everyone around them was suddenly going quiet, such that when Seamus cleared his throat, everyone could hear it.
“I’m gay,” Seamus announced.
For a second, no one said anything. Seamus looked down at Dean, who was gaping at him.
“I’m probably never going to tell my family, ‘cause me mam’s on her deathbed and me dad’s a hateful beast, but I have to tell someone, and since the person I want to tell isn’t listening, I’ll tell everyone. I’m gay.”
The silence stretched. Two seconds, five seconds, seven seconds. Harry could swear he could hear Seamus’s heart beating in the silence. Seamus made to get down from the table, then someone started clapping.
Harry looked up the table to see Lee Jordan standing up, bringing his hands together in a fast rhythm. Then Fred and George stood up too and started clapping alongside Lee, followed by the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and then Anna Williams climbed onto the table as well.
“I’m gay too!” she called.
“Hurray for being gay!” cheered Lee, and suddenly the whole hall was cheering and shouting. Half a dozen other people at the Gryffindor table were jumping up to shout with Seamus and Williams, then the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables were being stood upon by gay students joining the mass coming out, and it seemed as if the clouds had parted just in time to let yellow sunshine grace them all.
While no one at the Slytherin Table stood or clapped, the Gryffindors, Ravenclaws, and Hufflepuffs cheered loud enough to make up for their silence. Hannah Abbot had started a chant, tearful students beaming amongst the cheers, “WE’RE HERE, WE’RE QUEER.”
After nearly ten minutes, the cheering died down. Students took their seats again; Seamus sat in a sort of stunned silence until the shouting was replaced by talking, though the hall did not return to the level of volume it had been before the mass coming out, but to a volume it hadn’t been since Christmas. Eventually, Seamus prodded Dean in the shoulder again.
“Dean,” Seamus said.
Dean dropped his fork and turned to Seamus, then abruptly kissed him. Seamus sat frozen for a second, then stuck his fists in the air in triumph.
Harry grinned to himself, looking around the room. Several people had conjured rainbow hearts and sent them up into the air to join the rest of the Valentine’s Day décor, and for the first time in weeks, it was truly colorful in the room. Rainbows, Harry decided, were much better than endless gray.
From then on, students really smiled. At the next Quidditch match, Lee Jordan made twice as many jokes as he’d ever done in the past and McGonagall didn’t scold him for a single one. Seamus and Dean started holding hands in the hallways, Ron beside them with his wand drawn and glaring at any who so much as twitched a frown in their direction. The first day of March, Dumbledore announced that the school’s drama department was being brought back under the tutelage of the Head Boy and Girl as well as Professor Sprout and they would be doing a performance of the Fountain of Fair Fortune in June.
And as the school brightened, Dumbledore summoned Harry and Ginny to his office, greeting them with a tired but welcoming smile, and Mrs. Vance by his side.
“It is time you learned to hone your skills,” Mrs. Vance said to Ginny. “Starting with dream-walking.”