Night Out at the Kitty Kat Club
Harriet wasn’t sure how she’d ended up here, late at night, standing outside the Kitty Kat Club in the lightly falling rain, a loose overcoat keeping off the worst of the weather.
Just coming here to this place was enough that panic was rising in her throat; for all her much-lauded bravery, Harriet wasn’t sure she could do this.
“Hey,” said Ginny, and Harriet looked at her. The light from the nearest street-lamp was shining like a halo around Ginny’s head, and her eyes were sparkling with excitement. She looked beautiful. “You okay?”
Harriet swallowed down all the protests she wanted to make, pressed down on all the parts of her that wanted to tell Ginny how lovely she looked, until they finally fell silent.
“I’m fine,” she said.
“You’re really not, are you?” said Ginny with a laugh. And just for a moment, Harriet resented Ginny – for finding this whole thing so easy even though this space wasn’t for her; for being ignorant of how close Harriet was coming to being exposed, and how much that very idea terrified Harriet.
But Ginny smiled, soft and kind, and said, “It’s okay. I’ll fend off anyone who makes advances on you.”
Harriet didn’t know what to say to that – couldn’t tell her the truth, that Harriet maybe wouldn’t want someone fending off anyone making advances, if it weren’t for Ginny herself – and so she only smiled weakly, tucked a short strand of messy blue-black hair behind one ear, and stayed silent.
Ginny smiled at her again.
“You’re the best,” Ginny decided, taking Harriet’s arm and leading her towards the door. “Hermione would never go to a lesbian bar with me.”
“That’s because she has sense,” Harriet retorted, and somehow, she found herself moving in the direction of the wizarding lesbian bar, against her better instincts.
“Shut up, I have a plan,” said Ginny, cheerful and carefree. “It’ll work. Just watch.”
Oh, Harriet knew that Ginny had a plan. But she couldn’t help wonder it if would lead only to downfall – not Ginny’s, but Harriet’s.
The conversation between Ginny and Harriet, Ron and Hermione had gone something like this:
“So I have an idea,” Ginny had announced, over butterbeer.
Ron had immediately groaned. Hermione had frowned at him, but Harriet, who at this point knew Ginny far better than Hermione did, had been inclined to agree with him. Harriet had stayed silent, however, taking the butterbeer that was passed along to her before Ginny had sat down in the empty seat next to Harriet’s, her warmth filling the space between them.
“Well, you all know that I’ve been training for the annual tryouts to join the Holyhead Harpies,” Ginny had said. “They’re the only all-women team in the League, and they’ve been my favourite team for years.”
“We know,” Harriet had said, smiling a little, because Ginny’s devotion to the team wasn’t news to anyone.
“It’s hard not to – you’ve always had posters of the team all over your room at home,” Ron had said. “I still say the Cannons are better.”
“In your dreams. Anyway, I’ve been doing research on all the team members, and some important information revealed itself to me.” Ginny had looked serious. “Most of the members of the team are believed either to be lesbians or bisexual.”
Ron had promptly spat his butterbeer all over Hermione. Harriet had drawn her wand and cast a cleaning spell, for which Hermione had been grateful.
“Really, Ron,” had said Hermione. “What is your problem with lesbians?”
“I don’t have a ‘problem,’ Hermione,” said Ron uncomfortably. “It’s just, well… they’re not interested in men, are they?”
The three women sitting at the table with him had stared at him.
“You are such a prat,” had said Ginny finally.
Harriet could only agree. Deep hurt had welled up at Ron’s words. Harriet had known since fourth year and her secret crush on the Ravenclaw Seeker, Cho Chang, that she was interested in girls, not boys. But after growing up with the Dursleys, Harriet had known better than to let on how she felt. Most people, even Ron and Hermione, believed that Harriet had been too busy fighting for her life to ever think of romance, and Harriet let them. Sometimes she thought that maybe she’d tell the friends the truth, one day; but that time was not then. Maybe, one day, she could even tell Ginny how she felt, and share the truth of her affections.
To hear Ron talk though, as though he thought there was something wrong with girls who liked girls instead of boys… Harriet had stared into her butterbeer and tried to disguise the pain she was feeling.
This had been made easier by Ginny moving the subject along.
“Ron’s issues aside,” said Ginny, and Harriet looked had back up from her butterbeer, back up at Ginny, “that’s what gave me my idea. I mean, obviously the Harpies want talent, but clearly, they’re also more welcoming to lesbian and bisexual women. So I thought,” and she lowered her voice so that no one but the group sitting at the table could hear her over the noise of the pub, “what if I pretended to be a lesbian?”
Harriet had been struck speechless. So had Ron, for very different reasons.
“I’m really not sure that’s the best idea,” had said Hermione carefully, which was Hermione’s tactful way of saying that is the worst idea I’ve ever heard.
But Ginny had waved away everyone’s objections, and had asked Harriet to accompany her to the Kitty Kat Club. Her eyes had been wide and brown and lovely, and the words “Sure, okay,” had slipped out of Harriet’s mouth without Harriet ever meaning to say them.
And somehow, Ginny had kept talking Harriet around every time she wanted to back out, and now here they were, stepping into the dirty glamour of London’s only wizarding lesbian bar. Harriet steeled herself.
Ginny walked in like she owned the place, eyes bright, taking in every aspect of the place. Harriet trailed slightly behind Ginny, despite Ginny’s arm in hers, feeling like an interloper in a space that she should have laid claim to far more easily than Ginny. But then, Harriet had never found any space but Hogwarts that felt like hers, and even that was hers no longer since the end of the war.
Conversation trailed off, heads turned as murmurs sprang up, all eyes going to Harriet: the Girl-Who-Lived, the Witch-Who-Won. Only the feeling of Ginny’s arm in hers kept Harriet from stammering out an excuse and bolting for the door.
But Ginny led them over to the counter, where she smiled at the barkeep.
“What drinks do you have?”
The barkeep, a solid-looking woman in her fifties wearing very mannish robes, looked Ginny up and down, gave Harriet a long stare, and finally said, “The list is on the blackboard.” She nodded towards the blackboard mounted on the wall next to the counter.
Ginny turned, and noticed it for the first time.
“Oh,” she said, looking back at the barkeep. “Well, thanks. We’ll have a look at it.”
There were the normal drinks, like firewhiskey and butterbeer and other wizarding favourites, but the blackboard also had a list of cocktails, printed in very neat capital letters. Ginny surveyed the list with a critical eye, while Harriet tried to pretend that she didn’t care about all the eyes on her.
“I think I’ll get a Lady Godiva,” Ginny murmured. “What about you?”
The last, last thing Harriet could afford to do here with Ginny was get drunk. Harriet papered on a smile.
“I’ll probably get a Shirley Temple.”
Ginny’s brow furrowed.
“Okay, I’ve heard of Lady Godiva before, but who’s Shirley Temple?”
“A muggle actress,” said Harriet. Her voice sounded too loud in the silence, amid the stares. “She was famous as a child, during the nineteen…thirties, I think?”
“Oh,” said Ginny, and she tugged Harriet back towards the barkeep to order their drinks.
Only when Harriet and Ginny had taken their cocktails and moved to sit down at a table did the former volume resume, people turning back to each other to continue their conversations. Even so, the occasional eye was still on Harriet and Ginny.
Harriet unbuttoned her coat and shrugged it off, revealing the green robes that Hermione had picked out for her, that time Harriet and Hermione and Ginny had gone shopping together. The robes were fancy, with lime-green lace at the sleeves and hemline, in mild contrast to the emerald-green cloth of the robes themselves. Opposite Harriet, Ginny was attired in sea-blue robes. Unlike Harriet, who preferred the neat woollen overcoats she’d been denied in childhood, Ginny wore a warm cloak – far more wizardly.
But when Harriet took off her overcoat, Ginny took off her cloak. They looked at each other.
“See?” Ginny said. “This is fine.”
“No one’s talking to us,” said Harriet. “They’re all just staring at us.”
“Not everyone,” said Ginny, suddenly grinning, and staring over Harriet’s shoulder.
Harriet looked around just as a blonde woman with a familiar face picked up the nearest chair, placed it next to Harriet and Ginny’s table, and straddled it, resting her arms along the chair’s back.
“So,” said Gwendolen Hammersmith, of the Holyhead Harpies. “Harriet Potter, the Witch-Who-Won. Never thought I’d see you come out to play at the Kitty Kat Club.” Her smile took the edge off her words.
Harry stared at her, bereft of speech as panic welled up again.
But Ginny wasn’t. She offered the Holyhead Harpies player an easy smile and a hand to shake.
“Harriet’s new to this whole thing,” Ginny said. “So am I, so we figured we’d come here together.”
Harriet stared at Ginny. Ginny had promised, when she’d dragged Harriet into this, that she’d tell everyone that Harriet was her straight friend, here only to offer moral support.
But that wasn’t what Ginny was saying now. Instead, she was implying something quite different.
Harriet stared at Ginny, who winked.
Harriet stood suddenly.
“I should go,” she blurted, skin prickling under the gaze of the other patrons, but Ginny lunged across the table to grab Harriet’s hands. Harriet looked down into Ginny’s face, which was a mistake. Ginny was looking up at her, silently imploring her to stay and play along, eyes blazing, and Harriet had never, ever been able to say no to Ginny when she looked like that.
“Harriet,” said Ginny, tugging on her hands. Harriet slowly sat back down again.
Gwendolen Hammersmith watched them with raised eyebrows, but her voice, when she spoke, was surprisingly kind.
“It’s not easy being one of us when you’re in the public eye, is it?” she said, her expression one of sympathy. The understanding in her face and Ginny’s death-grip on Harriet’s hands were the only thing that stopped Harriet from declaring, then and there, that this was all a plot by Ginny to get into the Harpies.
I’m not like you, I’m straight , Harriet wanted to say – but that was too much of a lie for her to even get the words out. Even if she’d managed it, it would have been clear she was lying through her teeth.
Harriet swallowed instead.
“No,” she managed to say. “It – it isn’t.”
Harriet looked away from Gwendolen, and happened to meet Ginny’s eyes. Ginny’s expression was one of encouragement and barely-hidden satisfaction.
Good , her gaze seemed to say. This is going exactly as I wanted it to.
Harriet yanked her hands away from Ginny, and dropped her hands into her lap.
“Well, it gets easier,” says Gwendolen. She winked. “Especially when there’s plenty of ladies who’d love to have a go at you.”
Harriet felt her face heat, and knew that she was blushing.
Gwedonlen laughed, loud and delighted.
“She blushes!” she said to Ginny, like it was the best thing in the world.
“I know.” Ginny was grinning.
“Come on,” said Gwendolen, still laughing. “Why don’t you two come and sit with me and the rest of the team. You can tell me stories about the Witch-Who-Won,” she added to Ginny.
Harriet sent Ginny an alarmed glance, but Ginny was smiling.
“Sure. Come on, Harry.” Ginny picked up her cloak and looked back at Harriet, smiling and waiting.
Harriet didn’t feel she had much of a choice. She grabbed her coat and followed Ginny and Gwendolen, across the room towards the back, where the members of the Holyhead Harpies were crammed into a booth.
Gwendolen dragged over a couple of empty chairs and deposited them next to the booth before sliding onto the edge of the booth seat, rejoining the others. Harriet sat in one of the empty chairs, while Ginny sat in the other.
“So, Witch-Who-Won,” said one of the Harpies players. “What’s a girl like you doing in a place like this?” There was laughter from the others.
“Oh, don’t mind Harriet,” said Ginny, reaching out to squeeze Harriet’s hand reassuringly. “She’s surprisingly shy sometimes.”
“What, never been to a lesbian bar before, lovely?” another player asked.
“Er, not really,” said Harriet, and cursed herself for being awkward. In spite of her fear of what people would think, she wanted to fit in here, to blend in, just like the Harpies were doing – they were pretty well-known themselves, and no one batted an eye at their presence. But people were still staring at Harriet, wondering what she was doing here.
She was an outsider, like always.
“What about you?” asked Gwendolen, looking at Ginny. “Have you ever been to a lesbian bar before?”
“Nope.” Ginny’s eyes were bright. “This is my first time, too. I’m Ginny, by the way.”
There was a shout behind the two of them that cut through the noise of the bar.
“Gwenog!” the team hollered back, and shuffled into a new configuration to make room for one more just as Gwenog Jones, the team captain, came striding across the room, a broad grin on her face.
One of the other players handed her a butterbeer, and Gwenog slid into the empty space at the booth, butterbeer in hand. Then she looked around at Ginny and Harriet.
“Hold on,” she said. “Harriet Potter? What are you doing in here?”
Something about the way she said it, as though Harriet had no right to be sitting there, immediately got on Harriet’s nerves.
“Keeping a friend company,” she said coolly.
“Oh really?” asked Gwenog, her eyes still on Harriet. “Think that because you’re famous you have a right to be in here, do you?”
Any nervousness Harriet had been feeling vanished in a flare of anger.
“Not because I’m famous, no,” she said deliberately, allowing Gwenog to infer what she might from that response.
Ginny sent Harriet a sharp look. But Gwenog only stared at Harriet, her eyes narrowed.
“Oh yeah? You ever kissed a girl, then, Potter?”
Harriet felt her face heat.
“I’ve been a bit busy saving Britain to go around snogging people.”
“That was a year ago. You’re telling me that in all this time, you never decided to give it a bit of a go?”
The heat in Harriet’s face grew worse.
“Look, Harriet’s never dated anyone, okay?” Ginny said loudly. “So why don’t we all settle down?”
Gwenog snorted, but didn’t argue.
After a strained moment the conversation started up again, and slowly, everyone relaxed.
Harriet felt the anger drain away, and the nervousness surge back. She didn’t know what she was doing here.
Under the table her fingers clenched anxiously on the fabric of her dress robes. It would probably leave a noticeable crease, but Harriet didn’t care.
The conversation went on, and several drinks in, the atmosphere was relaxed and easy, nough that Harriet almost felt at ease. By this point, she had almost convinced herself that nothing bad was going to happen. Maybe she could have this. Maybe – it would all be okay.
Harriet could only hope.
“So, Ginny,” said one of the Harpies – Grace something-or-other. “Have you ever played Quidditch?”
“I was on the Gryffindor House team,” said Ginny. “Chaser.”
“You ever thought about trying out for a professional team?” asked Gabriella, grinning. “Grace is quitting next year to settle down with Abigail, over there–”
Grace waved to a very pretty brunette lady sitting at another table with a number of other well-dressed ladies, and the very pretty brunette blew a kiss back, smiling.
“–and we’ll be looking for a new Chaser. Your name even starts with a ‘G’, which at this point is a time-honoured tradition within the Harpies.”
Ginny’s eyes sparkled.
“To be honest, I’ve been hoping to get a chance to play Quidditch professionally,” she admitted. “And I’d love to play on the Harpies. It’d be like a dream come true. You’ve been my favourite team since I was a little girl.”
Gwenog eyed her with amusement.
“Well, you’d have to win out at try-outs,” she pointed out. “But if you do well enough, I’m sure you’d fit right in.”
“What about you, Potter?” asked Gwendolen. Harriet started, not expecting to be asked a question. “I heard you played Quidditch, too.”
“Oh, yeah – Seeker,” said Harriet.
“She was amazing,” said Ginny. “I mean, my brother Charlie, he was given the chance to play for England and turned it down to go look after dragons – but Harriet at her worst is better than Charlie on his best day.”
Harriet felt her face heat again at Ginny’s fervent praise. She wasn’t sure what to say.
“I’m not that special,” she muttered.
“You really are,” said Ginny, and she slung an affectionate arm around Harriet’s shoulders.
The only person who ever touched Harriet was Hermione, whenever she gave Harriet one of her overwhelming hugs. The Dursleys had always treated Harriet as though she carried an infectious disease: the only time any of them had willingly touched her was when Dudley was pummelling her for saying something sarcastic to him, or when Aunt Petunia had boxed her ears for burning the bacon.
Affectionate touch was strange and foreign. Harriet went stiff.
Ginny didn’t seem to notice. Harriet sat very still, her heart pounding, flushing up to her hairline, simultnaeously put-off by the contact and yet wishing desperately for more. An ache opened up beneath Harriet’s breastbone.
Gwenog sent Harriet a look of amused disdain. Harry wasn’t sure why.
“You don’t look too comfortable there, Potter.”
Harriet was intensely aware of Ginny’s proximity, the smell of Ginny’s strawberry-scented shampoo surrounding her.
She met Gwenog’s gaze head-on, despite the other woman’s scrutiny. Grace elbowed Gwenog, but the other woman continued to stare at Harriet, her eyes narrowed.
“Your friend said you’ve never dated anyone,” said Gwenog. “Why not?”
Harriet was tempted to snap back a sarcastic retort, but then she noticed the way that the other members of the Harpies were looking curious and interested.
“Well. Part of it was – timing,” she said slowly, and was very aware of Ginny’s gaze on the side of her head. She ignored it. “There always seemed to be some attempt on my life that I had to fend off, and there never seemed to be a good time for that sort of thing.”
“But didn’t you ever have a crush on someone, at least?” Guinevere asked, leaning forward. “Even if you never acted on it?”
“Go on,” said Gwendolen, grinning.
Harriet’s fingers clenched on her dress robes again. Be brave, she told herself. You faced down Voldemort. You can handle a group of curious women in a lesbian bar.
“There was this girl a year above me, who played Quidditch,” Harriet admitted, and Ginny was very still beside her. “I thought she was… well… lovely. But she had a boyfriend. And even if she hadn’t, I’m… I’m not very good with people, really.”
“That never stops Gwenog,” Gabriella said, and the others laughed even as Gwenog sent Gabriella a playful glare.
“Better watch yourself,” Gwenog threatened, before turning her gaze back to Harriet. But her expression was thoughtful now, rather than suspicious, and she nodded at Harriet as though she’d passed some kind of test.
“Well, welcome to the Kitty Kat Club,” said Gwenog. “The rest of the world might judge us, but here at least, we can openly be ourselves.”
“When are you not openly yourself?” Gabriella asked, teasing, and the Harpies descended into laughter again.
But Harriet said quietly, “Thanks.”
Ginny’s arm was still around her shoulders, and despite what Harriet had said – about liking another girl – Ginny wasn’t acting in any way that suggested she disapproved.
Harriet looked covertly sideways, only to see Ginny watching her intently.
Harriet’s face heated up.
“Hey,” she said, and immediately felt like an idiot. But Ginny’s mouth curved in a tiny smile, and she said “Hey,” back. Harriet felt a little less like an idiot.
Harriet looked away after a moment, breaking eye contact, and looked back towards the Harpies.
The conversation moved on, light and jovial, and Harriet slowly relaxed over the course of the night, enough to even tell a couple of stories of her time at Hogwarts. Ginny, meanwhile, was a social butterfly, always knowing exactly the right thing to say. By the end of the night, the Harpies were treating Harriet and Ginny as though they’d known both of them for years. It was… nice.
Harriet and Ginny left the bar late in the evening. The two of them began walking down the street, looking for somewhere discreet for Harriet to apparate them both without attracting the attention of the muggles. Harriet had stuck to butterbeer after the first drink, not wanting to make a fool of herself in front of everyone, but Ginny had drunk a little too much to safely apparate on her own.
The moon shone brightly overhead, casting strange shadows over the landscape, and Harriet realised with a start that she felt content. It was such a rare feeling that she’d had trouble putting a name to it.
“You never told me you liked girls.” Ginny’s words shattered the serenity of the moment.
Harriet flinched, and hunched a little deeper into her overcoat.
“It wasn’t anyone’s business.” Her voice came out far too defensive.
“That’s fair,” said Ginny, and there was a complete lack of heat in her voice that made Harriet look at her. Her expression was pensive in the moonlight. “I understand how hard it is.”
That struck a nerve.
“How would you know?” Harriet snapped, more harshly than she meant to. She immediately felt bad about it. “Sorry.”
Ginny was silent for a long moment.
“Can I tell you a secret?”
“Sure,” she said, wondering what Ginny could possibly want to tell her.
Ginny smiled, a little tremulously.
“I wasn’t pretending, in there.”
Harriet frowned. She didn’t understand.
Ginny reached out to put a hand on Harriet’s arm, pulling her to a stop. They were standing close to one another.
“I like girls, Harriet,” said Ginny, her voice spoft and quiet. “I wasn’t just pretending.”
“You mean – but you –” Harriet fell silent for a moment, tried to sort out her jumbled thoughts. “But you’ve had boyfriends before.”
“And I liked them pretty well,” Ginny agreed. She smiled a little. “I’m fairly sure I’m bisexual. I like both genders that way.”
“Oh,” said Harriet, and she immediately felt foolish for making assumptions. “So wait – this whole scheme –”
“It wasn’t just what I suggested to Ron and Hermione,” said Ginny. “About getting into the Harpies. I’m sorry for not telling you the truth, now I know why you were so worried about going to the Kitty Kat Club. But I wanted to go in there and – and deal with other people like me, without anyone knowing that I’m that way. I didn’t quite have the courage to admit it to anyone I know.”
“Oh,” was all that Harriet could say, and it was a wonderful, terrible pain to know that someone else felt just the same way she did. “Oh.” She reached out to grasp Ginny’s hands. They were warm in the cool night.
Ginny looked into Harriet’s face, and there was hope there.
“You understand, don’t you?” she asked, and Harriet nodded. They stood there, holding hands in the moonlight like they were holding onto a lifeline.
“I just – the Dursleys,” Harriet said, and wasn’t sure how to explain further. How to explain that the way they’d brought her up had stayed with her, that to this day she couldn’t help but think of herself a freak –and was terrified that other people would think so, too?
But Ginny’s face darkened as though she somehow understood everything Harriet hadn’t said.
“Those bastards,” said Ginny. “Harriet –however they made you feel, they were wrong. You shouldn’t be ashamed of who you are.”
“You haven’t told anyone either, though,” Harriet pointed out. Ginny shrugged.
“It’s not myself I have a problem with,” Ginny said, smiling wryly. “It’s everyone else who’s going to have an opinion on my sexuality in a way they just wouldn’t if I were straight.”
“Oh,” said Harriet, and thought she got it. She’d heard the comments people made, even tolerant and well-meaning people – people who made jokes about You Know, Girls With Short Haircuts Who Play Sports, never stopping to think how self-conscious they could make someone who was already feeling sensitive about who they were. “Yeah.”
The two of them stood there a moment longer, before Harriet cleared her throat.
“I should apparate you back to the Burrow.”
“Probably a good idea.” Ginny grimaced. “If I’m home too late Mum’ll give me an earful. I swear, as soon as I have a job, I’m moving out.”
“I don’t blame you,” said Harriet – she was very fond of Molly Weasley, but the woman could be a bit too much sometimes. “Come on. Let’s duck down this alley and get out of here.”
The two of them walked into the nearest alley, and Ginny grabbed hold of Harriet’s arm. Harriet closed her eyes, mentally reciting the three D’s of apparation, and apparated.
It felt, as always, like being squeezed through a very small tube. A moment later Harriet could breathe again, and opened her eyes to the Burrow’s back-garden.
Ginny stifled a giggle.
“I think we landed on Mum’s begonias,” she said. Harriet looked down, and hastily stepped off the poor crushed plants before she could do further damage.
“Thanks for apparating me home, Harriet. And for coming with me in the first place.”
“Not a problem,” said Harriet.
“You’re sweet, but don’t lie,” said Ginny. She fumbled through her purse for her keys before smiling back at Harriet.
Harriet’s heart skipped a beat.
“I hope Hermione doesn’t bug you too much about going there with me,” said Ginny.
“If she does, I’ll live.”
“Well.” Ginny was smiling. “Goodnight, Harriet.”
And Harriet stepped back and turned on the spot, disapparating in mid-movement.
Two days later Harriet woke to the sound of loud knocking on her bedroom door. For a moment she tensed, instincts born of a year on the run flaring up, but then reason kicked in: if someone was after her, they wouldn’t bother to knock first. Harriet slipped out of bed and stumbled to the door. Opening it, she blinked blearily up at Hermione.
Hermione didn’t respond. Instead she held up a copy of The Daily Prophet. WITCH-WHO-WON A LESBIAN? asked the headline.
Harriet’s heart dropped down to somewhere around her feet.
Hermione saw the panic and dismay in Harriet’s face, and her own softened.
“Come on,” she said. “Ron’s downstairs, cooking some bacon.”
“Let me – let me get changed,” said Harriet, and shut the door in Hermione’s face.
She leaned back against it, feeling dizzy. It was difficult to breathe. She sank down onto the floor.
After a few moments, she realised she could hear Hermione’s voice.
“ –arriet? Harriet! Are you okay in there?”
Harriet couldn’t answer.
A moment later someone pushed at the door, and then Hermione was kneeling by her side, telling her to take deep breaths and rubbing soothing circles on Harriet’s back.
Finally, Harriet could breathe again. She took deep, gasping breaths.
“You can get changed later,” said Hermione, her voice gentle in contrast to the look of anger on her face. Harriet mutely nodded, and allowed Hermione to lead her downstairs still wearing her pyjamas.
In the kitchen, Ron was at the ancient stove, cooking bacon in one of the iron pans that had come with Grimmauld Place. Ginny leapt up from her seat at the table as she saw Harriet.
“Harriet, are you okay?”
“No, she’s not!” Hermione snapped, and it was immediately evident who her anger was aimed at. “She just had a panic attack!”
“A what?” Ron asked. Hermione ignored Ron’s interpolation.
“This is all your fault!” Hermione’s eyes were fixed on Ginny. “If you hadn’t come up with that ridiculous plan to get into the Harpies and dragged Harriet into it, the paper wouldn’t have printed this absurd story!”
Ginny flushed in what appeared to be anger, but there was guilt there too.
“ ’S not absurd, Hermione,” Harriet said tiredly, because if the rest of the world knew, then there was no point in keeping it from her friends.
Hermione turned to look at her.
“What do you mean? Of course it’s absurd. You were only there because of Ginny’s plan.” But then Hermione added, “Weren’t you?”
Ron looked away from the stove to hear Harriet’s answer.
“The thing is, the Prophet – it’s not –they’re not – wrong.”
There was a moment of perfect silence.
“Wait,” said Ron slowly, “are you saying you’re–”
“She likes girls, Ron,” Ginny said, her voice quiet. “And so do I.”
“Come off it,” said Ron, “You’ve had at least three boyfriends–”
“Don’t make me hex you, Ron Weasley,” said Ginny, her voice dangerous, and Ron shut up, although he still looked like he didn’t believe her. “For your information, I’m bisexual. I like boys and girls.”
“Why didn’t either of you ever say anything?” asked Hermione, looking stricken.
“I was – didn’t want anyone to think I was a freak,” Harriet muttered.
“You are not a freak, Harriet,” said Ginny fiercely, stepping forward to put her hands on Harriet’s shoulders. Startled, Harriet stared into Ginny’s eyes. “I don’t care how many times we have to tell you – you are not a freak, and we’ll keep telling you that until you believe it.”
Harriet’s throat felt uncomfortably tight, and her eyes were prickling. She nodded in acknowledgement, not trusting herself to speak.
Ginny searched Harriet’s face for a moment, before letting her hands drop to her sides and stepping back.
“You really both like girls?” asked Ron, looking a little more convinced.
Harriet nodded jerkily.
“Oh.” Ron looked as though he was at a loss for what to say next.
“There’s nothing wrong about liking girls,” said Hermione, her voice softer than it had been before. “You do both know that, don’t you?”
“Of course I do, it’s the idiots who think otherwise that I have a problem with,” said Ginny. She glanced sideways at Harriet. “But I’m guessing that Harriet’s relatives weren’t exactly tolerant of queer people, any more than they were of witches and wizards.”
Harriet looked down, didn’t answer.
“Oh, Harriet.” A moment later Hermione engulfed Harriet in a hug. “It’ll be okay, I promise.”
“And if anyone says anything bad or disgusting, you can hex them,” Ginny added. “I’ll help.”
There was a silence. They all turned to look at Ron, who was tipping the bacon out of the pan and onto a plate.
“What?” He looked back at them.
“Ron,” Hermione said.
Comprehension filled Ron’s face, before indignation set in.
“Wait – you don’t think I’m going to be an arse about this, do you?”
“You can be a bit of a prat,” said Ginny, still watching him suspiciously.
“Look, I don’t really know any – any lesbians, or bisexual people,” said Ron. “And I know I put my foot in it, sometimes. But if you like girls, you like girls. You’re still my sister and my best friend.”
Harriet felt tears well up in her eyes at what Ron had said. The relief was too great for words.
“Don’t know how Mum’s going to take it, though,” Ron added, dispelling that relief in one sentence.
“Surely she wouldn’t…”
“She can be a bit old-fashioned, Mum,” said Ron. He looked at Ginny. “Remember the row she had with Bill when he first started growing his hair long and got that earring?”
“I do, yeah,” said Ginny. She took a deep breath, and looked determined. “I should tell her the truth.”
“About me, too?” asked Harriet, her voice small.
“Not if you don’t want me to,” said Ginny, looking at her carefully. “Although she’s probably read the Prophet, by now. She’s going to find out the story is true sooner or later.”
Harriet looked down. She knew Ginny was right.
“If she asks, tell her – tell her the truth about me.”
“Alright,” said Ginny.
“You want me to come with you?” Ron asked.
“I can do this myself, Ron.” Ginny looked vaguely irritated.
“I know, but I thought you might like, you know. Support,” said Ron, with surprising patience. “Someone to back you up.”
“That’s… not a bad idea,” she agreed grudgingly.
“I’ll come with you, then,” said Ron. “Come on. The sooner we get this over with, the better.”
Ginny looked back at Harriet.
“I’ll be back as soon as I’ve talked to Mum,” she said. Harriet nodded, and Ginny headed for the Floo.
Ron grabbed a piece of bacon and shoved it into his mouth, before handing the plate with the rest of the bacon on it to Harriet.
“See you later,” he said, and followed Ginny.
Harriet and Hermione were left alone in the kitchen.
It was a nerve-wracking hour before Ginny and Ron came back.
Harriet sat in the kitchen, breakfast long-finished, and waited restlessly. Hermione sat next to her, reading a book; Harriet was trying to do the crossword puzzle in the Prophet for lack of anything else to do, but her mind kept returning to her worries.
Finally the fireplace flared green, and Ginny stepped out. Her face was stormy, and she had the handle of her school trunk in one hand and a battered suitcase in the other. A moment later Ron came through, carrying a second suitcase.
“Oh, no,” Hermione murmured. Harriet’s hand clenched around the quill she was holding.
“Harriet,” said Ginny, her face still like a thunderstorm. “Mind if I stay with you for a while?”
Harriet shook her head, even as dread filled her.
“Grimmauld Place has plenty of spare bedrooms,” she told Ginny.
“What happened?” Hermione asked Ron and Ginny.
“Mum didn’t take it well,” said Ron. “Well, she wasn’t too bad about Harriet – kept saying things like ‘that poor dear,’ and that she hoped you didn’t fall in with a bad crowd because of it – but when Ginny told her she was bisexual, Mum wouldn’t hear of it.”
“First she said I was just confused, and then when I finally got her to believe me, she went off about how I was some kind of scarlet woman,” said Ginny, her knuckles white around the handle of her suitcase.
“Dad tried to make her see reason, but then she said she wouldn’t have a scarlet woman living under her roof,” Ron added.
“So I said, ‘if that’s how you feel,’ and packed my things and left,” Ginny finished. She let go of her trunk and put her suitcase down before collapsing onto the nearest chair.
“Are you okay?” Hermione asked sympathetically.
Ginny’s smile was brittle.
“I’m so sorry,” said Harriet, reaching out to awkwardly pat Ginny on the shoulder.
Ginny sent her a glare.
“This isn’t your fault.”
“But if I hadn’t been in the paper–”
“I still would have had to tell Mum I’m bisexual sooner or later,” said Ginny. “And the only reason you were in the paper in the first place was that I dragged you to the Kitty Kat Club. So stop feeling guilty, Harriet. None of this is your fault.”
“Ginny’s right,” Hermione added. “Don’t blame yourself.”
Harriet let her head tip down until her forehead was pillowed on the arm resting on the kitchen table.
“But where do we go from here?” she asked into the table-top, her voice slightly muffled. “Ginny’s had a row with her Mum and all of Britain now knows I’m a–” Harry couldn’t say the word lesbian, “–that I’m into girls. What do we do?”
“We be ourselves.” Ginny’s voice was firm. “You can do this, Harriet.”
“Besides,” said Ron, “it’s not like no-one’s ever hated you before, is it? At least you’ll have all your friends on your side, this time.”
Harriet felt a little comforted by this – less by Ron’s words than his bracing manner. But there was a gasp. Harriet looked up to see Hermione sitting ram-rod straight, her eyes wide.
“I forgot,” she said. “Tomorrow’s the DA reunion, isn’t it?”
Harriet’s eyes widened this time, along with Ginny’s and Ron’s. With everything else going on, Harriet had forgotten that the members of Dumbledore’s Army had arranged to meet up and catch up with one another, almost a year after the Battle of Hogwarts.
“I’m not going,” Harriet said immediately. The thought of facing down all her friends and acquaintances from the DA, and facing their judgement…
“You’ll be fine,” said Ginny. “These people are your friends, remember? You taught them how to defend themselves. Without you, a lot of us wouldn’t have survived when the Death Eaters took over Hogwarts.”
“But Neville…” Harriet argued.
“Neville was a great leader,” Ginny agreed immediately. “And terribly brave. But you laid the foundations for him. He told me that half the reason he fought back against the Death Eaters was because you’d believed in him, and you were out there, somewhere, fighting to bring You-Know-Who down.”
Ginny didn’t mention the other reason – that Neville had grown up with a very personal reason to hate the Death Eaters and the things they’d done.
Harriet looked around at Ron and Hermione. They seemed to agree with Ginny.
“Alright.” Harriet took a deep breath, and stiffened her spine. “I’ll go.”
The morning before they were due to meet the rest of the DA for lunch at Madam Rosmerta’s, Harriet went downstairs to eat breakfast and found Ginny already in the kitchen, eating cereal in her nightgown.
Harriet paused in the doorway, and for a moment simply gazed at Ginny, who was unaware of her presence. Ginny’s hair was pulled into a messy knot to keep it out of her face, and she was eating cereal with a bleary, half-awake look that Harriet understood all too well. For a moment, Ginny looked terribly young. Harriet smiled fondly as she thought of how much Ginny would scowl if she knew that Harriet had just thought that.
Ginny must have sensed Harriet’s gaze, because she looked up before Harriet had time to wipe the fond smile from her face.
Ginny blinked, and Harriet felt the blood rush to her face. She tried to think of something to say, something nice and ordinary, and failed.
“How’d you sleep?” Ginny asked, into the suddenly-awkward silence.
“Not well,” Harriet admitted.
“Me neither – I kept going over my fight with Mum in my head.” After a beat she added, “I probably look like one of those American animals – what are they called? The ones with the dark markings around their eyes?”
Harriet snorted with laughter.
“That’s the one.”
“Well, at least raccoons are cute,” Harriet offered without thinking, before tensing. But Ginny only grinned.
Harriet helped herself to the cereal and the milk, before sitting opposite Ginny at the table.
“Are you looking forward to the reunion today?” Harriet asked, after a few minutes had passed.
“I guess. I know it’s going to be fun, seeing everyone again… but at the same time, I can’t help thinking of everyone we lost, too.”
Harriet understood completely.
“Yeah,” she said, with a sigh. “Sometimes it’s hard to believe it was an entire year ago.”
“I know what you mean,” Ginny agreed. “The nightmares alone –” She stopped abruptly, as though she hadn’t meant to say that. But Harriet nodded.
“You still get them, too?”
After a second Ginny’s shoulders slumped.
“I’ve been getting nightmares since the end of fourth year,” said Harriet wryly. “At this point, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever again have a night’s sleep without one. Hermione keeps trying to get me to talk about them, but…”
“Talking about them makes them seem even more vivid, like they’re being fixed in your mind,” Ginny finished soberly. “I know.”
There was a moment’s sombre silence. Ginny broke it, changing the subject.
“What are you planning to wear?” she asked.
“No idea,” she said, which was how Ginny ended up in her bedroom, helping her choose an outfit.
Harriet’s wardrobe was sparse – with too many clothes the possible choices overwhelmed her – but the Dursleys cast-offs were long gone. Instead Harriet’s wardrobe was filled with robes in tasteful greens and blues, and pretty muggle shirts and jeans for when she wanted to blend in with the muggle world.
“I think you should go with these robes,” said Ginny, holding up a blue set of robes against Harriet’s body. “The cut is fashionable right now, and the colour brings out your gorgeous eyes.”
Harriet had no idea what was fashionable and what wasn’t. She didn’t care.
“You think my eyes are gorgeous?” she asked, a teasing note in her voice. She expected Ginny to scowl, or roll her eyes.
But Ginny met her eyes steadily, and said, “I’ve always thought you were gorgeous.”
Harriet’s mouth went dry. For a long moment she just stared at Ginny, wondering if she’d just heard what she thought she had.
The silence went on for long enough that Ginny began to turn red, and she looked away from Harriet.
“Anyway, I’ll leave you to get ready–” She took a step towards the door.
Harriet flailed in alarm then, realising that she’d been silent too long. She darted out a hand to grab Ginny’s arm, stopping her from leaving. Ginny looked back at her.
“Wait,” said Harriet desperately, and then didn’t know what to say next. She settled on, “Really?” She couldn’t disguise the hope in her voice.
Ginny’s eyes went round and luminous.
“Harriet?” she said, oddly breathless, her tone of voice making it a question.
“Ginny,” Harriet said, and hoped that her voice conveyed everything she was feeling.
Giny broke into a radiant smile and pulled Harriet forward. The next moment, their lips met.
Harriet had dreamed of kissing Ginny many times before, but the reality was different from her imaginings – but no less good for that.
Harriet had no idea how much time had passed, but eventually they broke apart, although their arms were still wrapped around each other.
“Damn it,” said Ginny. “We need to get ready. We have to leave for the reunion soon.” She let out an irritated huff.
Harriet pulled away reluctantly, but nothing could stop her joy. She felt like she could walk on air, she was so happy.
“Ginny,” she said, just to be sure, “will you be my girlfriend?”
Ginny grinned fiercely, and her eyes had the blazing, alive look that Harriet loved so much.
“Merlin, Harriet. Yes.” She took a deep breath. “But I really need to go back to my room and get ready.”
“Okay.” Harriet couldn’t stop smiling. “Meet you in the kitchen when you’re done?”
Ginny nodded. She pressed one last kiss to Harriet’s mouth, before spinning away and heading for the door.
By the time they were due to arrive at Madam Rosmerta’s, Harriet and Ginny were both dressed for the occasion. Ginny was wearing lavender-coloured robes, and the enamelled flower brooch that she’d once said had once been her grandmother’s.
Ginny first, then Harriet, they apparated to Hogsmeade.
Harriet hesitated a moment, before Ginny slipped her hand into Harriet’s and squeezed. That reassurance was all that Harriet needed. Still on a high from realising that Ginny liked her back, she felt that with Ginny by her side she could do anything.
A cheer greeted Harriet as she and Ginny walked into Madam Rosmerta’s, only for a hush to fall as everyone noticed their linked hands.
“Harriet!” Seamus shouted. “The Prophet was telling the truth for once, then?”
Harriet steeled herself, and nodded.
“Ha! Dean owes me a galleon!”
“Seamus,” Ginny hissed, “if you don’t shut up, right now–”
But Harriet surprised herself and everyone else by laughing.
“Are you two dating now?” Luna inquired, her voice airy. Everyone went quiet again, hoping ot hear the answer.
“Yeah,” Harriet felt the broad smile spread across her face again, “we are.”
“Congratulations,” Neville offered quietly, with a smile. “You deserve to be happy.”
“Thanks, Nev,” said Harriet, and for a moment she felt like she might cry – because the others were all echoing Neville, and they were all smiling, and none of them seemed to be reacting badly to the news that the Daily Prophet had been correct.
“Go on,” Ginny murmured, quietly enough that only Harriet could hear. “Enjoy the moment.”
“But your Mum…” Harriet murmured back. Ginny shook her head.
“She’ll come around eventually. She always does.” Ginny’s smile was bittersweet. “In the meantime, all our friends are happy for us.That’s enough for now, don’t you think?”
Harriet squeezed her hand comfortingly, and together, they moved forward to join the rest of the DA for drinks, food, and excited conversation.
For now, Harriet would focus on the positives.