It was his birthday, but it wasn’t something he was about to celebrate. Mainly because Harry James Potter was completely alone in the world except for his abusive aunt, uncle, and cousin. He’d had friends once. He’d had so many. Then it had all just… gone wrong. He’d thought honesty was right. He’d thought he could be himself. Now he couldn’t be anyone. He was nothing. A thing. A furnishing in his uncle’s house. A tool in his shed. A fixture.
Harry crawled out from the incredibly cramped cupboard beneath the stairs. At just over five feet tall he could barely fit in there anymore, but his bedroom had been confiscated when his uncle found out that his godfather had disowned him. In fact, Harry wasn’t planning on returning to Hogwarts that year. There was nothing left for him there now. His wand was in the trunk in the attic along with most of his other things, and he had no longing to ever touch it again. The only thing still in his possession was his father’s invisibility cloak, which he’d managed to hide in the cupboard by wearing it beneath his clothing on the train home. Luckily his baggy clothes meant no one noticed he was invisible beneath them and the hood had tucked nicely into his jumper. He kept it so he could disappear from time to time, just curling up in the dark and imaging he had never been born kept him from doing something about his continued existence. Sometimes he wondered why he didn’t just end it all, but he was hoping that he could still be used to defeat Voldemort in some way.
“Oi! Batty Boy!” Uncle Vernan shouted, “Stop staring into the distance and fetch me my breakfast! Hop to it! Damn ponce. We should get rid of him before he pollutes Dudley!”
“Vernon!” Aunt Patunia hissed in horror, “What would the neighbors say?!”
“What will they say when they find out he’s a shirt lifter?” Vernan asked, “Hm?”
“Well…” Patunia worried, looking uncertain, “There is that married pair down the street. Everyone seems to like them…”
“To their faces. Behind her back is another story.”
Harry scraped the last of the food onto their plates and started on the dishes. He hadn’t eaten more than a crust of bread in a week, but the stomach cramps had ended some time ago. He was mostly surviving on tea dregs and water, but that was fine. The hunger left him numb and numb was better than in pain.
“You will find,” The official looking stranger stated coldly, standing before them with pride and poise, “A piece of paper on all of your desks. This year many of you have or will soon reach your seventeenth year, this heralding your adulthood. It also means that your duties as an adult witch or wizard will begin. Amongst no longer being a useless burden upon your guardians or society, you will be required to increase the wizard population. Now some of you may have heard some rubbish from the muggles about how homosexuality isn’t wrong. I assure you that is far from the truth. While we no longer live in the dark ages of suspecting curses as the cause of such vile tendencies, we are quite aware that they are still detrimental to society. The muggles outbreed us five to one. This cannot be allowed to continue. Now studies indicate that most people are not 100% one or the other, but for those of you who find yourself in the horrible position of being unable to be sexual aroused by the opposite sex, you will write homosexual. Those of you who are not in that situation will write down that you are heterosexual. Again, if you can manage to have sex with the opposite sex you are heterosexual. None of these newfangled bi or pan terms, we aren’t shopping for kitchenware.”
Harry was horrified to hear people laugh at that sick joke. The official went on to console them, explaining that those without heterosexual urges would be helped, that there were ways to make these things work and give them ‘normal’ lives. They were further instructed to make sure no one could see what they wrote, and he even cast an anti-cheat spell to avoid it. They all scribbled down on their papers, folded them up, and McGonagall collected them all one at a time rather than summon them to the front.
Back in the common room Harry sat down in a huff.
“Can you believe all that old school bollocks?!” Harry asked.
“It was repulsive,” Hermione agreed, “But if they have a method of helping gay students have children, then maybe it’s not so bad. I mean it is important for the Wizarding race to keep reproducing.”
Ron nodded, “Fred and George told me about it. They have succubae help them get aroused and mate with their wives.”
Hermione and Harry stared at Ron in horror.
“What?” Ron asked.
“That’s… disgusting!” Harry spat out.
“What about the women?” Hermione wondered.
Ron gave her a horrified look and whispered back, “You’re not a… a lezzo… are you?”
“Well no,” Hermione stammered, “Of course not!”
“I am,” Harry admitted, though softly so his voice didn’t carry, “Gay, I mean. And I’m not ashamed of it.”
“Are you only,” Ron asked, “Because that’s the important part, you know? Most can make themselves be with women, but…”
“What’s all this about the men,” Hermione asked, “What about the women?”
“Well they just have to lie there, don’ t they?” Ron asked, “And not cheat on their husbands, of course.”
Hermione looked like she wanted to hit someone so Ron hurried to give her space, stammering about studying. He gave Harry a meaningful look and he knew that Ron wanted him to follow. He made his excuses to Hermione and hurried after him despite her look of disgust at their obvious escape.
“What’s up?” Harry asked.
“Shh!” Ron hissed, and quickly checked their dorm to make sure it was empty, “We have to keep this quiet.”
“What?” Harry asked eagerly.
Then Ron kissed him and the world faded into something beautiful, soft, and strong all at once. He sighed through his nose and leaned into the kiss. Warm hands tangled in his hair, knocking his glasses askew, and he recalled his own hands and gripped Ron’s shirt hesitantly before pulling him in close. They tumbled into his bed together, snogging frantically as they pulled at clothing.
“W-what are you doing?” Harry asked, as Ron undid his trousers.
“What do you think I’m doing?” Ron snickered.
“Ron, wait,” Harry snatched at his hands, “I’m not… I’m not ready for that.”
“Sure you are, what bloke isn’t?” Ron insisted, pushing Harry down more forcefully.
“No, I’m not,” Harry insisted, shoving at him angrily, “Just back off!”
Ron scrambled up angrily, sitting on Harry’s hips, “What’s wrong with you? Can’t you get it up?”
It was probably just a dig, but Harry reacted anyway. He flushed and looked away, humiliated by his admission.
“You can’t!” Ron gaped, “You lied to me!”
“What?” Harry asked.
“You said you liked blokes!” Ron hissed, climbing down and pacing the room angrily, “I trusted you! I confided in you! I kissed you!”
“Ron, it’s just for now. I’m sure it will fix itself. I mean… it’s not like… that part… ever has to work if I’m on the bottom, right?”
Ron’s eyes turned predatory and he returned to the bed, but Harry was alarmed now. He recalled those rough hands on his shoulders and snatched up his wand.
“Ron. I said I’m not ready. You can bloody well wait!”
“No I can’t!” Ron snapped, “I’ll be married in a year or two! Give it up now!”
Ron leaped at him, eyes wild with fear and desperation, and Harry’s wand moved before he’d even realized what spell he’d be uttering.
Harry crawled into the cupboard with a sad sigh, curling up around his father’s cloak. It was too warm to cover up with it, but he could use it as a pillow. Sometimes he imagined he could still smell his father on it, but he knew that was just his aching heart. He wondered if his father would have accepted him, or if coming out would have cost him the family he so deeply longed for. He wondered if coming out would have ever been an option had his pureblood father and muggle mother raised him. Would they fight over it? Would his mother stick up for him? If her sister was any indication, she wouldn’t. Would his father be the free spirit he’d thought his godfather would have been?
“You nearly killed someone! What were you thinking?!” Remus asked him, looking terrified as he paced the kitchen of #12 Grimmauld Place.
“I told you,” Harry pleaded, “He attacked me!”
“You used a dark spell, Harry,” Remus told him miserably, “You slashed his chest wide open. He’s scarred for life! Molly is inconsolable. She’s already all but lost a son since Percy won’t speak to them, do you know what you’ve done? They’ll never speak to you again. Especially with the accusations he leveled against you! You have to tell us your side. MORE of your side, Harry. The truth now.”
“I already told you,” Harry insisted, “He kissed me. I told him no further. He tried to force himself on me. I fought back. That’s it.”
“Harry,” Sirius spoke up finally, shifting forward in his chair. It was the first time he’d spoken since Dumbledore’s office and Harry was a mixture of relieved and terrified. Surely Sirius would back him up!
“Harry,” Sirius repeated, rubbing at his face, “You told him ‘no further’. That’s what you said, right?”
“No further than what?”
“Snogging,” Harry blushed.
“He claims you attempted to rape him,” Sirius stated plainly.
Harry gaped. That was the first he’d heard of Ron’s testimony, “That’s not what happened at all!”
“Then what did happen?” Sirius asked with a sneer, “I can’t believe you’re a shirt lifter.”
Harry stared in horror, “But… but… It’s a part of me. It’s who I am. I can’t see myself with anyone who isn’t a man. A woman just… it wouldn’t work.”
Harry waited until he heard the sitting room clock chime two in the morning and then started counting the seconds. It wouldn’t be long now and he’d be seventeen. Months ago they’d been discussing the safest way to evacuate him from #4 Privet Drive when this date arrived, but then he’d nearly slaughtered a classmate, been accused of attempted rape, been kicked out of school only a month from the end of the year, and he’d lost everyone who mattered. He’d been dropped off at his aunt and uncle’s house with all his possessions and a broken heart. Sirius hadn’t even waved goodbye when he’d put him on the Knight Bus. A week later he was put before the Wizengamot, informed that Dumbledore was dead, was spared from having his wand broken when it was pointed out that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was still hunting him and he’d mostly completed his education, but was soundly evicted from the Wizarding world nonetheless. Now the clock was ticking. When the minute of his birth passed the protection of his aunt and uncles home would as well, and then he’d be murdered where he lay.
Time. He was officially seventeen. An adult by both Wizard and Muggle standards.
“Happy Birthday,” Harry whispered to his cloak.
There was an answering whisper of material outside of his little prison and Harry peered through the cracks. He could just barely make out some deeper black from the darkness of the den. Those were clearly not curtains obscuring his view of the cable box. He wasn’t alone.