Author's Notes: It is SO GREAT to be back and writing in the fanfic world! Considerable effort has been made to use current, correct and appropriate trans and queer terminology and to steer from stereotypical focuses on physical or genital changes. Much thanks is owed to the further insight provided wonderful autostraddle articles, Janet Mock's amazing, revolutionary book Redefining Realness and the HP Wiki for when I'm a bad fan and I forget a character's name or a spell.
Trigger warnings for gender dysphoria, transphobia, transitioning, homophobia, self-harm, suicide and physical and emotional abuse. If this fic raises concerns for you, in Australia there is Lifeline (13 11 14) and Headspace (1800 650 890); in the UK there is the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard (0300 330 0630) and in America there is the GLBT hotline (1 888 843 4564).
Change, transitions; these concepts had never brought Harry Potter any luck. Loved ones died and children were forced to play adult. Terror governed and misery ruled. You could say Harry hated change for a very long time. But piece by piece, day by day, something extraordinary happened to make Harry accept and respect and adore change. It was in those days that Harry began to transition.
Looking back, Harry almost wished he'd experienced the gender dysphoria, as he'd learned to call it, in his school years. Hogwarts had been a continuum of transitions; the switching staircases, the new passwords, the revolving door of Defense Against the Dark Arts professors. As a teenager, while going through all the changes and challenges, voicing the deep dark whispers that kissed along his mind might not have been met with such confusion. Such shock. Such misunderstanding.
But maybe Harry was wrong. It had been hard enough, in his final two years of schooling, to deal with all of the repercussions of Tom rising again. Maybe understanding the dysphoria would have sent him over the edge.
Harry was nineteen when he began to discover he wasn't the Boy Who Lived. It wasn't out of a need to shed the constant glory of being he who killed Voldemort; it wasn't because all of the father figures in his life had died. It wasn't because he was raised by a family who kept him out of sight. It was because he couldn't ignore the signs and symbols any longer.
It was two years after the war. Harry had been dating Ginny, still; he lived in a flat above the Three Broomsticks with Neville Longbottom, who was studying to be a professor of Herbology. He spent most of his time being with Ginny or trying and failing to study for his second-level Auror exams with Ron. On the weekends, he'd watch Ginny at her training matches with the Holyhead Harpies and have lunch at the Burrow. Three nights a week he babysat little Teddy Lupin while Andromeda went out for some R and R. Life was pleasant; it had rhythm. Oh, Harry still had nightmares and got triggered every time someone cast a green-hued spell near him. His hands often shook for no reason, and he was content to pretend he didn't know Ginny was cheating on him. But these quiet and loud interruptions began to feel normal, like a normal part of his life. The bad guys had either died in that final battle, or been sentenced to Azkaban. Even Malfoy wasn't around to endlessly annoy Harry anymore.
In two years since peace had been restored, the Wizarding press hadn't lost its fondness for Harry. That's where the creeping realisation started, really. Harry stopped reading the Daily Prophet because they kept running stories on the Boy Who Lived's donations to charity; he persuaded Ginny to take down a copy of her Witch Weekly's Bachelor issue that she'd magically duplicated and stuck on he and Neville's fridge as a cheeky joke, because he didn't want to be reminded he was the Weekly's editors Number One wish-he-was-a-bachelor contender.
Hermione was perceptive; there was no questioning her intelligence. But her days were filled with studying to be a witching lawyer and having rows with Ron, which meant Harry's slowly alkalising mood slipped by unnoticed by her. It was his girlfriend, Ginny, who had noticed something first.
They'd been dancing around it for months, now. Harry hadn't made much of an effort in their sex life, but with mutual trauma, depression and grief from the war between them, a diminishing sexual appetite wasn't anything new to either of them. Ginny had slowly trained her viridescent-eyed boyfriend to love a good snuggle, in any case, and so she seemed content with that for the time being.
The youngest Weasley had been a big learning curve for Harry. She'd been the one to teach him to be emotionally and physically intimate with someone. Every sex position or act or game with her had been the first for Harry; and he wasn't complaining, because it had been great! His slowly evaporating desire for sex with Ginny was another indicator that change was coming for him, full force. His love and lust for Ginny, especially at the proper start of their relationship, had been fire and combustion and heat. It had confirmed to him that he was a guy's guy - he loved sex. That's what being a man was all about, right?
They'd traded I love you's a long time ago. Ginny left her toothbrush in Harry and Neville's bathroom and walked around his kitchen in her underwear, much to Neville's embarrassment. Harry did really care for her deeply; he was sure Ginny felt the same for him, too. But they didn't have the all-encompassing, getting-married-and-having-three-kids kind of love that he saw in the eyes of his adopted family, the Weasleys, and their respective partners. Ginny and he had fun and they understood each other. Ginny put up with him yelling when he got angry and he put up her leaving the bathroom in a complete mess. She helped him calm down when he got the shakes from seeing a green light, and he gave her space when she became possessed by Tom Riddle in her nightmares. They worked very well together, by all accounts.
But they were separate entities - they weren't cohesive, entwined, one.
They were temporary, and neither one of them wanted to admit it.
That evanescence lead Harry to his current situation on a sunny July morning. In his bed, naked, awkwardly still inside Ginny while she gazed at his chest, defeated after a night of fighting and bad sex.
"This isn't working, is it, Ginny?" Harry asked softly.
Harry looked down to see Ginny frozen in fear. Her fingers had stopped tracing the lines of his chest. He could hear her breathing loudly.
"What do you mean?" Ginny asked nervously, beginning to loop her fingers across his body again.
Harry exhaled, and closed his eyes. "You're sleeping with someone else. I-think you're in…." Harry swallowed heavily. "…in love with someone else."
Ginny shook her head, fire slowly heating in her voice. "If this is just because we had a big night last night, Harry, then I think you're overreacting-"
"I can smell her perfume on you, Ginevra," Harry confessed loudly.
Ginny had been training with her dream team, the Holyhead Harpies, since the beginning of the year. It was now July, and her private training sessions with her coach had become more frequent and lengthy with each passing week. She adored her coach, and her team: the female bond she obviously felt with her teammates made Harry envy her.
Ron had teased Ginny with a touch of homophobia about being on a women's Quidditch team - everyone knew lots of lesbians played professionally, right? Ginny had blushed and looked upset rather than hollered at her dolt of a brother, as she was wont to do. Homosexuality in the Wizarding world…well, it may be the late 90s, but magical folk in England still acted like it was the early 80s in the midst of the HIV epidemic. Silent on the most part, accepting in the fringes, mostly referenced in misinformed jokes or insults. It wasn't long before the thought finally crossed Harry's often slow-on-the-uptake mind; that Ginny had feelings for someone on her team.
In late June, Harry smelt a different woman's perfume on Ginny. It was all over her body. He'd been shocked, and had raged internally with jealousy for many weeks. Did it make him less of a man that Ginny had obviously fallen very hard for another woman? he'd worried.
But then the sneaking statement always slithered to the forefront of his mind... But you aren't a man, are you, Harry?
Ginny and he both kept secrets locked up tighter than the Chamber of Secrets, then. Harry didn't know how to feel about the cheating - angry, hurt, jealous. But he thought of the Weasley family's domestic morality, and how alone and confused and scared he felt right now, and he didn't even know what was happening with this whole gender…identity….thing, let alone his sexuality. He became worried for Ginny; worried for her future with her family, with her friends - how scared must she feel to be discovering her sexuality? And so for months longer than he should, he stayed in the relationship, perhaps for both their sakes.
But right in this moment, Harry almost wished he'd continued this charade of ignorance. At his words, Ginny looked as though she'd been hit by a rogue bludger. She pushed herself off Harry and away from the bed, hugging her thin frame, her face twisted in grief and shame and stubbornness.
She finally moved her gaze back to Harry's. His heart almost broke then and there. He immediately regretted confronting her as she asked painfully, "Do you hate me?" and collapsed into aching sobs on the floor.
Harry cast a quick muffliato and came to sit by Ginny. She refused to let Harry touch her, so he waited until she felt strong enough to speak.
"It's Valmai." The Harpies' newest Chaser - in the same position as Ginny. It wasn't their coach, Gwenog, like Harry had suspected. "I'm so sorry I cheated on you; that I have been cheating on you," Ginny admitted softly, wiping her nose on her bare freckled arm. Harry was glad she acknowledged that it had at least been an affair. "I had never thought in a million years I would do that. I had loved you all my life."
The past tense cut Harry deeper than he'd thought.
Harry took a deep breath. "It hurts, I'm not going to lie. When I first figured it out, I blew up half the kitchen I was so pissed. But now I'm just worried."
"Worried?" Ginny looked confused through bleary eyes.
"Have you met your mother?"
Ginny looked as though she'd been stunned. Her face became impassive for several moments before she grabbed Harry's face and pleaded tearfully, as though pleading for her life.
"Please, Harry, please," she begged, her chin wobbling with grief. "They'd kill me. I'd kill me. I don't know what I'm doing. Please, please, please. We can't do this."
Without another word, Ginny she smashed her lips against Harry's own and kissed him forcefully. She pushed him back to the floor and her hands began to explore his body once again. Confusion and anger and hate and sadness roared inside of Harry. He tried to push Ginny off of him, but he found himself shaky and weak.
"Stop," Harry told her as Ginny began to grab him in her left hand. He was flaccid and scared of what he was feeling. Ginny let go and threw up her hands. "I can't - be - gay!" she screamed at him. Their bedside lamp flew and shattered across the room at Ginny's anguish and anger. Their lights flickered violently.
Harry recoiled at her raw voice. It was scratched with a self-hatred Harry only knew too well. Ginny, breathing heavily, seemed to hear the echoes of her words. She implored Harry to come closer. She traced the outline of his face, fingers trembling.
"I can't be gay, Harry," she repeated in a lost voice.
Harry held her trembling fingers and found himself saying through tears, "I can't keep pretending anymore."
Ginny closed her eyes and swallowed her own anxiety for a moment. "Are you…are you gay, too?" Her words belied that she too had known something hadn't been all right with him for a very long time.
Harry shook his head. "I don't think so."
Ginny sniffed. "But you aren't Harry. You aren't my Harry."
"I don't know who I am," he said slowly, as though saying the truth would unfurl a darkness he didn't want to see. "I just know that this isn't me."
Ginny didn't ask any more of Harry. Maybe she didn't want to know. Maybe she knew more than Harry himself did. They sat side by side in the streaming sun, quiet and fearful of what was to happen when this moment was over.
"What are we going to do?" Ginny asked after a long stretch of silence. She slipped her hand into his. He felt it there, barely, a cold comfort.
"I don't know," was all Harry could reply.
Hermione had come over to study at Harry and Neville's place that afternoon. It was quiet, unlike the Burrow, where Ron still lived, and so impromptu study sessions from the brightest witch of their age had become the norm. Hermione liked that Harry held up flashcards without complaining, unlike her boyfriend.
Neville had obviously told Hermione when she walked in about Harry and Ginny's abrupt….whatever was happening. Harry and Ginny hadn't said anything to him. But when Neville had offered them chamomile tea for breakfast Ginny had broke down crying and Harry had retreated to his room.
Everyone's favourite couple was breaking up, even if they could only just admit that to themselves. Ginny didn't want to come out, and neither did Harry. Ginny had wanted to stay in the relationship, but being Ginny's boyfriend was just too much for him to handle. He fit perfectly inside Ginny when he didn't want to at all. He didn't want to be her husband, her man, her equal partner, the father of her children. He didn't want to fend off jokes about Ginny having her man wrapped around her little finger.
Ginny didn't want her affair with Valmai to get out, and Harry didn't want the Weasley family to feel awkward because he wasn't dating their daughter anymore. They had come to an agreement that they would break up to, quote, 'focus on their careers'. It would be slow and tortuous but hopefully no one would get hurt.
Ginny had left to go fly at the training grounds for a few hours. Harry had confined himself to his room, which after a while he had realised was a bad idea. By the time Hermione arrived, he was ready to burn the place down.
He looked around his room and saw posters of his favourite Quidditch male players, all orange and brawn and smiles. He saw their strength and bravado and physicality and it made him sick because that's what he saw in the mirror. He didn't want to be in his own skin. Harry didn't want his life right now. But too many people had given their own so Harry could live in his; he couldn't just throw away their sacrifice.
How on earth was he meant to figure what was happening? How on earth could this ever work? What had he become?
(What had he always been?)
Hermione knocked on Harry's door around four pm. "Can I come in?" she asked, her voice muffled from the wall.
Harry did a quick wordless spell to straighten his room up (smooth the sheets, fix the lamp, open a window) and wandlessly unlocked the door. He sat cross-legged on his bed in a Holyhead fan t-shirt and a pair of shorts. He didn't bother to pretend to be reading a textbook. "Hi, Hermione," he greeted softly.
Hermione came and sat down on his bed, strewing her books beside her. "Are you and Ginny okay?" she asked, straight to the point.
Harry looked her over. Hermione appeared tired, as usual. She worked late nights as a Hogwarts NEWTS tutor to support herself through witching university, which didn't allow her much time for sleep, at any rate. She had cut her hair shorter after the war so that it came just under her chin. Hermione had figured out some spell with Fleur to defrizz it while she was in Australia, bringing her parents back, as the immense heat frazzled it out to the extreme. It was still a mess of waves and curls, but had a less harried air about it. Her refusal to wear make up didn't hide her exhausted look. It made Harry wonder how many of them had really caught a break after all the fighting. Had they ever really rested?
Or had Harry just ended one battle to charge headlong into another?
Harry decided Hermione was probably a good place to start the Weasley grapevine. Not that she'd say anything unless Harry okayed it, but at the very least she'd get her facts straight when she passed along the break up news.
"Nope," he said with a half-smile. "We're breaking up."
"Oh, Harry," Hermione replied softly. "I'm so sorry."
"It's for the best," he said, shrugging. His best friend frowned, obviously not expecting him to be so calm about the whole thing. She witnessed fights between Harry and Ginny before. There had been literal fireworks in some cases.
"Why?" Hermione asked.
Harry felt his next sentence, ready to be nonchalant, refuse to come out of his mouth. Emotion seized him like devil's snare. This was really happening. He was really breaking up with Ginny, because he…because he….oh, Merlin. Oh god.
Harry closed his eyes and breathed in and out shakily, trying to get a grip on his resolve. His guilty fingers slipped. Hermione moved closer and held his hand reassuringly. She was clearly worried. Hell, Harry was worried. He hadn't felt so anxious about anything but spells in years.
"You can tell me, Harry, it's okay. I won't go anywhere."
Harry opened his eyes and stared at into Hermione's concerned brown gaze. He looked for some kind of confirmation, some kind of resolution he could jump from. Hermione was wise, and mature: he could trust her with his heart, with his life. She was the brightest witch of her age: she would know how to help him, right?
Harry couldn't say it out loud. He was afraid he'd cry, or worse, no words would come out at all. He grabbed one of Hermione's quills from the bed and scrawled out a sentence on the corner of her notes:
I don't think I'm male.
Those few words held that devastating instant when he was four and his aunt explained to him he was a boy and that's why it was a shame he was so scrawny and weak. They held every memory of his childhood where he wished he could play families with the girls down the street and play the mum. They held every desire to be called she and her. They held every moment of secret excitement he felt to know he had his mother's eyes, and that maybe he looked like her, too.
He passed the note slowly to Hermione, and watched fearfully for her response.
She took one look at the parchment and held herself very, very still. She looked up at her best friend, shaking her head from side to side slightly.
"I don't know what to do," Harry sobbed, his face crumpling in misery.
Hermione seemed to awaken from whatever trance she had been in. She let go of Harry's hand, and stood up off the bed. Harry felt terror rise inside of him as Hermione appeared to be withdrawing from him.
But Hermione did not withdraw. She moved closer and gathered her best friend, her little brother, into a hug. "It's okay," was the first thing Hermione said, soft and reassuring.
The relief and pain was more stunning than any hex Harry had ever experienced.
It's okay, it's okay, went the mantra in his head.