“How is he?” Harry asked Cho when he entered the Hospital Wing after the meeting had concluded. He found her sitting by Cedric's bedside, pushing his bangs out of his face.
“Better now, Madame Pomfrey gave him something and it seemed calm him down and then she gave him a sleeping draft.” she answered without looking at Harry, “He going to need a haircut soon. It gets really unmanageable if it gets to long. I would know, I cut it.”
Harry chuckled and moved to the other side of Cedric's bed and sat. He brushed his fingers against Cedric's cheek. He covered Cedric's hand in both of his and lifted it up to kiss it.
“You really care about him, don't you.” Cho said, silently observing Harry's actions.
“I do. Same as you.” Harry said, “You know, I think this may be the first actual conversation we've ever had.”
“You're not wrong.” Cho smirked, “So, while he's out, I have a question.”
“What's that?” Harry asked.
“You still have a crush on me?” Cho questioned.
Harry thought about his answer and Cho waited, “Yes... and no. I'm not gonna lie, I still have weird stuff I don't really understand going inside every time I see you, but it's starting to fade. When I look at Cedric, it does happen every time too, only its different. I get a warm feeling, right here.”
He put his palm to his heart, “I feel like I don't deserve someone like him but if I didn't have him in my life at this point...”
“I get it.” Cho said, “I mean, I've never felt the way you feel before, but I understand.”
“When is he going to wake up?” Harry asked.
“Probably not til morning.” Cho said.
“What happened exactly?” Harry asked.
“Well, Madame Pomfrey used a lot of medical jargon but from what I understood, he had a nervous breakdown.” Cho said unsteadily, “She said it's very common when someone is under a lot of stress but it doesn't usually happen until exams, you know the O.W.L.S. and the N.E.W.T.S.”
“Right.” Harry said, “What happened in the Great Hall... it really did affect him.”
“He said he tossed his cookies in the bathroom as soon as you guys left.” Cho said.
Harry nodded and looked up at the ceiling, blinking his eyes.
“It's alright to cry, Harry.” Cho said.
“I can't.” Harry confessed, “I haven't cried since I was five. The Dursley's, uh, my aunt, uncle and cousin, they sort of knocked crying out of me.”
“They're abusive?” Cho asked shocked.
“Not anymore.” Harry said, “Not after I started making things happen by thinking them. Everything changed after that. They're just nasty now. On the upside I don't live in a cupboard anymore since I found out I was a wizard.”
“Your bedroom was a cupboard?” Cho asked.
“Until I was almost eleven. It was under the stairs so it was pretty roomy. If I was still in there at this point though, I don't think I'd fit.” Harry said thoughtfully.
“Harry, that's awful.” Cho said, pity in her voice.
“That was life with the Dursley's, like I said, it's gotten a little better every year I've come here.” Harry said, “Now it's Hogwarts I'm starting to fear.”
“Because of the Tournament.” Cho guessed.
“No, well, yes, but not just that. I feel like every year someone is trying to kill me, mostly Voldemort.” Harry said and saw Cho flinch at the name.
“I don't know why our generation is as afraid of his name as our parents.” Harry said but meant it as a question.
“I'm not sure either. I think it's just because our parents influenced our brains so much when when we were little that we just became afraid of it too.” Cho said, “He's really tried to kill you twice? Everyone thinks he's dead, you know.”
“My first year, remember Professor Quirrell, Voldemort was sharing his body.” Harry said, “My second year, this diary that used to belong to Tom Marvolo Riddle was bewitched with a part of Voldemort in it, like a sixteen year old version. He explained to me how he got his name too.”
“How?” Cho asked.
“He just re-arranged the letters in Tom Marvolo Riddle to I am Lord Voldemort.” Harry shrugged, “I think that's why I'm not afraid anymore.”
“Wow. That was inventive.” Cho said, “So he was already going by that name at sixteen?”
“Yep, he was crazy even back then.” Harry said.
“It's funny.” Cho contemplated, “I'm not really afraid of the name anymore now either. It was this big mystery to me and now, mystery solved.”
“Pretty much he's just a big loser that can't get anything right.” Harry said and it made Cho laugh. He noticed she had a pretty, sing-song laugh and it made him smile.
“What?” She asked.
“I was just comparing your laugh to Cedric's in my head, yours is so cute and his is...” Harry couldn't find the words.
“Sexy.” Cho said seriously, “I know, makes me melt every time. Shame he likes you.”
Harry and Cho burst out into silent giggles. From there Harry went on to tell her what progress they had made in the meeting, it was a jumble of ideas written down on a piece of parchment with facts mixed in. He told her how they were going to make a speech, with Dumbledore's assistance, to present to the Ministry and everyone was going to pitch in to try and unite all the houses around the central idea of equal rights. Cho shot a few ideas of her own at Harry and he made a mental note to give them to Hermione later.
As the day went on, more visitors came to check on Cedric's condition, the only two constants were Cho and Harry but Cho soon had to leave to finish up a project she was working on for Astronomy. She said her goodbyes and left just as Hermione walked in.
“Hey, Hermione.” Harry said.
“Still no change?” Hermione asked unhappily.
“No, but I knew he probably wouldn't wake up until tomorrow, I just want to stay with him. So he knows he's not alone.” Harry said, rubbing his thumb over Cedric's knuckle. Hermione chose to stay silent and watch Harry, just as Cho had.
Hermione got up and fidgeted with Cedric's pillow to fluff it out a bit more and straightened out the blanket he was underneath. She sat back down and took out a small notebook and a quill and started writing.
“Must be strange writing in that after all the parchment we use everyday.” Harry said.
“No, I use both equally.” Hermione said dismissively.
“What are you writing?” Harry inquired.
A little of this, a little of that.” Hermione said, avoiding the question. Harry didn't press it but he was still curious. And curiosity killed the cat, Harry thought in his head, remembering what his Aunt Petunia used to say whenever he asked a question. Then his thoughts traveled to their second year when Hermione became a sort of Catwoman hybrid when they mixed in hairs and drank Polyjuice Potion to sneak into the Slytherin common room. He chuckled to himself.
“What's so funny?” Hermione asked.
“I was just thinking about when you turned into a cat.” Harry said, “I'm sorry, I know it's not really funny, but really, it's funny.”
“Oh yes, thrilling, that was.” Hermione said sarcastically.
“It was though.” Ron said, he had just walked in and jumped Hermione clean out of her seat because he was so close to her.
“Ronald. Don't do that.” Hermione said.
“That was pretty funny too.” He said, giving her a goofy smile before turning to Harry with a more serious expression, “How are you holding up, Harry?”
“Alright I guess. Glad it's the weekend, that's for sure.” Harry said.
“You and me both.” Ron said, pulling up another chair, “How long are you planning on staying in here? Til sleeping beauty wakes up?”
“Ha! I knew you thought he was pretty too.” Harry joked.
“If he were a girl and still that pretty, sure, I'd date him. Or even if I was a girl and he looked just like that, definitely diggin' the Diggory.” Ron said.
“Agreed.” Hermione piped in.
“Hands off my boyfriend you two,” Harry said, “It's bad enough he's got all those crazy fangirls I have to compete with.”
They all burst out laughing which prompted Madame Pomfrey to kick out Ron and Hermione. She didn't say a word to Harry until they left.
“Potter. It's nice to see you in here and not have something be wrong with you, but I think it's time to just let Mr. Diggory rest now.” she said kindly but with purpose.
“It's Cedric.” Harry said.
“I know, Mr. Dig-”
“No, I mean, he goes by Cedric.” Harry explained, “Whenever I try to joke and call him Mr. Diggory, he always says 'Mr. Diggory is my father.' and gets all huffy.”
“Ah, I see.” Madame Pomfrey said, “Well, in any case. I'm going to have to insist you leave so Cedric can get his rest. I know he looks like he's sleeping but his subconscious is still awake, not enough to make out what you're saying but he can hear things.”
“Ok.” Harry said defeated, “Can I come back later tonight though?”
“He still won't be awake but I don't see a problem with that. You can't be here past curfew though, obviously, and I know how you are about rules.” She said half smiling, “I use to be the same way, so don't think you can get one by me.”
“Wouldn't dream of it, ma'am.” Harry said. He kissed Cedric on the forehead before getting up, “I'll see you later Ced.”
“He'll be just fine, don't you worry,” Madame Pomfrey said, walking Harry out.
“I know he will, you're taking care of him.” Harry said as he reached the door.
“Best go find out what's happening with that house of yours, I heard it's headquarters is in a room Dumbledore found one day when he was searching for a toilet up on the seventh floor, near a tapestry of a crazy old coot trying to train trolls in ballet.” Madame Pomfrey said, shaking her head and smiling at the thought before closing the door behind her.
Harry made his way up to the seventh floor and sure enough, there was a door that hadn't been there before. He walked up to it and turned the knob but was knocked off his feet, slammed against the opposite wall when he tried to open it. The door glowed red and a shadowy reflection of Dumbledore appeared, “Only members may enter here,” it said, “You are a member if you know the password, which cannot be given out to other students outside the membership no matter how hard someone may try.”
“Uh...” Harry, who didn't remember anyone saying anything about a password, sat on the floor against the wall he'd been slammed against and thought about what it could be, then he realized it could only be one thing and walked up to the door, “equal rights.”
“You may enter. Welcome to the Coalition house.”
Harry opened the door and found a few members of each house sitting and standing around the room, some where studying from books, others trying out new spells or perfecting old ones. Fred and George were tying a wiz-ding to one of Ron's ankles while he took a nap. It will certainly wake him up, Harry thought to himself as he shook his head and smiled.
Neville Longbottom was the first person to notice Harry had walked in and insisted on giving Harry a tour to show him where the dormitories were and the bathrooms and, because Cormac McLaggen had insisted upon it, a snack bar. The banner that hung from the ceiling was the Hogwarts four houses banner. Harry saw Blaise sitting with one person from each of the other houses, Lee Jordan was in the middle of telling that group a joke and when he finished, Blaise, usually frowning and looking forlorn started laughing and smiling with everyone else.
Harry joined in for a few hours and enjoyed his time learning things about the students he didn't usually get to socialize with until it was getting close to curfew and he decided to go back down to the Hospital Wing to check on Cedric. When he got there, Madame Pomfrey told Harry that, as expected, there had been no change other than Cedric breaking into a sweat, which she assured Harry, meant that he would wake up, good as new in the morning. Harry left soon after, climbed into his new dormitory bed and slept through the night without a single worry bothering him.
The next day, sure enough, Cedric was awake and looking very chipper indeed. Harry kissed him lightly on the cheek and brushed his bangs back so they stood on end but Cedric didn't seem to care. He looked genuinely happy to see Harry, as if nothing of yesterday had ever happened.
“What'd you do to him?” Harry asked Madame Pomfrey privately.
Madam Pomfrey explained, “He's still a little disoriented, yesterday is going to come back to him slowly, that's how the medication works, so he will be able to process everything without it coming on to strongly and causing his nervous system to shut down again.”
“What did you give him?” Harry asked.
“It's called Nervebedone.” Madame Pomfrey said, “Very useful and works every time.”
“Thanks Poppy,” Harry said, saying her first name for the first time.
“You're welcome, Harry.” she replied, “When he's ready, I'll let you know, then you can tell him about the Coalition.”
“Alright, I'll be back later, just send me a minute owl and I'll be here as soon as I can.” Harry said.
* * *
Harry woke up to people yelling outside the corridor of the Hospital Wing.
“What is that racket? It's nearly midnight, they'll wake up the whole castle if they're not more careful.” Mrs. Weasley scolded.
The Hospital Wing door opened with a bang and Harry heard hurried footsteps.
“Where is he?” an angry voice asked from behind the curtains surrounding Harry's bed, it sounded like the Minister.
“Cornelius, please, control yourself.” Harry heard Dumbledore say in a light and calm voice, “I'm right here.”
“I wasn't talking about you Dumbledore. Where is the boy?” said Cornelius Fudge, his voice rising an octave, “I wish to speak with the boy this instant.”
“The boy is sleeping.” Poppy Pomfrey practically screeched, “Now leave my Hospital Wing immediate- Minister I insist!”
“Silence.” and with a swish, the curtains surrounding Harry's bed were pushed aside, “Aha, eavesdropping were you Potter?”
“Wasn't really necessary when you were yelling so loud you'd wake the dead.” Harry said sarcastically.
“Is that some kind of joke?” The Minister puffed himself up.
“Actually, yea.” Harry said.
“Death is no laughing matter, Potter.” Fudge spat at him, “I can see you'll be of no use tonight.”
“Harry is quite able to answer questions you may have Cornelius.” Dumbledore said.
“Actually, Dumbledore, I beg to differ.” Madame Pomfrey said guiltily, “I gave Potter some of the... well he won't be able to remember until the morning.”
“Ah, Poppy.” Dumbledore said, shaking his head.
“You didn't see him Dumbledore, you weren't there when it happened, and right outside this room.” Poppy said, “It was the only way I could get him to calm down.”
“Very well, very well.” Fudge said irritably, “I'll come back in the morning, and he had better be able to answer for what happened tonight.”
“As I've said, Cornelius, there is another witness.” Dumbledore said kindly, “Please, feel free to question him.”
“I will do no such thing.” Fudge said, “You saw him yourself Dumbledore. Deranged, he is.”
“Are you talking about Cedric?” Harry asked.
“Cedric... Diggory!” Fudge said, looking outraged, “How dare – no, I'm leaving. There is no proof, not tonight anyway.”
“There is plenty of proof, Cornelius.” Dumbledore said, his temper finally coming out, “You just point blank refuse to see it. As you wish though, I will see you tomorrow.”
Fudge walked out of the Wing without another word.
“Poppy.” Dumbledore said, not looking at her but at Harry.
“I know Dumbledore, I'm sorry, I felt it was necessary.” Madame Pomfrey said.
“It was necessary, you did the right thing.” Dumbledore said, still looking at Harry, “Please get some sleep Harry, you'll need all your strength when Fudge returns tomorrow. I'm sorry you have to go through this.”
“It was just a maze, Professor, really easy to get through too.” Harry said frowning, “What could possibly have happened that was so bad?”
“Don't worry about it right now.” Dumbledore sighed, “Just concentrate on getting better.”
“Alright.” Harry said and Madame Pomfrey came over with a goblet which he drank from and immediately fell back to sleep.
* * *
Harry practically dragged a sad and exhausted Cedric to the seventh floor corridor when he got the message that Cedric was better. Cedric looked like he had been hit with a cannon when Harry had walked in. He understood Cedric was still processing his memories and it was painful so he explained what had gone on over the last twenty-four hours and it seemed to peak Cedric's interest slightly. They made their way to the common room so Cedric could see it for himself.
Cedric looked around at all the people he had thought just yesterday were going to shun him for the rest of his life when Cormac McLaggen noticed that Harry and Cedric had entered and walked up to Cedric.
“Hello Cedric.” Cormac said, “I know we don't know each other well but...”
He surprised Cedric by giving him a firm handshake and hugging him with a manlike pat on the back before taking a step back to fix Cedric with a steady look and say, “I'm glad you're feeling better. I have a cousin that graduated from Hogwarts almost fifteen years ago, she's a lesbian and living with her partner but they make it sound like their just friends unless she's talking in private with me. I feel people shouldn't have to hide a part of who they are, being gay doesn't define you.”
“Thank you, Cormac.” Cedric said gratefully. After that Cedric took a seat as more people came up to him. He counted twenty-five in total and it made him want to cry happy tears but he kept his composure while everyone stepped forward, including all the Slytherins present, most being from his own year, “Thank you everyone. It means so much.”
Once the crowd had filtered and gone back to their respective areas to study or what have you, Harry took Cedric to sit at the table he was sharing with Ron, Hermione and Cho. Hermione went over the game plan, she had stayed up for most of the night writing the speech they would present to the Ministry. Cedric read it through once and proposed to make a few minor adjustments to it so while he and Hermione talked, Ron, Cho and Harry made themselves busy by joining their resident artist Dean Thomas, who was in Ron and Harry's year, in making posters and signs to be ready for Monday, which they had decided would be the day to start campaigning for the cause.
Monday morning came sooner than anyone had anticipated. However, they were ready and for better or for worse, there would be a change made today. The Coalition left their common room as a packed unit, each one holding a sign or a banner above their head. They walked in complete silence down to the Great Hall where everyone was talking loudly until they saw the large group walk in. The Coalition kept their silence, letting the words they had placed above their heads speak for them.
A Fifth house table had been set up where they migrated too immediately. Dumbledore stood up from the High Table and cleared his throat to turn the attention onto himself. Everyone turned to face him as he began, “Today is the beginning of a new age in wizarding history. The group you have just seen enter are about to depart for the Ministry today in an effect to establish equal rights for homosexuals, just as mugglesborns were given equal rights to attend Hogwarts School over a century ago. You may think it is different but I assure you, while gays and lesbians are forced to hide a part of who they are because of who they love, they are no better off than werewolves, like your former Professor of Defense against the Dark Arts, Professor Lupin, who left his post because people were frightened of him over something he has no control over. So I ask any of you who wish to join the group, please do so when they leave later this afternoon when classes have completed. You didn't think I would let you skip out on those, now did you?”
A collective chuckle went through the hall at that statement and just as it normally was, everyone started talking loudly again and many took furtive glances over at the Coalition table. A couple of people even got up and joined them right then and there. After classes were over, the Coalition waited in the Entrance Hall and found that their number had nearly tripled since that morning. Which meant that they had the support of over half of Hogwarts.
Many of the teachers were there as well, Madame Hooch blew her referee whistle to quiet the nervous but excited crowd. Cedric stepped forward and turned with a deep breath to face the students and teachers. They had decided last night that he would be their spokesperson because of his status as the Hogwarts Champion. Harry was vehement about it, saying his name came out under the name of another school. Also pointing out that Cedric was older and more experienced in speech making from his role as the captain of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team.
“Today, we make a change. Today, as Dumbledore pointed out, we make a difference, for better or for worse. Today... no matter the result, we stand united.”
A raucous, almost battle cry, cheer ensued as everyone made their way outside and into the Hogwarts Express and three hours later a vomit inducing Knight Bus ride led them to their destination, The Ministry of Magic. From there they all entered through the visitors phone booth, had their wands checked by Eric the security guard and made their way down to the courtrooms where they would face the Wizengamot, filled with the highest ranking members of the wizarding society, who would be the final decision makers, as representatives to the high council of wizarding law.
The students and teachers stood patiently in the corridor outside of Courtroom Three. Whispers went through the group every now and then as they waited for the Wizengamot to arrive. They all knew it wouldn't be easy even with the Supreme Mugwump on their side.
After ten minutes had passed, footsteps could be heard under cover of voices speaking animatedly as they made their way down the corridor. In order of lowest rank first, the Wizardgamot passed by the Coalition as if they weren't there. The only two that made any sign of noticing were the Head of the Magical Law Inforcement, also Susan Bones' aunt, Amelia Bones and the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge.
Amelia looked curious, Fudge looked furious. It definitely won't be easy, Harry thought, just as the last member, the Supreme Mugwump, strolled down the corridor with a positive skip to his step and humming a tune. Albus Dumbledore nodded at Harry as he went by, the tune he was humming could not be described as anything but cheery.
The door stood open and they waited to be called forth. Harry wrapped his arm around Cedric's waist and put his hand on his shoulder, “Here we go.” he whispered into Cedric's ear as their group started to file in, “You can do this. I believe in you, we all do.”