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The understanding of friends

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The first time Harry encountered a dementor he didn’t sleep for a week. He woke up with dazzling green lights in his eyes and thoughts saturated in death.

 

The first time Harry woke of screaming his dorm mates tried to be sympathetic.

They were good people. Each and every one of them. They were also growing boys and when you’re growing sleep is very important. It’s also important not to trivialise their need for sleep. With not enough sleep to be functioning at their best, they understandably got a little ratty.

The second time Harry woke up screaming Seamus and Dean were less sympathetic and despite telling Harry that he understood, Ron was snappish for the rest of the day. He didn’t really understand. How could he when the kinds of things that make people scream the way Harry did were so foreign to him?

 

There wasn’t a third time.

 

It’s hard to wake up screaming if you never sleep at all.

 

The only problem with his new coping mechanism was that he started losing focus, forgetting things. It started small, inconsequential.

Harry was never particularly studious in the first place, nobody found it overly suspicious when

Harry missed breakfast to finish last minute herbology homework.

 

The thing was he wasn’t just forgetful, he was tired. Going all the way to the great hall was so much effort and he wasn’t hungry anyway.

Except he was hungry. He just didn’t recognise the weakness and gnawing in his stomachs.

It was Hermione who realised. When Harry fell asleep for 30-second increments and was talking to somebody a second later. When Harry attempted to say the same thing five times but lost his train of thought each time. When Harry vomited from hunger and nothing, but bile came up despite the fact he should have eaten only 10 minutes prior.

Hermione leads him to the hospital wing. She knew he wouldn’t come willingly, and she had 10 excuses already forming on her tongue, but Harry wasn’t even lucid enough to ask where they were going. He just followed her freely.

Madame Pomphrey attempted to lecture him, but Harry’s eyes were glazed, and he was humming nonsense. She fed harry a nutrition potion and then dosed him with a sedative.

Hermione came back four hours later when he was awake and lucid. She ran her hands softly through his hair and informed him that he has just got to take better care of himself and then begged him to please tell her what’s going on.

He didn’t tell her much, just that he didn’t want to wake up the other boys in his dorm. She reluctantly taught him a silencing charm but not before informing him this was not a solution. She tried to get him to talk to her, but he was reticent as always so finally she accepted that at least he would get some sleep. She urged him to talk to her one last time, but Harry didn’t really know what that meant.

He still woke up with death on his tongue, but he learnt a silencing charm. If a child screams in a room and nobody hears, did he ever scream at all?

 

---

The second time Harry encountered a dementor he fell and fell and fell. When his fear and cold addled mind heard his mother, he thought maybe this is it. Maybe I’m finally going home. After all, home is where the heart is, and Harry’s heart will always lie with his family.

When Harry wakes up, he can’t help feeling faintly disappointed.

Hermione hugs him so hard he thinks he might suffocate but then she leaves. Then he’s alone. He lays there amidst the remnants of his broom and his misery.

Then, he receives another visitor.

Cedric Diggory is all long limbs and smooth skin. Harry recognises him, he’s seen him before, but only in the vague way, he’s seen every student in the school.

When Cedric rubs his hands nervously up and down his jeans before whispering a tentative, “Hey”. All Harry can do is stare for a bit.

The greeting hangs in the air for a beat until Harry swallows his confusion and musters an equally as tentative, “Hi.’

“You must be wondering why I’m here.” Cedric is now shifting from side to side nervously.

Really Harry hadn’t been wondering that at all. He was still a little hung up on the long legs and smooth skin thing. He swallows a little at the ridiculousness of that thought and manages to process what Cedric had just said.

“Sort of,” Harry admitted, “You should take a seat though,” Harry offers before adding belatedly, “if you plan on staying that is.” Harry doesn’t know what to do with this random stranger in his room. Suddenly he wishes he’d paid attention to the way Mrs Figgs sometimes ranted about manners and making conversation, maybe those skills would have come in handy now.

Cedric smiled softly and sat down. “I just wanted to see how you were doing, and, apologies I guess.’

Harry frowned “What do you have to apologize about? From what my friends told me you were pretty decent about the whole thing.” More than decent. Harry can be a bit single-minded when it comes to Quidditch. He probably wouldn’t have been able to shift his focus from winning to being decent in the way Hermione described Hermione.

Cedric seems a little frustrated by Harry’s response. Harry finds it confusing that Cedric is frustrated by being complimented “I just think, it wasn’t fair on you.”

Harry shrugged, “there are worse things than losing a Quidditch match.”

Cedric laughed lightly, “tell my father that”.

Harry was smiling now too now.

Then he processes what Cedric said and is suddenly very unsure about how he feels, “did you say you were checking up on me?”

Cedric ducks his head and he peevishly mutters, “shut up.”

Rude, the unhelpful part of Harry’s brain supplies.

Cedric sobers quickly, drawing Harry’s attention. “You were so pale Harry. I ‘d just caught the snitch and I thought everybody was cheering but then I realised they were screaming, and you were right below me and you were so, so pale.”

“Oh.” Maybe Cedric hadn’t been frustrated earlier so much as distressed. Harry might be projecting a little. He’s definitely distressed.

“Are you okay?” Cedric is looking at him intently now, none of his previous nervousness is showing. Harry wants the nervousness back. Cedric looks so earnest right now. Harry doesn’t know how to do earnest. Why is earnest and emotion people do?

Then Harry catches Cedric’s eye. There’s something about the intensity of the way Cedric is holding himself that startles Harry into responding honestly, “I’ll be okay.”

 “Do you mind me asking?” Cedric waits for a breath till Harry nods in confirmation. “What, what do-“

“The dementors do to me?” Harry asks, not unkindly. Cedric nods.

“I see my parents.” Harry isn’t sure what brought on this admission but he’s glad to tell someone.

“You must miss them.” Cedric supplies.

“Yeah.”

Cedric opens his mouth like he’s about to ask something else but seems to think better of it and stands awkwardly.

The “See you around Potter.” Cedric throws over his shoulder echoes in Harry’s head the whole night.

 

After that Harry sees Cedric all the bloody time. Sees him in the great hall, on the way to classes, in the library. Harry feels like a stalker and wonders if they always saw each other this much? Maybe he just didn’t have the incentive to notice. It irritates him because he so wants to go up to him and start a conversation but there is never a good enough excuse.

He doesn’t dwell on it too much. He’s a bit distracted with Hermione running herself ragged, trying to convince her to drop something has been challenging to say the least. She’s just as obstinate as him. Harry thinks that may be why they’re friends. Maybe Hermione is the only person in the world who can deal with his blatant hypocrisy.

Harry was lying before, he still dwells on the Cedric of it all but he likes to pretend.

 

---

He finally finds a reason to talk to Cedric when he runs into him at Honeydukes. The only issue is Harry is invisible. Also, he broke more than a few rules to be there and Cedric was a prefect. Its super inconvenient.

He doesn’t see Cedric when he enters Honeydukes. He’s too focused on finding Ron and Hermione. It wouldn’t have been an issue if he had just briefly bumped sides with him. He could’ve just kept moving and Cedric would’ve passed it off as mild inconsequential delusion. However, Harry’s luck is always the worst (or the best) so he runs smack bang into him. He ends up with his head smashed in Cedric’s chest and Cedric grabs him instinctually.

They’re right at the back of Honeydukes behind most of the shelves so nobody sees them. Harry thinks this is a very poor start to his career as a vigilante. Maybe he doesn’t deserve the Marauders map.

Despite having a squished nose Harry thinks that this is the warmest he’s been since he stepped out of Hogwarts into the snow. Before he has a chance to contemplate staying there forever Cedric is stepping back and the invisibility cloak falls unceremoniously on the floor.

“Harry!?”

Before Harry can even think about what he’s doing he’s standing on his tiptoes with his hand pressed against Cedric’s mouth hissing, ‘shh!” When Harry realises what he’s done he quickly pulls his hand back.

He looks up cautiously, expecting Cedric to be mad. He is both relieved and thoroughly humiliated to find him laughing. Absently Harry thinks laughter is a good look on Cedric and has an insane urge to run his finger over Cedric’s dimples.

“Why are you skulking around back here?” Harry would tell him except they’ve only talked twice. Harry has learnt telling strangers’ secrets is bad for your sanity and you know Harry’s budding criminal aspirations might take a hit if he starts spilling his guts to prefects.

So, like a petulant child, Harry says, “what are you doing skulking around back here?”

Cedric is smirking at him now and Harry’s stomach swoops dangerously. “Well, I wasn’t wandering around under a disillusionment charm so nothing nearly as nefarious as whatever you are up to.”

“disollusi-a-what?”

“Come on now Harry no need to lie to me, it’s a Hogsmeade weekend I’m off duty,” Cedric says ginning lazily.

Harry wants to lie. He really does, but he finds himself explaining things before he even knows what he’s saying. He manages to censor the story a bit. He doesn’t tell Cedric about the map or the or the secret passageway. Just says he snuck out of Hogwarts because he missed his friends. He thinks if Cedric draws his own conclusions about dissilusi-thingies then that’s not his problem. Serves him right for making assumptions.

Cedric’s looking at him with a soft sort of sadness. “Harry, you can’t be out here right now.”

Harry didn’t know what he expected, but it wasn’t that Cedric would turn him in. He supposes this is his comeuppance for telling this almost stranger his secrets.

“Don’t look at me like that. No really, please. I don’t care that you broke the rules. Harry. Harry.” Harry was just bending down to gather up his cloak and then possibly fleeing when Cedric grabs his hand and spins him, so they’re face to face. “Harry, some of my friends decided not to come today because of Sirius Black.”

Now Harry is flinching for entirely different reasons than before. “Not this nonsense again.”

“Harry there is a serial killer out there trying to murder you, you shouldn’t risk your life for something as insignificant as a singular Hogsmeade weekend.”

Harry is less than impressed. “The serial killer that’s after me has been after me my entire life. He almost managed to murder me thrice. Once in my own home and twice at Hogwarts. So statistically speaking if it's him your worried about then this is exactly where you want me to be. Well, here or wrapped in bubble wrap somewhere underground and heavily fortified. If it’s the mass murderer after me your worried about, forgive me if some low life servant doesn’t scare me nearly as much as the Dark Lord.”

Then Harry is swooping the Invisibility Cloak over his head and storming out. Distantly and ridiculously, somewhere under his anger, Harry is quite pleased with how smart he sounded just then. Hermione had heard about the bars on his windows from the twins and had been sending him tiny purses with undetectable extension charms on them filled with books. For somebody who had never owned anything until he was eleven, having libraries in his pockets was an amazing thing and Harry had utilised them greedily.

Harry spots Hermione and Ron going into a tavern and from there his world gets turned on its head.

 

---

When Hermione takes his new firebolt Harry just hugs her and asks her to teach him the spell she uses on the purses she sends him. He’s starting to realise that without her he might get himself killed one of these days and he’s been informed that’s something he should be worried about. People have been throwing around terms like war and murder and death, but it’s never really meant much to Harry before now.

Harry doesn’t speak to Cedric again until after the holidays. He doesn’t like how they left things but they’re still almost strangers so there isn’t anything else to say to him. Except that Cedric is an almost stranger that does things like visiting Harry in the hospital and worrying about his safety. So when Cedric catches him alone just outside the great hall and pulls him aside, looking at him guiltily Harry cuts him off dismissively before he can get anything more out than “Harry listen, about Hogsmeade-‘

“It’s okay, it’s not your fault my life’s just-,

“Yeah, I’m starting to get that impression.”

Harry smiles shyly at him.

“That doesn’t mean you should throw it about like its nothing, though.” Harry is shocked at the vehemence of the statement and by the look on Cedric’s face so is he. “Sorry it’s just, life’s precious”.

“I just, don’t want to- I’m Just s-,”-uch a burden.

He doesn’t say it but maybe Cedric hears it anyway because then he is saying, “It’s okay to be scared sometimes, Harry. It’s okay if sometimes you need people to accommodate you because you’re scared. Despite how you may feel you’re not alone.”

After a heavy silence and a disbelieving stare from Harry Cedric continues “The dementors didn’t just get onto your cart. They made it to where my friends and I were hanging out and we were affected too. One of my best friends, Zoe, screamed so loud our ears were ringing for days afterwards. I nearly passed out. Your year wasn’t as badly affected because most of you aren’t old enough to have seen the kind of things that the dementors bring to the surface but in the older years almost nobody was completely unaffected.”

Harry swallows thickly. “Y-you, you nearly fainted?”

Cedric smiles sadly at him “I remember seeing my sisters.” Cedric says softly.

Harry is confused for a second because as far as he knows Cedric doesn’t have sisters. Then, with a jolt of realisation, Harry thinks maybe that’s the point.

“They were premature, which is common for twins, but their organs hadn’t developed properly and after a little while they just gave out.” Here Cedric’s eyes glaze over a little.

“In a way sort of peaceful.” Then Cedric’s face crumples, “they were so little, and my mum was so distraught.” There are tears in his eyes now and Harry clasps his hands gently.

Cedric sobers quickly after that. “I’ve forgotten what my point is now.”

There’s a beat before Cedric rushes, “oh well gotta run places to go people to see. See you around, Potter.” Harry is left staring bewilderedly at the place were Cedric was wondering what exactly had just transpired.

Harry tries not to dwell, but he seems incapable of not dwelling when it comes to Cedric.

So now they’re almost strangers that know each other’s secrets.  So considering Harry can’t seem to not dwell when Professor Lupin offers to teach him how to fight dementors and Harry thinks of Cedric’s secrets he decides to invite him along.

He catches him alone after Cedric has clearly had herbology. Harry is distracted by the flush of Cedric’s cheeks that he forgets what he has to say altogether and like a git reaches up and reverently wipes the dirt off Cedric’s nose.

Cedric is understandably a bit shocked too and they kind of just staring at each other for a while.

Cedric clears his throat. “Harry, are you feeling okay?”

Harry startles a bit jumps back. “Yeah; Sorry; I just have something I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Oh?”

Harry takes a few seconds to get his thoughts in order before saying “Professor Lupin, offered to help me learn how to defend myself, against the dementors.

I was just wondering if maybe you’d want to learn as well.”

At the mention of dementors, Cedric winces slightly. He is looking at Harry intensely now.

“You don’t have to, I’m sure if you wanted one of the other teachers would teach you, or professor Lupin would definitely show you alone, I just, I just thought, it might be-“

Cedric is, infuriatingly, laughing breathlessly now. ‘Harry. Harry that sounds, I’d love to. Thank you.”

Harry smiles softly and makes to scurry away.

“Harry, wait.”

“Hmm?”

“I might need a little bit more information.”

 

After the first Patronus lesson, both Harry and Cedric are shaking and elated. Both their Patronesses are non-corporeal but still strong. Cedric got it faster. When Cedric finally got it, he spun Harry around in elation and laughed joyously.

When Cedric told him, he thought of his family Harry is proud he didn’t flinch too badly. He manages to congratulate Cedric despite the inability to suppress the subconscious urge to run his hand over the bruise on his shoulder. In a moment of anger Petunia had hit Harry with a frying pan so hard his shoulder had ached for a week. The event had been so jarring Harry hadn’t been able to think of much else for the rest of the week.

Eventually, he realised maybe the family would work for him too. He thought of his family, but he didn’t think of the Dursleys. The silver mist that pours out of his wand feels like strength.

 

Ron and Hermione are going at it like cats and dogs, or cats and rats Harry supposes. He tries desperately to stay out of, but he can’t help but lightly suggest to Ron that maybe that’s just what cats do, and it isn’t really Hermione’s fault. Ron is, of course, horrified at this shocking display of disloyalty and grumbles for days. With Hermione looking more exhausted and wan each day Harry doesn’t feel too remorseful.

It’s Hermione who brings him back his broom after McGonagall clears it for use and he spins her around in delight.

 

Harry offers to let Cedric test his broom. Suspiciously the only day Cedric has time to test it out happens to be on the next scheduled Hogsmeade’s weekend. Harry is, of course, very irritated but also sort of endeared so he doesn’t comment beyond a few grumbles.

They spend an hour on the pitch together swapping brooms and laughing merrily before Cedric needs to go study. Turns out that he really is busy. Impulsively Harry suggests they study together. Harry doesn’t really intend to study perse, but he thinks lying in the sun with Cedric sounds better than moping in the Gryffindor common room alone.

They end up on a picnic rug by the black lake. Cedric transfigures a rug from his scarf, the colours make it look like a massive rectangular bumblebee. Cedric also cast an engorgement charm on it, which means there is more than enough space for them to really spread out. They end up right next to each other anyway.

When Harry finishes reading his book, 1984, he rolls over and peers over Cedric’s shoulder. He’s just finished doing some arithmancy homework and has started on his ancient runes. Harry turns his Arithmancy homework to him and finds that he recognises some patterns but most of them just look like a giant mess. He notices under the homework there is a textbook. Harry picks it up and starts reading it.

“Did you forget your textbook?”

“Hmm?” Harry says absently skimming through the notes.

“Your arithmancy book?”

“I don’t take Arithmancy,” Harry says rolling to face him.

“What do you take?’

Harry blushes, suddenly feeling inadequate in the presence of Cedric, studying for his Owls in Arithmancy, Ancient Runes and Muggle studies.

Then there was him. A slacker taking, “Divination and Care of magical creatures.”

Cedric smiles “Wicked, my dad is a magizooligist he begged me to take care of magical creatures, but animals terrify me.”

“Can’t be too disappointed with Cedric Diggory, boy wonder for a son,” Harry says grinning steadily.

Cedric lies on his back and puts his hands under his head. “You have no idea.” He says with a groan.

“So, tell me.” Harry prompts.

“I mean I can’t complain too much. He loves me a lot he just, expects a lot.” Harry thinks he’s done talking but then after a beat Cedric adds “Some people say their parents want them to be exactly like them, well mine want me to be better.”

“Is that why you’re taking so many information heavy electives? Would you have chosen them otherwise?”

“I think, for the most part, I’m happy with my decisions I try not to let him control me too much. I mean I can honestly say I love my electives but sometimes when I do badly in DADA or herbology I think I take it harder than I would have if my dad didn’t care so much.” Cedric is sitting up now staring intently at Harry.

“I think working hard, to do what you love, that’s amazing. That’s more than a lot of people can say. It’s more than I can say.” Harry admits softly. Fiddling idly with his book bag. “You should be proud.”

“Thanks, Harry.” Cedric murmurs quietly.

“Why aren’t you taking arithmancy?” Cedric asks after a while turning on his side completely to face Harry.

“I didn’t really know much about it. I mean, my relatives are muggles, and muggle math and science are completely different to Arithmancy. I mean not really, but I didn’t know that until just then when I stole your textbook, so I didn’t really have any point of reference of what it would be about.” Now that he’s saying these things out loud, he realises he doesn’t know why he isn’t doing arithmancy, why he immediately skipped over it as an option.

“Outside of Hogwarts I basically have no access to the wizarding community, so I had no way of knowing anything about any of the electives, so I mostly just chose what Ron did.”

Harry’s fiddling has increased now. He hates talking about Dursleys especially because he needs to pick his words exactly right.

Cedric puts his hands over Harry’s hands to still them. “You could change you know. If you want. Probably not this year but you could talk to your head of year I’m sure she would help you.”

Harry suddenly feels desperately hopeful. “Do you really think so?”

 “I mean I would think so. Harry, you’re looking a little frantic.

Are you scared of animals too?” Cedric asks only semi-joking.

“Not Animals,” Harry says bracingly

Cedric still has his hands in Harry’s and he squeezes them softly. “Then what? What scares you, Harry.”

Harry thinks of Green lights and hooded figures. Of mass murderers, serial killers, red eyes and death. Thinks that when Trelawny tells him he’s going to die he thinks of fists, frying pans and falling, falling, falling, and believes her.

He doesn’t say any of these things. Just gently pulls his hands back and starts gathering his things.

It’s getting dark anyway.

 

When Hermione quits divination, Harry asks her how she likes arithmancy and ancient runes.

 Somehow, he ends up in McGonagall’s office with a lot of summer homework. He still needs to finish the year and take the exams but next year he’s free. It’s such a euphoric feeling, being able to change something he doesn’t like, that he kisses Hermione on the cheek and spins her around thrice.

 

One lunch the twins approach him. They tell him that Hermione’s been worried. Tell him that pranking is important but not more important than his life. Tell him that they would be furious if Snape got his hands on the map but if Professor Lupin “somehow” got his hands on the map they wouldn’t be too disappointed.

Harry had been thinking about giving the map to Lupin for ages. He’s starting to really appreciate Hermione. He thinks if giving the map up is going to help protect Ron and stop Hermione and the twins from worrying, well, maybe that’s something he can do.

Ron reconciles with both him and Hermione when they receive a missive from Hagrid informing them of Buckbeak’s fate. They celebrate together when Hermione slaps the smirk right off Malfoy’s face and then Harry whips his arse in Quidditch. Nothing like Draco Malfoy to bring friends together. Then they stress together over exams. Well, Hermione does at least. Harry does a little, he thinks that if he does terribly on his exams maybe McGonagall might not let him take up new electives.

That thought process doesn’t really apply to divination so he kind of just wings it. After the incident at the end of it, Harry is thoroughly relieved this will be his last encounter with professor Trelawny.

Then Harry lives the day from hell twice. He was already so tired at the end of the first time but by the second time he’s dead on his feet. As Sirius flies away on Buckbeak its bittersweet. On the one hand, Sirius is alive which is more than Harry could have hoped for a few hours ago but on the other hand; as Sirius flies away, all Harry’s hopes for a home go with him.

 

Harry doesn’t see Cedric before the end of the year. He imagines that owls take up a lot of Cedric’s time, so he doesn’t want to bother him. He does receive a letter from Sirius and Harry leaves Hogwarts with pockets filled with books and cautious optimism for the future.

 

 

Chapter Text

The summer was hard. Summers are always hard for Harry. This summer felt like his worst one yet (every new summer does.) Harry got distracted more than usual. Which, usually he would’ve loved distractions, but he burnt the bacon. He burnt the bacon a lot. He also forgot to put away the dishes after he washed and dried them. He also forgot to disinfect the needle before he stitched himself up. Maybe he’s being dramatic. Maybe things just felt worse because he kept seeing flashes of another life. He knows next to nothing about Sirius, but he thinks, hopes, that a summer with him would have, at the very least, been a little easier. He tries not to hope for much, but god does he want.

His dreams don’t help. Sometimes even when he’s awake he sees green lights, dark lords, falling, falling, falling and, now, more than ever, death.

So, when the Weasleys come to whisk him away he’s a little battered, a little worn down and a little starved. He would say hungry, but that word hasn’t meant much to Harry in a long time. He still laughs when Dudley swallows the tonne tongue lolly and, if, when the twins hug him in greeting, Harry clings a little longer then is strictly healthy, well he just missed them is all. It has nothing to do with the fact he kind of forgot what contact with another human being felt like. Nothing at all.

He meets the eldest Weasley’s and doesn’t flinch. He doesn’t think the Weasley’s could ever scare him. He hopes they couldn’t. Harry doesn’t miss the dark looks Fred and George exchange over his head whenever Mrs Weasley proclaims how skinny he is, he just chooses not to acknowledge it. So, what if he’s a little skinny? What’s a few pounds matter anyway?

Harry feels a lot of warmth when he sits at the Weasley table. He eats as much as he can. More than he should have if the nausea is anything to go by. He stays up into the late hours of the night catching up on his holiday homework. Two whole subjects to cover. Harry’s nausea increases at the thought.

Charlie Weasley finds him passed out at 1:00am in the kitchen. Even at 1:00am, he’s all warm smiles and charms. Harry acknowledges absently that, he is really, very attractive but even after only knowing him for a day he feels like family. Harry thinks that even if he met a long-lost Weasley in a jungle twenty years from now with no context they would feel like family.

Charlie Weasley smiles at him softly. “I always left my homework to last minute too.” He says in lieu of a greeting. Harry is still a little bit sleep hazy so he only grunts in response.

Charlie starts rummaging in the cupboards, presumably for the midnight snack that brought him to the kitchen in the first place. He puts a bunch of powdery things into two mugs and then waves his wand over it. He offers a mug and a spoon to Harry, “ Mug cake?”

Harry has never heard of that before, but he can deduce what that is. He takes the cake from Charlie and smiles at him tentatively.

“You know you should ask Bill to help you with Ancient Runes, as a breaker he’s pretty adept at them.” Harry thinks this sounds like a very good idea but he can’t imagine how he would initiate a conversation like that, so he resolves to manipulate Hermione into asking for his help on behalf of the both of them.

“Aren’t you cold Harry? Sitting there in just those thin sleep clothes? I know it’s summer, but mum keeps this house as cold as Antarctica’ Harry doesn’t feel cold at all. In fact, he almost wishes he could take his top off he’s so warm. Charlie frowns a little when he shakes his head. Then, bizarrely, he leans over and presses his hand to Harry’s forehead.

“Blimey mate. You’re burning up.” Harry is still a bit bewildered by the forehead touching to really register the words. Charlie is getting up again.

Charlie fills a cup with water and then soaks a cloth. “drink this,” he puts the glass in Harry’s hand and then places the cloth in front of him “then, put this on your forehead. Harry moves to take a drink but then his side aches violently. Harry winces and then presses his hand to the long, hastily stitched, gash running down his side.

Suddenly, Charlie is at Harry’s side pulling up Harry’s shirt, and Harry tries to protest, absently aware that this is not a thing that should be happening, but his head is getting a little foggy. “I think I know why you’re so hot Harry.” Harry laughs at this, a little hysterically.

“This gash on your side is a little infected. I can heal it, but I’ll have to remove the stitches.” Then Charlie is rubbing the wound with some sort of salve and deftly removing the stitches from his side. Harry blacks out to Charlie’s murmured “episkey” and bizarrely, dreams of pixies.

When he comes to, he’s in the bed across from Ron and thinks that maybe he’s had a strange dream, but his side, at least the portion of it that had previously been infected, was now blemish free. Before he can dwell on it too much Mrs Weasley is coming into the room to wake Ron and him up.

He, Ron, Ginny, Hermione, Harry, Fred, and George, eat hastily. Apparently, the older brothers don’t need to be awake as they are going to apparate. Hermione hugs him tightly in greeting and then grumpy early morning shenanigans ensue.

 On the way to Stoate’s Hill Hermione and Harry teach the other Weasley’s how to play I-spy to pass the time. The twins think the game is stupid until they discover the delights of finding various insulting names of increasing levels of ridicule for Ron and sampling having him as the thing they spy every single turn. The game stops when they call him a short stack of pancakes because the short comment hits little too close to home for Ron.

Harry loses his breath a little when he sees Cedric. Fred, Ginny and he all share commiserating looks as they appreciate his face. Harry thinks he might blush a little when Cedric immediately makes his way over to him. “Hiya Harry feels like I haven’t seen you in forever,” he then turns to the twins, “Fred, George.’ They nod back.

Harry grins a little, “Yeah, how did your OWLS go?”

Cedric grins easily “Not too bad.”

“Not too bad?” The loud exclamation comes from seemingly nowhere, The volume is a little jarring for Harry and he immediately feels unsettled. Amos Diggory approaches them with a disorienting loudness.

“My son got all O’s he did. Bet even the famous boy who lived couldn’t compete with that.” Harry thinks that maybe he should be offended but as the shock recedes he can’t seem to focus anywhere but Cedric.

He turns to Cedric and grins commiserating. “That’s brilliant,” Harry says trying to stop his voice from sounding all gushy, but still convey sincerity.

“Merlin, can we not do this.’ Cedric’s bright red now and Harry can’t help but grin.

“ You know for somebody with such academic calibre, you’re not awfully articulate.”

“Oi quit it.”

Harry is laughing heartily now. “Such eloquence!”

“I thought I said quit it”

“Such-mmf.” Cedric clamped his hand against Harry’s mouth and is now laughing as well.

“ I said shut up!” he hissed quietly grinning ear to ear. Harry tries to speak but it’s still muffled by Cedric’s hand so he makes the executive decision to lick it.

“Ew."

They’re both grinning now and walking side by side up the hill. Now that Harry has stopped laughing, he realises that people are looking at him weirdly. Except notice is a bit of a strong word because by now he’s been stared at by so many people in so many ways he slots the knowledge away and identifies it as irrelevant. If Cedric notices he doesn’t say anything.

When they arrive at the portkey Harry almost forgets to grab onto it, but Ron grabs his hand and fixes it fastly to the portkey. He lands sprawled on the ground and dizzy. Both Ginny and Fred rush to help him to his feet and he grins lightly when they bash into each other in their haste. It’s Cedric who helps him to his feet and Harry blames the portkey for the fluttery feeling in his stomach.

Harry is a little amazed at everything. Everything is just so colourful and vibrant. He thinks he can feel the magic humming in his veins. Most tents looked almost ordinary, but they had landed in a lavish pureblood area, so the tents look more like mansions with fountains (and was that a Peacock?). It was Cedric’s turn to laugh at Harry now, staring all open-mouthed and gaping like a fish. It was kind of adorable, but you didn’t hear it from Cedric.

Then Cedric is leaving, stealing away into one of those mansion tents and Harry wishes he had the courage to ask him to stay.

Harry then begged Hermione to help teach him arithmancy and ancient runes. She starts to scold him about leaving his homework until last minute but then she looks at him. She stares at him for a long moment and then, bizarrely Harry has his hands full of a weepy Hermione.

She pulls herself together and then they are both focused on work. He doesn’t know what she saw when she looked at him, but it felt significant. Emotions are weird.

Then it’s lunchtime. Harry tries to eat. He really does. Mrs Weasley, Hermione and, bizarrely, Charlie are all trying to get him to eat more but it hurts. It hurts in his stomach and it hurts in his head and every time somebody tries to put more food on his plate it hurts in his heart. Before Harry even knows it, he’s bolting. He’s running out of the kitchen and the tent that’s bigger on the inside and then he’s puking in a bush and he feels, wretched.

Then he doesn’t know where he is, but he still has his ancient runes homework in his pocket and a ballpoint pen. So, he sits down in some random part of the campgrounds next to a bush covered in his puke and does his homework.

Fred and George are the ones who find him. 20 minutes before the game starts. They sit down, one either side of him. Harry ignores them.

“The game’s about to start,” Fred says tentatively.

Harry looks at him briefly before going back to his sum. “Yeah.”

George nudges him. “Come on you quidditch nutter you know you don’t want to miss it.”

Harry looks down at his homework then up at George. “Yeah, okay.”

Fred hands him the marauders map and Harry says, “so far my career as a budding vigilante has been a little underwhelming.” Then Fred slips his hand in Harry’s and George slings his arm around Harry’s neck. Harry still feels jittery and the taste of bile in his mouth is disgusting but he really is looking forward to the Quidditch game.

 

It’s hours later after the high of the Quidditch game and the shaky adrenaline from the horrors that followed left his system. The Weasley family huddle around a fire. Molly, Arthur, Percy and Bill retire to their own beds, but the rest of the family layout mattresses and curled up together. Hours late when almost everyone is asleep Hermione catches his eye, her faces inches from his. She cups her hand to his cheek and whispers “It’s going to be alright.” Harry holds her hand to his face and wishes desperately for that to be true. Ron lays at Hermione’s back, eyes wide open. Neither Harry nor Hermione notice he’s awake.

 

When Harry wakes up the scene is rather bizarre. His face is mushed into a chest. Charlie’s, he thinks but behind him, Fred and Ginny are doing... something. He thinks they might be having a slap fight. Over what he’s not sure but he’s still a little dazed from sleep.

He’s wearing one of Dudley’s shirts. It’s surprisingly comfortable to sleep in despite it being enormous or maybe because it is.

Ginny and Fred are getting increasingly louder as Harry sits up rubbing his eyes. “Can I have a shower please.” He asks without really thinking. Last night was lovely and cozy but boiling and Harry feels a little grimy with sweat.

Ginny and Fred are looking at him intently now. “Sure, Harry you can borrow some of my clothes if you like,” Ron says appearing from nowhere. Now Ron is looking weirdly at all of them and Harry wonders if all families are this weird. He thinks maybe he’ll ask Cedric later.

“Or you could borrow mine if you wanted, you don’t want to go around looking like a troll dressed you,” Fred says bizarrely eagerly.

Harry could’ve sworn Ginny was about to offer him her ’s. He's grateful that she doesn’t because he thinks he would in all actuality fit into her clothes best and that would’ve been quite mortifying.

 

Somehow, he ends up wearing George’s clothes who grins madly at a scowling Fred when Harry emerges with a large G emblazoned on his chest. (Harry’s own Weasley jumper was soaked due to a mysterious leak in his trunk.

Harry wonders if clothes have a significant meaning to purebloods. He asks Hermione as much but her, and Bill who overheard, both just laugh at him and Hermione loudly encourages him to definitely ask Cedric about this..

Harry is confused but breakfast is delicious, and he actually manages to eat a decent amount of it, so he’s also pleasantly buzzed and really he lives in a perpetual state of confusion so he doesn’t let that stop him.

He does find it weird when Fred and Ginny keep on fighting over the weirdest insignificant things and George winks at him randomly. Also, he thinks Arthur is laughing at him too.

He distracts himself with asking Bill to help him with Ancient Runes. He’s a fantastic teacher and Harry finds himself fascinated with the subject. So much so that when asked if he wants to join in on a Quidditch match he can’t pull himself away from the work.

Hermione, Bill and he made quite a mess of the coffee table with all of their work. Bill even gets out a transcript of one of the curses he’s broken for them to try and solve. It’s a lot like computer programming, or hacking he supposes. You have to try and translate the Runes and find the specific string of Runes or code that do certain things so that you can unravel the defences.

Bill says he uses Arithmancy as well when the runes are too complex to interpret directly, he assigns numerical values to things and tries to figure it out mathematically. He says, ironically, that it's less precise than direct translations because magic doesn’t really translate directly into numbers but mathematics can be an adequate substitute or even just useful for approximations.

Harry translates the curse into English and Hermione translates it into numbers. Hermione ends up with complex sums one represented in surds the other in decimal approximations. The English makes more sense to Harry than the numbers. He only really has an 11-year old’s grasp of math. He enjoyed it in school but with a three-year gap in his education and Hermione leaps ahead of the average 14 year old he’s miles behind her. However, his English skills are progressing quickly. He’s been getting through books almost faster than Hermione can send them and unlike math, he has been using English in the three years he hasn’t gone to muggle school so there’s less of a gap to compensate.

They have just finished the translations when Cedric Diggory turns up at the front door.

He’s all broad shoulders and bright smiles and just for a second he takes Harry’s breath away. Mrs Weasley lets him in and he’s polite but not shy, charming in a way Harry wants to be but has never managed to pull off.

Harry is charmed but then so is Mrs Weasley so sue him. ‘Sorry to intrude I just wanted to see if everyone was alright after yesterday.”

“Yes dear we’re all fine here, how sweet of you to ask, you always were such a charming young man. How’s your family? Everyone okay there? How about poor Maria? She must’ve been worried sick about you and Amos.”

Cedric looks a little overwhelmed at Mrs Weasley's quick-fire questions, he’s running his hands through his hair and everting eyes yet somehow, he is still smiling. “Yeah, we’re all okay, dad’s a little shaken up and mum fussed a little but we’re all okay. Dad and I weren’t really in the thick of it like you all were though. You’re sure you’re all okay?”

Hermione, who had been watching the scene intently is now staring at Harry with an unnervingly wicked look on his face. “Oh yes, Cedric we’re all quite all alright. Every single one of us.” Harry doesn’t understand why she’s looking at him when she says this or why Cedric’s face turns bright red and Bill bursts out laughing like it’s the most hysterical thing in the world.

“Oh, well, I’m glad. Better get going now, just wanted to check up.”

“Nonsense stay for tea we have so much food and you’re a growing boy, you look like you could need it.”

“Really Mrs Weasley I do appreciate the offer but-“

“no buts about it in you come,” and because Cedric is terminally polite, and Mrs Weasley isn’t someone one says no to Cedric’s walking in and taking a seat across from Harry at the coffee table.

“Lovely lunch’ll be ready in half an hour.”

Cedric and Harry stared at each other for a few second sharing commiserative grin. “Hi Harry, I don’t know if you heard all that but I was just-‘

“Checking up?” Harry asks with a grin.

Cedric's eyes go wide. “Shut up.”

“Check-up often do you Cedric?” asks Bill smirking at him.

“er, Sort of.”

“Check up on all the neighbours did you or are we just special?”

George has appeared now “ Course we’re special. This neighbourhood would be dull without our amazing character and wit and Cedric knows this.”

Bill is laughing now. “Oh, really now? Is that what this is? Checking up for the good of the neighbourhood. I can’t say I’ve ever had the pleasure before. Has our importance to the neighbourhood suddenly increased? Whatever could’ve changed to affect that.”

Hermione is stifling giggles despite hitting Bill to shut him up.

Cedric has suddenly become very interested in the Ancient Runes project laid out on the table.

Harry is confused.

It’s sometime later and Cedric is explaining a complex problem that Bill and he had just finished nerding out over in simple terms because their whole conversation had gone over Harry’s head. Harry is kind of fascinated.

It turns out that Cedric is also a fantastic teacher, really all of Harry’ friends are fantastic teachers. Suddenly Cedric stops talking abruptly and Harry looks up from the pentagram Cedric had been drawing. “Harry, is that? Are you wearing? Is that George’s jumper.”

Harry looks down instinctually as if he doesn’t remember the whole clothing shenanigans from earlier. Before Harry has a chance to answer Fred is slinging his arm around Harry’s shoulder. “Yes, yes, it is. My clothes suit him well don’t you think.’

 ‘Shut up Fred you don’t fool anybody.”  Now people are staring at him. “what.”

“He does fool people Harry. We fool most people.”

Harry shrugs. “I’m a little blind so I can tell by the sound of your voice.”

Cedric is looking at him intensely now. “You must spend a lot of time with them, to recognise the sound of their voices.”

“I guess.” There’s a moment of charged silence and a weird sort of glare off between the twins and Cedric. Fred’s hand is still slung around his shoulder and Cedric is staring at it intensely. Then Mrs Weasley is calling them to the table for the lunch and Harry is sitting next to Hermione and Charlie because he’s confused, again. The wink Charlie sends him doesn’t really helps his confusion.

The rest of the summer passes in a pleasantly frustrating haze of arithmancy Runes and quidditch with a couple of infrequent visits from Cedric, Luna and Lee Jordan and a lot of pestering from Hermione. He gains a pound; his injuries start to fade and he manages to ignore the constant pounding in his head.

 

Chapter Text

“Your scars been hurt. Hasn’t it?” It has. It really, really, has. He ignores it, mostly, but sometimes it hurts so badly Harry bangs his head against the nearest hard surface to distract him from it. He’d rather sharp fleeting pain than this constant aching.

“Maybe a little.” Hermione rolls her eyes at him and then pins him with a look.

They both know what she’s going to say so instead of waiting for her to answer he say “Yeah, yeah I’ll talk to Sirius.”

She slaps him playfully, but she looks relieved. Harry’s sorry he worried her. He does try not to but, it seems to be all he’s good at sometimes.

Her face turns serious. “ But Voldemort isn’t here. Is he? Last time your scar hurt Voldemort was here.

Ron’s face goes a little red and he says, “Don’t say his name.”

Harry shook his head. “ It started with a dream I had back at privet. I mean the timing of it all was a little suspicious I dream of Voldemort plotting to-, plotting and then just a few days later there’s an attack.’

Hermione’s looking at him intensely now. “Tell Sirius, he would want to know.” She says decisively.

Harry quickly scrambles to change the subject. He turns to Ron. “Do you know why your brother was acting so weird at the station?

“You know, I should know who you’re talking about Harry. I should really, only have one brother acting weirdly at any given moment and the moments should be few and far between considering this is usually what weird means. But no, my brothers and sister seem to act weirdly around you all the time so I’m going to need you to be a little more specific about which brother you mean. Seeing as I have quite a few of them and they’re all weird when it comes to you.” Ron says, and Harry feels like he’s done something wrong but he can’t for the life of him think what.

“Charlie, I mean, Charlie.” After beat, “what do you mean- I, What?”

Hermione’s laughing at them both now and Ron’s frustration seems to be bleeding into fond amusement. “Never mind Harry, I have no idea what Charlie was on about but there has been some speculation for weeks now about something happening in the ministry. Something big.”

Charlie hadn’t seemed worried at the station, he’d even seemed a little conspiratorially excited, so Harry tries to swallow his worry.

Harry passed the rest of the trip by reading ‘the standard book of spells Grade 4’ over Hermione’s shoulder and learning a summoning spell.

He writes a letter to Sirius the second he gets to Hogwarts.

That night, Harry doesn’t pay too much attention to the big feast. He pays enough attention to be sort of devastated about quidditch, or rather the lack thereof. He’s unnerved by the new arrival Alastor Moody, although not surprised.

 Cedric’s father who, bizarrely, does politics on the side of his animal work, had been flooing Arthur all summer about him and Cedric had been feeding Harry information that he picked up by eaves dropping. He’s still a little unnerved, the way Cedric portrayed Moody he sounded a little deranged and he had been staring weirdly at Harry the whole time, but then so had Draco Malfoy and in the scheme of things the git was pretty harmless.

When they heard about the Triwizard tournament Harry saw Cedric’s face fall a little and he had looked pensive for the rest of the feast. Harry remembered belatedly that Cedric was, in fact, 17 despite only being in sixth year and he had an overbearing father that worked politics (badly) at the ministry. Even without talking to Cedric Harry could tell from his expression that his father wanted him to compete and judging from his friend’s gleeful faces Cedric possibly would. Harry hopes he doesn’t. The words ‘death toll’ and ‘people have died’ ring ominously in his head. Harry’s glad of the age limit. He doesn’t think he could cope with worrying about Ron. Or the guilt at the relief he would feel for one of his friends if his other friend got chosen.

 

Harry has his first arithmancy lesson after care of magical creatures the next day. Professor vector is strict but fair and Harry thoroughly enjoyed the class. He’s a little bit behind everybody else so when professor vector begins the class with a few complex revision questions Harry’s only manages to do about half. After class the professor tells him his progress is good and as long as he continues to work hard she will be happy to have in her class and that eases his worry greatly.

Ron, who had divination, passes on an ominous message from Trelawny when he finds Harry after class. “I fear the thing you dread will come to pass,” and Harry feels a little nauseous with worry but very, very relieved that he isn’t taking divination anymore. He tells Cedric as much when he sees him after dinner and even hugs him a little in gratitude. He may or may not have flung himself a little, but they were alone, and Harry was very grateful. Especially considering Mrs Vector didn’t give them any homework at all but Ron plans on predicting his own death for his homework.

Cedric laughs and hugs Harry back, “you won’t be nearly as grateful when you’re studying from your OWLS.” Harry had seen Cedric’s OWLS work, it looked, well, hard would be a bit of an understatement. The thing is Cedric had understood it. Harry thinks being able to understand it would be fabulous so he says, in all earnestness, “ Yes, Yes I will.” Then Cedric is smiling at him all soft and it makes Harry’s insides squirm, so he looks away.

Cedric pulls his arms back from around Harry and puts them by his side. Harry shyly looks back up at his face . “So, I’ve been back two days and I’ve managed to turn my nemesis into a ferret, what have you done slacker?” The run in he had with Draco before dinner had almost put a damper on his mood but when Moody turned him into a ferret his amusement had fair outweighed the displeasure that Malfoy elicited in him.

Cedric’s laughing again now. “Merlin there are so many things wrong with that statement. Nemesis? Really? Is Voldemort jealous that Draco Malfoy is scarier than him? Also, I’m pretty sure that Moody did the actually transfiguration and you were just a mouthy git like you always are.”

‘Meh , semantics.”

Then Cedric screws up his face all funny and bangs on a cheesy accent. “that expression your mother has, like she’s got dung under her nose? Has she always looked like that or was it just because you were there?”

“Shut up!”

‘Such eloquence. “

Now they’re both laughing, and Harry wants to collapse into Cedric’s arms and never leave.

 

The next two days passed without much incident. Harry had his first Ancient Runes lessons and found he could keep up surprisingly well with the revision. He had his second arithmancy lesson and this time he actually got homework but Hermione helped him with it, so it wasn’t too bad. He has his first DADA lesson now and although Fred and George had informed them they enjoyed their first lesson at dinner a couple of days prior, Harry couldn’t help but feel a little anxious.

After the class Harry feels a little confused. Not because, just that morning Fred had sat weirdly close to him at breakfast and had held the door open for Harry. Harry was numb to the odd creatures that were Weasleys. No, he was confused because he couldn’t tell whether his anxiety at the start of the lesson was warranted or, whether or not he should be worried for lessons to come. Nothing too horrific had happened, nothing that he could put into words, but he left class with a little bit of a headache and feeling vaguely dirty. Like he’d done something wrong, but he couldn’t quite remember what. Maybe he was just nauseous from the bright green Avada Kedavra that he could still see flashing in his eyes.

When he sees Neville’s pale face he thinks maybe he was right to be worried.

 

After DADA Hermione abandons Harry so he needs to complete his Ancient Rune’s homework on his own. She’s been doing that a lot lately. Running to the library that is, not abandoning Harry. It’s okay though, because he has a decent grasp of the material and Ron sits with him and does his divination homework. By the looks of Ron’s homework, he isn’t going to have a good month.

When Harry receives a letter from Sirius informing him that he’s flying north Harry feels unfathomably hopeful for just a second. He wants to see Sirius desperately and he wants his head to quit aching as well. Then he feels immediately guilty for being so selfish. Then her feels horribly worried that something awful is going to happen to Sirius.

“I should’t’ve told him.”  Suddenly he feels suffocated in his guilt. Hermione told him to tell him. Hermione’s never given bad advice before, not really. He thought it was safe to listen to her but now Sirius is going to come and he’s going to get captured or worse and Harry’s fine so it will be for no reason at all apart from the fact he was feeling a little whiny.

That night Hermione and Ron’s worried placations falling on deaf ears.

 

Early next morning Harry sends Sirius a letter. The letter is half desperately informing him not to worry and not to come. He hopes he listens, then maybe the achy feeling in Harry’s chest will dissipate.

Harry knows Hermione’s just worried about him when she kicks up a fuss about the letter at breakfast but he’s still so grateful when Ron shuts her up. The achy feeling in his chest has gotten worse and he doesn’t manage to eat more than a few bites of toast.

 

When Moody casts the imperious curse Harry’s in a foul mood so he’s feeling especially obstinate and manages to throw off the Imperius curse fairly quickly, albeit a little painfully. He does it by petulantly thinking “nuh-uh can’t tell me what to do.” He dislocates his knee when his body rebels and tries to jump on the desk despite the fact Harry intellectually knows that’s a stupid thing to do. He thinks it’s worth it when ten minutes later he throws it off no problem. When Hermione asks him how he managed it on the way to the hospital wing he informs her that he “just did” because he thinks saying the real way he managed it out loud would be a little humiliating.

 

When the notice appears on the board announcing the impending arrival of Beauxbatons and Durmstrang Harry’s heart sinks a little when Ernie Macmillan all but announces Cedric’s intent to compete. Classes have been hectic and Harry hasn’t seen Cedric much and even when he has thoughts of the Triwizard tournament have been far from his mind.

“Cedric Diggory? That idiot? Hogwarts champion?”

“Oi Ron, that’s my friend you’re talking about.”

Ron looks at him weirdly, “you’re what?’

“Friend.” Harry enunciated slowly.

“What? When? How come you never told me?’

“Honestly Ronald. It’s not like they have been keeping it a secret.” She says exasperatedly then her face screws up in thought. “ Why did you think Cedric was at your house if you didn’t know he was visiting Harry.”

Harry sputters a bit a this he wasn’t visiting Harry he was checking up on the wWasleys the first time and then he was leeching off of Bill the same as Harry and Hermione were.

“I thought he was there to do Ancient Runes with Bill. His mother is friends with mine, it wasn’t too much of a stretch”

“What, he just decided this summer in particular was the time to start.  Not when he was doing his OWLS or NEWTS, sixth year, when you’re exam scores are basically moot?”

Oh, you know, Hermione has a point. The thought of Cedric being there to visit Harry makes his insides do that weird squirmy thing and he has to hide an embarrassed grin behind his hand. Luckily Ron’s too busy going bright red to notice.

“Whatever he’s still an idiot.”

“ He isn’t an idiot Ron he’s actually quite intelligent.”

“You just like him cause he’s handsome.”

And then they’re bickering again and Harry has free time to zone out.

He receives another letter from Sirius saying he’s safe and in the country. Safe Harry thinks, wonder what that’s like, he wonders how long it’ll last.

 

When the Beauxbaton and Durmstrang students arrive, Harry thinks he might drool a bit. Fuck, they’re fit. He sort of wishes he was French when he hears one of the boys speak. Maybe he can learn.

His heart stops a little when he sees Viktor Krum and remembers the wronski feint he did. He hopes desperately Krum will teach him. Harry makes a bit of a fool of himself at the feast when a veela girl asks for the bouillabaisse, but she’s really very pretty and Harry’s poor little heart can’t cope with all these pretty people.

 

After the feast Harry immediately tries to find Cedric but he’s surrounded by his friends. He resolves to find him after dinner but is interrupted by a scene between Moody and Karkaroff that centres around him. It’s mildly unnerving and there are lots of snide comments exchanged that go completely over Harry’s head but this time he really doesn’t dwell because he needs to find Cedric.

 Cedric is still waiting outside when Harry finally makes it out and for a second Harry thinks he’s waited for him but then he notices Cedric’s gang of friends hovering and realises with a sick feeling in his stomach he’s waiting to put his name in the cup.

Harry goes up to him anyway because if he doesn’t talk to him now it’ll be too late after. Luckily Cedric smiles when he sees Harry and comes away from his friends easily. Harry pulls him into  the nearest abandoned room so they can speak.

“Hi Harry. Come to wish me luck?”

He’s smiling so earnestly at Harry he almost says yes but this is important. It’s about Cedric’s life.

“Only if you want it,” is what Harry really says.

Cedric’s bright smile has become a little strained and Harry hates that he’s the cause. “Scuse me?”

“Do you really want to do this Cedric? I mean you said you were too frightened to do care of magical creatures and now you want to enter a tournament where people died? Itill distract you from you’re studies as well and Cedric you love you’re studies. Is your dad pressuring you into this? Remember what we said last year about doing what makes you happy and that lives are important. You told me not to play fast and loose with mine are you really planning on doing this with yours?” Harry didn’t even realise he felt so strongly about this but he’s suddenly struck with this terrible feeling of foreboding.

When he looks at Cedric’s face it’s clouded with anger and Harry just knows that he’s already made his mind up.

“I know what I want Harry. Just because I’m a Hufflepuff doesn’t mean I’m some weakling that needs the big scary Gryffindors to protect me. You’re fourteen Harry let the big kids handle this.”

Harry allows himself to feel awful stinging hurt for all of two seconds before he says, “good luck,” before leaving the room to go find Hermione and Ron.

 

The next day when Fred and George try to fool the age line Harry tries to feel amused instead of sick. He really does laugh when they grow beards and are sent Madame Pomfrey. He even asks Colin Creevey for a copy of the photo he took.

When Angelina Johnson informs them that she’s entered Harry selfishly hopes she gets picked and silently, slightly bitterly, agrees with Seamus when he says she’d be a better option than “pretty-boy Diggory.” Then he thinks about all the reactions his classmates are having to Cedric entering and he thinks he understand why he felt the need to. He almost tells Cedric about this but then he remembers what he said yesterday and wonders if he has the right to an opinion anymore. If he ever really did.

For the rest of the day he’s caught up in Hermione’s  S.P.E.W storm and distracted by Hagrid’s god awful bright yellow suit so he doesn’t dwell. Much.

He cheers for Viktor.

He cheers for Fleur.

He even cheers for Cedric despite wanting fiercely to echo Ron’s “No!’

When the fourth name is spat out of the goblet Harry almost starts clapping instinctually but the look on Hermione’s face, Merlin, the look on everyone’s face makes him stop. In that second he felt utterly and completely, numb.

 “I didn’t put my name in. You know I didn’t.” Both Hermione and Ron are just staring at him blankly.

 Then, in, what seems like a blink of an eye, he’s through the door and standing in a small room lined with paintings staring blankly and unfocused at three champions. Ludo Bagman is pestering him and Dumbledore is asking him if he put his name in the cup and he didn’t, he didn’t. When Fleur calls Harry a little boy, merlin does he feel like one.

When it’s all said and done, Dumbledore tells him he has to compete and Harry feels nothing. Not a single thing. Then Cedric is coming toward him. “How Did you put your name in the cup?” He says it innocuously, but Harry feels like he’s stomach’s contorting and is struck with another bout of that awful stinging hurt.

‘I didn’t” He says for what feels like the millionth time.

Suddenly Cedric’s easy-going smile has vanished. “Don’t worry I won’t spill your secret. I’m not on duty, Harry.” He says, and Harry is struck with a reminder of a hogsmeade visit where Cedric had said much the same thing with not nearly as much venom.

“You know I was actually going to apologise for yesterday, figured you had good intentions, but all that bullshit was just you trying to eliminate the competition. Lives matter, really? Can’t believe fell for that.”

“Fuck you.” Harry says and then he’s running. He’s running because he didn’t do it and he feels like he’s staring at uncle Vernon telling him he didn’t break that lamp Dudley did. Except now Harry won’t just get his lights punched out, now Harry might die. Lives matter?  Harry can’t believe he fell for that bullshit either.

When he reaches the common room there’s cheering. Then Fred doesn’t believe him. Then George doesn’t either. Then nobody does, not even Ron. He tries to appease everyone and stay for festivities but at the end of the night Harry needs-, he needs Hermione. But Hermione’s in the girl’s dorm and Harry can’t get to the girl’s dorm and everything’s such a god damn mess. He feels like he’s falling. Falling. Falling. So, when he sees a cupboard he slips inside casts a silencing charm and a notice-me-not charm and cries. He goes to sleep alone. So very alone.

Chapter Text

Despite not being allowed in the girl’s dorm, that’s exactly where Harry wakes up. Hermione’s lying next to him and ridiculously Harry’s first thought is that it’s totally unfair that the girls get double beds, but the boys only get singles. He must have said this out loud because Hermione’s rolling her eyes and saying, “We enlarged the bed you git.”

The second thing Harry thinks and then intentionally says is “How did I get here?’

“I put you here.” Is what Hermione says. Harry is struck with the mental image of Hermione Carrying him bridle style and he suddenly feels humiliated and a tad emasculated.

“Relax, I used a levitation charm.”

“How did I actually get in?”

“You know I’m not really sure.” Then after a beat her eyes widen comically, and she says, ‘maybe the castle just knows you’re a harmless goober.” He sticks his tongue out at her.

The smile vanishes from her face then. “I found you in a cupboard.” She says solemnly.

‘Sorry.”

Then she’s shaking her head and smiling again. “Nonsense.” She says before attacking him with a hug.

Then from some unknown bed they hear. “Is he awake now?”

“If he is can I braid his hair.”

“If he isn’t can I draw something on his face.”

Then, bizarrely, Lavender Brown is braiding Harry’s hair and Parvati Patil is drawing flowers in the fissures of his lightning scar.  

“You’re a very talented drawer.” Harry informs Parvati, because she is and she’s used henna that’s the same shade of white as his scar and stands out starkly against his skin.

When Lavender Brown hits him sharply in the back he informs her, not totally insincerely, that she’s a good braider. He doesn’t know if the braids really suit him, but he likes the feel of her hands in his hair. And that’s that. Suddenly they’re friends. Harry wonders if this is how girls always make friends.

It’s in-between these three lovely ladies that Harry makes his way down to the hall. Nobody even comments on his appearance apart from Fay Dunbar informing him that the flowers really accentuate his features. Whatever that means.

They unequivocally do not discuss the Triwizard tournament. Instead Parvati Patil teaches both Hermione and Harry how to braid hair. Harry is abysmal at it but so is Hermione so he doesn’t feel too self-conscious.

Afterwards Hermione takes him to the owlery and helps him pen a letter to Sirius about the Triwizard tournament. He doesn’t mention Cedric in his letter and Hermione, mercifully, doesn’t comment.  

In Herbology Harry Shared a desk with Parvati and Lavender and didn’t even feel too jealous when Hermione sat with Ron, or too awful when all the Hufflepuff’s refused to talk to him.

Randomly Tracey Davis and Blaise Zabini sit with him in care of magical creature. Blaise tells him he looks pathetic and Tracey swats him but then sympathetically tells Harry she agrees.

 Tracey is actually kind of amazing and Harry has no idea why they haven’t been friends always. She turns one of Harry’s braids bright pink and then talks to him about The hitch hiker’s guide to the galaxy and wonders if it was written by wizards and 43 has something to do with arithmancy. Blaise doesn’t say much apart from a parting “you still feel pathetic Potter,” but he smiles, laugh, never glares at Harry once and Harry has a suspicion that as much as girls make friends by taking in strays Slytherin’s make friends by insulting people. Harry wishes he’d met them in second year.

Not even Draco Malfoy or the blast ended skrewts bring Harry’s mood down.

The all-encompassing hatred of Harry the entire school seems to have adopted feels too heavy for Harry to deal with. So, he doesn’t. He ignores it blithely and sits at the Ravenclaw table with the lovely Luna Lovegood and Ginny Weasley accompanied by the Beauxbatons crowd. He might run his hands through his braids nervously more then necessary, and maybe pushes on a few of his old bruises to ground himself, but he’s laughing, smiling and, most importantly, not alone.

One of the Beauxbaton boys flirts with Harry. He almost doesn’t notice but Jacques is very forward. Harry doesn’t mind the attention at all, so he flirts back as best he can despite feeling awkward and blushing furiously the whole time. He leaves the Ravenclaw table with an invitation to return the next day.

Cedric’s sitting at the Hufflepuff table looking completely like  a champion. Exceptionally handsome, surrounded by friends and whispering secretly to Cho Chang who’s leaning casually against his side. Harry has Runes homework, so he doesn’t dwell. Although Harry has never been very good at not dwelling.

The next few weeks are hard but not dismal. He sits with Hermione in ancient runes and arithmancy, with Blaise and Tracey in Care , with Paravati in herbology, Neville Longbottom in Charms and  Lavender Brown in potions. He gets a little stressed  worrying about how Sirius hasn’t written and now, even Hedwigs’ done a runner but when in potions he forgets to add the Erumpet tail Lavender forgets the bat wing and they both laugh when their potion explodes on them. They spend their subsequent detention surreptitiously braiding each other’s hair and trying to see who can braid for the longest without being caught by Snape.

When the Potter stinks badges come out Harry feels sick with humiliation for all of two seconds before Parvati ‘whispers’ rather loudly in his ear that Malfoy must think about him a lot to go through so much effort just to affect him, and then Draco went bright red. Now Harry smiles every time he sees one. Even if he winces a little when he sees them on someone he used to get along with. Cedric doesn’t wear one, but Harry’s traitorous mind thinks that’s just to avoid displaying outward poor sportsmanship. The thought sends stinging hurt running through Harry’s veins.

Hermione tells him multiple times to “just talk to him.” When asked to clarify which him she meant, Ron or Cedric she said “both of them, or either of them, I don’t care really.” So Harry chose none of them.

 

Colin Creevey, bless his soul, comes into potions just in time to save him from being poisoned by Snape for ‘educational purposes.’ He winks sympathetically at Lavender before following Collin to do ‘champion business.”

When Harry’s picture is taken for the prophet unfortunately Lavender hasn’t had a chance to braid his hair that morning but Parvati had cast a semi-permanent sticking charm on the flowers on his scar so he still manages to smile a little despite feeling violated.

Harry has a little bit of a panic attack when Rita Skeeter takes him into the broom closer so he can be forgiven for not being as careful with his words as one probably should be when talking to a reporter. When asked about the flowers in his scar he blithely said ‘Parvati Patil is an amazing artist.” Then he stupidly also added, “Lavender does lovely braids to match”. He honestly just didn’t want to be harassed by Lavender for leaving her out. To add insult to injury when asked why he lets them do it he says “it’s more than worth it.’ Rita makes her own conclusions about what ‘it’ is.

During the wand ceremony he resolutely does not look at Cedric. Instead he talks to Krum about Quidditch because that’s safe, Krum’s been sitting with Hermione and him when they sit at the Slytherin table to talk to Tracey and Blaise.

 

He’s slightly mortified when the article the next day makes him out to be some fuckboy who entered the tournament to appease his Harem of admirers. 

He’s worried his friends might be angry but then, embarrassingly, Hermione laughs at him. All of his friends laugh at him really. Ron glares angrily at him but, before Harry can dwell on that Lavender is braiding his hair and laughing about how she’s famous now. Harry thinks he was right not to forget her.

In the great hall a few of the ravenclaws who have been slowly warming up to him wolf whistle and cat call light heartedly. Somebody makes a less then polite insinuation about Harry when they ask what he’s compensating for but before Harry can say anything Parvati exclaims “nothing” before jovially kissing Harry warmly and wetly right on the lips in front of everyone. George whistles appreciatively from the Gryffindor table. Not to be out done, Lavender kisses him too. As first kisses go they’re not that bad. He’s not really attracted to them, he’s pretty hung up on other people and they’ve been really good friends, but he likes the feel of them pressed against his chest and laughing against his cheeks. He thinks there are worse things than kissing gorgeous girls.  Hermione laughs and kisses him on the cheek for good measure.

When they sit at the ravenclaw table Jacques takes a seat next to him and for a second Harry thinks maybe the article has ruined his prospects but then Jacques has him shivering when he whispers in his ear “got room for one more in your harem?” and then laughs deeply against his ear. The article, for all its slanderous lies, wasn’t the disaster Harry thought it would be.

 

Later that day Viktor Krum joins Harry and Hermione in the library but he’s mostly focused on Hermione so he’s glad Tracey is there as well to do ancient runes and arithmancy with whilst Hermione is being monopolised.

There is a Hogsmeade weekend scheduled before the first task. Harry’s friends are all busy and Hermione is visiting Ron so Harry spends the day with the lot from Beauxbatons. Fleur just barely tolerates him. Some of the other girls teach him French, more swear words than useful words but he can now say Hi, my name is Harry and, courtesy of Jacques, he can also say a slew of wildly inappropriate yet slightly endearing come ons. They don’t talk about anything substantial, but they flirt and they clothes shop and they have fun. He Squeezes Jacques’ hand a little tighter when he sees Cedric Diggory hand in hand with Cho and talking excitedly to Zoe, another sixth year Hufflepuff.

That night, he goes with Hagrid to see the Dragons. Charlie Weasley hugs him tightly and fervently wishes him good luck. He switches back into his cheery mood so quickly Harry thinks he must’ve imagined it. He feels a little warmed and a little worried when he hears Mrs Weasley is worried for him. He’s sort of frustrated but still a little warmed when Charlie tells him Mrs Weasley told him to have fun but treat women with respect. Charlie laughs uproariously at that and cuffs him over the head affectionately.

He goes to sleep that night after Hagrid and talking to Sirius and dreams of fire and dazzling green lights.

The next day, Harry runs himself in circles trying to think of strategy. He considers trapping the dragon, because if he can’t do anything to the dragon itself because of how thick their skin is then it makes sense to manipulate the environment but then he doesn’t know whether the challenge is to incapacitate or knock out specifically, or something else entirely.  He decides against doing anything too complicated because the task is supposed to be about daring so its probably designed to facilitate that.

He goes to sleepy anxious and decidedly blank.

The next day passes in a worried haze. When Harry sees Cedric in the hallway he casts diffindo wordlessly and breaks Cedric’s book bag. He doesn’t help him pick up his books. He doesn’t even look at him he just says “the first task is dragons, one for each of us.” Then he walks away.

Then Moody is pulling him into his office and not so subtly suggesting flying as a viable strategy. Harry trusts him. Mostly because he has no other options but a little because if Moody wanted Harry to lose then he could’ve just not helped rather than go to the effort of suggesting a fake strategy.

Harry’s been learning summoning charms for months so he has it pretty down pat, but he learns it wordlessly and, wandlessly for good measure.

The wandless thing was kind of a fluke. He had been lying on the couch in the common room with his head in Lavender brown’s lap and braiding Parvati’s hair. He just really, really wanted a flower to put through her braid and then suddenly there it was. Harry recognised the flower too, it had come all the way from the forbidden forest. It looked stunning in Parvati’s hair. He didn’t tell her how he got it. Even if she might have felt the flower fly past her ear.

He learns how to windlessly transfigure a flower. Just because he could.

 

 

When the day of the first task arrives Harry wakes up nervous and jittery. The day passes in a blur and then suddenly Cedric is whispering a quite barely there “thank you” before stepping out of the tent to face his dragon.

Harry tries to say good luck but his throat closes. Then, Cedric is gone.

He gets out there and he almost just says accio egg to be done with it but then he remembered this is points based competition and he may as well put his quidditch talent to good use. He blows up a  wall as a diversion tactic, just because he can, and then dives like mad before using a sticking charm and featherlight charm to attach the egg to his cloak. Other shit happened before that and Harry comes out a little singed, but he figures he did pretty well.

Cedric’s a little singed too and they share a commiseratory grin when Madame Pomfrey fusses over both of them. Then Ron apologises in his own roundabout way and its celebratory hugs all round.

 After the first tasks its on to the next thing and now there’s issue of the Yule ball. Harry hasn’t danced a day in his life.  It’s not so bad though, he thinks Jacques will go with him, in fact he’s on his way to ask now.

According to his friends Jacques usually hangs out in the Beauxbatons carriage. When Harry gets there Sophie and Rachel, who had come to Hogsmeade with them the other week, are sitting out front. They greet him and then inform him Jacques is otherwise preoccupied, but tell Harry he can stay and share a scone with them. He does. The girls are lovely company, despite the fact they switch into French a bit conspicuously sometimes and he thinks they’re talking about him. Then Jacques is coming out of his room followed by a dishevelled swollen lipped girl that Harry doesn’t know the name of.

Then Jacques is siting across from him all charming smiles and Harry melts a little and asks him to the ball anyways. They were never serious in the first place.

 

Blaise teaches him how to dance. He’s Perfect because, like Jacques, he’s taller than him so he leads and he’s actually quite a brilliant dancer. He tells Harry that purebloods always have yule balls and it would be unbecoming if he fumbled about. Then Harry steps on his toes and Blaise says “Yes Potter that’s exactly what I mean.”

He starts trying to figure out the egg but has no idea when to even start. So he tries not to get frantic and to just focus on Homework and learning how to dance. When he gets a little too stressed he visits the Beauxbatons’ carriage to snog Jacques just a little. Its actually a lot of fun, despite being a year older, Jacques never pushed for more.

When Ron bemoans asking a girl out Harry just shrugs and blithely says “yeah, it’s much simpler with boys.” Then Ron bemoans being straight and Harry offers to set him up on a date with Parvati who’s also struggling to find a date herself. There was a boy she wanted to ask but, apparently, he’s already got a date.  Ron agrees fervently and Parvati thanks Harry by drawing more flowers into his scar for the ball. Lavender says his hair will look better out for this particular occasion and they both approve of Harry’s bottle green dress robes. Harry braids Hermione’s and Lavender’s hair and Parvati does their make up. Harry informs them that Krum, Ron and Tracey are very lucky people. Really the three look stunning in their dresses and Parvati’s Sari. Parvati offered to lend him her father’s traditional clothes but they’re from different parts of Indian than the Potters, so it wouldn’t be proper.  

He’s waiting for Jacques with Ron when he spots Rachel and remembers she’s training to be a seamstress for her mother. She fixes Ron’s Dress robes no problem. She removes all the lace and turns them a less offensive shade of purple.

There have been less Potter stinks buttons around lately and he thinks that’s because of Cedric so he smiles at him and Cho and wishes them luck.

 Cedric’s in the middle of wishing Harry luck when Jacques comes up behind him and presses a kiss to his cheek whilst wrapping an arm loosely around his waist. Cedric’s face turns a little stony but before Harry can ask they’re lining up and about to go in.

Then they’re’ dancing and Jacques, unsurprisingly, is a very talented dancer. Harry thinks he keeps up well, judging from the wink Blaise sends him. Hermione isn’t a half bad dancer either. Krum trips a little and steps on her feet a few times, for all his grace in the air he seems to retain little on the ground, but Hermione just laughs, and they continue dancing. Harry might stare just a tiny bit at Cho and Cedric because he feels a bit like he’s back in third year and Cedric is an almost stranger Harry wants to talk to but can’t find a reason to. Jacques always brings him back to reality. After the dancing is finished, Jacques drags him outside for a quick snog and they pass a blushing Ginny and Neville on their way out.

 

They go back in after overhearing more than a few scandalous conversations. Snape caught them in an incriminating position. When asked what, exactly, they were doing Harry had looked at Jacques who was pinning Harry against the wall whilst Harry had his legs wrapped around his waste and then said, rather feebly, “nothing?” Snape’s face had looked a little constipated when he took 25 points off Gryffindor for ‘inappropriate conduct’ and Harry thinks it was more than worth it.  

They go back in and a group of Harry’s friends set up a game of exploding snap. It ends up being a fairly large game as Tracey Davis and Blaise invite a few of the younger Slytherins to join in, Cedric brings Hufflepuff’s and Cho Chang brings Ravenclaws, Krum brings Durmstrang students, Jacques brings Beauxbatons students and Harry brings an abundance of Gryffindors. It ends up being a game that encompasses all the champions and all the students that don’t have a problem with Harry which is a larger number of students than he thought. There is still more people dancing than playing but it’s a good game.

When it starts getting late and the younger students like Ginny and Luna, who came as Padme Patil’s date, go to bed the older students (I.E Cedric) start leading the group astray.  They end up in a greenhouse. Then the celebrations really begin.

Harry learns that Professor Sprout has a weed stash. Two drags ago Hermione strongly disapproved but now she’s laughing warmly from her curled up against Viktor’s side. Harry’s never felt happier in his life. No, really, he thinks if he’d had weed last year he would have produced his Patronus much faster. He tells Cedric this, and he laughs a little more lucidly than Hermione, because he has a little more tolerance. “Practice” Cedric says with a lazy grin.

They play spin the bottle, because they’re teenagers and they can. Jacques goes first. He ends up kissing Rachel and never stopping. They leave to go make out in a corner. Zoe, a Hufflepuff girl, goes next and ends up kissing Cedric. Cho Chang goes bright red at this and leaves in a huff when all Cedric does is laugh blithely. Man, they’re losing people fast. Parvati kisses Lavender and they laugh uproariously at the wolf whistles. Harry kisses Fred and its nice but not nearly as nice as when Jacques pushes him against a wall and kisses him silly. George kisses Angelina Johnson. They must enjoy it because they leave after a quick look to Fred for approval and a dismissive “have at it bro.” Sophie kisses Blaise Zabini and the two make a really gorgeous pair. Viktor Krum kisses Tracey Davis and whilst it’s not the best kiss in the world Tracey seems more than pleased. The game ends when Daphne Greengrass refuses to kiss Hermione Granger and almost says the ‘m’ word. Their all too buzzed for politics. Except Lee Jordan who has kindly agreed to stay sober in case anything bad happens.

He makes out a little with Blaise, they’re both stoned beyond inhibitions. He thinks he sees Ron and Lavender making out a little in the corner and Padme and Tracey are loudly getting it on in a corner. He thinks maybe they would’ve had more fun tonight if they’d swapped dates earlier. They pass the last hours of Christmas laughing loudly and kissing lazily.

People leave in dribs and drabs. Until finally it’s just Hermione, Krum, Harry, Cedric and Zoe. They got hungry half way through the night and the house elves bring up pizza and, at Harry’s request, treacle tart. Zoe’s Happily munching away on the last of it and they’re all starting to sober up.

‘Your boyfriend left pretty quickly.” Cedric says out of the blue, staring at Harry weightedly from across the room.  

“Did he? It seems very irresponsible of me to get a boyfriend without realising it and then lose him quickly.” He says laughing at his own silliness.

Cedric, who is a lot more sober than Harry at this point in time, rolls his eyes and says,“ don’t be coy Jacques hasn’t taken his eyes off you the whole time he’s been here. Well except to eye up other people.”

“All in good fun.”

“Oh.”

“Oh.”
“I’m sorry you know.” Cedric says far more intensely then one should be at 4:00am in the morning.

“About what I said that day you were chosen, about what I said the day before, about not believing you.”

“Oh.” Harry’s head is still a bit hazy so everything’s taking longer to sink in than usual.

“I really am. I didn’t mean it. Not one word of it. You scared me. Scared me a lot actually. When you started talking about the competition in terms of life and death rather than a friendly competition. I really couldn’t not enter; my father wouldn’t’ve let me come home and Huffepuff needs the boost in morale. It was just, complicated. It didn’t matter at first. When I just thought it would take up a little of my time but then you started talking about it like it was a forever kind of decision and fuck, Harry, I’m so not ready for the forever decisions. Then you were chosen and all I could think is neither of us are ready for the forever of it all and I was so mad because you talked about it like you knew better and then you were there playing fast and loose with your life even though you had a choice and I didn’t.”

Hermione and Viktor have left now and Zoe’s staring wide eyed at the both of them with a half-chewed piece of cheesy pizza in her mouth.

“I didn’t want enter my name.’ There are tears building furiously in Harry’s eyes and he hopes it’s just the drugs in his system making him feel everything quite so acutely.

“I know Harry. I’m sorry, really.”

Then, Harry’s leaving, almost sprinting but before he can make it out the door of the greenhouse, “Wait, Harry? Take a bath. Take a bath with you’re egg.” Harry hears him, but he doesn’t stop running. 

Harry wakes up at 4:00pm with a head ache. It's not bad, just a kind of fogginess in his brain. He’s craving pizza still so he goes out into the common room where clearly other people have had the same idea because Ron, Seamus and Dean are sitting there munching on Pizza.

Harry sits with them and joins in on the munching.

Chapter Text

It was at exactly 5:00pm on boxing day that nerves started to set in. The second task is set for February and that seems very close from this side of Christmas. The screeching egg is awful but Harry listens to it twice in his desperation to figure out something. Anything.  So, he decides to pester Hermione about it. She’s a saint so she agrees, despite the fact she’s working on an ancient runes assignment Harry really should be working on as well.

It’s at approximately 6:30pm on boxing day that Harry concedes that he’s lost and decides to try and decipher Cedric’s advice despite wanting to figure this out on his own. ‘Take a bath with your egg’ sounded really straight forward in theory but in practice Harry didn’t even think Hogwarts had a bath. He decides to ask Hermione.

“Honestly Harry I sent you three copies of Hogwarts, a history and you didn’t read a single one?”

“I thought we were mad at Hogwarts a history for not mentioning House elves.’

“We weren’t mad at it over the summer.’

“I was mad at it pre-emptively, I knew it would offend you in the future and didn’t read it on principle.” He had, actually, tried to read it, but Hermione had recited every second paragraph to him, so it had felt like he’d already read it. It would’ve been far too tedious to read twice.

Hermione’s rolling her eyes now. “Honestly Harry. According to the book there’s a bath in the prefect’s bathroom, which I expect is the one Cedric used, and, I expect a few of the teacher’s quarters have baths.”

“None of those options help me.”

“Well I mean there isn’t anything particularly important about baths in magic, that I know of. Maybe it’s not about the bath and more about the water.”

“So, I could take a shower with the egg.”

Hermione’s face screws up in concentration, “maybe, but as we don’t know much about the significance of the bath maybe we should go to the closest thing to one.”

“So, a shower.”

“No, Harry, not a shower. A lake.”

“A lake? What lake? The black lake?”

“Do you know of any other lakes? If you do you must tell me where you heard about it because it clearly wasn’t from reading Hogwarts a history.”

 Harry sticks his tongue out at her. “but Mione it’s cooold.”

“And you’re desperate.”

“Fiiine but you, have to come suffer with me.”

“I’m not swimming it’s not my task. I will, however, come watch you’re suffering, the castles been kind of boring today.”

Then a thought struck him. “Mione, I can’t swim.”

Hermione looks at him with comically wide eyes before shaking her head in amusement. “Don’t go too deep then.”

Harry pouts. “I’m too pretty to drown.”

“No”

“Please?”

“Ugh fine, but we’re using magic. I can’t afford a cold in the middle of the school year.”

 

And that’s how they find themselves stripping off their robes into their swimsuits beside the lake at exactly 7:00pm. They’ve skipped dinner but after pizza in the common room neither of them are overly hungry. Hermione runs her finger reverently down the basilisk scar on Harry’s arm. Harry’s cast glamour’s on most of his scars but he doesn’t need to hide that scar, that scar has stories Harry needn’t be afraid to tell.

They slip into the lake after casting impervious and warming charms on each other. They get to about waste deep before they’re both staring at the egg expectantly.  When it does nothing they stare at each other blankly.

“Maybe you should open it?”

“And have it screech in my face?”

Then Hermione’s eyes light up. “Open it under water.”

So, he sticks it under and begins to open it before Hermione puts a hand on his. “No, you dolt, stick your head under too.”

Realisation dawns on him. “I will if you do.”

Hermione grins lightly. “Oh, my curiosity is peaked, you couldn’t stop me if you tried.”

So, they sit at the bottom of the lake with the egg between them and grin at each other for just a second before opening the egg.

Come seek us where our voices sound,
We cannot sing above the ground,
And while you're searching ponder this;
We've taken what you'll sorely miss,
An hour long you'll have to look,
And to recover what we took,
But past an hour, the prospect's black,
Too late, it's gone, it won't come back

 

 The song/poem thing takes a while so when they emerge from the water they’re gasping for air and Hermione’s hair is sticking up at weird angles. Harry suspect’s his is too, but then what’s new?

From the corner of his eye Harry can see the swish of a tail and then a vaguely humanoid shape dart away into the distance. “Mermaids.”

Hermione’s looking at him with bright eyes now “Mermaids,” she agrees.

They listen to the clue three more times before heading in and drying off.

They determine that the task will most likely take place in the black lake. Harry thinks of the line We've taken what you'll sorely miss,” and gets kind of paranoid. He casts a strong locking charm on his chest. Apart from that they have no idea how Harry’s going to manage to breath underwater.  Parvati and Lavender turn up at 8:00pm and help brain storm. Parvati suggests becoming an Animagus but that would take Harry at least two months and the chances his Animagus is an aquatic animal is slim to none. Hermione offers to transfigure him into a fish, but she hasn’t even tried it on an animal and she can’t guarantee she could turn him back in one piece.

Then Lavender has an idea. She pulls out a bright pink marker out of seemingly nowhere and then transfigures a whiteboard and pins it to the pin board. She writes in big bold letters ‘TRIWIZARD TOURNAMENT BRAINSTORM. HOW DOES ONE BREATH UNDER WATER FOR AN HOUR? BEST SOLUTION WINS BRAGGING RIGHTS.’ Then she leaves a whiteboard marker under it. He thinks he’s going to get a lot of stupid suggestions but it’s a solid idea. He kisses her on the cheek in thanks. They end their brain storming there and spend the rest of the night on homework.

Three days later they see Krum take a dive into the lake and grin at each other because they know exactly what he’s doing. “Mustn’t be any baths on the Durmstrang ship either.”

Incidentally it’s that same day that they get an actually helpful hint on the whiteboard. So far George had left a mysterious lolly captioned ‘eat me’ on the board, Fay had semi-helpfully suggested partial self-transfiguration but Hermione had vetoed it and ten people had drawn dicks on the board in various colours and detail.

 Today Neville Longbottom of all people had written gillyweed in big clear letters and attached a reference from a book with all sorts of information. Only problem was that he just missed a Hogsmeade weekend and there were no more weekends scheduled till March. Harry had no idea where else to procure such an item. When asked neither did Neville. He still hit a brick wall but its progress, so he thanks Neville profusely. As he’s thanking Neville it occurs to him he could probably afford Cedric the same courtesy and goes to find him.

 

He finds Cedric outside of the Library. He’s flushed red and breathing heavily after an impressive row with Cho Chang. Zoe is standing a few metres away staring with wide eyes at the retreating figure of Cho. Harry almost turns around and leaves but then Zoe spots him and starts coming over.

 Zoe is tall. Taller than Harry and despite her warm smile she’s kind of terrifying when she stalks over to Harry full speed. Harry is intimidated until she opens her mouth.  Her voice is deeper than Harry was expecting but she talks fast and earnestly, Harry instantly like her. “Hi, I’m Zoe Nott.”

Harry blanches a little at the last name but doesn’t have time to dwell because she bulldozes on.

“Cedric’s told me so much about you, I feel like I already know you.’ She giggles a bit at this for no discernible reason and Cedric who has made his way over goes a little more red. “He’s very sorry about being such a git. I think you should forgive because really, have you seen his face?” She’s laughing now and the sound is deep and reverberates through Harry’s chest.

“I knew you were just friends with me because of my face.” Cedric says feigning devastation.

“Yet, you still love me.”

Harry cuts in here. “I’m Harry. I guess knew that, though. Thanks for introducing yourself. I was calling you Zoe the Hufflepuff in my head. ”

“I’ll take that as a complement. So= Harry the Gryffindor, what brings you to this end of the castle? Come to humiliate Cedric too? If so give me a couple of seconds to get popcorn.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be on my side?”

“Sorry that goes against girl code. Cho wasn’t wrong. She might’ve been a little off base with the semantics, but really Cedric I told you to break up with her months ago.”

“Shut up.”

“Is that your response to everything?” Zoe asks with another laugh.

“Yes.” Harry says without thinking and then they’re both looking at him again.

Zoe’s smiling blindingly now. “So really, what brings you to this neck of the woods.”

‘I just-er.’ Now that he has to say it out loud Harry feels kind of stupid for coming all the way up here.

Zoe’s smiling encouraging him now and making gestures to continue.

“I wanted to say thank you. For the thing, you know, with the bath.’ He regrets it as soon as he’s said it and now both him and Cedric are bright red.

“Blimey Cho was definitely right.’ Is all Zoe says before pinning Cedric with a glare.

“It wasn’t like that Zoe. It was about the tournament. You know with the egg.’

Zoe’s face relaxes before she bursts into laughter for what seems like the umpteenth time in the last 2 minutes. “I think I love you Harry.” She says before flinging her arms around Harry still shaking with laughter.

Harry catches Cedric’s face and mouths ‘girl’s are weird.’  Cedric mouths something in response but he’s smiling too much for Harry too make out what he’s saying.

Zoe leaves after that apologizing profusely and saying she has to talk to Madame Pince about a book she’s lost but they absolutely have to catch up later.

Harry and Cedric stare at each other awkwardly for a few seconds before Harry says “thank you, really.”

Cedric’s smiling at him now all traces of residual anger have left his face. “least I could do.”

They stare at each other for a little while longer before Harry can’t take it anymore and leaves to go find Blaise.Trying to banish imgaes of Cedric’s stupid pretty facewith thoughts of the task.  

He wants to make use of the Blaise’s cunning and see if he can help Harry obtain some gillyweed.

He uses the map to find Blaise. He’s in the Slytherin common room and Harry considers waiting for him to come to dinner but he has a theory he wants to test out. He also considers wearing his invisibilty cloak but decides the walk to Gryffindor is too much effort and he wants to make a statement anyway.

So he makes his way down to the dungeons and despite not actually having the intent of doing something wrong he feels inexplicably guilty. There are no explicit rules bout sneaking into other people’s dormitories, however there are rules about students giving out  passwords and letting in friends. So technically harry isn’t about to break a single rule.

Still, he’s glad he doesn’t run into Snape on the way to the common room. He feels a little stupid when he transfigures a stuffed snake and then hisses at the wall but the triumph he feels when it slides back to reveal Slytherin common room his triumph quells his embarrassment. Luckily for him Blaise and Tracey are sitting in the common room right in the middle and Harry spots them immediately.

Tracey greets him easily and beckons for him to sit down before presumably noticing where they were and freezing. Blaise, calm and collected as ever casts a notice me not charm on Harry and then asks ‘how, exactly, did you get in.”

Harry grins like an idiot and says “ I hissed.”

“You hissed?”

“Yes.” And then for good measure. “Hiss, hiss motherfucker.”

Tracey is still staring at him with wide shocked eyes and mutters to herself, ‘hiss, hiss,” with a bewildered expression on her face.

“Is there a reason you’re here or were you just feeling like being a showy pillock.”

“You know there is, but I feel even if I don’t accomplish anything else tonight I feel like its been a success.’

“Well, you did manage to break Tracey.”

Tracey splutters a bit at the mention of her name. “How did you even find the common room.”

Harry grins a little. “Found it in second year.”

Blaise’s eyebrows rise a little at this.

‘It’s a long story. I’ll tell you late. Right now I need you’re help. If you’re interested that is.”

Tracey makes an eager gesture urging him to go.

“I need to get my hands on some gillyweed but I’m not really sure how. I was wondering if you had any ideas.”

Tracey looks thoughtful. “well it’s not in season so there won’t be any in the green house. I’m pretty sure Snape has some but that probably won’t be much use to you considering I doubt he’d give you any.”

At this Blaise scoffs. “You’d let something as insignificant as permission stop you? Are you sure you’re a Slytherin?”

Tracey blanches a little. “ Stealing from Snape wouldn’t be slytherin it would be suicidal.”

Blaise rolls his eyes. “That’s why you don’t do it yourself.” Blaise turns to look at Harry appraisingly. “Anyone in the school owe you a life debt?’

Harry thinks about it for a second.

“ You know Draco might be able to get some.” Blaise muses.

Tracey turns to Harry gleefully. “He might even give you some if you ask him with you’re shirt off.”

Blaise hits Tracey but Harry isn’t paying attention because, whilst he would never actually call it in, there is actually, two someone’s who owe him a life debt.

He would never ask Ginny to put herself in danger like that, but Dobby is so powerful he probably wouldn’t even get caught. Harry has to talk to Hermione about this so, he’s up and leaving, thanking Tracey and Blaise profusely.

As he leaves Tracey shouts. “ I was only joking, I don’t really think you should strip tease Malfoy.” Then, after a beat, “ If you do though, please tell me so I can watch.”

 

Hermione is a little begrudging in her approval of his plan, but she agrees because Dobby is a free elf and he has a choice in the matter. She starts to lecture Harry about not pressuring Dobby but then , is reminded of who freed Dobby in the first place.

Dobby Agrees easily but Harry asks him to wait till a little closer to the task because he has no idea how to store gillyweed.

Harry feels a lot more at ease now that he has a solid strategy for the task. He starts reading another one of the books Hermione sent him. Incidentally the book happens to be a transfiguration text book.  He’s glad for the gillyweed when he reads about the side effects of botched self transfiguration. When he reads about Animagi his curiosity is more then peaked. Unfortunately, the Holidays are over by the time he finishes reading and now Harry has to focus on his school work and trying to coax Hagrid out of his cabin after Rita Skeeter releases a less than pleasant article about his status as a half giant.

Harry sees Cedric again three times before the second task. Twice he’s with Zoe and once he’s stone out of his brain.

The first time he sees him he’s alone. He’s sitting in the owlery holding a letter in shaking hands and just staring. Harry, who had come to bring food to Hedwig, had been at a loss as to what he should do. He had walked over slowly to Cedric, approaching him like one would a wild animal. He had then slowly and gently pried the letter out of Cedric’s hold. Then he’d taken Cedric’s hands in his own. Cedric had looked up at him then, with haunted eyes, and had stared, just for a second. Then Cedric had folded like a house of cards and had sobbed violently into Harry’s shoulder. 

Later, when Cedric had calmed down enough to form full sentences he’d told Harry what happened. The letter was from his father and it had been regarding his mother. “She’s sick.” Cedric has said running his hands through his hair furiously. “She’s sick and my dad mentioned it in passing. Like it was nothing. His exact wording wad “she’s probably going to be fine so no need to let your focus wander from the tournament and doing us proud.” She’s sick and my dad’s talking about her like she means nothing and like whether or not I do well on the task is more important than wether or no she lives or dies. God Harry, she might die.” Then he had cried again. Fat ugly sobs. Harry sat with him for hours until he had calmed down. Harry had done what Lavender, Parvati and Hermione would’ve done for him. He got Dobby to fetch Cedric his favourite sweet and braided his hair. Cedric’s favourite happened to be canoli, apparently the Zoe’s was staying was Italian and they had gotten Cedric hooked. Cedric had looked kind of unfairly gorgeous with braided hair. Harry refrained from commenting, but when he delivered Cedric back to the Hufflepuff common room Zoe had been very appreciative. 

Zoe had kissed Harry on the cheek in thanks and had promised to take care of him.

The second time Harry saw Cedric Harry was with Hermione and Cedric was with Zoe. Nothing too significant happened. They worked on Ancient runes together and Harry taught Cedric how to braid Zoe’s hair. Harry transfigured a flower to put in her hair, Cedric might have noticed he didn’t use his wand, but he doesn’t mention it. Harry isn’t going to bring it up.

Zoe weeps with joy when they show her a mirror. Cedric tears up a little too and they both thank him profusely. Harry’s a little confused at their overzealousness but he’s learnt not to let that stop him.

The third time he sees Cedric is very bizarre. Harry gets woken up by a house elf called ducky at 4:00am in the morning the day of the second task. The house elf apologizes furiously for waking him up but says his presence has been requested in the green house. It’s 4:00am in the morning so Harry isn’t lucid enough to question or refuse. He makes it to the greenhouse at 4:34am with careful guidance from ducky to help avoid teachers. When he gets to the green house both Cedric and Zoe are sitting huddled together giggle their heads off. Ducky disappears as soon as Zoe spots Harry.

“Cedric here was little stresssssed.’ Zoe loudly between boisterous giggle. “so I brought us here to take the edge off.” Cedric is nodding along happily as he munches on fried chicken.

“then we got hungry, AND, then this rat tried to put his greasy fingers near my luscious locks.

“Excuse you, You asked me to braid you’re hair.”

“No I didn’t I said I wanted my hair braided you drew your own conclusions.”

“Whatever you’re still getting what you want, there isn’t a single hair on your pretty little head with –“ Cedric seems to get distracted by the chicken and doesn’t manage to finish his sentence.

“Anyway this git is to greasy but my hair is a disaster and I was very stressed for all of two seconds before I remembered your lovely face and then here you are here to save the day. Wait. Why is my hair a mess still? Are you not going to braid my hair? Was I too rude? Pleease save the day bright eyes.”

“Yes please.” Cedric adds between mouthfuls of chicken.

 

That’s how Harry ended up here. At 10:00am the same day of the second task, Harry is asleep in Cedric Diggory’s lap but Zoe is nowhere to be found.

The Dobby appears and pokes Harry and Cedric till Harry goes sprawling off of Cedric’s lap waking both of them up in the process. “Harry Potter and Young Mr Diggy, have to be going now. Harry Potter must go find his Wheezey and Mr Diggy has to find his Zoe. The second task starts in ten minuetes.”

Cedric stares at Harry a look of abject horror dawning on his face. “We've taken what you'll sorely miss,” Cedric whispers and then their both off. Sprinting to the black lake, fixing their robes as they go. Dobby stops Harry and presses the Gillyweed into his hand and then, in what feels like seconds and hours at the same time, they’re at the lake.

Chapter Text

By the time they arrive Fleur and Krum are already standing beside the judges table watching Cedric and Harry sprint to the table. People try to talk to them, ask them where they’ve been, berate them, and, in Ludo Bagman’s case, try to help Harry cheat, but they ignore everyone in favour of catching their breathe. KArkaroff and Madame Maxine didn’t look at all pleased to see them.

Then their stripping off and standing at the edge of the lake and Harry can’t believe he’s already here. Weeks of worrying and it’s all about to be over.

“On my whistle.”

“One.” Harry takes a breathe to steady himself.

“Two.” Harry hastily shoves the gillyweed in his mouth.

“Three.” Harry swallows and wades into the lake.”

He gets to about waste deep before he feels as if he’s been struck by an invisible pillow. He tries to breath but is hit by a piercing pain in his neck.

He has gills.

He takes a second to marvel in that before he’s struck with a distinct lack of oxygen and dives.

Harry realises that he had been so focused on trying to breathe underwater that he hadn’t even considered the whole can’t swim thing. Thank god swimming seems to come naturally to him thanks to the gillyweed.

He wonders if he could just accio Ron to him, but he doesn’t know what other obstacles are in-between him and Ron and what kind of damage they could do to Ron. He also doesn’t know how Ron is breathing underwater and if freeing him prematurely will cause him to suffocate.

*I don’t think I really need to go into detail about the task here, it’s the same as the books.*

When he sees Ron floating in-between Zoe and Hermione he desperately wants to save all three of them. Zoe’s hair is still braided, and she looks so vulnerable it makes Harry’s chest ache. He grabs a jagged rock and slices through the rope holding Ron in place and then, when he sees no sign of the others and the merpeople’s song rings ominously in his head, goes to do the same for all four of the hostages. When the Merpeople tell him no, Harry’s seized with a panic.

He remembers Rachel and Sophie spinning Gabriella around in circles and gushing over her. Tinks about what their faces would look like if they had to see her cold bloated body. “I’d sorely miss all of them.” He says furiously.

Then Cedric’s appearing, telling him to get lost, and that Krum is coming, and Harry’s struck with an acute sense of relief.  When even after Krum has saved Hermione, Fleur shows no sign of showing Harry thinks of Sophie and Rachel and grabs Gabriella despite. The Merpeople attack but Harry keeps going despite the old wounds on Harry’s back that they’ve torn wide open.  

Then he’s at the top dizzy with oxygen deprivation and blood loss. Ron’s berating him for being stupid but all Harry could see when he was down there was Fleur sobbing over the emaciated corpse of her sister.

Things get a bit hazy from there. Madame Pomphrey is tending to his wounds and Harry only has a split second to raise wandless glamours for the wounds that can’t be explained by merpeople and grindylows. Then Fleur is throwing herself at him in a rare and unusual display of warmth.

Then the champions are standing in a line and the scores are being read out. Harry feels like such an idiot when they award him points for ‘moral fibre.’ He swallows his embarrassment and turns to congratulate Cedric on a job well done.

“Thanks Harry, that gillyweed was really brilliant.” Cedric’ looking at him with an odd sheen in his eyes. Harry can’t place exactly what it is but it makes him glow a little. His hair is a little dishevelled and his cheeks are flushed brilliants. Harry’s still a little delirious from the task and it makes him want to jump Cedric right there and them and do things he’s never even dreamt about doing with Jacques.

“Thanks, but I was kind of an idiot at the bottom. Thanks for trying to dissuade me from my idiocy. Sorry I was so thick.”

Cedric shaking his head now. He takes a step closer to Harry and it’s honestly like electricity running through his veins. “No Harry, you weren’t an idiot. You were-“ the next sentence comes out in a breathless rush, “You were incredible.” Then he’s looking at Harry with so much intent Harry’s frozen in place.

Cedric looks sweepingly around the arena before his gaze settles on Harry. “Fuck it.” Cedric says and then there Cedric’s lips are on Harry’s lips and he’s frozen firmly in place.

Both of their hair is still wet from the lake and there is  water dribbling into Harry’s eyes. But Cedric’s lips are warm and solid on his own. Cedric had started to pull away but then Harry’s grabbing onto his shoulders needy and desperate. It’s so much better than Harry’s first kiss with Jacques because now Harry has some idea of what he’s doing and so does Cedric and there is this little spark of something more that Harry can’t quite put his finger on.

They don’t notice the uproarious yelling of the crowd until they start to slowly pull away. Cedric’s grinning at him now and Harry can’t help but return the sentiment even though a little ball of trepidation taking hold in Harry’s gut. Hermione and Zoe are standing side by side looking half amused half exasperated.

Then Hermione is taking Harry by the arm and escorting him away and Zoe, who is still wrapped in a towel, is escorting Cedric away.

Harry is struck by the sudden loss of Cedric and his heat, but is still high from the euphoria of the kiss

“Honestly Harry , you two are ridiculous. All shy dancing around each other for months and then you decide to get together in public in front of everyone.” Then Harry is struck with memories of Uncle Vernon calling him a pillow biter and poofter when he wasn’t calling him tape face, chink or freak. He’s never been called any of them at Hogwarts though and he hasn’t exactly been secretive about being a little bent. He thought he was safe but now he’s remembering that he’s never safe, not really.

“Is it going to be bad?” He asked Hermione.

Hermione is turning to look at him looking a little bit shocked. “Oh, Harry, no. No, it isn’t.” At his anxious face she decides to explain further. “The wizarding word isn’t a single thing like the muggle world. The only people that have issues are old fashioned purebloods and the occasional muggle born. The muggleborns have next to no weight in the public and purebloods only care because they’re worried about their lines continuing. It won’t affect you at all Harry because in old fashioned pureblood’s eyes the Potter line had already ended the second your dad slept with a muggle. It’s not pretty Harry but it’s a little bit of rose with thorns. Cedric might have to worry a little, but not too much and he must have thought about the risk considering he initiated the kiss. The only thing either of you really have to worry about is the fact that your both high status in the media so it’ll be like muggle celebrities dating.”

Harry feels a little less worried now. He hopes that its true, that he doesn’t have to worry too much, and that Cedric really did think about the risks, that he really meant the ‘fuck it’ he’d said so boldly not five minutes ago.

“So, Harry,” Hermione starts grinning a little mischievously, “what was it like?’

Harry grins a little stupidly, “Brilliant.”

Ron catches up to them a few seconds later. “Really Harry, I so did not need to see that. Did it really have to be pretty boy Diggory?”

Harry continues to smile stupidly, and he thinks of quidditch, dementors, arithmancy and ancient runes, of warm hugs and shy smiles and say “yes, yes it did.”

Hermione coos and Ron pretends to gag.

 

“You did good son.” Is what Lavender Brown says when Harry finally makes it out of the Gryffindor common room celebrations into the girls dorms. Ron couldn’t get in to the dorms and Harry’s not gay, so he knew it wasn’t a sexuality thing. Harry thinks from the way Ron was looking at Lavender it was probably an intent thing.

“You did soo good. I mean those cheek bones that hair.” Harry grins a little.

“Shut up.” He says though he thoroughly agrees.

Parvati chimes in, “and he’s much nicer than that Jacques boy you took to the ball.”

Harry frowns a little ‘what do you have against Jacques?”

“Maybe he’s nicer after you snog him but to me he was downright sleazy.”

Harry hadn’t noticed so she must be right about the whole snogging thing.

“You are going to stop seeing him right?’

Harry sputters a little, bar taking Jacques to the ball he hadn’t really done anything public with him.

“oh, don’t give us that innocent act. We all knew exactly what you were doing when you snuck off to the beauxbatons carriages. Subtlety is not your forte.”

“Huh.”

“But you haven’t done that in a while so it’s over right?” Asks Hermione face scrunched up furtively.

Harry shrugs, “yeah if Cedric wants to start something.”

The girls all groan at this. “He snogged you in front of the entire school Harry, he doesn’t strike me as an exhibitionist, he definitely wants to start something.”

“You think?” Harry asks dreamily.

The girls are all laughing now.

Harry leaves 10 minutes later when Lavender starts telling them about what it’s like to snog Ron. He doesn’t mind hearing about Krum and Hermione or Parvati and Tracey but it’s a little much when they start talking about his best mate.

Dean and Seamus interrupt Ron’s retelling of the Second task to wolf whistle when Harry walks in. Then Harry settles in and Harry listens to Ron tell the story for what seems like the tenth time in the last hour. He tells the story a unique way each time, but Harry’s just glad he doesn’t have to tell the story and, for once Ron gets to share his limelight.

He falls asleep to the lull of Ron’s voice.

 

The next day Harry woke up early and all he could think of was Cedric. He woke up at 5:00am. lLtely he’s been a bit of an early rises.

 It took all of Harry’s willpower not to go down to the Hufflepuff homeroom right then and there. Instead he had a shower and took extra care to use his own nice but subtle smelling shampoo and not Neville’s shampoo which he’d used accidently and ended up smelling like rare plants and old lady ( Harry suspects the shampoo was a gift from Neville’s grandma).

He slipped into his robes and spent a good 5 minutes brushing his teeth instead of his usual 5 seconds. Harry felt like it’d been hours but really it was only 5:20. So he grabbed the maurders map and one of Hermione’s books and sat in the common room. He only pretended to read the book. Really he was glancing at the map every five seconds seeing if Cedric was up.

At exactly 6:45 Harry noticed something strange on the map. Barty Crouch was in the castle, Dumbledore’s office more specifically. BArty Crouch had been on sick leave at the yule ball and Percy Weasley had come instead. He must be feeling better if he was here now. Before Harry had time to dwell however, he notices with a little flutter in his chest that Cedric was up and, if Harry wasn’t being to presumptuous, seemingly headed towards Gryffindor tower.

Harry tried to wait patiently, but by the time Cedric was walking up the stairs to Gryffindor tower Harry was much too restless. Embarrassingly, Harry had opened the painting door a second before Cedric could knock.

Cedric jumps a bit and looks bewildered for all of one second before his face smooths out into a soft nervous smile. “Hi, Harry.’

“Hi.”

Then they just grin at each other for an embarrassing amount of time.

“Want to come in?”

“I was thinking maybe you’d want to come out?”

Harry laughed a bit, “I think that ship sailed.”

“Shut up.” Cedric says, bright red now

Then Harry steps out and swallows the ‘make me’ on his lips because it seems a little early in the relationship for casual innuendo, also Harry can’t seem to make his mouth work. They begin walking to the great hall at a slow leisurely pace. Emphasis on slow because both of them know once they get there, there will be no chance for them.

“So,” Harry starts but doesn’t finish because he has no idea what to say.

“so,” Cedric echoes. Harry looks up at him shyly hoping he has more luck in finishing that sentence than Harry because suddenly Harry’s hands are clammy, his throat is tight and his stomach is doing that weird squirmy thing viciously.

Cedric stops suddenly and turns to Harry looking suddenly very intense. “Listen, I want I want to try and- I want a repeat of yesterday,” Cedric must think about how that sound so he adds, “ morning and afternoon and Hogsmeade weekends and,” He suddenly looks really intense “Harry I want you, All of you.”  And because Cedric is being so bloody bold and Harry is supposed to be the Gryffindor he puts his hands around Cedrics neck and slowly, embarrassingly, pulls himself up on his tip toes to press a soft, chaste, kiss to Cedric’s lips.

When they pull apart Cedric’s looking a little flustered and he runs his hands through his hair, “is that a yes then?”

Harry smiles softly and nods earnestly. “Yes Cedric, that’s definitely a yes.”

Now Cedric’s face breaks into a full blown grin. ‘Good Harry. That’s, good,” and then Harry grins back.

They stare at each other for a while longer. Harry feels like he’s staring into the mirror of the erised. He feels like he could waste away here, just staring, dwelling on dreams.

Then Hermione appears with Zoein toe. The boys are oblivious to them giggling at the lovestruck states until Hermione is tugging at Harry and Zoe s tugging at Cedric. For just a second Harry hates Hermione viciously.

As he’s being pulled away Harry feels a sudden burst of Gryffindor courage. “tomorrow, Hogsmeade weekend, pick me up at 10:00.”

Harry watches Cedric’s grinning face be pulled away into the hall as Hermione drags him in the opposite direction.

When Hermione drags him to the Gryffindor table Harry’s still warm all over. He starts eating but is, admittedly, a bit distracted.

 “Honestly Harry, would you quite be staring at the hufflepuff table every five seconds, its unnerving.” Says a disgruntled Ron.”

“Hmm?’ Harry mumbles whilst tearing his eyes away from the Hufflepuff table.

“Oh my God you’re pathetic.”

“Oi.”

“Cheer up buttercup, so is Cedric he’s been drooling over you for ages too.” Seamus supplies cheerfully.

“What? Since when? I don’t believe you.”

Then Seamus continues, “Man you should have seen the way he looked at you the morning after your name got picked from the cup.”

Dean cuts in eagerly, “ The bloke spent the entire day switching between pouting and ogling, when you sat at the raveclaw table he gripped his cup so hard it broke.’

“What? Why did nobody tell me this? Where was I?”

“You had your tongue firmly down denial’s throat.’

“Honestly Harry, you really could’ve chosen a better distraction,” Parvati adds looking faintl disgusting, “Guy was a moron.’

“Honey intelligence isn’t what you look for in a distraction.” Lavender says a tad derisively.

“Bite me.”

Hermione pulls Harry’s head onto her shoulder and pets his head, “my poor darling, don’t listen to those meanies.”

“Bite me.”

“Now, now, wouldn’t want to make Cedric jealous.”

Harry bashes his head against the table.

Lavender leers, “Yes I hear Hufflepuffs are extremely possessive.”

Repeatedly. Harry bashes his head against the table repeatedly.

Then Hedwig appears with a letter and all the warmth drains out of Harry’s body.

 

It was a letter from Sirius. Asking Harry to come see him at Hogsmeade. Before Harry has a chance to contemplate that particular cocktail of emotions that elicits. Draco Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson were approaching the table.

Pansy Parkinson comes over, “Looking a little sore there potter, or should I say frottter. Was the fairy a little rough with you? I hear Badgers are awfully wild.”

Before Harry can get a word in Parvati Patil is jumping in “I think your projecting god knows you must be sore from all the slimy snakes that have been slithering in to your chamber of secrets. What’s the matter, ran out of snakes to bang that aren’t going to land you in azkahban? Or just sick of all the slime? Needed something a little less reptilian so you went to the Hufflepuff table and couldn’t handle the class?”

Harry would be touched by the ferocity, but he doesn’t think this is about defending his honour. It’s common knowledge that Pansy Parkinson has slept most of the Slytherin dorm. Her and Blaise have a competition. Blaise is winning but only just. Problem is, Pansy has gotten through a fair few of the Slytherin dorm. Including, but not limited to, one Tracey Davis, and Parvati had been less than impressed.

Draco Malfoy stares bewilderedly at Pansy for a few seconds before seemingly giving up. He chucks, what Harry thinks might be the daily prophet, at Harry’s face mutters ‘stupid fairies’ and wanders off. The word sends shivers of hot swooping shame coursing through Harry’s body and he hears echoes of it in Vernon Dursley’s voice but he tries to swallow down his shame.

Parvati and Pansy are still going at it as Harry bends down to pick up the piece of paper Draco had thrown at him from where it had landed on the floor.

It’s not the daily prophet like Harry thought, it’s witch weekly. There, plastered on the front cover is a photo of the kiss after the first task. It’s a moving picture, because all wizarding pictures are. It shows everything. From Cedric trying to pull away to Harry pressing himself fervently against him. It all looks a little awkward and stumbling. Harry hates seeing pictures of himself but when the picture lingers on Harry and Cedric Grinning softly at each other Harry thinks he might like this one. I mean He would like it if it wasn’t splashed in a magazine.

There’s an article to match and Harry feels a little sick as it speculates about Cedric manipulating Harry for an advantage in the competition, or Harry brewing love potions and sullying the Diggory name, or them staging the kiss to hide something more sinister.  There are quotes from people, badmouthing Harry, badmouthing Cedric, calling them adorable. It’s all very contradictory and all over the place. It gives Harry a little bit of a headache. Cedric catches his eye from the Hufflepuff table and somebody must’ve shown him the article because he looks ill.

“what a pile of rubbish.” Hermione says from where she’s been reading over his shoulder.

“I think the picture is pretty sweet,” Lavender adds.

“I still don’t understand why it had to be pretty boy, couldn’t you have hooked up with Dean or something? Stuck to what you know?’

“Somehow I doubt Seamus would be impressed Ron.”

“I’m sure they’d share.” Said Ginny.

“On second thought, maybe pretty boy isn’t so bad I have to share a room with you three and they’re bad enough on their own.”

“I don’t know what you lot are talking about, but Dean and I haven’t been together since the Yule ball.”

“Whose he been writing love notes to then?”

“Beats me.”

Then everyone starts leaving for their first classes, Harry has potions. An entire period to contemplate how a day that started so hopeful devolved so quickly.

HE wonders if Hermione was overly optimistic when she said Harry shouldn’t experience homophobia. after all people tend be more openly opinionated on high profile relationships and if Amos is to be believed, the Diggorys are very high profile.

He didn’t see Cedric till dinner. By then he’d had ample time to ignore all his issues and deal with nothing. He didn’t blow up anything is potions, he managed to keep up with Hermione in charms, he’s still a little behind in arithmancy but he isn’t bottom of the class and nobody cares about herbology anyway. He feels pretty accomplished.

The only things he hasn’t managed to do today is eat, or throw out the letter from Sirius. He’s been running it through his fingers almost obsessively throughout the day. He wishes he could banish the note retroactively, so that it was never sent but magic can only do so much.

When he does see Cedric it’s only for a second, he sees the back of his head as he leaves the great hall. Harry wants to call out and stop him, but he needs to sort out the Sirius mess with Hermione and Ron. Cedric probably has homework anyway.

Chapter Text

The next morning was the hogsmeade weekend. Harry woke up early again. He casts a tempus wandlessly, because it’s too dark to find his wand. It’s 5:00am and Cedric isn’t going to turn up for another 5 hours and even then he might not see him for long because He must go see Sirius and he can’t bring Cedric along.

By now Cedric is most definitely not a stranger. Although Harry still feels like he doesn't know nearly enough about him, he wants to know everything, what he does know now is suffice to consider himself a not stranger. He would say they were friends but since the end of the second task they’ve been on the precipice of more. Harry wants that, wants so much more.

 Harry kissed the bloke three days ago he might be getting a bit ahead of himself with the whole define the relationship talk but he’s been thinking about Cedric non stop for three days and it’s making him a little nutty.

Regardless of what Cedric is to Harry he can’t come to see Sirius. The only reason Hermione and Ron can is because they were there when Harry found out about him so there was no way to hide his existence from them.

Harry knows something big is coming. Can feel it in his bones. He can’t fathom why but for some reason he feels like the decisions to trust Cedric with Sirius is bigger than school boy crushes and ministry politics. Thinks that this isn’t about azkaban or trust or Sirius at all. He feels as if the decision to tell Cedric is a finite one. A binding one. That anyone who knows about Sirius is instantly entrenched in what’s about to come. He thinks that asking Cedric not to rat him out is asking him for so much more beneath the surface. Forcing his hand before anybody really knows what their signing onto.

Sirius wasn’t coming until 2:00pm so that gave him four hours with Cedric. He would just enjoy it whilst it lasted, and hope Cedric would understand. Harry doesn’t know how he’s going to explain his need to leave but he trusts Hermione to come up with a decent excuse.

Harry is hit unbidden with the memory of harsh words in an abandoned classroom before everything changed. He thinks of the coldness in Cedric’s eyes and of the roiling shame that had curled in Harry’s gut. He tries to tamp down the doubt that and the flare trepidation of trepidation the memory elicits but the niggling weight in his chest doesn’t leave him. He wonders if Cedric will trust him now. Wonders if now their enough of not strangers to have a little blind faith between them. Wonders if the situation was reversed would he trust Cedric if he started disappearing randomly. One instance wasn't a big deal but Harry's life is hectic and he thinks its delusional not optimistic to hope this year and years to come will be any different. He wonders if he's worth it. The drama.  

All he can do is hope. So he settles down to complete some of his weekend homework so that he can at least alleviate the anxiety having that hanging over his head brings him.

He just finishes his potions assignment when Ron comes down to the common room. “Homework? At this hour?” Ron says this like it's 4:00am not 7:00am but considering Harry’s been here since 5:00 he doesn’t comment.

“Just wanted to get it out of the way.”

“Honestly mate you remind me more of Hermione everyday what with the books, the homework and the pretty boys.”

Petulantly, Harry sticks out his tongue.

“Maybe not, I don’t think Hermione would do anything as undignified as that.”

They both laugh at the mental image of Hermione sticking her tongue out.

“Seriously though mate, I feel like I hardly see you.” Ron says, so quietly that Harry immediately feels guilt coil in his gut.

“I’ll tell you what, after today is over you and I will have a quidditch game one on one.”

 Ron smiles, “ That’s okay mate, honestly sounds a bit too much like a date for my liking but I appreciate the sentiment. We can invite Ginny, my brothers and Krum too if he’s interested.”

Harry thinks longingly that Cedric would definitely enjoy something like that but holds his tongue because he doesn’t want to offend Ron.’

“Ugh, quit looking like somebody kicked your puppy, you can bring pretty boy as well just find somebody else to even out the numbers.”

 “Thanks Ron, you’re the best.”

“If you mean that, care to show it by letting me copy your potions homework.”

“Eh, you can have it, I wanted to re-write it anyway.”

“Honestly mate if I didn’t know you could throw it off I would have thought Hermione had imperioused you to be just like her.”

“Would that mean I wanted to kiss Krum?”

“Would’ve been better than Diggory.”

“ Nah man think of the stubble burn.”

“I’d actually, rather not thanks.”

“Prat.”

“Git.”

“Shut up and copy out the potions essay, Snape will recognise my handwriting.’

They pass the next 20 minutes in silence until Ron breaks it by saying, “You still worried about Sirius?’

“Yes.” Harry admits quietly.

“It’ll work out Harry, you’ll see, he’s gotten this far hasn’t he?”

“Only just. Sometime I-” he breaks off abruptly, not sure how to finish.

“Yeah, Harry?”

“Sometimes I see him in my dreams. The way he was that night. Surrounded by dementors. He would’ve died you know? Well not died I guessed but he would’ve been hollowed out and that's how I see him, in my dreams.  I see him, hollowed out”

“Blimey Harry. You and Hermione saved him though, didn’t you? I think between the three of you, you’ve got it sorted. You guys are brilliant and a far sight more intelligent than any dementor.”

“Us four Ron. You’re important to. If you hadn’t gone to Egypt Sirius would still be wasting away in Azkaban.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” Harry says with feeling.

They spend the rest of the morning finishing their homework. Hermione comes out at around 9:00, blanches when she sees Ron doing homework but joins them without comment.

At 9:45 Harry starts casting intermittent glances at the portrait hole. Hermione swats him over the head the seventh time he does it.

The Twenty seventh time he glances at it she cracks and starts trying to distract him. “ Have you decided whether or not your going to tell Cedric about Sirius?”

“I don’t think it’s my secret to tell.”

“Maybe talk to Sirius about it today.”

“I feel like if I tell him about this then I’ll need to tell him about everything.”

“What do you mean, Harry?”

“About Voldemort.”

“Why would that matter? It’s not like it’s really been a secret what he’s been up to over the years. Dumbledore says the whole school knows about what happened in first year atleast.” She stops for a second looking thoughtful. “Is this about your dreams, Harry?”

He nods minutely. “I feel like pretty soon everything’s going to come to a head and then he’s going to have to choose.”

“Shouldn’t he have all the information then Harry? Make an informed decision?”
“I don’t want him to have to chose faster or be influenced by me.”

“Give Cedric a little more credit Harry. I don’t think you could force him into anything he didn’t want.’

“Sirius won’t mind you bringing him along Harry. In fact I think he would be rather glad to meet Cedric.”

“Hermione’s right Harry, although if you still want to keep pretty boy around maybe you ought to make sure Sirius doesn’t scare him off.”

“Sirius isn’t my father and Cedric isn’t my boyfriend.”

“Don’t be cruel Harry. I know you’re afraid but that’s no excuse to diminish how much they care about you.”

Harry feels a sudden rush of shame and runs his hands through his hair furiously. “I know, sorry.” He says, sufficiently cowed.

“ I think your blowing this out of proportion a bit mate. This isn’t the be all and end all. I hate to admit it but Cedric’s a decent bloke, he won’t rat Sirius out I think that the worst that will happen is some good old-fashioned teen drama.”

“Ron’s right Harry, you should be glad it’ll give you and Pansy Parkinson something to bond over, merlin knows she has a lot of teen drama.”

Harry laughs at this, he’s been successfully mollified by his friends and is reminded why he loves them so fiercely. When Harry opens the door to Cedric at 9:59 his shoulders feel a lot lighter.

 “Hi.”

“Hey.’

Harry knows they’ve done this before but he can’t help the swooping butterflies that build in his stomach as he stares and Cedric’s stupid gorgeous face.

They stand there for a few seconds just staring at each other, because regardless of the amount of times he sees Cedric he still can’t get over the rush of feeling he elicits.

“Oi, get out of here you too before my teeth rot.”

‘Sod off Ron. See you guys at 2:00” He yells absently over his shoulder, never quite taking his eyes of Cedric. They shuffle a little so they’re out of the way of the portrait hole.

“Hi.”

“HI.”

Then they’re both laughing and Harry feels warmth seep into every pore of his body.

“ Do you want to head to the great hall for breakfeast first, or grab something at hosmeade?” Cedric asks.

“Yep, sounds good.” Harry says, still staring at Cedric’s face.

“Harry that wasn’t a yes or no question.” Cedric says chuckling warmly.

“Huh? Oh,” Harry says ducking his head with a blush, “Right. Um, Hogsmeade maybe? I kind of want to enjoy the sun, I missed it over winter.”

“Solid logic.” Cedric says still chuckling warmly. ‘Shall we then?’

“Yep.’

The walk to Hogsmeade is pleasant to say the least. After about ten minutes of content silence and Harry being uncomfortably hyper aware of every time Cedric and he brush hands he decides a little Gryffindor boldness is in order and tentatively slips his hand into Cedric’s.

Cedric doesn’t say anything but he threads his fingers through Harry’s easily and squeezes gently. Harry spends the last ten minuets of the walk to Hogsmeade revelling in the feeling of Cedric’s calloused hand encompassing his. Cedric is a little restless, so he taps little rhythms on Harry’s hand. It’s a nice feeling and the deftness of Cedric’s fingers makes him think that Cedric must play an instrument, maybe the piano.

They eat breakfast at the three broom sticks. Cedric orders an English breakfast and butterbeer for them both. Harry orders pancakes because He’s a raging sugar-aholic.

“Does your entire diet consist of sugar?” Cedric asks when Harry’s meal arrives.

“It all ends up as glucose anyway I’m just skipping the middleman.’

“So that’s a yes then?”

Harry grins at him playful before stuffing his face full of syrup dripping pancake.

“elegant.”

“If you're with me for my elegance your going to be very disappointed.”


“I’ll just have to make sure your feet never touch the ground, you’re the picture of grace in the air.’

“When I’m not face planting.’

Then Cedric is laughing again, rich and warm and Harry’s veins are thrumming from more than just sugar.

“Speaking of flying, want to join my friends and I tomorrow for a game of quidditch? If you're anything like me you're probably really anxious to get in the air.”

“Sounds perfect Harry.”

“Does Zoe like to play? We’ve got odd numbers and she’d make a good addition.’ Harry asks not really caring one way or the other, too preoccupied imaging the feeling of being in the sky again.

“No, but,’ Cedric bites his lip here looking nervous, ‘Cho might want to paly.”

Harry fights a blanch as he remembers Cho’s hands all over Cedric at the yule ball. A white hot spark of jealousy flares up and Harry’s suddenly furious that Cedric’s thinking about bringing her when they’re supposed to be hanging out together. He bites back a vehement no before he embarrasses himself.

Then he remembers something. “You guys broke up right?” Harry asks tentatively because he’s suddenly terrified that he doesn’t know the answer. Here he is feeling jealous over Cho when maybe he’s the interloper not her.

‘Yes Harry, Merlin. I  wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t.”

“Oh.” Harry says instantly relieved. “Why? Not that I’m complaining.”

“Jealousy, I think. She thought I liked somebody else. Which I mean she wasn’t wrong,” Cedric says smiling softly at Harry, “but she thought I liked Zoe. We broke up that day you saw us fighting outside the library”

“Can’t’ve helped helped her suspicions when Zoe was the thing you’d sorely miss,”

 “I think snogging you in front of everyone laid her suspicions firmly to rest.”

Harry flushes brilliantly at this. “Oh.”

Cedric reaches out and laces his hands with Harry’s across the table. “You have nothing to worry about.”
“I guess she’d make a good addition to a quidditch game tomorrow. Are you sure she’ll be alright?”

“Yeah we made amends pretty quickly. I’ve been friends with her for years, although not as long as Zoe, I think that’s where the jealousy stemmed from actually.”

“Seems like we’re all set then.”

“Jacques isn’t coming right?”

“What, you can bring your friend and I can’t?”

“Its different Harry.”

“Different how?”

“For one thing I can’t promise I won’t throttle him the next time I see him.”

“Oi, I would at least be civil to Cho.”

“Cho didn’t rub the fact she was dating me in your face before sticking his throat down some random’s throat.”

“He what!?”

“You didn’t know?”

At Harry’s bewildered Headshake Cedric rolls his eyes. “God when Hermione told me you were oblivious I thought she was exaggerating.”

Harry’s still a little bewildered, “We weren’t even in a relationship.” Harry whispers breathlessly.

“He did it to Ginny and Malfoy too.”

“Malfoy!? Why would Malfoy care?”

Alarmingly Cedric bashes his head against the table at this. “Honestly Harry, how do you even function?”
“ I’m confused.”

“I’m beginning to think that’s a frequent occurrence.’

Harry sticks his tongue out at him.

“Listen Harry, don’t worry about it lets just go pay and enjoy the day.”

Harry goes to protest but the Cedric’s dragging him to the front counter and Harry’s too distracted by trying not to trip over his own feet to think about much else.

Harry goes to take out his pouch of money but Cedric pushes his hand away. ‘Let me Harry.” Harry starts to protest but Cedric is smiling at him achingly earnestly and he finds himself acquiescing.

“Fine but I’m paying next time.”
Cedric turns to Harry and smiles softly. “Sounds perfect.’

They hit up Gladrags Wizardwear and Cedric helps Harry pick out a few dozen pairs of brightly coloured socks for Dobby.

“Interesting fashion sense,” Harry comments when Cedric goes to buy a few pairs separately.

“I think I should get Dobby my own present. You know, for keeping your cute butt from drowning.’

“Oi.”

“Honestly Harry I think you need as many people as possible looking out for you. Based off the rumours going around your going to give me a heart attack.”

Harry goes to argue but Cedric cuts him off, ‘Zoe says you almost died three times with your crazy ass flying at the first task. “ He brushes his hand softly against the scar on Harry’s arm, “You’ve still got scars from it.”

“I’ll have you know my flying was perfectly controlled, I came out unscathed. That isn’t a dragon scar.”

“What? Then how did you get that?’

“Oh it was the ba-“ Harry begins blithely but cuts himself off when he realises he isn’t really going to help his situation by finishing that sentence.

“Yes? It was the?” Cedric asks prompting Harry gently.

“Basilisk,” Harry says with a wince, “It was the Basilisk." At Cedric’s horrified expression Harry tries to comfort him, “it was barely a scratch and I was fine Fawkes healed me up perfectly and blinded the basilisk, I was really in no danger.”

“You do hear yourself Harry. Right? You’re fine because Dumbledores legendery fiery bird saved you. The chances of that bird being there exactly when you what? Stumbled upon the basilisk in the woods? Are astronomical. You could’ve died.”

Harry’s eyes widen at the vehemence of the statement. “ Well I mean, the chances of Voldemort opening the chamber of secrets via his teenage shade were pretty astronomical as well so maybe nothing is really as unlikely as it seems.”

“Merlin Harry, lord Voldemort was there too?’

“You’re missing the point.” Harry says with an exasperated huff.

“You’re right Harry the point is that I should really find a present for Fawkes as well.”

Harry rolls his eyes, “Whatever, I’m sure Fawkes will appreciate it.”

Cedric, who is now starting to relax after becoming increasingly distressed , wraps Harry in a loose hug, and Harry would protest, they’re in public , but he’s very warm and the spring sun of Harry’s back is making him very sleepy, so he melts into the hug.

Cedric kisses the top of Harry’s head lightly whispering fervently under his breath before whisking Harry away from the shop.

At 1:00pm Cedric takes Harry to a grocery store at his request.

“So listen,” Harry says turning to meet Cedric’s eyes, “there’s something I need to ask you and its sort of important. It’s also kind of semi illegal so if you’re not prepared to keep a secret it’s cool but you need to tell me now.” Cedric’s looking at Harry intensely.

“You’re being kind of heart attack inducing right now Harry.” Cedric says trying for lightness but sounding vaguely hysterical.

“Please Cedric, this is important.”

Cedric swallows, “ I promise to keep a secret as long as remaining silent won’t get anyone hurt.”

“I-I guess that’s fair. You remember last year’s hogsmeade weekend?” Harry contunes at Cedric’s nod, “ well it turns out, you needn’t have worried at all for my safety. Did you know Sirius Black was my godfather?”

“That’s awful Harry, but what does it-“

“No its not awful, its actually quite wonderful, really. He wasn’t trying to kill me Cedric, he was, in his own round about way trying to save me.”

“Harry, I think your going to have to tell me the full story.”

So Harry does, not in full detail, they would be late for meeting Sirius if he told cedric about the whole year, but mostly about the day Harry lived twice..

When Harry finishes his story, Cedric shakes his head at him, “Heart attack inducing you are, I swear. Even without all that sugar.”

“Anyway Hermione, Ron and I are meeting him in about 45minuets which is why I was picking up some food for him, considering he doesn’t have a lot of access to food. I was wondering if maybe you’d like to come?”

“He’s here? In Hogsmeade? Mass murder Sirius black?”

“Well I mean he isn’t a mass murderer, he’s only ever really wanted to kill one person, but that’s beside the point.”

“You’re still heart attack inducing, and our school needs better security if a would be mass murder is allowed near students innocent or not.”

“Well I mean Peter Pettigrew was on the grounds for lord knows how many years so whether or not Sirius is innocent your point still stands, and-“

“Shut up you’ll give me an actual heart attack.”

“Are we back to the shut up thing?”

“Ugh , shut up. No- I mean- quite laughing”

“So will you come?”

“Are you sure I’m welcome.”

“Absolutely. Hermione suggested it and she’s never given bad advice. Well there was that one ti-“
“Shut up I’m coming don’t dissuade me now.”

“Again, with the shut up, honestly you need to get more creative if you really want to keep me quite.”

Cedric grins at Harry playfully lecherously. “Creative how?”

Harry yelps and blushes at the implications, “creative later, we’re in public!”

Cedric grabs Harry’s wrist and spins him around smiling easily, “And? I seem to remember you having no qualms about the rather large audience we had last time.”

Cedric’s now leaning right into Harry’s space, the tension is getting to be too much, Harry almost breaks and smashes himself against Cedric but, “Later we’ll be late for Sirius.”

They meet Hermione and Ron at 1:30 after having paid for the bag of food.

Hermione grins at the two’s interlocked fingers. “Had a nice date?” She asks smiling coyly.

“Yeah.” Harry would be embarrassed about how dreamily he says this, but Cedric is grinning at him like a loon so he figures he can excuse a little eagerness.

Ron makes a gagging motion, “Merlin no details, please.”

Hermione hits Ron good naturedly.

They walk in amicable silence for a while.

Cedric starts fidget nervously when they’re half way there. “ So this Sirius guy,” he begins nervously, “what should I expect?”

“he’s sweet, you’ll like him,” Harry assures lightly.

Ron sputters a bit. “Don’t listen to that git, he’d probably tell you the troll we fought in first year was sweet,” Cedric blanches a bit at this but Ron barrels on seemingly without notice, “Sirius is a little,

“Unhinged” Hermione supplies,

‘Right, “ Ron agrees smiling at Hermione gratefully, “He’s a little unhinged, but he really cares about Harry and his heart’s in the right place.”

“Precisely. Well put Ron.” Hermione praises and Ron flushes slightly. “He’ll like you because Harry like you though, so there’s nothing to worry about. Besides, with the way you fret over Harry you two will at least have something to bond about.”

Harry rolls his eyes, “don’t freak him out guys Sirius is really great they’re just exaggerating.”

“Preparing him Harry, some people have self-preservation instincts and feel fear.” Ron says pointedly.

Cedric’s face is a little white and he mutters grimly under his breath, “Bloody insane, Heart attack inducing, nutter.” He says the last bit a little louder and pointedly, but Harry ignores him blithely in favour of Greeting the large shaggy dog waiting patiently in front of them.

Sirius leads them out to the edge of the mountain before disappearing, presumably to protect everybody’s delicacies as he transforms and then procures clothes. Sure enough a few second later emerges a haggard looking Sirius Black. Harry can’t tamp down the rush of emotion he feels at seeing his face and flings himself exuberantly into Sirius’ arms.

If it was anybody else Sirius’ skinny frame might’ve collapsed under their weight but Harry’s younger, shorter and, unfortunately, thinner than Sirius so, Sirius collects him in his arms easily. Sirius just stands there for a second. He buries his head in Harry’s hair and inhales the smell of soap, Hogwarts and James eagerly, aching at the familiarity. When Sirius finally Releases Harry, Harry holds out the bag of food tentatively. Sirius takes it eagerly. “Food and hugs, blimey Harry, you really know how to make an old man feel loved.

Harry’s face suddenly turns grim, “What’re you doing here Sirius?” he asks voice suddenly hard.

Sirius, who is gnawing on a chicken bone eagerly just grins, “Fulfilling my godfatherly duty, don’t worry I’m a very convincing lovable stray. See? I’ve already managed to get myself feed.”

His grin falls a little when he notices Harry’s anxious expression. “Your last letter…well lets just say I’m starting to get a little suspicious. “
There hadn’t been much question as to what had brought Sirius here but hearing it confirmed sent a fresh wave of guilt and anxious tension through his gut, “ What if they catch you? What if you’re seen.” What if you die? Harry adds grimly in his head.

“You three are-, wait, who’s that.”

Hermione scoffs “seriously your survival instincts are sorely lacking if you’re only noticing Cedric now.”

“I was a little preoccupied, cut me a break, and I trust Harry.”

Hermione’s expression turns a little murderous a that, “don’t pin this on Harry, Sirius, you’re the adult, you decided to come here, you should be more careful.

“Mione..” Harry says anxiously.

“No Harry, honestly you don’t deserve that kind of responsibility, I won’t have you making yourself sick over his idiocy.” Hermione says vehemently.

“Er, the name’s Cedric Diggory sir, pleasure to meet you.’ Cedric cuts in hoping to de-escalate the situation.

“Sirius black,” Sirius greets, grateful for the distraction, “but I suspect you already know that. I’d find myself at a disadvantage if Harry hadn’t mentioned you so many times in his letters. I take it, from your presence that something has come from your pining?”

Cedric and Harry both splutter at this and the three other individuals present burst into laughter at their expense.

‘Oi, I didn’t pine, and I didn’t say Cedric was either.”

“Honestly Harry, you didn’t have to it was clear from the way you wrote about him that you were both besotted, I didn’t have the heart to tell you, I didn’t want to encourage a relationship without knowing the bloke I was trusting you with.’ Sirius says ignoring his godson’s increasing distress. He then turns to Cedric, “Innocent or not, I’m on the run, so if you even think of hurting him you’ll do well to remember I have nothing to lose and I’m plenty creative.”

Cedric pales a little, “Wouldn’t dream of it sir,” He says around a smile.

“Good lad.’ Sirius says.

“I’m not a girl.” Harry whines.

Sirius just shakes his head, “I said Godson not goddaughter Harry, I’m not remotely confused about your gender, I was there for your birth after all.”
“Merlin shut up now, please.”

“You wound me Harry. So fickle, one minute its hugs and presents and the next cold dismissals.’

Harry is highly unamused when all of his traitorous friends start laughing at his expense.

The rest of the meeting takes on a sombre tomb as they discuss ministry politics and the poor health of Mr Crouch. They leave the meeting with a heavy sense of foreboding and a lot to think of. However, Cedric doesn’t let the day end on a sour note. He drops Harry off at the Gryffindor tour and kisses him chastely on the lips before heading to the Hufflepuff common room. Harry thinks besotted is perfect word to describe how he feels.

Chapter Text

The Quidditch game the following day is interesting. Harry wanders down with Ron, Lavender and Krum. Lavender and Hermione Sit together on the benches and Lavender gives Hermione a French manicure whilst they work on their arithmancy project. Hemione’s abandoned Harry for Lavender as she’s the second in the class and one of the only people that can keep up with Hermione. Harry doesn’t mind too much, Tracey shares the class with him and has proven to be quite a good teacher.

Harry’s heart leaps a little in his chest when he sees Cho. Not because he’s attracted to her, although he can admit she’s quite lovely, but because she’s frankly, terrifying. She’s more emotionally volatile than Lavender brown and is embarrassingly, far taller and a little more well-built than Harry. The thunderous look she gives Harry when she first lays eyes on him almost makes him piss himself.

Then her face breaks out into a large grin, “Merlin, your face.” She wheezes through laughter. “Honestly, you’re the cutest thing in the world, no wonder Cedric couldn’t resist. You know I was almost considering giving you a worried friend speech, you know defend his honour and all that jazz but honestly, I’m worried he’s too corrupt for you. Cedric! Too corrupt for somebody! Hah!”

 Cedric has a type when it comes to his friends. The type is the kind that thoroughly confuses Harry and leaves him a little dizzy. There is some difference between the girls. Where Zoe’s body is all hard lines, Cho’s is soft curves and muscle, but their relationship is kind of the opposite. Where Zoe makes Harry want to hug her and protect her from the world Cho makes Harry want to run and hide behind Hermione.

“Sorry, I’m Cho, nice to meet you Harry.” Cho greets.

“Er, likewise?” Harry says taking the proffered hand.

‘Haven’t broken him have you Cho?” Cedric asks genially as he comes up behind Harry.

“Not as of yet, but merlin Cedric be careful with him. If I didn’t know for a fact he was a ruthless quidditch player I would almost suggest going easy on him, he’s tiny!”

Cedric’s eyebrows crease a little and he looks down to scrutinise Harry. “Yeah.” He says staring at Harry with an intensity that makes him uncomfortable.

“Well, don’t let me get in the way of your UST I’m going to go talk to the Weasley twins about teams.’

“Sure.” Cedric says absently. ‘Harry, do you-”

“Huh?” Harry asks he’s a little distracted by Cedric’s arms around his waist and his chin on his shoulder, so he doesn’t really register the question.

Cedric shakes his head, ‘never mind, let’s go play.”

“Okay,” harry agrees easily, although he immediately misses Cedric’s warmth when he leaves to go talk to Cho.

The teams are Fred, Ron, Harry and Cho vs Cedric, Ginny, Viktor and George. It ends up more of a three of three match with Viktor and Harry battling it out for the snitch. They make the snitch worth 50 points instead of 150 and make the game best to 100 or highest scorers after the snitch is caught.

They play three rounds and switch seekers every round. Harry tries not to be too embarrassed when Viktor beats him to the snitch. After all he is international standards. Then Cho and Cedric face off but Harry’s team reach 100 before either of them catch the snitch. Harry goes again because neither Fred or Ron feel up to being seekers. Harry beats Ginny to the snitch but just before he caught it the other team break the 100 point thresh hold making them the overall winners.

Harry doesn’t care much who wins. The exhilaration of being up in the sky is more than enough for him. Form the flushed, elated looks everybody else is sporting the feeling is mutual.

Viktor comes over when they’re all just hovering a few meters above the ground after they’re final game . “Hermionniny wasn’t lying when she said you could really fly.”

Harry flushes softly, “ you’re kidding right? You beat me no problem.”

Viktor chuckles heartily, “it was an embarrassingly close competition considering I’m professionally trained. You could easily out fly me if you just adjusted your grip.”

“what’s wrong with my grip?” Harry inquires with a frown.

“You’re holding it like you would a broom for cleaning. If you put your fingers to better use you’d have an easier time turning and gripping one handed.”

“would you mind showing me?”

“It Would be my pleasure.”

So they land and Viktor comes over and adjusts his grip.

“You put this part of you had here, “Viktor pulls Harry’s hand into the correct position.”Then you grip it like, so.” Viktor demonstrates with his own broom and Harry mimics.

“Harry! Viktor!” Harry turns to face Cedric who’s standing at the other end of the pitch.  

“Yeah?” Harry calls back

“A bunch of us are going up to the great hall for lunch. Want to join?”

‘Sure, just let us finish up here.” Harry replies absently.

“Fine but hurry yeah? I’m hungry.’ Cedric genially.

Then Viktors stomach rumbles loudly. Harry laughs lightly and turns to Viktor, “Some other time?”

“Sounds good.” Viktor says and then they both leave to join the rest.

As soon as Harry is within gabbing distance Cedric tugs him into his side. “had a nice time?”

Harry grins lazily, “Yeah, did you?”

“ I have some idea for improvement.” Cedric say casual hand lazily resting around Harry’s shoulders.

“What? Think we should ‘get creative?’” Harrys remark startles a laugh out of Cedric.

“Don’t say things like that unless you mean them.” Cedric whispers furiously.

Harry just smiles lazily and winks at him before preoccupying himself with taking a seat at the Hufflepuff table. He ignores the fiercely icy glares of some of the badgers.

“Merlin do you badgers hold a grudge.” Ron says grumpily. Cedric had been worried there wouldn’t be enough seats for all his friends at the Hufflepuff table, but as soon as Harry sat down a group became suspiciously available.

“Poorly as well.” Hermione says scrunching her nose, “seems counterproductive to give the object of your distaste exactly what they desire.”

“Oi, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Harry grumbles, honestly, Hermione’s going to go and give them Ideas.

Then they all start enjoying their food silently, having worked up quite the appetite. When they’re all finishing their meals and some people start going back for seconds Cedric gives Harry an odd look.

“You sure you don’t want more Harry?’

Harry narrows his eyes at Cedric. “No.’ he answers cautiously. “why?

“Just you flew a lot out there you must be hungry.

‘Whilst I appreciate your concern I’m honestly quite full.”

Cedric furrows his eyes a little but seems to drop it. Before Harry has time to dwell on Cedric’s bizarre behaviour, Hedwig and another owl (presumably Cedric’s) drop a bunch of letter on the table.

The first one is addressed to Harry and he takes it tentatively.

‘You are a wicked boy. A slimy snake in the lion’s den and a fame mongerer.  You’ve corrupted poor Amos’ son. go back to where you came from you filthy half breed. Amos deserves heirs.

“I think that article about us has reached the purebloods.”

Cedric, who is staring at a letter of his own looking increasingly wan just nods dazedly.   

“Swap?’ Harry offers weakly dying to know what has Cedric looking like he might pass out.

Cedric wordlessly passes over his letter ad grabs Harry’s from where he’s left it on the table.

 

 

Dear Cedric,

Your mother and I have been very proud of this year. You’ve finally started striving for true greatness, put some substance behind your dreams. We were planning on celebrating your good efforts despite your performance in the first task was being subpar at best. Suffice to say that will not be happening.

What did we do wrong? We raised you right didn’t we? Never did anything but love you. All we asked in return was for you to take a little pride in yourself. Put in half the effort to be presentable as your mother and I do to provide you with things like brooms and bubbles. (what?)
I remember you asked me once why I never said nice things about you to my friends at parties, like I did about your cousin and mother. I told you then there wasn’t much to say. Then you picked up your grades joined the quidditch team and started putting effort into your appearance. You got to hear nice things said about you at parties and your mother and I didn’t have to be ashamed that you were upstaged by a snivelling Malfoy of all people.

Needless to say there will be no nice things said at parties now. Honestly did you not think for a second how your mother and I would feel surrounded by respectable company all thinking about the fact that we’re not going to be able to have heirs now. That no respectable pureblood girl will touch you now. Some of them probably even believe that your permanently perverted by now. We won’t even be able to mention you at parties, let alone say nice things.

It’s okay though son, really. Your mum and I understand that it’s that Harry Potter kid, always known he was depraved, that’s got you under his spell. We just wished you would fight a little harder. You’re a strong wizard, isn’t the thought of you father and mother’s wellbeing enough incentive to fight?

Never mind come if all this isn’t over some summer your mum and I will fix you right up. Just don’t let this madness interfere with the prize okay? If you do good for yourself I’m sure we can appeal to a family such as the Parkinson’s and Greengrasses, you know, the families that cried imperious after the war? Can’t exactly judge you, now can they?

Tell that Potter freak that if I ever get my hands on him I’ll wring his little neck like a dish cloth.

With love, Amos.

 

 

Harry thinks he might actually puke. He feels incomprehensibly furious. Like he could set fire, break necks and slaughter. At the same time, he feels tiny. Feels paper thin. Like a gust of wind could rip right through him. People are fucking awful. Amos was clever. He didn’t say it explicitly but Harry can see the ‘you’re worthless written between the lines.”

There are tears welling in his eyes as he turns to face Cedric. Cedric starts tearing up too when he sees Harry’s face.

“Hey, come now,” Cedric says, pulling Harry against his side.  “It’s not as bad as all that.” Cedric says softly, but the effect is ruined by the wetness in his voice.

“Incredible,” Harry says fiercely, “Your fucking incredible.”

Then Cedric wraps Harry up in his arms and Harry buries his head in his chest

“Your not so bad yourself darling,” Cedric says laughing wetly, before pressing a kiss to Harry’s hair.

“Oi, get a room you pillocks,” amusingly, Ron and Draco, say this simultaneously. Thankfully, they distract themselves by bickering. Harry’s whole body vibrates with the rumble of Cedric’s chest and his own laughter.

There are still seven letters waiting to be opened. Three for Cedric four for Harry, but sitting here, surrounded by Cedric, he doesn’t want it to end. He especially doesn’t want to read more things like ‘freak’ and ‘I’ll wring his neck’ because the phrases are vibrating gratingly around his head in Vernon’s voice. 

“You know what this means?” Cedric whispers conspiratorially. “My Dad, reads Witch weekly.”

“Of course, he reads witch weekly its run by the Parkinsons, it’d be disrespectful not to.” Harry didn’t notice Zoe arriving until she’s speaking right next to his ear. He jumped like a foot in the air and smashed his head into Cedric’s chin.

“Fucking ouch!” Harry exclaimed as he rubbed his head. Cedric winced in pain and rubbed at his chin.

“Merlin Zoe, you need a bell.” Harry says turning to face her here she’s sitting right next to her.

“More like you guys need to get your head out of each other’s asses,” Zoe scoffed.  ‘I’m not exactly light of foot.”

“Fuck off Zoe.” Cedric says exasperatedly.

“What’s got you so tetchy?” Zoe asks whilst leaning over Harry to steal food from Cedric’s plate.

“Dad was feeling prosaic.’ Cedric said bitterly.

Zoe’s face screws up in sympathy. ‘what’s the damage then?”

“Yes, what’s the damage?” Hermione says looking thoroughly confused. it’s at this point Harry remembers that there are a lot of people present. They were all looking at Harry and Cedric. He wonders what their little scene had looked like from the outside.

“Show it to Zoe Harry.’

Harry hands it over wordlessly but snatches his letter from where Cedric was handing it over to Hermione and sets it on fire. It’s all well and good for Cedric to be fine with humiliation but Harry’s had enough of that for one day.  He doesn’t know why he was fine with everything a second ago and suddenly there’s this hateful ugliness simmering beneath his skin.

Hermione blink in surprise at the ashes on the table before giving Harry an inscrutable look.

Zoe mutters “Shit man.” As she reads the letter.

He wants to leave. He feels alight with restless energy and he wants to go somewhere.  Wants to go to the Slytherin common room. He knows that Tracey will be there. She definitely won’t be in the great hall. She hates spending too much time with her house mates, but they give her shit for hanging out with other houses.

Blaise would keep her company but it’s important for his mother that he stays in good stead with pureblood families as well has half-blood and muggleborns. They are a firmly neutral family and it’s saved them a lot of grief over the years. Especially considering the untimely demises of Blaises’ 7 (Step)-Dads. He wants to go to the Slytherin common room, but the problem is that there will be Slytherins there.

He doesn’t leave though. He’s here with his friends. Nowhere would be safer. Despite the fact he feels wretched.

 “Honestly, sometimes I wonder how our parents can possibly be friends, what with how kind they usually come across. Well I guess that’s your mum, more than your dad. Then your dad goes and pulls something like this and I can absolutely understand exactly why they are friends.” Zoe sounds really bitter when she says this. Like being friends with her parents is the worst thing in the world.

He wonders for a second who her parents are. Then he remembers Zoe Nott and if Theo Nott is any indication as to what that family is like he can absolutely understand. He wonders if Theo is her cousin. They never interact but with Zoe’s house and pureblood prejudices he can understand.

“Are you guys going read the rest of the letters?’ Zoe inquires curiously.”

“I don’t think you should Harry,’ suggests Cedric with a worried furrow of his brow, “They could be hexed.”

“I might have to, could be from someone important.’

He scratches his scar absently. It doesn’t hurt.  He just needs something to do with his hands.

“It’s fine Harry, I’ll scan them for you.” Bless Hermione’s soul honestly. She doesn’t need an explanation as to why there would be hexes but she’ll look after him anyway. Maybe she’s already figured out though what they say.

 He wonders absently if Amos sent all the letters under the guise of other worried purebloods. Most pureblood families have at least one Slytherin child, so he can’t imagine any of them attacking him for being a snake. The only pureblood family he knows with a dislike of Slytherins is the Weasleys and he knows none of them would write something like that.

The thought made him a little sick but he knows Amos is still important to Cedric so he keeps it to himself.

“I think I’ll save the letters for later.’ Cedric says with a strained smile.

 Conversation tapered out a bit from there. Harry spent the rest of the day holed up in his room with the transfiguration text book he’d been reading earlier making a pros and cons list for becoming an Animagus.  Just before he went to bed that night he opened a few of the letters Hermione had given him. They were all the same kind of drivel as before, but Hermione informed him one of them had been cursed with a rather strong stinging hex and some other jinx she couldn’t quite pinpoint but would have been quite nasty.

He went to bed dreaming of angry bees chasing him with Amos Diggory’s face.

 

At breakfast on Monday Hermione was fixated on posturing about Rita Skeeter and how exactly she was getting her information. She got a reply from a letter they’d sent a while ago to Percy inquiring about Barty Crouch. It was tense and basically said that no, he hasn’t seen him but yes, he’s still alive. Hermione didn’t even bat an eyelid, too distracted by her endeavours to expose Rita.

They study nifflers in care of Magical creatures that day In Ancient Runes Harry is very pleased to get a piece of homework with an EE, although that’s mostly thanks to Hermione’s help, In Arithmancy he actually manages to keep up, so he thinks some of the gaps in his knowledge are starting to close but it’s slow going, Ancient Runes make a lot more sense.

At lunch he sits at the Hufflepuff table and Cedric informs him that, no, he hasn’t read his letters he’s a bit afraid that there’ll be one like the one Harry received or another one full of shit from his father. Harry understands the sentiment but encourages him to open it anyway. Harry offers to get high with Cedric on the weekend to dull the sting. Cedric readily agrees.

Cedric walks Harry to potions, because he’s a sap. Draco Malfoy spits at them when he sees their linked hands. Harry doesn’t care though, not in the slightest.

At the end of the day Harry has transfiguration. McGonagall hold him back at the end of class and all Harry can think is she found his pros and cons list about becoming an Animagus. The pros are a lot longer than the cons so it’s considerably incriminating of illegal activity. He sits there thinking she going to-, actually now that he thinks about she’d probably give him a biscuit. He feels a lot less worried after that thought.

Turns out, much to Harry’s disappointment, he’s not getting a biscuit but has been summoned to the quidditch pitch on official Triwizard tournament business.

Harry met Cedric at the entrance hall. ‘What d’you reckon it’s going to be?” He asked Harry as they walked together down the stone steps into the cloudy night. “Fleur thinks we’re going to have to find treasure.”

“Krum thinks it’ll be like a massive duel.” Harry supplies.

“How would that even work?”

Harry shrugs, “I don’t think logistics are really Krum’s strong point.”

“What do you think it’ll be?”

“No idea. I try not to think about the tournament.”

“Really? I think about it non stop.”

“Maybe it’ll involve quidditch.” Harry says hopefully

Cedric looks at harry doubtfully. “ I don’t think quidditch is quite the feat of grandeur they’re looking for.”

“We’re going to the quidditch pitch though.” Harry says stubbornly.

“Maybe that’s where the treasure is hidden.”

“Or where we’re going to duel. What if we’re going there to duel right now and this is really the third task?’

“Don’t say shit like that Harry you’ll give me an ulcer.”

“It’ll go nicely with your worry wrinkles.”

“Shut up.”
“Make me.”

Harry tries to keep his face straight as he says it and do that sexy/flirty thing that always happens in movies but really, he’s anything but suave. Cedric and Harry both go matching shades of red and Harry feels so embarrassed he might die.

Before Cedric can respond the quidditch pitch comes into view.

“What’ve they done to it?” Cedric exclaims indignantly.

“No quidditch then.” Harry says mournfully.

“They’re hedges,” Fleur, who’s obviously arrived before them, supplies.

“We think it’s a maze,” says Krum who’s standing next to her.

“Right you are, Krum,’ rings Ludo bagman’s high-pitched voice. “Growing quite nicely isn’t it?”

“We simply have to go through a maze?’ asked Fleur.

“there will be obstacles” Said Bagman Happily. “Hagrid is providing a number of creatures.”

Cedric leans over to Harry, “As long as there are no dragons I’m satisfied.”

Harry looks at Cedric strangely, “You have seen the animals that Hagrid has right?”

“No, no I haven’t.” says Cedric looking a little fearful.

Harry laughs. “Man do I have some stories for you.”

Cedric looks green, “Maybe wait till after the task to tell them to me, it’ll be heart attack inducing enough to hear the shenagings you get up to without imagining them happening to me.”

Harry laughs under his breath at this. “is Cedric a little scared?”’

“Fuck off Harry, it’s called self-preservation, you should try it some time.”

“Bite me.” Harry says

Cedric looks like he’s thinking something very lewd, judging by the redness of his face but before he can voice those thoughts Ludo Bagman is wrapping up.

“Right if there are no more questions we’ll go back up to the castle, shall we, it’s a bit chilly…”

At this Harry shivers a little involuntarily. As if he’s only just now remembering to be cold. “Do you think we missed anything important?” he asks Cedric

“Merlin, I hope not.” Cedric says. “You’re such a bad influence you know.”

“You’re the one, that whispered to me, so if anyone is doing the corrupting it’s you.”

“it’s not my fault you’re so distracting.’

“Says you, with your stupid perfect face.” Harry mutters bitterly.

“Don’t worry you have a stupid face too.” Cedric retorts, “no need to be jealous.”

Harry punches him lightly on the shoulder. Cedric goes to punch him back but Harry jumps away too quickly. Things devolve a little from there.

Five minutes later Harry is yelling masculinely (squealing), as Cedric scoops him up and throws him over his shoulder. He’s no longer cold, not at all. There’s adrenaline running through his veins providing a pleasant buzz of warmth and his cheeks are flushed with joy.

“Put me down you git.” Harry says whilst pounding his fists on Cedric’s back. He licks Cedric’s neck and when Cedric’s hands loosen impulsively pushes off.

He lands a little roughly and little fissures of pain run up his legs, but he barely notices with the the adrenaline that’s thrumming with.

Everyone else has left now and the quidditch pitch is eerily silent barre the warm laughter coming from Cedric and Harry.

“Self-preservation instincts Harry,  that’s what I’m getting you for your birthday.’

“Excuse you, I just freed myself from the clutches of a malevolent beast, those are brilliant self-preservation instincts.”

“Dick.”

“Git.’

“PIllock”

“Cedric!’ Harry calls anxiously when he catches movement in the tree.

“Hey! My name doesn’t count as an insult. “

“Cedric come here.” Harry calls frantically as a dark figure emerges from the trees.

Thankfully Cedric comes to stand beside Harry just as the figure’s face becomes illuminated in the moonlight.

Chapter Text

“is that Barty crouch?” Cedric whispers harshly to Harry. Harry just nods minutely in reply.  

“He looks like..” shit, he looks like shit. Harry finishes mentally for Cedric. His knees are all bloodied and  his face was gnarled and drawn with exhaustion. 

He’s raving like a lunatic about the Triwizard tournament, Percy Weasley and Dumbledore.  

They’re all alone with Barty. Harry desperately doesn’t want to leave Cedric but Barty doesn’t look like he’d survive a trip to the castle.  

“Harry go get Dumbledore, it’s okay, I’ll be fine.” Harry stares at him intently for a beat before Cedric wraps his hands up in his own. “Really, just hurry.” he pleads emphatically. 

Harry takes off at a sprint. He casts a wandless Lumos maxima over his shoulder for good measure, hoping desperately that the light keeps Cedric safe.  

He runs into a few obstacles on the way to Dumledore. Like Snape and illusive passwords. His stomach sinks a little bit every second that passes. By the time he makes it back to Cedric a certainty that he’s too late has settled into his bones. Too late for what he doesn’t know until he sees Cedric and Barty Crouch’s prone forms lying side by side.  

 

Cedric’s eyes are glassy and for a heart stopping minute Harry thinks he’s dead. He drops to his knees next to him and  runs his hands frantically through Cedric’s hair, tears already building in his eyes and a lump building in his throat. Thousands of horrible thoughts start swimming through his head. 

“Harry. Harry!’ Dumbledore calls at first softly but then sternly. “He’s just stunned.” 

The words shatter Harry like glass and relief fractures through him. He can deal with stunned. He read the counter curse in a text book but Dumbledore cats it before Harry can even begin to fumble for his wand.  

Cedric opened his eyes. He looked dazed. He tries to sit up but Harry puts a hand on his shoulder to get him to lie still. Cedric looks up with a jolt at Harry’s touch. “He attacked me.” He whispered. Harry doesn’t t reply. He still can’t breath, the image of Cedric’s prone form running circles in his head sending shivers of dread running down his spine.  

He thinks he might grip Cedric’s shoulder so hard it bruises, but if he notices he doesn’t say anything.  

Then Moody is there and Hagrid and they're all talking fast but Harry zones out a little. 

Then they’re getting up. As soon as Cedric’s on his feet Harry throws himself at Cedric with so much zeal he almost knocks him back down again. There is an ugly mess of emotions roiling in Harry’s gut but all of them are drowned out by warm fierce thankfulness that Cedric’s here. 

“You sure know how to make a guy feel loved Harry.’ Cedric says after getting over the shock of the sudden armful of his boyfriend. He slowly puts his hands around Harry. He’s not sure exactly what brought this on but he can take a good guess when he remembers what Harry saw when he was attacked by dementors. He presses a kiss onto soft raven hair and just enjoys holding him.  

“Come on Harry, let’s get up to the castle. It’s getting late.”  

Harry looks like he’s going to protest but cuts himself off with a large yawn. 

“Seriously don’t make me deduct points for being out past curfew.”  

Harry mumbles something incoherently and mashes his head further into Cedric’s chest. 

They eventually make their way back to the castle. Fingers intertwined. 

 

Harry thinks about going back to the Gryffindor homeroom. He really does. But somehow he finds himself outside the hufflepuff homeroom and he's just so tired and really hufflepuff is unfairly homely. Also have you seen Harry's boyfriend?  

He wakes up on a yellow couch surrounded by strong arms and staring up at the stern face of one Zoe Nott. 

 

"Fifteen Cedric. Fifteen!" Fourteen Harry supplies mentally but thinks this it would be counterproductive to share this thought. 

"Not to mention this is the common room meaning for common folk. As in anyone could see you." 

Harry turns his face into Cedric's chest because this is so not his problem and have you seen his boyfriend? Why would Harry want to move. 

"Relax, Zo, we just slept," Cedric says strenching languidly and dislodging Harry. " Notice the copious amount of clothes we're wearing."  He adds far too pompously for someone who's just woken up. 

Harry smacks Cedric lightly on the arm, not appreciating being forced awake. 

"You have to get up wanker everyone's staring." 

Harry suddenly feels a lot less tired. As somebody who despises attention the prospect of the entirety of Hufflepuff seeing him and Cedric in an admittedly slightly compromising position is extremely worrying. His eyes snap open and he scans the room frantically. Only to find it's still dark inside and the only other person in the room is a third year hufflepuff known affectionately as peeping peter for, obvious reasons. Teenagers are hysterically unimaginative with nicknames. Harry hopes he hasn't been there too long. 

"Dickwad." Harry mumbles petulantly. 

"Maybe that'll teach you not to leave a man high and dry in the presence of angry women, and to keep your hands to yourself." 

"You might want reconsider your lesson plan Diggory." Zoe says with a  laugh. 

When she's met with twin blank looks she says. "Think about it boys I have faith in you." 

Cedric looks at Zoe then at Harry, then at himself before turning bright red. 

"also did you think I was actually angry? Honestly Cedric we've known each other since we were in nappies as if I thought you capable of sex before marriage."  

"Fuck off Zo I'm not that bad." 

"Honestly Harry if a parent wanted a girl to practice abstinence they'd as Cedric to hook up with them. Sure fire way to remain virginal. Have fun with your V-card bro.' 

Cedric, who by now is the colour of Lily potter's hair, screeches, actually screeches ,"literally a minuet ago you were yelling at me for being untoward." 

"Because I'm never going to have an actual opportunity to do that so I had to invent one." 

 "Merlin you're a menace." 

"Pot, kettle" 

Harry wrinkles his nose, "isn't that a muggle phrase." 

"Muggle studies bitches, makes the world go round." 

Now it's Cedric's turn to wrinkle his nose."that makes no sense." 

"Your face makes no sense." Zoe says determinedly. Then she seems to deflate. "Sorry I get a little high in the mornings." 

"I'll say." Cedric mutters. 

"Anyway," Zoe exclaims loudly, "You've distracted me from the point. As much as I adore your lovely face first thing in the morning, why are you here, really?" 

Harry goes to answer then realises he doesn't really have an explanation. "I felt like it?' Harry asks dubiously. 

Cedric laughs lightly and fills in for Harry, "We came back late from the Triwizard meeting and neither of us had enough energy to go to Gryffindor tower and Hufflepuff tower." 

"So what your telling me Is you've reached the attached at the hip stage of the relationship and I should expect to see Harry around a lot more."  

"Is that you giving us permission?" Harry asks a little slyly. 

Cedric groans and Zoe grins.  

  

When Harry takes his seat at the Gryffindor table that morning Hermione immediately fills the seat next to him.  

"Rumour on the grape vine is that hufflepuff gained an extra member last night." 

"Oh?" Harry asks coyly even though he's secretly freaking out. News spreads super quickly in hogwarts 

"don't play dumb Harry it's unbecoming." Says Blaise as he takes the seat next to Harry. 

"Yeah and save yourself some effort and be yourself. Being dumb comes naturally to you afterall." Tracey quips taking the spot next to Blaise. 

"quit being mean" harry pouts. 

"quit being skimpy with the the details" says lavender after appearing out of nowhere. 

"merlin, are you guys swarming to devour me or something cause y'all keep multiplying and I feel like prey." 

"Is that an invitation Harry?' Fred asks slyly. 

"Oi, back off." Cedric exclaims through a shoving Blaise a side to take a seat next to Harry. 

"The Alpha male has arrived to claim his territory.  Blaise snorts. 

"I resent that." Harry protests but lays melts into Cedric anyway because he's a weak asshole and Cedric's warm. 

"Yeah, from what I hear the claiming happened last night." Lavender says through a laugh. 

Harry stiffens at this. Not because he thinks Lavender was being malicious, or trying to make fun of him. Everybody is lauhing, it's all in good fun. Except the thought of sex makes Harry a little uncomfortable. He's not ready for it. He knows he isn't and Cedric hasn't pushed but. Cedric's older. A decent amount alder too. 3 years isn't a ig deal when your 23 and 36 but Harry's 14. He thinks he should be ready though. Sometimes he wonders what he's doing in a relatonship. He feels so juvenile. Too young for love too young for sex. He loves what he has with Cedric but he feels like a five year playing at being an adult when it comes to labelling it.  

HE feels like a that most of the time in his life. 

"Chin up love.' Cedric says softly. 

"Quit trying to think Harry, you only hurt yourself." Blaise quips.  

"Bugger off." Harry says with a huff.  

" Can't get rid off us now Harry. Fealty may be a widely neglected Slytherin trait but its one Blaise and I exemplify beautifully.' Tracey says with a grin. 

 "That's just because we're exemplary though, don't go expecting any loyalty from the likes of Pansy Parkinson." Blaise grins. 

Tracey's face goes a little stony then. "Don't talk about things you don't understand Blaise.' She says curtly. 

" Pansy's a right bint is what I understand perfectly." 

"Just because she and Draco had a falling out doesn't mean you can treat her like dirt she's still a slytherin." 

"Please Draco is a bint to he may as well not exist for all I care about his brown nosing sheep ass. They deserve each other, the cowards." 

" You spend all your time around them but you see nothing Blaise, absolutely nothing." Tracey says venomously and then she's stalking off. 

Everybody stares bewilderedly at Tracey's retreating figure before they turn imploring stares at Blaise. 

Blaise puts up his hands defensively, "don't ask me I always through Tracey hated Pansy and her lot, they've treated her like shit for years." 

"Didn't Tracey hook-up with her though?" Hermione asks with a tilt of her head.  

Blaise shrugs, " that doesn't mean anything.  Pansy and I hooked-up and I still hate her pug face." 

"Maybe it was more important to Tracey than it was for you."offers Lavender. 

"Clearly." Blaise grits out before stalking off after Tracey. 

The rest of the meal passes in a meaningless blur.  

Cedric gives Harry a lingering kiss before he leaves for his classes and Harry is warm all over for hours afterwards. 

 

Dinner is nowhere near as peaceful as breakfeast. Harry receives a worried letter from Sirius which Hermione nosely reads of his shoulder. It's all such shite. Sirius is going on about how he should be more careful and even goes as far to call him out for waiting around in the woods with Cedric. Harry is a teenager. He wanted to hangout with his boyfriend. Sue him. Now he wants him to train extra hard as if Harry wasn't going to train extra. 

 Hermione's immediately on him about it and Harry gets so frustrated he almost cries. Honestly Cedric's been attacked, Sirius is pulling shit in public despite being a wanted convict and nobody has tried to kill Harry all year. People need to quit worrying about him. So what if the tournament is clearly rigged against him ? He doesn't understand how that equates to him being cautious all the godamn time. Harry's at Hogwarts he's safer here than anywhere else in the world. It's the people around Harry that should be worried. 

To think he was worried about teenage drama at breakfeast. The life and death of it is really starting to get to him.  

Hermione starts talking about researching and schedules. Ron for the first time in his life is onboard with researching. He thought Harry was an attention whore not 3 months ago and was going to leave him for dead. Where does he get off being overprotective now?  

Harry immediately regrets that thought and doesn't voice it. 

He's just so frustrated. 

 

Harry almost breaks down crying for real after three days of non stop spell casting assigned by Hermione. She's got all of his friends involved. Harry tries to stop her from riling them up too hard. Tries to downplay the seriousness of it all, but by the end of it everybody else is starting to catch on about the life and death of it all. Sometimes he catches Cedric looking straight through him, as if Harry's gone already.  

He considers doing something stupid to let off some steam. (Like punch Draco Malfoy in the face,) but then he remembers something else teenagers do to let off steam.  Harry skips Care of magical creatures last period on a Thursday when Cedric has a spare. They should really both study but instead Harry pulls him into an empty classroom and latches his lips to his. It's not the most co-ordinated thing, Harry is kind of frenzied and it takes a few seconds for Cedric to match his enthusiasm, but fuck is it nice. They just kind of make out for a decent while and Cedric pins him to the wall. They only break apart when Cedric tries to hoist Harry up on the desk but miscalculates and bangs the back of Harry's hip against it real hard.  

They break apart breathlessly and Cedric presses Harry's face against his chest and laughs into his hair. 

"what brought all this on?" Cedric asks 

"Just felt like it" Harry says with a laugh. 

"You bit my lip." Cedric accuses. 

"Oops." Harry says flushing brilliantly. 

"S'okay, I appreciated the enthusiasm."  Harry feels Cedric's accompanying laugh rumble through his entire body.  

"I know something's up Harry.' Cedric whispers quietly. " I think your afraid." 

"I'm always afraid." The words are out of Harry's mouth before he can stop them.  

Cedric's looking at him intensely. "It's not supposed to be like that you know Harry. You have a right to feel safe." 

Does he? He shouldn't even be alive. He owes it to his parents, that died for him, died for the war to protect their freedom. He can't imagine a life where he's safe and doing what he's supposed to. "Not much that can be done about.' 

In that moment Cedric looks overwhelmed by hoplessness and Harry hates it.   

"Where are your guardians Harry? You know the people who are supposed to be looking out for you?" Cedric asks heatedly. 

"They're muggles." Harry says like that explains everything. 

" You know I read that other letter I got and it wasn't from my dad or some scorned member of the public it was from my mother.  She wasn't mad Harry she was worried. She said she read dad's letter and if he had pressured me into entering the tournament she'd help me get out of it. She promised to support me if I just didn't want to compete and I made the decision myself to enter.  Who's doing that for you Harry?  

Harry shrugs. "My guardians are muggles they don't really car-er understand about the wizarding world, I guess Dumbledore is my guardian in the wizarding world and he says there's nothing to be done." 

Cedric is looking at harry with wide sad eyes and Harry doesn't understand. 

"My mum's worried that I might be upset and she said she'd fight tooth and nail for me, you might die Harry." 

Harry shrugs again, " that's kind of a constant state of affairs." 

Cedric looks like he's been punched in the gut. HE has that awful hopeless look in his eyes and he holds Harry so tightly Harry can't breath. 

"Please don't die." Cedric whispers into his hair. 

"I'll try not to." Harry says with a huff. "please don't die either." 

"I'll try not to." Says Cedric. 

 

Harry and Cedric train with renewed  vigour. With so much vigour that  between impedimenta curses, knockback jinxes and snogging Cedric in abandoned classrooms and more importantly nightmares Harry isn't sleeping much. So much so that he falls asleep in the middle arithmancy. 

He falls asleep in the middle of arithmancy and dreams of Voldemort and crucio and massive carnivorous snakes.  

He falls asleep in the middle of arithmancy and wakes up screaming. 

Hermione was next to him yelling his name. "Harry, harry, Harry!" 

He comes too clutching his scare which burns. 

"Come on we have to get you to Dumbledore." Hermione begs. "Can you stand?' 

"mione no lemme sleep." Harry says groggily. He's completely disorientated but suddenly so tired.' 

"Harry come on we have to go." 

Blaise, who takes this class gets up and slips his hands under Harry lifting him up. Harry would protest but he's just so sleepy, he thinks he hit his head when he fell out of his seat.  

"I'm not taking him to Dumbledore." Blaise says vehemently to Hermione." He needs the hospital wing. " 

"You don't understand Blaise, his scar-" 

"What I understand is that his head is bleeding and nothing should be more important than that." 

Harry's a little in and out after that but he ends up in the hospital wing anyhow . 

 

It's only a mild concussion. Harry is in and out in under an hour even with a nap. Everyone is still worried.  

"It's nothing." Harry asserts. " It's just a nightmare." To no avail. Harry's lying and everyone is acutely aware of it. Hermione makes Harry see Dumbledore which Blaise is significantly and oddly displeased about. 

"He's not the be all and end all you know Hermione." He exclaims frustratedly. "When has he ever actually fixed anything for Harry?"  

" He saved his life! Harry might've died in first year." 

"From the story Harry tells its Dumbledore's fault he almost died in the first place, what kind of security measures can be overcome by first years?" Who puts an artefact that is being pursued by a dangerous individual in a school?" 

"It's not that simple, if Voldemort had got his hands on that stone Harry would probably be dead now anyway, Hogwarts was the safest place for it." 

"and yet Dumbledore erects defences passable by three eleven year olds." 

"Don't diminish our efforts. Hermione was bloody brilliant, you weren't there." Ron angrily chimes in. 

"Quit shouting I'll go see Dumbledore at the very least it won't hurt anyone." Harry finally explodes. 

Cedric, who had been watching all this stoically, helps Harry up to his feet silently and they make their way to Dumbledore's office silently.  

When they reach the entrance Cedric opens the door by saying "cockcroach clusters." At Harry's questioning look Cedric offer, "Prefects need to be able to contact the headmaster in case of emergencies." 

"Doesn't it defeat the purpose of the password if so many people know it?" Harry asks 

Cedric shrugs he thinks it’s a sign of overconfidence but he's not going to voice his opinion. 

"See you after?" Harry asks tentatively." 

"Sure." 

 

When he comes out of dumbledore's office at the end of the night his headache is worse then the ache in his scar. Cedric, bless his soul has fallen asleep waiting for him. Harry just curls up next to him and lays his head on his shoulder. 

"Everything alright love?' Cedric asks sleepily. 

"Ever come across the expression 'curiosity killed the cat' in muggle studies?" Harry asks. 

Cedric hums affirmatively in response. 

"Meow." Harry mutters despondently into Cedric's shoulder. 

"I kind of want to pet you now." 

Harry's tired beyond caring so when Cedric lifts his hand and starts running his hands through Harry's hair affectionately Harry presses into the touch.  

"Do you know what a pensive is?" Harry asks Cedric 

"Yeah sometimes they're used in criminal proceedings." 

"Pro tip, don't stick your face in random ones you stumble across, could be traumatising.' 

"You're such a menace"   

"Shut up.' 

Chapter Text

The day of the third task is seeped in a heavy sense of foreboding. From the moment he wakes Harry knows this is going to be one of those days when you just grit your teeth and endure.

Harry used to get insanely anxious as a kid. Like, insanely. Harry would work himself up so much he would scratch all the skin off the back of his hand and get a little high off adrenaline.

Now he just goes numb.

It affects his performance in things. He goes to tests and he just doesn't have the energy to re-read it at the end. He used to be one of those obsessive students that could ask exactly what answer somebody got for that one question he wasn't sure of. Now he couldn't even tell you whether or not he wrote his name.

He feels the tell tale numbness encompass him and resigns himself to a day spent in a dazed haze.

Hermione's anxious on his behalf. Everyone is.

They all fuss over him and Cedric. Zoe asks them five times if they've learnt all they're spells. Cho threatens Cedric with bodily harm if he doesn't perform fantastically. Blaise is just angry. At everyone.

Every time he and Cedric make eye contact the phrase "please don't die," rings ominously in his head.

Everyone has exams and Harry actually has to remind Hermione to go or else she'll be late.

Just before Ron leaves McGonagall comes over and summons Cedric and him to meet they're families. Cedric looks brimming with both intimidation and dread.

He goes to pull Harry along but all Harry can imagine is walking into an empty room. How would he explain that to Cedric?

Cedric who thinks parents are supposed to protect you. What if Amos is there? Cedric's mother will protect him but who's going to protect Harry?

"You should really go Mr Potter. Your family is waiting for you." McGonagall says. Like that's supposed to reassure him. Merlin, what if the Dursely's are there? How on earth would he explain that to Cedric? How would he explain that to anyone?

"Come on Potter, time for some Gryffindor bravery." Cedric encourages.

"You don't have to go." Says moodily.

Harry considers staying, maybe even going to class, but Cedric offers his hand and he looks so earnest Harry doesn't have the heart to leave him hanging.

Blaise just rolls his eyes and pushes angrily out of his seat.

When he goes to the chamber off the hall and finds a sea of red Harry cries.

Mrs Weasely is there in a second with her arms around him and Harry was just, is just, so scared but she's here and Harry hasn't loved anyone more in his life than Mrs Weasley in that moment.

"I thought, for a second the Dursley's-"

Mrs Weasley tuts disapprovingly, "We're so proud to be here Harry. So proud." She says brightly. Like it fixes everything. Harry thinks it sort of does.

"Yeah mate, wouldn't have missed it for the world." Bill pipes up

"It's good to see you son." Mr Weasley says emphatically. "Charlie would've loved to have been here. He says you were a real sight on that broom."

In all the hustle and bustle he forgot about Cedric. Who seems to have found his way over to his parents. Plural. As in Mrs Diggory and Amos Diggory. From a far they look the picture of domestic bliss, but Harry can see the tension in Cedric's whole body. Harry wants to go over there but he doesn't think his presence would help him.

Amos Diggory scars the shit out of him. He reminds him of Peter Pettigrew and Vernon Dursley. The kind of man that let cowardice breed insecurity and insecurity breed cruelty. He's the stuff of Harry's nightmares. Harry's almost certain he wrote those notes and they reverberate in Harry's mind.

Mrs Diggory smiles kindly at Harry over Cedric's shoulder. Amos Diggory's eyes slide right over him. Can't be hostile in public. Barbs about talent are different than openly attacking the boy who lived. It's the only time Harry's been glad for his fame.

For the rest of the day Harry's encompassed by Weasley and he feels warm all over. They tell him about Percy and Mrs Weasley complains about cooking. Bill tells him that Charlie said to congratulate him on the fine piece of ass he managed to swing and beneath his mortification Harry just feels so validated.

When it's time to get ready for the task Harry hugs Mrs Weasley fiercely. "thank you, all of you, really." It sounds like Harry's thanking them for coming to the task but he's not. He's thanking them for so much more.

A terrible feeling of foreboding has started to coil in Harry's gut. He just needs to grit his teeth and endure.

Cedric manages to slip away from his parents for two seconds. He hugs Harry so hard he can't breath and whispers "don't die, don't die" fervently into his hair. when he let s go he says "Find me. We'll do this together."

Then it's happening. He's standing at the entrance to a maze and he's so not ready for this. No amount of training could ever make him ready for this.

Cedric and Harry are the first ones to enter the maze. They get to pick the entrance they take. Really they should pick two different ones. You know for appearances. Cheating is somewhat of a Triwizard tournament tradition but blatant cheating is frowned upon.

They don't though. They walk into the same entrance and their hands find each other the second they're in the maze.

The only way out of the maze is through.

They cast their 'point me's' in unison.

Hermione trained them well.

They run into nothing for what feels like ages. Harry should be relieved but the chasmous silence isn't doing anything for Harry's frayed nerves.

Then suddenly there's a dementor in front of them and Harry's stag is materialising before he even reaches for his wand.

"Did you just cast a wandless expelliarmus?" Cedric asks looking bewildered.

"Clearly a shite one the dementor is still there." Harry responds testily.

Harry barely has a second to contemplate why that might be when Cedric casts a ridiculous and the dementor exploded in a wisp of smoke.

 

They run into Hagrid's blast ended Skrewt's next. They both get a little singed but they make quick work of them.

They come to a point in the path that's blocked by mist.

"It's limbo mist." Cedric supplies, "there's an anticharm but I'm rubbish at it. If you just, keep running, despite the disorientation you'll be fine." Cedric doesn't sound too sure of himself but before they have time to contemplate Fleur's screams echo ominously through-out the maze and they're both scrambling to reach her.

The limbo mist is heady and nauseating but they push through.

Red sparks shoot in the air before either of them can really place where Fleur went.

One down.

Three to go.

They run into nothing for ages. Until they stumble upon Viktor. His eyes a wide and glassy. Harry thinks it might be shock because he looks straight through Harry but realises it's something much more nefarious when seconds later Viktor Krum, one of the more harmless people Harry knows, is casting a crucio on Cedric, like it's nothing.

Harry punches him the second Cedric let's out a choked scream.

"Are you okay?' Harry asks Cedric ferverently .

"Yeah, Yeah I'm good. I just," He blows out a heavy breath, "need a sec." Cedric exhales, eyes are screwed up tightly in pai

"We throw up sparks all three of us can get out of here right now. Krum's clearly been imperioused that's two unforgivables. Cedric you're hurt you shouldn't have to keep going."

" The cup is ancient magic Harry. Binding magic. Neither of us are getting out of this maze unless we're incapacitated or somebody wins."

"What do we do then?' Harry asks desperately.

"We keep going Harry. Throw up some sparks for Krum and we keep going. We've got this."

"you're sure you're okay?' Harry inquires nervously, "if you hurt too much-"

"I'm not leaving you alone, Harry. We do this together."

Harry shoots up red sparks.

Two down.

Two left.

Then they're off. After what seems like hours they come across the cup glowing faintly in the clearing.

This is it.

An entire year of build up for this. It seems so surreal. Either one of them could reach out and all of this could be over.

"You should take it Cedric. It was never about winning for me." Harry offers.

"It wasn't about that for me either Harry. Not really."

"Doesn't mean you shouldn't take it, win back some Hufflepuff pride."

"That sounds nice Harry, it really does but I talked to my mum and I don't think it's worth it. My dad said all those awful things to me and Mum and I both think it would be stupid to reward him by giving him exactly what he wants."

"You shouldn't do things because other people want you to that's true. but equally you shouldn't not do things for the same reason, it gives them equal as much power over you."

" It's not about just that. I want this tournament to be about me. I managed to get here and I did bloody brilliantly. I want that to be enough." Cedric admits quietly.

"You were rather spectacular," Harry agrees.

Whatever Cedric's response was gets swallowed when something immense comes looming behind them.

"Cedric!" Harry bellowed. "On your left!'

Cedric looked around just in time to hurl himself past the thing and avoid colliding with it. Harry saw Cedric's wand fly out of his hand just as a gigantic spider began to bear down on him.

"Take the cup Harry." Cedric shouted. "Take the cup and end this."

It felt wrong. Grabbing the cup whilst Cedric was held down and they hadn't finished their discussion. But Harry was pretty sure a stupefy wouldn't do much against something that size and the only way Harry knew to stop the attack was to stop the task.

With shaking hands he reached out and took the cup.

The spider managed to slash his leg just before the cup began to pull him onward in a howl of wind and swirling colour.

 

When Harry's feet slam into the ground his injured leg gives way and pitches forward. The cup falls from his grip.

IT felt like he'd travelled miles and judging by the gravestones and thick cloying mist Harry had definitely left the safety of Hogwarts.

"I'm not in Kansas anymore." Suddenly he wishes desperately that Cedric was here. He has no idea where he is or what to do and the graveyard is freezing.

He's the last champion standing but there's no glory here.

Is this part of the task? Harry wonders. If it is does that mean that somewhere, miles away, Cedric is being eaten by a spider? Harry's stomach clenches painfully in worry as he begins to push himself up gingerly to his feet.

 

Harry slowly began to pull out his wand and walk forward. Then the hairs on the back of his head prickled ominously. Someone was watching him.

Someone was coming.

A figure emerged from the darkness. Clutching what appeared to be a swaddled baby. It walked forward and stopped beside a towering head stone.

Everything was silent.

Then Harry's scar exploded with pain.

The pain was so immense Harry's knees buckled under the weight of it. His wand slipped from his fingers and he clawed futilely at his forehead.

Makeitstop. Makeitstop. Makeitstop.

Then the figure had put down his bundle, lit his wand, and begun dragging Harry to the headstone.

Harry saw the name on the head stone before he was forcibly slammed against it with a sickening crunch.

Tom Riddle

Then the figure, who Harry now identified as a cloaked man, conjured tight cords that bound Harry from neck to ankles to the headstone. The feeling of hopelessness was suffocating and intensified tenfold when he found himself staring at the ugly mug of Peter Pettigrew.

Wormtail picked up the bundle of robes which stirred fitfully in his grasp. The pain in Harry's scar intensified with renewed vigour. Harry's wand laid on the ground not 10 metres away.

It felt like lightyears.

A giant snake began circling the headstone. Wormtail pushed a large stone cauldron in front of Harry.

This is the stuff of nightmares. The stuff of Harry's nightmares. He feels like he's had this dream before. He wishes this was a dream

Only this time he thinks he might never wake up.

The thing inside the robes was stirring persistently now and Harry new with terrifying clarity exactly what was in it. Then Wormtail was pulling open the robes. Harry shut his eyes and furiously whispering a mantra of "don't do it, don't do it, don't do it."

Then Harry opened his eyes to see Wormtail holding the sickly haggard form, of the dark lord Voldemort. The thing was disfigured and barely humanoid but with eyes like his there was no mistaking him.

Wormtail lowered the thing into the cauldron and it disappeared beneath the liquid contents. Let it drown. Harry thought, his scar hurting almost beyond endurance. Please... let it drown.

Then Peter mutilates his arm. Merlin, if Voldemort asked his followers to do that to themselves what on earth would he do to Harry?

Wormtail was gasping and moaning with agony as he approached him.

"Blood of the enemy forcible taken. You will resurrect your foe."

Then Wormtail brandishes an ominous silver dagger in his remaining hand and drags it viciously down Harry's arm.

The dark lord was being resurrected right in front of Harry. He was supposed to be the saviour of the wizarding world and instead he was aiding and abetting it's fall.

Harry was going to die here. In a random graveyard in the middle of nowhere with only the coward who betrayed his parents and the bastard who murdered them as company.

He thinks of all the people waiting for him back at Hogwarts. Of Weasleys, slytherins, Hermione and Cedric.

I'm sorry, Harry thinks with a sob.

So, so, sorry.

He was supposed to be better.

 

Then through the mist in front of him he saw the dark outline of a man tall and skeletally thin.

The thin man stepped out of the cauldron and stared straight at at Harry.

Harry stared back into the face that had haunted his nightmares for years. Whiter than a skull, with wide, livid scarlet eyes and a nose as flat as a snake's with slits for nostrils.

Lord Voldemort had risen again.

Harry was so, so sorry.

 

Voldemort wasted no time in summoning the death eaters. Harry's arm and leg were both bleeding sluggishly and Wormtail was wailing pathetically but Voldemort paid no mind to either of them.

As he waited for the death eater's to arrive he turned to Harry and started monologuing obnoxiously. Beneath the heady rush of Harry's fear and blood loss Harry felt sufficiently exasperated at the clichéness of it all.

*if you guys want the monologue on the online pdf of the goblet of fire the monologue is page 663/755.*

Then the death eater's arrive and the pathetic grovelling began.

Harry didn't even really register it was Lucius Malfoy professing his loyalty until the bright flash of green cut him down at his knees. Vaguely he thought he had to warn Draco. The dark lord was merciless and the Malfoy's were no longer useful to him. Harry wasn't Draco biggest fan but he didn't want him to die violently.

The sentiment was empty though, Harry was going to die before Draco.

Another person he let down.

Fuck, somebody just died.

Right in front of him.

Man if he survives this his nightmares are going to be next level.

Then he sees what is possibly one of the most unlikely death eaters. The beady face of Amos Diggory stares back of him. He looks like wormtail, quaking in his boots. A coward. Harry can't really judge him though. Harry's not going to be very brave when he's dead.

Horror and shock caught in Harry's throat. How had he not known? Had Cedric known?

"Diggory," Voldemort addresses. 'Your politics are subpar at best. I expect a better performance from you else you meet the same fate as Malfoy here. You already would have if Malfoy hadn't been such a fool at the quidditch world cup. Don't disappoint me or else I might have to take out my.. frustrations on your lovely wife. OR perhaps you’re your son? If he's good enough for Harry Potter I'm sure he's good enough for me"

At this Harry shakes his chains furiously. God. Not Cedric. He has to survive. He can't let this monster get his hands on Cedric. He deserves so much better.

Voldemort turns to address somebody else. "Nott, your son is a disgrace. Both of them are, actually. One's an abomination and one's useless. I expect them to do better in future. I expect you to do better."
"With all due respect my lord. I only have one child and he will do better."

"Quite right." Voldemort says with a sneer.

Then Voldemort's attention was on him against. Harry just wishes this nightmare would end already. One way or another by the end of the night, he supposes it will,

Then Voldemort has his hands on his face and is grinning like it's the biggest accomplishment in the world. HIs mother died to protect him from Voldemort's touch. Does this mean she died for nothing.

He gloated for a little while then punctuated his gloating with an agonising crucio.

The only prior interaction Harry has had with crucio before today had been in a controlled classroom setting. Now he's seen it performed on someone he love and had it pulsing agonisingly in his veins.

It was pain beyond anything Harry had ever experienced, his very bones were on fire. If the dursley's had utilised this spell instead of frypan's Harry thinks he would be right next to Neville's parents in the janus thickey ward as St Mungo's.

The pain left him as quickly as it came and Harry hung limply in the ropes binding him to the headstone of Voldermort's father.

The night rang loudly with death eater laughter.

"Now untie him Wormtail, and give him back his wand."

Then Harry was duelling Voldemort. Harry had to stifle hysterical laughter when he grabbed his Voldemort. Fucking hell he was duelling the dark lord. He's a little delirious form blood loss and is almost grateful for the fact because otherwise he might actually process what's going on and consequentially collapse.

Instead he grits his teeth and endures.

When Voldemort attempts to imperious Harry into bowing he stubbornly declines. It's a token rebellion, not a second later Voldemort has found a more creative way to make him bow.

Then Voldemort opened the duel with another, more intense cruciatus curse that seemed to last for hours. Harry would've screamed but he hurt to much too move.

When Voldemort attempts the imperious again Harry resists, again. Harry's one, unfailing, character trait is his stubbornness. It seems to irritate Hermione and the dark lord equally. He hopes he lives long enough for Hermione to slap him for the comparison.

Then in a fit of 'sheer dumb luck' as McGonagall would say, Harry meets Voldemort's AK with an Expalliarmus and doesn't die immediately.

When he sees the shade form of both his parents as a result of prior incantatem, he almost wishes he had, just so he could talk to them a little bit longer.

He doesn't die. He calls the cup to him with a wandless accio and Voldemort crucios him in the back just as the cup tugs him away.

He lands in the middle of the quidditch pitch screaming.

Chapter Text

Harry screams and screams and screams. It's the first time he can breathe in what feels like hours and nerves are still vibrating from multiple torture curses.

When he finally musters up the will to stifle his screams he hauls himself up to his feet almost immediately.

The world spins sickeningly for about five but Harry still has the final dregs of adrenaline coursing through his veins. He pictures Narcissa Malfoy clearly and vividly in his head. Pictures Her clearly despite only having seen her briefly in the past. Then he disaparates with a crack and collapses at her feet.

She was waiting by the fire place sipping on some tea when Harry came sprawling at her feet. She doesn't even flinch at his bloodied form.

"You’re getting blood on my carpet." She says serenely.

"Your husband is dead." Harry says in response gritting his teeth against the searing pain in his everywhere.

"I assumed as much." She responds equally as serenely

"I'd appreciate a lift to Hogwarts."  Harry says.

Her response is swallowed by darkness as Harry promptly loses consciousness.

 

"He just appeared bloodied and screaming in the middle of the quidditch pitch. I tried to get to him- but by the time I got to him he'd just, disappeared.'

"I think you mean disaparated Mione."

"You can't-"

"Apparate in Hogwarts. I know, but that’s what it looked like Hermione. How else would you explain it."

"You two never quit arguing, do you?" Harry asks groggily as he comes back to consciousness.

"You never quite doing dumb shit that nearly gets you killed so I think we're even." Ron responds. The words have no heat. He's at Harry's side in an instant and he looks so relieved.

Hermione's at his side in an instant two. " Honestly you’re going to give me grey hairs. What if Narcissa had killed you on sight? There was no evidence that she'd do the opposite Harry."

"I was delirious leave me alone." Harry whines as she starts smoothing his hair furiously.

'That's not an excuse to get yourself killed Harry."

 Hermione says sternly. Then, as if the floodgates have opened, her expression melts into one of immense anguish. "I'm sorry. We were just, so worried Harry. You have no idea what it was like. The way you screamed, the way you looked- I just." Then she is clutching him and sobbing furiously into his chest.

Harry holds her dutifully.

From this angle he can see the whole hospital wing and realises that Fleur, Viktor and Cedric are lying in the beds next to him.  The whole set. The Triwizard tournament was such a stupid idea and this is the perfect testament to that.

"Is Cedric okay?" Harry asks Ron.

"He's a right sight better than you mate. Just a few scratches and a bit of shock. He's actually all healed up but he fell asleep in a chair next to your bed."

'That's sweet,” Harry says sleepily.

Ron snorts "You're high on pain killer in case you haven't noticed."

"Mm it's nice. Real nice" Harry says smiling blissfully.

Ron snorts, "The come down won't be."
"Don't be negative." Harry Whines.

 "Ugh don't say I didn't warn you when you’re being shitty later." Ron says with a sigh

Hermione, who looks sufficiently dishevelled, begins to right herself and looks Harry seriously in the eye, " Do come to us though, you don't have to deal with this alone."

"Kay." Harry's starting to feel groggy again.

"I'm sorry to ask this but, Harry, what happened? Why did you turn up with Narcissa Malfoy? Why does the minister look so angry? Why is Malfoy crying? Why does Dumbledore look like somebody died? Why did You almost die?"

She's working herself up into another crying fit. 'No big deal Mione, just Voldemort, he's a little uglier than last time but we've handled him before."

Hermione chokes on her spit. Harry is starting to get the awkward foreboding feeling in his gut again. He's thinks he should be sorry but he's really, tired. He curls up in a ball and drifts off to sleep.

 

When he wakes up he has another visitor.  This one isn't nearly as pretty as Hermione. Mad eye Moody is standing over his bedside. Before Harry has a chance to get out a 'how you doing sir?" He's in a full body bind.

Harry feels freezing all over. He's never been in a full body bind before, but he doesn't think this weird stabbing coldness is a usual symptom of it.

The painkillers have worn off and Ron was right. It is brutal. Harry aches all over.

Moody levitates him and drags him into his office and then binds him to the chair.

Harry should feel something. Maybe fear, confusion. All Harry can think is not this again.

"So how was it my boy?" Moody asks and Harry feels like Mr Dursley must have bred because the man in front of him reminds him of Vernon too. He grins greedily at Harry.

"Sir?"

"The return of my liege? Was it glorious?"

Harry goes cold all over. He wants to say it was horrific, because that's really the only word Harry can think of to describe it, but he thinks he understands why Moody is so interested. He thinks he understands how the cup took him to little hangleton instead of wherever the hell it was supposed to take him.

"It was disgusting," Harry says with venom, "and pathetic."

Moody back hands him across the face. "You'll watch your tongue when you talk about your superiors."

"I do watch my tongue when I talk about my superiors.' Harry asserts stubbornly.

"You talk a good game boy, but I see the way you’re shivering, he got you good. Probably stunted your growth midget."

"Yes, well you can also see that I'm still alive can't imagine that was part of his plan."

"yes, well don't count on that lasting that much longer." Moody says venomously.

Harry feels dread well up in him, but he doesn't flinch. It's like he said to Cedric the reality that he could die is a constant state of affairs. "You’re not going to kill me. Daddy wouldn’t approve."

"You talk a big game for a kid who knows nothing, Potter."

"You're right, I don’t know anything about you. Why don’t you start by telling me your name?"

Moody, or rather not moody, leans back in his chair. " Very good Potter, did your mudblood mutt figure it out for you?"

"The boomslang you stole from professor Snape told me. The fact that Mad eye Moody hasn't been in the great hall all year. The fact that it was you who set the portkey is what made it click."

"Are so he does have a brain. I couldn't tell."

"Then you’re going to love this. Because I know something else about that clicked just now. I know that you’re a convicted death eater. I know that you’re supposed to be dead. I know that you committed patricide and I know that your face is begging to morph back into it's ugly self Barty Crouch Jnr."

"Don't sound so triumphant you little twit you’re still going to die.” Then, because he was unhinged, because in that moment Harry mattered more than voldemort, because Barty Crouch was a kid who never liked to lose, he wrapped both hands around Harry's neck and squeezed.

"Harry! Harry! Merlin Harry!" Cedric shouts ring loudly in his ears as he gaps for breath. 'He's in here they're in here! Help me please.'

Cedric doesn't have his wand Harry registers vaguely and it isn't in a wizards nature to jump to violence in a crisis. They rely on magic always. Harry is worried that Cedric is just going to stand there and watch the life bleed out of Harry. Harry wonders idly how much that would fuck Cedric up.

Except maybe not because then Cedric is beating the shit out of mad eye like a total badass. Harry is totally turned on.

Cedric begins untying Harry's bonds furiously. When the ropes come loose he has his arms around Harry in an instant.

 He's so warm. In that second Harry loves him so much he cries.

"Hey love. It's good to see you." Cedric says through a watery laugh into his hair.

Harry just holds on tighter and cries harder.

"Deep breaths love, you’re alright, I got you."  Harry's whole body is racked with sobs that he muffles in Cedric's chest. Cedric just wraps one arm around him, runs his hand through his hair and whispers, "I got you," over and over again.

That's how dumbledore and the minister of magic finds them.

With a bloodied mad eye moody at their feet and Harry wrapped around Cedric Diggory.

Then comes the inquisition.

Harry answers all of Dumbledore's questions placidly. Cedric and Fudge get increasingly angry. Harry's tired. At the end it's pretty much "no I'm not lying, no I'm not delirious, yes, love I'm fine I can answer a few more question.

Fudge doesn't believe him. Or he does, and he wants to ignore it. He brings in a dementor to suck out the soul of the only other witness. Without him Harry's word means nothing.

Dumbledore looks grim but resigned.

Cedric is angry. Harry appreciates it. He does, but at the moment Cedric is angry on his behalf, he wonders where that anger will be directed when Harry drops his one last bomb.

It's a problem for tomorrow though.

Today he drags Cedric back up to the hospital wing to heal his fist and Harry's throat. It's late so Madame Pomphrey tells them to stay the night. She says it's because it's late, but Harry thinks that unforgivables are unforgivable for a reason. They have consequence. Madame Pomphrey wants to monitor them.

Harry doesn't mind. Madame Pomphrey gives them a bed each but they only use the one.

He falls asleep firmly pressed against Cedric's side.

 

The next morning, he wakes up to a face full of wet dog and a room full of Weasleys.

Harry smiles and moves to sit up but finds himself pinned under Cedric's hand. Harry laughs lightly and taps Cedric until he lets him up. They both sit up on the bed and then immediately Sirius jumps up and settles on their laps.

 Harry runs his hands through Sirius' hair contentedly. "Hi Mrs Weasley, Mr Weasley, all the other Weasley's." Harry says smiling softly.

"Hiya Harry.' Fred and George say in unison, "Good to see you mate, sorry we couldn't wrangle a toilet seat for you this time."

Mrs Weasley comes over and smooths Harry's hair obsessively. "It's very good to see you sweet heart. Very good. I brought you some food and if you need anything, anything at all, just ask."

"Thanks Mrs Weasley." Harry says and despite the persistent freezing feeling in his limbs he feels warm all over.

"How’re you doing son?" Mr Weasley asks

"I'm doing fine thanks." Harry says with an only slightly forced grin, "a little achy but I'll get there."

"That's good son, that's really good.' He sounds so relieved, Mrs Weasley looks so hopefully earnest and Harry realises that he has family. Maybe things will be alright after all.

Except then the Diggory's are coming in. Harry's family came to visit him in the hospital wing of course Cedric's came a visited him too. That's what families do.

"I have to go." Harry says tersely to Cedric. "snuffles need a walk."

"Harr-,' but Harry doesn't stay long enough to hear the end of it. He doesn't look up as he brushes past the Diggory's he just keeps going until he gets to an empty classroom. Sirius is there and human in an instant.

"How are you holding up Harry?" Sirius asks, "You went from content to panicked pretty quick in there."

"There were Death Eaters. At the graveyard. Voldemort summoned them."

""Harry-"

"He killed Lucius Malfoy. He killed him because he didn't need him anymore. Didn't need his political sway. Didn’t need him at the ministry."

"Harry what-"

"He didn't need him because there was somebody else there. Somebody better. More inconspicuous. Voldemort killed Lucius Malfoy because Amos Diggory was a more than an adequate substitute."

Sirius sucks in a sharp breath at that.

"What am I going to tell Cedric?" Harry whispered softly. " The war has been going on for less than a day and I'm already so lost." Because make no mistake the war has started. Regardless of what Fudge may believe there have already been casualties.

"Come here, Harry." Sirius says softly, "This war has been going on for a very, very, long time Harry, and none of us really know what to do, it's more than okay to be a little lost. You’re 14 Harry you aren’t supposed to have all the answers." He blows out a breath and just holds Harry for a few second. "As for the Diggory's I find honesty is usually a pretty good policy. It's not always the easiest but it's usually the best." Sirius tightens his grip on Harry a little. "I'm sorry Harry, things shouldn't be so hard for you."'

"I'm sorry." Harry says. 'I took the cup and then he took my blood and now he's back. So many people died when he was back before. So many people might die. I'm so sorry."

Sirius makes a wounded sound at this. "It's not your fault." Sirius says emphatically. "It's our fault. We're the adults here, we're supposed to protect you. The tournament never should have gone ahead. You deserved better. This-, it's not your fault, none of it. You did brilliantly"

At Harry's incredulous look Sirius barrels on. "The cup was a portkey Harry, if you hadn't fought your way back here Voldemort would've been back and he would have had direct passage into hogwarts with all of his death eaters. There were hundreds of people there for the tournament and ant apparition wards keeping them all there. It would've been a slaughter. You did good. You did so, so good."

Harry doesn’t respond just holds tighter. The hugging is nice. Harry doesn't know how he would have coped with the coldness in his veins if it weren't for all the warm hugs.

Summer is going to be hell.

"Ready to face the world?" Sirius asks Harry.

What the hell kind of question. No Harry isn't ready to face the world he wants to stay here forever.

"You know Voldemort called most of his death eaters by name can't we just like arrest them?"

Sirius laughed softly, bitterly, "whilst following Voldemort is disgusting and heinous unless you can prove that they've used unforgivable or something unfortunately the wizarding world hasn't caught up with laws like 'obstruction of justice. Even if they had Fudge would need to acknowledge that Voldemort is back for that."

"There's a death eater in the room down the hall from here and I can't do anything about it. How do you deal with that?'

" You just have to grit you teeth and-"

"Endure. I know. I can do that." Harry says determinedly. "I can do that."

Then they head back to the hospital wing.

Harry flinches violently when he lays eyes on Amos Diggory but Sirius' solid presence at his back stops him from toppling over and nobody sees.

Then, Sirius is a dog again and Harry is left standing alone. He walks over and starts saying his goodbyes to the Weasleys who as much as they would like to, can't stay due to work commitments.

Mr Diggory catches Harry's eye as he leaves. Harry tries to look defiant. Theoretically he has all the power here. Mr Diggory appears unmoved and unimpressed. Clearly, he doesn't put much stock in Harry's power.

Harry hopes that says more about Mr Diggory than himself.

Hermione and Ron leave to go save them some breakfast.

 

Then It's just Cedric and Harry. Harry can feel the secret bubbling up inside him. Like a wall separating them. Harry's hands shake with stabbing freezing pain that he's been experiencing intermittently but he ignores it.

"Hi." Harry says softly.

"Hey.' Cedric says with a warm grin.

There's a spread of warmth at the familiarity of Cedric that bring a small smile to his own lips.

"Hi."

Cedric laughs at this, warm and rich and glorious. Then he crosses the room and is standing right in front of him.

They stare at each other intently for a second.

"How are-" they begin in unison.

"you go-"

Then they're laughing again and Harry's glad they're laughing because otherwise he'd be crying, and he's had enough of that for the year.

Harry wraps his hands around himself. "I'm fine Cedric. Really. How are you? What happened with Viktor was awful."

"Not as awful as when you went missing Harry. Twice. I waited for you at the entrance of the maze. Waited and Waited and nobody had any idea where you were. Then you were there, and you were screaming. God, you should've heard the way you screamed Harry. I tried to get to you. I did. Then you were gone again, and I thought you'd been a mirage. I thought you'd died Harry. You almost died." Cedric is working himself up more and more. He's dragging his hands raggedly through his hair and his voice is quaking dangerously.

"I'm so-" Harry's apology is swallowed up when Cedric pulls him tightly to his chest.

"I'm so glad you’re here. Thank you, for not dying." Harry laughs wetly and attempts to say "you too" but it's muffled in Cedric chest so it comes out am imcoherent mess.

Harry loves the way Cedric’s laugh vibrates through his whole chest.

"Harry, your hands are shaking."

Harry shrugs, 'They've been doing it all morning

"When you told Dumbledore what happened, you didn't tell him what curses You-Know-Who used."

"This is true." Harry says twisting his fingers through Cedric's jumper.

"Did you at least tell Madame Pomphrey?"

"Can't she just tell?"

"She can only really tell the damage and sometimes she can't find if she doesn't know what to look for. "
"Oh."

"Harry, some spells cause permanent damage when left untreated you need to tell someone," Cedric directs at him. Then he turns around and calls for Madame Pomphrey.

"Is this really necessary?"

"Is it really necessary for you to be stubborn about everything."

"Yes, it's my most enduring trait."

"You're a menace."

"Heard that before. “

Then Madame Pomphrey pops her head in. "Ah, Harry I'm so glad you called I've been meaning to talk to you but, well-."

She really, doesn't need to finish that sentence. Everyone is relived when she doesn't.

"Never mind that, I needed to ask you if your experiencing any lingering symptoms. Numbness, pain, rashes, strange symbols on your body, weakness, anything at all?"

In response Harry holds out his shaking hands. "I-I get these boughts of freezing pain in my- well all over actually."

Madame Pomphrey winces in grim, and pulls his hands towards his, "How long was your exposure to the cruciatus curse?' She asks in her most professional voice.

"Overall or per session?" Harry asks.

Cedric makes a wounded noise behind him

"Both pieces of information would be helpful."

"Well he cast it two, no three times. It's hard to really judge how long they lasted. The last one was definitely only a couple of seconds because the portkey pulled me back here almost as soon as he cast it. The other two he was making an example out of me. They probably lasted 20 seconds. 

"The pain your experiencing is sensory nerve damage. You might experience numbness unco-ordination and hot or freezing pain. Unfortunately, it's hard to tell the exact nature of the damage because the curse is so volatile. Nerve damage is largely untreatable but I can give you some potions which, if you take right should minimise the symptoms."

"Does the curse always cause damage?" Harry asks turning to look at Cedric.

"Not always, the power of the curse is influenced by intent. I'd imagine Voldermort had quite a bit more intent than say, an imperioused Viktor Krum for instance."

Harry blew out a breath. "Good, that's good."

"In what universe is any of this good Harry?' Cedric ask Harry.

"The universe where we're both here and alive."

Madame Pomphrey quickly fetches Harry his potions. "Take them once a day after breakfeast and any time you experience excessive and unexplained pain, numbness or unco-ordination. Take no more than 3 in one day and 12 in a week. Always take them with food. Go eat so you can go take your first one."

"Yes ma'am" Harry says before shoving dozens of potions into one of his undetectably extended bags. "Will these last the summer?" Harry asks.

'they should last about 4 months but if you need more I can top you up at the end of the term or if you run out over the summer you can just owl and I'll send the right away. "

Harry really hopes the potions last the summer.

Harry and Cedric make their way to the great hall hand in hand and in silence. Every time Harry's hands shake Cedric's grip tightens a little. 

When they walk into the great hall everyone immediately goes silent and stares at them. Nobody has any idea what happened. All they know is yesterday 4 champions went into the maze and none had been sighted since.

Until now that is.

Cedric and Harry take their seats at their respective house tables. The second Harry takes his seat Parvati opens her mouth to ask what Harry assumes is a litany of questions but blessedly Lavender claps a hand over her mouth before she can get a word out.

Everybody is looking at Harry. Harry feels cold all over and it isn't from nerve damage. He picks up a role of bread to keep himself occupied under the intense scrutiny.

Harry's mood drops rapidly. He'd been almost optimistic last night talking to Hermione but how he feels desolate. He doesn't understand why. The bread tastes like ash in Harry's mouth but he eats enough so that he can take his potion. Later though he isn't going to take his potion in the middle of the great hall. He doesn't need to be viewed as more of a lunatic.

There is already an article circling the school claiming that he is. Rita Skeeter found out about Harry's episode in Arithmancy and called him insane. Two days ago Harry would've been mad. Today it’s just so insignificant that it doesn't even register on his radar. He's just really tired.

The last month of school passes in a blur. Harry's moods are capricious and volatile. Some days he doesn't want to get out of bed. Some nights he slips into Cedric's. Sometimes he feels happy and cheery and normal. It puts a strain on his relationships but almost all his friends are gems and know not to approach him but never hold it against him. Except one time he's dangerously angry.

So angry he goes nuclear at Cedric. Cedric whose been by his side through all of this. All of Harry's ugly insecurities have increased tenfold along with his anxieties.

It starts off with Harry taking Sirius' advice. Which was really his first mistake. Honesty, it turns out, is painful for all parties involved.

They're sitting by the lake when the conversation starts. Harry had hoped the warmth of the sun and the comfort of the fresh air would soften the blow.

"I need to tell you something." Harry had said. "About what happened at the graveyard."

"Sure, Harry you can tell me anything." Cedric had said it easily like it was the simplest thing in the world.

"The death eaters showed their faced. Voldemort called a few by name. I know who a few of them are." Harry says bracing himself for every word.

"I know that Harry. You told Dumbledore that night with fudge. I was there."

"I didn't tell him everything. Not that night at least.' Harry takes a deep steadying breath. " One of the death eaters was Lucius Malfoy. Voldemort killed him." Harry tries to say that every opportunity he gets. It helps with coming to terms with it. "The other death eaters were Nott" Cedric flinches here but Harry doesn't get the opportunity to ask because he ploughs ahead. If he stops he'll never start again. "There was also Goyle, Crabbe and, Cedric; your dad was there."

There is a heavy silence between them. Harry thinks Cedric is in shock. Except, when he turns to look at Cedric he doesn't look shocked at all.

 

Chapter Text

"You knew." Harry says dangerously. "You knew and you didn't tell me!"

 "Harry." Cedric says, tentatively reaching out to lay his hand on Harry's shoulder.

"No!" Harry says wrenching away from him. "How could you not tell me?"

"It's not that simple." Cedric says frustratedly." It's a secret I've kept my whole life I couldn't just-"

"Couldn't just what? Couldn't just tell me that your dad was a part of terrorist organisation out to kill me? I always made sure you knew exactly how dangerous being around me was. When were you going to tell me? After you'd fucked me? Or maybe after your dad murdered me in my sleep. Maybe after your dad asked  you  to murder me in my sleep."

"Don't you fucking dare Harry. How dare you accuse me of being capable of murdering you when I've been nothing but kind to you."

"Kind to me? You've been so kind humouring that stupid kid charity case with a puppy dog crush on you. You think I should be grateful? Like you did me a goddamn favour?"

"Don't use your age against me Harry. You know how conscious I am about it. You know it's not like that." Cedric’s face is pinched and voice tight but Harry ploughs on.

"Your right it's not like that. I'm only a kid when it suits you. When I'm saying things that are hard to swallow. The rest of the time I'm a grown ass adult so you don't have to feel guilty about grooming me for the slaughter."

"Nobody is plotting to kill you stop being so dramatic."

"Dramatic? Your father watched as I was tortured. He sat there and watched as another man was killed. He promised to help a man who is pushing for systematic genocide and you knew that he supported him and not only did you not tell me you hugged him. That day in the hospital, when my hands were still shaking from nerve damage, he came to the hospital wing and you hugged him. "

"It's not that simple Harry. He's my father. You don't understand. He fights hard to protect his family. He has to make hard decisions. You don't understand how brave he is."

"Hard decisions? Decisions like watching me die? Because that's what he would've done Cedric. He would've just let me die. If my dead parents hadn't saved me he would have watched me die.  My parents who still fought even when it was hard, even when they were in danger. My parents who were brave and died for me. Your Dad is a coward Cedric. Everybody who follows Voldemort is.

"Don't you talk about my father. You have no idea. Your just a little boy playing hero. It was war Harry nothing is as simple as all that."

"Voldemort's followers tortured muggles for fun at the quidditch world cup. They tortured Neville's parents into insanity. Tried to kill me when I was baby. Doing the right thing might be hard but Sirius managed that despite knowing he would lose everything for it, despite being disinherited. Andromeda Black did the same. I don't wish his followers dead. I understand that decisions might be tough, but I would never describe a single one of them as brave. Your Father is a Coward!" Harry spat the last bit, punctuating every word. A niggling feeling that maybe he should shut up started building in his gut but the thought came too late.

Cedric's face screwed up in an ugly sneer that Harry wishes he never knew he was capable of. "Maybe I was right. When I was about to put my name in the cup. You’re fourteen Harry let the big kids handle this. A war is no place for a child. "

"I don't imagine children make very good boyfriends either."

"I wouldn't know. I don't have a boyfriend." Just like that Cedric was storming back to the castle leaving Harry behind.

Alone.

Harry didn't give himself much time to process. He had meeting with dumbledore to get to.

The meeting with Dumbledore is horrendous. It doesn't last very long, but it does last long enough for Dumbledore to sentence Harry to a summer with the Dursleys. He won't tell Harry why though.

Randomly Blaise is there when Harry gets out. Harry hasn't really got a chance to talk to him since the third task. He's expecting some of Blaise's usually shit talk that he starts every interaction with. What he gets is so out of the blue Harry gets struck dumb.

"My mum picked a side Harry, in the war. I told her about you. About the wandless magic and the pastletongue." Shit when did Blaise even find out about that. "I told her about you and she picked a side. You’er side." Blaise is looking at him intently now and talking with uncharacteristic fervour. 'She's willing to let you stay with us as sign of goodwill. You don't have to go back Harry. You don't have to let them hurt you." And shit when did Blaise find out about that?

Words cannot describe how hard it was for Harry to get out his response.  "I can't." Harry says softly. "I really, really want to but I can'>'

"Why not Harry? Didn't you hear me? We'll protect you. Once, one of  my dick head step father’s slapped me so hard I hit the wall and got a concussion. He was dead the next day. My mum can look after you Harry."

"I cant." Harry whispers wetly "Dumbledore he-"

"Screw Dumbledore Harry. He's supposed to look after you. It's not normal to come to school after summer looking like a muggle holocaust victim. It's not normal that you flinch every time somebody raises their voice, or you take a bite of something. Like you think you’re not allowed to eat. Like you think they'll punish you. It's not fair. " Blaise looks so angry and Harry wants so fiercely to let him sweep him away, but this is war, somethings are more important than what Harry wants.

"I just can't." Harry says and then he turns and leaves because this conversation is making him want to scratch his skin off and bleed.

 

 

On the train to King's Cross Harry doesn’t say a word. He lays with his head in Hermione's lap and she strokes gentle circles into his hair.

Harry prepared himself for a summer of gritting his teeth enduring.

There were a lot of hugs that day at King's cross. Blaise slipped his address in Harry's pocket during a two second hug. "In case you're in trouble."  When he caught Harry's eye as he made his way over to Vernon Dursley he looked as hopeless as Harry felt.

The silence in the car on the way to little whinging was stifling. Harry's hands shook violently but he couldn't let Vernon see him take the potion or he'd confiscate them. Actually, he'd probably destroy them.

 

 

Harry's summer is a spectacular disaster. HIs nightmares are getting increasingly horrific and creative. He imagines Cedric getting eaten by Nagini. He images Cedric being Nangini and eating Harry. He imagines Amos Diggory  choking the life out of him the way Barty Crouch junior had tried.

Once, early on in the summer. He got that stabbing freezing pain in his hands whilst gardening. He hadn't been slept in ages and hadn't been thinking straight. He took a swig of his potion right in front of Vernon. Who proceeded to pin Harry against the wall, accuse him of freakishness, and then threw Harry's potion and the little purse he kept them in, into the fire. The purse hadn't had just potions. It had also contained all the books Harry had been meaning to read.

Harry had wanted to cry but instead he grit his teeth.

The freezing pain in his hands wasn't the only side effects Harry experienced. He also experienced unfortunate bouts of uncoordination. When Vernon asked Harry to clean a grease stain and Harry's arms spasmed throwing water all over Vernon he was less than impressed. Harry has the scars to prove it. They don't hurt nearly as much as the effective radio silence he receives from his friends.

They write him letter but they're so full of frivolous fluff that they may as well have stopped writing. Harry doesn't respond.

What hurts more is the complete silence from Cedric. Harry aches at the loss of him. It's so stupid and Harry is so mad at himself. They're in the middle of a war. Somebody died. Harry is getting the shit beat out of him on a regular basis and yet, he's hung up about bad break up. It's so fucking juvenile it makes Harry want to vomit.

Harry spent as much time outside as possible. The sun was sweltering but he preferred it to the musty smell of Dudley's second bedroom. His problems felt bigger in smaller spaces. The distance also made it harder for Vernon to punish him for existing.

The park provided a good sanctuary for Harry. He sometimes spent entire days there hiding out on the swings.

He imagines Cedric with his bright grin and  warmth and can’t believe he ever let somebody like him slip through his fingers.

It’s the middle of summer but Harry’s never felt so cold.

He sits on the swing and Imagines Cedric and Ottery st catchpole and wants and wants.

Then he imagines Cedric with his death eater father and can’t decide wether he’d rather be here or there.  

He does all this whilst swinging back and forth aimlessly and despondently on the swing. He thinks he might be ruining swings forever.

Then one day Dudley came to play.

The events that follow were horrific. In ways the war never could be. Dudley attacked Harry. Then a dementor attacked them both. Then Vernon Dursley saw red.

Harry was expelled so there was nothing holding Vernon back now. Nobody was coming to save Harry.

Really everybody in that house saw red that night. Oceans of it.

He received two letters. One from Sirius, one from Arthur Weasley. Each made Vernon just that little bit angrier. They told Harry to stay in the house. Harry didn't imagine that would be a problem. Harry didn't think he would leave this house ever again.

It was kind of ironic that they were making Harry’s home more dangerous in the same breath they were telling him to stay in it. It was hard not to question how much these people really like Harry when Vernon was beating Harry within an inch of his life and they were instructing him to endure.

As Harry’s head becomes foggier and foggier the white carpet turns a brilliant shad shade red.

Harry's pyjamas are going to be bloody come morning. He wonder’s if Vernon will make him clean it up. He wonders if he’ll still be alive to do it.

Petunia makes a wounded sound in the back of her throat and pulls Dudley out of the house and fleas.

Once Vernon Dursley’s anger is satiated and Harry’s skin is more bloodied than clean he disappears too.

Harry knows everybody told him not to leave the house but he doesn’t imagine he’ll be much use to anyone if Vernon comes back and splatters him against the wall. His mind is a bit addled but he pushes himself up with the weakness he feels he thinks its probably by magic. HE thinks he has nowhere to go. Not a single place. Hogwarts was his home. It isn't anymore. Arthur would send him straight back. He has no idea where Sirius is. Harry has nowhere to go.

Except maybe that isn't true. Harry has Blaise's floo address memorised. He would stare at it every time he was wished he was somewhere else. Harry could recite it in his sleep.

It's kind of useless without a flood though. There are no wizards that Harry knows of in little whinging except as of last night there is a squib. Harry has a plan. Well he thinks he has a plan but Harry's plan is about as well thought out as the titanic was. He sneaks out of  the house and hopes to god that Vernon isn't in hearing distance .

Harry walks to the front door ever so slowly partly due to fear mostly because slow is the only mode his body is capable of. Every step feels like a gamble on his life. "Don't make a sound." Harry thinks to himself desperately. "I'll be in my room, making no noise and pretending I'm not there." Harry remembers saying those words a lifetime ago. Hopefully this time he won't be pretending.

He makes it out of the house unimpeded.

Mrs Figgs isn't home. Harry shouldn't feel relieved. He should want her to take him to Sirius, to the Weasleys. The thing is though he is relieved, because they left him with  Vernon. This sick awful feeling that's been building in his chest all summer, all his life really, they sentenced him to it. What if they send him back? Harry has nearly died too many times now to gamble with his life over something he doesn't even understand. Harry has been sitting in that home, in that prison, suffering, at Dumbledore's request and nobody will even tell him why. Sirius had told him to stay put. Hermione and Ron gave him nothing. Blaise is the only one he seems to think that Harry is worth saving.

 He opens the door with a quick wandless aloharmora. All of his problems would've been solved if he'd just managed a wandless Patronus but Harry's never actually cast a Patronus in the face of a real dementor head on. In third year there had been a lake separating him and the dementors and this dementor had a lot more ammunition then the boggarts had. It was a miracle he'd managed with a wand. If he'd tried wandlessley him and Dudley would be soulless now.

It takes him a second to find Mrs Figg's floo but he's infinitely grateful that it’s there. Then Harry's swept away in a sea of flames to safety.

 

 

Blaise's home is probably the most gorgeous building Harry has been in. Hogwarts is brilliant and enchanting but it has more of a quirky charm where the Zabini's villa is all elegance. The floo opened into the living room with paintings on the ceiling and a chandelier hanging low. The room has lavish red cushy chairs and carpets. The fire cast the whole room with a warm welcoming glow. The walls are made of a sandy brown marble and Harry can see that entrance hall has an extravagant twirling staircase with rich red carpeting and black banisters with wooden handrails.

A house elf appears almost instantly upon Harry's arrival. "Mistress Zabini wants to know you name and business." She says immediately. She's dressed in a pillow case, like all house elves but this one is fitted around her elegantly, like a toga and is pristine unlike the rags that harry sees most house elves in.

'Um, hi. Harry says softly. "My name is Harry, Harry Potter. I guess I'm here to-'

The house elf waves her hand dismissively. "Weesey is knowing why you is here. Master Blaise is being expecting you. It is about time you turn up. Wait here.' Then, before Harry can respond she disappears.

Then she's back with Blaise in tow. They stare at each other for a second. Harry must look like such a mess. Now that the adrenaline has worn off Harry can feel the pain in his face acutely. He thinks Vernon broke his jaw and his ribs if the burning in them is anything to go by. He can't tell if the numbness in his legs is a new injury or the nerve damage. He just hopes whatever it is can be fixed. His nose is gushing with blood and he feels like his legs will buckle under him at any moment.He doubts there is any of his skin left brown.

Blaise looks effortlessly put together. He's wearing red robes that contrasts beautifully with his skin and he fills out nicely. On the flip side Harry is swimming in Dudley's hand me downs.

'Is the invitation to stay still open?" Harry asks tentatively.

Blaise's face is inscrutable for many long moments before it breaks out into a grin. 'We might have some room." The grin doesn’t reach his eyes though. His eyes have an odd sheen to them, like he’s trying not to cry.

Harry's shoulders sag with relief.

'Come on Harry lets go get you cleaned up. You look like somebody attached you to the back of their car with a string and then kept driving."

Harry feels like it too.

Blaise shows him to one of what Harry assumes is many, many bathroom. Harry chokes when he sees it. Blaise winces a little but then they both laugh. "Why do you have two sinks?' Harry asks dumbly.

Blaise laughs richly again. "It's a bidet Harry."

"A what?"

Blaise just shakes his head. "Have your shower Harry. I'll tell you later. Try not to drown."

"In the shower or your clothes?" Harry quips.

'Either." Blaise says after giving Harry a once over.

Harry grins. It's been so long since he talked to somebody who didn't hate him. Harry feels desperetly affection starved he has to stop himself from throwing himself at the house elf for human contact.

The shower is heavenly. Harry doesn't manage to figure out how to use the taps properly but a little magic solves all his problems. It's hot and the water pressure is amazing and harry can take his time. He keeps on almost nodding off and wonders if maybe Blaise shouldn’t have left him alone but the awkwardness of it all would probably have killed him fast than his head injury.

Harry doesn't want to be rude so he only takes fifteen minutes but between the Dursleys and shared bathrooms at Hogwarts it’s one of the longest showers of Harry's life.  Harry’s torso is a mess. He winces every time he breaths. He’s had broken ribs before though, so he conjures some bandages and wraps them himself.

Harry does drown a little in Blaise's clothes but they're so silky and soft on Harry's skin. He wriggles a little just to feel them brush against his arms.

He pointedly avoids the mirror. He can feel his jaw and eye radiating with pain he doesn’t need to see the evidence.

When he walks out of the bathroom Blaise is sitting with who Harry presumes is his mother at. He looks more unsettled than Harry has ever seen him. His leg is bouncing up and down like he’s itching to do something and his hair is sticking up oddly like he’d literally tried to tear it out.  

Mrs Zabini Is a short woman but striking women. Her skin is dark but not quite as dark as Blaise's. Her hair is a rich brown hair frames her face beautifully. She smiles warmly at Harry when he enters the room. She seems much more serene than Blaise is.

"Hello Harry, it's a pleasure to finally meet you." She says standing up and beginning to make her way over to him.

Harry smiles shyly. "Thank you for housing me Mrs Zabini, I really appreciate it. If you ever need me gone just say the word and I'll understand." Harry says this whilst smiling warmly even though in his head the word "nowhere to go," play on a loop.

"Nonesense darling, there is more than enough room for one more in this big empty house. Now. Here in Italy we kiss each other on the cheek in greeting. So come here darling." Ms Zabini then comes over and pecks Harry lightly on each cheek. Harry tries not to squirm but fails dismally if Ms Zabini's laughter is anything to go.

"We're in Italy?" Harry asks dumbly

Ms Zabini chuckles lightly. "Yes darling we're in the south, Sicily."

"Wow, I've never been overseas before."
"We're honoured to be your first then. We'd offer to take you around, see the sights and all that but I couldn't guarantee your safety."

"I think your house is a sight in itself." Harry says a tad awestruck.

Mrs Zabini smiles fondly at that, 'Indeed it is."

Later that night Harry passes out in a plate of pasta. Blaise scolds his mum hysterically. Saying things like he’s going to die, I told you to get Madame Pomfrey, Mum I swear to Merlin if you’ve let my friend die-“

Mrs Zabini just smiles unbothered and points to Harry, whose face is slowly clearing of purple and unseen to the Zabini’s whose ribs are slowly knitting back together. “Healing salve in the pasta darling.’ She informs softly. “He’s just tired, love.”

Blaise’s tirade breaks off abruptly. He silently makes his way over to Harry and scroungifie’s his face. He gathers Harry into his arms and carries him to one of the quest rooms. As he’s leaving he whispers a quick thank you over his shoulder.

Chapter Text

Life with the Zabinis is strange. Blaise is completely impossible to read. He goes from one bizarre mood to the next so fast Harry gets whiplash. Ms Zabini is perpetually serene. It’s like her one setting. Last year Harry would have said that Blaise got it from her but he’s been uncharacteristically capricious.  

 

He goes from stoic, to excited, to concerned to dangerously angry in the span of an hour, Harry doesn’t know what to do with all his emotions. He’s a little bit of a wreck himself.  

The first day when Harry wakes up Blaise is rocking back and forth anxiously on his feet outside his door and scares Harry half to death. He apologises profusely a second after. Harry just rubs his eyes bewilderedly.  

 

Ms Zabini (call me Clarissa) had breakfast ready for them in mornings, which is the first time in Harry’s life he woke up after someone, there’s a 1-hour time difference that means he’s up at 7:00 not 6:00.  In Italy they aren’t big on breakfast, so it usually consists of a biscuit and milk, sometimes fruit which works amazingly for Harry because he’s not used to food in the mornings.  

Blaise is unimpressed when Harry offers to help cook and Ms Zabini tells him he can learn a thing or two from Harry. He’s honestly such a mummy’s boy it's ridiculous but also kind of the nicest thing in the world.  

 

Harry is simultaneously overcome with gratitude and envy. 

Ms Zabini teaches Harry a family recipe and the intensity of his gratitude almost brought him to his knees. Ms Zabini held him close to her for half an hour as he sobbed with gratitude. Blaise got quiet and made himself scarce for a while after that.  

Harry remembered what Blaise said about his mum choosing his side in the war because of his power. He wonders if she’s unimpressed. He wonders if he’ll ever escape these feelings of inadequacy.  

 

She doesn’t seem to be. He’s always imagined the Zabini’s to be not unlike the Malfoys. He supposes he doesn’t really know what the Malfoy’s are like either but if Dobby is anything to go by assumptions of apathy aren’t completely unfounded. Zabini manor is so much warmer and full of life than Harry could ever have imagined. Harry realises he probably should have been clued in to the strength of love in the Zabini household earlier. Ms’ Zabini’s quiet but fierce love permeates Blaise’s every action.  

Blaise frets over him like a mother hen. It’s as ludicrous as it is annoying. The first time Harry serves himself a meagre portion of food for lunch Blaise glares at him but doesn’t comment. Then at dinner Blaise pointedly serves plates for all of them. When harry throws up one night because the carbs are too much for Harry to handle the next night there is a recipe for chicken soup mysteriously sitting on the bench.  

 

Ms’ Zabini seems fabulously amused. She laughs heartily when she finds the chicken soup recipe and Harry goes bright pink. When Blaise tries to bring Harry thirds she holds up her hand and says “Calm down love, he’ll get there in his own time.” 

They work through homework together and Harry is reminded of the fact that all his friends are geniuses. He left all his stuff are Privet drive, but he has his wand and that’s all he needs because Blaise lends him his stuff without batting an eye.  

Harry tries not to get caught up with the unfairness. Blaise could use magic as a kid because he grew up in a magical household. He had a mother who loved him fiercely. He had everything he could ever want. He deserves it Harry supposes. He doesn’t abuse it or flaunt it and he shares it easily. Harry just doesn’t know why Blaise got all this and Harry got all this ugliness in his life. He wonders if that’s ungrateful. If it makes him an awful person to feel these things for someone who has done so much for him. 

 

Being in this environment changes his perspective. His life has just been one long marathon. It’s been one step after the next but now that he has time on his hands, time spent basking in love and warmth, he finds himself looking back for the first time. Considering things. Hermione says it’s important to know where you stand on things. She’d given Harry a book last summer on philosophy and stressed to him the importance of it. She’d said to him that through no fault of his own he’d come into a lot of power. He was in the position to one day set a precedent, change lives. She’d told him that there was no right way to do that. No right way to lead or change the world but if he didn’t decide where he stood then he would very certainly do it the wrong way.  

 

He was only now starting to realise what she meant. He realised that maybe knowing what you stand for is the difference between Ms Zabini and Mr Malfoy. 

The problem is that he doesn’t know where to stand on anything. His emotions are a jumbled mess and he feels like his personality changes faster than he can blink. He doesn’t understand how one second, he can be blissful and then something breaks the spell, the drop of a hat, the ring of a bell, and suddenly there is an ugliness under his veins he works viciously to quell. He feels set adrift, he has no baseline for anything. He doesn’t know what part of the Dursleys are unique to them and universal. He doesn’t know how of his life he a right must be upset about or how much gratitude is enough. He doesn’t know how to decide about what he wants the world to look like when he doesn’t understand it at all.  

 

The one thing he knows for sure is that he wants to be good, not great. He thinks in greatness there is very little room for error, that without careful consideration, sometimes even with, greatness leads to great strife. 

 He doesn’t want to be a spoilt brat. He’s terrified of turning into an awful person. He sees so much of his own story in Tom Riddle that it terrifies him. He thinks somewhere deep down he can imagine how Tom Riddle let himself become so ensconced in his bitterness. He’s terrified that with just a little less warmth in his life, if he hadn’t met the Weasleys or Hermione or any one of the strong brilliant influences in his life he would be equally as ignorant of the value of people, equally as callous.  

He wonders if he can understand how Tom riddle became who he was, that some of it was out of his control is it right to persecute him. Hermione once said that he behaves like the world owes him something she said it with scorn but what if it did? 

Did Harry have an obligation to try to save him? When does a person become unsalvageable? 

He never wants to leave this manor. It’s the first time in a long time that he’s felt like he can breathe. There are miles and an ocean between Harry and all the ugliness, all the decisions he will never be equipped to make. It seems surreal that somebody’s life could be as simple as existing in each other’s company with no other obligations.  

Late one-night Blaise snuck into Harry’s room and laid his head on Harry’s shoulder. “I’m really glad you’re here Harry.” 

 

Harry doesn’t understand this. Blaise and his mother have this perfect little haven and here Harry is with his random bouts of crying and bruised body. He doesn’t fit. He feels like he’s intruding.  

“Really Harry. I know it might be hard to believe, but since my last step-father died things have been lonely. He always used to do the cooking Harry and mum couldn’t bear to do it herself, but she equally couldn’t bare for someone else to do it either. She doesn’t think I know this, but she used to sob every time she cooked. Then you came along and she just, lit up. I didn’t know how to help her before, I don’t think I would have been able to. I’ve never taken any interest in cooking she would have been embarrassed. You fit here Harry.” 

The most words Harry’s heard Blaise say ever. Harry shifts to face Blaise. He takes his hand, “this house. This family. It’s the most at home I’ve ever felt.” 

They wake up wrapped up together in a way that reminds Harry achingly of Cedric. It’s different though. It doesn’t feel the same. There’s an easy kind of familiarity with Blaise that is nothing at all like the awkward but pleasant rush of being with Cedric.  

Harry doesn’t have much time to dwell because the next second Weesey is appearing in the room. “Tracey Davis is in the entrance hall. She wishes to be speaking with you. You will be coming with me.” Then Weesey grabs onto Blaise and disappears with a crack. Harry finds this wholly unnecessary considering the entrance hall is just down the stairs from this room. It doesn’t matter he supposes it at least make it easier for him to run and eavesdrop.  

He takes the stairs at a sprint. He’s thankful that despite the multitude of times he’s had to claim to be clumsy he isn’t really. He manages to make it down the stairs without falling flat on his face despite breakneck speeds.  

 

When he gets there Tracey looks frazzled. “Blaise,” she says grabbing on to him frantically. “It’s Harry.  He was attacked and then he just vanished. We tried owling him and, and, Hermione’s distraught, nobody can find him. Blaise he-“ 

“He’s just over there.” Blaise says serenely holding both of her hands tightly.  

Tracey’s face, which had been getting redder and redder with goes suddenly blank. “What.” 

“Take a deep breath then look over your shoulder.” Tracey, who  had worked herself into quite a state took a deep shuddering breath then turned to face Harry.  

Before Harry could even blink he had an armful of Tracey. “Where have you been? Oh, well I suppose that’s a stupid question, here, obviously. Why did you leave? Was it the dementors? I heard about that, I suppose I would have left too if there had been dementors at my house. Are you okay? You look a little peaky but you always look peaky after the summer. “ 

“You know if you want him to answer you might need to come up for air.” Blaise quips.  

Tracey, thankfully, releases   

 

Harry smiles a wanly at her. "I'm alright, honest. Blaise has been amazing.” 

At this Tracey swivels around and crushes Blaise with a hug. “I’m so glad you boys are looking after each other.” She turns to Harry, face serious and imploring, “Blaise was distraught at the start of the summer and nobody could figure out why. Now you’re here and it’s like he’s a whole different person. We all worry about you Harry I’m glad you found your way to safety. 

Both boys duck their head at this. Harry smiles shyly at Tracey, “It’s really good to see you,’ he says with earnest warmth, because it is. He hadn’t realised how acutely he’d missed all his friends until he’d spent an entire day laughing with Blaise. Somehow he’d become accustomed to conversations involving so many people it was hard to keep track of and now he feels bereft without that warmth, that explosion of laughter.  

 

As if on cue Tracey laughs brightly. “You should come to England Harry, People have been really worried, I mean of course I’ll tell them you’re safe but it won’t be the same as having you there.”  

Harry shifts nervously, he misses his friends, he just admitted that to himself two seconds ago, but he doesn’t know how to face them. He doesn’t know what he would say. The dementor is a good excuse for why he left but if makes him feel dirty with inadequacy. He wants to explain to them that he never would have left, never would have worried them if he hadn’t genuinely believed he was going to die. He doesn’t have the words to articulate how leaving was the only option in that moment. How somehow letting uncle Vernon was scarier then have his soul sucked out, how he’d feel so stupid if he’d die because he was too fucking delicate to leave leave or speak up.  

One thing he’d been very grateful for was Blaise’s lack of questions. He hadn’t pushed harry on why he’d stayed. The thing is being killed for Harry would be more humiliating then being injured. Injuries he can hide and push through. Injuries are his own burden to bear. Injuries you can hide, but if he’d died in that cupboard everybody would have known. Being a statistic, being weak is more terrifying to Harry than being injured.  

He also hadn’t really had many options to escape before he met the Weasleys and for all Mrs Weasley’s kindness he thinks she couldn’t afford another mouth to feed. He has no baseline on normality he doesn’t know what in his life he’s allowed to want to change. He doesn’t know when he’s allowed to ask for more, or even except more.  Blaise had been just the right amount of insistent and the break in his ribs had been just the right amount of urgent.  

He feels terrified of talking about any of it because the raw story is a humiliating but a censored version of it will feel like a lie. He would simultaneously be terrified of judgment and craving it acutely. He just wishes there was somebody in his life with answers. Somebody to tell him how to be a functioning human being.  

He can cope at school because at school all people are easily distracted, and he knows how to talk about charms gossip and quidditch. He knows what’s expected of him at school, mostly, outside of school he has no clue what people expect of him.  

For instance, he has no idea what to tell Tracey in this instance. If it would be worse to stay in Italy or go to England. Blaise’s face had immediately shuttered when Tracey had mentioned England, but Harry can see the exact same thing happening to Tracey’s if he refuses. What if he does go to England and disappoints everyone? What if he goes and they ask him to go back to the Dursley’s? What if he stays with the Weasleys and they die? What if he goes to the Dursleys and he dies? 

“Tracey,” Blaise says haltingly, “school starts in like a week can’t they wait until then?” 

Tracey turns to Blaise and searches his face then to Harry, “If you want Harry but they’ve only just managed to smooth things out with ministry with your underage magic, if the first time you enter the country is school there will be an awful lot all at once. If it makes it easier Harry I talked to snuffles,” Harry shoots up at the name wondering exactly what series of events lead to hear knowing it, “He said there’s a house with enough room for you and whoever else you want.” 

“A house?” Harry inquires haltingly. 

Tracey nods “it's a tad grim but the company makes up for it, well apart from Malfoy, and Mundungus I guess.” 

 

Harry turns to Blaise who looks thoroughly confused about everything. “Tracey, do you think you could tell everybody I’m safe and I'll talk to the Zabini‘s for a bit, then flu you with my answer” he’s addressing Tracey but his eyes don’t leave Blaise  

“Sure,” Tracey replies drawing out the word uncertainly eyes flitting between Harry and Blaise, “but don’t flu my house I’m staying with snuffles, here's the address, keep the paper safe though, its enchanted.” she presses the paper into his hand and then is off. 

He has decisions to make his future, opinions to form about the world, he can’t do that from oceans away. He knew as soon as Tracey mentioned Sirius he wouldn’t be staying in Italy. Leaving this seclusion is going to hurt tremendously but Harry thinks that’s par for the course of his life. 

Blaise looks like he knows Harry is going to leave as well and he seems uncharacteristically, disproportionately distraught. ITs only a week of separation it shouldn’t matter that much and yet,  Harry find he understand completely. There is an ache in his bones beginning him to never leave. A part of him terrified he’ll floo back to London and be engulfed by the flames. 

 

“Snuffles is my god father,” he explains to Blaise, “he’s family but we haven’t really got to know each other properly, I think, maybe I need to go back to England.” 

Blaise looks at him eyes wide with hurt,” I could come you know he offered” 

 

Harry smiles wanly, tempted beyond belief, ’Blaise, enjoy your last week with your mother I’ll see you at school.” He says sternly 

“It won’t be the same,” Blaise insists. 

IT really won’t, “I don’t think anything will ever be the same, I think that from here on out everything changes. Enjoy your family whilst you can Blaise, your so blessed to have your mother cherish every moment with her.” 

Blaise smiles, “I know Harry, I do, but I cherish my moments with you too.” 

Harry melts a little on the insides at this.  ’Tell your mum thank you for me, really.” 
“I hope you don’t plan on repaying me by leaving without saying goodbye.” come the stern voice of Ms Zabini scaring Harry half to death. 

Harry looks up with wide fearful eyes. “n-no ma’am.” 

She smiles with self-satisfaction, “I should think not, otherwise I would be worried that your time in Italy taught you nothing.” 
 

Harry shakes his head vigorously before launching to hug Ms Zabini, “That couldn’t be further than the truth, time spent here, with your family, it’s been one of the most valuable experiences of my life. Thank you so much for housing me. I don’t know what my life would look like without both you and your son, but it certainly wouldn’t be anywhere near as happy as it is now.” 

Blaise smiles,” You really have learnt something, that’s the most words I ‘ve heard you spring together this entire holiday.” 

Harry sticks his tongue out over his shoulder.  
“Nonsense Bello We’ve loved having you here. We’ve all been better for your presence.” 
 

Then Harry kisses her on both cheeks and he’s off. Back to England, he wonders if homecomings are supposed to feel like death sentences. 

 

Chapter Text

When Harry arrives at Grimauld place the drawing room is empty. He can hear quiet whisperings from another room but for a second, he just embraces the silence. He doesn’t know what to expect. He’s never been to this house before. Everything is uncharted territory. He doesn’t know who else in this house. He doesn’t know if he’ll be welcomed warmly.

The house sets him on edge. There is a sense of foreboding etched into the walls in the way there isn’t a single ray of light filtering into this room, and the various shades of greens and greys clash dizzyingly.

He follows his ears. He can hear Tracey who must have only arrived a few minutes before him talking lowly. “He said he needed to talk to someone.” somebody must have replied but Harry couldn’t make it out because after a short pause Tracey hisses, “Yes! I’m certain he’s fine. I wouldn’t have left him if I thought he was in danger for merlin’s sake.”

Deciding to save Tracey from any further grilling Harry slips through the door way into full view of the occupants of the room. He wants to make a crack to relieve the tension, something along the lines of “you tell em, Tracey,” but he is suddenly bereft of words.

There, sitting around what Harry presumes to be the dining room table staring at Tracey intently, are Remus, Sirius, Hermione, the Weasleys minus Bill Charlie and Percy. At his entrance, all eyes immediately turn to Harry.

He feels like a naughty school boy awaiting judgement under their scrutiny. It’s a struggle to resist rocking back nervously on his heels. When Sirius collects himself, his reaction is dramatic and blindingly fast. With only a whispered “Harry" as a warning, he launches to his feet rattling the table before making his way to Harry in three quick strides. He stares at Harry for three long seconds, seemingly drinking Harry in before pulling him roughly into a firm embrace.

A knot loosens somewhere inside Harry. One that had been screwing tighter and tighter since the moment he stepped off Hogwarts express.

Sirius has his face pressed into Harry’s hair as he grips him tightly. Harry revels in the accompanying rush of warmth. Something he is quickly discovering is that hugs are the absolute best things in the world.

He used to not understand hugs, why people did them or how they tolerated them without feeling squirmy and overexposed but now he thinks he's learning how to do hugs right. He thinks that there is an awful lot of coldness in life, especially in England and that any warmth that finds its way into his life should be cherished.

Over Sirius’ shoulder Harry sees Remus whisper something furtively to Mrs. Weasley before quickly exiting the room, presumably to do something important, although what, Harry doesn’t know. Mrs. Weasley looked serious for a second before her face cleared and she looked to Harry smiling warmly.

Sirius releases Harry slowly and reluctantly, and Harry finds this very out of character. He can see Mrs. Weasley itching to be in Sirius’ position and Harry is very confused as to why exactly the roles have been reversed.

“We’ve all been very worried about you love,” Mrs. Weasley says softly. “Dumbledore got word of your expulsion and he sent a few of us to find you but nobody could.”

Hermione, who had been uncharacteristically silent throughout the whole exchange spoke up, “We thought that maybe,” she can’t seem to manage the words instead opting to sigh in frustratration.

“We thought you might be dead.” Ginny finishes with a hard edge to her voice.

Harry feels so guilty he almost chokes on it. He didn’t mean for the to worry or fret. Arthur and Sirius had told him to stay put they hadn’t said that they were coming. If only Harry had listened maybe Hermione wouldn’t be looking at him like she’d seen a ghost.

Ron winces at the harshness of the statement, “What we mean, mate, is that we're glad that you aren’t. Aren’t dead that is.”

Ginny’s expression sours a little at this,“don’t put words in my mouth Ron, I meant what I said.”

Harry’s heart begins to race at this. This visit hasn’t gone half as bad as he thought it would, but it reinforces the enduring notion that Harry will never be good enough. As usual, immediately after all the consequences of his decisions are laid out in front of him he sees a million other better decisions he could have made, he understands what people say about hindsight being 20/20 but there isn’t any instruction manual on what to do if your foresight is none existent.

“Ron’s right Harry,” Hermione adds emphatically,” we’re all so glad you’re safe.” She seems like she wants to say more but looks around the room and thinks better of it.

Ginny’s expression sours further, “Well obviously, what kind of statement is that? I wasn’t implying that we’re not glad he's safe. Ron was being an overbearing-”

“Ginny darling, nobody was accusing you of anything, it’s getting a little bit late, I think that maybe everybody would benefit from some food, nobody can think straight on an empty stomach.”

Ginny throws her hands up in the air and flushes angrily before scowling at the window.

Sirius nods in assent “Yes Molly, that sounds like an outstanding idea, ’ He says and claps Harry heartily on the back. ” Gives us some time to catch up, tell us where your wild adventures have taken you.” Sirius’ cheer is so obviously forced Harry can practically feel the stiffness of it but he’s so pathetically grateful for it that he almost launches himself at Sirius right there and then.

Instead of launching himself at Sirius he launches into the most mundane stories he can think of. He talks about the magnificent pasta there was in Italy and tells them that “yes, the ice cream really is that good in Italy.” Ron and Hermione listen avidly although Harry suspects for different reasons. Hermione is looking at him like a puzzle that needs to be solved and Ron is looking at him like he is trying to turn Harry into pasta.

It feels too good to be true. Its easy and nice and Harry knows it can’t last.

Harry desperately doesn’t want the conversation to linger too long on him. Doesn’t want to give his friends time to dwell on the reasons they have to be frustrated with him. He was just getting used to the way constant contentment and warmth felt beneath his skin he wasn't ready for the cold to seep back in. So instead he asks Ron about his summer and Hermione about her books. Hermione is in the middle of a rather animated explanation of muggle sciences when the entire room hushes abruptly.

A rush of people flood the room, presumably order members. At the end of the stream is that stark blonde hair of Mrs. Malfoy and Draco Malfoy himself. Mrs. Malfoy carries herself with the same poise Harry has already seen her with, if not for her and the distinctive Malfoy hair Harry doesn’t think he would recognise Malfoy. His hair is buzzed short and he looks aged.

He keeps his face carefully blank and eyes downcast, but the bitterness radiates from him in the way he holds himself, in the way occasionally his down turned lips will twist whenever somebody talks a little loudly or when he almost meets Harry’s eyes.

The bitterness which is familiar, but it’s made unfamiliar by a hard edge replacing the petulance Harry is accustomed to seeing. Harry wonders what it’s like to lose somebody you love. At one time in his life, he didn’t know what it was like to love somebody enough to be afraid of losing them.

He wonders how he would feel if one of the Dursleys died. The closest he’s ever gotten to feeling that kind of loss is on the nights he refers to as black nights. Black nights are when Vernon is especially mad, and Harry gets worried that Vernon might be capable of more than bashing just Harry’s skull in. On black nights blood flows thick and hot down Harry’s face and he can imagine Petunia Dursley pale and stretched out in front of him covered in the same blood that ties them together. Those nights make Harry sick, but he doesn’t think disgust properly captures the complexity of grief. Maybe it captures the complexity of another emotion that harry isn’t quite prepared to name.

Harry’s trying to find a word to describe Draco but he’s struggling. Something about him is disturbingly familiar but Harry can’t place it

Draco hasn’t lost weight, so he doesn’t have the gauntness that Harry associates with grief from watching Mrs. Figgs mourn a husband and Petunia mourn a sister. In fact, he’s done the opposite, filled out in the same way that boys like Cedric and Blaise have that makes Harry jealous and crazy at the same time. Except Draco is all hard edges. Harry wonders what happens to someone to make them all hard edges.

 He doesn’t have time to dwell because everybody is taking their places at the table. Harry feels tendrils of nerve pain that remind him he hasn’t taken his potion recently enough. He forgot to ask Blaise to brew him some more for the trip. The rest of the summer is going to be long, he can feel it in his bones.

 

Harry wonders if this is what it feels like to face the wizengamot. If this awful sinking feeling in his gut is something he would have had to contend with if Blaise hadn’t rescued him. There are what feels like a million pair of eyes on him and Harry feels like regardless of what he says somebody is going to paint him as the villain.

At the very start of the summer, Petunia went on a rant about the very long list of people who thought there was something wrong with Harry. She had pointedly asked Harry how he thought he knew better than all these people. Harry had been feeling particularly defiant that day and had said ‘well maybe they’re all just assholes.’ She had turned to him, face unnaturally bitter ‘if everybody you know has a problem then the problem is probably you.’ At the time Harry had scoffed but the train of thought had affected Harry more than he anticipated because now when faced with all this adversity it’s all he can think of. 

Mad Eye Moody had expressed a less than stellar opinion of Harry. He said that Harry’s ‘attempt at rebellion was juvenile and frankly disgusting’ apparently constant vigilance is the only acceptable behaviour.

Nymphadora Tonks had been conflicted. You could tell because her hair changed colour every two seconds.

Harry had thought he had support in Hermione and Ron but maybe they were just scared he would run because when Sirius had lost his composure and accused Harry of abandoning them all their faces had gone stony in response to Harry’s silent plea for help.

Harry felt hollow. More than that he felt abandoned. He felt out of control in a way that made him want to claw his skin off. He needed a coping mechanism but he figured people would be less than impressed if he actually was to claw his skin off, so he just, grits his teeth and endures.

The more everybody discusses him the more his mood takes a turn for the worse and he oscillates violently between self-righteous anger and the terrifying belief that everything is his fault.

“I’m sorry. I just didn't know what was going on.”

Arthurs face twists in confusion” I thought I sent you a letter. “

I thought I was going to die is what Harry doesn’t say. “I wasn’t sure if the dementors were going to return.”

Mad eye Moddy seems distinctly less displeased then he was when Snape so kindly headed the discussion. “So, you do have some sense my boy, constant vigilance is key, there’s hope for you yet.”

Snape scoffs dramatically, ‘yes, Potter was afraid, and he ran away let's all congratulate him for his nobleness.”

The ugly ball of hate coils tightly in Harry’s gut. He suddenly doesn’t know whether he wants to claw his skin off or Snapes

He takes a deep breath. “I’m here now. What do you want?”

Remus interjects here, “For you to be safe Harry, that’s all we want,” he says the same aged sadness Dumbledore often speaks with when he’s talking about something unpleasant Harry will have to do.

Mrs. Weasley comes forwards and her smile is like a beacon of hope for Harry, “which is why you kids should go take care of yourself, get settled in. Hermione and Ron will show you to your room, Harry.

Harry wants to protest. He feels like there more that needs to be discussed, like why the letters he received were filled with words but devoid of content and what it means to be at war. He doesn’t though. Protesting never ends in his favour.

Harry just wants this night to end.

Nobody seems to have the ambition to punctuate the tension in the room, so an unpleasant quietness settles between the younger inhabitants of Grimauld place.

An ugliness courses through Harry’s veins but he bites his tongue and holds it in. He knew tonight wouldn’t be pleasant really, he should be grateful that things turned out that way. That’s what he tells himself as Ron and Hermione eye him like he’s wild animal and Ginny eyes him judgmentally. He pulls his clothes on and goes to bed without a word.

The next morning Harry wakes early. Harry has been in this house less than 24 hours and he already despises it. There’s no moment of disorientation when he wakes up, he knows exactly where he is because it’s almost as if he can feel the rotting beneath his skin.

Ron is snoring obliviously in the bed bedside Harry. He hates that he feels so separated from everybody. That his friends who have always been right beside him feel so unreachable. He doesn’t know how to close the distance between them. It’s one of the reasons he agrees to come back from Italy, he doesn’t think they’d be able to overcome physical distance as well as the as the distance manufactured by this war.

He makes his way downstairs hoping to curl up on the couch for a little bit. He feels achy in the same way he usually does when he hasn’t slept for weeks and has been busy with chores. He’s not used to people all the time. As awful as summers at the Dursleys were Harry did appreciate the solitude. At Hogwarts, a lot of people expect a lot of things from Harry whereas at the Dursleys he was mostly left to his own devices. Well, he had to do his chores but the Dursleys only bothered him once at the start of the day and once at the end.

Here people expect him to be switched on and engaged all the time. He supposes that’s what it’s like, being a part of something bigger than yourself, but there are so many rules that he doesn’t understand and doesn’t know how to navigate. He doesn’t really understand why it hasn’t mattered to anyone before if he was at school or at the park or bleeding out in the garden but suddenly going to visit a friend is monumental. He knows that there’s something understood amongst families that is beyond his comprehension, but he can’t make it make sense.

At Blaise’s, it was okay because there wasn't the expectation for Harry to know what was going on. When Mrs. Zabini expected something of him she told him. Here it’s like Harry’s expected to know everything or he’s going to hurt somebody.

 

It’s like interacting with people is a subject that everybody has been taking for years and Harry’s the newbie. He can hide the gaps in his knowledge when they're doing easy things, when it’s just what does this one person need to be happy but when things get more complicated his inadequacies are exposed.

Hermione is up to. She’s curled on the couch clutching a cup of tea. She looks distant in a way that Hermione very rarely is. Usually, Hermione likes to be present and engaged with everything she does but right she looks a million miles away.

He makes his way to the couch and she snaps to attention at the sound of his shuffling. Her face melts into a distant sort of smile and she looks scarily Luna-esque. “Hi Harry,’ she says, “Come to keep me company?’

“sure,” he agrees, that’s not really what he set out to do this morning, in fact keeping people company was kind of the opposite of what he had in mind, but Hermione is one of his favourite people in the world so keeping her company isn’t exactly a chore. He returns her smile, before curling up against her. He feels oddly exposed. They haven’t really talked to each other properly since everything with the tournament. He’s suddenly his with how much he misses her.

She must feel it too because she runs her hands through his hair in a rare display of unrestrained tactility and then proceeds to say,” I’ve missed you, Harry.” 

Harry lifts his head to face Hermione, “you too Hermione,” he hopes the warmth he feels is properly conveyed in the sentiment.

It feels like growing up being able to admit that to each other. To admit that another person is important for their well being. Being in control has been important for them both, just in different ways.

Being intelligent has had to be enough for Hermione because nothing else about her has seemed to satisfy anyone. So, she made an effort to know everything and to never be without an answer. For Hermione no knowing something meant that she needed people and she couldn’t have that. She had to be in control

 Not caring what other people think has always been important for Harry because it's unsustainable trying to adhere to the Dursleys rules. So, he made an effort to only ever be good enough for himself. For Harry wanting anything made that he needed someone. So, he had to be in control.

Together they were learning that maybe there’s value in other people. Maybe it’s okay to need help.

Where have you been Harry?” It Hermione’s uncharacteristic Luna-ness is persisting as she appears to be asking nonsensical questions.

“Hermione, I told you yesterday, I was in Italy.”

Hermione shakes her head, “I don’t mean geographically Harry, I mean that at the end of fourth year you were there but not really. You haven’t been talking to us, Harry. When I’m talking to you it's like when in the second year I woke up from being petrified, like there are gaps in my memory of you. Like I missed a whole bunch of important things in your life. Why didn't you tell us you broke up with Cedric Harry? Why did you run away? Why didn’t you tell me where you were going? Why haven’t you-, Why don’t I know anything about you?

Harry flinches violently at this and Hermione becomes visibly upset. “I’m so sorry Harry. I don’t mean to upset you I just, how did we let ourselves get so far away from each other. I was in Paris and there was this fabulous little wizarding bookshop what was originally run by Nicholas Flamel and I wanted so desperately to share it with you but when I tried to send you a letter the owl couldn’t find you and I realised I didn’t know where you were. What kind of friend doesn’t know when their friend leaves the country and then we didn’t even know if you were alive and it was all just,”

Clearly, this is something that Hermione has been very distressed about for a while, her eyes well with distressed tears. Harry can imagine what that must have been like for her, having a problem she couldn’t fix because she didn’t have enough information. “I’m sorry Hermione, it isn’t your fault,’ except Harry wonders why, she decided to share something with him in that letter but not all the ones that came previously, why this closeness between them seems to exist intermittently in inopportune times. He doesn’t say that though because doe once in his life he doesn’t think anger is going to solve anything.

Instead, he tries a different kind of honesty. “everything just got so messed up Hermione. I thought that watching Voldemort kill my mother would be the scariest thing I ever face but Hermione there’s so much that we can lose now. I didn’t even like Lucius Malfoy if I can’t cope with him dying then how am I ever going to- How is any of this ever going to be okay?’

Hermione’s expression is one of anguished helplessness, “Harry I don’t, that not really.” She takes a second to centre herself, eyes closed in anguish

After a beat, her eyes snap open and she seemingly decides on what she’s going to say. “awful things are going to happen. It’s not fair but there’s a war coming so its true. I think the only thing any of us can ever really do is our best. You haven’t failed Harry. It isn’t your job to be good at dealing with trauma it’s not, it isn’t something you do well. It’s something that you just kind of do, to the best of your ability, because you must. It’s not something you should have to do but it is. So, it’s okay if its hard Harry, people dying isn’t supposed to be easy and things might not be okay for a very long while, but I think you’ve just, we’ve just got keep going and ask for help when we need it. You can’t give up Harry. Nothing good ever comes from giving up.”

Harry thinks this is a spectacular way to start the morning. Talking about these things make him feel desperately out of control and he knows from experience that it never quite leaves you.

Hermione turns to him now looking determined. “What happened with Cedric Harry. You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to but, I think it says a lot that you felt like you couldn’t tell me about it.”

“I couldn’t talk about what happened with Cedric because it felt juvenile. It is juvenile Hermione. Somebody died a failed relationship pales in comparison.”

Hermione raises an eyebrow unimpressed. “pretending that your emotions don’t exist doesn’t make them go away, Harry. Tell me what you really feel not what you think you should feel.

Then it's like the floodgates are open, “He just stood there. He just stood there and listened to Lucius scream and scream until his lungs gave out. He stood there as Voldemort, as he,” He has to take a breath here because he can feel it, the cruciatus curse twisting through his veins, ‘as Voldemort killed me,” because that had been his intent, and that had been what it had felt, like Voldemort had been draining the life out of him inch by inch one second of agony at a time. “Then Cedric didn’t even care. He acted like it didn’t matter,” Like I didn’t matter, Harry adds silently in his head

“I think there’s another problem Harry. You have all this pain from that night that you don’t know what to do with. Really you have an awful lot of painful stop. The people that caused it to seem out of reach and so you direct it at the people you can reach. Cedric did hurt you, Harry, he did wrong by you and you’re allowed to be angry and upset, I worry sometimes that you forget that you’re allowed to be angry but he also made you so happy Harry and you can’t let the things these people did to you, take away that happiness.”

Suddenly Harry feels tears welling in his eyes as he allows something that he’s been holding slip through, ”I needed him, Hermione, I needed you too, I needed someone and he wasn’t there,” Harry takes a deep shuddering breath to steady himself. His mind flashes to the Dursleys bloodstained carpet, to being alone with Voldemort in the graveyard, in the chamber, next to the mirror of the erised, to being alone for endless nights in the cupboard. “Nobody is ever there.”

Hermione’s face crumples dramatically as if she’s been physically struck. She is suddenly everywhere as she engulfs him in a rib breaking hug. He can feel her sobs and his own vibrating through his whole body. The position isn’t the most comfortable. Harry thinks attempting a hug sitting down is ill-advised, but he can cope with the weird angle of his legs because this closeness is what Harry has missed the most.

“We’re your family Harry. We haven’t been a very good one. The only thing I can say in defence is that everything is so much bigger than all of us. We’re all so out of our depth. I have no idea how to comfort a torture victim Harry. Sometimes it feels like no matter what I do all I do is make it worse. I want to be there for you, we all do but none of us really know how.

“You deserve so much better. We love you so much Harry, and if you asked we would all do our best to give you exactly what you need. Unfortunately, there aren’t any spells to heal the kind of hurt you feel or even to tell us what would help.”

“Most of the time I just want you to be there.”

Hermione looks wounded again.” Harry, you’ve got to tell us these things. We want to be there for you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to just sit there with you, but I never know if my presence is helpful or suffocating.

Sometimes Harry doesn’t know either. Sometimes all he wants is to be there with somebody but when people get close it makes him want to crawl out his skin. He doesn’t know what to do with this duality beneath his skin, but he hopes that he might be able to manage despite it.

He turns to Hermione and smiles softly, “So how was Paris?”

 

Chapter Text

Hermione tells him that Paris was fantastic. That it always is. Harry is content to lean against her and just listen. He feels a foreign sense of contentment begin to settle beneath his skin and finds himself tentatively looking forward to Hogwarts. It’s an odd thought, considering how bleak he’s been feeling about everything.

“I’m serious Harry, you really would have loved that book shop,’ Hermione says before diving into an animated description of it. Harry is too busy trying to Dodge Hermione’s wild hair to register anything beyond ‘it’s really charming’ and ‘the guy that helped me was so nice.” Harry thinks that if Hermione is telling him about the staff and not the books that guy must have been extremely nice.

He imagines what it would be like having this conversation in the Gryffindor common room, how Lavender and Parvati would badger Hermione for details about the book shop guy and Ron would wrinkle his nose. He’s excited for all his friends to be in the one place again. He feels so emotionally wrung out that he physically aches but there’s tentative feeling of hope bubbling in his stomach.

Unfortunately, Malfoy comes down and effectively breaks the peaceful spell that he had settled into. He seems off balance, walking with a kind of un-even purpose. Like he starts walking, forgets where he’s going, then remembers and speeds up because he’s frustrated at himself for forgetting where he was going.

When he sees Harry and Hermione on the couch he strops abruptly, face twisting into an ugly sneer. “How cosy, tell me Potter, how desperate does one need to be to go from a badger to a mudblood.” He remarks.

Despite the unpleasant wording Harry instantly knows who Malfoy is referring to. The reminder of Cedric makes Harry’s brain stick for a couple of seconds. After spending so much time avoiding the thought of him it was like last night opened the floodgates.

Once he manages to push away thoughts of shaggy hair and warm smiles Harry finds the presence of mind to concentrate on Malfoy. He looks hollowed out, dishevelled hair, purple ringed eyes. Harry’s reminded of the way he felt 2 weeks in to his stay at the Dursleys. How the horrors of the Triwizard tournament had been heavy on his mind. How it felt like he was wasting away in Dudley’s second bedroom. Malfoy looks like somebody who has spent far too long alone with his own misery.

Malfoy reminds Harry of an over blown balloon. Taunt and stiff, stretched too far, like all Harry would need to do was exhale and Malfoy might burst. Harry’s always been a glutton for chaos and thinks two years ago he would’ve done a lot more that exhale. Instead, he leans his head back on Hermione’s shoulder and closes his eyes.

 “Do you take pride in your ability to diminish people. Does it honestly bring you joy? Or has your family brainwashed you so much that you think you think people are so small you can sum them up in a single hateful word.” Harry’s eyes fly open, of the two of them Hermione’s usually the level headed one, clearly the worlds turned upside down.

Despite Harry’s prediction Malfoy doesn’t burst, if anything he seems to tense more.

“Don’t you talk about my family.” Malfoy snaps. Harry winces at that, it’s probably too early in the morning for Hermione to be trying to change Malfoy’s entire world view, especially considering it’s probably a bit of a raw nerve right now.

“Yes, because your family is so-’

Malfoy balls up his fists and leaves the room, evidently finished with his conversation.

Harry spends a little while watching his retreating figure. He has a bizarre urge to chase after him and put his hand on his shoulder. It takes a while for him to drag his gaze back to Hermione.

He could comment, but he doesn’t. When Hermione gets like this, intense, scary, it means that what she’s talking about is important. He doesn’t really know what to do about it. Maybe this is what Hermione meant, about the wanting to help but not knowing how.

 

Next down the stairs is Ron and for a second Harry is worried that he’s going to be difficult about Hermione and Harry.

 He knows it’s hard for Ron sometimes, that going through life with so little whilst everybody had so much made him possessive. He tries not to begrudge Ron too much when he lets insecurity get the best of him, Harry has been prone to do that too, but he just wishes that things could be easier.

 He wishes that everyone hadn’t been hurt so much, that there weren’t so many raw nerves. That it was enough to just love each other and know that other people loved us without letting all these hurt feelings get in the way.

Maybe it’s not as bad as all that, Ron just smiles when he sees them and comes to sit down with Harry. “You look like you’re feeling better mate,” he says laying a hand on Harry’s foot.

There’s still a lot between them that they need to talk about, but Harry thinks just for this morning they can enjoy each other’s company without touching the cavern between them.

“Yeah Ron, I’m feeling okay. How are you?”

Ron smiles again, “Glad to see you. It’s been really weird not having you around.” Ron curls into the space next to Harry so Harry is squished between him and Hermione. “We wanted to write to you but Dumbledore,” Hermione must give Ron a look because his eyes go wide, and he abruptly stops talking. Harry’s grateful that they’re not pursuing this subject. They will need to. It will be painful. Right now, he’s just glad to be with them. Plus, he finds Ron’s face kind of comical so instead of being angry he laughs, bright and clear.

They all grin.

“So, what’s it been like sharing a house with Malfoy?” Harry asks, he doesn’t really know what response he expects. Something about Malfoy now seems, unpredictable.

Ron snort “Which one, because honestly Malfoy isn’t half as bad as his mother.”

Harry kind of forgot that Narcissa was here too. The last time he saw he was, in an interesting frame of mind, he was telling her husband died so he doesn’t know much about her or what to expect from her.

“How so?” Harry asks.

Ron shrugs, “the women’s madder than mum. She’s all ‘you need to fix the house up, you need to get your priorities straight’ except she talks like she’s not human. She rips into Sirius like there’s no tomorrow, honestly I think everyone in this house is scared of her.”

Hermione snorts. “Narcissa isn’t that bad its Sirius that’s always provoking her. I don’t think this house has been very good for Sirius. This house isn’t a very good place for anyone really. I think everything feels very, stagnant and nobody is sure how to help it. It doesn’t help that the ministry is refusing to believe that there’s a threat and Voldemort hasn’t done anything and well, we’ve done an awful lot of nothing this summer.”

Harry can relate to the frustration of nothing getting done. He kind of really wants to meet Narcissa now. He wonders what she’s like, if a woman who married Lucius and produced Malfoy could be anything but unbearable. She’d seemed, fierce when he met her, which doesn’t really fit with the picture that’s been created in his head from meeting her family and knowing her history.

Hermione grins a little, “I think Molly really likes Narcissa, but she’s conflicted because, obvious reasons, I think the feeling is mutual. It’s made for some rather, unique interactions.”

Ron grumbles a little at this, something along the lines of ‘why would anybody like her,” but harry has learnt not to put much stock in Ron’s knee jerk reactions, he very rarely hates people for sustained periods of time. Take Hermione for instance. Although Malfoy was a bit of an exception, but he might be an exception more than a rule. He just makes it really easy to dislike him.

 

The day slips by in a sleep addled haze. The collective warmth that Ron and Hermione generate either side of harry have a soporific effect and harry drifts in and out in a pleasant doze. When Harry is at the Dursleys this is what he misses more than anything. There isn’t anywhere in the world where harry feels as safe and warm as he doesn’t amongst his friends.

Sometimes Parvati complains about needing to share a bed with her sister when she travels. Harry feels sad that he doesn’t get that closeness. He can imagine that the novelty of closeness might wear off, Ron would probably snore, and Hermione seems like the restless type, but at the moment it’s new and exciting and Harry never wants to give it up.

 

 

Harry is vaguely aware of Hermione pulling a book out, a soft thrum in the air tell Harry she’s using a levitating charm to hover the book in front of her face. Harry thinks she’s doing this, so she doesn’t disturb him, he feels touched but he also feels too heavy to do anything other than grin faintly.

At some point Ron leaves to get food. Harry only knows because of the sudden absence of heat but he can fill in the food thing for himself. Ron’s predictable. Harry likes that.

Harry wakes up later than he ever has before. He tries to fight the instinct to get up. He’s so tired, but there’s so much noise in the house it’s too much for him. Harry never feels safe when he can hear other people in other rooms. Not only is the noise just irritating he feels like he’s missing out on something important. He tries to convince himself it doesn’t matter that Mrs Weasley is up and yelling about something, that he doesn’t need to address the fact that Sirius and Narcissa are going at each other in the room next door

Harry tries very hard to sit still but when he hears something break in the next room the harsh clattering sound has him snapping awake. He winces so violently that Hermione’s book falls out of the air and somehow her hair ends up in his face.

After Harry manages to untangle himself Hermione and they spend a few minutes just blinking at each other as the volume of adults yelling builds and keeps building.

Harry just woke up and he already has a head ache.

After spending a bit more time paralysed by inaction, Hermione eventually unfolds herself from the couch and Harry follows her into the kitchen. There Mrs Weasley is moving so fast she could be a niffler. She’s oscillating between casting various cleaning spells and yelling at Fred and George, the apparent culprits of the teacup smashing.

Harry doesn’t like yelling. You probably wouldn’t know, considering how much he does it, but when lots of people yell it makes him feel jittery and on edge. Really any kind of raised voice grates on his nerves. It’s like the sound is a tangible force that’s locking him in and the louder it is the harder it pushes against him.

There are a lot of people in the kitchen and a lot of them are yelling. It makes Harry want to spin on his heal and run the other way.

He wonders if hiding behind Hermione is more or less cowardly.

Over Hermione’s shoulder, He notices that there are a few order members hanging around the table and figures it must be around lunch time. He scans over the bubbly gum pink hair of Nymphodora Tonks and the weary face of Professor, deliberately skips over the disdainful glower of Professor Snape, before his eyes rest of the unusual image of Sirius and Narcissa Malfoy locked into a somewhat stilted conversation.

He makes his way over to where they’re chatting, wincing as Mrs Weasley’s yelling increases in volume.

As he gets closer to the end of the of the table, he notices that Tracey is also participating in the conversation, looking a lot less put out than the rest of them. Much to his amusement, Malfoy is seated next to Narcissa, looking like a scolded puppy.

He takes an open spot next to Sirius, trying to be inconspicuous but going by Malfoy’s glare, failing miserably. Sirius breaks his conversation with Narcissa to turn to Harry, “I would say good morning, but I think it’s a little late for that.”

Harry wrinkles his nose at this. He doesn’t like waking up late, especially not when there are other people in the house, it makes him feel overexposed.

Tracey laughs, “You should annoy Harry more Sirius, he’s cute when he’s annoyed.”
Harry ducks his head at this, face heating. “am not.”

“Eloqeunt as ever, potter.” Malfoy sneers.

Petulantly, Harry sneers right back at him.

Malfoy looks as if he’s going to say something else but Narcissa arch’s her eyebrow pointedly and he settles for narrowing his eyes disdainfully.

“Ugh, I take it back Sirius that sneer was ghastly under no circumstances should encourage it.”
Harry would appreciate it if Tracey could refrain from embarrassing in front of- well really embarrassing ever.

Narcissa runs her eyes over Harry with an inscrutable impression. “I would like to thank you, Mr Potter, for what you did for my family. We have done little to curry your favour, and yet you still took it upon yourself to protect us. For that, we are in your debt.”

Narcissa speaks with and odd stiffness to her voice, like she’s saying something she doesn’t want to but also as if she would never say anything she didn’t want to. Malfoy’s expression has gone stony, as if he’s swallowed something very sour but is too polite to let in show on his face.

Harry ducks his head awkwardly. He thinks he should say something but ‘you’re welcome’ seems a bit insensitive. He looks to Sirius for answers, but he seems equally as uncomfortable as Harry.

Suddenly, Harry’s struck with the memory of green light against Lucius’ skin, and Narcissa Malfoy’s blurry face. “I-I I’m sorry I couldn’t have done more.” Harry clenches his fist against as a sharp ache blooms in his chest. “Thank you, for returning me to the castle, that was, you could’ve, other people might not have been so decent.”

Narcissa raises an eyebrow at this and Harry desperately tamps down the urge to flee.

She turns to Sirius and says, “He isn’t at all what I was expecting,” before excusing herself and leaving with no elaboration.

Malfoy trails after her like a lost puppy.

The end of the Summer passes in a blur

Mrs Weasley fills their days with false cheer and menial tasks. Harry fills his nights catching up on as much as possible, even if some of it hurts to hear.

Apparently, the prophet has been less than kind to harry. Hermione informs him that they’ve been likening him to a lunatic and a pathological liar.

Ron Hermione and he spent a night laying on a carpet of daily prophet’s combing through articles before chucking them into the fire. It was strangely cathartic but it erase what had been written.

He had dreams of second year. Of being 12 years old and wandering the halls of Hogwarts. The halls hadn’t been filled with people, but there had been loud chattering echoes through through-out the castle. Accusations of being the Slytherin’s heir materialized on his skin before sinking beneath it. He saw a murderous version of himself wandering around in people’s heads.

There was a constant sense of foreboding resting beneath his skin, some mornings it felt so intense he thought he might choke on it. It was only the company of his friends and Tracey’s visits that kept him going.

However, Mrs Weasley’s chores become arduous and as her fervor increases, Tracey’s visits dwindle. Harry doesn’t blame her, Mrs Weasley has been driving Harry a little mad. Although when he realizes school is only in two days and he hasn’t seen her for a week, he realizes that he misses her desperately. The unhelpful part of his brain whispers that he misses her updates of Blaise, more than that he misses Blaise himself.

He goes to write him a hundred times, but it always feels weird. He’s halted by thoughts of ‘I’m going to see him soon,” ‘we haven’t been apart more than a week.” It’s like an itch that he’s not supposed to scratch but wants to desperately. Harry thinks the level of dependency he’s developed is a bit a sickening.

 

His days are often punctuated with stilted interactions with Malfoy. It’s odd because they’ll see each other in the hallway, on the stairs, at dinner and there would be a pause where there would once be insults. Neither of them really knows what to with each other. Sometimes, Harry sees his stupid blonde hair and almost insults him on impulse, but then he’ll start walking his new odd walk, or he’ll be scolded by his mother, or he’ll look at Harry will forget what he was going to say.

He doesn’t know what to do with this demure version of Malfoy. It’s like seeing someone with a haircut, a new outfit and a tan, he’s still obviously Malfoy but his brain keeps sticking on the differences.

 It doesn’t matter much, soon they’ll be at Hogwarts and they’ll be sitting at their house tables on opposite sides of the great hall.

 

The day before school starts he receives a message from Blaise, just checking in, he holds it to his chest for an embarrassingly long time.