“Mr Potter, how does it feel to be one of the youngest players pulled from reserve?”
The flash of light reflected off Harry’s glasses, directly into his eyes, and he fought back a groan. He’d been given all of six minutes to process his coach’s announcement that he would be starting goalkeep for the season. He’d spent one full season on Arsenal’s reserves, and just nine days before their first game against Liverpool, Harry was given the announcement.
Then, to his extreme displeasure, pulled into a press-conference. One he assured was not live. Reporters and cameras and lights were in his face now as he was sat behind the large table with his coach on one side, and the star Centre-Forward, Cedric Diggory, on the other.
It would have been alright had it been any other player than Diggory, but for his entire season on the reserves, Harry had a distinct feeling Diggory couldn’t stand him. Might’ve had something to do with the fact that any time Harry tried to engage Diggory in any sort of conversation, he was either given a withering glare, or—as was more common—Diggory would turn on his heel and walk away.
Harry was sure Diggory had tried to prevent this, or even have him thrown from the team. But now here he was, a contracted, paid professional player.
“Er. Well it feels bloody good,” he said, and that tittered a laugh from the crowd. He pushed his glasses up with his index finger. “I’ve been itching to get out there on the pitch, and I’ve worked pretty hard during the off-season, so I think we’ve got a real, fighting chance.”
“Rita Skeeter,” a blonde woman in the front who looked suspiciously familiar to Harry, “Daily Prophet.”
He grimaced, knowing that gossip rag always printed nothing but trouble.
“Looking back on your career with King’s, playing goalkeep for the Gryffindors, there were many games you didn’t let a single ball through. Can we expect the same of you now? Or do you feel like the pressure of professional football will put a damper on your abilities?”
Harry felt his cheeks go hot, but luckily his coach picked up on that one. “Were we not completely sure of Potter’s abilities, he would not have been pulled. It was a real stinging loss, McClaggen leaving, but we’ve always known we had a good man in Potter, here.”
“Do you think there will be any rivalries?” Skeeter continued. “You are, after all, the son of a legend. Does it make you feel any level of resentment, Mr Diggory, that you’re sat next to the son of James Potter, the centre-forward whose record you cannot seem to beat.”
Harry couldn’t help glancing over at Cedric who was staring at her with an impassive expression. “Potter and I are on the same team. Why would there be rivalries?”
“Well, you have been the media’s darling in the past,” she tittered with a laugh. “Though not recently since Miss Chang…”
“We’ve agreed we will not be discussing that today,” the coach interrupted.
“Of course,” Skeeter said with a saccharine smile. “Mr Potter, as everyone is well aware, you are the son of James Potter. The man who single-handedly—if one is being honest—led England to win the Cup in ’81. Of course, months later he was tragically attacked and left blind, ending his career. Do you feel any resentment from your father about your abilities?”
“Er…” Harry said, feeling his rage becoming palpable.
“Being that you’re able to continue on in your career whilst his ended so tragically young.”
Before Harry could open his mouth, the back door to the room opened and a familiar sight gave Harry pause. Incredibly tall, wrapped in a warm, brown jumper, a head full of messy, tawny curls, and a smile which made Harry feel like several stone had been lifted off his chest. One of his godfathers, Remus Lupin.
He felt his face soften into a smile, and he leant forward. “If you really were aware of my career with King’s,” Harry said pleasantly, “then you’d be aware my father attended every single one of my matches, and was often found stood on top of his seat screaming his bloody lungs out. I have a fantastic relationship with both my parents, and though he doesn’t know yet—and I do hope to get there and tell him before this goes live—he’ll be thrilled for me.”
“Will he be paying attention to the conference tonight?” someone from the back shouted.
Harry laughed. “Football is James Potter’s religion. So yes, he will be watching.”
The questions continued on for a few moments, but eventually the coach called an end to it, and Harry was released. Ignoring both coach and Diggory, Harry pushed through the crowd and threw his arms round Remus’ shoulders.
“Well, look at you!” Remus said, ruffling Harry’s hair. “I got your text. Sirius is at your dads, letting Teddy play with the girls.”
Harry was beaming. “Have you got your car? You need to ring up Sirius, tell him not to let dad anywhere near the telly. I want to be the one to tell him before he finds out from this lot.”
Remus was nodding, texting all the while Harry was blabbering. “It’s taken care of, I promise. Even got Ted on emergency attention duty.”
Harry breathed, then sagged against the wall. “I’m overwhelmed, Moony. An entire season, and they’ve pulled me from reserves nine days before the first match. It’s…I’m…” Harry gulped. “Fuck.”
Remus gripped his shoulder tight. “Breathe, Harij," he said, using Harry's proper name. "It’s going to be alright, you know. You deserve it.”
Harry felt his cheeks stretch into a grin again. “Yeah?”
Remus nodded solemnly. “Yeah.”
“Oh my god no, mum,” Harry groaned, pushing away the second plate with cake on it. “I literally have to be able to run tomorrow. Like a lot.”
Lily rolled her eyes, but grabbed the plate and shoved it across the table to Sirius who was eyeing it eagerly. “Go on, you sodding dog.”
Sirius picked up his fork and took a dainty bite. “Honestly, it’ll wear off by morning. Your dad used to stuff himself with all sorts of carbs right before a game.”
James pulled a face, crossing his arms. “Don’t give him tips, Sirius. Christ.”
“I’ve good tips,” Sirius defended.
Remus leant over and gave Sirius’ arm a pat. “No, love. You don’t. You think whiskey cures coughs.”
“Show me the proof it doesn’t, and I’ll concede,” Sirius said.
James snorted. “Well point of it is, we’re all extremely proud and cannot wait to be there. Honestly they should have pulled you halfway through last season. That McClaggen was a sodding disgrace. And your coach wants to believe it was…”
“James,” Lily said, touching his arm.
James stopped, giving a small pout. “I’m only saying…”
“I know, dad,” Harry said, grinning across the table. “But he’s an idiot, we all know that. Honestly I think there were a few players preventing me from getting pulled. That Diggory seems far less than pleased I’m starting.”
“Oh I don’t know,” James said, leaning back in his chair with his arms crossed. “I’ve been following all his stats. He’s really good, seems very level-headed. It wouldn’t make sense to keep someone like you off the team.”
“It’s just…he’s less than friendly.”
With a scoff, James shook his head. “Honestly, I didn’t get on with half my teammates, but they recognised and appreciated the talent. God knows you’ve got plenty of that. Just…keep your chin up, yeah? You’re contracted now.” His hand reached out, moving til it found Harry’s shoulder, and he gave it a squeeze.
Harry smiled. “Thanks, dad.” He sat there another moment, before pushing away. “I ought to head home, though. Coach wants us there for a dawn run, and I think I’m going to be working the goal all day.”
James was up with Harry, placing a hand on his shoulder as he followed his son to the door. “Don’t let him over-work you. Game’s on Saturday, and you need enough rest.”
“I know,” Harry said with a small grin. He’d been getting this lecture since he made the team at his old school. James Potter had never given up his love of the game, even after a crazed fan attacked him one night after he and some of the lads from West Ham—the team he was centre-forward for—had been out celebrating. It had been six weeks since he’d led England to a World Cup victory, and he felt like he’d had it all. A loving wife, a son, a career where the possibilities seemed endless.
The attacker likely hadn’t intended James to survive the attack. It had been a hard blow to the very back of his head, leaving him in a coma for six weeks. He’d come out with severe cortical damage—and the doctors had given him only a slim chance of his sight returning.
He’d gone through all his therapy, but by the end of a year, he had a sea of fuzzy grey with vague shapes. He had to learn how to function in this new life—and he had been bitter about it. But his wife reminded him that he could have died and left his son without a father, and her without a husband, and eventually he got past it.
He’d reached the age now where he’d been blind longer than he’d been sighted, and it was just a way of life. When Harry showed an unnatural ability to catch a football, and to protect the goal, James had been against it. They never caught the man responsible for his attack, and he was afraid Harry drawing attention to himself with the sport would bring the attacker back out.
James had settled into a comfortable life working as a sport physical therapist. His celebrity status followed him round, so his practise was constantly booked up with high profile clients, but mostly he led a normal life. Raised Harry and Harry’s younger sister Ashima. They lived next door for years to Sirius and Remus who recently got married—as it had become legal.
Harry had grown up with a massive, loving family. And when the attacker did come public once again—and as James had feared it was inevitable, the situation was sorted by the time Harry was seventeen. Tom Riddle lay dead, and Harry was no longer at risk.
Now at age twenty-four, Harry had just finished University, and was officially a professional football player. Arsenal hadn’t been his first choice, but now that he was actually getting a chance to play, he was feeling good about his decision.
“I’m going to email the passes to you,” Harry said as he pulled the keys to his car from his pocket. “They’ll scan them and give you badges. Will mum be coming?”
James’ brow furrowed in thought. “Er, no, I don’t think so. I think she’s got Ash’s girls.”
Harry’s sister had two kids, and ran a small café in Hampstead. She was unmarried, and quite happy that way, but her hours were long. When the oldest was born, Lily decided to give up her job as a teacher to become fulltime caregiver to Ashima’s girls.
“I take care of children all day,” Lily said when she’d made the announcement. “I might as well be taking care of children I properly like.”
No one was surprised, and as usual, no one could argue with Lily Potter once she set her mind to something.
“Alright,” Harry said. “Well I know Teddy will want to be there. But isn’t Moony off on some book signing?”
“I think so,” James said, scratching the back of his head. “Might as well make the tickets for me, Sirius, and Teddy. If Ash rings tomorrow, I’ll ask her if she can get the time off, but you know how she is.”
Harry snorted. “Yes, of course. So long as she promises to put the match on the telly at her place, I’ll forgive her.”
James’ hand tightened reflexively on Harry’s shoulder, then he yanked his son in for a hug. “I really am proud of you, beta. More than I can say in words.” He gave Harry’s cheek a fond pat.
“Thanks pitah.” Harry stepped back, then opened the door. “Talk tomorrow, yeah?”
Then he was off, back to his own flat and to the crushing anxiety that although he was a capable player, he might completely and totally fuck it all up.
“Jesus buggering, fucking, shitting Christ,” Harry swore, kicking the goalpost. He’d just missed for the sixth time that morning, and the match was starting in less than two hours.
Cedric had been ordered to work with him, to warm him up, but apparently Harry’s mind and body decided today was the day he’d miss all the sodding shots. All of them.
“That’s some impressive blasphemy, Potter.”
Harry looked up to see Diggory had jogged over, and was now staring at him. Harry let out a small sigh. “Not for me. Grew up Hindu, mate.”
Diggory gave him a long once-over, then shrugged. “Well it’s impressive swearing, at any rate. What’s the problem?”
“As in why am I ready to set myself on fire to put me out of my misery or…?”
“Something like that,” Diggory said, a very small smirk playing at the corners of his mouth.
“Well, just my fucking luck that my first-ever professional match I’m going to fuck it up completely and lose us the game.”
Diggory’s smirk widened. “You do realise you’re not solely responsible for who wins or loses. I mean, save every bloody shot, we still need at least one or two goals to call it a win.”
Harry blinked, realising that Cedric was trying to give him a pep talk. Cedric Diggory. Who hated him. “Er. Right.”
“Your first game’s bound to be nerve wracking. It’s not like University, even the televised ones. You’ve got people who’ve made footie into their fucking religion and feel like their very lives depend on this win.”
“Not helping,” Harry said.
Diggory laughed. “I know. I’m just saying the first game is always shit. Look…” He trailed off, holding his hand cupped slightly just above his brows to shield himself from the sun. He glanced round the pitch, then shouted, “Oy! Wood! Come here!”
Harry stood a little confused as one of their defensive midfielders ran across the pitch. Harry had spoken a few times to Oliver Wood. He was definitely the football is my religion sort, and he’d been on the team for the last five years, along with Diggory. He was a Scottish bloke, short cropped red hair and a wide grin.
He came to a stop near Diggory and looked a bit bemused. “Problem?”
“Potter’s got a bit of nerves getting to him,” Diggory explained. He turned back to Harry. “Wood and I started the same season, and our first game was a right mess.”
Oliver snorted. “That’s putting it mildly.”
Harry looked between them both. “How?”
“Well,” Diggory said slowly, “it was about two minutes in, and we were all really psyched. Arsenal had a really good chance right from the off. We were playing Norwich, and three of their players had gone down with some stomach flu or something, so they were pulling from the reserves. They started with the ball, but I made an immediate interception, and I look over to see Wood wide open.”
Oliver nodded. “I was, and had a great shot. So Diggory gives me the signal, and goes to pass…”
“But I was a little overly enthusiastic with my kick,” Diggory said, his cheeks going a little flush.
“And?” Harry pressed during the moment of silence.
Oliver cleared his throat. “And he kicked a bit…hard. The ball went high and long. Got me right here,” Oliver pressed two fingers into his temple. “Was out before I hit the ground. Unconscious for seven minutes, and in hospital for three days.”
Harry let out a surprised cough. “Honestly?”
Diggory looked properly ashamed then. “I was benched the rest of the game, and eventually Wood forgave me.”
“After a lot of grovelling,” Wood said.
“And the game?” Harry asked.
“Lost it. By…well…a lot,” Diggory said, his voice dropping. “Not that I’m saying your fuck up is going to lead to us losing, or that you’ll end up in hospital. Just saying that well…shit happens.”
Harry snorted a laugh, running his gloved hand through his hair. “Shit happens. Yeah, I mean. I guess.”
“Honestly, it’s going to be fine. Liverpool’s a bit soft this year anyway,” Oliver said. “And once you get out there, the adrenaline hits and you’ll forget you were nervous.”
A whistle blew, and Oliver hurried off, leaving Diggory stood there with Harry. “Well,” Harry said after a second, “thanks. I know we haven’t got friendly but that helped.”
Diggory frowned. “Friendly?”
“You know. I mean er…”
Reaching over, Diggory clapped him on the shoulder. “Look, I got the invite to the party at yours…”
Harry froze. “What party at mine?”
Cedric’s frown deepened. “It was sent to the whole team. Yours out in Godric’s Hollow…?”
“Oh Christ,” Harry blurted. “No that’s my dad. Fucking nutter. He’s…god this is so bloody embarrassing. He wants to have the team and whoever else over. He does this. He’s so…”
“I’ve been invited to a party at your dad’s?” Diggory said in a rather strained voice.
Harry’s face went back up to volcano-levels of heat. “Honestly you lads should all say no. I mean, who does that, you know? Whose sodding father sets up a post-game party for…”
“Well no I mean,” Diggory said in a hurry. “It could be good.”
Harry gave him a curious look. “Er. Well. Alright.”
“So I’ll see you there? And don’t worry, everything’s going to be fine.”
As it turned out, everything was fine. Brilliant, in fact, just as Harry was on the pitch. Diggory and Oliver had been right about the nerves. They were eclipsed by the feeling of adrenaline after seeing the fans, seeing the cameras, and right in the front Sirius and his dad in their prime seats with Teddy clutching an Arsenal banner between his hands.
Every now and again, Harry would glance over and see Sirius’ mouth moving frantically as he gave James the full blow-by-blow of every move. Sirius had done so since James’ accident. He’d become the unofficial commentator for the Potter household. It eventually transitioned into a job, working as a sport reporter since he was at so many of the games, but once Remus’ books took off and they had Teddy, Sirius fell back into his place at James’ side.
Near the end, when Harry saved the final goal, Sirius, James, and Teddy both stood up, screaming until their faces were red. The game was called, and Arsenal pulled out a significant win.
Harry was enveloped into a massive hug with his team as they celebrated, and he’d never felt better in his life. Ever.
An hour later found him stood in the locker room changing out of his kit. The lads were overly excited, most of them shouting about how they’d see Harry at his dad’s, and a lot of them excited to meet the famed James Potter. Harry, usually a bit on the defensive side when it came to his dad, was now just happy to be able to show off.
Just as Harry shrugged on his t-shirt, he turned to see Cedric stood in the doorway. “Alright, Harry?”
Harry couldn’t help his grin. “Yeah. Brilliant game, wasn’t it?”
Cedric let out a small laugh. “Feel better?”
“I feel high as fuck, mate,” Harry admitted. “When does this wear off?”
“Tomorrow,” Cedric said with a nod. “You’ll be aching from head to toe and wanting to die a little bit. But it’s worth it. And gets better.”
Harry was still grinning. “Still gonna see you there?”
“Absolutely.” Cedric then frowned and turned, looking mildly startled. Harry peered over and to his great surprise, his wide-eyed, black-haired godson wandered in.
“Teddy! What the…where’s your dad?”
Teddy blinked owlishly at Harry, then looked up at Cedric and his mouth dropped. “Cedric Diggory,” he breathed.
Harry flushed. “Come here, please. Christ almighty, child. I bet your dad’s sodding frantic looking for you.”
“He’s in the toilet,” Teddy said with a shrug. He wandered over to Harry without taking his eyes off Cedric.
“Was Uncle James minding you? You know you can’t wander off, he can’t see you, Teddy.” Harry scrubbed a hand down his face, then fumbled for his mobile to text Sirius.
“No. Uncle James is still near the pitch waiting for dad. I had to wee.”
Harry tapped out a text saying he had Teddy, and would meet them at the exit doors to the pitch. “Sorry,” Harry said to Cedric. “My godson.”
“Ah. Yeah I noticed him up front with your dad and erm…?”
“Godfather,” Harry said absently. He got an immediate text back from Sirius, most of it a jumble of curse words. With a sigh, he shoved his mobile into his pocket. “He er…does this. Wanders off.”
“You hold the record for the most goals scored in the second half of a match,” Teddy piped up, and Cedric looked at him sharply. “Sixteen in nine minutes. Previously held by Viktor Krum of the Bulgarian team who held it at thirteen.”
Cedric stared another moment, then threw his head back and laughed. “Holy shit, Potter. This kid is amazing. What’s your name?”
“Teddy,” the boy said mildly. “Also you shouldn’t say shit. It’s a bad word.”
Cedric snorted. “Right. Sorry. Well, are you going to be at the party tonight?”
Teddy nodded. “It’s at Uncle James’ and he said I can talk football for a little while.”
“He’s,” Harry said, feeling flustered, “he’s got a thing for it.”
“I’m autistic,” Teddy piped up. “And I’m really great at remembering football stats.”
Cedric blinked. “Well then I’d love to chat football with you later. Will you make time for me?”
Teddy nodded solemnly as he moved toward the door, Harry close behind him. “Yeah, I think I can.”
Cedric snorted again, leaning into Harry. “He really is bloody awesome. He’s your godson?”
Harry nodded and the three of them started down the corridor. “Autistic kids can get a bit fixated. I blame the football on my dad, but honestly he’s like a bloody encyclopaedia. It’s pretty amazing actually. Though,” Harry dropped his voice, “you don’t have to humour him. It’s alright.”
Cedric shook his head. “I’m not. I’d love to chat later.”
Harry felt a funny bit of warmth blooming in his chest, and wondered just how badly he’d misjudged Cedric Diggory. He didn’t have time to think on it much, though, as he spotted a frazzled looking Sirius just at the exit doors.
Cedric noticed, and turned the corner to leave the opposite way. “See you in a bit, yeah?”
Harry nodded. “See you.”
Before he turned back, Sirius was on Teddy, holding him by the shoulders carefully. “You scared the spit out of me, Ted.”
Teddy shrugged. “Just wanted to see Harry. He let me meet Cedric Diggory. He thinks I’m impressive.”
Sirius looked like he was barely keeping control as he breathed out of his nose. “Well…well you are that. But you’re also a pain in my arse.” He ruffled the boy’s hair a bit. “Hold my hand until we get to the car, please.”
Teddy looked mildly uncomfortable by it, but did as his father asked. “I swear to god I almost had a sodding heart attack right there at the fucking toilet. I turned round for a second and he was gone.”
“Luckily he knows this place well enough,” Harry said. He noticed just how red Sirius was, and he put his hand on his godfather’s shoulder. “Breathe, Sirius. He’s alright.”
Sirius nodded, gulping in air. “I know. I just…one of these days he won’t know the area and…”
“Let’s not, okay? Let’s not one of these days. I had a bloody brilliant game and he’s alright.”
Sirius breathed again, then nodded once more. “You’re right. And let’s not tell daddy about this one, hmm? He’s got enough to worry about being in bloody New York.”
Harry pushed the exit doors open and they headed for the pitch where James was still sat, waiting for them. “When’s Moony back?”
“Tomorrow,” Teddy piped up. “He’s bringing me some stuff from the American football team.”
“Brilliant,” Harry said with a smile. “You know Uncle James played them.”
“And won,” Teddy said. “By twenty-seven points.”
Harry laughed as they got to James who rose and reached a hand out. Harry took it, letting his dad grip his upper arm as he flicked out his white cane. “Alright, you lot?” James asked.
“Just a bit of a scare,” Harry said as they started toward the car park. “Teddy wandered off.”
James pulled a mean face. “Teddy, what have we talked about?”
“I wanted to see Harry,” Teddy said, gripping Sirius’ hand tighter. James was one of the few people who could really keep Teddy in line, and the boy wasn’t overly enthused about it.
“Well we promised he would be at the house along with the other players. Let’s work on patience, yeah?”
Teddy stared at the ground. “Fine,” he said, petulant and annoyed.
Harry snorted as Sirius walked ahead of them, talking quietly to his son. “Scared the shit out of Sirius,” Harry said once his godfather was out of range.
James sighed, stepping up over the kerb when his cane made contact with it. “I know. It’s always terrifying when you’ve got kids. Was worse with you and your sister until I started tying bells on your shoes.”
Harry grinned. “Neighbourhood kids thought we were barmy.”
“Yes well, it kept me from losing you. Especially you,” James said, giving Harry a nudge. “But I know it’s worse with Teddy and his constant wandering. I keep telling Sirius that it doesn’t matter if I can’t see it, I know his hair’s going grey.”
“At the temples,” Harry said with a grin.
James smirked. “I knew it. Anyway, he’s alright. That’s what matters.” James stopped a bit, and tugged Harry back. “And you. Good bloody game, beta. My heart was in my throat the entire time.”
Harry flushed with pleasure. “Yeah I er…I thought I was going to be overwhelmed with nerves. Then it all just sort of kicked over and I forgot it was anything more than a match at school, you know?” He hesitated as they started walking again. “Also that Diggory, he’s…well he was being helpful.”
James laughed. “He’s a good lad. I’ve said that before.”
“I know,” Harry insisted. “But he was never friendly. He and Wood gave me a chat earlier, trying to pick up my spirits.”
“Tell you about their first match, did they?” James asked.
Harry stopped as they got to the car, and he climbed in next to Teddy in the back. James sorted himself next to Sirius, then Harry leant up between the seats. “How’d you know about that?”
James snorted. “Because Sirius and I were there for that one. He was reporting it.”
“Which?” Sirius asked.
“Diggory and Wood’s first game,” James clarified.
Sirius laughed as he switched on the car and pulled out of the car park. “Right, that travesty. Poor bloke, that Wood. Knocked out cold right there on the pitch by his own teammate. Diggory had to sit on the bench and watch. Looked like he wanted to melt into the grass and never be seen again.”
Harry snickered a little. “Well it made me feel better. Like now matter how badly I fucked up, it wouldn’t be that bad.”
“You said fuck!” Teddy declared.
“Ted, watch your mouth. Harry’s a grown up,” Sirius reminded him. “Anyway, looks like it worked. Brilliant match today, Harry. I was very impressed. Almost made me wish I was still working so I could write your shining review.”
Harry flushed as he sat back. “It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was good. I mean…yeah.” When he closed his eyes, though, he didn’t see a replay of the game, or any of the shots he saved. No, when he closed his eyes he saw the grinning face of Cedric Diggory. His eyes flew open and he thought, oh, shit.
The party was in near-full swing by the time Harry, James, and Sirius arrived with Teddy in tow. Half the team had got there, and Lily was busy setting up a food table full of things James had ordered in.
Their place was large enough to accommodate the team, having been renovated and remodelled when Harry was eleven, and now stood two stories tall, with a massive lounge, and a ground-floor room dedicated to James’ football addiction.
James had Harry’s arm as they walked in, but soon divested himself of his son to help his wife in the kitchen whilst Harry was bombarded by two screeching girls, ages five, and three. He lifted Tilika, the youngest, and pressed a kiss to her face.
“Hiya, Silly-Tilly. Were you good for your gran today?”
Tilly, who looked strikingly like Harry and James with dark skin, wide eyes, and a shock of black hair, nodded solemnly. “Gran made us keep your game on all day. We saw you on the telly.”
Harry grinned and ruffled her hair before reaching down to give Ansha a kiss on the cheek. Anna took after Lily’s side of the family, a bit on the paler side with a smattering of freckles across her cheeks, though her black hair and dark hazel eyes, showed she was absolutely a Potter.
“And you, bhanji? Were you good today as well?”
“I was bored. Teddy went with Uncle Padfoot and Naanaa.”
“Well he wanted to see the game. But you don’t like coming to my games,” Harry pointed out.
Anna huffed. “Well I had to plait Tilly’s hair and she never sits still for me. She only does for Teddy. That’s why she looks all…” Anna gestured helplessly at her sister who was now trying to reach for a biscuit. Harry reached over to help her as Anna finished, “Messy, like.”
“Well you did the best you could,” Harry said with a small chuckle. He straightened up just as Wood and Diggory walked into the room, giving Harry a funny look.
“Potter,” Diggory said. “These yours?”
Harry spluttered, then shook his head as the giggling girls ran back up the stairs. “My bhanji...er I mean. Niece. Nieces. My sister's girls.”
Cedric nodded. “Thought you hadn’t any kids. Ollie here’s got a couple, haven’t you?”
“Boy and girl,” Oliver said. He glanced over and saw a couple other players. “I’m off, lads. Good party, Harry.”
“Have you got any?” Harry asked when Oliver started off.
Cedric looked startled, then shook his head. “Ah, no. None for me. Not sure I’m really the parenting sort, you know.”
Harry’s eyebrows went up. “Yeah, I do. I mean, I love these sprogs like they’re my own. But I rather enjoy giving them back when I’ve had a long day and just want to have a beer and kip on the sofa.”
Cedric laughed. “Exactly, mate.” He looked round, then leant his head in. “So er…you think I could get an introduction to your dad?”
Harry blinked at him. “Er. Sure?”
Cedric flushed a bit, shuffling his feet. “It’s only that well…I’m a huge fan. Have been since secondary, and er…when you joined the team, I was incredibly intimidated.”
Though Harry’d had nothing to drink, he somehow managed to choke on nothing. “You were what?”
Cedric’s blush deepened. “Well I’m not entirely proud of it, mate.”
“No,” Harry said quickly. “It’s…only…I thought you didn’t like me.”
Cedric gawped at him. “You thought…what?”
“Well that you didn’t like me,” Harry blurted. “I mean, I was on the reserves for a bloody full season and you never…I mean. Well.” Harry didn’t want to say he was rude, so instead he gave him a helpless shrug and tried not to feel like a ridiculous fifteen year old with a school-boy crush.
Blinking at him, Cedric looked like he wasn’t sure what to say. “Er. Well. I don’t? Dislike you?”
Harry huffed, then rubbed his hand down his face. “Right well. Okay. This is a little too awkward for me, mate. How about a beer and I can grab my dad? He’s probably being bossed about by my mum in the kitchen, anyway.”
Cedric nodded, saying nothing as he followed Harry through the small crowd, through a small corridor and into the kitchen where Lily was currently stood complaining about the food situation.
“…honestly that difficult to ask about set up. I mean, I know you’re overly excited about this whole thing with Harry on the team now but…” She trailed off when Harry and Cedric entered. “Oh. Hi love.”
“Mum, dad,” Harry said.
James, who was carefully arranging pasties onto a serving tray, gave Harry a grin. “Alright?”
“We were looking for beer and erm. Cedric wanted to meet you.”
James swiped his hands on his jeans, then turned. His hands reached out for the counter where several bottles of beer were laid out, and he grabbed two. Using the edge of the counter, he popped the caps, then held them out in Harry’s direction.
Taking them, Harry muttered his thanks, handing one over to Cedric without managing to look at him. “Anyway. Er. Dad, you know Cedric Diggory, team’s centre-forward.”
James stuck his hand out in the vague direction of Harry, and Cedric all-but tripped over his feet to shake it. “It’s an honour. At the risk of sounding like a complete twat, I’m a huge fan.”
James was beaming. “That so? Well you know I ought to show you my footie room.”
“Janesh Potter, don’t you dare,” Lily warned, full-naming her husband.
“It’s fine, mum,” Harry muttered. “I’ll take over. Dad, you go on.”
James reached for Harry, finding his shoulder and giving it a squeeze. “Come and find us later, yeah?”
Cedric moved so James could lead the way, and they headed out. When they were gone, Harry leant against the counter, putting his hand over his face. “Well that was bloody mortifying?”
“What, love?” Lily asked.
“Oh nothing. Just if you could set me on fire in the garden and let me burn to ash, that would be great.” Harry scrubbed his face with his hand, then gulped down half his beer. “I might’ve blurted out to Cedric bloody Diggory that I thought he didn’t like me. After he told he he’s a fan-boy of dad’s.”
Lily giggled, coming over to pat Harry’s shoulder. “Love, everyone is a fan-boy of dad’s. Even people who don’t like footie.”
“Like you?” Harry asked.
“I’m a special case,” Lily replied. “Now, you asked for it, so get to work on those pasties and I’ll think about lighting you on fire once everyone’s served.”
“Bloody good mum, you,” Harry said, and smiled when she kissed his cheek.
Two hours later, and the party was nearly wound completely down. Most of the teammates had gone, after thoroughly congratulating Harry on a match well done. He’d got to know them a bit better, even had a long chat with Wood where they talked old games and playing for Uni teams.
It was just after the last of the lads had gone that Harry realised he hadn’t seen Cedric or his dad since they wandered off to the footie room. Feeling overly cautious, Harry wandered down the hall and heard voices as he crept closer to the door.
He found them sat on the sofa chatting about Cedric’s final game. “I was on the edge of my seat,” James said enthusiastically. “I had Sirius shouting in one ear as I was gripping the telly. Honestly, best bloody match in decades.”
Cedric was pink with pride, and flushed deeper when he looked up and saw Harry stood in the doorway. “Hallo, Potter.”
James groaned. “Your mum looking for me?”
“She hasn’t said, but you know if you don’t help her with the kitchen, she’ll murder you in your sleep,” Harry warned.
James groaned, lifting himself from the sofa. Cedric got up as well, and James extended his hand out again. “Meant what I said, Diggory. Sunday lunches. Harry’s obligated to come every week, so he can provide the details.”
Cedric was grinning as he shook James’ hand. “Absolutely, I’d love that.”
James moved round him, coming up to Harry and giving his son a pat on the shoulder. “Bloody good chap, Diggory. I didn’t have half the lads like that back in my day. Anyway, wish me luck.”
“Yeah,” Harry muttered. “Thanks a lot for that one, dad.”
James was off, and Harry turned to Cedric who’d begun to wander round the room a bit. His gaze stopped on a stack of boxes with Harry’s name scrawled into the side. Being a nosy git, apparently, Cedric pulled the top off the box and peered inside.
With an almost gleeful grin, Cedric reached inside and pulled out a book. Harry glanced at it and groaned. “Oh Christ.”
Harry shrugged. “Well yeah but…”
“The Wolfstar Series got me through Uni,” Cedric said, brushing his hand across the cover. “Damn good books.”
Harry smiled a bit. “They are.”
Cedric flipped the cover open, and his gaze fixed on a sharp black message scrawled over an autograph. “They’re signed?”
“Well yes but…” Harry started.
“Haz, you were completely wrong about the cheese.” Cedric looked up after reading. “What the bloody hell?”
Before Harry could answer, Cedric pulled out another book.
“Haz, tell Prongs he’s a sodding liar. Italy=boots.” Then another. “Haz, maybe strawberries. I think the climate could handle it.” And finally another. “Haz, I dunno about leather trousers, but he might be able to pull of the jacket into his fifties.”
Harry was bright red now. “Ah yes. Well, the thing is…” He gave a cough as Cedric stared at him with an expectant half-grin. “He’s my godfather?”
Cedric blinked. “Who?”
“Er,” Harry gestured weakly at the books. “Remus. Or well, R.J. Lupin, rather. I call him Moony.”
Cedric stared for a long time before banging the book down rather hard. “You’re shitting me. How…I…what? You’re telling me the son of James sodding Potter—my athlete idol—is your dad, and your bloody godfather’s my favourite author?”
“Er. Yes?” Harry offered.
Cedric’s laugh was frustrated as he dragged a hand down his face. “Bloody hell. Was he the one I met earlier? With the kid?”
“No,” Harry said. “That’s his husband, Sirius. Teddy’s his though, as well. They used Sirius’ cousin as a surrogate with her egg and Remus’ you know—“ Harry coughed. “So Teddy’s biologically related to them both. Er I don’t know why I’m telling you this. Christ.”
Cedric chuckled a little as he replaced the lid on the box. “So do I get to meet him as well?”
“Who? Moony?” Harry blurted. “Well he’s in New York at a book signing, but I reckon he’ll be here for Sunday lunch if you’ve really let my dad bully you into coming.”
“Bully me?” Cedric asked with a snort. “Potter, do you know that my fifteen year old self would literally come to the future to kick my arse if I turned down a lunch with James Potter.”
Harry let out a small huff. “Can you not do that?”
“Call him James Potter. It’s…a bit weird.”
Cedric flushed again, but he was grinning. “Sorry. He said the same thing as well, if that’s any help. Just don’t call me Jamie, he said.”
Harry laughed. “Yeah, only Remus gets that honour. But really though, Sirius and Remus always come for Sunday lunch, after the game. And me, as my dad so eloquently put. Girls and Teddy as well.”
“Well I’d be honoured, I wasn’t lying about that,” Cedric said. “Maybe you and I could meet up after the game tomorrow? Grab a pint?”
Harry blinked at him. “Erm. Alright?”
“Yeah?” Cedric grabbed his mobile out of his pocket and checked his calendar. “Or have you got plans? Big dates or anything?”
Harry laughed. “Oh er. No. I’m not…I haven’t…in a while.”
“No worries,” Cedric said, clapping him on the shoulder. “That’s me as well. What with this whole mess about Cho. I meant to say sorry about that, by the way. That Skeeter bitch has been trying to get me to give her an exclusive.”
Harry shuffled his feet, curious about what had happened, but he could tell Cedric really didn’t want to talk about it. “It’s fine. They’re always on about my dad anyway.”
Cedric pulled a face. “What was that, anyway? Asking if he resents you? What a load of rubbish.”
Harry shrugged. “You’d be surprised how often it happens. Not just reporters. I mean, the most ridiculous questions, you know?”
Cedric looked down at the time and swore. “Bollocks. I should go. But I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Harry nodded. “I’ll walk you.” He led the way back to the lounge where no one was in sight. Cedric fished round for his keys, then headed for the door which Harry held open.
“Night, Harry. This was really great.”
“Yeah,” Harry said, feeling a big, stupid grin plaster across his face. He’d feel worse about it if Cedric’s hadn’t mirrored his own, and he wasn’t sure what it meant. It was worse when his stomach began to go a bit wobbly. “Be careful, yeah? Not had too much to drink.”
“Just the one,” Cedric promised. His hand twitched, like he wanted to do something. Then, in what seemed like a panic, he grabbed Harry’s shoulder and yanked him in for a hug. It was awkward, and weird, and left Harry with a grin he couldn’t wipe away, even long after he shut the door.
Turning, he wandered back into the kitchen to find his mum and dad sat at the table with tea, surrounded by boxed up take-away containers which Harry assumed to be the leftover food James had ordered.
Lily looked at him and shook her head. “Your son’s got some smile plastered across his face,” she told James. “You drink a lot tonight, Haz?”
Harry shook his head and attempted to stop smiling, but he couldn’t. James snickered into his tea cup. “Cedric, innit?”
Harry felt his face go hot, and he sank into a chair, the grin successfully wiped away. “He’s alright, isn’t he?”
Lily gave him a calculating look. “If you like that sort of thing.”
“What sort of thing?” Harry demanded.
“The fit, footie type.”
James snorted with laughter as Harry stared. “Mum, you do like that sort. You married that sort.”
“Yes well, your dad was a special case, wasn’t he?” Lily gave James’ arm a pat, and he attempted to glare, which was cast somewhere far to her right. “Oh love, you haven’t been able to give me a proper glare in twenty-four years. Might as well give it up.”
“Sod off,” he said with a smile. “I’ll get it right one of these days.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Anyway, Cedric’s asked me for a pint after the game, so I might not make tea. Either of you coming to the game?”
“We might,” Lily said. “I think Ash’s taking the girls to the cinema.”
Harry looked round and his brows dipped. “Where the hell is Sirius?”
“Chatting with Moony outside,” James said, making a vague gesture in the direction of the back door. “He’s been delayed.”
“Oh I bet he’s very pleased,” Harry said, his tone dripping with sarcasm. “How long?”
“Heard him say Tuesday,” James replied. “Sirius is irritated because he’s got meetings with Teddy’s therapists that day.”
Harry stood up from the table, his chair squeaking across the floor. “I’ll go see if I can help.” He pushed the back door open and saw Sirius leant against the wall, a cigarette clenched between his teeth.
“I know love, and I’m not asking you to…for the…will you let me fucking talk, Remus?”
Harry walked up and plucked the phone out of Sirius’ hand. “Moony, hi. It’s Harry.”
Remus let out a sigh. “Harry, love, can you please put Sirius back on.”
“Er no,” Harry said. “He just walked off to finish his fag. What time does your flight get in?”
“Eleven,” Remus said, his voice sounding exhausted.
“Problem solved. Dad and I will come get you.”
There was a long pause, then Remus asked, “Did Sirius hear you say that?”
Harry looked over at his godfather’s glowering face. “I think so. He doesn’t look very pleased but he’ll get over it. You go and get some sleep, you sound bloody exhausted.”
Remus sighed. “I am. I think I’m having a flare and my publisher is insisting I do this signing in LA. I just want to come home.”
“I know,” Harry said quietly.
“I saw your match, by the way. Very well done, Haz. Well done, indeed.”
Harry grinned. “Thanks. It was really good, wasn’t it?”
“I couldn’t be more proud. Anyway tell your dogfather if he wants to talk to me reasonably, I’ll be up for another hour, but to give me fifteen minutes to shower and get dressed for bed. Love you, kiddo.”
“Love you too.” Harry rang off, then crossed the short distance between himself and Sirius. Sirius held out his hand, palm flat, and Harry slapped the mobile into it. “Stop pouting.”
“You know, he doesn’t need someone to pick him up,” Sirius muttered. “That’s not the point.”
“Right,” Harry said carefully. “The point is you’re hacked off because you don’t want to take Teddy on your own.”
Sirius’ eyes narrowed. “We’re his parents.”
“And Remus has obligations. Don’t make me be the more mature one here, Sirius,” Harry warned. “I’m barely together myself.”
Sirius scrubbed his face, but when he pulled his hand away, Harry could see the ghost of a smile. “You’re a shit.”
Harry nudged him with a grin. “I know. Either way, dad’ll be happy to get Moony. Also you should ring him back in half an hour after he’s done in the shower and apologise for being a git.”
Sirius rolled his eyes, but leant his shoulder against Harry. “Have a good night?”
Harry snorted at the subject change. “Not bad. Cedric and I are going for a pint after the game tomorrow. I reckon he’s not so bad after all.”
“Your dad reckons the same,” Sirius said, laughing a bit. “He’s been following him for a while.”
Harry flushed a little, and looked away. “Two peas in a pod, then. Dad invited him for lunch after the match on Sunday. And he’s said he’ll come.”
Sirius’ eyebrows shot up. “So not worried he hates you anymore?”
“We erm…worked it out.” Harry ran his hand down his face, then decided to escape any further embarrassing conversations. “I should head home. I’ve got to be at the pitch early tomorrow for drills. See you at the game.”
“Wouldn’t miss it.” Sirius pulled Harry in, kissing his cheek before giving him a shove toward the house.
Stumbling a bit, Harry walked back into the warm kitchen where his dad was still sat at the table, now reading a book. James’ fingers paused over the raised dots, and he smiled. “All sorted?”
“Yeah. I’ll come by Tuesday and we can go get Moony. Maybe stop and have a pint or something.”
James’ grin widened. “Excellent. And Sirius done having his little tantrum?”
Harry laughed as he walked up to James and dropped a hand on his shoulder. “Oh he will once he phones Moony back and apologises for being a git.” Harry reached a hand out, letting the first and middle fingers of his right hand trail over the bumps. Harry had learnt braille along with print when he was just starting school, and had been fluent in it most of his life. “This Moony’s new one?”
James nodded. “He had it sent in last week, but I’ve only just got to it. It’s good though. You want it when I’m finished?”
“Maybe. Depends on how horrific my schedule’s going to be. Wood warned me I was going to feel terrible in the morning.”
“Likely,” James said. He felt round for his book marker, the slid it onto the page and closed the book. Getting up, he linked arms with Harry as they started for the lounge. “It’ll take getting used to. You’ll feel better by game time tomorrow. You want me and Pads to get you in the morning?”
“Nah,” Harry said. “Cedric and I are going for a pint after the game.”
James’ grin widened and Harry scoffed. “What?” James asked innocently, “I didn’t say anything.”
“I know that look,” Harry insisted.
James’ free hand flew to his face, his fingers moving along his own mouth, nose, and eyes in an exaggerated motion. “What look? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You’re such a git,” Harry insisted. “Cedric’s nice though. And it feels nice to get along with the lads. Or some of them.”
James dropped his hand down onto Harry’s arm and squeezed it. “They’re all very fond of you. And why wouldn’t they be? You’re my son, after all.”
“So humble,” Harry muttered.
James laughed, then squeezed his arm again. “Just don’t forget about your dear old dad and mum when you become internationally famous, alright?”
Harry felt a sort of tug on his heart and he yanked his dad in for a hug. “Like I could ever. This is all down to you, you know. And I just…thanks.”
If James’ eyes were a bit misty, well neither of them were going to say anything. He gave his son a small peck on the cheek, then ushered him to the door. “Stop and say hi before you head out after the match. Teddy will be devastated if you don’t.”
“Of course I will,” Harry promised. He then headed to the kerb where his car had been parked all week, and got in. Switching it on, he headed down the street and tried to pretend like his mind wasn’t absolutely full of Cedric Diggory.
Another win, and three pints later, Harry discovered Cedric Diggory was a very chatty bloke, indeed. They were sat at the local, a place used to having footie players in and out and never made a big fuss about it, and had a basket of half-eaten chips between them.
Both were feeling more friendly by the time the second pint went down, and halfway through the third, Cedric brought up the dreaded topic of his ex.
“Well,” Cedric said, leaning his elbow on the table, chin resting on his closed fist, “we were good together a few years. She was thinking about joining the women’s team, you know. Few of them were after her and I encouraged it. Then she started getting famous over in Paris for her reporting. Next thing I know, she’s talking of marriage and moving there, and wouldn’t I like to learn French so I could maybe join a French team? I mean,” Cedric reached out, pushing a few chips round the basket, “I’d just started making a name for myself. And it’s not like I want to be the next fucking Beckham. I don’t need a Spice Girl or millions of pounds. But it’s good here.”
“Yeah,” Harry said, nodding sympathetically. “I get it.”
“I know you do,” Cedric said, his voice low and solemn. “S’why I asked you out. You had that rather public split, didn’t you? Mid-season. With that Weasley girl, whasser name?”
“Ginny,” Harry said. “It was twice as awkward you know, because she’s my best mate’s sister. And they all tried to be really good about it but … well…” Harry coughed. “My family was always taking the piss about her. They loved her, but they thought it was dead hilarious that people used to compare her to my mum. Making Oedipus jokes.”
“That’s dreadful,” Cedric declared.
Harry nodded, sipping his drink. “It was. Sort of…took any of the romance out of it and backed over it with a fucking lorry.” He gave a small hiccough and then cleared his throat. “At any rate, I didn’t really love her. And we’d been off and on during all of Uni anyway. She wasn’t broken up about it, mostly her family pushed for it because they thought we made a good match.”
“Always about matching, innit?” Cedric moaned. He downed the rest of his pint and signalled for another. “Dunno I mean, Cho was great. She was. Loved her loads, but it just wasn’t going to work out. And honestly by the end we weren’t…it was hard to…” Cedric groaned. “Christ, Potter.”
“You alright?” Harry asked. He reached over and closed his hand round Cedric’s wrist. Brown eyes darted up to look at him, hard and curious. Harry quickly withdrew his hand. “Sorry.”
“No I…it’s…” Cedric huffed. “See, I heard this rumour about you. That during Uni you were pulling birds and blokes.”
Harry swallowed thickly. “Is that a erm…a problem?”
“No,” Cedric said quickly. “Olivers as poufter as they come, you know, and none of the lads mind. More women for them, they say. Which is really dreadful, if you think about it. But no I…I mean I’ve…a few times. In my day.”
“Oh.” Harry blushed. “Well…well good then. But you know, I haven’t dated in ages. I mean, when Ginny and I split, we’d hardly even seen each other. People were only paying attention because I was on the reserves and it looked like I was going to be pulled soon.”
Cedric flapped his hand, shaking his head. “Rubbish. I mean no, not that. Not you being pulled from reserves. Just people paying attention. S’all they want, innit? Stories. The scoops. Chatting on about your dad and my fucking sham of a relationship and who’s buggering who.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Seems that way.” He realised then he was quite pissed, and they had their last game of the week the next morning. “We should stop, Ced.”
Cedric stared at him. “Huh?”
“With the pints. I mean, it’s only been three but we’re a bit pissed and coach will kill us if we play hung over tomorrow.”
Cedric blinked owlishly. “Voice of reason, are you?”
Harry shrugged. “Trying to make a good impression.”
“You’re very impressive.” Cedric reached over, his hand hesitating before he touched Harry’s cheek. “So impressive.”
“Please tell me it’s not because I look like my dad,” Harry groaned. “You’ve no idea how many middle-aged women and men try and chat me up because I look like James bloody Potter.”
Cedric snapped back, his eyes going wide. “Christ, I’m not an arsehole! And you don’t…I mean alright you do, a bit. But your nose is different. And your face is all…you sort of…pull different faces. I mean, he’s great but you’re you.”
Harry wasn’t entirely sure what that was supposed to mean, but he decided to take it as a compliment. He also decided they should probably leave before anything happened they would regret.
Harry quickly pulled out a handful of notes and took care of the bill. When he got back, he pulled on Cedric’s arm. “Come on, Ced. We should head out. We can catch a cab outside.”
Cedric blinked at him, then smiled. “No one’s called me that in years, you know.”
Harry frowned. “Called you what?”
“Ced.” Cedric pulled himself up from the table and let out a long groan. “Christ, I’m sore. I did not work out nearly enough during the off season.”
Harry laughed as they made their way outside. “You’re doing just fine. You were a fucking beast on the field today.”
Cedric grinned. “Yeah I was a bit. Just like you, Potter. I think you’re fucking great.”
Harry had the insane urge to just haul up and kiss him then, so choosing option B, Harry quickly flagged down a taxi and shoved Cedric into it. “See you tomorrow, yeah?”
Cedric gave him a sloppy grin. “Night, Harry.”
As the cab drove off, Harry stood on the kerb wondering what the hell happened. Had he revealed he liked men? Had Cedric said the same? In any other circumstance, Harry would assume Cedric had been trying to chat him up—and what if he had? Was it only because he was pissed?
He could not let his heart get involved. That would be the worst thing he could do. If they started something—even a small thing—it could ruin the team dynamic and the season had just started. But he closed his eyes and pictured Cedric again, feeling his heart flutter against his chest. “Bugger fuck,” he cursed. He was besotted, and it was not good.
Beyond pleased that he had a light practise and no game on Tuesday, Harry had a bounce in his step when he arrived at Godric’s Hollow to fetch James. His dad was ready to go, sat in his chair with his cane tucked at his side, and grinned when Harry walked in.
“Harij? Alright there?”
“Feeling good today. Coach went easy on us since we’ve had three wins.” Harry touched his dad’s shoulder, and James rose, taking Harry’s arm. “Sirius alright with the meetings today?”
“Far as I know,” James said as they walked to Harry’s car. He got in and waited for Harry to switch it on. “They’re looking into changing his therapy sessions. He’s been doing a lot better lately. Learning to self-regulate.”
“He was definitely easier to manage last time I had him for the weekend,” Harry said. He turned the corner, heading onto the main road toward Heathrow. “Stimming’s died down a bit. Those stimming necklaces worked out, then?”
Harry had found a product online which allowed Teddy to have something for his hands to do whenever the urge to move them overcame him. It was said to help the boy focus more at school, which Sirius was overly pleased about.
“So says Padfoot,” James said. He shifted in his seat a little. “So how are you, though? I only got a few minutes with you yesterday before the press conference.”
Harry sighed. “I’m alright. Exhausted, but I think I’m getting used to the schedule. Just trying to fend off those fucking questions about you and the World Cup, but we knew that was coming.”
James’ face fell. “You know how dreadful I feel about that, Haz.”
“No,” Harry said quickly. “Dad, that’s not what I meant. I just hate that people focus so much on whether or not you’re fucking bitter. I mean…how do I answer that?”
James let out a small chuckle. “We knew it would happen once you decided to pursue this career. And I don’t mind, you know. I’ve had twenty-four long years to get used to this.”
Harry’s hands clenched on the wheel. “You’re not…” He hesitated, never really having asked his dad so directly before. “I mean, you’re not bitter, are you?”
James was silent for a moment. “Sometimes I’m still angry, I suppose. Not at you, Harry. At Riddle. At that bastard who tried to kill me and my son. Sometimes I’m angry because he robbed me of something precious. And I used to get so tired of hearing people tell me to be grateful that I was alive. I used to want to gouge their eyes out then ask them how grateful they felt.”
Harry winced. His dad had never been so direct before. “Pitah,” he all-but whispered.
James shook his head. “No Harij, listen. The thing is, I am grateful I’m still alive, that’s the funny part of it. It took me ages to realise that I got to live and that bastard meant for me to die. I’d rather you grow up seeing me as I am, then having some dead father who was nothing more than some football legend. I’d rather be a bit flawed and broken.” James took a breath. “So if you want to tell those fucking vultures that, be my guest. Or you can just tell them that blind or not, I can still kick your arse on the pitch, I just choose not to embarrass you.”
Harry threw his head back and laughed. “I might do that next, I really might.”
They chatted a bit more, Harry skilfully avoiding the topic of Cedric Diggory as they got to Heathrow, and before long they were parked and heading inside to get Remus from his flight. They were a bit late, so they found Remus already stood by the exit with his case leant against his knee, wearing a small smile at the sight of father and son.
“Moony,” Harry said as he was pulled into an embrace.
Remus then moved to kiss James on the cheek before shifting his case to Harry so James could take his arm. “How are you two?”
“Not bad,” James said. “Long flight?”
“Mmm the worst.” Remus fought back a yawn, and Harry noticed he looked tired. Remus had been diagnosed with Lupus as a young boy, and spent most of his life fighting off infections. Most men with the condition hadn’t lived long, but Moony was a fighter. He ended up in hospital a few times a year, but Harry had a feeling he’d likely outlive them all.
“Well Harry was thinking a pint somewhere,” James said. “But if you’d rather head back to yours…?”
“Nah that sounds brilliant, actually. I’ve been surviving on American hotel food and I could do with something good and British.”
Harry grinned, opening his mouth to say something when he spotted two men with cameras, and a familiar head of blonde curls. “Bloody buggering fuck,” Harry hissed.
James froze. “What’s wrong?”
“That bloody Skeeter bitch again.” Harry grabbed Remus by the shoulder. “Head off to the car, I’ll be there in a minute. Let me just deal with this.”
Remus looked hesitant, but obeyed, taking his case in his free hand as he and James hurried off. By the time Skeeter and her camera hounds approached, Harry was alone.
“Was that your father, I spotted? With R.J. Lupin? Now that would be a story,” she preened.
Harry narrowed his eyes. “I’m in a hurry.”
“I’ll be quite quick. I was just wondering if you had any comments about the most recent developments between your teammate Cedric Diggory and his rumoured ex, Cho Chang?”
“No,” Harry said. “I’ve not got any comments. I don’t see how any relationship of his has anything to do with his ability to play—which I might add is bloody brilliant as so far we’ve not lost a single game.”
“And you don’t think that’s down to you?” Rita pushed.
“I think it’s down to having some of the best lads in sodding Britain on our team,” Harry said through gritted teeth. “So if you don’t mind…”
“What of the rumours that Miss Chang chose to leave her relationship because Mr Diggory was spotted…playing for the same team—as it were.”
Harry blinked, feeling a little shock-stupid. “That’s not your business.”
“But you don’t deny it,” Rita pressed.
“I think that you’re looking for a story where there isn’t one. As I said before, Diggory’s relationships on or off the field are no one’s business but his own. What matters is he’s a damn good player and I could see him taking England to the Cup one day soon. So bugger off.”
“Just one more word, Harry?” she pressed.
Harry narrowed his eyes at her. “One more? Sure. Goodbye.” And with that, he stormed off. He could hear the clicks of the cameras taking his photo as he hurried away, but it didn’t matter. He was long gone before he could follow.
There was no practise Wednesday morning, but Thursday as Harry arrived to change into his kit, he found Cedric stood by his locker.
“You were in the paper,” Cedric said, his voice low.
Harry lifted a brow. “Sorry?”
“That disgusting gossip rag, the Daily Prophet.”
“Oh bloody hell,” Harry groaned.
“My dad thinks they’re hilarious. He said you were quoted implying I had a relationship with someone on the field?”
Harry’s eyes went wide. “That sodding bitch! I told her whatever relationships you had with anyone on and off the field were no one’s business.”
Cedric stared at him, then chuckled. “I’m not upset, you know. I know how she is.”
Harry shook his head. “She accosted me at fucking Heathrow when dad and I were picking up Remus.”
Cedric grinned. “I know. She might have also implied your dad was having a sordid affair with a best-selling author.”
“Christ, that woman.”
Cedric leant against the locker and crossed his arms. “Well…thanks. You know. For coming to my defence.”
Harry shrugged as he stretched out his gloves. “No worries, mate. Honestly, you don’t need that kind of shit.”
“Comes with the job. Eventually you get exhausted with trying to defend yourself and you practise your subtle Vs.”
Harry snorted a laugh as he looked up to see Cedric rubbing at the side of his nose with two fingers extended upward. “Clever.”
With a shrug, he gave Harry a little wink which sent Harry’s heart hammering against his ribs. “I try. Anyway, see you out there.”
Harry waited until Cedric was gone before he let out a heavy breath and shook his head. He was buggered. But not in a good way. Not at all.
Their first loss, and it was a painful one. It was a Friday. They’d gone against Watford, and had been favoured for the win. Only Wood went down early with an accidental blow to the knee, and although Harry was at top form in the goal, it wasn’t enough. They lost by two. Bloody, shitting, sodding two.
Harry was red-faced and frustrated as his team left the pitch. He glanced over at his dad and Sirius, the only two who’d come out that night. And in spite of cameras on him, and in spite of seeing that blonde-bitch sat not far scribbling away no doubt about his crushing loss, he jogged over.
Sirius elbowed James, muttering into his ear, so by the time Harry got there, James was on his feet with a hand extended out. Harry took it, and let James yank him into a one-armed hug.
“Don’t,” he said very quietly. “I know what you’re doing, Harij. So don’t. This isn’t your first loss.”
Harry let out a frustrated growl. “I know. But we were doing really well. And we were favoured to win.”
“And one of your best players went down,” James said, squeezing his wrist. “It happens. It’s not going to make a difference, your team is still leading. Suck it up, enjoy your night out with Diggory, and just don’t.”
Harry breathed, then glanced over at Sirius who was giving him the same, pointed look of determination. “Yeah. Yeah, alright. You two want to come along?” He blurted the last question as a subconscious, desperate attempt to ease the tension. To not be alone with Cedric because these fucking feelings were getting the best of him.
His dad and godfather looked vaguely amused, and James shook his head. “Sorry, Haz, but your mum’s expecting me back. Ashima got an early night home.”
“And Moony and Teddy are waiting with tea,” Sirius explained. “You don’t need us there, anyway. Go have a good time. Socialise. Be friendly.” Sirius yanked Harry over for a hug, then pressed a kiss to his temple. “Just giving that bitch snapping photos of us something to write about,” he murmured.
“Christ,” Harry groaned, glancing over at Skeeter.
James sighed. “Well, I’d best be off. But have a good night, and ring me tomorrow, yeah?”
“I will,” Harry promised. He turned on his heel and jogged inside before any of the reporters could catch him up.
By the time Harry went to change out of his kit, Cedric was already there. He looked a bit grim-faced, and didn’t offer Harry his usual smile. Feeling his heart clench, he decided to offer his teammate an out.
“Look, if you want to…”
“Don’t cancel on me,” Cedric replied, interrupting Harry’s flow of words. “I really fucking need a pint after that.” He scrubbed his face, then turned to look at Harry who was reaching for his towel to cover up before a shower. “Ollie might need surgery.”
Harry’s face fell. “Fuck. Really?”
“He’s in x-ray now. He’s going to text me later.”
Harry hesitated, but nodded. “Yeah, pint is necessary then. Or three.” He hurried to wash off, doing the bare minimum to make sure the stink of sweat and grass was off him. Half-dry, he wriggled into his clothes and found Cedric stood in the car park, leant against the wall with a cigarette.
Harry raised a brow at the sight, and Cedric gave him a sheepish grin. “Don’t tell coach. He literally might kill me.” He took a long drag, then dropped it, crushing it under his trainer. “And I don’t do it a lot. Just…on nights like tonight.” With that, he beckoned Harry along, and they decided to walk down to the local.
Inside, they found their usual table empty, so they slid into the seats and immediately ordered drinks. There was a companionable silence between them until a slight buzz kicked in, then Cedric leant back and crossed his arms over his chest.
“I don’t want to say we’re fucked if he’s out,” he said softly, “but I’m worried.”
Harry nodded. “I think though,” he said, choosing his words carefully, “we were just unprepared for it. If he’s out, we can better plan. And he won’t be out forever, even if he does need surgery. Hell, my dad’s a sport therapist. He’s completely booked, but I bet I can get him to make time for Ollie’s rehab.”
Cedric snorted. “Three years ago I took a cleat to my knee during practise. Some fucking twat not paying attention. Tore a tendon, the cartilage was well fucked. I needed two pins.” Cedric lifted his right leg, bent at the knee, and tapped it. “I pulled every bloody string I had to get an appointment with your dad, but no one could.”
Harry flushed. “Yeah he’s a bit…well…I mean…”
“Celebrity doctor and all,” Cedric finished with a small laugh. “But at least I have the in if there’s a next time.”
“Which I bloody well hope there isn’t.”
Cedric grinned at him, then took a long sip of his beer. “So Sunday lunch next week, is it? Will Lupin be there?”
“Remus,” Harry corrected. “You can call him Moony when you get to know him better. And I reckon so. He usually is.”
Cedric laughed a bit. “Moony? Where the hell did that come from?”
Harry looked down at his drink, feeling like a right idiot. “When I was little I had a thing for renaming people. I don’t…well I don’t know why. So I called my dad Prongs, called Sirius Padfoot, and called Remus Moony. Nothing for mum though, she was special.” He chanced a look up and found Cedric smiling at him. “It stuck over the years.”
“Barmy,” Cedric breathed, but his smile was getting wider. “I like them, Potter. They’re a good sort.”
Harry felt the warmth in his chest increase and panic set in with it. “They’re not bad. Really.”
Cedric gave him another wink and leant forward to say in a very soft voice. “I can’t wait to get to know all of you a bit better.”
Tuesday after practise, Harry was beside himself. He swore every time Cedric looked over at him, he was looking at him. With more intent than being just friendly. Harry just knew if he made a move, Cedric would be open to it.
But that wasn’t the problem. It didn’t matter if they were both bent, they were both on the same team. If they did go forward, what would happen if they didn’t make it work? What would happen if they did?
Though they didn’t have standing plans to meet that evening after practise, Harry still made his excuses to Cedric and directly after. Jumping in his car, he sped off to Godric’s Hollow, and when he stepped in the front door, he was met with his dad pacing a small circle round the lounge with Tilly tucked onto his shoulder.
James’ face turned toward the door. “Hello?”
“It’s me,” Harry breathed. He shut the door and took a few steps in. “Everything alright?”
James gave his granddaughter’s back a small pat. “Someone didn’t sleep well, so someone is unhappy unless she’s being held.”
Harry felt his face soften. “You want me to take over a bit?”
James shrugged, and relinquished the toddler to her uncle, who whinged for a moment, then tucked herself into Harry’s arms as she’d been doing with James. Feeling the heavy weight as an almost comfort, Harry let out a breath.
“Something wrong?” James asked as he reached a hand out to find his chair. He slumped down and let out a groan of relief.
“Er well. Kind of. I mean…well…” Harry’s mind was going too fast for his mouth, and he coughed to clear his throat. “I’m having an issue.”
“Clearly,” James said with a little snort. “You want to have a walk? Sort it out? Or is this a problem for your mum?”
“Er no actually. It’s a football problem. Kind of. I…bugger I don’t know how to explain it.”
James was on his feet again, and beckoned Harry along. “Tilly, you want to go for a walk and see if the puppies are out?”
The three year old’s head popped up, her eyes wide. “Puppies?”
Harry laughed as she squirmed out of his arms and bolted for the door. “Puppies?” Harry asked.
“Albert up the street’s dog had a litter. Your mum and I are thinking about getting one for the girls.” James’ hand trailed along the wall til it came into contact with his cane on the hook, and he flicked it out in front of him.
“Naanaa, I don’t want to wear my bells. I want to wear my wellies!” Tilly demanded.
“It’s not even raining, dohiti,” James said.
“No!” she shouted.
James groaned. “Only because your uncle’s going with us, am I clear?”
Tilly pouted, but huffed and shrugged as she reached for her rainboots. “Fine.”
Gritting his teeth, James grabbed Harry’s arm as the girl stomped off a little ways ahead of them. “Been a right pain in my arse all day, that one. Made me wish I had appointments today.”
Harry laughed, shaking his head. “Brings back memories, eh?”
“Gets it from her mum, she does. Only trouble you ever gave me was when you discovered how funny it was to stand in the middle of the room completely silent whilst I was looking for you.”
Harry felt his face go hot with old shame. Of course he’d been barely a toddler when he’d done it, and hadn’t known better. But he never liked memories of being dreadful to his dad. “Yeah well, luckily I grew out of it.”
“And luckily your mum was clever enough to come up with the bells,” James pointed out.
Harry laughed as they took the familiar path up the street. “She is that.” He let out a breath, then said, “I think I fancy a teammate.”
James was silent for a moment, then snorted a little. “Harij, I think it is because you are my son I owe you an apology. I’ve known for years, but you have indeed inherited the Potter’s penchant for being incredibly unobservant.”
“Oy,” Harry defended.
“Harry, even I could see you’ve got a thing for Diggory.”
Harry groaned and elbowed his dad a bit. “That’s so unfair, you know. I really do blame you.”
“As you should,” James said solemnly. “So what’s the problem? If rumours are even a little bit true, he’s not straight.”
“It’s not that,” Harry said. “In spite of my fantastic ability to be completely unobservant, I think he’s been flirting. Or well…sort of. At least he seems like he wouldn’t hate the idea if I were to properly ask him on a date.”
“Alright,” James said slowly, “so I’m not entirely getting the problem here.”
“Well…well er…” Harry scrubbed his face, then glanced ahead at Tilly who was skipping along. They turned the corner up the street and in the distance, Harry could see the older, greying man in his front garden with a litter of small, curly-haired puppies. Tilly let out a squeal and ran off.
“Has she spotted the puppies?” James asked.
“Well let’s slow down then, and you can be a bit more clear than, ‘well…er.’ If you please.”
Harry gave his father a pointless, withering look. “Well we’re teammates,” he blurted after a second.
“Yes,” James said. “You are. That hasn’t escaped my notice.”
Harry growled. “Well it would be…I mean…wouldn’t it? Be somewhat inappropriate?”
James paused in his step, turning to Harry. “I understand your reservations. But you’re both grown adults and I have faith that the both of you could have a working relationship, in spite of whatever your personal one happens to be.”
Harry let out a slow breath. “Alright. I just…I mean…I’ve not had a proper relationship. Nothing long-term. And I don’t even know how I feel. Throwing in the fact that he’s one of the star fucking players on my team and it gets a bit complicated.”
James gave Harry’s arm a squeeze. “I understand. It wasn’t an issue for me as I never really fancied men much when I was younger, and by the time I got picked up by West Ham I was married to your mum.”
Harry nodded, then froze. “Never fancied men much.”
James grinned. “Well obviously with a couple of poufs like your godfathers, I was curious.”
“Jesus,” Harry breathed. “You know what, no. No I don’t want to hear about my dad’s wild oat sowing. That’s…let’s go look at puppies. Alright?”
James threw his head back and laughed. “Alright.”
Sunday arrived, and with it a major win. They’d won the match on Friday, and lost on Saturday, but when they played West Ham Sunday, Harry was in top form, and Ollie had made a surprising recovery and was a beast on the field.
They defeated the favoured team by sixty full points, and Harry was overcome with pride, and wasn’t even annoyed as he headed back to change when Rita Skeeter called out asking his father would resent him for such an ugly defeat of James Potter’s old team.
He didn’t see Cedric anywhere, but as he was coming out of the locker room, Harry’s coach grabbed him and pulled him aside. “My office, Potter.”
Confused, Harry followed the coach wordlessly through the corridor, up the set of stairs, and into the expansive office. When he stepped in, he saw two men stood there in smart suits, slicked back hair, and unpleasant smiles.
“Er. What is this?” Harry asked.
“These men represent West Ham,” the coach said. “They’re here to speak to you about your contract.”
Harry, unmoving from his place in the centre of the office floor, crossed his arms. “My contract?”
“We’ve been very impressed with your skill, Mr Potter,” the taller one said. “We’ve come to make you an offer.”
Harry blinked. “Sorry, a what? What sort of offer?”
“We want you for our team. We’re prepared to offer you a very handsome salary and incentive, as well as covering any costs that would result in ending your contract here with Arsenal.”
Harry gulped, looking over at his coach who was not making any eye contact. “Why?” he asked.
“Well, you’ve been very impressive out there lately, and we’ve looked into your University record. Four games in a row your second year without a single miss. Four games you defeated the losing team, leaving them a score of zero.”
Harry blinked at them. “Alright. But I don’t understand why you…”
“It would be nice to have a Potter on the team again.”
Harry’s face went cold, then flush. “I’m sure your offer is very nice, but I’m happy where I am, thank you.”
All three men, including the coach, looked surprised. “Aren’t you interested in seeing what we’ve…”
“No,” Harry said. “I’m not.”
“Wouldn’t your father be proud if you were to take up his old team?” the shorter one pressed.
Harry quickly told himself it would not do to jump across the distance and punch this man in the mouth. So instead he shook his head. “My father would be just as proud if I quit today and opened up a bakery.”
“I think James Potter…” the tall one began.
“I think I know James Potter better than you lot,” Harry cut in. “Now I’m not interested in seeing your offer, so please, gentlemen, have a good day.”
Harry stood firm, unmoving, until they left the office. When the door slammed, rather hard if he was being honest, Harry turned to his coach. “Why the bloody hell would you bring me up here for that? Surely you don’t want me gone? Do you?”
The coach shook his head. “No, Harry. But it’s my duty to at least allow you the choice.”
Harry huffed, rolling his eyes. “Well for future reference, feel free to tell them to fuck all the way off. And if they won’t let it go, you have the number of my agent.”
With that, he turned and went back down. The lads had all gone, but feeling a little put off by the whole thing, Harry took off at a slight jog toward the local. He knew it wasn’t likely, but he stepped in to see several of his teammates celebrating, and in the corner sat at their usual was Cedric.
He gave Harry a slightly cautious look as Harry approached. “Potter.”
He tried not to wince at the sound of his surname which Cedric hadn’t used in a while. “Mind if I have a seat?”
“So long as this isn’t a goodbye drink,” Cedric said, his tone cold. After a second, he admitted, “I overheard the coach with those two blokes.”
“Ah.” Harry slipped into the seat and motioned to the server for a pint. “I told them to fuck off.”
Cedric looked a cross between disbelieving and impressed. “Why? That was your dad’s old team.”
“And?” Harry felt a pang of irritation settle in the centre of his chest. “I’m not my dad. I thought we’ve been over this.”
Cedric looked properly ashamed, but shrugged anyway. “Just…maybe you’d want to honour him.”
“My dad doesn’t give a shit who I play for. Or if I play at all. Hell there were a few years during school when he was fucking begging me not to because the monster who came after him started coming after me.”
Cedric blinked, then coughed. “Sorry, what?”
“Riddle. The one who attacked my dad. First sent a few people after me, but I was protected. During upper sixth though, he came after me himself.”
The server dropped off the pint and Cedric waited until Harry’d taken down at least half before he asked, “What happened?”
Harry stared at him for a long minute. “He died.”
Choking back a laugh, Harry shrugged. “And I didn’t. Didn’t bring back my dad’s sight or his career. Didn’t make me a better person, or a different player. Just meant no one was trying to kill me and my dad could stop worrying so much.”
“Fucking hell, Harry.”
Harry laughed outright. “Yeah well…my life is barmy. You said that to me once.”
“Bloody right I did, and I wasn’t wrong.” Cedric’s hand crept across their bodies, under the table shielded by the shadows of the dimly lit pub. It touched Harry on the thigh, then closed round his wrist.
Neither of them said anything about it, but continued to drink and hold each other there until they had to part ways.
Harry wasn’t sure what it meant, and his feeling were starting to overwhelm him. His only option, really, was to talk to the two men who might possibly be able to help him sort it all out.
They lost Sunday, but he felt it less keenly than before. Taking his time, Harry said he’d meet Cedric down at the Hollow, and decided to have a massage before leaving. He was half an hour later than usual, and when he walked in, James was sat on the sofa with Lily, the pair of them eating out of a pie tin.
“Harij?” James asked.
“Where’s everyone?” Harry asked, plonking into a chair.
“Ashima will be by with the girls just before tea,” Lily said, swiping a bit of chocolate from the corner of her mouth. “Your lovely teammate’s in dad’s footie room with Teddy going over his massive notebooks full of game stats. And your godfathers are out in the garden trying to put together the girl’s swings.”
“Oh lord. Well I think I’ll opt for the less dangerous and pop in on Cedric and Teddy.” He got up, but looked back down at his parents who were cuddled together. “Er, you two alright? What’s with the chocolate?”
“My period,” Lily said with a shrug. “And I refuse to get sick on pie all on my own.”
“So I so kindly volunteered to be her second,” James answered with a grin as he dipped his spoon into the gooey chocolate.
Harry rolled his eyes. “The pair of you are ridiculous. It’s a miracle I came out so well adjusted.” With that, he wandered down to the footie room and found Cedric and Teddy sat on the floor with several notebooks sprawled out between them.
Cedric looked up with a grin. “Got pulled in here the second I walked through the door.”
Harry let out a sigh. “Teddy…”
“No it’s fine,” Cedric said in a hurry. “Honestly.”
Teddy beamed up at Harry who crossed the room and plonked down next to his godson. Teddy wasn’t one for being touched, he disliked hugs or feeling restrained or confined at all, but it gave Harry a rush of affection when Teddy moved over just enough so their knees pressed together.
It was his way of hugging, really, and Harry appreciated every single one of those gestures.
“Cedric said I could publish these,” Teddy told his godfather. He gave the notebook page a reverent stroke.
“He could,” Cedric replied with a nod. “Have you gone through these? Bloody meticulous. That father of his ought to help him with it. These would be worth a fortune to collectors. I mean honestly this is…it’s bloody amazing.”
“He said bloody,” Teddy whispered.
“Because he’s a grown adult and he’s allowed,” Harry whispered back with a wink to Cedric.
“I’ve got yours, you know,” Teddy said after a second, looking at Cedric. “You’ve got nine books.”
Cedric looked startled. “Have I? Nine?”
“You’ve broken a good deal of records. You’ll be famous like Uncle James,” the boy said decidedly. “But maybe not get blinded.”
Cedric chuckled. “Maybe not.” He was looking at the boy with a bit of awe and wonder, and Harry felt whatever it was inside him heat up more. He wanted to reach across and pull Cedric in for a kiss. Or…well…something.
“I’m going to play with lego now,” Teddy said after a moment. He got up, leaving the notebooks where they were, and ran out.
Groaning, Harry began to tidy them up. “Can’t leave them where my dad could trip and fall.”
Cedric nodded his understanding, and they began to collect them, leaving them in a neat pile on top of one of Harry’s boxes. When they were done, Cedric began to roam about, looking at all the photos on the walls.
There were many of James in his younger days. At school with Remus and Sirius, and their mate Peter who came round every so often. There were many of Harry when he was a baby, wearing his first mini kit with West Ham printed on the back. Lily had put together several newspaper clippings of James’ wins and records, and several regarding the cup, and set it up on a board.
Each had a small braille tag underneath for James to read, and Harry watched Cedric’s fingers reach out to touch one, then pull away, his face going red.
“It’s alright,” Harry said. He walked up next to Cedric and ran his fingers over one of the tags. “It’s a description of the photo. My dad insisted they be put up.”
Cedric gulped. “Would you think I’m a complete twat if I tell you that I’m terrified something like that will happen to me?”
Harry shook his head. “No. I think that’s normal.”
Cedric rubbed his face a little, then reached out and touched the braille for just a second. “Your dad’s accident happened ages before I knew who he was. But my dad was a fan. He was at that World Cup game, you know. Used to tell the story of James Potter’s epic goals.” Cedric let out a small laugh, making Harry grin. “I think part of my fascination with him was him getting on with his life. I’ve been footie mad since…well since forever. And I used to wonder if I would actually be able to live past an injury like that.”
Harry looked at Cedric for a long moment. “I think it all depends.”
Harry blinked, slow and careful. “On whether you’ve got something to live for. It’s not like it wasn’t hard on him. Or that he wasn’t angry for a long time. But in the end he loved us more than he loved the game. And he can honestly say he’s happy now.”
Cedric nodded. “Believe me, I can tell. He’s…I mean…well responsible for you, isn’t he? Mostly. And you’re…” Cedric’s mouth scrunched up, then he blushed bright red and took a step away from Harry. “Well anyway. Point of it is, he became my worst fear and biggest hero, and now I’m stood in his house and it’s weird when your idols all sort of become…human.”
Harry smiled. “Well I don’t know what that’s like, really. But I get it. Anyway, if you want, I can introduce you to your favourite author who is currently outside likely swearing and hating life as he tries to construct a swing set. They could probably use the help.”
Cedric blinked in surprise, then laughed. “Yeah? I think I can do that. I’m pretty hand with my fingers.” He winked then, and led the way out, leaving a hot-faced Harry with no idea what to do.
After tea, which was an affair in itself after Ash got there and began to take the constant piss out of Harry for his losses and his incredible socially awkward interviews, Cedric and James went to watch the sport recaps of the night, and Lily and Ash took the girls for a walk so it would tire them out.
Harry kept stealing glances into the lounge as he stood near the doorway with his tea. Cedric and James were on the sofa, Teddy between them, and they were engrossed in whatever was on the telly.
It was oddly domestic, and Harry allowed himself a moment to fantasise about what it might be like if he and Cedric made a proper go of things. If he found a way to be brave and at least ask. And then they could have this. Someone his parents adored, someone who thought Teddy was wonderful. Someone who wanted to be there.
Turning on his heel, he stepped outside to the back garden and found his godfathers out there. The swings were constructed, though Harry had his doubts about how sturdy it was, and the pair were looking at their handiwork.
Remus, the taller of the two, was sat on the top step, Sirius sat on the second between Remus’ thighs. They were cuddling, for lack of a better word, as Remus thumbed through his mobile messages and Sirius finished his smoke.
“Hallo,” Sirius said as Harry took a seat next to Remus. “You look like you’ve got something on your mind.”
Harry glanced back to make sure no one had followed him out. “Well. Er. Yes. A godfather problem, actually.”
“Something this one’s done?” Remus asked, giving Sirius a nudge with his knee. “Or something we can help you with.”
“The second one,” Harry said. “I think I’ve erm…well fuck I don’t want to say it because you two are going to take the piss the way dad did, then slag me for being completely unobservant.”
Remus gave him a cautious look. “Is this about Cedric?”
Harry gave a miserable nod. “I’m not stupid. I know I fancy him. I just…I’m really shit at this whole relationship business and well, first I’m not sure if he fancies me like that. And second, I don’t know how to tell the difference between wanting a quick fling or wanting to be with him. And I wondered how er…well…how you two sorted that out.”
His godfathers exchanged a look, then laughed their secret laugh. Remus palmed Sirius’ cheek fondly, letting his thumb stroke over Sirius’ sharp cheekbones. “Well, we had a lot of stumbling along the way.”
Harry held up his hand. “Oh I know. I remember you recounting it in gory detail when the four of you tried to each separately give me the sex talk.”
Harry was fifteen at the time. First he’d been cornered by James who awkwardly stumbled through terminology and ended with, “Just use condoms, but if you don’t and there’s a grandchild well…just…I mean. Condoms are really great and I’ll happily make sure you have any when you’re ready. And if you shag blokes they’re good too. So…just protect your penis. Protect their arse. Christ I don’t know. Is this…I mean…have you got it, Haz?”
Choking on his own tongue, Harry begged his dad to just let it go.
Lily had been more put together with a handful of printed sheets detailing out sex safety and consent. “Communication is key. Make sure you’re interested in the sex, and they are. Any hesitation and stop. Does that all make sense?”
“Yes mum, now can you go so I can light myself on fire and die so this conversation will have never existed?”
“Be embarrassed all you want, Haz. You’ll thank me for it later.”
Lily hadn’t been wrong.
Moony’s talk had been more about love and romance, but for all that he was an amazing writer, it came together like a bizarrely worded play. “Feelings are important. To just…be aware of them. And you can do things to hurt someone and not notice. So tell them. Just…make sure you know where your boundaries are. Because it’s important when you really care about the person.”
“Christ Moony,” Harry moaned, thinking the hell week of sex talks would never end.
Of course Moony’s talk made more sense when Sirius swaggered in and declared, “We need to talk about asexuality.”
He then provided a detailed explanation of the asexual spectrum and far too much detail about where he fell on it. “Course in the eighties this wasn’t a think. Thought my prick was broken or something. Then Moony came along and suddenly I wanted to bugger. Or well, sometimes I did. And we had a lot of awkward, stumbling steps toward what we are today. A lot of issues with communication and neither one of us being clear, and me trying to fix myself. But we sorted it out and now we’re happy. I’m mostly shag-free, I mean, I like to give, you know? Which is just as good for me as receiving is for him and…”
“Oh fucking hell, Padfoot, please. Please I’m begging you. I get it but you have to stop there.”
Laughing at the memory, Remus gave Sirius another fond pat, then turned his head up to kiss him softly. “We meant well,” Remus said.
“I know,” Harry replied, laughing. “It was horrifying and yet it stuck with me and worked. Never had much of an issue.”
“Until now,” Sirius pointed out.
Harry let out a groan. “I just…it’s complicated. He’s on my team and I want to make sure whatever I’m feeling isn’t for some one-off. And that he feels the same way because if I open up to him and he was just being proper friends, I’ll never be able to look him in the face again.”
“For what it’s worth, Harij,” Sirius said, leaning into Remus’ chest and snuggling a bit more, “and not that I’m an expert, but most blokes don’t look at their mates the way Cedric looks at you. Not when they’re just interested in being proper friends.”
Harry felt his face go a little hot, and he rubbed at his eyes. “So what should I do? I mean I know, communication and all that. But how the bloody fuck do I open that door?”
“Well you can do like I did,” Sirius suggested, “and grab him by the face and say, ‘Just wondering how you’d feel about me sticking my tongue in your mouth.’ And if he’s anything like Moony he’ll go all soggy and fuzzy about the eyes and nod his head and then surprise you by leaving you snog-stupid right there in the corridor.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Well I’m not entirely sure he’s like Moony in that respect. But…” Harry let out a breath. “I guess being direct is the way to go.”
“Worked for us,” Remus said, carding his fingers through Sirus’ hair. “And for the record, we like him. He’s good with Teddy. Doesn’t patronise him at all. Talks to him like a proper person.”
Harry smiled softly. “That’s because Teddy is a proper person and Cedric’s not an arse.” He groaned, then stretched and stood back up. “Well…I’ll think about it. Because it’s getting out of hand.”
“Just do something before your subconscious gets too out of control, and you end up saying something you regret after you get pissed,” Sirius warned.
Harry gave him a withering look, mostly because his godfather was right. “Thanks for that.” Then he softened. “Really though. Thanks.”
Harry didn’t get a chance to have a proper word with Cedric. Wednesday evening Harry was sat at his small table having his cuppa when on the news an announcement was made.
“Marianna Edgecomb, best friend of Miss Cho Chang, famed reporter and notorious ex of footballer star Cedric Diggory, is providing a tell-all interview live this evening. It’s reported she will come out with all the sordid details of the relationship, the truth about Mr Diggory’s alleged affairs with other men, and the real reasons for the split. Stay tuned tonight for the details fans of Arsenal’s star centre-forward had been waiting for, in just thirty minutes.”
Harry blinked at the telly, then felt a well of panic in his system. Grabbing his mobile and keys without even thinking, Harry scrolled through his contacts for Cedric’s address. He didn’t live far, surprisingly, and somehow made the drive in less than ten. Which meant twenty until the report started.
Harry found himself tearing up two flights of stairs to be stood at flat F, knocking hard on the door. He didn’t think for even a second that Cedric might have company, or might not be home, or might not want to see Harry at all.
The door opened and a rather harassed looking Cedric stood there. “Harry?”
“You can’t watch it,” Harry blurted.
Cedric blinked, then his face fell. “I want to know what she thinks she’s going to tell all,” Cedric argued.
Harry pushed past him, uninvited, his head shaking. “It’ll be worse, trust me. Some of the biggest rows and worst depressions my parents suffered was giving into these fucking rating-bate pieces. Come on, get a jumper and your shoes and come with me.”
“Come with you where?” Cedric demanded.
Harry hadn’t quite thought that far. “Er,” he fumbled. “Brighton.”
Cedric’s eyes went wide. “Brighton, are you mad? That’s an hour at least.”
“Yes well, it’s not that late,” Harry defended. “And my parents have a cottage there. Just need to swing by my sister’s to get the key. And…and there’s no telly there and we don’t even have practise until Thursday late. So you’re coming. Please,” he added.
Cedric looked torn, but after a second he shrugged and reached into his call cupboard for a hoodie with a zip on the front, and his trainers. “Should I erm…bring anything?”
“I’m going to ring up Ashima and ask her to pack up something to go for dinner. And we’ll sort out breakfast tomorrow. And you’re not going to think about Cho or this Edgecomb bitch or any of it. Not until it’s well over.”
Cedric still seemed hesitant, but he turned off his lights and locked his doors and followed Harry down to the car.
There was traffic, so the drive took longer than an hour. Ten minutes in, Cedric leant his head against the window.
“Whatever Marianna’s going to say, it’s probably true. I did cheat on Cho with a bloke.”
Harry pursed his lips. “I’m sorry.”
“For her, I hope. I mean, we weren’t in a good place, me and Cho. Hadn’t seen each other in months and I got pissed. Made a mistake. But we just weren’t good together anymore and neither one of us loved each other.”
“I get it, Ced. You don’t have to sell me on the whys. We’ve all made our mistakes.”
Cedric looked over at Harry and smiled. “That’s why you’re a good sort, Potter. I mean, who does this? Who drags their mate off to avoid feeling unpleasant things?”
“Someone whose spent his life watching his parents suffer at the hands of unpleasant things like this?” Harry offered. “And I er…well I like you. You know. You’re a good sort as well.”
It was dim in the car, but Cedric’s cheeks most definitely looked flushed.
They made casual conversation through the rest of the drive, and both were a bit subdued once they arrived at the cottage. Harry’d sent a text to his parents who had no problem with him using the cottage. It was a bit dusty, but had only been locked up for a few months since summer, so it wasn’t bad.
The dust was little, the cabinets had loads of tinned foods, and the kitchen was clean. The bedrooms were all read, though none of the beds made, but the hall cupboards had plenty of sheets and a stack of warm duvets.
“This is pretty fantastic,” Cedric said as he explored round. The place was sparsely furnished, old photos of the Potters and Lupin-Blacks on the walls. Cedric found the beach ones of skinny, awkward teenaged Harry on the rocky shores particularly amusing, but the smile was warm.
“Well I’d say you definitely got more fit,” Cedric said when Harry came back into the room.
Harry flushed a bit as he gestured at the food Ash had prepared for them. “Er. Thanks?”
The pair settled onto the sofa with the take-away boxes between them, and ate. “Remind me to thank your sister sometime,” Cedric said. “This is delicious, and honestly so much bloody better than wallowing in beer at my flat.”
Harry shrugged. “I er…tend to do things without really thinking about them. And most of the time they land properly, though a few times my good intentions haven’t gone over well.”
Cedric laughed. “I could see that happening, but I’m pleased I’m the one benefitting from your recklessness tonight.”
Harry licked his lips, then decided in for a penny, in for a pound. “Can I ask you something?”
Cedric stared at him, then cleared his throat. “Yeah, okay.”
“It’s just…well I’ve been feeling this new well…feeling. And I’ve had trouble sorting it out, and apparently everyone’s advice is to just do this so…well. I think I fancy you and I was wondering ifyoufancyme,” he finished with a rush.
Cedric cleared his throat. “Sorry er…what? What that last bit?”
Harry, who was so hot he thought he might burst into flames, said, “I was wondering if you erm…fancy me. As well.”
Cedric carefully set the take-away box down on the low table and shifted more toward Harry. “You fancy me? As in proper, want to snog you and possibly shag fancy?”
“Well,” Harry said, trying to keep his tone and words very careful, “more in the sense of I fancy the hell out of you, and I think I’d like to make a proper go of something. Because you’re great and my family all loves you, and I realised it was worth sacrificing what we’ve got now to ask. Though I’m really really hoping right now you’re willing to let me down easy and not let it be too awkward.”
Cedric blinked. Then blinked again. Then cleared his throat and ran his hand into his hair. Then shifted a little closer. “Well no. I don’t think I will let you down easy…”
“Buggering fuck,” Harry whispered, feeling his stomach sink somewhere near his knees.
“Because I don’t want to let you down at all.”
Harry froze, his gaze turning to Cedric very slow and careful. “Oh. Er.”
A hesitant hand crept out, long fingers curling round Harry’s wrist and tugging him just a little closer. “Did you think that proper mates hold hands in pubs under the table?”
“Well…some people enjoy platonic affection,” Harry defended.
Cedric moved a bit closer. “Yes, some do. But we’re British boys, Harry. We haven’t properly learnt to express ourselves yet.”
Harry gulped, feeling the heat of Cedric’s body oh so close to his now. “Er.”
“Shut up,” Harry said.
So instead of saying something, Cedric pulled Harry in and kissed him. Hard. With tongue. His hands slid up to Harry’s waist, the angle a bit awkward with knees and feet in the way, but before long Harry pushed Cedric flat onto his back, along the length of the sofa, and began to run his open mouth along Cedric’s neck.
“Fuck. Harry,” Cedric breathed, his hands drawing up Harry’s sides. “This is…oh. It’s good. It’s…good, right?”
Harry paused, looking him in the eyes. “Yes. I mean, I rather think so. I don’t have erm…you know. Anything.” Cedric blushed, and Harry looked away for a second. “But we can work round that.”
Cedric reached up boldly, cupping Harry’s erection through his jeans and stroking it. “Yeah. Yeah I think.”
Harry let out a low groan as he pushed his hips down against Cedric’s hand. His mouth then went back to work on the hot skin, and before long, they were tugging at clothes.
Minutes later, the delicious slide of hot, naked prick against naked prick had Harry and Cedric panting into open mouths. Hands were fumbling, trying to increase the friction, hips moving and begging as they drew closer and closer.
Before long, Harry was crying out, arching his back, eyes slamming closed as his orgasm gripped him. Cedric followed seconds later, just a hitched breath before he was grabbing Harry by the hips and pressing himself upwards against the hot belly.
It was a bit of a mess, but when Harry returned with a wet flannel, Cedric was still laid there with a grin on his face, unembarrassed and naked.
“That was fucking great, Harry. I was not expecting to get off.”
Harry laughed, his cheeks going a bit dark. “Yes well.” He coughed. “I wasn’t either, but I was hoping a bit.”
Cedric took the flannel to mop them up, then looked Harry in the face. “Any chance we can share a bed tonight? There’s a few other things I might like to get up to. Once we’ve recovered a bit.”
Harry smiled. “Er. I think that can be arranged.”
Harry woke in a tangle of limbs in his large holiday bed. It took him a moment to remember how, and why, and who, but when it came rushing back, a small, satiated smile crossed his face. With a groan, he rolled over and let his face bury into the tawny locks perched just below his chin.
Cedric shifted, not looking up, but his heavy arm curled round Harry’s waist and drew him in closer. “Morning,” he mumbled against Harry’s skin.
Harry breathed in the scent of Cedric’s hair and felt it wash over him like affection and need and want all wrapped up together. “Morning. How are you?”
Cedric chuckled. “Sore. Happy. No regrets. You?”
“Same.” Harry tightened his hold. “We will have to sort ourselves out soon, though. Breakfast and the drive back.”
Cedric grumbled. “Or we could skive off and let the coach punish us later.”
Harry laughed, poking Cedric on the side until he looked up. “Or you could kiss me, and we could get off again before we go.”
Cedric seemed to like that idea much better.
The drive back to London was quiet, occasional hand-holding, and shy looks. It was all new and exciting and they hadn’t really discussed what they were or what it meant, but Harry felt happy.
Pulling up to Cedric’s building, Harry stopped the car and looked at him. “Well…”
“I’d offer you to come up, but we’ve got to hurry,” Cedric said, sounding very apologetic.
Harry smiled, grabbing him by the front of his shirt and hauling him in for a kiss. Cedric returned it eagerly. “It’s fine. I need a proper shower before I head in. We both look a bit well-shagged.”
Cedric flushed, but in a non-embarrassed way. “True. Well…maybe we can skip the pub tonight, and hang out at mine?”
Harry grinned, nodding. “I think I’d like that.” Just then Harry’s mobile went off, and still with his face close to Cedric, he swiped it open and immediately regretted Cedric could see it.
From Dad: What did I tell you! I told you it would work out! Is he officially your boyfriend, yet? Let me know the moment I can announce to the world my future son in law is going to be Cedric Diggory.
Harry pulled away, covering his face. “He’s so mortifying.”
Cedric was laughing though, and drawing a warm palm down Harry’s cheek. “I wouldn’t mind that, you know.”
Harry peered up. “What?”
“Being your boyfriend. I mean, it’ll take the edge off being crucified by the media over Cho.”
Harry rolled his eyes, but he was grinning. “I see. So you want me around for protection.”
“Well that, and so some day I could call James Potter my father in law.” When Harry scoffed, Cedric laughed. “Come on, there are far worse in laws.”
“You just haven’t know him long enough, believe me,” Harry groaned. “Anyway get the hell out of my car or you’ll make us both late.”
Cedric tugged Harry in for one more kiss though. “See you soon.”
“Yeah,” Harry whispered. “Soon.”
Stood in Cedric’s lounge, warm arms came round Harry’s waist, and a warm mouth at his ear. “I just realised,” Cedric breathed, “I never did properly thank you for everything you did for me.”
Harry shivered, holding on tighter. “Yeah?”
“And I have a very lovely place to bathe. With jets.”
Harry gulped, then looked into those heated brown eyes. “Yeah?”
“What say you we go run one and erm…mull things over a bit. In the warm water.”
Harry took Cedric by his hips and pressed a searing kiss to his mouth. “I think that sounds fantastic.”