Badger and Lion
Created: July 8, 2004
Date Written:July 8, 2004
Disclaimer:I DON'T OWN HARRY POTTER! I'd sure like to, because Harry needs a significant other (which is where our humble Hufflepuff comes into play), but seeing as I don't, I'd rather like to make this clear. Jo owns the story and all the characters, not me, darn it, so leave me alone already!
Notes:Italics denote thought.
Part 1: In the Prefects' BathroomThere were things… some things… that Harry could understand. He could understand Quidditch, sure; he had never felt more alive than when playing a speedy, dangerous, exhilarating game of Quidditch, dodging Bludgers and catching the fluttering Golden Snitch. He could understand Summoning Charms—which Professor Flitwick liked to remind him every time he passed him in the corridors—and he prided himself in it, and was almost known for it now throughout Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He could understand Ron and Hermione—however often they quarreled—and their subsequent understanding of him. But there were also many, many things he didn't understand.
He couldn't, for instance, begin to fathom what Cho Chang saw in Cedric Diggory. He didn't understand why Cedric was so liable to beat him in everything he did. He didn't understand why his name had suddenly erupted, the edges of the paper in which it was written charred, from the Goblet of Fire. He didn't understand why no one would believe him, and he certainly didn't understand why Cedric kept stealing furtive looks at him in the halls, as if trying to exchange a forbidden coded message.
For once, Harry wanted to get the upper hand of things. Just for once, he wanted to win and show people that he could be known for something other than his single-handed defeat of Voldemort as a one-year-old baby. He wanted to emerge, triumphant, with the Triwizard cup, into a tumult of enraptured cheers, wanted to see Cho's glowing face, shining with happiness and admiration, wanted for once to come out on top and beat Cedric in something. He wanted more than anything to prove his worth.
So when Cedric had given him the message regarding the golden egg at Christmas, unclear and cryptic though it was, he had thought vaguely about it from time to time, always keeping it in the back of his mind but nevertheless considering it. Of course, it could've been perceived as rude for Cedric to tell him to take a bath, but Cedric wasn't the sort of person that would do such a thing; maybe he genuinely wanted to help. Reluctant though he was to accept so much as a Knut from the person who had stolen Cho's heart, he very much wanted to figure out the golden egg's clue, as February the twenty-fourth was drawing nearer, heralding the second task. And what was it, anyway? Was it really a banshee—or did he have to fight the Cruciatus Curse (or possibly attack Percy in the shower…)? What was the significance of the mysterious egg?
Finally, when he decided he didn't want his pride to get the best of him, he decided to sneak out of Gryffindor Tower and finally discover the secret of the egg. Ron waited for him at the portrait and opened it for him; he crept out, whispering words of gratitude, as Ron murmured "Good luck" and disappeared back into the common room. He looked quickly at the Marauder's Map he held by wandlight in his hand. Filch, Mrs. Norris, and Peeves, the three things most likely to cause hindrance in his midnight quest, were off elsewhere, busying themselves with patrolling the corridors (or in Peeves's case, catapulting the heads of suits of armor at Nearly Headless Nick, who was passing). Harry crept up a staircase and began making his way slowly to the prefects' bathroom.
He held up his wand in the darkness, fully aware that he and his wandlight were quite undetectable in the darkness of Hogwarts Castle at one o'clock in the night, and noticed something stirring in the shadows.
Immediately, Harry jumped, but recognized the pale, smooth features of Cedric Diggory, dark curls bouncing slightly as he kept to the shadows beneath the windows, listening for the ever-present Filch, who Harry knew was too far away to even rely on one of his handy secret passages to find Cedric. The seventh-year Hogwarts champion made his way directly to the door in which Harry was about to arrive at, muttered "pine fresh" in a carrying whisper, and slipped through the door. Harry nipped in as well before the door shut and, unseen, leaned against the wall and retained a firmer grip on his egg.
The room was a dazzling white, made almost entirely of marble and lit softly with candles, even at night. A large, rectangular swimming pool was sunk into the middle of the floor in this wondrous room, and Harry's jaw dropped when he discovered it was a rather widely-proportionate bath tub of sorts. Cedric allowed the water to fill itself and filled the tub with bubbles; as he turned more taps set around the tub, multi-colored curtains of mist enshrouded Cedric as he slipped out of a bathrobe and disappeared into the pool. It was like he was behind a veil of fog; it was only until the haze thinned a little five minutes later that Harry could see Cedric wading in the pool, inscribing a trail through the bubbles. He wondered if he ought to reveal that he had an Invisibility Cloak, or if he could pretend he'd been here all the time.
As Cedric dipped underwater, Harry quickly stuffed his invisibilty cloak to the floor; its silvery coating and texture went quite unnoticed on the equally-ethereal color of the tile. He used it to cover both wand and map and, egg under arm, approached the pool. When Cedric breached the surface of the water, he noticed Harry and leapt back, choking.
"Oh!" Harry said in surprise, watching as Cedric coughed extravagantly and spouted out a jet of water. "Sorry, I didn't mean—"
"Don't worry about it," the teen sputtered, managing a small grin through his hacking. When he regained his bearings, he looked at Harry as though he were the Golden Snitch. "You're actually here!"
"And so are you," Harry reported matter-of-factly, kneeling down with the golden egg. "Fancy night-time baths, do you?"
Cedric grinned, seeing the strangeness of the situation, and inclined his head slowly. "Oh, yeah. It's the only way to go," he said jokingly, paddling backward in the water and brushing the dripping curls of hair out of his face.
Wonder what's he actually doing here. Surely he's not too shy to bathe with the rest of the prefects?
"But really," Harry said, voicing his thoughts aloud, "what are you doing here?"
"Thought I could help you out on your egg," Cedric reported, cocking his head to the side. "You know, I wasn't entirely helpful with my suggestion. And you were pretty straightforward with yours—dragons are coming, defend yourself or run away. I just… er, told you to take a bath." He laughed. "Not helpful, really."
If he's come to wangle information out of me for the egg, he's not getting any.
Harry didn't say this aloud; he felt it would give Cedric the impression that he was as paranoid as Mad-Eye Moody. He smiled slightly, aware again that he was so immensely jealous of Cedric that he couldn't think straight. Cedric had beat him at Quidditch, he'd become the highly-supported and renowned champion of Hogwarts (surely Harry's performance in the first task hadn't put a dent in his popularity), and he had stolen away Harry's crush, Cho. His face reddened at the thought of the Ravenclaw Seeker.
"No, not too terribly," he said, suddenly remembering it was expected to respond. Cedric grinned and motioned to the bath.
"You can get in if you like," he said nonchalantly, but his voice quavered ever so slightly in the last syllable. Huh? "The water's always really warm, the prefects' bath must be bewitched or something. Plus, the bubbles. Provides for hours of entertainment." He smiled expectantly at Harry, who was going more red than before. Right, getting into baths with other boys. It's not on my list of things to do before I get out of Hogwarts.
"Erm…" Harry said, and Cedric, looking horrified, said, "Forget it, no, you don't have to, I realize it was sort of an invasion of privacy—"
"Don't worry about it," Harry said, but all the same, he didn't get in. Maybe it was a trick of the technicolor shroud now floating around the Hogwarts champion, but Harry thought he saw a glimmer of disappointment in Cedric's gray eyes. After recovering from the awkward moment, he continued, "So, you said you were going to help more?"
Cedric, still looking sheepish, said, "Yeah, might as well."
A moment of silence ensued. Harry wondered whether he ought get into the bath—it looked extremely inviting with the green, purple, red, blue and yellow bubbles drifting lazily on its surface, and steam gently rising from its depths—but it would just be weird. Especially considering it was someone he thought of as a rival, someone that he thought of as a girlfriend-stealer, and envied beyond all people at Hogwarts almost as much as he liked him. It was hard not to take a shining to someone who was so nice.
Why is he so nice, anyway? Did his parents just bring him up right or is he buttering people up? It made perfect sense, really. He needed to get something, he could easily just show a sunny disposition to someone and get what he needed without them ever knowing what was going on. But after seeing the things that Cedric had done and hearing about him from all the people in school (mostly girls), he pretty much thought he had the seventh-year down. He was just nice. Right?
"So—are you going to just tell me, or do you like watching people struggle?" Harry said with a faint smile. He was looking at the golden egg with a feeling of sinking despair in his stomach, the feeling he got every time he remembered that the second task drew nearer every minute. Cedric grinned, seeing Harry's nervousness.
"I don't know—I'm an old-fashioned guy, Harry. I think people should figure things out for themselves—be independent—but what the heck, why not." His smile broadened and Harry returned it, the pangs in his stomach quite evaporating at the thought of finally discovering the secret of the golden egg.
Harry considered once again the prospect of dipping into the warm bath, but shook it out of his head. Awkward, he told himself, just plain awkward.
Cedric swam forward and held out his hands. Harry got the impression that he was supposed to take them, but Cedric gestured meaningfully to the egg clutched firmly under his right arm, and Harry, feeling slightly ashamed, surrendered the golden prize. Cedric studied it hard, opened it, and the prefects' bathroom erupted into horrible, piercing shrieks; Cedric clamped it shut firmly, smiled pointedly at Harry, and lowered the egg under the water. Harry had a rather protective sense towards it now, and as the seventh year submerge it in the heavily-perfumed, soapy bath water, he felt the strongest urge to lunge in and take it back. He watched through a minute patch clear of bubbles as Cedric opened the egg under the water. Not a trace of a shriek could be heard, but Harry could distinctly hear a faint, haunting snatch of music….
"This is where being in the water helps," Cedric said knowingly, and made room for Harry as he dipped his head under the water after taking a breath.
"Come seek us where our voices sound… we cannot sing above the ground… but while you're searching, ponder this… we've taken what you'll sorely miss… but past an hour, the prospect's black… too late, it's gone, it won't come back…"
He dipped his head under the water thrice more until he had memorized the haunting tune, and looked into the eager face of Cedric Diggory upon emerging from the water's depths for the fourth time. His face was alight with excitement but an overall sense of dread that Harry could've sensed standing outside the room. "Brilliant, isn't it?" he said.
Harry stared. "Er… yes."
"Oh, right, you only just heard the song, you haven't had time to work it out," he said apologetically, putting Harry's egg back on the tile, where it dripped water.
"It's merpeople, Harry! Merpeople! Don't you see what we have to do?" Cedric said quickly, his eyes ablaze with curiosity and delight that made Harry's insides quiver unprecedentedly. Perhaps Cedric's enthusiasm was infectious.
"We've got to go to the lake! We've got to dive under and take what we'll sorely miss… whatever that is. It's great! I love swimming."
Harry's insides, positively squirming with delight, seemed to erode away as if caught unawares by a Vanishing Spell. Cedric noticed his sudden change in attitude and, looking concerned, leaned in closer. "Harry? Are you okay?" he asked. Harry nodded absentmindedly; he didn't know how to swim at all, apparently unlike Cedric, who had just seconds ago looked positively elated at the thought of the second task.
"That's… that's bad," he finally responded. Cedric grinned.
"I can help, of course—I know I've heard about this underwater survival thing somewhere, Flitwick or Moody or SOMEONE's mentioned it, I just know they have." He paused, looking slightly apprehensive. "You know, we might be able to help each other out in this tournament," he added, his voice sounding weaker and less excited. "I reckon with your uncanny ability to know stuff before it happens and my powers of deduction, we could pull off a Hogwarts victory in the end."
"Yeah—maybe—" Harry said, his mind still on the lake. "Maybe." His eyes darted back to the bath, which looked more welcoming than ever. Reluctantly, he wrenched his eyes away, connecting the bath water with the fathoms-deep lake of Hogwarts…. How on earth would he be able to breathe underwater?
This is it, this is the end of the tournament for me…
"Don't look so worried!" Cedric said, clapping a masculine and wet hand on Harry's shaking shoulder. "You'll do fine, I know you will. You were absolutely AMAZING with that Horntail, Harry, and I mean it. You'll do great." Harry looked up at the cheerful, resplendent face of Cedric and felt his worries lighten ever so slightly. He, at least, managed a polite grin back, the thought of the lake evaporating as he stared into the broad, handsome features of his friendly rival.
"Thanks," Harry said, "for the vote of confidence. But I'm not so sure you're right."
"Of course I'm right," Cedric contradicted, then shook his head. "That came out wrong. But you know what I mean! I've noticed you around school, too. You don't give yourself enough credit, man. The Sorcerer's Stone… and that basilisk…. In your second year, Harry. That's a pretty mean feet for someone of that age. I'm seventeen, and I'm not even sure what I'm going to do in this tournament."
Harry considered these words and sighed. "Maybe. But all of that was pure luck."
"But you did good under pressure, and that's what they're looking for, you know," Cedric reassured. "We stick with each other, we're bound to win. We can really help each other along the path, I reckon. But only if you want to," he added hastily, smiling again sheepishly. "It's totally up to you. Completely."
Harry nodded slowly, his heart feeling less constricted. Maybe he really does want something from me. Why else would he be so nice?
"You know what I'd like? If we could get together next Hogsmeade trip." Cedric's deep gray eyes shone like a beacon. "We could talk, you know. I'd really like it if you were my friend."
Something has GOT to be up with him. What is he, St. Diggory? But all the same, Harry felt heartened. Looking into Cedric's face was like peering into the very personification of kindness. Harry nodded. "I'd like that, too," he said, grinning despite himself. Cedric nodded and swam slightly to the right, startling Harry. "Where are you going?" he asked.
The seventh year reddened slightly. "I should probably get back to bed," he said. "You know what's coming, at least. That's something. So, maybe we could talk some time? About the Triwizard tournament, or Quidditch, or, you know, whatever?"
Harry nodded, knowing he should've felt annoyed with Cedric, the object of Cho's affection, the shining glimmer of achievement… but he didn't. Cedric got out of the bath, pale planes of muscle working as he walked quickly towards the other end of the bathroom (Harry's face grew hot, though he didn't really notice), performed a complex-looking charm that apparently dried his entire body, and pulled on his bathrobe. He turned around, smiling, and to Harry's surprise his cheeks were also tinged pink. "Well, g'night," he said, grinned heartily once more, and stepped out of the prefects' bathroom, leaving Harry to dwell on their conversation and the knowledge of the second task he'd just acquired.
DM, Signing Off:
Hello! I'm Dusk Magnum, author of this story. Biggest Harry/Cedric shipper in the world, I can guarantee you that (I think), and want to make it clear that this is my first ever fan fiction. I am a flourishing writer (or I like to think so) on Fiction Press, however, and the address to my profile and stories are on my bio, so check it out and send a review my way if you feel like it… Reviews are always, always welcome, and constructive criticism is essential. Be mean if you feel the need to be, because I'm a bit of a manners-free nitpicker when I review, so feel free…. And I will definitely review a piece of your work if you do the same to mine.
Here's to a successful fic! Dusk Magnum