Badger and Lion
Author: Dusk Magnum
Created: July 8, 2004
Date Written: July 27, 2004
Rating: R
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter, obviously, or I wouldn't have to be on typing all of this up, would I? No, I would be in my castle-like home, updating my tantalizingly vague website and making sure the 'Do Not Disturb' sign stays put on that fricking door. So… yeah.
Notes: Italics denote thought; also, I've decided to exclude the second task from the story, as everyone knows what happens anyway; Ron is the thing Harry will miss most, because since Cedric is also a champion and has to participate in the task as well…. Besides, (and unnecessary spoiler alert), Cedric will miss Harry the most, but it's the same thing. They both have to compete, right? Yeah. Plus, I'm changing around the events of Goblet of Fire to include Harry being the first out of the lake with his hostage and then Cedric, then Krum, then Fleur. Enjoy!

Part 6: Missed and Misunderstood

Harry had been up since four on the morning of the second task, berating himself silently for not having enough gall to continue practicing the Bubble-Head Charm with Cedric. He'd been to two more practice dates (he wondered if he could even call them dates, casual or romantic intentions notwithstanding) with Cedric in the secret room on the sixth floor, but he'd been so distracted and worried he hadn't had time to learn. Eventually this had all pent up in his already over-crowded mind and had transformed itself into frustration. He stopped talking altogether with Cedric in the two days preceding February the twenty-fourth and had instead sought to holing himself up in a sequestered corner of the vast Hogwarts library, buried beneath endless piles of books. This all came back to the Goblet of Fire, he thought, in the hours he had spent in the library pondering his options; if his name hadn't suddenly sprouted out of the thing, none of this would've ever had to happen. In fact, maybe he would've allowed himself to envy Cedric from a distance. If he hadn't talked to him, maybe he wouldn't have liked him so much in the first place….

Not all of his time in the library was spent drilling through mountains of books for the second task, however. Harry would often retreat into the farthest reaches of his mind and spend time entertaining countless fantasies involving Cedric, or alternate courses in which he had never talked to Cedric, and henceforth had never found out he was gay. It bothered him more than he wanted to think, and this fused with the frustration already amassing in his brain like an unwanted tumor so that his head pounded with confusion and despondency.

The morning of the second task brought several things Harry would never forget; Dobby, his great ears flopping like a cartoon rabbit's, his tennis ball-sized eyes wide with fear and reverence as he stared at Harry, babbling on about Harry's 'Wheezy' and thrusting the gillyweed into his hands roughly. The feeling he found when he had swallowed the gillyweed, dizzy with the sudden absence of much-needed oxygen. What it was like to wander through the lake, silence pressing in on him like an invisibile, suffocating blanket. Finding Ron, Hermione, Fleur's silver-haired sister, and (worst of all) Cho. His heart caught in his throat as he saw her, drifting eerily in the water, her pretty face looking oddly illuminated by a nonexistent light.

There was just one explanation to whom she was to be rescued by. He knew it was stupid to think otherwise, and he knew he wished he'd never met Cedric before, but what if he was the one suspended by rope, floating eerily as much as his bonds would allow, lost in the bewitchment of sleep? Wouldn't it be nice to know that someone cared?

He remembered crashing to the surface of the lake to an explosion of sound—cheering, whooping, clapping, shouting, stamping—with Ron in his arms, who opened his eyes and burped loudly, looking around as if only mildly interested he'd just been rescued from a village of merpeople. He remembered watching Cedric emerge, Cho clutching his waist and looking around, confused but happy. He remembered the pang in his heart as she leaped up and gave her rescuer a kiss on the cheek, before squeezing his hand and departing to the waiting Madam Pomfrey. Krum broke the surface of the icy water, Hermione over his shoulder in a fireman's grip, and returned his shark-like visage to its former human resemblance. And finally came Fleur, her sopping wet silver hair intertwined with her sister's, who was looking perplexed. Harry and Cedric had been bestowed full marks; however, Harry had pulled through in the end in points, just barely scraping by ahead of the other Hogwarts champion.

Of course, as much as he didn't want to admit it, Harry did like Cedric, and the fact that he would "sorely miss" Cho twittered across his brain for the following days as he drifted through lessons, only half-listening. Hermione, as per usual, seemed in sync with his every mood variation and would frequently ask him what was on his mind. Harry would try to ignore her, but confiding in Hermione was like removing poison from his veins; it was painful at first, but in the end it would always be a great relief.

One day, a week after the underwater escapades of the second task, Hermione caught up with Harry after lessons. Ron was swamped with an essay on Banishing Charms for Flitwick, and could be found somewhere in the library, muttering angrily to himself; this made Harry happiest, as he was finding it harder and harder to relate to his best friend.

"Wait up, Harry," Hermione said, her soft, feminine voice breaching the barriers of Harry's mind. As usual, he was thinking about Cedric, and wondering what would've happened if he had been under the water as his hostage (and if it could even have been done). "I need to talk to you."

Harry turned around, his emerald eyes focusing upon the bushy hair and brown eyes of his friend. "Yeah?" he said.

"I've been wanting to talk to you for a while," she said. "You've sort of… well, never been around. Locked up in the library where we couldn't find you—or up in your room sleeping—or with Cedric, wherever you two've—"

"Is there a point to this?" he interrupted, eyes flickering malevolently as they bored into Hermione's.

She looked as if she was trying her hardest not to retort; finally, she said, "Yes. Yes, there is. I wanna talk to you about Cedric."

"What for?"

"Because you're my very best friend and I know you need help."

"I'm fine, but thanks for the offer," he said, turning around and walking away. He could hear Hermione struggling to keep up with him as he briskly turned a corner and flew up a flight of stairs.

"Come back here!" she said. "We're not through!"

A group of passing Slytherin sixth-years looked in their direction, sneering; Hermione ignored them, but Harry felt a flush creep unconsciously up his neck. He walked past them without making eye contact and turned another corner, almost running in his haste to escape Hermione. Why did she have to bug him like this? He wasn't interested in anything she had to say. It would always be the same…. She wasn't a boy, she didn't know what it was like. For that matter, she wasn't a boy who also happened to like another boy in a way not generally accepted by people at large.

"What do you want?" he asked angrily, wheeling around when he felt her hand grasp his shoulder lightly.

"I'm trying to help you!" she said, her eyes blazing. "Now why don't you stop chewing me out and listen?"

"Because you don't know what I'm going through," he said, lowering his voice as the Slytherins passed, who were already performing wild imitations of Harry and Hermione's hallway fight. "You don't, you haven't, you won't, NEVER, okay? So why don't you let me decide what's best for me, and you can decide what's—"

"Go talk to him," she interrupted, not troubling to keep her voice down. Colin Creevey, who happened to be passing, looked over with mild interest. Harry chose to ignore her and started walking in the other direction. "Or maybe—well, here's a thought—you could go sulk by yourself for a change, because Merlin knows you've been the life of the party lately, a right social butterfly—"

"Shut up," he said, his voice barely above a whisper, but Hermione caught it and stopped talking. Electricity seemed to crackle through the air around here, and her hair seemed bushier than before.

"You know, there are people who care about you, and your well-being, not just me and Ron," she informed him, her voice frighteningly akin to Professor Snape's when he was in his worst mood. "So why don't you go talk to them and straighten some things out? I'm sick and tired of having to deal with your attitude. You know I'm only trying to help you, you KNOW it, but you just won't listen to a thing I say."

"Well, have you ever considered that for ONCE you're not the smartest person around?" Harry fired back, his temper rising to the boiling point as he advanced upon Hermione. "Maybe somebody knows a little bit more about a certain subject than you do. So maybe you're the one I'm sick and tired of, always having to deal with your know-it-all attitude, and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

"Well, fine!" she screamed. The hall was quite suddenly more packed than usual, but Harry hardly noticed. "You've got no one else to turn to if you shut me out, but fine! You've got a REAL big ego sometimes, Harry, I'm not sure if anyone's ever told you. Why are you so painfully convinced that you have to do EVERYTHING on your own? Go ahead and walk away, go hide somewhere again, instead of doing what matters! Because maybe just because you can't handle the fact that you're—"

But Harry never heard what she said. His ears seemed to be rapidly filling with the buzzing of a million flies; he was seeing red, he could barely think he was so angry, and he grasped inside his robes for his wand. Hermione backed up, her face showing incredulity and fear. How dare she scream out to the whole school about that? She knows that no one can ever know that. Damn it, she knows! He raised his wand without ever knowing he had—Hermione was now fumbling for her own wand—the lights suddenly extinguished, and a roaring replaced the buzzing of flies as Harry advanced towards the girl now backed against the wall, his wand emitting fountains of hot sparks—

And quite suddenly, he stopped. The people in the hall had scattered everywhere; Hermione, looking scared but infuriated, stopped grabbing for her wand, which had rolled a few feet away out of her grasp. And he lowered his wand, which clattered loudly on the floor, thinking, My God, I nearly attacked my best friend, his head feeling suddenly quite empty and silent. "I'm sorry," he said, and promptly turned around and ran.


"You attacked her?" Cedric said in disbelief.

"Almost," Harry said glumly, never daring to glance at the champion's gray eyes, for he knew they would be filled with shock. "I almost… attacked her. But that was far enough."

He was sitting in the secret room on the sixth floor, where he knew he might find Cedric. He had decided to finally find him and talk to him, as Hermione had suggested in the first place, and although it made him feel slightly better, the weight of his prevented assault on her was heavier than anything he'd felt before. He didn't want to see Ron now, or never again—he would accuse him of being mad, he would reprimand him for trying to attack Hermione. He just wouldn't understand, and if Harry tried to tell him, he would become even angrier. Harry would be estranged by his only true friends. And I'd deserve it, he thought sadly, remembering the fear in Hermione's eyes as he advanced towards her, his wand alight with red-hot sparks.

"Was a little fight like that enough to make you go off?" Cedric asked, still sounding astonished.

"It wasn't little, exactly," Harry corrected him, furrowing his eyebrows.

"What was it about?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing? You… erm, attacked your best friend because you were bored?"

"No!" Harry replied, feeling like the police were interrogating him—it wasn't a good feeling. "No, of course not, I almost attacked her for a reason! Something that's none of your business." He said this last sentence in tones more biting than he had meant; when he glanced up at Cedric, he had lowered his head.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to… to push."

"You didn't push," Harry said, feeling like he only half-wanted to apologize. His brain felt like it had dissolved in his skull. "I didn't mean—I'm just really angry and really upset, and I can't—I just—" He fumbled over the words, feeling increasingly frustrated. He slammed his fist on the side of a nearby bookcase, making three books slide off it onto the cold stone floor. "DAMN IT! I'm sorry, okay?"

There was silence for a long while. Does he believe me? He has to understand I'm going through a lot lately. But he can't understand… He doesn't know… "I know," Cedric finally said, his eyes filled with solemn understanding.

There was another period of silence as Harry pondered what to say next, his gaze flitting from the prone form of Cedric a few feet away and the books he had unintentionally dropped from the bookcase. Every time he thought of moving to put them back, his mind held him completely still, forcibly applying memories of his outburst in the hall and the fear that had accumulated for weeks regarding his little secret. But here he was… in the same room with the object of his affection… and he didn't care. For the first time, he wasn't sure if he ever wanted to see Cedric again. He wasn't sure if he ever wanted to see anyone again. He wanted to lock himself up in a cage and scream until his lungs deflated, wanted to hit something until he bled.

"You would miss Cho," he said, his mouth moving more slowly than he intended, so the words came out slightly garbled.

Cedric didn't respond for a few seconds. He looked up at Harry, looking confused and almost ashamed, and said, "I would."

"You would miss her the most?"

"No."

"Who would you miss more than… her?" He couldn't force himself to say her name.

Cedric didn't reply. Harry slowly got up and left just as the glow of sunset filtered through the stained-glass windows.

TBC

DM, Signing Off: Ooh. That was an angster of a chapter, eh? Gawrsh, Harry needs a little anger management, methinks. Hope you enjoyed it—I've been having so much trouble finding time to write, and school is in four more days… First off, I would like to say for those people out there who haven't received reviews for me but dutifully review this story, I passionately hate Harry/Draco fics and the ship itself. If you write that, you should know I refuse to review it. It's not that I don't like your stuff, it's just that I'm against the pairing itself because… well, I'm not really sure why. I just don't. So don't be mad, just know that's why. Also, please don't hold back when you review this. Don't say it's cool and nice just so I'll send a happy review your way—it won't work, because I'm still trying to be more constructive than placating. I'd finally like to thank my newest reviewers: hpstoryguy, temporarily conjugated verb, Pointed Tooth Fairy, Madame Meow, and Selan, as well as reviewers from before, oncemorewithfeeling (is this a Buffy reference? Because if it is, I might have to kiss you) and Ravine-Limit (who has a Harry/Cedric fic himself, so go check it out if you get the time). Thanks SO much, guys. Feedback is important especially for this chapter because it was so angsty. Ta!

Four more days till school…(whining cry) Dusk Magnum