"Er, Harry, can I have a word?" Cedric was looking at him tentatively.
Ron was sitting sullenly in his chair at the side of the great hall, glowering at Hermione. Harry looked Cedric over. He couldn't see Cho anywhere, which was something of a relief.
"Yeah, okay," he said, standing up, and following Cedric out of the Great Hall. Ron's eyes were still focused on Hermione.
"Let's go for a walk," Cedric said, and gave him a small smile.
Harry tried to muster one up too as he gave another, "okay," and matched Cedric's stride. Cedric seemed keen to get as far away from the castle as possible.
"Do you really like Cho?" Cedric asked quietly, when they were near the lake, the Durmstrang ship gleaming at them eerily. "It's just… she told me you asked her to the ball."
Harry felt himself flush, with both shame and anger.
"Not really your business," he said, quickly, trying to quell the urge to run away or to set a blast-ended skrewt on Cedric.
"I'm sorry," Cedric said. "I – what I meant was – it's okay, if you do, I'm not really … going out with her."
"You brought her to the ball, didn't you?" Harry said. It wasn't fair, Cedric bringing the girl that he, Harry, really did like.
"Well, I had to bring a girl, didn't I?" Cedric said.
Harry glanced up at the emphasis placed on the word 'girl'. His lips parted slightly.
"Listen, Harry," Cedric said. "About the egg. That's what I was going to talk about."
"What about it?" Harry asked, feeling himself remaining hostile.
"Take a bath," Cedric. "Take a bath. It'll help you think."
"Take a bath?" Harry repeated.
"Yeah," said Cedric. He stayed silent for so long Harry considered walking away from him. They were still strolling along beside the lake.
But then he spoke again. "You can even use the Prefect's bathroom," he said.
"Why would I?" Harry asked.
"Well, it's nice in there."
"Why are you telling me this?"
Cedric sighed softly. "You helped on the first task he said. And," he paused, seemingly struggling with himself. "And I like you, Harry."
Cedric stopped walking, and looked at Harry expectantly.
Harry found himself struggling too. The meaningful look didn't convey the same emotions as Ludo Bagman had expressed with his "I've taken a liking to you." This 'like' meant the way he liked Cho, the way Hermione seemed to like Krum.
"I…er…I," Harry said, feeling heartily confused.
Cedric touched his arm. "I don't expect anything," he said. Harry felt like all the sensation in his body had suddenly gone to that place on his arm.
"Meet me in the entrance hall, tomorrow, at one o'clock," Cedric said, speaking quickly, as if he expected Harry to run away. "I can – help you with the clue."
He paused again, nervously, and then said, straightening his shoulders like he was summoning up his courage. "Please, just, think about it Harry."
Harry found himself nodding. He didn't know what to do, what to say, what to think, he was standing stock still and Cedric was walking away, down beside the lake, Cedric who looked very different to ten minuets' ago. Part of Harry wanted to go after him. He looked so downtrodden – but most of him just wanted to run away, back up to the castle, to bury his head under the pillow and pretend nothing was happening, none of it. Cho's face had suddenly lost its shine and was dimmed by Cedric's, but that wasn't right. The damn Pretty Boy was messing everything up again …
Harry turned around, away from the lake, and made a beeline back towards the castle. He was hoping to go to bed, go somewhere where he could really think, figure out why Cedric's face seemed to be embossed inside his eyelids … maybe Cedric was playing with him, for a wild minute he imagined researching curses with Hermione, in books called When Bad People Make You Like Them.
Like, the world swirled around in his brain. Cedric liked him. He couldn't understand why that made happiness spread through him.
Just outside the castle he found Ron. He wanted to duck inside, as much as he liked Ron, he was the last person he wanted to see now. He wanted to be in bed, with the curtains drawn around him, to think.
"Harry, Harry!" Ron said breathlessly.
Harry stopped walking, and gave Ron a faint smile.
"I was walking, in the bushes, and I overheard … I didn't meant to, but Hagrid's a half-giant, Harry!"
" A half-giant?" Harry couldn't figure out what made this important. He began to walk inside the castle, Ron talking in urgent whispers.
"I was in the bushes … hiding from Snape, when I heard Hagrid talking to Madame Maxime. He let slip that he's a half-giant, said she must be too, she got dead offended…"
"But what's wrong with being a half-giant?" Harry asked.
He could tell from Ron's expression that this was obvious to most wizards. "Well, giants, they're not … very nice."
"Oh," Harry said. "Fairy lights," he told the Fat Lady.
"I'm going to bed," he told Ron. Any thoughts about Hagrid had completely disappeared under the burden of knowledge about Cedric. He wanted to be alone, in the dark, to see it clearly.
"I'm really tired, after the dancing, I'll – you should tell Hermione this," he said.
"But you didn't dance at all! Parvati did it for you. I was watching!"
But, nearly tripping over his bottle green robes, he climbed towards the dormitory, deaf to Ron's protests.
Cedric lay in his four-poster, the curtains half open. He could see Zacharias sleeping in the bed next to him, lying face forward, his arms spread out so far they reached over the sides. He was snoring quietly. Cedric rolled over, staring at the cheerful yellow ceiling above him.
He still felt embarrassed. He was sure Harry would hate him now, maybe tell all the Gryffindors that he was a faggot, he didn't think anything good could come out of this. How could he be so stupid … but then he remembered Harry's eyes, his determined expression as he struggled on the broomstick, his eager face as he talked about Quidditch.
He got up and went back downstairs into the common room. Some "support Cedric Diggory" badges twinkled in the darkness. He sat down in front of the embers of the fire. He thought about filling his brain with ways to breathe under water again, but he was too tired. He just wanted to sleep. He knew he would be full of a tense, worried feeling until he saw or did not see Harry the next evening. He sighed, and traced a picture of a broomstick in the dust.
Harry was equally sleepless. His curtains were pulled tight around his fore-poster; they were so thick that they left him in almost total darkness. He could just about make out the shape of his fingers as he waved them in front of his face. They looked twice as thick as usual.
What had he done? He conjured up images of Cedric – pretty boy –but now his dark grey eyes seemed to bore inside Harry's head, there was something about him, he found himself examining his memories of Cedric, his graceful flying that time in Quidditch, his worried, hopeful face this evening. Harry tried to replace them with his standard image of Cho, but it had gone foggy round the edges, it kept on being replaced with Cedric.
Did he want to meet him tomorrow? No, no, of course he didn't, Harry told himself, rolling over in the dark, this was just another thing he had to worry about, that Cedric might be looking at his arse. But when he thought about it again he realised that yes, yes, he did want to go, he was nervous, but excited too.
I'll just get him to help me with my egg, Harry decided. He doesn't need to do more than that. We can have a chat. I'll tell him there's no hope of me liking him, I can ask out Cho again now… This decided, Harry tried to fall asleep, but the pictures of Cedric, suddenly appearing in bright colour, were unavoidable. He slept badly, but all his dreams focused endlessly on Cedric.
Boxing day, though punctuated by many snowball fights, seemed endless to Harry. He had fidgeted so often that Hermione snapped, "what's wrong with you?" more than once, although her and Ron's attention was very much taken up by bickering with each other. Harry had enjoyed the snowball fights, until a well-placed snowball by Fred had knocked his glasses off and he's spend a lot of time crawling around in the cold snow, trying to find them.
Now he was heartily glad that it was finally ten minuets to one. He tried to tell himself he was just nervous about the egg, but the endless film of Cedric his mind insisted on playing tried to tell him otherwise.
He was sneaking out between the curtains, trying to remain as silent as possible. He'd decided not to bring his invisibility cloak, lest Cedric see it, which meant being very still and quiet. He had the Marauder's map hidden in his pyjama pocket. Neville stirred as his foot creaked on the floor, and Harry froze, but then he grunted "mimbletonia!" and fell back to sleep.
Some students were still in the common room, talking quietly, or curled up together in chairs, but they ignored Harry's quiet footsteps. The way down to the entrance hall was blessedly clear, although he saw the Bloody Baron swooping toward him one, and he ducked unsuccessfully behind a wall. The ghost stared at him for a moment, and then continued his effortless glide. Hoping the Bloody Baron wouldn't somehow tell Snape about seeing him, Harry continued to the Entrance Hall.
Cedric was pacing around the hall. He looked delighted when he saw Harry, starting and smiling.
"'Lo," he whispered. "You okay, Harry?"
"Yeah," Harry whispered back. He had meant to say something about the egg, but Cedric was smiling and he was having difficulty remembering what it was.
"Come on, let's go to the Prefect's bathroom, we can talk in there," he hissed, and grabbed Harry's arm, turning him back in the direction of the stairs.
Harry followed him a stealthily as he could, although for some reason his heart was pumping loudly, which was very distracting.
After a roundabout walk along many staircases, Cedric stopped in front of a painting. "Pine fresh," he whispered, and it swung open.
He climbed in to the exposed hole, and reached out a hand to help Harry in. Harry didn't take it, but hauled himself up. Cedric stepped away to allow him space. Harry almost gasped at the room. The bath was about the size of a swimming pool, and had many golden taps. A mermaid snored quietly in a picture.
"It would be worth becoming a prefect just to use this bathroom!" Harry said, awestruck.
"It's nice, isn't it?" Cedric said, smiling.
"You bet it is! What do these taps do?" Harry's nerves were momentarily forgotten as he walked over to them.
"You'd better put the plug in," Cedric said, bending over the bottom. Harry turned on a tap. Water and foam mixed together sprang out. The foam it emitted was so thick it looked like it would hold Harry's weight if he walked on it. Cedric stood beside him, and together they began to turn on all the taps, laughing at the foams like they were friends.
Once the bath was full, Harry was very sharply reminded that they weren't. He stood there, feeling very silly in his pyjamas, not at all willing to take them off. He wondered why he hadn't worn robes. He betted Cedric would think he looked stupid.
Not that he cared what Cedric thought.
"Yeah, so, you put the egg in the water," Cedric said, his voice echoing how Harry felt.
Harry picked up his egg from where he'd dropped when he saw the bath.
"Like this?" he said, holding it over the water like he was about to throw a stone.
"Er, no," Cedric said. "You have to get in with it."
"Oh, right," Harry said. He didn't move.
"I'll turn around," Cedric said finally, after an awkward moment. He turned, and Harry pulled off his pyjamas and leaped into the water in one smooth movement.
"You can look now," Harry said, swimming into a cloud of thick white foam.
Cedric turned, and walked over to the side of the sunken bath, looking down at him. Harry peered back up, and their eyes met. They regarded each other for a few moments, and then Harry said, "You might as well come in, too."
"Okay," Cedric smiled, and Harry swam to the other end of the pool. He had a splash after a moment and turned around. Cedric was swimming awkwardly toward him, the egg clasped in one hand.
There was another awkward looking moment, and then Harry said, "so how about those Tornadoes then?"
Cedric grinned. "They're doing really well, aren't they? I reckon they could win the league."
"Yeah, I know. My friend Ron'll be really disappointed, he's a Cannons supporter."
"They're awful!" Cedric said, and Harry laughed, feeling a bit guilty.
"'Course the Tornadoes used to be awful, too," Cedric said, rolling back in the water.
"Yeah, I never expected them to start doing so well."
"It's Sam Wandsworth, he's an amazing keeper; he's completely changed the team!"
"Fancy him, do you?" said Harry, in a cold voice that wasn't his own. He felt himself turning red as he said it. He wanted to duck under the water.
"No," said Cedric, his face frozen in an odd half-smile, "his ears are like cauldrons." He began to swim away from Harry.
"I know they are," Harry said, softly. Cedric stopped, and turned toward him.
"I've been thinking about what you said," Harry said, in a squeaky voice not like his own either, "and I – I don't hate it."
Cedric laughed. "That's a start," he said.
They lolled in the water for a while, and Harry drifted closer to Cedric.
"So, how long've you known you're … you know…?"
"Gay?" Cedric said.
Harry nodded, which was a funny sensation when floating in water. He almost choked.
Cedric grinned at him, and then said, "oh, ages. Since I was little."
"Do your parents know?" Harry asked thoughtfully.
"Yeah," said Cedric, "my dad likes to pretend it isn't true though."
"I'm sorry," Harry said.
"Yeah, well," Cedric gestured vaguely with his hand. "So how about that egg then?"
They spent almost another hour in the water, talking about the egg's secrets, and then Quidditch. They agreed that the Tornadoes had always had potential, but that the Wimborne Wasps might do well this season.
"Bagman was good, but he didn't make the team," Cedric said. "They've always had good players."
"Yeah, and it's just Wandsworth that made the Tornados good. The Wasps usually do well."
"If Wandsworth stops playing so well, they'll definitely win," said Cedric. He got a dreamy look in his eyes. "He's amazing though."
"You do fancy him!" Harry said in amazement.
"No I don't!" said Cedric. "I just think he's a good Quidditch player." Off Harry's look he yelped again "I don't!"
"His ears are like cauldrons," Harry said, laughing.
"I don't!" said Cedric again, but he knew he'd lost the battle.
He swam towards Harry and tickled him. Harry laughed and caught Cedric by the elbows. "You like Cauldron-Ears!" Harry said in a singsong voice.
Cedric lunged at him, and he rolled back in the water. Cedric bent over him, tickling him under his armpits. Harry struggled back, giggling. The rolled in the water for a few moments before Cedric righted them. Panting slightly, they found themselves face to face, balancing lightly on the bottom of the bath. Cedric was holding Harry's upper arms softly.
"You have awful taste!" Harry said, giggling.
"I wouldn't say that," said Cedric.
"Well, I fancy you, don't I?" Cedric said, smiling.
"Yeah..." Harry suddenly felt horribly aware of how naked he was. He disentangled himself from Cedric, who was now blushing slightly.
"Listen, I'd better go to bed," Harry said.
"Yeah, me too. D'you want to – want to work on breathing underwater?"
"I'd like that," Harry said.
"How about Saturday, in the library, after supper?"
Harry nodded. They climbed out of the bath awkwardly, looking away from each other as they dried themselves on fluffy towels.
In the corridor outside, Cedric touched Harry's shoulder awkwardly. "'Bye then," he whispered.
"'Night," said Harry, smiling in the dark. He crept back to his bedroom. He had difficulty sleeping that night too. He couldn't forget Cedric's face, or the feeling of his arms on his in the bath. Ron grunted in his sleep. Harry smiled to himself, oblivious to the dormitory, only seeing Cedric's face saying that he fancied him.
After all, Harry thought, it was quite normal to like it when someone told you they fancied you.