Completed: (12/25/05) 11:36 PM

Posted: (12/25/05) 11:55 PM

Title: Of Frosting and Sprinkles

Author: KissThis

Rating: PG-13 – for touching...

Disclaimer: JK pwns everything.

Pairing: Harry x Cedric – it's so canon.

A/N: Yay! Holiday fun for Harry and Cedric. Pretty fluffy with a mild dose of teen angst. Just a little something I whipped up for the holidays.

--

"Pleeease, Cedric?"

Looking into Cho Chang's plaintive face, Cedric knew that as a Hufflepuff and as a gentleman he could not in good conscience refuse her request, no matter how much he didn't want to get up. So, with a smile and a nod, and her squeal of appreciation, Cedric excused himself from the amiable atmosphere of the common room, within which the gracious Hufflepuff house was hosting their usual Yule Eve party where students of any house were welcome to join in the holiday cheer.

Ernie MacMillian shot him a sympathetic look from where he stood with his own date – the much less demanding Hannah Abbott; while Zacharias Smith, butterbeer in hand, whispered the word 'whipped' as Cedric pass him on the way to the portrait hole. The prefect smiled and laughed it away, waving to them all before the painting swung shut behind him.

The walk to the kitchens wasn't particularly long a walk, but he was considerably delayed by the students still lingering in the halls – flush-faced from dancing and meandering about in their ball finery, uncomfortable shoes hanging by the straps from fingers or swung over one shoulder while their owners' feet traversed the freezing stones in naught but socks and sheer stockings. And the delays were understandable, as Cedric was indeed a Triwizard Champion and had, with the other three, started off that evening's Yule Ball in a waltz with his partner and date, Cho Chang.

Most of it was Yuletide good wishes or luck for the upcoming tasks. A giggling band of fifth year girls complimented his dancing and, as almost an afterthought, sent their compliments along to Cho as well.

When he reached the kitchens at last it was nearing two in the morning, a time when most students had been well abed for several house, and he was a little pleased to realize that he'd have a small bit of solitude in the vacated kitchens. He was, in fact, so sure of his assumptions that he opened the kitchen door with a bit more enthusiasm than normally he would have and jogged down the short staircase. This made his surprise only more poignant when, balanced with one foot on the final stair, he discovered that he was far from alone.

Harry Potter stood at one of the steel-countered islands, his dress shirt rolled up to his elbows and bending over an array of golden sugar cookies.

The Boy-Who-Lived looked up at him through glasses slightly skewed. He had one of the house elf's aprons tied around his waist and was holding a bowl of green frosting in the curve of one arm. His emerald eyes, already magnified beneath the thick curve of his glasses, were large enough without his added surprise widening them.

"Cedric?"

"Harry?"

Harry chuckled and Cedric gave an embarrassed smile. He'd sounded like an idiot, no doubt. And, unfortunately, now that his presence had become known there was other place to go but onwards, towards Harry's amused expression.

"What are you doing down here?" Harry asked as he approached, still giving Cedric all of his attention – a trait the prefect wasn't used to seeing around Hogwarts. A little unnerved, he met Harry's eyes running a hand through his hair.

"Cho wanted some Pumpkin Pasties, so..." He'd watched the smile become strained on Harry's face and listened in an almost detached manner as the tension that had sprung up between them cut short the remaining words.

"Yeah," said Harry. Then all that attention, all that focus that had been turned towards Cedric folded inwards and slipped away, like Harry's confidence had been a marionette's string that was now cut. He turned back towards the bowl in his arms and shifted closer to the counter, like he was trying to hide the ridiculousness of the borrowed apron, or perhaps just his own ridiculous feelings.

His lips quirked slightly, halfheartedly, but it was to the frosting, not Cedric. He jerked his head towards one of the pantry doors and said, "They keep them in the bread cupboard."

"Oh." Cedric scrounged for something more to say. "I would have thought they'd be in—"

"The sweets cupboard," Harry answered for him. He didn't look up.

"Yeah...I mean, I would have thought."

"Common mistake."

"I'd imagine so."

"Uh huh."

"Well then..."

"Yeah."

Cedric shifted anxiously from one foot to another. He didn't usually find himself in such awkward situations, or conversations for that matter, and the Sixth Year boy needed a few moments to try and sort out the proper course of action. After all, it wasn't his fault that Harry'd asked Cho too late; though, his sorting into Hufflepuff was well deserved as the urge to apologize lingered at the back of his mind. There was really no earthly reason for him to feel bad, but he felt bad all the same.

He glanced towards the pantry door. He could just fetch the Pasties like he'd planned and leave.

He looked back at Harry. Knife in hand, he was frosting a tree-shaped cookie with cheerful, spearmint-colored icing, but there was a subtle tension in the way he stood that belied the illusion of his relaxed appearance. Cedric sat down at the island and picked up a frosting-striped candy cane cookie.

"What are you doing down here?" he asked.

Now it was Harry's turn to be embarrassed and Cedric, not wanting to make him any more uncomfortable than necessary, set the cookie he'd been admiring back down and licked the lingering icing from his thumb. Harry set down his knife and reached for the sprinkles, the focus of his attentions giving him an excuse for not looking at Cedric while his face turned pink.

"Well, Hermione and I've had this craving for Christmas cookies for ages, and well..." He shrugged and shook the bottle of sprinkles over the tree.

"The house elves could have made you some in a right second," Cedric pointed out a bit hesitantly.

But Harry actually laughed. He shook his head and glanced up with dancing eyes for half a second before he realized he was drowning his cookie in a rainbow of sprinkles. "No, no...Hermione'd flip. SPEW and all that rot..."

Cedric frowned slightly, but didn't ask anything further about this 'spew'. The way Harry said it made him think he was better off not knowing. What bearing it had on Christmas cookies, he'd have to surmise on his own, but at least Harry gave him a reason as to why he was baking instead of the elves.

"...'sides, Seamus has never had homemade ones before, so…yeah."

"And homemade cookies taste differently than elfin-made?" asked Cedric.

Harry nodded confidently. "Of course. Not to knock the house elves – smashing good with food, but—" Here he paused to lick the knife, which, while not the safest thing to do, looked well worth it if the frosting's smell was anything to go by. He gestured at the half-iced cookies. "My cookies are baked with love."

He delivered it with such perfect seriousness that Cedric couldn't keep himself from bursting out laughing. Harry snorted from trying to hold it in and joined in, until they didn't have the air left to laugh and their jaws ached from it.

"Love, huh..." Cedric drawled.

Harry nodded and popped a left over sprinkle into his mouth. "Yep."

"So that's what's been missing all this years."

"Well it is a secret ingredient."

"Ah." Cedric watched him pick up a gingerbread man before commenting; "It's not really much of a secret now, is it?"

Harry brandishing the icing knife at him was threat enough and Cedric threw up his hands in a laughing mockery of defense. "I swear on my honor – I'll not tell a soul!"

Harry, who seemed to have finally realized how ridiculous they were acting, lowered his dripping knife and shook his head. His shoulders were quaking with silent mirth. "Wow," he chuckled, his bangs falling over his eyes when he looked down.

Cedric found it much easier to converse with the younger boy when he wasn't being pinned by emerald eyes. They held an unnatural solemnity that, while making Harry appear older than his own years, made you remember that you were locking eyes with the infamous Boy-Who-Lived; and that was neither fair to Harry or yourself. But laughing like this – his soulful eyes wavering between cookie and frosting – he was transformed, all his layers stripped away, until bare and blooming underneath he was just an awkward fourteen year old boy with unmanageable hair and an unfortunate scar hidden beneath it.

Cedric rather liked the change, but it felt odd on the end of his tongue so he didn't tell Harry any of this. He'd also momentarily forgotten that he'd had a reason for coming to the kitchens at all, forgotten that Cho was waiting for him in the Hufflepuff common room, and forgotten that, Ball or no Ball, two in the morning was no time for students to be out of bed. Moronically, the only thought he could focus on was that he hadn't imagined that after giving him the hint to the second clue he'd be seeing Harry Potter so soon. He felt a little silly, actually.

"So you drew the short straw then, eh?"

"Something like that," said Harry. "I got partied out."

"It happens."

"Especially at Gryffindor parties," Harry emphasized and Cedric got a knowing look on his face.

"Ah yes," he grinned. "'Fraid the party I left wasn't nearly so exciting as one of those."

"When last I was there Fred and George were trying to coax first years into crowd surfing." And both Harry and Cedric laughed at the mental image this called up. "They've probably gotten one or two shipped off to the Infirmary by now."

"At least now they'll have a story to tell come next Christmas."

"I think they'd be too embarrassed."

"They're first years," Cedric snorted. "They're too stupid to know they're taking a mickey out of themselves."

"Merlin...I hope I wasn't like that when I was a first year," Harry laughed, passing a hand over his eyes.

"You mean in between playing as the youngest seeker in a century and defeating Voldemort again?" Cedric teased. "Me, on the other hand, I got lost on the way to class and had to eat a dungbomb to get a fifth year to show me the way."

The sensory memory was enough to make his mouth dry and Cedric stuck out his tongue in disgust. Harry, trying not to snicker, offered him a cookie to clean out his mouth and the prefect accepted it gratefully.

"No offense," Harry started as Cedric tested the frosting with a finger. "But hearing that does make me feel loads better."

Unfortunately, Cedric had chosen at that moment to shove the entire holly leaf into his mouth and his glare was slightly offset by the pudgy cheeks and cookie crumbs falling over green-tinted lips. Snorting with laughter, Harry handed him a dish towel and the flushed and frowning brunet held it in front of his mouth while he finished chewing and wiped off the lingering crumbs when he'd swallowed.

"S-Sorry," Harry stuttered, but it was choked by laughter. Cedric threw the rag at him.

Licking the lingering dough from his teeth, Cedric made an annoyed noise with his tongue and gave Harry a sour look, though, the younger boy knew he didn't mean it. Harry set about replacing the holly cookie he'd given away. "Well now that I've gone and thoroughly made an ass of myself," said Cedric. "I suppose you'll tell all of Gryffindor and I'll never get another first year to do as I say."

"I'm not one for gossip—" Harry said simply, and Cedric knew he had reason enough for thinking so. "—I won't tell anyone."

He chuckled softly; probably remembering Cedric's chipmunk impression all over again. "I just think you're funny." His eyes flicked up to Cedric's and he smiled ever so slightly. It wasn't until Harry looked back down that the prefect noticed how ridiculous he must have looked with his lips parted in shock and a cookie crumb still stuck to his chin. He hastily wiped it away before Harry looked up again.

"And why are you in such a good mood?" Cedric asked, enviously wondering where his own high spirits had gone to.

Harry shrugged. "It's Christmas – shouldn't I be?"

Cedric gaped. "Well yeah, I guess. But aren't you at all worried or scared? You faced down a dragon and now you've got this ruddy egg to figure out – I mean, how do you forget about all that?"

Harry just smiled. "You'd be surprised at how distracting Christmas cookies can be."

"Really..."

Harry taunted him with a bottle of red-hots. The small, cinnamon candies rattled around in their plastic container, sounding like a handful of marbles. It was almost like shaking it had released the scent into the air because Cedric was suddenly hit by the poignant scent of spices. He fixed Harry with a hard look, but the fourth year was pointedly arranging red-hots onto the newly frosted holly cookie so it had berries.

The silence that followed wasn't awkward by any means, and while it did have a certain time limit before it became so, it hadn't gone on nearly long enough for that. Harry frosted, Cedric pondered, and back in the Hufflepuff common room Cho Chang was still waiting for her Pumpkin Pasties.

"Pass me that cookie."

Harry's grin was luminous, lighting his whole face all the way up to his jagged scar. Wiping his hands on his apron, he leaned over the cookie covered island and pointed to the far corner, where Cedric had indicated he'd like a cookie from. "This one?"

The brunet was taking this very seriously; making sure he got a satisfactory dessert to decorate. "Yeah – gimme that star over there. Yes, that one; brilliant," he affirmed when Harry picked up the right one.

"Now...any particular way I ought to do this?" Cedric asked, arming himself with a knife and a resolute expression.

"Nope."

"Right," he swallowed hard and nodded determinedly at the innocent little cookie, approaching it in the same fashion as he had the Swedish Short-Snout; Harry's shoulder muffled most of his laughter. "Well, it's best to just blaze forward, I suppose."

Harry tried to focus on the teddy bear he was frosting, but Cedric's foray into desserting was proving far too distracting; he had to redo the candy buttons on its vest twice. Cedric, bless his heart, was, despite earlier embarrassments, "blazing forward" as he said and doing his very best to frost the little star, but no matter how he tried he could not replicate Harry's sure, experienced knife strokes. His cookie looked like it was bleeding yellow all over the counter. Not deterred in the slightest by the abnormally runny consistency of his frosting, he did his best to save the cookie by adding sprinkles, but he shook the bottle so hard that the lid had come off and exploded the sugary granules all over the star. In fact, it was a little difficult to tell what shape it was supposed to be under the yellow smears and pyramids of sprinkles.

Overturning his cookie, he shook that and succeeded not only in removing the excess sprinkles, but in flinging globs of yellow icing just about everywhere; Harry licked one off the back of his wrist. Holding the emptied bottle at the counter's edge, the brunet attempted to slide the excess sprinkles back into the container, but the bottle was very slender and the mess great. The sprinkles also seemed quite content to cling to his frosting-splattered hands.

Luckily for Harry, just when he couldn't hold it in anymore and his laughter erupted, Cedric had just had enough and growled loudly in frustration. "I am not relaxed!"

"Well, what's the matter?" Harry asked, keeping well out of range of his sprinkled hands.

"What do you mean 'what's the matter'?" He exclaimed. "Look at my cookie – it looks awful."

Harry tried to think of something comforting to say, but he'd never really been good at that sort of thing – even when he was trying to smooth things over between Ron and Hermione, who seemed to be constantly bickering. Finally he shrugged. "I'm not going to lie to you – that is a ghastly looking cookie." Cedric's annoyed face deepened and Harry hurried to finish. "But! But it doesn't really matter, does it? I mean it'll still taste the same."

Cedric didn't look convinced. In fact, he flicked his gooey fingers at Harry.

"Frosting – check; sprinkles – check," Harry ticked off on his own fingers. "Your cookie equals 'delicious'!"

"You have to want to eat it first to find out how it tastes," Cedric said, glumly prodding the cookie with his knife.

"Maybe that's why it wasn't so relaxing..." Harry mused.

"Why?"

"You were trying too hard," he laughed, as if it was a silly thing to have done.

"Was not," the brunet retorted indignantly.

"It's no wonder," Harry said, putting on airs. He went up on his tiptoes to seem taller and pompously smoothed down the rumpled front of his dress shirt, taking on the mannerisms of a stodgy mediwizard. "You're a Prefect and the starting Seeker of your house team, as well as being named the original Hogwarts Champion in the Triwizard Tournament – all of which took a great deal of hard work to accomplish. In my professional opinion you suffer from obsessive perfectionist tendencies..."

Cedric gave him a pointed look. "And that's why I can't be happy with such a beastly cookie?"

Harry smacked his lips (as older people have the habit of doing) and looked down his bunched up nose at Cedric. He looked entirely too pleased with his diagnosis when he said, "Yes."

Cedric snorted. "That's a load of hippogriff dung."

Harry glared and flicked a dollop of pinkish frosting at the laughing Cedric. It hit him across the bridge of his nose. The look of utter shock on the Prefect's face reduced Harry to laughter of his own. Then something sticky and cold hit his cheek like a freshly caught fish bounding off the deck; it smelled of sugar and milk instead. Grabbing a fistful of scattered sprinkles, Harry threw them right in Cedric's face – the pieces catching in his bangs, and a few in his eyelashes.

Within moments sugar and frosting were flying back and forth across all reaches of the kitchen. It was an all out war on one another which had each boy diving behind countertops and deflecting frosting-based missiles with whatever pots and pans they could snatch from racks without being hit by a rain of colored sugar. Somewhere in the middle of it all one of the house elves scuttled up from the elves' rooms beneath the pantry to investigate and promptly got caught in an unfortunate crossfire of the burnt cookies Cedric had scrounged out of the top of the rubbish bin. He scrambled back into the pantry looking a little worse for the wear.

It was Harry, waving his white sock over the line of ovens like an entreating flag, who finally put an end to the harrowing Battle of the Kitchens. While Cedric rambled half-heartedly about how merciful he was to accept the other's surrender, Harry managed to drag himself back to the island before rolling onto his back in the flour and sugar and just staring up at the ceiling while his chest moved tiredly up and down. (If one's ever engaged in a game of such frivolity and exertion, then you'd understand how exhausted it had made the young boy; that and he'd probably gotten more than a few sprinkles down the wrong pipe and was consequently still having trouble breathing without wheezing.)

For all his long-winded dramatics, Cedric was just as out of breath when he rolled around the counter that had been his hideout and narrowly avoided a dangerous streak of blue frosting by face-planting in the other direction. Harry tried to laugh at him, having seen the display out of the corner of his eye, but he only managed a few feeble guffaws before the air caught in his throat and he had to stop to regain his breathing again. In defense of his pride, Cedric crawled over and broke a charred cookie against Harry's forehead before he too had to lay back and do absolutely nothing until his breathing regulated itself.

"That was dumb..." Harry panted after a moment. His palms were sticky and sweat had trickled into the crooks of his elbows.

"You're dumb," was Cedric's immediate answer.

"Hey! You're the one who started it – so what does that make you?"

"I didn't start it; you started it!"

"Whatever."

"'Whatever' exactly."

Harry picked at his stained shirt. "I don't think any Cleansing Charm or house elf could save our dress robes."

Cedric shrugged. "At least we left our outer robes behind."

"Well yeah," Harry conceded. "But we'd look pretty odd wearing them without any bottoms."

The brunet prefect chuckled and adjusted the suspender buckle that had gotten tangled in with his shirt buttons, returning it to its rightful location. Harry watched him do it and was thankful his own dress robes hadn't had such constricting bands. He was sure they were horridly uncomfortable. Cedric was patting down his trouser pockets – obviously searching for something – when he asked, "Is it sad that I'm seriously contemplating levitating myself back to the dorms?"

"Yes. Yes it is."

Cedric sighed. "Well, sod it all then." He threw his hands up over his body – sprinkles falling and bounding silently off his chest – and they fell back behind his head, too tired to remain upright. "Can't find my wand at any right – probably vacated the premises."

Harry shifted with a grunt and shot the other boy a sheepish look. "Buck up now – I fancy I might be laying on it."

"Fiend," accused Cedric half-heartedly. Shifting himself up onto one elbow, he looked expectantly at Harry – hand out and waiting for his wand. "My weapon, you scoundrel."

Harry rolled his eyes. He had to roll himself up into the same position as Cedric so he could dig behind his back for the demanded wand. When his fingers finally curled around the smooth wood they lifted it aloft in chorus with Harry's triumphant "A ha!" His face fell.

Cedric's wand was dripping green frosting and a crushed red-hot was embedded near the tip. And, as if he himself wasn't covered in the same sucrosey goop, Harry swung the wand downwards so that it was only daintily held by the ends of his thumb and forefinger. He swallowed and tried to think of something to say. "Rotten luck" was what he ended up with.

"Do hope it isn't permanently damaged," he heard Cedric mumbled under his breath.

Harry looked around, but could find no near help for the poor wand, so, in the end, he just leaned forward, and – one-handed – wiped it off as best he could on the front of Cedric's dress shirt. Harry looked it over quickly and grinned. He'd done a fair job considering the situation and his limited resources – a job well done in his opinion.

"Right-o! That better?" Cedric was gaping down at the long green lines staining the stomach of his sprinkled shirt.

"You little bugg-"

They were caught – nearly nose to nose – and the line drawn between them was Cedric's wand, quivering parallel in Harry's hand. They hadn't realized that rolling onto their sides had turned them to one another, had narrowed the gap between them. They'd have thought nothing of it, but the frosting on them both was a heavy cloud of sugar and around their heads, and they could taste Christmas cookies on one another's breath as they shallowly exhaled, as if their expanding lungs would bring them much too much closer. If it weren't for any of those things they wouldn't have thought anything of it, surely.

But Cedric's hair was catching in the lighted chandeliers above them, and his eyes were melting quicksilver beneath the long dark lines of his lashes and Harry didn't know why but he had the urge to follow those lashes, down the prominent lines of his cheekbones and follow the flushed skin to where it all met at a bowed pair of lips, wet and inviting from sugar licked away.

Harry felt odd. Lips weren't particularly fascinating, and why should his heart pound at such feminine eyelashes framing intense grey eyes – they weren't, he shouldn't; and he'd almost convinced himself when Cedric's tongue darted out, nervously licking drying lips, and he blinked several times in rapid succession as his mind raced. It was a hypnotic feeling that spiraled inside his gut and Harry held his breath against the burning that spread across his chest. He couldn't explain it, but somewhere between now and then Harry had lost himself.

Neither knew what forces held them so fiercely where they lay, or how any of this had come about, but Cedric's breaths started coming faster, drinking in the syrupy taste of Harry's sighs, and Harry would swear that his body was burning beneath Cedric's melting iron gaze. It was uncomfortable, but good too, and it made them wonder if they'd ever been anywhere but stuck here, together, like this. So all-encompassing was the feeling of their entrapment that it felt to them as though they must have always been lying beside one another – held inches apart, eyes trained on one another's faces.

It was Cedric – though, later he would insist it had been Harry – who finally sought to find the answer to this feeling between them, and he sought for it in the taste of Harry's lips. Painfully shy, the kiss between them was almost a non-occurrence if the older boy's hesitation was anything to go by. But Harry's returned awkwardness seemed to fortify Cedric's resolve and he held them together by mingled breaths and a whisper of skin when his head was screaming for him to stop.

It was nothing like kissing Cho.

Where she was eager and ambitious, Harry was subdued and trusting. Instead of Pasties and the plastic-tainted apple taste of lip gloss, Harry was a warm sugary sensation that he could drink for hours and never quench his thirst, unlike the Ball's strawberry cordial whose sharp tang he could taste along the backs of Harry's teeth. When those trusting lips parted for him, Cedric felt that he would surely fall into Harry's taste and drown.

It was still so agonizingly soft and slow, but it wiped their minds completely clear like a cloud blocking out the moon from the night's skyline. They didn't think about anything of any importance; especially such things of little consequence as the state of the kitchen, the stains on their dress clothes, or that they were both males. The didn't need to think to revel in their kiss, and no words were needed; in fact, neither dared to break the tremulous atmosphere binding them together by uttering words into the ardent silence.

They parted for a desperate breath, but when their lips connected for the second time it wasn't enough, not nearly enough and Harry surged forward with a rolling, passionate desire to press himself against another body. His hand, still holding Cedric's wand, found the brunet's strong shoulder and caught itself beneath the suspender strap, fisting elastic and polyester; a frantic clutching. The other fumbled its way across Cedric's jaw and just below his ear where the ends of his hair fixed to Harry's sticky fingers.

It was up to Cedric to support them both now and he twisted around onto his arse before Harry's wanton surge knocked them both over onto the hard tile. But it was a position that ultimately benefited him, because it was only after they'd shifted that he realized the most erotic sight in the universe was a flush-faced Harry Potter kneeling over him with his emerald eyes glassy with passion and his neck stretched back in a graceful curve as he broke for air.

He grabbed the front of the younger boy's shirt – the tails of his long undone bowtie tangling in Cedric's fingers – and with the hot claws of Want nipping at his heels, he pulled Harry towards him and upwards. His mouth fastened to the soft skin of the other's neck and with fingers wedged between Harry's hip and trouser waistband for leverage, Cedric feverishly worked up and across Harry's throat, jaw, ear, cheek, eyes, nose with Harry's soft sighs and moans urging him onwards to the tauntingly parted lips waiting at the end.

Harry was rising to meet Cedric's growing ardor; fingers splaying through sandy locks, hips rolling him forward and pressing tighter, his pleasured noises growing louder with his lips pressed to the prefect's ear. His tongue darted out to lick the shell and a low growl resonated in Cedric's throat. It was all the warning Harry got before the older boy grunted and picked them both up off the floor. Harry's arse went skidding across wax paper and flour as Cedric slammed him down onto the island counter where this entire scenario had begun in the first place and the fourth year had to duck his head to keep it from crashing into the dangling pots and pants. The hand he threw out to steady himself crashed into carton of powdered sugar and it toppled off the counter and exploded on the floor, sending up a great thick cloud of white around them.

And just like that the moment was over.

Harry felt foolish with his one hand still clutching Cedric's suspender, so he let it go. His knees were digging awkwardly into the other boy's thighs, but the flushed and disheveled prefect was already shuffling backwards – opening a space between them large enough to have fit the Fat Friar had he still been corporeal.

Cedric felt foolish with Harry's tie still balled in his fist, so he stuffed it in his pocket. A rainbow of drying frosting spots glared accusingly up at him from the backs of his hands and he started to rub at them with his thumb, almost frantic to have it off, but Harry handed him a damp dishrag – he mumbled something like "thanks" but it could have been anything at all.

"Um..." Harry didn't look at Cedric and Cedric was looking anywhere but at Harry. Whatever the ravenet had been about to say it was decided against when his cheeks quickly flushed and instead he mumbled, "Here's your wand."

"Oh..." Cedric's gaze darted all over the room, trying not to focus on what was already pulling, tugging, drawing on his attention. He fumbled to take back his wand without looking. "T-Thanks."

He started cleaning it off with the dishrag – creating a running commentary on it if only to distract himself from the lingering taste of melted sugar. Harry's swinging his legs – Cedric can see him out of the corner of his eye. He rubbed a little harder with the rag. Harry's fingers rustle against cloth; he's twisting and fretfully worrying at the material of his trousers and Cedric can see that too.

When Harry finally mounts up the courage to speak, the prefect feels as though he's been waiting for decades.

"Maybe I should take your advice now...the Prefects bathroom?" And now Cedric can't not look, and Harry is trying to smile shyly through his stammering, and they're both growing red by the time he finishes, "Maybe...I mean, together..."

"I—" Cedric clears his throat and it hurts. "I really should be getting back..."

And with words alone and only himself to blame, that perfect image – arched neck, face lost to passion – is completely erased and Harry's shoulders are slumping, his lips pressing into a thin white line, eyes dull and cast away from his own. With a wave of his wand the cookies that survived their rampage are swept up into a parcel that Harry tucks neatly under his arm, and before Cedric's torn mind has a chance to register what's going on Harry's already headed for the door.

"Give my regards to Cho," he says in a voice that's almost depressing in its false cheeriness. And all Cedric can think is that something good is slipping through his fingers.

"Harry!" They were both surprised when Cedric called out, but Harry dutifully stops on the third stair with his hand to the door, and Cedric courageously blunders onward. "Maybe tomorrow? If, if you're...free?"

It's not eloquent nor marginally poetic, but if he doesn't say something to make Harry stay then there wouldn't be another chance for him to quote Shakespeare or rattle off Yeats' verse. Cedric couldn't say what trapped them earlier or what pained his chest now while he waited for Harry to say something, anything.

And just when he thought he would explode, Harry's jade eyes found his and he smiled.

"What the devil happened to you, Ced?" Hannah exclaimed when he entered the Hufflepuff common room. Many of the party-goers had left during his absence, but there was still a substantial enough number to witness the perfect prefect come walking through the portrait hole covered in frosting and sprinkles.

"Couple of first years were having a right old food fight down in the kitchens," Cedric answered easily, waving off the butterbeer that Ernie offered him. "Cho still here?"

"Yeah, over there." Cedric followed Ernie's finger and found Cho curled up in one of the window seats.

"There you are!" She exclaimed upon seeing him. Then her face faltered. "You look horrible!"

"Yes, well, some first years—"

"Did you find the Pasties?" she asked eagerly, looking around him for a package or a box.

Cedric smiled lightly. "No – I've brought you something loads better..." And from behind his back he produced the little yellow star he'd worked so hard to frost.

"What is that!"

Cedric's grin faltered slightly. "Why it's a Christmas cookie, of course!"

Cho looked uncertain and her small nose wrinkled up in distaste. "Are you sure?"

"Of course, I'm— forget what it looks like, it tastes delicious, I assure you," he told her with a bit more a snap in his voice than he'd intended. But Harry had been so proud of his tiny cookie, and weren't girls supposed to appreciate blokes attempts at being romantic? What was more romantic than a homemade cookie!

"Of course it'll be delicious," Cho told him hastily and lifted the cookie from his hand. She held it with the same delicate disapproval as Harry had with his wand. He waited until she'd nibbled on the corner and declared it a fitting replacement for her Pumpkin Pasties before he excused himself to get them both drinks.

It was when he was coming back that he saw her slip in behind Hannah and discard the uneaten cookie into the rubbish bin before slinking back to the window. And suddenly he was so upset and angry that he wished Cho would just leave. If not for her, he would still be in the kitchens with Harry kneeling over him and his misfit cookie laying loved and appreciated on the counter above them. In the back of his mind he knew that Harry would have eaten his cookie and told him truly that it was delicious.

"Oh, Cedric – thank you!" Cho gushed, coming upon him when he'd been lost in thought. It was a startling experience to be sure, but he relinquished the butterbeer he'd brought for her and smiled when she said she'd loved the cookie.

Tuning out the chatter that had suddenly become so annoyingly irksome to him, Cedric took a long draught from his bottle and glanced back wistfully at the closed portrait door. If he really concentrated he could visualize the entire route back to the kitchens, but then Cho was tugging on his sleeves and pulling him towards the couch.

And he complied because, well, it was Cho's fault that he'd gone down to the kitchens in the first place...