Cedric was the best thing I ever did.
I'm certain most parents say that of their children, but for me, it's true, and perhaps I can be forgiven for loving my son to distraction. They say I bragged about him too much, and perhaps so, but I was never prouder than the day they laid him in my arms, newborn and squalling red in the face with his nose squashed up like a pug. It was love at first sight, though I never anticipated he'd grow up to have the visage of a prince -- especially not with Fiona and me for parents. Neither of us was a looker, to be sure. I used to tell Fi we must've had good alchemy, to produce Cedric.
I don't tell her that anymore. I don't tell her much. She sits in our bedroom most days and stares out the window. Sometimes she wears something besides her dressing gown and does a bit of work about the house, but I hired a girl to come in twice a week and pick things up. Sometimes I think about leaving Fi, but haven't. I'd like to say it's because I love her still, or because she was the mother of my beautiful son, but really, I think it's just habit, and the weight of public opinion. And the fact that, if I did leave, it'd be tantamount to murder. I'm not sure she'd last a month alone.
But we don't talk now. She's too sad.
And I'm too angry.
My son has become my cause. I want to see justice done. To Voldemort, yes, of course -- but to Cornelius Fudge and Ludo Bagman, more. Voldemort is evil; we've known that for years. But Fudge and Bagman, they're plain selfish and incompetent. The things I've found out since that they knew then -- must have known, even during the Tournament. Yet they let it go on. True, it was Harry Potter they feared for. Nonetheless.
Their bungling killed my son. In return, I've made it my mission to see them both sacked.
I was instrumental in getting Fudge out of office. Oh, not me alone, to be sure, but my voice of discontent became one around which others rallied. That's not bragging. Bragging would mean I'm proud of it, and I'm not. I was proud of being Cedric's father. This is just something I have to do, and my anger is a hard, cold thing, heavy in my gut. But it's what gets me out of bed in the morning, keeps me going. Love may be the great motivator, but in its betrayal, its loss, bitterness will do. I'm going to see that Bagman gets his comeuppance next. When I can find him. I'd go after Barty, but he's dead already.
Sometimes at work, I pass Arthur Weasley in the hallway, and I smile, try to be pleasant. Yet part of me hates him. All those sons, and all alive. It's not that I'd wish my grief on any man, but I can't help the resentment.
There are days I regret never having had another child -- and not just since Cedric's death, either. He used to ask me, when he was a boy, if he could have a little brother. Or sister. "I'm not particular," he'd say. But we never quite got around to giving him one. Maybe, subconsciously, we feared to tempt fate -- that we could produce such a pretty, sweet, good-natured child twice. Cedric was enough for us. The best thing we ever did.
Telling him that always made him blush.
After his death, and Harry's story that he'd seen Cedric's ghost who begged him to bring his body back, my wife began to hallucinate. She told me Cedric visited her and they'd have long talks over afternoon tea while I was at work at the ministry. He wasn't a ghost, she said, but her sweet boy -- solid and warm. She could feel the softness of his skin when he took her hand, and the rise and fall of his chest with his breath, when she hugged him. That was when she first took to sitting by the window in our bedroom. She was waiting for him, she said. She's been waiting two years, and becoming a ghost herself.
I was haunted in different ways.
I began to hope my only son had been a father.
It grew slowly, insidiously, that hope -- and there was no logic to it, no reason to suspect it could've been true.
Now, such a handsome boy as Cedric . . . I knew he might've had a girl or two by seventeen. That's just being realistic. Awkward fumblings in dark rooms at Hogwarts, spurred by the fire of youth . . . such things happened. But Cedric -- he was always a responsible boy. We'd had a few conversations, when he'd been younger, and he knew how to take proper precautions. He wouldn't get a girl pregnant. He wouldn't have wanted to let down his mother and me that way, and I trusted him.
Yet after he was dead, I felt differently. I began to hope -- even to wish -- that perhaps, just once, he hadn't been so responsible. It was horrible of me. It could have ruined a girl's life, or at least made it difficult for her, but in the wake of losing my only son, I just wanted some piece of him to continue.
So I went out of my way to be kind to young Cho Chang. She'd been Cedric's date to the Yule Ball, and he'd spoken to me of her a few times. I didn't think he'd been in love with her -- he'd been a bit indifferent, truth be told -- but love wasn't necessary. So I was good to her now -- made sure she knew she could come to me if she needed anything. And I watched the calendar, hoping. But three months passed, then four, then five. There was no word from either Cho or her parents, no indignant rapping on our door in the middle of the night, no demands that I do right for the mother of my son's son.
And oh, I'd have done so gladly. Gladly.
But when five months had passed, and there wasn't much hope that a pregnant girl could still easily hide her condition, my hopes faded. My poor, sweet so-responsible son -- there was nothing left of him but memory, and the portrait Dumbledore had commissioned to hang in the Hufflepuff common room.
Cedric was the best thing I ever did, and when I lost him, I lost my future, and my belief that I'd contributed anything of value to the world.
A month ago, that changed. It was spring, and raining, the front walk all turned to mud, the sun well down and all sane wizards tucked safely in their houses now that Voldemort's back on the loose. (I call the bastard by his name; I have no more fear of him. He's already taken everything from me.) A knock came on the door, light, as if a woman's hand. I knew Fiona was upstairs in her usual spot and I'd been sitting by the fire, drinking, remembering. I was half asleep, and more than half squiffy, or I might have been more cautious. But I didn't care what Voldemort did to me now. I went to the door and opened it, free as you please.
And there, on my front step, stood a young woman, juggling an umbrella and a little boy. "Are you Mr. Diggory?" she asked, her chin raised. There was something about her that sparked of anger, like lightning.
"Amos Diggory, that's me. Who're you, dear?"
"Heather Allen," she snapped. "I've come to see Cedric, if he's home?"
Such a stark, bold question, uttered all unknowning. It slapped me hard anew with the depth of my loss, a bottomed-out sick feeling in the pit of the stomach. For some moments, I couldn't speak, just turned away, my hand on the doorjamb, my throat closed on grief. It was only after ten breaths that I realized the girl was still there on the step, cold in the spring drizzle -- and she wasn't English. Or Welsh or Irish or Scottish, for that matter.
I turned back. "You're not from here, are you?"
"I'm from Cleveland," she said, impatient. "That's in Ohio. Is Cedric there?"
It was harsh and cruel, but I had no compassion to spare just then. Her heart-shaped face went white in the dim of the lamp glow from the sitting room behind me. I stood aside finally. "Come in."
As if sleepwalking, she did, folding her umbrella and leaving it near the doorway. Then she stood there, hugging the child. I could see her better now -- she was tall and lovely, with soft brown hair, but nothing else about her stood out.
The boy, however -- the boy had my Cedric's grey eyes. I just stared at him. "Who are you?" I whispered to the girl.
She turned, her face still stunned. "Heather Allen," she said again.
"From Cleveland," I added. "You said that -- but who are you?"
"I . . . Cedric -- " She stopped and, quite abruptly, burst into tears, her pale face buried against the child's neck. He clearly had no idea what was going on, but his mother was crying, so he began to wail and that brought Fiona downstairs finally. Seeing the bawling girl standing there with the little boy, she hurried into the kitchen with a purpose I hadn't seen from her in almost two years, and set boiling a kettle for tea, then brought a hanky over and led the girl to a couch, found a little stuffed bear for the child. One of Cedric's.
I couldn't tear my eyes off that little boy. "Who is he?" I asked.
But I knew. I'd known the moment I'd seen his fine-boned face.
Struggling to choke back her weeping, she picked him up and set him on her lap. He was, I thought, about two and a half. The right age. "This," she said, "is Cedric. I named him after his father."
I thought Fiona might fall over in a dead faint, and caught her before she did, easing her into the chair I'd occupied not five minutes before, handing her my unfinished whiskey. She drank it in one gulp, then set the glass down and stared at Heather Allen, the mother of our son's son. "Tell us," she begged.
So the girl did.
She'd been a university freshman, living in Exeter, come for a semester overseas but staying all summer. She'd met Cedric when she'd come out to Ottery St. Mary's to go horseback riding one day. Her horse had spooked and raced away with her down the lane. While working in our garden, Cedric had heard her shouting and ran, emerging onto the lane in time to see them fly past. He'd cast a calming spell on the horse -- though at the time, she hadn't known what he'd done.
She wasn't a witch, Heather Allen. She was a Muggle.
Relieved, she'd offered to buy her unexpected knight lunch. He'd accepted, so they'd met in Ottery St. Mary's two days later, and had struck up a friendship that had lasted all summer. They were already head-over-heels in love before she realized her tall, handsome savior was not-quite-seventeen -- more than a year younger than her -- and a wizard. By then, it hadn't mattered. To either of them. Nor had it mattered she was an American and would be returning to Kent State in Ohio at the end of August. He'd given her his grandmother's ring, set with emeralds, and told her he wanted to marry her, Muggle or not, American or not. They'd parted and taken to writing -- by normal post, so none of us had known.
It was the stuff of romance novels.
Until early October when she hadn't gotten a period for two months and went to see someone at the Kent State student clinic.
She was pregnant. They offered counseling, and options for abortion.
Terrified and alone, she'd sent a frantic letter to Cedric, telling him she needed to talk by phone, not just to write. She'd taught him, the previous summer, how to use one. On an outing to Hogsmeade, he'd snuck off further down the road to a Muggle town to find a public telephone and call her, across the Atlantic -- fearing illness, fearing some bad news about her parents, only to discover he was going to be a father.
"It's our baby," he'd said. "Of course I want you to keep it. Maybe it was a mistake, but it's the best mistake we'll ever make."
When she told us that, both Fiona and I broke down, hugging each other there in our sitting room.
But why hadn't he told us? Had he really feared that we'd judge him so harshly for falling in love with a Muggle girl? For getting her pregnant accidentally?
Perhaps so. Cedric had worried about disappointing people.
He'd sent her what money he could, by wire, and told her that he might have a chance at more. There was a contest at his school, he said. He'd enter it, and if he won, he'd have all the money they'd need for the baby -- and for him to fly to America. He'd been ready to leave Hogwarts for this girl and his son.
Cedric always was responsible.
And now, at last, I finally understood why he'd entered that damn Tournament -- not for his own glory, but for the sake of his unborn baby.
Cedric David Diggory was born in May. She sent Ced word, and a picture; she'd named him after his father, even though his father hadn't wanted that. Cedric wrote to say he planned to call her, and set a time when he could. He added, "He's the best thing we'll ever do."
She showed Fiona and me that letter.
She never heard from him again. He never called. He never wrote. And she was a young mother with college tuition and an infant. She couldn't afford to fly to England immediately looking for the boy who'd promised so much, and hadn't delivered. But she began saving money to come back.
"I didn't really believe he'd just abandon us," she said. "Part of me knew, somehow. Part of me knew that . . . something must have happened."
And then she cried again while Fiona took the boy.
Heather lives with us now. She finished her degree at Exeter, and teaches at a Muggle grade school in Ottery St. Mary's. We try not to spoil Little Ced. Heather fusses when we do, and I know Cedric wouldn't have wanted it.
The boy is already showing signs of having inherited magical talent. He'll be a great wizard one day, like his father. He'll go to Hogwarts, and perhaps be sorted into Hufflepuff, play Quidditch. And he'll see his father's portrait hanging there on the wall in their common room.
The best thing I ever did.
And I'll be sure he knows his father said the same of him.
However much it makes him blush.
Endnotes: The inspiration for this story comes from a conversation I had with the mother of a high-school senior killed in a car accident. She confessed to me that she kept hoping his girlfriend would turn up pregnant -- though if he'd been alive, she'd have been furious at such a thing. She asked if she were selfish for wishing so. On the villages, just a note of clarification. I understand the Weasleys live near Ottery St. Catchpole, and the Diggorys live "nearby," so I put them one village over in Ottery St. Mary's, which is closer to Exeter.