Title: A Lack of Color, Chapter 30
Pairing: Harry + Cedric. Their love will always be green.
Disclaimer: I do not claim ownership to these characters or the series they're from.
Summary: In his fourth year at Hogwarts, Harry falls for fellow Hogwarts student and Triwizard champion, Cedric Diggory. (Goblet of Fire canon re-write)
The Love So Green Collection
a lack of color
"Where Do We Go From Here"
For the second time in a twenty-four hour window, Harry Potter found himself waking up in the arms of Cedric Diggory.
The hospital wing was brightly sunlit, with its white bed sheets and curtains all glowing pristinely. The brightness hurt Harry's eyes when he first opened them. He could hear Madam Pomfrey bustling about in her office. Over in his own bed, Moody was still asleep. Harry wondered if they were intentionally keeping him asleep for a while, considering all he'd been through. Harry peered up at Cedric, who was still sleeping.
Now that it was daytime, Harry could see the newly-formed scar on Cedric's neck much better. He was right; it really was an exact duplicate of his own. The only difference was its location. Harry felt compelled to touch it, his fingers drawn to it like they were magnetized. He reached up and grazed it gently with his thumb.
"Tickles," Cedric murmured softly, his eyes still shut.
"Sorry," Harry said. "Didn't mean to wake you."
"I'uz already awake," Cedric informed him. "Jus' taking my time." His eyelids lifted, revealing a sliver of his eyes. He made a confused face. "You're in my bed."
"Technically you're in my bed," Harry corrected. "I don't think you made it back to your own last night."
"How's Madam Pomfrey not throwing a fit?"
"I dunno, she's in her office," said Harry. "And either way I wasn't about to ask."
"Don't blame you for that," Cedric said, rubbing his face. He looked at Harry, fully awake now, or at least mostly, and smiled. "Morning."
"G'morning," Harry said back. "How're you feeling?"
"Pretty good, actually," Cedric replied. He shifted on the bed and immediately grimaced. "Ooh. Scratch that. I guess dying, or nearly dying, or whatever it is that happened, isn't so easily recovered from after all."
"I can think of a way to make you feel better," Harry told him slyly.
"Oh can you?" Cedric asked, catching Harry's drift and tilting his face to meet the other boy's.
Unfortunately, the instant their lips pressed together was the same one that Madam Pomfrey decided to emerge from her office at last.
"You two!" Madam Pomfrey called. "I'll have none of that in here. This is a place of healing, not fornicating."
"We weren't fornicating!" Harry argued, flushing with embarrassment.
"And no more bed-hopping, Mr. Diggory," she scolded. "The only reason I didn't wake you was that, in light of what you both went through last night, I thought you should remain undisturbed. Do not for one moment think I'm going to make the same allowance again."
"Yes, ma'am," Harry and Cedric said in unison.
Cedric climbed out of Harry's bed and stretched. He shuffled the short distance to his own bed, where he promptly plopped back down. His brow furrowed as he looked at the nightstand.
"Madam Pomfrey, there was a watch here among my things," he said. "Did – could someone have taken it?"
Madam Pomfrey stiffened noticeably at the question.
"It's possible," she replied. Then, as though she wasn't entirely willing to, she added, "Your parents were in earlier."
Cedric's eyes bulged.
"My – my parents?" he repeated.
"Yes," she confirmed. "When they saw you were – asleep, they decided to leave without waking you. Rather, I think your father decided. It's possible that he might have taken it before they left."
Her tone was as kind as Harry had ever heard it. And from the uncomfortable look on her face, Harry could tell she knew it was more than just possible that Cedric's father had taken the watch.
"Possible," Cedric echoed, his voice flat. "Right. Thank you."
"I don't understand," Harry said quietly to him. "Your parents clearly saw us, and you're upset about a watch?"
"It was his watch, Harry," Cedric explained. "It belonged to my father. And his before him, and so on. He gave it to me on my seventeenth birthday."
"And you think he took it back?" asked Harry. "But why would he – oh."
All at once it made sense to him. Cedric continued to stare at the nightstand as if he was trying to will the watch to reappear there. But even a wizard couldn't use magic to return what its absence represented. Harry wished there was something he could do or say. He knew how important Cedric's parents were to him, and felt terrible thinking Cedric's relationship with them might be ruined because of their son's relationship with him. Maybe if he told them they hadn't seen what they thought they'd seen, that it was all a misunderstanding. Harry didn't want to keep hiding, but he couldn't let Cedric risk losing his parents either.
He was on the verge of saying this when Cedric lifted his head and looked at Harry for the first time since learning his mother and father saw them in bed together.
"This doesn't change anything," he said, as if sensing what Harry was thinking. "I haven't changed my mind about coming out. I knew my parents, or at least my father, would have a – a negative reaction. It's upsetting to learn I was right, but that doesn't mean I want to keep lying to them about who I really am. They're going to have to deal with it eventually, and I'm tired of hiding."
"Okay," said Harry. "If you're sure."
"I'm not," Cedric admitted. "But it is what I want to do."
Cedric sighed, reclining on the bed.
"That's so not how I would've preferred to come out to them," he said.
"It'll be okay," Harry told him.
"Promise?" Cedric asked meekly.
Harry sat on the bed beside his ailing boyfriend. He'd seen Cedric worried or concerned before, but rarely like this. It reminded Harry of the night they broke up back in February. Cedric looked more like a brokenhearted little boy than the strong young man Harry was used to. Harry knew he was in no position to be making promises about anything, least of all the Diggorys' level of tolerance. Yet Harry also knew that, even if they never accepted Cedric, he would do everything in his power to make his boyfriend happy anyway.
"You know I do," Harry replied, combing a hand through Cedric's hair with half-hearted smile.
And Cedric, however feebly, smiled back.
O O O O O O O
The boys were confined to the hospital wing the rest of the day, and most of the one following. Their injuries were minor, but Harry suspected that they were being held there not only for physical mending but to keep them from the prying eyes and probing questions of their peers. They saw no reason to complain. With Moody asleep around the clock, they had the whole wing to themselves. Ron and Hermione visited during their breaks on Friday, and spent the bulk of Saturday with them. Cho stopped by on Saturday as well, but didn't stay long. Harry assumed this was due to the presence of Ron and Hermione. He hoped she'd get over her aversion to his best friends by the time the next school year began. He'd grown quite fond of her during their pre-Ball dance lessons, in a strictly friendly way of course.
Although Harry and Cedric were both discharged in time to make dinner on Saturday, neither was ready to face the Great Hall, at least not yet. Reluctantly, they said their goodbyes in the hospital wing and headed to their separate dormitories. It was hard, parting after spending so much uninterrupted, uncontested time together. The hospital wing was like a sort of protective bubble, where all the concerns outside couldn't reach them. Leaving made everything that was going on more real somehow.
When Harry finally got to his room, cursing the fact that it was at the top of a tower that only began on the seventh floor of the castle, he dropped down on his bed. The house-elves collected laundry and changed the sheets on Sundays, so everything was the same as he'd left it.
The last time I felt these sheets was with Cedric, Harry thought, running his hand over them. It didn't feel possible.
His hand came across something woolen and green. Cedric's sweater was still lying out on the bed. Harry brought it up to his face and sniffed. Even after two days it smelled of Cedric. The smell, and the memories it brought to mind, made Harry's stomach flip-flop. Finding the sweater gave him an idea. If he brought it back to Cedric, it would be the perfect excuse to see him without seeming too desperate. At least he hoped so, because in truth he was pretty desperate.
Going back down the stairs of Gryffindor Tower was much easier, and quicker, than going up them. Harry crossed the common room and pushed open the doorway. Standing on the other side was Cedric, looking surprised and a little embarrassed.
"Oh!" he said. "Um, hi."
"Hi," Harry said back.
"I was, uh, coming to get my sweater," Cedric told him. Harry lifted it up in his left hand. "Oh! Ha. Good. Thanks."
"Welcome," said Harry, handing it over. He hesitated before asking, "Soo, you hungry?"
"Starved," Cedric responded without delay. "Wanna sneak into the kitchens and grab something to eat?"
They stared at each other, each grinning goofily over their own lack of stealth.
"Oy, who let the two of you out?" a voice called.
Coming toward them from the stairs were Ron and Hermione. They looked very pleased to see the boys up and about.
"We were discharged half an hour ago," Cedric answered.
"What are you doing out here?" Hermione chided. "You should be resting!"
"I forgot my sweater in Harry's room," Cedric said lamely, holding up the article of clothing.
"And I was going to bring it to him," said Harry, just as pathetically. "We were about to go to the kitchens for something to eat."
"Oh, good, so you're both stupid," Hermione noted.
"C'mon, Hermione," Ron said. "A man's got to eat. Especially one who's been through as much as they have."
"All right," Hermione sighed, defeated. "But you're not going all the way down to the kitchens. Go to the Room of Requirement, Ron and I will bring the food to you."
"I don't remember volunteering for that," Ron remarked.
"That's because you didn't," said Hermione. "Anything in particular?"
"Something spicy," Cedric requested.
"And something sweet!" Harry insisted.
"Bluhh, so long as you don't mix them together," Ron said, making a disgusted face.
The boys walked down the seventh floor corridor to the familiar tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy and his ballet-hating trolls. They did the usual Room of Requirement dance of pacing three times before the blank wall, requesting a nice place to enjoy their quiet meal. What they found on the other side of the door that materialized was something far grander. It was a small-scale version of the Great Hall, complete with enchanted ceiling, hangings for Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, and a single table set for four.
"I guess the Room thought if we didn't want to go to the Great Hall, it'd bring the Great Hall to us," Cedric grinned.
They sat at the table and waited for the others to arrive. Waiting turned into making out. It was inevitable, really. They'd spent almost forty-eight hours together under Madam Pomfrey's watchful eye, unable to do much more than hold hands. The urge to touch, to kiss, after being prevented for so long, was undeniable. Of course, this led to them being interrupted rather abruptly, and awkwardly, by the arrival of Ron and Hermione. They all quickly moved past it and sat down to eat. Hermione was full from dinner, but Ron, as he himself put it, could always eat.
"Mum asked Dumbledore if you could come straight to our house this summer, but he said no," Ron said through a mouthful. "He wants you to go back to the Dursleys, at least for a while."
"What?" Harry said. "Why?"
"You know, she didn't actually tell me," replied Ron, who clearly hadn't thought to ask. "Only said he's got his reasons. Guess we'll have to trust him, eh?"
"He hasn't let us down before," Harry reasoned. He glanced at Cedric and said, quietly, "I suppose any hope I had of visiting you is out the window."
"Probably," Cedric muttered, poking the food around on his plate.
"You're not that far from me, though," Ron pointed out. "And Harry'll be able to stay eventually. You can come over as often as you like. Hell, you can probably stay at my place. The more the merrier, that's always been the Weasley family motto. Hermione can come too. All four of us, all together. It'll be great."
"Yeah," said Harry, taking Cedric hand on the table. "That would be great."
O O O O O O O
That became their regular routine in the final days of the school year, the four of them together. Ron and Hermione were the only people who didn't look at Harry and Cedric like they were freaks, or gawk at their matching scars, or shy away when the boys passed them in the hall. Harry was used to this behavior from his classmates, but it was clear Cedric was not.
"People keep staring and whispering behind their hands," Cedric told Harry as they walked together between classes. "It's like they think I'm –"
"Me?" Harry broke in.
"I was going to say 'dangerous'," Cedric insisted.
"Same difference," Harry countered. "Everyone thinks I'm a menace because of Rita Skeeter and that article she wrote about me complaining that my scar hurt. And now you've got one too."
"But my scar doesn't hurt!" Cedric said, frustrated. "Unless you count what a pain in the neck it's become to have people staring at me all the time."
"People always stared at you before," Harry pointed out.
"Not like this," Cedric muttered.
Like you're a freak, you mean? Harry thought to himself.
He wondered if all Cedric was upset about was the attention from his new scar. He doubted it. The events that took place on the night of the last task had overshadowed their intent, and desire, to come out overtly, but it hadn't prevented them from coming out altogether.
Rather than being a grand announcement, it was more of a subtle, unspoken statement. They spent every spare moment in each other's company, and made no effort to conceal it. They weren't making out in the corridors or anything, more because they didn't feel comfortable doing that in public than for fear of persecution. But they would touch each other affectionately, and occasionally hold hands. After walking him up to Divination on Monday afternoon, Cedric was even so bold as to kiss Harry on the cheek when saying goodbye. By dinnertime on Monday night, most of Hogwarts had gotten the message: the Hogwarts champions were dating.
For the most part, neither of them cared. No one was saying anything to them directly about it, at least not yet. And, as far as Harry was concerned, so what if they did? He'd heard worse in the course of his four years at Hogwarts.
Cedric was a different case. He'd always been respected and admired by faculty and students alike. Now his own dorm mates were barely holding eye contact with him, a fact that Cedric mentioned Wednesday afternoon in a manner he probably thought to be nonchalant but ended up sounding dejected. First his parents, and now this; Cedric's whole world was coming apart at the seams. At first Harry had been worried about him, but the older boy appeared to coping extremely, almost disturbingly, well. He was annoyed at the way people were treating him, maybe even a little sad, but nowhere near as downtrodden as Harry might've expected someone in his situation.
"I knew I wouldn't be winning any popularity contests coming out," Cedric explained when Harry asked him about it Thursday after lunch. "But I'm tired of being afraid. I'd rather people know the real me than be friendly toward the fake me. It's better this way." He grinned as he added, "If I wasn't ready to take risks like this, I wouldn't be in this relationship, right?"
"Fair enough," said Harry. "Hey, you don't have anything this afternoon, do you?"
"We don't have Defense anymore, since there's no one to teach it, so we were going to go visit Hagrid," Harry told him. "Do you want to come with us? He hasn't really met you yet."
"Of course he has," Cedric contradicted. "I have him for Care of Magical Creatures."
"No, I mean as my boyfriend, not as a student," Harry elaborated.
"Er, I don't know, Harry," Cedric said hesitantly. "You and Hagrid are rather close. Don't you think that might be awkward?"
"I know we're close," Harry said. "That's why I want him to get to know you better."
It took some more wheedling, but eventually Harry convinced Cedric to join them. Neither Ron nor Hermione argued with Harry's decision to include him. However, Ron did appear confused, and seemed like he was going to ask about it until Hermione elbowed him. Then he was mostly concerned about the pain in his left arm. Cedric looked tense, gnawing at his bottom lip the entire way to Hagrid's cabin. He didn't seem as tense as when he met Sirius, though, and Harry was glad for that.
Hagrid came out to greet the quartet as they approached the cabin. He gave Harry a one-armed hug and ruffled the boy's hair.
"Good ter see yeh, mate," he said jovially. "Good to see yeh." He turned to the others and smiled. "Ron, Hermione, er –" He froze awkwardly when he saw the latest addition to their party. "Hullo, er, Cedric."
"Hello, Professor," Cedric replied, turning a very dark pink.
They entered the cabin, Cedric lingering toward the back of their group. There were two Hagrid-sized cups on the table.
"Bin havin' a, uh, a cuppa with Olympe," Hagrid told them. "Tha's Madame Maxime ter you lot, o'course. Two of us were havin' a bit of a chat."
"Did it have anything to do with what Dumbledore sent McGonagall to fetch you for last week?" Cedric ask curiously.
Hagrid eyed him warily.
"Not so sure I should be telling yeh that," he replied.
"Hagrid, Cedric was there that night, same as me," Harry reminded him, becoming cross at the sight of Cedric blushing from Hagrid's rebuff. "And not only that," Harry continued, before his nerves could stop him, "he's my boyfriend. So anything you can say to us, you can say to him."
Hagrid gaped for a second, then stared down at his hands, which were fidgeting.
"O'course," he said remorsefully. "Sorry. I'm jus' not used ter – well, anyway. Yea, Dumbledore has a job fer me over th' summer. Secret, though, so I can't say more 'bout it. Ter any of yeh, hones'ly." He cleared his throat and looked at Harry. "I want yeh ter know, Harry, I'm proud've yeh. Yer a good kid, always have been. And tha's not gonna change."
"Thanks, Hagrid," Harry smiled. "That means a lot."
"Righ', now, who wants tea?" Hagrid asked warmly.
O O O O O O O
The bulk of Harry's Friday was spent avoiding packing. He kept meaning to, but then would get distracted. Like when he was about to put Wizardry and Homosexuality in his trunk and was suddenly compelled to find a specific passage in it, the one about Aidan Lynch and his boyfriend. This led to Harry rereading a third of the book. It wasn't until Hermione came up to check on his progress before the Leaving Feast that anything got done.
"I swear," Hermione nagged as she crammed Harry's magically-folded shirts into his trunk, "you'd never get anything done if it wasn't for me."
"Ohh, you enjoy it," Harry accused. "You love it when I do stuff like this, it makes you feel useful."
Hermione scowled but didn't deny it. Ron entered the room carrying a stack of Chocolate Frog cards. He took in Harry standing over Hermione, who was sitting on the floor surrounded by Harry's possessions, and grinned.
"You didn't pack, did you?"
"Shut up," Harry responded.
"Did you?" Hermione challenged.
"Yes," Ron said evenly. "You can check my trunk if you'd like."
"Don't think I won't," she warned him.
"I didn't do it neatly or anything," Ron admitted hastily, ears going pink.
He went to his trunk and began rearranging its contents. Harry came over and sat at the foot of Ron's bed. He peered at the inside of the other boy's trunk.
"Did you even try to be organized while you packed this?" Harry asked.
"At least Hermione doesn't have to pack for me," Ron shot back.
"Yeah, not yet, you mean," Harry chuckled. He turned somber as he said, "I really don't want to go home."
"You say that every year," Ron observed.
"And every year I mean it," Harry insisted. "Only this year… It's different this year."
He looked over at the window. The sun was just beginning to set, casting a golden orange light over the castle and grounds. Harry sighed. Voldemort was out there somewhere. He always knew it was a possibility, that the Dark wizard was looming somewhere in some crippled form. But it was real now. He was real, flesh and blood and bone, a real threat for the first time since Harry was a baby. Sure, he'd faced Voldemort-in-Quirrell's-turban and Voldemort-in-the-diary, but Voldemort-the-man, the true Lord Voldemort, that was another thing altogether. Crouch was right, Harry had been lucky to escape. What if Voldemort chose to come after him during the summer?
"Dumbledore wouldn't let you go home if it wasn't safe, Harry," Hermione said quietly.
Harry glanced over at her. She'd stopped mid-fold and was staring at him. He could tell that she, too, was scared, but at the same time seemed convinced that what she was saying was true. Ron nodded in agreement.
"Yeah," Harry said. "I guess you're right."
"It's gonna be all right," Ron said, patting Harry on the arm. "You've got us, and Cedric, and Dumbledore, and loads of people on your side. All he's got is a handful of Death Eaters." Ron smirked. "No contest."
"Thanks," Harry said, smiling weakly.
"Harry, is your cauldron clean?" Hermione asked.
Harry and Ron looked at each other.
"Is that some kind of euphemism?" Ron wondered.
"Yes, it's clean," Harry told her. "Why?"
"I want to put your underwear in it," she said.
"I don't think Cedric would be too thrilled about you handling his boyfriend's underwear," Ron advised her.
"Well then next time he can pack Harry up himself," Hermione replied, turning back to her work.
In less than an hour his trunk ready to be shipped back to Privet Drive.
That makes one of us, Harry thought glumly as he followed his friends downstairs.
He was extremely nervous about attending the Leaving Feast. Since his release from the hospital wing Harry had only braved the Great Hall a few times, and never when it was so crowded. It was Cedric who declared that they should go. He'd pointed out that they wouldn't be able to avoid it forever, that eventually they'd need to go back to eating at their own tables with their own houses, and prolonging the inevitable wouldn't make it any easier on them.
So Harry sat with his fellow Gryffindors. His compliance did not, however, mean he didn't spend the entire meal staring across the hall at Cedric. The older boy was surrounded by people, but not many of them were speaking to him. No one was really speaking to Harry either, so he could relate. And matters weren't made any better when Dumbledore stood up and made a speech about Voldemort's return, referring directly to both Cedric and Harry as witnesses to the event. He also cited the scar on Cedric's neck as evidence of surviving the same curse Harry had when he was a baby. If everyone wasn't staring at them out of the corner of their eye before, they were certainly staring directly at them now.
The meal dragged on for a while after that, the entire hall abuzz with Dumbledore's revelations. Harry didn't blame the headmaster for his announcement. He knew that the truth had to be told; he only wished it didn't have anything to do with him. All the attention that was being drawn to him nearly made Harry glad that he was leaving in the morning, even with Voldemort on the loose.
Halfway through dessert, Harry decided to duck out early, not wanting to be caught in the huge crowd exiting all at once. He'd just reached the top of the marble staircase when someone came up behind him.
"Going somewhere, Potter?"
He turned to find Cedric coming up the stairs. The Hufflepuff looked about as weary as Harry felt.
"Couldn't take sitting in there anymore," Harry admitted.
"I know what you mean," Cedric said, nodding. "If only there were some secret place in the castle we could go where no one would be able to find us."
"If only," Harry mused, slipping his hand into Cedric's when the older boy reached him.
They smiled at each other, and headed up to their secret place on the seventh floor. There they spent the rest of their last night free from the scrutiny of their schoolmates, together and blissfully alone.
O O O O O O O
The next morning came all too quickly, and before Harry knew it he was sitting on the front stairs of Hogwarts with Cedric, Ron, and Hermione, waiting to be taken to Hogsmeade Station for the long journey home. In light of Dumbledore's speech the night before, the rest of the Hogwarts students were giving them a rather wide perimeter. Not that Harry minded. At least they weren't harassing him. And any social climate at Hogwarts was better than what he was returning to at Number 4 Privet Drive. The thought that he'd be back there soon made Harry scoot a bit closer to his boyfriend.
"What do you think is taking the carriages so long?" Hermione wondered.
"Probably giving us more time so we can say goodbye to the foreign students," Cedric guessed.
"Or else You-Know-Who's attacked the Hogwarts Express," Ron offered.
"Not funny," said Harry, Cedric, and Hermione simultaneously.
"Sorry," Ron muttered. "Change of subject: what did you guys do with the Triwizard winnings?"
"Fifty-fifty split," Cedric told him.
"Only because you refused to take all of it," Harry added.
"Fair is fair," Cedric argued. "Anyway, that's way too much. What am I going to do with a thousand Galleons?"
"What couldn't you do with a thousand Galleons?" Ron grumbled.
Harry looked away, out over the lawns, fiddling with his recently-reset silver Snitch through his shirt. He didn't like thinking about his share of the gold from the Triwizard Tournament. It felt tainted after everything that'd happened. He considered asking Hermione if there were any worth-while charities to donate the money to. Harry certainly didn't need it for himself.
Their group's isolation was broken by Fleur Delacour, who had come to say a quick goodbye before the Beauxbatons carriage took off. The boys all hastily stood and brushed the dirt off their pants.
"Eet 'az been such a pleasure meeting all of you," she told them.
"The pleasure's more than mutual," Ron informed her.
It was at this point that Hermione, who had not risen, gave the back of his shirt a very sharp tug, causing him to fall back down on his ass.
"Safe journey home, Fleur," Cedric wished her.
"And ze best of luck to you both," the French girl cooed. "I 'ope to see you again."
She kissed the both of them on each cheek. Harry felt his face grow hot. He hoped Cedric didn't notice, and glanced over to find the older boy blushing as well. They watched as Fleur flounced away.
"Still think she has no effect on you?" Harry challenged.
"Don't push it, Potter," Cedric huffed.
They were about to sit back down when Viktor Krum came up as well. He had visited the boys in the hospital wing, apologizing for what he did the night of the Third Task. No matter how much they tried to absolve him of blame he couldn't seem to get past what he'd done. He approached Hermione.
"Could I have a vord?" he asked.
"Oh," she said, appearing a little uncomfortable. "Right. Okay."
She got up and moved out of earshot to speak with him. Ron stared at them, eyes narrowed, the entire time they were gone. Harry and Cedric did impressions of Ron's expression for each other behind his back and attempted not to laugh. Hermione and Krum were back rather fast. Whatever they discussed could not be discerned from Hermione's blank expression. Krum turned to Harry and Cedric next, looking guilt-ridden.
"I vant to apologize again," he said gruffly. "For deh maze. I should haff been more difficult - ah, no. That is not correct. Strong. Should haff been more strong. That I have attacked you…"
"You haven't done anything, Viktor," Cedric assured him. "You're a good man. Don't let some lunatic Death Eater take that away from you."
Ever the Hufflepuff, Cedric extended his right hand. Krum shook it, taking Cedric's wrist with his left hand.
"You are good man also, Diggory," Krum said admirably. "And you, Potter." He turned to Harry, and shook his hand as well. "Watever comes next for you both, you vill always haff my respect," said Krum. "No matter vat you are, or who you love." He sighed, in a wistful, un-Krum-like manner. "Deh heart vants vat it vants. Love - it is truly powerful, and dere is no fighting someting like it."
On that ominous note, he departed with a wave, and a final glance at Hermione.
Moments later, the horseless carriages arrived. The four friends clambered into one together. Harry stared out the window, growing sad as he watched the castle become smaller the farther they moved away from it. Seeming to guess what Harry was thinking, Cedric reached over and tugged gently at Harry's chin, urging his face away from the window. Harry smiled, glad that he had someone who knew him well enough to keep him from becoming too despondent.
O O O O O O O
The four friends quickly found a compartment for themselves on the Hogwarts Express and settled in. With little else to do on the long train ride, they talked. They'd already exhausted the topic of Voldemort over their last week at school. So instead their conversation stayed on lighter topics, things like which Bertie Bott's flavor they liked most, who was the best pro-Quidditch player (for the boys), or which pro-Quidditch player had the best ass (for Harry, Cedric and Hermione).
Things took a more serious turn when Hermione took out a copy of the Daily Prophet, and the subject turned to Rita Skeeter. It was then that the cleverest witch in her year revealed how she discovered the nosy reporter's secret. Although Ron and Cedric recalled hearing Hermione's hand slam down on the windowsill in hospital wing, Harry couldn't believe that she'd captured Rita until Hermione pulled the jar out of her bag. Once she explained the arrangement she'd made, essentially blackmailing the woman into silence, Hermione put it away again, looking very pleased with herself.
"Wow," Cedric said, astonished. "I don't know who's more brilliant: Her for coming up with the idea, or you for catching her." Then, on second thought, he amended, "No. No, wait, never mind, you're definitely more brilliant."
"Thank you," Hermione beamed. "It's half thanks to Ron. He gave me the idea. When he made his joke about her turning into a house-elf, I realized that, well, clearly that's not what she was turning into, but it had to've been something."
"Hey, whaddaya know?" said Ron. "I'm brilliant, too."
The compartment door slammed open with a bang.
"Brilliant?" scoffed Malfoy, flanked by Crabbe and Goyle. "You? The only thing bright about you, Weasley, is the color of your hair. And even it's smarter than you."
Malfoy's flunkies laughed. Cedric, however, looked confusedly at Harry.
"Is he serious?" he asked, in a whisper loud enough for Malfoy to hear. "Does he really think that that's funny?"
The Slytherin boy glared.
"Now, now, Diggory," he gritted out. "One would think, in light of recent developments, you'd know better than to be so disrespectful." He smirked. "Or are you all trying to pretend it hasn't happened?"
"Get out, Malfoy," Harry said flatly.
"I warned you, Potter," Malfoy said. "You remember? Our first day at Hogwarts. I warned you about consorting with the likes of them."
"You remember your first day with Harry?" Cedric said, in what was clearly feigned awe. "That's so sweet. I've gotta tell you, Draco, I'm starting to worry that I might have a competitor for Harry's affections."
"How dare you!" Malfoy snarled.
His wand was drawn in an instant. Harry withdrew his as well, but Cedric place a hand on his arm and lowered it back down. Cedric, for his part, remained seated, surveying their intruder. His posture was completely calm despite the tense situation.
"I think it would be best," Cedric said evenly, "if you left now. Before you do something you regret."
"You can be as flippant as you want," Malfoy replied. "But there's no denying the truth: the Dark Lord is back. And soon the scum of the wizarding world will be purged. First the Mudbloods, then the Muggle-lovers. And then, Diggory, it'll be filthy wand-biters like y-"
A series of sudden flashes of light and loud bangs caused Harry to flinch. When he looked up again he saw Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle in a heap on the floor, with Fred and George Weasley standing over them.
"I'm getting tired of hearing that phrase," said Fred, glowering down at the trio of Slytherins.
"We saw those three heading in your direction looking rather determined," George explained. "Figured they were up to no good."
"You didn't have to jinx them," Cedric said irritably.
"No, we didn't," George agreed, "but that's half the fun. Now let's get this lot out of here. They're really starting to stink up the place."
He, Ron, and Cedric dragged them out into the corridor, and then went back into the compartment like nothing had happened, shutting the door behind them.
"Thanks for sticking up for us, guys," Harry said as they all settled in.
"Us queers've gotta stick together, right?" Fred winked.
"What do you mean 'us queers'?" Ron asked.
Fred froze, realizing what he'd just said, and who he'd said it in front of.
"Well, little brother," he said. "I'm, er… I'm queer, too."
The other four people in the compartment simultaneously held their breath as they all waited for Ron's response to this declaration.
"Well," Ron said after a minute, "six Weasley brothers, I can't say I'm surprised one of us turned out to be. I always figured it'd be Charlie."
"Personally, I don't think Charlie's anything," George theorized. "He loves dragons too much to be bothered with sex."
"How anyone could not be bothered with sex is beyond my comprehension," Harry said, shaking his head.
"Well, we aren't all dating the Hufflepuff Hottie," Fred taunted.
They all laughed, except Cedric, who made a face and buried his head in his hands. Harry placed a comforting arm around his boyfriend, still laughing.
"Exploding Snap, anyone?" Fred asked jovially, brandishing a pack of cards.
The rest of the train ride was filled with fun, light conversation and lots of laughter. Except for the portion Fred and George spent revealing their nasty experience with Ludo Bagman. Their friends were horrified to learn that the Ministry official swindled a pair of students out of their savings. Harry couldn't believe the injustice. The twins struggled so hard to save and ended up losing it all, while Harry, who was heavily provided for, had five hundred Galleons practically fall into his lap. Five hundred Galleons that he neither needed nor wanted.
Five hundred Galleons, Harry realized, that he was looking to get rid of.
Having decided on a course of action, Harry settled back in Cedric's arms, enjoying the feeling while he could.
O O O O O O O
As the Hogwarts Express pulled into Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, the six teens prepared to disembark. While Cedric, Ron, and Hermione cleared out of their compartment, Harry called for the twins to wait for a moment. He pulled his half of the winnings out of his trunk and held it out for them.
"What's this?" Fred asked.
"My Triwizard money," Harry replied. "Take it."
"You're joking," George scoffed.
"I'm really not," Harry verified. "You can use it better than I can. Take it. Use it for the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes."
"Harry, we couldn't," Fred insisted.
"Look," Harry said persistently, "I don't need the money. And, to be honest, I really don't want it. What I'd like is to do something good with it. And this is something good. Will you please just take it?" Before they could protest again, Harry continued, "If you don't take it I'll be forced to hex you. Please don't ruin my charitable gesture by making me use my wand on you."
"Ooh, using your wand on me doesn't sound like much of a threat, Potter," Fred teased. Then, more seriously, he asked, "You're really sure?"
"You said it yourself, us queers've gotta stick together," Harry said. "And more than that, we're practically family. Er, speaking of which, don't tell your mum I gave it to you. I'm happy to do it but I kind of prefer her liking me."
"I think that's a fair condition," George replied, finally accepting the bag of Galleons. "Thank you, Harry."
"Please, don't thank me," Harry insisted. "Ooh, one more favor though: buy Ron a decent pair of dress robes? Say they're from you?"
"That'd be doing us all a favor," Fred laughed.
They shuffled out of the train compartment together, climbing over the unconscious Slytherin students that were still lying outside it. Cedric was waiting right beside the door. He nodded at the twins as they passed, then smiled at Harry.
"I heard what you did," Cedric said.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Harry quipped.
"Yeah, yeah," replied Cedric.
Rather than press the subject further, Cedric helped Harry with his trunk. The boys disembarked from the Hogwarts Express and made their way through the magical barrier to King's Cross Station. Friends and family were all waiting there to greet the returning students, including Mrs. Weasley and Uncle Vernon. Standing a distance away from them was Cedric's father. He did not look pleased. In fact, he looked almost as sour as Uncle Vernon as watched his son and his son's boyfriend approach. Harry automatically veered toward the Weasleys for a last goodbye, and Cedric followed. Harry couldn't help wondering if it was for the same reason or simply to put off meeting his father as long as he could.
"Oh, you boys," Mrs. Weasley said, hugging them both warmly. "Take care of yourselves. Hopefully you'll be able to come see us this summer, the both of you."
"Hopefully," Harry echoed.
"Mrs. Weasley, would you mind watching our things for a moment?" Cedric asked. "I'd like to say goodbye to Harry in private."
"Oh, of course, dear!" Mrs. Weasley replied. "You two take as long as you need."
"Thank you," said Cedric.
And with that he took Harry by the elbow and led him to a nearby men's room. It was dimly lit, as only one of the fluorescent bulbs overhead was working. Harry could only just make out the colors of the tile floor; black, white, and pale green. He leaned against one of the sinks, hoping he'd at least appear casual, despite how upset he was.
"So this is it," Harry observed awkwardly.
"S'pose so," Cedric remarked. He cracked a smile. "You know, when I started this year, I didn't think I'd even get a chance to speak to you, let alone that I'd finish it by saying goodbye to you in a men's washroom"
"Really?" said Harry, with a grin of his own. "I always pictured the year ending this way."
They laughed at the absurdity of Harry's statement. There wasn't a lot of mirth behind their laughter, though. They both knew they were only stalling the inevitable goodbye.
"It is a bit fitting, though, isn't it?" Harry opined. "After all the time we spent in the prefects' bathroom. It's like being there again."
"Only gross," Cedric noted, looking around the dingy men's room.
"At least it doesn't smell," Harry pointed out. "And it could be worse, considering everything we've been through this year."
"Yeah," said Cedric solemnly. "This feels like it's been the longest year of my life. Does it feel that way for you too?"
"No, it's basically been a typical year for me," Harry answered honestly. "Except for all the sex. So actually a bit better than usual."
"Ha, ha," Cedric said sarcastically.
"What? It's true," said Harry. "I'm not gonna lie, I had hoped I might get my first kiss. Who doesn't? But I never thought I'd leave Hogwarts this year without my virginity intact. And I definitely didn't think I'd end the school year in love. At least not in any way that was requited."
"I know," Cedric agreed. "I never thought... Well, there's a lot of things I never thought before you, Harry." He smiled, then enveloped Harry in his arms. "Thank you. I feel like I owe my life to you, in more ways than one."
"The feeling is mutual, Cedric."
The older boy held Harry close, an embrace that Harry wholeheartedly returned.
As girly and irrational as it made him feel, Harry hated the thought of letting Cedric go. Though their situation at Hogwarts for the seven months or so that they were together may not have been perfect, operating under a constant veil of secrecy, at least Harry could always depend on the fact that Cedric wasn't far. The castle wasn't so big that Harry couldn't find Cedric if he wanted to. But now he was going to be miles and miles away for nearly two months. And with Voldemort's unexpected return looming over them, Harry was reminded of the feeling he got the night of the final task, that feeling that they would never see each other again. Saying goodbye would've been a difficult enough situation without there being a real threat out there.
"Promise me you'll visit?" Harry said into Cedric's chest.
"You know I do," Cedric replied.
"Soon?" asked Harry. "Like, coming by later today wouldn't be pushing it."
"Maybe not for you," he said. "I probably can't swing today. But I can write you this evening. And then we'll go from there. Believe me, I'll be beating down your door by the end of the week."
"I bet that's not all you'll be beating by the end of the week," Harry said, pressing against Cedric provocatively.
"Do not get me horny when I'm about to go off with my father," Cedric scolded. He removed himself from Harry's advances and adjusted his package slightly. "It's untoward."
"Yeah, you're right," Harry relented. "I'd rather not be stuck in the car with Uncle Vernon sporting a hard-on myself."
"So I'll send you a letter with Bowman tonight," Cedric confirmed.
"Wish you had a phone," Harry grumbled. "That way I could at least hear your voice."
"I know," said Cedric. "But it won't be long before you're seeing my handsome face again."
"Something to look forward to," Harry said, smiling.
"Okay," Cedric said with an air of finality. "We probably shouldn't linger in the men's room much longer."
"Yeah," Harry agreed. "Your dad will get the wrong impression."
"Or the right one," Cedric scoffed.
Harry pulled Cedric close and kissed him, a lot, and didn't stop until he was good and ready to do so.
"I love you so much, Harry Potter," Cedric murmured.
"Love you back, Cedric Diggory," Harry said softly.
After one final kiss, they exited the King's Cross men's room.
They said the rest of their goodbyes, receiving a hug from Ron and kiss on the cheek from Hermione each. They got pulled into another hug from Mrs. Weasley as well. Then, with a final, meaningful look at each other, the two Hogwarts champions parted ways, sad to be leaving, but happy to have found each other.
One afternoon, while he was looking through Wizardry and Homosexuality, Harry had come across a picture of a gay pride parade. The entire picture was in black and white, except for the rainbow flag that two of the men in front were holding. Harry knew from his reading that the rainbow was an oft used symbol for gay pride. He'd thought it fitting for him, considering his love of colors.
However, that particular image got Harry to thinking.
When Harry considered what color he associated most with his coming out, it wasn't any of those normally found in most rainbows. In fact, it wasn't even a color that Harry ever enjoyed until recently.
It was gray.
Gray like the dark wool of his Christmas sweater. Gray like the sparkling silver of his Snitch necklace. Gray like the irises of his loving boyfriend.
It was a lack of color that Harry associated with his coming out, and with finding the boy that he loved, who made him feel complete.
Harry reflected on this for a moment longer. Then he turned the page and continued his book.
End Notes: Wow. So that's it. For now, anyway. When I first started writing this, I had no idea how long it would take me to get to this point, or how the story would grow, or how many people would come to enjoy it. I'm grateful for all the wonderful things it's brought to my life, and so grateful to all of you for sharing in it with me. Special extra thank yous to my boyfriend Nicholas and my best friend D'Arcy, neither of whom I could've finished this story without.
Posting of the sequel to "A Lack of Color", titled "Sound of the Revolution", has already begun. Check out my profile to find it.
I thank you again for reading, and hope you plan on sticking around. See you soon. -kevo