Notes: This is set in the Finding Himself universe, but should be comprehensible without having read the novel. It was written for the Amortentia and Chocolate Challenge for the LJ community romancingwizard.
The British Department of International Magical Co-operation's ambassador to Canada had not walked without aid in 52 years. He hadn't walked at all, in fact, in 36, all due to a rare and debilitating curse cast on him during the final task of the last Triwizard Tournament. The megalomaniacal Lord Voldemort had disrupted events in order to kidnap a 14-year-old Harry Potter, accidentally taking along 17-year-old Cedric Diggory for the ride. Diggory came back permanently crippled, doomed to see his independent mobility vanish completely before his 35th birthday. Perhaps being confined to a wheelchair so young had driven him to stand -- at least figuratively -- head and shoulders above his colleagues in the diplomatic corps. But whatever the case, he was made an ambassador at the tender age (for a wizard) of 45, a post he continued to hold for the next 25 years.
And given this constant childhood exposure to his father's deteriorating physical condition, it was perhaps predictable that the ambassador's eldest son might be drawn to a career in Healing, even go on to become a Potions Master and Head of St. Mungo's Apothecary Research Division. With parents like his, intelligence and industriousness were a birthright. Finding a cure for his father's condition wasn't so predictable, however. Medical research -- even magical medical research -- was expensive, and sometimes as much about luck as trial and error.
Thus it was luck and a lark that made Gwynn Diggory try a bit of Amortentia in his father's original Restituo potion. It really shouldn't have worked. The world's strongest love potion and a nerve regenerator? On the surface, the one had nothing to do with the other. But with Muggle grandparents on his mother's side, Gwynn had never limited himself to only Wizarding medicine. As a boy, he'd sat at the knee of his father's Ojibway friends, learning their traditions, and as a young man he'd gone to Muggle university to read in biochemistry. He'd also pursued advanced Potions back in England. And in all this study and searching, he'd finally discovered the world's preeminent healing power.
Of course, that was hardly a revelation. It was so commonplace, in fact, it was trite.
Love and a sense of purpose could hold the dying to life long past a point that healers or doctors thought survival possible. And the loss of love could result in the untimely death of an otherwise healthy survivor -- not always from self-neglect or suicide. Bereaved spouses were more likely to catch infectious diseases; Gwynn had read the Muggle literature that proved it. And certainly, everyone magical knew the story of how Harry Potter had defeated Voldemort not by a hex or curse, but by love. What not everyone knew was how Gwynn's own father had once saved his mother's life with love. And what Gwynn himself knew was how much the love of his own life had made him who he was. Without Julie, he wouldn't have got through Healer's academy, and not because she'd cooked his dinner and kept house for him. Julie had been his classmate. They'd fallen in love over cadavers, gruelling rounds, pots of coffee, and a shared copy of Magellian's Potions. Like his mother's parents, Gwynn's wife was also his partner in practice.
So love as an antidote to life's ills was far from a poet's conceit to Gwynn Diggory. Yet like his mother, he had a scientist's mind and wanted to know the why behind it. What chemical reaction in the human body did love produce that made it so powerful, and could that be replicated in potions to help the ill?
Could he even find, at last, the magical formula that would let him heal his father?
It turned out to be a much easier question to frame than to answer. Love was complicated, and there was more than one type, even when it came to romantic passion. Gwynn didn't love Julie the way he had when they'd been young and on fire, yet if he lost her, he had no doubt he'd prefer to die. And he'd seen how his parents were virtually grafted together after fifty years. They could communicate by just a nod or a pursing of lips. For them, two had most certainly become one flesh, and not only in the act that had created him. In fact, Gwynn doubted his parents had engaged in coitus for longer than he'd been married, even if any specific mental image of them doing that gave him a bad case of the 'eew's despite being a professional healer. He just knew, medically, what his father's condition prevented.
Yet it wasn't the physical that mattered in love, even if the emotional did impact the body.
Gwynn spent the next several years trying to work backwards from the biochemical reactions love caused. He used elevated heart rate, breathing, even the neurological chemicals released and the electrical brain patterns found -- the latter of which had required him to borrow a Muggle MRI machine. When all that failed, he tried going forward, dissecting various love potions and adding this or that ingredient to previous medical potion formulae.
All to no avail.
One afternoon in his lab, frustrated by yet another series of failures, he decided to try the simple solution. Fetching a vial of fully brewed Amortentia, he mixed it with Restituo in differing amounts in differing beakers. Restituo was a chocolate-black color, while Amortentia glistened mother-of-pearl white. When put together in most beakers, it produced a murky gray soup or a thickened black liquid. But in one, the potion turned a brilliant sky blue and smelled like spring rain.
Gwynn didn't run to his father with it immediately. He was a scientist, after all, and tested it properly first. Yet after a month, he was satisfied that at least it wouldn't kill Ambassador Diggory. Whether or not it would heal him remained to be seen.
There was little worse than the February thaw that came each year in a climatological tease. It made a man want to throw off his winter coat like the melting snow and believe in spring . . . until March hit. In like a lion, out like a lamb. Wheelchair bound almost entirely since his late twenties, Cedric Diggory hated snow. At 69, almost 70, he'd forgotten what it had been like to bound through it as a boy, throwing snowballs in the Hogwarts courtyard. Not that he was exactly decrepit now. Like any wizard, his expected lifespan was longer than a Muggle's, and to look at him, one would think him 50 rather than 70. He was reaching the height of his career and power, and there had been a few whispers in his ear that if he returned to England, he stood a better-than-good chance of being appointed the next Minister by the Wizengamot --
-- which meant he had absolutely no intention of setting foot in England unless he had to. He had the job -- and the life -- he'd always wanted. Becoming Minister wasn't in his plans. If he died tomorrow, he'd be happy. Not that dying was in his plans, either. He still had quite a lot of living to do, and he turned back to the document on his desk, a proposal to decrease trade tariffs on, among other things, Peruvian Vipertooth animal parts for apothecary stocks. The goal was to boost the South American magical economy, but Cedric feared a backlash against the already endangered Peruvian dragons and was worrying over wording that would limit the amount of Vipertooth exports without damaging trade negotiations. He had an impassioned (and just a little florid) letter from Charlie Weasley at his elbow, acting head of the International Dragon Protection Guild, begging him to strike down the whole proposal, and an equally desperate letter from a coalition of Peruvian Potions Masters, begging him to pass it unaltered.
Neither was going to get entirely what they wanted, he feared. But that was politics. Cedric's skill as a diplomat lay in making people happy with the not-quite-what-they-wanted that they got. It had lately left him handling particularly tricky matters -- like the trade deal -- that weren't precisely in his purview.
There was a knock on his door and he raised his eyes in time to see an unexpected head poke itself around the door edge. "Happy Valentine's Day, dad."
"Gwynn? When did you get to Ottawa?" Grinning broadly, he pushed his chair back and manoeuvred it around the edge of his desk so he could get to his eldest to give him a hug. Gwynn had his mother's mind, and her brown eyes, but otherwise, he looked more like Cedric with his broad face, heavy brow, strong jaw and straight nose.
After greeting his father, Gwynn pulled back to set his medical bag on Cedric's desk, opening it and fishing inside until he found a small vial. He handed this to Cedric. "No promises. But try that."
Cedric's eyebrow quirked but more with tolerant amusement. They'd been doing this for years. Gwynn would show up with some new brew he hoped was a breakthrough, only to get nothing, and his disappointment would be palpable. Cedric was torn between telling his son to stop because he thought each failure hurt Gwynn far more than it hurt him, versus just drinking whatever Gwynn brought him (however bad it tasted) because it gave his son hope.
So that afternoon, Cedric drank the new potion, and waited a minute or two, Gwynn looking on anxiously . . .
He shook his head, handing back the vial. "Sorry, son." Gwynn's face fell, but only a little. Mostly he wore the expression Cedric thought of as his 'stubborn look.' He'd had it since the age of two whenever he'd been told he couldn't do something. It was at those moments he looked most like his mother: forward jutting chin, narrowed eyes, and pursed lips.
"Potions don't necessarily work immediately, dad. You know that."
Cedric smiled and shrugged. "I know. But don't get your hopes up."
Gwynn rolled his eyes -- just like his mother, too. "Heaven forbid I should hope for anything. Really, there's acceptance and then there's passivity."
Cedric's jaw hardened. "I fought it for 16 years. I don't think that's passive." It had been the hardest day of his life when he'd finally gone to hospital not for another round of treatments, but for them to make the paralysis spell permanent because he just couldn't bear the pain any more. About seven years after that, there had been no need for a spell; the nerves in his lower body were dead. He couldn't feel anything at all an inch below his navel all the way to his toes.
"How long can you stay?" Cedric asked to change the subject, and they fell to chatting about Gwynn's work, Julie, the kids, Gwynn's siblings Ian and Isabelle and their families, and all the usual topics of family catching up. Cedric left work early in order to meet Hermione for their Valentine's Day dinner and so she could see their son before he had to go back the next day.
At dinner, Gwynn offered his father another vial of the blue potion. Cedric scoffed. "Come on, dad," Gwynn said. "Try one more. I told you, potions don't always work immediately."
"Gwynn -- "
"Humour him, Cedric," Hermione scolded.
He shot her a look but she didn't back down, just pushed her glasses up her nose and eyed him over the top of the half-frames. Still holding her eyes, he held out his hand for the vial. Gwynn passed it over and he drank it.
And he felt nothing right up until about one o'clock in the morning when his lower body suddenly flared to life with such a fiery pain that he awoke screaming in agony. The muscles in his lower body responded too, arching him up off the mattress.
Poor Hermione nearly broke her neck leaping from their bed to run for the medicine cabinet even as she sent a Patronus to Gwynn as a message. He could hear her rattling potion bottles as he writhed on the sheets, and she returned with an ancient vial of his old Abdoleo at the same time his son Apparated directly into the bedroom, bag in hand, wand out to scan him.
Gwynn took the old vial from his mother and tossed it in the bin -- "That's probably no better than water by now" -- and he gave Cedric something stronger. It took a few minutes, but then the pain receded and Cedric lay there sweating, his whole lower body tingling.
He grinned up at both their frightened faces. "I can feel," he said.
Cedric Diggory first danced with his wife at their 50th wedding anniversary. The last time he'd danced had been at the Triwizard Yule Ball in his sixth year at Hogwarts, but that had been with a different girl. He'd regretted, in retrospect, not thinking to ask the other male Champions if he could partner their dates for one dance so at least he could have said later he'd danced once with Hermione, but he hadn't. So he danced with her for the first time when he was 70 and she was 68, their silver heads bent close, big smiles on both their faces as if they were teens again.
Yet he'd hardly leapt out of bed on the morning after Valentine's Day, ready to waltz.
Despite physical therapy to preserve muscle mass, his long paralysis had left him with withered legs. It was inevitable, and it took weeks before he could stand, and months before he could walk. Even then, his initial steps were with crutches the same as his last had been. But after just two months, he walked without crutches, however shaky and slow. He'd had inspiration to make the effort because just a month after that, he danced with his wife.
They received a standing ovation from the guests at their anniversary party, although certainly not for the quality of the dancing. Cedric had never been any good at it, even at 17. At the time, people had thought him intensely focused on his lovely date, Cho Chang, but the truth was he'd been intensely focused on counting the steps in his head. He'd been young enough then to worry about looking like a fool if he stepped on a girl's feet. Now, he was old enough not to care, and he stepped on Hermione's three different times, but they only laughed about it.
Later, they cut the anniversary cake and fed each other just as they had at their wedding, and she smeared icing on his face, just as she had at their wedding. Then they danced again. And yet a third time, and a fourth until his daughter cut in to steal the dance with her father that she hadn't been able to have at her own wedding.
Still later on in the evening, the British Department of International Magical Co-operation's ambassador to Canada pulled aside the Head of St. Mungo's Apothecary Research Division to say, "I don't know how to thank you, son. You never gave up."
Smiling, Gwynn Diggory hugged his father. "You already thanked me. You raised me." And Gwynn, who'd only seen his father break down and cry once before when he'd been handed his first grandchild to hold, witnessed it happen for a second time that night. He held on tightly. "I love you, dad."
Finally, Cedric let his son go, unable yet to speak, but slapping him a couple of times on the shoulder until he managed, "Would you and Julie chase everybody off so I can dance with your mother alone?"
Gwynn's face broke into a grin. "Of course."
Forty-five minutes later, Cedric and Hermione were back out on the floor, dancing to taped music. They didn't care where it came from, and they weren't counting steps, but heartbeats, her head against his chest. They smiled softly, and even paused to kiss now and then, but there would be time enough for that later. Right now, he just wanted to dance with his wife.
She even laughed when he dipped her low.
Author's Notes: If the story isn't 'songfic' in any usual sense, it was inspired by the LeeAnn Womack tune "I Hope You Dance," which I've always understood as a parent speaking to a child, and being a mom, I'm just a big ol' sentimental sap about songs like that. Here, I turned it around. The image given as the challenge prompts is at right.
Beware, however! This far-future mini-sequel to Finding Himself should NOT be taken as proof positive of anything that will happen in the actual sequel (Dulce et decorum est). I still have to see how Deathly Hallows turns out. Nonetheless, there are certain things I 'know' about Cedric and Hermione's future, barring massive surprise in Book 7, and it's almost easier to write something set in the far future rather than the immediate.