Beta's Note: Yes, I know, usually this area is reserved for the Authors, but sadly for me, my dear friend and fellow Author, Laurel has gone on Holiday and I took on the task of posting her new oneshot for her. Normally (If this were my story) I would take this time to thank the beta, though in this case I find it slightly redundant, since that would be me, so instead I'll just say 'Please enjoy the tale!!'
I could feel the weight press on my chest as I looked at him across the Great Hall and I found it hard to breathe; it always felt like a big fat elephant had just sat right on my ribcage and was crushing me every time I saw him. I had become strangely aware of my body over the last few years and the subtle differences in my anxieties; each one with a different source.
When I first realised I was gay I felt a thick black fog settle around my heart and lungs; it was always present but became much more noticeable when my sexuality was at the forefront of my mind, like when I found another boy attractive. I think the fog was a mixture of disappointment that I couldn't ever be 'normal', dread at having to chose between two impossible futures – disappointing my family and being myself or living a lie, and the incredible loneliness I felt when I was sure people would hate me for this.
The black fog thinned rapidly in the weeks after he found me crying in the castle gardens the night of the Yule Ball. I'd always noticed him, I mean who didn't? He was Harry Potter! Quite apart from his famous infancy and his tendency to attract trouble, the boy was a natural at drawing people's attention; he just had that aura, that charisma that just pulled you to him. And if you ever found the courage to speak to him you always found him to be extraordinarily attentive and kind; I'd never known anyone like him before and I was sure I never would again. He was unique. One of a kind. And I loved him.
Before the Yule Ball I'd never thought of Harry in a romantic or sexual way, he was only fourteen after all! I was seventeen and I'm sure it was morally wrong if not legally wrong for me to think of him that way. But after that dance, after he sat with me and talked to me, he seemed so much older than fourteen and I couldn't help but fall for those sparkling green eyes.
I'd been dancing with Cho Chang – my date – but watching Roger Davies – my crush – with one eye the whole night as he carelessly flirted with that delicate looking blonde, Fleur Delacour. Fleur was nice enough, she was very focused and determined when it came to the Tournament and I admired her for that, but I couldn't help the jealousy that burned through my veins as Roger looked at her instead of me, as he flirted with her and touched her and, oh god, kissed her, instead of me! Eventually it all got too much for me and I fled, ignoring the confused looks I received from Cho, I ran straight into the garden looking for somewhere to hide.
I felt the tears sting my eyes and burn my face as they fell before I consciously realised I was going to cry. I was so embarrassed and ashamed at myself for lusting after someone I could never have and for crying about it like the big girl I was that I flung myself behind the nearest bush and sobbed heavily into my knees as I hugged them close to my chest. I cried more that night than I ever had before, my body shook with deep, heaving sobs and I thought I'd never be able to stop; it scared the crap out of me. I cried more about my being undeniably gay than I did because I knew Roger was going to sleep with Fleur that night; it seemed so hopeless.
I think I'd been sitting in that bush for half an hour before Harry happened upon me. He must have heard me crying because I was fairly well hidden by the darkness and the leaves of this small bush. I was trying to at least suppress the verbal aspect of my scary sobbing, but I mustn't have been doing a very good job.
"Cedric?" he asked after finding me on the other side of the shrub. "Is everything alright?"
His sudden appearance scared me out of my hysterical state but still left my chest hurting like someone had punched me. I coughed in a way I hoped sounded masculine and wiped away the evidence of my tears from my cheeks. "Yeah, all good," I lied.
"Cool," he said as though he believed me, and for a while I thought he did which was stupid now that I think about it; if nothing else my puffy red eyes were evidence that I'd just been crying. "Mind if I sit with you? It's so hot in there and I think I need to cool down out here for a bit," he asked casually.
"Oh, um, yeah, no, go ahead," I stuttered.
I'd been thinking about the problem of my sexuality so intensely I wondered if my thoughts had betrayed me and branded 'GAY' on to my forehead yet. I touched my face as though I was tired to see if I could feel anything different; of course there was nothing there because even in the wizarding world just because you think about something enough doesn't mean it's going to jump out of your head for everyone to see!
"Thanks," he said. "It's sort of nice out here even if it is so cold there's snow on the ground."
"Um, yeah," I agreed awkwardly. "Look I better get back inside." I was still jumpy about him catching me out crying and I wanted to put as much distance between us as possible.
"Oh yeah, definitely," Harry agreed. "I just thought you might talk to me for a second."
"Talk to you?" I asked, starting to panic.
"Yeah, about the Tournament," he said.
I relaxed. "Oh, right, yeah, the Tournament, sure," I said stumbling over my words again, this time with relief.
"Pretty scary, isn't it?" he sighed. "Unless it's just me because I'm younger."
"No, definitely not you," I reassured him. "It is scary."
"I reckon asking a girl to this dance was worse than that Horntail though," he laughed easily.
I laughed too. "Yeah, girls are pretty scary as well," I told him.
Although, for me they were a different kind of scary; I had to pretend to want them when in fact I wanted boys, I had to kiss them when it made me feel ill and heaven knows what I would do when my parents finally wanted me to marry one of them!
"I asked Cho actually," he confessed, blushing cutely. "She turned me down because she was already going with you."
Suddenly I felt bad for taking Cho to the dance when I didn't like her like that and Harry did. "Oh man, I'm sorry," I sighed.
"It's okay, you didn't know," he said.
I nodded, but I didn't know what to say next.
"I was pretty jealous though, I've been watching you two together most of the night," Harry said, blushing again.
"You were watching us?" I asked, genuinely surprised.
"Yeah, you're a good dancer, not like me," he said with a short laugh.
I just smiled. "My mum taught me, her and dad dance together every week, they do competitions and everything."
"Oh yeah?" he asked sounding interested.
"Yeah, they're really good," I said.
He just nodded and we were silent.
The breeze blew soft and cold on my face and I had to suppress a shiver; if I shivered Harry might suggest we go inside and I didn't want to, not yet anyway. It was nice sitting out here with him in the Christmas air; it was easy and comfortable. I hadn't felt this relaxed in a long time, but when Harry finally broke our silence with his next words I nearly fainted with fright.
"I know we don't know each other that well and I probably just seem like a kid to you," he said, "but I just wanted to tell you, you can talk to me about anything if you need to and I'll keep it to myself."
I tensed. "Talk to you about what exactly?"
Harry took a deep breath and shifted closer to me. "Like I said, I watched you all night and I saw you watching him," he explained softly. "You can do so much better than Roger Davies, Cedric."
The anxiety I felt after those words was brand new; first I felt like he'd slapped me, then I froze and no matter how many times I told my limbs to move or my mouth to speak, nothing happened. I had trouble breathing and when my body finally let go enough for me to inhale the cool night air my tears spilled out like a fountain.
Oh shit. Once I started to cry again I knew there was no denying it. He knew I was gay; the tears confirmed it. I wondered first what he was going to do. Would he run away and tell everyone? Would he think I was disgusting? Would he hate me?
Instead, I think he surprised even himself, but especially me, when he leaned over and hugged me. He pulled me in close to his small body and held me tightly as I cried. I couldn't believe it, but it was exactly what I needed and so I let him. I felt awkward since he was so small compared to my much taller, broader and musclier body, but he was warm and kind and he was there right when I needed him.
"Shh," he cooed as he rocked me gently and ran his fingers through my hair.
Eventually, I was able to stop crying and I pulled back from him to try and compose myself. I was exhausted from my high emotional state and confused about why Harry was being so nice to me, especially after finding out I was gay. What upset me more was the way I was thinking about him now, about how good his hands felt in my hair and how much I loved that he was sitting close to me still half holding me. Was this what it meant to be gay? That I would fall for any boy who was nice to me for a few minutes or had a nice arse?
"I know it probably feels like it, but you aren't alone in this Cedric," he whispered softly to me.
I felt my stomach clench. Was he telling me what I thought he was? Was Harry Potter gay?
"One of the boys in my dorm room came out recently and you might not believe it, but everyone has been really supportive," he finished.
Was this one of those 'my friend' stories people used when they were really talking about themselves? Did he come out recently to his friends?
"Who?" I asked as my voice cracked.
"Neville Longbottom," Harry said with a gentle smile. "Do you know him?"
I shook my head.
God, I was so stupid! Of course, Harry wasn't gay! That's ridiculous! He asked Cho to the dance, didn't he!? He was jealous that she went with me, he wants her – a girl – not me. Not that I want him to want me… do I? I barely knew him. It shouldn't have mattered whether or not he's gay. Even then I knew he was attractive though, those stunning green eyes looked straight through me and I could almost feel myself falling head over heels for him.
"You're shivering," he murmured almost to himself as he started rubbing his hands up and down my arms trying to create some warmth from the friction. "Come on, let's get you back inside. I think its past curfew anyway."
I nodded dumbly and my shivering only got more violent as we walked up to the castle entrance. "Let me walk you back to your common room, I'm a prefect, I have more leeway being out after curfew," I said. It was true, I did, but I think I just wanted to stay with Harry. It felt good that someone knew about me and was fine with it; I didn't want to lose that feeling.
That night I walked him back to the Gryffindor common room and he promised we could hang out again soon which was the only reason I think I kept that pleasant feeling all the next day and the black fog in my chest seemed to wane.
Harry kept his promise and we began to spend more and more time together. Nobody questioned it as we were both Hogwarts Champions, which seemed silly even then as we weren't allowed to work together on the tasks. The funny thing is we hardly ever talked about the Tournament. We talked a lot about school and home, he told me about all the crazy stuff he'd done over the years; the philosopher's stone, the basilisk, running away from a transformed Professor Lupin werewolf, the Dementors and Sirius Black (although him he was rather vague about). I told him about my home life, when I first knew I was gay, why I felt like I could never tell my parents, especially my father, and how wrong everyone was about me being 'perfect'. I'd never felt perfect in my whole life.
Eventually, as the black fog around my heart settled and the weight on my chest seemed to increase, I started to become aware of how thoroughly smitten I was with Harry and I tried to counteract it by talking more about other boys. I think I was trying to prove to myself, or to him, that I wasn't in love with him when, in fact, I'd never been so in love with anyone!
I didn't talk about Roger Davies much as my affection for Harry killed any affection I had for Roger or anyone else really, but I did try to force myself to fall for another sixth year boy, Aaron Goding, and I talked about him a lot. He was a Gryffindor actually, so Harry knew him better than I did, but he was in my Potions and Charms classes and I had caught him staring at me and biting his lip more than once so I assumed he must have been at least mildly interested.
I remember the first time Aaron kissed me very clearly as it coincided rather suspiciously with a rise in Harry's workload making him unable to hang out with me anymore.
I was walking back to my dorm room from the library late one night with my arms full of books. I was having trouble balancing them all while trying to hold my bag so I wasn't surprised when about halfway up a set of stairs I over-balanced and it all slipped from my grasp clattering loudly down the stairs.
"Shit," I cursed as I looked over the mess I'd made.
I heard him laugh heartily before I saw him. "Jesus, Diggory," Aaron teased. "How did you manage that?"
I threw him a sheepish smile as I shrugged. "Are you going to help me or are you just going to laugh?" I asked a little flirtatiously.
I really did like Aaron. He was completely gorgeous with honey blonde hair, baby blue eyes and the body of an underwear model. The problem was he wasn't Harry. I looked at him and thought he was hot, as did everyone with eyes, even the straight guys, but I would also be a bit disappointed that his hair was blonde and not black and that his eyes were blue and not green. I didn't like that he was so buff, I thought he should be shorter and slighter.
In other words, I thought he should have been Harry.
Aaron helped me pick up my things and as he handed me the last book he pinned me against the railing of the staircase we were on and I dropped everything all over again.
He pushed himself close against me and our noses were almost tip to tip. "Is this okay?" he whispered and I felt his warm breath wash over me all sweet and minty.
I nodded silently and he pushed the rest of the way into me until his lips were on mine. It was hot and rough, he had scratchy stubble around his chin and his hands were firm and strong on my waist. He licked along my bottom lip and instinctively I opened my mouth for him so he could slip his tongue inside and taste me properly.
All in all it was divine. My first kiss with a boy made me harder than I'd ever been in my life and I knew I was definitely gay.
But as perfect as the kiss was and as gorgeous as Aaron was, as I walked back to my dorm with all my books finally gathered together, all I could think about was that it should have been Harry.
Harry and I met up the next day and ate lunch together out in one of Hogwarts' courtyards and it was here that I almost guiltily confessed that I had kissed Aaron the night before. I wasn't sure why I felt guilty, perhaps it was because I felt like I'd betrayed my feelings by kissing somebody else, but I was damn sure it wasn't because I thought Harry would care. Actually I thought he'd be excited about it, excited for me, which is why his reaction surprised me so much.
"Really?" he said when I told him.
"Yeah," I confirmed with a small grin. "It was out on that staircase by the portrait of the three lazy dogs."
"Huh," he grunted almost indifferently. "That's, um, well, that's – excuse me," he stuttered before making a hasty retreat from the courtyard.
"What?" I called after him. "Harry!"
But he had already gone.
I had to chase him for a whole week to even get the 'I've been really busy lately' excuse and that was at least three weeks later. Aaron and I took to seeing each other regularly but secretly since I'm publicised a bit as the Hogwarts Champion and I had yet to drum up the courage to confess my secret to my father.
Luckily, when I would drift off, staring lazily at Harry during meal times, Aaron would think I was staring at him and as Harry and I barely talked anymore he didn't know enough to be jealous. Aaron and I progressed to hand jobs and one night when we were together he began to heavily suggest that he would like to give me a blowjob. He might not be Harry but he still taught me completely new levels of pleasure and the thought of him wrapping those sweet pouting lips around me made me shiver with delight.
If I closed my eyes while he stroked me sometimes I could imagine it was Harry's hand, I hoped it would feel like Harry's mouth too when I saw Aaron again the next time.
So pathetic. There I was, staring at Harry during breakfast again as I felt the big fat elephant weight on my chest. Why couldn't I get over him? And why was he still not talking to me? I wondered if he knew I was in love with him? If he was mad? Disgusted?
The second task was only a week away and I couldn't even ask him how he was going preparing for it. He was so good at avoiding me you'd think he had a map telling him where I was all the time! I had this really scary dream one night that Harry didn't figure out the clue from the egg in time and he ended up drowning in the lake. I woke up screaming his name and I had to make up some story for my roommates about having a nightmare that someone was chasing me and I actually screamed 'hurry' and not 'Harry'.
By lunch time I still hadn't stopped feeling ill about that dream and I knew I had to know he was ready for the task or I wouldn't sleep properly that night. I had the afternoon off and I managed to corner Harry in the library just before the last class of the day.
"Harry!" I greeted him.
"I have to get to History of Magic, sorry Cedric," Harry muttered so quietly I barely heard him.
"That's okay, I have the afternoon off I can walk you there," I persisted with a smile. "You don't mind, do you guys?"
"Not at all," Hermione exclaimed, grinning at me.
Hmm, isn't she Krum's girlfriend?
She grabbed Ron by the arm and dragged him out of the library before he had a chance to say anything. I smiled at my victory; I had Harry alone at last as I helped him pack up his books.
"So, I just wanted to ask how you're getting on preparing for the second task," I asked him. "Did you listen to the egg underwater like I said?"
He nodded quickly. "Yeah, I have to breathe underwater for an hour, I know," he mumbled.
"Cool," I said, trying to sound casual as we exited the library and started walking to the History of Magic classroom. "Got a strategy then?"
"Um, yeah, yeah, it's all worked out," he said with a tone of finality. I could tell he didn't want me to ask him what it was so I didn't; I didn't want to press my luck.
"You think we might be able to catch up soon?" I asked nervously. I knew he didn't want to, but I knew I wouldn't be able to leave him alone about it until he rejected me outright; until he broke my heart.
"Dunno," he said vaguely. "With the Tournament and everything…"
"Yeah, I have to do it too, remember?" I said abruptly.
I knew he was lying to me and it was so infuriating! Why couldn't he just tell me why he didn't want to hang out anymore?
"Then you know," he said with a shrug.
"No, I don't know!" I snapped. "We used to hang out three or four times a week, now you don't even have five minutes for me! What happened?"
"Nothing," he sighed. "I've just genuinely been busy. It's not as easy for me, Ced, I'm not as experienced as you, I have to work harder."
I didn't know what it was, maybe it was because he sounded so sincere, or maybe it was because he called me 'Ced', but I was instantly placated.
He must have seen me relax because he squeezed my upper arm briefly and said, "Soon, I promise."
I smiled and nodded and he disappeared into the History room.
Man, was I relieved! He didn't hate me, he wasn't avoiding me; he was just busy. Once this second task was over we would both be able to relax and hang out together.
I couldn't believe I had gotten so angry; I'm probably just stressed about the task coming up.
Everything would get easier once that was behind us.
The water was freezing as I dove in and it was impossibly dark under the surface. Physically I could breathe using this bubble-headed charm, but that didn't stop the initial psychological panic I experienced for the first few minutes. My brain seemed to empty of all rational thought as I panicked. It emptied of all thought actually, it was more like a blinding white light in my head. I had to literally force the light from my mind to think long enough to take a deep breath from within my bubble. After that I was panting as I inhaled shallowly, but breathing like that for a whole hour would have been impossible so after a few minutes I settled into my bubble charm and swam off to find my prize.
The water only got darker and murkier the deeper I swam. I was all alone and I knew there was a myriad of underwater creatures following me curiously – or hungrily – but none of them seemed keen to interact with me thank god! I was worried about Harry though, I wondered where he was and if he was okay. I think part of me hoped we might swim this thing together, but I lost him in my first moments of panic.
Eventually my arms and legs began to tire and I wondered how long I'd been swimming and when I was going to reach my destination, wherever that was! It was then I heard the singing, it sounded just like it had from the egg, and I knew I was close. Somehow this revelation gave me the fresh burst of energy I required to push on and it was only a few minutes later that I emerged from the jungle of weeds to see four people tied to the bottom of the lake and Harry arguing with a merman.
Wait, Harry arguing with a merman? What the hell?
I swam over quickly to see what was going on. I saw Harry swimming next to a vacant looking Ron Weasley, next to Ron was their other friend Hermione, next to her was Aaron, and next to him was a small blonde little girl. The merman had stopped arguing with Harry but he was still swimming close by looking rather annoyed.
I gave Harry a questioning look and he shrugged and scowled at me rudely. What the hell was going on? What did I do now?
I freed Aaron and looked at Harry expectantly. What was he waiting for? Why didn't he free his friend and swim to the surface with me? We could win this task together.
I poked him in the arm and gestured with my hand for him to follow me. He shook his head and glared at me again before pointing to Hermione.
Oh, I get it! He wants to take her too and the merman won't let him; that's why they were arguing. What does he think that Dumbledore is going to let her drown if Krum doesn't get here on time?
I rolled my eyes and smiled at his adorable naivety. I gestured for him to follow me again, but he refused and angrily turned away, before trying to free his friend again and getting into another argument with the merman.
Fine, if he's pissed off with me then I'll go. He can wait around like a fool and come last!
I grabbed Aaron's arm and pushed my way to the surface which I found was a different kind of difficult than swimming here alone, but no less hard. Aaron was deadweight and he kept slipping from my grasp, eventually I got into a position where I was pushing him above me instead of pulling him behind me which was much easier.
When we reached the surface Aaron woke up and he was able to swim back to the platform on his own, which he did, but not before hugging me and covertly stroking my cock under the water. I swam exhausted next to an excited Aaron and, when we arrived, I positioned myself on the edge of the platform to wait for Harry to come up.
Krum surfaced about five minutes after me with a spluttering Hermione and I was horrified to learn that Fleur was already back, she hadn't made it to the little girl. Harry wouldn't know that and I wondered how long he would wait for her to arrive. Not too long, I hope.
The seconds ticked by and turned into minutes and soon he was five minutes over the hour he was allocated. I started to fidget with worry. What if his charm stopped working soon? I didn't even know what charm he'd used!
Another five agonising minutes passed before Harry surfaced with Ron Weasley and the little girl and when I saw him I swear I nearly collapsed with relief. I grinned broadly at Aaron who was jabbering on about how Professor Dumbledore had summoned him to his office and talked about how they were taking people the Champions would miss most and – urgh, I tuned him out after that. Aaron was great but he talked far too much and I was busy thinking about Harry.
"Mr Diggory," Professor Dumbledore called to me interrupting my thoughts. "You'll come first, Krum will come in second and-"
"But Professor that's not fair!" I exclaimed. "Harry should come first! He was there first!"
"What do you mean, Mr Diggory?"
"He reached the people we had to rescue before I did," I explained. "He was there first but he was so damn stubborn about waiting until everyone had been rescued that he took longer than he should have. If he had just taken his friend and gone he would have been here before me!"
"That is interesting," Dumbledore mused. "Excuse me while I go and confer with the other judges," he said before shuffling off.
Harry was announced in second place, which I was a bit miffed about as I still thought he deserved to be first, but it put us on the same points which made me feel oddly proud. Harry might be younger but after hearing about everything he'd already achieved I was pretty pleased with myself for keeping up with him.
I tried to catch him after the second task to congratulate him on his performance and to find out if he was still mad at me or if it was just the general stress of the day, but he was whisked away so quickly by his friends that I never got the chance. The rest of the night was too exciting for me to be too disappointed at not seeing Harry; there was a party waiting for me in my common room and one of my roommates even managed to swipe a bottle of firewhiskey which me and my roommates drank heartily in our room late into the night while the younger years enjoyed the various array of sweets collected from the kitchens.
It was another two weeks before I managed to catch Harry. I was so furious with him for avoiding me again and upset that he had lied about why we weren't spending time together; it obviously wasn't because he was busy with the Tournament! I drove myself insane wondering what I could have possibly done and it had been so long since we hung out together that I couldn't even remember when we'd stopped or why.
When I finally did catch him, I wasn't alone; actually I was giving Aaron one of the best blowjobs I'd ever given him in a small alcove just near the Transfiguration classroom while everyone else was at breakfast. Harry had slept in that morning and so when Aaron cried out as he came into my mouth Harry was making his way down to the Great Hall and heard him.
Only Harry would decide to investigate something like that. Surely he would know by now that moaning, groaning and 'Oh God yes's were sounds best left alone; apparently not.
When Harry spotted us I was still on my knees and Aaron was feeding me some of his climax as it ran down my chin.
"Oh my God," Harry gasped before turning on his heel and racing down the corridor.
I didn't even hesitate before sprinting after him leaving Aaron alone to do up his robes. Harry was really quick and I struggled to catch up. At first I thought he was running to the Great Hall where I wouldn't be able to talk to him, but at the last second he turned and sprinted for the front doors and out toward the lake. I didn't catch up to him until he stopped underneath a tree.
"Harry, Jesus Christ," I panted. "I didn't know you could run like that!"
He didn't look at me; instead he just walked towards the lake edge. The feeling of contentment I experienced whenever I was around Harry disappeared as I was reminded of his persistent avoidance and my heart stabbed with hurt and anger.
"Hey!" I barked as I roughly grabbed his arm. "Talk to me for once!"
"Don't touch me!" he spat harshly as he ripped his arm from my grasp. His eyes showed me clearly how angry he was and his lip was curled up in disgust. "I can't believe I had to see that! The universe truly hates me!" he growled.
"Look, it's not the best thing to walk in on, but fucking hell Harry, don't you think you're overreacting just a tad!" I yelled back.
"No! No, I don't!" he shouted back, his voice cracked and tears started to spill from his eyes.
I was beyond confused. What the hell was going on? Why was he crying? My anger dissipated as soon as I saw his eyes sparkle with tears and all I wanted to do was wrap him in my arms and protect him forever.
"Harry," I cooed as I stepped towards him with open arms.
"Fuck off! I said don't touch me!" he screamed through his tears.
My mouth dropped open in shock. What the hell!? Harry had never said no to my hugs before, we'd always been physically affectionate with each other with hugs and hand holding while we talked all those times. For a while I hoped it was because he had feelings for me, but as I watched him I noticed he was physically affectionate with all his friends and I knew that was just how he was, it wasn't anything to do with me.
When had this all gone to shit? Harry and I had a really good thing going right up until I started seeing Aaron…
Oh my God. That's it. That's when it went it all went south; when I told Harry I'd kissed Aaron on the stairs and he ran out. Then he started behaving like an arseafter catching us together that morning…
I felt faint as all the puzzle pieces clicked together and I knew what had gone wrong. Being gay in theory was obviously different to being gay in practice and Harry couldn't handle it. As long as I was just 'gay' and not kissing or blowing other guys Harry was happy to be friends with me, but as soon as it started to get physical he found me disgusting. I felt sick. The man I loved hated me.
"I can't believe this," I whispered to myself, but I think he heard me. "I know what this is about," I said to him coldly. "I can't believe you! I can't believe you would feel that way! Especially about me! I thought we were friends!?"
Harry's eyes widened with panic. "I'm sorry," he said desperately. "I wish I didn't feel this way about you but I do, I can't help it."
"Jesus, Harry," I said, slumping my shoulders. "How can I be friends with someone who – Argh!" I was so angry I couldn't even finish my question; instead I tried to scream out my frustrations. I couldn't believe I was losing him before I even had him!
"You can't, we can't," he choked out; I could tell he was swallowing a new onset of tears. "I know that, that's why I was avoiding you."
I melted. He felt so bad about it, I could see it in his eyes; he truly didn't want to feel disgusted by me. I wished there was something I could do to get things back to the way they were but I knew there wasn't, it was all up to him and obviously he had to work it through on his own.
"I'll leave you alone then," I said. God it hurt. "I wish things could have been different Harry."
"Yeah, me too," he said as he gazed intently at the grass.
"If things change, you'll let me know won't you?" I asked hopefully. "I still care about you."
"Of course, yeah I will," he said throwing me a half smile.
I walked away leaving him standing by the lake in the morning light. God he looked so beautiful standing there and of course that only made it hurt more.
I spent the next few months trying to fight this depressed mood that seemed to want to swallow me whole. All I wanted to do was hide in my bed so I never had to see or talk to anyone ever again, but unfortunately life was cruel and didn't allow me to spend even one day like that. If people knew I was upset they would ask questions, questions I couldn't answer if I wanted to keep my homosexuality a secret.
Every morning I would drag myself out of bed and face the day with what I hoped looked like a genuine smile; I think after a few weeks of my façade most people forgot what I was like when I was genuinely happy and so they stopped being able to recognise my underlying sadness.
Aaron was never fooled though, he could see me sinking deeper and deeper and it was only so long before he managed to squeeze the truth out of me. He was always commenting on my lack of enthusiasm during our encounters and after weeks of hearing me brush it off to Tournament pressure he managed to make me confess that I was in love with Harry Potter.
He took it fairly well actually, he wasn't even surprised. His exact words were 'Dude, who isn't!?' after which he proceeded to undo my pants and attend to the demands of my teenage hormones.
Surprisingly, this development in our relationship actually made me feel better. There was no forced romantic relationship as we were both now upfront about what we were each getting from the arrangement; experience and sexual gratification.
Saying Aaron was annoyed with Harry's homophobic behaviour would have been the understatement of the century; he was furious. He had noticed Harry acting hostile to him in the common room and at the Gryffindor table, but had brushed it off as he hadn't encountered anything too overt, just glares and snide remarks. Now he knew the whole story behind those unfriendly glances and the rude comments took on a whole new meaning for Aaron. He ranted about Harry being 'a little shit' and completely unworthy of my affections for nearly half an hour before I couldn't take it anymore and I had to shut him up with a kiss and a hand job.
My mood only got worse though when rumours about Harry's romantic relationship with his friend Hermione, Krum's girlfriend, began to circulate. I didn't think they were true at all, I'd never gotten that vibe from him when he talked about her, but my gut still clenched at the thought of him being with someone else. I felt ridiculous whenever this happened, I had no claim on him whatsoever but somehow I felt cheated.
One evening in the last week of May all of the Champions were called to the Quidditch pitch to meet with Ludo Bagman and find out what we had to face during the third task. We all had to meet at 9 o'clock and it would be the first time I came into any sort of contact with Harry since our argument.
I ran into him in the corridor on the way to the Quidditch pitch and froze. I felt my elephant sit down on my chest again; he must have been pigging out on chocolate frogs because he seemed heavier than usual, probably because Harry was standing so close to me, close enough to touch.
Should I talk to him? Did he want me to leave him alone?
"How are you, Cedric?" he asked me quietly while looking at me shyly. It was so cute I completely forgot what an arse he'd been.
"I'm doing okay," I replied trying to sound casual when really I felt like I could keel over with pleasure at any moment, just from his simple greeting. "How's everything with you?"
"Not too bad," he said with a slight smile. "What do you think the third task is going to be?"
I saw his cheeks flush with colour. So adorable.
"Not sure," I answered trying not to let him see my own girlish blush. "I heard Fleur say she thought we might have to go through underground tunnels searching for treasure."
"That wouldn't be so bad," he said to me.
I really didn't care what we had to do as long as I got to talk to him or stand near him. I didn't want to think about how he would react if he knew what I was thinking about doing to him as I stroked myself each morning; he'd be horrified!
We made our way down to the pitch to find it overgrown with small hedges. My mouth had fallen open in shock and dismay as I took in the state of my beloved Quidditch pitch.
"Hello there!" Ludo Bagman greeted us. "What do you think?" he asked.
No one replied. He told us that the hedges were in fact a maze and the Triwizard Cup would be placed in the centre and the first Champion to touch it would be awarded full points, he also said that by the time the third task was ready the hedges would be 20 feet tall.
I gasped. 20 feet tall!? How was I supposed to play Quidditch next year if there was a 20 foot tall maze covering the pitch!?
I think my horror was evident on my face; it was certainly evident on Harry's who looked like he was thinking the same thing as me.
"Hey, don't look like that," Bagman teased us. "You'll get your Quidditch pitch back as good as new once the third task is over."
This knowledge should have made me feel better but it didn't, I still felt violated and so did Harry by the looks of it.
Bagman then explained that Harry and I would be entering the maze first, followed by Krum and then Fleur. None of us had any questions about the third task, I think nobody really knew what to think, I sure didn't.
I was hoping to talk to Harry some more on the way back up to the castle but he was pulled aside by Krum and they walked off together towards the forest. I was nervous about Harry being left alone with him especially considering the rumours going around about their little love triangle with Hermione Granger but it wasn't any of my business. As much as I wanted it to mean more I knew that just because Harry and I had managed to have a friendly conversation for a whole minute didn't mean that I was back in his life. I needed to move on, starting by letting Harry make his own decisions about being alone with someone who probably wanted to hurt him and definitely could.
I cringed at this thought and only managed to make it back to the Hufflepuff common room by chanting 'It's none of your business' over and over in my head.
As soon as I emerged from the Hufflepuff common room the next morning I could tell something had happened. The students of Hogwarts buzzed in the way they did when there was some juicy piece of gossip or another being passed between them. At first I was determined to ignore it, gossip did nothing for me, I didn't feel the same thrill so many others did when they were allowed an unauthorised glimpse into someone else's private life, but when I looked closer at the looks people were exchanging I knew it was bad news. I knew it wasn't another story about Harry's love life, I thought it might be closer to a story about how two Triwizard Champions, both famous in their own right, attacked each other. My heart clenched and suddenly I couldn't go another second without knowing what had happened; if it had been a physical fight Harry would have come off worse, much worse, but if they had used their wands there was a chance he hadn't been hurt too badly.
"Hey, you there!" I barked gruffly demanding the attention of a small Ravenclaw girl. "What's going on?" I asked her.
"One of the Tournament judges, Barty Crouch, went crazy last night and attacked Viktor Krum," she answered looking at me with wide adoring eyes.
"Was Harry Potter involved?" I asked.
"Apparently he and Krum found Crouch at the same time and when Potter went to get help the he attacked Krum and ran off!"
I hoped my relief was not too evident on my face as it's not the most appropriate of responses when hearing that one of my fellow Champions was attacked, but I couldn't help it. Harry was okay; he wasn't hurt.
I nodded at the girl and thanked her before making my way to the Hufflepuff table for breakfast. When I arrived I noticed immediately that Harry wasn't with his friends at breakfast, I watched the doors all morning waiting for him to show up but he never did…
I tried to catch him alone all morning but I never saw him once, not even with his friends. Again I wondered how he was so proficient at avoiding me, it was like he knew where I was all the time and made sure he was never in the vicinity. By lunchtime, however, my luck had changed and I caught him quite by accident talking to another Gryffindor in the library.
He was on the other side of the bookcases and I could see his hand through the shelves as his fingers tapped out a nervous beat.
"I don't know what happened, he seemed like he genuinely wanted help," Harry told his friend. "I don't understand what would make him attack Krum like that."
I decided to stay and listen rather than interrupt him, it was obvious Harry didn't want to see me and I knew I would probably get more information out of him this way. Besides, I doubt I could have moved even if I'd wanted to, his sweet voice washed over me like warm honey, the sensation sticking me to the spot and rendering me immobile, and I just knew I was falling deeper in love with him as I stood there.
"He sounds like he was out of his mind at the time, he probably wasn't thinking logically," the other Gryffindor replied.
I knew it was a Gryffindor because I could see the crimson trim of his robes, but I couldn't tell who it was by their voice alone.
"Yeah, true I guess," Harry sighed. "Maybe I should have stayed with Krum, maybe he wouldn't have gotten hurt, I dunno…" He sounded lost and extremely confused. "I was a bit surprised he wanted to talk to me in the first place, I thought he might just punch me," he added with a dry laugh.
"Excuse me can you help me reach that book?"
I was so lost in Harry's conversation I almost didn't hear her, in fact, I wouldn't have had she not also tugged lightly on the sleeve of my robes. It was a petite looking first year Hufflepuff girl, a fellow housemate; if it had been anyone else I would have been angry, since she was a Hufflepuff I was only mildly annoyed at the interruption. I reached the book for her and turned back to Harry's conversation.
"Oh Neville, what am I going to do?" Harry sighed sounded defeated. He was talking to Neville Longbottom, the boy he had told me was his gay roommate; I'd noticed him around Harry since that night, but I hadn't ever spoken to him. "I'm never going to be able to concentrate on the third task with him so close, I seem to loose my head when he's around me, I go off to a happy place."
"I think you're falling for him," Neville teased lightly. "That's so cute."
Falling for him!? Another guy? I don't understand. I thought Harry hated gay people… Hated me at least for being gay… No, that couldn't be right.
I leaned in to listen closer.
"If he liked me back it might be cute, for now it's just heartbreaking," he replied sadly.
"Oh Harry," Neville sighed, sounding as though he was trying to comfort his friend but not knowing how.
"He's turned me gay for fuck's sake and he doesn't even want me! He's in love with someone else!" Harry huffed quietly.
"Well, to be fair, I don't think he's turned you gay, he probably just helped you to realise it," Neville reasoned.
"I don't know, it's not like I have feelings for boys overall, just him," Harry said. "I swear I nearly fainted the whole time he was talking to me yesterday, I was getting hot flashes and everything."
Oh god, it was Krum. Harry was in love with Krum… Krum was a Champion so he would be close to Harry during the final task and he spoke to him yesterday, plus Harry was worried that he'd gotten hurt…
Shit. I hate my life.
"I'm so stupid," Harry sighed.
You're not the only one, Harry, I couldn't help thinking to myself. I felt so foolish.
"You are not," Neville chastised him.
"I am!" Harry argued. "I feel all sick to my stomach when I think about the second task. I can't help it but I just keep thinking it should have been me he had to save; I should have been his most important person."
Ouch. Oh that hurt my heart so much.
I could feel tears prick the corners of my eyes and I knew I couldn't stay any longer to hear Harry talk about another man the way I wished he would talk about me.
"That would have been impossible, who would have saved Ron?" Neville quipped, trying to lighten the mood.
"Yeah, I know," Harry agreed, giving in with a small laugh.
Honeyed voice or not I couldn't stay to listen another second! I couldn't believe it! He threw away our friendship over my homosexuality and the little bastard goes and falls for another guy himself!? What a hypocrite!
I couldn't take the pain on my heart any longer. I needed it to go away, I needed to dull the pain with something else. I needed Aaron.
Lucky for me Aaron had a free study block after lunch so he was be free for the next few hours and I had History of Magic, Professor Binns wouldn't even know I wasn't there. I found him eating at the Gryffindor table and I walked straight up to him trying to look normal and requested his company. No one at his table flinched at our spending time together. Everybody saw me save him during the second task and so they all knew he was 'precious to me' but none seemed to have made the 'gay' connection yet. The school readily and quickly accepted our friendship as innocent and natural.
I pulled Aaron into a deserted classroom and kissed him roughly, pulling at his uniform.
"Mmm, Ced, not that I'm not enthusiastic about this because you know I always am, but is there something you want to talk about instead of doing, well, this," he asked reasonably as I worked at he clasps to his robes.
"Just fuck me please," I begged him. Anything to numb the pain.
"Okay now, stop right there!" he snapped yanking his robes out of my hands. "That's a new one, Ced, and not something I'm doing when you are so clearly upset about something else. What happened? Is it Harry?" he asked knowingly.
As soon as he said his name I lost it and the tears flew from my eyes like a torrent, Aaron grabbed me instantly and I trembled in his arms as I cried. I could easily imagine myself in Harry's arms as he had done just this for me only a few short months before.
"He's in love with someone else," I whispered brokenly after a few minutes.
"Yes, well, that's not too unexpected, it's not as though he's gay is it?" Aaron replied reasonably.
"You don't understand, after all his high and mighty protests about our relationship he's gone and fallen for another guy!" I hissed angrily.
"What? But he was so disgusted by us, surely that's not possible," Aaron gasped in disbelief.
"Oh it is, I overheard him telling Neville Longbottom in the library, he's in love with Viktor Krum," I growled.
I was so angry by the unfairness of it all and the hypocrisy that Harry was living right in front of me that my rage burned up all my tears and I no longer had any left to cry. What a self-righteous little bastard! I can't believe he would hurt me so much by openly hating Aaron and I, just because he couldn't deal with his own homosexuality.
"Viktor Krum? Really? Isn't he going with Harry's friend, Hermione?" Aaron asked still shocked by the revelation.
"Yeah, well, that's part of what he was talking about," I explained. "He's in love with Krum, but Krum obviously doesn't love him back because he's with Hermione. He's all heartbroken."
"Serves the little prat right!" Aaron laughed bitterly. "Now maybe he knows how you feel!"
"He doesn't know that I feel that way about him!" I informed him, horrified at the idea that Harry should ever find out.
"Well, maybe you should tell him, I mean at least you know he's into guys now," Aaron tried to encourage me, but I wasn't having any of that.
"No way! I believe his exact words were 'I don't like boys overall, just him'" I told him, knowing I never stood a chance with the boy I loved who seemed to hate who I was in return.
"If anyone can change his mind on that it's you, Ced," Aaron informed me with a tone of voice that melted my core. "You are the most beautiful man on this planet, only one million billion trillion times more beautiful than that scab, Viktor Krum!"
I purred into Aaron's ear as he said that. Mmm, he always knew just what to say to me. I kissed him again to demonstrate just how much I approved of his comforting words.
I was suddenly grateful that Harry seemed to be avoiding me as I wasn't sure how I would react had I been forced to exchange pleasantries. He was so good at avoiding me I hardly had to think about it, let alone actively engage in avoiding him back. Although once, about a week before the third task, I caught him staring at me and I swear I almost killed him with the glare I shot back at him. I'd never been this angry at anyone in my whole life, not even when my neighbours ran over my cat when I was nine.
I woke up on the morning of the final task feeling nervous and dreading what I would have to face that day. Not the task, no the task was my only saving grace, that day I was going to have to face Harry. At least I could try and focus on the maze and perhaps I wouldn't have to talk to him for long.
As it happened, I didn't have to talk to him at all. I spent the minutes before the task talking to my father and then Bagman hurried Harry and I into the maze with a blow of his whistle. I wasn't as glad to be entering the maze at the same time as Harry as I was when I first found out it would work out that way at the end of the second task. I barely even looked at him as we stepped into the maze together, I lit up my wand and Harry did the same and we walked together in silence for about fifty yards before we reached a fork in the maze.
I saw Harry glance behind us as we heard Bagman's whistle blow a second time signalling Krum's entrance, he hurried off to the right and I thought I heard him whisper 'see you' to me before he disappeared. I ignored it and veered off on my own path to the left.
The maze was brutal. Quite apart from the psychological aspects of the maze – feeling lost and alone – there was the physical aspects of the various beasts Hagrid so kindly placed within to test us.
The first creatures I came across were gigantic versions of Hagrid's Blast-Ended Skrewts and I very nearly lost a limb or two to them. In my attempt to get away I barrelled roughly through the maze with my sleeve still partially smoking from the Skrewts and nearly crashed right into a rather twitchy looking Harry. I was so shocked to see him I think I said something stupid like "Hagrid's Blast-Ended Skrewts – they're enormous, I only just got away!" before taking off again into the maze.
The next time I saw him, he saved me like the hero he was born to be and I fell even more hopelessly in love with him than I already was. Stupid, stupid Cedric.
Viktor Krum had crept up behind me and I knew from the look in his eyes that I was in a lot of trouble. He had his wand pointed straight at my throat and he didn't look afraid to use it. I asked him what the hell he was doing, I mean what more could he take from me right? He already had my Harry if he wanted him, which apparently he didn't, wasn't that enough? Apparently not.
I didn't even hear the incantation leave his mouth before I felt the excruciating pain of the Cruciatus curse. I can't even describe it properly as whoever invented the English language feel seriously short on descriptive words, such as how to say in words how much I loved Harry, or how to explain to someone else the absolute pain that is the torture curse. I felt it from the tips of my fingers, to my toes, to the ends of each hair on my head an everywhere in between, I couldn't think I just wanted to die, anything to end that feeling.
When I felt it lift, my body suddenly felt like my own again, although my head still pounded from the curse. I buried my face in my hands a tried not to cry from the memory of it, I'd been crying too much throughout the year already and I was sure it wasn't good for my body.
Krum had disappeared, I didn't need to look for him I heard him running away as soon as the curse had been lifted, what I stupidly hadn't noticed was that Krum was being chased.
"Supefy!" I heard Harry shout, before I heard Krum's large form thump to the ground.
That's the idiot Harry had feelings for? I hoped that event was enough to cure him of that. I would endure the Cruciatus curse all over again for that happy result.
"Are you alright?" he asked me gently, pulling me up roughly from the ground.
I was a bit dejected that he was tugging on me so roughly instead of showering me in tender, comforting kisses like I wanted him to, but I knew he was right. This maze was no place to sit still for too long.
"Yeah," I croaked in answer to Harry's question. "Yeah, I don't believe it… He just crept up behind me and he had his wand on me…"
"Yeah, I thought – I thought he was alright," Harry said as we both stared down at Krum's unconscious body.
More than 'alright' I'd wager, I thought bitterly. But I didn't let myself think like that for long, this was most definitely not the time or place.
"Should we leave him here?" I asked eventually.
"No," Harry replied. "I reckon we should send up red sparks, someone will come along to collect him… otherwise he might get eaten by a Skrewt."
"He'd deserve it," I muttered under my breath, but I think Harry must have heard me.
All the same, I raised my wand and shot up red sparks to mark where Krum lay and Harry and I looked at each other awkwardly. I just wanted to touch him. Not necessarily in a romantic way, but in any way at all. A brush of the hand, bumping shoulders or a reassuring pat on the back… anything. I was too dazed to appreciate Harry's arms picking me up after Krum attacked me and I just wanted to experience it again.
"Well, should we go?" I asked after a few awkward seconds.
"What? Oh, um, yeah I guess," he agreed clumsily.
We both continued on down the path leaving an unconscious Krum in our wake, when we reached another fork in the road Harry turned left and I turned right, neither of us said anything.
I wandered through the maze alone, encountering a few more magical creatures but nothing I couldn't handle. I'd just narrowly dodged another Skrewt when I saw it – the Cup – shining in the distance. I focused my gaze on the prize trying not to think about Harry and how maybe, if I let him find it, he might be so excited at winning he'd let me kiss him. It wouldn't happen that way and I knew it, besides, a victory for me could prove to Harry just how durable gay guys can be. There was nothing wrong with me, I was just as worthy as anyone else to win this competition, to win Harry's affections; I could do it and I was going to prove it.
I ran at breakneck speed towards the shining light of the Cup taking in little else of my surroundings which even then I knew was stupid, but I couldn't help myself. At the last second I heard Harry's warning.
"Cedric! On your left!"
I glanced over just in time to see the largest spider I had ever encountered. Okay, that is a little bit of an understatement since the largest spider before that one was just bigger than my hand and the one beside me then was at least the size of a small building. As I flung myself out of the way my wand flew out of my grip and I stared up at the beast completely defenceless. I heard Harry screaming spell after spell at it in an attempt to slow it down, but it only seemed to get more aggravated as it loomed down upon me. That was it, I just knew I was going to die and all I could think was that I'd never told Harry that I loved him. But the spider stepped straight over me and went for Harry who was lifted screaming and struggling into the air.
I dove for my wand as the only thought that filled my mind at that time ran like a mantra in my head. I need to save Harry. I was shouting all the spells I could think of – chiefly Stupefy, but others as well.
I heard Harry shouting the same, before he made the spider drop him with a disarming spell. He fell twelve feet to the ground and I saw him land wrong on his foot, he was definitely hurt. I aimed my wand at the underside of this spider as Harry did the same and we both called out Stupefy. Our two spells combined seemed to Stun the beast and it toppled over onto its back with its eight legs stuck high up into the air.
If I never saw a spider again it would be too soon.
I rushed over to Harry to make sure he was okay, the way the spider fell it came close to rolling on him and I was still in a blind panic for his safety.
"Harry!" I called to him as I ran over. "Are you alright? Did it fall on you?"
"No, I'm fine," he assured me.
I saw him try to move, try to stand, but he couldn't manage it; he was badly hurt. He was shaking violently and I wanted to comfort him but I didn't know how. I just stared at him.
I saw him glance behind me at the Cup still gleaming on its stand.
"Take it," he told me. "Its right there just take it."
I didn't move. I just keep looking at him. He looked so small sitting there all broken. It was so easy for me to forget that he was still only fourteen, especially when he acted so much older, when the things I wanted to do with him were for people so much older than fourteen.
I glanced back at the Cup and I saw all the reasons why I signed up for this in the first place, but when I looked back at Harry, I saw the reason I knew none of this mattered anymore. Nothing mattered anymore except him.
"You take it," I told him, knowing he deserved it more than I did. "You saved me."
"That's not how it's supposed to work," he reminded me as he winced on his damaged leg. "The one who gets to the Cup first wins the points; I'm not going to win any races on this leg. You win, just take it."
"No," I refused firmly.
"Stop being all noble," he snapped at me sounding irritated. "Just take it so we can get out of here!"
His frustration at my 'being noble' began to annoy me. How could he think that I would just take his victory when he was the one who deserved it? He'd earned it. He'd saved me – twice – and now he just thought I would walk right up to the Cup and swipe his victory out from under him?
Suddenly all the anger that I'd felt for him over the last few weeks washed over me anew and I couldn't even stand to look at him. The part of me that had been worried I would die without ever confessing my feelings, the part of me that lost all rational thought when there was a chance he could have been seriously hurt, was lost to me now – drowned in my anger.
"You want to get out of here?" I hissed at him. "You take the fucking Cup!"
And at these words I turned and walked away. I walked away from the Cup and I walked away from him, but not before I saw his face crumple with a look of disbelief and intense hurt. At the last moment I paused to turn and watch him hobble the last few steps to the Cup to see him grasp the handle before getting sucked away.
The Cup was a Portkey.
I waited in the silence after Harry had disappeared for something to happen. I waited for someone to come and collect me, for the cheer at Harry's victory, for … anything. Nothing happened. I wondered if they didn't know exactly where I was to collect me, so I sent up red sparks to mark my position.
Professor McGonagall and Professor Snape Apparated to my side within seconds and I felt an instant relief at seeing them both, knowing that this nightmare was over. Something tugged at my heart to remind me that not all my nightmares were over; I was still on bad terms with Harry.
"Did he get transported to the start of the maze?" I asked them casually.
"What are you talking about?" Professor Snape drawled.
"Harry," I told them, suddenly feeling confused. Surely they'd know by now… "When he took the Cup he disappeared, it was a Portkey and I just assumed it would transport him back to the start of the maze."
"It should have yes, but no one has been transported back yet," Professor McGonagall informed me worriedly. She glanced back to where the Cup had shone only minutes before. "When did he take it?"
"About ten minutes ago," I replied.
My chest was starting to feel tight; there was definitely something wrong. He should have been taken to the front of the maze and obviously that didn't happen, so where was he?
The two professors escorted me back and the first thing I did was ask after Harry. My worst fears were confirmed; he hadn't been brought back to the beginning. I started to feel sick and dizzy and as I felt my skin start to flush hotly and my vision blur I knew I was about to faint.
"Urgh," I grunted as I toppled to the ground.
When I came to only a few minutes later, I found myself in a pair of strong, familiar arms – Aaron; he had caught me as I fell. Madam Pomfrey was inspecting me closely as she wafted smelling crystals underneath my nose.
"How are you feeling?" she asked me.
"Dizzy," I replied truthfully.
"Alright, let's get you up to the hospital wing," she suggested and I felt my head get light again.
"No! No, I have to wait for Harry! Where is he?" I asked desperately.
"Dumbledore is searching for him now," Aaron reassured me. "They'll find him, don't worry."
"How can I not worry!?" I snapped back at him. "We argued in the maze right before he took the Cup. He wanted me to take it and I refused and we argued. What if something happens to him?"
"Nothing's going to happen," Aaron replied firmly, but I knew him well enough to hear the quiver in his voice and I knew he was lying.
I stayed in Aaron's embrace for the entire hour that Harry was missing. My father looked over our affectionate position critically, but to his credit, he didn't say anything about it. We all sat in hushed silence in the Champions tent waiting for news. I don't know if I knew, but somehow I guessed that that would be where Harry would return, so when he did return all broken and bloody I completely lost my head.
I near threw myself at him, just needing to touch him, needing to comfort him, hold him. He was crying, sobbing deeply and screaming something I couldn't understand about someone being back. I didn't care, he was there and I was never going to let him out of my sight ever again – well, I would try.
I must have looked like some kind of lunatic because I immediately found myself restrained by several pairs of very strong hands as I screamed for Harry. I struggled underneath their hold and I heard Aaron whisper to me soothingly to just calm down, he was telling me that I would see Harry soon; I just needed to be calm.
Easy for him to say.
I forced myself to take a few deep breaths and I stopped struggling for freedom. By the time I was released Harry was gone and no one seemed to know where he was – again – fucking idiots. I ran straight over to Dumbledore who had rushed into the castle and I fell into step behind Snape and McGonagall who were trailing behind the Headmaster.
I had no idea where we were going and I didn't care, as long as it took me to Harry. Dumbledore blasted into the office that Professor Moody had occupied for the year and we all rushed in to find Moody looming over a very frightened looking Harry Potter. The three professors attacked Moody and I rushed to Harry's side.
"Are you okay?" I asked him as I pulled him into my arms without a second thought. "I thought – I thought I'd lost you," I confessed to him.
He grasped my robes tightly in his small fists and cried into my shoulder unrestrained. I held him close, until Professor McGonagall instructed me to take him to the hospital wing, which I did.
Harry was healed of all his physical wounds and finally - after being ejected from the room so that Dumbledore could interrogate Harry - I was allowed back in to see him.
"I'm so sorry," I whispered to him. "It should have been me; I should have taken it like you said."
I didn't know exactly what had taken place after Harry had disappeared with the Cup, but from the whispers of the other students I gathered it had something to do with You-Know-Who. The thought of that Dark Wizard terrified me as much as it did the next person, but I didn't care, I just wished I could have protected him from going through whatever it was that had him sitting wide-eyed and trembling in front of me.
"No, if you had gone you would have died, Cedric," he said with a trembling voice. "I couldn't stand it if I lost you, if they had hurt you I don't know what I would have done…"
"It's okay, we're both okay," I cooed to him. I loved thinking that he cared for me so much that he would have been so distraught over my death.
"I know you must think I'm stupid," he said to me quietly. "Just some stupid kid with a crush, right? But it's not just a crush, I love you and I can't help it. I've tried for so long, but it's no use. You were all I thought about when I was in that graveyard, just how grateful I was that you weren't there instead."
My brain fuzzed out at those three words I'd been waiting to hear from him for months and I barely even heard what he had said next. Did he just say that he… loved me?
"Um," was all I managed to say in response.
"I know you love Aaron and that you two are happy together and I don't expect anything from you, but after everything that happened today I just needed to say it out loud to you," he said quickly. "I hope he's not too upset with me about it, I don't want to cause any problems for you."
He loved me? I still didn't quite believe it; it seemed too good to be true. I'd been waiting for this for so long and it suddenly seemed as though I'd had it all along and I'd just been too stupid to see it. Instantly our time together and his words over the last few months took on a whole new meaning.
I watched you all night and I saw you watching him…
I know it probably feels like it, but you aren't alone in this Cedric…
I can't believe I had to see that! The universe truly hates me!
I wish I didn't feel this way about you but I do, I can't help it…
How are you, Cedric?
I'm never going to be able to concentrate on the third task with him so close, I seem to loose my head when he's around me, I go off to a happy place…
I feel all sick to my stomach when I think about the second task. I can't help it but I just keep thinking it should have been me he had to save; I should have been his most important person…
Oh my God.
I saw him in my mind as he ran off after I told him I'd kissed Aaron. I remembered talking about Aaron all the time trying to convince myself as well as Harry that I didn't have feelings for him. I remembered how angry he was after walking in on us together in the corridor that day. I felt ill just thinking about how I would feel having to watch Harry being fed some other guys ejaculate after giving him a blowjob. No wonder he was so upset with me that day, no wonder he was screaming at me not to touch him.
Then I remembered how adorable he looked as he blushed nervously when we spoke just before finding out about the maze, I remembered catching him staring at me and I remembered his worried looks during our time in the maze and how hurt he'd looked when I yelled at him to take the Cup himself.
Okay, someone needs to remove the neon sign from my forehead that says 'gay' and replace it with and even bigger one that says 'moron'.
I looked at him sitting in his hospital bed gazing back at me expectantly. He was wringing his hands tightly into the bed sheets as he nervously waited for my response. I was still too stunned to offer him anything substantial, but I knew I needed to hear him say it again just to make sure it was real.
I leaned into him closely, so close I knew my warm breath was tickling his face gently. I couldn't feel his though; I think he was holding his breath.
"Say it again" I requested with a whisper.
"What?" he squeaked.
If it was possible I think I leaned into him closer still, close enough to kiss him if I wanted to –which I did – but I knew I had to wait to hear those words from him again. "If you mean it, say it again," I breathed.
I noticed him trembling again, but this time I knew it wasn't from fear. "I love you," he whispered in a small broken voice.
I wasted no time in closing that last small distance between us and clamping my mouth on to his. He moaned in surprise, but with pleasure, as he wrapped his arms around my neck to pull me into him closer.
It was perfect and so much more than I imagined. I felt that kiss quiver through my entire body and the skin on my arms rose with tingling gooseflesh. My stomach twisted and my heart thumped erratically in my chest, as I tasted him, as I smelt him, as I felt him.
He tasted like blood, sweat and liquorice wands, but I didn't mind. He hadn't showered yet so he smelled like mud, sweat and death, but I didn't mind. And he felt weak and sickly underneath me, he was sticky with persperation and his skin felt cool under my touch, he was shivering and clammy, but I didn't mind. To me he was perfect.
I pulled away to take in a gulp of air that I'd been denying myself for the few seconds that we'd kissed and I smiled my pleasure to him. He smiled back and pulled me back into him.
"I love you, I love you, I love you," he chanted to me in between the tender pecks he bestowed to my lips and face.
I was in heaven.
We had so much to talk about, so many misunderstandings of the last few months to explain to each other, but we would sort all that out later. For now I was content to hold him and have him hold me. I was alive and so was he. Everything was going to be just fine.
Beta's Note: I would love for Laurel to come back home to lots of emails, so please, please review!