Note: It's been years since I've done this, so granted I'm a little bit rusty… okay, *a lot* rusty.
Harry had never been more grateful to Hermione in all his life and Peter Pettigrew was a sniveling, rat-faced, parent-betraying, murderer.
Harry had known, when preventing Sirius and Remus from killing him at the end of term last year, that the spineless git wasn't honorable enough to recognize the life debt he know owed to Harry for saving his despicable arse, but at the time Harry hadn't intervened for Pettigrew, or a life debt, in fact, he truly wished Pettigrew contacted a terminal disease and died… painfully. No, he had intervened because he couldn't imagine that murdering anybody, even bastards like Pettigrew, could be good for the soul, and he had liked Professor Lupin and his newly discovered godfather too much to allow them to live with murder on their conscience.
It had been Hermione who had suggested afterwards that they magically bind Pettigrew to his debt.
She knew a spell, as Hermione tended to do, that would do just that, and without putting much concern into it, because really, Harry could care less if he ever saw the two-faced rodent again, even to fulfill a life debt, he did just that. It was always best to pick his arguments with Hermione, and arguing over binding life-debts wasn't as worthy as arguing over confiscated firebolts. And the spell had required little effort on his part, so why the hell not?
Obviously he wasn't gifted with the 'inner eye' crap that Trelawney got her knickers all bunched up over, because had he known that Hermione's insistence that they bind Pettigrew to his debt might potentially save the boy Harry wanted, so badly, than he would have spent all of his spare time this past year as her eternally grateful indentured servant.
As he watched Pettigrew raise his arm to cast the killing curse at Cedric after he and Harry had barely enough time to get their bearings from landing so harshly via portkey in a graveyard, of all places, he hated Pettigrew with a depth that surprised him. Not even the Dursleys, on their worst days, had elicited such red hot rage, and Harry knew just then that he would use anything in his arsenal to prevent Pettigrew from harming one hair on Cedric's lovely head. Anything.
And that meant cashing in his life debt… for Cedric's life.
It was his fault that Cedric was here. He had been the one to suggest they both grab the cup. His fault that a tournament meant for wizarding sportsmanship was turned into one, big, huge elaborate plot to get Harry into a graveyard with Pettigrew and the ghoulish toddler-sized *thing* that he carried.
A thing that spouted such horrible words… Harry knew that voice, and he recognized what the pain radiating from his scar meant.
Cedric most certainly was not a 'spare' anything. Cedric was brave, loyal, handsome, fair and kind. Traits that Harry envied; traits that he wished he could exhibit as effortlessly as Cedric did. Traits the world shouldn't be deprived of because they were so rare, particularly in a single individual.
And this world: the world of rat Death Eaters, and shrunken, ghoulish Dark Lords, and evil port keys that doubled as trophies, were not Cedric's world. They were Harry's, Harry's cross to bear. Honest, stalwart Cedric did not deserve to get caught up in this, he especially didn't deserve to die for it, and there was no way Harry was going to let that injustice reach fruition.
Voldemort and his creepy little servant could just kiss his scrawny Gryffindor butt.
'No," Harry shouted, before Wormtail could say the words Avada Kedavra. "You owe me a life debt. I want to use it now, in exchange for Cedric's life! You can't kill him!"
Magic filled the air, all cackling energy and heady currents, permeating the eerie atmosphere of the graveyard, and Harry was so relieved to see that Pettigrew suddenly found himself speechless and unable, through magical means, to complete the curse just dying on his lips, that he sagged gratefully to the ground.
Said relief was fated to be short lived as Harry's crush decided to eject his own opinion on the situation at hand.
"Harry, what the fuck are you doing?! Don't save me! Save yourself! It's much more important that you get out of here than me!" Cedric exclaimed, his voice both desperate and commanding.
It took Harry's mind a couple of seconds to go from "thank Merlin, Cedric's life has been spared" to "listen, you ungrateful fiend. Don't tell me what to do - I hate that. And further more, I just saved your butt, so use those brains I know you have, Mr. Hufflepuff Prefect, and apparate your arse out of here. I save people, it's what I do, accept it and move on."
Harry flashed Cedric a look he hoped said "I'm doing this because I care for you, you big idiot," and said, quite heartfelt, because really what did he have to lose in conveying his feelings towards his secret crush when he was destined to square off with Pettigrew and his decrepit master in a few seconds anyway…
"I'm no more worthy to live than you are, and I really, really want you to be safe. I couldn't live with myself if I could have saved you and didn't. And frankly, I don't really want to imagine Hogwarts without you in it. Cedric, please, for me, get out of here. You're seventeen, you can apparate back to Hogwarts and get help. Get Dumbledore. Don't worry about me. I'm becoming kind of used to these types of incidences… you don't know the half of it, really."
And just when it looked like Cedric was about to protest, his eyes desperately searching over Harry's face in a way that simultaneously left Harry's heart pounding and his brain fuzzy, Harry did something he was most loathe to do for anyone… except Cedric, who he had fallen a little more in love with each event they had lived through this past year.
His pride could kiss his scrawny Gryffindor butt, too.
"Please, Cedric. Please leave. I really want you to. Go get help. Please!"
It was him that Voldemort wanted; both he and Cedric knew that. And as long as he stayed behind, Pettigrew would not chase after Cedric.
Cedric may be a spare to Voldemort, but to Harry he was worth any amount of pain and suffering Harry was about to endure.
Just when it looked like Cedric was going to protest again, Harry's pleading expression must have changed his mind and he nodded at Harry, mumbling a quick "I'm going to get help and be right back, please do what you can do avoid getting hurt" and apparated away before Pettigrew could cast a spell to intervene.
"It doesn't matter," Harry heard the same creepy voice that had previously stated 'kill the spare' say, "we've got Potter. Proceed with the ritual."
And Harry turned to face them with an extra bolster in his determination. He had saved Cedric, whatever else happened, he would deal with it, just like he always did.
"Mom, Dad, I'm gay," Cedric stated as matter-of-factly as he could manage while doing his best to not wince for the reaction he knew was sure to come. But really, what else could he do?
He had been lying to his parents for years, afraid of their reaction, feigning interest in the fairer gender, when in all actuality, he had been coveting Gryffindor boys. His first crush Charlie Weasley, then Oliver Wood, and for the past year and a half, Harry Potter.
Harry had shown such brilliant bravery earlier in the graveyard, allowing Cedric to escape and facing a Death Eater and some weird incarnation of the Dark Lord head on, that Cedric had been instantly humbled.
And now Harry was back, safe and sound, mentally scarred, certainly, from the events of the day, but alive, gorgeous, and nestled safely between the sterile sheets of an infirmary bed, leaving Cedric with the feeling that he had to do something brave too, just to deserve him.
He had almost died that day. And Harry: attractive, fiery, astounding Harry, had saved his butt.
Nearly dying put things clearly in perspective.
His parents' reactions to him being gay meant little in comparison to a Death Eater raising a wand to cast the killing curse at him. Father would be upset, for sure, and probably rant and rave and wear his 'I'm highly disappointed in you' expression on his face every time they saw each other for the next twenty years or so, but Cedric found that he could live with that. Especially when fessing-up meant he could have what he had secretly wanted, quite intensely, for awhile now.
It had been extremely obvious in the graveyard, through Harry's words and his expression that he shared Cedric's feelings, and Cedric would be all sorts of idiot if he didn't take advantage of the golden opportunity this presented.
Despite the horrible experiences of the day, and the long term consequences that would undoubtedly follow because of it, he was glad that he and Harry grabbed the cup together. He certainly wouldn't have guessed prior to that day that Harry Potter was either gay or interested in an older Hufflepuff who had barely had whole conversations with him prior to this past year.
And now he owed Harry a life debt, a bargaining chip he was surely going to use to convince Harry that Cedric had to help him with the upcoming war… Harry's safety was now his personal concern, for more reasons than one.
A fire that burned as brightly as Harry should never be dampened or, parish the thought, extinguished. The only thing Cedric been able to do this past afternoon had been to apparate to Hogwarts and grab Dumbledore as fast as he could, but in the future he'd contribute more actively in ensuring that the universe was not deprived of Harry Potter because that would be a future that Cedric didn't even want to contemplate.
He had been fascinated with Harry since he had first seen him fly. There he was, an innocent, bright-eyed, skinny little sprite of a boy of eleven, who flew like he was born in the air.
Any self-respecting Quidditch player would be drawn to that. It was like admiring art, some got it, others didn't, and some really got it and were profoundly moved by it. Cedric wasn't ashamed to admit he was one of the later.
The second thing that drew Cedric's interest to Harry Potter was his bravery. From the first year Harry had set foot in Hogwarts, there had been tales of face-offs with trolls, and three-headed dogs, and turban-wearing Death Eater professors who lost battles to tiny first years. Clearly the kid was heading towards greatness.
And while it was true that all Gryffindors were known for bravery, Cedric could only think of one Gryffindor who took on a Basilisk at twelve.
Of course, when Harry was eleven and twelve Cedric's interest was more of a passing fancy. One simply didn't covet children three years one's junior who hadn't quite reached puberty, it would have been indecent. So he redirected his hormones towards Oliver Wood and convinced himself that obsessive compulsive behavior in Quidditch had to translate towards intensity in other, more pleasurable, areas.
Oliver certainly had been a great learning experience.
Still he admired the shiny haired, emerald eyed runt who seemingly took life by the tail and ran with it.
Then Harry grew and so did Cedric's attraction to him.
Harry was more than an amazing flyer and brave, he was honorable. He had told Cedric about the dragons of the first task, even though keeping silent on the matter would have given Harry the edge over him in the tournament.
Bravery, honor, flying with unsurpassed beauty, and big, bright, impossibly green eyes were truly a heady combination.
If he hadn't been gay already he would have converted for Harry.
But he was gay, and had been since he had first discovered how wonderfully brilliant hormones were. And he had no choice but to own it, because Harry Potter was his to lay claim on.
His parents' faces were stunned, but then, to be fair, their faces had been stunned since he had come back from the graveyard regaling tales of death eaters, attempted killing curses, and Harry Potter cashing in a life debt to save Cedric's hide.
Perhaps his timing hadn't been the best.
Finally, after a million years passed by in the confine of minutes, his father stuttered, "It doesn't matter, Cedric. You're alive, and safe and those two things are much more important than you wanting to bugger boys."
And while Cedric fought to hold back a laugh at his straitlaced father's rather crude way of referring to Cedric's preference, his mother nodded her agreement to her husband's words.
His timing had actually been perfect, and he made a mental note to himself to save the announcement that he actively hoped to join the war effort once he left Hogwarts for the next time he narrowly escaped death.
Until then he had a Gryffindor to covet.
Cedric believed that one could accomplish more with honey than with vinegar. That harsh truths could be tempered with smiles and that good existed in the world along side the bad… as did any other self-respecting Hufflepuff.
He also believed that one shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.
Harry Potter reciprocated Cedric's feelings of love and admiration. Somehow, someway, the universe had decided that he, Cedric Diggory, got to be the recipient of the little hero's heart.
This gift was his, and he thoroughly intended to take it and soar with it, as any self-respecting seeker would.
Harry thought that with the amount of time he spent in this ward, Madam Pomfrey should at least give him his own bedroom. Or at least liven the place up with a little color, red and gold would never go amiss, and a picture of a famous Quidditch player to two, or Cedric, or all, preferably sans shirts, that way both she *and* Harry could get their jollies while they toiled their life away here.
He had to have some kind of record for the most time spent under Pomfrey's care, even more than Colin Creevey and his allergies…. It was really too bad that an allergy to cameras wasn't one those afflictions.
Still, there had to something added to the ward to distract the sick from their ailments, and Harry from the fact that there was a recently resurrected Dark Lord after his blood. Something interesting, something beautiful, something like…
"Hello Harry," a familiar voice greeted from the stillness. Yes, something like Cedric Diggory. Every magical infirmary needed one. And since wishes seemed to be materializing, he would also like the Dark Lord gone, Sirius vindicated, Malfoy to come down with chronic boils, and a lifetime supply of chocolate frogs… But for now, he'd settle strictly for Cedric, the other wishes could wait. This one, at least, was tangible in the here and now.
"Hey Cedric," Harry replied, feeling his cheeks heat up, and his body tighten in all sorts of interesting places, because Cedric was looking at Harry in a way he'd never thought he would. Like Harry was the most fascinating thing in the world. Like Cedric's eyes would cease to work should he move them away from Harry's. Or maybe it was just Harry's imagination running wild; post traumatic stress disorder or something of the like.
"Merlin Harry, you can't imagine how relieved I am to see you safe. I was so worried! It killed me to leave you in that graveyard. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. Never ask me to leave you behind again." There as a desperation in Cedric's voice, and a nervousness in his posture, as he continued to look at Harry in that intense manner that had Harry questioning reality, his hand going up to thread through his hair to emphasize his stress.
"Okay," Harry replied, wondering what this all meant, and thinking that Cedric looked lovely with his hair ruffled like that - as anxious apparitions went.
Cedric's shoulders visibly relaxed at Harry's consent, his face adapting an easy grin, all Hufflepuff charm and smitten focus. He moved closer to Harry's bed, his hand reaching out to touch Harry's shoulder.
With that touch, Harry's brain caught up with him, and it dawned on him that all of this really was happening and that Cedric was there looking at Harry like he was something…
"What…," Harry started to ask, not really sure what he was asking, just knowing that Cedric was close, touching him, looking wonderful, staring at Harry fondly, and that Harry was severely out of his depth.
How the hell did a bloke ask the most handsome boy in school if he was coming on to him? Was there a script for this type of situation? Had the universe actually decided that Harry's abysmal fortune deserved something positive for once?
"I was thinking, once the term ends, maybe we could get together this summer? You know, go out, get to know each other better," Cedric asked, his fingers lifting from Harry's shoulder to lightly touch his forehead, just above the scar, his smile reassuring.
"Uh, sure, that would be great," he replied with a nervous grin, afraid to agree to readily and with too much enthusiasm, afraid to not show enough. Was his tone okay? Did Cedric get that Harry really, really liked him even though he was on the edge of fifteen, and inexperienced with absolutely no social dating graces? What was the correct way to answer someone handing you your heart's desire on a silver platter?
"Wonderful. I can't wait," Cedric replied crouching down to look Harry in the eyes, his face beaming.
Harry was too mesmerized to reply, feeling Cedric's breath on his face, entranced by the light in his eyes, the husky smell of soap and sweat, and the way his lips moved closer, as if he was going to…
And when something warm, and soft, and astonishing brushed across his mouth, Harry forgot that Dark Lords, Peter Pettigrews, fixed tournaments, and drab infirmaries ever existed.
Their kiss was quick, concentrated, and over far too soon, but when Cedric pulled back and smiled at Harry with a grin that reached his eyes, Harry knew that he and Cedric… they were going to be okay.
Better than okay.