Like Luminescent Dawn from the Shade of Night -Aariya
Pairing: Harry Potter/Cedric Diggory
Genre: Romance, Drama, Mystery
Summary: Cedric just wants to know what the big fuss is about the new student but gets more than he bargained for: love…and a closely guarded secret of such great import that, if let out, could plunge the wizarding world into chaos.
Warnings: AU; slash; Powerful/Dark!Harry
Spoilers: Information from all seven books. However, know that everything changed was done so consciously, and is not a mistake on my part; I have done my research.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter and everything associated with it belongs to J.K. Rowling. The song "Breathless" is borrowed from Shankar Mahadevan, used here in the story's title and the lyrics below. The song "Tu Hi To Meri Dost Hain" is written by Gulzar, used here for Part I's title.
Part I. The Moonlight Often Hums in the Night
5. élan _
This someone settled into my heart;
how can I explain to you
how I found him?
If Cedric had been aware of the chain of events that would lead to what happened on the last day of the month, he'd have approached the coming days with a much different attitude.
It all started on the Wednesday of the same week he'd been discharged from the infirmary. While conversing with his friends during the break between classes, a fifth-year fellow Hufflepuff asked to speak to him, and proceeded to pull him aside. Intrigued, Cedric agreed and followed him.
As it was chilly outside due to the downpour they'd received the night before, most of the students stayed within the galleries, standing against the walls and as far from the arches as they could get while still not being inside the castle. The boy, however, led him just outside of that, where they weren't shielded by the relative warmth of the castle, but still weren't exposed to the wet grass and the trees that were even now dripping water from their slowly color-changing leaves.
Once they'd stopped walking, the boy looked around to see if they had complete privacy, and Cedric couldn't help being even more intrigued about what he had to say. He didn't know the fairly tall fifth year beyond a vague recollection of him as the younger brother of a graduated student—the Keeper from three years ago, Garrett Eastman.
He recognized his face, but was having a hard time recalling his name. It was something like Gale—Galvin?—Gavin? He really couldn't conjure up a name to match the face, so he gave it a rest and silently, curiously waited for the other wizard to begin. When he did, after a few more discreet glances in their direct vicinity, it was with a "finesse" only a Gryffindor could appreciate.
The fifth year determinedly surged up and brought Cedric's head down to lay a sloppy kiss on his lips. He managed it well enough for all that Cedric was several inches taller than the fifteen-year-old, but he was caught off guard by the shock that overtook him at the ballsy, presumptuous action to do much but stand there and let their lips connect.
Thankfully, the lips did not stay long enough for Cedric to attempt to pry off, as he would no doubt fail to do since he'd not regained his equilibrium. Eastman stared back at him with equal parts amusement and anxiety, and Cedric became aware that his mouth was wide open most unattractively, and closed it shut almost audibly.
Eastman's surprise tactic continued as he drove forward to deliver the final blow before Cedric had even begun to comprehend that some fifth year had stolen his virgin (to the same sex, at least) lips. "I like you, Diggory," he announced apprehensively and excitedly—though quite shamelessly—at the same time, his whole body taut with the amount of eager energy that was waiting to escape. "I have for a dreadfully long time. And I realize you may not remember me beyond being Garrett's brat of a brother—perhaps not even that—but I'm prepared to prove to you I'm no kid. I'm dead serious, and I want you."
Cedric's only reaction was a slow, puzzled blink. His mind was working at an appallingly reduced speed processing what had just happened. Considering this wasn't the first time someone had confessed to him, or had used such an unconventional method to do so, he shouldn't be this surprised. Not to mention, this was a school full of teenage boys. It wasn't all that uncommon to see two blokes together; heck, one of his best friends was dating a boy who was a schoolmate.
But Cedric himself had never been asked out by another boy before, though he knew some had had designs about him. He'd always assumed that they knew he was straight and didn't bother to ask for fear of a flat-out rejection. A little less than two weeks ago, Cedric might have done just that and said he was only into girls, but that had changed with Harry's arrival.
Was everyone else now privy to that, too?
Cedric glanced down at the eagerly awaiting boy, who was watching him with keen light brown, gold-flecked eyes. He looked very serious and sincere about his profession. Better to let him down easy, which meant he probably shouldn't comment on the stolen kiss, no matter how much he wanted to.
"Listen—" he started then paused briefly, realizing he still didn't know the kid's name.
The first signs of a flush appeared on the younger boy's face. "Oh, sorry; Galen."
"—Galen," Cedric continued smoothly, as though he'd known his name all along, "I appreciate your feelings, but I cannot accept them."
The utter devastation that wrought Eastman's face at these words made Cedric feel instantly horrible, a coil of something that felt like a mixture of nausea and anguish twisting in his stomach. Fortunately, before Cedric began feeling too sorry and had the foolish urge to take back his words, Eastman recovered with admirable equanimity, his tender eyes hardening and his mouth setting into a firm line.
"May I ask why?" There was a pleading edge to his tone despite its resolve, and Cedric knew that the reason had to be a very good one or his rejection would be much harder on Eastman.
"There's already someone else that I like," he replied softly, and silently observed the myriad of emotions that flitted through his eyes.
Eastman turned away from his gaze, preferring to stare intently at the floor beneath their feet. A small voice Cedric had a hard time identifying as the boy's previously resolute one mumbled, "I see."
It was so full of pain that Cedric felt another sharp pang in his chest. This shouldn't have been so hard. He'd sincerely thought the news would be better received, that the fact that he was turning Eastman down wasn't because of the boy himself would make it easier to bear.
He moved a hand forward to touch the fifth year's shoulder, trying to reassure him somehow, but quickly thought better of it and let it fall. "I'm sorry," was all he could say.
He still wouldn't look at Cedric so all the older Hufflepuff could see was Eastman's dark copper head shaking back and forth as he said, "No. It's all right. It's my fault—loading all this onto you." His voice broke at the end, dedicated steadfastness suddenly seeming to leave him between one breath and the next, and he stumbled through his next words, "I-I…I'm sorry, I can't do this. I really thought I could; don't know what I was thinking."
To Cedric's horror, the boy's hands flew to cover his face, and all that was running through his mind was please don't cry, please don't cry. He couldn't deal with people crying, had the silliest weakness for it. Probably why he and Cho would have never worked out; the Beauxbatons girl had the propensity for crying at the drop of a hat.
But it turned out Eastman wasn't crying, thank Merlin, and was only making it so the older boy couldn't see his pain-filled expressions. After a moment of watching helplessly, Cedric was relieved to see Eastman pulling himself back together. The fifth year put on a credible mask of bravado and looked him straight in the eye, without an ounce of sorrow or regret for what he'd done, though he'd already voiced as much.
"Thank you for hearing me out," Eastman said in a flat tone almost devoid of emotion. "I'm sorry to have bothered you. If you don't mind, I'd like to return to the castle now."
Disconcerted by the way he was handling it, and only being able to blame himself further, Cedric nodded and moved out of the boy's way. "Okay," he said simply, barely stopping himself from apologizing again and possibly rubbing it in the Hufflepuff's face.
Eastman noticed this and appeared grateful for his prudence. "Good day," he said, and then strode past Cedric, who could only mutter a soft "Bye" as he was left to stand alone in the isolated gallery.
The desolation on Galen Eastman's patrician features plagued Cedric's thoughts throughout the day. It wasn't the first time he'd turned someone down—though not something he made a habit of—but no matter what, Eastman's disappointed expressions continued to replay in his head. Maybe it was because no one had ever been so earnest yet straightforward about their feelings for him. It made it all the more awful that he'd been the one to put him through that, even if it had been unavoidable.
Just when thoughts of Eastman were being shoved aside by the much more powerful awareness of Harry as Cedric left his suite to fetch the Gryffindor for dinner, talk between the Hufflepuff prefects in the Dorm brought it all back.
"You should've seen him, the poor bloke. Looked like he was mauled by an animal." The voice of fifth-year Nathaniel "Nate" Fenwick was the first to drift over to him as he stepped into the common room.
All the Hufflepuff prefects and some of the other fifth-year House prefects were huddled together in the circle of furniture by the spiral staircase to Cedric's suite and illuminated by the soft red and orange of the setting sun filtering through the window next to them. Besides the prefects, Daniel sat in a sofa also occupied by Étienne, with Andras comfortably situated on the arm, his feet planted on the French boy's cushion. Cedric was amazed he wasn't telling Andras off for laying his unsanitary shoes anywhere near his impeccable robes.
He supposed, though, that was because none of the boys seemed to be focusing on anything beyond their conversation. Wondering who'd gotten so injured, he drew closer to the group.
Andras leaned over, elbows digging into his thighs for leverage, and curiously, yet more tactfully than he usually would, questioned, "How do you mean?"
Nate frowned in remembrance of whatever he'd seen, the expression alone enough to convey it hadn't been pleasant, and that maybe he wasn't exaggerating about the "mauled by an animal" part. "Madam Pomfrey had a hard time reversing what had been done to him. That is, after it took her ages to figure out what it was," he revealed.
Ernie Macmillan arched a perfectly plucked brow at the younger boy. "What was it, then?"
Nate shrugged, and contorted his face trying to explain, "Something about a bunch of layered spells mixed with a physical attack only something a little less stronger than a werewolf could have dealt. I'm not sure, but the result was not pretty. He's got cuts that will take days to heal even after all Madam Pomfrey's done."
Daniel's concentration on the discussion shifted to Cedric as he tilted his head back. "That the same kid who wanted to talk to you this morning, Ced?" he asked. "Garrett's little brother?"
Cedric's eyes widened. "Galen?" he clarified, and his breath almost left him at the nods he received. "What happened to him?"
"Ee waz attacked," said the French sixth-year Hufflepuff Christophe Guermeau, his accent sharper than Étienne's—or any other French student who'd been attending Hogwarts for as long as he had. "No one knowz ou did eet."
Rodolphe Castel, the other Hufflepuff fifth-year prefect, scoffed. "Attacked is too nice for what was done to 'im!" he said sharply, his piercing yellow eyes reflecting a more personal response to the news than the others.
Christophe sobered at the teen's reaction. "Bien sûr; you are right."
"It must 'ave been someone quite powerful," Étienne put in, lightly tapping his chin in thought. "You all felt that strong magical disturbance earlier, did you not?"
All the other boys eyed one another in turn, looking as though they hadn't connected this with that. Cedric had to admit he hadn't either. He'd only thought the chilling blast of magic that had seemed to shake the entire castle was due to some kind of accident. He'd been in Arithmancy at the time—his last class of the day—and had attributed it to a spell gone horribly wrong in the Ancient Runes classroom, which was in the same corridor, and explained the relative proximity of the magical burst.
Nate had an expression of dawning realization on his face. "You know, that did happen at the same time."
Étienne smiled pleasurably, probably pleased that his theory had borne fruit. "I thought so. It is the only possible explanation."
This did not ease Cedric's concern, however. He was beginning to understand the full extent of the amount of pain inflicted upon the dignified, yet passionate boy who'd confessed to him only this morning. If someone had used that much magic on him, he shuddered to think what they'd done with it.
"Is he still in the hospital wing?" he inquired urgently. He only waited for Nate's nod before he swiftly strode out of the Dorm.
"Hey, wait—Cedric! Where ya going?" Andras called after him, sounding alarmed at his friend's abrupt departure. "It's almost dinnertime. You won't have enough time to visit him."
Cedric paid him no mind, though, and continued walking instead. He wasn't really in the mood for eating right now anyway. His mind couldn't help conjuring images of what Eastman might look like, and the resultant picture was not good at all.
He couldn't imagine who could do something like this, why they would do this. Who could feel such malice against Eastman that they would hurt him so badly?
His feet moved of their own accord as these thoughts ran rampant in his head, so he didn't notice he was in the third floor and walking down the corridor to the hospital wing until he heard voices up ahead. Tuning into his surroundings, he found that the voices belonged to Headmaster Dumbledore, Professors Snape, Black, and McGonagall, and Harry.
The doors of the infirmary closed behind the five, and the headmaster was practically dragging Harry by the hand, though it was in a way that made it seem like he wasn't. Harry appeared entirely unbothered about the hand tightly clenching his right bicep, and was, in fact, smirking. Even from where he stood, Cedric could make out the smug expression fixed onto his face, and the absolutely unearthly glow in his eyes, which was plainly visible to him even a few feet away.
He blinked, but when he looked again, he could still see it, so it must not have been his imagination. And that uncharacteristic superior smile was still there, and now Harry was walking with a swagger that he'd never associated with his graceful stride.
"I don't know why you felt the need to show me that," Harry drawled, giving all the professors a look at his strange haughty expression. "Did you imagine I'd react any differently?" He leaned in close to the headmaster to stage whisper in a conspiratorial manner, "Let me know what you thought of my actual reaction."
The headmaster pierced him with disappointed yet resigned eyes in return. Harry gave an unexpected chilling, open-mouthed laugh at that, and then his eyes traveled across the hall to finally land on Cedric. The sudden intense, smoldering gaze directed at him had Cedric frozen to the spot. Harry shook Professor Dumbledore's hand off with ease that had Cedric wondering why he hadn't done it earlier.
The professors called in unison, "Harry!" But Harry ignored them and strode over and was before him in three quick, long steps.
Cedric drew in a breath at having all that glowing intensity so close to him, and let it out in a rush when the glow transferred to Harry's face in a large smile. He smiled back tentatively, still a little unnerved by the way Harry's green eyes pierced him with such unnatural radiance, making him feel as though they were probing his insides and leaving tingling heat behind in their quest.
"Hi," greeted Harry after a moment spent staring at him. Cedric noted that, like everything about Harry this evening, it was the exact opposite of his soft, pleased 'Hello, Cedric.' But Harry didn't appear to be aware of—or want to pay attention to—his dilemma. "Did you come to get me for dinner?"
Assuming I knew he was here and have come for him instead of asking why; definitely not like Harry. Cedric was becoming a little concerned about the marked differences between the Harry he knew and the one before him. But even then, a part of him knew he'd seen glimpses of this Harry, though where and when he couldn't exactly pinpoint at this precise moment.
"Oh. No," Cedric replied delicately so as not to adversely tip the balance he instinctively recognized Harry was on the edge of, "I came to see a Housemate of mine. I heard he was badly injured and is in the hospital wing."
He did not succeed in his endeavor it seemed, as a distinctly menacing shadow chased away the glimmer in Harry's eyes, and a deep frown settled onto his face. The icy, dismembering stare he was being given sent shivers up and down Cedric's spine.
Then Harry's hands flew to clutch his biceps in a vise grip, green eyes flashing a burning crimson for a split second. Cedric's eyes widened in astonishment, and Harry's lips curled into a severe snarl at the same time. Harry's nearly growled words got lost in his throat, however, as the professors were suddenly among them and the headmaster forcibly wrenched the Gryffindor away from Cedric.
Harry, outraged, pulled at his arm and yelled, "Get your bloody hands off me, old man!" There was almost absolutely no hint of his Scots-Gaelic accent.
If Cedric thought he couldn't be more shocked, he was sorely mistaken. He watched in stunned silence as Harry yelled obscenities at both Headmaster Dumbledore and Professor Snape while they tried to calm him down. The thing that surprised him most, though, was the fact that the professors weren't using more force to get their goal accomplished. They looked frustrated, but that was about as far as it went.
Professor Black stepped forward and seized Harry's growling face in his hands. "Harry," he said gently but firmly, "calm down. You're better than this, and you know it."
Harry stopped snapping and sneering, and his face softened. Suddenly, his eyes were no longer glowing as though they could substitute for light in a darkened room, and were back to their normal, human—but still bright—emerald color. The kindness Cedric was used to seeing drifted into that previously cold gaze.
He looked around at all of them, and then his expression became that of one in extreme pain. Harry put his palms over his eyes and rasped what Cedric could barely pick up as, "Oh—oh, Merlin, what have I done?"
Professor Black pulled him into a fierce hug, tucking his godson's face into the crook of his neck and smoothing back his hair. "It's all right, Harry. It's all right."
Cedric was unable to make heads or tails of what was happening, or what had just happened. What was wrong with Harry? That thought was immediately pushed aside when Harry drew in a deep, hoarse breath.
Oh, no, is he crying? Cedric had the sudden urge to shove Professor Black aside and take his place comforting Harry. He scarcely stopped himself from doing just that. Even when Harry brought his head up to look at him and proved that he certainly was not crying, Cedric still wanted to wrap his arms around him in a tight, devouring embrace—especially when those eyes gazed at him in that way.
The sixth year drew away from his godfather and stepped toward Cedric, though he didn't come too close as the professors were scrutinizing him carefully. Cedric resented them for their overbearing presence. He'd originally planned to tell Harry about his feelings when he would've had to get him for dinner, and now that the plan had changed, he could have used this time to do it. Oddly, his intent to visit Eastman had utterly left his mind.
"Will I see you after dinner, Cedric?" Harry asked timidly, pleadingly, as if he wouldn't be able to handle the answer should it be anything other than an affirmative one.
Cedric realized Harry was unsure if the older boy still wanted to be anywhere near him after his uncharacteristic display. He promptly allayed those fears by reaching down and lightly brushing their fingers together, and responding, "Of course."
All he caught was a glimpse of a big, breathtaking smile overcoming Harry's face before Professor Dumbledore resumed dragging him away with a, "Come, Harry." Cedric stared after the unresisting Boy Who Lived and didn't remember why he was in the corridor until he could no longer see him.
It was a good thing he'd gotten his fill, too. Harry was nowhere to be found at dinner, or after dinner, or at any time during the rest of the day, for that matter.
It was the following day—Thursday morning—when the castle heard news of Harry Potter's parents visiting Hogwarts. Only then, right before breakfast when he went to get Harry, did he see the Gryffindor since his failure to meet him at their promised time.
Cedric had to admit he was a little confused and a great deal upset about that. He'd actually been looking forward to taking Harry back to his rooms after dinner and having the chance to finally get things straight between them. Maybe Harry had picked up on that with typical perceptiveness, and wasn't as into him as Cedric was, so had decided not to show because he didn't want the same thing.
Cedric shook his head to clear it of any doubts. He'd never been so anxious about this kind of thing; why was it that Harry had such an effect on him? He had to be level-headed and positive or he'd set himself up for failure from the get-go.
With that resolve, he walked more confidently to Harry's rooms, hoping his composure didn't fail and abandon him at the last minute. He really wasn't keen on making a fool of himself just when he was going to profess his liking to the first boy he'd ever been even remotely interested in.
Soon he was strolling down the corridor to Harry's rooms and, the closer he got to the oak door in the middle, the more voices he could hear coming from behind it. Odd, it sounded as though there were several people in there. He realized Harry might be busy with company, but moved ahead anyway, figuring it was probably only Professor Black or his friends, Longbottom and Weasley, though how the redhead notorious for being a late riser could beat him from the Dorm was a wonder.
Once in front of it, Cedric knocked on the door a bit harder than he commonly would so as to be heard over all the noise. Come to think of it now, it didn't sound as though he was only in the company of Professor Black or just his friends. There had to be at least four people not including Harry in there.
"That must be Cedric," came Harry's mellow lilt.
"I'll get it!" The enthusiastic voice was one Cedric had never heard before, and it sounded like that of a first-year boy's. Before Cedric had a chance to try to figure out who it might be, the door flung open to reveal that not only did the boy sound like a first year, he looked like one, too.
Except this wasn't a first year he'd ever seen because if he attended Hogwarts, there was no way he would have missed him. Standing before him was—simply put—a miniature Harry; from the hair that gave the appearance of barely tamed disorder to the too bright green eyes (albeit a more golden-olive color than emerald) right down to the shorter yet still undeniably same lean build.
"Hi!" the boy who must be Harry's younger brother greeted excitedly. "Are you Cedric?" His Scots-Gaelic accent was much more obvious than Harry's, it turned out.
Cedric blinked at his rather unHarry-like liveliness, but recovered enough to say, "Hello. Yes, I am. And you must be Harry's brother."
The boy nodded vigorously. "Yep! That's me. So you've heard of me?"
Cedric tried to look past him to the room beyond, but couldn't make out much since the door was only open enough for him to see Harry's brother. "Unfortunately, no. Harry hasn't mentioned much."
An exaggerated pout was the kid's reaction to that. "Harry's like that, you know," he confided as though he were telling a secret. "He didn't tell us about you until just now."
Then another boy shoved into the space next to the other. For a moment, Cedric thought he was seeing double, but quickly realized that they were identical twins; even the way they held themselves and their voice—complete with the native-sounding Scottish brogue—was identical.
"Yeah, us!" the newly-arrived twin replied, who Cedric could tell apart from the other only because he'd seen him slip into the space to the right. "Oh, and mum and dad, 'course."
"What are those boys up to now?" An older, feminine voice could be heard from inside.
"Are you two going to let him in or make him hang around out here?" Harry came to stand behind the two grinning boys, and the similarities between the three of them was so striking that it looked like they'd come as triplets instead of twins. Well, except that Harry looked much older, but the resemblance was still uncanny.
The twins both looked up at their older brother and chimed in an eerily similar manner that reminded Cedric of the Weasley twins, "Sorry, Harry." If the Weasley twins ever apologized for bad etiquette, that is.
Cedric smiled down in amusement at them, and then glanced back up at Harry. "Morning, Harry," he greeted, and was more than delighted to hear his customary "Good morning, Cedric" in return.
"Good morning, Cedric!" the twins echoed in unison, grinning mischievously from ear to ear.
Harry shook his head at them, eyes glinting amusedly. "As you've made yourselves comfortable with his name, why don't you give him a chance to learn yours?"
The twin on the left, the first one Cedric had seen, set himself upon this task with enthusiasm. He thrust out his hand for Cedric and elaborately introduced himself. "Cian Potter, Mr. Cedric; pleased to make your acquaintance."
Cedric couldn't help chuckling as he shook the boy's smaller hand. "Mr. Diggory, but you can just stick to calling me Cedric. It's nice to meet you, too, Cian."
Cian Potter tilted his head up superiorly and drawled, "Well, I suppose I can allow you to be among the privileged few who call me by name."
The other twin snickered. "Don't be such a prat, Cian," he scolded good-naturedly. He straightened up importantly, tucked his hand under his waist, and bowed deeply. "Eimon Potter, at your service."
Keeping in his laughter with difficulty, especially as Cian wasn't doing anything of the sort, Cedric returned the bow. "Pleased to meet you, Eimon."
"Okay, that's enough," Harry declared, though he too appeared highly amused at their antics, and used to it at the same time. "Why don't you go back in and give us a moment," he suggested.
The twins glanced between them with a discerning gaze that seemed to be reading too much into Harry's words. Then they announced in unison, "Okay! Bye, Cedric!" They slipped back into the room after Cedric returned their swift farewell.
Harry stepped further away from the door and pulled it forward behind him, leaving only a small crack open. "Sorry, they can be a handful," he said affectionately.
"They're lovely," Cedric assured with a smile. "How old are they?"
"Ten. They'll be attending Hogwarts next year," replied Harry, making Cedric wonder why it was that his brothers were allowed to attend the academy when they were eleven, but Harry hadn't been. Probably something that had to do with his 'alleged' illness.
"Shame, I'll be gone by then." He'd meant it as a joke, but found that he was lamenting the end of his Hogwarts career a lot more than he had been at the beginning of the term.
Harry frowned at that, and Cedric liked to think that it was because he didn't want him to graduate so soon after they'd met either. This, more than any of the other signs and conjectures, firmly decided it for Cedric. But now wasn't a good time for it. He didn't want to rush this in any way.
"Listen, Harry," he started, calling on any Gryffindor qualities he might have possessed in his mostly Hufflepuff and slightly Ravenclaw personality, "there's something I want to tell you. It's really important. Can we meet later? Maybe after dinner?"
Whatever reaction he'd been expecting, it certainly wasn't for Harry to frown sadly or for him to look so upset. "I'm sorry, Cedric," he spoke in an undertone. "I would love to, but I'm not going to be able to. I won't be here for that long."
Panic seized Cedric at hearing this. His mind jumped to the first conclusion it came up with and he asked, nearly desperately, "Are you leaving school for good?" He was aware of the sound of his voice pitching higher, and had to deliberately lower it.
In response, Harry gave him a barely perceptible smile and shook his head. "No. I'll only be gone for a little while. It shouldn't be longer than a week."
Feeling a little foolish, the Hufflepuff willed his thudding heartbeat to calm. "Oh," he let all his breath out in a huff, as he'd been holding it in anticipation of Harry's answer. "That's good," he continued, feeling even stupider knowing that he had nothing else to say. He should be making the most of however long Harry would be here before he left. So, gathering his scattered thoughts together, Cedric asked, "When are you going to be leaving?"
"We will leave after breakfast," said Harry, not specifying by whom he was referring to as "we," though Cedric supposed he meant his visiting family. Then, appearing nervous and flustered, he babbled on (which Harry never did), "I was supposed to leave by Floo the moment I woke, but dad wanted to have breakfast with Sirius, then mum wanted to see Severus as well, and then the twins decided they wanted to go, too, and they were all suddenly coming to Hogwarts."
Cedric finally grasped that Harry thought he blamed him for having to go and was trying to cover that up by being more talkative than he'd ever been. Or was perhaps compensating for the time they wouldn't see one another while he was gone. Either way, it was an oddly endearing sight, even if not one he'd normally get to see.
"Harry," he spoke over the still babbling sixth year, who promptly shut his mouth when addressed. Cedric daringly took those long, pale fingers into his hands, and lightly stroked them with his own. His eyes never left Harry's own unflinching, fascinated gaze. "It's okay," he continued softly, feeling as if the moment was too intimate to break with anything louder. "I'll miss you, but I'll see you again, won't I?"
Harry caught his breath and nodded slowly, his eyes brighter and now full of awe. "I'll miss you, too," he said, a light blush stealing over his beautiful, beautiful face as he admitted this.
Cedric was more entranced by the mere glimpse of that small, shy smile and those slightly reddened cheekbones and the glint full of promise in Harry's eyes than he'd ever been by the female form, which—for a supposedly still relatively straight man—came as a rather shocking revelation. Suddenly overpowered by the flood of emotions and sensations coursing through his entire body, he disentangled his fingers from Harry's soft, warm ones.
Just in time, too; the door creaked behind Harry as it was swung open. A tall man a couple of inches taller than Harry stepped out into the hall with them. He looked a lot like an older version of Harry and the twins, except with hazel eyes covered by rectangular frameless glasses, a longer nose, and more disheveled hair, though it appeared deliberate on the man's part. Cedric knew right away that this was Harry's father, James Potter.
"Hello. Cedric Diggory, I presume?" Mr. Potter asked him, though he didn't wait for an answer and was already holding out his hand for Cedric to shake. "James Potter."
Cedric returned the handshake. "Yes, sir. Pleasure to meet you."
Still holding onto his hand, Mr. Potter thumped his arm and said, "No need to call me 'sir.' Makes me sound old and stuffy." He let go of him and, directing a playful gaze at Cedric, continued, "Lord Potter will do."
Amusement must have been his desired goal because he didn't get offended when Cedric laughed lightly but, in fact, joined in with his own chuckle. It was obvious where the Potter twins got their peculiar sense of humor from.
"A Head Boy who can take a joke," Mr. Potter said with mock bewilderment. He turned to Harry and announced, "I like that; I approve."
What he was approving of was lost on Cedric, although Harry seemed to understand what his father was on about.
"You were Head Boy, dad," Harry informed, sounding exasperated, the way one would be at a child's antics.
Mr. Potter's expression was one of great offence. "Harry! We promised never to talk about that ever again! To think, my own son." He kept up the pretense of being hurt for only a moment before his face broke out into a crooked, haughty grin. "Yeah, but I was the coolest Head Boy in Hogwarts history, so I can be excused for being approved by the professors, of all things."
"The horror," Harry drawled sardonically.
Mr. Potter winked in response. "Hurry it up, Harry. Your mum's getting impatient with Sirius and Snape's constant bickering." He shook his head as though at children who refused to behave. "Those two—can't have them in a room together without them trying to tear each other apart."
Harry raised a brow at that. "And I'm sure you were completely innocent."
"Well," Mr. Potter said in a manner that was probably meant to be sheepish but only succeeded in looking smug. "Can't just sit there and not back up my best mate, you know."
"Honestly, what Severus did to either of you to deserve that, I'll never understand," sighed Harry.
"Oh, he thinks I'm not onto him. I know he's thinking dirty, filthy things about my wife. He was always rubbing it in my face at school that he was closer to her than I was," Mr. Potter muttered mutinously. "I hardly saw her as it was, and when I did, he was always right there clinging to her, the slimy bastard. And Merlin knows—"
Harry pushed his father back into the room saying, "Okay, dad. We'd really rather not hear about this age old suspicion. Just wait for me inside, and I'll be right in."
Mr. Potter continued talking to himself as he ducked back inside, "—what they were doing during the summer. Lily really is too trusting for her own good."
"Are you still on about that?" a woman who had to be Harry's mother could be heard saying as the door was left ajar after Mr. Potter slipped in.
The enmity between Professors Black and Snape was well-known in Hogwarts, and it seemed Mr. Potter had the same dislike for the Potions Master. Cedric, despite himself, was amused at Mr. Potter's behavior. It was a lot like Professor Black's and, if they really were best friends, it was easy to understand why.
"I'll see you after I come back?" Harry probably hadn't meant for it to sound like a question, but that's the way it came out, an entreating, unsure tone tinging it.
"Definitely," Cedric assured. "You'll let me know the moment you do?"
Harry gave him a smile that lit up his face, and which Cedric had a hard time enduring without acting on his urge to thoroughly kiss those smiling lips. That wouldn't be good, though. It wasn't the right time or place. "Yeah," he said quietly, "I will."
"Good," said Cedric, satisfied and returning his smile with a bigger grin. Then he was reminded of such trivial things as eating and class that he'd forgotten in Harry's presence. He'd already missed fifteen or twenty minutes of breakfast. "I've held you up long enough; your parents must be waiting for you."
"They'll understand." Harry frowned then, like he'd just realized something. "But you haven't had a chance to have breakfast. I apologize for being so inconsiderate."
Cedric almost sighed, but held it back in time. He wished Harry could be as free around him as he'd been with his brothers and father. He hoped that, given more time, they could come to a point where he didn't have to apologize for every little moment of broken etiquette or each time he was even remotely out of his mild character.
Instead of conveying this wish to him, Cedric told Harry that it was fine and he wasn't that hungry anyway. And then the same woman whose voice he'd heard earlier called that it was time to leave. Cedric briefly wondered if there was a fireplace connected to the Floo Network in Harry's rooms.
The Gryffindor opened the door wider and told the occupants of the room that he'd be right there. He looked back at Cedric and smiled in a way that could only be considered wistful. "Bye, Cedric."
Cedric's right hand, which had previously been in his trouser pocket, came up to give a short wave. "See you, Harry." Though the arrival of his family had meant that Harry would be leaving, he couldn't complain too much since that had given him an opportunity to learn more about Harry, and be witness to a different side of him.
Only after the door clicked closed did Cedric comprehend that—damn—he truly was as "hard up" for Harry as Andras accused him of being. He'd been so caught up in bemoaning the fact that he wasn't going to be seeing Harry for Merlin knows how long that he'd forgotten to even ask why the Gryffindor was suddenly leaving.
And, thinking about it, he could only think of one reason. For the first time since he'd heard it, Cedric was inclined to believe that maybe this illness rumor wasn't a rumor.
Harry was gone for four long, excruciating days in which Cedric noticed practically nothing but his palpable absence.
He wished he could say it was all a blur, but he was painstakingly aware of everything he did and how long every single moment of it took. Class—even favorites like Charms and Ancient Runes—seemed to stretch on for an impossibly long time. He couldn't help being utterly bored during meals, what with no Harry there to…well, ogle, really. Both Andras and Étienne teased him senselessly for his impatience—or, as Andras called it, "edginess."
Besides endeavoring and failing to busy himself with things other than constantly thinking about Harry, he'd finally visited Galen Eastman on Friday. And learned that Nate's description of Eastman's injuries had seemed like a huge understatement in the face of the actual thing. Even after healing for two days and being under the excellent care of Madam Pomfrey, there were still traces of a ghastly attack on Eastman's face and body.
The fifth-year Hufflepuff had scars on almost every inch of his face and neck, and they looked like nails dug deeply into his skin and dragged down in a most painful manner. His head, torso, arms, and legs, though not in a cast or anything, were all wrapped in thick gauze. Eastman had admitted that it was so he wasn't tempted to move or couldn't accidentally do it while sleeping as the mere twitch of his muscles shot pain through every nerve ending.
The boy had looked so pitiful and small. He'd been especially upset that he couldn't remember anything of the attack, or what had led up to it. Cedric hadn't been able to bear seeing him so broken and unable to do anything but watch, and had not stayed long for the visit. He'd wished the fifth year a quick recovery, and beat a hasty retreat.
His swift departure may have also had to do with the fact that Eastman had been looking a little hopeful by the attention he'd gotten from Cedric. He hadn't wanted the younger student to get it in his head that he had a chance with him.
Inevitably, his thoughts went back to Harry when he realized the Gryffindor wouldn't be coming back by the weekend as he'd hoped. He'd told Harry he would miss him, but not how much, and even he was surprised by it. When Harry hadn't returned after the last class on Monday, Cedric had given up hope that four days wouldn't turn into five.
Tired after another long day, Cedric waited out dinner in the Head/Prefects bathroom, indulging in a relaxing, luxurious soak. He'd chosen yellow bubbles that had an aromatic scent of lemon combined with jasmine. It was a heady aroma, and he could barely keep from nodding off, especially since his entire body felt so loose and comfortable.
Loose, comfortable, and careless. He didn't see that he had company until scuff sounds reached the recesses of his slack brain. He became alert in an instant and his hand flew to his wand, which was just out of reach. He pointed it in the direction of the door, while wondering who'd intruded on him when he knew for sure that he'd bolted the door. The prefects respected someone's need for privacy and knew to stay clear when the door was locked from the inside.
Cedric lowered his wand when he saw who it actually was. His breath caught in his throat. "Harry."
The boy in question smirked in return and continued to slip off his shoes, relaxed as you please. "No need for that," Harry purred, prompting Cedric to set his wand aside. He stood straight after laying his shoes aside. And then he lifted his shirt over his head, and threw it aside next to his already discarded robes.
If Cedric had a problem catching his breath before, it was nothing compared to the way his heart beat at a frantic pace at the sight of Harry's shirtless form. Both his throat and groin tightened in a painful, delicious combination. He'd never been so glad for the excess amount of bubbles in the bath. All that lean, toned expanse of ivory flesh coupled with two dark pink nubs…he really wasn't helping his predicament.
Harry's satisfied smirk never left his face while he watched Cedric with a heavy gaze that did nothing to lessen the condition he was in. "I was looking for you," he informed, voice low and seductive as it carried across the room. Or maybe he was doing that on purpose? "I finally tracked you here. Frankly, I couldn't have chosen a better place."
Perhaps Cedric would have wondered about Harry's seductive attitude if he could think of anything beyond those glimmering eyes (They might have been glowing the way they did sometimes, but it could also be that they were naturally bright, and seemed brighter in a room lit only by one candle-filled chandelier.) and predatory stalk as the other boy made his way over to the large tub while undoing his trousers at the same time.
However, he found the capacity of mind to ask, "A better place for what?"
Harry's pants dropped the moment he stood at the foot of the sunken bathtub. Cedric was both disappointed and relieved to see he was wearing dark blue boxer briefs underneath, though they too didn't leave much to the imagination.
Cedric must have been staring too long. Harry's eyes followed his gaze to where it was fixed on the snugly-fitting briefs, and he laughed quietly. He sat down on the edge of the tub and submerged his legs into the water, and then pushed off the surface and entered the rest of his body.
His hands moved under the water in a way that suggested he was removing the only thing that stood between him and complete nudity. Cedric felt as though he might choke at the possibility, and used the moment Harry turned around to place his wet briefs on the marble floor to calm his overcharged libido.
He wasn't too distracted to glimpse the line of what looked like shining silver-outlined black tattoos on Harry's back, though. They trailed in a slight curve from the top of his right shoulder all the way down to his right hip. Now that Cedric took a closer look, he realized that they weren't any old tattoos, but elaborately designed runes.
Harry swiveled back around then, and began to wade his way over to the deeper side of the water where Cedric was. "I believe you asked me what this place was better for," he said, still speaking with a soft purr of seduction.
Having totally forgotten about that, Cedric nodded, but said nothing and watched as Harry swam over to him. He swallowed convulsively at the thought of that nude body near his own. Banishing the very arousing thought away, he asked, "Harry, what are those runes on your back?"
He received a headshake in response. Harry came to a stop right before him, and put his arms on either side of Cedric's suddenly unresponsive body, resting his palms against the rim of the pool-sized tub. "Don't worry about it," he said, staring at Cedric's face with an unnerving desire that lit an inextinguishable flame in the pit of Cedric's stomach. "There's something much more prominent on my mind."
"What?" Cedric asked, captivated.
"This," said Harry before leaning forward to abruptly plant his lips against Cedric's rather unprepared ones.
His state of astonishment only lasted for a nanosecond before Cedric comprehended that Harry was kissing him. Like a starved man, at that. Not one to be beat, Cedric placed one hand on the back of the younger boy's neck and wrapped the other around the small of his back, and returned the kiss with equal need.
The Gryffindor's lips were warm and soft and felt oh-so good, and were as different from Eastman's awkward brush as could be. His taste was a tangy mixture of pineapple and raspberries and something else he could only describe as Harry. Cedric's arousal spiked as his lips moved against Harry's in a sensual dance. He stroked his tongue along the lower lip and reveled in their mingling breaths and Harry's silky skin under his fingertips.
Harry moved his arms to wrap them around Cedric, and eagerly opened his mouth for him. Cedric's tongue slipped into the offered heat, and they both moaned when their tongues met. Shivers went up and down his spine as he twined their tongues together and sucked once, twice, three times, lost count and still couldn't get enough. Cedric wondered if it was possible to come from kissing alone.
They were kissing for a whole minute when they remembered that they'd forgotten to breathe through their nose in their enthusiasm to devour one another. Gasping and panting, they tore apart to draw in some much neglected air, but didn't move from the other's hold.
The look Harry was currently giving him proved to be almost as arousing as his kiss. One of his hands moved up from his back to entangle in his hair. He drew closer to give him a series of quick kisses, breathlessly saying between each one, "Missed you…missed you so much."
Cedric gulped at all the emotions swirling in those extremely green eyes. "I missed you, too, Harry," he admitted, and leaned forward to lightly press their lips together again. The one peck melted into several more, and he began to feel other exhilarating sensations as they joined in another all-consuming kiss.
He could feel Harry's magic from where his fingers were holding onto his head, past the tangles of his hair, past the surface of his skin, and imparting lightning-like jolts of electricity into his nerves, and blood, and—Merlin—reaching and caressing his own magical core, as though intrigued, and awed, and hungering for more.
The most overwhelming of the magic came from where his fingers roamed across Harry's back, touching and caressing over where he knew the newly-discovered runes to be. Harry groaned and shuddered when he lightly stroked over each individual rune, and deepened their kiss, making keening sounds in the back of his throat that nearly caused Cedric to come right there.
While it turned out that wasn't possible from just kissing, Cedric learned that it was completely possible to like Harry beyond the point of no return from the feel of his lips alone. If he got nothing else from the month of September, at least he was going into October with Harry by his side.
I don't want you guys to think Cedric is stupid or anything. There's a reason why he's not questioning things more, or why the rest of the school isn't, for that matter. And, despite all likely clues to the contrary, HARRY IS NOT A WEREWOLF!
And if anyone wants to get an idea of what the runes look like on Harry's back, go to the link on my page. It took me an annoyingly long time to get it just right, but it still doesn't look like it's imprinted on the skin. I'm not exactly a Photoshop expert.
Someone asked about all the French names. I thought that was pretty obvious. Hogwarts is an all-boys' school and Beauxbatons is an all-girls' school; so all the boys that would normally go to Beauxbatons have to attend Hogwarts now and all the girls that would be attending Hogwarts have to go to Beauxbatons. Plus, more of the Hogwarts/Beauxbatons relationship will be revealed in chapter 10.