Between Two Lungs
NOTE: WARNINGS FOR CHARACTER DEATH
Disclaimer: I own none of these characters
Summary: When Cedric goes to the Infirmary to apologise after their match 3rd year, he finds out more about Harry Potter than he ever thought he would know. Mostly canon compliant.
Harry was languishing in the Hospital Ward, his bout of nerves from the Dementor attack not quite over yet, when a blond head suddenly poked through an opening in the curtains about his bed.
"Hi," the boy said shyly.
Harry looked at him, wondering. He looked awfully familiar, but…belatedly he remembered his manners, and managed a smile for his visitor. "Hello. Come in and have a sit. Congrats on getting past Madam Pomfrey." He waved his hand toward the end of his bed, biting his lip at the way it still shook.
The boy smiled, and slipped into his ward fully. He was a decently tall boy, maybe a couple of years his elder, with a rangy frame born from years of good nutrition and exercise. He had a broad face, and classical features. His wavy blond hair was a little on the longish side and fell into his eyes, but it softened the angles in his face.
"I didn't get a chance to introduce myself before the match. I'm Cedric, Cedric Diggory." Ah. Now Harry knew why he looked so familiar. Cedric didn't hold out his hand. Instead, he gave him a tiny smile. "I'll save the hand-shaking for later, Potter. You'd better give me a damn good one."
Despite himself, Harry felt his lips twitching upwards. "I'm Harry. To my friends."
Apparently those were the wrong words to say, for Cedric's open face immediately darkened, and twisted in self-recrimination. "Are we?" he asked bitterly. "I mean, I didn't even realise there were dementors there- I couldn't help you- I couldn't save you-"
Harry looked at him with a curious expression on his face. "You wanted to save the Boy-Who-Lived?"
Cedric waved his hand at the ridiculous hyphenated title. "It wouldn't have mattered who you were. Thing is, I should have been able to." He let out a sour chuckle. "I guess it's a pretty stupid thought, though, isn't it? After all, what could I ever do for you?"
"Don't," Harry said immediately, moving to sit up and cover Cedric's hand with his own. He couldn't help wincing as his joints protested the sudden movement and strain. He covered it well though, and raised his eyes to meet Cedric's own. He took a deep breath. "You didn't know. You couldn't have known."
Cedric shook his head, almost as stubborn as Harry himself. "I should've-"
"If you really were that brilliant, you'd transfigure yourself an extra hand and pull that blond head of yours out of your arse," Harry said tartly.
Cedric gaped at him, not expecting those words out of the thin thirteen-year-old. Harry's cheeks pinked slightly at the additional scrutiny. Then Cedric threw his head back and roared with laughter.
Harry sat back, relaxing. He couldn't help but be pleased that he'd made Cedric laugh.
"Course," Cedric said, gasping for breath, "Boy-Who-Lived is always right, isn't he?" His accent thickened when he laughed without restraint.
Harry struck as arrogant as a pose he could with his limited movement. "Damn straight you are!" he declared in his strongest Cockney accent. They both fell back into barely tamed laughter. Finally, when they managed to look at each other without too much snickering, Cedric offered up a smile that was more of a sideways quirk of his lips.
"I wanted to come in here and apologise. I told Wood we'd redo the match, but-"
Harry waved his hand. He was pleased to notice the shaking was almost imperceptible. "I don't like losing, but you won fair and square. Even Wood admitted that. Word is-"
Cedric let out a chuckle. "Yeah, I heard. I think he's still down there in the locker rooms, seeing if he can drown himself in the showers." Then all humour faded from his demeanour. "I don't understand how you can be so calm about this, Harry. And I don't know why they aren't taking it any more seriously. You almost died out there today. And no one did a damn thing."
Harry gave a laugh that sounded hollow even to his own untrained ears. "It's nothing, Cedric. 'Sides, it's sort of in my job description to survive whatever death traps they throw at me, right? I think I'm on a roll here, anyways. It's only been, what, 2 attempts on my life since I got to school this year? Surely that's not as bad as the previous years-"
The Hufflepuff was looking at him in horror. Harry hung his head, not wanting to meet that accusing gaze. Of course he had to open his bloody mouth again. Now when he was sure he'd ruined any hope of having Cedric as an actual friend-
"H-how much d-do your guardians know?" Cedric stammered out. "Why haven't they withdrawn you yet? Merlin, Harry, if these things keep happening, it's obvious that you aren't safe here!"
Harry was, to say the least, stunned. "Why do you care?" he asked, trying to understand.
That one question shook Cedric to the core more than anything else. Growing up as a Hufflepuff, there was nothing a Hufflepuff valued more than loyalty and valour, friendship till death. It was a Hufflepuff's duty to care when no one else did, despite what everyone else had done. He didn't understand why Harry was looking at him so intently, looking at him and trying to understand why he cared. No one needed to understand why someone cared. It was always only a question as to whether they cared. But Harry-
By Merlin, this boy needed a Hufflepuff!
"I care because I do, Harry," Cedric said simply. "It's more than you're being the Boy-Who-Lived, or any of that rubbish," he went on to say, correctly predicting the reason behind Harry's open mouth. The younger boy shut it with a sharp clack of his teeth. "People don't need reasons to care, they just do."
A small frown crossed Harry's face. "People always need a reason to care," he said matter-of-factly. "They're always trying to get something out of someone else."
"I won't," Cedric suddenly swore, leaning forward to grasp Harry's hand in his. Harry was staring at him, green eyes wide behind his murky glasses. Leaning forward just a little more, he reached out and plucked the offending objects from the younger boy's face. Without them, the green of his eyes shone brightly for all to see. For Cedric to see. Harry blinked owlishly up at him, but didn't squint. Their faces were close enough for Harry to be able to focus on the grey-eyed blond.
"Why do you still wear glasses, Harry?" Cedric asked curiously. Harry had to be the only student in Hogwarts to be wearing the Muggle contraptions. With the invention of the Opticus Potion, wizards and witches didn't need to wear eyepieces anymore, unless they were magically enchanted. Judging by the look of the crooked frames, Harry's were anything but magical. "There's a potion that will cure your eyesight."
"There is?" Harry's face lit up for a brief moment, before dropping into a scowl. "No one's ever told me that."
Cedric nodded decisively. "I'll owl-order it for you, then. If Madam Pomfrey hasn't given it to you by now, that means someone's stopping her from doing so." He scowled darkly at the direction of the nurse's office.
"I'll pay you back for it," Harry promised quietly. His eyes flickered briefly to Cedric, and then back again. Cedric's next breath came as a gasp.
"You realised it, then," he whispered. "That someone else is running the Hospital Wing."
There was no question as to who that 'someone else' was. Cedric cast a nervous glance at the paper-thin curtains of Harry's ward. He drew out his wand- twelve-and-a-quarter ash wood, with a unicorn hair core. Ollivander had called it "pleasantly springy, a promise of stalwart support without a threat of breaking". It seemed that this was about to be put to the test.
"Harry," Cedric began nervously, "I've never done this before." Harry, picking up on the blond's frazzled nerves, began to fidget with the edge of his blanket. "I can't leave you here like this-"
"Why are you doing this?" Harry demanded, that strident independent streak emerging always, at that worst possible moment. His heart ached for the sort of care Cedric seemed to promise, but in his heart he knew it was impossible- not for the freak.
Cedric waved his protest away. "I have to-"
"You don't even know me!" Harry hissed furiously, remembering at the last moment to keep his voice down.
Cedric shook his head, blond locks flying. There was a crazy grin spreading across his face. "You don't know us badgers too well, do you? Stubborn as hell, all of us. We'll hold onto an idea, bunker down, and never let 'er go. You might as well give up already, Harry. I'm committed to this." He paused for a long moment, emotions whirling in the depths of his grey orbs. He searched deep within himself, and found the answer, just like he knew he would. "By my life or my death, I'm committed to you, Harry."
The younger boy turned an intense shade of scarlet that clashed with his bright emerald eyes. He rubbed at them, wishing more than ever he could hide behind those oppressive lenses once more. With Cedric, right up in his face, he couldn't look away anymore.
"But I only just met you…" he whispered, almost tearfully.
Cedric shifted forward, one hand rising to touch his cheek. The older boy spared his limb a glance and rolled his eyes; it was shaking like crazy. "We have the rest of our lives to meet each other, Harry, again and again and again and again…"
"I-I don't want you to be stuck with someone like me." The moment those words came out of his mouth, Harry turned away, too afraid to see Cedric's response. The blond gently turned his face back towards him.
"Look at me, Harry." His grey eyes begged the younger boy to read the truth radiating from them. "The only thing I will regret is if I don't do this. If we don't."
Harry was capitulating already, Cedric could see it. But there was just one last obstacle…"But how do you know?"
Cedric smiled softly, stroking the soft skin under his fingers. "Trust me, Harry. That's all I'm asking."
Bright eyes looked straight into his, evidently afraid. His breath was coming in harsher and harsher gasps, and his chest was rising and falling rapidly. Suddenly he let out a choked gasp, and all blood drained from his face as he grabbed at Cedric's arm with surprising strength. Apparently all his emotional and physical reserves had finally run out, and he was going into shock. Cedric's head snapped back at the sound of the curtain being torn asunder. Madam Pomfrey was there, her wide eyes taking in the scene before her. She tutted, moving forward quickly, armed with her wand.
"Mr. Diggory, I don't remember giving you permission to be up here."
She bustled about Harry, tugging him back down to lie against his pillows, although it was obvious that only made his breathing condition worse. In fact, his lips were even beginning to turn blue.
"What are you doing to him!" Cedric cried out, reaching for the younger boy.
Madam Pomfrey waved his worries away. "Oh, it's nothing, I'll just loosen up his muscles-" She waved her wand and muttered a spell under her breath, and as Harry gave his loudest gasp yet, a wizened old hand landed on Cedric's shoulder. Startled out of his mind, the Hufflepuff whorled about and pointed his wand -straight at the Headmaster.
"Mr. Diggory!" Madam Pomfrey exclaimed irately. "I'm afraid you must go. Your presence is distressing Mr. Potter." Cedric never wanted to slap the woman more in his life. Going by the impressive death-grip the younger boy had on his arm, he thought it was pretty obvious Harry wanted him there. Cedric turned back to Dumbledore, and the old man just stood there, eyes twinkling jovially like Head-boy shoe-ins pointed their wands at him every day of the week. A sudden oppressive feeling gripped Cedric by the throat, and he instinctively knew, that he had never met anyone more dangerous in his life than the Headmaster. Whirling back to face Harry, he extended his wand and the words tumbled from his lips like he'd been born to say them.
"By my life or by my death, so I swear to stand with you," he swore, and he vindictively saw the old man's mask slip for an iota. His wand flared a bright white light, binding him to his oath. Harry's face merely reflected shock, but Madam Pomfrey looked horrified.
Dumbledore's hand on his shoulder tightened almost painfully. "Mr. Diggory, I'm afraid you must leave the Hospital Wing."
Cedric grit his teeth, refusing to budge. "Swear it, Harry," he begged.
He winced as the pressure increased, cutting into flesh. Then he realised that the Headmaster was actually physically hauling him away from Harry. He struggled, futilely. "Harry, swear it!"
Tears were spilling down the boy's cheeks. His voice was choked. His wand was in his hand before any of them even truly registered it's presence. "By my life or by my death, so this I swear."
Nothing could keep them apart. The magic wouldn't let them. Not even the botched Triwizard Tournament, when Harry's name had been mistakenly drawn from the Goblet of Fire- Harry was an Honourary Hufflepuff now, and the House had been proud to have two wizards bear their colours for Hogwarts. After that day in the infirmary, Dumbledore never spoke another word to Harry Potter. Harry didn't miss any of it.
And now, at the end of the Third Task, Harry met Cedric's eyes over the Triwizard Cup. They smiled, and stretched out their hands together at the same time. Those smiles were the last thing they saw when their hands touched cold metal, and then there was a sudden jerk behind their navels-
Cedric immediately got his bearings. "Back-to-back," he muttered to Harry, grey eyes intent on his surroundings. The air in the graveyard was stale and still except for their deep breathing. There might have been a movement nearby, but when Harry spun to face it, all he saw were more oppressive headstones, and lengthening shadows.
Suddenly a voice crawled across their skin, and spoke a nightmare. "Kill the spare."
The aim was off, and there was almost hope. The two boys had dived to the floor at the same time. And yet - if the curse touched only a part - the curse only required a touch for it to be effective. Cedric had been slower, instinctively shielding Harry with his own body. The green light had barely grazed his shoulder, but that was enough. More than enough. Harry fell to the ground, Cedric's dead weight on top of him.
Pinned beneath the body, Harry couldn't move. But he also couldn't move for more than that. Already his sight was blurring, just like it had in the Chamber of Secrets, and Harry knew that not even Fawkes could save him this time. He'd sworn his part of the oath, and he meant to keep it. The past year…had only reinforced that. His breath was growing short, his throat was constricting. He was choking, his body instinctively craving the air it couldn't reach.
Harry was barely aware of hands scrabbling at the body atop of him, and he let out a banshee's wail, gripping the corpse with hands that wouldn't release even after death. With his last strength, he threw the snivelling offender off, and collapsed atop Cedric's broad chest. Cedric was supposed to turn eighteen in less than four months. Now he never would.
Harry's limbs could barely move now. He was dimly aware of screaming in the background, but he couldn't feel anymore.
"I-I swore, too…I…swore…
This is the original version of the fic that served as the springboard for my ongoing piece To Bedlam and Partway Back. If you have questions concerning the ending of Between Two Lungs and To Bedlam and Partway Back, please hold them till the last chapter of Bedlam. Thanks very much!