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Disclaimer: I don't own anything except my plot.

It was the third day after Halloween and the selection of tournament champions.
Harry was seething. He walked a corridor after the last class of the day with an
almost visible black thundercloud floating above his head. His best friend had
done what felt like the ultimate betrayal by not believing he hadn't put his nam
e in the bloody Goblet, even if it was clearly above his powers to do so in the
first place. Ron of all people should have stood by him, but instead he acted li
ke Harry had been disloyal to him, not the other way around.
Harry was stepping so angrily, it was nearing running speed. Around the corner h
e went. A violent crash, and suddenly there were flying backpacks, swinging limb
s and flapping robes. Harry fell spectacularly into one mingled heap with somebo
dy who had been coming around the corner from opposite direction. After a bit of
trashing and finding out which limb belonged to each, Harry found himself face
to face with Cedric, lying on top of the older boy.
"Harry." Cedric said with a grin that suddenly made Harry feel all right, regard
less of the several bruises he felt were about to manifest themselves. He didn't
even realise that the grin wiped the whole Ron situation out of his mind.
"Cedric! I'm sorry. Are you okay?"
"I think I'm going to live. The backpack landed under my head, so I didn't hit i
t to the floor. And you?"
"Nothing major. I really didn't put my name in that Goblet, you know." Harry blu
rted.
"And this was the best way of telling me that you could come up with?" Cedric as
ked with a wry smile. He seemed quite relaxed and calm considering the way they
had just met.
"No, I... " Harry suddenly realised how close he was to the other boy. He could
actually smell Cedric, whose eyes were just inches from his. They seemed very cl
ear and bright, and they were laughing at him, but in a good way. He was not bei
ng mocked, only teased. And Cedric smelled nice. After having thought of that, H
arry felt his ears getting hot and he tried to get up. Too quickly. Being fluste
red and momentarily awkward, he almost managed to kick the other boy in the groi
n.
"Stop!" Cedric commanded. "This is really getting dangerous. Let me." And Cedric
rolled them expertly around so that he was on top and Harry below. Being taller
, he had no trouble finding solid footing. After getting up, he offered Harry a
hand. Harry took it, and Cedric pulled him up. Again they ended up face to face
and close to each other. But this time Harry lowered his eyes. He could not look
into Cedric's laughing eyes out of his embarrasment.
"I'm really sorry. Are you still ok?" he managed.
"No harm done. But I'm starting to wonder how on earth you can be so graceful on
a broom... Or did you perhaps smuggle some firewhisky in from Hogsmeade?"
"Not me. You have to ask Fred & George if you want to get into the black market.
Listen, I gotta go."
"Okay."
Harry grabbed his backpack and started off, still somewhat red around the ears.
"And Harry." He looked back to meet Cedric's eyes. "I believe you."
"Thanks." A delighted smile was spreading on Harry's face. When he turned and wa
lked away, there was a new, more relaxed spring to his steps. Cedric watched him
go until he turned the next corner. There was a peculiar expression on his face
, a smile that didn't seem to be able to decide if it was a sad or a happy one.
The dinner that night wasn't among the better ones Harry had spent in the great
hall. Actually, without the Cedric incident it could have been one of the worst.
Harry had, after some soul-searching, decided that he would forgive Ron and act
like nothing was awry. So he headed to his usual place next to Ron, who suddenl
y put his backpack onto the chair and started rummaging it. He answered Harry's
friendly hello with a cold stare and said something very rude about not needing
any backstabbing fame-seekers in the next chair. With gritted teeth Harry found
another place.
Luckily the chair had a clear line of sight to the Hufflepuff table and Cedric,
who was chatting happily with his friends and admirers. Harry had only to glance
at Cedric to remember there was at least someone who believed him, and didn't a
ct like a spoiled brat. Someone he might be able to call a friend at some point
not in a very distant future. That made it very much easier to bear Ron's tantru
ms and ongoing hostility. But no matter how many times he looked, he could not c
atch Cedric's eyes, even if the Hufflepuff was facing Harry accross the hall.
This went on for days, which excruciatingly turned into a slow week, then two. H
arry found himself wondering why the bad times seemed to drag their miserable fe
et, while happy days flew past with the speed of a whirlwind. He kept looking fo
r Cedric just to get a smile from him to reinforce his waning hope that the othe
r Hogwarts champion really liked him and wanted to be his friend. The few times
he managed to see Cedric without him being surrounded by a ring of fans, his smi
le started of nicely, but turned almost immediately into a worried, almost brood
ing expression. Harry dared not to try his luck by actually greeting Cedric and
speaking to him. Instead he slowly started to avoid the older boy and convince h
imself he only had imagined the friendliness, that Cedric really was as shallow
a fame-seeker Ron was accusing Harry of being. All in all, the first half of Nov
ember was a dark time indeed.
Hermione was the only close friend Harry had to talk to. And even that friendshi
p was being under attack by the lies of Rita Skeeter. Three days after the Skeet
er article, Harry and Hermione were alone in the Gryffindor common room. It was
well past midnight. The situation had drawn them closer to each other, and they
had fallen into a habit of staying up late to be able to talk freely.
"Harry," Hermione asked, "have you ever thought, you know, why you feel so hurt
when Ron is being a blockhead?"
"Well duh, maybe because he is supposed to be my friend?"
"Friends argue, it is quite common, you know. I didn't mean that. Would you feel
as bad if I was being a blockhead?"
"It's different. You are a girl. They do unfathomable things all the time."
"So you would just shrug and think nothing of it, right?" Hermione asked. "I'm s
upposed to be your friend too, you know."
"I know you are my friend. You have always stood by me. Unlike Ron, who acts as
if I cheated him. I'm afraid I'm loosing the stupid git for good."
"That is exactly what I thought. Harry, I have a theory."
"You always have at least five theories. Okay, tell me."
"This is important. It might be the most important thing in your life."
"I'm all ears." And despite himself, Harry was intrigued by now.
"Don't get mad at me if I'm wrong..."
"Now you got me all worked up. Tell me, I promise to behave."
"Harry, I think you are, you know..."
"No I don't! WHAT!"
"Harry, I think you are gay."
"No I'm not," Harry said, nonplussed. "Why do you say that."
"Friends don't loose each other, Harry. Friendship is a solid thing. I think you
are so upset because you are a bit in love with Ron, and you fear of loosing hi
m. Lovers you can loose."
"We're not lovers! How can you say that."
"I know you're not," Hermione assured him hastily. "I just think you're gay, or
might be. I know for sure Ron isn't. Only straight boys can be so thick about ho
w they feel."
"I'm fourteen, Hermione," Harry argued, "I'm not supposed to be anything yet."
"Don't give me that. I'm fourteen too. And I know that I want Ron."
"The git is all yours. I'm not interested."
"There is nothing wrong with being gay, you know."
"I know. I just don't think I am one."
"I take back what I said," Hermione said, exasperated. "It seems that gay boys c
an be just as thick as straight ones."
"I am not gay, okay!"
"Fine, whatever. Seen Cedric lately?"
"What exactly is that supposed to mean?"
"If you don't know, that's going to be your homework," Hermione finished, "I'm s
ure Cedric wouldn't mind working on it with you..."
Harry didn't sleep much the night following the discussion with Hermione. The da
mn girl had forced Harry to actually explore his feelings towards Ron, himself,
every attractive girl he had ever met, and, when there was no escaping it any mo
re, towards Cedric. What he found out was somewhat disturbing. He liked girls, t
hey were nice and everything. Some of them Harry admired because they were beaut
iful (Cho) or smart (Hermione). But the thought of snogging them only made him n
ervous. He was not exactly opposed to the idea, but neither had he any strong de
sire to do so. And he didn't have the faintest idea how he should go about it if
he really wanted to snog them. This lack of interest he had always explained aw
ay with his somewhat immature age.
About Ron. He loved Ron, there was no way around it. But he didn't want to snog
him either. He would have died for Ron, except on the days like the last couple
of weeks, when he really only wanted to kill him himself. No, that wasn't really
true. He didn't want Ron killed, he wanted Ron to be his friend, his brother-in
-arms, his comrade again. He wanted Ron to come to his senses and be his brother
. No sex there, but loads of affection.
Harry had never even thought he might be gay, until Hermione made him. He liked
some blokes, sure. But somehow liking another boy and being gay had not connecte
d in his conscious mind. Until now. He thought about Oliver, and recognized his
admiration for him for what it was: infatuation ("Oh Captain, My Captain"). He t
hought about Cedric, his sweet smell and laughing eyes, and with blood rising to
his cheeks (and another part of his body), he suddenly knew that he definitely
wanted to snog Cedric. He wanted it bad. And as surely he also had no doubt that
when the time came, he would know exactly how to go about snogging the handsome
bastard.
Next day after Charms bleary-eyed Harry managed to speak to Hermione alone only
for few sentences, before the daily lunch riot swept them to the hall.
"I've got to talk to you," he started.
"I thought you were," Hermione countered, "talking to me, that is."
"Yeah but you know, alone," Harry said.
"If you were alone, you coudn't possibly talk to me, now, could you?"
"Stop acting McGonagall, Hermione! This is important. It might be the most impor
tant thing in my life. Remember?"
"Okay, sorry. After dinner on top of the astronomy tower? Nobody uses it until t
he night falls properly."
"Perfect."
On both the lunch and dinner, Harry tried to catch Cedric's eyes once more. But
either he was extremely unlucky, or Cedric was deliberately not looking anywhere
near his direction. Harry didn't know what to do. He was so filled up with cont
radicting impulses he had trouble staying put and eating. In fact he ate hardly
anything. He was elated because at least he now knew his heart. He wanted to wal
k straight to Cedric and kiss him in front of the whole school. He knew he could
n't possibly. He was afraid of how Ron would take the news and mad at him for st
ill not even speaking to him. He was desperately trying to figure out a good way
to tell Hagrid, Remus and Sirius. For some reason, Harry was sure Dumdledore kn
ew already and would just look at him, eyes twinkling with pride, were he ever t
o tell him.
Halfway through the dinner a terrible thought hit. What if Cedric was straight?
Harry felt his insides turn to ice. He couldn't be. But what if Harry had read s
igns of flirt where there only was friendliness, when they were talking after th
e crash. He looked over to the Hufflepuff table to see Cedric flirting shameless
ly, with a girl! The ice turned to something much more alive; a squirming, venom
ous thing, like a scaly beast inside him. "That boy is mine!" it screamed, and H
arry felt a red haze rising over his vision. The rage towards the stupid, pretty
girls trying to lure Cedric from him was almost overpowering. Harry clenched hi
s teeth and closed his eyes. Then, he took a slow and deep breath. Once, twice,
three times. The emerald-eyed monster stopped. Harry kept his eyes closed and tr
ied to relax further. Six, seven, eight, nine. The beast retreated both slowly a
nd reluctantly, vowing to return when it finally went.
When the dinner ended, Harry bolted like a hare, escaping both the beast, Cedric
and the ridicule that regularly occured these days whenever Harry was around an
yone else but Gryffindors. He had to wait a good fifteen minutes on top of the a
stronomy tower before Hermione appeared.
"How could you know," Harry demanded, "when I didn't even know myself?"
"Ooh," Hermione beamed at him, "so I was right, wasn't I?"
"Aren't you always." Harry said with a resigned voice. "But I bet you didn't lea
rn this trick from any book down there in the library. So, how could you possibl
y know?"
"I'm a girl. They do unfathomable things all the time, don't they? It's called a
woman's instinct," she giggled, "or a gaydar..."
"Please, Hermione! This is no joke. I've been up most of the night doing what yo
u told me to do. My bloody world turned upside down. So tell me."
"It was just an educated guess, if you really must know," Hermione admitted. "Bu
t I had a good reason to suspect. For a couple of days I thought it was Cho you
were hunting, but then I happened to see you staring at Cedric with Cho walking
past within two feet of you, and you didn't even flinch."
Harry groaned. "Oh no, have I been that obvious?"
"Oh yes, darling, you have. But luckily there is this tournament thing going on.
Most people probably think that you are trying to curse him from a distance..."
"He doesn't even look at me," Harry moaned, "and when he does, he turns all seri
ous and brooding. I haven't got a smile from him since... Well, since the whole
thing started."
"And, if I may, how exactly did 'this thing' start? I'm pretty sure it was three
days after the Goblet thing, but what happened?"
"Really," Harry said, dumbfounded, "you are so good it is outright scary! And yo
u didn't even ever take Divination."
"Collect your jaw from the floor and tell me what happened," Hermione said. "Aft
er classes that day you looked as good-humoured as a troll, but when you came to
dinner you were floating a feet or two from the ground, I swear you were. Until
Ron, that is. Then you ate nothing at all and kept staring at the Hufflepuff ta
ble like a man possessed. Hey, did Cedric," Hermione asked with an eager express
ion, "possess you by any change?"
"No." Harry replied sullenly. "We just bumped into each other."
"And?" Hermione asked.
"We fell."
"And?"
"Nothing," Harry said, "We got up."
"And?"
"I left."
"Did he kiss you?"
"No! I just, well... I sort of landed on his lap."
"And?"
"I almost kicked his privates," Harry admitted, grinning.
"You blokes are so strange," Hermione commented. "And?"
"I didn't do it on purpose, you dolt," Harry retorted. "Then he helped me up."
"And?"
"Nothing. He smells really nice."
"It's just that his pheromones and your reseptors click."
"I'm sure I haven't got the faintest clue what you just said."
"Never mind," Hermione said. "So he smells nice. Did you kiss him?"
"No!"
"So, you kicked him and he helped you up." Hermione sounded less than impressed.
"Am I missing something, here?"
"I told him I didn't put my name in the Goblet," Harry said.
"I thought he knew that."
"I wanted him to believe me."
"And?"
"He said he did." Harry was grinning sheepishly.
"That's it?" Hermione asked, perplexed.
"Yes."
"No snogging whatsoever?"
"He was laughing at me," Harry added.
"But no snogging?"
"No."
"Oh no. You are in big trouble, Harry."
"What? Why?"
"I thought you just had hots for him," Hermione said, "Now I think you are actua
lly falling in love with him."
"But will you help me?"
"How? Depends on what you want to do."
"I want to snog him," Harry admitted, blushing.
"Attaboy. A worthy goal, that," Hermione agreed. "We have to have a plan. Let me
think about this."
But Hermione thinking could take quite a while, and while she did, days rolled p
ast. All and all, Harry felt so much better now that he had told Hermione, and t
hey spent most of their free time talking about Cedric and all possible and impo
ssible plans to lure him into a trap. A pleasant one, they hoped, but a trap all
the same. Hermione also tried to get Harry and Ron into speaking terms again, b
ut they simply refused point blank.
Hogsmeade weekend came, and Hagrid wanted to show Harry something. So, hidden by
his Invisibility Cloak, there he was. Standing in the middle of the night in th
e Forbidden Forest and looking at his nightmares all alive and kicking. Or flami
ng, if you will. Harry could not help thinking about the green-eyed, scaly beast
of jealousy he had found inside him that one night at the dinner table. The Hun
garian Horntail was a living manifestation of that internal beast.
After seeing madame Maxime and bumping into Karkaroff, Harry realised that both
Fleur Delacour and Victor Krum were to know about the dragons from their respect
ive teachers. But Cedric was not. Dumbledore would stick to the rules and Cedric
would go to meet the terrible task with no warning. He might even die. Come to
that, Harry might get killed himself, too, even if he knew about dragons beforeh
and. Shaken to the core, Harry decided he had to tell Cedric. He had to tell eve
rything.
On monday morning Cedric still didn't know about the beasts. Not the real ones t
hat were waiting for the Champions nor the emotional one that was gnawing at Har
ry whenever he saw Cedric flirting or laughing, however innocently, with his adm
irers. So, Harry decided to miss the beginning of Herbology and followed Cedric
instead, despite protests by Hermione. Harry broke Cedric's bag with a finely ai
med Diffindo spell to steal a moment alone with him. Being a practical sort of p
erson, he started with the most important thing and told Cedric about the real m
onsters first.
What surprised Harry was the rather cold and suspicious look in Cedric's beautif
ul eyes when he heard the news that could save his life. The gray eyes were not
laughing this time. Even the flash of fear Harry also saw in the other boy's eye
s was better than the coldness. Fear he knew, he understood that. But he had don
e nothing to earn the suspicion Cedric was now giving him. And when Cedric asked
why he was telling him at all, Harry was flabbergasted. Didn't he understand wh
at kind of monsters they were talking about? While the fairness angle he first g
ave Cedric was true, it wasn't the whole truth, obviously. And just when Harry w
as trying to figure out if he had the guts to tell Cedric what he really wanted
to, and maybe even kiss him for good measure, they were interrupted by Mad-Eye M
oody. And that, as they say, was that. There is nothing more disastrous to roman
tic endeavours than a grumpy old auror with an all-seeing eye.
The next days are well documented elsewhere, so there is no need to repeat the e
vents of the actual Task here. Every one of the Champions survived, but Harry wa
s the fastest one to get past his dragon, thanks to the summoning charm Hermione
helped him to learn just in time. The best thing in the midst of all the hubbub
was Ron, speaking to him again and even ready to apologize. Harry had his best
friend back! And on top of that Cedric was smiling at him again, a reward sweete
r than all the points the judges of the Tournament could ever have given him.
"Good one, Harry" Cedric said, grinning like the day they crashed, eyes twinklin
g with laughter.
"And you!" said Harry, grinning back with a shining face. That was all the conve
rsation they had time for. But during the proceedings Harry still could and did
throw frequent glances to the older boy, which Cedric now returned with smiles,
not frowns. His eyes, Harry decided, were not grey after all. They were silver.
There was a happy glow in his stomach.
Following all the success, Harry was still quite frustrated. He was no closer to
even speaking to Cedric properly. The ring of admirers that had surrounded only
Cedric before the first task, were these days around both of them. And the anno
uncement of the Yule Ball didn't make things any easier. Harry was asked in two
days by three different (and previously totally indifferent) girls to the Ball.
He declined, shocked.
"Hermione, you just gotta help me out here!" Harry pleaded, "Couldn't you come t
o the Ball with me. You are the only girl I am comfortable with."
"Only because you're afraid the others will try to snog you," Hermione replied.
"No way."
"But why?"
"You have to learn. Besides, I'm waiting for Ron to ask me."
"He won't," Harry claimed. "You said it first. He hasn't got a clue how he reall
y feels about you."
"And don't you dare even thinking about telling him!"
"But... but why?"
"Then he would think I'm in love with him, of course," Hermione explained.
"But..." Harry was seriously puzzled, "But I thought you were."
"Of course I am, you idiot. But he can't know about it," Hermione said. "It woul
d just make him cocky and then he wouldn't value me at all. He has to be the one
chasing me, not the other way around."
"But why?"
"That's just the way it is with blokes. You gotta make them sweat for it. Now, p
romise me you won't spoil this by giving hints to Ron, okay."
"I won't," Harry promised. "If I did then he'd go with you, and where would that
leave me, huh?"
"I'm not going with you no matter what. You've got to learn!"
"But I don't want to snog girls," Harry complained. "I want Cedric."
"I don't want you to snog the girls, you blockhead! I want you to learn how to t
alk to them. Pick someone you like, chat with her and get to know her a bit," He
rmione adviced. "Then, before she falls for you, you have to tell her you are ga
y. After that, you can both relax and have the time of your life. I promise you,
it'll be fun if you just pick the right girl. You will get another ally who wil
l help you to chase Cedric. But it is vital that you tell her soon enough, or no
t at all. If she turns out to be the wrong sort of girl, you'd better seal your
lips."
"Oh no," groaned Harry, "that is so unfair. Suddenly I should become the expert
on girls now, even if I only want a boy."
"Stop whining, Harry. You're smart, you'll be all right."
Harry decided on Cho. He had always liked her, and she was one of the few girls
Harry could think of coming out to. And, she was also one of the very few non-Gr
yffindors who had not worn "Support Cedric Diggory" -badges, which meant she pro
bably liked Harry, too.
After spending way too much time worrying about asking girls to the Ball while n
ot actually achieving anything, Harry and Ron promised each other one day to hav
e dates when the day was over. Harry found Cho quite accidentally before he actu
ally managed to get his nerves together. He asked Cho for a word, almost casuall
y, he thought, until the giggles of Cho's classmates reached his eardrums. Disco
mposed and furiously blushing, he managed to pop the question intelligibly on th
e second try. It was a testament to Cho's warm feelings towards him that she did
n't giggle, too. Instead, she was genuinely sorry, but she already had promised
to go with someone else. Harry said that was okay, but he felt desolate. When Ch
o was leaving, he couldn't help asking who she was going with.
"Cedric," Cho said. "Cedric Diggory."
Harry's emotions went haywire. He had really fallen hard for Cedric, even when t
hey had had very little to do with each other. Two small conversations, and he h
ad been lost. And now, with Cho's last words echoing through his mind, he sudden
ly realised that all this time Cedric had been wooing someone else. And not just
anyone, but the girl Harry liked the best in the whole Hogwarts, with the possi
ble exception of Hermione. The one girl Harry would have liked to get to know, t
he one he was ready to open his heart to and speak about his feelings towards Ce
dric. The useless, shallow, cocky, self-centered feather-for-brains prettyboy Ce
dric! To hell with him, his mind decided. But Harry's mind couldn't put a stop t
o his heart bleeding burning tears from his eyes.
Meanwhile, Cho went to see Cedric.
"Hello, pretty boy!" she exclaimed.
"My love!" Cedric replied with a brilliant smile, "How can I be of service?"
"Stop being that flirty," Cho commanded. "I might get funny ideas. It could get
downright embarrassing if your charms got the better of me and I started convert
ing you to the straight side. By snogging, mind you."
"Okay, I'll save it for the boys," Cedric promised, "What's up?"
"Harry asked me to the Ball. I think he actually likes me, unlike a certain some
one who just wanted a cover-up."
"You are my best friend and I absolutely love dancing with you," Cedric said. "I
s that so bad?"
"You're my ideal man, you know that. Oh why can't you have a twin?" Cho moaned.
"A straight one. I really need to snog someone or I can't stand being with you.
Harry would do very nicely."
"Actually," Cedric said, hesitating and serious all of a sudden, "I was sort of
eying him myself. He was so sweet when he told me about the dragons. I should ne
ver have listened to all that badmouthing about him. He was so innocently sincer
e, he didn't even understand why I was suspicious. And he keeps looking at me."
"Cedric, don't you dare!" Cho said sternly. "He's just fourteen! Three years you
nger than you."
"Look who's talking," Cedric laughed, "half a minute ago you were ready to jump
on him and snog him out of his pants. And I'm just two and a half years older. H
arry's birthday is in the summer."
"It's not the same! I'm younger than you and a girl!"
"And where exactly was the difference?" Cedric asked. "Harry likes me, I know th
at. You should see the way he keeps looking at me. And he really wanted me to be
lieve he didn't put his name in the Goblet himself. He wouldn't have, if I didn'
t matter."
"He likes me too, you insufferable snot," Cho claimed, and then grinned wickedly
. "Listen, I have an idea. Let's make a deal. Neither of us will try to snog Har
ry, okay. Not until he makes the first move. And looking doesn't count. He will
have to kiss one of us."
"That's not a deal!" Cedric hooted, "That's a declaration of war."
"And we have to decide on the rules," Cho said, pretending to be serious. "Now,
there's nothing wrong with being casually around Harry, obviously. But we can't
tell him we like him that way, or kiss him or anything like that. Touching is ou
t of bounds, unless he is the one who does it. You agree on the terms?"
"And magic is totally forbidden," Cedric added, "You are way too good at potions
."
"Of course. I don't want Harry the puppet," Cho said, "I want the real one."
"I have a bad feeling about this," Cedric replied, but he was grinning. "You are
going to hate me when I win."
"I hate you already, you handsome bugger." But she was smiling, too.
Parvati was definitely not the right kind of girl, but Harry was past caring. At
least he'd have a date and could avoid McGonagall's wrath over shaming Gryffind
ors by appearing to the Yule Ball alone. The Ball itself was quite as bad a tort
ure as Harry had suspected. Hermione, more beautiful than he'd ever imagined, wa
s spending most of the evening with Viktor Krum. And Ron was being a troll, agai
n, but at least his rudeness freed them of the Patil twins. The only good moment
s were a couple of brief encounters with Cedric and Cho, who were both being rea
lly nice, making jokes and smiling at Harry like he was their date. But that mad
e the evening even more confusing. However much Harry tried to enjoy the evening
, he couldn't get past the huge lump of envy in his heart. By having each other
Cho and Cedric were already stealing his daydreams. They had no right being so b
loody nice about it, too!
When Harry and Ron were leaving the ordeal called the Yule Ball, halfway up the
marble staircase someone called Harry from below. It was Cedric, who still seeme
d to be taking the nice approach to breaking Harry's heart. After Ron moved on,
propelled by Cedric's wordless but easily readable would-you-mind stare, it was
Harry's turn to act cold. He didn't really want to. In fact he wanted to shout a
t Cedric, but the evening had worn his defences quite thin. He knew that if he w
ere to let his feelings through now, there would be no end in sight. He'd end up
bursting in both rage and tears, and probably at the same time. He had never th
ought fancying someone was this frustrating.
"Hey, Harry!" Cedric, started, and went on about owing Harry a favor 'cause of t
he dragons. He then told Harry to take a bath with the mysterious howling egg, a
nd what's more, offered the password to the prefect's bathroom, which was suppos
ed to be a major no-no for ordinary students. Harry couldn't help but stare, the
advice was so odd. And Cedric so damn hot, but that particular thought Harry tr
ied to push to the back of his mind. It wouldn't do any good to his cool composu
re. He had just started to believe to Cedric's good intentions, when the other b
oy ended with a mischievous grin and the farewell shot: "Gotta go, wanna say goo
d night." He didn't have to say to whom, that bit was obvious to both of them.
Harry simply couldn't stand his heart plummeting and the ugly beast of jealousy
rising its head every time he saw Cedric and Cho together. So avoiding them when
ever he possibly could became his new favourite pastime. This led to both more i
ntense efforts to corner him by both Cho and Cedric separately (when they were a
part) and concerted smiling competitions aimed at Harry (when they were together
). And that, as you might have guessed, led to an even more arduous efforts by u
nhappily ignorant Harry to avoid them. Even Ron was starting to notice there was
something strange going on with his friend.
"What's wrong, mate?" Ron said one morning when Harry had just pulled him behind
an armour on their way to breakfast.
"Nothing," Harry said, not very convincingly.
"Yeah, right." Ron seemed annoyed. "You've become just as jumpy as Mad-Eye Moody
. I'm your mate, you know. You can tell me, like, anything. Right?"
"Right. I'm sorry... I just don't want to see Cedric or Cho. Can't tell you why.
Not here. Later, ok?"
"Why not?" Ron asked. "Oh, you're still hot for Cho?"
"Ron, how can you be so clueless?" snapped Hermione, who had caught them just in
time to hear the last line. She was hungry, in bad mood and still holding a bit
of a grudge to Ron over the Ball fiasco.
"What's your problem, Hermione? Harry has always liked Cho," Ron said. "He'd be
crazy not to."
"Because she's popular and has a straight nose, right?" Hermione was becoming re
ally angry now. "You are so out of it it's not even funny. It's Cedric he's moon
ing over, you blockhead."
"Shhh!" Harry tried to stop her, but it was too late. Ron did a sensational doub
le take on Harry, who's ears were suddenly flaming, and Hermione, who had put bo
th hands over her mouth. Luckily, everyone else was gone by now. Not even Peeves
was around to hear this juiciest piece of gossip imaginable. And from such a re
liable source, too.
"Oh, no," Hermione moaned. "I'm so sorry, Harry. I didn't mean to."
Ron's jaw dropped. "Thatâ ¦ is it true? You're serious?" he finally managed.
"Yeah, I'm afraid it isâ ¦" Harry muttered sheepishly, "I couldn't figure out a way to
tell youâ ¦ Sorry about that. You're okay?"
"Not sure yet," Ron said, shaking his head. "It's a bit of aâ ¦ You like boys? You're
mad!"
"Not all of them," said Harry. "You're my best mate, so you I obviously loathe."
"That's a relief, at least," Ron said. "Because, I gotta tell you Harry, I would
punch the living daylights out of you if you tried to snog me. You know I love
you, mate, but stillâ ¦" And then, suddenly he grinned. "Can I have the girls who try
to woo you?"
"All yours, Ron," Harry promised, "as far as I'm concerned."
"Brilliant! No worries then, Harry," Ron concluded, "We'll make a cracking team.
"
"Boys!" Hermione said, but she couldn't help smiling. Broadly.
However empty the corridor was during the first outing of Harry Potter, The Boy
Who Lived, rumors did start flying soon after. Rumors about Harry and Cho being
on snogging terms under Cedric's nose. Rumors of Cedric and Harry competing over
Cho. Rumors that blamed Harry for the alleged arguments between Cho and Cedric.
And yes, also rumors of love-that-dare-not-speak-its-name between Harry and Ced
ric. And the last one got also much less roundabout and considerably ruder wordi
ngs, especially among Slytherins.
Harry paid no heed to the rumors. Yes, he heard them, but only thought they were
a result of his own infatuation. It still didn't cross his mind that Cedric mig
ht harbour similar feelings towards him, after all. And he had suffered worse th
an this round of gossip. Also, being able to talk to Ron about all this helped i
mmensely. Now he truly had his best friend back, when he was able to be honest w
ith him, again. And that felt great.
On a Tuesday evening after dinner, Harry was contemplating the golden egg, Cedri
c's advice, and possibly swallowing his pride about the advice so intently, he d
idn't see Cho until she was right in front of him.
"Harry," she said, "care for a walk?"
"Well, I was â " Harry started, but got interrupted.
"I won't have a 'no' as an answer. Got that?" Cho sweetened the message with a s
mile. "Come on, it will cheer you up."
"Okay, then." He couldn't help smiling back at Cho. She was, after all, his favo
urite girl in all Hogwarts (Hermione was like a sister, so she didn't count, rea
lly), even after stealing Cedric from him. And suddenly Harry realised that all
the rumors flying around actually freed him from the insecurity he had felt when
asking Cho to the Yule Ball. He couldn't possibly do anything that wasn't alrea
dy in circulation as a gossip. So they went for a stroll near the lake. The weat
her was quite nippy, so there was nobody else within hearing distance. A perfect
setting for a private chat.
"Are you still mad at me about Cedric?" Cho asked.
"What..." Harry asked, confused, "what do you mean? I never was mad at you."
"But you've been avoiding us both," Cho said.
"Oh, that." Harry said. "You noticed?"
"Come on, Harry! We're not blind, you knowâ ¦" Cho said, exasperated. "Like what was t
hat diving behind the armour stunt you pulled on us the other day?"
"That was kinda stupid, I guess," Harry said, hanging his head and looking at hi
s shoes. "But seeing you two made me unhappy. I didn't want to talk to you."
"And why is that?" Cho asked, and forgetting the rules she had made up herself,
she took Harry's hand in hers and started walking again.
Harry felt positively unreal. He was walking on the lakeshore, hand in hand with
Cho. This must look really romantic, he thought. And then he realised something
was fundamentally wrong about the whole thing.
"Um, Cho?"
"Yes, Harry?"
"Shouldn't it be Cedric," Harry asked, "walking here?"
"You do just fine. Isn't this nice?"
"Yeah, but I'm not... your boyfriend," Harry explained.
"Oh, you thought Cedric... We're not together," Cho said, blushing. "Not like th
at."
"But everyone in Hogwarts is talking about it."
"Everyone seldom knows what the hell he's talking about, Harry." Cho assured him
. "You of all people should know better than believe the-merry-go-round. Or have
n't you heard all that nonsense about you and me and Cedric?"
"But..." Harry was thinking furiously now, "that means... If you're not with Ced
ric... I mean, it's different from Cedric not being with you, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Cho admitted, wondering where Harry was going with this, "I guess it is.
Why?"
"So which is it?" Harry insisted. "Cedric would be barking mad not to want to...
Oh!" Something clicked in Harry's mind, and everything that had happened betwee
n the three of them suddenly looked completely different. Now it was Harry's tim
e to blush, and he did it with high style. We're talking about some seriously re
d ears here. "Cho, I really must know. Is Cedric... does he only like... I mean.
.. doesn't he like girls? You know, that way?"
There was a weird sort of mixture on Cho's face. Relief, maybe, definitely sadne
ss and resignation, but also barely contained hilarity. Harry had a sinking feel
ing that the last one was caused by his obvious discomfort.
"It doesn't work like that, Harry," Cho admonished. "If I were to tell you, you'
d first have to tell me why you need to know. This stuff is private, after all."
Harry looked startled, scared and, funny enough, determined. This was the moment
of truth. Luckily, Harry was always at his best in the moment of crisis. He loo
ked at Cho straight in the eyes.
"I fancy him." Harry said simply.
"I do, too," replied Cho quite as honestly, "and more, I love him. But it's not
enough."
"What would be?"
"He has to love back. You know, that way." Cho gave Harry a sly smile. "And you
were right, he is gay."
"I'm sorry," Harry said, but he wasn't. He felt like flying.
"No you're not," Cho called his bluff. "It's okay, it's not your fault. He's alw
ays been like that. And you?"
"I suppose I have," Harry said, "but I only realised it a while ago."
"When you fell for Cedric?" Her voice was trembling.
"Yeah. But I actually fell on Cedric first, that's how it all started."
"Oh, Harry." Cho couldn't help but laugh, but that also brought out the tears fl
owing from Cho's eyes, and she did nothing to hide them. "I know how you must fe
el. I should have known better myself, but he was so lovely, I couldn't help fal
ling in love with him, even if I sort of knew all the time that he wasn't the ri
ght one for me."
"And I only thought he couldn't be interested in me," Harry said. "At least now
I know that I have a chance. I can't imagine what it is like to you. Being aroun
d Cedric, I mean."
"It's not that bad, or I wouldn't do it," Cho said, drying her cheeks. "He likes
me very much, we're the best of friends. He's just too charming for his own goo
d, that boy is. Some day he'll break a heart of somebody who's not as nice as we
are, and then he'll be in real trouble."
"Nice?" asked Harry, with mock ferocity. "I'll show him nice. If he breaks my he
art and means it, I'll smack him off his bloody broom."
"You know what?" said Cho with a blooming smile. "I really like you, Harry. If h
e breaks your heart, I might even help you with the smacking business."
The next day at lunch Cedric managed to speak to Cho about something he had firs
t noticed at the breakfast table. Harry had stopped hiding. Instead he kept look
ing at Cedric with an intensive look on his face. However, Cedric had no idea wh
at was behind the change, so even if he was happy to return Harry's looks with s
miles, he was also baffled. And worried. He had not missed the fact that while H
arry kept looking at him, he was openly smiling at Cho. So he found his way to R
avenclaw table and Cho after finishing his meal.
"What has happened to our Golden Boy?" he asked. "He's come out of hiding."
"I know," Cho replied with a knowing smile. "Our little game is practically over
."
"What? How? I don't believe you."
"You'd better. I managed to ambush him after dinner yesterday. We had a really n
ice stroll by the lake." Cho looked like a cat who had just had a bowl of cream.
Or a tasty little bird.
"Not holding hands, surely?"
"Oh yes, holding hands and everything."
"But..." Cedric looked ruffled. "But he didn't kiss you, did he?"
"No, he didn't," Cho admitted, "But I know how he feels."
"Tis ain't over yet, doll." Cedric replied with a gruff movie gangster imitation
, Humphrey Bogart style. "Not 'til the fat lady sings."
"Oh," Cho pretended round-eyed innocence, "Madame Maxime sings, too?"
Early Thursday morning long before the breakfast time in the Hogwarts School of
Witchcraft and Wizardry there was a crisp knock on the Headmaster's office door.
Dumbledore did not have to guess who was calling upon him, he knew that knock f
rom years of experience. Also, very few persons were up at this unholy hour. He
wouldn't, except for the fact that he'd actually been too busy to get to his bed
at all.
"May I have word with you, Albus?" Minerva McGonagall asked after entering the r
oom.
"Certainly, Minerva. How can I help you?"
"This is about a student," McGonagall explained. "A very special one, if you kno
w what I mean."
"I think I do," Dumbledore said with a twinkle in his eyes. "Go on."
"I've been hearing certain rumours. About Harry Potter."
"Really!" Dumbledore looked genuinely surprised. "And since when have you starte
d paying any attention to rumours, my dear Minerva. It is certainly very unusual
of you."
Minerva McGonagall turned a delicate shade of pink, which was also quite unlike
her usual steely countenance. "This one is altogether different," she said haugh
tily, "it fits my own observations and is of vital importance."
"Curiouser and curiouser," Dumbledore said. "Go on."
"Please, Albus, don't mock me," McGonagall said. "You know perfectly well that i
s no proper word. And it is too early for jokes, anyway."
"If I can say 'curiouser', the word must exist," Dumbledore argued, "and I think
there's reallyno wrong time for jokes. But please continue."
"Oh well, have it your way. It's about the Tournament," McGonagall said. "You kn
ow of course that the Goblet is supposed to pick for each champion the one perso
n he or she will miss the most."
"Yes?"
"We might have a serious problems ahead with Mr. Potter and Mr. Diggory."
"So you have noticed their, hrm, shall we say... mutual gravitation as well."
"Indeed. Frankly, the looks Harry keeps shooting at the Hufflepuff table are qui
te scandalous. For once I am quite happy the other students are so busy behaving
badly, that most of them never notice a thing."
"Indeed," Dumbledore agreed. "I, however, think it is quite endearing, and might
turn out to be the very best thing ever to happen to them."
"You, dear Albus, have always been a libertine. But what shall we do about the T
ournament and the Goblet?"
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that," Dumbledore replied breezily. "The makers of t
he Goblet were no fools. They must have realised that Tri-Wizard champions would
be falling in love with each other every second time or so. The silly cup will
probably pick persons that will confuse the love life of the champions the most.
That's what I might do, anyway. It could turn out to be very entertaining."
"Really, Albus!" McGonagall said, looking scandalized.
That was the morning of the very same day when Harry finally took Cedric's advic
e, and a bath. Not that he smelled bad or anything. But the Shrieking Egg was qu
ickly becoming a stinky little problem (figuratively speaking, of course), and H
arry had no reason to ignore Cedric's tip any more. Late at night he armed himse
lf with both the Invisibility Cloak and the Marauders' Map and went adventuring.
The prefects' bathroom was simply breathtaking. White marble, a hundred golden t
abs around a pool-sized bathtub, soft candlelight and a huge pile of equally flu
ffy towels. Harry took off his clothes, filled the pool with different scented a
nd magicked baths, swam a couple of laps, and opened the egg. And closed it, as
quickly as he could. Still shrieking. Harry almost joined in, being startled by
Moaning Myrtle, the resident ghost of the Hogwarts' plumbing system. Besides ann
oying and a bit embarrassing, the meeting was very helpful. Myrtle had seen Cedr
ic solve the riddle, so she was the expert now, a role she seemed to find immens
ely satisfying.
After the egg had revealed its message, Harry started to wonder how to persuade
Peeping Myrtle, as he now called her in his thoughts for obvious reasons, to lea
ve him alone so that he could dry and dress in peace. But suddenly there were fo
otsteps, and the door creaked open. Myrtle disappeared in one of the tabs, but H
arry neither had chance nor the time to hide himself. He just stared.
"Cedric!"
"Good evening, Harry," Cedric said. "Having fun?"
"Well, I did solve it. Thanks." Suddenly, Harry felt like he could stay in the b
ath forever. At last, a chance for quality time with Cedric. Just the two of the
m. There was an exited flutter in his stomach.
"Mind if I join you?" Cedric asked with an infectious grin.
"If you don't mind being goggled at." Harry grinned back. Cedric's eyebrows rais
ed, but he looked rather pleased. "Myrtle is around," Harry explained after a pa
use.
"Oh," Cedric said, and picked up his wand. "No worries, there's an easy fix for
that." And when he flicked his wand, there was an extremely annoyed scream follo
wed by a stream of foul language echoing in the pipes before rapidly disappearin
g into the distance.
"What was that?" Harry asked. "The spell, I mean."
"A ghost repellant spell. Very useful, when you need some real privacy. I can te
ach it to you some other time. I don't think it's in the curriculum." Cedric sta
rted to undress. Harry was floating comfortably with his arms on the rim of the
pool, and he saw no reason to move away from disrobing Cedric, and plenty to sta
y put. The gradually revealing sight of the older boy's lean but muscular form r
aised Harry's temperature by at least a couple of degrees. Finally Cedric was st
ark naked, and Harry felt his mouth watering. If there ever was any doubt in his
mind that he really wanted Cedric, there were none left when the boy in questio
n turned to him casually, with all the good bits in plain sight. Harry was mesme
rized, and didn't even try to pretend looking elsewhere.
"How's the water, Harry?"
"Um... Hot."
"How strange." Cedric smiled. "I thought the water was spelled so that it's alwa
ys perfect temperature. So maybe it's just you."
Harry was blushing, and turned to swim a lap. There was a great splash, when Ced
ric dived in and, propelled by the jump glided past underneath Harry. He came to
surface just in time to turn and meet Harry in the other end of the pool. Not b
eing a good swimmer, Harry was impressed. So impressed, in fact, that he almost
collided with the other boy. Again.
"We seem to be making a habit of bumping into each other," Cedric said after def
tly taking Harry by an arm and guiding him safely to the edge of the pool. "I th
ink you need swimming practise."
"You don't," Harry replied, with his pulse racing. "You're practically a merboy!
"
"Thanks, but I've had loads of practise. We live by a river."
"Lucky you." Harry was keenly aware that Cedric had not let go of him. He looked
into those laughing silvery eyes, and forgot completely what else he was about
to say. So he didn't. The moment seemed to draw on and on. They just stared at e
ach other, while Cedric's grin faded and the look in his eyes turned intense. Ve
ry slowly, without breaking the eye contact, Cedric moved so that Harry was betw
een him and the edge, enclosed by his arms.
"Harry, I â "
"Shhh..." Harry interrupted, while putting a finger to Cedric's lips. They were
soft, and warm, and tempting. After another long moment Cedric suddenly nibbled
gently at his fingertip. When Harry took away his finger, the nibble turned into
a small kiss. Harry's eyes went wide open. This time he didn't blush though. He
went white. The blood in his body had better things to do than color his ears.
"Cedric, I â "
"Shh..." Cedric was smiling again, and it was different from any other smile Har
ry had ever seen. It was a content, happy and easy smile, but also full of laugh
ter and promise of something... even better. Then he tilted his head, coming wit
hin two inches of Harry. "This is it," thought Harry, but then Cedric straighten
ed again.
"I'm sorry, Harry. I can't do this."
Harry was speechless. His euphoria melted like snow in Sahara. Tears welled in h
is eyes so quickly the left side of his brain made a note of mental imbalance.
"I thought... you wanted to," he managed with a trembling voice.
"Oh, please don't cry, Harry. I do want to, but I can't. I promised not to."
"So you are with somebody, after all!" Harry couldn't help it. His tone was angr
y now, and accusatory.
"No, Harry I'm not. But I promised Cho that I won't try to snog you." And now th
ere was a naughty grin spreading on his face. "That is, neither of us won't try
to snog you unless you do it first. We made a deal."
"What!" Harry's head was spinning. Again, everything that had happened before lo
oked suddenly quite different. "And what am I, a contest trophy?"
"Well, kind of. I'm sorry about that. You see, we were both head over heels abou
t you, and Cho didn't want me to woo you, because she thought you're too young,"
Cedric explained. "So we made a deal. No snogging unless you do it first."
"Cho fancied me?" Harry asked, befuddled.
"Yes. Having second thoughts, now, are you?"
"No! But I thought she was in love with you."
"She is, I guess. But I like boys. And I like you, Harry, better than anyone."
Harry was wide-eyed again, and looking at Cedric with those startlingly green ey
es. Cedric felt his heart miss at least three beats.
"And all I have to do is kiss you?" Harry asked finally.
"Yes."
"Come here then, merboy."
Cedric did. This time, though, it felt awkward. They were both so acutely aware
of the significance of the embrace that they were simply unable to do it natural
ly. There seemed to be way too many arms and legs. But, however clumsily, Harry
managed to put his arms around the other boy's neck, leaving it to Cedric to kee
p them afloat. They tilted their heads, first the same way, grinned, and tried a
gain. Then, finally, Harry touched Cedric's lips with his own. Tentatively, firs
t, but then Cedric pressed Harry's back to the side of the pool and kissed him i
n earnest. And Harry, being a good student, was quick to learn. After some minut
es they simply had to stop for air.
"Wow." Harry's eyes were shining, and he wore a face-splitting grin.
"Yep, you got that one just right," Cedric said. Then he burst into laughing. "I
just can't wait to tell Cho. She'll be absolutely green with envy."
"Cho is all right." Harry said. "But please don't tell anybody else."
"Are you mad? Of course I won't," Cedric promised. "We'd never hear the end of i
t."
"I never want to hear the end this," Harry said, snuggling closer to Cedric agai
n and kissing him lightly.
"Lucky me, indeed," said Cedric after the kiss.
"But there's one thing that baffles me," Harry admitted after a while.
"What?" asked Cedric. "Only one?"
"If Cho was after me, too, how could she think I'm too young?"
"Beats me," Cedric said. "Girls, eh?"
"Right. They do unfathomable things all the time."
"Wanna get out?" Cedric asked. "There's only that much you can do while swimming
."
Luckily, there were soft benches and divans around the walls for the prefects to
rest and dry after bathing. This time, though, what took place on them was rath
er more active. And it was every bit as magical as Cedric's smile had promised.
The next morning found Harry Potter, surprisingly enough, in his very own bed in
the Gryffindor Tower. He was able to get only a couple of hours of sleep though
, after saying hot, wet good night to Cedric, with both of their tongues heavily
involved. The 'good night' was actually rather off the mark, since it was more
like an early morning by then. Besides, Harry had some serious trouble on his wa
y back to his bed after the final embrace. He was only saved by Mad-Eye Moody, w
hich can be a jolting experience, even without Severus Snape being around. Still
, everything that had happened with Cedric brought a contented smile to Harry's
face while he slept.
He was startled awake by a smack of a pillow, a good morning from Ron. Instead o
f retaliation with a pillow of his own, Harry just couldn't help grinning like a
madman. Ron looked at him with a worried expression.
"You all right, mate?"
"Hmmm. Others gone already?"
"Yeah, so how did it go?" Ron asked.
"Like you wouldn't believe," Harry told him. "I got trapped in that trick stair
Neville usually falls for, dropped the Egg and was almost caught by both Filch a
nd Snape. But it was so worth it, even if I had to give up the Map."
"You lost the Marauder's Map!" Ron yelped, obviously shocked. "It's priceless, y
ou know that."
"I didn't lose it, Ron. I had to borrow it to Mad-Eye, after he saved me from ge
tting caught by Snape. And he also saved the map."
"Really? But still. How come you look so happy?" Ron asked. "Your adventure soun
ds more like a disaster to me."
"Believe me, it was better than Quidditch. Heck, better even than winning the Sl
ytherins in Quidditch. I had no idea anything could feel that good."
"What? Losing the Map? The trick step? The Egg? Are you bonkers?"
"No, you dork. Ced." Harry grinned again.
"Ced? You mean Cedric? What has he got to do with this? I thought you went out t
o solve the Egg!"
"And that I did. Let's go find Hermione."
"Wait. Did you..." There was an unsettling realisation dawning on Ron's face. "A
re you telling me that you and Cedric... No!"
"Yes," replied Harry with a disgustingly happy smile, "I guess I am."
"You didn't! You're pulling my leg."
"Did, too." Harry insisted. "Well, you could say we did it together."
"You snogged Cedric!" Now Ron was grinning, too. "You dog!"
"Well, it started with snogging, yes," Harry grinned back mischievously "and end
ed with snogging. But there was something even better in between."
"Spare me the details," Ron shuddered. "I don't want to know, really."
Cho, on the other hand, wanted to know everything. She had just sat on the break
fast table when someone covered her eyes from behind, and whispered in her ear:
"Guess who, sunshine."
"Cedric," she said, a bit annoyed. "Let me eat. I'm starving."
"So am I, and I bet my reason is the better one," Cedric said. "We need to talk.
Let's take something with us and go for a picnic."
"I'm not going anywhere."
"Yes you are," Cedric said confidently.
"Not without a good reason," Cho insisted, "I'm not."
"Game over. I won. Wanna details?"
Cho just stared at him for a moment. "You have a bottle for coffee?" she then as
ked.
"Smart guy that I am. Yes. And mugs, too." Cedric smiled like nobody's business.
"What are we waiting for, then?"
Thirty minutes later Cho and Cedric were sitting on a broad stone wall facing th
e lake. Cedric had been telling and retelling every word of his encounter with H
arry the previous night. Cho was envious, but not quite green, and she quickly g
ot over it. After all, she had already had time to get used to the idea that her
two favourite boys were not meant for her, really. The story actually had her s
quealing and giggling in delight. Suddenly, somewhere during the third round Ced
ric paused, and shoot Cho a dirty look.
"You are a devious little woman, you."
"Me?" Cho said mockingly. "What can you possibly mean?"
"The little pep talk you gave me at lunch yesterday," Cedric demanded. "Was any
of it true?"
"Every word, literally." She looked at him cunningly. "You know, it is the very
best way to lie, if you ever need to do such a thing."
"But you said you were about to win, that you had a hand-in-hand walk with Harry
and you knew he was in love with you." Cedric was indignant now.
"I never said that! I said the game was almost over, and that I knew how he felt
. Both were true. He told me he was in love with you," Cho explained. "I knew th
at I only had to get you off your lazy ass to get you two snogging."
"And holding hands?"
"Sounds like you two were holding some other body parts last night."
Cedric almost died of laughter. "Guilty" he finally managed, stil giggling, "but
I meant you and Harry. Bet you didn't hold hands."
"Did, too. I took his hand, and he was too polite to refuse."
"Not only devious, but a rulebreaker to boot." But Cedric was grinning happily.
"Anyway, I thank you. My lazy ass has never been happier."
"Come on, Happy Ass. We're gonna miss our classes."
The first chance Harry and Ron had to talk to Hermione properly that day was at
the Charms. The class was practising Banishing Charms with pillows to minimize t
he damage. At first Hermione was livid, since Harry had made her believe before
that he had mostly solved the mystery of the Egg already. Then Harry had to tell
her about the poem and all. Finally Ron couldn't handle the pressure of the rea
l news any more.
"Forget that bloody poem, will you," he blurted. "Harry got laid."
"What!" Hermione said, and her pillow went haywire, knocking over things on prof
essor Flitwicks desk. She looked mortified, and then at Harry.
"So that's why you looked so smug all the time," she said. "I should have guesse
d it was something else entirely. Was it with Cedric?"
"Yes," Harry said, flushed. "He came in just when I was trying to get rid of Moa
ning Myrtle. Or in that case, Peeping Myrtle."
"He just came in?" Hermione asked. "You mean you hadn't asked him to come, had y
ou?"
"No, how could I?"
"With an owl, for instance. Then why was he there?" Hermione looked suspicious.
"He's a prefect," Harry said, "it's their bathroom."
"In the middle of the night? Just by chance? I don't think so. How strange."
"You wanna hear this or not?"
"I do," said Ron, and after a funny look from Harry added hastily: "Just not the
details, okay."
"I'm sorry," Hermione said, "please continue, and I'd love to hear the details."
That actually made Harry blush, with an extremely foolish grin on his face. "Wel
l," he said, "in short: It was better than Quidditch. The long version though...
I think it is a bit too private for the classroom, even with all the pillows fl
ying around. But I'll tell you all you want to know after classes, okay?"
"Brilliant!" said Ron, before he could help it.
"I'm so happy for you!" said Hermione, and gave Harry a quick hug. "It sounds li
ke you two are a perfect match."
Harry just grinned.
Some hours later the three of them were sitting outside, far on the other side o
f the lake from Hogwarts. It was evening, and Harry had finally finished telling
everything about his previous night. Well, everything up to a point. He felt th
at some details didn't belong to anybody but him and Cedric. Even with the edite
d version, Harry had been constantly interrupted by incredulous comments by Ron,
or surprisingly girlish giggles and "Awww, how cute!" declarations from Hermion
e, who wanted to know quite a bit more about everything than Ron was able to tak
e. Every now and then, when the story got too embarrassing, cute or sappy for Ro
n to bear, he sprung up and stomped around a bit somewhere in the vicinity.
"So," Harry asked finally, "what do you reckon would be the best way to tell Sir
ius?"
"You can't possibly tell Sirius about this," Hermione said decisively.
"I want to!" said Harry, "I know he'll understand."
"Probably, but you can't risk it."
"Why not?"
"Listen, first I have to know something private."
"The stuff I told you isn't exactly meant to be public, you know. Shoot."
"Cedric didn't actually do, you know, the actual F thing with you, did he?" Herm
ione asked, blushing furiously but looking determined.
"No," Harry said, a bit shocked. "We did... the other things. Why?"
"Because he shouldn't, that's why," Hermione said, but to Harry that didn't real
ly explain anything. "And that's also why you must not tell Sirius anything abou
t Cedric," Hermione went on, "not yet."
"Now you lost me completely," Harry confessed.
"You know what Age of Consent means, do you?"
"No," said Harry.
"But you are going to tell us, right?" asked Ron.
"I am," Hermione confirmed. "It is the age at which people are considered respon
sible enough to decide for themselves if they want to have sex with someone. Bas
ically it means that if you are under the Age of Consent, and your partner is ol
der, it is treated pretty much as a rape. Cedric could end up in an awful lot of
serious trouble, if you two are caught, you know, doing the deed."
"Oh," said Harry, "Oh no!"
"You mean there is a law about that?" asked Ron, dumbfounded.
"Yes there is. And Harry is lucky to be a wizard. Because, you see, the muggles
have a higher Age of Consent than us. As a matter of fact, they have set the lim
it even higher for boys doing it with each other. For wizards and witches, it's
all the same. I checked it in the Library."
"Like we didn't see that one coming," muttered Ron.
"And what is the age?" Harry asked.
"Fifteen. So, if you two are serious about this, you will have to be able to kee
p it secret for more than half a year. And when I say secret, I really mean secr
et. Unfortunately, the Age of Consent is only the top of the iceberg."
"Do I really want to hear the rest of it?" Harry said, while it was quite obviou
s to both Ron and Hermione that he didn't.
"I'm sorry, Harry" Hermione said, "but you do have to. Don't you get it? Being t
ogether could be really dangerous to both Cedric and you. Because You-Know-Who.
If he finds out that you're in love with Cedric, he will surely try and use him
to hurt you."
That night, Harry wrote two letters. The first one went to Sirius, giving a brie
f update without a word of the matters of his heart. Which, by and large, was bl
eeding. The sober warnings from Hermione had caught him completely by surprise a
t the height of his first love. The drop onto the sharp rocks of reality could h
ardly have been more drastic. When his brain regained its proverbial feet, Harry
knew something had to be done. However he was longing for Cedric's embrace, he
could not seek it knowing it would, sooner or later, bring about the ultimate th
reat of Voldemort's vengeance to Cedric. Therefore, he wrote the second letter.
It was one of the hardest things he'd ever had to write. Every word seemed wrong
somehow, every sentence either too sappy or casual to the point of heartlessnes
s. After several drafts, all of which he burned, this is what Harry wrote:
"Hello, O Naughty One!
I hope I don't have to tell you this, but I'll tell you anyway: the other night
was the best one of my life. Better than Quidditch, no competition.
However, I can't keep seeing you, not that way. We would be found out. There is
a magical item on the loose that can reveal us, no matter how well we plan our m
eetings. I can't be any plainer in the letter, but trust me on this one. And as
you must know, I'm not only underaged, unlike you, but too young in the eyes of
the law as well. If we are found out, you'll be in trouble. I can't risk that.
Just in case this ends up in wrong hands, I won't sign this. You know who I am.
Even someone as hot as you couldn't possibly have two such encounters in the sam
e week. And just in case you are that naughty, I'm the one you gave a lovebite u
nder the left arm.
We can, however, meet in the daytime. That shouldn't be too evident. But it has
to be somewhere innocent, where we could meet by accident. Drop me a line, if we
don't happen to actually meet by chance. Use a school owl."
Harry knew the letter wasn't enough, but he thought it was a pretty good start i
n making the whole affair seem like just sex on his part. If Cedric thought this
was only a fling, it might be easier to make him forget Harry and move on befor
e it was too late. Harry also knew that he would never forget Cedric, even if it
turned out to be just a one night stand among others for him. At least that way
Cedric would be safe from the seemingly contagious danger that Harry was spread
ing to his loved ones. His parents were dead and Sirius was still hiding after s
pending years in Azkaban. Harry couldn't take it if Cedric would be the next one
. He felt sick.
When Harry was coming out of the owlery after sending the letters, he turned awa
y from the door and found himself face to face with Cedric. The other boy seized
the opportunity of the deserted place, took Harry in his arms without a word an
d kissed him like a man dying of thirst. Harry's hard-won resolutions of not let
ting his feelings ruin the future of the boy he'd fallen in love with shattered
like so much of glass filigree. He couldn't help answering to the passion in Ced
ric's kiss. In fact, his knees went weak. For someone like Harry, who'd had to g
et used to standing on his own two feet, it was both a wonderful and scary feeli
ng. He suddenly remembered his first time on a broom, flying.
"Oh, Harry," Cedric panted after a sweet minute or two, holding Harry's face bet
ween his hands. "I want you so bad. I couldn't wait any longer."
"I can feel that," Harry said with a sly smile. He'd been getting hard, too. He
was so intoxicated by Cedric, by his sweet smell and strong hands, that his own
fears and Hermione's warnings had lost their edge and almost slipped from his mi
nd. "But we can't possibly do anything about it here."
"I know," Cedric said, between playfully chewing Harry's lower lip. "Let's find
a better place, then."
"We could get into trouble."
"Hasn't stopped you before, has it?"
"No, but now it's different," Harry said. "You could get into trouble. I'm too y
oung."
"You weren't last night. You're quite a big boy, Harry, where it counts."
Harry blushed. "I was. Too young, I mean. I just didn't know it. I don't feel to
o young, but Hermione told me about the Age of Consent," Harry explained. "You c
ould get into serious trouble if we are found out."
"You're just half a year from fifteen. And if we're careful, no one will be the
wiser."
"Mad-Eye will be."
"No he won't," Cedric said. "Even his eye can't possibly see everything."
"No, but he now has other means," Harry insisted. "I had to give him a map of th
e school last night. He saved me from getting caught by Filch and Snape, and he
wanted it."
"I see that you had a busy night." Cedric replied, "So what, a map is just a map
."
"Not this one, it ain't. You can't really understand if you haven't seen it. It'
s called Marauder's Map and was made by my father and his friends. It shows ever
y person moving about in Hogwarts. As long as Moody has the map, he can catch us
any time he chooses. I was just sending you a letter of warning."
"I'm still not too concerned," Cedric said. "Mad-Eye is a friend of Dumbledore.
And he's only after dark wizards. Why should he care even if we made out through
every single night?"
"I don't know," admitted Harry. "I just don't want any trouble for you."
"Harry, listen to me. I've been in trouble from the very moment you first looked
at me." Now his tone was serious and he looked straight into Harry's eyes. "If
you think this is just a bit of sex for me, you're wrong. I'm serious about you.
I've fallen for you, Harry, and can't help it no matter how much trouble I get
into."
Harry was almost torn apart right then and there. A part of him was glowing with
happiness and trying to float at least a foot or two from the ground. The other
part turned into a leaden lump of fear, which tried to sink him to the ground b
elow his feet. When he looked into Cedric's intensely silver eyes, the strength
of the emotion he saw both attracted and scared him. A beatific smile was spread
ing on Harry's face, but at the same time tears welled up in his eyes. He took a
deep ragged breath and swallowed, twice. Then he saw someone moving in the dist
ance behind Cedric.
"Someone's coming," Harry said, breaking free of Cedric's arms. After a heartbea
t of looking at Cedric, he bolted. He didn't have the foggiest inkling of what h
e might have said, had he stayed. It was easier to run. Cedric didn't follow.
If someone had been able to sneak into his office, a room laden with various str
ange contraptions such as foeglasses and sneakoscopes, the intruder would have s
een professor Alastor Moody staring down at the Marauder's Map, which was laid o
pen on his desk.
Since the meeting with Harry the previous night, Moody had spent all of his free
moments studying the myriad names moving on the map. The map was clearly a work
of a genius. Mad-Eye found himself wondering idly who had made such a practical
ly intrusive tool. It was spelled so that the more one concentrated on a place o
n the map, the more details could be seen, even if the names would on a normal p
iece of parchment be too tiny to read without a strong magnifying glass. One cou
ld see all the various floors of the huge building, and at same time read the al
most microscopic names moving about in any of the hundreds rooms, staircases, cu
pboards, shortcuts, corridors and other spaces of Hogwarts. And there was more.
After studying the map a while Moody realised he only had to name a group or a p
erson silently in his mind, and they would start flashing on the map. It was chi
ld's play to locate anyone.
Mad-Eye concentrated on Harry Potter, and found him from the owlery. Another nam
e was scurrying there through the map.
"How intriguing," Mad-Eye muttered to himself, "Cedric Diggory, again. You were
on the move last night also. Didn't have time to get to bed before I got the map
, now, did you? So what's cooking between you two?"
Suddenly he jumped out of his chair like a much younger man, opened the fifth lo
ck of his trunk and rummaged trough the corresponding compartment. After tossing
other things out of the way, he took out a telescopic spyglass. He rushed to hi
s only window, opened it and reached as far to the left as he could to be able t
o see the owlery. He lifted the spyglass to his magical eye, and gave a long, su
rprised whistle.
Harry kept walking around long after he got tired of running. He didn't want to
see anybody. Instead he got out his Firebolt and spent a couple of hours just fl
ying. It felt liberating, but only because he flew so dangerously he needed all
of his concentration to stay on his broom. After he stopped, he realised it hadn
't really helped at all. He still felt shattered, and the pieces of him were at
war with each other. At least no one was up and about any more when he finally w
ent through the Gryffindor common room and sneaked into his four-poster bed. Bot
h his heart and his body were exhausted, and he went out like a candle.
And found himself in a dimly lit corridor of an old house. There was a rustling
sound, and a huge snake slithered past him. It stopped for a moment, raised its
head and looked straight at Harry with its cold, evil eyes. It went into the roo
m at the end of the corridor, creaking the door open a bit. There was some parse
ltongue, but it was too silent for Harry to make any sense of. He could see a pa
rt of an old armchair, and then a hissing voice spoke out.
"Turn my chair, Wormtail, so I can greet our guests."
The door opened and the armchair was turned to face it. The lighting was dim, so
Harry couldn't see clearly, but the creature in the chair was small, hairless a
nd hideous. It was holding a wand. There was a suprised breath behind Harry, and
for the first time he realised he wasn't alone. He turned his head to see. Next
to his side, only half a step behind was Cedric. He took Harry's hand.
"Young lovers, I see," half-formed Lord Voldemort hissed, "How touching. But I o
nly invited you, Harry. I have no use for the other. Although, he is very handso
me..."
"Don't â " Cedric started, but was interrupted by a green flame.
"Avada Kedavra!" Voldemort hissed. He didn't even raise his voice.
Harry screamed. His scar felt like a burning iron. The other boys all woke up, a
nd Ron was next to his bed in an instant.
"What's wrong? You okay? Is it the scar?" he lowered his voice in the end so the
others wouldn't hear. He looked worried.
"Hurts," Harry replied through clenched teeth, "I saw Voldemort... And his snake
... Just a nightmare." Slowly he started to relax, even if the hurting scar brou
ght tears to his eyes. "I'll be all right."
"You sure?" Ron asked. "Shouldn't we get you to Madame Pomfrey?"
"No, really," Harry resisted. He didn't want to go anywhere. "I'll be fine."
"Okay, mate. Just wake me up, if you need anything, okay?"
"Okay. Thanks, Ron."
After Ron had gone back to sleep and lights were out again, Harry bit his pillow
and cried his heart out, as silently as he possibly could. The pain from his bu
rning scar took hours to subside, only letting him sleep at the crack of dawn. A
nd when he woke up again, croggy, disoriented and late from breakfast, the pillo
w was still wet.
Throughout the next day Harry acted muted and glum, and Hermione started to wond
er. Ron told her about Harry's nightmare with You-know-who making a special appe
arance, and for a while that seemed like a good enough explanation. At lunch she
tried to talk to Harry and was met with the most blank and uncommunicative star
e she ever remembered getting from him, and she dropped the effort. When Harry s
till showed no signs of coming out of his shell after dinner, she cornered him a
nd took the dragon by the tail.
"Come on, Harry, we have tried to cheer you up the whole day," Hermione said. "I
t's time to share: What's eating you?"
"Nothing." Harry looked mulish. "Didn't sleep too well."
"Yeah, right. That's like saying Snape isn't the most lovable person I ever met.
Doesn't even start to cover it. Spill it."
"I had another nightmare about Voldemort, all right!"
"I know that, Ron told me," Hermione said. "Still not good enough. I could under
stand shaken and scared, but it doesn't explain why you don't want to talk to us
. It helps, you know, talking to your friends. That's exactly what friends are f
or. You shouldn't need a manual to understand that."
"I'm sorry," Harry said, after a very long pause that he spent staring at his fe
et, "I just didn't feel like talking. I've been wondering about the next task, a
nd that's gotten to me, too. I have no idea how to breath under water for an hou
r." With an enormous effort, he managed to grin sheepishly. "Care to help me out
?"
Now it was time for Hermione to get anxious. How could she have forgotten about
the task? True, the thing with Cedric was quite a distraction, but still. The To
urnament was potentially deadly, so Harry's affair with Cedric simply had to tak
e the back seat. However, there was still a nagging feeling in her mind that Har
ry was hiding something.
"You sure that's all?" she asked.
"All?" Harry said incredulously. "Yes, that's all. I only have to turn myself in
to a fish with no knowledge of human Transfiguration. Why, that should be a piec
e of cake!"
At that, Hermione felt a real pang of guilt. And for her, being both the dutiful
person and the good friend that she was, the effect was more like getting hit w
ith a brick. She spent a moment recalibrating her priorities. "Of course I'll he
lp you out." she replied then. "No need to get sarcastic. I'm sorry I questioned
you, but, you know, you only had to ask instead of moping a whole Saturday firs
t. Is it off to the library, then?"
"Yeah, I guess it is," Harry said, not enthusiastically. "Thanks."
"Don't mention it. That's what friends are for." Her brain started to work on th
e problem at hand, and when they turned to go, she added: "Actually, I think a d
olphin might be easier for you to change into. Because it's a mammal too, with l
ungs and similar bones and all the same basic plumbing that we have. Nowhere nea
r as radical of a Transfiguration is needed."
The following days Harry was very depressed, but tried to hide it the best he co
uld. He felt bad about not being straight with Ron and Hermione, and equally bad
about not being gay with Cedric. To be able to keep up the charade, Harry had t
o keep telling himself that all this abstinence was to keep Cedric alive. The ni
ghtmare had been so realistic, it was impossible for Harry to ignore it. And it
was out of the question to tell Ron and Hermione about it, because he knew they
wouldn't agree with his conclusions. Before the dream, the course of his actions
had rested on a knife's edge; whether to deny his love because of the fear or t
o defy his fear for the sake of love. Now there was no competition. Harry would
do what he considered the honourable thing and sacrifice his happiness to keep C
edric alive. That, he thought, wasn't even close to what his parents had sacrifi
ced to keep Harry himself alive. He thought the situation had a dark sort of poe
tic justice in it, some kind of symmetry that seemed almost like fate. But mostl
y he just shut the whole thing, feelings and all, out of his mind and buried him
self into finding a way to breath in the lake. Or tried to, at least.
Next Wednesday, Harry got a letter the usual way, delivered by a post owl next t
o his breakfast plate. He saw immediately that the handwriting was unfamiliar, s
o it couldn't be from Sirius. He risked a look at the Hufflepuff table, and was
immediately caught by Cedric's meaningful stare, which made Harry's heart jump t
o his throat. He had, since the meeting at the owlery door, done his best to avo
id Cedric, and succeeded. Now that he knew who the letter was from, he put it in
his pocket unopened, but not unnoticed. Hermione and Mad-Eye were both watching
his every move.
Harry, being immersed in his own misery, had no idea how closely he was being wa
tched that morning. At the break before Charms Hermione took a chance to talk to
him.
"What did he write?" she asked.
"What?" Harry was playing dumb. "Who?"
"Cedric of course, what did he write to you?"
"You haven't lost your edge, I see. But I can't tell you."
"Oh," Hermione replied, "if it's that good, why don't you look happy?"
"I can't tell because I don't know."
"Come on!" Hermione protested, "There must have been something in there."
"I haven't opened it," Harry told her, flatly.
"Open it, then."
"No."
"You're being childish, Harry," Hermione said. "It won't go away if you keep ign
oring it."
"I could burn it," Harry proposed without a trace of humour.
"Are you mad?" Hermione asked. "For a while you actually had me fooled with the
whole breathing thing, but no more. You're not really trying to find the solutio
n, not in earnest. You haven't put your heart to it, not once since we started.
Don't worry, I'll still help you, of course, but that is not why you're in shamb
les. Something is wrong with Cedric."
"And what exactly makes it your problem?" Harry sounded almost hostile now, whic
h was rare to the extreme.
"Harry, please stop that. How many times this year I have to remind you that I'm
your friend? I care about you being happy, and you're not. Open it."
"No. This is not your problem." Harry was at the end of his rope, with nowhere t
o go with his argument. Luckily for him, the break was about to end and he saw a
familiar figure approaching. "We have to go, Flitwick is coming."
And that was all she got out of him on the matter.
Late that night, alone in his bed, Harry couldn't resist any more. He took out t
he parchment and opened it. A part of him was actually hoping that it would be a
piss-off-you-insufferable-brat kind of letter, ending their brief but dramatic
affair once and for all. Instead, what he read made his heart ache and his consc
ience raw and heavy with guilt.
Okay, I'm sorry that I scared you off. I understand if you want to go slowly wit
h this. We can postpone certain things until your birthday, if you want to avoid
getting me into a mess. But, if you want to avoid me becoming a mess, instead,
you've got to talk to me. I can't stand getting the cold shoulder, not from you.
We don't have to do anything risky, but at Ieast I want to be around you. We co
uld practise Quidditch or I could teach you some bits of magic you won't learn i
n classes, or we could just sit and play chess or something. The thing is that I
love you, but we don't really know each other. And I want that, too. Please tal
k to me.
Kisses
When Harry finally managed to fall asleep, he kept dreaming of Cedric. At first
there were happy dreams about his incredible smile and silvery eyes, but then, v
ery early the next morning, he woke up covered in cold sweat. It was the nightma
re all over again, the one where Voldemort murdered Cedric in the chillingly off
hand manner just for wanting to protect him. Harry barely managed to stifle a sc
ream. For the most of the morning, Harry lay awake with a burning scar once more
, too agitated to sleep. Only in the last half an hour before having to get up,
he drifted off into exhausted and troubled stupor.
"Harry, wake up." Ron was shaking him.
"Umm, what? Please, no. Not yet. Let me sleep."
"You were having a nightmare, mate. Wake up."
Harry opened his eyes and saw Ron looking at him with an odd expression.
"What is it?" he asked groggily.
"You were talking in your sleep," Ron answered, "something about You-know-who. A
nd about Cedric. You repeated his name and then, 'please, no'. It sounded like y
ou didn't want him to do something. And you were crying, too. What was that all
about?"
"Nothing," Harry lied. "Like you said, just a nightmare."
"Nothing my ass. What's wrong with Cedric?"
"Oh no," Harry said, irritated. "Not you too."
"Hermione is right, you know," Ron persuaded him. "We can see something is wrong
. You should let us help."
"You can't help me on this one."
"Try us."
"No, I won't. This isn't your problem."
"Have it your way, then," Ron said, angrily. "You're lucky the other's went to b
reakfast already. Your thing with Cedric will soon be a common knowledge, if you
keep dreaming as loudly as you just did. Might be better, for all I know." And
with that, Ron stomped out of the room.
Hermione was very interested in and extremely worried about Ron's latest piece o
f news.
"He seems like a nice guy and all, but we don't really know Cedric," she said. "
Are you sure Harry said, 'Please, no.' and his name."
"Positive. He kept repeating them both. And he cried. And before all that he sai
d Volâ You-know-who's name once or twice."
"Okay. That, as far as I can see, has two possible explanations. Either his drea
m was about You-know-who doing something bad to Cedric, or he was dreaming about
Cedric doing something that he shouldn't..."
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Ron asked, gloomily.
"I think so." Hermione was very serious now. "Two or three years is quite a diff
erence at our age. Cedric might have got carried away. It would explain why Harr
y doesn't want to talk about the whole thing anymore. I mean, if he got, you kno
w, molested by Cedric."
"I'm gonna kill him if he did that to Harry." Ron said hotly.
"Cool your heals, Ron. We have to give the fellow the benefit of a doubt. And yo
u know how stubborn Harry can be. We won't get anything out of him. I say we go
and ask Cedric. We can probably tell if he tries to lie to us. And if he's innoc
ent, he can help us get Harry back on track."
"Sounds like a plan. But if he did it, though..." Ron muttered, "If he did..."
"Cedric," Hermione asked the same day after lunch, when they foud Cedric with so
me other Hufflepuffs outside the castle, "could we have a word with you?"
"Okay, sure." He told his friends to go ahead, and Hermione led them to a quiet
corner of the courtyard. "What's up?"
"It's about Harry..."
There was immediately a worried, keen expression on Cedric's face. "He's all rig
ht, I hope, isn't he?"
"No, he isn't," Ron said flatly in an unfriendly tone. "And we want to know why.
"
"What happened? Is he hurt?" Cedric was frantic now. "Where? Take me to him, ple
ase. I need to see him!"
"He's all right physically," Hermione said. "As far as we know, nothing bad has
happened. But he's acting weird, and we are interested in what we don't know. We
need to find out what's wrong with him. And we think you have something to do w
ith it."
"But he doesn't even look at me, let alone talk to me. How could I know?" This c
ame out in a decidedly miserable tone.
"And why is that?" Ron asked.
"I think I scared him away," Cedric replied. "I presume you two know about... Ha
rry and me, don't you?"
"Yes," Hermione said. "We do. But what did you mean when you said you scared him
? What did you do?"
"Nothing. We were talking and..." Cedric blushed slightly, but looked straight a
t them, one at a time. "All right, we were kissing, and really getting into it.
But then Harry got all worked up about how we could get into trouble. Then he sa
w someone coming, and run away. He hasn't talked to me since."
"And when was this?" Hermione asked.
"Last friday. Almost a week ago."
"This doesn't help any," Ron blurted. "Did you, or did you not, molest Harry in
any way?"
"What!" Cedric was beside himself, and really had to restrain his voice not to s
hout for the whole school to hear. "How can you even think that? No, of course I
didn't. I would never ever do anything to harm Harry. Never. Don't you get it.
I love him."
Hermione looked relieved beyond measure. She was smiling now, for the first time
during the conversation. "Merlin's Beard!" she exclaimed then. "Did you by any
chance happen to tell that to Harry?" she asked.
"Yes!" Cedric said, still upset. "Pretty much. That was right before he bolted."
"Ron, he is all right," Hermione said gravely. "He didn't do anything wrong. I t
hink this may all be my fault. And Cedric, don't worry. I know for a fact that H
arry loves you too."
It was the explanation time. The three of them, Cedric, Ron and Hermione, wander
ed to a secluded part of the lakeshore so they could talk without keeping a cons
tant lookout for passers-by.
"Ron, you remember when I said to Harry that those two," Hermione was nodding to
wards Cedric, "should keep a tight lid over the affair for two reasons? The firs
t one was the Age of Consent."
"That was the one Harry gave me," Cedric said, "when he was worried about us get
ting caught."
"I thought he might. But there was an even more important one," Hermione continu
ed. "How much do you know about Harry's history in Hogwarts?"
"Not much, above and beyond what's common knowledge."
"Okay. Both on his first and second year he came face to face with You-Know-Who,
who is aiming for a comeback," Hermione explained. "And, as you might expect, h
e hates Harry more than anyone else. We can tell you all about it later, but for
now just take my word for it."
"Okay, makes sense to me," Cedric admitted. "There have been all kinds of rumors
."
"Right. And I warned Harry that if You-Know-Who learns of Harry having someone h
e loves, he will surely try and use the person to get to Harry."
"Okay. I'm willing to take the risk," Cedric said solemnly. "Harry is worth it."
Hermione smiled at him, and Ron was starting to look happier, too.
"I was hoping you would say that," Hermione said. "But that's not all. After you
last spoke to Harry, he's been having nightmares. Ron?"
"First time he woke up everyone by screaming. He said he had seen You-Know-Who a
nd his snake. And his scar was hurting pretty badly, I think."
"Hurting?" Cedric asked.
"Yes," Hermione answered. "It does that sometimes. Dumbledore says there is stil
l some kind of connection between Harry's scar and You-Know-Who. I agree."
"Oh good, I'd hate to tell old Albus he was wrong..." Cedric was smirking at her
now.
"I didn't..." Hermione stammered, blushing "didn't mean I would know as much abo
ut it or anything..." She was looking sheepish, which was a rare event indeed. R
on gave a bark of laughter and got an evil glance from Hermione for his effort.
"I know, you're a smart girl," Cedric said. "It just sounded a bit funny after m
entioning a minor authority like Dumbledore first."
"Anyway," Ron continued, "this morning after the others had gone to breakfast, H
arry was crying and talking in his sleep. He said You-know-who's name, and then
your name several times. And he kept repeating 'please, no' many times. It sound
ed like..." Ron was looking down. "It sounded like youâ "
"Like I was doing something unpleasant to Harry." Cedric finished. "I see. I gue
ss I had become suspicious, too."
"I'm sorry," Hermione said. "It's just that we don't really know you, and Harry
is our best friend."
"I understand," Cedric assured, "Don't worry about it. I hope you'll get to know
me, though. But I still don't get all of it. Why is Harry shutting me out if he
's in love with me?"
"What you have to grasp about Harry..." Hermione said.
"...is that he has a hero complex," Ron said. He had finally caught up with Herm
ione's track of thought.
"Exactly," Hermione said. "He loves you, but he's afraid of what You-Know-Who mi
ght do to you. I bet that's what he's having nightmares about."
"Oh!" Cedric said. "Now I get it. The heroic little sod thinks he is protecting
me by getting me out of his life."
"He may be right," Hermione reminded him. "It would be safer for you not to get
involved."
"I don't care. I'm not the underage here. Why didn't he ask me?"
"He must think highly of you," Hermione guessed. "He knew you wouldn't care. But
he does, so he tried. The problem is that he loves you, so he's all bent out of
shape and miserable about it."
"He's not the only one," Cedric said. "Now, how obstinate is he?"
"Very," Hermione said. Ron nodded.
"We'd better have a good plan of attack, then." Cedric said, and they started to
brainstorm.
Meanwhile, in an empty classroom back inside Hogwarts, there was another convers
ation going on about Harry, one in which he was involved himself. He had met Cho
while wandering aimlessly around and wondering where Ron and Hermione had gone
to. Cho had unceremoniously pushed him into the closest room, and started yellin
g at him.
"What an earth happened to you?" she was asking at the moment. "You seemed such
a nice person, and then you pull a stunt like this! Do you have any idea what th
is is doing to Cedric?"
"But I didn't do anything..." Harry tried weakly.
"You sure didn't. You didn't talk to him nor hug him nor give him any explanatio
n. You just dumped him like a sack of garbage!" Cho shouted, and Harry was serio
usly alarmed. "I can't believe I was worried about Cedric breaking your heart!"
"This is not so easy for me eithâ "
There was a loud whacking noise and suddenly Harry's head was thrown sideways as
his cheek gained a red mark. It hurt. He had mostly been staring at his feet, s
o he never saw it coming. Cho's Quidditch-trained hand delivered a perfectly aim
ed slap in his face, hard enough to rattle his teeth.
"Now listen to me, you self-centered, heartless brat!" Cho ranted. "If you reall
y are stupid enough to turn down Cedric, the least you can do is to meet him fac
e to face, explain to him why, and apologise."
"But..."
"No buts, Harry. I said I might help you in the smacking business if Cedric brea
ks your heart. And you I barely know. Cedric is my best friend. Did you really t
hink I wouldn't do the same for him, and more?"
"No," Harry said miserably, "not really. I wasn't really thinkingâ ¦"
"Right. And believe me, this wasn't anything compared to what I'll do to you if
you don't treat him nice. If it won't work for you two, that's okay. But this is
no way to treat someone who loves you. You are breaking his heart on purpose, y
ou know you are. So you'd better talk to him, or I will smack you off your broom
so hard you'll never want to fly again. See if I don't."
And with that, Cho stormed out, leaving Harry stunned and feeling guilty. But al
so somehow relieved. He felt like he'd been having a bad dream, or being sick, a
nd was now startled awake by the blow. Cho was right, it was time to face the mu
sic.
But when Harry was about to leave the classroom himself, there was a gruff cough
ing sound, and a figure with a limp emerged from behind a huge cupboard near the
corner of the room.
"Sorry, lad," Mad-Eye said, his magical eye spinning wildly. "Didn't mean to eav
esdrop on you."
"Then why did you?" asked Harry, so startled and angry that he overcame his timi
dness of the slightly mad professor Moody.
"I didn't want to embarrass the lass, who was so keen on spilling your secrets.
She was in full swing before I could make my presence known. But don't you worry
," he added, "I'm fully capable of keeping secrets. I am, after all, an auror."
"But this was a private conversation," Harry said, affronted, "and none of your
business."
"I know, and I apologise once more," Moody said. "But if that was a conversation
, her arguments were pretty strong. Left quite a mark on your cheek, she did..."
"I think I deserved that, actually," Harry confessed, feeling a bit better.
"You might be right. Now, if you let me advice you on this confidential matter,
you should exercise utmost secrecy. If, as I am to understand, you really are in
love with Cedric Diggory, keep it a secret. Don't reveal it to anybody at all,
if you can help it. You are no ordinary boy, and there are people who would use
this to hurt you, or Cedric, or both."
"But..." Harry started, blushing.
"By all means talk to him, and keep snogging him, if that is what you want," Moo
dy actually winked at this point, and it wasn't pretty. "You don't have to worry
about getting in trouble, as far as I'm concerned. I am old enough to know ther
e is nothing at all you can do to change your heart. It loves and hates as it pl
eases. Just make sure nobody else has a reason to suspect, okay? And tell Cedric
and his friend there the same."
"Okay," Harry said, "Thanks."
"Nothing to thank me for, really," Mad-Eye concluded. "And now I have some urgen
t business to attend to. On your way, Potter."
Harry went, confused but relieved. A professor had found them out, and the sky h
ad not fallen. Even more, his love for Cedric had been accepted by Moody, who wa
s the very person Harry had most feared would discover their affair. The secret
seemed to be in safe and friendly hands.
"All right, I think we have our plan," Hermione said. "Now, Cedric, can you tell
us where Harry might be found?"
"Me?" Cedric asked, wide-eyed with surprise. "How should I now? He doesn't even
talk to me."
"Umm, are you sure you're being honest with us? I have a feeling you have done s
ome quite creative spellwork lately, concerning Harry."
"Oh my. You are a smart girl," Cedric said after a moment of stunned silence. "N
o wonder you are breaking all my test score records for the decade."
"What are you two talking about?" Ron asked. "Why doesn't anybody ever tell me w
hat's going on?"
"Weren't you curious about the unlikely event of Cedric turning up in the prefec
t's bathroom just when Harry was there? Same thing with the owlery. Hogwarts is
a big place. I think he put some kind of homing spell on Harry. So that he could
get more chances to meet him."
"Troll's eye. That is exactly what I did," Cedric confessed. "I was actually qui
te proud of myself after figuring out a way to do it. It's not something they te
ach in the classes."
"Well, it is an intrusion of one's privacy, after all."
"Nothing compared to Marauder's Map, if Harry's description was anything like ac
curate. So don't even try to look disapproving, Hermione," Cedric admonished. "Y
ou would do the same, were you in love."
Hermione looked furtive. "So, where to?" she asked.
Cedric's tracking method was quite a clever one, even Hermione had to admit that
. It involved a plain looking notebook with a hair from Harry's head that Cedric
had found on his robe after Harry had crashed into him what seemed like ages ag
o, and a quill. When Cedric wrote the question "Whatever happened to Harry?" in
any page of his book, the book answered by writing Harry's current location, lik
e "Harry is in Gryffindor common room" or "Harry is 120 yards to the west sittin
g on a stone wall". And when he overlined his original question, both the questi
on and the answer disappeared. One of the clever aspects was that Cedric could u
se the book as an ordinary notebook, too, so it didn't look like a magical objec
t at all.
This time, the book told them Harry was to be found from the top of the Astronom
y Tower, so that was where the trio headed. Some preparations later, Ron and Her
mione bobbed their heads above the top floor level, climbing the stairs.
"There you are, Harry!" they said in unison, "we've been looking for you everywh
ere."
"Oh that's what you've been up to. I was trying to find you, too," Harry replied
. "Then I came here to think."
"Oh. What about?" asked Ron.
"Cedric. And me. Have you seen him, by any chance?"
"No," said Ron.
"Just in passing," said Hermione. "Why?"
But before Harry had a chance to answer, Cedric himself ran up the stairs, wavin
g at them. He stopped a couple of steps before the top.
"Hi Harry," he said. "I've been trying to find you. I followed your friends."
"What is going on here?" Harry asked, obviously suspicious. "A national Find you
rself a Harry contest?"
"No. This is important. Please don't run away this time. Okay?" Cedric was stari
ng intently at Harry. So intently, it seemed, that he missed a step. His foot sl
ipped from a stair and he fell face down on the stairs, hit the stone with a lou
d, sickening thud, rolled over and slid back down, moaning.
"Cedric!" Harry shouted, sprung up and run to the stairs. Ron and Hermione were
standing still, gaping.
"Oh no!" Harry wailed. Cedric was lying next to the staircase wall, a big bruise
on his forehead. Blood was trickling down his face. Harry rushed to him, went d
own on his knees and very, very tenderly cupped Cedric's face in his hands. Cedr
ic's eyes were closed, and remained so.
"Oh, please be all right, please." Harry talked frantically, with tears falling
on Cedric's face. "Can you hear me? Can you move? Please be all right. I love yo
u, Cedric. Don't you dare to die on me. I'm sorry I tried to push you away. I di
dn't really want to, but I thought it was better for you. I'm sorry. Please come
back. I love you so much." And then he bent down and carefully kissed the other
boy on the lips.
"That felt nice." Cedric said suddenly, after Harry had pulled away. "Could you
maybe say that once again?" He opened his eyes and looked straight at Harry, wit
h all the power and beauty that his silvery eyes could muster.
"What?" blurted Harry. "Bloody boggarts, you scared me!"
"Not that." Cedric said, smiling. "The bit you said earlier. Something about lov
e."
"I love you," Harry said. "You know I do."
"Now I do. But you had to tell me that, don't you see?" Cedric explained. "I can
't get to know you if you don't talk to me."
"I'm sorry. I really am," Harry said. "From now on I'll tell you everything," he
promised. "But are you badly hurt? Can you move?"
"I'm not hurt at all," Cedric replied. Suddenly the bruise faded and the blood d
isappeared. "I'm sorry if I scared you, but I just had to somehow get through to
you. You're one stubborn piece of work, you know. I thought the letter would wo
rk, but no. You had to play it tough." Cedric grinned mischievously. "It was a d
irty trick, though," he admitted, "sorry about that."
The relief was flooding into Harry, a joy so powerful he couldn't really get ang
ry. He suddenly realised that he must be the happiest boy alive. Cedric was all
right and loved him. And he was free to love back if he wanted to, and Voldemort
be damned. He smiled at Cedric, bent down again and kissed him once more. Cedri
c wrapped his arms around Harry's slender frame and pulled him into a comfortabl
e embrace. They got lost in each other's eyes, kissing and murmuring sweet silly
nonsense at each other in between the kisses. Soon they had completely forgotte
n that the rest of the world existed at all.
"Okay," Ron said, "we'd better go and stand guard. I can't watch any more of thi
s. Let's go, Hermione... Hey, come on... Hermione!"
Her eyes remained glued to the embracing boys until Ron managed to drag her out
of sight. Her eyes were brimming with tears. A happy sigh escaped her lips.
"Wasn't that the sweetest thing ever?" she asked.
The next couple of weeks before the second task of the tournament must have been
the happiest time Harry had ever known. He went to classes, ate, studied â just lik
e any other time in Hogwarts. But when nobody was looking, or at least when Harr
y thought nobody was looking, he was also dating the most gorgeous and charming
bloke he'd ever met. They couldn't be together as much as they'd have liked, but
still, an hour a day, a half an hour, a conversation, even just a moment a day
with Cedric made this the most magical of springs for Harry. He took advantage o
f his Invisibility Cloak almost nightly, sneaking to secret encounters with Cedr
ic. They spent a lot of time kissing, and doing things that were even better. Bu
t, unexpectedly, the best of all was just to sit with Cedric hand in hand or in
the safe nest of his lap, and talk.
They exchanged the stories of their lives. Harry told Cedric everything that he
remembered of his lonely childhood with the abominable Dursleys, his closet unde
r the stairs, the hundreds of owls and Hagrid coming for him, and the glory and
wonder of coming to Hogwarts for the first time. Cedric told markedly different
stories about his childhood by the river, his parents and their devotion to him,
and about friends and sunny days. But as happy as his life had been, it still h
ad its share of clouds, too. His father was overly proud of him in front of othe
rs, but very demanding. No matter how well he did, his father never seemed quite
satisfied. And Cedric's future had been planned out for him by his parents with
out ever asking what Cedric wanted for himself. Sometimes it seemed to Harry tha
t Cedric was living in a golden cage. He was well loved at home, but still a pri
soner of his parents expectations.
In other times, when he couldn't be with Cedric, Harry was trying to find a way
to breathe underwater. He still hadn't found any, and the time was running out.
On the Sunday just three days before the second task, the couple had sneaked thr
ough the secret tunnel that started under the Whomping Willow and ended in the S
hrieking Shack. The idea was to have some hours just for themselves. But Harry w
as feeling a rising anxiety about the task, and couldn't really stay relaxed. Wh
en Cedric asked if he had ants in his robes, Harry finally overcame his pride an
d asked Cedric for help.
"What!" Cedric exclaimed. "Why didn't you ask me before? I had no idea you hadn'
t gotten it all figured out. You're cutting it awfully thin, you know."
Harry looked sheepish. "I know. But can you think of anything?"
"Well, yes and no. I'm going to use bubblehead charm myself. But it's quite comp
licated, took me two and a half weeks to master. I don't think I can teach it to
you in just three days. Also, you'd need to practise in water, and we can't arr
ange much time together in the prefect's bathroom."
"Oh..." Harry looked mortified, and his anxiety about the tournament turned into
a real panic. Why had he been so stupid? He could have asked Cedric's help righ
t after they had made up. Harry kicked himself mentally, and not just once. Then
he realised Cedric was speaking again.
"Sorry, what did you say?" he asked. "I was just calling myself all sorts of nam
es."
"With a good reason, too. Anyway, excluding the bubblehead charm, there are two
ways of doing this that I can think of," Cedric repeated. "One could change into
a dolphin or something, but you can't do human transfiguration yet, can you?"
"No," Harry admitted.
"Okay. That takes even longer to learn than the bubblehead charm. But there is a
third way. I remember reading about a grass or a weed or something, that can do
the trick. And no practise involved. You just have to get it somewhere."
"A grass?" Harry asked, grasping at the straw like a drowning boy he was afraid
of becoming.
"Some sort of a magical plant, anyway. It's supposed to make you a sort of half
fish, so you can breathe underwater. I read about it in some Herbology book. I c
an't think of either the name of the book nor the plant right now, though. But t
he book was definitely from the library, and not even from the restricted sectio
n."
"Sounds great," Harry said, letting out a sigh of relief.
"But Harry, promise me something, okay?"
"What?"
"If you can't find a way to do it, please don't take part at all. It could be re
ally dangerous, and I can't stand the idea of losing you." Cedric looked at him,
gray eyes full of concern.
"I can't promise you that. You were there when this whole thing started. Don't y
ou remember? The stupid goblet spitting my name is supposed to be a binding magi
cal contract. I have to do this, whether I want to or not."
"Bloody hell, I had forgotten that. Sorry."
"No big deal. And don't you worry, I have no intention of dying for a mere compe
tition. I love you way too much."
Cedric's serious face melted to a heartbreaking smile. He cupped Harry's face in
his hands and kissed his lips with utmost tenderness. "I love you too, wonderbo
y," he replied huskily. The second kiss turned into a heated french affair. Afte
r a while Cedric came up for air. He looked determined.
"Let's go find the book, then. It shouldn't be too hard."
"Wait," Harry said, and kissed him once more. Getting to know of the way to do t
he task had unwound him considerably, and it's amazing what a little snogging ca
n do to ease worries. Harry was quite relaxed now, except one part of him that t
he making out was making quite rigid. "Speaking about hard, maybe we should stay
here a while longer, after all. There's plenty of time for the library, and I b
et you are too hard to be allowed in public, too." To get Cedric altogether out
of the serious mood, he tickled him on the sides, which to Harry's continuing de
light were quite sensitive. Cedric burst into convulsive giggles.
"I'll show you hard, whelp!" Cedric threatened when he was able to, launching a
tickling attack of his own.
"I was... sort of hoping... you would..." Harry replied, getting frequently inte
rrupted by uncontrollable laughter. All and all, it took the boys quite a while
before they managed to leave for the library.
Of course, the book was not there. They searched every shelf of the Herbology se
ction, trying to look like they weren't together at all, especially if other stu
dents happened to be nearby. Nothing. Cedric even asked Madam Pince, which was,
as usual, a futile attempt. Instead of being an invaluable aid, like a good libr
arian is, she was a stickler with petty rules, and so distrusting of the student
s, she never volunteered any useful information. When they were leaving, defeate
d, Cedric suddenly had a moment of inspiration. He returned to Madam Pince.
"Look, I just remembered the name of the book," he told Madam Pince. "It is Magi
cal Plants of the Mediterranean or something like that. I've been trying to find
it for ages. Are you sure someone is not keeping it longer than allowed?"
"Impossible!" Madam Pince exclaimed, looking extremely affronted. "I always know
if that happens. Do you really think I'd leave the books unprotected in the gri
my hands of you rascals? I've put spells on them! And the correct title is Magic
al Water Plants of the Mediterranean, boy."
"Then you must know who has the book, don't you?" Cedric asked.
"Of course I do! But it's none of your business. Professors can keep books howev
er long they like."
"Thank you, Madam Pince. That helps enormously. I just hope I'll find it before
I have bothered all the professors..." And he gave her his very best smile, whic
h he knew capable of charming even the most severe of old ladies. But this time
it was a close call. Madam Pince kept looking at him suspiciously for quite a wh
ile, trying to decide if she was more flattered by the smile or scandalized by t
he audacity of the words. Just when Cedric felt his smile starting to freeze, sh
e finally replied.
"All right, Mr. Diggory," Madam Pince relented. "After all, you have always retu
rned your books in pristine condition. Professor Moody has it, if you really mus
t know."
"I'm very much obliged." And Cedric took her hand and gave it a little kiss, bow
ing like a courtier. Very few people can pull that off without looking ridiculou
s, but Cedric was definitely one of them. Under Harry's incredulous eyes Madam P
ince got faint roses blossoming on her wrinkled cheeks and did the unthinkable:
rewarded Cedric with a fraction of a smile.
"Go on, then," she said. "You too, Mr. Potter. I'm going to close the Library fo
r today. And Mr. Diggory, tell Professor Moody to return the book, it's six mont
hs overdue."
"I will, Madam Pince," Cedric promised. "Thank you."
"It was amazing!" Harry exclaimed, when he was telling the story to Ron and Herm
ione late that night in the Gryffindor common room. "I never imagined Madam Pinc
e even capable of being friendly and helpful to anyone. But then again, Cedric i
s quite irresistible."
"Speak for yourself, mate," Ron said grinning.
Harry looked fittingly embarrassed, but decided to defend his point. "Well, he i
s. Hermione, support me on this."
"What? Of course he is," she said matter-of-factly. "I would take him any day of
the week, if he wasn't, you know, out of bounds."
"You would?" Ron asked, looking positively alarmed.
"Sure, he's such a doll," Hermione said casually. "But back to more important bu
siness; I must confess it never really crossed my mind to look for a plant. And
there is another thing that is curious too, don't you think?"
"What?" Ron asked, still ruffled.
"Alastor Moody, once again. He saved Harry from Snape but confiscated the Maraud
er's Map. He spied on Harry's little scene with Cho. And now this."
"He didn't confiscate the map," Harry protested. "He asked politely if he could
have it. And he's been helping me, too. He practically told me to use the Firebo
lt in the first task."
"I know," Hermione said. "But still, he's popping up suspiciously often."
"You suspected Cedric because of that, too," Ron said.
"And I was right, wasn't I?" Hermione asked rhetorically. "He just didn't happen
to meet Harry by chance. He had set a homing spell on him."
"All right. I'll keep my eyes open and try to get the map back, okay?" Harry pro
mised. "But first I still have to get the book somehow."
"No problem, it's practically done," Hermione said cryptically, causing both boy
s to stare at him, mystified. "Hey, Neville!"
"Yes, Hermione?"
"Could you let me borrow me the book you got from Moody?" she asked politely.
"MagicalWaterPlants of the Mediterranean?"
"That's the one. Would you be a gent and bring it here?"
"Sure," Neville said. "Hold on a minute."
"Hermione, you're a bloody genius!" Ron exclaimed. "How did you know that?"
"All I did was look at the cover back when Mad-Eye lent it to Neville. Come on,
it is a book. Of course I wanted to know what it was about. Who wouldn't?" But d
espite trying to look at least a bit modest, Hermione was lifting her chin proud
ly and looking extremely pleased with herself. Soon Neville was back, and now he
sat with them and offered the book to Hermione.
"So... what are you looking for exactly?" Neville asked.
"There is supposed to be a grass or something that makes it possible to breath u
nder water," Harry explained. "I need it for the second task."
"Gillyweed," Neville said at once. "It's not a grass, though. It's a seaweed, a
sort of large algae. It gives you temporary gills and makes your hands and feet
webbed, like fins, so you can swim faster, too."
Harry and Ron goggled at him, flabbergasted, but Hermione just smiled sweetly an
d offered the book back. "Could you show us, please?"
Once Neville had (very quickly) found the correct page, they all read the passag
e through carefully. By the time Ron finished, Hermione had read it twice alread
y.
"It says here gillyweed is used in various potions," she pondered. "Snape must h
ave it in his cupboards."
"I wouldn't like to steal from his stores," Harry said. "It's too risky. If I go
t caught, he'd make sure I'd be disqualified from the tournament."
"There's an easier way," Neville said. "Haven't you ever explored Professor Spro
ut's glasshouses?" he sounded astonished. "You should. They are wonderful. There
are huge amounts of strange, exotic and beautiful plants there. In the round gl
asshouse she has water plants, including gillyweed."
"I think we're going to see the place very soon," Harry said, starting to smile
widely. "Neville, you're a treasure. Could I persuade you to come with us, show
us the sights and make sure we get the correct weed?"
"I... I wouldn't miss it f... for the world. Thank you, Harry." Neville stammere
d, flustered because of the praise he was unaccustomed to.
"No, I'm the one who should be thanking," Harry said. "You just saved my neck."
The next day, they robbed the glass house. Well, in a very small scale, since th
ey only took enough gillyweed to fill a small jar. The excursion was very unusua
l, as their adventures went, since it could be done in clear daylight with minim
al risk of getting into trouble. The only really forbidden part was the quickly
accomplished deed of cutting some gillyweed and stuffing it into the jar. All th
e seriously dangerous plants were in a different glasshouse, which was pretty mu
ch impenetrable for the students, and the other ones were, if not really open fo
r business, not out of bounds either. They were just very seldom visited, except
during Herbology classes.
Also, for once, Neville was the one in charge. His knowledge about various plant
s was astonishing, and his enthusiasm for them made him act much more self-assur
ed and relaxed than his usual self. All and all, it wasn't a bad way to spend a
couple of hours. Once Harry and Hermione saw how much the visit meant for Nevill
e, they didn't have the heart to leave any sooner. Ron, true to form, grumbled a
bit, but tagged along anyway. And Harry would have sacrificed quite a bit more
than a little time to get where he now was: properly prepared for the looming ta
sk. It was a very reassuring feeling.
The next morning brought an owl from Cedric, arranging a meeting for that very n
ight. Again, it was unsigned and wouldn't have given anything away to an outside
r.
Meet me tonight at eleven on the corridor where we crashed for the first time. W
ear your cloak.
Love.
A tad after the designated time Harry skidded to a halt on the familiar corner.
At first glance Cedric was nowhere to be seen. Then Harry heard some noise and w
hen he turned to look, the face of his boyfriend appeared from behind a column a
dozen yards away.
"Hello?" Cedric asked, whispering. Harry let the invisibility cloak fall and rus
hed into his arms. He felt it had been way too long since their last meeting on
Sunday. And if his hungry kiss was anything to go by, Cedric felt exactly the sa
me. After some literally breathtaking moments Cedric gave Harry a smile that rem
inded him of the smiles he got when they were still at the early tentative glanc
es stage of their relationship. It was beautiful, but etched with sadness or wor
ry.
"Put your cloak back on," Cedric said. "I have found a better place for us."
"What about you? Are you okay? The cloak should be big enough for both."
"I'm fine, and a prefect. We do have a bit more slack. Besides, if someone sees
me alone, it's a lot less trouble than if we were both caught. Also, we have som
e climbing to do, and it would be too hard if we weren't able to move independen
tly. Come on."
Cedric led him a few corridors further, and then stopped in front of a strange l
ooking statue depicting three gargoyles. He faced the statue, his face solemn, a
nd voiced:
"Oh ye beasts of noble fright,
Let us pass to the place of height,
Under moon and stars to see their light."
There was a low melodious sound, like a distant bell. Behind the statue the wall
disappeared. Harry wasn't quite sure how it happened, but in an instant there w
as a staircase instead. A new secret of Hogwarts had just revealed itself to him
. He took the cloak off again, and after looking at Cedric who was smiling at hi
s amazement, went in. Cedric followed, and somehow the wall remade itself after
them. The staircase became pitch-black.
"Lumos." Cedric said, and his wand started to glow.
The darkness of the staircase gave way to the light of Cedric's wand. The stairs
were spiralling up and up above them, and they followed. It was a bare and rath
er claustrophobic space, in places not even wide enough to allow them to climb s
ide by side. After several minutes, Harry couldn't contain his curiosity.
"Where exactly are we going?", he asked.
"Our new secret love nest, where else would you think I'd be bothered to take yo
u in the middle of the night?" Cedric teased, with laughter in his voice. "It's
not much longer," he added then. "I'd rather not spoil the surprise."
"Okay," Harry said, and went on climbing. A bit after his feet had started to pr
otest, the staircase ended on the edge of a round room, with beautiful ornate co
lumns supporting a deep blue cupola above. In between each of the columns there
were double doors made mostly of colourful stained glass. They all led to a balc
ony a few yards wide, surrounding the whole room.
When Harry looked up, he noticed that in the dome there were thousands of stars,
apparently painted with gold. Each had a name tag beside it, and all the conste
llations were connected with silver lines. The ecliptic and the other important
planes of the celestial sphere were all represented, too.
"Wow," Harry breathed. "What a beautiful place."
"Let's go to the loft," Cedric said. "It's even better from there." He started f
or the spiral staircase in the middle of the room, made of gracefully decorated
wrought iron, black as the night. It led to a narrow circular walkway between th
e top of the stairs and a huge round divan or sofa surrounding it in all directi
ons, with plenty of silk cushions everywhere.
"And I thought you were just kidding! If this isn't a love nest, I don't know wh
at is," Harry said. "It's a tad on the grand side, though; looks like it was mad
e for full-blown orgies!"
"What a dirty imagination you have," Cedric said, feigning dignity. "That's not
what it was built for at all. This is the Old Observatory."
"How come I have never even heard about this? And how can it be an observatory,
when all the windows are down there?"
"You haven't heard about this, because it was lost somewhere in the eighteenth c
entury, according to..."
"Don't tell me," Harry interrupted. "I know. It must have been 'Hogwarts: A Hist
ory'."
"Spot on. But if you haven't read it," Cedric asked, "how did you know?"
"Hermione keeps babbling about it and demanding us to read it, me and Ron. She's
been at it for four years, and no end in sight."
"She's right, you know. It's a very interesting book. Anyway, since this one was
lost, they started to call this Old Observatory or Lost Observatory, and built
a new top onto what was left of the Astronomy Tower."
"But how could they lose this?" Harry asked. "It's a building! And how come it's
still here, if it was lost?"
"Okay, to answer that, we have to go to the balcony. Come on." Cedric went down
the stairs and opened a set of doors. When they reached the balustrade, Harry ga
sped. They were very high up in the mountains, and Hogwarts was nowhere to be se
en. The stairs had been long, sure, but nothing compared to the height of a moun
tain.
"But..." Harry started.
"...where is the school?" Cedric continued. "We're on the wrong side. Follow me.
" They walked around the balcony. On the other side there was a breathtaking vis
ta opening to a valley between the mountains. The air was clear as crystal and s
omewhere so far down it made his head spin, Harry could see Hogwarts School of W
itchcraft and Wizardry glimmering like a jewel in the night. It was a viewpoint
of an eagle, and the school looked like a tiny but perfect toy model of itself.
Harry was speechless, and could only stare in wonder.
"Someone actually stole this from the top of the Astronomy Tower, overnight, and
never told anybody," Cedric told Harry. "Or at least it never became public kno
wledge what had happened to the Observatory. The prime suspect was and still is
Samuel Stargazer. He was the headmaster at the time, and really keen on astronom
y. He made several official complaints about the clouds disturbing his observati
ons, before he was made the headmaster himself. And apparently he was quite an e
ccentric person to boot; the kind that actually might do a thing like stealing a
n observatory."
"And how did you find the way here?" Harry wanted to know.
"I was really interested in the story," Cedric said, "and did a lot of research
and a bit of spying. After I had found enough clues in musty old documents in th
e archive section of the library to be sure the observatory still existed, and t
o pinpoint the entrance to the gargoyle statue, I arranged an alarm system. Afte
r several months of lookout I finally saw Dumbledore entering the place. That's
how I got to know the password poem."
"Nice," Harry said appreciatively. "This is a wonderful place. But let's go back
in, it's freezing out here."
"I can warm you up..." Cedric suggested with a grin.
"Did I see some nice warm blankets up there in the orgy loft?" Harry asked.
"You might have. At least there are some." The boys climbed back up and made a c
omfortable nest for themselves with the pillows and a couple of blankets. Harry
snuggled under Cedric's arm and sighed happily. They were gazing at the roof; th
ere was something funny about it, but Harry couldn't really put a finger on it.
Then he noticed something.
"Hey, is that star moving?"
"Look closer... It's not a star; it's the planet Venus, the evening star and the
goddess of love. It's rising."
"But..." Harry looked around, and realised that everything that he had supposed
were painted on the dome seemed to move with his head, like they were infinitely
far, and not attached to the ceiling at all.
"Remember, this is an observatory. And not just any observatory. It is one of th
e Nine Wonders of the Wizarding World," Cedric said. "Sadly, I don't know its se
crets. But I have figured out a couple of tricks the dome can do. First of all,
it always shows everything in their correct position, no matter where in the hal
l you are. And secondly," Cedric clapped his hands twice, sharply. The dome disa
ppeared, leaving only the markings overlaid on the real sky. Everything matched
perfectly. There was the crescent moon rising over the mountains, and its path d
rawn with a precise silver arc on the sky. Same with the planets. All the stars
had their names hanging beside them, and constellations were still connected wit
h glimmering lines. All and all, it was an astronomer's dream come true.
"Wow!" Harry said again, and they both fell silent for a long while, just studyi
ng the incredible sky. Finally Harry nudged his boyfriend. "Thank you for showin
g me this," he said. "It's beautiful. Almost as good as you."
"I love you, Harry Potter," Cedric said seriously. "And I'm afraid of tomorrow.
I don't want to lose you. I wanted to bring you here before the task. You know,
just in case."
"I love you, too, and we're going to be fine." Harry said. "Don't be so pessimis
tic. It can't possibly be worse than the dragons."
"You don't know that. Promise me you're going to be careful."
"I promise, silly. I'll be as careful as I possibly can."
"No you won't. I know you that well already, wonderboy," Cedric said, but smiled
. "I've seen how you play Quidditch. You're reckless. But maybe that's just why
I love you so much."
"You're no wimp yourself. Now shut up, and make love to me, okay?"
Cedric shut up, and did. Their love that night was marked with urgency and passi
on borne out of uncertainty of what the following day might bring. The moon and
stars were tracking the pass of time above their entangled bodies, unheeded, and
it was very nearly morning before the lovers finally left for their respective
beds back in Hogwarts.
Later that morning, Harry overslept. Ron wasn't there to wake him up, and he was
badly in the need of sleep. He was dreaming of flying with Cedric, and suddenly
his broom started to jolt and buckle in the dream, shaking him. Harry woke up.
Dobby was staring at his face from the distance of only a couple of inches. He w
as shaking Harry by the shoulder.
"Harry Potter must wake up!" Dobby shouted, agitated. "Harry Potter is late, he
must not sleep. They have taken his Wheezy and Harry Potter must get him back."
"What?" Harry croaked, his throat dry.
"Your Wheezy, sir. Harry Potter must wake up. Harry Potter must run. Second task
is in ten minutes. Harry Potter must not be late."
When the reality of the words penetrated Harry's foggy mind, his sleepiness evap
orated in an instant. He grabbed his clothes, got dressed as quickly as he possi
bly could, stuffed the jar of gillyweed in his pocket, and ran.
"Good luck, Harry Potter, sir! Good luck!" Dobby shouted after him.
Harry made it, but it was as close as it gets. Before he could worry about it, t
hough, he was standing knee-deep in extremely cold water, reluctantly eating gil
lyweed. The crowd was laughing at him, since he didn't show any signs of doing m
agic. Harry slowly waded deeper, trembling, until the water reached his mid-thig
h. While looking around, he noticed Fred and George grinning and waving at him w
ith some other Gryffindors. It cheered him up, and he continued munching the gil
lyweed. It looked somewhat like greyish rat-tails and was both slimy and chewy.
But to Harry's relief, it worked. Breathing air suddenly became hard and the wat
er, instead of cold, started to feel refreshing. Harry dived, his mouth open, an
d his newly formed gills started to filter oxygen from the water straight into h
is blood-stream. His toes and fingers elongated and became webbed, propelling hi
m fast in his new element. Harry had become aquatic.
Quite a while later, the Weasley twins were still sitting on a bench amongst all
of the other students, except for the four champions. Unlike before, they had u
nusually dull expressions on their identical faces.
"A real spectator sport, this one, eh?" said Fred, leaning on his hands.
"I can't believe they actually dropped Quidditch for this. I mean, the dragons w
ere all right..." said George.
"The dragons were brilliant!"
"That they were. But this is stupid."
"Moronic. We've been here what, almost an hour."
"Fiftyfive minutes or so, I reckon..." said George.
"...after this thing actually started, and at least half an hour before that. An
d we've seen what?" asked Fred.
"Two bubbleheads, one half-arse transfiguration..."
"...and a pair of gills, just barely."
"And then they all dived."
"And that's it, folks. Show's over. All we've seen after that..."
"...is the damn water."
"Stupid age line. We could have been in there, instead of cooling our arses here
."
"The water's even colder."
"Yeah, you're right. It's bloody freezing, I tried."
"That's a consolation, at least."
"I'm so much happier now."
"Yeah, but bored."
"So bored... I think I'm gonna fall asleep."
"Don't blame you. This is idiotic."
"Good night, George."
"Night, Fred."
In the meantime, at the bottom of the lake, Harry was in trouble. While the audi
ence up on the shore had been waiting, Harry had been busy. He had fought off a
couple of grindylows, found the hostages and freed Ron. But the merpeople hadn't
allowed him to free the other hostages. The three sleeping beauties, Cho, Hermi
one and a girl that could be no other than Fleur Delacour's sister had remained
in their ropes until the other champions had started to arrive. The strange envi
ronment and somewhat menacing band of merpeople had made up Harry's mind; he had
decided to wait and make sure that all the hostages were freed before returning
to the surface.
The first one to arrive had been Cedric, with a huge bubble around his head. It
had distorted his features a bit, but Harry had still been able to see the encou
raging smile Cedric had offered him. They hadn't been able to speak. Cedric had
waved his hands and pointed upwards and Harry had somehow tried to explain that
everything was fine, and he'd be coming soon. Cedric had obviously wanted Harry
to ascend with him. Harry had shaken his head vigorously. For a demonstration, h
e had shown Cedric how fast he could swim with his webbed feet. Finally Cedric h
ad given up, shaken his head with something that looked like a rueful smile, and
started to tow Cho up to the surface.
The next visitor had been Viktor Krum, half-transformed into a shark. He had bee
n fast and efficient in freeing his hostage and leaving. Just when he had disapp
eared into the watery distance with Hermione, Fleur had arrived, looking unchara
cteristically messy. She had had several cuts on her feet and hands and she had
been able to swim using one hand only; it was quite obvious she had had rough ti
me with grindylows. She had also had an air-bubble around her head. Harry had he
lped her to release her sister, and they had started their trip up to the surfac
e together. After leaving the mervillage behind, Harry had taken both sleepers i
n tow, because Fleur had been unbearably slow. Both her injuries and the burden
of her little sister were taking their toll.
Then they had seen a huge mass of seaweed floating above their heads. It had loo
ked menacing, and for a good reason. It turned out to be a sort of floating fort
ress; the seaweed acted as a mother ship for a horde of grindylows.
So, at the time when the Weasley twins were dying of boredom, Harry was fighting
for his life, and for the lives of Ron and a little girl he didn't even know. T
he very first attack had forced Fleur and Harry to separate. When Harry realised
he had to somehow both fight and save the hostages, he did the only possible th
ing: tactical retreat. He towed Ron and little Miss Delacour away from the grind
ylows as fast as he possibly could. Then, having reached a spot with clear water
s above, Harry put the Banishing Charm into good use and sent Fleur's sister and
Ron zooming up towards the surface, one after the other. Then he turned back to
wards the horde of grindylows approaching him at an alarming rate. But now Harry
's hands were free, and he could fully concentrate on staying alive and helping
Fleur, who was facing the other half of the greedy water demons, hell-bent on ta
sting some fresh human.
At the same time elsewhere, the audience had witnessed first Cedric and later Kr
um returning safely with their loved ones (or in Cedric's case, best friend).
"What a spectacle!" said Fred sarcastically.
"Yeah, they've gotten dames from the waves. Hurrah!" replied George.
"Too bad we missed all the good bits..."
"I'm not so sure anymore," said George. "The wet clothes did cling to the said d
ames quite interestingly..."
"Hear, hear!" said Fred.
After he had dried himself with a spell, Cedric went to look for Neville. He had
, of course, heard from Harry about Neville's expertise on Herbology and involve
ment in the gillyweed business. And now he was worried, again, and for a good re
ason. He found Neville sitting with Ginny and other Gryffindors nearby.
"You're Neville Longbottom, aren't you?" he asked.
"Yes..." Neville replied, sounding quite befuddled and a bit nervous.
"Can I have a word, please?"
"Yes, of course," Neville replied and followed Cedric a bit further from the oth
er Gryffindors. "What is it?" he then asked, even more nervously.
"About Harry and his gillyweed. How long does the effect last?" Cedric asked, cu
tting straight into the heart of the matter. "He's been under over an hour alrea
dy. What happens if the gillyweed stops working while he's still at the bottom o
f the lake?"
Neville paled a little, but he had an answer ready. "It might wear off any minut
e now, but he has some extra with him in a jar. He can eat that and get back up
safely," Neville said. "I hope," he then added, with a slightly trembling voice.
"Me too," Cedric agreed. "Thanks."
"Don't mention it," Neville replied. "But how did you know to ask me about the g
illyweed?"
"Harry told me." Cedric said, regarding the plump boy. "He thinks highly of you,
you know."
"I..." Neville started, looking bashful, but he never managed to finish. There w
as a commotion spreading through the crowd, and Cedric bolted in the middle of N
eville's sentence. Something was happening on the lake, and he needed a better v
iew. He ran back to the champion's box, which was on a high platform reaching ov
er the water, and thus commanded a perfect view over the water. The judges as we
ll as Cho, Krum and Hermione were staring at the lake and pointing.
Harry had managed to reach Fleur. They were now back to back, defending against
the grindylows coming from all directions except up. That was lucky, because it
allowed them to swim slowly upwards while fighting. With Fleur's injuries it wou
ld have been too risky to try a fast escape. The water demons were devilishly fa
st, and the champions were exhausted already. But it wasn't as dark as before, t
hey were obviously not very deep any more. Suddenly Harry started to feel short
of breath. The effect of the gillyweed was fading, fast. He took the jar out of
his pocket, but couldn't open it with just one hand.
Harry stopped his defensive spell work for a moment to open the jar, and one bra
ve-hearted grindylow instantly made a mad dash at him, sinking its sharp teeth i
nto Harry's hand. With horrible sluggishness the jar slipped from Harry's grip,
flipped first one way, then the other, and sunk all the time. Harry desperately
tried to catch it, but the trashing grindylow tearing at his hand was making his
movements erratic. Harry only managed to touch the jar with his fingertips, twi
ce, and then it was beyond his reach, glimmering tantalizingly as it sunk.
There was only one thought in Harry's head. "Air!" He stunned the water demon an
d managed to get rid of it. Then he looked at Fleur who stared at him, terrified
, she had obviously noticed that Harry didn't have the gills anymore. She pointe
d to the surface and Harry started to swim upwards as fast as he could. Fleur fo
llowed, but so did the remaining grindylows. After just a couple of meters Harry
felt the first creatures gripping his feet. He was out of air already, and the
surface seemed hopelessly far, even if it was less than ten meters away.
The excitement in the audience was caused by the two remaining hostages, who had
suddenly popped up to the surface. They instantly woke up, looked around and st
arted to swim ashore. But there was no sign of either Harry or Fleur. When Cedri
c saw that, he felt a terrible foreboding. He didn't stop to decide what would b
e the wisest thing to do. Instead, he ran to the railing of the platform and thr
ew himself over. Someone shrieked. In fact, quite a few someones. But only a mom
ent later the shouts of terror were replaced by a collective sigh of admiration.
The hostages were some way off from the shore, and Cedric didn't want to waste a
ny time on swimming. Instead, in the middle of his fall, he transfigured himself
into a beautiful white seagull. He spread his wings and soared high above the p
lace where the hostages had first come up. He could see movement down below the
surface, and not very deep either, maybe ten meters or so. Cedric the seagull ad
justed his wings and plunged into an exhilarating vertical dive.
He did what many seabirds do when they come by a nice school of fish swimming ne
ar the surface. He dived very fast with the wings close to his body and pierced
the water like an arrow. What usually surprises the fish, had a similar effect o
n grindylows. When Cedric suddenly dove amongst the water demons like a blinding
ly white, hissing thunderbolt, they scattered. What was left was Fleur looking r
ather pale, and Harry looking rather blue and glass-eyed. Cedric transfigured hi
mself back into his human form, swam to Harry, and pressed his lips firmly to Ha
rry's mouth. Then he exhaled a lungful of sweet, fresh air into Harry's mouth. O
nce he saw Harry's eyes looking at him, awake once more, he broke the kiss caref
ully and started to tow Harry up to the surface, hastily. After all, he had just
shared all the air he had. The grindylows had had enough of the excitement and
disappeared into the depths. After what seemed like a much longer and slower ris
e than it actually was, the two boys broke the surface of the lake. Harry's hand
s were wrapped around Cedric like he never wanted to let go again.
A few seconds later, Fleur joined them, and the audience went wild. If nothing e
lse, at least they knew that the second task, probably the most boring task to w
atch in the whole history of Tri-Wizard tournament, was finally over.
During the next days there were two main strands of contradicting gossip fightin
g each other out among the students of Hogwarts. One was centered around the sen
sational french kiss Fleur had inflicted upon unsuspecting Harry right after the
y both had been fixed by madame Pomfrey. Those rumours explored the possibilitie
s of underwater sex and seduction, and, as we all know, were groundless. But the
re was a substantial amount of students with an archetypal British view, that a
kiss involving a tongue or two couldn't possibly be a simple show of gratitude.
The French outlook, spiced with some veela ancestry, was of course different. Fl
eur said it best herself: "'Arry is 'ery cute when 'e is embarrassed." For her,
it was a reason good enough. Besides, she was right. Harry was extremely adorabl
e in a flamingly flustered way, when Cedric teased him about the kiss.
The other rumour was based on the more subtle but telling signals some of the mo
re observant students had seen passing between Harry and Cedric, who of course w
as in the limelight, being the evident hero of the second task. Harry's underwat
er heroics were mostly being ignored, since the audience hadn't seen any of it.
But they had seen Harry's arms wound around Cedric when the two of them surfaced
and Cedric towed Harry to the shore. And for those inclined to think along thos
e lines, it was not very hard to see the love and attraction between the two aft
er the idea had taken hold, however carefully Harry and Cedric imagined hiding t
heir passion. This second batch of rumours was of course much more dangerous and
even more scandalous than the French connection theory, and in general hit unco
mfortably close to the truth, even if the real details of their affair were not
known.
The rumours became so well established that Cedric and Harry decided to cease me
eting each other for a while to cut the wings of the gossip. They managed to sta
y true to their decision for some days. By the next Hogsmeade visit, however, th
ey were already frustrated about not having been able to meet, and they simply h
ad to do something about it, despite all the rumours.
That particular Hogsmeade Saturday was shaping up to a busy day indeed, because
Harry, Ron and Hermione also had an appointment with Sirius. The plan was first
to meet and feed poor starving Sirius, and later Harry was to sneak into the Shr
ieking Shack for a tryst with Cedric.
At first everything went as planned. They met the joyfully jumping but shaggy an
d thin Padfoot outside Hogsmeade, and he led them to a cave up in the foothills
of the mountains, where he was staying. Then he turned into an equally dishevele
d, hollow-cheeked Sirius Black. Harry, Ron and Hermione took out their offerings
acquired from the house-elf-run kitchen of Hogwarts. Before any civilized pleas
antries, Sirius attacked the food like he hadn't eaten for at least a fortnight.
Only after he had devoured half a chicken, a whole cheese and a quarter of a la
rge loaf of bread, he finally looked up from the food, greeted them properly and
smiled.
"So... How are you Harry?" Sirius asked.
"I'm... " Harry grinned, "I'm smashing, actually. Got through the second task!"
"So I see. Good for you!" Sirius slapped him playfully in the back, but then gre
w serious again. "I'm sorry for being a such spoilsport, Harry, but you shouldn'
t forget there is someone out there who tries to hurt you during the tournament.
"
"You don't know that!" Harry declared. "There's been no attacks, nothing for the
whole year. Quite the contrary, in fact. Professor Moody has helped me a lot, a
nd Bagman keeps offering help, too."
"Harry, listen to me! Whoever managed to fool the goblet, is both a clever wizar
d and wishes you harm. He deliberately put you in a very dangerous position. The
re's a reason why there's been no tournament for ages, and that's the severe dea
th toll among the champions."
"I know that!" Harry said. "But it has turned out fine. I never wanted to take p
art, but it has been the best thing ever to happen to me!"
When the words tumbled out of Harry's mouth, he wanted to bite his tongue. And f
or a good reason, too. Hermione was glaring at him, exasperated. Sirius, on the
other hand, looked shrewdly at all three of them; glowering Hermione, Ron who wa
s looking amused, and Harry, who couldn't help a warm blush creeping up his neck
. Why, oh why had he chosen such an obvious a phrase, and why did he have to hav
e the tendency to blush so easily, Harry thought feverishly. It didn't help a bi
t.
"Best thing that ever happened to you?" Sirius repeated slowly. "How come?"
"I..." Harry started, but found out he hadn't got anything to go on with. "I...
like the... tasks," he managed finally, looking anything but convincing. "It's f
un. And I like winning."
"Bollocks. You shouldn't try lying to me, Harry, you're no good at it. Not even
close to your father's standard. The tournament can't possibly be better that Qu
idditch, and you were on top of your game... No, I can think of only one thing b
etter than Quidditch..." Sirius paused, and fixed a measuring gaze at Harry, who
was now blushing furiously. "And I bet you found out what it is, didn't you, Ha
rry?"
"Yes." Harry said, looking down at his feet.
"So," Sirius asked brightly. "Who's the lucky girl?"
"It's none of your business!" Harry said, flaring up suddenly.
"Aw, come on, Harry. This is great, we should celebrate! You can tell me, whoeve
r it is. I'm your godfather, remember. And I'll find it out anyway, sooner or la
ter."
"You wouldn't understand." Harry said, looking bad-tempered. He glowered at Siri
us, and then turned back to his shoes. Despite wanting to tell Sirius about Cedr
ic earlier, Harry now realised that coming out of the closet would be a lot hard
er than he'd expected. Especially to the few people he loved, like Sirius.
"Try me." Sirius was now looking quite different. His face was somehow softer, a
nd his eyes looked compassionate. "I know what it is like, believe me. I've been
young too, and in love. You can tell me anything."
"No. I'm sorry. I can't." But in spite of his words, the unexpected tenderness o
f his godfather's voice had gotten to Harry. He felt his anger melt, and his lip
s trembled. But he still refused to meet Sirius's gaze. He knew his mind and hea
rt could be seen through his eyes, and he didn't want Sirius to see them. He wou
ldn't understand, and this was private.
Sirius wouldn't have that, though. He took Harry by the shoulder with one hand,
and raised his chin gently with the other, until Harry was looking at him again.
"Harry, are you maybe refusing to tell me because it is not a girl you have fal
len in love with, but another boy?" He spoke quietly, but the words seemed to fa
ll into the silence with the gravity of mighty boulders. The secret encasing Har
ry shattered. For a moment, he felt naked and unprotected. Then he realised it w
as freedom he was feeling. Suddenly he could breathe again. A slow smile spread
on his face.
"Yes," he said, looking at Sirius with his smile widening. "How did you know?"
"I told you already. I've been young, too, and in love. And like you, I fell in
love with another boy. Before, I did't think it proper to tell you I'm gay just
yet. You're still so young. Doesn't matter now, does it?"
"Not in the least." Harry's smile had widened into a grin. "You know what it'sâ ¦ like
, then? Being gay."
"I do," Sirius said, smiling. "So, please, tell me about it. Who's the lucky blo
ke?"
"His name is Cedric," Harry said, blushing again.
"And he's a strapping young man, this Cedric, is he?" Sirius asked.
"Like you couldn't imagine," Hermione said, beaming at Sirius and causing Ron to
look grumpy. Harry and Sirius looked at them mildly surprised. They had almost
forgotten there were other people around.
"Hey, when it comes to lads, I can imagine quite a bit more than you are even al
lowed to for at least a couple of years." Sirius said with an evil grin. Hermion
e blushed and Harry laughed. Ron looked a bit uncomfortable.
"So," Sirius said, "he is the other Hogwarts champion, isn't he?"
"Yes. Cedric Diggory. And yours?"
"Mine what?" Sirius asked.
"Who was your boyfriend at school? And what happened to him?"
"That's ancient history," Sirius said, his face darkening. "We were talking abou
t you."
"I'll show you mine if you show me yours." Harry was grinning now.
"Harry, I'm shocked!" Sirius said mockingly. "But I think we should celebrate! D
id you cheeky bastards happen to bring any butterbeer?"
"Loads," Ron said, looking happier. "They're in my bag."
"Pass them around, then. We're wasting good drinking time!"
"Sirius..."
"Yes, Harry?"
"I want to know. I'll tell you everything if and only if you do the same. It's o
nly fair, you know."
"I know, Harry. I should be glad to have someone interested in me. All right, le
t's have some butterbeer, make a campfire and swap stories," Sirius relented. "B
ut mind you, mine are not that cheerful."
"Lupin!"
"Yep. Dear Old Moony. I fell head over heels for him that day. How could I not.
He was a beautiful boy, and so brave with his 'furry little problem'. I'd have d
one anything for him, so I persuaded James and that stinky little rat, as Peter
turned out to be, to become animagi. To help Remus out, or at least to keep him
company."
"So..." Hermione asked, "how come you are not together anymore? Or are you?"
"No. Don't you remember?" Sirius asked, but didn't give them a chance to answer.
"Remus thought, like everyone else, that it was I who had betrayed Lily and Jam
es. He loved me very much, I guess, so it hurt him badly. With the deception Wor
mtail pulled off, he practically dug out Remus's heart and gutted it. Of the Mar
auders Lupin was always the soft and empathic one, and he just couldn't deal wit
h it. Dumbledore told me it took Remus several years to piece himself back toget
her, to recover from what he thought was my despicable betrayal of everything we
stood for. And he reconstructed himself by denying me altogether. I think he ha
d no choice."
"But..." said Harry.
"He knows now you didn't do it," said Ron.
"He does, but still... His heart was broken in a way nobody's heart should be, a
nd because of me. I've tried to reach out to him, but the damage runs deep. I'm
afraid he'll never trust anyone enough to dare love again." Sirius's voice was e
ven, but there were tears gleaming in his eyes.
"But... you still love him." Harry whispered, awestruck.
"I never stopped. I knew all the time he hadn't done anything wrong."
There was a long, heavy silence after Sirius's words.
"But..." Harry asked finally, "how can you stand it?"
"I can't, most of the time," Sirius confessed. "I used to be a cheerful chap, yo
u know. Nothing like my gloomy self nowadays." Contrary to his words, however, S
irius had gotten hold of himself during the long pause, and the tears had never
fallen. He smiled at them, but it was a hollow kind of smile. To Harry, it looke
d like a mask that didn't cover Sirius's dark, desolate eyes.
However bad Sirius might have felt inside, he kept up appearances of good mood a
nd even hilarity for the rest of their meeting. Harry hoped it was more than act
ing, wished that his tales of newly found love could act as a balm to Sirius's s
ore heart. He was happy, and wanted his godfather to be, too. But the time was r
unning out, and he had to get going if he was to have any time at all with Cedri
c.
"I..." Harry said, "I think I should be off. You know, to see Ced."
"Go, then. I don't want to keep you from your lad," Sirius said. He raised his b
utterbeer for a toast. "Here's to your shrieking shag, then. Have a time of your
life. Frankly, there's nothing quite like shagging in the Shack. Trust me, it's
a nice place for that."
"Sirius!" Hermione gasped. Ron burst out laughing, and Harry turned, again, quit
e a ripe shade of red.
"My godfather knows."
"Sirius Black?" Cedric asked, startled. "The fugitive? Are you serious?"
"Yes, very." Harry said, looking grave and staring at Cedric without a hint of a
n expression. That went on for a while, until Cedric cracked.
"Well, how... how did it go?" he asked anxiously. "Are you okay? I mean... he di
dn't shout at you or hit you or anythingâ ¦ or did he?" There was a definite edge of w
orry in his voice.
"He came through with flying colours, I think," Harry said, trying to stop himse
lf from breaking into a smile too soon. "After all, it can't be easy to come out
of the closet at his age."
"What?"
"Hmm?"
"He isn't, is he? You're pulling my leg! You whelp!"
Harry's poker face crumbled into a huge grin. He managed just barely to lunge as
ide and avoid Cedric's playful attack, propelled by the older boy's sudden relie
f and embarrassment. After so narrowly escaping the looming tickling session, Ha
rry decided to speak out.
"Honest to Merlin, he's gay. He told me after finding out our little secret. It
was my fault, of course. I think we are being more obvious than we'd like to thi
nk, Ced."
"But... But this is fantastic! "
"I know..."
"Wow. At least we have your guardian on our side, if it ever comes to that."
"To what?"
"Well, let's say I'm not putting too much hope on my father being open-minded an
d cool about me liking boys. In fact, I think there will be hell to pay when he
finds out."
"But he's your father."
"Exactly. I'm his pride and joy, but only when I behave the way I'm supposed to.
Like a proper bloody heir to his little conservative middle-class life!"
"I'm sure he loves you, Cedric. How could he not?"
"Reckon I should tell him, then?"
"After Sirius, I'm not so sure we can keep this a secret much longer. It would b
e better if your parents got it from you, wouldn't it? I mean, instead of some m
ean rumormongering slytherin trying to defame us, say Lucius Malfoy for example.
"
"Yeah, I guess... But I really don't want to tell them."
"I know... I wouldn't have had the guts to tell Sirius, if he hadn't guessed. Bu
t that turned all right. Maybe your parents are more open-minded than you give t
hem credit for."
"A distant possibility, that."
"I wouldn't bet on that. You don't expect much of them, so they might exceed you
r expectations. Anyway, we'll have to face your parents sooner or later."
"I know." Cedric started to look glum and brooding, and Harry snuggled into his
lap.
"Don't worry, Ced. It'll turn out all right."
"How?"
"I don't know," Harry said cheerfully. "But I have a feeling it'll be fine, in t
he end."
Despite Harry's lithe body right next to him and the perfect opportunity for uni
nterrupted snogging it took Cedric some serious willpower to drag his mind off o
f the looming task of opening the proverbial closet door. He was one to brood ov
er things, and this was prime material to agonize over. Luckily, Harry was havin
g none of that. He assaulted their clothing with his hands and Cedric's mouth an
d neck with his lips. Very soon they were half naked on a pile of robes and Cedr
ic's hormones kicked in big time. So did his hard-on. And when Harry's mouth car
essed his jawline and started down the treasure trail between his pecs, all thou
ght evaporated from Cedric's mind. For a while he was only capable of feeling th
e unspeakably pleasurable things Harry's mouth and hands were doing to him. He f
elt like he was floating on the rhythm of their moves. And when he couldn't take
it any more, he came with the sweet abandon only possible with a trusted lover.
His body tensed in an arc. Everything went white in his eyes and the world disa
ppeared for the unmeasurable moment of total bliss. When the waves of rapture su
bsided he collapsed back on their bedding, still writhing in the aftermath. Fina
lly he just lay there, thoroughly spent and completely relaxed, just grinning li
ke a fool. He reached down to further tousle Harry's unruly hair.
"You wicked boy, you."
Harry just grinned back at him, obviously proud of the complement. Cedric reache
d down to grab his chin and pulled him up for a long, sticky kiss. That lead to
other things, and it took some time before Cedric had returned the favor. In the
end, they were both wearing face-splitting grins, totally exhausted and glued t
ogether by the sticky by-products of their efforts.
"Okay," Cedric said eventually, "you win. I'll write my parents a letter. It doe
sn't really matter how mad they'll get at me. You are so totally worth fighting
for, you know. Don't you?"
Harry just beamed at him.
Mom, Dad,
There is something I have to tell you, and I don't want to wait until we see aga
in. Besides, when I put it down on paper I have a much better chance of getting
it right. Now, I know that you care for me, and that's why you keep planning my
life. And up to a point, that's fine. The problem is, you seem to be so sure abo
ut what kind of a son I should be that I'm afraid you don't really know me at al
l. Here are some useful pointers:
Dad, I'm not interested in a career in the Ministry. At all.
Mom, I'm sure Vilma is a nice girl, but not for me. Really.
And before you ask, same goes for Fiona.
I hate it when you two parade me and my 'achievements' in front of your friends.
They are strangers to me. It feels like I'm a trick pony in circus. I'd much ra
ther be acknowledged as an erring human being than a impeccable student. I love
quidditch because it makes me feel free, not because it might make me popular. I
don't want to be famous. I want to be happy. And if I'm ever to be happy, I hav
e to have the freedom to be true to myself. But somehow, every time when I relax
a bit and start to tell you something meaningful, you manage to belittle my ide
as and dreams. I won't have that any more. I need to make my own decisions, howe
ver foolish.
For some years now I have known something about myself that contradicts everythi
ng you have been planning for me. I'm gay. I like boys. One in particular. So pl
ease stop matchmaking me to every pretty witch in high society. Stop matcmaking
me. Stop. I have found a boy who makes me happier than I've ever been in my life
. It may not last, but I'm willing to take the risk. If you love me at all, plea
se accept this. It would make me even happier if I could share my newly found jo
y with you. Because, after all I have said here, I love you both very much.
Your son,
Cedric
It was late afternoon, the 13th of March, when Cedric got his reply. The fact th
at the letter didn't arrive with the morning post made him quite worried, so he
went into a deserted classroom to open it. His hands were trembling when he star
ted to read. There was nobody to watch, but had there been, they would have seen
all colour slowly drain from Cedric's handsome features. He stared at the parch
ment with a stony expression for a long time. His hands had stopped trembling. H
e didn't move a muscle. He didn't even appear to breathe. Finally, he inhaled so
deeply it sounded almost like a sob. But there was still no emotion on his face
. Slowly, his hands cramped around the letter, crumpling the parchment convulsiv
ely. A desk in front of him started to shake violently. A single word emerged fr
om his lips, a vehement "No!" With the word came a blast. The desk exploded away
from him, shattering into hundreds of splinters. The flying shards utterly dest
royed a map, a stuffed vulture and a frosted glass pane of the door. Cedric star
tled, looked disbelievingly at the mess, stuffed the remains of the parchment in
his pocket and fled the room.
It only took Mrs. Norris and Filch a scant two minutes to reach the scene of the
destruction. "The bloody vandals," the caretaker muttered to his cat, "one of t
hese days I'll hang them by their unmentionables, see if I don't... You guard th
e scene of crime, Mrs. Norris, and I'll get the headmaster."
Some minutes later Filch returned with both Dumbledore and professor McGonagall
in tow. Dumbledore eyed the damage over his half-moon spectacles for a while, th
en exchanged a glance with McGonagall.
"Very well, Mr. Filch. You were quite right to show this to me. It seems rather
more dangerous than a mere prank. Now, would you please leave us. We have to fin
d out what happened, and we have to do it now. Please stand by the entrance of t
he corridor and make sure we are not disturbed."
"Right you are, headmaster," Filch growled. "Can I shackle them culprits in the
dungeons? It's what they deserve, innit?"
"We shall see, Argus, if a culprit is to be found at all. Now leave us, please."
"'Twas was the Weasley twins," Filch mumbled as he went. "Mark my words, 'twas t
he twins..."
Meanwhile, badly shaken Cedric had got out his notebook to find Harry. Unfortuna
tely, since the day was cold, Harry was in the Gryffindor common room where Cedr
ic couldn't go. The next best option was Cho. Cedric found her in the library.
"Ced! What happened to you? You look like a ghost."
"Not here. You wanna go out?"
"It's freezing out there."
"I know. But I need some fresh air. You feel up to defying the weather."
"Sure. Let me just get my robes."
It was easy to reach a deserted part of Hogwarts grounds in the weather of the d
ay, since nobody else wanted to be outside. Cedric soon started to unburden his
heart. He told Cho how Harry had convinced him to write to his parents, but didn
't say anything about Sirius, of whom she didn't know the truth. And then he tol
d about the answering letter and the unwanted explosion.
"I have never lost my control like that, not even as a kid." Cedric explained. "
You see, I really thought, after talking to Harry, that they would accept me the
way I am."
"And I take it they didn't?" Cho asked.
"No. Well, the letter was obviously from my dad, even if he wrote for both of th
em. But I guess mom would be a bit more... understanding."
"So, what exactly did he say in the letter?"
"Here. It's easier if you read it yourself."
Cho carefully straightened the crumpled parchment and started to read. Her eyes
got rounder the further she raid, and she gasped in a couple of places. When she
had finished, she looked back at Cedric. Both of their eyes had tears in them.
"Oh, Ced. I'm so sorry," she said and threw her hands around the boy for a hug.
It worked pretty much like cutting the strings of a marionette. Cedric collapsed
, buried his head down on her shoulder and started to sob.
"You know, of course," said Dumbledore "about the basic nature of time, space an
d entropy."
"Naturally," said Minerva McGonagall. "But I still can't fathom how are you goin
g to find out what happened."
"Well, I'm going to utilize the fact that time is only an illusion. Nothing is r
eally lost or forgotten, because everything exists simultaneously in the fabric
of the time-space. In essence, if I can locally bend the time-space in this room
just a little bit, we can peek at the past up to fifteen minutes ago or thereab
outs to see just what happened. But we must hurry, because the further we want t
o see, the harder it gets. And you'll have to seal the room. I should not be int
errupted while doing this, or strange and possibly dangerous things might happen
."
"I shall start on the protective spells right away," McGonagall promised. "But r
eally," she then huffed, taking out her wand, "I never knew one could actually t
ransfigure time, and I'm supposed to be the transfiguration teacher!"
Dumbledore just smiled slightly, took out his own wand, and sat down on the wide
windowsill of one of the deep arched windows of the classroom. He closed his ey
es and started to weave an intricate pattern on the air. When McGonagall had mag
ically sealed the room against all intrusion, the complex spell was ready to be
cast. Dumbledore muttered an incantation and waved his wand one last time. In th
e middle of the room, something happened. A tiny glowing sphere popped into exis
tance with a faint hissing noise, pulsing and growing. It soon filled the room w
ith an eerie blue light and still kept growing, until it had completely engulfed
the whole room and some of the corridor, too. Within the glow, nothing moved, e
ven the specks of dust had stopped midair. McGonagall and Dumbledore were both s
urrounded by the blue glow now that they were inside the warped time-space where
they didn't really belong.
Then, slowly at first, but with increasing speed, the time started to unravel. M
acGonagall and Dumbledore seemed to divide into two, and their copies started to
rewind their recent actions. In a few seconds, they had comically reversed out
of the room. Next Filch and Mrs. Norris made a short backwards visit and left th
e room, once again empty except for the two watching professors.
Then, in a blur of motion, a student came in, back first and reversed near a win
dow. The myriad pieces of wood and metal flew together to make a desk, and the b
oy took out a crumpled piece of parchment, which opened itself in his hands. Dum
bledore let the backward flow of time stop after the figure had reversed back ou
t again.
"Now let's see this the right way around," Dumbledore said. And with the flick o
f his wand, Cedric burst in once more, now with the normal speed and direction.
"Oh my, it really is Cedric Diggory!" McGonagall exclaimed. "I thought so, but w
asn't sure I could believe my eyes."
Later the same day, there was an emergency meeting behind the glass houses. Afte
r calming down, Cedric had gone to the owlery and sent a message to Harry, who t
ook both Ron and Hermione with him. After they had met Cedric and Cho, Cedric fi
lled the Gryffindors in on the situation.
"It seems to be a week consisting almost exclusively of hate mail," Hermione sai
d. "I've been getting loads after the latest Skeeter 'scoop'."
"Not from your parents, though," Cedric pointed out.
"No, just from strangers," Hermione admitted. "So I don't really care. Except fo
r the Pubotubo puss. That was nasty."
"I do care," Cedric said. "words are much more potent in the end than almost any
thing else."
"You're right, of course," Hermione answered, "and I don't see how you couldn't
care, since it's your father writing."
"Well, at least you didn't get a howler," Ron said. "Those are bloody awful, Mom
sent me one in my second year."
"Must have been quite a howler, if it was worse than this," Cedric said.
"But what," Harry asked, "does the letter actually say?"
An hour or so earlier, Dumbledore had stopped the flow of replaying time once th
e Cedric of moments past had opened the letter. Both professors had walked behin
d his shoulders to take a look at the parchment. But before they had actually st
arted to read, McGonagall had glanced sternly at the headmaster.
"I am not quite sure this is justified, Albus. After all, it's the boy's private
correspondence we are to take a peek at."
"I know, Minerva. We shouldn't really be doing this. However, there is more at s
take here than our clear conscience. The safety of the students may be at risk.
I'm extremely worried, because for once, I don't have any reasonable idea what's
happening. There is some wickedness about, but I just haven't been able to unco
ver it. How was Harry entered in the Tournament and why? Who is behind this and
for what end? Anything unusual might give us an important clue. Let us read."
Mr. Cedric Diggory,
I'm shocked, and your mother is absolutely destroyed. How could you do such a de
spickable thing. Don't you have a faintest idea how hard we have worked to give
you the best possible foothold in life. And this is our reward? You throw our se
lfless efforts in the dirt and trample on our ideals. The very ideals you've bee
n raised to share and respect, certainly not to mock with lewdness and unnatural
vices.
We can't even express how sickened we are by what you have done. Obviously you h
ave been led astray by someone unworthy of your trust. We can't even imagine tha
t a good boy such as you have been until now could have grown so bent without so
me depraved outside influence. Therefore we are going to give you one chance, an
d one chance only to redeem yourself and to abandon these evil ways. To that end
, you must get engaged to be married as soon as possible. We have already talked
to the Merrywhistles, and they were delighted. It seems that Fiona has never lo
st the infatuation she had for you a few years back. We feel sure that you'll th
ank us in the end. Her father is a baronet and at this point, she is a much bett
er catch than you deserve. Also, she is a lovely girl, beautiful enough to make
any young man forget their early missteps in adult life.
As a guarantee to your good behaviour in the future, you must also give us the n
ame of the boy who has seduced you. If necessary, we shall expose him for what h
e is and make sure he is both dishonored and dispelled from the school, if he st
ill is a student at the time. Furthermore, as I am well placed in the Ministry,
I can quite easily have him blacklisted for any government position. Or indeed m
ake it very hard for him to get any well respected job at all in this country.
However, if you can't be persuaded to return to proper behaviour, do know that y
ou will be disinherited. There will be no returning to under our roof without yo
ur written consent to be married as soon as possible, certainly no later than ne
xt autumn.
Remember, we have your best interest in mind.
Amos Diggory
"I can't believe this!" Hermione exclaimed. "You're actually getting blackmailed
by your own father!"
"I could easily imagine something like this from the Dursley's," said Ron, "but
they really hate Harry. I thought your father liked you."
"Funnily enough, he does," Cedric said. "But only on his terms."
Harry didn't say anything.
"But what do you think Cedric should do?" Cho asked after a pause.
"It depends, I think." Hermione said. "Do you mind if ask you some questions," H
ermione asked from Cedric, "even really obvious ones?"
"No, but why?"
"Sometimes it helps to get back to basics. And please consider your answers care
fully, even if they seem like no-brainers."
"Okay."
"Right. Here we go, then: Do you love Harry?"
"Yes."
"Enough to abandon your family and heritage?"
"The way I see it, it would be them abandoning me. But yes, if I really have to
choose between Harry and my parents, I'll choose Harry. Still, I hoped to find a
way to get them to accept me, not to cut them off."
"Yes, I know. But your father is playing at a rather high stakes, here. If you'r
e not ready to bet everything, I don't think you have a chance of succeeding. In
a way it's just like poker, you know. He's claiming to be willing to cut you of
f. If you can't match that, see his bluff, so to speak, you have no choice but t
o fold, and you have already lost."
"Okay, I can see that," Cedric admitted, "Go on."
"Do you have any money of your own?"
"Yes. I'm not rich, but I do have something. Enough to last a couple of months,
at least, if not half a year."
"In a place your father can't touch?"
"Yes. I have my own vault in Gringott's."
"So do I," Harry interrupted. "And it has quite a bit more."
"Okay, good. You have independent means, then. But what about this Fiona charact
er? You like her? Are you going to have second thoughts if you are indeed forced
to leave home because of Harry?"
"Fiona is nice, but no. Definitely not. I..." Cedric hesitated, blushing a bit,
"I only like boys, you know... If I was susceptible to pretty girls, Cho here wo
uld have snatched me already."
"I see," Hermione said, smiling slightly. "Cho?"
"Cedric's right. I used all the tricks I could think of," Cho replied. "Nothing
worked. He really is as gay as they come. He just likes flirting with girls for
the fun of it."
"I do not!" Cedric denied, obviously affronted.
"Yes you do! You might not realise it, but you break hearts all over the place."
"Not on purpose," Cedric said, "I don't."
"Maybe not, I guess you're too sweet. But don't you see, that's exactly why all
the girls are falling for you."
"And not only girls," Harry said with a grin.
"So what are you saying, Cho?" Cedric asked. "That I should be mean?"
"I don't know what I'm saying. I'm just worried about you. Sorry."
"Don't be. But does anyone have ideas?"
"Well," Hermione started again, "on the strategic point of view I don't think yo
u have much choice here. If you only like boys, you'll have to confront your par
ents sooner or later, or live your life in a lie."
"That's not an option." Cedric declared.
"Exactly," Hermione agreed. "There's no point in stopping what you have started
so well. You have to stand up to your parents and, if necessary, leave home. Won
't be easy, I guess, if it comes to that, but there are no real alternatives."
"But," said Harry.
"I know," Hermione interrupted. "That's only part of the plan. The other side mu
st be to somehow make Cedric's parents see reason. The problem is, I have no ide
a how..."
"Neither do I," Cedric said. "Ain't that the pits?"
Nobody answered. There was nothing more to say.
There was a similar silence in the Headmaster's office. Filch had been sent away
dissatisfied after being told the blast had been a pure accident. Dumbledore an
d McGonagall had mulled over the news without reaching any real conclusions, exc
ept that they couldn't really interfere in Cedric's life based on the letter alo
ne.
"I'll be going, then," McGonagall said finally. "We shouldn't have read the lett
er."
"Maybe you're right, Minerva. However, now it's too late to worry about that."
"I know."
"Until tomorrow, then," Dumbledore said, looking both sad and tired. "Good night
, Minerva"
"Good night, Albus. Try to get a proper night's sleep, why don't you."
"I will. Thank you, Minerva."
"You're welcome," she said, and left. For a long time, Dumbledore just stood in
front of a window and stared out, like remembering something long since gone. Af
ter almost an hour, he let out a deep sigh and left for his private quarters.
"Mars looks very red tonight," Harry said after a long silence. "They say it's a
harbinger of war."
"Do you believe in omens?" Cedric asked. He was lounging on the couch of the Los
t Observatory with Harry's half-naked form curled by his side. Once more the boy
s had defied the risk of getting caught and were spending the Friday night in th
e enchanting chamber of the tower. They had satisfied some of their most urgent
need for each other and had been idly talking this and that for the last fifteen
minutes or so.
"Some of them are real, I guess," Harry said, "but I also think it's awfully har
d to tell the real ones from coincidences before they turn out to be genuine. An
d by then it's too late. Why?"
"Because I may have seen the Grim last night."
Harry startled. "Really? Where?"
"Beside the lake near the Forbidden Forest. I was walking and trying to think of
a way to convert my parents."
"And what did it look like?"
"Like it's supposed to look," Cedric said. "A huge black dog. Teeth bared and ey
es gleaming. I didn't hear a thing, but suddenly it was there, maybe twenty feet
away. Gave me quite a scare. I managed to entangle my robes, and had to glance
down to find my wand pocket, and when I looked back up, it had disappeared."
"Don't worry about it, Ced. I'm sure it was just Padfoot trying to get a good lo
ok at you," Harry mused. "After I first saw him last year and later learned abou
t the Grim, I thought he must have been the Grim, too."
"Oh," Cedric said, sounding relieved. "I didn't realise. Stupid of me."
"I can ask if it really was him, if you like."
"Would you? Yes, I'd like that. And I'd love to meet him, too."
"I'm not sure that I'm ready to share you just yet..." Harry said, trailing his
hand towards Cedric's groin.
"I didn't mean now, you dolt."
"Be nice, or I'll stop."
Cedric rolled on top of Harry, looking passionate all of a sudden. His silvery e
yes darted between Harry's lithe body and green eyes and back again. He grinded
his body against Harry and kissed him hungrily.
"Gods, Harry! I love you so much. And I really, really want to..."
"What?"
"You know... do the deed with you."
"I know you do... And I like it, you wanting me..." Harry hesitated, then went o
n, "but I don't think I'm ready to... to do that just yet... I'm sorry."
"I know a spell that makes it really nice," Cedric said, looking mischievous now
.
"Oh I bet you do, loverboy!"
"Please?"
"Not tonight. You can think of it as my birthday present."
"But that's still weeks away!" Cedric moaned.
"I'm sorry," Harry said earnestly. "I'm just not ready yet."
"Don't be sorry. Seriously. I want you to want it, too. We can have fun the othe
r ways." And after those words, Cedrics mouth travelled down his lover's body, a
nd Harry's breathing grew ragged. This time was nice, long and varied, since the
y had all the night to spend. No classes in Saturday mornings.
It had been over two months since the dramatic day when Cedric got the ultimatum
from his dad. The boys had been careful and kept their affections private, and
other matters had replaced their possible affair as the main gossip fodder in Ho
gwarts. Also, people had gradually got used to the idea of Cedric and Cho being
frieds with the Gryffindors, and therefore didn't have a reason to look for a po
ssible romantic involvement any more. The credit for this remarkable improvement
belonged to Hermione, who had wisely suggested that Harry and Cedric should nev
er be seen together in public without at least one but preferably two of their c
onfidants, i.e. Hermione herself, Ron or Cho. "The best place to hide," she had
said, "is in plain sight. That way, people think you've got nothing to hide in t
he first place."
Of course, not everybody was that easy to deceive. Two weeks earlier, Fred and G
eorge had cornered Harry after a rather lazy late evening game of Quidditch the
Gryffindor team had played just for the fun of it.
"So," asked Fred, "what's this fraternizing with the enemies we've seen you and
our unfortunate excuse of a brother involved in?"
"What?" said Harry, being caught completely off guard.
"Oh, don't pretend innocence, Harry," said George with an evil grin. "We do know
better, you know."
"But," said Harry, "what enemies?"
"Well," said George, putting an arm around Harry in a friendly gesture. "Maybe y
ou don't remember it any more, being so young and all... "
"...but we used to play against Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw," Fred continued. "And
I expect..."
"...we're going to do that again next year," George concluded.
"And?" asked Harry, urging the twins to elaborate while he was picking his brain
furiously, trying to invent a plausible cover story.
"And what?" Fred returned the question.
"Do you really think we haven't noticed your frequent rendezvous with Cedric Dig
gory and Cho Chang?" asked George.
"No... not exactly," Harry answered nervously.
"And can you give us any acceptable reason why our seeker..." Fred started.
"That's you, Harry," George interrupted, "in case you have forgotten."
"...is having private conferences with both the Hufflepuff captain and the Raven
claw seeker?" Fred finished.
"I..." Harry started, but couldn't think of any good enough fabrications to go o
n with.
"Why," asked George, "do I get the feeling that young Harry here is about to ins
ult our unconventional intelligence by inventing some amateurish lies?"
"I don't know, George, but I have the exact same feeling," Fred answered.
"Beware, Harry. Lying is a form of art, and we are, not to be too modest about i
t, masters of it," George said.
"Besides," said Fred happily, "whatever you've been up to, if it's not Quidditch
espionage, can't possibly upset us."
"Yeah," said George. "And we're not Wood. So even if it is Quidditch, we don't r
eally mind, as long as it's entertaining."
"He's right, you know" said Fred. "We're bored. We could use a thrilling tale or
two."
"Well," said Harry, "it's not about Quidditch. It's... something else." And he c
ouldn't help himself blushing. The idea of what the Weasley twins might say abou
t Cedric and him made Harry extremely nervous.
"Ooh!" exclaimed Fred. "The telltale blush!"
"Aah," went George. "The sidestepping!"
"Wow," said Fred. "Is it really possible that our Harry has found the only thing
better?"
"Better than Quidditch?" asked George. "You mean the..." he continued, making so
me illustrative pelvis movements, "...horisontal mambo?"
"...the whoopee," confirmed Fred.
"...the roll in the hay," added George.
"In other words: shagging!" both twins exclaimed, beaming proudly at Harry.
"Shhh, could you two please keep your voices down," Harry begged, but he couldn'
t help laughing at their antics all the same. "you're some piece of work, you ar
e."
"But..." said Fred.
"The thrilling question remains," said George.
"Which one are you bonking with?" asked Fred.
Harry found two identical faces peering at him questioningly at quite a close di
stance. It was sort of unnerving, and didn't improve his faculties for coherent
thought under this hilarious but nonetheless a bit alarming interrogation.
"Is it the oriental Ravenclaw beauty, the incomparable miss Chang?" asked George
with the air of great showmanship.
"I wouldn't mind doing her," commented Fred.
"Or is it perhaps the more daring choice," George went on, "charming Cedric, the
Divine Diggory, as the ladies call him?"
"I have to admit," said Fred, "that he's hot. I wouldn't mind doing him either."
"You wouldn't mind doing anyone who's alive, under sixty and looking half decent
," retorted George. "That's not the point. I wanna know who Harry does."
"So," said Fred, turning his attention back to Harry, "who are you bonking?"
"Nobody," said Harry, who felt rather relieved after Fred's casual banter about
Cedric. "Not yet," he then continued, because both Fred and George looked like t
hey were about to protest, loudly. "We are waiting for my birthday."
"We?" asked the twins in unison.
"Me and Ced... Cedric."
"I knew it!" shouted Fred. "You owe me ten galleons, bro."
"No I don't," postulated George. "According to Harry, they aren't doing it yet."
"Yes you do, oh evil twin!," insisted Fred. "The wording for the bet was 'have s
ex with'. They must be doing something counting as sex if they're almost shaggin
g."
"Harry?" George inquired.
"We are," confirmed Harry, grinning sheepishly.
"Like what?" asked George.
"Come on, George. I'm not gonna tell you that. It's private."
"So, George, you owe me ten galleons," repeated Fred.
"Yeah, okay," admitted George finally. "I guess you've got a point. But we shoul
d really start cleaning out other people. If we just bet against each other, we'
ll never get any richer."
And that was how the notorious Weasley twins entered the inner circle of Harry a
nd Cedric. Having more people in their trusted little group made their meetings
less conspicuous and easier to arrange. And since Harry didn't have the Marauder
's Map anymore, the twins' enormous knowledge of the school was extremely welcom
e. Being the generous sort of chaps, excluding matters concerning money, Fred an
d George were both happy and eager to help. As they put it: "There's surely noth
ing more noble than helping a couple of poofs to find a peaceful trysting place
under the ugly nose of Argus Filch."
Next Thursday after Harry and Cedric's night in the Old Observatory, Ludo Bagman
showed the labyrinth to the four champions and explained the third and final ta
sk of the Triwizard Tournament. After the proceedings, Harry was practically dra
gged away by stormy looking Viktor Krum. When Cedric saw him being led away by K
rum, he asked if Harry wanted him to accompany them. Harry said it was all right
, that there was no need, but when he was walking away with Viktor he started to
doubt if that was the right decision, the older boy was looking so angry it was
quite scary. And it was quickly getting dark. When they were far enought for Kr
um to start talking, it soon turned out he was jealous of Harry because of Hermi
one. Harry was so relieved he almost giggled, but luckily managed to stop himsel
f in time.
"Me and Hermione?" he asked instead. "Are you serious? She's just a friend of mi
ne. She's never been my girlfriend."
"But it says in the paper..." Krum insisted.
"You have met that awful hag Skeeter," Harry said. "She writes anything to make
people look bad, and Hermione confronted her about that. It's Rita's revenge. Yo
u shouldn't believe anything she writes."
"It's not only that. Ermione talks so much about you. And you are together all t
he time. I've seen it. How can I be sure?"
"Listen, can I trust you a secret?" Harry asked, abandoning caution, "to tell yo
u something you must tell nobody else?"
"I am a Krum. In my family, we don't deceive."
"All right then. If you promise not to tell."
"I promise."
"Hermione couldn't be my girlfriend. I'm gay."
"You're happy? What do you mean?"
"Not happy. Well, I am quite, but I don't mean that," Harry clarified, "The word
used to mean something like that. Now it means somebody who doesn't love the op
posite... someone who likes... Well, it means that I don't like girls. It means
queer, a poof. Viktor, she couldn't be my girlfriend. I like boys."
Suddenly it struck Harry that it was really unfair he had to explain it at all.
He realised that for the rest of his life he would be explaining himself and ris
k getting shunned for what he was, like Cedric's parents were shunning him. On t
op of having a deadly arch-enemy and no parents it felt like an enormous burden
all of a sudden. It was simply too much. He couldn't take it. He looked at Krum
who had a perplexed expression on his dark face. Harry felt so frustrated he cou
ld have screamed. He wanted to kick something, so he did. When his toes crashed
into a nearest boulder he realised it was a painful mistake.
"Don't you get it, Viktor. I'm not normal," Harry said, jumping on one foot, on
the verge of tears and angry at himself because of that. "I'm a faggot. A bloody
faggot."
"Don't say that!" Krum said vehemently. "Don't you ever say that. You are just a
s normal as everybody else. Don't let people tell you otherwise."
"What?" Harry said, flabbergasted enough to forget his toes. If he had been aske
d to guess Krum's reaction, this would have been the last option to occur to him
. "Didn't you hear me? I'm not normal."
"What is normal? We are all different. It doesn't matter. You have as much right
to love as anybody else," Krum said. "Listen. I have a kid... a younger brother
. He is like you, I mean he likes boys, too, and he... he has a lot of trouble b
ecause of that. People can be so stupid."
"I know," Harry said, all his anger and frustration gone. "You're right, of cour
se. Thank you, Viktor."
"Thank you, Harry, for trusting me."
After that, there was a long silence when the two boys just looked at each other
with a new understanding and respect. After a bit it turned awkward, and they t
urned towards the school and started to talk about Quidditch.
Meanwhile, a malevolent figure was limping among the trees, cursing under its br
eath as it went. It spied from behind a gnarled tree how Harry and Viktor found
delirious Bartemius Crouch, how Harry sprinted towards the castle ignoring his s
ore toes, and how Viktor Krum took up the vigil near but not within the reach of
Mr. Crouch.
The figure drew out its wand, aimed carefully and growled: "Stupefy!" Viktor Kru
m was hit from behind and knocked off his feet by the powerful stunning spell. A
nother spell lifted momentarily unconscious Mr. Crouch from his resting place an
d transported him to the madly grinning Mad-Eye, who retreated further into the
Forbidden Forest as fast as he could, levitating Mr. Crouch before him. When he
was far enough, he let Mr. Crouch drop to the ground and revived him with yet an
other spell. It took the battered, bitter looking man a moment to regain his wit
s. The reviving spell had done it's trick, though. When Mr. Crouch opened his ey
es he looked quite sane, unlike previously. Then he spotted Mad-Eye.
"Alastor? Thank Merlin it's you! I've... I need to see Dumbledore. I've done som
ething terrible, and he is the only one who can help."
"Moody?" the man looking like Mad-Eye growled. "I'm not Mad-Eye. I just borrowed
him for a disguise. He is contained in his own trunk, getting weaker by the wee
k. Just like you... Dad."
"You! Barty!" Mr Crouch shouted. "What have you done?"
"Yes, me. And it's finally the payback time. Too bad I'm in a hurry and can't gi
ve you the kind of slow torment you have caused me over all these years. Instead
I'm just gonna give you a little taste of Cruciatus curse before I'll finish yo
u off."
"But you can't! Please! After all, I'm your..."
"Silencio!" Crouch Jr. shouted. "You are a worthless blood traitor. Imprisoning
your own son. I have no father. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? And it's going to b
e true in just a few moments... Crucio!"
Barty Crouch watched with obvious, deranged pleasure as his father writhed in si
lent agony. The face he had stolen from the real Alastor Moody was contorted in
an inhuman, beast-like grimace. After some moments he let the curse fade. His fa
ther was looking at him with a silent plea in his eyes. His lips were moving. No
sound came out, but Mr Crouch mouthed his last words so clearly that it didn't
made any difference. His son couldn't help but to understand the message.
"Please. I only did it because I love you," Mr. Crouch mouthed.
"Avada Kedavra!" screamed Barty Crouch, as if to silence the unspoken words. The
re was a green flash, and Mr. Crouch disappeared from the face of Marauder's Map
in Mad-Eyes pocket. He was no more.
"You told Krum! Are you bonkers!"
"Oh don't you start, too, Ron," Harry answered. "Hagrid was raving against him,
Durmstrang and Madame Maxime all the time when he saw me back here." Harry was s
itting in the corner of the Gryffindor Common Room with Ron and Hermione after H
agrid had left him outside the portrait of the Fat Lady. He had first filled the
m in on the Crouch situation and had just been telling about his conversation wi
th Viktor.
"I'm not raving," said Ron, taken aback.
"You'd better not be," said Hermione with a satisfied expression on her face. Sh
e had positively flushed when she heard what Krum had had to say to Harry. "It g
oes against everything Dumbledore told us the Tournament was arranged for."
"If you mean 'international ties of friedship', you must have exceeded all the e
xpectations," Ron said rather poisonously, "to make Vicky so possessive of you."
"Firstly: It's none of your business what I do or don't do with Viktor Krum. Sec
ondly: I don't see why I wouldn't," Hermione replied with a steely voice and upt
urned nose, "since I don't have any other attachments. Besides, you're practical
ly drooling every time Fleur walks by."
"I don't drool," said Ron furiously.
"Oh, then what do you call it when your jaw falls open and your saliva makes a p
uddle on the floor?" Hermione inquired with daggers shooting from her eyes.
"Stop bickering, you two, before you say something you'll really regret tomorrow
."
"At least she's worth looking at. Krum looks like a..."
"Merlin's beard!" Harry barked. "Shut the bloody up! I don't need another episod
e of the Unspeakables. We should try to find out what happened to Mr. Crouch."
Ron looked at him, startled. After a tense moment or two he nodded. "Yeah, okay.
Sorry, mate."
Harry turned. "Hermione?"
Hermione didn't say anything for a while. "Well all right," she finally relented
. "Ron, you don't drool really."
"I know."
"And it is none of your business what I do with Viktor."
"I know."Ron repeated through clenched teeth. "I just... It's not... Bugger!"
"You what?" Hermione asked. But her voice had suddenly lost the steel, it was ac
tually encouraging, and there was a strange look of anticipation on her face. Ro
n of course failed to notice the look, because he was staring at his feet, and i
t seemed to Harry he didn't register the changed tone of voice, either. Watching
Ron, Harry got a distinct impression of a pressure cooker about to explode. But
in the end, it didn't happen. With an uncharasteristic restrain, Ron took a cou
ple of slow breaths, massaged his temples roughly with both hands, and finally l
ooked up.
"Nothing," Ron muttered.
"You're okay, Ron?" Harry asked.
"I'm fine," Ron replied, but he didn't measure up to his words. He looked harrow
ed.
Hermione flashed a wavering, sad sort of smile at him, turned to Harry and start
ed afresh, a little too brightly to be totally convincing: "So, can you remember
exactly what Mr. Crouch said when he was in his right mind."
Harry obliged, and told, as well as he could remember, everything once more. The
y talked about it for a while, but didn't reach any conclusions. They simply did
n't have enough information, and so the conversation kept running in circles, ea
ch participant returning to their own pet theories that were impossible to eithe
r verify or disprove with any certainty. Soon they got both tired and annoyed, a
nd went to bed. All and all, they had had better times.
The following morning saw the trio going to the owlery at an obscenely early hou
r, sending a letter to Padfoot without observing eyes. Or so they thought, but d
idn't manage to be there early enough to avoid awkward questions. Fred and Georg
e were also up and about at this most unlikely time. After some dallying with th
e idea of finding out what the others were up to, the two parties reached an une
asy verbal cease-fire, and got their respective parcels sent.
Later that same day, Harry, Ron and Hermione went to see professor Moody, who to
ld them that he didn't see Mr. Crouch on the Marauder's Map the previous evening
. That seemed very odd, even inexplicable, but in the end didn't seem to shed an
y light to Mr. Crouch's strange disappearance. In fact, it only made the mystery
deeper.
During the day, Ron and Hermione seemed to tread with unusual care around each o
ther's feelings. Harry noticed it with silent amusement. After dinner, Hermione
took him to the side and they took a long detour to the Gryffindor Tower. She wa
nted to have a little chat, which was easier away from the bustle of the Common
Room.
"Harry," Hermione asked while they were strolling along a deserted corridor, "do
you think he'll ever come around?"
"Ron, you mean?"
"Yes. Obviously."
"Dunno. He really likes you, we both know that."
"Yeah, but why doesn't he do something about it?"
"It's awfully hard for boys to fathom what to do and when, you know?"
"But why? I've been hinting for him to speak up dozens of times."
"Hints won't do. He doesn't get them. It's not like he has a manual for girls."
"How can he not get them. I think I've been fairly obvious."
"Because he's Ron, that's why. You can't expect him to figure out subtle hints.
You have to tell him straight up. I don't mean he's stupid, because he's not. He
just isn't wired that way. Besides, if you want Ron, why don't you do something
about it."
"I am doing something. Why do you think I'm flaunting Viktor's interest in front
of his nose. It should rouse him."
"Hermione, just last night you pretty much told him you are seeing Krum, and to
bugger off. He probably thinks you know he likes you, and given that, when you t
ell him your dating is none of his business, he takes it at the face value and s
campers off to lick his wounds. He's pretty gallant, you know, despite everythin
g. Wooing somebody else's girl isn't really an option for Ron."
"Oh. I did that, didn't I?"
"Yes you did. And if you keep up doing the Krum charade, he'll probably end up t
ogether with some godawful trollop he doesn't even like, just to have someone."
"Harry, I..."
"It is a charade, isn't it? With Krum?"
"I won't lie to you. It's quite flattering to have Viktor's attention. He seems
really interested in me. He makes me feels very... adult, if you know what I mea
n. And we have kissed, and stuff like that. But yes, it's more or less a charade
on my part. We're not together, and I haven't really fallen in love with him. A
nd I have told that to Viktor, too."
"Still, you make it too complicated. Boys are simple. Just tell Ron you fancy hi
m, and you'll have what you wanted. I'm willing to bet on that."
"Harry, it's my life and happiness we are talking about, I don't intend to gambl
e with it."
"If that's what you think, you might have lost already. You taught me that, when
we were talking about Cedric's dad. You can't win if you don't play."
With the third task drawing closer, Harry started to get anxious all over again.
It wasn't even close to the panic preceding the second task, but he still found
it hard to get enough sleep. He sometimes saw nightmares of different magical b
easts he either had faced before or read about in classes, or just slept restles
sly and woke up all bleary-eyed even after full night's sleep. And every now and
then, he spent half the night with Cedric, usually in the Old Observatory. That
was exhilarating, but still made him tired.
The reply Harry got from Sirius on a Saturday morning didn't improve his spirits
at all when he first read it. Instead of offering some fresh angle on the myste
rious disappearance of Mr. Crouch his godfather just told him off for being outs
ide after dark, especially with Viktor Krum. For the first time ever, Harry felt
Padfoot had let him down. He stuffed the letter in his pocket and only noticed
in the evening the postscript on the other side of the parchment.
"P.S.
Yes, it was me checking out your fellow that night by the lake. He looks positiv
ely edible. If he's as nice as good-looking, hold onto him, come what may. Take
my word for it, lads like him don't grow on trees."
Suddenly Harry felt elated again. His godfather might not approve of his possibl
y dangerous adventures, but thank Merlin he did approve his romantic ones. He gr
inned to himself, and left dormitory to look for Cedric. It wasn't that late yet
.
Next week in the drowsy atmosphere of Divination, Harry drifted off into the muc
h needed sleep. For an indeterminable length of time, he didn't dream of anythin
g. Then he dreamt of flying. It felt liberating at first, but then he sensed ano
ther creature next to him. It was an owl. Not Hedwig, but one of the nameless, g
eneric owls of the school. He didn't know why, but he knew it was coming from Ho
gwarts. He decided to follow it, or perhaps there was no choice. It's hard to te
ll when you're dreaming. Things just happen.
What happened next was that the owl, trailed by the invisible presence of the dr
eam Harry, swooped down on a big old mansion. It flew in an open window, along l
ong, dark and dank corridor and into a large room with a fireplace and a big, sh
abby armchair, of which Harry only saw the back. There was a terrifyingly big sn
ake coiled around the chair. Nagini's attention was on the other familiar figure
in the room. The man was trembling like a jelly, his mouselike face contorted b
y fear.
"Give me the letter, Wormtail," hissed Voldemort's voice. With shaking hands, Pe
ter Pettigrew fumbled at the parcel attached to the leg of the owl. With the thi
rd try, he managed to disentangle it and handed it to something or someone in th
e chair. After a while, Voldemort spoke again.
"Good news, Wormtail. Your blunder has been corrected. He is dead. However, I'm
not ready to forgive you just yet..."
There was a long, heavy pause. Just when Wormtail was raising his trembling gaze
in an apparent effort to speak, Voldemort, spoke again.
"Nagini, dinner!"
The snake raised it's huge head. Wormtail whimpered and tried to escape, but one
coil of the snake tripped him. And then the snake hit, faster than eye could fo
llow. The owl, which was still present, took flight in scare. Too late. With a s
ickening crunch the bird was crushed between Nagini's jaws, and disappeared. Nag
ini swallowed it whole, as snakes do, and the lump that used to be a Hogwarts po
st owl traveled down it's body, to be slowly digested during the next day or two
.
Voldemort laughed. It sounded horrible.
"Scared you, did I, Wormtail?"
"Ye... yes, my lord." He was still shaking.
"At least you have learned not to try and lie to me, Wormtail. I can't afford Du
mbledore finding out where his owls have been, now, can I?"
"No, my lord."
"You were lucky, Wormtail. I won't be feeding you to Nagini just yet. Maybe neve
r, if your luck holds. You amuse me, without intending to. You're like a court j
ester, portraying all the weaknesses of the humankind. All but that most frivolo
us one, love. And that, as you well know, I have always dispised."
"Yes, my lord."
"And Nagini, don't fret. Very soon, I'll be feeding you Harry Potter. And maybe
his poofter boyfriend, too, unless he proves too beautiful to throw away..."
"Harry Potter's boyfriend? What...? Who, my lord?"
"Shut up, Wormtail. I haven't finished with your punishment yet."
"But lord..."
"No, Wormtail... Crucio!"
Harry screamed. He fell from his chair, clutching his scar. And woke up. Profess
or Trelawney sidled up to him, and started fussing about what he had seen. Her e
normous spectacles reflected the window behind Harry. Harry, however, was not to
be distracted. He knew he had to talk to Dumbledore, nobody else would do. So,
despite Trelawney's obvious distress and fervent questions, he excused himself a
nd bolted for the Headmaster's office.
When Harry arrived, Dumbledore was busy arguing with the Minister of Magic, Corn
elius Fudge. Also present was Alastor Moody, who observed Harry's arrival throug
h the Headmaster's office door. He informed the others of Harry's presence, who
went in and was asked to wait in the office by Dumbledore. After that, the two p
rofessors and Fudge left. Harry tried his best to pass the time by looking aroun
d Dumbledore's magnificent room. After a while he noticed that a cupboard door w
as ajar and a strange glow was emanating from within. He opened the door and saw
a heavy-looking basin filled with the most intriguing, swirling substance which
looked neither gas nor liquid, but something in between, or maybe both. It was
the first time Harry saw a Pensieve. The silvery colour reminded him of Cedric's
eyes.
The pensieve was not the only new thing his eyes were to see that day. While stu
dying the substance in it, he got his nose too close and suddenly the room seeme
d to lurch and Harry fell into the basin. Instead of getting wet, he fell throug
h the vessel and landed in an underground courtroom. Nobody reacted to Harry in
any way, and he realised he must be in some kind of magical recording, like the
ones Tom Riddle's diary had shown him two years earlier. Harry saw parts of thre
e separate court sessions, first with Igor Karkaroff as the accused, then Ludo B
agman and finally a young man, who was revealed to be Mr. Crouch's son, Barty Cr
ouch, together with some other death-eaters. His father, who was the judge, gave
Barty a lifetime in Azkaban.
"I think, Harry, it is time to return to my office," said a quiet voice in Harry
's ear. Startled, Harry found Albus Dumbledore by his side looking straight at h
im.
"Come," said Dumbledore, took hold of Harry's elbow and raised him up to the air
. The courtroom dissolved, and after a moment of darkness they arrived back at t
he headmaster's brigthly lit office in Hogwarts.
Embarrassed and even a bit afraid, Harry tried to apologise for nosing around Du
mbledore's office and messing with the basin, but the headmaster waved his apolo
gies aside.
"I quite understand," Dumbledore said, and proceeded to explain the workings of
the Pensieve to Harry. He even demonstrated, putting a fresh memory into it, and
showing some older ones to Harry. He also explained he had been using the devic
e when Fudge had arrived, and had put it away quite hastily.
"I'm sorry," Harry said, "I know I shouldn't have -"
"Curiosity is not a crime," Dumbledore interrupted. Then followed a silence, dur
ing which he observed Harry closely with his bright blue eyes.
"So, Harry, before you got lost in my thoughts, you wanted to tell me something.
"
"Yes," said Harry. "Professor, I was in Divination just now, and... I fell aslee
p."
"Quite understandable. Continue."
"Well, I had a dream," said Harry. He described, in as much detail as he could r
emember, the flight, the manorhouse, the room with the chair, and what had happe
ned there, until he came to the part where Voldemort mentioned his boyfriend. He
couldn't quite bring himself to say that aloud, so instead he just said Voldemo
rt intended to feed him, Harry, to the snake. "Then he did the Cruciatus curse o
n Wormtail, and my scar hurt. It woke me up, it hurt so badly."
Dumbledore merely looked at him.
"Um, that's all," Harry said, a bit defensively.
"I see," said Dumbledore gravely. "Now, are you quite sure that is all you remem
ber, Harry? Or have you maybe something else in your mind you wish to tell me. Y
ou know, I'm quite a good listener, and I won't betray your confidences, nor lau
gh at you, if that's what you're afraid of. "
"I..." Harry started a denial, but couldn't go on. Dumbledore's eyes seemed to x
-ray him, like they sometimes did. Harry felt like his own eyes were wide open w
indows to his heart, his very being, and Dumbledore saw in his eyes everything t
here was to see in Harry Potter. Harry felt naked, and somewhat uncomfortably as
hamed of himself. Not about being gay, exactly, or loving Cedric, but because he
didn't have enough courage to admit it. He looked away, out of the window into
the sun. There was someone flying above the Quidditch goalposts. Harry was sure
he would never find the right words or the right moment to tell Dumbledore.
"I love Cedric Diggory," he then blurted suddenly and without meaning to do so.
It just came out. After that, he didn't dare look back at Dumbledore.
"Ah," uttered Dumbledore. "Do continue, please."
"It's not only that I... fancy him," Harry continued "even if I do." It was easy
to talk now, when the cat was out of the bag. "I guess that makes me gay. But i
t feels so much more than just an infatuation. And it's not just me, I mean... h
e's my boyfriend. He loves me, too." Harry halted and forced himself to look at
Dumbledore, not at all sure what reaction his confession might bring. But the he
admaster's face was hidden. He was leaning his forehead to his hands and looking
down at the tabletop.
"Professor..." Harry asked, because he found out he couldn't take the uncertaint
y, "are you... are you disappointed in me?"
The headmaster lifted his head. To Harry's immense relief Dumbledore was smiling
, first just a bit, and somewhat sadly, but as he looked at Harry, his smile wid
ened and there appeared about a thousand small wrinkles of laughter around his e
yes, which sparkled with merriment, and something more profound, too. Harry thou
ght it looked like... pride.
"Harry, you brave boy! Disappointed? How could I be disappointed because of this
. I'm happy that you have found someone to love, so early in your life. And very
proud of you, since you dared to confide in me. Do you have any idea how many p
eople who are... different, one way or another... go through their lives without
ever telling anybody, because they are afraid what people might say. It takes a
lot of courage. No, I'm anything but disappointed. Once again, you have risen e
ven above my admittedly great expectations for you."
"I was afraid to tell you. But I had to, because... because Cedric might be in d
anger," Harry said, realising it was true. "That dream, do you think it really h
appened?"
"It is possible. I would say, probable. Harry, did you see Voldemort?"
"No, just the back of his chair. But... there wouldn't have been anything to see
, would there. I mean, he hasn't got a body, has he? But... but then how could h
e have held the wand?" Harry said slowly.
"How indeed," muttered Dumbledore, "How indeed."
Dumbledore seemed to get lost in his thoughts, for he didn't speak for a long ti
me. Every now and then he put another new thought into the Pensieve. Finally Har
ry couldn't bear any more.
"Professor?" he asked.
"Yes, Harry?"
"Um, I didn't tell you everything about the dream."
"Ah. Do continue, then, please."
"When Voldemort talked about feeding me to Nagini, he... also said he might feed
my boyfriend to the snake, too," Harry said with a small, scared voice. "And...
and Wormtail seemed very surprised, and asked Voldemort who it was. And then Vo
ldemort told him to shut up, and started to torture him with the Cruciatus curse
. Then I woke up."
"Oh, Harry," Dumbledore said, his eyes glistening with unshed tears. "I'm so sor
ry. But do not despair. Voldemort's not omnipotent, you know. There is a great d
eal we can do to prevent his threat from ever happening. Now, if you don't mind,
I think we should summon Mr. Diggory."
"You mean Cedric, right? Not his father? Because, his father isn't very happy wi
th Cedric right now."
"Yes, I did mean Cedric."
"That," Harry said blushing a little, "would be wonderful."
Dumbledore smiled, looking amused, took a piece of parchment, scribbled a few wo
rds on it, gave it to Fawkes the phoenix, and muttered something to it's ear. Th
e magnificent bird took flight, headed for the door and disappeared, leaving jus
t a few glittering sparks behind.
"While we wait," said Dumbledore, "would you like a lemon drop?"
Cedric was in his Arithmancy class puzzling over a dizzyingly complex piece of m
agical number theory when Fawkes suddenly materialised in the room, dropped a pi
ece of parchment on the professor Vector's desk and disappeared again. Those who
hadn't been looking at the front of the room didn't have time to see the phoeni
x at all, only a golden flash in their peripheral vision that disrupted their co
ncentration on the numbers. Professor Vector, on the other hand, kept her usual
cool demeanor, read the parchment and called out to Cedric.
"Mr. Diggory, you are needed in the Headmaster's office immediately. Kindly leav
e your finished work here. The ones yet unsolved you can return to me tomorrow."
"Very well," replied Cedric, packing his things. "I'll do my very best, professo
r."
He left without further talk, wondering what Dumbledore might want of him. "Mayb
e," he said to himself, "dad has been pulling some strings..." The thought fille
d him with anguish and impotent anger at his stubborn, stupid and oh-so-proper f
ather. Before he had time for more theories, he arrived at the gargoyles watchin
g over Dumbledore's entrance. The door opened immediately, since he was invited
by the Headmaster, and Cedric found himself in the slowly revolving magical stai
rcase lifting him to the upper floor. When up, he knocked on the intricately car
ved oaken door.
"Enter," came Dumbledore's voice from inside.
Cedric opened the door and went in. He had been in Dumbledore's office only twic
e before, and had almost forgotten what a delightful room it was. The portraits
of the old headmasters and headmistresses looked mostly alert and interested in
him, which made Cedric think something unusual must have been going on. On both
of his previous visits a good quarter of the paintings had been empty, their sub
jects having wandered somewhere else, and almost all the rest had been sleeping,
or appearing to. In addition to the portraits, there were a lot of mysterious d
evices whirring, clicking or standing still all over the office. Then there was
Fawkes, preening on its perch, as beautiful as ever. Next on their journey aroun
d the room, Cedric's eyes fell on Albus Dumbledore himself, who wasn't any less
arresting than his office. Up close and personal like this, Dumbledore had alway
s seemed to Cedric more impressive than in public. Headmaster's blue eyes seemed
to pierce him, his long white hair and beard took on some of the ethereal glow
emanating from Fawkes, and his blue, starry robes looked rich and magnificent.
"Mr. Diggory," Dumbledore said. "Good of you to arrive so quickly."
"Of course. What did you need me for?" Cedric asked and walked forwards. He real
ised that somebody was sitting in a chair facing Dumbledore's desk. The high bac
k of the chair had obscured the person until Cedric had moved. Then that somebod
y turned.
"Harry? What... Are you okay?"
Harry launched from his chair and attached himself to Cedric so fast the impact
almost bowled the older boy over. Harry's arms went around Cedric's body and he
burrowed his face into Cedric's robes. Cedric threw a measuring glance to Dumble
dore and decided to do what he wanted to despite the Headmaster being there. He
embraced Harry right back and started to stroke his neck with one hand. It seeme
d obvious that Harry was upset about something, and he'd be damned if he let the
presence of Albus Dumbledore stop him from consoling his loved one. Cedric lowe
red his head and started to murmur in Harry's ear.
"Shh. S'alright, Harry. I'm right here."
"I'm fine now. Just... a bit shaken... and, I... wanted to be sure of you."
"I love you, Harry," Cedric whispered in his ear. "Nothing's more sure than that
."
"You don't have to whisper," Harry said, looking up. "I told Dumbledore."
"Well, I sort of gathered you wouldn't be hugging me this fiercely," Cedric said
conversationally, aloud, "if you wanted to keep things hushed up."
"Cedric," Dumbledore said taking the opportunity to join in, "and forgive me ask
ing you this, since it shouldn't really be any of my business, but are you... tr
uly committed to Harry?"
"Yes, Headmaster, I am. Why?"
"Because now I have to be sure of you, too," Dumbledore said rather bluntly. He
saw a frown appearing on Cedric's handsome face, and his eyes narrowing. Cedric
had understood Dumbledore's words as the challenge they were, and was responding
to it. At that moment, Dumbledore saw in him a glimpse of the man Cedric was to
become. He looked strong, brave and determined to defend his beloved against al
l odds. Dumbledore nodded.
"Don't misundestand me, Cedric," Dumbledore went on, "I don't disapprove of your
relationship. In fact, I rather approve. Harry will likely need all the support
he can get, and if you two really love each other, that's the very best fortifi
cation against Voldemort. However," he raised his forefinger to stop Cedric, who
seemed to be about to interrupt him, "your relationship poses new kinds of prob
lems when Harry's safety is concerned. It would help immensely, if I knew I can
trust you as completely as I trust Harry."
"And what, sir, do you think I could possibly do to make you trust me, if you do
n't already?" Cedric asked a bit coldly. "As far as I understand, trust is somet
hing that gradually grows between people. It can't be conjured up by magic."
"You are right, of course," Dumbledore said, "and once more I have to apologise
for my rudeness, since you have never given me a reason not to trust you. Theref
ore I should without further ado, but for the high stakes involved. Harry's the
Boy Who Lived," Dumbledore said with a sad sort of a smile, "and I would very mu
ch like him to continue doing so."
"So would I," Cedric said seriously. "With all my heart. Therefore, what can I d
o to make you trust me?" This time the question wasn't a cold shoulder, but an h
onest enquiry.
"I'd like to have a rather exhaustive private conversation with you, if that sui
ts you. A kind of a job interview, if you like. I have of course followed your s
chool career with admiration, but since I don't teach any regular classes, I don
't really know you as well as I'd like to and this new situation requires. And t
o my considerable experience, there's nothing better than a good conversation to
help nurture the growth of mutual trust."
"Of course," Cedric said, sounding relieved and visibly relaxing. "That would be
my pleasure. When shall we set to it, then?"
"Almost immediately, if that's all right with you. I'll have dinner brought up h
ere. After the tidings Harry brought, I don't really want to delay."
"Oh bugger, I almost forgot. Forgive my language, Headmaster." Apologetically Ce
dric turned to look at Harry, who was resting his head on his shoulder. "What wa
s it that made you so upset, Harry?"
"Voldemort. He knows about us... I mean, if the dream I had really was true," Ha
rry said, "and that puts you as much in danger as I am. And..." he grinned sheep
ishly, feeling a bit dense, "...and I got worried Voldemort somehow got to you a
lready. It's stupid, I know, but I was so relieved when you walked in."
"Worrying about the wellfare of our loved ones is not stupidity," Dumbledore cor
rected kindly, "but a measure of one's heart."
"Dumbledore's right," Cedric said, "but would you maybe tell me about this dream
of yours?"
Harry related the dream once more. But he still couldn't make himself reveal the
most ominous thing Voldemort had said: "...unless he proves too beautiful to th
row away..." The idea of Cedric as the Dark Lord's plaything made him feel sick,
and tainted, somehow, as if it was him who had invented the idea, not Voldemort
.
Dwelling on these unhappy thoughts Harry lost the track of the conversation afte
r finishing his story. Also, and somewhat contradicting his worries, he felt ext
raordinarily safe and at ease at the moment, leaning against Cedric's strong sho
ulder in the presence of both Dumbledore and Fawkes. Harry relaxed into Cedric's
embrace, and might even have nodded off for a bit. But then Cedric moved in rea
ction to something the Headmaster had said, and Harry startled up again.
"But what," Cedric was asking, "can we do to make it safer still? As you said, t
he school is guarded. If we don't go outside of it, and Voldemort can't get in w
ithout being noticed, the risk of an abduction should be minimal."
"It's as small as I could make it," Dumbledore agreed. "But Voldemort is an extr
emely capable wizard, and very cunning. Even if he hasn't got his full powers ba
ck, he might have found a way to get to Harry that I haven't thought of to preve
nt. Therefore, better safe than sorry, as they say. Besides, I have an item that
might be of use to us."
Dumbledore stood up, went to a book cabinet behind his desk and picked up one of
the curious objects lying on top of it. He came back and showed it to Harry and
Cedric. It was a round disc-like object made of dark stone and silver, with sev
en stubby appendages encircling a little more than half of the outer egde, three
of them ending with a small sphere. On the disc itself amid delicate carvings t
here were seven silver buttons. The center of the disk had a cog-like wheel with
an arrow across it, almost like a compass rose. The whole was just big enough f
or Dumbledore to hold comfortably in his palm, with his fingers going between th
e appendages.
"This," said Dumbledore, "is a Keystone. It will help me to find you in case of
an emergency. Or, indeed, whenever I want to."
"But how?" asked Harry. "What does it do?"
"I always thought a keystone is the central stone of an arch or a vault," Cedric
said. "This must be something else entirely."
"Yes and no, Mr. Diggory," Dumdledore said, and elaborated after a short pause,
"it has the same purpose; to keep a whole together. It's also a word-play of a s
ort. You know, of course, what a Portkey is?"
"Yes," answered Harry, "we took one to the Quidditch World Cup."
"Well, you could say that a Keystone is a more advanced version of a Portkey. Th
e small spheres are Beacons. The owner of the Keystone gives them to people he o
r she wishes to see again. And they go... wherever they do. When the Keystone ow
ner wants to see them again, he activates the Keystone for a Beacon at a time, a
nd he can either Port himself to the Beacon holder or vice versa. In practise, i
t's a portkey that's not set to a fixed location, but to a person, or several. S
o," Dumbledore said, offering each of the boys one of the three remaining Beacon
s, "as long as you hold onto these, I can get you back to safety or Port myself
to help you, if either of you go missing."
"That," said Cedric, "sounds absolutely wonderful."
"The best thing is," continued the Headmaster, "that the Beacons keep true to th
eir purpose even when transformed, which helps quite a lot. One can turn them in
to pocket-watches, or rings, or belt-buckles, anything that is both easy and inc
onspicuous to carry around, and they still work as beacons. Would you like to do
the honours, Cedric? McGonagall has praised your transformations skills, and I'
d like to see more of your handiwork. The seagull during the second task was imp
eccable."
"Thank you, sir," Cedric said. "What would you like yours to be, Harry?"
"A belt-buckle sounds perfect," Harry replied. "I don't wan't another thing that
I'd have to remember to carry around. My wand and the cloak are quite enough."
"So," Dumbledore said, eyes twinkling, "I take it Mr. Diggory knows about your f
ather's invisibility cloak. Of course, it must be quite useful for romantic ende
avours..."
Cedric had the decency to blush. Harry, due to his blushing-prone genes, had no
choice.
Ten minutes later Harry was walking towards the Gryffindor common room feeling a
bit nonplussed. True, he had a rather cool new belt-buckle with a Gryffingor li
on motif, but he had also been, politely but firmly, shooed out of the Headmaste
r's office by Dumbledore right after Cedric had finished his extremely competent
transformation spells for the Beacons. It seemed that the conversation between
Dumbledore and Cedric, presumably mostly about him, was going to be conducted wi
thout him. Rationally, he knew it was necessary. Emotionally, he wanted to kick
something. Or better yet, hex it into oblivion. It, in this case, being any sort
of scapegoat, dead (An armor, perhaps?) or alive (Where the heck is Malfoy when
you really need him, huh?).
Instead of Malfoy, he met Ron and Hermione, who were full of questions and anxie
ties about his sudden flight from the Divination class. Harry gave them a short
version of what had happened since, and what he saw in the dream.
"That's awful! " Hermione exclaimed immediately after he finished. "And what did
Dumbledore-"
"Let's go practise hexes," Harry interrupted her. "Sorry, but I've been talking
for hours. I need to do something, instead. I'll tell you the rest after that, o
kay?"
After some protests the other two agreed, and in the end, Harry got to hex somet
hing into oblivion, namely practise targets conjured up by Hermione. He found it
quite satisfying, actually, releasing his frustration on them. As anger managem
ent, it was almost as good as chopping firewood.
In the meantime, Dumbledore and Cedric had finished a marvellous dinner in the H
eadmaster's office, and were about to start discussing life, universe and everyt
hing in earnest. It had started with Dumbledore clapping his hands to summon a h
ouse-elf, ordering dinner for two, and swishing his wand to levitate two winegla
sses of fine crystal from a cupboard, accompanied by an old and dusty bottle of
red wine.
"Can I perhaps tempt you to have a glass of wine, Mr Diggory?" Dumbledore reques
ted with refined tones of voice, but eyes twinkling.
"But..." asked Cedric in astonishment, "what about the school rules? I thought s
tudents aren't allowed to drink alcohol."
"There are rules, Mr. Diggory, and then there are rules. I'm quite confident tha
t a young man of your caliber can differentiate between the ones that are import
ant to follow, and the ones that can occasionally be ignored."
"Well, yes, I hope I can," Cedric replied, smiling now, "since I have to admit I
must have ignored most of what I think are the latter ones in one case or anoth
er."
"Quite right. And don't worry, this isn't an interrogation. I'm not going to pes
ter you about trivial misdemeanors. But I do intend to find out what kind of a m
an you really are. And for that, a little bit of good wine is most appropriate.
Not too much, since I don't want to cloud your judgement, but a glass or two won
't hurt. Besides, this is an exceptionally good bottle, about twice your age."
And so the cork came off, and deep crimson wine was poured. Dumbledore raised hi
s glass, and Cedric replied in kind. The wine was amazing. Rich and complex beyo
nd description, with a tad of sweetness but also a substantial bite to it. With
his limited experience, Cedric hadn't even thought a wine could be this deliciou
s. Resisting the temptation to gulp it all down, he settled for carefully measur
ed sips.
"Now," Dumbledore said, "while we wait for the dinner, could you perhaps tell me
more about your ideas about rules in general, why we need them and why and when
it is all right to break them?"
Cedric was both raised well in the art of conversation, and accustomed to oral e
xaminations in school, so he wasn't the least bothered by the sudden question. O
n the contrary, Cedric liked the intellectual challenge of formulating his thoug
hts and ideas into coherent sentences.
"Well, as far as I see it," he replied, "any human society needs some amount of
commonly accepted rules to function at all. The bigger the community is, the big
ger set of rules is needed to keep it running smoothly... However, all rules are
not created equal..." Cedric paused for a while, collecting his thoughts, and c
ontinued, when Dumbledore didn't speak. "The more complex the set of rules becom
e, the more there's bound to be 'white noise'; irrelevant and trivial rules with
no real moral value behind them. Those one can safely ignore whenever necessary
. If everybody took the literal Percy Weasley approach to each and every rule, e
veryday life would be impossible."
"I quite agree," Dumbledore said. "But to come a bit closer to home, how do you
determine yourself what rules are important and which ones are, as you put it, '
white noise'?"
"I'm afraid I am a bit of an individual there," Cedric admitted after a thoughtf
ul pause. "If the rules are tolerable, I tolerate them. If they are not, I break
them. I think I am... well, people in general are morally accountable only to t
hemselves. Then again, I think that's the most stringent measure, if they are ho
nest to themselves... "
"So you believe in the inherent goodness of people?"
"Well, not necessarily. What I mean is that in the end, one can't really count o
n any external measure when deciding if something is good or bad. I have to use
my own head, because, obviously, I can't use anyone else's."
"Right. But you shouldn't forget that you happen to have an exeptionally sharp h
ead on your shoulders," Dumbledore pointed out. "You're better equipped to make
responsible choises than many others."
"Yeah," Cedric said, blushing slightly. " I guess I have. But for those who can'
t or don't want to make the moral choises for themselves, we do have our rules.
Laws, other written rules, and the more intangible rules that govern our social
life. But the point is, they aren't always right."
"Indeed they aren't," Dumbledore confirmed. "Law and justice are often very diff
erent beasts..."
"So, despite and independently of the rules," Cedric concluded, "I have to be ab
le to live with myself and respect my own choices. Some rules I happen to agree
with, and they are usually the more profound ones, like the ban on Unforgivable
Curses. Some rules I disagree with, like the social pressure against and discrim
ination of the same-sex relationships. That, as you know, I have broken."
"Naturally," Dumbledore agreed, and went on after a while. "You've given this a
lot thought lately, haven't you?"
"I had to," Cedric said. "I guess it's called growing up. You see, my parents, o
r at least my father, went ballistic when I sent them a letter where I told them
about... told them that I like boys, one in particular, and please stop matchma
king me. He doesn't approve, at all, and is threatening to disinherit me."
"I know," Dumbledore said, rather flatly.
"Also," Cedric went on, not really registering what Dumbledore had said, "there'
s the legal question of Harry's age. As you probably know... Did... did you say
you know? About my father?"
"Yes," Dumbledore said. "I did. And I do owe you an apology for reading your pri
vate letter. You see, after the explosion, I had to find out what happened. It m
ight have had something to do with whoever got Harry into the Tournament."
"I see," Cedric said, despite looking baffled. "Or... actually, I don't. How? I
mean... I still have the letter. It's never been lost."
"Yes, well. It's possible to peek into the near past, if you know the necessary
time-space Transformation spells," Dumbledore explained.
"To turn back time!" Cedric enthused. "By Transformation? Really?"
"It's seldom useful or worth the effort," Dumbledore said, "because it's really
stressfull and quite dangerous, and gets exponentially harder the further you wa
nt to turn back time. I can only see fifteen minutes or so back. This time we go
t to the scene of destruction so soon after, I decided to try it. So we ended up
reading your father's letter, professor McGonagall and I. I'm sorry."
"It's okay," Cedric said. "I don't mind you knowing about it, nor McGonagall. I'
ll have to come out of the closet anyway, sooner or later."
"Thank you, Cedric," Dumbledore said gravely. "This has been bothering me a bit.
"
The talk turned to the issue of coming out, and what difficulties Cedric could e
xpect to face in the process. Dumbledore went on to tell him an anecdote about t
wo older boys who were found out having an affair during his early schoolboy day
s. They had an awful lot of trouble because of it, but later in life, they ended
up to become respected members of the Wizengamot, their relationship a known bu
t politely ignored fact. And so the evening went on, Dumbledore directing their
conversation into various themes ranging from Quidditch to music to social injus
tice and class systems, from blood purity to theories about the origins of magic
, from childhood memories to Harry Potter and Cedric's love affair with him.
As the time drew on and the wine bottle emptied, it became less and less an inte
rview of Cedric by the Headmaster, and more and more a sincere conversation betw
een two intelligent men. Despite the vast difference in age and experience, they
found that they agreed on many moral and philosophical questions, had a similar
kind of humour, and enjoyed the intellectual sparring their conversation natura
lly seemed to gravitate towards. Of course, their point of views to almost any m
atter differed greatly, Cedric having most of his life ahead of him, and Dumbled
ore looking back at his long and eventful passage through the previous century a
nd more. But most of the time, it only made the discussion more interesting.
During the course of the evening, their initial respect for each other turned in
to a much deeper understanding. In a lack of a better word, they became friends,
or something like that. It was still tentative, of course, and obviously it was
n't the same kind of easy, laid-back friendship as can exist between two people
of the same age and background, who are on an equal footing, but it was a kind o
f friendship nevertheless. More so than Cedric had had any reason to hope for an
d more or less like Dumbledore had anticipated.
There was a lengthy pause in the conversation, and suddenly Cedric woke to the f
act that it must be very late. He checked the time from an ornate clock on a wal
l of the office. It was nearly two o'clock.
"Merlin's beard!" he exclaimed. "I didn't realise how late it was. I think I sho
uld go and find the way to my bed."
"Before you go, Mr. Diggory, there's one more, and very important topic we shoul
d discuss." All the relaxed joviality and tipsiness had disappeared from Dumbled
ore's voice. It was strong and clear and serious. His return to the habit of usi
ng Cedric's last name only increased the sence of gravity in his words.
"By all means," Cedric consented. "What about?"
"I told you before we started that you could think of this as a job interview. I
do have a position in mind for you, even if it's not, strictly speaking, a job.
.." Dumbledore paused for a moment, and went on, when Cedric didn't speak. "Have
you ever heard about the Order of the Phoenix?"
"No, sir," Cedric replied, glancing towards Fawkes. "I can't say that I have." D
espite their fledgling friendship, he was, at the moment, acutely aware of their
difference in rank, and felt 'sir' was appropriate.
"In the war against Voldemort," Dumbledore explained, "one of the main problems
was to know who could be trusted. Voldemort had a lot of influence and his spies
had infiltrated the Ministry, even the ranks of Aurors. Therefore I founded a s
ecret society, if you like, to fight him. The idea was that what he didn't know
of, he couldn't corrupt. That idea didn't exactly work, because I made one poor
choice when selecting the members..."
"Peter Pettigrew," Cedric stated.
"Exactly," Dumbledore confirmed. "I see that Harry has informed you of the event
s that took place last year. Good. That makes things less complicated to explain
. I take it then that you know both the true nature of Sirius Black, the notorio
us murderer, and about the betrayal that led to the untimely death of Harry's pa
rents?"
"Yes, I do." Cedric answered. "I've even seen Padfoot, though very briefly."
"Indeed?" Dumbledore had raised his eyebrows questioningly.
"I think he was checking me out," Cedric explained. "Harry told him about us, yo
u see, or he guessed. I saw him near the Forbidden Forest."
"I see. Well, Sirius has never been overly cautious regarding his own safety," D
umbledore said. "Not that the Forest would pose any significant threat to him, b
ut being seen is not a very sound idea for a fugitive. He doesn't really appreci
ate the danger he is in. And danger is a given for any member of the Order, if H
arry's dream and some other sources are to prove themselves true."
"Do you really believe then," Cedric asked frowning, "that You-Know-Who is going
to come back?"
"In a word: yes. I never really believed him dead in the first place," Dumbledor
e continued, "and there's mounting evidence pointing towards his imminent return
. I hope that the evidence proves wrong, but I don't think so. And that's why I'
m planning to revive the Order of the Phoenix... Would you like to join, Mr. Dig
gory?"
"I... I might," Cedric answered, surprised, "but you haven't really explained ye
t what is it that the Order of the Phoenix does... How does it operate and so on
? I'd like to know a bit more, first."
" A wise choice, that." Dumbledore smiled. "In short, the goal of the Order is t
o bring about the permanent downfall of Lord Voldemort. To achieve that, I'm con
sidering to divide the task, and maybe even the Order, into three smaller branch
es: First one does guarding duty to keep Harry alive and well, the second is abo
ut intelligence, to find out everything we can about Voldemort, his past, his cu
rrent whereabouts and his plans, and the third is operational, to hinder and pre
vent his plans whenever we can. None of the above are safe, and in all honesty,
I must point out that only half of the original members of the Order of the Phoe
nix survived the first war."
"A rather sombering ratio, that..." Cedric said.
"Indeed." Dumbledore's voice was dry, but his face looked sad and old. "If Volde
mort returns, being in the Order puts you in the first line of defence. That's w
hy I only intend to recruit people who are of age, who really want to join, and
who are capable of defending themselves. Younger students, including Harry, are
not to know anything about the Order, at least not yet. Neither is anyone who is
n't already a member. In short; do not speak to anyone about this conversation."
"No, sir," Cedric agreed. "Of course not."
"Good," Dumbledore nodded. "By the way, I had you shortlisted as a possible memb
er already, but I wasn't going to do anything about it yet. However, your specia
l relationship to Harry makes it very important to prepare you for the possible
perils and to keep you both from harm. You see, the Order is not solely a risk,
but also a protection. We do have both special communication methods and rather
good protective spells to safeguard our members. There are several aurors in our
ranks, and the Order can provide training normally only available in the Auror
Academy."
"I see." Cedric replied. "That does sound quite tempting. Now, how long can I mu
ll over this? There's still the Tournament going on, and I'd like to concentrate
on one thing at the time. Can I postpone my answer until the third task is over
and done with?"
"My heart warns against it..." Dumbledore said seriously, "but I have to admit i
t's a reasonable request. You wouldn't have much time for extra training anyway,
not when you're preparing for the task. All right, we'll discuss this further a
fter that. At least you now have the Keystone beacons for additional safeguard."
"And that makes me sleep much better," Cedric said. "Thank you."
"You're more than welcome," Dumbledore said warmly.
"Can I ask you one more thing?" Cedric asked.
"You just did, didn't you?" Dumbledore said, amused. "Please do."
"Is Sirius a member? You implied before that he is. Can I ask him about the Orde
r, too? What it is like?"
"All right, if you wish. I'll send him a note about you," Dumbledore said. "Howe
ver, if you're going to spend several weeks with the information about the Order
in your head, I'd like to apply some precautions. You see, I usually erase all
the memories of the Order from the people who were asked to join but declined. F
or you, I'd like to put in place conditional tongue-tie and limphand curses to p
revent you from speaking or writing anything about the Order of the Phoenix to a
n outsider. That is a standard procedure anyway, if you decide to join the Order
."
"I see that you really meant a secret society," Cedric said. "So, basically, I c
an choose either to have my memories erased or to get cursed?" There was a sligh
t reproach in Cedric's voice.
"I know," Dumbledore said softly. "It's rather horrible what Voldemort gets us t
o do to fight him. During the first war I sometimes used to wonder if our side e
ventually turns just as ruthless as his, if the war goes on long enough. I still
do. But without secrecy we can't beat him. And trust only goes so far. Last tim
e, it was treachery that led to the murder of Harry's parents, and there are way
s to torture anything out of people, even those who don't want to betray us. I'm
sorry."
"It's all right. I do understand the need," Cedric allowed. "I'll take the curse
s, thank you. My memories are precious to me. And you'll have my final answer af
ter the third task, if not before."
They shook hands, solemnly. Then Dumbledore took out his wand and gave it a flic
k. A curious numb feeling passed through Cedrics tongue and both arms, leaving a
slight tingling that slowly faded. They got up, and Cedric turned to leave.
"Good night, Headmaster," he said at the door.
"Good night, Cedric. And thank you for your time."
"You're welcome," Cedric replied. "It was an honour," he added, hand on the door
knob, and meant it, too. He was feeling very adult all of a sudden.
The sun was setting on the Hogwarts grounds. The Quidditch stadium was full of l
ight and colour, but twilight was creeping up all around it. In the pit itself,
the maze stood dark, ominous and imposing. Every last one of the seats were full
of people, and banners of the schools were flying in the evening breeze. Magica
l trays filled with snacks, sweets and drinks were floating up and down the Quid
ditch stands, and no matter how many sweets were taken, the trays always refille
d themselves. There was a sense of a great festival all around.
However, the evening wasn't all cheer and mirth; there were a few pockets of mal
content among the spectators. Ron and Hermione looked tired and worried, even th
ough Ron went through all the motions of festive excitement. Amos Diggory looked
bad-tempered and received all the compliments about his son with irritation rat
her than glowing pride. His wife Penelope looked sad, and seemed to have lost he
r usual interest in society small talk. She even ignored the Minister of Magic,
Cornelius Fudge, when he came to congratulate the couple on their son's exellent
performance in the Tournament. Elsewhere, Fred and George were wondering if the
third task would turn out to be as 'interesting' to watch as the previous one.
In front of the entrance to the maze, the four Champions waited nervously, overs
hadowed by the boxes for the judges and other dignitaries. All the Hogwarts prof
essors were present, naturally, as well as Igor Karkarof and Madame Maxime accom
panied by their respective students. Quite a lot of Ministry people had arrived
to watch the spectacle, including nearly the whole staff of the Department of In
ternational Magical Cooperation. To the Champions, it all seemed to be just too
much of a distraction. They were trying to concentrate, to give their best, and
the world was hurled in their faces. Even Fleur, who usually thrived in limeligh
t, and Krum, who was used to it, looked like they'd rather be somewhere else. To
Cedric the maze, despite its gloomy cave-like entrance and the ordeals it was h
iding, started to look like a welcoming refuge instead of a potentially deathly
obstacle.
Harry just wished the whole thing was over and done with.
It had been a busy day for Harry, even if he didn't need to do final exams this
year, being a Tri-Wizard Champion. In the morning before the finals Hermione had
had a sudden moment of inspiration about Rita Skeeter, but she had refused to t
ell about it to Ron and Harry. Skeeter's name was again on many lips, especially
Slytherins', since she had written a defaming article about Harry in the day's
Daily Prophet with the title 'Harry Potter - Disturbed and Dangerous!' For once,
Harry didn't care. He had more pressing matters in his mind. Like last-minute r
evisions of the hexes he had been learning. During the breakfast professor McGon
agall came to tell him to come to the next chamber, where families of the Champi
ons had gathered to wish them good luck before the task. Harry thought about the
Dursleys, knew they wouldn't have come, and even if they did, he didn't want to
see them. So he decided to go to the library instead.
Harry was just about to leave the Great Hall, when Cedric popped his head out of
the door to the side chamber and said: "Harry, come on. They are waiting for yo
u."
Harry wondered who "they" might be, but he didn't have time to reach any conclus
ions. When he reached Cedric, the older boy glanced around and wrapped his arm a
round Harry's shoulder. All the other students had already gone to their finals,
and the professors had left, too. The Great Hall was deserted, and the door to
the side chamber covered them from that side.
"Listen, Harry," Cedric whispered urgently in his boyfriend's ear, "my parents a
re in there, and Dad's in a foul mood. I've never seen him like this. He may ven
t his temper on you, too. Please don't respond, or get angry. If he confronts yo
u, just go away. He's my dad, so leave him to me. All right?"
"Yeah, okay. Good luck, Ced," Harry whispered back. "I love you."
"I love you, too, wonderboy," Cedric replied. He looked around again, and kissed
Harry on the lips, quickly but passionately.
Cedric was just straightening up, his left arm still around Harry, when the cham
ber door behind him opened. Mrs. Weasley strode through the door, went to Harry'
s other side and gave him a fierce hug.
"Surprise!" Mrs. Weasley said exitedly. "Thought we'd come and watch you, Harry.
"
She was quite loud, and several other people in the chamber turned to look and s
aw Cedric's arm around Harry, who was struck speechless. Cedric disentangled him
self and went in, pretending nothing had happened. For the most part, it seemed
to work. He saw though, or at least imagined that he saw, significant looks from
the other Champions, both Viktor and Fleur. His parents were definitely looking
at him disapprovingly.
It was Bill Weasley, however, who explained what most people were probably think
ing. He punched Cedric lightly on the arm and said in a friendly manner: "Planni
ng for the last minute strategy, eh, are you?"
"Just wishing him good luck," Cedric replied. "He's a good kid."
"He is that," Bill agreed. "And good luck to you, too, Diggory."
"Thanks," Cedric said, and went to face his parents.
Harry was left with beaming Molly and tall, long-haired Bill Weasley, who had a
fang as an earring. While recovering from the near exposure of the moments befor
e, it got through to Harry that the Weasleys had come to replace his nonexistent
family. They had come to see him, to watch over him when he risked his life, li
ke he was one of their own. It felt really good. So good, in fact, that he got a
lump in his throat and had to keep silent for a little more to get the better o
f his emotions.
"You're all right?" asked Bill, grinning at Harry and shaking his hand. "Charlie
wanted to come, but he couldn't get time off. He said you were incredible again
st the Horntail."
"Thanks," Harry managed to say. He couldn't think of anything else to talk about
at the moment. He looked around, and noticed that Fleur was eyeing undeniably c
ool-looking Bill Weasley with an interested sparkle in her eyes. Harry could tel
l that she had no objection against long hair and earrings with fangs on them, t
he perpetual cause of arguments between Bill and Mrs. Weasley. Fleur's little si
ster Gabrielle waved at Harry, while Madam Delacour was speaking to Fleur in liv
ely French. Harry waved back.
After some time of Bill and Molly remembering their school days in Hogwarts, the
prominently hooked-nosed Krums and the Delacour family left the chamber, one af
ter the other. Only Harry, the Weasleys and the Diggorys were left in the room.
Harry couldn't help himself, and kept glancing towards Cedric and his parents, j
ust to see how Cedric was coping. He shouldn't have, of course. One time Cedric
looked back, their eyes met, and Harry smiled. Weasleys were chatting with a por
trait on the chamber wall, and Cedric felt bold enough to wink at Harry, as an a
ntidote to his parents. He shouldn't have, either. Harry felt his cheeks blushin
g, and his smile went wider, despite all the efforts to control it. He lowered h
is face and turned away, but it was too late already. There was an expression of
a sudden comprehension on the face of Cedric's mother.
"Oh by Merlin!" Penelope breathed, barely audibly, so that only his husband and
Cedric could hear her. "It's Harry Potter!"
Cedric paled to the colour of the finest white marble.
Mr. Diggory looked at his wife, exasperated, and said: "Of course it's the blood
y Potter, he's the other Champion."
"No, Amos. Not only that. He's Cedric's... fling... Isn't he, Cedric?"
Amos Diggory threw a rather hostile look at Harry, and Penelope tugged his cloak
to make him turn back. Cedric noticed that she didn't let go. It made him more
confident, for some reason. Besides, he understood that once the idea was out th
ere, denying the fact would be pointless. His mother was quite clever, and despi
te their disagreements, she did read Cedric very well. He'd have less chance tha
n a snowball in hell if he tried to bluff his way out of this.
"Potter... " Amos Diggory said slowly, looking like he was tasting something sou
r.
"No," Cedric said to his mother, with a low but determined voice, "He's not a fl
ing."
"You know what I mean," his mother said. "What do you want me to call him, then?
"
"Boyfriend would do nicely, mom," and now there was a plea in his voice. "Or jus
t Harry, if an epithet isn't needed. But yes, I do know what you mean, and he is
, I'm proud to say, my fella."
"Proud!" his father burst out, loud enough that the Weasleys turned to look at h
im.
"Shhh," Penelope hissed. " Keep you voice down, Amos."
"Proud?" Mr. Diggory repeated, incredulously but with considerably less volume.
"By Merlin's dirty socks, how can you say such a thing? It's... disgusting, that
's what it is! I'll ground you for a century, boy, if you don't stop this... unn
atural talk at this very moment."
"No you won't," Cedric said, angry but still in control of himself. "You have no
hold over me, Dad. I'm legally an adult, and I can do as I please. If you want
to disinherit me, go ahead. But that's all you can do, and it won't help. I have
nothing at home that I would miss a quarter as much as I would miss Harry."
"Harry Potter..." his father snarled through gritted teeth. "He ain't untouchabl
e, that... that disturbed Potter boy. He ain't an adult. I'll ruin him for... fo
r corrupting you. I'll have him expelled! See if I don't..."
"Dad, listen to me," Cedric pleaded, trying very hard to remain cool and reasona
ble. It helped that after his recent meeting with Dumbledore, he knew that the H
eadmaster was definitely on their side. "It's not Harry's fault that I'm gay. No
r it is mine, or mother's, or yours. Nobody 'corrupted' me. I just am the way I
am. I like boys, and that's that. Hurting Harry is not going to change me into s
omething else. Besides, how could you do something so... mean and vengeful? I th
ought you a decent man!"
"Decent! What do you know about decent?," Amos said, his face red with suppresse
d rage, "I'm your father! I order you to stop talking to me like that."
"No, Dad, those days are over," Cedric replied, shaking his head. "I'm a human b
eing, not your puppet. And I've done nothing wrong. Until you can treat me and H
arry in a civil manner, we have nothing to talk about. Goodbye!"
And with that, Cedric turned around and left the chamber. Mr. Diggory, still red
-faced with fury, made a move to follow him, but his wife stopped him. Neither o
f them saw that Cedric had tears flowing down his cheeks before he even reached
the door. Harry saw, and wondered how much the confrontation had cost him. Apart
from a few louder words, Harry hadn't been able to make out Cedric's argument w
ith his parents.
"Oh my," said Mrs. Weasley. "Cedric seems to be having a row with his parents. I
wonder what he's done to upset them."
"Mom," Bill said. "It's none of our business."
"Not yours, no," Harry said. "But I have to go and see that Cedric's all right.
I'll meet you at lunchtime in the entrance hall, okay?"
And without waiting for their answer, he bolted.
Later, after Cedric had stormed off and Amos Diggory had had time to cool his he
ad a bit, Mrs. Diggory brought up again the subject of Cedric's orientation. The
couple was walking around Hogwarts grounds near the lake, with huge old oaks sc
attered on a perfect lawn. Patches of sun and shadow were quilting the gentle gr
een slopes with reshaping patterns. There was a slight breeze, and barely a clou
d on the sky. A perfect summer afternoon. Mrs. Diggory had led her husband to th
is place because she had thought that the tranquility of the environment might m
ake the conversation easier. So far, it hadn't really worked. Mr. Diggory was st
ill planning to bring down Harry Potter, no matter what.
"Think, Amos!" Penelope said, "He's three years younger! Nobody would believe a
fourteen-year-old to have seduced a seventeen-year-old. You can't go public with
this. It wouldn't help at all. What's more, it would ruin Cedric's reputation f
orever."
"No more than what he deserves," Amos insisted angrily, "the ungrateful brat!"
"Amos, listen to me. He's our child, our only son. We can't abandon him just bec
ause he... because he loves... differently. You should know as well as I do, tha
t it's not so uncommon. Most people just cover it up. But perhaps you really don
't know, is that it? Do you really think being gay doesn't happen in better fami
lies?"
"I have never seen any sign of this... this unnatural behaviour amongst our acqu
aintances," Mr. Diggory said, affronted.
"Amos, please!" Mrs. Diggory said in disbelief. "Can you really be so clueless t
hat you believe, for instance, that the old queer, Lord Cartwheeler, has ever co
nsummated his marriage to Eleanor? She's had at least a dozen young lovers in as
many years, and some of them she has been sharing with her husband. None of the
ir children are really his."
"But Penelope..."
"Not a word, Amos, until you have listened to what I have to say," his wife said
sternly. "You were brought up in a very conservative family, where you never ha
d to face these kind of things. Well, I wasn't. I have never told you about it,
because I wanted to leave all that behind, to become as proper and decent a girl
as you could ever have hoped for. Curiously, that was my version of the youthfu
l rebellion against my parents..."
"But darling, what..."
"Hush!" Penelope snapped. "I'm telling you something important, and you'd do wis
ely if you listened instead of interrupting me."
"I wasn't..."
"Silence!" Mrs. Diggory barked with such a commanding voice that her husband's j
aw was left hanging open in amazement, and only after getting a pointed look fro
m her, Mr. Diggory registered the fact and shut his mouth with a clack of teeth.
"Anyway," Penelope continued, "unlike I told you when we met, I do have a family
, and they are a bunch of hippies, the flower children of the 60's. Even you mus
t have heard about those. From since I was ten or so onward, I was brought up ac
cording to the principles of free love, sex and rock and roll. I hated it all at
the time, but I do know a thing or two about alternative lifestyles. Being gay
is not such a bad thing, all things considered. Cedric might be queer, but lovin
g someone of his own sex is surely better than, say, being a Death Eater."
Amos Diggory, when he was finally given a chance to speak, wasn't capable of say
ing anything at all. Another important part of his carefully maintained world ha
d just turned under his feet, and he was reeling from the shock.
When Harry caught up with Cedric, the latter was standing in front of the statue
of the three gargoyles, which covered the entrance to the Lost Observatory. Wit
hout speaking, Harry took Cedric's hand in his own. Cedric uttered the required
poem with a shaky voice, and the wall behind the statue dissolved. They went in
and started to climb. Some time later when they reached the Observatory, Cedric
headed straight to the balcony. They stood for a long time by the railing, just
looking at the magnificent view of the mountains, fresh green valleys in between
, and the tiny speck of Hogwarts somewhere far, far down.
In Harry's mind, the events of the schoolyear were lining up to form an elaborat
e tangle of scary possibilities. He couldn't help thinking that too many of the
threads of his life seemed to come to a crucial turning point just today of all
possible days. The tournament, obviously, but also the matter of Cedric's parent
s and even the malicious writings of Rita Skeeter and Hermione's plans of reveng
e. And behind all this, he imagined two background figures meeting in silent bat
tle; Dumbledore with his protections for the school and Harry, and the dark unkn
own shape of someone, who had been pulling the strings behind the scenes all yea
r. The past in the Pensieve and the occasional odd behaviour of Messieurs Crouch
, Karkarof, Snape, and Moody, it was all connected somehow. Harry knew that ther
e must be links and meanings that he couldn't fathom. Only one thing was certain
; there was a terrifying sense of Destiny in all this, Harry thought, and the id
ea made him shiver. He didn't like to think about that.
"What happened?" Harry asked instead. "Want to tell me about it?"
"Mom figured us out," Cedric explained in a flat tone. "It was right after I win
ked at you... It was incredibly stupid of me, and I'm supposed to be smart and a
ll."
"And then?"
"Well, it wasn't exactly fun before that," Cedric replied, "but then Dad got rea
lly upset... He... he said he was going to get you expelled, among other things.
"
"And you?" Harry asked with a small voice.
"I told him to get stuffed, basically," Cedric told him slowly, wondering himsel
f. "I was a bit more polite, though... I said he could disinherit me if he wante
d, I wouldn't care. There's nothing at home that I would miss a quarter as much
as I would miss you."
"You really said that?" Harry sounded astonished and utterly delighted. "To your
father?"
"Yes, I did," Cedric confirmed. "And a bit more along the same lines. Then I had
to leave, before I went to pieces. But Harry... why do you sound so happy about
it?"
"You defended me, Cedric," Harry said, beaming. "You stood up to your own father
for me. I knew that you meant it when you said you loved me, but this... it's s
o much bigger than words. Nobody has ever made me feel this happy, this... wante
d." Then he reached up his hand to tousle Cedric's hair and kissed his lips, whi
ch were, slowly, starting to smile.
"You're right, you know," Cedric said, when the magnitude of what he had done, a
nd what it meant for their future, gradually dawned on him. "This is a big deal.
The worst is over, Harry, at least for me. They know about us now, and whatever
happens next... that makes us free. And in just a couple of weeks you'll be old
enough, and then we don't have to be afraid of the law, either."
"I know," Harry said, and grinned suddenly, grabbing Cedric's hand. "Come on in,
we only have time until lunch."
"Time to do what?" Cedric wondered aloud, his mind slowly turning to decipher Ha
rry's train of thought.
"To snog and cuddle," Harry said with a sparkle in his eyes. "You've earned that
, at the very least. So let's break some laws, shall we?"
Fifteen minutes later, Harry and Cedric were inside, making out on a pile of cus
hions. They were naked, hard, and eager. It had been nearly a week since their l
ast time, and that had been just a hasty quickie in-between classes. Cedric had
just climbed on top of Harry, after doing something wet and nice between his leg
s. They kissed, and Harry licked his lover's neck, tasting the salt on his skin.
"Cedric," Harry said a bit timidly, reaching for his ear.
"Yeah?"
"Fuck me," Harry whispered, his heart beating at a double rate. Saying it felt s
trange â too vulgar, maybe, and a bit cheap, but he still wanted to use that word. I
t wasn't even among his swear words of choice, and using it made the whole thing
more tangible, somehow. To Harry, the F-word was a rite of passage. "I want you
to."
Cedric moved, found Harry's eyes with his own, and asked: "Are you sure?"
"Positive," Harry confirmed nervously, lowering his eyes. "I'm afraid of it, a b
it, but I do want you to... come into me."
"Wow. I'd love to, but..." Cedric hesitated between worry and elation. "Blimey,
Harry! Are you... I mean... How come you changed your mind? I thought you were j
ust joking out there, you know, about breaking the law."
"It's time," Harry said simply, and elaborated after a pause: "Everything's in f
lux now, you know, uncertain... The thing with your parents... and tonight's the
third task, we don't know if we... if we both even survive to see tomorrow. I w
ant to have experienced you inside me. I feel like... I just think it's time. I
love you, and I want to have that memory, if everything goes badly."
"Harry..." Cedric was swept away by the strength of emotion in Harry's voice. He
couldn't think of anything to say. Instead he kissed Harry, long and deep and b
reathlessly. "Gods, Harry," he said when the kiss ended, "I love you so much."
"Fuck me, then." Harry said, and grinned. This time he felt exhilarated about be
ing so bold. "You said you know a spell that makes it really nice."
And Cedric crawled to their clothes for his wand. When he came back, he was hard
er than Harry ever remembered seeing him. His cock looked frightfully big, but a
lso magnificent, and Harry wanted it more than anything.
"Lubricatum Masculinus," Cedric intoned with a flourish of his wand, and a gloss
y, transparent something enclosed his hard-on from the tip to the base. Harry co
uldn't really say what it was, it didn't look like any kind of substance, solid
or liquid. Probably some kind of magical force field, he thought.
"Ooh, fancy!" Harry declared.
"It's a lubrication spell, and it's better than any lotion," Cedric explained.
Harry reached over and caressed Cedric's magically covered cock. It felt amazing
. All the warmth and softness of the bare skin was there, but the friction was d
rastically reduced, like the skin was heavily oiled or covered in lotion. But it
didn't feel oiled. It felt slick but not the least bit wet, or glossy like a hi
ghly polished stone, but soft â a delightful contradiction in itself. And somehow, t
he spell enhanced the sensitivity of the touch. Harry felt... more with his fing
ers than usually. A worrisome thought entered his mind.
"If the spell makes me feel more when I touch you," he asked, "then what about t
he pain? There's bound to be some..."
"Don't worry, love," Cedric said, smiling. "It only enhances the good feelings,
while easing the unpleasant ones. Believe me, this spell is the best thing since
ice cream."
"And how do you know that, exactly?" Harry asked mischievously.
"I've been around a bit, you know that," Cedric said, half amused, half irritate
d. "Before us, mind. And I've been... had, too, a couple of times. That's when I
was taught the spell."
"And who, if you don't mind me asking," Harry asked, "did all that teaching and
having?"
"Are you sure you want to know?" Cedric asked, suddenly serious.
"Yes, if it's someone nice." Harry's tone made it clear that he was having fun.
"Might even turn me on, for all you know..."
"It was... Ollie, if you must know..." Cedric confessed after a brief silence. H
e was looking away, unsure of Harry's reaction, "Oliver Wood. We were in a Quidd
itch summer camp together a couple of years back..."
"And you tried ice cream, too?" Harry couldn't help himself. He was nervous, and
it made him say silly things. However, the idea of hunky Oliver Wood shagging h
is lean and beautiful Cedric was, in fact, a great turn-on.
"Strawberry or Vanilla?" Cedric asked, mock serious. Then he looked at Harry and
his face broke into a huge grin. Harry giggled, and things escalated from there
. Soon they were in a helpless heap, laughing themselves silly.
That broke the tension. When the hilarity subsided, they were relaxed and at eas
e again. They started kissing, and soon both were hard and ready. Cedric got bet
ween Harry's legs again, kissed him once more, sat up and positioned himself.
"You're sure about this?" he asked, still hesitant.
"Yes," Harry breathed, and tried to relax.
Cedric took hold of one of Harry's legs, put it on his shoulder, turned him a bi
t sideways on the bedding, adjusted himself, and gently pushed. After a couple o
f tries, his cock slid halfway into Harry, who inhaled sharply, expecting pain.
Which, by and large, didn't come. There was a mild stinging sensation, and at fi
rst an uncomfortable feeling of being stretched, but that was it. After a few mo
ments of letting Harry to get used to it, Cedric pushed forward. This time he we
nt in completely, and Harry gasped. Cedric's cock had touched something inside h
im, something pleasurable. Something really, really good.
Cedric started to move. Harry moaned. And gasped. And swore out of suprised deli
ght. He started to meet Cedric's thrusts. The spell-enhanced feeling of being ge
ntly invaded was indescribable. Cedric grabbed Harry's cock and started to strok
e him in the pulse of their mating, which made everything even more intense. Har
ry had seldom imagined and never really believed that getting fucked would be th
is good. They moved in unison, moaning and sweating, their breathing growing mor
e and more ragged. Not very much later, Harry felt he couldn't take it any more.
"I'm... about... to come..." he panted.
"I know." Cedric managed to answer between the strokes. "Me... too."
"Come... inside," Harry gasped, but Cedric was beyond the point of coherent spee
ch. He thrusted as deep as possible and tensed rigid, moaning loudly, his body q
uivering against Harry as he came. He'd let go of Harry's cock a while ago. Now,
without even touching himself, Harry felt his own orgasm kicking in. It became
an infinite, scorching blaze of unprecedented joy. The pleasure transcended his
body somehow; it felt too intense to have anything to do with muscles or nerves
or bodies, even though he still sensed Cedric's body writhing next to and partly
inside of him. After a small eternity, when the rapture subsided, it left Harry
feeling almost liquidly relaxed, covered with splashes of cum and Cedric's heav
ing body.
"Oh... my... God!" Harry panted. "That was amazing!"
"Yeah, it's... wow!" Cedric said, still somewhat incoherently. Then again, his b
rain had stopped working a good while ago, and was just regaining its proverbial
feet.
After a brief rest, they did it again. They were young, after all, and intoxicat
ed with this new aspect of their love for each other. Harry wanted to try riding
on top, which enabled him to control the rhythm of their lovemaking. His pace w
as slower than their first time, and more sensuous. When he raised and lowered h
is body on Cedric's, he kept looking at his lover's face, learning how his movem
ents made Cedric react. Moving like... this... elicited a gasp, or... that way,
and Cedric arched up to meet him with a delicious show of muscles flexing under
the smooth skin. Of course, Harry was also learning how his own body reacted to
Cedric, too. When Cedric reached up to touch his nipple, the fondle caused his l
ower body to tense, making them both moan in delight. Harry was almost painfully
hard, and the slow pace was becoming a sort of a sweet torture; every little mo
vement felt like myriads of joyful notes coming together to make a symphony of p
leasure. He felt like his sense of touch was being multiplied now when he was al
most solely concentrating on it. Through his bliss Harry noticed Cedric smiling,
and looked into his eyes, green into grey, emerald into silver, and the force o
f the connection nearly made Harry cry with joy, filling him to the brim with em
otion. The world stopped, and so did Harry. He loved this boy... this vibrant, r
adiant man, more than he had ever thought possible. For a long time they remaine
d poised in this perfect balance, just breathing together, feeling almost like m
elting into a single being, their hard cocks pulsing ever so slightly with their
heartbeats.
Then, suddenly, Cedric raised himself up in one fluid motion, his lips coming to
meet Harry's. He kissed Harry hungrily, reigniting his need for rhythm and move
ment, for the eternal dance of oblivion and restoration. And Cedric happily obli
ged, flipping him over onto his back and thrusting into him. But then, unexpecte
dly, he straightened up and pulled out.
"Turn over, Harry," Cedric said huskily, answering a question in Harry's eyes. W
hen Harry did, Cedric pulled him up against his chest, nibbled at his earlobe an
d entered him once more.
And while Harry loved watching Cedric when they made love, not seeing him was al
so exiting, in a different, more animalistic way. Cedric was tall enough for the
m to kiss quite easily when Harry turned his head, but even more Harry loved it
when Cedric kissed and gently bit his neck. The feeling of his lover's teeth gra
cing his sensitive skin woke some deep-seated sense of danger and submission whi
ch, combined with getting fucked, was such a turn-on that Harry almost felt asha
med of the strength of his lust. A good thing, he thought, that Cedric couldn't
see his face.
It wouldn't have mattered though. Cedric was equally carried away with similar f
eelings, and in the throes of passion, he took the skin at the back of Harry's n
eck in his teeth and growled, like a panther in heat. At the same time Harry fel
t Cedric climaxing inside him, and the growl changed into ecstatic moans. The so
und sent Harry over the edge, too. He tried to resist, to prolong the moment, bu
t found out he couldn't. Harry arched his back, and surfing on the subsiding dow
nwave of his own orgasm, Cedric pulled him up against his body and took hold of
his cock. For a while they wavered there, Harry shooting all over the place and
Cedric enjoying his every spasm, moan and breath. Then their legs gave way, and
they collapsed into a boneless heap of satisfied lust. For several minutes, they
just laid where they had fallen, and then slowly entangled and looked at each o
ther with face-splitting grins.
"Forget the ice cream, mate," Harry said after getting his breath back . "That w
as the best thing ever!" He paused for a while, and asked innocently, "Now, how
about a threesome with Oliver?"
"Harry!" Cedric exclaimed, delighted and shocked by equal measures, "You naughty
boy! Am I not man enough for you?"
"I was only teasing," Harry said, and now it was his turn to turn serious, "You'
re more than I ever imagined having, and you know that. And I love teasing you w
ith embarrassing things, it's still so new to me... Oliver, though, he must real
ly know his moves, you know?"
"I'm never gonna hear the end of this Ollie thing, am I?" Cedric asked ruefully.
"Never," Harry grinned, and kissed him.
Half a day later Harry and Cedric were nervously listening to Dumbledore's magic
ally amplified voice echoing around the Quidditch pitch. The Headmaster welcomed
the guests to Hogwarts and told a short but rather amusing version of the histo
ry of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. He then proceeded to acknowledge the four Guard
ians: Hagrid and the professors McGonagall, Flitwick and Moody. Their job would
be to patrol the outer perimeter of the maze and help out Champions who were for
ced to remove themselves from the competition. Finally Dumbledore started to des
cribe the challenge of the day.
"As you can see," Dumbledore said, "we have grown a maze here in our Quidditch S
tadium. The Tri-Wizard Cup is in the center of this maze, and the task is to rea
ch it. Whoever of the four Champions reaches the Cup first, wins the Tournament.
The Cup has, for today, been transformed into a Portkey, which promptly deliver
s the winner back here to the starting point for the appropriate winning ceremon
ies... The arrangements for the inappropriate ones I leave to the friends and cl
assmates of the winner. Needless to say, before reaching the Cup, the Champions
will have to overcome different obstacles on their way. Of them, I shall say no
more. You shall see them for yourself, once the task begins."
When Dumbledore paused, professor Flitwick raised his wand and waved it like the
conductor of a symphony orchestra. Four immense, iridescent bubbles formed abov
e the maze, arranged in a straight line along the long axis of the pitch. They s
eemed to be full of thin silvery mist. When the excited murmur of the crowd died
away, Dumbledore continued.
"In all the important places of the maze," he said, "we have positioned fairies,
who will see what's happening in their surroundings. Courtesy of our indispensa
ble professor Flitwick, what the fairies see is magically projected to the bubbl
es above the maze whenever a Champion is in the vicinity. There's a bubble for e
ach Champion. When a contestant is out of sight of the fairies, his or her bubbl
e remains blank, otherwise we shall all see what's happening to them inside. Cha
mpions, please enter the gate area!"
Fleur, Krum, Cedric and Harry walked forward to a marked area in front of the en
trance gate. One by one, the bubbles came alive with giant projections of the fo
ur of them. The crowd exploded into thunderous applauds, especially those who ha
d been bored half to death by the second task. On the Gryffindor stand, Fred and
George hooted like madmen and started a mexican wave chanting Flitwick's name.
He had always been their favourite professor, anyway.
When the noise levels had come back down a bit, Dumbledore gave way to Ludo Bagm
an, who announced the standing and points of each Champion, and how the points w
ere to be translated into starting delays. Since Harry and Cedric tied in the fi
rst place, they were to go into the maze first, together, then Krum and finally
Fleur.
At last, it was time. Harry's stomach was suddenly full of butterflies. Cedric l
ooked determined, but there was a sheen of cold sweat on his brow. The gate look
ed like a black hole cut into the hedge, it was so dark in between the shrubbery
walls. There was a loud whistle, the starting signal. Side by side, Harry and C
edric walked through the gate.
The maze swallowed them into the darkness.
The figure of Alastor Moody was creeping along the outer edge of the maze. He ha
d a piece of parchment in one hand and a wand in the other. Occasionally he cons
ulted the Marauder's Map, for that's what the parchment was. After some minutes
of a slow advance along the hedge, he seemed to come to a decision, put the map
in his pocket and pointed the wand towards the hedge, which opened immediately,
allowing him through. He continued along the passage where he had ended up, and
took the first turn right. In front of him, just twenty feet further, was Viktor
Krum, his back turned.
"Imperio!" Mad-Eye snarled. The unforgivable curse hit Krum straight at the back
.
"Turn around," Moody ordered and, like a puppet, Krum did so.
"Now," Mad-Eye said in a low but commading voice, "I have a new task for you: Fi
nd Fleur Delacour and Cedric Diggory, in that order. Make sure you catch them in
a spot with no fairies in sight. Torture the Delacour bitch with Crucio, until
she's unconscious, then wipe her memory and send up the red sparks. If she's abo
ut to escape, kill her. As for the Diggory boy..."
While Moody had been talking, the vacant expression on Krum's face had gradually
changed into one of internal struggle. When Mad-Eye got to the killing part, so
mething snapped inside him, and he looked like himself again, except furious wit
h rage. "No!" he shouted vehemently, "I won't, you monster!"
But even that was too much talk. Moody's wand swished in the air. "Levicorpus!"
he shouted, and "Accio wand!" right after that. Viktor Krum was hoisted upside d
own, like there was an invisible rope tied to his feet, and his wand spun in the
air, ending up in Moody's hand.
"Fighting my curse, are you, you miserable whelp?" Moody snarled. He walked to K
rum, who was trying to get down to the ground. It was a futile effort. When Mad-
Eye got close enough, he raised his fist and with the whole of his considerable
bulk behind the punch, hit Krum's upside down head like a boxer punches a sack.
It was a vicious blow, swinging Krum's head back and forth in a whiplash motion.
He went limp, and Moody released his victim from the levitation spell. Krum lan
ded bonelessly onto the mercifully soft ground, his clothes and limbs forming a
haphazard frame around his body. His head rested against his shoulder, mouth lol
ling open.
"Luckily," the madman wearing Moody's appearance said, talking to the unconsciou
s Krum, "I came prepared, in case you proved headstrong. That old bat Snape has
the most useful Potions in his stores. When I raided his office, I found this...
" He took out a small bottle of black substance, unstoppered it and measured thr
ee drops into Krums mouth. "It's called Apathonic, and it will disconnect your w
ill. After this, a child with a stick could make you run his errands. Now, wake
up, scumbag."
Moody alias Barty Crouch Jr. invigorated Viktor Krum with a spell and Imperiused
him once more. Only this time, Krum didn't, couldn't fight back because of the
potion. After receiving his instructions, his wand, and the Marauder's Map to gu
ide him, Krum trod off to fulfill his evil mission. Mad-Eye had told him how to
use the Map, and ordered him to close it after dealing with Cedric.
When Krum had disappeared from view, Moody didn't return to his patrolling. Inst
ead, he headed towards the center of the maze, taking a shortcut through a hedge
when necessary. Soon, he arrived at the Triwizard Cup. He summoned all the fair
ies stationed near the prize. When they were gathered close enough to each other
, he petrified and blinded them with two spells encompassing the whole gathering
. In the end, he hid them all under the hedges. By the order of the Dark Lord, n
obody was to see Harry Potter taking the Cup.
Previously, Harry and Cedric had started their journey into the maze together, w
ands ignited with Lumos to expel the deep gloom between the hedges.
"Harry," Cedric had said after a bit of walking, "should we pair up and go toget
her?"
"Nah, I'll be fine," Harry had replied, but his voice had been trembling a bit.
The uneventful darkness had been starting to grate on his nerves. "Don't worry.
Besides, I think it's against the rules."
"Bugger the rules, Harry," Cedric had blurted out. "I just want to see you safel
y through this."
"I know," Harry had countered, "but you can't. Remember the fairies?"
"Oh, right. Dammit!"
They had arrived at the first crossing and looked left and right. In both direct
ions the corridors soon turned again. There had been no fairies in sight.
"Okay," Harry had said. "I guess this is it. Which one do you want?"
"Left, if it's all the same to you," Cedric had answered. "Look, just be careful
, okay?"
"And you be fast, smart and ferocious, okay?" Harry had asked in turn. "If there
are some beasts in here, I don't want to catch you talking to them politely."
"All right, love," Cedric had promised, smiling. "Come here."
They had hugged tightly, kissed once and separated. For a long moment they had s
tood a few feet apart and just looked at each other, then finally turned and run
off along their respective corridors. It had felt awful.
The audience got to see quite a lot of action, this time. They saw Cedric runnin
g into a blast-ended skrewt and just barely managing to get away, and Harry prod
ucing a magnificent Patronus when facing a boggart pretending to be a Dementor.
Fleur wowed the crowd with fiery attack spells when she came across a nest of do
g-sized spiders (although Ron muttered to Hermione that dog-sized was nothing co
mpared to the really big ones). Krum faced a hippogrif, which did let him pass a
fter he greeted it correctly with a bow and a steady look in the eyes. Harry wal
ked into an odd sort of mist, and was suddenly floating upside down, feet to the
sky, and froze. It didn't look like he was hanging from his feet, but rather th
at the gravity had suddenly flipped around when he was concerned. The audience h
ad just enough time to ponder what to do in his shoes, when Harry calmly stepped
forward and flipped back to normal, his feet on the firm ground once more. The
mist was just an illusion, yet another test of nerve.
But obviously there were real dangers in the maze, too. Not too much later, ther
e was a fountain of red sparks, which meant that one of the champions had been f
orced to abort the task. Maddeningly for the audience, all the floating view bub
bles were empty at the moment, so they didn't know which of the contestants had
failed.
Krum was finished with Fleur, and moved girl had been lucky, in a sense; she had
been hit with the Cruciatus curse while walking, lost her footing, fallen down
and hit her head to a massive gnarled root of the hedge badly enough to render h
er unconcious. And that, in turn, had literally fulfilled the orders Krum had re
ceived from Moody. If he had indeed tortured her into unconciousness, it would p
robably had made lasting damage to her beautiful brain, unlike a simple bruise o
n the temple.
In any case, Krum was now tracking Cedric, his second intended victim, through t
he twists and turns of the labyrinth. Unlike Moody, he wasn't a Guardian and did
n't know the spells to clear the hedges from his path, so he had to follow the r
outes allowed by the maze. And that meant, even with the map, that finding someo
ne was easier said than done. Moreover, whenever the fairies were in sight, he h
ad to hide the map in his robes to avoid rousing suspicions in the undoubtedly a
vid audience. Naturally, these minor hindrances paled compared to the obstacles
set up for the task, the most notable being yet another vicious blast-ended skre
wt and a rather alarming passage where the hedges grew fast, tentacle-like shoot
s which reacted to movement and tried to catch and strangle anyone walking past.
The first Krum managed to stun for long enough to get out of sight but the seco
nd was trickier. In the end, he succeeded in the obscure and seldom useful Slick
ball spell, which made him ooze slime so slippery the shoots couldn't reel him i
n.
All these little adventures took time, which meant that Viktor Krum only caught
up with Cedric quite near to the center of the maze. He succeeded in sneaking to
a close range behind Cedric's back, but just when he was ready to cast his curs
e, several things happened in rapid succession. Krum's foot met a hollow in the
otherwise smooth ground and he stumbled a bit. But even before he let out a shar
p breath of surprise, something alerted Cedric and he started to turn. When his
eyes met the ominous sight of a raised wand in Krum's hand, Cedric moved like a
lightning, throwing himself aside from the path of the Krum's first, silent curs
e.
"What are you doing!" yelled Cedric, raising himself from the ground. "What the
Hell do you think you're doing?"
"Crucio!" Krum shouted, and the air was suddenly full of Cedric's yells of agony
. For a while, he twitched and jerked on the ground where he'd fallen again, sho
uting in pain. Then there was a rustling sound of something forcing it's way thr
ough a hedge, and a moment later Harry Potter appeared, eyes ablaze with fury an
d wand raised. Krum's ordered victims didn't include Harry, quite contrary, sinc
e the fake Mad-Eye had explicitly told him not to hurt Harry. Krum only had one
option. He turned and run, but despite being a world-class seeker, he wasn't fas
t enough.
"Stupefy!"
Harry's spell hit the retreating back of Viktor Krum, who fell forward and lay m
otionless on the ground. Harry hastened to Cedric's side, eyes dark with concern
.
"Are you all right!" Harry said, grabbing Cedric's arm.
"Yeah... Yeah. I can't believe it! He crept up behind me, I heard him. I turned
around, and he had his wand on me!"
Cedric got up. He was still shaking. He and Harry looked down at Krum.
"I don't believe this!" Harry said, staring at Krum. "I thought he was all right
!"
"So did I," said Cedric.
"Did you hear Fleur scream earlier?" said Harry.
"Yeah," Cedric said. "You didn't think Krum got her, too?
"I don't know," said Harry, slowly.
"Should we leave him here?" Cedric muttered.
"No," said Harry. "I reckon we should send up red sparks, someone'll come and co
llect him. Otherwise he'll propably be eaten by a skrewt."
"He'd deserve it..." Cedric muttered. But all the same, he raised his wand and s
hot a shower of red sparks high up into the dark sky, marking the spot where Kru
m lay.
"Well, I suppose we'd better go on," Cedric said, "you know, on our separate way
s."
"What?" Harry said, "Oh, yeah, right."
It was an odd moment. For a brief time he and Cedric had been reunited against K
rum, and Harry had forgotten all about the ongoing task. Now the fact that the w
orld might be watching came back to him, and he suppressed his urge to hug and c
omfort Cedric, who must have been shaken by Krum's attack.
Slowly, they proceeded up the dark path, glancing at each other every now and th
en, until they came to the next crossing, where Harry turned left, and Cedric ri
ght. In Harry's anxious ears, Cedric's footsteps soon died away.
Only five minutes later, Harry came face to face with maybe the most beautiful c
reature he had ever laid his eyes on. She had a a body of a lioness, but in plac
e of a beast's head she had a face of a woman. And not just any woman, but one o
f a serene, ageless and mysterious beauty. She was wearing an Egyptian head-piec
e and a magnificent broad necklace of gold and precious stones. Her eyes were al
mond-shaped and features full of personality. There were faint crow's feet of la
ughter in the corners of her eyes, but her countenance spoke more of wisdom than
hilarity. When Harry looked in her eyes, instead of whites, irises and pupils o
f a human eye he saw purest, beepest black imaginable. In the featureless blackn
ess floated tiny specs of light, more in the center where pupils would have been
. Harry felt like he was looking into the deep space of faraway galaxies, filled
with myriads of distant stars and unimaginable mysteries.
"What do you seek, Harry Potter?" the sfinx asked. Her voice was a wonderful mel
odious alto, but with a deeper, more resonant rumble than in any woman's voice.
It sent shivers running along Harry's spine, and he couldn't help wondering what
she would sound when roaring.
"The Tri-Wizard Cup, at the moment," Harry replied, after a nervous swallow.
"Fair enough," the sfinx said, smiling slightly. "The shortest path to the Cup l
ies behind me.
"Will you let me pass, then?" Harry asked, "Please..."
"No."
"Okay," Harry said, acting bolder than he felt, "How does this work, then?"
"I'll ask you three questions, Harry," the sfinx answered, "and if you give me t
rue answers, I'll let you pass. If you don't want to answer, you can walk away a
nd try another route. If your answer is dishonest, I'll attack." During the last
words, Harry saw, or imagined seeing a head of a fierce lioness glimpsing throu
gh her human face. After that, he harboured no illusions of overcoming the attac
k, if things would come to that. He hoped fervently that they wouldn't.
"All right," Harry said, "Could I hear the first question, please?"
"Who do you love the most?" the sfinx asked.
That's easy, Harry thought, and he was just on the verge of answering, when he r
emembered the fairies. He glanced around and sure enough, spotted at least half
a dozen of them hanging on the branches of the nearest hedges.
"Do you mind if I make this a private conversation?" Harry inquired.
"Not at all," the sfinx said. "I love keeping secrets."
Harry took out his wand, waved it and said "Muffliato." This was one of the spel
ls he had learned from Cedric, and it filled the ears of possible listeners with
a undecipherable buzz, so that they couldn't make out what was being said. It a
lso made the acoustics different for the people who were within the spell's prot
ection, like they were inside an echoless chamber, where sounds died almost inst
antly.
"I..." Harry started into this new silence, thought about lip-reading and waved
his wand once more. "Obstructo," he said this time, and a rippling sphere appear
ed around them. It looked like a disturbed surface of a pond in rain, except the
re was no rain, and it hung impossibly in the air. It was transparent, so you co
uld see through it, but all the fine details were distorted by the rippling surf
ace. It was the visual sibling spell of Muffliato, one he also learned from Cedr
ic.
"I love..." Harry said, hesitated for a moment and went on, "...Cedric Diggory."
The confession made him blush slightly, and he felt his ears growing hot. He wa
s not used to stating the fact aloud, especially when he knew he was being watch
ed. He hoped of course, that his protections were enough, but what did he know a
bout fairies and their abilities. Not enough. He only ever read the summary of t
hat particular chapter of in his Care of Magical Creatures book.
"I know," the sfinx said, smiling more warmly now, and somehow Harry realised th
at his words had transmitted not only their surface meaning to her, but everythi
ng Cedric meant to him, Harry. Cedric's name had carried with it all his memorie
s of Cedric, and suddenly Harry felt completely, terrifyingly naked. And he blus
hed furiously, thinking about the more explicit memories he had of Cedric. Speak
ing to a sfinx, it seemed, made you reveal your true self. But then, despite his
mortification Harry forced himself to look at the creature before him, and seei
ng her eyes made him feel better. There was no judgement in those eternal eyes,
only acknowledgment.
"What is your deepest fear?" the sfinx asked next.
Harry opened his mouth to tell it was the Dementors that he feared most, but tho
ught better of it. They might be his biggest fear, but not the deepest. He feare
d the Dementors because they made him experience all the tragedies of his life a
ll over again, but he already had survived those horrors. Moreover, he knew now
that he could protect himself from them with his stag patronus. No, there was an
other, even more deep-seated fear living in Harry's heart; the reason he so dete
sted Malfoy and Snape, and still was an easy pray for their taunting.
"The Sorting Hat wanted to put me in Slytherin," Harry said in a small voice, "a
nd I fear I might turn into a monster... like him, like Tom Riddle turning into
Voldemort."
"Don't worry, little one," the sfinx answered. "Dumbledore is right. In the end,
it's our choices that define who we are. You chose Gryffindor. Your kind, brave
heart will guide you. Just listen to it."
"Okay," Harry said, "I'll try."
"Why do you want the Tri-Wizard Cup?" the sfinx asked finally.
"I don't," Harry answered without thinking, "not really. I mean... I didn't ente
r myself into the Tournament. It would be nice of course to win, after getting t
his far, but it's so much more important to get Cedric, and myself too, through
the last task alive and well. I just want to be with him really, with the Tourna
ment safely behind us."
"You have been honest with your Love, Fear and Intentions, Harry Potter, and the
refore I shall let you pass. Good Luck."
And with that, the sfinx got up, stretched her legs in sensous movements like a
cat would do, and stepped aside, leaving the path forward free. Harry nodded gra
vely to the creature, walked past her, and then hesitated for a moment.
"Do you..." he said, looking back at the sfinx, "do you mind telling me your nam
e. I'd like to know who you are."
"Name is but a tag, Harry Potter," the sfinx said. "What we do defines who we ar
e. I was there when Kleopatra took her throne, and when Akhenaton tried to remak
e Egypt. I am ancient, but forever young. I have worn dozens of names during the
centuries. What do I care what I am called? Yet, a name carries a curious kind
of power. We sfinxes don't easily share our true names..."
"As you wish." Harry said, bowing slightly. "Goodbye, and thank you."
"Wait," ordered the sfinx, sidled up to him and reached up to his ear. "To you,
I am Onyx," it purred into Harry's ear, sending a shiver down his spine again. "
It was very nice to meet you, Harry Potter," she continued and, quite unexpected
ly, kissed and nibbled his earlobe.
"I..." Harry said, his voice breaking embarassingly, "I hope we'll meet again, s
ome day." To his astonishment, he realised the purr and the nibble had caused hi
m to sport a rather formidable hard-on. During their conversation he had had no
reason to expect the palpable force of sensuality the sfinx was emanating at the
moment.
"So do I. Fare thee well," said Onyx, "And don't forget to dispel your spells."
"Oh," said Harry sheepishly. "I did, didn't I." And he took out his wand again,
waved it, and the veil around them dispersed and sounds returned to normal. Harr
y took one last look at the beautiful sfinx and loped off.
A while later, Harry turned yet another corner of the maze, and there it was, fi
nally. The Tri-Wizard Cup was gleaming on a stone pedestal at the end of the cor
ridor. Harry started to run. He couldn't wait for the task to be over, at last.
But then, a dark figure sprinted from a side corridor, also running towards the
Cup. Someone taller than Harry with longer legs, someone who was ahead of him an
d was running faster than Harry. He had no chance of beating the other runner to
the Cup. Then again, it didn't matter. It was Cedric, and Harry would gladly le
t him win. Winning the tournament would be the kind of glory the Hufflepuff Hous
e hadn't had for decades, if not for centuries.
Harry slowed his pace down to a trot. Despite being happy for Cedric, he couldn'
t help feeling a pang of disappointment. The Cup looked glorious, and it would h
ave been so nice to receive all the adoration that came with it, instead of the
taunts and snide remarks he had got to put up with during the schoolyear. He fel
t it calling somehow, beckoning him with promises of eternal glory, success, jub
ilations and universal approval into the inner circles of money and power. It wa
s as if the Cup was alive. In fact, it awoke something in Harry that reminded hi
m of the evil enchantments of the Tom Riddle's diary.
Then his trot and his thoughts were disturbed by something immense he heard and
dimly saw approaching through the hedge on the left. It was going to reach the l
ast crossing before the center of the maze just as Cedric did. They were going t
o collapse!
"Cedric!" Harry shouted a warning, "On your left!"
Cedric looked to his left and hurled himself to the other side of the crossroads
just avoiding the legs of the giant spider, which the immense creature turned o
ut to be. Cedric tripped in the process however, and his wand was thrown a coupl
e of meters further along the path. He wasn't going to make it before the spider
hit.
"Stupefy!" Harry shouted, taking aim at the beast. He hit it all right, but the
spider was either too large or too magical for the spell to do any real harm. Bu
t it did make the spider turn around and advance on Harry instead of Cedric, giv
ing the latter a chance to get his wand back.
Alarmed, Harry tried to stun the spider again, and when that failed he tried Imp
edimenta and some other spells. None of them did any harm to the spider, but onl
y seemed to aggravate it even more. When the beast reached Harry, he only had ti
me to glimpse snapping pincers as sharp as knives, and eight shiny, malevolent e
yes. Then he was lifted with two of the monster's legs, and since he couldn't th
ink of anything more useful in his panic, he kicked with all his might. His leg
exploded in excruciating pain. He had hit the dagger-like pincers. The notion of
the pincers as weapons gave him an idea, though.
"Expelliarmus!" Harry shouted.
It worked. The disarming spell actually dislodged the pair of pincers attached t
o the spider's front legs. Unfortunately, that meant a drop of twelwe feet for H
arry, and he landed badly on his wounded leg. His foot crumpled under his weight
. The monster loomed impossibly big above him. But now Harry saw that it's under
belly was pale and unprotected, and he aimed his wand straight at it. In his per
ipheral vision behind the tangle of spider legs he saw Cedric aiming his wand at
the same time.
"Stupefy!" they both yelled. Two spells at the underbelly did what one alone cou
ldn't. The spider keeled over sideways. Had it fallen forward, it would have fla
ttened Harry.
"Harry! You all right? Did it fall on you?"
"No." Harry answered surly. His leg was bleeding badly. Near the wound there was
some gooey secretion from the monster, but he couldn't see any on the wound. Ha
rry cleared the sticky stuff away with a spell. He didn't know any healing spell
s though, which seemed like an enormous and possibly fatal gap in his education
right now. Then he looked at Cedric across the body of the spider.
"Take it then," Harry said. "Go on. Take it. You're there."
Cedric merely stood there, looking at Harry. Then he gave the Cup a longing look
, which seemed to go on forever. Finally Cedric looked around again at Harry, wh
o was holding his bleeding leg.
"You take it," Cedric said. "You should win. That's twice you've saved my neck i
n here."
"That's not how it's supposed to work," Harry said. "The one who reaches the Cup
first gets the point. That's you. I'm telling you, I'm not going to win any rac
es on this leg."
"No." Cedric refused.
"Stop being noble," Harry insisted. "Just take it. Then we can both get out of h
ere."
"You told me about the dragons," Cedric said mulishly.
"You helped me with the egg," Harry countered, not remembering the fairies, whic
h Cedric also seemed to have forgotten. He was also being stupidly stubborn, and
Harry was getting angry, his leg hurting like hell. "We're square," he blurted
out. "Just take the Cup!"
"No!" Cedric refused again. "You take it." He was obviously serious, standing th
ere with a deep frown on his face and arms crossed like he was fortifying himsel
f against the temptation. Because there was no doubt that this was a temptation
like few others. Now that they were so close to it, Harry felt whatever spell em
bedded into the Cup tugging his will towards it, calling seductively with vision
s of unadulterated success.
"Go on," Cedric said. It looked like it was costing him a lot, but his face was
set. Cedric was decided. He was turning down the eternal glory for Harry's benef
it.
For a while, Harry let his mind dive into the promises the Cup was whispering. H
e saw himself emerging from the maze holding the Cup, the youngest winner in the
history of the tri-Wizard Tournament. He saw hot boys and girls alike vying for
his attention. He saw himself as Head Boy, which was odd, because he had never
coveted the position. He glimpsed himself becoming the Quidditch champion of the
World. Then with considerable effort he teared his eyes off the prize and turne
d to look back at Cedric. Unlike the phantoms of glory Cedric looked real. Harry
knew which reward he preferred.
"Both of us," Harry said. "We'll take it at the same time. We'll tie for it."
Cedric stared at Harry. He unfolded his arms. "You're sure?"
"We've helped each other out. Let's just take it together."
A wide, affectionate grin spread on Cedric's face. "You're on," he said, "Come h
ere!" He grabbed Harry's arm and helped him to the plinth where the Cup rested.
Up close it looked magnificent.
"On three, right," said Harry. Cedric nodded, and on three, they both grasped a
handle. It felt like invisible hooks were attached to their navels, and then som
ething yanked at the equally invisible ropes, hard. Their feet left the groung,
which disappeared in a murky swirl of darkness. Harry and Cedric flew away in a
whirlwind of dim colours and shadowy movement, magical wind tugging at their rob
es and flying their hair wildly. The Cup was a portkey.
Some considerable time later, the howling wind of magic that carried Harry, Cedr
ic and the portkey to its destination, died out and dumped them unceremoniusly t
o the ground. They let go of the Cup, Cedric got to his feet and they both looke
d around. The place looked like a graveyard with a jumble of ancient stones and
crosses scattered on a overgrown lawn. Once it might have been orderly and well
tended, but now there were weeds, vines and small bushes growing all over the gr
aves. The weather was foggy, so even if the graveyard was better lit than the ma
ze they had left from, it was still gloomy, and the fog made it very hard to see
further than a couple of dozen yards around.
"Where are we?" Cedric asked. "I thought the maze was it!"
"I..." Harry said, "I think it was it... I don't think this is part of the Tourn
ament."
"But what on earth are here for, then?" Cedric asked, not really expecting an an
swer. "I'm gonna take a look around."
And before Harry could stop him, he started to walk away into the fog. Harry som
ehow managed to get on his feet despite his injuries and stumbled after Cedric's
receding figure.
"Wait!" Harry ordered with an edge of panic in his voice. He had just realised t
hat their surroundings looked exactly like what he remembered from his nightmare
s of Voldemort.
"What?" Cedric said, and continued almost immediately, "Look, I think there's a
house over there. A really big one."
"I know," Harry said. "A manor. We must go back!"
"What do you mean you know?" Cedric asked, turning back to Harry, "Have you been
here before?" They were close enough now to see that it indeed was a manor, or
maybe the fog was lifting. Anyway, now that Harry got a better look at the house
, there was no longer any doubt in his mind. This was the place of his nightmare
s.
"No," Harry said, "Never. But I've seen this place in my dreams. Or rather my ni
ghtmares. The ones I went to see Dumbledore for. Please let's go back."
"To where, Harry? We have no idea where we are. And are you really sure this is
the same place? What if this is the final part of the Task?"
"We're not supposed to be here!" Harry insisted. "Let's go back to the Cup, plea
se! It's a portkey, so it'll take us back to Hogwarts."
"Okay," Cedric said after a pause, sensing his distress. "If you're sure, luv."
"I'm positive." Harry said, "Come on." But just then, there was a sound behind C
edric, who turned again to look at the manor. On the dark basement wall, a door
opened and a figure came out. A hooded figure, who turned towards them and moved
slightly. Harry wanted to scream a warning or to cast a spell, but found he cou
ldn't. Instead, he felt his tongue getting tied to the roof of his mouth. His fe
et got magically glued to the ground and the muscles in his arms froze. And that
easily, Harry Potter was helpless, mute and immobile. All it took was a cover o
f fog and darkness and some silent spellcasting. The dark, robed figure started
to walk towards them.
The hooded figure approached Harry and Cedric. His balance was a bit off, and wh
en he got a little closer, they could see that he was carrying something in the
crook of his arm. A bundle of some kind, wrapped in his robes. Even if Harry sti
ll couldn't see the face of the hooded man, some familiarity in his movements co
nvinced Harry that he was looking at Wormtail. A couple of more steps, and the m
an stopped and pulled down his hood, revealing his face.
Wormtail's mouselike face had changed. It wasn't the visage of the weak, pitiful
wreck of a man Harry remembered from their previous meeting a year before. The
eyes were still furtive, but not so much with fear, but cunning, and there were
deep new lines of pain and cruelty etched on his face, and a sense of purpose in
his manner. He was a servant of an evil master now, and it showed. Voldemort ha
d started to shape him. He still looked like a rodent, yes, but the mouse had tu
rned into a power-hungry rat.
Wormtail started to open the bundle in his arms, and suddenly a feeling of revul
sion took over Harry. If he could have moved, he'd have turned away. He didn't w
ant that bundle to be opened. But then again, Harry was not asked. Wormtail move
d the cloth enough for the thing inside to see the two boys, and them to see it,
the little they could make out in the dim light. Cedric gasped. Whatever was in
side the bundle was unnatural, tainted and horrible to look at. In form, it remi
nded Harry of some images he had seen of stillborn babies, born way too early. B
ut it's skin was scaly and raw, and face looked almost like a snake. Inwardly, H
arry shivered in disgust.
In its feeble, malformed hand the creature was holding a wand. Cedric gave anoth
er gasp and raised his own wand to readiness. But he was too kind, or noble, or
unaccustomed to danger to strike even that creature without a cause, and that me
ant he had no chance at all.
High, cold and hissing voice emerged from the monstrosity even as the wand swish
ed in the air: "Crucio!"
Cedric screamed. His back arched as if he was hit with a nearly lethal voltage o
f electricity. His wand fell to the ground and his body followed a moment later.
As the curse was uttered, the scar in Harry's forehead seared with an unbearabl
e pain. It was so intense that it actually broke the freezing charm he was under
, and he slumped down, retching with pain, and Cedric's continuous screaming ech
oing in his ears. Or maybe it was his mother's. Harry didn't know. His world tur
ned black, and he lost consciousness.
When Harry came to his senses, his scar was throbbing with dull ache along with
his somewhat erratic pulse. Again, he found that he couldn't move, but this time
it was because of rounds and rounds of wiry rope, not a spell, and at least he
could turn his head, so he looked around.
Harry found himself tied to a large and imposing headstone of a grave, together
with Cedric, who was on his left. Cedric seemed to be unconscious, but breathing
, so at least he was still alive. In front of Harry, Wormtail was preparing some
kind of a potion in a huge cauldron, big enough for a fully grown man to comfor
tably bathe in. The foul small creature, which Harry now knew for certain to be
Voldemort, in rudimentary bodily form once again, was sitting in its bundle of r
obes a few yards away, watching Wormtail work. Every now and then it gave impati
ent orders and instructions to Wormtail.
"Hurry!" Voldemort hissed, and Wormtail started to stir faster.
The liquid in the cauldron heated up and begun to bubble and shoot up bright spa
rks. The sparks multiplied and grew in intensity, until the whole surface of the
potion looked like it was covered in white diamonds.
"It's ready, master," Wormtail said.
"Now!" Voldemort hissed, and Wormtail picked up his malformed body, carried it t
o the cauldron and lowered it into the liquid. Harry heard the body hit the bott
om of the vessel, and then an intake of breath from his left. He looked at Cedri
c, who had woken up.
"What is that... thing?" Cedric asked.
"It's Voldemort," Harry answered, almost heady from the knowledge that Cedric wa
s all right, despite the torture he had endured. "It must be his new body."
"Silence!" Wormtail shouted, and jinxed them with lock-jaw spells, so that they
couldn't talk any more. Instead, Cedric managed to wriggle his right arm enough
to take Harry's hand in his own within the confines of the ropes binding them, a
nd they continued to hold hands through the events unfolding in front of their e
yes.
"The bone of the father," Wormtail intoned, and pointed his wand to the grave. "
unknowingly given, you shall renew your son!" The ground in Harry's feet was bro
ken open and a piece of dusty bone rose from within the grave, floated above the
cauldron and was dropped in. The liquid hissed, the diamonds disappeared in spa
rks and the potion turned into poisonous blue.
Next, Wormtail took out a sharp dagger, and now he was clearly distressed to the
edge of panic. He went to the cauldron, raised his fisted right hand over it an
d took the blade to his wrist. His voice was shaking and almost broke, when he c
ontinued the ritual: "The flesh of the servant, willingly given, you... will rev
ive... your master!" And with a terrible effort, Wormtail slashed upwards with t
he blade, cutting his own right hand off his wrist. Harry had just time to shut
his eyes before the fact when he realised what was going to happen, but he could
n't escape Wormtail's horrible howls and sobs of pain that followed. Cedric almo
st crushed his fingers, and Harry knew he was holding on to Cedric's hand equall
y hard.
When Harry opened his eyes again, the brewing potion had turned into violent, lu
minescent scarlet. Wormtail was on his feet again, although sobbing and whimperi
ng. The blade must have been magical, because the stub where Wormtail's hand had
been just moments ago didn't bleed nearly as much as it should have. "How typic
al for Voldemort," Harry thought, "not to include pain killers in the spell. He
wants people to suffer, even his own servants."
Then Harry lost the track of that particular train of thought, because Wormtail
was staggering to him, still holding the dagger. Somehow the whimpering man mana
ged to resite the third line of the ritual: "The blood of the enemy... forcibly
taken, you shall resurrect your foe!" Harry felt Cedric trashing beside him, try
ing to free himself from the ropes, but to no avail. Harry didn't even try, he k
new already that it would be pointless. Besides, unlike Cedric, he had a very cl
ear idea that Voldemort wouldn't like anyone else to kill him, oh no, he wanted
Harry for himself. So Harry waited calmly for Wormtail to do what he wanted to.
And, in the end, it was only a few drops of Harry's blood he took into a small v
ial after stabbing a vein in Harry's arm. Without so much as a glance to Harry's
eyes, Wormtail turned and staggered back to the cauldron and poured the blood i
nto the liquid.
Instantly, the brew turned blindingly white. For a moment or two it spewed forth
more diamond-like sparks, but they soon died out, and the surface turned dark.
Wormtail collapsed on the ground, his work apparently done and his strength spen
t. Suddenly, a huge cloud of steam billowed out of the cauldron, covering everyt
hing in front of the boys in light grey. There was so much steam that it seemed
like all the liquid in the cauldron had vaporised. Then, just when Harry had had
time to hope that something had gone wrong and the disgusting rudimentary body
had drowned, he saw someone rising from the cauldron. The figure, half covered w
ith the steam, was tall, elegant and skeletally thin.
"Robe me," the thin, cold voice commanded, and Wormtail scampered up, fetched th
e robes that had been left near the cauldron and with his remaining hand, covere
d his master's new body.
Lord Voldemort had risen again.
For Harry, watching what followed Voldemort's return to full human body was a mi
x of fear, loathing and frustration born of his helpless state in the ropes. He
kept holding Cedric's hand while Voldemort taunted Wormtail, summoned his Death-
Eaters, disciplined and mocked them, and finally turned his attention to the pri
soners. The warm touch of his lover comforted him enormously, even when his cour
age fluttered like a bird's wing in a storm of fear. Later, the evening sometime
s haunted his nightmares as a collection of voices repeating disconnected senten
ces:
"The other arm, Wormtail..."
"You promised, Master..."
"I smell guilt. There's a stench of guilt in the air."
"Forgive us, Master!"
"I don't forgive. Nor do I forget. Thirteen long years..."
"Thank you master! It's beautiful..."
"Lord Voldemort rewards those who help him."
"And here we are six Death Eaters short. Three died in my service. One was too c
owardly to return... he'll pay, of course. One, I believe, has left me forever..
. And one is still my most faithfull servant. He is at Hogwarts, that one, and t
hrough his efforts these young lovers," Voldemort spat the word out like poison,
"have joined us here tonight."
And here it was, the moment of reckoning. Harry' s mouth was suddenly dry. Volde
mort's fiery eyes were boring into his, making the scar burn again. Every pair o
f eyes present were staring at them now. Harry lifted his chin and clenced his j
aw, looking defiantly back at Voldemort, who turned his back at him to look at t
heir audience. The giant snake Nagini slithered around the grave, its sleek body
hissing against the long grass.
"Oh yes," Voldemort said, smiling crookedly, " Harry Potter has kindly turned up
, with a friend, to my rebirth party. We might even say that he's the guest of h
onour. After all, he's the one who caused my downfall, and therefore he's the on
e who'll end up dead tonight."
Cedric struggled in his ropes and tried to speak, but couldn't. Their jaws were
still bound by Wormtail's spell. Some of the Death Eaters moved excitedly, but V
oldemort paid them no attention and continued:
"You know, of course, that this boy has been called my conqueror, you know that
I tried to kill him that night thirteen years ago when I lost my powers and my b
ody. But what you don't know is that it wasn't because of him. There's nothing s
pecial in Harry Potter, he's but a half-blood brat. His mudblood bitch of a moth
er died trying to save him, and unknowingly gave him a protection I hadn't antic
ipated. I couldn't touch him."
Voldemort was now gazing at Harry with such intense ferocity, such... hunger tha
t it made Harry's scar singe afresh. But that didn't bother him. What was distur
bing was the evident lust in Voldemort's eyes, the fervent desire to hurt, to da
mage, ruin and mutilate him. And perhaps, Harry realised for the first time, it
was some twisted form of sexuality, devoid of any form or even a smallest trace
of love. Looking at Voldemort, he felt his insides turn to ice.
As if on cue, Voldemort came closer, and closer still, until his face was only i
nches from Harry's. His eyes shone bright red, filling Harry's field of vision.
His breath felt dry on Harry's skin. Voldemort tilted his head, it looked like h
e was going to kiss Harry. Instead, he raised one white, long finger, and mockin
gly caressed Harry's cheek, his mouth twisting to a cruel imitation of a smile.
Harry's scar exploded in pain. He trashed in his ropes, trying in vain to get aw
ay from that evil, elegant hand. Just when he thought he couldn't take any more
of the pain, Voldemort removed his hand, still smiling.
"It was old magic, the kind I hadn't considered," Voldemort continued to his aud
ience. "I have to admit it was a mistake, but no matter." His eyes bored to Harr
y's once more, and he lowered his voice to something akin to intimacy. "I can to
uch you now, Harry. There's no mother to die for you this time, and no Dumbledor
e to protect you. But maybe," he said, like the idea had just occurred to him, "
you brought Cedric here, thinking that he loves you enough to protect you, this
time. You fools!" Voldemort watched Cedric trying to protest in vain. "You want
to say something," Voldemort asked snapping his fingers, lifting the jaw-lockin
spell "don't you?"
"Why are you doing this?" Cedric demanded at once, his voice hoarse from straini
ng against the silencing spell.
"Why?" Voldemort repeated, astounded. "You dare to question me? Me! Diggory, you
deserve a lesson. And it might prove educational for you, too, Potter. You and
your ridiculous obsession with love, which Dumbledore has so effectively imprint
ed on you. I'll show you, Harry, what it really means."
Voldemort raised his wand towards Cedric.
"No!" Harry shouted desperately, but in vain. When the echoes of his protest was
still ringing in the air, Voldemort said silkily, as if enjoying the sound: "Cr
ucio..."
Cedric howled, even worse than the first time. His body tightened against the ro
pes, which denied him even the small release of trashing around in his agony.
"No!" Harry shouted, "Don't hurt him! Stop!"
After another moment filled only with Cedric's yells of pain, Voldemort stopped.
It had only lasted for a few seconds, maybe ten, but even that was more than en
ough. Cedric hung limp in his ropes, panting heavily. Cold sweat was trickling d
own his brow. Harry realised that while watching his beloved being tortured he h
ad dug his nails deep enough into his own hands to drawn blood.
"Love hurts," Voldemort asked, "doesn't it, Potter? It makes you a weakling and
a fool. You're already in pain, and I haven't even started with you yet. Love is
a defect, Potter."
"And now, what would be the most cruel and unusual punishment for you, Potter? S
hould I kill your boyfriend in front of you? Hmmm... That would hurt, wouldn't i
t, Harry?"
Harry didn't say anything, but he felt like his heart had stopped beating. He fo
rced himself to confront Voldemort's gaze straight on, and lifted his chin in de
fiance once again.
Voldemort fell silent, too. The theater was over. His gaze was filled with cold
hatred now. He flicked his wand once, and Cedric's ropes turned into thin black
serpents, slithering all over his body.
Cedric rushed to his feet, yelping in shock and shaking the snakes off, then has
tily bent down again to pick up the ones that had landed on Harry and to throw t
hem further away. Voldemort laughed, and like a malevolent choir, the Death Eate
rs joined in.
"Give the boy his wand," Voldemort ordered, and Wormtail, using his magical silv
er hand, did as he was told. Cedric took his wand, then tucked it away in his po
cket.
"You'll need that, Diggory," Voldemort said coldly. "I hope you've been taught h
ow to duel, have you?"
"Yes," Cedric answered, "but I don't intend to duel with you."
"Oh, really," mocked Voldemort. "And you think the decision is up to you, do you
?"
"I'm not helpless," Cedric said, "but I know I'm no match to you. Why duel, when
the outcome is clear? I can't possibly win."
"No, you can't," admitted Voldemort, "but I need to teach Harry..." Voldemort sm
iled slowly, "...another lesson."
"He already knows you're cruel," Cedric retorted.
"Crucio!" Voldemort shouted, his face contorting into a grimace of fury. "Nobody
gets to be smart with me, Diggory! Nobody!" The force of his curse was terrible
, it bowled Cedric off his feet like a tsunami, threw him down like a ragdoll an
d then lifted him a couple of feet off the ground. It looked like he was being e
lectrocuted, sparks were flying from his fingers and hair, and his previous shou
ts of pain paled compared to the sounds he was making now. And Harry shouted, to
o, trying desperately but in vain to get out of the ropes, yelling incoherent in
sults and pleads that nobody could hear over Cedric's anguished howling, and the
n started to sob incontrollably.
Finally, after what felt like eternity, Voldemort lowered his wand. Cedric fell
to the ground, limp and silent, and didn't move.
"Is he... dead?" one of the Death Eaters asked.
Voldemort didn't answer. His eyes looked predatory, and he turned his gaze towar
ds Harry, who was still sobbing, tears flowing profusely down his face.
"I hope you've learned your lesson, Potter," Voldemort said, "because your time
is up. There's nobody powerful enough to protect you." He flicked his wand lazil
y, and Harry's ropes disappeared. Another flick, and Harry's wand flew to his fe
et. "Pick up your wand. It's time for you to die, Harry Potter."
Without waiting for Harry's answer, Voldemort went to Cedric, kneeled beside him
and caressed his pale cheek with his white and bony but chillingly graceful han
d. "Don't worry, Harry, he's not dead. I decided to keep him, in the end. And be
fore you die, Harry, you should know that he faces 13 times 13 years as my slave
. I can easily keep him alive, his body young and beautiful, for as long as I wa
nt. And given enough time, anybody can be broken. I shall break him, and mold hi
m anew. Before the end, he'll love me instead of you. And then, Harry Potter, an
d only then I shall give him the release of death."
Harry was on his feet in split second, the injured leg forgotten and wand lashin
g out the worst curses he had ever learned, but still he wasn't fast enough. Bef
ore his curses hit, Voldemort was also on his feet, and Harry's spells were abso
rbed by a weird, glowing shielding charm Harry had never seen.
"Manners, Potter!" Voldemort chided mockingly. "The niceties should be observed.
Before we duel, you should bow to me."
"Fuck you, Riddle!" Harry shouted furiously.
"Bow to Death, Harry," Voldemort said in a dangerous voice. "Imperio!"
And Harry felt his will being packed away into what felt like soft cotton, his m
ind disconnected from it, and a soft voice insisted that he should bow, bow very
low indeed. But somehow the enchantment wasn't complete, and a corner of his mi
nd was still his, and it resisted. "No," he thought, "I wont." And the thought b
ecame words, and suddenly Harry's mind was clear again.
"No," Harry shouted, "I won't!"
"You won't?" Voldemort said, surprised and in rising fury. "We'll see about that
!" He flicked his wand again, and Harry felt a giant invisible hand forcing his
body to bend so low that in the end he lost his balance and fell face forward on
the ground, his injured leg giving way. The invisible force released him, and H
arry rolled over to see, at least, what was happening. If nothing else, he wante
d to face his destiny. And it really looked like he was going to get killed. Vol
demort's features were distorted with rage and his inhuman eyes shone bright red
. His wand was pointing straight at Harry, and then started to move in a fluid a
rc which meant he was about to cast another curse.
"Avada..." Lord Voldemort started, screaming.
With his injured leg bent badly underneath him, Harry had no chance to avoid the
curse. At the last moment between the words, when Voldemort's wand was still mo
ving before settling on its target, Harry saw someone throwing himself in betwee
n them from the sidelines. It was Cedric. While rushing forward, he turned his h
ead to look at Harry, and for the shortest of times Harry saw into his beautiful
silvery eyes.
"... Kedavra!"
Then there was a green flash, and a dull thud of a body hitting the ground, and
something in Harry broke to pieces.
Harry didn't know how he had got there, nor did he have any idea how much time h
ad passed. He had a faint recollection of gripping Cedric's robes, pleading for
the evidence of his eyes and ears to be false and sobbing himself hoarse. Then a
bysmal darkness had claimed him. Everything was lost. Cedric was dead. Harry's l
ove had killed him, just like he had feared in the beginning of their relationsh
ip.
When Harry started to recover any kind of coherent thought, he was sitting besid
e Cedric, cradling his head on his lap. Cedric was still beautiful, still warm,
and looked like he was sleeping peacefully, except for the lack of the breath an
d the heartbeat, and open, staring eyes with no movement in them.
Gradually, Harry became aware of the voices surrounding him some distance away.
The Death Eaters were still around him. Voldemort was still present! On the face
of his monumental grief, it seemed impossibly trivial that the uncaring univers
e around him had not stopped, had continued its existence like nothing had happe
ned.
"...the bloody faggot!" a Death Eater exclaimed to end a sentence the start of w
hich Harry had not registered.
"How could anyone," Voldemort said, "believe that this miserable wreck of a cry-
baby is any kind of match for me! I have defeated Harry Potter without even land
ing a single curse on him."
In Harry, Voldemort's words awakened a terrible hatred and a new determination.
In spite of his dead beloved, in spite of his gut-wrenching sorrow and the guilt
that had started to eat him from inside, Harry suddenly knew that he couldn't g
ive in. He couldn't let Voldemort win. Not just for himself, but for Cedric's fr
iends and his parents, he had to escape somehow, and tell them the awful news. T
he prospect terrified Harry, but he knew he had no choice. He had to try. Slowly
and inconspicuously, he felt his pockets and found his wand in its usual place,
whole and intact.
He knew that he couldn't realistically run with his injured leg. His one and onl
y chance would be to distract Voldemort long enough to be able to summon the Tri
-Wizard Cup, the portkey, back to him. If he held on to Cedric, it would take th
em both back home.
Harry raised his hand to caress Cedric's face one last time, to run his gentle f
ingers over the unseeing eyes to close Cedric's lids over that beautiful silver
forever. Carefully he then lifted Cedric's head off his lap and got to a kneelin
g position. Then, before rising up, he kissed the love of his life on the lips o
nce more, and silently whispered in his ear: "I'll take you home, love. I promis
e." Tears welled up in Harry's eyes again, dropping like pearls, and when he got
up, it looked like Cedric was crying over the separation as well.
Slowly and deliberately, Harry rose to his feet, tore his eyes off Cedric, and t
urned, trying to relax his awfully tense arms and shoulders as he did so. Despit
e their previous mockery, the Death Eaters fell silent. Voldemort was right in f
ront of Harry now, maybe 30 feet away.
"Ready for more, Potter?" Voldemort asked, but he did not smile.
This time, Harry moved like a lightning, his Quidditch-trained reflexes giving h
im more speed than Voldemort had suspected he possessed. Even if Voldemort's wan
d was in readiness, and Harry's hand started from his pocket, their spells flew
forward simultaneously.
"Expelliarmus!" Harry shouted.
"Avada Kedavra!", Voldemort cried again. This was the third time he aimed the ki
lling curse at Harry Potter, and again it failed him. The green bolt of magic sh
ot out of his wand, but in the middle it met Harry's red disarming spell head on
. And when the spells met Harry's wand started to vibrate like some strange forc
e was flowing through it, at the same time trying to tug it from his grip and gl
ueing his fingers to it. And now his wand and Voldemort's were connected by a th
read of light, not green nor red, but deep, bright golden.
And suddenly Harry felt his feet leave the ground. His surprised eyes saw Voldem
ort floating upwards as well, his fingers gripping equally vibrating wand. Next
the golden thread sprouted a thousand offshoots which gracefully created a glowi
ng sphere around them. The Death Eaters, their wands out, were circling the gold
en dome, but their shouts were strangely muffled.
"Do nothing!" Voldemort shouted to his servants, his red eyes wide with shock. H
arry saw him trying to pull his wand out of the connection, and he gripped his o
wn wand tighter than ever, now with both hands.
And then the air was filled with the most beautiful, ethereal sound Harry had ev
er heard. It was coming from all over them, from every fibre of the golden web s
urrounding them, and Harry recognised it immediately. It was the song of a phoen
ix, and it filled Harry with a new hope and optimism. This was surely something
that Voldemort couldn't use for his evil ends. The sound reminded him of Dumbled
ore, it was almost like a friend was speaking in his ear. "Don't break the conne
ction," it said, even if there were no words in the message. But Harry heard and
understood it anyway. "I won't," he promised to the music, and suddenly it beca
me infinitely harder to hold the wand.
There were pearls of light appearing on the string that was connecting the two w
ands, and slowly they started to move towards Harry. The closer they came, the m
ore his wand vibrated and the hotter it became. Harry thought his wand would sur
ely explode if the pearl of light got to touch it, and he concentrated with all
his might to push the pearls towards Voldemort instead.
Very, very slowly the lights stopped, and even slower, they started to advance t
owards his enemy. Harry's wand grew cooler and easier to handle, and the song in
his ears grew louder and more joyous while Voldemort looked genuinely scared fo
r the first time, his wand vibrating ever harder.
Finally, Harry's furious concentration drove the pearls far enough that the firs
t one came in contact with Voldemort's wand. And when it did, several things hap
pened: Something like a cloud of very dense smoke erupted from the wand. The pho
enix song became louder and more directional, sounding like it was coming from t
he top of the dome surrounding Harry and Voldemort. So did the light of the dome
itself. The rest of the web grew silvery, while the golden light concentrated a
nd intensified above their heads. And then, just as Harry realised with a jolt t
hat the smoke had formed into the ghost of Cedric, there was a shower of golden
sparks from the top of the dome, and from the sparks appeared one of the most we
lcomed sights Harry could have wished for. Fawkes the phoenix spread its magnifi
cent wings, flew around the dome once and then landed on Harry's shoulder.
Harry felt the presence of Dumbledore's pet bird give him new strength and he co
ntinued to fight with renewed vigour. Voldemort looked at Cedric with obvious sh
ock and horror, and that made Harry more confident still. And then, the ghost of
Cedric floated towards him, looking so solid, so alive, that despite the grey,
smoky colour Harry had hard time accepting that he was looking at a mere ghost.
"Don't give up, Harry!" the ghost said. "There's more help coming, if you can ke
ep this up."
And sure enough, a new ghost emerged from the wand. It was an old man, looking s
urprised but encouraging Harry all the same. Then a witch, Bertha Jorkins appear
ed, and Harry started to realise what was happening. He was forcing the ghosts o
f the victims of Voldemort's killing curses out of his wand. And while Cedric st
ayed with him, giving him strength, the other two were circling Voldemort and hi
ssing curses at him.
"Harry," said Cedric's ghost. "Take my body back to Hogwarts, okay?. And when we
're back there, kiss me once more. Okay?"
"Yes," Harry said, fighting with his vibrating wand, "of course I will."
"This is really important," the ghost said, "You must kiss me, no matter who tri
es to prevent you. Promise?"
"I..." Harry panted, "I promise."
Then there was the next ghost, and Harry felt a new lump in his throat. His moth
er had arrived, and the next one... His father, so alike Harry himself, emerged
from Voldemort's wand. Together Lily and James came to join Harry and Cedric, sm
iling and speaking words of love and encouragement.
When his parents arrived, Harry felt Fawkes leave his shoulder, and Cedric's gho
st floated away, too. From the corner of his eye he saw Fawkes landing on Cedric
's body. Then his father spoke, and Harry missed the phoenix shedding several gl
immering tears, which dropped on Cedric's dead lips.
"Harry," his father's ghost said, "it's almost over. Just hang on a while longer
. And on my mark, severe the connection by pulling your wand aside with all your
strength."
"We'll give you a short moment to escape," his mother said, smiling, "and then w
e'll fade again. You must go to Cedric and summon the Cup immediately, for we wo
n't be able to stay after the spell is broken."
"We are so very proud of you, Harry," his father said.
"And this young man of yours..." Lily said, "...is a fine boy. We would have lov
ed him like our own. Goodbye, Harry."
"And good luck," his father said, "We love you, son."
Harry couldn't bring himself to speak at all. He just hung on his wand for his l
ife.
"Now!" shouted the ghost of James Potter. He and Lily, together with the ghosts
of Bertha Jorkins and the old muggle, charched towards Voldemort. Harry teared h
is wand away from the golden thread and saw the connection break. Immediately he
felt himself falling, not as fast as he normally would, but not floating either
. When his feet met the ground, he sprinted towards Cedric, ignoring the sharp p
ains in his leg.
"Accio Cup," Harry shouted while running, and just before he collapsed on top of
Cedric's body, he thought he saw Cedric's ghost and Fawkes to merge together an
d melt into the ribcage of the body. But when he reached Cedric, he was as dead
as before, and getting colder.
But right now, Harry had no time to mourn and no time to wonder. He glanced arou
nd, saw the Death Eaters approaching from every direction and Voldemort shaking
off the disintegrating remains of the ghosts. Then, just when Voldemort shouted
in high fury: "Stop him, you fools!", the Cup flew to his outstretched hand, and
a familiar tug in his navel told him he had made it. Clutching Cedric's body wi
th all his might, Harry was ported out of the fight.
After an indeterminable time, Harry was thrown in the midst of a celebrating cro
wd. The noise, lights and colours hit his senses like a sledgehammer. The contra
st between the happy bustle of people and the stark, dark reality of what he jus
t had experienced broke the dam. He started sobbing again, almost hysterically,
tears flowing all over his face. Cedric was dead! Harry closed his eyes and just
lay there, clinging to Cedric with one hand, the treacherous Cup with the other
. He felt like his mind would collapse, if he ever let go of them. He heard scre
aming, shouted questions, the drumming of thousands of footsteps thronging ever
closer and oddly enough, the heavy shock of a silence spreading out in whispers,
when the crowd realised what they were seeing.
Then, a pair of hands turned him by the shoulders, gently but irresistibly. He o
pened his eyes, and saw the concerned, lined face of Albus Dumbledore.
"He's back," Harry croaked. "Voldemort."
"Where?" Dumbledore asked at once, sharply. "You didn't leave the grounds."
"We went..." Harry managed to say, "the portkey... took us to the graveyard!"
"The graveya..." Dumbledore started, and then swore under his breath, so that Ha
rry couldn't make it out. "Merlin's Beard!" he then exclaimed aloud. For once, h
e seemed to be dumbfounded, and Harry didn't like it. He didn't like it one bit.
Then the face of horrified Cornelius Toffee appeared above Harry.
"Diggory!" the minister whispered, "He's... he's dead! Good grief! His parents,
Dumbledore! They're here. His father is coming."
"Harry, wait here!" Dumbledore ordered. "I'll have to meet Cedric's parents. Don
't go anywhere. Watch him." The last part was said to somebody else, and then Du
mbledore was gone.
"Harry," Cornelius said, "let go of Diggory. You should go to the hospital wing.
"
"I..." Harry started, there was something he should be doing, but his mind was r
eeling from everything that had happened, and the task escaped him at the moment
. "I had to bring him back... to his parents," he explained weakly.
"Let go of him!" a gruff new voice ordered. "I'll take you to the hospital wing,
Potter." And despite Harry's protests, his hands were pryed away from Cedric's
body and he was lifted to his feet. Harry felt the blood escape his head, and hi
s vision blurred and darkened on the edges. He felt like he was going to faint.
The grotesque face of Mad-Eye Moody filled his remaining field of vision.
"Come on, boy!" Mad-Eye said, and started to drag him through the terrified crow
d, carrying half of his weight.
"Dumbledore..." Harry protested weakly, "he said I should stay."
Mad-Eye ignored him. Soon they were at the castle, and Mad-Eye dragged him in."W
hat happened, Harry?" he asked. "It's very important that you tell me everything
that happened."
And while they were advancing through the corridors, Harry told, not very well n
or coherently, but rather in painful shards of fragmented memory, what had happe
ned. They arrived in a room, Mad-Eye closed the door and gave Harry a large mug.
"Drink this," he ordered, "It'll make you feel better."
And whatever it was that he was drinking, it did make him feel better. His visio
n returned to its normal sharpness and his mind became clearer. But there was so
mething wrong with the way Mad-Eye was acting, like a veneer was peeling off of
his character. And then, clear as day, Harry remembered! Voldemort had said ther
e was a Death Eater at Hogwarts, he had known about Harry and Cedric, and Dumble
dore had ordered for Harry to stay put, and for Mad-Eye to watch over him. And s
till, he had taken Harry away, and not to the hospital wing, but to his own offi
ce!
"It was you!" Harry cried out, perplexed, "Nobody else except our friends knew a
bout Cedric! But how? You're an auror! Dumbledore trusts you!"
"Dumbledore is an old fool!" snarled Moody. "He never realised anything. How I c
oached you, gave you hints and helped you in the tasks to make sure you made it,
despite your infinite stupidity and mediocre talents. Without me, you'd have lo
st the Tournament instead of winning it."
"I fought Voldemort!" Harry barked. Behind Mad-Eye, he had seen something that m
ade him feel bold. There were three figures advancing towards them in a foeglass
, and they were close enough that Harry recognised them. McGonagall, Snape and D
umbledore were coming to his aid.
"Don't you dare..." Mad-Eye shouted, spit flying from his mouth, "...to say his
name, you filthy faggot! You might have escaped the Dark Lord, but he killed tha
t poofter lover of yours, and you won't escape me!"
But just when Mad-Eye was lifting his wand towards Harry, the heavy oak door of
his office was blasted to shards, and in the doorframe stood Dumbledore, looking
so alien that Harry forgot even to draw his own wand. Gone was the humorous twi
nkle of his blue eyes and the warm smile. His eyes were ablaze with cold fury an
d his face a terrible mask of anger. He looked nothing so much as an avenging go
d of storms and lightning. Harry felt the magical power emanating from him as an
almost physical force, like an invisible wind had blasted over him. At last he
fully understood why Dumbledore was the only wizard Voldemort had ever feared.
Mad-Eye spun on his heels, but he might as well have stayed put. The duel was so
swift, and Dumbledore so overwhelming, that it really wasn't a duel as much as
a knockout. There was a terrible burst of golden energy, and when Harry could se
e again, Mad-Eye was lying unconscious on the floor.
Five minutes later, Harry's injured leg was tied so that he could walk again. Th
e real Alastor Moody had been found, the fake one alias Barty Crouch had been ti
ed to a chair, and Dumbledore had sent MacGonagall and Snape away with the most
peculiar set of instructions. To fetch a dog from Hagrid's pumpkin patch, and th
e Triwizard Cup, to get some Veritaserum and an elf called Winky, and to make su
re Cedric's body would not be taken away before his friends had a chance to pay
their respects. And instead of coming back to the DADA office, he told them to m
eet him with all the members of the Order (whatever that was) they could find pl
us the Diggorys and Cornelius Fudge, in the hospital wing.
"And now, Harry," Dumbledore said, "quickly tell me what happened, as accurately
as you can remember, but at the moment only the outline. I'm afraid we won't ha
ve time for more."
And Harry did as he was told. His mind was clear once more, but with the memory
the terrible guilt and sorrow had returned, and he had to pause every so often.
To clear his throat, or to get his sobbing in check, or just to breathe deeply f
or a moment, before he could go on the terrible tale he had to tell.
When he reached the end of the story, Dumbledore only asked one question: "And w
hat happened to Fawkes, Harry?"
"I don't..." Harry stumbled, "I'm not sure. He just disappeared."
"I see," said Dumbledore. "And is there maybe something that you'll have to do,
Harry? Some task to fullfill?"
"Cedric," Harry gasped, "I need to say goodbye to Cedric. He asked me to kiss hi
m goodbye."
"Then," Dumbledore said tenderly, "we should go to him." And he flicked his wand
, lifting Moody's unconscious form to levitate behind them, took Harry's arm in
his to steady the exhausted boy and led him out. When they were outside the offi
ce, Dumbledore fixed the massive doors and sealed them against intruders. Then t
hey headed for the hospital wing, where Cedric's body had been taken.
When Harry and Dumbledore arrived to the large entrance hall of the hospital win
g, they saw a formidable crowd gathered inside, and at least half of them starte
d to talk immediately when they entered. Minister Fudge tried to look impressive
and statesmanlike, and failed. The Diggorys were there and the Weasleys, Molly,
Arthur, Bill, the twins and Ginny. Ron and Hermione were present, of course, an
d Hagrid's massive form, tailed by not Fang, but a huge black dog Harry knew to
be his godfather. Snape and Remus Lupin had come, and professors Sprout and Flit
twick. McGonagall had Winky with her, and Madam Pomfrey looked flustered and a b
it scandalised because of the gathering. And on top of that, many of Cedric's cl
assmates and friends had arrived to say goodbye, Cho Chang among them. She had b
een crying, and she was not the only one.
"What happened to Moody?" somebody asked, pointing the floating figure.
"Poppy, would you please take care of Alastor," Dumbledore said. "He's very weak
, I'm afraid."
Madam Pomfrey came forward, tutted at the sight of the wasted old man, and went
away.
"This is highly irregular!" Cornelius Fudge huffed, red in the face. "The boy sh
ould be given to his parents!"
"You!" Amos Diggory shouted at Harry. "You killed my son!"
"No, Amos, he didn't," Dumbledore said calmly. "He saved Cedric's body. Voldemor
t killed him."
"Aahh." Fudge jumped, shocked at the use of the name. "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named!
What is this nonsense!"
"I'm so sorry, Mr. Diggory, Ma'am," Harry said, fighting to control his tears, a
nd failing, then letting them fall freely down his cheeks "I... I loved your son
, and I made him take the Cup with me. I couldn't... I couldn't save him. I'm so
sorry."
"Loved him?" someone among Cedric's classmates wondered aloud. "You mean..."
"I mean that I'm gay," Harry said, surprisingly calm all of the sudden, "and so
was Cedric. I mean that he loved me, and he was the love of my life. And I don't
care who knows, because... there's nothing to be ashamed of in love."
And to Harry's surprise, everybody fell silent. Some, like Fudge, muttered in un
dertones, but most just looked at him awed, respectful, smiling or just plain fl
abbergasted.
Harry turned towards the bed where Cedric was lying in between blindingly white
linen. He had been stripped of his robes and was wearing a simple white shirt un
der the sheets. His beautiful hair surrounded the equally beautiful face, and mo
re than ever he looked like he was just sleeping. But when Harry went to him, an
d touched his hand, it felt shockingly cold.
"Goodbye, love," Harry said, and bent down to kiss his lover one last time. His
warm, trembling lips met the icy lips of his dead beloved, and Harry felt the co
ldness seeping from his lips to his heart. He was sure he would never feel cheer
ful again. His love was gone, and his heart felt like a stone.
And then, before he had time to get up and flee, Harry heard a faint birdsong in
his ears. It grew stronger and more unearthly, and suddenly it filled the room
with a ringing, joyous cry. Red and golden flames burst from Cedric's bed, engul
fing both Cedric and Harry and lifting them up in the air. The flames felt hot,
but they didn't burn. Instead, the flames gathered around them in the form of Fa
wkes the phoenix, which soared upwards and then diappeared in a puff of white sm
oke. The song of the phoenix faded, and the bed floated back to the floor, and t
he skin under Harry's hand felt suddenly warm again. Harry had pressed his head
to Cedric's chest when the bed started to move, and suddenly he could hear the t
humping of the heart within, and feel the rise and fall of steady breathing. But
Cedric's shirt had burned to ashes, and under Harry's head, his chest was now b
are.
"Mom, Dad..." Cedric said, looking around, "Thank Heavens, Harry! You did it!"
"Blimey, Harry!" Fred exclaimed.
"Where did you learn to kiss like that!" George asked to the stunned silence.
For a full half a minute after Fred and George's two-liner, there was a nearly c
omplete silence. Nobody spoke, and every shuffle of a foot could be clearly hear
d. Then, there was a sobbing draw of breath, a sudden movement, and in an instan
t both Harry and Cedric were crushed in a an embrace somewhere between desperate
and overjoyed. Penelope Diggory, Cedric's mother, had rushed to the bedside. Sh
e was followed, only seconds after, by Amos Diggory. He didn't join the hug righ
t away, even though he seemed to want to. Instead, he fell to his knees beside t
he bed to be on level with his son and took Cedric's hand in his own.
"Iâ ¦" Amos started with difficulty, as if it was hard to get the words out around war
ring emotions, "I'm so sorry, Cedric! I don'tâ ¦ I don't know how I could be so blinde
d, suchâ ¦ such a fool not to appreciate you for what you are. And then, when I though
t we had lost youâ ¦ I came to my senses. And I thought I'd surely die of the guilt. I
can't believe Iâ ¦ abandoned you like that... I'm so sorry, lad."
"Dad," Cedric said, but he couldn't continue. He burst into convulsive sobbing,
clinging to Harry and his mother with one hand but not withdrawing the other fro
m his father's hold.
"Please," Amos continued, "do you think you could ever forgive me?"
Cedric was incapable of answering, tears of happiness were flowing all over his
face. Instead, he pulled his father into the embrace as well. Harry, whom Cedric
had just let go of, got up and sneaked off. His mind was reeling and his heart
was overflowing with the wonder of Cedric being alive again, but he also felt li
ke an intruder in that intimate family reunion. And so he tried to melt into the
crowd, which had at last found its voice. A cacophonic one. Almost everybody wa
s babbling excitedly, some were arguing heatedly and very few were making any ef
fort to actually listen what the next person tried to say. Adding to the confusi
on, Madame Maxime appeared, herding two floating brass beds before her. On the b
eds were Viktor Krum and Fleur Delacour, both awake and apparently arguing on wa
lking by themselves. Madame Maxime was having none of that, and floated the beds
next to the one which Cedric was occupying with his parents.
Harry nodded to both new patients, glad to see they were okay, but he didn't go
to talk to them. Fleur and Viktor didn't seem too astonished to see Cedric, so m
aybe nobody had even told them yet that he had been killed. Instead of setting t
he record straight with them, Harry had an idea of finding Ron and Hermione and
escaping somewhere to tell them everything that had happened, but, not unexpecte
dly, he didn't get that far.
"Potter!" Cornelius Fudge demanded, "Explain yourself! What bloody shenanigans h
ave you been up to?"
"I'm sure," Harry said, "that I have no idea what you're talking about."
"No idea? No idea!" Fudge spluttered, "Then, what is thisâ ¦ this absurdâ ¦ theater you coo
ed up with Diggory?"
"Theater!" Harry exclaimed, "You saw him with your own eyes! He was dead! How an
earth do you think I could have faked that?"
"There's a potionâ " Fudge started.
"I suck at potions!" Harry interrupted rudely. Fudge turned a shade darker and l
ooked a bit like a pressure cooker about to explode. Harry could almost see stea
m coming out of his ears, but suddenly a rescue arrived from an unexpected sourc
e.
"For once," professor Snape joined the conversation with his smooth but disdainf
ul manner, "we are in complete agreement, Potter, even if I can't possibly appro
ve of your language. Minister, there's no way he could have produced the Draught
of Living Death, let alone the antidote. Even I have to concentrate to get that
one right."
"Butâ ¦" Fudge started to object heatedly, but then the look of a sudden revelation sp
read over his pudgy face. "Maybe you're right, Severus," he said, very slowly, b
ut obviously getting more exited with every word, "it was stupid of me to imagin
e that a couple of schoolboys were capable of faking something like this. Iâ ¦ I have
to go."
"Why would anyone want to, anyway?" asked Harry, but the minister didn't pay any
attention to him any more. Instead, he turned away and started to butt his way
through the crowd towards Dumbledore. Harry moved as if to follow him.
"Potter," Snape said in an undertone, taking a hold of Harry's arm, "for once wh
y don't you keep your nose out of other people's business. You have no idea how
delicate the political situation is, and you'll only make it worse if you interv
ene."
Harry didn't answer. He gave Snape one disgusted look, shook his arm free and tu
rned to follow Fudge. He wanted to know, and delicate politics be damned.
But again, Harry was interrupted, although pleasantly this time. Ron and Hermion
e were suddenly on his path, and Harry found his vision blurred by a mane of bus
hy hair when Hermione threw herself in his arms. Ron stood by, giving Harry his
best lopsided grin and looking up as if to say: "Girls, eh?" It was so eloquent
Harry could almost hear the words. He grinned back, although except for the dela
y, he didn't mind being hugged at all.
"Not now," Harry said when Hermione let go and started to shoot questions at him
, "I want to see what the Minister is up to. Come with me."
When the trio reached Dumbledore and Fudge, the latter was staring up at Dumbled
ore, a demanding and curiously feverish look in his face.
"This was all your idea, Dumbledore," he was just saying, "and therefore your re
sponsibility. I gave permission for the Tournament against my better judgement,
and you nearly got our Champion killed! What say you?"
"Actually, he was killed, and all the other Champions were in mortal danger, too
," Dumbledore answered him, "but that wasn't my doing, except in the sense that
despite my best efforts, I didn't succeed in preventing such a situation. But th
is is not the time nor the place for this conversation, Cornelius. I have severa
l urgent matters to attend to here. Could you please be as kind as to meet me in
my office in an hour or so?"
"Well, all right, Dumbledore," Fudge huffed, obviously not really agreeing at al
l, "At midnight, but not a second later, and no bloody tricks in the meantime, y
ou hear me?"
"I'm in no mood for tricks, either, Cornelius," Dumbledore replied. "This is the
most serious situation. I'll see you at midnight, then. Unless, "he offered,"yo
u want to stay and see what can be found out about the incident here."
"I don't think so, Dumbledore," Fudge said icily. "I've seen enough, and I also
have pressing matters to attend to."
"As you wish, Cornelius," Dumbledore replied.
After the Minister had turned away and left the room with his lackeys, Dumbledor
e turned to give Harry, Ron and Hermione a questioning look, each in turn. Whate
ver he saw seemed to satisfy him, because he nodded slowly. But when Harry opene
d his mouth to speak, Dumbledore shook his head.
"Not just yet, Harry," he said calmly, "Let's get rid of the party first." And w
ith a swish of his wand, Dumbledore conjured up a sturdy kitchen ladder, climbed
on it, and raised his voice over the crowd.
"Friends, comrades and collegues," he announced, "thank you so much for coming,
and let me say that I'm overjoyed to see this happy, colourful gathering instead
of the mournful wake this occasion started out as. However, tonight's events we
re both extremely stressful and exceedingly grave, and I have to consult my staf
f, the Champions and Cedric's family. Time is of the essence now and we must act
quickly. Everyone who I haven't specifically asked to stay, please see yourself
out. Thank you ever so much."
Dumbledore climbed down, vanished the ladder and addressed Ron and Hermione: "Yo
u two can stay," he said and smiled, "It saves Harry the trouble of telling you
everything afterwards."
Harry grinned at the familiar twinkle now back in the old wizard's eyes. Dumbled
ore went to change a couple of words with Madame Maxime while the room started t
o empty, and soon only Maxime, the members of the staff, Winky, Padfoot, Bill, M
r. and Mrs. Weasley, Diggorys and Harry, Fleur, Viktor, Ron & Hermione were left
in the room.
"First of all," Dumbledore started a short while later, "I must apologise to eve
ryone here, but especially Harry, Cedric, Fleur and Viktor for failing to keep t
his Tournament safe. I was deceived in a way I didn't think possible. That in it
self should stand as a dire warning to each and every witch and wizard here. Lor
d Voldemort is back, and he hasn't lost any of his lethally devious talents. We
have but a shortest time to prepare, and then the war will once again be upon us
. And now, let's find out how exactly did Voldemort manage to do what he did tod
ay."
"The wizard you have known this year as professor Moody," Dumbledore continued,
"was actually an impostor, a Death Eater using Polyjuice Potion. As improbable a
s that is, his name is Bartemius Crouch Jr., and he's not only the son of the hi
gh Ministry official of the same name, but he's also been officially dead for ye
ars. At the moment Crouch is stunned and tied to a chair in Moody's office. The
house-elf Winky here can probably tell us exactly how and why all this came abou
t."
Dumbledore then asked the terrified and shame-faced house-elf to come forward, e
xplained to her what Veritaserum was and persuaded her to drink a gulp of it. Th
en, bit by bit he got the whole terrible tale of dysfunctional family Crouch out
of her.
Breaking the silence that followed, the Headmaster went on: "When Harry returned
from the maze tonight with Cedric's body, I asked who I still thought to be Moo
dy at the time, to stay put and watch over them. When he didn't, but took Harry
away instead, I knew he must be the traitor. And despite everything, I have to s
ay I was extremely happy it turned out not to be Alastor Moody himself after all
."
"Now, it's obvious that Crouch was behind the fact that Harry was entered into t
he Tournament. The next mystery to be solved is what happened tonight. Viktor Kr
um was found in the maze stupefied, which, as Harry told me, was his doing becau
se Krum attacked Cedric, and under an imperius curse, which was Barty Crouches h
andiwork. Would you like to tell us exactly what happened, Viktor?"
"Sertainly" Krum said. "Professor Moody, or Mr. Krauz, was it?â ¦" And he went on to e
xplain how he had been forced to play his part in Voldemort's plot. "I am very s
orry, Cedric, for what I did to you," he ended.
"It's all right," Cedric said, "I know it wasn't really you. Apology accepted."
"Thank you," said Krum, looking much relieved.
"But in the end," Dumbledore continued, "something unexpected happened, and ever
ything didn't go according to Voldemort's plan. First of all, Harry stopped impe
riused Viktor, then Harry and Cedric fought and defeated the last obstacle toget
her and decided to seize the Goblet together, too. And the Tri-Wirard Cup, which
is a portkey, transported both of them, not just Harry, to the place Voldemort
had prepared. The destination of the Goblet was not the Tournament goal area whe
re it was supposed to go, but an old neglected graveyard in Little Hangleton."
There were several surprised gasps in his little audience, but also several blan
k stares. "Some of you know what that signifies," Dumbledore explained. "It's th
e birthplace of a certain Tom Riddle, later known as Lord Voldemort. I won't go
into the details of what happened there, you can pester Harry and Cedric about t
hat later. It's enough to say that Voldemort has returned to his body and full p
owers. A mystery to solve, however, is how he was able to whisk away Harry and C
edric without my knowledge. You see, I had foreseen the possibility and thought
I was prepared for it. In short, I had given keystone beacons, a sort of magical
tracking devices to both Harry and Cedric, and I had activated the keystone its
elf when the boys entered the maze. I should have known immediately when they we
re taken away, and I should have been able to follow. But I didn't get any warni
ng at all. I did feel that the portkey transported them away from the maze, but
at the same moment, Harry already appeared in front of my eyes, injured and clut
ching Cedric's body. Needless to say, at that point it was already too late. Wit
hout Fawkes, tonight would have turned out an even darker sort of a tragedy."
"To solve this Riddle, and excuse me for the terrible pun there," Dumbledore sai
d, not sounding the least bit apologetic, "we must examine the Goblet of Fire. M
inerva, would you set the Cup on the table there. And everyone, please, stand ba
ck a little."
McGonagall levitated the Tri-Wizard Cup onto the table, taking care not to touch
anyone with it. Dumbledore then stopped forward, weaving a pattern with his wan
d. The Goblet started to glow softly white, then the glow changed colour across
the spectrum from the deepest red to the most intense violet and all the colours
of the rainbow somewhere in between. Different parts of the goblet glowed with
different brightness, and the lighting varied constantly as the colour changed.
On thin air above the Goblet appeared strange mathematical looking symbols, just
one or two at the time at irregular intervals. After reaching ultraviolet the g
low changed back to white for a moment, then the first symbol appeared on air on
ce more, and the colour changed into reddish orange. On this second round, there
were only some colours, corresponding to the symbols that appeared in the first
round. Each colour remained almost constant for quite a while, during which inc
reasingly complex lines of smaller symbols appeared below the main one. To Harry
, it looked like a programming code or mathematical equations. He had never thou
ght that magic could be presented in such a scientific manner. It seemed to some
how lessen it, in his eyes. Wasn't it supposed to be, you know, magical?
"Ooh," Hermione said exitedly, "Analytical Arithmancy! I've never seen this befo
re! This is so cool."
"What?" Harry said, "Are you telling me you know about this stuff?"
"Of course I do!" Hermione said, "But that's University level magic. In Britain
they only teach it at Oxford. Professor McGonagall refused to put it on the curr
iculum even if I asked her to."
"Hermione, you're hopeless!" Ron exhaled, and was rewarded with a kick on his sh
in. But Harry silently agreed with him. Also, he'd had no idea they taught magic
in Oxford at all.
Some time later Dumbledore sat in his office with the Minister for Magic. They h
ad just settled in their respective chairs and the atmosphere was somewhat charg
ed.
"I have briefly questioned Barty Crouch and also studied the Tri-Wizard Cup," Du
mbledore said. "It's a portkey the like of which I have never seen before, and I
'd be very surprised if the Ministry staff had, either. It can travel through ti
me as well as space."
"Nonsense! I have already asked for the Ministry records and they show clearly t
hat the portkey left the maze precisely at 10:06:47 pm and appeared on the festi
val grounds less than a half a second later!"
"Of course it did. That's exactly the point, Cornelius!" Dumbledore demanded, th
umping a stack of parchments on dis desk, "I have the results of the analysis ri
ght here. The portkey was rigged so that it returned to it's original destinatio
n on the goal area immediately after it left that maze. But during that short mo
ment Harry and Cedric spent a couple of hours in the graveyard of a certain noto
rious Manor House in Little Hangleton."
"Liâ ¦ Little Hangleton!" Fudge stuttered, visibly shaken.
"I see that you remember the place, Cornelius, " Dumbledore said drily, "Riddle
Manor, where several murders have happened before."
"No, it can't be true!" Fudge said in vehement denial. "It's not true. You're ly
ing!"
"I'm afraid it is true, Cornelius," Dumbledore said, gently this time, "I admit
that I have sometimes left something unsaid, but I have never outright lied to y
ou, and I'm not lying now, either. Harry was lured there to to use his blood as
an ingredient in a complicated potion which gave Voldemort his body back. They d
id it at Riddle Manor because another ingredient was a bone from his father, who
's buried there. I tell you, Voldemort has risen again, and killed again, even i
f Fawkes unmade that last atrocity. We can easily prove his renewed existence wi
th further magical analysis of the Goblet, a little Veritaserum, and some time t
o interrogate Barty Crouch. Besides, we have two eyewitnesses to his resurrectio
n."
"You are prepared to believe that Lord Voldemort has returned on the word of a l
unatic murderer and a boy whoâ ¦ wellâ ¦ those poofters cannot be trusted," Fudge said with
distaste, "and Potter seems to be a serious headcase anyway."
"You've been reading Rita Skeeter," Dumbledore said drily, but there was a dange
rously angry glint in his eyes.
"And if I have?" Fudge asked hastily, but blushing slightly. "If I have discover
ed that you've been keeping certain facts about the boy very quiet? A parselmout
h, eh? And having funny turns all over the place?"
"She's not exactly the most reliable source herself," Dumbledore replied with fo
rced calm, with a new rigidity in his face. "You know as well as I that her stan
dard practise is to warp insignificant or innocent facts into slander and libel.
Harry is as sane as you or I. That scar upon his forehead has not addled his br
ains. Besides, in a matter this important, I'm sure the boys wouldn't object to
the use of Veritaserum on them. That would settle the matter once and for all."
"No it wouldn't," Fudge insisted, a stubborn look on his face. "The effects of V
eritaserum can be faked, if there's a sufficiently skillful wizard involved."
"What an earth are you talking about?" Dumbledore asked.
"You have," Fudge said coldly, "always been unhelpful and difficult, Dumbledore,
and opposed to the policies the Ministry has tried to uphold. I have finally fi
gured out why. This is all a ruse. All the incidents with Potter during these la
st years that you claimed have been caused by You-Know-Who. Only there's no hard
evidence. Basically we just have your word, yours and some impressionable kids.
And I don't trust you, Dumbledore, not any more. You want my job. You're trying
to make it look like You-Know-Who is back only to seize the control of the Mini
stry yourself!"
"Are you out of your mind?" Dumbledore cracked, looking at Fudge like he had nev
er seen him before. "I was offered your post half a dozen times, as you very wel
l know. I turned it down. I don't want your job, nor do I need it."
"So you think the Ministry doesn't matter," Fudge splattered, "do you? We'll see
about that!"
"It can't be both, Cornelius," Dumbledore said, having regained his cool demeano
r. "You're not thinking clearly. Why don't we go and question Barty Crouch and C
edric Diggory. A lot of things will become clear, including the disappearance of
Bertha Jorkins."
"It's too late for that," Fudge said, gloating, "the order to give the prisoner
to the Dementors was issued ten minutes ago, according to the new Ministry polic
y concerning dangerous individuals who have managed to escape Azkaban. He will b
e administered the Dementor's kiss right about now, as we speak."
When Dumbledore had left, saying he must question Barty Crouch before his meetin
g with the Minister, he had asked McGonagall and Snape to go with him and stand
guard over Barty Crouch afterwards. And when the effect of Veritaserum wore off
Winky was so distressed about the revealed secrets of the family and the possibi
lity of her old master having been murdered by her young master, Madam Pomfrey g
ave her Calming Draught and put her to sleep in the infirmary. The rest of the g
roup, when finally getting the chance, started to barrage Harry and Cedric with
questions about what had happened.
"Were you really dead, Cedric?" asked Hermione. "How did that feel? Did you know
what was happening around you?"
"And if you were, how come you're not anymore?" asked Ron.
"What ees this they tell me about a kiss and a phoenix, 'arry?" Fleur wanted to
know.
"How did You-Know-Who get his body back?" Bill Weasley inquired. He was a curse-
breaker, so this was something he found very intriguing.
The first questions opened veritable floodgates. Hows, whys and wherefores flew
so thick in the air that Harry and Cedric couldn't even begin to answer the ques
tions. And nobody would have heard anyway, if they had. But suddenly there was a
loud bang and a flash of light. Remus Lupin had his wand out and everybody star
ed at him, shocked into silence.
"Everybody calm down a bit, please," he said in his soft but slightly raspy voic
e. "How could they possibly answer everything at once. Why don't we let Harry an
d Cedric tell what they feel like telling at the moment," he raised his forefing
er in rather teacherlike manner, "if, and only if they feel up to it. Tonight mu
st have been a terrible ordeal for both of them."
There was a murmur of agreement, and all the eyes turned towards Harry and Cedri
c. Cedric was sitting in his bed, leaning on the wall behind and Harry was perch
ing on the sideboard of the bed. They looked at each other. Cedric shrugged and
Harry nodded.
"You start," he said to Cedric.
"All rightâ ¦" Cedric said, and composed himself. "It was a dark and stormy night in t
he Tri-Wizard mazeâ ¦" he begun, face deadpan, and got some incredulous stares from th
e audience. And even if he grew seriously serious as the tale went on, it was ob
vious that Cedric was a great storyteller. He wasn't self-conscious and a bit em
barrassed of the attention, as Harry would have been, but obviously enjoyed the
experience. He was also able to tell everything in a way that made sense, and ev
en awoke vivid images of what it must have been like in the minds of the listene
rs.
Cedric told them briefly about the third task and it's different obstacles, how
he was attacked by Viktor Krum and how Harry saved him. He told about the giant
acromantula and how the Goblet tempted him, and how, despite of the temptation h
e and Harry ended up sharing the victory.
Then he described the graveyard, and the Riddle Manor, and the hooded figure, an
d how Harry had insisted they go back to the portkey. There he stopped.
"I'm sorry I didn't believe you," he said to Harry. "You were right."
"I know." Harry said, "It's all right. We're still hereâ ¦ or rather, again, in your c
ase."
"Thanks to you, Harry." Cedric smiled at him and reached to touch his cheek.
"Oi! for Merlin's sake!" Ron interrupted. "Geddon with it, will you! What happen
ed next?"
This won a barking laughter from Lupin and several chuckles all around. It also
got the story back on track. Cedric described how they woke up tied to a gravest
one and how Wormtail prepared the potion in 'a dirty big cauldron' and how he ha
d feared Wormtail was about to kill Harry, but only took some blood. He told wit
h dramatic tones how Voldemort rose from the cauldron and the Death Eaters arriv
ed.
So the story was just arriving to its most dramatic turns, when they were interr
upted. They heard a commotion with several hurried footsteps and shouting voices
approaching, and Cedric went silent. Lupin rushed to the doors and took a look
into the corridor beyond. He dug immediately back and barked in a low voice: "Sn
uffles! Out!" and the huge dog slunk through the opposite door deeper into the i
nfirmary. Lupin waved his wand and the door closed and locked itself behind Padf
oot.
"Hagrid," Lupin then said quickly, "if they ask about it, you had Fang when you
arrived but you took it away 'cause this is the hospital wing, okay."
"Aye, of course I had," he agreed, with a huge wink, "Fang was guarding the maze
with me."
"Right," said Lupin, and turned to the Diggorys. But Arthur was already conferri
ng with them in a low voice. Harry identified only a word here and there, 'Volde
mort', 'the Ministry', 'Fudge' and 'Death Eaters' among them. Whatever he said,
both Amos and Penelope nodded in agreement, despite looking a bit overwhelmed.
Only seconds later, the doors to the corridor burst open and several people rush
ed into the hospital wing. There were six aurors, lead by a a man with short hai
r reminding Harry of a steel brush, Minerva McGonagall and Severus Snape. McGona
gall and the wiry-haired auror were arguing with each other, loudly.
"Regrettable, but all the same," the man said just when they entered, "it's done
, and that's that."
"You should never have brought them inside the castle, Dawlish!" McGonagall shou
ted, obviously furious. "When Dumbledore finds outâ ¦"
"Where is Dumbledore, anyway!" asked Dawlish.
"He's not here," professor Sprout said calmly. "This is a hospital wing, Dawlish
. The Headmaster went to his office to meet the Minister. Don't you think you'd
do better toâ ¦"
But just then the doors banged open again, and Dumbledore entered. He wasn't loo
king nearly as wild as when he had knocked out Barty Crouch, but he didn't look
like his usual benevolent self either. His chin was up and eyes were blazing, an
d the air itself seemed to tremble around him. Fudge trotted in a moment later,
red in the face and huffing, winded after trying to keep up with Dumbledore.
"What on earth are you here for, Dawlish?" Dumbledore asked, in a surprisingly c
alm voice, "Why are you disturbing these people? Minerva, Severus, I'm surprised
at you two! I specifically asked you to stand guard over Barty Crouch."
"There is no need to stand guard over him anymore, Dumbledore," McGonagall answe
red shrilly "The Minister has seen to that!"
"I know that," Dumbledore answered. "But why didn't you stop that madness?"
"It was six against two," Snape said, "and they had the orders signed by the Min
ister."
"You should have contested those!" Dumbledore insisted, "Minister, as you should
very well know, the power to execute death sentences does not lie within the Mi
nistry, but can only be done by the order of Wizengamot. Moreover, I'm the Headm
aster of Hogwarts, and bringing any dangerous creatures here requires my permiss
ion. That includes Dementors. You overstepped your authority!"
"I did challenge the orders." McGonagall said, and Harry didn't think he had eve
r seen her so angry, "but like Severus said, it was six to two, and they forced
us out. And then thoseâ ¦ things swooped down on Crouch andâ ¦ andâ ¦"
"By all accounts he is no loss," Dawlish interrupted. "It seems he's been respon
sible for several deaths."
"But he cannot now give testimony, can he?" Dumbledore asked rhetorically. "He c
annot give evidence about why he killed those people."
"Why he killed them? Well that's no mystery is it?" Dawlish asked, apparently qu
ite earnest. "He was a raving lunatic. From what Minerva and Severus have told m
e he seems to have thought he was doing it all on You-Know-Who's instructions."
"You're an auror, for Merlin's sake," Dumbledore replied, furious and exasperate
d. "Alastor taught you better than that. Assumptions are not enough! You have to
know. Also, it's a sad day indeed when aurors start to execute people without l
awful proceedings. And finally, there's the minor fact that he was getting his o
rders from Lord Voldemort. He was somewhat insane, but he was also shrewd and sk
illful, and not completely mad."
"Technically," Minister Fudge butted in, "barty Crouch is still alive, so it was
n't an execution. Therefore, I was within my legal powers to give the order."
"Not with Dementors within the school," McGonagall cried, "you weren't! And that
's even worse than killing a man. You destroyed his soul!"
"MY DEAR WOMAN!" Fudge roared, loosing his temper altogether, "As Minister for M
agic it is my decision whether I wish to bring protection with me when interview
ing a possibly dangerous criminal!"
"Interview being the most important word there, Cornelius," Dumbledore said, "If
you just had done that instead of blindly destroying a key witness, we wouldn't
need to argue the point whether Voldemort has returned or not. He has, and the
sooner you accept that fact and act accordingly, the better we'll all be prepare
d when the war starts anew."
"The war? Volâ ¦ He Who Must Not Be Named? What are you talking about?" Dawlish asked.
He had turned a shade or two paler while following the argument.
"Show them, Severus," Dumbledore requested.
Snape made his way closer, unbuttoned his shirt sleeve and revealed an ugly tatt
oolike sign on his pale arm. It was a dark sort of inflamed-looking reddish viol
et, not unlike the colour of a bruise.
"The Dark Mark!" Dawlish exclaimed, looking thunderstruck.
"It was burning coal-black earlier today, when the Dark Lord summoned us," Snape
stated in raw voice, "his closest Death Eaters, both faithfull and deserted. I
dare say Karkaroff got the message, too."
"Igor Karkaroff was nowhere to be found," Madame Maxime offered from near Fleur'
s bed.
"No wonder," Dawlish pondered, "if You-Know-Who really is back, he must run and
hide, quickly and far away. He betrayed too many Death Eaters to buy his freedom
, at his time."
"Enough! This is preposterous!" Fudge shouted. "It seems to me that you are all
determined to start a panic that will destabilize everything we have worked for
these last thirteen years! I've had enough. I hereby order everybody to stop spr
eading rumours that You-Know-Who is back and rallying Death Eaters around him. D
awlish, you take care that other matter. Others, come with me! Let's go back to
the Ministry and some level-headed people."
This was, finally, more than Harry could take. "I saw him coming back, and so di
d Cedric! I can tell you the names of the Death Eaters he summoâ "
"I said ENOUGH!" Fudge roared again, and waved his wand. Harry's mouth snapped s
hut. Fudge strolled over to him, followed by many startled eyes and more than on
e wandtip. He didn't try any more spellcasting, though. Instead, he took a heavy
-looking bag from his pocket and dropped it to the floor in front of Harry.
"Your winnings," Fudge said coldly, and turned away. Five of the aurors turned t
o follow him, but before they got out of the door, Dumbledore intervened in one
last effort to speak sense to the Minister of Magic.
"Cornelius, look at the evidence!" Dumbledore pleaded, "What's happening now is
much wider in scope than workings of a single lunatic. I'm not asking you to tak
e my word on it, but look at the evidence, put your best aurors on it, and you'l
l find out it's true. Voldemort is back, and it's up to all of us to stop him."
"Dumbledore," Fudge threatened in icy voice, "if you don't stop spreading these
unfounded and destructive rumours, I'll see to it that your time as the Headmast
er is over! Goodbye."
During the shocked silence that followed Fudge's ultimatum, someone waved his wa
nd and Harry's jaws started to work again. But before he could think of anything
to say, Dumbledore himself broke the silence.
"What was that other matter you are supposed to take care of, John?" he asked.
"Erâ ¦ yes." Dawlish started, looking embarrassed, "Look, we've had our own disagreeme
nts, but Iâ ¦ I'll do my best to see that this You-Know-Who business is looked into fu
rther."
"I would appreciate that very much," Dumbledore answered. "And the other matter?
"
"Well, you see, we got a couple of reports today from the audience, saying that
a huge black dog matching the description of the Animagus form of the murderer S
irius Black was seen in Hogwarts several times today, and that he might now be h
ere in the hospital wing."
"That," hollered Hagrid, "would've been Fang, my boarhound, wouldn't it?"
"But I understand your dog is light brown, not black like this one," Dawlish ret
orted.
"Right. But, ye knowâ ¦" Hagrid started, but to Harry it seemed he had no idea where h
e was going with that sentence, so he interrupted.
"The Weasley twins," Harry said, as if it explained everything.
"What about them?" asked Dawlish, looking suspicious.
"It was a stupid prank, really," said Hermione, "they turned it black last week,
just to pull Hagrid's leg."
"Really? So where's this black boarhound now?"
"I had it with me when I came," Hagrid answered, back on the track, "but, ye kno
w, this being a hospital and all, took it back to mi cabin there and came back b
y miself."
"All right," Dawlish said, and looked like he accepted the explanation. "But I'l
l have to come by and check that hound. Shall we?"
Hagrid looked worried, but nodded all the same. He was looking at Dumbledore.
"Go on, Hagrid," the Headmaster said, "we can manage without you."
"Right ye are, Dumbledore," he said, turned and stooped to avoid the lintel of t
he door.
When Dawlish and Hagrid had gone, Dumbledore turned and scanned the crowd.
"Bill," he then asked, "could I ask you perhaps to mend the oversight your littl
e brothers did by not dyeing Fang last week?"
"Sure. It'll be faster if I get out of the windows over there. Hagrid and Dawlis
h have to walk around most of the castle, so I should have ample time."
"Thank you, Bill," Dumbledore said, " I knew I could count on you."
It turned out to be a long night. When Bill had gone, the speculations about Fud
ge, the threat of a new war and all things considering the events of the day nee
ded to be discussed. Fleur, Viktor and Madame Maxime wanted to know all that had
happened to Harry and Cedric, and the rest wanted to hear what had happened aft
er Voldemort had been resurrected. Less than thirty minutes after he had gone, B
ill came back together with Hagrid. Dawlish had examined Fang, returned it back
to its original colour and left. After hearing that, Lupin let Padfoot back to t
he room. Dumbledore then asked him to assume his human form, introduced him to t
hose who didn't know him, and explained that he wasn't the mass-murderer he was
generally believed to be. Furthermore, Dumbledore made Sirius and Snape to make
an uneasy truce, the strength of which many, including Harry and Ron, seriously
doubted.
When the most pressing new questions had been asked and discussed, Cedric contin
ued his account of what had happened in the graveyard. The parts he couldn't tel
l, Harry filled in with his own, somewhat less polished narrative. During the st
ory, Fleur's eyes grew wider and wider, until she finally interrupted.
"You like other boys, Cedric! Why didn't 'ou tell me, you silly man!" she admoni
shed. "Now I feel so stupid for 'arrassing you before the Yule Ball."
Finally, around half past four in the morning Dumbledore told everybody that the
gathering was over, and to most of them to go to sleep. All four champions were
accommodated together in one of the hospital rooms, under the surveillance of m
adam Pomfrey, who gave each of them a swig of Sleeping Draught to ensure a night
without nightmares. After that, they all dropped like stones.
The ones Dumbledore asked not to go to bed quite yet were Severus Snape, Arthur
and Molly Weasley and Amos and Penelope Diggory. Snape's matter was fast. Dumble
dore just asked him to do what he must, and Snape left with no further instructi
ons. The others he took to the comfortable chairs in the Headmaster's office on
top of the spiralling staircase.
"I hope you are not falling off your feet quite yet," Dumbledore then started, "
because I have two more things to discuss with you, and neither benefits from be
ing postponed."
"We're all right, I guess," Amos Diggory answered. "There are so many things run
ning around my mind that I doubt I would sleep anyway."
"Very well. I asked you here because you," Dumbledore nodded to Diggorys, "are C
edric's parents and you," he nodded to Weasleys, "are the next best thing Harry
will ever have. I also suspect that at least to some of you, it was rather a sev
ere shock, to find out about the true nature of the bond between Harry and Cedri
c. I dare say none of you knew about it before yesterday, or am I wrong?"
"I had absolutely no idea," Arthur Weasley said, but he didn't look judgemental.
Molly didn't say anything, but her face had frozen in an expression of distaste
that didn't suit her friendly face at all.
"Well," Amos said, looking at his wife, "Cedric wrote us a letter a while back,
telling us heâ ¦ likes boys, not girls. I went through the roof, I'm afraid. I even th
reatened to disinherit him."
"You sure did," Penelope confirmed, smiling. "I myself had a very liberal upbrin
ging, so I was sort ofâ ¦ prepared. I had suspected as much, but I didn't want to beli
eve I was right. And when the letter came, Amos was so disturbed by it that I co
uldn'tâ ¦ bring myself toâ ¦ educate him about the matter... not so soon. But then I realis
d who the other boy was when we met Cedric this, or rather, yesterday morning af
ter breakfast. The looks between the two could hardly be mistaken."
"Indeed," Dumbledore agreed. "And Molly, dear?" he then asked gently.
"I don't understand howâ ¦ how you all can be soâ ¦ soâ ¦ worldly about this," Molly huffed
ink it's completely unnatural. How could you allow this to happen, Dumbledore? H
arry's been such a sweet boy."
"He still is," Dumbledore said. "Harry has not changed, exept for growing up. It
's only that we know him a little better now. And I wouldn't have been able to s
top this from happening, even if I had wanted to. Being gay is not unnatural, Mo
lly. Some of us just are that way, like some of us have red hair. This is not so
me accident that happened to Harry, it's what he is. If you loved him before, yo
u should love him after, too. I tell you, Molly, he is still the same Harry you
have cared for and loved like a mother."
"But," and now Molly started to sob, "I have so hopedâ ¦ he would end up marrying Ginn
y. They would be perfect for each other, and she's been inâ ¦ love with him ever since
she first set her eyes on him. Thisâ ¦ this will break Ginny's heart."
"Ginny knows already, dearest," Arthur hugged his sobbing wife. "She's a beautif
ul girl and she's strong, too. She'll have to beat the boys away with a stick, m
ark my words. Besides, she looked just fine, you know, even after the kiss. I wa
s worried about that, so I was watching her."
"And that brings us to another important point," Dumbledore continued. "Please l
isten carefully, because I believe this might prove critical to their very survi
val. You must not try to separate Harry and Cedric. It's more than a teenage inf
atuation. I abhor to think what might have happened tonight, if Harry had taken
the Goblet alone. They saved one another, those two, and if either had faced Vol
demort alone, that wouldn't have been possible."
"Howâ ¦ how can you be so sure it's not just puppy-love, regardless of that?" Penelope
asked.
"Because of the kiss," Dumbledore answered with complete conviction. "I don't kn
ow how much you know about phoenixes, but for obvious reasons that's been a spec
ial interest of mine. The miracle that we witnessed tonight is impossibly rare,
but just because of that it has several times been thoroughly examined and a mat
ter of many learned studies. It requires special circumstances to happen. A phoe
nix is an extremely magical creature, but even a phoenix can't bring anyone back
from the death without one crucial ingredientâ ¦"
"What?" Amos asked.
"Love," Dumbledore answered simply. "That fragile, miraculous thing. Fawkes had
set the spell, so to speak, in the graveyard. But it would all have been for not
hing without the final seal. To release the miracle, a token of true love is nee
ded. If Harry had not really loved Cedric, the kiss would have been for nothing.
Cedric would still be dead. And vice versa, if Cedric hadn't desperately wanted
to come back to his loved one, Fawkes wouldn't even have set the spell. The kis
s and what happened after is an irrevocable proof that they really love each oth
er."
The discussion didn't end there. Molly still had misgivings, and when Dumbledore
said she should talk to Bill, she almost went ballistic, thinking that Dumbledo
re meant Bill was gay too. Both Dumbledore and Arthur rushed to assure her that
was not the case.
"I just thought," Dumbledore explained, "that Bill is young, but not a teenager
any more, and rather more unconventional than you'd like, isn't he, Molly? Well,
in this case that might be a good thing, because he could offer you another per
spective about Harry being gay. And despite your bones of contention you also tr
ust Bill and his judgement, don't you?"
"Well, yes, I guess," admitted Molly grudgingly, "except for the long hair and t
hat awful earring."
"Talk to Bill, then," Dumbledore said, "and remember that you don't have to unde
rstand why Harry and Cedric are different. Only thing required is that you accep
t the fact that they are. Everything else will follow."
"And if you need to talk about all this," Penelope Diggory added, "I'm almost al
ways available. Drop by, or send an owl. I'd be delighted."
"Thank you, Penelope," Molly said, "I might just do that, if you don't mind."
"I seem to remember," Amos Diggory said at that point to Dumbledore, "that you h
ad some other thing also to discuss with us?"
"You're quite correct," Dumbledore agreed. "Have you ever heard of the Order of
the Phoenix?"
"No, I can't recall that I have," Amos said.
"That's excellent. I would like you both to join. Immediately, if that suits you
."
The next days were peaceful compared to all that happened on the day of the Thir
d Task. Harry had to stay another two days in the hospital wing because of his l
eg wound, which turned out to be rather trickier than most. Small amounts of acr
omantula venom had after all infested the wound, and it took some time for even
such an excellent healer as Madam Pomfrey to cure that kind of infections.
The very first morning in the hospital wing Harry had a chat with Amos and Penel
ope Diggory, and it was surprisingly pleasant. Harry had feared that meeting, bu
t he got along just fine with Cedric's parents, and their attitude towards him h
ad turned altogether warm and welcoming. Cedric wasn't around, he'd been allowed
to leave after Madam Pomfrey's examination had showed him to be healthier than
any person had any right to be. Fleur and Viktor had also left the hospital wing
with Cedric.
Cedric soon came back though, waving the Daily Prophet.
"I'm dead, apparently," he said, grinning.
"What?" asked his father, gobsmacked.
"Today's paper must have gone to print before they got the report ofâ ¦ you know, the
phoenix incident."
"Really," said Penelope, "how strange. Let me see."
Cedric was right. His dead face was plastered on the front page, with a huge hea
dline reading 'Diggory Dead! The Tragedy of Tri-Wizard Tournament!' and several
theories of what had happened.
"Well," Harry mused, "I guess they'll rip even bigger headlines tomorrow, then."
But strangely enough, they didn't. Just a day before the end of term Hermione fo
und a correction piece in tiny typeface next to the classified ads, and that fai
led completely to relate what actually had happened, just putting Cedric back to
life and claiming a fault in communications.
"They just don't want to talk about it," Hermione said, "because you're gay."
And Harry had to agree with that.
The winnings Harry had split with Cedric, who refused point blank to take it all
. Harry wondered what he should do with the rest, since he already had more than
enough gold in Gringotts. He had considered giving the lot to Weasleys, but Art
hur turned it down and Molly, she didn't come to visit him at all.
After Harry got out of the hospital wing, he had to face a school full of people
who knew he was gay and together with Cedric. To his (very limited) knowledge s
uch a public gay affair was a first for Hogwarts. He asked about it from Hermion
e, who just said she didn't have the faintest idea.
"What about 'Hogwarts: A History'," Harry asked.
"Don't be idiotic, Harry," Hermione answered. "Even if they recorded love affair
s in a history book like that, they certainly wouldn't talk about gay relationsh
ips. In some respects, wizarding world is positively Medieval."
But Harry didn't find it so. Of course, he and Cedric both had to endure stupid
jokes, less-than-nice nicknames etc., but now that he had nothing to hide, and a
fter all they had gone through, it was surprisingly easy to ignore. And they had
supporters, too. Fleur and Viktor, the twins, and many others. One day Ginny he
xed Malfoy to oblivion when he had invented an especially colourful way of descr
ibing Harry and Cedric's love life. Flittwick, who just walked by, gave Gryffind
or fifty points for Ginny's excellent hex. Many muggle-born or half-blood studen
ts knew somebody who was gay or at least knew it was relatively common in the mu
ggle world. So they got used to it. It helped a lot of course, that no Rita Skee
ter articles on them appeared in the Daily Prophet or, indeed, any writings ment
ioning their relationship.
"Well, she's not currently in a position to write anything at all," Hermione sai
d enigmatically. She was smiling like a cat with a bowl of cream, but instead of
explaining, she left without a word. A quarter of an hour later she came back t
o show Harry, Ron, Cedric and Ginny a small glass jar with an angry beetle buzzi
ng inside.
"That's neverâ ¦" Ron started.
"It is indeed," Hermione said proudly. "She's an unregistered Animagus, and I ca
ptured her. There's an unbreakable charm on the jar, so she can't transform back
to human form."
"Hermione," Ron said, "I love you. I really do."
Despite the lazy last week at school, there also was an undercurrent of urgency
in the air. Hagrid and Madame Maxime were preparing a trip somewhere together, a
nd it didn't look like a holiday. Snape, when he reappeared at the end of last w
eek was even gloomier than normally, and that was an achievement in itself. Ther
e were owls flying around in odd hours carrying letters, and several aurors drop
ped by Headmaster's office during the week. Mad-Eye Moody, the real one, got out
of the hospital wing and started to talk about the coming war and to plan defen
ces against all possible and impossible feats of Dark Arts.
On the day of the Farewell Feast, Harry went to see Dumbledore. He burst into He
admaster's office, after giving the password, and interrupted a conversation bet
ween Dumbledore and the sphinx Onyx. Harry wanted to prove that Cedric and Hermi
one were wrong in their claim that Fawkes had given his own life for Cedric's an
d to thank Fawkes profusely for saving Cedric's life in the process. However, Fa
wkes was nowhere in sight.
"Fawkes is gone, Harry," Dumbledore said in a low and serious voice.
"But," Harry said, around a lump in his throat, "I thought phoenixes didn't die!
"
"You can't kill a phoenix, love," Onyx responded and sidled to Harry, curling he
r tail around him like a comforting arm and speaking before Dumbledore had a cha
nce to say anything, "There's a difference."
"She's right," Dumbledore agreed. "Even if phoenixes hatch very seldom, the worl
d would be filled with them if they never died. It's like Onyx said, they can't
be killed, but they can choose to die and move on. Actually the only way a phoen
ix can die is to give their life for somebody else. It's called the Gift of a Ph
oenix, Harry, and like the species itself, it is extremely rare. There is only o
ne previous case ever documented on the British Isles."
"But," Harry said again, "how did it happen, then. Cedric... he was dead already
. And you've told me yourself that people can't come back, once they are gone."
"That's still true, Harry. Even Fawkes couldn't have saved Cedric if he had alre
ady moved on," Dumbledore explained. "But a soul lingers for a while, at least b
riefly, before going on to the next world, whatever that may be. And, as you can
probably imagine from the effects of Fawkes's song, a phoenix can talk directly
to one's soul like very few creatures can. We can't discuss with the souls of t
he people who leave us, unless they choose to stay as ghosts, but a phoenix can.
And as you should well know, tears of a phoenix can cure any malady or injury o
f the body..."
"But I thought," Harry protested again, "that the killing curse doesn't leave an
y injuries."
"Strictly speaking, that's correct," Dumbledore admitted. "It severes the connec
tion between the soul and the body in which it resides, thus stopping the body f
rom functioning. It leaves no physical injuries in itself, and that's why it's s
uch a mystery to muggles, whenever they come accross its victims. But, just like
with any other death, the body starts to disintegrate almost immediately after
it dies. The cell structure starts to break, the organs to fall apart, and a pho
enix can fix that. Cedric is probably healthier now than he was before his death
. But Fawkes, he has moved on instead of Cedric, and we shall see him no more, u
ntil it's our time to follow."
And without any other sign of sorrow, a single tear trickled down Dumbledore's c
heek. It was large and clear and catched sunlight beautifully. To Harry, it was
almost as precious as a tear of a phoenix, for it proved both that Dumbledore ha
d not lost his humanity in the tangle of politics, war and intrigue he had immer
sed himself in, and that he trusted Harry enough to show it. Harry fell silent,
nodded to both the Headmaster and the sphinx and saw himself out. He needed to b
e with Cedric.