It was a new day, and a new time. Time moved funny there. Long times flashed by as though they were nothing, just a bolt of lightning there and gone, while short moments seemed to stretch on for days, lazy and prolonged as a tarried overcast storm rolling over the plains.
Cedric and Harry returned to the lake again, but this time they were on the far side, nearer to the mountains where part of the lake was bordered by an overhanging cliff. Cedric was sitting against a broad tree casting its welcoming shade, while Harry lay on his back with his head rested in Cedric’s lap. The older wizard’s hand was running through Harry’s hair, weaving, tangling, and grazing his scalp. Shivers danced along Harry’s skin and sent tingles through his spine. It was so pleasant to have someone sweep their fingers through your hair…
It was as though such an action had a hidden and unknown power used at the most opportune times to send someone fluttering toward true and deep peace and relaxation. Nothing mattered so long as the fingers continued their ministrations.
“So you met this woman at your hearing to see if you would be expelled? I still can’t believe they did that,” Cedric mentioned, shaking his head in disapproval. Harry glanced up at him, happy with the sight that met him.
Harry was telling Cedric all about his fifth year at Hogwarts. Even through Cedric knew the gist of everything, he still wanted to hear it told from Harry’s point of view. Harry, naturally, took pleasure in abusing Umbridge and of course he briefly highlighted Dumbledore’s Army and their activities. He wasn’t going to say much, but Cedric demanded to know every detail about what he taught the students and whether they learned it. He even made Harry tell him about the mortifying kiss with Cho Chang. That was only slightly uncomfortable.
That got them lost on a tangent of Cho’s complexities after Cedric’s death. Fortunately, it was a relatively short discussion. Harry wasn’t keen on talking about her, and Cedric didn’t seem to be either.
Harry continued his narrative about fifth year. Cedric, like the best of all listeners, laughed and then became indignant at all the right moments, spurring Harry on to more enthusiastic storytelling. Diggory’s favourite part, however, Harry would have to say, was the encounter at the Department of Mysteries. He couldn’t believe Harry had had the gall, gusto, and stupidity to go there.
He was thoroughly impressed by the skills of Harry and his friends, saying that six teenagers fighting all the Death Eaters and not one single death among them – well, that was a feat few adult wizards had ever lived to tell about!
Harry quietly and hesitantly told Cedric about the prophecy. That took them on another, slightly unpleasant tangent. Harry didn’t much enjoy thinking on and discussing his destined lifetime. Cedric seemed to understand, and didn’t push the topic.
Harry didn’t quite have the guts in him to mention Sirius at that moment. He didn’t want to go down that trail, and somehow he thought Cedric also understood that. He wondered if Cedric had ever spoken with Sirius, or if those in death never actually met.
“That was some fifth year! You make my education sound like Muggle primary school!” Cedric laughed.
“I’d rather have the normal life,” Harry answered quietly. After a brief pause, the other boy replied.
“Yes, that’s true.” Cedric nodded, and his fingers paused in Harry’s hair. The raven-haired boy looked up at his companion, and recognised that look on his face. Cedric was up to something, in his mind. He was making a plan and Harry had a funny feeling that it involved drawing their minds far, far away from fifth year stories.
“I’ve got an idea!” Cedric said excitedly, looking down at Harry full in the face. That spark was in his eye – that spark that Harry was so envious of.
“What’s that?” Harry humoured him good-naturedly. It would probably be something he would like, anyway.
“Let’s go swimming!” Cedric grinned widely. In a moment, Harry was neatly erected away from Cedric’s lap and the boy had jumped up, waiting for Harry to join in on the idea.
“Swimming?” Harry stood slowly.
“Yeah! In the lake! And we can jump off that killer cliff!” Cedric’s enthusiasm was enough for the both of them.
“Are you sure it’s deep enough?”
“Harry Potter! Are you afraid? After all you’ve done?!” Now Cedric was just plain pushing his buttons.
“Me? Afraid?” Harry narrowed his eyes and raised an eyebrow. He bit and took the challenge.
“Yeah, come on!” Cedric answered by pulling his shirt off over his head and letting it fall from his fingers to the ground. His hair was ruffled and matched his eyes, alight with animation. Harry’s eyes quickly swept over the topless boy in front of him, appreciating the toned muscles he had always suspected Cedric had.
He was suddenly hit with a few too many thoughts, the first being his own embarrassment for a less-than-spectacular body. He had always thought he was scrawny, and always on the underfed side, thanks to his years spent at the Dursleys’. But he had never let such a thing stop him from doing anything.
The second simultaneous thought was a joke flitting through his mind wondering if this was all a ploy to get Harry out of his trousers. He laughed mentally, until the next thought hit him – that that just might be the case! He couldn’t deny the growing affection between them, even if he didn’t fully understand it. He certainly didn’t know what was coming next for them, if anything.
The last thought hit him, washing over soothingly, when he realised Cedric was much too good-natured to create ploys for getting Harry mostly naked, especially for such a goal as… well, whatever might come next.
Harry wondered at the mind’s ability to have so many thoughts in one split second. He grinned, grabbed the bottom his own shirt and ripped it off, doing nothing better or worse to his own hair, he was certain. Cedric seemed pleased that Harry was playing along and didn’t need any more convincing.
“Up the cliff, come on!” Cedric urged. “Race you!”
Of course, the competitiveness in him would have to challenge Harry.
The two shirtless boys ran at top speed toward the cliff that fell neatly into the lake below. It wasn’t far, but it was a bit further than a sprint. Harry was huffing and puffing. Quidditch did not, by any means, train someone for running. Cedric seemed to be quite fit, and Harry made it his goal to push himself and keep Cedric only a few steps in front of him, hoping at the last minute to get a miraculous burst of adrenaline and overtake him in the end.
It was a vain hope.
Cedric reached the cliff and paused to wait out the few remaining metres for Harry to arrive. He smiled through his pants and they both stood together, trying to catch their breath. Cedric leaned over on his knees, attempting to draw in more air, and peered up at Harry through his fallen fringe.
Funny how such a look could spark an inexplicable flame.
It did nothing to help Harry catch his breath, but when they both could breath again, Cedric found the path they could climb to reach the top of the cliff. Harry was no mountain climber, but he found it easy enough. His arm strength was a little greater than his running stamina.
The cliff seemed to fly by underneath them until Harry and Cedric were both standing at the top, peering down at the lake below. It seemed a lot farther down from that angle. Harry had never been afraid of heights, however, and he wasn’t about to let Cedric show him up again. He was all in, ready, excited, and nervous all at once to take the jump.
Harry looked over when he heard a belt undoing next to him. Cedric released the buckle and pulled at the button underneath, unzipping and opening his jeans. It was oddly interesting to watch him, though Harry wasn’t sure why and felt instantly weird for such a thought.
The jeans fell from Cedric’s waist, and he stepped out of them, unashamedly standing in his boxers as he gathered up the jeans.
“Don’t want to swim in them,” he shrugged, and then launched the trousers over the edge of the cliff. Harry watched their path as they sailed to the grass below, where they would wait for their owner to return.
“Come on, hurry up, slowpoke scaredy cat!” Cedric laughed, gesturing to Harry’s jeans.
Harry’s eyes lingered on the legs bared before him, and the feet moving mindlessly on the grass underneath them. He had no intention of jumping into the lake with more clothing on than Cedric, as though he were some kind of girl or a pansy. In moments, his jeans were off and falling to the ground below, not exactly near to Cedric’s jeans, but close enough.
“On three, we jump!” Cedric urged. Harry grinned back and nodded, not missing the way Cedric’s eyes roved over him, up and down. He felt a heat rising in his cheeks and commanded it to stop.
“1… 2… 3!” Cedric yelled, and without delay, the two boys leapt from the cliff’s edge, falling for what seemed like a very long time before they crashed into the cool water below. Harry fought to resurface, wiping the water from his face and gasping for breath. That had quite possibly been the most exhilarating thing he had ever done.
It was at least the most exhilarating thing he had done while not under an immediate threat of death.
“Merlin! That was fantastic!” Cedric shouted, a few metres away. He flung his wet hair back and his face was dripping with the lake water.
“Let’s do it again!” Harry yelled over and immediately began swimming for the shore. Cedric wasn’t far behind, and they ran together to the cliff and climbed the path again. They were jabbering away about the excellence of the fall into the water, and the smacking but not painful way they crashed into the water.
They reached the top again and Cedric took a running leap this time while Harry watched. He grinned as Cedric resurfaced, flung his hair back again, and smiled up to Harry, calling out for him to jump already, and make it a good one.
Harry ran as well and jumped with all his might, launching his body off the cliff. He felt the wind rushing past him, his hair ruffling and the cool breeze tickling against so much of his skin. Then all at once it disappeared and was replaced with a smashing coolness, a slapping wetness that engulfed him, pulling him underneath.
Harry surfaced, panting and grinning like a madman. His hair was flopping over his forehead and he shook his glasses off, only barely registering his surprise that they had stayed on his face at all.
“This is insane!” Harry exclaimed.
“That was a great jump,” Cedric grinned, swimming nearer to Harry. They had to keep their legs moving because it as so deep where they had jumped from the cliff.
“It reminded me of falling off my broom,” Harry laughed.
“Have you done that much?” Cedric’s laugh echoed. Slowly they were making their way toward shallower water, so they could stand on the lake bottom. The water still came up to their chests.
“A few times,” Harry tried to appear cool and aloof, but felt a bit sheepish. It was not a sign of a good flyer to have fallen off one’s broom.
“A few times, huh?” Cedric teased.
“Like you’ve never done it!” Harry replied. Though, maybe Cedric never had fallen from his.
“Me? Of course not,” he answered with a straight face. Harry didn’t reply, and Cedric burst into laughter. Harry shook his head and immediately lunged at his companion. The older boy’s eyes grew wide and in a matter of moments they were full out wrestling in the water.
Cedric, being taller and having more leverage, easily hip-tossed Harry into the lake, but Harry launched himself at the other boy, causing both of them to be submerged under the water. They came up, spluttering, then Cedric tried to get Harry into a head lock, but he was too quick and slipped out of Cedric’s grasp, grabbing shoulders and hair and thrusting the other boy under the water in one of the best dunks ever.
Harry was laughing when Cedric came up for air, wiping his face and slinging his hair back.
“It’s on now!” Cedric threatened, then choked a bit.
Harry, knowing that there were moments at which one’s best option was to run, took off swimming as fast as he could. To his dismay, Cedric was a better swimming and easily overtook Harry, dunking him under water and holding him until Harry wriggled away. When he surfaced, he was ready and managed to wrangle Cedric into a successful headlock when the boy attacked. Cedric’s hands were crawling all over Harry’s skin, searching for a weakness or some way to get him off of Cedric. He tugged lightly at Harry’s hair, but Harry’s response was to tighten the headlock.
In the end, Cedric did the worst, most girlish and cheating thing imaginable.
When all attempts to escape the headlock proved useless, Cedric launched a full on tickling attack against Harry, who had long harboured a secret about his extreme ticklishness, though few people had ever touched him enough to discover such a weakness.
“That’s cheating!” Harry argued, gasping for breath and separating himself from Cedric, who was also laughing but fortunately making no attempt to continue the attack. Something about the laughing expression on Cedric’s face was doing nothing to help Harry recover his breath. In fact, it was time Harry mentally put it into words. He liked the way Cedric’s eyes lit up and his mouth loved to turn upwards so much. And he liked the way Cedric was always looking at him.
“You know, I was thinking… I do believe I saw one of those falls from your broomstick,” Cedric said vaguely with a grin, his face slightly scrunching up in memory.
“Oh Merlin, that’s embarrassing. Thanks for bringing it up again,” Harry replied exasperatedly. Cedric was standing in front of him, moving his arms in the water and occasionally smoothing his wet hair away from his face.
“It shouldn’t be. You were a kid,” Cedric shrugged. But something about Cedric knowing him back then and also calling him a kid was a bit unsettling.
“You didn’t know me then,” Harry argued.
“How do you know?” Cedric countered with a coy smile. “Besides, it must have been my sixth year, I think. So it was right before we were champions together.”
Something about the way Cedric said ‘together’ made a swarm of butterflies swirl up in Harry’s stomach. He swallowed, carefully taking in the smile in Cedric’s eyes and on his mouth.
“You must have thought I was ridiculous,” Harry said quietly, stepping away from Cedric. “I mean, in the Tournament….” In the end, it hadn’t mattered at all that Harry had essentially won the tournament. It had all been arranged. Who was Harry kidding? He had been so much younger than the other champions. He was a mediocre student and not very clever at all. Of course it hadn’t been his skill or even an extreme amount of luck that had taken him so far. It had been arranged for him, just like everything else.
“I didn’t think you were ridiculous,” Cedric answered. Harry pulled out of his thoughts and realised Cedric was standing close again.
“I couldn’t believe you, a fourteen-year-old, were giving us so much trouble. You were making us look bad,” he laughed. Harry frowned slightly.
“I watched you fight your dragon. And I saw you come out of the lake with your friend and the little Delacour girl. And the maze… You saved me, Harry.” Cedric’s hand crept up to Harry’s face.
“I didn’t save you. I killed you,” Harry whispered through gritted teeth.
“You were the best champ of us all. You wanted to win, but not at the expense of the lives of others. I’ve never known anyone like you.”
“Don’t tell me you had some little thing for me back then,” Harry bit out. He didn’t like the swelling emotions inside of him, and he most definitely didn’t like remembering the maze, the graveyard, and landing at Hogwarts clutching the dead body of his present companion.
“Harry,” Cedric said quietly, and Harry felt a hand fall against his bare waist under the cool water. Cedric’s other hand was still against his face and the boy was leaning in close.
“Stop,” Harry growled quietly. His eyes locked with Cedric’s. The grey was filled with softness, emotions meant to be interpreted, but Harry didn’t want to. He turned his face away, staring unseeingly at the bank beyond them.
Cedric’s face followed his own, nuzzling gently to pull Harry into his desires. Harry resisted, not quite physically moving away from him yet, but keeping his face at bay. He liked feeling to close to Cedric, and he liked the way the other’s boy hands felt against his skin – warm despite the surrounding cool water.
Cedric finally manoeuvred around Harry’s resistance until their lips met. Harry pulled away, avoiding the kiss, avoiding Cedric’s eyes.
He didn’t deserve the tender affection, especially not from someone he had led to his death.
Cedric’s fingers tightened on Harry’s hip. “Harry,” he pleaded gruffly.
“No,” Harry muttered.
Then, faster than Harry could realise what was happening, both of Cedric’s hands were on his face, yanking his lips into contact with Cedric’s. Their bodies followed, chests, waists and hips meeting as Cedric mercilessly captured Harry’s mouth.
Harry fought to pull away, certain now that it had been stupid not to distance himself more in the beginning. Cedric held his face, refusing to let Harry depart.
The younger boy struggled against Cedric, pulling his shoulders and body away, grunting against the other boy’s lips, but Cedric was relentless. Finally Harry broke free.
“Cedric, I don’t-” Harry raised his voice, but Cedric grabbed him again and muffled his protest with another searing kiss, a kiss that was rendering him much too stupid to try and fight any longer. Something about Cedric’s lips and mouth and tongue made Harry’s mind, his protests, and his previous memories all turn into a muddled mush of feelings and tingles and rushing heart beats and fast breathes…
Harry clutched Cedric, his hands finding the soft and pleasant skin, wet from the lake, slick and smooth under his fingers. Cedric’s arm pulled around Harry’s shoulders, keeping him close and unmoving, while his other hand curled into Harry’s hair. Meanwhile his tongue was busy exploring Harry’s mouth, teasing his lips and dancing over his tongue.
Slowly the motions decreased in speed and eagerness, and Cedric pulled away. Harry didn’t bother opening his eyes, but he followed Cedric’s lips with his own, stretching his neck until mouths met again, and Harry returned the snog in earnest, pulling himself up taller with leverage from Cedric’s shoulders, pressing his body against the other boy’s and only hazily remembering the little bit of material that separated them.
His heart stirred and beat faster and a spark of fear ignited. Harry didn’t know what he was doing. Breathing became instantly more difficult, not because of the snogging, but because of the threat of panic edging on the edge of his mind.
What was he doing?
Where were they going?
What did Cedric want?
Harry pulled away completely, stepping back and panting as he ran a shaky hand through his damp locks. Cedric was pulling in deep breaths too and Harry thought he saw the older boy shiver slightly.
“Hey, uh,” Cedric began shakily, then attempted to fix his tone. “Hey, let’s go dry off.” He nodded his head in the direction of the bank, and Harry only briefly met his eyes. He was immediately thankful that Cedric wasn’t pushing for more snogging or a little chat about the whole thing.
They were silent as they climbed out of the water. Cedric stood near the bank’s edge, shaking water out of his hair for a moment. Harry continued on to fetch their jeans. When he returned, Cedric took his pair of trousers from Harry, letting their fingers brush. Harry looked up and found a sheepish expression on the other boy’s face. Harry smiled inquiringly. Cedric shrugged and grinned.
The air felt different, as if something had changed, but Harry didn’t know what.
Despite both boys still standing in dripping wet boxers, apparently neither of them felt comfortable remaining in such little clothing, now that they were out of the lake. Cedric pulled on his jeans and Harry instinctively turned his back to him and stepped into his own. Perhaps it was instinct he’d gained after those months in the tent with Ron and Hermione. There had been a few weeks with just he and Hermione in there together. He liked to give her respect and privacy, though there had been a few odd situations of Harry bursting in at the wrong moment, or Hermione needing to change without a proper loo to do it in.
When Harry turned around again, Cedric was lying back on the grass, stretching out with his ankles crossed and his arms folded behind his head. Harry copied his posture, except he let his feet fall flat on the ground with his knees bent up at angles.
“That was fun.” Cedric spoke, finally using words to fill the space between them. Harry turned his head and saw that Cedric had done the same, resting the side of his face against his arm. Cedric’s eyes were gazing at Harry’s face and he fought off the tendency to blush at such concentrated attention.
Harry smiled at Cedric, lost in the depth of grey for a few moments.
“What do you think we’ll do tomorrow?” he finally asked, carefully watching Cedric for his reaction. He was certain the boy would have some clever idea.
“Tomorrow?” Cedric asked. He moved from his position and sidled closer to Harry, turning onto his side and propping his head up on his hand.
“Yeah, what should we do tomorrow? Do you think we could take a trip to an island? I’ve never been to one. I mean, unless you count when I turned eleven and we were trying to outrun my Hogwarts letters,” Harry laughed. “We should go somewhere new, anyway. I want to see everything, and do everything!”
Harry was grinning and wondered faintly if his eyes ever sparkled like Cedric’s did when he had a great idea and was full of excitement.
But Cedric’s eyes were not sparkling. Some sad expression was flitting across his face as he stared at Harry. The raven-haired boy watched speechlessly as the feeling, or whatever it was, flashed across Cedric’s features. It made him wonder. It made Harry doubt something, but he wasn’t sure what.
Why would Cedric, who had been nothing other than happy, enthusiastic and cheerful since Harry had found him here, why would Cedric have such an expression?
But it was gone so fast that Harry wondered if he had imagined it. Cedric’s hand fell to Harry’s cheek and he kissed him softly and chastely on the lips. Harry smiled and Cedric did too, but Harry couldn’t help feeling it was a guarded smile.
Cedric lowered himself to the grass again, flat on his back, and his hand pulled against Harry’s, which he had removed from behind his head. Smoothly Cedric’s fingers slid between Harry’s and they lay together quietly, holding hands. Occasionally Cedric’s fingers would dance along Harry’s palm and send shivers down his spine. Harry closed his eyes and basked in the feeling.
“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” Cedric whispered. Harry grinned, reluctant to open his eyes.
“What is it?”
“Let’s come back here tonight and watch the sunset. It’s a clear day. I bet the stars will be amazing.” Cedric was grinning when Harry turned to look at him. He easily acquiesced to the idea. After a long time spent lingering in the sun and its warmth, the boys were finally dry and trooped back to Cedric’s cottage.
They could have stayed at the lake but each wanted to shower and clean up, and Cedric, apparently, had it in his mind to bring along food and blankets. Harry wondered if it would be necessary to remind Cedric that he was not a woman. Then again, he couldn’t really complain because he was suddenly feeling hungry and a blanket on a cool night was probably very smart.
“This field is perfect. Look, we’ll have a perfect view,” Cedric grinned, turning as he stood in the middle of a grassy field not far from the lake. Some areas of grass reached up to their knees. Where Cedric was sitting, it was shorter and flattened. Their view was unobstructed and did indeed seem flawless for watching the sun fall behind the lake and mountains.
Harry unfolded a blanket and flapped it into the light wind, working to get it smoothed onto the ground. Cedric helped, pulling the corners and adjusting it until they were both happy. On top of it he dropped a rucksack filled with random treats and sandwiches. The boys sat together on the blanket, eating, drinking, and waiting for the sun to fall further toward the horizon. The sky was cloudless, the breeze was gentle, and Cedric’s smile was easy and infectious.
Then Harry saw it first.
“Look!” He smacked Cedric on the chest and both boys gazed at the brilliant colours painted across the dimming sky. If Harry had ever seen such a thing, he had certainly never stopped to appreciate it.
Pinks, yellows, oranges, reds, faint blues and purples… All the colours were stretched across the sky in a magnificent backdrop. The mountain seemed to glow and the lake became a mirror, echoing the brilliance above. He could see why so many Muggles attributed such things to God. It could almost be magic, except that either way, it seemed unthinkable that the beauty had happened by accident. Looking at all the colours and glowing shadows, it only seemed logical to assume that Someone had painted this scene. Perhaps, it had been painted solely for Harry and Cedric.
Harry smiled. What magnificence!
“Have you seen this before?” Harry whispered, as though speaking any louder would break the magical spell that bound them to the beauty before them.
The two boys watched the fading colours in near silence, afraid of missing a single moment of it. It was so easy to get caught up in life, caught up in magic and all that they, as wizards, could do. It was rare that ever Harry would stop and realise that even magic had its limits. He could never create something so brilliant as the fading sunset before his eyes.
Dark settled upon the field and the quiet moment seemed to fade. Crickets began to offer up their evening songs and the bird chirping had died away.
“Stars’ll be out soon,” Cedric said, putting away the food they had finished with and closing up his rucksack. He then spread out on his back on the blanket, settling himself into a comfortable position with his hands behind his head. Harry watched the other boy’s eyes roving around the sky, as though searching for something.
Harry yawned, knowing it was still much to early to be doing so, and then laid down on the blanket next to his companion. He rested his hands along his stomach and gazed up at the darkness, now searching the skies himself for a star he might claim to be the first.
When finally the first star was spotted, it actually turned out to be two stars, and Cedric and Harry had each found their own first, announcing it at the same time. Indeed, two stars seemed to have appeared at nearly the same moment. Two stars… like the two boys lying on the earth below them…
Cedric scooted close to Harry and slid one of his arms out from behind his head. His hand reached out for Harry’s and they were holding hands again. He could never get over how it made him feel so warm inside, and how those funny tingles raced over his fingers and palm, as though he needed reminding that someone was holding his hand.
Harry and Cedric spoke together, talking quietly into the night. More stories were shared from their lives, and Harry tried asking lots of questions about Cedric’s present existence, but for the most part, they all went avoided or unanswered. It was getting late by now, and Harry felt himself continually yawning. He stretched a little, feeling sore from lying on the ground, and then he curled into Cedric’s warm body.
“I brought another blanket,” Cedric offered, and he turned out of contact with Harry, fiddling under his rucksack to extract the blanket. Harry instantly missed the warmth next to him, and blanket or no, he merely wanted Cedric against him again.
The older wizard stretch the blanket out, shifting it and pulling, getting Harry’s help, until finally they were covered, shielded only slightly from the night’s cool breeze. Finally Cedric was still next to Harry again.
The raven-haired boy followed his body’s instinctive impulses and reached out across Cedric’s waist, resting his arm across this body, and resting his head on the older boy’s shoulder. When he glanced up, hoping it was all right with Cedric, he saw the other boy smile down at him, and then felt him move slightly to wrap his arm around Harry.
They lay together, still talking softly, but both slowly giving in to the drowsiness pulling at them.
“Cedric?” Harry whispered, not moving to look up at him.
“Yeah?” he answered in a low voice.
“I, uh… well, I was thinking,” he paused. “I don’t know why I’m here. And I don’t know why you’re here. But I know I like it here, with you.” Harry spoke slowly, and afterward he did raise his gaze to peer into those grey eyes he loved to get lost in. Cedric was smiling at him, his eyes layered with emotions, but for the most part displaying a blazing contentment. Harry felt Cedric’s arm tighten around him
And sleep, somehow, in some way, without warning, came upon them.
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