Before the cup, before the graveyard, before the kill the spare. Before all of that, Harry Potter thought he might have been in love.
He remembers it all in bits and pieces now, like a worn photo. A glimpse of a scene or a whisper of a honeyed voice. He wishes he could remember more than a faded photograph could give him. He keeps one still, refuses to touch it with his bare hands lest he ruin it, ruin the sheer perfection of the brilliant smile and cheeky wave. He dreams in muted colors, yellow and green and grey.
He hadn’t known him very well until the tournament and even then they hadn’t held what could truly be considered a conversation until after the first task. It had taken him by surprise then, both the sudden desire to talk to him as well as the shock of how attractive he’d found the other boy.
“Hello, Harry.” If he closes his eyes, he can still hear the nervousness in his voice, can still see the quirky half-smile, as if he’s unsure of whether he’ll be turned away or not. He talkes in a deep, shuddering breath, forcing himself to remember what he can.
“Cedric!” He’d been so surprised he was sure that he’d looked like his eyes were about to pop out. Cedric had spared him another crooked grin, sitting next to him in a little alcove next to the lake. It was relatively dry and well-hidden from the view of the castle. His confusion must have shown on his face, because Cedric had run a hand through his hair sheepishly and explained without being asked.
“I’ve been meaning to have a word with you and I saw you headed down here. Took a bit of poking about to find where you’d disappeared to, but I managed.” Harry himself had managed only a weak grin. Cedric had ridiculous charm and he wasn’t immune; his entire body felt like a hotwire, nerves buzzing, heart beating rapidly.
“What did you want to have a word about?”
Cedric had just looked at him for a moment, examining him, before shifting to face him while he sat.
“A lot of things. I get this impression you don’t really like me and maybe it’s because of Cho, maybe it’s because of that game last year – maybe because of this whole tournament. But I feel a little weird because, well, I like you well enough.” He shrugged, but Harry couldn’t help but blush a bit. “I grew up admiring you, you know. I was only four or so when you put an end to You Know –“ Harry would never forget how Cedric had glanced at him speculatively, head cocked to the side, before scrapping the stupid name and continuing. “... to Voldemort, but I still admired you. And since then, how can I not continue? You've done amazing things, Harry.”
Harry had gained respected for him that day and had smiled back, however hesitantly.
“I don’t really begrudge you Cho,” he’d begun, only a little wearily, and then it had been a steady stream of conversation between them, easy smiles and friendly nudges from shoulder to shoulder.
Harry cringes, seemingly away from his own memories. It's almost too painful to think about, that innocent boy he’d known once upon a time. He pours himself some brandy at his mahogany desk in his home office.
“A good place to have a bath, he says,” Harry had snorted to himself, sneaking into the Prefect’s bath again and stopping dead when a head of soft brown hair turned to face him. He was under the invisibility cloak, but Cedric was clever and he had known Harry’s voice and those words. Another crooked smile had him floored and he knew he was a goner.
“Harry?” Cedric had said curiously, a chuckle on his lips. “I heard your voice. You’re here, aren’t you?”
He had sighed and slipped off the cloak. “I’d kind of hoped for another bath.”
Cedric’s laugh had been loud, but he’d known no one would hear them outside of the room. Harry was more preoccupied staring at Cedric’s exposed upper chest, anyway. “Well, don’t let me stop you. I can’t blame you, especially since I’m the one that gave you the password.” The cheeky grin didn’t drop one bit. Harry speculates that the grin might have been what made his resolve begin to slip.
“You’re suggesting…” Harry couldn’t quite believe it.
He manages a bitter half-smile at the memory.
“C’mon, mate, it’s not like you’ve got anything I haven’t seen before,” Cedric had teased, his grey eyes alight with mischeif. And he was right, wasn’t he? So Harry’d stripped off, trying not to be self conscious about the fact that, well, he didn’t have much hair and he was kind of scrawny, even for a fourteen year old, but Cedric appeared to be hungrily watching as he stepped forward and sat down at the edge, slipping into the bath. “See? Not so scary.”
“Never said it was,” he’d responded grumpily, his cheeks a bright pink. He brought his knees up to his chest, covering himself, but Cedric’s crooked grin wasn’t predatory, like he’d almost expected. Just a little sheepish, crooked and adorable and Harry couldn’t understand why his heart had picked up the pace the way it had.
Harry opens his eyes, giving his brandy a dead stare. Something tells him Cedric would have liked brandy, given the chance. He takes a sip. Cedric had only ever tasted his father’s scotch, he’d mentioned once, which may very well be why Harry can’t stomach the stuff. He takes another drink.
“I’m sorry if I’ve made you uncomfortable,” Cedric had said, shrugging and sneakily – not so sneakily that Harry hadn’t noticed – shifted just a bit closer to Harry. “You look a bit flushed.” Cedric’s grey eyes were bright, so bright. Harry’d thought he might drown in them.
“Am not,” he’d breathed, and sure, they’d attempted casual conversation for twenty minutes or so, but they’d both known that once they were finished pretending that the tension between them wasn’t there, there wasn’t really another option for them, so when Cedric had given up on words and leaned in to press his lips against the fourth year’s, it wasn’t much of a surprise.
It had still been lovely, though, and Harry had made a small sound, sliding a bit closer so his thigh was pressed against Cedric’s and let his hand slid up to Cedric’s cheek. He could feel the barest hint of stubble and pressed in closer, their mouths moving together clumsily, innocently, on Harry’s part, but Cedric had known what he was doing and Harry was a quick study.
Harry finishes off his brandy and stands. He’s not shaky, yet, though he has every intention of getting pissed tonight. He’ll do it in a minute. For now, he’s heard the doorbell ring, and he knows who it is. She’ll just tear down his wards and apparate in if he doesn’t answer, and he really doesn’t want to deal with re-building his wards again tonight. He sighs, making his way to the front door of his little cottage in Godric’s Hollow. He manages a brief glance out the window to see Hermione peering in.
He sighs again and opens the door.
“What do you want?” he grumbles. “You’re ruining my night.”
“You were going to drink it all away anyway,” she says breezily, brushing past him into the warmth of his home. “I brought you dinner, from Molly. She’s worried you’re not eating enough.” She gives him an eye roll, but he knows she’s just as worried. He watches her, though, as she walks around his house as though she owns it, sure footsteps and serene expression, and manages to take a deep breath and smile as warmly as he can.
“I’m sorry for being such a grump,” he murmurs, and kisses her on the cheek when she lifts it for the purpose.
“I forgive you,” she answers primly. “But let’s just eat, okay? I’m starving, and Molly packed enough for four people!” He laughs quietly and settles in across from her at the kitchen table.
When she leaves that night, he gives his brandy and the glass he was using a glance, but sighs once more and puts the brandy away and the glass in the sink. He heaves himself upstairs and barely manages to get undressed before crawling into bed, his world swimming in front of his eyes as he’s pulled back into his memories.
“You’re so quiet. What are you thinking about?”
Harry had been tucked up against Cedric’s side in a bed in some room Cedric had found, idly contemplating the sharp angles and lean muscle of him. He was beautiful, he’d mused absently before looking up into those eyes that saw right through him and that knowing smile.
“You,” he answers truthfully because he’s sure Cedric will know if he lies anyway, and Cedric rewards his honesty with a kiss. “Mm. You know, Ron suspects I have a girlfriend.”
Cedric’s laugh was big-bellied and loud and he’d been glad that they weren’t in a dorm with other boys because his Cedric really hadn’t known how to keep quiet. Harry remembers wishing that his Cedric wasn’t so damn attractive, because he couldn’t have held it against him even if he’d tried. “You laugh now,” he says accusingly. “Just wait until he finds out! You won’t be laughing then. He’ll accuse you of corrupting me.”
Cedric had the gall to laugh at him again. Harry finds himself making a new wish – to hear that laugh again. He hasn’t met anyone since who laughs quite so freely. He finds that he missed it. “I corrupted you? That’s funny. I wasn’t a child molester until you came along!”
“A child molester,” Harry had repeated, unable to stop the slight chuckle that came with the words. “Don’t be melodramatic. There’s only a three year age difference.”
“Three years,” Cedric had agreed with that impish grin and a cock of the head. His finger had come up to tap his nose. “A long time, when you’re young.”
“Right, because you have the experience to say that,” Harry had snorted, but Cedric had kissed him again, softly, and he’d given up words.
Harry squeezes his eyes shut tight, his fist gripping the sheets. Even covered by the comforter, he’s still cold, and getting colder.
He remembers holding onto Cedric’s body, tears streaming down his face – he wanted me to bring his body back – remembers thinking that it was wrong, that Cedric was usually so warm. He presses his palms into his eyes, biting his lip so hard he tasted blood in his mouth.
“Cedric,” he remembers whispering, and that’s all it takes for him to break down.
He doesn't break down in the traditional sense - there are no tears, not futile pleading to any god out there willing to listen. He doesn't suppose there would be many, even if he decides he wants to. He lays there silently, his eyes wide open, not moving and barely breathing. He wonders what Cedric would think of him if he could see him now, cold and broken.
He knows what everyone else would say - they've said it before, after all. You're obsessed, Harry. It's been years and you were only fourteen, anyway. And that was nice - Ron hadn't been so polite. He'd told him quite forcefully that his "love" was more like a stalkerish obsession with a boy who was already dead.
Hm. Maybe that was why he doesn't see Ron much anymore. He vaguely remembers removing the trace of Ron's magical signature that allowed him to pass through his wards, remembers blocking him from the floo. He doesn't think it matters.
Still, though - Cedric had been the first person to really love him. There had been others afterwards; Jake, who had laughing grey eyes, and Brody, whose grin was rather crooked and familiar enough to hurt. It wasn't any surprise that he couldn't let any of them in, though.
Cedric had been such a good lover, too - not just in bed, though he had enough very good nights to attest that he certainly was. He'd been considerate and he'd always put Harry first, which got complicated whenever Harry attempted to do the same. Cedric had been a gentleman, honest and good, and Harry had loved - and still loves - him so damn much! Their friendship had developed over months, their relationship over weeks, and when Cedric had been killed, they had still been in what was essentially the honeymoon phase. They had never really been given a chance!
Harry decides to stop thinking. It's never done him any good. He closes his eyes, attempts to sleep. As he's succeeding, he hopes idly that he'll dream of Cedric.
When he does dream, it's of grey eyes and smooth, sparsely scarred skin. He's not happy, per se, but for those few blessed hours of sleep he's wrapped in a warm embrace. He knows better than to ask for more.