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Better Together

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Sometimes, Harry would wonder what life would be like without Cedric and Cho. The Tri-Wizard tournament had been very dangerous, and what if something had happened? Sometimes, Harry would have dreams about the tournament, about Voldemort. They were very vivid, and Harry often awoke from these dreams in a start, before realizing where he was, Cedric's arm resting on his chest, and Cho pressed against him.

And sometimes, he'd wake one of them with his nightmares. Cho would look at him, still half asleep and pull him closer. She was a very physical person, but not really in a sexual way. She just enjoyed being close to her boyfriends, and Harry could certainly understand. She would whisper reassurances that they were safe, Cedric was okay, she was okay, Harry was okay, and trace lines and letters on his chest with her finger until Harry fell asleep.

When he woke Cedric, the older boy would prop himself up on his elbows and talk to Harry about anything. Quidditch, work, Ron and Hermione, whatever book Harry was reading, anything. Cedric was good to talk to. He was the kind of person people would go to when they were worried about something, either to talk about it or for a distraction. Cedric always had been charismatic. It was part of what drew Harry toward him in the first place.

If Harry had to use one word to describe Cedric, it would be good. Because Cedric was genuinely good. He did things to help others, and he was friendly, kind, and honest, and he knew exactly what to say to calm Harry down after a bad night. He could trust Cedric with any of his thoughts, and he wasn't the only one. Cho and Harry often spent afternoons talking about Cedric fondly, Cho's eyes sparkling and her cheeks flushed as she talked about his laugh and his HAIR, Harry, his PERFECT HAIR, and Harry knew he looked similar as he talked about Cedric's arms and his baking skills. Because Cedric could BAKE. And Cedric could cook well, too.

Harry could as well, but he didn't enjoy it as much as Cedric did, humming as he drifted around their kitchen in their little apartment, wearing a kiss the cook apron Cho bought him for Christmas two years ago. Harry and Cho would clean up the dishes after Cedric cooked, and they would offer to help him cook as well, but most of the time he told them not to worry about it. Harry and Cho would settle down at their little table and watch Cedric, talking and laughing with him. Then, they'd sit down and eat together.

Often, people would come over to visit. Marietta Edgecombe would stop in occasionally to catch up with Cho, nodding politely and exchanging pleasantries with Cedric and Harry. She was still awkward around them, well, any member of Dumbledore's Army, really. Especially Hermione. It had taken her a while to get friendly with Cho again, but they had been best friends, so things did smooth over eventually. Harry still didn't completely trust her, but he was pleasant for Cho's sake. Cedric saw the best in people, and believed that Marietta had just been under a lot of stress, her mother working for the ministry after all, and didn't really want to join the DA in the first place, so he was always kind toward her, but she still shied away from them both.

Hermione and Ron stopped by much more often, being much more comfortable with all three members of the Potter-Chang-Diggory household than Marietta. Sometimes, they'd bring George along. Ron would entertain them with stories of whatever he and George were cooking up for their shop, and Hermione would fume about the hoops she had to jump through to get ANYTHING done at the ministry. Harry laughed along with their stories, like old times. He had his own to tell as well. He'd given being an auror a try, really, but he realized that he'd been fighting all his life not because he wanted to, but because he needed to, to protect the people around him. He didn't regret it, and he wouldn't take it back, but he didn't want to keep fighting. He wanted to go back to the only place he'd really felt safe in his childhood, the place where he'd met his best friends, his bitter rivals, his mentors, his lovers, the place he'd given up his life to protect. Harry Potter went home.

Harry applied to be the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, which was vacant at the time, and the new Headmistress McGonagall gladly accepted his application and gave him the position. He, Cedric, and Cho had decided not to move closer to Hogwarts when he got the job, and instead Harry flooed in and out of Hogwarts when he could to visit with his partners. Often, Cedric or Cho visited him when he couldn't make it home due to grading papers, and other members of the staff greeted them cheerfully, particularly Neville Longbottom, the Herbology professor (who often stopped by their flat during the summers), and Professor Flitwick and McGonagall, who remembered the two fondly as pleasant adolescents and good students. Occasionally, the two would work with students on the quidditch pitch, but they had their own jobs, both working in Flourish and Blotts.

Harry enjoyed teaching at Hogwarts. He was a good teacher, too, having his fair share of good and bad teachers through his years as a student. He had loved his year with Lupin the most, and initially taught his class similarly. Over time, he adapted his style and methods to fit himself more, but still retaining a good bit of Lupin's. He ended up being a rather beloved teacher. First years were, at first, very enchanted by him, but eventually, they did tone down their awe of him as "The Boy Who Lived" and "The Boy Who Defeated Voldemort Twice", in favor of seeing him just as Professor Potter.

Harry kept an eye out for his students. He looked out for the children who might find themselves hiding in a bathroom during a feast, or the ones who might have their remembralls or shoes stolen from them. He kept an eye out for the students who might pick on other students, and for those who were scared and didn't have anyone to go to, and for the children who would stick up for the other students. Harry often directed the students in need of a friend toward the ones who he knew would be good friends, and he talked to the ones who didn't have anywhere to go, before directing them to one of their peers who would be able to listen through the years, and who Harry knew would be listened to in turn. Harry gave stern but understanding talks to the students who were cruel to others, and if need be, he gave that same talk to the same student again. He wouldn't ever be one to sit by and let others feel lost. He made sure his students knew they could go to him for help, and he made sure that he wasn't the only one they could go to, either.

He'd talk about his students to Cho and Cedric, and to Ron and Hermione, and to Neville, and to Ginny and Luna and George, anyone he talked to regularly, really. He talked about the ones who he worried about always getting into trouble, and the ones who he worried didn't get into enough trouble ("Getting into trouble made me the man I am today!" "It sure did, Harry. It sure did."). Sometimes, he'd be going on about a particular student to someone, and they'd just look at him and smile, remembering the student he'd been.

And Ginny and Luna stopped by often as well. Ginny was flying for the Holyhead Harpies, and when she visited, the flat was full of talk about quidditch (especially when Ron and Hermione were over, and ESPECIALLY if they'd brought George). Luna went with her when she had to travel for matches, and was doing reporting for the Quibbler on various creatures she'd spot while they were out. She'd entertain them with stories of the things she'd seen, and however fantastical they might seem, everyone would listen with rapture. Harry absolutely trusted that Luna's creatures were real. At this point, he'd gotten to know her so well, he knew that she knew a lot more than most people seemed to think she did. Ginny felt similarly, Harry could tell, and Cedric and Cho just liked Luna enough that they were willing to believe her relatively easily. Hermione never did, not completely, but Hermione was Hermione, and Hermione was stubborn. It didn't seem to bother Luna much, and Hermione was never outright rude to Luna, liking her well enough but simply not believing in most of what she said, so Harry let it slide. Ginny wasn't so easily satisfied, and often pulled Hermione aside to tell her firmly to respect Luna a little more. As for Ron? Well, he really wasn't too concerned with the sorts of things Luna said, but he did like her, and she was definitely entertaining, so he nodded along when she spoke to him.

George, when he was over, laughed and joked, but not quite with the same energy he had before Fred had died. He had slowly learned to laugh again, and Harry admired him for it. He'd experienced a lot of loss over the course of his life, but George's losing Fred was something Harry couldn't comprehend. So he understood why George might not laugh the same, and he let him know one night, quietly pulling the redhead aside after he'd come over with Ron and Hermione to have dinner, that he could always go to Harry if he wanted to talk about anything. George nodded slowly, and smiled softly at Harry.

"Thanks, Harry."

"Of course. And I'm pretty sure that goes for any of us. Ron, Hermione, Ginny, anyone."

"Yeah. Yeah, thank you."

He'd come to Harry once, to talk about how sometimes, he'd see himself in a mirror, and for a split second, he'd see Fred. And how, the first time his mum had called him Fred by accident, the whole dinner table had gone silent, and he'd stalked off to his room and cried, and he could hear his mum crying from downstairs too, and then, a half an hour later, someone had knocked at his door, and Ron and Ginny were standing there, and they pulled him into a tight hug. He told Harry about how, a lot of the time, he'd be doing something, and he could feel Fred behind him, or hear his words in his ear. And Harry had listened. He offered a few words of support, yes, but he knew his job then was as a listener, and not a talker. George needed to get things off his chest, he didn't need advice. And really, what advice could Harry even give?

Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil stopped by occasionally, sometimes with Padma, although they preferred to spend time with Dean and Seamus, or Neville, when he was around. They'd fill the flat with laughter and gossip, and it was different, but nice. Since they lived relatively close, Dean and Seamus would visit sometimes as well, just to catch up. Alicia and Katie came by sometimes as well, but not as often recently, being busy taking care of their daughter. Angelina had been spending time with George lately, and as such she'd come over more often as well. Harry liked staying in contact with his old classmates, even the ones he hadn't talked to as much. They were all good people.

Sometimes, though, it was just them. Just Cho and Cedric and Harry. Harry liked it. He liked when people were over, too, but when it was just him and Cedric and Cho, things just seemed... slower. Life was slower, they had time for themselves. He could spend time just laying in bed with them, spend time watching Cedric cook or bake, spend time having tea with Cho, Harry could spend time. For the first time in his life, he had time to spend. All his childhood, he had so many things he had to do, such high stakes, he had barely any time to do what he wanted without the looming presence of some other responsibility he shouldn't have had at that age. Now? Now, Harry still had responsibilities, but he could take his time with most of them. And the ones he couldn't? Well, grading students' papers as an adult is slightly lower stress than saving students' lives as a child.

Harry finally had the life he deserved.

In one of his recurring dreams, he was in the graveyard where Voldemort had come to life, only this time, Cedric was there. And Voldemort told Peter Pettigrew to "kill the spare". Harry thought about this often. More often than most of the people close to him would have liked, probably. He came to the conclusion that there was no such thing as a "spare". Cedric wasn't a spare. Neither were Lavender, or Parvati, or Seamus, or Dean, or even Neville. Despite the fact that he hadn't talked to them much, they'd had their own vibrant lives at Hogwarts. Harry just... hadn't noticed. God, he'd been oblivious. He didn't notice the clear romantic tension between Ron and Hermione for the longest time, and he hadn't noticed Cedric or Cho's crush on him, either. Yeah, he'd been pretty dense when he was younger. But that didn't matter anymore. Now, he was living the life he had always wanted.

One ordinary day near the end of the summer, the sun streamed through the windows in the morning, hitting Harry on the face. He grumbled and shifted in bed, jostling Cedric's arm. Cho pressed closer to Harry, and reached her arm across and over him, so it lay on top of Cedric's. Cedric stirred a little and slipped his hand out from under Cho's, laying on his back for a moment before getting out of bed. He pulled on a yellow and green striped sweater, glancing at Harry and Cho in bed and smiling softly. He made his way to the kitchen quietly, not wanting to wake either of them, and got started on breakfast. He decided to make pancakes, because Cho had mentioned she had wanted them the other day.

Cedric had a pop song he'd heard on the radio stuck in his head, and he hummed along to it as he got out the ingredients and got to work. He got slightly carried away, and his voice raised a little, reaching Harry and Cho in the bedroom. They awoke at around the same pace, smiling at each other and wordlessly communicating that they both thought it was cute how Cedric clearly didn't know how loud he was being. Harry and Cho both changed, Harry into a shirt Ginny had gotten him for his birthday, and Cho into a sweater that matched Cedric's, but in blue and silver. They made their way to the kitchen, where it took Cedric a moment to notice them, before he stopped humming and looked at them sheepishly.

"Oh, did I wake you?"

"Well... yes, but it's cute when you hum," Cho smiled and leaned up to kiss him on the cheek. He smiled, blushing slightly.

"If you say so..."

"I agree with Cho, so that's two to one," Harry added, and both Cho and Cedric grinned at him.

"If you say so, Harry," Cedric said, continuing work on the pancakes and flitting around the kitchen. Cho and Harry sat at the table next to him and watched him work. Cho began to talk about a book she'd been reading, and Harry listened intently. He could tell Cedric was doing the same, even as he worked on breakfast. After around fifteen minutes, Cedric plated the pancakes and placed them on the table with a smile, before taking a seat in between Harry and Cho. Harry's pancakes were banana chocolate chip, and Cho's were strawberry. Cedric's were just chocolate chip. They talked as they ate. Harry finished his food first, and got started on the dishes. Soon after, Cho joined him. While they did the dishes, Cedric took a shower, and when they were done, Cho took hers. Harry got the last shower, but he didn't mind. Cedric took really short showers, so there was still hot water left for him.

After they had all showered, they went out into Diagon Alley, greeting Dean and Seamus as they passed the two. It was close to back to school, so there were students with their families buying supplies bustling about. Harry recognized many of them, and greeted them as they passed. Cho and Cedric looked at him lovingly. There was just something endearing about how much he loved his job, his school, and his students.

Cedric and Cho had work, so they headed to Flourish and Blotts, while Harry walked down to Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. He pushed open the door, and the bell above it rang out through the shop. Ron, who'd had his head down as he did inventory in the corner, looked up to see Harry, and his face broke into a smile.

"Harry, mate! Always good to see you. How're you?" He asked. Harry smiled.

"Good, good. You need help with anything today?"

"Er, yeah, if it isn't any trouble. Could you do inventory on the canary creams? They've gotten really popular again for some reason, I'm worried we need to order more," Ron said.

"Yeah, of course. Move over," Harry said, moving past Ron and beginning to do inventory on the creams. After a while, someone cleared their throat behind him. It was George, grinning down at him.

"Harry! Come over to help out?"

"Yeah, didn't have anything to do, really, and I love the shop," Harry said. George laughed.

"No need to explain what you're doing every time you're over, mate. Any help's welcome, especially yours."

"Oh, er. Yeah, thanks."

"Of course. Now I'll let you get back to it. Both of you, yell if you need anything, I'm going to take over the second register so Verity's not overrun by little troublemakers," George winked, before heading off to do just that.

Harry finished inventory on the canary creams soon after that, and he asked Ron if there was anything else he could do to help. Ron frowned.

"Not for me, I don't think. Check with George, he might have something for you."

"Alright, thanks Ron."

"Thank you, mate. You're the one doing my work for me," Ron smiled. Harry smiled back.

"It's my pleasure," He said, before making his way over to the registers. George looked up and smiled at him.

"Hey, Harry. Need anything?" He asked. Harry shook his head.

"No, I was actually going to ask if you needed anything from me. Ron didn't have anything else for me to do," He said. George rubbed the back of his neck, looking thoughtful, before shaking his head.

"No, I don't think so... although..."


"You could do one thing for me..." George smiled faintly.

"What's that?"

"Pick something out, it's yours on the house. As thanks for the help," George grinned. Harry shook his head.

"George, I don't need any payment. I enjoy helping out here, and I love the shop."

"Which is why I'm asking you to take something. If you love the shop so much, you should take a little something from it once in a while."

"Well that's not the only reason I love the shop. I love the peopl that run it," Harry smiled. George laughed.

"Harry, just take something."

"Alright, if you really want me to," Harry said, and George smiled widely.


"I should be the one thanking you," Harry said. George laughed amusedly as Harry glanced over the shelves. He settled on a spell-checking quill, smiling at George and holding up his choice.

"Ah, sensible for a professor, professor. Have a lovely day, come again," George said cheerfully. Harry nodded at him.

"Thanks, you do as well," He said, waving to both George and Ron before heading back out into Diagon Alley. He took the long way back to the flat, greeting the students of his that he recognized, and the adults as well. He ran into Katie Bell and Alicia Spinnet with their daughter, and smiled at them and greeted them.

"Harry! It's been too long," Alicia said. Harry nodded.

"Yeah, it really has been. You should visit sometime," He said. Alicia and Katie both nodded.

"We should, definitely. Sarah's starting Hogwarts next year, did you know?" Katie smiled, nodding toward her daughter, who smiled at Harry shyly.

"Really? Well, Sarah, I look forward to seeing you there," Harry said.

"Thanks," Sarah said.

"Yeah, well we're glad she'll be having a competent Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher... more than can be said for us, most years," Katie smiled.

"I try to be competent," Harry said. Alicia punched him on the arm good-naturedly.

"You are competent. We know you Harry, our daughter'll be in good hands with you, and with McGonagall as headmistress," Alicia said.

"Well, I'm glad you think highly of me."

"Of course, Harry. You've earned it. Well, we've got to get Sarah the cat she's been begging for for the past year, but see you around, Harry," Katie said.

"Yeah, definitely. Have a good one," He said, continuing his walk and making it back to his flat. He sighed as he stepped into his quiet home, pulling a book of the shelf, and relaxing with it on the couch. After a few hours, he got up again to pick Cho and Cedric up from work. He walked to Flourish and Blotts, and smiled at Cedric and Cho. Cedric was helping someone find a book, and Cho was at the register, checking a woman's purchases out. Customers trickled out of the store, and Cedric turned the "open" sign to "closed", before he and Cho began cleaning up books people had left out. Harry helped out by picking up trash people had dropped on the floor and putting it in the trash bin, before taking the full bin outside. After a little more cleanup, they were ready to head home.

They didn't take the long way this time, since Cho and Cedric were tired from work. Cho talked about a customer she'd had who was absolutely insufferable, and who had complained incessantly about the store not carrying a book that was on the shelf next to the one she'd been looking at. Harry nodded sympathetically, retail customers could be the worst. They reached home, where they promptly decided to order Chinese takeout for dinner. Cedric was too tired to cook after the day he'd had at work (he offered, but Harry could tell it had been particularly stressful from what he and Cho had said, and Cedric didn't protest when Harry suggested takeout). Harry got what everyone wanted and walked out to get the food from the restaurant, which was a short walk away. The wait was short, and he got back with a few boxes of takeout and some fortune cookies.

They had dinner as soon as Harry got home with the food. He mentioned that he'd run into Alicia and Katie and their daughter.

"We should have them over sometime," Cedric said immediately.

"That's what I said. Sarah's starting Hogwarts this year, we should have them over before the school year starts," Harry said. Cho and Cedric nodded.

"Yeah, that's a good idea... I've missed seeing them," Cho said.

They talked more throughout dinner, and when they were finished, Harry and Cedric put away the boxes of takeout. Harry took a shower after that, and then got into bed to finish his book. As he was nearing the end, Cedric got in next to him, fresh from his own shower. A little after him, Cho got into bed on Cedric's other side. Harry put his book down on the nightstand, placed his glasses next to it, and turned off the reading light. He turned onto his back and pressed closer to Cedric. Cho shifted in her spot in the bed. Cedric sighed happily, and Harry did as well. He was glad that his life had finally slowed down.

Finally, Harry closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep. He might have nightmares, but if he did, he knew plenty of people who would be there to calm him down.