Category: Harry Potter
Rating: I'm going to say T for now.
Pairings: Cedric/Harry for sure, though possibly Cedric/Harry?
Summary: A split second can change the course of the future. What happens when the results of one such change collide with the results of another?
Spoilers: SS/PS, CoS, PoA, GoF (especially)
Warnings: Pre-slash and slash, violence, mentioned and possibly explicit. Mild profanity, so far.
Distribution: Here. You want it on your site, just ask.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or all his sundry affects.
"So... on my whistle, Harry and Cedric!" said Ludo Bagman, his bespelled voice echoing around the former Quidditch pitch. "Three… two… one…"
The whistle blew, and the two of them hurried forward into the maze. The path forked after about fifty yards in. They looked at each other.
"See you," Harry said with a nod, and went left. Cedric took the right.
Cedric batted hastily at his sleeve, trying to put out the small flame. He burst out onto another path, and nearly jumped out of his skin as he spotted a startled Harry Potter pointing his wand at him. "Hagrid's Blast-Ended Screwts!" the Hufflepuff replied to the unspoken question. "They're enormous- I only just got away!"
He had the slight satisfaction of seeing the other wizard pale, before he ducked away onto another green-walled path.
Diggory shifted uncomfortably, and the overworked mediwitch was quick to put her hand behind his neck and lift his head so she could pour another sleeping potion down his throat. It was a pity they had no more Dreamless Sleep potions left- the poor dear could certainly use one. Shewouldn't wish the kind of nightmares this man would have on her worst enemy.
With a sigh, she made him comfortable again, her stress-lined face sad as she brushed a strand of chocolate hair away from his face.
No. Not even he deserved Diggory's nightmares.
Pain beyond anything he could have ever imagined. His flesh peeled off his bones, and his bones themselves burst into incandescent flame. His mind reeled under the shock of it as his nerves boiled within his body...
All the world was pain.
When it stopped, it took him a moment to recognize the lack of pain for what it was. He could do nothing but curl into a ball and shake, holding his hands pressed against his face. A hand touched his elbow, and he thought should have hurt, but instead the gentle touch felt wonderfully cool against his skin.
"Are you all right?" Harry asked, his voice rough with concern.
Cedric pulled his hands away from his eyes. "Yeah," he said after a couple of seconds. It hurt to speak, and he realized he must have been screaming under the Cruciatus, which wasn't all that surprising in retrospect. "Yeah," he said again, trying to convince himself as much as the other boy. "I don't believe it... he crept up behind me... I heard him, I turned around, and he had his wand on me..."
The Hufflepuff forced himself to his feet, still shaking. Harry helped him as much as he could with a hand under his elbow, and they stood there together for a long minute, staring down at the Stunned Durmstrang champion.
"I can't believe this," Harry finally said. "I thought he was all right..."
"So did I," Cedric agreed as the shaking subsided into trembling.
"Did you hear Fleur scream earlier?"
"Yeah. You don't think Krum got her too?"
Harry frowned, his green eyes worried. "I don't know," he said slowly.
There was a moment of silence. "Should we leave him here?" Cedric murmured hopefully. He rather wanted to...
"No," the Boy-Who-Lived answered with a sigh. "I reckon we should send up red sparks. Someone'll come and collect him... Otherwise he'll probably be eaten by a skrewt."
"He'd deserve it," Cedric muttered under his breath; the memory of that pain would take a long time to leave him. But nevertheless he nodded and raised his wand and shot a shower of red sparks into the air. They hovered over Krum, marking the spot where he lay.
For a minute longer they stood there, until finally Cedric reluctantly cleared his throat. "Well... I s'pose we'd better go on..."
The Gryffindor jumped a little, as though he'd forgotten they were in a competition. "What? Oh... yeah... right..."
They walked together for a bit down the dark path, and separated at the first fork.
There it was. The Triwizard Cup, gleaming in the pale moonlight on a plinth in the clearing just ahead. Cedric rushed towards it, already hearing the shouts of jubilation as he imagined his House's reaction to their champion winning the first Triwizard Tournament in decades. Hufflepuff was not a glorious House, and this would mean the world to his housemates…
"Cedric! On your left!"
Harry's shout almost came too late; even with his Seeker reflexes, Cedric was only able to throw himself forward, past the thing that he only saw out of the corner of his eye. He landed heavily, his breath forced out of him, which was the only thing that kept him from cursing when he felt his wand leave his hand.
Struggling to breathe, the Hufflepuff rolled onto his back. It was only then that he truly saw what had attacked him, and his heart nearly stopped in his chest as he saw the hideous black spider nearly the size of a griffin bearing down on him.
"Stupefy!" he heard Harry yell out, and red light splashed harmlessly against the spider's carapace. The spell itself didn't have any affect, but the spider paused and swung around to face the younger wizard, apparently shocked the comparatively tiny boy had dared attack it. After a brief eternity, the monster began scuttling towards a terrified Harry. "Stupefy! Impedimenta! Stupefy!"
Those spells had even less effect on the spider, if that was even possible. Its hairy mass simply absorbed them, not slowing it down a whit; in fact, it was picking up speed. Cedric watched, horrified, as the monster reached Harry, picking the boy with its front two legs. Harry kicked at it desperately, connecting with a venom-dripping fang, and screamed in pain as the fang's tip sank into his leg.
The scream broke Cedric out of the paralysis he'd fallen into. He lunged for his wand, turning back to the struggle and pointing it in the same motion. "Stupefy!" he yelled, and was horrified to find it didn't affect the spider either. "Expelliarmus!"
There was only time for a moment of relief when the monster dropped the Boy-Who-Lived, who crumpled to the ground just beneath the spider. Cedric saw him raise his wand overhead, pointed towards the spider's underbelly, and realized what he was planning. "Stupefy!" he cried, just a millisecond before Harry shouted the same word, and the two spells struck the beast in the same instant.
This time, it worked. The spider fell like they'd cut its legs out from under it, flattening a hedge, and Cedric had a horrible thought. "Harry!" he shouted, running towards the tangle of jointed limbs. "You all right? Did it fall on you?"
"No." The wizard almost sagged with relief, until he realized Harry's voice was ragged with pain. He stepped forward so he could see around the bulk of the dead spider, and blanched. Harry was trying to get up, despite a deep gash in his leg that bled freely and glistened with a gluey substance that Cedric realized with alarm was the spider's venom. The attempt was nearly unsuccessful, and the younger boy had to lean back against the hedge, panting.
"Take it, then," he finally said, and Cedric stared at him, not understanding. "Go on, take it, you're there."
It was another moment before it all came flooding back, the reason they were here in the first place. Cedric stared at Harry for a long moment, taking in the determined resignation in his eyes. Then he turned to look at the cup. He was right, Cedric was there… He knew the longing he felt was spreading over his face, but…
Something inside stopped him from walking those few steps and grasping the beautiful trophy. Something that screamed it just wasn't right… He looked at Harry again. The Gryffindor was clutching the hedge as though he would fall over if he even thought about letting go, and the wizard had a feeling it would be a very bad thing if the other boy didn't get to the infirmary and Madame Pomfrey soon.
The worry seemed to crystallize around another emotion, deep inside him, one that he'd never felt before- or at least, had never recognized. Cedric took a deep breath as the implications hit him. Merlin, why hadn't he ever noticed it before?
"You take it." He almost didn't recognize the voice as his. Certainly his mouth didn't seem to be connected properly to his brain right now, or he'd undoubtedly be saying much more foolish things. "You should win. That's twice you've saved my neck in here." And was that part of why…?
An incredulous, almost angry look settled itself onto the boy's features. "That's not how it's supposed to work." He sounded like he was in pain, which was surprising. Anyone who had spent more than a year at the same school with the Boy-Who-Lived knew how he simply seemed to shrug off injuries. Hell's bell's, he'd had his arm broken once in a Quidditch game and he'd barely seemed to notice! "The one who reaches the cup first gets the points. That's you. I'm telling you, I'm not going to win any races on this leg."
Well, he was right on that point. And there was no way in hell Cedric was going to force him to. The Hufflepuff stepped towards him, shaking his head. "No."
"Stop being noble." Cedric would have flinched at the harsh words, if not for the way Harry's voice shook and how pale his face had grown. "Just take it, then we can get out of here."
And it was a temptation. The sooner one of them touched the cup, the sooner they could leave and Cedric could get the other boy to the Hospital Wing. But Cedric was determined it would be Harry who won. "You told me about the dragons," he said, trying to make Harry understand without telling him everything. "I would've gone down in the first task if you hadn't told me what was coming."
"I had help on that too." Harry leaned down a little and pressed a piece of his robes to the wound in his leg; trying to stop the bleeding, Cedric guessed, though it didn't seem to be working too well. "You helped me with the egg- we're square."
Cedric grimaced. "I had help on the egg in the first place," he admitted.
"We're still square." Harry's voice was distant, now, instead of argumentative. He was putting some of his weight on his leg, and by the way the limb was shaking it wasn't responding too well. Cedric wouldn't have been surprised if there were other injuries besides the bite; Harry had fallen at least fifteen feet when the spider dropped him.
"You should've gotten more points on the second task," he said, bringing up another point that had been bugging him since the event in question. "You stayed behind to get all the hostages. I should've done that."
To his surprise, Harry snorted bitterly. "I was the only one who was thick enough to take that song seriously! Just take the cup!"
"No," Cedric said again, quietly. He closed the rest of the distance between them, having to step over a few of the spider's legs to get there. The Gryffindor stared at him, disbelieving, but Cedric mulishly crossed his arms over his chest. "Go on."
Harry glanced at the cup, and the Hufflepuff knew the same thoughts were going through his head now that had gone through his own before. Victory, triumph, glory beyond the imagination of a fourteen-year-old… Well, most fourteen-year-olds.
He imagined the Boy-Who-Lived had a very different definition of glory than most in his year.
Finally the younger boy looked back at him. Their gazes met for a long minute, and then Harry's eyes glowed as though he had just found the answer.
"Both of us."
The mediwitch glanced up as Diggory began to toss and turn, his face contorted with some private anguish. "No," he muttered to his dreams. "No, don't take it, don't touch it…"
"He's dreaming about it again."
The woman nearly shrieked in surprise, which wouldn't have been a good thing; Silencing Spells on the walls couldn't keep in everything, and this building was supposed to be abandoned. She turned to see a young man standing in the doorway, one who looked nearly as tired as she felt. "Er… yes, I suppose he is," she answered back, and if her voice trembled with more than exhaustion, he didn't seem to notice.
The man was silent, as he watched the tossing figure. "He blames himself for what happened, you know." He absently tucked a strand of his red-roan hair back behind his ear; as his hand came down, his fingers traced the half-healed scar that creased his left cheek and forehead, and had only just missed taking out his eye. "There're some who'd agree with him."
The mediwitch couldn't hold back a snort. "Wasn't his fault," she said shortly. "He couldn't have known. An' anyone who says differently is a flamin' fool."
Offering her a tiny smile, the young man nodded his agreement and moved further into the room, to sit by his friend's bedside. "What happened?"
"A raid in Newcastle. The team wasn't expectin' so many guards." She moved up beside him, careful not to get too close to the restless figure on the bed. "He wasn't too badly hurt, but I kept him in for observation." They said nothing for a minute. "Is there nothing we can do?"
Percy Weasley shook his head, weariness leaking from every pore in his body as he dropped into the rickety chair set there for visitors. "No. Not until it's played all the way out."
Cedric helped Harry over to the cup, grasping his arm just below the shoulder. Once they'd reached it, they each held a hand over one of its gleaming handles, and the Hufflepuff felt anticipation burn through him.
"On three, right?" He nodded, and Harry managed to quirk a grin at him despite the pain he was in. "One… two… three…"
Their hands dropped to grasp the handles, and Cedric was astonished to feel a jerk behind his navel. Why the bloody hell would someone make the Triwizard Cup a Portkey?
On the bed, Cedric Diggory let out a muffled scream, and his whole body jerked a little.
Percy reached over to pat the mediwitch's hand reassuringly. "Don't worry. It's not much longer now…"
Cedric had never heard of any wizard getting completely used to Portkeys, and he was no exception to the rule- it was just as surprising as ever when his feet slammed into the ground, and he only just kept to his feet.
Harry wasn't so lucky. His leg collapsed under him, and he hit the ground with a pained grunt that made the other wizard wince. It had to have restarted the bleeding, but it wasn't long before he was looking up and around. "Where are we?"
Cedric shook his head. He couldn't see much of their surroundings in the dark, but what he could see he didn't recognize. He pulled Harry up, and supported him with one hand as they tried to figure out where they were. It was an old graveyard, looked like, but it hadn't been used in years judging by the creepers that had grown up over many of the tombstones. A small church could just be seen over to their left, behind a good-sized yew tree, and up on a hill there was a large house outlined against the starlit sky.
"Did anyone tell you the cup was a Portkey?" the Hufflepuff asked absently, still squinting into the darkness as he waited for his eyes to adjust.
"Nope," Harry answered glumly. "Is this supposed to be part of the task?"
"I don't know." Cedric considered that for a moment, and frowned. Would the professors do that to them? "Wands out, d'you reckon?"
"Yeah." Harry pulled his out of his pocket, and looked much relieved for having done so. Cedric's wand was on the side supporting Harry, and he had to reach across with his other hand to get it out. The Gryffindor kept looking around, as though he were expecting something to happen, and suddenly he tensed. "Someone's coming."
Cedric peered ahead, trying to see what the other boy had spotted, and finally succeeding in locating the squat figure coming towards them. He or she was weaving their way through the gravestones, cradling something in their arms, and he had a sinking feeling it wasn't one of the professors come to congratulate them.
That feeling was borne out when a mere second later Harry cried out in pain, his hand going to the infamous scar on his forehead. Cedric watched in horror as his face contorted in agony; the boy would have collapsed again except for the hand still grasping his arm.
Then he heard a high, cold voice speak from the direction of the approaching stranger. "Kill the spare."
The wizard stood, frozen, as a second voice cast one of the most feared spells in all the wizarding world. "Avada Kedavra!" The resulting green light sped towards him, and all he could do was stand there, and wait for the inevitable…
Until a dark figure lunged in front of him, just in time to intercept the spell with his own body.
Then Cedric was staring down into the blank, lifeless eyes of Harry Potter.
The mediwitch couldn't help but flinched as Diggory cried out, the shout so despairing and forlorn it brought tears to her eyes. For a second she thought he had woken himself up, but then his convulsing body sank slowly back down to the sheets, and the young man was quiet.
"It's over now," Percy whispered, knowing his friend would sleep now until morning. He rose from the chair. "I need to get back to work."
She nodded, understanding. There were so few of them left now, the last of the Resistance after Voldemort's relentless hunts during the last year since the Boy-Who-Lived had died, that they needed every hand they could working around the clock.
The woman returned to her desk and the notes she had put down on two of the other members of Diggory's team, the ones who hadn't survived. She stared at them for a long moment, and for that instant understood just how lucky they were, that their struggles were over.
Sighing, she murmured a prayer for them all, but most of all for the haunted young man sleeping not ten meters away. Merlin knew they needed all the prayers they could get…
A/N: Technically, this is not a new story. This is revisiting an old, ailing plot bunny and giving it new life. Wonders if she's actually convincing anyone but herself
I got the title of this from a song in Final Fantasy X; no, this is not a crossover with same. Here's the link, please go read the lyrics for yourself. They're eerily appropriate and will give you some clues as to where this story's headed- just take out the spaces. www .animelyrics .com/ game/finalfantasyx /otherworld. htm
28 August 2005