It Was Within
"Had I but known that Ireland was going to win tonight," muttered Amos Diggory sleepily from across the darkened tent, "I would have liked to reserve a different camping site."
Cedric chuckled and turned his in cot, trying in vain to get to sleep when thoughts of the match were still running through his mind. His temporary insomnia was certainly spurred by the loud celebrating going on all around him and the glimpses that he stole through the tent's window of leprechauns soaring over the sea of magical tents surrounding the enormous Quiddich pitch.
"I think each tent is having a competition to be rowdier than the next," he murmured, amused, sitting up and edging closer to the tiny window, his sheets rustling softly with the movement. "And who can blame them?"
His father groaned. "Bloody Irish."
Cedric smiled wryly in the direction of his father's voice. "Watch it, dad," he said in a tone of unmistakable jest. "Wouldn't want mum to hear you saying that, would you?"
"Yeah, yeah." Grinning, Cedric slipped into his clothes and laced up his boots. As he grabbed his wand, he whispered, "I can't sleep, I'm going to get some air." But his dad was still now, somehow, and beginning to snore softly. Cedric shook his head unbelievingly. Old men...
A refreshing breath of summer air laced with the twang of burning firewood graced Cedric's face as he emerged from the tent a moment later. He stretched, glad to be out in the open again, before running a hand through his mussed hair and taking a glance around.
From this vantage point, the boisterousness was much more severe: scores of people sat around roaring fires laughing loudly and drinking, young witches and wizards energized by the night's adventures ran around half-crazed, snatches of singing reached Cedric's ears from different places all over the camp, and, most interestingly for the moment, two wizards a few tents down—soon-to-be first years, by the looks of it—had gotten hold of a Bulgarian fan's flag and were trying to decide what to do with it.
"Burn it," one suggested excitedly, only to have it snatched from his hands by his mate.
"Burn it, you wanker? It's got Krum on!"
The two lads argued for a few moments more and probably would have started shooting sparks at each other with their wands if a tall, dark haired figure had refrained from stepping between them.
"Oy, you kids. Isn't it past your bedtime?" The voice was affable, familiar, and it didn't take long for Cedric to connect the Scottish accent with his mischievous best mate, Antony.
One of the boys pulled a face. "Come off it—it's the World Cup."
Cedric choked back a laugh. Seven years ago, he'd acted like that, and so had Antony. Abandoning all pretenses of disinterest, he strode over to the boys.
"Oh? And that allows two pyromaniacs such as yourselves to burn down the whole camp, eh?" Antony preached as Cedric reached them. The flag was confiscated. "Now bugger off," finished Antony, "'fore I give you a premature lesson in wizard dueling."
Muttering darkly, the two boys slunk away, and Frank shook his head at his friend, who was now proudly examining his new prize.
"Up to your usual tricks, Antony?" asked Frank, grinning and reaching out to shake Antony's proffered hand.
"Me? Tricks? You're off your rocker." Antony nonchalantly tossed the banner over his shoulder and pressed a bottle of firewhisky into Cedric's palm. He sighed. "We must look so old to them..."
"Yeah, well, we are of age now." As if to prove the point, Cedric took a swig of the drink and felt it burn its way down his throat. Eyes watering, he couldn't hold back an embarrassing set of hacking coughs.
Antony laughed and pounded Cedric on the back. "Can you believe it?"
"No," he answered, clearing his throat, trying to regain his lost composure. "Dad still insisted on taking a Portkey here."
"That's tripe—you passed the apparation test, so what's the big deal?" agreed Antony, before pausing and wisely changing the subject. "So, some game. Bloody Krum, eh?"
"Yeah, some game."
Cedric caught Antony's eye, and they both began to laugh before lapsing into a thoughtful silence. As the two of them surveyed the mass of colorful and unique tents quietly, Cedric felt a wave of contentment wash over him. He'd probably remember this night for the rest of his life... A lantern-bearing leprechaun whizzed a few feet over his head, tearing him from this thoughts, and Cedric looked up, his eyes tracing its path.
"Those leprechauns sure are something..."
Antony smirked. "I'd say that those veela sure are something."
Cedric, content with watching the glittering formations of leprechauns shift amongst the stars, didn't respond. They whirled through each other seamlessly, and Cedric was reminded suddenly of the Ireland team's Chaser formations and how he couldn't wait to try out some of their maneuvers with his own team once he got back to school.
Suddenly, the leprechauns scattered before grouping together in small clumps, hovering transfixed over one point of the camp.
"Hey Antony..." said Cedric, gesturing to the area, which was now glowing with green light, with his firewhiskey bottle. "What do you reckon that is?"
Thirty seconds later, after realization had dawned, Cedric burst into his tent and was immediately at his father's side.
"Oy, dad!" said Cedric, shoving a robe into the chest of his confused father. "There's something happening!"
Cedric sat silently on his four-poster bed, twirling a small slip of parchment distractedly between his fingers as he stared at the breaking dawn through his window. It was Saturday—Halloween for that matter—and by all rights, this Hufflepuff should have been sleeping in... but he had a lot on his mind.
He was thinking back to the morning after the Quidditch World Cup, back to the riot that had occurred. His father had hurriedly dressed and run to find a Ministry official, and Cedric had followed.
"No, Ced," said his father as he hastily rolled up his sleeves. "I want you to apparate home."
Cedric had been scandalized. "Go home? But I'm of age—I can help—"
"No, don't do anything, do you understand me? I need you to go home where it's safe. I'll meet you there." And his father had run off.
Cedric remembered standing outside the tent as people screamed and went running past, the masked marchers constantly growing nearer. Fires had begun to sweep through the campsite, sparked by the rioters' violent hexes, and by now he could hear their cruel laughs as they toyed with the helpless muggles and blasted tents out of their way.
Clenching his jaw, loathe to do nothing yet unwilling to disobey his father, Cedric had apparated home.
The shame of the memory caused him to double over with nausea. He should have tried to put out the burning tents, or helped the officials deal with the situation, or... anything. But he had done nothing, and so felt nothing but his own inadequacy.
Nothing comes from nothing, he thought, staring hard at the brilliant gold rays of sunlight stretching across the pristine sky.
But this... he glanced down at the paper in his hands.Cedric Diggory Hogwarts
This is something—a way to prove my self confidence, to prove to father that I am an adult and capable of handling whatever is thrown at me; a way to forgive myself for running when I ought to have stood my ground...
"That's right, Ced," he murmured, chuckling half-heartedly as he stood. "Volunteer for suicidal danger... and pride—not money or a trophy—is the prize."
"What's that?" mumbled Antony nearly incoherently from the next bed. Cedric looked appraisingly over the rumpled coverlet that his friend was sprawled under. His face looked decidedly pale in comparison to his dark hair, which was flying in every direction.
Cedric hesitated. "Nothing, just... talking to myself," he said, his fist tightening around the paper. "You look peaky... go back to sleep."
Antony groaned and ignored him. "You talking about killing yourself?" persisted Antony stupidly through a sleep-induced fog.
Cedric snorted and leaned in toward Antony, deciding to let his friend in on his secret. "Depends—it's more like 'getting myself killed,'" he joked. "I'm about to go put my name into the Goblet of Fire... now go back to sleep," he whispered.
"Hang on," Antony insisted, incapable of keeping his voice lowered, sitting up immediately and searching for some clothes. "If you're about to go do something mad, give me three seconds to get ready and I'll go with you."
"You're hopeless, Antony."
Cedric was shaking with repressed excitement as the pair of them headed downstairs. This is something... he thought over and over, reaffirming it to himself. He never doubted that his name would be the one to tumble from the flames.
"Take it, then," Harry urged. "Go on, take it. You're there."
Cedric stared at the boy in front of him, who was visibly shaking on his injured leg and bleeding freely from several wounds. Behind him lay the stunned acromantula that the two of them had just taken out, laying flat across a hedge, its black legs twisted in the pathway.
That boy. The Boy Who Lived.
Cedric glanced longingly at the trophy glistening an arm's reach away from him. This was the culmination of months of effort; he had done it—he had won. He had but to reach out and touch it...
But he couldn't bring himself to. It wasn't as if Cedric didn't deserve it, he just couldn't help but believe that Harry, the fourteen-year old who had been shoved into all of this, deserved it more. For all it cost him to think that, Cedric knew it was true.
He glanced back at Harry, decision made. Cedric's head felt light, it was almost as if he didn't have control of his body, and when he spoke, only the pain of each escaping word ground him to exactly what he was doing. "You take it. You should win. That's twice you've saved my neck in here." He took a deep breath, his shoulders straightening as if a heavy yoke had just been lifted from them. Yes, the decent thing to do, he reiterated to himself. He felt as if all of his nerves were shaking, dancing with electricity.
So what if Cedric had gotten past the Dragon, so what he had rescued Cho or reached the Cup first? He had done none of it without illegal help of some form, a fact that he was ashamed to admit, but what was more, most of that help had come from Harry. Infuriatingly, though, Harry didn't accept these arguments and only countered them with admissions of receiving help before he had given it.
These new realizations—that Harry had gotten just as much help—gave Cedric pause. Perhaps this game couldn't be won at all without relying on your peers... but then he ground his teeth. No, he had made up his mind; he would not let his resolve soften now. He wasn't going to take the Cup.
It seemed that they weren't going to get anywhere. Cedric had a whimsical notion in his brain of both of them standing there in the descending darkness, staring at each other daringly, both refusing to move, until one of the teachers came out to see what was going on. He smiled inwardly.
"Both of us," Harry finally said, looking as though it cost him just as much resolve to let go of the cup as it had cost Cedric. But it was a good compromise—a Hogwarts victory, either way.
Cedric threw an arm around Harry shoulders, helping him over to the cup. Harry was horribly weak: his injured leg was shaking violently, and he leaned heavily into Cedric's support. The pure determination on Harry's face, though, held Cedric's thoughts of voicing his concerns at bay.
"On three, right?" Cedric nodded, preparing to grasp a handle. "One—two—three—"
Cedric grinned and grabbed one of the golden handles. There was an irresistible pulling behind Cedric's naval, and he was blasted into a swirl of color. He felt himself slam into the ground; the Triwizard Cup was wrenched from his hand on impact.
"Where are we?" Harry asked from the ground beside him, looking around.
Cedric shook his head and wearily picked himself up before helping to settle Harry onto his feet. It appeared as though the Portkey—"Did anyone tell you the cup was a Portkey?"—had landed them in an old, overgrown graveyard, overlooked by a foreboding mansion cresting a hill. The graveyard was darkened, silent, and unnerving.
"Is this supposed to be part of the task?" asked Harry, looking nervously around their surroundings.
"I dunno." Cedric wasn't sure his air of confidence was holding up. In fact, this whole situation was undeniably ominous. The fact remained that they could be pitted against anything, now. "Wands out, d'you reckon?"
As Cedric fished his wand from his pocket, he imagined the look on Antony's face if he could see where Cedric was now, and wondered, with a roll of his eyes, what his father would do, and tell him to do, in such a situation. They had two choices: stay here and wait for instructions, or go and find their task. Cedric was about to suggest that he should have a look around while Harry waited where they were, when Harry suddenly spoke and answered Cedric's unvoiced question.
"Someone's coming," Harry said, his voice a mixture of curiosity and apprehension.
The figure was coming from the depths of the graveyard, approaching from between the graves, and Cedric squinted to try to see whom it might be. He could only tell, however, that the figure was a man who appeared to be carrying a baby; everything else was lost in the shadows of the hooded cloak the man was wearing.
Cedric glanced curiously at Harry, whose eyes were wide under his glasses, before returning his gaze on the man, who stopped, suddenly, at a large marble headstone merely paces away from the two of them. Cedric, Harry, and the man simply stared at one another, and the silence, apart from testing his patience, sent shivers down Cedric's spine. The little hairs on the back of his neck stood in anticipation.
And then suddenly, Harry dropped his wand; he was on his knees, clenching his forehead with terror and pain radiating from him. Cedric gasped in surprise and tore his attention from Harry's anguish as best he could—it was probably meant only to be a distraction from the task—and turned to face the still-silent man just as a high-pitched voice, hardly anything more than a hiss, filled the air.
"Kill the spare."
Cedric's stomach dropped as he realized what was happening, and he raised his wand defensively though he knew he would never be able to block the curse. Nothing comes from nothing. The words flashed through his mind. Before I pass, he thought, I'm going to repay Harry the debt that I owe him... And in the brief moments as the curse was being uttered, Cedric finally realized, with certainty, that he was already a man that his father would be proud of.
Cedric was going to die, not disgracefully, but willing to fight—he was going to die and pass through this world wielding his honor... and that that was his victory.
He only wished—
"...remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave..."